Michigan Products Journal

Select Michigan Food and Wine: It's good for you, the growers and our economy
By Linda Jones, Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council
Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Northern Michigan Vineyards - Photo by Steve SadlerBuying local food and wine is a trend capturing the hearts and minds of American consumers. Whether it's stocking the kitchen with produce from the local farm market, purchasing wine from a nearby winery or dining out at the many fine restaurants featuring regional cuisine, the desire to "buy local" is stronger than ever.

Michigan is an ideal location in which to appreciate regional foods--the state boasts a diversity of agricultural products second only to California. Beyond the well-loved cherry, Michigan's apples, blueberries, asparagus, maple syrup, venison, ostrich, cheese and fine wines-not to mention morel mushrooms, whitefish and chestnuts-provide a cornucopia of foods for creating healthy and flavorful regional menus.

Growing interest in Michigan food and wine is evident among the state's leading restaurateurs. Morels: A Michigan Bistro, in Bingham Farms, is known for its seasonal selections, and Chef Frank Turner supports the Select Michigan concept. He conducted several in-store cooking demonstrations in 2004 to raise awareness about Michigan's bounty. "The flavor of fresh local foods is far superior to that of products that have to travel for weeks to reach our tables," said Turner. "Our greatest challenge is to help consumers recognize local foods on restaurant menus and store shelves."

Madeline Triffon, wine director for Morels, is a judge at the Michigan State Fair Wine Competition. "We're always looking for exceptional Michigan wines to feature in our restaurants," said Triffon. "Such wines act as ambassadors for our state, and have dissolved many preconceptions guests may have about the quality potential of Michigan wines."

Another chef with a love affair for Michigan food and wine is Eric Villegas of Restaurant Villegas in Okemos. He stars in "Fork in the Road," a program aired on public television stations in the Midwest. Villegas and co-producer/videographer Scott Allman document interesting food-producing venues around the state-ostrich farms, buffalo ranches, cranberry bogs, vineyards and other fascinating locales. "Putting money back in the community that supports you is a great feeling, and it's good business," said Villegas.

By supporting family farms through food and wine purchases, consumers help reduce dependence on food produced in other parts of the world, protect land from over-development, and maintain the scenic character of Michigan.

Governor Jennifer Granholm understands the importance of supporting locally grown and processed foods; she proclaimed June 2004 as "Select Michigan Month."

"Selecting Michigan food has so many benefits to our Great Lakes State and its rich agricultural heritage," said Granholm. The governor's office puts their money where their mouth is by selecting as many Michigan food and wine products as possible for event catering.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture has formed strategic partnerships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, MIFFS, agricultural producer organizations and major retail chains in Michigan to increase awareness of the wide selection of foods grown in the Great Lakes State.

Linda Jones is the executive director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, which is a program of the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

Copyright © 2005 Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. Used with permission.

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Michigan Festival & Events Listing
By Ryan Anderson
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Michigan has events and festivals every weekend throughout the summer.  >>>

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Billy Bones BBQ: A Michigan Original
By Ryan Anderson
Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Billy Bones Original BBQ SauceRecently, we had the great pleasure of meeting one of the major players in Michigan's food industry, a man who has been pouring his heart and soul into the bar-b-cue sauce that carries his name. I am speaking of the one and only William Wall, aka Billy Bones. He has been making sauce and other spicy condiments for over 25 years now, and has won over 200 awards and competitions - including 50 first-place finishes.

Headquartered in an unassuming building along Saginaw Road between Sanford and Midland, Mr. Bones oversees the operation for manufacturing and distributing his products. On the day we visited him, he had recently received some cases of his latest product, Billy Bones BBQ-flavored baked pita chips - a joint venture with his friend Jack Aronson of Garden Fresh Gourmet of Ferndale, MI, who now produce a full-line of baked pita chips. While we were munching on those, Billy invited us into his "warehouse", where he gave us samples of his famous BBQ sauce, along with some of his other great items, such as Bucksnort Chili Mix, a BBQ Rib Spice Rub - dubbed "The Secret Ingredient", and little bottles of his Jalapeno Hot Sauce. He also produces his own steak sauce, as well as an upcoming line of flavored wood chips for grilling.

Although he has been making his BBQ sauces for almost 3 decades, Billy Bones shows no signs of slowing down. He is as enthusiastic as ever about promoting his products - to the point where he gave us a case of BBQ to try-out. I must say it is THE BEST BBQ sauce I've ever tried, and it deserves every award received. Close friends and relatives to whom we gave sample bottles have consistently gotten back to us with the question - "where can I get more of this stuff?" Well, if you're a subscriber to our newsletter, you may win a case of the Original BBQ Sauce in our May contest. Otherwise, ask for it by name at your local market or grocery store.  >>>

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