Zingerman's Roadhouse

>> Monday, December 6, 2010

Friday, November 26th. We have the usual players tonight, celebrating Lulu's birthday which was on Thanksgiving...plus Thad brought Uncle J. We make the trek out to Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor. http://www.zingermansroadhouse.com/ I love the fact that Zingerman's has partnered with a local farm, Cornman Farm, for it's veggies, and some meats. It also serves Niman Ranch products, which I respect. I have to put a mention in for the above pic of the sign. There is a few paragraphs on their website about the neon glass sign comprised of rare antique neon tubes that is worth the read. The red part of the sign has real gold particles inside. This place smells like delicious BBQ the instant you step out of your vehicle. I also really liked the atmosphere here. I love the thousands of unique salt & pepper shakers lining some walls, as it reminded me of my Great-Grandmother's house. Our server tonight is Marcus...and I love his 'stache. I wonder if he was growing this for Movember? http://www.movember.com/ I didn't think of it until the next day, lol. Anyway, Marcus is the wikipedia of food history, especially the history of everything on the Zingerman's menu. I recommend you ask for his section, and get ready to be educated. He brings us complimentary pimento cheese spread and sweet potato fries with a spice aioli...both great. These are the BEST sweet potato fries I have EVER had. I could have ate two plates of them as my app & my entree. Other apps: calamari, mussels, and awesome Zingerman's bakery bread. Scarlet, who is a seafood expert, says she does not recommend the mussels, as they didn't have much flavor. The boys, however, said she was crazy and ate them all. We also order a cheese platter (another staple of ours)...here, you have a sheet to write down how many ounces of which cheeses you want on your custom cheese platter. There are MANY cheeses. The platter came with roasted grapes, which was a unique novelty for our table. Much like Traffic Jam, you can purchase cheese and baked goods to go. Interestingly, you can also purchase liquor and have the bartenders help choose the right bottles to have a well-stocked bar at home.
On that note, let me take a bit to talk about drinks! They have a fun, large cocktail menu. Marcus tells us about the page of "pre-prohibition" drinks, which has classics like the old-fashioned, the champagne cocktail, the Manhattan...and Lulu's favorite: the knickerbocker. She told me about 10 times how delicious the knickerbocker is: Brugel Dominican dark rum, Bol's orange curacao, muddled fresh rasperries and fresh squeezed lemon juice. It was very delicious. I have my favorite caipurinha...actually, I have two they are so yummy. Thad orders what is called "call me a cab", which is flight of cabernet...that is what Marcus is holding in his photo above. Entrees: Lulu had such a hard time selecting her meal, this place offers FIVE types of macaroni & cheese. She settles on the grits which are organic, wood-fired grilled, topped with Vermont cheddar, roasted red peppers, chiles, corn and a cider vinaigrette. This is unique, vegetarian and delicious. I order a small portion of two mac & cheese's...and Lulu shares with me: Three-pepper goat cheese mac & smoked chicken mac. Both are so good. The menu doesn't show it, but you can get a smaller side portion of any of the mac's, just ask. We also split the roasted veggies (locally grown) and olive oil mashed potatoes. The side of veggies is pretty large, and they were wonderful. I loved the little carrots that looked like they were just pulled from the ground prior to roasting.
I talk Thad into ordering the special salmon that Marcus describes, which I do not see on the current online menu. I think he regretted ordering it, I tasted it and it was just fine, but not anything spectacular. Master P had a puller pork BBQ platter, which he loved and ate every last bit. It came with a side of greens that Lulu and I stole from him...these greens rivaled my current favorites from Howe's Bayou in Ferndale. Actually, I'm going to say these were better. Uncle J has bbq ribs, and I believe he enjoyed them although I didn't record details. The Greek and Scarlet share two entrees: The Georges bay sea scallops and a spicy lamb dish called lamb posole. I didn't try the scallops, but heard no complaints about them. I did try the posole which was really good with a spicy ancho chile sauce. If your looking for the online menu, I recommend clicking the part that says "download our current dinner menu" as the specials and main entrees keep changing.
Desserts: Master P and Uncle J both consume HUGE rootbeer floats. The rest of us split the chocolate milk cake, a selection of gelato (paw-paw being one- which is a North American fruit similar to a custard apple). But the star dessert was the doughnut sundae: their housemade dutch donut topped with a bourbon caramel sauce and vanilla gelato. This was sinfully good, and it came with a candle and happy birthday message for Lulu. Total bill: $378 plus tip. I averaged all 7 of our ratings to arrive at a 3.7, I gave it a 4.5. The birthday girl, who picked this night's restaurant, gave it a 4. Because I cannot put 3.7 D's at the top of this blog, I'm rounding it up to a solid 4. I personally loved this place. After looking on their huge menu online, including the lunch menu, I so much want to try more! I wish there was a Zingerman's restaurant near Ferndale, but the Zingerman establishments are purely Ann Arbor. The next Friday after this day, we did not have our weekly ADD dinner. I was sad because Scarlet was in Jamaica and Thad has gone to Florida for all of December (and he's not even elderly!). Lulu and The Greek had a Christmas party to attend. So it was just Master P and I. We went to check out the new wine bar in Pleasant Ridge: Cork Wine Pub. I cannot wait to convince the crew to come check it out as it is officially my new favorite hang-out near my house. corkwinepub.com



>> Saturday, December 4, 2010

 Happy Thanksgiving! I am so thankful for my friends, I love you guys! We went to Crave in Dearborn on Friday, November 19th. Scarlet and I had been there recently and couldn't wait to bring everyone here. www.cravelounge.com/main.html First let me list the delicious cocktails we enjoyed at the bar: the Pure (Hanger 1 Lime, sake, soda, sprite & elderflower), the Koi (citrus vodka, elderflower, grape juice, mint & cucumber) and the strawberry shortcake (vanilla vodka, apple juice, strawberry syrup & fresh strawberries)...yum. I usually love anything with elderflower liqueur in the mix. I recommend that if you can find St. Germaine Elderflower buy it! It's delicious! We also have to give credit to our new favorite bartender, Jordan. Scarlet and I had the pleasure of hanging at his bar before, and he always takes good care of us. With dinner we have a bottle or so of the Argyle pinot noir. We have a new guest star tonight, Mr. J, who is joining us from Cali and is serving our country! We reserved a large table, but not this large. This pic is an optical illusion as the table was next to a mirrored wall. It was right up front where the live guitarist was SO loud we couldn't hear each other, but the sound seemed to improve as the night went on.

Appetizers: This is my favorite thing on the menu and you must try this. The tuna tartare. This blows them all away. We order multiples of this because we eat it up like ravenous wolves. Please, please, please order this if you visit Crave. We also get the beef negimake, which is filet wrapped around asparagus spears, another favorite of ours...Inyo also does a decent version, but here you get a more generous portion. We also order the Gyu bleu salad, but I don't remember seeing this or tasting it, but I wrote their comments that the dressing was "confusing"...not sure what I meant by that. However, Master P and Thad loved the salad. Thad has miso soup, and I don't think he ate much of it. He wrote in my notebook that it smells like feet, but maybe he didn't know what to expect of miso. Lulu orders tempura battered veggies, which are divine...as is pretty much anything dipped in tempura and deep fried. Our server, Thea, also recommends the tofu spring rolls, and I'm so glad she did. I especially love their spicy sauce. The boys also have something called shrimp cevechi, which they absolutely loved, according to my notes.
For entrees, we order an assortment of sushi. For the vegetarian side of the table, grilled veggie tempura roll. For Master P and I, crunchy tuna roll and california tempura roll. I was hoping the crunchy tuna would be reminiscent of my beloved fireman's special at Dylan's. But alas, nothing will ever compare. I highly recommend sushi at Dylan's raw bar: http://www.dylansrawbar.com/. This is the place that converted me to a sushi fan.
Anyhoo, there were a couple more various sushi rolls going around the table. Crave has a large sushi menu, which you can view online. The sushi was good. Scarlet had the sea bass. It was decent, but we agreed that it didn't compare to the sea bass at Inyo. Inyo's sea bass was buttery and melted in your mouth...so delicate. This was a tad more fishy tasting, but it was still good. We also had a side of wasabi mashed potatoes that we much enjoyed. The most interesting entree of the night goes to Thad, as always. Pictured below is the Japanese Red Snapper:

We name him Louie. Poor Louie. He actually tasted really good and meaty.
Here is the aftermath:
For dessert: Chocolate Mexican ice cream (good!), key lime cheesecake (ok, predictable), wildberry sorbet (such lively berry flavor - zaps your tongue), and the dark cocoa berries. The cocoa berries is really an assorted fruit plate with a chocolate dipping sauce that Scarlet and Lulu steal away with and are forced to share with the rest of us under protest.  I also want to give a mention to the creme brulee, which we didn't order this night but I have tried previously...it comes as 3 tiny chocolate brulee...a white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate.  It is just right.
Total bill: $427 plus tip.

Next: Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor

Addendum:  We discuss the rating system and the fact that Coach Insignia received a 5....Lulu, not for the first time, states that nobody can get a perfect score because nobody is perfect.  She declares there must always be room for improvement.  Therefore, I'm officially changing our loosely structured rating system.  A 4 still means great food, great service and great atmosphere...but probably not all three together or at least some misgivings.  A 5 is excellent food, service and atmosphere across the board.  NOW a 6 means absolute perfection, of which nobody will ever achieve, just for dear Lulu.


Coach Insignia

>> Thursday, November 18, 2010

Friday, November 12th.
We have a very special guest star tonight, Led. He is Master P's brother and has traveled all the way from Idaho to join us! No Scarlet tonight though. She really missed out. Coach Insignia has the best view of Detroit and incredible food. If you have an out-of-town guest that has never been to the D, you MUST take them to Coach on the 72nd floor of the Ren Cen. There is no better way to see Detroit. The bar here has become one of my favorite after work spots for a cocktail. FYI: they have decent happy hour specials.
The moon over Belle Isle.
The 360-degree view just simply cannot be captured properly with my camera, therefore I will not ruin the absolutely amazing view of Detroit with my measly pictures (besides the one above). What I find really cool is how you can see the layout of Detroit, how the main roads are laid out like spokes on a wheel (hub & spoke design like Washington DC a la Pierre Charles L'enfant). You are standing right at the hub and can see the lit spokes go on for miles into the suburbs.
On to the food! Our server was Eddie. He knew the menu well, was professional & friendly. We have wine, of course. The Immortal Zin 2008. Two bottles. I personally love an old-vine zinfandel. Appetizers: Tuna Tartare (of course, if you haven't noticed we are really into tartare lately - either beef or tuna). This tuna tartare is just ok. We agree it would have been better if it was more chilled - this was served at room temp...yech. A hot crab & brie dip that the boys deem "awesome". Smoked salmon, which was also just ok. We loved the samosas...The Greek devoured them. Eddie also led us to an appetizer made from their roast lamb, which was not on the menu as an app, but we wanted to taste the lamb. The lamb was tasty with an olive tapenade. Both The Greek and Led ordered the rack of lamb entree...which they enjoyed, but agreed that disassembling and attacking an intact rack was a lot of work...(maybe just trying the lamb as an app is a better way to go).
Lulu and Thad start with salads. Lulu has the chop-chop salad, it was delicious. Thad ordered the pear-anise-port watercress salad...he hated it. I have had this salad here before and I love it. Watercress has a distinct flavor which Thad has discovered he hates. I recommend this salad to anyone who enjoys bitter & flavorful greens. It has gingerbread croutons...yum.
Lulu had the gnocchi entree, pictured below. It is not on the current online menu and I forget exactly which veggies it was combined with...but it was so good. The gnocchi were obviously homemade, and large. They almost seemed grilled? Very unique and filling...I don't think this is on the menu all the time...so get it while you can!
I had the 7 0z filet mignon topped with blue cheese and split a side order of perfectly crisp-cooked asparagus. Master P had the NY strip, topped with Alaskan king crap & bearnaise sauce. Wow. See picture below:
This is a steak house, so they do the steak right. They do. I notice on the online menu they have a few wagyu steaks. But I didn't see any wagyu on the menu the night we were there...sad. Wagyu is incredible. If you have never tried it, you must order it the next time you have the opportunity. It is worth it.
Desserts! We have the chocolate pudding cake, cheesecake (of course), apple tart and the sorbet taster with three sorbets (coconut, raspberry & orange). They were all excellent. But the winner of the night was the chocolate pudding cake served with malted ice milk. WOW. If you have read our Wolfgang Puck review, you would think nothing comes close to their chocolate souffle. W Puck's still is the best, but this came scary close to tying them!
Total bill.....$544 plus tip. The food and view is worth every penny.
Next: Crave in Dearborn.


Pizza Papalis

>> Sunday, November 7, 2010

Friday, November 5th. www.pizzapapalis.com Greektown.
This is going to be a short review, as I feel most of Southeast Michigan has had Pizza Papalis at some point....especially since it has now spread satellites into the burbs.
We all split a family size greek salad, which was really good. I love their dressing. We have cheesy bread and bread sticks. In attempt to save calories, the majority of us order thin crust pizza...even though Pizza Papalis is THE place for deep dish chicago style. Scarlet states she can get better thin crust at Cottage Inn. The Greek has a beef stromboli and states he could have done better with Stouffers...ouch. We give it a 3 overall, about average. I do have to say, I normally LOVE the spinach special deep dish I get from the Madison Heights location, but this is what I get for trying to stay low-cal. Oh well. Then we skip over to Astoria Bakery a few doors down for dessert...pretty much any dessert you can dream up. We all are able to get a piece of our favorites. I have a piece of baklava so honey-sweet it hurts my teeth. www.astoriapastryshop.com
We round out our night across the street at the Pegasus for drinks. Lots of saganaki OPA! flames going off all night long! We have fun chatting at the bar the rest of the evening. www.pegasustavernas.com
Next week: Master P's brother, Led, will be in town from Idaho. We want to take him to Coach Insignia for the most amazing view in the D.


Traffic Jam and Snug

>> Sunday, October 31, 2010

Friday, October 29th. www.trafficjamdetroit.com
We miss The Greek tonight, he is in Washington D.C. for the Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear.
Traffic Jam and Snug, est. 1965, is a classic in Detroit. It is totally unique as it houses a bakery, brewery and Michigan's smallest licensed dairy. The Snug, no longer in operation, was a ice cream parlor for the women and children who were not allowed in the bar area at the time. This was for the men to have their pint in peace! We get lucky this evening and stumble upon owner Carolyn Howard, who gives us a behind the scenes tour! This place is huge. The kitchen/dairy/brewery areas are 10,000 square feet and the dining areas are also 10,000 square feet.
Scarlet and I both work in the food service industry where sanitation inspections are part of our job duties. I give TJ props for having a clean kitchen even with an impromptu unplanned tour. That say's a lot about a place. The vat where they make the cheese & beer is 500 gallons..it's huge, you could do a lap in it. They make 3 Michigan State Fair Blue Ribbon winning cheeses here: Cheddar, asiago and jack. This is one of the few places you get cheese made from raw, unpasteurized milk. The bakery is old-school cool, and they have had the same baker, Paul, for decades.
We start at the bar with beer and a cheese platter. We love the cheese, and I especially love the fig hazelnut compote. It also comes with a housemade dijon that is sharp and good. We try the Festivus, the pilsner and the weizenfest...all really good. We like the weizenfest the best.
The quote for the night is "help me, Elvis, I'm in a pickle!". Which is what they call the deep fried pickles. Coincidentally, Thad is wearing his Elvis glasses tonight...as his halloween costume. The fried pickles are good, but I feel I have to give a plug for the best fried pickles I've had, at the Brecon Grille in Saline.
Our server tonight is Brad. We like him, he gave good service and tolerated our shenanigans.
Scarlet, Thad and Lulu enjoy a bottle of Terra Andina Reserva 2008 Carmenere. I had to look up Carmenere. It is a wine, similar to a Malbec, which used to be popular in France. But the grapes are difficult to cultivate, so it has fallen out of favor. Now it is most widely produced in Chile.
We split a Greek salad, which was really good. The fried artichokes are a unique touch.
Greek Salad.
Master P and Thad both have the delmonico steak with twice baked potato and sauteed zucchini. They both enjoyed their dinners. Master P really loved the potato, which you can also get a la carte on the menu. I have the portabello mushroom soup and mac & cheese combo. The soup is a staple on the menu. I didn't much care for it, as it seemed to have globs of what I think was thickener or flour. The mac & cheese is decent, made with their cheddar and tiny shell pasta. Lulu and I both agree it is something like we would make on our stovetop at home.
Portabello mushroom soup and mac & cheese.
Lulu has the spinach lasagne. It is good, with a chunky marinara sauce. But she is so full at this point she can only have a few bites.
Scarlet has the lentil burger, with sweet potato fries. The burger is super moist, almost too moist. It is rather bland, and we wonder why not add some seasoning to the mix. Scarlet's exact description was "moist, cakey and bland". Strangely, the more condiments she put on it...the blander it stayed, like the patty actually sponged up any flavor! The fries are good, they are the ridge-cut chips. Thad regals us with a tale from his time in England where he had to eat lentils three meals a day. He is elusive on why or what he was actually doing there. A vow of poverty? Held captive by terrorists? Why did he have to eat only lentils three times a day? We will never know.
For dessert: Carlotta Chocolatta Ice Cream Cheesecake. Double chocolate cheesecake with coffee ice cream and house-made hot fudge sauce. Wow. The dessert menu is large here...you must save room for dessert!
The average rating among us is 3.5, but I took the liberty of bumping it to 4 D's (as you see at the top). The atmosphere and service was great. The food was hit or miss. Scarlet, however, did buy some baked goods and cheese to take home and has since said she wants to go back to do more shopping. I would also enjoy returning. I recommend the beer, the Greek salad, the cheese platter and dessert!
TJ's parking lot is shared with Motor City Brew Works. We have never been, so we check it out and sample their wares (read: Beers). We have yet another cheese platter (I swear Thad is never full). Their menu is full of gourmet pizza that I can't wait to come back and try.
Motor City Brew Works.
In the parking lot, is this awesome costume. Imagine this huge creature being worn by two people on a tandem bike!
This Friday we will be going to Pizza Papalis, the original in Greektown.


Sala Thai

>> Thursday, October 28, 2010

Friday, October 15th.
Both Master P and Scarlet join us tonight. We originally planned on going to the Layfayette location...but a fortuitous mix up takes us away from the strip mall location to the more lovely Russell Street location. It is in an old firehouse (circa 1888) and a much more interesting location, also the only location with a liquor license...whew...that was a close one!
Our server is Koin, and she is so sweet. She giggles a lot. We have Singha, which is proclaimed Thailand's finest beer! I wonder if it may be Thailand's only beer? But it is decent.
The Greek orders his routine Jack & Coke. Tell me how much Coke is in this recipe:
On to the sushi:
Yellowfin Tempura Roll, The Dancing Eel and Philadelphia Roll. Now, I'm spoiled on sushi. I feel I have finally earned the right to be able to condescend to inferior sushi. I now can brag I have a discerning palate. I've had excellent, and I've had BAD. I will give Sala Thai a firm middle of the road, it is decent.
Scarlet has the Tom Yum soup, which is somewhat like hot & sour soup and it is Yummy. For entrees: The Greek has the Sala Thai Duck (stir fry duck with mushroom, ginger, onion, garlic & brown thai sauce). He is disappointed that the duck is breaded. It was also rather dry. Half way thru his meal, he almost chips a tooth on what looks like a piece of porcelain! Scarlet has Kuoy Tiew Haeng, which is rice noodles with bean sprout, light brown sauce, green onion, crushed peanut and garlic (pic below):
I like her dish even better than my Pad Thai - which was decent. I would recommend the Kuoy Tiew Haeng if your a Pad Thai lover. Master P ordered his favorite Thai dish...pineapple fried rice. Lulu ordered the Sala Thai fried rice. Both of the fried rice dishes were good, ok. Again, I am spoiled and I need to say that the best Thai in southeastern Michigan: Sy Thai! If you love Thai fried rice, you must try the Sy's fried rice (it has a bit of yummy curry flavor). They don't have a website but you will find a Birmingham and a St. Claire Shores location. Ok, back to Sala Thai...I digress.
Sala Thai Duck
Thad orders Gaeng Paa with beef (hot curry, eggplant, string beans, bamboo shoots, coconut milk, etc etc). He orders it "on fire". En Fuego (oops...that is spanish?). He wants the hottest it can be made. Of course, it is sooo freakin hot. You don't mess with Thai food and heat! I didn't mention the rest of us ordered medium, which is perfect in my opinion. I love spicy food. I also did not mention that the rest of us (except Lulu, of course) had chicken in our entrees...and we were disappointed with it. I actually ended up picking around the chicken in my pad thai. It was sort of weird, I can't really put my finger on what the problem with the chicken was...we just do not recommend anything with the chicken.
And then the fat Ethiopian scratched his beard dandruff into the recycled rice bowl....(inside joke).
So, I didn't get our total, but the prices are on the online menu. Entrees are averaging around $8 each, so we had a cheap night!
As for the rating: Let's see....scary chicken and dry duck, a piece of porcelain in The Greek's Dish, but medium-decent sushi, yummy soup & delicious rice noodle dishes. I am giving Sala Thai a solid 3 D's. Again, I have to say....Sy Thai is the BEST Thai around these parts...I'll let you know if I find better!
This week, actually tomorrow, we will be going to Traffic Jam & Snug. Peace!