About amywiseman

Copywriter, cat lady, boozehound, foodie.

I was *almost* a journalism major…

My sister-in-law is an expert bargain book hunter – it doesn’t matter if she is at Barnes & Noble or the local library book sale; Joan ALWAYS roots out the good stuff. She’s also really good at remembering what kinds of things people like and finding books for them…which is how I ended up with an excellent cocktail book for Christmas: The Cocktail Hour by Ben Reed.

cocktail hour

At first I thought I’d keep the book on the coffee table and just look at the pictures – the photography is lovely – but then as I got more and more interested in craft cocktails and mixing my own cocktails at home, I realized that this little book was an amazing resource.

I’ve noticed a similarity between cocktail-mixing and cooking: you start to compile a stash of “stock” ingredients that last a fairly long time and can be used across a variety of recipes. Think about the container of vanilla extract you purchase for cookies and use in almost every baked good…the curry powder you use in multiple soups and side dishes…the fish sauce in every vaguely-Asian recipe…these are your vermouths and bitters and good maraschino cherries and liqueurs. You’ll use them in many recipes, but you’ll use a small amount. You buy them for one particular drink but then find they have wide appeal. Indeed, it makes cocktail mixing affordable even when you’re buying good-quality booze: they last awhile and you don’t have to purchase every ingredient for every drink because you begin to build up a store.

My stockpile and my cocktail book are what inspired a recent discovery – the Journalist. I had been gifted a bottle of gin and was flipping through my texts for a new treatment. I stumbled upon a lovely little cocktail and realized that even though it called for five additional ingredients, I had ALL of them from other experiments.

The Journalist - from The Cocktail Hour by Ben Reed

The Journalist – from The Cocktail Hour by Ben Reed

The Journalist is a refreshing concoction of gin, dry vermouth, sweet vermouth, fresh lemon juice, angostura bitters and triple sec. Citrus-y but not sweet; acidic but not overly tart; balanced by the small bit of sweet vermouth and bitters – I thought it was divine. And as a writer, I was partial to the name.

I’ll be keeping the Journalist in the rotation throughout the summer and will continue to attempt to perfect and balance the mix of ingredients – I think it is a delightful and refreshing palate-pleaser.


My middle-west: Gatsby Day in Ann Arbor

The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books of all time. I can’t even remember the first time I read it, but I think it was in eighth or ninth grade. I know I never had to read it in school. I *think* Uncle Tom told me to read it (this would be around the same time he told me to read On the Road – Uncle T. has pretty great taste in books). I’m pretty sure my first copy which has long since went missing came from Gran’s basement.


I hadn’t read the book for a few years when we moved to Connecticut in 2007. A late-night conversation in Hanafin’s Pub with several literary-minded friends (Kevin Doyle or Amanda Lester or Scott Rottinghaus) inspired me to re-read it then. To a midwesterner living on the Long Island Sound, Nick Carraway and his musings on the east coast being a different place suddenly became a little more relatable.

Gatsby infatuation reached a frenzy in our crowd that year when Kevin started throwing his annual Gatsby parties. Held on/around the solstice (“the longest day of the year”), the Gatsby party was the opportunity we all wanted to wear (in some cases extravagant) costumes, experiment with mixing prohibition-era cocktails, and play yard games such as bocce ball and croquet – Kevin’s yard was a bit small for Tom Buchanan’s beloved polo ponies; also, we weren’t actually rich enough for polo.

Gatsby 2009. New London, CT

Gatsby 2009. New London, CT

(By the end of these nights, the boys would be wearing the sequined headbands, we’d be drinking rum and cokes or vodka tonics, and the croquet contingent would have moved on to beer pong – still, we were classy up to that point.)

When we moved back to Michigan, I made two attempts to re-imagine the Gatsby party here, but it never quite translated – simply put, a Gatsby party is an East Coast garden party, not a Midwestern bar party. Not that they weren’t fun in their own ways; they just weren’t quite right.

Gatsby 2011, Ypsilanti, MI

Gatsby 2011, Ypsilanti, MI

Despite reading the book multiple times and attending/throwing multiple themed parties, I had never watched Gatsby on film. Part of this is because Mia Farrow kind of creeps me out (I can’t explain it) and partly because Robert Redford just seemed a little bland. The movie itself seemed like it would be a little bland. I just never had any desire to watch it (though when in Newport, I did visit Rosecliff, the house where several scenes were filmed). 

Rosecliff, Newport, RI

Rosecliff, Newport, RI

Then, a year or two ago, people started talking about a new Gatsby, this time helmed by Baz “Mouling Rouge” Luhrmann. Baz + Gatsby sounded anything BUT bland.

I kept tabs on the movie for the next year and a half or so. The main cast was announced. Leo as Gatsby! (That could work, I thought.) Tobey as Nick! (That seemed weirdly perfect, actually.) Carey Mulligan for Daisy! (This one sold me; I loved her in An Education.) I got hyped up for a Christmas 2012 release date…only to have it pushed back to May. (This was ultimately a good thing; otherwise I would have spent Christmas day holed up in a movie theater watching Leo wear the heck out of his pastel suits in two movies – Django Unchained was released the same day and I’m a huge Tarantino fan – instead of with my family.) 

Gatsby day drew closer. I re-read the book (I actually hadn’t read it since 2008). I started to get nervous. Would it be TOO cartoony? Would Tom Buchanan be too much of a buffoon-y racist? Would the Gatsby/Daisy romance be treated as something much more innocent and romantic than it actually is? Reviews were not helping (they never do, though, do they?).

Ralph also re-read the book, though he fails to see what all the fuss is about.

Ralph also re-read the book, though he fails to see what all the fuss is about.

No matter how I ultimately ended up feeling about this movie, I was determined to see it. I gathered up some girls – girls, who I might add, have been very supportive of my obsession with Gatsby/Fitzgerald/cocktail-mixing/costume-wearing/theme parties/etc. – and we headed downtown to the Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor’s beautifully-restored 1920’s movie palace and the only place in town I could fathom seeing this film (sorry, Rave Motion Pictures and your stadium seating). 

The Michigan Theater marquee

The Michigan Theater marquee

While I didn’t go full costume (I would have had we gone on opening night, no doubt), I did deck myself out a feathered hair piece, several long, tasseled necklaces and an absurd amount of makeup for 4:00 p.m. (Actually, we all showed up in a lot of makeup and blingy headbands – lingering after-effects of the previous years’ parties, I guess.)

(This next portion contains plot spoilers – if you’re not familiar and want to be surprised, I’d suggest you stop here just to be safe.)

The good parts of The Great Gatsby were indeed great: it was visually stunning; I loved the stylized depictions of Long Island and New York City and the miserable valley of ashes. One of my favorite scenes from an aesthetic standpoint was when Nick walks in to the Buchanans’ house and into the room where Daisy and Jordan are languishing on the couch: the flowing white drapes, the breeze, the laziness of the women in white dresses, the bejeweled hands draped over the couch…that was Fitzgerald’s slightly magical description somehow brought perfectly to life.

The casting was spot-on. Gastby himself has always been a hard character for me to formulate visually in my mind; I thought Leo nailed it. Young-ish, handsome but not TOO perfect-looking, capable of the occasional crazy eyes, the ability to appear extremely vulnerable AND extremely confident…loved him. (Although having recently seen Django, I did sort of expect him to invite everyone into the parlor for WHite cake.) Jordan Baker looked exactly how I wanted her to look – she even looked a little sneaky, though the movie largely avoids those small mentions of her character. Carey Mulligan was a wonderful Daisy – she has such an interesting face and expressive eyes. However, my favorite from a casting perspective was far and away Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan. I think I gasped when he walked onscreen with that pervy little mustache and those fantastic riding boots. The looks were right and he nailed the character – he’s a bigot with a mixed-up moral code, but he doesn’t veer into cartoon territory.

Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan

Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan

The bad…well, the framing device (Nick in the nuthouse; Nick writing a novel) was totally lame. The typed words appearing on the screen were beyond cheesy. I get that we want – even need – Nick’s first-person narration; this just seemed like such a cop-out way to provide it…not that I have any better suggestions. Also, some things were a bit too literal…do we really have to show Gatsby physically reaching toward the green light?

I thought Daisy’s hard edge was softened a bit. A favorite scene of mine in the novel is when Nick describes seeing Tom and Daisy sitting at the table eating cold fried chicken and talking quietly together after the big hotel blowout. To me, that scene sums up Daisy: she loves attention and she loves drama and she probably does love Gatsby a little bit, but she can walk away from anything. The scene (sort of) appears in the movie, but it doesn’t translate the same way it does for me in the book. However, the Gatsby/Daisy romance is not simplified/overplayed the way I feared it would be, so overall I was pretty happy.

There’s been a lot of discussion over the movie’s use of modern music – it’s distracting at first, but once you settle in to the style of the film, it works. You just have to go with it. (If anyone remembers that Heath Ledger monstrosity A Knight’s Tale, this is wayyyyyy less jarring than when David Bowie starts playing at the ball.)

Overall impression? I liked it. A LOT. Maybe even loved it. I’ll probably (read: will) see it again and find more things to both swoon over and pick at. It’s over the top and a little melodramatic, but hey, so is the book.

Also, if you see this movie in Ann Arbor, go to the Raven’s Club after viewing – the lack of signage, dark room and bulbous light fixtures will make you feel like you’re in a speakeasy and the cocktail menu and glassware will only enhance that feeling. You can order the “Old Pal” (if you like whiskey, that is) and refer to it as the “Old Sport”… but just so you know, your companions/waitress will think that gets old fast.

The Old Sport - I mean, Old Pal

The Old Sport – I mean, Old Pal

Cocktails and Cat Tails

I think I’m going to start a video series. I’m going to dress up in one of my retro dresses, put on some red lipstick, get out some of my retro glassware, and go through the process of making a cocktail. Oh, and there will be cats. Why, you ask? Well, because A) I have to justify having all this retro stuff SOMEHOW and B) Ralph is very interested in cocktails.


This may be a slight exaggeration. Ralph was not at all interested in Sidecars or in Classic Martinis (posts on those drinks forthcoming). He was, however, extremely interested in Brandy Alexanders – no surprise there, seeing as how there was cream involved – and, strangely enough, Old Fashioneds and especially Manhattans.


Apparently Ralph loves rye whiskey. Or maybe he loves bitters. I don’t know – but if I sit down with a Manhattan, he’s on my lap immediately.

That cat has great taste. Better than some people I know. And PS – if I make “Cocktails and Cat Tails” will anyone watch? Even if it is just to laugh at me?

An old-fashioned blog post

(Hey there. Yes, it’s me…you probably don’t remember me, seeing as I haven’t blogged since October – EARLY October –  but can we just chalk it up to blogger burnout and move forward? Seriously though, I’m back, and I’ll try to be better. K, thanks!)

So, Mad Men is back – and it turns out that Don Draper going through creative withdrawal and a major midlife crisis is great for inspiration. First of all, I get to look at Don – and Roger, who has always been more my type. YUM. Second, I can revel in Peggy, my homely copywriter counterpart (though much more creative than I) finally using everything Don has taught her (“Change the conversation” – arrow to the heart, Drapes!). Third, I bought The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook for $3.99 on Amazon and Rikster and I are now spending every Sunday perfecting our retro cocktail skills.

cook book

This book is a highly entertaining read. It’s part kitschy cookbook, part obsessive-fan bible and part historical diary. Each entry, based on a dish or restaurant featured or prominently mentioned in a Mad Men episode, is meticulously documented and researched. The authors not only chronicle the episode that the dish/restaurant appeared in; they track down the menus of the time or where the recipe may have been published. If it’s a cocktail or appetizer being discussed, they find the magazine recipe driving housewives crazy or the restaurant that popularized the drink.

Anyway, I’ve been completely enamored with the book and in withdrawal from my favorite show (although The Americans has been somewhat filling my TV void…and god forbid, who knew that TNT would revive Dallas and it would be so damn enjoyable?!) so when the season six premiere came along, it seemed like the a great opportunity to prove that those who can read can DO.

No television event would be complete without the presence of the Rikster – always game for celebrity gossip (yes, we discussed the “Hammaconda“) and cocktail experiments. For the premier, we decided to go with the Don Draper fave, the Old Fashioned.

We probably should have used Canadian Club for authenticity, but I stumbled upon a bottle of Bulleit Rye at Meijer that afternoon, so Bulleit it was. Other than that, we stuck to the cookbook recipe – orange, sugar, bitters and maraschino cherry (although we  did use imported Luxardo cherries; sometimes you can’t take the Zingerman’s out of the girl) muddled with just enough soda to wet everything (thank you, SodaStream) topped with the rye and more club soda. We went old school with our glassware – I found these babies in my favorite Noblesville, IN, antique store – but modernized with large circular ice cubes.


In short, we were pretty happy.

A few days later, I started to feel a little disloyal. After all, I professed my love for Roger Sterling for five seasons and then for the season six premiere I made DON’S drink? I felt like I owed it to Rog – especially with his mom dying and Joanie ignoring him and his daughter hitting up for cash – to at least make his favorite drink. Luckily, I was not going to climb a zillion flights of stairs, so I figured my chance of heart attack was slim to none. Therefore, I used the last of my precious Bombay Sapphire to mix a classic gin martini, once again using the cookbook’s method.


I loved the drink, but to be honest, I loved using my vintage martini pitcher (from the Eastern Market antique store) and my coupe glasses (relics rescued from my family’s Orange Lantern bar) even more.

I acknowledge I used Mad Men as a crutch for this post – but in the end, does it really matter where inspiration actually comes from as long as one is inspired to do something? Rikster and I are mixing up cocktails every week, so look for more of these – along with the restaurant, cooking, travel and cat adventures that you used to know (and hopefully love).

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!

Wild, wild (mid)west: Day 1

Rikster and I had a small case of the end-of-summer blahs recently; thus we decided the only cure was more cowbell a road trip to the southwestern side of the state (if you read this blog with any regularity, you know we make the trek north fairly frequently). We decided to drive up to Grand Haven for the annual Salmon Festival, work our way through several small towns, and end up in South Haven, where we’d bunk with my Aunt Susan for the night.

Before our departure, we obsessively researched the area and put together a rather eclectic list of must-sees, mainly comprised of microbreweries and lighthouses. We set off at 9:00 a.m. last Saturday, pumpkin spice and salted caramel lattes in hand.

The total driving time from Ann Arbor to Grand Haven clocked in at right around three hours, with no stops on the way. We easily found a parking spot in a municipal lot and set about exploring the town while we waited for the salmon festivities to begin. We quickly stumbled upon the first item on our checklist, Odd Side Ales.

Odd Side Ales is tucked away in what appears to be an office building, but once you get inside, the atmosphere is much more what you’d expect from a brewery: lots of dark wood, chalkboard menu, etc. Odd Side is known for the use of slightly unconventional ingredients – pineapple, peanut butter, and habenero, for example (thankfully not all in one brew). We split a sampler of the seven beers on tap that day. The Mayan Mocha Stout was the standout: velvety texture, balanced coffee/chocolate flavors, and a serious burst of heat on the finish.

Odd Side Ales sampler

By the time we finished our sampling, the Salmon Festival Cook-off and Wine Tasting was beginning. We met up with our friends Rob and Sandi and headed toward the huge white tent set up in the marina parking lot. For $20 per ticket, we were each given a souvenir wine glass, three drink tasting tickets and five food tasting tickets.  Ten local restaurants/caterers/markets were preparing various salmon dishes, which could be purchased for one ticket each. Several wineries and distributors were there with various Michigan-made products, pouring two ounces per ticket. A number of free samples rounded out the offerings, including a giant vegetable tower, fresh-baked bread and (perhaps best of all) Blue Moon ice cream.

It was a little crowded in the tent, but the vendors kept the lines moving and there was plenty of room to spread out outside. The portion sizes were generous – for example, D&W Market was offering a whole salmon roll. The offerings were varied – we tried everything from salmon salad with capers, fennel and lots of crunchy red onion (a great mix of flavors) to a bacon-wrapped salmon/jalapeno popper (the festival equivalent of “bar food” and actually quite delicious). The majority of the food was interesting without being gimmicky and really let the salmon flavor shine through. Our group thought this food festival definitely gave you good bang for your buck in comparison to similar events.

A sampling of salmon cook-off offerings

Sated with salmon, Rikster and I bid Rob and Sandi farewell and made our way down the street to Grand Haven Beach, home of the Grand Haven Lighthouse. The wind had picked up drastically, causing dramatic waves and wreaking havoc on the seagulls struggling to make headway into the wind.

Grand Haven Beach

Grand Haven Beach

We paused briefly to consider this sign + the gale-force winds:


Then we continued down the pier anyway. We tried to stay in the middle and out of the way of the waves that were crashing in a very picturesque yet more-than-slightly-dangerous manner over the sides of the pier. We snapped our obligatory photo at the base of the lighthouse, then made the executive decision that we had gone far enough and hurriedly yet cautiously made out way back.

Grand Haven Lighthouse

The road NOT taken

We had the wind at our backs trekking back to the car, although we managed to get so caught up in scenery and conversation that we trekked right past our parking lot. Our clue that we had gone too far:

Um, how far west did we go?

While we hadn’t managed to wander all the way to California, we knew we would have definitely remembered walking by a (fake) palm tree, so we turned back into the wind and eventually found the Subaru. After emptying the folds of our clothing from all the sand that the winds had wedged in there, we were back on the road – heading in a southern direction, toward Holland.

The salmon-coma was starting to wear off and we figured it was a good time for a snack…and more beer. The logical choice? New Holland Brewing Company, where we could indulge both impulses at the craft brewery and distillery’s expansive downtown pub.

Once again, we ordered a sampler of six beers, plus a small bacon-potato pizza. The pizza was amazing – crispy crust, thin-sliced potatoes baked to perfection, sprinkles of gorgonzola and bacon, and topped with fresh spinach. The small proved to be the ideal snack size – two small pieces each of pure comfort food.

New Holland Bacon and Potato Pizza

Our beer selections were equally satisfying. We had more to choose from here than at Odd Side, so our primary goal was making sure that a variety of styles were represented. I enjoyed the Poet stout immensely: a weighty (but not chewy), smooth (but not watery) mouth feel and a pleasant roasted flavor were highlights. Rikster immediately gravitated toward the seasonal Ichabod Pumpkin Ale, which had a clove and nutmeg finish that I haven’t tasted in most pumpkin beers that I’ve tried. Additionally, New Holland is the home of Dragon’s Milk, a cask-aged brew I was introduced to by one of my partners in (food and drink) crime, David: it’s super smooth, with vanilla-y goodness that can only come from oak. It’s also incredibly alcoholic and weighty and I’m not sure I could ever drink more than a small serving.

Sampler/snack at New Holland

Fortified with hearty fare, we were back in the car en route to Saugatuck. Unfortunately, we pulled into the parking lot of the Antique Pavilion after it had closed for the day (Rikster and I had agreed setting out on this adventure that even though we had a number of items on our wish lists, we wouldn’t hurry or rush to get to any one or the other).

The Antique Pavilion

We were in for a treat, however…if you look at the above photo of the Antique Pavilion, you will see that it is attached to another green building…and THAT green building just happened to be the Saugatuck Brewing Company.


We ordered our standard sampler, once again trying to include all styles represented on the menu. We weren’t impressed with the stout here (a bit watery) but found the Beach Blonde and Scot ales enjoyable.

Saugatuck Sampler

(Don’t worry, dear readers: the beer portion of day one has concluded.)

We had one more stop planned – this one non-negotiable – before calling it a night: we were bound for the tiny town of Fennville to dine at the farm-to-table restaurant, Salt of the Earth.

Specializing in “authentic Midwest American rustic food experiences”, Salt of the Earth has a menu that changes seasonally, offer fresh-baked breads from their own bakery, and an eclectic craft cocktail and bar menu focused heavily (but not exclusively) on Michigan-made beer, wine and spirits.

There was a short wait for a table, but the host was kind enough to offer cocktail service in the waiting area, so we began with a “Midwest Farmer Fizz” – served in a mason jar and comprised of Grand Traverse vodka, elderflower liquor, house-made sour, soda, and herbs, this cocktail had an incredibly fresh, almost vegetal taste. The sour made a huge difference: the drink lacked the cloyingly sweetness found in store-bought mixes – yet without having an assaulting citrus flavor.

Farmer Fizz at Salt of the Earth

Once seated, we ordered the night’s special appetizer, pork belly cooked and sliced in a similar manner to beef brisket. The thin slices of slightly bacon-y tasting pork melted in the mouth, providing a pleasing contrast to the charred edges.

Pork belly

Our entrees were fairly straightforward and simply prepared: hangar steak (deliciously charred on the outside) served with chopped tomato and cucumber, and handkerchief pasta with sausage and sweet peppers.

The true standout of the meal was a side dish – and a surprise: fried brussels sprouts with bacon and balsamic vinegar. Crispy but not burned, tangy but not too much so, Riki and I devoured these like a kid devours candy.

The bounty of our table

We DID order dessert, but you’ll read about that in the day two entry – we ate it for breakfast since at this point we were (understandably) too stuffed to eat one more bite. (I will assure you, however, that the smell of said dessert almost caused us to pull over and devour it roadside, grotesquely stuffed or not.)

And with that, we were off to our final day one destination, Susan’s lake house, where we would watch the end of the Notre Dame game and part of Saturday Night Live before completely crashing in anticipation of day two.

To be continued…

B-L-T! B-L-T!

I made a glorious BLT tonight. It’s the first one I’ve had all summer. Let’s analyze the components:

Assembling the troops.

  • The bacon, procured at the last Zingerman’s warehouse sale, was Edwards Hickory Smoked  Bacon – amazingly salty in the best possible way; the perfect choice for a BLT as the saltiness and smokiness spice up the not-so-seasoned bread/tomato/lettuce/mayonnaise.
  • The tomato was purchased at the Corn Stand on the corner of Geddess and Harris roads. It was red and plump and juicy – and cheap. Much better than anything from a grocery store.
  • BLT lettuce has to be iceberg. No fancy “greens” for me – I need the utilitarian crunch of what I’ve dubbed “the working man’s lettuce.” (Yes, it’s late, I’ve been watching the cliche-filled Olympic broadcasts and I’m drinking wine.)
  • Mayonnaise is a point of contention for me. Normally it ranks second-to-last on my condiment scale, surpassed only by ranch dressing (gross, gross, gross). But a thin smear of good old full-fat Hellman’s on toasted bread can take a club sandwich or BLT to another level. (And mix a little pesto with that mayo and you’ve got yourself something entirely different.)
  • Bread: I had every intention of going to Zingerman’s Bakehouse for a loaf of farm bread. That didn’t happen. Instead, I stopped at Kroger on my way home and picked up some individual sandwich-sized ciabattas from the bakery section. These little squares of delightfulness proved unexpectedly perfect my purposes – they toasted (well, grilled) up nicely, weren’t too dense or too flaky, and had a nice, yeasty flavor. I was pleasantly surprised.

The bacon was already cooked from last night’s brinner, so really all I did was cut the ciabatta in half and throw it on my “panini press” AKA my mini George Foreman grill (talk about a workhorse – that thing comes in handy more times than I can count), chop the lettuce and tomato – I like to cut the lettuce into thick strips and quarter the tomato slices  (I also blot the tomato so it isn’t quite so wet), and scrape the toasted bread with that ever-so-slight helping of Hellman’s.

The fully assembled product.