Two summers ago on our honeymoon, Mary and I rented a house near the northeast corner of the amazingly-clear Torch Lake, located between Traverse City and Charlevoix. As the lake is almost 20 miles long but very narrow, we decided one day we were going to simply drive around it and see all the sights. After passing the southeast corner and turning north in Elk Rapids, we ended up coming into a slew of traffic of both vehicles and pedestrians. Passing through a 90-degree-turn eastward, we found ourselves in the extremely busy little town of Alden. It was Thursday, at lunch-time, what the hey were all those people doing there?? It turns out that Alden, Michigan, is simply the little town every other little town hopes to become. They pack so much into a distance of about a half-mile, the whole place is a destination all its own.
Having lunch at a place called the Kountry Kitchen (now The Sweet Onion or something like that) I found some nice spices on the table. The address on the label indicated they were made right there in town. I’d ordered an omelet, and when it was brought to me, I followed my sister’s lead with her Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and sprinkled some Alden Mill House‘s Farm Market Salad Seasoning on the omelet. Oh yeah, that was nice! The server said the mill house wasn’t far away, but I didn’t feeling like touring what I thought was an industrial facility. So, we went shopping instead.
In the tiny grocery in town, I picked up a couple Alden Mill House jars and took them to the counter. I was stunned when the girl at the register said they were cheaper at the mill house itself. Wait … you’re suggesting I get them elsewhere for less?? Wow …
Walking the rest of the way east to the next 90-degree-turn in the road, we finally saw the Alden Mill House. Good Sister Mary Margarita, I’m seeing Pippi Longstocking’s Villavillakula here!
These photos are from this past Friday, during our 4th or 5th visit to the Alden Mill House. As unkempt as the yard west of the house appears, it’s actually groomed this way by Chef Geno, a retired Chef, and owner of the Mill House and developer of the wonderful spices made there. The rest of that side of the yard is just as odd, but in a strangely-beautiful way:
Of course, you have to be careful where you step! This guy, photographed two years ago, was still waiting last Friday for someone to trip …
The east side of the yard, bordered by that other 90-degree-turn in the road, is more traditional. In the past year or so, a wonderful decorative waterwheel has been added where the road makes that turn:
Inside, the incredible fragrance of freshly-milled spices fills the nostrils, making me just a touch light-headed each time I enter this place. The room at the east corner of the house contains the spices I use most:
This year I used the (somewhat) annual trip to the Alden Mill House to stock up on those items I use most. You can get some of these spices at the jerky shops in Luna Pier and Dundee, but only in the smaller jars that are half the size of these. I’ll tell you what though, it’s worth the drive to Alden to pick up countless other items you can’t get at the jerky shops. Here’s my stash from last Friday’s visit:
In the larger four jars are:
- Farm Market Salad Seasoning: Great on salads, fish, pork, etc., I found out right away it’s also excellent on eggs.
- Pork & Poultry Seasoning: A nice rub for both pork and poultry, it’s good for these items when used in other dishes as well, such as chicken salad.
- Miracle Blend: I probably go through a full pound of this stuff every six months or so. A mix of Kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder and other niceties, this is my go-to spice for everything from fried or scrambled eggs, to mashed potatoes, steamed, blanched or fried vegetables, and countless other uses.
- Malibar Island Pepper: A 50/50 mix of both Malibar Island and Tellicherry peppers, this stuff is so fresh, you can stick your nose in the jar, take a BIG whif, and not sneeze! Oh, and it tastes great, too!
The Strawberry Rhubarb Jam in the jar in front turned out to have an incredible flavor, reminding me of a fresh pie. And the fish plaque is for Mary’s brother’s cottage on Walpole Island in Canada.
I would actually like to see Chef Geno’s spices available in more locations than they are. These are some of the best additions for food that I’ve ever stumbled into. Go get y’all some!