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Traverse City Chocolate Festival/Martha?s Leelanau Cafe Belgian Beer Class & Tasting 4/4/11

Rick Coates - April 4th, 2011
Traverse City Chocolate Festival
Three years ago self-described chocoholic Barbara Disborough wrote “The Guide to Chocolate in the Grand Traverse Region.” Northern Michigan continues to grow in the number of artisan chocolate makers as well as the number of shops that offer high quality chocolate products.
A former respiratory therapist, Disborough is an aficionado of all things chocolate and has spent the past several years searching out the best the region has to offer. The book has become a popular compendium for visitors and locals alike and Disborough has been offering a variety of customized and personalized tasting events around the area.
In 2009 a group of chocolatiers asked Disborough if she would help them organize and promote a “chocolate festival” in Traverse City. “I was retired and had time on my hands so I agreed to help,” said Disborough. “At first I was just doing some basic promotion but before I knew it they had me organizing most of the event.”
The event didn’t happen last year, so Disborough decided to bring it back herself.
She started Chocolate Lady Productions and has already tripled the number of vendors from two years ago, expanding the April 10 Traverse City Chocolate Festival at the City Opera House to include all things chocolate. In addition to local chocolate makers, she has invited other chocolatiers from around the country. There will be a few local wineries (wine and chocolate pair nicely), artists and musicians as well. Plus, some area restaurants will be a part of the mix.
Tickets are selling quickly and are limited; available at $15 in advance and $17 at the door. Ticket holders will receive a sampling coupon for each of the vendors.
The Chocolate Festival runs from 1-4 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for the St. Francis Food Pantry and the first 100 who bring two items will receive an extra Sampling Coupon.
If chocolate is your “guilty pleasure” The Traverse City Chocolate Festival is for you and the perfect opportunity to get to meet the the chocolatiers of the region while sampling their products (all vendors will have items for sale to take home). For details check out or to purchase advance tickets go to or call the box office at 231-941-8082. --Rick Coates

Martha’s Leelanau Cafe Belgian Beer Class & Tasting

The people of Belgium know their beer; the country is about the size of Maryland (the eighth smallest U.S. state) and has over 120 breweries producing close to 7,500 different beers annually. While they export about 70% of their beer production annually, the average adult consumes about two kegs of beer a year in Belgium. There is good reason for this as Belgian beer is among some of the best and most flavorful beers made anywhere in the world.
Comedian and Belgian brew enthusiast Stu Stuart has been studying the brews of Belgium for 20 years. In fact using his comedic sense Stuart says, “I learned to drink beer at Boy Scout summer camp. Of course, they don’t offer that merit badge--anymore.” Now Stuart spends time summering on Mackinac Island and in Grand Marais and the rest of the year in Seattle, Portland and Philadelphia doing stand up comedy and teaching Belgian beer classes and workshops. He also leads brewery and tasting tours in Belgium. During the warm months he has a regular stand-up comedy gig on Mackinac Island and in between it all he offers his Belgian Beer Appreciation classes.
The first tasting class of the season will take place at Martha’s Leelanau Table European Style Cafe in Suttons Bay on Monday April 11. The fee is $55 and includes several beer samples and an array of Belgian beer friendly appetizers from Martha and her team. Guests will enjoy a two-hour presentation and tasting, learning about many of the different Belgian beer styles, along with their history, ingredients and mythology.
Tasting beers from Belgium is more than just drinking beer -- it is an experience -- from proper food pairing to the glass chosen. For example, in Belgium every beer has its own style of glass, so if you visit a brewery that is making 300 beers they would have 300 different glasses.
For additional details check out or for Stuart’s Belgian Beer Me programs check out . For reservations for the April 11 class and tasting call 231-215-0173, seating is limited. --Rick Coates
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