Tag Archives: Harbor Country

Chicago Chef Morel & Ramp Romp

Chefs flock to Chicago not only for its cutting-edge culinary scene, but for the city’s diverse neighborhood cuisines. Inspiration lies in every corner of the city: carnitas from Pilsen, downtown fine dining, a gourmet hot dog from the Northside. Essentially any type of cuisine can be found in Chicago’s city limits, and culinary exploration is unlimited. The only thing that Chicago is really missing (besides its fair share of warm months) is a true green space.  Of course, Lake Michigan offers some solace from city life, but when chefs crave some inspiration from nature, they travel up the shore to Harbor Country, Michigan, roughly an hour away from the city.

The First Annual “Chicago Chefs’ Morel and Ramp Romp” recently offered some hardworking Chicago chefs the opportunity to kick back, relax, and mingle with the culinary-minded. This locavore-centric retreat was thoughtfully coordinated by Adam Seger of Hum Spirits, wine distributor Beverly Malen, Drew and Lauron Turnipseed of Two Turnips catering and consulting, Rachel Collins of Collins Caviar, and Scott and Kristen Sullivan of Greenbush Brewing Company. Participating chefs (including Spiaggia’s Executive Chef Sarah Grueneberg and Prosecco’s Executive Chef Mark Sparacino) spent the day in Baroda, Michigan foraging for morel mushrooms and picking fresh ramps, touring local wineries and eating roasted pig prepared by Rob Leavitt of Chicago’s Mado Restaurant. Winemaker Mike de Schaaf poured tastings from Hickory Creek, one of the premier wineries found along Lake Michigan’s eastern shore. The day’s events held a mood of earthy spontaneity and peacefulness, as well as revealing Harbor Country’s culinary aspirations and resources, which perhaps deserve more attention than granted previously.

Adam Seger muddling ingredients for a cocktail made with Hum Spirits.

Rachel Collins serving Michigan caviar on fresh blinis.

Chicago chefs embark on a morel and ramp hunt.

Morel mushrooms-what a find!

Picking local rapini from Michigan fields.

Chicag0 wine distributor Beverly Malen munches on just-picked rapini.

Roasted pig prepared by Adam Leavitt of Mado Restaurant.

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Road Trip: Lake Geneva

Last weekend, my sister performed in the  Geneva Theater Live Music Series in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Since I was accompanying her on a few songs, we drove up before the show to have dinner and check out what Lake Geneva had to offer. The answer: not so much, at least for this snobby Chicagoan. Lake Geneva is a typical midwestern resort town; screaming kids with drippy ice cream cones dominate the sidewalks and kitschy boutiques are crammed full of tourists desperate to buy something or another.  To me, Lake Geneva seemed to lack the quiet charm and sophistication that Harbour Country, Michigan exudes.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Always true to form, after schlepping around the streets and shops for an hour or so, we sought out libations. We found our way to Pop More Corks, a wine shop with an interesting philosophy behind it:

If you walk into Pop More Corks and browse the shelves you won’t see prices marked on the bottles. By design, David [Biegemann, owner] doesn’t want anyone to buy a bottle of wine based solely on price without having an exchange of thoughts and ideas about the wine’s best uses, its history, and something about the producer.

Luckily, we walked in just in time for a wine tasting. The store was packed (aah, how people love free wine!) but that didn’t prevent owner David Biegemann from making sure that everyone had a glass and a piece of information about the wine they were tasting. When we asked for a recommendation of a wine that we couldn’t find anywhere in Chicago, David quickly suggested a special Barolo that normally would sell for double the amount that he was charging.

Pop More Corks, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Tempura House, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Maki, Tempura House, Lake Geneva.

For dinner, we walked down Center Street to Tempura House, Lake Geneva’s answer to Japanese cuisine. Shrimp and vegetable tempura were excellent, and the steak and chicken hibachi was not bad. My sister and her boyfriend ordered maki rolls, which looked divine. We sat on Tempura House’s patio and enjoyed the last few spurts of warm summer air and then went off to perform in a movie theater in Lake Geneva’s square.

More Maki, Tempura House, Lake Geneva.

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Found Inspiration

Aaron and I escaped for the weekend to Harbor Country, an area in southwest Michigan that’s composed of 8 small towns. It was my first visit to HC; Aaron spent time with his family there years ago. I had no idea that this unsuspecting corner of Michigan held so many interesting components, most (that we sought out, at least) a bit upscale while still retaining a clackety old world charm.

Lake Michigan Dune.

We stayed at the Rabbit Run Inn, a newly constructed property that’s gorgeously maintained by innkeepers Linda Jo (an interior designer) and Rodney Clough. Located just minutes from Warren Dunes State Park, the inn is decorated in a modern yet whimsical style: Alice left Wonderland for new digs in Manhattan. With only four guest suites, Rabbit Run is the perfect retreat for city dwellers seeking solace.

Rabbit Run Inn.

Linda Jo’s Kitchen, Rabbit Run Inn.

Rabbit Run Dog.

Soaring.

Beyond the sheer beauty of the natural surroundings, the creativity of Rodney and Linda Jo, two artists in love (like Aaron and I), struck me. What a lovely way to live, carving out a beautiful space for others to enjoy, all the while developing your creative Spirit. I know I could spend my days happily cooking, writing, painting, photographing and decorating. Its these glances into the lives of artists that keep me hopeful and inspired.

Blow it Out.

I’m Only Sleeping.

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