By Katie Dunn
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 at 25 S. Lake Leelanau Dr. 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.
“For both Thanksgiving and Christmas, we will have our Charcuterie, Mediterranean and Fish Platters. You can drop off your own platter or rent one of ours. We will also be having lots of things in the deli to help you with your holiday cooking list: gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, butternut squash bisque, and other side dishes. And, of course, we have all of our ready to go dips and salads that you [can transfer] to your own dish, and voila—you’re ready,” Stassen explained.
Peninsula Provisions is Stassen’s latest epicurean iteration. With Peninsula Provisions, Stassen has triumphantly reinvented herself after 25 remarkable years at the helm of Riverside Inn in Leland. When that storied culinary institution changed hands in 2021, the question was not simply: what is going to happen to Riverside Inn? Equally important was: what about Stassen? Predictably, she has seamlessly translated her abounding knowledge and passion into this new endeavor. And, the community has enthusiastically embraced Stassen’s nascent wine and provisions shop.
“We have loved the response [of the community]. So many people have told us that we needed a shop like this in our area: a curated wine shop with wines in every price range. And, they especially love the food,” Stassen said.
This is a completely new and different business model for Stassen, and one that has required patience and learning. While Stassen did not want to fully retreat from the food and hospitality industry—which is very much ingrained in her DNA—running another restaurant was simply too arduous of a proposition. Instead, Stassen pivoted. A store offering gourmet food and carefully curated wine, conversely, was precisely what she had envisioned.
“A wine shop was always in the plans, post-Riverside. I am passionate about wine, food, and hospitality. But running a restaurant and inn for 25 years was enough. This was a great way to still be in the industry I love, but in a smaller way … It has been so much fun learning another side of the wine and food industry. Retail is different than restaurant, so we are still figuring things out. This whole year is [about] learning. It’s great to still be in the industry, but be home by 7 pm!” Stassen explained.
Lake Leelanau proved to be the ideal location for Stassen’s shop. Sitting in the cradle of North and South Lake Leelanau, the village serves as the crossroads of the county. Being so conveniently situated, Peninsula Provisions attracts customers from across the peninsula—Glen Arbor to Northport to Traverse City.
“We originally thought we wanted to be in Leland since I was there for years with the Riverside Inn. But, there is no parking in that town! So, we looked around the Lake Leelanau area because it really is the center of the county. We love the shop’s location as it is right on the way home for so many people who work in Traverse City. And, we have a parking lot!” Stassen said.
Stassen, a trained sommelier, oversees Peninsula Provisions’ diverse blend of global and local wine varieties. She places a special emphasis on sustainable, family-owned producers. The wine collection is meticulously curated, with 95% organically produced.
“We feature small, independent labels that produce wines sustainably whenever possible as well as a deliberate rotation of local wines that exemplify the unique terroir of our region. The same focus and attention [are] placed on our boutique selection of beers and ciders,” Stassen shared.
Roth masterfully oversees the cuisine. Raised in Leelanau County and seasoned in the San Francisco culinary scene, a French cooking approach permeates his work. This is not the first time Roth has collaborated with Stassen. He was the chef at Riverside Inn in the 1990s and also during the final years of Stassen’s tenure. The driving force behind his cooking is sourcing locally, seasonally, and sustainably.
“I mostly have been cooking French my whole career. At Provisions, I focus on classic French: pate, terrines, charcuterie—with a little Spanish influence,” Roth said.
Like Stassen, Roth is very much enthused about Peninsula Provisions’ holiday menu. For it, he has dived deep into his recipe box, resurrecting some classics and some personal favorites.
“I pulled out some of my recipes that I’ve had for years that have a Southern twist: Yukon gold mashed potatoes, classic rosemary, gravy, cornbread, classic stuffing, and a really nice cranberry sauce. We’re not going to be doing turkeys, but we are going to have sides, and they’re all going to be spectacular,” Roth said.
Regarding its day-to-day operations and offerings, Peninsula Provisions distinguishes itself from the many venerable wine-tasting rooms and gourmet grocery shops of Leelanau County. It is a hybrid of sorts.
“Well, we aren’t a tasting room or a grocery store. We have some wonderful ones around the area. We do offer tasting events, and most weekends we will have two bottles open to sample. The neighbors are fantastic, and many love our grab-and-go soups and salads,” Stassen said.
Peninsula Provisions’ first summer season was, as expected, a resounding success—providing gourmet food and fine wines for picnics, boating, and cocktail parties. This past summer, Peninsula Provisions also deftly served as a metaphoric crutch for Leelanau County folks in need of convenient, last-minute—and high quality—cheese boards, salads, soups, sides, and the like.
For fall, Stassen added family style ready-to-go meals to Peninsula Provisions’ culinary repertoire. Another emerging dimension to Peninsula Provisions’ offerings will be personalized guidance for couples and wedding planners with regard to selecting the perfect wines for wedding celebrations.
Additionally, this past fall Peninsula Provisions hosted wine tastings, educational sessions, and pairing dinners. Recently, Peninsula Provisions held its first ever “Tapas Night” which featured several wines from Spain paired with authentic Spanish tapas. Also recently, Peninsula Provisions collaborated with Left Foot Charley and BOS Wines for a wine tasting event.
Future events will include “Wild Wines”—an evening for discovering the right wine to pair with wild game. Perfect for deer hunting season! A “Fizz Party” is slated for December—a festive holiday event for tasting several different sparkling wines at various price points.
Peninsula Provisions continues to evolve. Its horizon seems limitless. Stassen’s aspirations and creativity know no bounds.
“This is really a year for us to learn and try to be ready for next summer! We have so many ideas and plans, so this is really a learning and planning time,” said Stassen
Consider availing yourself of Peninsula Provisions’ multitude of wine and culinary offerings during the impending holiday season. With Stassen and Roth presiding, holiday stress is entirely mitigated!