The Cooks’ House – Traverse City

Okay, I admit. I’ve been holding out on you all. In June, while in Traverse City, Chris and I ate lunch at this little restaurant on the edge of downtown. We’d driven by it coming in to town on Saturday morning then passed it at least a few more times going to and from the ceremony and our wine tasting adventure.

The little striped awning had caught my eye. And the words ‘Cooks’ and ‘House.’ From the street, you couldn’t tell if it was a restaurant or a retail store. Eventually, on Sunday we stopped to at least look at the door. They were closed but I noted the times for Monday- open at 11 for lunch.

Monday, it required dilly-dallying in the hotel until they opened. And it also required repeatedly turning down offers of a little bite of this or that when we met the rest of the family in the hotel restaurant. They were eating breakfast and we’d missed the cut-off. Deliberately but no one seemed to get that. Finally, we could say our good-byes and head over to The Cook’s House, just the two of us. I was very excited based on my quick glance at the menu posted by the door.

It was a little breezy but we opted to sit outside at one of three or four tables scattered across a little greenspace alongside the restaurant. The interior is quite small but we were there so close to 11 that they were not busy yet. I just wanted to enjoy the sunshine.

Our servers (2) were very attentive although sometimes it was a little awkward- the busser didn’t seem to have a strong grasp of English so asking for a new knife took a few tries.

Despite wanting to try everything on the menu, we limited ourselves to one dish each. Chris went for the chicken salad sandwich and I chose Walker’s Pesto Passion. I’m not sure who Walker is but I think I’d like him (her?)! The sandwich is fresh mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and pesto on the lightest bread. It was like a pastry bread. It kind of looked like foccacia but it didn’t taste like it. It had just a hint of sweetness. Maybe like challah but not overly sweet and not heavy. Seriously, good stuff. And the perfect outside to an amazing inside. This mozzarella was chewy and moist without being gummy or too salty. The oil in the pesto wrapped the tomatoes its velvety glove while spreading hints of basil through every bite.

Chris’s chicken salad sandwich was served on whole grain bread that had been grilled. The chicken salad was not like any salad I’d ever seen- it was chunks of chicken with dried cherries and a not-mayo dressing. He kept handing over bits of it so I could try to figure out what was in there. I couldn’t although I’m still guessing some kind of grainy-mustard. EDIT 10/10/08: Chris sandwich was accessorized with pea sprouts. I forgot about that before. They were slightly sweet and definitely a nice change from plain ole lettuce. End Edit I did give up one bite of my sandwich but I was very reluctant to share. And I probably would have stolen half his sandwich if I thought I could have.

Each our sandwiches came with a side salad of mixed greens dressed with a light vinaigrette. The salads had exactly the right amount of dressing. Every piece of lettuce had been touched but not much more than that.

Prior to our sandwiches, we also go a basket of freshly baked breads and butter. Guess what- it was wonderful!

While we waited for our meal, I started looking around the garden. I noticed herbs in one area, some future squash in another and down the stairs at the back of the restaurant, hanging over the river were baskets filled with heirloom tomatoes. As if this food wasn’t delicious enough- most of it was local. In fact, they pride themselves on sourcing locally as much as possible. On their website, you can see a list of suppliers. It seems that Traverse City would be a very good place to live while doing the 100-mile challenge!

I’m writing about this place now because the secret is out. All this time, despite not reviewing the place, I’d had a link to the blog from the chef at The Cooks’ House in my blogroll. I also recommended the place to a fellow blogger and he wrote about his visit (this weekend), here. In light of that also great review, I thought I’d go ahead and share my experience too. It was hard. I really was reluctant to talk about this place because I didn’t want to share. I didn’t want someone to go there, hate it and complain. Because I’d have to smack them. I have eaten in some pretty pricey restaurants in my life. I’ve eaten in places with national reputations. This was just lunch but it was one of the best meals of my life. You could taste the care and respect for food coming from the kitchen. I can’t put this lunch above my dinner at Charlie Trotter’s because that might be sacrilege but until I get my dinner at The French Laundry (in California, not the one in Fenton), lunch at the Cooks’ House will sit at #2.


Websitethe cooks’ house with menus
Address: 439 E. Front Street Traverse City, MI 49686
Hours: Monday through Saturday – Lunch 11:00am-4:30, Dinner 4:30-9:00

Links, comments and miscellaneous things

I’ve got a bunch of little things that don’t really add up to full posts so I decided to lump them all together.

Cool website:

Cook’s Thesarus – lists 1000s of ingredients and kitchen equipment with pictures, suggested substitutions and links to make your own. I really like that the listings included synonyms and alternate spellings.

And I learned that asafetida, a gum resin used in Indian dishes with a strong onion-garlic flavor, is also known as both devil’s dung and food of the gods. Huh.


Local Produce Advertising

On the way in to work this morning I heard a new radio commercial from Kroger espousing the greatness of local produce. The ad was an “interview” with a local farmer and at the end, the announcer reminded you that lots of local fresh produce was available at your Kroger including yellow squash and zuchinni from the featured farm.  You can read Kroger’s statement on locally sourced produce here. I haven’t paid close attention but I don’t think Kroger is putting up signs to flag the local produce, unlike Meijer. You can read Meijer’s local growers statement here. Bonus points to Meijer for the growing chart that displays the typical season for most locally grown crops. Minus points to Meijer for their claim that they won’t buy local unless it meets or exceeds what they can get elsewhere. I have two issues with this statement:

A. I have seen some ridiculously bad looking produce at Meijer that should not have been bought from anyone; or if it showed up at the store that way, never put on the shelf. Kroger has this issue too but Meijer is the only place where I’ve seen black and white molds growing on the same tomato in a guacamole kit (on the same visit, they had a sign up where bananas normally are to inform customers that they had no bananas due to quality problems and flooding near their sources).

B. Meets or exceeds other produce how? Michigan grown strawberries will never stand up in looks and size to California strawberries. And of course California strawberries are available mostly year-round versus the short 2 month season for local berries. But to pass on offering Michigan strawberries during that short time frame seems unfair to the local growers who producing the best-tasting strawberries, albeit distinctly smaller berries. I know that consumer bias plays a role here so I’m not going to be too hard on Meijer (or Kroger) but they could boost advertising to showcase local produce and maybe change a few minds too (in particular, the mind of a certain boyfriend who turned his nose up at Michigan berries in the Farmer’s Market then came home with a box of “Product of USA” berries from Kroger).

Worcestershire Sauce

After dinner last night, I happened to look at the back of the bottle of Worcestershire Sauce that I used. I’ve never really used it before and didn’t know much about it except that it has anchovies in it. I only know that because a few months ago, my mom sent me on a quest to find vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce (they had it at Foods for Living in Okemos- 2 brands to choose from!). 

The brand we have is Lea & Perrins which might be the only brand.  The label says something about “Since 1835” and its made in England.  Then I looked at the ingredients and what do I see??!?  High Fructose Corn Syrup! I don’t know when that stuff was first created in a lab but I’m pretty sure it was way after 1835.

SO I did a little research today. ANd it turns out that the recipe in England (and Canada) is made with sugar but the US version is made with High Fructose Corn Syrup.  What is that about?

Blog Template and Such

I have been fiddling with my template and I think I’m going to change it to a different theme.  Eventually, I hope to get my own site setup and switch over to; I’ve already reserved my domain: so its just a matter of getting server space somewhere. 

In the meantime though, its here I’ll be.  As I do the new theme, I’m going to create a blogroll specifically for local blogs and food/cooking sites. So, if you know of any, leave a comment below.  Gratzi! (new theme here now, what do you think? I’m not in love with it yet….