BEET GUIDE TO EATING LOCAL ON VACATION (WEST MICHIGAN EDITION)

By
June 8, 2011 at 6:47 am

Wendy Aeschlimann
Summertime Market, Douglas, Michigan

Summertime Market, Douglas, Michigan

If you’re like me this summer, you will find yourself camping, renting a cottage near a lake, or otherwise spending time in the relative wilds of idyllic, small-town Midwest America. In West Michigan, particularly, Saugatuck, Douglas, Fennville, Holland and South Haven, I’ve found that the opportunities for eating and drinking local, even on vacation, seem endless.

In fact, I think that it’s even easier to “eat local” in West Michigan than in Chicago – after all, it is the home base of many farms that serve the Green City Market and other Chicago-area markets. In Chicago, eating local mostly entails going to a farmer’s market on a designated day. But, in this part of Michigan, you can:

• Go to a farmer’s market
• Visit a roadside stand that sells produce
• Visit a winery
• Visit a fruit farm and pick your own fruit (or take advantage of the “we-pick” option at most fruit farms)
• Patronize restaurants that serve local food or drink
• Buy directly from a farm
• Take a Farm-to-Fork tour

Here is a truncated list of many local purveyors. There are many more.

Farmer’s Markets

    Saugatuck Green Market (Downtown Saugatuck)
    Fridays June 2 – October 7, 8 am to 2 pm
    Mondays July 1 – August 29, 3 to 7 pm
    Saugatuck Center for the Arts
    400 Culver Street
    Saugatuck, MI 49453
    (269) 857-2399 (voice)
    info@sc4a.org
    http://www.sc4a.org/GreenMarket.html
    Beautifully presented produce and fruit at great prices.
    Eighth Street Farmer’s Market (Downtown Holland)
    Wednesday & Saturday, 8 am – 4 pm
    May 18 – Nov. 26
    Saturdays only through Dec. 10
    150 W. 8th Street
    Holland, MI 494423
    http://www.hollandfarmersmarket.com/
    This is probably one of the larger markets in the area. In addition to produce, vendors sell bread, jam, flowers, cheese, eggs, and honey. In particular, it’s a great source for cheap canning produce. Look for (or ask) vendors if they have bushels (usually off to the side) of not-quite-perfect produce that they’re selling for cheap. For three years straight, I’ve sourced roma tomatoes for canning – at incredible prices – from the Eighth Street Market.

South Haven Farmer’s Market
Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8 am – 2 pm
May 7 – Oct. 31
546 Phoenix Street (in Huron Street parking lot behind Dyckman Park)
South Haven, MI
http://www.southhavenfarmmarket.com/
Selling flowers, berries, seedlings, produce (conventional and organic), baked goods, jams, USDA beef and honey.

Fennville Farmer’s Market
Saturdays, 8 – 1 pm
June 4 – end of October
Large lot located next to City Hall, downtown Fennville
http://www.fennville.com/farmersmarket.html

Fulton Street Farmer’s Market
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays 8 am to 3 pm, May to Christmas
Saturdays, 10 – 1, January through April
1147 E. Fulton Street
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
(616) 454-4118
http://www.fultonstreetmarket.org/
Providing locally grown produce since 1922. 100% certified homegrown produce. Also sells crafts, bread, meat, honey, flowers, maple syrup, eggs and prepared foods.

Roadside Stands/Berry Farms/U-Pick

Earl’s Farm Market
1630 Blue Star Highway
Fennville, MI 49408
(269) 227-2074
http://www.earlsfarmmarket.com/
45 acre berry farm with “U-Pick/We-Pick” berries and attached farm market featuring strawberries, red and black raspberries, blueberries, peaches, prepared foods (try their hot sauce) and some local vegetables, including peas.

Lyon’s Market
6831 124th Avenue (corner of Blue Star Highway & M-89, just off Exit 34 on I-196)
Fennville, MI 49408
(269) 543-4360‎Seasonal fruit and vegetables (especially berries); Sherman’s ice cream

Dutch Farm Market
Open 7 days, 9 am – 6 pm
July 4 through Labor day, open 8 am – 7 pm
6967th 109th Street (I-196/109th Ave, Exit 26)
South Haven, MI 49490
(269) 637-8334
http://www.dutchfarmmarket.com/index.html
Seasonal fruit and vegetables (especially berries).

The Summertime Market
7 days, 9 am – 7 pm
176 Blue Star Highway (near the bridge)
Douglas, MI 49453
http://www.summertimemarket.com/

Summertime Market, Douglas, Michigan

This is the Green Grocer of Saugatuck/Douglas/Fennville. True adherents to the eat-local philosophy, nothing is sourced from more than 30 miles away, and signs are posted near each product identifying the mileage from the source. In addition to produce, they sell Moo-ville butter, Hilhof Dairy certified organic milk, Grassfield’s eggs & chickens, grass-fed beef, artisan cheese, including Evergreen Lane’s goat cheese (served in Chicago restaurants), Salt of the Earth breads (try the seedy salt version), Palazzolo’s gelato, bottled artesian water, beans, grains, pasta and canned goods — all local.

Krupka’s Blueberries
2647 68th St.
Fennville, 49408
Phone: (269) 857-4278
Email: ckrupka857@aol.com

When blueberries are in season, Krupka’s is a great place for U-pick.

Crane’s Orchards

See description under “Restaurants” section below.

Evergreen Lane Farm & Creamery
1824 66th St.
Fennville, MI 49408
(269) 543-9900
http://www.evergreenlanefarm.com/index.html

Tom & Cathy Halinski have been known for their organic apple orchards, but recently, they’ve become known for something wildly different — their artisanal goat cheese. Their goat cheese is made from the milk of LaMancha goats that are descended from a show line of goats celebrated for their outstanding dairy production. The two different products, though, create a symbiotic relationship on their farm, as the goats help to fertilize the orchards.

Vineyards and Winery

    The approach to Fenn Valley down 64th Street from M-89 reveals what’s to come: patch after patch of sprawling land lined with vineyards. These vineyards, situated in wild grassy sections of land with verdant vines growing haphazardly, seem comfortable in their casual Midwestern setting, and immediately appear different from their upscale, perfectly-trimmed cousins in Napa. Located on a picturesque stretch of hills nestled in between orchards and a horse farm, Fenn Valley is worth a stop, especially to try winemaker Doug Welsch’s ice wine, cabaret rosé, and Edelzwicker (which is an Alsatian-style blend of white wines meant to be drunk young). As with most Michigan wineries, the tasting is free.

 

 

 

Fennville Vineyards
Fennville Vineyards

Restaurants

Crane’s Pie Pantry, Orchards & U-Pick
6054 124th Avenue
Fennville, MI 49408-9440
(269) 561-2297
http://cranespiepantry.com/
http://craneorchards.com/

Crane’s is nestled amongst the Crane family’s fruit farms, and includes a restaurant, takeout pie pantry, and “U-Pick” orchards. The restaurant – really best for breakfast – looks like a vintage apple storage facility and is filled with antique Americana knick-knacks. Kids love this place. The pie pantry is known for its fruit pies, but don’t miss the apple cider donuts and fresh baked apple butter bread. The orchards have a corn maze, in season, for kids. In the fall (Crane’s busiest season as the apples are a big U-pick attraction), there are hay rides as well.

Salt of the Earth
114 E. Main Street
Fennville, MI 49408
(269) 561-SALT
http://www.saltoftheearthfennville.com/

Salt of the Earth is located in the former space of the über-local and seasonal restaurant, The Journeyman, on M-89 in downtown Fennville. Salt of the Earth carries on The Journeyman’s mission, albeit in a less vigorous and more casual fashion. Pizzas still rule, as does anything prepared in the restaurant’s work horse, its wood-fired oven. Still a worthy place to eat, especially in that it gives local beer and wine their just due. Try the Left Foot Charley, Bowers Harbor or even the elusive Wyncroft locally-made wines.

Everyday People Café
11 Center Street
Douglas, MI 49406
(269) 857-4940
http://www.everydaypeoplecafe.com/

If you’re vacationing in Douglas/Saugatuck/Fennville, it’s almost impossible not to eat at the always-packed “EPC.” Although best known for its casual fine dining, EPC’s best-kept secret is its varied, reasonably-priced wine list. Co-owner/chef Matt Balmer is a passionate and knowledgeable wine aficionado, and he puts a lot of effort into compiling his restaurant’s wine list. Although packed with inspired options from all over the world, Matt is known to twist the arms of some local wine producers and get them to release precious bottles for sale at EPC. Recently, that includes wine by Left Foot Charley, L. Mawby’s fantastic méthode champenoise sparkling wines, and rieslings by Bowers Harbor.

The Grill Room at Clearbrook Golf Club
6494 Clearbrook Drive
Saugatuck, MI 49453
(269) 857-2000 ext. 113
http://www.clearbrookgolfclub.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13&Itemid=16

It seems strange to recommend a restaurant attached to a golf club for casual dining and reasonable prices, but Clearbrook has so genuinely attempted to hone its focus on local food, that it deserves a spot on this list.  Dining here will feel like a nostalgic trip back to the days of  mid-century, middle-class fine(r) dining with Clearbrook’s pub-style decor, dark carpeting, and heavy wood bar, but this seems to fit in well with Saugatuck’s vintage vibe.  In addition to focusing on local food, Clearbrook offers a cask conditioned ale (conditioned in-house), and the selection is, of course, usually something from Michigan.  It also offers one of the best wine lists in the area, and has a few Michigan wines on the list.

Reserve
201 Monroe Avenue NW
Grand Rapids, MI
(616) 855-WINE
http://reservegr.com/

Take a vacation from the city only to visit another city?  Relatively cozy, clean and well-kept Grand Rapids is worth a visit if only for Reserve.  Former Journeyman Café chef Matt Millar has taken over the kitchen at Reserve, where he hones his philosophy of supporting small farmers, cooking seasonally, and treating the finest ingredients simply.  There is also a house charcuterie program, and Reserve offers over 100 wines by the glass, including some well-selected Michigan wines.

Founder’s Brewery
235 Grandville Avenue SW
Grand Rapids, MI
(616) 776-1195
http://www.foundersbrewing.com/

One more city recommendation:  Founder’s Brewery is well known for its beer, so a visit to its brewery, just outside of downtown Grand Rapids, can be a great way to fritter away an unexpectedly rainy afternoon.  Like Bell’s in Kalamazoo, it’s a pared-down space with a limited food program, which is apt, as the focus should be on the beer anyway.

Buy Directly From A Farm

    One of the best things to do in Western Michigan is to take in the scenery off the main roads. In addition to driving by picturesque vineyards, rolling hills and inland lakes, you will discover many small family farms that sell their product directly to consumers. Advertisement of their products consists merely of the strategic placement of a well-worn, hand-scripted, plywood sign along the side of the road. Sometimes, they’ll give you warning of their farm by placing another sign on an adjoining road. Do not be afraid to patronize these places! It is not unusual for payment to be on the honor system, or that you’ll have to honk your horn to alert someone to come out of the house and take your money. By patronizing farms directly, you may find a secret source for fruit, such as Italian plums (like I did), eggs, cheese or even honey.

Farm-to-Fork Tours

Hungry Village is featuring farm-to-fork walking and driving tours of the Saugatuck-Douglas-Fennville area.  The 6-hour driving tour is seasonal and includes tours of niche operating farms producing organic fruits and vegetables, artisan cheesemakers, wineries, as well as orchards, a bakery and even a brewmaster.  Tour includes lunch at locally-focused Salt of the Earth in Fennville.   More information here.

If you visit West Michigan, and find anything worth sharing (such as a tiny roadside stand, or meat and cheese producers that sell to the public), please feel free to post a comment below.

Special thanks to Dianna Stampfler for giving me a lead on the Farm-to-Fork tours.

|

5 Comments

  1. Wendy…what a great collection of West Michigan culinary destinations. I’ve shared it with a bunch of my fellow foodies. I’d love to add you to my foodie media list if you’re interested. Just let me know!

  2. Allegan, Michigan has there farmer market on Thursday mornings in the Water St parking lot, has produce, baked goods, jams, plants, & meats.

  3. Lillian says:

    Thanks. Am heading to Douglas next week for the first time and can really use this info!

  4. Meredith says:

    Also, if anyone is in Kalamazoo there is a huge, new, beautiful co-op that just opened. Stop by and enjoy!
    http://www.peoplesfoodco-op.org/

  5. Dawn says:

    The Holland farmers market is really fantastic. It’s huge. They often have children’s activities during the week. We’ve bought locally produced soybean oil there, as well as wonderful produce, cheese, and flowers. There is a good selection well into the fall. And Ray’s tamale truck is another don’t-miss at this market. GREAT Mexican fare!

RSS Feed for comments on this post