Category: Desserts

Dinner at Hillside House, St. Ignace, Michigan

There are many places in the Great Lakes region where Whitefish is listed in the menus of restaurants as being “fresh” as well as being labeled with, “caught locally”. The Straits of Mackinac, located between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet, is one of those places where this designation for fish can be quite valid. This evening I was able to enjoy some broiled Whitefish that had likely been swimming this morning.

Prior to last year’s Michigan Association of Mayors workshop and conference, Mary and I enjoyed a lunch at Snug Harbor overlooking Lake Michigan in Grand Haven. This evening here in St. Ignace, Michigan, the day before this year’s Mayoral event gets underway, we had dinner at the Hillside House Restaurant overlooking the eastern tip of Lake Huron at the Straits of Mackinac and Mackinac Island itself. While Mackinac Island doesn’t show in any of these photos (we’ll visit the island tomorrow morning), it was right there a couple miles away along the horizon.

Hillside House Restaurant is an old home that was converted to its present business some time ago. There are remnants of a motel next to the property along the same level as the restaurant. I can imagine the motel may have been owned by some of the owners of the house, and may have been quite popular in its time 30 or 40 years ago.

Update, August 4 – In an email overnight, co-owner Judy Childs provided more information on the history of the house: “The house was built in 1950. It was purchased by the Belisle’s in 1952. At that point it was an office for the motel next door as well as the Belisle’s home. In 1963 the house was converted into a restaurant. It has faithfully been serving customers every year since then except one year, 2000. It was purchased by the present owners in 2001, Jeff and Judy Childs.”

The garage of the house has been converted into a commercial kitchen. The dining and living room areas have been opened up, and the old hardwood floors are intact around a central fireplace. Out front, a wide deck is across the front of the old living room. Thick, hardwood hexoganal picnic-style tables with umbrellas populate this deck for the gorgeous overlook.

Once we were seated and had our salads served, our server Janet was talking to us about how warm it was. It is quite sticky up here, which is fairly unusual for a location in Michigan above the 45th parallel. But after a while a good breeze came across the Straits and the humidity settled down.

I ordered the Whitefish dinner seen in the first photo. The filet was nicely season with few herbs and spiced, and had been beautifully broiled with skin intact on the underside. The zuchini and onions had been sautéed on the grill and had wonderful flavor and a good “bite” to them. The seasoned rice was an excellent side, as was the biscuit.

Mary had a serving of the Spaghetti Pie. This casserole-style dish was quite firm, had an excellent flavor and was cooked as spaghetti should be. So many places get this wrong, with spaghett so wet it falls apart or so dry you have to use a knife to cut through the crispiness. This was neither of those, and was very nicely done. The herbed garlic bread was a nice compliment to the flavor of the sauce as well.

Of course, we had to have a good Michigan dessert, particularly since it’s strawberry season.

Mary had a serving of the Strawberry Shortcake, something she really likes. I decided on a triple-berry pie, with strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. This homemade pie, warmed, with it’s tender and flaky crust, all topped with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, really hit the spot after a long day of traveling.

Just call me Mr. Talbot. Right, Janet?

Jeanne’s Catering, Grand Haven, Michigan

Baguette Slices with Roast Pork Loin and Pumpkin-Chipotlé Ceviché

This past Wednesday evening as the Michigan Association of Mayors Summer Workshop got underway in Grand Haven, Michigan, I got the chance to make a new friend. I tend to leave Mary on her own in these situations as we’re most certainly not at these events for my own benefit. While she was off reconnecting with other folks from last years’ summer workshop, such as Mayor Janiece “Chi Chi” Rogers of Rockford, Mayor Gerri Moen of Howell, Mayor Bob May of Hastings, and Mayor Roger Bergman and City Manager Pat McGinnis of Grand Haven, I was off taking pictures of … well … of course … the food.

Asparagus wrapped in Phyllo Dough and Prosciutto

The people I found on the other side of the buffet under a tent near the Grand River were Jeanne Welling and her Aunt Sally. Jeanne was the one who made a lot of the main dishes, but she made sure to give credit for the delicate desserts to Aunt Sally. Between the two of them they can knock an event such as this one right out of the park, and at the same time make it look easy.

Members of the Michigan Association of Mayors enjoy the evening buffet prepared by Jeanne Welling and Jeanne’s Aunt Sally.

As I chatted with Jeanne I learned quite a bit about what she does. She owns a restaurant called Jeanne’s Café on Robbins Rd., there in Grand Haven off highway 31. The restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch, closing at 2 in the afternoon. But while it’s only open a short time each day, she also told me she offers 25 different omelets on her menu. Yes, you read that correctly … 25 different omelets. Longtime readers will know of my hankering for a good omelet and that Adam and I have done omelet buffets for groups in the past. I was immediately making plans to visit Jeanne’s restaurant the following morning.

Jeanne’s Smoked Salmon Platter

It seems that, when Jeanne was trying to start the catering portion of her business, no bank would lend her the money. Her customers, whom should properly be called her “patrons”, didn’t like this one bit. Five of them came forward and put together the money Jeanne needed to get the business going. The results are as you see here; beautifully-made food for private, corporate or government events, which tastes as good as or even better than it looks.

Monroe Mayor Mark Worrell chats with Mary at the reception Wednesday evening.

All of us, city leaders, spouses and assistants alike, ended up heading back for more from the delectable buffet created by Jeanne and Aunt Sally. At one point Jeanne quipped, “I guess they didn’t like the salmon”. Of course she was smiling … all that was left was the skin! The group had made fast work of almost everything on the buffet with wonderful comments coming from from every table. This was a truly enjoyable buffet, made by people who know and appreciate good food.

A display of Aunt Sally’s two-bite Key Lime Pie desserts

As I’d mentioned earlier, I was already planning on visiting Jeanne’s restaurant the following morning. I wasn’t feeling too badly about dropping Mary off at the Grand Haven Community Center the next morning and heading over to Jeanne’s Café for a breakfast on my own. Jeanne had already told me she was cooking breakfast for the group at the Community Center anyway. So much for the Association’s agenda, which indicated the attendees should eat at the hotel as there’d be a fuller breakfast there.

And little did I know. I ended up with breakfast with some unexpected new friends at the Café myself the next morning …

Grit Magazine, and A Recipe: Grandma’s Old-Fashioned Rhubarb Pie

A photo of Grandma Saeger’s Old-Fashioned Rhubarb Pie, made by my mom Joyce and sister Barb for this photo. The photo was taken a few years ago with an original 1 megapixel Kodak DC3200 digital camera, which the kids referred to as “The Brick”.

Our friends over at Grit Magazine have published online a rather comprehensive article from the March/April 2009 issue on the subject of rhubarb. The article, by Sarah Belsinger, includes history and uses of the plant, some personal notes, and six recipes:

  • Spring Potage with Potato and Rhubarb
  • Curried Lentils with Rhubarb and Root Vegetables
  • Rhubarb Muffins
  • Chunky Chutney
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
  • Lemon Balm Custard with Rhubarb Sauce

Like you, I wondered why there weren’t any pie recipes in this collection. Rhubarb pie seems to be the default line of thought for the leafy vegetable, which Ms. Belsinger points out at the beginning of the article. Further on, she gives her own thoughts:

I quite enjoy rhubarb pie, crumble, crisp and sauce, alone or in combination with other fruits. However, in my research and recipe search, I was looking for savory, rather than sweet, uses of rhubarb. The reason for this is that when I smell and taste rhubarb, I don’t immediately think of desserts, since it has flavorful, savory characteristics … My quest led me to a few – very few – recipes using rhubarb in main and side dishes.

Later, in the opening for the recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp she does mention that, “This versatile filling can be used for a 9-or10-inch pie with a top and bottom crust”. So, there ya’ go … a recipe for Rhubarb Pie, right there in Sarah’s article.

The following recipe, Grandma Saeger’s Old-Fashioned Rhubarb Pie, is a classic Michigan dessert, showing up at countless get-togethers and reunions. My mom has made this particular recipe for rhubarb pie since the 1940’s. As she learned it from her mom, my Grandma Saeger, the recipe has been around for quite a long time, possibly a century or so. It seems rather elaborate but is in reality quite simple to make and, if care is taken, will come out perfectly almost every time. If you’ve never tried a freshly‐baked, still‐warm piece of rhubarb pie topped with ice‐cold whipped topping, here’s your chance.

The recipe is available here as a two-page PDF. (You may need to download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the PDF version of the recipe.) The recipe itself is rather lengthy and is completely listed from the PDF after the jump.


Recipe: Mom’s Old-Fashioned Peach Cobbler

This image is almost three years old … and I never posted it before??

A couple days ago I was over at Shelby’s food blog reading her post describing her Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuit Topping. At one point Shelby wrote:

Next time I make this, it’s going to be with peaches, since peach cobbler and cornbread are mainstays of any good southern square, why not compact the two into a glorious, sweet, savory, crumbly dish of summer? Just replace the strawberries and rhubarb with some sliced peaches (I’d imagine about two-or-so pounds would do just fine, a few tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon of cornstarch, bake the peaches a bit before topping with the biscuit mixture. Once topped, just bake as below for about 25 minutes.

I was thinking to myself, “That sounds good … use the filling from my mom’s 1930’s-era cobbler with Shelby’s topping. What a great idea!” So I came back here to point Shelby to the recipe.

I was totally dumbfounded. Searching my own blog for the recipe came up with … nothing! The recipe just wasn’t here. Mary was actually kinda flabbergasted; “Oh, I don’t even believe that!” Well honey, you should, because it’s true.

I’ve never posted the recipe for my mom’s best-ever, classic, old-fashioned, Mary-asks-for-it-instead-of-birthday-cake Peach Cobbler.

Geez Louise …

I’ve made this quite a few times over the past few years. In fact, the image at the beginning of this post is almost three years old. I know this because that year, 2005, was the first year Mary asked for this cobbler instead of the traditional birthday cake for her September 25th birthday. I made it a point to ensure that was one of the best batches of peach cobbler I’d made yet, not only to honor Mary’s birthday, but also so I could take a picture for the PDF version of the recipe. That’s where this photo came from.

Mom’s Peach Cobbler is actually simpler than the recipe makes it appear. Sure it’s a lengthy process, but the steps themselves are rather simple. This recipe has stood the test of time, from when my mom Joyce first started making it when she was a kid in the 1930ʹs (weʹre not quite sure who she learned it from), to my own kids making it themselves today. The kids do make mistakes in reading recipes (one young man once used 1/4 cup salt in this particular recipe instead of the specified 1/4 tsp salt in the filling), but thatʹs a good way for them to learn to pay attention to details.

One more thing: Obviously this cobbler tastes best when fresh peaches are used. Keep that in mind if you decide to make this using canned peaches.

Mom’s Old-Fashioned Peach Cobbler

Filling Ingredients
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbs unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup all‐purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 lbs Michigan peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into wedges OR 3 14.5 oz cans peaches in light syrup, drained

1 medium mixing bowl
1 9ʺ x 13ʺ glass baking dish
1 large metal spoon (for creaming)
1 rubber spatula
Non‐stick spray

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with non‐stick spray and gently lay the peach wedges in the dish, making sure none of them are on their edges. In the mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and butter with the back of the spoon until the mixture is nice and smooth. Add the milk, flour, baking powder and salt (sift these last three together to really do this right), mixing it all together until itʹs smooth again. With a rubber spatula, cover the peaches with the creamed mixture. This mixture might be a bit stiff, and thatʹs ok. Just make sure each peach wedge is covered by some of it.

Topping Ingredients
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar (if using fresh peaches) OR 1/2 cup sugar (if using canned peaches)
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 cup boiling water

1 medium mixing bowl

Mix the salt, the sugar and the cornstarch together. (If the cornstarch has been in the cupboard for a while, pitch it and get a new one!) Sprinkle this dry mixture over the filling you made before. Boil some water (really boil it, donʹt nuke it, and donʹt use just hot tap water either) and pour the measured water over the completed dish. Bake the completed cobbler in the preheated oven for one hour. Cool it for a while on a rack before chilling it in the fridge for at least a couple hours before serving.

• 2 pounds of peaches? You might need just 6 or 8 whole peaches depending on their size. At Whole Foods Market in Ann Arbor, it only takes 4 of what they label as “conventional peachesʺ to get the 2 pounds. But be sure to actually weigh this!