MI Best Stories: In this episode, Eric Hultgren and Meegan Holland, of the Michigan Retailers Association, break down the importance of shopping local. Check out the MLive.com local gift guide for ideas on filling your holiday shopping list with local goodness, mlive.com/news/2020/11/michigan-holiday-gifts-we-love-to-give-online-ordering-and-downtown-shopping.html
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Eastbrook Homes shines a spotlight on a non-profit they’re thankful for: A.Y.A Youth Collective. In this podcast, you’ll hear from Lauren VanKeulen, CEO of A.Y.A Youth Collective, about their mission to provide resources for youths in crisis. Lauren discusses their heart and mission, the people they serve, the challenges they’ve overcome this year, and how those challenges made them grow and innovate.
Learn more about A.Y.A Youth Collective here: www.ayayouth.org.
Learn more about Eastbrook Homes here: www.eastbrookhomes.com
It didn’t take Shelby Nickerson long to figure out how CRUST, a Fenton-based artisan bakery, values the people, process and the principled techniques behind its products after she joined the locally owned business in 2014.
“The first thing they said to me was to make sure that our guests are taken care of and given a first-class experience from the moment they enter the door or call us on the phone,” said Nickerson, who now manages the bakery’s retail store and leads front-of-house restaurant staff.
“I could see it in everything that was happening here. There were no shortcuts, from the way the baked goods were crafted and prepared to the family atmosphere among the staff and how it extended to the community.”
And it’s that attention to detail and respect for others that drives CRUST staff every day, particularly as the holiday season starts and families across Michigan begin their annual traditions that reflect the same values as CRUST.
“It’s about food and doing things that bring us together,” Nickerson said. “And then to think that through our breads, our pies, our pastries and our Thanksgiving specials, we’re being invited into these homes and into their lives. It’s really important to us.”
CRUST, which opened in 2012 and has expanded to occupy nearly a full city block in Fenton, prides itself on using all-natural ingredients and eschewing preservatives. Its wide range of baked goods include pies, pastries, muffins, cookies, scones and made-to-order event cakes. The restaurant features handcrafted sandwiches, traditional Italian pizzas, salads and soups.
The bakery’s in-store pickup, delivery and wholesale retail operations have expanded CRUST’s reach to other parts of Michigan and the country. The ability to order online has been appreciated, said Amanda Lobaina, CRUST’s office manager.
“This is not your typical bread, pie or pastry, and people recognize that,” Lobaina said. “We feel that with everything going on this year with the pandemic and more, that people are going to want to do something special for themselves, for their friends or for their co-workers.
“We’re happy to be a part of those celebrations, to bring some joy to others and maybe make life a little easier.”
Lobaina noted that CRUST’s gift collections are popular choices throughout the year, but the care packages are of special significance around the holidays.
The boxes, which are shipped free of charge, can be chosen based on the recipient’s tastes or the time of the day – maybe an office breakfast or a mid-day pick-me-up treat. There are bread offerings for dinners or desserts to share as you swap stories or relax after a long day.
She’s seen an uptick in orders as a general show of appreciation in workplaces, social clubs and among friends. There has also been an influx in corporate gifts, she said.
Among the most-ordered items are:
- A best bakery box with cookies, brownies, bread and more.
- A breakfast box filled with scones, bread and jam.
- The cutie pie club that sends seasonal fruit pies every month.
- A cookie assortment box that will bring a smile to young and old.
- Cinnamon roll boxes that can be a morning lift or a day-of or day-after holiday breakfast.
- There’s even a puppy pack filled with handcrafted dog treats.
“There’s something for everyone, and people can take advantage of how we’ve crafted packages for their preferences to satisfy an individual gift or a group.” Lobaina said. “We always hear how much people love giving and getting baked goods.”
Other holiday specials include a German-style Stollen that has rum-soaked raisins and cranberries, real butter, whole and slivered almonds, crystallized ginger, candied citrus peel, nutmeg, and coarse-ground black pepper.
Lobaina described how the loaf is shaped by hand with an interior rope of marzipan and then after baking is dipped in melted sweet-cream butter, rolled in granulated sugar and finished with a drift of confectioners’ sugar.
Another holiday favorite is a traditional Italian-style Panettone that can be an after-dinner dessert, a sweet mid-day snack or the base for an amazing French Toast breakfast. Bakers craft the loaf with vanilla-soaked dark raisins, candied citrus peel, the zest of oranges and lemons and then finish the bread with a crown of coarse pearl sugar.
Lobaina and Nickerson recommended placing orders in advance to ensure availability for holiday gatherings.
“If your heart is set on something, we don’t want anyone to risk coming in and not being able to get it,” Nickerson said. “We want these homemade treats to be a part of your at-home holiday.”
Crust is also offering its first-ever complete Thanksgiving dinner that can be picked up and reheated at home. Orders can be placed until Nov. 21.
The dinner feeds four and includes:
- Bourbon maple glazed turkey breast with made from scratch gravy.
- Boursin and parmesan mashed potatoes.
- Green bean casserole: fresh green beans topped with house made mushroom cream sauce and topped with fried onions.
- Candied yams topped with House made marshmallows.
- Sage and Apple stuffing made with crust bread, celery, onions and granny smith apples.
- Cranberry orange preserves.
- Challah pull apart rolls.
- Sea Salt butter.
“We are excited to try something new and see how our guests respond,” Lobaina said. “That’s part of how we try to adapt to what our community wants.”
Check out the video below for a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the Crust bakers at work:
We all could use some encouraging news in our lives right now. On Monday, Nov. 16, MLive partnered with Michigan businesses from across the state to provide meals to health care workers who have been spending lots of hours on the front lines during coronavirus pandemic.
As COVID cases rise here in Michigan, we’ve once again paired some of our Michigan’s Best family of restaurants with our sponsor partners to provide a welcome food hug for our frontline health care workers. Our Michigan’s Best restaurant partners are thrilled to be able to not just help feed essential workers with some of the best food in Michigan, but to also generate some much needed take-out business during these tough times.
Check out the podcast below to learn more about Feeding the Frontlines, how it came to be and how we hope to bring a little joy to our great state.
MI Best Stories: In this episode, Eric Hultgren talks with Amy Sherman about how Feeding the Frontlines came about and what we are doing this third time around. This episode is brought to you by Stanley Steemer of Detroit and Woman’s Life Insurance Society.
Read the rest of the article and find more at MLive.com/michigansbest.
Brad Mooney of Eastbrook Homes and Joel Ruiter of Home Repair Services sit down with Eric Hultgren to discuss the impactful work HRS does in the community. Learn about Home Repair Service’s mission of strengthening vulnerable Kent County homeowners to build strong communities, as well as Eastbrook Home’s tie to the non-profit. HRS offers classes, resources, financial aid, ramp building, and more to the Kent County community. One program they offer is ramp building, which Brad Mooney of Eastbrook Homes has helped with for over a decade. This podcast will delve into various community needs, HRS’ story and mission, and how corporations and individuals alike can make a difference in their community.
Learn more about Home Repair Services here: http://www.homerepairservices.org/
Learn more about Eastbrook Homes here: http://www.eastbrookhomes.com
It’s easy to take those sweet treats in your pantry for granted, who thinks about the story behind that big, red bag of Pioneer Sugar. We do!
MLive and Michigan Best’s Amy Sherman was curious to know more about the sugar she uses so often, especially when she learned that Pioneer Sugar comes from a Michigan-based company, Michigan Sugar Company. Her curiosity was piqued when she read Michigan Sugar Company’s purpose statement,
“Michigan Sugar Company aims to make life sweeter, both literally and figuratively, for our grower-owners, employees, customers, partners, and communities. Whether it’s a bag of our pure, all-natural sugar helping you bake your favorite family recipe, sponsorship of an important community event, providing a quality and stable work environment, delivering an order on time and as expected, or helping maximize profits for our grower-owners, Michigan Sugar Company has been Making Life Sweeter since 1906.”
Check out the videos below to learn more about Michigan Sugar and how you go from a sugar beet (or 7) to a bag of sugar.
We’ll be posting new videos exploring Michigan Sugar Company each week, be sure to come back to learn more!
Episode 1, in this first episode exploring Michigan Sugar, Amy Sherman talks with Rob Clark about how the company came to be and what makes Michigan Sugar so special.
Episode 2, in this episode Amy Sherman talks with Michigan Sugar Company’s president, Mark Flegenheimer, whose family has been in the sugar business since the 1920s
Episode 3, in this episode Amy talks with Pedro Figueroa, Michigan Sugar’s vice president of sales and marketing. They talk about the details of the sugarbeet processing, Pioneer Sugar’s new red bag, and how Pioneer Sugar is one of the few sugars that is 100% vegan certified.
Episode 4, in this episode Amy talks to Ellen Smith, the executive director of Human Resources at Michigan Sugar. As a locally grown, locally owned business, Michigan Sugar is proud to support local communities through its owner-grower farms and large employee base at its processing plants. Find out about what kind of employment opportunities are open at Michigan Sugar, and how to apply (www.michigansugar.com/careers).
Episode 5, in this episode Amy talks with Jim Ruhlman, Michigan Sugar’s executive vice president. They discuss the agricultural side of the sugar production process and how the ‘root’ of the company is the 900+ grower-owners, who not only farm the actual sugarbeets, but also collaborate on seed varietal testing and approval.
Episode 6, in this episode Amy talks with Jason Lowry, Michigan Sugar’s vice president of operations. We learn the processing details from farm to factory (spoiler: it involves sugarbeet ‘french fries’) to red bag of Pioneer Sugar.
Michigan Sugar Company fun facts:
- Michigan Sugar Company has been operating since 1906 and has been farmer-grower owned since 2002
- There are 900 farmer-grower owners
- Michigan Sugar Company has tested around 300 seed varieties, narrowing that down to up to 20 varieties that have been approved for use in the specific field growing conditions of their farms
- 18% of a sugar beet is sugar
- Michigan Sugar company growers plant and harvest 160,000 acres of sugar beets annually
- That means 1.1 billion pounds of sugar are produced per year
- It takes about 7 sugar beets to make 1 bag of sugar
- Michigan Sugar operates 4 sugar beet slicing factories, including the oldest sugar beet slicing factory in the USA, located in Caro, Michigan.
Episode 7, in this episode Amy Sherman talks with Corey Guza about the science of creating amazing sugar.
Episode 8, Amy Sherman talks to the 2020 Michigan Sugar Queen Shaelynn Lavrack about life as the queen.
Episode 9, Amy talks to Adam Herford, chairman of the board and one of the over 900 grower-owners of Michigan Sugar. His multi-generation, over 100 year old farm, W.A. Herford & Sons, has been growing for and working with Michigan Sugar since his great-grandfather. He gets into the details of the grower-owner setup as well as the crop rotation, weather, and sustainability.
Episode 10, in this episode Amy talks with Kevin Messing about his role as a field consultant for Michigan Sugar.
Episode 11, in this episode Amy talks with Kelly Scheffler, Michigan Sugar’s Bay City factory manager. Kelly walks us through the day-to-day operations of Michigan Sugar and some of the history, including how the currently operating factories are the original factory buildings, built in the 1900s, and upgraded and expanded since then. Kelly and his family have been a part of that long Michigan Sugar history for 3 generations, since his dad and continuing to his son.
Episode 12, in this episode Amy talks with Elizabeth Taylor, the Ag relations and communications manager for Michigan Sugar. Elizabeth is in charge of the popular sugarbeet processing plant tours for Michigan Sugar. In normal times they average about 1,200 people through in a year, during their tour season from the end of September through February.
What could you do with 200 hours? The average coffee bean’s journey from farm to coffee cup is 200 hours and mutliple stops along the way. Biggby wants to change that, and is taking steps now to be 50% farm direct by 2023 – a move which will benefit farm employees, communities and sustainability.
Check out the video below to learn more, as Eric Hultgren explains how many steps it takes for a coffee bean to become a cup of coffee on National Coffee Day.
Find out more about Biggby and farm direct coffee at: onebiggislandinspace.com
Across Michigan kids are learning virtually, one of the upsides of this is that if they aren’t in a classroom – they can learn from anywhere. So why not take them to one of the most breathtaking spots in the state, Munising, MI? Munising is home to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, nearly 20 different waterfalls, 7 lighthouses, and did we mention incredible shipwrecks?
If this is your first time in Munising the interactive app makes it easy to navigate the area and plan some truly memorable adventures for your kids. Plan your trip today at Munising.org and create your own Michigan adventure.
The Halo Burger legend was built on three things: Fresh ingredients, treating people with respect and having a community-centered spirit that was created under the decades-long ownership by Bill Thomas and his family members.
Those founding principles have returned to the seven drive-through and dine-in restaurants since the leaders of Halo Country LLC took ownership of Halo Burger restaurants in 2016.
“It’s obvious to me that they’ve tried to go back to the similar stuff that we had,” said Terry Thomas, who took over from his dad and now serves as an ambassador for Halo Country.
Terry Thomas sat down with MLive’s John Gonzales recently to talk about traditions and the importance of being a leader in the community.
Watch as Terry talks about how he started working for his father at the age of 13 and what his first responsibilities were at the restaurant that has been a Flint area icon for 97 years.