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Traverse City is for Foodies

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

Traverse City is an exploding food destination, with especially excellent farm-to-table cuisine. Three years ago, the “foodie” bible, Bon Appetit magazine, named it one of five top foodie towns in America.

We arrived on a sunny Friday afternoon with more restaurants to try than we had meals to eat. First, we checked into the Carriage House of a lovely downtown bed and breakfast, The Wellington Inn. The Inn is a 1905 neo-classical mansion, with a front porch graced by huge white columns. Innkeepers and owners Barb and Hank Rishel greeted us and showed us into our Art Deco lodgings.

We started our food trek with a drive out to Trattoria Stella, in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons — once a state mental hospital complex. You enter by walking down into a cool, darkish space. Our table was in a small private nook that we shared with one other table. Executive chef/owner Myles Anton prints his Italian-inspired menus daily and features the fresh (and mostly local) seasonal ingredients from farmers and foragers. As asparagus was in season, we ordered it two ways, grilled and battered in cornmeal — both were delicious. The white pizza that followed was a perfect blend of mozzarella, ricotta and roasted garlic on a crispy flatbread. We barely left any room for the linguine with caramelized scallops and Chicken Gallatina, a rolled chicken dish, but we managed to finish everything. Virtuously, we skipped dessert.

Not to miss a meal, we were waiting at 9 a.m. the next morning at the Wellington Inn. A classic bed and breakfast staple, salmon quiche, was the entrée, along with fresh fruit and more asparagus. Barb told us the story of how the ceiling fell in during their four-year renovation of the mansion. We decided to walk to downtown and stroll through the farmers market to burn a few calories and purchase some local products.

Lunch was a difficult choice between Red Ginger and Amical, restaurants almost side by side on Front Street. We chose to sit outside on the patio at Amical and decided to have drinks and appetizers later at Red Ginger. Trying to keep lunch on the light side, my husband ordered Caesar Salad. I had a bowl of my absolute favorite tomato soup with basil topped with a tasty puff pastry crust. I was tempted by the La Caprese salad with ripe Zenner tomatoes, but resisted.

Luckily for the calorie-overwhelmed, many interesting shops cover several blocks downtown. An oil and vinegar store, Fustini, transformed these two kitchen staples into wildly exotic ingredients. The Spice Market was another place to travel around the world through spices. The well-stocked Horizon Bookstore was yet another must-stop. And a round of tastings at Cherry Republic proved once again that cherries could be used for everything from wine to salsa.

While we weren’t driven by hunger, a stop at Red Ginger around cocktail hour included a lemongrass martini and minced chicken in lettuce wraps. Executive chef and owner Dan Marsh created an eclectic menu with flavors from China, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan.

We couldn’t leave Traverse City without a pie from the Traverse City Pie Company. While we can get this wonderful pie at several locations downstate, it has become a tradition to bring home a pie after a trip up north.

Heading home, we had run out of time as well as room for any more delicious food. This time, we weren’t able to fit in a stop at the highly rated Cooks’ House, but that’s just one more reason to make a return visit to Traverse City.

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