2015 Michigan Tech Magazine: Issue 2

Tech Tastes

By Kara Sokol

The Michigan Tech food scene: hot or not? We unwrap the trends and other tasty tidbits to get to the core.

Food is having a moment. The pre-packaged, heat-and-eat convenience items of the 70s and 80s have been pushed aside and real, honest-to-goodness food has taken their place. We have become a society of farmers markets, Pinterest recipe shares, and celebrity chefs. We don't bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan—we buy artisanal gnocchi and brown-butter sauté it with fresh sage.

Chef Eric Karvonen shows off his cutting skills
Chef Eric Karvonen shows off his cutting skills.

With really good food on so many peoples' minds—and plates—it begs the question: what's on the plates here at Michigan Tech? We've all heard the jokes about Midwestern cooking—Jell-O salad,'hot dish', the four regional food groups (meat, potatoes, cheese, and beer). But is far-northern Michigan—particularly landlocked Houghton, located at least 100 miles from the nearest full-blown city—really the food desert these jokes would have you believe?

We took a closer look at the local food scene—and some of the more pervasive culinary myths—to see where Michigan Tech lands on the foodie trend spectrum. Prepare to be surprised (and hungry).


Myth No. 1

There's No Growing Season

Au contraire, say the students involved with Wadsworth Hall's organic garden. Since 2013, they've worked to plot, grow, and harvest dozens of varieties of herbs and vegetables—okra, bok choy, cauliflower, basil, spinach, wax beans, and more. The produce is then incorporated into meals served in the dining hall.

The garden is an interdisciplinary project, bringing together students and staff from Housing and Residential Life, the Sustainable Futures Institute, Facilities Management, Dining Services, and Student Affairs. It proves that farm-to-table cuisine isn't just for fine-dining establishments—it can be found in residence halls, too.


Myth No. 2

It's All Meat and Potatoes

Students prepare food for Khana Khazana
Students prepare food for Khana Khazana

You've probably heard of Khana Khazana, Michigan Tech's student-operated international food program. What you might not know is just how popular it has become.

Started in 2010 by students Sahil Thakkar and Safayat Alam, the weekly lunch—which features traditional Indian, Asian, Iranian, Irish, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean cooking, all prepared by students—has become Michigan Tech's most in-demand meal option. Students and staff often line up early so not to miss out on the curry, huli huli chicken, tabouli, pho ga, vavishka, and other tasty international fare. The students prepare and sell lunch weekly on Fridays during the academic year, either out of the Memorial Union Ballroom Commons Food Court or a specialty food truck parked near the Library circle (weather permitting).


Myth No. 3

Midwestern Food is Uber Unhealthy

Food is trending healthier, with a focus on antibiotic-free meats and cheeses, gluten-and allergy-free goods, and lots of colorful (and vitamin-rich) fruits and vegetables. Luckily, so is Michigan Tech.

In 2013, Human Resources began offering several new wellness programs for faculty and staff, including an innovative hands-on healthy cooking class series. Dining Services Chef Eric Karvonen works with small groups of 8–14 people, teaching different styles of cooking: vegetarian, Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Italian, and more.

Menus are prepped using ingredients that complement the area and season and provide antioxidants, fiber, protein and other health benefits— lean meats and fish; local herbs, vegetables, and berries; and items that may be intimidating to some home cooks, like kale and tofu. Along with gaining new recipes (all designed to be quick and easy, perfect for after-work preparation), class attendees learn proper techniques for dicing and chopping, marinating, barbequing, kitchen safety techniques, and more.


A Keweenaw Culinary Tour

Ready your appetite, save up some extra calories, and get ready to hit the road for a culinary extravaganza, Keweenaw style. These area few of the can't-miss spots for belly-bursting meals and tasty treats, as recommended by Michigan Tech staff and students. Bon appetit.

The Ambassador

Start at "the Ambo" for a slice of their famous crispy, thin-crust pizza. Diners rave about the BLT and tostada pizzas, but the lobster pizza—topped with garlic olive oil and served with fresh lemons for squeezing—is a must-try.

Hunan Garden

Often overlooked by visitors, this downtown Houghton Chinese joint is a favorite amongst students and staff. The chef special-orders fresh seafood, fish, vegetables, and spices regularly; consider bypassing the traditional fare and asking him to prepare you something unique. You won't be sorry.

Four Seasons Tea Room

When Huskies crave baked goods and brunch, they often head to Suomi Restaurant for pannukakku or nisu French toast. But if you've never tried Four Seasons Tea Room, you're missing out. The homey atmosphere, miles-long tea menu, delectable savory lunches, and delicate-sweet baked goods (served with fresh lemon curd and clotted cream) will knock your socks off.

Cafe Rosetta

Located in downtown Calumet, Café Rosetta has become a favorite spot for hearty, healthy sandwiches and specialty coffees—including their maple cream mocha and signature "Sisu Nisu."

Connie's Kitchen, Toni's Country Kitchen

Which of these two long-standing Calumet establishments has the better pasty? The answer is hotly debated amongst locals and tourists alike. Our recommendation: try them both and decide for yourself.

Fitzgerald's Restaurant at Eagle River Inn

Pulled pork, bourbon-glazed pork chops, pork belly French toast, made-from-scratch mac and cheese, a panoramic Lake Superior view, and a beer and spirits menu that stretches on for pages . . . need we say more? It's become one of the most popular spots on the peninsula, so make a reservation for sunset and head up early to dip your toes in the Big Lake.

The Jampot

We know you're already familiar with this quaint little shop, tucked away on quiet M-26 near Eagle Harbor. But no list would be complete without it. Run by members of the nearby Catholic monastery, the Jampot is the place to go for jams, jellies, and baked goods. Some of the real magic, however, can be found in the little-known extras: homemade jalapeno caramel, anyone?

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries around the world. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our beautiful campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.