Bright Autumn leaves, jack-o-lanterns, and mums are giving way to one of the best days of the year: Thanksgiving. Last year, I wrote about a locally-sourced from scratch Thanksgiving. Your cornucopia can be entirely sourced from West Michigan; from the turkey, to root vegetables, to apple pie. This year, we look to a few local culinary experts to inspire our Turkey day spread. Read on for three recipes perfect for the upcoming holiday and perhaps look back at last year’s post for my Cran-Apple Sauce and Creamed Onions recipes.

Butternut Squash Caponata from Kangaroo Kitchen & Catering
Chef Roman is known for his excellent catering services and bright, visually appealing, flavorful cuisine. On Roman’s Thanksgiving table you won’t find marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, but you will find this, a seasonal, salty-sweet caponata. This cooked vegetable salad can be served in a polenta cup. To make it more akin to the classic, add diced grilled eggplant. Amp up the polenta with sun-dried tomatoes, chopped herbs, or blue cheese. Good thing we can count on Roman, an Aussie, to do Thanksgiving a little differently.

Caponata - Thanksgiving in Grand Rapids, MI [read more…]

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The Nutcracker - Image Courtesy of Grand Rapids Ballet

The Nutcracker Artwork
Image courtesy of Grand Rapids Ballet

The Grand Rapids Ballet production of The Nutcracker is a tradition for many in and around West Michigan during the holiday season. This year, the classic gets a fresh take with none other than famed children’s book author and East Grand Rapids native Chris Van Allsburg (author of The Polar Express, among many others) involved in the production along with Tony Award-winning designer Eugene Lee. Val Caniparoli, who has worked with more than 35 ballet, opera and theaters, will choreograph.

The Nutcracker will be the largest production Grand Rapids Ballet has put on stage. But just how did this re-imagination come together?

Patricia Barker, Artistic Director for Grand Rapids Ballet, worked with Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak in the Pacific Northwest Ballet production of The Nutcracker. This unique collaboration became a holiday tradition in the Seattle Area and Patricia has looked forward to establishing a similar tradition in Grand Rapids since her arrival in 2010.

“Not only was Maurice Sendak a big influence in my life, he was a big influence in Chris’ life,” said Barker.

Van Allsburg’s wife Lisa brought home a box of children’s books to inspire her husband to write his own. None of them piqued his interest or imagination-until he reached the bottom of the box. As Van Allsburg wrote in a tribute to Sendak upon his death, “I discovered a small book that was unlike the others.” That book was Sendak’s Higglety Pigglety Pop! and Van Allsburg has been writing ever since. [read more…]

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GGRBC riders enjoying a break on Climate Ride Midwest. Photo courtesy of Justine Burdette

GGRBC riders enjoying a break on Climate Ride Midwest
Photo courtesy of Justine Burdette

From its recent placement on the top 50 cities bike-friendly cities by Bicycling® magazine to becoming part of a national environmental fundraising effort, Grand Rapids is adding “green” to its growing list of attributes. And it’s easy for you to take part as well!

The non-profit group Climate Ride organizes charitable events focused on environmental causes around the United States. This summer, 115 riders participated in the inaugural Climate Ride Midwest. The four-day, 300-mile ride from Grand Rapids to Chicago September 6-9 raised over $400,000 dollars for leading environmental and bicycle advocacy organizations.

Experience Grand Rapids was proud to sponsor teams from the West Michigan Environmental Action Committee (WMEAC) and the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition (GGRBC) to take part in the event. [read more…]

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International Wine, Beer and Food Festival 2014

by Lyndsay Israel on October 30, 2014

International Wine, Beer and Food Festival 2014 in Grand Rapids. Photo Courtesy of Show Span.

Photo Courtesy of Show Span

Grand Rapids is pleased to welcome back the 7th annual International Wine, Beer and Food Festival at the DeVos Place November 20-22.  It’s a triple threat: Any event that serves wine, beer and food (and cider, spirits and mead too!) in one place is guaranteed to be lively, and this festival is no exception.

If you’ve never attended, then you may not know that the IWBFF is the biggest festival of its kind in the midwest: “It’s a tasting celebration,” says Show Manager Dawn Baker. Attendees can purchase tickets for specific days, or can buy a three day pass for just $40, a new offering for 2014. Over 1,200 wines, including some rare or hard-to-find, are available to taste alongside West Michigan’s culinary finest.  Tasting tickets can be purchased in 50 cent increments and spent on as many snacks as you can hold.  For a full dinner, reserve your tickets for a full pairings meal experience here.

If you prefer hops to grapes, check out the second year of the Brewer’s Loft, an impressive offering of craft, domestic and imported beers.  In 2013, the festival also embraced hard ciders, which have continued to grow in popularity and quantity for the past year. [read more…]

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Cocktails and drinks at Lumber Baron Bar

photo credit: Jeff Denapoli

I’m not sure how it happened, but it seems like one day I suddenly went from being “wrapping up my 20s” to “well into my 30s.” Sure, the passage of years makes getting older inevitable, but it still came as a bit of a rude awakening when I looked around me at a favorite night spot one evening and realized that I was at least ten years older than most of the other women on the dance floor. (Maybe that would also explain why my heels were at least an inch shorter while my skirt was a few inches longer.)

It was clear that I’d outgrown the hot spots inhabited by young hipsters and hotties and needed to look around for some new favorites that would feel welcoming to a slightly more mature crowd.

When you live somewhere for a while it becomes easier to figure out where those places are. It’s not so simple finding those spots when you’re from out of town, though. Sure, Yelp reviews might refer to an “older crowd,” but it can be hard to tell if they’re talking about 30-somethings or 60-somethings. The crowd can change drastically throughout the course of an evening, too. As much fun as it can be to experience a city “like a local,” sometimes when you’re traveling you just want to know you can find a place you’ll have fun and feel comfortable.

So during a recent trip to Grand Rapids, my husband Jon, our friend Jeff and I decided to test out several bars, restaurants and nightspots in the downtown area to determine how friendly they felt to an over-35 crowd. (It was a hard job, but somebody had to do it.)

Here were some of our favorite night spots for tourists and travelers 35 and older:

[read more…]

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Host a Memorable Reunion in Grand Rapids–and We’ll Help

by Kirsetin Morello on October 21, 2014

Good things happen when you gather with far-flung friends, service members, co-workers, or family members for a reunion. It’s the perfect time to reconnect and revisit the past, of course. But it’s also an opportunity to create new memories and build bonds for the future. And Grand Rapids is the perfect place to host your reunion!

Grand Rapids Skyline

Not only is Grand Rapids easily accessible by car, train or plane, but we make it easy on groups of all sizes because of the plethora of activities, venues, hotels, and restaurants we offer. What’s more, Grand Rapids been named one of the best cities to retire in and one of the best places to raise a family for good reason: our city caters to people of all ages.

From our fun-filled Children’s Museum and our stellar GR Art Museum to scenic Meijer Gardens and the lions and tigers and bears at John Ball Zoo, there’s something for everyone. Grand Rapids also features a variety of accommodations in a variety of price ranges both downtown and throughout the Grand Rapids area, including the luxurious JW Marriott and Amway Grand Plaza. If you prefer to be outside of the city, you’ll find plenty of affordable event facilities and lodging within just 10 minutes from downtown. [read more…]

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Apples and Doughnuts and Cider and More: The Fall Flavors of West Michigan

by Kirsetin Morello October 16, 2014

It doesn’t get much more beautiful than autumn in Grand Rapids. The air is cool and crisp, the city is blanketed in orange, red and yellow foliage, and great cider is never far away. Don’t miss out on the chance to enjoy some of that cider – or our local apples, pumpkins, farm-made baked goods, […]

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This Fall Enjoy a Pint and a Lift: West Michigan’s Brewery Hop Transportation Options

by Molly Crist October 9, 2014

Fall in Grand Rapids brings a slew of season-inspired beers and ciders and this year, new transportation options to enjoy libations all over town. As the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, the allure of warm breweries and seasonal craft beer grows. Local tap lists have been updated to feature fall flavors like apple, cinnamon, […]

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7 Activities Your Family Will Love This Fall in Grand Rapids

by Melody VanderWeide October 7, 2014

With fall colors comes crisp air and the urge to get outside. Now is the time to dig out boots and sweaters and enjoy all that a West Michigan autumn has to offer. The only trouble you’ll have is deciding where to go first! Here are seven must-do fall family events! HAYRIDES – Head on […]

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Basketball in GR: The Grand Rapids Drive is Shooting for Success

by Kirsetin Morello October 2, 2014

If you’re ready for some great basketball, you’re in the right place at the right time. The Grand Rapids Drive, a new development league (D-League) team for the Detroit Pistons, kicks off their season mid-November, with their first home tip off at 7:00 p.m. on November 26 against the Los Angeles D-Fenders Former college baseball […]

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