Monday, November 12, 2012

The Back Roads of Mid-Michigan

I recently took my own foodie day-tour of a southern chunk of the middle of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. My trip was from Charlotte to Jackson to Battle Creek to Kalamazoo. I could have spent a day in any of those places, but I kept moving to see the sights. We have a lot of farmland here! I saw rolling field after rolling field and lots of horses.

First Stop: Tirrell Farmstead Specialties, Charlotte, MI
I met the Tirrell family in August at the Michigan FiberFestival, because they sell wool yarn and roving from their sheep. In their store, open on Friday and Saturday, they sell their own sheep cheese, beef, lamb, and baked dog treats, as well as farm products produced by the neighboring community. One notable cheese is the Tart and Blue which includes Michigan dried cherries. Their tiny store came into being because it was required that the cheese production area be partitioned. It is also stocked with wool products (yarn, roving, sheepskin, mittens, scarves, and hats), pork, chicken, eggs, maple syrup, honey, and pickled vegetables.

I met with Ben from this this three-person family business – he is the 7th generation. The store is located on Ben and wife Jessy’s property. It is adjacent to the most adorable brick one-room schoolhouse which they hope to purchase as an expanded store soon. Down the road is the original family farm where Ben’s Mom, Pat, the third of this farm trio, lives. It was started in 1841, and Ben’s great grandfather built the house in 1864. Pat bakes the dog treats and knits and weaves items sold in the store.
Second Stop: Sandhill Crane Vineyards, Jackson, MI
I had heard about Sandhill Crane but had not tasted their wines. When I realized that they have a new café that would be a perfect lunch stop, I had to go. After parking my car, I look up from grabbing notebook, pen, and camera, to see a few dozen people pouring out of a bus. Oh boy, I thought. Fortunately, the business (originally started in 2003) had recently added an addition that included a banquet room. The bus tour was the annual one from the Pioneer Wine Trail.

I ordered a grilled vegetable sandwich, and the staff found a quiet place for me to sit. I tried a few white wines from their extensive menu. Owner, Heather Price, graciously spent a few minutes with me (I tend to arrive to places unannounced) explaining the history of the business and the local foods offered in the café. They serve MI produced bread, coffee, cheese, and ice cream year-round. And, they use Michigan produce as much as seasonally possible. I was impressed by the chalkboard list of Michigan producers served in the café. Then, Heather treated me to a piece of the bread pudding that they were serving the bus tour participants. The food was delicious.

Third Stop: Sweetwater’s Donut Mill, Battle Creek, MI
I was so full after my meal and dessert at Sandhill Crane, but I had come for my annual donut, and it was not to be missed. Well, it was almost missed. The man in line in front of me unapologetically purchased the last six peanut donuts. I love peanut donuts! So, I went with peanut donut holes and some Michigan cider. There seemed to be a steady stream of locals purchasing donuts; some to go and others staying  for coffee and conversation.

Four Stop: People’s Co-op, Kalamazoo, MI
Whenever I am in the area of Kalamazoo, I stop by their wonderful co-op. They have signage to designate the Michigan based foods that they sell.

Built in 1864
Lamb meat for sale
I brought home some Tirrell cheese samples.
These look healthy!
On the pasture
The Bovine Good Life
Sheep and Their Guard Cat
Sandhill Crane Winery in Jackson, MI
Supporting Local
Random Cool Building on a Michigan Road
One of my favorite stops.


1 comment:

  1. It was a pleasure having you visit us, Theresa! Thanks for the nice review.

    Sandhill Crane Vineyards