We're so proud of West Michigan.  A little bit of heaven, many say.  Okay, the economy needs some heating up, more jobs need to be created, but all-in-all, considering what's happening in the rest of Michigan, we're in a pretty good place.  Especially when you think of food.

We have some superior restaurants here in Grand Rapids, but as you travel around Michigan, up north, for example, you find some of the finest food out there.

Famed chef, Mario Batali thinks so, too.

Considering that Mario Batali owns a home in northern Michigan, and spends July through Labor Day there, this may not be such a surprise.

Batali says, "the chefs involved in the scene celebrate what's here; they're not trying to be anything they're not. Now people are coming for gastronomic tourism. All winter I look forward to eating two things: pizza from my wood oven topped with Leelanau Cheese Company's Raclette and serrano chiles, and cherry pie from Grand Traverse Pie Company."

Two eateries in northern Michigan are basking in the limelight after Batali, a former Iron Chef seen frequently on the Food Network, dubbed their menu offerings as being among the best in the world.  WOW!

Batali released a list of his 9 favorite restaurants around the world, and two are in Traverse City. They are:

The Cook’s House, 115 Wellington Street. The establishment was opened in 2008 by chef/owners Eric Patterson and Jennifer Blakeslee. The menu celebrates agriculture and artisan made products found in northern Michigan and practices a "field to plate" philosophy.

Frenchie’s Famous, 169 Randolph Street. The coffeehouse/lunch café offers up sandwiches, breads, and desserts. Batali says the owner, French Clements, is "cranky" in the early afternoon.

The rest that made the list include restaurants in New York City, Miami Beach, Seattle, Singapore, Monaco and Italy. I have the whole list here.

Batali, who owns a home in Leelanau County, has never been known to be shy, especially about promoting the culinary virtues of Michigan.  As a matter of fact, he created three recipes around Michigan foods, so I thought I would share them with you.

Piadina with Local Cherries, Bologna and Raclette: An Italian flatbread dish, lightly grilled and layered with toppies.

Michigan Walleye in Prosciutto with Pesto Fregola: A flavorful recipe for fish wrapped in prosciutto and served with pasta.

Beef Braciole “Pinwheel-style”: A butterflied beef meal using a seasoning of local fruit, meat and cheeses.

Enjoy your food and be proud of it.  Mario is!