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Tastemakers: Mario Batali on Northern Michigan

Rick Coates - August 8th, 2011
Mario Batali on Northern Michigan
Mario Batali sightings around Northern Michigan have become as common as cherry pie and t-shirt shops. Ever since the celebrity chef of Food TV Network fame began summering in Northport 10 years ago (he now owns a place there and spends Thanksgiving and Christmas there as well) he has actively embraced the Northern Michigan lifestyle. Batali has been spotted at area wineries, farmers’ markets, restaurants, golf courses among other attractions.
Batali has not kept his love for Northern Michigan a secret, often sharing with the national media his summer exploits and even allowing journalists to visit his home.
Most recently he discussed with Bon Appétit magazine some of his favorite things in Northern Michigan (Google the Bon Appétit Blog to see the postings “How Mario Batali Escapes New York” and “How Mario Batali Gets His Drink On In and Around Traverse City, Michigan”).
In the article, Batali praises some of his prize findings, such as the Grand Traverse Pie Company and Leelanau Cheese Company Raclette, along with how he likes to boat across both bays to Elk Rapids and head to Siren Hall (we just profiled their oysters).
He often travels the world in search of the latest culinary trends, especially Italy, where he is partners in a winery project. As for wine, Batali is very impressed with those coming out of Northern Michigan. He referred to the 2008 Black Star Farms’ Arcturos Cabernet Franc as “the best Michigan wine ever.”
In addition to visiting wineries Batali has stopped at local breweries and hard cider makers. He mentions Tandem Ciders near Suttons Bay where he regularly picks up a growler through the summer, taking one to NYC when he returns home in the fall. “It’s become my new drink, I drink cider as an aperitivo now.”
Expect more nuggets of P.R. for Northern Michigan as Batali will be hosting a new daytime show on ABC starting September 23 (it replaces the long running soap opera “All My Children”). The show titled “The Chew” will air Monday - Friday and will feature topical stories from the world of food and drink. Batali has promised that a couple of times of month he will reference Northern Michigan.
“The producers wanted the show to start sooner but I told them no way I will be in Northern Michigan until early September,” he says.
Batali says “The Chew” will be different than other food shows on TV: “It will focus on food from every angle -- as a source of joy, health, family ritual, friendship, breaking news, dating, fitness, weight loss, travel adventures and life’s moments.”
Batali is an international icon in the food world and owns several restaurants, primarily in New York City, including his recently opened Eataly, a 50,000 square foot “Italian Funhouse” featuring several eateries and collection of specialty food shops. Despite his love of Northern Michigan he has no immediate plans to open a restaurant in the area. “I come here to relax and spend time with my family and friends so I don’t want to be working while I am here.”
He often is asked by his friends in New York why he likes coming to the Traverse City area; as he told the writer in Bon Appétit: “Like I tell all my friends: Traverse City is the antidote for New York City. And, by the time the end of August rolls around, New York City is the antidote for Traverse City. You can live without tension only so long before you go crazy.”
Grazie (thank you) and Cin Cin (cheers) Mario for becoming our spokesperson for the emerging “gastronomic tourism” scene here in Northern Michigan. To learn more about Mario Batali go to ---Rick Coates
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