Star Parties Begin May 11 at Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes Star Parties

Explore the Night Sky at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will be offering a series of monthly astronomy programs this year.  Join Park Rangers and the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society for a guided exploration of our night sky and one daytime event.  The next Star Party is May 11 with a viewing of the closest star — the sun.  Each special event takes place at a different location throughout the National Lakeshore to take advantage of strategic viewing opportunities.  Come for star gazing, meteor showers, sun viewing, and storytelling.  Kids of all ages can participate in the Night Sky Junior Ranger program.

Starry night skies and natural darkness are important components of the special places the National Park Service protects.  National parks hold some of the last remaining harbors of darkness and provide an excellent opportunity to experience this endangered resource.  So visit the National Lakeshore and enjoy park skies by attending the following Star Parties:

May 11 (12:00-2:00 p.m.), Visitor Center Parking Lot in Empire
This is a daytime Star Party to view our closest star – the sun.  View the sun using a solar telescope and solar shades.  See solar activity, including flares and prominences.


 

June 8 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive #3 Overlook
View Saturn, the Milky Way, and various constellations.  Meet at the Dune Overlook #3, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.  Please park at Picnic Mountain; the next right after the #2 stop.

 

July 13 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Platte River Point
View the moon, Saturn, and various constellations.

 

August 10 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Thoreson Farm in Port Oneida
The Port Oneida Fair celebration continues into the night.  View Saturn and the Perseid meteors.

 

September 7 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Dune Climb Parking Lot
View the summer Milky Way and many Deep Sky Objects.

 

October 21 (8:00-10:00 p.m.), Dune Climb Parking Lot
Celebrate the 43rd anniversary of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with a starry event.

For all astronomy events, bring a flashlight for the walk back to your car and bug spray, if needed.  Park Rangers and GTAS staff will be wearing red glow bracelets at the events. 

The monthly Star Parties will be cancelled during inclement weather.  The decision is usually made three hours in advance.  Please call Park Rangers at 231-326-5135, ext. 331, for a voicemail message with the decision.

All programs are free.  Participants need only purchase the Park Entrance Pass or have an Annual Pass displayed in their vehicle to join in the fun.

 

By |2013-05-03T11:21:29-04:00May 3rd, 2013|Events, Leelanau|0 Comments

Mealtickets Top 10 Moments from 2011

As a local travel expert I spend most of my time promoting other Traverse Area businesses. With the close of 2011 I thought I’d recap what a busy year it’s been for my business. So I thought a year-end review in classic Top 10 fashion would be fun. Here goes:

Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas Top 10 Moments of 2011

 

Traverse Traveler iPhone app10. Traverse Traveler hits 1000 downloads. We kick-started the New Year by reaching a goal we hadn’t imagined. After launching the Traverse Traveler iPhone App at the end of 2010 the local community and area visitors showed overwhelming support. Our app downloads hit 1000 in the first 25 days.

 

9. Mealtickets Family Grows. I refer to our advertisers as the Mealtickets Family. This year our family grew to welcome the Cherryland Antique Mall, Dennos Museum Center, Elk Rapids Chamber, Becky Thatcher Designs, Great Lakes Children’s Museum and Mana to our little card gang. We’re proud to offer information on such great businesses in Traverse City and the surrounding area. It makes my job easy when I represent great clients! So thanks everyone.

 

8. All a Twitter. It’s hard to believe I have been on Twitter for less than a year. But it took me a while to make the commitment to another social media platform. And yet, I think it’s one of the best decisions I made all year. The people I’ve met on Twitter have been fantastic. It has broadened my knowledge base, and sparked networking opportunities I never imagined. If you have a small business I highly recommend joining Twitter. In fact, I wrote a blog post here about just that. If you’re in Northern Michigan might I suggest you follow the hashtags #nwmi #TCMI and #mittenlove to find some likeminded friends. And by all means, follow me @TraverseTravelr!

 

10 Places I've Never Been7. 10 Places I’ve Never Been. It all started with an article in Grand Traverse Woman Magazine. Looking to encourage locals to get out in their own backyard and open doors they’ve never opened, I wrote a list of 10 Places I’ve Never Been and set out to visit each one. My list took me across Benzie, Leelanau and Traverse City, into restaurants, wineries, jewelry, furniture and retails stores.

I met great people, and I spent my dollars with local businesses. It was a great experience. In fact, don’t be surprised if my explorations return in 2012. When I stop and think about it there are so many more than 10 places that I have yet to visit. I reported on my travels once a week throughout the summer, here on the Mealtickets blog. If you haven’t read them, I hope you will. You’ll discover some of the magic that makes Northern Michigan so unique.

 

Traverse City Lip Dub6. Rockin’ with the Traverse City Lip Dub. When I heard about plans to make a Traverse City Lip Dub I thought it would be fun to work behind-the-scenes to make it happen. But when I appeared at the first meeting I threw my hat in the ring and auditioned to be one of the "singers". Who knew I’d make the cut! So after one month of planning, rehearsing, and one beastly hot day in downtown Traverse City, our community came together to pull off a creative rendition of "You Can Call Me Al," and "Jump" lip-synced throughout town.

The performers were dedicated. The social media engine buzzed about the big debut at the Traverse City Film Festival. And thousands of people gathered at the Open Space to watch the premiere before an outdoor showing of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Finally the TC Lip Dub went on YouTube for all the masses. And then they pulled the plug. At the end of the day, it was still a highlight of my year, and I’m proud to say, "You Can Call Me Al."

 

5. Sleeping Bear Dunes Named America’s Most Beautiful Place. You couldn’t have missed this story unless you were out of State — perhaps out of the Country. That just goes to show how proud we Michiganders are of our beautiful location. This summer, a small community in the heart of Leelanau County created a nation-wide buzz about the Sleeping Bear Dunes by voting on Good Morning America’s contest.

Some were shocked that we beat out places like Hawaii and California, but not us locals. This win showcased not only the power of social media, but the strength we have when we, as a community, come together to show our support for this region. If you voted for this win, you helped make it happen. And this win has already brought thousands of New visitors to Northern Michigan. And that’s something I’m passionate about indeed.

 

Visual Marketing Book4. Visual Marketing Book Includes Traverse Traveler. My first publication! Traverse Traveler app was selected from a pool of over 500 applicants to be included in a new book by David Langdon and Anita Campbell. Visual Marketing: 99 Proven Ways for Small Businesses to Market with Images & Design debuted in September with a spread on the Traverse Traveler app.

I was thrilled to be selected for this book which recognized our success in taking a print-based business (Mealtickets) and expanding into a mobile version that works (Traverse Traveler). The book includes 99 great stories of marketing strategies that have been successful, along with a Takeaway Tip for each one so you can apply it to your own business.

 

3. A Mention on Forbes.com! This one was exciting enough to warrant some local news coverage, so I think it deserves its own listing in our Top 10. The author of the Visual Marketing book was interviewed on Forbes.com about the new release. In her interview, she sited three examples from the book, including Traverse Traveler. Read the article here. It’s a great overview of the Visual Marketing book, and it gave me a reason to smile when I discovered the interview on Twitter.

 

2. Traverse Traveler Hits 5000 Downloads. I had high hopes for how the Traverse City community and local visitors would respond to our app, but I couldn’t imagine 5000 downloads in less than a year. I’m thrilled to say we will finish 2011 with over 6100 downloads and counting. I have big goals for 2012 including the much awaited launch of an Android version of the app, a BIG fundraising event from Traverse Traveler, and hopefully lots of new businesses adding their listings to our categories. Is your business on the app? If not, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, Sign Up Here!

 

Mealtickets Celebrates 10 Years1. Mealtickets Celebrates 10 Years in Business. Saving the best for last, I’m proud to say I’ve been an momtrepreneur for 10 years! I started Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas on November 1, 2001 after losing my graphic design job in the wake of 9/11. It’s been a challenge to learn new skills — like sales — and a pleasure to work with this regions wonderful hospitality industry and small business owners. In 10 years Mealtickets has distributed millions of little cards to help area visitors discover unique, off-the-beaten-path restaurants, attractions and wineries. And for that I couldn’t be more proud. It is my Top moment in 2011.

 

If you made it through that list of horn tooting, I thank you! It’s amazing to me that all fit in one calendar year. But if you’re wondering what I could possibly have left to do in 2012, have no fear. I’m a busy body, who is always looking for the next challenge. And I’ve got some great ideas for 2012. So I hope you’ll stay with us.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope your 2012 is a great success. And if there’s any way Mealtickets or Traverse Traveler can help make that happen, please let me know.

By |2011-12-30T12:11:29-04:00December 30th, 2011|Benzie, Leelanau, Mealtickets News, Traverse City|0 Comments

Shop Local Michigan Holiday Gift Guide

Every year I scour the region for new ideas for the holiday gift giving season. This year’s theme is: Shop Local. We’re lucky to be surrounded by local retailers who work hard to fill their stores, galleries and pantries with unique finds from Michigan and across the nation. Let’s keep our neighbors in business and see what they have to offer before we fill our online carts and pull out the VISA.

 

Now I’ll hop off my soapbox and share this year’s categories:

Smitten with the Mitten

From Barrel to Glass

Handmade & Heartfelt

Foodie Finds

Host with the Most

Fun & Festive

 

Holiday Gift Guide 11 Mitten image

Smitten with the Mitten

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this year seems to be the year of the Mitten. Michigan themed companies, gifts and accessories are everywhere! And for us proud Michiganders that’s a great thing. Here are a few suggestions for the Michigan loyalist in your family.

Michigan Mittens | Benjamin Twiggs

Everyone in Michigan knows we show our hometown by holding up our trusty hand map. When the weather turns cold you can hold your hand high and as their slogan says, "Always wear a map on your hands." Available locally at Benjamin Twiggs. Michigan mittens are made in Clarkston, Michigan.

Michigan Ice Cube Trays | High Five Threads

I discovered these on Facebook, and was glad to see a local company carrying them. What a simple and clever way to share your love of the state. Two trays per package. And the yoopers in your family will be glad to see the design includes the upper and lower peninsula. Jell-O shots anyone? Available at High Five Threads in the Village mercato.

baabaazuzu Mittens

When a Michigan-based company makes mittens from recycled wool we can’t help but be smitten. Baabaazuzu, a Lake Leelanau company designs and creates unique wearables and ships them all around the world. Lucky for us they are available locally as well. Find their mittens in Traverse City at Cali’s and Golden Shoes and in Suttons Bay at The Painted Bird. You can also order online at baabaazuzu.com.

Michigan Soap | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures

Handmade by The Sudsy Mitten Soap Co. in scents like Maple Syrup, Lake Effect and Michigan Honey, these little gems are the perfect stocking stuffer for the mitten lover in your house. Available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen.

Keep it Fresh Tee | High Five Threads

It wouldn’t be a Michigan themed gift list without one of the creative designs from High Five Threads in the Village in Traverse City. They pride themselves on Made in MI merchandise, designing several of their own T-shirt lines including the Keep it Fresh Tee. A portion of the proceeds go toward protecting the great lakes.

 

 Holiday Gift Guide 11 Spirits

From Barrel to Glass

Spirit of Pear | Black Star Farms

Looking for an impressive gift for the wine lover in your family? How about the Spirit of Pear from Black Star Farms featuring a real pear in the bottle. Everyone will ask, how’d they do that! You can tell them while wine starts in the vineyard, the bottle starts in the orchard. Available at all three Black Star Farms tasting room locations.

Redneck Wine Glass | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures

Not every wine drinker boasts the sophistication of an oenophile. If your friend’s taste runs toward the box rather than the bottle — or if they just appreciate a clever gift — how about the redneck wine glass. It’s hard to get snooty when you’re drinking from a Ball jar. Especially when it’s sporting a hot pink boa. Available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen.

Corn Whiskey | Grand Traverse Distillery

The latest creation from our favorite local distiller, Grand Traverse Distillery, is their corn whiskey. Made from Northern Michigan corn, locally grown, and distilled into a fine spirit in Traverse City, this clear whiskey is unlike anything you’ve tasted. And it’s only available from the Distillery, so stop by and pick up a bottle.

Leelanau Brillante | Bel Lago Vineyard & Winery

Every holiday wine list needs a bubbly. So here’s my pick for the year, Leelanau Brillante from Bel Lago. Bursting with flavors of tropical fruit and peach, and made from Cayuga, Seyval and Vignoles — one of my favorite varietals— this is a great wine to give, or to save. Drink it while trimming the tree, wrapping presents, making cookies…

 

 Holiday Gift Guide 11 Handmade

Handmade & Heartfelt

Letter Necklaces | Gallery Fifty

Gallery Fifty customers love these sterling silver pendants and charms. Available in upper or lower-case letters and sold with or without the ball-chain necklace, these simple stamped pieces make great gifts. Perfect for teens, a neighbor, and your BFF. Created by Pellston artist Hanni Yothers and available at Gallery Fifty in the Village mercato.

Unity Collection | Korner Gem

I just love these. Shaped from Michigan beach stones like Leland Blue, Petoskey, granite and chain corral, these necklaces are one of a kind. The beads are sold separately or in pairs, and available in large and small sizes, they can be combined to create beautiful necklaces. Very affordable on their own, or add gemstones and accessory pieces for a truly magnificent gift. Designed and crafted on site at Korner Gem in Traverse City.

Glass Fortune Cookies | Gallery Fifty

Hand-blown boroscilicate glass (known for it’s durability, like Pyrex) each fortune cookie reveals a special message for your friend or loved one. Sold in a tiny take-out container they’re an adorable way to share the love this holiday season. Buy them for girlfriends, teachers, or anyone who needs some good fortune. Designed by Nancy Nagel of Colorado, and sold locally at Gallery Fifty.

Stone Cairn Earrings | Becky Thatcher Designs

This summer I noticed an increasing number of balanced stone sculptures on the beaches of Northern Michigan. These stone "cairns" inspired the work of Becky Thatcher who creates earrings from Lake Michigan beach stones gathered near her gallery in Glen Arbor. What a nice idea for the beach comber in your circle of friends. Available from Becky Thacher Designs in Traverse City, Glen Arbor, Leland and Harbor Springs.

Pretty Stinkin’ Cute Skirts | Pretty Stinkin’ Green

Without exaggeration, I cannot wear one of my Pretty Stinkin’ Green skirts without being stopped on the street by strangers admiring it and asking where it came from. So I would be remiss not to include my friends Deb & Hannah who design these amazing skirts. They are available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures and on Etsy, or you can visit their Facebook page to see how to get a custom made skirt from our own T-shirts.

 

Holiday Gift Guide 11 Foodie

Foodie Finds

Flavor Trio Oil & Vinegar with Cookbook | Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars

This year I’m excited to share new products from Fustinis: flavor trio bottle and their brand new cookbook. Available in three flavor combos (bread & vegetable, salad dressing, desserts) this stacked bottle design is a great way to present these unique products. And the cookbook will make sure your gift comes with plenty of instructions for use. Available at Fustini’s in Traverse City, Petoskey, Ann Arbor or Holland and online.

Coco Mojo | Sweet Asylum

If you like to pack gift baskets with Michigan treats you’ll want to make a stop at Sweet Asylum in the Village Mercato and pick up some Coco Mojos. These crunchy almonds are coated with a unique blend of cacao (not cocoa), spices and a little sugar for sweetness. The cacao is organic so you know you are enjoying a healthy snack. Sold with or without dried cherries.

Specialty Salts | Suttons Bay Trading Co.

If you have a chef on your shopping list you know it can be challenging to come up with a kitchen accessory they don’t already have. So why not add something unusual to their arsenal of flavors. Suttons Bay Trading Co., a new spice shop in Suttons Bay, has many options. But I found myself drawn to the colorful salts from around the world. Himalayan Pink, Black Hawaiian, Red Hawaiian and Smoked Course Sea Salt were just a few of the options available in store and online.

Slabtown Coffee Caramel Corn

Beware, this stuff is addictive. I ran into the owner, a friend from years back, in Oleson’s grocery store this summer and was introduced to her new product. Who knew that coffee and caramel corn would be such a perfect combination. And it’s made right here in Traverse City, which I love. You can find it in local grocery stores like Oleson’s or specialty shops like Suttons Bay Trading Co.

 

 Holiday Gift Guide 11 Hostess

Host with the Most

Jeri Mateus Mitten Plate | At Home

I love the creative painted designs of local ceramic artist Jeri Mateus of Lime Lake. This little mitten dish is only about 4" square, but imagine it piled with a stack of homemade cookies and wrapped in celephane. Just a little something for your boss, a teacher or the holiday party host. Available at the little store with the lime green awning: At Home in Suttons Bay.

Magnetic Note Holder | Gallery Fifty

No more searching through drawers for a pen and notebook. This simple gift idea puts a standard 3×5" notebook right where you need it: on the fridge, in a locker, file cabinet or other metallic surface. Embellished with colorful glass beads and created by artist Cherie Haney of Ann Arbor, these magnetic holders include a notebook and are also sold as a set including a magnetic pen holder. Available at Gallery Fifty in the Village mercato.

Handmade Mug | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures

Whether they prefer coffee or tea your gift recipient is sure to love a handmade ceramic mug from artist Anne Marie. Designed especially for Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen these mugs are handpainted and stamped with the word Michigan or Interlochen. Package that with some coffee from Bud’s or a gift card and you’re good to go.

Glass Business Card Holder | Gallery Fifty

Need a gift that’s professional? Maybe something for your boss or a colleague? How about a handblown glass business card holder from Gallery Fifty. They have a large stock of colors to suit any style. And they’re affordable too. Classy, elegant and functional. What more do you need?

 

Holiday Gift Guide 11 Festive

Festive, Fun & Fantastic

Santa Gourd | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures

Designed by artist Deb Mazur these santa sculptures are painted, antiqued and embellished. Made from dried gourds and hand-painted clay. Each design is original and unique. Available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen.

Winter Sports Ornaments | Woodland Creek Furniture

On my adventures this summer I discovered Woodland Creek Furniture is a treasure trove of holiday ornaments for the up-north outdoor enthusiast. They have hunting, fishing, hiking, snow sports, bears and a bevy of woodland creatures all waiting to hang on your tree. Stop by their showroom on US 31 North in Traverse City.

Mulling Spices | Suttons Bay Trading Co.

There’s no better smell at Christmas than cinnamon and cloves simmering away blending a cherry wine into a warm holiday treat. I discovered Suttons Bay Trading Co. makes their mulling spices available in single servings or a 3 oz. package. It’s great with Michigan wine, or apple cider for the non-alcoholic version. Yum!

Keith Smith Handpainted Ornaments | Country Christmas

I couldn’t possibly have a holiday gift guide without mentioning Country Christmas now that I know what their store is like after my visit this summer. There are too many things to mention, so I picked one that really caught my eye — the hand-painted wood ornaments from Traverse City artist Keith Smith. There are many designs available, but when they’re handpainted you know they’re all unique. Just promise me you’ll stop by Country Christmas on M-72 for a visit this season.

Leland & Fishtown Ornaments | Two Fish Gallery

If you have friends and family who summer in this area I’m sure they’d love a momento from one of everyone’s favorite local destinations: Fishtown in Leland. The Two Fish Gallery sells many different ornaments by artist Nancy Deyoung representing Leland, Fishtown and Leelanau County. Stop by and tell Jennifer I said Hi.

 

 

That’s a wrap for my holiday gift guide this season. But let me leave you with one final wish.

Shop at Small Businesses,

Shop Local,

and if you can’t make it into a Northern Michigan storefront, Shop Local Online!

By |2011-11-22T11:59:50-04:00November 22nd, 2011|Benzie, Hometown Highlights, Leelanau, Traverse City|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Nonna's

10 Places I've Never Been

I’ve spent 10 weeks of my summer exploring 10 Places I’ve Never Been. And now it’s time for the Mystery location. A location, recommended by our readers and chosen by our Facebook fans. This mystery stop is Nonna’s Restaurant at The Homestead Resort.

Nonna's restaurant at Homestead Resort image

It’s been a few years since I have spent any time at The Homestead Resort. So when my husband and I arrived for dinner we weren’t quite sure where we were headed. I remember the Inn lies at the back of the property with beautiful views of the water, so we drove in that direction. The roads meander through tall pine woods with beautiful condos tucked into the hills. We found the Inn and the Beach Club at the end of the road, but no Nonna’s. So we retraced our path toward the entrance. A few wrong turns provided a reminder of how large The Homestead property is, and how much they have to offer. We passed Stony Brook Lodge with it’s breathtaking views and Camp Firefly where they teach the Orvis Fly Fishing. Finally we turned past the Reception Center and found The Village, and Nonna’s.

 

Nonna's at The Homestead imageWe planned to arrive when they opened the doors for dinner at 6pm so I would have a chance to talk with Jamie Jewel, Vice President of Sales & Marketing to learn a bit about The Homestead Resort and the history of Nonna’s. The staff greeted us at the door and welcomed us in for a quick tour.

 

Nonna’s is located in a section called the Village, which you may recognize as the entrance to the Mountain Flowers Par-3 golf course, and in the winter, their ski resort. The Village is home to several shops, lodging and other dining options for The Homestead guests including Beppi’s and Cavanaugh’s. There’s a play area for the kids and decks overlooking Fiddler’s Pond in the back.

 

Nonna's porch room imageNonna's porch view

Inside Nonna’s the atmosphere is warm and inviting. Since The Homestead caters to guests traveling as couples as well as families, they’ve gone out of their way to make both groups comfortable. The Porch dining room offers larger tables, banquettes and dining overlooking the pond. The Tavern room includes a bar in back, smaller tables and fireside dining. This room is for adults only. There are a few tables on the deck accessed by the bartender so guests can enjoy a drink outside.

 

Our tour included a visit to the Loft, a special room above Nonna’s that’s available when large groups would like to dine together, such as a family reunion or corporate meeting. There’s even a kitchenette in the back for future cooking classes. But the loft isn’t open for regular dining hours.

 

Nonna's tavern imageThe reason I chose to write about 10 Places I’ve Never Been is to showcase some of the amazing shops, restaurants and businesses that we ‘locals’ forget about, or drive right by. When we returned to the Tavern room I spoke with Jamie about what makes The Homestead Resort a place locals should consider visiting.

 

The Homestead Resort has begun to recognize the importance of welcoming the locals onto the property to see what’s available. In an effort to reach out to the surrounding communities on Labor Day The Homestead held a community block party for 300 people, inviting residents of Glen Lake, Empire, Lime Lake as well as resort guests. Despite the cold they enjoyed hot dogs and popcorn, sales in the shops, facepainting for the kids and trips via golf cart to the top of the mountain.

 

The Homestead Resort is a vacation destination with amenities any visitor or local would enjoy — some of which you may not even know about. For instance, did you know The Homestead purchased the King’s Challenge course and gave it a complete make-over? So much so, that under their new name, Manitou Passage, this Arnold Palmer course won Best New Course in 2010 from Golfweek magazine. In the winter the ski hills are open to the public. And they just opened a day-spa on property. Of course, the reason I’m here is Nonna’s. A fine italian restaurant hidden in the pines of northern Michigan.

 

 

As we were chatting the server arrived and introduced the menu and wine list. The wine list is quite large, with many options available by the glass. And they had some cocktails that sounded fantastic including a pomegranite martini. I like to support the local Michigan wineries and chose one of few on their list, a Black Star Farms semi-dry riesling. My husband opted for an Italian beer, Moretti.

Nonna's steak pizzaiolla

 

Our drinks arrived, along with fresh bread, olives and roasted garlic in a basket. Moments later, the chef sent out a special appetizer to whet the appetite: Steak Pizzaiolla. It’s a classic homestyle Italian dish that you just don’t see often on menus. Small bites of beef tenderloin in a savory tomato demi glaze served with thin brushetta. A nice warm treat. Along with the dish came a promise that the chef would come out and chat with us.

 

Nonna's chef John Piombo

Our Facebook fans warned us we would love Chef John. Jamie said, "wait until you met Chef John," so as you can imagine I was anxious to finally talk with Chef John. And moments later, out he came.

 

Chef John Piombo is not a Michigan native, but his new midwestern digs seem to suit him. With two Italian parents John is fluent in both languages and spent some time in Italy which explains his passion for food and flavor. But I think it’s his personality that attracts new fans to the restaurant, and keeps the staff happy and entertained.

Nonna's menu image

 

Each night the staff gathers for family dinner, a chef’s choice meal that could be off the menu or off-the-wall depending on what he feels like cooking. The 4:30pm meal offers a time for the staff to taste new dishes, sit down together and prepare for the evening’s service. "We don’t open the doors until 6pm. Not 5:50pm, not 5:59pm. That give us time together and time to prepare."

 

While many chefs in the area focus on "local" Chef John says, "I’m all about relationships." He works with independent farmers who will come to his doorstep and is building relationships with some of the smaller boutique wineries in the area, like Circa, one of his favorites. It seems he’s full of funny stories about trips to meet with the local merchants.

 

"Ok, just one more story and I’ll let you go," he teased, as he shared a humorous tale of showing up unannounced at the rabbit ranch and getting a glimpse of something we probably don’t want to think about before we eat. And another story about an order of beef from a Kaleva farmer who arrived with one filet, one strip steak, one rack of ribs — not exactly what chef expected when he placed an order for "one beef."

 

Shortly after Chef returned to the kitchen the appetizers arrived. Since we weren’t expecting the chef’s selection we ordered a couple dishes to share: crabcakes and a mozzarella & heirloom tomato insulate.

 

Nonna's crabcakes image

Nonna's tomato salad

 

The crabcakes were packed with crabmeat, not fillers, seared in a pan and served on a creamy cucumber puree with a couple dashes of hot chili sauce. Very good. I can never pass up a mozzarella and tomato salad this time of year, so I was glad to see this one was made to perfection. Slices of homemade buffalo mozzarella a top four heirloom tomatoes dredged, but not drowned, in balsamic, olive oil and fresh basil. Both were easy to share and we each enjoyed them.

Nonna's frosty beer glass

 

I’m always impressed when a restaurant pays attention to the details. I loved that my husband’s beer came out with a frosty pilsner glass. The plate for the crabcakes was warm as they were, and the salad plate was chilled. Nothing is worse that getting a cold salad served on a fresh-from-the-scalding-dishwasher plate. So kudos on service.

 Nonna's rabbit entree image

 

Speaking of service, our server was incredibly knowledgeable about the dishes, often answering questions about ingredients in the sauces, or making recommendations on the entrees. My husband ended up ordering the Rabbit, and I the Veal Scallopini. They arrived with a side of polenta from the chef.

Nonna's veal scallopini image

 

I tasted the rabbit, as I’m not sure that I’ve ever had rabbit before. Sorry to sound cliche but it reminded me of chicken. It was cooked in a flavorful stewed tomato sauce with fresh herbs. The veal I ordered was full of mushrooms and a rich demi-glaze, but what I really noticed were the fresh herbs. I finally asked the server what they were. "Take a look in the garden on your way out. That is fresh mint sage which we grow out front."

Nonna's blackberry dessert

 

As we cleaned our plates, and finished our drinks, chef John sent out a simple but scrumptious dessert. He flambed huge fresh blackberries with Cake Vodka, and served them over vanilla ice cream. The warm berries exploded with sweetness and you couldn’t mistake the flavor of cupcakes that comes from this unusual vodka. A perfect ending to the meal.

Nonna's image

 

We wrapped up the evening agreeing Nonna’s is a restaurant we’d not only recommend, but plan to return to. The atmosphere in the Tavern was comfortable and welcoming, perfect for couples looking for a quiet night out. The menu offered mulitple selections we were anxious to try —some we admired as they passed by our table in route for another.

Nonna's chef tableNonna's sign

 

Before we left I stopped to photograph the Chef’s Table. This special seating for six just off the entrance offers a unique glimpse into Chef John’s creativity. Guests enjoy 8 or 14 course meals paired with wine. The small-plate courses are completely up to the chef. So if you’re looking for adventure, and you brought your appetite, the Chef’s Table at Nonna’s would be a fabulous treat.

 

Nonna’s is open for dinner year-round from 6-10pm except Tuesdays. Off-season hours are Thursday – Saturday. Chef John likes to change things up during the year so expect menu changes every 3-4 days. On Thursdays you may find a verbal trattoria-style menu or prix fixe meal option.

Nonna's dining room

 

Reservations are recommended since Nonna’s is a small restaurant, about 13 tables (not including the loft). There’s outdoor seating for the bar, and some limited patio dining available, "on the three days that it’s warm," Chef John jokes. I can see his south Florida roots haven’t completely adjusted to Michigan’s climate.

 

You can find Nonna’s inside The Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor, Michigan. Visit their website at www.thehomesteadresort.com and find them on Facebook & Twitter. They’re still working on the wayfinding signage inside the resort, so to locate Nonna’s turn right on Wood Ridge Road, pass the Reception Center and you’ll come to the Village. Parking is on the right. For reservations call 231.334.5150. And, as with all my 10 Places I’ve Never Been locations, you can find them on the Traverse Traveler App. To download the free app click here.

Glen Arbor Sunset

 

It seems appropriate that the 10 Places I’ve Never Been series ended with a beautiful sunset over Glen Lake as witnessed from our drive home across the Narrows bridge in Glen Arbor. Every time I watch the sun sink into the lake, or behind a dune, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place—America’s Most Beautiful Place, in fact. But… that’s another story.

 

 

 

 

 

By |2011-09-12T11:56:34-04:00September 12th, 2011|Leelanau, Place's I've Never Been, Restaurants|1 Comment

10 Places I've Never Been: Two Fish Gallery

10 Places I've Never Been

 

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

 

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: Two Fish Gallery

Two Fish Gallery LelandTwo Fish Gallery entrance

 

One thing I’ve discovered while writing about 10 Places I’ve Never Been it’s that there are a lot more than ten! And coincidentally, many of them are places I have walked past dozens of times. Two Fish Gallery is one of those places.

 

I visit Leland quite often, walk along the wooden boardwalk, under the shade of that enormous tree, and explore Fishtown. But I hadn’t ventured into the store that lies in the shadow of that tree —until this summer.

Two Fish Gallery inside view

 

Two Fish Gallery is the type of shop visitors are searching for when they want to bring home a momento from their trip Up North. My first impression was that the buyers for this store go out of their way to find items that represent northern Michigan, and are a bit unique. It’s a challenge to choose artwork, gifts, cards and collectables that shoppers won’t see in the store around the corner. Owner Jennifer Collins has done a great job bringing something new into the retail mix.

 

To write a blog about a retail store means talking about the products they sell. So I’ve taking a ton of photos and thought I’d share some of the items that captured my attention. Let me be your guide on a virtual shopping tour through Two Fish Gallery.

Two Fish Gallery Bill Campbell potteryTwo Fish Gallery Bill Campbell pottery

 

When you walk in the door you can’t miss the large display of ceramics from artist Bill Campbell. He’s a Pennsylvania potter known for a very unique glazing technique. Two Fish Gallery has a great selection of his collectable yet functional art pottery in shades of blue, aqua, purple and brown.

Two Fish Gallery Solmate Socks

 

Another customer favorite are the Solmate Socks. AKA "The Sock Lady," this Vermont artist creates beautiful mismatched socks, which may be quite familiar as they’ve become collectable in their own right. The bright knits hang on the wall attached to a clothes line. Each pair of socks has a name which corresponds to the color-scheme. I love that she sells the kids socks in sets of 3, "A pair and a spare," and the Baby Sockinis are sold in sets of 5.

Two Fish Gallery wooden signs

 

All around the store, hanging near the ceiling, are these fabulous wooden signs painted with clever and humorous phrases. While this is certainly not the only store I’ve seen with wooden signs, I do love the choice of phrases Two Fish Gallery has selected. Some are clever, some tug at the heartstrings, and some just make you laugh out loud. The company Sawdust City offers thousands of options, so it’s up to the gallery owner to choose what she should sell. This gives you a glimpse into her personality and that of Two Fish Gallery’s customers.

Two Fish Gallery signsTwo Fish Gallery signs

The signs can also be customized. In store they carry several that talk about Leland, Fishing, Michigan and up north. But you can even have a one-of-a-kind sign made for your family, cottage or as a gift. My personal favorite: "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will buy more fishing equipment than he can use in a lifetime." Sad, but true.

Two Fish Gallery jewelry

 Two Fish Gallery chart jewelry

Eventually my browsing lead me to the jewelry, as it often does. And there’s a lot of variety in the store to choose from. There are handmade crystal necklaces, bracelets and earrings made by a local artist, and friend of the Collins family, Suzanne Meyer. Her self-proclaimed "bead addiction" is a blessing for the rest of us who can appreciate the cherry-inspired necklaces, and simple braclets. I also liked the custom Chart Map jewelry which reveals a tiny section of a map under glass bubbles, strategically featuring the Leelanau Peninsula.

Two Fish Gallery Staxx rings

 

But, the artsy designer in me was drawn to the case of Staxx jewelry, a company I wasn’t familiar with until Jennifer explained. Staxx is a collectable line of customizable rings which are built by you. Two Fish Gallery has a big selection to choose from, so Jennifer hauled it all out for me.

Two Fish Gallery Staxx ringsTwo Fish Gallery Staxx rings

 

You start with a stainless steel ring with a post on top, choose your layers from colorful disks of glass, metal and molded shapes, then cap it with a topper. Each ring is as unique as the designer. The combinations are endless. So, as you can imagine, I stood there playing for quite a while before deciding on the ring I wanted. The price is determined by what you’ve selected, with layers ranging from $2-$10. Rings usually end up in the $30-$50 range.

 

While we played with the rings I had a chance to ask Jennifer how she ended up with a retail business in Leland. As it turns out she’s an Engineer by trade, who grew up in Iowa where the closest thing to a lake was man-made. But when her husband retired and moved here from Chicago in 1997 they decide to buy an existing business, Americana Collection. The only problem was, they didn’t know much about antiques. So in 2009 they decided to change the name of the store to Two Fish Gallery, and the inventory began to reflect a style which suited them and the town of Leland.

Two Fish Gallery signsTwo Fish Gallery halloweenTwo Fish Gallery Curly Girl


"We really try hard to find unique things. And we love to make people laugh." So Jennifer has filled the store with collections like Curly Girl, seasonal gifts from Woof & Poof and greeting card lines that will have customers standing there reading out loud to their friends, and laughing all the way to the register. Even the garden art is whimsical and unexpected.

Two Fish Gallery my purchase

 

As for me, I knew once I saw the rings that I had my purchase. It probably took 30-minutes of playing to make it. But that’s another nice thing about Jennifer and the staff at Two Fish Gallery…she didn’t mind playing right along with me!

Two Fish Gallery LelandLeland cottonwood tree

 

You can find Two Fish Gallery under the shade of a champion cottonwood tree, overlooking beautiful Fishtown. For those with a GPS, that’s 104 West River Street, Leland, Michigan 49654. They are open year-round, and feature seasonal gifts especially for Christmas. Call 231.256.9350 for more details or to place a special order. You can find them online at www.twofishleland.com and Find them on Facebook here. As with all my 10 Places locations, they are also listed under Shop in the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

 

 

Today is the last day to nominate a business for my 10th stop on the 10 Places I’ve Never Been series. So visit us on the  Traverse Traveler Facebook page. I’ll be choosing my last place from your suggestions!

 

And stay tuned next week, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  The Cherry Hut.

By |2011-08-26T11:13:50-04:00August 26th, 2011|Leelanau, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

Sleeping Bear Dunes Voted America's Most Beautiful Place

Sleeping Bear Dunes image

Today Good Morning America announced the winner of the Most Beautiful Place in America. Tens of thousands cast their vote to determine the winner:  Sleeping Bear Dunes!

Sleeping Bear Dunes views

As a native Michigander I can certainly see why Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore would be placed in the top 10. But it’s truly a testament to the passion of area residents and visitors who voted for this midwest treasure over some other fantastic locales.

Sleeping Bear Dunes image

The Sleeping Bear Dunes hold many treasures, and memories that go back as far as I can remember. Trips to the dune climb when I was a child, when they used to offer dune buggy rides. Endless runs up and down those hills left us scraping sand from our scalp days later. But one of my favorite places in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is South Manitou Island.

Manitou Island image

We’ve made a tradition of taking the kids out to South Manitou by boat and spending the day exploring the beach, climbing the lighthouse and crusing past the wreck of the Morazan. Looking out over the Manitou passage, and across to Glen Arbor and the face of the Sleeping Bear is a stunningly beautiful vista. And the reason so many of us are passionate about Michigan. The colors of the water may look like the Carribean, but the spirit is Pure Michigan.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Morazon image

I’m thrilled that our region is once again getting the national attention it deserves. We are so lucky to live in this amazing place. What more can I say:

I Love Michigan image

If you’d like to see a few more photographic reasons, check out our Sleeping Bear Dunes Photo Gallery.

By |2011-08-17T07:42:51-04:00August 17th, 2011|Check This Out, Leelanau|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: 22 Vines & Wines Cafe

10 Places I've Never Been image

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

 

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: 22 Vines & Wines Cafe & Market

 

22 Vines & Wines menu image

 22 Vines & Wines enterance

I arrived at 22 Vines & Wines Cafe & Market in the middle of lunch hour. All five of the booths were full and the owner, Rich Van Steenis was scurrying about filling water, taking orders and delivering hot food from the kitchen. Wouldn’t you know they were short staffed and Rich was the only waiter.

 

As I waited for a friend to join me I was able to scan the tables and soak up the amazing smells wafting from the little kitchen in back. A Thai chicken pizza was delivered to guests at the table across from me, carried in on a wooden plank. The smell was fantastic.

Hillside Plaza signage image

 

22 Vines & Wines Cafe & Market is located right on M-22 just south of Suttons Bay. In fact, it’s next door to another one of my 10 Places: Chateau de Leelanau. The Hilltop complex, which also houses Gallery 22 and the Leelanau Chamber, is owned by the Van Steenis family. They purchased the property, a former dairy farm, in 1977 and converted it to retail space for Rich’s mother. When she decided to retire in 2008 it was time for further renovations.

 

What once was a milking room, is now a 10-year dream come true for Rich’s wife Salve. But I’ll get to that later. First you need to see what Salve can do.

22 Vines & Wines menu image

 

My friend arrived promptly and we examined the menu with interest. I changed my mind a dozen times because everything sounded so good. The handmade thin-crust pizzas looked fabulous, but were too big for our appetites. Besides I hoped to try more than one dish. So we decided to share an appetizer of Thai rolls and each ordered tacos for lunch.

22 Vines & Wines Thai rolls

 

The chef recommended a split order of spring rolls and summer rolls. The spring rolls are made from ground round, cabbage, carrot and bean sprouts, rolled im a rice wrapper and lightly sauteed (not fried). The summer rolls are fresh and cool. Steamed shrimp and crisp veggies are rolled up with rice noodles in a rice wrapper and served cold. They provided two sauces for dipping—a spicy soy and spicy peanut. Both rolls were excellent…even though we paired them with the wrong sauces!

22 Vines & Wines shrimp tacos

 

For lunch I chose the shrimp tacos, since they were grilled. My friend opted for the fried fish tacos. And we were both happy with our decisions. They were served two to a plate, topped with lettuce, cheese, thai cream sauce and fresh salsa. I paired mine with a jasmine ice tea. Lunch was filling, but at the same time it felt light. Which, was a great way to finish a meal. Instead of feeling stuffed and regretful I was looking forward to a trip back. And I was dying to see more of Salve’s thai dishes. Lucky for me, there were a few more coming out of the kitchen.

22 Vines & Wines Tum Yum Soup

 

When I mentioned on Twitter that I was headed to 22 Vines & Wines Cafe I had some suggestions from followers, which included the Tum Yum Soup. Now that I’ve seen it, I know I’ll be trying that next time. This traditional Thai dish is one Salve modeled after the Bangkok street vendors who would make the soup on a cart while you wait. At 22 Vines & Wines Cafe they offer a seafood version with shrimp, scallops and mussels, a tofu version, or chicken, shown here. You can order it mild, medium or spicy.

22 Vines & Wines food image22 Vines & Wine food image

Here are a couple other dishes to inspire your taste buds. Bet you’re feeling hungry now.

22 Vines & Wines Market 22 Vines & Wines wine image

 

There’s more to 22 Vines & Wines Cafe…it’s the Market. So after lunch I did a little exploring. The restaurant lies on the corner at the front end of the building. When you walk in seating stretches along each side of the room in front of you, with a bar at the back. On the other side of the wall lies the Market. The cafe opened in the fall of 2010, but the market just opened this May. It appears to be a work in progress. But the focus is clearly on locally made products, including beer, wine and spirits, as well as the unique Asian food staples that they feature in the cafe.

22 Vines & Wines market22 Vines & Wines market

 

There’s an ice cream counter in the front of the market that sells Moomer’s ice cream, and in the back, near the kitchen you’ll find a small bakery display with truffles from Chocolate Exotica, and homemade cookies. The shelves are only partially filled but what I saw represented many of my favorite local food stuffs. Naturally Nutty nut butters and spreads, Stone House Bread, Sleeping Bear Farms honey and other Leelanau county products lined the shelves.

22 Vines & Wines owners

 

After my wandering I sat down with the owner to find out how they decided to open a Thai restaurant in Suttons Bay.

 

Rich and Salve Van Steenis met in her cafe in Manilla, Philippines while Rich was visiting the island on for a diving trip. Salve, who came from a family of rice farmers, broke away from the tradition to follow her dreams in the kitchen. She has been cooking for 25 years. It took 10 years to convince Rich to open a restaurant here. Since he retired in 2008, he decided it was time for Salve to have her wish. They’ve taken nine trips to Thailand, thus her passion for the flavors of that region.

22 Vines & Wines dining22 Vines & Wine dining

 

Since I am a strong supporter of Michigan wine, I had to ask about their name, and the connection they have to the Michigan wine region. The location of the property, along M-22, combined with the fact that they are surrounded by Leelanau county wineries, lead to a restaurant name that would attract a wine-tasting crowd. And yet, I discovered an anomaly. I was surprised, and a bit disappointed to discover that 22 Vines & Wines Cafe does not pour a house Michigan wine. In fact, it’s from California.

 

According to Rich they opted not to pour a house wine from Michigan because they didn’t want to take away from the tasting experiences at the wineries around them. "They represent their products really well. We don’t want to compete with that," he added. What they do offer, which may calm the Michigan wine fans out there, is a large selection of Michigan wines by the bottle at retail prices that match the wineries. You can purchase a bottle in the market next door, and for a $5 cork fee you can enjoy that wine with your dinner.

 

I did notice several local Michigan craft beers on tap, including Right Brain Brewery, North Peak and Bells. They have many others available in the market coolers as well as distilled spirits from Grand Traverse Distillery and Black Star Farms.

22 Vines & Wines chalkboard

 

At the end of the day I was really impressed with the dishes that came from Salve’s kitchen. They’ve created a restaurant that was supposed to appeal to a wine tasting crowd of tourists and instead impressed the locals so much they have many regulars who come several times a week. I know I’ll be back again to try that Tum Yum Soup…and maybe a coconut macaroon for dessert. They looked so tempting.

 

On your next trip wine tasting along the Leelanau Peninsula, think about stopping by 22 Vines & Wines Cafe & Market. You can find them at 5046 SW Bay Shore Drive, Suttons Bay. They offer dine in, or carry out so give them a call at 231.271.2221. And you can even check out their website at www.22-vines.com. As with all my 10 Places locations, I’ll be adding them to the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

 

 

If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, I’d like to hear about it. Join the conversation on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page, and let me know where you’re going.

 

And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  Country Christmas.

 

 

By |2011-08-11T22:17:29-04:00August 11th, 2011|Leelanau, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Chateau de Leelanau

10 Places I've Never Been image

 

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

 

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: Chateau de Leelanau Winery

Chateau de Leelanau winery image

Chateau de Leelanau Winery

When it comes to wine, I prefer to drink local. Since I live in the heart of northern Michigan wine country and work with several wineries I’ve had the opportunity to visit many tasting rooms. But until this summer I’d never been to Chateau de Leelanau. And it’s not because it’s off the beaten path. In fact, Chateau de Leelanau is on one of the most well traversed highways in the area, M-22, at the beginning of the Leelanau Wine Trail. And yet so many people pass them by. I wanted to find out why.

Matt Gregory Chateau de Leelanau image

Matt Gregory, vintner, greeter and face of Chateau de Leelanau, was in the tasting room on the fateful day I walked through the door and sprang the news of my 10 Places I’ve Never Been series. Much like his wine industry cohorts he generously offered his time and some wine samples to walk me through the history of Chateau de Leelanau.

 

I’d like to say you can’t miss their tasting room, located on M-22 next to E. Hilltop Road, but the truth is so many people do. And that’s one thing the new owners are determined to change.

Chateau de Leelanau tasting room

Those who remember the former tasting space will not recognize the building since Matt and his family moved in. They’ve cleared out the dusty tchotchkes, expanded the tasting bar and reinvented their brand with a simple clean logo. The goal: to rebuild the reputation of a winery born in the new millenium, and reborn in 2010.

 

While Matt and his family are new to the wine business, they are certainly not new to agriculture. In fact, that’s how they ended up with a winery in the first place. The tasting room for Chateau de Leelanau sits on M-22 just south of Suttons Bay. But the vineyard is several miles north — right next door to the Gregory family orchards, aka: Cherry Bay Orchards and Shoreline Fruit. When the winery and vineyards went up for sale, it seemed like a good time to make some wine.

Chateau de Leelanau wine imageChateau de Leelanau wine image

I arrived in the winery for my tasting the same day Matt submitted his wines to the Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition for the first time. Since they’re a new winery, with less than a dozen wines for 2010, he sent them all. But the Gregory family didn’t join the wine ranks for the medals.

Chateau de Leelanau glass imageChateau de Leelanau wine image

"We want to create palatte pleasing wines for the customers, that represent the agricultural background of Leelanau County," Matt explained. The industry folks often preach dry, dry, dry but nearly 90% of Chateau de Leelanau’s customers want sweet, sweet, sweet. The challenge is to produce wines that bring a smile to all their lips.

 Chateau de Leelanau labels imageChateau de Leelanau cider imageChateau de Leelanau wine image

After trying the wines, I was quite surprised by my favorites. Typically I prefer sweet whites, and while I like their Select Harvest, and signature Bianca, that’s not what I left with. I fell for a bottle of red, Solem Farm Red to be exact. It’s the perfect backyard BBQ, easy-to-drink, red wine. My second surprise was their Hard Apple Cider. The unusual combination of Sweetango™, Northern Spy and Golden Delicious apples, grown on the family farm, makes for a fabulous hard cider.

 

Little known fact: the Cherry Wine and Hard Apple Cider are Chateau de Leelanau’s best sellers and neither were in their sights when they set out to make wine. This year Chateau de Leelanau will produce 1000 cases of Cherry wine, compared to a very limited supply of their signature Bianca, at just over 40 cases.

Chateau de Leelanau wine imageChateau de Leelanau wine corralChateau de Leelanau walkup window
 

If there’s one thing that stands out about Matt and the approach at Chateau de Leelanau it’s their laid-back style.

"We’re farmers, man! We’re not a snooty joint,"

Matt explained as he showed off one of their latest additions. They’ve fenced in a ‘wine corral’ just outside the building, complete with a window for walk-up service. This summer guests will be able to relax and enjoy a taste or a glass while they soak up the sun with friends and family. And after hearing about weekend specials like Cherry Sangria (see their recipe on our

Summer Sippers: Cocktails from Northern Michigan

post) and the infamous cherry wine snowcone…I’m definitely coming back this summer!

Chateau de Leelanau wines imageChateau de Leelanau open sign

Before I left I had to get some food and wine pairings from the winemaker. So next time you’re debating a menu, give these a try:

>> Cherry Wine paired with pulled pork tacos

>> Bianca with bacon-wrapped scallops

>> Solem Farm Red & anything off the backyard BBQ

Vintner’s Picks: 2010 Cab Franc and 2010 Pinot Noir

 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the "family five" that make up the Chateau de Leelanau crew.

Don Gregory: The patriarch of Cherry Bay Orchards, one of the state’s largest cherry growers and production facilities

Matt Gregory: Nephew to Don, my host with the most, face of Chateau de Leelanau, and vintner

Roger Veliquette: The "food science guy," Roger crossed over from the Great Lakes Packing Company and brings years of experience to the table to tackle day-to-day aspects of winemaking

Andrew Gregory: Brother to Matt, who work for the marketing arm of the family cherry business, Shoreline Fruit

Mark Miezeo: Cousin to Andrew and Matt, and farm manager

Chateau de Leelanau truck image

Chateau de Leelanau is located on M-22 south of Sutton’s Bay at the intersection of E. Hilltop Road, that’s 5048 S. West Bayshore Dr, Suttons Bay for those using a GPS. For more information reach them by phone at 231.271.8888 or visit them online at chateaudeleelanau.com. Show them some love by becoming a fan of their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @CDLwinery You can also find them on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

 

If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, I’d like to hear about it. Join the conversation on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page, and let me know where you’re going.

 

And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  Korner Gem.

By |2011-07-13T21:37:15-04:00July 13th, 2011|Leelanau, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

10 Northern Michigan Places I've Never Been

Places I've Never Been graphic

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been.

 

Close your eyes and think about this for a moment. Wait…that makes reading rather difficult. Scratch that.

Better yet imagine, if you will, your morning commute. If you’re lucky enough to call northern Michigan home that drive probably takes you through quaint shopping districts, or perhaps a bayside cruise past restaurants, marinas and resorts. When you live in a tourist town, like Traverse City, you’re surrounded by unique destinations. But just like those beautiful bay views, you seldom stop the car to appreciate them.

When I’m running displays for Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas my route takes me across Grand Traverse, Benzie and Leelanau county every month, canvassing the same highways area travelers flock to for a taste of Northern Michigan. Along these drives I pass dozens of storefronts I’ve never been in. And that got me thinking, why not? What is so difficult about taking 15 minutes out of my trip to satisfy my curiosity, and hopefully find something I like. That’s when I decided to pick 10 new places and pay them a visit.
 

 

What’s the big deal about choosing some place new?

One of the best parts of being a tourist is exploring uncharted territory. You never know what you’re going to discover. When you’re on vacation, especially in a place you’ve never been, every site you see, every food you taste, every door unopened is the beginning of a new adventure. If you look at your own community from the eyes of a visitor you’ll see a whole new world.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing shameful about having a favorite restaurant, or shopping at the same grocery store because it’s convenient. Every business needs ‘regulars,’ and that’s what the locals often are. But new customers are the key to business growth.

 

Did you know, in 2010 the Michigan tourism industry generated $17.2 billion— that’s a 14% increase from 2009. And, for the first time, out-of-state visitors spent more than Michigan residents on travel*.

Regions like Northern Michigan depend on those tourism dollars. And why do you think that is? Because we count on area visitors to do what we aren’t doing enough of: going out to eat, shopping at local stores and staying in area hotels. So I say, become a tourist in your hometown. And see what that does for Michigan’s economic recovery.
 

In honor of following my own advice I’m sharing my list of 10 New Places right here on the Mealtickets blog. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s in store:

Hodge Podge Lodge graphic1.  Hodge Podge Lodge
– After seeing their listing in the Traverse Traveler app, and walking past the store in downtown Beulah, I had to check it out. And I must say, I’m loving my new $10 shoes! Click here to read more…

 

 

Chateau de Leelanau graphic2.  Chateau de Leelanau – Located on M-22 near Suttons Bay, this winery has new owners and some great wines…I’ll be back this summer for their cherry sangria, I can tell you that. Click here to read more…

 

 

 

Korner Gem graphic3.  Korner Gem – I’ve been dying to explore this hidden treasure just off M-22 on the west side of Traverse City, and I’m so glad I did. I can’t wait to show off the new jewelry they’re making—from my own beach stones. Click here to read more…

 

 

Woodland Creek graphic4.  Woodland Creek Furniture – My friends from Virginia stop here every time they drive through Traverse City but I have never made a point to go in. Until now. It’s huge, and it’s amazing! Click here to read more…

 

Rock Shop graphic5.  The Rock Shop – If you’ve driven the corridor between Interlochen and Honor on US-31 you’ve passed it a million times. And so have I. But not this summer. I’m dying to find out how a place that sells rocks has been in business for so long! Click here to read more…

 

 

22 Vines and Wines graphic6.  22 Vines & Wines – I’ve heard nothing but good things about what’s coming from the kitchen in this tiny restaurant, with a Philippine chef, that lies along on the road to Suttons Bay. Click here to read more…

 

 

Country Christmas graphic7.  Country Christmas – Every local has passed this quaint cottage at 55 mph and yet I wonder how many have slowed down enough to read the sign. Looks like I’m gonna celebrate Christmas in July this year. Click here to read more…

 

Two Fish Gallery graphic8.  Two Fish Gallery – There’s a huge tree near the corner of River & Main Street in Leland as you look down the boardwalk toward Fishtown. It casts a shadow on this lovely gallery. But the treasures inside are worth a visit. Click here to read more…

 

The Cherry Hut graphic9. The Cherry Hut – Can you believe my husband graduated from Benzie Central, but he’s never been to this Beulah landmark? We’re going to check this one out together. Click here to read more…

 

 

 

Mystery graphic10. Mystery Visit – I think I’m going to see what our Facebook & Twitter fans suggest, and base my 10th stop on their recommendations. Click here to reveal the Mystery…
 

 

 

You can keep up with my discoveries here on Mealtickets.com, and make suggestions of your own on Facebook and Twitter. And, as an added bonus, I’m going to make sure these new places get listed on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app. That way you can check them out too!
 

Why don’t you join me? Become a tourist in your hometown with these three simple steps:

  • Get Ready: Take a moment and think about the places you drive past every week, but have never been in.
  • Get Set:  Pick ten, and make a list. The list is critical. There’s something about the simple act of writing it down that will help make you accountable.
  • Go:  You have 99 days of summer to explore your own backyard. Make it memorable.

 

Share your 10 Places with us!

We want to hear about the adventures in your hometown. I’ve set up a Discussion Board on the Traverse Traveler Facebook Page. I’d love to hear what you’ve discovered. Happy backyard travels everyone!

 

Resources:
*Detroit Free Press | State Tourism Spending Soars
 

Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hometown Highlights holiday graphic
Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide 2010

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. Since I’m often a last minute shopper I thought I’d share a few local finds that will make last minute shopping a breeze. From food & beverages, to books and fashion, there’s plenty of ways to suprise your loved ones with a gift from Northern Michigan.

This year I’ve broken the gift guide into the followiong categories:

  • Foodie Favs
  • For Him
  • For Her
  • Recycled
  • Kid Friendly
  • Hostess Gifts

So if you’re still shopping, let’s get started. I’ve listed the item and the store where I discovered it, when possible.

 

Foodie Favs

Northern Michigan is a great place to live if you need to pick up a last minute gift for a foodie. Here are a couple of items I discovered that make great gifts for the foodie on your list.

Murdicks Santa bag imageSanta Bags | Murdicks Fudge Shoppe

These cute drawstring bags come in several sizes. Forget the stockings and fill a santa bag. Stop by the Murdick’s Fudge Shop in Suttons Bay to stock up right in the store with their great selection of sweet treats and locally made foods. I’m partial to the carmel corn and peanut butter fudge, but that’s the beauty of this gift: you make it your own. $4.50 – $8.50

 

Great Lakes Potato Chips | Olesons Market

I am in love with these chips. They come in three flavors: BBQ, Salt & Vinegar and Regular, but in my mind there’s only one way to describe them. YUMMY. Great Lakes Potato Chips are produced locally, by the owners of another great local business, Pangea’s Pizza. I’m not sure how one goes from making fabulous creative pizzas to delicious potato chips, but frankly I don’t mind. The chips are available at local grocery chains like Olesons. 2 bags for $7.00

 

Cherry Stop cherry jamCherry Jam | The Cherry Stop

Cherry products are always a great gift. And I like the jam from The Cherry Stop for a couple of reasons. Number one, they make it in house, right there in the kitchen in Downtown Traverse City. Can’t beat that for freshness. And two, they’ve come up with a recipe that’s sweet enough, but is actually considered low in sugar by jam standards. So you can feel good about your gift. If you aren’t a fan of jam, I’m sure you’ll find something to love at The Cherry Stop.

 

what's new cupcake bookWhat’s New Cupcake book

If there’s a creative mom on your list, or perhaps a baker, this book is one of my favorites. I picked it up this fall before my son’s birthday party. I needed to make Darth Vader cupcakes and the ideas I pulled from this book helped me accomplish that monumental task. And when we were snowed in this past weekend I pulled it out and made snowmen cupcakes for a holiday Christmas party. The ideas are simple, and the ingredients aren’t hard to find. While it’s not a local author, you can support a local bookstore like Horizon Books by picking it up there. $16.95

 

Fustini's Sampler Pack imageOil & Vinegar Sampler Packs | Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars

Anyone who has been to my house notices the large collection of Fustini’s bottles on my kitchen counter. And they’re not just there for decoration. I’m a big fan of their flavor infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars. I use them for everything from cooking vegetables, to salad dressings, marinades and even desserts. A bottle or two of Fustini’s, and some pour spouts also makes a great hostess gift. But I’ve listed them with the foodie gifts because of their new Sampler Packs. They have 5 different combinations, each including four 6.8oz bottles; 2 balsamics, 2 oils. They’ve done the pairings, so you don’t have to. $47.95

 

History of MI wines bookHistory of Michigan Wine | Local Bookstores, Some Wineries

From the authors of From the Vine comes another great read about the History of Michigan Wines. Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis share their research into the interesting stories of how the Michigan wine industry began, the impact of prohibition, and the development of this agricultural success story. It’s a quick read, full of fun facts for foodies and oenophiles.

 

 

For Him

Growler Collar Right Brain Brewery imageGrowler Collar | Right Brain Brewery, Left Foot Charley

The must have gift of the season for the beer lover in your household. The Growler Collar is the invention of Staton Lorenz, Mealtickets founder. It’s the solution to the tricky problem of getting your growlers clean and dry. When your growler is empty, rinse it with hot water, then spin a Growler Collar on the neck, turn it upside down and rest on the counter to dry. This simple disk keeps it elevated so air can get in and water can get out. Customized Growler Collars are available at Left Foot Charley and Right Brain Brewery. It makes a great stocking stuffer as it’s under $10!

 

Sh*t my Dad Says bookSh*t my Dad Says book | Brilliant Books and other local bookstores

Ok, this might seem like an odd gift, but if the recipient has a sense of humor and they don’t mind a little cursing…ok, a LOT of cursing, then this book is worth checking out. I picked it up in the store and randomly flipped to a page in the middle, as I always do when evaluating the writing of a new author. I laughed outloud to the point of embarrasment. And everytime I glance at it I still can’t help cracking up to the witty, and sometimes vulgar, advice given from one crass father to his son.

 

binoculars from EnerdyneAdlerblick "Eyes of an Eagle" Binoculars | Enerdyne

For the sports enthusiast or bird watcher, or the casual lakeshore viewer, there’s nothing better than a good pair of binoculars. And on a recent trip to Suttons Bay I discovered a fabulous pair on sale. These Adlerblick "Eyes of an Eagle" binoculars come in 7×50 or 10×50 magnifications. Binoculars this nice are rarely on sale, much less available at 25% off retail price. So if there’s a man on your list who could use an upgrade, these are the specs to get. $281-$295

 

For Her

Cherry themed walletsCherry wallet | The Cherry Stop

This is cherry country, but not everyone loves the delicious sweet fruit as much as we do. So if you’re looking for a TC themed gift for a girlfriend how about a wallet or change purse with cherries on it. These great Lavishy products are made vegan friendly, immitation leather. So you can feel good, and look good carrying them. Available in a range of styles and colors for passport covers, wallets, change purses and cosmetic pouches. $5.99 – $18.99

 

Marilyn Gum necklaces at Gallery FiftyGraphic Pendant necklaces | Gallery Fifty

I loved these the moment I saw them. Graphic is my middle name, but the variety is what make them such a great gift. These necklaces, by artist Marilyn Gum, come in dozens of designs. The pendant is colorful glass infused with color and imagery. And you get to choose your cord as well. Talk about a custom gift for the women on your list. It’s arty, it’s fun, and it’s affordable. Cords or ribbon are $5 and pendants are $16. Gallery Fifty is the perfect place to expand your jewelry collection. (Fordite…need I say more?). Love them!

 

Grand Traverse Distillery chocolate vodkaChocolate Vodka | Grand Traverse Distillery

Usually I’m touting local wines as the perfect Michigan gift, but this time it’s vodka’s turn. Grand Traverse Distillery has been turning heads with their True North vodkas in competitions around the world. And lucky us, their production facility is tucked away in an industrial park right here in Traverse City. And that’s the only place that I’ve found their newest concoction: chocolate vodka! Can you say Chocolate martini anyone? Happy hour time. If you’ve never been to the Distillery check out our map on the Attractions page and we’ll get you to the door.

 

lipstick imageLipstick | Venus

I’m a sucker for a new shade of lipstick. What girl isn’t always on the hunt for that perfect new shade. On Ladies Night I stopped by Venus and noticed these selections from Paul & Joe. A little sparkle, a little bit sheer, great for the holidays. Their shades are numbered instead of named, so make sure you pick up the right box. With New Years Eve on the holiday horizon there’s bound to be a girl who needs a little something new to ring in the New Year.

 

 

Pouchee purse insert imagePouchee | Venus

I’m loving the convenience of the purse insert they sell at Venus in Traverse City called Pouchee. If someone on your list has a purse for every outfit, they’ll love this idea. It’s a purse insert that acts as a wallet, but also holds everything else. Slip it in and out of whatever bag you’ve got. It will hold your cell phone, lipstick, checkbooks, tissues or whatever you like to tote around. One of the hottest gifts in the store this season.

 

Recycled

Pretty Stinkin' Green scarfFlower Scarf | Pretty Stinkin’ Green

I can’t go anywhere, honestly, without someone coming up to me and complimenting my scarf from Pretty Stinkin’ Green. If you haven’t heard of these girls yet, you will. They’re making skirts, scarfs and bags from recycled clothing. You can have custom skirts made from your old college t-shirts or your favorite colors. But from the moment I saw them, I loved the flowered scarfs made of recycled wool and other soft, non-shedding fabrics. No two are alike, which makes them even better gifts. Check out their website as they aren’t available in too many local stores.

 

PriorLIFE Bags | Britten Banner

This is a great concept, from start to finish. Take a used banner that’s been hanging at a NASCAR race, or temporarily promoting an event somewhere in the US, and turn it into a functional piece of art, instead of trash. A few years ago Britten Banner launched this idea, and it’s been growing ever since. Now you can pick up laptop cases, tote bags, messenger bags and wallets under the PriorLIFE product line. Available online and in several downtown Traverse City stores. $13.00 – $35.00

 

Real Simple book869 New Uses For Old Things book | Brilliant Books or local bookstores

If there’s a junk junky in your family, or someone who appreciates a good tip for finding old things new again, this book is sure to inspire. By the authors of Real Simple magazine this book is filled with suggestions for new uses to household items. Did you know you can use aluminum foil to help get wrinkles out of delicate fabrics? Or that antacid tablets will help you clean a vase or ease a bug bite? Stop by your favorite book nook and take a look. $27.95

 

 

Kid Friendly

chem sets imagesChemistry Set | Enerdyne

I love Enerdyne for kids gifts in general because they have a great selection of educational gifts, crafty projects and gifts for the hard-to-buy-for children on your list. Sometimes you just don’t want to add another video game under the tree. These chemestry sets from Thames & Kosmos are great tools for getting kids excited about science. And they come in a range of age-appropriate options. $13 – $89

 

Harry Potter Film Wizardry book | Local Bookstores

Yes, I like to shop for books. They make a great gift for anyone on your list. Even kids. But this Harry Potter book is geared for the movie buff on your shopping list, kid or not. It’s a beautiful guide to the Harry Potter movie series, with details on scenes, characters and movie techniques that have all entranced us for years. $39.99

 

Dylans Candy BarSweet Treats | Dylan’s Candy Bar

There’s a new shop in town that specializes in candy. It’s Dylan’s Candy Bar and it’s at the Grand Traverse Resort. You can’t help but be drawn in by the colorful displays that span the walls and lure you in through the windows. I stopped by after the Traverse City Chamber Business Expo and picked up a few treats for myself, and for the kids. If you’re planning to make a gingerbread house this season and are looking for unique decorations, this is the place to go. Amazing.

 

 

Hostess Gifts

Black Star Farms holiday bubbly imageMini bottles of Bubbly | Black Star Farms

Sparkling wine is a great gift to bring along to a holiday party. Presented as a hostess gift it can be opened at the party, or saved for later. These split bottles of Black Star Farms Be Dazzled sparkling wine are wrapped with festive labels which means you don’t even need the gift wrap. Very eco-conscious I think, don’t you? Pick them up at all three of their tasting rooms. $8.50

 

wine candleabraWine bottle candleabra | Left Foot Charley

Holiday parties need ambiance. And what’s better than candles for setting the mood? On a trip to Left Foot Charley in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons I discovered this candleabra that sits atop an empty wine bottle. It holds 5 tea lights for a glowing presentation. Pair it with a nice bottle of riesling and you’re good to go. $16.00 (15% off all LFC merchandise through the end of December!)

 

Happy shopping everyone!

By |2010-12-14T10:44:08-04:00December 14th, 2010|Benzie, Hometown Highlights, Leelanau, Traverse City|0 Comments

Free Fishing Weekend 6/12 – 6/13

Salmon fishing in Lake Michigan photo Get Your ‘Fish On’ this Weekend

 

Fishing is a great way to enjoy the beautiful lakes and rivers up North. And this weekend, June 12-13,  there’s no fee to fish. Michigan residents and out-of-town visitors can enjoy 2 days of fee-free fishing for all species. Fishing regulations still apply, but there is no license required thanks to the Department of Natural Resources Free Fishing Weekend. Twice a year the DNR offers free fishing weekends to encourage everyone to pick up a rod and cast for the "big one".

 

So whether you’re camping and want to cast a line with the kids, or you prefer to hop aboard a charter for some big lake action, this is the perfect weekend to get the fishing bug. I say, "Fish On!"

 

 

By |2010-06-11T10:30:57-04:00June 11th, 2010|Benzie, Events, Leelanau, Traverse City|0 Comments

Fee-Free Dates at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park climbEnjoy the Dunes Fee-Free on National Trails Day

 

Did you know there are several fee-free dates each year at over 100 National Parks? It just so happens this weekend is one of them. So there’s no better time to get out and explore the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

2010 Fee Free Days

  • April 17-25, 2010 (National Park Week)
  • June 5 & 6, 2010 (National Trails Day)
  • August 14 & 15, 2010 
  • September 25, 2010 (National Public Lands Day) 
  • November 11, 2010 (Veterans Day) 

Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tour, concession, and fees collected by thrid parties are not included unless stated otherwise.

 

My son’s class took a field trip last week to see a beaver lodge located inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, near Otter Creek. We first stopped at the visitor’s center to learn about the Park and explore the exhibits. If you haven’t been to the Sleeping Bear Dunes visitor’s center in Empire I’d highly recommend it, whether you’re a first time park visitor or a regular. They have wonderful books for sale about northern Michigan wildlife, wildflowers and even tips on hunting morels. And their exhibits include examples of the trees, flowers and animals that call Sleeping Bear home. Take the time to watch their movie presentation if you have a chance. It’s full of stunning photography of this beautiful landscape in every season.

 

I hope you’ll take advantage of a fee-free day this year and explore the beauty in our backyard.

By |2010-06-02T14:16:46-04:00June 2nd, 2010|Day Trips, Events, Leelanau|0 Comments

Wonderful World of Michigan Wine, Beer and Spirits

The beverage business is booming in Michigan. And everyone from visitors to lodging personnel to locals wants to keep up with what’s new in the world of wine, beer and spirits in Northern Michigan. So here are some highlights from our customers in the industry. 

 

Right Brain Brewery mealtickets cardRight Brain Brewery

90 lbs of asparagus were grilled and turned into what has become a springtime favorite at RBB: Empire Spear Beer. Don’t worry if you missed it at the Empire Asparagus Festival, it’s on tap at the brewery. And for all the gluten-free customers out there it’s time to send up a cheer for the first ever gluten-free beer at RBB. "Katy Bar the Door" is an ode to the Red Wings #1 gluten allergy advocate, Mickey Redman. It’s made with roasted chestnuts, local honey, and 100% local hops.

 

Black Star Farms Mealtickets cardBlack Star Farms

Just fresh from bottling is the ’09 Riesling at Black Star Farms. The winemakers notes will tell you, "This wine presents classic Riesling aromas of delicate white flowers and stone fruit. Ripe flavors of citrus, peach and apple follow on the palate. It is a lovely off-dry medium bodied white wine." And if you’re looking for a great date night or fun place to meet up with friends, why not check out the Matterhorn Grill at Tastes of Black Star Farms inside the Mercado at The Village. Sit around a miniature grill dining on melted Raclette, meats and veggies will sipping something tasty. Yum.

 

Bel Lago Mealtickets cardBel Lago Vineyard & Winery

Bel Lago Winery’s 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling has been judged BEST WHITE WINE at the 2010 Pacific
Rim International Wine Competition, held in San Bernardino, CA.  Bel Lago 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling won a Gold Medal and the Best of Class award for Off-Dry Riesling, and then competed against all the other Best of Class White Wine varietal winners, and was judged Best White Wine overall. Stop by their tasting room across from beautiful Lake Leelanau and taste for yourself. Congratulations Bel Lago.

 

Left Foot Charley Mealtickets cardLeft Foot Charley

Despite a challenging ’09 growing season Bryan has pulled together an interesting vintage from their fruits of last year. The ’09 Pinot Blanc is from Island View Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula. In his own words, "Island View came through again in the tough ’09 vintage. We made the crew sort the grapes into golden and green clusters then the two lots were pressed and fermented individually and carefully blended back together to form this complex bright dry wine. Great apple notes with a striking citrus finish. Very limited production – you snooze you lose." Also check out their Sparking Hard Apple Cider and The Cobbler; a double fermented cider with a cinnamon flavor. Try it served ala mode with Moomers ice cream on the side.

 

2 Lads Winery Mealtickets card2 Lads Winery

Bring on the bubbly. Two Lads is ready to release their 2002 vintage bubbly. "The 2002 Dry Sparkling Wine has been in the cellar doing extended aging en tirage (on the lees). This June will be the last time you will be able to purchase and enjoy this rare and spectacular gem. A non-traditional blend exhibiting an exotic, vibrant bouquet and a seductive mouth feel. When released, this wine will have seen seven years en tirage and is exemplary of Northern Michigan’s potential to be the United States’ preeminent sparkling wine region." With less than 500 bottles left in the cage there’s no time to waste in making a trip up to 2 Lads for a bottle.

 

Peninsula Cellars Mealtickets cardPeninsula Cellars

In case you missed it, Peninsula Cellars was among several local wineries who made the B-list according to a recent article in Food & Wine magazine. The article certainly reinforced the fact that you can’t judge a winery by it’s apparent size or location on a map. And it highlighted one of my family’s favorite easy-drinking reds; Detention. Speaking of easy-drinking, don’t leave this little schoolhouse without a bottle of Homework, their Pinot Noir Rose.

 

Grand Traverse Distillery Mealtickets cardGrand Traverse Distillery

If you haven’t been out to visit the George and Kent now’s the time. At their production facility they’ve expanded the tasting room area to accommodate all the new visitors we’re sending their way. You’ll also find some new spirits that will hopefully raise yours. Check out Ole George Whiskey, 100% Rye whiskey now available in the tasting room. I also discoverd a limited bottling of Chocolate Vodka. Sounds like cocktail hour is going to get crazy this summer at Grand Traverse Distillery.

 

Uncorked Wine Bar Mealtickets cardUncorked Wine Bar

If you’ve stepped inside the Cherry Stop lately you can’t miss what’s going on with Uncorked. In order to create two separate spaces for visitors to enjoy they are remodeling and moving the wine bar up front. When they’re finished with the upgrade customers there to visit Uncorked will come in a separate entrance that leads straight to the bar, located under a pergola inside the building. The seating and beautiful Grand Traverse Bay views are still in the back. And plans for another Meet the Winemaker event in June are in the works. So stop in for a sample or pick up a bottle of your favorite local wine while you’re shopping downtown Traverse City.

 

 

Upcoming Festival and Events

One of the best ways to enjoy summer in Michigan is spending an afternoon at a Wine Festival, or Beer Festival or a combination thereof. So here’s a list of some of the upcoming festivals in Northern Michigan and throughout the state.

May 21-22  |  World Expo of Beer, Frankenmuth, Michigan

May 29  |  Michigan Beer & Brat Festival, Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, Michigan

 

June 12  |  Leland Wine & Food Festival, Leland, Michigan

June 26-27  |  Michigan Wine & Brew Festival, Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Michigan

 

July 23-24  |  Michigan Summer Beer Festival, Ypsilanti, Michigan

 

August 6  |  Old Mission Peninsula Wine & Food Celebration, Bowers Harbor Park on Old Mission, Traverse City, Michigan

August 14  |  Leelanau Peninsula Wine & Food Festival, Northport, Michigan

August 21  |  Traverse City Wine & Food Festival, The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, Traverse City, Michigan

August 27-28  |  Traverse City Summer Microbrew & Music Festival, The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, Traverse City, Michigan

By |2010-05-20T08:38:56-04:00May 20th, 2010|Attractions, Leelanau, Traverse City, Wineries|1 Comment

Smoking Ban in Michigan Bars and Restaurants Begins May 1st

no smoking symbolMichigan goes Smoke-Free

May 1st marks the beginning of the new law banning smoking in Michigan bars, restaurants and most workplaces. Govenor Jennifer Granholm signed this bill into law earlier this year, making Michigan the 38th State to ban smoking in public spaces.

 

Businesses are required to post No Smoking signs and eliminate ashtrays.

Violations of the new ban will be based on complaints and enforced by the Health Department.

 

For more information on the Smoking Ban in Michigan please visit: http://www.michigan.gov/smokefreelaw

By |2010-04-30T20:08:29-04:00April 30th, 2010|Benzie, Leelanau, Restaurants, Traverse City|0 Comments

Welcome Bel Lago

Bel Lago Winery Mealtickets cardBel Lago…Beautiful Lake: Beautiful Winery

 

If your wine tasting tour has never lead you along the western shore of Lake Leelanau then you’ve missed one of the area’s best wineries. Bel Lago Winery, a recent addition to the Mealtickets little card family, sits across from Lake Leelanau with views of vineyards and crystal blue waters. But the vista pales in comparison to the wines.

 

Known for their amazing choice of varietals and blends, Bel Lago has won awards for nearly every wine entered in competition in the last five years! They began planting grapes in 1987 on the family-owned property, and opened the tasting room in 1999. And still it’s amazing how many people have not heard of this diamond on the shore. We’re hoping to change that.

So next time you’re headed out on a wine tour, or perhaps you’re picking up a bottle for dinner tonight, check out Bel Lago Winery. You can find a map to their off-the-beaten-path location on our Dining and Wineries page. And take a trip to the website for more information, www.bellago.com.

In case you’re wondering, the photo on the card is their view. Not bad, eh?

By |2010-03-19T09:49:40-04:00March 19th, 2010|Leelanau, Wineries|0 Comments

Local Chefs in the Running for James Beard Award

scallops at Blu in Glen Arbor, MichiganConsidered "The Oscars of the food world," by Time Magazine, the James Beard Foundation Award is one of the highest honors a chef can receive. And three Traverse Area chefs are on the cusp of receiving this very honor.

Semi-finalists in the category Best Chef: Great Lakes 2010 are chef Miles Anton of Trattoria Stella, chef Randy Chamberlain of Blu, and chef Guillaume Hazaël-Massieux of La Bécasse.

 

The semi-finalists were chosen from thousands of on-line entries in over a dozen categories. Finalists will be announced by the Foundation on Monday, March 22nd. Winners will be revealed on May 3, 2010 at the James Beard Foundation Awards Ceremony and Gala Reception in New York City.

Congratuations to our local chefs, and best of luck in the competition.

 

By |2010-02-25T15:42:41-04:00February 25th, 2010|Check This Out, Leelanau, Restaurants, Traverse City|0 Comments

Virtual Wine Tasting with Black Star Farms

Tweet and Taste Michigan graphicTweet & Taste Michigan brings wine lovers together on Twitter for a virtual wine tasting

 

Have you ever wanted to taste wines with the winemaker and compare notes? What if you could sip and savor at home, in your jammies if you like, while discussing Michigan wine with other fans from across the country? On March 8, 2010 you can do just that. Thanks to the folks at Michigan By the Bottle all you need for this fun event are a few bottles of Black Star Farms wines, a computer and a Twitter account.

Black Star Farms Winery is participating in a virtual wine tasting with Tweet & Taste Michigan. Created by Shannon Casey the event brings wine bloggers, winemakers, master sommeliers and wine lovers together to learn and share wine notes online in real time.

 

The event on March 8th starts at 8pm and will feature three Black Star Farms wines:

  • 2008 Black Star Farms Arcturos Dry Riesling
  • 2007 Black Star Farms Arcturos Pinot Noir
  • 2007 Black Star Farms Arcturos Barrel Aged Chardonnay

 

Interested participants can search twitter using the hashtag #ttmi to find all relevant info on Tweet and Taste Michigan. To RSVP for the event find them on Facebook here.

 

By |2010-02-21T18:13:59-04:00February 21st, 2010|Check This Out, Events, Leelanau, Traverse City, Wineries|0 Comments

Hearth and Vine Opens for Dinner

Black Star Farms announces the opening of Hearth & Vine serving dinner to the public Wednesday through Sunday evenings.
 
 
Black Star Farms, already well known for its award-winning wines and cheeses, is now serving dinner in Hearth & Vine, a vineyard café, at the Suttons Bay farm featuring wood-fired fare in a rustic yet elegant atmosphere.
 
The weekly menu at Hearth & Vine draws on ingredients produced on the farm, including pork and lamb, fresh eggs, 9 Bean Rows hoop house vegetables and hearth baked breads, and of course, Leelanau Cheese Co. cheeses and Black Star Farms wines.  It’s truly a celebration of agriculture.
 
From late spring through fall, Hearth & Vine is open daily serving delicious wood-fired pizzas and sandwiches as well as soups and salads. Black Star Farms wine is available by the glass or bottle along with soft drinks, coffee and tea. Lunch and snacks can be enjoyed out on the terrace or indoors in the cozy cafe.
 
On the market side they’re all about local.  Black Star Farms farm-fresh eggs and fruits and vegetables from their and neighboring farms are offered seasonally.  Pastries, cookies and 9 Bean Rows hearth-baked breads, Black Star Farms maple syrup, verjus and kettle cooked jams and preserves, and the best of other locally produced items are also available.
 
Hearth and Vine is now open for dinner Wednesday-Sunday from 5pm to 9pm.  Seating is limited and reservations are appreciated.  For reservations, please call 231.944.1297

By |2010-02-03T18:28:18-04:00February 3rd, 2010|Leelanau, Restaurants, Wineries|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 |2010-01-08T21:17:06-04:00January 8th, 2010|Check This Out, Leelanau, Restaurants|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!