Morel Dinner (and Hunt!) at Black Star Farms

by Emily Lechowicz

Emily and a big morel!

Emily and a big morel!

Luck was on my side of the bay this past Wednesday as the only beautiful and sunny day of the week happened to fall on the same evening as the Black Star Farms monthly Harvest Dinner. These six-course, wine paired dinners are each designed to feature one or two ingredients in every course. The theme for May? Morels, of course!

As a unique add-on, Black Star Farms offered attendees the chance to learn the art of “moreling” by hunting for morels in the woods that border the farm with two of Michigan’s first certified mushroom experts Jim Moses and Linda Grigg. Jim and Linda, who are also husband and wife, brought samples of the different morels they had picked, and explained to the guests what to look for, how to look, and most importantly how to tell the difference between true & false morels.

Visitors came to the hunt on a perfect mid-May day, excited and equipped with plastic mesh bags to carry the morels they hoped to find. Because it’s been so dry in the area lately, it was truly a hunt to find the morels in the woods. After searching for a good twenty minutes, the mushroom hunters were getting slightly discouraged, especially those from out of town who rarely experience the tastiness of the morels and the fun of hunting them.

Morel Mushrooms in Leelanau“I found one!” someone shouted, and the guests swarmed around the newly found mushroom like they had just found gold. There it was: a small, white morel, barely peeking out from under the leaves. Everyone huddled around the mushroom to snag a picture of it in the ground before the knife was taken to pluck it from its roots. Before the excitement could die down from the first morel found, another morel hunter yelled, “Here’s another one!” Seems like we found a good spot for a group of white morels, despite the dry spell.

Along the way, Jim and Linda spoke about their different experiences in the woods finding their favorite fungi and also shared some tips on how to look for morels. “The best way to find morels is to just stare at an area,” said Linda, “then your eyes will adjust to the ground around you.”

As the hunt went on, I got to tag along with Linda for a while, and she talked about her farm of organic vegetables, along with other fungus that she and her husband find in their woods. “I like to dry the Hen of the Woods (another fungus), crumble them and put them in soup!” Linda commented, “They’re very healthy.”

Morels in May DinnerAfter the hunt, it was on the table. The setting reflected Black Star Farms perfectly, with centerpieces lined with mason jars and lights lending a back-to-farm yet elegant ambiance to the event. From the a mushroom bruschetta with wild ramp taster paired with a gin and a morel simple-syrup cocktail that welcomed us and through courses including ragout of morel mushroom and a venison, farm egg, and lemon ramp risotto, Executive Chef Jonathan Dayton and his culinary team showcased many aspects of morels. A favorite amongst the guests were the morel mushroom buttercream cake, morel mushroom meringue and candied morels for dessert.

Chef Dayton shared his feelings about Spring saying, “It’s exciting for me because we can finally go foraging in the woods and get outside of the kitchen and hoop houses. It’s not just morels we’re looking for and using – we use wild leeks (ramps), asparagus, and perennial herbs that have returned in our gardens.”

Morel Bruschetta with wild rampStephanie Lee Wiitala, Events Coordinator and pastry chef at Black Star Farms, simply wowed the guests with her expert wine pairing with each and every delicious dish that was brought from the kitchen. As each of the six courses came out, Lee Wiitala introduced each dish, and why she choose the specific wine that she chose to pair with the course. She outdid herself by pairing the chocolate-frosted morel buttercream cake with the honey-infused, sharp, tangy Sirius White dessert wine to create a delectable delight.

Cynthia Goodrick, a dinner guest, raved about her experience. “Each of the courses had a fine wine pairing that left you seeking another bite, no, another sip, no yet another bit. Each dish involved daring and inventive flavors, but also included were a few perfectly prepared standbys, delicately balanced and finished.”

Dinner was a complete success, and with the added fun of the morel hunt with Jim and Linda Moses. Lee Wiitala did an outstanding job putting together the event, and

The team at Black Star Farms put together an experience that left attendees happy and satisfied, full of amazing food and wine and new knowledge in the art of moreling. I even walked away with a morel of my own from the hunt!

You can click the link for information & reservations for upcoming Harvest Dinners at Black Star Farms.

Starcut Ciders released in Traverse City on Wednesday

 

Starcut Ciders Tap Handles

Short’s Brewing Company will be releasing Starcut Ciders in Traverse City tomorrow – Wednesday, February 11th. A Starcut rep will be on hand at each tapping to share more about the ciders. Get the schedule of tappings below.

Made with Antrim County apples from Altonen, Boals, Friske and King Orchards and Jeff Dewey, Starcut has been on tap at Short’s in Bellaire since November. Short’s Head Brewer Tony Hansen has led the development of Starcut Ciders and says, “This launch is the final step in what has been a very exciting project that started over a year ago. We spent a lot of time researching, procuring and transforming local apples into Northern Michigan style cider. Now that we have our cider-making program developed, we’re ready to share it with a broader audience.”

Follow Starcut on Facebook,Twitter, and Instagram.

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BBQ Bash at Left Foot Charley next Thursday!

Left Foot Charley Cider

Next Thursday (January 22nd) from 5pm-9pm Left Foot Charley invites you to their Mid-Winter Summer BBQ Bash, Cider Release and Menu Takeover featuring summer tunes with a reggae flavor, a fire pit and fun for everyone.

It’s a chance to throw off the Polar Vortex and get your July on with the release of a new medium dry cider from Boals’ Farm in Antrim County and an amazing menu to pair with their wines and ciders designed by Chef Keil of Bay Town Kitchen.

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Ice Wine Season

December 11, 2014: It’s a coincidental Throwback Thursday! Yesterday Black Star Farms released the wine we saw being made: 2013 A Capella Ice Wine.

Ice wine or ‘eiswein’ in the original German, is a rare dessert wine that requires great care and skill to produce. Last week Cortney Casey of Michigan By the Bottle was on Michigan Radio’s Stateside program talking about Michigan ice wines (at 44:20).

With the chill that settled over the area and the late harvest this year, it seemed to be a great time for a short article about this rare delicacy. In a happy coincidence, when I called Black Star Farms winemaker Lee Lutes on Monday, he told me that they’d be picking and pressing at Black Star Farms on Old Mission Wednesday. I hope you enjoy this photo feature on the process of making ice wine. Stay tuned to the end for a great video about the process too!

Work-Ahead

While December 11, 2013 was by no means the coldest December 11th on record (that would be 1977 at -11), it was a bone-chilling day with temps hovering around 11 degrees with a wind chill that never got above zero after 9:30 AM.

In short, as Black Star Farms winemaker Vladimir Banov explained, the perfect day for the ice wine harvest.

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Holidazzle benefit for the Great Lakes Children’s Museum

great-lakes-childrens-museum-holidazzleHolidazzle is a ladies-only benefit for the Great Lakes Children’s Museum featuring light appetizers, drinks, prizes and a holiday market.

The highlight of the fundraiser is a sparkling toast sponsored by Black Star Farms featuring their delicious bubbly, Bedazzled. Every glass will have a prize, and one lucky winner will receive a rough cut emerald!

Visit greatlakeskids.org for more about the event and click here to register today.

Great Lakes Fish Boil at Black Star Farms

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On Wednesday, September 17th Black Star Farms will celebrate the 2014 Michigan Schooner Festival with a Great Lakes Fish Boil at their Suttons Bay location.

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Paella in the Park this Friday!

paella-in-park-header

The annual Paella in the Park featuring the wineries of the Old Mission Peninsula takes place this Friday (August 15) at the Open Space in downtown Traverse City.

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Bruce Simpson Scholarships to benefit local winemakers

 

good-harbor-vineyard

The Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association (LPVA) will award the first Bruce Simpson Winemaker Scholarships to 4 recipients next Tuesday.

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Area wineries shine again at Michigan Wine Competition

Results from the 2014 Michigan Wine Competition have been announced and – as has been the case in recent years – our local wineries have performed very well. Read more

(Traverse) City of Riesling

stuart-pigott-on-northern-michigan-riesling

eatdrinkTC editor Andrew McFarlane has been hard at work helping to build the new City of Riesling event this weekend (July 26-28), and today we have a very special guest post today from the Guest of Honor for this weekend’s festivities, wine writer & global Riesling champion Mr. Stuart Pigott. Stuart began writing about wine in his early twenties as a student in London. He has been the wine columnist of the Sunday Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany’s equivalent of The New York Times for over a decade and is the author of BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH: The Riesling Story which has taken him to every corner of “Planet Riesling” including the Leelanau & Old Mission Peninsulas.

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