Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Traverse City's Sara Hardy Farmers Market

Some of the most beautiful flowers you will ever see are available at the Sara Hardy Farmers Market in Traverse City, as well as some of the most amazing food! 

If you find yourself out and about on some lovely Traverse City Saturday morning, I would think you completely bonkers if you did not make your way down to the Sara Hardy Farmer's Market.

The food here is divine.  The sights, smells and people are the stuff of legend (when that legend involves a farmer's market) and the mood is light, slightly hippie and completely organic.
Need something to grill up for lunch later on the boat while floating in Grand Traverse Bay? The Sara Hardy Farmers Market features fresh surf and turf.
 It is becoming somewhat of a habit for me and my lovely Lisa to wander the market each Saturday morning.  The food is intensely local and full of so many wonderful bursts of flavor.  You will oftentimes be speaking to the chef or farmer as you take your first few bites of something a bit more than what it is labeled.  By that last part I simply mean that a pastry is not simply a sweet treat here, it is an indulgence, one that I would wager you have never tasted before. 

There is something completely perfect about food that comes straight from its source.  A bread that is only a few hours old made with ingredients that were grown by the baker.  Each bite brings not only flavor rushing through your senses, but also a hint of the love and hard work that went into producing this amazing food.  After tasting these wares, the term "food" will never be thrown around so loosely in your household ever again.  You'll look at that frozen pizza in a whole new light now.  "That is not food," you'll say, for you have tasted real food!

Sweets abound at the Sara Hardy Farmers Market in Traverse City, MI as well.
 If I appear to be getting a bit carried away it is simply because of the fact that I love local, organic food so very much.  Buying honey from across a folding table from the bee keeper herself is an experience that I absolutely adore.  Buying fudge from the family that churns it is so much better than grabbing a chunk from the local gas station.
Amazing creations from home based chefs are a major draw for locals to the Sara Hardy Farmers Market in Traverse City.
 There is a certain magic in every farmer's market that is held throughout the country.  In this good ol' U. S. of A. we have forgotten the value of a market and the personality that goes along with it.  During my years in Guatemala, I went to the local market every week.  Not because I wanted to (even though I very much did) but because I HAD to.  That was the only place to find fresh veggies and exotic fruits.  The market slows you down, lays you back, reminds you that life is for living, not for rushing through to the grave. 

Fresh strawberries are great for munching as you wander through downtown Traverse City.

The Sara Hardy Farmer's Market is Traverse City's version of a slap in the face to those who rush through life without stopping to smell the roses, as they say.  And I love it!
Local maple syrup lines a table at the Sara Hardy Farmers Market in Traverse City, MI.

"So, the market is a religious experience?" you say, "That's lovely, really it is.  But I came here for advice on places to EAT, Ghandi!"  Well, back off with the attitude and I'll get to that.

Delicious bread is everywhere, sweet and otherwise, makes for an outstanding and satisfying breakfast in Traverse City, MI.

The market is open from 8AM-Noon.  That time frame spans two of America's three meal times.  My suggestion to you is that you wander to the market with a few dollar bills (probably 7-10 per person) and make a meal experience of it!  Buy a sweet pastry from 9 Bean Rows (an amazing downtown bakery that sets up shop at the market).......

There's even a few of Traverse City's most popular restaurants offering goods at the Sara Hardy Farmers Market. Yum!

Then wander on over to Patisserie Amie and buy a wondrous loaf of slipper bread (a salty, crusty, soft, buttery affair that will keep your mind forever obsessing over it thereafter)..............

Grab some amazing cheese, sign up for a share of a cow, buy fresh meats veggies and grain goods and more at Traverse City's Sara Hardy Farmers Market.

And then visit my bearded friend and snag some of the most mouth wateringly tasty cheese that you will ever have the joy of chewing.

Yes, there you have it.  A bread, cheese and pastry breakfast or lunch.  Take this humble feast and make the short walk to the bay, grab a picnic table or simply relax in the cool grass or comfy sand and allow yourself to be taken away to a different place in time.........a place free of deadlines, return dates, rushed days and sleeplessness nights.  A time when life was for living and nothing mattered more than this single, simple moment in time.

(All photos by Brooks Vanderbush)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bubba's of Traverse City

Riding a bike or walking, Bubba's of downtown Traverse City is perfectly placed for the summer lifestyle. 

I would be completely idiotic if I did not begin this blog with a hometown favorite here in Traverse City- Bubba's

It's not the fanciest joint in town, nor is it the priciest or the one with the most risks gracing its menu.  But, when it comes to fun people, delicious food and an atmosphere that can almost never be beaten, Bubba's is the place to be!
A welcoming atmosphere, great staff and fun menu welcome hungry folks into one of Traverse City's favorite eateries.
Nestled in the midst of downtown Traverse City's East side at 428 East Front Street, Bubba's is my preferred stop off after a long day of soaking up the sun or wandering the downtown shops. 
Bubba himself!
This is the man behind the vision, the late "Bubba."  The passion and fire that shows through in this photo is present within the wide reaching menu and drink selection. 

Now, the atmosphere is often quite jovial.  The staff and patrons mix and mingle to make for a fun, energy filled atmosphere.  Depending on who is in charge of the play list during your visit, you may hear bar rockin' blues, brilliant oldies, rock, Reggae or (my least favored) 80's R&B.  The noise level is most likely to be elevated a bit, but such is the personality of the place, especially as the night draws on.  Fear not, my friends, you too will be sucked into the energy of Bubba's!

Along with some great bar food and plated creations comes one of Traverse City's deepest reaching bars, able to whip up all manner of mixed drinks and offering some grand micro-brews and rarities.

While the food is truly satisfying and always fresh and fun, my favorite bit of Bubba's is certainly the bar.  From house made jello-shots to a few great pours and a beer selection that would make any connoisseur drool in anticipation, the Bubba's bar has it all.  My preferred libation is an ice cold bottle of Matilda, a wondrous bit of beer-ish miracle from my lovely Chicago (a city I adore and strive to visit every year, including this one, wherein it witnessed my bending of knee and presenting of ring).

There are also the local favorites by the boatload here.  Of those, I gravitate toward Oberon (from Michigan's famed Bells Brewery), Soft Parade (from Bellaire, MI's Shorts Brewery) and anything else up on their beer specials board (a wondrous piece of black board that is constantly changing).

Prefer a generic brew?  Search no further than these three lovely letters: P-B-R.

If you find yourself in the mood for a product of the vine, might I suggest some Woop Woop Shiraz?  It tastes as fun as it sounds!

Ask almost any local and they'll tell you that they love Bubba's of Traverse City.
Yes, as you can see, the drinking is grand at Bub's (as the locals call it).  They even have their own mixed drink menu full of intensely tasty treats.  But, for most, the libations are nothing without something solid for the gullet.  And so, I submit to you:  Bubba's and their burgers!

Now, Bubba's is a lot more than burgers.  They are an amazing breakfast, outstanding South-of-the-Border fare, satisfying sandwiches, yummy starters, perfect salads, homemade soups and delicious entrees (including a wondrous take on surf & turf).  BUT, to truly experience the Bubba's magic, it is this blogger's humble opinion that you MUST raise that glass of PBR in salute to your burger feast.

Of all the wonderful selections present upon their menu, I almost always gravitate toward the Buffalo Burger.  It is a healthy portion of scrumptious red meat (cooked medium rare- my suggestion- NEVER cook the taste out of a burger, for the love of god!) teamed with a spicy Buffalo sauce, bacon, bleu cheese crumbles (request Gorgonzola to REALLY be taken for a ride!) lettuce and tomato.  Achingly simple, but oh so good!

And that's that folks.  My first review.  I figured that I would start here, a guaranteed winner AND the perfect place to kick back with friends after a day full of water sporting in this amazing paradise we call TC.
And what's dinner without a movie at Traverse City's own State Theatre?

An added bonus to this little post is the above picture.  I heartily encourage you to take advantage of this deal and catch a flick at our fabled theatre, home of the Traverse City Film Festival.

(All photos by Brooks Vanderbush)

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Traverse City Restaurant Scene is Hoppin'!

So, here's the deal folks:  Recently, out of pure curiosity, I "Bing-ed" 'Traverse City Restaurant Reviews.' There was no shortage of big-name sites willing to offer me "user submitted" or "first hand account" reviews from "loyal patrons" of Traverse City restaurants.  This did not surprise me.  TC is a vacation Mecca within my beautiful Michigan.  People from all over the world flock to the white, sandy shorelines, the waters glistening with every imaginable shade of blue and the truly diverse and amazing art scene and night life that Traverse City has to offer.

So, you can understand my shock and disbelief when I opened one of these so-called expert travelogue sites and found that the first review was for the writer's delicious trip to.......Wendy's.

Yes, Wendy's.

Now, being a part-time father figure to my beautiful fiance's two lovely children, I have, on more than one occasion, been cajoled into pulling through the "drive-thru" of some unfortunate little establishment where grade F meat goes to die (under heat lamps or in our gullets). 

While I appreciate (and have partaken in) the necessity of fast-"food" during a college road trip or the convenience of a McDonald's burger while sprinting through some five mile long airport attempting to catch that connection your airline so graciously gave you 10 minutes to meet, I can not stand the fact that I opened a Traverse City restaurant review site and found a generic fast-food joint ranking high amongst the area's "best."

And so, I set forth here to remedy that!

As an ad-man (in PR and Marketing) in TC, I look with fondness upon McDonald's......ads that is.  They have some very strange, creative fare in far-away lands. 

But, as a freelance journalist who has traversed the grand expanse of Michigan, this wonderful nation and Central America (I lived in Guatemala for two amazing years), I can certainly claim that I know a thing or two about adventure.  The very first thing that I will tell you about adventure is that you have not experienced a place until you have experienced its food.  I mean TRULY experienced its food, on a local level, in a place where you will never be able to experience such food ever again.  I'm talking about the sort of experience that not only brings you amazing cuisine, but a truly unique atmosphere and a local charm that will stick with you forever; a true Blue Heaven of Key West sort of thing.

In that vein I dedicate this blog to the truly outstanding restaurants, wineries, breweries, bars, eateries, holes-in-the-wall and "Blue Heavens" of the Grand Traverse Region and beyond. 

My opinion is strong, I know what I like.  I am laid back and easy going (a real Jimmy Buffett kind of guy!), but I will not hesitate to relay a poor experience. 

If this offends, please accept my advice to use the things that I write as a learning experience and a guide to a better restaurant and all-around experience.  Please also note that my opinion is my own, formed in my own mind (oftentimes with the help of my strong-willed, extreme foodie of a fiance) and reflects my own experience.  Your experience may vary greatly from my own.  This blog is to be viewed as a guide, a set of suggestions and experiences, not food law written in digital stone.

Most of all, though, I hope to convey the rich beauty and eclectic wonder that sometimes hides within a Traverse City foodie experience.  Granted, many wonderful foodie experiences await you without seeking them and you lovers of Traverse City are well aware of that fact.  However, TC is full of hidden gems, ones that could be easily missed.  It is my intention to write on both of these topics, as well as the experiences that you should most certainly NOT partake in, as, unfortunately, TC has a few of those as well.

Thanks for reading!  I look forward to this journey.....and to the food!  And, as always, eat, drink and experience, it's what life is all about!