California has always been a benchmark (at least for me) when it comes to trends within our food and wine industry. The San Francisco Bay area, along with the surrounding wine country often sets many standards that the rest of us adopt, though sometimes a bit later than sooner. On a recent visit to the region with amical Executive Chef Benjamin Hoxie, it wasn’t a real surprise to see that our Grand Traverse region reflects somewhat of a parallel universe, albeit on a minuscule scale.
This summer marks the 20th anniversary of a Southeastern Michigan favorite with a loyal follow – ing: the Common Grill in Chelsea. Before the doors opened on Main Street in July 1991, “ I estimated that we could appeal to a 10-mile radius,” says owner and Executive Chef Craig Common. Chelsea was a bit sleepier than it is today, and the Purple Rose Theater—which eventually grew to draw people to the town from around the country—had just been launched by actor Jeff Daniels in February of that year. It was Daniels’ father, Bob Daniels, owner of Chelsea Lumber, who approached Common about starting a restaurant for the theater crowd.
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.
The Ann Arbor Farmers Market recently launched a new initiative to make shopping with market vendors easier for you, our chefs and the culinary community! The effort chefs put into into transforming raw farm-fresh ingredients into culinary works of art is immense. Therefore, the market wanted to help culinary professionals by streamlining the local food shopping experience.
I am not sure what I was thinking when I asked the owners of Belgiumtown Bar & Restaurant if I could host a locally sourced Chef Dinner in the dead of the UP winter. Part of me liked the idea of the challenge, but the goal was also to highlight the local food in our area and how we can better utilize products being grown by our neighbors.
I moved up from Chicago to Traverse City in the spring of 2017, bringing with me the desire to connect to the local landscape and growing community as much as possible. I found a good fit when first interviewing with Simon Joseph, Chef/Owner of Just In Time Hospitality, listening to his description of the noodles they use at Gaijin. The foundation of any ramen shop is its noodles, and beyond the homework done on the technique, what stood out to me was the commitment to using 100% non-GMO, local wheats from Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties.
Restaurant Week is back in Ann Arbor, January 14 – 19, 2018. This semi-annual event celebrates the incredible Ann Arbor dining scene and allows patrons to experience the wide range of dining options across the city. New this year, Ann Arbor Restaurant Week has partnered with Taste the Local Difference and area farmers to bring Michigan produce to the table in January. Search for the Taste the Local Difference logo to identify restaurants that are making an extra effort to source locally.
For the most up to date list of participating restaurants, menus and more visit
Kelly Wilson, is a farmer, registered dietitian, and TLD’s SE Michigan Local Food Coordinator. In 2018, she is looking forward to running her first ultramarathon and hiking in Big Bend National Park.
It’s already snowed here in the U.P. a handful of times. The farmers markets have closed down until next year or retreated inside, but that doesn’t mean the season for eating locally has ended. It is possible to enjoy local food year-round, even in the U.P. The Marq, a restaurant and bar in Marquette, is a working testament.
Breakaway Cafe just celebrated its first birthday, and as any parents of new babies would tell you – I’m exhausted. But as those same parents would tell you – I wouldn’t trade it for the world.