Good Taste

The quintessential compendium on the best bites in Northern Michigan, from artisan breads to ziti and star-rated restaurants in between.

This is the Introduction to my 2002 book, Good Taste: A Guide to Northern Michigan Cuisine, now out of print:

As a kid growing up in the Detroit area, I took regular treks with my family to the North Country. We toured the attractions, hung out on the sand dunes, splashed in the crystal waters and checked out the little shops and interesting eateries that characterize this part of the world. But we never had enough time to see or taste everything. I always longed to linger, just a few more hours, a few more days, a few more weeks.

Then I married a man who felt the same way. On our first foray to Traverse City 25 years ago, we vowed we’d move here someday — despite a hotel room with funky brown shag walls and a scary red velvet bedspread.

Joe and I took the big plunge in 1999. We are no longer Fudgies. We are living the dream. He’s making handcrafted furniture and I’m writing about the things I love. Not only have we relocated to some of the most beautiful surroundings imaginable, we have come at a pivotal time — the restaurant scene is starting to sizzle. What 25 years ago was a bastion of mainly middle-of-the-road dining with a handful of fine restaurants is now rife with culinary possibilities. Everywhere there are more and more year-round dining spots with ambitious menus, world-class chefs, laid-back dress codes and lovely views. The accent is decidedly regional, with whitefish, asparagus, morel mushrooms and tart cherries appearing on most menus. There’s also an emerging ethnic vibe — Mexican, Chinese, a bit of Thai, Japanese, Indian, French and Mediterranean flavors punctuate many menus — and our adventurous palates are pleading for more.

That’s your cue, restaurateurs — bring it on.

This book will guide you to the eateries, gourmet grocers, bakeries, cooking schools, kitchen stores and other foodie haunts that I’ve discovered so far.

I will take you through the high seasons, when the pace up north is bustling with the promise of all those blue skies, beaches, al fresco dining and the blaze of autumn leaves in fall. Then into winter, when life up north slows to a mellow roll and the snowy days look like the inside of a Christmas globe. That’s when restaurant dining becomes a lazy, cozy event by a fire, often with a view of the bay, no-wait seating, attentive service and first-class food.

I’m not sure which season I like more. They’re all pretty extraordinary up here in northern Michigan.