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A foodie’s shopping adventure in Grand Rapids

Published in The Battle Creek Enquirer

Grand Rapids may seem a bit far to drive for groceries, but three different shopping opportunities will make it well worth your time.

The most recent entrant in the destination food shopping experience is the Downtown Market, 435 Ionia Ave S.W.

A variety of market stalls offered everything I needed to make a fabulous meal. Or, if you aren’t inclined to cook, there is an array of both eat-in and take-away foods.

Walking into the Market Hall, I was forced to stop at Sweetie-Licious for a piece of their award-winning pie. If you’ve ever been to Sweetie-Licious, you’d know why I was compelled to get a cherry pie. It is simply a celebration of Michigan’s most famous fruit nestled in a flaky pastry crust. Heaven on earth!

I browsed the cheese and wine at Appertivo and bought some great looking prosciutto. They also have a nice outdoor space for sitting, sipping and nibbling on a warm spring afternoon.

The Fish Lads provides fish to all of the top local restaurants, and now you can buy their products, too. In addition to one of the nicest selections of fresh seafood I’ve seen in Michigan, they also offer pre-cooked entrees. The Michigan mussels were calling to me, but I resisted this time.

So many other possibilities. Ice cream, gourmet popcorn and a shop dedicated to every spice you could ever need are just a few of the offerings in the market. The Montello Meat Market had beautiful displays of meat and poultry. On my next trip, I will have to sample a taco at Tacos El Cunado. I also need to give a shout-out to Malamiah’s Juice Bar for a wonderful mid-afternoon veggie smoothie.

The Downtown Market offers cooking classes, rentable incubator kitchens, rooftop greenhouses and the nation’s first demonstration kitchen for kids. Starting on Saturdays in May, there will be an outside market with fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, flowers and more. Thursday nights feature live music and drink specials.

If you want an outdoor market, I recommend a stop at Fulton Street Market, the oldest and largest in Grand Rapids. Some of the vendors have been at the market through several generations. Tanis Orchards, for example, has been at Fulton since 1931.

I always feel like a true foodie when I support local farmers by shopping at farmers markets. Fulton Street is one of the most comprehensive, offering everything from fruits and vegetables to breads and cheeses. The outside stalls will open on the first Saturday of May and then on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Check out their website for the Farmin’ Flavor event, when a local chef uses ingredients straight from the market for a spectacular menu item. On their website, I found a past featured flavor called Berry Buckel, from the Nantucket Bakery. The result was a tall yummy muffin featuring two kinds of local berries.

The third stop on our Grand Rapids grocery shopping road trip was G.B. Russo’s, located at 2770 S.E. 29th St. For 109 years, the Russo family has been serving gourmet food, wines, deli items and craft beers. What started as a small neighborhood store is now 18,000 square feet of shopping heaven with more than 300 meats and cheeses from around the world, miles of olives, rows of fresh baked breads, oils, private label pastas and sauces. They also carry their own homemade Villa Russo frozen entrees. In-store wine tastings occur every Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Fasten your seatbelts, wear your stretchy pants and enjoy a gastronomical extravaganza in Grand Rapids.

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