We took some time last weekend to hang out in SE Michigan. Bob wanted to get to some breweries, and I’m always up for exploring the food around Michigan.
We started at the Royal Oak Farmers Market where the highlight was meeting the folks from Hampshire Farms. They grow grains and beans – and they have a bakery at their farm. I hope to get over to visit them this summer. I picked up some corn meal and barley. My pantry is expanding with Michigan grains!
One thing that I noticed while asking about local food at SE MI restaurants is that it appears to be more difficult than in some other areas. There’s less availability of winter vegetables as there are in the Grand Rapids or Traverse City areas. Perhaps it’s because the restaurants are so spread out in the suburbs. It’s definitely (and understandably) a car-oriented area. Also, there are farms in areas of Canada, across the bridge, that are considered local in the SE Michigan area.
After the farmers market, we toured downtown Royal Oak and had lunch at Cacao Tree Cafe. Their food is unique and tasty, but they are limited to local vegetables in the summer time also. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served – as well as some awesome smoothies and desserts. I had their vegan ‘chicken’ salad. It was really tasty. I want to figure out how to make something similar at home.
As we were heading to Birmingham, I spotted the newest Michigan by the Bottle storefront in Royal Oak. Their original location is in Shelby, MI. It’s a convenient location to try a number of Michigan wines. They have partnered with eight Michigan wineries and serve tastings of over 40 wines. Their store represents four of the Michigan Wine Trails. They also have Michigan snacks to enjoy while you are wine tasting or to bring home. The walls feature a rotating art show. They also have pairing events where they partner with local restaurants.
In the afternoon, we also toured downtown Birmingham and went to Griffin Claw Brewery. We always start with a taster, and this one included: Grand Trunk Pilsner, Gateway (session) IPA, Norm’s Raggedy-Ass IPA (their flagship), and El Roja Red Ale. The menu is not vegetarian friendly, so it was good that we didn’t plan a meal here. The beers were well-made, we found. The interior is sort of industrial but with taxidermed animals on the wall. A bit incongruent, but hey – it take all kinds.
For dinner we went to The Clean Plate. Again, we found that local vegetables in this vegetarian restaurant were also difficult for them to get in the winter. There was locally grown kale, however. They serve a variety of Michigan foods year round: tofu from Ann Arbor, McClure’s pickles, The Brinery sauerkraut, bread/buns from a bakery in Detroit, and desserts from Cacao Tree Cafe. They feature a lot of organically grown food, which is pretty unique for a MI restaurant.
And to cap off the day, we stopped by Rochester Mills Brewery. It was a large restaurant – and packed. There was a one-hour wait for tables, but we were able to get seats at the spacious bar. It’s more than a brewery; it has a large menu and a full bar. For this flight we tried: Pleszures Pale Ale, Rochester Red Ale, Paint Creek Porter, Cornerstone IPA, and Brickshot ESB. The only local food item that I noticed was local free-range buffalo.
On Sunday, we had lunch at Try it Raw in downtown Birmingham. They were currently getting vegetables from Indiana; in the summer they purchase from the farmers market. They feature organic food also. Breakfast, salads, entrees, juices, smoothies, and desserts are on their menu. I had the ‘raw food’ taco, and it was fantastic with the cayenne-lemonade I drank there.
Then, for the more cultural part of the trip, we went to the art museum at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills. I’m hoping to make another visit here soon, because the campus looked like a wonderful place to walk and explore. And, there’s a science institute too.
On the way home, we stopped at the newest SIP Organic Juice Bar for some healthy refreshment to keep us going on I96. It’s a recent addition to the locations in the Grand Rapids area and features the same menu. Their local produce was limited; however they do have a Michigan source for wheat grass and herbs. I hope that they will be able to learn from SIP Grand Rapids which is doing a great job sourcing local, organic produce.