When drivers get off the interstate at the Lake Mills exit looking for a bite to eat between Madison and Milwaukee, there are a couple of familiar options. Options that happen to rhyme with "shmubway" and "shMcDonald's."
It would be pretty easy to just pull over and have fast food. But it would also be pretty easy — and a much better idea — to keep going down the road just a bit farther to eat at Water House Foods in Lake Mills's sweet downtown.
Instead of a predictable sub or burger, Water House will serve you something surprising and delicious, made primarily with ingredients that have never crossed a state line.
Water House is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Rae and Shawn Rediske, and the place grew as organically as the ingredients they favor on their menu.
It all started about 15 years ago, when Shawn received a copy of Daniel Leader and Judith Blahnik's book "Bread Alone" as a Christmas gift.
"It was a revelation," he said. It sparked his passion for baking that eventually turned into a profession.
In 2008, Shawn shared a loaf with a French friend who said it was the best bread he'd had since he came to the United States. Then Rae brought a loaf into the Brick Street Market in Delavan, and that set the ball rolling for both Rediskes to quit their day jobs and go into business.
"We really started off more as bakery," said Rae, "a very part-time retail shop with limited hours."
Now Water House is a full-fledged restaurant serving breakfast and lunch with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients from nearby farms and producers, like JRS Country Acres and Flyte Family Farm.
This means that while some menu items like the popular trout tacos ($9.50) are standard, ingredients can change depending on what's available.
"In winter, we have a slaw with root vegetables on it," said Rae. "And we change out tomatoes to roasted red peppers."
When no fresh, local tomatoes are available, Water House substitutes ingredients that are.
"That was really hard to say that to people for so many years," said Rae, but she and Shawn didn't want to compromise. "We can tell a taste difference," she said.
Shawn shares his wife's commitment to cooking with the best ingredients available right in the community. Right now, that means tomatoes from JenEhr Family Farm, cucumbers from Flyte Farm, and flour ground at Lonesome Stone Milling in Lone Rock.
"We go to the farmers' market and find the best food from the best vendors we can," Shawn said.
The trout taco is a perfect example. It's made with smoked trout from Rushing Waters Fisheries in Palmyra, served with a zesty chipotle cream sauce on tortillas from Gitto Farm 'n' Kitchen in Watertown.
The most popular sandwich on the menu is the Sweetest Chicken ($6.90) made with JenEhr chicken and Roth Kase provolone on Shawn's cranberry-wheat bread.
Customers' favorite bread is the garlic sea-salt sourdough, which is good fresh but also makes wicked homemade croutons.
For the Rediskes, good ingredients are more than just a marketing scheme. Shawn is proud to be able to answer customers' increasingly-informed questions about every ingredient on the menu with, "I know that farmer. I know the guy who mills our flour."