(I am pretty sure when my grandma purchased the cabin way back when it was intended as a bear hunting/snowmobiling lodge…our ski trips aren’t such a stretch but no one ever expected the cabin to become the stopping point on a foodie tour. Hey, whatever works, right?)
Anyway, now that we’ve done this trip twice, we have our Friday night routine down. We usually get up to Grayling pretty late, so instead of stopping for dinner, we call Spicy Bob’s pizza and pick up our pie on our way in to Frederic. Spicy Bob’s is open late and has delish veggie and Mediterranean pizzas, both of which incidentally pair well with the various red wines we haul up.
Normally, this is a tasty but not particularly notable event; however, this time around, the Rikster saw something called “Cheese-Stuffed Silly Sticks” on the menu, so we added them to our order. Following is a transcript of the first part of this phone call:
Spicy Bob’s: “Uh, hi.”
Spicy Bob’s: “Oh, um. Hey, Spicy Bob’s! Can I get you a pizza or something?”
Me: “Yes. We would like an ultimate veggie for pick-up.”
Spicy Bob’s: “Cool. Did you know your phone number is in our system? That’s neat.”
Me: “Um, OK. Can I also get some cheese-stuffed silly sticks?”
Spicy Bob’s: (Voice cracking with enthusiasm) “CHEESE-STUFFED SILLY STICKS?! Abso-LUTELY!”
When we arrived at Spicy Bob’s, we found the counter manned by one very relaxed-looking teenage boy while another teenage boy literally ran around the back of the room, throwing boxes and banging spatulas around and yelling “WHAT DO I DO WITH THE HAM AND PEPPERONI???” at which point counter boy looked at me, shook his head ruefully, and informed me “Right after you called, we got hit, man. We got hit hard.”
(I should add that this was said with the weight and seriousness of someone talking about, say, the Vietnam war rather than a Friday night pizza rush.)
Anyway, after informing me that he just needed to put the “finishing touches” on our silly sticks (which involved some exaggerated brushing with something that looked like movie theater butter and some heavy-handed shaking of a spice container) everything was packed up and ready to go. We took the two-track in to the cabin, where we promptly changed in to PJs, Rikster opened the kick-off bottle of wine, and we commenced with the eating of our delicious, veggie-laden pizza.
We managed that night to only consume four bottles of red wine instead of our usual six, so when we woke up we actually felt pretty good. Fortified with bagels and coffee and with some regular Cokes for the road, we headed to TC, where we tasted wine until we were ready for lunch, at which point we headed to the Hearth & Vine Cafe at Black Star Farms.
We were immediately drawn to two sandwiches on the menu: the Italian (prosciutto, salami, mozzarella, onion, arugula & balsamic reduction on ciabatta) and the Wood-Roasted Chicken (pesto, roasted peppers, chicken, and provolone on ciabatta). Since there were four of us, we ordered two of each and had the waitress plate them half and half. We were not disappointed:
We loved them both, and after a much-debated taste test, came to the conclusion that the chicken was just a little bit better…flavorful and moist meat, pesto that tasted more herbacious than oily, chewy ciabatta…mmmm. The sandwiches were served with spiced chickpeas, which we thought were a delightful alternative to chips. (Psst – I just found their blog – check it out: http://saveurthyme.blogspot.com/)
After snacks at Brys Estate and 2 Lads, we headed downtown for dinner. We arrived a bit early for our reservation at The Cook’s House, but this wasn’t a problem as they now have a liquor license. We enjoyed a glass of wine on the deck while we waited for our table.
After doing the seven-course tasting menu at The Cook’s House in March, we couldn’t wait to do it again in June. Since the restaurant focuses heavily on local seasonal cuisine, we knew it would be different – and hopefully every bit as delicious.
We were NOT mistaken.
We started with asparagus soup, which had a depth of flavor so intense that we were shocked to learn that it was blanched rather than roasted. Drizzled with some good olive oil and flavored with nothing but sea salt, this looked like baby food but was absolutely divine.
We moved on to a creamy risotto with small pieces of lamb and spinach. The texture was perfect and the meat complimented rather than competed with the chicken stock and Parmesan flavors in the risotto.
A perfectly-crisped piece of whitefish on garlic scapes followed. Dressed with a light mustard-y vinaigrette, this was absolutely bursting with flavor.
The next course almost killed us, in the best possible way. We were served a thinly-sliced New York strip steak with a beef cheek ragout. The ragout literally melted in our mouths. The richness of this dish was almost over the top…not that that stopped us.
After the beef, we were in desperate need of a salad. What came to us looked like Easter on a plate. The pickled radishes and crispy pig ears were actually very mild, and it proved a refreshing follow-up to the rich meat, if not particularly a stand-out item on its own.
One of the main reasons we get the tasting menu is because it includes a cheese course. A mixture of local and non-local artisan cheeses, this is a real treat. In addition to favorites such as herbed chevre and Leelanau Raclette, we were thrilled to find the ambrosial (read: delightfully stinky) Red Hawk from Cowgirl Creamery. We all sighed audibly when this plate landed on our table.
The last time we did the tasting menu, we were all served a delectable coffee creme brulee. No one was disappointed to see duck egg creme brulee as the dessert this time around – however, since it was a slower night and we’d been chatting amicably with, well, anyone who would stop by our table (chef, waiter, busboy, bartender – we weren’t picky), the kitchen offered instead to send us one each of four different desserts to share. We didn’t hesitate for a second. The creme brulee came out accompanied by a panna cotta with rhubard compote, a savory spiced honey cake with vanilla ice cream, and a flourless chocolate cake.
We loved them all, but agreed the rich, spicy honey cake was our unanimous favorite. After thanking the entire staff profusely, we stumbled to the car, where we immediately went in to food comas that lasted not only the entire ride home but well in to the next morning.
I can not tell you how much I enjoy these weekends up north with these girls. We have so much fun and we love making friends and chatting with the staff at all the wineries and restaurants we visit. It will probably be late fall before we go on another expedition – maybe even winter – but I already can”t wait until the next one.