While in Michigan, we ate. A lot. None of it was bad, as I recall, though a bit of it was what my dad used to call Howard Johnson’s food. You won’t get food poisoning, but you won’t get fat either. If we got fat, it was on the fabulous food. That is my story and I’m sticking to it.
The just okay food (for me) included lunch at Village Cheese Shanty in Leland. They were out of their famous pretzel bread, which is supposedly the main reason anyone goes there. And everyone goes there. The line was out the door (there was no place to sit inside anyway; you snagged a picnic table in the historic Fishtown section of Leland if you wanted to eat nearby. We got bag lunches, but I doubt I’d do that again. The sandwiches were huge (yes, we were warned, but none of us wanted the same kind of sandwich as anyone else). If I were to go back, I might have a sandwich (half a sandwich, if possible) and a local brew. Bellaire Brown, if I could get it. The cookies were okay, but I’d save my calories for beer, or for one of several other desserts we had on the trip.
Green Well Gastropub in Grand Rapids—Loved the cheese tasting, which included artisanal cheeses, interesting spreads with fresh bread and other baked items to put underneath them; also nuts and fresh and dried fruit. The sweet corn spaetzle was also notable, but as their menu changes depending on what’s available, it might not be there if/when we go back.
The Bluebird Restaurant in Leland—the bread pudding was fantastic.
Short’s Bellaire Brown at Scovie’s Gourmet in Charlevoix. Though I understand you can get this ale at a lot of places in Michigan. I just can’t find it since returning to the Chicago suburbs. We also had a nice berry crumb bar and some cherry pie, but the brown ale was the most wonderful, you ask me.
North Peak Brewing Company in Traverse City. The standouts were the specially designed ice cream flavors (vanilla malt and chocolate stout). The ice cream was made for them by Moomer’s—another Traverse City institution. Sis liked their Oktoberfest beer. I liked the Portobello black bean burger.
Chateau Chantal Winery on the Old Mission Peninsula north of Traverse City. Best parts? Our tasting server who was personable and polite (some of the other servers appeared grumpy) and the view.
I bought several things to serve at Christmas: Celebrate, a semi-dry sparkling wine, the Late Harvest Riesling for dessert and Twilight for Cookie’s Mom, who will only drink rosé. And I picked up the Naughty Red just to drink sometime. I also really enjoyed the Gewurtztraminer (it’s the wine of some of my people, who hailed, back in the day, from Alsace-Lorraine) and the Cerise Noir, which is rather like a port, only it contains cherries. Sis and Cookie loved the Cabernet Franc, which I thought was just okay.
Trattoria Stella in Traverse City. The service and the tortelli (Bartlett pear & ricotta filling, Gingergold apples, lemon, toasted walnuts and sage) were—you should pardon the expression—stellar. This was our splurge meal, meaning it was not cheap. We made a reservation and everything. Was the tortelli vegetarian? Yes. However, I believe my entrée was voted the best of all the ones we ordered. We all enjoyed a pre-dinner appetizer of Bruschetta (house stracchino cheese, roasted black mission figs, vanilla, cracked black pepper—they left the pancetta off as a favor to me). Sis and Cookie shared a duck liver paté ( with parmesan frico, sundried pear and apricot mostarda, date and onion puree, crostini).
The other entrées were Sis’s lamb stir fry and Cookie’s was a spicy tagliolini, and they each enjoyed them, but again: mine was the best. We drank a Malvira Nebbiolo which in my opinion was just okay, though it may have worked better with Sis’s and Cookie’s entrees. Desserts (a chocolate walnut crostata with cherry sauce & sea salt gelato; and an apple cake) were fine, but what made us happiest was the reappearance of vanilla malt ice cream with the apple cake. Sadly we couldn’t finish dessert, but we lapped up every last spoonful of the vanilla malt ice cream.
This particular food highlight deserves its own heading. The Grand Traverse Pie Company is the purveyor of, as Sis said, “the best store-bought pie” she has ever had—meaning not homemade—I think she includes restaurant pies in that description. She is in good company with that assessment. She ordered the Grand Traverse Cherry Crumb, about which Mario Batali of The Food Network says: “ I don’t think I’ve ever had as good a pie as Grand Traverse Pie Company’s Cherry Crumb Pie…It’s a religious experience.”
Cookie had the Cherry Peach Crumb, which we all proclaimed delicious. We are food sharers, if that wasn’t already obvious. My Lakeshore Berry Crumb (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and Michigan apples) was so yummy that I was moved to tweet about it. We stopped back at Grand Traverse Pie Company on the way home to bring home mini-pies, which are half sized but wholly delicious. BK enjoyed my choice (the Lakeshore Berry Crumb, naturally!) and he can be a picky eater, so I was vindicated.
So, in conclusion: Michigan food is often quite good (notice the assonance there?) but budget your calories wisely. I’m still working off the excess poundage.
Next (and last) on the topic of Pure Michigan: Fun—aka what we did besides eat and drink.