Spain Comes to Northern Michigan with the First “Local Food, Global Wine” Event at The Bay Leaf in Traverse City

The wines were poured, the dishes prepared and the dining room full of expectant guests waiting for The Bay Leaf’s Spanish Wine Dinner to begin. I was among them and, like most, had seen the five course menu bursting with mouth-watering dishes playing tribute to Spain’s vibrant flavors, and had read the Spanish wine pairings, simultaneously foreign and alluring. The excitement was palpable as chatter filled the room and faces searched for a sign that the dinner would soon start.

At 6:30pm, a man stood up, clanked his glass for attention and welcomed everybody to Northern Michigan’s first ever “Local Food, Global Wine” event. He introduced himself as Tim Tebeau, food and wine editor for Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine and distributor for US Wine Imports, conductor for the two collaborative hands behind this new culinary series aimed at raising Northern Michigan’s food scene to a global level.

Thus, the evening began.

What followed was a flavorful homage to Spain. Course after course graced our table, prepared by The Bay Leaf‘s executive chef Adam McMarlin and his culinary team with the rustic house-made flare intrinsic to this downtown Traverse City restaurant. Each was paired with wines hand chosen by Tim, perfectly in sync with their food counterpart and adding complimentary depth to the dishes.  

As each course arrived Tim explained the wine pairing, noting its flavors and sharing interesting facts about the Spanish wineries (for example, one of the vineyards is set at such a steep incline, harvesters have to repel down to gather the grapes!). Whether educated connoisseur, aspiring wino, or simply one who enjoys a good glass of wine, Tim’s descriptions and anecdotes added a personal and educational touch to the evening.   

Not only was the night full of fantastic food and wine, there were prizes and bonuses for guests to add to this culinary celebration. Attending the dinner with a group of fellow Spanish teachers was the winner of Traverse Magazine’s Spanish Wine Dinner ticket giveaway. Traverse Magazine also gave away a gift basket during the dinner, and for those interested in building home cellars or enjoying their favorite tasting another evening, single bottles and cases of the five wines were offered for purchase.

I had an amazing time at the “Local Food, Global Wine” Spanish Wine Dinner, but for me, this dinner extended beyond an evening out. You see, I work for both Traverse Magazine and The Bay Leaf, making this event personally meaningful and doubly exciting.

In October of 2010 I blindly moved to Traverse City from California to help some friends open The Bay Leaf and to work there along with my boyfriend, Sous Chef Mike Salamunovich. The Bay Leaf is filled with my Michigan family, and throughout my exploration of Northern Michigan, it has acted as my home away from home. Because of my connection to the heart behind the restaurant and my love for and belief in the food they make (it really is so delicious!), I am probably one of the biggest fans of The Bay Leaf (and only slightly biased).

As Traverse Magazine’s marketing coordinator, one of my favorite jobs is to help with the local events we sponsor. I get to write articles promoting events, put together our e-newsletters which advertise them, and choose contest winners and hear their excitement at having won. I especially love to attend the events, and to see first hand Traverse Magazine’s involvement in Northern Michigan’s community. Imagine then, how excited I was to learn that “Local Food, Global Wine,” the newest event we are taking part in, was to take place at The Bay Leaf!

It seemed that everything I did for this event was twice as important. When I wrote the article for the event, I hoped it would draw readers to, and fill The Bay Leaf‘s dining room. When I added the Spanish Wine Dinner ticket giveaway contest to our e-newsletters, I was excited a subscriber would be rewarded with such a fun prize, and happy that the prize meant a new diner at The Bay Leaf. During the dinner, I was delighted to award Traverse Magazine’s gift basket to Deborah Dursum, and to meet Bryn Lynch, the ticket winner and a Spanish teacher from Traverse City (Bryn went with a group of Spanish teachers, so fitting!). I was able to connect to them on behalf of both of my jobs, and learn from the  winners how much they loved their Traverse Magazine prizes, the wines Tim Tebeau selected, and the food The Bay Leaf prepared.

My favorite part of the whole experience, however, was eating the dinner itself. While I have eaten at The Bay Leaf countless times, it was my first time sitting down to a meal in the dining room. Everything was delicious, the service impeccable (way to go team!) and everyone in attendance seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves. Without a doubt, the first “Local Food, Global Wine” event was a success.

Tim is hoping to make these dinners a monthly event. The next one, a Southern Italian Winemakers Dinner, is scheduled for February 16th at Tuscan Bistro. I let Tim know that if he needs another helping hand for the event, mine will be the first raised!

Read more about The Bay Leaf’s Spanish Wine Dinner.

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