Will Travel For Food : Traverse City, Michigan
The idea for this series was born while the Husband and I were driving down the Old Mission Peninsula taking in the mile-after-mile of vineyards and cherry orchards. We had just spent the day skipping through eating establishments in downtown Traverse City, having bites at each, and decided that this was the ultimate way to travel, the ultimate way to experience a region’s flair—through food (and the occasional spirit). Thus Will Travel For Food was born. I wouldn’t expect a post all the frequently, because our travel budget is minimal, but expect to see this series to stick around for a while. Enjoy the first of many to come.
Our trip to Traverse City was decidedly unplanned. We woke up, had our coffee and quickly realized it was too cold and windy to make any sort of beachcombing activity enjoyable. After three days of being blissfully sequestered in, and around, our beachfront rental, we decided it was probably time to get dressed and join the masses out in the world. There were quite a few towns near our rental we wanted to tour, but none of them really stood out until we started researching Traverse City, which was an easy hour drive away. Why did Traverse City stand out so much? Check out some of these articles:
Traverse City, Michigan Is A New Foodie Haven The Huffington Post
#1 Most Surprising Food City Livibility
Tasty Traverse: A self-guided foodie tour Traverse City CVB
Our interest was piqued to say the least. We hopped in the car and headed down U.S. 31.
The drive down was gorgeous and very foreshadowing of the food culture of the area. Every quarter of a mile was a farm stand of some kind. Some were just tables in driveways. Other’s were huge operations like this one we stopped at. Either way it was refreshing to see such a focus on local food.
You could tell this particular market was a lot more mass-produced than others along the road, but still, everything was local and everything had a story.
The Husband was very disappointed with the rampant use of Papyrus.
But very excited to find an awesome selection of fresh perogies.
Once we left the stand (perogies in tow) we started planning our tour of Traverse City. Our original idea was to follow the downtown leg of the self-guided foodie tour. But that plan crashed-and-burned when we just happened to park on a street named after me (or so I like to think).
That just happened to have a brewery on it’s corner.
Oh, and it was 12:01pm. Which makes it afternoon. Which makes it practically beer:30. Serendipitous, don’t you think?
We sat at the bar and, as I went to the little girls’ room, I instructed the Husband to “surprise me”.
Once I came back and looked at their brews, I didn’t have to taste my beer to know what he ordered me.
Oh! Cherry Heritage Lager. I love you so! This was incredible! Fruity without being sweet. Crisp and smooth. I was highly impressed.
Husband’s Belgian Whitecap, which was good, but no Cherry Lager, my friends.
We perused their appetizer menu and settled on the house chips and salsa. Very good salsa! Made fresh on site and you could tell they used the real stuff. Fresh ‘maters and all. Yum!
Once we polished off the brews, and spent 10 minutes debating getting a growler of the Cherry Lager (which we didn’t, too many other beers to try still) we headed our merry way down the street. After such a successful first stop, we were perfectly content to abandon any sort of pre-planned tour and just stumbled into whatever establishment moved us. That next establishment had nothing to do with food.
Hat montage go!
All that headwear sampling upped our appetite, so when we passed Pangea’s pizza, we jumped at the chance to get a greasy slice on the street.
You gotta love a place that has a menu like this.
And slices like this.
These were actually VERY good. For some reason, I wasn’t expecting much (pizza joint in a touristy area), but these were fabulous!
And it was fun to read about Michigan’s place in Pangea while we ate.
Once we wiped all the grease off of our hands, we decided to class it up a bit and head over to Fustini’s Oils and Vinegars.
Fustini’s imports specialty olive oils (and a few other oils) as well as balsamic vinegars from all over the globe. Their business model? Let people taste them all and then they’ll be forced to buy something because it is too delicious to pass up.
We managed to walk out of there with only two bottles. Which is a small miracle.
The staff was extremely nice and helpful. They had suggestions and recipes to offer, but allowed you to browse and taste without hovering. Highly recommended experience!
Oh, and the cinnamon pear balsamic is incredible. I could drink the stuff like wine. Mmm. Instead, when we got home, I put it with the blood orange olive oil on a salad of spinach, blue cheese, asian pears and toasted walnuts.
I will be replicating this salad on a nightly basis until I run out of my cinnamon pear vinegar and then I’ll have to cry. A lot.
Back to Traverse City!
After filling up on oil and vinegar (which is surprisingly filling), we were in the mood for something sweet and were fortunate to stumble upon Morsels.
It is exactly what the sign says. Tiny baked goods!
We walked out of there with four different morsels.
Seventh Heaven, Ninja Turtle, Coffee Toffee, and Quarter Chocolate Cupcake
And even though this is their motto:
We split them in half so we both could taste each one.
I wish I could say these are awesome, because I think the idea of a bite-size bakery is very cool, but they weren’t. The Seventh Heaven and Coffee Toffee were very good, but the Ninja Turtle and Quarter Cupcake were both VERY dry and flavorless. It must be hard to keep the texture of tiny baked goods like their larger counterparts. Overall, I was happy these were only $0.94 a piece.
We sat outside of Morsels for a bit looking at a map and trying to track down our next (and final) stop.
It wasn’t easy to find, and took some walking through parking lots to get to…
But we will not be deterred when looking for good beer.
And we found it, at Right Brain Brewery. I LOVED the ambiance of this place.
I was making the drive back to our rental, so the Husband partook in the drinking here, while I only did some test sips. He ordered a sampler, which we later found out was actually MORE expensive than just getting 6-6 oz pours. Apparently you pay $3 just to get it presented on a sampler board. Oh well.
Four of their beers were good, but nothing to write home about, but their Jack Horner Plum Ale and Double Black “Eye” P.A. made up for them. They were both incredible. One thing I have learned during this trip is that Northwestern Michigan brewmasters KNOW how to make fruit beer. Just a hint of flavor, not too sweet. Mmmm.
Babyface saved the rest of the plum ale for last.
We reluctantly paid our tab and headed out of town. There were SO many other great places to visit for food in the city that I would love to go back and do a more extensive tour. We literally just went to places that were with 2-3 blocks of one another. We’ll be back!
Before we headed out of the area, we did want to drive up Old Mission Peninsula to see the Old Mission Lighthouse, on the 22 mile drive up the peninsula, we were greeted by miles and miles of vineyards and cherry orchards. On that stretch of land alone, there are over a half dozen wineries! It was a beautiful drive and the lighthouse was a fantastic way to end our day in Traverse City.
Oh, and if you want to absorb the full beauty of Northwest Michigan, click on this panoramic shot that I pulled together. This place is incredible.