Marking its 5th year of gracing downtown Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer, and Food Festival filled last weekend with food, beer, wine, spirits, and an influx of novices and connoisseurs alike. The festival itself can seem overwhelming, but the best thing to do is venture up and down every aisle and try anything you’ve never heard of. Here are my top 5 favorite samplings from this year’s festival.
Food: Reserve GR
-It’s no secret that Reserve GR is one of Grand Rapids’ very best culinary experiences and wine bars. I hadn’t tried much of their food, however. At the festival, they sampled out Porchetta sandwiches with chopped pork rinds that was to die for. One of the best melt-in-your-mouth sandwich combinations I’ve ever sampled and a perfect start to the night of festival fun.
Spirits: Jimmy Luv Bloody Mary’s
-I might now be in love with Jimmy Luv. This Bloody Mary mix is one of the best mixes I’ve ever had, and I believe I’ve had a fair share of them. Offered in original or sneaky hot, I opted for the original, as I’m not one for scorching spices. The Bloody Mary mix was so good that I didn’t even want to add any garnishes, i.e. olives, cheese, celery.
Beer: Jolly Pumpkin’s Pumpkin Ale (naturally they have a good Pumpkin Ale)
-The craft beer hall was hoppin’ (pun-intended) this year. Larger, and much busier, than last year, the music and Grand Rapids beer-loving crowd came out in droves. The Jolly Pumpkin’s Pumpkin Ale was a perfect amount of fall explosion for your palate: not too spicy, not too much pumpkin, and a smooth finish. The brew has real pumpkin, hints of spice, and a little bit of cocoa.
Desserts: Lindsay Truffler Artisan Chocolates
-These chocolates were the perfect juxtaposition of luscious chocolate and subtle flavor. I sampled the Pumpkin Caramel, Milk & Honey, French Toast, and Rosemary Sea Salt Caramel. The Pumpkin Caramel was like a chocolate covered piece of pumpkin pie. The French Toast was white chocolate with a maple and spiced center. The Milk & Honey was chocolate ganache with the rare Tupelo honey mixed in. Lastly, the Rosemary Sea Salt Caramel was the perfect balance of sweet and salty, with just the slightest, interesting, hint of rosemary. Enough said: all four of these truffles were amazing.
Wine: Black Star Farms’ Arcturos Late Harvest Riesling
-I might be a tad biased given that I love white, sweet wine. However, this wine is pleasantly low-key in its sweetness with apples, peaches, and hints of other fresh fruits mixed in. There is also a bit of a honey flavor in this 2011 Riesling. A true, Northern Michigan classic white wine.
Have other favorites from the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer, and Food Festival? Sound off in our comments below!
–Kristin Coppens, Media Relations Director