Thursday, August 30, 2012

Your Guide to the Food of Arts, Beats + Eats

Photo from Arts, Beats and Eats

It just so happens I have the inside scoop on the menu items for this year's Arts, Beats and Eats, held this Friday through Monday in downtown Royal Oak. (Because I'm working the festival and just put together the spreadsheet with the menu items yesterday, is why.) Here I present what I think are some of the highlights of this year's festival foods, presented in no particular order and with the occasional editorial note, straight from the source.

Soaring Eagle
Sliced New York Strip with crab beignet - beignet you say? Yes please!
Four cheese bread
Buttered popcorn ice cream - that is not a typo
Prime rib sandwich
Siniikaung slider

Chicken on a stick - all-natural hand-breaded fresh (not frozen) chicken; devotees swear this is the best of the festival fried chicken
Chicken tenders with fries
Buffalo wings with fries
Fresh cut fries
Chili cheese fries
Butterfly chips

Union Jack's 
A long-time festival favorite, this catering-only company has no restaurant but consistently has shown the strongest draw year after year, festival after festival; the fish 'n chips are mandatory, as is the deep-fried Mars bar...and pickles...and Twinkie
Fish 'n chips
Deep-fried pickles
Deep-fried Mars bar
Deep-fried Twinkie
Corn dogs

Taste and Tell
Caribbean chicken on a stick
Garlic crab boil - no way this won't be awesome
Fish or shrimp with fries
Peas and rice
Plantains - same here

Lockhart's BBQ
Sliced brisket
Burnt ends - the BEST
Carolina pork sammy
Mac + cheese

Hamlin's Corner 
Parmesan garlic, Cajun or buttered Michigan sweet corn on the cob

Paella Valencia

Hudson Café
Huevos Rancheros
Red velvet pancakes - a hit every time

La Marsa 
Shish tawook + rice
Fattoush tawook salad
Chicken shawarma + rice
Lamb kabob + rice

Kouzina Greek Street Food
Original gyro
Yiayia's Baklava

Mitchell's Fish Market
Pot roast slider with balsamic onion glaze
Chilled Asian shrimp taco with Napa cabbage slaw
Lobster roll with lettuce + tomato - the festival's fanciest food!

Andre's Lousiana Seafood Sandwich Shop
Jambalaya or etouffe crawfish with rice - a festival favorite
Mac + cheese
Seafood pasta - a new item owner Andre promises will be even better than the etouffe
Farm-raised fried catfish
Fried chicken wings with fries
Homemade sweet potato pie

Slab + Slice
Corn on the cob: butter garlic parmesan or Jamaican rub
Award-winning baby back ribs with coleslaw
BBQ pulled pork slider with coleslaw
Macaroni salad

Sheraton Novi
Chocolate mousse shooter + Oreo crumble + whipped cream
Strawberry shortcake + fresh Michigan strawberry sauce + whipped cream
Brownie overload + Starbucks hot fudge + whipped cream + chocolate shavings

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

[HOT LIST] Ypsilanti

Summer Beer Fest in Ypsilanti's Riverside Park. Photo by EID western beerespondent David Bardallis.
No longer willing to accept its position as Ann Arbor's uncultured country cousin, Ypsilanti has been making a name for itself as a more affordable version of Ann Arbor with a whole lot of craft beer bars and not a whole lot else. I *love* that. Pretty much every place you might happen to stumble into serves Michigan craft beer (or other craft beverages of excellence). What else could you expect from the home of the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival? The craft beer culture here has been many years in the making (if Summer Beer Fest were human, it would now be a pimply teenager sneaking beers from his parents' fridge). Recently-opened hotspots like the Wurst Bar and Red Rock are proving to be major draws, while old stand-bys like Sidetrack and Aubree's are perennial favorites. Yack-town? Try YUM-town! (...sorry.)

The Wurst Bar's beer board.
#1 Wurst Bar
Don't let the phonetic pronunciation of the name fool you -- the Wurst Bar is actually the best bar. First because they're doing something no one else in the area is really doing. Oh, sure, some places get all fancy and make their own charcuterie, and there are definitely a few spots that make their own sausage and brats. But the Wurst Bar is nothing but sausage and brats, from the "usual"(so designated on the menu) -- PBR-poached bratwurst, smoked andouille, mettwurst (made with beef, pork, celery seed and mustard seed), even a couple of vegetarian options -- to the "unusual" -- alligator and crawfish boudin, rattlesnake chorizo. They also have burgers. And more sausage. All made in-house. You can also buy some to go. If that don't beat all they also have a huge craft beer selection, regularly host local brewery tap takeovers, and every Friday after 8 p.m. is $2 pints.

#2 Cafe Ollie / MI General Store
Cafe Ollie was once a casual breakfast and lunch spot offering vegetarian and vegan items, coffee and tea. It is still that, but the recent addition of a wine and beer license now means that in addition to vegetarian and vegan items you can also enjoy a Michigan craft beer or wine. (Try their Black Star Farms Bedazzled strawberry mimosa for brunch, or a stout or porter milkshake for dessert.) Husband and wife Mark Teachout and Danielle Schwerin own both Cafe Ollie and the MI General Store, which just opened last December next to Cafe Ollie. The MI General Store is a gourmet market specializing in products made in Michigan -- beer, wine, cheese, chocolate, and a wide variety of specialty food and gift items.

#3 The Ugly Mug Cafe and Roastery
Okay, so not a beer place, but a totally important coffee place. (Because sometimes it's morning and beer isn't an option. Unless you have the best job EVER.) Part of the post-third-wave coffee movement (which goes beyond simply sourcing from respected roasters to sustainably sourcing from small farms and roasting in-house) which has been gaining huge momentum in metro Detroit, the Ugly Mug has been a "small batch artisanal roaster" since 2004 (you know, before it was cool) and continues to roast some of the best coffee in metro Detroit. They serve a wide selection of coffees from blasé lattes to the mad scientist marvels of Chemex, a small selection of pastries and an inventive selection of bagel sandwiches. And as a throw-back to those archaic second-wave coffeehouses we all first fell in love with, they also host art shows and acoustic nights.

#4 Corner Brewery
The sister brewpub of Ann Arbor's Arbor Brewing Company as well as Arbor's production brewery, Corner Brewery has exactly that kind of vibe -- the friendly bar on the corner. Located in an old schoolhouse with a biergarten in the summer (beware the 'skeeters) and a fireplace in the winter, Corner serves Arbor beer and a selection of pub food (pizza, sammies, apps) with pub-style service (as in you order at the bar and they buzz you when your food is ready). Play board games or darts, use the WiFi, stop in for one of their many special events (like the Halcyon Sundaze BBQ, coming up again Sept. 9) or for a boozy Sunday brunch; Corner is another one of Ypsilanti's many fine beer-drinking establishments for enthusiastic beer drinkers. Also, be there for one of their Rat Pad releases.

#5 Sidetrack
Sidetrack is Ypsilanti's granddaddy craft beer bar, and it has the best fake backstory you'll ever read. An Ypsilanti staple for nearly 30 years, Sidetrack serves Michigan craft beers and Belgian imports as well as One of the 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die (according to Alan Richman circa 2006). This is the kind of place that has a LOT of personality. What exactly that means you need to find out for yourself.

Bubbling under Woodruff's, Tap Room, Beezy's, Cafe Racer, MIX Marketplace, Frenchie's, Aubree's Pizzeria, Cuppy's Best Soulful Deli, Red Rock Downtown Barbecue, B-24's

 The Wurst Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 27, 2012

[NY Post] Bring in the funk

Put down those overly hoppy IPAs and ditch that fruity glass of rosé, people. It’s time to get funky.

You may not know it yet, but you will, soon: On a warm, late summer day, nothing beats a mouth-puckering sour beer.

Popping up in some of the country’s most fertile beer producing regions, sour beers are produced through the use of wild fermenting yeasts, unstable critters that are typically the undesired end result of non-sterile brewing environments. If that sounds a little down and dirty, well, you’re bang-on right. They’re tart; sometimes sweet (if they’re made with fruit), sometimes full of barnyard funk; maybe citrusy or green apple-y; but above all else? You guessed it: Sour.

Read more.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Week We Ate (The EID Week in Review)

Troy keeps it classy.

Ye Olde Butcher Shop is experiencing Ye Olde Detroit Landlord Drama; still plans on opening and is already stocking shelves with non-perishables. [MLive]

Once again, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I should be one flattered motherfucker. (Headlines? Really?) Except that if you're going to BLATANTLY copy me and get paid for it, please kindly do your fucking research. Here's a spotlight of some up-and-coming local chefs in which long-time chef Alexis Henslee of The Metropolitan Cafe is called "new" and Myles McVay is mis-reported as still working for D'Amato's Restaurant despite having accepted a position at Cafe Muse and made the official move long before this story even went to print. (CBS Local / Metromode)

Dangerously Delicious (and exceptionally expensive) Pies are now available seven days a week at Comet Bar. In related news, Comet Bar is still open. Yeah, it surprised me too. [My Fox Detroit]

Any joke about Slows is worth re-printing. Curbed reports that the weight of Slows' patrons waiting for a table over the weekend collapsed the sidewalk. Not really, but the wait hasn't gotten shorter. [Curbed Detroit]

Mudgie's Deli is applying for a liquor license and needs your help in epistolary form to attest that they will not be a booze-fueled dirty hipster sex den, or whatever the dispute is about. Besides, Detroit's dirty hipster sex dens never needed booze to operate. [Mudgie's FB]

Troy keeps it classy. Two chicks break bottles, pull hair at Mon Jin Lau. [Royal Oak Patch]

Detroit Restaurant Week announces their fall 2012 dates, Sept. 28-Oct. 7. [DRW FB]

24grille starts brunch service on September 9. This is now on my calendar and e-vites will be sent shortly. [24grille Official Website]

Are these 'Michigan's Best Ice Cream Parlors'? Meh, who cares: how can *I* get paid to do this? [MLive]

Fodor's rehashes Mario Batali's list of favorite places in Leelanau. [Fodor's]

USA Today gives some love to the UP's Keweenaw Brewing Company's Widow Maker. [USA Today]

Does anyone still listen to Richard Florida? Well if you do, he's all about craft brewers now. [The Atlantic Cities]

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

[EID Feature] Maria's Comida Comes Full Circle

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

Last Saturday was the final day of operation for Maria’s Comida in Hamtramck. The eclectic (for lack of a better word) restaurant served what they called “Mexican-Asian fusion” cuisine, which included items like Asian Barbecue Chicken skillet pizza, Singapore Street Noodle wraps with cilantro rice and tortilla strips, Asian Baby Back Ribs, traditional tamales, made-to-order guacamole, and their infamous Smoked Ghost Pepper Burger topped with bacon and their house-made ghost pepper salsa. The menu was all over the map (so to speak), but as Hamtramck is metro Detroit’s finest melting pot where the only thing that would be weird to see would be a straightforward ‘Murican restaurant without any kind of ethnic flare, Maria’s fit right in.

Maria’s Comida is owned by the Pronko family. Father Alan is the chef and daughter Marie is the manager; mom Angela and son Fred are also heavily involved. Alan went to culinary school some 20 years ago, and helped open the first incarnation of the acclaimed Jack’s on the Riverfront in St. Clair Shores and P.F. Chang’s in Troy’s Somerset Collection. Marie actually came from a social work background but had experience in catering and private parties with her father and had always enjoyed it. Her brother had been long-haul truck driving for a food delivery company and was also looking for a career change, so when the opportunity came to open the restaurant the family took it.

Maria’s originally started out as a Mexican restaurant four and a half years ago, really for no other reason than because that’s what it was before and because, as Marie notes, it’s just good food. Then about two years ago they switched the menu over to the more Mexican-Asian fusion concept that they really became best known for. “We used to do Asian Wednesdays and those became our most popular nights,” Marie explains. “So [we decided to] mix it up a bit.”

The family is a mix of ethnicities but none of them happen to be Mexican or Asian. Does this then mean that they have no native claim over the cuisines and therefore should not even attempt them? No. Because that’s dumb. “My dad says you don’t have to be of that background to cook that food,” Marie states. “We don’t claim to be ‘authentic.’ We just like to take food and put a different flare to it.”

The place has stayed open for these past few years by sheer force of will. The day after Maria’s Comida opened in February 2008, the UAW went on strike at the American Axel plant in Hamtramck and shortly after the plant closed down. “I heard it used to be really busy when Axel was open!” Marie jokes. But they weathered the storm. Opening any small business and staying open is a hard thing to do, but surviving during Detroit’s dark days of 2008/2009 was practically impossible. Marie admits that they went through some difficult days; the entire family has been working open to close nonstop for the better part of five years to make it happen.

In short, they need a break.

Even though they’ve closed the doors to the restaurant itself, Maria’s will remain open as a production facility for their Maria’s House Made Salsa label. They’ve been producing their own salsas since they opened the restaurant and now have five unique flavors plus an “Asian-inspired” BBQ sauce, plus they’ll be increasing their bottled product line to include more items down the road (like their chopped salad dressing and enchilada sauce). Their products have officially been on the market for two years now and can be found on the shelves of roughly 20 local and regional stores including Holiday Market, Vince and Joe’s, Honey Bee Market and the Michigan Artisans Gallery in Eastern Market. They’re also in talks with Meijer, Kroger and Whole Foods, and Midtown’s Ye Olde Butcher Shop already has the products for when they open.

“For us when we first started the salsa is something we always wanted to do; it’s something we’ve been planning for a number of years,” Marie explains. “It’s a transition we’ve always been working towards. It’s challenging to do both businesses. We want to do a lot with both but with four people we can’t do 100% of both.”

On the restaurant side, Marie knows that to have a successful restaurant you need to have a liquor license and a good location. The former they definitely did not have, and I’ll take it upon myself to say they also lacked the latter. “We knew we’re not going to grow outside of this location. It’s been us busting our asses is how we’ve made it [this far].”

On the product distribution end, they develop all of the recipes and make each batch of salsa and sauce in their own kitchen by hand during the hours the restaurant isn’t open. They also hand-ladle the sauces into each jar (though not for much longer, which is a relief for them) and hand-label each jar before it gets sent to stores. It took them two years to get the product on the market because of the time it took to research bottles, labels, obtain dual licensure as a restaurant and manufacturing facility, and so on. In other words, selling salsa is a lot harder than it looks.

With their products as their main focus, Marie and her family are also entertaining some other ideas of how to utilize the dining room space. Right now they’re talking about offering cooking classes, maybe having monthly supper clubs or hosting pop-ups, and they are still available for catering orders (20 person minimum) and will also have retail hours starting in September when people can come in and buy their products. They will also serve as a community kitchen, already providing space for the production of Street Eatzz’ brand-new 313 Pepper Sauce and Belledine’s BBQ Sauce. “We’re hoping to have other people do that,” she says. “We want to develop this nice hub where we can develop ideas together and kick ideas off of each other. It’s really cool to have that energy bouncing around.”

Marie says that Alan is also really good at consulting and leading other small business owners in the right direction, and they’d like to do more of that. After their own long drawn-out experience going through all of their licensing and even learning as they go along (like the importance of labels, which they just totally re-vamped to give their products more personality and also indicate things like “Michigan made,” “vegan,” and “gluten-free”), they’ve got a lot they can share with others starting out, or those just idly considering it. She mentions putting together a manual of all the need-to-knows and also hosting monthly or quarterly classes just to give people an idea of what they’re really getting into: “’Now that you have the product, now what? This is what you need to know, here’s what you can expect, here’s what’s involved, here’s what stores are looking for.’ I think if people have the proper information they can make the decision for themselves … I feel like [that lack of information] is what holds people back.”

 Maria's Comida on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Week We Ate (The EID Week in Review)

Too bad for her she wasn't talking about pumpkin beers.
And here is the Martha Stewart Living story on Corktown. It is all of the usual suspects which is out of necessity as Nemo's and Casey's don't quite have that trendy hipster-twee vibe that these national glossies gun for. Other cities need to learn from Detroit that five businesses equals urban renewal because then we could, like, renew the SHIT out of the rest of the country. [Martha Stewart Living]

The Ooties Re-booties: the space that was supposed to be Ooties is now going to be called Acme Food Company, which despite sounding like a slaughterhouse will actually also be a breakfast/lunch joint. [Curbed Detroit]

Slows was the Biggest Loser on the Travel Channel's "Best Sandwich in America" after bringing chicken to a pork fight. Regardless they still made it to the top three and now the wait to get a seat there is even longer. Yes, apparently that was possible. [Det News]

Someone wants to build an urban winery on Belle Isle. This is of course something that people should get really mad about. Oh, Detroit... [MLive]

Maria's Comida closed on Saturday but the owners will continue to produce Maria's House Made Salsa and sauces. And if I hadn't flitted off on the Mille Mitten excursion at the last possible minute you would be able to read a feature on that but now you're just going to have to wait. [Maria's FB / EID FB]

Gastronomy opened in Southfield and it's pretty freakin' phenomenal. (Lunch only until they get their liquor license.) [Thrillist / EID FB]

Dan Carmody: Detroit's REAL hero named Dan. [Friend of the Farmer]

Ye Olde Butcher Shop is still opening at some point??? [McClure's Pickles FB]

You all love people who hate on the Dream Cruise, apparently. [Magic Bag FB / EID FB]

Most businesses apparently do too, as the Cruise consistently proves to be more bane than boon. [Crain's]

TIME called us fat. [TIME]

Ohhhhhhhhhh wait, we are. [CDC / Books + Review]

Say nice things about Detroit! [Freep]

OR ELSE. [Positive Detroit]

Sour beer: IT'S THE NEXT THING. [Wall Street Journal]

They're heeeeeee-re...Oktoberfest and pumpkin beers are rapidly hitting shelves already. [EID FB]

As my western beerrespondent notes, "Local government planners continue planning the shit out of Jolly Pumpkin, but any progress is good, eh?" [Dexter Patch / All the Brews Fit to Pint FB]

Germans drink beer by the litre, therefore Germans win. German Park sounds like a party. [Concentrate]

Scott at Treat Dreams also knows how to win at things. [MLive]

Ronin turned five and made some infused sake to celebrate. [Ronin FB]

Grand Traverse Distillery now makes a cherry-flavored whiskey and it seems like you guys are into it. [EID FB / Promote Michigan FB]

Detroit's Wolverine Packing Company supplies six of the 10 top burgers in the country. That shit cray. [Model D]

Turns out Groupon's business model of exponential growth in perpetuity wasn't actually realistic. Who knew? [Slate]

So Obama's pretty much the coolest. Since people tend to vote on the most arbitrary and inane subjects anyway, this should be one of them. [USA Today]

But I still want to be Jon Stewart when I grow up. [Eater]

There's a lot of self-important Chicagoan smarm to trudge through here, but ultimately Grand Rapids's awesomeness wins. Beer City USA tie city Grand Rapids gets acknowledged by a Chicago travel writer; it continues on to a page 2 for which you need to sign up in order to read which I'm not doing because fuck Chicago. [Chicago Tribune]

And last week's Internet winner is this. [Gawker]