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Happy New Year! Dine Well in 2014!

The ultimate CulinaryWoman, Julia Child, in her Cambridge, MA kitchen.

The ultimate CulinaryWoman, Julia Child, in her Cambridge, MA kitchen.

 

Happy 2014! I only have one wish for you this year: dine well.

Whether it’s your favorite cereal for breakfast, or an enjoyable glass of wine at dinner, choose things that you like to eat and drink. Don’t eat mindlessly, out of boredom or because you’ve run out of ideas. Have things on hand that will give you pleasure.

And, find good places to eat on the road. We’re here to help.

My very best to you for the new year.

January 1, 2014   No Comments

My Culinary Resolutions For 2014: Mexican Cuisine

I’m excited to be spending time in Phoenix this winter and spring, and one of the things I’d like to do while I’m there is learn more about Mexican cuisine.

Diana Kennedy, the queen of Mexican cuisine.

Diana Kennedy, the queen of Mexican cuisine.

Through the years, I’ve eaten all types of Mexican food, from cliched Americanized dishes covered with melted cheese, to the sophisticated cuisine offered by Rick Bayless at his Chicago restaurants, to the items you find in neighborhood taquerias.

I’ve also read books by Diana Kennedy and I’m longing to see whether I can learn more about the many variations of Mexican food. I have a feeling it is just as unique as the other styles of cooking we’ve all gotten to know, such as French, Thai and Chinese. But living up north, it’s harder to get exposure to dishes beyond those that appeal to a broad audience.

So, I’ll be making an effort to understand Mexican food, and hopefully be able to translate it to dishes I can make at home. I hear Phoenix has some outstanding groceries aimed at a Latino audience, and I’ll be venturing out to try them.

I’m more than happy to get your suggestions on things to try, especially when it comes to using products in season.

 

December 31, 2013   1 Comment

My Culinary Resolutions For 2014: Cook More

I enjoyed taking cooking classes this past year at The Market On Main in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

I enjoyed taking cooking classes this past year at The Market On Main in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

By Micheline Maynard

Over the past few years, I’ve gone from eating most of my meals out (including delivery food) to cooking more for myself. I’ve discovered a couple of things about cooking.

First, it’s a great way to unplug from mobile devices and your computer. Second, it teaches you what you’re good at doing, and where you need to improve. Third, you can save money by cooking for yourself (as long as you shop wisely). Fourth, it’s a way to control what you’re eating.

Number four is especially important to me right now, because I’m on a quest to lose 20 more pounds by May. It’s lucky that I’ll be spending time between now and then as a visiting professor at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. I can get outdoors, and I’ll have access to wonderful produce and groceries in Phoenix, or so I’m told.

I’ve taken plenty of cooking classes and I have a good repertoire of techniques, even though I don’t pretend to have chef like skills. So my first culinary resolution for 2014 is to cook more, even though I’ll keep looking for great things to eat on the road.

December 29, 2013   No Comments

The Best Things I Ate In 2013: Stone Crab

Photos courtesy of Find Eat Drink.

Photos courtesy of Find Eat Drink.

I love seafood. I especially love crab. And when I knew I was going to be in central Florida last March, I was bound and determined to track down some stone crab.

Luckily, my friends at Find Eat Drink had just the right place: Sam’s Fresh Seafood, in Dunedin, Florida. You get to Dunedin over a causeway from Tampa, then you have to do-see-do a bit along surface streets until you get there. It’s kind of a hike, but it’s worth it because Dunedin sits smack on the Atlantic Ocean. (It’s the winter home of the Toronto Blue Jays, no fools they.)

When I lived briefly in Florida, I loved to go to seafood shacks, where the owner caught the offerings, there was cold beer, and Key Lime pie for dessert. That’s exactly what Sam’s is.

There’s a Sam — Sam Hart, to be exact — who goes out every day fishing for stone crab. He buys just enough to stock the restaurant. They come in two sizes, medium claws and jumbo claws, which looked a little daunting.

Stone crab is different from king crab or snow crab. The claw meat is concentrated next to the bone, and you have to crack and dig and poke to get it out. But as you do, you notice its sweetness and meatiness. [Read more →]

December 23, 2013   No Comments

The Best Things I Ate In 2013: Simple Greek

Spinach pie and salad on a splendid summer day.

Spinach pie and salad on a splendid summer day.

Mary Chapman and I have been friends since the beginning of our careers at United Press International. This summer, when I expressed a desire to visit the Leamington, Ontario tomato festival, Mary was game for a short road trip.

We went intending to eat tomatoes, which we eventually did. But we also took time out for lunch al fresco next to the dock where the ferry to Put In Bay comes in. That’s where we had a simple Greek lunch that hit the spot.

Leamington sits on the western end of Lake Erie, and has a stunning lakefront, as well as a beautiful drive along the lake with farms, farm stands and gracious houses. We got to Leamington thinking that the tomato festival began at noon, only to find out it didn’t open until 6 pm. That meant we’d have to find lunch elsewhere.

We figured there had to be restaurants along the lakeshore, so we headed toward Kingsville, and came upon King’s Landing, which advertises a menu of steak, prime rib, chicken and Greek cuisine.

Greek just sounded right on a sunny patio next to the water. Mary, who has been to Greece, spotted the Spanikopita listed on the menu, and we both decided to order it. Yazoo! as the Greeks merrily exclaim. [Read more →]

December 21, 2013   No Comments

The Best Things I Ate In 2013: Montreal Tacos

A unique platter of tacos.

A unique platter of tacos.

You would not think of Montreal as a place for terrific tacos. You also wouldn’t think you would find great food in a former automotive repair shop. But one of the best things I ate in 2013 was in an industrial atmosphere.

I was tipped off to Grumman 78 by my friend Kathryn Blaze Carlson, the standout reporter at the Globe And Mail in Toronto. She’d just been to Montreal for a bachelorette weekend, and couldn’t stop talking about how good the food was.

Grumman 78 has an interesting history. It began as a food truck and still operates one, although Montreal’s food truck laws pose a challenge to allowing trucks on the streets. Branching out from truck life, the owners found an auto repair shop not far from the Atwater Market.

There, they operate a full-service restaurant and bar, open for dinner only on Wednesday through Monday. As the website says, it’s “raw and industrial, furnished with recycled pallet tables and original artwork.” In the States, it might seem too hipster for words. But the food at Grumman 78 transcends any preciousness the atmosphere might create.

I looked over the menu, which changes regularly, and asked the bartender about the evening’s special. Fish tacos, he replied. My eyes lit up because fish tacos are an almost-automatic order for me any place I can find them. [Read more →]

December 19, 2013   No Comments

The Best Things I Ate In 2013: A Special Dessert

Eclairs, chocolate dipped strawberries,  blackberries and peaches, with a birthday candle.

Eclairs, chocolate dipped strawberries, blackberries and peaches, with a birthday candle.

This year, I wasn’t intending to go out for dinner on my birthday. I taught MBAs this summer at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, and my birthday was the final day of class. The students had already surprised me with a lovely card and cake and presents, and it seemed like I’d already had my celebration.

But my family insisted we go out to my favorite Ann Arbor restaurant, Zingerman’s Roadhouse. As soon as Ari Weinzweig found out it was my birthday, the surprises began to arrive. One was a special dessert that I have to include on my list of the best things I ate in 2013.

Take a look at the plate, and here’s what you’ll see: housemade eclairs, chocolate dipped strawberries, blackberries and peaches. The fruit was dead ripe, the pastry the right temperature. It was just a perfect combination for our table of seven. Everyone got a bite of eclair, and some fruit, and the pretty presentation added to the enjoyment.

Ari told me that when he asked the kitchen to come up with something special, the dessert chef quickly replied, “I’m on it!” And out came something memorable, for its flavor and the thought that went into it.

I felt like it was a dessert you’d see in the south of France, or perhaps in the Bavarian countryside, where people gather for long meals, good wine and conversation. After an exhausting summer semester, it brightened my spirits and put just the right punctuation mark on my birthday.

What were some of your favorite things to eat in 2013? Let us know in Comments.

December 17, 2013   No Comments

The Best Things I Ate In 2013: Artisanal Pizza

Pizza at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.

Pizza at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.

It took me two tries to eat the best pizza I ate this year. In January, the wait to get into Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix was so long, we gave up and went elsewhere. Before we left the restaurant, where we’d been sent by Ari Weinzweig at Zingerman’s, the hostess gave us some tips. Come for lunch, or come late, after 8:30 p.m.

In May, I made plans for a short visit to the Phoenix area so that I could visit Taliesin West. My flight got into Phoenix at noon. I picked up my rental car, and headed straight for Pizzeria Bianco on Adams Street, about 15 minutes from the airport. I was in luck: the lunch crowd had dwindled, and there were seats at the bar and in the restaurant.

I chose the bar, because I love to talk to other patrons and the bartender. I quickly discovered that many people were drawn to the restaurant because of the reputation it’s gained for wood oven pizza. Chris Bianco is the winner of a James Beard Award, the only pizzamaker to do so, and he’s expanded his restaurant holdings beyond the original Pizzeria Bianco downtown, which has 42 seats.

You need to know that I am very fussy about pizza. I do not like gloppy pizza. I demand a thin crust, and good ingredients. I don’t see good pizza as a mass market food, or something that is as large around as a car tire. Good pizza should be individually made, with the same care that goes into any restaurant dish. [Read more →]

December 15, 2013   No Comments

The Best Things I Ate In 2013: Spring Training Shortcake

Every year about this time, I think back on where I’ve traveled and what I’ve eaten. And when I started making this year’s list, I noticed some trends.

Instead of entire meals, I remembered specific dishes. Instead of elaborate dishes, I remembered ingredients. And while I branched out in a number of new ways, I also realized that I appreciate it when people take classics and do them well.

So, as you read the next few weeks of posts, you’ll see some trends. I’ll include the places where I found them, and also some ideas if you want to make them yourself.

My first best dish for 2013 is strawberry shortcake. This one is sold at one place: Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida. It’s the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers, and for a baseball fan like me, it’s absolute heaven.

I noticed the strawberry shortcake booth before I realized that it’s also sold in the stands. Impossibly fit looking ladies come around the park, armed with trays of strawberry shortcake. It appears around the fifth inning and when they’ve sold their trays, that’s it. [Read more →]

December 13, 2013   No Comments

Is There Really Such A Thing As Detroit-Style Pizza?

To many people, this is Detroit-style pizza, from Buddy's.

To many people, this is Detroit-style pizza, from Buddy’s.

I think pizza in the Midwest is pretty terrible. I like New York style pizza, with a thin crust, or wood-oven pizza, the kind you can find at Campo in Reno, and Domenica in New Orleans.

Until Easter Sunday, I never knew that there was something called Detroit-style pizza. The Detroit Free Press has a feature on its site explaining Detroit-style pizza (and an interview with the owner of the new Detroit-Style Pizza Company, so you can kind of figure where this idea comes from).

Once I took a look, I realized what they were talking about: the square pizza that you find at pizza places around the Detroit area. The downscale version comes from Little Caesar’s, the locally founded chain owned by the Ilitch family. There, it’s called “pan-pan.” A slightly more upscale version is available from Buddy’s, which has been around since 1946 and has a big fan base.

To me, this kind of pizza is an excuse to pile on sauce, cheese and toppings. I’m not a big fan for the same reason I don’t like Chicago deep dish pizza. First of all, it’s not a smart nutritional choice. You’re eating way too much glop. Second, even if it’s made well, it’s still going to be a lot of toppings without much to support it.

This kind of pizza is fine if you want to eat melted cheese and ingredients. But don’t fool yourself into thinking this has anything to do with real pizza, which to me, is a blend of crust and toppings, with nothing overwhelming anything else.

I realize people love their treats (which right now, for me, include See’s chocolate covered marshmallow eggs). And I’d never tell you not to eat Detroit-style pizza. Only, don’t believe that everyone here knows what it is, or that you can get it everywhere in Detroit. Pretty much anyone you ask about it will say, “Oh, like Buddy’s?”

 

April 1, 2013   No Comments