Thanksgiving in West Michigan

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Thanksgiving is all about being grateful for what you have, whether it’s time with family, enjoying a good meal, or simply celebrating the fact that you get to live in West Michigan! We’ve got some fun and unique ideas for ways to get yourself into a thankful mood this year as you get ready for Thanksgiving on November 26th (and ideas for Turkey Day as well!).

Thankful in West Michigan

Six.one.six in the JW Marriott, Grand Rapids, is hosting a Thanksgiving Day feast! Make your reservations now for brunch, which runs from 11am-3pm on Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy fabulous holiday dishes including Roasted Cider Brined Otto’s Turkey with Cranberry-Orange Marmalade, Dearborn Ham with Jalapeno Mustard, cornbread stuffing, buttermilk whipped potatoes, and roasted heirloom carrots. Your meal will be accompanied by assorted charcuterie, local and artisan cheeses, hardwood smoked Scottish salmon, and ginger pear trifle, chocolate oreo cheesecake, and miniature pumpkin and apple pies for dessert. The normal breakfast items will also be available at six.one.six’s breakfast bar during Thanksgiving Brunch. Cost is $37 for Adults and $16 for children ages 4-12, and reservations are encouraged.

In honor of the holidays, Holland-based Hudsonville Ice Cream announces the seasonal release of its Limited Edition Pumpkin Pie flavored ice cream, available in stores around the Great Lakes Region through December (while supplies last). Michigan ranks #2 in the country for the number of pumpkins harvested each year, and this rich and creamy flavor pays tribute to its place in the state’s overall agricultural industry. Real pumpkin is blended with vanilla ice cream, actual pie crust pieces and then topped off with a dash of cinnamon for a flavor that would make Grandma proud. “Served alone or as the a la mode to your favorite dessert, this Pumpkin Pie flavor inspires you to begin a new family dinner tradition,” says Ray Sierengowski from Hudsonville Ice Cream. “If you’re hosting the holiday meal be sure to have some on hand, or bring it along as your sweet dish to pass.”

When it comes time for dessert after your Thanksgiving meal, Chocolates by Grimaldi, a Grand Haven-based chocolate factory, knows that pairing the right wine with the right chocolate can be complicated, so they have a handy guide to help you out. Pay attention to the sweetness of your chocolates and wine when pairing them. Your wine should always be sweeter than your chocolate. Generally speaking, lighter chocolates tend to be sweeter because they contain less cacao and should be paired with sweeter wines. While darker chocolates should be paired with more full-bodied and drier wines because they contain more cacao and tend to be less sweet.

Here are a few chocolate and wine combinations that Chocolates by Grimaldi thinks are just perfect. Please keep in mind however that these are only suggestions. There is no right, or wrong, wine pairing if it pleases your palate!

White Chocolate

  • Moscato D’Asti is recommended for pairing with White Chocolate because of its delicate sweetness and aromatic fruit aromas. Other wines that pair well with white chocolate include, Sweet Rose’, Ports, Crème Sherrys and Champagne.
  • Chocolates by Grimaldi offers many white chocolate confections including, White Chocolate Trail Bark, White Chocolate Trail Cups, and Almond Bark.

Milk Chocolates

  • Milk chocolate pairs well with many Fruity wines, such wines that pair well with milk chocolate include Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Zinfandel, Beaujolais’ and Sweet Sparkling Wine.
  • Milk chocolate confections from Chocolates by Grimaldi include, Giant Turtles, Turtle Cups, Chocolate Covered Potato Chips and Pretzels, Toasted Coconut Cups, and Raisin Clusters.

Dark Chocolate

  • Chocolates by Grimaldi recommends serving their dark chocolates with dryer and mainly red wines, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot, Syrah, Meritage & Italian Reds.
  • Dark chocolate selections from Chocolates by Grimaldi include, their Solid Dark Chocolate Foils, Giant Dark Chocolate Turtles, Dark Chocolate Trail Bark with Almonds and Dried Cherries, Chocolate Almond Cup, Chocolate Cashew Cup, Raisin Clusters, Toasted Coconut Cups, and Truffles.

Chocolate Caramels

  • Chocolate caramel combinations usually go well with a Tawny Port, a wine that’s rich and mellow with notes of caramel, figs, nuts, and toffee. Other wines like Lambrusco, Vin Santo, Madeira, Asti-Spumante, and Moscato D’Asti also pair well with chocolate caramels.
  • Chocolates by Grimaldi offers many chocolate caramel selections including, Giant Turtles, Turtle Cups, and Chocolate Caramels with Sea Salt.

Think Local for Thanksgiving Dinner!

Michigan is often referred to as the “Mitten of Plenty” – and as we head into the fall harvest season it’s the perfect time to reflect and give thanks for the state’s thriving agricultural bounty.

Did you know that when it comes to agriculture, Michigan is second only to California in terms of overall diversity? We produce more than 200 commodities here in the Great Lakes State – generating more than $90 billion for the state’s economy. Behind manufacturing, agriculture is our #2 industry (and closely tied to our #3 industry – tourism).

Supporting local growers not only keeps their family farms in operation, it delivers a better product to the consumer and contributes to the state’s economic future.

“If every Michigan family spent just $10 a week on locally-grown foods, it would keep nearly $40 million working right here in the state,” says Don Koivisto, Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

There is no time better than Thanksgiving to dig into the rich world of Michigan produce!

The star of the Thanksgiving feast is, of course, the turkey! Some 16 Michigan turkey producers raise approximately 4.6 million Tom turkeys on more than 40 family-owned farms each year.

One of the premier names when it comes to turkey is Butterball – a company started in Grand Rapids by Leo Peters in the 1950s. While turkey operations have moved out of state, the local company today is the largest national dairy supplier of specialty and premium butter in North America – sourcing countless international hotels and even providing the embossed “M” butter for McDonald’s.

If you prefer ham for Thanksgiving, you might be interested to know that Michigan’s hog production totaled 556 million pounds back in 2007, ranking us #14 in the nation. Cass County – down near the state line – ranks as the #1 county in Michigan for the number of hogs raised each year.

Now, time for the sides.

Michigan ranks #7 nationally in potato production, contributing $164 million each year to the state’s economy. Collectively, the 90 growers harvest 1.4 billion pounds of round whites and russets, from 43,000 acres.

The key ingredients in stuffing (or dressing, depending which term you prefer) can be sourced locally. Look to local bakeries for the bread, choosing from a variety of flavors and styles.

Celery was introduced to Michigan (and the United States) in 1856 when a Scotsman named George Taylor brought seeds from his native land and planted them in the fertile soils of Kalamazoo and Portage. Soon, he was sourcing to the Burdick Hotel and the farming operation quickly grew.

Today, Portage is known as the “Celery City” and is home to the Celery Flats Historical Area, where a memorial marker to George Taylor proudly stands. Overall, Michigan ranks #3 in the production of celery – with 27 growers sourcing from about 1800 acres primarily in Kalamazoo, Allegan and Ottawa counties.

If chestnuts are part of your dressing recipe, you’ll be happy to know that there are nearly 40 growers in Michigan – more than any other state. According to the Michigan Chestnut Growers Inc., last year growers collectively sold 80,000 pounds of sweet chestnuts. Even as a stand-alone, roasted chestnuts bring an additional flavor to your holiday meal.

Forego the canned cranberries this year and opt instead for fresh fruit! Michigan ranks #6 nationally, with almost 250 acres of cranberries generating about 40,000 barrels. Several small farms operate in the Upper Peninsula. Whitefish Point, along the Lake Superior shoreline, is considered the “Cranberry Capital of Michigan.” Other operations can be found in Cheboygan County, along the Lake Huron shoreline, and in five counties along the southern Lake Michigan coastline.

The culmination of the traditional dinner comes when the pumpkin pie is served. Michigan is ranked second in the country for the number of acres planted for pumpkins. In 2010, Michigan growers dedicated 7,400 acres to pumpkins (for processing and for ornamental Jack-o-lanterns) with 92.5 million pounds harvested.

Don’t forget the ice cream with that pie! Michigan ranks #5 nationally in annual ice cream production, with vanilla the top flavor (an ideal pairing for pumpkin pie). Among the top producers is Hudsonville – maker of the Pure Michigan Caramel Apple flavor.

Of course, locally-made wine and craft beer makes the perfect pairing for your Thanksgiving dinner.

Michigan ranks #13 for wine production, with some 94 wineries spread out throughout both peninsulas. Master Sommelier Claudia Tyagi suggests a nice Michigan Riesling or Chardonnay to compliment a turkey dinner.

When it comes to craft beer, Michigan ranks #5 with more than 100 breweries throughout the state. Beervangelist Fred Bueltmann from New Holland Brewing Company suggests one of Michigan’s harvest ales – some of which are even brewed with Michigan hops – as a flavorful pairing for turkey. Try a brown or amber ale with ham, kicking off the nutty, sweet flavors on your plate.

“Hops are aromatic and herbaceous and play well with the whole family of flavors on the Thanksgiving table,” Bueltmann says. “IPAs are great too. In fact, I brine my turkey in an IP beer brine every year.”

Local Thanksgiving information provided by Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan.

Whaddaya think?