I became familiar with Susan and her passion for historic food when I served on the Board of the Michigan Museums Association. When I heard that she actually opened up her own historic farmstay in Suttons Bay, I couldn’t wait to experience it (since, at the time, I lived in Traverse City).
Every year I and at least seven friends arrange a dinner at Hillside Homestead. Folks come from Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Owosso, and the Suttons Bay/Traverse City area. Prior to the dining experience, Susan sits down with me and we create a personalized menu. Her attention to historic detail and, of course, the yumminess of the options, always makes the menu selection difficult – so many things from which to choose!
The day of the dinner, we usually arrive early. We often help put the finishing touches on things. This hands-on portion of the experience is one of my favorite parts of the whole Hillside experience. Susan is so kind and accommodating – and she just loves to share her passion for food, history, and friendship! There’s always plenty to eat, and always some kind of a surprise option that Susan adds to make sure we all go away STUFFED! Yeast rolls, seasonal veggies, homemade jams and jellies, fresh churned butter, and chicken, beef, or pork usually slow cooked to perfection . . . I’m drooling just thinking about it. I don’t like to choose favorites, but if you made me, I’d probably have to say the fried chicken and yeast rolls. Oh, and have I mentioned the desserts? You’d slap your grandmother for just a taste of the desserts.
Every dining experience has been, in a word, magical. It’s not just the absolutely delicious food, it’s the camaraderie that happens around that table. Each time I’ve gathered folks, there is a different group. And somehow, even though they come to the table just newly introduced, they leave as lifelong friends. I know that sounds corny, but it is really true. The food, the laughter, the learning, and, of course, Susan (and her fabulous assistant Maggie) make Hillside such a special place to spend time.
Some of my guests stay overnight after these dining experiences. Last year, I did for the first time. What a pleasure! The beds were soooooo cozy, it was so quiet and dark, and then we got to wake up to the sound of a rooster’s crow! But then, the piece de resistance, morning breakfast! Overnight guests get to help gather the eggs from the chicken coop and slurp up the greatest coffee in the free world (the secret: it’s made with an egg!). The morning meal is almost as filling as the dinner the night before and could consist of apple coffee cake, fried pork chops, eggs, bacon, and almost anything that was left over the night before. It’s truly hard to roll out of your chair after devouring these gastronomic delights. Burp!
It’s hard to say what the best part of a stay with Susan is, but the least favorite thing is saying goodbye. I look forward all year to our annual get together and had 2013’s December date booked back in 2012! Thank you Susan. You and Hillside are a precious treasure. See you in December!
Lorraine Austin – Owosso, Michigan