Casual & Family Restaurants

Leland Wine & Food Festival ~ Saturday, June 9, 2012

Today on The Daily Michigan we have a pair of tickets to the Leland Wine & Food Festival.

Leland Wine Festival by farlane
Leland Wine Festival by farlane

It’s Michigan’s oldest wine festival and held on the second Saturday in June (June 9, 2012) from noon-6 PM. This year will be the 27th annual of this fundraiser for the Leland Chamber of Commerce, and there’s few things better than a day in the Leland Harbor and historic Fishtown tasting wines from local wineries and enjoying delicious food prepared by local restaurants.

There’s also live music all day and (of course) the beautiful views of Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands. Absolute Michigan is happy to be offering a pair of passes to the festival – click here for all the details and a listing of wineries & restaurants and check out the video below!

Click here to sign up (and to learn how you can win)

  • Black Star Farms bottle
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    The Daily Michigan: $30 Gift Certificate to Black Star Farms

The Daily Michigan: $30 Gift Certificate to Black Star Farms

April is Michigan wine Month and today on The Daily Michigan we’re giving away a $30 gift card to Black Star Farms.

Black Star Farms is a group of unique agricultural destinations including multiple wineries and tasting rooms, a distillery, and inn. TASTES their tasting room in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, their Inn and Hearth & Vine Café also abound with culinary offerings.

The winery at Black Star Farms has a hand-crafted approach to winemaking and produces classic varietal wines and fruit brandies of high character and balance. The extensive list of varietal wines and unique spirits can be sampled and purchased at their tasting rooms around the Grand Traverse Bay area, including ones on the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas as well at TASTES of Black Star Farms in the Village at the Grand Traverse Commons in Traverse City.

Food lovers will delight in the diversity of cuisines offered at one of their unique dining establishments including, TASTES, the Inn and the Hearth & Vine Café. TASTES features Matterhorn Grill Dinners, the Inn serves farm to table inspired meals on select Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and the Hearth & Vine Café is home to wood-fired pizzas.

The gift card is redeemable at any of the above locations! Please visit them at for more information.

Click here to sign up (and to learn how you can win)

Celebrate Valentine’s Day the Michigan Way

Here’s a whole ton of Valentine’s Day ideas. YOU probably have some other ideas – share them in the comments or right here or on our Facebook!

Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart. - Confucius by Church of One
Wheresoever you go,
go with all your heart. – Confucius
by Church of One

Next Tuesday, February 14th is Valentine’s Day – a day for lovers, sweethearts, paramours … and chocoholics. Like it, love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is an annual tradition that will see over one billion valentines will be given out worldwide, 85% of those by women. However you choose to celebrate the holiday, consider making it a little more special with something from Michigan.

There’s plenty of delicious Valentine’s Day recipes from Pure Michigan at The Food Network also offers up some culinary advice for Valentine’s Day complete with a full Valentine’s menu. Lansing’s WLNS CBS channel 6 website has a complete Valentine Day section on their website where you can learn all kinds of useful information including (who knew?) that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. The folks at the Grand Rapids Press and have some tips for Valentine’s Day cooking with kids.

We have to remind you that February is National Cherry Month and cherries make a great and healthy way to bring the distinctive Valentine red into your celebrations. An affordable and tasty non-alcoholic beverage are cherry sparklers made with Michigan cherry juice and sparkling water.

On the adult beverage front, a whopping 95% of wine drinkers agree that wine makes a perfect gift, and you can’t go wrong with a  Michigan wine or  Michigan beer! The folks at MyNorth offer a listing of Northern Michigan sparkling wines to set the tone for your celebration. While bubbles are big, beers can also be appreciated. Dianna at Promote Michigan has let us in on her Love Affair with Michigan Beer, which features all kinds of special and regular brews from Michigan’s brewmasters. You can stay awake Ann Arbor Brewing’s Espresso Love featuring coffee, cozy up to the Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale from Atwater Brewing or go a little lighter with Dragonmead’s Redwing Raspberry Wheat. This is a great feature so definitely check it out!

Ginny, You Are My Shining Star by docksidepress
Ginny, You Are My Shining Star by docksidepress

If you’re left scratching your head over what to buy him or her, check out the ‘Valentine’s Day Gift Giving Guide‘ from  Don’t forget the furry friends in your life either! You can be a homeless pets Valentine when WXYZ-TV 7 in Detroit hosts their Annual Valentine’s Day Telethon to support the Michigan Humane Society. Tune in or donate online with the Michigan Humane Society!

If that’s not enough and you really want to get your Valentine on, check out Absolute Michigan keyword Valentine for food & gift ideas.

For a little eye candy, you should check out the Valentine slideshow from the Absolute Michigan flickr pool!

We also have a large number of Michigan web sites to check out (though if we’re missing one, be sure to add a link to it).

Flowers & Florists - say it with flowers

Chocolate - there’s also candy companies

Candles - lighting the way for romance for thousands of years

Jewelry -silver & gold, platinum and bronze, pick your favorite.

Wow, you actually made it to the end of this post – don’t forget to buy yourself a little something for Valentines Day!

Michigan New Years Eve Happenings

Michigan New YearWe have assembled a list of some of the best New Year’s Eve events from across the state including a number from Detroit & Grand Rapids / Kalamazoo’s massive New Year’s Fest’s featuring fireworks, music and more! Did we get them all? Not likely!! Be sure to add the ones we missed to the comments and be safe while ringing in the New Year!

Taste of Kalamazoo Festival ~ July 21-23

taste-of-kalamazooEvery year, on the fourth weekend of July, thousands of hungry festival-goers flock to downtown Kalamazoo to enjoy the endless variety of foods prepared by Kalamazoo’s most popular eateries at the Taste of Kalamazoo Festival.

More than 30 local restaurants and chefs will offer mouth-watering ethnic items, family favorites, exotic dishes, and local specialties. Enjoy almost 200 items ranging from savory offerings like crab rangoon, shrimp etouffee, sushi and sashimi, prime rib, sunset scampi, beef satay, coconut shrimp, chicken curry and jambalya to desserts including bananas foster, tiramisu, strawberry shortcake, baklava, cannoli, and turtle torte. Vegetarians aren’t left wanting either and there are a wide variety of beer, wine and other alcoholic & non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy.

There’s also live music from bands including the Macpodz, Matt Giraud and Edgar Winter along with all kinds of family fun including ice sculpting, grill-offs and the Greatest Kazoo Duck Race!

Our giveaway includes 2 free entry passes and $10 in tasting tickets and all it takes to enter it (and all our other giveaways) is to be on our email list – use the box below!

Absolute Michigan will not share your email address with anyone. Period. Your inbox is safe with us. What we will share with you is a periodic but usually no more than weekly update, possibly including a special offer, potentially a prize or giveaway and definitely some great news about what is working and fun to do in the Great state called Michigan that we love!

Bavarian Inn hosts “Purely Michigan” dinner

photos & article by Samantha Tengelitsch

The Bavarian inspired Inn is focusing on buying within the state

The Bavarian inspired Inn is focusing on buying within the state

The Bavarian Inn Restaurant in Frankenmuth celebrated all things Michigan with its annual “Purely Michigan” feast last Friday. The Inn’s own Chef Phil designed a five-course meal featuring Michigan-grown foods including cranberries from the Michigan Cranberry Company (Cheboygan), the Inn’s famous Red Currant Wine, a sweet blend of currants and white wine from Fenn Valley Vineyards (Fennville), and turkey schnitzel made with turkeys raised in Michigan and sold through the Michigan Turkey Producer’s Co-op in Wyoming, MI.

The Bavarian Inn has been in operation since 1950 and is part of Zehnder’s restaurant fame, which began with Zehnder’s Restaurant in 1929. Four of the five generations were present at the dinner, including Great Grandma Dorothy, who co- founded the inn with her husband, Bill “Tiny” Zehnder.

When the Inn opened in 1950, it created two Zehnder-owned restaurants, one across the street from the other. Tiny suggested the Inn come up with a theme to distinguish one from the other, so a German architect was consulted. Dorothy said the architect agreed to work with the Zehnders as long as they promised to, “go Bavarian.” In 1958, the Bavarianized Inn re-opened.

Shrimp-stuffed Wild Caught Great Lakes Walleye. These salt-water shrimp were harvested from salt-water tanks located in Michigan and sold through the Shrimp Farm Market in Okemos.

Shrimp-stuffed Wild Caught Great Lakes Walleye. These salt-water shrimp were harvested from salt-water tanks located in Michigan and sold through the Shrimp Farm Market in Okemos.

Guests, distributors and area farmers were welcomed to the event. The third largest industry in Michigan is culinary tourism was celebrated and Bill Zehnder said the Inn’s goal is to become the “largest user of Michigan products of any restaurant in Michigan.” He added, “I think we have and will continue to achieve that.”

Representatives from the farms and distribution companies were at the dinner and complimenting the meal were presentations from each on the different aspects of growing or producing Michigan products and distributing them to area restaurants and markets.

Wally Huggett, owner for the Michigan Cranberry Company, explained cranberries, one of only three fruits native to Michigan, are on the rise. Huggett has successfully planted 217 acres of cranberries in Cheboygan County and his produce is sold directly to Zehnders who incorporate the cranberries into a delightful sorbet.

Guests joined farmers and distributors in celebrating all things Michigan including Michigan-grown cranberries and rhubarb and the Bavarian Inn's Dark Lager from the Michigan Brewing Company in Webberville.

Guests joined farmers and distributors in celebrating all things Michigan including Michigan-grown cranberries and rhubarb and the Bavarian Inn's Dark Lager from the Michigan Brewing Company in Webberville.

Annually the Inn takes in over 50 tons of Blue Hubbard squash alone from area farmer Fred Weiss of Frankenmuth. The Greenfield Noodles Company of Detroit makes their noodles and their pastry flour comes from the flourmill just down the road at the Star of the West Milling Company.

Prior to the close, American Culinary Federation award-winning Chef Phil spoke on the development of the menu. Chef Phil, who has worked with the Inn for over 20 years, consulted Dorothy in the planning stages.

Following the sold-out dinner, Bill Zhender commented, “Other than college and the Army, I’ve been here all my life.” Referring to his pre-school age granddaughter, Sophie, who was handing out menus at the event, he cheerfully added, “My dad paid me in peanuts, but we’re paying her in marbles.”

Dorothy who still works six days a week and has for 60 years, said “We bake and cook and then invite all the family over and that’s how we spend my day’s off.”

The Bavarian Inn Restaurant is located on 713 South Main Street in Frankenmuth. Visit for more information.

Michigan Culinary Tourism

Mack-in-touch Apples by (  Jennifer  )
Mack-in-touch Apples by ( Jennifer )

A month ago, Absolute Michigan participated in the the Creating Michigan Culinary Destinations conference (read our live blog) where the Michigan Culinary Tourism initiative was launched. For the video below, we spoke with Melody Johnson of the International Culinary Tourism Association, keynote speaker Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s, Linda Jones of the Michigan Wine & Grape Council and a number of attendees to get a sense of what culinary tourism can mean for Michigan.

Check out the Michigan Culinary Tourism page for links to foodie tours and other resources.  We’re also wondering about your thoughts on how culinary tourism can play a role in Michigan’s future – let us know your thoughts and interesting culinary experiences in the comments!

This video features photos from several photographers from the Absolute Michigan pool: blondieyooper, richard deming photography, photoshoparama, oldog_oltrix, southen, detroit derek, trish p and jennifer. Stay tuned to for the latest on Michigan’s booming epicurean industry!

Live at the Michigan Culinary Tourism Conference

Click here for a video from the conference!

Michigan Culinary TourismAll day today the Absolute Michigan team is at Creating Michigan Culinary Destinations, Michigan’s first conference on Culinary Tourism. The conference was a hot ticket, and nearly 200 tourism industry stakeholders are getting ready to learn about Michigan’s new initiative to increase tourism. You can learn all about the Michigan Culinary Tourism Inititative at that link and read on for updates as we have them!

Zingerman's Delicatessen
Zingerman’s Delicatessen by Ashley Dinges

1:30 pm The lunch keynote speaker is Ari Weinzweig of one of the giants of Michigan ‘s food scene, Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor. Ari is definitely a fast talker, and related that he got started washing dishes at Maude’s, and at that time, Tang and Space Sticks were his culinary adventures. He met co-founder Paul Saginaw at Maude’s and –  5 years after opening a deli in a town that wouldn’t support delis  at a location with no parking that people couldn’t find – was hailed as a genius. Today the Zingerman’s empire does $38 million in annual sales.

Ari says that (for him at least) all tourism is culinary. He relates  some “natural laws” from his book A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business that he thinks relate to building an authentic culinary destination. Natural law #1 is that an inspiring, strategically sound vision leads to greatness. He cautions that although  great visions come  from the heart, you need to develop your vision with enough richness and depth that people can understand what you’re talking about. He shared a bit of the vision for the West Side Farmer’s Market. With lines like “All these products have a story and none of them have traveled very far to get here,” it’s really clear that vision is a big part of what drives Zingerman’s.

His 2nd law is “You need to give your customers some really compelling reasons to buy from you.” He quotes Jim Hightower “Ain’t nothing in the middle of the road but 2 yellow lines and a whole lot of dead armadillos.” He  recommends that we seek to create offerings that have appeal for tourists AND residents to create a more resilient and dynamic customer base.

He closes with his belief that the customer experience is the most important thing. He breaks a recent study regarding employee attitudes toward their workplace into football terms: of the 11 players on a football team, only 4 know where the goal is, just two care who wins the game and all but 2 are just as likely to be  rooting for the other team as their own! Does this sound like your business? If it does, what can you do to change it? Ari suggests that maybe Michigan could steal a page from Hawaii and adopt the Ojibway word for welcome and become “The Aaniin State” … because someone has to be the most welcoming place in country!

Cheers,  ©n.walmsley
Cheers, ©n.wamsley

11:45 am – At the Building Lodging & Tour Packages session, Heather Price of Sandhill Crane Vineyards talked about the “Big Grape Bus” wine event they offer through the Pioneer Wine Trail in SE Michigan and all the pieces   – wine & food pairings, transportation, lodging and entertainment – that come together to create a compelling event. Steve Timmer of the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City echoed the importance of providing an all-inclusive experience and listed some of the things that his resort does including focusing on bringing local wines into their wine shop and even working with attendees on a cooking show.

One attendee (whose location shall remain nameless) wondered what to do when your area has little to offer in terms of culinary tourism. Steve suggested focusing on PR to invite food writers and the media and of course to leverage social media wherever possible. I asked him about if he had a sense whether today’s traveler is more or less interested in packages. He said that while packaging remains an important part of travel marketing, he’s finding that people are less interested in packages, preferring to design their own experiences. To me, that suggests that it’s really important for all players in the culinary travel industry to make their services and offerings clearly available across a wide spectrum of media, including that most old-fashioned of media: making your friends and neighbors aware of what you do!

The Bar @ Hopcat
The Bar @ Hopcat by stevedontsurf

11 am The “Marketing Your Culinary Destination” featured Dianna Stamfler of Promote Michigan, Sam Porter of Porterhouse Productions and Paul Stermer of Fair Food Matters. An audience member asked Sam how he got his nearly 300 volunteers. He answered “It’s all about fun. We take care of them pre and post event and engage them as partners to market and develop the events.” He also suggested engaging your fans to help you grow your social media network. The audience seemed to agree that social media is a vital component of an overall strategy.

Dianna mentioned that it’s the first-ever  Michigan Beer Week in Kalamazoo.  It’s been developed  in conjunction with the Winter Beer Conference and bars, restaurants and retailers will be teaming up to offer beer tastings, tap takeovers, brewer meet-and-greets and other special events.

Charlevoix Michigan Peppers
Charlevoix Michigan Peppers by DTWpuck

10  am Melody Johnson of the International Culinary Tourism Association was next up. She shared examples from all over the world of how everyone from third world nations on up the economic ladder are turning to culinary tourism as an economic driver. She cited rocketing technological advancements and our exploding interest in food as two prime drivers and talked about FLOSS (Fresh Local Organic Sustainable and Self-absorbed food). With  your average meal travelling 1500 miles, FLOSS is a concept that can  help keep food local.    Melody also gave a shoutout the the new “Boyne Appetit” marketing effort for Boyne City.

She showed three pictures – a museum, roller coaster and nice plate of food, and reminded attendees that food & drink IS an attraction as well, illustrating it with her discovery of Founder’s apricot wheat – a beer that she had last night with dinner and very much enjoyed. It’s not something you’re likely to find outside of Michigan, so to have it again, she’ll have to return. “The Michigan Experience” is what visitors are seeking – unique and memorable experiences that a tourist can brag about when he or she returns home.

9:40 am Steve Loftis of the Michigan Restaurant Association offered some thoughts about where Michigan’s restaurants are and what will be on their radar in 2011. One of his recommendations is that restaurants look to younger/technologically savvy members of  their staff for  ideas on more effectively using technology to acquire new patrons, but also to work more with existing customers.  He also stated that “the L word” should be on everyone’s mind as they work with their menu, trying to add more local offerings.

grits & bits (pre-syrup)
grits & bits (pre-syrup)
by jenny murray

9:15 am Linda Jones of the Michigan Wine & Grape Council opened the conference with an introduction to culinary tourism. One new resource for culinary tourists that she pointed out are the Michigan Foodie Tours.
The foodie tours feature local food and unique experiences from the whitefish and pasties of the western UP to the 200 restaurants of Ann Arbor.

7 am Last night I had a chance to talk with Melody Johnson, a founding member  of the International Culinary Tourism Association. Melody is the organization’s Community Manager and helps partners develop collaborations and inititiatives to capitalize on their culinary tourism assets. She gave me a simple thought to frame the day: “You always need to keep in mind what your customers  want to be successful. When people are coming to Michigan, they are wanting Michigan. They want authentic culinary experiences, the flavors and experiences that they can only get here.”

Although saying “It’s the food, silly” may seem a little simplistic, as the nation’s second most agriculturally diverse state, Michigan is in a unique position to tout itself as an unparalleled food destination. The local food movement has already started many on the path to promoting the strength and quality of Michigan food & drink and this effort will hopefully encourage many more to  “make it a Michigan wine/beer/fill in the blank.”

Michigan Culinary Tourism taking off!

Great Lakes Echo is a project of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University. The site uses Creative Commons reporting to to help the news community cover the environment of the Great Lakes watershed. Absolute Michigan supports the mission of Great Lakes Echo and will feature articles they produce. This article by Yang Zhang was originally published as State’s resources spark culinary tourism. The photos are from the Forest Grill in Birmingham’s Facebook page.

Forest GrillMiles of coastline, beautiful beaches and spectacular sand dunes. But traveling in Michigan offers more than that.

The state’s wines and beers, fresh fruits, fish and other local flavors are attracting visitors as well.

“Culinary tourism is an exciting new area of economic development for Michigan,” said Linda Jones, executive director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Council.

On Jan. 10, a diverse range of businesses and organizations will celebrate their culinary assets and share ideas to promote culinary tourism at a statewide conference.

Jones said other states promote their culinary assets more aggressively than Michigan, such as Oregon, New York and California.

Culinary tourism includes cooking classes, foodie tours, events and festivals.

The Michigan Culinary Tourism Alliance is one initiative boosting local industry.

Dave Lorenz, manager of public and industry relations at Travel Michigan, said quality food is part of the traveling experiences people look for.

crispy sweetbreadsMichigan’s diverse agriculture, hunting and fishing provide fresh foods, which creates this experience, Lorenz said. His office is the state’s official tourism promotion agency.

For example, Culinary Escapes, a Detroit-based company, offers walking tours to restaurants, markets and local food purveyors in downtown Birmingham, Detroit and Royal Oak from April through October.

Learn Great Foods in Petoskey offers themed retreats, tours and cooking classes. One is Maple Madness Weekend on the Parsons Centennial Farm in Charlevoix, where participants learn how to make maple syrup.

Karel Bush, promotion specialist at Grape and Wine Council, said Michigan’s 75 wineries also are travel destinations where people enjoy lush green valleys and savor award-winning wines.

Bush said there are wine routes along the coasts, such as the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail, the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula and the Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine. Another is the Sunrise Side Wine and Hops Trail along Lake Huron.

Experts said great dining and learning experiences attract more tourists and extend their travel time in the communities.

Lorenz said: “They go out there and spend money that help retain and build jobs.”

Jones said culinary tourism benefits the whole state, particularly areas with major visitor attractions.

Diane Dakins, assistant director of the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau, said the number of tourists in her region has increased because of the development of food-related businesses.

Behind the scenes at Forest GrillThe bureau serves Petoskey, Harbor Springs and Boyne City, which are well-known for wines, whitefish and morel mushrooms.

For example, people pick mushrooms in the woods and learn how to cook them, Dakins said.

“Farms and farmers’ markets create jobs and also are a stop for tourists,” Dakins said.

Cooking classes in restaurants and hotels have attracted many customers, Lorenz said. For example, Zazios in Kalamazoo has a Chefs Table, where customers learn from a chef how to make food and then eat it.

Andy Deloney, vice president of public affairs at the Michigan Restaurant Association said developing culinary tourism is particularly important to the hospitality industry.

Deloney said many people have a misconception that they must go to New York, San Francisco or Chicago for both great travel and dinning experiences.

“In Michigan we have lots of fantastic restaurants, too,” he said.

Deloney said the conference will increase awareness of Michigan’s dining destinations and build connections among businesses.

The Creating Michigan Culinary Destinations conference in East Lansing is being organized by the Culinary Tourism Alliance in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Travel Michigan and the Restaurant Association.

Michigan Business Photo Winner: Vintage Michigan by Stacy Niedzwiecki

Our panel evaluated submissions based on subject matter and photographic technique and has selected Vintage Michigan by Stacy Niedzwiecki as the winner in our Michigan Business Photo Contest.

Vintage Michigan 3022-09

The Legendary Dog ‘n Suds Drive-In located in Montague Michigan. It has been the sole surviving Dog ‘n Suds Drive-In for the state of Michigan, and opened in 1963. View it bigger in Stacy’s slideshow from the Dog n’ Suds.

VOf the shoot, Stacy writes:

Local car club and the owner of Dog-n-Suds agreed to help me out in capturing images! I had casually mentioned that it would be fun to photograph a vintage car under the neon sign. By the time the photo shoot came up – we had about 12 – 15 cars!

Congratulations, Stacy. You’ll receive a sponsorship on Absolute Michigan, an internet radio interview about your business courtesy of Vertio and (because business is 12% coffee) 2 pounds of coffee (your choice) from Higher Grounds Trading Company.

This prize is only the first of a summer celebrating 100,000+ photos of Michigan in our Absolute Michigan pool. Stay tuned to Absolute Michigan all summer long for more great contests!

Tune in Monday for an all-new photo contest that we really think you’ll be able to dive into!!