Something happens to me when I get as far north as Duluth, MN. Driving from Iowa, we take 35 N to get to the North Shore, and at Duluth we get our first glimpse of Lake Superior. The sight of all that water — seemingly as big as an ocean — immediately starts to work some relaxation magic.
I’m a born and raised coastal girl — I lived within sight of the Atlantic Ocean for the first 32 years of my life. So, the endless prairie and cornfields of Iowa, while they do have their own expansive charm, tend to leave me thirsty for a glimpse of Big Water. Lake Superior’s Minnesota shoreline offers up tall trees, hills and valleys, and ocean-like views that fill my Yankee heart with joy. The Gent and I drove up past Duluth to Two Harbors, MN (pop. 3,730) for the Labor Day weekend, a brief but relaxing honeymoon after our backyard elopement.
We enjoyed a leisurely, sunny hike along the Sonju Trail in Two Harbors, from the lighthouse to a tiny, rocky beach.
Two Harbors offered up a completely unexpected treat in the form of a perfect pizza at the North Shore Pizza Cafe & Shoppe. A thin, chewy crust, a richly flavorful sauce, and just the right amount of quality cheese baked until crusty and golden on top and melty underneath all came together to make this the best pizza pie I’ve had in the Midwest. Seriously. For a moment, I felt like I was back in New Haven, CT, pizza mecca of the Northeast.
While the pizza was a surprise, I did expect to find delicious smoked fish on our trip. While the Midwestern Gentleman stayed committed to his ultramarathon training schedule and went for an afternoon run, I strolled at a much slower pace to Gill’s Cheese & Smokehouse, where I sampled Cajun smoked salmon, traditional smoked salmon, dill smoked salmon, and brown sugar smoked lake trout. (The next day in Duluth I indulged in smoked fish part II at the Northern Waters Smokehaus. I cannot get enough of smoked fish. I need all those omega-3 fatty acids to fight inflammation. Really.)
One of my favorite parts of the trip was relaxing in an Adirondack chair built for two at our lakeside resort, while watching dusk settle over the lake and sipping Trentadue Chocolate Amore, a gift from some wine connoisseur friends. I’m not a fan of sweet, syrupy wines (which means I can’t stand most of the locally-produced Iowa wines, much as I would like to support local wineries), so I had pretty low expectations for the Chocolate Amore. Much to my surprise, it was no sweeter than my favorite tawny port, with a rich, cocoa undertone that struck a harmonious balance with the red grapes.
As beautiful as the North Shore is by day, it is sometimes even more stunning by night, particularly by the light of a rare blue moon.