Tasting in Ann Arbor, a food and spirit experience!

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I’ve mentioned in a previous blog about a few of the great restaurant options in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area that I experienced on a hosted trip at the end of November and beginning of December.  Besides restaurants though there is a plethora of tasting opportunities as well.  You never have to be hungry  or thirsty in Ann Arbor!

Downtown Ann Arbor offers the Vin Bar, a wine bar specializing in wines from northern Michigan.  With featured wines from Black Star Farms, Good Harbor Vineyards, and L. Mawby Vineyards, these Michigan wines originated  from the Leelanau Peninsula near Traverse City.  Try a taste of Michigan wines at Vin Bar and figure out your favorite. Being a sweet white wine girl myself, the Riesling was right up my alley. Log onto www.vinbara2.com or call them at 734-368-9750 for details.

For those that are into cooking, I loved the visit to Fustini’s Oils and Vinegars, a Michigan based company started by Jim and Lane Milligan.  Jill, who is Lane’s sister greeted those of us that went to Fustini’s and explained that Fusini’s got their start when they opened an oil and vinegar shop in Trverse City.  “It went crazy,” Jill said adding that they opened  several new shops including the one in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown next to the Farmer’s Market. “We bottle everything here and we ship,” Jill said.

Open since 2010, besides offering samples of vinegar and olive oils that come in a wide array of flavors, they also offer a School of Cooking where the chef shows you how to use the products to create tasty, healthy foods.  Chef Nicholas Bardt, taught a class and demonstrated his techniques while I was there.  Bon in Chillie and traveling all over Europe, this Cordon Bleu graduate settleed in Ann Arbor where he said, “People are into their food.”IMG_2811

 

Chef Bardt created a baked sweet potato fries with coconut aeoli and he used coconut balsamic vinegar in the preparation.  This is just one of the fun things he cooked.  Fustini’s, is a great stop for tasting and if you have time, sign up for a cooking class at Fustinis.com.

The Ann Arbor Farmer’s market is open year round an amazing feat in a cold climate.  The market had a wonderful selection of goods to view and yes, to taste! I tried Sherry Toney’s fresh pies.  Talked to Jason, Scott and David from Kapnick’s Orchard. They shared how they are able to save apples with their atmospheric storage.

Chandler from Snow Sugar Bush told me that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup, and John Harnois made me smile when he said his eggs are the best because he uses heirloom chickens and he added, “The birds are cage free, home schooled, I fluff their feathers and sing Goodnight Irene to them.  I view life as an art form.

If you want local farm fresh products but don’t want to head outside in the elements, many of the local farmers bring their produce and products to the Argo Market.  Bill Brinkerhoff and his wife Kathy Sample offer a place where 75 farmers and producers sell their food and products. The farmers set their own prices and keep 80% of the sale price. “We founded the store in 2013 after meeting a blueberry farmer at a local store when we dropped off our son at Wooster,” Bill said.

They learned about the store, a place where people could buy local products and the farmers could bring their produce and not have to worry about marketing their wares. When Bill and Kathy decided there should be a place like that in Ann Arbor, they concluded they should open it, and Argus Market opened in August of 2014.  Log onto argusfarmstop.com for more information about this cool place.

One of the things I loved about my trip to Ann Arbor was the farm to fork opportunities and a chance to visit farms like Lotus Farms, a small, non-profit farm operated by the Tsoyelgar Dharma Center Buddhist.  Open since 2007, Lotus Farm has three bakers, three cheese makers, seven farmers and a groundskeeper. They raise cows, goats, chickens and vegetales.  They make cows and goats-milk cheeses and artisanal breads.  B. Lovedavis, a former New York artist that came to the farm said, “This is a beautiful, mindfulplace.”

B Lovedavis is the gardner and he offered a wonderful selection of cheeses and bread for us to taste.  We were able to tour the amazing shrine located in their historic barn where Lovedavis painted some of the pictures adding a bit of a western touch. This is a great place to buy and taste some local fare, what more do you need than a bottle of wine, some fresh bread and cheese?  Log onto whitelotusfarms.com for details.

Zingerman’s offers many dining and tasting options in Ann Arbor and I was able to partake in some cheese tasting at Zing Train, a training office. Zingerman’s Creamery where they have a farm and make their cheese is currently under renovation but they expect it to be open around the first of March, 2017. When they open this spring, you can take a tour and sample some of the cheeses to see just which one you would like. If you come to town before then, you can do a bit of sampling at Zigerman’s deli.  The deli sells cheeses made by the Creamery as well as other local cheeses and cheeses from many parts of the world.  The Creamery began making cheese and gelato in 2011. All the cheeses are made from local cow’s and goat’s milk. Kieran Hales, a young chef from England who has spent most of his time in central Europe before coming to the US offered up our cheese tasting.  He said he loves Michigan, “Because of the changeablility of the state.”IMG_2813

Kieran was so entertaining that it would not have mattered what the cheese tasted like, his story about how he was in the kitchen at the age of 13 and how he was part of a special training program was a story in itself.  He has cooked for celebrities that include Queen Elizabeth, President’s George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

All the cheeses were amazing and it is easy to taste the freshness. For questions about Zingerman’s Creamery, call 7433-929-0500.

Local is what the tasting is all about in Ann Arbor.  A stop at downtown Ann Arbor’s Cherry Republic will provide you with a sampling of cherry wine.  Who knew that more than 2 million cherry trees grow near the northwest corner of Michigan.  The region is called the Cherry Capital of the world and at Cherry Republic you can do like we did and sample the variety of cherry wines, check out the amazing array of candy and other cherry products as well.  If you can’t make up your mind, you can get a Cherry gift box and have a cherry sample to take home or delivered to your door.  Log onto www.cherryrepublic.com for more information.

Ann Arbor is filled with breweries and other options for tasting, but this offers a list of places to choose from on your next trip to this foodie town where as Chef Bardt said, “People are into their food.”