Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rare 1938 Mercedes – Hidden Away During WWII in a German Bunker and Found 60 Year Later – Featured at Michigan International Auto Show

An ultra-rare 1938 Mercedes 540K Sport Tourer, which had been hidden away in a World War II-era basement-bunker in Germany and discovered nearly 60 years later, will be featured this year at the Michigan International Auto Show.

This magnificent automobile will be part of the Gilmore Car Museum’s showcase of a dozen historic vehicles during the 16th annual show, February 6-9, 2014, at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.

Only two 540K Sport Tourer models were ever built, with this car being the sole survivor.

“It’s amazing to think that an automobile of this caliber and historical importance survived WWII,” remarked Jay Follis, Marketing Director for the Gilmore Car Museum. “In a war that cost 65 million lives, devastated much of Europe, and saw so many works of art and cultural treasures destroyed or stolen and lost forever, it’s simply astounding.”

Discovering this ultra-rare automobile, hidden in a WWII-era basement-bunker after 60 years, sounds like a story right out of an Indian Jones movie. The car’s original owner lived in Dresden, Germany, and shortly after receiving it, World War II broke out with Germany being the epicenter. In an effort to protect his car from the ravages of war and conceal it from enemy troops, he knocked out a portion of his basement, drove the car in and concealed it by bricking up the doors and windows to make a kind of bunker. It remained there, remarkably surviving the 1945 bombing of Dresden, for nearly 6 decades.

Prior to World War II, Mercedes-Benz was arguably one of the world's most prestigious European automakers and the choice of the cars of kings, captains of industry, and the rich and famous alike. Built between 1936 and 1939, the supercharged Mercedes 540K has become legendary for its exquisite beauty and breath-taking performance, and is coveted by collectors worldwide. In all only 406 in 12 different body styles were crafted before war halted production, yet only two 540K Sport Tourers were ever produced.

With the fall of the Nazi regime and the end of WWII, Germany was divided by the Allies with Dresden becoming part of Soviet-controlled East Germany. This remarkable auto remained hidden until after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when it was finally discovered. The vehicle was complete and in its original condition, only showing the typical deterioration from age and neglect. Given the rarity and importance of the car, the decision was made to have it completely restored, which was finished in 2005. That same year, it debuted at the world-renowned Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance where it was awarded a Best in Class award.

This custom-built Mercedes features a Mother-of-Pearl dash, V-windshield, disappearing convertible top, and could reach speeds well over 100 mph. In 1938, it sold new for an estimated $12,000. While that may not seem to be a high dollar amount today, it was a substantial price compared to Chevrolet’s convertible at $755 or the Ford Deluxe convertible sedan at $900.

Today, being the only remaining example of the two 540K Sport Tourer models made and for its incredible story of survival, this magnificent automobile is considered one of the rarest Mercedes-Benz in existence.

When asked what the car’s current value is, Follis simply stated, “It’s a question we’re often asked. But how do you attach a number to something with such significant historic value? How do you put a price on that or to something which is the only one in the world?”

Those attending the International Auto Show in Grand Rapids will have the exclusive opportunity of viewing this automotive treasure as part of the Gilmore Car Museum display, in the Grand Gallery.

The 16th Annual Michigan International Auto Show is presented by the Grand Rapids New Car Dealers Association and is one of 14 consumer expositions produced by ShowSpan Inc., in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 1945, ShowSpan – a John D. Loeks Company – has grown to be one of the largest producers of consumer shows in the Midwest.

Michigan International Auto Show: February 6-9, 2014

Thursday, February 6 3:00pm – 10:00pm
Friday, February 7 11:00am – 10:00pm
Saturday, February 8 10:00am – 10:00pm
Sunday, February 9 10:00am – 6:00pm

Admission: $10 adults, $4 children aged 6 to 14. Kids 5 and under are admitted free.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kent County Lodging Assoc Announces 2014 Board

(KCLA Executive Board (l-r) Jenifer Cutter, Secretary; Brian Behler, President; Nick Fischioni, Vice President; Suzanne Nichols, Treasurer)

The Kent County Lodging Association (KCLA) voted in its 2014 Executive Board of Directors at its annual meeting on January 16 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids.

The executive board includes:

• Brian Behler, Assistant General Manager for the JW Marriott, was elected to his sixth one-year term as President after previously two years as the organization’s Vice President and one year as its Secretary.
• Nick Fischioni, General Manager of the Hyatt Hotel, was elected to his first term as Vice President.
• Jenifer Cutter, General Manager at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown, was elected to her first term as Secretary;
• Suzanne Nichols, Assistant General Manager at the Hyatt Hotel, was elected to her second term Treasurer.

Committee chairs, which make up the extended Board of Directors, include:

• Nick Fischioni, Hyatt Hotel – Membership Committee (Interim)
• Dan Hunt, SpringHill Suites North – Events Committee
• Renae Hesselink Nichols – Green Team Committee
• Ryan Slusarzyk, Amway Hotel Corp – Charity Relations Committee
• Megan Hill, SpringHill Suites North & Travis Mix, Susan G Komen – Experience Pink Committee
• Mike Donnelley, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel – Student Relations Committee
• Dianna Stampfler, Promote Michigan & KCLA – Scholarship Committee
• Emily Capron, Experience Grand Rapids – WAVE Awards Committee
• Rick Winn, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel – Communications/Political Committee

KCLA meets at 3pm on the third Thursday of each month at select venues throughout Kent County, including member hotels, restaurants and attractions. Two special events are open to the public, including a golf outing to be held on Wednesday, June 25 at the Stonewater Country Club, in conjunction with the Hospitality Department at GVSU and benefitting scholarship programs; and the WAVE Awards Recognition Ceremony held during the Grand Rapids International Wine & Food Festival on Thursday, November 20.

Re-established in the summer of 2005, KCLA is a non-profit, membership based organization made up of lodging properties and other hospitality businesses which service and compliment this industry. The organization meets monthly at hotels and destination properties throughout Kent County and also hosts educational training seminars, social activities and fundraisers for its hospitality scholarship fund.

KCLA serves to promote practical and fair cooperation with local, state and the United States governmental agencies on behalf of the Association members. It also works to advance and promote the fair exchange of information necessary in the public interest, or for the welfare of the lodging business as well as practical public relations in the interest of the lodging business; and encourages the spirit of friendly cooperation and the exchange of business among the members of the Association thus enabling the lodging businesses in the Kent County Area to better serve the public.


Art, Wine & Delectables Warm the Leelanau Peninsula Night at The Homestead Resort

The Glen Arbor Art Association, The Homestead resort and the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail will again team up to offer Art From Michigan’s Wine Country on Friday, February 7, 6-8 pm at The Homestead’s Mountain Flowers Lodge. Now in its sixth year, this fun winter event kicks off Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trails’ Taste the Passion weekend. The Friday night GAAA benefit features wine from Leelanau wineries, original art exhibit and sale by local artists and a small plates menu designed by Chef Piombo.

Ticket price is $20 per person with advance reservation. Entrance fee includes one glass of wine, food stations with delectable small plates, and coffee. Additional wine is available for $4/glass or three glasses for $10. Call The Homestead, 334-5100, by February 5 to make an advanced reservation with will call ticket pick up at Mountain Flowers. At the door price is $25 per person the night of the event.

The invitational art exhibit and sale offers recent original works by Jane Batteiger, Jane Ditri, Mary Fuscaldo, Michelle Jahraus, Harriett Mittelberger, Joan Richmond, and Rodger Skinner. The artists will be on hand to discuss their work.

A portion of each ticket and painting purchase supports the Glen Arbor Art Association class scholarships, after school art, and a summer art program for migrant children. These programs provide arts opportunities for many families who would not otherwise have them.

For more information go to: www.glenarborart.org, www.thehomesteadresort.com or www.lpwines.com. Or call the GAAA office at 231-334-6112.

The Homestead is Northern Michigan’s largest waterfront resort community located in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, an area voted by viewers of ABC’s Good Morning America as the “Most Beautiful Place in America”. Along with its unmatched natural setting and miles of frontage on Lake Michigan and the Crystal River, the resort offers guest pools, tennis and golf in the summer; downhill and cross country skiing in the winter; and shops, restaurants, meeting centers and the luxurious new Spa Amira throughout all four seasons.

For more information, visit www.thehomesteadresort.com or call 231.334.5100. “Like” The Homestead on Facebook: www.facebook.com/thehomesteadmi and follow on Twitter at @TheHomesteadMI.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stormcloud Brewing Releases Leelanau Pale Ale Series Featuring Locally-Grown Hops

Brewer Brian Confer calls it “Leelanau Pale Ale” series – and while he says the malt bill for each beer won’t change from batch to batch, the hops certainly will. Each beer in the 13-brew series will feature a single hop variety grown on the nearby Leelanau Peninsula. Empire Orchards and Hop Farm provided all but one hop variety, which came from New Mission Organics in Omena.

“The base beer style is somewhere between a pale ale and an amber ale – landing on the orange side and containing a dose of malty sweetness,” says Confer.

The bitterness is at the high end of a Pale Ale and the low end of an IPA, with the goal to keep the bitterness level consistent across the 13 brews.

“We do that by adjusting the first hop charge,” Confer says. “The brew will have hop additions at 60 minutes, 15 minutes, zero minutes and a drop-hop. The 15, zero and dry-hop amounts are always equal, but the 60 minute addition adjusts up or down to keep the bitterness consistent.”

The Summit hops incorporated into the third batch in the season are unique to Michigan and come from Brian Tennis at New Mission Organics. He is the only grower outside of the Yakima Valley that is growing this variety and one of only eight farmers in the country licensed to do so.

The other 12 varieties (listed below in order of production) come from Empire Orchards and Hop Farms.

Not knowing if the terroir of Michigan changes the character of these hops, which are typically purchased from the Pacific Northwest or from Britain, Confer said he wanted to conduct an experiment of sorts with this series.

“I thought it would be fun and enlightening to explore each hop individually and taste the characteristics of each Leelanau grown variety,” he says. “The way we’re releasing this series, it allows us to taste the significant difference each hop provides to the same base beer.”

The series is in production now, with 5bbls of each being offered up in the pub only. Nugget was released December 20 and is still on tap. Each batch will stay on tap as long as it takes to deplete the supply – the more popular the brew, the quicker it will sell out.

The hop list (in order of production) includes:

• Nugget: a great bittering hop with a clean bitterness and herbal aroma; typically used in pale ales and IPAs.
• Fuggle: a cornerstone hop in English brewing; classic aroma hop with pleasant wood and fruit tone; typically used in many British ales across all styles.
• Summit: a high alpha hop with funky, earthy, tangerine character; typically used in a variety of American Style Ales, particularly pale ales and IPAs.
• Crystal: used mainly for its aromatic properties. Mild, spicy and floral; typically used in a range of beer styles, from Barleywines to Lagers.
• Magnum: prized mostly for its high bittering value. Also has a spice & citrus aroma; used extensively in a range of beer styles often early in the boil to gain a good clean bitterness.
• Empire: classic noble hop type bittering with an aromatic blend of earth and spice; this hop has been in the state since 1850 and is grown only in Michigan and exclusively at Empire Orchards and Hop Farm.
• Cascade: a very popular US variety, with a moderate bitterness and fragrant, citrus-floral aroma; synonymous with American Pale Ale; typically used in American Pale Ales and IPAs. The signature hop in Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale.
• Vovjidina: a high alpha dual purpose hop - used both for its bittering and aroma properties. Exhibits a superior noble hop aroma profile; not widely used. Fun fact: it's slow to catch on because it's hard to pronounce! (Voe-va-dine-a).
• Chinook: mild to medium-heavy, spicy, piney and slight grapefruity; used extensively for bittering and dry-hopping in a range of American ales.
• Willamette: mild and pleasant, slightly spicy, fruity, floral and a little earthy; similar to and often used as a substitute to British Fuggles; used far and wide in a vast range of beer styles.
• Brewer's Gold: resiny and spicy bittering hop with a fruity black currant aroma; used in a range of beers from English & Belgian ales to German lagers.
• Glacier: a clean bittering hop with an earthy & citrus aroma; used in a range of American ales.
• Centennial: sometimes referred to as a “Super Cascade” with strong floral and citrus tones and clean bitterness; used extensively in American Pale Ales and IPAs. The signature hop in Bell's Two Hearted Ale.

Empire Orchards & Hops Farm was established in 2008 as one of the first commercial hop farms in the State of Michigan. Since 2008, Empire Hops Farm has been at the forefront of the rapidly expanding Michigan Hop Industry, distributing a high quality product to breweries throughout the state. Empire Hops farm sells fresh, dried whole leaf and pelletized hops.

New Mission Organics is located in Omena, in the northeastern part of the Leelanau Peninsula. This small 30-acre farm, owned by Brian and Amy Tennis, specializes in organic and sustainably grown hops. Currently, 10 acres are in production, with a planned expansion scheduled for the spring of 2014.

New Mission Organics is one of the founding members of the Michigan Hop Alliance – an organization created to advance the hop industry in Michigan through knowledge sharing and equipment availability. Through the MHA, member hop growers are now able to take hops from cones to pellets in a much shorter time.

For updates on when each brew batch will be released, follow Stormcloud Brewing on Facebook (www.facebook.com/StormcloudBrewing) and/or Twitter (www.twitter.com/StormcloudBrew).

Stormcloud Brewing is located at 303 Main St., Frankfort – just two blocks from Lake Michigan.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

White Flame Brewing Celebrates 2nd Anniversary with Party & Expansion Announcement

In honor of its second anniversary, White Flame Brewing will host a celebration on Saturday, January 25 from 5pm until 2am with a special list of draft beers, music and live entertainment. Bill and Jenn White opened White Flame on January 28, 2012, in a 5,000-square-foot building at 5234 36th Avenue in Hudsonville – the city’s first brewery. Today, they’re among more than 120 breweries in Michigan that make up the “Great Beer State.”


“We will have a special list of draft beers featuring favorites that have been popular with our guests as well as some that have been stored and aged for this party,” says Bill. “We will release our first run of cans from Michigan Mobile Caning with our Super G IPA 4-pack, 16-ounce cans as well as commemorative bottles of Black Flame Imperial Stout that will all be available for purchase at the brewery on Saturday.”

On Saturday, RnR Comfort Foods will be serving up their fare from 3-10pm and live music – featuring Sam & Emma Lou, as well as Funkle Jesse, runs from 7-11pm.


White Flame is also excited to announce an expansion coming up later this year – including the installation of a new, larger 15bbl brewing equipment to increase output and overall distribution, therefore delivering more packaged beer to market. The actual pub will also see a facelift with an increased customer seating area within the existing building footprint and the addition of a deli-style kitchen to provide lunch and dinner to brewery customers. As part of this expansions, White Flame will add two full time and two part time staff as well.

White Flame Facebook

Monday, January 13, 2014

Michigan Brewers Guild Announces 2014 Board of Directors

2014 Michigan Brewers Guild Board of Directors (l-r): Steve Berthel, Aaron Morse, Eric Briggeman, Scott King, Isaac Hartman, Brad Stevenson, Scott Newman-Bale. (Photo Credit: Marty Dunham)

The Michigan Brewers Guild recently elected its 2014 Board of Directors at its annual meeting, January 8, at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo. Each board position is a two-year term, elected in alternating years (4, 3).

This year, the Board of Directors was increased to seven members, so four people were elected to the board.

• Steve Berthel, Pub Brewer at New Holland Brewing Company in Holland was elected to a fourth term on the board of directors. Steve will serve as Events/Entertainment Chair for 2014.

• Scott Newman-Bale, Vice President of Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire, was elected to a third term and will continue to serve as Treasurer.

• Brad Stevenson, Vice President of Operations for Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, was elected to his first term on the board. Brad will serve as the Membership Chair for 2014.

• Aaron Morse, CEO at Dark Horse Brewing in Marshall, was elected to his first term on the board. Aaron will serve as the Marketing Chair for 2014.

Additional board members include:

• Eric Briggeman, Brewmaster at Rochester Mills Beer Co. in Rochester, continues his fifth term on the board and will serve his sixth year as Guild President.

• Isaac Hartman, “Ambassador of Great Beer” from New Holland Brewing Company, was elected to his third term on the board of directors and will continue to serve as Secretary and also as the Enthusiast Membership Chair for 2014.

• Scott King, owner of MIP Brewing Company in Royal Oak, and past Board Member, continues his two-year term and will serve as the co-chair of the Government Affairs Committee for 2014.

Founded in 1997, 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 in Marquette, and Detroit Fall Beer Festival in October, as well as its annual Winter Conference in January. Currently, the Guild represents 119 member breweries – the highest number since the organizations inception.

Michigan’s thriving brewing industry conservatively contributes more than $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 community of brewers, to increase the sale of Michigan Craft Beer, to contribute culturally and economically throughout the state, and to monitor and assure a healthy brewing industry. By working collaboratively with proponents of craft beer, we strive to achieve 10% share of all beer sold in Michigan by producing world-class events, increasing public awareness, educating consumers, and encouraging responsible consumption. For more information, including a list of Michigan microbreweries, log on to www.MiBeer.com.



Saturday, February 22
Michigan Winter Beer Festival (SOLD OUT)
Fifth-Third Ballpark, Comstock Park (Grand Rapids)

May 12-18 – Craft Beer Week

July – Michigan Craft Beer Month

Friday, July 25 & Saturday, July 26
Michigan Summer Beer Festival
Riverside Park, Ypsilanti Depot Town

Saturday, September 6
UP Fall Beer Festival
Mattson Lower Harbor Park, Marquette

Friday, October 24 & Saturday, October 25
Detroit Fall Beer Festival
Eastern Market

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Randy & Doreen Fosgard Celebrate 1 Year Anniversary at Lake Ann’s Sleeping Bear Resort

For more than 25 years, Randy and Doreen Fosgard made the trek from their home in St. Clair, Michigan to vacation near the Sleeping Bear Dunes area of Northwest Michigan. Drawn to the outdoors and everything the Traverse City and Leelanau Peninsula region had to offer, they explored the lakeshore, natural sites and cultural attractions with their children – Dane and Julianne.

When an opportunity to relocate to Lake Ann came about in May, 2012 they couldn’t resist. That summer, they managed the Sleeping Bear Resort – spread out on 450 feet of frontage on the 40-acre Herendeene Lake. Just six months later (December 27, 2012), they purchased the resort and have just celebrated their first year as owners of the property.

“With Dane at Lake Superior State University and Julianne at Grand Valley State University, we decided it was time to pursue a dream,” says Randy.

Founded in 1971 as the Herendeene Lake Resort, the property was owned by the Mark Gabrick family from 1999 until 2012 – becoming the Sleeping Bear Resort in 2007. With its six cabins, five bedroom log home and six bedroom remodeled farm home, the resort can accommodate as many as 60 guests at any given time. Located 15 miles from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Traverse City, the year-round property offers countless on-site and nearby activities.

“We often take rides into the Leelanau Peninsula and visit the wineries and the little villages of Empire, Glen Arbor, Lake Leelanau, Leland, Northport and Suttons Bay,” Randy says. “The people in Northwest Michigan are so friendly and they all seem to have a smile on their face – that’s part of what attracted us to the area and makes us feel at home here.”

7670 Reynolds Road — Lake Ann, Michigan
(231) 642-7000

13 Best Eats of 2013…

bWell I added a couple new restaurants to my “bucket list” in 2013 – but not as many as I wanted to. Yet, I seemed to fill myself with some amazing, mouth-watering, delicacies from some of my favorite eateries. Needless to say, I didn’t go hungry! Ironically, several salads made my list this year – and I’m not talking the boring iceberg or bagged salad varieties – but tasty, unique and flavorful treats!

With an anticipated move to the Traverse City area during the summer of 2014, I expect I’ll be finding some new places to be wined and dined – meaning my recap next year should be better than ever.

For now…here’s a quick trip down my culinary road from the past 12 months.

#1 Lamb Reuben – Reserve Wine & Food, Grand Rapids.
The first time I had this mouth-watering sandwich I fell in love (and somehow knew it would hold its own as #1 on this year’s list). Served on crusty rye bread, the brisket-style lamb with all its juicy flavor melded with the homemade sauerkraut and sweet dressing in the most delicious way. I remember the first bite sitting at the bar…and how each bite after was taking slowly and deliberately so I could savor each and every one. I raved about this sandwich from the onset – and encouraged others who were there for lunch to give it a try. I think I must have consumed 4-5 of these throughout the year (careful to not overdo it and detract from the awesomeness of the meal). I was back in GR just before Christmas and had to have just one more before the end of the year – just as incredible as that very first bite!

#2 Radish Salad – Salt of the Earth, Fennville
This became my go-to salad when visiting Salt throughout the summer months. I’ve always been a fan of radishes – but add chevre and a tart citrus dressing too it and I was hooked. Most people don’t think to do anything with radishes other than serve them raw – but roasting or even boiling them provides a totally different, mellowed flavor with still a hint of dense crunch. The added creaminess of the cheese made each bite a bit of heaven.

#3 Roasted Marrow – Roast, Detroit.
This delicacy has been recommended to me for a few years, but I hadn’t found it…until earlier this year. While walking through downtown Detroit following the kick off reception for the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism, I convinced my group of colleagues to stop off for an unforgettable dinner. The ever-adventurous eater, I quickly spotted the marrow on the menu and quickly requested two orders for the table. Turns out the rest of the group wasn’t as open-minded as I was – good thing the salty treat was pleasing to me because I think I ate about 10 crostini pieces with it slathered on top.

#4 Pork Belly Tacos – six.one.six at JW Marriott, Grand Rapids.
What’s not to love about pork belly wrapped in a tortilla? A long-time fan of fish tacos (which is also on the menu – and available for a mix-and-match with the pork belly taco), this is one of my favorite light lunches. Served with an avocado cream, cilantro and guajillo salsa, and a handful of tortilla chips they’re full of flavor and texture!

#5 Rabbit Loin, Rack, Liver, Bacon & Chards – Red Haven, Okemos.
With its ever-changing menu, this premier farm-to-table eatery just outside of Lansing pulled out all the stops when a group of 20 brewers showed up for an extensive dinner back in June. Basically, they delivered a couple plates of everything on the menu. With a nod toward rustic, I was excited to find rabbit, duck and lots of root vegetables and fresh produce in every appetizer, salad and entrée served up. Since the menu changes so frequently, don’t expect to find the same combination today that you had last year, last month or even last week. Just be open to trying it all…you won’t be disappointed.

#6 Gazelle Salad – Terra GR, Grand Rapids.
When I went to the grand re-opening of this Eastown eatery (formerly Trillium Haven) I was served up a variety of items from the new menu – and the one that sticks out in my mind (and the one I’ve craved from time to time since) is this salad with green lentils, faro, walnuts, seasonal greens and vegetables with a cumin vinaigrette.

#7 Stacked Heirloom Tomato Salad – Food Dance, Kalamazoo.
About one of my favorite summer treats is a good heirloom tomato salad – the more colors and sizes, the better. This bright dish also featured two other favs – black beans (from Michigan’s own Kirklin Farms) and avocados. A light tomato juice surrounded it all, making it juicy and full of flavor. This is a seasonal special of course, as Food Dance makes a solid practice of not serving vegetables out of season. Look for a variation of this mouth-watering dish next summer.

#8 Beet Salad – Palate, Milford.
Friends and colleagues have been raving about this new restaurant – and my only experience had been in the “Brewer Hospitality” area at the Michigan Summer Beer Festival (which was top notch, both in 2012 and 2013). So, when I found myself in this neighborhood in November – I had to stop by and check it out. Despite unpleasant memories as a child of mass-produced canned beets, in my adult life I’ve found them to be a flavorful, hearty, earthy treat – when prepared properly, as it was at Palate. The addition of goat cheese and multi-colored tomatoes in the mix was a bonus! Color, texture and flavors – all key elements in my fav dishes – all came into play in this dish.

#9 Pork Rillette – Soup Spoon Café, Lansing.
I’ve found a fondness for rillette – pork, lamb, duck – doesn’t matter the source, it’s the rich creaminess of the shredded meats blended with its own fats was delicious spread out on slices of crusty baguette. The combination of the cornichons, pickled onion and fig jam made for a great accompaniment for this delicious appetizer. Kudos to the restaurant also for its impressive Michigan craft beer selection!

#10 Roasted Root Flatbread Pizza – Stormcloud Brewing, Frankfort
One of Michigan’s newest craft breweries opened this past summer just blocks away from Lake Michigan. In addition to a variety of gourmet flavored popcorn (like garlic chipotle, coconut sriracha, lime and sea salt and bacon and chives – my fav) they’re noted for their gourmet flatbread pizzas. The Roasted Root is loaded with root vegetables – beets, turnips and parsnips, along with garlic herb oil, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, roasted garlic and goat cheese, drizzled with a horseradish sour cream. www.stormcloudbrewing.com

#11 Fish Tacos – Twisted Rooster, Grand Rapids
Always a go-to item on the menu, I first discovered and fell in love with fish tacos here. The pale ale battered fish is served up with fresh aromatic pico de gallo, white cheddar and sweet crispy noodle slaw, topped with a cilantro sour cream and a side of tortilla chips. An impressive list of Michigan beer and wine can also be found – and the Chateau Grand Traverse Riesling pairs well with this dish, in my opinion.

#12 Brussel Sprouts, Bacon & Triple Cream Brie – The Laundry, Fenton
Just about anything served up in a skillet is appealing to me – presentation aside. Something about the seasoned cast iron adds to the overall flavor of the dish, if you ask me. As brussel sprouts are my favorite veggie – and everything is better with bacon – this was an ideal choice off the menu. The triple cream brie was a big bonus, melting into all the crevices of the sprouts. I had been wanting to get to this eatery for some time, after seeing all the attention they give to Michigan beer. I’m looking forward to returning as there are dozens of other menu items I just can’t wait to try!

#13 Strawberry Martini – Four Roses, Plainwell.
You can’t have a best of list without dessert. I loved everything about this dish – from the presentation in the martini glass to my favorite fruit, topped with a delicious Grand Marnier whipped cream. One day, when I was at the restaurant for lunch AND dinner – I had this dessert twice (don’t judge me). Later in the season, blueberries found their way into the glass – which didn’t break my heart in the least. Can’t wait for summer to indulge in this semi-healthy dessert again!

I look forward to visiting even more restaurants in 2014 – and of course, your recommendations are always welcome!