Saturday, 14 September 2013

Osseo, Baraboo and the Devil's Lake

Food, Glorious Food

"I love chocolate cake.  
And when I was a boy 
I loved it even more."


by Michael Rosen

Like Michael Rosen, I have always loved sweet things, but unlike him, firstly, I was never a boy and secondly, the sweet things I loved as a girl were either my mother's pinnis and gajar ka halwa or my grandmother's kheer or they came from Kumar Sweet Shop in Dehradun in the shape of gulab jamuns and ras malai. But my romance with all things sweet continues and flourishes with the blessings of my sweet toothed family.

So, our next stop, after we left Duluth, was a place which has the slogan 'So good, you'll want dessert first!' printed on it's place mats.

The promise of good food made us enter a town which reminded me of an old western movie. 

Osseo was deserted. The shops were all closed and shuttered. There was  not a soul on the road. All that was missing was some tumbleweed and a hound howling in the background. I almost expected Gregory Peck (from the 'Duel in the Sun') to show up in his cowboy overalls- I wish! 

As it was a Sunday, we figured that the good people of the town must be in the town's churches. 

Our rumbling tummies tempted us to try to find Norse Nook and we did.

As soon as we entered the restaurant, it felt like we had been playing a game of hide and seek in Osseo and we were 'it'- ALL the people were here- a surreal moment indeed.

Here's why-

Believe me, these beauties are as good as they look, if not better. We were all behaving like Homer Simpson when he's 'drool-dreaming' while we were waiting to be seated. 

The Tasty Tardis...
The staff's Nordic costumes, the wooden panelled walls, the vistas painted on the walls and the lamps take you back in time- Norwegian time.

The place was super busy,  so we were served quickly and efficiently but without the friendly chat. 

The food was okay but the star of the show were the pies- UNMISSABLE.

Although we licked our pie plates clean, I didn't step out of the restaurant feeling satiated. No, I wasn't hinting at going in for a second helping. I felt that the old world charm of the place juxtaposed with the cold detachment of the people around us. In a crowded room, buzzing with activity- I felt like an alien. Maybe I am too sensitive to the vibe of a place, but I do like it when people around you smile and nod when you establish eye contact with them. 

Perhaps  passers by like us have diluted the local friendly flavour. Or perhaps, this is the price of progress an establishment pays- too much activity and not enough warmth. I don't know. 

I have eaten at super busy places elsewhere and they still manage to make you feel at home with just a smile and a kind word while nudging you to clear up quickly so that they can serve the next waiting customer.

And along came Lisa...

We spent the next day relishing the gorgeousness of Devil's Lake State Park- thanks to Karun bhaiya and Seema bhabhi for finding this place.

All that canoeing made us very hungry- but then again when are the Jains not hungry?

So we all set out to find a place to eat.

Curiously, a lot of restaurants in the Baraboo area are shut on a Monday. 

The women were set against eating at a fast food restaurant and the men were unable to understand the fuss- 
food is food is food. Right? 


Finally, we found it:

And along came Lisa...

She was our server and she restored my faith in the warmth of the American people.

As the other Jains were vegetarians, and the menu had very limited options, Lisa toasted fresh pitta bread, sprinkled some chilli flakes, freshly ground black pepper and crushed sea salt on good quality olive oil and brought it to our table (all without being asked). The first plate disappeared before you could say 'Pitta'- so she brought another with a beaming smile.

Lisa is a Jersey girl who came to Wisconsin to attend University and stayed on in WI. She's getting ready to start her Masters soon. All the best Lisa. 

The rest of the food was great, too. The menu boasted of corn fed organic chicken and my snobbish food attitude convinced me that it tasted sooooooooo much better than normal chicken. My sweet potato fries (shallow fried in olive oil) were to die for- the golden brown crust yielded effortlessly to reveal the sweet comforting wholesomeness inside as I dug in...YUMMY.

You do realise that the Jain clan never gets to take any pictures of the food- we love our food too much to faff around with cameras, so sadly you have to rely on my descriptions and imagine it all.

The Barn in Baraboo

The Bar at the Barn in Baraboo
The willow at the Barn
All of us left the Barn that afternoon with blessed smiles and happy tummies. 

My question to you is- what makes a meal at a restaurant special for you- the food or the people (be it the person serving you or the people eating around you)? 

Food for me has always been about love- the sweetest morsels I have ever tasted came from my papaji's (grandfather) hands when he would make a 'girai'- a bite of roti and subzi and dab it with some pickle or coriander chutney and feed me- even when I was a teenager. His gardener's finger nails still carrying evidence of his toil in the soil earlier and his eyes sparkling in a sea of wrinkles as if he had satiated his soul by offering me the first bite of his lunch.


  1. Love this post..yes remember those sweet girai's of papaji sitting under the pomegranate tree..priceless! I love the way you write. Keep writing!

    1. I only just saw this comment Seema. Yes, those lunches were truly priceless. Thank you for your encouraging words:)


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