Raspberry Yumtart @ The Lantern

Let me tell you, I have been hunting down these elusive babies for over a semester now.

Actually, my friend Dan (Check out his cereal reviews and dish worthy tweets) and I have been tirelessly searching (around our chaotic schedules) for these home made, loved filled Pop Tart style pastries created by Rise Grand Rapids, a local bakery in Grand Rapids, MI.

So many links already and we’re only toe-deep into this post. You’re welcome!

Rise, unfortunately, does not have its own bakery location, but instead delivers all kinds of made from scratch,vegan, soy and gluten free, ingredient conscious goodies to local cafes and hangouts around GR. Seriously, even if you’re not into bakery goods (who are you?!), just go take a look at their photography of it all. Both whimsical and delicious!

Finally, at the end of a Wednesday of what seemed like a wild and fast paced week, Dan and I spotted it. We were walking from a networking event and decided to stop in and have a quick cup of coffee at Lantern and perhaps get a little bit more work done when we saw a rosy-mauve frosted tart in their pastry box. We weren’t even seeking it out! Since it was later in the evening I assumed much of their bakery items would be scooped up by now.

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I picked up a house brew and restrained myself to just one Yum Tart. Although I certainly wanted to take home a few, they were priced at $4.00 each, and I still needed dinner. For that price I wish they were a little denser or larger, but really the size is fine. Hopefully over time the price of these will go down, even if just to $3.50.

Rise’s website mentions flavors such as strawberry, blueberry, chocolate, and cherry, but I’ve spotted new flavors popping up on their Instagram like this raspberry one, strawberry lemonade, and blueberry lemonade flavors. I’m looking forward to the possible flavors to come- brown sugar and cinnamon? Chai or espresso? Maybe even a sweet and savory herb tart…

Anyways, this little pocket didn’t let us down. Aesthetically, all of the flavors of Yum Tart’s make my eyes and heart happy.

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“It’s like a Pop Tart that went to art school,” – Dan Goubert, March 2017

Let’s break this tart into three acts-

The frosting on top of the tart was unique- lightly sweet, and surprisingly lemony and fruity. I really enjoyed the coloring on this flavor as well- no artificial bright red dyes here.

The crust of the pastry was buttery and flaky, pulling through where Pop Tart’s fall short. The edges were really perfect, golden brown and a little crunchy. When dunked into hot coffee it keeps its integrity while absorbing some of the coffee flavor.

The filling was real raspberry puree, full of seeds and that beautiful deep red color. You can tell the filling is not just some sugary jam because of its mix of tartness and super sweetness from the different ripeness of the berries. The texture was more on the chewy side than jelly. Again, I wish there would be bit more here to really add some weight to the pastry, but the amount inside balanced well with the crust and sweet frosting. Altogether reminiscent of late spring time.

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So this first Yum Tart has only fueled our quest to find these guys around town, and I hope to have a chance to try every flavor eventually. Here’s a list of where Rise delivers on what days if you’re interested in checking them out too:

Ferris Coffee (Winter Ave) // Monday thru Saturday at 7:30am

Lantern Coffee // Monday thru Sunday at 7:45am

Ferris Coffee (Trust Building) // Monday thru Saturday at 8am

Sparrows Coffee // Monday thru Sunday at 8:30am

Global Infusion // Mondays, Fridays, & Saturdays at 9am

Lightfast Coffee Bar // Fridays & Saturdays at 9am

Relish Green Grocer // Saturdays at 9am

 

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The Explorer & The Scout: Incline Cider

I currently work for a craft hard cider company in West Michigan. The founders are big explorers, outdoor enthusiasts, love buying local and, of course, supporting small and genuine businesses.

So when they came back from a trip to visit family in Seattle, Washington and brought back locally crafted goodies, I knew they had to be good. Well, that, and we all drink a lot of cider, so if something gets the rec from our founders, it’s probably something special.

Incline Cider from Auburn, Washington currently carries three types of canned ciders: the two I tried here, The Explorer and The Scout, and a seasonal release, The Legend. Each cider sits at 6.5 ABV, are all gluten free, non GMO, and made with close-to-home ingredients. If you meander over to Incline’s website, you’ll see they even have an “adventure pairing” for their ciders-

“Camping, hiking, picnics, boating, golfing, beaching, birding, brewing, reading, doing chores, mowing the lawn, dog walking, dog running, kayaking, rafting, bonfire burning, safaris, mushroom hunting, canoeing…if you’re still reading all were trying to say is that this cider is ready for any of your adventures (when enjoyed responsibly of course).  Cheers!”

I tried to find ways to creatively photograph Incline’s modern looking cans, and I don’t know if I did them justice. My 7-month old kitten Uma decided she would help me with this by getting in most of my shots.

 

Lets start with The Explorer: Hopped Cider.

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I’m not one for hopped ciders myself-I’m biased and really enjoy my company’s hopped cider, but most others I’ve tried end up being either far too hoppy, too dry, or bitter. I would say The Explorer is perfect for people looking to try hopped for the first time.

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The Explorer is super pleasant-it’s extremely drinkable, and that’s coming from someone who just can’t seem to get on the IPA bandwagon (YES I’VE HAD FOUNDER’S ALL DAY IPA. Leaveee meee aloneeee). There is a beautiful balance in this cider between light and refreshing, citrus-y hops, and crisp and sweet apples. The hops are almost a breezy after thought, making subtle appearances with a vinegary apple flavor, and a light and citrus-y aroma. It sits more toward the dry end, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I could seriously picture myself drinking this on a hot summer’s day!

If you’re a hop head and for you more is better, you may not appreciate the subtlety of the flavors here, but I sure did. Why oh why must Auburn, Washington, be so far away…

Up next, The Scout: Hopped Marionberry Cider.

I can’t say anything about the flavor before I talk about the absolutely beautiful color of this cider. I was surprised to see a deep purple-y red pour from the can, similar to a dark red wine. The head was a unique milky pink.

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This cider packs a real punch not only with aesthetic appeal but also with intense, fresh flavors. Floral and deep blueberry/blackberry tones are the base of this cider, chased by an immediately hopped finish.  Similar to The Explorer, The Scout is juicy and a little citrusy from the fresh hops. Again, this cider is really well balanced. While The Explorer was light and crisp, this drink lies on the heavier and more flavorful side, with a little extra subtle sweetness.

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Overall, I was extremely impressed by Incline’s ciders. I can’t wait for the day they’re carried in Michigan. If you get the chance to, give them a try. Try new things and support small biz!

Monte Cristo @ Peppermill Grill

If you’re like me, you like the savory with the sweet (especially in breakfast food). Let me tell you about my new favorite breakfast that delicately balances both flavors- the Monte Cristo.

I was introduced to this perfection at the humble Peppermill Grill in Standale, Michigan. Talk about a place that simultaneously gives you the comforts of a hole-in-the-wall tacky diner and the warmth of a familiar home cooked meal.

You may not know the origins or what even a Monte Cristo is…don’t worry, I did the work for you.

Straight from Wikipedia herself…

“A Monte Cristo is a fried ham and cheesesandwich, a variation of the French croque-monsieur. In the 1930s–1960s, American cookbooks had recipes for this sandwich, under such names as French Sandwich, Toasted Ham Sandwich, and French Toasted Cheese Sandwich.[1]Emmental or Gruyère cheese is typically used.”

Sounds pretty amazing right? Here’s the breakdown of the one I ordered at Peppermill:

  • Bread, french toasted and sprinkled with powered sugar
  • Baby Swiss cheese
  • Layers upon layers of thin sliced ham

and the most important piece to this dish…dark red raspberry jam for dipping.

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You read right. A perfect combination of robust, savory meat and cheese flavors complimented with an ultasweet, fruity sauce. Soft and mildy sweet bread, thick ham and gooey cheese. A little of the dark raspberry sauce goes a long way. The one downside to this plate of comfort is the mess that occurs almost instantly, as the bread absorbs the sauce and the juicy ham. Just don’t wear your favorite crisp white t-shirt and you should make it out of this one alive.

Just a short post today, but I have a few plans for future drinks and dunks soon. Keep your eyes out for those, and if you have a favorite recipe or restaurant that serves a Monte Cristo, please share it!

 

Pumpkin Beer Showdown

Let’s not make this any more awkward than it has to be.

So we’re back, for now, but hopefully for the rest of the season. Summer took hold of my schedule, and although I did try some very delicious breakfast foods and bubbly drinks, I let Doughnuts and Daiquiris slip onto the back burner. But enough of the silly excuses- on with the beer!

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It’s autumn, the season Michigan was made for. We’ve all been waiting for it: the crunchy leaves, wind-breaking coats and pumpkin spiced lattes….and most importantly, pumpkin beers.

Back in September I went to my favorite local bottle shop (shout out to Siciliano’s) and perused the aisles for 20 minutes looking for the perfect sounding pumpkiny ales to try and compare. The winners were:

Ballast Point’s Pumpkin Down

Arcadia Ales Jaw-Jacker

O’Fallen Brewery Vanilla Pumpkin

Each sounded unique and delightfully fall inspired so I picked them up immediately. Which one will I grab again? Read on to find out.

  1. Ballast’s Point Pumpkin Down

I enjoyed Pumpkin Down while hunching over a presentation group meeting one night late in September. Popcorn in hand, eyes sore from staring at Power Point for hours, I eagerly drank this ale with high expectations.

I was immediately washed over with real pumpkin flavor- not that artificial pumpkin spice crap that’s in your favorite latte at Starbucks, but like the squash. Then, a hint of cinnamon-y spice. Not too much spice to distract you from the pumpkin. This was a true pumpkin beer, with mild sweetness and an easy to drink balance of pie spices. This one also gets points for it’s label- I mean come on, its super cool.

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2. Arcadia Ale’s Jaw-Jacker

I enjoyed Jaw-Jacker (bought almost soley for the name) during a spooky movie night  after it had drizzled all day. Talk about fall up-the-ass.

This one caught me off guard…although looking back, it shouldn’t have, because its literally called Jaw-Jacker. Think spicy PSL with a strong beer taste. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not opposed to the taste of beer when I’m having a beer, ( I know those people exist and they remind me of myself as a Freshman in college) but when I’m expecting a sweet pumpkin ale I don’t think “beer” should be the number one flavor.

I’m not trying to rip this one a part, I just really wasn’t into it. The spices were actually a little hot- like cinnamon gum hot. Upon checking Arcadia’s website I realized that there isn’t actually any pumpkin in this recipe, which explains the competition between the strong spice and beer flavors. If you like fall spices and simple beer, you’ll probably enjoy this one more than I did.

3. O’Fallen Brewery Vanilla Pumpkin

I don’t remember what quintessential fall activity I was partaking in when I finally cracked open this fragrant ale, but I’m sure it involved a crisp breeze and some squash eaten in some form. Anyways, one of the first things that drew me to this one was the bottle. O’Fallen’s bottle has a skinny neck with a textured logo popping out from it, and for some reason it feels satisfying in the hand of the drinker.

The vanilla is really doing favors in this one, which makes it one of my other favorites from this list. Its creamy and sweet like vanilla bean ice cream, which does a magical thing to the pumpkin pie spices found on the second taste. Vanilla combined with cinnamon and nutmeg swirl together to make a delicious dessert style beer. O’Fallen describe it as a piece of pumpkin pie with a scoop of ice cream on top, and I think that nails it exactly.

Each pumpkiny brew was unique in it’s own way which was impressive. It excites me to think of all the possible flavor combinations I haven’t tried yet. How many different ways could a brewery inject a drink with fall spices and pumpkins? I’ve only got until Halloween to find out.

Although this is a short, inexperienced review (I suppose that is really the flesh and bones of this blog, but) expect to see more and hopefully higher quality posts in the future.

Cheers!

Porter Party @ The Grand Armory

For those of you who are suffering through finals week or a finals week is coming near you, I’m sorry, hang in there, listen to your body, and you got this.

For everyone else, don’t talk to me.

Anyways, this past weekend I had the chance to actually do a little bit of traveling and exploring outside of Grand Rapids and Allendale. On both Saturday and Sunday I got to play tourist in Grand Haven and go to the beach on one of the first hot and sunny days of the year. It turned out to be a much needed pre-finals relaxation weekend, and I used the time I had to catch up with friends I have seriously been putting on the back burner. There’s nothing quite like a Michigan summer…

And what goes great with hot and sunny days? Why, beer of course! Did you know Grand Haven is home to 6 breweries? Myself and some friends were led by a Cidermaker to his favorite, and from what we heard from some locals, one of the best breweries in town, called the Grand Armory.

A small and charming coffee bar greets you at the entrance of the Grand Armory. Walk in beyond, and you are charmed by the architecture of the place. Seriously, it was beautiful.

On the walls hang local art, available for purchase. Although we stayed on the ground floor, there seemed to be a lofted floor above. The bar itself sat against the back wall, small and filled with dark wood.

Picking the beer was difficult; Grand Armory has 20 brews on tap, and at least three of them sounded like dessert to me. I chose Porter Party, a roasty chocolately porter. It was insanely delicious, with notes of chocolate and hints of caramel. This is a good choice for those of you who like it sweet but not TOO sweet. A very dark and rich brew, $5 for 16 oz. Although awfully filling on it’s own, we were hungry for real food.

Between the bar and the coffee sits Righteous BBQ, a delicious smelling hole-in-the-wall (literally). I was too distracted by the yummy smells coming from it’s kitchen to take any pictures, but I did manage to snap  a picture of my pulled pork. It was DEVINE. I also had a side of slow-roasted kale and  bacon.

 

Between the hot sunny rays, the sweet cold beer, and our slow roasted BBQ lunch, I was in a state of pre-summer bliss. After my first bite, I actually had a moment of “I am SO happy”. Seriously, on your next weekend off, visit Grand Haven and make a stop at the Grand Armory. Whether its for the beer, the coffee, the BBQ, or even just to see some art, you will not be disappointed.

BONUS JONAS: So a little while after stuffing ourselves with beer and BBQ, we did a little perusing in Grand Haven’s downtown area. I just wanted to share this coffee that I bought while we were inside what appeared to be a candy shop, but then we thought it was a liquor store, then I found the coffee and became even more confused…anyways, the bag of beans says it was a general store so I guess that’s what it ended up being. As someone who has worked as a barista for 5 or so years and has enjoyed it’s culture for longer, this coffee is truly fantastic. There were of course other flavors available but I chose the Salted Caramel, and I’m glad I did. After grinding and brewing the fresh grounds, Fortino’s Salted Caramel proves to be a really great cup of coffee. Plus, it’ll make your whole house smell like a bakery. Win-win! I’m savoring every bean in my bag until my next trip to Grand Haven.

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Bagels @ Big Apple Bagels

This weeks post is very close to my breakfast-loving heart. This weeks post is all about

BAGELS!

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Before I begin, yes, I make and serve bagels for a living. Yes, its the best job I’ve ever had. And yes, you’re lucky enough to get to see the backstage of a bagel’s lifespan, as taken by me.

Big Apple Bagels on Lake Michigan Drive in Grand Rapids Michigan has anywhere from 24-27 or so different kinds of bagels every day. Each of these kinds of bagels are made in a unique process with special recipes, by hand, every week. No, BABS does not get shipments of frozen dough from a wholesaler- they make it every day by hand using tried and true passed down bagel magic. (skills in baking sorcery are required to work here).  The same is true of the cream cheese, muffins, and any other baked goods. It’s hard to be bored when there is so much breakfast magic to make!

    Here is a simplified collage of the birth of a bagel (in this case, Tomato Basil). First, the ingredients are measured and poured together into a massive mixer. Once the dough has been mixed and kneaded for some time, the slab of dough is tossed onto a table and cut into portions. These portions are stretched out and fed into what I call a Bagel Transformer, where it goes through a process of being portioned and cut down again into small blocks. The machine then takes these blocks through another part and dough logs are formed and spun out onto a platter. From here, the baker takes each bagel and touches them up to make sure they are perfectly shaped. The dough is placed onto boards and covered for specific amounts of time until they are ready to be rolled into the cooler. After rising in the cooler for 20 minutes, the dough is ready to be baked!

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    Dough goes through an interesting rising and falling process once its living in the cooler. The first day the dough may be standard or smaller in size, but the next day and the day after that, the dough expands and becomes bigger and fluffier. After that, the dough slowly begins to deflate. This is why bagels arent’t always giant and fluffy or small and perfectly tight and round- each one is different.
    Sometimes bagel dough is pulled apart and shaped into a cinnamon roll (our latest invention), a braid (for Cheddar Twists) or even stretched and tied into dog bones.
    But what happens to bagels if they don’t get bought?
    Fear not! BABS does its best to reduce waste. At the end of a long hard day of sitting on the shelf, bagels are tossed into day old bags to be sold at a lower price the next day. Lucky savory bagels are saved to be sliced and re-baked into bagel chips.

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     My personal favorite is a swiss melt toasted with butter. I eat this tried and true combination probably 3-5 times a week (don’t try to tell me I have a problem).
    Of course, bagels were meant for cream cheese. Salsa cream cheese on any of the savory flavors is another winning combination. On the sweeter side of things, brown sugar cinnamon cream cheese pairs perfectly with Apple Pie and Cinnamon Crunch bagels.
    Bagels are also filling substitutes to bread. Try making your favorite ham and cheese on a toasted Everything next time, you wont regret it.

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Pecan Pie Whiskey

Let me share with you the short and slightly disappointing story of my first legal shot.

December 15th, smack dab in the middle of finals week, 11:59 pm. I’m laying on my living room floor, back sore from staring uncomfortably at my studies for the last few hours. The last thing I cared about was turning 21.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I had been waiting to turn 21 ever since Freshman year of college when I was introduced to the magical world of alcohol (but that’s a different story).

I WAS looking forward to my 21st birthday, but it was a Wednesday, the middle of finals week, and none of my friends seemed to care. Which, why should they? Like I said, it was finals week, and my room mates and I were all stressed with our own final assignments and tests.

Two minutes later, one of my room mates and our friend rushes into the living room to my surprise and yell “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!” at my face. After a few minutes, they convinced me to go to Meijer to make my first alcohol purchase (wild, right? I didn’t buy my first drink at a bar for a couple of weeks after my actual birthday).

The alcohol isle is intimidating to a fresh legal 21 year old, or so it was to me. I had dreamt of the moment I could peruse on my own, pick out a bottle or a pack, and purchase it with my own ID and credit card. Gone were the days of giving someone with a fake ID my wad of cash and asking for whatever $12 dollars could get me.

I went into the isle with no game plan, no true idea of what I wanted to buy. Until I laid my eyes on Pie Hole Whiskey.

Specifically, Pecan Pie Whiskey.

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The pin-up girl inspired packaging caught my eye, followed by the unique and delicious sounding flavors. Each bottle contains its own character- Pecan Pie, the one I purchased, is represented by Sweet Peggy. Pie Hole also offers Cherry Pie and Apple Pie varieties.

I proudly purchased my Pie Hole, was told “Happy Birthday” by the cashier, and hopped into the car to head home. We stopped through the McDonald’s drive through, got some fries, turned up the music, and headed home to try the whiskey.

My first legal shot was Pecan Pie flavored Whiskey. If you don’t like whiskey, first of all how dare you, but second of all, you will like Pie Hole. If you like pie, you will love Pie Hole. And if you like having a warm, fuzzy buzz, you will really love Pie Hole.

My room mate, our friend, and myself all took a celebratory shot (quietly, as our other two room mates were in bed.) The best way to describe the flavor is sticky sweet. The stuff even SMELLS like pie…and at 35% alcohol, it doesn’t mess around. After one shot, we could all feel the warm vibration only whiskey can provide. And man…it really does taste like a slice of pecan pie.

After a few minutes of reviewing the drink, our other two room mates came downstairs to see what they were missing. Thirty minutes later and we had all had a few shots of Sweet Peggy’s pecan pie. It doesn’t take long to get you buzzing. I will fondly remember that about this whiskey. Its sweet, warm, nutty, and I’m sure would make a nice mixed drink. Next fall I plan on mixing the Apple Pie flavor with apple cider. Any suggestions for the Cherry and Pecan Pie flavors are wanted.

If you’re looking for a sweet party favor or just your next seasonal shot, check out Pie Hole Pie Flavored Whiskey.

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