About Me

My photo
Lansing, Michigan, United States
I am a Lansing townie, lawyer, and restaurant reviewer for the City Pulse. I love traveling, reading, yoga, and baking, but my favorite hobby is stuffing my face.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Amore in Grand Rapids

My sweet friend Kelly has been telling me about her favorite restaurant in Grand Rapids for a while. So, the last time I had an appointment in GR, I headed over a few hours early so I could stop for lunch. The place? Amore Trattoria Italiana.

Let me be honest with you. The place is not in a great location. As a matter of fact, from the outside, it kind of looks like a dump. Ignore that. The inside is decorated in Italian stuff. Just a ton of stuff, you know? It's not appealing to me, a lover of simplicity, but whatever. Do your thing, Amore.

I asked my waitress what she recommended for lunch and she started talking about sandwiches and lasagna. I wasn't in a sandwich mood and I do not like lasagna at all (way too much cheese), so I pretty much ignored her suggestions and got exactly what I thought I was going to get after doing preliminary research on the menu.

I started with the mista salad. It was everything I like in a salad- greens that are NOT romaine or iceberg, dressed in vinaigrette. The dressing was fantastic. It was covered in a layer of cheese, which I didn't love, but I flicked most of it off easily.

The waitress brought a bread basket. I wasn't impressed. Something in the bread was eerily reminiscent of Pizza Hut, which, try as I might to forget, it apparently a flavor profile that is going to stay with you. The bread also came with a bowl filled with dipping oil and about a metric ton of shredded cheese. Seriously, I know people love cheese, but I beg of you. Take it easy.

My entree was spaghetti with meat sauce. For the most part, I am rarely impressed with pasta. I think it's essentially foolproof and pretty difficult to screw up. In turn, it's difficult to knock my socks off.

However.

This pasta was exceptional. I took a bite and honestly thought to myself "This is how you do al dente." There was a bite to it- the pasta was cooked perfectly. After my first few bites, I noticed something odd. The meat sauce wasn't ground beef only, it actually had pieces of chopped steak in it. Heaven.


My bill was $7.42. $7.42! Get there quick.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Heartburn City

There comes a day in everyone's life when you're going to eat something that you're not necessarily proud of. I don't care if you've been to Le Cirque, you've eaten your way through Paris, and you've gone to Scotland mainly for the sole purpose of eating lunch. There will come a day when you forget all of that, and I only hope that you enjoy your ill-gotten calories as much as I did.

For me, this day came last Friday. Ironically, I was on the treadmill when I decided what I was going to have for dinner that night. I've gotta say, it's been a long time since I had a fast-food dinner. On my way home from the gym, I stopped at Wendy's. Well, I didn't really stop, because I decided to go all-in and not even walk into the place. I hit the drive-thru.

Do you know what sent me in the Wendy's direction? Of course you do. It's the only thing that sets Wendy's apart. Behold-


The Frosty. Why else would anyone go to Wendy's? Nobody goes there for the fries. The fries are a supporting act for the Frosty, so you can do this-



Since I also wanted some protein, and since the chicken nuggets are delicious and $1, I got some. Figured I would go whole-hog (and then remind myself of one, as I laid on the couch in a Wendy's coma.)


I mixed ketchup and mayonnaise on the side. I've heard some people call this "California Ketchup." Anyone else? Why do people say this? I call it French-style, because it sounds fancier. Oh yes, I like to be as fancy as possible. That's why I demolished my Frosty with an iced-tea spoon.


Incidentally, when did Wendy's get rid of those yellow waxed paper-like Frosty cups? Those were the best. And this meal was delicious. I'm not going to make it a part of my repertoire, but it was good while it lasted. Now I'm going to go to six hours of hot yoga.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sugarberry Frozen Yogurt

Ok, so the weather has been tolerable for several weeks, as previously mentioned. I'm still going to use it as an excuse for the frequency with which I have been eating frozen treats.

I figure that since yogurt has some amount of protein in it, I can occasionally substitute it as a meal. By "occasionally," I mean "no less than twice a week." I don't know what took me so long to find Sugarberry, but I'm so much happier with it as a part of my life.

This place is essentially a frozen yogurt bar. You pick up a container, which vary in size, and choose what flavor of yogurt you want. I think there are about eight varieties, stuff like birthday cake, pomegranate, coconut, chocolate, whatever. Don't pay any attention to these distractions. Fill your container 2/3 full of original tart.

Proceed to the toppings bar, which has enough choices for someone to really go bonkers. There are about 74 different kinds of M&Ms (who knew?), some weird-looking Asian candy, all kind of gummy things, balls of cookie dough, chopped fruit, crumbled candy bars, hot fudge, whipped cream, etcetera. Everything. Everything they could find at Meijer.

I top my original tart with blueberries and crumbled Heath bar. A note to the newbies- the candy bar crumbles are labeled on the ridge of the topping bars that is closest to you. Don't make the mistake that I did and put Reeses on your yogurt. My dinner was ruined.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Iorio Italian Ice in the Lansing City Market



I've been lazy. I regret the error.

Temperatures here in mid-Michigan have been manageable for the last few weeks, but we had a stretch a while ago that was hot. As in, sit in the dark in your living room, shades drawn, window air conditioning unit dangerously over-used, hot. I don't do well in that type of weather. I don't like it, I don't support it, I don't endorse it.

A few weeks ago on one of these days I had a flash of remembrance- there's an Italian ice shop in the City Market! They have gelato! I'm not usually a huge ice cream eater (I prefer to ingest my calories through cake and Nutella), but I thought that gelato would hit the spot. I made my way to the market and found the gelato counter.

It was on. Since that fateful day, I have made multiple trips to the market. I ignore the fresh produce stacked up- the sweet corn, the peaches, the tomatoes- everything I usually gobble up happily, and I head to the gelato. I've had chocolate mint, Turkish coffee, and peach. I've had dark chocolate chipotle (delicious), coconut, lavender honey. I can't stop. I get a small gelato and, invariably, eat the entire thing before I leave the parking lot. It is just so good.

Today I had a combination of tiramisu and chocolate mousse, and I think it was the best yet. I also filled up my punch card, which means that I will be back to Iorio's before this week is over.

*The City Market has weird hours. Make sure that you check this out before you head over there.

*Head over there immediately.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Trailer Trash? Try Trailer TREASURE

I thought Monday's food truck experience was extraordinary. And don't get me wrong, it was good. Really good. But on Tuesday I hit another truck and that's when sh!t got real.

I'd been following the whereabouts Trailer Park'd on facebook for about a week, and before my weekly 1pm Tuesday board meeting I decided that the day had come. I grabbed a friend of mine from the law school and told him to get in the car. It wasn't until we had driven a few miles that he even thought to ask me where we were going, which I thought was a testament to his faith in my lunch choices. Dig it.

We got to this parking lot and sure enough, trailer. I felt like my name was Heavyn and I was about to either hit the pole or start mixing up a fresh bath of meth, but stay with me.

The aromas coming from that trailer were decidedly un-trailerlike. It smelled effing GREAT. We went to the window and read the menu/mini chalkboard, which listed maybe six or seven items. Everything is locally grown and produced, so the selection reflects what's going on on the Michigan farms right now. I asked one of the two dudes in the trailer what his favorite thing was and he said the torta. It's a sandwich that is on a roll that it shaped like a croissant, but is much harder. It's stuffed with smoked chicken, beans, avocado, tomatillos, cheese, cilantro, and Lord knows what else. That's all I remember, anyway.

As I was standing there drooling and honestly thinking about getting two whole meals because I am a fat hog, the guy mentioned that they also had SIDES OF ASPARAGUS and did I want one.

Obviously. I'm cutting my teeth on the side of your trailer.

He threw the asparagus on the grill while he made my sandwich. When the asparagus was perfectly charred, he topped it with S&P, shredded Parmesan, and balsamic. I died. The sandwich came out looking unbelievable and he handed me a little cup with sauce in it for the torta- it tasted like smoked tomato (is that even a thing?) and I ate the hell out of it.

My friend actually had the balls to do what I wanted to do and ordered both the torta AND the tacos. He took a page out of my book and told them to prepare the tacos how they like them best, which turned out to be loads of chorizo, cheese, and cilantro on a corn tortilla. The tacos were the bomb, but nothing could beat that sandwich.

We walked back into the law school with our bags of food and holed up in an office to tear into lunch. I've never seen anything like this- no less than 10 people stopped us to ask us where we got the food. And these fools couldn't even see the food, they were basing it on smell.

Get thee to the trailer park'd. Eat everything in sight. Repeat.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Purple Carrot Truck

Last week, the Lansing social media scene was all a-twitter (and a-facebooked) about The Purple Carrot Truck. Locally grown food that comes to you in a truck that changes locations daily? I'm into it.

Today, I tracked them down at Hannah Center near Mt. Hope and Hagadorn in East Lansing. Be advised- this is NOT Hannah Plaza. It is the office complex just south of Hannah Plaza. The truck is orange, and is much smaller than I thought it would be. I don't know how they contain so many different food items in such a little vehicle.

I asked for a little run-down of the menu and learned that they had a special sandwich today- a smoked chicken salad. It sounded wonderful, but after hearing so much excitement about the tofu banh mi last week, I had to try it. I got the full sandwich ($7) and beet borscht soup ($4). I could have gotten a combo (half the sandwich and the soup) for I think $7, but I was staaaarving at lunch today.

The banh mi comes on a hoagie roll and is kind of a tofu salad with lots of cilantro, shredded carrot, and Vietnamese spices. Fun fact- when I was eight years old, a Vietnamese refugee family moved in with my family and that kicked off a series of about two years of Vietnamese people living with us. I have had some Vietnamese food. As a matter of fact, we probably have a bag of egg rolls in the deep freezer right now, just waiting to be dropped into a pot of hot oil.

The banh mi was great. Spicy. Bread was good. Fantastic sandwich all around. I had never had borscht, but I LOVE beets and have been thinking about this soup since I read a recipe for it a few weeks ago. The soup is beautiful- a deep ruby color swirled with cream (?) and topped with dill. It was fragrant and tart and delicious.

I also got a carrot cake pop ($1) that didn't make it home because I shoved it into my mouth as soon as I drove away. The cake seemed like it had a good flavor, but the sickly-sweet purple frosting did nothing to add to it. I'm a purist when it comes to carrot cake- no nuts, no raisins, no canned pineapple, and I like a nice light cream cheese frosting. Of course, that didn't stop me from eating the cake pop in about three bites.

I really hope this food truck is successful. Follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook, which are the only ways to find out their daily location. Go there, bring cash (because they don't take cards), and keep them open. Lansing should be making better use of our local produce, and The Purple Carrot Truck is leading the charge.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mitchell's Fish Market

Yesterday, I had plans to have some girlfriends over for dinner. I decided that I wanted to make mussels for them, and I buy my mussels by the pound at Mitchell's Fish Market in Eastwood. I know that people don't normally think about Mitchell's as a source of raw seafood to take home and cook, but you should. The mussels are only $3.50 per pound, which blows my mind.

Anyway, I decided to have lunch at Mitchell's while they cleaned the mussels. My mother joined me. She had some boring spinach salad, but I had the delicious grilled scallops. They have stopped serving the lunch entrees with mashed potatoes and replaced them with roasted fingerling potatoes, which are SO MUCH BETTER. The mashed potatoes did nothing for me. The vegetables served with the grilled entrees are awesome because, unlike Crapplebees et al, they aren't cooked to death and soggy.

The entree included six big old scallops. I normally subscribe to the practice of not leaving any scallop behind, but I couldn't finish these. This was a LOT of food. I was in heaven.

I also really liked it when I ordered an iced tea and the waitress brought me a whole carafe of iced tea. Furthermore, the tea was chock full o' lemons (love) and there was an iced tea spoon in the glass. I LOVE iced tea spoons. I understand this is weird. I may or may not have taken iced tea spoons from restaurants before because I like them so much. Sorry . . .

Anyway, I love Mitchell's and I always have. This Catholic girl will continue to eat there all the time, not only on Lenten Fridays or Oyster Mondays (you owe it to yourself to check this out) but any day of the week. But not today, because TODAY is the day that I'm going to the 1913 Room for dinner. Jealous?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Eden's Juice

Several times a week, I make myself a kale smoothie. I then take it out in public with me in a clear container, and everyone I encounter is grossed out.

Seriously, you have no idea how many times I have to explain myself to people. I JUST WANT SOME VEGETABLES, PEOPLE!

I love my smoothies, but I hate cleaning the blender. I also really want businesses that offer healthy stuff to stay in operation, so I have been hitting Eden's Juice in downtown Lansing hard. I went there five times last week. I am totally obsessed.

I don't really go for fruit smoothies (frankly, because I asked if the orange juice was made there or was bought, and I found out that it was Tropicana and I don't drink store-bought juice) but I love the raw vegetable juices. My favorite is the Cold Fighter- carrots, apples, ginger, and oranges. I generally get a shot of wheatgrass too, because wheatgrass is a staple of mine and I drink it twice a day. Theirs is so much better than my frozen wheatgrass powder. You can watch them actually cut the grass and blend it up right in front of you. Hello . . . picture of health, anyone?

They give me a little slice of poppyseed bread with my juice and I have a wonderful afternoon snack.

Last week I went in with a friend of mine and we got the wheatgrass grand slam- a shot of wheatgrass that you follow with shots of pure ginger, lemon, and cranberry juices, then a pineapple juice chaser. It made me feel like I live in the rainforest and just go around picking fruit and eating it all day. Maybe that's a little bit weird, but I'm into it.

Fun fact- Eden's Juice is in the previous location of my favorite salad bar ever, Fresh. When I worked downtown, I would eat at Fresh at least three times a week. Interesting how another healthy business ended up there.

Fun fact #2- the owner is MSU/Olympic basketball player Steve Smith's cousin.

Fun fact #3- if you ask for a spinach smoothie, they will indeed make you one. This place is fantastic.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bravo

Last week my friend Tom and I headed to Bravo in the Eastwood Towne Center for our traditional post-board meeting carb fest. I generally try to stay away from chain restaurants, but Bravo and it's neighbor Mitchell's Fish Market are just so darn GOOD.

Tom dove into the bread basket, but I don't go to Bravo for the bread. I go for the house salad. I'm not a salad lover, but this salad is exceptional. I love it, and I get one without fail every single time I go to Bravo.

Tom had the shrimp diavolo, which I've had several times. It has a little spice and it's probably my favorite thing on the menu after the lamb chops, which are incredible. I wish I had some of those lamb chops right now, as a matter of fact . . .

I got this chicken thing from a specials menu-
Chicken Valdostana
Thinly pounded chicken breast sautéed and topped with Prosciutto di Parma, Fontina, diced tomatoes and a mushroom white wine sauce. Served with brown butter and sage fettuccine

The prosciutto sold me, which will ALWAYS happen. Prosciutto is one of my absolute favorite things to eat. I can't get enough of it. However, I didn't love the dish. I mean, I ate every bite of it, but it wasn't one of the best things I've ever had at Bravo.

Regardless, I'm happy with every meal I have had at Bravo (and I have had a LOT of meals there.) It's freaking delicious. You can't go wrong.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Christie's Bistro

Last weekend I was at the Lexington Lansing (the reincarnation of the Sheraton Hotel) for law school prom. I ate, I danced, it was lovely. I stayed at the hotel that night and the next morning I called my homegirl to meet me for brunch at Christie's. It's been at least five years since I ate there and I had high hopes.

The brunch buffet looks impressive, and I put a serious hurt on the peel and eat shrimp (which I wish were seasoned like the peel and eat shrimp at Mitchells). I don't care for omelet stations, so I ignored that and focused my attention on the prime rib. The asparagus looked good, but at dinner the night before I had eaten about 67 spears of asparagus and that was enough for me.

I don't know if they don't have mimosas and Bloody Mary's, or if the waiter just didn't offer me one, but I stuck to coffee (meh) and iced tea.

The dessert table was dressed to impress. I didn't have any cake because I was stuffed with prime rib and shrimp, but the chocolate cake that I'd eaten the night before was fantastic and I noticed it on the dessert table at brunch too.

However, this brunch is expensive. For the two of us, the bill was $40+. Not worth it. I would have been better off ordering off the room service menu and spending the afternoon lying in my king sized bed with the curtains pulled completely shut to block out the sun (my favorite thing to do in hotel rooms. Try it.)

Save some money and go downtown to Soup to Nutz instead.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mongolian BBQ Hell

A few weeks ago, my brother and I were trying to decide on where to meet for dinner. He lives in Perry and was unwilling to drive into Lansing, so he suggested all the crap chain restaurants near the Meridian Mall. I vetoed Chili's, Outback, and Olive Garden, and he has already had his yearly sushi roll, so Maru was out. I struck an agreement when I suggested Mongolian BBQ. I wanted to eat something relatively healthy, and he wanted me to pay, so BBQ it was.

I spent many afternoons in college at Mongolian BBQ. I couldn't cook, so my friend and I would go at least once a week to pay $15 for the most basic of lunches- stir fry. I understand that a lot of people go for the "experience," which to me is ridiculous. If they would serve the food to me at my table without requiring me to go watch the grillers sing and ring that God forsaken bell, I would be just as happy.

Anyway.

I was happy to see duck as one of the options. I was happy to see tofu. I was not happy to see krab. I loaded up my bowl with the above-mentioned duck and about three times as many green vegetables, then dumped on some lemon pepper and called it good. I asked for brown rice instead of the ubiquitous white, and while I was finally given brown rice, it took about ten minutes. We were also, apparently, there on sorority night. My ears will never be the same.

I like stiry fry, and I understand the premise of the restaurant. What I don't understand is why watching college kids slap your food around with giant metal rods is entertainment.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Red Cedar Grill

A few weeks ago, I took my future sister-in-law for manicures, pedicures, and lunch. She had never had a manicure or pedicure before, which blew me away, but she grew up on a farm (on a FARM!) so I will cut her some slack. The nail overhaul happened at Kiss Nails on Grand River at Hagadorn in East Lansing, which is my favorite nail salon. It's super clean, they do a great job, and the massage chairs are not kidding around. You could have muscle soreness the next day.

She had to go to work shortly after lunch, so we decided to hit Red Cedar Grill in Williamson for her convenience (and because I had a Groupon). I had been there once before, for dinner and drinks, but I have no recollection whatsoever what my entree was.

What I did remember, thankfully, was the roasted garlic appetizer. When the two of us sat down for lunch, I put an order in for this appetizer immediately and we never looked back. This app comes with two heads of garlic that have been roasted almost to sweetness, and although you have to wrestle the garlic out of its skin, it is totally worth it. The ciabatta bread is crunchy and buttery and awesome. I happen to despise most varieties of cheese and all varieties of roasted red peppers, so those went virtually untouched on the platter while H and I destroyed any chance of having non-offensive breath for the rest of the day.

The regular rolls and butter were ignored. The ciabatta smeared in garlic was our sole focus.

For her lunch, H ordered the macaroni and cheese with chicken. As previously mentioned, I am not a cheese person and I think mac and cheese is gross, but the chicken looked great and she said the dish was good. She was stuffed from the garlic-laden bread and took most of her lunch to go.

I had the chicken and provolone sandwich, at the suggestion of the waitress. I removed the provolone. The chicken was good, but the pesto was totally overpowering. Also, if I had been using my brain when I ordered, I would have realized that I wasn't going to want to eat a sandwich after scarfing down a loaf of ciabatta, and I would have gone with the meatloaf. Next time.

H wanted dessert and I didn't want to stand in her way, so we decided on the carrot cake. My strong critiques of carrot cake deserve an explanation- I make a bomb carrot cake. I don't really think that any restaurant's carrot cake can hold a candle to what I make. I have always been disappointed with restaurant carrot cake.

Red Cedar Grill's cake was good, but what makes it really stand out is the SIZE of that thing! They give you, literally, a small cake. It could easily provide dessert for five people. The frosting was ok, the cake was moist, but didn't knock my socks off. The golden raisins were a nice touch.

We had about 3/4 of the dessert left, so H packed that up too. Red Cedar Grill- good, if you are heading out to Williamston and you want the garlic appetizer. I bet their dinner selections are better than their lunch. Not my favorite, but not bad.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Habeas Dessert- Sushi Showdown

*The "Habeas Dessert" articles come from a series of columns that I write for my law school newspaper.

            There comes a time in life when you have to decide whether or not you are going to eat sushi. Not the wimpy rolls full of cream cheese, crab, and smoked salmon, but the ones covered in raw fish with slivers of eel and fish eggs. If you decide that you are indeed a sushi person, you’re going to love the Greater Lansing area. While the area isn’t really known for its worldly cuisine, there is a surprisingly large number of sushi restaurants to choose from. For this issue, we focused on two of the most popular restaurants- Sansu in East Lansing and Maru in Okemos.

            Sansu is extremely popular with the Michigan State crowd. They offer a 20% discount to students, including Cooley students, every Tuesday, and the place is a madhouse. Make a reservation. A recent Friday night dinner started with the avocado boats- halved avocado stuffed with crab and tuna, tempura battered. I could have eaten these for dinner. I could eat these for breakfast. They were fantastic. I always order edamame when having sushi and I knew that Sansu has a great garlic edamame that’s not on the menu. The garlic adds a little kick and it’s worth requesting from your server.

            We had the ubiquitous salad and miso soup, which was nothing special. Bigger chunks of tofu in the soup would be welcome. That was followed up with salmon and yellowtail tuna sashimi, which came in huge quantities. If there are only two diners, one order of sashimi will be more than enough. We soldiered on and made our way through a massive platter of rolls, including the Green Dragon roll, the Champagne roll, and the Calamari roll. The Champagne roll is a favorite of the Sansu faithful, with good reason. The roll had tuna, salmon, white tuna, avocado, and is tempura battered. After several visits to Sansu, I believe that this is the best roll on the menu.

            The Green Dragon roll had eel and cucumber, topped with avocado. I could take it or leave it. The Calamari roll included, of course, calamari, which was lightly battered and delicious. With our stomachs already stuffed, but willing to sacrifice ourselves in the name of research, my companion and I ordered the green tea ice cream. It was underwhelming. The owners of Sansu also own Chapelure, a bakery that is near the restaurant. If you can still entertain the thought of dessert, walk around the corner and have a piece of their cake instead.

            The two of us had about 15 pieces of sushi to take home. They made a great lunch the next day. Sansu is in the Hannah Plaza on
Hagadorn Road
. Without asking you to rely on this statement and opening myself up to an accusation of libel, I’ve heard that Sansu sometimes freezes their fish. If true, this is tantamount to a sin amongst sushi fans, but I’ve never had any complaints about the freshness of what I ordered.

            The next week I continued my sushi crawl and met two other friends for lunch at Maru in Okemos. Maru is one of the newest players in the Lansing sushi market and has been making a splash with their “Sushi Happy Hour,” where every day they offer select rolls at half price. Find them on Facebook or Twitter to get the happy hour updates.

            We started with the calamari, which came in big rings with a spicy aioli sauce. The sauce was delicious and we kept the bowl on the table to eat throughout the meal. The salmon sashimi was the freshest I have ever had and was complimented by the salad and miso soup, which included massive chunks of tofu. One companion, a sushi novice and unadventurous eater, had the lunch special of Philly and Cali rolls. I don’t care for cream cheese and declined to sample these rolls, but they looked like average, well-prepared sushi for the wimpy eater. He enjoyed them.

            My other companion had the Papa Crema roll. This too included cream cheese, but I couldn’t resist chopsticking a piece for myself. The roll was made of crab, smoked salmon, avocado, the above-mentioned cream cheese, and was tempura battered. It was topped with slices of sweet potato, which seemed an odd combination but was a welcome addition. It was delicious.

            I had the Cosmo roll- a shrimp tempura roll topped with tuna, avocado, scallions, masago, honey wasabi aioli and spicy mayo. It was good, but my favorite remains the Soy Joy- spicy tuna, albacore, and cucumber with tempura and soy paper. It is sprinkled with edamame and it is worth the drive to Okemos. Maru is across the street from the Meridian Mall at
5100 Marsh Road
. The service is fantastic and the green tea always tastes so much better than what I make at home. They have a full bar. The restaurant seats less than 100 people, so plan ahead or make a reservation. I would be happy to join you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Special Announcement

I will be eating at the 1913 Room on April 8. This is slated to be one of the most highly-anticipated meals of life. The restaurant is closing soon to be converted into a Ruth's Criss, and while I am totally willing to eat the ass end out of a delicious steak at Ruth's Criss, I need to experience the 1913 Room.

I have already started to memorize their menu and am thrilled to see a rabbit entree.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Akagi Sushi

A few days ago I was tooling around Okemos running errands. It was lunchtime and I immediately thought of Maru, my favorite sushi restaurant, but they happened to be closed when I happened to be hungry. I remembered a friend telling me about another sushi restaurant in the area, and while I couldn't remember the name, I remembered the general vicinity. I drove around the corner and found Akagi Sushi in a little plaza, open and ready to rumble.

The place is small and obviously isn't trying to attract the same clientele that Sansu and Maru compete for (namely, MSU students.) It's not sexy, the menu isn't too extensive, and there aren't descriptions of many of the rolls. I ordered tea (because whenever I make green tea at home it tastes like dirt) and asked the waitress what her favorite roll was. She recommended the spicy tuna and avocado hand roll, so I ordered one of those along with a piece of yellowtail nigiri and a piece of salmon nigiri.

The hand roll was great. These are different from what my friends typically order when we go for sushi and you might be a little freaked out when you first see it- it is a big piece of seaweed, wrapped around rice, spicy sauce, slices of avocado, and tuna. You pick it up and eat it like a taco. Or, at least I did. And I didn't hear any outbursts of laughter.

The nigiri was pretty good. The miso soup left me crying for more tofu, but I was happy to see tons of seaweed floating around. While I was eating, the old man making the rolls brought me a sample of their white tuna nigiri. He melted my heart and the white tuna was good. I sat and read the newspaper and was happy I went in. It's not the slick, shiny restaurant that is the wonderful Maru, but Akagi is on my radar and I will be happy to go back.

*Akagi is in the strip mall with Cancun Mexican Grill around the corner from the Meridian Mall, towards Wal-Mart. With tea, the two pieces of nigiri, miso soup and the hand roll, my bill was $11.08, which I thought was totally reasonable.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Visiting Chefs 2

The night following the cooking demonstration, said friend and I returned to the Kellogg Center for the second night of the Cathy Whims Visiting Chefs series. This time it was dinner and it was served in the State Room (where I have never eaten. I'm not sure why.)

We were seated next to a pompous asshole who insisted on the waitress showing him the label of every wine bottle from which she poured. He would then make ridiculous comments to his wife like "Ahh yes, I thought this was a Vietti Barbera." What... a lucky lady. The table behind us boasted a professor-type who was talking loudly about an "aggressive atheist and his life partner." His combover spoke for itself.

This was the night that two amazing things happened- I rekindled my love for chicken livers and I ate a massive quantity of the most tender beef I have ever had in my life. Here was the menu:

three crostini- tuscan chicken livers, candied tomatoes and ricotta, chickpea and potato.
ribollita
peposo (peppery beef hunter's stew) with caramelized turnip puree.
mint straciatella gelato.

The crostini-
all three of them were delicious, but I could have made a meal out of the chicken livers. They were unbelievable. The candied tomato was a distant second, mostly interesting because the tomato was roasted into actual sweetness.

The ribollita-
this is a white bean stew. I absolutely love beans. It was good. As per usual, I added a lot of salt.

The beef was THE BEST BEEF I HAVE EVER HAD. I took my first forkful (the meat was so tender that I never picked up my knife) and I died. The texture was absolutely incredible and my friend, who doesn't eat red meat, suddenly became the best dinner companion in the history of the world when it occurred to me that I get to eat hers, too! The thought of taking up stomach space with turnip puree never crossed my mind as we switched plates and I gorged myself on beef. Out of this world.

The mint gelato was also delicious and I have never been more knocked out by the taste of fresh mint. The wine was actually an afterthought for me, but don't get me wrong- I drank it. We were served four wine pairings, including a great sparkling dessert wine.

I am obsessed with the Visiting Chefs series now. I want to go to every single one. The tickets to the dinner were $75 per person, which is actually kind of inexplicable to me because we definitely ate a comparable amount of food the night before. Whatever. I will pay them whatever they want for beef like that.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Visiting Chefs 1 and an Introduction

I love to eat. I grew up in a typical family having typical American food like lots of pot roasts, chicken, and egg salad. After I graduated from college I spent a year in France, where I finally learned something about food. Namely, that I can cook it, and that most restaurants don't offer much that I can't do myself at home for less money and less calories.

I can cook and bake. I do both of these things regularly, but I love to eat out and I think I'm pretty good at it.

Last week a friend and I went to the Visiting Chefs series at the Kellogg Center. The visiting chef was Cathy Whims from Nostrana restaurant in Portland, Oregon. The first night of the two-night event was a "cooking demonstration," and we weren't quite sure what to expect. When we got to the Kellogg we joined about 150 people in one of the big rooms, set up with long tables. We sat at one of the tables and watched Chef Cathy on stage in the front of the room. For about two hours she cooked, talked, took questions from the audience, and we were served samples of what she was cooking on stage.

The menu was:
insalata Nostrana- she described it as a Caesar-type salad, but made with radicchio
Fabio's creamy creamless squash soup
stewed pork with porcini mushrooms and juniper, served with polenta with parmigiano-reggiano cheese
panna cotta, topped with apple compote with apricots

I am a lover of all vegetables and the radicchio salad was no exception. I am not, however, a lover of most squash soups. I find them to be too sweet. This one was pureed with potato and tempered with hot pepper flakes, which took away some of the sweetness. The pork, sadly, didn't blow me away. What I took away from that part of the demonstration was a lesson in how to cook polenta. It is dead easy, which I hadn't expected. Bob's Red Mill polenta will be going into my repertoire.

The panna cotta was absolutely the star of this show. If you're not familiar with panna cotta, I would describe it as kind of a yogurt-y mini flan. It is a dessert that you make the day before (by combining gelatin, cream, vanilla, yogurt, and oil) and then let sit in the refrigerator overnight in individual ramekins. It's not too sweet, not difficult to make, and I scraped my plate. You could top this with anything- lemon curd, something chocolate, the apple compote that Chef Cathy made, or eat it plain with maybe a little espresso on the side. Delicious.

The tickets to the cooking demonstration were $60 per person. Aside from all the food we were also given wine pairings and copies of all the recipes (mine are covered with copious notes.) It was brilliant, Chef Whims was engaging and easy to follow and the crowd was enthusiastic. We loved it.