May 3, 2013
Explore the Night Sky at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will be offering a series of monthly astronomy programs this year. Join Park Rangers and the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society for a guided exploration of our night sky and one daytime event. The next Star Party is May 11 with a viewing of the closest star — the sun. Each special event takes place at a different location throughout the National Lakeshore to take advantage of strategic viewing opportunities. Come for star gazing, meteor showers, sun viewing, and storytelling. Kids of all ages can participate in the Night Sky Junior Ranger program.
Starry night skies and natural darkness are important components of the special places the National Park Service protects. National parks hold some of the last remaining harbors of darkness and provide an excellent opportunity to experience this endangered resource. So visit the National Lakeshore and enjoy park skies by attending the following Star Parties:
May 11 (12:00-2:00 p.m.), Visitor Center Parking Lot in Empire
This is a daytime Star Party to view our closest star - the sun. View the sun using a solar telescope and solar shades. See solar activity, including flares and prominences.
June 8 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive #3 Overlook
View Saturn, the Milky Way, and various constellations. Meet at the Dune Overlook #3, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. Please park at Picnic Mountain; the next right after the #2 stop.
July 13 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Platte River Point
View the moon, Saturn, and various constellations.
August 10 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Thoreson Farm in Port Oneida
The Port Oneida Fair celebration continues into the night. View Saturn and the Perseid meteors.
September 7 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Dune Climb Parking Lot
View the summer Milky Way and many Deep Sky Objects.
October 21 (8:00-10:00 p.m.), Dune Climb Parking Lot
Celebrate the 43rd anniversary of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with a starry event.
For all astronomy events, bring a flashlight for the walk back to your car and bug spray, if needed. Park Rangers and GTAS staff will be wearing red glow bracelets at the events.
The monthly Star Parties will be cancelled during inclement weather. The decision is usually made three hours in advance. Please call Park Rangers at 231-326-5135, ext. 331, for a voicemail message with the decision.
All programs are free. Participants need only purchase the Park Entrance Pass or have an Annual Pass displayed in their vehicle to join in the fun.
December 30, 2011
As a local travel expert I spend most of my time promoting other Traverse Area businesses. With the close of 2011 I thought I’d recap what a busy year it’s been for my business. So I thought a year-end review in classic Top 10 fashion would be fun. Here goes:
Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas Top 10 Moments of 2011
10. Traverse Traveler hits 1000 downloads. We kick-started the New Year by reaching a goal we hadn’t imagined. After launching the Traverse Traveler iPhone App at the end of 2010 the local community and area visitors showed overwhelming support. Our app downloads hit 1000 in the first 25 days.
9. Mealtickets Family Grows. I refer to our advertisers as the Mealtickets Family. This year our family grew to welcome the Cherryland Antique Mall, Dennos Museum Center, Elk Rapids Chamber, Becky Thatcher Designs, Great Lakes Children’s Museum and Mana to our little card gang. We’re proud to offer information on such great businesses in Traverse City and the surrounding area. It makes my job easy when I represent great clients! So thanks everyone.
8. All a Twitter. It’s hard to believe I have been on Twitter for less than a year. But it took me a while to make the commitment to another social media platform. And yet, I think it’s one of the best decisions I made all year. The people I’ve met on Twitter have been fantastic. It has broadened my knowledge base, and sparked networking opportunities I never imagined. If you have a small business I highly recommend joining Twitter. In fact, I wrote a blog post here about just that. If you’re in Northern Michigan might I suggest you follow the hashtags #nwmi #TCMI and #mittenlove to find some likeminded friends. And by all means, follow me @TraverseTravelr!
7. 10 Places I’ve Never Been. It all started with an article in Grand Traverse Woman Magazine. Looking to encourage locals to get out in their own backyard and open doors they’ve never opened, I wrote a list of 10 Places I’ve Never Been and set out to visit each one. My list took me across Benzie, Leelanau and Traverse City, into restaurants, wineries, jewelry, furniture and retails stores.
I met great people, and I spent my dollars with local businesses. It was a great experience. In fact, don’t be surprised if my explorations return in 2012. When I stop and think about it there are so many more than 10 places that I have yet to visit. I reported on my travels once a week throughout the summer, here on the Mealtickets blog. If you haven’t read them, I hope you will. You’ll discover some of the magic that makes Northern Michigan so unique.
6. Rockin’ with the Traverse City Lip Dub. When I heard about plans to make a Traverse City Lip Dub I thought it would be fun to work behind-the-scenes to make it happen. But when I appeared at the first meeting I threw my hat in the ring and auditioned to be one of the "singers". Who knew I’d make the cut! So after one month of planning, rehearsing, and one beastly hot day in downtown Traverse City, our community came together to pull off a creative rendition of "You Can Call Me Al," and "Jump" lip-synced throughout town.
The performers were dedicated. The social media engine buzzed about the big debut at the Traverse City Film Festival. And thousands of people gathered at the Open Space to watch the premiere before an outdoor showing of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Finally the TC Lip Dub went on YouTube for all the masses. And then they pulled the plug. At the end of the day, it was still a highlight of my year, and I’m proud to say, "You Can Call Me Al."
5. Sleeping Bear Dunes Named America’s Most Beautiful Place. You couldn’t have missed this story unless you were out of State — perhaps out of the Country. That just goes to show how proud we Michiganders are of our beautiful location. This summer, a small community in the heart of Leelanau County created a nation-wide buzz about the Sleeping Bear Dunes by voting on Good Morning America’s contest.
Some were shocked that we beat out places like Hawaii and California, but not us locals. This win showcased not only the power of social media, but the strength we have when we, as a community, come together to show our support for this region. If you voted for this win, you helped make it happen. And this win has already brought thousands of New visitors to Northern Michigan. And that’s something I’m passionate about indeed.
4. Visual Marketing Book Includes Traverse Traveler. My first publication! Traverse Traveler app was selected from a pool of over 500 applicants to be included in a new book by David Langdon and Anita Campbell. Visual Marketing: 99 Proven Ways for Small Businesses to Market with Images & Design debuted in September with a spread on the Traverse Traveler app.
I was thrilled to be selected for this book which recognized our success in taking a print-based business (Mealtickets) and expanding into a mobile version that works (Traverse Traveler). The book includes 99 great stories of marketing strategies that have been successful, along with a Takeaway Tip for each one so you can apply it to your own business.
3. A Mention on Forbes.com! This one was exciting enough to warrant some local news coverage, so I think it deserves its own listing in our Top 10. The author of the Visual Marketing book was interviewed on Forbes.com about the new release. In her interview, she sited three examples from the book, including Traverse Traveler. Read the article here. It’s a great overview of the Visual Marketing book, and it gave me a reason to smile when I discovered the interview on Twitter.
2. Traverse Traveler Hits 5000 Downloads. I had high hopes for how the Traverse City community and local visitors would respond to our app, but I couldn’t imagine 5000 downloads in less than a year. I’m thrilled to say we will finish 2011 with over 6100 downloads and counting. I have big goals for 2012 including the much awaited launch of an Android version of the app, a BIG fundraising event from Traverse Traveler, and hopefully lots of new businesses adding their listings to our categories. Is your business on the app? If not, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, Sign Up Here!
1. Mealtickets Celebrates 10 Years in Business. Saving the best for last, I’m proud to say I’ve been an momtrepreneur for 10 years! I started Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas on November 1, 2001 after losing my graphic design job in the wake of 9/11. It’s been a challenge to learn new skills — like sales — and a pleasure to work with this regions wonderful hospitality industry and small business owners. In 10 years Mealtickets has distributed millions of little cards to help area visitors discover unique, off-the-beaten-path restaurants, attractions and wineries. And for that I couldn’t be more proud. It is my Top moment in 2011.
If you made it through that list of horn tooting, I thank you! It’s amazing to me that all fit in one calendar year. But if you’re wondering what I could possibly have left to do in 2012, have no fear. I’m a busy body, who is always looking for the next challenge. And I’ve got some great ideas for 2012. So I hope you’ll stay with us.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope your 2012 is a great success. And if there’s any way Mealtickets or Traverse Traveler can help make that happen, please let me know.
November 22, 2011
Every year I scour the region for new ideas for the holiday gift giving season. This year’s theme is: Shop Local. We’re lucky to be surrounded by local retailers who work hard to fill their stores, galleries and pantries with unique finds from Michigan and across the nation. Let’s keep our neighbors in business and see what they have to offer before we fill our online carts and pull out the VISA.
Now I’ll hop off my soapbox and share this year’s categories:
Smitten with the Mitten
From Barrel to Glass
Handmade & Heartfelt
Host with the Most
Fun & Festive
Smitten with the Mitten
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this year seems to be the year of the Mitten. Michigan themed companies, gifts and accessories are everywhere! And for us proud Michiganders that’s a great thing. Here are a few suggestions for the Michigan loyalist in your family.
Michigan Mittens | Benjamin Twiggs
Everyone in Michigan knows we show our hometown by holding up our trusty hand map. When the weather turns cold you can hold your hand high and as their slogan says, "Always wear a map on your hands." Available locally at Benjamin Twiggs. Michigan mittens are made in Clarkston, Michigan.
Michigan Ice Cube Trays | High Five Threads
I discovered these on Facebook, and was glad to see a local company carrying them. What a simple and clever way to share your love of the state. Two trays per package. And the yoopers in your family will be glad to see the design includes the upper and lower peninsula. Jell-O shots anyone? Available at High Five Threads in the Village mercato.
When a Michigan-based company makes mittens from recycled wool we can’t help but be smitten. Baabaazuzu, a Lake Leelanau company designs and creates unique wearables and ships them all around the world. Lucky for us they are available locally as well. Find their mittens in Traverse City at Cali’s and Golden Shoes and in Suttons Bay at The Painted Bird. You can also order online at baabaazuzu.com.
Michigan Soap | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures
Handmade by The Sudsy Mitten Soap Co. in scents like Maple Syrup, Lake Effect and Michigan Honey, these little gems are the perfect stocking stuffer for the mitten lover in your house. Available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen.
Keep it Fresh Tee | High Five Threads
It wouldn’t be a Michigan themed gift list without one of the creative designs from High Five Threads in the Village in Traverse City. They pride themselves on Made in MI merchandise, designing several of their own T-shirt lines including the Keep it Fresh Tee. A portion of the proceeds go toward protecting the great lakes.
From Barrel to Glass
Spirit of Pear | Black Star Farms
Looking for an impressive gift for the wine lover in your family? How about the Spirit of Pear from Black Star Farms featuring a real pear in the bottle. Everyone will ask, how’d they do that! You can tell them while wine starts in the vineyard, the bottle starts in the orchard. Available at all three Black Star Farms tasting room locations.
Redneck Wine Glass | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures
Not every wine drinker boasts the sophistication of an oenophile. If your friend’s taste runs toward the box rather than the bottle — or if they just appreciate a clever gift — how about the redneck wine glass. It’s hard to get snooty when you’re drinking from a Ball jar. Especially when it’s sporting a hot pink boa. Available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen.
Corn Whiskey | Grand Traverse Distillery
The latest creation from our favorite local distiller, Grand Traverse Distillery, is their corn whiskey. Made from Northern Michigan corn, locally grown, and distilled into a fine spirit in Traverse City, this clear whiskey is unlike anything you’ve tasted. And it’s only available from the Distillery, so stop by and pick up a bottle.
Leelanau Brillante | Bel Lago Vineyard & Winery
Every holiday wine list needs a bubbly. So here’s my pick for the year, Leelanau Brillante from Bel Lago. Bursting with flavors of tropical fruit and peach, and made from Cayuga, Seyval and Vignoles — one of my favorite varietals— this is a great wine to give, or to save. Drink it while trimming the tree, wrapping presents, making cookies…
Handmade & Heartfelt
Letter Necklaces | Gallery Fifty
Gallery Fifty customers love these sterling silver pendants and charms. Available in upper or lower-case letters and sold with or without the ball-chain necklace, these simple stamped pieces make great gifts. Perfect for teens, a neighbor, and your BFF. Created by Pellston artist Hanni Yothers and available at Gallery Fifty in the Village mercato.
Unity Collection | Korner Gem
I just love these. Shaped from Michigan beach stones like Leland Blue, Petoskey, granite and chain corral, these necklaces are one of a kind. The beads are sold separately or in pairs, and available in large and small sizes, they can be combined to create beautiful necklaces. Very affordable on their own, or add gemstones and accessory pieces for a truly magnificent gift. Designed and crafted on site at Korner Gem in Traverse City.
Glass Fortune Cookies | Gallery Fifty
Hand-blown boroscilicate glass (known for it’s durability, like Pyrex) each fortune cookie reveals a special message for your friend or loved one. Sold in a tiny take-out container they’re an adorable way to share the love this holiday season. Buy them for girlfriends, teachers, or anyone who needs some good fortune. Designed by Nancy Nagel of Colorado, and sold locally at Gallery Fifty.
Stone Cairn Earrings | Becky Thatcher Designs
This summer I noticed an increasing number of balanced stone sculptures on the beaches of Northern Michigan. These stone "cairns" inspired the work of Becky Thatcher who creates earrings from Lake Michigan beach stones gathered near her gallery in Glen Arbor. What a nice idea for the beach comber in your circle of friends. Available from Becky Thacher Designs in Traverse City, Glen Arbor, Leland and Harbor Springs.
Pretty Stinkin’ Cute Skirts | Pretty Stinkin’ Green
Without exaggeration, I cannot wear one of my Pretty Stinkin’ Green skirts without being stopped on the street by strangers admiring it and asking where it came from. So I would be remiss not to include my friends Deb & Hannah who design these amazing skirts. They are available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures and on Etsy, or you can visit their Facebook page to see how to get a custom made skirt from our own T-shirts.
Flavor Trio Oil & Vinegar with Cookbook | Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars
This year I’m excited to share new products from Fustinis: flavor trio bottle and their brand new cookbook. Available in three flavor combos (bread & vegetable, salad dressing, desserts) this stacked bottle design is a great way to present these unique products. And the cookbook will make sure your gift comes with plenty of instructions for use. Available at Fustini’s in Traverse City, Petoskey, Ann Arbor or Holland and online.
Coco Mojo | Sweet Asylum
If you like to pack gift baskets with Michigan treats you’ll want to make a stop at Sweet Asylum in the Village Mercato and pick up some Coco Mojos. These crunchy almonds are coated with a unique blend of cacao (not cocoa), spices and a little sugar for sweetness. The cacao is organic so you know you are enjoying a healthy snack. Sold with or without dried cherries.
Specialty Salts | Suttons Bay Trading Co.
If you have a chef on your shopping list you know it can be challenging to come up with a kitchen accessory they don’t already have. So why not add something unusual to their arsenal of flavors. Suttons Bay Trading Co., a new spice shop in Suttons Bay, has many options. But I found myself drawn to the colorful salts from around the world. Himalayan Pink, Black Hawaiian, Red Hawaiian and Smoked Course Sea Salt were just a few of the options available in store and online.
Beware, this stuff is addictive. I ran into the owner, a friend from years back, in Oleson’s grocery store this summer and was introduced to her new product. Who knew that coffee and caramel corn would be such a perfect combination. And it’s made right here in Traverse City, which I love. You can find it in local grocery stores like Oleson’s or specialty shops like Suttons Bay Trading Co.
Host with the Most
Jeri Mateus Mitten Plate | At Home
I love the creative painted designs of local ceramic artist Jeri Mateus of Lime Lake. This little mitten dish is only about 4" square, but imagine it piled with a stack of homemade cookies and wrapped in celephane. Just a little something for your boss, a teacher or the holiday party host. Available at the little store with the lime green awning: At Home in Suttons Bay.
Magnetic Note Holder | Gallery Fifty
No more searching through drawers for a pen and notebook. This simple gift idea puts a standard 3×5" notebook right where you need it: on the fridge, in a locker, file cabinet or other metallic surface. Embellished with colorful glass beads and created by artist Cherie Haney of Ann Arbor, these magnetic holders include a notebook and are also sold as a set including a magnetic pen holder. Available at Gallery Fifty in the Village mercato.
Handmade Mug | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures
Whether they prefer coffee or tea your gift recipient is sure to love a handmade ceramic mug from artist Anne Marie. Designed especially for Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen these mugs are handpainted and stamped with the word Michigan or Interlochen. Package that with some coffee from Bud’s or a gift card and you’re good to go.
Glass Business Card Holder | Gallery Fifty
Need a gift that’s professional? Maybe something for your boss or a colleague? How about a handblown glass business card holder from Gallery Fifty. They have a large stock of colors to suit any style. And they’re affordable too. Classy, elegant and functional. What more do you need?
Festive, Fun & Fantastic
Santa Gourd | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures
Designed by artist Deb Mazur these santa sculptures are painted, antiqued and embellished. Made from dried gourds and hand-painted clay. Each design is original and unique. Available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen.
Winter Sports Ornaments | Woodland Creek Furniture
On my adventures this summer I discovered Woodland Creek Furniture is a treasure trove of holiday ornaments for the up-north outdoor enthusiast. They have hunting, fishing, hiking, snow sports, bears and a bevy of woodland creatures all waiting to hang on your tree. Stop by their showroom on US 31 North in Traverse City.
Mulling Spices | Suttons Bay Trading Co.
There’s no better smell at Christmas than cinnamon and cloves simmering away blending a cherry wine into a warm holiday treat. I discovered Suttons Bay Trading Co. makes their mulling spices available in single servings or a 3 oz. package. It’s great with Michigan wine, or apple cider for the non-alcoholic version. Yum!
Keith Smith Handpainted Ornaments | Country Christmas
I couldn’t possibly have a holiday gift guide without mentioning Country Christmas now that I know what their store is like after my visit this summer. There are too many things to mention, so I picked one that really caught my eye — the hand-painted wood ornaments from Traverse City artist Keith Smith. There are many designs available, but when they’re handpainted you know they’re all unique. Just promise me you’ll stop by Country Christmas on M-72 for a visit this season.
Leland & Fishtown Ornaments | Two Fish Gallery
If you have friends and family who summer in this area I’m sure they’d love a momento from one of everyone’s favorite local destinations: Fishtown in Leland. The Two Fish Gallery sells many different ornaments by artist Nancy Deyoung representing Leland, Fishtown and Leelanau County. Stop by and tell Jennifer I said Hi.
That’s a wrap for my holiday gift guide this season. But let me leave you with one final wish.
Shop at Small Businesses,
and if you can’t make it into a Northern Michigan storefront, Shop Local Online!
September 12, 2011
I’ve spent 10 weeks of my summer exploring 10 Places I’ve Never Been. And now it’s time for the Mystery location. A location, recommended by our readers and chosen by our Facebook fans. This mystery stop is Nonna’s Restaurant at The Homestead Resort.
It’s been a few years since I have spent any time at The Homestead Resort. So when my husband and I arrived for dinner we weren’t quite sure where we were headed. I remember the Inn lies at the back of the property with beautiful views of the water, so we drove in that direction. The roads meander through tall pine woods with beautiful condos tucked into the hills. We found the Inn and the Beach Club at the end of the road, but no Nonna’s. So we retraced our path toward the entrance. A few wrong turns provided a reminder of how large The Homestead property is, and how much they have to offer. We passed Stony Brook Lodge with it’s breathtaking views and Camp Firefly where they teach the Orvis Fly Fishing. Finally we turned past the Reception Center and found The Village, and Nonna’s.
We planned to arrive when they opened the doors for dinner at 6pm so I would have a chance to talk with Jamie Jewel, Vice President of Sales & Marketing to learn a bit about The Homestead Resort and the history of Nonna’s. The staff greeted us at the door and welcomed us in for a quick tour.
Nonna’s is located in a section called the Village, which you may recognize as the entrance to the Mountain Flowers Par-3 golf course, and in the winter, their ski resort. The Village is home to several shops, lodging and other dining options for The Homestead guests including Beppi’s and Cavanaugh’s. There’s a play area for the kids and decks overlooking Fiddler’s Pond in the back.
Inside Nonna’s the atmosphere is warm and inviting. Since The Homestead caters to guests traveling as couples as well as families, they’ve gone out of their way to make both groups comfortable. The Porch dining room offers larger tables, banquettes and dining overlooking the pond. The Tavern room includes a bar in back, smaller tables and fireside dining. This room is for adults only. There are a few tables on the deck accessed by the bartender so guests can enjoy a drink outside.
Our tour included a visit to the Loft, a special room above Nonna’s that’s available when large groups would like to dine together, such as a family reunion or corporate meeting. There’s even a kitchenette in the back for future cooking classes. But the loft isn’t open for regular dining hours.
The reason I chose to write about 10 Places I’ve Never Been is to showcase some of the amazing shops, restaurants and businesses that we ‘locals’ forget about, or drive right by. When we returned to the Tavern room I spoke with Jamie about what makes The Homestead Resort a place locals should consider visiting.
The Homestead Resort has begun to recognize the importance of welcoming the locals onto the property to see what’s available. In an effort to reach out to the surrounding communities on Labor Day The Homestead held a community block party for 300 people, inviting residents of Glen Lake, Empire, Lime Lake as well as resort guests. Despite the cold they enjoyed hot dogs and popcorn, sales in the shops, facepainting for the kids and trips via golf cart to the top of the mountain.
The Homestead Resort is a vacation destination with amenities any visitor or local would enjoy — some of which you may not even know about. For instance, did you know The Homestead purchased the King’s Challenge course and gave it a complete make-over? So much so, that under their new name, Manitou Passage, this Arnold Palmer course won Best New Course in 2010 from Golfweek magazine. In the winter the ski hills are open to the public. And they just opened a day-spa on property. Of course, the reason I’m here is Nonna’s. A fine italian restaurant hidden in the pines of northern Michigan.
As we were chatting the server arrived and introduced the menu and wine list. The wine list is quite large, with many options available by the glass. And they had some cocktails that sounded fantastic including a pomegranite martini. I like to support the local Michigan wineries and chose one of few on their list, a Black Star Farms semi-dry riesling. My husband opted for an Italian beer, Moretti.
Our drinks arrived, along with fresh bread, olives and roasted garlic in a basket. Moments later, the chef sent out a special appetizer to whet the appetite: Steak Pizzaiolla. It’s a classic homestyle Italian dish that you just don’t see often on menus. Small bites of beef tenderloin in a savory tomato demi glaze served with thin brushetta. A nice warm treat. Along with the dish came a promise that the chef would come out and chat with us.
Our Facebook fans warned us we would love Chef John. Jamie said, "wait until you met Chef John," so as you can imagine I was anxious to finally talk with Chef John. And moments later, out he came.
Chef John Piombo is not a Michigan native, but his new midwestern digs seem to suit him. With two Italian parents John is fluent in both languages and spent some time in Italy which explains his passion for food and flavor. But I think it’s his personality that attracts new fans to the restaurant, and keeps the staff happy and entertained.
Each night the staff gathers for family dinner, a chef’s choice meal that could be off the menu or off-the-wall depending on what he feels like cooking. The 4:30pm meal offers a time for the staff to taste new dishes, sit down together and prepare for the evening’s service. "We don’t open the doors until 6pm. Not 5:50pm, not 5:59pm. That give us time together and time to prepare."
While many chefs in the area focus on "local" Chef John says, "I’m all about relationships." He works with independent farmers who will come to his doorstep and is building relationships with some of the smaller boutique wineries in the area, like Circa, one of his favorites. It seems he’s full of funny stories about trips to meet with the local merchants.
"Ok, just one more story and I’ll let you go," he teased, as he shared a humorous tale of showing up unannounced at the rabbit ranch and getting a glimpse of something we probably don’t want to think about before we eat. And another story about an order of beef from a Kaleva farmer who arrived with one filet, one strip steak, one rack of ribs — not exactly what chef expected when he placed an order for "one beef."
Shortly after Chef returned to the kitchen the appetizers arrived. Since we weren’t expecting the chef’s selection we ordered a couple dishes to share: crabcakes and a mozzarella & heirloom tomato insulate.
The crabcakes were packed with crabmeat, not fillers, seared in a pan and served on a creamy cucumber puree with a couple dashes of hot chili sauce. Very good. I can never pass up a mozzarella and tomato salad this time of year, so I was glad to see this one was made to perfection. Slices of homemade buffalo mozzarella a top four heirloom tomatoes dredged, but not drowned, in balsamic, olive oil and fresh basil. Both were easy to share and we each enjoyed them.
I’m always impressed when a restaurant pays attention to the details. I loved that my husband’s beer came out with a frosty pilsner glass. The plate for the crabcakes was warm as they were, and the salad plate was chilled. Nothing is worse that getting a cold salad served on a fresh-from-the-scalding-dishwasher plate. So kudos on service.
Speaking of service, our server was incredibly knowledgeable about the dishes, often answering questions about ingredients in the sauces, or making recommendations on the entrees. My husband ended up ordering the Rabbit, and I the Veal Scallopini. They arrived with a side of polenta from the chef.
I tasted the rabbit, as I’m not sure that I’ve ever had rabbit before. Sorry to sound cliche but it reminded me of chicken. It was cooked in a flavorful stewed tomato sauce with fresh herbs. The veal I ordered was full of mushrooms and a rich demi-glaze, but what I really noticed were the fresh herbs. I finally asked the server what they were. "Take a look in the garden on your way out. That is fresh mint sage which we grow out front."
As we cleaned our plates, and finished our drinks, chef John sent out a simple but scrumptious dessert. He flambed huge fresh blackberries with Cake Vodka, and served them over vanilla ice cream. The warm berries exploded with sweetness and you couldn’t mistake the flavor of cupcakes that comes from this unusual vodka. A perfect ending to the meal.
We wrapped up the evening agreeing Nonna’s is a restaurant we’d not only recommend, but plan to return to. The atmosphere in the Tavern was comfortable and welcoming, perfect for couples looking for a quiet night out. The menu offered mulitple selections we were anxious to try —some we admired as they passed by our table in route for another.
Before we left I stopped to photograph the Chef’s Table. This special seating for six just off the entrance offers a unique glimpse into Chef John’s creativity. Guests enjoy 8 or 14 course meals paired with wine. The small-plate courses are completely up to the chef. So if you’re looking for adventure, and you brought your appetite, the Chef’s Table at Nonna’s would be a fabulous treat.
Nonna’s is open for dinner year-round from 6-10pm except Tuesdays. Off-season hours are Thursday – Saturday. Chef John likes to change things up during the year so expect menu changes every 3-4 days. On Thursdays you may find a verbal trattoria-style menu or prix fixe meal option.
Reservations are recommended since Nonna’s is a small restaurant, about 13 tables (not including the loft). There’s outdoor seating for the bar, and some limited patio dining available, "on the three days that it’s warm," Chef John jokes. I can see his south Florida roots haven’t completely adjusted to Michigan’s climate.
You can find Nonna’s inside The Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor, Michigan. Visit their website at www.thehomesteadresort.com and find them on Facebook & Twitter. They’re still working on the wayfinding signage inside the resort, so to locate Nonna’s turn right on Wood Ridge Road, pass the Reception Center and you’ll come to the Village. Parking is on the right. For reservations call 231.334.5150. And, as with all my 10 Places I’ve Never Been locations, you can find them on the Traverse Traveler App. To download the free app click here.
It seems appropriate that the 10 Places I’ve Never Been series ended with a beautiful sunset over Glen Lake as witnessed from our drive home across the Narrows bridge in Glen Arbor. Every time I watch the sun sink into the lake, or behind a dune, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place—America’s Most Beautiful Place, in fact. But… that’s another story.
August 26, 2011
This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.
The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: Two Fish Gallery
One thing I’ve discovered while writing about 10 Places I’ve Never Been it’s that there are a lot more than ten! And coincidentally, many of them are places I have walked past dozens of times. Two Fish Gallery is one of those places.
I visit Leland quite often, walk along the wooden boardwalk, under the shade of that enormous tree, and explore Fishtown. But I hadn’t ventured into the store that lies in the shadow of that tree —until this summer.
Two Fish Gallery is the type of shop visitors are searching for when they want to bring home a momento from their trip Up North. My first impression was that the buyers for this store go out of their way to find items that represent northern Michigan, and are a bit unique. It’s a challenge to choose artwork, gifts, cards and collectables that shoppers won’t see in the store around the corner. Owner Jennifer Collins has done a great job bringing something new into the retail mix.
To write a blog about a retail store means talking about the products they sell. So I’ve taking a ton of photos and thought I’d share some of the items that captured my attention. Let me be your guide on a virtual shopping tour through Two Fish Gallery.
When you walk in the door you can’t miss the large display of ceramics from artist Bill Campbell. He’s a Pennsylvania potter known for a very unique glazing technique. Two Fish Gallery has a great selection of his collectable yet functional art pottery in shades of blue, aqua, purple and brown.
Another customer favorite are the Solmate Socks. AKA "The Sock Lady," this Vermont artist creates beautiful mismatched socks, which may be quite familiar as they’ve become collectable in their own right. The bright knits hang on the wall attached to a clothes line. Each pair of socks has a name which corresponds to the color-scheme. I love that she sells the kids socks in sets of 3, "A pair and a spare," and the Baby Sockinis are sold in sets of 5.
All around the store, hanging near the ceiling, are these fabulous wooden signs painted with clever and humorous phrases. While this is certainly not the only store I’ve seen with wooden signs, I do love the choice of phrases Two Fish Gallery has selected. Some are clever, some tug at the heartstrings, and some just make you laugh out loud. The company Sawdust City offers thousands of options, so it’s up to the gallery owner to choose what she should sell. This gives you a glimpse into her personality and that of Two Fish Gallery’s customers.
The signs can also be customized. In store they carry several that talk about Leland, Fishing, Michigan and up north. But you can even have a one-of-a-kind sign made for your family, cottage or as a gift. My personal favorite: "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will buy more fishing equipment than he can use in a lifetime." Sad, but true.
Eventually my browsing lead me to the jewelry, as it often does. And there’s a lot of variety in the store to choose from. There are handmade crystal necklaces, bracelets and earrings made by a local artist, and friend of the Collins family, Suzanne Meyer. Her self-proclaimed "bead addiction" is a blessing for the rest of us who can appreciate the cherry-inspired necklaces, and simple braclets. I also liked the custom Chart Map jewelry which reveals a tiny section of a map under glass bubbles, strategically featuring the Leelanau Peninsula.
But, the artsy designer in me was drawn to the case of Staxx jewelry, a company I wasn’t familiar with until Jennifer explained. Staxx is a collectable line of customizable rings which are built by you. Two Fish Gallery has a big selection to choose from, so Jennifer hauled it all out for me.
You start with a stainless steel ring with a post on top, choose your layers from colorful disks of glass, metal and molded shapes, then cap it with a topper. Each ring is as unique as the designer. The combinations are endless. So, as you can imagine, I stood there playing for quite a while before deciding on the ring I wanted. The price is determined by what you’ve selected, with layers ranging from $2-$10. Rings usually end up in the $30-$50 range.
While we played with the rings I had a chance to ask Jennifer how she ended up with a retail business in Leland. As it turns out she’s an Engineer by trade, who grew up in Iowa where the closest thing to a lake was man-made. But when her husband retired and moved here from Chicago in 1997 they decide to buy an existing business, Americana Collection. The only problem was, they didn’t know much about antiques. So in 2009 they decided to change the name of the store to Two Fish Gallery, and the inventory began to reflect a style which suited them and the town of Leland.
"We really try hard to find unique things. And we love to make people laugh." So Jennifer has filled the store with collections like Curly Girl, seasonal gifts from Woof & Poof and greeting card lines that will have customers standing there reading out loud to their friends, and laughing all the way to the register. Even the garden art is whimsical and unexpected.
As for me, I knew once I saw the rings that I had my purchase. It probably took 30-minutes of playing to make it. But that’s another nice thing about Jennifer and the staff at Two Fish Gallery…she didn’t mind playing right along with me!
You can find Two Fish Gallery under the shade of a champion cottonwood tree, overlooking beautiful Fishtown. For those with a GPS, that’s 104 West River Street, Leland, Michigan 49654. They are open year-round, and feature seasonal gifts especially for Christmas. Call 231.256.9350 for more details or to place a special order. You can find them online at www.twofishleland.com and Find them on Facebook here. As with all my 10 Places locations, they are also listed under Shop in the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.
Today is the last day to nominate a business for my 10th stop on the 10 Places I’ve Never Been series. So visit us on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page. I’ll be choosing my last place from your suggestions!
And stay tuned next week, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour: The Cherry Hut.