Back in the days before the kid arrived, we experimented with the concept of vacation. However, we weren't very good at it and ended up going to a lot of crummy places. When we arrived in Northern Illinois, several friends brought up the subject of us vacationing in Door County, Wisconsin, a mere 6 hour drive as the crow flies from our home. Being dumb-ass still-almost newlyweds, we thought this was a grand idea and booked a weeks vacation there.
After our arrival at what turned out to be an off-season hunting lodge on a place called Kangaroo Lake, we set off to see the sights; and after a day of trudging through what seemed like a hundred cute little touristy shops, we arrived back at our cabin with the realization that we still had 5 days to fill ... with something.
We spent the days straying from one cutesy place to another, and in our down time, found that drinking helped a lot to pass the time. All week, the helpful lodge keeper had been recommending places of interest for us, and toward the end of the week, suggested that we couldn't leave Door County without experiencing a Friday night "fish boil". In fact, she had already made reservations for us at the White Gull Inn, which if you believe the press, was the Premiere fish boil establishment in the continental United States.
Jan hates fish, and I'm not real fond of it either unless the entree' has "O-fish" somewhere in it's name. But we had no other place to go and thought it would make for interesting bragging rights at some time ... "Fish Boil? Why, yes. Jan and I ate at the top rated fish boil restaurant in the country".
So, on Friday night, we headed out for the White Gull Inn. At the appointed time, all of us diners were herded into the Inn's courtyard, where a sizeable wood pyre had been constructed. There was a circus made of cutting raw fish into hunks; skin, bones and all; and throwing them into a gigantic kettle along with some potatoes. The kettle was then placed on the pyre and the material lit.
After about an hour of watching the kettle sit in the fire, and consuming many drinks, it was time for the coup d' etat. A coffee can full of kerosene was tossed into the fire at the base of the kettle and a huge flaming eruption followed. Like this:
Water and foam boiled out of the kettle, making a mess of everything, and as the chefs gathered the fish and potatoes, we were herded back into the dining room to wait for our meals to be delivered.
In the menu, the dinner was supposed to look like this:
Okay ... Not Too Bad.
Even If You Don't Like Fish
However, what arrived at our table looked a bit more like this:
Jan took one look at her plate and immediately covered it with her napkin. I thought she was being a little melodramatic, so I put on my "go" face and took a forkful and shoved it my mouth ... where it stayed for about one and a half seconds before I spit it out into my napkin.
Boozed up and hungry, we thought that maybe we could eat the potatoes, but they were covered with gross fish foam. They had already taken away the complimentary bread and crackers, so we were stuck. Not wanting to offend the owners with our persnicketyness, we pulled and pushed at the dinners until they had been spread around the plate enough to mimic having been eaten ... at. I even threw a couple of pieces under the table for extra "I ate some" realism.
Finally, the check came and we bolted. Fortunately, it was just after 9:00 and we had time to go find another place to eat. Unfortunately, the county as a unified whole, rolled up it's sidewalks at 8:00 and went home to eat fish boil.
We went the length of Door County, first east-west, then north-south ... and nothing was open. There wasn't even a McDonald's. What kind of God-forsaken land doesn't even have a McDonald's?
And then we stopped at a gas station, with one of those new-fangled mini-marts (a radical idea for it's time). We loaded up on pretzels, potato chips and Fritos ... as well as a twelve-pack of beer and headed back for the cabin.
I'd like to tell you it was the best meal of our young lives. But frankly, it sucked. We went to bed gassy and bloated ... and still feeling unsated.
When we left the next morning, we told ourselves that we'd have a story to tell when we got home. But in the real world, a "story to tell" and 20 dollars will get you dinner for two at Chili's.
And a blog post.