Monday, September 5, 2011


Soaring 17 floors, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa's tower dominates an otherwise unremarkable skyline.

Shall we discuss fine dining?  Why yes, yes we shall.

Aerie sits perched atop the only "skyscraper" in the TC area (actually just a little past the gas station paradise of Acme).  More commonly known as the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa (an amazing place to stay, by the way, truly top notch!), the tower of this resort is the home of one of Traverse City's most amazing dinnertime views.

The decor delights the senses almost as much as the view!

The vista from any table in the joint is simply amazing.  You will literally be sipping your Cristal whilst overlooking all of the beauty that the Grand Traverse Region has to offer.  The panorama alone is certainly worth one of TC's highest price tags.

Is the view from Aerie in Acme, MI worth the rather subpar food and sky high price? Possibly.....

Now, let me tell you what I envision when I think of "fine dining."

Fine dining, to little ol' me, is all about new and exciting experiences.  As you can see from the pics, the ambiance offered at Aerie is quite lovely.  However, the experience of fine dining is about MUCH more than the patron's surrounding environment, to be sure. 

Aerie is truly an amazingly beautiful restaurant with loads of potential.

Inherent in the phrase "fine dining" is an exceptional encounter with food. 

During a recent trip to the top of the Resort, my lovely Lisa and I had a wonderful time.  But, that time was had more as a result of the company than as a result of the offered fare. 

Lisa and I are fans of the complete set of food-stuffs.  We had heard from a trusted chef friend that the bread, supposedly homemade, was quite tasty.  Well, while surrounding tables were piled high with bread and the accompanying oils, our waitress never produced a single grain.  We thought perhaps the bread only appears with a salad purchase, but that would seem a bit too "Big Boy" for such an establishment.  So we let it alone, a bit too amused by the situation to actually inquire about what was up.

Slightly put off, but still in lovely moods, we ordered a couple tasty appetizers.  My pork belly, complete with black beans and rice, was superb.  Lisa's Octopus was outstanding.  I sipped on a Short's brew and we made some EXTREMELY intelligent conversation, if I do say so myself!

For the main course we went with the seafood paella and the sea bass, both fantastic.  Dessert saw some rather unimpressive square creations, supposedly "cake," but rather tasteless and bland.

Caution can be thrown to the wind if you love a good local brew, Aerie has a pretty decent selection.

My final opinion of this establishment is this:  wonderful restaurant, but could/should be so much more.  While I was very pleased with the overall taste and quality of the food, the taste was a result of heavy saucing with some exquisite sauces.  A fine dining experience should be consistent and the sum of the food's flavor should not be held within its sauces.  I have been to some phenomenal fine dining eateries in my day and many have bowled me over completely.  The way in which they marry the food's natural flavors with the various spices and sauces presented were completely new and exciting to my pallet.  Myriad new and strange offerings graced their menus and their chefs wove their magic into every single bite.

I suppose that I felt a bit robbed, to tell you the truth.  I left Aerie pleased, but slightly disappointed.  When someone visits your restaurant in search of fine dining, your chef needs to be prepared to offer up a meal that is better and more enticing than can be found at the myriad exceptional restaurants surrounding him/her.  To me, Amical, Red Ginger, Stella,  Poppycock's and basically all of the areas other first-rate offerings stood out as places I would of rather ventured to.

While this may seem a bit harsh, I thoroughly expect to be wowed whenever I venture into a restaurant claiming to be "fine."  In this case, Aerie was fine, but only fine.  You really have to kick it up a notch for a guy whose favorite stop is Amical or whose significant other can cook like mine can!!  Next time Lisa and I seek out fine dining, I think that we'll make the tiny little jaunt back to the Cook's House (they were completely booked that night).

All restaurants mentioned will be reviewed eventually, I promise.

(All photos by Brooks Vanderbush)

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