Myth: It’s impossible to find local food in the middle of January in Michigan. Reality: it’s easy! In fact, many restaurants participating in the Ann Arbor Restaurant Week, January 13 – 18, are putting local food at the center of the table. See the list of who is going local during restaurant week here, designated by the Taste the Difference® logo.
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.
Where to eat? If you’re out and about in downtown Frankfort, this is far from an easy choice. There’s the festive atmosphere and promise of pints at Stormcloud Brewing Company, the reliably delicious pub fare at Dinghy’s, and the generously stuffed deli sandwiches at L’Chayim. After a long July day of delivering boxes of our Local Food Guides throughout Benzie county, though, I was ready to really treat myself! My friend and I made our way to the sun dappled back patio of Coho Fine Dining for a few plates of local fare. Right on Main Street, Coho has a relaxed and breezy but refined feel to it. On their about us webpage, the team at Coho states “We love showcasing seasonal food and refuse to compromise on quality in our restaurant. That’s why we source our fresh ingredients from local farmers and producers.”
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.
Here in Northern Michigan, we have the option – and the luxury – of buying and consuming a cornucopia of raw and processed food products procured right here in the Great Lakes State.
PETOSKEY, MICHIGAN | MAY 2018 – There’s a month-long celebration at Roast & Toast Coffee & Café beginning May 1, and it’s a big one! What’s all the fuss, you may wonder? Mary and Bob Keedy, owners of Roast & Toast are celebrating their 25th year in business, which opened in downtown Petoskey in 1993.
I personally think it is not only important for us to use as much locally produced food and products as possible, but we also have a responsibility to be good partners with all food businesses in the area. It helps elevate the whole industry in a way that benefits us beyond dollars. Eating local should be looked at as the norm, not the exception.
When we re-opened Harvest in its new location in 2017, we also added a liquor license and one of our first priorities was to source beer and cider from local producers. That led to the idea of having a beer brewed specifically for us. It only made sense that we would take the idea as far as we could by then brewing the beer with local malt and hops. Because of the amazing relationships in the food and brewing community in Traverse City this was not a tall order. Working with Earthen Ales, Great Lakes Malting, and Michigan Hop Alliance we were able to brew a beer that is almost entirely made out of locally sourced ingredients, aptly named Local Shade of Pale. It’s really amazing to think of how far and fast the brewing culture has come in just a few short years. We feel so fortunate to not only enjoy the work of these great folks but also to be able to collaborate with them to create something that exemplifies our common goals.
Q&A with our Partners
Michigan Hop Alliance
Brian Tennis, Founder
Established: Michigan Hop Alliance was started 7 years ago as a way for hop farmers to work together to bring their hops to the brewing community as economically as possible. New Mission Organics was started 13 years ago, and has been growing hops for 10 years. New Mission Organics was the original farm name.
What makes Northern Michigan hops unique and great?
The 45th Parallel has historically been the sweet spot for growing hops, both in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. We have the perfect climate, including soil, water, heat, and day lengths, to be able to grow a world-class product. We are also lucky to be able to work with some of the best farmers in Michigan, and can leverage their knowledge and expertise to our overall farming operation.
What does it mean to you to be involved in brewing a beer for a local restaurant with local brewers and local malt providers with your local hops?
We have been growing hops for nearly a decade, and have sold over a million pounds of hops over the years, but there is still something that is so very special and rewarding as tasting a beer that was made from hops that you had a hand in. To me, that excitement never gets old. These brewers and restaurateurs are not just accounts, but my friends, and I share their passion. My very first commercial sale was to Short’s Brewing Company and was used in a harvest ale called Kind Ale. I still remember the very first time I saw our hopyard name up on the chalkboard in Bellaire and the rush I had from tasting that beer. That proud moment doesn’t leave you.
Great Lakes Malting Company
Jeff Malkiewicz, President & Co-Founder
Established: Great Lakes Malting Company has been crafting great malt from the Great Lakes since 2016, with the mission of producing the finest malts right here in Traverse City and connecting breweries and distilleries to the region with locally-grown and processed ingredients.
Why do you believe in locally sourcing barley?
The answer is two-fold, economic and sustainability. When brewers/distillers use locally grown and processed ingredients, all of that money stays in the community and is re-invested in the community. Also, sourcing locally reduces carbon footprint through reduced transport. Most ingredients that are currently being used by breweries and distilleries come from the Western US/Western Canada and from overseas.
Describe your relationships with local farmers.
One of the things I enjoy most about this opportunity is my interaction with farmers. After all, quality malt starts at the farm. We can’t produce the finest malts without the finest grains! I have spent a lot of time working with farmers and educating them to help ensure their success in growing malting-grade barley. However, farming is not always easy and sometimes difficult conversations take place. This is where mutual trust and respect are critical to maintaining and growing these relationships.
Jamie Kidwell-Brix, Co-Founder/Brewer
Established: Earthen Ales opened its doors in December 2016. Owners Andrew and Jamie started Earthen Ales because they love making beer.They were both brewing before they met each other, and when they met and started brewing together – it got out of control, and Earthen Ales was born!
What makes Northern Michigan beer unique and why is using locally sourced ingredients important to you?
The agricultural diversity of the region and access to fresh, clean water makes northern Michigan a great place to make beer. The abundance of ingredients and resources in the area have led to strong and creative food and beverage community; we love being a piece of that community, and hope we’ll contribute to making it even stronger. We used to work in the sustainability field in our former day jobs, and we’ve carried this mindset into brewing. We brew beer with a sense of place, and we’re inspired by the place we live. What better way to showcase this then working with ingredients that are native to this place.
What does it mean to you to be involved in brewing a beer for a local restaurant with local hops providers and local malt providers?
Brewing beer for a restaurant like Harvest is a new extension of our community. We’re excited that Harvest embraces the use of local ingredients daily and wanted to explore this further by collaborating on a beer with us. It’s great to align with other businesses on similar values and ideas. Harvest was excited and inspired by the diversity of new hops in the region, and was particularly excited about using a new varietal called Green Bastard – we’d never used this hop before. And guess what, we like making beer and trying new things too!
Local Shade of Pale is available on-tap at Harvest, Traverse City, as of April 5th.
Photo Credits: Just In Time Hospitality and Brian Tennis of Michigan Hop Alliance
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.