BARRY OWENS LOVES FRESH PRODUCE. Lucky for him, his wife, Ursula, is a master gardener. She grows everything from potatoes and tomatoes to herbs and hops at their Lewiston home.
On his way to work, Owens, the general manager at Gaylord’s Treetops Resort, passes about a dozen roadside stands brimming with berries, corn, and other fresh produce. That got him thinking about offering farm-style eating at the resort.
So he and his staff cooked up an idea: incorporate area produce into some exclusive menus.
With that “Farm2Fork” was born. The culinary series takes place this year at Treetops.
“These are limited dinners, capped at about 30 [attendees] so that we can offer top-notch fare,” says Owens. They plan to “wow” patrons with … well, that’s just it. Guests may not know until the day gets closer.
When the resort started talking with farmers, they realized the menu might be a last-minute decision, says Courtney Grise of King Orchards in Central Lake. “It is extremely tough to try to guess exactly what we will have on an exact day,” she says. “They could plan on a peach dessert and then all the Michigan peaches are gone or haven’t started yet.”
Owens sees the culinary waiting game as an absolute advantage. “We can guarantee fresh and we can promise pure Michigan … what more could you want?” he says.
Farm2Fork guests will eat in the resort’s Wilderness Cabin, which looks out to a pond and woods. Table settings are rustic, and check out the cutlery: Each fork is hand-selected from flea markets and antique shops. “Of course, we had to have special forks … this is Farm2Fork,” Owens says with a laugh.
Michigan wines, such as those from Black Star Farms and Leelanau Wine Cellars, also take center stage.
The farmers are fired up about the opportunity. Grise works at King Orchards, a 300-plus-acre farm that grows raspberries, cherries, peaches, apricots, nectarines, apples, plums, and more.
“In August, we’ll likely be finishing tart cherries, apricots, peaches, and raspberries and moving into our apples (20 varieties),” Grise says.
Stacy Jo Schiller at Home Comfort Farms in Johannesburg says she’ll likely be harvesting kale, romaine lettuce, zucchini, yellow summer squash, green beans, basil, tomatoes, and cucumbers. In September, up come corn, carrots, beets, red cabbage, and winter squashes.
Rolling R Farm, about 10 miles from Treetops, is also working with the resort, says Erica Randall-Hopp, one of the farm’s owners. They supplied Berkshire rib chops for July’s dinner, and were planning a dry-aged boneless rib-eye for the August gathering.
Her farm offers only a limited supply of meats because
of the farm’s size and “desire to stay true to our standards of animal welfare and land health,” she says.
Randall-Hopp’s parents purchased the land that is now Rolling R Farm in 1988. “I have a deep history of animals and agriculture on both sides of my family,” she says. One great-grandfather raised chicks in Richmond, the other was the head of grounds and maintenance on Detroit’s east side, including Belle Isle, in the ’40s and ’50s. Her husband’s great-grandmother ran a potato farm in northeast Michigan.
Another item guests might expect? Honey, procured by Owens. The avid beekeeper has two beehives at home and one at the resort (“way beyond the golf courses,” he says with a laugh). “It might be as simple and down home as putting a bowl of my honey on the table, accompanied by fresh bread — unbelievably tasty.”
Treetops’ Farm2Fork events are $99 per person. Remaining dates are Aug. 17 and Sept. 28. Call 888-TREETOPS or visit treetops.com for information.
CATCH & COOK
You’re Up North pulling in a few perch or bass, but what to do with the catch? Wouldn’t it be great to enjoy them for dinner? (Prepared by someone else, that is. After all, you’re on vacation.)
Guests staying in area rental cottages can do just that, says Paul Beachnau of the Gaylord Convention & Visitors Bureau. “And we’ve got more than 90 inland lakes and five premier rivers,” he adds. The waters offer species such as walleye, pike, perch, and bass.
Sandy Mattingly, owner of Pine Cone Vacations, says one of vacationers’ favorite ways to dine is to stay in and eat their catch. She arranges for caterers and cooks to sauté, bake, or fry up deliciousness at some of the 50-plus condominiums, cabins, and chalets she rents.
“We’ll bring in caterers for any meal, even breakfast,” Mattingly says. “If they’ve got the fish ready to go, we’ll do just side dishes and cook their fish for the guests.”
Need help with the fishing too? A boatful of area charter and guide companies can assist in finding the catch of the day.
For information, call 800-345-8621 or visit gaylordmichigan.net; or Pine Cone Vacations, 866-731-1887, pineconevacations.com.