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A Taste For It

pine_coneBY Jamie Lee Rake

“Don’t go there if you don’t like big desserts,” said a friend, with her husband’s concurring, of Pine Cone Travel Plaza Restaurant & Bakery (685 W. Linmar Lane, Johnson Creek, near the outlet mall around the juncture of Highways 26 and 94;920-699-2767, http://www.pineconejohnsoncreek.com/) of where they had recently enjoyed dining while engaging in church picnic conversation. The girth of my abdomen should be sufficient testimony that, yes and probably alas, I enjoy an occasional oversize last, sweet course of a meal. Getting to Pine Cone had just become a culinary imperative.

If you couldn’t guess from its name, we’re talking about an eatery in a truck stop. Technically, it’s attached to a truck stop;attempting to grab a seat and some grub by way of the Shell station with semi drivers’ amenities will only result in leaving one hungry and bumping into a wall. Upon entering the proper set of doors, however, the sight of a long glass case lined with goodies galore greets the eyes. Not far therefrom lies a classically homey dining room in medium blues and plenty wood, if not an abundance of pine cones.

Among the silly things I may do, driving between 40 and 50 minutes (yup, it’s that second of Wisconsin’s two seasons: road construction) merely for dessert isn’t one of them. So, with supper time beckoning, the one unique thing on Pine Cone’s menu harkened as well.

And it seems most every truck stop diner has at least one thing a body would be hard pressed to fins within 100 miles of it, or at all elsewhere. At Pine Cone, apart from its desserts, that one thing must be the Philadelphia chicken sandwich. Familiarity with the more common Philly steak sammy gives a near parallel to its fowl counterpart: something like an especially lengthy, unbreaded chicken tender, topped with sauteed green pepper and onion slices and Swiss cheese, all on what’s something akin to a double-wide hotdog bun.

The subtle combination of a white cheese on white meat with white onion on white bread with a hint of piquant earthiness provided by the pepper works well, though there was a bit more bun than filling upon my last bite. Compensating for that, however, was the cole slaw. Cabbage and carrot gets minced so finely that it was difficult to glean whether it was prepared in vinegarette or in creamy style with mayo’ or salad dressing. Either way, its empty bowl left no discernible a trace of moisture. Pine Cone’s menu declares its slaw “special”; righto, that.

Ah, now for dessert. And for a place that includes “bakery” in its name (here’s assuming that the $1.49 half-pound cookies-such a deal!-sold on the other side of the building are made on-premises, too), it might be fair to assume that there may be a distinctive treat with which to end my repast. And certainly, never had the words “cream cheese boat” ever entered my vocabulary in that order until my initial eying of Pine Cone’s dessert menu. So, a blueberry cream cheese boat it would be. Pie filling adorned with a couple of ribbons of not overly sweet dairy frosting rests in a pastry shell something like that of a cream puff, but sturdier and shaped something like a banana split bowl. And though on the gargantuan side, as my friends had inferred, the lightness of the pastry, flavoful berries and heaviness of the topping put it in the vicinity of Goldilocks’ “just right” assessment of satiation. Sooner than later I’d like to try the cherry variation of the boat. From there, maybe Pine Cone’s caramel apple? We’ll see…

Also Recently Eaten
The last time my town had anywhere to order hot pastrami, it was one of Subway’s limited-time promotions, so when A&W (numerous locations, but you knew) introduced its Deli Burger with that aforementioned brined, spiced beef sharing space a couple of its signature patties, mushrooms, onions, mustard and, here it is again-Swiss cheese, I had to give it a go. The pastrami arguably may more texture than taste to what is otherwise a glorified mushroom & Swiss burger, but it’s worth the price. That will be especially the case if the home of the Root Bear makes it a short-time run as Jared Fogle’s former benefactor made its sandwich.

So, you’ve just seen the great Biz Markie DJ and rap in Sheboygan for the city’s free summer concert series, you’re hungry. At least I did and was, so I was grateful for the sight of Fountain Park Family Restaurant (922 N. 8th St;920-452-3009, http://fountainparkfamilyrestaurant.com/) on the walk back to the Rakemobile. All the more was I thankful for its expertly prepared chicken cacciatora, proportionally tomatotoey and olive oily to the artistic presentation of the penne pasta beneath it all. Tapioca pudding to top it all off? Of course. So satisfying was the fare that I fairly took the cantankerous ‘tide of the owner/manger in stride. Hey, I know you have to wash the cup from which I only drank hot water and lemon, but nothing’s stopping you from charging me a little something for the fruit, right, guy?!

Wouldn’t it figure that on my way to Pine Cone there was on the path a new frozen confection parlor? City Service Ice Cream (205 N. Main St,, Juneau;920-386-8084) looks to be housed in an abandoned gas station, repleted with a wooden stand-up of an old-time smiling attendant holding a cone to tempt passers-by. Its assortment of ice creams comes from long standing downtown Watertown staple, Mullen’s Dairy Bar & Eatery. Cones, dishes, sundaes, etc. are made by fresh-faced youths, one of whom fixed me up a splendid butter pecan shake. city Service also offers hot dogs in with all the Chicago fixings, for which I may have to splurge my sodium count some time. It will likely have to be by summer’s end, though, as no indoor seating and a few tables outside gives the appearance of a seasonal business. May it last for many more.

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