What does Beer City, U.S.A. do to escape the winter blahs? It hosts a week-long craft beer and even craftier cuisine celebration called Cool Brews. Hot Eats. From Feb. 17 through Feb. 28, nearly 50 local eateries will be showcasing special menu items, some made with beer, some paired with beer, all leading up to the 11th Annual Winter Beer Festival at Fifth Third Ballpark, 4500 West River Dr. NE, Comstock Park, Feb. 26 and 27.
Gravity Taphouse Grille, 3210 Deposit Dr. NE, Grand Rapids, will be participating in Cool Brews. Hot Eats. for the second year. Chef Mary Hunter has been planning her dishes very thoughtfully for months, while General Manager, Jeremy Edwards–using his extensive experience with craft brews–worked to find the perfect pairings for each dish. Edwards explains, “The pairings offer a chance to compliment or contrast the flavors of each recipe.” Not only is each dish paired with a unique beer, beer is also incorporated into the recipe, used as a marinade, brine, or sauce.
Gravity will have three unique offerings during Beer Week:
—Beer-brined Chicken Wings using Unruly 21 Guns, tossed in a Sesame Shiso Glaze, served with a carrot and celery slaw (paired with Unruly 21 Guns)
— Filet of beef marinated in New Holland Poet Oatmeal Stout, served on a bed of Butternut Stout grits, Gremolata, and a Stout Brown sauce (paired with New Holland The Poet)
—Sticky Toffee Pudding, served with a Black Pepper Fig Caramel sauce (paired with Founder’s Dirty Bastard)
Brewers in West Michigan are a very collaborative and supportive group. With the explosion of the number of breweries in the state of Michigan, especially locally in the Grand Rapids area, the food industry is growing as well.
“Grand Rapids was well behind the curve,” said Hunter, “Our restaurant offerings were 10-15 years behind those of larger cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.”
The need for unique foods made especially to compliment the craft beer expansion has brought Grand Rapids to a new level in the restaurant world. Hunter explains that 17 years ago as a chef, she was the only female in the kitchen and that chefs were almost secretive about recipes and ingredients.
“That is changing,” she states. “Not only are many women staffing the kitchens, but they are part of a more sharing and friendly environment.” Women are also a major clientele of the taprooms and breweries.
Cool Brews. Hot Eats. gives the local craft breweries a chance to showcase their styles, and livens up the restaurant industry in the dreariest month of winter.
“The relationship between beer and restaurants in West Michigan is pushing the limits,” states Edwards. “There’s nowhere to go but up.”
Across town, Aryana’s Restaurant and Lounge (found in the Crowne Plaza, 5700 28th St. SE, Grand Rapids) is participating in Cool Brews. Hot Eats. for the first time. Joseph Fragala, Director of Food and Beverage, states, “Restaurant Week was a huge success for us.” He hopes Cool Brews. Hot Eats. will entice people to come out during February.
Fragala explains, “Being located in a hotel presents a challenge in some aspects, but it is also a wonderful location to showcase Grand Rapids upscale casual dining while highlighting the terrific numbers of Michigan craft beers to our visitors from out of town.” As with many local eateries, “farm to fork” local produce is a major part of their offerings for Beer Week.
Aryana, with Chef Andrew Sprite, is featuring these pairings:
—Poached apple and rocket arugula, toasted pecans, braised beer, and local honey vinaigrette (paired with New Holland Monkey Kingdom (saison/farmhouse ale)
—Herb-marinated grilled duck breast, Michigan IPA-Asiago risotto, and fresh steamed asparagus (paired with Frankenmuth Brewery Batch 69 IPA)
—Dark chocolate flourless tart, flame-roasted orange coulis (paired with New Holland The Poet)
Whether you are in the mood for just appetizers or want to add an entrée or dessert, this is the week to explore what the Grand Rapids food industry has to offer. Each chef has spent hours to meticulously plan the blend of flavors and special ingredients to tempt your palate. With the craft beer and brewery explosion in West Michigan, no doubt you will find the perfect taste to compliment your meal.
Do your part. Get out, eat yourself silly and beat the blahs!