By Lauri Short
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(Cooking Light) -- If you're looking for a colorful culinary destination, try one of these six roadside attractions.
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin
What started as a collection of 15 mustards twenty years ago has now grown to over 4,700 jars, bottles and tubes of mustard from across the world. The Mustard Museum of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin -- the home for these various types, tastes and origins of mustard -- continues to entice tourists and roadside visitors. But the museum doesn't stop at just showcasing -- and sampling -- its top-notch mustards. The exhibit includes hundreds of mustard-related items, such as vintage mustard memorabilia, antique mustard pots and tins, advertisements and historical products -- like the "Supreme Court Mustard" -- a jar that was present during an argument of the Supreme Court in the late 1980s.
While the yellow condiment is the draw, the inspiration for the museum has its roots in baseball not mustard. Museum founder and curator, Barry Levenson, was so upset about the loss of his Boston Red Sox to the New York Mets in the 1986 World Series, that he went to an all-night grocery store and bought the first 15 jars of his collection. "I needed a hobby," Levenson says. "From the condiment aisle, I heard 'If you collect us, they will come.' Now people from around the world are sending mustard for the museum."
A variety of exhibits comprise the museum, including "French Mustard," along with videos such as "Mustardpiece Theater" to help explain the collection and its components. But visitors enjoy the gift shop and the 500 assortments available for sampling and purchase.
"There's a sense of humor behind it," Levenson says. "Let's face it, a museum about mustard is a little goofy."
More information: Located about 20 miles southwest of Madison, Wisconsin off U.S. 151, the Mustard Museum is opened 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for major holidays. Call 1-800-438-6878 for more details or visit www.mustardmuseum.com.
Home of the Hamburger
For small town charm and a glimpse into burger history, take time to cool down -- or grill out -- with a day trip to Seymour, Wisconsin. Many cities claim to be the birthplace of the hamburger, but the residents of Seymour take the claim seriously.
A "Home of the Hamburger" sign welcomes visitors to Seymour from Highways 54 and 55. While the town's famous Hamburger Hall of Fame closed in recent years, collectibles can still be viewed at the community museum on Sundays from 1-5 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But the main attraction is the 16-foot statue of "Hamburger Charlie," which stands in the center of town as a tribute to the late Charlie Nagreen, the inventor of the burger. Four plaques surround the statue and explain the history of the hamburger in Seymour.
After taking a picture next to the statue, walk over to the famous 22-foot by 22-foot grill that was used to create the world's largest hamburger (at 8,266 pounds!) in 2001. Or experience a real-deal cookout at the town's Burger Fest held the first Saturday in August. Nearly 15,000 to 20,000 people join the town of Seymour in celebrating the birthplace of the hamburger. Activities include a hot air balloon display, ketchup slide, pony rides, the world's largest hamburger parade, and Hamburger Charlie dressed in his standard chef hat, red suspenders, and white apron outfit.
More Information: Located about 15 miles west of Green Bay, Wisconsin off Hwy. 54 and 55. Visit www.homeofthehamburger.org for more details about Burger Fest and the birth of the hamburger.
Lenny the Chocolate Moose
If you're looking to spot a moose off the highway, look no further than Len Libby Candies. Lenny the Chocolate Moose is just as large as any other moose in Maine. And his life-sized exterior and 1,700 pounds of fine milk chocolate surely make him the sweetest moose around.
Sculptured by Rhodes scholar Zdeno Mayercek in 1997 with chocolate prepared by Fernand Hemond, Lenny stands in his natural habitat a pond of white chocolate tinted with food coloring. He celebrates his 10th year in 2007, and the folks at Len Libby are prepared to throw a "big birthday surprise," says Maureen Hemond, owner of Len Libby Candies. To maintain Lenny's clean chocolate physique, professionals air condition and paint brush his coat with confectionary glaze to lock in the oils from the chocolate, preventing evaporation and melting, she says.
Located off Route 1 and near I-95, Len Libby Candies welcomes guests to sample the variety of fine treats that candy-makers produce on-site. And if Lenny doesn't lure you to the shop, the sweet smell of chocolate and fudge as you walk through the door just might. "We hope to make a fine product, which we have since 1926, and provide our guests with a memorable visit," Hemond says. Bangor Taffy, a soft caramel rolled in confectionary sugar and featured on the Boston-Maine Railroad at the turn of the 20th century, is a favorite at Len Libby Candies. Along with chocolate and taffy, the company also creates gourmet ice cream in the summer. The average price per pound of chocolate is $15.95, Hemond says.
Even with candy samples and quality treats, Lenny is the primary attraction. So when confronted by a life-sized moose made of fine chocolate, has anyone ever tried to eat Lenny? "No, but the most common remark is, 'Oh, I want to take a bite out of that animal,'" Hemond says laughing. "But instead we give guests a chocolate-covered pretzel that looks like an antler."
Certainly, Lenny the Chocolate Moose is one of a kind. "He's big and he's sweet" Hemond remarks. "He epitomizes Maine, and he's wonderful!"
More information: Len Libbies operates its regular business hours on Monday - Saturday from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. For more information, call (207) 883-4897 or visit www.lenlibby.com for extended holidays hours.
The Whistle Stop Café
If you loved the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes," then step back in time and visit the Whistle Stop Café in Juliette, Georgia. This Southern treasure -- located in an old milling community 60 miles south of Atlanta -- promises a fine lunch and welcoming company, not to mention those famous fried green tomatoes!
For authentic food and charm, the Whistle Stop Café features a classic Southern menu, including country-fried steak, fried chicken, sweet potato fries, fried green tomato sandwich and fried green tomato salad among other items. With a $10 average price for lunch, you will want to take a small detour off I-75 to experience memorable cuisine and true Southern hospitality. "We've worked hard to preserve the appearance of the café," says Elizabeth Bryant, the owner since 2002. "(Guests) will see the same wooden sidewalks, bar and booths of the interior, cash register and same memorabilia as the movie. The building still has the same base as the original."
The Whistle Stop Café not only serves good food -- it sponsors a Green Tomato Festival the last weekend in October filled with family entertainment. Locals also enjoy listening to well-liked tunes of a country or gospel band on the first and third Saturdays. The café also sponsors "Screen on the Green," allowing guests to sit back and relax, pull out a blanket, and watch the movie that made the town famous.
Once a railroad ghost town along the Ocmulgee River, Juliette, Georgia and its Whistle Stop Café now welcome visitors from all over the world. "We hope guests feel the love that we have here," Bryant says.
More information: Opened Sunday and Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wed.-Sat. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Monday. Call (478)-992-8886 for more information or visit www.thewhistlestopcafe.com.
Liverpool, New York
For a historical glimpse into salt production, explore the Salt Museum in Liverpool, New York, six miles outside of Syracuse -- the "Salt City." Located on the shores of the Onondaga Lake, the museum stands as a reminder of the prosperous industry in the area that once supplied the entire nation with salt. While no longer termed the "Salt City" today, Syracuse still remembers its history and the people who worked in the salt plants.
Built in 1933 as a part of a work relief program during the Great Depression, the museum features exhibits and artifacts, detailing salt production and the industry in the area. "[The museum] is a re-creation of an old salt processing plant," says Gary Lopez, senior recreation leader of Onondaga Lake Park.
Visitors are welcomed to explore the site of an original boiling block where brine (salt water) was turned into salt. A self-guided tour allows guests to examine historical photos and paintings, and the exhibits detail the step-by-step process for producing salt. "You get a sense for what life was like back then," Lopez explains. "The hardships and struggles of the people. Today we think there is just an abundance of salt. Back then salt was a precious commodity. [The industry] helped create different businesses in the area, such as coopering, basket weaving and blacksmithing."
More information: Opened May 6-October 9, 2006, 1-6 p.m. daily. Free Admission. Call for reservations for group tours. For more information, call (315) 453-6712 or visit http://onondagacountyparks.com/parks/salt_museum/
World's only Corn Palace
Mitchell, South Dakota
With high domes and minarets, the World's Only Corn Palace resembles the architecture of Turkey or Eastern Europe -- not that of Mitchell, South Dakota. But it is not the palace's unique look that makes it famous. Thirteen colors of corn cover the building, forming beautiful patterns and designs that raise eyebrows of passing visitors. "It's artwork," says Mark Schilling, director of the Corn Palace. "Outside, the building has 12 large murals, which can be pictures of various themes."
Established in 1892, the Corn Palace stands triumphantly downtown, representing a plentiful harvest. Created as a showpiece, the palace was used to entice people to move to Mitchell and celebrate success. Now, the two are almost synonymous. "To many, the Corn Palace is Mitchell, South Dakota," Schilling says.
Today however, the palace serves as a multi-purpose center for the town. Local events, from high-school basketball games to concerts and trade shows, take place at the palace. The famous Corn Palace Festival takes place in the fall, bringing in big-name bands and top-notch family entertainment. In the summer, the Corn Palace is used strictly for tourism, welcoming visitors from all over the country. "We hope [tourists] found this a unique place along their travel," Schilling says. "It's typically not their final destination, but we hope they realize all the work and effort, as far as decorating and creating murals, that's put into the palace."
More Information: Open Memorial Day through Labor Day from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. April, May, September and October from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. daily. November - March from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon-Fri. Free Admission. Located near I-90. Call the Corn Palace Convention Center & Visitors' Bureau at 605-996-622 or visit www.cornpalace.org for more information.
Seymour, Wisconsin takes its "Home of the Hamburger" claim seriously.