The Boathouse Restaurant (Traverse City, MI)

[ 0 ] March 10, 2011 |

About halfway down Old Mission Peninsula, a thin slice of land that juts out into Lake Michigan, the discerning palate will find the Boathouse Restaurant. Locals told me it was the “finest dining in Northern Michigan,” so of course, I had to check it out.

And what better way to do that then to attend a special event? So, without having any idea what I was getting myself into, I made a reservation for the restaurant’s “Farm to Table” event. I was told to arrive at 6:30. I wasn’t told much else.

I didn’t know that I was in for a culinary adventure unlike any other. I arrived to find the event would enjoy family style seating, a detail I found unnerving at first, not because I’m antisocial, but because I planned on photographing my food and taking notes for y’all and I thought the other guests might find that a tad strange. Nevertheless, I settled in, and once I became aware of the evening’s overall theme, I understood and appreciated the feeling of community established by being seated next to strangers.

For the event, the Boathouse invited a local farm family to dinner, and created said dinner from the meats produced by that farm. The featured farm was Bakers Green Acres, where the motto is “Connectedness to food equals connectedness to life.” I will admit – dining with the actual farmers did lend a tremendous amount of charm to the experience.

Before dinner, the farmer himself discussed his practices, why he has no use for antibiotics and growth hormones, why local eating matters, and how and why he and his family do what they do. I don’t spend much (okay any) time on farms, so for me, this was a learning experience.

The farmer was then followed by Chef Eric Nittolo, an honors graduate of Great Lakes Culinary Institute, who talked about his practices, and why he strives to do all things locally. At the Boathouse, local is just better. The food (and wine) proves it. Chef Eric also talked about what made this event unique: acorn-fed Mangalista hog. Never heard of it? Me neither.

Mangalista pork might be found on the menus in Hungary, but not likely in the U.S. Chef Eric explained to us that we would be eating something that we could brag about, calling it the “Kobe beef of the pork industry.” He also explained that he was considering adding Mangalista pork to the Boathouse’s regular menu, and he wanted us to tell him whether or not this was a good idea, and how much he should charge. Awesome. I love it when someone gives me a job.

But before we got anywhere near the pork, we started with the salad: Apple Beets with local mixed greens, local apples, and epoisse (an exquisite creamy French cheese). The salad was honestly the highlight of the meal, not because the meal wasn’t good, but because the salad was that great. I considered asking to skip the meal and have two more salads.

Chef Eric also recommended two wines. I chose the Left Foot Charley, a Traverse City wine, and I was not sorry. I’m not usually a fan of white wines, but this was a perky and fruity wine that was almost too good. But alas, I did have to get home.

We were treated to two entrees:

Potato-wrapped baker’s chicken, with Norconk asparagus risotto, and a morel cream sauce … and the aforementioned and much-anticipated … Mangalista hog schnitzel, with beet Spätzle, capers, and lemon buerre blanc.

Image via Robin Merrill

The pork was breaded and fried and was succulent and flavorful. The lemon sauce was worth dying for and complemented the bacon flavor perfectly. After the meal, I asked Chef Eric how the reviews went, but he wouldn’t let on whether Mangalista was a one time deal or would become a  Boathouse classic.

Dessert was a delightful local ice cream topped with candied pecans, but I really didn’t have much room left. I certainly didn’t walk away hungry. In short, I highly recommend taking a trip down the peninsula to visit the Boathouse, and if you can make it to one of their Farm to Table events, even better. Dining should be an adventure once in a while!

*This post was written by Robin Merrill.

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Category: Food.Fun.Stuff., restaurant reviews, Travels

About the Author ()

Johnna French is a Harlem NY native with deep roots in Panama, Washington, DC and North Carolina. All four places have heavily influenced her life and the foods she loves today. After graduating Howard University School of Law and beginning her life as a young professional in the city she was led to start Johnna Knows Good Food in November 2007 to keep family, friends and colleagues updated on where to go and what to eat while dining in the nation’s capitol. French, who still practices law, leads a team of three writers to cover the ever expanding Washington, DC food scene. French has been featured in print and television, appearing in Washingtonian Magazine and is a regular contributor to various local TV affiliates including WUSA 9, FOX 5 DC and WJLA (ABC Affiliate) News Channel 8. During the 2016-2017 football season, Johnna aired on Comcast Sports Mid-Atlantic (CSN) show, Redskins Life, as the weekly tailgate host. Johnna is currently a regular contributor to the FOX Baltimore Weekend morning show.

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