Take a Staycation, Explore Culinary Hidden Gems in Northern Michigan

You won’t find salt water beaches, palm trees, or coral reefs in northern Michigan – and that’s just the way we like it. Traverse City and its surrounding areas are some of the most scenic and beautiful destinations in the world, and they just might be in the comfort of your own back yard. If you’re a northern Michigander, here’s a roundup of some of the off-the-beaten-path food and culture gems to check out when you want to get away without going far.

First things first- the beer.

Traverse City is home to many breweries, taprooms, and pubs that you can only find when visiting.  You can’t truly call yourself a craft beer connoisseur until you try some of the many, many delicious brews that have made the breweries famous.  Some of the most popular destinations to grab a cold one:

  • Brewery Terra Firma fall-color-tour
    • Brewery Terra Firma is unique in its approach as a brewery and as an agricultural destination. Through the integration of sustainable production methods, environmentally conscious waste management and innovative water recycling/reclamation techniques, they hope to become a model for breweries and agricultural destinations throughout the nation.
  • The Workshop Brewing Company
    • The Workshop Brewing Company exists to preserve Northern Michigan’s spectacular natural environment, to reinforce Traverse City’s warm and vital community, and to honor traditional craft. They do not consider their business to be a success unless they are demonstrably and sustainably doing all three. They express this commitment by using the Trifidelity symbol, which stands for their motto: Nature. Community. Craft.
  • The Filling Station Microbrewery ???????????????????????????????
    • Established in the spring of 2012, The Filling Station Microbrewery is a family owned and operated business, dedicated to providing friendly and knowledgeable service and the highest quality of hand crafted brews and edibles.  Located just off the TART Trail in the historic railroad district, the Filling Station Microbrewery features a rotating list of at least 10 craft beers, which pair perfectly with our wood-fired flatbreads and fresh salads.  Whether on your own, meeting friends or with your family, patrons of all ages feel welcomed in our casual pub-style setting.   You’ll enjoy views of Boardman Lake from inside the pub or out on the patio, live music and the occasional train passing by.
  • Right Brain Brewery
    • Right Brain Brewing is committed to using the best available local ingredients in every small batch of  craft brew. Featuring a rotating right brained beer menu & artwork!
  • Short’s Brewing Company
    • Today Short’s Brewing Company continues its efforts to make the best beer on earth in Northern Michigan. Although Shorts has quickly grown to be one of Michigan’s largest breweries, they still take pride in their hands-on, mom-and-pop approach and the energy they put into the quality of our beer, food, staff, customers and facilities.
  • Stafford’s Noggin Room Pub
    • The Noggin Room Pub’s casual and comfortable atmosphere provides a great place to break from shopping the near-by Gaslight District, meet with friends and enjoy our award winning selection of domestic and imported beers. With personal service from the “Best Staff in Northern Michigan” (as voted by Northern Express), we’re sure you’ll feel right at home.

For those looking to enjoy their favorite node of Traverse City wine, check out these taste rooms and vineyards:

  • Left Foot Charley LeftFootCharly
    • The winery has since grown to around 6000 cases and is located in the former Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane in Traverse City, Michigan. The urban environment has served to bring the terroir to the people. LFC is a Michigan version of an Austrian Heuriger – a place where aromatic and flavorful wine is an everyday event. Locals and visitors alike have come to realize that the non-traditional setting pairs perfectly with the atypical fruit sourcing and old style winemaking that defines LFC. Left Foot has a committed a focus on white wine varietals, hard cider, and sparkling wine.
  • Blustone Vineyards
    • Bluestone’s story started 20 years ago visiting Leland as a family for the first time. The simplicity and beauty of the “tucked away” secret that is Leelanau has always been what we treasure most about the area. There is a connection to the land found only here amongst the lakes, dunes, hills, and sunlit fields and our dream to start Blustone was born out of that.

If you give a mouse a cookie, they’ll ask for a glass of milk. If you give a tourist a beer, they’ll ask for something to eat.  

Along with famous craft beers, Traverse City is known state and nation wide as a hub for unique and tasty meals from your not-so-typical mom and pop type restaurants.  Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty breakfast, fresh caught walleye, or a mouth watering burger, Traverse City boasts it all.  At the risk of leaving out some hidden gems, here’s a few nibble nooks you won’t want to miss:

  • Bay Bread Co.
    • Specialties: Breakfast and lunch sandwiches and some of the best baked goods you can find!
  • Cherry Republic

    • Celebrating the beauty and spirit of northern Michigan in everything we make and do, Cherry Republic has grown from a t-shirt sold out of the trunk of a car to the world’s largest exclusive retailer of cherry food creations. Along the way, we have turned one man’s vision into a nation of citizens embracing his creed of life, liberty, beaches, and pie.
  • Pepe Nero Kabob
    • PepeNero is a cozy and intimate restaurant snuggled inside the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Owners Giorgio and Monica Lo Greco are experienced professionals who know how to amaze your palate by preparing simple, genuine Italian food utilizing the gift of fresh seasonal ingredients from local markets and the high quality of imported Italian products.
  • Quay Restaurant and Bar
    • Quay Restaurant + Terrace Bar, pronounced kwā, is located in the beautiful town of Charlevoix, Michigan.  Come enjoy our three story restaurant and bar offering a New American menu along with a comprehensive wine and beer list.
  • Terry’s of Charlevoix
    • With over 35 years in the business since graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Terry Left, the proprietor, and Paul Bradley, the executive chef, have brought their years of experience to bear in developing exquisite recipes complemented by just the right sauces. Terry’s offers excellent full course dinners in a warm, casual dining atmosphere. Given the close proximity to the Great Lakes, their fish entrées are a fresh and ever-popular selection.
  • City Park Grill
    • In 1997 Bob & Mary Keedy, Dick & Laura Dinon, Chef John Norman, and Patrick Faylor purchased the Park Garden Café and changed the name to City Park Grill. The menu was changed as well to reflect their scratch kitchen and daily/seasonal specials. Since then, the restaurant has been restored to the glory days of the past, serving a wide array of guests from around the world.
  • Twisted Olive Quattro beef_1920x1200
    • A true Northern Michigan gem, Twisted Olive Quattro offers some of the most unique and decadent samplers, entrees, and drinks of anywhere in the mitten.
  • Cafe Sante
    • A casual, European-style bistro serving The Classics—simply and with flair. Featuring wood-fired pizzas, mussels and frites, pastas, Panini, unique breakfasts and casual cuisine from other fine European traditions.

Now that’ you’re good and full, you’re probably wondering what is there to do?

From the Sleeping Bear Dunes, scenic Lake Michigan beaches, and countless trails to explore, there truly isn’t enough time in one day to see it all.  If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, we encourage you to check out a guided tour or make a stop at one of the local museums.  You can’t go wrong with what you pick to do in TC, but here’s a few of our favorite things to get you started:

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes tour outdoors_naturepark_dunes
    • You will find a wide variety of activities for every age available to you at the Lakeshore. Climb the Dunes, swim at one of the many beaches, or take a hike through the Maple/Beech forest to some beautiful overlooks. Maybe you will want to spend some time in the museums or tour Port Oneida to learn about the rich history and culture of the area.
  • Music House Museum Tour
    • Recognized by Forbes.com as one of the ten reasons to visit Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the Music House Museum offers a unique collection of instruments that provide guests with a walk through the history, the artistry and the engineering of automated music.
  • Earl Young House Tour
    • This tour will take you around the triangular block bounded by Park Avenue, Grant Street, and Clinton Street.  Here you can see some of the most famous, and most beloved, work of long-time Charlevoix resident, Earl Young, homes he built or remodeled beginning in the late 1930s, and culminating in the construction of the “mushroom house” in the 1950s.
  • Castle Farms Garden Tour kings_grand
    • Northern Michigan’s very own fairy tale castle! With cobblestone courtyards, soaring stone towers, and magnificent sweeping gardens, Castle Farms has earned a reputation as one of Michigan’s premiere historic attractions, as well as a celebrated wedding venue. Whether you’re on a travel adventure, or searching for the perfect site in which to exchange marriage vows, this French Renaissance style castle offers the perfect blend of old-world charm and modern-day elegance for visitors seeking family fun and bridal couples-to-be.
  • Little Traverse History Museum
    • The Little Traverse Historical Socity was established in 1905 and, 1969, it was incorporated as a non- profit organization, “To preserve, advance and disseminate knowledge of the history of the Little Traverse Bay Area.” To this end, and with the support of members and winter and summer residents, they acquired and restored the abandoned Chicago and West Michigan Railroad depot. Originally built in 1892 to accommodate the large influx of summer resorters, the depot now serves the area as The Little Traverse History Museum.  The museum houses the historical society’s archives, long term displays, and an annual new summer display.  It is also the site of ongoing programs.  Currently, the museum is only open during the summer season (Memorial Day – mid October).
  • Cooking demonstration at Fustini’s
    • The company was founded by Jim and Lane Milligan, who lived in Minneapolis/St. Paul and took frequent family vacations to the beautiful resort town of Traverse City, Michigan. Like many others before them, the Milligans fell in love with northern Michigan and hoped to “someday” settle down there.  Flash-forward to today and Fustini’s is a Northern Michigan staple!

With everything there is to eat, drink and do in Northern Michigan, there’s no reason not to plan your staycation!  These are just a few of our own suggestions, however.  For more information on how to plan your own staycation in Northern Michigan or any other #PureMichigan destination, visit michigan.org

Kick off the holiday season at the 2012 Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival

The Fifth Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival is taking place now through November 10th in the Steelcase Ballroom inside DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. We spoke with Show Producer Henri Boucher to get some details on this exciting, annual pre-holiday event.

Q: Can you tell us about the festival?

A: Drawing more than 12,000 people, it is the largest culinary event in the state and one of the premiere festivals of its kind in the Midwest. Catering to both the connoisseur who lives and breathes for the finer things in life to the novice looking for an introduction to the world of wine, food and other culinary delights, this festival delivers a grand experience that is sure to please every palette.

Q: How did the festival get its start?

A: It was Rich Mackeigan, Executive Director of DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena, who drove the research and asked ShowSpan to partner with the Convention & Arena Authority to create this event, modeled after an event in Rich’s first building in Ottawa, Canada. I went with the research group to Ottawa and came back saying:  “if we do this, it will be the largest food and wine show in the Midwest…,” and it is.

Q: What’s new this year?

A: Expanded beer selection, new restaurants and pairings, more seminars….we are busting at the seams. Big year for hard cider. Cordial and chocolate pairings. Seminars on sushi rolling, olive oil tasting, pairing champagne and potato chips.

Michigan's own Larry Mawby has been with the Grand Rapids Wine, Beer & Food Festival since its first year, serving up his award-winning sparkling wines.

Q: How many wineries participate?

A: More than 100 wineries from around the world provide samples of as many as 1,200 assorted wines – including some hard to find, top shelf vintages. Brewmasters and distillers are also on hand, providing tastes of their hand-crafted beverages.

Chefs from the area’s top restaurants prepare and serve small plates of their culinary specialties.

Select restaurants partner with distinguished wineries and breweries for special pairings – gourmet multicourse meals served on-site in a casual yet intimate “bar top” setting. Tickets are $35-$45 each (in addition to show admission) and may be purchased in advance online or at the Festival on a first-come, first-served basis.

Esteemed individuals from the culinary world host seminars, demonstrations and workshops on the Meijer Food Stage. Free beverage seminars, held classroom style in the breakout rooms off the Grand Gallery, give festival-goers a more in-depth look into the world of wine, beer and spirits.

Complimentary cooking seminars and demonstrations are presented on the Meijer Food Stage, where experts share the latest in food preparation, plating, variety and flavors.

Guests can also get a jump on their holiday shopping at the Riverfront Marketplace, where gourmet specialty items and unique accessories will be available for purchase.

Q: Where do attendees come from – mostly western Michigan, or all over the state? Do you get many out of state visitors?

A: Mostly people come from throughout the state of Michigan. We have a few bus groups that come in from the east side of the state. We’ve had some nice media coverage in Chicago this year, so we’re hoping that generates some interest from the Windy City.

Q: The festival is huge and it can be daunting for first-time attendees to decide where to start. What do you recommend is the best way for people to navigate the show so they can take advantage of all of the offerings?

The Fifth Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival is expected to draw more than 14,000 individuals throughout the three days – making it the largest food and wine festival in the state and one of the premiere events of its kind in the Midwest.

A: We’ve laid out the show program a bit differently this year, so if you are drawn to a specific type of wine (i.e., Pinot Grigio or Riesling) you can search by varietal and find all the wines in that category. You can cross reference also with the winery (or brewery or distillery itself as well). The show floor is “anchored” by the Michigan Wine Section (on the north end of the hall) and the Michigan Craft Beer Hall (to the south). That’s where I’d recommend you start!

Q: Anything you’d recommend as a must-do activity?

A: Sushi rolling with Chef Angus of the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education; the restaurant pairings make great “date night” experiences. On Saturday, there are two champagne flight tastings which will be amazing. There’s really something for everyone, so no matter who is in the group (21+) everyone should have a good time!

Q: How does the show benefit Grand Rapids/Michigan from an economic standpoint?

A: Not only does this show bring in all the exhibitors to Grand Rapids/West Michigan, but it draws 14,000 attendees. Many find their way to area restaurants, bars and clubs after the show lets out each night at 10pm (and certainly the exhibitors do as well…the festival just whets their appetite for more great cuisine and GR has some of the best in the state). Of course, plenty of hotel rooms are booked by exhibitors but also by show attendees who want to increase their festival experience at one of the downtown hotels like the Amway Grand, JW Marriott, Courtyard, City Flats and Holiday Inn. The demographics on the festival attendees include many who recognize the entertainment value of the culinary scene as well.

Q: What does Pure Michigan mean to you?

A: Pure Michigan is a celebration of the sights, sounds and tastes of the region – along with amazing people, places and products!

Show tickets are $15; tasting tickets are $0.50 each. For more information on the event, visit GRWineFestival.com or call 800-328-6550. For tickets, visit here. Follow the festival on Facebook: Facebook.com/GRWineFestival and Twitter: Twitter.com/GRWineFestival. Will you be (or have you) checked out the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival? Let us know if the comments below!

Henri Boucher is Vice President and Show Producer at ShowSpan Inc., a Grand Rapids company with more than 65 years of show history in the state of Michigan. Since joining ShowSpan in 1989, Henri has helped take the number of consumer shows and exhibitions produced by the company from six to 15, including Outdoorama, the Michigan International Auto Show and the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival. He enjoys fishing, boating and spending time with his family and friends at his summer cottage in Northwest Michigan.

Gear Up for Spring and Summer in Pure Michigan

With the weather getting warmer by the day, it’s time to stock up on spring and summer essentials that will keep you feeling (and looking!) cool all season.

From outerwear to home goods and collectibles, the Pure Michigan Store offers a variety of items to help prepare you for warmer months. Here are a few of our favorites.

Pure Michigan Bike Bottle:
Stay hydrated on spring and summer bike rides with the Pure Michigan Bike Bottle. And since the bottle is reusable, it can take you from the bike trails to the pool to the grocery store – it’s an essential for long days on the go.

Pure Michigan Seasonal Blend T-Shirt:
Brighten up your t-shirt collection with this Pure Michigan Seasonal Blend T-Shirt. The variant color grading makes this shirt fun and unique for any season, and the crisp look and feel make it a staple for sunny days.

Pure Michigan Grill Cover:
This Pure Michigan Grill Cover is proudly Made in Michigan using the finest commercial grade outdoor vinyl. The cover, available in two sizes, will keep your grill in pristine shape while letting you show your state pride to guests and neighbors.

Pure Michigan Dog Leash:
Don’t forget about your pooch, who will be ready for more walks outside! The Pure Michigan Medium Mutt Dog Leash (also available to fit “big wolves”), made of 100% nylon webbing for prolonged use, will keep your pet looking stylish all season long.

Pure Michigan Wine Glasses:
Spring and summer is the perfect time for sitting outside and sipping on your beverage of choice. Wine lovers should check out the Pure Michigan Set of 17 oz. Stemless White Wine Glass (also available for red wine), which are great for enjoying any Michigan wine.