Brunch is more than a delayed breakfast; brunch is an experience that requires the right amount of leisure – with perhaps a touch of slap happy – that can occur only after an eventful Friday and Saturday. It’s the meal that marks the conclusion of a successful weekend and helps to smooth the path back into the mindset of domestic duties, Sunday chores and thinking ahead to the work week.
For some, it helps to ease any pains incurred as the result of imbibing on Saturday evening, and for others, it’s a rallying call for one final celebration, also known as a Sunday Funday. Either way, brunch is a special-occasion meal marked by midday sweet and savory food, good company and drinks to match.
This past weekend called for this sort of Sunday feast because some friends and I had taken part in the county’s annual relay run, the Fall 50. We had spent the bulk of our Saturday running the combined total of 50.5 miles from Gills Rock to Sturgeon Bay and had the achy muscles and mental grog to prove it. We headed to Fish Creek, where the Whistling Swan offers its Sunday-only brunch.
On top of offering exceptional cuisine, the Whistling Swan is also the Door peninsula’s oldest operating inn. The building was originally constructed in Marinette, Wisconsin, in 1887 and moved across the ice of Green Bay by teams of horses in 1907. The inn and neighboring buildings are part of the Welcker Historic District, listed on both the State and National Historic Registers.
The beautifully preserved building and décor – which is an interesting mix of classic chic design with rustic natural elements – serve to increase the casually elegant ambience of the dining rooms. Meals are served either in the main dining area – a large room with high ceilings; a view into the kitchen; a large, wooden, L-shaped bar; and a working fireplace – or the attached all-seasons deck: a long room with plentiful windows on three sides that serves as the primary brunch area.
As is true with all meals at the Whistling Swan, the menu changes frequently based on seasonality, the availability of local ingredients and the chef’s current inspiration. This brunch featured a new menu with several smaller plates, entrée items and sides that could be combined and/or added on. The drink menu is also extensive, offering full wine, beer and brunch specialities: a bloody mary, brass monkey, michelada and a few takes on the mimosa.
True to brunch tradition, there were the breakfast-oriented items – buttermilk pancakes and breakfast sausage benedict, for example – as well as some lunch-leaning fare, such as the fried-chicken sandwich and braised rabbit tostada.
We started with a pot of turmeric ginger tea for hydration and anti-inflammation purposes, then added on a bloody mary, which had a nice kick of spice. We opted to split the avocado toast, which was above and beyond what I had imagined: It was piled high with both egg salad and chunks of perfectly ripe avocado – a picture of perfection.
Our main plates followed quickly: the fried-chicken sandwich and the eggs benedict with lamb sausage. Again the artful presentation had an immediate impact on our taste buds; the dishes looked more tempting than previously imaginable. The eggs benedict was rich and well-seasoned, with the lamb sausage acting as the highlight and packing a punch with a rich umami flavor.
The fried-chicken sandwich featured thoroughly breaded chicken breast, Boston bibb lettuce, garlic aioli and dill pickles. It was especially hefty in size and came with fries. Thanks to the previous day’s running, we had no problem making the food disappear, but the portions would be more than filling on a less ravenous day.
Outside the many surrounding windows, the fall color was shockingly vibrant, contrasting with the neutral hues in the dining area. The relaxed pace of the meal was luxurious, and the delicious food sated all remaining hunger and thirst pangs. We left feeling revived and relaxed, a sure sign of a great brunch.
The Whistling Swan Inn and Restaurant, 4192 Main St. in Fish Creek, serves brunch every Sunday, 9 am – 1 pm. Browse the current menus at whistlingswan.com; make reservations online through Open Table or by calling 920.868.3442.