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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