Birthday Delicacies in Northern Michigan

Summer birthdays are the best - can I get a "hell yeah?" I almost share one with America, too, which is pretty sweet. But nothing was sweeter than the weekend I had with my honey and his family and friends this past holiday weekend. The calm atmosphere and fresh air of Northern Michigan ain't no joke... visiting the family's lake cottage provided a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of city life, work, internship, and everyday duties.

With my b-day falling on the Saturday of our extended weekend, my hosts took great lengths to make sure I felt super special. The most awe-some surprise of the weekend was a vegan, gluten free cake which his mother had special ordered (none of the fam are veg or gf). 

Having been ordered from Oryana Natural Foods Co-Op, this cake was covered in sinfully sweet "buttercream" frosting over a decadent chocolate cake. The first gf cake I have ever tasted! Besides being denser than wheat-based desserts, which gf treats are known to be, this cake was very tasty and rich. And it only got better with time (one more piece is taunting me from the fridge!).

For a very special birthday dinner, my man and I visited Om Cafe in Traverse City. Might I add that my special guy thoroughly researched vegan- and gf-friendly establishments and recipes for the trip... I know, you're all jealous.

The atmosphere was what I would describe as... refurbished chic. Tables made out of repurposed bowling alley lanes, couches made out of wooden pallets, old window panes serving as decorative wall hangings... this place was super-cool and very laid back.

To accompany our glasses of white wine (an effort to beat the heat!), we ordered the vegan/gf Charcuterie Plate. Behold: cashew cheese, pickled cabbage, lentil walnut pate, pickled cuckes, gf crackers, stone ground mustard, and delicious, salty olives. This course was served up with groans and soft curse words at how delectable each of the complex flavors were. The boy loved the "pate" and the fresh mustard... while I agreed, the cashew cheese was also a winner.

His meal: The Buddhist Priest stir fry (tee hee): soba noodles with broccoli, snap peas, carrot, zucchini, yellow squash, and onion, seasoned with basil, tamari, and scallions. He opted for the sautéed tofu on top. Review: yum! Fresh, light, and flavorful.

I selected the Cremini Mushroom Burger: mushrooms, walnuts, and brown rice based burger with Daiya cheddar and veggies on a gf bun, served with a side salad and garlic aioli. One word: BOMB. This burger could only be described as "earthy". A deep, nutty flavor overtook my taste buds and was accompanied well by the garlic aioli and cheddar Daiya. Definitely recommended.

After our quiet dinner together, we walked down to 7 Monks Taproom, where our friends were dining. One of the first things they said to me was "They have gluten free beer!" I ordered Green's Amber Ale and was blown away. This slightly bitter, and highly alcoholic, beer was perfect for a warm day. I will have to hunt this down locally, for suresies.

I couldn't end this post without highlighting another fabulous, 100% plant-based restaurant at which we stopped on the drive up and through Ann Arbor. Jazzy Veggie is a small shop in the heart of downtown - and we almost didn't eat there! When we arrived, they were closing up shop, yet eagerly and kindly invited us in to order. I went for the Chickpea Burger (garbanzo and carrot based, with red pepper aioli, corn salsa and veggies) - not gf, but I survived. The server gave us all samples of their new pasta salad as well. This burger was hella good - it definitely had a turmeric taste and was a very mild flavor.

My honey ordered the Wolverine Burger: veggie "beef" in a Mexican marinade with sauteed onions and peppers, guacamole, and a tomato basil aioli. He brought this sammich up later on the trip, swooning over how deliciously caramelized the onions were. I had a bite - 2 thumbs up! Suspecting that the burger is Gardein.

Our friend, Eric, ordered the Hummus Couscous wrap with (you guessed it) hummus, couscous with peppers, scallions, raisins, garbanzos and mint, orange slices, and a ginger-lime dressing. This omni was very pleased!

Our brave omni friend, Hannah, opted for the vegan cheese pizza, most likely with Daiya Italian-style shreds.

With traveling to unknown territory, it always pays to do some research for veg*n-friendly fare. HappyCow, Yelp, and blogs local to your destination are great places to start. For any of you living in or traveling to MI - don't forget these superb options!

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