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Tastemakers: Cabbage Shed Ritz Crusted Walleye/ Lagavulin

Rick Coates - January 24th, 2011
Cabbage Shed Ritz Crusted Walleye
The old adage “don’t judge a book by the cover” definitely is the case when you arrive to The Cabbage Shed in Elberta for the first time. Built in 1867, this building is a popular eating and entertainment destination in the harbor area between Elberta and Frankfort and definitely has character. At first glance, one might not expect to find exceptional food accented by a great wine list, a line-up of top shelf single malt scotch and a solid collection of craftbrewed beers.
Originally the general merchandise store and post office in town, it eventually became the farmer’s cooperative and the Benzie County Fruit Exchange before becoming a big cabbage shed in the 1930s. Current owner Jim Clapp acquired the building in 1972, and in 1985 he opened The Cabbage Shed, or simply The Shed as the regulars call it.
During a recent stop in the middle of a snowstorm, I found the place full of diners. There is not much to do in Elberta during the winter months and the fact that The Shed stays open at all is a tribute to their reputation of great food and entertainment. Over my 25 years of dining at The Shed, I have yet to have a bad meal and I was not let down on this particular evening.
My server suggested that I try the Ritz Crusted Walleye. Now, for whatever reason walleye does not get the respect on menus that salmon, whitefish or trout get -- or for that matter perch. But properly prepared, this sought-after sports fish is as good as any fish the Great Lakes has to offer.
The Ritz crusted walleye was sautéed to perfection. All four of my dining guests also ordered it for their first time ever eating walleye and it was the rave at our table. The garlic smashed redskins and sautéed vegetables were nice accents to the meal. I paired my dinner with The Shed I.P.A. brewed for them by the Michigan Brewing Company and this worked well, but a couple of Michigan white wines on the list would have also fit the pairing.
After dinner we enjoyed the homemade desserts, in particular the Midnight Delight, a homemade chocolate brownie served warm with scoop of vanilla ice cream and a generous drizzling of their homemade Kahlua hot fudge sauce.
It should be noted that The Cabbage Shed took home the honors of winning the first ever Green Plate Challenge, sponsored by Wild Leek Productions, The Cabbage Shed won by popular vote having scored highest in all categories: taste, presentation and originality. Each Green Plate had to be 90% by weight, locally grown or produced food found no farther than 100 miles from where it would be served. The Green Plate had to be a regular menu item that is regularly available.
The Cabbage Shed is worth the drive anytime of the year. Check their website for events and special seasonal hours or call them at 231-352-9843.
--Rick Coates


While sitting at the bar at The Cabbage Shed last week waiting for my dining guests to arrive, I noticed a pretty impressive collection of single malt Scotch whisky sitting along the top shelf of the back bar. In many ways it was like looking at a hall of fame line-up; names such as Macallan, Bowmore, Dalwhinnie, Talisker, Cragganmore, Glenkinchie and Lagavulin. These are some of the players that helped put single malt Scotch on the map.
But this was a blustery, snowy below zero wind chill factor night and only one Scotch on that shelf was a remedy for the conditions at hand: Lagavulin Single Islay Malt Whiskey aged for 16 years. As the bartender set the snifter (a generous pour I might add) down in front of me a warming sensation immediately came over me as the intense full-bodied peat-smoke aroma escaped from the glass. The secret to enjoying very peaty and smokey Scotch is to nose it several times. Try this at least a dozen times before taking that first sip; the first few noses gets you accumulated with that overpowering peat-smoke aroma and by the third and fourth nosing you will find the more subtle nuances of the Scotch. In the case of Lagavulin, hints of nuttiness and vanilla will permeate.
This process goes a long way in fully enjoying such a full flavored and powerfully fragrant single malt as Lagavulin. As this Scotch hits the palate a slight hint of sweetness helps to balance the robust complexity of a smokey, dry wood, charcoal and peat flavors that swirl about. If you are new to the world of single malt Scotch, Lagavulin is not a place to start, but rather a drink to work your way towards.
Lagavulin, like most single malt Scotches, is best enjoyed “neat.” Here is a good way to get started: use a snifter (brandy style glass) which helps to trap aromas in the glass. Swirl to aerate and nose a half dozen times and take small sips. Do not drink like a shot or take big gulps; single malts are best enjoyed in small sips swirled about on the tongue like wine. For some, cutting with water works. Most master distillers taste their Scotch by cutting with water, but never by more than 20%.
Lagavulin is available at most fine stores that specializes in high-end spirits. It retails around $75 a bottle and around $10 a glass in restaurants. --Rick Coates
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