Leelanau News and Events

New York Times Cooking Sets Course For Leelanau's Hallstedt Homestead Cherries

By Craig Manning | July 3, 2023

The New York Times is coming to Leelanau County.

Notices from major media outlets aren’t exactly new for northern Michigan, which has earned a slew of superlatives from newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, and TV shows since Sleeping Bear Dunes was dubbed “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America back in 2011. Even given that track record, though, Phil Hallstedt says that he and his wife Sarah were in disbelief when, this past spring, they got a call from one of the biggest, most iconic newspapers in the United States.

Phil and Sarah are the owners of Hallstedt Homestead Cherries, a U-pick cherry farm in Northport. Each summer, the married couple preside over a bustling orchard that fills up with families from near and far, all taking in the beauty of Leelanau County and savoring the splendor of fresh-picked northern Michigan cherries. This summer, the Hallstedts will add a new feather in their cap, and it all started with that aforementioned out-of-the-blue phone call this past spring.

“The New York Times, through an agency, contacted us around April,” Phil recalls. The call concerned NYT Cooking, a subscription service of the New York Times that “helps users discover the world's best recipes, save and organize their cooking life, and serve as an approachable guide in the kitchen.” This summer, the NYT Cooking team is crisscrossing the country to visit off-the-beaten-path farms and celebrate “regional peak-season ingredients” with locally-grounded events. The ask of the Hallstedts during that April phone call was simple: Would they be willing to host NYT Cooking for an event at Hallstedt Homestedt Cherries as part of the summer series?

“My wife's first reaction was, ‘Is this a joke?’” Phil recalls. “She wanted to see if it was sincere. And they said, ‘No, no, this is for real.’ They had looked at a bunch of different farms around Michigan, and they loved the idea of doing cherries [for their series] – and specifically the idea of the ‘Cherry Capital of the World.’ So they found us online, and looked at our reviews, and then they reached out to us.”

So began a whirlwind of a spring for the Hallstedts, who, in addition to gearing up for their typical peak summer season, were fielding communications from the New York Times, scrambling “to get the farm looking decent” in time for a site visit, and eventually hosting the Times “for four or five hours” to start working out the details of the summer event.

“Eventually, they said, ‘Yeah, let’s put you in as our lead site,’” Phil tells the Leelanau Ticker. Detailed planning steps and contracts – including a non-disclosure agreement – followed. “We were not allowed to communicate to anybody about [this upcoming event],” Phil laughs.

Now, all the puzzle pieces are in place for Hallstedt Homestead Cherries (and northern Michigan agriculture more broadly) to be a centerpiece of the NYT Cooking summer series, which is all about “inspiring home cooks to cook the best of summer produce, all summer long.” Between June 21 and August 15, anyone can text a fruit or vegetable emoji to 361-COOK-NYT to receive free recipes based around fresh summertime produce. NYT Cooking will also be heading out to the West Coast to celebrate ripe California strawberries and visiting New Jersey for a send-up of the state’s tomato crops.

“From our intensely buttery, crispy-crust Twice-Baked Sour Cherry Pie that exudes loads of syrupy cherry nectar to our sweet, tangy and rich Pork Chops With Brandied Cherries, New York Times Cooking recipes can help you transform Michigan Cherries and other peak-season ingredients into a delicious, guaranteed-to-impress treat,” proclaimed an email sent by NYT Cooking last week to announce the Hallstedt Homestead Cherries partnership.

That partnership will revolve around an event scheduled for Saturday, July 15 from 10am to 6pm at Hallstedt Homestead Cherries. While NYT Cooking is asking that those interested in attending RSVP and reserve tickets online, Hallstedt says the entire event is free and will mostly look like a typical summer day at a northern Michigan U-pick cherry farm.

“It’s mostly going to be our normal day,” Hallstedt says. “We're going to be bringing people into the orchard, teaching them about good agricultural practices, and taking them out to show them how to pick fresh fruit. And then we'll let people just go and enjoy the picking experience.”

The difference from a standard day is that each group of guests will need to pick a two-hour block to come to the orchard, where the first hour will be set aside for the activities discussed above. Then, during the second hour, NYT Cooking chefs will present a “cooking demonstration,” where they’ll use local cherries to whip up a cherry-centric dish. The demonstration will be followed by a “cherry recipe tasting,” where attendees get to try out whatever treat the New York Times chefs choose to concoct. “They’re picking out a recipe from their cooking app, and they’ll make that,” Hallstedt notes. “I think it’ll be a great two-hour experience.”

The kicker? “The New York Times will pay for all the cherries that people pick [that day],” Hallstedt says.

When asked what kind of impact he expects to see on his business from a New York Times spotlight, Hallstedt says his main hopes are the same ones he has every day of every summer at Hallstedt Homestead Cherries.

“I just hope people who come visit us that day have all the fun family time that people typically have on our farm,” he says. “That’s really our main purpose for doing this. But we’re also hoping that, because of the social presence of the New York Times, maybe more people who have never tried cherries before will want to give them a try with some of these NYT Cooking recipes. We’d love to get people to really celebrate cherries across the whole country.”

In that spirit of celebration, Hallstedt Homestead Cherries also plans to launch a local contest inspired by the NYT Cooking visit. “The recipes the New York Times has are phenomenal, but we also know that we have a lot of wonderful cooks here locally who have some wonderful recipes that use cherries,” Hallstedt explains. “So, what we’re doing is putting together a ‘Five for 20’ contest, where we’ll have people send in cherry-centric recipes that they love, and then we’ll pick the top five recipes that people send in, and we will give each of those winners 20 pounds of fresh cherries for free. We think it will be a fun way to build upon the excitement of having the New York Times here, but really doing it on a local level.”

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