We think of Wisconsin as a land of abundance, and it is. Nowhere is this more obvious than at The Elegant Farmer, best described as a produce stand and farmer’s market on steroids.
The Elegant Farmer was opened in 1947 by Dave and Elmer Scheel. The brothers raised a herd of 50 Guernsey cattle, and sold their fruits and vegetables by the side of the road. By the late 1950s the cows were gone and the Scheels were focusing on the growing market operation. They pioneered the concept of pick-your-own strawberries on their 65 acre farm, but as the countryside became more developed they specialized in being a source of produce and items made from farm-fresh ingredients.
The market today is run by the third generation of owners, who are committed to carrying on the traditions of the past. It’s a sprawling operation with a cornucopia of products—a dozen flavors of popcorn and just as many types of apples, along with natural honey, country-style bacon and cider baked ham. The cheese section is formidable, as you would expect, including an inevitable range of Wisconsin Cheddar (mild, sharp, and varieties aged up to eight years).
Baked goods are now the most popular item, and The Elegant Farmer is home to the famous Apple Pie Baked in a Paper Bag, named by Gourmet magazine and The Wall Street Journal as “the best pie in America.” While I can’t substantiate that claim, I can attest that it’s worth a detour—packed with butter and fresh, tart apples, with a crunchy top crust. They also feature a selection of fruit crisps, muffins, fruit breads and jumbo cookies. They even won an “apple pie throwdown” against Bobby Flay in 1998.
The pies are available to go, or by the slice to eat on the spot. To make your life complete, pour some caramel over the top. If you can’t make it to Wisconsin, you can order an 8”pie online for $19.99 and have it shipped to your door, complete with heating instructions. It’s great to be a locavore, but sometimes you have to take shortcuts.