Northwest

Traverse City Hidden Gems

Old Mission PeninsulaMichigan is a popular place to visit during the summer months especially. That’s why all live here, right? We all have a favorite hiding place – away from the crowds. I’m sharing with you some of the fantastic foodie places that I’ve come across in the Traverse City area. These locally owned businesses are either brand new or a bit off the beaten path.

Northern Natural restaurant and cidery is on the east end of Front Street in downtown. The restaurant opened in a couple of years ago and supports 29 farms. They serve several flavored ciders made with Michigan apples. The food menu is small, but I always enjoy my meals in their casual atmosphere.

Harbor View Nursery and Lavender Farm has a stand on Center Rd. on Old Mission Peninsula. They sell lavender plants, dried lavender flowers, natural body products, and some food products. I took a mini- tour with Sonja Richards and also got some tips for trimming the lavender in my own herb garden.

The lavender ice cream at Harbor View is made by Buchans Blueberry Farm. Their stand is off on Nelson Rd. between Peninsula Dr. and Center Rd. They sell berries, vegetables, ice cream, baked goods, and blueberry confections and snacks. They have a nice play area for kids too.

While in the Traverse City area, I came across a unique product: grape skin flour. It was developed by Grand Traverse Culinary Oils in cooperation with Black Star Farms. According to the package, they start with spent pomace after wine fermentation. The seeds are separated out and cold pressed into grape seed oil. The skins and meal remaining are dried and powdered into flour. It can be used to supplement other flours (one-to-one ratio), and it’s loaded with antioxidants. I found it at the Black Star location in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

Over on Leelanau Peninsula, is the newly open (May 2015) Hoplot Brewery. Founded by two brothers who moved back, from Chicago, to their home state of Michigan. This business includes an actual hop garden onsite. They serve several of their own beers and are working out their menu.

There’s a new ice cream place on Front Street across from the State Theater. Last year it was Cherry Cone, and based on the layout, it had been a Cold Stone Creamery at some point. But, I think that Milk & Honey has it right. They are using locally sourced products for their farm to spoon ice cream; vegan products are available too. They also serve coffee and deli sandwiches.

Acoustic Mead tap room now has me hooked on mead. They use local honey from Sleeping Bear Farms to make several meads flavored with local fruit. They have a piano and other musical instruments for spontaneous music-making (surely inspired by the mead).

Rare Bird Brew Pub is located a bit away from downtown but is still walkable from there. They serve a handful of their own beers along with many MI favorites on draft. They have a small food menu.

You’ve probably heard of the Boathouse on Old Mission Peninsula. But did you know that owner Doug Kosch and his wife own 10 acres on the peninsula where they grow much of the vegetables, fruits, and herbs used in the restaurant? They also raise turkeys, ducks, and chickens – they are fed the raw vegetable scraps saved from the restaurant kitchen.

Many of the wineries in the Traverse City area are now tasting and selling hard cider made from MI apples. So, be sure to look for it on tasting menus. We tasted the one at Chateau Chantal, and it has a classic apple-y flavor. We also tasted a few at Bowers Harbor Vineyard; they were flavored with other fruits and drier. We enjoyed both types, and I think you will too.

I also checked out the new solar panels at Chateau Chantal Winery. Last year I went on their Sensory Treat Tour and blogged about it. There’s still time to travel around northern Michigan before ‘the snow flies’. But, really any time is fantastic in the Grand Traverse Area.

LEARN TO EAT LOCAL – all over Michigan!

Also on INSTAGRAM!!

Tasting hard ciders at Northern Natural.

Tasting hard ciders at Northern Natural.

Lavender garden at Harbor View Nursery and Lavender Farm.

Lavender garden at Harbor View Nursery and Lavender Farm.

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Look for the Buchans Farm on Nelson Rd.

Grape Skin Flour - can't wait to bake with it when the weather cools off.

Grape Skin Flour – can’t wait to bake with it when the weather cools off.

Hoplot Brewery is in a beautiful setting on Leelanau Peninsula.

Hoplot Brewery is in a beautiful setting on Leelanau Peninsula.

My new go-to for treats.

My new go-to for treats.

I love the creative re-use at Acoustic Mead tap room.

I love the creative re-use at Acoustic Mead tap room.

Brew list at Rare Bird.

Brew list at Rare Bird.

The Boathouse on Old Mission peninsula supports the peninsula wineries.

The Boathouse on Old Mission peninsula supports the peninsula wineries.

Flipping the Switch

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you would have noticed that I add environmental issues to my foodie stories. Last week I visited with Chateau Chantal Winery president, Marie-Chantal Dalese to check in on how their new photo voltaic (PV) solar panels are doing. They’ve been running for two months now. It’s the largest solar agribusiness installation at a Michigan winery.

The 148.5 kilo Watt (kW) solar array was installed by Harvest Energy Solutions. It’s annual production of 172,351 kW is like saving the CO2 emissions for the electricity of over 18 homes per year. The PV panels are on track to meet the goal of providing 40% of Chateau Chantal’s electrical needs annually.

The panels are tilted not only for sunlight but also so the snow falls off to leave them open for the winter sun. (Yes, we DO have winter sun.)

Below are photographs from the day that the switch was flipped to turn on the panels! Senator Stabenow was on hand for the celebration. (Photos are courtesy of Chateau Chantal.)

Senator Stabenow Chateau Chantal Solar EventCropped

SolarSwitchFlip_June2015 (63)

Bonobo is Coming

label prototypes

label prototypes

Drive along Center Road on Old Mission Peninsula and you’ll see a sign: The Bonobo is Coming. It’s adjacent to a partially-built building on a picturesque site.

A bonobo is a chimpanzee, and this is the newest winery on Old Mission. I took a tour with their marketing director, Heather Fortin. It’s owned by Todd Oosterhouse and celebrity couple Amy Smart and Carter Oosterhouse. Fortunately, Traverse City has virtually no paparazzi (that I’ve seen). The residents take it in stride when Michael Moore or Madonna show up in town. When you love Michigan, Grand Traverse is your go-to place, no matter who you are.

The winery is scheduled to open in time for wine harvest on the peninsula. They also have a Founder’s Club that includes invitations to special events, gifts and discounts, and lots of wine!

Located on 50 acres, this Chateau has its 2012 wines bottled waiting for the opening and several 2013 wines are about to be bottled. Chardonnay will be their flagship; others include Rieslings, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir.

They were helped out by their winery neighbors, Brys, Chateau Chantal, and 2 Lads, who made the first wines for them. Drew Perry (formerly Assistant Winemaker at Left Foot Charley) is the wine maker, and Josh Rhem is the vineyard manager. Their process will be as close to organic as possible (not certified organic), and they won’t use harsh chemicals.

There will be food service – with kitchens on both levels – which I think will make this a popular stop for tasters. The menus will include small plates and seasonal soups, salads, and wrap sandwiches. There will be locally sourced food and wine and food pairings. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free food will be available upon request.

The building motif is rustic elegance while keeping sustainability in mind during design. Wood used throughout the tasting room and private party space came from three old Michigan barns. Even some light fixtures have a reuse story (see photo below). The wine barrel lights were used in Smart and Oosterhouse’s wedding. And, it’s the first winery that had to construct to stricter Michigan waste-water codes.

Bonobo staff will focus on wine education, and the building will include large windows into the production area. Tours with paired tastings will be available by appointment and the daily seated- tastings will provide a more relaxing experience with time to savor and discuss the wine.

Why bonobo? Well, Fortin told me that Smart likes the name because bonobo chimps are benevolent creatures. They typically don’t have conflicts. And the Oosterhouses like them because they’re easy going.

Bonobo Winery is getting a great start with this namesake, their eye on sustainability, and by creating a relaxing experience.

 

Bonobo Winery front

Bonobo Winery front

Bonobo Winery back

Bonobo Winery back

lights at Bonobo

lights at Bonobo

Bonobo Founders Club

Bonobo Founder’s Club

view from Bonobo Winery

view from Bonobo Winery

view from Bonobo Winery

view from Bonobo Winery

LEARN TO EAT (and drink) LOCAL

 

Sensory Treat Tour at Chateau Chantal

blind tasting at Chateau Chantal Sensory Treat TourHow much do the other senses contribute to the taste of wine? Here’s what I found out when I attended the Chateau Chantal Sensory Treat Tour in August. Our guide, Richard, has worked at the winery for nearly fourteen years.

First, he explained how to open up the wine. Swirl the wine in the glass. It spreads up the sides where it can evaporate quickly, and you can smell the bouquet of the wine. Take the air in through the nose and the mouth for the full effect.

In front of me were three black goblets – each one half ounce of different wines. We tasted and smelled each wine as instructed and took notes. Was it red or white? Aged in steel or oak? What were the flavor notes?

This was difficult for me; I’m such a visual person! And, although I know that red and white taste quite differently, I’ve never had to rely on a sense other than my eyes to distinguish. It did get easier by the third one.

Next, we were back to clear glasses but with our sense of hearing engaged. It was quite interesting to notice how sounds changed by perception of the wine tastings. The white noise was distracting; the cello provided low tones inferring there was less sugar in the wine. And, the flute provided higher tones inferring there was more sugar in the wine.

Then, the tour started. We sampled Chateau Chantal’s Tonight sparkling wine as we walked out into the nearby vineyard. We learned about how grapes are grown. A lot of the flavor of the wine comes from the earth, because the roots are 30-40 feet long. There are microclimates in vineyards where wine grapes grown taste different than each other.

We asked about the current growing season. The grapes in the area are behind in 2014 – much like everything else – due to the cooler spring and summer. The vineyards experienced substantial loss from the hard winter. But, 2013 was a great growing year, so there’s no chance of running out of that vintage anytime soon. There will be MI wine for drinking!

On to the wine production facility. Richard guided us on a tour and explanation of how wine is made accompanied by small bites with various wines. The bites featured different cheeses. The tour ended with a taste of Cerise Noir – a blend of red wine and cherry brandy distilled on site. This was paired with a chocolate dipped strawberry.

The Sensory Treat Tour was tasty and educational. It’s only $20.00 per ticket and runs twice daily. The tour runs mid-June through Labor Day.

We were given one of our two tickets for this event. However, the opinions in this blog are my own.

vineyard at Chateau Chantal

vineyard at Chateau Chantal

tasting at Chateau Chantal

tasting at Chateau Chantal

production area

production area

bottler

bottler

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

Anytime is fun in Traverse City, but summer is the best. The lake; the breeze; the food! On a recent trip, I spent time at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. This redevelopment includes a weekly farmers market, coffee roaster, winery, shops, and restaurants. The development of the State mental hospital started in the late 1800s, and it closed in 1989. The redevelopment of the property by Minervini Group started in 2000.

It turns out that the site was always a foodie site: The state mental hospital was designed to be self-sufficient and included a farm with animals for meat and milk and a large vegetable garden. According to their website, by 1910 the site had a greenhouse and orchards too. They were able to produce food for the patients, and the excess was canned for winter use.

Along with some exploration time and a wine tasting, I took the historic tour of the Village campus. The tour included some buildings, walking the grounds, and listening to our tour guide, Traverse City native, Joe Kilpatrick. It was as entertaining as it was informative. FYI: No, I didn’t see any ghosts.

Below are my photos of the tour and much of the grounds.

 

The Village in Traverse City

Current Residential Project

Mercato at the Village in Traverse City

The Village at The Commons Traverse City

The Village at The Commons Traverse City

The Village at The Commons Traverse City

The Village at The Commons Traverse City

The Village at The Commons Traverse City

Nice tile features in buildings

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tunnel

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steam pipe tunnel

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Left Foot Charley Winery

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wine at Left Food Charley

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The wood used for the tasting bar is made of old doors to patient rooms.

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great bike rack

New Restaurant – Spanglish

Cheesecake!

Cheesecake!

Higher Grounds Coffee

Higher Grounds Coffee

Weekly Farmers Market

Weekly Farmers Market

Pleasanton Bakery

Pleasanton Bakery

Trattoria Stella - the anchor!

Trattoria Stella – the anchor!

 

 

 

NEW in Grand Traverse

Heading to the Traverse City area this summer? Read on to see what’s NEW. Not only is a certain celebrity couple opening a winery, but I found a restaurant expansion, a brand new restaurant, and a new-to-me restaurant (one-year old) during my recent trip.

SPAGHETTI JIM’S EXPANSION
I was in the area Memorial Day weekend for an open house that Spaghetti Jim’s hosted to feature the expansion. It more than doubles their seating area, and it makes a great banquet room. Owners Jim and Ann Abfalter started making and selling their fabulous pasta in 2010 and opened the restaurant one year later on South Airport Road.

They have a passion for pasta and it shows. They make hand crafted pasta in five cuts (spaghetti, fettuccine. linguine, paparadelle, tagliarini) and five flavors (organic whole grain farro, spinach nutmeg, roasted tomato, buffalo wing, and saffron). If you are a pasta lover – fresh is the way to go. It has so much more depth and character than commercial dry pasta. It cooks up quickly which helps to keep the kitchen cooler on hot days of summer.

The pasta is made from Michigan eggs, and the restaurant dishes feature local produce – often from their own garden. Local meats and cheeses are sourced from Cherry Capital Foods, a distributor who handles local and Michigan products. Purchase the pasta in their on-site store or Burritt’s Fresh Market, Oryana Food Co-op, and The Village Market in Elk Rapids.

Spaghetti Jim's Traverse City

More room at Spaghetti Jim’s

NORTHERN NATURAL IS ONE YEAR OLD
As a happy accident, I came across Northern Natural, on Front Street, in downtown Traverse City. It’s a small place, but they have what you need for a delicious, local meal. They serve their own organic wine and hard cider and opened this small restaurant with food to accompany the beverages. They serve pizza (I had one with MI asparagus and morels), appetizers, sandwiches, and soups.

They source from over 29 local farms! The cheeses come from Grassfields and Terrel and sometimes Boss Cheese and Idyll Farms (goat cheese). Their cider apples come from Kaleva and Bear Lake, and the wine grapes are grown in Leland. The menu changes seasonally. They’re building a new off-site kitchen in Kaleva, so they can source local meat. Their current kitchen is small and not set up for uncooked meat.

Cider Flight from Northern Naturals

Cider Flight from Northern Natural

Pizza with local morel mushrooms and asparagus

Pizza with local morel mushrooms and asparagus

THE FRANKLIN
I was also fortunate to be in Traverse City for the opening weekend of The Franklin. They were barely open and super busy. The restaurant is owned by the same people that own Trattoria Stella, so I bet The Frankin will be just as popular and delicious. I don’t like to press too much for information when a restaurant is brand new, but I did ask my server a few questions. They are gearing up for lots of local flavors.

They serve Michigan-produced beer and wine. The chicken is local and soon the lamb will be too. They serve Lake Superior walleye, and Michigan cheeses and produce – which right now is mostly greens.

I ate the tomato soup – which was the best I’ve ever had – and the stuffed poblano pepper entree. The décor is as beautiful as the food. The space includes a beautiful, 120 year old back bar. It reportedly originated from a bar in Marquette and has been resting in a barn in Leelanau County since the 1980’s.

Beautiful Bar at The Franklin

Beautiful Bar at The Franklin

Tomato Soup and Michigan Wine

Tomato Soup and Michigan Wine

BONOBO
As I was touring wineries on Old Mission Peninsula, I learned that celebrity couple Amy Smart and Carter Oosterhouse are starting a winery along with Oosterhouse’s brother Tony. It’s called Bonobo (which is a type of monkey) and is located on the Southern end of Center Road. The building is barely under construction, although their website indicates a summer 2014 opening.

More about them soon, I hope.

Bonobo Under Construction

Bonobo Under Construction

OTHER NEWS

It's easier to find Hawthorne Winery - in it's second season - from the road.

It’s easier to find Hawthorne Winery – in it’s second season – from the road.

The view from Hawthorne is the same!

The view from Hawthorne is the same!

Right Brain Brewery made a beer for Oryana Food Co-op. Delish!

Right Brain Brewery made a beer for Oryana Food Co-op. Delish!