Freshwater Feasting in Sault Ste. Marie

Smoked whitefish dip is a reliably yummy way to enjoy this mild fish. Photo: Todd Marsee

For Great Lakes seafood lovers, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is paradise. In fact, Freshwater Feasts contributor Tom Brennan found his favorite fishy dish in a U.P. town called Paradise. So when Michigan Sea Grant staff drove up to Sault Ste. Marie for a conference in September, mouths started watering.

The conference brought together about 100 staff from Sea Grant programs around the Great Lakes. We gathered at the Ramada Plaza Ojibway Hotel in the eastern U.P. city of Sault Ste. Marie, home to the famous freighter-ferrying Soo Locks, for four days of networking, sharing insights, and advancing collaborative projects and goals.

Sault Ste. Marie is located on the St. Marys River, which links Lake Superior and Lake Huron along the U.S.-Canadian border. Commercial and tribal fishing operations have a strong presence in Sault Ste. Marie and its eastern U.P. neighbors. Fresh fish and fish products feature in markets and restaurants around the region.

The conference’s opening reception was held on the sunny rooftop deck of Karl’s Cuisine, a local restaurant with house-made brews and wines. Full disclosure: Karl’s Cuisine is owned by the family of Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator Elliot Nelson, but we’d love the restaurant even without the personal connection.

Karl’s menu celebrates fresh, local produce and products, and the reception spread was no different. We loaded our plates with lightly smoked lake whitefish and a host of delicious veggies and sides. We can also attest that the house beers and wines were, in fact, excellent.

The whitefish came with a tray of garnishes, including capers, hard-boiled egg, and diced red onion. Photo: Todd Marsee
Karl’s Cuisine celebrates local farms and producers. Photo: Cindy Hudson

During a lunch break, a Michigan Sea Grant contingent wound up at The Wicked Sister. Several folks sampled the smoked whitefish spread, made with local fish and served with homemade spent grain crackers. They approved.

Forget entrees: MISG staff members El Lower and Cindy Hudson could have filled up on the whitefish dip appetizer alone. Photo: Todd Marsee

Another conference lunch featured a U.P. classic: the pasty! Despite containing no fish, these beef-and-veggie-packed dough pockets are still worthy of Freshwater Feasts fame as an iconic northern Michigan treat. They provided an easy, low-waste way for conference participants to bring lunch on the road while traveling to field trip sites.

The Ramada Plaza Ojibway Hotel procured locally-made pasties for all the conference participants. Photo: Cindy Hudson

Michigan Sea Grant staff tracked down still more freshwater fish dishes as the week went by. Cindy Hudson enjoyed a salmon dinner at the Freighter’s Restaurant of the Ramada Plaza Ojibway Hotel.

Freighter’s has an excellent view of the Soo Locks. Photo: Cindy Hudson

Several staff members also munched on savory salmon crepes at Oh Crepe and Coffee.

Thin, eggy crepes are a great vehicle for local salmon. Photo: Cindy Hudson

We’re grateful to the city of Sault Ste. Marie, the Ramada Plaza Ojibway Hotel, and all the Sea Grant staff and stakeholders who came up to the conference — everyone helped make the event a fun, memorable, and delectable event!

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