Getting in Cherry Condition in Door County, Wisconsin

“Cherry condition” per urbandictionary.com: When something is in near perfect condition.

Cherries ripe for the pickin' at Seaquist Orchards in Door County

Cherries ripe for the pickin’ at Seaquist Orchards in Door County

“Cherry condition” according to Door County, Wisconsin: When someone has exceedingly reaped the healthful and gustatory benefits of Montmorency tart cherries.

My conditioning began less than two hours from the airport in Green Bay. (Only small planes can land at the Door County Cherryland Airport.)

In Your Bucket Because…

  • Cherries are good and good for you.
  • Door County will charm your socks off.
  • Good for: Families and foodies.

Super Cherries

At Country Ovens, the conditioning is intense. Outside of Sturgeon Bay – the “threshold,” so to speak, to the Door County peninsula – the company has been selling Cherry De-Lite dried cherries since 1987. The cherries themselves, harvested from some 2,500 acres of Door County orchards, ooze with superfood properties such as antioxidants, anthocyanins (anti-inflammation agents), melatonin, potassium, pain relievers, and on and on. They are said to be effective in preventing or treating gout, cramps, fibromyalgia, insomnia, arthritis, fatigue, muscle soreness, heart conditions, and on and on.

Through the years, as the healthful benefits revealed themselves, Country Ovens found a use in the discarded by-product of their dried cherries production when they began selling the juice, both au naturel and sweetened.

In recent years, a partnership with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) resulted in a product called Rapid Red that college and professional sports teams now drink to relieve aches and pains. The product went a step further when Country Ovens added another Wisconsin cheesehead food by-product – namely  whey – into the mix and developed Rapid Whey, a protein-rich spin-off.

So after some addictive nibbles of dried cherries, dark chocolate covered dried cherries, cherry salsa, and on and on, I got turned onto the hard stuff. The Rapid Red tasted just like my Iowa childhood, when I was known to steal handfuls of cherries off the family tree  to cram quickly in my mouth before detection by my mother, who was waiting to collect them for pie.

The Rapid Whey? Whey heavier (pardon the pun), as though I had added yogurt to my juice. But undeniably a potent cherry conditioner.

Cherry Everything

From there, determined to sample as many cherry products as possible within three days, I tasted cherry chipotle cheddar at Renard’s, Door County’s only cheese maker, then filet mignon with cherry sauce and cherry crisp dessert for dinner at Carrington Pub & Grill, overlooking Green Bay in Egg Harbor, one of a series of adorable small waterfront towns behind the Door.

Pausing long enough for a melatonin-induced coma, I began first thing the next morning with the best oatmeal this daily oatmeal-breakfaster ever woke up to. The Bistro at Liberty Square in Egg Harbor bakes its quality oatmeal with cinnamon, brown sugar, and – what else! – Door County cherries.

Spitting pits at Orchard Country Winery and Market

Spitting pits at Orchard Country Winery and Market

Next stop, since the cherry harvesting season (generally late July to mid-August for Montmorency cherries) was just starting: Seaquist Orchards, the region’s main producer of cherries. Its gift shop baffles further with the number of cherry products in stock – barbecue sauce to homemade cherry fudge. In early August, it throws one of a few cherry festivals the county celebrates.

At Island Orchard Cider, I sampled apple-cherry hard cider fermented according to the French process, which is appropriate given that Montmorency cherries come from France. I tasted cherry wine and tried my luck at the Cherry Pit Spit track at Orchard Country Winery & Market in Fish Creek. I then plucked a bucket of fresh cherries right off the trees and savored the summer, just-picked warmth of their slightly sour pulp.

Restaurants served me cherry ice cream, pork with cherries, risotto with cherries, creamed corn with cherries, and – perhaps my favorite – French toast stuffed with cherries and cream cheese at White Gull Inn in Fish Creek, a dish that won the Best Breakfast in America Challenge on TV’s Good Morning America in 2010.

I learned to make arugula salad with cherry vinaigrette and cherry-cured bacon in a cooking class at the Savory Spoon, then drank cherry margaritas at Fred & Fuzzy’s lakeside in Sister Bay. Cherry pie, cherry trail mix, cherry nut bread,  a brandy tipple known as Cherry Bounce, chocolate cherry wine, and on and on: I tried them all. And if “cherry condition” also connotes a bit of a weight gain, then I definitely achieved my goal. At least by Door County definition.

Practicalities

Door County cherry margaritas at Fred & Fuzzy's Waterfront Grill

Door County cherry margaritas at Fred & Fuzzy’s Waterfront Grill

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