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B Nektar B Good 4 Summer!

May 11th, 2011

Inspired by B Nektar’s website we were!

…we were inspired to have many varieties of B. Nektar Meadery’s mead on our shelf and keep them coming.

…we are inspired to describe just what is this B. Nektar is and they do a pretty great job on their site describing their processes and flavors, so i’ll mostly leave that to them but know that I as a non-sweet wine drinker LOVE mead for its fun honey flavor and range of sweet to dry.  Normally I will drink it after dinner as a sweet end to a hot day or evening, but check out this fun recipe that follows! Yum!

 

While trying to concoct our most recent batch of sangria for summer, we found this to be quite a charming and flavorful rendition of sangria.  Splurge on a little B Nektar this summer.  It’s local (Ferndale, MI) and it’s delicious and without further adieu…

B. Nektar Sangria!

Makes a little less than a gallon:

You will need:

- 2 bottles Wildberry Pyment B Nektar Mead

- 1 liter Ginger Ale – add more or less to taste

- 2-3 shots of Gin (Can use Vodka)

- 1 Large Orange

- 1 Large Lemon

- 1-2 Limes (use two if they are small)

Steps:

- Mix Wildberry Pyment and Gin in a 1 gallon + container

- Wash and quarter all citrus and remove seeds

- Squeeze citrus into mixture and add to mixture (rinds and all)

- Refrigerate and let sit over night

- Add ginger ale to taste and serve (add right before serving to make sure it is bubbly)

Note: You can use club soda in place of the ginger ale. I have even added a tablespoon of honey or two with it.

I’ve never done this with Vodka, but if you hate gin, try vodka.

Amy’s (but not that Amy’s) dinner thoughts

March 25th, 2011

My name is Amy, and I work at Art of the Table, but my name is not Amy Ruis.  I am the “new” Amy, known among staff as “tall Amy”, since I stand at an even 6 feet tall.  The name “long-armed Amy” has also come into play, especially when things are needed from a high shelf.  It’s a good thing that I’m not afraid of heights, since I get called to go up on the highest ladder quite frequently to do things like change lightbulbs :)

Today I wanted to talk, however, about another perk of working at Art of the Table – discovering some great food and wine!  Living as a single girl, I am often called upon to prepare dinner for just myself.  Usually this can make for some boring, repetitive meals, since no one is going to eat it but myself.  Tonight, however, I had quite a treat for dinner, and can thank Art of the Table for making it possible!

One meal I love to whip up for myself is a quesadilla made with cheese and refried beans.  Today I used Ossau Iraty cheese from our cheese case.  Yum yum!  I shredded it into my tortilla and it melted great on the stove top.  A fantastic sheep’s milk cheese from France, Ossau Iraty has a great creamy almost buttery, mild, and smooth flavor.  In fact, it’s recently become one of my favorite cheeses!

For dessert I indulged myself with an apple dipped in Smitty’s Hot Sludge. Wow – the decadence!  This hot fudge is made right here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and not only is it local, it has a fantastic, home-style chocolate flavor. It’s just like you melt

Smitty's Hot Sludge

ed a chocolate bar down, only better!  It was great with my apple, and would be simply divine on some Ciao Bella Vanilla gelato!

To give it all extra bonus, I enjoyed a glass of our Coto de Hayas wine.  Probably our best-selling wine in the store, this wine has a great flavor rich in tannins yet smooth enough to drink on its own if you desire.  It’s got some great red fruit flavors and is a fantastic wine for the $9 price tag!  I will be highly recommending this to you if you come visit us at the store.

It’s the Most Basketful Time of the Year!

December 12th, 2010

We at Art of the Table do love making gift baskets!

It’s this holiday time of year that we make the majority of them, but we certainly do stay busy year round for events.

We have been known to make gift baskets for:

Gift box stack

  • That person who has “everything”
  • Welcome to a new job
  • New babies
  • Weddings & Showers
  • Housewarming
  • Bereavement – Another way to care for a friend
  • Retirement
  • Birthdays
  • Client & corporate gifts
  • Welcome to town for your visit – We will deliver to downtown Grand Rapids hotels free of charge!

For each basket we work hard to customize to your desires.

What goes in an Art of the Table basket?  It’s all up to you. 

  • You can come in and pick out the items and we will make it look beautiful!
  • You can tell us a price and a general theme you would like to work with and we can create!
  • We can add flowers from Wealthy at Charles or bread from Wealthy Street Bakery.
  • We are also willing to work with your corporate logo items or another item or two that means something to you and the receiver of the gift to add to the one-of-a-kind feel that we want for each gift we create!

One of the things we like to do is to be creative about our “baskets”.  They’re often not baskets but books, cutting boards, a bar tray, a cooler or Reisenthel basket.  We want to think about creativity for and with you to create a basket like no one has ever gotten before.

Please give us a call or shoot over an email with any questions you might have at any time.

out for dinner

February 1st, 2010

It seems I’ve been way too busy for much of much – I seem to begin things and can’t complete them – including my thoughts! That’s why I haven’t blogged much lately and haven’t had an opportunity to just sit and write, as I enjoy.

Tonight I kindly went and picked out colors for Steve’s “project house” with him (and may I add we didn’t argue at all!) and he kindly took me out to dinner at my choice. My choice? Tonight I had a hankerin’ for the Green Well. We hadn’t been to the Green Well in probably – oh – 6 months. No offense to Green Well, I was busy getting ready for Christmas, having the Christmas season and now recuperating from the Christmas season while getting ready for the next 4 major holidays and seasons! (And I still haven’t gotten my taxes ready!)

My other excuses are that there are just so many other great restaurants sprouting up around our fine Uptown area that I’ve had to try them too. Yay for the Winchester and yay for the Electric Cheetah and Yay for Corez. Yum.

Back to the Green Well. It’s comfort food, it’s comfortable and I always get treated well. It’s a happy place!
Tonight Steve had their house brew, Drip-a-licious, made by Shorts Brewery up in Bellaire, MI. It was darker in color but it came off as something so delish that even I could drink it! It tasted of roast coffee and toffee and lasted a long time in the mouth. I was thinking maybe we should start blending our own Shorts brews, I’ll have to come up with a recipe for creativity on that one. I had a decent glass of something white from Australia. Usually I pay attention but I was too enraptured by the beer & food to remember its name.

Steve had the “Bowling Alley Sizzler”, much better than anything EVER found in a bowling alley! Verbatim from the menu: “Kobe sirloin•loaded mashed potatoes•beer battered onion rings•roasted mushrooms•grilled broccoli•Green Well steak sauce” and mine? Heavenly I say, heavenly! “Southern Clam Bake” was in my bowl. It was a very flavorful blend of “beer steamed clams•mussels•shrimp•sausages•potatoes•
sweet potatoes•corn•tomatoes•Cajun sweet corn broth” that I sopped up quite literally every last slurp with my sourdough toast served alongside.

Oh how I love food and dwelling on it with others who care about food.
If you ever want to tell us about recent restaurant experiences, we’re here to listen. I absolutely love love to hear about restaurant experiences and what you’ve enjoyed.

Thank you Green Well for another fine meal and
Cheers!
Amy

Art Prize, Art Peers & Art of the Table

September 26th, 2009

Every week around this place is interesting – this place. Grand Rapids? Art of the Table? My life? Yes, all of those. Every day I arrive at something new and this week it fits the whole city – as we know Art Prize is in full swing. I’m planning to set aside some time to get out into the ‘scene’ – hopefully tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’m in the scene of Art Peers, the secondary art thing in town…With 58 artists at 29 venues throughout Uptown (Wealthy, Eastown, East Fulton and Cherry Business Districts), there’s an art vibe here too! Truly a spectacle all around, if you have time this weekend, you should stop in at many of the participating places – including ours! We’ve got a geisha with a vacuum cleaner done with encaustic. What? you ask? What did you say? The answer is – come in and see for yourself! Artist Susan Mulder will be on hand today (Saturday) from 3-5pm to meet & greet!

Beyond that, I find it fascinating that I get calls (not just one. more!) daily about Art Prize. It’s ironic that just having “Art” at the beginning of your name in Grand Rapids could make one a resource for all that is “art” in this city. We’ll happily answer questions if/when we can. We’re not experts at the kind of art that’s being displayed all about Grand Rapids but we’re happy to be here.

To tell the truth, I’m a little disappointed that Sarah Grant didn’t ask me to set her table…Then again, I’m not that into scaling chairs suspended on top of bridges! :)

Local Food Blogs

August 12th, 2009

No, I didn’t say lo-cal food blogs…just ones I could find locally.  I wrote an article for Rapid Growth Media that will be online this Thursday that presents all the blogs we could find on the subject of food in the Grand Rapids area.  As the article says, I was stunned to note how few blogs there are!

It doesn’t make sense because there is a lot of choice for us here in Grand Rapids and surrounds – over what we eat, where we eat, how we eat it…and I know there are opinionated people around!

But it also makes sense to me in that this city of  “doers” we are all far too busy to talk about where we ate or what we cooked AND then blog about it.  But I know we’re cooking and eating out and it would be nice to know more about how people feel about fresh, local, restaurants and such.  From time to time I actually feel inspired to do one but then I can’t even find moments to write on THIS blog and then I don’t.

I have loved reading the skinny on happenings and outings at restaurants and why people will or will not go back.

Enjoy and I’d love to hear your opinion on why there aren’t more blogs ~ and I’d also love to hear it if you have one and I can’t find it!  I’ll update the post as I hear of new things – as I already have!

Crumbles Cupcakery – I haven’t had one of these delicious cupcakes yet but here’s the scoop – and some talk on local products!

It was Outstanding…and in the Field

August 10th, 2009

An orchard in South Haven, no rain, 140 guests and a host of fresh, local food.

My hubby, Steve, and I along with two Chicago cousins joined 138 others (I think 98%  also from Chicago) at a dinner hosted by Outstanding in the Field, a Santa Cruz, California venture that started with Jim Denevan, a chef, and his desires to introduce people to fresh food, family style and as close to the source as possible. His dinners are al fresco as weather permits and along with the fantastic fresh foods there are beverages to match, and farmers at your side, as he and his staff strive to prepare and serve a “spectacular yet uncomplicated feast”.

These guys have created a literal “roving culinary adventure”.  They have had really interesting dinners all across the U.S. and the world and they try for an outside single table event.  Sometimes, like last night’s (the Sunday event at the same farm) had to be not so pretty with torrential rains in their direction (however, I’m sure they made it all work out, they’re creative and the barn was ready).

Saturday’s rain, happy for us,  subsided in time for us to walk through the orchard, listen to Peter Klein, the farmer & owner of Seedling Farm, give the lowdown on what he grows, how he grows it and where he sells it with a bit of time for harvesting French strawberries for our own dessert.  He of course left the rest of the night to wine & dine (and beer – thanks to Goose Island of Chicago) under the stars and amongst the trees with new and old friends.

Jim and his staff were gracious and laid back hosts.  The food was tremendous and as promised, not hoity, just dang good!  Ah, are you wondering what we had?

Here’s the lowdown on the food:

Appetizers: served with Goose Island Matilda and Esporao Reserva Bruto

Duck Rillette & Seedling Farm plum on baguette

(There was apparently Smoked Trout and Col. Bill Newsom ham & goat butter for the appetizer too.  Sadly didn’t get any of either.)

Salads: served with Goose Island Sophie and Brochelle Rose

Whipple Organic Farm beets & burrata salad (with the best little sprouts on it ever!)

Growing Power cucumber, tomato & hazelnut salad (fresh as fresh can be!)

Nichols Farm corn (on the cob straight from the grill) and aioli

Main: served with Goose Island Harvest beer and Huber Pinot Noir

Farm raised chicken & toulouse sausage with herbs & garlic inside (with a surprise in the bottom of our dish – homemade french fries that didn’t get soggy – yum!)

Becker Lane Organic Farm porchetta (basically a cut of pork wrapped with lots of fat and then slowly cooked for a long time. )

Dessert: served with Porto Barros Colheita 1994

Polenta cake with Seedling Farm peaches and wild strawberries & caramel gelato

Honestly we were all pleasantly full after the dinner, dining for hours and eating small portions is the way to do it.   I didn’t roll away down the orchard because of the full tummy.

I think my only complaint was that – and those of you who know me will find this hilarious.   I missed not having Michigan wines at the table.  I have been practically anti-Michigan wines until recently.  But I’ve noticed that there are some (not a ton, but some) really decent Michigan wines.  And they can be paired with a meal!  We have a world class bubbly producer in Larry Mawby up north and decent Merlot from the Fenn Valley Winery just minutes away.  Instead we had Portugese bubbles that really weren’t all that great and a Pinot from California!…and it’s not that they didn’t taste fine!  It’s just that if we’re at the source, let’s really put it together!!

Overall we were really happy with our evening, hanging out in the field – it felt good.  I’m doing it all again in a few weeks, but next time I have to produce the dinner!  If you’re interested in the concept, there’s a farm dinner in Grand Rapids on August 29.  It will resemble this meal ~ these dinners are not cheap by any means, but at the Grand Rapids dinner, you’ll be able to share in

  • a 5 course meal provided by four of Grand Rapids’ top chefs
  • glasses of wines & beer selections from all over Michigan
  • an amazing time
  • new friends and old
  • and help a cause too

If you’re interested in joining me and many others for that outing, find out more at

the nacc website.

Photo credits to Janet Mesic Mackie of Chicago and a few to lame photos to Steve and Amy with Blackberry & Lies’ killer camera.

Wine Tastings for the Fall and beyond (i can’t say winter)

August 4th, 2009

Art of the Table is attempting to be the tasting capital of Grand Rapids this fall.  This is only the beginning, we have about 3 other beverage tastings up our sleeves before the end of the year AND we have food tastings and classes and sharpenings in the works too…we want you to be able to clear your calendar for the following dates to join us at a wine or beer tasting at restaurants around town. (Some still say TBA, as in to be announced, but the dates are set in stone.)

All of our tastings include 6 generous ‘pours’ of wine, we don’t skimp like at some tastings.  We also offer friendly banter, education about the wines and hopefully new found wine friends.  All tastings have crackers, cheese & fruit and also a plated appetizer to pair with one of the wines.

We request that you sign up ahead of time – as soon as possible as some tastings sell out.  Starting this fall, we must ask that when you call you leave a credit card number with us to confirm your reservations.  If you need to cancel, we ask for 24 hours prior notice; we will not charge it unless you’re a no show – in which case the restaurant will charge you for your tasting.

Wednesday, August 12    Spanish Values $25* @ Republic ~ 45 South Division

As Spain continues to make great strides in wine, we continue to make great strides in bringing those delicious Spanish wine values to your table. Our love for Spanish values tonight will cover you in a cloud of joy and will include a cava (bubbly), two whites, a rose and two reds. It’s time to select some of these for your everyday drinkers. Expect wines from $9-16 retail.

Wednesday, September 9    Zinfandel Rocks the World! $30* @ Republic ~ 45 South Division

Still I can’t figure out the ratio of Zin vs. Zin-no-way people in this world. For me, I enjoy a zin for sipping in the nighttime. People tend to love it or laugh at it. We’re talking about red colored Zinfandels. Zinfandels tend to be big in the berry department – more jammy, velvety and sometimes total sugar bombs! Zinfandels also tend to be higher in alcohol and overstated (and that could be an understatement!) Then again, Zins can be big yet elegant and regal. Tonight we’ll try a Primitivo or two from Italy (aka Zin) and some of our favorite Zins from the west coast as well. Be prepared to fall in love!

Wednesday, September 30    Oktoberfest Beer Tasting $25* @ Graydon’s Crossing ~ 1223 Plainfield NE

Feel the fall in the air? It’s going to force you into a whole new plane of beer. Try out this years coolest new fall finds for the cooler and features at Graydon’s Crossing. 7 beers in your face along with some foods of fantastic fall folly.

Wednesday, October 7    Mystery Winemaker Tasting!                                 $TBA

@ TBA

Keep your eyes peeled for details on this evening.  We are hosting a winemaker, one of those true ‘garragistas’ (yes, those who make wine basically in a garage, they’re that small!) We can’t yet tell you the details but when we can, oh you’ll know!

Friday, October 23     Anniversary Tasting  $TBA @ TBA

It’s hard to believe but it’s going to be six years in October that we have been in existence…and we are throwing a party! This party will be unlike our ‘regular’ tastings in that we will have tables set up with our beer & wine distributor reps and their (and our) favorite beers & wines amongst them. You’ll be able to walk around and peruse different selections and chat with people who know a lot about what you’re sipping – or noshing – on! Normally we have the restaurant make tons of food but this year, in addition, you’ll be having a taste of Art of the Table foods!  Appetizers & desserts from Chef Kate Leeder (also Art of the Table gal) will give you a chance to taste SO many of the items we carry on our shelves on a daily basis. From sauces and dips to chips and crackers to cheeses and meats and delightful little chocolates & such. Tickets will be sold to this event and must be prepaid.   Please contact us via phone to purchase after September 1.

Wednesday, November 18    How do you spell T-U-R-K-E-Y? $25* @ TBA

When you think turkey, do you think about white wines like Riesling and Gewurtztraminer? Or do you think red wines like Beaujolais and Pinot Noir? Are you ready to test your taste buds with some turkey and six wines we choose? We’re thinking about doing this one ‘blind’ (wine in bags, analysis by vision and taste – but not vision of the label.) This way the turkey and the wine will refine your ideas for what to serve on that day, the day we will all indulge in food and give thanks.

Wednesday, December 2     BFR (aka Big Fat Reds) $35* @ TBA

It’s kind of a Bradford/Art of the Table tradition. Big Fat Reds, first Wednesday in December. Can’t be messed with. Once it was messed with and it fell flat. A few times we picked the wrong restaurant where it was loud. Another time someone picked all old world wines. This year, we are hoping for perfection. First Wednesday, a quieter locale, some wines from the old world, but mostly from the new. The rule always is that they have to be red. And big. And fat. And they will be delicious.

Wednesday, December 9     Bubbles of the World $35* @ University Club

Champagne is a place, they make bubbles that you may call Champagne. All others are bubbly – made either in the “methode Champenoise” or not. Bubbles can be called cava, prosecco or sparkling wines. They are also available in clear, a yellowish hue, pink or red. Join us as we venture around the world with bubbles and some fine bubble pairings.

Wednesday, December 16     Bubbles from True Farmers of the World $50* @ University Club

Champagne is a place, they make bubbles that you may call Champagne. All of the bubbles tonight are from French farmers. The French farmers that make these bubbles really care about their bubbles in a serious way. That’s why they are all impressive and well, just lovely. You’ll never spend the Dom Perignon dollars yet you’ll get twice the bang for your buck. If you haven’t tried the real deal, tonight is for you. We will honor you with super special stuff and great food pairings as well.

Wednesday, January 13     Values for Fireside Chats $20* @ TBA

For our first tasting of the year, we thought we’d give you value and cozy all wrapped up in one. Stunning wines for their price, we will focus in on things that make your January a happier, cozier one.

Monday, Feb 15     Do you still love me? (Monday after Valentines tasting) $45* @ TBA

It’s a dinner. And a tasting. A pairing of sorts. And it WILL be romantic. Or at least sort of. You may come on your own too, no kissy face here. More details will be arriving shortly.wine

About that cup…

July 4th, 2009

I’m actually taking a little time this weekend to sit (you’ll possibly notice we’re not open today, the 4th of July, much to the chagrin of our loyal followers!)  We didn’t even participate in the Hollyhock parade as we often do. Tonight and tomorrow we’ll enjoy some time with friends and family chatting, eating and drinking.  Meanwhile I’m catching up on a few things I try to read each week (I’m just procrastinating from the house chores!)

Earlier today at a brunch I was served my mimosa in a GLASS (thank you friends!) and I was thinking about those darned plastic cups that often rear their ugly heads at parties.  I’m always thankful when I get a glass vs. a plastic cup.  Because secretly (or not so secretly?) I’m a glass snob.

I know most people in the world say it doesn’t matter if they drink coffee from styrofoam.  It matters to me.  Tea cannot be consumed from a metal cup.  Water has to be cold and in a clear glass with ice.  Am I generally a picky person? Not really.  But somehow this glass thing matters.  Wine?  Mimosa?  Real glass.  Nice glass is best.

So I was inspired to share this blog post I just read about the virtues of picnics and parties and using real glass.  And she has a point!  Actually several.  I agree wholeheartedly that the rule of thumb in picking glasses should be that you have a small set of great glasses – one size fits all for me, I have a larger tulip stem that I use for whites and reds and pinks and sometimes even bubbles.  I also like her rule of thumb that a good glass should cost about what your average bottle of wine costs.  We have glasses that are $5, we have glasses that are $8 and we charge around $13 for our nice Schott Zwiesel glasses.  It’s nice that you can spend only this much and get something really amazing.  Titanium strengthened, sharp clarity and dishwasher safe.  The shapes are fun and the wine always tastes great.  This is something to consider investing in if you don’t have them!

Don’t you agree?

Fancy Food? What’s that?

July 1st, 2009

As previously reported on my most recent edition of our e-mail newsletter, Table Talk, I was just in New York for the “2009 Summer Fancy Food Show”.   This show is huge, 2,300 exhibitors from the U.S. alone!

I love going to shows and consider myself rather efficient at them; you’ll usually see me walking rather quickly, ruling out things that are out of my group of categories – like the 615 different “waters” that one can buy – I did find “Q Tonic” and tried that but I skipped the tea water, the chocolate water, the electromagnetically-charged-probiotic-ginger-cherry-pomegranate-carrot-juice-water-spritzer…

Seriously though,  I walked this show for 5 hours one day and 7 hours the next and never revisited anything – and barely made it through the entire building! Each day I sampled hundreds of different foods and the information that surrounds them and enjoyed it all immensely.

While digesting all my thoughts, I came up with my own top 5 foods that seem to be seeing an explosion of choices…and I’m pretty sure they are mostly speaking to our current state of mind, comfort and a throwback to the past:

Applesauce

Granola

Tea

Honey

Asian foods – either Ready-to-eat in jars or packets or frozen or boxed meals

*******

I took about 16 pages of notes in my half size spiral notebook and I have great ideas for the future.  Keep watching for our food goodies, starting to arrive already – If you haven’t experienced the Effie’s Oatcakes, you should.  Though I had already brought their product in, I had yet to meet friends and business partners Joan & Irene, which I also did this weekend!

effies oatcakes

effies oatcakes

This biscuit is has a distinctively buttery texture, much like a shortbread cookie, yet it contains oats & crunch that could pair well with wine, cheese & fruit or alongside a beautiful cup of tea – plain or atop with jam.  Owner Joan likes to curl up with a hot chocolate and a good book and an Effie’s Oatcake.  Me? I just like them plain.



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