Majestic Oak Winery Simply Jess Blog Toledo Ohio Wine Grapes Tour Vineyard Activity Music Bachelorette Brewery Beer Craft Brew Grand Rapids Northwest

Majestic Oak Winery – Good Wine Comes From Ohio

Cozy Winery Amongst the Corn

Whether it is a warm summer evening or a chilly spring/fall day you are guaranteed to find a decent crowd of people visiting Majestic Oak Winery in Grand Rapids Ohio.The rapidly growing winery located six miles north of downtown Grand Rapids, has made incredible changes since the first vines were planted in 2010, now offering nearly 18 different wines on site. Expansion has even allowed for the addition of The Neon Groundhog Brewing Company to provide both beer and wine options to visitors of the vineyard. Although Ohio may not be the first place you think of when you think “wine country”, we have well over 100 wineries in the state and additional ones popping up from year to year, allowing you to find really good wine right here in Ohio. This is partially what prompted Laura and Doug Rufenacht to create this delightful, comfortable space right here in Northwest Ohio.

Majestic Oak Winery Simply Jess Blog Toledo Ohio Wine Grapes Tour Vineyard Activity Music Bachelorette Brewery Beer Craft Brew Grand Rapids Northwest

Back in 2009, Doug and Laura set out on a mission to visit many of the Ohio destinations they just never got around to going to. Those places that make you say “We really need to check that place out,” but never seem to visit. One of their stops was to a winery near the Indiana border where they met the owners, and in the words of Doug and Laura they jokingly “Fell into the wrong crowd.” Soon enough they were back home in Grand Rapids researching how to operate an Ohio Winery. Fluctuating temperatures, late hard frosts, and unpredictable seasons were, and continue to be, the challenges they were up against. They had to move quickly as they need to order grapes in the fall to plant them for the next season. Luckily, Doug is no stranger to farming. So, they planted 500 individual grapevine plants the first year, 1000 the second year to bring Majestic Oak Winery to just over two acres of planted vineyard.

Majestic Oak Winery Simply Jess Blog Toledo Ohio Wine Grapes Tour Vineyard Activity Music Bachelorette Brewery Beer Craft Brew Grand Rapids Northwest

By 2013, Majestic Oak Winery was ready to harvest and produce their wines to offer to the general public. The newly built tasting room was open, and after much trial and error while perfecting their starter wine blends they were proud to be serving their carefully cultivated juice straight away. They grew out of their novice status pretty fast. While continuing to welcome wisdom and advice from other regional wineries, Doug and Laura learned the pruning, weeding, and pest control skills necessary for running a successful winery. From all nighters combatting frost, to the hot summer days spent picking off unwanted bugs, the job was never easy. “As much work as it is, [we] love what [we] do,” says Laura. “I love the people aspect, to see it enjoyed first hand.”

Majestic Oak Winery Simply Jess Blog Toledo Ohio Wine Grapes Tour Vineyard Activity Music Bachelorette Brewery Beer Craft Brew Grand Rapids Northwest

As a small business, Majestic Oak realizes the importance of being local. From exclusively using Toledo made Libbey Glassware, to being very selective on where they sell their wine, Laura and Doug are focused on the business of bringing people together. While you can’t find their wine at the Andersons, you can find it in places that encourage interaction with other local business owners. Thrush’s Bakery (Monclova), Cookies on Demand (Montpelier), The Log Cabin (Liberty Center), Knucklehead’s Kafé (Grand Rapids), Brooks Country Mercantile (Neapolis) and the Whitehouse Party Store were selected to carry Majestic Oak Wines because they believe in “supporting local by eating local, and enjoying local wine in a local restaurant.”

Majestic Oak Winery Simply Jess Blog Toledo Ohio Wine Grapes Tour Vineyard Activity Music Bachelorette Brewery Beer Craft Brew Grand Rapids Northwest

With great public response, and largely word of mouth advertising, it didn’t take long to realize they needed more space. Every year they add an additional place for guest to enjoy, indoors and out. Live music events have also brought patrons out in large numbers. They host large groups on Ohio wine tours and through Harvest Host, a camping club that caters to individuals looking to glamp and stay at wineries across the United States. Friday Night Cookouts give visitors the opportunity to grill fresh, wild caught Alaskan salmon, or a ribeye steak out on the patio though the summer and enjoy a bottle of wine on a nice summer evening. Lent brings fish fry season, and numerous other events that make this winery far more than you average place to taste and buy wine. 

Majestic Oak Winery Simply Jess Blog Toledo Ohio Wine Grapes Tour Vineyard Activity Music Bachelorette Brewery Beer Craft Brew Grand Rapids Northwest

 

2015 brought the addition of the brewery. “We like to do things as a couple,” says Doug when I asked “why add in beer?”. “It gives the opportunity to meet the other side of the couple.” With the growing trend toward craft beer, Majestic Oak began the Neon Groundhog Brewery to meet the needs of more visitors who weren’t particularly keen on wine. The beer is made from grains milled on site, and grain waste is recycled by being offered as a food source to livestock.

Majestic Oak Winery Simply Jess Blog Toledo Ohio Wine Grapes Tour Vineyard Activity Music Bachelorette Brewery Beer Craft Brew Grand Rapids Northwest

 

 

Having enjoyed several bottles of Majestic Oak wine over the past couple years, I can honestly say it’s tried and true in our household. Our first experience with Majestic Oak wine was having a glass while celebrating our anniversary at the Mill House Bed and Breakfast in Grand Rapids, Ohio. Sitting on the lovely patio of the B&B on a late spring evening, listening to the river and drinking a fruity but full bodied glass of wine was delightful. We asked about this winery we had never heard of, and the owners of the B&B (also delightful), told us they were new and how close they were. Soon, I began seeing posts on Facebook from family and friends. They loved how close it was to Toledo, and how much they were truly enjoying the wine Majestic Oak was producing. The following summer we made our way to the winery itself (google map link here). We sat outside in the sunshine, we enjoyed a large tasting and snacks; it was a wonderful afternoon with my husband. We have returned several times since and the only thing better than the wine itself, is seeing all different sorts of visitors having a good time as well.

Majestic Oak Winery Simply Jess Blog Toledo Ohio Wine Grapes Tour Vineyard Activity Music Bachelorette Brewery Beer Craft Brew Grand Rapids Northwest

Comfortable is the term most commonly used to describe the winery. From Bachelorette parties and girl’s night out, to cook-off competitions, and craft beer tasting, this is the kind of place that you can enjoy year-round and come-as you are. You can sit and sip wine under the large majestic oak, or enjoy music and food trucks on the weekends. It’s the experience you want it to be.
Cheers!

Be Local.
Simply Jess

*Words in a different color are outbound links expanding on the topic, definitions, or maps

Balance Pan Asian Grille, Simply Jess, Toledo, Ohio, Fresh, Local, Healthy, Clean, Fast, Causal, Dining

Balance Pan Asian Grille

A Fresh Take on Toledo

Balance Pan-Asian Grille – you’ve heard of them, driven past a store, or even stopped in. You see them around town at events like Zoo-To-Do, Barefoot at the Beach, and Jam City. Maybe you’ve seen the Bubble Tea cart at food truck congregations in Toledo. But do you know Balance? Natural, handmade, ethical, clean, fresh, and local. That is Balance.

Balance Pan Asian Grille, Simply Jess, Toledo, Ohio, Fresh, Local, Healthy, Clean, Fast, Causal, Dining

Balance was born in 2010 as a creative restaurant concept formed by two University of Toledo grads. Both PK and HoChan were raised here in NW Ohio, and started their college education at Bowling Green State University. As college was wrapping up for these two entrepreneurs, they took a friendship and formulated a business partnership. They very much liked the idea and convenience of fast-casual dining, but not the guilt-ridden, poor quality side you usually get with said convenience. They wanted to open the type of place where good quality food tastes great and gives the customer choices; to create food that adds a personal aspect of what you would want to eat yourself and food you can feel confident serving your family.

Balance Pan Asian Grille, Simply Jess, Toledo, Ohio, Fresh, Local, Healthy, Clean, Fast, Causal, Dining

This is how “Balance” came into play. Proteins, fats, carbohydrates forming proper nutrition and options for great tasting, nutrient dense foods. PK and HoChan felt that healthy-Asian food was a bit of an untapped market here in the Toledo area. HoChan comes from a family of restaurant owners, and grew up learning many of the ins and outs of the industry. But developing a place that would need to carry such a large amount of fresh produce and free range, ethically sourced foods was going to be a challenge. The guys studied food trends of the West Coast and took into account age-focused beverage trends, like bubble tea. After much searching, the they were able to find a reasonable location for their new venture. You can only imagine how easy this was: two twenty-something college graduates, facing the business real estate market of a near-fatally wounded, post-ICU economy in 2010….. Oh yeah, no problem.

Balance Pan Asian Grille, Simply Jess, Toledo, Ohio, Fresh, Local, Healthy, Clean, Fast, Causal, Dining

Maumee, Ohio would be the first home to Balance Pan Asian Grille. With knowledge that the Arrowhead Park-Premier Business Park area would be more of a lunch stop, PK and HoChan built a menu that was based on whole foods. Although this requires a lot of preparation to take unprepared meats, grains, and produce and create them into desirable dishes by lunchtime, they were up for the challenge. As popularity grew for the new restaurant thanks mostly to word of mouth, and partially to PKs social media/IT genius, Balance underwent a major evolutionary period thanks to feedback from customers and the business perceptions of PK and HoChan. This is when Balance introduced the signature menu of today the Build-a-Bowl and Snack menu. They found what worked!

Balance Pan Asian Grille, Simply Jess, Toledo, Ohio, Fresh, Local, Healthy, Clean, Fast, Causal, Dining

Through the Build-a-Bowl and Snack menu, Balance was able to have signature meal options, involving the whole food practices they valued, and also created options and flexibility for their customers. Whether you want a whole meal, or a quick healthy snack to tide you over, or if you wanted both, the new concept also gave HoChan the option to play with seasonal options in order to keep things interesting and creative. With a very loosely similar concept to Chipotle, Balance now gives patrons the option to pick your protein, starch, and sauce, as well as pick and choose what veggies they want, or do not want included. Because every dish is made to order and sauce is always served on the side, customers can be sure that they are getting the exact meal they want. There are plenty of customer-favorite ideas as well if so many choices is an overwhelming concept, but the customer service at Balance allows new visitors to be walked through the menu.

Balance Pan Asian Grille, Simply Jess, Toledo, Ohio, Fresh, Local, Healthy, Clean, Fast, Causal, Dining

The very flexible, interchangeable menu, and the impeccable quality gave Balance the boost they needed to continue to grow. Now with three locations Maumee (at Dussel and Ford), Sylvania/Toledo (at Central and Holland-Sylvania), and the newest in Perrysburg (N. Dixie Highway and Eckel Junction) Balance now has the options to serve most of the Toledo area population. This growth has also provided new creative opportunities for their menu. I must say, I was pretty blown away by their new seasonal taco menu for summer 2016! From refreshing to a flavorful, spicy kick these west-coast taco truck style tacos are the makings of a perfect summer dinner (or lunch, your choice). HoChan was also very proud to say that all of their Balance-made sauces are vegan friendly and many are gluten-free (all of their sauces are made from scratch, within the company). Because meals are made as soon as you order, Balance is able to accommodate most food allergies, and dietary restrictions with ease. Ordering is easy too – In store or Online here.

Balance Pan Asian Grille, Simply Jess, Toledo, Ohio, Fresh, Local, Healthy, Clean, Fast, Causal, Dining, Food

One aspect I love about Balance is the community involvement. From participating in many charitable events, to sourcing as much seasonally fresh, local produce as they possibly can, it’s important for a business to be a invested into their community as they want their community investing in them. Together, PK and HoChan are working with other chefs, farms, and organizations to “make it delicious in Toledo.” It was so cool to me to see pictures from one of the CSA farms in Toledo showing PK and HoChan around the fields in which their food is coming from. It’s a mutual investment. These guys are showing us another aspect of “It Matters Where You Make It,” and they are making it in Toledo!

Check out Balance Pan Asian Grille on Facebook, live Tweet in restaurant (@Balancegrille), and follow the Simply Jess Blog (Facebook, @JCiesler on Instagram and Twitter) for more food pictures and updates on events!

Be Local.
Simply Jess

CSA Swiss chard, carrots, scapes, garlic, sausage, quinoa, fast, easy, simple, dinner, supper, weeknight

What’s In My CSA? Swiss Chard with Spicy Italian Sausage

Gluten Free, Weeknight Dinner, 5 Ingredients

Some nights I just need to make a quick meal. Plain and simple. But I don’t want quick to equal a less than nutritious, non-balanced, or boxed meal. This is one thing I love about participating in a CSA program, I have seasonal, fresh vegetables well stocked and I need to make the best use of them. Most of my CSA produce is best when used within 5-7 days, unless you are  good at small batch preserving. Items like garlic scapes (the green tops to a garlic bulb that only make an appearance for a few short weeks in the early summer), and delicate late June Swiss chard, need to be eaten fairly quickly but pack an awesome flavor and nutritional punch. Swiss chard is full of antioxidants, and vitamin A, giving the body the prevention tools it needs against cancer and diabetes, and promotes bone, eye, and brain health. While at the Farmers Market this past week we purchased some spicy Italian pork sausage from a local farm that offers shoppers some wonderful cuts of pork and chicken. This recipe was not the intent for the sausage, I just like having some more indulgent varieties of meat in the freezer for occasions like tonight. While we balance our meat and meat-free meals, I don’t think products like good sausage are terrible so long as they are not a daily occurrence.

Tonight, I wanted to use many of my CSA ingredients to show you a flavorful, summer meal that is a cinch to make and only uses two pots.

Summer CSA Skillet: Swiss Chard and Spicy Italian Sausage
Ingredients:

2 links (or 7 ounces) spicy Italian sausage, sliced into bite-size pieces
2 large or 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
4  whole garlic scapes, sliced
3 cups Swiss chard, de-stemmed and leaves torn

1 cup cooked quinoa (optional, or change for preferred grain)

Recipe

*Always wash/rinse all produce before consumption

  1. Cook Quinoa (or preferred grain) per package instructions
  2. Slice slightly frozen Italian sausage into bite sized pieces
  3. In a castiron skillet, cook the sausage at a medium heat to prevent dryness
  4. Once sausage is cooked (no longer pink) and beginning to brown, add carrots, mixing frequently until carrots are soft
  5. Add garlic scapes and destemmed Swiss chard, mix in and cook until chard is wilted
  6. Serve over quinoa

Calories: 400, Protein: 20, Fat: 23, Carbs: 30

Let me know what you think when you try it for yourself

Be Local.
Simply,
Jess