Chef Peter Davidson has been overseeing the Vander Mill Grand Rapids kitchen for less than a month, but he is already incorporating some new ideas into the cider-maker’s food menu, with plans for a bigger overhaul later this year.
Davidson said he plans to focus on lighter-fare with bold flavors. “Beet poke is being considered,” he said. “I’m trying a citrus and chili marinated short rib.”
Davidson also plans to add more sandwich options, noting a dearth of lunch options in the area – which has several businesses operating in the vicinity.
“We are planning to add more sandwiches and salads. We are surrounded by a potential lunch crowd,” he said.
Davidson said although he’s a classically trained French chef, he prefers lighter meals to traditional French cuisine. “I enjoy the lighter, brighter – Mexican, Latin, ceviche, grilled meats – more than the heavier traditional French,” he said.
The lighter cuisine pairs well with ciders, too, which Davidson said is similar to wine. “It’s a lighter effervescent beverage. The Chapman’s is a great, bright, crispy, dry cider that is similar to a white wine,” he said.
Davidson said he’s been creating food menus around Vander Mill cider for several years now, having partnered with Sietsema Orchards in the past on cider-based dinner events during his time at the Winchester.
“I like cider. We had cider at the Winchester and that’s where I met Paul (Vander Heide, owner of Vander Mill) originally. He would drive kegs up from Spring Lake. That was the exposure to cider, and doing monthly dinners at Sietsema’s.”
Davidson is well known in the Grand Rapids food scene. After beginning his culinary career out West in Colorado, where he spent a decade, and completing his culinary training at the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Pennsylvania, he returned to Grand Rapids and has worked in a host of local restaurants, including the Thornapple Inn, J.D. Reardon’s, Greenwell, Winchester and Grove.
Davidson comes to Vander Mill after five years operating the recently closed Suburba in Ada. He co-owned the restaurant with Sarah Andro, and said, unfortunately, it couldn’t withstand the construction that’s been taking place in Ada, which included a rerouting of the main road Suburba sat on.
“Not having alcohol and we didn’t skimp on our ingredients,” he said. “We were riding the line and then the main drag was moved and we couldn’t do anything about it. It definitely had an impact on us and was too hard to come back from.”
Davidson said he’s excited for this newest venture and encourages people to come in and try out the new menu items he’s creating, along with a glass of cider.
Try Chef Peter’s Golden Beet Poke recipe (pairs well with Vander Mill’s Chapman’s cider)
2 golden beets
2 cup water
2 tablespoon peppercorns
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon soy
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
Golden Beet Poke:
1 cup brown rice
2 roasted golden beets (directions below)
1 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds
1/4 cup tamari or soy
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sriracha
For roasted beets:
Mix all ingredients for roasted beets.
Place all in pan roast for 90 minutes at 350°F
Cut beets (large dice).
Toss with dressing, then set aside.
Place cooked brown rice in a bowl or plate.
Place beets on top of rice.
Garnish with scallions, avocado and sesame seeds.
Eat and enjoy!