June 26, 2007

Good eating at Shady Grove

A beautiful drive through the countryside led us to Shady Grove, a restaurant outside of Ellsworth, Wisconsin. Located in a small building that gives no clues to the delicious meals offered inside, Shady Grove is a hidden treasure among the farmlands of Pierce County.

We joined two other couples for a wonderful evening of food and conversation. Ellsworth is known as the Cheese Curd Capital of the World, so we decided to start off with deep fried cheese curds for an appetizer. I think we came close to inhaling them, they were so good. The cheese curds come from the local Ellsworth Co-op Creamery.

Several of the ingredients on the menu are local, including produce, honey, and caramels, as well as the bison rib eye steak from Buffalo Hills Ranch in River Falls. Even our beer was brewed in Wisconsin. We ordered the Fat Squirrel Ale from New Glarus Brewing Company. It went down easy, very smooth, with a hazelnut taste. Something to look for in Wisconsin liquor stores.

Most of the entrees were around $19. The most expensive dinners were the Filet Mignon for $23 and the Cold Water Lobster Tail for $22. The favorite meals at our table were the oven broiled lobster tail and the wild caught, fresh Alaskan Salmon and Halibut, which were "shallow poached in wine and stock."

There is a tempting selection of desserts. We chose the Lemon-Berry Jazz (lemon mousse, curd and blueberries in a flaky crust topped with blueberry sauce) and Chocolate Beyond Reason (layers of mousse, ganache and whipped cream in a chocolate cookie crust). Both selections were rated well by our group.

The interior of the restaurant is cozy, with seating for about 45 people (my estimate), and casual. It feels a bit like a lodge up north. You can dress up or down and fit in. There is also a small bar area. The restaurant is only open for dinner, Wednesday through Sunday.

Shady Grove is an excellent place to go for a special meal. I usually don't like to recommend restaurants, especially if I've only been there once, but some of our friends have been there a few times, and they say the service and quality of food has met their expectations each time. I'm more than willing to try again.