Aerie Restaurant at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme, Michigan

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Situated atop the tallest building in the Traverse City area, Aerie offers a fantastic view of Grand Traverse bay and an elite dining experience to match. The name Aerie refers to an eagle’s nest, and true to its name, the rooftop offers a high perch attracting eagles and hawks who occasionally swoop by in a flash of shadow.

As we are led to our table, its hard not to be distracted by the view as we take our seats. Our server Michael walks us through the menu with an easy charm and formal yet relaxed confidence reflective of his three decades at Aerie. As we marvel at the view he shares some history of the restaurant and the surrounding area and explains that it is the great depths of the bay that moderates the weather on the hottest days of summer and softens the blow of midwestern winters.

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As we dine the sun starts to set across the bay, and through the great expanse of glass the room fills with a golden pink glow. Up here at the 45th parallel, once the sun touches the horizon it will disappear completely in 3 minutes 12 seconds, and Aerie is a very special place to watch it set.

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Earlier in the day I had the pleasure of sitting down with Executive Chef Steffes and Chef Petrick to talk about their approach to food at Aerie and the fresh, seasonal menu, so I was excited to sit down and enjoy a meal. They had selected an excellent pairing red and white wines to compliment our meal choices; a 2013 Arcturos Pinot Noir from Black Star, and a 2014 Proprietor’s Reserve Chardonnay from Chateau Chantel.

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To begin the meal, we are presented with a warm loaf of crusty bread with tender garlic cloves throughout, alongside oil for dipping and soft butter. We sample but try not to fill up, although the savory garlic makes it hard to resist.

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Heirloom tomatoes
Heirloom tomato, burrata, balsamic reduction, basil puree, garlic chips, fried basil
paired with Chateau Chantel 2014 Chardonnay Proprietor’s Reserve

A classic combination of my favorite summer ingredients; large yet delicate slabs of juicy heirloom tomatoes, their rich and meaty flavors enhanced by tangy balsamic reduction, alongside creamy burrata and a sunny basil puree. Crispy garlic chips and fried basil bring a welcome textural contrast. A simple and delightful start to a meal.

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Braised short rib
Braised short rib, sautéed cabbage, miso soy grilled carrots, housemade sambal oelek, crispy garlic paired with Black Star 2013 Arcturos Pinot Noir

Meltingly tender braising and a delicately charred caramelized finish bring out the intense beef flavor; a bed of deliciously sautéed cabbage with garlic and spring onions enhance the richness of the short rib. The grilled, miso glazed carrots are wonderfully rich with earthy sweetness, and together with the delightful sambal add an unexpected but wonderful punch of umami.

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Salmon panzanella
Seared Faroe island salmon, crispy bread, pickled red onion, cherry tomato, cherry peppers, pickled red jalapeno, fresh celery, balsamic reduction, basil puree paired with Chateau Chantel 2014 Proprietor’s Reserve Chardonnay

Tender salmon with a perfectly crisp texture and finished with lemon zest atop a sweet/savory combination of summer vegetables. A summery dish with cubes of crusty bread, a drizzle of balsamic reduction, basil puree. An excellent choice for a light dinner and flown in fresh several times per week, the salmon paired perfectly with the Chateau Chantel chardonnay.

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Cioppino

Fresh mussels, bay scallops, lump crab, prawns and lobster cooked in a saffron tomato broth with pickled chile pepper puree, roasted yellow cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, basil oil, grilled baguette paired with Black Star 2013 Arcturos Pinot Noir

I love a perfectly seasoned cioppino, and this is excellently prepared in a deeply satisfying red saffron tomato broth. Pickled chile puree and roasted cherry tomatoes dressed with basil oil and a crusty slice of grilled bread perfect for sopping up the marvelous broth. A deliciously filling dish made even more delightful with the selected Pinot Noir.

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Whether or not you’re staying at the Grand Traverse resort, the incredible views and equally captivating menu executed by Chefs Steffes and Petrick will not disappoint!  Recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for 2017 and an OpenTable Diner’s Choice award 2017, Aerie is an excellent choice for a dinner reservation.

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