Executive chef Phil Fahrenbruch builds a menu showcasing the products of Michigan’s farms, fisheries and wineries May 17 at the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth.
FRANKENMUTH, MI – Every day, says Bill Zehnder, the Bavarian Inn prides itself on tapping into Michigan providers for its food supplies.
“We annually go through 80 tons of blue Hubbard squash and another 60 tons of potatoes, all from local growers,” said the restaurant’s president, whose mother Dorothy at 91 still oversees the kitchens. “About the only thing we bring in from the southern states is the chicken because no one around here raises it in the bulk we need.
“It seems that chickens don’t like our cold winters.”
Still, he said, working with executive chef Phil Fahrenbruch, he found plenty more to celebrate Friday, May 17, in the restaurant’s annual Purely Michigan Dinner.
“Did you know Michigan has the second largest diversity of crops, next to California?” Zehnder asked.
“I think that we might be the largest supplier of asparagus in the nation. We should do this in the fall, when everything is in full supply, but that’s OK.
“We still have a great dinner planned.”
Fahrenbruch opens with a pulled pork bocadillo pintxo, layered with peaches and pickled red onions and served on a Bavarian Inn pretzel roll, which translates to a tapa-sized sandwich served on bread sliced lengthwise.
“It’s a really good pulled pork slider,” said Zehnder, who sampled the chef’s selections before preparing the night’s menu.
Details such as serving the creamy roasted onion soup in onion cups will delight even the most sophisticated palate, he promised.
But the bottom line for the farms, fisheries and wineries showcased at the Purely Michigan Dinner is letting people know the importance of buying Michigan.
Joining Zehnder and Fahrenbruch in addressing diners are Norm Tanis from Willow Row Farm in Imlay City and Ray VanDriessche from Bay City’s Michigan Sugar Company. And the crispy Michigan bluegill served over arugula with a hard cider and stone-ground mustard vinaigrette and turkey schnitzel with morel mushroom sauce rather eloquently prove the point.
“The first time I had hard cider was 30 years ago, on my first trip to Germany,” Zehnder remembered. “They took us to Frankfurt and I wasn’t expecting it. I wanted to taste some real German beer.
“But I like what Phil did with it here. It’s really very nice.”
The morel mushrooms are at their peak, he said, bringing a truly Michigan flavor to the turkey schnitzel. And rhubarb is another ripe for the picking.
“We draw from the same crowd that enjoys our wine dinners,” Zehnder said. “But local farmers come out in support of each other, and we have businesses like Star of the West bringing some of their good customers around.
“It’s a different kind of food, especially when you have a creative guy like Phil building the menu. My mother’s in there, too; after 62 years in the kitchen, she has a more traditional palate but she and Phil complement each other well.”
And they’re united in their commitment to supporting Michigan businesses. Even the restaurant’s gift shops focus on Michigan-made goods.
“It keeps the state’s residents earning and spending and our business thriving,” Zehnder said. “It makes sense.”
Purely Michigan Dinner at Bavarian Inn
HOW TO FIND IT: 713 S. Main in Frankenmuth
MENU: The six-course meal includes pulled pork bocadillo pintxo layered with peaches and pickled red onions and served on a Bavarian Inn pretzel roll, creamy roasted onion soup served in an onion cup, crispy Michigan bluegill served over arugula with a hard cider and stone-ground mustard vinaigrette, served with Totally Roasted Spiced Hard Cider, containing cinnamon roasted pecans, from Vander Mill Winery I Spring Lake; sorbet du jour; turkey schnitzel with morel mushroom sauce, served with vegetable du jour and Semi-Dry Riesling 2011 from Chateau Grand Traverse in Traverse City, and homegrown rhubarb-cherry kuchen with vanilla bean ice cream, served with Cherry Chipotle Mean from B. Nektar Meadery in Ferndale.
TIME AND DATE: 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 17
PRICE: $55, including tax, gratuity and featured beverages
RESERVATIONS REQUIRED: 989-652-9941 or 800-BAVARIA