State of Great Taste: Michigan Cherry Tour

Blogging has afforded me so many amazing opportunities in the last year, sometimes I have to stop and pinch myself. Never did I think that this little blog would turn into something bigger than a place for me to share recipes with clients and family. I’m still not sure what it’s going to be or where it’s going but right now I’m pretty darn content with what Mountain Mama Cooks is. Having a place to share my voice and passion is something I don’t take lightly. Before I delve into my latest adventure, let me just take a quick minute to say thank you for taking the time to read my words, cook my recipes and indulge an old ski bum that really loves to cook!

#stateofgreattaste Food Blogging Trip,

L to R: Coleen (Pretty Prudent), Tricia (Once a Month Mom), Heather (Heather’s Dish), Sara (Our Best Bites) Kate (Our Best Bites), Tessa (Handle The Heat), Christy (Southern Plate), Me (Mountain Mama Cooks), Kristy (Sweet Treats and More), and Nicole (Baking Bites).

State of Great Taste,

Earlier this month, I traveled to Traverse City, Michigan (cherry capitol of the world!) to celebrate the launch of Private Selection’s limited edition Michigan Cherry Cobbler Ice Cream. Private Selection (Kroger’s private, high end brand) hosted 10 food bloggers from around the country at the beautiful Grand Traverse Resort, to come and learn more about the brand, tour the gorgeous cherry orchards that provide the fruit for their ice cream, and to create our very own ice cream flavors based on our home states. Though we were only in Michigan for just over 24 hours, it was action packed and a nonstop good time!

Mission Fruit Company Traverse City, Michigan

The first day it was all about cherries. Beautiful, plump, perfectly ripe, Michigan cherries.

Mission Fruit Company, www.mountainmamacooks #stateofgreattaste

We were treated to a private tour of the Old Mission Fruit Company with owners, Cheryl & Bern Kroupa. We learned all about the different varieties of cherries and how each varietal has a special place in the marketplace. We sampled straight from the trees as we moseyed our way through rows and rows of cherry trees.

Mission Fruit Company, #stateofgreattaste,

After listening to Cheryl and Bern talk, I couldn’t help but admire how much work goes into such a large scale operation. Growing cherries is truly a labor of love. They are in full swing of cherry harvest right now and I can only imagine working sun up to sun down.

Michigan Cherry Martinis,

After the tour, we gathered around for cherry inspired cocktails (hello martini straight to the head) and appetizers to partake in my favorite part of any blogging trip: face time. It’s a time to mingle with other bloggers that you know online but have yet to meet face to face and to talk to the brand and farmers, getting a better understanding of what they do and who they are. This time is invaluable and as someone who spends an awful lot of time online but craves a social setting, talking to brands and fellow bloggers up close and personal is really what it’s all about for me.

State of Great Taste Cherry Orchard Dinner,

If touring cherry orchards and sipping cherry infused martinis wasn’t enough, dinner was nothing short of magical. I mean it, you guys. Dinner was magical. The table set up in the middle of the orchard was breathtaking. It was intimate, homey and without a doubt, the most gorgeous table setting I have ever seen. For reals you guys, the detail, the backdrop, the colors… every bit of it was unbelievable.

michigan 1

It took a good 10+ minutes for us all to be seated because like any good food blogger knows, our cameras and phones were clicking away a mile a minute trying to capture the moment and ambiance. Once we did sit down, we settled in quickly to an evening of conversation, making connections and tasting first hand some of the wonderful offerings of Private Selection.

State of Great Taste Cherry Orchard Dinner, #privateselection

The conversation flowed easily as we talked about how we started blogging, our families and outside interests. Naturally, the conversation turned to food and we listened as the Kroger team talked about their premium brand, Private Selection. Placing an emphasis on fresh and authentic ingredients, Private Selection sources the finest ingredients, traveling region to region to find the best ingredients for the products they produce. As a foodie that likes to know where my food comes from and a mama that likes to know what I’m putting into my kids bodies, this is truly a brand I stand behind!

Michigan Cherry Dinner,

As the sun started to set and just before dessert arrived, a double rainbow appeared like it was staged as part of the dinner. Like something out of a movie, this dinner was most definitely one for the books. My first time in Michigan far exceeded any expectations I could have had and I can’t wait to travel back to Traverse City with my family!

Michigan Cherry Tour Rainbow, #stateofgreattaste

While day one was all play, day two included a little more work- that’s why we were invited after all! Each one of us was asked to create an ice cream based on our home state for a friendly competition that you all get to participate in. Ultimately YOU will decide what winning ice cream will be distributed in Kroger stores next year under the Private Selection brand. If you want to get started on the voting, check out the details here. Because this trip was so awesome, I wanted to break into two posts so you could get a sense of how great the trip was. Check back this weekend to find out all the details on our ice cream making and the awesome flavors we developed. And, yes, they were all awesome!