The months that produce the most diversity of fruits and vegetables in our dear Mitt include August, September, and October. October almost seems to embody a last-grab month of seasonal bounty before the long hunkered-down winter of root and storage vegetables begins. So what better time of the year to treat yourself to an extraordinarily fresh and local dining experience, paired with some of Michigan’s finest wines at Thunder Bay Winery?
You either sink or swim under the grueling demands of a busy professional kitchen. Chad Edwards has been cooking in Gaylord restaurants since age 14, and was the chef for two establishments in the city before turning 21. After years of rigor and practice, Edwards’ was swimming full bore on October 28, 2010, when he opened The Bearded Dogg Lounge. And at this colorful cafe, “you may sit in a booth made from old doors or at the bar crafted from maple flooring from the local nunnery, at a gathering table, in a loveseat, or at any one of several antique dining tables.” You can tell a lot of love and ingenuity has been put into this place. And it’s not just the quirky, hand-hewn seating and masterful plating of food. It’s the flourishing garden in the adjacent field constructed and tended by Chad and his father that accents the menu’s favorites. It’s the fact that Edwards wants to create a line of his own bottled salad dressings and brews the restaurant’s Doggweiser Blonde Ale. It’s the fact that in northeastern Michigan, Chad Edwards is pioneering in an old way of doing things again.
Michael Timmins was initiated into the world of food at a young age. His parents owned three bakeries in metro Detroit. And since that time, although Timmins has traveled the world and garnered gastronomic knowledge from the best of the best, from Japan to Germany to Israel, he sticks to his Michigan roots.
America’s highly productive food system is one of its beloved accomplishments. But the environment has paid a high price for this abundance, especially our rivers, streams, and lakes. In fact, according to the EPA’s National Water Quality Inventory Report, agriculture is considered to be “the most widespread source of impairment in the nation’s assessed lake acres.” Industrial agriculture is among the leading causes of water pollution in the United States today. Data indicates this method of food production often wastes large quantities of water, even when nearby communities are experiencing water shortages (check out California’s nut production dilemma).
Ponder for a moment the number of people that metro San Diego is home to (about 3 ½ million)…and consider all the locally sourced food and beer they have access to in that big city (hint: it’s A LOT). Next envision that same number of people coming through a tiny village on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, squeezed in over only three to four months of the year. Now imagine only having one small, burgeoning brewery in that entire town to service all those travelers in that short span of time.
This year marked the 6th Annual Michigan Maple Weekend (March 24th-25th in NE Michigan), although the weather didn’t want to cooperate. There’s a pattern of freezing and thawing once spring hits, which builds up pressure within the trees and causes sap to flow. It was bitterly cold as I walked around 4D Acre Maple to check out their set up.
What happens when you put 75+ women farmers from around the country together for four days to tour farms and talk shop, you ask? Magic. Pure magic.
This time of year, as fresh greens dwindle to paltry proportions, and our northern Michigan season extension expiration looms, I start looking to my fall self to see what fabulous items I put aside via freezing or fermenting for the impending arctic stretch.
Farm to Fork Alcona will be hosting the Alcona Regional Farm Conference – Growing for Profit in Northeast Michigan Saturday, February 10th. Local farmers will be able to take advantage of two breakout sessions, one addressing critical info for business development such as how to measure the financial success of their farm; how to write a business plan and obtain credit; how to work more productively with state agencies; how to become MAEAP certified; how to raise livestock for sale; and how to sell produce beyond farmers markets. Come hear success stories from Leeseberg Farms, Cook Family Farm, Standen Acres, Presque Isle Farm, and the Wandering Winds Farm.