15 Gotta-Try Northern Michigan Food & Drink Pairings

From biscuits and pear butter to fried smelt and hot sauce, we did the hard work of eating and drinking all year in Northern Michigan to discover 15 of the north’s most delicious dualities.

All good things come in pairs, and you’ll believe it when you dive into these 15 uniquely Northern Michigan food pairings. We’ve paired them up; now it’s your turn to indulge.

Featured in the March 2020 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

Friends, as you know, Michigan bars, restaurants and other establishments are temporaily shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, this only impacts dine-in options. You can still enjoy local carry-out, delivery and curbside services. Northern Michigan businesses need our support more than ever, so consider getting these pairing options to-go, or save this article as a food travel list for future visits. Check online or call ahead to make sure each local eatery is open as things can change daily. Read more about how to support local businesses.

Pairing No. 1

Leelanau Savory Genovese Raclette Pesto | Traverse City

Leelanau Savory might precipitate a global basil shortage once this sublime pesto riff catches fire. Toss it with fresh fettuccine from the pasta case at Raduno.

Mari Vineyards Troglodyte Bianco | Traverse City

The Lagina family’s northern Italian heritage manifests in the exotic fruits, citrus and sweet herb subtleties of this bright white blend.

Pairing No. 2

Bubbie’s Bagels | Traverse City

Citizens of the North, your long wait for authentic boiled and baked Jewish bagels is officially over. Bubbie’s Bagels recently opened in Traverse City and we are in love. 

Mundos Cappuccino | Suttons Bay & Traverse City

From deftly roasted single-origin beans to airy milk foam laced with cream art, Team Mundos elevates our daily waking with this finest of cappuccinos.

Pairing No. 3

Gold Baby Biscuits | Suttons Bay

Fluffy, golden, butter-studded rectangular bliss. We doubt there is a better biscuit between here and the North Pole.

American Spoon Ginger Pear Butter | Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Charlevoix & Traverse City

Barlett pears from Northport cooked down to a silky essence and spiced with fresh ginger makes a fine schmear for biscuits or anything else.

Pairing No. 4

That French Place Banana Nutella Crepe | Charlevoix

Order this paper-thin pancake stuffed with gooey bananas and chocolate hazelnut spread then walk over to Van Pelt Alley to level up with ice cream.

Brian’s Ice Cream Experience Salted Caramel Ice Cream | Charlevoix

There’s no shortage of ice cream shops in these parts but none like this. French cream and house-made caramel powers Brian’s micro-batch dessert virtuosity.

Pairing No. 5

Boyne City Bakery Brioche | Boyne City

These buttery brioche buns are crafted in the kitchen of Gildas Berrou, Boyne City’s real live French patissier.

Light of Day Organics Creamy Earl Grey | Traverse City

Light of Day’s nuanced and colorful blend of black tea, blue cornflower, lavender, vanilla and bergamot brings hot bliss to the breakfast table.

Pairing No. 6

John Cross Fisheries Smoked Whitefish Dip | Charlevoix

We’re pretty sure Charlevoix’s lakefront real estate values are bolstered by their proximity to John Cross’s addictive smoked whitefish and herb spread.

Walloon Lake Winery Wildwood White | Petoskey

Lemony hybrid Le Cresent grapes grown in Walloon Lake watershed power a crisp summer aperitif from Petoskey’s award-winning winery.

Pairing No. 7

Trattoria Stella Bardiccio | Traverse City

Chef Myles takes annual junkets to Italy to hone his skills with old-world recipes like this savory traditional Italian blood sausage.

Left Foot Charley Blaufrankisch | Traverse City

Blaufrankisch grapes thrive in our cold, sandy soils to yield meaty, manifold wines like this stunning bottle from Left Foot Charley’s Brian Ulbrich. This is a natural pairing for blood sausage in the dining room at Trattoria Stella or from the charcuterie case at Raduno.

Pairing No. 8

Rocks Landing Panzanella | Frankfort

Who doesn’t want to sit steps from the lapping azure waters of Crystal Lake and eat heirloom tomatoes, local greens and fried chunks of sourdough?

bigLITTLE Open Road Rosé | Suttons Bay

The brothers Laing channel red cherry and strawberry soul into a blend of pinot gris and marechal foch from their family vineyard in Leelanau County.

Pairing No. 9

Providence Farms Watermelon Radish | Central Lake

The peppery, fresh earth essence of Providence Farms’ organic heritage is amplified by their pretty pink striations.

Boss Mouse Smoked Butter | Kingsley 

Radishes with butter is a classic French play and Sue Kurta’s small-batch smoked butter sends this summer canapé to new levels of yum yum.

Pairing No. 10

Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate Trout | Empire

Sweeter and certainly easier to catch, we find the deep cocoa essence of tempered quality chocolate is even tastier in trout form.

45 North Vineyard & Winery Northpor+ #18 | Lake Leelanau

Light a fire, unwrap a chocolate trout and pour yourself a glass of 45 North’s unctuous port-style dessert wine aged in old whiskey barrels.

Pairing No. 11

Bear Creek Organics Heirloom Tomatoes | Petoskey

Summer Up North is best captured in the green zebras, sun golds and brandywines from the happy hoop houses at Bear Creek Organics.

Fustini’s Arbequina Select Olive Oil | Petoskey & Traverse City

Until we figure out how to grow olives Up North we’ll leave it to Fustini’s to bring us the EVOO like this fruity green elixir from the tiny Iberian Arbequina.

Pairing No. 12

Bortell’s Fisheries Fried Smelt | Ludington

A heaping pound of silver sweet-fleshed smelt become their best selves when battered and flash-fried at this essential Ludington fish market.

Grand Traverse Sauce Company Castaway | Find at Oryana, Folgarelli’s and Edson Farms in Traverse City

What’s better than salty fried smelt? Salty, spicy fried smelt slathered in GT Sauce’s coveted serrano habanero scorcher.

Pairing No. 13

Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery Crawfish Étouffée | Marquette

Take a short drive north instead of a long flight south to find live Zydeco and tender crawfish tails cooked in a spicy Cajun roux.

Keweenaw Brewing Company Red Jacket Amber Ale | Houghton

Amber ale and étouffée were made for each other, especially the malty, toffee-laced character of this exemplary Yooper brew from KBC.

Pairing No. 14

Iron Fish Michigan Woodland Gin | Thompsonville

Iron Fish delivers a dynamic distillate of wild juniper and forest botanicals to power an ideal dockside martini, or three.

Brengman Brothers Piccolo Dito Dry Vermouth | Traverse City

The Brengman Brother’s birthed this vermouth infusion from a base of estate Gruner Veltliner grapes. Its salty lemon and olive notes play nice with gin.

Pairing No. 15

Slabtown Burgers Rodeo Burger | Traverse City

Oh, that we have but one aorta to risk on Slabtown’s stack of juicy patties loaded with bacon, cheese, onion rings and barbecue sauce.

Northwoods Soda Draught Root Beer | Williamsburg

Northwoods’ creamy nitro-tapped infusion of vanilla and sassafras rises like a bubbly phoenix above the sea of mediocre sodas.

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