Some places reveal themselves slowly. I was always used to shooting through Mazomanie on the way to Spring Green. But last summer, on our way to American Players Theatre, we finally turned off the highway and saw something unexpected. Bump over the railroad tracks into Mazo proper and there are streets that could have dropped out of a Norman Rockwell-meets-Edward Hopper American daydream: flat-topped 19th-century storefronts, gingerbread cottages and clapboard houses framed by long rambling porches.
The real center of town, though, is the Old Feed Mill, which was our other big discovery that August day and now a regular stop. Just 25 minutes out of Middleton, the restaurant, like the town, feels otherworldly. The converted 19th-century flour mill, which happily hasn't been overly renovated by owners Nancy and Dan Viste, features a long creaky porch. Before you even get to the dining room there is a snaking bar, a gift shop and shelves of jams and preserves for sale (peach butter, rhubarb strawberry, blackberry, huckleberry). The jars of jams, not oversweetened, are reason enough to come. But wait until after dinner, when you'll be fully sated and less likely to run up a massive jelly bill.
Dinner gets served in a beamed, whitewashed beauty of a dining room, flaunting walls so thick you feel like you're being cradled by the mill's big old bones. The epic theme carries over to the food, which is all about hearty heartland plates that are occasionally underscored by a surprising sense of delicacy. Not with the big wedge of brie crusted with pecans on a pool of balsamic and honey, or the spinach and artichoke bruschetta that comes topped with a lemon Parmesan crust - some things don't have to be understated. And that's true of a lot of the menu.
The meatloaf with Italian sausage paired with a mound of garlic mashed potatoes, enough to feed a family of four, isn't pretending to be anything but a supremely satisfying blue ribbon farm dinner. Save yourself for some of the peach butter spread on toast, when you get home, and that's a big finish.