Plenty of Laughs at the Annual Winter Comedy Arts Festival

Winter Comedy Arts Festival

If you’re dreaming of warm, sandy beaches and endless sunshine, have no fear: the 2015 Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival is bringing you the best Valentine’s Day weekend imaginable right here in town. Who needs a mai tai and cute pool boys when there is a party with ice luges and frozen putt-putt golf in the middle of downtown Traverse City? (Wait a second…)

Laughing at the Winter Comedy FestivalMy husband I have volunteered at the festival for the last two years, and it is always the highlight of our winter. Sure, the holidays are great, but I’d much rather ride a Ferris Wheel outside on a snowy night or ice skate in front of the State Theatre instead of waiting in line to return gifts. And, unlike awkward family gatherings, there’s a guarantee I’ll laugh until my sides hurt at one of the great comedians the Traverse City Film Festival crew manages to rope into braving the northern elements every year.

Word must be out about how fantastic this festival is because HBO star Bill Maher is headlining the festival this year totally pro bono.  The festival’s fantastic reputation has also brought in Sinbad and producer/writer Judd Apatow for this year! Personally, I’m looking forward to Doug Benson commentating over the classic rom-com Pretty Woman. Scores of other comedians will join the ranks of the Winter Comedy Arts Festival when the full schedule is released, and you should always be ready for some surprise guest appearances!

Comedy Festival Fun

If staying warm and cozy inside is not your thing, that’s fine. One of the great things about this festival is that the fun fills Front Street during a time of year that most people hunker down indoors. A giant sledding hill is built in the road overnight, and a PGA-approved frozen putt-putt course challenges kids and golf pros alike. Most activities are accessible to all ages, but when the kiddies go to bed at night be sure to come back and check out the ice bar.

The Comedy Festival takes place on February 13 and 14 this year, with the fun on Front Street staying until Sunday, February 15. Grab the kids, dog, significant other, best friend, or a total stranger and get to downtown Traverse City for this festival. Or, better yet, join the fun behind the scenes and volunteer, a surefire way to make a bunch of new (hopefully funny) friends. However you choose to enjoy the festival, you won’t be disappointed!

You can check out all the events and activities on the Comedy Festival website.

Mo Stych PR Photo

 

About the Author: 
Mo Stych lives on the Old Mission Peninsula with her husband and five chickens. A big fan of all things northern and outdoorsy, you can often find her running, volunteering, or exploring in the Traverse City area. She is also a frequent writer on the Traverse City Young Professionals’ blog.

From Lattes to Samosas: Quintessential Winter Delights in TC

By: Nick Viox, Special Projects Coordinator for Downtown Traverse City DDA & DTCA. 

Thanks to the bulky sweaters and the general acceptance of wearing layers, winter tends to be
a great time of the year to indulge in comfort foods in this foodie town that I call home. When
I’m not bunkered down in my house making a Cheese Lady grilled cheese on Pleasanton bread,
with a smear of American Spoon Foods jam, I venture to our wonderful downtown eateries to taste the innovative concoctions this area’s chefs have mustered up to combat the weather. What I usually discover is too good not to share so I would like to take you on a “Full Day of Comfort” through my eyes. (Please note that this is a meat-free tour, so I do apologize to all of my carnivore friends.)

A full day of comfort can’t properly start without a kick of caffeine. One of my favorite lattes in
town is a traditional honey latte at Morsels. Although they continuously wow my tastebuds with
their creative seasonal drinks, the honey latte’s smooth and wholesome flavor always makes
me come back for more. I’m sure I’ve stamped my way to a complimentary drink with fifteen
honey lattes alone!
morsels

Once I’ve gotten my “caffeine fix,” my day of comfort continues at The Towne Plaza for
breakfast. Breakfast here is nothing short of divine. Although they are known for their delicious
cuts of pork, this vegetarian has his hands (and belly) full with their wide variety of vegetable
dishes like their scrumptious Root Vegetable Gratin and their Grilled Romaine smothered in
their amazing homemade hollandaise. However, the dish that I rave about, and, frankly dream
about, are their pancakes.

The pancakes here are heavenly; slightly crisped on the edges, perfectly light and fluffy in the
middle. What really gets me are the local Saskatoon berries that are found inside of these
delightful saucers of melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Known as the “poor man’s blueberry,” these
berries are rich in flavor and take these already remarkable pancakes to another level. I dare
anyone to try these without either gushing about them non-stop or not talking at all for the five
minutes they’re devouring them.
Breakfast at Towne PlazaTo allow these pancakes the proper time to digest, a stroll around downtown is necessary. Stopping in all of the wonderful shops our downtown has to offer is a perfect way to stock up for the winter, see some friendly faces of local merchants, and, of course, shop. I mean, is anything more comforting than a day of shopping and eating? I think not.

After completing some shopping, lunch is at top of mind. A tasty, warm lunch after a cool walk can always be found at Harvest. A new addition to downtown, Harvest has grown from their food truck at The Little Fleet into their own brick and mortar with a wide selection of delectable dishes. This winter, I have been loving their “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” Samosas. Harvest makes their own delicate and flaky dough that is used as a pocket to hold delicious chutneys and other local ingredients. Seasoned to perfection, these middle eastern pastries invigorate the palate and definitely bring comfort. I am always eager to see what new ingredients will be in these downright mouthwatering samosas.

Somosas

A day of comfort continues with dinner at a downtown staple, Poppycock’s. A great menu for
vegetarians and meat eaters alike, Poppycock’s is always a favorite of mine. Of course it’s
nearly a sin not to start off with their famous Pita Chips that have salsa, hummus and their “rich,
bubbling Jarlsberg cheese.” For a main course in comfort, however, I would recommend the
Root Vegetable Pot Pie. Carbs really are the quintessential component of comfort, and this dish
has a remarkable parmesan herb puff pastry that takes your breath away. Filled with
caramelized fennel, sweet potatoes, parsnips, spinach, onion, double cream brie and a marsala
shiitake cream sauce, this entrée is a mouthful, both literally and figuratively.

Per usual, there’s always room for dessert. Without exaggeration, the dessert case at Amical is
a small window to heaven. Between the cobblers, cookies, and tarts, to make one decision is
nearly impossible! However, when it comes to comfort, I go with the age old standard of their
decadent carrot cake. A cup of coffee and this carrot cake is the perfect combination to end any
evening. The texture to this cake is nothing short of amazing and the flavors muster up
memories of warmer days.
Carrot Cake at Amical
A whole “Day of Comfort” is easy to find downtown. We have a variety of wonderful restaurants
that cater to every craving and desire one may have. These are my personal favorites and my
recommendations for 2015. However, with the 5th Annual Traverse City Restaurant Week
(TCRW) at the end of February, my favorites just may change! Hopefully I’ve given you some
great recommendations and you find some of your own downtown and during TCRW.

From the Chair: Featuring Mike Norton

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Tell us a little about what a “media relations manager” does at Traverse City Tourism?
My job is to share the Traverse City story with hundreds of writers, editors, broadcasters, bloggers and other media people throughout the US and the world. I do this by writing regular feature stories and press releases, bringing media folks here to experience the area for themselves, and providing news outlets with background information, photographs and other materials that help them in their work.

What did you do before Traverse City Tourism?
I was a writer for the Traverse City Record-Eagle for 25 years.

What do you love the most about working for Traverse City Tourism?
I love being able to share the emotional connection I have with this beautiful place with other people, especially people who have never been here before. My favorite moments are taking some out-of-town visitor to the top of the Sleeping Bear Dunes or the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula just so I can hear them say, “I had no idea there was anything this beautiful in Michigan.”

Sleeping Bear Dune

What attractions, destinations, restaurants, etc. do you favor in Traverse City?
There are really too many to count! I’m a big fan of the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, I try to walk or ride on the Boardman Lake Trail every day, and I love looking out at the Bay to see the Manitou or the Nauti-Cat sailing past. Restaurants? I’m partial to the Jolly Pumpkin (only place you can get Old Mission Brewing beers!) and I’ve fallen in love with Georgina’s.

What’s your favorite downtown lunch spot and why?
I could make something up, but the truth is that if I ate lunch I’d fall asleep at my desk in the afternoon. Instead, I try to take a walk or ride my bike when the weather’s good.

How you would you describe Traverse City to a first time visitor?
It’s a beautiful place — and at this blessed moment in time, it’s a place where everything seems to be magically balanced: simplicity and sophistication, beauty and energy, civic pride and self-effacing modesty, friendliness and reserve.  Right now, right here, this is one of the best places a person can be.

What is your perfect day in Traverse City?
Any day I spend outdoors, kayaking on the Bay, hiking in the woods, biking along the Leelanau Trail or exploring some place I’ve never been before. As long as I’m home before dark and there’s plenty of local beer in the fridge. (And there always is.)

Copy of Fall2008Kayak1

If you could wish for a celebrity sighting on the streets of downtown Traverse City who would you want to see?
Gordon Shumway

What is your favorite season in Northern Michigan?
Fall. But it goes so fast!

Describe a memorable Traverse City moment/experience…
This wasn’t my experience, but I think it illustrates Traverse City better than anything I could say. I was having a beer last summer with David Landsel, who at the time was the travel editor for the New York Post, and he was shaking his head at something that had happened to him that morning. “I stopped at one of those drive-up coffee places for a double latte or something,” he said, ”and the guy at the window, I ask him how he’s doing. “I’m livin’ the dream, man,” he says. No sarcasm, no irony — he was totally serious. When you live in a town where the guy at the drive-up coffee place is that happy, you’re in a really great place.”

Winter in Traverse City: Learning The Outside Way

Bones of the land: Snowshoeing at the Sleeping Bear Dunes

Hiking across the Sleeping Bear Dunes

By MIKE NORTON

“I love looking out over this landscape in wintertime,” said Liz Berger. “You can see the bones of the land.”

Liz is general manager at the Chateau Chantal Winery. She said this to me one winter day as we stood at her office window, high above West Grand Traverse Bay, and peered down at a swirling panorama of snow-covered vineyards, pewter lakes and dim, distant hills that hovered faint and ghostly as mountains in a Japanese watercolor.

Yep. The bones of the land.

The view from Chateau Chantal

The view from Chateau Chantal

I’d almost forgotten that phrase, until I heard Liz repeat it a few weeks ago while explaining Traverse City winters to a visiting travel writer. What she meant, of course, is that winter strips away much of the visual clutter that conceals the wrinkles and contours of ridge, ravine, hill and hollow, allowing us to see into the landscape in ways that are denied us in summer, spring and fall.

Not everyone loves winter, which I suppose is why God invented Florida. But some of us do, because we find it has a beauty that resonates with us. And it is easier to see that beauty in a place like Traverse City, where the bones of the land are sweet and lovely.

Winter isn’t a sleepy season here in Michigan’s True North. The busy pace of summer and fall has subsided, but everything I love about Traverse City is still there: great restaurants, charming downtown boutiques, wine tasting on the Old Mission and Leelanau wine trails, and exhilarating outdoor recreation. And with fewer crowds and reasonable off-season pricing, winter is a particularly relaxed and economical time to experience it.

I’m pretty sure that’s why Livability.com listed Traverse City as one of “America’s 10 Hottest Cold Cities” – the nation’s best winter vacation destinations. They said Traverse City had “all the ingredients for a great winter vacation – a quaint downtown with beautiful views of Lake Michigan, microbreweries, restaurants, shops, performance venues and lots of snow.”

But let’s be honest. There are two ways to enjoy winter, the Inside Way and the Outside Way, and the real winter attraction in Traverse City is Outside. Each winter this gently sculpted landscape (carved 15,000 years ago by the last retreating glaciers of the Ice Age) is transformed into a magnet for skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoe hikers who (like me) consider this one of the country’s most beautiful winter destinations.

If you’re a downhill skier or a snowboarder, the region’s premiere full-service winter destination is undoubtedly Shanty Creek Resorts, a 4,500-acre recreational complex in the beautiful Chain of Lakes region about 30 miles northeast of Traverse City. Ski Magazine rated Shanty the Midwest’s number-one destination in value, dining, lodging, weather and après ski activities.

A thoughtful moment at Shanty Creek's Schuss Mountain

A thoughtful moment at Shanty Creek’s Schuss Mountain

Other skiers have discovered the fun of staying closer to town, taking advantage of low lodging rates and a broad choice of shopping, dining and entertainment options while skiing at Traverse City’s two day ski areas, Mt. Holiday and Hickory Hills.

Still, Traverse City is best known for the quality of its winter “silent sports” — snowshoeing and cross-country skiing — thanks to its vast acreage of forest and parkland. Personally, I find myself doing more snowshoeing than cross-country skiing these days. It doesn’t  take a lot of skill or training to use snowshoes. They’re easy to slip on and off, and they’re less likely to suddenly slide out from under you than skis.

Apparently, I’m not the only one; snowshoeing has become America’s top snowsport choice. Last winter over 5 million Americans strapped on a pair of snowshoes and went for a winter hike, and the sport has grown by around 17 percent each year over the past decade.

Snowshoeing in the Boardman Valley

Snowshoeing in the Boardman Valley

Traverse City is full of great places for snowshoeing. Some of my favorites include the trail system at Mission Point at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula, the Pelizzari Natural Area off Center Road, the Lost Lake Pathway near Interlochen, the 3,500-acre Sand Lakes Quiet Area near Williamsburg and the Vasa Pathway, one of the finest cross-country ski trails in the Midwest. Inside the city, the 300-acre Grand Traverse Commons features great snowshoeing in parklike grounds among century-old, European-style buildings and stands of old-growth pines.

Some of the best snowshoeing in the area, by the way, is at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which has eight marked trails, some leading up to panoramic overlooks high above the Lake Michigan.

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If you’ve never tried snowshoeing before, the National Lakeshore offers a great way to experience it as a first-timer. Park rangers hold regular guided snowshoe hikes every Saturday at 1 p.m. through March 7.  Just meet up at the park Visitor Center in Empire, where you’ll get a crash course in snowshoeing before heading out to the trail — and if you don’t have snowshoes, they’ll loan you a pair at no charge.  You’ll have to purchase a park entrance pass if you don’t already have one, and you should make reservations since the hikes are limited to 30 participants.  Call 231-326-4700, ext. 5010 for details and to make reservations.

Our Top Ten Traverse City Blog Posts for 2014

Since 2014 is now behind us, it’s time to take a look at past Traverse City Blog posts to see which ones were the most popular with our readers. And here’s the list!

Aerial view of Power Island

Aerial view of Power Island

1.    Now You Won’t Need a Boat to Get to Power Island!

This year’s most widely viewed post was a pretty clear winner; it received 4,010 views. Judging from their comments, it was a pretty diverse group of readers, too. Some viewers were surprised to know that there was an island park in the middle of the West Grand Traverse Bay, and were glad to know that even people without private boats could now visit it. Others were unhappy that the secret was out.

Carter Road (photo courtesy of Karen Duda Sila)

Carter Road (photo courtesy of Karen Duda Sila)

2. Where Our Facebook Fans Recommend Viewing Christmas Lights

The number-two favorite was a late contender: it came in mid-December, when the Traverse City Blog asked our Facebook Fans where the best Christmas lights in the area could be found. A whopping 3,539 people read this one, and many used it as a guide to their own nighttime holiday explorations.

The Great Lawn at the Grand Traverse Commons

The Great Lawn at the Grand Traverse Commons

3. Grand Traverse Commons Tours: a Popular Visitor Attraction

Another popular post: this one about the guided tours being held in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons garnered 2,243 viewers, many of whom promptly went out and signed up for tours of the former asylum and its grounds. The tours have proven so popular now that the Village has started offering bus tours, too!

Cherry Blossoms in Leelanau

4. When will the Cherries Blossom?

The truth is, we don’t know – but we usually have a pretty good idea. And people are always asking us about the annual date for the cherry blossoms – especially in 2014, when the long cold winter and cool spring had a lot of folks worried, so our post about cherry blossom time attracted 2,215 views.

amical

5. Area Restaurants Open on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day 2014

It’s another thing people always seem to want to know about: where can you find a restaurant meal on Christmas Even or Christmas Day? Most local restaurants close for the holidays so their employees can enjoy Christmas with their families, but there are always a few that stay open, so our blog post about Christmas attracted 1,523 viewers.

Spring fishing at Hannah Park

6. Is It Spring Yet? Well, Fishing Season Has Started, Anyway!

It was probably another side-effect of the long winter, but by April anglers were so eager to get their lines into the water that they were out before the ice had entirely melted! That inspired us to talk about the wonderful fishing opportunities available in the Traverse City area, a post that brought us 1,515 views.

A patient doggie in downtown Traverse City

7. Bringing Fido on Vacation: TC is a Pretty Pooch-Friendly Town

Another bit of useful information — for some travelers, at least. Where can you stay in Traverse City if you’re bringing your dog along with you? What parks and beaches are dog-friendly, and what kind of shopping or dining experiences are open to you? We tried to answer some of those questions, a post that brought 1,350 views.

8. Traverse City’s Most Unique Restaurant — And Who’s Open for Thanksgiving Dinner?

Just to show what an important question this is, our eighth most popular post (at 1,198 views) wasn’t even written in 2014 – it’s from 2010, and has quite a bit of outdated information in it. That’s the trouble with the Internet; stuff hangs around forever! Now that we know how badly people want to know the answer, we’ll try to provide some reliable updates.

Looking west from Cedar.

9. My Favorite Fall Color Drives

Everybody has his or her own opinion about the best drives, hikes, beaches, shops, bars and restaurants to be found in the Traverse City area, but when writer Mike Norton offered his list of scenic fall drives, there were 1,173 people who thought they ought to check out what he had to say. Did they all follow his advice? Probably not!

Fat Biking on the Vasa Trail

Fat Biking on the Vasa Trail

10. In Traverse City, Fat Bikes Make Cycling a Four-Season Sport

Last winter’s big story was the proliferation of Fat-Tire Biking as a winter sport in and around Traverse City, especially on the area’s many winter trails. Our blog post on the issue, which included information about rentals and pricing, got 1,147 views, which made it the Number 10 post of the year.

So, then… what was YOUR favorite blog post of 2014?

Come to think of it, what would you like to see us blog about in 2015?

From the Chair: Featuring Jennifer Case

Jennifer Case

Tell us a little about what the Director of Publications & Ad Sales does at Traverse City Tourism?
As part of the marketing team, I am in charge of design which includes the Visitor Guide, brochures, advertisements, promotional items, Visitor Center displays, photography, videos…the list goes on.  I also manage ad sales for the Visitor Guide.

What did you do before Traverse City Tourism?
I was a sales rep for independently published books to major chain stores like Barnes and Noble and Books A Million. I also worked on designing books and catalogs.

What do you love the most about working for Traverse City Tourism?
The product and the people! Traverse City is a great place to promote. We have such a vast array of things to share about our fine city.  I really enjoy working with the wonderful people here at Traverse City Tourism.  It is fun to come to work everyday!

What attractions, destinations, restaurants, etc. do you favor in Traverse City?
The list is long and includes, shopping and dining downtown and in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, festivals and events, the nature trails, Sleeping Bear Dunes, the wineries, distilleries & breweries, the galleries, port towns…and so much more!

What’s your favorite downtown lunch spot and why?
I love Eurostop. They have the best tomato basil bisque served with focaccia.  I like to go there with my daughter and share their large tiramisu. I also enjoyed a terrific lunch at Georgina’s last week!  The honey cashew chicken was amazing.

tomato basil bisque copy

How you would you describe Traverse City to a first time visitor?
It’s a big city, small town.  We have all kinds of cultural experiences, from the performances at Interlochen to the exhibits at the Dennos Museum.  And it’s a welcoming friendly place where you can get away from it all and enjoy the natural splendor.

Hiking Sleeping Bear

What is your perfect day in Traverse City?
I would start a winter day early with my best friend snowshoeing at Hickory Hills followed by a huge poppy seed muffin at Good Harbor Coffee. (It kind of negates the snowshoeing, but they are really good!!) Then in the afternoon, I would go hiking with my husband and three kids somewhere scenic like the Brown Bridge area or Empire Bluffs Trail at the Sleeping Bear Dunes.  We would finish off the day with a great movie at the Bijou or the State Theatre!

Brown Bridge photo

If you could wish for a celebrity sighting on the streets of downtown Traverse City who would you want to see?
Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell – who couldn’t use a good laugh?!

What is your favorite season in Northern Michigan?
I really do like them all but summer is my favorite.  I enjoy going to the beaches, riding bikes on the TART trail and going to outdoor cafés.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Empire

Describe a memorable Traverse City moment/experience…
This year we had some friends up for a summer break.  We had a great time going to Sleeping Bear Dunes, tubing at Riverside Canoe, shopping downtown on Front Street, going to a drive-in movie at the Cherry Bowl and enjoying a lakeside campfire in the evening.

Swimming

Area Restaurants Open on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day 2014

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West Bay Beach Holiday Inn Resort
Christmas Eve Dinner-Open 11:30am-10pm.

Christmas Day Buffet:
Hours: Noon -5pm
Adults $25.95, kids 12yrs + under $12.95, 5 yrs.

Great Wolf Lodge
Christmas Day Breakfast Buffet:
Hours: 7:00am-11am. Reservations are not necessary.
Adults $11.99, kids 4-10yrs. $6.99 3yrs. & under 3 are free.

Christmas Day Dinner Buffet
Hours: 4pm-9pm
Adults $24.99, teens 11-15yrs. $14.99, kids 4-10yrs. $8.99, under 3 are free.

Gingerbread House seating
Reservations required. $10 to hold reservation. Runs December 5-25

Grand Traverse Resort & Spa
Aerie Restaurant: Christmas Eve Dinner -Open 11 am-6 pm (order off the menu)
Christmas Day Brunch:
Hours: 11 am-6 pm Reservations are highly recommended.
Adults (ages 12 yrs.+) $29.95, kids 5-12 yrs-$14.95, 5 yrs. & under are free.
Advance reservations are highly recommended. Call 231-534-6800

Sweetwater Café
Hours:
Breakfast 7am-2pm
Lunch – 11:30am-5pm
Dinner – 5pm-10pm

Shanty Creek Resorts (reservations are recommended)
Lakeview Restaurant
Christmas Eve Breakfast Buffet
Hours: 8am-11am

Christmas Eve Dinner Buffet
Hours: 6-10 pm
Adults $27, seniors $25, kids 9-12 yrs. $14, 5-8 yrs. $12, 4 & under are free.

Christmas Day Breakfast Buffet
Hours: 8am-11am

Christmas Day Dinner Buffet
Hours: 5pm-9pm
Adults $27, seniors $25, kids 9-12 yrs. $14, 5-8 yrs. $12, 4 & under are free.

Cambria Suites – Reflect 
Christmas Eve (order off menu)
Breakfast: 7am-11am
Dinner: 11am-8 pm

Christmas Day (order off menu)
Breakfast: 7am-11am
Lunch: 11am – 4pm
Dinner: 4pm-9pm

Leelanau Sands Casino
Christmas Day (order off the menu)
Hours: 5-10pm

Turtle Creek Casino
Christmas Eve
Seasons Buffet 9am-10pm

Christmas Day
Bourbon 72
Hours: 5pm -10pm – Prime Rib/Crab Legs Buffet – Adults $29.95, Kids 5-12 yrs $19.95 under 4 free

Seasons Buffet
Breakfast-8am-10:30am
Dinner 5pm -10pm

*Free Community Meal: Trinity Lutheran Church- Serving 1-3pm, 231-946-2721

Open on Christmas Eve But Closed Christmas Day:

  • Amical – Serving lunch 11am-3pm, 231-941-8888
  • Apache Trout Grill – Serving lunch 11am-2pm, cocktails 2pm until 5pm
  • Bagger Dave’s – Serving lunch and dinner (off menu) 11am-6pm
  • Cracker Barrel – Serving breakfast & lunch 6am until 2pm, 231-933-9244
  • Firefly – Open 11am-5pm, 231-932-1310
  • Maddy’s Tavern – Open 11:30am-5pm, 231-276-6244
  • Harrington’s by the Bay – Open 11am-6:30pm, 231-421-9393
  • La Senorita – Open 10am-8pm, 947-8889
  • Minerva’s – Serving lunch 6:30am-2pm, 231-946-5093
  • Poppycock’s – Open 11am-3pm, 231-941-7632
  • The Boathouse – Serving dinner 4pm-9pm, 231-223-4030

It’s a Wonderful Time for Leelanau Wine!

Tips for a fabulous experience along the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail this winter…
Erin Bernhard/Assistant Director of the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association

Sunrise at 45 North

Sunrise at 45 North Vineyard & Winery

The active buzz of harvest is now tranquil as the newest vintage awaits its spring release. Dormant vineyards are resting for the season, and the sun shines brightly on fresh, fallen snow. It’s Leelanau Peninsula’s winter wonderland, and a great time to experience the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail.

Inside the tasting rooms, winemakers welcome you with open arms and smiling faces, eager to pour samples of their wines into your glass. With more elbow room at the tasting bars and more time to chat, winter is an ideal season for a more in-depth tasting experience. Winter hours are limited so be sure to call ahead or click here for a list of tasting room hours.

Or, wake up from the winter blues with a crisp, fresh trek by snowshoes or skis. A winter wine trail has cropped up between Blustone Vineyards, Forty-Five North Vineyard and Winery, and Tandem Ciders, offering a unique and fabulous way to explore wine country.

Snowshoes

If the lively excitement of crowds is more your style, join us for a wine tour event along the trail. Here’s a list of upcoming events:

Sips & Soups – January 10 & 24
Warm up this January during a SOUPer new event, Sips & Soups, to enjoy warm-up pairings of wine and soup along the trail. Hosted two Saturdays in January, the event raises funds for local food pantries.

Taste the Passion – February 7-8
Indulge your taste buds during the SWEETEST event of the year, Taste the Passion, for delicious wine and sweet delights along the trail. And, be sure to say hello to the guest of honor – chocolate!

Sips, Chips & Dips – March 28
Everything goes with Leelanau wine, so why not keep it simple? Join the free, casual fun during Sips, Chips, and Dips with yummy wine and everyday snacks.

Spring Sip & Savor – May 2-3
Celebrate the awakening of the well-rested vineyards during Spring Sip & Savor. Try newly released wines paired with local fare, and join the fun Sip o’ de Mayo Hat Contest.

Each event is a self-guided tour along the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail with wine and food pairings at more than 20 wineries. Follow the links for more information and to get tickets.

Leelanau Peninsula Wines

Whether you choose a relaxing day of wine tasting or the hustle and bustle of an event, you’re sure to find many new wines to add to your favorites list and many more things to love along the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail.

EBernhardWine

 

About the Author: As the Assistant Director of the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association, it is Erin’s responsibility to help maintain community relationships with area wineries as well as to bolster the reputation of Leelanau wine through events, advertising, and the written word. Beyond her work with the Wine Trail, Erin is dedicated to the sustainable growth of the Traverse City area and works in many other realms to spread the word about Michigan as a whole. You can follow Erin’s work at www.erinbernhard.com.

Winter at The Little Fleet Means a New Restaurant Every Month

 

An "indoors food truck" --LTO at The Little Fleet

An “indoors food truck” –LTO at The Little Fleet

By MIKE NORTON

When you live and work up here in Michigan’s True North, you realize pretty quickly that winter requires you to make adaptations. And that’s as true in the restaurant business as it is in anything else.

On the other hand, some adaptations can lead to serendipitous discoveries of awesomeness – like the new LTO (Limited Time Only) program at The Little Fleet on East Front Street. What started out as a sort of “indoor food truck” has quickly become an opportunity for aspiring restaurateurs to demonstrate what they can do – one month at a time.DSC_6927

Two years ago, former New Yorkers Gary and Allison Jonas – who created the popular Brooklyn eateries Sycamore and The Farm on Adderly before moving to Traverse City – created The Little Fleet by turning the former Jack’s Market into a full-service bar whose food service has been largely provided by the food trucks they invited to open up shop in their parking lot.

The Jonases had originally hoped to keep their popular street food scene going all year, using heat lamps and other amenities, but last year’s harsh winter persuaded them that they needed to try a different strategy. They took one of their own food trucks (a cute little trailer that housed the EZ Cheesy restaurant last summer) and brought it inside the bar, where they’re making it available each month to a different chef.

“The idea behind this place has always been to keep things new, fresh and exciting,” says Gary. “I think people really like having a different style of food here each month – I know I do.”

The arrangement allows The Little Fleet to provide lunch and dinner for their customers without having to get into the cooking end of things. And for the 30-day chefs, it provides even more.

“Some of these folks are hoping to start out on their own, and for them this is like a business incubator or a stepping stone,” says Gary. “On the other hand, some vendors are just passionate about food.”

The LTO experiment began in November with the introduction of KoKo’s Café, a venture by husband and wife team Carlos Carcia and Korrie Chichester, who were able to try out their plan to create an organic, local plant-based café using the on-loan food truck. December’s entry is White on Rice, from another husband and wife team: Eric and Amy Kolden, who are hoping to open their own sushi restaurant.

Amy and Eric and a sushi entree at White on  Rice

Amy and Eric Kolden and a sushi entree at White on Rice

“It’s awesome, because we don’t have to take on more than we can handle,” says Eric, who spend seven years with Red Ginger. “We’ve got five kids at home, and this is a fundraising project for us — our aspiration is to get our own food truck this summer.”

“We’re getting wonderful feedback from customers and from other people in the business who are offering help and support,” adds Amy. “Jen and Eric from the Cook’s House have been wonderful, and the entire crew from Short’s came by and asked if there was anything we need. It’s been great!”

DSC_6919The January LTO will be Betty’s Homestyle Soups, a venture by Jennifer Scott, whose seafood chowder recipe for Mahoney’s won the popular Soup’R Bowl Competition at the 2014 Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival.  “All of my soup recipes are original,” she says. “They are designed to be comforting and fill people with happy memories.”

For February, former Little Fleet bartender Fernando Meza is hoping to set up shop to introduce locals to some traditional Mexican recipes he got from his mother. And in March, barbecue chef Greg Hart will park his Cordwood BBQ  cooking operation in the little trailer.

“It’s fun,” says Gary. “We’re just lucky that EZ Cheezy truck was small enough to fit inside.

Where Our Facebook Fans Recommend Viewing Christmas Lights

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The Traverse City area is decorated, festive, and ready for the holidays! And, this year we have great suggestions from our facebook fans on the best places to see Christmas lights. Whether you are heading downtown, to the neighborhoods, or to an indoor resort, this list offers diverse suggestions around the Traverse City area. Prepare yourself for the oohs, aahs, selfies, and endless comments on which one is a favorite as you explore our magical area this holiday season!

Grand Traverse Resort & Spa
Start in the Grand Lobby where’s there’s a 23 foot tall tree decorated with 2,500 ornaments and 4,000 Lights. Additional trees are placed throughout the Gallery of Shops and the whimsically decorated Dylan’s Candy Bar is a must-see for those with a sweet tooth!

10401 E Carter Rd 
Don’t miss this house off a side road of M-22! It’s generated local interest for a couple of years and has become a local attraction. From reds to electric blues and everything in between this one will surely be a favorite! (Thank you Mike and Karen Duda Sila for your holiday spirit!)

Downtown Traverse City
Our tree-lined downtown is decked out in twinkling lights and features a glorious Christmas tree (at the corner of Cass & Front St) waiting for you to applaud its impressive array of colors. Perfect for a slow drive or an evening stroll, this destination is charming and romantic!

Christmas on Kimberly Lane 
In this neighborhood just north of Long Lake you’ll find over 10,000 lights synced to some of your favorite Christmas songs. Open daily from 6-10 pm.

Great Wolf Lodge
Step inside the lobby and let the holiday spirit take over! Icicle lights, magnified snowflakes lit up on the walls, and a giant Christmas tree are just a few of the highlights! There’s a kid inside all of us just waiting to discover this indoor wonderland.

Central Neighborhood Traverse City (check the alleys too!) 
Drive down the 9th, 10th, and 11th streets of this downtown neighborhood where you will see a terrific display of lights, decorations, and more. We are told there’s even a space saucer with an alien in a Santa hat!

Stay connected for more holiday decoration posts! Starting on December 13th we begin our 12 Days of TC Trees on Instagram and Twitter (#12TCtrees).