Last week I went muskie fishing with some friends in Vilas County, in the wilds of northeastern Wisconsin. The fishing method we employed (more on that in a minute) could only be invented by a special breed of Wisconsinite--a breed that appreciates and enjoys the power of food, beer, and camaraderie. The power of this muskie fishing trinity is key when you are bundled up like the Michelin man and battling sub-twenty-degree temperatures, a biting wind, and driving sleet while sitting around trying to hunt for the elusive fish.
The method we employed is called shore fishing, and this is how it works: carefully hook a giant suckerfish (and I mean huge, like four pounds of minnow) through the snout with an orthodontic rubber band. Put your rod on shore, open the bail of the reel, row your rowboat out from shore approximately 100 yards, and drop the sucker. The beauty of this method is when your line is set, you go back to the shore camp, light a fire, cook food and drink beer, shoot potato guns, play bags, chat, and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . for the elusive muskie.
Jamie, my friend and the head of our fishing troupe, put together all the food, and the menu was packed with simple, heartwarming food. Day one we had warm muffulettas--a whole loaf of sourdough bread stacked with provolone, ham, salami, roasted peppers, and balsamic vinaigrette, all wrapped with foil and warmed on the fire until the cheese is melted and bread toasted--perfect for warming up the heart and body. Our mid-afternoon snack was homemade vegetarian minestrone that had us coming back for bowl after bowl of the hearty, brothy goodness that, again, warmed the body and soul. For day two, before we left early in the morning, we set the Crock-Pot to braise a beef chuck roll in stock, wine, garlic, and herbs while we were fishing all day. Coming back to our rustic cabin in the dark and freezing cold to the smell of all-day braised, falling-apart beef with Italian spices was instantly energizing and mouthwatering. We stuffed ciabatta buns with the winey beef and topped them with spicy giardiniera. I ate three of them, one more than I should have, but I really wanted to eat more. I was having one of those rare gastronomic moments when the food is so good that it warms my core and makes me whole again, so I had to keep eating just to enjoy that feeling.
In the end, we got skunked in the muskie department, but we caught our limit on good food, beer, and company; I can't wait for next year.
See my blog later this week for my spectacular northeastern Wisconsin supper club experience at the Prime N' Pub.