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A Big Taste of Small America

July 15, 2013
By

American Spoon cafe

What began as a hobby of foraging and harvesting has become a labor of love for American Spoon founder Justin Rashid and his son Noah, whose Northern Michigan company has grown from a small store in Petoskey to a national leader in artisanal fruit preserves and condiments. We visited the store, and the newly remodeled café next-door, during our second week in northern Michigan. The experience left our mouths watering for more, and showed us that keeping things local makes a big difference.

Todd and I met with founders Justin and Noah, and their marketing director Megan for a late lunch at the American Spoon Café. The interior is a clean and bright seating room with a vintage-chic appeal. White painted walls, a large chalkboard menu, and light oak tables invite you into the space like you’re walking into your neighbor’s kitchen.

We noticed a row of little black boxes near the cash register, and after further investigation we discovered they held the customer loyalty cards of American Spoon regulars. Ever walk into your favorite coffee shop or lunch spot only to realize that you forgot your punch card? Feel like you’ll never get those 10 punches for a free coffee? Not too worry, American Spoon keeps your Coffee Club Cards at the counter. Genius!

small business Michigan

After ordering our lunch we sat outside on the picnic tables to chat until the food arrived. The trio gave us a great history of American Spoon and how the business works today. As the Every Last Morsel team works on building a community of local food enthusiasts, restaurants will be one of the entities we seek to help. After all, eating out doesn’t preclude you from making good decisions about your food. More and more restaurants are making those decisions easier by following in the footsteps of American Spoon. Studies have found that  87 percent of fine-dining establishments served local items, as did 75 percent of family dining and casual dining restaurants (Packaged Facts, 2007). You can only imagine those numbers increasing with the rising consumer demand for quality ingredients.

The menu at American Spoon Café is tastefully simple. It appropriately states “thoughtfully prepared seasonal meals with ingredients from local farmers and foragers”. And boy did it deliver on that statement. You can taste the local difference. The Breakfast Sandwich had farm fresh eggs topped with cured pork belly and Heirloom Tomato Preserves, and the pan seared whitefish sandwich was the freshest I’ve ever tasted. Shame on me, lest I forget to mention dessert! The homemade sorbetto and gelato is worth the trip to Petoskey alone. Come to find out that Justin had just picked the mint that went into the Strawberry & Wild Mint sorbetto.

Local food menu

Petoskey lunch

American Spoon gelatto

After lunch we received a special tour of the American Spoon office and production kitchen. A lot of love and care goes into that jar of tomato preserves, and the process proved that.

Though we missed Culinary Director Chris Dettmer, previously of the Michelin three-star rated Meadowood in Napa Valley, we did get to peak into the R&D Kitchen. Special mixes and unique flavors in mason jars line the shelves. All the preserves for sale today started right there in a mini kettle, and they didn’t go far. The manufacturing room just around the corner only has 5 copper kettles – just a bit larger than the test kettle. They make no more than 100 jars per session.  The small batches being produced keep the quality of American Spoon goods among the best in the country. We can attest to this fact because the team was kind enough to give us a jar of their Rhubarb-Hibiscus Conserve, right off the line.

Mason jars

Canning

Production kitchen

Homemade preserves

It’s encouraging to see a company that’s been around for decades, but hasn’t strayed one bit from their mission to “capture and preserve what nature makes perfect.” Most of their produce is sourced locally in Michigan, from farmers they personally know. That’s how American Spoon can offer more than just preserved fruit — it’s a little bit of north Michigan and a lot of local love, in every jar.

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