Door County: A Little Bit of Sweden and a Few Goats as Well

Photos courtesy of Al Johnson’s Swedish Recipe

I once thought it would be fun to raise goats and make goat’s milk cheese. I even took a class in cheesemaking though I have to admit my cheeses didn’t turn out that well. And, of course, my condo association doesn’t even allow cats or dogs so I’m sure I couldn’t have a small herd of goats grazing on the grass in the common area though when the pool gets fixed, they’d have plenty of drinking water.     

Now, when I’m in Sister Bay in Door County, I like to stop at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik –the latter word is the Swedish equivalent for boutique and the place features a wide assortment of Scandinavian items. Besides such fare as Swedish pancakes with lingonberry sauce, the big draw here are the live goats (yes, live) grazing on top of the restaurant’s grassy roof. 

The restaurant opened in 1949 but the goats are relatively new, having first stepped foot on the roof in 1978 after someone gave owner Al Johnson one as a gift. They have a fairly pampered life—lots of attention, they come down at night and are transported to a comfy barn and they don’t go to work on the roof if the weather is inclement. Oh, and rooftop meals are supplemented after hours so they’re not—and you can tell this by looking at their photos—going hungry.

              Even when I’m not in Door County, I can get my goat fix because the restaurant’s website has not one but two goat cams so you can log on and watch them munch grass in real time. But goats aren’t the only good thing about Al Johnson’s. Their Swedish cuisine, including those wafer thin pancakes, are great as well. I haven’t done this yet, but if I wanted the entire Al Johnson effect, I could cook up some of the restaurant’s recipes and watch the goat cam while I eat.

The following recipes are courtesy of Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant.

Gingersnap Apple Crisp With Maple Syrup Whipped Cream Filling

6 medium Apples roughly pounds (preferably Granny Smith)

1.5 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour


1 cup flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 pack of Nyåkers ginger snaps crushed (if you can’t find Nyåkers, it’s okay to substitute another brand)

1/2 cup of melted butter

 Preheat oven to 375˚. Peel and quarter apples, slice 1/4 thin. Mix with lemon juice, sugar, and flour. Crush cookie finely in a food processor, or Ziplock bag with rolling pin. Mix all topping ingredients well. Put apple mixture into 9×13 pan and top with crumble mixture. Bake 40-50 min or until apple is bubbly.

Whipped Cream

1 cup of cream 1/4 cup of Al Johnson’s Golden Goat syrup (substitute real maple syrup if you don’t have any goat syrup on hand). Mix and whip ingredients until stiff peaks form. Serve on top of Gingersnap Apple Crisp.

Al Johnson’s Lingonberry Vinaigrette

The lingonberry vinaigrette recipe, developed by Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant head chef Freddie Bexell, is offered as a dressing choice for a salad of mixed greens. It also works well in a raw red cabbage and apple salad.

Makes about ¾ cup

3 tablespoons sweetened lingonberries (can use lingonberry jam)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

½ cup canola oil

½ teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

⅛ teaspoon salt

Generous pinch of black pepper

In a mixing bowl, whisk together lingonberries, garlic, mustard and vinegar. Slowly whisk in canola oil. Add fresh oregano, salt and pepper. For a smoother dressing, pulse mixture briefly in a blender or food processor.

Al Johnson’s Red Cabbage Salad with Lingonberry Vinaigrette

Red cabbage, tart Granny Smith apples and thinly sliced red onion are tossed with lingonberry vinaigrette to create a raw salad. Finish the salad with dried sour cherries and coarsely chopped pistachios.

Makes 6 servings

8 cups thinly shredded red cabbage (1 medium head)

1 Granny Smith apple, washed, unpeeled, cored and thinly sliced

1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

2 green onions, thinly sliced

¼ cup coarsely chopped unsalted pistachios

⅓ cup dried sour cherries

⅔ cup lingonberry vinaigrette (see recipe above)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except vinaigrette. Toss with enough lingonberry vinaigrette to just coat. Refrigerate any remaining vinaigrette or serve on the side.

Goat Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breast with Red Wine Lingonberry Sauce

This stuffed chicken recipe is from the former Inn at Kristofer’s restaurant, which was located just down the street from Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay. The sauce also works well with pork tenderloin and salmon.

Makes 4 servings


1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

8 ounces goat cheese, room temperature

2 cups plus ⅓ cup breadcrumbs (divided)

2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 ounces each)

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons whole milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Four (5-inch-long) picks to secure stuffed chicken

 Lingonberry sauce:

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

½ cup red wine

½ cup sweetened lingonberries (substitute lingonberry jam if you can’t find canned lingonberries)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

Prepare chicken: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a sauté pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic. Sauté, stirring, 1 minute. Remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine goat cheese, shallot mixture, 1/3 cup breadcrumbs and Italian parsley.

Place chicken breasts on a work surface. Make a deep slit or pocket in chicken along the longest part of the breast. Be careful not to slice thru entire breast.

Stuff evenly with cheese mixture. Use long wooden picks to secure stuffing.

Line a baking sheet pan with foil. Coat with vegetable oil spray.

In a bowl, combine eggs and milk. On a large plate, place remaining 2 cups breadcrumbs. Dip chicken completely into egg mixture. Roll in breadcrumbs. Set on prepared pan.

In a large skillet, heat unsalted butter and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. When hot, add chicken breasts. Cook on one side. Using tongs, turn and continue browning chicken on all sides. Chicken may need to be browned in batches. Place on prepared pan.

Roast in preheated oven until internal temperature reaches 155 degrees, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare sauce: In a saucepot, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add shallot and garlic. Sauté 1 minute. Add red wine, lingonberries and balsamic vinegar. Use a small whisk to combine. Simmer over low heat until reduced by one-fourth, about 5 minutes. Combine cornstarch and water. With sauce on simmer, slowly drizzle in enough cornstarch mixture to thicken sauce. You may not need all of the mixture.

When chicken is done, let rest 10 minutes before removing wooden picks. Slice chicken into medallions. Serve with lingonberry sauce.

Al’s recipe for Swedish Pancakes.

3 large eggs

Makes 4 generous servings

2 cups whole milk

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon sugar

 Garnish options:

Unsalted butter

Sweetened lingonberries

Fresh berries or sweetened sour cherries

Maple syrup

Whipped cream

In a mixing bowl using a wire whisk, combine eggs and milk. Add flour, a little at a time, followed by sugar. Let batter rest 2 hours or overnight in refrigerator.

Heat a large sauté pan or flat griddle over medium-high heat. Coat with vegetable oil spray. Pour 2 tablespoons batter per pancake onto pan. Pancake will be thin. When slightly firm, carefully flip and cook on other side. Pancakes will take 1 to 2 minutes per side to cook. Serve with garnishes of your choice.