29 March 2014

2014 MICHIGAN Grand Rapids - Foodie Trip

Recently went to Grand Rapids, Michigan (about an hour drive north from home) to handle some business with our Apple iPad. While we were at the shopping center we stopped by William-Sonoma. 

W-S has a wide variety of specialty spices, beaded honey and infused salts. Porcini mushroom infused salt is my fave so we replenished our supply. I love it on pasta, mashed potatoes, veggies, veggie burgers, popcorn and the like. See that empty spot on the shelf? Well, we got the last jar...again!

While we were at the mall, we also noticed an olive oil store that was going out of business. Peeked in there. Nothing really seemed that on-sale even though the sign said 70% off. But we did buy a sun-dried tomato infused olive oil and a jar of pesto sauce.

We've been hearing about a new downtown Grand Rapids market. It is not a grocery store, but small vendors who have come together to form a co-op style market under one roof. As we were so close we decided to check it out. The facility is brand new and includes a large open building and a covered sidewalk area where in warmer weather farmers will sell their produce. It is fabulous, even without the outdoor market area operating. 

The inside has many vendors that sell mostly food but also kitchenware or kitchen-related items. The first place we stopped was a cheese and wine shop. They have all kinds of cheeses, a cheese oriented lunch bar (great grill cheese sandwiches on the menu), and they offer cheese classes and tastings.

Recently we attended a wine event at Zazio's at the Radisson Hotel in Kalamazoo and purchased a vermouth from La Spinetta Winery (in the Piedmont area of Italy). It is called Contratto Vermouth Bianco and tastes more like a liquor than something to combine with another alcohol to make a cocktail. Silly us, we originally bought it for the label but loved it so much, we were wondering where to buy it in the future. THIS is the place. They have a lot of unusual and new-to-us liquor choices.

Next on the "tour" was a coffee vendor, a produce stand with fresh and organic items, a fish monger with an excellent variety of fresh fish, and a meat market with fresh and frozen options. Here there were some of unusual choices like bison, frog legs, and venison that you don't usually see at the big grocery stores.

At the end of the aisle was a bread baker. They also have a traditional style pizza oven. Not a lot of sweets here, but really great looking breads. Sweets came later in our tour. On the other side of the aisle was a fresh pasta market with spaghetti sauces and other pasta related items. See the fresh pasta drying here.

Next stop was the spice store. We bought another Porcini mushroom infused salt, so we could do a taste test later. Turns out we liked the W-S version better, but both were good. We also bought some chives and Vietnamese cinnamon. They had a nice variety of teas and tea utensils here, too.

Around the corner was a Thai take-out food stand (will go there next time), a florist, and an oil vendor. Mike bought some Mandarin orange infused oil, which he uses in Brownies. At the end of that aisle was a prepared meal store. They had all kinds of pick-up-and-go meals to take home to heat-and-eat. Lots of comfort food type stuff.

Next to that was a Grocer's Daughter chocolate shop. If you recall, we talked about the original location for this store up in Leelanau, Michigan, at the top of the lower peninsula. We discovered this place years ago and always go out of our way to stop there to pick up truffles and dark chocolate bark seasoned with sea salt. We were happy to see a branch here, so close to home. Of course, we bought a bit of chocolate for later.

By that time we were pretty hungry after looking at all the great food options. We decided to have lunch at the next stop, which was a Mexican take-out stand. We both got burritos and rate them one of the best we have had in Michigan. The facility has an area set up with tables and chairs and lots of windows. We enjoyed our hearty lunch there in this warm spot looking out at the freezing cold piles of snow.

We continued down the last few vendors, past a popcorn place with many flavors to choose from. But we opted for the sweet shop next door. Lots of homemade style cookies and pies and other bakery delights. Loved their giant pink mix master. Can't tell by the photo, but it was almost a yard high. And the gals dress in pink aprons. Very cute. We bought Snickerdoodle cookies for our dessert (sugar cookies mostly, but with cinnamon).

On the second level were cooking classrooms, including a miniature sized one for kids. Also, a greenhouse area. It is not fully underway yet, but will be a community garden come spring. In the photo in the background you can see downtown Grand Rapids. So refreshing to have this type of endeavor in the heart of the city.

We really enjoyed our afternoon. Highly recommend it. And we'll be back when the weather gets warmer and the outdoor vendors are in full operation.

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If you have visited any of these places, we would love to hear your comments. Or send us recommendations of places we should not miss.