Monday, February 16, 2015

New Saugatuck Restaurant Hosts Celebrity Chefs & Honors Local Morels at Spring Foraged Dinner

Morel mushrooms are the black truffle of the Midwest. They are one of Michigan’s most prized and fleeting culinary treasures. On May 5th and 6th, The Southerner, a new restaurant in Saugatuck, Michigan, will host a spring foods event with the region’s most noted foragers—Michelle and Andy Davis.

Michelle and Andy, experts in all things wild and edible, will team up with Southerner owners Katie Fris and Matthew Millar to offer a unique opportunity to eat through spring’s finest offerings, from field and forest. Millar, a two-time James Beard Award semi-finalist chef, is enlisting the help of some high profile friends to join him in the kitchen to prepare what Andy and Michelle forage.

The event begins on Tuesday, May 5th, when Andy, Michelle and the chefs will spend the day foraging for morels, ramps, violets, watercress and all manner of other wild foods in preparation for the next day’s meal. Event attendees are invited to join in the experience and learn proper foraging techniques from the Davis family and discuss with the chefs how to cook what is found.

On Wednesday, May 6th, the chefs will spend the day preparing an unparalleled seven-course feast showcasing the spring bounty, the first official meal to be served in the Southerner’s dining room. In addition to the spring edibles, the talented chefs will utilize the best produce, meats, cheeses and breads from the area’s best producers.

Local luminaries Matthew Pietsch of Salt Of The Earth and Matthew Green of Reserve Wine and Food will be joined by Joel Wabeke, chef de Cuisine of Wright & Co.—one of Detroit’s hottest new restaurants; James Rigato, head chef of The Root in White Lake and Top Chef Boston contestant; Chris Pandel, chef/owner of The Bristol, Balena, and Formento’s in Chicago; and Paul Virant, of Perennial Virant, Vistro & Vie in Chicago—a James Beard Award nominee and author of The Preservation Kitchen.

The Beervangelist, Fred Bueltmann, will assist with beer and spirits pairings, courtesy of New Holland Brewing Company.

The Southerner hopes to open to the public in early June for breakfast, lunch and dinner at 880 Holland Street in Saugatuck. As the name implies, the restaurant will focus on southern comfort foods, namely handmade fried chicken. Chef/owner Matthew Millar says it’s “a love letter to Appalachia,” where his mother’s family has roots and where his immediate family lives today.

“As a kid traveling to east Tennessee, I think I may have been even more excited by the food than the mountains,” he says. Owner Katie Fris adds that “sitting around a well-laid table, with the ones you love, is the foundation for living well.”

Tickets for this two-day culinary experience are $200 per person and space is limited to 40 people. For tickets, visit,

Like The Southerner on Facebook for for info and updates.

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