‘Wel­come to Wis­con­sin!’ mo­ments

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LIFE - By Beth J. Harpaz

MADI­SON, WIS­CON­SIN >> Walk­ing around Madi­son, Wis­con­sin, I sud­denly felt a sharp pain in my leg. What was pok­ing me?

Turned out my pocket was full of tooth­picks from all the cheese curds I’d sam­pled at the farm­ers mar­ket. It was one of sev­eral “Wel­come to Wis­con­sin!” mo­ments, start­ing with a dis­play of or­ange “cheese­head” gear — worn by fans of Wis­con­sin’s NFL team, the Green Bay Pack­ers — that greeted me at Mil­wau­kee’s air­port. Later in my trip, I got these di­rec­tions to a cheese store: “Take a right and look for the cow.”

MIL­WAU­KEE MU­SEUM

I spent as much time ad­mir­ing the Mil­wau­kee Art Mu­seum out­side as I did look­ing at the art in­side. From one an­gle, the white, winged San­ti­ago Cala­trava-de­signed build­ing on the Lake Michi­gan water­front looks like a bird in flight. From another an­gle, it’s a ship set­ting sail. In­side, white ribs form a fu­tur­is­tic tun­nel with a lake view.

But don’t for­get the art: the spooky hooded fig­ure of “Saint Fran­cis of As­sisi in His Tomb”; an ex­cel­lent Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe col­lec­tion, in­clud­ing a strik­ing photo of her shot by her hus­band Al­fred Stieglitz; and a suit­case propped open on the floor, an un­ti­tled work by Robert Gober that re­veals an en­tire sub­ter­ranean world.

I book­ended my mu­seum visit with two ter­rific meals: lunch at The Na­tional cafe and an out­stand­ing din­ner of farmto-ta­ble small plates at Braise, owned by chef Dave Swan­son, a James Beard Award nom­i­nee.

MADI­SON FARM­ERS MAR­KET

It’s so crowded at the Dane County Farm­ers’ Mar­ket that you can’t choose which way to walk. You can only flow with the sea of hu­man­ity in one di­rec­tion past ta­bles over­flow­ing with fruits, veg­gies, flow­ers, baked goods and of course, cheese curds, those squeaky bits of fresh cheese good­ness, in fla­vors rang­ing from dill to Sriracha. The mar­ket runs Satur­days un­til 1:45 p.m. through Nov. 5 around the state Capi­tol, then moves in­doors to Madi­son’s Monona Ter­race, Satur­days Nov. 12Dec. 17.

I peeked in­side the Capi­tol at its beau­ti­ful dome, then walked down State Street to the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin cam­pus, stop­ping at Bab­cock Hall for ice cream, climb­ing Bas­com Hill and hang­ing out with the beer-and-bratwurst crowd at the lake­side Me­mo­rial Union Ter­race.

I drove to nearby Mid­dle­ton for a quick stop at the Na­tional Mus­tard Mu­seum (free ad­mis­sion, goofy mus­tard-in­spired art and ev­ery type of mus­tard imag­in­able). Then, with a credit card and app, I rented a bike from a Madi­son BCy­cle kiosk and biked 12 miles around Lake Monona. The lake trail of­ten de­tours from the water­front and it’s hilly (you thought the Mid­west was flat?). But the ex­er­cise felt good af­ter eating all that cheese.

SPRING GREEN

Amer­ica’s most famous ar­chi­tect, Frank Lloyd Wright, spent his teenage sum­mers work­ing on his un­cle’s Wis­con­sin farm. You can see how that land­scape of farms and rolling hills in­flu­enced Wright’s style and aes­thet­ics at Taliesin , his house and es­tate in Spring Green. Wright set out to re­place the ver­ti­cal boxy shape that dom­i­nated home de­sign in the late 19th and early 20th cen­turies with mod­ernist struc­tures that flowed hor­i­zon­tally like the Mid­west­ern prairie. Taliesin was a lab for his ideas: open floor plans rather than walled-off rooms, large win­dows with ex­pan­sive views and a struc­ture built to suit the ter­rain. House tours are of­fered daily through Oct. 31 and Friday-Sunday through Novem­ber.

Taliesin was also the site of a shock­ing crime: A house em­ployee mur­dered Wright’s mistress and six oth­ers in 1914 and set fire to the house. But Wright was re­silient. He re­built and kept go­ing. New York’s Guggen­heim Mu­seum, was be­ing built when he died at age 89 in 1959.

Nearby Taliesin is the quirky at­trac­tion House on the Rock . Its cre­ator, Alex Jor­dan Jr., amassed a col­lec­tion of strange ar­ti­facts — weird carousel an­i­mals, ma­chines that play creepy mu­sic — and they’re dis­played in a series of odd rooms and build­ings, some or­nate, some musty and dark. An hour here was enough for me, but if you go, don’t miss the in­fin­ity room, a dis­ori­ent­ing can­tilevered struc­ture lined with win­dows, 154 feet off the ground.

NEW GLARUS AND MON­ROE

I caught the tail end of Ok­to­ber­fest in New Glarus, a town so proud of its Swiss her­itage that street signs are in Ger­man and store­fronts are dec­o­rated with Swiss flags and cow­bells. I downed a Spot­ted Cow, a pop­u­lar beer from the New Glarus Brew­ing Co., and dined at the Glarner Stube res­tau­rant, which serves fon­due, raclette, schnitzel and sauer­braten. The Chalet Land­haus Inn pro­vided a good night’s sleep, nice break­fast and com­pli­men­tary Swiss choco­lates.

In Mon­roe, I went hunt­ing for the Emmi-Roth Kase cheese fac­tory. But I couldn’t find it. I asked a lo­cal for di­rec­tions and was told: “Take a right and look for the cow.”

There was a cow — though not a real one — out­side the Alp and Dell Cheese Store , which is con­nected to the fac­tory. I bought seven types of cheese from the shop’s over­flow­ing cool­ers and bins, in­clud­ing cheese curds, chipo­tle gouda, Emmi-Roth’s award-win­ning grand cru cheese and a but­ter­scotchy cheese called Prairie Sun­set. Then I shipped it all back to my of­fice in New York. When I got back, I gave a Wis­con­sin cheese party.

This photo shows a build­ing in the town of New Glarus, Wis., dec­o­rated with cow­bells. New Glarus proudly pro­claims its Swiss im­mi­grant roots with dis­plays like this along with Swiss flags, street signs in Ger­man and Swiss food and im­ported prod­ucts for sale around town.

This photo shows Taliesin in Spring Green, Wis. Famed ar­chi­tect Frank Lloyd Wright de­signed and lived in the Taliesin house and es­tate. He worked on an un­cle’s farm nearby as a teenager and tours of Taliesin show how his love for the land­scape in­flu­enced his style and aes­thet­ics.

PHOTOS BY BETH J. HARPAZ — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

This photo shows the Dane County Farm­ers’ Mar­ket in Madi­son, Wis., which takes place Satur­days around the state Capi­tol build­ing. The mar­ket fea­tures all kinds of lo­cally grown pro­duce along with many va­ri­eties of cheese and cheese curds.

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