Food From the Garden

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We’ve been getting a CSA vegetable box (which sometimes includes fruit) every Wednesday, as part of my work with The Garden Detroit. In addition to those goodies, whenever I work at the Garden, I usually end up taking something home – zucchini, tomatoes, kale, chard, carrots, parsley.

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We try really hard not to waste food in our house and now that a bulk of the veggies have been nurtured by yours truly, we’ve been trying especially hard.

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These were sooooo good! Ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, chives, parsley, shallots (which I omitted the second time – too strong), dipped in egg and panko breadcrumbs.

So naturally I’ve been on a cooking kick lately. Which, except for the times when the kids are driving me “flipping bananas” (a term I once used with them out of exasperation that they now think it’s some kind of funny trick one does with a banana), has been enjoyable.

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I’ve made three quiches (two with chard as the main ingredient, one with cabbage), roasted corn and beet salad, peach cobbler, garlic scape pesto, gazpacho, stuffed squash blossoms, grilled patty pan squash with chimichurri sauce and a multitude of tossed salads.

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Many of these were first-time dishes for me, so it’s been fun figuring out how to tweak the recipes to my liking.

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Also, oh my gosh if you’ve ever tried to photograph food, you know what a pain it is. Most of the time my photos make the food look unappetizing, lacking color and texture. I’ve been experimenting with the best ways (time of day, lighting, backgrounds) to photograph food, which has been a nice different way to get my creative juices flowing – always a good thing. Happy summer eating, everyone!

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In Search of Coffee Part II: Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company

GL.menuLast weekend, the whole family piled into the car for a ride to Detroit. I’m still trying to get my bearings, so my husband took us the long way into town – Lake Shore to Jefferson, and then we drove around downtown and up Woodward to Midtown. I’d read a few things about Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company and wanted to see if it would live up to the hype, so we stopped for a snack and of course, a  cup of coffee.

GL.coffeeMy husband ordered a pour-over and I wavered between a cappuccino and a macchiato before choosing the later. I got an almond croissant, the girls got blueberry muffins and my husband had some kind of apple pastry (I think).

The cafe sits on a corner near the DIA/Detroit Institute of Arts Museum. It’s a beautiful space, with exposed brick walls, wooden floors and ceilings and industrial accents everywhere. There is bar seating at the counter and the main room has several community tables and some smaller tables and chairs off to the side.  There was also outdoor seating, as well as bar stool seating along the main window inside. The people there were pretty hipster, but not to the point of being annoying. Quite. The staff was also hipster, but not pretentious, which was refreshing.

GL.barMy husband loved his coffee. He said it was rich and thick, like you could almost chew it. Mine was excellent as well, although next time I’ll get the cappuccino. The macchiato was perfectly made, but I love steamed milk when it’s done right and I’m sure this place would do it right. The pastries were okay. Nothing to write home about. But I didn’t mind, as we were there for the coffee, anyway.

GL.wineTypically, this cafe isn’t the best place to bring kids, but because it was a Sunday afternoon, they didn’t have loud music playing (which I’m told they sometimes do) or too much of a crowd (which I’m told they often have).  Unfortunately it’s too far from home to be a regular hangout for me, but we will definitely be back.

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In Search of Coffee Part I: Josef’s European Pastry Shop

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Josef’s

I love a good cup of coffee. Rephrase. A good cup of espresso. Regular drip coffee makes me too shaky (if you haven’t heard, drip coffee actually has more caffeine than espresso. true story). Specifically, a cappuccino if it’s done right, a dry cappuccino if it’s done mostly right, or a macchiato, if the barista doesn’t know how to make a proper dry cappuccino.

I was pretty spoiled in San Francisco in that regard. The city has an abundance of independent cafes to choose from, many of which are snooty about their bean varieties (which, although annoying, does make for a good brew). It’s unusual for a restaurant not to offer espresso drinks, and you can often get your cappuccino fix at non-coffee establishments. For example, Fraiche, the frozen yogurt shop, offers the highly regarded Blue Bottle coffee (Oakland), along side their organic yogurt, homemade bread and chocolate chip cookies.

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Peet’s in the Village. If only the inside were as inviting. (photo credit: http://www.peets.com)

Finding a perfect cup in the Grosse Pointe/Detroit area wasn’t going to be easy, I knew, from my previous trips here. There used to be a chain in town called Caribou Coffee, which made a decent cappuccino, but it was hit or miss. One of their Grosse Pointe locations was taken over by Peet’s (Berkeley), which I’m sad to say completely turned the cozy cafe (fireplaces, armchairs, community table) into a sterile space with boring furniture (and no fireplace).

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The local Starbucks. (photo credit: http://www.starbuckseverywhere.net)

The other location was taken over by Starbucks. All things said and done, I’d rather not do chains. Although, as mentioned in my Top-Twelve post, I have to admit that the Starbucks in town makes a better cappuccino than any San Francisco Starbucks (confounding!).

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Morning Glory (photo credit: http://www.morningglorygrossepointe.com)

Oh, Morning Glory. How I want to love you… Nestled in a small shopping district called The Hill, this newish (2012?) coffee shop’s interior is inviting and eclectic and fun (and they have a lovely outdoor patio for warmer days). The baristas are really sweet. But… the coffee. As one Yelper reviews, “the latte was drinkable, which makes it good for this part of town (where the options are Starbucks and stay home).” Hysterical and pretty much spot on.

I don’t know where they are getting their coffee beans or what they are doing to them, but the taste is bitter (in a bad way) or burnt and the foam lasts about two seconds. And forget about getting a cup to go, which is served in styrofoam (eeek!), which ruins the flavor even further. To their credit, their blueberry scone was buttery and fresh tasting, and their country eggs (scrambled with cheese and bacon) was excellently cooked (not overdone in the least, which is often the case at a place like this).

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Josef’s (photo credit: http://www.josefspastryshop.com)

One morning while I was driving around with the girls, I spotted Josef’s and made a mental note to check it out. My online searching told me that the shop has been around since 1971 and that the original owner sold the place in 2008 to two brothers from Montreal. I took the girls there on a Friday afternoon. We were the only ones there when we walked in, and the woman behind the counter was warm and friendly. There was a loooong counter filled with pastries, cookies, pies and cakes. I asked if all of them were made in-house. She said yes. All of them? Again, “yes” with a nod and a smile.

josefsThe girls chose a smiley face sugar cookie and a sugar cookie dipped in chocolate and filled with jam. I opted for the almond croissant, telling myself to enjoy it, even if it wasn’t La Boulange. I was thrilled to spot their espresso machine and ordered a cappuccino. It was perfect – success! And the croissant. Delicious. It was flaky and buttery, and the filling had just enough almond flavor not to be overwhelming (and not too sweet, either). It wasn’t La Boulange, it was better. I was so happy, I started chatting with the woman about San Francisco, coffee, the kids (normally you couldn’t pay me to talk to a stranger. Not even a nice one).

So there you have it. The search for a good cup of coffee in Grosse Pointe is over. For now. I’m going to keep checking out places as I see them, but when I’m out and about and need a pick-me-up, I’ll head for Josef’s.

(Coming Soon: Part II of In Search of Coffee, featuring Detroit’s Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company)

 

 

Hawaii: the Food

For my family (as is the case with most, I imagine),  a carefully planned and prepared meal equals love. The first night of our stay, my Auntie Melinda steamed a large uhu (aka parrot fish, and you can see why) that she got for $39 at Tamashiro Market on an outdoor gas wok as part of our huge dinner spread. After steaming, the fish was topped with oil, green onions and cilantro. My sister and her family came over and also her husband’s parents, who were in town for their annual visit.

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Haupia Pie. Yum.

In addition to the usual sides of salad, rice and veggies, there was Korean meat jun (the only dish bought vs. made), thin strips of beef coated with egg and flour, fried and served with dipping sauce. AND miso butterfish (black cod), a white, flaky fish marinated with miso, mirin, sake and sugar and then baked or broiled. AND rainbow jello and a haupia “pie,” a layered dessert starting with a macadamia nut crust, then Japanese sweet potato (purple), then haupia (a coconut milk and sugar concoction with a custard-like texture).

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Halo-Halo + Coffee = Breakfast of Champions

Waiting for me in the fridge the next morning was a Filipino specialty, halo-halo (“hodge-podge” in Tagalog). There are so many different versions of this dessert. Basically, it’s a concoction of condensed milk plus a bunch of wacky ingredients (kidney beans, rice, gelatin, yams). Auntie’s not-too-sweet version is filled with tons of grated cantaloupe, papaya, avocado and coconut. There are also tapioca beads, palm fruit and some strange pink Japanese gelatin that I always pick out. I put an ice cube on the bottom (if I’m lucky, as I was this time, Mom will have frozen fresh coconut water cubes), dump a bunch of halo-halo on top and eat it with my coffee. Super YUM.

Ramen noodles

The perfect bite.

I love, love, love noodles. Italian pasta and Japanese ramen are at the top of my list. I can make Italian food all day long, but don’t know how to make ramen broth. Whenever I go to Hawaii, I always ask my sister to come with me to Goma Tei, a small noodle shop in Ward Center. We usually sit at the counter and I always get the same thing – Tan Tan Ramen, a basic spicy broth with char siu (Chinese-style bbq pork), green onions and greens (broccoli rabe or spinach or some Asian green that is very similar). SO good. Salty, with a hint of sesame and just enough heat.

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Menu at Goma Tei

That meal may very well have been my last taste of homemade ramen for 2014. (And dare I say 2015? No way. Surely not). And who knows? Maybe there is a hidden noodle shop in some Detroit alley that makes the best ramen noodles East of the Mississippi. Maybe. But… probably not.

If you ever find yourself in Hawaii, I urge you to try some of the local flavors. They might be weird, they might taste icky, they might taste awesome, but they will most assuredly be made with love.

Blog Snack

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I had planned to get another Hawaii post done today. But the craziness that is moving has kicked in this week. Calling health insurance brokers, filling out paperwork, posting stuff on Craigslist (and filtering emails from crazy people – ahhhh!), sorting through the dumbest piles of things (old magazines that I MUST have kept all this time for a reason. So having to look through every page before throwing away).  AND on top of that there’s Valentine’s Day and our little girl is turning five next week.

So. Instead of Hawaii, I give you one of my favorite blogging snacks: Trader Joe’s Caramel w/ Black Sea Salt chocolate bar with a few pinches of Roasted Coconut Chips. Paired with a full-bodied red wine (my fave: Cabernet Sauvignon), it’s pretty perfect combo. Having some right now (except with Cotes du Rhone instead of Cab).

Come to think of it, I often (always?) snack when I blog.  What’s your favorite blogging snack?

Gung Hay Fat Choy: It’s Gonna Be a Biggie

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Building on Waverly Place, Chinatown.

Chinese New Year is a big deal in San Francisco. Public schools are closed, Chinese food is gobbled, firecrackers are popped and at the end of the two-week celebration, a huge parade (the largest outside of Asia) featuring lion dancers, a 200-foot long Golden Dragon, stilt walkers, marching bands and acrobats floats through town.

I’d planned on kicking off the lunar year with an invigorating run. That plan got squashed when I woke up with chills and congestion. Thankfully, I’d scheduled our sitter to come for a few hours, so I took myself to lunch at Woodhouse Fish Co. on Fillmore Street. I ordered the deep-fried fish tacos and a hot water with lemon.

Woodhouse Fish Co. restaurant

As I waited, I witnessed at the table to my left, an exchange between potential business associates, meeting in person for the first time. “It’s so nice to put a face with the voice,” and similar niceties. The woman, a second generation San Franciscan (a rarity, as she pointed out) was upbeat and bubbly. The gentleman, who had never been here before, got a short rundown of some of the city’s history (the African American community on Fillmore Street during segregation, the influx of Japanese and Japantown, the Italians in North Beach, Chinatown). The conversation quickly turned to all the different foods we have at our fingertips, thanks to the mix of cultures. “I love my city,” she said. “I’m always discovering new places.”

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After lunch, I popped in next door to Fraiche, my favorite frozen yogurt shop. Organic, of course. I always get the same thing: a regular natural (plain, nonfat yogurt) with olallieberry puree and mochi, a Japanese sticky, starchy dessert made from rice flour. (I overheard them saying to a customer once that it was a secret recipe, but I know how to make it. I’ll share sometime). But today I opted for a Blue Bottle cappuchino.

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I tried to concentrate on my library book (The Tiger’s Wife), but it was a beautiful day and I kept staring out the window, watching traffic and passersby. I thought about the woman at lunch and how proud she was of her city and how I share her fervor. Is the move going to be a huge letdown? Am I really going to venture out and discover all the cool places in Detroit? Or am I going to sulk in my kitchen (aka my office) and long for home?

I’m keeping an open mind. My friend Christine says not to think of it as being better or worse, just different. I can live with different.  No matter what, the Year of the Horse is going to be a biggie for us. And so it begins…Gung Hay Fat Choy!