Category: Food and Drink

Black History Month: Restaurant owners grateful for past, but ‘every day of the year is black history for us’

A decorated outdoor wall, with faces painted on it

Just as Italian-Americans and Michiganders of other backgrounds contribute to the state’s diverse menu of local food offerings, so do African Americans.

We’re taking the occasion of Black History Month to note and celebrate the influence of black restaurant owners across the state – from Eugene Allen, a “country bumpkin” who grew up hunting squirrels in northern Michigan and has deer and turkey mounts on the walls of his bar, to Godwin Ihentuge, a first-generation American who’s bringing the food culture of his Nigerian heritage to the Mitten State. And from Cory and Tarra Davis, who barbecue award-winning ribs in Grand Rapids while broadening the menu to include plant-based options, to Lloyd M. Talley, a Ph.D. in human development who’s conducting a “social experiment” in Detroit by opening a new kind of eatery that’s a model for the future of urban food.

They all have vastly different stories. Yet, they share in common the experience of being black business owners working to make Michigan’s local food scene more delicious than ever.


Continuing a legacy

Cory and Tarra Davis of Daddy Pete's BBQ

How can you support black-owned restaurants in Michigan? “(Black History Month) is not just a one-month fad. It is a life that we live all year long, and we really just want people to be intentional in thinking about where you’re spending your dollars,” said Tarra Davis, here with Cory outside Daddy Pete’s BBQ in Grand Rapids. “Where possible, make an intentional effort to support diverse suppliers and vendors. Don’t let black-owned business support be a trend. Let it be a lifestyle.”

Slow smoked barbecue runs in the family at Daddy Pete’s BBQ in Grand Rapids. Not only are owners Cory and Tarra Davis husband and wife, but the popular food truck with a dine-in location at 2921 Eastern Ave. SE on the corner of 28th Street gets its name from Cory’s pit master father, Pete.

Since Black History Month is about remembering the past and “continuing on the legacy for the up-and-coming generations,” as Cory says, Daddy Pete’s is a perfect black-owned restaurant to highlight. After all, Cory and Tarra have been carrying on Pete’s BBQ legacy since 2012. And they’re living up to the challenge. Combining Cory’s barbecue skills with Tarra’s gift for entertaining, Daddy Pete’s is one of Michigan’s Top 21 Restaurants to Visit in 2021.

“I love the connection between taking something from its raw state and turning it into something beautiful that people enjoy,” Cory said. “The secret to great barbecue is having a passion for it.”

In addition to succulent slow-smoked meats including ribs, pulled pork, chicken wings and beef brisket, Daddy Pete’s has award-winning side dishes and also has launched a plant-based menu with vegetarian and vegan options. There’s even a plant-based version of the restaurant’s iconic “Hot Mess.” Instead of a BBQ sundae served in a funnel cake with baked beans, six-cheese mac and cheese, a meat of your choice and creamy coleslaw, the plant-based “Hot Mess” features vegan ingredients and smoked jackfruit.

The plant-based menu has been one of Daddy Pete’s biggest sellers, “at a barbecue place of all places,” Tarra said.

“We are a husband-and-wife team together in the sauce and doing the best that we can with the gifts that we’ve been given,” she said. “Cory and I know we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors who have not had the opportunities that we do, and that we are making them proud.

“Our goal when we started was to change the financial trajectory of our family tree and to leave a legacy of ownership and self-sufficiency. Every day of the year is black history for us. We live it, and we try to be living examples of black business excellence. We are certainly not perfect, but we are always aiming towards that goal.”

Building upon the foundation laid by those who came before

Everybody seems to know Geno’s Sports Bar and Grill. The restaurant in Thompsonville, not far from Traverse City, is a popular stop for northern Michigan tourists who come to ski or golf at nearby Crystal Mountain Resort, to fish or kayak the Betsie River and to snowmobile or bike on trails that run right outside the door.

Yet, lots of people are surprised to meet Eugene Allen, the African American man who has owned the place for the past 12 years.

“They say, ‘Oh, you’re Geno? You’re not Italian,’” Allen explains, with a laugh.

A graduate of Benzie Central High School, Allen is northern Michigan through and through. He grew up hunting and fishing with his dad, who was born in Thompsonville in 1933 after Geno’s grandparents came up from Georgia because they heard how great Michigan was.

Geno Allen of Geno's Bar & Grill

After nearly 30 years working in the auto industry, Eugene Allen came to his hometown restaurant looking for a change of pace. “I got up out of my chair and asked the owner if she wanted to sell it,” he said. “Two weeks later we made a deal over the phone.” Geno says Black History Month is about “all the efforts people went through to help afford us the opportunity to better ourselves. A lot of those efforts made back then paved the way for folks like myself to have a chance.”

Allen’s dad used to catch raccoons for their pelts as one of his money-making hobbies. Then one day he caught sight of a pretty girl named Lucille, who had moved with her family from St. Louis to a farm east of Thompsonville.

Good thing for Geno. His parents’ genes helped make him a state wrestling champion. And his mother’s talent in the kitchen has helped him succeed in the restaurant industry.

“She could really cook,” Geno said. “Even when we were growing up we would tell her she should open a rib place.”

Lucille passed away last year, but she lives on through her recipes including the “sweet with a little heat” sauce that Geno uses for Lucille’s St. Louis Style Ribs, which is the special on Thursdays. The rest of the menu at Geno’s features American classics from Philly Steak Flatbread and broasted chicken to the best burger and best fish fry in all of Benzie County. And everything at Geno’s comes at great prices. There’s even $1 pints of PBR on tap.

“My accountant keeps telling me I’m not charging enough,” Allen joked.

In the same way Geno benefits from his mom’s rib sauce, he also knows that his success owes in part to civil rights pioneers. Without them, he may never have been able to buy his hometown restaurant when he came looking for a change of pace after nearly 30 years of working in the auto industry. While spending some time in town figuring out what he could do if he accepted a buyout, he asked the restaurant owner if she wanted to sell. Two weeks later, they made a deal over the phone.

“(Black History Month is about) all the efforts people went through to help afford us the opportunity to better ourselves,” Geno said. “Back in the day you weren’t even given the opportunity. You couldn’t get a bank loan, for example, or move into a certain neighborhood.

“A lot of those efforts made back then paved the way for folks like myself to have a chance. All you ask for is a fair shot.”

Celebrating the past

When Godwin Ihentuge started a pop-up restaurant in Detroit, people told him there was no market for African food. Yet, in a city populated primarily by people of color, including many like himself with family ties to Africa, the chef’s pioneering spin on fast casual Afro-Caribbean cuisine has really taken off.

The pop-up evolved into a food truck, then two years ago Ihentuge opened Yum Village in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood. The menu of “African raised, Detroit made” food features dishes such as Moin Moin, a bean dish from Nigeria, Maafe, a West African peanut stew, and Caribbean jerk chicken – many with ingredients imported from overseas.

Chef Godwin Ihentuge of Yum Village

“I think I applied for maybe 300 jobs,” said Godwin Ihentuge, who finished high school during a recession in 2002 and graduated college during the recession brought on by the subprime mortgage crisis. After working dozens of jobs ranging from rock wall climbing instructor to coupon book intern, the first-generation American built a pop-up restaurant into Yum Village, which opened in 2019 in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood.

“I grew up eating this food,” said Ihentuge, a first-generation American whose father survived civil war in Nigeria and came to the United States. “We take part in black history every day by serving African food to people of color.

“I’m here to open up the dialogue so we can start talking about all the different types of African food there are. It’s important for us to see and acknowledge representations of ourselves (in the food we eat).”

Ihentuge has an extensive food background, from working as a dishwasher in the cafeteria at Wayne State University to cooking in the kitchens of several Michigan restaurants. But he envisions Yum Village as more than a restaurant bringing African food culture into the Michigan market. In fact, he’s broadening Yum Village into a market pantry with a variety of products and services including lessons in cooking and West African djembe drumming, sauces, spices, fresh-made juices and smoothies, take-out meal kits, bath and body items inspired by the restaurant’s recipes and clothing.

Some of the expansion has been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, which overnight shifted the restaurant’s business from about 85% in-person transactions to 90% online. Yum Village needed to generate new streams of revenue to keep providing employees with good wages and quality benefits.

The wider focus also is a natural fit for Ihentuge’s merchandising skills, which he honed as a former district manager at Target.

“We’re inventing things here. We’re doing a lot of pioneering things,” he said. “By the end of it we’ll probably be like an Afro-Caribbean Target or an Afro-Caribbean Trader Joe’s.”

Forging a new future

At East Eats in Detroit, Black History Month brings a sense of gratefulness for the past. It also implores the owners to sustain and advance progress into the future, and their innovative restaurant is an effort to do just that.

Birthed out of the COVID-19 pandemic, East Eats has no indoor dining nor even an on-site kitchen. Instead, it’s a collection of geodesic domes set up in an abandoned lot in the city’s Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood.

Lloyd M. Talley of East Eats

There’s a lot happening in downtown Detroit, but there’s so much more of the city’s landscape to be experienced – including a visit to East Eats. “I don’t think we always need multi-million dollars from outside corporations to come and develop (a more robust black future),” Lloyd M. Talley said. “We’ve taken things that already exist within our local area and stitched them together in a framework.” Next time you’re in the Detroit area, come and see a side of the city that you might never have seen before.

Guests make reservations and place orders in advance from an intriguing menu that changes seasonally to reflect the owners’ diverse African American, Caribbean, Liberian and Ghanian heritages. Each reservation includes two sides (soup, salad or dessert) and an entrée such as butter shrimp, roasted chickpeas or salmon tikka. East Eats offers lots of vegan and vegetarian options, too. When visitors arrive for their picnic in a dome, their meals already have been prepared in a catering kitchen about a mile away and are there in hot bags to meet them. It’s merging the best of remote delivery with in-person dining.

East Eats not only gives people the chance to go out safely during the pandemic, benefitting both mental and physical health. It’s also a relatively low-cost alternative to a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant that makes it more affordable for many guests.

And you can tell by the sound of kids playing and of dogs barking in backyards that the neighborhood setting meets people right where they live.

“There are neighbors here that drive past every day and say ‘I didn’t think that could be in my hood,’” said Talley, who teamed with fellow Howard University alum and Detroit Black Restaurant Week founder Kwaku Osei-Bonsu on East Eats.

Talley, Osei-Bonsu and a third partner, Flint native Nygel Fyvie, say the model of East Eats can happen quickly and affordably in an eco-friendly way that empowers the community. And they believe it can be replicated across Michigan and throughout the country, especially in urban areas with large amounts of vacant land and large populations of people of color.

To them, East Eats is a way of taking the celebrated legacy of black history and pushing it forward toward an even brighter future for underserved communities in metropolitan areas around the country.

“Black History Month is a reminder that there are a lot of things that have occurred and a lot of work that has paved the way for us to be here right now,” Talley said. “But I also think about it as a responsibility to ensure that black history is not stopping with us. I hope my role in Black History Month is to show a new black future.”

RELATED: Celebrate Black History Month and explore more incredible stories, art and legacies

Diverse black-owned Michigan restaurants worth celebrating during Black History Month, all year long

A decorated outdoor wall, with faces painted on it

MLive Michigan’s Best’s John Gonzalez and Amy Sherman shine a spotlight on a few of the local, black-owned restaurants around the state. Gonzo and Amy highlight each restaurant’s foundation story while enjoying delicious meals in unique locations. From an ‘igloo picnic’ to a Thursday rib night, to low-and-slow southern BBQ and Afro-Caribbean eats – these restaurants are your next MI Best ‘must try’!

East Eats – Kwaku Osei-Bonsu and Lloyd M. Talley, Ph.D., started East Eats in order to bring something special to this neighborhood and community. Intentionally choosing a location ‘off the beaten path’ and a unique dining experience of domes/igloo picnics. East Eats diners can travel around the globe from their dome with the sights, smells and tastes of a rotating seasonal menu of Eastern hemisphere foods.

Geno’s Sports Bar and Grill – after 28 years working in Detroit Geno Allen returned to Thompsonville and purchased the local bar. Quickly becoming a favorite for locals and tourists. With $1 pints of PBR, lots of TVs to catch all your favorite sports and plenty of great food including everyone’s favorite, Thursday night rib nights.

Daddy Pete’s BBQ – Cory and Tarra Davis, had a gift for BBQ and entertaining so they started Daddy Pete’s BBQ. Offering low and slow Southern style BBQ from both a food truck and dine-in location. They are committed to family, food and their customers.

Yum Village – with the motto, African raised, Detroit made, Chef Godwin Ihentuge is bringing Afro-Caribbean food to Michigan. With food as diverse as jerked ox tail and curried chickpeas and events such as group drumming lessons, this restaurant is not only a must-try foodie destination but also a community gathering spot.

First-ever Ann Arbor Area Hotel Week to debut with deals, Restaurant Week tie-ins

Ann Arbor hotel and restaurant weeks graphic

Michael Weber hears it from friends, he hears it from fellow members of the Washtenaw County Hotel Association, and he hears it from guests who have stayed at his Weber’s Boutique Hotel in Ann Arbor during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are saying they’re getting a bit stir-crazy,” Weber said. “They’re ready for a break and a release to get them out of their houses. They just want to do something that lets them focus on having fun and relaxing.”

Destination Ann Arbor and the hotel association are providing a solution with the first-ever Ann Arbor Area Hotel Week, an innovative promotion that offers incredible room deals, upgrades and dining packages to coincide with the region’s restaurant week that runs Feb. 21 to Feb. 26.

“There’s a lot of energy with restaurant week, and this adds to the excitement and the ability to do something that is a change of pace,” said Weber, the president of the hotel group. “It’s a great opportunity for a staycation or for people to come and see what Ann Arbor has to offer.”

Find your Hotel Week deal: A complete list of all discounts and packages

The annual restaurant week celebrates the dining scene as chefs and staffs show off creative menus at affordable prices. Nearly 20 eateries are participating in the event with dine-in and to-go meals, including family-sized options. Menus offer a variety of meals, including vegetarian and vegan options as well as two and three-course selections.

New this year are online demonstrations from Vinology’s James Beard Award winner Alex Young, who will teach viewers how to make his famous fried chicken, and Zingerman’s Deli Chef Rodger Bowser showing how to make its legendary Chicken Pot Pie.

“Restaurants are putting their best foot forward to highlight what they do best and to make something new for their guests,” said Sandra Andrade, the executive director of Main Street Ann Arbor, which organizes the week. “This is about connecting with the community and keeping this great dining culture thriving.”

Marriott hotel room in Ann Arbor, MIAndrade said the synergy and partnership between Hotel Week and Restaurant Week comes at a critical time for the hospitality industry. While the plight of restaurants has been well publicized, the impact of the pandemic has also battered hotels with minimal business and leisure travel and no convention or event traffic.

“The whole hospitality sector has taken such a big hit this year and that makes this even more important to get out there and support your favorite places or try something new,” she said. “It’s really exciting to have these events work together and support each other.”

The exclusive, limited time offers at area hotels can be found here, and while some are only available during the promotion week, others will allow and encourage guests to book packages now and stay later in the year.

Jamie Vecchioni, the director of sales and marketing at the Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest, said hotels are committed to making the week enjoyable for guests.

“This is such a cool idea because there are so many great restaurants and so many great hotel properties in our area for people to experience,” Vecchioni said. “This is a perfect time to pair a delicious meal with a night out in a comfortable room.”

Participating restaurants and hotels have been practicing and adhering to strict safety and sanitation guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing signs and safety partitions are installed throughout properties and mask use is mandatory in common areas.

“The protocols are really important to us as an industry because we’re all in this together,” she said. “We encourage people to come now if they’re ready or to join us later in the year if they want to wait. We are excited to greet you.”

Eat Local to help Michigan endure COVID-19 pandemic

Beyond washing our hands, wearing a mask and social distancing, many of us may feel helpless when it comes to getting our state through the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is another to help: We can eat!

Specifically, we can Eat Local. We can try to eat just one more meal a week from a local restaurant. Local restaurants not only employ our friends and neighbors, but they also cycle our money right back into the local community and often are the first to step up and contribute to local causes.

These are also the kinds of restaurants that are hurting the most during the ongoing pandemic, with many already having closed and many more on the brink of shutting down.

None of us alone can snap our fingers to make COVID disappear and return things to normal for these restaurants. But eating just one more meal a week would have a bigger effect than you might think.

a loaded hot dogIn fact, if everybody switched just one of every 10 out-of-state purchases to a local Michigan option, the state would experience at $1.2 billion increase in economic activity. That’s enough to support 10,600 jobs and an extra $350 million in income across Michigan.

“People too often discount the power of one, but one plus one plus one into infinity makes a huge difference,” said Dave Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan. “Imagine the impact that 10 million people would have if they change their habits to be more intentional about supporting their local businesses.

“If we support our local businesses, they’re keeping people working and everybody benefits. It’s a virtuous circle. One additional purchase this week will make a difference.”

RELATED: Find resources to eat, shop and stay local and help Michigan thrive through this holiday season and into the new year

Restaurants all over Michigan are doing what they can to survive, many of them adjusting operations to keep serving the public through the pandemic. They’ve taken the Pure Michigan Pledge to keep guests safe by committing to new health and safety precautions, such as marking spaces on the floor to maintain proper social distancing at ordering counters and installing plastic shields at cash registers. They’ve made call-in and online ordering more efficient, established curbside delivery procedures and started offering home delivery options. Some Michigan restaurants have even made structural changes to their buildings to accommodate walk-up windows for carryout orders or opened greenhouses and igloos for outdoor winter dining!

Most important, restaurant workers have put their own health at risk so that we can enjoy dining out and experience a sense of normalcy through the pandemic.

Pure Michigan LogoNow is an opportunity to repay the favor and support our unique local restaurants before it’s too late. We each can help soften the pandemic’s blow to restaurants and restaurant workers all across our state by making a conscious choice to support the local restaurants in our communities.

With local restaurants, it’s not just the fate of the business that’s at stake. These local restaurants support our local schools and youth sports leagues. These local restaurants help make our cities and towns vibrant places. These local restaurants give our local Michigan communities character and personality.

You probably have a few favorite local restaurants. But if you’re looking for more opportunities to Eat Local, here’s a list of local restaurants offering takeout, delivery and curbside services. Many local Michigan restaurants also have gift cards that make great holiday gifts.

When we eat local – even if it’s just one more time each week – more of the money we spend stays in our local Michigan economy. It also opens us to memorable experiences like these that are happening at local restaurants all over the state:

  • Running into masked-up friends and neighbors at a local pizza shop while waiting to pick up online orders on a busy night when a portion of sales are being donated to the local school
  • Getting an apology and heartfelt thank you from the manager of a local chicken shack because so many customers placed orders that the restaurant momentarily ran out of chicken!
  • Parking outside a local burger joint, placing an order on your phone and having your food brought out to you as if it were an old-fashioned drive-in restaurant
  • The joy of giving a local restaurant worker an extra tip for making a curbside delivery right to your vehicle on a cold night

Of all the things 2020 may be remembered for, it would be nice to add a few of these kinds of memories to the list.

“I’m hoping this is going to be a season of thoughtfulness toward each other that goes beyond the traditional holiday sentiment,” Lorenz said. “I’m hoping some of these things we’re doing today will end up being comforting memories in the future.”

Feeding the Front Lines: See behind the scenes on a day of giving

Serving a meal

It’s a good day when you can bring some of Michigan’s Best food to deserving people, with the help of incredible sponsors in order to help feed the front lines. That is just what happened on Monday December 14, as MLive partnered with businesses to bring meals to hard working health care workers around Michigan.

One of our sponsors, Woman’s Life Insurance Society, was happy to help this effort to acknowledge the work that our front line medical workers are doing every day. “Woman’s Life Insurance Society greatly appreciates the dedicated healthcare workers at McLaren Port Huron and everything they are doing to help keep our community strong and healthy during these especially challenging times,” said Karen Deschaine, manager of communications for Woman’s Life. “We are inspired by their strength and grateful to have this opportunity to express our gratitude.”

Our generous sponsors for this initiative were:

Woman’s Life Insurance Society-Port Huron

The Iles Schropp Group at Merrill Lynch-Saginaw

Rotary Club of Saginaw-Saginaw

Community Foundation of Greater Flint-Flint

Check out the podcast below to learn more about Feeding the Frontlines, and what kind of impact those meals have on frontline workers.

MI Best Stories: In this episode, Eric Hultgren talks with


Read the rest of the article and find more at

4 holiday gifts for the BIGGBY® COFFEE lover (plus 3 bonus ideas)

Biggby holiday gift options

The clock is ticking toward the holiday gift-giving season and BIGGBY® COFFEE, with more than 240 locations, has the solution for all shopping procrastinators alike.

Whether it’s a cup of joe to get folks going in the morning, an interesting read for an aspiring entrepreneur or other items in the BIGGBY® catalog, there’s a gift for everyone on your list.

Items available at your local BIGGBY® COFFEE (while supplies last) or on BIGGBY®’s online store, where you can shop from the comfort of your own home. There’s even free shipping for orders over $50, a move that will show the importance of a giver’s relationship to the recipient all while staying socially distanced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are four ideas for our favorite items this year:

Coffee (of course)

Biggby coffee

This is the bread-and-butter of how BIGGBY® went from a single start-up shop in Lansing to a 25-year-old, $100 million business that employs thousands and pleases even more with carefully chosen and perfectly roasted brews.

Choose the size and flavor, caffeinated or unleaded and the right brewing style, from a whole pot to single-serve K-cups, BIGGBY® has the right gift for family, friends, work colleagues or neighbors. There’s even a subscription that can send coffee at four different time intervals from a weekly frequency to every other month.

It’s a can’t-miss gift.

Coffee (with a larger purpose)

Biggby Living Hope Coffee

This collaboration with the non-profit Living Hope International plants seeds far beyond the trees from which the beans are picked. This farm-direct coffee comes from the Living Hope property in Ndola, Zambia, a farm co-founder Bob Fish and his wife visited while working to source 50 percent of BIGGBY®s coffee purchased each year before 2023.

The proceeds from Living Hope coffee supports the group’s ministry to provide shelter, food, education and hope to orphaned and at-risk children in Zambia. Since the partnership began, the organization has been able to add 70 beds to its orphanage, which also educates and prepares the children for their future lives.

The phenomenally rich flavor with notes of with tones of citrus, chocolate and spices are an added bonus, Fish said.

Gift cards

Biggby Coffee gift card

This checks all the boxes, cards or stockings, you name it. Don’t know what to buy or prefer to let the people on your list choose their gifts? A gift card of your chosen value gives the best of both worlds – gift-giver fulfills goals by giving what people want, and the recipient takes it from there for something to eat or drink. You can even send the present digitally here.

Mugs (and more)

Biggby coffee mugs

All this coffee (or tea) has to have a vessel to get it from hand to mouth, right? BIGGBY® has mugs in all shapes, sizes and materials. There are ceramic mugs for at home, on-the-go travel containers and a variety of reusable and dishwasher-friendly plastic cups.

And because Biggy wants guests to hydrate when they aren’t drinking coffee, there are water bottles to get you through the rest of your day.

A ‘must-read’ for start-up dreamers

Michael J. McFall's book Grind

Mike McFall wrote the book on what it takes to be an entrepreneur, using his background as BIGGBY® Co-CEO,  to explain the dedication and mindset necessary for success. Hint: It doesn’t come overnight or for the faint-at-heart. McFall’s no-nonsense advice tracks successes and pitfalls from both the BIGGBY® perspective and franchisees who achieved beyond initial projections. But it’s also an unvarnished look behind the scenes and a must-read, according to business leaders, educators and investors.


Gear (including this adorbs onesie)

Biggby clothing - onesie

That cute little nugget of yours (or a relative or friend) can represent BIGGBY® COFFEE and the development of a coffee-lover in any of four colors of this 12-month-old onesie. Shoppers find it hard to resist. Don’t worry, there are adult T-shirts, hats, sweaters, hair scrunchies and even a nod to 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic with an all-new mask.

Pet water bowl

Biggby portable pet water dishes

For your favorite traveling companion, whether hiking, camping, driving or just hanging out in the yard, BIGGBY®s water bowl keeps your buddy refreshed and ready to go. The 2-inch foldable bowl comes in two colors (we don’t think your dog will judge your selection) and has a carabiner coupling for easy transport.

Check out BIGGBY® online to learn more about the company’s values of bringing people together, spreading joy and making everyone feel special – even when it’s not the holiday season.

Michigan winery adds rare certification, offers holiday deals

People enjoying wine at Shady Lane Cellars

When Shady Lane Cellars, a destination estate winery on the Leelanau Peninsula, decided to seek a third-party certification of its vineyard sustainability practices, the team had to sit down and assess what they’d have to change.

The answer: Not much.

And after documenting and demonstrating the Northern Michigan winery’s dedication to the farm, the surrounding environment and the people who perform the work, Shady Lane Cellars recently earned SIP Certification, becoming only the second in Michigan with the designation and the 25th nationally.

SIP, an acronym for Sustainability in Practice, is a California-based organization with rigorous, non-negotiable standards based on science and expert input, independent verification, transparency and absence of conflict of interest.

“Our core philosophy at Shady Lane Cellars has always aligned with sustainability and doing the right thing the right way for everyone involved,” said Rick DeBlasio, the winery’s general manager. “The fact there weren’t any big differences in what SIP requires and what we were already doing was a great validation of what we believed in from the very start.”

SIP measures a holistic set of practices addressing habitat, water, energy, soil, recycling, air quality, packaging, pest management, social equity, and business management. The practices are verified through independent records and on-site inspections. The vineyard-related standards exceed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s guidelines to achieve organically grown designation.

SIP’s root values include:

  • Social Responsibility: Competitive wages, medical insurance, training, and education.
  • Water Management: Reduced/recycled water in the vineyards and winery.
  • Safe Pest Management: Introduce beneficial insects, attract raptors and plant enriching cover crops to keep vineyards healthy.
  • Energy Efficiency: Alternative fuels and energy sources like solar and wind; minimal tractor usage; enhanced insulation in winery.
  • Habitat: Create wildlife corridors and preserve open space.
  • Business: Ethical practices; treat employees and community with care and respect.
  • Always Evolving: Evolve as new science, technology and research becomes available.

Beth Vukmanic Lopez, the SIP group’s certification manager, said she was excited to add a second vineyard in Michigan, with WaterFire Vineyards, near Torch Lake, as a partner in practices.

SIP Certified Sustainability in Practice trademark logo“It is a pleasure to work with a vineyard dedicated to caring for the people and planet,” Vukmanic Lopez said.

DeBlasio believes the SIP Certifed status is proof that Michigan’s growing wine industry is gaining ground.

“Not only can we achieve this certification in a dramatically different growing environment, but a group based in California is willing to put its name on our vineyard here in Michigan,” he said. “That is a real testament to our industry and to this state.”

Shady Lane Cellars has long taken pride in being handcrafted from the ground up and showing a respect for and stewardship of the land. Its hilltop setting, just miles from Traverse City, offers sweeping panoramic views of the 52-acre vineyard farmland.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Shady Lane Cellars undertook multiple safety procedures to protect its tasting room guests and the winery’s staff. Now, during the government-required shutdown, it has created an innovative 12 days of Christmas promotion to allow patrons access to wine deals in time for the holiday.

Below is the schedule for the sale that began on Dec. 9 and continues through Dec. 20, with shipping promised before Dec. 25.

Shady Lane Cellars Christmas Sale info


The sale can be accessed online here, reaching out via email to info@shadylanecellars.comor by calling Shady Lane Cellars at 231-947-8865.

Connect with the winery on Facebook and Instagram.

Sweet Treat of the Week: Murdick’s Fudge

Sweet Treat of the Week, Original Murdick's Fudge shop

In this episode, Amy Sherman sits down with dear friend Bob Benser to talk about Original Murdick’s Fudge staying open year-round, online orders and shipping for the holidays. Murdick’s Fudge is offering a couple special treats this holiday season, including their Sweet Treat of the Week, Michigan Holiday Brittle.

Watch the video below to learn more about it and how you can get a ‘free slice of fudge’.


Visit and enter the coupon code below, note terms and restrictions apply.

MLive Coupon code (case sensitive): MLIVETHANKS

Coupon description: 1 Free Slice of Maple Walnut Fudge with purchase of ‘3 Slice & Brittle Box’. (valid only for Shipping Now through Nov 27)

Coupon expiration date: Nov 27, 2020

Terms: This offer is only available for online orders with selected Shipping Date Now through Nov 27. 


‘Not your typical bread, pie or pastry,’ how to order Michigan-made holiday treats

Crust, a baking company, baker making doughnuts

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.

Lemon ricotta pancakes from Crust, a baking company“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.”

Pumpkin pie from Crust, a baking companyCRUST, 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.

DISCOVER THE SPECIALS: Here are CRUST’s holiday options and its menu for nationwide shipping

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.

Buche de Noel cake from Crust, a baking company“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. Package of cinnamon rolls from Crust, a baking company

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:

“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.” Cranberry walnut pie from Crust, a baking company

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. Fresh baked bread from Crust, a baking company

“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:


Businesses, restaurants partner to Feed the Frontlines for the holidays

Serving a meal

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.


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