Category: Deep Frying

Waterside Dining at Boatwerks, Holland, Michigan

Every once in a while I’ll get an email out-of-the blue from Patty Lanoue Stearns. Patty is one of the more well-known food writers here in the state of Michigan, having written quite a few books on Michigan foods and authoring an even larger number of articles on the subject. One of Patty’s current gigs is that of food contributor to the coffee table mag “Michigan Blue“. This magazine focuses on living in Michigan on, or finding entertainment and activities near, one of these four Great Lakes. (Ahem … yes, I know there are five, but Lake Ontario doesn’t apply here.) Since I can look to my left at the moment and see Lake Erie, “Michigan Blue” applies to Mary and I in many ways.

A year or so ago one of Patty’s questions was this: Was there anywhere down here in southeast Michigan where a boater on Lake Erie can dock the boat and enjoy a good meal? I told her of a few places; Weber’s on Lost Peninsula, Bolles Harbor Café, and Erie Party Store, an Oliver’s Pizza franchise in a fishing shop that also owns a marina in Bolles Harbor. A lot of folks dock at the Erie Party Store and walk the thousand feet or so to Bolles Harbor Café for one of Chef Silverio’s delicious meals.

The Party Store and Bolles Harbor Café made it into the final printing, but Weber’s didn’t. That may be because of the Lost Peninsula location which, if you don’t really understand it, it’s kinda weird. Ok well, it’s kinda weird anyway … Lost Peninsula is what George Clooney would call a “geographical oddity”. While it’s not “two weeks from everywhere”, and it is part of Michigan, you can’t get there from here without going through Ohio first. You have to take Summit St. south out of Michigan where Summit splits off from I-75 at exit 2. Follow Summit into Ohio. After the bridge, turn left onto 131st St. Follow that till it turns left and you’re heading north again. Immediately after the “Welcome to Michigan” sign on the peninsula, Weber’s will be on the left. As there’s no bridge connecting the peninsula to the rest of Michigan, the Mason Consolidated school buses have to take this route to get these kids to school in a part of the state that isn’t “lost”.

Weber’s does have its own nice marina there in the Ottawa River so dockside dining is a given.

I told you that story to tell you this one.

It’s Patty’s fault that I now find myself looking for these kinds of places where a boat on the Great Lakes can be docked during dining. I don’t own a boat and so have only been on one of the Great Lakes in a boat a few times in my life. But boats are a passion of mine anyway so I’ll keep looking for these places. We found a really nice one a couple weeks ago in Holland, Michigan, over on the Lake Michigan side of the state on Lake Macatawa. I’m not sure if Patty covered this restaurant in her article in her Michigan Blue article. Seriously, I can’t find the darn thing. I think I may have left it at the Erie Party Store.

Patty may not have covered Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant in Holland as it seems to be fairly new. We spotted it from the road as we were driving by but since they had just opened for the day there weren’t many cars in the parking lot. One of the employees was going inside when I shot this photo and I actually asked her if they were open yet. Of course they were, so we went inside for a Friday lunch.

It was once we were inside that Mary asked if there was outdoor dining. We were taken through the restaurant, past the large panes of glass that made the grill area in the kitchen an exhibition, through the open boathouse dining rooms with the high vaulted ceilings, past the coffee table seating areas with boating magazines on low tables, and outside to the real waterside restaurant

Patty may not have covered Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant in Holland as it seems to be fairly new. We spotted it from the road as we were driving by but since they had just opened for the day there weren’t many cars in the parking lot. One of the employees was going inside when I shot this photo and I actually asked her if they were open yet. Of course they were, so we went inside for a Friday lunch.

It was once we were inside that Mary asked if there was outdoor dining. We were taken through the restaurant, past the large panes of glass that made the grill area in the kitchen an exhibition, through the open boathouse dining rooms with the high vaulted ceilings, past the coffee table seating areas with boating magazines on low tables, and outside to the real waterside restaurant

I ordered the ground steak cheeseburger on a toasted Kaiser bun with gouda. This was served as you see it in the first photo of this post. Those chips are handmade from whole potatoes in the exhibition kitchen. The burger itself is made from very flavorful ground meat and grilled to perfection. The bun was fresh and was toasted just the way I like it. The gouda was thick, probably 1/8″, and as it was so thick its own flavor set the burger off nicely. And those chips were rather remarkable and delightfully crispy. If I could duplicate them at home with the same flavors, I would.

Mary had the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. Souns simple, doesn’t it? The menu describes it best:

Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Herb marinated breast of chicken, grilled and topped with applewood smoked bacon, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato and red onion. Served on a unique pretzel bun.

Yeah, that’s a pretty good thing, there. You can just imagine it, and then it’s even better than that. Mary thoroughly enjoyed it.

Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant is the kind of place we’ll definitely go back to when we’re in the area once again. Maybe by boat? Who knows …

Forrest Gump & The Shrimp Burger at Boondocks

A shrimp … burger?? Shrimp BURGER. That’s what the menu said. I like shrimp. I like burgers. But a SHRIMP burger. Who’d-a thunk it? The menu also said, “Our own special recipe loaded with shrimp – You must try it!!” Must try … hmmm …

Ok, so it’s not a burger. It’s shaped like a burger. It’s served on a bun. A grilled bun. There’s no burger there though. But still, it’s a Shrimp Burger.

Check that out. Click on the pic and check it out even closer. Looks good, eh? Yeah it does. And you know what? It tastes even better than it looks. Yeah, this was mine. All mine. Quite a bit of peeled shrimp, about 1/4 pound, in a tasty batter, formed into a patty, and fried, then served in a grilled bun with lettuce, tomato and onion. Gnarly good, that.

So what the bloody schmutz does this have to do with the film Forrest Gump? Well, lemme tell ya. And then I’ll tell you about this particular burger and some other great food in South Carolina …

Gump fans, take a good look at these next couple photos. Go ahead, take a minute.

Oh, right … click on these two pics. They’ll get bigger.

Look closely at the far set of trees in this next one:

Recognize anything? Maybe? I kinda did but couldn’t place it, even before a fisherman on the pier we were standing on pointed things out. Something just seemed very familiar … This is Hunting Island, east of Beaufort, South Carolina after the end of highway 21. The treeline in that first image? Just the other side of it was where the camp was where Forrest and Bubba first met Lt. Dan. And if you look at the trees in the distance in the second image, you can just about see Forrest running out of there with Bubba’s body, the bombs going off behind him.

That’s right. Hunting Island was Forrest’s Vietnam.

Back up highway 21 a few miles is the Gay Fish Co. on St. Helena Island. This is apparently one of the more popular fresh seafood suppliers along the South Carolina coast. Googling the company’s name you’ll find all kinds of references to it, including this one from yelp.com: “I stop by Gay Fish Co Inc. everytime I go to hunting island. There seafood is always tasty, fresh, and cheap. I highly suggest this place. If you like the seafood here, go to the Shrimp Shack across the street. I heard that they use the seafood from Gay Fish Co Inc.” But then, looking further at the Yelp page, you’ll find this: “Shrimp boats line the docks with a backdrop of the lowcountry marsh, which provided the natural “set” for scenes of Forrest Gump.

Take a look at this next photo, of those same shrimp boats in the marsh behind the Gay Fish Co.:

I never knew Louisiana and Vietnam were located just a few miles apart in South Carolina …

While making our waffles the morning after our visit to this area, Jo Ann at the North Street Inn told me her sister went to high school with a Hilda Gay, and that one of these five boats is the “Hilda Gay”.

That particular boat was Forrest’s shrimp boat.

The review on Yelp stated, “… go to the Shrimp Shack across the street. I heard that they use the seafood from Gay Fish Co Inc.” Jo Ann referred to this place as the “Gay Shrimp Shack”. I’ve found there’s a reason for that …

There’s a recipe here for Traditional Lowland Shrimp Burgers, which includes text from a New York Times piece. Part of that text reads as follows:

Beaufort, S.C., is the heart of shrimp burger country … the best is found on nearby St. Helena Island, at the Shrimp Shack … The shrimp come from boats docked directly across the street at a wharf built in the 1940’s by the parents of the Shrimp Shack’s owner, Hilda Upton … Mrs. Upton developed the closely guarded Shrimp Shack recipe with Martha Jenkins, another St. Helena Island native, and has been serving shrimp burgers since she opened the Shrimp Shack in 1978.

Hilda Upton, nee Gay, apparently developed the best shrimp burgers there are, according to the New York Times. And her namesake boat … the “Hilda Gay” … was Forrest’s.

After shooting the photo of the sign at the Gay Fish Co., we did head across the street to the Shrimp Shack. Unfortunately, it was 7:30 p.m. and they close at 7. That’s why we ended up at Boondocks a few miles west, where I coincidentally and unknowingly ordered their version of Hilda Gay’s creation.

This two-story sports bar and seafood restaurant was in the middle of nowhere. Gee, maybe that’s why they call it “Boondocks” … but I counted over 20 cars in the parking lot! The waitress even had to clear a table to seat us. If a place this far from civilization can have that much business on a Friday evening, well, yeah, that’s the place to eat! The little room on the far right with all the windows is the exhibition kitchen that you can only look into from the outside. And there’s a chef, Chef Mark, whose name is all over the menu.

Inside, the dining room we ate in was comfortable, and the people were quite friendly. Mary chatted with people at nearby tables, who started the conversations even before our menus arrived. This is a seriously homey place.

After taking forever to pick what I wanted from the menu that simply had so much good-sounding stuff on it, we started with the Fried Calamari (“It’s squid, but don’t tell the kids cuz they won’t like it then”) appetizer (or, as the menu referred to them, “Sometimes people eat these before dinner”).

I’d never had calamari with marinara and found it to be quite good. This calamari wasn’t as chewy as most … probably because it was fresher.

And finally, Caleb had the 14 oz. Ribeye Steak with baked potato and hush puppies. There was no way he could finish this thing, and probably left a third of it.

This is the last post I plan to do about this particular trip. However, I don’t think we’re done visiting the area of Beaufort, South Carolina. We loved it too much. The people were friendly, the scenery was stunning, and the weather was the best it could have been. We’ll have to take Pvt. Winckowski back there so he can really see where he lived for almost three months … without actually seeing any of it.

What’s next? I dunno. Maybe some homemade Chili Mac. I hear Pvt. Winckowski really likes the stuff now.

Photo Essay: Deep-Frying A Turkey

One thing I’d never had in my whole life … well, at least since it’s become popular … is deep-fried whole turkey. No, not the whole turkey … I can’t eat that much … well, maybe … anyway … I digress.

Yesterday I was finally able to enjoy some fresh, hand-dipped, deep-fried turkey! And it was good!! I’d always thought it’d be a bit weird, maybe a touch on the greasy side, possibly missing that “something” that makes for an excellent roasted turkey. You know, the kind you get at the Turkey Roost up in Kawkawlin, Michigan, slow-roasted for hours and served within minutes of your ordering it since it’s, like, already perfectly done.

Yesterday for Mary’s Aunt Betsy’s 80th birthday, Mary’s cousin Steve deep-fried a turkey in his garage./ Ok, so the deep-fryer was in his garage … really, it’s a pole-barn that’s built to be a garage … there’s a funky butterscotch Chevy Nova in there …

By the time we got there just before 2 p.m., Steve had the whole assembly set up. The turkey deep fryer had come from the Cabela’s store in Dundee, Michigan. They have an incredible selection of various types and sizes of deep fryers in the store, including specific ones for fish, turkey and other “designed-for” uses. The majority are intended for outdoor use and, like this one, are powered with a simple LP gas bottle you can get just about anywhere. Steve had placed the deep fryer near the open garage door on a large piece of drywall to protect the floor. With the turkey mounted on its spit/base and the wings secured using the twine that had held the legs together, he’d added enough cold peanut oil to the pot to cover the bird by an inch or two. He’d then removed the turkey, wiped the oil off it, then preheated the oil to 375 degrees F. There’s a lengthy InstaRead thermometer hanging through a hole in the fryer’s lid, making this a simple temperature to adjust to.

At 2 p.m. Steve began the process of lowering the bird into the pre-heated oil. This is downright dangerous!!! The turkey has moisture all over it, throughout the inside and, as this was a Butterball turkey, within the meat itself. Steve mentioned the oil might explode if something went wrong, and as I’ve seen it happen I know what he means. With his welder’s glove on it took Steve a whole 5 minutes to lower the turkey into the violently-bubbling oil.

Now … yes … we know … BARE FEET????? If something had gone drastically wrong, if the bIrd had slipped off its rack and dropped right in, those feet would be in a burn ward. GET SOME FRIGGIN’ SHOES ON!!!

Simple physics: As the bird goes in, the oil level rises. This was a big bird, so the oil was about as high as possible as the dip was finished. Be patient, and don’t hurry. Oh, and wear shoes …

After the 5 minutes it took to get the bird into the oil, the oil will still bubble as the moisture level on the bird itself subsides. Gently place the lid on, with the thermometer in the oil.

The temp of the bird itself dropped the temp of the oil to about 300 degrees F for the one-hour duration of the frying. This is one reason people like to deep-fry turkeys: It doesn’t take all day. One hour, tops.

Removing the golden-brown turkey from the oil at 3 p.m. took much less time than it took to put it in. You still need to be careful though as the hot oil will drip. Jabbed into the cooked bird, the thermometer showed 200 degrees F internal temperature for the meat. So, maybe 45 minutes next time.

The fried bird was placed in a foil pan on the drywall to drain and rest a bit before being taken into the kitchen to cut. That crispy skin is an amazing treat, and needs to be eaten as freshly as possible. Especially the stuff at the bottom of the bird where it had cooked the longest.

Thanks, Steve, for a great turkey meal!

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