Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Definitely A Place To Go Back To

Shady Grove
N6240 State Highway 65
Ellsworth, Wisconsin
(fire up your navigation software; it's not close to anything)

What does that mean?
It would be untrue to say that I keep going back to western Wisconsin just to eat at Shady Grove. Why, there has been at least one visit to the area where I didn't eat there at all. (They were closed when I went.)

The prices at Shady Grove (or Chez d'Grove, as the francophones in the area like to call it) are about what you'd expect for haute cuisine. The difference between this place, and many other upscale places, is that, at Shady Grove, you actually get haute cuisine. Hell, even their cheese curds are the best you will ever have. (And yes, it is possible to have cheese curds be haute cuisine: anything done perfectly can be haute cuisine, possibly excepting liver and black-eyed peas.)

The service can be iffy. This place gets so very busy that it's hard for the staff to keep up. It's not a big place, and if a party of ten drops in unexpectedly (as happened on the occasion of my latest visit), it can throw everything off, especially since the atmosphere in the dining room is so welcoming that people tend not to leave when they finish eating. The man next to me while I waited at the bar was miffed because his 8.00 reservation had passed away into dust and, forty minutes later, there was still one other customer ahead of him. But I think he got over it by the time he left. I don't bother with reservations myself; I enjoy the time at the bar, however long it is; and they have those cheese curds.... But despite the crowd, the staff remain pleasingly upbeat, and they work hard to get everything done. I would not argue with anyone who said they deserve another chili pepper on that line.

I started with onion soup. Real onion soup, in a deep crock filled with rich broth, and topped with a thick layer of good cheese over French bread. An inspired creation, magnificently re-created. I followed this up with a duck breast that was easily better than any duck breast has a right to be. It was tender, with crispy skin, and, remarkably, not the least bit greasy. It's been several days now, so I don't recall what was in the dark, delicious sauce that topped the dish, but I do remember the exquisite flavour and texture of the dish, as well as of the sweet-potato purée that accompanied it. Now I guess I'll have to go back, and next time take notes. Well, it's worth the trip.
Shady Grove on Urbanspoon

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