Monthly Archives: February 2009

A Bucket List on a Budget

Another casualty of the recession. “Bucket Lists”.

Until the economy recovers, I am redoing my bucket list, focusing on some lower hanging fruit. Temporarily off; Roots on the Rail Polar Bear Train, Traveling with Anthony Bourdain to Singapore, a birding excursion to Arkansas to spot the Ivory Billed Woodpecker,



My new bucket list:

A Visit to the Cheese Lady

My brother-in-law, “Uncle Joe”, brought some Valdeon Blue to Thanksgiving last year. Said he bought it from the “Cheese Lady” in Muskegon. It was the most pungent, briniest, stinkiest and delicious cheese I have ever tried. Here is the official description:

Valdeon Blue
Valdeón is a rich and flavorful but very strong,
semi-soft cow and goat milk blue

made in Spain’s remote Valdeón Valley

in the northern region of Asturias.

Valdeón is wrapped in Sycamore leaves,

giving it a distinctive appearance.

I must admit this is my blue of choice.

I love it with a little unsalted, French butter

and honey from New Zealand.

Having been to one cheese shrine in my life, my beloved Cheese Tavern in Monroe, WI, I think I owe to myself to drive the 45 minutes and visit the cheese lady.


Fenian’s Irish Pub

Whether you know the difference between a hooley and shillaley, there runs a wee bit of Irish in everyone. Or so I am told. This little pub in Conklin, MI has been the home of Irish music and shenanigans for many years. As an absolute lover of Celtic music and an admirer of Guinness, this is one place I have always wanted to visit.


Yoga – Armenta Studios

I’ve threatened myself with Yoga lessons for twenty years, but never followed up. I’ve got this perception that Yoga and carnivores aren’t really compatible. I know that is highly unenlightened. However, the Laura Armenta experience, in Grand Rapids, MI comes with high praise. Might as well. You only live once.



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A Local Stimulus Package

Three essential products, nine great businesses.  Support the local economy and say NO to the recession.

The Trifecta of Carne

Real life butchers (as opposed to meat wrappers and trimmers) providing special cuts, handmade sausages, properly aged meats and great service.  Research will show that a family that grills together will stay together.


My personal favorite. Great selection and service. Their top sirloin steaks are the best grilling value on the market.  Get your whole meal here too: appetizers, meat, potatoes, veggies, fruits and beverages.

Van Balls

A neighborhood favorite and the supplier of my award winning brisket in 2007. These guys are so old school, they don’t have website! (maybe they should?)



Never been there but this business comes highly recommended. Plus their competition team (The Smokin’ Scotsmen) has kicked my butt several times.


Tres Cappuccinos

Inconsistent barristas make this a hard category to handicap.  However, I am not here to waffle.  Here are my selections for the best in the area:

It’s a Grind

It’s a decent “Una tazza di Beppe”. Service is friendly,  A convenient drive through.


The only place that knows exactly what I mean when I order one “wet” (the others are a 50/50 shot, depends on who is working!)

Red Ball Jet Cafe

A Gilmore Group establishment. A bit inconsistent in making the exact same cup each time, still a good, hot beverage to pick up and be on the way.

The Three Kings of Craft Beer

The undisputed leaders in the clubhouse.  Three breweries that literally have “been there and done that”.

Founder’s Brewery

An award winning brewery with award winning philosophies. (also the original and first crazy, deranged fools) Thanks Hugh!

New Holland


Not only craft beers, but craft spirits I can vouch for the Amber Rum. Very good, with a lot depth but not too sweet.

Bell’s Brewery

This is low hanging fruit. Too easy. A pioneer! Creator of Oberon! Not exactly Grand Rapids, but Kalamazoo is a kissing cousin.

Who did I miss?  Let me know so I pay my respects!


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Business 101: What every business should know for success!

During a tour of Disney World, an executive at British Petroleum stated, “What a pity that Walt Disney did not live to see this place.”  Capodagli replied, “But he did see it, that’s why it’s here” (Capodagli, pg. 27).  Remember growing up singing along with Ariel, the little mermaid?  Or riding on “It’s a Small World” and being tempted to run your fingers through the water?  Or believing that you could fly like Peter Pan with a little pixie dust (also known as glitter)?  Well, Walt Disney made all of those childhood memories a reality.  Therefore, not only was he a wonderful cartoon artist, he was also a very intelligent and successful businessman. The book, The Disney Way, discusses Walt Disney’s business concepts and examples of how other companies have been successful when using the same techniques.  The purpose for the book was to share Disney’s successful tactics to future or current businesses.  Overall, The Disney Way gave some excellent knowledge on how to be a successful entrepreneur because, it showed that everything starts small and with the correct techniques anything is possible. In the words of Walt himself, “My only hope is that we never lose sight of one thing…that it all started with a mouse” (Capodagli, pg. 1).

“No other company in the…entertainment business has ever achieved the stability, phenomenal growth, and multidirectional expansion of Disney” (Capodagli, pg. 4).  Walt accomplished that success because his main concern was to provide the best family entertainment (Capodagli, pg. 5).  Disney demanded to remain committed to “honest, reliability, loyalty, and respect for people as individuals” (Capodagli, pg. 6).  In other words, he refused to present his customers with a lousy product.  Walt also had several other key concepts needed to have a successful business, which included:  storytelling, great customer service, teamwork, training, storyboarding, and details.  But three of them were the most important. The first key concept was to treat customers extremely well.  Walt’s philosophy was to regard “every customer [as] guest in [his] own home” (Capodagli, pg. 37).  He also stated to “know [the] guests, treat them honestly, and with respect, and they will keep coming” (Capodagli, pg. 60). The second important technique was training.  Walt considered “training an essential investment in the future of his company” (Capodagli, pg. 132).  When skills were “reinforced with coaching, practice, and recognition, they become habits” (Capodagli, pg.  137).  The habits then lead to gradual improvements within the company because, employees become accustom to always pleasing the customers they view everything as part of their job rather than going out of their way for a consumer (Capodagli, pg. 137).  The third key concept was details.  Disney was quite the perfectionist (Capodagli, pg. 10).  The Disney Company believed that “details give the big picture depth” (Capodagli, pg. 181).  As a result, since Disney was a perfectionist especially with details, he continually strived to enhance the quality of his product (Capodagli, pg. 183).  He achieved that because he understood that the entire “package – colors, sounds, smells – had an impact on how quests received the show” (Capodagli, pg. 184).  Therefore, because Walt Disney constantly focused on customer service, training, and details, the success of his business continued to grow.   

The Disney Way was an interesting book because it showed how simple it could be to have a successful business by giving profitable strategies of the Disney Company. The possibilities that both the book and Walt Disney himself constantly taught was that all dreams can come true.  Disney always said “Dream, Believe, Dare, Do” (Capodagli, pg. 1).  Although the book was quite helpful, some points were not so convincing.  Sometimes the book made a concept seem too easy.  For example, the authors often stated that all of the employees portrayed the values and beliefs of the company without explaining how difficult that training would be to achieve those results.  Another issue was that the book gave too many examples of different companies.  The book was about Disney, but they gave several examples in every chapter about different companies, which took away from the purpose.  The authors should have gave more instances on what Disney did, that way the reader would be more focused on the overall concept about Disney’s strategies. Also, the examples given were difficult to relate to my future company since the businesses discussed were multi-billion dollar companies, and my photography studio will never get that large. The last unhelpful topic was chapter six of the book, because it talked solely about partnerships and I do not plan to have one.  But with the book, the knowledge that I gained from it was more positive than negative. 

I personally experienced exactly what the Disney concept displayed by attending a casino last year.  My friend and I went to Four Winds Casion, the new casino located in New Buffalo, Michigan, and used the free valet parking.  While gambling, employees constantly asked us if everything was ok and wished us the best of luck.  After we were finished on the slot machines, we decided to go to a fancy restaurant within the casino to share a dessert.  Several people were serving our table, which they kept cleared and did whatever they could to make sure that we were enjoying ourselves.  At the end of the night, we scanned our ticket to retrieve our car. While waiting, a woman approached us and stated that one of our car tires was low and asked if we wanted them to air it up for us.  We accepted the offer.  A few minutes after waiting by the soothing fireplace, a security man approached us and regrettable stated that the air compressor had died.  But immediately offered two options, he said he would either replace the tire with a spare or he would gladly follow us to the nearest gas station to fill the tire there.  The moral of the story was that the entire time that we were at the casino, every employee made sure that we were having a wonderful experience and they especially did not want a flat tire to ruin our night, which is exactly what Disney was trying to illustrate.  Even though I do not plan to gamble very often, but when I do I am quite confident that I would love to attend that casino again because of their customer service.  Therefore, The Disney Way not only showed me how to create a thriving business, but it also taught me to appreciate wonderful customer service and how important it truly is.  A key concept about Disney’s success was that he was always sure of himself, his ideas, and his employees (Capodagli, pg. 119) and he gave everything to both his product and his customer.        


The Disney Way.  Capodagli, Bill and Jackson, Lynn. McGraw-Hill, 1999, 204.

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Offering Out-of-the-Universe Meals!

Where Lake Drive, Cherry and Diamond all intersect, a unique fresh restaurant resides called Marie Catrib’s. From the words of Marie herself, she describes her theory on running her business. “Quality, sustainability, and creativity are the driving forces behind our East Hills neighborhood restaurant and delicatessen. We invite you to enjoy our eclectic menu served in a warm, inviting atmosphere with a friendly, efficient staff that has become an extension of our family. We take pride in offering locally grown food from people who make it their goal to care for the land. We strive to cultivate the excitement that we feel from a carton of heirloom eggs or crisp lettuce from a nearby farm with each and every guest who sits down to enjoy fresh Michigan food. As always, great food for great people.” – Your friends, Marie and Fouad Catrib.

Her description only begins to explain how the restaurant environment portrays her goal for a fresh unique genre of not only her menu but also the ambiance. When first walking into Marie Catrib’s the staff greeted me happily and after finding out that I had never been there he gladly explained how they operated. The laid back atmosphere had the kitchen in view for customers to witness how their food is prepared. Also, in view was a window cooler displaying all of their salads/sides, which ranged from spaghetti salad to curried rice. The restaurant also offers sandwiches, omelets, breakfast “favorites” and homemade desserts. Marie Catrib’s supports the gluten-free and vegan clientele. The “Next Door” section of the building resides in a room adjacent to the dining room. The setting offers To-Go selections of the menu, desserts and fresh baked goods from breads to cakes.

So if you want to try a unique “fresh” meal I highly recommend experiencing Marie Catrib’s. I suggest the Spinach Caesar Salad; it puts a new twist on a traditional Caesar Salad with delicious homemade Caesar dressing and croutons! For more information please visit their website at:

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Crazy, Deranged Fools: Grand Rapids Hall of Fame

My business nominations for Grand Rapids own CDF’s Hall of Fame.  What are yours?


Cannonsburg Village


Herman’s Boy

Founder’s Brewery

Martha’s Vineyard

GrillMaster’s BBQ and Catering



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Finally. Good News in West Michigan.

Local “sauce ” entrepreneur, Julie Applegate (aka Mrs. Dog) took third place in the very prestigious Napa Valley Mustard Festival. (random thought- I think Grand Rapids needs a national food festival…my vote would be kielbasa)

Check out the competition!  I am trying to convince Julie to sign up on Facebook so she can keep us updated during the awards ceremony in Napa Valley!

Julie has been working hard for many years developing, promoting, and evangalizing for her sauces. She is also very involved with the Kansas City Barbecue Society (certified judge) the Great Lakes Barbecue Association and many other culinary organizations. All you need to do is spend a little time with Julie at a BBQ event and you will be entering a world of good food, fine wine and great craic!



GOLD: LissElla’s “S-Special” Mustard
SILVER: Mendocino Sweet Hot Mustard
BRONZE: Mrs. Dog’s Disappearing Mustard



GOLD: Rothschild Raspberry Honey Mustard
SILVER: Bornier Honey Mustard
BRONZE: Old Spice Gold Honey Mustard (Beaverton Foods)


GOLD: Le Cordon Bleu Moutarde Forte de Dijon
SILVER: Temeraire Moutarde de Dijon
BRONZE: Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard


GOLD: Private Selection Whole Grain Mustard with Garlic (Barhyte Foods)
SILVER: Grey Poupon Harvest Coarse Ground Mustard
BRONZE: Plochman’s Premium Natural Stone Ground Mustard with Horseradish


GOLD: Bornier Moutarde de Dijon
SILVER: Beaver Olde English Mustard
BRONZE: Mr. Mustard Original Hot Mustard


GOLD: Cherchies Banana Pepper Mustard
SILVER: Silver Spring Picante Pepper Mustard
BRONZE: Uncle Bunk’s Hot Mustard Relish


GOLD: Beaver Wasabi Mustard with Grated Wasabi
SILVER: Silver Spring Beer ‘n Brat Mustard
BRONZE: Inglehoffer Horseradish Mustard (Beaverton Foods)


GOLD: Stonewall Kitchen Basil Pesto Mustard
SILVER: Inglehoffer Creamy Dill Mustard (Beaverton Foods)
BRONZE: Raye’s Winter Garden Mustard


GOLD: Beaver Garlic Dijon
SILVER: Gil’s Gourmet Roasted Garlic Champagne Mustard
BRONZE: Obester Winery Garlic Mustard


GOLD: Earth & Vine Tangerine Habanero Mustard
SILVER: LissElla’s Lingonberry Mustard
BRONZE: Beaver Hawaiian Pineapple Mustard


GOLD: Plochman’s Beer Mustard with Killian Red
SILVER: Sierra Nevada Stout & Stoneground Mustard
BRONZE: Arran Mustard with Malt Whisky


GOLD: Raye’s Down East Schooner Mustard
SILVER: Plochman’s Premium Yellow Mustard
BRONZE: Morehouse Yellow Mustard


GOLD: Silver Spring Deli Style Mustard with Horseradish
SILVER: Morehouse Deli Mustard
BRONZE: Plochman’s Spicy Brown Mustard


GOLD: K.L. Keller Black Truffle Mustard
SILVER: Vineyard Pantry Blue Cheese Mustard
BRONZE: (tie) Earth & Vine Cuban Mojo Mustard
Sprecher Root Beer Mustard


GOLD: Schoolhouse Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
SILVER: Aunty Lilikoi’s Passion Wasabi Dressing
BRONZE: Rothschild Raspberry Wasabi Dressing


GOLD: Ronnie & Denzel’s Honey Mustard BBQ Sauce
SILVER: Ole Raye’s Classic Gold BBQ Sauce
BRONZE: Willamette Valley Lemon Dill Marinade


GOLD: Silver Spring Organic Dill Mustard
SILVER: True Natural Taste Organic Horseradish Mustard
BRONZE: Silver Spring Organic Horseradish Mustard


GOLD: B.R. Cohn Mustards
SILVER: Saucy Sisters Golden Honey Russian Mustard
BRONZE: Inglehoffer Mustards (Beaverton Foods)

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10 Drinks GVSU Student Should Avoid

Everyday I see students walking around campus with beverages in their hands that they think make them look “cool”. What these students don’t know is what types of ingredients are in them and how bad they are for their bodies. These students that walk around with these beverages are crazy for drinking these drinks and not caring what enters their body.

10. Starbucks Frappuccino

9. Non Organic Milk

8. Java City Caramel Javalanche

7. Freshens Smoothie Company- Pina Collider

6. Diet Pepsi/Coke

5.  Mountain Dew

4. G or Gatorade

3. Rock Star

2. Monster

1. Red Bull

Fun/Not So Fun Fact: The ingredients in the top 3 drinks have been linked to several deaths, and have been banned in many countries around the world.

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