(WARNING: Lengthy post and LOTS of photos below!)
Last month, I had the privilege of attending the first, hopefully annual, Taste of Michigan food blogger event. When I saw Rachel tweet about spending a day visiting the best food places in Grand Rapids, MI with other food bloggers, I immediately contacted her to sign up! We already had plans to be in town visiting family, so it was perfect timing.
In order to keep an intimate setting, the event was limited to 20 food bloggers. Most of the bloggers were from Michigan, but four of us came from out of state (New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Mississippi)! We all gathered together to celebrate Michigan’s amazing food scene!
Everyone first met for breakfast at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market. Unfortunately, I missed this part as I woke up to some pregnancy nausea along with a bit of laryngitis, and arrived just when the group was leaving the market. Judging from the other bloggers’ comments and photos, breakfast at The Silver Spork food truck was pretty darn good, and the market shopping was fabulous.
Next, we headed to a couple of little shopping villages of Grand Rapids to do some prop shopping. During this time, we visited an adorable shop called Art of the Table where we got to sample some chocolates and were also given a nice little swag bag full of different Michigan food items sold in their store. (See the peanut brittle up there? Oh.my.word. SO good!) I loved this shop so much that I brought my mom back to it a few days later and where she picked out her birthday present (cheese and chocolate, of course!)
Another shop, Under the Vines, set up a bunch of Michigan food products for us to sample (photo on the far right). My favorite was the Michigan made tortilla chips, but it was obvious that the most popular of the 20 bloggers was the apple butter as the store sold out within minutes of our visit. (Also in the photo above, are fab food bloggers Chellie, Megan and Nicole.)
We also stopped in for a quick coffee break at a local shop called Rowster Coffee. They contributed an entire 1.5 lb container of coffee beans to each of the bloggers! They roast their beans right there on site, and brew your cup of coffee per order. Complete freshness and super nice baristas! And, seriously, how cute is Nicole with her cup o’ latte? 😉
After shopping until we almost dropped (or froze in the low MI temps), it was time to head to the heart of the city for a private lunch at Bistro Bella Vita. The gracious restaurant opened their doors just for us and catered a fabulous meal. Every dish was fantastic, but my favorite? The beef risotto, pictured top middle.
Of course, we all whipped our cameras out to photograph the food before chowing down. On the top right photo, you can see Claire and Ashley doing just that. Beth, from KitchenAid, also joined us for lunch and hosted a stand mixer and toaster giveaway. It was great to chat with Beth again after previously meeting her at the Food Blog Forum in Orlando. Hi Beth!
During our lunch, Liz presented a demonstration on the new KitchenAid 13-cup food processor. You wouldn’t believe how QUIET this food processor is! If I didn’t already have the 12-cup ultra-wide mouth food processor, I would seriously consider getting this. The new slicing mechanism is quite appealing, as well. Anyway, Liz made the most amazing hummus with toasted pine nuts and shared with us all. And, see that bread up there that looks like a blanket? It’s a Middle Eastern flat bread that I have so-aptly named “blanket bread.” Super delicious. Shoot Liz a tweet to ask her where you can find it.
As if breakfast, shopping and lunch wasn’t enough for the day, we then drove around the corner to a tour and tasting at Reserve Wine & Food. Here, I had a coughing fit while the GM, Peter, was giving us a presentation about their wines. Embarrassing! Thankfully, Chellie came to my rescue with a glass of water and Rachel, with a peppermint. Thanks, ladies!
Peter then led us on a tour of the wine bar, stopping in the basement to view the stunning wine cellar (pictured bottom center), placed in the old vault of the former bank. He also showed us the most expensive bottle of wine they had, I believe it was priced at $2,700! (Pictured bottom left.)
After our time at Reserve, we were given a couple hours of free time to tour downtown GR on our own. Since I was going to be doing that with the hubs the next day, I decided to use this time to head back to my parents’ house to check on Judah and kick my feet up for a little rest before dinner.
Before dinner, we met back up for cocktail hour at Mixology before finding our seats for dinner with the chefs at Six.One.Six. A few of us missed Mixology because we found each other right outside the bar, and ended up gabbing while the time passed away, not realizing that cocktail hour was over and everyone was already seated for dinner! I wasn’t complaining a bit, though, as these ladies were so much fun to chat with and alcohol isn’t exactly in my diet plan right now while pregnant anyway. 😉
Our private dinner with the chefs at Six.One.Six was nothing short of amazing. Each course was explained to us and even careful attention was given to those that required vegan or vegetarian ingredients. My favorite was the creamy cauliflower soup with apple cinnamon puree. I have to find that recipe or try to recreate it at home, because it was certainly one of the best soups I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, it was the only one I didn’t snatch a photo of, probably because I guzzled it down so quickly!
I couldn’t believe I actually loved the beets in the frisee salad, and then the chicken breast roulade was downright delectable. Dessert? Well, leave it up to these chefs to whip up a tasty vegan banana creme pie dazzled with a truffle.
Dinner was a great chance to chat and exchange fun stories with more bloggers, and to snap a few more photos that unfortunately turned out yellow because of the lighting. See Megan doing the same with her iPad? (Pictured bottom left. Made me giggle!) Liz gave us her second presentation of the day…this time showing us each item in our fully packed swag bags! Seriously, I’ve never received so much swag at a blogging event. It was so much fun to go through it all!!
I hope you can tell from this post that I had a fabulous time, and I hope that if you live in the Grand Rapids area, you will check out some of these places above. Or, maybe I’ve encouraged you to put Michigan on your “places to visit” list? 😉 Thanks to Liz and Rachel for planning such a wonderful day! And, thank you to all of the sponsors who contributed to the giveaways and swag bags, along with the coordinators for the stores and restaurants we visited. Fun time was had by all!