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Winter Wonderfest Returns to Traverse City

winter wonderfest graphic




A Frosty Weekend of Family Fun comes to the Cherry Capital February 12-14th

The 2010 Cherry Capital Winter Wonderfest is upon us, bringing fun to our frozen city. And this year it’s bigger and better than ever. New events like the Traverse City Microbrew and Music Festival, the “snowball” softball tournament and the Winter Wine Wonderland, will all add the excitement of this growing festival.

This year, there’s something here for everyone; man, woman, child, even dogs! In fact, you can bring your furry friend downtown for the first annual Monster Dog Pull where pooches of all shapes and sizes can test their strength with a weighted sled.

If you’re looking to join the festivities you’ll need to know where to go. Events are schedules across Traverse City, but are primariliy located in three areas: Downtown Traverse City, The Grand Traverse Resort & Spa and Mt. Holiday ski resort.


For details on all the events, check out the Cherry Capital Winter Wonderfest website at www.winterwonderfest.org.

Free Skating Clinic at Centre Ice 1/24

figure skate image for Learn to SkateCelebrate National Skating Month with a Free Learn to Skate Clinic at Centre Ice

The Twin Bays Skating Club will host a free Learn to Skate Clinic and Exhibition on Sunday, January 24, 2010 from 2-4pm at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.


The family friendly event includes a free 30-minute group lesson, and skate rental. Members from the skating club will perform short programs, including the Northern Lights Synchronized Skating team, fresh off a 3rd place performance at the Mid-America Synchronized Skating Championships in Fraser, Michigan.

Following the exhibition, skaters and their families will be invited back on the ice for a free open skating session.

Pre-registration for the Learn to Skate clinic is encouraged. Contact the skating club at 231-947-2267 or email twinbays@live.com. The event is open to children and adults of all levels, ages 3 and up. Pre-school age children must bring a helmet to participate in classes.

The free Learn to Skate Clinic is offered by Twin Bays Skating Club to celebrate National Skating Month. U.S. Figure Skating reports over 350 events will be held nationwide to introduce children and adults to the sport of figure skating.

By |2019-12-30T11:42:27-05:00January 18th, 2010|Check This Out, Events, Traverse City|0 Comments

Ethnic Night at The Bluebird 2010 schedule

The Bluebird card imageLooking for a dinner with a twist, check out Ethnic Night at The Bluebird in Leland


Foodies across the area look forward to Wednesday and Thursday nights each winter for one reason: the fine wine and food pairs at Leland’s oldest family restaurant, The Bluebird. Tempting dishes from Greece to South America, Thailand to France, give us something warm and spicy to celebrate when the bitter winds blow.


If you haven’t been out for one of these festive events, you might want to take a look at the schedule and plan ahead. Here’s the list. Let the mouth watering commense.


The Bluebird 2010 Ethnic Nights
Wednesday and Thursday nights, 5pm – 9pm

Jan. 13 – 14  Mediterranean – Southern Spain, France, Italy, and Greece

Jan. 20 – 21  45th Parallel Feast – Food and Wine bounty from our region

Jan. 27 – 28  South American Cuisine – Focus on glorious Malbec from Argentina

Feb. 3 – 4  Chinese/Thai – Sparkling wines and aromatic whites from Leelanau

Feb. 11 – 12
  France – Celebrate Valentines Day, great food and the wines of Bordeaux

Feb. 17 – 18  New Orleans – Wines you have never heard of. We will root out hidden gems.

Feb. 24 – 25 
The Cuisine of India – A sampling of this aromatic, delicious, healthy cuisine.

March 3 – 4  Southwest – The “real” Tex/Mex

March 10 – 11
  Asian Fusion – A glimpse of China, Japan, Thailand, etc.

March 17 – 18  St. Patrick’s Feast – Local Beers from Short’s and Right Brain Breweries

March 24 – 25  The American South – Recipes from “Southern Living” and regional wines.

April 7 – 8
  Greek Islands – As always, great food, toss in some outstanding Greek wines

April 14 – 15  New England – Enjoy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Burgundy and America

April 21 – 22
  France – The Rhone Valley – Chateauneuf du Pape, Cote Rotie, Hermitage

April 28 – 29
  Greatest Hits – An amazing array of Cuisine, and legendary wine sale.


The Bluebird Restaurant is located in Leland, Michigan. To make a reservation call 231.256.9081. For more details on the ethnic night dinners visit their website at www.leelanau.com/bluebird

By |2019-12-30T11:46:34-05:00January 8th, 2010|Check This Out, Leelanau, Restaurants|0 Comments

Downtown TC Holiday Events

Celebrate the Holidays in Downtown Traverse City

Downtown has lots of fun in store for Holiday shoppers this Christmas season. The events begin tonight, with Ladies Night, followed by the Downtown Open House, the ever popular Men’s Shopping Night and a special Shop and Win special. Here’s all the details:


Ladies’ Night
Thursday, December 10

Downtown Traverse City will be hosting Ladies Night, Thursday, December 10 from 5 to 9 pm.   Visit participating stores for specials, refreshments, prize drawings, free gift wrapping and more! Caroling throughout the evening.

Downtown Open House

Friday, December 11

Share the spirit of the season with family and friends while merchants throughout the Downtown district host open houses and in-store specials Friday, December 11.  Participating stores will be open until 10 pm offering store specials, free gift wrapping, food, refreshments and more!  Bringing a little bit of the islands to winter in Downtown Traverse City, a student Steel Drum Band will be performing at the corner of Cass and E. Front from 6 – 8 pm. Horse & Carriage Rides from Abraham Carriage Service will be available at an affordable price from 6-9 pm. Caroling will take place throughout the evening with the Sweet Adelines and students from TC West High School while Santa will be in his house visiting with little ones.
Men’s Night Downtown
Thursday, December 17
Gentlemen, the evening is yours, finally!  Celebrate and shop with friends during Men’s Night Downtown on Thursday, December 17.  The gents can enjoy hors d’oeuvres and specials at many restaurants and merchants will be offering in-store specials, gift wrapping and drawings.

Shop Downtown and Win!

Spend $200 in Downtown Traverse City between December 1-10, 2009 and enter to win a $250 Downtown Shopping Spree. It’s easy to enter. Visit the Downtown Office no later than December 11, 2009, show your receipts totaling $200 in purchases between December 1-10, 2009 and enter to win. The drawing will take place on Monday, December 14, 2009.  And don’t forget to keep your dollars local this holiday shopping season, Downtown Gift Certificates Make the Perfect Gift!

Santa’s Hours

Santa will be visiting with little ones in his house at the corner of Cass and E. Front throughout the holiday season.
Santa’s Arrival: 11/27
6 – 8 pm
Saturdays: 11/28, 12/5, 12/12, 12/19
11 am – 4 pm
Sundays: 11/29, 12/6, 12/13, 12/20
1 – 4 pm
Fridays: 12/4, 12/18
5 – 8 pm
Fridays: 12/11
5-9 pm
Extended hours:  December 21, 22 & 23
3 – 7 pm
Christmas Eve: 12/24
Noon – 3 pm

Parking  – Free and Easy!
The price is right for downtown parking this holiday season. Two-hour free parking will be offered at the Larry C. Hardy Parking Deck.  And, remember, parking at the two hour meters is always free for the first 30-minutes, so enjoy Downtown! Downtown parking in the Hardy Deck is also free after 5 pm and all day on Saturday and Sunday.

Downtown Holidays are hosted by the over 150 merchants, restaurants and businesses who are members of the Downtown Traverse City Association. Please contact the Downtown Traverse City Association at 922-2050 or e-mail colleen@downtowntc.com for further information or visit their website at www.downtowntc.com

By |2019-12-30T11:52:54-05:00December 10th, 2009|Attractions, Check This Out, Day Trips, Events, Traverse City|0 Comments

Festival of Trains Returns to Heritage Center

festival of trains imageGrand Traverse Heritage Center welcomes railway fans to 2009 Festival of Trains

Monday, December 14th through Sunday, January 3rd at the Grand Traverse Heritage Center, 322 Sixth Street, in Traverse City.


A special holiday celebration takes place each year in the heart of Traverse City. Thousands of visitors arrive at the old Library to stare in awe at the amazing miniature landscape before them. Dozens of model trains, in all shapes and sizes, traverse elaborate landscapes throughout the Grand Traverse Heritage Center. The Festival of Trains is the largest fundraiser of the year for the G.T.H.C., a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving, promoting, and presenting the history of Traverse City and the Grand Traverse region.

Volunteers from the Northern Michigan Railroad Club begin assembling the amazing display around Labor Day. When the holiday season arrives, and guests fill the rooms, they’re immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the railroad. Children gather close to the table-height displays and peer anxiously around corners waiting for the next train to zip past. Whie the engines and tracks are a ‘look but don’t touch’ exhibit, there are interactive areas where kids can control track direction, blow the whistle or raise a drawbridge.

This year Thomas the Tank engine fans are in for a special treat. An interactive cab station will allow them to step up and control the trains!

The Festival of Trains offers a train-related raffle and conductor’s gift shop with holiday and railroad themed gifts for the entire family.


Hours for the popular festival are 2pm-7pm December 14th-18th.  Then, Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m December 19th – Jan. 3rd.  On Sundays & New Year’s Day, the trains will run from noon to 4 pm. Closed Christmas Day.

Admission is $5 per adult, $3 per senior (age 65 plus), $2 per youth (ages 4 through 17), and children 3 and under are free. A family pass is available at $20 for unlimited visits to the festival by parents, children, grandparents, and grandchildren.

By |2019-12-30T11:55:32-05:00December 9th, 2009|Attractions, Check This Out, Events, Traverse City|0 Comments

Hometown Highlights: 2009 Holiday Gift Guide

Hometown Highlights holiday graphic
Hometown Guide for Holiday Gifts

When the holidays roll around it’s no surprise that I like to spend time searching for unique regional gifts to share with friends and relatives who appreciate the Traverse City area from afar. This year I’ve canvased the area, looking for fun and interesting items that won’t break the bank. From food & beverages, to art and fashion, there’s plenty of ways to suprise your loved ones with a gift from Northern Michigan.


Foodie Delights

Northern Michigan is home to dozens of fabulous food companies, too many to mention here. Instead I’ve picked a few of my personal favorites, and asked my customers and friends what they would recommend.

Cherry Stop gift basketCherry Gifts and Goodies

Looking for a quick and easy gift thats ready to ship? The Cherry Stop is one of my favorite shops because they have such a wide selection of cherry products and other northern Michigan favorites. Pick up a pre-packaged gift set, labeled with images of the bays, for as little as $12. Dried fruits, salsas, BBQ sauce, candies, you name it. Great for summer “lakies” who are missing their cabin this time of year.


Naturally Nutty sunflower butter imageNaturally Nutty Nut Butters

I was lucky enough to tour Naturally Nutty‘s production facility in Acme last fall and see how hand-crafted these nut butters really are. Since then my husband and I are hooked. My personal favorite is the Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower butter. I can’t believe there’s no sugar added. They’re full of Omega-3 with flaxseed and hempseed, so there’s simply no guilt. A little pricy, but I think some things are worth it. Available at The Cherry Stop, and Olesons food stores, as well as online.


fustinis cinnamon pear vinegar graphicFustini’s Oil & Vinegar Holiday Packs

Jim and Lane are always coming up with amazing infusions for their balsamics and extra virgin olive oils. This holiday season create a custom holiday 4-pack or pick up one of their recommended combinations. My current favorites are the Sage & Mushroom EVOO and the Cinnamon Pear Balsamic vinegar.

Check out our recent post on Holiday Recipes for a suggestion on using the Cinnamon Pear.


For the Home


Judy Izard with maple cutting board photoMichigan Cutting Boards

Here’s a great idea for the Michigan foodie, a hardwood cutting board in the shape of our great state. Made in Petoskey from Michigan maple it’s a beautiful addition to gift baskets. Recommended by Peppercorn owner, Judy Izard. Available at Peppercorn in Downtown Traverse City.

Looking for a great hostess gift? How about a cutting board with some raclette by Leelanau Cheese Company. Pick up a wedge at local grocery stores or stop in at the winery at Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay, home to Leelanau Cheese makers John and Anne Hoyt.


santa decoration imageCeramic Home Decor

One of my new favorite shops is At Home in downtown Suttons Bay. I always find unique and beautiful home decor in their store. Top on my list are the whimsical ceramic creations by artist Geri Mateus, of Aida, MI. This summer I fell in love with her creative marshmellow skewers, long enough for the most inexperienced roaster to stay safe. The decorative handles are ceramic, colorful and include clever phrases like “Roast ’em and Toast ’em”. For the holidays she’s made santa and snowmen decorative stakes for brightening up that poinsettia plant. Or pick out a plaque or large ceramic star. So next time you’re in Suttons Bay, look north for the lime green awning and you’ll find yourself At Home.


peek-a-boo pillow imagePeek-A-Boo Pillows

You probably have a few children on your shopping list so I had to share a perennial favorite gift for the wee ones. Michigan Artists Gallery, also in downtown Suttons Bay, has a selection of clever Peek-A-Boo Pillows that make excellent baby and toddler gifts. Each design is handmade by a mother/daughter team. Patterns vary from ballerina princess, to the ever popular northwoods moose. Each pillow has a center flap with velcro enclosure that hides the stuffed animal inside. Large, medium and wee sizes available.



Girlfriends Gifts


miche bags imageMiche Bags

OK, these may not be exclusively local, but they are still HOT! Last spring I treated myself to a Miche Bag and have had a steady stream of compliments ever since. If you haven’t seen these purses there’s some explanation required. Start with one basic purse, black or brown, and then customize your look in seconds with different colorful wraps. The trick is…the covers are magnetic. And while they may not be made locally, you can still support a local business with a purchase. I picked mine up at Interquilten, a cute fabric store on M-137 in Interlochen. They have dozens of designs to choose from. And just like other collectables the cover designs are eventually “retired” so your purse is more unique.


tea cup and teas imageTea-riffic Cup and Great Lakes Teas

Teas are becoming ever more popular. Here’s my favorite combo for the tea-lover in your family. The Tea-riffic thermal tea cup is perfect for those who love loose tea and only brew a cup or two at a time. It includes a removable mesh canister for holding loose tea. And the thermal sides and tight sealing lid keep tea hot. Available in pink or clear, at Peppercorn in downtown Traverse City.

I also love the unique flavors of Great Lakes Tea and Spice teas. Their tiny shop is located in Glen Arbor, where you can smell and sample some of their teas. You can also pick them up in many local stores as well as by mail order or on their website.


handmade mittens at Gallery 50 imageBea’s Dog Walking Mittens

These mittens are not just beautiful and warm, but they’re recycled and just plain clever. Take an 80 year old woman in Frankfort, give her some old sweaters, scarves and such and she’ll turn them into one-of-a-kind mittens. Each pair is colorful and unique. And some of them have the added benefit of a pocket on top of the hand; perfect for hiding a few dog-bones and a baggie for those cold morning walks. So creative. Available at Gallery 50 in the mercado inside The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.



Guys, Gals or Geeks

massage gift certificate imageOne-Hour Massage

Massage is a great gift for anyone, but those of us Moms could especially use the treat. I discovered Susan Campeau massage and have found great relief for my recurring headaches. If you, or someone you know is suffering from chronic pain, or just needs to relieve tension from everyday life, I’d highly recommend a massage from Susan. Her combination of simple aromatherapy, a soothing location and theraputic massage is the perfect way to relax this holiday season. And a gift certificate is good all year long. Call Susan at 231.714.2879



mario batali signed cook booksAutographed Books

You may not get a chance to meet Mario Batali, but you could still have his autograph. Brilliant Books in Suttons Bay carries several of his cookbooks, many of which include the John Hancock of this local celebrity. Not into autographed cookbooks? Well as long as you’re there, check out the amazing selection of other local authors and Best Sellers as well. What I love about Brilliant Books is that if Peter can’t find what you need in the store, he’ll order it and ship it at no extra cost. You’ve got to love local ownership.

If you’re looking for something “out of this world” how about an autographed copy of Off the Planet, by US astronaut, and Suttons Bay resident, Jerry Linenger. Order a copy from Murdicks Fudge Shoppe and they’ll get it personalized for you. Now that’s a unique gift.


pirates cove ziplinPirates Cove Gift Certificates

Have kids that are hard to buy for? Teens and tweens that want nothing more than video games or clothes? Why not surprise them with gift certificates to Pirates Cove. From mini-golf, to waterslides and now the amazing zipline and ropes course there’s a reason for all the kids to get outside for some hands-on fun. Don’t get me wrong, Pirates Cove isn’t just for the kids. In fact, it could be a great place for a company retreat. Of course, you’ll have to wait ’till spring, but pick up your gift certificates for the holidays. Call 231.883.7374 for all the details.


from frank to betsie screensaver image‘Just Between Frank & Betsie’ Screensaver

If you know someone who loves the Frankfort area, or is a fan of Lighthouses, then this is the perfect gift. Jay Burt, a Benzie amateur photographer, has created a fantastic screensaver entitled “Just Between Frank & Betsie”. It includes over 135 photos taken throughout the year that showcase the beauty of the lakeshore from Frankfort to Point Betsie Lighthouse. You can pick up the CD at The Book Store in downtown Frankfort, or on Jay’s website, walksoftlyphotos.com.



For the Wine Lover

cork purse at Gallery 50Cork Purse

Ladies, let’s face it, we love purses. And many of us love wine. So why not a purse for the wine lover. These handmade cork purses are available in several sizes at Gallery 50 in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. You’ll recognize corks from local wineries like Left Foot Charley, Willow, Black Star Farms and Boskydel, and other well known vintners as well. I’ve made wine cork wreaths, corkboards and I’ve even seen a bathroom wall covered in corks (check out Chateau Fontaine if you don’t believe me), but I’ve never seen a cork purse, before now.


Black Star Farms bubbly nouveau imageSparkling Wines for the Holidays

Drive, sprint or race to your nearest Black Star Farms tasting room and pick up the last of the 2009 Bubbly Nouveau before it’s gone. It reminds me of green apple with just the right sweetness and spritz to liven up the party.

If you arrive too late, fear not. There are other local sparklers that will leave your guests wanting more. Also check out 2 Lads Winery for their Sparkling Pinot Grigio. This will also sell out, so don’t wait for the ball to drop on this one either.


cherry wines from the Cherry Stop imageCherry Wine from the Cherry Stop

I asked Jamie, owner of The Cherry Stop, for her top picks for Cherry Wines. It was a tough call, and they all have their own merits, but Jamie’s top three include Chateau Fontaine, Bel Lago, and the Cherry Stop cherry wine produced by Peninsula Cellars. If you’ve never had cherry wine, you can give them all a try at the new wine bar in the back of the Cherry Stop called Uncorked. Compare several and decide for yourself. The Cherry Stop offers selections from all the local wineries so it’s a great one-stop local wine shop.



That wraps it up for my 2009 Holiday Gift Guide. I hope you find what you’re looking for this holiday season. Happy shopping, and Happy Holidays!

Celebrate the Snowflakes at Buds 12/5

It’s a Snowflake Christmas at Bud’s in Interlochen


Winter is coming, along with snowflakes and Santa. Celebrate this Saturday, December 5th with fun activities for the family at Bud’s in Interlochen.

  • Breakfast with Santa 9am-1pm
  • Meet two of Santa’s reindeer
  • Live music from Barbara Jordan 12pm-3pm
  • Snowflake crafts
  • Sample treats and specialty foods all day
  • Free gift wrapping


Stop in and start celebrating the magical season. Buds is located on M-137 in Interlochen. For more information on Buds upcoming events check out their website: www.budsisback.com.

By |2019-12-30T12:05:39-05:00December 1st, 2009|Benzie, Check This Out, Events, Restaurants|0 Comments

Wellington Inn at Christmastime

Wellington Inn christmastime imageThe Wellington Inn presents its Seventh Annual “Inn at Christmastime”

On December 4th and 5th (5 pm – 8 pm), & December 6th (1pm – 4 pm) the century old Wellington Inn will host it’s annual fundraiser for the Grand Traverse Historical Society. Experience an old fashioned Christmas at this beautifully restored 1905 neoclassical mansion in Traverse City’s historic Boardman neighborhood.

Area florists and artisans have ‘decked the halls’ with a spectacular display of holiday designs and decorations. Tour the entire Mansion while enjoying holiday entertainment by local musicians and refreshments provided by local businesses in the third floor ballroom.

Many displays will be available for purchase through participating designers.


Tickets are $15 at the door.


Family portraits can be scheduled in advance with Windborne Photographic 231-946-2940


For more information call 231-922-9900 or visit www.WellingtonInn.com

By |2019-12-30T12:08:57-05:00December 1st, 2009|Check This Out, Events, Traverse City|0 Comments

Holiday Recipes from Jacquie Caters

Enjoy the Holidays with fantastic recipes from Jacquie Wilson

Our Adventure in Wine Tasting tour was a success again this year, in part due to the creations of chef Jacquie Wilson. Chinese Cinnamon Pork, Brie with Stroopies and Pumpkin Soup were some of the favorites. Jacquie offered to share the recipes with me, and I’m passing them on to you. Enjoy!


brie with Stroopies photoBrie with Stroopies

We love how Jacquie always finds unique but accessible ingredients and then combines them to make simple but impressive dishes. This one is perfect for your next dinner party, and goes wonderfully with sparking wine, like the 2 Lads Sparkling Pinot Grigio.



Slice Brie, with rind on, into thin slices. Cut Stroopies in half, top with Brie. Serve with Medjool dates and other dried fruits.

In case you’re wondering, as I was, Stroopies are wafer thin waffle cookies with caramel in the middle, originally from Holland. But you don’t have to travel far to pick them up in Northern Michigan. They’re available at Peninsula Market on the Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, and also Mary’s Kitchen Port on Front Street near Downtown Traverse City.


thai pumpkin soup photoThai Pumpkin Soup

Jacquie always finds a warm and hearty soup that pairs well with wines. Gewurtraminer is one of those wines I really love when paired with food, and this pumpkin soup, with it’s hint of spice, was great with the Peninsula Cellars 2007 Gewurztraminer.



1 Tbsp peanut oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
4 shallots, minced
2 small fresh red chili peppers, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped lemon grass
2 cups chicken stock
4 cups peeled and diced pumpkin
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk



In a medium saucepan, heat the peanut oil and butter over low heat. Cook garlic, shallots, chilies, and lemongrass in oil until aromatic but not browned. Add the chicken stock, coconut milk and pumpkin and bring to a boil. Cook until pumpkin is tender.

In a blender, blend the soup in batches to a smooth consistency. You could sprinkle fresh basil over this for a garnish.

Recipe inspired by Chef Paul Silva


chinese cinnamon pork photoChinese Cinnamon Pork with Fustini’s Cinnamon Pear Balsamic

Perfect for a Christmas party or maybe Chinese New Year, this dish is full of flavor, tender and juicy. We served it with the Ancho Chili Double Dutch Chocolate Porter from Right Brain Brewery. Yum.



2 whole 1 lb. pork tenderloins. Ask your butcher to remove the silver skin and clean up the loin


2 cloves garlic
2 green onions
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp dry red wine
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tsp red food coloring, optional

Note: adding red food coloring to the marinade give the mixture that distinctive Chinese red color. It bleeds slightly into the meat for an unusual red ringed look.



Finely chop the garlic and green onions. Combine honey, brown sugar and ine in a large bowl. Add chopped garlic and onions. Stir in cinnamon and then the soy sauce. If you are using red food coloring, add it now.

Place tenderloins in the bowl, coating them well with marinade. Cover bowl and marinate the meat for at least 2 hours, turning occasionally. May be left in the refridgerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Remove the meat from the marinade and place them on a broiler pan. Reserve marinade for basting. Bake until cooked through, about 45-60 minutes, basting often. Cool

fustini's cinnamon pear balsamic vinegar graphicCut the roasted tenderloin into 1/4″ slices and transfer to serving plate. For the Coup de accoutrement, drizzle with Fustini’s Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Vinegar. It’s the perfect compliment to this delicious dish. If you haven’t been into Fustini’s in Downtown Traverse City, and Petoskey as well, you’ll want to check them out before the holidays for a taste of something special. You can also order from them online at www.fustinis.com.


This recipe originates from www.greatpartyrecipes.com/cinnamonpork.html


bagel chips with chive puree photoBagel Chips with Ricotta, Chive Puree and Proscuitto

This tasty morsel was a great bitesize appetizer that’s easy to handle when sipping from a glass of wine.

Sometimes there’s no reason to mess with the recipes of other great chefs. In this case Jacquie looked to the experts at Food & Wine magazine.

Here’s a link to their version of this simple appetizer.


I hope you’ll try some of these tasty morsels this holiday season. Jacquie made them simple enough for everyone to prepare. But if you’d really rather bring in the pros, send Jacquie an email to contact her for catering.






By |2019-12-30T12:13:25-05:00November 22nd, 2009|Check This Out, local recipes|0 Comments

Let’s Go Surfin’…Now?

It’s November, with an average air temperature hovering near freezing. Most years we’ve had snow by now. But instead of waxing the cross-country skis area sportsmen are bringing out the boards and wetsuits to surf Lake Michigan.

Traditionally November is one of the stormiest months of the year. We think of gale force winds and images of fallen trees and power lines come to mind. After all it was with 52 knot winds and 10 foot waves on November 10, 1975 that the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald went down in Lake Superior.


But the brisk winds of near winter are not all bad. For the local surf enthusiats it’s the weather they’ve been waiting all year for. This year, we caught a glimpse of these dedicated few at the mouth of the Platte River near Frankfort. It was 41 degrees and we’d tried our best to enjoy the fall festival in Frankfort, but were driven away by the bitter cold wind and snow flakes that had begun to appear. I dragged the family out to see the pumpkin-chucking downtown, but we quickly returned to our car to escape the unfortunate weather. Unfortunate for us. But exactly what the kite-boarders and surfers were looking for. We heard they were practicing down at Platte so we took a chance and caught some of the action from the car.

Here are a few photos taken from the heated comfort of our sedan.

kiteboarding Lake Michigansurfing Lake Michigan










Nearly one month later they were at it again, but with much better weather. On November 13th these adverturous surfers were in Frankfort catching waves right off the pier. Check out this video from MyNorth.com. They get a first hand report as to why Frankfort, Michigan in November is a great time of year for surfing.


By |2019-12-30T12:17:35-05:00November 22nd, 2009|Benzie, Check This Out|0 Comments

The Village: Behind the Scenes Tour with Ray Minervini

hometown highlights The Village graphic

Hometown Highlights: The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

Building 50 The Village at Grand Traverse CommonsDid you know…the entire campus at the old Traverse City State Hospital, one million square feet of brick, wood and stone, was built from the ground up in less than 2 years? There’s 400,000 square feet of space in Building 50 alone! That’s an architectural feat that must have taken an army. And that’s just one of the amazing facts I learned from Ray Minervini, developer of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, on my recent behind-the-scenes tour.


When I was in high school, here in Traverse City, the old State Hospital was shut down and abandoned. The grounds became a destination for vandals and daredevils who returned with stories of ghosts, eerie tunnels and mysterious bumps in the night. It was sad to see the such a huge piece of Traverse City history disappearing into the landscape as new developments surrounded it on all sides. Most of us just drove past the big stone pyramid on Division street and barely wondered about the towering structures that lie dormant behind the tall pines.

And then came Ray Minervini. He had a vision of a thriving community, reminiscent of European cities where people worked, ate, entertained and lived together in the presence of history. Now the site that was built in 1885 to house the mentally insane has begun a transformation into this vibrant hub of arts and culture just as Ray imagined.

Other than a few cups of coffee at Cuppa Joe, and special dinners at Stella, I hadn’t spent much time on the new Village campus until I met Bryan Ulbrich of Left Foot Charley when they became a Mealtickets client in 2007. He had begun transforming the old Laundry facility into the winery and tasting room for Left Foot Charley. The image that stands out in my mind was a 2′ heaping pile of faucet handles leftover from the mazes of underground plumbing they removed during reconstruction. It was this salvation of the old, amidst plans for something new, that piqued my curiousity.

Which brings me to my recent tour with Ray. Beaming at the success of the Traverse City Wine Festival this summer on the grounds in front of Building 50, I asked Ray Minervini if he would take me on a behind the scenes tour this fall. “We’ll work our way from the bottom, to the top,” he promised. I was determined to make sure he kept his word, and did he ever.


From the Bottom

Building 50 at The Village of Grand Traverse CommonsThe Village at Grand Traverse Commons is a 500 acre site located in the heart of Traverse City. That’s right, 500 acres, over 400 of which are parkland. Ray likes to call it, “Traverse City’s central park.” The former asylum campus occupies 60 acres. And Building 50, the central building with the red spires, is over 400,000 square feet. Ray and I began the tour at the bottom, in what’s called the Mercato of Building 50.


The Mercato in Building 50 at The VillageJust below ground level on the south side of Building 50 lies the Mercato. At one end is Stella, a fabulous Italian restaurant and one of the first tennants of The Village. I met Ray outside the elevators at the far end of the building. Just around the corner from Stella, as we entered the Mercato, I noticed there’s a small gallery exhibiting before & after images of the redeveloped spaces as well as artifacts discovered during renovation. It’s a great place to stop and appreciate all the work they’ve done so far.


The Mercato in Building 50 in The VillageThe Mercato is the main shopping venue at The Village, with everything from art and fashion to wine and gelato. The long hallway opens up on each side with arched open doorways leading into each space. Vendors goods extend out into the hallway which is lined with an ever changing exhibition of art. Unlocking a non-descript door in the Mercato Ray revealed a narrow steep staircase leading to the underground tunnel system.


I have to admit, I was a little leery of the “tunnels”. My great aunt worked in the asylum for a short time and one of her jobs was the transportation of patients in and out of the buildings by way of the tunnels. Her descriptions left me in no hurry to visit such a place. But times have changed, and so has The Village. So I ventured in.


tunnel under Building 50 in The VillageLit from beginning to end with only small blubs overhead was a long tunnel constructed in hand laid brick. The roof was arched and the floor bowed in the center. It felt like looking down the barrell a gun, only we were standing in it.

As we walked toward the mid-point of the tunnel Ray explained how they would have built the space by slowly moving a wooden arch form, laying bricks on top to create the dome, and then sliding the form a few feet forward to continue the tunnel.

Up ahead we could see a more recent addition to the roof, an iron covering, indicating we were directly underneath the parking area for the Mercato. As development continues Ray imagines taking advantage of unique spaces like this, perhaps for private wine cellars.

Upon returning to land level, back the way we came, we proceeded straight to the top.


To the Top

condo inside Building 50, The Villagecondo view inside Building 50, The VillageThe south wing of Building 50, where reconstruction is nearly complete, was originally the Men’s residences. The first and second floors now house offices including those of the developer, The Minervini Group. The third floor is largely residential, offering beautiful condos with open loft-style spaces. The renovation of these areas was often the most difficult as they had to meet the requirements of several agencies including the National Trust for Historic Building, State regulations and National Park Service guidelines. The respect for historic craftsmanship is evident in every detail, from the polished wooden floors to the top of the 13′ plaster walls. For a look inside, our next stop was Ray’s condo in the restored attic.


The attic space was not utilized as living or working space in the original design. But the Minervini Group decided it would make a great place for condos. And the view would be spectacular. The beauty of living inside the Village is this amazing juxtaposition of old and new. Butter yellow bricks and tell tale high ceilings remind you it’s The Village, but otherwise you might think it’s a loft in New York. Around the corner from the entrance an iron staircase spirals up to the small loft bedroom. But we we came to see lies higher yet.

view inside spire at The VillageLooking up from the stairway landing Ray pulled down a latch and released a small wooden ladder. After the trip into the tunnel I realized I was wearing the wrong shoes for this tour. Sneakers would have been the way to go. And at the sight of this ladder with 2 inch rungs I was going to have to be careful. Did I mention heights are not my favorite thing? So up we went. One at a time, up short ladders, holding pipes and wooden ledges, zigzagging our way up several small flights, until we reached another latch. The roof.

We made it to the top. At last we were inside one of the red spires that are synonymous with The Village. Even with the latched closed the space was small, probably 5 feet wide at most. But the view was amazing. This is what I came for. We could see the colors of autumn in every direction, and with clear blue skies it was easy to make out the view of west Grand Traverse Bay to the north, and the Great Wolf Lodge and East Junior High, to the south. Other than the top of the watertower, this is the highest view in The Village.



From South to North

brick wall at The Villagefaded bricks inside Building 50, The VillageAfter safely managing my way back down the ladder Ray offered to continue the tour on the North side of the building, so I could see the areas not yet restored. We wandered through the Mercato once again, past Sweet Asylum and “the best gelato this side of Italy,” according to my guide. If you’ve ever wondered what lies behind those heavy metal doors displaying Employees Only signs, this is where your tour begins.

The large central area in the middle of Building 50 is the Chapel. There are several huge spaces, one leading into the next, with towering brick walls brightened by natural light spilling in from 8′ windows. Here Ray invisions a grand restaurant. I love turning my camera to macro mode to capture the details and textures all around me. So many modern restaurants like Olive Garden try to recreate this atmosphere but it’s not the same. But here the history is real. Ray agreed, “When you look at it, it has the patina of age that you just can’t create.”


chapel inside The Villagechapel windows inside The VillageThrough more hallways and passages, in which I’d surely be lost without a guide, we ended up in the chapel itself. This will be the gathering space for the Commons. The perfect place for wedding receptions, dances, and a host of community events. Closing my eyes it’s easy to imagine music and laughter spilling from the windows, while the neighboring condo units are barely disturbed — thanks to solid brick walls 2 feet thick to buffer the sound. After seeing the transformation of Stella and Left Foot Charley, it’s not so difficult to picture how beautiful this too will be.

As we wandered through more twists and turns, along peeling lead paint and plaster walls I picked up a few more interesting facts. The State Hospital once housed over 3500 patients. The philosophy used to treat their mental health was that of Thomas Story Kirkbride. He believed the road to mental health was surrounded by beautiful architecture, immersed in nature and grounded with hard work.


north hall in Building 50, The Villagenorth hall in Building 50, The VillageWe made it to the long hallway of the women’s dormitory and I realized it looked familiar. In fact, the north and south wings of Building 50 are built in exact mirror image. But what’s really amazing is to realize these were built before computers, and laser levels, scaffolding and even electricity…and yet the length of the hallways in both buildings are a perfect match, down to the micrometer.


Speaking of electricity, here’s another fascinating tidbit I picked up on the tour. Did you know the State Hospital was the first state owned building with electricity? An on-site steam generator produced heat and electricity for the entire campus. In fact, they had electricity 20 years before the rest of Traverse City!


The Village, by the Numbers

Building 50 in The Village at Grand Traverse CommonsBack at street level we exited Building 50 into the parking lot to take in the perfect autumn day. As we looked across Cottageview Drive Ray explained more of the history of the other buildings on campus. Directly across from Building 50 is Pleasanton Bakery, formerly the firestation. I mentioned earlier that Left Foot Charley and Higher Grounds occupy the former laundry facility. And next door to them, along Red Drive, is Underground Cheesecake in the old potato peeling building. That’s right, the hospital needed an entire building just for removing potato skins. With 3500 patients, and countless staff I guess that makes sense. There was also a butcher and a slaughterhouse on-site, but not on my tour, thanks.


I’m not great with numbers, but I am amazed by some of the statistics associated with constructing Building 50, the main adminstration building. Forgive me for all the zeros, but you have to admit this is impressive.

  • 11,000,000 bricks, made locally in neighboring Grelickville
  • 1,800 windows, many of which are over 8′ tall
  • 400,000 sq.ft. in the main building alone.
  • With 1,000,000 sq.ft. of redevelopment space in the entire project, of which 250,000 sq.ft. are already complete, I asked Ray how he manages to tackle one of the largests historic redevelopment projects in the United States. “One little bite at a time,” he said, with a smile.


Ray Minervini inside Stella, The VillageWe ended our tour that day with a quick photo of the developer in one of his favorite spots, inside Stella. Before I left though, I had one last question for Ray. There are so many rumors about ghosts from the old asylum, so I wondered if Ray had seen anything unusual. “Not once,” he said, almost as surprised as I was to hear it. He did have a great story about Genevieve, the ghost at Bowers Harbor Inn…but that’s a tale for another time.


For more information about The Village visit their website at www.thevillagetc.com.



Brandy’s Favorite Pumpkin Recipes

pumpkin patch photoOctober is the perfect time for pumpkins, and pumpkin recipes


Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. Costumes, decorations and pumpkin carving…what’s not to love? So to celebrate the season I’m sharing two of my favorite pumpkin recipes: Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds and Pumpkin Biscotti. Enjoy!



Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

I believe this recipe originally came from Martha Stewart. My copy has been written and re-written on so many scraps of paper over the years that I’ve lost track.



1c  fresh pumpkin seeds, rinsed

5T  sugar

1/4 t.  salt

1/4 t. cumin

1/4 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. ground ginger

pinch of cayenne pepper

1 1/2 T peanut oil



Heat oven to 250 degrees, bake seeds until dry. Cool.

Mix 3 T. sugar with the rest of the dry ingredients and set aside.

Heat oil in non-stick skillet on high. Add pumpkin seeds and 2 T. sugar. Cook until sugar melts and begins to carmelize (about 1 minute). Add hot seeds to dry ingredients, mix well. Cool and serve.


pumpkin maple biscotti imagePumpkin Biscotti

This recipe couldn’t be more simple and delicious. With only two ingredients it’s perfect to have on hand when company stops by, or when you just need a quick fall snack. Thanks go to Jacquie Wilson of Jacquie Caters for this fantastic combination.



1 pkg. Way North Foods maple walnut biscotti

1 jar  Brownwood Farms pumpkin butter


Spread the pumpkin butter on one half of each biscotti. Arrange neatly on a plate. Garnish with fresh fruit.

Looking for something to sip while you savor? This pairs wonderfully with Black Star Farms Siruis Maple dessert wine. Unbelievable!


Have some great pumpkin recipes that you’d like to share? Visit our fan page on Facebook and join the discussion.

By |2019-12-30T12:38:42-05:00October 8th, 2009|Check This Out, local recipes|0 Comments

Benzie Fall Festival Celebrates the Season

Fall maple treeJump into Fall this Weekend with the Benzie Fall Festival

For the next two weekends Benzie County will celebrate the fall harvest with fun for all ages. There’s so much to enjoy we’ve ranked it #4 on our 22 Reasons for a Fall M-22 Roadtrip. Events scattered across Beulah, Frankfort and the surrounding area begin on Saturday October 3rd. From fall soup contests, pumpkin decorating to pumpkin chuckin’ there’s much fun in store in beautiful Benzie county.


October 3rd & 4th

Gather in Beulah park, along the east end of Crystal Lake, and participate in the Fall Soup Contest. The kids can enter the Sidewalk Art Contest or try their skills in the Free Throw competition. Take a tour of Point Betsie Lighthouse before the end of the season rolls in with the cold winds of fall.  Crystal Mountian is offering scenic chairlift rides as well. It’s a great way to get a view of the amazing fall colors.


October 10th & 11th

Crowds gather in Frankfort alongside the Betsie Bay for the traditional Pumpkin Chuckin’ contest. This one you’ve got to see to believe. Homemade trebuchets launch giant pumpkins far into the air landing with a splash in Betsie Bay. And one oversized gourd is hoisted and dropped atop a carefully chosen clunker for the grand finale. Renouned pumpkin carver Ed Moody will be nearby exhibiting his amazing skills and preparing for his annual carve-a-thon which ends on Halloween.


There’s so much to do, and see, at the Benzie Fall Festival we barely scratched the surface. Check out their online brochure here for all the details. And make a point to venture over to Benzie for a part of the action. If we’re lucky the leaves will be turning in time to enjoy the view as well.

By |2019-12-30T12:40:35-05:00October 1st, 2009|Benzie, Check This Out, Day Trips|0 Comments

TripAdvisor Ranks Traverse City in Top 10 Wine Destinations

chateau chantal grapes in autumnMichigan wineries make the grade with TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor announced it’s list of the Top 10 North American Wine Destinations, and Traverse City was among them. Taking the top two positions were Napa Valley and Sonoma, California, no surprise there. But coming in a respectable 8th was Traverse City, Michigan.

According to a survey of 1000 online respondants, interest in wineries is up 10 percent from last year with 48% planning a trip to a U.S. winery this year.

By |2019-12-30T12:48:59-05:00September 25th, 2009|Check This Out, Traverse City, Wineries|0 Comments

Fustini’s Hosts Wine Dinner at Hanna 9/22

Fustinis card graphicFantastic Evening of Food, Olive Oils & Balsamics, & Wine

Join Fustini’s owners Jim and Lane for a special meal prepared by Chef Carrie at Hanna Bistro Bar in downtown Traverse City, on Tuesday, September 22nd at 6:30pm. Each course accompanied by Spencer Stegenga’s Bowers Harbor Winery wine.

Reservations are requested. Here’s a look at the amazing menu

1st course:
Butternut Squash Soup
Butternut Squash, Very Mild Ancho Chile soup drizzled with
Fustini’s Blood Orange Fused Oil.

2nd course:
Salad of Arugula with Pine Nuts, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese
with Fustini’s Fig Balsamic & Manzanillo Single Varietal Oil Vinaigrette.

3rd Course:
Pan Seared Opah w/ warm peach chutney, bacon, watercress
marinated in Fustini’s Peach Balsamic and Garlic Oil.

4th Course:
Chipotle & Persian Lime Chicken with Spanish Rice
made with Fustini’s Chipotle and Persian Lime Extra Virgin Olive Oils.

5th Course:
Cheese Stuffed Poached Pear
Wrapped in puff pastry with Fustini’s Blueberry Balsamic reduction


CALL HANNA BISTRO – (231) 946-8207
Downtown Traverse City, Michigan

By |2019-12-30T12:51:46-05:00September 22nd, 2009|Check This Out, Events, Restaurants, Traverse City, Wineries|0 Comments

Matterhorn Grill Dinner at TASTES

Matterhorn grill at Black Star FarmsBlack Star Farms says, Move Over Fondue!


Raclette Matterhorn grilling is the newest craze at TASTES of Black Star Farms in The Village! But … what the heck is raclette? The name “raclette” comes from the practice of melting cheese and the French word “racler” meaning “to scrape.” The tradition began on the hillsides of the Valais region in Switzerland at the end of the 19th century. During the fall chill, when the wine harvest was coming to an end, grape harvesters took from their sacks a small loaf of bread, some raclette cheese, and a bottle of wine, and set up camp for the night. Legend has it that one of the men stabbed a piece of cheese with a large buck knife, and approached a crackling fire made from vine branches to warm himself while he ate. As the cheese made contact with the fire, it started to melt and run with a crisp, golden texture. As he slowly scraped the melting cheese, the others tasted this novelty. It was indeed excellent.


Enjoy this unique and casual dining experience at TASTES of Black Star Farms with a Matterhorn Grill Dinner. Join in the cooking by grilling meats, potatoes, breads, vegetables and apples on the top of the grill while the Leelanau Cheese Company’s Raclette cheese melts in the trays below. Scrape the melted cheese onto your grilled food and enjoy your own delicious creations.


The dinners are for two, and each guest will enjoy three 4 oz “tastes” of wine with dinner. The cost is $50 per couple. Dinners are served Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays with two seatings nightly at 6 pm and 7:30 pm. Reservations are appreciated, and seating is very limited. Please call 231.944.1251 for reservations or email kculloty@blackstarfarms.com.

(excerpt from www.blackstarfarms.com)

By |2019-12-30T13:01:47-05:00September 15th, 2009|Check This Out, Restaurants, Traverse City, Wineries|0 Comments

Free Learn to Skate Clinic at Howe Arena 9/12

Get a Free Skating Lesson from Twin Bays Skating Club

TBSC is offering a FREE Learn to Skate Clinic for beginning skaters from age 3 through adult this Saturday, September 12th from 11am to 12:20pm at HOWE ARENA.  Bring your friends, relatives, neighbors and show them how much fun skating can be!!  The regular basic skills program will begin on Saturday Oct. 3 and Monday Oct. 5.  Basic Skills registration packets/info will be available at the clinic.  Any skater who attends the free clinic and signs up for the basic skills program at the clinic will receive a 10% discount on their basic skills registration.


The Twin Bays Skating Club offers skating lessons at all levels for children and adults. For more information on the Basic Skills and other programs visit their website at www.twinbays.org.

By |2019-12-30T13:12:06-05:00September 10th, 2009|Check This Out, Entertainment, Traverse City|0 Comments

Notable Edibles: Food Books from Learn Great Foods

Eggplant FoodBook from Learn Great FoodsFoodies Rejoice! Get tips and great recipes for using farm fresh produce with FoodBooks from Learn Great Foods


Our favorite tour guides of all things edible have come out with a series of FoodBooks focusing on individual ingredients. Learn Great Foods now offers 16-page full color booklets that give a fresh look at knowledge from a sustainable perspective. Each book focuses on one ingredient, such as Asparagus, while entertaining the reader with a variety of delicious recipes, interviews with farmers and chefs, and an introduction to the unique health and environmental benefits of the food. Best of all, they are written right here in the Midwest!

FoodBook titles include Asparagus, Eggplant, Herbs, Lettuce, Potatoes, Squash, Tomatoes, Beef, Bison and Fish, with more titles in the works. And you can’t beat the price: $2.45 each, or a sample pack of 5 books for $10.95.


FoodBooks are available for purchase locally at Pine Hill Nursery at Village Gardens in Traverse City (behind Randy’s Diner) or online at www.learngreatfoods.com.

If you haven’t taken a farm tour from Learn Great Foods you are missing something special. Last summer my dad and I spent a glorious early September day on the Leelanau Peninsula visiting Sweeter Song Farm, Leelanau Cheese and making a wonderful dinner with chef Nancy Allen. There is no better way to enjoy and appreciate our local farms and artisan foods than with a tour from Learn Great Foods. Check out my photo gallery from the trip (you may recognize a certain Eggplant photo), and watch our blog for an upcoming Hometown Highlights feature on our trip.

By |2019-12-30T13:16:50-05:00August 27th, 2009|Check This Out, Leelanau, Traverse City|0 Comments

Budweiser Clydesdales Visit Turtle Creek Casino

Budweiser Clydesdale imageLarger than life, the Budweiser Clydesdales are in town to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of distributor H. Cox and Son.


Here are a few fun facts about these amazing icons of tradition

  • A typical Budweiser Clydesdale is 6′ tall and weights between 1800-2300lbs.
  • Drivers must handle 75lbs of rein and tension to control 12 tons of horses and wagon
  • The harnesses alone are worth $70,000
  • Dalmations have traveled with each Clydesdale hitch since the 1950s


Check out these magnificient animals for free at the Turtle Creek Casino. They’ll be on display from Tuesday – Sunday.