How to Create an Unforgettable Pure Michigan Holiday Gathering

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care… Surely it’s the little details that add up to unforgettable gatherings, is it not? And as we’re entering the season of St. Nicholas, we’re also prepping for holiday gatherings where the magic and merriment happen! From family sit-downs to seasonal soirees, read on for our #GoGreat tips to give your holiday gatherings that something special this year.

Prost Dinner Setting with wine glasses

Prost! Wine Bar & Charcuterie, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Discover priceless know-how toward memorable dishes, tips and ideas for unique hosting gifts and even wine pairing considerations. Go Great Lakes Bay this season, and enjoy discovering “how-to” create unforgettable holiday gatherings!

Warm and Cozy

Board of Artigiano Cheeses

Cheeses from Artigiano, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Nestled together around a warm pot of melty fondue, friends and family won’t soon forget how cozy your gathering felt. Nor will they ever forget the pleasure of dipping into the fondue you served: melted Gruyère, aged in the natural Kaltbach caves from the canton of Lucerne in Switzerland, and that hearty charcuterie platter…

Have this evening this season, and learn “how-to” at Artigiano, Bay City’s artisan cheese shoppe. Artigiano (ar-TEE-giano) offers not only small batch, handmade cheeses (and artisan crackers, premium extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars), but also free, drop-in events including fondue demonstrations and “Cheese 101″.

The Talk of the Town

Zehnder's, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Zehnder’s, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

When you serve authentic Lebkuchen Cookies or luscious German Chocolate Coffeecake around your Giant Santa Cupcake Cake centerpiece, guests will ooh and ahh-and ask where you learned how! The truth: at Zehnder’s Holiday How To’s.

• November 8 – 10, 2016, times and prices vary.

• Choose from 10 enjoyable classes, including “Hosting a Holiday Party” (think wine, hors d’oeuvres, hands-on fun and a special discount coupon for Zehnder’s Retail Marketplace) and “Decorating Holiday Cookies”.

• Call to reserve your place, and don’t delay. Some classes are SOLD OUT already!

Wine Makes Everything Fine

Charcuterie board of cheeses, meats and olives

Charcuterie Board from Prost! Wine Bar, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Looking to serve a perfectly-paired wine this holiday? (Good thinking.) But red or white, and what complements the menu? Or perhaps you’re gifting wine? (Good thinking, too.) Visit Go Great Lakes Bay restaurants and wineries for tasty research, and learn “how-to” pair wines perfectly with holiday flavors.

Whine Bar, Inc.: Walk in anytime for a flight (a sampling of three wines; price depends on selection), or on Whine Wednesdays to purchase select labels at $15 per bottle.

Prost! Wine Bar & Charcuterie: Study over 60 wine selections with Prost’s exceptionally trained staff, and sample wine served on tap for a fresh perspective; daily specials.

• Eastman Party Store: Stop into the Eastman Party Store anytime for expert pairing advice and a massive selection of fine wines, beers, spirits, cheeses, fresh breads, olive oils, and vinegars. Or head into Ideal Party Store in Bay City, featuring over 3,000 wines, 700 beers and a large liquor selection, too!

Crews & Brews

Inside of Frankenmuth Brewery

Frankenmuth Brewery, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Gathered together with your closest friends, frosty mugs in-hand, good times and holiday memories are in the making. Before deciding on the selections you’ll offer, try flights, flavors and talk micro-brew “how-to”.

• Time-honored Flavors: Offer guests frothy goodness from the oldest brewery in the state of Michigan: Frankenmuth Brewery. The Christmas Town Ale is seasonal-don’t miss out! And, should wee celebrators be in attendance, don’t forget to nab some Frankie’s Root Bier!

Oppermann’s Cork ‘N’ Ale (locations in Saginaw and Midland): Touting over 600 beers, 4,000 wines and 2,000 liquors to choose from, consider New Belgium Brewing Co.’s “Pumpkick” ale for the holidays, with hints of pumpkin spice and cranberry.

Make it Matter

Want to know “how-to” truly create unforgettable holiday gatherings?  Have fun! Decorate your home joyfully, and give gifts with sentiment whether as host or guest. Pick up priceless “how-to” (and where-at) toward decorating, gifting and creating heartfelt holiday gatherings this season.

Decorative Gourd Workshop: Enjoy the surroundings of Chippewa Nature Center, and the know-how to create beautiful containers from gourds (think seriously cool and unique gifts) on November 19, 9 a.m. – noon (must register by November 15).

• Get to Creative 360 Stage, Studios & Gallery from 2 – 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 3 to discover Candy Making for Christmas! Who doesn’t love a sweet treat? Not to mention that the perfect gift is also a lot of fun in the making! Pre-registration is required; don’t delay.

One last “how-to”: Handmade gifts take time to create … but shopping on Saturday, December 3 at Chippewa Nature Center’s Nature Art Show & Sale and Creative 360′s Second Hand Picasso Art & Collectible Sale, December 3 – 19th, will result in quick, easy and absolutely unique gifts.

Cheers! To holiday how-to’s and to getting help with your unforgettable holiday gatherings when you Go Great Lakes Bay!

Meet the Blogger

Guest Blogger - Jen W. O'Deay

Jen W. O’Deay is a freelance writer in Bridgeport, Mich.  She specializes in writing that connects, delivered through feature articles, branded content and marketing copy.  You can find Jen reading, always, camping with her family, or at: www.feelthesewords.com

5 Ways to Enjoy Cocktail Week Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids launched Cocktail Week GR last year – and the response was so great, the city is gearing up for a second go-round, November 9-20, 2016.

Sip local! Bebidas Estilo GR!

Logo for Grand Rapids Cocktail Week

Cocktail Week Grand Rapids was created to celebrate Michigan-made spirits and the art of the craft cocktail. New distilleries are popping up all over Grand Rapids and throughout the state, and Cocktail Week GR is a great opportunity to taste their handiwork in delicious drinks created by West Michigan’s best mixologists.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of this spirited event.

1. Pair and Share. Participating bars and restaurants are offering a special food-drink pairing deal – get two Michigan cocktails and a shared-plate appetizer for $25 or less. Chefs and mixologists have collaborated to create pairings that perfectly complement each other, adding balance and depth to your gustatory experience. Last year, a crowd pleaser was, The Drapple – made with Beer Barrel Bourbon from New Holland Brewing – which was paired with Duck Confit Leg at Reserve Wine & Food.

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

2. Go the Extra Glass. Enjoy enticing extras to enhance Cocktail Week GR including local events. Check cocktailweekgr.com for this year’s schedule.

3. Get in the Mix. Learn how to create your own delicious drinks at a Downtown Market cooking class. “Thanksgiving Cocktails and Desserts: Beyond the Pie” takes over the Teaching Kitchen on Wednesday, November 16.

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

4. Take a Tour. Long Road Distillers, established in 2015 and already the winner of multiple international awards, offers tours of its facility on November 11, 12, 18 and 19. You’ll learn how Long Road uses local grains and fruits to craft vodka, whisky, rum and more.

5. Think Global. Attend the International Wine, Beer & Food Festival (November 17-19) to sample spirits – plus wines, beers and ciders – from around the world. More than 1,500 beverages will be featured, along with gourmet foods, workshops, seminars and more. It’s billed as “Michigan’s premier tasting event,” so bring your appetite!

“Flowers in the Window” is a cocktail made especially for Cocktail Week GR by Zac Williams from Six.One.Six.

What is your favorite place to enjoy a cocktail in Grand Rapids? Let us know in the comments below!

Autumn’s Favorite Foods: Pumpkin and Apple

Fall is in full swing and with it comes fantastic seasonal flavors! Read more on how to get your fix of the autumn’s iconic flavors on an orchard excursion or at a restaurant, shop or brewery near you.

Pumpkin spice season
This übertrendy flavor pops up everywhere these days, but Michigan’s offerings prove especially unique, with pumpkin spice appearing in martinis, craft beer, soup and other fresh finds.

After a show at Detroit’s Fox Theatre, nearby Centaur Bar specializes in martinis. Pumpkin spice, rum and coffee liquor warm tipplers’ cheeks in the two-story lounge. Across town, Germack Pistachio Company roasts pepitas (pumpkin seeds) a few blocks from their Eastern Market store. The third-generation owners recently expanded their operation of nuts and seeds to coffee roasting and hard-to-find spices.

With hints of cinnamon and nutmeg and toasted walnuts,
 the seasonal pumpkin muffins at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann
 Arbor rank as a staff favorite. Store associates wear vintage aprons 
and pearls at Sweetie-licious Bakery and Cafe in Dewitt (and Grand Rapids). The family recipe behind Mommy’s Pumpkin Pie inspires a buttery crust and creamy, spiced pumpkin filling.

Mommy’s Pumpkin Pie at Sweetie-licious Bakery and Cafe in Dewitt, Photo Courtesy of Blaine Moats

Mommy’s Pumpkin Pie at Sweetie-licious Bakery and Cafe in Dewitt, Photo Courtesy of Blaine Moats

Four types of pumpkin ice cream—cinnamon pumpkin crisp, pumpkin chip, pumpkin roll
and, for the purist, 
plain pumpkin—draw pumpkin spice-lovers to Moomers Homemade Ice Cream in Traverse City. And the 1950s-theme House of Flavors churns out seasonal pumpkin pie ice cream in Ludington.

Crunchy pralines complement pumpkin cheesecake 
at The Underground Cheesecake Company
 in Traverse City. 
Hearty pumpkin cake doughnuts fill cases at Cops and Doughnuts,
 a police-owned bakery
 in Clare since 1896 (through a name and ownership change). Pumpkin seed salsa sold by American Spoon in Petoskey adds zest to chicken tacos.

American Spoon in Petoskey, Photo Courtesy of American Spoon

American Spoon in Petoskey, Photo Courtesy of American Spoon

Pumpkin spice goes boozy at a number of craft breweries, including the coffee-spiked Pumpkin Spice Latte, an ale at Detroit’s Atwater Brewery, the British-inspired Jaw- Jacker Pumpkin Spiced Ale at Battle Creek’s Arcadia Brewing Company and Ichabod, made with pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon, served seasonally at New Holland Brewing.

New Holland Brewing in Holland, Photo Courtesy of Nate Luke

New Holland Brewing in Holland, Photo Courtesy of Nate Luke

Apple country
It’s easy to get the ripest, crispest, sweetest and tartest apples. Just stop at any of the too-many-to-count fruit stands and farm markets that spring up from the 850 family-owned farms growing apples in Michigan.

The orchards of the state’s southwest corner draw visitors year-round, but fall brings the experience to fruition. Purchase a peck or two of Gala, McIntosh and Honeycrisp apples, or pick some at Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant and Winery and U-Pick farm in Fennville. Standing amid 100 acres of sweet-scented fruit trees with roots back to 1916, visitors wander the grounds painted in fall colors and sample treats, including apple pie, apple crisp and apple cider doughnuts.

Apple picking at Crane’s Orchard in Fennville, Photo Courtesy of Johnny Quirin

Apple picking at Crane’s Orchard in Fennville, Photo Courtesy of Johnny Quirin

In downtown Fennville, more flavors come into play at the rustic eatery Salt of the Earth, starring vegetables, meats, berries and fruits from the local landscape. Less than 5 miles away, Virtue Farm crafts Virtue Cider from Michigan apples.

Sampling at Virtue Cider in Fennville, Photo Courtesy of Johnny Quirin

Sampling at Virtue Cider in Fennville, Photo Courtesy of Johnny Quirin

The fifth generation is still growing apples (and peaches and cherries) at Fruit Acres Farm Market and U-Pick, a Coloma farm established in 1846. A half-mile south, sip on fresh-pressed cider at Grandpa’s Cider Mill.

Check out the Pure Michigan Fall Travel Guide for more great seasonal travel ideas.

Where’s your favorite spot to enjoy the flavors of fall? Let us know in the comments!