In the course of our workaday correspondence, readers will often pass us tips, emails of varying length detailing both their culinary misadventures and hidden gems they hope we’ll explore.
We recently received just such a note endorsing the homemade, raised doughnuts at The Bakeshop & More in Prescott, WI, one which filled us with a mixture of curiosity and regret. How many early mornings had we blown through Prescott on our way to this or that trout stream, Red Wing antique store, or Stockholm pie, merrily eating cold, hard-boiled eggs when we could have been eating warm doughnuts? Too many.
Unfortunately, on our first attempt to rectify this situation, we arrived at The Bakeshop at around 9:30am on a Friday and found that all but one of the doughnuts had sold. We purchased the lone glazed doughnut ($ .75) and a couple of pastries and, since it was a beautiful day, left the shop and wandered down to a granite bench overlooking the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers. In a hazy, mid-morning sunlight kind of way, the town’s train trestle and lightly wooded banks looked a little like a Dutch painting.
The glazed doughnut was excellent: The glaze was well integrated with the doughnut — no cracking or peeling –- and the center was moist and chewy and tasted pleasantly of yeast. The cinnamon roll ($1.75) was tender and nicely spiced, but next to the doughnut seemed less essential. A cinnamon Danish ($1.75), on the other hand, had a rather hard crust and a distinct lack of flavor where there should have been butter.
Having planned to eat a large quantity of doughnuts we were, if not exactly hungry, in the mood for breakfast. Looking about us, we spied Cafe Two14. Perched atop the backside of an older building, it appeared to offer a splendid view of the river and, we guessed, standard small-town diner fare. In fact, we had stumbled upon a real gem.
Inside, worn yet serviceable tables and chairs did have the look of an old diner, but everywhere there was evidence of a recent update. In a hand-painted mural running the length of one wall, artist Elizabeth Erin had used rectangles of muted color to effectively capture an aerial view of Prescott and its buildings, streets, and water, creating an engaging map of the town. A Chris-Craft had been sawed in half, refinished, and used to create the counters, where diners could take a seat on what looked to be old fishing boat seats. It smelled nautical; not fishy, but faintly oily, like an old boathouse.
We ordered the First Mate ($6) a basic breakfast of eggs, hash browns, meat, and toast. The hash browns were cooked to a crisp exterior and tender interior and were neither too salty nor too oily. We chose the house-made sausage patties, which proved to be wonderfully crunchy discs of meat, soft at the center with a strong fennel kick.
We also sampled the 214 Breakfast ($8), essentially eggs Benedict, featuring poached eggs, thick cut Nueske’s ham, fresh spinach, house-made hollandaise — deliciously zippy, not overly thick –- and a simple house-made tomato jam. The jam added a sweet note that we hadn’t previously missed in our eggs Benedict, but perfectly complemented the rest of the package. A side of cheddar hash brown cakes was devoured without much comment, other than, “Mmm, cheesy potatoes.”
With a little prodding from our friendly waitress, Chef Aaron Wolf came out to talk to us. A graduate of St. Paul College Culinary Arts program, Wolf leased the restaurant, which had previously been closed for four years, last June. He said his approach has been to use Wisconsin-produced goods to create straightforward, Midwest comfort food, and chatted enthusiastically about Star Prairie Trout — “I’m borderline obsessed with that fish,” — and a partnership with local CSA Borner Farm Project.
Perusing the lunch and dinner menus, we found an array of classics, from a walleye sandwich to pasta alfredo and River Falls bison steak to a Reuben with house-made corned beef –- the latter destined to be repurposed, Wolf said, in a corned beef hash.
Wolf said he’s going for a cross between grumpy old men and hipsters with the nautical decor. So far, with the boathouse vibe, he’s really nailed the first half of the equation. He may get the rest of the way this summer, when he builds out a bar and puts his existing liquor license to use — a plan that will include the popular Mojito and some classics, such as the Bloody Mary and Old Fashioned. In light of the meal we’d just eaten, it all sounded more than worth a return trip.
On another day, we did go back to The Bakeshop to try more doughnuts. At 7:45am on a Saturday, the shop was still quiet and, much to our delight, the case was filled with doughnuts. We enjoyed a chocolate ring ($.75) dipped in a semi-sweet chocolate that seemed to bring out the yeast and salt in the dough. The Bismarks ($.85) –- a caramel apple and a raspberry — were well executed, but overly sweet and goopy for our taste. The star was a glazed twist ($.75) that offered everything good about the glazed doughnut plus a pleasing dash of cinnamon.
BEST BET: Go to The Bakeshop & More, get yourself a glazed doughnut, and then head to Cafe Two14 for the 214 Breakfast.
214 Front St
CHEF / OWNER: Aaron Wolf
(Breakfast served until 2pm)
RESERVATIONS: Yes, walk-ins welcome
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Limited
ENTREE RANGE: $12-$14.95
The Bakeshop & More
202 Broad St N
Prescott, WI 54021
CHEF / OWNER: Pam Hartung
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Limited