Thanksgiving….Out

Thanksgiving is a very big deal in my family. The only time I ever missed a Thanksgiving at my parent’s house was when I was studying abroad in Denmark, and even then my Mom sent me a package with everything I would need to host Thanksgiving dinner overseas (minus the turkey—which is apparently

Photo courtesy of ConstructionDealMkting

impossible to find in Copenhagen). We always have a traditional New England Thanksgiving at home with family and friends. It’s wonderful, but I recognize that not everyone wants to deal with the planning, the cooking, and most importantly, the dishes.

This is one of those situations where outsourcing is not so bad. A number of DC-area restaurants host wonderful Thanksgiving dinners with lots of options and all the fixin’s. It’s just a matter of deciding what style dinner you want…and making reservations (which are highly recommended). Here are some of my choices for Thanksgiving dinner out.

Classic Thanksgiving:

*Equinox– Hot off a new post-fire renovation and review from Tom Sietsema, spend your holiday with Chef Todd Gray and his New American Mid-Atlantic cuisine. Start off with a glass of champagne and an oyster roast on the patio. Then move on to the 3-course ala carte menu featuring kobocha squash soup, Ayrshire Farms Red Bourbon Turkey with cider-cranberry gravy, and heirloom pumpkin seed cake with mascarpone ice cream. After dinner you can take a short walk to the White House and around the various monuments.

818 Connecticut Avenue, NW 202-331-8118 www.equinoxrestaurant.com $55/person ala carte menu. Dinner offered from 2-7pm

*701– Dinner at the classic restaurant will include an ala carte menu featuring venison stuffed sage leaves, eco-friendly turkey and suckling pig, and pumpkin and sweet potato tart. Grab a drink before or after your meal at the bar and listen to the live jazz. 701 will also be featuring valet parking, so you don’t have to worry about a thing.

701 Pennsylvania Ave., NW 202-393-0701 www.701restaurant.com $45/person. Dinner offered from 11am-9pm

An International Take:

*Bibiana– Perhaps you would like to forgo the traditional Thanksgiving meal and head to the Amalfi Coast instead of Plymouth Rock. In that case you might enjoy Bibiana’s 3-course Italian menu. Their Thanksgiving menu includes such tasty items as chestnut soup with grappa cream, Heritage turkey two-ways, and monkfish poached in beet juice.

1100 New York Ave., NW (located on the corner of 12th and H Streets) 202-216-9550 www.bibianadc.com $45/person. Dinner offered from 11am-4pm

*Bistro Bis– Bistro Bis, a Capitol Hill favorite, will be offering a delicious Thanksgiving menu with a French Twist. I imagine Thanksgiving dinner at Julia Child’s house might look a little like this. The ala carte menu features venison carpaccio, roasted turkey with sweet potato mousseline and giblet gravy, lamb shank bretonne and mashed potatoes with truffle butter. Dinner at Bistro Bis also gives the perfect excuse to head up to the Capitol Building after dinner and get the perfect view of the National Mall all lit up and covered in leaves.

15 E Street, NW 202-661-2700 www.bistrobis.com Dinner offered 12-8pm.

Photo courtesy of Tramie's Kitchen

Taking It South of  the Mason-Dixon Line:

*Art and Soul– Head to this restaurant if you want a little taste of the South. Art and Soul offers diners a number of classic Southern dishes including passed plates of deviled eggs, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and spicy collard greens. There will be carving stations with roasted turkey, bourbon maple-glazed ham, and herb roasted prime rib. Everyone gets to choose their own dessert like pecan or apple pie. And as an added bonus Art and Soul gives you a take home leftover turkey sandwich with all the trimmings—just because you’re not cooking the meal, doesn’t mean you should miss out on the midnight snacking!

415 New Jersey Ave., NW 202-393-7777 www.artandsouldc.com Dinner offered 11am-9pm. $65/adults and $25/kids (6-12 years old)

Regardless of where you end up I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo courtesy of Vicky's Nature

Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing Mark Bittman, cookbook author, New York Times contributor and frequent guest on the Today Show, speak at the Sixth and I Synagogue. Bittman was promoting his new cookbook, The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living. The cookbook is based off of the New York Times bestseller, Food Matters.

I really enjoyed Bittman’s presentation. Without coming across as preachy or overly aggressive, Bittman explained how detrimental it is for Americans to continue on the diet we currently maintain. Besides the obvious health problems we have developed as a nation (obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes), Bittman explained that there is an environmental and economic effect on the way we eat. His simple presentation was interesting and different enough that I thought I was learning something new. I also feel that Bittman’s approach to more responsible eating is easier to accept versus others out there that say we must all become strict locavores and vegans. I do the best I can. I try to buy farm-raised eggs, most of my produce from the farmer’s market, and hormone-free, grass-fed, free-range meat. But I’m not perfect—-and I’m not giving up meat 100%. Bittman says that is ok. As he teaches in his new book, perhaps the answer is not giving up meat completely but making our intake less (he calls this lessmeatavore). Perhaps cook a vegetarian dish 2-3 times a week (his veggie dishes are robust and delicious…you’ll be more than full). And most of his recipes significantly reduce the amount of meat on the plate. And guess what? You don’t miss it!

My favorite recipe I’ve found so far is the seasonal Cannellini with Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Sausage. I very rarely cook with sausage because I try not to eat pork and find most of the sausage at grocery stores, quite frankly, creepy. But I was able to find Italian-style chicken sausage from one of the meat purveyors at the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market…score! This is the perfect dish for Fall. I served it over Israeli couscous but I’m sure whole wheat noodles, quinoa, or even a few slices of toast would be great.


Cannellini with Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces Italian sausage (chicken, pork, or turkey), casings removed
3 tablespoons minced garlic
Red chili flakes, to taste
Salt and black pepper
1 pound Brussels sprouts, shredded in a food processor or roughly chopped
½ cup white wine or water
2 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans, drained

1.    Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, crumble the sausage into the pas and cook, stirring occasionally to break the meat into relatively small bits, until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for another minute or so.
2.    Add the Brussels sprouts and wine to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until the sprouts are tender but still a bit crunchy, 5 to 10 minutes.
3.    Add the beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are heated through, just a minute or 2. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve.

Serves 4

Side note: Mark Bittman also has an awesome How to Cook Everything app for iPhones/iTouches. It’s based off of his famous How to Cook Everything cookbook…I highly recommend it.

The Great American Dine Out

It’s not very often that I get a chance to combine my blog with my daytime job as a lobbyist. In all honesty, I have tried to keep my two lives separate. But for the past year I just happen to be working on an issue that I not only find inspiring professionally, but have also had a strong interest in personally for quite awhile. The issue of childhood hunger in America has reached a critical peak over the past few years. Currently 1 in 4 children are food insecure. This means that they

Photo courtesy of Bruce Tuten

go without nutritious food on a fairly regular basis. It is a travesty that in the richest country in the world a child should want for food.

Part of my job is to advocate for these children. Through my work I have come in to contact with the wonderful group Share Our Strength. Now there is a way that you can get involved, enjoy a delicious meal, and help hungry kids all at the same time. From September 19-25 Share Our Strength will be sponsoring the Great American Dine Out. Thousands of restaurants from around the country will participate and a portion of the proceeds will go to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, which works to end childhood hunger in the United States by 2015 (the same goal set by President Obama).

Photo courtesy of Strength.org

75 restaurants in the DC area will be participating, including Proof, Estadio, Ping Pong Dim Sum, California Tortilla, and Art and Soul. A complete listing of the restaurants can be found here.

So gather some friends, make a reservation, enjoy a delicious meal, and help change a life!

Free Dessert Day

What’s better than a free lunch? Free dessert! In honor of the series premier of Top Chef: Just Desserts, Opentable.com is partnering with Bravo TV for a free dessert promotion on Wednesday, September 15th. 83 restaurants are participating in one-way or another. Some pastry chefs are preparing a special dessert for the occasion. You can get red velvet cake at Firefly, vanilla ice cream profiteroles at Mon Ami Gabi, and donut holes with dipping sauce at Darlington House. And many restaurants, like Bistro Cacao, Zola, and Capitol Grille, are

Image courtesy of Kitsunbabe

allowing you to choose a dessert off of their regular menu. Personally, I’m grabbing lunch at Againn, and hoping to check out the sticky toffee pudding I’ve been hearing so much about.

A full list of participating restaurants can be found here. (There are many reservations still remaining).

And don’t forget to tune in to Top Chef: Just Desserts at 11pm on September 15th (tomorrow!). DC’s own Heather Chittum will be cheftestant.

Note: Restaurants around the country are participating in Free Dessert Day. If you live outside of DC, go to Opentable.com to see which restaurants are participating in your city.

Photo courtesy of Alain Limoges

Zucchini Boats

Zucchinis are one of my very favorite vegetables. I love the taste of a fresh zucchini but I rarely do anything besides sautéed them or roast them. While on the search for what to do with the zucchini bounty I found myself in a few weeks ago, I came across a recipe for zucchini boats on one of my favorite food blogs, Annie’s Eats.

Once you get the basics of this recipe down you can play around with it. Instead of using ground turkey you can use chicken sausage, ground beef, lamb etc. You can also easily make an all-vegetarian version by leaving out the meat or adding in tofu instead. While this version has more Italian tastes you can easily make a Greek version with lamb and feta, instead of turkey and Parmesan. The possibilities are endless.

This recipe makes a healthy, light dinner with a leafy green salad.

Zucchini Boats

4 6-inch zucchinis
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ cup onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup mushroom (I used cremini), chopped
1 lb ground turkey
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2-3 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon, salt
½ teaspoon, fresh ground pepper

1.    Cut zucchinis in half lengthwise. Scoop out insides (I used a grapefruit spoon, which made it easier), leaving a shell about ¼-inch thick. Reserve half of the insides (roughly chop if too large).
2.    In a medium skilled over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the onion and garlic until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and reserved zucchini insides to the skillet and sauté another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3.    Heat the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble in ground turkey and cook until lightly browned on all sides, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cooked onion and mushroom mixture. Add the wine to the pan along with the tomatoes, basil, thyme, and rosemary Cook for 1 more minute. Drain any excess fat, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
4.    Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Once the turkey mixture has cooled a bit, mix in the Parmesan, egg, salt, and pepper. Fill the zucchini shells with the mixture. Fill a baking dish with ¼-inches of water. Place the filled zucchini shells in the pan and bake in the preheated over for 40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the zucchini from the pan and serve immediately.

Serves 4 (1 zucchini half per person)

Turkey Burgers (so good you’ll forget the beef)

Are you looking for a healthier choice during your Labor Day BBQ? Perhaps try this delicious turkey burger recipe. Turkey burgers normally have a tendency to dry out but this recipe stays moist and juicy. You won’t miss the beef…I promise! The Dijon mustard and scallions add lots of added flavor. Serve on a whole-wheat bun with slices of cheddar cheese, juicy tomatoes, and crisp lettuce. Corn on the cob and potato salad are perfect sides. Have a great long weekend!!

Turkey Burgers

1 ½ pounds ground turkey (preferably 93% lean)
½ cup finely grated Gruyere or Parmesan Cheese
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ cup dried breadcrumbs
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
Vegetable oil, for grates
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns

1.    Heat the grill or grill pan to high. In a medium bowl, use a fork to gently combine the turkey with the cheese, scallion, breadcrumbs, Dijon mustard, and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture into four 1-inch thick patties. (For smaller burgers this can make 5-6 patties).
2.    Lightly oil the grill. Place the patties on the hottest part of the grill; sear until browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Move the patties to the cooler part of the grill (ignore this step if you are working with a grill pan). Continue grilling until cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes per side.
3.    Split the hamburger buns and toast on the grill. Place a burger on each bun and serve with desired accompaniments. (I like to serve mine with red onion slices, crisp lettuce, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise).

Serves 4-6 depending on the size of the patty

Note: These burgers freeze well. Wrap uncooked patties in plastic wrap and then store in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. Make sure to thaw completely before cooking on the grill.

Inspired by a recipe in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Great Food Fast

Book Club Dinner 2010

Once a year I host Book Club on my rooftop. I wait until the weather is nice out and put together a delicious menu for my Book Club buddies, because we all know Book Club is just as much about the food, wine, and gossip, as it is about the book (by the way, this month we read One Day. It was just so-so.)

The white bean dip has become a standard in my repertoire this summer. It is super easy to make and delicious. The chicken bites are amazing. I am so happy I found this new recipe (and sauce, which can easily be used for different dishes). The chicken bites were crisp and moist on the inside. I will be cooking breaded chicken in this manner from here on out. The tart was also a nice addition, and I didn’t have a problem using store bought puff pastry (so much easier than making your own…unless you are on Top Chef).

We finished off the meal with these delightful ice cream bonbons. The coconut ones tasted like a frozen Almond Joy. The raspberry/chocolate combination was equally as mouth-watering. If you’ve never ladled chocolate, it is a must-try cooking method—lots of fun!

Overall this was a successful dinner party. I will certainly be making each of these recipes again.

Roasted Garlic White Bean Dip

1 head of garlic
¼ cup olive oil
1 can (19-ounce) cannellini beans drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
Coarse salt and ground pepper

1.    Preheat oven to 350˚F. Cut top ¼ inch off head of garlic to expose cloves.
2.    Place garlic in a small baking dish. Add oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Turn garlic cut side up. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until garlic skins are golden brown and cloves are tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze garlic coves from skins and set aside.
3.    In a food processor, combine cannellini beans, olive oil, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and roasted garlic. Season with salt and ground pepper. Puree until smooth.
4.    Place puree in a serving bowl and lightly sprinkle with chili power over the top. Serve dip with carrots and pita chips.
Note: Can be made the day ahead and kept in the fridge in a Tupperware container.

Panko-Crusted Chicken Bites with Apricot-Dijon Dipping Sauce

Nonstick cooking spray
½ cup all-purpose flour
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds) cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup apricot jam or preserves
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves


1.    Preheat over to 375˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and fir with a wire rack. Spray with cooking spray; set aside.
2.    Place flour in a large bowl and season very generously with salt and pepper. Whisk eggs in another large bowl with 2 tablespoons water until well combined. Place the breadcrumbs in a third bowl and drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat. Stir in cheese and cayenne and mix well.
3.    Place chicken pieces in the seasoned flour and toss to coat. Working in 3 batches, shake off any excess flour from chicken pieces and transfer to egg mixture; stir to combine. Transfer coated chicken pieces with a slotted spoon to the breadcrumb mixture and toss until completely coated. Place the breaded chicken pieces on a rack-lined baking sheet, spacing them evenly apart. Repeat process until all the chicken is breaded. Bake until golden brown and chicken is cooked through 18-20 minutes.
4.    In a small bowl, stir the apricot jam, mustard, and thyme together until combined. Allow chicken to cool 10 minutes before serving with apricot mustard mixture.

Serves 12
Source: The Martha Stewart Show

Spinach, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Tart

Flour for rolling out puff pastry
1 (from a 17.3 ounce package) sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and pepper
2 packages (10 ounces each) cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 package (10 ounces) fresh baby spinach
2 ounces soft goat cheese crumbled

1.    Preheat oven to 400˚F.  On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place the pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score dough to form a 1-inch border. Using a fork, prick dough inside the border every ½ inch. Bake until golden, rotating pan once, about 15 minutes or until tender.
2.    Meanwhile, in a small saucepan with a tight-fitted lid, toss onion with 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt. Cover and cook over medium heat until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir. Continue cooking with cover on for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Set aside.
3.    In a large saucepan with a tight-fitted lid, heat remaining oil. Add mushrooms; cover and cook until lender and all liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Fold in spinach season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, until wilted, about 5 minutes more. Drain any liquid.
4.    Top dough with mushroom-spinach mixture. Scatter onion and goat cheese on top. Bake until cheese is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Cut into smaller pieces and serve.

Serves 6
Source: Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food


Coconut Ice Cream Bonbons

12 chocolate wafer cookies
¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 pints coconut sorbet
12 whole almonds
26 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

1.    Set a wire rack over a baking pan. Arrange the wafers, top sides down, on rack, spaced evenly apart. Place 2 teaspoons shredded coconut in the center of each wafer. Using a 2-inch ice-cream scoop, scoop a ball of coconut sorbet onto each wafer. Place an almond on top of each scoop of sorbet. Transfer pan to freezer for 20 minutes.
2.    In a double boiler, or a heat-proof bowl, set over a pan of barely simmering water. Melt chocolate and shortening, stirring occasionally. Remove bowl from heat. Let cool slightly.
3.    Remove baking pan from freezer. Generously ladle melted chocolate over the bonbons, covering entirely. Return the baking pan to the freezer for 30 minutes more or overnight. Serve.

Note: I ended up making half with coconut sorbet and the other half with raspberry sorbet. The raspberry was equally delicious. Just omit the almonds and coconut. If you want to use 2 different flavors of sorbet you will only need 1 pint each. Also if you can’t find chocolate wafers (I couldn’t find them in any of the Dupont-area grocery stores) you can buy Oreo cookies. Use just the cookie parts; the cream filling will come off easily with a flat knife.

Serves 12
Source: Martha Stewart Living

Marcus Samuelsson’s Gnocchi

I love everything about Marcus Samuelsson! His cooking style is truly versatile and global. It is clear from his recipes and menus that he put heart, research, and culture in to his dishes. Plus he has a wonderful story. It also doesn’t hurt that he is adorable!

Chef Samuelsson first came on to my radar screen when he opened Aquavit in New York City. I spent a semester in college studying in Denmark, so there is a soft spot in my palette for Scandinavian cuisine. Chef Samuelsson does the real deal at Aquavit and brings the tastes of his adopted homeland, Sweden, to a level that New York City diners can appreciate and delight in.

I also enjoy that Chef Samuelsson honors his African roots as well. This was especially evident in his appearances on Top Chef Masters (which he won in Season 2).

I had the honor of meeting Chef Samuelsson a few months ago when he was in DC promoting his new cookbook New American Table. This is a wonderful cookbook filled with vibrant pictures, stories, and recipes. You can see the influence the immigrant experience has had on Chef Samuelsson. But what I picked up on after flipping through the pages is Samuelsson’s love for New York City.  It’s like a walk through the neighborhoods of the Big Apple—on one page there is a recipe for pad thai, on the next fish goulash, followed by jerk-spiced catfish. The ethnic influences are endless: Chinese, Italian, Jamaican, Swedish, Russian, Thai, Ethiopian, Cuban, and Creole.  The recipes are easy to follow and fun to make.

I have been searching long and hard for a good gnocchi recipe. Gnocchi and pesto happens to be my comfort food….it quickly takes me to my happy place. When I saw Chef Samuelsson’s recipe I decided to give it a shot. This is a great recipe and I was thrilled with the results. They were much lighter than past recipes and had a great texture and flavor. Plus as it turns out gnocchi is a lot of fun to make!

I made a late-Spring/early-Summer preparation of the gnocchi, simply sautéing them with sundried tomatoes, English peas, spinach, mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese. Delicious!

Marcus Samuelsson’s Gnocchi

Ingredients:

1 cup sea salt
2 Idaho potatoes (1/2 pound)
2 garlic cloves unpeeled, plus 1 garlic clove thinly sliced
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove thinly sliced
3 teaspoons chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1.    Preheat oven to 350˚F.

2.    Spread the sea salt on a baking sheet. Arrange the potatoes and the unpeeled garlic on the salt and roast for 30 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan and continue to roast the potatoes until very tender, about another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

3.    Peel the potatoes and garlic and put them through a ricer into a medium bowl. Add the egg yolks, salt, and nutmeg to taste and mix well. Add the flour and knead until a dough forms. Try not to overwork the dough. (The more the dough is worked, the more flour you will need, resulting in heavier gnocchi.) Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.

4.    On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough in half and roll each half into ½-inch thick rope. Cut each rope into ½-inch-long pieces and press the tines of a fork into each piece to make grooves in the surface. Place the gnocchi on a parchment-lined baking sheet lightly sprinkled with flour.  (At this point, you can divide the gnocchi into servings by arranging on pieces of plastic wrap dusted with flour. Wrap each serving in plastic wrap or place in zip-locked plastic bag and freeze).

5.    Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with water and ice cubes. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot, drop the gnocchi (fresh or frozen) into the water and summer until they float to the top, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and lace in the ice bath for 30 seconds.

6.    To reheat the gnocchi, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the gnocchi and the sliced garlic and sauté for about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with chives and serve.

The Greatest Burger…Ever!

I’ve had a lot of hamburgers in my 28 years. My extensive research dates all the way back to my formative years.  I believe I even had a birthday party at McDonalds one year (not that their Big Mac should rank among any sort of food related “Best Of” list). I’ve had fancy burgers, casual burgers, burgers made of Kobe beef, burgers made on a greasy spoon griddle that is probably older than my Grandparents, and the world famous In-N-Out burger.

Up until recently the best hamburger I had ever had was at Palena in Cleveland Park. The Palena burger is simple, affordable and delicious…it also doesn’t hurt that it is cooked by a former White House chef. (Something tells me Bill Clinton would have loved this man).

Then I took a trip to Saugatuck, MI and encountered the burger at Salt of the Earth in Fennville. This hamburger is the best burger I’ve ever had in my entire life. This burger was so good that I almost passed out at the table. It was 10 out of 10 on my Foodie Delight Scale.

The folks at Salt of the Earth are doing something truly special and admirable at their restaurant. The full restaurant consists of a bakery, bar, and dining room. Almost everything is made in house. Their meat and produce are all locally sourced. The hamburger is a perfect example of the love and dedication that goes in to their food. The meat is brought in to the restaurant in large slabs. The chef then grinds his own meat and creates his own patties. The egg bun with a sprinkling of sea salt is baked in the restaurant. The lettuce, tomato (which I actually thought was cut a little too large…the only complaint in an otherwise perfect dish), and grilled onions were grown only a couple of miles from the restaurant. Even the mustard, ketchup, and mayo were made in house.

For all intents and purposes Salt of the Earth is way off the beaten path. But it provided one of the best meals in our week long vacation in Western and Northern Michigan. We couldn’t stop talking about this hamburger for the rest of the trip. We dream about this burger. We will return to Fennville….for this burger!

A Taste of Northern Michigan

I recently got back from a wonderful, relaxing vacation in Northern Michigan. This is the second summer my boyfriend and I spent our summer vacation in this part of the country and we absolutely love it up there. The weather is perfect, the people are friendly, and there is some incredibly good food to be found.

We were in Saugatuck, the Leelanau Peninsula, and Traverse City. These are areas that are serious about fresh, seasonal, locally grown cuisine. The area it chock full of farms and wine vineyards. It’s really a budding foodie destination (Mario Batali even has a vacation home in Northport, MI). We happened to be there during the Traverse City Cherry Festival so we ate tons of fresh cherries; they appeared in lots of different dishes from pie to pan-seared chicken. The best thing to do is to pull over to a roadside stand and buy cherries and whatever else they happen to be selling.

Instead of doing a write up of every excellent restaurant we dined in (and there were many), I thought it would be more fun to give you a visual presentation of all that Michigan has to offer. I also provided a guide of our favorite restaurants and B&Bs (we stayed in some amazing and fairly affordable places). I highly recommend a visit to Northern Michigan—those Pure Michigan ads are no joke!

Cherry pie from The Cherry Hut

Amazing hamburger at Salt of the Earth

Walleye with morels, asparagus, and a ramp butter sauce from Mission Table

Strawberry tiramisu from Everyday People

Asian tofu lettuce wraps from Red Ginger

Smoked whitefish dip from Mermaid Bar and Grill

Asparagus Eggs Benedict from Trattoria Stella

Cherry and chocolate milkshakes from Don's Drive-In

Turkey Reuben from Art's Tavern

Chicken with sour cherries and greens from A Cook's House

Chocolate cherry cheesecake from The Cove

Cherries bought from a road side stand

In Saugatuck Area:
*Salt of the Earth- 114 East Main Street Fennville, MI 269-561-SALT www.saltoftheearthfennville.com

*Everyday People-11 Center Street Douglas, MI 269-857-4240 www.everydaypeoplecafe.com

*Mermaid Bar and Grill-340 Water Street Saugatuck, MI 269-857-8208 http://mermaidofsaugatuck.com

*Sherwood Forest B&B- 938 Center Street Douglas, MI (right next to Saugatuck) 1-800-838-1246 www.sherwoodforestbandb.com

In Traverse City Area:
*The Cook’s House- 439 E. Front Street Traverse City, MI 231-946-8700 www.thecookshouse.typepad.com

*Mission Table- 13512 Peninsula Drive Traverse City, MI (Old Mission Peninsula) 231-223-4222 www.missiontable.net

*Trattoria Stella-1200 W Eleventh Street Traverse City, MI 49684 231-929-8740 www.stellatc.com/stellatc/

*Red Ginger-237 East Front Street Traverse City, MI 231-944-1733 www.eatatginger.com/sit.php

*The Cove-111 River Street Leland, MI 231-256-9834 http://thecoveleland.com

*Art’s Tavern- 6487 Western Avenue Glen Arbor, MI 49636 231-334-3754 www.artsglenarbor.com

*The Cherry Hut- 211 N. Michigan Avenue (US 31) Beulah, MI 231-882-4431 www.cherryhutstore.com

*Tesoro Inn- 15627 Center Road Traverse City, MI (Old Mission Peninsula)  231-223-7686 http://tesoroinn.com