This Walloon local foods harvest feast, five years into a tradition, is a testimony to slow food and self-reliance. Miriam Schulingkamp, our hostess and passionate amateur chef, pilots a cookbook club through Petoskey’s hallowed McLean & Eakin bookstore and was inspired to mobilize her circle of foodie friends to create a multi-course meal where every ingredient was caught, shot, picked or grown within 50 miles of Walloon Lake.
“This meal is a highlight of our year,” she tells me, swirling cold pieces of butter into a savory cabernet franc reduction for the venison, “Everyone shows up with a love of food and whatever they’ve harvested, and we eat, drink and share our stories.”
Slipping along the walk and up the steps with a mixed case of local wines, my contribution to the evening, I am greeted with the ambient warmth and intoxicating smells of a busy kitchen where whole spices macerate in wine and cider amida steady jazz of knife blades. Miriam and David Schulingkamp are preparing a harvest feast where all dishes are prepared with local ingredients—grown, gathered, hunted, fished. At a long swath of granite counter beneath a fogged window, Harbor Springs middle school principal Wil Cwikiel builds wild duck and watercress canapés.
He tells me of harvesting the watercress that morning from an icy trout stream, picking cranberries from a secret local bog and of his Labrador nearly capsizing the duck boat in its eagerness to retrieve the plump mallard drake that Cwikiel now slices with precision.
Meanwhile, eight friends do their parts: core honey crisp apples, build a savory potion of mulled wine, and sear venison tenderloins in cast iron pans. This is the most organic of dinner parties, a celebration of fall bounty in Northern Michigan where every dish in a long and meticulous meal is the product of joyful hours spent stalking the nearby woods for game and mushrooms, trolling for walleye in morning fog, and filling baskets at farm stands on bright, leaf-blown weekends.
Writer and radio journalist Mary Ellen Geist pinches the crust of a chestnut pie whose origins required a road trip odyssey through Northern Michigan. Walloon resident Teresa Crouse talks of being lost for hours in deep aspen groves east of Boyne City while foraging the copious morels she adds to a wild rice pilaf. I move among the guests and dutifully fill their glasses with Larry Mawby’s sparkling Blanc de Blanc, watching the energy of these passionate locavores effervesce along with the wine.
Seated around the Schulingkamp’s dining table, the meal’s narrative changes with each course; we eat Canada goose and feel the frigid morning when it flew too low for its own good over a cornfield, we eat squash and beets roasted with sage and see the palette of fall, we eat venison with red wine shiitake sauce and hear the anticipated rustle of leaves and the shot echoing through the woods. Each of us will carry this meal through the winter, waiting for the first thaw and the first morel to peek up from under a wet leaf.
Food & Wine Pairing
Wild Chemistry: Oeno-Insights for the Hook and Bullet crowd.
Feasting on tasty fauna from our woods and waters begs for a good bottle of local vino—our suggestions follow.
Walleye, perch and whitefish get their groove on with dry whites like riesling, chardonnay or the perennially pleasant pinot blanc from Peninsula Cellars. For trout and salmon, play with pinot noir or the dry rose from Left Foot Charley.
Grouse and woodcock are lean and flavorful and often found in preparations using wild mushrooms or bacon. Stick to bright, earthy reds like pinot noir from Black Star Farms or Shady Lane’s Blue Franc.
We’re talking deliciously assertive dark meat when it comes to wild ducks and geese, so wimpy wines should sit this oneout. Go for gutsy cabernet franc/merlot blends like the Brys Estate Signature or the inky Reserve Merlot from Two Lads.
Grilled, roasted or braised, our most prolific wild protein makes good company with big, dry reds like Circa’s cabernet franc or the Merlot Reserve from Chateau Grand Traverse.
The Do-It-Yourself Locavore’s Feast
With a plethora of wild edibles available nearly year-round and the obvious complement of dozens of local farms, orchards and creameries, anyone Up North can build a potluck feast from ingredients exclusively grown or caught within a few milesof the 45th parallel. Inspired by our friends on Walloon Lake, we’ve reduced the Do-It-Yourself Locavore’s Feast to a three-step process and included a short breakdown of key seasonal ingredients that can be caught, bought and picked.
Step 1: The Plan: Assemble a team of resourceful foodies and sportsmen, and get together for a strategic planning session wherein you set a date, write the menu, assign everyone a dish, and thoroughly vet local beers and wines to complement the menu.
Step 2: Go Your Own Way: Armed with lists and field guides, fishing rods or firearms, you and your erstwhile eaters take to the woods, waters, gardens and farm markets to source your ingredients. Additional research of appropriate beer and wine pairings may be necessary.
Step 3: Chow Down: At the appointed hour, everyone rolls up chez vous with food and drink, and you all revel till the wee hours in the delicious bounty of Northern Michigan and decide who will host the next one.
Build your forage menu around the coveted woodland trifecta of morel mushrooms, wild leeks and fiddlehead ferns. Perch and walleye are abundant and in season, as are wild turkeys.
Farmers markets and farm stands are exploding with local produce. Foragers can pick wild raspberries and blueberries or hunt the elusive chanterelle mushroom. Salmon and lake trout are at peak season in the big lake.
Hunting and fishing hit their zenith in the fall, and the woods yield a sublime variety of wild mushrooms like black trumpets, ceps and lobsters, among others. Squashes and apples fill the farms, furthering fall’s unparalleled yum factor.
The fierce and undeterred forager can strap on snowshoes and shoulder a shotgun or ice auger and still find deliciousness in the cold scapes of winter. Root vegetables, cabbages and pickles from the previous summer will nicely complement yourfish chowder or braised rabbit.
Roasted Lake Michigan Walleye with Fennel