Storms, laughter, nourishment, and beauty. My Girl’s Weekend at Grand Beach was all of these and more.Chicken / May 30, 2018
It was a crisp and very cool May afternoon in Grand Beach, Michigan. It was Thursday, the car was packed to the gills, and the GPS chirped happily when we turned into the driveway and surveyed our home for 4 days. Hurrying to see the docile blue waves gently lapping the shoreline, I wished instantly I was running along its edges. But that wasn’t to be. My knees were just beginning to respond to the supplements I hoped would remove the agonizing ache in my joints. But it would all be okay. I was spending the whole weekend cooking. I could have command of an expansive culinary space that looked out upon a sapphire horizon. I would be surrounded by women who had known me for nearly three decades. I couldn’t wait to unpack, put on my apron, and get to work.
“Yes, Tricia. I will be there for our Beach Girl’s Trip!” I had said last fall, quickly answering a heartfelt email from my lifelong friend who needed to gather all of her most special women together for a rendezvous at the water’s edge. The condition was I wanted to be the chef for the whole weekend. I wanted to nourish all these friends; these women who have been my safety net for almost 30 years. She accepted my terms without hesitation.
The home was grand, which is an understatement. But then, isn’t everything at Grand Beach? It provided a canvas that we painted with tastes and truth. Each of us bringing to the friendship and the table a different skill. Each of us sharing secrets that easily emerged once the first cork was dislodged and the first course served.
As you might guess, I set about getting the lay of the “kitchen,” so to speak. Locating the tools, arranging the food, and reviewing the handwritten menu I had scrawled only the day before so everything was poised for perfection.
I’m not sure how we segued, but our plan to go out to dinner Friday evening was quickly voted down. Maybe the desire to eat in started with the first bite of chutney the night before. Perhaps it was the citrus on the roasted carrots at brunch. In any case, the unanimous cry was for me to cook again, and we would cancel our reservations at the swanky eatery 20 minutes away opting instead to gather all 11 of us around our little lake table.
I love a 180 degree shift in food planning. It is my favorite thing to create a meal on the fly. Taking stock of our food inventory for the weekend, which included a few stand-by items, I knew I could put together our feast that night with just a few extra groceries. So after heading to the local market, I purchased some lovely ground turkey, and the ladies bought a few more bottles of wine, along with a bag of perfect Yukon potatoes. Nada decided she would make her famous crepes for dessert, and we were all salivating by the time the first appetizer was served.
By adding orange slices, a bit of balsamic, and some honey to bottled fig jam, I created a glaze for the flavorful Mediterranean turkey meatballs. Adding golden raisins to the meat insured moisture, and a last minute thought to bind the orbs with rice cracker dust since we couldn’t find bread crumbs was inspired. We slow simmered onion and potatoes as our side dish.
Then, while it was simmering, I was summoned to the dining room. It was there I would experience the biggest surprise in a long time. I was presented with an apron, signed by all, as a thank-you for nourishing them during our trip. I was so honored, so caught off guard, so danged excited! Ladies, we all know it. Nothing is stronger than a tribe of true friends!
Do you feel you’ve gained 10 pounds just reading this blog entry? Well, don’t stop now. Just loosen your waistband and keep reading. There’s more to come.
After a trip to Three Oaks, MI for Bourbon tasting and shopping, we settled into our last night of food. Since we felt stuffed, I decided on a meal that represented our affliction by serving spinach and artichoke stuffed chicken breasts, and a colorful side of brandy roasted root vegetables.
Using some of the leftover sausage, and lightening the stuffing by adding a little yogurt instead of all mayonnaise, a simple meal became exquisite. I’ve long used spirits to help create a depth of flavor with roasted vegetables. If you don’t like the taste, I suggest you try a little maple syrup and lemon zest with the oil and salt and pepper. Toss, spread out on a baking dish, and let them become jewels of perfection!
As approach the end of this food journey, we close with a satisfying frittata, served with beautifully ripe fresh fruit and some of the remaining scones. Simple, flavorful, and celebratory. An apt closing for a culinary week that will long be remembered.
Thank you ladies for your honesty, your willingness to be sous chefs, for keeping my wine glass full at all times, and for letting me bind our memories to nourishment and love.
Over and out. Kitchen empty. Hearts full!