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22 Vines & Wines 4/4/11

Ross Boissoneau - April 4th, 2011
22 Vines and Wines: A taste of Asia in Leelanau County
By Ross Boisonneau
The cows probably wouldn’t recognize the milking area anymore.
Nor would Rich Van Steenis’s former clients recognize him.
Van Steenis, a former real estate developer and community planner, has
developed his own property at the Hilltop shops just off
M-22 south of Suttons Bay. Home over the years to various entities, now it
boasts a unique restaurant combining Thai food, pizza and more: 22 Vines
and Wines Cafe and Market.
Now, it’s not like Van Steenis didn’t have any experience in the industry.
In the ‘70s, he and his father turned an old tavern in Ann Arbor into a
rock and roll bar. “I did that for four years,” he said.
Long an aficionado of the area, he bought the property outside Suttons Bay
in 1977, but left for other ventures a couple years later, opting to go
out west. That is where he became involved in real estate planning and
development and community planning.
But he continued to develop the property, turning it from a farm into a
small subdivision and a series of shops and offices, with tenants
including Chateau de Leelanau, Maple Island Log Homes, even the Leelanau
County Chamber of Commerce.
Now he’s moved into a space formerly housing a home decor shop, run by his
mom. He turned the former milking area into the dining room, a long room
with enough space for booths along one side and cozy two-seat tables on
the other.

THAI FLAVOR
Van Steenis gives credit for the menu to his wife Salve, a native of the
Philippines who learned to cook from her father. “My dad started cooking
when he was 17, and when I was six I was always going to the kitchen,” she
said. “I learned how to hold the frying pan, watched how to cut vegetables
and prepare food.”
She prefers Thai food to the fare from her native country. “There’s more
flavor and texture,” she said.
That food is already drawing raves from the locals. When asked how many
times she’d eaten at the restaurant, Kari Merz smiled and said, “Today,
twice.” She and fellow diners Laura Dungjen and Tanja Molby raved about
everything from the spring rolls to coconut soup and the macaroons.
“It’s healthy ethnic food and it’s all fresh,” said Molby.
That is one of the keys for Van Steenis. Whether it is the Thai recipes or
the pizza, he said keeping things fresh is of paramount importance.
“We make our pizza dough every day,” he said. “And in Thai cooking,
everything is fresh.”

A REALLY BIG DIFFERENCE
As evidence, he points to the tum yum seafood soup, with a base including
kaffir lime leaves, ginger, and chili with rice noodles, or the Thai
coconut seafood soup, with bell pepper, tomato, mushroom, sprouts,
lemongrass, kaffir and ginger, and rice noodles.
“We use fresh lemongrass – you can’t get it in Traverse City. The limes
are totally different from what you get here. It makes a really big
difference.”
The market’s shelves are bare right now, but Van Steenis anticipates
filling them within the next few weeks to prepare for summer. He notes the
proximity of nearby vineyards as a draw for his business (“There are six
different tasting rooms within a mile and a half”). Then there’s the new
Gallery 22 moving in next door, which he thinks will also help bring in
business.
The restaurant is looking to expand to its spring and summer hours soon,
when it will be open seven days a week starting at 11 a.m. That is, unless
they opt to open for breakfast, as Van Steenis already has a breakfast
menu.

 
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