August 2011 Archives

Fish Fry Review: Spirits, Waupun, WI


As mentioned in my previous entry, my aunt, uncle, and cousin were in town to attend the fundraiser, and while I had a bit of an opportunity to chat with them, I didn't get to spend as much quality time as I would've like to have. So, I contacted them to inquire about a fish fry... and they obliged.

After perusing the long list of recommended places to try, we settled on Spirits. Spirits is located a bit out of the way - it's in Waupun, Wisconsin, which is about an hour and 20 minutes north of Madison. That's a bit of a hike when it comes to a fish fry, but ultimately it was worth the drive.

Spirits is located on Highway 26, on the far east side of Waupun. According to my aunt, it's been there forever, although not in its current version. For the longest time, it was strictly a blue collar bar; it sits directly across from a large manufacturing plant (that was at one time the Carnation plant). She said it used to be quite small - seating maybe 10-12 people, and served burgers.

The place recently underwent an expansion and a refresh, and the results are quite nice. The inside features high ceilings, plenty of seating, a nice bar area, and a bunch of crisp flat panel televisions.

We settled-in at a 6-top table in the bar and after a rather lengthy wait, were greeted by a waitress who took our drink orders. The tap selection is somewhat limited; no New Glarus brews available on tap... I went with a Capital Fest, for $3.00. Not a bad deal.

After receiving our beverages, we ordered some appetizers - cheese curds and "chippers," which were homemade, thick cut chips. They both arrived after a short wait - the curds were the typical brown bag variety, but featured white cheese and a light breading.


The chips were a bit greasy, which made them slightly chewy, but in a good way. I cringed a bit with each bite, knowing that my arteries were absorbing a fair amount of oil, but oh well...

Following on the heels of our appetizers was a bread basket that featured non-homemade rolls (they looked like the kind that come in a thin white cardboard 'box' with a bag over them from the grocery store), and cinnamon butter. The butter was very interesting...


Orders for fish were placed - I went with the "poorman's lobster," which is essentially baked haddock; my cousin went with the 2-piece cod, and my cousin's husband went with the 6-piece lake perch dinner. My aunt followed my suit and chose the baked haddock as well.

We had a bit of a wait for our fish, which was fine - it gave us plenty of opportunity to chat and to catch-up. When the fish did arrive, it looked fantastic. Here's my poorman's lobster:


Despite the appearance of a heavy seasoning, the fish was actually flavored quite well. It wasn't overly "dilly" or overly "paprika'd" - the fish was firm, flaky, moist, and delicious. There wasn't any butter or grease to be detected, and the filet itself was quite large. Easily worth the $11.95 price tag.

I sampled the fried varieties of fish, starting with my cousin's deep fried cod, as seen here:


The batter was "just right" - a nice texture, not too heavy, lightly salted and peppered, and it clung well to the cod. The fish was also quite tasty, and unlike the chippers, didn't suffer from any excess grease. Very solid cod.

My cousin's husband ordered the lake perch plate, which featured six large perch fillets, each dipped into a slightly crunchy breading. The breading didn't have the same seasoning as the cod, but it was still quite excellent. It also came with a MOUND of french fries:


The perch was delicious, even if it did have just a tiny bit of greasiness - but I suspect that's normal for perch. And, as much as I enjoy my cod and haddock, there's just something about lake perch... slightly chewy, very "meaty," and it has just enough of that seafood flavor to remind you that you're actually eating fish. Note to self: always go with perch from now on.

We enjoyed a leisurely dinner pace - we wrapped-up at around 9:00pm or so. Our waitress was largely absent, which was a bit surprising, as the place wasn't terribly busy. The check arrived and our dinner for four, with appetizers and drinks came to $70. Not too bad, but maybe just a touch steep.

Spirits = WIN

Food = 3.5 stars
Service = 2.25 stars
Value = 3 stars
MISC = 3 stars

Summary: Nothing extraordinary, but nonetheless quite solid. If you find yourself up near Fond du Lac, Waupun, Juneau, or any of those areas, consider stopping-in to Spirits. While it wasn't a top-10 contender, it didn't disappoint. I'd list Spirits as a very reliable and recommended option.

My boss, Steve, is raising money for the Livestrong organization in honor of his wife who passed away from cancer about 18 months ago. While I never had a chance to meet her, I've heard nothing but truly wonderful things about her from many people; she had wanted to participate in the Livestrong Challenge, which is a 5K race held in Austin.

Since she wasn't able to do the event, Steve is carrying out her wish by assembling a team of people that will train, fundraise, and travel to Austin this fall. Each person on the team is raising money for the event, and each person will be responsible for their own travel expenses (no fundraising money is used for travel or entry fees). To date, the team has raised more than $5,000.

As a "last push" for the Livestrong challenge, we hosted a fund-raising event at The MidTown Pub in Middleton.

The folks there are absolutely superb - they literally bent over backwards to accommodate us and went above and beyond to help us put on a really outstanding event. Joel, Jamie, BK, Quinn, Stacey, Jeremy, Evan, and countless others took fantastic care of everyone in attendance, and they donated so many wonderful items for us. Thank you!!

The event was scheduled to begin at 5:00pm last night. Steve and I arrived early to hang-up some banners, post signs, arrange seats, and prepare the patio. The weather was absolutely perfect, if not a bit sunny... but, it sure beat the alternatives! Here's the entry way to the patio, where we set-up our event. Livestrong was kind enough to send banners and signage for us to use:


Here's BK (on the left) and Jamie pouring ice on some of the beverages that we had available for the event. Thank you to Frank Beer, Wisconsin Distributors, General Distributors, UWP, and L&L Food Services for helping us out with food and beverages. Jamie did a great job of arranging the event and lining-up the providers for us.


We arranged a table near the entry to the patio so that as people entered, they could purchase food, drinks, and tickets. We had a ton of great prizes available, all compliments of local businesses - there were some really great items available, including a Dell Netbook from TDS.


With everything prepped and ready to go, there was only one thing left to do - pose for a picture while things were still calm. :-)

Here's Steve (my boss and friend), Jamie, and me, standing near the grill. Jamie whipped up some excellent burgers and incredible brats, and he did it while baking in the hot sun all afternoon, with nary a bit a shade. The guy is a trooper!


We had a chance to sit and chat with a few folks before things became too busy. It was nice to grab a seat in the shade and catch-up with some of our co-workers. I'll admit that I was a bit nervous that we might not have anybody show-up... especially when 5:00pm rolled around, and there were only a few people on the patio.

But, before I knew it, the patio was jumping. There were people everywhere - our friends, co-workers, acquaintances, MidTown patrons, and passers-by filled the patio. We sold a ton of food and drink tickets, and people were really excited by the contests. Here's Shana (a coworker and friend of ours) with her son as they purchased some food tickets:


The food was a hit with everyone - as I walked around, I heard nothing but compliments on the chow, but that's no surprise, considering we were at the MidTown Pub. Their food is really good in general, and it's impossible to not enjoy a freshly grilled burger or brat. Here are a few more happy patrons - this is Kate, the daughter of my coworker Brian:


And her younger brother, Michael - looks like they're both enjoying their hamburgers. Nothing beats a satisfied customer. :-)


And to go along with the great MidTown food, we had the super fine folks from Bloom Bake Shop in Middleton generously donate a few dozen cupcakes and a gift certificate to our cause. Their cupcakes are fantastic - I'm definitely a HUGE fan - and folks raved about them last night as well. Here's a picture of the few that remained; I only had one, believe it or not! Thanks again, Annemarie - you're definitely a star!!


With folks fed and "hydrated," we fired-up a competition. We used a children's golf club, a driving mat, and marshmallows to conduct a "longest drive" contest in the parking lot. Each contestant got 3 swings with the club, and the person who hit their marshmallow the farthest won a Polar Heart Rate monitor, compliments of Orange Shoe Personal Fitness.

Here's Dan, one of the contestants, taking a swing:


The contest was a success - we had a bunch of folks participate, and it was really a fun thing. The kids that attended made great "clean-up" helpers - they'd chase down the marshmallows and throw them into the woods for the critters to munch on. Andy C won the contest and took home the Polar Heart Rate Monitor.

Here's a shot of the patio, as it filled-up. Again, thank you to everyone who attended and supported the event.


At around 8:00pm, we held the drawing for our prizes, which included:

  • A Dell Netbook, compliments of TDS

  • Capital Brewery Clothing, glassware, coolers, and koozies, compliments of Capital Brewery

  • Tattoo Gift Certificates, compliments of Ultimate Arts

  • Cupcake gift certificates, compliments of Bloom Bake Shop

  • Badger Football tickets and t-shirts, compliments of MidTown Pub

  • Golf balls, coolers, and a rolling duffel bag, compliments of TDS

The grand prize winner of the netbook was, ironically, the nurse that assisted Jodi (Steve's wife) throughout her illness. Talk about a good omen.

The event continued-on until around 9:00pm, at which point people began to head for home. I had a chance to sit down and chat with Dan and Tara, who made the trek all the way from Lake Mills! Thank you!! And I also had a chance to chat with my cousin, Leanne, my Aunt Linda, and my uncle Warren - all of whom drove down from the Randolph area. Thank you!!!

I felt bad that I didn't have much chance to socialize with everyone that I had wanted to - the time literally flew-by. I wolfed-down a plate of meatloaf at around 9:30pm, chatted with Dan, Tara, Leanne, Warren, and Linda, and then cleaned-up the patio for a bit. What a whirlwind.

All told, we raised a lot of money for Livestrong, all thanks to the generosity and support of our friends, families, coworkers, and our awesome sponsors. I don't know what else to say - it was a great event, and I hope that everyone enjoyed themselves as much as I did. To everyone who participated, thank you for coming down and helping us out. To our sponsors - thank you for the generosity. To MidTown, especially - thanks a million. Let's hope the Livestrong race goes as well as the fundraiser did!

Cheers, and hats off to everyone.

Enough ranting... how about an update?


As much as I enjoy a good rant, it's probably best to give the weekly update - especially since I missed last week's update. :-)

Dan, Tara, and I went out for fish on Friday night of last week - we hit Dexter's Pub, where we had some stellar fish. Dan and Tara did the fried cod, which featured a thick, flavorful, perfect batter; I went with a grilled chicken salad, as I was trying to remain good. I did sneak a taste of the fish, and it was exactly as it was on the last visit - superb.

While eating dinner, Dan mentioned that another friend of ours, Dan (ironically), was in town for the weekend (he lives in Iowa). They had plans to go trap shooting and wondered if I'd like to join. I've never been trap shooting before, so I figured it would be worth checking out.

We met on Sunday morning at a local hunt club, donned some ear protection, loaded-up, and hit the course. The club had 12 stations and each station had two target systems. The targets launch via radio control - when you're ready to shoot, you say, "Pull" and one of the people in your group hits the "launch" buttons. You do this twice per station, so you effectively get to shoot at 48 clay targets.

Here's Dan at one of the first stations:


Dan hunts a lot, so he had an extra shotgun (12-gauge, I believe) that he let me use. I had never fired a shotgun before, so I didn't know what to expect. It wasn't that "shocking" - I figured it would really pack a wallop, and it probably would with a non-target load. Here I am in one of the stations that simulates a boat on the water - the boat moved as you shot, because it was suspended by chains.


It was quite sunny and rather warm, but we all had a good time. Dan scored the most hits, with 30; I had 19 for comparison... :-)

Here's our group, at one of the last stations - Dan from Iowa is taking aim while his friend Brad watches, along with Dan. In the foreground you can see the clay launching mechanism.


I have to say, it was pretty fun. Every station was different and challenging - some targets crossed in front of you, some came from behind/overhead, some came at you, and others bounced across the ground. The place was pretty busy as evidenced by the shells as seen at one of the stations:


This past weekend, I spent most of my time "moving" - it started on Saturday with a rain-delayed 5K race... I had signed-up to run the Madison Mini Marathon, but thanks to my poor prep work and recent overeating, I wasn't in any condition to run 13.1 miles... So, I did the 5K instead, and in hindsight, I should've stayed home.

The race was delayed due to rain... so about 5,000 runners sat for almost two-hours in the Memorial Union before being sent out to run in a torrential downpour. I managed to lose my iPod Shuffle during the run, and I wrecked one of my car keys as it got soaked. UGH. And it was a stupid 5K... not even worth doing; a 5K is 3.2 miles, and my daily average is 5.0 miles... Sigh. Here's the obligatory race bib shot, along with medal and my visor (sans iPod):


Immediately following the race, I went home and wrapped-up the morning with a few hours on the trainer (biking), followed by some plyometrics.

By 1pm, the weather was clear, so I went skydiving - still working on getting cleared for pilot chute pulls. My jump master on one of the jumps took pictures so that we could watch our arch and practice pilot chute pulls. These turned out much better than my first set, so I'll share them here. Here I am, hanging from the wing... believe it or not, I'm getting used to it, even if I am 4,000 feet above the ground, going 100+ mph.


And here's my release with initial arch (the wind does funny things to the 'ole mug):


And in my arch, yelling "ARCH THOUSAND":


And then things got interesting; on opening shock, my chute twisted me around - I got jerked pretty good - you can see my legs flailing. I recovered nicely, though:


I say "recovered" because I managed to deploy my practice pilot chute (a yellow streamer). If you look closely, you can see the yellow blob floating away from me:


And here I am, fully deployed and beginning my canopy ride back down to the ground:


And last but not least, here's my jump master celebrating the successful jump. I've also highlighted the landing area (drop zone) and me. :-)


I woke-up early this morning and went for a 2 hour bike ride with one of my coworkers, and now I'm off for an early evening run... gotta' get back into race form and hopefully have pants that fit me better again. ;-)

Kids as pawns...



I've been listening to talk radio lately, and I've discovered a common theme... if you want to really emphasize your point (often when you personally have been "put out" or "wronged"), there's nothing like using your kid as a pawn to support your hurt feelings.

Case in point - this morning, some guy called-in to a local talk show to complain about a poor experience with a local store. He went on-and-on about how the service was so poor, and the people were so rude, and then he said, "...and worst of all, I had my 7-year old daughter with me!"

He did what I refer to as "the double down" - include not only a reference to your child, but emphasize the age for extra "kick."

I'm pretty sure that this guy's daughter - excuse me - 7-year old daughter - didn't give two hoots about how the local cashier rolled her eyes when Dad pulled out a checkbook and held-up the entire line when he couldn't produce a driver's license to go along with it...


Who the heck cares if your kid is nearby when you experience some inconvenience? And who cares if your kid hears someone curse? I'm almost positive that by the time I was six or seven, I had heard every single curse word imaginable, thanks to my schoolmates and fellow bus riders... you're living in a fantasy world if you think otherwise.

I also get a kick out of people who try to weasel extra treatment out of a situation by leveraging their kids... one final example, and then I'm off to mow the lawn.

I was at the grocery store a few weeks ago (this is what caused me to pay attention to the kid-positioning in situations), and I was waiting in-line for a donut (this was while I was on my out-of-control-sugar-binge). The guy in front of me has his turn to pick a donut, and he says, "Yeah, uh, give me, uh, hmm. Give me two of the chocolate cream filled, and one of the blueberry cake."

The lady behind the case says, "Oh, I'm sorry - we're out of blueberry. Is there something else you'd like?"

"You're out of blueberry?" he asks to confirm.

"We ran out by noon, those frycakes were popular today, I guess," she says.

"What kind is that?" he asks as he points to the pumpkin cake donuts. "That's blueberry, right?"

"No sir, those are pumpkin. It's a pumpkin cake donut with cinnamon and sugar."

"Well, that's great. That's just GREAT. My son, who is home sick right now, wanted a blueberry donut. You don't have ANY?" - he's getting angry.

"No sir, we don't, is there another kind he'd like? How about the pumpkin? Or Cherry?"


"I don't know, we just did. I'm going to have to help some other people here," she says. I could tell that she was a "veteran" of the bakery - she smiled a lot and looked like your typical friendly baker - but she was likely becoming a bit intimidated.

"You know what? I don't want any of your donuts! I'll just go to Kwik Trip!"

And he turned to storm away... I was smiling extra big - what a jerk that dude was. He looked at me and asked what was so funny, and I said, "Just happy that I came in early to get my blueberry donut earlier this morning."

"F@&*#K you," he mutters with a glare and storms away.

Of course, I didn't stop-in earlier for a donut, but really... it's a donut. And it probably wasn't even for his "sick kid."

The lady gave me 2-for-1 on my donuts, which I took full advantage of... 2 pumpkin donuts, 2 whipped-filled, and 2 old fashioned sour cream. I told you I was on a binge. At least it only cost me $2.10, and I didn't have to pull-in a kid for guilt... :-)

Centurion bike race + skydiving updates


Had a pretty decent weekend - I managed a decent run on Saturday morning; nearly 8-miles without any fatigue. It probably helped that I was on the road by 6:00am - before the heat and humidity had a chance to really dig-in and make things miserable. My run was finished by 7:00am, at which point I hopped in the shower, had some breakfast, packed my skydiving bag, and headed to the dropzone.

I arrived to the dropzone by 9:00am and was shocked to find the place completely full - there were cars everywhere, and the hangar was jam-packed with people. Looked like I was in for a long day of waiting for an opportunity to jump. I put my name on the board, and spent the next 3-4 hours watching and learning how to pack parachutes. By the time my name was up for a jump, I felt like I could recite the packing process in my sleep. :-)

Here I am, packing a pilot chute - nothing too exciting, but it was the first step in working toward being able to pack a parachute on my own (or with the oversight of a jump master).


With the pilot chute properly rolled, it was time to stuff it into the BOC (Bottom Of Container). Here it is, in place and all set to fly.


I finally had a chance to jump at around 1:30pm or so. It was hot and humid, with zero wind. Not ideal weather for skydiving. We hopped into the small Cessna, made our way to 4,000 feet, and just as I was climbing out, we hit a nice pocket of thermals... so, the plane became "bouncy." Not what you want when you're hanging from a wing.

I released from the wing, didn't arch real well, and went through with my PPCP (Practice Pilot Chute Pull) procedures. I successfully "deployed" my practice pilot chute, but I ultimately failed my first PPCP due to my weak arch. Drat!

The rest of the flight was uneventful; the heat made for a very slow descent... I was under canopy for probably 10 minutes or so, which meant I had plenty of time to play around in the air. My landing was also uneventful - landed in the pea gravel, exactly where I was supposed to.

I finished out the afternoon with a bike ride - a short 15-16 mile ride with my boss, and then called it an evening.

Sunday morning came far too quickly - I had registered to ride in the Centurion bike race, so I had to be at the Middleton airport and ready to ride by 6:45am. At about 6:30am, just as I was unloading my bike from the car, the thunderstorms rolled-in to town. And with that, they delayed the start of the race from 7:00am until 9:00am.

With an extra two hours available, I headed to a local cafe for a light breakfast. I had two egg whites and some toast:


I caught up with some other riders and we sat around talking about bikes, triathlons, and other fun stuff. By 8:30am or so, it looked as though the skies were clearing, so we made our way back out to the airport. We definitely had some rain... here I am making my way to the starting line:


We wound around to the starting corral, where we waited for another 15-20 minutes; the race organizers were concerned about a potential storm cell, but it never surfaced, so we were cleared to go. Here's the last photo I snapped while on the course - we departed about a minute after this picture was taken:


I started off slow; I wasn't sure where to slot in - there were some sprinters who took off immediately, some slow pokes who clogged-up the works, and some average folks who tried like me to navigate through the traffic.

After about 10 miles or so, the packs had sorted themselves, and I found myself riding in a nice group, rolling along at an average of 21-22mph. We hit some climbs and I found myself leading my pack. Everyone was drafting off of me - no one was offering to take the lead, so I kept motoring along.

We maintained this effort for another 15 miles or so, at which point we hit the first "feed station" (water, gatorade, bananas, and restrooms). Most of the pack that was latched to my back wheel stopped at the feed station, but I kept going. Little did I realize that another 5-6 miles ahead awaited the first of three seriously monstrous hills.

I hit the first hill, which was a 15% grade and I wanted to cry. Talk about a steep climb... it took me almost 5-minutes to reach the top of that hill, cranking and pedaling as hard as I could the entire time, at an average speed of less than 5mph. Ugh!

The descent from that climb was unreal - my speedometer hit 44mph on the way down. And then, after a short right turn, it was back up the hill again. Nice. I continued this "up-down-up-down" route until about the 45-mile mark, at which point I knew the end was near.

Just as I was approaching the final hill, some guy directly in front of me screamed loudly and promptly tipped over in the middle of the road. I looked behind me - there was no one around. Since we were on a busy highway, I figured I should stop to help the guy. I had no idea what was wrong - all he said was "I can't move." (he said this over and over)

I picked-up his bike, put it in the weeds, and then dragged him over to the side of the road. He couldn't move either of his legs - he was cramping something fierce. I went back to my bike, got some GU (an energy gel with electrolytes), and gave it to him. I told him I was going to take off, and he was screaming about his legs being locked. I'm no masseuse, and I'm certainly no doctor, so I wasn't sure what else to do. I think he wanted me to sit with him, but I had already lost several minutes and several riders flew by us...

I got onto my bike and raced up the last hill, down the road, and 4 miles later, was at the finish line. My time for the 50-mile race was 2 hours, 35 minutes. I lost at least 9 minutes helping that guy... argh.

I was pretty surprised by the time - I averaged 19.0mph for the entire ride, which was really good. The race organizer had a food tent, which I stopped to check-out, but ultimately didn't eat anything from. Here I am, at the finish line, just outside of the food tent:


Here's my bike, back at the car - even though it looks clean, it was filthy from the damp roads:


I packed away my bike, and then went back to the finish line/expo area to wait for some folks that I knew from the Capital Brewery cycling club to finish. I browsed around the expo, had some water, and then almost had a heart attack when I heard my name being called to the podium - our Capital Brewery team had finished 3rd overall. I scored a hat and some mugs as part of the prize package:


According to the preliminary results, I (personally) had finished 87th overall (out of 797 riders). Thanks to that cramping dude, I lost 9 spots to people in my age group, so I placed 14th out of 25 people in my age group... if I hadn't stopped, I would've been 5th. Oh well.

My friends finished the race and we all headed over to Capital Brewery for a celebration - we had some pizza and a few beverages, which were incredibly tasty, especially with the mercury pointing well into the 90s. While at the brewery, I spied this awesome bumper sticker:


And that's how my weekend ended. I wasn't able to jump any more on Sunday - it was 4:00pm by the time I left the brewery, and I had a lawn that needed to be mowed, cats that needed to be fed, and food that needed to be grilled.

I did manage to jump again today - thanks to some better weather and a smoother exit from the airplane, I successfully completed my first PPCP. I also packed a parachute from start-to-finish, which was nerve-wracking, but fun and informative. I have to complete two more PPCP jumps and then I'll be cleared to pull my own pilot chute for subsequent jumps. I'll also move to higher altitudes, which allows for a longer freefall. I can't wait!

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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