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My Town: Kent County Health Department names 2014 Food Safety Award winners

My Town: Kent County Health Department names 2014 Food Safety Award winners

KENT COUNTY, Mich.—If you’re looking for a clean, safe place to dine out this weekend, the Kent County Health Department has some suggestions- 471 of them, actually.

The KCHD recently announced the winners of its 2nd annual Food Safety Awards.  This year’s 471 winners were selected from more than 1700 licensed facilities that were inspected through 2013.    To qualify, each establishment had to meet the following criteria:

My Town: Outdoor Farmer's Market to feature more than 50 vendors

My Town: Outdoor Farmer's Market to feature more than 50 vendors

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.— The Outdoor Farmer’s Market in downtown Grand Rapids will open for its second season this weekend.

Grand Rapids Downtown Market says the new season of outdoor shopping will start Saturday May 3.  The outdoor market will be open every Saturday in May, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The market will host its inaugural “Chefs at The Market” demonstration at 10 a.m.  A chef will showcase simple recipes you can follow using food available at the market.  This weekend’s demonstration will feature rhubarb.

Inside the market, visitors can take part in a free yoga session and enjoy live jazz music by Hugh DeWitt.  At noon, shoppers can also enjoy microgreens grown in the market’s greenhouse as part of a $5 tasting bar.

This year’s outdoor market will feature food and products from more than 50 vendors, including:

My Town: "Feed A Friend" nets thousands of pantry donations for local families

My Town: "Feed A Friend" nets thousands of pantry donations for local families

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—Hungry people living in West Michigan now have more food to fill their stomachs, thanks to a food drive by hundreds of Grand Rapids area SUBWAY restaurants.

All 206 SUBWAY restaurants in the area took part in this year’s Feed A Friend food drive, collecting nearly 7,500 pounds of non-perishables for local food pantries on March 20.  Organizers say overall, more than 60,000 pounds of food was collected statewide.

The Feed A Friend campaign started in Jackson, Michigan 14 years ago.  During the one-day drive, customers who bring in a non-perishable food item and buy a regular 6-inch sub receive a second 6-inch sub for free.

Coffee taste test pits pricey cat scat coffee against other brews

Coffee taste test pits pricey cat scat coffee against other brews

HOLLAND, Mich.— Kopi Luwak coffee beans costs up to $600 pound, but is the taste worth the price?

That’s the question a panel of coffee experts attempted to answer during a blind taste test this week.  “The Great Kopi Luwak Cupping Challenge” unfolded at JPs Coffee and Espresso Bar in Holland.  Owner Jack Groot ran the test, pitting Kopi Luwak against other regional Sumatran coffees prices around $16 pound.

During the test, one Kopi Luwak sample rose to the top, scoring 76 points out of 100.  However, two of the less expensive, non-cat poop coffees ranked within a half-point of Kopi Luwak and the others were very close.

“It’s a very good coffee, but not worth $600 a pound.  If you bought it in a coffee shop, it would cost you $50 a cup,” said Andy Timko with Anodyne Coffee Roasters in Milwaukee.

Planned Parenthood marks Valentine's Eve with "condom drops"

Planned Parenthood marks Valentine's Eve with "condom drops"

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.---  On New Year’s Eve, Americans marked the holiday with ball drops; this Valentine’s Eve, Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan is marking the occasion with “condom drops”.

On Thursday, Feb. 13, teen and young adult volunteers from PPWNM will visit at least six Grand Rapids bars to conduct “condom drops”, distributing free condoms to patrons, along with “Safe Space” door hangers. Organizers say volunteers will visit Mulligans, Billy’s, Eastown Sports Bar, Pyramid Scheme, Stella’s and the Meanwhile Bar Thursday night to pass out condoms.  

PPWNM’s eight health centers are also participating in the National Condom Week campaign, distributing more than 3,000 free condoms altogether.

The organization says nearly 20 million sexually transmitted infections are reported each year, and condoms are the only form of contraception that also helps reduce the risk of STIs, while preventing most unintended pregnancies.

Give your old wine corks new life with ReCORK

Give your old wine corks new life with ReCORK

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—A Grand Rapids restaurant is giving wine lovers another excuse to drink.

As part of its partnership with ReCORK, Houlihan’s is collecting old wine corks that will be recycled into sustainable footwear and other upcycled products.  The restaurant says even though cork is completely natural, renewable and biodegradable, most wine corks end up in landfills.   Since cork trees take up to 50 years to mature and can only be harvested every nine years, cork can be a hot commodity.

Houlihan’s is one of the few cork recycling drop-off locations in Grand Rapids.  Corks can be dropped off inside the bin located near the restaurant’s entryway.  Houlihan’s is located at 1968 Breton Road SE in Grand Rapids. The other drop-off locations include Art of the Table, 606 Wealthy St. SE and Haworth in Holland.

Experience Grand Rapids launches personalized travel planning website

Experience Grand Rapids launches personalized travel planning website

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.---Experience Grand Rapids, the official destination marketing organization for Kent County, recently announced the launch of its new personalized travel planning website, www.GRCityTwist.com.

The new interactive website targets 18 different interests, from “art lovers” to “thrill seekers”, allowing the visitor to customize their trip.  For example, craft beer enthusiasts can find breweries to explore, activities and nightlife related to craft beer, and accommodations for the weekend.

EXGR launched the new, mobile-friendly website on Dec. 17 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park with the hospitality community, business and political leaders, and its Certified Tourism Ambassadors.