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Tastemakers: Martha‘s Leelanau Table/Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery Harding‘s Cup champion

Rick Coates - October 26th, 2009
Tastemakers: Martha‘s Leelanau Table/Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery Harding‘s Cup champion
Rick Coates 10/26/09
Martha’s Leelanau Table
Well known chef, TV personality and cookbook author Mario Batali was asked to select his “best place on earth” for Esquire magazine and he chose the Leelanau Peninsula. Batali, who co-owns 14 restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, stated, “It’s also important to me to have great restaurants to chill at.” He then singles out Martha’s Leelanau Table in Suttons Bay for its “simple Alice Waters sensibility.” Waters, co-owner of Chez Panisse in Berkely, California, is one of the leaders of the eating locally/seasonally movement.
Batali’s attraction to Martha’s Leelanau Table should come as no surprise to those who know chef and proprietor Martha Ryan. Her passion for the Peninsula and creating an inspired food experience has been known to many in these parts for years. She began her journey in the kitchen as a young girl helping her mother. Self-taught chef Ryan would serve as Director of Food Service at Leland Public Schools for 20 years before retiring in 2002. Ryan was respected in the school food service industry, serving as the legislative chair for the Michigan Food Service Association lobbying Washington D.C. for healthy changes to the school lunch program. Ryan didn’t wait for federal changes, she was on the cutting edge of a healthy eating in schools long before others followed suit.
After retiring she went to work for Stonehouse Bread in Leland where she served as café manager for five years before launching Martha’s Leelanau Table. Martha’s is open seven days a week offering breakfast and lunch and dinners on the weekend. While enjoying a dining experience during her regular hours will be a fantastic treat, her Sunday Supper series is a must for all who remember those Sunday night suppers with the family.
Ryan started this series while at Stonehouse and the dinners (limited to 20) sold out most Sunday’s. Here is how she describes the experience, “I host a family-style Sunday Supper on Sunday evenings. Unlike a regular dinner out, there’s just something about Sunday Supper that will give you a special feeling of comfort, community and contentment. And the menu changes each week, dependent on what’s available locally and what inspires me.” Having experienced a few of these dinners myself I wholeheartedly agree. This is a must try, so gather family and friends and try it some Sunday (reservations needed).
I agree with Mario Batali, that Leelanau Peninsula, really all of Northern Lower Michigan, is the best place on earth because of its sheer beauty complimented by all the great people and places like Martha’s Leelanau Table. Visit or call 231-271-2344 for reservations. --Rick Coates

Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery
Harding’s Cup Champion

My Bottoms Up column from last week brought mixed reviews. Cynics to my claims that Michigan is making world class red wines (supported by internationally respected wine critics) “are laughable” according to one e-mail. Others wrote in with an open mind stating how they appreciate the “relentless energy Michigan winemakers are putting into improving red wine grown and produced here.”
Dianna Stampfler, from Promote Michigan, caught the column and sent me the results of the inaugural Harding’s Cup, a Cabernet Franc wine challenge. The winner of the competition and the coveted Harding’s Cup was the 2007 Artisan Series Cabernet Franc from Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery on the Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, where Coenraad Stassen is the winemaker. Brys also took the bronze third place medal for its 2007 Cabernet Franc. The silver medal for second place was presented to Cornel Olivier from 2 Lads Winery, also on the Old Mission Peninsula, for its 2007 Reserve Cab Franc.
“Winning the Harding’s Cup is a big deal, not just for Brys Estate but also for Michigan,” Stassen said. “For so long, Michigan has been known as a great white wine producing state. To have 22 world-class Cabernet Francs in the same room is a leap in the right direction. I think Cab Franc is the next hot red varietal and I am pleased to know that Michigan has realized this and is ready to take it to the next level.”
Here is what one of the judges said after the competition: “It was a great opportunity to taste an exceptional array of well-made wines from a stunning Michigan vintage,” said Master Sommelier Claudia Tyagi, who was one of the six judges for the competition. “It is so exciting to realize that we are on the ground floor of something huge for Michigan’s future.
It was not inappropriate to compare these wines to a classic French Chinon, but our beauties left the Chinon in the dust.”
I will stick by my claims and while some are laughing now, I am confident I will enjoy the last laugh. --Rick Coates

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