Wednesday, August 17, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Snacks from the Mitten

All photos taken inside Holiday Market in Royal Oak by Nicole Rupersburg.

We Michiganders don’t screw around when it comes to our snack foods. Some of our all-time favorite snacky-cakes and cheesy poofs (etc.) are made right here at home and they’re some of the best products on the market. We love to support local, but we love it even more when our local products are better.

Kelly’s Karamels
Kelly’s Karamels, based in Troy, are a long-held family tradition. The recipe used for these traditional soft caramels is the same one Grandma Renie used decades ago, using only six ingredients. These slow-cooked, all-natural caramels are soft and chewy – no hard edges, no strange textures, just mouthfuls of beautiful buttery caramel that melt in your mouth but don’t stick to your teeth. Old-fashioned is so nouveau.

Stahl’s Famous Original Bakery
Stahl’s Bakery has been hand-baking in New Baltimore for 78 years now. Their famous “Belly Button Cookies” started as a baking mistake and have since become a Detroit favorite for the past 30+ years. These chocolate and walnut praline-style cookies are delicate and break easily, but their buttery crunch and explosive flavor is addictive. You’ll eat them like chips and, much like Lay’s, you can’t eat just one.

Garden Fresh Gourmet
Garden Fresh Salsa is the number one salsa in North America, racking up numerous awards over the last 13 years. But this Ferndale-based company (in wide national distribution) makes a variety of other fresh products, including our favorite: Garlic Lover’s Hummus. It is exactly what it says it is, and you should be exactly that to fully enjoy it. Their unsalted tortilla chips are some of the best you can buy in stores.

Sanders Candy
Sanders has been around since 1875, so it is with utter and total assurance that we say that no one can remember a time when an ice cream sundae with Sanders hot fudge wasn’t the grand dame of local desserts. Their signature Cream Puff and Bumpy Cake are classic (if you don’t know, you’re not from around here), but it’s the jars of hot fudge we know you stash in your fridge for late-night spoonfuls while your sig-o sleeps. Don’t lie. We’ve seen the morning-after chocolate stains.

McClure’s Pickles
Pickles as a snack? Hell, these pickles could be a full meal. Great Grandma Lala’s old pickle-making recipe has created a whole new legion of devotees. The Spicy Pickles and Garlic Dill Pickles are so packed with flavor you’ll eat them straight out of the jar. Their Bloody Mary Mix is agreed by 10 out of 10 people who know what they’re talking about to be the best Bloody Mary Mix possibly in all of history and the world. Their brine is even used in shots called a “pickleback.” And have you ever had one of their pickles deep-fried? (Go to Rosie O’Grady’s if not.) We rest our case.

Koegel Meats
Since 1916 Koegel Meats in Flint has been making some of the best hot dogs in metro Detroit. They make a wide variety of processed meat products – all kinds of franks, sausages, bologna, brats and loafs – but it is the signature snap of those classic natural-casing Viennas that we always go back to.

Charley’s Ballpark Mustard
And no proper hot dog can be served without mustard. Just ask Charley Marcuse, the infamous Singing Hot Dog Man of Comerica Park, he of the additional “There is no ketchup in baseball” fame. He is so passionate about the mustard-only hot dog that he made his own – and it might just be the best damn mustard you’ll ever taste.

Thomas Organic Creamery

The all-natural, organic ice cream from Thomas Organic Creamery in Henderson starts with their 35 grass-fed Jersey dairy cows. The milk from these cows is rich in butterfat, which makes for a decadent, richly-flavored ice cream. Every item they use is certified organic and the highest quality they can find, from the mint in the Michigan Mint Chocolate Chip to the Madagascar vanilla.

Better Made Potato Chips and Snack Foods

With over 80 years in business, Better Made’s potato chips might be the snack food Michigan is best known for. But what makes a potato chip “better” made? They use locally-grown potatoes and trans fat-free cottonseed oil to produce their slightly thicker, slightly less greasy, slightly potato-ier potato chips. Could this be the reason Detroiters eat on average 7-lbs of potato chips annually, compared to the rest of the country’s 4-lbs? We’re not fat, we’re husky.

Vanilla Crème Soda. Grape. Orange. The appropriately-named Red Pop. (And yes, it’s POP.) The transcendent Rock and Rye. A whole world of fun, colorful flavors (Jazzin’ Blues Berry! Pineapple!) including 6-packs in glass bottles of the original flavors, made with 100% pure cane sugar. You almost have to feel bad for people in other states who don’t understand that “red” is a flavor and “pop” is soda.

Germack Pistachio Company
Since 1924, Germack has been an artisan roaster of a variety of nuts including pistachios, cashews, walnuts, almonds and pecans. But the red pistachios – red for no good reason other than that they can be – is what sticks out in the hearts and memories of Detroiters. As you break open each nut your fingers turn a progressively brighter shade of pink, which is why they’re also called “red lip” pistachios – for obvious reasons. Visit their retail store in historic Eastern Market, or order online at

Good People Popcorn
Good People Popcorn is a family-owned gourmet popcorn shop in downtown Detroit. They make their popcorn fresh daily and offer the standard butter, caramel and cheese flavors (try the caramel and cheese mix for the good ‘ol sweet ‘n salty combo), as well as seasonal flavors such as the bacon cheddar made with cheddar popcorn and bacon seasoning.

A slightly different version appeared in print and online, view it here.

Want to see more? Check out the Flickr set here.