Monthly Archives: December 2014

Pairings to Celebrate with Michigan Wines

We all need counseling at times, so The Wine Counselor® and I chatted recently about Michigan Wines for the holidays. Sommelier and C.S.W. (Certified Specialist of Wine) Michael Schafer is The Wine Counselor®; he’s a speaker, writer, and entertainer – he entertains while teaching people about wines.

Pairing wine with meals depends on what you’re serving. There are many sites that help people pair with meat – so I went with vegan food pairings! Here are Schafer’s pairing suggestions along with some recipes. (Thanks to Vegan GR for some of the recipes.)

First Course SaladPairing: Pinot Gris/Grigio or Sparkling 

Michigan Awesome Bowls.  In this recipe, the ingredients are improvised, but the dressing stays the same. Since it often will have apples, beets, or carrots, it’s fairly sweet. Pairing: Semi-dry Riesling or Rose

Delicata Squash Fries Appetizer. Other than preheating the oven, this is a quick and delicious appetizer. Pairing: Sparkling

Roasted Root Vegetables.  This meal will warm you up this winter. Pairing: Pinot Noir

Mac and Cheese.  Thanks to Vegan GR for this healthy of version of classic comfort food. Pairing: Oaked Chardonnay

Chili.  Chili can be made a lot of different ways. Pairing: Red blend with a bit of sweetness, a Riesling, or a Gewürztraminer

Vegan Holiday Roast.  with mushroom gravy. Another Vegan GR recipe – this time with a festive holiday feel. Pairing: Pinot Noir

Raw Lasagna.  I always have to toss in a raw recipe! This one is great for entertaining. Pairing: Cabernet Franc or Blaufrankish

Black Bean Soup.  This soup is simple and delicious. Pairing: Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir

Spicy Meals.  We make this Food and Wine Magazine recipe with my MI canned tomatoes. (Veganize it with vegetable broth and use Earth Balance instead of butter.) It’s also great with MI white beans. And, I substitute the Habanero pepper with MI Serrano pepper. As they say “Heat likes sweet.” Pairing: Riesling or Gewurztraminer with some residual sugar.

And, what if you celebrate with a peanut butter sandwich (Really, I love those.) A MI cherry wine, of course!

Now, for Desserts.  Pairing: Whatever your favorite is an excellent choice, but the wine must be sweeter than the dish!

Of course, sparkling wines came up in the conversation. They are festive, and Schafer told me that people consume more sparkling wine from Thanksgiving through New Year’s than the rest of the year combined. Larry Mawby on Leelanau Peninsula is the preeminent Michigan sparkling wine maker. His original label is Mawby, and M. Lawrence is a more value priced label. Many of the other wineries make sparkling wine, so look for them wherever you purchase MI wine.

Other basic guidelines:
– Sparkling wines and Pinot Noir are the most flexible for pairing with foods.
– Mirror the dish: A light dish with a light wine and a heavy dish with a heavy wine – except curry. Use a sweeter wine with curry.
– Don’t forget the Michigan ports which are a dessert all by themselves. Cerise by Chateau Chantal is my personal favorite.
– Michigan Rose’s are also available and are also very flexible with meals.

Michael Schafer teaches around the state – including annually at the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer, and Food Festival. His trademarked tagline is “I taste bad wine so you don’t have to”®. If you have any wine questions, don’t hesitate to contact Schafer.

Special thanks to The Wine Counselor® for the wine pairing information. As he says, ” wine should only be enjoyed on days ending in the letter y!” Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In. Click here for his website.

It’s time to celebrate!!!

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Part of my collection of MI wine and beer glasses.

It’s Chili in Michigan

Michigan vegan chiliAs the weather turned cold, I turned to the stock pot. We have a habit of making weekend soups. This part of our seasonal diet warms the house, the body, and the soul. It’s easy to incorporate preserved local foods into soups.

My chili is popular at our house. I make it throughout the winter using my stash of frozen vegetables and home canned tomatoes. I believe in tossing what looks good into my chili, so the measurements are estimates.

1. Cook one-half cup of brown rice (makes about one cup cooked).
2. In a separate stock pot, heat vegetable oil and add the following chopped Michigan vegetables from your refrigerator or freezer: two small onions, ½ of a red bell pepper, about one green bell pepper.
3. Add to the pot: salt, pepper, ground cumin, and chili powder to taste. I use a light sprinkle of cumin powder and a heavy sprinkle of chili powder.
4. Sauté a couple of minutes, then add three Serrano peppers (or to taste and include seeds for hotter chili). Cook until the onions are translucent.
5. Add two quarts of home-canned tomatoes, one-half to one cup of corn kernels, two chopped roasted Anaheim peppers, and about two cups of cooked Michigan pinto beans.
6. Combine the rice into the stock pot vegetable mixture.
7. Heat through and either serve immediately, or let it simmer to marry the flavors more.


Michigan chili


Roasted Root Vegetables

roasted rootsNeed a simple, yet elegant meal? Roast up some root vegetables. There are many Michigan root vegetables available now: parsnip, potato, sunchokes, rutabaga, sweet potato, carrot, and beet. I use about 3 pounds of root vegetables. There’s no need to peel the potatoes, sunchokes, or carrots; they’re just fine just washed.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Then, prep the roots by cutting them depending on the size and shape of the vegetables, cut them into one-quarter to one-half inch disks or one-half to three-quarter inch chunks. Put them into a 9 by 13 baking dish. Stir in one-half cup of extra virgin olive oil, coating the pieces.

Bake them covered for a half hour while you are prepping other ingredients. Depending on availability, I add in chopped red bell or other peppers, four minced shallots, and a handful of fresh herbs or a sprinkle of dried herbs. The kind of herbs depends on what I have around, but rosemary, chives, oregano, and thyme all work well.

After the half hour, add the other ingredients to the pan and bake another 45 minutes for 1- 1/4 hours total – or until the vegetables are all soft.

As you serve, pour a dash of balsamic vinegar on top. I serve this with hearty Michigan bread for a warm me up meal. You can also puree it in a blender and use it to stuff home-made ravioli.

MI root vegetables


The Gallery

The Gallery (1)I’ve always said that I96 between Grand Rapids and Lansing is the most boring stretch of highway in Michigan. Well, now there’s something going on. In October, The Gallery Brewery opened in Portland, MI. The brewery is downtown, which is right off of Exit 76.

It was started by a group of locals who are the brewer (Jared and wife, Hannah Green), the chef (Neil and wife, Mary Jo Mathisen with silent partners Al and Sara Mathisen), and the building owners (Rush and Julie Clement).

Open only a month, the brewery stated filling up by 6:00 Saturday night. It’s always hard to judge how much beer to have on hand for opening, and they were down to four of the six typical – with more fermenting to be ready soon. The beers available: Baroque Brown (our favorite), Precision Porter, Surreal Stout, and Art Deco Amber Ale.

They already have over 200 mug club members and a waiting list for more. Members get a discount – a 20 ounce pour for the price of a 16, and on Tuesdays there’s a growler refill discount.

The building was formerly an art gallery and book store; the prior tenant left a pottery kiln. So, the mug club mugs are glazed and fired onsite by Hannah and Mary Jo. Each one is a piece of art.

For the menu, the owners didn’t want typical bar food. There’s no fryer or grill. The menu features snacks, salads, soups, and sandwiches. Everything is made from scratch. The black bean burger was the best I’d ever had.

They are currently sourcing food from VanEerden’s and are researching area farms to purchase from as the 2015 season progresses.

To keep the gallery theme going, they have rotating artwork on the walls. The third Friday of the month starts the feature of a new artist. There’s live music on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

Check them out when you’re in the area, and drive safely in that dull stretch of highway.

LEARN TO EAT (and drink) LOCAL.

The Gallery (2)

The Gallery (3)

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