Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wine, Beer, & Food Festival - November 2011

In its fourth year, this festival provides a wonderful opportunity to taste various wines, beers, and food. We checked it out Friday night and briefly again on Saturday afternoon. But it does come at a price.
Your $15.00 ticket gives you admission to the seminars and food workshops, a tasting glass (choose wine or beer glass) and the opportunity to purchase “tasting” tickets.  
Our friendly, taste ticket seller recommended starting with $20.00 of tickets per couple. So with the initial investment of $50.00 per couple, and our free and empty glasses in hand, we began our tour.  
Starting in the Riverfront Market, we slowly moved through the vendors situated in the hall and found plenty to eat and just a little to drink. Many miscellaneous vendors were also represented here (bread, jewelry, kitchens, etc.).
Walking into the ballroom, one is greeted by 40,000 square feet of exhibitors. Restaurant representatives were located along the outside walls and the middle was full of wineries and some breweries/distilleries. My preference would have been to have more food interspersed with the wineries/breweries as it would keep the experience a little more varied as one winds through the aisles.
In the entry area off Lyon Street, we found the Michigan Craft Brew Hall. (Incidentally, this hall with its facade is the only remaining portion of the old Civic Auditorium.)  We sat here for a few minutes to enjoy a slider and a beer but the live music was too loud to talk.
The vendors were very informative and not overly aggressive. All pours were very short, which allowed for more tasting but there goes three more tickets...
It’s definitely awkward eating from  a small plate and holding a beverage while moving about the room. There are some seating areas on the outskirts and a few high top tables in the main room, more of which would be most helpful.
Five restaurants offered a three-course meal with wine pairings at set times with prices ranging from $30-$45.00 per person. This was a little daunting on top of the $50.00 already spent but it would have been an entertaining and most likely delicious dining experience. We have been at each of the five restaurants and reluctantly had to pass on them Friday night.
Next year we may just pass on the taste tickets, or purchase fewer, and go straight to a three-course meal with wine pairings.
On our way out (tickets gone, the last on a communion size cup of vodka), we were invited to a wine tasting that was about to start in one of the seminar rooms. It was the “no-charge” that got our attention. So we did an about-face and found four open seats in a session hosted by Michael Schafer, the Wine Counselor.
The four wines served were not paired with dinner but were expertly and experimentally  matched and tasted with three different cheeses. (The pours were larger than in the ballroom.) This ended up being our favorite part of the evening. Schafer was knowledgeable, down-to-earth, humorous, and nowhere near being a wine snob.

It was an altogether enjoyable Friday evening, a little overwhelming but a definite must for next year. There were contests and give-a-ways, all to get you on a mailing list (been there, done that) but hey, somebody wins.

If music plays to an empty room, does it make a sound?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Grand Rapids Symphony - 11/12/11

DeVos Performance Hall was inordinately crowded tonight, including a long line at the ticket counter and many more young people than are usually present at the Saturday evening concerts. We knew it was Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony” that was to blame. Always a crowd pleaser, it didn’t disappoint tonight. 
Warming Up For Bartok
The evening began with “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste” by Bartok. Music Director David Lockington gave a brief introduction of the Beethoven and Bartok works, neatly tying them together by movement and symphony set-up. He also amusingly gave us his preference for the pronunciation of “celeste” and why. 
Bela Bartok, 1881-1945
Although some audience members may prefer a music-only evening, we always appreciate Lockington’s comments regarding the music and its background. (We also prefer his now-gone long locks over his current businessman short haircut but that’s just us :)

Before the concert began, Lockington brought out retired principal cellist, Nancy Steltmann, to thank her for her years with the symphony. She was presented with a “time piece” (a large mantel clock) and then was given the opportunity to say a few words. Nancy started out by saying she thought she rambled too much during last night’s presentation, and then proceeded to ramble on. We did wonder why she hadn’t been honored at the Season opener in September if she retired in August. Maybe the clock wasn’t ready. 
The Waiting Time Piece
The evening started late and was further delayed by the clock presentation. After Bartok and the intermission, Beethoven’s Ninth was finally ready to begin at 9:15pm (and finished at 10:25pm). 

With what seemed like many new concert-goers, the increase in talking during the performance also annoyingly increased (even if you are whispering, people, we can hear you). We especially enjoyed (not) the man who conducted the Ninth Symphony along with Lockington.

Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable concert and the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus was most impressive. Because they do not perform until the 4th movement, we were amused at  closing eyes and nodding heads throughout the chorus. The soloists were spared that and stayed off stage until their time. The solo voices were gorgeous and blended beautifully, leaving us wishing for more.
Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bras Across the Grand

A benefit for the American Cancer Society was held downtown this morning, the main purpose being to raise breast cancer awareness. People were asked to decorate a bra, either here for a $5.00 donation, or at home, in honor of survivors.
The hope was to have a bra chain reaching from shore to shore, and also break into the Guiness Book of World Records. I’m not sure if both were accomplished but the former certainly looked like it was. 
There was a short program to celebrate the breast cancer survivors who were present. And after they took turns giving their names and the number of years they’ve survived, a group photo was in order. 
Some people may think the whole bra decorating and hanging is in questionable taste (and no, I didn't do one). But at least it's a unique idea that brought people together for a good cause. 
Bikers were also out in force to show their support, and although I think a “save the boobs” t-shirt is a little tacky, their hearts were in the right place.
I'm not sure if they like having their pictures taken, however.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dodds, 20 S. Division

Update 2/11/14 ~ Dodd's gets new life! 

Update 12/5/13 ~ some new hours and a facebook page:
 I don't know if there is new ownership involved
but Gerry's picture is on the facebook page. More to come.

Update 12/12/12:  Saw this sign on the door - I'm a little sad.

I’ve driven by a thousand times but with no parking on the street, an impromptu stop was never in the cards. But now I walk past the shop three times a week and finally ducked in.

It’s a man alone with his stacks and shelves of LPs (along with some cassettes and CDs). Gerry Dodds opened the store in the 1950s and still runs it, seven days a week.  Yes, that’s right. Everyday. He says that’s what keeps him going. I’m guessing he’s in his 80s but I don’t know that for sure.
Gerry will respond if you speak to him but is not chatty by any means. He allowed me take his picture but wouldn’t look at the camera. He is interested in buying albums, particularly rock, blues, and jazz, and when I mentioned I have a few hundred at home, he perked up nicely.
The shop is a treasure trove of music and hours could easily be spent here. It’s unlikely you will find an new vinyl Beatles recording, and I’m quite sure collectors have thoroughly picked through the store over the years. But on the other hand, new purchases come in regularly and you’ll never know what you might find. This is assuming you still have your turn table :)
Trucker Songs Category!
Used albums are shrink-wrapped so you can’t examine your purchase but c’est la vie. And if you’re wondering where to get a new phonograph needle, here’s your place. I have to visit again, even if I’m just looking for album covers to frame or trying to get Gerry to talk to me a bit more - he must have stories to tell...

The Beat Goes On is also still in business here in Grand Rapids (update ~ closed in 2013). See that posting here:
The Beat Goes On

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hatatouille, August 2011

The Ada Village Farmers' Market held a vendor-created hat contest this summer to bring attention to the market and the products offered, and for a bit of fun.
Of the 40 or so vendors, 23 took part in the contest, most of whom are pictured here:
The contest originally was to be called "HatPrize" but the ArtPrize
people took exception. Apparently they have a lock on any name that
ends in "Prize."  So take care out there when you're naming your
contest if you want to avoid legal entanglements :(

You may be asking what the motivation might be for a vendor to take the time to
create and wear a funny hat. Other than a little publicity and fun, having next year's
vendor fee waived for the winner was good enough for the 23 participants.
The only hat-creation requirement was that it be inspired by the product(s) sold
by the vendor. Creativity ranged wildly, with one hat holding no evident
relation to its product to one that was too big to wear.

Market customers voted on August 2, and the winners were announced
the next week. Here are the honorable mentions:

Two vendors tied for second place, organics back to back:

And the grand prize went to Crane Dance Farm, whose musical, moving
hat was a runaway winner.  (The hat on the left is the El Gran Sombrero trophy :)
The market continues through September 27, on Tuesdays noon to 6:00 PM, 
and promises to return next year with great vendors and more hats!