Wild, wild (midwest): Day 2

Rikster and I can be pretty determined people when we set our minds to it, and we were determined that, on the Sunday morning following our Salmon Festival/Salt of the Earth excursion, we were going to drink coffee on Susan’s deck while we watched the waves crash on the beach. The fact that it was *maybe* 50 degrees with high winds didn’t deter us from finishing one round of cappuccinos before we finally called it quits and went inside, where keeping our coffees warm proved much less of an undertaking.

The beach

Going inside also offered the opportunity to heat up a little breakfast treat we had procured at the restaurant: Salt of the Earth’s famous Wood Fire Toasted S’more, a ridiculous concoction of homemade marshmallow, graham cracker crumb, chocolate pudding, salted caramel and spice cake.

Breakfast of champions

Susan reheated the dessert in her toaster oven, and the size was perfect to split amongst the three of us. Letting it rest overnight had allowed the cake to absorb all the caramel-y, chocolate-y goodness, and the warm, gooey marshmallow provided an ideal topping. Combined with our coffee, it was an excellent breakfast for a chilly fall morning.

Properly fueled by sugar and caffeine, we asked Susan to lead us down her beach to hunt for beach glass. We were hoping the night’s wind and wave action had churned up some sizable pieces. We hit the jackpot almost immediately.

Rikster’s beach glass!

We hiked back down the boardwalk, admiring the scenery and the waves and making sure that Trixie, Susan’s cat who had followed us on our little excursion, didn’t get blown out to sea.

Walking back to the house against the wind works up an appetite, even for those who have just gorged on a sugar bomb. Susan had an idea in mind for lunch, however, and allowed us to sit at the table and read magazines while she assembled a beautiful antipasti platter comprised of Ortiz tuna, salami, fresh mozzarella, vegetables from a neighbor’s garden, hardboiled eggs and an assortment of crackers. We washed it down with a glass of crisp white wine, and Susan led us in to town to continue on our weekend adventure.

My mouth is watering again…

Salute! Susan’s awesome antique store glassware.

We had decided to check another lighthouse off our list, so we headed to South Haven Beach, home of the South Haven Lighthouse. The weather, which had been fairly mild up to that point, immediately kicked into high gear when we set foot on the sands: the wind whipped, the skies darkened, and the waves started to get crazy. Once again, we set out down the pier, snapped our obligatory photo, and then attempted to make our way back without dying.

Yes, it’s a different one than the last post.

We explored the town a bit before beginning our southeastern journey home. Susan had advised us to take “the back way” from South Haven to Kalamazoo, which in addition to giving us easy access to the town of Paw Paw would lead us right to downtown Kzoo. We took her recommendation and were well on our way when we drove past the Paw Paw Brewing Company.

How could you NOT stop here?

The brewery appeared to be in a trailer. It was extremely small and rested uncomfortably close to the road. Needless to say, we could not resist stopping. This proved to be a great call because it ended up being our favorite overall brewery experience of the entire trip.

The crowd seemed to be made up mostly of regulars, including a trio of senior citizens with acoustic guitars having a jam session in the back room. We sat at the bar and ordered a flight of all ten brews currently being served. We immediately hit it off with the bartender, a girl of maybe 25 who was very candid about what she liked and didn’t like and didn’t hesitate to climb up on a precariously-placed bar stool to check sizes on some of the merch.

“The usual”

We found most of the beers to be pleasant and non-offensive to the taste buds. We enjoyed the Twisted Pumpkin – not as spicy as New Holland’s offering but with a pronounced pumpkin flavor. The stout was a much better entry into the category than our last brewery (Saugatuck) had offered – this one had some weight to it and a wonderful flavor that I can only describe as “breakfasty.”

Then our bartender poured us a special treat:

Root beer!

Root beer! Paw Paw Brewing Company’s house-made root beer tastes like candy. As a delighted Rikster put it, “Buddy the Elf would approve!”

Now, those who know me know that I do not have much of a sweet tooth. The sugar bomb s’more for breakfast combined with post-lighthouse ice cream (Did I leave that part out – that part where Riki and I decided to warm up in an ice cream parlor?) combined with root beer added up to a lot more sweet stuff than I normally consume. Throw in the espresso from the morning…

Rikster wasn’t immune to the sugar high, either – hence the incredible amount of giggling and our decision to stop at an appeared-to-be-deserted winery in the middle of nowhere not in spite of but because it “could be a Texas Chainsaw experience” (quote: Rikster).

Well, once we got inside the winery (Lawton Ridge) we found that it was not creepy at all –  just a slightly over-decorated tasting room and a very nice woman behind the counter that guided us through the wines, some of which we found quite pleasant. I left with a bottle of the AZO Red, a pleasant fruity blend with a peppery kick on the finish.

Heading into Kalamazoo, we knew that we couldn’t in good conscience have a brewery weekend without a stop at Michigan’s craft beer mothership, Bell’s – home of Oberon, Two Hearted, and several other long-standing Michigan favorites.

Bell’s sampler

We ordered the usual sampler and lined up our choices, ranging from stout to mead. Yes, you read that correctly – mead. I was skeptical at first, but I trust the Rikster’s judgment. And she was – as usual – completely on-target. I was afraid that the mead would be cloying and syrupy, but was instead treated to a lightly sweet honey flavor with a light weight and clean finish. The rest of the lineup was solid, if not particularly memorable.

With the beer and wine tasting portion of our trip complete, we made one last stop – this time for dinner. The original plan was to try out Dark Horse Brewing Company in Marshall – this plan was thwarted by the fact that Dark Horse A) doesn’t offer a sampler and B) was incredibly crowded. Not feeling the vibe, Riki and I decided to get our senior citizen on and head to Schuler’s, a behemoth historic mansion with a dark pub (Winston’s) in the basement. We indulged in a plate of Schuler’s famous bar cheese and a couple filling sandwiches before getting back in the car to head home – this time with no stops along the way.

The signs of a great weekend/

Thank you Riki for providing so many of the photos used in these two posts!

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