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Monday, July 21, 2014

Cherry Cherry Salsa and Popcorn Grits.

Vacation Time!  We tend to travel a lot for business.  This year we were in Phoenix for the NPC investment advisory conference and New Orleans for their annual conference.  Coming up we've got a trip to San Antonio for me to take a bond class.  Then, there's a drive to Kansas City for the America's Wealth Management radio show conference followed by another conference for the portfolio models I use.  Last, but not least, I'm back to Phoenix for the NPC Women's Conference.  Typically, we tack on a day or two of fun so as to not waste travel time.  This time, however, we had nothing but fun on our minds.  I'd gotten an email from Interlude Tours touting a trip to Michigan.  It sounded fun but also sounded like it wasn't enough time for all we'd like to do.  So, I e'd our friends Chris and Mark and asked what they'd think about doing a trip.  Sure, they said.  As soon as we get back from 10 days in the Netherlands.  Alrightly then.  This could be a real letdown for them!

Stashed in my scans, I had an old article from Midwest Living about Hungry Village Tours in Saugatuck, MI.  Saugatuck was to be our first stop so the tour sounded great.  From Saugatuck, we'd head to Grand Rapids and the Meijer Gardens.  Then, we'd go see the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum.  Next task, find B and B's.  We were heading north right before the 4th of July so prices were high and availability was limited.  I finally found a reasonably priced B and B on the Blue Star Highway in South Haven.  Martha's Vineyard was it's name.  No such luck in Grand Rapids so we wound up out in Lowell, MI at River's Edge. 

Everyday People Café in Douglas was our destination for dinner Friday night.  We'd been warned that there'd be a long wait so we were prepared to head to choice #2 if that was the case.  Luckily, there were two tables open when we got there.  VERY quickly the place was packed.  I know why.  The food is fabulous.  Chris had a spinach salad with nuts and berries.  Mark had crab cakes.  They were both very happy with their choices.  Connie had a Greek salad that was ho-hum and I had a chopped salad with garlic dressing.  I could've had a BOWL of that dressing and been happy. 

We also split a tapas plate with fruit moutarde, olives, chevre, red bell pepper relish, almonds, chive crema... 

Magnificent.  Our wine was a bottle of W Pinot Noir.  We'd highly recommend Everyday People!

Saturday dawned bright and early and we headed downstairs for our breakfast. 

And, what a breakfast it was.  A pineapple wedge with a strawberry. 

Homemade granola with vanilla yogurt.  

Egg custard with a blueberry sauce and a homemade sausage patty. 

All served by our totally delightful hostess and host.  Then we were off on our Hungry Village Tour.

My goodness.  David Geen who owns the company has run a travel business for years and years.  He's great.  I would LOVE to go on one of his Italy foodie tours. 

The tour took off from the Saugatuck Art Center.  I would LOVE to have some of the fun artwork from their garden. 

We started at Pleasant Hill Farm where JoAnn and her hubby grow organic blueberries and make maple syrup.  Thanks to our friend, Tim Burton at Burton's Maple Syrup, we've seen the maple syrup making process.  This was a bit more rustic and equally interesting.  The fascinating part, though, was the organic blueberries. 

Oh, and the outhouse.  The Art Center where the tour started was locked so there weren't facilities there.  And, the only facility at Pleasant Hill was an outhouse.  Ok, if that's my only choice...

Next we were on to Dee's Farmstand.  Dee is in her late 70's and has lived on this farm virtually all her life.  In addition to produce she sells a lot of junque.  We bought cherries, honey and jams.  And, Connie and I wandered off and talked to Vern, her son-in-law, who's an engineer in real life but was picking cherries that day.

From there we went to Evergreen Lane Creamery.  Goats.  Loads of baby goats.  And, incredible goat cheese.  I love our goat cheese we get from Capriole Farms in southern Indiana but I'd have to say that Tom and Kathy's garlic goat cheese was just a teeny, tiny bit better.

Our last stop before lunch was the Fennville Winery.  As is true of a lot of Michigan wine, they tended toward the sweet side.  Not our favorite kind of wine.  But, we did find a couple of bottles we liked, including a rose.  We had it with dinner the other night and it was very good.  We also bought a bottle of bubbly to celebrate our tenth anniversary. 

Lunch.  This was one of those meals that you store in the recesses of your brain and pull out whenever you need to remember a totally fabulous meal.  The restaurant, Salt of the Earth, is closed for lunch so we were the only folks there.  The chef has carte blanche to do whatever he wants.  Jeff Bailey was the chef.  Homemade bread was on the table when we got there. 

We all dug in.  Our first course was popcorn grits topped with perfectly prepared pork belly and a roasted tomato sauce.  How do you prepare popcorn grits, you ask?  You pop the corn.  Then, you soak it in water and butter.  You drain it and reserve the soaking liquid. Then you put it through a very fine sieve.  Then, you mix the grits with enough of the soaking liquid to make a creamy sauce.  Next up was chicken with a very crispy skin, parsnip puree, chive crème and a mix of English peas, chanterelles and asparagus.  Perfection on a plate.  Dessert was a chocolate torte with marinated strawberries.

After lunch we went to a farm where they had chickens, cows, ducks and peacocks.  We found out, much to our chagrin, that free range chickens aren't so free range.  But, the good news here is that Dawn is a potter and I found a cute piggy bank for my collection at the office.

Last but not least we went to Virtue Cider.  None of us really liked the cider but it was fascinating to see how it was made.  The place was totally spotless.  You literally could've eaten off the floor. 

Once we left the tour, we headed to an art gallery and adjacent wine shop.  I was the only one who had the smoked salmon that was out for the gallery opening.  I was also the only one who wound up with a case of food poisoning.  I'm not certain it was the salmon but my guess is it was the culprit...

Next stop, Saugatuck Brewing for flights of beer.  Very good beer too.  It's a fun brew pub.  We saw lots of plates of good pub grub being served but none of us were interested...

Did you think we were done?  Nope, remember we were with Connie who loves to cram in every experience he can while on vacation.  No sitting around for this guy.  The Casco Twp nature preserve beckoned.  STEEP stairs down to the lake.  But, so much fun to dip our toes in Lake Michigan.

On to South Haven to find the lighthouse.  Mission accomplished!!  Then, back to Martha's Vineyard.  Should we unwind or go to dinner?  Dinner won.  Particularly since the place we wanted to go - which was nice and close - ended their dinner service about 9pm.  It was about 8:00 at that point. 

We set the GPS and found that Hawkshead was practically behind the B and B.  But, we still had a fun drive to get there.  Chris had a salad with salmon and asparagus.  Mark had the prime rib.  I wavered between that and the lobster bisque and wedge salad.  Connie had the fried blue gills.  As usual, we shared.  The blue gills were good but the hash brown potatoes were incredible.  As was the lobster bisque.  Unfortunately, none of the photos of the food turned out...  Just one photo of Mark and Chris:

Whew.  So that was day one of vacation :-)

What did we think about Martha's Vineyard B and B?  We'd stay here again in a heartbeat.  Can't say enough good about it.  The whole place was beautiful.  The food was awesome.  Other than the gal who checked us in and who was a bit glum, everyone was SO nice.

Now, with those lovely Michigan cherries I made some salsa...

Cherry Cherry Salsa

sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted
cherry tomatoes
red onion
mint leaves
cherry balsamic vinegar or any other good balsamic
extra virgin olive oil
(you could add some jalapeno)


Slice the red onion and soak the slices in ice water while you start chopping.  Finely chop the cherries, tomatoes and cucumbers.  We didn't have to peel the cucumber because I'd picked it in our yard two minutes before.  But, typically I do peel the grocery store cukes.  Drain the onion and pat it dry, then finely chop it too.  Add in some chopped mint and dress wth the vinegar and oil.

Crack Cake

6:30 am Saturday morning.  Connie's snoring.  I'm wide awake.  Might as well get up and be productive.  Sign on to the office and the internet is slow as molasses in January.  Well, that's not going to work.  How about writing a blog post?  OMG!  Monday is Secret Recipe Club reveal day.  I'd better get my tookus in gear and write my post.  My dish got made right after receiving my assigned blog, Making Memories with Your Kids.  Then the cord that connects my camera to the computer to download photos quit working and I wasn't able to download photos from that camera...  SRC didn't even dawn on me. 

Finally, I said something to my photography buff, business partner Jay and he said all you need is a card reader.  Cool!  He promptly took the card out of my camera, carried it to his office and downloaded my photos to our server.  Only problem is that blogger doesn't like my office computer and I've not been able to upload photos from there.  I'd still have to buy a card reader for home.  Still, to say thank you, we stopped at our favorite bakery, Taylors, and got Jay a box of cookies.  And, crispies for ourselves.  Annie was most entranced by the crispies!  As you can see...

I had a lot of fun reading Erin's blog.  She's a middle school counselor and single mom to two kids.  And, she has a lot of kid-friendly recipes.  I was actually looking for a dessert this time since we were going to a pitch-in at our friend Chef Joseph and his husband Juan's.  We rarely ever make or eat dessert so this was going to be a real treat.  It needed to be something super easy and super flavorful.  I read Erin's comment that the cake reminded her of a Snickerdoodle.  Sold.  My grandmother used to fill the big, green cookie jar with Snickerdoodles.   

The cake was made and taken to Joseph's.  Where there was a WHOLE table full of desserts.  We had to leave relatively early so I just left the platter et all.  I tend to buy really cheap platters just for that.  Either at Goodwill or The Christmas Tree Store.  You can get them for $1 or so and it makes it REALLY easy not to worry about a dish.  Our friends Pete and Roby taught us that trick.  Pete's known for her fabulous rum cake... 

Fast forward to our pitch-in...  Juan and I were standing in my kitchen as I gathered up dishes folks had left.  Most of the leftovers were in disposable foil containers or plastic containers.  But, one slice of Pete's rum cake was sitting on the platter they'd left.  So, I told Juan I'd done the same thing at their house.  He said, "That was your cake?  That was SO good!!!  I really loved eating all the leftovers!!"  LOL!  Erin's Crack Cake has yet another fan :-)  Here's a link to her recipe:  Crack Cake.

Yes, we loved this.  It's so incredibly easy to put together.  And, the cinnamon did remind me of my grandmother's Snickerdoodle cookies.  Wonder how long Connie's going to sleep and if I've got time to go bake some Snickerdoodles?  Nah, probably not.

Crack Cake


for the cake:
1 box yellow cake mix
1/4 c white sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1 box instant vanilla pudding
2 t cinnamon
4 eggs
3/4 c water
3/4 c vegetable oil
1/2 c white wine (I used chardonnay)

for the glaze:
1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
1/4 c white wine


This bakes at 350, so preheat your oven as you start the cake.  Combine the cake ingredients and mix well.  Erin called for a stand mixer.  I used a handheld mixer.  Either works.  Pour the batter into a greased and floured bundt pan.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until it tests done with a cake tester or toothpick.  Right before you remove the cake from the oven, melt the butter for the glaze.  Add in the sugar and stir until it's fully dissolved.  Then, pour in the white wine. 

Use a cake tester to punch loads of holes in the cake.  That way all the goodness of the glaze and soak in thoroughly.  Remove the cake from the oven and pour the glaze over the top. 

Allow the cake to cool before inverting it onto a plate. 

Thanks to Erin from Making Memories with Your Kids for a yummy and easy recipe!