About Me

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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.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Five for 2012

Five of my best meals of 2012 were:

5. Dinner at Bistro Bella Vita (Grand Rapids)-
On February 19, 2012, homegirl Stacey and I went to see Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert at DeVos Hall in GR. We ate at Bistro Bella Vita (which, apparently, in-the-know Grand Rapids people refer to as "Bistro") and I wrote about it here. I ate there again in September, during Labor Day weekend when I went to GR to go to a West Michigan Whitecaps game with a friend from law school. We had both just taken the bar exam and were probably insufferable.

Also, while we were wandering around GR, we went into some dive bar and a dude started talking to me. He was wasted, and he started YELLING things like "You think America isn't the greatest country in the world? Why don't you lawyer THAT!"


*Anthony Bourdain is coming to this neck of the woods in May. You might want to buy your tickets now, because I am seriously considering going off my own fiscal cliff and buying every ticket so I can just have a private conversation with him.

4. Cousin's graduation dinner at the Knight Cap (Lansing- Downtown)-
In May, one of my favorite cousins graduated from MSU. His family and my family celebrated his accomplishment at one of my all-time faves, the Knight Cap. Ya know I love it.

The Knight Cap is one of my go-to places when people ask me for a favorite restaurant in Lansing. I qualify it- although not every meal I have ever had there has been incredible, enough of them have been. And the atmosphere can't be beat. It's cozy and fabulously 70s.

I had other great meals at the KC this past year in January, for the birthday of one of my favorite men, and in August, with one of my favorite doctors. I should get back to this classic, sexy place pretty soon. 

3. Pre-bar exam breakfast at Golden Harvest (Lansing- Old Town)-
A week before the bar exam, we were all grasping onto our last vestiges of normalcy. My study schedule was ridiculous and I would get up at 5am to do a quick 50 multiple choice questions just to get warmed up for the day. A group of four of us needed a little break so we decided to meet at Golden Harvest one morning in mid-July. We were the only ones there, which was perfect, because I'm sure we were obnoxious. But that sandwich with avocado on it was bangin.

2. Birthday dinner at Mitchell's Fish Market (Lansing, Eastwood Towne Center)-
Yes, a chain. Deal with it. My little group of friendsicles has been treated very well by Mitchell's over the past few years. Because we are ridiculous people, we have occasional group roasts of each other. The private room at Mitchell's is the perfect size, is free, and allows us some privacy so the rest of Lansing isn't subjected to dirty jokes about past indiscretions (not that I have any of those.)

We celebrated my 30th birthday a few weeks late but had another wonderful meal with wonderful service at Mitchell's. They've got my endorsement. Plus, you can buy mussels for $3.99 a pound, which I do every Christmas Eve to make cioppino.

1. Publican Bachelorette Brunch (Chicago)-
Don't even play like you didn't think this was going to top the list.

Honorable Mentions:
- Scarfing oysters on the half shell on my tour of the state of South Carolina in August
- Bridesmaid brunch at Dusty's in Okemos on the day before my bestie's wedding in September
- Dinner at Meat (Lansing- Old Town) before a show at the Riverwalk
- A friends birthday dinner at Ukai (Okemos) on the night before Thanksgiving
- Tavern 109 with my favorite veteran, and subsequent return visits to put my money where my mouth is
- My yearly dinner with a college bestie at The Laundry in Fenton on December 23 (the Brussels sprouts were fantastic. The coq au vin was disappointing. The chocolate cake and cinnamon-vanilla ice cream were worthy of making the drive to Fenton.)
- A Sansu lunch series with my tallest friend, @ruistom, where we invariably order too much and wonder how the check is a million dollars.

2012 saw some good eats. Not so much good photography. I will get better at that, my friends. Stick with me.

And Happy New Year. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bar 30 Micro-Review

Last night I went to a Grand River Connection event at Bar 30. This place. is. SWANK.

It's also super loud.

As I stood there talking to Lansing's young and gorgeous, I slowly devoured a bowl of guacamole. I don't know what the heck is going on at Bar 30, whether they have a direct line on the world's best avocados or what, but this was some of the most delicious guacamole I've ever had. It was creamy and a little spicy and I literally scraped the bowl clean.

As a friend of mine said repeatedly to everyone who approached us- Holy Guacamole!

A New Job and a New Goal

As of Monday, I've got a new job. The office is in Royal Oak, which means I get up early and go to bed late (as my bff puts it, "you've joined the real world again. Not everyone gets to go to yoga class everyday, you know.")

Law school was heaven.

Anyway, this position has offered me the opportunity to spend a lot of time in Oakland County. Incidentally, one of my favorite things happened last week when the Detroit Free Press published it's Top 10 best new metro Detroit restaurants. A 2013 goal arose- eat at each one of these restaurants. Now I just have to make some friends in metro Detroit. . .

Any other places that should be on my list?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tavern 109 for City Pulse

My column this month is on Tavern 109, a little gem in Williamston. I took some photos while I was there, hopefully these will whet your appetite.

Chicken and waffles.

Pear pizza. PEAR PIZZA.

Tavern Trio.
I ate a lot over the course of two visits.

Breakfast pizza.

Apple oatmeal pancakes. These deserve their own post.

Bread pudding.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Peanut Butter and Yogurt

I've been reading quite a bit lately about people eating peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. I originally thought that this was just an oddity in my beloved Sunday New York Times, then I saw a video snippet on CBS Sunday Morning where a man took a big bite of a PB&P sandwich. Honestly, it looked disgusting. Has anyone ever eaten this sandwich before? Is it as horrifying as it sounds?

On the same episode of Sunday Morning I was intrigued to see a segment where Serena Altschul (remember her from MTV News?!) went to a Chobani cafe in NYC. Check this out. The pistachio yogurt with chocolate and mint looks ahmahzing.

During normal (read: non-Thanksgiving) weeks, I eat about five servings of Greek yogurt. It has a wallop of protein and very little sugar, which is exactly what I look for in my afternoon snack.

Of course, in my morning snack, I look for caffeine, chocolate, and a minimum of 1,000 calories, but a girl's gotta have some fun, right?

Anyway, you can get Greek yogurt at just about any grocery in town nowadays. I generally stick to Chobani or Fage, whichever is on sale. I always buy fat-free plain yogurt and add my own topping, if I have gotten myself together and planned ahead. I very rarely buy flavored yogurt. It's full of sugar and nonsense.

Serena Altschul also talks about Siggi's Icelandic yogurt (skyr, if you want to be technical.) This stuff is great, it has even more protein and has delicious and natural flavorings. I make an exception to my no flavors rule and splurge when I find Siggi's. I know that you can buy it at the Better Health Store on Clippert near Frandor, which is where I also like to buy my tempeh and Bob's Red Mill products when I am trying to be good and healthy and virtuous.

Then I eat these-
Pumpkin cheesecakes on Thanksgiving. I ate three. Then I hated myself.

Monday, November 19, 2012


When I was in college and declared that my major was Political Science ("MY MAJOR IS POLITICAL SCIENCE! I DECLARE IT!") I decided that I should probably get some real-world experience in the form of an internship. I don't remember how this all shook out, but I got a position in the office of one of the greatest guys I have ever met- State Senator Mickey Switalski, repping Roseville and Eastpointe (formerly known as East Detroit.)

I loved being in that legislative office. Mickey gave me actual tasks to accomplish, instead of the normal intern duties of making copies, getting coffee, and taking documents from the Farnum (Senate) building to the House Office Building. I also became close friends with Mickey's Constituent Relations Director and sister-in-law, the 60-something Scottish firecracker Helena. Helena and I would frequently decide that Mickey could go without us for a few hours and would head south down Washington Square to have lunch at a restaurant that quickly became our favorite place- Restaurant Mediteran.

I believe my work in Mickey's office started in 2003, which means that I've been eating at Mediteran for 9 years. I had my 24th birthday party there. I finally convinced my parents to listen to my advice for once, and they too became Mediteran devotees. I've extolled to many people the necessity of making a lunch reservation, especially when the legislature is in town, because the little cafe becomes completely packed.

The gorgeous, colorful presentation of the salmon isn't lost on this sister.
In short, I consider myself to be well-versed in how things operate at Mediteran. Let me give you a few tips:

1. Igor, who is 30ish, is the owner. His father, Mirko, is the waiter. Mirko drew all of the artwork that hangs on the walls. You might think that Mirko hates you, but he's just prickly in that Eastern European way.

2. At lunch, I always order one of the specials. I don't even open the menu. The specials are listed on a dry-erase board outside.

3. At dinner, I love the salmon and the spaghetti bolognese. They have the best spaghetti, and some of the best salmon, in town. 

This isn't the spaghetti bolognese, it's the spaghetti Balkan. Also delicious.

4. Do yourself a favor and go in around Christmastime. The decorations are incredible.

5. At dinner, you will be presented with dessert after your meal. These desserts are all house-made (by Igor's mother) and gorgeous. They taste as good as they look.

6. You won't be presented with a check at your table. When you are ready to pay, head to the counter where Mirko will ring you up. Yes, you can use a debit or credit card. And yes, you should tip profusely.

7. Much like Soup Spoon, you might leave Mediteran smelling like food. If that kind of thing matters to you, you might want to leave your coat in the car (although I personally wouldn't think it was a bad thing to snuggle up to someone who smelled like some of the most delicious food in the city.)

Every dessert is worth the calories. I don't say that lightly.
8. I have reason to believe that Mediteran won't be open forever. Put it into your restaurant rotation sooner than later

9. They don't have a liquor license and no, they don't want one. Don't expect to have a drink with dinner.

10. If you're there for lunch, don't forget to put money in your meter. Those meter maids don't play.

Mediteran is downtown on Washington Square, across the street from the Cooley Law Library. There is also an adjacent cafe, but all my expertise pertains only to the sit-down restaurant.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Red Haven for City Pulse

I've taken my questionable talents to City Pulse for a monthly restaurant review that kicked off yesterday. Check out my first article and impressions of Red Haven here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fork in the Road

Last Saturday night I had dinner with my favorite veterans at Fork in the Road. FITR is the stand-alone incarnation of one of my favorite eateries, Trailer Park'd. I have always loved Trailer Park'd burgers, their wood-paneled truck, and the aromas that waft out of that little trailer, but unfortunately FITR has not yet won my heart.

I ordered the Brussels Sprouts, shown above. As they are ridiculously called on the menu, the Fried Brussels with Carmelized Onion Cheddar-Apple-Maple Mustard-Cider Vinny. I love Brussels Sprouts and I like that they were whole, not shredded or halved, but there wasn't any caramelization to speak of and the mustard sauce was overpowering. 

I also had the tacos, better known as the Ballin' Ass Tacos. I can't quite bring myself to say that. I can, however, comfortably assert that these tacos are the best thing on the menu. 

I have a couple of reasons for that claim: 1. unlike many of the other options at FITR, an order of the tacos gives you a pretty substantial amount of food; 2. I think that $7.50 is a reasonable price; and 3. these tacos are GOOD. Don't order them if you can't take the heat, because the chorizo is seriously spicy and I was straight chugging water by the end of the second taco. 

I also ordered the bread pudding. After it came to the table I realized that I've already had the bread pudding at FITR and wasn't in love with it, but I soldiered through and ate half of this. 

I like the chunks of chocolate and the pistachios, but it's quite dry and the bread pudding at Soup Spoon beats the crap out of FITR. 

Here's the rub- my total after ordering these three items was $20 and change. That. Is. Outrageous. I know, I know- local, sustainable, difficult to make a profit- I know. But let's get real for a second. This is Lansing, Michigan. This diner is a stone's throw from Sexton High School (heyyyy, shoulda been a Big Red!) and a recently-shuttered GM plant. The price point at FITR is way, way off. 

My vet ordered the ravioli. He asked the cashier (yes, you order your food at the counter, pay for it, then they bring it to you, and this is awful and I hate it) if he should get a side dish, and she told him that the entree was a "huge plate of ravioli." 

There were three raviolis on the plate. It was $18. 

Guys, I just can't get behind that. And believe me, I have no problem paying for delicious food when I think it's a good value and you're getting what you pay for. I just can't say that I feel that way about FITR, and I'm sad to report that. I hope something changes. 

In the meantime, Happy Veteran's Day, in particular to my favorite Republican, my favorite veteran, my political foe and my good, good friend. You're the best.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Last week I got disappointing news from the Board of Law Examiners. I, along with 437 other exam-takers, failed the bar exam. But it's ok. Michigan is thankfully a state that allows appeals of bar exam scores, so I will wage an argument and hope that the Board of Law Examiners awards me two more points.

Yes, two points. That's all I need.

Anyweekspentbeingmadattheworld, my friendsicles have been great. And I needed that. Yesterday I met up with one of my very smartest friends for lunch. He told me a story about a test that he had to take a bunch of times. It made me feel better. It also made me happy that I want to be a lawyer and not a doctor, because MAN doctors have to take some insane exams.

We went to Champps in the Eastwood Towne Center. Why the extra "p" in the name? Why, why?

I'm trying to decide upon one menu item that will become my "thing." You know what I mean? Like, my brother always get a club sandwich. I used to get Philly cheesesteaks, but I'm over that. At Champps I got the Kobe burger, but I'm thinking that something a little more nuanced should be my thing instead. Buffalo chicken sandwich? Patty melt? I need input.

So, the Kobe burger was fine. I particularly liked two things about it- the mayonnaise was already spread on the bun, and the cheese was perfectly broiled. Bubbly.

However, I HATE shredded lettuce. It falls out of the bun and is stupid. I would never request a leaf of lettuce while ordering a burger because I recognize that that would make me sound like a complete jerk, so I will just suffer in silence and be a tiny bit crestfallen every time I see a plate come out with shredded lettuce atop the bun.

But the burger was fine. Nothing remarkable, but solid. We also had crab bread for an appetizer, which was heinous. If there was really supposed to be crab on the bread, as the name implies, I'm sad to report that I didn't see or taste any. The bread itself reminded me of that French bread that I used to eat before swim practice in the form of Stauffer's French bread pizza. Why is that stuff called French bread? It is completely unlike a crusty, thin, gloriously-roof-of-mouth-ripping French baguette.

But, you know, America #1 and all.

Monday, October 8, 2012


            I love meat. 

            That doesn’t feel right. Let me try this again. I love Meat

            On a recent Friday evening before a show at the Riverwalk with two of my favorite men, our plan was to meet at Old Town’s hottest restaurant, also the one most recently visited by 90s dreamboat Gavin Rossdale. I had a few moments to cool my heels while waiting for my men and I poked my head inside to case the joint. A cow skin covers much of one wall, and the posteriors of diners covered all seats. Fortunately, just as my companions showed up a table emptied and we were able to sit right down.

            The menu is straightforward- lots of meat and a few sides. The three headliners are brisket, pulled pork, and something called Texas Hot Link that the waitress informed me is a kind of sausage. Upon her recommendation, I chose the brisket combo plate. The combo plate, which you can order with any of the three meats, also comes with two sides. You step right up and make your choice between macaroni and cheese, blue cheese and bacon potato salad,  bourbon baked beans, ranch slaw, hand-cut fries, or the “seasonal vegetable” offering. The seasonal vegetable offering that night? Glazed apples. 

            I was confused too.

            Our waitress hit me with some serious side-eye when I asked her to “talk to me about the ranch slaw.” Her response of “Well, it’s cole slaw,” didn’t exactly sell me, so I chose the bourbon baked beans and the fries. Don’t get me wrong, I am a human being and I obviously wanted the blue cheese and bacon potato salad, but it had run out. I hear that is Meat’s biggest problem, so don’t be mad when they’re out of something that you wanted. We want to encourage fledgling restaurants in town, and if they’re running out of food, they’re doing something right.

            Our orders came out relatively quickly and the waitress gave us a rundown of the five sauces held in a little bin on our table. One was a traditional Kansas City BBQ, and as the presentation continued my brain turned off until she said the words “hot garlic.” I know it ain’t ladylike, but this lady loves garlic and loves spicy. This sauce, while flavorful and welcome in limited increments, was seriously flirting with the line between “pleasantly spicy” and “too spicy for you to even enjoy what you’re eating because you are concerned that sweat has permeated your shirt and nobody is ever going to want to kiss you again because you’re an animal.” Be warned. 

            The brisket portion was massive. I counted six thick slices of beef, which was tender to the touch of a plastic fork. That’s necessary at Meat because the only cutlery provided is plastic forks, housed in the sauce bin. Alongside the slices were what I would call “burnt ends,” the pieces that fall off the brisket and are charred and full of fat and flavor. The burnt ends were explosions of intense flavor. The brisket itself was delicious, tender, a little spicy, and those six slices didn’t stand a chance against me.

            My sides were a mixed bag. The bourbon baked beans were absolutely delicious- some of the best baked beans I’ve ever had. I was concerned that they might be a little too sweet and my concern was unfounded and stupid. The beans were smoky-tasting, with chunks of bacon in a thick, rich sauce. The texture, which can be so hard to nail on baked beans, was perfect. Nothing was mealy or mushy, and when the hot garlic sauce got to be too much I dipped my brisket into the beans for a little taste of Heaven right there on Turner Street. 

            The fries were a disappointment. I have nothing against shoestring fries, but they definitely don’t blow my skirt up. These in particular were overcooked, dry, and completely flavorless. I left more than half of them on my plate (which was fine, because I estimated my caloric consumption at that one meal to be about 8 zillion calories. Worth it.)

            My dudes loved their pulled pork and macaroni and cheese. They agreed with me that the beans were bangin’ and informed me that that was an improvement over their last visit to Meat. I’m dying for the potato salad, so as soon as I run 10 miles I’m running myself right back over for a little more Meat.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Artie's Filling Station

Until I was 25 years old, I never thought I would drink coffee. I hated the smell and taste of it and, from my senior year of high school until 5 year ago I got my caffeine from Mountain Dew and Diet Pepsi.

It's embarrassing, but I drank the hell out of both of those. It's a wonder I didn't give myself the 'beetus.

I remember living in France and having my friends over for Thanksgiving (or, as it is better known by the French, "Thursday.") I knew that I needed to offer coffee and cheese, even though I hated both of them, so I bought some instant coffee granules. To the best of my recollection, all my guests passed on this offering in favor of more Beaujolis Nouveau. I was totally clueless.

When 25 rolled around, I was clocking a lot of hours working for a certain U.S. Senator from the Great Lakes State. You know him, he looks like Benjamin Franklin. I lived in Oakland County, where I didn't have any friends, so I worked nonstop. In the morning I would wake up and struggle to get out of bed, so I decided that it was time to grow up and start drinking coffee.

I started drinking lattes. Specifically, I started drinking "Grande Skinny Sugar-Free White Ligntnings with Mint." I. Am. Disgusting. These puppies were like $5 a pop and had 87 chemicals in them. The amount of coffee itself was negligible. I literally drank one of these every single day, and now I wish I had all of that money in a giant jar so I could go buy a million butternut squashes and turn myself orange from the inside out.

I don't remember what the impetus was for my abandoning these monstrosities, but I eventually did a 180 and dropped the lattes for plain black coffee. A few weeks after trying to convince everyone in the city that I was a badass, my mother's friend told me that coffee wasn't worth drinking without a little cream. She was right, and every day I have several cups with a little cream.

I have become a coffee fanatic. I'm frequently the psycho trying to track down a server before dessert comes so I can enjoy my cake with a cup of pleasantly cooled coffee. I mean honestly- is there anything better than a baked good and a cup of coffee (particularly as soon as you wake up in the morning?)

The banana bread that I have been assaulting for a week.

For weeks, I've been hearing about Artie's Filling Station. Truth be told, I'd been hearing that this dude was serious about his coffee and wouldn't take any crap. So I was intimidated and stayed away, continuing to give my Keurig, Bodum French press, and Bialetti stovetop espresso maker (THE BEST) a workout.

I realize that the stovetop is dirty. My apologies.

Last week the Grand River Connection (board member what) and Lansing Chamber held our annual 10 Over 10 awards. One of the winners was John Miller, Artie's owner. It was back on my radar and on Thursday, after cardio jump rope and before going to work, it was time. I told him that I'd never been there before and needed guidance, he suggested their Tahitian Vanilla Nutmeg latte.

You guys.
Nutmeg shavings on top.
Thank God I had gotten back into my car before I took a sip, because I literally made a keening sound. Gross word, I know, but that's what I did. It was too good. I took the lid back off and stared at it, sent a text to my bff telling her to go there, and licked nutmeg and foam off the bottom of the lid.

I can't even. . . it's not normal coffee.

By the way, I could see the vanilla beans (vanilla bean seeds?) on the sides of the cup. I'm getting grosser by the minute, but I ran my finger around the cup and licked them off. I would have eaten the paper cup if I hadn't already had my morning fiber in the form of oatmeal.

Look at those cups. Obviously cooler than I am. Oh, and they only slang whole milk, so deal with the fact that you're going to get fatter. However, it's a small cup, so just tell yourself that you're European and deal with it. Also, it was close to $6, but if that's going to stop you then just get the hell out of here.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Waterfront Bar & Grille is Sunk

Get it? I was a lifeguard for 87 years, so I know what I'm talking about.

Let me back up. In February, a bestie of mine got married in Belize. She knew that she needed to have a party here for people to shower her with Le Creuset and serving platters (the world's most popular wedding gifts, I think), and she had her little heart set on the Waterfront Bar & Grille at the City Market. I don't know why. But she did.

She booked the place for a night in March. She knew it would still be chilly, so she arranged for a tent and we hoped for the best. The proposed menu was bangin- it would be a pig roast. The pig would come from an Amish farmer, they would throw some whole chickens on the grill, there would be macaroni and cheese, roasted potatoes, and other things that I would like to rub all over my body.

This little lady is a little. . . high-strung? Type A? and she understandably wanted to communicate with management to make sure that everything was set as the date of the party approached.

She called. She emailed. She went into the joint in person. She was given the run around time and again.

Anyway, it all worked out and the party was beautiful. The food was better that I expected and I was shoving pork into my mouth like I hadn't eaten in a week. This girl is also an incredible baker and she decided to make her own cakes to feed to guests. She made 4 different 3-layer cakes and set them out for dessert. Guests were also invited to meander over to Iorio's to have some gelato with their cake. Obviously, I had several servings of everything.

It was also her dad's 60th birthday.
Turned out, it was freezing that night. I buried my cold heart in pork and cake and stuck it out, although I did spend several hours inside. At the end of the night, there was curiously no food or cake left for the happy couple to take home. Since there were only about 50 guests, a Google search tells me that there should have been leftovers to feed another 25 people. But what do I know.

Fast-forward to present day, and another bestie of mine got married 3 weeks ago. Love is a many splendored thing and all, but the bride and I really had our sights set on the food. We had been discussing for weeks exactly what we would eat all weekend. For her rehearsal dinner she decided to go back to the Waterfront for a pig roast, since the groom's favorite bar is The Exchange and he wanted to bring all of his frat bros over there after the toasts were made.

Again, her many attempts to contact management were ignored. It was annoying. It was unprofessional. But the schedule was set and we chugged along. On the night of the rehearsal, rain was in the forecast. Again, there was a tent set up, and that tent got a workout. It poured rain. Staff decided that they would wait to set out food until the rain stopped (why? what the?)

The food was finally set out, and it was a let-down. I don't know what was different, but the quality was garbage compared to what it was before.

This wasn't my plate. My plate had 3 times as much meat.
Again, the bride had brought her own dessert- 7 various pies from Sweetie-Licious. Everyone ate dinner and pie and started chatting and staring at the beautiful couple with stars in their eyes. Out of the corner of my starry eye, I saw a man come outside from where he was perched inside on a bar stool, fill a plate with pie, and go back inside. I looked at the staff member who was manning the rehearsal dinner and expected a reaction from him- expected him to go inside and, I don't know, tell patrons that it was a private party and the food wasn't for them. Instead, he looked me in the eye and shrugged.

I told some friends what had happened, and that I wasn't happy with how this evening was playing out. An hour later, the same man (it's not clear if he was an employee or not) came out and started loading up a plate with leftovers. My friend stopped him, telling him that the food wasn't for him. He mumbled some excuse- he knew it wasn't for him, he wasn't taking it, he was just helping pack up.

Whatever. I won't recommend to anyone else that they have an event at the Waterfront or even go there for a meal. Their everyday food is nothing special and the staff members are inconsiderate and rude. If you're in the City Market and it's dinnertime, head across the street to the Knight Cap. Hell, Taco 911 might even be a better bet (I don't know, I haven't been there yet.) I'm sorry to say it, but avoid the Waterfront at all costs.

Friday, August 24, 2012

SC- fun's over

I have become the world's worst tourist. Back when I first started traveling at the tender age of 20 (jeez my skin was amazing) I used to photograph everything. Eiffel Tower? 98 pictures of it. University of Kansas welcome sign? 56 photos. Hell, crazy homeless man singing at the top of his lungs on a street corner in Switzerland? I took a video.

Somewhere I lost this. Sure, I will snap pictures of my food, of my fingernails, and of signs that are particularly funny, but they're all on my iPhone. When I drive past a monument, I rarely give it much more thought than a 5-second cursory examination. I gotta get better at this. This is my one picture of Charleston-
I know. Stupid. I will work on this.

After I ate my body weight in oysters, loving every second of it, the next day we went to a little golf tournament. Ok, it was a bigger deal than "a little golf tournament." Even I, golf idiot, can appreciate that. We went to this-
 I KNOW. I sent that photo to two of my best golfer friends. They were incredulous. I felt like a big shot. (PS that particular J Crew lorelei in the background took a beating that day. It was alternately covered in sweat and in rain. Sorry, little buddy.)

I'm into life experiences. I like to do things that I wouldn't normally do if left to my own devices. I love to people-watch and talk to everyone that I see. I was happy to go to this golf tournament, although what I know about the sport of golf you could literally write on the back of a business card.

Guys, Southerners can dress. Seriously, Michiganders, what are we doing with ourselves? This is more directed to my Yankee men, since my girlfriends know how to look cute. Take a gander at your closet this afternoon. If you see any jorts, cargo shorts, or solid-color tshirts, and you wear these items with regularity, you've got a problem. Google "Southern Men Style" and take some inspiration.

Of course, everybody makes mistakes.

Get serious. You're so gross.
The golf was on an island, and it was more humid than anything I have ever experienced in my life. I tried to keep my mouth shut. At some point Crazy came out and it became apparent that I had to go inside, on the double, or I was going to derail. I tried to collect myself.

The rest of my time in the South was punctuated with a lot of fast food (yes, I ate a Chick Fil A. No, I absolutely do not support their ridiculous outspoken bigoted views on gay marriage), some sushi, some okra, and a walk through Greenville, where I took a video of a waterfall.

Unfortunately for all of us, I have remedial computer skills.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Palmetto State is my Oyster

After breakfast in Greenville, I experienced Pickens and Woodruff before making it to Columbia, home of the University of South Carolina. The campus is lovely. The football stadium is immense. My stomach was growling and my hunger was making me quickly turn the corner into behaving like a demonic troll.

I ate a few emergency almonds from my purse, which afforded me a extra 20 minutes of human being behavior. The clock was running out.

We went to a place called Rockaways. There was no sign outside. Honestly, I like that sort of place- it makes me feel like I have an inside scoop that nobody else has. Makes me feel like I have my own reality show (incidentally, I would LOVE my own reality show. Somebody please make one for me.)

A pimento cheeseburger was the plan, since the only bite of pimento cheese I had ever had in life was a few weeks ago at The Publican in Chicago. I was handed a menu and noticed a hand-written sign shoved down the front of it- "Oysters, 50 cents each."

50 cents. Two for a dollar. Do you know how much oysters cost in Lansing, Michigan? THREE DOLLARS EACH.

I asked if this was a true advertisement, or if the menu was a relic. I didn't know what to think. I was starving and I couldn't determine whether or not this was actually happening. Guys, it was true. They were 50 cents each. We got a dozen, and we got a pimento cheeseburger, and we got pimento cheese fries.

That's a little ramekin of jalapenos on the side. I like it.

The cheese was a little much for me. I expected it to be somehow- chunkier? This cheese was creamy. I've been told that mayonnaise is mixed into it. A miracle occurred and I haven't gained 78 pounds in the last week, and I'm not really sure how that happened. I did my best to outgrow all of my clothing.

The real showstopper was these little guys. I ate almost all of them. There was no mingonette, which I thought was odd. But I found some later in the day, when I ate another dozen oysters.

I wonder if pimento cheese fries are typically crinkle-cut? Probably. Makes sense that crinkle-cut fries would hold more cheese, right? Again with the science. Maybe that will be my next degree.

As we continued on our statewide tour, we got back in the car (me with my personality fully restored and acting as nice as I can be expected to) and drove to Charleston. When we got there, we went to Pearlz. I, being the pig that I am, ate more oysters.

I was full and happy and could be my usual charming Yankee self. I proceeded to talk to people from Ann Arbor, in Charleston on vacation (she was a lawyer), a woman with a Spartan coozie on her beer who is from Grand Rapids and lives in SC, and then it got really real and the singer at the next bar we went to announced that was going to play a song by a group from Detroit, since it's "so close" to his hometown.

His hometown? Mason. I used to swim dual meets in their pool. I was tickled. Right after he and I discovered our Mitten State commonality, two middle-aged men in the crowd stood up and announced that the live in Bath, just north of Lansing. Ahh, life. You get me every time. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Palmetto State

Last week I went to South Carolina to visit a friend from law school. His wardrobe includes bow ties, Croakies, suspenders, and boat shoes. I like everything that is on that list.

Annoyingly, I had to fly from Grand Rapids to Detroit to Charlotte. Flying from Grand Rapids to Detroit is obviously a super great use of my time and the world's nonrenewable resources. (Is "nonrenewable resources" applicable here? I'm trying to sound like I know something about science. Just call me Bill Nye.)

Anyway, the Detroit plane was seriously delayed. Like 2.5 hours delayed. But I fancy myself a great traveler and I made the best of it. I busted out a book that my good girlfriend had lent me and dove in.

What book, you ask?

Don't tell Grandma Johnson. Actually, don't tell GRANDPA Johnson.

You guys, I know. I'm embarrassing. But look at that great yellow purse on the floor. She's a beaut, Clark. (By the way, this book is totally demented. I'm grossed out with myself for reading it. The second one isn't nearly as difficult to justify, since it's a trilogy and by God I've got to finish what I started.)

I eventually got to SC. It was super late. I fell into a mini coma and awoke the next morning, fresh as a daisy.

That's a lie. I got no sleep and SC is BRUTALLY hot and humid, but I'm trying to have a positive attitude. 

My tour guide was horrified that I had never been to a Waffle House. I had to remind him that, as a Yankee (yes, they actually use the word "Yankee" to refer to people who live in the North) I've rarely ever SEEN a Waffle House. The next morning we went there. I ate this.

On the left is a waffle. I know, good thing I have an education worth 150k, right? It has chocolate chips and peanut butter chips on it. I really do like a sweet breakfast.

On the right are hashbrowns with jalapenos. After I made my order I was informed that my chosen combination was disgusting and I should be ashamed of myself. In looking back, that's fair enough. This is a totally gross combination. I was nervous, I was in the South and was scared that my sassiness was going to get me smacked, and I hadn't had any coffee because apparently there are still people in the world who don't have a coffee pot in their house. Those reasons I offer in my own defense.

The Waffle House employees were lovely. They were tickled that it was my first visit and they gave me a hat. I liked that you can sit right up at the counter and watch them prepare your food. Right before we left, two ladies came in to pick up a to-go order and began speaking French to each other. I immediately started listening to their conversation and was two seconds from jumping in.

I like attention.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Spoon Cap

Sometimes, in between trips to see friends, I bloom where I'm planted. I recently took three trips in rapid succession- Chicago, Iowa, and South Carolina- but while I was home I found the time to eat two dinners at my longtime favorite Soup Spoon.

You know I love it. 

The first dinner was the evening I got back from Iowa. It was a hot day and I jumped in the shower immediately after jumping out of my car and throwing a box of doughnuts at my mama and her bff, whom we lovingly refer to as my "Real Mother."

Why? Because she likes purses, and shoes, and makeup, just like I do. My actual biological mother can't be bothered.

Anyway, I put on one of my favorite J Crew lorelei dresses and went to meet some of my favorite fellow former Junior League of Lansing board members for our monthly dinner. We always go to the Soup Spoon, this was no exception.

While perusing the menu for the zillionth time, I realized that, embarrassingly, I had never ordered the salmon entree. This is strange. I am known for ordering the salmon more often than not. It came with potatoes dauphinoise, which is a sort of cheesy, creamy, melty potato gratin. We all know that I'm not a cheesehead, but I do love a good potato gratin.

The salmon was so slammin that I ordered it the next week as well. I don't know how it escaped my consciousness for so long, but I regret the error.

A few days ago I had dinner at the Knight Cap, my second favorite local restaurant. I hadn't been there since celebrating my favorite (shh) cousin's graduation from Michigan State in May, when I had some disappointing tournedos. I figured that I would stop trying to branch out when I already know what I like at the Knight Cap and have never been disappointed by it.

I made my triumphant return to the petit filet. Rare. Vegetables on the side. Starter was a cup of the chicken gumbo, which comes overflowing and stuffed with a chunk of cornbread. It is four-alarm spicy, so don't order it if you can't take the heat.

The vegetables were particularly great. Sliced zucchini, yellow squash, purple onions and cherry tomatoes, cooked to retain a snap. I love a vegetable with a snap. Don't give me any mush, please.

Fun fact- I don't care for sauce on meat generally. If I'm indulging in a steak, I want to taste the flavor of the steak (with a little added salt, maybe.) I will occasionally dip the tines of my fork into the Bearnaise, but I could happily do without.

Sadly, the desserts at the Knight Cap are sorry. Honestly not worth the calories. I know how teensy the kitchen is and I'm not mad at them for having awful desserts, but I would be happy to bake something and bring it in for them to serve. Not kidding.

On another note, I heard that my beloved KC is struggling. Economic downturn, unsophisticated diners, general sloppiness of downtown Lansing. Who knows. If it's true, I'm sad. The next time you're in the market for a fine meal (lunch OR dinner), think of them. It's a tiny, quirky, wonderful restaurant. Let's help them maintain their place in Lansing lore.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa.

A few weeks ago I decided to push my Midwest tour into full swing and head to Iowa the morning after coming back from Chicago. I have a bestie in La Porte City, IA, and she has two little munchkins I've never seen before. So last Monday I threw a bunch of stuff into my car, grabbed my bursting-at-the-seams book of CDs so I could take a trip down memory lane, and drove myself to The Hawkeye State.

You don't want to know what I ate in the car on the way there. Oh, you insist? It's gross, but I will tell you. I stopped in Kalamazoo to see some of my favorite Johnsons and ate a Wendy's grilled chicken sandwich. What is that disgusting sauce on there? Steer clear of this sandwich unless you hate yourself.

En route I had a lime Refresher at Starbucks (why? I don't know), a Cantina Bowl from Taco Bell, AND a vanilla ice cream cone from McDonald's. Not only did I throw caution to the wind, but I actually threw myself a little bit closer to ending up on The Biggest Loser.

I'm also not particularly proud of the musical selections I made when I was still purchasing CDs. I have some truly atrocious music. Ashlee Simpson. Jock Jams. Nelly's entire discology, including both "Sweat" AND "Suit."

Actually, I'm going to stand by the Nelly tunes. I still know every word and I still love him.

The day after my arrival, Tayls and I packed up the two kiddos and headed to Cedar Falls for lunch. After eating super healthy stuff like a breaded buffalo chicken sandwich and beer-battered french fries, we topped it off with a trip to Scratch Cupcakery.

I wanted the Peanut Butter Cup, but Tayls is allergic to peanuts. Alas, we went with a Vanilla Chocolate and an Oh Happy Day. She also bought a half-dozen more, so I could continue along my path to total obesity.

These cupcakes were better than the ones I had at Sprinkles in Chicago. And pals, this is in IOWA. Who woulda thunk?

Scratch also has a gelato counter. I tasted the basil gelato, because I couldn't resist, but I wish I wouldn't have. It was covered in ice crystals and the flavor was awful. The girl behind the counter told me that they don't make it themselves, and I think they probably shouldn't be selling it either.

Maybe I'm not holding them to a fair standard, because I've been completely spoiled by Iorio's in the Lansing City Market.

I did go for a run the next morning. We went to Zumba the same day. Is anyone into Zumba? I didn't love it.

Before I Nelly-d myself back to Michigan on Thursday, I stopped at the La Porte City Bakery just down the street from Taylor's beautiful old farmhouse. While running by the place the previous morning I had been lured in my the aromas, and I stood in the doorway in my sweat-drenched running clothes until someone paid attention to me. That someone was a little old man- the owner- and I hit him with a thousand questions.

Do you make everything here? Yes.
Is it all made fresh daily? Yes.
Can I move into your kitchen? I have my own neon LL Bean monogrammed sleeping bag (not kidding)? No, you weirdo.

I bought a dozen doughnuts. I knew that I would be getting back to Lansing around 4pm that day and wanted to bring them back to my friendsicles. Truth be told, they only had 9 to choose from. I scarfed 3 of them somewhere around South Bend.

You made my 8-hour drive so much more enjoyable, you gorgeous little babies.
We also ate some delicious guac made by Mr. Taylor, some errant Goldfish crackers thrown on the floor by two-year-old John, and Trixie's famous tuna salad. I love Iowa. Well, maybe it's just my friend that I love. Either way, the La Porte City Bakery will be getting more of my business on the regular.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Chicago Brunch. Best meal of 2012.

That's not an overstatement.

For years, I have been reading about The Publican. I have literally had that website bookmarked for years. When we decided to Sunday Brunch before heading back to Michigan, I knew where I wanted to go. We got a reservation and I was quiet with excitement as our cab made it way across town, laden with our huge Vera Bradley duffel bags (I like the bright colors, ok?) and huge asses after gorging ourselves on hot dogs and cupcakes (see below.)

We got to The Publican quite a bit early for our 11:00 reservation and waited at a standing bar where we could stare at the plates being served to other diners. We ordered coffees, mimosas, and after I started shouting out things like "the pork rinds are supposed to be incredible!", we ordered the pork rinds. Misstep. I don't know if I'm missing something, but these things were like giant, super-crunchy Cheetos. We also ordered the pub pretzel with pimento cheese, because Miss Kitty went to school in the South and couldn't resist.

I had never had pimento cheese. It was good. I would eat it again.

The rest of our party rolled in and we were seated at long tables shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers. I love it, so I can stare at their food, their baby, their eyeglasses, whatever catches my eye. And I can listen to their jacked-up conversations, like the dapper man next to me telling his son that Obama is going to blow the general election by making voters think that if they don't vote for him, they're racist.


I couldn't concentrate on sending hate vibes his way, though, because I was too excited with the prospect of my red wine poached eggs. I love eggs. No, I LOVE them. You don't understand. And I never order them poached, because when I'm confronted with an overly-poached yolk, I lose my patience. I knew that they would be perfect at The Publican, and I was dying.

Look at those little beauties. Atop grilled bread, with hollandaise (so lemony) and alongside a little salad and prosciutto. I don't think I have ever before willed my stomach to stretch in order to accommodate the last bites of my meal. This was, without a doubt, the best meal I have had this year. If you find yourself at The Publican, order this. If you know how to make this, come to my house. I will make you some cupcakes, serve as surrogate, whatever you want.

I also ordered the ricotta and zucchini bread, which that week came with mint, blackberries, and honey, for sharesies with the table. The texture was awesome- it was light and sweet and you could really taste the honey.

I slathered the ricotta like whipped cream.
I drove around Chicago a few days after this trip and looked up The Publican's hours so I could try to sneak in a quick lunch. Sadly, my schedule wouldn't allow for it. Mark my words, I will return before the end of the year. And I will bring my Thanksgiving eating pants.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Happy Christmas (Bar is Over)

A week and a half ago I took the Michigan bar exam. All of my time since mid-May had been completely devoted to learning as much law as I could, which meant no trips, no going up north, no yoga (until I started going nuts and Mom directed me to return to a few classes a week), and no hanging out with friends. My meals were unvaried- oat bran, salad, tofu. Vats of coffee. I even started drinking an occasional Diet Coke, which I have since remembered is disgusting. That temporary habit has been abandoned.

My bestie, whom we lovingly call Kitty, is getting married in September. She had been a dreamboat in understanding that my wedding-planning involvement would be minimal until post-bar exam, but after the exam, I would throw myself into my Maid of Honor duties. So, two days after I emptied my brain and poured it into bluebooks, Team Kitty headed to Chicago to celebrate her.

I hadn't been to Chicago since I was in high school. I know. It's three hours away, get with it. Well, the Windy City has come roaring back onto my radar and I will be sure to head there more often in the future. We got in on Friday night, cleaned up and changed into dresses and heels at the hotel, and headed to Las Palmas on the advice of a true Chicagoan. See, Kitty's got a real thing for Mexican food. I myself could generally take it or leave it, so when we eat Mexican in the Lansing area (which is always at Kitty's insistence) I always just order whatever she ordered.

This time I decided to read the menu and order something different. Ok, the real motivation was to order whatever Kitty told me to order, so she could taste it. She's the bride, she gets anything she wants.

We were starving when we arrived at the restaurant and immediately ordered guacamole. I've never been more impressed by a mashed-up avocado. It was the creamiest, most fresh-tasting guac I've ever had. I'm not saying that I'm a guacamole expert or anything, but it. was. slammin.

We ordered it with medium heat and it worked for me. Some of my wimpier friends thought it was too spicy. I told them to grow up.

My entree was the BARBACOA DE CORDERO- Braised lamb in guajillo peppers, maguey and avocado leaves served atop Mole de Mayo with asparagus & a crispy arepa (Voted best mole in Chicago 2011.)

The fork sneaking in is Kitty's. She couldn't wait.
 The lamb was tender. The dish was flavorful. I'm always intrigued by the idea of chocolate in my mole, and I couldn't resist a statement like "best mole in Chicago 2011." I think the asparagus was kind of a weird addition, but I cleaned my plate.

The next day we headed to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game. Kitty talked about eating a hot dog 67 times before we got to the game, and her excitement was only ramped up when I read her a report from infallible Four Square that Wrigley and Yankee Stadium have the best stadium hot dogs in the country. After watching the actual baseball for .7 seconds, we turned our attention to the concessions.

You haunt my dreams. 

It was incredible. I scarfed it. Then we sat in the bleachers until we all started sweating, at which point we went downstairs and stood around trying to decide what to do with ourselves. During this interlude, I ate ANOTHER HOT DOG. That was one of the best decisions I've made. The last bite was the best bite of anything I had taken in days.

On another note, the employees at Wrigley were wonderful. They were so welcoming and delightful. I'm not kidding. I hope that the employees at Tigers Stadium, errr. . . Comerica, are as nice.

Later in the day we ate some inconsequential pizza. Much later, after spending several hours watching Olympic swimming, we went downstairs to the restaurant in our hotel, the Westin on Michigan Avenue. I didn't have high hopes. It's a hotel restaurant, after all. Kitty and I love oysters on the half shell, and I knew they were available. I thought maybe a half-dozen and a salad would satiate our 10:00pm hunger. Then this happened-

me: "Do you want a salad? Maybe the panzanella?"
Kitty: "Sure." (long pause) "Do you want to split a steak instead?"
me: "Thank God you said that."

We had a bleu cheese and herb encrusted filet that was delicious. I knew when I cut through it that the meat was perfectly prepared. The accompanying spinach mashed potatoes were good, but they were an afterthought. After focusing on the half-dozen oysters (yes, we ate those too) and hoovering the filet, the potatoes remained on the plate.

Earlier in the day, after the game, we headed to a few stores to look for wedding shoes. We were hungry. We were tired. We needed a snack. The heavens opened and we found ourselves standing smack in front of Sprinkles, which I had never heard of but is apparently "the progenitor of the haute cupcake craze." Thanks for showing me that you know the word "progenitor," Los Angeles Times.

I am always disappointed with commercial cupcakes. I fancy myself quite a baker and what I make at home is, without fail, better than what I find for sale. This place was no different, but it was a darling bakery and the banana cake with dark chocolate frosting could give me a run for my money.

We chased that cake, and the strawberry (dry and meh) with coffee and their last glass of skim milk.

Blood sugar savior.
 This little snackie fueled us up for our trip to Bhldn, Anthropologie's bridal shop, so my crazy friend could contemplate a $300 pair of shoes. We still live in Lansing, Michigan, right? Who balls that hard?

We ate on Sunday, too. But I want you to come back and read about that later. And you should, because it was one of the best meals I have ever had.