Eating Along The River

Red Wing has become an annual pilgrimage for Hubby Bryan and me. We go there because of its proximity to the Mississippi River, the rolling hills and winding roads that we enjoy traversing in our Jeep Wrangler.

And, like many destinations that one visits again and again, we find something new to enjoy each time. For instance, even though we have stayed at the same motel several times now, we had never found the lovely marina and adjacent park that were just across the street down the hill. The raised train tracks kept it from our view, until we decided to go exploring on Saturday night. Next time, we will go there earlier in our stay and peruse all the boats a little closer. It was a beautiful night, and we wished we were heading out on one of those boats for a sunset cruise. We might have to make some friends in Red Wing.

Despite my best efforts to maintain a healthier diet when we travel, I succumbed to several food temptations over the course of the weekend. The first was upon our arrival in Red Wing, which just happened to be happy hour on Friday night. We stopped at one of our favorite places, a small bar and grill across the street from the famed St. James Hotel, where we ordered a decadent dip of artichokes, cheese and prosciutto, topped off by toasted almonds and served on tiny crostini. YUM! But extremely rich. Accompanied by a Summit Hefeweizen, however, it was the perfect appetizer.

Later that evening, we dined at a new Italian restaurant, Provenzano’s Ristorante, located in the Pottery Place complex near to our motel. This time, I stuck to my resolve and ordered a salad, although I snuck a few bites of HB’s walleye special.

Saturday took us down the river on the Minnesota side and then back up on the Wisconsin side, with stops in Lake City for breakfast, LaCrosse for a bit of shopping and finally Pepin, Wis., for another beer and some cheese curds. You’ve got to drink a beer and eat cheese curds in Wisconsin, right?

On Saturday evening, we decided to try yet another new restaurant. The Smokin’ Oak Rotisserie & Grill was a couple miles down the highway, but definitely worth the trip. Walking in the door, diners are greeted by the sight of whole chickens roasting over open flames. My mouth started watering immediately, so it wasn’t any surprise that I decided to order the smoked chicken entrée, served over biscuits and garlic mashed potatoes. A healthy dose of freshly grilled veggies was served up on the side, which made me feel a bit better about my dining choice.

Unfortunately, our newbie waiter forgot to submit our order, so it ended up being quite a wait for our meal, but we didn’t really care. The Twins were on TV and had launched an amazing comeback, our waiter was sincerely apologetic, and the Smokin’ Oak had Bell’s Oberon on tap. But the food was worth the wait and the smoked chicken lived up to its reputation. We will definitely go back there to sample more of the rotisserie fare.

On Sunday, we reluctantly turned our Jeep toward home. Sunday night supper was grilled chicken, fresh vegetables and cole slaw — lighter fare to make up for the weekend’s indulgences.