0419 Free Birthday Eats

Today was Shane’s 30th birthday, so it worked out well that I was ordered to call in sick.  I don’t have any extra vacation time at the moment, but my boss wouldn’t hear of me not taking time off for the wedding and told me that she’d be very angry if she heard that I was at work.  So, “sick” I am.

We started off Shane’s quest for free stuff by getting breakfast at Angelo’s – or at least we tried to get breakfast at Angelo’s.  After a maze of one ways and miserable parking options, we gave up and went to Northside.  We’d both slept in, so by this point we both felt like this:

Birthday Shane is Grumpy

Yeah, yeah, I know the white balance is off. But that’s how we were feeling. Once breakfast was on its way, though, Shane was much happier. Northside offers a free entree on your birthday, so Shane had the Morning Eggdition and a great orange juice:

Morning Eggdition

Full of breakfast, we moved on to do the Zingerman’s sweep. First, a half dozen free bagels at Zingerman’s Deli:

Bagels @ Zingerman's Deli

Then on to the Zing compound south of town, where we posed as funny bakers:

A Baking Scene

and Shane got a free coffee at Zingerman’s Coffee Company, free gelato at Zingerman’s Creamery, and another half dozen bagels at Zingerman’s Bakehouse, for a full (delicious) dozen:

Last of the Zing Haul

On our way home, we stopped to get a free “creation” at Cold Stone Creamery:

Free "Creation" @ Cold Stone

We took a break after all that snacking and ice cream sampling – I went for a run, and Shane buzzed around on his moped.  In the late afternoon, we headed out for a second round of free stuff, though I forgot the camera and so don’t have photographic evidence to support the claims of:

All told, a delicious day of eight separate instances of free things, and a great way to end our really fantastic weekend.

0418 Pizza at Dark Horse

Dark Horse Brewery, originally uploaded by Ben B Miller.

Our first morning as man and wife started with breakfast in bed: bacon, coffee, and Law and Order – a new episode, even! If this is what married life is like, I’m awfully glad we’re giving it a try. Also please let the record show that our first dance as husband and wife took place at Dark Horse when Mike played This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) on the jukebox.

While we’re on the subject of Dark Horse, let me just say that the portabella pizza? Top notch. It took awhile to arrive on our table, but when it did, we dug in with gusto. Thin crispy crust, delicious cheese, and savory mushrooms and pesto – all good stuff. On a strictly aesthetic note, we also appreciated that the pizza was cut into squares – better for sharing and for pacing yourself while also enjoying a Double Crooked Tree or two. Not that any of us did that, of course. Nooo.

0417 Wedding Dinner OMG

So hey guys? We got married!  I’ll save the whole story for later, as I feel you need to see the photos to understand how damned cold it was, so for now, let’s focus on the food.

0417 Wedding Dinner!

After we very nearly froze our married asses off on the beach makin’ it legal, we shared a really excellent dinner at Mia + Grace with a selection of our nearest and dearest.  I owe a great big thank you to Jamie and her staff for getting us in early and plying us with bottomless cups of coffee, desperately needed to warm our icy little hands.  I wish I’d gotten more photos of dinner, but I didn’t, so I’ll do my best to give you a flavor:

First, we shared several plates of local cheeses, preserves, and crackers.  Slices of cumin-studded leyden, a black-pepper rolled ball of chevre, a wedge of brie, and a creamy Gouda-esque cheese whose name I’ve forgotten.  Cubes of berry (elderberry? blackberry? both?) geleé.  A smear of quince preserves.  Small bites of honeycomb in the center of the plate.  Peppery homemade crackers.

I had the flattened chicken (pictured above) for my entree – Shane enjoyed the pecan-crusted trout, and the vegetarians among us had handmade cavatelli.  My chicken was pounded flat, dredged and fried, and topped with a Gorgonzola cream sauce, candied lemon zest, and red onion jam, all of which arrived atop a flavorful mash of sweet potatoes and carrots.  I shared half of my chicken with my brother so that I could eat all of the veg – and the cake coming after.  A fantastic combination of savory, sweet, and tart.

The trout was served atop vegetables and black rice, and surrounded by a orange-rosemary butter sauce.  Shane’s uncle was disappointed that he couldn’t get lemon or tartar sauce, but that didn’t stop him – or anyone else – from digging in and thoroughly enjoying a moist and flavorful piece of fish.  We had pre-ordered, and my dad seemed to regret not getting the fish once he heard the full description.  I don’t blame him.

Neither of us had the pasta, so I can’t give you the full scoop – but when Shane had it two months ago, the sauce was warm and rich, and the pasta fresh and delicious.   Everything on the plate was made in-house, and the dish was entirely vegan, though not when served with the Italian sausage (as on the menu).

I really couldn’t believe that anyone had room for dessert, but we managed to put away slices of the most dense and wonderful carrot cake I’ve had in a very long time – the one thing I’d been firm about when we were picking our menu.  The cream cheese frosting was thick but not overwhelming, and the layers of cake were full of nuts, fruit, and chewy carrot.  I wish we’d split a slice so that we could’ve had more for later – but alas, we’ll just have to pay Mia + Grace another visit for more.

On the whole, a wonderful meal in good company, and one that proved that New American cuisine can make happy even the pickiest palate.

0416 Sandwiches at Founders

After kicking around town with Mike this afternoon, we headed off to Muskegon, where we’ll be getting married on Saturday.  Coincidentally – or perhaps just fortunately – Founders Brewing Company was right on our way, so we stopped for a sandwiches and a couple of great beers. We stopped at Founders after scouting wedding locations in Muskegon, but we’d just had a huge lunch at Mia + Grace and so weren’t able to try any of the awesome deli menu.

Not the case this time!  I had the Stella Bleu, which was delicious and packed full of things Shane doesn’t like (tomatoes, black olives, blue cheese), and a Backwoods Bastard, full of bourbon-y goodness.  Shane enjoyed a killer cheesesteak – the first legit cheesesteak I’ve ever tried,  a Founders Porter, and a Centennial.  Mike had MEAT, which is really all I have to say.  I think it was a turkey reuben?  (Should one capitalize reuben? Reuben? Not sure.)  Good stuff, and good fuel for the remaining hour’s drive to Muskegon.  On our way out, Shane commented that he’d like to visit to Grand Rapids more often – with sandwiches like these, I can see why!

0415 Creamy Asparagus Soup

I seem to only plan to make soup on days when the weather is patently inappropriate for it – like today, when the temperatures neared 80.  This recipe – and the asparagus from the market – looked too good to wait for cooler weather, so soup for dinner it was.  I started dinner after picking Mike up from the airport, and by the time the leeks, asparagus, celery, and onions for this recipe had slowly cooked in a bit of olive oil, we were all STARVING.  This soup was less filling than I expected – though it probably would’ve made a more substantial meal with the poached egg and toast that Jamie recommends.  Instead I served it with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt, accompanied by a salad and slices of Zingerman’s all-local West Wind bread.

I look forward to many, many more asparagus meals as the spring carries on, though I don’t know if this soup will be one of them.  While we enjoyed it, I don’t know that it was the best use of this flavorful and surprisingly sweet veg.  The soup was a little thin, and mostly tasted green – not a bad thing, but I think I’d prefer to let the asparagus shine on its own, topped only with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, or shaved parmesan.

Creamy Asparagus Soup from Jamie at Home

0414 Snacks for Dinner

Snacks for dinner tonight – a wheel of Sharon Hollow, some excellent Gouda, homemade crackers and homemade hummus.  Shane’s coworkers took us out for happy hour tonight, and when we got home, the chicken I’d intended to cook was still frozen.  So, back into the freezer it went, and we snacked instead.  It’s just one of those weeks – lots of more important stuff on our minds than cooking.

0413 Spontaneous Pizza

We had plans for dinner tonight – something healthy, no doubt – but when I got home from my run, I didn’t feel like cooking.  Shane offered to cook – but I wanted pizza.  That is precisely what I said: “I want pizza.”  Shane was equally excited about pizza, and I had a coupon for a free za from the last time I gave blood, so pizza it was!  I felt a little hypocritical picking up a pizza in my workout clothes, but I suppose one balances out the other?  Either way, we enjoyed greasy slices of cheese and mushroom with a small arugula salad – a totally satisfying dinner.

0412 Chicken Paella

I’ve had a bit of a love affair with Spain over the last 10 years – partly to do with the spring break I spent there when I was 20, partly to do with the time I spent on (and dreaming of) the Camino, and partly to do with Spain’s love of pork in the forms of chorizo, jamón ibérico, and the Museo del Jamon. So it’s a bit surprising that I haven’t attempted paella before, right? It’s only the national dish!

0412 Chicken Paella

I’m not sure if tonight’s dinner was the best representation of said national dish, but it sure smelled killer.  It also weighed enough that I needed both hands to lift it in and out of the oven.  The chicken was moist and flavorful, and the snow peas had a satisfying crunch.  If I were to make this again, I would probably use a LOT less rice – but I’m satisfied with the first attempt!

Quick Chicken Paella with Sugar Snap Peas from Bon Appetit