- Was a panelist at the 7th Annual Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor.
- SAVEUR magazine’s Kelly Alexander mentions Cherry Home Companion in a July 2004 story.
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Food Editor Suzanne Martinson, wrote this wonderful piece, and yet another! Thanks, Suzanne!
- Dave Liske, the Luna Pier Cook, mentioned me in his food blog. He also did a piece on M.Live.
- Northern Express, Northern Michigan’s weekly, offered up the late Nancy Sundstrom’s review..
- The (now-defunct) Fine Living Network website, now the Cooking Channel, showed an image, used a recipe and gave a link to the publisher.
- This cool story about Morello cherries is from my pal John Kessler in Atlanta.
Food Editor Jaye Beeler of The Grand Rapids Press wrote the following two-page Sunday spread on both Cherry Home Companion and Good Taste.
The lovely aroma of cherry mascarpone French toast permeated Patty LaNoue Stearns’ Northern Michigan home, where picturesque windows offered excellent views of Twin Lake. The French toast, an elegant brunch offering (served at Latitude Restaurant in Bay Harbor), was sweet, substantial and found on page 39 of Stearns’ new cookbook “Cherry Home Companion: A Connoisseur’s Cherry Cookbook” (Arbutus Press, July 2002, $29.95).
That alluring collection of cherry recipes was my first introduction to Stearns, a Traverse City food writer and restaurant critic. As if that wasn’t enough, Stearns, at the same time, churned out “Good Taste: A Guide to Northern Michigan Cuisine” (Arbutus Press, July 2002, $16.95).
“Imagine the biggest deadline that you have ever. Now multiply it by two,” said the Traverse City Record-Eagle restaurant columnist. “I was working on ‘Cherry Home Companion’ and ‘Good Taste’ at the same time. Since February, I have devoted my life to these books.”
Brimming with 130 mouthwatering recipes for cherries”the majority calling for dried or frozen cherries”the “Cherry Home Companion” is a friendly cookbook meant for the kitchen. Stearns collected recipes from local home cooks, A-list chefs, food writers and cherry purveyors. “I called everybody I know and said, ‘Give me your cherry recipes.’ Pete Peterson at Tapawingo gave me a bunch,” she said.
“His chocolate bread-and-butter pudding with cherries is a killer.”
She scoured through hundreds of cookbooks, magazines and recipe databases, searching for spectacular cherry recipes, lore and wit. “I wanted fabulous recipes, luscious recipes,” Stearns said.
“I wanted (home cooks) to feel special even making these recipes. Add a handful of cherries to anything, and it feels like company is coming over.”
The recipes range from the simplest spinach salad with pine nuts and cherries to Keil Moshier’s elegant restaurant offering of cherry and apple marinade for pork tenderloin. Moshier is executive chef at Bowers Harbor Inn and The Bowery in Traverse City.
“I wanted a Michigan flair. Cherries aren’t a Traverse City thing ‘it’s a Michigan product,” Stearns said. “There is a lot of statewide pride in cherries.” “Cherry Home Companion” starts with Stearns’ sweet and sticky cherry memories.
“My sisters and I sat among the branches that overlooked our yard, giggling and plucking the deep-red spheres from their stems, one by one, eating as many as we could swallow, spitting the pits, sticky juice running down our chins, our necks, the front of our blouses,” Stearns writes in the recipe book.
“My grandmother would come with her amazing stainless steel machine that would poke out the pits and extrude the cherries almost whole. We’d put up millions of them, it seemed, in big quart jars and eat them the rest of the year in pies, tarts and jelly, but mostly just by themselves.” Stearns quickly relays the nuts and bolts of cherries, including facts, types, preparation and storage, history and a source list for cherry products.
The cookbook’s illustrations are charming reproductions of vintage cherry festival posters and postcards. The voluptuous beauty with a cherry dangling from her luscious red lips is my favorite.
Stearns and her husband, Joe, came to Traverse City three years ago, trading in Detroit’s big city experience for a cozier, friendlier place. As a year-round resident, Stearns, a former food columnist and restaurant critic for The Detroit Free Press and Detroit Monthly magazine, quickly learned eating with a view of the bay couldn’t make so-so food taste better.
“For the most part, a lot of places on the water are tourist traps,” said Stearns, while driving along Front Street, intent on taking me to her favorite restaurant. “It’s not to take anything away from them. They are serving a need–tourists do come up here. I would love to see a really good seafood place on the water.”
With confidence, Stearns tackled the quandary folks have when vacationing in Northern Michigan–where to eat. The result was “Good Taste: A Guide to Northern Michigan Cuisine,” a comprehensive restaurant guide reaching from Cadillac and Manistee, up the coast to Harbor Springs. In the dining directory, Stearns wrote honestly about the food, ambience, prices and service–it’s all very chatty, as if she’s sitting at the table with you. You can’t beat the guide’s rating system, which ranges from two stars (for good) to five stars (for the best).
“There’s no point in listing a one-star restaurant–if it’s that mediocre, why bother?” Stearns said. “A two-star designation doesn’t mean it’s bad. A restaurant might get two stars because it doesn’t have a bar.” The only restaurant she gave five stars was Tapawingo in Ellsworth.
“You can trust this,” Stearns said. “It’s not a chamber of commerce thing. It’s not a visitor bureau thing.
“Every time I go out, I go to a different restaurant except Amical, which is my favorite, and Tapawingo, which I can only afford a couple times a year.”
Last year, Stearns walked in Mode Bum’s Steer on East State Street in Traverse City, took one look and walked out. “I thought, ugh! I didn’t want to eat in a dark place like that,” Stearns said. “I wanted to be on the water.” Later, she discovered Mode’s Bum Steer is a genuine cocktail lounge with the tenderest hand-cut beef around those parts.
That surprise and delight factor turned up time and again. At Bowers Harbor Inn in Traverse City, Stearns learned about the large herb garden growing out back. The warm bread basket at the Bluebird Restaurant and Bar in Leland offers fabulous homemade cinnamon rolls at dinnertime. La Becasse, a cozy 40-seat inn on Glen Lake, would fit into the Provence countryside seamlessly.
“My mission up here is to encourage ethnic restaurants. There’s no Thai, Ethiopian, Indian, soul food, Middle Eastern,” Stearns said. “There’s a (Spanish) tapas restaurant, but the portions are so huge that it’s not really small plates. It’s more the size people should be eating.”
Full of determination and hope, Stearns discovered the best wonton soup made with housemade broth at TC Hunan Chinese Restaurant in Traverse City. The small store-front eatery is tucked behind a Taco Bell. At Taqueria Margarita on Traverse City, she loved the authentic and inexpensive Oaxacan Mexican food, right down to the 11.7-ounce Coca-Cola products bottled in Mexico.
On the down side, Stearns admitted service can be awful during the off-season. “Because it’s seasonal, service can be really lame,” she said. “It can be good one day and bad the next.” If dining with a water view is important, try Windows, where all the windows offer a gorgeous view of Grand Traverse Bay and Old Mission Peninsula. The chef-owner, Phil Murray, worked at the Commander’s Palace in New Orleans with famed chef Paul Prudhomme.
For us, Stearns and I hustled over to Amical in downtown Traverse City. She was right–the raspberry creme brulee was too good to resist. “Amical’s gets my vote for the best people watching in town–especially from the patio on Front Street,” Stearns wrote in “Good Taste.” “It’s positively Parisian.”
Patty LaNoue Stearns’ “Cherry Home Companion: A Connoisseur’s Cherry Cookbook” (Arbutus Press, July 2002, $29.95) and “Good Taste: A Guide to Northern Michigan Cuisine” (Arbutus Press, July 2002, $16.95.) are available at Schuler Books and Music, 2660 28th St. SE, 942-2561.