Five Mid-Michigan Food Items for which to Be Thankful

When I was a kid, I remember urging everyone at Thanksgiving dinner one year to grab a popcorn kernel and say what they were thankful for.

I must have seen or heard about the idea from someone or somewhere (I’m not that creative!) and thought it was important to try it out that particular year. My family, bless them, went along with it.

Let’s just say… the tradition didn’t exactly stick. But since Thanksgiving is on Thursday (and I’m nothing if not stubborn), I’d thought I’d #TBT it and bring the tradition back – this time, with a twist: For each kernel I “grab,” I’ll list the food or food-related items I’m most thankful for that can be found right here in mid-Michigan. Some, even, could be great additions to your Thanksgiving feast.

(Oh, and I “grabbed” five kernels. You know, in case you wanted to participate, too).

Kernel One: I’m thankful for the rum cake at Roma Bakery.
Year started: 1969
Location: 428 North Cedar St., Lansing

Yes, it’s a thing. Rum + cake = A very real delight, and something for which Roma Bakery is well-known. Rum cake (one of the bakery’s Italian torte options) is a traditional Italian dessert that is essentially rum-soaked layers of sponge cake stacked on top of one another with layers of flavored cream in between. It’s frosted, and then almonds are pressed onto the sides. I know I exaggerate sometimes, but truthfully, nothing is quite like this cake. I’ve grown up eating this special dessert made by Sostine and Mena Castriciano, Roma Bakery’s owners, for years. They are family friends, so I can say this with certainty: They are as nice as they are fantastic artisans and business owners.

But there’s so much more than cake at Roma! Along with other sweets and treats, there’s homemade pizza and bread, a variety of frozen prepared meals (that Mena makes herself) and so many specialty Italian food items.

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Mena Castriciano, one of Roma Bakery’s owners, stands proudly behind the enticing handmade sweets case. (Hi, Mena!) The two round cakes below her? Rum cakes, of course. Aren’t they beautiful? Photo courtesy of Jennifer Orlando

Kernel Two: I’m thankful for the white frosting-filled, chocolate-iced Long John doughnut at Quality Dairy.
Year started: 1936, bakery opened in 1970
Location: 31 locations in mid Michigan

It has be the white frosting-filled one. There’s a Bavarian cream one, too, as well as more than 40 other doughnut varieties from plain to glazed bowties and so many others. I mean, let’s be real, I will not turn down a doughnut (ever), but there’s something about the super-sweet filling and luscious chocolate frosting that put this particular Long John over the edge.

I definitely got my sweet tooth from my dad, so this decadent treat reminds me of him and lazy weekend mornings. He would purchase a coffee-and-doughnut deal of some sort, and I was always one of the lucky recipients of these over-the-top confections.

QD (that’s what we locals call it) is also known for its cider, assortment of baked goods, ice cream and, of course, milk.

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See those plain chocolate-iced ones on the right? Yeah, those are my jam. Except they don’t have jam. They have white frosting in the middle. And they are perfect. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Orlando

Kernel Three: I’m thankful for Jersey Giant subs (any of them, really).
Year started: 1979
Location: Five stores in the Lansing area

If I must choose favorites, I’ll defer to the subs I’ve ordered most frequently throughout the years: The namesake sub, The Jersey Giant (ham, capicola, salami, cheese) and the tuna sub. The fresh ingredients and toppings, locally-made bread and family recipe vinaigrette (seriously, it’s a proprietary blend that has 11 oils and 4 vinegars!) are what makes Jersey Giant top-notch and better than any of those other sub shops.

Jersey Giant got its name from the home state of family who runs the business – the Slocums. They came to Michigan from New Jersey in 1979 and brought with them the Jersey–style subs we in the area have come to rely on for a quick lunch, a party platter or an after-school snack (or maybe that was just me). Oh, and November is a special month for Jersey Giant: Nov. 18 marked its 36th birthday. Happy birthday to you, JG!

There are many convenient locations in mid-Michigan as well as in metro Detroit, Kalamazoo and Portage.

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The Jersey Giant sub. They do not skimp on toppings! I’m so grateful for that. Photo courtesy of Jersey Giant

Kernel Four: I’m thankful for the antipasto/olive section at Horrocks.
Year Started: 1959 in Lansing; 1992 in Battle Creek
Location: 7420 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing

Everyone is buzzing about being able to shop and drink wine (pun…intended!) at Horrocks, but the soups, salads and dips at the antipasto and olive bar are what make me a superfan of this local farm market. They are a great add-on to any meal. Or, if you’re pressed for time, a great meal in and of themselves. You can load up on tasty and worldly flavors from Sicilian pasta salad to quinoa and beets to fajita chicken to hummus to a whole host of olives and everything in between. And if you’re anything like me, you will load up on everything because you can’t decide and because you can’t go wrong – with whatever you choose.

Other great finds at Horrocks? Fresh produce, homemade peanut butter, a free coffee bar, beautiful fresh-cut flowers and arrangements, a dynamite plant nursery, an extensive wine selection and super-fresh meats and cheeses. In other words, I could live at Horrocks.

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Heaven. Er, I mean the antipasto and olive bar at Horrocks … in all its tasty glory. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Orlando

Kernel Five: I’m thankful for the traditional cappuccino at Strange Matter Coffee.
Year started: 2014
Location: 2001 E. Michigan Ave, Lansing

Yes, I know – this one’s a drink and not technically food. But like my waistband on Thanksgiving, I’m 100 percent OK with this sort of stretch. The shop opened last August, and there has been excitement surrounding it ever since: The coffee drinks are that good.

They have a straightforward menu with items like pour overs, espresso, lattes and mochas; many of which you can get hot or cold.

My favorite? Hands-down, it’s the traditional cappuccino. It’s served with two shots of espresso – one in the cappuccino itself, and one on the side. The catch? You have to drink it in-store, but the drinkware is beautiful so you won’t mind. Trust me. (And please, please, please do not mention to my awesome Italian grandmother that I very much enjoy this cappuccino! Hers is my favorite, but Strange Matter’s is a close second)!

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Morning fuel. Also known as the traditional cappuccino at Strange Matter Coffee. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Orlando

So, those are the five kernels food items from mid-Michigan for which I’m thankful this year, and most every year. But, of course, feeling thankful around Thanksgiving time doesn’t require popcorn kernels to remind us of things that matter most or are near and dear to our hearts – but they certainly make it more fun.

What food items are you most thankful for here in the Lansing area? Grab some popcorn kernels and tell me!

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