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Feature Fri Oct 08 2010

Holland is for Lovers...of Ground Wheat


After years of living in Chicago, I've finally joined the club: I went to Michigan for the weekend.

Other than a trip to the (beautiful) Upper Peninsula that I took while in college for an internship work assignment, I've never had a reason to head to the mainland--the mutterland, if you will--of Michigan. When I got the invitation to a friend's wedding in Grand Haven over Labor Day, I knew it was finally happening. I packed my Sufjan Stevens albums and a toothbrush, and got on the road for the three-hour trip.

After getting lost by misleading Google Maps directions, I finally made it to Holland, where I had made plans to stay at the City Flats Hotel, a LEED Gold-certified wonderland of corked floors, bamboo bedding (it's insanely soft, trust me) and high-def DirecTV. Another plus to this place: they accept dogs, so my pooch accompanied me; she later remarked that she had high marks for the memory foam mattress.

City Flats boasts its own lobby-level bar and coffee counter (which serves Intelligentsia), as well as CityVu Bistro, a sleek rooftop restaurant that was packed the night I visited. The restaurant's signature dish are flatbreads made from wheat milled at the nearby DeZwaan Windmill and topped with a bunch of tasty ingredients--the simple Roma (tomatoes, basil) or the Chicago (a heavily Greek-ed out olive and feta combination). You can buy your own bag of milled wheat at the front counter on your way out if you want to recreate the magic at home.

City Flats is located one very short block from Eighth Street, the old-timey main street drag of Holland that boasts a renovated vintage theater owned by nearby Hope College, which has a stunningly beautiful campus dotted with apple-cheeked students (and totally homophobic policies), as well as high-end clothing and gift shops, and restaurants.

After making an early exit from the wedding reception, the dog and I went for a stroll around Eighth Street, which was quiet given the holiday weekend. A gigantic outdoor fireplace on the sidewalk attracted a group of people eating bowls of ice cream from a nearby shop; the dog ran up to a couple of students making out on a bench (awkward!). After my window shopping was cut short by a mind-numbing experience caused by a viewing a store window full of Vera Bradley bags (two words: color trainwreck), I decided to get a takeout pizza from the crankiest hostess ever at the New Holland Brewery, which sells an alarmingly large amount of merchandise related to its beers (who needs a sticker advertising they love IPA?). I retreated to my room for an evening of soaking tubs, watching Mad Men and eating Holland's finest pizza. Not a bad way to send off the summer.

The next morning was raining and cold. Determined to see the other side of Lake Michigan, I checked out and drove the twenty minutes to the state beach, past the local institution Captain Sundae, where the business's namesake manned the counter in a full-scale captain getup (three-cornered hat, jacket with epaulets, etc.). I didn't get back in time for the famous hash brown omelet breakfast at the Windmill Restaurant or the fair trade coffee at LemonJello's, but should have stopped and gotten a bite, as the drive home was excruciatingly slow due to closed highway lanes and caravan of campers and SUVs headed back into the city. With a bag of local apples bought from a roadside stand at my side, I looked at the still-green foliage lining the highways and wondered how it will look when I come back this way again.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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