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Beverages are flowing at Art of the Table!

May 30th, 2011

We’re in full swing of our new schedule of wine & beer tasting events.  Join us!

It’s June, and that means Thursdays are for wine tasting!

Every Thursday in June we’ll be uncorking sample bottles to let you taste wines!  Our June theme is a bubbly, white & red.  Each Thursday one of each will be opened from a specific country. Come in each Thursday and learn by taste!

June 2 ~ Spain: Bubbly, White & Red

June 9 ~ Argentina: Bubbly, White & Red

June 16 ~ France: Bubbly, White & Red

June 23 ~ Italy: Bubbly, White & Red

June 30 ~ USA: Bubbly, White & Red


It’s June, and that means Fridays are for beer tasting!
Fridays in June we’ll be flipping open those sample bottles to let you taste beers:

June 10 ~ Local Ciders: Black Star Farms from Traverse City & Goldfinch Cider from Ada!

June 17 ~ Brooklyn Brewery

June 24 ~ Lagunitas Brewery

June 29 ~ Dark Horse Brewing Co.

All tastings from 4-8pm on their respective dates!


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)


- 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.

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


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

A weekend of tastes

March 30th, 2009

The book I used solely

The book I used solely

In my life as a store owner, I’m usually pretty busy – my staff and husband might say that’s an understatement! This weekend was exceptionally busy.  Besides working at the store…

Friday night I had the honor of being the wine pro at a friend’s wine tasting of South American wines.  The hostess bought the wine from the store, made all the food and we paired different Chilean and Argentinian wines.  The favorites?  The Terra Andina Reserve Chardonnay ($12.25) was tops on many palates in the white category, and the Ben Marco Malbec ($23.75) from Mendoza, Argentina displayed beautifully!  If you haven’t tried these two shelf selections, I encourage you to do so!


Saturday night was a charity dinner for eight at our house – an annual event for the highest bidder at our church’s auction.  This year the theme was Italian, therefore my/our job was to create a 7 course meal, pair it with wines and serve it.

Being the kamikaze cook that I am, I pulled Maxine Clark’s Italian Kitchen book from the newest cookbooks at the store and pored over it, selecting every one of my recipes for this dinner from it.  Then in true Amy style, I didn’t test any recipes, yes, I made them all for the first time for the dinner.  It’s interesting the reactions I get from people when I tell them I trust recipes and make them for eight hungry guests without knowing exactly how it will come out.

Somehow this doesn’t scare me much.  I did sort of end up ruining the soup; instead of a creamy spinach, egg & cheese soup, we heated the broth too much and though we were cautious about our addition of the egg, it didn’t work out well.  Yes, it curdled.  In fact, we renamed it Italian Egg Drop Soup.  It didn’t taste bad, it just wasn’t creamy and perfect.

Besides that and the smoking of grill pan of eggplant (loaded with olive oil, lemon & mint) the dinner was awesome and featured the book’s Grandmother Cake for dessert.  Our favorite recipe from the book was entitled “Warm Lentil, Mushroom, Tomato & Arugula Salad”…you should try it with the Maculan Pinot & Toi ($15.50) white wine.

Finally, the winning wine of the night? Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico 2001, ($28.50) straight from the hills of Tuscany and beautifully aged for the last 8 years!  Steve and I visited the winery last year and their wines are awesome anyway, however, this vintage of this wine – a 2001! – at this moment in time is stunning and perfect.  I didn’t get a chance to sip & enjoy like I should have, so sometime soon I’ll make a point to get another bottle to linger over!


I decided to take a little time to relax on Sunday and I had some other amazing tastes from our friends over at the Electric Cheetah, the soon to open bistro on Wealthy.  Cory, the owner, arranged a 12 hour marathon Puzzle Bee to take place yesterday in order to ‘wallpaper’ the bathroom with various puzzles.  There had to be around 100 puzzlers there throughout the day making puzzles of choice.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting in touch with my puzzling side once again and I enjoyed trying Cory’s creations from the kitchen throughout the day.  My favorite? I give the veggie breakfast burrito two thumbs up!

Always so many great things to taste -


Ryan’s musings on Grammy & wine

January 18th, 2009

Last Saturday we celebrated my grandmother’s (Grammy) 80th birthday. Most of my family is into wine so I knew it would be an excellent opportunity to grab a smattering of things from the store and try them side-by-side.  Also, my uncle who is originally from Washington has grown interested in Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. I told him at our Christmas gathering I’d bring a couple nice Pinots to try. It’s a red wine group but I threw in a white just in case.

Here’s the Grammy birthday line-up:

Domaine des Cassagnoles 2007 – Gascogne $10.50

Lurton Malbec Reserva 2006 – Mendoza $15.50

Spada 2006 – Toro $12.25

Thibault Liger-Belair “Les Grand Chaillots” 2006 – Cote d’Or $28.75

Panther Creek Winemaker’s Cuvee 2005 – Willamette Valley $31.00


The Cassagnoles has zippy acidity and went over well, even with those that like whites with some sweetness. I sometimes find that acid driven whites provide a nice transition for wine drinkers who are looking to graduate from the sweeties. The crispness gives them something obvious to latch onto.

New to the store shelves is the Lurton.  I had tasted it a few months ago with other Argentinian Malbecs and thought it was appropriately priced.  It’s complex and interesting~  A nice step up from ten dollars without having to shell out $20.  Both my older sisters liked it a lot.  I always have a difficult time finding wines both they and I enjoy, so I was pleased.

We didn’t end up opening the Spada, a Tempranillo from Toro.  Its screwcap did germinate an interesting discussion on wine closures.  The wine is rich and plush, especially for the price.  When I want to bring an impressive wine to a social gathering that is affordable, I grab this.

I grabbed the Thibault Liger-Belair to represent French Pinot Noir.  We got the wine as part of a direct import (DI) offering.  I leave an explanation of DIs for a future post.  Needless to say, wines that we purchase this way provide an excellent value to customers because we pay less for them, ergo, you pay less for them.  The Thibault was a more delicate wine with more floral notes and softer red fruits.  The nose was extremely ‘poopy’  (it’s a good thing!), which was extremely amusing for me as I grossed out my younger sister.

Oregon Pinots were represented by Panther Creek.  I have had both the ’05 and ’06 now and despite the price tag, I actually think it’s a bargain.  The Panther Creek is much more opulent and dense then the Belair. It ended up being the overall winner of the evening.

We all had a good time and the wine proved to be a focal point of many discussions. Rarely when I bring wine to a function do I bring all the same varietal.  I find it’s a lot more fun to try different wines side by side and when the venue is perfect.  Here’s to Pinots and Grammy’s birthday!


April 7th, 2008

Wow…Chicago. I hadn’t been to Chicago for a jaunt in about three years. Yes, I was there for a show about a year and a half ago but that was in the Merchandise Mart and it was an “all work, no play” event. This weekend, we were inspired to travel by a family birthday party in Forest Park and decided to make a weekend of it (which at the last minute also meant a Cubs game!). I made myself a list of stores to venture out to and did it. We ended up at cool stores like Sprout Home, Southport Grocery, Pastoral Artisan for an inspirational cheese visit.

We also landed at Lush, a wine store in the Roscoe Village neighborhood that got written up in Time Out Chicago (a great source of foodie and chicago fun event information). Here’s what they said about Lush that made me smile. “Yes, Nancy Pelosi and Condi Rice have charted new territory for women in this country. But in the wine world, it’s still the 1920s: Women struggle to be taken seriously by the industry, which insists on putting out “wines for women”—pretty rosés with flowery labels. Thankfully, things have progressed at Lush. Though owned by the Einhorn Brothers (the gearheads behind Twisted Spoke), Lush is largely in the hands of a fantastic female staff—tough broads who know their single malts from their Super Tuscans, and who aren’t shy about teaching you a thing or two (yes, guys, even you)”. You go girls!

And I truly hope it’s not another three years before I enjoy time in Chicago again! And I encourage all of you to spend some time there. It’s a close, fun city to spend some time in…and don’t just stay on Michigan Avenue. There are super great neighborhoods. Find them and walk them! And then come home and enjoy your neighborhoods here too – they’re really sprouting up all over! Shop Local!

Thai food and my pseudo-Thai brother-in-law

March 21st, 2008


My brother-in-law, Jon Ruis, was just written up in the St. Cloud Times (Minnesota) where he lives and spends his time working at St. John’s University. His article helps debunk the fact that Thai cooking is difficult and time consuming and gave inspiration to Thai cooking at home. He returned last year from a four year stint in Thailand where he lived in a small village and learned firsthand just how to cook Thai correctly!

Whenever (and i mean each time!) Jon comes to Grand Rapids, we can be found pouring over Thai cookbooks though seriously 95% of our choices end up coming from the Quick & Easy Thai book by Nancie McDermott. After the recipe study, you can find us over at one of the Asian markets on Division near 36th picking out our ingredients. We make a great team, chopping & blending and then everyone in the family gets to enjoy our authentic delights.

One of my favorite wines to pair with Thai food is Gewurtztraminer. German or Austrian or even some great dry Rieslings are fantastic companions. Try the Thomas Fogarty Gewurtz @ $17.50 for a treat!

Next time you’re inspired to make a fun meal with friends, or for friends, try Thai, it’s easier than you think, especially after you pick up the Quick & Easy Thai book from us!

Art of the Table celebrates four years!

October 2nd, 2007

We enjoy being Art of the Table.  We enjoy being at Art of the Table.  We’re celebrating four years in October and are so thankful for our customers & friends!  So although we love being at the store, we’ve got a different locale in which to enjoy life that night.  On October 26 at 6:30pm we will be hosting a party at the Chop House downtown complete with food & wine, music & friends.

Please consider joining us – tickets are $60 – and available at the store.  You can stop in or call to purchase yours!  We would love to have you there.   Want more details?  Ask one of the staff, they know how fun it will be!

Celebrating the Wines of Jed Steele

September 22nd, 2007

On Wednesday about 15 of us convened in the back “Benton” room at our good friend Louis Benton restaurant for a tasting through six wines made by Jed Steele. Jed as you know is a crazy busy wine consultant who makes wines for all sorts for people but also makes wine for his own label Steele, and it’s second label, Shooting Star. We’ve been having fun with his wines since we opened and thought to highlight what he does in this tasting. Here’s my notes from the event with added commentary.

First off I want to stress that we started right at 6:30 P.M. as scheduled. I actually was looking at my phone’s clock and started speaking as soon as the time changed. Bradford arrived shortly thereafter and then individually welcomed everyone in the room. “Well, hello there. My name is Bradford. It’s so good to see you. Welcome, welcome . . . Bradford . . . Hello there.” We were off with a bang and the excitement of the first two wines was palpable.

The first wine was the 2006 Shooting Star Aligote from Washington State. Aligote is a white grape most commonly associated with Burgundy, as well as being the redheaded stepchild to Chardonnay. This was a much richer version than the French Aligote’s I’ve had in the past. It was pale gold with very little rim variation. The aromas were Asian pear, golden apple, Mandarin orange, lifting floral notes, spice and a whiff of lanolin. The flavors reminded me most of a nice baked apple pie with accents of spice and hazelnut. Excellent acidity and a lovely finish made this a crowd pleaser. Alongside the Aligote we poured the 2005 Shooting Star Chardonnay from Medocino. Apparently we learned that Jed declassified two lots from his single vineyard Chardonnays because they didn’t “fit” what he was working on. This wine was freaking gorgeous as we soon found out. It was pale gold with an ever so slight variation. The aromas leaped with notes of red apple, fig, vanilla spice and toast. (At this point I’m sending a shout-out to Ruth Speyer, who we’ve not forgotten. She would always laugh out loud whenever she would read my descriptions that ended with “and toast.”) On the palate the Chard was certainly a bit rounder and had that total ML (malolactic fermentation) feel to it with lots of buttery, creamy stuff going on around the intense apple notes. I loved the Chardonnay. The crowd preferred the Aligote. It was certainly an interesting contrast.

Next we tried the 2006 Shooting Star Riesling from Lake County. It was pale gold with little variation. The aromas were rich with lots of lime, lemon zest and apricot. It is a very clean and crisp wine, despite a touch of residual sugar. On the palate the peachy aspect of Riesling really came across, with more lime and hints of nectarine and spice. It was a really fun wine and the appetizer came out at this point which was stuffed shells with a crazy spicy sauce, and the Riesling cut through great and really shined.

Next we tried the 2005 Steele Carneros Pinot Noir. It was lovely. A pale, intense garnet with little variation, the wine began somewhat muddled aromatically for me. With vigorous swirling I began to get some earthy notes of strawberry reduction, red cherry, caramel and spicy stuff. It’s definitely a tick young at this point but was drinking great after ten minutes. It’s got lots of pedigree for a wine under $25, I can highly recommend it.

Next up we did a vintage comparison between the 1999 Steele Lake County Merlot and the 2003 Steele Lake County Merlot. The ’99 was medium garnet with more than a slight haze and medium variation. Its aromas were meaty at first, kind of like turkey thighs (know what I mean? Hey, I’m trying to be accurate) with oodles of black cherry and anise. On the palate it was lovely with darker fruit than the aromas, more like black cherry with big notes of brown sugar, star anise and yes Ruth, toast. I thought this wine was at a plateau and showing beautifully. The 2003 Merlot was clear and medium ruby with little variation. The aromas were jumping out of the glass with lots of burnt sugar and campfire smoke with cassis and black cherry lurking beneath. On the palate it was classic Merlot with black cherry, cassis, tobacco and spice with a touch of mocha. This wine was drinking great and had the tannin to survive a few years aging. I thought the 1999 was more interesting but both were lovely. The ’99 was a testament that Steele wines age.

Last up we had the Steele 2004 “Red Hills” Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendocino. It’s medium ruby with little variation. The aromas are rich and intense with notes of black cherry compote, cassis and brown sugar. On the palate the wine is full-bodied and relatively dry, despite how ripe it seems. Flavors of red cherry, cassis, Very Berry and toasted spice linger nicely on the finish. A day before, Ryan and I had been to Detroit and tried both the 2004 Dominus and the 2004 Beringer Private Reserve, which hover around a hundred and a quarter retail. I seriously think the ’04 Steele Cab would have hung in there quite nicely in a comparative tasting, and goes for eighty bucks less. Nice wine.

Another amazing tasting, I had tossed Steele in the “just another California winery” bin – and their wines really showed up. They’re awesome values for what they deliver, especially the Shooting Star Chard and the Steele Cab.

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