Taste of Michigan
This past weekend, thanks to The Grand Rapids Beer, Wine, and Food festival, I had the pleasure of attending the first annual Taste of Michigan. This event was planned by the fabulous Rachel and Liz. Rachel wrote a great post about some of the planning that went into this event.
20 food bloggers descended on the lovely Southwestern Michigan city of Grand Rapids. Why Grand Rapids, you ask? Grand Rapids is second only to California in the large variety of food crops that it produces. Visit Liz’s post for more lesser know facts about Grand Rapids. I had visited Grand Rapids a few times before this weekend. However, after this weekend, I am in love with the city. Grand Rapids has a great downtown that is very walkable and clean. It features many quaint shops as well as an up and coming food scene.
Temperatures were a bit cooler than normal on Saturday as we began our day with breakfast at the Silver Spork Food Truck and shopping at Fulton Street Farmers Market. I had a fall inspired breakfast of Autumn Pancakes and hot mulled cider. The delicious pancakes featured a rum, date, apple compote. I wish I could have them for breakfast tomorrow! Paired with the hot cider it was the perfect way to start a chilly, fall morning.
We browsed the stalls bursting with fresh Michigan produce. Including apples, something that was missing from our trip to the orchard last week.
After the market we headed to Art of the Table which was filled with Michigan specialty foods as well as beautiful items to dress up your table. They had a huge selection of table linens. I picked out a few that you will probably be seeing in photos soon Amy, the owner, made us feel very welcome and even gave us a huge goody bag. Patricia, from Patricia’s Chocolates, was there to let us taste her newest line of chocolates. She featured some very unique flavors including Allspice Balsamic, Pear Lemongrass, and Lemon Basil.
We also visited Rowster Coffee where they roast their coffee right in front of you. I am not much of a coffee drinker but this place makes me want to drink coffee! The shop also has a very cool rustic feel. After coffee we visited some other unique shops surrounding the area before lunch.
Lunch was a private affair at Bistro Bella Vita. The restaurant was opened just for us and there was way more food than we could eat. There was an appetizer plate which you see pictured. There were also 2 salads: a Greek salad and another featuring grapes, apples, and celery. There were 2 pizza options including a vegetarian pesto pizza. Entrees were a beef risotto and pasta with spinach, tomato, and goat cheese. Dessert featured cheesecake, a lemon tart, chocolate covered strawberry and a brownie.
After lunch it was off to Reserve Wine and Food for wine and cheese. (Are you seeing a theme here? We like to eat!) The general manager, Peter, gave us a tour of the beautiful historic building which used to be a bank. The tour included a peek in the vault. The most expensive bottle of wine? $2700! Even if you are not a wine drinker Reserve is worth a stop, if only to admire the building and the 2010 ArtPrize winner, Open Water.
After a little downtime, during which I checked out some of the entries in this year’s ArtPrize, it was time for dinner. Dinner was at Six.One.Six inside the swanky JW Marriott. The food was excellent! The chefs took the time to come out before each course to describe their dish. They really made us feel like they were cooking just for us (instead of for an entire restaurant on a very busy night!)
Our first course was a cauliflower soup with cinnamon apple puree (so velvety!) Next up was a salad with frisee, citrus marinated beets, vanilla poached pears in a maple mustard vinagrette. I am not a huge fan of beets but there wasn’t anything left on my plate! The vegetarian option for the main dish was marinated tofu with Brussels sprouts leaves, heirloom carrots and golden chantrelles. It was very fresh tasting and didn’t leave me with a heavy feeling. The chefs also prepared a raw, vegan dessert for the group. Banana creme pie with a truffle.
Throughout the event, there were many vegetarian dining options. Also, at each venue chefs were always more than willing to make special dishes for those with certain dietary needs including vegan options. I have definitely noticed a growing trend for vegetarian and vegan options at mid to upper scale restaurants. It seems chefs are eager to showcase their skills in new and different ways. Vegetarian/vegan definitely doesn’t have to be synonymous with boring!
The night ended with swag bags overflowing with Michigan products including vanilla beans, pasta sauce, coffee, chocolates, hot sauce, a coffee mug, a cookbook, and passes to numerous Grand Rapids attractions.
It was really a fantastic time. Thank you to Rachel and Liz for planning such an awesome event. I am already looking forward to the 2nd Annual Taste of Michigan. And if you’ve never been, plan a visit to Grand Rapids. You won’t be sorry.
Note: I was sponsored by The Grand Rapids Beer, Wine, and Food Festival and given a free ticket to the event. I received no other compensation and all opinions and thoughts are my own.