Ralph Melton (ralphmelton) wrote,
Ralph Melton
ralphmelton

Midwest Mosey, July 26: Upper Peninsula

Because we had no breakfast recommendations for Green Bay from Roadfood, we turned to Yelp, which recommended a diner called The Pancake Place.
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It seemed like a pleasant restaurant with a friendly family atmosphere, but we ended up disappointed.

Lori ordered the cherry-filled pancakes, because she likes pancakes and because we felt that the name Pancake Place implied that pancakes were a specialty of the house. But these were not good pancakes; these were thick, undercooked dismalities that were not appealing enough to finish.
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My Benedict Stuffed Hash Browns were much better. In fact, I liked them much more than the stuffed hash browns from the Roadfood-listed Lange's, because they were much more evenly cooked. But this is only my second experience with stuffed hash browns, and I'm still curious about what role these may play in the breakfast menus of the Midwest.
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We left Green Bay and drove on to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I'm not quite sure why I had been so insistent upon making the UP part of our Midwest itinerary - my best idea is that although I'd visited all of the continental United States, the Upper Peninsula seems like such a different place from the Lower Peninsula that it merited a separate box on my mental checklist. But it was a beautiful drive, and I wish we could have lingered there longer.

I chose our lunch destination for three reasons:
- it served pasties, which I have had occasionally but not in any authentic setting
- it served cudighi, a type of Italian sausage native to the Upper Peninsula that I was curious to try
- the point that broke the tie in its favor over other local places: the name was particularly relevant to me.
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Lori's cudighi was not an outstanding success for us. It may have had subtle flavors of cinnamon and clove (the Wikipedia entry implies it might), but when served with mustard, ketchup, and onions, all it tasted like was mustard, ketchup, and onions. Lori did not eat the whole thing.
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But my pasty was great, in multiple senses of the word "great". It was great in the sense of "very good": nice pie crust was filled with a delicious comfort-food filling of beef, potatoes and onions that straddled the line between stew and hash. It was very tasty, and cohesive enough that with a little care, one could eat it without any spillage. But it was also great in the sense of "massive"; the pasty was the size of a big can of soup, so it probably held more than a pound of filling. And the filling was dense and energy-packed, designed for sustaining miners swinging heavy picks all day in underground coal seams, not for sedentary tourists enjoying a road trip. I ate the whole thing because it was delicious, and it left me feeling completely stuffed, gorged to a degree I rarely reach on Thanksgiving day.
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We stopped for a picture of the lake on our way out of Ishpeming, because I thought that it was Lake Superior. (I now think that I was wrong; I think this was Teal Lake.)
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After our picture, Lori noticed that we were next to an ice cream shop and asked to go in for ice cream. I then realized that we had unintentionally parked right next to the Roadfood-listed Iron Town Pasties. So of course we went inside. (This was one of two times this year when we ended up at a Roadfood-listed place by accident.)
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Iron Town Pasties offered mini pasties, which made us think that we should have come there instead of Ralph's so we could sample several flavors.
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But I was too full to think of eating pasties. So Lori got a caramel ice cream, which she quite enjoyed.
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I got a cherry turnover, even though I wasn't hungry. Unfortunately, this was not good at all; the dough tasted really unpleasant. It might have been undercooked, or it might have been some other flaw, but I discarded it after only a bite or two.
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We were also intrigued by the shelf of products made with Michigan blueberries. We bought blueberry lemonade and blueberry jerky, because those would stay good to be eaten later. But "stay good" is only valid if the products are good to begin with, and these were not. The blueberry lemonade did not taste of blueberries, and its lemon was the artificial lemon of Country Time Lemonade, and the blueberry jerky tasted of nothing but grease. Yuck. Both the cherry turnover and the blueberry jerky are solid contenders for the dubious honor of worst food of the trip.
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We did manage to stop on the banks of Lake Superior and give Lori a chance to wade in the water. I'm particularly pleased with this picture; I feel that the abandoned sandal on the fencepost hints at an unknown story.
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As we drove through Hiawatha National Forest, we had a bald eagle fly across the road just in front of us. I desperately hoped that the time-lapse camera would take a picture, but unfortunately it did not.

I had forgotten about the time zone change from Wisconsin to Michigan, so we were an hour behind my intended schedule and trying to drive hard to catch up. But we still took a moment for some pictures of Lake Huron:
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I had been dithering about whether it was worth a detour to Brevort, MI for another Roadfood stop. But we got a pleasant surprise: Gustafson's Beef Jerky was right on the highway, with no detour at all.
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And the stop was perfectly timed to give us an opportunity for pictures of a lovely sunset:
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Gustafson's looked like just a convenience store, but it had a wide variety of smoked fish:
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The imbalance of lunch made it hard to decide how much to get. Lori was starting to get hungry, but even at 8pm, I was only starting to get to the point of being able to think about food without discomfort. The pasty is the whole reason for that imbalance; it kept me very full through the whole day.

We bought smoked whitefish dip, crackers, and turkey jerky. The smoked whitefish dip was a disappointment; it tasted more of black pepper than of smoke. The turkey jerky was very good, though; it came in thick slabs that reminded me of turkey sliced thick on a Thanksgiving platter.
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I had been particularly trying to get to St. Ignace, at the point of the Upper Peninsula nearest the lower peninsula. I thought we could have a nice dinner looking out over the water, perhaps stroll along the boardwalk. My ideas about St. Ignace were wrong, and I don't know what possible reason I had for thinking that way. St. Ignace is much smaller than I had thought, and by the time we arrived at 9:30-10:00, they had rolled up the sidewalks and turned off the lights for the night. Even the bars were no longer open. We did not find a nice dinner; we did not even find a nice place for a picnic of whitefish dip on crackers. We parked briefly, gave up quickly, and drove on across the long bridge to the Lower Peninsula.

We really enjoyed our drive through the Upper Peninsula, and I wish we had had more time to spend there.

Time-lapse video of our travels:

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