Savoring The Splendor
In the heart of Northern Michigan’s wine country, a bounty of the region’s most versatile fruit (no, squash isn’t a vegetable!) inspires a top chef’s flavorful harvest fare.

By Lisa M. Jensen
Photography By Brian Confer

Come autumn on Old Mission Peninsula, when steel blue skies echo West Grand Traverse Bay’s white-capped waves and majestic oaks are ablaze, there’s reason to stop along the winding road: A harvest of decorative, edible produce awaits perusal and offers endless possibilities from farm to plate.

Just ask Executive Chef Paul Olson, who oversees culinary direction for Mission Table at Bowers Harbor Inn and the adjoining Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant, Microbrewery & Distillery.

“Our seasonal produce comes from Peninsula Cellars’ farm just a mile down the road,” notes Olson, adding that meat, poultry and other earthly goods come from other local sources as well. “The hour it takes from harvest to delivery ensures our squash varieties, pumpkins, zucchini and other produce are the freshest possible. ”

Whether sautéed, roasted, braised, mashed or pureed, squash is a frequent star on the veteran chef’s fall agenda. On these pages, he serves up a sampling of recipes that express the best of autumn’s bounty – and invites friends and family to linger ’round the table.

“People feed themselves in this country,” says Olson, “but often overlook that eating – as it is in Europe – is most enjoyed as an event.”

Paired with a breeze off the bay, glowing sunset or crackling fire, it ’s rarely anything but on Old Mission.

Lisa M. Jensen is editor of Michigan BLUE. For more recipes turn to Page 38 in Michigan BLUE ’s Fall Issue 2010.

 

Old Mission Butternut Squash & Honey Crisp Apple Soup
YIELDS: 7 servings
 

1 Spanish onion, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
6 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
2 Michigan honey crisp apples, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup apple cider
48 ounces chicken stock or chicken bouillon *
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash Tabasco
2 tablespoons chopped sage
Salt and fresh pepper to taste
2 teaspoons honey
2 bay leaves
4 ounces sweet butter
2 ounces crème fraiche or sour cream

Sauté onions and carrots in oil about 10 minutes (just sweat the vegetables; do not caramelize). Add butternut squash, chicken stock and remaining ingredients except apples and butter (add some salt and pepper now as you can add more when finished).

Simmer until squash is tender. Add apples and cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat and take out bay leaves. Puree soup in blender, food processor or hand blender until smooth. (Be careful when blending hot soup. Let it cool down a bit, and do not fill blender or food processor to the top or it will expand and make a huge mess. You may have to blend in stages.) Stir in butter and adjust with salt and pepper to taste. If the soup is too thick add a bit more stock. Garnish with fresh chopped sage and a little sour cream or crème fraiche.