Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How much can one person eat?

We found out last week when we went on a 4 day eating and drinking binge to Traverse City. Wow.
 *Incredible scenery! We climbed the big dune (Sleeping Bear), and walked o'er many a hill o'sand to (finally!) reach Lake Michigan. Driving from Bellaire to Traverse was gorgeous too, as were the turning trees everywhere!
 *Beer! Including stops at Walldorff brewery in Hastings, Michigan Beer Cellars in Sparta, Short's, Right Brain (yeh!!), North Peak, and Jolly Pumpkin. This deserves its own post, and I'll set Mr Cicerone onto that, I think.
* Cider! Tandem Ciders in Suttons Bay. If only we'd been able to ride OUR tandem there. The ciders are great, especially their dry Farmhouse and the Pommeau. And the pickled eggs!
*Food! Where to start. Okay- here we go...

9 Bean Rows bakery & coffee house in Traverse City. Good coffee, lovingly prepared fresh for each patron. They had an incredible pastry selection, but not being much for sweet things at lunch, we had their quiche, made from scratch including the puff pastry crust. Delectable- the crust was flaky perfect, and the filling (spinach and goat cheese for me, and classic Lorraine for Mr Cicerone) was light, creamy and just delectable. The best quiche I've ever had.

Mission Table on the Mission Peninsula. It also houses the Jolly Pumpkin pub and restaurant. We had a fantastic dinner there, enhanced by JP Bambiere in the JP pub beforehand, JP beers paired with our meal, and more JP after dinner back at the pub.Our meal was an exquisite selection of small plates, each made from locally sourced fresh ingredients. For starters- beet & parsnip salad in a buttery sauce, and exquisite rabbit ravioli, enjoyed with JP La Parcela pumpkin beer. Next up- wild mushroom risotto, fresh (local) whitefish on a bed of white beans (Oh! This was divine!), with Jolly Pumpkin's Oro De Calabaza. Then, Madrugada Obscura stout for dessert back at the JP pub.

Brasserie Amie in Traverse City.Another place with fantastic home-made pastries. But, we opted for a savoury lunch of fried green tomatoes on corn cakes, topped with fried eggs and tomato relish, and a truffled omelet rolled around liver pate. Groan.... They have an incredible selection of Benedicts there, too, but we didn't make it back, sadly. Too many dishes, too little time!

Red Ginger in Traverse City. We enjoyed a delicious appetizer of calamari cooked in a Korean spicy orangey sauce, which we paired with Rogue's Morimoto Soba ale. Mr Cicerone was extremely pleased with his entree of Vietnamese Shaking Beef, a striking dish comprising seared beef tenderloin on a bed of baby bok choy, sweet onions and mint, all nested on a "Shanghai noodle pillow". Umami, umami, umami. Paired with Rogue Morimoto Black Obi Soba ale. Me- huge shrimp and lots of sweet crab meat atop udon noodles dressed with mustard cream and cilantro. And, a wonderfully nuanced glass of good sake.

The Cook's House in Traverse City. Our final night saw us here, at this tiny restaurant in a house, sitting at "The Chef's Table", which is a counter top, with enough space for 2, at the back of the restaurant about one foot from where Chef Eric and his team cook and plate the food. The best seat in the house if you ask me! (You have to ask to be seated here.)  We spent 3 1/2 hours eating, 8 courses in all. We had chosen the 7 course tasting menu, and Chef had overheard our conversation about a particular dish that wasn't part of this menu, and he surprised us with it! The whole experience was superb. Every dish was perfect- ingredients, preparation, cooking, presentation. One of the most memorable dining experiences I've had. Watching the team work to get all the meals out was also something else. The attention to detail was extraordinary. And, every one of the kitchen staff had a smile on their face- it was truly art to them all. The restaurant is much more wine-focused than beer-focused- there was a wine pairing for every course in the tasting menu. The beer selection was small, but adequate, and we did okay with the small selection, though we did opt for wine with our steak course. Chef Eric managed to chat with us amidst his ongoing, never-ending cooking marathon, and he did say that he was just really starting to learn about craft beer and food, and announced to us that the first beer dinner there was happening soon. There's two scheduled- Right Brain and New Holland. Wish we could go!
So, I'll just post this link to all our pictures from the trip, including the meal from The Cook's House- every course pictured, including our pairings....(click on each picture to read the details.)

 *Hat Shop! (We're still on the "Highlights" list.)

*Staying in Cupid's Cove at one of B & B's, chosen 100% because of its proximity to the breweries. How many angels does it take to make a room cringeable?

* Counting the teddy bears in our room at another cutesy B & B (See reason above!)
* Being woken at 8AM while on vacation, by the guests in yet the third B & B, all clomping down to communal breakfast (location, location, location!).

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