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Tastemakers: Gravlax/Michigan Bubbly

Rick Coates - January 4th, 2010
Gravlax (Lox)
This time of the year lots of people reach into the family cookbooks preparing foods in honor of their heritage. We just finished making a year’s supply of pirogues in my family, honoring my wife’s Polish ancestry. One of my favorite ethnic dishes this time of the year is Gravlax, and since our region is rooted in Scandinavian settlers, I always scan the appetizer tables at parties looking for it.
Gravlax (Gravad Lax, Lox) is a traditional method of preparing salmon by coating spices and then covering and weighing down to draw out the salmon flavor. It’s also prepared in Germany, Nova Scotia and Scotland.
There are a lot of recipes, but here are some secrets. First, traditional Swedish Gravlax is made with salt, sugar and dill only (do not get fooled into using anything else, such as other seasonings or vodka, as ultimately these will destroy the wonderful raw flesh flavors of the salmon). Use whole bunches of dill, as chopped dill is hard to remove after the process is complete. Wrap the fish in parchment paper and then Saran Wrap, place in a dish and put a weight on the top. The key is to make it the day before you plan to serve, as Gravlax is best savored fresh (12 to 24 hours after making).
Serve with bagels and cream cheese or as is, maybe with a dill mustard sauce. Enjoy with chilled vodka, white wines, such as one of our locally produced Pinot Grigios or Gewürztraminers.
Punzel Scandinavian, south of Interlochen, serves wonderful Gravlax for lunch. Advance reservations are required, as Punzel needs a day to prepare it. (231)263-7427. --Rick Coates

Michigan Bubbly
Sparkling wine has always been synonymous with celebration. If you ask winemaker Larry Mawby he will tell you there is a reason to celebrate everyday hence sparkling wine may be enjoyed on any given day for any given reason. Heck, there is even a diet that encourages a glass of Champagne every day.
Championed by Larry Mawby of L. Mawby Vineyards on Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan bubbly wines are now the centerpieces to many a celebration. Mawby produces sparkling wines exclusively, using the method champenoise under his L Mawby brand and the cuve close under his M Lawrence label. His bubbly is found on top wine lists not only in Michigan but throughout the U.S. and even in Europe. Seek out his Cremant Classic a brut style made with estate grown Vignoles grapes that pairs perfectly with that Christmas turkey or goose.
Charlie Edson, winemaker at Bel Lago north of Cedar, has an award winning sparkler in Brillanté with notes of citrus and fresh fruits. This is a great appetizer bubbly with cheeses or its semi-dry character will go great with dessert. In 2008 it took home top sparkling wines at the Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition.
We lost a great winemaker this year with the passing of Bruce Simpson of Good Harbor Vineyards near Leland. Simpson was one of the industry leaders and co-founded the Leland Wine Festival and the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association. His Moonstruck Brut is made with 100% estate-grown Pinot Noir and pairs perfectly on cold blustery winter nights next to a roaring fire.
On the Old Mission, Peninsula Chateau Chantal offers a triple sparkling treat with their Celebrate, Tonight and Sparkling Cherry offerings. The cherry is very versatile and may be enjoyed with spicy foods or duck at dinner and during the appetizer hour while watching bowl games paired with chicken wings and nachos. The winemaker claims that this is the perfect wine to pair with popcorn.
One of the newest wineries of the now more than 35 in Northern Michigan is Krolczyk Cellars in Freesoil (between Ludington and Manistee). Their sparkling Frothalicious starts out sweet but finishes dry. The Krolczyk’s learned their craft from working for Larry Mawby.
Regardless how you choose to ring in the New Year, look for sparkling wines from area wineries. If you do not drink alcohol several offer a non-alcohol bubbly with Michigan fruits. For more information check out --Rick Coates

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