Catering

Absolute Michigan Giveaway: Cadeau Creations gift basket

Absolute Michigan is committed to helping our readers get more out of Michigan. To that end, we are adding an exciting new program featuring regular giveaways of products and services from all kinds of Michigan businesses. It's free, fun and all you have to do to be eligible is to be on our email list - sign up using the form below. We guarantee that we will not share your email address with anyone!
If your business is interested in participating, you can get all the information right here.

Cadeau Creations was born and bred in the wild Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In addition to complete catering services, they have created specially-designed baskets of gourmet goodness from the people, places and soil of the U.P. using the freshest local ingredients and select organic and Fair Trade ingredients. They make a great gift for homesick Yoopers and also your friends, family, employees, co-workers and relatives. Connect with them on Facebook or Twitter!

This week’s winner will receive their locally grown & crafted Northern Winter Wonders Basket. It features chocolates, caramels, game meat sausage, smoked Lake Superior fish, Keweenaw jam, and local crafts – all fashioned with Yooper flair. It’s a $100 value and all you need to do to be eligible to win is to have your address on our email list – sign up in the blue box above!

5×5 Night in Grand Rapids

5 ideas, 5 minutes each, 5 slides each, 5 judges, 5,000 dollars

5x5
5×5 Night is a monthly event in Grand Rapids that allows 5 people to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges who decide how to award $5,000 on the last Tuesday night of every month. The third 5×5 happens tomorrow night at the Grand Rapids Ballet with an afterglow at Founders Brewery. Tomorrow night’s presenters and topics sound pretty interesting:

  • Bruce Burgess – Mull-it-Over
  • Mick Hanna – Easy Crutch
  • Phil Lund – The Mars Plan
  • William Stewart – Compression Beehive Frame
  • Charlie Wollborg – Face-to-Face > Pixel-to-Pixel

Michigan Radio has a cool interview with Rick DeVos and Bill Holsinger Robinson of Pomegranate Studios about 5×5 Night. Learn more at 5x5night.com and Pomegranate Studios.

Last month AJ Paschka got all five votes and $5000 for his very cool Weather Collage idea, but we’ll feature Landon Bartley’s more locally focused call for a Grand Rapids Sister City Window Webcam Project. You can check out all the pitches on the 5×5 channel.

Photo: Prepping for the first 5×5 Night at the GRAM by pomstudios.com.

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 absolutemichigan.com/Culinary 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 Restaurants: Saffron in Kalamazoo

Saffron in Kalamazoo

Saffron in Kalamazoo features authentic Northwest frontier Indian Cuisine with items including Samosas, Tandoori-Sensational Chicken, Shrimp Karahi Masala, Lamb Jhalfrazi and a blistering Vegetable Vindaloo. Sides like clay-oven baked Tandoori Breads and Ralta complete your meal and they’ll prepare your meal to suit your palate: mild, medium or hot.

They do catering and have a great page with information about spices used in Indian cooking from which we got the pictures to the right!

February is Dining Month on Absolute Michigan

Crab Rangoon by Shawn Botruff
Crab Rangoon by Shawn Botruff

(chef who made this at the Bluebird)

For the month of February, we’ll be focusing on dining in Michigan. Starting Monday, we’ll be offering daily profiles of restaurants. We’ll begin with diners and dives, check out some casual and family restaurants, dress up for fine dining and sample some of the great ethnic fare Michigan serves up.

We’ll also try and take you a little closer to some of our state’s noted chefs, wander through as many cookbooks as we can, take a look at the many culinary festivals out there, pull up a chair at some of Michigan’s culinary blogs and in general try to eat our way through February and cabin fever!!

As always, we’re looking for your input in the comments or by email. Michigan’s a big place and we know that there’s a lot out there that we haven’t tasted!

Explore Michigan Restaurants

(see the ones we featured and add your own favorites!)

Culinary delights at the Traverse Epicurean Classic

I took this photo of Perry Harmon (who now makes a very tasty and tender biscotti for a living) at the Traverse Epicurean Classic last year (slideshow). The Epicurean Classic is an amazing annual celebration of food, wine, brewing and cooking that gets better every year. It was founded to benefit the Great Lakes Culinary Institute through student scholarships and a chance to interact with the world’s finest chefs and wine industry professionals and provides dinners, receptions, tasting pavilions and a host of classes from some of the top names in food & wine.

It takes place Thursday, September 13 – Saturday, September 15, 2007 at the Hagerty Center in Traverse City. This year’s chefs, wine & food experts and distinguished guests include David Pasternack, Marcel Biro, Isabella Nicoletti, Michael Tucker, Isabel Cruz, the Lee Brothers, Craig Common and Seth Allen.

I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Numbers show food & wine travel a winner for Michigan


Greeny Goodness by Sarah Steffens

Sunday’s Saginaw News had a brief feature on culinary tourism that says a recent survey from the Travel Industry Association found Michigan ranked in the top 15 states for food and in the top 12 for wine-related travel. The survey found that 27 million travelers (17%) include culinary adventures in their trips and defined the culinary segment as those who make leisure travel decisions based on wine and food activities, planning around restaurants, wineries, cooking classes, farmers markets and food or wine festivals.

The article quotes David Lorenz of Travel Michigan as saying:

“Culinary travel is a natural for Michigan. Our agricultural base is very diverse, we have a well-regarded and growing wine industry, we are surrounded by Great Lakes and enjoy fresh and smoked fish – we have all the ingredients for wonderful food and wine experiences.”

Recent figures show that 800,000 visitors spent $8.6 million at the 50 wineries across the state, and I learned this weekend that Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the US.

You can visit the Travel Industry Association (have to pay for the report), learn more about Michigan’s wine industry from the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.

Vol I, No. 1: Introduce Your Michigan Business or Organization!

This is a page where we asked folks to say hello. Lots of them did!

The current version of Introduce Your Michigan Business or Organization is right there.

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