Explore the World’s Culinary Flare a the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival

NOV 16 – 18, 2023

Travel the world, one bite at a time, at the 16th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival with its focus this year on the best of global cuisine.


Middle Eastern fare is known to be fresh, flavorful and distinctively delectable. Fifth generation Lebanese American Hannah Awada, owner of Hummus Goodness, is teaming up with Karen Akouri, founder of drench Dressing in offering three 30-minute presentations of “Deconstructed Fattoush + Hummus Appetizer” on the Meijer Food Stage. Both women are focused on using clean ingredients in their products, free of chemicals, artificial colors and preservatives. Hannah learned the art of hummus making from her mother, and her recipe draws inspiration from that family recipe with olive oil, fresh lemon juice and garlic cloves. Karen was looking for healthy salad dressing and marinade options for her family and began to play around with premium olive and avocado oils, herbs and spices to come up with her award-winning recipes. Both Hummus Goodness and drench are available at Meijer stores (and beyond) and will be available for sampling in the Meijer Marketplace at the Festival.

Common in Spanish, Latin American and Iberian-influenced cultures, empanadas are a baked or fried turnover consisting of filling in a breaded pastry. This tasty handheld appetizer is the focus of a Meijer Food Stage Demonstration by Paola Carlson of Pochis Colombian Restaurant & Caféthe first authentic Colombian restaurant in Grand Rapids and Jorge Gonzalez, director of Start Garden—an organization that provides resources and opportunities to small business owners in Grand Rapids. Born and raised in Colombia, Paola moved to the United States with her husband in 2018 not knowing a word of English. She was soon making customized gift packages and specialty sweets like macarons and decadent chocolate-covered strawberries for her friends as a hobby, and before long she launched Pochis which also imports and sells coffee goods and coffee candy from her homeland offered up from her small café location in downtown Grand Rapids. Pochis will also have a Small Plate booth in The Vineyard featuring a variety of empanadas and arepas (handheld pockets made with ground maize dough stuffed with a filling)—all of which are gluten free.

A Vietnam War refugee from Thailand, Genevieve Vang is an accomplished expert in Thai and Hmong cuisine and even prepared a traditional meal for Hollywood actor and director Clint Eastwood when he was in Detroit filming Gran Torino in 2008. Her award-winning metro Detroit restaurants (Bangkok 96 and Bangkok 96 Street Food) garnered her recognition as a James Beard Award semi-finalist nominee in 2019. In her spare time, Chef Genevieve has developed a gluten free frozen food line called Thai Feast, as well as a new vegan, allergen-free Asian broth and easy to use sauce powders available at southeast Michigan Meijer locations.

On Saturday afternoon, she’ll welcome the passionate anentertaining Jessican Ann Tyson, owner of The Candied Yam-Delightful Southern Cuisine, for a presentation of “Vegan Pad Thai & Pho with Thai Feast” on the Meijer Food Stage.

Jessica Ann is well known in the Grand Rapids community for her ancestorial from scratch soul food cuisine and her perpetual smile, positive attitude and collaborative spirit. The Candied Yam is recognized as one of the Top 50 Restaurants to eat at in Grand Rapids and was recently awarded The Retail Business of the Year.

MEIJER FOOD STAGE SCHEDULE: https://showspan.com/GRW/home/presentations-and-stages/

PRESENTER BIOS: Speakers, Experts & Headliners.

MEIJER MARKETPLACE (Secchia Lobby / River Overlook)

  • Aurora International+
  • Bailey’s Farms+
  • Burl & Sprig
  • Burzurk Brewing+
  • DelGrosso Foods
  • drench Dressing+
  • Duke & Dame+
  • El Caribe+
  • Emme’s Plaintain Chips
  • Feel Bar+
  • Field & Fire Bakery+
  • Fusion Epicure+
  • Grady’s Garden+
  • Hummus Goodness+
  • Jambalaya Girl+
  • Lola’s Fine Sauce
  • Lorraine’s Premium BBQ Sauce+
  • Milford Spice Company+
  • Momma D’s Kitchen
  • Mud Penny+
  • Mushroom Angel Company+
  • Neilly’s+
  • Papa’s Kitchen+
  • Rad Bagels+
  • Rani Foods+
  • Relos Dry Rubs+
  • Reyna’s Michelada Mix+
  • Senor Sangria
  • Stock Da’ Bar Premium Vodka
  • Stone House Bread
  • Thai Feast
  • Tito’s Handmade Vodka
  • Tor’s Tonics+
  • Zing Zang+
  • Zini Vodka

+Denotes new to the Festival in 2023

Shopping bags will be available (with first purchase) in the Marketplace that can be filled with purchase and then left at Coat Check so patrons can continue to enjoy the Festival without having to carry their goodies for the entire visit.

Another featured vendor not to miss is Wine Chips, sponsors of The Vineyard area where they’ll be set up offering samples of their distinct and flavorful chips like Manchego, Blue Cheese, Smoked Gouda and more. The team at Wine Chips will even share pairing suggestions with you and have packages available for purchase! Be sure to ask them about their recent relocation to Pure Michigan (Paw Paw – in the heart of one of the state’s federally-recognized wine regions), where they have better access to locally-grown potatoes for their deliciously crafted chips.


A record 20+ area restaurants and specialty food producers will grace DeVos Place serving up a variety of small plates collectively offering a strolling progressive dinner experience – including nightcaps and desserts.

Among the new restaurants to check out:

The Marasigans (Jackie, Ace and Redd) are proud members of the local Filipino community and their Adobo Boy is a celebration of their rich, flavorful and colorful food culture. While we anxiously await their restaurant opening in early 2024, we invite you to stop by The Vineyard to try their Filipino Pork Adobo Bowl – a traditional dish featuring pork stewed in vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, bay leaves and peppercorns.

Beer City Bread Company may be relatively new (2020), but its roots are legendary. Brothers Stefan, Arne and Jimmy Fahlen are descendants of Arne Fahlen—founder of Arnie’s bakery and restaurants. The company craft its various artisan baked goods from local craft beer and natural European sourdough starters that are cultivated daily in their bakery, aged over 24 hours and processed using a “stress-free” handling line before baking. During the Festival, they’ll be serving up hearty handhelds including Italian Herbs and Cheese French Dip, Beer Braised Mojo Pork Sandwich and Beer Infused Pretzel Bites with Beer Cheese, from their Beer City Station booth.

In Jamaican, the phrase Irie means “everything is alright and fine” and that is just the positive vibe that Vince McIntosh, founder of Irie Kitchen, hopes to evoke to his customers. His Jamaican parents immigrated to the United States in the 1980s with a load of family recipes and passion for food that has spread to Vince and his twin sister. Savor their organic Caribbean street food in The Vineyard, where they’re serving up Jerk Wings, Jamaican Patties, Rice & Peas & Curry Garbanzo and Irie Juice.

Father and son due, Jose and Justin del Castillo, have been slinging their Dominican Latin style open pit BBQ for nearly 10 years. Their Shepherd-based hobby turned into something bigger and now Jose & Justin’s Pig Gig takes its food truck to the best Festivals and events around the state. Located in The Vineyard, they’re serving up Chicken and Rice Bowl, Pork and Rice Bowl, Rice Bowl and Plaintains.

A “pocha” is a Korean term that refers to a type of outdoor food and drink stall—an abbreviation of the phrase “pojangmacha” which translates to “covered wagon”—known for their vibrant atmosphere, friendly ambiance and delicious food. K-Pocha, the brainchild of Lam To, ThienHa Phan and Phong Nguyen (owner and executive chef of Monsoon, a Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids and a Festival participant) specializes in distinctive Koren street-style dishes. Stop by their booth in Beer City Station and try the Potato Corn Dog, Hot Cheeto Corn Dog, Lobster/Shrimp Skewer Combo and Mini Tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes).

Participating restaurants include:

The Vineyard (Steelcase Ballroom)

  • Adobe Boy+
  • Beacon Hill at Eastgate+
  • Big O’ Smoke House
  • Farm Country Cheese House
  • Irie Kitchen+
  • Jose & Justin’s Pig Gig
  • MDRD
  • Pochis Colombian Restaurant & Café
  • Melting Pot
  • Two Scotts Barbecue
  • Yo Chef’s

Beer City Station / Cider Row (Hall C)

  • Beer City Bread Co.+
  • Jedi Chili+
  • K Pocha+
  • Olly’s Donuts+
  • Trinity Health+
  • Tacos El Cunado
  • Tamales Mary

Barrel Room (Welsh Lobby)

  • Michigan Moonshine
  • 24K Gold Coffee+
  • Ambrosia
  • Cakes by the Jar+
  • Dolce Mini Cakes+
  • Frederik’s
  • Frick’n Good Cookie+
  • Fusion Epicure+
  • Honey Tea+
  • Rethink Nutrition+
  • Koeze+
  • Las Rocas
  • Mosby’s Popcorn
  • Nothing Bundt Cake
  • Roast Umber
  • Rossy’s Postres+
  • Rowsters Coffee
  • Sunshine Punch+

+Denotes new to the Festival in 2023


An elevated and intimate multi-course dining experience at one of six featured restaurants, for an added cost (advanced reservations required).

Opened in Plainwell on June 1, 2011, Four Roses is making its Festival debut in a big way with a four-course Pairing dinner prepared by owner/chef Tom Rose. Tom spent his entire career working in the culinary field, starting at a small farm-to-table restaurant in the 1980s called Arie’s Café (no longer in operation) as a dishwasher at the age of 15. He moved his way up to executive chef, learning the value of sourcing local and building relationships with farmers. His mentor, Arie’s owner Bob VanRavensway, inspired and encouraged Tom to create stocks, sauces and dishes from scratch. After leaving Arie’s in 1998, Tom spent many years running corporate kitchens for Kellogg and Eaton Corp, and in 2011, he and his wife, Jan, were given the opportunity open their own restaurant: Four Roses. With a menu that changes each day—along with time-honored favorites—Four Roses focuses on what is fresh and available from local and established suppliers to create interesting and delicious foods paired with excellent customer service with a hometown feel.

Featured Pairing restaurants include:

  • Archival Brewing+ (Beer Pairing)
  • Four Roses*+ (Wine & Spirits Pairing)
  • The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck (Wine Pairing)
  • Monsoon* (Wine & Spirits Pairing)
  • Twenty.Three* (Wine & Spirits Pairing)
  • Redwater Restaurants (Wine Pairing)

*Denotes a Thursday VIP Preview Night offering, in addition to Friday and Saturday seatings.

+Denotes new restaurant to the Festival.

The complete menu with beverage pairings, seating times and costs can be found online: Pairing Dinners.

Beginning on Friday, November 17, General Admission tickets are $20 per person, per day with festival hours running from 4-9pm and Saturday, November 18, 2-9pm. Tasting tickets will be available for purchase online and at the event for 50 cents each to be used primarily for beverages tastings. Food samples can be purchased with cash, credit or tasting tickets.

A VIP Preview experience will be offered on Thursday, November 16 from 6-9pm, with just 500 tickets available for purchase for $150 per person. Admission includes specialties from a dozen small plate restaurants, wine, beer and distilled beverage tasting sessions; Meijer Food Stage and Meet the Maker presentations; tasting tickets to sample select new releases, special vintage wines and exclusive beverages served only on Thursday; a VIP Festival sampling glass and live music. For another $75 per person, an intimate multi-course Pairing dinner is added to the ticket.

As always, the Festival offers an unparalleled diversity of beverages available for sampling – from beer and cider to wine and spirts, as well as signature coffees and teas – with over 1,200 offerings from around the world, under one roof in featured areas:

  • Wines (including The Elite Collection) in The Vineyard (Steelcase Ballroom)
  • Beer (local, domestic and international) in Beer City Station (Hall C)
  • Cider (local and national) in Cider Row (Hall C)
  • Michigan Craft spirits in The Barrel Room (Welsh Lobby)
  • Coffees & Cordials (along with decadent desserts) in RendezBREW (Grand Gallery)
  • Non-alcoholic options in The Vineyard, Beer City Station an RendezBREW.

Since its inception in 2008, this Festival – named by Forbes.com in 2019 as one of a dozen “Fall Wine Festivals In North America You Don’t Want to Miss” and 8 Best Fall Festivals in Michigan by BestThingsMI.com – has grown into the largest and most popular of its kind in the Midwest. Admission tickets, pairing reservations, tasting sessions and other details will be posted in early fall at GRWineFestival.com

Healthier Southern Cooking: 60 Homestyle Recipes with Better Ingredients and All the Flavor

Can true Southern cuisine—think fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, and fried okra—be transformed into healthier fare without losing the flavors and tastes that make this type of cookery so satisfying?

While most of us would say no way, Eric and Shanna Jones, authors of Healthier Southern Cooking: 60 Homestyle Recipes with Better Ingredients and All the Flavor, are out to show that healthy doesn’t mean boring. Their Southern credentials are impeccable. A husband and wife team, Eric is a native of Louisiana and Shanna hails from Houston, Texas, where she was born and raised. Together, they’re the founders of Dude That Cookz, a creative cooking blog with lots of great recipes and photos. Eric is the cook and Shanna a photographer who manages the brand, a role that also includes maintaining their blog and social media content and whatever else needs to be done so that Eric can focus on cooking. But Shanna also contributes to the kitchen as an avid baker. Married for more than a decade, the couple has two children.

And a love of cooking

Eric, who describes himself as a country boy and country cook, learned his way around a kitchen early on from his grandparents. His grandmother made—and he learned—the type of Louisiana Southern cuisine that tastes oh so good but definitely doesn’t meet the criteria for low in calories or heart healthy. But his own need for what he terms as “dietary adjustments” as well as his parents’ early demise from health issues made him rethink the food he loved to cook and eat. The conundrum was how to make rich and soul-satisfying Southern food that’s healthy without losing the flavor.

Well, it turns out that you can, often by substituting ingredients without losing the full mouth feel that fats provide. Cooking clean is the key. Clean is the term Eric and Shanna give to their recipes that have less salt, less fat, less sugar, and a lot fewer calories.

Creamed corn, a staple of the Jones’ kitchen, is reimagined by substituting evaporated milk for heavy cream and using coconut milk and Parmesan cheese. Peach cobbler, that classic Southern dessert, eschews the usual thick sugary syrup, reducing the amount of sugar and instead adding maple syrup as an ingredient.

Southern potato salad calls for lots of mayo and, of course, potatoes themselves are starches that convert to sugar in our system. The solution? Less mayonnaise, the use of red potatoes since they have less carbs and calories than russet potatoes, and adding hard boiled eggs—all of which, says Jones, make a dish that is full of flavor and texture.

But what about that Southern staple: fried chicken with gravy? The answer again is coconut milk, this time replacing buttermilk. Then instead of deep frying, it’s pan-fried in a minimum amount of sunflower oil. As for the gravy, 2% works just as well as cream or whole milk.

In the cookbook, the first by the couple but undoubtedly not the last, each recipe has a write-up by Jones as to how he’s reducing the caloric footprint of the dish as well as lowering the level of salt but maintaining the flavor profile with the addition of other herbs and spices.

Of course, Jones admits, sometimes you just need a double-stacked burger. But the beauty of all this, by eating clean, once in a while you can eat dirty without a lot of guilt.

Chicken Fried Chicken with Gravy

  • 1 pound (454 g) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons (4 g) smoked paprika
  • 3 teaspoons (6 g) black pepper, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (5 g) garlic powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons (4 g) Himalayan pink salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons(510 ml) sunflower oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) canned light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Sriracha sauce
  • 2 1/4 cups (281 g) all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons (16 g) cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon (9 g) minced garlic
  • 2 cups (480 ml) 2% milk
  • 1 tablespoon (6 g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoons onion powder

Cut each of the chicken breasts in half. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap, and lightly pound it with a meat tenderizer until it is 1/2-inch thick.

Season the chicken evenly with the smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons of the black pepper, 1 teaspoon of the garlic powder, chili powder, 1 teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt, thyme and cayenne pepper.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, coconut milk and Sriracha sauce. Submerge the chicken into the egg mixture. Allow the chicken to marinate for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

In a large ziplock bag, combine 2 cups of the flour, 1⁄2 teaspoon of the Himalayan pink salt, cornstarch and baking powder. Place the marinated chicken breasts in the flour mixture. Close the bag, shake it well to coat the chicken and then place it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Heat 2 cups of sunflower oil in a deep 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Preheat the oven to 175°F. Add the chicken to the skillet and pan-fry it for 4 minutes on each side, until it is golden brown and crispy and its internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Next, heat a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil and the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the minced garlic and cook it for 1 minute.

Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup flour to form a thick paste, then add the milk. Stirring the mixture constantly, add the Parmesan cheese, oregano, onion powder, remaining 1 teaspoon of black pepper, remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt. Reduce the temperature to low and cook the gravy for 8 to 10 minutes, until it is thick and silky.

To serve, pour the gravy over the chicken or serve the chicken with the gravy on the side.

Peach Cobbler

For the crust

  • 1 1⁄4 cups (156 g) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
  • 1⁄2 cup (114 g) cold unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) cold water
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Pinch ground cinnamon

For the filling

  • 5 cups (770 g) thickly sliced fresh or thawed frozen peaches
  • 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) pure maple syrup
  • 1⁄4 cup (55 g) light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon bottled lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon water

To make the crust:

Combine the flour, granulated sugar and Himalayan pink salt in a medium bowl. Cut the cold butter into small pieces. Add the butter to the flour mixture and, using a pastry cutter, incorporate the butter into the flour until crumbs appear. Slowly add the cold water to the flour and mix it into the flour using your hands or a spatula until the dough starts to form a ball. Dust a work surface with additional flour.

Transfer the dough ball to the prepared work surface and knead it 4 to 5 times, until it is smooth and elastic. Tightly cover the dough with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease 2 (6 1/2-inch) cast-iron skillets.

To make the filling:

Combine the peaches, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, vanilla and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir the ingredients together well. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water to create a slurry. Add the slurry to the peaches. Mix everything together well and set the bowl of filling aside.

The above recipes are from Healthier Southern Cooking by Eric and Shanna Jones, Page Street Publishing,

This review originally appeared in The New York Journal of Books.