Just for Fun
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.
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 — firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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!!!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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?)
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
Alright, here’s how you enter:
- Commenting on this post gets you one entry
- If you post in the comments, AND subscribe to my blog you get one
- Liking my Jereme’s Kitchen Facebook page gets you one
- 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!
Just a quick post / announcement — today is my Blogiversary!!! I can’t really believe it’s been one year already. Hope that I can still try to keep things going! I will probably make some changes to some things, like adding more things to the blog roll or, adding more links, or adding a resource page or two.
And great news — I’ve finally figured out what to do for my anniversary give-away. You’ll have to stay tuned tomorrow when I post what it is (I have to actually go out and pick it up). And it will probably involve Facebook!
And Happy Black Forest Cake Day!