Posted by: acooksca | 09/23/2013

Door County Wisconsin Fish Boil

Door County Fish Boil

Door County Fish Boil

Door County, Wisconsin is a place people compare to Cape Cod…both have sweet waterfront towns, winking lighthouses and a history of warm hospitality. Actually, I wouldn’t know because I had never been to either until now. Certainly Fish Creek, an historic village of white cottages clustered around its tiny protected harbor is a charmer. Two weeks from now we expect to arrive by small plane in Cape Cod and be able to compare the two.

Door County is a finger peninsula of limestone cliffs dividing Lake Michigan on the east shore from the waters of Green Bay on the west.  In the mid-19th century steam ships stopped at Fish Creek docks bringing catches of lake fish and restocking with cord wood before pushing south. On the return they brought visitors fleeing the summer swelter of Chicago and other mid-west metropolises.  America’s oldest resident summer theater started here and continues today.  The peninsula also retains a bucolic center of orchards, farm fields and cedar forests. But this stop has made it onto our itinerary for a different and truly unique culinary offering: the Door County Fish Boil.

We place ourselves overnight in the White Gull Inn, built in 1896 as the first resort in Fish Creek. Today it is on the Select Registry of Historic Inns with 19 beautifully appointed rooms and suites.  The restaurant is open to the public for breakfast and dinner year ‘round and on the weekends for that famous Fish Boil. At 6 p.m. we are offered a glass of California sauvignon blanc and settle in with the crowd around a bonfire on the back courtyard of the inn to watch the show.

Tom, the Boilmaster, governs a fire of locally sourced hardwoods under a blackened stockpot on a stand. We can feel the intense heat of the fire and welcome it on this cool evening, the first day of Autumn.  He recounts the story of lumbermen and fishermen creating this simple dish 100 years ago as a fast way to feed groups of hungry men. Small red potatoes and hunks of lake whitefish are boiled briefly in well-salted water until just done. A splash of kerosene is then thrown on the fire creating a superheated boil-over that carries off the strong oils from whitefish.

White Gull Inn stuffed french toast

White Gull Inn stuffed french toast

We had visions of dry and tasteless fish but we were wrong.  The whitefish steaks were moist, firm-fleshed and medium-flavored. They were served with a drizzle of butter, a very nice tartar sauce, house made breads and coleslaw. The kitchen makes a hundred pies each week from the local Montmorency cherries.  The Door Peninsula is famous for these bright-red sour cherries which are bathed in a slightly too sweet cinnamon syrup as pie filling. The next morning, however, The White Gull Inn showed off another specialty using those cherries.

The Good Morning America show chose the White Gull Inn’s Stuffed French Toast with Door County Cherries as the best breakfast dish in the country. And it was wonderful. Thick egg bread slices are infused with egg and milk, fried in butter, stuffed with cream cheese and topped with lightly poached Montmorency cherries, in all their unadulterated sweet-tart plumpness. With 2 drops of local maple syrup and Canadian bacon along side this could really be one of the best breakfast dishes ever.

The White Gull Inn:

Recipe for their Stuffed French Toast:



  1. Glad you got to experience the fish boil. Looking forward to your thoughts on how DC compares to cape cod.

    • Thanks for the suggestion of Fish Boil, Jeannie.

  2. We love Door County!

    Sent from Terry’s iPad 3rd gen

    • We flew into a small airport in the center of the peninsula and went right to Fish Creek. Flew out this morning and are now in Sault Ste. Marie, on the Michigan U.P. I would like to spend some more time on the Door Peninsula. I guess you guys have been there!


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