Tag Archives: Ironman

Stellafly Recap of Restaurant Week Grand Rapids 2014

Restaurant Week
 came to Grand Rapids mid-August, and wrapped up last Sunday, August 24. Every year, Restaurant Week Grand Rapids encourages local restaurants to participate and celebrate the “Art of Dining Out” by offering earth-to-table menu creations from scores of restaurants.

Stellafly sent out a team of willing writers and photographers to check out three different restaurants in the Grand Rapids area that were participating in Restaurant Week: Tre CuiginiRezervoir Lounge and Cork Wine & Grille


Tre Cugini
Sparkly Stellafly / photos Jason Hite

I had the pleasure of visiting Tre Cugini along with Jason Hite and Leah Bekins to try out their offerings. We were all first-timers at this great spot in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids.

In one word: AMAZING.


If you’ve never been to Tre Cugini, it is located on Monroe Center, across from the Grand Rapids Art Museum. This four-time winner of Grand Rapids Magazine’s Award of Excellence provides a very authentic Italian cuisine experience with Executive Chef Daniel R. Chudik at the helm in the kitchen. This small, intimate space also includes a large space for events such as wedding receptions and the wine dinners that are offered by the restaurant throughout the year.

After being seated we were quickly greeted by our server for the evening, Sara, who provided excellent recommendations, service, and was a true delight the entire time we were there. Tre Cugini offered a 3-course meal for the extraordinary price of $28 during Restaurant Week, and our group tried several of the dishes listed.

Antipasto (Appetizer) Course

Thanks to the recommendation of Sara, all three of us at the table selected the Bruschetta for our appetizer course and agreed it was hands down the best we had ever had. Toasted crostini is topped with house-made ricotta cheese, fresh tomato, arugula, and balsamic vinegar—it was truly extraordinary.


Secondo (Main) Course

Like the first course, the second course provided equally difficult decisions. The menu was full of wonderful options, from Eggplant Terrine to the Four Cheese Ravioli. Leah chose the ravioli and Jason and I both selected the Cavatelli Pasta with Sausage and Spinach. All the pasta is made in house as was the sausage. It was evident by the quiet moment at the table that everyone enjoyed their dishes a great deal. Each one was bursting with flavor and it felt as if we were actually in Italy.




Dolce (Dessert)

It was hard to believe we actually had room to eat dessert after the first two wonderful courses, but we could not resist the house made Lemon Pudding Cake (me), house made chocolate Gelato (Jason), and Sicilian Cannoli with sweet ricotta cheese and chocolate chips (Leah). Each of these was the perfect way to end our delicious meal.

On behalf of all of us, I would like to say Bravissimo! to Chef Dan, Sara, and the entire staff of Tre Cugini for the amazing dining experience. We will most certainly be back.




Be sure to visit Tre Cuigini on their website: trecugini.com


Rezevoir Lounge
Eve Gardner / photos Bryan Esler

The community of Grand Rapids continues to come together to put on events that are enticing to every demographic in this growing city. Most recently, I had the opportunity to experience Grand Rapids’ third annual Restaurant Week. And, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect – two days before the Michigan Titanium Triathlon.

As an endurance athlete, I sometimes feel as if there is not enough food that can fit on one plate – or three – to replace the number of calories I intentionally burn each day. While dining with a friend at the Rezevoir Lounge, one of the local businesses participating in Restaurant Week this year, my expectations were exceeded. The three courses I chose were all delicious and seemed strategically designed to pack a flavorful punch to my appetite – something not easily done!

The over-simplified menu, designed specifically for Restaurant Week, made making the decision of what to order much, much easier. In my opinion, there is nothing more damning than attempting to choose just one plate to enjoy when the menu is chocked full of mouth-watering entrée options. With only three plate options for each of the three courses included, I felt confident in each of my choices while simultaneously never feeling as if I was sacrificing the other options on the menu. Furthermore, having specific options for Vegetarians, Vegans and even those with gluten allergies was reassuring; as a Vegetarian myself, I didn’t feel excluded from this community-wide event.

My dinner included a Kale salad with a toasted fennel seed and agave vinaigrette,  a Spicy Vegetable Alfredo and Brown Rice Penne and concluded with the French 75. The Kale salad was nothing short of delicious or interesting – the agave vinaigrette dressing balanced each bite, not-too-sweet and not-too-tart.  The Spicy Vegetable Alfredo was a step above any other pasta I have tasted, especially for an Alfredo-type pasta. The jalapenos add the perfect kick to the dish while the noodle-to-sauce ratio was spot on – I didn’t feel as if I was eating a bowl of Alfredo soup and noodles, like normal. And, the French 75 for desert was … well, my taste buds freaked out in excitement in a way that I would never be able to put to words. The tartness of the sparkling wine gin sorbet and the sweetness of the Michigan cherry syrup made the perfect pairing – I almost licked the martini glass when I was finished.








It’s not often I finish a meal at a restaurant perfectly satisfied, both in taste and in volume of food. Thankfully, the Rezevoir Lounge met and exceeded every expectation I had. And, while the food was appetizing, the atmosphere was equally enjoyable. From the lighting to the hand-crafted beer selection list and the exposed brick wall, the establishment gave off a vibe that emanated a laid back comfort. Although a bar setting, families were warmly welcomed.

Rezevoir Lounge on the web: rezlounge.com


Cork Wine and Grille
Nancy Agrillo and Michael Meilock / photos Michael Meilock

2014-08-23 07.01.40


Every plate was wiped clean- and not just because we are 2 soon-to-be Ironman triathletes fueling up for a race. The food was delicious.

Cork Wine and Grille’s menu for restaurant week combined some standard favorites with surprising creations. The Watermark Salad blends mixed greens with a flavorful medley of dried cranberries, strawberries and candied pecans. The Stone Fruit pizza, however, took the first course to a whole new stratosphere. Who would have thought a combination of apricot, peaches, plums and olive oil on a crust would result in such delishousness? And then there’s the impressive wine selection.



Servers Aaron and Dani recommended the perfect wine choices, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Malbec. The main course of Southwest Chicken with fingerling potatoes pleasantly surprised with the touch of black bean puree. The Peach Bourbon Glazed Trout, slathered in a sweet glaze, paired nicely with the bacon and spinach accompaniments.



The Cane Berry Cheesecake would impress even a cheesecake snob (which I am). Server Dani recommended the Peanut butter Pie. Its luscious peanut butter filling topped with chocolate ganache was reminiscent of a top shelf Reese’s peanut butter cup.


Cork Wine and Grille on the web: corkwineandgrille.com

Captains and angels: How myTeam Triumph is changing the face of the marathon



When Matt Smith was 11 and hit the road for his first-ever marathon, all he cared about was going fast.

“That was the best,” he says.

But now that he’s almost 17, Matt, who has cerebral palsy, has a new wisdom that values more than speed.

“The people I meet — that’s the best part,” Matt says. “I have some great relationships. I still love the racing part. But it’s expanded into so much more.”

Matt is a veteran of myTeam Triumph, an athletic ride-along program created for children, teens and adults with disabilities who would normally not be able to take part in the challenge of a triathlon or a road race.






They sit in a sleek, sling-like chair on sport wheels while runners take turns pushing them through the race.

By the time he raced in the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon last Sunday, Matt had logged more than 20 races and become sort of a celebrity.

“He knows more people than my husband and I do,” says Matt’s mom, Anne Smith.

“We’re trying to change peoples’ lives, one step at a time,” says Terence Reuben, president and executive director of myTeam Triumph West Michigan.

“It’s providing them an opportunity to be part of events that we runners take for granted,” Reuben says. “So they can feel the buzz, the excitement, when they get up early to pick up their race packets. They’re treated like athletes, just like everybody else.”

Just like everybody else. That’s part of the appeal for Matt, who used to watch through his living room window while the neighborhood kids played outside.

“I was really searching for something to do — I was bored,” says Matt, a junior at Forest Hills Northern High School.

Now he participates in a few races each year, whizzing along in a road-hugging “stroller,” pushed by volunteer athletes.

“When Matt was first approached about doing this, the other boys his age were getting into sports, and he was having a hard time coming to terms with his cerebral palsy,” says Matt’s mom, Anne, who with husband Mike have four children. “Now, it’s a huge social thing for him. He used to love whoever could take him through the race the fastest. Now, he wants the race to last as long as possible so he can spend more time with the people pushing.”

An Ironman came up with the idea.


Reuben, 46, a physical therapist and director of sports medicine at Metro Health Sports Medicine, was training for an Ironman event in 2007 when the idea for myTeam Triumph first surfaced.

“I was 40, trying to show that I could still do this,” he says. “It was a self-centered goal.”

But once he was at the event, he saw people using it as a platform for good. Fundraising. Raising awareness. It hit him hard — this wasn’t all about him.

“I went home inspired,” Reuben says. What could he do in Grand Rapids to bring more heart to his races?

Reuben met with a few friends at a coffee shop and they talked of seeing the occasional runner pushing a family member with a disability in a stroller chair meant for racing.

“But not everybody in a wheelchair has a family member who’s an athlete,” he says.







myTeam Triumph started taking shape. They decided to call the person in the chair the “captain.”

“We wanted the race to be about them,” Reuben says. “They were in charge. We wanted them to feel like rock stars.”

They would call the runners who pushed the captains “angels.”

“They’re in the background,” he says, “but this couldn’t happen without them.”

They would match three angels to a captain, they decided, to lessen the fatigue and allow more people to be involved.

“They could take turns pushing,” Reuben says. “Maybe one person can’t run a 26 mile marathon. But as a team, you can.”

Their first year of four races went so well they decided to create a West Michigan chapter, in hopes the nonprofit would go national.

Today there are 25 chapters in 19 states and Canada.

“We’ve been in Runners World and on NBC,’” Reuben says proudly. “But a lot of people don’t realize it all started right here in Grand Rapids.”

The first year, the West Michigan group involved eight or 10 captains and a handful of angels. This year will involve close to 60 captains, Reuben says, and 200 angels.







When you think about it, he says, it’s not surprising the mission has caught on.

“It’s good for the captains, the angels, the other racers, the families,” Reuben says. “There’s this whole buzz surrounding all of them, a buzz of something less selfish.

“People get very caught up in themselves,” he says. “They’re often too busy to pay attention to the good around them. We want to influence the next generation. A lot of young athletes are just focused on winning races. We want them to aspire to more.”

Last year Reuben ran the entire Grand Rapids Marathon pushing Matt. He picked him up every Saturday morning and every Tuesday afternoon so they could train together.

“When I race as an individual, and cross the finish line, I say ‘I did it,’” Reuben says. “When I race as an angel, I say, ‘We made this happen. Captain Matt has completed the race.’

“If Captain Matt is in the chair, everybody’s yelling, ‘Go, Captain Matt!’ Nobody’s yelling ‘Go, Terence!’” Reuben says.

He loves that. So does Matt.

“This has changed me so much, the way I look at things,” Matt says. “I never say, ‘Poor me — I have this disability.’ I cheer on the people who are worse off than me.”

Ask Matt to describe the feeling of a race day and he says he can’t really put it into words.

But then he does. Perfectly.

“I get up early, and there’s definitely adrenaline going,” Matt says. “Once I hear the horn that starts the race, I think, ‘All right — it’s time to go.’ Then, it’s just amazing. I think, ‘I’m doing this!’ Yeah, I need some help to do it, from some really great people.

“But I’m doing it.”


For more information on myTeam Triumph West Michigan, including how to sign up as a captain or angel, visit mttwestmichigan.org. Also, be sure to check them out on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/MyTeam-Triumph-West-Michigan-Chapter

In addition to captains and angels, the organization needs volunteers to help at events, donors to contribute financially and sponsors willing to support the mission with $5,000 or more. A goal for 2014: spreading the word about the organization to the African American and Latino communities.