Mark Breta

Door County

My family-at-large just got back from an enjoyable weekend in Door County, Wisconsin, where my cousin Sean and his lovely bride Mely exchanged marriage vows. They chose a beautiful setting for their wedding. If you’ve ever been to Door County, you know it includes scenic highway, fruitful orchards, and you’re never far from a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan.

You couldn’t ask for better weather. Alanis Morissette’s song couldn’t be heard for miles. The daytime temperature was in the mid 80s the whole time we were there, with minimal humidity. Sorry, Chicago. I love ya, but they know how to do summer.

The church was set up on a small hill and filled up quickly with friends and family from all sides. The string quartet set the tone for the afternoon. The wedding party came in nicely and in order, and the ceremony was under way. The priest officiating the wedding amused many, if not all, of us as he read the sentiments of what Sean & Mely thought about each other. (Oh, so you mean that was just the questionnaire they filled out at pre-wedding counseling…?) It was still pretty nice.

(I was privileged to have a small part as pianist and singer.)

The reception was held in Baileys Harbor, right along Lake Michigan. Everything went off without a hitch (well, except for Sean & Mely). My prayers and all the best for a life full of happiness to the bride and groom!

Me with Sean & MelyPhoto credit: my cousin Tess

A small crew, consisting of my Dad and me, two of my aunts, and a segment of the cousin group, stayed in a rustic cabin on the edge of Baileys Harbor. And I mean rustic. The center of the house had a small living room with a highlighted fireplace and a cozy kitchen along the back of the room. There were two bedrooms on the first level, a bedroom on the second level, along with two open-air loft rooms opposite each other overlooking the living area. No air conditioning, but the evening weather and some oscillating fans helped keep the quarters on the cool side.

Cabin - front

Cabin - inside

We put it in our itinerary to stay a couple extra days, so we assembled a plan for Sunday and Monday. The main event was to visit an orchard and go cherry picking. When we were kids, our parents and aunts took us on summer vacations, and sometimes it included picking a variety of apples and cherries. We thought we’d re-live it… and found a place in Fish Creek that also had vineyards and a winery. We took the tour of Lautenbach’s Orchard Country (see if you can get Jordin to do your tour), had a sampling of some sweet wine, and then headed out to the trees and picked 20+ pounds of Montmorency tart cherries.

Family cherry pickingPhoto credit: my cousin Tess

Family wine tastingPhoto credit: my cousin Tess

That evening we continued our Door County adventure and went to a fish boil. We got to see the process where the “master boiler” at Pelletier’s fills the cauldron with water, 10 pounds of salt, and whitefish. He later adds onions and potatoes, then after the fish oils have floated to the top, he yells a warning before forcing the fire to erupt, causing the large pot to boil over, thus rendering the cooking complete.

Fish Boil

Fish Boil

Fish Boil

Fish Boil

One last bit of Door County we wanted to experience was Al Johnson’s Restaurant on Monday. Aside from their Swedish food specialties, they’re also known for the goats that graze on the roof of their building. (You might get a glimpse of them on the live goat cam!)

Al Johnson's Restaurant

Al Johnson's Goats

I had heard that this place is constantly busy, and we found it to be true, as we waited nearly an hour for a table. Granted, having a group of 10 didn’t really bode well for us as we watched groups of 3 or 4 or 5 getting seated sooner. We browsed the gift shop while we waited, where I found I could get maybe 10% of the stuff at IKEA. The remaining percentage was interesting, though, and if I could justify spending $50 on a Door County sweatshirt in the heat of summer, I really would have made the purchase.

When we were finally seated, we were split into two groups. (Late but genius idea, hostess.) I sat at a table with my cousins Eric and Tess and her boyfriend Brian. Tess and I opted for the Swedish pancakes (crepes)–she got the sweet with strawberries while I got the savory with the meatballs. Brian got the substantial roast beef sandwich. And Eric boasted in the glory of the herb-rubbed French cut pork chops–that’s two 8 oz. chops, which he kindly shared with us.

Who knew I’d need a “part two” to this Door County blog entry? Next time, I’ll share more about the cherry picking… no, cherry pitting experience. As a tease, below is the photo I posted on the social interwebs this week.

Have you been to Door County? What were your favorite places or experiences up there?


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