Have Appetite, Will Travel: A Guide to Grand Rapids Restaurant Week 2014

Restaurant Week Grand Rapids is happening August 13-24, 2014. Sixty restaurants offer three-course tasting menus featuring their culinary team’s skills and the West Michigan harvest. Molly Crist, Experience Grand Rapids blogger and Onward Travel tour operator, fills us in on this year’s RWGR highlights.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Rapidians love food, beer, wine, and getting out on the town… which makes Restaurant Week one of the best times of the year in our corner of the Mitten. It’s time to head to West Michigan and warm a restaurant seat while soaking up the waning summer because RWGR is happening Wednesday, August 13 to Sunday, August 24. Read on for highlights of this year’s event that combines creative chefs, a range of beverages, the peak of Michigan’s harvest, and summertime revelry.

Great food for a terrific value

Three-course menus are $28 per person, though you’ll find two for $28 at several restaurants: Lindo Mexico, Rezervoir Lounge, Fajita Republic and Osta’s Lebanese Cuisine. Check out Fajita Republic’s DIY guacamole – fresh haas avocados with a selection of toppings (spiced pepitas, pico de gallo, bacon, chiles, oh my!) that you can mix until your heart’s content.

Perfect timing

August is the height of harvest in West Michigan. It’s the best time of the year for farmers markets and gardeners (holy summer squash!), which means locavore chefs are smiling, too. RWGR menus celebrate the bounty and your taste buds will, too. From sweet corn, to heirloom tomatoes, to Great Lake fish, it doesn’t get any fresher.

Food and beverage pairing

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Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

This year’s theme is Perfect Pairings. GR’s reputation as Beer City USA is well established with fifteen craft breweries and more popping up all the time. The Great Lake’s ability to insulate coastal farmland, keeping it cool in summer and preventing a bitter freeze in winter, means Michigan has a climate for wine production, and fortunately many local producers are creating delicious wines. Distilleries are popping up around the state, with creative spirits growing in popularity. To celebrate Michigan’s status as a beverage-producing-triple-threat – not to mention all the carefully roasted and brewed coffees – RWGR’s theme emphasizes the art of pairing food and drink.

CitySen is featuring a Southern-Style American menu, from Fried Green Tomatoes, to Chicken and Waffles, to Pecan Pie. Try the Baby Back Ribs braised in Bell’s Oberon paired with a pint of Oberon mixed with Founders’ Rubaeus, a good complement to the fruity house-made BBQ sauce.  Bar Divani has an eclectic, flavor-forward-menu that offers an appetizer, salad, and entree – try starting with the Pulled Pork Rangoons with Sesame Chili Sauce, paired with a glass of Noel Bougrier Vouvray.

Local beverages are in the food, too!

In addition to pairing food and drink, chefs are cooking with locally-made beverages. At Grand Rapids Brewing Company, you can enjoy Michigan’s only certified organic brewery and chef-inspired, gourmet cuisine. The Brewer’s Flan on GRBC’s RWGR menu is a chocolate stout custard with cocoa nibs, salted caramel and mint, no doubt delicious with some stout in your glass, too. The Rubeaus Cheesecake at Licari’s is quite decadent, too, with Amoretti Cookie crust and a suggested pairing of Ferris Coffee Nicaraguan brew or Atwater’s Decadent Chocolate Stout.

Do good while dining

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

One dollar from each meal goes towards a scholarship fund at the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College. Since 2010, RWGR participating restaurants have donated almost $75,000 to the fund. It’s all about growing our local food culture in Grand Rapids, from farms to classrooms.

Cocktail competition

Local mixologists at participating RWGR restaurants are shaking it up for the Grand Cocktail competition that debuts August 6. Mixologists will vie to win an all-expense paid trip to Woodford Reserve in Kentucky. You can participate by sipping cocktails around town and voting at restaurantweekgr.com. Start at Judson’s at the B.O.B. with a sip of their Bufala Negra, a seasonal concoction of Woodford Reserve, basil, brown sugar, ginger beer and balsamic brown sugar simple syrup. Cheers, indeed!

Be a part of the fun

Beyond the tantalizing food choices, RWGR is an annual dining highlight because of the bustling atmosphere and feeling of culinary-inspired revelry.

Take advantage of an opportunity to visit a spot that might normally be out of your price range, a newly opened restaurant, or a place you’ve never been. invite your friends and enjoy wonderful food, a bustling city, a walkable downtown with many dining choices, and al fresco dining options to make the most of the beautiful summer nights ahead.

Do you plan to check out Grand Rapids Restaurant Week? 

Eight Reasons to Keep Coming Back to Mackinac Island

Today, Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau shares eight reasons to keep coming back to Mackinac Island as told by their fans! 

Photo courtesy of Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

Photo courtesy of Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

Mackinac Island is known as a destination for reunions, a destination to return to year after year. From family vacation traditions to wedding and anniversary celebrations, or just a weekend getaway to have fun with friends and family, there are many reasons to keep coming back.

We recently asked some of our fans why they #MakeitMackinac every year. Here’s what they had to say…

Worked on the island during my summers in college to experience life outside of California. Now I go back every summer for a long weekend reunion with the amazing friends I made there. Can’t wait for my annual pilgrimage in just 6 more weeks… – DeeDee, Long Beach, CA

We spent our honeymoon on the island. It took us 10 years to get back, but we have been there every summer since. We renewed our wedding vows for our 20th anniversary a couple of years ago. We love this place so much, and our kids love it here as well! It’s always so sad when it comes time to leave the island. Maybe, someday, we won’t have to leave. – Tracy, Iowa City, IA

Photo courtesy of Mackinac Island Toursim Bureau

Photo courtesy of Mackinac Island Toursim Bureau

Grew up going to the island for a few days each summer. Went there for my honeymoon, and make it back every year. It’s my favorite place in the world to visit. – Allison

I visited the island a few times as a child, and loved it! Then my husband and I took our son when he was about 7 or 8. When we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary we visited the island with family. On our 10th we stayed at the Main Street Inn for a week. For our 15th anniversary stayed two nights at Main Street Inn and brought our son so he could also experience the quiet of the island. We still visit at least once a year, and are planning to stay at Grand Hotel for our 20th anniversary in a just a few years. Never stayed there and have always wanted to. We must have properly spread our love for the island to our son because this summer he is working for Shepler’s Ferry and having a wonderful experience. Yes, even with all of the hard work, he loves it. The island is truly a magical and wonderful place, and I hope it keeps it tradition forever. – Denise, Dewitt, MI

My husband and I met while working on the summer at Grand Hotel! Mackinac will always be magic to us! – Lora, Tyler, TX

Photo courtesy of Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

Photo courtesy of Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

My parents honeymooned there in the 1940s and have made the trip every year since. Sometimes we came two and three times a year. Following the tradition, my daughter got married there in 2003. Keep the tradition alive, my 4 month old grandson just made his first visit. There is no other place like Mackinac. To me it’s a place I crave when I’m away from it. – Susan

We were married at the gazebo at Mission Point. We come back every year for our anniversary. – Beverly, Adrian, MI

I’ve been visiting since I was about 6, first time with my grandparents. We have ancestral roots to the Island and St. Ignace. We have brought our children and now our grandchild. We try to visit every summer. Cannot get enough of this beautiful Island. My favorite place to bring family. – Pam, Chesterton, IN

Why do you keep coming back to Mackinac? Share your reasons with us below!

Behind the Scenes of Marquette’s Craft Breweries

With breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs galore, craft beer is pouring in Pure Michigan! Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of Things to Do in the U.P. shares a behind the scenes look at the breweries of Marquette with the help of filmmaker Aaron Peterson. 

It’s no secret that Michigan’s craft beer scene is booming. And if you’ve read my Ultimate List of Upper Peninsula Breweries, you’ll remember that we have quite a few breweries in the U.P.!

But did you know that four of the U.P.’s most established breweries call Marquette County home? And that three of them are within walking distance of each other? For that and many other reasons, the Marquette area attracts craft beer lovers from all over. And to showcase the local craft beer scene, the good folks at Travel Marquette Michigan (with local filmmaker Aaron Peterson) produced a short video that goes behind the scenes of Marquette’s craft beer culture.

Enjoy!

Jesse-Land-headshot1Written by Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. on behalf of Travel Marquette Michigan.