By Amanda Renkiewicz
“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” the popular saying goes. For Bryan Ulbrich, he made wine! As a child, Bryan was an impulsive kid with an inward leaning left foot. This combined with the unencumbered enthusiasm to run before thinking caused him to trip and eat a lot of earth in his day. “The nickname grew out of family parties, and to this day its true origin remains a bit of a mystery. His taste for dirt has been refined over the years – more in line with the concept of terroir,” explains Bryan’s popular winery Left Foot Charley. First opening in 2004, the urban winery has been delighting visitors ever since with fun ciders, excellent wine blends, and an eclectic atmosphere.
Only a few steps away resides Sugar 2 Salt, a restaurant focusing on local first. With a minimalist aesthetic, fresh breakfast fare, and a tempting pastry display, they are a hidden gem at the Grand Traverse Commons. The menu’s only flaw is the difficulty in picking between the options. From chicken and waffles to duck leg confit, brunch has rarely been so delectable. The warm and friendly staff make visitors want to stay and keep ordering a few more side dishes.
At every point in life, tough decisions must be made. Should your valuable free time be spent at Left Foot Charley, or Sugar 2 Salt? GATHER GT is happy to report that the choice must no longer be faced! The winery and restaurant have joined forces to make life that much sweeter. Every Thursday from 5-8 pm, Left Foot Charley hosts S2S at their tasting room. The restaurant prepares foods that are seasonally driven and complement the wines and ciders that Left Foot Charley creates, showcasing Michigan’s excellent fruit and distinct terroir. Each meal is $18 and guests receive special happy hour pricing on their first glass of wine or cider.
The excellent partnership lured us in for the evening on a cool Thursday in mid-September. We began by exploring the tasting menu inside at the spacious bar. The interior of the tasting room has an industrial design, natural greenery, and warm accent colors. The winery characterizes their wines under different categories, including Earth & Spice, Fruit Forward Classics, Reds, Ciders, and On the Sweeter Side. The 2017 Pinot Gris under the first category came from a selection of grapes from Tale Feather Vineyards on Old Mission Peninsula, and was aged in two old French oak puncheons. Winning the Michigan Wine Competition Gold Medal, the 2017 Pinot Blanc is created from the state’s oldest pinot blanc planting at Island View Vineyard. Another standout white wine, the 2016 Seventh Hill Farm Riesling, was a fruit forward classic. The vineyard has an esteemed reputation and has won back-to-back Jefferson Cups. The Riesling was off-dry, crisp, and had a slight minerality to give it a rounded flavor. The reds were excellent as well, with a favorite being the 2017 Blaufränkisch. This International Eastern Medal Competition Gold Medal winner had concentrated berry flavors and a hint of black pepper.
To take advantage of the beautiful view of the Commons, we relaxed outside at the garden patio. The setting was serene and lovely, with the tables scattered beneath towering trees. To the side, a large sandbox with toys distracted the children and served as a perfect opportunity for parents to get a moment of peace. Over glasses of Cinnamon Girl Cider and a Dry Riesling, we each enjoyed our entree of smoked chicken thighs with couscous and wild rice pilaf, with a side of grilled butternut squash and sweet corn relish. Sugar 2 Salt delivers exceptionally fresh and filling food, and the mix of the squash with the relish was heavenly. It was only wise to take our time with the meal and an additional glass. The urban ambiance, casual outdoor seating, and brilliant partnership with a top restaurant make Thursday Dinners Featuring Sugar 2 Salt an evening that shouldn’t be missed.
Menu dishes have included:
- Summer vegetable lasagna with mozzarella and ricotta, garden herbs, red wine braised beef, crisp kale and leeks
- Red wine and rosemary braised beef short rib with new potato patty, pan squash, and roasted corn
- Lake Michigan fish chowder with summer vegetables, farmers cheese and cornbread
- White wine braised rabbit ragu with shiitake mushroom, cipollini onion, preserved lemon, capers and fingerling potatoes
- Hard apple cider brined and grilled pork loin with summer squash, spinach, creamed corn, and smoked tomato
Spice up your Thursdays with wine, cider, and a beautifully prepared dinner! Follow the event page on Facebook to see the upcoming menus.
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