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Living it UP in the UP!

We recently took a trip to the Upper Peninsula (the "UP") of Michigan, where we learned what it meant to be a Yooper!

This is what residents of the UP call themselves (derived from "UP-ers").  So, I guess you could say we were recently "Yooper-Wanna-Bees."



You may remember our trip to Montana last fall and the inspiration we found that led to a couple of new recipes for the website.


This year, we picked a new destination to see the beauty of fall.  So off to Michigan we went.  WOW -- we made a great choice!  When we told people we were going to Michigan, most asked "Are you going to Mackinac Island?"  Yes, we did, and Mackinac Island was absolutely amazing, but there was so much more to see in Michigan and in the UP!

Plus, this trip had an added bonus...I got to see Zonya again!

Twice in a one year!  Actually, twice in two months!

As we began our trip, it was my birthday and Zonya treated us to an over the top Eat REAL America approved spectacular birthday meal...

Now that we have experienced a few long "empty nester" road trips, we have learned some valuable things and wanted to share them with you.

Living a REAL food lifestyle takes some thought and planning in general, and especially on the road, so hopefully these tips will help in your travels as well:



Stay in Airbnb's when you can to provide the luxuries of home!

  • A full-size refrigerator and freezer will let you travel with some perishable foods and re-freeze ice packs for your cooler.


  • Having a full kitchen will allow you to cook breakfast and dinners occasionally - this is priceless!


  • Gives you the ability to do laundry if necessary (on a two-week trip, we try to book a place with a washer and dryer mid-way through the trip).  This also makes packing a lot less stressful.


  • Our favorites are when you have your own space, although there is something to be said for reserving a room in someone's home.  It may sound a little bizarre (and some may cringe at this idea), but we have met extraordinary and wonderful people this way!  (And, in most cases they will even let you use their kitchens!)


  • Our list of helpful foods and supplies to take:  2 plastic bowls with lids (to make big salads for each person), plastic silverware for each person, loaf of whole grain bread, natural peanut butter, homemade or store-bought granola, bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit (to use as a salad topping), garlic chili oil (we are in love with this one from Trader Joe's), fruit (such as apples and oranges), and aged balsamic vinegar (to use as salad dressing).  Having these items allowed us to buy greens on the road and throw together a salad and peanut butter sandwich at picnic areas so we could enjoy nature and being outside while having a quick and easy - and healthy - lunch.


Search out Farmers' Markets and local food vendors!

This is something we never thought of before our REAL food journey.  And you might be surprised that there are many amazing farmers' markets all over the country...mid-week AND Saturdays!  We hit a Wednesday Farmers' Market in Traverse City, Michigan that was loaded with fall produce and gave us ingredients for a couple of our Airbnb home-cooked meals (mushrooms, acorn squash, apples, pears, greens and even shishito peppers!)

We also discovered some phenomenal whitefish from VanLandschoot & Sons Fish Market in Munising, MI.  As soon as we walked in the store, Dennis, the President of the company, greeted us with open arms and even encouraged us to call him before our next trip to the UP and he would set us up with some fun and unique experiences.  We enjoyed his freshly caught fish with more produce we picked up at the Farmers' Market in Marquette, MI on Saturday.

Other local goodies we scored during our trip included whole grain bread from local bakery in Houghton, MI, organic apples from an orchard and trout from a fish shop in Bayfield, WI, olive oil and balsamic vinegars from Fustini's in Traverse City, MI, pure maple syrup from a farmer near Traverse City, MI, and locally roasted coffee in Copper Harbor, MI, just to name a few!


Research local restaurants when eating out!

Taking the time to do even a small amount of research when eating out can result in the most memorable meals!  We love using YELP (simply search restaurants near you) and use the reviews as your guide.  Then check out their websites and look at their menus.  You will notice quickly if their options are "made with thought and love" as we like to say.  We laughed as we were looking for take-out options one night in Duluth, MN and said, "they have a salad with dark leafy greens and roasted butternut squash and chickpeas... that's a really good sign!"  This one turned out to be one of our favorite meals!

Another great meal we enjoyed was at a local restaurant in Marquette, MI with a movie theater theme called Delft Bistro where we split a fantastic salad with granny smith apples, dried cranberries, candied walnuts, blue cheese and a maple vinaigrette.  We also shared a Wild Mushroom Eggs Benedict that had wild mushrooms, baby spinach, a poached egg, sage bearnaise and balsamic reduction on a toasted English muffin.  WOW!  It was incredibly delicious and loaded with flavor.  (Stay tuned, we have plans to re-create this Mushroom Benedict for the website!)


Learn from our mistakes!

Be careful taking others' recommendations for "good restaurants."

Many people equate a big platter of chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy as "one of the best meals I have ever had."  We were talking to a local who was gushing a restaurant that had "the absolute best whitefish in Michigan."  It wasn't on the list of restaurants we put together before our trip, but they were so convincing we drove 45 minutes and waited 30 minutes for a table.  Yes, they had local whitefish, but it was either deep fried or soaked in butter (overpowering the delicate flavor of the fish).  And the brussels sprouts and "garlic smashed red skin potatoes" were a little disappointing.   Sometimes you will get great recommendations...just be aware of how others' idea of a "great meal" may be different from your own.

By the way, the whitefish we picked up from VanLandschoot's and cooked simply with a little olive oil, salt and pepper was by far the best fish we had on our trip!  (Sometimes simple is best!)


Seek out the locals!


  • We would have never experienced seeing the Mackinac Bridge lit up at night if it wasn't for the tip from a local brewery owner.  While we were enjoying a cold flavor-loaded local craft beer (that totally hit the spot after biking over 20 miles around Mackinac Island), he spent 30 minutes giving us all kinds of tips for the UP including a secluded spot to get an amazing nighttime view of the bridge.  Priceless!


  • We knew we had to try a Michigan classic, the pasty (past-tee), so after talking to locals on a hike in Eagle Harbor, MI, we took their advice and stopped by Roy's in Houghton, MI, where we enjoyed our first pasty!  We ordered the original version...think somewhat flaky handheld pot pie, similar to a bierock, loaded with beef, pork, potatoes, carrots, onion, and rutabaga.  And now we know - it was really good!


  • In Bayfield, WI we stopped into a local fish shop to pick up some freshly caught trout.  The owners told us all about their favorite orchards and cideries in the area.  So, after enjoying our trout and salad at a picnic table overlooking Lake Superior, we headed off to the orchards and then hit the road loaded up with organic apples, a few cans of hard cider, and a jar of apple jelly for my mother-in law.  Scott couldn't resist and grabbed a pear from the ground on the walk back to the car and proclaimed it was "one of the best pears I have ever had."


  • Several Airbnb owners gave us all kinds of great recommendations for hikes, waterfalls, scenic drives and other things to do.  The trip wouldn't have been near as fulfilling without their ideas and guidance!


  • A huge shout out and thank you to our Michigan Eat REAL America friends who gave us tips, including recommending Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains -- it was breathtaking!



What have you found to be the best tips for eating REAL on the road?



We would love to hear about your trips and your best meals!






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One Response to Living it UP in the UP!

  1. Glad you enjoyed our state! Did you know that some people call that type of salad (with dried fruit, candied nuts, and stinky cheese) a Michigan salad?

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