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Tastemakers: North Peak Herbed Fish & Chips/ New Holland Knickerbocher Gin

Rick Coates - February 21st, 2011
North Peak Herbed Fish & Chips
(TC Restaurant Week)
The concept of a “Restaurant Week” in Traverse City is long overdue. A few years ago a week-long celebration (The Festival of the Senses) to promote the culinary and cultural virtues of the region was attempted, but the idea fell short of the mark after only a couple of years. The reason: on the surface the idea of partnering with your competitors seems to go against traditional capitalistic principals.
But next week, 18 restaurants in and around Downtown Traverse City will come together to promote Traverse City Restaurant Week (TCRW) from February 27 - March 5. These “restaurant weeks” are popping up all over the country in communities that understand that having one or two great restaurants is just not enough. The buzzword is “culinary tourism” and restaurants play a pivotal role in one’s travel. It is great to see the local restaurant scene take a page out the wine industry playbook and and start collaborating with each other and to realize that your neighboring restaurants are not your competitors but instead your partners in promotion.
Now it is the responsibility of us in the community to embrace this concept and get out next week and support the local restaurant scene. Use this opportunity to visit a restaurant or two you may not have dined at before. All the restaurants will have a special $25 menu that will offer three courses with the guest getting to select from a variety of offerings in each course. To view the participating restaurants and their menus for TCRW go to downtowntc.com.
I decided to get ahead start and pre-sample the menu at North Peak Brewing Company. Consistent winners year after year in a variety categories in the Northern Express Readers Choice Awards, North Peak has built a reputation of a great lunch spot, a place for family dinners and an after work gathering place for cocktails or their several handcrafted beers.
The North Peak TCRW menu is loaded with several of their menu favorites. For my first course I opted for the Calamari that is dusted lightly with cornmeal and flash fried to perfection and served with an orange horseradish mayo. Since I dine often at North Peak as a member of their Brew Club, I decided to select menu items I have not tried in the past, otherwise I would have ordered the Gorgonzola Dip with cherries and pita chips, my standard appetizer.
For the main course it was the Herbed Fish & Chips. This fresh Great Lakes walleye was dipped in a handcrafted beer batter seasoned with herbs and served with a side of tarragon-ginger tartar sauce, Chinese mustard slaw and pub fries.
This was a hearty dish that I paired with North Peak Pale Ale.
My final course was the Chocolate Seduction Cake with a cup of coffee. This was an exceptional value for $25 and I look forward to my return trip to North Peak (www.northpeak.net) soon, but next week it will be Reflect at Cambria Suites and Mission Table (formerly Bowers Harbor Inn) the two restaurants on the list I have yet to visit. --Rick Coates

New Holland
Knickerbocker Gin

For awhile it seemed like gin was on sabbatical as young professionals were being taught cocktail lessons by professor vodka. Vodka has dominated the cocktail lists in recent years, from martinis to the energy cocktail craze at clubs such as Red Bull and vodka. But gin is back, rested and refreshed and ready to reclaim its glory among the ranks of classic spirits in the world of cocktails.
Three hundred years ago in England “The Gin Craze” catapulted gin to the beverage of choice among the working classes but an “epidemic of drunkenness” also resulted and by the middle of the 18th century on average 3 gallons of gin were being consumed annually per person. Over the next 250 years gin has been on a roller coaster of popularity and sales have been flat until just recently.
The renewed popularity of gin is partly a result of the recent micro-distiller movement in the country. One such micro-distiller leading the way is New Holland Brewery (Holland, MI) which opened their artisan spirits division in 2006 and has been producing, whiskey, rums, brandy, vodka, hopquila and gin.
Knickerbocker Gin was named in honor of the Dutch explorers of the new world and the gin pays tribute by taking an exploratory approach itself. This gin is very aromatic and is twice distilled, infused with flavors from more than a dozen herbs and spices. Typically, gins require some mixer to either enhance or mask flavor. Not Knickerbocker; enjoy this gin over the rocks as is or give it a martini feel and add a couple of olives.
Knickerbocker Gin also makes an excellent martini. Ever wonder why its called a vodka martini? Because a “true martini” is made with gin. Here are a few tips to making a great martini with gin. First, make sure you put your martini glasses in the freezer for a couple of hours. Fill a pitcher or shaker with ice cubes (not crushed or shaved ice this will water down the cocktail), rinse ice cubes first to eliminate any odors absorbed from the freezer. A good ratio is five parts gin to one part dry vermouth. Stir, do not shake (shaking is vodka) for about 20 seconds and strain into well chilled martini glass and add your favorite garnish.
To learn more about Knickerbocker Gin or the other artisan spirits from New Holland Brewery check out www.newhollandbrew.com or look for their products at area speciality stores and restaurants. --Rick Coates
 
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