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In 1999, Justin and his family took a trip to Italy, where Justin fell in love with the smooth silkiness and intense flavor of gelato.  He found himself returning to gelaterias day after day to savor the simple pleasure of good, honest food enjoyed at a charming outdoor café.  The more gelaterias he visited and the more gelato he tasted, the more determined he grew to recreate this experience back home.  This dream percolated for almost a year before serendipity struck:  the space adjacent to our Petoskey store — on the edge of lovely Pennsylvania Park — became available.  Nine months and thousands of reclaimed bricks later, American Spoon Café & Gelato opened, serving 24 flavors of authentic Italian gelato produced from the bounty of Michigan’s Northern Fruitlands.
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Despite the mostly bare tree branches, I think it’s safe to say that it’s Spring.  For one thing, there’s robins.  Daffodils are popping up all over, a thin film of pollen covers nearly everything, and each day our world looks a tiny bit brighter and greener.  While nature does her greening blossoming thing, we humans have our own ways of marking the change of seasons.  We shove skis and snow boots and puffy coats to the back of our closets, reacquaint ourselves with neighbors we’ve hardly seen since the first frost, set our adirondack chairs out in the sun, and fire up our grills.
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I like baking.  I like the soft, dusty whiteness of flour and the creamy solidity of chilled butter.  I love the way these two basic building blocks combine to create something as sophisticated as pastry.  Pastry is a thing of wonder — it’s somehow sturdy enough to be rolled and cut and filled and folded, yet light and flaky and crumblingly delicious once baked.
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Michigan Maple

With snow in the forecast for this weekend our hopes for an early Spring have been dampened a bit, but for weeks now Northern Michigan has been graced with lengthening light-filled days, days of warmth and sunshine and bright blue skies — the kind of days that wake up dormant trees and send sap coursing through Art Currey’s 70 acres of sugar maples.
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American Spoon’s Spring catalog should arrive at your home sometime next week, and because so many of our customers tell us how much they love reading each season’s letter from Justin, we thought we’d share this Spring’s letter here. Enjoy!

Greetings from the Northern Fruitlands.

Someday soon another Spring will sweep into the Northern Fruitlands all sun and warmth and smiles as if we hadn’t been waiting interminable weeks for its arrival. Immersed in the warming air as it moves through the orchards, we will hear the humming of ten thousand circling bees catching the scent of a million sun struck blooms. Before there is fruit there must be flowers, and, in May, here among the green rolling hills, the land around every bend greets the eyes with such an embarrassment of blossoms that laughter erupting amid gasps of amazement is the most common response. Each tree is an immaculate white or pink popcorn bouquet held up to the sky so that, viewed at the perfect moment, a sunlit orchard climbing a hillside to the horizon can dissolve the differences between the celestial and the earthly heavens and rival the very clouds.

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It’s no secret that our Fruit Perfect is delicious in pies, stirred into yogurt, spooned over pancakes and ice cream or enjoyed straight from the jar, but recently Justin shared that he’s been using Fruit Perfect Blueberries to recreate a favorite from his childhood.  He grew up eating his mother’s homemade labneh, a tangy, creamy staple of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine similar but not quite identical to both yogurt and sour cream.  In his household, labneh was the standard accompaniment to toast, so a few weeks ago when Justin saw small containers of it for sale at the natural foods co-op here in Petoskey, he took some home, spread it over a slice of whole wheat toast and, in a moment of improvisation, added a spoonful of plump, sweet Fruit Perfect Blueberries and a sprinkling of dried spearmint in place of the more traditional zaatar.
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Ordinarily I would not insist that you drop whatever you’re doing and start baking now, but ordinarily I don’t run across tarts as easy to make and as amazingly delicious as this one.  I discovered the recipe two weeks ago via The Splendid Table and began measuring out ingredients almost immediately.  Since then, I’ve made three tarts and six mini tarts.  It’s that good.
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