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Wednesday Food: A Weekend in Michigan

hopcatThe weekend before last I set out on a short trip with my dear friend from Portland.  The occasion for heading east was her college friend’s wedding, to take place just south of Grand Rapids.  Though our time frame was only 32 hours we packed in a number of stops– mostly beer related– along the way.

Having left Chicago a bit late we got to my beer guy’s house, where we were staying, with little time to spare.  The plan was to have a quick drink at Founders Taproom before heading to the wedding.  Needless to say, we ran out of time halfway through the first round.  Was I to leave my delightful Centennial IPA abandoned on the bar, the tears of condensation dripping down its tulip side, or chug it down and drive?  As neither situation was acceptable I opted to skip the ceremony and meet my friend at the reception.  This proved an excellent choice as I then had time to sample the Honey Wheat– meh, decent honey flavor but not my style;  Spite Pepper Ale– interesting strong chile flavor but could never drink more than an ounce; and Holé Molé– a surprising peppery stout that I found not just drinkable but enjoyable throughout (I have a soft spot for habaneros).

By this time my desire to make it to the reception had dwindled down to non-existent.  Knowing the bride would take no offense, the beer guy became beer guide and off we walked to the HopCat.  I welcomed a meal of the Porter Braised Beef Sandwich and Crack Fries.  The beef was perfectly tender and the bleu cheese black pepper mayo added an almost overwhelming flavor (I maintain that it was goat cheese) but just enough moisture.  And aptly named fries were spicey and sweet with a vinegar bite that made them difficult to resist.

Follow the jump for an epic beer cellar and a stop at the Livery…

On a side note, RIP Gourmet, too bad Condé Nast didn’t begin cuts with crap like Cookie magazine.

IMG_1767Back at the beer guy’s house I was given a tour of his epic cellar.  Highlights included a 1982 bottle of De Dolle Stille Nacht, multiple vintages of Cantillon, half a dozen bottles of Dark Lord Day, bottles from a sojourn in Belgium that I can’t begin to list, and what seem to be a couple of bottles from every decent microbrewery from Pizza Port to Allagash.  The spread was so inspirational that I immediately went out and dropped money I absolutely don’t have on the beginnings of my own collection.

The next morning, in honor of our host’s birthday, we were back at HopCat for a spread of Framboise French Toast, Salmon with Poached Eggs, and Black Bean Hash with Poached Eggs.  The food was solid all around, but I’d say the french toast took the prize.  With my meal I drank Founders Breakfast Stout– shining offspring of the beer and coffee gods– and delighted in the sun on HopCat’s outstanding patio.

IMG_1803In no time we were headed back to Chicago, with a quick stop in Benton Harbor.  The town was completely shut down, its main road was undergoing apocalyptic construction, but after getting directions from the knowledgeable town drunk (King Cobra in hand, I kid you not) we arrived.  The Livery building served Michigan’s equestrian crowd circa 1900, but now stands modestly in what I’m told is the Arts District.  Inside is nothing more than some tables and chairs, a café window, and a simple bar over which a chalkboard describes provisions.  In the firkin was an IPA, god I think it was the 5th Dimension, whatever it was, it was outstanding.  But I soon hit my limit for driving and left the Livery with the sound of Irish folk music dancing in my ear and a growler of Paris Robaix in the trunk.


October 7, 2009 - Posted by | Wednesday Food


  1. Have you ever had Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout? It’s very good. I went to a brewery festival a few weeks ago here in Pittsburgh, and the day after, one of the bars was having a Breakfast Stout and Belgian Waffles event.

    Needless to say, it was the best possible way to start the day after a day of heavy drinking.

    Comment by dave | October 8, 2009

  2. Heavens, I could go for that right now.

    Comment by ebolden | October 8, 2009

  3. I can’t eat any other kind of waffle anymore. They had some at the beer festival, too, for “free” (almost everything was “free” in the sense that it wasn’t an additional charge), and my friends and I partook in tons of samples. I didn’t know waffles could be so good. The only similar experience I’ve had was in LA at the various Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles diners. In fact, I was wearing the shirt from Roscoe’s at the beer festival, and at one point, one of the people making the comments said “of course the kid with the giant waffle on his shirt would keep coming back here.” I was slightly embarrassed, but not enough to keep me from munching on those waffles.

    Comment by dave | October 8, 2009

  4. Chicken and waffles, what enlightened genius thought that would make for a well-balanced breakfast? Best conceivable way to start the day, or recover from the previous night.

    Comment by ebolden | October 8, 2009

  5. Preach!

    Comment by dave | October 8, 2009

  6. They did cut Cookie, and Modern Bride. But considering our similar view of Bon Appetit they could have started there as well. Boo.

    But YAY beer.

    Comment by Vanessa | October 8, 2009

  7. They also cut Elegant Bride, which I’m sure had no redundancy with other publications.

    Comment by ebolden | October 8, 2009

  8. I’m glad to see you didn’t stop at Bell’s or Kalamazoo more generally, because that’d be sad for me, being in Chicago when one of my friends is visiting what is apparently my new “stomping grounds.”

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | October 8, 2009

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