Summertime in A2

The Usual Suspects

On nights like this, it’s impossible to remember the brutal winter.  That’s how Ann Arbor gets you: beautiful weather, beautiful people, beautiful food.

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Yelp!

For the third year in a row, I was nominated to the Yelp Elite Squad.  I’m not entirely sure how that works, but since moving to A2, we’ve attended a few Elite events which have all featured free food, drink, merriment, and Yelp swag.  Thursday night’s event at Woodruff’s was no exception.

Food: wee sandwiches, salads, soups, and OMG nanaimo bars from Beezy’s.  For some reason we’ve never been there for lunch – only for breakfast on the weekend.  Now that we’ve tried a few more of their treats, we’ll definitely have to make lunch a priority.

Drinks: Goose Island beers on the house!

Detroit Elite 2011 Karaoke Kick Off!
Photo by Yelp

Merriment: Karaoke! A photobooth! I did the former, and we took a number of silly photos (waiting to be scanned) in the latter. My karaoke song was REO Speedwagon’s Keep On Loving You.

Detroit Elite 2011 Karaoke Kick Off!
Photo by Yelp

I need a better song, but the binder needed better authority control, something which we commented on more times that was really necessary.

Detroit Elite 2011 Karaoke Kick Off!
Photo by Yelp

All told, a fun night – hopefully one of many Elite events in the coming year.

A Tale of Two Dinners

My birthday was this past weekend, and I am now 31.  As you may recall, last year’s birthday celebration involved a lot of free things and the construction of a croquembouche, the latter of which kicked off a year of baking adventures with new A2 friends.  While we did go for a few free things, the main plan for the day was a fancy dinner, the destination of which was unknown to me until Friday, when an errant emailer let it slip that we were going to Eve, and then would be meeting friends for drinks after.

It is at this point that I should fill you in on a few extenuating circumstances.  First, on Friday night we ate all the food and drank all the drinks – specifically wine and fondue at Shana’s, followed by a round of drinks at Eve, followed by another round at Alley Bar, followed by the sort of drunken falling over antics more befitting nearly-21 than nearly-31.  Needless to say, the idea of eating and drinking to excess made me a little queasy.  It’s been almost a week, and it still makes me a little queasy.

Second, Eve is closing – well, has closed at this point.  Sunday night was going to be their last night of service ever, which meant all manner of potential hitches: stuff missing from the menu, poor service because they were too busy, etc.  Both were the case when we were in for drinks on Friday.  Shane had made his reservation before they announced the closure, wanting to treat me to a nice dinner at one of A2’s fanciest restaurants.

With these things in mind, I asked Shane if he would mind terribly if we went elsewhere for dinner? Specifically possibly maybe Vinology, where we had a really excellent meal over the summer.  Except! Vinology wasn’t taking reservations because of Restaurant Week, and when we called at 6pm, there was a two hour wait for a table for two.  So we carried on with the original plan.

Except that we arrived late for our reservation (6pm, not 6:30).  And we were seated at a two top where we would’ve been more intimate dining companions with our neighbors than with each other.  Every time the door opened, Shane was treated to a gust of very cold air.  The server greeted us with the offer of a cocktail, but the warning that they’d had an open house that afternoon and sold off most of their bar.  They had one of thirty bottles available from the lower end of the wine list – the rest were sold out.  The bread came out without the wonderful butters promised by nearly every reviewer on Yelp, and at that point we decided to throw in the towel.

So we left, with me nearly in tears, feeling so guilty for being disappointed and wanting to go elsewhere when Shane had tried to make the evening so nice.  Shane asked what I thought we should do, and I asked if we could try Vinology?  He dropped me off, and I went in prepared to cry if it would get us a table.

Except that they’d had a cancellation, and so had a table for two available immediately!  I gushed to the host that he’d just made our evening, and we were tucked away in a cozy booth with gauze curtains separating us from our neighbors.  My stress and guilt melted away with Shane’s obvious enthusiasm for the menu: ample options for sharing and indulging in both wine and food, plus dessert on the house in honor of my birthday.  Over the course of the next two hours, we shared:

  • a sweet and savory salad of beets prepared with sherry vinegar and goat cheese
  • a plate of olives and assorted pickled vegetables, half of which I took home for later snacking
  • a half portion of the scallops – so one perfect buttery porcini-dusted scallop each, along with boursin whipped potatoes, mushroom ragout, french beans, and an  impossibly delicate vinaigrette
  • a half portion of grilled sirloin with a coffee-pepperberry rub, creamed swiss chard, and adequate sweet potato ravioli in a ginger soy butter sauce
  • a half portion of the same wonderful venison we enjoyed in june

We each enjoyed a wine flight with our meals, the result of which was a veritable wall of wine across our little table:

Wall of wine
For Shane, the Big Red, featuring a small pour each of Garnacha, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I had the Fruit Bomb: Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and a Shiraz that ranks among the best wines I’ve ever tried. We finished the meal with “Captain Crunch” ice cream, which tastes even better than you could possibly imagine:

Captain Crunch Ice Cream

While our meal wasn’t prepared by a former Top Chef contestant (or her staff), I’m confident when I say that this was one of the best meals we’ve enjoyed together.  Thank you, Vinology, for redeeming what could have been a very disappointing birthday evening, and thank you, Shane, for the treat, your company, and your patience and love.

0521 Champaign Bars

Oh Champaign, I have missed you.  And you apparently have missed me, as within five minutes of parking our car, I saw someone I knew from my Aroma days.

We were in town for Darren and Hannah’s wedding – Shane’s first trip back since we moved in 2007 – and kicked off our trip with a visit to the Esquire.  $5 for a pitcher of PBR!  It’s not good beer, but it is exceptionally cheap beer, and we split it while catching up with people at Symposium.  Some things never change – if it’s a warm summer night, GSLIS folks will be found on a patio, and DocD will be alternating between coffee and white wine.

Blind Pig Brewery
photo by HorsePunchKid

With our alcohol blankets firmly in place, we wandered over to the Piglet, the new Blind Pig brewery.  The original Blind Pig was voted one of the top 50 places to drink beer in the country, so we had high hopes.  I really enjoyed my cider, while Shane was less satisfied with his APA – good, but nothing to write home about.  The new space is great, though, and if we were still in town, I could see us hanging out there all the time.

And then….the diner.  The first place we hung out, and the last place we hung out before we started dating:

shane, e & camera

There were no diner stacks tonight – or hangover horseshoes.  Just good old diner fare and the bondage toilet:

Bondage toilet in bathroom at the Merry Ann's Diner in downtown Champaign
photo by benchilada

Like I said, some things never change.

Going Away DJ Night at the Hut

Thanks to everyone who came out to see us off!  We miss you all already, and hope that we can see you again soon.

Galaxy Hut Playlist 08-26-09:

  1. The Beta Band – Dry the Rain
  2. Emily Wells – Symphony 2 & the Click Boom Boom
  3. New Order – Crystal
  4. MIA – One for the Head
  5. LCD Soundsystem – Get Innocuous
  6. Ladytron – Seventeen
  7. The Shouty Pants – Grow Man
  8. Kylie Minogue – I Believe In You (feat. Scissor Sisters)
  9. New Order – Turn
  10. The Dresden Dolls – Pretty in Pink
  11. Jem – Save Me
  12. Lykke Li – Little Bit
  13. Fugees – Fu Gee La
  14. Jamie Lidell – Multiply
  15. Magnetic Fields – Let’s Pretend We’re Bunny Rabbits
  16. My Morning Jacket – Gideon
  17. Men at Work – Down Under
  18. Iggy Pop – I am a Passenger
  19. The B-52s – Rock Lobster
  20. Talking Heads – Girlfriend is Better
  21. Beastie Boys – So What’cha Want
  22. Torche – Fat Waves
  23. Guided by Voices – Game of Pricks
  24. The Arcade Fire – This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (CBC)
  25. Black Sabbath – War Pigs
  26. Of Montreal – Disconnect the Dots
  27. New Order – Temptation 7″ Mix
  28. Guided by Voices – Glad Girls
  29. Beastie Boys – Root Down
  30. The Smiths – Ask
  31. Clark – Future Daniel
  32. Chairlift – Bruises
  33. Emily Wells – Symphony 9 & the Sunshine
  34. Delorean – Seasun
  35. Black Star – Astronomy (8th Light)
  36. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – How Long Do I Have To Wait For You?
  37. Black Sabbath – After Forever
  38. Of Montreal – The Repudiated Immortals
  39. Talking Heads – And She Was
  40. Death Cab for Cutie – Soul Meets Body
  41. Black Sabbath – Planet Caravan
  42. Hum – Stars

New Years Menu Recap

Despite the day’s sad events, Shane and I decided to continue with our plans for New Years’ Eve, which is also our anniversary. We had dinner reservations for at Tallula in Arlington – for the holiday they featured a special menu with wine pairings which, while expensive, seemed like an ideal way to have a laid-back, not overly social evening. Our menu, along with impeccable wine pairings (not listed):

First Course
(choice of)

Chestnut Soup
quail egg, cinnamon guanciale, Perigord oil

or

Trio of Oysters
Oyster Stew w/ sherry froth, Fried w/chipotle aioli, Raw w/chile & lime granite

Shane had the soup, which was rich and flavorful, with the egg adding an extra amazing something. I had the oysters – the stew was served in a tiny espresso cup, the fried one reminded me of a clam strip from White Castle except much, much faster, and the raw one was, well, awesome.

Second Course
(choice of)

Seared Foie Gras
quince, Concorde grape syrup, star anise

or

Mascarpone Ravioli
5 spice, lobster claw, mango, paddlefish caviar

Shane was disappointed that the ravioli was less than perfectly formed. The sauce was delicate and delicious, as was every other aspect of the ravioli – except for the fact that everything came squishing out with the first bite. I had the fois gras because I’d never had it before and it’s illegal in Chicago and I figured I’d only want to try it once, so might as well make it NYE. It was VERY rich and not something I’ll probably eat again, but it was an interesting experience, a little bit overwhelmed by the sweetness of the quince and the paired wine.

Third Course
(choice of)

Pan Roasted Cobia Fillet
preserved lemon, lobster, tarragon

or

Seared Diver Scallops
celery root, leeks, vanilla-saffron butter

We both opted for the scallops, which were absolutely perfect in every way – delicate but flavorful, rich but not overwhelming. I could have had five courses of this and been entirely happy. I was also very tempted to lick the plate. The scallops were scored on the top and lightly seared, and the vanilla-saffron butter sauce was just incredible.

Fourth Course
(choice of)

Smoked Venison Loin gruyere potato gratin, chanterelle mushrooms, thyme sabayon

or

Braised Beef Cheeks
Perigod truffles, Yukon potatoes, braising jus

Shane had the beef, which I didn’t try because the last time I had beef was February of 1996. He seemed pleased with the beef, but disappointed that he didn’t get the venison. Oh god, the venison. It was rare-ish and incredibly flavorful, melting in your mouth, with the sabayon providing a mild savory counterpoint. The gratin was perfect, as were the mushrooms. Unfortunately for me, I was pretty full by this point in the meal, so Shane benefited from my lack of hunger.

I can’t remember the specifics of the fifth course, unhelpfully NOT described on Tallula’s website, but I had a chocolate mousse with blood oranges and a bit of Creme Anglaise, while Shane had a mango (and/or passionfruit) tart with meringue and a bit of coconut ice cream on top of a pile of dark chocolate shavings. Both were delicious, though the mousse was a bit overwhelming after the four previous courses.

All in all, it was a wonderful dining experience, and I’m looking forward to going back for brunch or drinks.

I am old.

Why can’t shows start before 10pm?!  Don’t they know that I have to get up for work in the morning?  I am old and will therefore miss this show on Thursday (as listed on DCist):

>> Federico Aubele combines an eclectic mix of American musical styles including reggae, hip hop, bolero and tango. Both of his albums Gran Hotel Buenos Aires (2003) and the 2007 release Panamericana, were produced by Thievery Corporation. Tonight he’ll be at the Eighteenth Street Lounge.