At long last, I’m so excited to share with you part one of the travel diary of my recent trip up to Traverse City. As a native Michigander, I’m particularly excited about this post–I’m always looking for opportunites to expound on the merits of traveling to my home state. After all, as my father-in-law says, four out of five Great Lakes prefer Michigan.
Traverse City reached out to me this summer to see if I’d be interested in taking a trip up north this fall to visit their many breweries, restaurants, boutiques, and wineries. They had me at brewery. I planned a quick jaunt up in the middle of October, hoping for colorful leaves. Sadly, we were a bit early for the truly spectacular vistas to emerge in full fall glory, but we still thought the scenery was beautiful.
Traverse City is about a five hour drive from Chicago, which is about as far as I’d go for a long weekend. The drive makes up for its length with beautiful views. As we drove up the road snaked along the western edge of Michigan and we caught beautiful views of the lake along the way. Sadly, we arrived at the same moment as an enormous rainstorm. We spent our first afternoon in the city cuddled up in our room at the Cambria Hotel and Suites. Luckily, the room was decidedly cozy and there was football to watch. We made a quick run out for a mani pedi, but other than that we stayed in until our dinner reservation at 7 Monks Taproom.
7 Monks Taproom
Conveniently, our hotel provided a free shuttle anywhere into downtown Traverse City throughout the evening. Our driver gave us some handy tips along the way, and was pleased to hear we’d chosen 7 Monks as our dinner spot. As we made our way into the dimly lit, rustic-chic pub I had a feeling I was going to enjoy myself, a feeling which was only enhanced when I saw the beer list, which was chock full of Michigan beers of every variety.
They also had a live band that we quite enjoyed, though I never caught their name. Apologies in advance for the quality of the photos we took at 7 Monks–despite choosing the brightest table in the place we still had very little light to work with.
|dress||–||Nordstrom Rack (similar)|
We ordered the cheese plate–I always order the cheese plate–as an appetizer and a flight of beers to go along with it. We sampled: Stone’s 6th Anniversary Porter, Railtown’s Good Mooed Milk Stout, Anchor Dry Hopped Steam Beer, and Greyline Firsthour. All were good, but I was partial to the Good Mooed. Not only am I generally a fan of darker beers, I’m also a fan of cute names.
I’m also a fan of cheese. All the jams and honeys that came with it were fantastic pairings.
I had the kale salad for dinner. I’m a sucker for kale salads, and since this one came with goat cheese, I was sold. It was superb.
Curtis, my husband, ordered the tikka masala, which was also quite good. His only complaint was that it was served with triangles of pita rather than naan. I think the Indian restaurants in Chicago have spoiled us.
7 Monks only has one dessert on the menu, and it’s all the desssert you’ll ever need: Moomers Ice Cream Sandwiches. Moomers is a Traverse City Ice Cream shop just down the street from 7 Monks, and their ice cream sandwiches come straight from heaven. We ordered the salted caramel sandwich to split and it was worth every calorie.
|trench||–||Banana Republic (current version)|
|ankle boots||–||New York and Company|
|ring||–||Charming Charlie (c/o)|
Being from Marquette, Michigan, I’m used to the harbor/marina area of a city on the great lakes to be something of a focal point. For that reason, we got up bright and early, thanked our lucky stars for the rain-free weather, and headed to the marina to snap some photos.
When we got there, I realized that the marina near downtown Traverse City is rather small. I found out later that, being nestled deep in a long narrow bay off of Lake Michigan, Traverse City’s main marina is located further up the arm of one of the penninsulas that surround it.
Oh well, I was just happy to be out in the sun looking out at the rippling blue water of Lake Michigan. After snapping a few too many photos, we made our way to Warehouse MRKT for some coffee.
BLK MRKT coffee was a shop the folks at Traverse City insisted I visit, and I’m glad that they did. Located in the burgeoning Warehouse MRKT, which is an old warehouse that has been converted into boutiques, cafes, and antique shops, it was everything I want a trendy coffee shop to be, with nice Northern Michigan flare. The flare I’m speaking of is that the owner himself made and served me my coffee–a novelty, for a Chicagoan.
I got my usual, an Americano, and we relaxed and planned our day between sips.
Probably due to the retreating rainclouds, a shy rainbow began to fade into the sky. I watched it grow through the enormous windows in the cafe, and couldn’t help but think that it was a good omen for our day.
We made a quick stop in the terrarium/florist shop next door where I took too many pictures of tiny glass and ceramic animals–the pigs being my favorite. I have a strange affinity for pigs. Maybe it’s due to my favorite restaurant in Chicago and its decor, but I digress.
We made our way through the shops, enjoying the mix of clothing items and home decor for sale.
Forever drawn to plaid.
We finally found a boutique that had affordable pieces, and after I picked out a skirt to try on I spied this adorable face buried among the pillows on a couch near the dressing rooms. Apparently he’s the shop pug. Say hello to Simon.
I couldn’t tear myself away from this adorable creature, though he seemed more interested in slumbering the morning away than receiving pats.
After our adventures around the Warehouse MRKT we headed downtown, heading straight for…
A panoply of pie!
We decided to have an early lunch at the Grand Traverse Pie Company, which is well known throughout Michigan. We stopped in to the original store at about 11:00 AM on a Wednesday and I was shocked to find a line. Clearly, this place is popular.
Friends and family are well aware of my love affair with pie. Pie or cake? There’s no question. And the best kind of pie? Cherry. Followed swiftly by pecan.
After hemming and hawing for far too long I landed on a slice of Grand Traverse Cherry Crumb. Given that cherry is the best kind of pie, and Traverse City is the cherry capital of Michigan, you’d be mad not to order it…
…but then I heard that the pot pies were just being popped out of the oven, fresh and hot. I was in a connundrum, and I solved it by deciding to be decadent. I got both.
Curtis chose the quiche, which he said was excellent. I devoured my cherry pie. It was excquisite–moist and sweet, with a crunchy crumbly top. It might even be better than my mom’s (shh!). The pot pie was also delicious–especially the crust. It was flaky and melt-in-your mouth good. It’s a good thing I live so far from a Grand Traverse Pie Company location, because I would eat there far too often.
Working on my quit-taking-pictures-and-let-me-eat-pie face.
If you spend any length of time in a northern Michigan town, there’s an unwritten rule that you’re required to buy at least one chunk of fudge. I don’t know who started this tradition, but trust me, it’s real.
We stopped in at Doug Murdick’s Fudge–drawn in at least partially by the heavenly smell wafting from its door–and purchased a classic chocolate slice for my mother-in-law. I fought down the urge to purchase a marbled slice of maple walnut for myself. Hitting the pie company beforehand certainly helped with my self control.
I contented myself with sampling the chocolate cherry and chocolate peanut butter samples on the counter before we trotted off to our next location.
Grand Traverse Commons
As we made our way to the Grand Traverse Commons and our lunch hour wine tasting, we realized something. We’d been there before. My dad had invited us up for the Microwbrew and Music Festival back in August. At the time, total newbies to the city, we didn’t realize that the fest took place in The Commons.
The Commons is both a gorgeous and unique place. It’s a complex of buildings that used to make up the Traverse City State Hospital and the Northern Michigan Asylum. It was built in the 1880s, and its use was self explainatory. Eventually, it fell into disuse and was closed in the 1980s, only to be renovated and reopened as a complex of condos, restaurants, and shops. I was sad we didn’t have time to do one of the historical tours of the grounds. Perhaps we’ll have to come back.
|trench||–||Banana Republic (current version)|
|ankle boots||–||New York and Company|
|ring||–||Charming Charlie (c/o)|
We popped down into Mercato, the aptly named lower level of the Commons, to check out the series of shops and restaurants located there. Naturally, I was drawn into the used bookstore that had suprisingly reasonable prices. These days, when I hit a used bookstore I look for two things: quality old copies of classics and poetry. Sadly, I didn’t find anything to purchase.
Left Foot Charley – Urban Winery
We ended our morning in Traverse City at Left Foot Charley, a delightful winery and cidery. I loved the place the moment I set foot in it. Floor to ceiling windows cover the entirety of one side of the place, and with lots of plants growing indoors it almost felt like sipping wine in a greenhouse–an effect I relished.
We decided to do a full tasting tour of Left Foot’s offerings, starting with white wine, working through red, and finishing with thier ciders. Our sips were served up by Mary, a longtime Michigander who works at Left Foot as her retirement job. She bore a striking resemblance to my own mother, though maybe that was just the flare of sass that characterized her service and descriptions of what we were tasting. She was wonderful. As she served us one of the reds, a warm wine perfect for winter, she told us that her favorite time to drink it is during snowstorms at the tasting room. With the enormous windows, she told us, the whole place feels like a snow globe. Something about the way she described it transported me into the moment she was depicting.
Among the whites, our favorites were the bubbly and the Missing Spire reisling, which was just the right amount of sweet. Among the reds, I’d pick the Roots and Rock as my favorite (sipped in a snowglobe, of course). And then there’s the cider.
Now, I know cider is a particular beverage. Not everyone is a fan of it, but I am. I wouldn’t call myself a cider connoisuer, but I have sampled the majority of ciders you can find in your average liquor store, and Left Foot’s were decidedly better than that, with the exception of the pear cider. The pear was a bit bitter and not nearly sweet enough–but hey, if you don’t like cider, you might like it.
If you DO like cider, let me ask you a question. Do you like cinnamon? If so, you must try the Cinnamon Girl. It is, hands down, the best cider I’ve ever tasted. Bar none. It tastes just like my mom’s apple sauce–which, unlike the cherry pie, remains the best I’ve ever had. I also highly recommend the Strawberry Apple, which is much better than I anticipated, and the Pippen hard cider, which is their standard cider.
With our last glasses of cider in hand, we wandered out to the patio to enjoy the sunshine and the fall displays of pumpkins and haybales. Then we wandered back in to pick up a bottle of the reisling, the bubbly, and several bottles of the cider. I was highly impressed.
Let me share one of Mary’s tips, to close. If you plan on stopping at Left Foot Charley, bring food with you. They only serve small cheese plates and bites and are fine with you bringing in your own selection, so take advantage!
I’ll leave you here, but stay tuned for the rest of our Traverse City adventures, coming up in Part 2!
Thank you to Traverse City for sponsoring this post.