Friday, February 24, 2012

Grand Traverse Day

One of my favorite ways to spend time is to ride on the meandering roads in the Grand Traverse area of Michigan; hopping out of the car often to check out the area attractions. The sights and sounds of the year-round activities in downtown Traverse City give way to the turn on the road where I get my first glimpse of the sparkling blue water of Lake Michigan. Ahhh…. I guess that my joy is in my genes. I see the same love of The Lake in my Dad’s eyes as he speaks of childhood visits that even the beginnings of dementia cannot erase.

I rarely get 'up north' in the winter, but the idea of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore snow shoe walk drew me. They are on Saturdays at 1:00. Of course I had to make a foodie day out of my trip.

I started my day with an early lunch at Spaghetti Jim's on South Airport Road. I had the delicious warm farro salad featuring local butternut squash and local dried cherries. Fully carb-loaded, I headed to Sleeping Bear.

The walkers met at the National Lakeshore Visitor Center in Empire. If you do not have your own snowshoes, they are loaned out at no charge. They are World War II era shoes given to the park by the Army. At the park, it was clear that there was not enough snow to actually snow shoe, so Ranger Sarah led the group on an interpretive hike on one of the 16 historic farms that are part of the over 3,000 acre park.

After the hike I stopped by Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate in Empire and picked up a small box of the featured chocolates that day. From there, I swung by the Leelanau Peninsula to the Black Star Farms property. My goal was to score some of the fabulous – and hard to find – aged Raclette cheese at the Leelanau Cheese Company. I still had time before my early dinner reservation, so I stopped by the Village at Grand Traverse Commons just outside of downtown Traverse City. There I picked up a loaf of bread from Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery and tried some coffee at Higher Grounds.

My last stop on my Grand Traverse Day was The Cook’s House. I had been trying to get a reservation there for several months, and it had never worked out. They feature local, sustainable food.

The Cook’s House is literally, a house. The wood-floored dining room holds only seven tables. The paint is neutral except for a dark orange wall that separates the kitchen from the prep area just outside of the dining room. The furniture is simple. It is all a background for the fabulous food. I started with the Brys 2010 Pinot Noir and a salad of local greens, crispy parsnips, and apples. Later I switched to the 2 Lads 2010 Pinot Gris. 2010 is shaping up to be a good Michigan wine year – as I had expected. My entre was the free range chicken accompanied by chunks of pumpkin and beans. For dessert I had the apple tart which came with a side of Shelter’s Dairy vanilla ice cream.

All of this was fit into one day and on my way back I already started thinking about my next trip: the restaurants, the wineries, the lake.

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