Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Valentine Vodka Releases White Blossom

Spring is a season of awakenings in Michigan – where April showers bring May flowers and May flowers are infused into dazzling artisan spirits like the new White Blossom from Valentine Vodka.

“I like to push the envelope and I always look for unique ingredients and flavors to work with, specifically those from Michigan,” says Rifino Valentine, micro-distiller and owner of Valentine Vodka in Ferndale.

“I actually discovered the elderflower flavor while traveling through Europe. There, it’s often used as an herbal remedy to boost the immune system – it’s one of those natural products that mass-produced vodka distilleries are too afraid to touch.”

Elderflower, with its floral nose and beautiful, unique flavor, was the perfect fit. Also called “sambucus nigra” elderflowers are in season from the end of May to the beginning of June, alongside many other spring blooms like dogwood, or cherry and apple blossoms.

The leaves of the Elderberry plant are feather-like, with 5–9 leaflets and large clusters of small white or cream-colored flowers that bloom in the late spring. The flower heads, which are commonly used in infusions because of their fragrant aroma and distinct flavor, are best collected and used fresh, when the tiny buds have just opened and come to bloom.

“To craft this exquisitely unique flavor, I start with my handcrafted Double Gold Medal-winning vodka,” Rifino says. Valentine Vodka is made of a proprietary blend of red Michigan wheat, two-row malted barley and corn, which all comes directly from Michigan famers and suppliers. “Then, I carefully blend natural elderflower blossoms, with a touch of grapefruit and 100 percent Michigan beet sugar, as a delicate sweetener.”

While most won’t be familiar with the sweet, floral flavors of White Blossom, Rifino says “once they try it, they will be hooked.”

“What a breath of fresh air in the artificial, overdone world of flavored vodka,” says Jim Schramm, Manager & Maî•tre d' of Tre Cugini in Grand Rapids. “White Blossom screams different and made-from- scratch, just like the rest of the Valentine brand.”

The nose of White Blossom is simple and refreshing, like a bouquet of wildflowers picked on a warm spring Michigan afternoon. While the elderflower scent is predominant, there are hints of citrus rolled in sweet, velvety honey that finishes soft and clean. It’s perfectly delightful served on the rocks, or with a splash of natural juices or mixers for a variety of Michigan-themed infusions and signature cocktails

White Blossom is currently available exclusively at Valentine Vodka’s Ferndale cocktail bar and will hit retail shelves in the spring of 2012. The original Valentine Vodka – which hit the market in 2009 – can now be found in more than 900 outlets throughout Michigan and Illinois.


Reprinted from the Spring 2012 issue of Michigan HOME & Lifestyle Magazine. Pick up a copy on newstands now, for a selection of White Blossom recipes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

MBG Presents Inaugural “Tom Burns Award” – Recognizing the Pioneering Spirit of the Great Beer State – to Larry Bell of Bell's Brewery

Larry Bell (left) with former Detroit City Councilwoman Maryann Mahaffey, Sen. Eugene McCarthy, and Tom Burns (right) taken July 11, 1991 at Tiger Stadium by Scott Brooks.

Nearly 200 leaders in the state’s craft brewing industry were present at the Michigan Brewers Guild annual conference which took place at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire last week, where the inaugural “Tom Burns Award” – recognizing the pioneering spirit of the “Great Beer State” – was presented to Larry Bell of Bell’s Brewery in Galesburg, Michigan.

According to Eric Briggeman, President of the Michigan Brewers Guild, Larry Bell was one of four nominees for the award, the others being Ron Jeffries from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Fred Bueltmann from New Holland Brewing Co., and John Linardos from Motor City Brewing Works.

The award was named after Detroit & Mackinac Brewing Company founder and brewer, Tom Burns, who passed away of cancer May 1, 1994. Burns, a “recovering attorney” whose passion was brewing, is credited with many of the advancements in brewing legislation, rules, and regulations in the 1990s which paved the way for a thriving industry which is currently ranked #5 nationally.

“The nominations were submitted by members of the Guild’s Board of Directors and Government Affairs Committee,” Briggeman stated. “Tom Burns truly was a pioneer for the Michigan brewing industry, and the Guild felt that naming this award after him was a great way to honor Tom as a person, while recognizing his legacy that has been the foundation for the “Great Beer State!’”

Briggeman was joined by Priscilla Burns, Tom’s widow, and Tom Brandel, close friend and founder of Tom’s Oyster Bar, for the presentation.

“Each of the four nominees were qualified candidates for this award,” Briggeman said. “Yet, given the fact that Larry holds the oldest ‘microbrewery’ license in Michigan, and he worked very closely with Tom Burns on shaping our state’s brewing legislation in the early 1990s, we felt he was the clear choice as the recipient of this inaugural award.”

Laura Bell accepted the award on behalf of Larry, who was out of the country and unable to attend. She read this letter sent from Larry, addressed to the group:

“Everyone in this room has been affected by Tom's efforts back in the nineties. His push for, and success at getting brewpub language adopted in the state laws paved the way for what is now one of the most dynamic brewery scenes in the USA. While there may be those today that think that trading away self distribution wasn't right, Tom and I thought we cut a pretty damn good deal, and I still think that.

Tom was able to get legislation enacted because he knew the importance of building consensus, and he knew that it was essential to have dialogue with all of the legislators involved, as well as reaching out openly, and with a eye toward fairness, to Michigan's wholesalers; he respected the realities of the situation while trying to enact change. And enact change he did.

I am glad that we are honoring Tom as I feel that his contributions to the early days of craft brewing are often buried by people who want to take more credit than they deserve. He was one of those people who was there at the dawn of the movement. I have in my collection a bottle of "Legal Lager" that Tom brewed at the Cartwright Brewing Co. in Portland back in the early eighties when, I believe he was in law school. He brewed at the goat shed with Boulder Brewing. And he was in on the start of the then American Homebrewers Association Beer Festival, now the GABF [Great American Beer Festival].

It was heartbreaking to see Tom get sick. Having been through a "mild" cancer myself I have an inkling of the terror it brings to ones soul. But Tom was always upbeat when I saw him and never became morose, even as his diagnosis got worse.

I was very honored to be asked by Priscilla to be the brewer representative pall bearer at Tom's funeral. It was a difficult day for me. To see one's contemporary die too young is a very troubling thing. After the funeral service we went to Tom's Oyster Bar, a place Mr. Burns loved to go, and I stood in for him – singing show tunes with the piano player as a way to pay my respects. Tom loved a good show tune. And a great beer.

Though Tom's life was too short he left an important legacy that we all can honor and that honors us all. I was proud to call him a friend and I am proud of the Guild for honoring him today. So please, let's raise our glass and toast Tom Burns.”

Larry Bell moved to Kalamazoo in 1976 to study history at Kalamazoo College, seven years before opening the homebrew shop that would soon grow into Bell’s Brewery. He opened Bell’s Brewery in 1985, with a 15-gallon soup kettle and $200. Since then, he has grown Bell’s into one of the largest regional craft breweries in the country.

In more than 26 years of brewing, Larry has been actively involved in shaping the craft beer industry in the United States. He was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Brewing Studies, sat on the Board of Directors for the Association of Brewer’s, and was the Inaugural President of the Michigan Brewer’s Guild. He currently is active as an Ex-Officio board member of the Beer Institute, as well as a member of the American Malting Barley Association Board of Directors. In 2010, Larry was honored with the Brewer’s Association Recognition Award.

Larry is also an active member in Kalamazoo and has been a board member for the Kalamazoo Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and the Economic Development Corporation of Kalamazoo. He is beginning his first year as a board member for the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. In 2010, Larry was presented with the Distinguished Achievement Award from his Alma Mater, Kalamazoo College.

Larry spends his time between Chicago, Kalamazoo and the Upper Peninsula. He enjoys traveling, the Chicago Cubs, and is an active collector of art, breweriana, and maps, among other things.

Founded in 1997 and celebrating its 15th year, the Michigan Brewers Guild oversees the organization’s administrative and promotional affairs, including four annual public events: Winter Beer Festival in February in Grand Rapids, Summer Beer Festival in July in Ypsilanti, UP Fall Beer Festival in September and Detroit Fall Beer Festival in October, as well as its annual Winter Conference in January. Currently, the Guild represents 89 member breweries – the highest number since the organizations inception.

Michigan’s thriving brewing industry conservatively contributes over $24 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $133 million. In terms of overall number breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #5 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State.”

The Michigan Brewers Guild exists to unify the Michigan brewing community; to increase sales of Michigan-brewed beer through promotions, marketing, public awareness and consumer education; and to monitor and assure a healthy beer industry within the state. For more information, including a list of Michigan microbreweries, log on to www.michiganbrewersguild.org.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Art From Michigan's Wine Country: Taste the Passion This February in Glen Arbor

Friday, February 3rd (6-8pm)
Mountain Flowers Lodge
The Homestead Resort
Glen Arbor, Michigan

Great art, wine and food are the main events of a special evening which kicks off the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association’s Taste the Passion weekend. For a fourth year, this fun winter event features wine from Leelanau wineries, original art by local artists and a fabulous small plates menu designed by The Homestead’s Chef Piombo.

The price is $20 per person advance reservation by February 2 and includes one glass of wine and food stations with delectable small plates and coffee. Additional wine available for $4/glass or three glasses for $10. Call The Homestead, 334-5100, to make a reservation with will call ticket at the door for pre-paid reservations. $25 per person admission at the door.

The invitational art exhibit and sale offers recent original works by nine Leelanau artists. The artists will be on hand to discuss their work. This is a great opportunity to meet local artists and celebrate a perfect pairing of wine and art. A portion of the art sales will benefit GAAA’s summer programs.

Five dollars of each ticket goes to support the Glen Arbor Art Association class scholarships and a free after-school art program for Glen Lake students. Scholarship assistance and the after-school art program provide arts opportunities for those who could not otherwise afford art classes.

For more information go to:

Or call the GAAA office at 334-6112

Saugatuck Brewing Company Announces Winter Tasting Series (January - April, 2012)

SBC will be conducting 4 tasting events at the brewery to be held on the last Thursdays of January, February, March and April at 7pm.

The themes will be:

• January 26 – “Different Yeasts/Different Flavors”
• February 23 – “Different Hops/Different Flavors”
• March 29 – “Understanding Beer Styles”
• April 26 – “Specialty Beers”

The tastings will be lead by SBC sales manager Scott Farney and brewer Dexter Gauntlett. Admission will be $10 at the door ($8 for Pint Club members).

Saugatuck Brewing Co. is a microbrewery with a traditional Irish style pub and upscale banquet room (The Singapore Room) that features hand crafted beer, wine, food, and service. Fifteen unique beer styles, all brewed in house, plus wine and hard cider are served daily in the Pub. “SBC” also distributes five styles in 6 and 4-packs throughout lower Michigan. The brewery also features the only active brew-on-premise facility in Michigan, utilizing five copper kettles and an array of natural ingredients and recipes, for the public to become “Brewmaster for a Day.”

Saugatuck Brewing Company
2948 Blue Star Hwy.
Douglas, MI 49406
(269) 857-7222


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Food Dance Staff Mentors Students in Hospitality Services Program at Van Buren Technology Center

Hands-on educational programming in the culinary arts are growing at a rapid pace throughout Michigan – not just at the college level, but at several vocational high schools around the state. The Van Buren Technology Center (250 South Street, Lawrence) currently has roughly 50 students enrolled in its “Hospitality Services” program, which is taught by Patti Kenworthy and Diana Stump. The culinary team at Food Dance in Kalamazoo has launched a mentoring program aimed to help educate these students about various aspects of the industry.

“Our students have divided into teams of 4-5 and they are working on coming up with their theme of their restaurant, type of food and menu items,” says Meg Zapalowski, their Integrated English teacher. “The challenge here is to use as many local resources as possible to create the menu. Students are encouraged to research local farms online to find out what products they produce and sell to the public, visit local farms or talk to local residents about where they find local produce or visit local farmers markets – both indoors and out.”

As part of the program, Food Dance Chef Robb Hammond recently visited with the hospitality students to share a presentation about the restaurant’s philosophy, its relationship with local farmers and how he developed the specific menu.

Later this semester, the top team will travel to Kalamazoo for a behind-the-scenes tour of Food Dance to see what it takes to run a locally-focused, farm-to-table restaurant. Students will also have lunch and have their winning entrée featured on the menu.

Students at the VBTC study the art of cooking and gain the organizational skills needed to work in or manage a professional restaurant in either the one- or two-year program. Specifically, students learn how to plan and prepare a variety of foods operating commercial equipment; develop the culinary techniques for good food presentation; prepare for a catering event, serve professionally and provide good customer service; and then they’re given the opportunity to practice these skills in a real-world environment… with real customers.

At the completion of the program, students can receive Pro Start certification or begin the American Culinary Federation (AFC) certification. These levels of instruction prepare students for careers as cooks, chefs, kitchen managers, caterers, pastry chefs, servers and restaurant owner.

Food Dance is a locally-owned business, committed to building an informed and healthy community. The entire team works to provide great experiences, with food that are created through symbiotic relationships with local farmers, cheese makers and producers. Food Dance works hard to provide a positive and rewarding work environment that fosters long-term sustainability, for both its staff and the local community.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Trattoria Stella in Traverse City Kicks Off 2012 with Wine & Beer Dinners

A new year means a new series of wine and beer dinners at one of Michigan’s most noted restaurants – Trattoria Stella, in Traverse City at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

Tuesday, January 10 thru Sunday, January 15
Michigan Beer Dinners Featuring Short’s Brewing Company and Brewery Vivant
The diversity of excellent craft beer inspires us each year to create daily menu items and annual events to honor them. This year, when planning our annual Winter Beer Dinner, we wondered what inspired these brewers (Joe Short from Short’s Brewing Company and Jason Spaulding from Brewery Vivant) to create their favorite beers. We called on two friends whose styles are way different to explore this. Now, for most of a week you can join us (and them on some nights) for four courses each paired with either a Short's or Brewery Vivant beer and the beer that inspired its creation. Each evening beginning at 5pm, in addition to our regular dinner menu-reservations are recommended. Cost is $35 per guest for our 4-course tasting menu, $10 per guest for paired beer flight.

Friday, January 20 (6pm)
Winemaker Dinner with Giorgio Rivetti of La Spinetta (Piemonte e Toscana) and featuring the talents of Chef Harlan “Pete” Peterson (Tapawingo), partnered with Chef Myles Anton.
Giorgio Rivetti is a rock star winemaker at La Spinetta. His family story begins in the 1890s, when Giovanni Rivetti – grandfather of the three Rivetti brothers: Carlo, Bruno and Giorgio – left Piedmont for Argentina. Like many Italians of that time, he dreamed of returning rich and a powerful man, perhaps even one day able to make a great wine in his homeland. While he never succeeded in this dream, his grandson did. In 1977 the family took up residence at La Spinetta (top of the hill) in Castagnole Lanze. In 1985 La Spinetta made its first red wine, and after this many great reds followed. In 2001 La Spinetta expanded over the borders of Piedmont and acquired 65 hectares of vineyards in Tuscany, between Pisa and Volterra, to make three different 100% Sangiovese wines, as Sangiovese to La Spinetta is the true ambassador of the Tuscan terrain.

Chef Harlan “Pete” Peterson, owned and operated Tapawingo in Ellsworth for a couple of decades – arguably the best restaurant in Michigan during its long run and “the best restaurant anywhere in the country that's a four-hour drive from the closest major city" according to the New York Times in 2003.

At $150 per person (inclusive of tax/gratuity), the six-course dinner features the finest selections from Giorgio’s portfolio, including: Contratto Millesimato Brut 2007, La Spinetta Vermentino Toscana 2010, La Spinetta Langhe Bianco Sauvignon Blanc Piemonte 2003, La Spinetta Bionzo Barbera Piemonte 2003 (out of magnum); La Spinetta Sezzana Sangiovese Toscana 2001 (out of magnum) and La Spinetta Bordini Barbaresco 2007.

Trattoria Stella opened in 2004 and is the anchor business in the quarter-mile-long Building 50 at the former Northern Michigan Asylum. Stella offers a daily changing menu featuring responsibly-sourced ingredients from local farms, including heritage breeds of pig, lamb and steer; year-round fresh produce; plus house-made pasta, bread and fresh cheeses; as well as a wine list of over 200 carefully curated selections. Stella is owned and operated by Paul and Amanda Danielson, along with the award-winning Chef Myles Anton.

February 26-March 3, 2012
Traverse City Restaurant Week

Thursday, April 19
France vs. Italy Dinner
$150 per guest inclusive of tax and gratuity

Sunday, May 13 Mothers’ Day (Noon – 7pm)
Mama Mia!

Thursday, June 7
6TH Annual Wines of Old Mission Peninsula Dinner

Sunday, June 17 (Noon – 4pm)
Annual Father’s Day “Stellar” Picnic on the Great Lawn

July 7-14
Charley Festival during Cherry Festival

Please note that the hours listed are times during which we seat guests in the dining room. Closing time is determined by the last guests to complete their meal, so don't ever feel like you have to sit down in time to be out by the latest listed time below. Reservations are always recommended and can be made by calling (231) 929-8989.

Regular Hours
Full Lunch Menu
Monday-Saturday, 11:30am-3pm

Limited Lunch Menu
Monday-Saturday, 3-5pm

Dinner Menu
Sunday, 5-9pm
Monday-Thursday, 5-9pm
Friday & Saturday, 5-10pm

Live Music
Tuesdays, 6-9pm

Changes to Regular Hours
SUN 02/05 - Super Bowl Sunday - CLOSED

Trattoria Stella
1200 West Eleventh Street
Traverse City, MI 49684
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