Alcona Culinary Retreat coming up

Exposing people to the beauty and tranquillity of Northeast Michigan remains a major purpose of the Alcona County-based group, Alcona Inspiration. What better way to do that, board member Judy MacNeill figures, than through the culinary arts.

As a registered dietitian interested in good-for-you food, MacNeill took the lead in planning a three-day Alcona Culinary Retreat set for June 20-22. Themed “Eating Well, Living Well,” the retreat features Chef Fred Laughlin, director of culinary arts at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. Laughlin is expected to help participants see, taste and make simple, delicious healthy recipes using easy-to-find and locally produced ingredients.

“We’re specifically focusing on finding ways to make healthy foods taste good,” MacNeill said. “A major thing people talk about is if it’s healthy food, it isn’t going to taste good. Chef Fred disagrees and he’s going to teach us how to coax the flavor out of good foods.”

Laughlin is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and a certified culinary instructor. Before turning to teaching, he cooked professionally in Colorado, British Columbia and Maine. In his capacity as director of the Great Lakes Culinary Institute, he supervises a staff or more than a dozen other chefs and keeps busy in the classroom.

As the retreat participants create meals together, Laughlin will help participants learn different cooking techniques, how to balance flavors and how to develop nutritionally balanced meals. He will be assisted by MacNeill and registered dietitian Cheryl Bates.

His hands-on sessions will provide attendees with the skills necessary to prepare several representative dishes from these six food categories:

  • Salads and creative dressings
  • Whole grain additions to every meal
  • Vegetables: Inspiration from world cuisines
  • Healthy protein cooking made easy
  • Healthy cooking with nuts and legumes
  • Vegetarian options

Among some of the dishes participants can expect to create are pumpkin pancakes, apple-glazed barbecued salmon, egg and vegetable frittata, grilled fruits and sauces, zucchini and roma tomato marinara, whole wheat scones and quinoa salad.

Rather than provide his instruction to a large group in an institutional setting, Laughlin suggested keeping it small and intimate for personalized attention. Consequently, the retreat is limited to 10 participants who will be meeting in two private homes for the cooking portion of the retreat.

“I happen to have a couple of friends with gorgeous homes who were willing to open them up,” MacNeill said. “One overlooks Lake Huron and has expansive views and a beautiful kitchen. The other home is designed to look like a German castle. The owner worked in a restaurant for 30-plus years and has a well-equipped kitchen.”

Several outings also are planned to enhance the whole experience, including to the Alcona Farmers Market to shop for fresh produce that will later be used in the cooking demonstrations. Another outing involves a tour of White Barn Gardens, a local farm with a large variety of home-grown vegetables. Depending on the weather, a session of yoga on the beach also is planned.

The retreat starts with a wine and cheese reception at one of the two homes. The group will meet again the following morning for two three-hour sessions. During breaks between sessions, the planned outings will be held. Instruction will alternate between the two participating houses.

Because of her work as a dietitian, MacNeill has long been interested in how to make a healthy diet and build that interest in people. She hopes the retreat will help to do that as well as allow the participants to see a beautiful side of Alcona County.

“I know personally that food can taste good and be healthy at the same time,” MacNeill said. “That’s one of the main purposes of the retreat. The other main goal is to show people what a beautiful county we live in. Alcona County has so much rich potential, and the retreats such as this and the upcoming Alcona Arts Retreat are our way of bringing people to the area and showing them what we have here.”

Cost for the retreat is $300 per person, which includes all food and activities. For those needing accommodations, discounts are available at Three Seasons Beach Club in Harrisville. Mention Alcona Culinary Retreat when booking to get the discount.

To register for the retreat, go online to inspirationalcona.org. To book a room, go to www.3seasonsbeachclub.com or call 724-6220.

Alcona Culinary Retreat coming up

By DIANE SPEER

News Lifestyles Editor

Exposing people to the beauty and tranquillity of Northeast Michigan remains a major purpose of the Alcona County-based group, Alcona Inspiration. What better way to do that, board member Judy MacNeill figures, than through the culinary arts.

As a registered dietitian interested in good-for-you food, MacNeill took the lead in planning a three-day Alcona Culinary Retreat set for June 20-22. Themed “Eating Well, Living Well,” the retreat features Chef Fred Laughlin, director of culinary arts at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. Laughlin is expected to help participants see, taste and make simple, delicious healthy recipes using easy-to-find and locally produced ingredients.

“We’re specifically focusing on finding ways to make healthy foods taste good,” MacNeill said. “A major thing people talk about is if it’s healthy food, it isn’t going to taste good. Chef Fred disagrees and he’s going to teach us how to coax the flavor out of good foods.”

Laughlin is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and a certified culinary instructor. Before turning to teaching, he cooked professionally in Colorado, British Columbia and Maine. In his capacity as director of the Great Lakes Culinary Institute, he supervises a staff or more than a dozen other chefs and keeps busy in the classroom.

As the retreat participants create meals together, Laughlin will help participants learn different cooking techniques, how to balance flavors and how to develop nutritionally balanced meals. He will be assisted by MacNeill and registered dietitian Cheryl Bates.

His hands-on sessions will provide attendees with the skills necessary to prepare several representative dishes from these six food categories:

* Salads and creative dressings

* Whole grain additions to every meal

* Vegetables: Inspiration from world cuisines

* Healthy protein cooking made easy

* Healthy cooking with nuts and legumes

* Vegetarian options

Among some of the dishes participants can expect to create are pumpkin pancakes, apple-glazed barbecued salmon, egg and vegetable frittata, grilled fruits and sauces, zucchini and roma tomato marinara, whole wheat scones and quinoa salad.

Rather than provide his instruction to a large group in an institutional setting, Laughlin suggested keeping it small and intimate for personalized attention. Consequently, the retreat is limited to 10 participants who will be meeting in two private homes for the cooking portion of the retreat.

“I happen to have a couple of friends with gorgeous homes who were willing to open them up,” MacNeill said. “One overlooks Lake Huron and has expansive views and a beautiful kitchen. The other home is designed to look like a German castle. The owner worked in a restaurant for 30-plus years and has a well-equipped kitchen.”

Several outings also are planned to enhance the whole experience, including to the Alcona Farmers Market to shop for fresh produce that will later be used in the cooking demonstrations. Another outing involves a tour of White Barn Gardens, a local farm with a large variety of home-grown vegetables. Depending on the weather, a session of yoga on the beach also is planned.

The retreat starts with a wine and cheese reception at one of the two homes. The group will meet again the following morning for two three-hour sessions. During breaks between sessions, the planned outings will be held. Instruction will alternate between the two participating houses.

Because of her work as a dietitian, MacNeill has long been interested in how to make a healthy diet and build that interest in people. She hopes the retreat will help to do that as well as allow the participants to see a beautiful side of Alcona County.

“I know personally that food can taste good and be healthy at the same time,” MacNeill said. “That’s one of the main purposes of the retreat. The other main goal is to show people what a beautiful county we live in. Alcona County has so much rich potential, and the retreats such as this and the upcoming Alcona Arts Retreat are our way of bringing people to the area and showing them what we have here.”

Cost for the retreat is $300 per person, which includes all food and activities. For those needing accommodations, discounts are available at Three Seasons Beach Club in Harrisville. Mention Alcona Culinary Retreat when booking to get the discount.

To register for the retreat, go online to inspirationalcona.org. To book a room, go to www.3seasonsbeachclub.com or call 724-6220.