Shane’s off to Vienna tomorrow for IPRES, so as is our custom, tonight we had a dinner date. There are few better (or more affordable) dinner date options than mussels at The Earle, so that’s just what we did. A glass of wine for me and beer for Shane, two dozen mussels, and some crusty bread. A great night.
Photo by bichromephoto
I’ll be honest – I spent most of today looking forward to cocktails at the second meeting of the Knights of the West Side. I even did a little research as to what constitutes a classic cocktail, mostly to determine whether or not I should be able to order a Vesper martini. By the time we we got to Knight’s, though, I chickened out. I guess I didn’t want to have to explain a drink that I’d never had before? Either way, I had a dirty martini, while Shane and Matt had Tom Collinses (Toms Collins?), which I think is now the Official Drink of Knights of the West Side.
Side note: I’m still a little fuzzy on the punctuation of Knights of the West Side. Is it Knights, plural, because there’s more than one person going to Knight’s? Or is it Knight’s, with the same punctuation as the restaurant, which is named after the owner? Regardless, we enjoyed our drinks and a quality old-timey steakhouse meal: pot roast, new potatoes and carrots, a salad, and gorgeous golden dinner rolls, so hot out of the warmer that we could barely tear them open. We left full and happy – good food, and good friends.
Photo by Michael Greenlee
We found ourselves in an embarrassing spot tonight. Not literally – there’s nothing embarrassing about Sidetrack except perhaps the size of their burgers – but then I suppose you already assumed that. What is, however, embarrassing is running into your neighbors when out to eat and having to face the fact that after a year, you still don’t know their names. And we couldn’t even blame the ludicrously large beers that Sidetrack has on offer.
Photo by John Kannenberg
See, people in Ann Arbor are friendly. And this is a good thing! But it also means that a couple of our neighbors introduced themselves within moments of us arriving in town last August. We were in the driveway, it was raining, we had frantic cats in the car, and we just wanted to get inside. Introductions were appreciated, but the timing ensured that we forgot their names almost immediately – and have felt too awkward to ask since.
Regardless, we said hello to MIKE and SHAWNA, whose names were revealed when we got home and Shane peeked at the label on their mailbox, and went about our dinner – fried zucchini, an excellent pair of grilled portabella mushrooms topped with gorgonzola, and some sort of delicious fish dish with red beans and rice. I had a martini, which felt like the only possible drink that could be consumed while wearing a full-skirted and strappy sundress that belonged to my grandma.
We were reminded again why we kind of really want to move to Ypsi – no trouble getting a table at a restaurant with reasonably priced drinks, easy parking, and friendly people. After dinner we wandered over to the Ypsi coop, which looked and smelled like coops should – a little earthy, a little like produce, and a little like patchouli. I know I often say that things are just right, but this evening – the dress, the dinner, the coop – was just right.
I was at happy hour at Dominick’s when I got the message from Jenny – she and Richard were thinking about stopping at Zingerman’s Roadhouse also en route to Detroit for the Maker Faire. Was I interested in joining them? Answer: Yes please! The only hitch? I was on campus – nearly 3 miles away – with no vehicle. Fortunately the 30-45 minute wait gave me just enough time to hustle across town.
While I know I should’ve tried one of the many amazing meat offerings on my first trip to the Roadhouse, I regrettably wasn’t that hungry. The three of us split a basket of sweet potato fries with a delicious spicy mayo, and I enjoyed a bowl of mussels steamed with white wine and shallots. I envied Richard’s fried chicken and Jenny’s fancied up mac & cheese, and was thankful that we live just down the street and so can try these and other Roadhouse options at our leisure. I also look forward to trying more of their cocktails, as my Corpse Reviver No. 2 combined several of my favorite drinkity things: gin, Lillet Blanc, and Absente. What any of those things have to do with corpses, I’m not sure, but I certainly enjoyed it.
In addition to a great meal, it was fun to catch up with friends that I see quite rarely – and to learn about Henry Ford’s hatred of cows. I had no idea! A casual Google search turned up this book, which includes the tantalizing quote:
“In 1919 [Ford] advocated the elimination of horses, cows, and pigs. ‘The world would be better off without meat,’ he said. ‘It’s 75 percent ashes anyway. Milk can be manufactured chemically. Every animal used on the farm these days is a waste of time.’”
He goes on to refer to cows as “the crudest machine on the world” and horses as a “twelve hundred-pound ‘hay motor’”. Thank you, Henry Ford, for the car and for allowing your ridiculous statements to be captured by the press so that they could amuse me 90 years later. And thank you, Jenny and Richard, for inviting me to dinner!
photo by Cigarette Girl Colleen C for Yelp
At some point in 2009, I became Yelp Elite. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but who doesn’t like being told that they’re elite? Well, it turns out that being Elite is all about community involvement, writing reviews, connecting with other users, and basically being a great spokesperson for your favorite local places and things. Sign me up! Oh wait, someone already did.
Anyway, one of the side benefits of being Elite – apart from the satisfaction of a job well done – is the occasional Elite event, usually hosted by a local business and featuring free food, drink, and swag. We attended our first event back in the fall at Café Habana, where we enjoyed mojitos, tacos al pastor, and a whole lot of this ridiculously good goat cheese dip. There have been several events since then, but between our schedule and the fact that events often happen in Detroit, tonight was the first event we’ve made it to this year.
Cliff Bell’s, recently named one of the best bars in the country by Playboy (link totally SFW), was our host for tonight’s Elite happy hour. Opened in the 1930s and recently restored to its former glory, Cliff Bell’s is exactly what you’d imagine if you heard the words ‘swanky jazz club’. My grandparents lived in Detroit in the 1940s, and I can imagine that in their day, Cliff Bell’s was a place to see and be seen. The event was cosponsored by local distillery Valentine Vodka, so we enjoyed vodka cocktails along with an assortment of hors d’oeuvres, most notably shrimp cocktail.
Shrimp cocktail! This is actually the second time in a week that we’ve found ourselves at an old-timey kind of establishment, eating shrimp cocktail and drinking strong drinks, and I really couldn’t be happier. Tacky as it may be, shrimp cocktail is a tasty reminder of another generation’s idea of elegance, and one I’m happy to embrace.
So thanks, Yelp, for a literal and gustatory flashback to a more glamorous time. We’re looking forward to the next event!
photo by Eric Murray
I’d tell you more about what we ate tonight, but the drinks from Knight’s pretty much obliterated that meal and any semblance of healthy eating. I’m not sure why we haven’t been to Knight’s before – it’s literally right down the street from us – but between the strong drinks, high quality meat, warm rolls, and did I mention the drinks?, I’m sure we’ll be back soon.
My husband is the best. Did you know that? Because he is. Apologies to all of your husbands, but mine takes the cake. I had a super disappointing and frustrating day today – the sort requiring a straight line towards ice cream and a nap. I had planned to make dinner, but Shane convinced me to let him treat, so we pedded up to Jolly Pumpkin.
photo by brian cors
I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned JP here before, but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite places to eat out in Ann Arbor. The food and drink are consistently excellent, and we can usually enjoy both without breaking the bank. The founder of the brewery is vegan, and as a result the menu features exceptional vegetarian and vegan options – in fact, I don’t think I’ve had meat there yet, though I have enjoyed two delicious and filling tofu salads. Tonight we opted to split an appetizer and a pizza along with our drinks – a beer for Shane, and a lovely strawberry-balsamic cocktail for me.
Our appetizer was a trio of dips – hummus, edamame, and red pepper walnut – served in a perfect ratio to rustic pieces of flatbread. I particularly liked the simplicity of the hummus, which really allowed the flavor of the chickpeas to come through. Our truffle pizza arrived as we scooped up the last bites of dips – not a minute too soon. And oh, was it lovely.
photo by william couch
Three rich, salty, gooey cheeses covered a thin layer of creamed shiitake mushrooms, with a fresh bite of arugula and a drizzle of truffle oil on top. We both stopped after two pieces but looked longingly at the last two before finishing off the pie – far too big for just one person, but the right size for two to split. As Jamie Oliver would say, happy days.
Lacking dinner plans, we again found ourselves going out tonight – this time to Corner Brewery, in Ypsilanti. Located near the Depot Town area of Ypsi, Corner is a fair drive for us, but on a beautiful night like tonight, it’s well worth it for the patio and the beer.
photo by ericarhiannon
Corner is the sibling brewery of Arbor Brewing Company, which we’ve been to a fair number of times. I don’t know what it is about ABC, but we just haven’t found much to love about it. I like their food, but they charge exceptional prices for only adequate beer, thus providing a strong disincentive for choosing ABC over, say, Jolly Pumpkin. Corner, however, seems to charge pretty decent prices for pretty decent beer, which is good enough for me. Shane has said a couple of times that he’d consider joining their mug club if we lived in Ypsi (which might happen next year depending on the housing market).
photo by phil dokas
I was starving, so I had a portabella mushroom sandwich with a nicely savory tapenade and with quite well seasoned grilled vegetables on the side. It’s not that I don’t love chips, but if grilled squash is an option, I’ll take that 9 times out of 10. Shane was less hungry, so he snacked on chips and guacamole along with his Arborealis. I ordered a Strawberry Blonde, but am pretty sure I got the Brasserie Blonde – nice and malty, but lacking the strawberry sweetness. A nice night for sitting outside, and a nice dinner to go along with it.
A couple of weeks ago, my library launched our new website – we also launched the new look on our catalog, wiki, FAQ, blog, and probably other places that I’ve forgotten in the crazy stress leading up to the launch. I inherited the design from my predecessor, and have spent the last few months beating the site and associated services into shape for this launch. And tonight we celebrated!
photo by phil dokas
As far as campus bars go, Dominick’s is a real treat. This is no Kams or CO Daniels, where your shoes stick to the floor and where the sidewalks have to be hosed off every morning – weekdays included – to eradicate the smell of undergrad excess. Tucked away at the south end of Central Campus, just around the corner from both the B-School and the Law School, it seems to attract an older audience – more grad students and staff than undergrads – at least when I’ve been there. There’s a sheltered patio in front, and a lovely garden in back, and if you know you’re going to be there with a group, you can call ahead to reserve a table.
photo by Sean Munson
Tonight we convened in the back garden, enjoying Mason jars full of sweet sangria or Founders pale. Shane and I split a totally adequate chicken quesadilla, far too large for just one person and packed full of vegetables and melty cheese. I coveted the slabs of garlic bread and bowls of pesto-coated pasta enjoyed by my coworkers – must remember this for another happy hour. For now, though, I am happy to have the site out the door, our awful versioning system rendered obsolete, and just enough sangria in my system to make weeding a pleasant task. Off to the garden!
Shane’s off to DC tomorrow, returning Monday night, and after he gets back, we’ll have houseguests for the better part of a week. I was in a terrible mood, so to combat that and also get some quality time in together, he suggested that we go on a date. We decided to check out Vinology’s happy hour specials: half price wine by the glass, $3 draft beer, $6 fancy flatbread, or 3 sliders for $5.
We both really like wine, but for a variety of reasons rarely drink it at home. As you might have noticed, Shane likes beer, and likes to explore pairing beer with food, so depending on what we’re eating, he’s likely to have something from his collection ready to go. I often want a glass of wine with dinner, but only a glass, so I’m unlikely to open a bottle just for me because it means that I’ll either drink more than I want, or it will sit in the fridge for a few days, by which time it’s lost a good bit of flavor.
I felt that Vinology’s menu made selecting a wine really accessible for a relative amateur – they use icons to indicate whether a wine is big, bubbly, luscious, crisp, etc in addition to sorting by type – so if you have an idea of what you like, you should be able to find at least a couple of appealing selections by the glass or by the bottle. Our server was very knowledgeable, and helped us both choose wines we loved – I wish I could remember exactly what I drank, but I know that one was a Garnacha from Catalunya, and the other was very earthy, with more than a hint of tobacco.
Vinology’s dinner menu is arranged around the different wine tasting profiles, which made it easy to find a select an entree that paired well with both of our wines. Another appealing thing about the menu is that you can get a half portions of many – if not most – entrees – which, in my experience, is usually more than enough food for me. Most of the half portions come in between $10-20, so tonight we split a half portion of the roasted venison (with spaetzle, braised cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, omg!) and the happy hour flatbread (sausage and pepperoni, but changes every day) for $22 total – a very reasonable price for a delicious dinner that totally filled us up.
I had been on the fence about going out tonight – bad mood, spending money, etc – but I’m awfully glad we did. I’m also excited to have found another affordable AND delicious happy hour option.