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Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
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Archive for April, 2010

04.28.10

Yes, There Really is a Food Mecca There

Travel


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This article was written for a national publication three years ago, but was never published for space reasons. Life got in the way and I never got around to publishing it. The New York Times and Food and Wine have recently show some interest in the region, so I figured it was time to ressurect the piece. Sadly, Tapawingo, the great restaurant referenced in the article has since closed. The winemakers are are still putting out incredible product, including Left Foot Charley wines which wasn’t open yet during my initial visit. The cheesemakers at Black Star Farms are also still first in class.

As far as I could remember, Michigan had always been dubbed a rust belt state by embattled politicians, but growing up in metro-Detroit, I never believed it. Sure, shopworn laborers left their jobs drenched in sweat, with the boom, thud, plodding of pistons and a gnash of gears ringing in their ears, but they did so in shiny Cadillacs or trailed by the guttural purr of Corvette exhaust pipes.

Local prosperity lingered far past damning rhetorical pronouncements, and nowhere was our good fortune more evident than “up north”, what native Michiganders call all land above the city of Flint. If Detroit was the rust belt, than the Northwestern quadrant of the state that includes Leelanau County and greater Traverse City was the natty suspenders that always lifted the spirit of the working class. Childhood summers spent at my father’s friend Walt Schrodt’s rusty red pine cottage near Traverse city provided me plenty of opportunity to witness the spoils of good union jobs: the thunder of power boats on the Grand Traverse Bay, the buzz of snowmobiles ratcheting nimbly through the snow capped pines, and the chattery schuss of skis on local slopes.

But, by the time I graduated from college and applied for local work, I finally realized how tight the rust belt noose was drawn. Jobs, including the perennial well of skilled trade positions, finally dried up. So for me it was on to Chicago, where urban and coastal cultural superiority crept into my consciousness. As I began to see it, New York City had a gleaming LCD soaked Broadway, while Detroit only the gritty racial dividing line of Eight Mile, California a never ending growing season, and Michigan, an interminable killing frost. Something was askew. I needed to get back to my roots, and Traverse City seemed the perfect place to visit for perspective. More »


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