Friday, October 15, 2010

UP trip: Part 4. Keweenaw to the Soo

It's Friday and I wind down this week with the final installment of photos from our trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. When I left you on Wednesday, the boy and I had been exploring Porcupine Mountains State Park. Next stop: the Keweenaw Peninsula. We drove north through Houghton, over the river to Hancock and kept going. We jagged west out to the coast and wound our way along until we landed on the doorstep of the Eagle River Inn. The humble entrance above led to one of the trip's highlights: Fitzgerald's.

After several evenings of mediocre dinners, Fitzgerald's was a shock to the system. The hotel and restaurant is owned by two young guys, one of whom is the son of the original owner. They are doing amazing things. Everything about our meal and evening was perfect. I had the incredible dish above: walleye dusted in pecan flour with Michigan cherry butter. The beer and wine selections are great with a heavy dose of Michigan producers. The dining room is rustic and sits right on the beach of Lake Superior. We moved over to the tiny 6-seat bar after dinner and spent a wonderful evening talking with one of the owners and another couple visiting from Germany. We watched a spectacular sunset that dropped so instantaneously I think you could hear it.  As it got later, the staff slowly joined us and a couple of locals stopped in and let me tell you, it was lively. 

The best part, all we had to do was tumble up the stairs to our room with this view. I could hear the waves lapping and watched a brilliant sunrise from bed. No phone, no television. Perfect.  

We stopped the next morning at the Jampot Bakery. Owned and run by monks of the Society of Saint John, this little gem serves a huge selection of jams and jellies, very popular fruitcakes, ginormous muffins … I could keep going. Someone at the bar the night before said their truffles were the best he'd ever had. Right after we walked in, though, a huge group of crazy motorists driving what looked like a crazy ugly modern version of the Ranchero all packed themselves into this tiny little shop. They just kept shoving in. I panicked and grabbed a jar of pear butter and a huge muffin (that lasted me about five days) and ran out the door. We thought we would come back the next day when we could leisurely ask questions and read every label, but sadly, didn't have a chance. Something for next trip.

This log home along the way was stunning. The design, materials, location…

This rocky part of the northern west coast of the Keweenaw reminded me a lot of Maine. We explored some more and eventually made our way back down the east coast and back to Marquette. 


On our final day we beelined east all the way to Sault Ste Marie and the Soo Locks. (We decided to save Tahquamenon Falls for another trip, too.) The locks connect Lake Superior to the St. Mary's River and the rest of the Great Lakes. They allow boats to rise or drop the 21-foot difference between the two waterways. It's really a site to see. We first watched a smaller barge (above) drop down from Lake Superior. And then watched this 737-foot freighter raised up. Amazing. Dang, people are smart.

And then… back across the bridge. Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

And so ends our U.P. saga. I hope you've enjoyed reliving it with me. Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last night Blue House was hopping with activity and the creative juices were flowing through every room. I went for MakersMeet — the drop-in, crafty evenings where you bring a project you're working on, start a new one or just hang out with a lovely group of creative people. (Did you know that MakersMeet is now every Wednesday evening?) There were also two workshops going on and you could just feel the energy in the air. 

With the weather turning a bit chilly and skies getting dark a bit earlier, this meet-up is a welcome addition to my weekly schedule. I find myself looking forward to these evening immensely and coming away feeling like I actually got something done. It's inspired me to bake more cookies because I know crafty types are sure to be pleased with a sweet treat. And even if you're not in the area to take advantage of Blue House, I'm thinking of you, too, when I bake these!

Last week I made delicious Chewy Ginger Chocolate Chip cookies. This week — at the boy's request — I tried out a peanut butter cookie. The recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen (who adapted it from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook). It produces a delicate cookie with a crisp exterior that's just perfectly chewy on the inside. They even have the criss-cross on the top that to me immediately says "peanut butter cookie." The recipe calls for peanut butter chips, but I didn't want to make an extra trip to the store so I put in more chocolate chips as well as some chopped peanuts. I used creamy all-natural peanut butter and was worried it would make the cookies dry or not peanut-y enough, but I think the extra chopped peanuts helped and they came out perfectly peanut-y. I do plan to try them with the PB chips soon though.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 4 dozen.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth or chunky)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips
For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips. 

Place sprinkling sugar on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar and roll gently before placing onto ungreased cookie sheets about two inches apart. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

I think for the next MakersMeet I may try out a savory snack since I usually don't have time for dinner first. Suggestions or requests, anyone?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

UP trip: Part 3. Porcupine Mountain State Park

We drove west from Marquette one morning and by the time we hit the west coast of the peninsula, Lake Superior was churning. We were about to be hit by a spectacular storm that produced crazy wind and 8-foot swells on the lake. 

We found a cozy little cabin to rent nestled in the trees right along the beach with tremendous views of the storm over the water.  We lit a fire and spent a wonderfully relaxed afternoon and evening watching the waves and storm, staring into the fire and finishing this puzzle that looked much like where we were staying.

The next day we drove south a bit to get to the Michigan's largest state park: the Porcupines. Looking out over the Lake of the Clouds (above) with all the leaves changing was magical. We spent several days checking out the area and doing some hiking.

I became obsessed with the moss. It was just so lush.

The trees were so yellow, but mostly at the top, making it seem like the sun was shining even on days that were quite grey.

We would then pass through areas that were cool and blue-green and ancient feeling.

To the west of the park is the Black River Scenic Parkway. A hiking trail connects five waterfalls on this  tremendous river — each more spectacular than the last.


Just one more leg to go — the Keweenaw to the Soo. But I may surprise you with a recipe tomorrow before the final trip roundup on Friday.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

UP trip: Part 2. Manistique to Marquette

On to part two of our UP adventure: The boy and I woke in Manistique to beautiful sunny, clear skies. After an amazing breakfast at the Three Seasons Cafe, we went on our merry way enjoying the crisp fall air.

The guide at the Welcome Center had given us a few recommendations and the Seul Choix lighthouse was one of them. The lighthouse apparently got its name, Seul choix meaning only choice, when a crew of fisherman were forced to take shelter from a storm in its harbor, though it wasn't very protected or sheltering. It's really quite beautiful and I'm not sure we would have checked it out without his recommendation.

We headed on to Lake Kitchitikipi, or Big Springs. A glass-bottomed boat propelled by hand on a wire across the lake takes you over huge burbling springs of icy cold fresh water. It is about 43 feet deep and as you can see, crystal clear the whole way down. The way the sand is churned up makes it look volcanic with ash spewing out.  

We drove north through Hiawatha National Forest to Munising — a gorgeous  route, especially with all the leaves turning. We decided to take the boat tour out to Pictured Rocks. You can hike around out there, but we both wanted to see them from the water and it was way to rough for kayaking. (Maybe we'll be brave next time!)

While we waited, we stopped into this absolutely charming shop in Munising: Open Wings Pottery and Gallery.

They carry work from all local artists including, hand-turned wood, jewelry, knitted pieces, paintings, photography — and, of course, the owner's pottery.

I wanted everything in the place, including the fixtures made primarily with driftwood.

We were both so in awe we almost missed the boat! 

The Pictured Rocks: photographs can't nearly do it justice. We lucked out with spectacular weather perfect for a boat ride and the water just shimmered. The color of the water made it looked like the Caribbean, and the rocks themselves looked like the painted desert.

We had the requisite cheesy guide who tells jokes throughout, but he also plied us with plenty of interesting facts about Lake Superior that blew my mind. Did you know you can fit all of the other Great Lakes into Lake Superior and still have room for five more Lake Eries? You get the picture.

That lonely tree in the middle is living on top of those rocks with no dirt. You can see its roots stretched across the gap to the left bringing nutrients from the ground across the way. Amazing, yes?

Next stop, Marquette where this ore dock sits prominently in the harbor. It is massive and we got to see another one farther down in the harbor in use a few days later. It's quite an impressive operation.

We checked out the local food co-op and I had serious co-op envy. Marquette's Food Co-op is like the Harrod's of co-ops. Seriously. AND they had this funny sign.

We did a little thrifting in Negaunee — a somewhat depressed looking mining town nearby. The baskets that run on pulleys on the ceiling made me thinking of B&H photo in New York. Such fun.

We then rested our weary vacationing selves at Vierling's Brewery, a must in Marquette. Excellent beers and amazing food. (I think we ate there 3 times!) 

More adventures in the next leg: Marquette to the Porcupine Mountains. You can expect plenty of waterfalls, autumn leaves and vivid green moss.