Tag Archives: farmers market

Port Huron Pleasures

29 Jul

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It’s HOT! We need to escape the city, Port Huron provides a perfect waterside respite. Today it’s 10 degrees cooler here with the breeze coming off the big lake. We’re at the Vantage Point Farmers Market that takes place along the St. Clair River from May-Oct 29. This Michigan-only market features fresh produce, gourmet products, art and plants, along with a splendid view of the river and Canada. We park at the end of the lot facing the Black River, the promenade begins here; native plants fill elevated beds, a brick fireplace kicks out heat in cooler temperatures, picnic tables provide pedestrians a place to watch the boats go by. There’s a line at the Fresh-cut Fries truck, others have opted for ice cream, a double dip is certainly in order today. 

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We reach the row of white canopy tents, tomatoes, squash, lettuce and cucumbers are plentiful. You can buy Honey, Maple Syrup; Green Barn Winery is giving out samples. Pasta and jars of red sauce mingle with dog treats from Fritz’s Bone Appetite, Gielow pickles and bison meat. There’s a nice variety of produce, baked goods and ready-made foods from Brownwood Farms and Great Lakes. Power boats, jet skis and sailboats are out playing in the water, the Huron Lady II is out for a cruise, freighters come and go to Lake Huron. An announcers voice comes from speakers, he tells us about the current freighter in view, where it’s headed what she’s carrying, how cool! Ears of corn are selling quickly, squash come in a rainbow of colors, cherries are sweet or tart varieties, all sizes and shapes of eggplant are represented. Perennials, trees and flowering shrubs congregate at the far end of the market; the hot pink Phlox is gorgeous, purple cone flower, Shasta daisy and tiger lilies are waiting to be planted in someone’s yard. 

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We dip into the Great Lakes Maritime Center, a little air-conditioning will be nice. People fill tables and chairs arranged along the front windows, some are eating lunch from the deli, others sip on cold drinks, the donuts look delicious. Videos and displays tell stories of the Great Lakes, this is the headquarters for BoatNerd.com, a live underwater camera provides us with a view of whats going on under the St. Clair River. The center documents historical events such as the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald; near hurricane-force winds and waves up to 35 ft sent the ore-carrying vessel 530 ft down to the bottom of Lake Superior on November 10, 1975, is the song playing in your head now? Mine too. The floor is covered in a wave-patterned carpet, a map showing all of the shipwrecks in the area is inset. Display cases are filled with all things Great Lakes; ship models, rocks, diving equipment and memorabilia.

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Back outside we take a leisurely stroll on the Blue Water River Walk. This entire stretch of shoreline was given to the St. Clair Community Foundation by local philanthropists James and Suzanne Acheson in 2011. Since that time the 1-mile stretch of land has been cleaned up and transformed into a public park where native plants flourish and a naturalized shoreline welcomes visitors. We are on the pedestrian trail, the old railroad ferry dock once used to help transport goods back and forth to Sarnia Ontario Canada in the early 1900’s has been restored and turned into an observation deck. We look out over deep blue water, a cabin boat is out having fun, another freighter makes its way to Lake Huron, a few white, puffy, clouds are clustered together in an otherwise clear sky. The shoreline is dotted with tiny beaches and secluded landings, one is at lake level, I stand still and let the waves wash over my feet, cooling me off. Butterflies draw nectar from flowers, shrubs bear groups of fuzzy red berries. Placards teach the public about the structures, plants and wildlife found in the St. Clair River ecosystem. I had no idea mink lived here…

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The fishing pier is just south of the US Navy ship Grayfox, we have the pier to ourselves, the panoramic view is stunning, relaxing. Public art shows up in the form of a 7-foot-tall iron horse named Sugar, a 1,000 lb metal sturgeon named Stella Clair, a mural featuring native fish covers the River Rats Club building. Black-eyed Susan’s, Queen Anne’s Lace and milkweed stand in the foreground of the river. Wetland restoration is ongoing and currently fenced off; the ducks don’t seem to mind. This is part of the Bridge to Bay Trail System which continues to grow and improve every year. 

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My growling stomach reminds me it’s time to eat. We drive over to Freighters Eatery and Taproom located in the Double Tree Hotel (formerly Thomas Edison Inn) on the riverfront. The large restaurant has a perfect view of the Blue Water Bridge, St. Clair River and the entry into Lake Huron, in other words, it’s perfect.  We sit by the window, the menu is filled with locally sourced items, they use Michigan vendors and suppliers whenever possible. Appropriately so, a freighter passes as we wait for our meal, diners take photos from the patio, it’s a big deal for someone who’s never seen it before. Our Mesa Chopped Salad arrives; crisp greens are tossed in chipotle ranch dressing, blackened chicken, grilled sweet corn, peppers and fried garbanzo beans, tortilla strips join the mix, yum! We also have a side of salt and pepper fries, they’re really tasty. When we’re finished we head out to the boardwalk; from under the bridge we watch cars zoom by going from one country to another, sailboats fill the Lake Huron horizon.

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Back downtown on Quay St. The Alley Room has just opened for the evening, a cocktail sounds good about now. Although the same owner has had the place for years, it has undergone several incarnations. Currently the menu consists of pizza, sliders and a good meatball sandwich (so I’ve been told). The attractive, rustic interior features an antique tin ceiling, brick walls, wood floors. We sit at the bar, the Moscow Mule is on special, sounds good to me, Kris is in the mood for an Old Fashion, they don’t have all the ingredients so he makes do with what they have. A couple of friends arrive unexpectedly, what a nice surprise; we strike up a lively conversation as we finish off our cocktails. Outside, the sun is low in the sky, the temperature has dropped, giving us more relief. We’re lucky to be surrounded by such beautiful water here in Michigan, Port Huron is less than 70 miles from Detroit making it a quick and easy escape from big city to sandy beaches. There’s only so much summer left, what are you waiting for?

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Selfridge Air Museum, New Baltimore Farmers Market, Bad Brad’s BBQ

3 Sep

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The tiny community of New Baltimore MI, located on beautiful Anchor Bay, is about 45 minutes north east of downtown Detroit. There have been subtle changes over the last few years making it more appealing to tourists and day-trippers. We take the scenic route whenever possible, in this case that would be Jefferson to M 29, then turn onto Washington Street into town; historic buildings line the two-lane stretch, American flags hoisted high on poles wave in the lake breeze, straight ahead lies a playground, beach, and tree studded park. Go right down to the water; walk to the end of the dock and gaze out over the blue water of Lake St Clair, fisherman cast their lines in hopes of a big catch, swans paddle gracefully by all the activity.

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  From now until October 23 you can visit the Farmers Market on Sundays from 8am-1pm. I can’t get through a summer without homegrown vegetables, so we came to get our fix! There’s nothing like a farmers market to show off the bounty of a Michigan summer; piles of zucchini that are at least a foot long, pickles overflowing from round wicker baskets, brightly colored peppers, corn, tomatoes, purple onions and peaches! Baked goods have their place here as well; breads, pies, cookies and granola all entice you to buy. How about a hot dog, or an ear of roasted corn, come hungry! There are perennials and crafts too, one booth even sells cookies for dogs.

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After shopping at the market take some time to visit some of the local businesses; Washington Street Wine House is one of the newer businesses and a great addition to the area; quite charming in a historic building complete with a tin ceiling and hardwood floor, they offer tastings, bottles, and a variety of wine accoutrements tastefully laid out in the space. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, I’ll bet you leave with at least one bottle. Stahl’s Bakery is a short walk up the street to the corner of Washington and Main; the smell of fresh baked bread and cookies will lure you in, tasting the samples on the counter will convince you to buy. Famous for their Belly Button Cookie, Stahl’s has been hand baking for 78 years. We were lucky enough to meet the cookie baker on our visit, she was kind enough to take us back where the real work is done; a giant mixer stands on the floor as tall as me, probably older than me too, stacks of huge metal bowls wait to be filled with butter, flour and sugar, an over-sized oven remained warm from the previous days use, a wide butcher block table sat empty this Sunday, worn and warped from years of use. Here is my advice for you: Get the Belly Button cookie!! Thin and crisp, the color of dark brown sugar, its buttery taste and chocolate chips will win you over. 

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Just a short drive away on M 29 is Bad Brads BBQ, our lunch destination. The weather was perfect for outdoor dining so we had a seat on the patio. This is not your ordinary patio; the sizable space offers a variety of seating from picnic tables, high top tables and stools to square tables that seat 4 comfortably, the one thing they all have in common are the thick wood plank tabletops, quite fitting. A brick and stone fireplace sits at the furthermost edge of the patio, a pond with a trickling waterfall is centrally located, there’s even a bar out here. The menu is just what you’d expect; an array of meats smoked in house and made from scratch accompaniments, house made sauces in squeeze bottles rest on each table. We tried a little of everything; The BBQ chicken salad is awesome, smoked chicken atop crunchy greens served with their own BBQ ranch dressing, spicy good! We had a sandwich with their pork; smoked to perfection it was tender and juicy, served with their homemade spicy corn chips it’s a great combination. I liked the spicy sauce best, Kris’s favorite was the sweet. When you eat at a barbecue place you have to try the Mac and Cheese; served in a small pie tin the top was browned and a little crunchy, noodles firm, coated in a mild and creamy white sauce. Servers were friendly and attentive, our glasses were never empty. Be sure and check out the cool artwork by Detroit’s own Jerome Ferretti inside.

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We left on southbound Jefferson and took it all the way to the Selfridge Air Museum and Air Park, this place is cool. I know zero about planes and yet I find this place fascinating. Activated as a military installation July 1, 1917, all branches of the military, active and reserve units alike, are represented on the Base. Selfridge trained pilots, aero mechanics, aerial photographers and gunnery personnel for World War I. Many famous names in aviation history are associated with Selfridge, Charles Lindbergh completed his training here.  The museum is open to the public April through October on weekends from 12:00 – 4:30 pm, adult admission is $4. When you arrive at the Selfridge ANGB gate you will stop at a booth where they will ask you to park you car and then come inside where they will look at your drivers license, car registration and proof of insurance, and issue you a pass, then simply drive over to the museum parking lot and go inside.

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The museum is laid out in chronological order starting with the Wright Brothers. The base was named after aviation pioneer Lt Thomas E. Selfridge; the first military officer to pilot an engine-driven aircraft, and while flying with Orville Wright, the first to meet his death in powered flight. There are great historic photographs throughout the venue, glass cases are filled with uniforms and memorabilia, full size engines are on display along with coordinating diagrams. Climb into the cockpit of a real F-16; It had to be  a tight fit for the pilot, you will be astonished by the number of buttons, switches and levers that surround you. As you proceed through time you will see an old military Jeep, rockets and missiles, taking you all the way to the space age and up to the present. When you are finished indoors, exit through the door to the Air Park.

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Dozens of vintage planes sit at rest in the park, signs tell the significance of each. The day we were there the Lockheed C-130 Hercules was open to visitors; the interior is immense, a full size Jeep is stored inside and is barely noticeable. The cargo bay door is fully opened and will surprise you with its gigantic gateway. Go up front to the cockpit and have a seat, wow! Volunteers are available to answer your questions, and more importantly (to me, anyways), to tell you the stories of the aircraft. I am truly captivated by such things. The array of planes is vast,all the way from World War I to present day, it’s wonderful to be able to get up close to see them. The Lockheed P-3 Orion aircraft was also open, take advantage of the opportunity and go inside. If you like planes you could easily spend a couple of hours here. The museum preserves the heritage and tradition of the Air National Guard in Michigan and the military units past and present headquartered at Selfridge ANG Base. Come see for yourself. 

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