19 May 2014

2014 MICHIGAN Battle Creek - Foodie Trip

Last week we went to Battle Creek, Michigan. That is the home of Kellogg cereals--Kellogg's Cornflakes probably being the most famous. This town's nickname is Cereal City, USA. We didn't go on the cereal factory tour or see the world's longest breakfast table or be amazed by the Hot Air Balloon festival (all events that happen at B.C.), but we did go to Malia's and Horrock's. The trip is about 27 miles and 38 minutes from home, but worth it to either of our destination places today.

We started at Malia's for lunch. Figured we better eat first before our next stop or we would be buying out the market. It is right downtown and is the best restaurant as far as we are concerned in B.C.

It serves an eclectic menu but leans to  Mediterranean. Mike and I shared their famous wild mushroom soup--not to thin or to creamy and lots of mushrooms. A splash of sherry would have made it perfecto. Then I had Florida sweet white shrimp on a quinoa salad. For diet purposes I only ate half (hard to do) and saved the rest for dinner. Mike had a BLT-S (S for salmon). It was messy to eat but way worth that mess he said. Both too full for dessert, a rarity. See www.maliafoods.com

Next stop is a bit out of the heart of downtown. Horrock's is a store with everything food and food-related. This place is packed. As you enter the market, there is a wonderful nursery with starter plants, roses, fruit trees, and more and more. This time of year there is also display after display of food and flower seed packets and garden supplies. We picked up a few of those.

They have a deli counter to buy soups, salads, and sandwiches to eat on the run. They have a huge beer and wine selection and a tasting counter, so you can sip before you select. Good thing we ate first! They have a huge cheese department and olive / relish bar. They have a florist section to buy fresh flowers or order arrangements. And there is a book nook with a wide selection of books including but not limited to cook books, cooking-related, interior decorating, nature, and children's.

They have a walk-in refrigerator room that accommodates a wide rarity of meat and dairy products. The canned and bottled food area accommodates any condiment you can imagine and many some you can't imagine. This includes a lot of imported foods from Mexico and Europe. They have a frozen seafood selection. Among choices there are huge shrimp, scallop and crab legs.

The produce section in our favorite. It is probably the biggest I have ever seen outside of a farmer's market. They have so many things there that you can't find elsewhere--tamarind seedpods, fava beans, huge papaya, fresh herbs, bulk tea, cactus, Asian veggies including bok choi and lemon grass, bulk frozen raspberries, red AND green tomatoes, as well as the common supermarket fruits and veggies like apricots, several types or oranges, a variety of lettuces, etc, etc, etc. I just cannot begin to list all the healthy treats here.

Also, they have probably 50 whole coffee beans to choose from. They have so many dehydrated fruits and vegetables, and nut and candies in bulk. They have a bakery stocked with homemade style breads, etc. We bought a garlic infused loaf today.

We try to keep our purchases under $100 when we go there, but usually go over. Today we spent $100.05. Not too bad for a lot of good and healthy food.

As I re-read this I see I keep saying "huge," but that is the best adjective for this establishment. It does everything in a HUGE, but unpretentious way. The building is basic no frills though, so that keeps the prices down. The staff is helpful and knowledgeable.

We LOVE this place and shop here about once a month to stock up on things we cannot easily find in Kalamazoo. See their website at: www.HorrocksMarket.com

13 May 2014

2014 OHIO Put-in-Bay 3 - Island Days

For "lunch" we stopped at a little place (Wharfside, I think, was the name) overlooking the marina. It was a store/bar/tackle shop combo business. Dollar bills were plastered all over the walls with names of people written on them. Besides that the most memorable thing was their Brandy Alexanders, a pretty sophisticated drink for a "dive" bar. And it was good!

Next we went to two wineries on the island. The first was PIB Winery at the Doller House Estate. I don't think we are wine snobs, but we do have some experience drinking wine. This winery may have potential, but has not come into its own yet. Although we are mostly red winers, their best was a Moscato. We would have liked to tour the house, but they did not offer this up front. (We figured it was "off season" again because we did not see any signs.) After paying for tasting they advised we could have a tour for $10 which included another tasting. We passed.

Heineman's Winery was our next stop. It was established over 100 years ago by an immigrant from Baden-Baden, Germany. I am sorry to say we have no good words for this one in regard to the wine. The tour was nice though.

In conjunction with this winery was one really cool attraction though. Per their literature Crystal Cave is the largest known Celestite geode in the world. While digging a well in 1897, Mr. Heineman discovered the cave 40 feet below the earth's surface.

Within its walls are crystals from 8-18 inches long. The crystals had a vague blue tint, but looked more green from the algae growing on them. It is 50 degrees year round in the cave-like geode. I asked what the diameter of the geode was and our guide said about 40 feet. The gift shop sold geode slices of baseball size in many colors--not from the cave, but beautiful.

Back to our rooms to freshen up and meet for a couple of pre-dinner cocktails. We had dinner at Tipper's Seafood. "Veggie" that I am, I had loaded potato skins and the others had really tasty ribs. They all oohed and aahed and just about sucked the bones dry. The place itself looked like an old 1950's nightclub. A bit out dated, but the food was good.

5/9/2014 - T & N had a longer drive and slipped out before we did, so not able to hug good-bye. Probably better as I am not good at good-byes. I get too sentimental, shall we say. They caught the 8am ferry.

We caught the 9am and the cruise this morning was thankfully on calm seas. Mike and I just sat in the car with windows open. On shore, we leisurely traveled home with a great breakfast stop at Dianna's in Port Clinton. The drive was uneventful. We arrived home at 1:30pm. Bella came running to the door to meet us like a galloping horse. We laughed and loved that she was happy to see us.

Things we missed on this trip were taking the elevator to the top of the Perry memorial, touring the fish hatchery, visiting the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society museum, and tipping one at the Put-In-Bay Brewery. All closed because of off season (except the Brewery where we were unable to find an entrance  and it looked empty through the windows). We enjoyed our stay, but not sure that we will be back again to see the attractions we missed.

Another thing we discovered was that this is Birder Week in the northwest area of Ohio. It is the Biggest Week in American Birding. I have been getting into birding a little through my friend Anne's beautiful bird photography. Birders, go to: www.BiggestWeekInAmericanBirding.com

Here's a red-winged blackbird photo I took on the trip. Love his little feet.

For more information on Put-In-Bay, go to: www.putinbay.com/IslandGuide.pdf

As always, our adventure with T & N was wonderful and we look forward next year to a new place to explore.

2014 OHIO Put-in-Bay 2 - Island Days

Wikipedia says the village of Put-In-Bay's 2010 year-round population census was 138. It swells to much more than that in the summer. Heck, our hotel alone has 50 units (more than 1/3 of the residents) and there were many more accommodations.

PIB is located on South Bass Island which is 3.7 by 1.5 miles in size and is about 3 miles off the mainland of Ohio at Port Clinton. The PIB name comes from the the time when sailing schooners would "put in" to the bay to shelter from bad weather. 

We were all up and rolling by 8:30am. Breakfast was at Frosty's (breakfast joint by day; bar and pizza joint by night). We could have ordered mimosas, but were still a little fuzzy from the night before.

After breakie we walked the quaint-but-touristy downtown. This is early in the season, so half of the businesses were open and half closed.

We made one stop to buy t-shirts and nail polish. Both change colors when hit by sunlight. I got an icy blue color polish that should change to lime green. We'll see. We checked into the island Visitors' Center to learn about all the attractions. We were spending only one full day here and hoped to make the most of it.

We noticed a small granite monument that was dedicated to the historic road races on PIB. This marker was on Turn One. Later we saw another marker at "Cemetery Curve." Races were run on the 3.1 mile course during 1952-1959 and reprised in 1963. "Reunion" races occur to this day. For more info, go to the Race Heritage Society website at: www.pibroadrace.com/history.html

A big attraction on the island is the third tallest U.S. monument at 352 feet (behind the Washington Monument in Washington DC and the Golden Arch-Gateway to the West in St. Louis, Missouri). It is dedicated to Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. His naval knowledge and strategy were key in the U.S. winning the War of 1812 over a much larger British Navy.

The monument was prepping to open for the season and a gift shop employee was accepting a Coke delivery. He said even though they were closed we could pop our heads in the Visitors' Center. He ended up giving us a great lecture on the history of Perry, the war, and the monument. Perry's most famous quote is "We have met the enemy, and they are ours." Grounds around the monument are lovely and an annual Boy Scout Camporee is held here. To find out more, go to: www.nps.gov/pevi/index.htm

From there we hopped in the car to tour the outer areas of the island. We came across this most unusual house which we had actually seen recently on TV. It was originally a ship built in 1924 for use by the Ford Motor Company. In 1986, after many years of service, The Benson Ford was scheduled to be scrapped. A couple rescued it, cut off the crew quarters of the front bow, and relocated it here atop an 18-foot cliff. It is used now as a private home. We did not get to look inside, but it was impressive just to see the outside. For more info, see: https://roadtrippers.com/us/put-in-bay-oh/points-of-interest/the-benson-ford-shiphouse

Next stop was the South Bass Island lighthouse on the most southwest tip of the island. It was built 1897 and glowed until 1962. At that time automation took over and the steel tower and light you seen in the background replaced the old-fashioned light to the right.

In 1967, Ohio State University took over the facility in collaboration with its Stone Laboratory which is located on nearby Gibraltar Island. It is also a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorological station, transmitting weather statistics from the island by satellite. Again, we were too early in the season for a tour. Read more at:

We didn't go there, but the OSU Stone Laboratory was established in 1895 and is the oldest freshwater biological field station in the U.S. To read more, go to: www.stonelab.osu.edu/about/

I must add, en route we saw our blooming lilac bush of the year. It was a deep purple and I could smell its lovely aroma front the car.

12 May 2014

2014 OHIO Put-in-Bay 1 - Puttin' In

This week we are meeting friends Tim (who worked with Mike at Northwest Airlines in San Francisco) and his wife Nancy. They both live in the Chicago burbs now and we usually meet up with them in May (their anniversary month) somewhere near "big water." It is usually Lake Michigan but this time it is Put-In-Bay Village on an island in Lake Erie off Ohio.

We departed Kalamazoo at 9:20am. Weather was 48 degrees, windy, but sunshiny. Along the freeway, signs of spring were finally quite apparent. The grass was intense green. The trees were various saturations of iridescent green. Makes us happy to finally see 50 shades of green. Lots of white and purplish wildflowers, too.

We hit one Michigan rest stop on the way. We were quite impressed by the huge row of solar panels which generates most of the electricity for the stop. There was also a pond with four heron-like birds wading around the edges. Long legs and necks  with pure white feathers stalking the minnows.

First real stop en route was Ann Arbor for some treats. Mike ran into the store while I waited in the passenger seat. I was peacefully in my thoughts when all of the sudden I am jolted back into reality. A red SUV had backed into our bumper and rear driver side panel. It was a small lot and the gal shimmied her way back and forth to get out of her tight parking spot. I got out and waited for her to stop and trade info, but when she finally was on the main exit path, she bolted. I could not believe it. It was a hit and run right before my very eyes!! How rude and irresponsible. I got her license though and a witness graciously  offered his info.

It turns out in private parking lots, police do not come to take reports. We had to go to the AA police station which was just a few blocks away. Thank goodness the car was still drivable. The process of reporting was quite easy and, with just a 50 minute delay, we were back on the road. It certainly could have been worse, so we are thankful.

Next was a lunch stop in Perrysburg, Ohio, just southwest of Toledo. It was a bit out of our way, but we had been there before and it was memorable, so we stopped again. We originally were here a couple of years ago just by chance. Later we found the place was a favorite of one of my best girlfriends and co-worker from United Airlines in San Francisco. Many years ago she lived in Toledo and this was her old hangout.

As we arrived, I called Suzi to tell her where we were headed. She got a big giggle out of that and said to have a martini in her honor.

I did have a martini, but one on the rocks rather than straight up. That was a happy medium in the event that I had to take over driving. Here's to you, Suzi! I had a quinoa and spinach salad and a wonderful lobster tart with perfect crust. Mike had a Stella burger and a Stella Artois beer.  We were not disappointed.

Next memorable area was Oak Harbor, OH. A very nice, quaint, and rich little town along the Portage River. Maybe check it out on the way home. Last stop on the "mainland" was the gas station for gas and grocery store for adult beverages and snack supplies (because we had no idea what might be on the island). In Ohio you can only buy alcohol at state run liquor stores and they are few and far between. This one was inside a very nice grocery store named Bassett's. Would love to shop there on a regular basis. I was a bit surprised to see so many folks of every age wearing camo. Seemed like the uniform of the day and it is not even hunting season. I guess this was patriotic camo.

Then on to the Miller Ferry. It was $58 RT for us and the car. The ferry ride was about 20 minutes in very rough water. Mike handled it well, but had to hang in the open air facing the horizon with the wind in his face. We were both glad to touch land on the island.

Our hotel was a two mile drive from there and we arrived a little after 2pm. Tim and Nancy met us at the front desk with hearty hugs. (It had been a year since we last met.) At the Bay Lodging Resort you cannot bring alcohol because they have their own bar. BUT the bar was not open for the season, so we discreetly carried our recently purchased refresher beverages to our room.

T & N had a suite so we spent most of our visiting time there. This hotel is the only one on the island with Lake Erie views from every room. The rooms have large screened in balconies. The weather was cool, but it was so wonderful to see big water again. (We sure miss the Pacific Ocean in Half Moon Bay.) We did a big catch up chit-chat and then walked the two blocks into town.

Put-In-Bay is pretty touristy. We're all glad to be here before the summer crowd overruns the place though. Sidewalks were empty for the most part and not all the restaurants or stores were open yet. The front desk recommended Mossbacks for dinner. It was a good choice. I ordered deep-fried sauerkraut balls for an appetizer. Everyone else thought they were so-so, but I loved them. For the main course Mike and Nancy had fish, I had a grilled veggie sandwich, and Tim had beef tips with noodles. Beer and wine all around. For dessert we had Key Lime pie and it was one of the best versions ever outside of Key West, Florida.

We were all a little pooped from the drive. So after a brief visit back at the resort, we parted ways for some couples quiet time. It was wonderful hearing the sound of the Lake Erie waves in the background as we drifted off to sleep.