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Posts posted by tammylc

  1. I was right there with you Monica, until you got to the frozen broccoli. Blech.

    I don't think of using these products as lazy, just practical. In my life 90% of the time there's no reason for me to use anything other than canned tomatoes for sauce, so I'd rather save my energy for the 10% of the time it matters!

    My dirty secret - store bought stir fry sauces. I just can't seem to manage to improvise one that I like, so now I stick with one I know I will.

  2. Ann Arbor Taster's Guild Wine and Food Pairing Dinner

    Went to this dinner last night at Cousin's Heritage Inn in Dexter. 5 courses, with 3 wines for each course and much discussion and wine geeking throughout. I'm pretty new to this whole wine thing, and while I've done a couple of walk around tastings, this was my first more structured event, with lots of opportunities to compare and contrast. To my great surprise, I actually managed to take pretty good notes, so I thought I'd share them here!

    First Course: Salmon Mousse Pate, Wild Mushroom and Pecan Pate, Venison Pate

    Cremant D'Alsace, J-C Ruhlmann Plenty of bubbles while it was being poured, but nearly still in the glass, with just a few bubbles here and there. Not a lot of nose to speak of, but good acidity, and matched well with the pates, especially the salmon.

    Cremant De Jura, H Maire This was my favorite in terms of pairing with the food, but I didn't get very good notes on it.

    Cremant De Loire, Chateau Pierre-Bise This was the best of the three by itself, and the worst with the food. Nose was apples and yeast, and it had fuller body than either of the others.

    Second Course: Fried Oysters with Pesto Cream Sauce

    2000 Chablis, G Picq Pear nose. Good acidity, light body, but not a lot going on. Should have been a good pair with the food (oysters and Chablis, acidity to counter the cream sauce), but it just didn't work that well. Kind of stayed along the side instead of harmonizing.

    2001 Cotes De Forez, G Duboeuf A red Loire made from Gamay grapes. Distint banana bubblegum nose that I've picked up in Duboeuf Beaujolais as well. Served slightly chilled, it was a very light wine, with a completely absent finish - swallow and it's gone. Simplistic and kind of grapey. It did better with the oysters, but that's not saying a lot...

    2001 Niersteiner Riesling Kabinett, J&H Strubb Waxy nose. Pretty dry for a Riesling, with just a bit of residual sugar. None of the spritz and citrus found in some of the 2001 Rieslings that I've really liked, this was pretty simple and straightforward, but was the best of the three in this flight. We named it best with the food as well, and while it went well, I think it mostly won by default.

    Third Course: Asparagus Salad with Celery Leaves, Quail Eggs and Tarragon Vinaigrette

    Wine matching nightmare, you'd think, but actually all three wines went pretty well, with no bad clashes.

    2001 Kremstal Gruner Veltliner, E Berger Initial nose was pear, but after a couple of minutes in the glass it showed a really distinct burnt smell. Not like burning wood, more like an electrical burning smell. Not at all unpleasant, just very distinctive. Really long, slightly peppery finish, which some people at the table found unpleasant. Overall the worst match, but really worked with the celery.

    Menetou Salon Morogues, H Pelle An upper Loire Sauvignon Blanc. Tart granny smith apple in the nose and on the palate. None of the stone and mineral and cat piss that I usually associate (and like) in Loire SBs like Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre. But tasty and perfectly serviceable with the salad, it would probably shine with a better food match.

    2001 Alsace Muscat, M Schaetzel Passionfruit on the nose and palate, very fruity. Juicy, with a long, long finish. Seemed a little sweet, but that might have just been all that fruit. My favorite of the flight, and surprisingly, it worked with the salad, too.

    Fourth Couse: Buffalo Prime Rib with Orange Balsamic Glaze

    The glaze was very understated and the the buffalo was out of this world. Yum. This is what beef wants to be.

    1998 Bourgogne Perrieres, S Bize Garnet in the glass. Nose had some currants. Light bodied, pinot flavors, and a healthy amount of tannins.

    2000 Sablet Cotes Du Rhone Des Anges, Dom Cabasse Crimson. Black cherry nose. First sip was thin and tannic, but just a few minutes in the glass opened it up, with lots of berry flavors and a pretty full body. It was only okay on its own, but it absolutely transformed with the food - now I know what people mean when they say that Cotes De Rhones are food wines. My favorite of the night, if only because of how magical it was with the buffalo.

    1997 Rust En Vrede Stellensbosch Cabernet Sauvignon I've had this one before (have some in the cellar, actually) so I knew what the expect. Dark in the glass, with a purple rim. Nose is really strong wood and leather and tobacco, but they don't overwhelm the taste, which has cherries and black currants and some herbaceous green qualities. A nice wine for sipping on its own, it didn't change with the food at all, and while not a bad combination didn't have the beautiful harmony of the Cotes Du Rhone. (For those who care, this is a Parker 90, but the wholesaler is clearing out their stock and selling at 1/4 of regular price - at $7.99 a bottle, it's got excellent QPR.)

    Fifth Course: Black Bottom Caramel Pudding

    Shenandoah Vineyards Amador Black Muscat (California) Dull brick red. The least sweet of the three dessert wines, with good acidity and fruit, and even some tannins. My favorite of the dessert wines, and a surprisingly good match with the pudding.

    Benjamin Mildara Tawny Port (Australia) Light brown, not a hint of red to be seen. Nose of brown sugar, and about that level of sweetness, with a pretty long fruity finish. The brown sugar echoed the caramel in the pudding, but this was better on its own than with the pudding.

    Barbadillo Extra Rich Pedro Ximenez Sherry First Sherry I've ever had, so don't know if it was characteristic or not. Too sweet for me. Achingly familiar nose that I just couldn't place - maybe some anise or licorice overtones.

    We got the price list at the end of the meal, and the most expensive bottle was $16.00 (the Black Muscat). So some good finds in the low-mid price range. And a really fun time. I can't wait until next time!

  3. This sort of thing is targeted directly at people like my husband. If something costs $14.95, he'll say it's fourteen dollars. He'll even do this with the first digit of higher numbers - something that's $24.95 he'll often report as just costing twenty dollars.

  4. Setting aside Tribute, if I may, the best dining in the state can be found at Tapawingo, as Matthew mentioned, though it is quite a detour (three to four hour drive from metro Detroit). Chef Stuart Brioza is an amazing, refreshing young talent and has recently been recognized as one of Food and Wine's Best New Chefs for this year. He came to Tapawingo via Chicago, logging a fair amount of time with John Hogan, and was part of the opening team of Savarin.

    I just made a reservation at Tapawingo for my anniversary (June 21st). It's been on my to-go list for a while, but all the talk on the board inspired me to actually make a plan.

    Now we just need to find a campground. My husband wanted to go camping for our anniversary, and I wanted a nice dinner, so we're compromising and doing both. Good thing I don't need a blow dryer to do my hair...

    Look for my report in six weeks or so!

  5. Past the market, I remember a rather lousy restaurant called Sweet Loraine's.  It's biggest problem was that it seemed to overreach.  What was truly memorable, was the end of market visit to Zingerman's Deli and the well-worth-it wait in line.  It's a small place that is loaded with wonderful specialty items.  The cheese, the meats, the breads, the prepared foods, and oh my god -- THE SANDWICHES!  I just love the Bennie's Brooklyn Ruben.  I have ordered from the catalog, but it is not the same as being there. 

    OK, when's the gathering?  We could go to Ann Arbor on the train if none of us is up for driving.

    Sweet Lorraine's is long gone. It was replaced by the shortlived Cafe 303, which is now also long gone. Nothing has yet come to fill the space, which is too bad - it has a nice outdoor patio with big woodburning stoves for spring and fall.

    Zingerman's is my favorite place in all of Ann Arbor. We call going there the "Zingerman's Experience." Unfortunately, it's difficult to escape the Zingerman's experience for less than $50, between the sandwiches, the bread, the deli counter and the chocolate counter. But worth every penny.

    I'm working right now on trying to find a weekend for the gathering. My summer is quickly filling up! June is looking like a no go, but July is currently open. Only problem is, I'll be moving into my new house sometime in July...

    I'll keep you all posted. Or some other Michigander can take over the organizing, but I'd really like to be able to make it...

    Thanks for the quoting help.

  6. Indiagirl: I've never actually been to Pacific Rim (or Kana for that matter), but some friends whose opinions I trust went fairly recently and were very unimpressed and thought it overpriced. And you're absolutely right - Wasabi sucks.

    Chocokitty: I'm all for meeting in Ann Arbor - we just need to decide on a time and a place. Is next weekend too soon? And I second a road trip to Windsor - I keep reading great reviews of restaurants there. I just read a review today in Metrotimes of Three, which sounds like a really neat tapas place. And Wah Court is hands down the best place in the area for dim sum, and it's been far too long since I've been there.

    Aurora: The "food scene" in Ann Arbor rocks. There's the farmers market on Wednesday and Saturdays, right outside the Kerrytown shops. Kerrytown is a haven for foodies - Zingerman's is right around the corner, plus there's a great market right in the shops, as well as real butcher and an amazing fishmonger. Plus Partners in Wine and Cheese, and Cav's Cafe, with amazing quiche. Cav sets up a grill outside on market days. Also in Kerrytown is Kitchen Port. I think it's gone downhill since I worked there five years ago, but it's still a pretty neat shop for getting all things kitchen and cooking related, and they do cooking demonstrations/classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

    There's a lot of ethnic markets around town too. My favorite (which I don't get to nearly often enough) is the Indian grocer near Packard and Platt, who sells samosas for 35 cents apiece.

    The other way cool thing about Ann Arbor is that it's the city that kills fast food. You'd think that a town with 50,000 students would have its fair share of the chain restaurants, but both the McDonalds and Burger King on South University (the major student strip) closed down for lack of business. BK was replaced by a Starbucks (boo, hiss), but McDonald's old space was taken over by a place serving Bubble Tea.

    And then there's the wine shops, but I'll save that for another post...

  7. And I will also toss my hat in the ring if anyone needs a dining companion when they're visiting metro Detroit.

    Me too! Me too!

    In fact, I recently organized an Ann Arbor "chowfest" for participants on that other food board, and have been encouraged to organize another one aimed at the Chicago contingent. If any of the Heartland Egulleteers would be interested in joining, let me know. If I get enough interest I can look into getting special hotel rates and puting together an Ann Arbor/Detroit/Chicago foodie summit weekend sometime this summer.

    Road trip, anyone?

  8. As Andrew said, Ann Arbor is a great town for cheap eats. Here are some of my favorites, all pretty cheap:

    One of the hidden gems in town is Jefferson Market. This little market hidden on a side street (Jefferson) in the old west side across from Bach school has an amazing kitchen in the back. Pretty much everything they serve is amazing.

    Cafe Zola does a good brunch. Tapas at Cafe Felix is fun too. If you feel like venturing into Ypsilanti, there's good Vietnamese at DaLat. For Thai, I have two favorites - Tuptim in Ypsi is pretty excellent all round, but Siam Square (in the hotel across the street from Arborland) has better curries. Also in Ypsi, Memphis Blues smokehouse serves a smoked beef brisket that's to die for.

    Earthen Jar on 5th Ave offers good, cheap, vegetarian Indian buffet by the pound. Jerusalem Garden, right next door, is the source for cheap and good Middle Eastern stuff - their falafel sandwich is an incredible bargain, at less than $3 last time I visited, and you can make two meals out of it.

    Sabor Latino is a Latin American place on Main. While all their food is good (or so I've been told) - I pretty much only eat their Carne al Pastor tacos - they are amazing.

    Lots of places for good Korean in town. Either of the Korean places down on South University are good. But my favorite places for Bi Bim Bop is Kosmo Deli, the lunch counter in the Kerrytown Shops.

    If you like Dim Sum, Great Lakes Chinese Seafood Restaurant is the place to go. They also have some great items on their dinner menu - as a Hong Kong style restaurant, they have some unusal items. My faves are shrimp in honey walnut sauce, Singapore Noodles, and Beef Tenderloin in Black Pepper Sauce.

    For Szechuan, Szechuan West on Stadium Rd near Jackson is a an old favorite, although the last time I visited I was unimpressed with my usual favorite, the Szechuan Chicken. General Tso's was still awesome, however.

  9. Michael - thanks so much to the link to the other thread - very interesting!

    Yes, that trip to Tribute was a few months ago now (November). I've been talking with some friends about booking the chef's table sometime, and we're all excited about that. Unfortunately, being in the midst of buying a house has put a damper on most of my fine dining for the time being.

    And Tapawingo moves ever higher on my to-eat list...

  10. I don't have a full length report for Le Papillon - that was before I got into writing up my dining experiences.

    It's an unassuming little restaurant tucked away next to a strip mall. It's not a stunning room, but the service was good and unobtrusive. I went with a group of six people, and we all shared bites around, so I got to try a bunch of stuff. Everything was really good. The sugar snap pea soup is a standout, and the Noisettes of Red Deer with Cabernet-Truffle Reduction made me moan. Another memorable appetizer was a seared scallop with caviar and grapefruit, but I don't see it on the menu anymore.

    I've you're looking for an upscale meal while in Silicon Valley, you certainly wouldn't do wrong going to Le Papillon.

  11. My upscale(ish) dining experiences, in chronological order:

    1. Le Papillon (San Jose)

    2. Ritz-Carlton Dining Room (Chicago)

    3. Trio (Chicago)

    4. Tribute (Detroit)

    6. mk (Chicago)

    7. Cafe Bon Homme (Detroit)

    8. Loving Spoonful (Detroit)

    9. Aquavit (Minneapolis)

    10. Vincent (Minneapolis)

    (Reports found here, if anyone's interested.)

    I've got a long list of Chicago restaurants I'd like to eat at (or eat at again, in the case of Trio), but I don't get to Chicago that often (so I have to live vicariously through all of you...). But I have a foodie friend who visits me in Ann Arbor every once in a while, which gives me a good excuse to try someplace new, thus the query.


  12. The frites are really wonderful. What all french fries should taste like.

    They were out of the foie gras when I was there, sadly, but that was on a Sunday so you should have better luck. I'd avoid the duck - it was fine, but not great. The venison was lovely. We had two appetizers off the daily specials, but if the lobster bisque or scallops are on tonight, I'd recommend both of those.

    And be sure to save room for dessert. I loved the Meyer Lemon and wished I could have tried at least one more dessert - they all looked great. I'd love to go back to mk just for frites and dessert.

    Service was kinda iffy when I was there (see my post on the board), so hopefully you'll have better luck.

  13. In Chicago this weekend, and only had Sunday night to go out for dinner. Most of the restaurants on our must-eat list are closed on Sunday, so we decided on MK among what was left. With some trepedation, because I'd seen some fairly mixed reviews.

    And sad to say, now I have to give one. The food was quite tasty, but the service was very, very sloppy.

    We had an early reservation - 6:30, so the restaurant was mostly empty and we had no problem getting seated on time. Took a leisurly time figuring out what we wanted to order, then perusing the wine list. The amuse bouche (salami on frisee with a vinagrette) came out while we were still engrossed in the wine list, and we hadn't even touched our amuse and they were already bringing our first course. We had planned to order a half-bottle of Sancerre to go with our first course, but oh well - lost sale for them. Service strike number one.

    We quickly noshed the amuse, and ordered a half bottle of 1997 Chave Hermitage to go with our main course (their website wine list had listed a 1994, which was either a typo or just all gone).

    Both of our first courses were from the specials list - a classic lobster bisque with black truffle (very rich - that Sancerre would have been a perfect companion...) and seared scallops with a foie gras coulis and an accompaniment of finely diced vegetables with some sort of bacon (pancetta, maybe?). Both very good - but the scallops were the more interesting dish of the two.

    We'd had the wine opened immediately to give it some time in the glass to open up, and by now it was smelling wonderful. As a 1997, we were worried that it might be closed, but not at all - the nose on this was big and intense. It was a great companion to our main courses, both from the regular menu:

    venison - roasted venison loin with spiced sweet potatoes, bitter greens and ginger scented red wine sauce

    duck - asian roast duck, glazed with honey and citrus, wild rice, bok choy and scallion

    And of course, the pomme frites. Which were every bit as good as everyone promised they'd be. Yum - this is what all french fries should taste like.

    Unfortunately, the venison dish was cold. And then it took us several minutes to attract anyone's attention to ask if it was intended to be served that way. Since the answer was no, we sent it back. My duck was better, but since I was being polite and not eating while my date wasn't, it cooled down a little bit too. Since we were swapping entrees half way through anyway, we asked that they just bring us an extra plate so we could split the duck, and bring out the venison when it was ready.

    The duck itself was very flavorful, but the glaze was understated, and the accompaniments not very interesting. While we were eating, my date was watching the interplay of the maitre'd and servers as they tried to figure out what to do with us. And we were making bets on how they'd plate our replacement venison - on one dish, or two. Well, they made what we considered the correct choice (two plates), but there was further delay as the person bringing out the dishes lingered at the door of the kitchen, waiting for someone to bring us cutlery (this was a problem throughout the entire meal, not just due to the problems with our order). He came out of the kitchen, then went back in, then finally came out again.

    We suspect, but can't be completely certain, that they brought us back the same cuts of venison - the center was nice and rare, but the underside of each piece was well done - not looking like it was freshly cut. Even so, it was very good - the ginger in the red wine sauce worked really well. The bitter greens weren't - instead, there was some sort of white vegetable - we're thinking a cabbage of some sort, but certainly not what we were expecting from the description.

    The maitre d' came over to check in on us, and - not being the type to complain and raise a fuss - my date assured him that we were fine, and that since we were splitting the entrees anyway, it wasn't a big deal.

    On to dessert. As promised, Mindy Segal's offerings were all quite tempting. But it had been a rich, heavy meal, so we only had room for one dessert. Wanting something light, we went with the "meyer lemon - warm lemon meringue bombe, a lemon curd tartlet tropical fruits and mango passion fruit sorbet." They brought us complimentary dessert wines to make up for the earlier problems - an Austrian wine - probably the 2000 cuvee beerenauslese they list on the website. It was nice, and good match with the lemon - and we were glad that they did something for us to make up for the earlier difficulties. Foodwise, dessert was the highlight of the meal for me - this was really, really good - the mango passionfruit sorbet was incredible, and the whole dish had just the right balance of sweet and sour from the lemon. Overall, the big winner for me was the Hermitage - I'm new to the world of fine wine, and this was the first really good wine I'd had. And it was really good (cost more than the rest of the meal, but was worth every penny!)

    So - not a bad meal, but the service was definitely below what you'd expect from a restaurant at this level. Just sloppy, and not well thought out, with not enough attention paid to the details (like the timing of our first course).

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