The 2nd road trip we took this summer was through the south and midwest. Every summer we head up to Northern Michigan to attend Camp Michigania – a summer camp owned by the University of Michigan Alumnae. It is one of the most beautiful places and we get a week of unplugged, outdoor bliss. The only downfall is that it is a strong 16 hour drive from Charlotte. I guess we could fly, but that wouldn’t be any fun…
We only have a week at the camp, so this year we decided to take the week before and drive up through Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. It isn’t the most direct route, but we had people and places to see and food to eat!
Our first stop of culinary note was Nashville. We stayed with our great friends, the Shaffers, who do not balk at good food. Our destination – Rolf and Daughters or RAD as they like to be known. What a fun place. These days I have to say that “hip” is not something I would be considered, but I think that you would definitely describe this as a “hip” hotspot in the Nashville food scene. The drinks were flowing and the food was divine. If you make it there order the beef tartare and the squid ink pasta. Now, this next place isn’t a restaurant, but when in Nashville you’ve got to listen to some Country. The Station Inn is about as old school Nashville as it gets and we felt honored listening to some of the best musicians in the business. And, that is all I am going to say about that.
Next stop – Chicago, but not before kidnapping my friend, Amy, and throwing her in the back of the van. Everyone should have a van – it makes road trips so much more exciting. One observation I have after all our road trips has to do with the food exits on interstates. There are two kinds. For the sake of being positive we will call them the Taco Bell exit and the Chick Fil A exit. The Taco Bell exit usually has a Subway, Hardee’s, Arby’s and McDonalds. The Chick Fil A exit usually has Burger King, Wendy’s, a Chipotle if you are lucky, and a McD’s. Every exit has McDonalds. We usually try and hit the “Chick Fil A” exit. End of story.
Chicago is another one of those food Meccas where you can find the best of everything. But, before we hit the town, we surprised my friends Kristen & Megan with our hostage – Amy. It was perfect and a surprise to go down in the record books. Priceless! Kristen is the hostess extraordinaire and she had an amazing spread of pork tostadas waiting for us. People – put away your flour tortillas, the corn tostada is the way to go. The next night was what I like to call “High End Mexican on Steroids”. Tropolobampo is one of Rick Bayless’ Mexican masterpieces. The food was exquisite and unlike any Mexican I have ever tasted. We started with a fresh Ceviche sampler and then experienced a side of Mexico you probably wont even find in Mexico. The service and the food was spectacular. Honestly, I was in love after the Ceviche and have come up with my own version, that I think is pretty good if I do say so myself.
- 1 lb cleaned, cooked shrimp cut into small pieces
- 1 ripe avocado
- Juice from 1 lime
- ½ small red onion
- 1 mango diced
- ½ red bell pepper diced
- 1 jalapeno diced without seeds
- 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- Combine all ingredients and refrigerate at least 30 minutes up to 2 hours. Serve with chips or in avocado halves.
After that amazing meal in Chicago, I was afraid that nothing would compare. We were making our way through Northern Michigan towards camp and stopped by my husband’s relatives’ house. Now, if you have never been “Up North”, it is the complete opposite of Chicago – very rural, beautiful countryside. Our relatives pretty much live off the land and hunt for all their meat. We had the most amazing venison tenderloin, spaghetti with venison meatballs and grilled broccoli straight from the garden. Talk about Farm to Table – they are living the dream!
After a week of some pretty good camp food, lots of sailing, tennis, swimming and fun, it was time to head back south to our own beds. On our way it is absolutely mandatory to drive through Ann Arbor, Michigan (the bottom of the thumb) and grab sandwiches at only the best sandwich place in America! And, those of you who have been there know where I am talking about – ZINGERMANS! I don’t know if it is because it is my first meal after a week of camp food or just the high quality fresh ingredients, but they are literally the best sammies in the country.
What an amazing road trip. We literally ate our way through middle America and it was a very special treat to share so many memories with our family and friends.