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2011 Hot List – Top Ten

Our annual series of staff-picks is a lusty, ten-some filled with fun facts, diversions and scenes in the Fox Cities that we’re currently crushing on. It’s Valentine’s Day, after all.

We couldn’t wait another year to run our full length Hot List (it last appeared in the January 2010 issue and is scheduled to run again in December 2011), so we’re lifting the lull with this Top 10 list. Enjoy!

Tea & Tapioca

You might notice a bubble teashop on every corner in Taiwan or Hong Kong, but not in the Fox Cities. We discovered that Poohsaan, a Southeast Asian cafe in Appleton, serves boba––a cold, sweet tea beverage known for its black tapioca pearls at the bottom of the cup.

When tea concessioners started adding flavoring to tea in the 1980s, they had to shake the mixture to guarantee blended flavors, which caused bubbles to form. This earned the drink the nickname “Bubble Tea.” We recommend the cool, creamy treat, which is made-to-order and comes in strawberry, coconut, peach-mango and pineapple flavors. Owner Seethong Yang insists, “The pearls add a nice texture to the smoothie, but drink it slowly!”

Coin vs. Card

Ever try to multitask with a purse, shoulder bag, Smartphone, portfolio, planner and car keys while digging in your wallet for the slim chance that you might have a nickel or dime to plug a meter? Well, Alison did… that is, until she bought a pre-paid meter card.

Many residents do not know that the City of Appleton offers a credit card look-alike designed exclusively for the 159 gray-head parking meters on College Avenue between Richmond and Drew streets and the Appleton Public Library plaza parking lot. Simply insert it into the slot in the meter head (next to the coin slot) and presto! The meter time grows slowly by 25-minute increments until you remove the card. In case you reach the end of your balance, a combination of the card and coins is possible. Stop by the City of Appleton office on Appleton Road to pick up your own civic lifesaver!

Vogue & Vino

Once every season, Neenah’s vintage-inspired clothing boutique, Vintique, hosts a fashion show at downtown neighbor, Bogart’s, a wine bar. Vintique owner Tina Palmer and Bogart’s owner Deborah Zehr wanted to collaborate in the name of couture, chocolate and chardonnay. While the fashion show flaunts the latest trends, Bogart’s offers free truffles (made by Chocolates by Rose) and fondue. To round out the event, head across the street to the boutique for a private shopping promotion and raffle. Catch the next show in March, and sign up for Tina’s e-letters by emailing vintique@att.net.

Stepping Up to the Plate

Until 2008, Lisa and Mark Robbins traveled to Green Bay to watch their son play baseball in the Miracle League of Green Bay. That was the year they realized the Fox Cities was capable of stepping up to the plate.

Last summer kicked off the first season at the John Wollner Fox Cities Miracle Field in Appleton’s Memorial Park. The field now hosts the Miracle League of the Fox Valley, an organized baseball league for children ages 4-19 with mental or physical disabilities. The league is one of over 225 Miracle League fields in 44 states and the field became a Goodwill program in spring 2009. The community capital campain raised $450,000 while the city of Appleton donated the land.

“We knew there were other families looking for this in the Valley,” says Robbins, who is the managing director of the League. “It’s wonderful to see all those kids together and celebrate their abilities over the summer.”

More than 9,500 children in a 30-mile radius of Appleton have special needs. In the Valley’s first 10-week season, 97 children registered to play and eight teams were formed. Community volunteers fill positions from umpires and announcers to coaches and buddies. Robbins estimates that the 2011 season will see nearly 16 teams.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit the Miracle League’s website: www.foxvalleymiracleleague.com.

Taproom Throwback

Have you ever been in an attic that has a 700-square-foot dance floor, 36-inch disco ball and Rick Astley resounding from 37-foot-long ceiling rafters?

If not, then we are guessing you have never been to Mike Prokash’s attic––The Attic, a bar above The Blind Pig Saloon (formerly Franky’s) downtown Menasha. Among the items positioned in the ceiling beams are mannequin legs (some with and without shoes), a croquet set, Santa Claus and his better half, tricycle training wheels, clamp-on roller-skates and Prokash’s son’s art projects. Bicycles are fastened to the walls and a 6-foot-tall Marvin the Martian and his 8-foot-tall Do-Do Bird friend stand in a corner. Only open on Fridays and Saturdays, music videos from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s play on larger-than-life, flat screen TVs displayed throughout the bar, and benches from a 1940s Menasha bowling alley have been refurnished to act as seating areas.

The Attic has been open for about two years, and periodically local dance pros from Gotta123Dance teach free dance lessons on Fridays from 8:30–10pm. Where else can you cha-cha with collectables? Call The Blind Pig Saloon for more details.

Digital Dining

One of Appleton’s newest restuarants has invited technology to dinner. Bennigan’s Grill and Tavern, located in the mall district, features compact computers called Ziosks on every table. The Appleton franchise is the first in Wisconsin to phase in Ziosks, an appliaction that allows a diner to view the menu, happy hour specials, read USA Today, play games, and search movie showtimes, watch trailers and actually purchase the tickets. You can also pay for your bill using the table-top device. The card can be swiped right there, with a little pen to sign and a printing option to boot!

Grocery Does Good

Downtown Appleton gained a grocer in September 2010 and it’s the kind of neighbor both businesses and residents can appreciate. Owned by Bob Wall and located in the City Center’s former Bowlby’s Candy Co. space, the Green Gecko Grocery & Deli is 480-square-feet and has been about 20 years in the making.

“I watched with sadness as some of the other places went out (of business),” says Wall, who served as the executive director of Appleton Downtown, Inc., years ago and a chef at Lawrence University. “I wanted to have [the Gecko] densely populated with food.”

Along with his passion for the downtown community comes an enthusiasm for local foods. Wall sticks to a rule of sourcing food in a 25-mile radius. When he can’t get meat within that distance, he looks to the Madison area. Milk comes from Lamers Dairy and Red Barns, a cooperative of seven dairy farms in the Seymour area.

In the store frontage, you’ll find meats, cheeses, homemade pasta salads, a variety of cold dishes and bread. For lunch, choose from brown bag sandwiches, two hot specials featured daily (such as veggie lasagna, strata or a meatloaf sandwich), as well as a soup selection. The grocery also stocks milk, yogurt, produce, spices, wine and beer.

“Our mission is to be a community grocery store that serves the needs of everyone in the downtown,” Wall says.

Wood You Like a Utensil?

Take a bite out of this: Lawrence University’s Warch Campus Center has ditched plastic (to-go) utensils for wooden ones. Birch wood, to be exact. The wood is grown and harvested specifically for tableware manufacturing, and as Greg Griffin explains, a great deal of research went into the decision.

“We thought the wooden models made the most sense with the forest stewardship council (FSC) certification,” says Griffin, the Warch Campus Center director. “We’re not taking something out of the food cycle; wood is compostable.”

Lawrence plans to compost the utensils in the university’s garden this spring.

Former Fox Cities Magazine intern Tom Pilcher, a Lawrence student, affirms that suffering a sliver to the mouth is unlikely. Lawrence University, you have earned extra credit for another stellar move towards sustainability!

Wags for Winter Dog Park

Dog tails wagged in approval after a group of animal lovers formed Friends of Outagamie County Dog Park in Appleton in 2009 to fight for a winter dog park. While they enjoy the Outagamie Dog Exercise Area (established in 1996) at the corner of Northland Ave and French Road during the warmer months, the park can’t stay open year-round or the turf would ruin.

“We accepted the reality and asked for another piece of land,” explains Maureen McCoy, group member and mother to Millie, an Australian cattle dog mix. “We started fundraising for a parcel north of the existing park.”

The pack needed to raise $10,000 and made out with $13,000. “Through gracious donations we were able to raise more than we ever could have imagined,” says McCoy. “One weekend, we made $3,000 dollars from people who came to the dog park alone.”

Now, 4.7 acres of property (a piece of county landfill property enclosed within a 6-foot-tall chain-link fence) is designated for wintry canine amusement!

Virginia Lloyd, a group member and dog owner to Spencer, an Old English Sheep Dog, says, “This is a big social activity for humans as well as the dogs! We have many people that don’t do anything else to get out of the house and can’t necessarily walk their dogs. We learn about other breeds, what foods work best for certain dogs, tips on good veterarians and care for those going out of town.”

The group continues to sell sections of the fence for $400 and in turn a plaque with the donors name will be displayed. Forms available at: www.outagamiedogpark.com, and at the dog park. The donations will go toward lighting and repairing the existing dog park.

What’s Going On?

Mean, lime-green, community-minded machine. Sounds extraterrestrial, but we’re actually talking about this website. Green is our color; community-minded is our conviction! If the words “small town” or “there’s nothing to do” ever escaped from your mouth, visit our not-to-be-missed calendar on the home page and think again.

The site reflects the content of all of our publications with additional options and frequently added bonus content. On the homepage, you can access our interactive dining guide, which allows you to search for restaurants by region (first), cuisine (second) and cost (third). The newest addition is the blog––a testament to local happenings in the dining scene, arts arena and community functions. Look for a series by Ashley Beyer, our editorial intern, on vegan eating in the Fox Cities. We print an events calendar in the front of our monthly magazine, but our web calendar is able to promote events for both non- and for-profit organizations and businesses.

—By Alison Fiebig

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