1123 Founders @ Ashley’s

founder's kentucky breakfast stout 4-10-09 1
Photo by stevendepolo

There was a Founders event at Ashley’s tonight. We drank excellent beers and shared a table with strangers because the bar was so crowded. Shane had his first Black Biscuit – or at least the first in a long time – and I sipped a Canadian Breakfast Stout. What more can I say? It was a good night.

0721 Vegetarian this-and-that

Ann Arbor Art Fairs Photos 2010 by Michigan Municipal League
photo by Michigan Municipal League (MML)

Shane’s mom came up from Cleveland today to attend the chaos known as the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair. It’s actually more accurate to say ‘art fairs’, plural, as there are four fairs spread out over the downtown and Central Campus areas. Between vendors and visitors, the art fair conglomerate brings in upwards of 500,000 people over the course of four days. That’s 500,000 people buying and selling, wandering and eating, sweating and parking in very close proximity to where we live and work. That’s a lot of people, you guys.

After a trip to the garden (me) and some quiet post-fair downtime (Shane and his mom), we had a delicious vegetarian dinner of various things from the garden and the market. I came home with carrots, beets, rapini, chilies, and cucumbers – quite the exciting haul! Our entree resembled the sort-of ratatouille from a couple of weeks ago – onions, tomatoes, garlic, and a chili sauteed in a bit olive oil until everything went saucy, then served over warm polenta. The chili gave just a little bit of heat – a heat we’re going to have to learn to incorporate into more things, as our garden is overflowing with them. I also tossed sauteed rapini with raisins – Shane didn’t love it, but I ate it up.

It was a lovely, healthy, filling dinner improvised amidst long conversation, and then followed by a walk through the downtown masses to Ashley’s for a Bell’s event, where we hoped to try Black Note, but where we made do with a Founders Cerise (me), a lambic (Mom), and a Hell Hath No Fury (Shane). A long, relaxing evening, and a nice end to a very warm day.

0128 Bacon Fat Popcorn

Shane finished up his work at the grad library early , so we grabbed a quick drink and some fries at Ashley’s before braving the bitter cold to catch the bus home. Having sufficiently spoiled our appetites with delicious pub fries, we scrapped our dinner plan and made popcorn later in the evening before settling in to watch movies under our cloud-like duvet.

Over the summer, Kevin and Jill blew us away with by making kettlecorn with bacon fat, a snack we couldn’t wait to try on our own.  I’ll be honest – until quite recently, I had only made popcorn in those potentially cancerous microwave bags.  I had no idea the stove-top method was so easy – or delicious!  We now keep bacon fat in the fridge for expressly this purpose – oh, and also Brussels sprouts.  Mmm.

To make bacon fat popcorn, melt about a tablespoon of fat in a large pot.  When it’s good and hot, add half a cup of kernels, then cover with a spatter screen.  The kernels should start popping pretty quickly, so keep an eye and an ear out, and toss the kernels around frequently to ensure an even pop and avoid burning.  When the popping slows, toss the popped goodness with some salt and eat up!  Half a cup of kernels made 8-10 cups of popped corn in about 7 minutes from start to finish.

0105 Hopslam Release Burger

Tonight saw the release of the first Bell’s Hopslam of the year. As anyone who had had beers with me knows, I am definitively NOT a hop fan – but Shane is, and so we met at Ashley’s for dinner tonight.  As usual, we sat at our table for more than ten minutes before getting a server’s attention – which would be fine at a bar with bar service, but at Ashley’s, the only people served at the bar are those seated at the bar.  Oh how we miss the Galaxy Hut, where you could count on staff maintaining the right balance of friendly and surly, where you waited in line for your beer, and where the only service interactions at your table were the delivery of food and the clearing of empties.

Why do we go to Ashley’s anyway?  I struggled to find something passably healthy on the menu, ending up with a burger, no bun, and a salad.  Shane cashed in his Beer Tour appetizer for a tureen of cheddar ale dip accompanied by crispy tortilla chips.  The beer – that’s the only reason we come back.  And oh, is it good.  Even (or especially) the Hopslam with all of its hops.

Midwest Tour, part 4

Day 6: Rockford, IL > Ann Arbor, MI
States: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan

We had to get on the road first thing in the morning in order to get to Ann Arbor in time for a 4:30pm apartment showing, which meant limited lingering over brunch with the extended family, much to my disappointment.  It was nice to get to see everyone – hopefully next time we won’t be so rushed.  After a quick stop for hugs at Jenn and Bill’s, we were on the road a little after 11 and motored on around Chicago, dipping down into Indiana before hitting Michigan’s glorious 70 mph highways, rolling into Ann Arbor just in time.

Apartment #1 was a 2 bedroom with a basement located in a tree-filled neighborhood about 1.5 miles from Kerrytown and the U of M campus.  The landlord’s dad gave us a tour, mentioning along the way that the current tenant worked at the library.  On our way out, we noticed a stack of articles about institutional repositories on his coffee table.  What are the chances, right?  We had some time to kill before apartment #2, so we made our first trip to Zingerman’s.

Zingerman’s!  Sigh.  The stuff of dreams.  Walking around Kerrytown felt like going home to Champaign – neighborhood-scale streets, friendly people, good food.  We immediately found a co-op and I literally leapt for joy – or would have, if I hadn’t felt totally brain-dead from the driving and the hangover.  With two days ahead of us, though, we decided to save some exploring for later, and went to check out apartment #2, which was closer to the fun stuff but also much smaller and weirdly laid out.  Satisfied with our house-hunting, we checked into our hotel, signed the lease, and headed off for dinner.

I really can’t describe to you how happy we were that evening.  The weather was perfect.  We had a new apartment, and along with it a huge weight off.  We wandered around the downtown area, settling on Blue Tractor for a totally adequate dinner, then heading back to our hotel to pass the hell on out.

Day 7: Ann Arbor, MI
States: Michigan

We’d expected to have to do a bit more househunting, so with a lease signed and sealed, we found ourselves with a full day free in Ann Arbor.  We started off with breakfast at Zingerman’s – polenta for me, and the Kentucky King Platter for Shane.  The rest of the morning was dedicated to lazy walking around, exploring little shops in Kerrytown, and sitting in a park and feeling sleepy.  We had a late lunch at Red Hawk on campus, then went back to the hotel for a nap.  I ❤ vacation naps.

After a bit of driving around, we decided to park ourselves at a coffeeshop in order to enjoy the beautiful weather and our books – then ended up at Ashley’s for dinner and, as it happened, trivia.  Shane went to Ashley’s for dinner when he was in Ann Arbor for his job interview, and was so enamored with their drafts list that he insisted we go back.  This turned out to be a fortuitous choice!  We had our books sitting on the table, and a girl came up to ask Shane if he was, in fact, reading Infinite Jest.  She said that she was part of a book club participating in Infinite Summer, and invited him to join them for their discussion in the future.  Fun and random, right?  Well, as the evening progressed, we inadvertently eavesdropped on her conversation and learned that not only is she a nice person who invites strangers to a book club – she also works at the U of M library in a department that Shane will be working with!  Upon discovering that, we exchanged contact information and exclaimed about the coincidence!  That made two totally random encounters with library people – or library people’s stuff – in two days, which to me feels like a pretty good sign that we’re moving to the right place.  In addition, thanks to my otherwise totally useless knowledge of The Doors, we came in 2nd in trivia, winning a $10 gift certificate to Ashley’s that we look forward to using once we arrive.

Back at the hotel, we were in for an interesting night.  We turned in around 11, hoping for a good night’s sleep before a long day of travel.  We were definitely not in luck.  From 11-1, we were treated to unending noise from our upstairs and other nearby neighbors.  It wasn’t a lot of noise – just enough to keep us both awake.  Shane tried to call the front desk – no answer.  I finally got dressed and went to talk to the management, only to discover that they closed up shop at 11.  Perfect timing!  I guess that’s what you get when you’re paying $50 or less for a hotel.  I went upstairs to knock on the hotel room door, and instead ran into three cops dusting for fingerprints on a busted vending machine.  I have no idea what they were really doing there – but whatever it was, it quieted down our neighbors, and we finally got some sleep out of the evening.

Day 8: Ann Arbor, MI > Alexandria, VA
States: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia

The final day of our trip was also the longest day of travel – for Shane at least.  Having used up all of my earned vacation time for this trip, I had made arrangements to work the late shift on the day of our return.  Not knowing how much time we’d need in Ann Arbor, though, we’d talked it over and I’d booked a one-way flight home from Detroit.  After breakfast at Zingerman’s (trip #4, including a stop for a beverage and Caroline’s coffee), we drove to the Detroit airport.  I wheedled my way onto an earlier flight, putting me back in sweaty-sweaty DC at 3pm – just enough time to cab home, take a shower, feed the cats, and turn around and head back into DC for work at 6pm.  If anything noteworthy happened on Shane’s long looong loooooong drive home, I’m not aware of it, as by the time I got home at 9:30pm, he had been home with enough time to unload the car and bottle his beer.  I owe him one – a big one – for that trip.

So, all told, we logged 1837 miles in 8 days, acquired several cases of beer, saw a lot of family and friends, found a new home, and made it back in one piece.  We were patient and kind to each other, despite forgetting both camera and iPod chargers.  There were no major incidents of any kind.  A successful trip!