They said it couldn't be done, but The Already-Famous Inn at Harbor Shores has a spectacular opening night despite all skepticism.
The Inn at Harbor Shores PGA-Ready: The hotel had been talked about for so many years I began to think of it as real, long before its skeleton even began to peek over the harbor in Benton Harbor last year. The hotel with 92 guest rooms and planned luxury condos at the top had its first public evening last Friday and thanks to the gracious invitation by Susan Wilczak and developer Michael Wood, I found myself at a table of charming stakeholders, many de-camped from Chicago at various career stages, trying out the food produced by Executive Chef Tim Hendren, most recently EC at a resort in Vail, Colorado and his food team.
The main dining room and the adjacent clubroom are named for Plank’s Tavern, originally built in 1888 by John Oliver Plank, which was originally located on the bluff north of the St. Joe River and accessible only by ferry. Not only are there photos on the wall to testify to the optimistic beginnings of the night time venue, John Oliver’s great grandson joined our dinner table too. Of course, the hotel’s aim from the beginning is --- like the whole Harbor Shores development --- to be the purest of the pure when it comes to Michigan. Of course, the menu is through and through a creation of southwestern Michigan agriculture. (This is great growing country.) But the locally-sourced artwork is truly a marvel, curated 24/7 for the past year by public art guru Susan Wilczak. The collection includes over 100 original photos, 92 fused glass tiles, 46 ink drawings, large hand blown glass sculpture and various watercolor, oil and mixed media artworks. The second floor gallery will showcase local artist works as well and the exhibits will rotate in and out. Gina Grillo has a thorough presentation on the beautiful, permanent collection in the upcoming issue of Shore. But in the meantime, you can check out Richard Hellyer’s Tree on the back page of the current June issue of our magazine and keep in mind that he takes a photograph of the same tree from the same distance points periodically --- kind of like Monet’s Rouen Cathedral Series only more detailed --- and there are three more “Trees” hanging in the main dining room at Plank’s
While some of this nuance may be lost on the golf aficionados gathered at the Inn this weekend for the Senior PGA Tournament presented by KitchenAid, the attractions of the food are quite difficult to avoid. Trying to taste everything on the menu that sounds good is too challenging, though I kept trying. I had very fresh and large mussels in an onion, mustard sauce that was kind of unforgettable in spite of it being a starter. There was a bottle of an excellent red by Domaine Berrien and several chardonnays floating around that were shockingly perfect with the fresh fish, abundant in entrees as well. The duck breast was just the best I’ve ever tasted and I’ve had plenty that didn’t measure up. Also chicken and waffles and my entrée was a rich, fresh salmon with a perfectly light citrus-wine sauce and a side of Brussels Sprouts (I love this vegetable anyway, but how come I can’t get it to come out the way Chef Hendren does?) I’m still trying to figure that out. The vegetable must have been cooked a couple of different ways, but it came out great.
But the best part of the whole night was touring some of the rooms, which each has its own Shore magazine on display, which was only a little bit distracting from the panoramic views from the top floors of the two cities, the harbor and the blending of the river and Lake Michigan below the bluff across the bridge below. You will of course be reading more about this very different hotel (not exactly a boutique, exquisite in technical and historic ways --- like light fixtures --- at the same time and impressively edgy and unique.) May the best golfer win.