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Five Bites and Sips of Northern Michigan

Five Bites and Sips of Northern Michigan

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Off of the northern tip of Michigan’s mitten sits a quaint little island, Mackinac Island, first discovered by Great Lakes American Indians and settled in 1670 by Europeans. Today it remains one of the state’s largest tourist spots, bringing in ferry-loads of people daily (as well as their bikes; vehicle use is prohibited). There are plenty of hotels, cottages, and attractions to see, but there’s also a myriad of food places to hit up when you’re out on the island. Petoskey, Michigan, about 40 minutes away from Mackinac, also houses plenty of shops, restaurants, and a brewery and winery. We managed to get a small sampling of what they have to offer, but there’s always more digging that can be done, and more delicious food to be found.

Mackinac Island:
J.L. Beanery: Right on the water on is J L Beanery, a small, quaint coffee shop. Their bagels don't compare to New York, of course (chewy, had to be toasted), but we were told by family members that the coffee was better there than the only Starbucks on the island. The iced coffee was really flavorful and they had tons to choose from, like coconut. We had some of the oatmeal which was thick and creamy, almost savory, but had strong cinnamon and apple flavors. We sat outside, but it was probably for the best because the scent of their homemade cookies took over the inside.

Pink Pony: The Pink Pony (a bar and restaurant that’s actually very pink), offers a spot on the main street of Mackinac Island to eat right near where the ferry lets off. They have a lot to offer on their menu, like their Famous Pink Pony Burger, plenty of whitefish options like the whitefish dip with cream cheese and garlic, and a patty melt with Gruyere, caramelized onions, and Dijon mustard. We had the whitefish tacos on flour tortillas with cilantro cabbage, lime chipotle vinaigrette, and avocado aioli, which was excellent on the hot day. We also had the honey apple Brie flatbread that was topped with pecans, which was a little sweet (we all decided it could serve better as a dessert than an appetizer), but anything with brie is a win in our book.

Murdicks Fudge: Of course we couldn’t leave Mackinac Island without getting their most well known souvenir, fudge, and there were plenty of places to choose from between Joann’s Fudge, Ryba’s Fudge, and Murdicks Fudge. Murdick’s claims to be the first “candy kitchen” on the island, opened in 1887 by Henry Murdock, so we decided that would be a true sample. The turtle, chocolate fudge with walnuts, caramel, and chocolate chips was very good, and the peanut butter chocolate chip was great, although a few more chocolate chips wouldn’t have hurt because it tasted more like just peanut butter and less peanut butter chocolate chip. Their salt-water taffy was great, and you can watch the fudge being made and cut.

Roast and Toast: On the main drag of downtown Petoskey, Roast and Toast fresh roasts all of their coffee on site and offers some of the most unique coffee and fruit drinks around, as well as a creative food menu. From drinks like the Yorker, half and half and iced coffee with peppermint and chocolate sauce, and the “shot in the dark,” you can find something sweet or a little more intense. We sampled the black and creamy, iced coffee and chai with some half and half, and it was really flavorful, not too sweet and you could taste the coffee even though chai is usually pretty overwhelming. They offer frozen granitas, French sodas, smoothies, and for breakfast and lunch, breakfast egg wraps, tons of club sandwiches, chicken gyros, and pancakes. For dinner they have chicken potpie, black bean enchiladas, and ranch pizza with chicken, ranch dressing, broccoli, and mozzarella on a thin crust.

City Park Grill: For lunch we stopped at City Park Grill where you can find some great American pub food, like a handful of specialty burgers, sandwiches, and whitefish specials. The Greek burger with lettuce, tomato, and cucumber dill yogurt was a little salty but still good, and served with mustard and celery coleslaw which was a really great alternative to fries (although they are a substitute option). The Reuben was also good on sourdough bread, and they have a huge alcohol list with tons of local beers like a Belgian-style ale, the Horny Monk (yes, that's its actual name).

To cap it all off, we also got a Vosges Haut Chocolat Mo's Dark Bar from Symons General Store in Petoskey. We grabbed the 62% dark chocolate bar with hickory smoked uncured bacon and alderwood smoked salt, because why not eat chocolate with bacon? Mackinac Island and Petoskey are home to some great food spots, and this is just a mere sample of everything they have to offer.

French–Italian Sips and Bites

After stints at San Francisco&rsquos Quince and Boulder&rsquos Frasca Food & Wine, Jared Sippel broke into the New York City dining scene late last year with Italian&ndashFrench hot spot Italienne. Come to the Beard House as Sippel draws inspiration from the wine regions of Northern Italy and Southern France for an exploration of this endlessly delicious intersection of cuisines.

Click here to see photos from this event.

Hors d&rsquoOeuvre

Pâté de Campagne with French Mustard and Housemade Pickles

Frogs&rsquo Legs Fritti with Garlic Flavors

Snapper Crudo with Radishes and Olivestri Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Domaine les Hautes Cances Cairanne Côtes du Rhône Villages Blanc 2016


For the Table> Assaggi Board with Frico di Patate, Sea Trout Rillettes, Prosciutto, Olives, Grissini, and Fougasse

Autumn Thistle > Potato Salad with Foie Gras, Black Truffles, Cardoons, and Crosnes

Desidiero Jeio Prosecco Cuvée Rosé NV

Baby Artichoke Mezzaluna with Black Truffles

Elena Walch Schiava Alto Adige 2016

Acquerello Riso Superfino Carnaroli Risotto with Ingrid&rsquos Lobster

Doro Princic Collio Malvasia 2014

John Fazio Farms Duck in Five Stages with Black Mission Fig

Domaine La Suffrene Bandol Rouge 2013

Brioche with Concord Grapes and Bronte Pistachios

Tickets to events held at the James Beard House cover the cost of food and a unique dining experience. Dinners are prepared by culinary masters from all regions of the United States and around the world. All alcoholic beverages are provided on a complimentary basis and are not included in the ticket price.

10 Things I Ate About You: Marquette, Mich.

Brimming with natural beauty, Marquette, Mich., is a waterfront community perched on the banks of Lake Superior that attracts visitors year-round with its abundance of outdoor activities (skiing, snowmobiling, hiking and fishing, to name a few). All of that fresh air is bound to make you hungry, and locals (referred to as Yoopers), Wildcats (Northern Michigan University students) and tourists alike have increasingly diverse options for refueling in the Upper Peninsula’s largest city. Here’s where to get your fill of local flavors, from neighborhood stalwarts serving whitefish pulled straight from Lake Superior to downtown destinations dishing up everything from German sausages to Cajun risotto.

For a taste of rustic Italian pizza and pasta dishes peppered with local flair, head downtown to the historic Landmark Inn’s cozy Piedmont restaurant. When it comes to the hand-tossed, wood-fired pies, opt for the Cudighi. An Italian-style topping of homemade pork sausage that’s subtly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg lends this pie both its name and its distinctive punch of flavor. All of the hand-cut pastas are a sure bet, but don’t miss the tagliatelle. Inspired by the game lodges of Northern Italy and by the Upper Peninsula’s own hunting traditions, the pasta ribbons are sauced with a homey ragu of red wine-braised venison and finished with a zippy gremolata. Pro move: For a majestic view of Lake Superior, head to the sixth floor North Star Lounge, where most of the Piedmont menu, including the tagliatelle and pizzas, is served.

At this uber-local haunt, all of the food is always natural and made from scratch with lots of love. This dedication shines through in dishes like the Café Scramble. If you want to start your day off on a wholesome yet wholly delicious note, order this unexpected twist on a tofu breakfast dish that’s been a menu mainstay for 22 years. Broccoli, tomato, onion and locally sourced, lightly spiced breakfast sausage are steamed together with the tofu in a mix of tamari and garlic butter to create a healthy-yet-satisfying bite. Even the side of toast is far from standard, as all the bread options are freshly baked (cinnamon-raisin and three-seed are personal favorites). A splurgeworthy extra is the maple cream — spreadable, whipped pure Michigan maple syrup — to slather on top (it’s also excellent stirred into Hot Winter Grain Cereal or coffee). If you have breakfast here on a Tuesday, don’t miss the fluffy hazelnut pancakes made with whole roasted hazelnuts.

2. Tzatziki (Yoghurt & Cucumber Dip)

Tzatziki is a traditional Greek dip consisting of yoghurt, cucumber, garlic, herbs and spices. It’s a staple on the dining tables at an epic Greek feast. You can eat it as a starter with some rustic bread, but it’s a creamy texture, and refreshing flavour makes it a perfect pairing for meat-based greek foods like souvlaki and gyros.

Make Your Own: Recipe 1 | Recipe 2

Fishing for Burbot by Joe Zentner

Neither Julie Roberts nor Tom Cruise has starred in movies about ice fishing.

Hemingway never wrote about the big two-fisted frozen lake. Not even Jack London in his tales of hellish winters in the Yukon dared explore the jig, the tip-up or the ice-fishing shanty.

It could be that those of us who do decide to don heavy boots and parkas to fish on frozen waters see art before the artist. It could be that our soul-stretching triumph over the elements is beyond language.

Or it could be that we're crazy.

That thought does cross one's mind, a half-mile from shore on a February night, as you screw an auger into two feet of Lake Superior ice. Sweating despite the thermometers reading, you can't help but ponder whether your heart is pounding a little too hard for its own good, or the ice is cracking maybe a little too loud.

You assure yourself that you've prepared well, that you know your limits, and that you'd probably die of hypothermia well before you got to shore anyway. Not that anyone would be there to help in the middle of a jaw-clattering Lake Superior winter night while you search for a decidedly strange-looking creature.

The word "burbot" may be derived from the French verb "bourbeter," meaning to wallow in mud. Then again, it may come from the Latin "barba," meaning beard, referring to the fish's single chin whisker, or barbel. Other names for the fish are eelpout, ling, lota, loche, methy, lush and lawyerfish. Being the only fresh water member of the cod family suggests that burbot make for superb eating. And indeed, when boiled and dipped in garlic butter, this fish tastes remarkably like lobster.

Some scientists suspect burbot were trapped in Minnesota and a few other northern states and provinces when an arm of a prehistoric sea receded. One reason for this suspicion is that the burbot is the only freshwater fish to spawn in winter, usually late January, and that‚s around the same time that ocean cod spawn.

Burbot are slow moving fish and like to hide in dark places, such as around Lake Superior shipwrecks. Divers can literally run into them if not paying close attention when shipwreck diving. They eat mostly other fish, including yellow perch, walleyes and lake trout. They also eat fish eggs and crayfish.

Witnessed by only a few biologists and ice anglers, the burbot’s spawning ritual is almost mythical. In late January or early February, they move from the depths to shallow water over mud flats or sandy shoals. The snakelike fish then congregate in a living glob of a dozen to a hundred or more intertwined bodies that move in and out of a quivering sphere, releasing eggs and spawning.

Author and naturalist Sigurd E. Olson once witnessed burbot spawning through an opening in the ice and described the spectacle: "We saw such a sight as few have ever seen—a struggling, squirming mass of fish, the long brownish snaky bodies twisting around one another, the entire contorted mass turning over and over, beating the water into foam."

Besides their snake-like appearance, burbot are repugnant to many people because of their heavy layers of what appears to be slime, which is actually a protective coating designed to help retain body warmth in extremely cold waters.

Where Found:

Burbot are a species of freshwater cod native to the Great Lakes. They are found as far south as northern Missouri but mostly live in deep, clean, cold lakes of the North. Burbot are found throughout Lake Superior, most of northern Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, as well as in deep Minnesota inland lakes. In Lake Superior they have been found as deep as 1,000 feet.

Fishing for Burbot.

Louis Belanger of Bayfield, Wisconsin hauled the Wisconsin state record burbot out of Lake Superior in February of 2002 while ice fishing among the Apostle Islands. The fish weighed 18 pounds, 7 ounces and measured 37.8 inches. (The Minnesota state record of 19 pounds, 3 ounces was taken from Lake of the Woods.)

Burbot will eat just about any bait thrown at them but prefer live or dead minnows.

One effective bottom rig consists of an egg sinker, barrel swivel, and single hook embedded in a 3- to 6-inch minnow. A slow, deliberate pull on the line indicates a strike.

Burbot are not known to rush a meal, so let out a generous amount of slack before attempting to set the hook. Don't worry if you set too early: burbot are tenacious and usually give an angler a second or even third chance. Once hooked, even large burbot score poorly on fighting ability, giving only a mild tug as they're hauled up to the surface.

Cooking Burbot.

This fish should be skinned and eaten fresh, as they get rubbery and tough when frozen and thawed. If you're into caviar, you might want to try burbot eggs, which some people consider a delicacy. Now to get to the heart of the matter.


To prepare a Poor Man's Lobster you need:

  • two burbot fillets cut into chunks
  • two quarts water
  • half a cup sugar
  • a fourth cup salt
  • the juice of one lemon
  • melted butter, and additional lemon juice for dipping purposes.

Combine water, salt, sugar and lemon juice in a large kettle and bring to a boil.

Then drop in the fillet chunks and boil, just until the fish rises to the surface.

Serve with melted butter and lemon juice.

Leftovers make an excellent Faux Lobster Salad.

A recipe for Burbot Turnovers calls for:

  • two ounces flour
  • four fluid ounces cooking oil
  • one egg
  • three tablespoons water
  • salt
  • two burbot fillets
  • 12 mussels
  • two ounces flour
  • two tablespoons butter
  • four ounces shelled garden peas
  • one onion, one carrot, and one bay leaf.

Make dough with the flour, oil, egg, water and a pinch of salt.

Then let mixture blend for a time in a cool place.

Cook burbot and mussels in salted water, along with the carrot, onion (cut into strips) and bay leaf.

After being steamed, remove mussels from their shells, chop finely and mix with the burbot.

Cook garden peas in salted water.

In a saucepan, make a thick bechamel sauce (a white sauce made with butter, flour, cream and seasonings-named for Louis de Bechamel, King Louis XIV’s steward), then cook for five minutes.

Roll the dough and cut out rounds four inches in diameter, moisten the edges and place a spoonful of filling in the center of each round.

Fold over the pastry and seal the edges.

Deep fry, drain, and serve with parsley.

Burbot Veracruz requires:

  • four fillets
  • the juice of one lemon
  • salt/pepper
  • a fourth cup vegetable oil
  • one each cut-up red and green bell peppers
  • one cut-up yellow onion
  • a teaspoon chopped garlic
  • one 15-oz. can roasted diced tomatoes
  • half a teaspoon each of ground cumin and cayenne pepper
  • one 12 ounce can tomato juice
  • and half a cup each of Spanish olives and fish stock.

Season fish with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

In a skillet, heat two tablespoons vegetable oil and sear fish for about four minutes per side. Then set fish aside.

In a large saucepan, heat remaining oil over medium heat.

Add peppers, onions and garlic and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add roasted tomatoes, cumin and cayenne pepper and cook for another five minutes.

Then add remaining ingredients, simmer 15 minutes, add fish, heat thoroughly, serve, and don't be surprised if you're asked for seconds.

In a freshwater area loaded with fish superstars, the lowly burbot doesn't generate much excitement.

Saddled with a cadre of quirky pseudonyms, the burbot is lucky to lure anglers to search for it in the cold depths of Lake Superior.

Still, if you like tasty food, this creature is hard to beat.

Most any of your favorite fish recipes will work, but it's really hard to beat pan-fried burbot prepared in an ice shanty with fried potatoes, onions and a hearty red wine.

I personally prefer the taste of burbot to that of most other fish and I bet if you give it a chance, you will too.

Life is short. Try something different, even though it is not all that physically attractive. You just may find yourself included among a growing number of people who go for the delicious, whatever it may look like. Be sure and pack out everything you bring onto the ice.

Joe Zentner is a freelance writer and avid angler. His published articles have appeared in various magazines.

5 things not to miss at Northern Michigan's Tandem Ciders

SUTTONS BAY, MI - If you're putting Tandem Ciders on your go-to list of stops when traveling the Leelanau Peninsula, make sure to leave a little time to linger over a few special things inside and outside their white barn tasting room.

Since opening a decade ago this fall, Tandem has been expanding its hard cider offerings. They've even ventured beyond the dozens of apple varieties surrounding its spot in the heart of Northern Michigan's orchard oasis and are turning out libations drawn from plums and pears.

So pull into the relaxing spot heralded by a sign assuring you, "This is it!" and don't leave without checking out these extras:

When you've settled on a cider for sipping - or a flight for tasting - you can find a perch inside the tasting room or search for a spot outside. An outdoor seating area rims two sides of the building and has a handy window for swapping your drained glass for a fresh flavor.

But don't miss "The Grove" when you're looking for a seat. Picnic tables tucked into a stand of poplars offer some flutter-leaf shade and a bit more privacy to enjoy your cider and anything you've carried out from their little kitchen.


When Tandem Ciders owners Dan Young and Nikki Rothwell tied the knot and moved from Massachusetts to Michigan in 2004, an artist friend of theirs gifted them with a "wedding logo" that showed the couple on their favorite mode of transportation - a tandem bike.

Four years later, Tandem Ciders tasting room opened and their artist friend added an apple for what's become a very recognizable company logo.

It's not often you go into a light, airy tasting room and see a prominently placed glass jar of . pickled eggs.

"Please help renew this treasured food tradition," the menu politely asks customers.

Dan Young said his affinity for the lightly pickled orbs was passed down from an uncle, who made his own recipe and kept them stocked in his basement bar.

At Tandem, they are served with a handful of saltines. The combination makes a light palate-cleanser between cider sampling.

Young knows they are an oddity, but says "I have always kind of loved them." Customers, he says, think it's a neat treat.

Tandem Ciders goes through about 750 bins of apples each year - more than 30 varieties sourced from family farms across Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties.

Many of the varieties that end up in your glass are names you are familiar with as an apple eater - like Macintosh and Jonagold.

But true cider apples are difficult to find, so Young is experimenting with growing some of his own behind the tasting room.

A dozen varieties are filling out 12 well-spaced rows, identified by their names painted on each fence-end post. They are transplants from a nursery in upstate New York, and will be finding their way into new cider blends.

Some, like Vilberie, a French hard cider apple, are known for their intense bitterness. It has tannins that give a sharpness - a bite, if you will - to the final brew. Porter's Pefection, on the other hand, is a traditional English cider apple with a deep red skin that is known to be good for blending.

And yes, you can peruse this experimental orchard as you sip your cider. Just don't pick the apples please.

Wellness Center is Now Open

Members are now enjoying the brand-new Wellness Center. This cutting-edge facility began welcoming members in August. The 7,500 square foot center is designed to help adult and junior members attain their fitness and health goals using state-of-the-art equipment and programming.

The virtual Golf Simulator from aboutGOLF is a big hit with golfers looking to improve their swing. The Center is all about combining high tech with a personalized fitness experience through the use of touch-screen machines, live and virtual fitness instruction, workshops, guest speakers, and special events.

The Kids Club is where “fun” is the name of every activity, also opened this August. This is the place where junior members come to unwind and relax in a supervised environment while adults enjoy other areas of the Club. All ages—youngsters, tweens, and teens—have their own spaces and special programs that are integrated within the Club’s junior programs and activities.

Northern Michigan’s Legendary Dishes

What are the most iconic and legendary dishes in northern Michigan?

You know the type: the dishes that locals make all their out-of-town friends or relatives try when they visit, or the ones that restaurants tout as &ldquoworld-famous&rdquo on their menus.

From soups and sandwiches to pastas and entrees, northern Michigan is fortunate enough to have many of these dishes. But which ones are most essential? The Northern Express set out to find the answer.

Here, you will find our first five picks, carefully selected from our own research and hundreds of recommendations from other local foodies.

Of course, no menu is complete with just five dishes. These five exquisite culinary creations are just the first class of what will become a recurring feature at the Northern Express. If you think we missed something, it may well be on tap for a future installment.

Without further ado, we present the first five entries in our Menu of Northern Michigan&rsquos Iconic Dishes.

Art&rsquos Tavern (Glen Arbor) &ndash Chicken Jalapeno Soup
Two things have allowed Art&rsquos Tavern in Glen Arbor to turn its signature dish &mdash the Chicken Jalapeno Soup &mdash into the stuff of local legend. The first is a fantastic recipe. The second is scarcity.

The soup itself is delectable &mdash a creamy, cheesy, spicy, hearty dish that will force you to reconsider soup&rsquos status as a side dish. Indeed, Art&rsquos Chicken Jalapeno Soup is filling enough to be the main course for the average patron. Priced at just $4 for a cup and $5 for a bowl, the soup might be the most economical meal in all of Glen Arbor. To-go containers of the soup, meanwhile, can be had for $14.

If you want to try the soup, though, you will have to clear some time to get to Art&rsquos Tavern on a Wednesday. The Chicken Jalapeno Soup is only served one day a week, with zero exceptions. Art&rsquos frequently touts its &ldquoChicken Jalapeno Soup Wednesdays&rdquo on Facebook, like the weekly resurgence of the dish is a holiday in and of itself. Patrons treat it that way, too: stopping by Art&rsquos on Wednesday has become something of a weekly ritual for many locals.

The strategy is something of a marketing coup. Art&rsquos Tavern has certainly found a way to avoid the middle-of-the-week slump. But the marketing gimmick wouldn&rsquot work if the dish didn&rsquot live up to the hype, and this one&rsquos continued popularity proves that it does.

&ldquoCall at least three days ahead to reserve large to-go orders,&rdquo Art&rsquos website warns, suggesting past soup shortage incidents. When demand for a dish so clearly outpaces supply, you know the restaurant in question is doing something right.

Amical (Traverse City) &ndash Chicken Pot Pie
Established in 1994, Amical pre-dates Traverse City&rsquos restaurant boom. Even 24 years after it opened, though, this European-bistro-style restaurant remains one of the most popular and reliable culinary destinations in northern Michigan.

While Amical is perhaps most famous for its ever-changing menu &mdash and especially for its annual Cookbook Series &mdash the restaurant also has a specialty for offering exceptional twists on familiar comfort food recipes. From quiche to pasta to pizza, Amical&rsquos lunch menu blooms with familiar and unwaveringly delicious standbys. Easily the most iconic of these dishes &mdash and perhaps Amical&rsquos overall signature &mdash is the Chicken Pot Pie.

Made with a delectable and perfectly flaky pastry crust and packed with a creamy filling of chicken, mushrooms, vegetables, and herbs, Amical&rsquos Chicken Pot Pie bursts with flavor. Sure, the dish isn&rsquot revolutionary. In fact, Amical has willingly shared its recipe for Chicken Pot Pie numerous times over the years. There is no grand &ldquosecret&rdquo to the success of this dish. However, Amical&rsquos Chicken Pot Pie is an example of what every great restaurant should be able to do: take a popular standby dish and elevate it to &ldquomust-try&rdquo status with attention to detail, the right ingredients, and immense culinary craft.

Priced at $12, the Chicken Pot Pie at Amical offers some of the best value you will find on any restaurant menu in Downtown TC. Affordability isn&rsquot the only reason that you will see so many lunch patrons at Amical eating this dish, though. The bigger reason is that, from the first bite, this dish makes the Amical dining room feel like home.

Poppycocks (Traverse City) &ndash Tomato Spinach Swiss
Poppycocks offers an array of fantastic entrees and always-worthwhile specials, but the restaurant&rsquos most iconic dishes are its appetizers and small plates. When the Northern Express started putting together this feature and asking locals for their recommendations, Poppycocks&rsquo Pita Chips were easily among the most popular suggestions.

Our pick is another Poppycocks primer: the Tomato Spinach Swiss soup. &ldquoMy favorite soup in THE WORLD,&rdquo commented one TripAdvisor user, and it&rsquos not difficult to see why. Pairing a hearty tomato flavor with melted cheese that gives the soup a French Onion vibe, the Tomato Spinach Swiss is perfect as both a winter warmer and a light pre-meal bite on a warm day.

Poppycocks serves all soups with its freshly baked homemade garlic herb rolls, which are perfect for soaking up any last bits of broth, tomato, or cheese. For just $4 a cup and $6 a bowl, the dish is another great Downtown TC bargain.

If you want some extra variety, you can also try a soup sampler for $7. While the Tomato Spinach Swiss is a daily standby &mdash for good reason &mdash the chefs at Poppycocks rotate other recipes in and out of the menu depending on the day. All soups are made fresh in-house and each soup sampler includes the Tomato Spinach Swiss and the two soups of the day.

The Rowe Inn (Ellsworth) &ndash Herb-Encrusted Rack of Lamb
There are a lot of things that make The Rowe Inn in Ellsworth a legendary restaurant.

There&rsquos the fact that it&rsquos been around since 1972 and hasn&rsquot changed ownership once in 46 years. There&rsquos the setting, a rustic cottage built in 1947 that provides a true one-of-a-kind dining experience. There&rsquos the wine list &mdash still one of the largest in northern Michigan, with some 800 different varieties on hand and thousands of bottles stashed in the cellar. There&rsquos the fact that it gave legendary northern Michigan chef Harlan Peterson his start, before he went down the street to open the equally legendary (and no longer in-business) Tapawingo.

And then, of course, there&rsquos the food itself. Like many fine dining establishments, The Rowe Inn tweaks its menu seasonally. The restaurant&rsquos signature dish, though &mdash the Herb-Encrusted Rack of Lamb &mdash has been on the menu since the very beginning.

The dish &mdash a New Zealand baby rack of lamb seared, crusted with bread crumbs and herbs, and then roasted to medium rare perfection &mdash is served with a raspberry gastrique sauce and sides of sweet potato risotto and green beans. Coupled with beautiful presentation and the right bottle of wine &mdash be sure to ask your waiter for recommendations &mdash the Herb-Encrusted Rack of Lamb is more than worth the drive to Ellsworth and the $42 price tag.

Vernales (Harbor Springs) &ndash Dry Aged Tomahawk Ribeye (pictured)
Of the restaurants featured on this list, Vernales is by far the newest. The Harbor Springs establishment opened in 2014, welcoming guests with a unique concept. Rather than decide between being a steakhouse or being a sports bar, Vernales owners Joe Guthrie and Keith Lynch figured, why not be both?

As a result, Vernales is actually three different restaurants in one: a classier-than-average sports bar, complete with TVs and creative twists on standard American fare an upscale &ldquochop house&rdquo that occupies the main dining room and a &ldquowine cellar&rdquo section, for quieter and more intimate occasions. Our &ldquoiconic dish&rdquo pick appears on both the chop house and wine cellar menus. It&rsquos a massive 30-ounce American Wagyu tomahawk ribeye steak, dry-aged in Himalayan salt. At $99.90, the Tomahawk Ribeye is a splurge, but fear not: diners of Vernales have reported that the steak feeds two &mdash and then some.

Vernales has become something of a destination for steak enthusiasts in Michigan over the past few years. The elevated profile is likely due in part to MLive, which called Vernales the best steakhouse in the state back in 2015. The article dubbed the steaks &ldquounbelievable,&rdquo specifically highlighting the Dry Aged Tomahawk Ribeye.

&ldquoUnbelievable&rdquo is a fitting adjective for this particular steak. The meat is incredibly tender, and the flavor is second-to-none. As for the presentation, a &ldquotomahawk ribeye&rdquo is so named because it is plated with five or more inches of extra rib bone still attached to the meat. In other words, it strongly resembles an axe. The dish really does look impressive, so make sure to snap a photo before you tuck in.

Food gifts from Michigan: Pasty, coneys and smoked fish and more

Do you have someone on your gift list that craves coneys? Or an out-of-state loved one that misses Zingerman's Reuben sandwiches piled high with tender corned beef? How about some sweet and tangy mustard produced only Michigan.

How about those famed U.P. pasties?

If you're in need of a holiday gift idea, think food. By sending a taste hailing from your home state you’re supporting the buy local movement and showcasing what Michigan has to offer.

From upstate to downstate there are plenty of specialty food items, some handcrafted in small batches, for the special person or loved one on your holiday list.

Welcome to our annual guide of specialty items that come from Michigan.

Michigan Farm Market sources products from local entrepreneurs (Photo: Beryl Striewski)

Think smoked fish, award-winning cheese, pastries, condiments, jams and jellies, and coneys. Many items are unique to Michigan or have a unique story behind them. Smoked fish from the Mackinac Straits Fish company is processed and smoked within hours of being caught.

There’s the beloved pasty – handmade savory pies encased in a flaky crust and filled with meat and vegetables or all vegetables or breakfast items. Vegetables typically include carrots (considered U.P. style), onions, potatoes and rutabaga.

The history behind the U.P.’s favorite comfort food is that it was brought here by the miners from the Cornwall Peninsula in southwestern England. Immigrant miners in the U.P. took pasties in their lunch boxes while working in the mines. Pasty Central, where you can order pasties by the half-dozen or more, began as a way to support the elderly in the U.P. Now, they help all those in needs. From coneys to the famous deli sandwiches from Zingerman’s to specialty pastas, Michigan made is prime for gift giving.

More holiday gifts:

With the gift of Detroit leggings, comes great responsibility

Gift shopping? Think books with ties to Michigan

Best chocolate in metro Detroit — and maybe even the world — and other great gifts

Today we are featuring a sampling of Michigan savory food products. Keep in mind many have cut-off shipping dates so be sure phone soon if you want it delivered in time for Christmas.

Low carb and low calorie pasta from Al Dente in Whitemore Lake (Photo: Al Dente)

Al Dente Pasta tote is $30 (Photo: Al Dente Pasta)

AL DENTE PASTA, Whitmore Lake: since 1980 Al Dente has specialized in handcrafted gourmet pastas famous for its 3-minute cooking time. Al Dente pasta are available in an assortment of shapes and varieties. They are known for their unique pastas that are low-carb, gluten free and vegan along with their classic flavored pastas. Owner Monique Deschaine says their Carba-Nada, low-calorie and Low-carb pasta has taken the country by storm. It's available in five varieties. A variety of gift packages are available. A gift tote includes four pastas: Egg Pappardelle, Garlic Parsley Fettuccine, Spinach Fettuccine and Fiesta Fettuccine. Also included is one jar of Monique's Marvelous Marinara sauce and a wooden pasta clip for $30.

American Coney Island Kits (Photo: American Coney Island Kits, American Coney Island Kits)

Backwoods Mustard Co., has won several awards. (Photo: Backwoods Mustard Co.)

AMERICAN CONEY ISLAND, Detroit: Coney hot dogs and chili are shipped within 2-4 days. A kit comes with 12 Dearborn Sausage brand hot dogs and buns, a sweet onion, a container of chili from Detroit Chili and an American Coney Island paper hat. Deadline for ordering for this year is Dec. 16 cost is $59.99 and $69.99 depending on where it is shipped. The kits ship out on Monday. (Allow 2-4 days for delivery.)

BACKWOODS MUSTARD, Davison. Backwoods Mustard Company’s flagship Sweet Jalapeno mustard hail from the backwoods of Northern Michigan deer camps. It’s a sweet and spicy mustard developed from a recipe by co-owner Brian Ernst’s mother. Several of Backwoods mustards are 2017 Fiery Food Challenge Winners. A 3 pack of the mild Sweet Jalapeno Mustard is 18.00 plus shipping. For 15% use the coupon code FREEPRESS.

Smoked Salmon from Durham's Tracklements, Ann Arbor (Photo: Durham's Tracklements, Durham's Tracklements)

DURHAM'S TRACKLEMENTS, Ann Arbor: Now celebrating its 21st year in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown district of producing hot- and cold-smoked salmon by owner T.R. Durham. Cold-smoked varieties are classic Highland, Scandinavian-style gravlax and Thai-spice cured. Pastrami and tellicherry pepper cured also are longtime favorites. The tellicherry is made with salt and pepper and no sugar. A highlight of Durham’s hot-smoked salmon is miso-mirin-tamari-honey marinade cure. The basic mail-order package is 1 ½ pounds of smoked salmon for $75 ($65 to Michigan addresses $15 for each additional ½ pound).
For best selection of salmon by mail, order by Dec. 11.

Order: 212 E. Kingsley 734-930-6642

Flourless peanut butter cookeis from the Good Hart General Store (Photo: Good Hart General Store)

GOOD HART GENERAL STORE, Good Hart: Here, at the oldest year-round business (it opened in 1934) along the Tunnel of Trees between Harbor Springs and Cross Village, are chicken or beef potpies handmade with traditional ingredients from scratch since 1986. Carolyn and Jim Sutherland have owned the store since 1971 and sell about 10,000 potpies a year. Large pies, serving 2 to 3, are $15 and small, single-serving, potpies are $7.50. Pies are made fresh daily and frozen. For mail order, frozen potpies are packed in an insulated container, which costs $15 plus UPS shipping. This year they are also offering their flourless peanut butter chocolate chip sea salt cookies. Sold by the dozen they are $25 boxed or $34 in a decorative tin.

MACKINAC STRAITS FISH, St. Ignace: Smoked fish products (whitefish, lake trout fillets, lake trout spread, whitefish sausages) using fish from the upper Great Lakes. Smoked whitefish or smoked lake trout spread (8 ounces) is $8.50 a 12-ounce package of whitefish sausage is $9. Smoked fillets are $16 per pound. Customized gift boxes available. There is a $50 minimum order for product.

McClures Pickles party pack includes 3 jars of pickes and a jar of bloody mary mix. (Photo: McClures Pickles, McClures Pickles)

McCLURE'S PICKLES, Detroit: Pickle and relish products made from McClure family recipes. There are several variations of party packs for $40, including one with a 32-ounce jar of Bloody Mary mix, 32-ounce jars of Spicy Spears, Sweet & Spicy Slices and Garlic Dill Spears and two 1.5-ounce bags of kettle chips. A 4-pack of jars of pickles or Bloody Mary mix is $40. Relish varieties include spicy or garlic dill. A 12 pack of 9-ounce jars of relish is $75. Shipping is included with all products.

Order: 888-784-8434 or

Mike's Mustard comes in 5 varieties (Photo: Mike's Mustard)

MIKE'S MUSTARD, Charlevoix: This sweet and tangy cream-style mustard is terrific as a dip, slathered on a sandwich or used in cooking. Mike Washburne began making the mustard for sale in 2004. It hails from a newspaper recipe Washburne tweaked over the years. This year Washburne added a Mike’s Barbecue mustard to his line-up. Other varieties include Cherry, Lemon Dill and Jalapeño mustards and the original. Cost: $5 for a 6 1/2-ounce jar of any variety of mustard or $9 for a 16-ounce jar. Gift boxes range from $10-$22 plus shipping.

A sampling of what's in the Mitten Crate (Photo: By Mitten Crate, Mitten Crate)

MITTEN CRATE: This online food-subscription service seeks out, packages and ships a selection of Michigan-made products to subscribers each month. Founders Andrew Chmielewski and Cory Wright scour the state for four to six artisan and specialty foods to include in the package, with contents changing each month. An open-ended subscription (2-month minimum) costs $35 a month and includes shipping. Three-month subscription is $99 and includes shipping. The boxes ship out on the 15th of each month.

National Coney Island coney kits (Photo: National Coney Island)

NATIONAL CONEY ISLAND, Detroit: The kit, shipped to all 50 states, has 24 natural-casing hot dogs, 24 buns, a brick of National's homemade chili, hand chopped onions and mustard. Cost: $49.95 plus shipping. The company also will ship individual orders of its chili and hot dogs. Cutoff for Christmas is Dec. 18.

Pasty from Pasty Central in Calumet. Picture received Dec. 2010 from Pasty Central. (Photo: provided by pasty central, provided by pasty central)

PASTY CENTRAL, Calumet: Individual handmade pasties come in meat, vegetable and breakfast varieties and are shipped fully cooked and frozen. Four-pack costs $41 six-pack, $52 a dozen, $83 two dozen is $144. fEach traditional pasty weigh about 14 ounces. Add $4 if shipping to a residence. Check the online calendar for available shipping dates. This year all proceeds benefit Beacon House (a hospitality house adjacent to the UP Health Systems hospital) in Marquette.

Fresh made pierogis on display at the Srodek's Campau Quality Sausage on Thursday, February 2, 2017 in Hamtramck, MI. (Photo: Salwan Georges, Detroit Free Press)

SRODEK'S CAMPAU QUALITY SAUSAGE, Hamtramck: Known for more than 40 varieties of pierogi traditional potato, kraut, meat, mushrooms and sweet farmers cheese are available. They also have homemade sausage. Prices per dozen pierogi range from $4.50 to $6 plus shipping. Fresh kielbasa is $13.99 for one 2 ½-pound ring. Smoked kielbasa is $14.99 for one 2 ½-pound ring. Srodek's stuffed cabbage is $9.99 for a six-pack. Cutoff for holiday ordering is Dec. 16.

Order: 9601 Jos. Campau 313-871-8080

Michigan Farm Market sources products from local entrepenuers (Photo: Beryl Striewski)

MICHIGAN FARM MARKET, Ellsworth: Started in 2012, Michigan Farm Market collaborates with more than 80 different food entrepreneurs and wineries around the state. The local entrepreneurs also work with and locally source product to support local initiatives within their communities. These Michigan-made barbecue sauces, jams, jellies, fruits and more are arranged in wooden crates crafted in the market's Ellsworth woodshop. This year they are offering gift arrangements. You can also customize your own. There's a flat rate $9.99 or free shipping on a select number of items.

ZINGERMAN'S MAIL ORDER, Ann Arbor: Known for its vast selection of specialty food offerings from olive oils to vinegars from around the world, as well as breads and gift basket, Zingerman's also has Reuben Sandwich Kits. While there's some assembly required, you can ship this to those who love the famed sandwich. Included is Jewish Rye (Pumpernickel in Brooklyn Reuben), sliced deli meat, freshly sliced Emmentaler Swiss cheese, Zingerman’s potato chips, coleslaw, Sauerkraut, Russian dressing, garlicky pickles and Magic Brownie Bites. A Classic Corned Beef Reuben Sandwich Kit that serves 3-4 is $150 including shipping. During the holidays Zingerman's is also known for their sour cream coffee cakes. A 9-inch Sour Cream Coffee Cake (serves 10 to 12) in a wooden crate is $65 with free shipping.

American and International Regional Cuisine

It tells the story of what Americans eat and why. Many people think that American food has become homogenized and nationalized, but the following articles, history, and recipes show that American regional cuisine is very much alive. It has expanded to include new and exciting foods and dishes that we now call our own.

Most of us grow up taking local specialties for granted. It is when we move away that we realize our beloved dish is missing and just how much we enjoyed it. Even if we can find it in other others of the country, it never tastes quite as good as when we had it in our hometown.

The United States first developed as distinct regions isolated from one another, much like individual countries. New immigrants tended to settle according to nationality, forming tight urban and rural communities with strong threads of languages and cuisines. In each region, the people brought with them their customs and adapted them to indigenous food and ingredients. Americans have taken Old World cuisines and combined them with regional ingredients and traditions to create foods uniquely American. Local restaurants have kept most regional cuisine alive. Throughout this country, local eateries revive and continue to redesign classic regional dishes.

It has been a challenge to search out the origins of the foods we eat and their culinary histories and traditions. Together, the recipes and stories tell a wonderful tale. Let us also discover cooking trends and culinary fads and fashions of today.

These pages are a “work in progress,” and it will take me some time to completely finish the different regions. If you have any regional foods that I have left out, please let me know. I welcome your input, history, and family recipes. Check out the following regions of the United States (just click on the below underlined regions).

Deep South

Alabama – Arkansas – Florida – Georgia – Mississippi

Far West

California – Hawaii – Nevada

Great Lakes

Illinois – Indiana – Michigan – Minnesota – Ohio – Wisconsin

    Find all of our most helpful wine tasting tips & tricks. Learn the basics of wine tasting and impress your friends with your technique and expertise.


Delaware – Maryland – New Jersey – New York – Pennsylvania – District of Columbia (Washington D.C.)


Colorado – Iowa – Kansas – Missouri – Nebraska – North Dakota – Oklahoma – South Dakota

    Find all of our mid-west plains beef recipes. Try making one of these uniquely midwestern beef dishes and surprise your loved ones.

New England

Connecticut – Maine – Massachusetts – New Hampshire – Rhode Island – Vermont

Pacific Northwest

Alaska – Oregon – Washington – Idaho – Montana


Kentucky – North Carolina – South Carolina – Tennessee – Virginia -West Virginia


Arizona – New Mexico – Texas – Utah

    Check out all of our delicious chili recipes. Learn to make regional favorites and world renowned, famous chilis.
    Find all of our enchilada recipes. Discover how simple it is to make this classic southwestern dish.
    Find all of our quesadillas. Learn how to make these twists on the classic southwestern dish like Prosciutto De Parma or Brie quesadillas.
    Find all of our southwest appetizer recipes. These easy-to-make recipes are perfect to serve as game day snacks.
    Find all of our southwest beef recipes. Learn how to make dishes like beef and bean burritos, Mexican beef soup, and everything in-between.
    Check out our southwest beverages. Discover new recipes and try making one of these delicious cocktails.
    Check out all of our delicious southwest breads. Learn how to make tortillas, Indian fry bread, sopapillas, bunuelos and more.
    Find all of our southwest brunch and breakfast recipes. Learn how to make southwest-style breakfast burritos and huevos rancheros.
    Find all of our southwest casseroles and quiches. Try making one of these easy-to-make dishes for your family.
    Find all of our delicious southwest chicken recipes. Serve your family the flavors of the southwest with one of these chicken dishes.

    Find all of our delicious southwest desserts. Discover new desserts and try making one of these tasty treats for your family.
    Find all of our delicious southwest pork recipes. Learn how to make dishes like pork tamales, carnitas, Yucatan pork tenderloin and more.

    Find all of our colorful southwest salads. Try making one of these delicious taco salads to serve with your southwestern-style meals.

    Find all of our delicious southwest soups and stews recipes. Discover southwestern renditions of chicken soup, chowder, and beef stew.

    Find all of our southwest vegetable recipes. Discover new ways to serve your vegetables and try making one of these dishes.
    Find all of our delicious Tex Mex recipes. From chile eggs to our colorful king ranch chicken casserole, there is a recipe for any occasion.

South Central

    Find all of our Cajun and Creole recipes. Discover the rich history of Cajun cuisine and try making one of these delicious dishes.

International Regional Foods

Since America is known as the great melting pot of immigrants coming from many countries, our palettes have become expansive through the years. Therefore it also makes sense to share cuisines from around the world that Americans also enjoy eating.


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