Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Orchard Bar & Grill
571 Highway 63
Baldwin, Wisconsin

Just north of Interstate 94, in the small farming community of Baldwin, Wisconsin, stands a large restaurant called the Orchard Bar & Grill. The building was formerly a nursery; the bar in the main dining room is built around the base of an old silo. Except for the unavoidable television sets, the room holds a sense of elegance that, set against the fields and (actual) orchards visible through the large windows, gives diners the slight sensation of being Lord of the Manor. If only there were some serfs plowing in the distance....

The waitress turned out to be a former student of one of our group (no surprise, really; it's an area where everybody knows everybody else), so every time she came by we had a few minutes of reminiscences and gossip to listen to. Amusing to the others of us, since we're not from this part of the world, but such tidbits are the mortar that holds our society together, even if they're about people we don't know. Once heard, they give us the feeling we do know the people, after all. Because they're just like us.

The service we got was very good; the gossip and chit-chat made it even better. It was easy to see that others in the restaurant were equally pleased with it, even if they didn't get the who-done-what narrative with their food.

We started off with a round of drinks, followed up with an appetizer of New Glarus cheesebread: "Spotted Cow cheese blend" melted on a sliced baguette. New Glarus Brewing Company, located in southern Wisconsin, uses a spotted cow in its logo. It seems to be a local icon, but honestly I neither know nor care what the connection is with the cheesebread at the Orchard. It didn't taste of beer; it tasted more like pizza. Good, but not great, and in retrospect I could have done without it. I'd've had more capacity for the highlights of the meal.

The first highlight was the soup. The onion soup was well made in the thoroughly traditional manner, and was loaded with cheese over caramelized onions in a deep, dark beef stock, with a slice of the same baguette that was used for the cheesebread. The sweet potato soup was thick, slightly warm, and tasty. I might have been happy with just a big bowl of that, but I had already ordered an entrée.

My friend's blackened New York strip steak was grilled perfectly and liberally covered with sprinkles of bleu cheese. You might expect cheese in Wisconsin to be extraordinary, but this, I'm told, wasn't quite to that level. It was merely very good. Since I don't like bleu cheese myself — I try to stay away from rotten food, whether the rot is considered desirable or not — I have to take his word for this. My coconut shrimp stir-fry was right up there in the food standings, too; maybe not a champion but definitely a contender.

All this, though, was but prelude to the deserts: Wisconsin cherries with vanilla ice cream, and turtle pie. Cherries are, to my way of thinking, only good at all when they are very fresh, as when found at a roadside stand at the height of their season. These cherries may have been acquired in that fashion, as they were perfectly ripe, perfectly tart, and perfectly juicy. The vanilla ice cream was as good as one can expect from a state famous for its dairy industry. Good as that dish was, the turtle pie was even better. It was heavenly, with the perfect texture in all its makings. If I were rating only the desserts, there'd be another chili pepper on the board.
The Orchard Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome, even the mean ones.