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Tastemakers: Green Plate Challenge/Bell‘s 9000

Rick Coates - August 6th, 2010
Green Plate Challenge
This is a really cool concept, the Green Plate Challenge, where four Benzie County restaurants are not really competing, but challenging each other to better connect with local farmers and local products.
The Challenge creator is Jim Barnes of Crystal Lake Catering. Barnes was one of the pioneers in the Benzie culinary scene to incorporate local products into his menu during stints as chef/owner of both Northern Delights Cafe and The Roadhouse. “There are several components to this challenge from developing better relationships with area farmers and restaurateurs as well as to improve culinary skills, help to develop new customers and also encourage servers to be better informed on the local items they offer,” said Barnes.
Here is how the challenge works: Each eatery is featuring a menu item everyday with ingredients 90% sourced from within 100 miles of their restaurant. “Purchasing food products locally has not been the most common way of purveying food for our local restaurant industry,” said Barnes.
The first Green Plate Challenge is winding down and will conclude on September 21. Participating eateries include Betsie Bay Inn, Coho Café, and Tali Bistro, in Frankfort, and the Cabbage Shed, in Elberta. Once you have one of the local plates you are asked to rate the plate at Wildleek.org on a scale from 1-5 for its taste, originality and presentation. At the end of the season, Wild Leek Productions will award a Green Plate Challenge Award winner. The success of the challenge so far has Barnes already planning on round two to start at the end of September. Be sure to get out and participate. All of these are exceptional dining locations. Other communities should get behind this concept and develop a Green Plate Challenge as well. I know many, myself included, are seeking out places that are serving local food. After the salmonella outbreak in the eggs a few weeks ago I will only order and eat locally raised eggs. For more information on the Green Plate Challenge go to www.wildleek.org --Rick Coates


Bell’s 9000
The Traverse City Microbrew & Music Festival a week ago drew thousands of brew enthusiasts over two days. With more than 150 beers on tap for the weekend it was impossible to sample them all.
Certainly there were many highlights of the weekend, including several Michigan hard ciders. The emergence of hard ciders is growing in popularity and Bottoms Up will take a look at some of the local offerings in the coming weeks. Also emerging is the Michigan hops industry and Two Peninsula Hops had a booth at the Festival. So look to see locally grown hops more prevalent in Michigan made beers.
While several brews caught the attention of the palates of the many participants, one favorite was the Bell’s Batch 9,000 Ale. Now Bell’s was in the forefront of the craftbrew industry not only in Michigan but in Midwest; and every 1,000 batches they release a commemorative brew. Released this past February, Batch 9,000 has some similarities to an Imperial Stout, but the brewers at Bell’s say it is not a stout. Regardless, the molasses and licorice used in the brewing process has resulted in a dark chocolate aroma and hints of sweetness in the mouthfeel.
According to Laura Bell, brewery spokesperson, Batch 9,000 is about sold out and the brewery is quickly closing in on batch 10,000. I was able to procure a few bottles of Batch 9,000, so it is still out there. Consider buying some and cellaring it, I see this beer evolving in the bottle and improving in a couple of years. Enjoy right now though as a stand alone or after dinner with dark chocolate desserts or a slice of pecan pie. To learn more about Batch 9,000 or other Bell’s beers check out www.bellsbeer.com
--Rick Coates

 
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