We were convince (or coerced) by our dear friend JP to take the 20 minute ride north from our hotel in Hudson, WI to the quaint (in the etymological sense) town of Stillwater. The last time we'd been to town, last September, Jess had introduced us to a Pirate-themed bar
(with no patience for "Talk Like a Pirate Day") but also to a ridiculously long line of late-summer traffic coming into town.
This time around Jess met us for a cocktail at the Dock Cafe, a place where his parents go for the occasional Manhattan. I followed suit (bourbon) as did JP (brandy) and Brooke had a well-made vodka martini. Very good cocktails, but the dinner was even better. If you ever have opportunity to eat in Stillwater, the Black & Blue Tuna is utterly perfect. Spicy, with some wasabi on the side if you want even a bit more, and a blue cheese sauce. The flavors are unusual together, but really quite nice.
After dinner we explored downtown in search of an after-dinner drink and settled, luckily for us, on MarX
, a modern-looking restaurant with an interesting collection of boozes. Brooke ordered an Espresso Martini, which was serviceable. I asked the bartender what he could make with whiskey. He made me a Red Snapper which sounds awful, but is actually quite tasty (though it loses a lot of the flavor that makes you want to drink whiskey in the first place). It's a concoction of Crown Royale, Amaretto and a splash of cranberry juice.
I inquired about an interesting-looking bottle tucked away behind some of the cordials and was rewarded with a splash of a Hirsch Bourbon from Kentucky. It was delightful, smooth and sweet.
I asked the general manager about the art on the wall, some of which was local, but four framed paintings of which had come from Haiti. They had a typical Haitian brightness and the local art matched that flavor. We sampled one more 'experimental' cocktail that they were considering adding to the menu. It had rye whiskey, Drambuie, some honey and Bittercube Blackstrap Bitters
(from Milwaukee!). The drink was topped with a anise floater, which hit the nose just as you were sipping, a very delightful cocktail. All in all, I'd highly recommend MarX as a place for cocktails and if the care with which they were crafted is any indication, I'm guessing the food is excellent there too.
The next morning I had occasion to return to Stillwater for breakfast, which I took at the River Oasis Café, just south of downtown on Highway 95. The place was interestingly laid out, with two café counters running alongside four booths with a narrow walkspace in between for the waitress to get to all the serving spaces with as few steps as possible. Now, William Least Heat Moon asserts in his worthwhile travel book Blue Highways
that a town diner can be judged by the number of calendars hanging on the wall (if that's so, this place was not up to snuff), but I would instead count the number of local advertisements (for shows, sales, or other notices) and take that as an indication of the place's "down-hominess". Anyway, my egg sandwich, made-to-order, was delicious on a multi-grain toast and an adequate cup of coffee. The clientele was old and gossiping, as it should be at any local diner. A good last stop in a town that serves as a "small town getaway" for Minneapolis burghers.
Labels: booze, foodie, travel