Food and drinks just taste better outside. But winter always seems to ruin this luxury by making it unbearably cold. Defy Mother Nature this winter by going to any of these four locations that harmonize our love for the outdoors with our love of reasonable levels of body heat.
Farm-to-table Radix Tavern serves up southern-style cuisine with local ingredients courtesy of Chef Jayson Leek, a Kansas transplant and former sous chef of Judson's Steakhouse and Gilly's.
Every Wednesday afternoon, local chefs and West Michigan farmers converge in a warehouse located at the corner of Hall and Godfrey Streets to buy and sell produce and other products produced by the farms.
Why did Ryan Cappelletti become a chef? "Basically, I dropped out of high school and worked in a lot of kitchens. I was eating a lot of fast food. I couldn't sit around and just play Nintendo. I had to do something. I was in a lot of bands, travelling the world, trying a lot of food across the board, and then getting into vegetarian food and then vegan food."
After Labor Day, September becomes a month that triggers a spontaneous whimsy in me that I attribute to some Pavlovian imprint from my hedonistic years. It is rooted in grade school-era visits to autumn apple orchards, indulging in cider and coffee; naked collegiate nighttime soirees in apple orchards, indulging in spiked cider and coffee; the return of the doughnut as an acceptable carbohydrate to the diet.
Some of the best local apples and cider comes from two of the oldest apple orchards in West Michigan. Instead of picking up some hum-drum cider at your grocer, try some from the farm in Kent City at Fruit Ridge Hayrides (11966 Fruit Ridge Ave.). This scenic farm has been operating for more than 125 years. A great excuse to come would be around the third week of September, when owners Kirk and Nancy Briggs launch the Fall Harvest Festival.
Sitting in my cabin up north, where the walls are lined with dead mammals, I couldn't help but think of hiring a taxidermist to wall-mount my favorite dishes for the kitchen. My first Chateau Briand steak lingering in limbo with wood-fired asparagus would hang next to my first Weber-grilled T-bone; Venetian gelato in a Dixie cup could sit next to an old Sweetland's malted.
Ah, July ... when the rank gym sock and week-old kitty litter-like funk of month-old sweat steeps into your nostrils in an un-air conditioned apartment prone to carpenter ants. It's time to get a dose of good, cold food before your constant head-in-the-fridge relief results in Freon poisoning, hypoxia and freezer burn.
Owner-Operators Keith and Lisa Langdon's Full City Cafe Restaurant & Catering (2026 Parkview, Kalamazoo and 7878 Oakland Dr., Portage) is a delicatessen marvel where salads are ethereal. Keith has worked previously as Muhammad Ali's personal chef and Lisa has learned tricks from Grandma and culinary team world champ member Chef Fraz.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, when the Mexican army prevailed over French forces, only to keep fighting for a few more years over unpaid bills. For gringos like me, this means partying it up with Corona specials, burning unkempt cuticles with lime rinds, and tequila body shots slurped off my body by underage girls I'd not touch if it weren't for those margaritas and that rigorous Catholic schooling.
In reality, this meager holiday allows us to enjoy America's comfort food, whether authentic cilantro-laden beef tongue tacos, or muy cheesy Tex-Mex nachos, this nationality has its grip on more American menus than any other.
"Would you prefer smoking or non?" Overjoyed hostesses everywhere are now giddy because not they can shorten their script by one question we've heard thousands of times. Soon enough, you can sit anywhere you'd like-except for smokers. Beginning May 1, the Michigan Smoking Ban takes effect and, as a smoker, I will wallow in the stink of nicotine in public establishments for all of April. It's for the better.
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