Salt of The Earth
Driving into the sleepy town of Fennville, past the antique stores and farms, the last thing you expect to come across is a restaurant featuring a farm-to-table menu using organic and mostly local ingredients. Or, maybe that’s really what you DO expect to find in an area where hydroponic farms, apple orchards and fresh picked produce are the rule not the exception. Chef Matt Peach creates outstanding fare using as many of these local ingredients as possible. The menu changes seasonally to make use of what is available and Chef Peach works his magic with the ingredients to make them shine.
We were greeted warmly on a rainy winter night as we stepped into the eclectic eatery. Hip music played in the background enhancing the atmosphere. On Sunday nights, there are live musicians playing various styles of music from Celtic to Bluegrass and, in the summer, seating outside is also available. Our server, Janet, was knowledgeable and friendly – as was all the staff at Salt of the Earth. Everyone working there definitely acted like they wanted to be there, which added to the overall positive energy we felt.
Janet brought us our beverages and a wooden board filled with artisan bread made daily at Salt of the Earth. The bread is baked nightly in their wood-fired oven and sold at the restaurant as well as a few other merchants in the area. The Whole Wheat Sandwich bread is light and airy with a nice texture. The SotE Seedy Salt is a sourdough base chocked full of seeds which give an almost peppery flavor to the tender bread inside the crispy crust. Both made us want to try the other 7 breads in the SotE line.
Now for Starters
We started with several of the shared plates and could have made a meal from those alone. First, the Aged Cheddar Pierogies which consisted of a tasty cheddar filling encased in a light and flaky crust. They were delicious and sat atop a bed of braised red cabbage which was a nice crunchy compliment to the pierogies. Then a Roasted Beet and Apple Salad featured both red and golden beets topped with chevre from Evergreen Lanes Creamery, which is a local goat farm. These were mixed with arugula and apples from Crane’s Apple Orchard down the street and topped with a hazelnut vinaigrette. It is a wonderful mix of texture and flavors. The Hand-made Garlic Oregano Sausage is a “light” sausage made from Berkshire pork. The sausage link is mild and flavorful served atop a smooth polenta with sweet caramelized onion.
The most striking starter we tried was the Bacon & Eggs. The pork belly confit was tender, juicy and crispy all at the same time served alongside a fiery tomato sauce, toast made from SotE Rustic Country French Bread, and a local farm fresh fried egg. I would order this dish, even for breakfast and any day!
Moving onto the Entrees
We started with a selection from the Fresh Board which changes weekly depending on what is available. The Wild Striped Sea Bass was delicious, cooked perfectly, served atop an absolutely wonderful crispy potato gnocchi and a creamy celery root puree. The local hydroponic pea shoots on top added a fresh, crunchy note. From the regular menu, we tried the Chicken Bolognese and the Grilled Hangar Steak. The hand-made pappardelle pasta was a bit dumpling-like in texture but definitely not heavy. It was combined with a wonderful smoky bolognese sauce made from free-range local chicken, the house bacon, local pork and fresh tomato then topped with fresh basil and a good dose of romano cheese. A definite reviewer favorite.
The Hangar Steak was the other favorite as it was very tender and had an excellent “steaky” flavor. The potato puree bed under the steak had the most intense cheddar flavor we had ever tasted in a potato dish. If I go back, I think I will ask for extra mashed potatoes!
Luckily we had Room for Dessert
The Strawberry “Cheesecake” from the fresh board was made with Michigan strawberries (kept frozen from the summer) and topped with a fresh, thickly-piped cream-cheese style icing. Alongside the cake sat two scoops of local gelato, strawberry and vanilla, from Palzoa’s Gelato – a place we definitely need to check out in the summer.
The other dessert was the SotE’s Famous Wood Fired Toasted S’more. A GIANT homemade marshmallow floats to your table atop a slab of milk chocolate pudding that has a cake consistency. The marshmallow is toasted to perfection and a mountain of graham cracker crumbs sits beside it. Around the edge of the plate is a river of salted caramel that pushes this dish right over the top. This amazing dessert is a definite must!
Real Farm to Table Dining
Salt of the Earth is definitely one of the best eateries Southwest Michigan has to offer. They do not take reservations but are 100% worth the drive and any wait time. Have a drink, chat up the staff and prepare to love your chance to savor a truly memorable Michigan culinary experience.
114 East Main Street, Fennville