When the weather is warm, it’s easy to love the fun and miss the beauty around the lakefront. In winter it‘s impossible to ignore the visuals and this season is the perfect opportunity to visit wineries, restaurants and breweries that will be SRO in June.
Half-Price Wine Wednesdays: A trend that began in a few years ago became stronger in 2013. Ciao Bella, in Schererville, implemented the mid-week discount this year with an award-winning wine list that includes a broad selection of Chiantis, a brilliant list of Reserve Reds and house-branded Pinot, Chardonnay, White Zin, Cab, Merlot and Italian Sangiovese. Miller Beach Café ramped up the special as well. In Michigan you can find wine specials at most upscale restaurants, especially in the off-season and that includes Tabor Hill, Rybelle’s, Bistro on the Boulevard and the Grille at Harbor Shores. You can look on the web site but frequently, you can get better results by picking up the phone and talking to a human being directly about weekday specials.
Good Michigan Wine: My traditional biases about Southwest Michigan wine still hold: Tabor Hill’s Cab Franc is consistently good; Domaine Berrien makes very solid reds and whenever you see Wyncroft on the menu just drink it. In 2013, I’ve added White Pine to the list of very good wine that is not yet fully appreciated by everyone.
A Reverence for Well-Rendered Pie: The year 2013 may always be remembered as the year Hoosier Mama Pie took off, but made-to-order bakery pies are nothing new in Northwest Indiana and Michigan. In Shore-land, independent bakers thrive---Bit of Swiss, Bread + Bar, Timbrook Kitchens, Branya’s, Strongbow---and grocers stay competitive with house-made goods that can stand up to the most deluxe concoctions of locally-sourced ingredients and whole-grain shells available anywhere. Here’s the challenge for 2014: Keeping pie sacred for special occasions. For the day before Christmas Eve we treated our office with a Feta and Spinach pie paired with a graham cracker-crust Key Lime from Timbrook Kitchens (timbrookkitchenbs.jimdo.com), probably not as high on the caloric scale as other forms of take-out----pizza? Also modern pie emporiums are definitely fine with selling by the slice with veggie sides and soup options.