Tag Archives: Made in Michigan

Hand to Mouth: Michigan’s Best Ingredients

Working at Nino’s is like working with family. And I suppose if you consider how many hours in your day, in your life, that you spend on the job, it’s a blessing that you can say it’s like spending time with family. And that you’ve found a home.

I suppose, then, that my extended family includes all of our local growers and every food product on our shelves that hails from our great state of Michigan.

For all of us fortunate enough to be able to point to our hand to tell anyone where we live, it’s been our “birthright” to be surrounded by so many great food companies making their own contributions to our dinner tables.

Many names are so familiar that we sometimes forget that they’re even Michigan-based companies. Others have become almost national and even internationally iconic. Names on this list include Kellogg’s; Jiffy Mixes; American Spoon Foods; Big Chief and Pioneer Sugar; Gerber Baby Foods (now a subsidiary of Nestles but still located in Fremont, Michigan); and course, in their own food realm, Domino’s, Little Caesars and Big Boy Restaurants.

A little closer to home, another group of large food companies, such as Bettermade Potato Chips; Faygo Soda; Safie’s Pickles; Garden Fresh Salsa/Mucky Duck Mustard; and Sanders and Morley Chocolates, calls Southeast Michigan its home.

Want a great sandwich? You won’t have to look far for your ingredients. Local meat processors like Kowalski, Dearborn Sausage, Rinaldi’s Sausage, Koegel’s, Alexander Hornung and Winter’s can all provide fabulous lunch meats. Add some Pinconning’s cheese (which is legendary), and look no further than our local bakeries like Zingerman’s, Brown’s Buns, Cantoro’s, Russo’s, Tringali’s, Sweetheart, Knickerbocker, Pasquale’s or even Flat Out Wraps for your bread…ALL Michigan companies.

For dessert, if it isn’t one of Nino’s own sweet confections, you have your choice of local sweets from Awrey’s, Achatz, Just Baked, Johnny B’s, and Elwin’s. Then, top it off with one of our local ice creams from Guernsey, Hudsonville, Ashby’s or Ray’s.

Wash it down with a Towne Club Soda, a locally brewed beer, or even a wholesome glass of milk from Calder’s dairy, and you have a truly Michigan meal.

In fact, we have over 2,000 products at Nino’s from local companies. From Billy Bones BBQ Rubs and Hot Rod Bob’s Dressings to Spillson’s Puddings and The Original Zip Sauce–more potato chips, more condiments, and local produce, the list goes on and on…

Being a home-grown, family-owned, Michigan-based company, Nino’s is proud of our long-standing relationship with local growers and all of our Michigan-based food companies.

The next time you stop into Nino’s, spend a moment to notice all of the wonderful, Michigan-made products we have on our shelves.

It’s like spending time with family!

What are your favorite Michigan made foods? Share with me in the comments below!

Spirit of Michigan

Michigan has a long, complex history with alcohol, from the bootleggers and gangsters of prohibition to the booming spirit industry. Surprised? Yup, we make award-winning wines; rare, sought-after craft beers; AND outstanding spirits here in the Great Lakes State. When you look at our top crops, wheat, corn, and potatoes landing in the 5, it makes sense. These are the classic ingredients for whiskey, gin, and vodka. Many are already aware of wineries utilizing grapes and other fruits to produce brandies, eau de vies, and grappa, but there is a movement of like-minded, craft-focused entrepreneurs who are focused on simply making good-quality products that just happen to be from Michigan.

This is the case for small-batch distillers Two Birds. Ryan Bailey and Nathan Jonjevic are Michigan natives who wanted to indulge their creative sides. Ryan was already an avid brewery and winemaker, but both were inspired by the classic cocktail revolution. The brand name “Two Birds” was chosen for the freeing, liberated feeling that birds represent. A modern-style gin was the perfect spirit to start with since they could have more creative license with it. They utilize Michigan hard, red winter wheat and fragrant botanicals like culinary-grade lavender and juniper. The team uses Michigan-based agriculture whenever possible and was determined to help Michigan’s economy while capitalizing on the rising cocktail craze. I had the chance to try the Greyling Gin this week. I am not a huge gin fan, but I was really impressed by the smooth, creamy texture and light touch of classic pine, coriander and springtime smells. This gin needs no mask. It is to be enjoyed in cocktails that highlight its flavors, such as a good Gin and Tonic, or my favorite gin-based cocktail, the Gin Fizz.

I had the chance to speak with Tiffany from Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, and the philosophy there is similar; use the best-quality Michigan ingredients to produce handmade craft spirits. They offer vodka, gin, rum and four different whiskeys, all of which are remarkably organic. Tiffany told me that it is a lot harder to produce organic products, but she and the rest of the Journeyman team think it’s worth it. Down to the studs, the brain child of owner and distiller Bill Welter is made to look to the future but pay homage to the past. The distillery itself is a beautiful, old buggy whip factory called the Featherbone Factory, making no new carbon print and saving a building rich with history. Bill focuses on producing single malt whiskey because he fell in love with it and the process while spending time in Scotland. This brings us back to the significance of the name. You could say that the definition of a journeyman is a day laborer who creates a product for others, and it fits. However, for Bill, it is more about the journey that brought him to this point in his life as well as the journey that the product takes, going from grain to glass.

Like Bill Welter, Rifino Valentine, owner of Ferndale’s Valentine Vodka, found inspiration in his travels. Born and raised in Michigan, Rifino aspired to become a high-powered broker on the New York Stock Exchange. Living the fast-paced life of a New Yorker, Rifino found himself socializing at New York’s most famous bars and always ordering his favorite drink, the Dirty Martini. He would ask the bartender to use the best vodka in the house, and over time he noticed it was always imported. Whether it was Chopin from Poland, Grey Goose from France, or even Absolut from Sweden, it made him wonder why no one ever served him a US-made vodka. As the economic downturn approached, and he could see the writing on the wall, Rifino made the decision to come back home to Michigan and make a high-quality, well-respected, delicious vodka. Since 2009, Rifino and his team have worked tirelessly to put Valentine Vodka on the map, and it has all paid off. Valentine’s consistently scores higher than its imported competition and has collected more gold medals than Michael Phelps. Today, they have two vodkas out, straight and White Blossom, which is infused with Michigan-grown elderflower and grapefruit and sweetened with Michigan beet sugar. Unique, floral and delicious, this is perfect ice cold out of a shaker or with pink grapefruit juice and a splash of club soda over ice. In addition to vodka, they have recently released their Liberator Gin and are on the verge of releasing a small-batch whiskey called Woodward Limited.

These spirited distillers are just a handful of the growing list of committed, driven Michigan producers. Grand Traverse Distilling, Hard Luck Spirits, and New Holland Spirits are some that have already made a great impact not only on liquor drinkers but also on the Michigan economy. To paraphrase Rifino Valentine, don’t drink Michigan products because they are from Michigan; drink them because they’re better.

Many of these spirits can be found mixed into creative and delightful cocktails at bars like Sugar House in Detroit, The Oakland in Ferndale or Red Crown in Grosse Pointe.

– Jennifer Laurie

Have you tried an outstanding Michigan-made craft cocktail lately?