After our wine tasting adventure on Saturday, the girls and I headed in to downtown Traverse City for a little food fun. Our first stop? American Spoon.
American Spoon, based in Petoskey, started out as a maker of artisanal jams and preserves. They’ve branched into other related products, including salsa, relishes, marinades, and more, though they probably remain best-known for their Early Glow Strawberry Preserves, made with fresh strawberries grown on the Leelanau Peninsula.
One of the best things about visiting an American Spoon store is that much like Zingerman’s, you can sample just about anything. There’s a large table in the middle of the Traverse City store with about twenty open jars and hundreds of little tasting spoons, but if you see something that you’d like to try and it’s not on the sampling table, just ask and you’ll probably receive – the women working in the store were extremely accommodating.
After sampling more or less every product in the store (including the pistachio gelato, which may be the best gelato I’ve ever had), we left loaded down with bags. Standouts for me were a kiwi-lime salsa and the Portobello Mushroom Relish, an intensely savory concoction of various mushrooms, white wine, garlic, olive oil, and herbs. YUM.
(For those not in the area: American Spoon has a mail order business – request a catalog or order online.)
After we miraculously found room in Melissa’s car for the American Spoon bags, we still had time to kill before our dinner reservation. We decided a cocktail downtown was in order. Since we were right across the street, we decided to go to Amical, where Noe and I ate dinner over labor day weekend. Melissa, Riki, and Diane went with the Le Petit Senegal, a blend of berry liqueur, ginger, lime juice, ginger ale, and soda water. I ordered a French 75, which consisted of gin, fresh lemon juice, Cointreau, and Champagne. Yum all around.
Once the cocktails were finished, it was time to head to dinner. We had made a reservation at The Cooks’ House, a chef-owned restaurant specializing in local and seasonal cuisine. We were delighted to pull up and find the restaurant literally in a house.
The restaurant is very small but not crowded. We were greeted right away by a friendly server. The Cooks’ House does not serve alcohol at this time, and Traverse City does not allow patrons to BYOB, but we knew this going in. We ordered the Hummingbird iced tea (black tea with hibiscus) and sat back and waited for the food.
The four of us chose to do the seven-course tasting menu and see what the chef would put in front of us. We were not disappointed. I spent most of the evening in a food coma and NOT taking notes (bad blogger!) so you’re just going to have to take the pictures and my word for it: this food was amazing.
We started with a pork pate and fresh bread:
Our soup was a savory blend of potato and parsnip:
We moved on to gnocchi with venison Bolognese:
An intriguingly spiced, perfectly cooked piece of lake trout came next:
Then there was the beef cheek with the mashed potatoes (basic meat and potatoes, but so flavorful and perfectly cooked):
A palate-cleansing salad followed the beef, made with tender greens, dried Michigan fruits, salty pepitas, and tossed in a very light cherry vinaigrette (we think):
We were happy up to this point, but we went in to overdrive when the waitress brought out a cheese course – five different cheeses (including the famed Leelanau Raclette), dried Michigan fruits, and raw honey:
We could have stopped there and been totally satisfied, but we still had one more course – dessert. Our server brought out a cappuccino creme brulee. I think we all sighed with contentment at the sound of our spoons tapping through that caramelized crust:
Dessert was served with individual press pots of freshly ground coffee, the perfect end to the perfect meal. Needless to say, we did NOT need to dig in to our stash of Better Made licorice or Funyuns on the drive home – we were full and more than satisfied.
This was pretty much the perfect day any of us could have asked for on our up north adventure. It was great to go during the off-season and not have to deal with the crowds, and we still had great weather as a bonus. And definitely check out The Cooks’ House if you’re in that neck of the woods – I can’t wait to try it during different seasons and see what ends up on my plate.