Travel

Friday Foodie Funnies, ep. 6

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Happy Friday, everybody!  It’s Friday and that means two things:  1)  the weekend is almost upon us, and 2)  more foodie funnies are heading your way.  Now this one really rings true for me.  I’m glad that I’m not the only one!

I'm not like this at all.  Oh wait, yes I am.
I’m not like this at all. Oh wait, yes I am.

Have a safe weekend y’all!  And don’t forget to follow me on Facebook!

Fall is almost here!

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Fall is my favorite time of year.  I love everything about it — the smells, the cooler days, the crisper nights, the colors, the pies, Halloween, Thanksgiving, volleyball and football start up again — what’s not to love?  Alright, I admit there is one thing I don’t like — cleaning up all those damn leaves on my property.  I own about an acre of land with maybe 20 giant oak trees.  So the leaves can pile up and pile up quickly.  And unlike in some neighboring cities, I can’t just push my leaves into the road, so I either have to do it myself or hire someone else to do it.  But that’s a whole other issue. . .

this sums up Fall for me.  you do need to add "volleyball" somewhere on here though.  in big gigantic letters.  like all over the place
this sums up Fall for me. you do need to add “volleyball” somewhere on here though. in big gigantic letters. like all over the place

Anyhoo, I saw this the other day on Facebook and wanted to share.  This appeared on my feed from the magazine Midwest Living.  This sums up everything that is awesome about Fall and I wanted to share it with y’all.  What do y’all like about Autumn?  Just let me know — either here or on Facebook!  I gots a recipe for some Gluten-Free Rocky Road Brownies coming up later this week, and hopefully some other fun stuff.

Stay tuned!

Spotlight on local coffeehouses

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Here’s one of those “lost posts” that I had mentioned before.  This was originally scheduled to go out last year so it may be a little bit dated.  But it’s still applicable since students are coming back into town and the coffee shops are going to be even more packed.  Anyhoo, these are a couple of my favorites.

Just a quick post here.  The site Serious Eats just did a spotlight a few weeks ago on where you can get some good coffee here in Michigan.  And two out of the four selected just happen to be in town!  I happen to love both of these places for two completely different reasons.

So let’s start out with one of my favorite hang outs — the Ugly Mug in Ypsilanti, MI.  This place holds a special place in my heart because it was the first coffee house that I found when I first moved to the area that didn’t begin with a “Star” and end with a “Bucks”.  But besides that fact, they brew a damn good cup of coffee.  It’s a down-home, down-to-earth kinda place where they happen to roast beans on site — huzzah!  It’s just a couple of blocks from Eastern Michigan University and is loved by locals and visitors alike.  What’s great is that they also host a series of different events, ranging from workshops, to art shows, to tastings, to poetry readings.  And if you are having some problems with your own home brewing equipment, staff will be more than willing to help you out as best as they can.  Be sure to visit their Flickr account on their Links menu and check them out on Twitter.

It’s the Ugly Mug!
He helped make the coffee.
I usually get the Almond Joy

The other local coffeehouse found in the fabulous Nickels Arcade landmark is Ann Arbor’s Comet Coffee.  This place is relatively new, being around for a couple of years, and it has a completely different feel from the Ugly Mug.  It has a modern, sparse feel which is set up in a small store front in the Arcade.  What makes this place unique are the methods that they use to make their coffee.  Each cup is brewed individually at specific temperatures, and what you get is one of the best cups of coffee around.  The coffee isn’t brewed, but “pulled” through a porcelain cones into individual cups.  Since everything is done on a individual basis, there is no risk of having a cup of coffee that has been sitting in a carafe for a few hours.  Plus, following this method helps preserve some of the more subtle notes and flavors in each cup.  And being literally across the street from the University of Michigan helps foster a strong following among students and faculty.  But non-students, and even Spartans (Go State!) love this place 🙂

Yay! Comet Coffee!
Japanese Iced Coffee — so good!

Now if you include Astro Coffee in Detroit, three out of the four coffeehouses featured are here in SE Michigan.  Kudos to us!  So if you’re ever in town, be sure to visit these local gems and get yourself a cup.  And get yourself a t-shirt.  And tell them I sent ya!  And (as always) don’t forget to visit and like my Facebook pages for Daisy Cakes and Jereme’s Kitchen.  Shameless self-promotion endures!

Notes — Since I first wrote this, I actually have gone to Astro Coffee in Corktown, Detroit.  Amazing cup of coffee!  And the pics of Comet Coffee I picked up from their Facebook page.  I did double-check and get permission, but that was about a year ago so they probably don’t remember.  At least I asked first!

Random concerns when I have no electricity

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Not having power makes it difficult to blog. So this is a first for me — using my iPhone to do a quick blurb. But I figured “why not?”. What else have I got to do in this 97 degree F heat?

Being without power for several days is surprisingly not new to me since I bought my house. I’ve been here less than 3 years and this is probably the fifth time it’s happened. Once it occurred when my family was visiting from Florida last summer i think. Another time it happened the day of my annual Winter Feast. Almost cancelled it but folks came anyway — we lit oodles of candles, had a big fire going in the fireplace, and drank lots of Martha’s egg nog. When the power came back it was like Rockefeller Center in my living room during the tree lighting ceremony. We all cheered, drank egg nog, and ate some crackers whilst the hosts tried to salvage the pork loin that should have been roasting for the past few hours.

Now sure it’s annoying to look down the bottom of my hill and see my neighbors across the street flaunting their electricity like there’s no tomorrow with their fancy lamp post and string lights. But often, weird times like this are when we get our best life stories. I even started a new tradition because of it; now every year I start out my Winter Feast with every light in the house turned off. Everything gets turned on right before dinner, or before we start with the nog. And then there is much rejoicing!

But every time this happens some of the same weird questions and concerns pop up. Of course these all involve food safety and I should know the answers since I am ServSafe certified, but I still wonder…
How terrible is it if I’m starting to smell kimchi in my refrigerator, especially if I am 100% sure there should be none in there?

People drink warm milk all the time. One glass couldn’t hurt all that much.

Can you cook burgers just using “solar power”?

Hot dogs have lots of preservatives so those can last for a while on the counter, right?

If I time it right, I think I can pickle everything…. or make adobo for days…

Let me say this — PLEASE FOLLOW ALL SAFETY GUIDELINES SET FORTH BY THE FDA OR OTHER APPROPRIATE GOVERNMENT INSTITUTION!

That being said, here’s a Vanilla cheesecake with strawberries I made following all safety guidelines. Recipe to follow once I get electricity back. Stay cool everyone! And follow me on Facebook! And follow Daisy Cakes on Facebook!

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Cranberry Peanut Granola

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So I’m planning on doing some hiking soon and I was thinking to myself, “Waterlily, what would be something tasty that you can take on your expeditions?”  And that’s when granola popped into my head.  It’s something that’s good to eat when you’re on the go, plus you can eat it on its own or on top of stuff like yogurt, ice cream, cobblers, and the like.

I use a simple formula here:  4 cups of stuff + 1/4 cup of vegetable oil + 1/4 cup of honey.  That’s just for the mixture that goes into the oven.  You can add as much fruit as you like afterwards, like raisins (yuk!), or dried hibiscus flowers, or dried apricots, etc.  Just don’t bake the fruit in the oven because it will burn.  This recipe is very simple, and I love it when things are simple!  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 c. old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 c.  peanuts
  • 1 c. shredded coconut (I used the unsweetened big shavings)
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 c. dried cranberries

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or foil.  Set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, toss the oatmeal, peanuts, coconut, oil, honey, and salt to combine.  Pour onto the pan into a single layer and bake in the oven.

3.  Bake for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally while in the oven, until the granola is golden.

4.  When done, scrape the pan to loosen the granola and allow to cool in the pan.  After it has cooled, mix in the cranberries and store in an air-tight container at room temperature.  Should last a month, but I have no clue — a batch usually lasts me a couple of days before it gets eaten up.

Notes — You can mix things up by changing the ingredients.  Try different nuts, different fruits, add spices.  The possibilities are endless. . . If you are still getting some moisture left over from the oil and honey, try baking at 325 degrees F for about 30 minutes

Taste of Ann Arbor and Ya’ssoo!

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Happy June and Happy Hazelnut Cake Day!  Alright this may be more appropriate for locals, but some of y’all might be visiting.  Plus it might give some of y’all some incentive to visit us here in SE Michigan (if you need more incentive, Frommer’s just named us as one of the top 20 Best Vacation Destinations!).  But we have a couple of our annual summer events coming up this weekend.  First of all there’s Ya’ssoo — the Greek Festival of Ann Arbor.  It starts today and runs through Sunday so there are lots of chances to head on over.  Here’s a link to the event flyer and here’s the website.  Of course, there’ll be specialty foods (here’s the menu!), concerts, raffles, and tours.  Lot’s of fun and I’ve been craving Saganaki and some Paximathakia (if you don’t know, look it up!).  Ooo, I should post my baklava recipe sometime.

This painting is from the Greek Festival’s website. It depicts an actual scene from the festival with the church in the background.

There is also the 17th Annual Ann Arbor African-American Festival, Saturday, June 2, 9am – 9 pm.  This festival pays tribute to the historic black business district of Ann Arbor.  Now I couldn’t find a website, but I did find an email where you can get more information — clpfestival@gmail.com.  There’ll be music, food, dances, and theatrical performances.  The cost is free and this will take place downtown.

Also this Sunday (June 3) is the Taste of Ann Arbor.  I’m excited and hope to attend this year!  Tasting tickets are $0.50 and it runs from 11am – 5pm.  Games and music will be a part of the festivities, but the food is the main draw!  A lot of my favorites will be there and some places that I’ve been dying to try.  And it’s great that a sample will just cost me 50 cents!  And if you’re interested there’s the Dexter Ann Arbor Run on Sunday; registration ends tonight.  They schedule concurrently with Taste of Ann Arbor; all that food at the finish line is motivation enough for me.  I wonder if runners get some free tasting tickets 🙂  There’s a half marathon, 10k, 5k, and kids’ run.  If the races are still open, you can register online here.

I got this image from “Living in Ann Arbor” on Facebook who, in turn, got this from wherelightstandsstill.blogspot.com

Sure this is short notice, but these are just some of the fun things going on around town this weekend.  They involve eating food, which is something I do everyday!  And they also give you a chance to learn, and play, and maybe run a half marathon.

Frita Batidos, part 1

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With all the hub-bub over my cookbook giveaway, I thought it might be time for another trip over to Frita Batidos.  Frita’s is owned by Chef Eve Aronoff (who is the author of my cookbook giveaway, if you’ve not heard) and this is her second venture in the Ann Arbor dining scene after her first restaurant eve.  Actually, I believe there is some overlap between the two timelines, if I remember correctly.  But that’s all beside the point — I’m here to eat!!!

Frita Batidos!

She is quick to point out that the food served here is not Cuban food, but rather, it’s what is called “Cuban-inspired” street food.  When describing the basis for this inspiration, Chef Aronoff talks about the times she spent growing up in Miami and being exposed to all the different local cultures.  Of course, this includes the Cuban and Latino communities, but also numerous influences from other migrant populations like Creole and African.  So, Cuban food traditions are just the starting point of where she develops the signature flavors and tastes of Frita Batidos.

Make your selection!

Before we get too far along, let’s look at some of the terminology.  That’s when the menu gets extra handy offering some explanations.  First of all, let’s start with the name of the restaurant.  A frita is a type of Cuban burger which is traditionally made with chorizo, but can be made of fish or black beans.  It’s usually served on top of a soft bun with a side of shoestring fries.  A batido is a tropical milkshake made fresh fruit, crushed ice, and a drop of sweetened milk, with or without rum (yummy Cajeta Batidos!).  But there is a wide selection of other menu items that would be at home in any Cuban restaurant like Cuban sandwiches, plantains, conch fritters, and churros — lovely churros.  Just look at the picture above to see (or go to the website).  What’s also great about the menu is how it’s broken down on the back (it’s also printed on the wall).  There are listings for what’s Vegan and Vegetarian; there are categories for Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Garlic-Free items; and there’s a breakdown of flavor profiles.  It’s great for those who may need a little direction and guidance in making their selection.  But then again, I love categorizing and organizing things so it makes perfect sense to me!

Stark, yet comfy. Plus they have their own special blend of coffee!

When you first enter the restaurant, one thing that you’ll probably notice is that it is stark white with various metallic accents from the chairs, menus, lighting, etc.  The storefront is white, the walls are white, the ceiling is white, the floors are white.  The lone pop of color comes from the window-side bar which has a warm wooden tone; there is another bar towards the back.  You’d think all this starkness would lean towards a more sterile, clinical feel, but it really doesn’t.  The exposed brick and wood are among the various textures help add to a feeling of warmth.    Also all the white lets the food really stand out — which is why my everyday plates are simple and all white.  There is an air of informality here, which is helped along by the use of the picnic tables instead of regular tables and chairs.  You could even start up a game of dominoes with your neighbor if you like, which again is a nice touch that is reflective of the Cuban / Latin American cultures.

Nice pop of color from the bar. There's a variety of sauces available, plus there's some dominoes in the bowl that you can play.

Luckily for me, I get there around 11:30 and I beat the lunch rush.  I try to keep things simple and just order a Chorizo Frita (you can get a Frita Loco which includes Muenster cheese, cilantro-lime salsa, tropical coleslaw, and an egg sunny-side-up!).  I also get a Fresh Ginger Lime Juice to accompany it and make myself comfy at the window-side bar so I can look out on this cold, gloomy Michigan day.  Hard to believe it was 85 degrees here a couple of weeks ago!

I told you it was gloomy.

When I get my Ginger-Lime Juice, I was definitely surprised.  This was my first time ordering this and I was taken aback, not just with the flavor but with its presentation.  It was served in a simple plastic baggie with a straw.  This may seem strange to some, but it definitely stays with the street food theme.  If you’ve done any traveling in the Caribbean, or Latin America, or if you’ve watched any travel programs like No Reservations, or even Destination Truth (remember, I’m a nerdy dork) you should be familiar with how this drink is served.  It is very typical of what you can find in markets or being sold by street vendors in that part of the world.  I am very much appreciative of the effort and thought that went into this drink.  The flavor was amazing — just what I needed to brighten this gloomy day!  The flavors of the ginger and lime feel so balanced and refreshing.  I really could drink this all day long!  It reminds me of her Ginger-Lime Martinis, but without the martini part.

Absolutely luv the Fresh Ginger-Lime Juice!

It doesn’t take too long for my Frita to be ready.  Served on a small sheet pan (these would be handy in my bakery), it’s wrapped in paper sitting on top of  a piece of banana leaf.  Again, you have a gamut of textures and flavors here — there’s the soft and creamy brioche, the crispiness of the fries, and the spiciness of the chorizo.  All the different layers all contribute to the really exceptional experience you get when biting into one of these.  The flavors all seem to blend and yet stand out on their own.   The quality of the ingredients is definitely apparent — everything was delicious!

Simple, yet divine!

Unfortunately, I had to cut my lunch date with myself short because the time ran out on my parking meter.  Originally, what I had hoped for was to get a large cohort of folks together so we could all sample a wider array of menu selections and give a better representation of what Frita’s has to offer.  But I guess I’ll just have to make another field trip downtown, by myself or what have you.  It’s not like I need an excuse to eat some great food.  It’s all in the name of research!  And I do have to apologize to the nice folks that sat next to me at the bar.  Sometimes when I have a task on hand (like doing a restaurant review), I have a tendency to be too focused and not be as friendly as I should.  It’s a flaw and I’m working on it 🙂

So, if you ever happen to find yourself in downtown Ann Arbor, stop in to Frita Batidos for a bit.  Have a churro and hang out for a while!  You won’t regret it.

And don’t forget to like me of Facebook (why do I always forget about self-promotion?)