What’s Cooking in the UP

I am not sure what I was thinking when I asked the owners of Belgiumtown Bar & Restaurant if I could host a locally sourced Chef Dinner in the dead of the UP winter. Part of me liked the idea of the challenge, but the goal was also to highlight the local food in our area and how we can better utilize products being grown by our neighbors. 

So, how can you eat local out of season? First of all, planning ahead never hurts. What can you do in the fall to preserve your ingredients? In my case, I pulled out frozen cubes of local butternut squash, and the garlic confit I had left from the late fall harvest. For the first course, I created a savory spread by roasting the squash and then putting it in a food processor with the garlic, salt, olive oil, and cashews. Spread it on warm homemade bread, drizzle with local honey, and indulge away.

The salad was a harder dish to create – but then Immerfrost Farm came by with thenext best way to eat local in February: storage crops. Sunchokes are an ingredient I haven’t work with much in the past, so I decided to prepare them three ways for the salad; puréed, roasted, and pickled. I mixed the pickling liquid with olive oil and honey to make a vinaigrette for the salad. I had purchased local chicken from NorthernLights Farm, using it to make stock, as well as pulling the meat of the birds to marinate in the same vinaigrette. The salad for the evening looked like this: a spoonful of sunchoke purée spread across the plate, spinach warmed in the vinaigrette, then topped with roasted sunchokes, cauliflower, Michigan apple pieces, marinated local chicken, and garnished with a few pickled sunchokes.  

The side dish was easy: Immerfrost Farm potatoes (storage crops save the day March3again), fried and drizzled with local maple syrup. They accompanied the star of the show, a non-traditional goat curry. The chicken and goat are able to showcase one of the last great ways to eat local when there is snow on the ground by turning to your local farmers for your protein needs. My goat came from Tickler Farm and Forest Products, and I used butter, cream, and milk from DeBacker’s Family Farm, LLC to create the sauce.

The last dish was a simple Michigan apple galette, served with soft cream, using DeBacker cream, and some local maple syrup.

Inexhaustible thanks to the farmers whom provided ingredients, and those who attended.

Belgiumtown Bar & Restuaurnt will be pairing with Barrel + Beam Brewery on March 31st to host a local beer dinner. The event will also feature Superior Culture Kombucha and Door County Whitefish from Ruleau Bros. Inc. Tickets are $50 per person, which includes a five-course meal and beer pairings. Event information can be found on Facebook: Barrel + Beam Beer Dinner

Belgiumtown Bar & Restaurant, W4346 Belgiumtown Road, Daggett, MI 49887

Alex Palzewicz is the Local Food Coordinator for the Upper Peninsula Region. She enjoys using her love of cooking to help highlight the importance of local foods. Contact her about hosting local food events of your own: [email protected]