Sunday, December 14, 2014

Chili Cook-Off! ~ 12/6/14

This inaugural event started early in the morning for the set-up crew and for the chefs in the parking lot of The Community Church in Ada. All entries needed to be prepared on-site and judging was to begin at 11:00 a.m. Some were more timely than others but out they came, twelve entries in all, and the prep and cooking began.
Soon the pots were all simmering and steaming, and the smells were so inviting!
Gravel Bottom Brewery and New Holland Brewery sponsored the event, and not only provided their best craft beer for everyone but also entered the chili contest (Nick Roelofs and Jake Britton, respectively).
The other ten contestants were as follows:
Ada Grill/Schnitz (Jeff Hugger)
Ada Pour House (Rob Aldridge)
Blimpie's (Paul Jones)
Cody Dalton (Individual Entry)
Grillin' Guys (Randy Joppie)
Pauly's (Pauly Faba)
Rick Godinez (Individual Entry)
Rix Stix (Rick Paine)
Saburba (Sarah Andro)
The Community (Billy Norden)

The judging began around 11pm and our five honorable judges took their job seriously (from left to right ~ Todd Veenstra, Jim Stoutjesdyk, Jon Shaner, Paul Lee, and Gregg Palazzolo).
Mugging with the judges and co-scorekeeper afterward.
Soon the public arrived and parade watchers poured into the parking lot after the 10 minute Christmas parade passed by. Besides the chili, one could also obtain a Pronto Pup, and always the beer.
Hard Cider was also on hand, courtesy of Sietsema Orchards, gluten free since 55 B.C.
Happy people were everywhere.
The live music was great and the band performed excellent covers of popular music, which thankfully wasn't heavy on country. Here they are getting ready and checking last minute emails.
The crowd loved them.
It was finally time for the winners to be announced. Along with the judges' choice, there was also a popular, people's choice, both with top-notch trophies to be awarded.
The suspense was palpable.
The Judges' award went to the Grillin' Guys who earlier had been broadcasting from the event.
And the popular vote went to Billy Norden, from The Community.
We got lucky with the weather this year and there's talk of moving the event to perhaps the less risky fall. The parade was a great lead-in and brought in many people but we could just as easily have been in a blizzard. So cheers to what should be a great annual event, whenever it's held, and thanks to everyone who participated!

(Photos courtesy of Kendra Kuo, Edward Kuo, and Helen Van Essendelft)

Wine, Beer & Food Festival ~ 11/22/14

We didn't plan ahead this year due to uncertain travel plans but ended up attending Saturday night. By the time we planned it, all the restaurant pairing tickets were already sold out but we were able to secure tickets for a Champagne tasting with menu by TerraGR.
The tickets weren't clear as to where the tasting was to take place and indicated only DeVos Ballrooms. We asked at the Info Booth and they sent us to the office, who sent us to the ticket taker who flagged down an event coordinator who directed us to walk to the other end of the showroom and head to the balcony over the Beer Garden. Off we went, with 15 minutes before our start time, sweating bullets.

We fought our way through the crowded floor, climbed the stairs to the balcony, walked the entire distance and finally asked at another Info Booth at the far end. This man took pity on us and asked a worker to take us where we were supposed to be, which was a smaller balcony off of the Beer Garden, which we had walked right passed and missed due to lack of signage. So whew! We finally made it and our host asked us if we had tickets. Oh, yes indeed. His comment? Ah, they oversold our tickets. But no matter. They set up more chairs and accommodated us very politely.
The tables for the tasting were stretched out along a narrow balcony and our two hosts did their best to serve all of us while imparting relevant and pertinent information.
The Champagne selections were "Grower's" selections from the Champagne Region of France provided by Imperial Beverage, represented by Bradford Hammerschmidt. We appreciated how refreshingly not overly-sweet each selection was (and we also discovered we had a mutual friend).

Chris McDonald from TerraGR was our food source, and he provided our Charcuterie and cheese plate, complete with tasting suggestions. Dancing Goat Chevre, SarVecchio, Grassfields Fait Gras, Tirrell Stilton Bleu, house-smoked trout spread, Baked Crostinis,  house-pickled vegetables, Michigan honey, dijon mustard, and housemade lemon marmalade. The food was exquisite and we can't wait to get back to TerraGR.
Finally our food was mostly gone, and most of the glasses were turned over. It was a wonderful event other than its inauspicious beginning and we highly recommend it. We also had a great view of the main floor.
Our bird's eye view looking down.
We continually saw these two in their bridal dresses wandering about the place and finally figured out that they were promoting the photographers.
 But all I could think of were these two from "The Shining." :-)
They carried out their mission and the photographers seemed to be busy, especially when the backdrop fell on the subjects.
Here is our elusive balcony afterward from the floor.
 From above and below, it's a swirling mass of humanity.
We needed more food at that point and wandered along the edges to find the food vendors. Our first two stops were Fire Rock Grille and Ju Sushi.
It was time for some spirits and using up the last of our tickets.
Photo bombed by this guy :-)
We found Michigan's Holy Water and by then vendors were shutting down or already gone.
The last treat of the night was this elaborate ice cream bar. See you next year!