Welcome to the Speckled Hen Inn

Best Outdoor Dining in Madison WI

August 21st, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Our guests at The Speckled Hen Inn often ask us to recommend a venue for the Best Outdoor Dining in Madison WI.  It’s a tough call because every year the list of possibilities grows.  Here are just a few of our favorites for the best outdoor dining in Madison WI that are pretty close to the Inn.

doolittles-woodfire-grillSummer vacations consist of lazy days: tanning on the beach, shopping down the boulevard, hiking through the woods or maybe even taking in some biking around town. To finish off the day, there is nothing better than a delicious dinner out. The problem? You have to make the choice about where to go and, considering the overabundance of Madison’s restaurants, that can be an intimidating decision. As a person that loves food, patio dining and well, food, let me shed some light on the subject. Madison offers some of the best dining Wisconsin can offer and many of them have outdoor seating allowing you to continue your Madison experience throughout the evening.

Of all the restaurants that Madison has to offer, the very first patio I would check out is the Ale Asylum.  Whether you are there for dinner or beer tasting, the atmosphere won’t disappoint. Where do you start? Beer. Given that it is one of the many local breweries in the Madison area, it has an assortment of craft brews including a delicious, thick porter, an IPA hopped to perfection and a smooth pale ale. With beer in hand, you can begin to scan the menu. It may not be extensive but they’ve taken great care to give a variety of quality appetizers and entrée’s.

If something more quaint is what you are looking for, Erin’s Snug Irish Pub might be your place.  While dining in one of the most prominent Irish pubs in Madison, you will not be disappointed by their traditional Irish fare. Every day, both new visitors and regular patrons relish in the robust flavors of Shepherds Pie and Erin’s infamous Guinness Stew. One of my favorite features of this restaurant is that, between the atmosphere and staff, everyone is made to feel like they are at home among friends.

Want a little history with your meal? Doolittle’s Woodfire Grill abounds in historic details throughout the restaurant. Located near the East Town Mall, it is a convenient destination but that’s just the beginning. The patio dining area was created with comfort as the primary concern spacing the luxury furniture for optimal relaxation. Much of the food here at Doolittle’s is cared for by quality professionals and cooked to perfection by rotisserie. How are the barbeque ribs? Falling off the bone. How about the prime rib? It melts in your mouth. And the list goes on and on through the remainder of the menu. Yes, this is the perfect place to finish a long day of fun in the sun or shopping until you drop.

It is nice to know that no matter what kind of food and atmosphere you are in the mood for, you can find it within a short drive from the Speckled Hen Inn.

 

Where to go Hiking near Madison WI

August 13th, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Are you wondering where to go hiking near Madison WI?  We have some great suggestions for you.

Where could there possibly be hiking in the Madison area? When people visit Madison, they expect the urban landscape of the university, the well-known restaurants gleamed about in magazines and the water sports the Madison lakes provide. One aspect that is often overlooked is the wide variety of best walking and hiking trails enjoyed by thousands every year.

Where to go hiking near Madison WI

Devil’s Lake State Park

 

 

One of the best-known and highly anticipated hiking spots is a short drive to Devils Lake.  Whether you are a novice or advanced hiker, you will find trails to fit your experience level and remarkable beauty in the views here. The glaciers that dominated most of the Wisconsin landscape left rare geologic formations such as this for us to enjoy. From high peaked bluffs and rocky outcrops to grotto’s and wooded landscape, Devils Lake truly has everything to offer with trails ranging from .1 miles to 13.7 miles. After you have enjoyed your hike, you can save the afternoon for a cool down in the lake or even rent a boat or canoe.

 

For those that don’t have the entire day to spend out frolicking in the woods but still want to get some nature-time in, Madison also offers some shorter trails within its urban scenery. For example, Lakeshore Nature Preserve of the University of Wisconsin offers a variety of excursions that can be tailored to fit your desires. One of the possibilities is a favorite of Madisonians, Picnic Point.  It’s a short 1-mile walk on a peninsula out to the beautiful scenery of Lake Mendota where you can sit and enjoy the view or you can continue with your walk and add a few of the other preserve destinations to your route.

Here at the Speckled Hen Inn, the soft petals of the blossoming flowers, the blooming orchards and the thriving gardens are beckoning for you to come walking down our trails as well. Within our property, there are several trails that will accommodate a short stroll around the acreage including trails leading to Stark Weather Creek. We have the privilege of keeping our property private, which gives greater promise of wildlife viewing.

As you can see, even though we are nearing the end of summer, there is still time for some relaxation. Now is the perfect time to get one more trip in before the first day of school. There is plenty left to see, especially in the great outdoors of Wisconsin.

Hiking at Devil's Lake near Madison, WI

Hiking High above Devil’s Lake

hiking at Devil's Lake State Park near Wisconsin Dells and Madison, WI

View from the Bluff at Devil’s Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raspberry Chocolate Muffin Recipe from the kitchen of The Speckled Hen Inn

August 4th, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Raspberry Chocolate Muffin Recipe from the kitchen of The Speckled Hen Inn

Raspberries for Raspberry Chocolate Muffins at The Speckled hen Inn

Red Raspberries Ready for Muffins

Raspberry Chocolate Muffins

1 2/3 cup flour

3/4 cup oatmeal

2/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg lightly beaten

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup canola oil

2 Tablespoons orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl.  In another bowl combine the egg, milk, oil, orange juice and vanilla.  Add the chocolate chips and raspberries to the dry ingredients and toss lightly to combine. (If you are using frozen raspberries,do not thaw them). Add the wet ingredients and stir just until all are moistened.  Spoon into 12 paper lined muffin cups.  Sprinkle tops with coarse sugar if desired.  Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.  Enjoy your Raspberry Chocolate Muffins for breakfast, coffee break or anytime.

A Wisconsin Summer favorite is raspberries straight off the bush and their tiny thorns are usually no challenge for someone on a mission for their unique flavor. Since the crop is now in harvest, it is the perfect time to come enjoy some for yourself.

Because many berries, including raspberries grow wild, many of the locals, including myself, have nostalgic memories of picking raspberries while camping or hiking as children. If seeking the wild berries isn’t in the cards for you, you can still get fresh Raspberries. One option is the famous Dane County Farmers Market on Madison’s Capital Square.  In addition to the selection of fresh berries, you will find a broad assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, houseplants, organic meats and the best bakery the area has to offer. Like most things Madison, this farmers market isn’t just about the food, it’s about the experience. While you are wandering around the square, you will find locally handcrafted jewelry and gifts, professional and amateur musicians, and food carts and cafes. Truly, it’s an event to behold.

Raspberry Chocolate Muffin Recipe from the kitchen of The Speckled hen Inn

Raspberry Chocolate Muffins

It might not equal the magic of childhood, but you can pick your own raspberries at the certified organic Blue Skies Berry Farm. It is a family owned and operated farm that has achieved the goal of producing a quality product with sustainable integrity giving their produce and sales a personal touch. Similar to the farmers market, you can find other pre-picked fruits and vegetables that are in season at the same time. Similar to most small family farms, here at the Speckled Hen Inn we have planted and cultivated several varieties of raspberries for optimal flavor and bounty. We’ve been fortunate enough to have a continual harvest allowing us to include them in our breakfasts and baked goods.  This is one of our favorite recipes evoking fond memories. Hopefully, it will bring a similar sense of comfort to your home and loved ones.

Outdoor Live Music in Madison Wisconsin

July 31st, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Are you wondering where you can find some outdoor live music in Madison Wisconsin?

Outdoor Live Music in Madison, Wisconsin

Orchesta De kache at Monona Terrace

Out of the many reasons one would visit Madison Wisconsin, live music ranks among the most notable. What makes Madison a repeated destination for live outdoor music, you might ask? I can tell you from personal experience that once you’ve been witness to the magic, it’s impossible to resist a return. Let me entice you with this imagery: a blanket on the grass, a bottle of Wollersheim Prairie Fume wine coupled with a few local artisan cheeses while taking in the sweet sounds of live outdoor music. No, this isn’t a dream. This is one of the many indulgences Madison, WI has to offer nearly every evening throughout the summer months. Madison has one of the most eclectic outdoor live music scenes ensuring you’ll find a venue to suit your style. It may be that you’ll need to plan a stay at the Speckled Hen Inn so you can take in several venues in a single visit.

 

A country setting provides more than the lofty smell of sweet green grass and cowboy boots and if this is what you’re looking for, the Dean House, maintained by the Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society, invites folks to their back porch for concerts on Thursday evenings. You are welcome to relax on your lawn chair or join in the jubilee of the diverse genres including Cajun, bluegrass, brass band or swing music while the fireflies glow in the distance.

 

For those wanting a more urban environment, no one entertains like the Monona Terrace or the UW-Madison campus. On Thursday or Friday evenings, local musicians entice spectators to dance the evening away on the terrace rooftop overlooking Lake Monona. You can bring a picnic basket filled with your favorites delicacies, however it isn’t necessary.  The Terrace meets every challenge to please its guests serving foods that meet your desires including brews from the local brewing company The Great Dane.

 

Not only does the infamous State Street on the UW-Madison campus provide many diverse options for window-shopping, unique gifts and wide variety of restaurants and café’s, it also is the location of Wednesday evenings Jazz at Five. Local performers offer pleasant background ambiance while taking in the sights and smells.

 

In addition to these ongoing events, there is always an ample supply of different festivals typically featuring several stages with varied local artists. For example, the Potosi Brewfest, Middleton Good Neighbor Festival, and the Merrimac Community Festival are just a few of the upcoming events with live, outdoor music.

At every turn, I have been pleasantly surprised by chosen viewing locations as well as those found accidentally. I promise you will find entertainment sure to fit your needs. Now, really, how can you continue to resist the desire to come witness it for yourself?

 

What’s Happening in Madison WI at The Speckled Hen Inn

May 2nd, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Katahdin lamb at The Speckled Hen Inn

I’m lookin’ at you lookin’ at me!

Check out what’s happening  in Madison WI at The Speckled Hen Inn right now. Our little flock of Katahdin Hair Sheep attract a lot of attention especially at this time of year when the new little lambs are so much fun to watch.  We have 8 little lambs this year and there is a video of them with their moms on our Facebook page. The first question that most folks ask is ,” What are those animals in the pasture? Are they goats?”  No, they are sheep but they are a different kind of sheep than you usually see.  Katahdin Hair Sheep are a breed that was developed in the 1950′s by a fellow from Maine whose goal was to develop a breed of sheep that didn’t require shearing.  He imported some African Hair sheep from St Croix, Virgin Islands and crossed them with several wool producing breeds.  In addition to not requiring an annual shearing his goal was to produce vigorous animals that didn’t require a lot of maintenance.  We think that he succeeded. Guests frequently ask us what we do with the wool.  Well first, it isn’t wool.  It is hair and it is a pretty coarse fiber, similar to the hair on a German Shepherd dog.  It is too coarse to spin to make yarn although it is possible to make pressed felt from the fiber.  The sheep will begin shedding as soon as the weather begins to warm up in the spring and they will rub against the fence posts and anything else they can find, including each other, to get rid of that itchy coat.  We do not collect the hair that they shed but we often see birds pick it up to build their nests.   It makes it easy to spot those nests in the fall when the trees lose their leaves.  What the birds leave on the ground quickly disappears when we mow the pastures. It is also standard not to dock the tails of Katahdin sheep.  They may also be any color.  Our flock has white, tan, and thanks to the introduction of a brown ram last fall, brown sheep.  Some of this springs’ lambs have patches of color.  It will be interesting to see if this changes as they mature. Katahdin sheep frequently have twins or even triplets after their first lambing and lambing for Katahdin sheep is nothing like the tales in James Harriot’s books.  Our ewes just go off to a quiet corner of the pasture and give birth without any assistance from humans.  The only problem we ever seem to encounter is that Mom will occasionally forget where she left the first lamb when she gives birth to a second one.  We sometimes need to intervene to get the family back together.  The ewes and lambs rely on scent to identify each other.

Sheep and Lambs at The Speckled Hen Inn

Katahdin Hair Sheep at The Speckled Hen Inn

The best rooms at the Inn for watching the lambs in the pasture are The Starkweather Creek Room, The Token Creek Room and the Rising Sun Room but no matter what room you choose, you are always welcome to stand by the pasture fence and let the sheep work their soothing magic on you.  “Hoppy Hour”, just before sunset seems to be the time that the lambs are most active and entertaining.  They play tag and chase each other around the pasture until their moms call a halt to the foolishness.  You can’t help but smile as you watch.

Four Sure Cures for Spring Fever in Madison, WI

April 14th, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Scarlet Tanager in a Hickory Tree

Scarlet Tanager in a Hickory Tree

I have Four Sure Cures for Spring Fever that you can find in Madison, WI.  I’m sure that this is just what you need after a long, rough winter.  It’s time to get out of the house, get a little exercise, and bring a little color back into our lives.

Beginning on Saturday, April 19, the Dane County Farmer’s Market will move back onto the Capitol Square.  Go to seek out fresh spring veggies, herbs and bedding plants for your own home and garden or go just to be a part of one of Madison’s greatest traditions.

You can also go visit The Allen Centennial Gardens on the UW campus.  The spring bulbs always put on a bright show of color and this compact garden packs a lot of inspiration into a space that easily translates into projects for your home gardens.  The gardens are also celebrating their 25th birthday this year.  If you have never strolled their paths, it is time to do so or maybe even take one of their classes.  Information is on their website.

The other sure Spring Fever cure that the UW Madison provides visitors is our UW Arboretum.  Walk or bike your way through the trails and enjoy the spring flowering trees or later the magnificent lilac collection .  But don’t rush!  Take your time and enjoy the scents and sounds of spring.  Listen for the call of the red-wing blackbirds, and the spring peepers, and the buzz of bees.  They also have classes, lectures, and walks to enhance your enjoyment of this outdoor treasure.

And finally, number 4: You must go visit Olbrich Gardens.  Admission to the outdoor gardens is free (as is everything listed above) but I’m sure that you will wish to leave a little contribution in the collection box.  I’ve often used the garden as a resource for inspiration of things to plant for a whole season of garden color.  It does begin with the spectacular show of bulbs in the spring.  I’n especially fond of the areas where there are naturalized tulips and daffodils.  The addition of small seating areas throughout the gardens make this a place where you will want to go to relax and spend some time either with a special friend or your own thoughts and dreams.

If that doesn’t cure your spring fever please book a visit with us at The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast.  From the chives poking up in the cutting garden to the wild flowers on the hillside, lambs in the pasture and robins everywhere, Spring is finally here.

 

Wisconsin Cheese Curds Scramble

January 23rd, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Our Wisconsin Cheese Curds Scramble was inspired by a recipe from the Spring Green General Store in Spring Green Wisconsin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA8 large eggs

½ cup half and half

2 Tablespoons butter

1 ½ cups Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese Curds

4 pieces of sun dried tomato diced

1 Tablespoon fresh dill chopped or 1 teaspoon of dried dill weed

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Baby Spinach leaves

Sautéed Asparagus

Toasted Beer Bread

 

Break or chop the cheese curds into ½ inch pieces and set aside.

In a blender combine the eggs and half and half.  In a ten-inch non-stick skillet melt the butter over medium low heat.  Add the egg mixture, tomato, dill, salt and pepper.  Stir the eggs and scramble them until they just begin to set.  Add the cheese curds and continue stirring.  When the eggs are done remove from the heat.  The goal is to have barely melted cheese curds at the point that the eggs have completed cooking.

To serve make a “nest” of baby spinach leaves in the center of 4 plates.  Arrange the sautéed asparagus over the spinach and the top with the scrambled eggs.  Add triangles of toasted beer bread to the plate and serve.  Serves 4.

Where to Celebrate an Anniversary in Madison WI

January 17th, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Bubbly and fireplaceAre you wondering where to celebrate an Anniversary in Madison, WI?  I have an idea for you.

Yes, by all means, do the traditional celebration dinner at your favorite special occasion restaurant in Madison Wisconsin (we will be happy to suggest one, if you don’t have a favorite).  Then bring the love of your life to The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast for a special Anniversary Getaway evening.  Select one of the guest rooms with a king-sized bed dressed with soft fine linens, a romantic fireplace, and a relaxing jetted tub.  The intimate setting of the Inn allows you to experience a romantic escape without the required time and hassles of travel.  And you can actually celebrate on the date of your Anniversary rather than waiting for a weekend to get away.  The Inn is located just outside the city of Madison on 50 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and gardens surrounding the Inn.  Awake after a refreshing sleep to a magnificent breakfast expertly prepared just for the two of you featuring items from the Inns’ gardens and other local producers.  We will be happy to accommodate any special dietary needs.

Mention that you read this posting when you make your reservation and you will find a well chilled bottle of bubbly waiting in your room when you arrive for your special evening.  Flowers, chocolates, and other goodies are available upon request and for a minimal additional charge.  Just give us a call (608-244-9368) to discuss the ways that we can make your upcoming Anniversary Celebration truly unique and special.

Favorite Cranberry Recipe for the Holidays or Any Time

November 1st, 2013 by Pat Fischbeck

Our favorite cranberry recipe for the Holidays is Cranberry Cherry Chutney.  We are always looking for a way to put a little twist on the traditional.  This is a nice alternative to regular sweet cranberry sauce.  It goes well with your holiday Turkey or Goose (and the cold turkey sandwiches that follow) and we like it with roasted pork as well.  The recipe showcases those freshly harvested Wisconsin cranberries from the bogs near Wisconsin Rapids, dried cherries from Door County, an apple or two from Lapacek’s Orchards near Poynette and a bit of spice from Penzeys.  It is easy to make and will keep well through the holiday season in your refrigerator.

I developed the recipe for the 2008 Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association Cook-Off.  We featured the chutney on a Wisconsin Breakfast Panini.  We layered hearty Italian bread from a local bakery, slices of Wisconsin Havarti cheese, slices of crisp red apple, Applewood smoked bacon, and the Cranberry Cherry Chutney.  A few magic moments in the panini press and a fabulous sandwich is ready to enjoy.  The recipe proved to be a winner.

Favorite Cranberry Recipe from The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast

Wisconsin Breakfast Panini with Cranberry Cherry Chutney

CRANBERRY CHERRY CHUTNEY

In a medium saucepan bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of granulated sugar to a boil.  Remove from the heat and stir in 12 ounces of fresh or frozen Cranberries, 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 1 cup of chopped dried Door County cherries, 1 teaspoon of Penzeys Baking Spice (a blend of cinnamon, cassia, anise seed, allspice, mace, and cardamom), and 1 peeled, cored and diced apple.  Return to the heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the apple is tender, the cranberries have popped and the mixture has thickened.  Cool and refrigerate.  The chutney will thicken more as it cools.

Enjoy on the Wisconsin Breakfast Panini, a turkey sandwich or with your Holiday feast

 

Eating Fresh, Eating Local in April

April 10th, 2013 by Pat Fischbeck

Eating fresh, local produce begins to become a real possibility now that the snow has melted away from the garden beds and wooded hillsides of our Madison Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast.  We look forward to serving fresh nibbles from our greenhouse pots and outdoor herb beds sometime in early April.

Already the pea shoots in the greenhouse are ready for snipping to add flavor and fresh color to breakfast plates.  They were so easy to grow.  Just simply pushing a pea seed down into a small container of potting mix rewarded us with quickly growing pea vines.  We may start more this week to keep a supply going until time for the outdoor gardens to supply us with more.

Chives in The Garden at THe Speckled Hen Inn in Madison WI

Chives in April

A few warm days will awaken our chive plants and then guests at our breakfast table can look forward to Wisconsin Cheddar and Chive Biscuits to accompany their farm-fresh scrambled eggs.

The ramps will be popping up in the woods behind the house soon too.  Ramps, also known as spring onions, ramsom, wild leeks or wood leeks, and wild garlic are an early spring vegetable.  They are a perennial wild onion with a garlic-like scent and a pronounced onion flavor.  They have become very popular with many local farm-to-table chefs and you will find dishes featuring ramps on many of their April menus.  We like to serve them fried with potatoes and bacon or sauteed and creamed to tuck into puff pastry shells then filled with scrambled eggs.

Here is a little tidbit for our Chicago guests:  The city of Chicago takes it’s name from the native tribe’s word for the ramps that were found growing in dense clusters near Lake Michigan.  They called the plant “shikaakwa” (chicagou).  The ramp is also considered by many folk medicine practitioners to be a Spring tonic.

We will also be watching our garden beds for the first shoots of asparagus.  What we find in the local markets now is tempting but just can’t begin to compare with eating fresh local asparagus especially when it comes right from our garden to our kitchen.  I’m dreaming of asparagus with poached eggs and lemony hollandaise sauce and bacon wrapped asparagus.

The first fresh local fruit of the season will also appear in April.  Hidden under the quickly melting snow we discovered that our rhubarb plants were all ready to unfurl their crinkly leaves and send up those tart juicy stalks.