I’m not bragging, but there are a lot of cool things about my job as the NE Local Food Coordinator with Taste the Local Difference. I get to hang out with other local farmers, producers, and small business owners; I get to eat the food they’ve grown or created; drink the libations they’ve conceived; partake of their businesses’ inventions; help put on events celebrating their work; and tell everybody how great this region of Michigan is because of these people and their labors of love. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
On October 26, 2017, Thunder Bay Winery hosted a family-style dinner at their wine bar located in the historic Center Building in Alpena. Kevin Peterson, the current chef at As You Wish Gourmet Eatery and of the up and coming Red Brick Tap & Barrel Restaurant (that will be open for business in Alpena in 2018), prepared several courses and sourced 88% of this Certified Local Food Event (CLFE) from area farmers and producers from the Alpena Farmers Market including Wolf Creek Acres, Presque Isle Farm, and Alpena General Store. This was hopefully Alpena’s first of many Certified Local Food Events to come.
“How’d we end up getting this fancy lettuce? This stuff is good!” exclaimed a Posen High School student walking through the cafeteria line one day.
There’s a new Certified Local Food Event coming your way in Alcona County this month. On September 30, Farm to Fork Alcona 2017 is hosting a natural fermentation workshop and dinner at Logger’s Trace-Springport Golf Course in Harrisville, beginning at 2pm. Farm to Fork Alcona 2017 is an initiative that is part of Inspiration Alcona, a nonprofit arts and culture organization promoting the friendly rural beauty of Alcona. This initiative is working to help Alcona County become home to the farm-to- fork movement.
The Northeast Michigan Council of Governments (NEMCOG), based in Gaylord, MI, was established in 1968 as a multi-county organization to pool resources for the assistance of local governments throughout eight counties. The organization has their hand in everything from tourism, transportation, planning & community development, economic development, local government, housing, environment and natural resources, to local foods, just to name a few. By and large, the organization tends to fly under the radar in all the productive work they do that benefits our communities. But make no mistake, NEMCOG has assisted local governments obtain millions of dollars in federal and state grants for vital local projects and services.
In our 2017 Guide to Local Food in Northern Michigan, we profiled Alpena in Northeastern Michigan. Now, it’s Cheboygan’s time to shine. We talked with a few farms/businesses that are driven by making local food more accessible to their community.
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them…. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motorcar only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”
~ Ernest Hemingway
Some may argue there’s no greater combo than pairing a bucolic bike ride with a glass of wine (or two) when you reach your destination. I’ll do you one (or a few) better….how about biking to a vineyard in northeastern Michigan and being greeted with a cornucopia of wines, a pop-up food bar created by a local chef, and a tour of the almost 15 year old vines with Thunder Bay Winery and vineyard owners? Well, look no further: Tour De Vine with Harborside Cycle and Sport has become an annual event to celebrate just outside of Alpena, in pastoral Ossineke, a place that has become surprisingly fruitful for Michigan grown grapes.
The Court Yard Restaurant has become a time-honored tradition for many Alpena locals since the early 1980’s. Purchased in 2006 by natives Chris and Lora Carlson, the restaurant has worked to carry on the legacy of the original owner, Dave Patin. As Chris said, he just “wants a place where he can bring his own kids to eat and know they’re getting healthy food and a great environment to eat it in.”
Like many of the gems of northeastern Michigan, Stoney Acres Winery is a family legacy of determination and local artistry off the beaten path. Located outside of downtown Alpena, tucked away on a small neighborhood street, the winery has been around since 2003, when Jim and Helen Grochowski and their daughter Amy introduced wines to the public in the tessellated tasting room. Since that time, the shop has expanded to offer candies, hand-dipped truffles made with their wines, Shipwreck sodas made with Michigan sugar, and now a whole new summer farm-to-table experience.
When I woke up today, the last breakfast I thought I’d be eating was kimchi and a myriad of unique pickled items including, but not limited to: roasted brussel sprouts, rutabaga, beef heart, asparagus, carrots, pork loin, whole smelt, and eggs, just to name a few. But Scott McQuarrie, farmer and owner of the Alpena General Store (AGS), had other ideas. Scott seems to frequently be a man of business innovation, and all things food and farming.