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Tastemakers: Northern MichiganThe Best for Food & Drink

Rick Coates - March 29th, 2010
Northern Michigan The Best for Food & Drink
Since launching the column Tastemakers/Bottoms Up columns almost seven
years ago, I have had the pleasure of traversing around Northern
Michigan in search of the “Best Of” what our region has to offer in
the way of Food & Drink. In all, I have written over 800 columns, most
of them focused on Northern Michigan with an occasional look at items
of interest from outside our area. In no way does this make me an
expert, rather a person who simply has been very lucky to be afforded
such an opportunity.
In my travels of searching out these “Best Of” offerings I have found
that there is always one common denominator: “The People” who make,
produce, brew, ferment, distill, grow, cook and create these wonderful
It is the passion of these people that I believe makes
the difference. The great wines, brews, spirits, food items, entrées
and events are prepared and produced by people who do not simply
approach what they are doing as a job but rather as an extension of
their lifestyle.
They eat, sleep, drink and talk it every day.
In my line of work I get asked all the time what is the “best” wine,
beer, restaurant and the list goes on.
My standard response is “whatever beer, wine or food I am enjoying at
the moment.”
I know what I like personally and while there may be common
denominators among us, each of our palates is distinctive and we all
have our own favorites and preferences. What I have learned is no one
is able to tell me what is “best” for me; I must find that through my
own exploration and often this is accomplished by recommendations.
In Tastemakers/Bottoms Up that is simply my goal, as I explore the
region and find tasty delights, drinks and fun events I simply pass
them on to you, the reader, so that you may determine for yourself if
such items are worthy of your palate or if a food and drink event is
worth your time.
I look forward to my continued pursuit of the many wonderful things
being produced by passionate people throughout Northern Michigan. I
plan to get off the beaten path and head down some gravel roads, two
tracks and one traffic light towns in my searches in these coming
months and certainly look forward to your continued recommendations as
well; feel free to reach out to me by e-mail at or by calling the office at 231-947-8787.
As I reviewed my columns of the
past seven years I am very grateful for all the passionate people I
have encountered and the time they spent with me sharing their
It is their passion and enthusiasm that makes Northern Michigan one of
the best places in the world to live, work, play, eat and drink. I
constantly marvel at the young entrepreneurs who have chosen our
region to open and create some pretty cool businesses. People like
Angela Macke at Light of Day Organics. Not only is Angela producing
world class certified organic teas from locally grown agriculture but
her positive energy radiates to everyone she comes in contact with. I
am equally impressed with the many retirees who instead of sitting
back and collecting their pensions have decided to invest in Northern
Michigan by starting a winery, restaurant or a CSA farm. People like
Don and Malu Coe of Black Star Farms, Walter and Eileen Brys of Brys
and Tony and Joan Ciccone of Ciccone’s come to mind. Of course there
is Mimi Wheeler of Grocers Daughter Chocolate (pictured) who puts in
seven day work weeks in her retirement making chocolate.
Equally important are the numerous businesses and proprietors who have
adopted the “Patagonia Philosophy” that the bottom line of a business
extends beyond being in the “red or black” but in your social
responsibility to the community you work in and the world you live in.
People like Timothy and Kathy Young of Food For Thought and Chris
Treter and Jody Treter of Higher Grounds Trading Company who built
social responsibility right into their company mission statements.
Many others have as well. I marvel at how so many of you have donated
to so many worthwhile causes and benefits throughout the region.
As you travel throughout Northern Michigan seek out local products,
restaurants and farms. These products are not only wonderful in
quality but so are the people making them. It is why Northern Michigan
is the “Best Of” any area in the world. --- Rick Coates

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