Friday, December 17, 2010

Psychology treats

The day before Christmas break I invited my AP Psychology students to bring in a treat that had a psychology theme. Here are some of the best ones.

Illusion cake - is it a rabbit or a duck?

Scatterplot cookies

Positive reinforcement brownies

Color-blindness test cookies

Gestalt principles of perception cupcakes

Friday, December 10, 2010

Detroit Food Holiday Mart

Heading downtown to the old Tiger Stadium neighborhood for the first food mart. Lots of artisanal and home produced specialities, including our pals' at Gang of Pour cider and wine vinegar and their 22-year-old vinegar mother.

Are you going? If so, please post what you saw/ate/bought.

We'll do the same

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

English muffins

The female half of this blog has sent me to Michael Ruhlman's website for his English muffin recipe. I've tried making EMs before, but never been very satisfied, so trying these seems like a worthwhile hour or two.

They certainly look like EMs, don't they?

The recipe flows as advertised - it's pretty easy to follow and the batter comes out pretty much the way I expected. The cooked product had a decent rise, though I would have liked a little more rise. Lacking an electric griddle, I cooked them in a big cast iron fry pan. The problem I had is getting the temperature right. Ruhlman says to cook on medium to medium high heat. I found that the temperature was too high - the muffins nearly burned before they were cooked thoroughly inside. I tried medium high, medium low and the lowest setting our gas range offers. I finally decided to finish them in a 300 F oven after cooking them to deep brown in the skillet on the low setting.

The making, then, is kind of a pain. But the eating is a different story. Toasted, these muffins are very tasty. Ruhlman suggests using a sourdough starter and that sounds like a good idea to me. I might try buttermilk in place of the whole milk as well, though that make require some experimenting with the baking powder.

Are they worth the effort? (Even Ruhlman suggests that Bay's EMs are a worthy substitute for homemade.) I think so - but let me try them a few more times. We'll see.

Check out the directions and recipe at Ruhlman's website

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hanukkah dinner

We were invited last night to a traditional Hanukkah dinner. Herewith some photos and a few comments.

We started with a lovely French onion soup - sweetly caramelized onions, gruyere cheese and a hearty chunk of good baguette.

Dinner featured a tasty, homemade applesauce with apricot-glazed chicken. We enjoyed both - well-cooked and boldly flavored. The latkes turned out to be an adventure and we love adventures!

Kugel for dessert: M has had it many times, I only a few. It's hard not to like raisins toasted in brown sugar and these were just fine. Kugel is an interesting concept - noodles with fruit and brown sugar. Imagine the Irish making a dessert of potatoes, fruit and brown sugar.

After dessert, E treated us to game of dreidel in which we gambled for our chocolate coins by spinning the dreidel. It was certainly an exciting game - the element of chance was intensified by the fact that only one person knew the rules to the game, and it was possible that her interpretation of the rules was, um, inconsistent.

The Shady Lane "Coop de Blanc" seemed overly sweet to most of us, tho M liked it more as the courses grew sweeter.

The Grand Traverse Dry Riesling was quite pleasant and enjoyed by all.

All in all, it was a most pleasant evening with interesting people and good food, decent wine and, I should mention, a rather assertive Bell's Christmas Ale which I did enjoy after I realized I needed to steel myself before every sip for the malty wallop it gives you.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pig Roast!

One of the pleasures of our children are their friends. And from one we were invited again to a wonderful pig roast to watch UM. (Yes, they sucked.)

Craig is a pro --culinary school, great skills and very generous host and just a great guy.

He had a huge smoker, as he did several years ago when we first were lucky enough to be invited to the the pig roast. We were so excited when the invite came, despite the fact we knew UM would be crushed by OSU. He makes the real deal...some folks were a little squeamish by its real pig look... yes, the whole pig. We all said thank you before we dug in.

After he got it off the grill, we hung around while he carved and picked out a bunch of crispy bits, made even better by his dry rub. Of course there was a pile of pork that we got around to. This is real food, really , really good food.

So thanks to the pig and the chef. Grateful for both.

Friday, November 26, 2010

New favorite bread

For a few years I have been making buttermilk rolls for holiday dinners from a recipe in my trusty 1972 Joy of Cooking. A comment from Emily made me think I should make the recipe into loaves of bread. A test loaf has worked very nicely - tasty, good crumb, works well with leftover turkey.

I make the rolls with all purpose flour, as per the JoC, but I tried the loaf with bread flour and it seems to work fine.

Buttermilk bread

preheat over to 375 F

6 cups bread flour, sift before measuring
3 cups buttermilk
2 pkgs yeast
3/8 tsp baking soda
1 TSB salt
3/8 cup sugar
3 TSB melted butter

Warm buttermilk to 85 - 90 degrees F
Stir yeast into warm buttermilk and let the mixture rest for 5 minutes
Stir together the dry ingredients - flour, soda, salt, sugar
Add melted butter and stir briefly
Add buttermilk/yeast mixture and mix - the dough will be very wet

Set the dough in a greased pan, cover and allow to rise to double its volume in a warm place (about 1-1/2 - 2 hours)

When risen, punch down the dough and turn it out on a floured surface. The dough will be wet and you may incorporate as much as a cup of flour into it as you are kneading the bread.

Knead the bread for 7 - 10 minutes.
Use butter or cooking spray on two loaf pans. Divide dough into two parts - one for each loaf pan.

Allow the dough to rise to about double its volume - about an hour in a warm spot.

Bake in the 375 F oven for about 40 - 50 minutes. When done, the loaf will be a deep brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Allow to cool on a rack before slicing

I may keep experimenting with this recipe - if I make any important changes, I will mention them here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cork: A Wine Pub and so much more

Our pals invited us for a drink and a bite at the newly opened (as of tonight) wine bar Cork in Pleasant Ridge. This is a wonderful addition to the Motown food scene!

Located in former architect's office, Cork offers a neighborhood vibe, relaxed service, and outstanding food, first rate wine and great cocktails. (When's the last time you had a sazerac or negroni -- both delectable.) Diners can enjoy comfortable and expansive bar, and a cozy dining area all painted in vibrant, rich colors with interesting artworks and decorative pieces. We felt immediately at home.

Menu includes small as well as large plates. We tasted the small short ribs with polenta plate and the grilled cheese sandwich w/ gruyere and prosciutto. Ribs were a bit skimpy in portion size for $11, grilled cheese made on their own bread, perfectly cooked. Shared with a twin pinot noir tasting from two Oregon wineries and a Roberts shiraz (tasting $12/ shiraz $6.)

Wine list is extensive and well considered. Jeff, the sommelier was a pleasure -- warm, knowledgeable and the essence of hospitality.

This is a perfect place for a drink and a bite with friends or a full dinner with a special someone.

Don't miss the butterscotch pudding! Served in a coffee cup it's lavished with housemade caramel and devilishly rich and smooth, just irresistible. Everyone at the table tasted and swooned. The recipe includes a full bottle of good Scotch -- literally putting the "scotch" in this pudding. This is an iconic dessert.

Looking forward to their success and growth. All food made inhouse - breads, desserts, jams, locally produced vinegar. It also houses a small wine retail shop where you can purchase a wide variety of well curated wines.

Whether we knew it or not, we've been waiting for a spot just like this.

Welcome to town, Cork! Hope to see lots more of you!

Cork Wine Pub

Saturday, September 4, 2010


The Goodness of Polenta

Dinner at gangofpour (, our wine friends, reacquainted me with the goodness of polenta. Our cook used an Italian imported, coarse ground polenta (see picture above.) It was cooked slowly on the stove, cooled, and enriched with homemade creme fraiche, then cut into rounds. Idea was to grill. They were too tender, so eventually melded into rich, grainy goodness with pesto and fresh tomatoes blended in a bowl and smoked over the grill. A whole new taste from the plan, but just delicious -- deep corn flavor melded with the bracing pesto and a wonderful smokey flavor and creamy texture.

Our southern friends consider grits a foundation of good cooking. And they're delicious on vacation breakfasts with lots of butter, salt and pepper.

But polenta is its European cousin and offers a bolder flavor just on its own. It's easy to overlook its virtues and it can just escape our cooking imaginations. Especially when it's 90 plus degrees outside.

A favorite fast breakfast is already cooked polenta, poured in a loaf pan or some such shape and cooled in the fridge. Slice a couple pieces (about 1/2 inch thick) and either pan fry in butter or -- even easier --- blast for 30 seconds in the micro with a heavy hand of good parm or other cheese shavings. Warm, creamy, cheesey, it's comforting, bracing and ready for a good shower of fresh ground pepper to wake you up. A breakfast of champions.

The fall invites polenta to the party. Let's see how else we can dance with it!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Michigan Beer Fest

Tom Shea is our guest blogger for the Michigan beer fest. Lots of beers, many great. Read on and appreciate what we have in the Mitten. First posted on

The annual Ypsilanti event featured 50+ home-grown brewers, 60+styles and 400+ beer varieties this year. From statewide heavyweights like Bell’s and Founders, to regional favorites and spunky upstarts – Michigan’s brewers are surely a robust and wiley bunch. On this sticky summer Saturday, the clouds opened, sun shined and our band of hopheads set off into the Ypsilanti afternoon with only our wits and a fist full of wooden nickels.

There’s much to do, see and taste at the Beer Festival and what follows is by no means an exhaustive review of the festival, its offerings or Michigan beers as a whole. I have my beer proclivities – wheat ales, brown ales, IPA’s and Pilsners – and I tasted accordingly. Below are some of the most notable beers we tasted during the day.

Bell’s – Once thought to be “too big” for this grassroots, rah-rah Michigan love-fest and a glaring omission from festivals of years past, Bell’s made its presence known this year. A crowd favorite, they trumpeted their craftiest of craft beers.

9000th Batch Ale - Perhaps the most complex beer I had all day. In what’s surely a passion project, the Director’s Cut of beers if you will, it was a dark, chocolaty ale with flavors of cinnamon, molasses and great balanced notes of spice and honey supporting the body. Lighter weight than I was expecting but it packs a serious punch. Clearly a well-made beer, and perhaps the best one I had all day, but not my favorite. Proclivities, I tell ya. Maybe I’ll like Batch 18,000 better.

Golden Funk – Bell’s may dominate the craft summer wheat ale market (if that’s a thing…) with Oberon but their Golden Funk brings an additional, and welcomed, perspective to the timely seasonal beer. The vibrant yellow color (think Mellow Yellow) belies it’s flowered, dank and well, funky nature. Almost mildewy, in a good way, it reminded me of a basement brew. I enjoyed its serious citrus finish. If Oberon is a summer’s day on the lake, Golden Funk is that sweaty August afternoon with a broken A/C and an Ozone warning outside. In a good way.

North Peak – Archangel - For me, Summer 2010 will go down as “The Archangel Season.” This Traverse City brewery has made one of my favorite beers this year. A cherry flavored wheat ale, it’s tasty, subtle and done the right way. The flavor is neither too overpowering or hides in the background. If they were crafting a competitor for Oberon, they succeeded. The bodies are remarkably similar – flavor is really only a few hues away. Archangel steers away from the citrus and is better off for it. It was universally praised by our group. Their Red Siren offering is also worthy of a best-in-class consideration.

Michigan Brewing Co. – Badass American Lager – What they lack in brewery name originality points, they make up for in undeniable quality. Often an under-appreciated beer variety, I love a good crisp Lager, and this is one. It was the best looking beer we saw all day with bright golden color and an unmatched clarity. The flavor was drier than most, refreshing, crisp and a touch extra of wheat for substance. When you’re done mowing the lawn, crack one of these.

Keweenaw Brewing Company – The U.P.’s distinct craft beer in a can was another stand out. I tried their Brown Ale this day and came away daydreaming of lumber jacking, snowshoeing and a pet moose. A cookie of a beer, it’s dark in color but slightly sweet and has a refreshing thrust. It finishes crisp. Rich enough to satisfy taste buds but not heavy enough to weigh you down. It left us saying, “Yes We Can!”

Founders - Perhaps the most capable brewer on the block, their IPA is famous in my house and I walked up to their booth expecting a lot.

Cherise - A cherry ale like none other. Full on cherry and Lipstick-pink in color, it avoids the trappings of other fruit-heavy beers – mainly that of a syrupy, saccharin hell. In fact, Founder’s uses primarily tart cherries for this and the end result is a well-balanced flavor of sweet and tart fruit. It’s a light and bubbly beer that is very cherry and very Michigan.

Red’s Rye PA – grand jury prize for my favorite beer on this day. A unique blend of malty red ale and hoppy IPA styles, it’s a well-tempered, smart brew that left me impressed. It starts malty and full-bodied and finishes with a big bite that I liked a lot.

Leelanau Brewing Co. – Good Harbor Golden – The crown for Most Summery Beer goes to Leelanau. It was the most citrus flavored beer we had, it might have also been the most refreshing. Notes of grapefruit and lemon made it stick out.

And so another great Michigan Beer Festival ended. I left impressed with the technical prowess, skill, originality and creativity of our fair state’s brew-masters. See you next summer, Ypsilanti.

— Tom Shea is a Detroit-based part-time video producer & digital PR professional and full-time beer explorer, although his employers would like to think its the other way around. Follow him on Twitter @tomshea.

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The beauty of pickle juice

George and the precious gallon of pickle juice

The pleasures of summer al fresco dining are many; fresh Michigan products, checking on the garden growing, enjoying full flowers on the deck, and great food with friends and family on the patio.

And so it was on Sunday. With the added glamour and taste of a GALLON of McClure's pickle juice. Our pals at, Kim and George, scored majorly with this item. A surfeit of flavor! What to do?

Bloody Marys all around. Ice cold veggie juice (Trader Joe's veggie patch, low sodium for health), a couple of slurps of McClure's elixir, some Worcestershire, hot sauce, celery bitter (yup, thanks Kim!), and a long crispy stalk of celery for mixing.

Mmmmmm, icy, cold, spicy, salty, savory---an antidote to heat and humidity and a wonderful aperitif for a great grilled dinner to follow. Ending with frozen peach ice cream pie.

Don't you just love summer eating?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Giovanni's on Oakwood in Detroit

The real boss of DetroitFood has yielded the floor for a moment.

Dinner at Giovanni's in Detroit tonight. It was wonderful, but...

I had the ravioli with boursin cheese and sun-dried tomatoes in a champagne cream sauce with crab. The sauce and crab were extraordinary, the sauce carrying the crab to an intense level, as good as these items get. Call it a crab-champagne-cream sauce. Alas, the pasta kind of disappeared in the sauce - I did not even really taste the cheese and tomato. The disappointment is that Giovanni's generally offers great pasta, but I didn't really get to enjoy it. The green salad with honey vinaigrette was just darn exciting. The vinegar and honey danced an energetic tango in my mouth. I loved it.

The other diners: I would not have guessed that salmon in tomato sauce would work. It worked. It worked, worked, worked. The veal in caper and lemon sauce was superb, the veal being perfectly cooked. I did not taste the perch in capers and lemon, but two of our party loved it. As always, the risotto was lovely, silky and flavorful.

What else? Um, the waitress was nice, enthusiastic, cheerful, attentive. She wasn't very experienced here and it showed.

Don't get me wrong - Giovanni's is always a treat. But, for the first time in a long time, it wasn't perfect. We'll be back.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Toasted Oak, Novi

I was graciously invited to a Women in Communications event at the newly opened Toasted Oak restaurant and market. Located inside the Renaissance Baronette hotel (former Hotel Baronette), just adjoining Twelve Oaks Mall, this was a wine and cheese meet and great --- but so much more!

Toasted Oak's executive chef is a former student and sous of chef Brian Polcyn, one of our great chefs and a real master of charcuterie. The generous spread included several Michigan cheeses, a Swiss type, and Pinconning farmhouse cheddar, served with their homemade spicy mustard with merlot, corn relish, bread and butter pickles, pickled cherries (intense cherry flavor), olives and their very rich caramel bacon sauce --great for the cheese dip.

A real standout was the smooth and lightly smoked trout pate and homemade salami sliced paper thin and capicola. A trio of wine, a Vielle Ferme blanc, Malbec and house sangria rounded out the menu.

The market section is reminiscent of an old deli -- big wood side boards, a glass case full of cheeses and homemade meats, shelves of their condiments, pickles and preserves and a nice wine selection, all in a comfortable space with a vintage looking tile floor. A low bar and free-standing cozy tables are available for snacks, charcuterie or just a drink. Two larger and rustic dining areas are open for lunch, dinner and brunch. Nice eclectic menu.

Not only complementary for our group, but we also received a $15 off for the next visit.

A good newcomer for the area, and a generous host for this group of first-timers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vienna beef dogs!

I love Vienna beef hot dogs, even though I'm not a real big hot dog eater. But their dogs, that snap, are irresistible.

So, driving down Adams one day, I glimpsed a Vienna beef umbrella. Eureka! It was in the parking of of Simply Food, corner of Lincoln and Adams in Birmingham. They have a Friday and Saturday Vienna beef/sausage cookout cart from 11:30 a.m. or so to 2 p.m. Simple dogs,dressed up or Chicago style, and sausage. My friend Kim and I had the Chicago dog -- dragged through the garden--pickle, tomato, neon green relish, sport peppers, celery seed. The whole shebang. Great bun, great dog. But I have to say, not as great as the lamented, late Red Hot Lovers in Ann Arbor, now incarted as Al's Dogs on East University.

It was great to have a good dog, but it didn't blow my skirt up as much as the A2 dogs. Nonetheless, I'm grateful we can access Vienna beef now and then here as it's only sold wholesale. And, yes, I've contacted the company -- no retail in our area in the near, or maybe far future.

Forest Grill, Birmingham

Totally enjoyed a late birthday lunch with my sister at Forest Grill in Birmingham. We ordered from the "stimulus package" lunch menu -- three courses for $15. (Dinner version is $30.)

Started with tomato bisque with puff pastry croute--piping hot, super flaky pastry, rich but light bisque. Entree was chicken paillard with aged balsamic vinegar topped with argula/bacon/asparagas, grilled onion salad--pefectly seasoned meat, homemade bacon smokey and assertive and wonderful baby greens. Dessert:chocolate flecked bread pudding w/ creme Anglaise and Tahitian vanilla ice cream and Juno rose to drink. Warm, professional service, sleek but comfortable space.

Will definitely go back, interesting menu and the "value" lunch was a real bargain given the quality of the cooking and the ingredients.

Update: Visited with four friends yesterday and ordered the grilled ham and cheese: black forest ham, gruyere cheese grilled on challa bread, lightly sauced with mornay. A big pile of good, crisp salty fries. $10. Again, very nice service, a great place to eat thoughtfully made food and enjoy friends.

Glad the chef, Brian Polcyn, got props on Bourdain's recent "No Reservations".

Forest Grill menus

Mae's Diner, Pleasant Ridge

We REALLY want to like this place...small, but airy, a little retro, very nice wait staff. My breakfast was really only a step up from egg McMuffin --fried egg on not toasted enough English muffin, a slice of processed cheddar, but the bacon was excellent. Co-diner's pancakes were totally different from the first time, which were light and airy. Not bad, just not consistent. Price of $13.25 for breakfast...too pricey for what we got. Frankly, on the par with a decent coney island/other diner.

Hope this may be just a chance of them getting their feet under them. It's a very pleasant spot, but maybe tea rather than a full breakfast. Anybody else been recently?

The site is pleasant, sunny, clean, roomy, though only a half dozen or so tables with a counter.

Located at 26040 Woodward, about a 1/2 mile north of Toast and Fly Trap, Mae's is fine addition to the Ferndale breakfast scene.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Liverwurst + Ale = family love

In NYC for a sad occasion, we made a pilgrimage to an old family haunt, McSorley's Ale House. Much family history there -- great grandfather interaction with Teddy Roosevelt, beloved uncle and cousin -- grandfather.

Original ale house, one of the oldest in the city, still has the original icebox for their two ales McSorley's-- light or dark. Menu is simple -- burger, liverwurst, turkey, ham sandwiches. Beer comes two mugs at a time. Wood floor, wood stove. Long bar with standing rail, bunch of tables in two rooms.

This time we got there early, first time I ever actually saw the floor -- it's packed constantly. Scored the best table by the window on rainy, gray day.

Best liverwurst sandwich in the world -- rye, thick slices of 'wurst, fresh onion rings and the best hot mustard I've ever had. Drink the beer, eat the sandwich -- be in touch with the past and the family you love.

Motown Pho Down

Who's up for a pho down? We and our Gang of Pour pals are going pho fest -- tasting our local pho, finding out degrees of deliciousness, and maybe/maybe not rating our favorites. After all, there probably is no bad pho, especially in five degree weather.

Stay tuned here or at for details.

Betty Crocker lives on

I have been sharing my original "Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls" with a couple of young friends. The dated graphics, comments from the kids and the old photos are totally irrelevant.

We walked through the pages and they were amazed by the bunny salad, the cake that looks like an Easter hat, the drum cake(!) with its support of candy canes and cherries, the fruit gem drink (lots of fruits and berries in lemonade in a really pretty glass.)

It's very affirming that Betty knew her stuff then and it translates now. Simple, easy food that is colorful, fun to make and actually tastes pretty good without a lot of crap.

Pigs in a blanket were a big hit and we did a riff on it using crescent rolls and nutella ---"awesomely, wonderfully tasty" said Kiran, second grade.

We don't need a lot of whoo-ha and fancy stuff to engage our children in good food, making food and exploring different tastes. Making your own sloppy Joe that you can present to mom when she comes in from a hard day is a great satisfaction and a gift of love and comfort from a child to a parent. Can't beat that.

Tweet & Taste Michigan

Our pals at Gang of Pour
are partnering with some of the areas best wine experts and Black Star Farms in Michigan to offer a great opportunity to share comments and insights on three Black Star Wines.

Here's the link on facebook with all the info. Hope we'll be tweeting you...