It’s a Saturday morning in April, and while it’s a beautiful sunny day here in northern Michigan. It is still early spring so it’s still not quite beach weather yet. If it were, I might grab a coffee and a book and head down to the bay for a little while. Instead, there’s an indoor farmer’s market at the commons that I have decided to check out.
If you’re not familiar with the commons, it is the area of town that was historically the grounds of the Traverse City State Hospital. You may hear it referred to as The Mercado, The Old State Hospital, Building 50, or more formally as The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. I’ve heard it referred to most (by locals) as The Commons.
When you’re driving north into Traverse City on US Route 31, (when you are near Meijers grocery store) if you look up you’ll see the red spires peeking out over the fields and above the treeline. Today,the tall pointed peaks stand out against the bright blue sky pointing the way. To get there, continue past the intersection at Fourteenth Street and turn left onto W. Eleventh street.
Just past the State of Michigan Offices, go straight through the four way stop and up toward The Commons. You can go straight up to Building 50 and park around the circle drive, or you can turn left and go around back. I parked in the front and entered through this door to the center of the Mercado.
Around the back, you’ll find more parking as well as some other businesses that have established themselves in what appear to be the restored out-buildings from when the original hospital flourished. There are two entrances to the Mercado from here, one at each end, and these are more difficult to see especially if you don’t know where you’re going. The key is to look for the red signs. They are painted the same red color as the spires.
The Mercado is an indoor marketplace that now inhabits the restored lower level of the main building. Partly underground, with it’s pale yellow brick walls, it feels a little bit like a secret underground tunnel. But the sun shines in brightly through the windows and creates an ambiance that is warm and refreshing at the same time.
As soon as my eyes adjusted to the lighting (after coming in from the bright sunshine), I was drawn to some fresh greens and couldn’t help but to stop for a photo. Believe it or not, finding freshly grown lettuce this time of year feels even better than opening up my mailbox to find my seed catalogs have arrived. It makes me yearn for planting my own garden.
In the meantime, my trip to the farmers market today has provided me a good ‘fix’. as I had to get some salad for dinner tonight and this is the next best thing to picking greens from my own garden. The farmers were there with their goods on display and were eager to share samples.
After making my selection, my eyes were drawn to more of the same color in an item to which green is not so common. I spied green meat. Yes, green meat. After a double take, somehow it actually looked appealing so when I was offered a taste, I couldn’t refuse. They were Asiago Spinach Chicken Brats and they were out of this world. They were bright and very green and they were outstanding. I found myself wishing I had known about these a month ago. I would have served them on St. Patrick’s day had I. Of course corned beef is more traditional where I come from, but I’ve usually had my fill of it prior to the big day anyway. So it’s a plan for next year. Note to self: Go to the market and get some green brats from OIds Farm.
Down the hallway a bit, I found my next course. Leelanau Cheese would go well with my Asiago Spinach Chicken Brats. Made in the area, this cheese is inspired by Swiss and French cheese making traditions. Not being a cheese expert, I cannot tell how the regional influences affect the end result. What I can tell you, is that it was very, very good. I should have gone into the Black Star Farms Tasting Room down the hall for a good paring, but I did not. Though I will be back.
After having a taste of this wonderful cheese and the savory Asiago Spinach Chicken Brat, I needed something sweet to balance it out. And low and behold, look what I found. Glowing in the rays of sun demanding my attention was this big beautiful jar of honey! So I tasted some. Well, what would you do?
I felt a little like Winnie the Pooh must have felt when he found that extra jar up on his shelf. Since I was getting low in my own supply of raw honey at home, it was perfect timing. Champion Hill Farm is a local honey supplier located about 25 minutes southwest of Traverse City. I think I’ll have to make it out there to do a blog post for them this summer.
In addition to the farmers market that was happening in the hallway, the full time merchants were open as well. A nice variety of little shops and boutiques, a deli, a flower shop and restaurants made me wish I had more time to peruse. I’ll add it to my ‘must do’ list for my next trip out to The Village at the Grand Traverse Commons. And I suggest you make time to get out there soon yourself. You’ll be glad you did.
830 Cottageview Dr
Traverse City, MI 49684