It’s summer, and that means the highways are thronged with cars filled to the brim with people, dogs, pillows, fishing boxes, and coolers stuffed with sustenance for long country weekends. I’m trying to figure out how to cram everything into our family Truckster, for our first foray into the north woods in years. Of course, the most important thing to plan is which items are worth that valuable car space. Right now, I’m debating the bar versus the dog. On the one hand, dogs make every cabin experience better, and mine possesses really stumpy little legs. So, he should probably come. On the other hand, what if they don’t have my favorite bottles at the northland liquor stores?
In the meantime, these are the local dishes I know are worth the cooler space as we skedaddle out of town.
Gerhard’s Cheddar Brats: The porkiest brats in town are also studded with great knobs of melty cheese. Absolutely perfect grilled for lunch by the lake. Available at several stores around the metro. I usually pick mine up at the Golden Fig in St. Paul.
Skinny Sticks Maple Syrup: You can’t count on the cabin for stocking the good syrup, and there is no room for Mrs. Butterface on this wild ride. Skinny Sticks has the amber gold my pancakes deserve. Plus, it’s made in Wisconsin, which I believe is known as the Vermont of the Midwest. Buy it at Kowalski’s.
Whole Grain Milling Tortilla Chips: These bright-yellow crunchies are the best tortilla chips around for dipping anything with substance. They are a wee bit habit-forming; my husband could easily go through a bag a day. Find them at your co-op or Whole Foods.
Cry Baby Craig’s Hot Sauce: Country food can be a little…snoozy sometimes. Pack a bottle of this for the long road trip and use liberally over anything that needs a little waking up. Created by a local chef, this garlicky sauce has since popped up all over the metro. Here’s a handy map for finding where to buy.
Bootstrap Roasters Coffee: This St. Paul roasted coffee is my number one pick for a smooth cup. The new Summer Blend sounds perfect for early morning sipping while listening to the loons call across the lake. Order online or find a retailer.
Fat Cheeks Chocolate Butter: Cabin time is for indulgence, and spreading butter on toast like frosting on a cake fits that bill. Find this stuff at the Minneapolis Farmers Market. (Also, the sweet onion butter is to die for on a burger.)