Steady and tight. Perhaps those are the bywords to describe the real estate market in 2023 in Leelanau County. Overall, the market continued to slow down from the pace of 2020 and 2021. While residential real estate sales in Leelanau County for 2023 bested those of 2022, those totals lag behind the number of homes sold at the height of the pandemic. There were 377 sales for a total volume of $273,320,611 in 2023. That topped the previous year’s 358 for $268,182,620, though the average sale price dropped slightly, at $724,988 last year from $749,113 for 2022. Those numbers tell a different story than those of the peak years of 2020, 2021 and 2022.

On Thursday, Feb. 29, at 6:30 pm, La Becasse, the French restaurant in Burdickville, will hold its almost annual celebration of the food (and rhum!) of the Caribbean, with a special nod to the island of Guadeloupe–timed just when we start really needing a warm-weather escape–even if it’s just for an evening (and in Burdickville). Typically five courses (details available soon), with paired drinks–our last event started with a Punch Planteur and ended with Rhum Coco, and featured wine pairings in between. Break out your Caribbean attire and come prepared for fun!

Leelanau County has long been a haven for artists and creatives, and the region is rife with individuals, businesses, and organizations working together towards common goals. For Kelsey Duda, co-founder and creative director of Fernhaus Studio, a hospitality group based in Traverse City, the region’s creative culture and collaborative community was a large part of what drew her to move to northern Michigan in 2020. In the three years since, the hospitality group has taken over Riverside Inn in Leland, Outpost (formerly Brew) in Traverse City, and perhaps most notably, restored The Mill in Glen Arbor, opening it in the spring of 2023 as a cafe. This summer, Fernhaus opened Millie’s in Glen Arbor, a pizza and ice cream shop where Riverfront Pizza was previously.

Fischer’s Happy Hour Tavern, the popular destination on M-22 south of Northport, reopened this past November after closing in December 2022 following 51 years in business. Tonight, Fischer’s will host “Live From the Happy Hour”—a private (now sold-out) concert featuring Elizabeth Landry, Joe Wilson and Caul Bluhm. Landry shared what Fischer’s has meant to her over the years, as a community destination and as a music venue.

On Saturday, Feb. 17, Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay will open its doors to the community and beyond with a complimentary property-wide showcase. Its 106 acres encompass everything from a vineyard and tasting room to a boutique inn, restaurant and hiking trails. The venues will be showcased as much as the food and beverages. Members of the Black Star team will be on hand to guide guests through various offerings at the sprawling property.

French Valley Vineyard brings the fiesta to your Thursdays from 4-7 pm all winter long, with sizzling live music and mouthwatering tamales from Spanglish. The musical lineup includes: Chris Skellenger on Feb. 8, Rhett & Jon on Feb. 15, the Duges on Feb. 22, and Dennis Palmer on Feb. 29. French Valley’s sister winery, Bel Lago, hosts Folgarelli’s Lasagna Saturdays from noon-5 pm each Saturday through February. Saturday, Feb. 10, will also feature a Super Soup-er Supper from 1-4 pm.

Last week, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the winner of the 2024 State of the State art contest as Vivian Kern of Bay City Central High School. Kern’s artwork will be displayed in the 2024 State of the State program, which the governor will deliver on Wednesday night, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m. Kern will receive a gift box from Cherry Republic. 

“Growing food in summer and fall is easy,” says Loma Farm owner Nic Theisen. “Growing during winter is a more interesting story.” Spoiler alert: he’s right. Winter is cold and snowy. There’s significantly less light. It costs lots of money to provide electricity if you want heat spaces to promote growing. It’s a huge challenge to try to grow under those conditions. Why even bother? There are a few reasons. One is because Theisen wants to promote better, longer-lasting use of the land. Another is to keep his workers employed year-round. And there are those that depend on the products from the farm, especially Farm Club, the nearby restaurant that Theisen and his wife Sara own along with Gary and Allison Jonas.

It’s a tale as old as time: people visit the area, fall in love with it and retire here. But for Marc and Elizabeth Huntoon, retiring was actually the beginning of a new endeavor. Their Gilchrist Farm tasting room and restaurant opened Labor Day weekend, offering locals and visitors a new option for wine and engaging dishes. A true family affair, it also involves their daughters Laurel and Alyssa as well as Alyssa’s husband George. And while the tasting room opened Sept. 1, Gilchrist Farm actually dates to 2018, when the Huntoons bought 85 acres of land on South French Road. They began planting the next year, and purchased and planted 21 more acres over the next two years.

Thanksgiving is rapidly, and happily, descending upon Leelanau County. While it is, indeed, a most joyous season, it also has its challenges. Among them: travel logistics, family dynamics, and, most notably, victuals. To assuage those seemingly epic holiday anxieties is Kate Vilter Stassen’s Peninsula Provisions, a wine and gourmet shop which opened earlier this year in the village of Lake Leelanau. For Thanksgiving, as well as Christmas, Stassen and head chef Brad Roth will offer all the ancillary—yet essential—components of a holiday meal.