Fredrik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. This is an amazing place for a plant and art lover. The gardens span acres and acres of land holding a collection of different themed gardens including The Winter Shade Garden, The Farm Garden, The Children's Garden, a Bulb Garden and the up-and-coming Japanese Garden.
We also enjoyed a tour through the gallery featuring the work of David Nash. His exhibition seemed to be themed around trees, which was an appropriate study for a Garden atmosphere.
After leaving the Gardens, we headed for downtown Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids is an eclectic town filled with a mix of inner city culture and industry which sets it apart from it's farm land outer reaches. Within the city you get a real mix of culture. There might be a soup kitchen two doors down from a 4 star restaurant. One thing is for sure, Grand Rapids is a food lover's dream! Tucked in the buildings that line the brick covered streets are gourmet bakeries, pasta shops, artisinal cheese and sausage shops and lots and lots of local breweries.
One of our favorite places was the Grand Rapids DowntownMarket. The whole place has a very epicurean feel. All of the vendors are of the highest quality and specialize in their product of choice. There was a raw juice bar, a chocolatier, artisian breads, a fish monger, butcher, fresh produce stand, spice merchant, wine cellar, imported cheeses and sausages, Gelato and many, many more.
We decided that we couldn't leave the market without bringing home some treats so we got a sampling of cookies from Sweet-licious Bakery which included Oatmeal Raisen with Butterscotch Chips and Maple Glaze, a Peanut Butter and a Chocolate Dollar which is like a gooey brownie. We also sampled the Molasses which might be the best cookie I've ever had. Molasses is my favorite though...so I might be biased. It took all my will power not to bring home one of the berry pies. But I reminded myself that we are planning on berry picking soon, so we will have more than enough berries to make desserts at home.
My favorite part of the market was the Old World Olive Co. Talk about fun! This vendor sells infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars that are absolutely amazing! The best part is that you get to sample all their different varieties. The flavors explode in your mouth. I never realized how complex and interesting a vinegar can be. With much debating and hemming and hawing between the 18 year Balsamic, the Espresso Balsamic, and the Dark Chocolate we decided on the Dark Chocolate which I plan on pairing with some grilled steaks tonight for dinner tonight. We were also impressed with the Wild Mushroom and Sage Olive oil, which would be amazing on roasted potatoes.
After we left the market we decided we needed some dinner. Zach wanted sushi for his birthday dinner so we decided to try Rockwell Republic, a restaurant that prides itself on using local ingredients and also has an awesome sushi menu.
We started with the Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps and then shared three rolls of sushi. The first was a Wagyu Steak with Soft Shell Crab and Spicy Mayo. Second, Smoked Duck with Shitake Mushrooms and Siracha and then we tried the roll on special, a Shrimp and Asparagus Roll with a Miso, Ginger Gaze. We finished it up with a Goat Cheese, Cheese Cake with Blueberries. The dessert was delicious, it had that lovely tang from the goat cheese which we loved!