Michigan

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Chocolate, Cherries, Cheesecake & Wine

Friday, March 19th, 2010

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Mother-Daughter Bonding in Traverse City

The mother-daughter getaways began nearly 15 years ago as a celebration of my daughter’s “double-digit” birthday. It was our first adventure alone together and it was to Nassau in the Bahamas. For years we made a habit of annual trips to beach locations around the Caribbean. Of course, the trips changed quite a bit over the years as the 10 year old turned into an adult.

It’s been a tough few years for various reasons and we haven’t had a getaway for the two of us in awhile. When I had the opportunity to bring someone on my trip to Traverse City, I thought it would be great to make it mother-daughter time. Sam and I didn’t expect this time compare to our favorite place (Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos), but we thought it would just be a fun few days. We were certainly happily surprised to find out just how beautiful and fun-filled this Michigan location is.

Ironically, it did all start with a beach in our beautiful room at the Bay Shore Resort overlooking what looked more like the ocean than a lake. It was almost as blue as the Caribbean Sea and stretched beyond where the eye could see. I knew it was Canada on the other end (not a Bahamian island), but it was easy to get lost in the sunset and beauty. That was just the start, as some of the things which Traverse City is famous for just happen to be some of our favorites – cherries, chocolate cheesecake and wine.

There are two main areas of Traverse City where you will find an abundance of wineries. On our first day we hit the Old Mission Peninsula, tasting some quality wines from Chateau Chantal (which also has a cute Bed & Breakfast); Two Lads (modern building, bold red wines); and Brys Estate (Walter & Eileen make you feel like you’re in their living room, even giving out recipes to go with the wine). We stopped in between at the Old Mission General store to pick up some apple cider and check out the unusual offerings and also had a great meal at Peninsula Grill between wineries.

TraverseCity_wine_300We finished day one with an incredible meal of duck for me and scallops for Sam at Aerie, the Grand Traverse Resort restaurant with food as incredible as the views. We ended the meal with the “Snickers Bomb” and the “Almond Joy,” which were as delicious as they sound.
We continued the eating and drinking orgy – which fortunately included a great deal of walking to eliminate a few of the calories – through two more days of exploration in Traverse City. Day two took us through the beautiful beaches and the Sleeping Bear Dunes. We also tasted our way through many more wineries on the Leelanu Peninsula, some notables of which are Black Star Farms (be sure to also taste the cheese and Red Grappa there too), Longview and L. Mawbry Sparkling Wines.

In between the wineries, we did need some refueling and we found some incredible places to satisfy any sweet tooth in Traverse City. Cherry Republic has anything and everything you could think of made from this tasty fruit. Owner Bob Sutherland took his imagination to a new delicious level. The best part is that there are samples everywhere so you don’t have to guess what you might like best. There’s even a wine tasting room with cherry wines and a café where you can buy fresh homemade cherry pie. It’s really hard to narrow the favorites down, but we love the Cherry Fudge Sauce and the Cherry Salsa. Fortunately, these products can be refilled by mail order!

As much as the peninsula’s are filled with wine, downtown Traverse City is filled with chocolate. There’s an abundance of shops for every taste, but we were especially impressed with the offerings at Jacques Torres and Phil’s Chocolate Lounge. There was also a stop at Morsels, where we sampled tasty miniature treats of our favorites, like Devil’s in the Details (cream-filled devil’s food cake with dark chocolate ganache) and Ninja Turtle (a rich brownie with caramel, chocolate and pecans) while doing some window shopping.

TraverseCity_300Our final day in Traverse City included a trip to Grand Traverse Commons, an old asylum that is now filled with shops and restaurants. We stopped in at Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery, where the healthy offerings smelled as good as Cranberry Pecan bread sounds. After enjoying a few at Left Foot Charley Winery it was off to the Underground Cheesecake for some real serious tasting!

Cheesecake was always an important element in the Frost household. We didn’t have it often, but we loved it when we did. For as long as I can remember, my birthday cake was a cheesecake and the opportunity to visit a place dedicated to the dessert was too much to resist. This home of The Frozen Chocolate Dipped Cheesecake-On-A-Stick deserves its reputation as the area’s cheesecake leader. From Amaretto Cream to German Chocolate to Red Velvet, there is a flavor for everyone. And, fortunately, you can buy bite-size cakes so you can sample more than one.

Our mother-daughter adventure in Traverse City had to come to an end – and our diets needed to begin – but in the end it turned out to be almost as good as our first double-digit Bahamas adventure.

Marcia Frost is the Wine And Spirits Travel Examiner and has her own blog at WineAndSpiritsTravel.com. She also writes wine, spirits and travel for many other sites, including Golflink, Travels, Matador, Gadling and Trails. She is looking forward to regular contributions at Girls Getaway.