Wednesday, September 25, 2013

After the Harvest: Preserving The Bounty of the Season - with Salt of the Earth's Chef Matt Pietsch

More and more families are getting back to their roots – by planting garden patches to supply fresh fruits and vegetables for savoring throughout the summer and into the fall and winter. Yet, what happens when there’s just too much to consume or you want to preserve some of those delicious and flavorful foods for the upcoming season?

For Salt of the Earth Executive Chef Matthew Pietsch, his passion for food goes beyond his own professional or kitchens. He hopes to inspire others to find their own place in the garden, orchard and/or field and to develop a personal connection with where their food comes from and how it is best prepared.

In addition to his kitchen duties, Chef Pietsch manages a 40x80 garden adjacent to the restaurant which is chock full of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, herbs and countless other vegetables. Chef Pietsch also works with a handful of area farmers and growers to provide additional produce, like carrots, beans, squash, radishes and more. Many of these fresh-harvested treasures find their way onto the weekly “Fresh Board” menu, but some are also preserved into various forms to be used days, weeks and even months down the line. This year alone, Chef Pietsch says they’ve preserved roughly 1450 pounds of product for the winter season.

So…where to get started? Chef Pietsch offers the following tips:

Celebrate the season: Go to the market! A CSA (community supported agriculture) or farmers’ market trip should help you get all the ingredients you’ll need to preserve. Don’t pick up product at a grocery store, go for local first!

Mise en place! Put in place! Make sure you have EVERYTHING you need to get started with your preserving tasks. If you’re new to this, play with a friend this year, or do some research a week before you plan to start your work. Get educated so the process goes smoothly. Be sure you have enough containers, jars, etc., before you begin work.

Preserving is so easy to do. A very basic cook with a few small special tools (some of which you may already have) can easily preserve a whole winters worth of veggies in less than a day.

Plan a party!!! This is my FAVORITE way to preserve for the cold months ahead. Invite your friends, put together some cocktails, craft beer or the perfect Michigan wine and a small menu and HAVE SOME FUN! It makes quick work of the processing, and you get to share at the end of the party. This is also a perfect way to introduce newcomers to preserving, or invite an expert if you’re just beginning! Plan a tomato smash party, and conclude with a heaping bowl of fresh pasta with your newly made sauce, and a fresh crisp salad. Don’t forget the spicy pickled peppers!

Plan ahead for gifts – Pickled veggies from the garden, or fresh jams and jellies make superb gifts around the holiday season. You’ll be surprised how excited folks will be to receive something homemade and delicious! Likely, by the holiday, they will have forgotten how wonderful summer corn, peaches, tomatoes, and peppers taste. If you’re going for gift giving, take it to another level. Spend a little time with your computer work processor to create special labels for your jars. It takes next to no time, likely with your home printer and special labels from the office store.

Be sure to store your newly preserved ingredients appropriately so that they do not spoil. Be aware of any warning signs that your product has spoiled before you indulge.

Missed the season? Ready to make blueberry jam and you realize that fresh berries are no more? Contact a local producer. They likely have frozen fruit ready for you to make into jam, even if you’re a few weeks late.

Located in downtown Fennville MI, Salt of the Earth is open year-round, currently seven days a week: 5-10pm, Sunday through Thursday and 5-11pm on Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is just 10 miles from Saugatuck, 50 miles from Grand Rapids and 140 miles from Chicago.

Salt of the Earth
114 East Main Street
Fennville MI 49408
269-561-SALT (7258)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Valentine Distilling Expands Distribution Along East Coast - Former Detroit Red Wing Eddie Mio Joins Team as Brand Manager

Michigan-made Valentine Distilling Company has been introduced to the marketplace in New York State – with placements at award winning restaurants like Rye House and City Winery. Distribution will extend to Maryland, Connecticut and Washington DC this fall, all via Opici Family Distributing. According to distiller/owner Rifino Valentine, this will make six (7) total states for distribution – with the others being Michigan, Tennessee and Illinois.

The Opici family celebrated their 75th anniversary in the wine business in 2009. Hubert Opici is recognized as an icon in the industry, and the fourth generation of the Opici family is in place to continue this tradition for generations to come.

Increased distribution means the addition of a Brand Manager position, with Eddie Mio taking over the responsibilities. Mio, who played goalie for the Red Wings for three seasons, from 1983 to 1986, was also assistant GM for the Phoenix Coyotes and a part of hockey great Wayne Gretzky's Gretzky Estates Winery.

“I am extremely pleased to be joining Valentine Distilling Company,” says Eddie. “I was drawn to Valentine because of the care and quality of what they are distilling in Michigan is remarkable. Rifino is handcrafting products that not only compete at the local level, but at the international level as well. To be able to maintain the consistency and quality of all their products is why ‘Made in Michigan’ on the bottle is exciting and I am glad to be promoting Valentine Distilling. We’ve only just begun!”

Valentine Distilling currently has four products in its Michigan-made portfolio:

• Valentine Vodka (Released March 2009). In 2012, Anthony Dias Blue, editor-in-chief of The Tasting Panel magazine recognized this as one of the top vodkas in the world with a 94-point ranking – placing higher than noted international brands like Belvedere, Ketel One, Grey Goose and Absolut. It was also awarded a Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2012. In 2011, it received a Double Gold Medal in the “Best Domestic Vodka” category by The Beverage Testing Institute (BTI) also awarded Valentine Vodka with a Gold Medal “Exceptional” in both 2010 and 2011.

• White Blossom (Released March 2012). Infused with the flowers of Elderflower, this product won a Gold Medal – rated Exceptional – receiving a 92 point rating from the BTI.

• Liberator Gin (Released March 2013). Winner of the “Best of Category – Gold Medal” and “Best of Class” for the Contemporary Rectified Gin at the American Distilling Institute’s 7th Annual Judging of Artisan American Spirits competition as well as a Gold Medal (90 point rating) from the BTI’s International Review of Spirits Competition.

• Liberator Old Tom Gin (Limited Release July 2013) A barrel aged version of Liberator Gin that is aged in new American oak barrels for up to a year. Gold Medal Winner, Craft Spirits Competition in 2013.

• Woodward Whiskey (Released June 2013). Started as a top-secret project five years ago, Woodward Ltd. is a four-year bourbon handdistilled from corn, rye and barley. It most recently received a Silver Medal from the Craft Spirits Competition in 2013.

“Our goal from the beginning, has been to bring manufacturing back not only to this country, but to Detroit,” says Rifino. “We’ve always set our sights on crafting spirits that compete on the international level. To win these competitions, topping some of the biggest and best companies in the world, is not only personally satisfying, but also serves the economic purpose of bringing manufacturing back. Our philosophy has always been ‘don’t drink Valentine spirits just because they are local – drink them because they are better.’”

Valentine Distilling launched into the Michigan market in early 2009 and has since been ranked one of the top-rated craft distilleries in the country. Operating out of a 5000-square-foot facility in Ferndale, Valentine Distilling proudly produces its original spirits in two world-class Christian Carl Stills.

161 Vester Street – Ferndale, Michigan

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Expanded Rochester Mills Beer Co’s Annual Oktoberfest Returns September 26-29

It’s time again to grab your lederhosen and head for the Mills. Following the time-honored Alps tradition that started 200 years ago in Munich, Germany, the Rochester Mills Beer Company invites you to partake in its annual Oktoberfest festivities, September 26-29 – and you needn’t be German or travel halfway around the world to do so. This family-friendly celebration features German-style cuisine and plenty of beer under a huge outdoor tent. Come join thousands of your closest friends, family and neighbors who annually turnout to enjoy the live music, dancing and children’s activities taking place behind the brewery during the four-day extravaganza.

The weekend kicks off Thursday, Sept. 26 with a ceremonial tapping of Rochester Mills Oktoberfest Seasonal Celebration Lager in the big tent at 7pm.

Friday, Saturday and now Sunday join the thousands of visitors who annually attend to enjoy the live Oompah and polka music, Bavarian dancing and children’s activities taking place behind the brewery’s Downtown Rochester location. The four-day extravaganza also includes carnival games, moonwalks, pony rides, petting zoo, clowns, as well as balloon and tattoo artists for the kids. Those young at heart can participate in the ever-popular harvest challenges including sauerkraut-eating, brat-eating or stein hoisting competitions. The festival tent is open from 5-11pm on Thursday, 4-11pm on Friday, Noon-11pm on Saturday and 1-6pm on Sunday. Admission is only $5 for adults and is good for all four days; children 16 and under get in free (with a paid adult). A portion of the proceeds from the event benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan, Gilda's Club Metro Detroit and the YMCA North Oakland County Waves swim club who volutneer during the event.

“We celebrated our fifteenth anniversary this year so we knew we had to make our Oktoberfest one of the biggest in Michigan. We’ve added days, extended hours and partnered with the local Lions clubs to bring a full carnival that will be co-located at our site,” said Rochester Mills Beer Co. marketing director David Youngman. “And with this year’s batch of Oktoberfest Celebration Lager already available on tap at bars and restaurants across the state we are expecting our biggest turnout ever.”

Head Brewer Forrest Knapp has prepared fresh batches of Rochester Mills Water Street Wheat (German-style Hefe-Weizen), Lazy Daze Lite (Michigan-style light beer) and this year’s Oktoberfest Lager (German-style lager).

Enjoy live performances nightly under the tent from the Vagabonds and Enzian. The Carpathia dancers will perform Friday and Saturday Night.

The brewpub will operate under regular hours and offer a full menu and selection of beers on tap during the event. Free entertainment inside the brewery features live performances by Under the Covers on Friday and The Remedy on Saturday, both starting at 10pm.

For more information, call 248-650-5080 or log onto

September 26th, 27th, 28th & 29th 2013

Thursday (September 26)
Ceremonial Tapping (7pm) of the first keg with Mayor(s) 5-11pm

Friday (September 27)
Festival 4-11pm
Live Band Performance 10pm-2am

Saturday (September 28)
Festival Noon-11pm,
Live Band Performance 10pm-2am

Sunday (September 29)
Festival 1-6pm

Rochester Mills Beer Co.
400 Water Street
Rochester, Michigan 48307

$5 adults at the tent; children 16 and under get in free (with a paid adult). Must be 21 years old or older and have a valid ID to obtain a hand stamp to purchase alcohol.

The Rochester Mills Beer Co. opened in 1998 in Downtown Rochester and has been brewing handcrafted lagers and ales ever since. Located in the historic Western Knitting Mill, the brewery is located on Water Street, just two blocks east of Main Street. The menu features a broad selection of eclectic American cuisine, all prepared with the freshest and often local Michigan ingredients. From delectable appetizers, fresh salads, pizzas and pastas to delicious entrees and unique sandwiches, the menu has something for everyone, including the kids. Special amenities include an outdoor patio, pool tables, and live entertainment every Friday, and Saturday nights. The Lazy Daze Lounge is available for private parties. The restaurant has expanded its ability to cater off premises events and parties bringing the Mills to you.

Rochester Mills’ brands, Cornerstone IPA, Rochester Red Ale, Milkshake Stout and Lazy Daze Amber Lager are available on draft to other Michigan bars and restaurants. and packaged product in 16 oz. (Full Pint) cans. Rochester Mills Beer Co. is a proud member of the Michigan Brewers Guild (

Since its inception in 1984, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan -- a chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America -- has brought joy into the lives of thousands of people in our Michigan community through its important wish-granting mission. The Foundation has granted more than 6,000 wishes in its 26-year history. More than 80% of the Foundation’s expenditures are directly related to program services (wish granting). The Foundation has offices in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids. For more information, call 734.994.8620 or visit

Gilda's Club Metro DetroiT:
Gilda's Club Metro Detroit is a free, non-residential cancer support community for men, women and children affected by cancer. The organization offers emotional and social support through programs such as support groups, educational programs, yoga, music and many other activities. Gilda's Club currently includes 89 young adult cancer survivors and 146 young adult family members in its 6,000-plus membership. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2008, Gilda's Club was named in honor of the late comedian and former Detroiter, Gilda Radner. Visit or call (248) 577-0800 for more information.

A family-friendly swim team based out of the North Oakland Family YMCA in Auburn Hills offering competitive swimming for all age groups. Instruction, technique, yardage, a positive work ethic, team building, and loads of fun is the NOW experience. NOW is a dual affiliated team, swimming both YMCA and USA meets. NOW offers a year round swim program. For more information visit

Thursday, September 12, 2013

3rd Annual Arts & Eats Tour Offers Pure Michigan Autumn Experiences - October 19-20

Check out the magnificent fall colors during the 3rd Annual Arts & Eats – a Southwest Michigan back roads art, food and farm tour, October 19-20. This free, self-guided driving tour collectively features more than 55 artist studios, eateries serving locally-grown food and farms that feature the best in Michigan specialty farm products. These venues, some of which are not normally open to the public, welcome visitors from 10am to 5pm each day.

As a kick-off to the tour weekend, New Holland Brewing Company co-owner and Beervangelist Fred Bueltmann will share insights about the culture of beer, food and entertaining from his new book, Beervangelist’s Guide to the Galaxy. The free program will take place on Thursday, October 18 from 7-8pm at the Old Mill Place, 717 E. Bridge Street in Plainwell (above the Old Mill Brewpub on the east end of town).

“Arts and Eats is becoming the go-to getaway mid-October weekend event for travelers and locals alike,” says event co-founder Ginger Hentz and District 13 Coordinator - Michigan State University (MSU) Extension. “People travel with their friends, families take their kids to the farms to pet the animals and everyone has a good time learning about the area’s rich agricultural and arts communities, which are economic drivers to our local economy. Plus it is hard to beat a drive down a quiet, rural road when the trees are decked out in their full autumn regalia.”

Participants on the tour are encouraged to request an “Arts and Eats Passport” from any of the sites they visit. By collecting just six stamps, tour-goers can be entered to win one of dozens of great prizes donated by the artists, farmers and eateries. The more passports filled, the more chances to win.

ARTS: Visit galleries, studios and central venues to watch local painters, potters, photographers, sculptors and other artisans in action. Some farms – those that raise fiber-producing animals like alpacas and sheep – provide additional touring opportunities. Works are available for sale as well.

EATS: Explore farms where produce is grown, livestock is raised and artisanal foods are made. Then, stop by area farm/field-to-table restaurants to savor the bounty of the season. Participating restaurants feature special menu items using local products, with chefs using their creative culinary talents to pull together some fabulous menu items for the event.

In addition to the individual tour stops, four “Central Venues” are set up to house additional artist and serve as information stations for visitors. These locations include Gilmore Car Museum, Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Hasting Fourth Annual Downtown Sculpture Exhibit and Bay Pointe Inn (Arts and Eats Headquarters).

The Interactive Public Art is a returning special event during the tour weekend. Aspiring artists and tour travelers can leave their mark on this year’s event by helping fill up two large canvases through a joint artistic expression. Stop by to paint in Plainwell at the Fannie Pell Park on Saturday, October 19 or the Gilmore car Museum on Sunday, October 20 (10am to 3pm each day). Both completed works of art will be given to the tour, so everyone may enjoy them for years to come.

New this year is “A Taste of Arts and Eats Wine & Cheese Bus Tour” presented by the Thornapple Arts Council. Here, visitors can board a bus and tour select stops along the tour route, while enjoying wine from Glass Creek Winery and cheese from local producers. The bus leaves downtown Hastings on Saturday at noon, returning at 6pm. The cost is $25 per person; space is limited and reservations are required. For more information on this tour option, or to reserve a seat, call 269-945-2002.

Planning partners: Allegan County Tourist Council, Barry County Tourism Council, Gilmore Car Museum, Hastings Public Library, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Promote Michigan, Thornapple Arts Council and Wayland Downtown.

2013 Sponsors: Barry Community Foundation, Downtown Hastings, Gun Lake Casino, Hastings Mutual Insurance Company, J-Ad Graphics, Michigan Rural Council, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, Potawatomi Resource Conservation & Development Council, West Michigan Tourist Association and Wind Walker Ranch.

2013 Kent Harvest Trails Map Available Now

Twenty farms in the Greater Grand Rapids area are participating in this year’s Kent Harvest Trails, providing families the opportunity to enjoy loads of country fun. Activities and tours begin mid September and run through the end of October (although farms may actually open sooner and extend their season into early November, weather permitting).

Families can take tractor- or horse-drawn wagon rides through the orchards or to the pumpkin patch, visit with animals in the petting zoo, wander the corn maze and make a scarecrow to take home. Enjoy a fresh baked donut and watch as apples are pressed into sweet cider. Visit the farm markets for local produce or head out to pick your own fruit. Then, shop for baked goods, fall plants, home decorations and seasonal gifts. Admission for many farms is free, although there may be charges for certain activities.

Participating farms this year include At the Barn, Blok Orchards, Bos Greenhouse and Farm, Ed Dunneback & Girls Farm, Frozen Creek Floral & Farm, Fruit Ridge Hayrides, H & W Farms, Harder & Warner Nursery, Heffron Farms, Heidi’s Farm Stand, Honey Creek Farm, Klackle Orchards, Koetsier’s Greenhouse, Orchard Hill Farm, Paulson’s Pumpkin Patch, Post Family Farm, Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery, Schwallier’s Country Basket, Sietsema Orchards & Cider Mill and Steffens Orchards & Market.

An updated map of participating farms, including directions and dates/hours of operation, are online at Printed brochures are now available for free at more than 30 area Family Fare Supermarkets and D&W Fresh Markets.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pure Michigan Nature & History Lovers Will Fall for Camp Tosebo’s Autumn Allure

Nestled amidst more than 50 colorful acres of protected forests along the southern shore of Portage Lake, between Manistee and Onekama, sets a picturesque camp that has been welcoming visitors for generations. Founded in 1912 as a private camp for boys, Camp Tosebo is one of the most historic and treasured vacation retreats in Northern Michigan. Located just off the famed M22 scenic highway, this four-season destination provides the ideal setting to soak up the explosion of fall colors.

Within just a short drive of Camp Tosebo, visitors will find dozens of natural and historic sites waiting to be explored, camera in hand. A nearly 100-mile route, originally created by the West Michigan Tourist Association (, takes travelers along the winding backroads of M22, M115 and M55 through the nearby towns of Onekama, Pierport, Arcadia, Thompsonville, Kaleva, Brethren and Manistee.

Among the sites one can expect to find nearby are the Lake Bluff Audubon Center & Bird Sanctuary, the North Country Scenic Trail, Arcadia Overlook, Gwen Frostic Studios, the Bottle House Museum and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – recently named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by viewers of Good Morning America.

Listed with both the Michigan and National Register of Historic Places, Camp Tosebo boasts three lodging buildings which can collectively accommodate 38 guests.

Originally built as a dance pavilion, the 1893 Victorian-era Clubhouse with its covered porch easily accommodates 17 guests, with nine bedrooms and 7½ bathrooms (five with antique claw-foot tubs). There’s plenty of space to spread out through the fully-equipped chef’s kitchen, dining hall, game room, library and large living room with a stone fireplace.

The rustic Trunk House – which once was a storage facility for the campers’ luggage – is a large, one-room studio with vaulted ceilings, living and dining areas, kitchenette, queen bed and twin bed, and a bathroom with a claw foot tub and shower.

Built in 1910, the Welcome House is a two-story cottage that comfortably sleeps 10-12 people with a main floor master bedroom and bath, two bedrooms with a bath upstairs and a couch that converts to a bed in the living room. Ideal as a vacation rental for a family, this charming cottage is equipped with a fully-stocked kitchen, living room with a brick fireplace, dining room and more.

Situated in the heart of the Manistee National Forest, Camp Tosebo is the ideal setting for a quiet autumn escape, where time is spent walking the trails, paddling the lake, catching up on a good book and relaxing in front of the fireplace. Whether planning a romantic weekend, a family reunion or group gathering, the outdoor splendor and indoor relaxation of Camp Tosebo cannot be compared. Find out for yourself!