Actual Coffee, Simply Jess Blog, Be Local, coffee, artisan coffee roaster, Toledo Coffee

Toledo’s Own Actual Coffee

Actual Coffee is Both Sustainable and Exceptional

While the flavor and quality of Toledo’s own Actual Coffee speaks for itself, the one thing that stands out to me most about the company are the words of the owner himself: “I wanted to be a healthy cog in the coffee roasting business.” Lance, chief coffee roaster and founder of Actual Coffee, has a passion for ethically sourced, finely roasted coffee and the stories behind his hometown venture. His business mirrors his coffee, a labor of love, not born overnight, cultivated, handcrafted, and worth every bean.

Actual Coffee, Simply Jess Blog, Be Local, coffee, artisan coffee roaster, Toledo Coffee

Four months ago I declared that if I am to only have one cup of coffee a day, it was going to be darn good coffee. Freshly ground, locally roasted coffee only. High maintenance? … I like to call it high standards, and let me just say – my one and only pregnancy demand. We have been long supporters of fresh, locally roasted coffee. It was always in the house, and to Starbucks dismay, our preferred way to buy coffee. It was our evening/weekend coffee, not our morning jolt to functionality. Well, not anymore. One good cup, still to be enjoyed; savored during my few minutes of morning peace before work. On the weekends, it’s the quiet morning pour over, that starts with opening that bag of beans and taking in the sweet smell of coffee roasted this week, right here in Toledo. Ahh, the little things I expect to come to a screeching halt come late January. Not the coffee, just the peace and quiet of solitude.

Actual Coffee, Simply Jess Blog, Be Local, coffee, artisan coffee roaster, Toledo Coffee

For this Simply Jess 1 year anniversary post (woohoo!!) I wanted to bring back coffee. Darn good coffee! The Toledo coffee roasting movement  has grown tremendously over the past few years, and one of the major players has been Actual Coffee. Roasting beans since 2012 as a business, Lance Roper found his niche in the third wave, ethically sourced, coffee movement that had finally made its way to Toledo, Ohio. Upon reading a book of coffee history, Uncommon Grounds, Lance found himself challenged by the social and environmental consequences that come from big corporation coffee consumption. This luxury product so vastly consumed by first world countries, created modern-day slaves to the coffee industry at the root, the farms in which the coffee berries are grown and harvested. But he also found that consciously sourcing coffee distributors worked with old farms that cared as much for their workers, as the product they were growing. Actual Coffee was born, out of an effort to make a positive contribution to the coffee buying industry. Lance wanted to sell coffee that was sustainable, both environmentally and socially, but was a hands down superior, top quality product. “If you put our coffee next to a big brand’s take on coffee, you’d know which one was Actual Coffee.” Awesome.

Actual Coffee, Simply Jess Blog, Be Local, coffee, artisan coffee roaster, Toledo Coffee

Actual Coffee has seen the largest growth through word of mouth. Starting with Bleak House Coffee, Lance would practically volunteer hours at the coffee shop in order to get his roasts out to the public. Not too long later Becky Ohm, from the Flying Joe, approached Actual Coffee about distribution in their store. This has been a great, long standing relationship that has encouraged creativity though both business. Next, came an urgent request from DaCapo Coffee in Temperance, MI. DaCappo became a milestone for Actual Coffee, as this is the only coffee they serve to their customers. It has not only resulted in major growth, but new ideas as well. Element 112 became the first fine restaurant to serve Actual Coffee, and Walt Churchill’s the first grocer. Most recently Lance also had the opportunity to bring his coffee back to the downtown area with distribution to Rustbelt Coffee and Creamery. Each a new business relationship, and each a new way to get the people of Toledo familiar to where there coffee dollar is going.

Actual Coffee, Simply Jess Blog, Be Local, coffee, artisan coffee roaster, Toledo Coffee

The picture I see is that conscious coffee is part of a larger practice of conscious spending. When you shop at a local business, who buys from a local vendor, who buys from an ethical sourcer, who buys from a sustainable farm, and each business along the chain has employees that have a face, a name, a family, a story who are taken care of through good business practices. Have you ever thought your hard earned dollars could impact a world of people just by buying good coffee?

Actual Coffee, Simply Jess Blog, Be Local, coffee, artisan coffee roaster, Toledo Coffee

So, why Toledo? Why grow slow and organically in Northwest Ohio as opposed to moving to a place much larger where people are used to paying more for goods or a place where craft coffee is expected? At Actual Coffee headquarters, this passionate one man operation and his 20-pound an hour roaster sees the value in Toledo. “I love downtown and we’ve come so far.” Although, Lance takes a very calculated, and scientific approach to roasting coffee, he also takes pride in sharing the flavors that interest him with the community. Toledoians seem to favor fruity, Ethiopian roasts, but what most may not realize is this is a competition level coffee that we get to enjoy. Each roast is so unique, and the single origin roasts have been so well received that with input from coffee shops and consumers Lance recently stepped out of the box to created a truly unique espresso blend. While blend used to be a bit of a dirty word to a single origin roaster, this espresso has the ability to encompass the best Brazil, Ethiopian, and Central American flavors in one tiny cup. This espresso can stand alone, and doesn’t need to be masked by steamed milk and flavors; but if that is your preference, it will make your drink even better.

Actual Coffee, Simply Jess Blog, Be Local, coffee, artisan coffee roaster, Toledo Coffee

While Lance continues to pursue growth and development to expand capacity for Actual Coffee, he is also continually working to be a well trained, educated, and multi service coffee expert. He works hard to constantly learn and improve techniques, and offer full services to the coffee chops in the area to help them grow through better equipment as well. Lance put great importance on the equipment you use to make your coffee. The quality of your water, grinder, and your brewing method are what make a great cup of coffee.

Actual Coffee, Simply Jess Blog, Be Local, coffee, artisan coffee roaster, Toledo Coffee

The coffee you buy isn’t about the label, claims, or certification that a company has slapped on the front. It’s about where it started. Do you know where your coffee truly originates from? Buying from a small batch, artisan coffee roaster means you not only have the opportunity to know where it comes from, but you can also trust in the supply chain. That hard earned money you spend on coffee makes a much greater impact than you would believe, and it starts here at home. Be Local.

Actual Coffee, Simply Jess Blog Coffee Giveaway
Giveaway time! Like Actual Coffee, and Simply Jess on Facebook. Then share this picture! #BeLocal #ToledoCoffee

Surprise!! Happy Anniversary Actual Coffee Giveaway!!! Actual Coffee believes so much in their beans they want you to have the opportunity to try a bag of hand crafted, specialty Toledo roasted coffee! It’s roasters choice; Lance is going to roast the winner a fresh bag of Actual Coffee and it will be mailed straight to your house! What you have to do is (1) Like BOTH Actual Coffee’s Facebook page and The Simply Jess Blog Facebook page. (2) Share the post we have on both of our pages to your Facebook page. The caption must have the #BeLocal #ToledoCoffee. Shares must be made by 5pm Friday (8/19/2016). We will contact you via Facebook by Sunday 8/21/2016 to let you know if you won. Enjoy!

Simply,
Jess

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