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Tastemakers: Red Ginger Volcano Pork/ Michigan Craft Brewed Beer

Rick Coates - February 7th, 2011
Red Ginger Volcano Pork
Take away the snow and add 50 degrees and this weekend in downtown Traverse City might seem more like the middle of July than the middle of February. With two high profile events--The Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival and The Traverse City Microbrew & Music Festival taking place--along with a full musical lineup at downtown nightspots, larger than normal crowds are expected this weekend. Finding a seat at a local eatery might be a challenge so plan early and when possible make a reservation.
Even with major events taking place, I have noticed recently that several downtown eateries have been packed, including mid-week. Just a couple of weeks ago I stopped at Red Ginger on Wednesday night late in the evening to find a pretty full restaurant. This comes at no surprise to regular diners at the downtown Traverse City restaurant scene.
Since opening a little over three years ago, Red Ginger has become a popular dining destination. Located right next to the State Theatre, Red Ginger along with Amical and Phil’s on Front have become popular pre and post movie gathering spots.
Red Ginger’s executive chef Dan Marsh (also co-owner with his wife Pam) and his team deliver night in and night out on quality and consistency while continually experimenting and blending traditional and contemporary approaches to their dishes rooted in Asian style cuisine.
While typically I find myself ordering a selection of small plates or off the sushi menu which is popular with many, one should not over look the main plate menu offered at Red Ginger. I enjoyed the Volcano Pork, which was an oven-roasted-fall-off-the bone pork shank set on their house-made spaetzle and topped with wok seared shiitake mushrooms, baby spinach, baby arugula and a white soy broth. It was worth venturing down the menu to make this discovery.
My meal was exceptional but equally important was the service. With so many great restaurants in the region, often what sets the great ones apart from the good ones is service. Red Ginger is in that “great” category and in my several visits the service has always been spot on including this last time as my server Walter never missed a beat. It was obvious that Walter knew in great detail every offering on the menu. He answered questions, romantically described menu items and flavors and guided my wife and me to our selections that evening. I am often challenged at recommending places to eat, not because of the quality of food but because of inconsistent service. This is not the case at Red Ginger.
So if you are visiting the region this weekend, be prepared for crowded restaurants, plan ahead and if you are fortunate to dine at Red Ginger you won’t be disappointed. For a look at the Red Ginger menus go to where you may also make reservations online or call them at 231-944-1733. --Rick Coates

Michigan Craft
Brewed Beer

At this weekend’s Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival, Michigan made beer will be taking center stage. Many of the 40 plus breweries on hand will be from Michigan with several of those from Northern Michigan. The modern beer industry, better known as craftbrewing, is still in its infancy. Here in Michigan, laws were introduced and passed in the late ’80s and early ’90s allowing for the creation of brewpubs and microbreweries.
In 20 years Michigan’s thriving brewing industry is contributing over $24 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $133 million annually to the Michigan economy. In terms of the overall number breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #6 in the nation with 80 plus breweries and more on the way. The Michigan Brewers Guild, which represents most of the state’s breweries, has proclaimed Michigan “The Great Beer State.”
Locally, several breweries are thriving. Short’s in Bellaire recently added a major production facility in Elk Rapids to keep up with demand. Rumor has it that Right Brain Brewery in the Warehouse District of Traverse City is also looking to expand their production facilities.
Twenty years ago, restaurants and bars wouldn’t think of not having Budweiser or Miller products on tap, today that holds true for Michigan made beers. Some restaurants and pubs are even going as far to offer only craftbrewed beers on tap.
After this weekend’s Microbrew & Music Festival that is expected to draw 3,000 plus, the 6th Annual Michigan Winter Beer Festival takes place in Grand Rapids on Saturday February 26 at the Fifth-Third Ball Park. The 5,000 tickets for this event are almost sold out. Coming next month is the popular Suds ‘n’ Snow Festival at Timber Ridge Resort in Traverse City and also Brewski Fest at Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs.
Michigan beer is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Events like this weekend’s Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival offer a great opportunity to sample and seek out the latest offerings from Michigan brewmasters. For more information on the Michigan beer scene check out --Rick Coates
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