Getting "Fresh"

Emily Tennyson, Michigan Travel Ideas contributing writer, shares her favorite places to pick up the freshest Michigan foods around her hometown of Detroit. Sample the state’s bounty yourself along three food trails that are highlighted in the article “Get Fresh” in the 2010 issue of Michigan Travel Ideas. Also be sure to check out “Fresh” – one of our new TV ads this year focused on the bounty of Pure Michigan.

As a lifelong Detroiter and all-around foodie, I’m in the habit of watching trends. Lucky for me, I have a lot of fresh food options nearby and decide to reserve a couple Saturdays to visit some surrounding area farmers markets.

Mount Clemens is a quiet lakeside town with a decades-old farmers market.

On a beautiful Saturday morning I drive to Mount Clemens, a quiet lakeside town about 30 miles northeast of Detroit. For many local farmers the decades-old farmers market is their sole opportunity to meet the public and share their wares (open every Friday and Saturday, May through November, from 7 a.m. – 1 p.m.). The vendors set up in the grass and sell everything from the back of their pickups. When I peek into the back of an S-10, I see tiny redskin potatoes the size of grapes, still caked in dirt, and bright green haricots verts. A perfect nicoise salad starts to formulate. One truck over, I find dessert, too - the lone quart of fuzzy yellow raspberries.

I move a couple trucks down to find vendors Ellen and Bill Gass of Centennial Farm. For the past 25 years, they have organically raised the tasty fare they sell at the market. I try their intense, woody raw asparagus. Next time, it might be one of the 50 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, or 60 kinds of lettuce. I head home with my finds, already looking forward to my next weekend’s adventure.

On another beautiful Saturday morning I drive to Ann Arbor and Chelsea, both about 45 miles west of Detroit. I bring along my daughter Chloe, an aspiring chef.

Chelsea's downtown farmers market is alongside the Purple Rose Theatre.

Around the block from Zingerman’s Deli  (open everyday 7a.m.-10 p.m.) we find the open-air green awning farmers market (open every Wednesday and Saturday, May through December, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Even though it’s only 9 a.m., it’s pretty busy. I am pleased to see rows of curly, sage green lettuce, piles of kale, shiny white leeks, towering basil plants and rafts of strawberries. The fruits are appealing, but I’m craving carbs. I taste Anatolian Bakery’s Mediterranean-style almond muffin. A good choice, I decide.

After we’ve had our fill in Ann Arbor we make the 15-minute drive to nearby Chelsea. We find a small but well edited farmers market (open every Saturday, May-October, from 8 a.m.–noon). There, I discover tiny boxes of baby lettuce, organic eggs and aromatic dill.  I purchase shiny yellow peppers from the Beautiful Earth Farm with dinner in mind.  

Full bellies and satisfied palates accompany us as we head home. I wonder if Chloe is busy next Saturday…

Writer Emily Tennyson, a fourth generation Detroiter, cherishes her hometown and Sanders Hot Fudge for dessert and, always, a drive along Lake St. Clair.