Friday, May 20, 2011

944 Detroit: In the Garden of Eatin'

Also from the November 2010 issue, this one you have to view as a PDF by clicking here. (Thinking out loud: kind of funny to see how much of this information is already outdated only six months later.)

But for funsies, I'll give you the full text I had compiled pre-edit:

Top Nine Dining Trends in Metro Detroit (2010)

Pizza Goes Posh
It’s a staple of the American diet and comes in as many combinations of styles, flavors and preparation methods as there are possible permutations in a game of Sudoku.   But thanks to a new breed of wine bar, pizza is no longer pedestrian.  It all started with Crust Pizza and Wine Bar, with locations in Rochester Hills and Bloomfield Township.  Think Prosciutto di Parma with Maytag Bleu cheese, arugula and extra virgin olive oil...on a pizza.  Taste Pizzabar in Detroit features a uniquely urban loft atmosphere serving exceptional pizza with chewy, flavorful crust made fresh daily. Birmingham’s Quattro reinvented itself in May to be Quattro Pizzeria & Wine Bar, a little more casual and fun with a particular emphasis on the wine -- there’s something for every taste and budget.  And just this June, James Beard-nominated Chef Luciano Del Signore opened Pizzeria Biga in Southfield.  This is truly Italian-style pizza, with a thin, crispy crust and such toppings as duck prosciutto, Italian tuna and speck.  

Don’t Know How You Do the BBQ That You Do So Well
These places are so new you can still smell the paint amidst the aromas of sweet, succulent meat slow-cooking in the smoker.  Rub BBQ and Pub and Red Smoke Barbecue both just opened in Detroit this summer and both serve a variety of classic barbecue dishes in a trendy atmosphere with such distinctly Detroit touches as exposed brick walls and hardwood floors, and an extensive list of Michigan beers.  Over in Royal Oak, Lockhart’s BBQ opened in August and is already the talk of the town with its “REAL” barbecue offerings.  Following the Texas BBQ traditions, Lockhart’s is owned by a native Texan with a pit master who intensively studied his craft in Texas and uses a smoker built in Texas and yes, the name itself pays homage to the city in Texas where American barbecue was born. 

One Bottle of Wine for Now, Three Bottles for Later: Restaurant-Markets
Two new restaurants have opened in the past year that have really made a mark ... with their markets.  Toasted Oak Grill & Market in Novi offers a sharp selection of boutique wines (including a wide selection of Michigan wines), house-made charcuterie, artisan cheeses and a variety of house-made specialty products for purchase in the market. The restaurant also offers their complete wine list at retail pricing with only a corkage fee.  In Birmingham, Tallulah Wine Bar and Bistro offers farm-to-table dining with a wide, diverse selection of worldly wines.  Next door Tallulah Too offers those same wines for purchase, as well as nightly wine flights and tastings.

Show Me the Way to the Next Whiskey Bar(BQ): Food Tours
Sometimes the best way to discover what an area has to offer is to have someone else show you.  Check out some of these businesses offering highly specialized food- and drink-themed tours.

Motor City Brew Tours:
Focused on the craft beer movement in Michigan, tours include bus transportation to three different breweries, with brewer-led tours and generous beer samples at each stop.  $49 + fees.
Taste-Full Tours:
All tours are bussed from Royal Oak and cover a variety of themes, from a Junkfood Junket to a Motown Chowdown.  Chefs Laura and Laura also host Taste-Full Tastings above Royal Oak’s Cloverleaf Fine Wines complete with appropriate wine pairings. $35-65.
Savor Ann Arbor:
Guided walking tours throughout downtown Ann Arbor and Kerrytown exploring history, architecture, shops and culinary treats.  Themes include sweets, vegetarian, and international flavors.  $30 for all includes food.
Discover Detroit Dining:
Launched in early 2010, 3D Tours offers themed packages, pairing dinners and signature events from Taquerias & Tequila to a Brunch Bike Tour through Eastern Market.  $30-65.
Inside Detroit:
They primarily offer private tours, but their signature Know Before Your Go series is their most popular public event.  You’ll get a guided tour of different bars in the city rich with detailed local history and fun facts, receive drink specials and meet bar owners so you too will be “in the know.”  $10-15.

Attainably Sustainable
Locovorism.  Eco-conscious eating.  Sustainable cuisine.  Call it anything you want, there’s no doubt that more environmentally- and economically-aware methods of food procurement and preparation are among the biggest national food trends right now.  “Sustainable” refers to sourcing from local producers and purveyors so foods are freshest and the money stays within the local economy; using and promoting organic growing methods for ecologic sustainability and a more healthful diet; and utilizing locally-grown seasonal produce with simple preparation methods to highlight their own natural flavors.  Here are a few of our favorite farm-to-table restaurants.
Ann Arbor: Arbor Brewing Company, eve: the restaurant, Grange Kitchen + Bar, Zingerman’s
Detroit: Avalon International Breads, Mudgie’s Deli, Woodbridge Pub
Oakland County: Inn Season Café, Forest Grill, Mind Body + Spirits, Tallulah Wine Bar and Bistro, Toasted Oak Grill & Market

Makes Us Weak: Restaurant Weeks
Even the biggest foodies can have a hard time tasting all that a single town has to offer, which is what makes various “Restaurant Week” events so enticing.  Three-course prix fixe menus at discounted prices allow diners to sample a city’s different restaurants while still being conscious of their wallets -- the only thing you have to worry about is how many reservations you can make in one week!  

Detroit Restaurant Week:
Spring and Fall: $28 dinner
Birmingham Restaurant Week
February: $15 lunch/$25 dinner
Troy Restaurant Week:
March & August: $15 lunch/$30 dinner
Ann Arbor Restaurant Week:
January & June; $12 lunch/$25 dinner

High-End Mexican
Once upon a time this may have sounded like an oxymoron, but metro Detroit has seen simple Mexican cuisine go from humble taquerias to full-blown white tablecloth dining.  Cinco Lagos in Milford is the reincarnation of Chef Brian Polcyn’s nationally-renowned Five Lakes Grill, reborn last summer in response to a shift in consumer’s palates.  Thankfully Chef Polcyn’s charcuterie skills are still on display with his housemade chorizo.  Rojo Mexican Bistro in Novi is part of the Andiamo family of restaurants and impresses guests with guacamole prepared tableside and an extensive tequila list.  El Barzon in Detroit used to be one of the city’s best-kept secrets until the word got out and people discovered that Chef Norberto Garita’s half-Mexican/half-Italian menu was ALL authentic and ALL exceptional (not to mention very reasonably priced). 

Coming Home to Clawson
Clawson may just be a teeny-tiny township that you have to drive through in order to get from the north suburbs to Royal Oak, but this little city has gone “Wee! Wee! Wee!” all the way home, making a name for itself with some of metro Detroit’s Best in Class.  For example, that sliver of a sushi bar at Noble Fish is overwhelmingly agreed upon to churn out the best sushi in the tri-counties.  Frittata is a very popular breakfast/lunch/brunch spot, serving up gourmet fare in an achingly charming atmosphere.  For truly authentic Asian cuisine, the dong stops at Da Nang.  Their Vietnamese dishes have won rave reviews from critics all over metro Detroit since they opened in 2009, even making a few “best of” and “top 10” lists.  Clawson’s cuisine is nothing if not ethnically diverse, and the northern Italian cuisine at the two-year-old Due Venti is widely regarded to be among the top nouveau Italian restaurants in the area. 

Fine Dining vs. Fun Dining
With the shift in the economic climate over the past few years, fine dining has taken a serious hit. But too often the fine dining concept is unnecessarily intimidating, turning customers off with a perceived priceyness that isn’t always representative.  These new restaurants are fine dining in spirit and comparable in cost, but allow customers to feel a little more comfortable with a decidedly more casual atmosphere.  Zazio’s in Birmingham is a neon-soaked romp but don’t let the lime green and tangerine fool you: this place offers the full fine dining experience.  J. Baldwin’s in Clinton Twp has a family-friendly atmosphere and serves more casual fare like their stone-fired pizza, but you can also get Grilled Australian Lamb Chops and Filet Mignon at prices on par with the Rattlesnake Club.  Toasted Oak Grill & Market in Novi is doused in bright colors with texturizing patterns and materials and eclectic accents all creating a warm, comfy dining climate.  But the regional American menu focused on fresh locally-sourced ingredients and Michigan-made products is pure contemporary brasserie, and charcuterie is a particular specialty.