A major heat wave is coming but so far it’s been comfortable here. Our site has afternoon shade, and the hot days feature enough humidity for our air conditioner to efficiently kick the heat out of the ‘Stream. Kat and I have continued our food tour of Michigan, first with locally made bratwurst, and then at Holland’s best brewpub. We concluded our chow odyssey with an upscale Sicilian pizza in Grand Rapids plus another version of Michigan brats. Spoiler alert: nearly everything was delicious.
There is a butcher shop five miles toward Holland from our campground. The shop calls itself Meat Market. They offer a variety of sausages, roasts, chops, steaks, plus chicken feet and pig tails, all at very reasonable prices. (Chicken feet are a Zwolle, Louisiana delicacy, but one with which I am not acquainted, and hope to remain forever ignorant. I cook a velvety oxtail ragout, but I can’t recall seeing any recipe calling for pig tails. Fix up a batch, and let me know what you think.) We bought brats, kielbasa, and andouille. After grilling over Kingsford the brats were perfect; juicy, delicately spiced, and chewy without a hint of toughness. Kat agreed: these were the best bratwurst in memory. I cooked a batch of New Orleans white beans and rice the next day as a kielbasa and andouille vehicle. Our verdict: buy your andouille in southwest Louisiana and for Polish sausage trust Hillshire Farms.
New Holland Brewing Company operates a casually elegant restaurant on Holland’s 8th Street downtown. It features a long beer list, all eponymously brewed, and those we tasted were interesting on multiple levels. It’s a burger and grinder place, but we filled up on Beer Cheese and Multi-grain Crackers, and left fully satisfied. Their most famous brew, Dragon’s Milk, doesn’t seem likely to go well with many foods. It’s aged in bourbon barrels, and they crank its alcohol content up past 10%. It tastes more like a sweet wine than a high gravity beer, but it sells like crazy. Kat and I shared a taster glass as dessert. There it works.
Grand Rapids is 25 miles to our northeast, and there we enjoyed the pizza of our lives at Licari’s. It came with a white sauce, something like Alfredo, with spinach, shrimp, tiny pieces of ham, and whole toes of roasted garlic, topped with freshly grated Asiago. The beer was Peroni draft. Grand Rapids looks nothing like the Rust Belt, and had it milder winters and more tech start-ups, it would be as crowded as Austin.
Our first Michigan bratwurst experience went so well I Googled “best bratwurst Grand Rapids”. Frank’s Market in old downtown seemed the favorite. We bought a pound of them, and a can of Frank’s Sweet Kraut. We haven’t opened the kraut, but those two grilled brats turned out better than “perfect”. These were juicier, slightly sweeter and spicier, with a modestly coarse grind that lent them a bit more substantial mouth feel than Meat Market’s.
When it comes to bratwurst, the people of the far north are onto something. Imagine munching a grilled bratdog with coarse mustard, and kraut late in the afternoon in early October outside the Big House in Ann Arbor. Moments earlier the football Wolverines had knocked off those green uglies from Lansing. There we are tailgating with true blue and maize Michigan fans, all of whom know us well enough to grin at my white jersey with purple and gold inserts, number 7 on the front and back without a name. “Jackson, who’s LSU’s 7?” “Now it’s Leonard Fournette. But 7 has been worn by a bunch of Tiger legends: Patrick Peterson, The Honey Badger, Alan Risher, a hitting machine at safety named Steve Rehage, and the first #7, Bert Jones. It’s LSU’s most honored number, except maybe for 20.”
“Who wore 20?” “How we doin’ on beer and brats? This could be a long story.”