January 19 is National Popcorn Day…A Great Time to Enjoy Chippy’s Popcorn Creations (30 + flavors)

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People don’t get tired of popcorn, I love it, we simply love it.   Theatre popcorns.  Caramel corn.   Lightly-salt n’ sweet Kettle corn, oh yes.  Even microwave popcorn, we just gotta have popcorn.   Glenn and I couldn’t say no to an invitation from Christine Lindner (of Flavorful Insight) to come to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin for a “behind the scenes” tour of Chippy’s Popcorn Creations, “We’d love for you to make gourmet popcorn with husband and wife team, Scott and Linda Chipman.”

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Chippy’s Popcorn Creations is the newest venture of culinary experts Scott and Linda: a 30 plus flavors of homemade gourmet popcorn, “freshest, local ingredients used make Chippy’s popcorn treats” simply irresistible.   To me, Linda’s “terrible creative brain” and Scott’s “constant analyzing the product” makes Chippy’s popcorn a standout.  Move over Garrett…Chippy’s Popcorn Creations deliciously making her way into the scene.  I had a great time chatting with Linda, here’s my full interview….

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Tell me how you got your hands busy with popcorn.
We were kinda fed up with our restaurant, my husband was an executive chef in NC, and I was working for several chain restaurants.  We were just maxxed out —every holiday, weekends and 70 hours a week.  We were introduced to kettle corn at a festival in Kentucky.  My sister introduced me to a friend who has that business.  We didn’t make a big deal of it at first — popcorn with a bit of sugar in it.  But we ate a big sack of it on our way home from Kentucky to NC.   So we never gave it a thought after that.  A year later, we found ourselves at a point where we really needed a change.   Scott was unemployed and I was working for an apartment community.  I left the restaurant business to manage apartments.  So we said, what about that Kettle corn thing.

My family is in Wisconsin.  We borrowed the money to buy the equipment from my dad who lives in Wisconsin.  And we started doing shows in NC and we were losing money in every show.  And we said , “oh this is the stupidest thing we’ve ever done.”

Because of too much competition?
No, because people would spit it out, and say “ew, it got sugar on it”… and yes, there’s sugar.  So that first year, we were losing money and “oh my gosh, we gonna have to get back to work”.   But what we did because our family is in Wisconsin, we booked several shows in Wisconsin for the summer.  So we came up here, we were out of money, we were flat broke, “we have our equipment, and if we couldnt make money up there, we gonna sell the business and we would be done with it”.

Our first show was in Wisconsin Dells and we would have thought we made a million dollars, obviously we didnt.  For us, we really made a profit.  And every show we did in Wisconsin, it was a profitable show.  So we went back to NC and our fall season was the same — we didn’t make any money.  So we put our house for sale and we moved to Illinois.  And here we are 11 seasons later, we are still selling the kettle corn with our mobile trailers.  We still doing the road shows.  and we actually bought this building 2 1/2 years ago because we needed it for our trailers, 3 of them,  as storehouse for our equipments.  The equipments became too big to store in our house.  So we had this building.  and we decided last year that the next logical step is to build a commercial kitchen.  Because many of our customers keep asking, “where can we get this popcorn when you are not working?” or “If you are not coming to my farmers’ market, how can we have this?”.  So we put up our full kitchen last year.

Strict regulation in Wisconsin?
Actually it’s not very strict.  But because both of us had our restaurants before, when the lady came in for inspection, she was really quite impressed, and she was quite, “this is your first time, and you did this all by yourself, really?”  Yes, we knew what we needed, we knew what made sense because we worked in a kitchen environment before.  So it really went smoothly.  We passed our inspection right away the first day that she came.  We didnt have any issues.  Everything really went smoothly.  And  we opened in July last year.

What was it like when we opened?
I was very scared the first day.  At that time, we had probably about 10 flavors .  So not a lot, but we didn’t advertise, because my husband was still in the road 6 days a week with the trailers.  And I was in the shop.  We didn’t have the opportunity to work together like we have always.  So we started small, soft and quiet.  ‘Cause I didn’t want to make people mad.  I know that in this community, if you make them mad from the beginning, it’s very hard to win them back.  We told everybody that came in that  by Christmas we gonna have about 50 flavors of popcorn, we will have tin cans, we will have this, we will have that.  And we made that promise, but we did it very softly and quiet for the first few months.

Why so many flavors?
“What we have found over the years, even when we started our kettle corn business in 2002 (the very first show we did we only sold kettle corn), not everybody likes kettle corn.  We found out right away we needed to do other flavors.   That very first year, we added cheddar cheese, and then we added the caramel glaze.  The same approach goes with the shop.  When you have a shop setting, if you only have just a few things, people might go, uh, it’s not really a big deal.  And then they’re out the door. .. and they may not come back.   So for us, part of it, was appealing to every taste…that you can have something that you can make it sell.   Also people are just amazed…the more you have creates that wow factor that they wanna tell their friends and family.  Actually the folks that were just here when you were just coming in, the daughter was from NC and the son was from Tennessee, and they’d been in here probably 6 times while they were home for the break.  They said they just love this place.  and they can’t wait to come back to Wisconsin again.”

How do you manage your stock or inventory?
We try to rotate items, depending on seasons, and everything is made only 5 gallons at a time.

How long for storage?
Airtight, they can keep up to 6 months.  But we don’t keep them around that long.  Like we had a peach flavor, it wasn’t moving that well, so after about 2 months, we just put a sale sign on it and then you know the sale moves it.  But we don’t like to have it around for a long time.

So how did you start transforming popcorn into other products?
We have done some things.  At halloween, I took popcorn, grind it up and mixed it with rice krispies.  Then i flatten them up in a sheet pan and cut into squares, stuck it on a stick and made a green frankenstein base on it and we call them franken bars.  It was popcorn and rice krispies made into like marshmallow bars.  I also took our kettle corn and instead of rice krispies, I made traditional marshmallow krispy treats but using kettle corn.  I made them into bars, made a pumpkin coating in it and we had some bloody eye balls and some different halloween themes decorated with  sprinkles.

If you could go back to the beginnings, what would be your approach or what changes you would have done?
Much in the same way that a restaurant can buy soup in a bag, you can buy popcorn toppings in a bag and just add it.  But because we have culinary degrees, we were not satisfied doing that.  So our caramel corn, that was a culmination of about 3 months.  I had a couple testing panels.  I had various recipes and I let them blind taste them.  I eventually melded a couple of recipes and then tweaked it to what would appeal to most people —  good flavor and of course a nice buttery finish to it.

What are the normal complaints about the popcorn?
Every popcorn has the hull, even stuff that is called hull-less, still has hulls in it.  Will still have but thin —but small kernels though with this type of corn.  But different varieties and growers grow different type.  We have use corn grown by the Weaver Company in Indiana and we found out that you can’t just buy it at a wholesale price, but we have to buy it from a distributor of that product.  We have used that for 11 years and it is a wonderful popcorn.  It takes a very nice flavor, it’s yellow colored and pops into white.  But it does have less of the hulls than a cheaper variety.  But we pay more for that too, we buy the best that is available.  It costs us more, but it is the better product.  And as people get older, they have this acquired diverticulitis, they can’t digest seeds or things that might get stuck in their intestines.  So that generally strikes people in their late 40s and that takes strawberries out of the picture, popcorn or anything with raspberries.

What was your experience like of your first holiday season?
It was really a lot of fun setting up the entire operations — it was indeed a challenge!  Scott and I, both being from the restaurant business and working in management positions of very large operations, found ourselves working many 15 or 16 hours per day.  A little bit crazy, you work hard …but really it was a lot of fun.  This Christmas, we set up some displays of examples of what we can do.   We said this is how much the box would cost, and we will fluff it and stuff it and bow it to look pretty — and you just choose what you want to put in it.   So you can just have a gift package of  20 dollars up to 100 dollars.  And that was really nice.  What we really like to focus on is giving some systems into place so that we can have mail order a little more readily available.  The website is still not completed.  There’s a lot to do with it.  It’s difficult.  One thing that I’m finding…unless somebody knows what’s going on in my head or if they know me well, it’s hard to convey things to somebody else.  After the holidays, we have to get into our game plan, we need to attack our website and agree on how we want it to be set up.  We probably will start with the core flavors, not 50 yet.

I have to admit I love watching corn popping in fairs.  You do pop everything on site?
We pop everything on site…for road shows.  We did take some of our confetti with us towards the latter part of the year.  And that went pretty well.  But what we find with the kettle corn stand — they want the product that’s popped right there.  They are not really looking at the stuff that’s packaged.  Cause they think they might be made several days ago.  So it is very interesting about how people’s perceptions change eventhough we tell them we just made these yesterday.  And brought it from my shop.  Perception is so different in those areas.  So the smell is what people draws to that mobile.

When a customer comes to the shop, what normally happens?
“We have samples of everything that is available.  Many of them are self-serves that you can just pour into your hands.  We usually start with asking them if they have been here before.  We give them a quick tour.  We have our Chicago-style cheddar and our Wisconsin white cheddar and Mrs. Chippy’s…all served warm.  So that’s kinda the focal point when you walk in.  We usually try to explain the  difference between other caramels sitting next to our standard popcorn.  We let them kinda explore the sweet and savory samples.”

Prefer more savory than sweet?
“Sweet is the most popular.  Caramel corn…people love the root beer float. the confetti, we sell a ton of that, that’s with all the different flavors mixed together.  But the savory options are wonderful too.  We’ve been selling a lot of those beer cheese.  The pizza is very popular.  The hot buffalo wings is a good one.”

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Did it take you several months to come up with these 30 plus flavors?
“I have a terribly creative brain and I consider it a blessing, but sometimes it just doesn’t stop.  So I have to reel myself back in.  I have some BLTs seasoning back here ( I suggested tomato and basil!).  The possibilities are endless.”

Tell me about the popcorn equipments.  Savory and sweet done in same equipment?
We have those done separately.   Essentially we pop them in the kettle corn equipment.  To pop a batch, it takes about 10 minutes.   When we make a sweet batch, we make a bucket, about 5 gallons.   When we are just popping the corn up, we make 10 batches of corn which we call base corn…those big packages that are here.  so those are just plain popcorn.  and we have a sweet cookery.  and savory will be tumbled with either cheese, oils or whatever we use for flavorings.

How long will flavor to be tossed to develop?
Once the base corn is popped, a batch of caramel corn takes us from beginning to end about 15 minutes.   To make a savory batch, probably about 15 to 20 minutes.

Chippy’s can customize the flavor, color, size and packaging for a one-of-kind, gourmet flavored popcorn?
“It really is about customisations in today’s world.  We are used to getting whatever we want, how we want it.  That’s what we want to offer to people.  If somebody’s got an idea, whether it’s fried crickets or grasshopper, I’ll make that flavor (laughs).  I could do that.  I’ll laugh the day that I get that request.  If somebody wants something, we want to be able to do it.   Popcorn is such a blank canvass that you really can do anything with it.  It just takes thinking outside the box to be able to offer that.  That kind of thinking makes customers loyal to the brand.  It makes their experience so much better when they have a part in picking and choosing what they want.”

So what is your vision to make popcorn not seasonal..and instead an everyday treat?
We have a lot of wonderful ideas.  Valentine’s coming up and we have some fun things to show you.  Easter, St. Patrick’s Day.  This month January 19 is the national popcorn day, so there is really something going on every month.  Also sports themes.  So it’s about putting our names out there.  Sort of saying, Hey think of us.  Instead of going to the grocery store, why not come here and have your party.  We have done some weddings in the past.   That’s a huge market for us to hit as well.  Kettle corn packages and put colored bows in it.  Cake made out of popcorn…that’s where marshmallows come in, and you can mold it into anything.  There’s a lot of ideas.  Popcorn even for movies…we have this 4 foot bag of popcorn  and those are great for get togethers.  theater popcorns.

How do you compare Chippy’s popcorn with other brands?
“The thing that we take pride in is that we really use our own secret recipes.  We didn’t take what the popcorn equipment salesperson told us.  He said all you have to do is add water and..we said no.  We didn’t want to take his word for it.   We thought we don’t want to face our customers saying it is homemade or is from scratch ..when really, it is not.  So I think that differentiates us from a lot of companies.  And you can tell the difference.  We’ve been to a lot of popcorn shops.  We know the products that they are selling.  Not that there is necessarily wrong with it, but it is unique.  We take pride in telling people that our popcorn is from scratch recipe.   We add a little more of this and that.  We constantly analyze our product and keep utilizing the flavors that are out there in the world.
So I think that really differentiates us from others.”

What about the challenge of putting a price on popcorn?
I kinda have a knack for pricing things without actually taking a calculator and figuring it out to a penny.  So i kinda have that.  I think there is a fine line about pricing.  Price that is a little too low, sometimes that’s not good for people.  And a price that’s too high,  then they say that’s expensive.  I have taken that upon myself when costly ingredients are involved.  With those I really take a pen and paper to make sure I’m getting a fair price of it.  So far, I havent received any negative feedback about our pricing structure.  Pretty much, flavors have different price tags.

5 years from now how do you see your business?
We love the road shows because that was what gotten us to this point.  Being in the events is so much fun for us.  What we really see happening is to be known as a brand, beccoming a brand that people recognize.  Right now when you see our kettle corn stand at the farmers market, the biggest thing you see is kettle corn.  But we want people to say Chippys is here.  So we really see our company growing as a brand that people desire.  We like this retail area to be busy all day, we love this retail area for our community.  We feel that it is important for our community to have something like this.  There’s not a lot for families here, so we love this outlet to be here..cause it is fun stuff.

Linda just had to pop the question, “If you were to create a new rendition of popcorn, what would it be?”.  I hinted about Philippine-style adobo, but my quick reply was “Caramel Mango”.   Linda wants 50 plus flavors so I think she’d consider the caramel mango flavor.  After all, it’s caramel, it’s mango…a winning combination to me.  The popcorn can be purchased online at  http://www.chippyspopcorncreations.com or by phone  920.885.CORN (2676) or at the shop in Beaver Dam, WI.

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Many thanks to Christine Lindner of Flavorful Insight for this press release…

2013 — The Year of Popcorn (National Popcorn Day is January 19)

Popcorn is THE snack of 2013. That’s according to Sterling-Rice Group (SRG), a brand strategy and creative firm who works with several top food companies. Popcorn is among SRG’s Top Ten Food Trends for 2013 and will likely pop up in everything from salads, as croutons to ice cream flavors. With appetites growing for global and healthier food choices, popcorn is ready to go big next year.

Culinary experts, Linda and Scott Chipman of Chippy’s Popcorn Creations in Beaver Dam, are excited for popcorn to take the snack stage in 2013.

“A few years back there was quite a bit of popcorn buzz in fine-dining restaurants,” says Linda Chipman. “I’ve seen the upswing again with the influx of new shops around the country opening.”

To celebrate 2013 as the year of popcorn, Chippy’s will be introducing several new flavors. One fresh taste will use smoked sea salt, a unique global seasoning. Another flavor will bring a modern twist to one of America’s oldest snacks by adding glitter to popcorn for added sparkle and glitz. Chippy’s is also creating a popcorn that local farmstead creamery’s can use in crafting a popcorn-flavored ice cream.

Along with the New Year comes, National Popcorn Day on January 19. Enjoy the day with family and friends, take in a movie or throw a party and have celebration-worthy popcorn, CORNfetti — a flavor-packed rainbow popcorn mix that offers a taste for everyone.

With popcorn deemed the snack of 2013 add bliss in one’s life with this fun food of many flavors.  Choose from the 30 plus gourmet popcorns to signature favorites, such as Mrs. Chippy’s Caramel Corn to Chicago Style Cheddar available all year round. Seasonal flavors include: Oreo Crush, Pretzel Chip Kat Crunch, YummChata, Oatmeal Cookie, Turtle Pop and Hot Buffalo Wing with Bleu Cheese ‘Dressing’.

For any occasion, event, gift or holiday celebration, Chippy’s can customize the flavor, color, size and packaging for a one-of-kind, gourmet flavored popcorn.

SRG’s 2013 Top Ten Food Trends were compiled by a team of more than 100 famous chefs, restaurateurs and foodies.  For the complete list of SRG’s 2013 Top Ten Food Trends visit http://www.srg.com/permanent/2012/10/2013-culinary-predictions.

To order online, visit http://www.chippyspopcorncreations.com or call 920.885.CORN (2676). Connect with us on Facebook to get the latest on new flavors, specials and mouthwatering gift ideas. Located at 507 Madison Street in Beaver Dam, Chippy’s Popcorn Creations is open Wednesday thru Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Chippy’s Kettle Corn, LLC founded in 2002 by culinary experts, Scott and Linda Chipman, have been crafting fresh gourmet kettle and popcorn using only the freshest, local ingredients from around the Midwest. Their newest venture, Chippy’s Popcorn Creations delivers a truly fresh, homemade gourmet popcorn experience with 30 plus flavors, specialty blends and seasonal inspirations. Chippy’s gourmet popcorn is the perfect taste for every occasion, every holiday and every day.

Oops, Late Post of Photos from NRA Food Event, McCormick Chicago

My first time to experience an NRA show…the National Restaurant Association food event at the McCormick Place.  A bit of walking around and checking out interesting food and food-related displays…and a lot of food tastings, it’s a really a belly-bursting experience (truly enjoyed the Aphrodite scones, Red Hot Chicago Hotdog, the “thin is in” Flatout Best Wraps (flatbread is the new pizza and seems to be the latest food craze, and I’m including a recipe for the Thai Chicken Flatout Pizza here), David’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (a familiar treat in the Home Shopping Network), the Yamato steaming hot Udon noodles,  Kronos Greek yogurt and feta cheese dips, the Boomerang Bay cocktail mixes, Wisconsin’s Bel Giosioso fresh mozzarella appetizers, Gayle’s Sweet n sassy barbecue chicken sandwich, Fonterra’s Chocolate Mousse, the Broaster Company chicken, the EZ “really” boneless chicken wings and colossal lollies.

More finds from the NRA show include:
*PanPens.com wipe, write and go food safety marker, “gotta have this!”
*Tamanoi’s Instant Sushi Seasoning, it’s sushi made easy with this sushi powder vinegar, the vendor even made me drink a vinegar juice (it’s just tastes like Tita V’s immune-boosting apple vinegar and honey concoction)
*Wowbutter.com’s Safe-for-school peanut butter replacement toasted soy spread, yumm!
*Displayfakefoods.com realistic display foods and drinks, omg, so real!
*Rastaimposta.com crazy hats, from Heinz catsup to hotdog on top of your head
*Mrs. Renfro’s Scary Hot Ghost Pepper Salsa (this one is for Tito Joe, certified by Guinness Book of World Records as the Hottest Pepper in the world, all 16 oz jar for Tito Joe only)

The NRA Show is simply one-of-a-kind, a hotbed of all things food, a launching pad of product innovations, a showcase of the best tasting foods…so make sure you come out to the 2013 NRA show, there is something for everyone.  Even Glenn got a troubling foot fix from one of the exhibitors…and just hoping the parking fees next year are much cheaper.

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The Black Sheep Restaurant in Whitewater, Wisc plus Chef Tyler’s Polenta recipe

We’re supposed to meet with Chef Tyler Sailsbery of the Black Sheep at 4 pm, but we showed up at his place (to me, the Black Sheep dining room layout design is nice and warm with interesting black and white fixtures) about an hour early.   Chef/Owner Tyler has this smile that is so welcoming and that really made us feel pretty excited to know more about his newest Whitewater restaurant venture and his menu offerings.

It wasn’t busy yet so we seized the opportunity and got comfortable with Chef Tyler who then handed us the menu (single white paper sheet shows antipasti, entrees and dessert on front page and wine list at the back page…simply perfect!).   The menu items were Chef Tyler’s interpretation of French and Italian classic restaurant fare.  Also written in the menu, “Sharing our love for fine local food!”, which Chef Tyler explained he pride himself of being constantly motivated to use fresh, locally sourced foods and ingredients  (from fresh vegetables to award-winning Wisconsin cheeses) for his well thought-out and inspired dishes.

I love hors d’oeuvres — and Chef Tyler’s bruschetta plate offerings were indeed a fitting introduction to this Whitewater gem, The Black Sheep restaurant.  The bruschetta appetizers (derived from the Italian word for “roast over the coals”) start with roasted Italian bread that has been rubbed with garlic cloves, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  And the variety of toppings really offered that unexpected element of complex combination of flavors and colors  — roasted red pepper, avocado, goat cheese, balsamic fig glaze, brandied fruits, etc.  They all disappeared fast — who could resist the nice crunch and surprise flavors.

We did enjoy some entree samples as well.  Chef Tyler’s house-made ravioli stuffed with local farm lamb sausage and then topped with a fresh rosemary mushroom cream sauce and to that I simply remarked, “Wow”.

Then there’s the oven roasted lightly-seasoned salmon filet (baked to perfection and am pretty sure “fork” was involved to check its doneness), drizzled with a lemon caper cream and nicely resting on a cedar plank (yes, a piece of wood, and not for consumption) and over a square of firm polenta (really great flavors for such a simple side dish…Tita Veronica loved loved loved it).

And the star dish for me:  Pork loin glazed with Cherry Stout Reduction.   Pork was not bland and dry at all, and the combination of spices and fruity flavors just made this dish successful and I must say, to die for (hats-off to Chef Tyler!).

The standout dessert, the Chef’s specialty, Pot de Creme was perfection in both flavors and sophistication:  rich and satin-smooth chocolate custard, not too sweet and topped with macerated pears and fresh whipped cream (and note I only had a spoonful and the rest enjoyed by Tita Veronica, now she’s all too “frenchy-sophisticated” come Hall of Fame Awards Night!).  Chef’s dessert is indeed a chocolate lover’s dream come true…simply divine.  For more information, including renovation gallery, location, menu and wine list, please visit website;  http://www.eatatblacksheep.com

CHEF TYLER’S POLENTA (oh-so-good!)

Polenta:
6 cups water   2 teaspoons salt  1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal    3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons salt, gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter and stir until melted.

Tyler’s Personal Polenta Recipe Addition:
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup diced shitake mushrooms –> sauteed in a pan with onion and garlic
1/4 cup baby bella mushrooms
1 tbs fresh rosemary  1 tsp savory   1 tbs thyme
Put this mixture into the basic polenta mix and combine.

We (Veronica, Joe, Glenn and me) all went home full….there really is nothing better than starting April with a happy tummy.

CASUAL BRUSCHETTA
A party starter that is simple to make, you can even snack on this anytime.

What you need:
cutting board, bread knife, olive oil, salt, pepper, baking sheets, serving platters, and toppings

Bread Preparation:
Make 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices of crusty baguettes or Italian breads.   Arrange slices on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Brush the bread with extra virgin olive oil (you may want to rub a garlic  clove cut in half or top with chopped herbs) and lightly toast them in the oven, 325 F, about 6 to 10 minutes (watch closely as not to burn the baguette slices).  Or you can brown in toaster oven.

Topping Preparation:
2 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
freshly squeezed juice of half lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
paprika, salt and pepper to taste
splash of balsamic vinegar (for sweetness, if desired)
Stir and allow to marinate to develop flavors

Assembly:
Place toasted baguette slices on your serving plate and put a heaping tablespoon of marinated toppings.  Garnish with strips of roasted pepper, chunks of fresh mozzarella, chopped basil leaves (and endless variety of toppings, check your pantry).   I usually squeeze more lemon juice on top. Serve immediately.

 

Here’s the press release from Christine Lindler of Flavorful Insight, thanks Christine…

Experience Local Flavor and Flair at The Black Sheep Restaurant Grand Opening Whitewater, Wisconsin

At the new Black Sheep Restaurant’s preview event, “Taste of Wisconsin,” you can meet, greet and eat while sipping local wines and microbrews.  It’s the perfect opportunity to discover how Chef/Owner Tyler Sailsbery combines locally sourced foods and seasonal ingredients with his own interpretations of French and Italian classic menu items. The “Taste of Wisconsin” Evening Grand Opening Social and Dinner takes place on March 30th and 31st. In addition to sampling signature appetizers and entrees, attendees will have a chance to get acquainted with some of the local producers whose foods are featured on the menu. Local producers attending the Grand Opening tasting event include Steve Pinnow of Pinn-Oak Ridge Farms offering fresh WisconsinLamb™ and Joe and Wendy Staller of Staller Estate Winery.

Chef Tyler Sailsbery was raised on a Wisconsin farm, schooled in the culinary arts, and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater, having specialized in business entrepreneurship. With an emphasis on fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, a majority of the foods featured at The Black Sheep are grown or produced within 75 miles of the restaurant. His menu offers a quality local food experience featuring items such as local rainbow trout, high-quality lamb, award-winning Wisconsin cheeses and fresh-from-the-farm seasonal produce. Some of the locally sourced foods have come from DaVALS White Buffalo Farms, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, Flyte Family Farms, Forgotten Valley Farms, Gourmet Delight, Don’s Produce, Under the Oaks Farm and Waterhouse Bakery. Locally produced beverages on the menu include Staller and Wollersheim Wines, as well as wide selection of local microbrews from Ale Asylum, Capital Brewery, Central Waters Brewery, New Glarus Brewing Company, Sprecher Brewery and Tyranena Brewing Company.

For the March 30th and 31st “Taste of Wisconsin” Grand Opening, Chef Tyler Sailsbery will be offering a sample of Black Sheep’s menu. From 4 to 6 p.m. on both evenings, samples of bruschetta appetizers will be paired with local wines and microbrews. The name bruschetta is derived from the Italian word for “roast over the coals.” The appetizer menu features of selection of specialties that start with roasted bread that has been rubbed with garlic cloves, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper. The Black Sheep bruschetta varieties include combinations such as roasted red pepper, goat cheese and balsamic; and brandied fruit, goat cheese and balsamic fig glaze. From 6 to 8 p.m. on both Grand Opening evenings, entrée samples will include lamb ravioli, and pork loin glazed with cherry stout and paired with New Glarus microbrews.

For reservations or more information, contact The Black Sheep by calling 262.458.4751 or visiting the website at http://www.eatatblacksheep.com. The restaurant’s hours are Monday, and Wednesday through Saturday from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m., with Sunday Brunch served from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.  The Black Sheep is closed on Tuesdays.

The Black Sheep Restaurant is Downtown Whitewater’s newest dining restaurant offering a quality local food experience.  Serving local rainbow trout, high quality lamb to award-winning Wisconsin Cheese coupled with seasonal produce, truly adds local flavor to French and Italian inspired dishes. For a homegrown and hearty dining experience nestled in Downtown Whitewater, eat at The Black Sheep.

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Lake Geneva Country Meats (Home of Leahy’s award-winning sausages)

Lake Geneva Country Meats (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin) is a family-owned and operated business since 1965.  We were greeted at the door by father and son, Scott and Nick Vorpagel.   We loved what we saw right away  — spacious interior with hundreds of food displays.

While interacting with Nick for the CPRTV segment, I could see Veronica, Joe and Glenn being offered samples of sweet and savory items — really one enjoyable food experience.  Nick Vorpagel is the Sales And Technology Manager and he showed us the various meat processing areas (it would have been great if there were actual meat crafting, sausage making operations taking place; no such behind-the-scene activity happening on Saturdays though).

But so relieved to learn that Lake Geneva Country Meats was recently featured on Discover Wisconsin and anyone can view the full episodes via http://www.discoverwisconsin.com.   And we were also joined by the Master Meat Crafter himself, Jeff Schmalfeldt.

The store was getting a bit busy, but we managed to get footages of smoked sausages ready for cutting into separate links, hanged sides of beef,  sausage making equipment, locally manufactured food products (honey, brownies and cheesecakes), cheeses and yes, wine too.  Nick surprised me with a bottle of 2010 Late Harvest Riesling wine, B. Lovely to take home and enjoy (Nick you are a darling!).    Glenn made some purchases, including taco sausages and cheddar cheese and pepper bratwurst.  Nick emailed me this step-by-step “how to cook the bratwursts” and this gave me an idea of how I’d prepare the brats we purchased.

How to Cook Lake Geneva Country Meats Portabella Mushroom and Swiss Cheese Brats
All of our Fresh Mushroom Swiss Bratwursts come wrapped in white butcher paper, and you should follow these directions in their entirety.  If the brats are in a clear plastic package, they are already precooked, and you can start at Step 5.

1) If the brats are frozen, thaw them either overnight in a refrigerator or in warm water.

2) Place brats in a pot (medium-sized saucepan) of beer, butter and sliced onions, fully covering the brats (A dozen of brats with 1 sliced large sweet onion and 2 tablespoons butter).  If you do not like any of these items you can omit them and use water instead.

3) Bring pot of liquid to a boil.

4) Turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes. The water will turn foamy and the brats will turn gray as they cook.

5) Remove brats from water and place them on a grill, under a broiler or in a frying pan to brown.

6) Brown on each side for approximately 5 minutes. Remove brats from heat and serve (on fresh baked toasted buns). Use the onions from step 2 to top the brats with, if you like!

Since I’m a big fan of barbecued caramelized onions for my brats, you may want to do this extra step:  Caramelize 1 sliced large sweet onion with 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet.  Then add a jar of your favorite barbecue sauce and let simmer until mixture thickens.  Oh I can’t wait for summer!

The late John and wife Rita Leahy (Nick made sure we get to chat with Rita, and she is such an amazing and so approachable lady) started the business in 1965.   Rita gladly posed with son-in-law Scott and grandson Nick for Viatimes camera.

Rita ushered the crew to the tasting table…for some “bratwurst bracketology”.   Samples of 2 newly created “not on sale yet” gourmet bratwurst flavors were available for tasting — Honey Mustard Bratwurst and Spinach and Feta Cheese Chicken Bratwurst, with tasters voting for their favorites.  I loved them both…so glad the crew were busy shopping,  I didn’t leave the tasting table until I had samples after samples of the awesome meat products and cheeses too.

We didn’t get to meet Nick’s mom, Kathy Vorpagel, John and Rita’s daughter who is married to the President and CEO of Lake Geneva Country Meats, Scott Vorpagel.   Thanks again Rita, Scott and Nick… now we know where to get these quality brats and sausages for outdoor grilling this coming summer season.  Visit Lake Geneva Country Meats website for more info/special events ( ongoing wine tastings the third Saturday of every month; April tasting focus on Argentinean wines): http://www.lakegenevacountrymeats.com. And while at the website, view recipes like Carne Asada, Cranberry Glazed Ham and Lori’s Prime Rib.  More specials posted via facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/lgmeats.

I requested Nick to take some snapshots of meat processing activities….he sent these sausage making and custom meat processing exclusively for my blog (Nick, you are wonderful!)…

This is a picture of part of a customer’s locally raised and custom processed beef.  All of these roasts will be wrapped soon.  The white card contains all the instructions about how they would like their beef cut, thickness, package size, which roasts, etc.

Chuck is sawing some T-Bone steaks for the same customer. The saw cuts right through the bone.

Jose is trimming roasts from a primal cut.

This is a batch of Chicken Cordon Bleu brats being mixed together.  It has lean chicken, spices, and you can see the bits of cheese in with the meat.

 Jeff is stuffing some of our famous Cherry brats. The mixed meat and seasonings goes in the bowl in the left, and it comes out as a stuffed sausage from the tube!

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About Lake Geneva Country Meats: 5907 State Road 50 East, Lake Geneva, WI 53147
Home of Leahy’s award-winning sausages, fresh produce, local wines and cheeses and more visit Lake Geneva Country Meats to bring home a gourmet meal.  Be sure to look for Leahy’s Sausage in your grocer’s sausage section throughout Madison, Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Chicagoland areas. To sample or learn more about award-winning meats, sausages and gourmet foods, visit Lake Geneva Country Meats Gourmet Retail Shop, located just 3 miles east of Lake Geneva, visit online at http://www.lakegenevacountrymeats.com or call 262.248.3339.

Connect with Lake Geneva Country Meats Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Jump Into Ireland (plus recipe for Smoked Salmon, Potato Blinis and Creme Fraiche)

It was indeed one evening of fun entertainment at the Chicago History Museum for the “Jump Into Ireland”, Tourism Ireland’s travel campaign for 2012.   Had a wonderful experience at last year’s Ireland media event and really looking forward to attending this, no way I would miss some nice Irish stew (made the real Irish way!).  And that super excitement made me forget to drop my camera in my purse, wouldn’t let this happen again, so please excuse the bad snapshots from phone.  But really this time the Ireland promotions was exceptional…it was like a movie script with loads of laughs, gourmet foods, visuals extraordinaire.  Hats-off to the organizers and Tourism Ireland…the event really made everyone want to JUMP INTO IRELAND.

Attendees (travel agents/companies and media) were treated to a delightful live acts from beautiful and talented Irish musicians (they even included teaching basic steps of the River Dance)and actors interspersed with “coast-to-coast” travelogue of Ireland (also featured dialogue with several Tour consultants, Hotel and Spa Managers and other trade partners).

As per Tourism Ireland Trade and Promotions Manager Fiona Dunne, “We are delighted to be here in Chicago profiling everything that is good about a trip to Ireland.  From West Coast, to Northern Ireland, to the historic city of Dublin, there is a raft of wonderful things to see and do and we would encourage US vacationers to include Ireland on their calendar for 2012.   What’s new in 2012? — Titanic Belfast (largest Titanic visitor experience in the world) opens this April, Irish Open Golf tournament, and lots more.   Please check out http://www.discoverireland.com, and I won’t be surprised if you find yourself…”Jump(ing) into Ireland”.

I had a chance to enjoy a brief chat with Chef Sean Farnan of Priory House Restaurant for the CelebrEATy Circle and he was so excited to be part of 2012 Discover Ireland program.  His menu offerings served after the promotional “theatre-style” Jump Into Ireland experience were spectacular:  Lamb stew, corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread…and an array of mouthwatering desserts.   Now I could only wish I brought along my camera…but it was a superb array of Irish dishes (including colcannon, with rashers or bacon too) and a separate table for sweets and pastries…and “take your pick” on Irish wines and spirits.  And in case you haven’t heard yet…Ireland is the Food Lovers’ Island.

And take note of the banner when traveling to Northern Ireland…”Northern Ireland 2012 – Your time, our place”.

Many thanks to Eileen Power of Publicity & Communications, Tourism Ireland for the invitation.  We really had a great time…and everyone’s “GREENING” with joy and excitement.

Smoked Salmon, Potato Blinis and Creme Fraiche
Source:  Richard Corrigan/discoverireland.com

16 oz dry mashed potato
8 oz pasta flour
4 eggs separated — egg whites whisked
4 yolks
1.6 fl oz buttermilk
Nutmeg
Salt

Mix the mashed potato and flour together, before adding the buttermilk and seasoning.  Add the egg yolks and then fold in the whisked whites.  Cook in a warm pan in greased rings.

Serve with sliced Irish smoked salmon and creme fraiche.

Foodies take note: Silver Dollar City (Branson, MO) 2012 Exciting Festivals


It’s really what’s not to like about Silver Dollar City attractions in Branson, Missouri.  The moment you get past the gates to this (more than 100 acres) theme park, you’d be greeted with nicest smiles (everybody’s on an absolutely fun mode), aromas of freshly-baked breads and pastries and “just as you’d expect” coolest atmosphere (it’s go slow or go fast, it’s happy days are here again!).  It’s my second trip to this “wonderland” and the attractions, shops and activities are ever-changing, I really enjoy (I’m absolutely going back for more) a full day at Silver Dollar City, it’s just a fun place to enjoy unbelievable treats (candy store, apple dumplings, mountain size cookies, pork rinds, hot chocolate, specialty breads, skillet cookery, tater twist, and lots more), to learn from and chat with demonstrating craftsmen like Culinary expert Debbie Dance Uhrig, and to enjoy the thrill rides (let me clarify this, haha, I only said, enjoy hearing/watching kids and families screams on water raft rides and roller coasters).  It’s good old-fashioned family fun, day or night, it’s just magical!

SDC’s Managers (including Lisa Rau and Martha Hoy Bohner) welcomed the media to Silver Dollar City and while we enjoyed a fabulous meal offerings of chicken with apple butter, prime rib and ham, pumpkin/pecan pie and chocolate layer cake, the 2012 exciting events in Silver Dollar City were announced (what’s new for 2012).

SPRING

*World-fest (April 12 – May 6) – features top entertainment from around the world —

AARON CARUSO – Operatic tenor, trained by Rome’s Maestro Viccio and recently had a sold out show at Carnegie Hall

PIAZZA de FIESTA – “Little Italy” plaza comes alive with flag throwers, living statues, stilt walkers and colorful costime parade

MARIACHI DIVAS – Grammy Award-winning all-female music Ensemble

HAWAIIAN COUNTRY MUSIC – Stars four-time Grammy winner George Kahumoku

PERU’S YAWAR CHICCHI – folk music and dance troupe

KENYAN SARAKASI ACROBATS – world renowned acrobats from Nairobi, Kenya

RUSSIAN ACADEMIC BAND

HEARBHAIL FINNEGAN – Ireland’s premier harpist

ECUADOR MANTA

SLOVENIAN POLKA PARTY

*Bluegrass and BBQ Festival (May 10 – June 3, 2012) – see electrifying performances by some of the top names in Bluegrass music, from award-winning favorites to red-hot rising stars and enjoy a barbecue feast

RHONDA VINCENT & THE RAGE, THE GRASCALS, DOYLE LAWSON & QUICKSILVER, KRUGER BROTHERS, GIBSON BROTHERS, BALSAM RANGE, LITTLE ROY & LIZZY

BLUEGRASS COMPETITIONS – The National Single Mic Championship (May 19 & 20) and the Youth In Bluegrass Band Contest (May 26 & 27)

BARBECUE FEAST – BBQ grills filled with over 40,000 pound of barbecue (Memphis dry rubs, Carolina vinegars, smoky Texas eats and sweet KC-style)

SUMMER

*National KidsFest (June 9 – July 22, 2012) -it’s the Ultimate Summer Vacation for families

THE FABULOUS WALLENDAS – famous family circus topbilled by Guinness World Record High Wire-Walker and Discovery Channel star Nik Wallenda

LUMA – high-tech illumination techniques for a three-dimensional show of light, color and motion

GAZILLION BUBBLES – an interactive show with lasers, lighting effects and sheer bubble mastery

CARTOON CHARACTER MEET AND GREETS

INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION (July 4) – a salute to veterans complete with fireworks

FALL

*Southern Gospel Picnic (August 24 – September 3, 2012) – features Dove Award winners and top gospel acts

BOOTH BROTHERS, TRIUMPHANT QUARTET, JEFF & SHERI EASTER, ISAACS, COLLINGSWORTH FAMILY

PICNIC-STYLE FOODS – all mouthwatering including the Silver Dollar City’s famous fried chicken (Had them on my first trip to SDC, and yes, to die for, the best)

*National Harvest Festival  (September 13 – October 27, 2012) – top-rated craft festival

WESTERN STUNT SHOW by professional stunt men and women

DEMONSTRATING CRAFTSMEN from around the country

BEST OF MISSOURI HANDS JURIED ARTISTS

BUCK TAYLOR – legendary Western star and water color artist

COWBOY POETS, WILD MUSTANGS, TRICK HORSE STUNTS, TRICK ROPING AND BULL WHIP

CHRISTMAS

*An Old Time Christmas (November 3 – December 30, 2012) – heralded “the Most Illuminated Park on Earth” by the Travel Channel

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE – all new musical production adapted from the Frank Capra classic

CHRISTMAS ON MAIN STREET – light & sound show featuring the 5-story Special Effects Christmas Tree

A DICKENS’ CHRISTMAS CAROL – this is really worth watching (see my slideshow below)

HOLIDAY LIGHT PARADE, MUSICAL LIVING NATIVITY

How do you start your day at Silver Dollar City?  I recommend you go right ahead to Silver Dollar City’s first restaurant, Molly’s Mill Restaurant where a hearty Ozark breakfast/brunch buffet is served  (it’s air conditioned and dig in to Miss Molly’s famous Southern-style Fried chicken).    Then before leisurely walking around, check the schedule of classes at the Culinary & Craft School (Master Craftsman Debbie Dance Uhrig always has exciting recipes to share to you in a state-of-the art Kitchen Showroom, complete with Viking appliances, flat screen TV for over head views and tiered seating for close-up viewing).  Now you’re on your own, wander around and don’t forget the candy factory (sugar confections of all sizes and shapes and flavors, yum!).

Remember:  In Silver Dollar City, it’s your show…come hungry, come as you please and stay as long as you like, until park closes at 9:30 pm!

For more info, please visit website:  http://www.silverdollarcity.com

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Again, to CVB Lynn Berry and the entire Branson and SDC team:  congrats and job well done!

Dino’s 24 Karrot Cake and Basic Carrot Cake Recipe to enjoy

Branson Landing is one exciting development in Branson, an open-air shopping mall boasting over  100 specialty stores and restaurants.    One of the popular shops in Branson Landing is Dino’s 24 Karrot Cake Company & Cafe.  Dino’s so famous in Branson for its legendary treat for all  sweet lovers — Carrot Cake (Dino mentions of Beyonce and Denzel Washington as some of his wealthy clientele).   So we all had a slice from Dino’s decorated carrot cake — so moist, so crazy-delicious, so-not-enough for just a slice.

At Dino’s I was introduced to America’s favorite Gospel Trio, the “Voices of Glory”, 5th placer in last year’s America’s Got Talent.  Their uncle/manager Gerard Cole introduced me also to the kids parents — so much love in this family, really!   Check their website for their CD as well as schedule of tours and performances:  http://www.voicesofglory2020.com


Basic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Meaning, no canned crushed pineapple added!  And yes, lots of oil to ensure a super moist cake.  Some would substitute applesauce for half of the oil…but this is a basic recipe, remember.

Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups canola or corn oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated carrots
1 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

Frosting:
1 box (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
about 3 to 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla extract
coarsely chopped walnuts, for garnish

Use two 9-inch or 3 8-inch round pans, greased, line bottom with parchment paper, greased again and floured.   Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix all cake ingredients using electric mixer, combining well until smooth.  Divide into prepared pans.  Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Let cakes cool while preparing frosting.

For the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl until well blended.  Add powdered sugar, a cup at a time.  Stir in vanilla extract and beat until smooth and creamy.  Fill and frost cake, and garnish top of cake with chopped walnuts.  Simple but divine..it’s carrot cake!

Also took pics of other Dino’s cake…yumm!

The Andy Williams Christmas Show in Branson and Christmas Dinner at his Moon River Grille

Of course we were so excited to watch the Andy Williams Christmas Show with Bob Anderson and the Lennon Sisters in Branson, it was top of list of shows I wanted to enjoy watching in Branson.  It’s Andy Williams…and per our itinerary, Andy Williams would have made it for a meet-and-greet at his famous Moon River Grille before the show.   We got to the restaurant just enough to have a chat with Debbie Boone (of course, the lady behind the hit song, You light Up my Life), she was a joy to chat with and it happened while we were muching down our salads — couldn’t be fast enough to pull out my camera.   CVB boss, Lynn Berry introduced to some celebrities appearing in the show following the dinner — Lennon Sisters, Bob Anderson, etc.

Here’s the menu offering…Glenn and I both had the tenderloin, yummy!

And that dessert — Chocolate Bread Pudding with Raspberry Sauce, it was a perfect ending to a wonderful Christmas Meal.   I’ve been looking at some Chocolate Bread Pudding recipes in the net and one day I’d make one and share you the recipe.

Before leaving the Grille, I spotted a tray full of yummy desserts — here’s the snapshot…

Andy Williams didn’t make it to the dinner…and didn’t make it to the show either…was later announced that he was very ill.  Wishing Mr.  Branson (Andy Williams) good health for 2012!

The Show was fast-paced and so well-choreographed….and everyone had a great time!

Say yes to Branson’s Thousand Hills Cabins…

So fast and easy to get to Branson…yes, Branson’s airport is now open and operational.  About 2 years ago, our travel time from Chicago to Branson…10 long hours.  It was worth it though…if you are a first traveller to Branson, I’d recommend enjoying the ride and stops (so many reasons to: experience the throwed rolls at Lambert’s, enjoy a wonderful “full” meat at the Best Buffet in America Ryan’s, and the must “nature’s call”, among others).

Now if you’re wondering about lodging and accommodation in Branson…I thought the best response to that would be to book a hotel room online…but all that changed with this wonderful cabin experience.  Cabin?…sounds ok for summer, but for winter? really!  Oh yes, we had the best time with our cabin at Thousand Hills Golf & Conference Resort.  We could only thank the Branson Welcome Committee (Lynn Berry and Tamra Corbin of Branson CVB and Tammy Scholten and Allison Campbell of Branson Landing) for surprising us with this “truly romantic” cabin.

Fireplace…indoor 2-person Jacuzzi tub (there’s really nothing like sliding in this after a long day of exploring the beautiful Branson)….large shower room with 2 individual shower heads (yup, you don’t have to wait for your wife to finish her shower for 2 hours lol, just take shower with her, together)… and all the fixations of modern conveniences (refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave oven, convection oven, and even washer/dryer).   If like me you’d like to enjoy waking up with a cup of coffee and warm cinnamon buns or pandesal (Filipino bread) or pancakes with prepared blueberry sauce…you sure can do that in the cabin.

And no housekeeper to bother you to get the hotel room ready again for the day…sometimes, I just don’t want to be disturbed.

So check these cabins on your first or next visit to Branson!  Visit website for more info: http://www.thousandhills.com

A “Legendary” Holiday Evening in Branson

For a truly first “Legendary” Holiday Evening in Branson, members of the Press convened in Branson Landing’s Cantina Laredo to enjoy helpings of fajita, taco bar, guacamole and chips and salsa.

What a great first formal meal in downtown Branson…right in the heart of the newest Branson attraction, Branson Landing.    It’s the perfect offering … a bit spicy, a bit crunchy, a bit smooth and creamy…a bit tangy, a bit sweet, a bit salty….with the Branson Welcome Committee (Lynn Berry and Tamra Corbin of Branson CVB and Tammy Scholten and Allison Campbell of Branson Landing) exchanging pleasantries with media guests (Bob and Pat Lindsey of Independent News, St. Louis, Missouri, Rich Lopez  of Dallas Voice, Arline Chandler of Arkansas and Carrie Pitzer of Nebraska, among others).

And if the Mexican fiesta food wasn’t enough to impress the guests, the stars were summoned and joined the party.  Cast members of the popular Legends of Hollywood show hopped from table to table, making us all feel welcome: Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Blues Brothers, Ray Charles and Chorus Girls.  And Glenn just had to pose with Dolly!  We later watched the show…and Dolly (not the real Dolly, of course) sang and performed just like Dolly, simply wow!  The show, which also runs in Vegas, is packed every performance.