March 11, 2015Food Adventures in the Mount Carroll, IL and Clinton Iowa Area My Aunt Fern and Uncle Buster run a wonderful Bed and Breakfast called The Prairie Path Guest House and Sampler https://www.facebook.com/PrairiePathGuestHouse or http://www.bbonline.com/unitedstates/illinois/mt-carroll/prairiepath.html in Mount Carroll Illinois. As a special treat, my mother and I have enjoyed their hospitality on several occasions. My mother adores "her" room with its private bath, and fascinating antique décor. I love to snuggle in the thick terry cloth bathrobe(provided), in front of the electric franklin like fire place in my room. And there is nothing like slipping into a wonderfully comfortable bed, under a handmade quilt, with a quilted vintage teddy bear at your side! Ah, the good life. Equally special is the breakfast that they serve to their guests. It all depends what Aunt Fern is in the mood to cook, but it could be Swedish pancakes, homemade cinnamon rolls, an award winning raspberry coffee cake or egg casserole. It's all served up with bacon or sausage, fresh cut fruit, orange juice and coffee. There are other treats as well, but you can learn all about that if you visit their website. I come from a family of great cooks. Aunt Fern is no exception to this heritage. For many years she was the head baker for Shimer College (once located in Mt. Carroll). But I've got to tell you, she has exquisite taste in all things related to food. Now my Uncle Buster has spent over 50 years enjoying everything that has come from their kitchen. His culinary tastes are finely tuned. He is famous (at least to me) for being able to smell if the pork being served in a restaurant has come from an old boar. Now that's talent! When we go to a restaurant together, I'm always watching what my Uncle Buster is ordering...he knows what is good. Every time my mother and I visit, my Aunt Fern and Uncle Buster plan a day of adventure of all things nearby.
This last visit was especially close to my porky (no old boar here) foodie heart. A lifetime of discerning taste lead us to the best of the best when it came to food procurement. I told my aunt that she should write up our trip as a foodie tour for her guests. Aunt Fern, however, is way too busy hand crafting all the delightful items for sale in her Sampler store (right next to her Bed and Breakfast). I've decided I would write up the trip, just as it happened (it does include a few nonfood stops). It's a journey that my memory will treasure, and I hope you will be able to enjoy it as well. Our first stop of the day was for a bit of Eagle watching near Fulton Illinois Lock and Dam Number 13 <a href="http://www.cityoffulton.us/visit-fulton/fulton-attractions/lock-and-dam-13-on-the-mississippi-river.html" target="_blank"></a>l On your way in (there is only one way in) look to your left for eagle nests. They are about as big as a VW Beatle car. Once you get to the lock and dam on the Mississippi, scan the sky over the river. The Eagles ride the air currents looking for fish. On your way out (just as you hit the main highway) on your right you will find Schafer Fisheries http://schaferfish.com/theSite/ Stop in, it is quite the unique place. They smoke their own fish, much of it right from the Mississippi. I love the smoked salmon and sturgeon, Uncle Buster likes the catfish and carp. Sometimes their indoor tanks are full of flopping fish. Just about everything fish is available here, including minced Asian Carp. Next we headed into Fulton. There is a lot to explore in Fulton IL. You can take a gander at the working windmill located right in town. There is even a windmill museum. Our goal on this trip however, was to score the perfect fabric needed to complete a quilt I'm making for a wedding gift for my niece. So we stopped in at Susan's Calico Creations. http://www.cityoffulton.us/visit-fulton/fulton-shopping-district/susans-calico-creations-atticwoods.html With two levels of fabrics and a friendly staff, it was a great experience. While we are on the subject of quilting, as you take this tour, stay on the lookout for barn quilts (painted quilts on barns). They are everywhere, and are unique as the people that painted them.Now we were feeling just a bit hungry, so we decided to try a new place in town called Krumpets.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Krumpets/384328568250326?rf=111494155556871 This is a place where they cook from scratch. The food is great, but oh my, the desserts are stellar. You can't go wrong with anything you chose. My mother and I had coconut cream pie, Aunt Fern had the chocolate pie and Uncle Buster had the custard pie. Next, we stopped in at Fulton Meat Market on 11th Ave. Best dried beef, says Uncle Buster. I picked up a pound of it, and see creamed chipped beef over toast points in my future. It was now time to move on to another state, Iowa! Our first stop was at, Keeping You Sewing http://www.keepingyousewing.com/ in Clinton, IA. If you are thinking about a sewing machine purchase, this is the place for you. This is the woman's version of Farm & Fleet with all the Husqvarna sewing machines available for you to try out. Uncle Buster waited in the car. It was now time to visit one of the high points planned for this tour. If you like bacon, have I got a place for you. It's called Preston Meats located in Preston, IA http://prestonmeats.com/
My Aunt Fern describes it best. When you cook it, there isn't all that black stuff that you normally see collecting at the bottom of your skillet. In addition, the bacon is generous in its length and thickness, and absolutely delicious with a hardwood smoked flavor. If you buy in bulk (15 lbs.) it generally is a dollar less per pound. Yes, I bought 15 lbs. for $2.99/lb. Just to let you know, if you use a credit card, you pay a 4% convenience fee. I brought along cash. Just a few more places left on the tour, but the next place had something I've been thinking about for over two years. There is a place in the middle of the Mississippi called Sabula. Technically it is in IA, but it is an island. There is a restaurant that has had several names over the years, now called the Sandbar. Created from an old filling station, it is a treasure from the past. Two years ago I watched my Uncle Buster order one pancake, and I instantly regretted my own food choice. One thin pancake, as big as the plate, with the edge of the pancake so crisp it waved its ruffles at me. I thought about that pancake...for a long time. Finally it was my time to consume it. It was, without a doubt, the best pancake I've ever eaten. I'm already thinking about my next visit. Well before you cross back into Illinois, fill up your gas tank. The gas is always cheaper in IA. The next stop on the tour was Torkelson Cheese http://www.torkelsoncheese.com/ located in Lena IL. They carry of selection of Wisconsin Cheeses, and their own creations. My mother loves the Apple Jack cheese. The description is as follows, Apple Jack is a semi-soft cheese that has a smooth and supple texture. Its flavor is mild and sweet. Apple Jack's already savory creamy taste gets even better with age. I agree! The last stop on our tour was in Lanark, IL. at the Carroll County (Meat) Locker https://www.facebook.com/carrollcountylockercompany . Are you ready for it? The destination was for lard. As previously mentioned, my Aunt Fern is one great baker. She has a killer pie crust recipe, but the essential component is lard from this locker. I don't know what they do different from any other meat locker, but it is different. It is the best. Trust me on this. If you are lucky enough to be spending the night at The Prairie Path Guest House, there will be fresh cookies and coffee waiting for you to enjoy after your day of fun. It's a perfect finish to a great day. I hope you enjoyed it. If you were lucky enough to stay overnight at the Prairie Path Guest House there are several more stops that you might be interested in for the next day. Before you go on the next tour, if you haven't already done so, visit my Aunt Fern's Sampler Shop right next to the bed and breakfast. You can't miss it. It has a huge barn quilt over the front of the building. Aunt Fern can sew, another family trait. Her grandmother (my great grandmother) was a professional seamstress back in the early 1900's. If you want to see this woman in the dress she sewed for her own wedding, just ask Aunt Fern. It is proudly displayed in her living room. Every time I go into the Sampler shop there is something new that Aunt Fern has created. Towels, table cloths, wall hanging, full quilts, jackets and so much more are available for purchase.
Uncle Buster has also contributed his talent to the mix with bird houses, benches and antiques (some repurposed). Your perfect treasure is there to find. If you are into very inexpensive used books you might make a stop at Twice Sold Tales. https://www.facebook.com/TwiceSoldTales . This shop is located in Lanark. A bonus feature here is that they have a small mall of antiques that you have to walk through to get to the book area. One does what one has to! If you missed the lard stop at the Carroll County locker on day one, it's not too late. It is also located in Lanark. Now it is time to climb back into your car for a short trip over the Wisconsin state line. We are heading to Pilgrims Pantry http://www.travelwisconsin.com/shopping/pilgrims-pantry-194350 This is a typical Mennonite/Amish style bulk foods store. You never know what you are going to find there. They also have a great bakery. Bakers and food lovers alike will loiter and linger as they try to take it all in. It was at this point my mother and I started our trip back home. The back of our car was filled with our collected treasures along the way. Wonderful memories were forever ours to keep. Our hearts were happy because we knew that there would be new discoveries the next time we visited.