Northern Michigan Recipes: There’s a place in the culinary cosmos where Mario Batali, don of lardo and lonzo and pastas creamy and buttery and all of that other fat-laden heaven, occasionally shares a dinner table with petite, trim Florine Mark of Weight Watchers fame. (Who could forget those Ask Florine commercials featuring Mark, who branded her way to become the worldwide powerhouse of Weight Watchers franchises?) This yin and yang of eating happens at Mark’s cottage in the Leelanau Peninsula resort town of Omena, where the consummate hostess keeps her grill stoked all summer—for her Omena neighbors, who include the Batalis as well as actor Tim Allen, her own out-of-town friends and her large family of seven children and their spouses and kids.
Mark’s days at her cottage are filled with beach walking, tennis and other activities that help keep the energetic businesswoman fit. Evenings are for casual entertaining. Then, Mark and her family shift the modest cottage kitchen (no fancy appliances, she insists) and generous grill into gear to transform Northern Michigan’s summer bounty into healthy meals. “Fruit has zero points on our PointsPlus program, so we eat lots of cherries,” Mark says, speaking of the Weight Watchers method for assigning numerical values for food. “I hit all of the farm stands as much as I can. We make a lot of soups and turkey, and we grill fish and chicken and ribs.”
At feasting time, partakers pull up around big wooden tables set out on the deck. “It’s very casual—people come in shorts and T-shirts. Mario wears his orange Crocs,” Mark says. “No one cares who anyone is. We’re all just people there. Everybody loves each other."
Taste what was cooking at Mark’s house on a summer day last July: