Almost overnight, it seems,Traverse Cityhas acquired a reputation as one of the countrys up-and-coming foodie towns. For two years in a row,Midwest Livingmagazine has listed Traverse City among its Five Top Food Towns andBon Appetit magazine named it one of the Top Five Foodie towns in the country.ChefMario Batali calls Traverse City a modern gastro-paradise.
Traverse City cuisine is the opposite of traditional: its an eclectic, relatively recent movement that borrows freely from other regional styles and relies heavily on imagination, boldness and spunk. But if it has one defining characteristic, that would be a generous use of fresh ingredients from nearby farms, forests, waters and orchards.
Local wines, from northern Michigan's red-hotwine scene are featured prominently on most menus. So are the beers and ales being produced by one of the nations fastest-growing and most innovative guild ofmicrobreweries.
From appetizers to dessert, local restaurateurs seem to be on a mission to showcase the best of what the area has to offer. Paul and Amanda Danielson, owners of the fashionableTrattoria Stella restaurant in theGrand Traverse Commons, are leaders in the so-called slow food movement, which is all about using fresh local ingredients wherever possible.
It goes without saying, of course, that many chefs have always relied on the regions abundance of fresh fruits. Mike and Denise Busley, owners oftheGrand Traverse Pie Company, have been featured on the Food Network and earned fans all across the United States, but they know their popular bakery/cafe wouldnt exist if it werent for the fresh ingredients they find all around them.
Can you imagine what would happen if we didn't use the best, local, fresh cherries or apples in our pies?" asks Mike.
Equally committed to that idea is Dave Denison, owner/chef atAmical, a downtown Traverse City bistro offering French and Italian rustic cooking. Most of the greens, tomatoes, herbs and fruits featured on Amical's menu are supplied by area farmers, while many of the fish that play such a prominent role on the menu are taken from the cold waters of nearby Lake Michigan.
Down the street, chefs Eric Patterson and Jennifer Blakeslee have made fresh local ingredients the mainstay of their tiny restaurant,The Cooks House,where 90% of the menu is made with local products. The same can be said of other restaurants outside Traverse City, from theBluebird in Leland,Blu in Glen Arbor andMartha's Leelanau Table in Suttons Bay toPearls andSiren Hall in Elk Rapids andThe Boathouse andMission Table at Bowers Harbor.
Nor is this movement confined strictly to high-end restaurants. Small tavern-style eateries likeArts Tavern in Glen Arbor and theLittle Bohemia in Traverse City have creative chefs who are enthusiastic about fresh local ingredients, while some of the regions largest kitchens like those at theGrand Traverse Resort and Spa and theGreat Wolf Lodge are among the strongest supporters of the local-food movement.
Fall is the best time to enjoy Traverse Citys celebrated cuisine. For more information contact the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) TRAVERSE.