Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Rest of the U. P. Story

In mid-June, I headed to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) to see what I could blog about. I felt like I had been neglecting this vast area of our beloved state. I can drive to Niagara Falls faster than I can most spots in the U.P. But, I cover ALL of Michigan, so off I went! Thanks to the Facebook pages of Yooper Pasty and Things to do in the U.P. for the travel information.

The timing of the trip happened because Sixto Rodriguez was performing at the Traverse City Art and Wine Festival. So, I was halfway to the U.P. It is always incredible to see a music legend in a small venue. Rodriguez, of Searching for Sugarman fame, had agreed to perform but then was scheduled on a European tour. A true man of his word, he flew back to Michigan for the show. He is a Michigan treasure, and it was a delight to see him in person. The festival featured art booths, live music, and a giant tent with wineries from Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, and Benzie serving their best.

I tasted wines from my old standbys Brys and Chateau Chantal, new interest Hawthorne, and three wineries that I had not tasted from before then. The three newbies to my pallet were Blue Stone, Gill’s Pier, and Northern Natural. There were 5,000 attendees.

On Sunday, I headed north, stopping for lunch, across The Bridge, in Saint Ignace at Suzy’s Pasties. Pasties in the U.P. have near cult status, and Suzy’s vegetarian version helped me to understand the phenomenon. They were delicious and filling as I traveled northwest to Marquette.

I chose Marquette because of the Marquette Food Co-op located there. The co-op staff made some restaurant recommendations for me. I had breakfast twice at Babycakes Muffin Company on Washington Street. They have a variety of baked good, salads, and sandwiches and feature Michigan produce and locally roasted coffee. I ate a couple of times at Sweetwater CafĂ© on Third Street. Their menu features locally grown produce, eggs from Skandia, MI, U.P. maple syrup, Lake Superior Whitefish, Ray’s Polish Fire Hot Sauce from Allouez, local pasture raised pork, and grass-fed, local beef. Their bar features Mawby blanc de blanc (also in their morning mimosas), several Michigan beers, New Holland’s Knickerbocker gin, and Grand Traverse vodka. I also did some shopping at Q’s Farmer Market on Washington Street. There is a farmers market in Marquette; it is open on Saturdays.

I visited Donckers Restaurant and Chocolate Shop on Washington Street also and appreciated how open they were about their food sources. They have a desire to add more local foods. For now, in addition to producing their own chocolates, they use these MI produced products in the restaurant: maple syrup, artisan breads, burgers made from Guidon Farm, pasture-raised beef, and Jilbert’s ice cream.

Any trip to The U.P. must include the great outdoors. I took a couple of hikes and a scenic drive in the Presque Isle area. My day trips brought me back to Marquette after a store called Everyday Wines was closed. As I stood outside lamenting to a friend that I had missed my opportunity see the store, Dan Rutz - who owns the store with his wife Betsy - came out and welcomed us inside. I found the people of Marquette to be extremely friendly. We had a nice chat about Michigan wines. He was gracious and knowledgeable. The store sells a half dozen or so Michigan wines that fit his client’s price point as well as Michigan beers and hard ciders.

On the way back to the Lower Peninsula, I ate lunch at Jose’s Cantina just outside of downtown St. Ignace on Business I75. When asked, I was told by the waiter that the only MI products available there are beers and white fish. A good start. (I think it is always important to ask about the availability of local foods, so the restaurant knows that there is interest.)  My table overlooked Lake Huron, and they have a lot of vegetarian options.

Then, I crossed the bridge. I had a great trip and look forward to another in the future. Take a look at my posts about the Marquette Food Co-op, the local beers, and a day trip to Munising.

Follow MI Local Foodbeet on Facebook.

Rodriguez drinking Michigan wine

U.P. Pasty from Suzy's - so GOOD!

I stayed at the beautiful Landmark Inn.
Awesome architecture in Marquette.
They even have cool bike racks in Marquette.
Wine Shop in Marquette
Lake Superior
loved this fence behind Blackrocks Brewery
A beautiful day to cross the Mackinac Bridge

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