Just for Fun

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!

Where the hell have I been?

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Alright, so it’s been some time since I’ve been writing.  I know, I know — I am ashamed 😦  But things happen in this thing called life.  Not to make excuses, but I was trying to adapt to the new schedule caused by my new job.  Then I got a weird volleyball injury that took up my time trying to rehab that.  Then I got really sick really fast around Christmas and found myself admitted to the hospital several times.  Lucky for me this happened in December and January so I got to fulfill two massive deductibles back to back.  Hurrah!  And hospitals are not fun — especially when you get the bill months later and can’t decipher what charges came from where and from whom and for how much.  I will say to my insurance company that your estimate on what a CT scan costs is sooooo completely off from what the hospital says ($800 estimate vs. $1700 charge).  All that fun and the multiple docs couldn’t even tell me what was wrong; just treated the symptoms and see what could be managed.

Then after getting to know the hospital, I got a weird infection that sidelined me for over three weeks.  Meds didn’t work, I was weak all the time, I couldn’t walk without getting dizzy (which is a challenge if you have to navigate stairs to get to your truck — not that I could drive anywhere even if I managed to make it to the garage).  Things eventually cleared up, but since I missed so much work, I ended up losing my job.  Which I guess is alright aside from the fact that I am penniless.  I don’t blame them for firing me; it just sucks for me.  So much for my first stint in Corporate America!

But losing my job meant that I could focus on the physical therapy for the injury that happened months ago.  And lucky for me (or unlucky for me), I met my out-of-pocket maximum for the year back in January so no charge!  Well fast-forward a couple of months and my knees are still shit.  I can’t afford COBRA anymore so I guess I will have to tape them up and just go on with life.

And that is what I am trying to do — go on with life.  I think I’ve done enough wallowing in self-pity and it is time to git goin’!  I’m finally able to work out again (with some obvious limitations) and I’m getting back to what I love — FOOD!  And booze, of course.  Actually, right now I am in the Corner Brewery here in Ypsilanti trying to raise my spirits.  Some pulled pork tacos and a Buzzsaw IPA can sure help with my mood, but more on that later!  Although it is a bummer that no one wants to join me here — stupid friends and their stupid jobs and families and prior commitments!

But in all seriousness, I plan on getting back to blogging and sharing my foodie adventures.  I did just take another trip up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and found some amazing pasties, and breweries , and wineries, and distilleries. . . . I’m also trying to make a theme cake (note the emphasis on trying).  What’s wrong with a round cake?  I can do those, no problem.  Dinosaur shaped?  Ugh, I need to practice this.  A lot.  Plus I have some posts that should have gone out last year (oops!), but they’re still relevant.

So Stay tuned!  More food and booze and hijinx heading your way!  And for no good reason — here’s my sweet idiot dog Cooper enjoying the summer sun!

 

Cooper luvs summer!
Cooper luvs summer!

 

For those that think all Pit Bulls are mean -- you are wrong!
For those that think all Pit Bulls are mean — you are wrong!

An experiment with Honey, Raspberries, and Cream Cheese

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Alright so this isn’t all that much of an experiment, but I’m doing this in a different way.  But what I wanted to do is try to make some mini cheesecakes and clean out the pantry at the same time.  I had a bunch of cream cheese in the fridge, but not enough to make a whole cheesecake; I had some raspberry coulis left over from the Marquis Roulade I made a few weeks ago; and there was some honey that I was just tired of looking at.  Throw in some graham crackers and some frozen raspberries and it all made sense.

Definitely looked better with the pink liners

Actually there is a little bit of an experiment going on here.  Instead of making the filling using a stand mixer, I tried to make everything in the blender.  I was thinking to myself that this should work, in theory.  It actually didn’t work out too bad.  There was a little bit of work trying to get the blender going at first, but the batter was very smooth.  Doubt that I could do this for a full cheesecake recipe though — my blender is too small.

There were really stuck in there. So use liners!

It’s hard to figure out a recipe here.  Like I’ve said before, I do have a specific formula for cheesecakes that I like to follow, so I just used that as a guide.  I cut down a graham cracker crust recipe in half which I just sprinkled on the bottom of the tins or cupcake papers.  My serious recommendation that I have for a recipe like this is to definitely use paper liners.  One of the pans that I used is non-stick which I also generously sprayed with cooking spray — I still had to dig the cheesecakes out with a fork and spoon.  Here’s what you need:

For the crust:

  • 6 graham crackers
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted

Pulse the crackers and sugar in a food processor until fine crumbs.  Mix in butter and set aside.

For the filling:

  • 3 8-oz. packages cream cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 c. honey
  • about 4 oz. frozen raspberries
  • raspberry coulis

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line standard cupcake pans with liners.

2.  Throw the cream cheese, eggs, and honey in a blender.  Or you could beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth.  Add the honey and combine.  Then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition.  (See!  Using the blender is easier).

3.  Place a couple of tablespoons of the crust mixture on the bottom of each cupcake liner.  Lightly press down and place 1-2 of the frozen raspberries on the bottom.  Fill about halfway with the cheesecake batter.  Add about 1 t. of the coulis and carefully fill the liner about 2/3 full.

4.  Bake in the over for about 30 – 45 minutes, until the middle is set.  Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool completely.

Random Foodie Funnies

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It could just be me, but I need a break from the Olympics.  So instead I’m up watching the NASA channel on updates about the Mars Rover, well that and reruns of Futurama.  I guess I need to feed my inner nerd.  Sure I could be studying up on Policies and Procedures, but science is important.

And as another break from the Olympics I thought I’d just post some random things that I find funny that are food related.  I was thinking about trying to make this a regular feature, but that requires extra work that is difficult right now with all the training and studying I have to do.  Hell, I can’t even keep up with my regular blogging duties.

Anyhoo, I thought this was funny.  It was making the rounds a little bit ago along all the Interwebs, so I’m a little late with this one.  I have no idea on the source, but if anyone knows, drop me a line.

You cannot argue with the accuracy and validity of this interpretation of data

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.

Dean Martin Burgers

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I thought this is so fabulous i had to reblog this. Got this from Samo Tako

Samo Tako

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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?)

And the winner is. . .

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Alright, so I have been really busy lately, not that I have anything to show for it.  So that explains why I haven’t been keeping up with my blogging responsibilities.  The truth is that (like an idiot) I have started working out again.  Well, since I am apparently unemployable, might as well be constructive with my time.  But I am remembering how much working out takes out of me — time-wise (takes me about 2 1/2 hrs. each time), recovery-wise (I’m not in undergrad anymore and all that extra work hurts!), plus all the extra shower and laundry time!

Here is "The Bowl of Choosing". Very scientific methodology!

But I digress. . . I’m here to announce my first blogiversary giveaway winner.  And the winner is. . . Sarah at The Cook’s Life!!!  Congrats to Sarah!!!  And check out her blog where she shares her thoughts on cooking, family, and all adventures in between!

Here's what she wins -- Look! It's Michigan!

 

And here's the cookbook

So I will try to catch up with some posts.  I have several in the pipeline, including a couple focusing on Chef Eve Aronoff, who was the big subject of my giveaway!

Easter Christmas Cookies

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Happy Easter everyone! Just a little quick post to let y’all know that my blogiverary giveaway is closed.  And thanks to everyone who participated in my giveaway.  I will make the pick tomorrow and let y’all know.

White Chocolate Chip Chocolate cookies with M&Ms

Now I took some time off for a little bit there, but I am celebrating my Easter holiday by baking some Christmas cookies!  Yes, I understand that Christmas is not the same as Easter, but I hadn’t made these cookies yet and they were a gift from some in-laws over the Christmas holiday.  It was a nice homemade mix with white chocolate chips and chocolate candies.  Gifts like these are awesome; plus you get cookies!

But since we needed an Easter cake, I did decide to make the Lemon Sour Cream Cake from my giveaway cookbook (eve, by Chef Eve Aronoff).  I will post on that sometime this week!  Good luck to everyone who entered my contest!

1st Blogiverary Give-Away

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So here it is!  The moment for which you’ve all been waiting.  To get everyone up to speed, to celebrate my 1 year blogiversary (which was yesterday) I decided to have a give-away.  Nothing celebrates my anniversary more than giving away presents!  And the winner will get not just one, but TWO items!!!

If you are a regular reader, you know that I am here in the great state of Michigan.  So I wanted my give-away to focus on items that are local goods or Michiganian in nature.  Plus, since this is a food blog, it has to be food-related, but not necessarily a food item.  To be honest, sending a food item seemed a little weird.  But enough talk; let’s get to the prizes!!!

First of all, there’s this beautiful Michigan oven mitt.  It shows the Mitten State in all its mitten-shaped glory (and if you’re from Wisconsin, there’s no way that Wisconsin looks like a mitten. . . maybe a boxing glove if you squint a lot).  One side has a map of the lower peninsula and when you turn it over you get the upper peninsula!  It also has a list of the state symbols on the bottom.  Fabulous!

It's a map that's shaped like Michigan!
It's another map that's the shape of Michigan! So it's like you're really getting THREE things!

Second is a cookbook that can put the spotlight on one of our locals.  It was difficult to pick one since we do have a number of great restaurants in town that have their own cookbooks, including several Zagat rated establishments.  Also, there are books from the always spectacular Zingerman’s, which is definitely one of the places to visit if you are in the area for the day.

The book that I chose is eve:  Contemporary Cuisine, Méthode Traditionnelle by Chef Eve Aronoff.  You Top Chef viewers may remember her as a Season 6 alum.  She has worked in the industry for over 20 years, starting from prep cook eventually working her way up to executive chef / owner.  With several years of culinary experience behind her, she attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris where she received degrees in French Cuisine and Wine and Spirits.  Using her background in classical French cooking as a foundation, she draws on African, Cuban, and Vietnamese cultural influences to shape her own unique style.  She has been a champion of the Slow Foods Movement which focuses on a commitment to the environment and also stresses the importance of working with locally sourced artisans and farmers.  In addition to all that,  she was even invited to prepare a meal for the James Beard Foundation where she was able to highlight her cooking philosophy which features bold flavors, contrasts, and textures.

Luckily I had the chance to go to her restaurant eve before it closed (too soon, if you ask me!).  I witnessed first hand her wonderful mien of cooking, while at the same time celebrating the union of two of my best friends (shout out to Cari and Jeremy-with-a-Y).  By the way, her Ginger Lime Martinis are top-notch!  Her current venture is Frita Batidos, which features Cuban-inspired creations that harken back to times she spent growing up in Miami while visiting her grandmother.  Her food is amazing and her passion definitely becomes apparent in how she writes about food and how she connects with food.  And if that quick bio doesn’t make you want to add this book to your culinary library, I don’t know what will!

There's Cooper wondering why I'm not looking at squirrels with him.

Alright, here’s how you enter:

  1. Commenting on this post gets you one entry
  2. If you post in the comments, AND subscribe to my blog you get one
  3. Liking my Jereme’s Kitchen Facebook page gets you one
  4. Liking my Daisy Cakes Facebook page gets you one

So that’s four chances for you.  You can let me know on your comments if you already subscribe, but I will probably check anyway.  I will have to go ahead and say that any member of my family will have to be excluded from this give-away, but they probably won’t read this anyway.  Plus anyone who is affiliated with Jereme’s Kitchen or Daisy Cakes (thinking about changing the name) will also have to be excluded.  But since that involves just me, I can police that fairly easily 🙂

Y’all have until Friday, April 6 to enter, but maybe I could extend it a day.  The winner will be chosen at random and I will make the announcement (or contact the winner) the Monday after Easter (April 9).  Although I may be distracted because I am planning on winning that 1/2 a billion dollar Mega Millions jackpot 🙂  I know I’m going to win — I can feel it!!!

Good luck everyone!

Here's a preview of the book.