27 November 2008
For a pre-Thanksgiving dinner, Brad and I decided to check out the new Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery (next door to Cafe Habana [their downstairs bars actually connect] and owned by the same business group). We didn't really have any expectations, but immediately upon walking in we were impressed. It doesn't feel like Ann Arbor inside, but I don't really know how to explain that. It's dark, woody, rustic, but not WT. There was a 30-minute wait, so we headed to the bar, which is where we normally prefer to eat at bar-type restaurants. Brad was immediately impressed by the ice bar alongside the bar and the home-brewed beers (there is one called bearded pig!), and I was taken with the yummy cocktail list (I decided on the southern peach, with vodka and peachtree). We got our menus and were in love -- basket of fried goodness (okra poppers, fried green tomatoes, and cornmeal-fried pickles [ew] with buttermilk-lime dip); warm potato chip basket with tractor seasoning and blue cheese fondue for dipping; black-eyed pea and arugula salad; crunch burger topped with warm potato chips and melted American cheese; beer can chicken with free-range chicken slow-cooked on a can of beer and served with buttermilk mashers, pan gravy, and fresh vegetable; three different kinds of mac and cheese; creamed wild mushrooms on cornmeal waffles with braised greens; ribs; steaks; salmon; catfish... So many things to try! I decided on the catfish po'boy and Brad the ribs. At this point, we were nervous because if the food wasn't good we were going to be so disappointed.
Guess what? We weren't. Brad liked his ribs and the taste I snagged of the buttermilk mashed potatoes was super tasty. My catfish po'boy was perfect -- light, not overly breaded, with a pepper and tomato salsa on it with a hint of lime. They also let me get cheddar grits instead of fries. We were in heaven. And full. But of course decided to try out a piece of the deep dish pecan pie. Yum yum. It is official. We have a new favorite place! haha!
25 November 2008
And it was! The custard set just fine... I was so relieved.
23 November 2008
I hadn't actually read the restaurant website before we went, just enough to know it was basically about meat and, specifically, pigs... So I was pretty surprised to see it's a trendy little (well, not little, it's huge) place. I guess I expected something a little more up north... Ha! But it was really nice, expectations aside, and we got a nice roomy booth near the bar and wine room. Since we're right there... Might as well order up some wine, right? Melissa and I split a bottle of Riesling, and Brad and Doug split a bottle of the most peppery Shiraz I've ever tried.
While I'm typically not a big meat and steak kinda gal, I was pleasantly surprised by the menu selection. When we went to Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak in Vegas, I went in knowing it was mostly meat, and it was, and pretty standard fare at that. But at Roast, we found stuff I've never seen on a menu before. Including a daily roast beast special, which is actually roasting on a spit in the main dining room.
For starters, we decided on the crispy chicken livers with soft polenta and mushrooms. I know I know... But Doug was game to share them with me, so we ordered them up. It was a toss up between those and the beef cheek pierogie. Other starters included stuffed peppers, roasted marrow, crispy fresh bacon... Anyway, the livers came, and, weirdly enough, they taste exactly how they smell. They elicited a flat-out "YUCK!" from Melissa and Brad ("That just ruined my whole dinner!"), while Doug loved 'em and I thought the were ok. They were super tinny but I ate my whole half, so I must have liked them enough. While glad I tried something new, I don't know that I would order them again.
Main course time! Melissa went with the filet, Doug the roast beast special (pulled pork), Brad the strip steak, and I went with the asldfkjbdslsdfjk. Yep! The asldkfjdfgh! :) (ok, ok, I ordered the veal. I know it is so wrong, but I really have enjoyed veal in many other dishes before so I thought I'd try a full-on veal steak.) While I can't speak for everyone else specifically, my asldkjblkd was pretty tasty! It was steakier than I expected, but it was so tender, and even the fat just melted in my mouth. I also had a side of spinach and feta au gratin. Yum. I tried out Brad's whipped potatoes and they did not disappoint, either. But like I said, lots of tantalizing options on the menu, like braised lamb shank, venison chop, and even three fish options for any veggies out there (and my new favorite, roasted beet salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and watercress). AND there is a mac and cheese side with goat cheese. Next time...
Dessert time! I pawned a good chunk of my steak off on Doug, so I had plenty of room for something sweet. Brad and I decided on "beer and pretzels" -- Guinness ice cream with caramel and chocolate-covered pretzels. It was delicious! (We discovered the yum factor of Guinness ice cream and hot sauce at Conor's a few weeks ago.) We also decided to treat ourselves to a dessert drink, so he ordered a glass of his new most favoritest drink ever, port, and I decided to try out the orange muscat (which the waiter assured me was like muscato, but with a hint of orange [well, duh!]). It was delicious!!! I must find this for my ever-expanding wine collection...
So final assessment? A lovely place for a nice dinner with friends, and it's always fun to get out of town for an evening. While no one was totally blown away by their meal, everyone agreed it was tasty, and there are so many more things on the menu I want to try, so I definitely hope to go back sometime soon. I would recommend it, fo sho.
Quick aside -- afterward, we headed upstairs to the hotel bar, which was totally overrun by black tie attendees of a Wayne State election reception that had been held downstairs in one of the ballrooms. Oh yeah, and Ernie Hudson, too.
22 November 2008
You! Let me! Eat! Your hat! NOW!
Second things second, I heart Nicola's Books. When I went in two weeks ago and got my (signed!) copy of the new Wally Lamb, I grabbed a copy of the November newsletter, which alerted me to a giaganto sale going on this week. A select group of books are 20% off (and it's not all crap -- lots of good stuff like Animal Vegetable Miracle, The Thirteenth Tale, a handful of children's books, dog photo books...), and everything else in the store is 10% off, including cards and gifts. Today I finally made it over there and made a killing (support your local shops -- it IS Buy Local First Week!).
A copy of the new Wally for my mom, 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die (for me!), a box of Christmas cards, and a few other various Xmas and bday gifts. Because I'm now a member of their book club (everything you buy counts toward free stuff), I received a free book based on how much I spent. I had my choice between fiction and non, so I chose non. After shopping, I ran next door to Barry Bagel's (yes, that's what the sign says and it annoys me EVERY time [they also had a sign inside that said "Pumpkin Bagels: There here." eeeeee!]) to grab some breakfast. Came home, sat down with my bagel and diet coke, and opened up my free gift. What luck -- it's a food book: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, a memoir by a food writer and restaurant critic. It's like they knew I was coming. Thanks, Nicola!
PS The sale is going on through tomorrow, so run on over if you get a chance!
20 November 2008
Onto the muffins. Note to self... If something seems weird while following a recipe, listen to your gut. I was doing other stuff so I guess I wasn't focused enough or something. I followed the recipe -- the harvest muffins, also here. (Except I used melted margarine instead of vegetable oil and applesauce instead of an egg.) I'm moving along, thinking, shouldn't there be sugar? Maybe I should just throw some in? Oh well, the recipe knows best! So I finish my muffins, throw them in the oven, and they smell awesome. Much better than the melted plastic that our house STILL smells like after a"tart incident" I dared not tell you about...
Hmm... They LOOK lovely...
First bite, something is wrong. I go back and look at the recipe... It DID call for sugar! I read that list like 10 times. How did I miss that?!?!? UGH. So..... they aren't very good. They're edible -- just taste like biscuits with raisins in them. (Brad did spit his out.) I don't think I was meant to bake.
19 November 2008
There were two tables of 8 and two tables of 4 set up, with a delicious-looking cheese and fruit plate on each. We were the first to arrive (of course), but the room slowly filled up and finally it was time to taste our first champagne, a Cava from Spain.
The tasting was MC'd by, um, some chick (I forgot her name almost instantly), who is Vinology's lecturer/tasting host person (I also forgot her title almost instantly). She discussed each champagne specifically but also covered the basics about it -- how it's made, stuff like that. She also had lots of interesting tidbits. Did you know that 50% of champagne is sold between November and January, and 25% of that is sold during the week between Christmas and New Years? Makes sense, I suppose, but our goal for 2009 should be to spread the champagne love throughout the year!
Anyway, back to the tasting... We started with that Cava, and then we learned that all the champagnes to be served were bruts. Bah! Me no likely brut as much! Oh well... It was still bound to be tasty. (And it was.) There were two that I thought were just horrible: J Cuvee from California (it smelled like a public bathroom) and, surprise surprise, Shady Lane Brut. Remember the buttholes from Leelenau that carded me then chucked my wine on the ground?
Alas, there was lots o' yum, too, including a Taltarni brut Tache, which, our neighbor said "looks like a wedding from the '80s." Ha! Of course, the yummiest of yummies, a Delamotte brut, from France, was the most expensive bottle, and by far the most expensive champagne I've ever had. Lucky for me, once you finished your glass, if it wasn't time to move on to the next champagne, they gave you seconds... and thirdsies! Mmm.
And the food... Ahh the food... The first appetizer we had was sweet potato french fries -- apparently chips and popcorn are a perfect champagne pairing (classy!) because the oil tempers the acid in the champagne and the salt "accentuates the flavor profile." The second appetizer was a sweet potato o'gratin with duck confit. YUM! I would love to try and re-create the o'gratin -- I'm not a huge sweet potato fan, but this was delicious. (Oh! Brainstorm! Maybe I'll try and make it for Thanksgiving... Hmm...) The final course was a pork confit with pickled watermelon on a toasted brioche. This too was simply delicious (and luckily I'm mostly over my Zingermans-induced pork phobia).
Oh oh oh! And a final note... My lovely L. Mawby (Sex maker!) got a shoutout as the pioneer of Michigan sparkling wines. She said lots of other stuff about him and his methods... blah blah blah... I can't focus that well with oodles of bubbly in front of me... But I did catch that L. is Larry -- he IS a real dude.
What a night. A perfect evening with my Bradford and my bubbles.
14 November 2008
Now that I can officially drink again, I ordered myself up the pom pom martini. Let's just say that going nearly two months without alcohol, well, I was a little loopy eyed. Did I really need that ice wine martini next? Probably not. But I've been wanting to re-try ice wine since our wine tour, and you can't get it by the glass. I figured this was second best, and it's Vinology's "signature" martini. It was ok.... I had a hard time reconciling how it looked (pink martini) with how it tasted (wine with grape puree). I don't know that I'd order it again, but I'm glad I tested it out.
Ladies: I don't know how long the sale is for, but if you need a coat, nearly all the winter coats are 50% off at Kohls! I have a hard time finding winter coats (silly narrow shoulders!), so you can imagine my dismay at having to toss my most perfect winter coat last year (there was a puke incident). I've been dreading having to really shop for one this year, but luckily Kohl's totally came through. I actually even found a FEW I liked -- imagine that, having to decide between coats! :) Here's the lovely lady... (and you can't tell well, but it has a "shawl" collar, which is actually totally cute.)
Now I just need to get around to sewing some sort of fuzzy material around the neckline. Wool. Ugh!......
13 November 2008
The store is in the Scio Town Center (across from the Zeeb Road Meijer) and is actually RIGHT next door to the Kitchen Port -- which I very much barely managed to avoid... Must... resist... kitchen... ware... Anyway, in I went. It was definitely smaller than I expected, but it was cute, had an interesting selection, and the dude (owner?) was super nice. First things first, I had him show me where the Michigan wine was. Not a ton (they have more at Plum Market), BUT... they had a trio of L. Mawby products, and I squealed in delight. Not ONLY did they have Sex, they also had Fizz! (The third was a brut. Yuck.) I grabbed a bottle of each for my stash. They carried some bottles from wineries we didn't visit, as well as some dessert wines from Black Star Farms. I haven't been able to find the Gewurztraminer I loved, so I grabbed one from Chateau Grand Traverse. Right next to the Michigan wines I spotted a late autumn Riesling from Ontario, so I grabbed that, too. When did I turn into a white wine drinker? Sheesh! Ha! Anyway, lastly, and more white wine, I grabbed a bottle of Moscato d'Asti, my new favoritest wine -- thanks to Melissa S. for turning me on to it! I also picked up a small iron wine rack because, hey, it was on sale.
When I was checking out, I was gushing about L. Mawby again and the (I assume) owner told me a funny story -- apparently each wine label has to be submitted and approved by the state. I guess when "he" (not sure who "he" is... Is L. Mawby a real guy?) started selling wine, the state kept denying all of his labels. So finally he submitted Sex as a joke... and they approved it! So that is how Sex came to be, well, Sex. Mmm.
If you're in the area... Pop in! Support your local mini wine shop! :)
10 November 2008
Rachel, you are truly amazing. I don't know if there's anyone else in the world that works three jobs, plays organized sports three times a week, volunteers weekly, and STILL has the energy and heart to organize a manual labor day for her birthday party.
My dear, I will gladly get up at 7 am for you anytime. It really was an inspiring day, and I hope it wasn't the last time I get to share my mad skillz with the awesome GH peeps.
07 November 2008
04 November 2008
02 November 2008
Even the dogs were impressed.
The second squash was a little bigger and required a little more effort -- as always, the ever-awesome pumpkin carving knife came to the rescue! I still finished with this one in just a minute or two. Sweet!
Time to chop chop chop, toss 'em in oil, and throw 'em in the oven.
Eventually, it was time to put all the pieces together. All told, it took about an hour to get to this point. Not too bad, but definitely not a quick weeknight dinner. Here she is... all primed and ready to cook cook cook!
About 30 minutes later...
Time to dig in! Mmm... (Note the cute new plates -- all the Halloween stuff was 50% off at Target! Score.)
The verdict: Mmm. Mmm. :) BUT you HAVE to like squash. It's very squashy. But I liked it. Brad liked it, but I could tell he expected more cheese less squash. Next time I make it, I will knock the squash down a little (I think I may have used a little too much anyway), use whole fat ricotta (I used light... I know I know I should know better), and use a thicker layer of cheese on the top. I'd also up the sage content and add a little more salt and pepper to the squash. But it was tasty, pretty easy, and the perfect way to end a yum-filled weekend.
PS. This was my first time using my recipe binder, and I loved it. It kept the water off my recipe (I make a mess -- all of my recipes and cookbooks are covered in stains), and I'm able to clip little notes about what to do next time. Binder one is finished, I'm halfway through binder two!
01 November 2008
Think we were too full for dessert? HA! We even each got our OWN! he he he Mmmm. Brad ordered the lemon bread pudding and I snagged the cold weather crumble (oats, pears, apples, cranberries)... Mine was super tasty but I honestly had a little order envy over Brad's. I heart lemon. Luckily he let me steal a few bites.
I just can't rave enough. Clearly, not an every day place. But if anyone has a special occasion coming up soon, I would highly recommend checking Eve out. It makes me happy to have a place like this in Ann Arbor. They treat you well, feed you well, and we totally didn't get carded for once. We may go to TGI Fridays all the time, but they're never going to do anything special for you. I am visibly giddy about my jamtini and what happens? A giant to-go tub of Eve's mom's apricot jam appears in front of me. I'm hooked for life.