Sweet as Pie: Meet Linda Hundt of Downtown Market Grand Rapids’ Sweetie-Licious Bakery

Guest Blogger Molly Clauhs grew up in Pennsylvania, studied Hotel Administration at Cornell University in Upstate New York, and then moved to Michigan to plant some roots, open a food truck, and get involved in the burgeoning food movement. She currently coordinates the leasing process for the Downtown Market Grand Rapids, where she works with small food businesses affording her an inside look at the foodie Mecca, opening Fall 2013.

The Downtown Market will feature an outdoor farmers market, teaching kitchens, rooftop greenhouses, banquet and meeting space, full-service restaurants, office space, and a market hall featuring 24 permanent, year round food businesses to offer a “main street shopping experience.”  Here, Molly will introduce you to one of the unique businesses that will be making the Downtown Market home.

A Sweetie-Licious Bakery pie. Photo courtesy of David Tilley, Downtown Market GR.

I’m frequently asked, “Where’d you learn to cook?” I’m tempted to say I spent a year in a tiny Parisian kitchen working through a stack of French cookbooks or was the star student at a prestigious culinary school or that I toiled away in a restaurant kitchen getting barked at and chopping onions. Nope. I grew up with a mother who loved to cook and a grandmother who lived next door and was always in the kitchen, enjoying herself. The love of cooking and eating became part of me.

This warm spring weather, hatching into summer, sends my mind back to the farm where I spent my first eighteen years. Around this time of year, I started checking my grandmother’s cherry tree. The tree was conveniently located off a small staircase that led to their front door, so if I climbed up the side railings I could lean over and examine the flowers, buds, unripe fruit, and eventually, the bright red sour cherries.

As soon as they were ripe, we’d begin picking them by the basket full. I’d still be balanced precariously over the railing with one hand holding on and one hand picking cherries. My grandmother and I would run the cherries through an old-fashioned hand-cranked pitter in the sunroom. Now for the best part, we’d bake cherry pies, and of course freeze the extra fruit to use throughout the year.

Let me introduce you to Linda Hundt, proprietor of Sweetie-Licious Bakery, one of the Downtown Market’s newest tenants. She built a business on the foundation of stories like mine: memories that center on food, family, and love.

Linda Hundt, owner of Sweetie-Licious bakery, gathered up family recipes, nostalgia, and a talent for baking gained through coming of age in a family of home cooks preparing meals from scratch daily as an expression of love and art.

Linda Hundt at Sweetie-Licious Bakery. Photo courtesy of David Tilley, Downtown Market GR.

She took all that goodness and created a bakery that is so cute you want to pinch its cheeks, if only that was possible. The bakery is located in DeWitt, Michigan, about fifteen miles outside of Lansing. Good news, Grand Rapids: Linda and her team are opening their second location at the Downtown Market.

I’m temped to write on and on about Linda’s positive energy and sunny disposition, but you’ve seen her photo and hopefully it conveys her spirit. From my experience, Linda is usually wearing an adorable dress, carrying a pie, and smiling.

However, it wasn’t always that way. Linda graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in elementary education. She considered culinary school but as was the norm a few decades ago, her mother steered her towards a career that would be conducive to raising a family.

Several years later, her husband’s business went under, teaching jobs weren’t available, and Linda began a career in politics that she maintained for fifteen years. Linda was depressed and uninspired and felt she was not living a purposeful life. “It got to the point with my depression that I had to sink or swim and I wasn’t going to sink.”

In 2002 Linda began baking pies fulltime and soon thereafter opened her bakery that she always refers to as “the cutest little pie shop in the world.” She realized as a child that food and love are linked and she and her staff, clad in pink aprons and big smiles, “love everyone who walks through the door.”

Sweetie-Licious opening at the Downtown Market means we’ll finally have a destination for pie in Grand Rapids. I don’t still live next door to my grandmother and her cherry tree, but a good old fashioned slice of cherry pie will remind me of my roots in a form of edible nostalgia.

We’re lucky to have Sweetie-Licious opening in Grand Rapids, led by an entrepreneur seeking a purposeful life and to spread love “one pie at a time.”  In the meantime, while the cherries are ripening and we’re anticipating the Downtown Market opening later this summer, give Linda’s “Cherry Cherry Crisp” recipe a try.

Sweetie-Licious Cherry Cherry Crisp recipe. Click to enlarge.

Sweetie-Licious Cherry Cherry Crisp recipe. Click to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Guest Blogger Molly Clauhs coordinates the leasing process for the
Downtown Market Grand Rapids
, where she works with small food businesses affording her an inside look at the foodie Mecca, opening Fall 2013.

The Search for the Best Burger in Michigan

This summer, John “Gonzo” Gonzalez of MLive searched far and wide across the state for Michigan’s best burger. After six days of traveling 1,700 miles and visiting 33 restaurants, he found one thing for sure – Michigan is home to a number of great burgers! Read about John’s experience below and be sure to check out the list of Michigan’s best burgers for more.

I looked down at the end of the bar at Miller’s in Dearborn, where I saw a young man eating his second burger. “Man, you must love this place to eat TWO burgers!” I said. Still chewing, he held up his hand, flashing three fingers. “No,” I said. “I only saw TWO burgers in front of you.” He gulped down his bite and said, “I order two that I eat immediately, and then I order a third one,” he said. “Oh, I see, you order a third one to go?” “Oh no,” he said. “I’ll eat it here. I just don’t want it to get cold, that’s why I wait to order the third one.”

That’s the passion I discovered at every stop on our search for Michigan’s Best Burger 2013. Whether it was patrons, chefs, owners, managers or employees, there is a Michigan passion for a good, old fashioned burger with cheese and your favorite toppings.

We have done these searches before:

Michigan’s Best Coney Dog (American Coney in Detroit),
Best BBQ (West Texas BBQ in Jackson),
Best Ice Cream Parlor (MOO-ville Creamery in Nashville),
Best Haunted House (Erebus in Pontiac), and
Best Breakfast (Anna’s House in Grand Rapids).

But our search for Michigan’s Best Burger was by far our most extensive one. After a nomination process that involves our readers, we put up polls in all of our markets to determine the readers’ favorites. Once we have that list, I hit the road.

This time we traveled 1,700 miles, visited 33 restaurants and did it over a period of six days. We visited burger joints from Sault Ste. Marie to Detroit, Bay City to Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor to Muskegon. On some days we visited 7 restaurants in one day.

If any of you have followed our other searches, I often take along an expert or companion who helps me out. It’s not easy eating all this food. On our search for Michigan’s Best Coney Dog, I was joined by Joe Grimm (co-author of “Coney Detroit”). On BBQ, it was the president of the Great Lakes Barbecue Association, Mike Terry of Flushing. And for our breakfast search it was Mike Jensen, a retired prison cook from Saranac.

For burgers, we were joined by David Kutzko, a Western Michigan University professor of Classics (Greek and Latin) who has a huge appetite and spends a lot of time checking out Michigan restaurants. Also, we were joined by Fritz Klug, a statewide reporter for MLive and David’s former student whose intention was to tag along on our trip to the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan. But we couldn’t shake him.

What we discovered: Michigan residents love their burgers!

Most of the burgers on our Top 10 list were cooked on flattop grills and used a blend of 80 percent lean meat, and 20 percent fat. Many used a hand press. All of them are flipped only once.

Each place had a little different method; some used a secret seasoning, others used salt and pepper, and some used no seasoning at all.

The secret was in the meat, and the preparation method. We also took into account creativity, buns and those intangibles that make you want to order a second – or third – burger before you leave!

Here is our Top 10 List:

  1. Michigan burger map. Credit: Ed Riojas/Mlive.com

    Laura’s Little Burger Joint, 47141 M-51, Decatur

  2. West Pier Drive-In, 601 W. Portage Ave., Sault Ste. Marie
  3. Miller’s Bar, 23700 Michigan Ave., Dearborn
  4. Talley’s Log Cabin Bar, 2981 County Road 612, Lewiston
  5. Stella’s Lounge, 53 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  6. Brown Bear, 147 N. Michigan Ave., Shelby
  7. Schlenker’s Sandwich Shop, 1104 E. Ganson St., Jackson
  8. Torch Bar & Grill, 522 Buckham Alley, Flint
  9. Schuberg’s Bar & Grill, 109 N. Michigan Ave., Big Rapids
  10. Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger, 551 S Division St., Ann Arbor

Take a look at our complete list of 33 finalists; you won’t go wrong at any one of them.

Where’s your favorite place to get a burger in Pure Michigan? Share with us in the comments section below!

As the Statewide Entertainment writer for MLive Media Group, which represents eight newspapers throughout the state, as well as MLive.com and AnnArbor.com, John Gonzalez oversees the “Michigan’s Best” series. He has led statewide searches for Michigan’s Best BBQ, Ice Cream Parlor, Breakfast, Coney Dogs and most recently, Burgers. John is based in Grand Rapids, but has worked in Detroit, Lansing, Mt. Pleasant, Flint, Holland and Bay City.  He is originally from Capac, Michigan. You can follow him on Twitter at @MichiganGonzo. 

The Secret to Morel Mushroom Hunting in Pure Michigan

Morel mushroom season is well underway in Pure Michigan! Like most mushroom hunters, guest blogger Joshua Nowicki prefers to keep the locations of his favorite spots to himself. We were able to get Joshua to share some tips and tricks of the hunt with us today.

Read about his adventures below and let us know if you’ve been morel mushroom hunting in Michigan this year. And don’t miss the Mesick Mushroom Festival, coming up this weekend in the “morel mushroom capitol.”

Elusive and delicious, morel mushrooms are a wonderful spring time delicacy in Pure Michigan. When you add hiking and the recent opening of trout fishing, you have more than a weekend of outdoor fun awaiting you. 

For me, it has become an annual tradition to spend at least a couple of weekends searching for morels somewhere in the thousands of acres of National Forest and State Forest land that surrounds the Cadillac area. Like most people, I will not tell you the location of my favorite spots, but I can give you a few tips on where you might look.

There are a variety of different theories on locating the best place to find morels. The easiest way for someone just getting started is to keep your eyes open as you are driving around and look for people slowing walking through the woods carrying mesh bags.* Though you are not likely to find a large quantity of morels in easily visible or popularly frequented areas, it is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with the type of terrain that the mushrooms are likely to grow in and possibly talk with someone who has experience with mushroom identification.  

Morels are very unpredictable as to where they will grow year to year. I have found them in fields, forests, the edges of paved road and even in landscaping wood mulch in busy metropolitan areas. To make it more complicated, in places where I have found many one year, I will not find any the next. That said, my favorite areas to look include old orchards and areas that have been logged or been burned sometime during the last several years.

Once you have a location, the hunt really begins. I like to walk slowly scanning about a five to ten foot section of ground with my eyes. My father’s method, however, is to walk at a good pace with his eyes focused out about twenty or thirty feet. We make a good team with these two methods; he tends to find the largest morels and I find the smaller ones. When he spots a mushroom, I will often search the surrounding area and locate several small ones that he had overlooked. As for the time of day that I like to go, I have found that the lighting in early morning and evening makes for the best contrast for actually seeing the mushrooms. A friend of mine even carries a small wood carved morel and continually glances at it in an attempt to train his eyes to identify the morel mushroom shape.

When you have found a morel, be sure to pinch or cut the stem at the ground level. Please do not pull it from the ground; leave the root system intact.

Some weekends, I divide my time between morel mushroom hunting and trout fishing in the area’s rivers. Fresh caught trout with morels and ramps/wild leaks cooked over a campfire makes for a truly delightful day. 

After a tiring day of hiking the woods or when the weather is not cooperating, I head to downtown Cadillac which offers a variety of unique shops and locally own restaurants. 

Northern Lower Michigan also has several Mushroom festivals including the Mesick Mushroom Festival (May 10-12, 2013) which includes a flea market, craft show, “Biggest Morel Contest” and variety of other activities and events. A little further north, Boyne City hosts the National Morel Mushroom Festival (May 16 – 19, 2013) which includes a carnival, music, seminars on morels, food and much more.

A few additional words of advice:

  • To avoid picking and consuming false morels, I recommend that you purchase a good mushroom identification book or better yet, go with someone who has experience with finding morel mushrooms.
  • Be sure to carry a compass and/or GPS.
  • Dress appropriately for walking in the woods, keep your skin covered and wear boots or closed toe shoes.
  • Beware of ticks.
  • Do your best to avoid trespassing. 
  • Have fun, morel mushroom hunting is a wonderful family activity, kids are great at spotting morels.
  • When you find a good area, please let me know where it is; I will be sure to keep your secret. ;)

*Mesh bags are encouraged in order for the spores of the mushrooms to be dispersed as you continue your hunt, and therefore hopefully increase or maintain the morel population.

Have you been hunting for morel mushrooms this year? If you’re willing to share your tips or favorite locations, post them below!

Joshua Nowicki is a blogger for the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council, graphic designer and photographer. Joshua’s interest in photography began while working in museums, photographing artifacts, exhibits, and events. After moving to St. Joseph, Michigan in 2011, he started taking nature photographs to encourage his friends and relatives to visit and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the area. Joshua’s inspirations range from Lake Michigan and wildlife to sculpture and architecture. You can see more of Joshua’s photos at http://www.facebook.com/startvisiting.