Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Craving for Guacamole and a Trip to Nino Salvaggio

Earlier this week I had a wicked craving for some guacamole. At the time I was in Troy, so I decided to swing by Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace to pick up the fixin's (fresher than they would be from a Meijer).

There are three different Nino Salvaggio locations in metro Detroit--Troy, St. Clair Shores, and Clinton Township. All offer the same fresh produce and quality meats and cheeses, as well as on-site bakeries and delis which offer fresh products made daily, without anything pre-packaged.

Nino Salvaggio takes the concepts of freshness and quality and applies it to all areas of their markets. Chefs trained in culinary institutes prepare the daily selection of 75 different entrees, sides, and salads made fresh and packed for you to take home, and the bakery offers an endless array of fresh-baked goods and pastries, as well as a selection of imported treats to satisfy a more cultured palate. There are 15-20 kinds of bread baked fresh daily. The glass pastry counter is filled with pretty mouses and tortes and fruit flan made from produce picked that day. You can also get whole cheesecakes from St. Clair Shores' Cheesecake Shoppe, voted the #1 cheesecake in metro Detroit and just one example of how Nino Salvaggio also promotes other locally-based businesses. There are also hundreds of varieties of imported olives, cured meats, and cheeses. Meats and cheeses are cut in-store by trained and certified cutters, and as for their cheese selection...well, how does 305 choices sound?

Meat cutters chop your meat the day you buy it and Nino's makes their own kabobs, sausages, and hamburger patties. If seafood is more your style, the market offers over 100 fresh seafood items flown in fresh 6 days a week and cut the same day it is put on display--this fish is fresh enough to make your own sushi without worry, and if you don't find the particular sea-faring item you're looking for, they encourage special orders. The grocery portion of the store boasts a tremendous selection of imported and exotic items (at fair prices) from a variety of different culinary traditions all around the world--but it's also practical enough for a person to do his casual shopping as well. Nino Salvaggio is also one of the largest purveyors of supremo coffee beans in the country, with their Master Blender producing 32 blends daily from plantations all over South America and Africa.

The wine selection is enormous, daunting even. With over 3,000 labels in can be difficult to sift through, and due to space issues the wines are only loosely organized by region and style. And while they do offer a wide variety of mid-range labels, their pricing is still on the average to high side. I did find some labels I was excited to see, including Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon (a wine I hated the first time I tried it due to its overwhelmingly pungent sense of terroir) and Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero, a true knock-your-socks-off wine (and my first foray into Tempranillo) that you can probably find a few bucks less than the $32.99 they were charging...but it might turn into quite a journey to do so.

And now I must share a memory. I was introduced to Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero when the importer--Christopher Canaan at the time, though I'm not sure if this is still the case--was at an industry wine event at the Whitney. I was there with the person I was dating then whose father owns the Riecine vineyards in Tuscany (they've been known to make a killer La Gioia); their winemaker was also at this event. I got to meet a number of different importers and sample more wines than I had ever done previously, and one--Emilio Moro--began in me a lifelong love of Spanish wines.

Nino Salvaggio also offers a full floral and gift basket line, with fresh-cut flowers flown in 6 days a week from all parts of the world and bountiful gift baskets overflowing with sparkling fruits that can be shipped to anywhere in the continental U.S.

But the produce is where Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace really shines: for 32 years they have exercised the highest standards and have set those standards for all other gourmet marketplaces. You will not find a single bruised fruit or wilted green, as their team of educated workers comb through the items three times a day to weed out any undesirables. Overnight the produce is stored in coolers with humidity levels set to the item's appropriate requirements. They take great pride in offering items you will not find in any other grocer or market, from exotic tropical fruits to 15 different kinds of eggplant. They also have a number of signs posted to help you along your way, indicating the heat of a pepper or the uses of an herb. Nino Salvaggio recognizes that as the economy has globalized, so has cuisine, and they enjoy being able to proclaim, "If you can't find it here, you probably can't find it anywhere." Nino Salvaggio has helped define lifestyle food retailing over the years, and has defined itself as the region's benchmark of quality, availability, and exceptionally high standards. And all of the prepared foods they sell are assembled on the premises from fruit plucked right out of the produce bins, and sold with the highest standards of freshness and quality.

When highest levels of quality marry exceptional customer service, the result is something like Nino Salvaggio. (Don't get me wrong, Eastern Market, I love you's just that sometimes I want to buy fresh produce at 7:30PM on a Tuesday, or at any time on a Sunday.) The staff at Nino's is trained to be very knowledgable and helpful, and they are willing to cater to their customers in any way they can. A place like this is aces in my book.

So, getting back to that guacamole...I must first preface this by saying I do not cook. I eat. I eat lots. But I do not cook. I know everything about food, but if you put a pile of it raw in front of me, I would not know how to magically transform it into the creative and cleverly-presented dishes I like to review. It's a sad thing--like a brilliant musician gone deaf, really...only not really--but it's the truth. I've been spoiled by frozen pizza, no-fuss cheese, and boyfriends who like to cook. So there it is. I've lived to the ripe old age of 27 never having learned to cook beyond scrambled eggs and...did I say frozen pizza yet?

So. That guacamole. That guacamole was my first attempt at "cooking" (granted, there was no heat source involved) since my tween years when I fancied myself a baker (I can make a mean banana bread). If you think I'm kidding, ask anyone who knows me personally. It's painfully and completely sincerely true.

After running a 7-second Google search, I found a recipe I thought sounded particularly appealing. See, I don't really care for onions, but I love garlic. Good guac for me is free of onion chunks and HEAVY on garlic. To the point that it would be coming out of my pores. Two days later. (This is why I love Woodbridge Pub.) I found a recipe that suited this preference, and off I went to Nino's.

Guacamole by D-Tales:
2 - peeled and pitted Hass avocados
1 Tbs - lime juice
1 tsp - kosher salt
1/2 tsp - ground pepper
1 cup - chopped Roma tomato
1 - minced shallot (I only used about half as I'm not a big onion fan, though shallots aren't as strong)
1 Tbs - minced garlic (I really like garlic so I used more like 3 Tbs)
1/4 cup - minced cilantro (I skipped this since I would have had to buy a bundle of cilantro just to use a pinch)
1 - small serrano pepper, minced (I used about is hot)

Directions: Blend. (Note: it is very difficult to mash avocado with a fork. You'll need a blender or a potato masher at the very least, unless you like your guacamole extra-chunky.)

So, how was it? see that "note" above? Suffice it to say I own neither a blender or a potato masher. So. It tasted great, though. Just. A little. Chunky.

Ah, well. This is why I pay other people to make food and serve it to me. Those who can't, review, right? Bah. I'll just keep dating boys who like to cook.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Paczki Day in Poletown

Every Fat Tuesday (the day before the start of Lent), cities with heavy Polish-concentrated neighborhoods across America (i.e., Detroit and Chicago) celebrate with the deep-fried gooey goodness of the paczki. New Orleans may have Mardis Gras, but their beignets have nothing on our paczki.

Paczki (ponch-key) are traditional Polish "doughnuts," though the dough used is much richer than traditional dough. It contains eggs, lard, sugar, and sometimes milk, as well as fillings such as a variety of fruit jams (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, and lemon are popular) and custards. Paczki have been a tradition in Poland since the Middle Ages, when they were baked the week prior to Ash Wednesday ("Fat Thursday," 6 days prior to Lent, as opposed to Fat Tuesday, a more contemporary celebration) to use up all the remaining eggs, lard, sugar, and fruit in the house, which were forbidden during Lent.

But now the paczki has taken on its own identity, and for many metro-Detroiters the day before Ash Wednesday means "Paczki Day," when people drive from all over the region to stand in lines wrapping 'round the block waiting for their authentic freshly-baked Hamtramck paczki.

Now, you can buy paczki from many local grocers (I've seen them at Meijer for almost a month now, and other local chains such as Kroger and Nino Salvaggio's have them in stock, as well as countless bakeries and pastry shops), but this doesn't compare to the experience of waiting in line like a true die-hard in the bitter cold on the corner of Jos. Campau and Yemans with other true die-hards talking about how silly it is that you're all waiting in line for some doughnuts, then agreeing that it is totally worth it.

At the urging of a friend of mine (who told me explicitly that I was absolutely not to try to trick him with a non-Hamtramck paczki because he could tell), I chose to wait in the New Palace Bakery line, rumored to have the best paczkis in Poletown. I had some great line-mates so the time flew by, plus the weather wasn't abyssmal and the sun was out, so the experience overall was rather pleasant.

Knowing that I'd be standing for at least a half hour and recognizing that, despite the sun, it still was below freezing outside, I stopped first by Cafe 1923 for some coffee to keep me warm while I waited. $1.75 for some of the best brew you'll find anywhere (their Michigan Cherry blend puts every coffee chain in existence to shame), and I was ready to hurry up and wait.

The wait only ended up being about 45 minutes (and like I said, I had good company so the time flew), and then I was on my way with my plain white pastry box tied with string filled with raspberry and custard paczki.

As I write this, I am in a state of custard-induced euphoria. My two paczki--one plain custard, one chocolate-custard blend--didn't make it much past my kitchen table. I swore up and down I would save one for later, but alas--I did not. My friend is lucky I don't care much for raspberry, else those might suffer the same fate and he would be presented with nothing but an empty box and my smiling custard-smudged face.

New Palace Bakery offers a variety of traditional paczki flavors, as well as some special blends they've created such as Strawberry-Custard ("Hamtramck's 75th Anniversary Paczki," created in 1997), Chocolate-Custard ("Millenium Paczki," created in 2000--one of the two I inhaled), and the "Hamtramck Boat" (banana custard, strawberry, and pineapple filling with milk chocolate on top). They also offered the "Presidential Choice": cherry with chocolate topping.

Sound heavenly, don't they? Wait, there's more: considered one of the most fattening pastries, one of these little guys clocks in at about 300-450 calories and 22-27 grams of fat. The two I ate cost me probably about 850 calories, or almost half of my standard daily caloric intake (I've countered this by not eating anything else today and I don't care if you say that's unhealthy). But hey, it's only once a year, right?

Wrong--what most people don't realize is that you can get packi year-round in Hamtramck, just typically only on Saturdays. Even still, you probably shouldn't make it a habit.

The paczki themselves? Well, with the dense dough and heavy filling they feel like they each weigh about three pounds, but ooomfgchompslurpgulp are they good. The dough is soft and heavy with the slightest bit of deep-fried crunch, and the filling--especially the custard--is...well, it's all over my face right now because I still haven't cleaned myself up, so it's good. Fatty and gooey and bursting out of its doughy casing and good. friend doesn't know I bought him two paczki...I could maybe sample one of them and he'd never even know...hmmmmm...

Next year, make the trip out to Hamtramck for some truly authentic paczki. You might have to wait awhile in line, but it's well worth it...besides, this is one of those true Detroit things every Detroiter near and far should experience at least once in their lifetimes. And for the record, New Palace Bakery is worthy of its buzz. And they make moon pies, too! I don't even like moon pies but I think that's cool!

Happy Paczki Day, the Polish St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Upcoming Dining Events

Monday, February 23rd: Winemakers Tasting with Charles Hendricks at Mon Jin Lau

Mon Jin Lau & Plum Market Present Winemakers Tasting with Charles Hendricks.

“Charles’ winemaking experience began in the Napa Valley in the early eighties. Over the last decade his cliental has grown to include such labels as Viader, Barnett, Regusci, Paoletti and Bacio Divino. His wine making style has created award winning wines coveted by wine collectors and celebrated by leaders in the wine industries.”

Join Mon Jin Lau as they taste over a dozen wines that include: Regusci, Hope & Grace, Thousand Foot, and many more.

Strolling Nu-Asian appetizers provided by Mon Jin Lau. Special pricing available through Plum Market.

Call 248.689.2332 and ask for Sharon or Bryan.
Limited Space Available…..All ticket sales are final.

Where: Mon Jin Lau, Troy
When: 6:30PM-8:00PM
Tix: $35.00 advance, $40.00 at the door (all-inclusive)

Monday, February 23rd: Bacco Wine Dinner with Alberto Canella

Bacco Ristorante cordially invites you to attend a special dinner with Alberto Canella of Terre di Ger winery for a memorable evening of fine Italian food and wine.

His winery, Terre di Ger (, is located in the northeastern Italian region of Friuli, where the peaks of the Alps provide a dramatic backdrop for the exceptionally high-quality wines being made there.

Chef Luciano del Signore has again designed a special, six-course menu that highlights the unique characteristics of each wine, and showcases his distinct flair for Italian cuisine!
We'll be featuring three wines from Terre di Ger-- Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Franc, and a stunning, barrel aged Verduzzo called "Limine." Three additional wines, from different wineries, will complete the wine offerings: Brutell Franciacorta Brut sparkling wine, a hearty red Casale Triocco Sagrantino di Montefalco from Casale Triocco, and a deliciously sweet, red sparkling Brachetto d'Acqui from Convento dei Cappuccini.

Il Menu:
Stuzzichini (passed hors d’ouevres)
olive ripiene
--cheese & walnut stuffed olives
tartar di tonno
--ahi tuna with lemon, chives, and aioli
millefoglie con salsiccia
--oven roasted sausage and asparagus in puff pastry
all served with nv Brutell Franciacorta Brut Saten
Antipasto di Mare
insalata di gamberone
--Belgium endive salad with prawns, yellow pepper puree, radicchio, apple, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette
served with ’07 Terre di Ger Pinot Grigio
Il Pesce
red grouper arrosto
--oven roasted Florida Red grouper, arugula pesto, and celery root puree
served with ’05 Terre di Ger “Limine”
Il Primo
--tagliatelle verdi al fagiano
homemade spinach pasta with pheasant ragú
served with ’06 Terre di Ger Cabernet Franc
Il Secondo di Carne
spezzatino di vitello
--veal stew with prosseco, wild mushrooms, and soft polenta
served with ’03 Casale Triocco Sagrantino di Montefalco
Il Dolce
--torta di banana
banana cake with chocolate ganache and caramel mousse
served with ’07 Convento Cappuccini Brachetto d’Acqui

A credit card deposit is required, and seating for this event is very limited so please RSVP promptly at (248) 356-6600.

Where: Bacco Ristorante, Southfield
When: 6:30PM-9:30PM
Tix: $95.00 plus tax and gratuity

Tuesday, February 24th: DWO Wine Down Tuesday

Celebrate Carnival and Fat Tuesday

In honor of Carnival in South America, DWO will be featuring the wines of South America.

What better place in Detroit for a Carnival/Mardi Gras celebration than Fishbones in Greektown! Bring your beads, masks or even dress up and come celebrate with us on Fat Tuesday, February 24th.

Parking: Please park at the Greektown Parking Structure on Brush St. and enter thru the Antheneum Hotel. You will be directed from there.

Where: Fishbones, Detroit
When: 6:00PM-8:00PM
Tix: $40.00 members, $45.00 non-members
Wednesday, February 25th: Detroit Synergy Supper Club at Taste Pizzabar
Thursday, February 26th: A Night in Italy Wine Dinner at D’Amato’s

Featuring guest speaker Nicola Biscardo.

First Course
A vine ripened yellow tomato caprese, anise crusted goat cheese, mizuna micro greens, lemon basil oil
Wine: Vallerosa-Bonci Verdicchio Classico "Carpaneto"

Second Course
Scallop ravioli with trumpet royal mushrooms, wilted fresh spinach & leeks, pecorino toscano, crimini mushroom butter
Wine: La Meridiana Barbera d'Asti "Le Gagie"

Third Course
Roasted pheasant with smoked bacon, braised swiss chard, red & golden beets
Wine: Marchesi Biscardo Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso

Fourth Course
Poached golden apple stuffed with hazelnut honey gelato
Wine: Bosio Mascato d' Asti

About Nicola Biscardo: NICOLA BISCARDO was borne in Verona on January 12th, 1972 in a family of wine makers. Raised in the land of Amarone, "I took my first wine class at the age of nineteen while I was studying Political Science at the college. It did not take me long to realize that my way was to continue in the family business of selling wine, so I switched to wine studies and I attended the master at the Italian Association of the Guild of Sommeliers. Now I am a professional Wine Taster, a Sommelier, a member of The Society of Wine Educators and not a politician. I moved to United States in 1997 and I lived in New York to market and organize the distribution of Conexport, a private consortium that represent some of the best small producers from different wine regions of Italy. Now I am back home in Verona, the city of "Romeo and Juliet" to spoil my vineyards and olive trees with my love and passion!!!"Alla Salute….!!!"

Chef: Myles McVay
Wine Director: Christian Stachel
Special Guest: Nicola Biscardo
Eagle Eye Imports: Jessica Engel

Where: D’Amato’s, Royal Oak
When: 7:00PM
Tix: $40.00 per person exclusive of tax & gratuity
Friday, February 27th: Opus One Wine Tasting

On Friday February 27, 2009 from 6PM to 8PM Opus One Restaurant will have a special wine tasting with twenty different wines. The cost is $20 with advanced reservations which includes the wines and some scrumptious Opus One hot and cold hors d'oeuvres. We will have wine professionals available to discuss the wines. In addition, we will be selling the wines to go at retail pricing and below for those who attend the event. Those who do not make advanced reservations will be charged $25 at the door. See below for the wines that will be tasted on February 27th.

20 Wines with Hot and Cold Hors D'oeuvres

Some of the selections are listed below:

Sanford Chardonnay, Santa Barbara
Trivento Torrontes, Mendoza
Three Stones Sauvignon Blanc, Marloborough
Gordon Brothers, 'Kamiak White', Columbia Valley

Domine Drouhin Pinot Noir, Willamette
St Hallet Shiraz 'Faith', Barossa
Justin Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles
Care Syrah-Tempranillo, Carenina (Spain)
Terrazes de Los Andes Malbec Reserva, Mendoza
Terre d'Oro Zinfandel, Amador

Where: Opus One Restaurant, Detroit
When: Call 313-961-7766 for details and to make reservations
Tix: $20.00 with reservations; $25.00 without

Friday, February 27th: Charles Hendricks Meet and Greet at Big Rock Chophouse

Wine Tasting & Meet and Greet with Winemaker Charles Hendricks of the Acclaimed Hope and Grace Winery

Got Rocks Ultra Lounge located on the 2nd Level of Big Rock Chophouse

The following wines will be offered at the tasting:
2006 Ten Mile White Chardonnay, Viognier, Chenin Blanc
2006 Ten Mile Red Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Barbera, Carignane
2006 Thousand Foot Pinot Noir
2005 Parcel 41 Merlot
2006 Rock & Vine Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 Twenty Bench Cabernet Sauvignon
2005 Hullabaloo Zinfandel
$60 per person to include above wines, appetizers, tax, tip, and valet

A Special Tasting Table featuring his top rated award wining wines, listed below, for Emerald and Diamond Members will be available. This is a great way to use your two complimentary monthly wine upgrades, a $25 value. Attendees who are not Emerald and Diamond Members
can purchase this upgrade for an additional $25 per person.

Regusci 2005 Merlot, Stags Leap
Regusci 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap
Hope & Grace 2006 Chardonnay
Hope & Grace 2006 Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow
Hope & Grace 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon

Where: Big Rock Chophouse, Birmingham
When: 7:00PM-9:00PM
Tix: $60.00 all-inclusive

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Reopening: Cafe Con Leche

Southwest Detroit's popular Cafe Con Leche, once a part of the multi-million-dollar failed Mexicantown Mercado project (and I certainly don't think it's a stretch to blame the ubiquitous "Gateway Project," which has effectively shut off Mexicantown from suburban tourist traffic save for those savvy enough to figure out that all one needs to do is drive down Michigan Ave. and take any one of the many sidestreets between the train station and Junction right smack-dab into the heart of it--my favorite is Vinewood, because then you're right at Amicci's Pizza), has reopened in its new location at 4200 W. Vernor at Scotten. They are open at 7:00AM Monday-Friday and 10:00AM Saturday. Previously they played host to a variety of musical acts every Friday night, as well as poetry readings and open mics, a tradition I hope they maintain. Plus, where else can one get some good coffee around here? (...just kidding...)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Success to Celebrate: Russell Street Deli

While several restaurants and other new businesses are floundering and reading the daily news begins to feel more like viewing the timeline of a city shutting down, it's nice to hear some stories of success.

Enter Russell Street Deli, located in Detroit's year-round farmer's market Eastern Market, which beat the odds to actually increase sales and profits. Read the article as reported by CNN here.

In the meantime, Russell Street Deli is now open at 7:00AM daily (except Sundays) for breakfast, and continues to serve a popular (and crowded, and noisy) lunch in a lively communal setting. The pulled pork and corned beef are most popular, but the menu boasts a variety of vegetarian and vegan options as well, and utilizes fresh vegetables from the Market itself in a menu that changes daily to accommodate availability.

Thanks to David at the Incorrigible City for finding this piece.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Winter Specials at Cuisine

Don't let the erratic weather get you down! Now through March 17th, Cuisine is offering diners phenomenal specials to entice your tastebuds. Every Wednesday receive a full lobster dinner for only $25.00, or you can enjoy three-course progression menus for just $35.00 daily. At the very least, it's enough to start getting you out of hibernation mode. Insider's tip: this is a great place to hit up before or after a show at the Fisher Theatre. With their season in full swing, now is a great time to sample Cuisine at a deeply discounted price and make it a great date night or a tony (-award-winning, if you catch Rent) night out with friends.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

At Least the Food is Good: Finn & Porter

Valentine's Day is the single busiest night of the whole entire year for the restaurant industry. Reservations are booked weeks in advance and it is not uncommon for restaurants to book 300+ counts. It is the one night of the year that every restaurant needs to be 100% on-point, the ONE NIGHT in which failure is not an option.
Someone should have told the folks at Finn & Porter that.

Now granted, Finn & Porter is a new restaurant. It just opened inside the newly renovated Fort Shelby Doubletree Suites and is still subject to various opening "kinks." (Nevermind that other just-opened restaurants such as Detroit Fish Market and 24 Grille seem to be operating just fine without the need for patrons to overlook poor service, but not all new businesses can hit the ground running.) Given that, I am willing to give them another shot a few months from now. However, when every couple leaves the restaurant grumbling about long wait times for food, slow service, etc., on Valentine's Day, it doesn't bode well for the future of the restaurant.

Immediately upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted by an empty hostess stand and another couple waiting at the empty hostess stand for their coats (and they seemed to have been waiting there for some time). No's Valentine's Day, they're busy, I get it.

Except they weren't busy. They weren't even half-full. Which isn't to say that they weren't still underprepared, and THAT is exactly the problem.

So they missed the greet. Strike one. When the hostess finally did come, she didn't really seem to know what was going on. She seemed awkward, confused, and entirely new to the whole restaurant industry. She sat us and seemed perplexed about...something. Then she returned to the hostess stand where the first couple was STILL waiting on their coats, and asked them politely (and somewhat automatically) if everything was okay this evening. The man said, "Not at all" and proceeded to put on his coat. Again, confusion. He went on to say, "Not at all--nothing was okay tonight. Absolutely nothing. We'll try back in three months." Now, again, the hostess seemed to be new to the business because the first thing she should have done was sincerely apologize, grab the manager, have the manager offer an apology and a meal credit for their next visit, and attempt to ensure that the customer left at least somewhat satisfied. Instead she said, "Oh," and let them go on their not-so-merry way.

Strike two.

Our server actually seemed competent and well-trained; I'm assuming he's an industry vet because I don't imagine he learned his etiquette there. With us he was prompt and attentive...though he seemed to disappear for long stretches of time. While there I hypothesized that this was because the kitchen was short-staffed and backed up (given the extremely long wait times for food), and perhaps he was helping them. Later I realized it was because he was running back and forth between the restaurant and the bar, an entirely separate location across the hotel hallway. Note to management: separate locations need separate staff.

Upon being seated, he came over and asked if we would like to start with a glass of wine. At this point I had to ask for a wine list because the hostess did not provide us with one when she sat us. Strike three: in a place like this that has fine dining aspirations, patrons should always be seated with a wine list along with their menus (unless, of course, you're in a very high-end establishment, at which you will first be seated then presented with the wine list, and usually by the sommelier). One should never have to ask.

At this point, my partner and I had a pretty good idea of what we were in store for.

And then I got the wine list (delivered by the still-befuddled hostess), which actually rather impressed me. It is fairly small, but carries a good number of very decent wines, as well as a rather nice selection of Michigan wines--which, sadly, many local restaurants still have yet to find that bandwagon. I debated on the A to Z Winery's Pinot Noir, but finally opted for a Late Harvest Reisling from Chateau Grand Traverse--a deep golden wine full of perfumes and a mild honey nectar on the tounge--as well as a Cabernet from one of my favorite American wineries, Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington State. (I remember I was first introduced to Chateau Ste. Michelle by Matteo at Bacco with their partnership wine, Col Solare--to this day one of my favorites.) This wine exhibits all of the characteristics of terroir, a wine appreciation term which refers to the grapes displaying the characteristics of the land in which they were grown (the soil, the climate, the weather conditions). This Cab was stinky and dirty and deep, like nutrient-rich wet soil, with some black pepper and other dirty, stinky things. Terrific. For this, I remove one strike.

The menu is still a bit sparse, but they had a good selection of seafood and steaks. I was torn between a Filet with Gorgonzola Butter OR Truffle Butter (can I have both please?), the Valentine's Day special Duck Breast, and Trio of Lamb. Since my last experience with duck was disappointing, and really it's not like I've never had a filet with gorgonzola and/or truffle butter before, I opted for the Trio of Lamb. Mint and chile crusted rib chop, kalamata and feta tapenade-stuffed noisette, and a "curious" shepherd's pie. The server commended my selection and informed me that this was how Chef de Cuisine Aaron True (from Small Plates) got his job there--by presenting this dish. I like it when I choose well.

I started with the Poached Fig and Pear Spinach Salad, made with bleu cheese, spinach, radicchio and frisee, spiced walnuts, and a pomegranate vinaigrette. Outstanding. Truly. Save for the figs--which, when poached, tasted like giant, giant raisins...a bit too much fig for any bite--this salad was full of pleasing and well-matched flavors. The bleu cheese was moist and fresh, the spinach green and crisp, the radicchio and endive ever-so-slightly bitter, the pear soft and sweet, the pomegranate vinaigrette reduced to almost the consistency of syrup and full of flavor to complement the salad. I thoroughly enjoyed this and was given ample time to finish it before our entree course was served...much to the dismay of my partner, who opted not to start with an appetizer or salad.

To be fair, it is proper restaurant etiquette to allow diners ample time between courses so they won't be overwhelmed with plates of food being plopped in front of them. I finished my salad and then waited perhaps another 10-15 minutes for my entree--yes, a little too long, but certainly not unforgivable. My partner took huge issue with the wait time for his meal, but if he had ordered a starter he likely would have been satisifed.

Other diners, however, weren't quite so lucky. A couple who were there before us were still there once we finished...and they didn't look happy about it. Another couple, who were staying in the hotel, walked out after waiting 10 minutes without being acknowledged (I later saw them at the adjacent bar). A third couple seemed to have a pleasant evening right up until they were forced to wait an excessively long time for their check. A fourth couple complained that their steak was not cooked properly as requested. A fifth couple complained to the manager about the long wait for their entrees. And this was every diner within our immediate earshot.

Speaking of the manager, just where exactly was he, anyway? I would hope that my "short-staffed kitchen" theory is accurate and that he was back there making salads and steaming vegetables, because his absence from the floor amidst all of these many issues and complaints should otherwise cost him his job. There are too many good restaurants in this city, all competing for the same clientele, for this one to be offering such shoddy service as this.

It would be so much easier to write off Finn and Porter entirely if it weren't for the food. The Trio of Lamb was wonderful--the lamb meat was rich and flavorful, cooked a perfectly pink "medium" as I requested, and the different preparations were bold and thoughtful. The chop was simple, and really the crust didn't do much for it, but the meat was still tender and rich. The noisette was absolute perfection, tender and juicy, and the Mediterranean flavors of kalamata olives and feta cheese were oddly flattering...though it certainly shouldn't seem so strange as lamb meat is a staple of Greek and Lebanese cuisine; it is just simply not what these high-end American tastes are accustomed to. The "curious" shepherd's pie was served in half a hollowed-out baked potato with whipped potatoes on top. The stew itself was rich and meaty, the lamb tender and well-seasoned. Both for presentation and flavor, this one was the winner--even if the whipped potatoes were a bit crusty on top.

My side of steamed aspargus was just a simple side of steamed asparagus. The desserts sounded decadent (such as a Chai Spice Cheesecake and the Chocolate Raspberry Fudge "Tulip," a chocolate torte made with chocolate mascarpone cheese and raspberry coulis), but alas, I had no stomach for it. The bread was somewhat stale and obviously store-bought, including the overly-dry jalapeno-laced corn muffin. The remainder of the menu is a bit of a hodge-podge--Asian influence meets traditional South with a French accent. Kind of all over the place, but if all of the food is as good as what little I sampled then I would consider that a strength more than a weakness. Pricing is on par with other steakhouses and seafood destinations.

The décor is borderline cheap Vegas lounge (specifically, the floor and the upholstery), but the lighting is fairly stylish even if it does at first seem a bit garish. The adjacent bar, called the "Round Bar," is not quite what I expected...I suppose I had envisioned less a neon-doused sports bar and more an Old-World-styled, plush, sophisticated high oak bar with bartenders wearing proper vests and a separate cigar humidor. But the Four Seasons this is not. Neon-doused sports bar it is.

Overall, my experience at Finn and Porter was a pleasurable one. The food was really fantastic and the wine list is fun and fresh. The atmosphere doesn't quite hit the mark, but doesn't quite miss it either. The biggest opportunity (which is a nice way of saying "failure") here was the service, and not even specifically the server (whom I believe was doing his absolute best in a poorly managed environment). If they can get that under control--and, as the hotel's premiere restaurant and the ONLY fine dining spot in the hotel's immediate vicinity, they will NEED to--this will be a great place. But, guys...don't test our patience.

Finn & Porter is located at 525 W. Lafayette Blvd. and is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For reservations and questions, call 313-963-5600.

Monday, February 16, 2009

February Beer Dinner at Big Rock Chophouse

Contrary to what one might assume, beer is considered to be just as complimentary to food and dining as wine. In fact, many would argue that beer is actually more difficult to produce (especially well), and that it takes greater time, care, and expertise as well as a highly refined palate to create the perfect combination of barley, hops, oats, and the like to produce a truly exceptional brew.

I realize this is a far cry from the glass-swirling, slurping wine snob you might picture in your mind when you think of fine dining and food pairings, but the people at Big Rock Chophouse recognize the unique contribution brewmasters make to the world culture of cuisine, and are celebrating all the mighty power of fermented starches with a February Beer Dinner on Tuesday, February 17th. The reception starts at 6:30PM with dinner served at 7:00PM, and the cost is $75.00 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuity.

Appetizer Station
Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels with Belgium Wit
Platinum Blond Brewed Onion Dip and Chips with Platinum Blond
Strong Scotch Red Ale Batter Fried Chicken, Malt Tarter with Scotch Red Ale

First Course
Garam Masala Marinated Swordfish and Shrimp with Amaranth, Mulligatawny Sauce Poured with India Pale Ale and Winter Pils

Lemon Verbina and Grapefruit Sorbet with Saison St. Clair “Float”

Main Course
Duck Confit and White Bean Cassoulet, Roast Lamb Loin and Arugula Salad Poured with Belgium Style Tripel and Maple Farmhouse Ale

Dessert Course
Chocolate Cherry Bomb, Cherry Liquors Poured with Michigan Sour Cherry Tripel and B-Line Barley Wine

After Dinner Coffee will be poured with Russian Imperial Stout and Bourbon Stout

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Superior Supino

It's no secret: I love pizza. I had been eyeballing the recently opened Supino Pizzeria in Eastern Market for some time, but had never got up the gumption to go. Independent pizzerias are so hit-and-miss, and I already had my other favorites. Until I was told that it was the best pizza in the city, and even though that seemed to be a tall claim, I was much more inclined to investigate.
Supino Pizzeria inhabits a very visible spot on Russell Street in the heart of Eastern Market. Nestled between an Ethiopian eatery (supposedly quite good but seemingly never open) and a Coney Island, and across the parking lot from R. Hirt, Cost Plus Wine Shop, and Vivio's, you really can't drive into Eastern Market without taking notice of it. The interior is small, with a few tables set up for people to dine in, though they must still place their orders at the counter, most likely with owner Dave Mancini himself or one of his friends.

Don't be surprised if, when you call to place your order in advance, you overhear "Hey, Dave, how much is a [insert name of pizza here]?" Dave Mancini is always in the back making pizzas, hands covered in flour, but quick to hastily wash them off to take your order, ring you up, and hand you your freshly-made pizza. On multiple trips I've observed apparent friends of Dave's hanging out and keeping him company (and also answering the phone for him!), as well as people stopping in for a bite to eat after work and enjoying Dave's outstanding pizzas in his completely relaxed and unfussy dining area.

Dave is always quick to greet customers coming in--even if he is busy prepping multiple orders--and is warm and friendly towards every person who walks through his door. I find the pizzeria a welcoming, inviting place that feels very "homey," a place where friends and neighbors can go to sit and visit ("chew the fat" so to speak), where everyone is treated like family.

Dave named the pizzeria after his father's hometown in Italy and treats it very much as the hometown-style family restaurant that would exist in a small Italian village where everyone knows everyone else and all are out to support each other. The casual, welcoming attitude is infectious and patrons can't help but to leave with a smile on their faces.

Which is to say nothing of the pizza itself: I'm not even remotely exaggerating when I tell you that this is hands-down the best pizza in all of metro Detroit. Pies are a little pricey at $10.00-$17.00 (average), and bear in mind that one 10'' is just enough for one person, but the higher cost buys higher quality and you get what you pay for at Supino.

I started with an Affumiciata ("Smoky") Pizza--smoked prosciutto, roasted garlic, mozzarella, smoked gouda, and ricotta. Out of all my trips here and the different pizzas I have sampled, this is still my standout favorite. The flavors are beyond compare--the salty, smoky prosciutto tempered by the slightly sweet roasted garlic, then taken to new heights with the rich and pungent gouda offset by the mild, creamy ricotta...each bite is a burst of strong yet complementary flavors, and no two bites are the same. Typically when the flavor of a pizza is inconsistent (I've made reference to the "gobbing" of ricotta cheese before), I would consider it a fault. But for this pizza it is a strength, as the number of different flavors at play have the chance to take centerstage, one bite at a time, and not one of these impressions on the tastebuds wasn't a pleasurable experience. Of all the different menu options, this is probably the one that most closely resembles something you would find in Italy, and it was absolutely divine.

On other trips I sampled more of the "classics:" the Margherita Pizza, made with fresh basil, mozzarella, tomatoes, and parmigiano, as well as the all-time king, Pepperoni. The Margherita Pizza was almost as fantastic as the "Smoky;" large pieces of freshly cut basil play on the tongue with the juicy diced tomatoes and tangy parmesan-mozzarella blend. This is another pizza full of wonderful flavors, though not quite as life-altering as the "Smoky." The Pepperoni Pizza I found a little disappointing, only because of the excessive greasiness of the pepperoni used. The flavor of the pepperoni itself was perfectly spicy, but the grease was off-putting and soaked through to the bottom of the otherwise flawless crust.

Ah, but the crust: this is what makes Supino superior. The hand-made dough is a perfect balance of crispy and tender and chewy and dense and easy to tear. It is also as full of flavor as the toppings on the pizzas themselves--savor the crust and taste notes of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and high-end organic flour. The crust is as much a sensational experience as the rest of the pie, and all compliments to Chef Dave for his expert dough-making. Your pizza will come out of the pizza oven cooked perfectly and without any burning or charring--no small accomplishment there, either--and the shape will be lopsided and uneven, the true sign of a hand-tossed crust.

Other menu options are small but attempt to cater to other tastes--there is a salad and a pasta option, as well as a dessert. I sampled the dessert, called "Crespelle" (Italian "crepes"). The Crespelle dessert consists of two house-made crepes made with sweetened ricotta, chocolate sauce, and roasted pistachios. The crepes were paper-thin, doughy but perhaps just a little too doughy, and the ricotta was quite a bit of ricotta. If the proportions were better balanced, the flavors would have worked well, but as it was I had a big floppy crepe about to burst with ricotta cheese. Fair enough, this is a pizza place after all; for dessert crepes I'll just stick with Bucharest Grill or Good Girls. This in no way alters my opinion of Supino's superior pizzas, or Dave Mancini's embracing rapport with his clientele.

Though they might not consider themselves a "gourmet" pizzeria, they are more gourmet than most of those that claim to be. South Beach Pizza Bar might have the chic ultralounge interior, but their pizza cannot even compare. Taste is great, but it's just not Supino. When you're willing to sacrifice atmosphere for quality food and know the value of paying more for better product, Supino is your pizza joint.

Supino Pizzeria is open Tues.-Thurs. 11:00AM-8:30PM and Fri. & Sat. 11:00AM-10:00PM. Call 313-567-7879 to place your order. Pizzas take about 20 minutes to cook. You may also order individual slices, lunchtime only.

Welcome, Le Petit Zinc!

Charles Sorel is no stranger to blighted neighborhoods in the early stages of gentrification. He's also no stranger to success in such neighborhoods--his first restaurant venture, Chez Oskar, in the then-rough-and-tumble neighborhood of Fort Greene in Brooklyn, was wildly successful, and to this day is still considered one of the best in the area (in an area that now boasts A LOT of bistros). He went on to open Cafe Lafayette, another popular and well-received establishment catering towards lighter tastes and lower prices.

Sorel was born in Martinique and raised in Paris, having lived in New York for almost two decades and most recently spending four years in Brazil. His background is colorful and cultured, and one can only hope that this variegated history is reflected in his food (ideally a blend of simple, classic French cafe foods with a Martinician flair, which combines elements of Indian, Chinese, north African, and Creole cultures, as Chez Oskar was known for).

Le Petit Zinc, Sorel's latest venture located at 1055 Trumbull (at Howard) right here in Detroit, is now open for business. It is a cozy and colorful location with a spacious outdoor patio that is sure to be abuzz in the summertime. Sorel serves a simple menu of breakfast pastries, crepes, salads, and sandwiches, with a full selection of espresso beverages, coffee, and tea to complement. Sorel is also currently working on acquiring a wine and beer license, which is no small feat in this city.

Le Petit Zinc is open Monday-Saturday 8:30AM-5:00PM for breakfast and lunch. Stop in for a croissant and cappuccino, relax and read the paper, or have a chat with owner Sorel, a colorful character. Take a moment to enjoy this casual Parisian cafe in Corktown.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Supper Club Tastes the New Taste Pizzabar

From January '09 Supper Club at Angelina, photo by Sean McClelland

DETROIT, February 11, 2009 – This February, Detroit Synergy’s Supper Club ventures to a new venue to get a taste of Taste. Taste Pizzabar just opened a few weeks ago, and we couldn’t resist the urge to check out what this new chic, trendy gourmet pizzeria-cum-lounge was all about. On Wednesday, February 25th, beginning with a cocktail hour at 6:00PM and with dinner at 7:00PM, join us as we discover this new Detroit dining and socializing destination.

“The response has been amazing,” says General Manager William of the feedback and coverage Taste has so far received. “So many people—bloggers, newspapers, weekly rags—have been supporting us and have been checking out the restaurant and encouraging others to do the same, and it’s really a great feeling that so many people are interested and want to see us be a success. We’ve all worked very hard and people recognize that.”

For only $25.00 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuity, diners can experience for themselves what Taste is all about. There will also be an additional two-glass wine flight available for an additional $10.00. For this event, Chef Dale Daniels has created a menu featuring the many tastes of Taste for diners to sample:

*Family-style appetizers of mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, and “Wanys” (spicy battered and fried pickles);
*Dinner salad with your choice of buttermilk ranch, honey mustard, or blueberry-pomegranate vinaigrette dressings;
*6’’ personal pizza, your choice of classic pepperoni, “‘Shrooms” (oven-roasted Cremini, Portabella, Shittake, and Oyster mushrooms covered in mozzarella), and the “Hula” (chunks of sweet juicy pineapple and loads of ham with mozzarella)
*Cheesecake Cupcake, choice of Red Velvet or Turtle

With its exposed brick walls, high ceilings and windows, bold yet warm décor and comfortable lounge-like atmosphere, Taste Pizzabar is the quintessential Detroit dining locale, right down to the ambient electronic music playing in the background (with DJs spinning in the lounge on Friday and Saturday nights). Prices are modest and tastes cater both to the gastronomy of a gourmet as well as the appetite of the after-bar crowd. Comfort foods such as Tater Tots meet gourmet tastes such as the all-seafood “Ocean 21” pizza in an environment designed to be conducive to socializing and sharing good times and a slice of ‘za with friends. Catering to trendy “tastes” while still managing to be comfortable and inviting, Taste is bound to make a big mark on the dining landscape and social scene of the city.

Reservations to this event must be made in advance by emailing This event is on a pre-commitment basis only as a courtesy to the restaurant and the organizers; if you are unable to attend after making reservations, please contact the Project Lead. This will be a cash at the door event—please, no personal checks or credit cards. Reservations must be made no later than noon on Monday, February 23rd to ensure your seat at the restaurant. Due to limited space, reservations are on a first come/first served basis.

Detroit Synergy is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. Its mission is to generate positive perceptions and opinions about Detroit by bringing together a diverse community and building upon the City's strengths and resources to realize a common vision for a greater Detroit. Please visit for more information about the group.

20% Liquidation Sale at Zaccaro's

After receiving word that Zaccaro's was closing, I decided to swing by there yesterday to see what sort of going-out-of-business sales I could snag. First of all, the place was packed--news of the sale had apparently spread quickly. EVERYTHING store-wide is being sold at 20% off...which pretty much makes the pricing on-par with a more savings-oriented grocery store, though a $6.00 chocolate bar is still a $5.00 chocolate bar after the discount (but where else can you buy organic Chilean chocolate?). Wine, cheese, their whole assortment of unique dining's all got to go, and you have until the 19th.

When I was there the cheese was already almost gone (don't worry! I still got plenty! NOW it's gone.) and the wine selections were pretty overpicked...there was a Priorat and a Port I just couldn't justify the money on, even at 20% off, but there were few left. They're out of produce, the lunch counter has sold through most of their fixin's, and the pastries won't last long, but non-perishables and bottled liquids (organic juice, hand-crafted beer, real cane sugar soda) are still aplenty and are high-end at low-end prices. Stop by for your chance to take advantage of one of the good things that happened to Detroit that just wasn't meant to last. Robert Frost may have been right when he said "Nothing gold can stay;" still, I wish it could have made it just a little longer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Two More Victims of Hard Times: MCB and Zaccaro's

The trendy (and, alas, pricey and poorly managed) Mercury Coffee Bar has closed its doors temporarily to "retool." I've been hearing tales of their woes pretty much since they opened, so this comes as no tremendous surprise, but it is still unfortunate. Let's hope the second time's the charm, since there's nowhere else in the city or suburbs where we can get genuine slow coffee.

The equally trendy and pricey Zaccaro's Market will also be closing due to "slow sales." This gourmet grocer, the Big Buzz of Spring '08, had all the right ideas in place including top-notch wines, cheeses, pastries, and coffees, a full line of organic food items, as well as a cafe with free Wi-Fi for mingling, working, and noshing. I had really hoped this one would be a success, but in this place at this time...well, as much as people might have been excited that a gourmet grocer had opened in the city, no one had the money to shop there. In time, I hope Cindy Warner or someone with her same ambitions and goals takes up the slack and tries again as I do think in a better economy there is a market here for such a place, but for right now we all must weather the storm with Meijer-brand. Best of luck to you Cindy, and thanks for trying.

Valentine's Day Dinner Options

It's easy to forget just how stressful planning a special night for your loved one can be on the most high-profile date night of the year. Luckily, several area restaurants have taken some of the pressure off of that planning with generous and savory prix fixe menus and live entertainment to match. Make your reservations ASAP as space is filling up fast all over town.


Thursday, February 12th-Saturday, February 14th: Valentine’s Weekend at Opus One

Please join us for Valentine's Day Weekend either Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday for our special Valentine's Day Dinner Features. The cost for two persons is $89.

These features include Chateaubriand for two, Surf and Turf for two, or a Seafood Trio for two along with your choice of either the Opus Romaine Salad or Specialty Soup of the Day and one of our Specialty Desserts for two or your choice of the Opus One Pastry Cart.

We will also have our regular menu available for those that have their favorite Opus One entrees.

Call 313-961-7766 and press one for reservations. Opus One is located at 565 East Larned Detroit, Michigan 48226

Where: Opus One, Detroit
When: Call 313-961-7766 for details and to make reservations
Tix: $89.00 for two exclusive of tax and gratuity


Friday, February 13th-Sunday, February 15th: Valentine’s Dinner at Cuisine

Come celebrate with your significant other all weekend at Cuisine. Cuisine will offer your choice of an ala carte menu and Special Valentine’s Day menu of 5 courses for $80.00. Cuisine will be offering Champagne specials as well. Chef Paul can pick a wine pairing to compliment your Valentine’s Day menu.

Where: Cuisine, Detroit
When: 5:00PM-10:00PM
Tix: $80.00 prix fixe menu


Friday, February 13th-Saturday, February 14th: Valentine’s Dinner at the Rattlesnake

A special prix fixe menu for your valentine.

Butternut Squash with Ginger Splash

Starter Choices Please (Select One)
~Baby Gem Limestone Bibb Wedges Dusted with Spiced Cashews, Chewy Lardons and Maytag Blue, Pomegranate Vinaigrette & Arils
~Warm Goat Cheese and Black Turkey Fig Spoon Spinach & Baby Arugula Tossed with Figs & Roasted Cippolini, Goat Cheese Button, Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette
~Colossal Lump Crab Cake Pan Roasted with Braised Whole Grain Mustard Slaw, Many Mustard Sauce Topped with Mustard Seed Micro salad
~Crispy Calamari & Rock Shrimp Fry Crisp Fried Cool Lemon-Garlic & Spicy Red Chile Aioli

Entrée Choices (Select One)
~Maine Sea Scallop & Lobster Reverse Ravioli Pooled in Ginger Froth with Pasta Pearls, Crispy Ginger Ginger Scented Wild Atlantic Nova Salmon Ginger Crystal Coated Salmon Swimming in a Sweet Corn Risotto, Splashed with Ginger Froth, Scallion & Crispy Ginger Salad
~Pan Roasted Free Range Duck Breast Apple Cider Cured, Stacked atop Sea Salt Caramel Glazed Two Apple Tart, Pinot Noir Essence & Crispy Sage Salad
~Porcini & Truffle Infused 6oz CAB Filet With a Yukon Celery Root Gratin, Black Cabernet Jus & Porcini Cream Wild Mushroom Ragout
~Live Smoked CAB Beef Short Ribs Braised in Rich Rattlesnake Barbeque Spices Roasted Cauliflower Smash, Tobacco Onion Rings

Dessert Choices (Select One)
~Flourless Chocolate Pressed Cake With Vanilla Bean Ice Cream & Caramel Sauce
~Lavender & White Chocolate Crème: Brulee Caramelized Raspberries swirled in Lavender Scented Silky Crème Brulee, Topped with Burnt Turbinado Crisp & Pyramid Rattlesnake Blend

Press Pot Coffee
Mocha Ginger Drop Cookies

Where: The Rattlesnake Club, Detroit
When: 5:30PM-10:00PM
Tix: $60.00 exclusive of tax and gratuity


Saturday, February 14th: Valentine’s Day Chocolate and Wine Pairing

Valentine's Day wine and chocolate pairing. Try four of our custom wines with four specialty chocolates. The perfect way to impress your valentine!!

Where: Vitner’s Cellar, Royal Oak
When: 11:00AM-7:00PM
Tix: $16.00

Saturday, February 14th: Grupo Escobar and Dinner at the Majestic Cafe

Grupo Escobar is an 11 piece Salsa and Timba Group from Detroit specializing in music from Cuba. The band members have all converged from different backgrounds and nationalities to form a group which can grind out modern tropical rhythms. Cuba has always been a melting pot for musical styles and has been very controversial in it's constant efforts to create new and exciting compositions in Dance Music, and many other art forms. Grupo Escobar seizes on this spirit and combines their thorough experience in Timba, Salsa, Jazz and American, Cumbia, and Tropical Rhythms to bring the audience a diverse and rich onslaught of high energy music. Expect High Energy Music and Dance! all generated through "La Clave". "AGUA!"

Before the show, enjoy a special prix fixe dinner at the Majestic Café, specially selected for Valentine’s Day.

Where: The Majestic, Detroit
When: Music at 8:00PM
Tix: $7.00 advance/$10.00 at the door for music; $50.00 per person for dinner with admission to performance

Saturday, February 14th: Valentine’s Dinner and Comedy Show at the Emory

Enjoy a one of a kind dinner for two at the Emory this Valentine’s Day. The menu includes your choice of grilled filet mignon, blackened tilapia, or vegetarian strudel with soup or salad, fresh bread, redskin potatoes, and grilled asparagus. Cupcakes from Pinwheel Bakery will be served for dessert with a champagne toast. Purchase also includes two tickets to the Go! Comedy All Star Showdown ($30.00 value).

Where: The Emory, Ferndale
When: Seatings to accommodate the 8:00PM and 10:00PM Go! Comedy shows
Tix: $75.00 per couple
Call 248-546-8202 for reservations by 2/12/09

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Best New Restaurants of 2008

Interested in knowing where the best new places to dine in metro Detroit are? The Freep's food critic Sylvia Rector offers a nice reduction of options which spans the metro Detroit area from Rochester Hills to Northville to Detroit. Check out your list of choices, from the high-end chophouse to the eco-conscious casual eatery here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bittersweet Goodbyes: Sweet Georgia Brown Evicted

Sweet Georgia Brown had become something of a Detroit dining mainstay in the six years it has been open. It hasn't been without its share of difficult times--several years ago they closed for business for a few months and reopened under new management and ownership--but it would seem that week was the final sweet potato straw. On Wednesday work crews hired by Greektown Casino, which owns the building in which Sweet Georgia Brown was located, evicted the restaurant, tossing all furniture etc. in the nearby dumpsters...much to the surprise of people who tried showing up for work that day. Apparently Greektown had not received rent payments from SGB's owners for months, and the struggling casino responded by shutting the business down.

Owner and former NBA star Derrick Coleman had only this to say to press: "I am most concerned about my valued employees that have been with me from the beginning. I want to assist them in any way possible as my employees depend on me. With the economy, fine dining dollars are just not there -- especially in the City of Detroit. Businesses open and close every day, and it was news to me that Sweet Georgia Brown's would be evicted this morning. The workers are my main concern."

Though it's been some time since my last trip to SGB, I remember finding it a charming and contemporary take on good old-fashioned southern food--think Deep South with a French twist. It was a stylish space and a downtown favorite, and though it will likely not be the last casualty of these tough economic times (dare I say this glut of new restaurants is more than the average 95% likely to suffer the same fate...and that 95% is during good times), I am still particularly sorry to see this one go.

Best of luck to Coleman and crew in future ventures. Word to the wise (as evidenced by innumerable restaurant/bar/club closings over the past few years): ALL businesses must (a) pay their taxes, and (b) pay their rent/make nice with their landlords. Too many businesses have shut down for not following these basic (and simply common sense) rules. Let that be a lesson learned to can hope.

New Italian Restaurant to Open in Birmingham

The people behind the successful Chen Chow Brasserie will be opening a second venture in Birmingham in the spring, a noveau Italian place to occupy the space once claimed by City Cellar--which in itself was a fabulous place before it suffered the fate of the Blue Martini downstairs and got shut down along with it (guilt by association; same owners).

If they take the same recipe which made Chen Chow a hit--simple yet elegant food in a posh atmosphere perfectly suited to Birmingham--this new venture in a cuisine style sorely lacking in that corner of the O.C. (save for Bacco in Southfield, which is a bit more than a stone's throw from B-ham) already has built-in success.

In related news, Zoran--the host with the most who, much like most other people steeped in the restaurant industry, has made the full circuit of area restaurants and most recently came from MGM and Zinc--is the maître d' of Chen Chow now. Likewise, Tribute's former bar manager Kevin has taken a position there and will be taking over the new Italian place once it opens.

Speaking of Tribute, much has changed in the few years since I was a regular. Executive Chef Don Yamauchi has left, but has stayed within the Epoch Restaurant Group and has taken over Forte in Birmingham. New Executive Chef Rich Travis has taken Tribute's former highly avant-garde culinary concepts and "Americanized" them a bit...this makes me a little more than nervous for the fate of my former favorite restaurant, but I'll let you know what I think once I revisit. "Americanized," though...never a good thing to say...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Last Days of Birmingham Restaurant Week at Big Rock

Big Rock Chophouse is celebrating Birmingham Restaurant Week with special prix fixe lunch and dinner menus, priced at $15.00 and $25.00 respectively. Today and tomorrow will be your last opportunities to take advantage of this comparitively low pricing, and check out the menus below if you still need a little arm-twisting:

Luncheon Price Fixed Menu $15

First course (choice of one)
Asian Cabbage Salad - Won Tons, Napa Cabbage and Ginger Dressing
Mixed Greens Salad - Cucumber, Tomato, Carrot and your choice of dressing
Mushroom Bisque

Main Course (choice of one)
Catfish Po Boy - Cornmeal Fried, Chips and Slaw
Chicken Pesto Sandwich - Chicken Salad, Arugula and Tomato on Walnut Raisin Bread
Chophouse Burger - ½ pound Tenderloin, Fries, Choice of Cheese
Vegetable Panini - Grilled Zucchini, Tomato, Portobello, Onion and Alfalfa Sprouts

Dessert Course
Cheesecake or Crème Brule

Dinner Price Fixed Menu $25

First course (choice of one)
Asian Cabbage Salad - Won Tons, Napa Cabbage and Ginger Dressing
Mixed Greens Salad - Cucumber, Tomato, Carrot and your choice of dressing
Mushroom Bisque

Main Course (Choice of One)
Braised Beef Short Ribs - White Cheddar Mashed Potato
Roast Half Chicken - Mashed Potato and Wasabi Slaw
Togarashi Salmon - Stir Fry Bok Choy, Basmati Rice and Ponzu

Dessert Course
Cheesecake or Crème Brule

Reservations recommended

Dine in the D During Winter Blast!

It's been a long, hard winter--no doubt about that. And it ain't over yet, neither (dialect usage intentional). So why not make the most of it?

This weekend, February 6th-8th, head down to Campus Martius Park and surrounding downtown areas for Winter Blast and take advantage of the Dine in the D program, in which over 60 local restaurants are offering a 15% discount off your entire food bill. Restaurants include fine dining favorites Coach Insignia, Opus One, the Whitney, Atlas Global Bistro, the Alley Grille, Bourbon Steak, Da Eduardo, Mosaic, Saltwater, Seldom Blues, Wolfgang Puck, as well as newcomers 24 Grille, Detroit Fish Market, Angelina Italian Bistro, and Finn & Porter.

Some of these places require reservations to be made by the end of the day today, so call now!