8th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival

Grand Rapids Wine Beer and Food FestivalThis is my favorite festival of THE YEAR! It’s happening in Grand Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 19 (5-10pm), Friday, Nov. 20 (4pm-10pm), and Saturday, Nov. 21 (Noon-10pm) and held at DeVos Place, Downtown. There’s nearly three acres of food, beer, wine, cider, fun and more! It’s $15 – Thursday (and advanced ticket sales for Friday & Saturday); $20 – Friday & Saturday. A day pass is available for $40, this option allows admission each day of the Festival and is intended for those who want to get the most out of their tasting experience. Online sales end Thursday, Nov. 19 at 5pm (Box Office sales for the pass end at 10pm on Thursday, Nov. 19). All food and beverage samples require varied amounts of sampling tickets of 50-cent denominations (sold at the Festival). It is suggested that guests start with at least $20 worth of tasting tickets. Attendance at this festival is for those 21 years of age and older. ID is required for admittance.

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Below is their 2015 media information.

NEW: The Elite Wine Collection — Located in the center of the Vineyard, inside the Steelcase Ballroom at DeVos Place, this special collection of wine has been selected by our consulting sommeliers and importing specialists as the “best of the best” top shelf vintages, chosen from among 1200 assorted wines. These high-end wines require a minimum 10-ticket ($5) tasting fee due to the cost of the product being served. Each of these wines have at least a 90-point value in a recognized wine rating system and are regarded as among the most elite wines of the world, by both the trade industry and consumers alike. No need to invest hundreds of dollars in a full bottle—the Elite Wine Collection allows you the opportunity to sample the finest wines of the Festival for a minimal cost.

Beer City Station — The Festival’s popular beer area has been moved to the Main Floor of DeVos Places (off the Grand Gallery in Exhibit Hall C, meaning no more congestion and no more lines! Step into the world of creative craft beers, imported and domestic brews, hard ciders and foods that pair well with both. Meet the American craft brewer—the small, independent and traditional producers who display passion and excitement for their unique beverages. New products, as well as traditional favorites, will be offered for sampling.

Cider Row — Featured in the Beer City Station in Exhibit Hall C off of the Grand Gallery. Tap into the Cider Row at the Festival, featuring almost 20 cider producers from Michigan and nationally-known brands. Hard cider is among the fastest growing craft beverages, on a national scale. It is fermented to produce a range of flavors – from dry to sweet.

Add a little extra class to your glass with an intimate tasting with Bradford Hammerschmidt from Imperial Beverage. These special flights offer champagnes you will not find anywhere else in the Festival. Each of the champagnes will be paired with specially selected cheese and crudités from Terra GR. Flights offered Friday and Saturday at 7pm only. The cost is $40 per person. Reservations may be made online, or on site – space permitting.

Five select restaurants partner with distinguished wineries and breweries for special Pairings – gourmet multi-course meals served on-site in a casual yet intimate “bar top” setting. Tickets are $45-$60 each and may be purchased in advance online or at the Festival on a first-come, first-served basis. This year’s restaurants include: Ganders, San Chez,, Vintage Prime & Seafood and Wolfgang Puck’s The Kitchen. Buy tickets online here.

Additionally, chefs from the 14 of the area’s top restaurants prepare and serve small plates of their culinary specialties.

The Coffee, Cordials and Dessert Café will be open in the Grand Gallery for the duration of the Festival. Start your Festival experience, or make it a nightcap, with unique pairings of coffee, lattes and cocktails crafted for your enjoyment with a variety of cordials, indulgent sweets and other treats.

Esteemed individuals from the culinary world host demonstrations on the Meijer Food Stage. Free beverage seminars, held classroom-style in the rooms off the Grand Gallery, give attendees an in-depth look into the world of wine, beer and spirits. Workshops are also offered for a unique hands-on experience for those wishing to learn tricks of the trade from top leaders in the world of food and drink.

Shop the Riverfront Market for gourmet food, specialty items, wine accessories and holiday gifts including chocolates, pastas, cheeses, oils, olives, sauces, mixes, dips and more—even fashion! Cash and carry or order for easy delivery.

Students from Ferris State University, the Culinary Institute of Michigan at Baker College in Muskegon, the Secchia Institute of Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University work alongside industry leaders for a premier educational experience.

2014-11-20 19.48.55


Traverse City Hidden Gems

Old Mission PeninsulaMichigan is a popular place to visit during the summer months especially. That’s why all live here, right? We all have a favorite hiding place – away from the crowds. I’m sharing with you some of the fantastic foodie places that I’ve come across in the Traverse City area. These locally owned businesses are either brand new or a bit off the beaten path.

Northern Natural restaurant and cidery is on the east end of Front Street in downtown. The restaurant opened in a couple of years ago and supports 29 farms. They serve several flavored ciders made with Michigan apples. The food menu is small, but I always enjoy my meals in their casual atmosphere.

Harbor View Nursery and Lavender Farm has a stand on Center Rd. on Old Mission Peninsula. They sell lavender plants, dried lavender flowers, natural body products, and some food products. I took a mini- tour with Sonja Richards and also got some tips for trimming the lavender in my own herb garden.

The lavender ice cream at Harbor View is made by Buchans Blueberry Farm. Their stand is off on Nelson Rd. between Peninsula Dr. and Center Rd. They sell berries, vegetables, ice cream, baked goods, and blueberry confections and snacks. They have a nice play area for kids too.

While in the Traverse City area, I came across a unique product: grape skin flour. It was developed by Grand Traverse Culinary Oils in cooperation with Black Star Farms. According to the package, they start with spent pomace after wine fermentation. The seeds are separated out and cold pressed into grape seed oil. The skins and meal remaining are dried and powdered into flour. It can be used to supplement other flours (one-to-one ratio), and it’s loaded with antioxidants. I found it at the Black Star location in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

Over on Leelanau Peninsula, is the newly open (May 2015) Hoplot Brewery. Founded by two brothers who moved back, from Chicago, to their home state of Michigan. This business includes an actual hop garden onsite. They serve several of their own beers and are working out their menu.

There’s a new ice cream place on Front Street across from the State Theater. Last year it was Cherry Cone, and based on the layout, it had been a Cold Stone Creamery at some point. But, I think that Milk & Honey has it right. They are using locally sourced products for their farm to spoon ice cream; vegan products are available too. They also serve coffee and deli sandwiches.

Acoustic Mead tap room now has me hooked on mead. They use local honey from Sleeping Bear Farms to make several meads flavored with local fruit. They have a piano and other musical instruments for spontaneous music-making (surely inspired by the mead).

Rare Bird Brew Pub is located a bit away from downtown but is still walkable from there. They serve a handful of their own beers along with many MI favorites on draft. They have a small food menu.

You’ve probably heard of the Boathouse on Old Mission Peninsula. But did you know that owner Doug Kosch and his wife own 10 acres on the peninsula where they grow much of the vegetables, fruits, and herbs used in the restaurant? They also raise turkeys, ducks, and chickens – they are fed the raw vegetable scraps saved from the restaurant kitchen.

Many of the wineries in the Traverse City area are now tasting and selling hard cider made from MI apples. So, be sure to look for it on tasting menus. We tasted the one at Chateau Chantal, and it has a classic apple-y flavor. We also tasted a few at Bowers Harbor Vineyard; they were flavored with other fruits and drier. We enjoyed both types, and I think you will too.

I also checked out the new solar panels at Chateau Chantal Winery. Last year I went on their Sensory Treat Tour and blogged about it. There’s still time to travel around northern Michigan before ‘the snow flies’. But, really any time is fantastic in the Grand Traverse Area.

LEARN TO EAT LOCAL – all over Michigan!


Tasting hard ciders at Northern Natural.

Tasting hard ciders at Northern Natural.

Lavender garden at Harbor View Nursery and Lavender Farm.

Lavender garden at Harbor View Nursery and Lavender Farm.


Look for the Buchans Farm on Nelson Rd.

Grape Skin Flour - can't wait to bake with it when the weather cools off.

Grape Skin Flour – can’t wait to bake with it when the weather cools off.

Hoplot Brewery is in a beautiful setting on Leelanau Peninsula.

Hoplot Brewery is in a beautiful setting on Leelanau Peninsula.

My new go-to for treats.

My new go-to for treats.

I love the creative re-use at Acoustic Mead tap room.

I love the creative re-use at Acoustic Mead tap room.

Brew list at Rare Bird.

Brew list at Rare Bird.

The Boathouse on Old Mission peninsula supports the peninsula wineries.

The Boathouse on Old Mission peninsula supports the peninsula wineries.

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)

The Gallery (4)

2014 Grand Rapids Wine, Beer, and Food Festival

Thursday through Sunday, is the 7th Annual Grand Rapids Wine, Beer, and Food Festival at DeVos Place in downtown. This is my favorite festival of the year. It features wine, beer, cider, and food with lots of tastings and classes throughout the event. It’s a great place to learn about Michigan food and beverages, as well as compare them to what’s produced in other regions.

Visit the festival website for information on the pairings and seminars. Along with the hall full of wineries (over 100), distilleries, and food, there’s the Cider House. It will feature cideries from throughout Michigan, as well as many nationally-known brands, in the Welsh Lobby on the south end of the Steelcase Ballroom.

The 3rd floor Brewer’s Loft returns, showcasing beer from around Michigan, as well as national labels and imports providing tastes of their hand-crafted beverages – along with food pairings and entertainment. And NEW this year is the RendezBREW, a rebranded, expanded Coffee, Cordials, and Dessert Café open in the Grand Gallery for the duration of the Festival.

My favorite area is the Riverfront Market where I shop for gourmet food, specialty items, wine accessories, and holiday gifts including chocolates, pastas, cheeses, oils, olives, sauces, mixes, dips and more. (Cash and carry or order for easy delivery.)

Here are my Festival Tips
• Bring a tote bag in case you pick up brochures or make food purchases.
• If you are crowd-averse go on Thursday or as early after opening as possible on Friday or Saturday.
• Get to the seminars several minutes early. Many of them fill to capacity.
• If you plan to eat or drink from several booths, buy extra food/beverage tickets. Last year food was 6 -12 tickets, wine was usually 3 – 6 tickets, and beer was usually 2 – 4 tickets. The show organizers suggest starting with $20.00 worth of tickets per person. They are sold in 50-cent denominations.
• There is so much to see some pre-planning may help set priorities.
• Check out the special events in advance so you go at the days and times when you will experience the events that interest you the most. Here’s the seminar and workshop schedule.
• Bring a camera and post your photographs to the MIlocalFoodbeet Facebook page. And, follow me on Instagram to see what’s going on! Prefer Twitter? Here I am.

COST: $15 – Thursday (and advanced ticket sales for Friday & Saturday); $20 – Friday & Saturday. 3-Day Pass – At $40, this option allows admission each day of the Festival and is intended for those who want to get the most out of their tasting experience. Online sales end Thursday, Nov. 20 at 5pm (Box Office sales for the pass end at 10pm on Thursday, Nov. 20).

I’ve been attending since the beginning and have served as media since 2010. Although my entrance pass is provided, I purchase all of my sampling tickets, and my opinions are my own. Attendance is only for those 21 and older.

See you there!

Grand Rapids Wine Beer and Food Festival

Michigan’s Newest Brewery

Elk Brewery beer flightAs I was impatiently waiting for the crazy spring to produce some Michigan asparagus, I stumbled upon the soft opening of Elk Brewery – something to write about! Spoiler alert – the staff and beer are great.

Co-owner (with Taylor Carroll), Eric Karns graciously took the time to chat with me about the new Elk Brewery. (ELK comes from Eric and his wife, Lisa’s names.) Eric is also the head brewer and managed the construction of the new space with his father. The location at 700 Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids, was a former fish fry and vacant for several years. They added ten feet out front; the only things left of the original building are the two side walls and the back wall – all concrete block. They also raised the ceiling.

They have a three-barrel brewing system. There are four three-barrel and one seven-barrel serving tanks. Karns told me that they have plenty of beer prepared. I’ve seen a lot of breweries misgauge the popularity upon opening and run out of beer. It’s not likely to happen here – at least not this weekend.

They don’t plan to do bottling or canning in their space and are not working on distribution either. So, get over there to experience their beers onsite. The beer styles are his interpretation of classic styles. The black IPA was really a black double IPA.

The only food served are peanuts and pretzels. Johnny B’z, down the street, will deliver hotdogs (even veggie) and burgers, or you can bring your own food into the brewery.

Their beer will be at the inaugural Beer City Spring Fest this Saturday in Hudsonville.

Visit my website now!

Elk Brewery


Elk Brewery beer list


A Flight of Flights

The Livery Brewery, Benton Harbor, MIAs soon as the snow receded, we had to get out to experience some Michigan. Since there were not a lot of fresh food options, we took a one-day SW Michigan Beercation.



First Stop – The Livery
Located in a former horse livery built-in the late 1800s, the ambiance was historical chic. The old, Benton Harbor grain elevator still hangs from the ceiling in full view of the second floor artwork. The beer was great. We tried a flight including: Paris Roubaix pale ale, McGilligans IPA, Smash (single malt; single hop) IPA, Freak Belgian-Indian red ale, Dixie Irish stout, and Polar Vortex maibock.

pretzel bites at The LiveryThe house-made spent grain pretzel bites were warm and delicious. I also enjoyed the vegan sandwich. The staff was friendly and hospitable.




Beer at The Livery

Beer at The Livery

grain elevator at The Livery

grain elevator at The Livery










Paw Paw Brewing Co. mug clubSecond Stop – Paw Paw Brewery

Usually, I go for wineries when the this area. Not this time. As we approached the white metal building, it had the feeling of a local watering hole. This was apparent also by the small rooms lined with hand-made pottery mugs for the mug-clubbers. We munched on peanuts and enjoyed a beer flight.

Beer flight at Paw Paw Brewery

We drank Red Arrow rye, Two Paws IPA, Black Talon IPA, Citra Melon, and Black River oatmeal stout.




beer list at Latitude 42 Brewing Co. Third Stop – Latitude 42 Brewing Co.

This one’s been on my list for a while, and it seemed like a great time for a stop. The building is beautiful and features a beautiful granite bar-top in the middle of the room. We enjoyed a six-beer flight of cask conditioned Spank Dog pale ale, Melon Head dry hopped pale ale, Red Beards India red ale, Powerline porter, Hoppin Pils, and cask conditioned Blackout oatmeal stout.

The smell of the brick over pizza got me when I walked in, and we ate a simple pizza topped with Michigan basil. The menu also included MI greens, with more local food choices to be added as the season progresses. The staff was friendly and helpful.

Latitude 42 Brewing Co.

beer flight Latitude 42 Brewing Co.Michigan basil pizza at Latitude 42



It was a delight to experience such different buildings and brews all within a short drive of each other. No trip near Kalamazoo is complete for me until I top by People’s Food Co-op. That was the last part of the day trip.

There's beer at People's Food Co-op too!

There’s beer at People’s Food Co-op too!