FENNVILLE, Mich (WOTV) -Tucked away in Fennville is a little hidden treasure that I was excited to check out. If you’ve never been to Fennville, it kind of looks like this:
It’s a beautiful drive, but Salt of the Earth is a destination for most people. One that you will want to check out ASAP! Manager, Matt, explained that it is an anchor for Fennville, and when asked about the distance he said, “I like to think of it more in the middle of everything.” He is right, Fennville is just a short skip for people in Holland, Kalamazoo, and Saugatuck. The inside of the restaurant is cool and cozy, with deep, earthy tones and dark wood everywhere. There’s even a stage for live music every Sunday!
What makes Salt of the Earth so special? And believe me, this place is special, is their whole philosophy on people and the treatment of their food. Their whole menu is ingredient driven. They try to get everything they use, from their chickens and pigs to vegetables and fruits, from farmers within 15 miles from the store. When it comes to outsourcing, they strive to find the highest quality. Everything, and I mean everything, is homemade! Their sustainability is also due to the relationships they’ve built over the years, with customers, farmers, and producers.
Meet the Chef!
“I want to highlight all of the hard work that the farmers put into their product.” – Matthew Pietsch
This is Matthew Pietsch, he is a big part of the magic for Salt of the Earth. This Muskegon native is chef, part owner, and, currently, knocking it out of the park. When he first started, farm to table wasn’t a big movement yet, so he had to seek out and build relationships with people to carry the restaurant to where it is today. He wants to highlight the hard work the farmers do, first and foremost. This guy knows his stuff and is wildly creative. You’ll see a lot of dishes highlighted in this article are plays on other classic menu items, which is a cool way to shake up the ordinary into something surprising. Matthew explained that, “You don’t need to be in an uptight atmosphere for good food,” which is something most people can get on board with.
I didn’t expect the bar to be as fantastic as it was. I mean, there is a huge cocktail list, specialty wines and liqueurs, and tons of fresh herbs and fruit behind the bar. I first tried the “Yellow Corner” which won best cocktail in a statewide competition. It features New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon, Cynar (an Italian bitter liqueur, predominantly made of artichokes), creme de cassis (dark liqueur made from currants), thyme, and orange. Crazy right? All those things mixed up into one tasty and smooth cocktail. I mean sip on it and you don’t realize it’s all gone smooth. It had a strong cassis flavor, but the hint of orange and the bourbon made it one tasty cocktail. The second was the Salt House Punch, made from dark rum. It has ingredients like demerara syrup (a light brown sugar), pineapple, and lime that made it surprisingly sweet. Don’t let this cocktail fool you, the dark rum gives it a fantastically strong taste, you’ll want one after a tough day, but the sweet finish gives it the classic “rum punch” flavor.
Charred corn salad
Isn’t this the prettiest plate of food you’ve ever seen? Don’t be fooled by the delicate look, this thing has huge flavor. The corn and queso fresco are charred to perfection. You bite into the corn and it’s the instant burst of sweet and then you get the bitter from the char, your tastebuds are bouncing all over the place and it’s spectacular! The fresh heirloom tomatoes add a fresh bite, making this the most perfect little salad. It wasn’t on the menu yet when I tried it, but it should be soon, so go check it out!
Crispy Confit Pork Belly
I think I blacked out for a second when this plate arrive. I’m a total pork snob, so this may be a preference thing, but pork belly is where it’s at. The presentation is great, I love the little chopping block it’s served on and it’s laid out so perfectly it looks like someone is spending hours in the kitchen strictly preparing plates of pork. The pork is served with smoked bleu cheese, tomato, and onion. The pork melts in your mouth like butter, it has so much flavor but it is soft and delicate, then you get a hit of the crispy skin and life starts to make sense again. The smoked bleu cheese adds some tang to the smooth pork. It feels oh so naughty, but it feels good to be bad, right? I highly recommend this dish to pork lovers and foodies alike!
This dish is a play on a Caesar salad. I love dishes like this, at first you scoff and then you bite and then you believe! If you took a little bit of salmon, dressing, and egg it was salty and cheesy. It was like eating a extreme amped up Caesar, a grown up version. The salmon is a good example of when they can’t get things 15 miles from their door, it was wild, Alaskan salmon and you can taste the quality. It was bright, pink, and tender. The hard boiled eggs were cooked just right, the fried capers added a briny bight, while the Pecorino cheese was creamy and salty. This dish was full of harmony.
Banana Cream Pie
Wait, did I just say banana cream pie? Yes I did! But wait, it looks like a candy bar…. Shhh, yes it does. Once you break the dark chocolate shell there is this tasty, banana, fluffy treat underneath. It’s so light yet packed with banana flavor. There is a smear of a chocolate cream (think of it as the best chocolate pudding you’ll ever have), some deep, rich, homemade caramel, and crumbled vanilla wafer cookies for crunch. All these elements on their own are outstanding, but mix them all together and you have one kicka** bite. Excuse my language, but this dessert is awesome! It’s creamy, crunchy, velvety, and something a little out of the box. The bite of fresh banana and whipped cream take it right over the top.
Salt of the Earth definitely has fun with food. Being there brought my love of food into a new perspective with these enthusiastic and tasty dishes. When you go to Salt of the Earth, you will be excited to try something surprising and new. The atmosphere is cozy and comfortable, the staff is so helpful and friendly, and the dishes really showcase what Michigan has to offer. If you love Salt of the Earth, they are opening a new location in Kalamazoo called Principle Food and Drink on South Kalamazoo Mall Street right downtown.
Address: 114 Main St., Fennville, MI 49408
Click here for the upcoming music schedule!