A Royal Chef Stars at September’s “Taste of Traverse City” Food Festival

The View from my Beach Chair This Weekend. I Refuse to Apologize.

The View from my Beach Chair This Weekend. I Refuse to Apologize.


Dear friends and readers,

“Loving Traverse City” now has a new address. (It’s a lot easier to remember, too)  You can reach it easily by going to http://blog.traversecity.com/. Or just follow this link.




One of the drawbacks of getting older is that time seems to be speeding up — probably because there isn’t as much of it left in the hourglass as there used to be.

As a kid, I remember how everything seemed to take far too long, especially the school year, most of my classes, and the time between birthdays. These days, things come and go in a bewildering sort of blur, even here in this laid-back North Woods enclave, where the summer feels as though it’s already beginning to slip away. (Then again, maybe it’s just the times I love that go by too quickly; I’m sure January will seem, as usual, about three weeks too long.)

Anyway, it was a perfect Traverse City beach weekend, low on humidity and in the upper 80s, with Grand Traverse Bay nicely warmed up for swimming, so that’s where we planted ourselves. Ah, yes!

Still, there’s no getting around the passage of time. I’m already starting to think about September, when the brand- new Taste of Traverse City festival will be coming to TC.

The three-day festival, scheduled for Sept, 13-14, will include workshops, demonstrations, appearances by local chefs and culinary celebrities, and tastes and sips of the best dishes and libations from area restaurants, caterers, wineries, breweries and other food producers.

Highlights of the weekend will include a “Grub Crawl,” a day-long showcase event on the

Darren McGrady

Darren McGrady

city waterfront, a Sunday Brunch competition, and a Foodie Film Festival of food-themed movies. And I just heard from festival organizer Carol Lewis that they’ve landed a celebrity guest: Darren McGrady, who spent 15 years as Great Britain’s official Royal Chef.

McGrady was personal chef to Queen Elizabeth II, Diana, Princess of Wales and Princes’ William and Harry, has cooked for five US Presidents. His first cookbook titled ‘Eating Royally,’ recipes and remembrances from a palace kitchen is now in its fifth printing. Today he lives in Dallas, and travels the U.S. sharing his recipes and memories.

But Lewis, whose own past accomplishments include several major Detroit automotive shows and a gubernatorial inauguration, insists that she doesn’t want the new festival to be pigeonholed as an elites-only affair.

“You don’t have to have a lot of money to be a foodie, and that’s not the atmosphere I want to promote,” she said. “Traverse City is already being recognized for wonderful food and drink, and we want to bring that to a wider audience. This won’t be a high-ticket event; you can enjoy yourself all day for $20, or have a more intense experience for $50 or $60, but either way you’ll get value.”

It’s no secret that Traverse City has been attracting attention as one of America’s most unique culinary destinations (thanks to fans like celebrity chef Mario Batali) and was named one of the country’s Top Five Foodie Towns by Bon Appetit. But that fame can also be intimidating, and Lewis doesn’t want people to lose the sense of playfulness and fun that should be part of the food experience.

A Little Wine-Tasting...

A Little Wine-Tasting…

“We’re making this as reasonable as we possibly can, because we want people to come,” she says. “And we’re not letting everything out of the bag yet because we want to preserve a certain element of surprise. People should be a little adventurous when it comes to food and wine.”

The Taste of Traverse City festival isn’t entirely without precedent; Traverse City’s reputation as a food destination began to spread during the heyday of an earlier culinary festival, the Traverse Epicurean Classic. Lewis says the Epicurean Classic, which folded in 2012, involved a great many big-ticket events, celebrity chefs and book signings, while the Taste of Traverse City will be much more intensely focused on local cuisine.

She chose the date after consulting with local restaurateurs, winemakers and hoteliers, who convinced her that mid-September was a “sweet spot” between the end of the summer tourism season and the start of fall color touring and the annual wine harvest .  “We didn’t want to compete with anybody else,” she says.

The festival will open Friday evening with a Downtown Grub Crawl where attendees receive “tasting punches” that can be used for special food and beverage samples at downtown restaurants and bars. The festival’s signature event will be held Saturday afternoon on the city’s waterfront Open Space Park, featuring multiple pavilions and stages dedicated to a diverse selection of culinary fields (plus a “grilling & chilling zone” with live music and local chefs grilling tasty treats.)

A Little Food-Tasting, too...

A Little Food-Tasting, too…

Sunday’s offering is a “Best of the Brunch” culinary throwdown – a competition in which teams of chefs, farm suppliers and beverage creators vie to create and serve the “perfect brunch” to a small crowd of advance-ticket participants at the city’s waterfront Hagerty Center. And on all three days, the Foodie Film Festival will be showing such culinary movies as “Mostly Martha,” “Big Night,” “Ramen Girl” and “Ratatouille” in venues around the dining area.

Tickets to all events are available a la carte or as part of a weekend all-access festival pass, and there is special pricing available for orders placed in advance. (For instance: they’re offering a $10 discount per ticket during July for the Grub Crawl and the Best of the Brunch; the promo code for the Grub Crawl is GC10 and the Brunch is BB10.)

For more information, visit www.tasteoftraversecity.com.


About mikelovestc

These days, I’m the media relations guy for the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, but before that I spent 25 years as a reporter and columnist at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a job that frequently took me out into the most remote backroads, forests, beaches and islands of the beautiful Grand Traverse Region. My strategy was pretty simple — just drive, paddle, ski or walk until you’re certain you’re lost, and then find somebody to talk to. It was a great job! I never intended to live in Traverse City. I grew up in Grand Rapids, spent four years in the Coast Guard in places like Miami Beach, Monterey and San Francisco, and when I finally graduated from college I took a summer job at the Miami Herald. To my surprise, I discovered I didn’t like the tropics nearly as much as I thought I would — and when the Record-Eagle offered me a job I took it, figuring I’d put in a year or two and head off to someplace like Seattle or Portland. What I discovered very quickly is that this place gets to you in a variety of unexpected ways. The beaches here are as lovely as anyplace else I’ve ever been, the weather is mild all year round — warm enough for swimming in September and cold enough for skiing in December — and just about the time you’re getting tired of one season you get another one every bit as pleasant. The people are laid-back and friendly, the music and arts scene is awesome, and the place still hasn’t gotten so sophisticated that a guy like me feels out of place.
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