Michigan’s [Food] Adventure: Part 3

Onto my last post of my Michigan adventures.

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I, now, very happily, have the honor of telling you about one of my favorite places ever. Mackinac Island – pronounced Mackinaw, not to be confused with Mackinaw City that is located on the lower peninsula of Michigan. It is one of the most beautiful and best kept secrets of the US, The island itself only has three vehicles – police, ambulance and fire truck. Otherwise, the modes of transport are bike and horse. Yes, horse.

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The island sits between the division of Lake Huron, the east side of Michigan and Lake Michigan, the west side of Michigan. I have been fortunate enough to have visited this islands more than some Michiganders have. For over ten years, I have looked forward to this quaint piece of American delight. Since there are no cars, the island feels like a whole other world, almost like you stepped back in time. Things seem more simple. Probably why the movie, Somewhere in Time, was set here on the island and in the Grand Hotel.

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The Grand Hotel

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The four of us plus a photo of me!

If you make your way to Mackinac Island, not going to the Grand Hotel is basically a sin. I have been fortunate enough to have been blessed with the opportunity to stay at the hotel three out of my four times on the island. It is an awesome resort with its great food, elaborate decoration, and old fashioned charm. It really is like going back in time. Sidenote: check out Somewhere in Time if you haven’t seen it already. Great movie staring the young Christopher Reeve AKA Superman and Jane Seymour featuring this beautiful island.

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It may cost money to even go on the grounds, but the $10 is definitely worth it, especially if you are going to the lunch buffet. this buffet is probably one of the classiest buffets you may even look your eyes upon. And the menu is so extravagant. Salad buffet, cold buffet with pasta salads and smoked fish, and a hot buffet with things like beef tips and pan seared salmon.

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When I returned from my trip, my coworkers were hating on me because “who vacations in Michigan? It’s Michigan.” Well guess what, Michigan is not as bad as people make it out to be be, mostly because in general, people equate it solely to Detroit, which is on the up and up, by the way. It is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the US, especially when you are speaking on Mackinac Island. I am not saying number 1, but it definitely makes the top 10. For my personal list, top 5. Make the case for yourself though and give the mitten a chance.

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Michigan’s [Food] Adventure: Part 2

The Great Create-Your-Own-GR-Bar-Crawl


Hop Cat | I thought this bar was a Grand Rapids native place. Turns out, Hop Cat is a small restaurant chain much like Jack Brown’s in Michigan, Wisconsin, even Kentucky. Most of them being in Michigan, the first location was in Grand Rapids in 2008. Their main goal is to bring you great beer but they also boost some solid munchies.

We visited Hop Cat on Courtney’s birthday and then again for Courtney, Rachael and my create-your-own-GR-bar-crawl. The decor is wacky with bikes in the ceiling and all those old fashioned liquor ads, even on the ceiling. A very laid-back vibe, much like Michigan itself. The beer list is just about a mile long and when one runs out, the words “no beer for you” get stamped across the description. It made me giggle on multiple occasions.

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Now to the food. The three of shared all of these yummy goodies. So get ready for the low down.

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Meat Head Pizza Rolls | One word: delicious. Something about pizza toppings wrapped up in a wonton and fried is just marvelous and tasty in my mind. I mean, think about it. The melding of most people’s guilty pleasures – pizza and Chinese. Anyways, the cheese is melty and the wonton is crunchy. Seriously good.

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Pretzel Nuggz | Talk about some solid drunk food. Not that I was drunk, but I would imagine they would be great when I in that state. My much loved pretzels cut into little balls, fried per usual, and drenched in butter. Holy jeez, pass them over. Served with beer cheese, keep it coming. Or drink it, like Rachael did. If these pretzels had been in normal pretzel form, it would have one of the best I’ve ever had. Just salty enough, light and moist.

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Quesadilla | Cheesy with all the flavors a quesadilla should have. The black bean dip in the filling pairs perfectly with the house cheese blend. But really, who doesn’t like bean dip, especially when it’s on a cheesy quesadilla. the added spinach makes you feel seemingly healthy with all this cheese involved.

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Crack Fries | These fries are rightfully named. I don’t say this often, but they are some of the best fries outside of Belgium. They are not at all the same style as my beloved Belgian frites. But the spices are on point. They are also fried to what I consider fry perfection, which can be explained by the beer batter they are drenched in before frying. These puppies are also served with the beer cheese – like I said before, keep the cheese coming.


Stella’s Lounge | Being the burger woman I am, when I heard the supposed best burger in the US was around the corner in Grand Rapids, it was hard to not make the case to go. The burger was really good. But I have to say it was not the most amazing burger I have ever had. It was moist and juicy, as  a burger should be. And the flavor was up there, one of the best. But in my opinion, it’s hard to judge all burgers on the same playing field because of the different types of beef. I have to be honest when I say that their fries were not nearly my favorite. They had an odd seasoning, which basically killed it for me.

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Stella’s also boosts this ridiculously strong variation of a Long Island Iced Tea. It even comes in its own souvenir glass.

Needless to say, if you happen to find yourself upon a Hop Cat or in GR at Stella’s, I dare you not to go in and make your belly a happy one.

Michigan’s [Food] Adventure: Part 1

You all are about to get a load of a food and travel story for a place you may have never considered to visit. I highly suggest it.

As I have mentioned in my previous articles, I recently went to Michigan to visit my best friend, primarily for her 21st birthday. I met her in Belgium and I am forever grateful for this. This trip was my longest trip there but her family is honestly my second family. It was such an awesome trip! With tubing trips, bar crawls and a trip to one of my favorite places. I even fished for the first time and wore camo. You all get to hear all about it. Excuse the fact these articles are a little long. They are coming all in a clump and named for the Michigan theme park: Michigan’s Adventure, where Courtney has worked before

There is so much for me to say about the mitten!

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Rockwell Republic | This was the restaurant we tried for my best friend, Courtney’s birthday. It’s located near Heritage Hill in Grand Rapids. They have two different spaces of the restaurant, which I found interesting and cool. Not only did they serve up awesome martinis. The IDK was our martini of choice: sky passion fruit vodka, mango liqueur, fresh lemon juice, sparkling passion fruit, orange peel. If that doesn’t sound like a solid and deliciously fruity martini, I don’t know what does. Definitely a winner for my first martini.

But their grilled cheese was one of the best I’ve had, especially for a restaurant. The bread was crusty with the right amount of crunch for the grilled cheese. The cheeses were cheddar and emmentaler, which both melt well. The emmentaler cheese was featured on my cheese board from a few months ago. It is a lot like Swiss so it adds a bit of underlying smokiness to the grilled cheese. This smoky aspect paired perfectly with the smoked tomato dipping sauce that was served on the side. The flavor of this sauce was smoky, a tad spicy and basically wonderful.

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This is Courtney and I on her birthday!

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Nonna’s Cafe | This is a cafe with such a nice little Michigan charm located in Ada, which is just a bit outside of Grand Rapids. It has a soothing vibe when you walk in mostly because of the gray and white walls. Considering my recent love affair with sage, it was hard to give up trying this one once I saw it on the menu. The flavor of the sage was, of course, what pleased me the most about this dish. It could never be as good as Cafe Torino in my eyes but the ravioli seemed fresh and full of flavor.

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As for the rest of the menu, Nonna’s serves hearty salads and pastas, not to mention their coffee and tea, which seems to be their main focus. Unfortunately, they don’t have a website so it is harder for me to find out some of the insights I don’t get while I’m in the place. But they seem to change their menu often and seasonally, since it is so limited. They serve breakfast and lunch. And their pastries also look amazing. They even introduced me to having honey and cinnamon on my coffee – if you haven’t tried it, you must.


My kind-of-Michigan-Monday | Odd Side Ales serves up imaginative craft beer flavors in the heart of Grand Haven. This brewery is located across from The Kirby House, one of my features from last year, which I got to try again. Just as good, FYI. The Pronto Pup also boosts the best corn dogs there ever were. The breading isn’t too much and they are fried there on the spot. And it’s literally just a shack – cheapest rent ever – aka genius. Side note: the photo featured above is also from Grand Haven off of their beautiful pier.

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Michigan may be a place known for mostly just Detroit, giving the state a somewhat bad name. It may also be crawling with national chains. But when you find the local places, you have found some great food.

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The Old Fire Station

Burgers, burgers, burgers. For a year now, I have been hearing about this old fire station turned into a restaurant that serves up a mean burger. My big sister in my sorority lives right next to this place and my little is just as obsessed.

One Sunday brunch, my little, one of my closest friends in Alpha Gam and I went to Station 2. On another note, this past weekend, my chapter welcomed 40 awesome new members. It was great to be involved with the process even as an alum.

I was finally trying this place I had been hearing about for months and months. Even at brunch, I ended up getting a burger. What can I say. There were too many awesome looking options so I really couldn’t not try one. It would be doing myself a disservice.

The BBQ Barista burger. Coffee rubbed and drenched in BBQ sauce. With smoked gouda too. Um, yum. At least this burger was rubbed with coffee, that’s pretty brunchy right?

This whole coffee rub thing made me a little skeptical. My little told me that coffee and burgers are kind of a thing. Something about the coffee really brings out the flavor of the burger and such and such. I can see why.

For most of my bites, I could not even tell the burger was coffee rubbed in the least. There was just a slight undertone. Other bites had so much coffee flavor. With the smokiness of the gouda, roasted coffee grounds and the char from the grill on the burger, all of the flavors just worked. Absolutely delicious. I was kind of amazed by this whole coffee thing. It has inspired a bit of experimentation in me.

My friends both got the sausage gravy. It was some of the best restaurant sausage gravy I’ve had. And I take my sausage gravy seriously.

For brunch or just a burger, give this old fire station a try.

Easy and Cheesy

Happy September! Anyone else confused how it got here so quickly?

There have been many changes in my life recently. I finally took a vacation to Michigan to visit my best friend (more foodie fun to come from that) and I started a new job. I won’t go into much detail in this post but stay tuned for more!


Looking for an easy crowd pleaser?

Look no further.

The Pizza Braid is one of the easiest and quite delicious recipes out there. Considering it’s basically pizza, it is hard to find someone who doesn’t want to try this.

I got this recipe off of Tablespoon, a website with a ton of great recipes, a few months ago. It looked so easy, it was hard not to try it out myself.

Ingredients:

1 roll of pizza dough – I used Pillsbury’s dough sheet so it was a little flakier

1/2 cup of pizza sauce or marinara

2 cups of mozzarella or whatever cheese you please – I used pesto gouda from Trader Joe’s

2/3 cup of pepperonis plus more for topping

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Directions:

Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Lay the dough flat on a greased baking sheet. Use a knife or kitchen scissors to cut 8 equal strips along the longer edges. Make sure to leave a 3 or 4 inch space down the middle for your filling. Spoon pizza sauce onto the dough. Sprinkle some cheese, add some pepperonis. Top with some more cheese and pepperonis. Once your finished, start on one end and fold the dough over the filling so it overlaps and looks braided. Top with some cheese and pepperonis. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melty.

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Because I used the dough sheet and not straight pizza dough, my braid looks a little different than what yours would look like if you made this yourself. If you opt to use the dough sheet – it is a little cheaper, be aware it cooks faster than the pizza dough. Hence my very golden brown example.

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Just the same, this cheesy masterpiece is very reminiscent of a stromboli. It’s full of cheese and whatever delicious toppings you chose. Whether you use the pizza dough or dough sheet, flaky or not, you have a little pocket of goodness in your hands.

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Anywho, another awesome thing is that you can get creative with this. It is a blank canvas. You could try buffalo chicken, cheeseburger or pesto chicken. Maybe even make it a little sweet.

The possibilities are endless.