The sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon as photographer Len Villano and I made our way down the half-mile of boardwalk along Algoma’s beautiful Crescent Beach to von Stiehl Winery, where the 3rd annual BrewVino Roast was to take place later in the day.
We were there early to see the cooking of the 1,500-pound steer on a specially created grate and cement block cooking unit. We were joined by a television crew filming the event for a nationally televised cooking show that focuses on cooking with fire (we promised not to reveal the name of the show).
The four man cooking team included Aric and Brad Schmiling, owners of von Stiehl, their father, Bill Schmiling, who sold the winery to his sons and now runs Stony Creek Vineyard, and their friend Tony Erwin.
Bill explained that they were using three types of wood – hard maple for the heat and apple and cherry for flavoring.
The steer first soaked in a cherry wine marinade created by winemaker Aric. The meat was also injected with the marinade, and then a spice rub was applied before the butterflied steer went into the grate, which was lifted by forklift onto the cement block cooking unit.
The grill was designed so two men can flip the grate holding the butterflied steer. They flipped it every 90 minutes, and then mopped the meat with a combination of white wine, soy sauce and cranberry and apple juice. The mopping smells were heavenly.
All of this is taking place next to the mouth of the Ahnapee River, with a symphony of bird calls echoing as the fire turned smoky and filled downtown Algoma with the smell of wood fire and roasting beast. They also made brisket (just in case they ran out of steer), beans and roasted corn.
While the rest of the state was sweltering under hot and humid conditions, an east wind off the lake kept the temperature in Algoma below 70 degrees.
“The Schmilings work at this all year long to make this a success, and then Mother Nature helped out,” said Tom Rueckl, president of the Ribbon of Hope Foundation, who took a moment out from shucking corn to talk about how the BrewVino Roast aids the organization.
The Ribbon of Hope Foundation is a grassroots breast cancer support organization that was founded in 2003 to give financial and emotional support to families experiencing breast cancer in Kewaunee, Brown and Oconto counties.
“The Schmiling brothers are great supporters of ours,” Rueckl said. “When they came up with the idea of this steer roast, they invited the Ribbon of Hope to bring volunteers, so everybody you see here is from the Ribbon of Hope Foundation. We serve the food that they’re so busy cooking, and we get the proceeds. Money from every plate of food that is sold goes to our organization. They said if you get volunteers to cut up the meat and serve the food, we’ll give you guys all the money. It’s incredible. They’re great people.”
Rueckl mentioned that the organization’s major fundraiser of the year is a golf outing on the last Monday of June, which is June 26 this year.
“That’s the largest fundraiser we as an organization do. We’re still looking for donations,” he said. Learn more about the Ribbon of Hope Foundation at ribbonofhope.com.