leave your inhibitions at the door
Every summer since we’ve moved to Michigan, we find that we lose all our friends for extended periods of time as they “go up north.” It seems everyone in the Detroit/Ann Arbor areas either have a summer home up there or know someone who does. At first I didn’t understand the allure. OK, check that, I can totally see the allure of leaving Detroit (even permanently). However, summers in Ann Arbor, outside of Art Fair, are pretty relaxing since the students at the University aren’t around.
As we found out two years ago when we visited Petoskey and Mackinac Island, northern Michigan is different. The terrain is different with the abundance of trees, hills, and winding roads. There’s decent skiing in winter and everywhere you turn there’s a body of water that’s NOT one of the Great Lakes.
OK, now we get it.
A few weeks ago we took our second trip up north – to Traverse City. Back when we were in Chicago, I had heard of Traverse City because of it being the cherry capital of the world and the Sleeping Bear Dunes. It’s also home to Michigan’s wine country. I never had any Michigan wines prior to moving here, outside of sugary crap made from blueberries that bear no resemblance to real wine. And when I first had MI wines from grapes, I wasn’t terribly impressed. But in recent years I think they’ve been getting better. There’s still a lot of room for improvement and they’ll never come close to California or Washington, but I can see them getting as good as Niagara wines ten or so years from now. Regardless of the wine, though, it’s still very much worth it to visit the wineries.
My favorite was 2 Lads for the quality of the product, the beautiful building, and stunning views.
I don’t know if it’s because of the relative success of the wine industry, but Traverse City has become a major foodie haven in the past few years. Everywhere I turned there was a small “gourmet market” or farmstand. Though, outside of a quart of cherries and a bottle of iced tea, I didn’t buy anything from them. I was on vacation.
I did, however, have some great meals at restaurants there. We were travelling with the kids and the in-laws, so we didn’t get to eat at the higher-end places like Mission Table, Cook’s House, and Trattoria Stella. But we will next time. We did have some great meals at Red Ginger (for sushi), Jolly Pumpkin (for beer and burgers), and North Peak Brewery.
There are a bunch of bars there, but we didn’t really go bar-hopping because we were staying about 20 minutes away. Besides, a lot of them looked like the tired touristy ones where they got a guy on guitar singing Jimmy Buffett songs. You know the ones I’m talking about. There was one bright spot – 7 Monks Taproom with its 46 taps and who knows how many bottles. Belgian beers are my favorite and they didn’t disappoint with over 20 of them, including the seven Trappist beers (hence the name “7 Monks”).
We were really glad we finally made it up to Traverse City. I don’t know if its evolution as a foodie destination is by design or by chance. Either way, it’s doing a great job of it. I’m definitely hooked.