By Mary Bergin
A tiny sign says “cinnamon roll,”but this is no pudgy pedestrian pastry, slathered with vanilla icing. What we have is croissant dough, twisted and immersed in sugary cinnamon.
This lighter version of decadence shows up in Princeton, population 1,200, in Green Lake County. The hamlet is home to Renard’s European Bakeshop, which also makes cardamom braids, lattice-shaped fougasse and a black currant tart named after Joel Robuchon (once declared “chef of the century” by the Gault&Millau dining guide).
All this elevates Renard’s from bakery to patisserie in rural Wisconsin.
Main Street may be ground zero for shopping elsewhere, but Princeton’s can’t-miss retail area is three blocks of Water Street, where Renard’s neighbors include cute boutiques with one-word names: Daiseye, Twigs, Twister, Shiloh.
Once in a Blue Moon offers scrambles, wraps, pasta bowls and a classy gift shop. Across the street: Horseradish Kitchen and Market, has edgy dining that began as a food truck (a little school bus, actually).
It’s a pleasant day trip, but outdoor lovers will make it more. Follow Highway 23 (and the Fox River) four miles west, for a Northwoodsy escape at Mecan River Outfitters and Lodge (open May to March). Bike, canoe or kayak on your own—or book a guided tour.
Relax in front of the pine-log lodge’s 35-foot-tall fireplace and nurse a cocktail. Dine on hearty fare from steaks to seafood. Snooze in a rustic cabin or homey lodge bedroom.
East of Princeton you can golf in Green Lake, at Tuscumbia (Wisconsin’s oldest course) and the deep bunkers of Lawsonia. Two perfect places to unwind afterward: Norton’s (a lakeside supper club since 1948) and Thrasher Opera House for music.
Count Greenway House, an 1880 mansion, is among Green Lake’s grand bed-and-breakfast inns. Roomy bedrooms are named after bygone-era resorts, but the lake—the deepest inside of Wisconsin— remains as gorgeous as ever.
Up to 180 vendors fill City Park on Saturdays for the Princeton Flea Market, April 25 to Oct. 10. That makes it among the largest flea markets in Wisconsin. For sale are in-season produce and bedding plants, lawn and home décor, handicrafts and artwork, and new and vintage merchandise. Expect an eclectic array of jewels to junk and noshing (cheese curds to doughnuts to eggrolls), 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., rain or shine.
Note: No pooches allowed.
In and near southern Green Lake County are Old Order Amish communities whose residents live simply, using horse-drawn transportation and kerosene instead of cars and electricity. Look for roadside “for sale” signs outside of farms, especially near the burgs of Dalton and Kingston. Plants, bakery, cheeses, candy and woodworking are specialties at these businesses, which are closed on Sundays. Download a map of exactly where to go at princetonwi.com/shop and prepare for a peaceful, picturesque country drive.