Living now in Traverse City, a place I consider a food lover’s paradise, it sometimes shames me that my three favorite foods haven’t changed as I’ve become an adult. They are, exactly as they were at age six: pizza, ice cream, and cheese.
These are my deserted-island three. My last-meal trifecta. My go-to, triple-time-healer of a broken heart, bad hangover or even slightly irritable episode of P.M.S.
I eat the big three, I feel joy. It’s very simple.
They don’t have to be high-end either. In fact, my reigning favorite pizza is a waxy-looking slice bound inside a plastic-wrapped, greasy-cardboard cocoon that comes courtesy of the Mobil gas station by my house. In a pinch, I will down a pint of crystallized, freezer-burnt ice cream. And, at age 34, I have eaten more hyper-processed Kraft slices and Velveeta blocks than any one digestive tract probably should in a lifetime.
Nevertheless, despite my palette’s ability to withstand and even relish substandard fare, Traverse City has taught me something about quality food: whenever possible, eat it. Ditto for drink. In all* cases—Two-Buck Chuck vs. Gill’s Pier’s Cabernet Franc/Merlot; Kraft’s Velveeta vs. Leelanau Cheese’s Raclette; Dairy Queen vs. Moomers, to name a few—quality has catapulted me from idling in a place of simple earthly joy to the HOLY- CRIPES-THIS-IS-AMAZING stratosphere.
And let me tell you, that stratosphere? It’s a good place to be.
And so it is with a very excited palate that I tell you my stratosphere looks to be hovering somewhere over Bowers Harbor Inn tonight, Tuesday, May 5. The historic house/ fine-dining destination on Old Mission Peninsula is hosting its first annual Wisconsin Cheese Throw Down.
What is a Wisconsin Cheese Throw Down? Not, as I first thought, a hoedown minus country music or, for that matter, an event involving people wrestling in dairy products. It is much, much better.
Picture this: inside the century-old inn perched among vineyards, orchards and West Grand Traverse Bay, the North's best and brightest chefs, winemakers and brewers are teaming up to create their best dishes—paired with the region’s finest wines and beers—and involving one crème de la crème ingredient: cheese.
But not any ol’ cheese—Wisconsin cheese. Yep, our neighbors to the west are bringing their best quality queso to our food-beer-and-wine-fabulous region. (And I suspect those Wisconsinites know what they’re doing with that stuff, or else they would hardly be so bold as to wear it on their heads for sporting events.)
As for the "throw down" aspect of the affair? It involves you. You, my hopefully-not-lactose-intolerant-friend, are invited to stroll the scene, imbibing delectable Michigan beers and wines, and ingesting delectable dishes featuring to-die-for Wisconsin cheese. And then you will vote for your favorite food-and-wine pairing and your favorite food-and-beer pairing.
The top pairings will then undergo the rigors of a high fallutin’ judging panel: Fred Laughlin, Director of the Great Lakes Culinary Institute; Darric Newman of the Taster’s Guild; and John Esser of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
Who will win? Well, the chosen chefs, vintners, brewers and cheesemeisters get bragging rights for their perfect pairing, but shoot, buddy, you and I get to eat and drink your ever-lovin’ hearts out until they do. I’d say that makes us the champs o' the cheese—no wedge-shaped headgear required.
The Throw Down Deets
The edible extravaganza happens from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., costs just $25 per person and all proceeds will benefit the Great Lakes Culinary Institute Scholarship Foundation in Traverse City. (Think of it like an investment: you fund the scholarships that make fabulous chef’s Up North, you can expect more fabulous food in Up North’s future.) For more information visit bowersharborinn.net or call 231.223.4222 for reservations.
*Note: All cases except for that regarding the aforementioned Mobil station pizza. I have eaten pizza in Italy, spent my teen years slinging pizza at the local Pizza Hut and a few times even made my own. None were as good as the kind my neighborhood gas station churns out.
Bonus for Pizza Freaks
If you know a better pizza Up North that you think I have to try, please let me know in the comment section below. Want more fab pizza picks? Check out the ones the staff at T-mag and MyNorth.com loves here