Ten Reasons to Participate in
“Cool Brews. Hot Eats.” 2014 in Grand Rapids

Save your appetite – Cool Brews. Hot Eats. starts on February 17, 2014! For the second year in a row, Grand Rapids chefs prepare to wow the masses with two weeks of unique menu items, off-the-wall beer and food pairings and putting a twist on eating out in Beer City USA. Here are 10 reasons to participate in this year’s event from Experience Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rpaids

1. It’s year two!  In case you weren’t involved last year, Cool Brews. Hot Eats. (CBHE) was born in 2013 as a community opportunity to celebrate the rich brewing culture we’ve cultivated in West Michigan.  It’s a chance for chefs and brewers to meet in the middle and concoct wacky pairings that will truly boggle your palette.  It’s also a chance to draw attention to some restaurants that utilize beer year round.

2. Cider is in!  This year, the powers at be have also encouraged chefs to utilize the abundance of local cideries to try a menu item with hard cider.  This is truly great news if you’re gluten free or not a huge beer lover. Check out One Trick Pony’s Cider Charcuterie option.

3. There’s no pricing structure that restaurants have to follow!  During Restaurant Week in Grand Rapids, many chefs prepare amazing meals based on a decided “two-for $” price, which can limit the ingredient options for chefs and the capacity to sample for the guest.  For CBHE, you can get one collaboration item off the menu to try, and hop all over town eating as many menu features as you can handle.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

4. On the other hand, these two weeks could be your chance to attend a full beer dinner affordably.  At an assortment of participating businesses, you can enjoy the full cooking with beer experience in five courses, aka the commitment meal.  Check out Amore Trattoria Italiana’s five course Beercentric Menu for a delicious example.

5. As part of the Grand Rapids Beer Week leading up to Winter Beer Festival, Experience Grand Rapids is excited to release the Beer City Ale Trail Map to the public!  This map features an extensive listing of the finest breweries, wineries and cideries around, so make sure you grab one when you’re ready to hit the Ale Trail.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

6. Everybody’s doing it! The whole city is rallying behind our proud Beer City banner in the week leading up to Winter Beer Festival.  This is the second year Grand Rapids has won Beer City USA and the week warming up to it is expected to be big for beer tourism around the city and surrounding areas.

7. Tap Takeovers! These will be all over town so ask your bartender where to head next.  For example, the Mitten Brewing Co. and Our Brewing Co. will be taking over at The Green Well, who reportedly use 7-10 gallons of beer every week in their cookery!

8. Hotels are on board the beer train as well.  The Marriott Springhill Suites North is including Beer City pint glasses at check in, or check out CityFlats Hotel for a complimentary growler and fill at check-in.  Click here to check out other participating hotels.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

9. Many of these collaborations include locally sourced, Michigan focused foods. From Bistro Bella Vita to Bobarino’s, these collaborations are another chance for local chefs to source as much as possible from the Mitten state!  Try Frank’s Kielbasa, locally smoked cheddar cheese, or the “Tim Allen” at Derby Station – a Pure Michigan Turkey burger filled with diced bacon, Derby Spice Blend, topped with Tandoori sweet potato fries, jalapeno mango aioli, avocado salsa and Mud Lake Farms mixed greens on a Little Rooster Brioche Bun.

10. There are so many great restaurants in the Grand Rapids area. Why not break up winter and try a few during these two weeks?  Click here to see a full list of participating restaurants and their menus. Try not to drool!

For more information on Cool Brews. Hot Eats. 2014 and other winter events in Grand Rapids, check out the video below.

Did you attend Cool Brews. Hot Eats. 2013? Tell us about your experience. Let us know if you’ll be at this year’s event!

Author: Lyndsay Israel originated in Northern Michigan and is now a dedicated Grand Rapids resident.  When she grows up, the plan is to teach high school English and Chemistry classes.  She writes to show how much she loves the mitten state!  Look for her articles at The Awesome Mitten and Experience GR, or follow her on Twitter @lyndsayisrael.

Summer Music Scene Heats Up in Grand Rapids

Looking to experience a lively music and arts community? Grand Rapids is your answer! Guest blogger Meagan Francis fills us in on what the Grand Rapids music scene has to offer.

Grand Rapids is passionate about the arts, and nowhere is that more evident than in the live music that flows throughout the city. But while live music is a year-round way of life in Grand Rapids, summer is an especially great time to experience the local music scene.

Nowhere else is the diversity and enthusiasm of Grand Rapids’ music lovers better represented than during the annual Outdoor Summer Concert Series at Frederik Meijer Gardens. Now in its its 11th year, the 2013 line-up features 29 concerts from an impressive line-up of talent, including B.B. King, Sheryl Crow, The Beach Boys and Harry Connick, Jr.

The Outdoor Summer Concert Series offers a unique venue and audience experience in several ways, explains Andrea Wolschleger. Public Relations Manager for Frederik Meijer Gardens.  “We’re a relatively small venue – our seating capacity is 1,900 guests, so audience members enjoy an intimate setting they wouldn’t get at a larger venue.”

Wolschleger also points to the casual atmosphere of the amphitheater. “Visitors are welcome to bring in a picnic dinner or stop and grab a meal on the way, and a variety of beverages are available for purchase on-site.”

As many of the performers are big names, it’s not surprising that tickets to the Outdoor Summer Concert Series sell out fast. “If it’s a band or artist you really want to see, the best chance of getting a ticket is to become a member of the gardens,” suggests Wolschleger, explaining that members are offered a pre-sale opportunity that lasts two weeks before tickets go on sale to the general public. Getting access to the pre-sale is practically a necessity to see certain artists like Harry Connick Jr, whose tickets sold out within the first 20 minutes of the pre-sale.

A newcomer to the Grand Rapids music scene, GRandJazzFest, a free, live jazz festival dedicated to featuring Michigan-area artists, is back for its second year in 2013. “After years of wondering why smaller cities in Michigan were hosting free live jazz festivals and Grand Rapids was not, I approached some other jazz lovers in our community, and GRandJazzFest was created,” says Audrey Sundstrom, the event’s founder.

GRandJazzFest, Sundstrom explains, was built upon the already-rich jazz scene in Grand Rapids, including the WMJS’ jazz concerts, St. Cecilia’s Jazz Series, and the live jazz available in local venues year-round.

In 2013, GRandJazzFest has been expanded to two days: Saturday, August 17 and Sunday, August 18 at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids. Nick Colionne, a nationally-acclaimed contemporary jazz guitarist from Chicago, and Phil Denny, a contemporary jazz saxophonist from Lansing, are headlining the twelve-act lineup.

GRandJazzFest prides itself on being a diverse, family-friendly event, accommodating of children and strollers, and welcoming to people of all backgrounds.

How to best experience GRandJazzFest? It’s simple, says Sundstrom. “Engage, be inspired by and enjoy an original American art form – jazz! Bring a chair and stay a while.”

For even more musical events in Grand Rapids, check out:

  • Blues on the Mall – every Wednesday evening, June 12 – August 21 from 6 PM – 9 PM, enjoy free live music at Rosa Parks Circle.
  • City Lights Music Festival – fans of house music and electronica will flock to Grand Rapids on July 19 & 20 for this event at Calder Plaza, now in its 5th year.
  • Swing Dancing at Rosa Parks Circle – jump, jive and wail at this weekly event, held Tuesday evenings from 7 – 10 PM from April through October.

Will you be visiting Grand Rapids for one of these summer events? Share with us below!

Meagan Francis, a writer and nearly life-long Michigander, lives in St. Joseph with her husband and five kids. You can find her online at www.meaganfrancis.com/