Cafe Society

David Valdez, you're going to Racine, Wisconsin!

The owners of Racines have just chosen the winners of the restaurant's thirtieth anniversary contest -- and while the grand prize is a trip for two to Paris, home of the original Bouillon Racine restaurant, France hasn't exactly been rolling out the welcome mat. But the second-place prize -- the town of Racine, Wisconsin -- "is all over it," promises Paul Holley, marketing director of Real Racine, the convention and visitors' bureau for Racine County, population about 110,000, and home of the City of Racine, also known as America's Kringle Capital. See also: Celebrate Racines's thirtieth birthday in Paris, France...or Racine, Wisconsin And those oval pastries are just the start of the delights that David Valdez of Denver, the second-place winner, will discover in Racine.

Lee Goodfriend, the co-founder of Racines with David Racine and the late Dixon Staples, grew up an hour south of Racine, which is midway between Chicago and Milwaukee. But Holley has forgiven her that, and the city has pulled together an entire package to supplement the official Racines prize of airfare, hotel and a big dinner on the town for two.

For starters, there's a pair of passes to the Racine Art Museum, which has the country's largest collection of contemporary crafts. The Racine Zoo is promising an "animal encounter" -- a behind-the scenes-experience, led by the zookeeper, when Valdez and his companion can feed the giraffes and the rhinos. And they can visit the S.C. Johnson administration building and research tower, both historic landmarks designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Depending on the time of year when Valdez makes his trip, he can visit the Wind Point lighthouse, built in 1880 and 110 feet high -- which makes it the oldest and tallest working lighthouse on Lake Michigan. But fair warning: It's only open for tours "on the first Sunday of the month, June through October," Holley advises. But if Valdez makes the trip then, he'll be able to take full advantage of North Beach, named one of America's top fifty beaches by USA Today in 2012.

And while Racine does not have a Bouillon Racine, "a couple of our restaurant operators have stepped up," Holley promises. The high-end Sebastian's has offered a gift certificate, as have the owners of Envi (an ultra lounge downtown) and Ivanhoe, an Irish pub with American sensibilities.

"I guarantee we will show them a great time," says Holley.

So who needs Paris? Oh, by the way, Gary and Barby Hahn of Denver won that prize....