Farm to table takes on new meaning at 9 Bean Rows

After the world drifts off to sleep, and long before most people shake the slumber from their eyes to start their day, Jen Welty bakes.

She begins creating breads, croissants, rolls, pastries and desserts at midnight each night and continues until after sunrise when customers begin strolling into 9 Bean Rows in Sutton's Bay for morning treats and coffees in a light, European breakfast style.

"We serve a lot of what I'm baking to our customers," says baker and co-owner Jen Welty. "We also supply breads to five local restaurants and a couple of individual coffee shops. Everything is fresh, baked from scratch, and nothing comes from a box. Our breads are very popular."

Welty and her co-owners, husband Nic Welty and executive chef Paul Carlson, opened the eatery's doors on July 20, and, less than a month later, are enjoying success beyond expectation.

"Busy, busy, go, go go," is how Jen Welty describes business so far. "It's fantastic and non-stop."

Soups, salads and specialty sandwiches dot the lunch menu and, while dinner dishes change frequently, meals created from lamb and seafood are pretty consistent, according to Paul Carlson, who studied culinary arts at Northern Michigan University and has been perfecting his craft for 20 years. He cooks with a flair using influences from France, Spain and Italy.

"Right now we're serving a lamb burger on Jen's house-made brioche rolls," he says, mentioning one of the popular sandwiches. He procures mussels, trout and white fish from a Michigan fishery, and the restaurant's large variety of cheeses from a Leelanau company.

One of the most-requested dishes at 9 Bean Rows is Carlson's macaroni and cheese. Yep – mac and cheese. It's created from white, creamy Fontina and other cheeses and distinctive, ever-changing fare like roasted wild mushrooms.

And then there's the produce.

The Weltys grow it on two acres of farmland spread out in the area, some on their own property and others at leased locations in Leelanau County. It is organic farming at its purest--workers keep weeds and pests at bay with their own hands to replace chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Their no-till policy keeps nutrients in the topsoil for the robust crop of fruits and vegetables used in the restaurant.

They also sell their carrots, potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, raspberries, onions and much more at five local farmers markets, and to the public in pre-paid shares.

"We have about 50 members that pay ahead of time, before we even start growing. Then they come to the farm weekly throughout the seasons for boxes full of freshly-picked produce," Welty says.

The restaurant's libation list consists of craft beers and cocktails concocted from ingredients purchased locally whenever possible. Wines, of course, hail from wineries all over Michigan.

"Our goal," says Welty, "has always been to increase the availability of locally-grown foods."

The chef concurs--the whole team at 9 Bean Rows has the same vision.

"I love being part of the local food community," Carlson says. "I love the relationships that we form doing that--these people put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  I use their products to make the best food that I can. I want to make their foods shine."

9 Bean Rows is located at 303 N. St. Joseph in Suttons Bay if you want to drop by; it's open every day. Monday through Saturday, it's open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for breakfast and lunch, and again from 5 to 10 p.m. for dinner. Sundays are limited hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The café also offers full-service catering.

Kelle Barr is a Portage-based freelance reporter who can be reached at
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