Ethnic Restaurants

Fat Tuesday is Paczki Day in Michigan

A couple of years ago, comedian and commentator Mo Rocca traveled to Hamtramck for CBS Sunday Morning to get this report on Pazcki Day, but as we know, sugary treats never go out of style!

Hamtramck’s Paczcki Day page (now offline but available through had all kinds of lore and legend on these traditional Polish doughnuts which are also known as Bismarcks or plain old jelly doughnuts:

Paczki is the plural form of the word paczek in Polish, but many English speakers use paczki as singular and paczkis as plural. A paczek is a deep-fried piece of dough shaped into a flattened sphere and filled with Plums or other sweet filling…

Paczki have been known in Poland at least since the Middle Ages. Jadrzej Kitowicz has described that during the reign of the August III under influence of French cooks who came to Poland at that time, paczki dough baked in Poland has been improved, so that paczki became lighter, spongier, and more resilient Paczki Day Traditionally, the reason for making paczki has been to use up all the lard, sugar and fruit in the house, which are forbidden during Lent.

paczki in AmericaI guess that if you’re facing 40 days without sugar & fruit, a plateful of paczki makes a lot more sense. Dig in with the links below!

Grand Rapids Wine, Beer & Food Festival ~ Nov 17-19, 2011

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. Details on this week's giveaway below!
If your business is interested in participating, you can get all the information right here.

The 2011 Grand Rapids Wine, Beer & Food Festival takes place Thursday, November 17th through Saturday, November 19th at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. It draws over 10,000 over three days, making it the largest food and wine festival in Michigan and one of the premier events of its kind in the Midwest. Classes, tastings from restaurants & food vendors and pairings are all structured to take the expert or novice deeper into the world of wine, food and other culinary delights.

The festival presents over 1000 beers, wines, ciders and spirits for tasting, and many are crafted in Michigan. While the festival started with a focus on wine, beer gets its due as well, with the Michigan Brewers Guild-sponsored Craft Brew Hall offering a chance to sample dozens of these full flavored brews and to meet the brewmasters.

Show Manager  Cathleen McDonald  explains that this massive variety of food & drink has been a huge asset, saying “The show has grown because the public loves the opportunity to sample wines, beer & spirits without having to purchase the entire bottle.  They can find that great everyday wine that they can purchase at the grocery store or try the products that they would only have dreamed about.”

One of the many innovative & engaging features at the festival are the champagne, wine & beer pairings developed by Grand Rapids restaurants – multi-course meals presented by the chef. A number of restaurants are also providing “small plate” samples of their prize cuisine. There’s more than just wine to be sampled at the Festival! An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional. There’s also seminars from presenters including winemaker John Concannon, wine educator and sommelier Michael Schafer, New Holland Brewing Company Beervangelist and Michigan Brewers Guild Past-President Fred Bueltman, author and Food Network  host Ellie Krieger and “The Fresh Chef” Amanda Leatherman.

Absolute Michigan is excited to offer FOUR free tickets to the Grand Rapids Wine, Beer & Food Festival to one of our readers – just use the email blank at the top to get your name on our list and have a shot at winning. We’ll notify the winner next Wednesday!

Traverse City Wine & Art Festival ~ August 20th

Traverse City Wine & Art Festival, 2010 by KatSwinehart
Traverse City Wine & Art Festival, 2010 by KatSwinehart

Traverse City Wine & Art Festival on FacebookThe 2011 Traverse City Wine & Art Festival takes place Saturday, August 20th from 3-10 PM on the beautiful front lawn at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, rain or shine. It’s Michigan’s premier celebration of wine, art, food and music, offering an incredible opportunity to taste wines from 24 wineries as you dance, dine, and see extraordinary performers, art and artists.

The wines & wineries are the heart of the festival and the large wine tent is dedicated to featuring well over 100 wines from the Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula and – for the first time – Benzie County. Attendees can choose a tasting or full-glass pour and have a chance to talk with the winemakers and winery reps to learn more about the wines. The 2010 vintage is spectacular, and this is a fantastic opportunity to try the riesling, pinot gris, chardonnay, pinot blanc, cabernet franc and a host of other varieties that are making a lot of noise at wine competitions around the country!

The festival also features a great lineup with some of Michigan’s finest musicians. Michigan jazz/folk great Claudia Schmidt kicks things off  and then joins Rachel Davis and Shout Sister Shout. It will be the first time Claudia and Shout Sister Shout have taken the stage together, an event that promises to be one of those “better not miss it” nights. Steppin’ In It goes electric and will keep you dancing into the evening. There’s also a wide range of performances including dancers, performance artists and the Sweet Adelines.

tcwfposterIn addition to a wide selection of art for show & sale and gourmet food from many of the region’s finest restaurants for purchase, there’s even a chance for YOU to get into the act with “Fashion Is Art”. This new feature that invites you to don your most innovative attire for a chance to win the Grand Prize, a spa weekend for two at Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa. Get tickets & lodging package information at and check their Facebook for a ticket deal that ends TODAY.

To enter to win a pair of tickets to the Traverse City Wine & Art Festival and to be entered in every one of our Festival Summer giveaways, just join our email list using the form below!

Here’s Shout Sister Shout for your listening pleasure!

Paella In The Park ~ August 5

Absolute Michigan’s Festival Summer “Frenzy Week” continues with our latest giveaway…

paella in the parkThe Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula (OMP) and Porterhouse Productions present the second annual Paella In The Park, a summer music & culinary event in the heart of downtown Traverse City.

Traverse City’s bayside Clinch Park grounds will transform into a swingin’ festival! This year’s lineup features national headliner Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, an energetic and exciting band who have been getting audiences up and dancing for 20 years. Rolling Stone declared them the “leaders” of the swing revival are going back to their ska roots with a danceable and entertaining show. They’re joined by Groupo Ayé, a 10-piece Cuban salsa band, and Hoots And Hellmouth, a mix of rockabilly and funk.

This 21+ event (no exceptions, please) will again pair the seven OMP wineries with local chefs. Guests will enjoy Spanish paellas from fresh ingredients cooked over an open fire, right on-site. Paella, a rice-based dish that boasts hundreds of variations using different ingredients, is one of Spain’s most popular food entrees. Festival attendees will have the opportunity to converse with local chefs about the art of making paella, as well as enjoy food and wine at each station.

Sign up for our email list below for a chance at 2 tickets and order your limited tickets at Porterhouse Productions.

To enter to win a pair of tickets to Paella in the Park and to be entered in every one of our Festival Summer giveaways, just join our email list using the form below!

Now here’s the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies playing one of their hits – Zoot Suit Riot. You can get many more in this YouTube playlist!

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!

Kalamazoo Island Fest ~ June 16-18

Read on to learn how you can win a pair of tickets to Island Fest!

kalamazoo-island-festThe annual Kalamazoo Island Festival is an celebration of Jamaican and Caribbean music, culture and food that takes place Thursday June 16th through Saturday the 18th. The annual festival is in its 16th year and benefits the community activities and programs of the Kalamazoo Jaycees and other organizations. Food, drinks, beer, and wine are available for purchase and there a big emphasis on providing an array of Caribbean inspired cuisine.

For entertainment, the live reggae music line-up runs all day and ranges from the top local talent to well-known regional and national headliners including reggae legends The Wailing Souls (video below) and roots/dancehall great Everton Blender and many more under the sun, moon and stars.

To be eligible for a pair of passes to Island Fest and to be entered in every one of the Festival Summer giveaways, just join our email list using the form below!

All summer long Absolute Michigan will be partnering with some of Michigan's most amazing festivals & events to give our readers FREE tickets and a chance to enjoy the food, music and celebration that is part of summertime in the Great Lakes State!

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!

Here’s the Wailing Souls…

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.

Oktoberfest, Lansing – October 1 & 2, 2010

When the summer air begins to cool and the leaves begin to fall, it can only mean one thing – Oktoberfest is on its way! On Friday & Saturday, October 1 & 2, the heart of Old Town, Lansing will be filled with the sights, scents, sounds and suds of Old World Germany!

Oktoberfest is Mid-Michigan’s only authentic German festival, and the authentic food, imported German beer, and traditional German dancing, bring crowds from all over the state. Every year the festival continues to grow, and this year the festival is expected to attract more people than ever. No one will want to miss out on the “music, essen and bier” at the 2010 Old Town Oktoberfest!

For more information and/or tickets visit, or visit the Old Town Commercial Association website.