Blue Wolf Grill, Ypsilanti, Michigan

Blue Wolf Grill, Ypsilanti, Michigan

I promised my husband that I would publicly credit him with find of this new restaurant in Ypsilanti, the Blue Wolf Grill, so here it is Josh (if you’re reading this). Granted, I had not heard that it was coming and I’m usually the first to know when a restaurant will be opening within a 20 mile radius of where we live, let alone right in our own town. However, I haven’t driven down that area of Washtenaw in a while and he was picking up dinner the other night and happened to drive by this new find. Lucky for me (and him) he mentioned his sighting of this new restaurant that had opened just this past Friday near the corner of Hewitt and Washtenaw in what was the old Cosmic Garden years ago (oh, how I miss their sweet potato fries to this day!) and more recently was a Middle Eastern spot. I was thrilled to hear that it was no longer empty and even happier when I looked up their website and found an interesting, well-priced, local ingredient based menu.

We stopped in for lunch today and were not disappointed. They had a soft opening for friends and family earlier last week, but just opened to the public as of Friday. We were the only diners around 3 p.m. on a Sunday, but our waitress was friendly and quick and the food was delicious.

The tables are dressed with real cloth tablecloths and cute little mission style candle holders. My husband hopes they upgrade the black plastic chairs at some point, but I didn’t mind because they were still comfortable which was what was important to me (and my behind).

The menu has a nice mix of soups, salads sandwiches, pastas and entrees with a nice little twist to each. The prices range from $6-$10 for salads and sandwiches to $12-$18 for the nicer dinners, which include a side, a salad and a roll. It would be easy to find something to please a wide range of palates and pocketbooks at the Blue Wolf.

I have been eating a lot more meatless meals lately and was happy to find several vegetarian options that appeared to be well thought out, not just your typical black bean burger or pasta with sauce here. I considered one of the interesting salads, butternut squash ravioli with roasted apples and curry cream sauce, but decided on the Grilled Veggie Panini.

Blue Wolf Grill, Ypsilanti

The sandwich came on fresh herb focaccia with mozzarella and had a nice assortment of vegetables, including portobellos, yellow squash, roasted red pepper, red onion, fresh spinach as well as a hummus spread. This was not your standard veggie sandwich that is slapped on the menu to appeal to a few vegetarians. The vegetables were nicely grilled and well seasoned, the bread was herby and fresh. The flavors of this sandwich came together nicely. It also came with a pickle some tasty ruffled chips, although you can upgrade to the house fries for another dollar.

Pulled Pork and Chuck Burger Sliders, Blue Wolf Grill, Ypsilanti, Michigan

Josh opted for the Wolf Sliders, four sliders with your choice of pulled pork or chuck burgers, or a mix of both. He went for two of each. The sauce on the pulled pork is on the sweeter side which is right up his alley. I had a bite and thought it was pretty good too. He really enjoyed the burger sliders which had a slight char to the outside of the meat, but not too much. The fries came with his

Croissant Bread Pudding, Blue Wolf Grill, Ypsilanti, Michigan

We saved room to try one of their three desserts. We had a choice between the whipped chocolate ganache with berries, a croissant bread pudding with creme anglaise or a chocolate Michigan apple cake with vanilla sauce. Our waitress sold us on the bread pudding saying she had it earlier that day and it was her absolute favorite.

The bread pudding was fantastic as promised. The croissant pudding was studded with dried fruits throughout, a touch of chocolate chips on top and served with a delectable vanilla sauce that wasn’t overly sweet. Fresh berries that surrounded the dish were a perfect accompaniment for their acidity. I cannot believe all their desserts are less than five bucks. If I hadn’t been so full I think we would have  tried more than one!

I love that another restaurant that has put some thought into their menu, considers local ingredients and something other than just the ordinary has given Ypsilanti a chance for their success. They follow in the footsteps of Beezy’s Cafe, Red RockWurst Bar and Bona Sera. It’s so nice to see something aside from fast food chains becoming a part of the Ypsilanti community. I believe the that the Ypsi folk are welcoming to these types of establishments and they will see strong support. We’ll be back here for sure!

The Songbird Cafe, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Songbird Cafe, Ann Arbor, Michigan

I have fallen in love with a little cafe in Ann Arbor, Michigan called, The Songbird Cafe. I find reason to stop in at least once a week or so. The staff is very pleasant and efficient and the coffee and food are simple, but delicious.

Their caramel latte is just the way I like it. They don’t skimp on the foam, which tastes like a coffee marshmallow to me! So many places these days only fill the latte with milk and leave off the froth, which is my favorite part when done right (and Songbird does it right!).

Caramel Latte at The Songbird Cafe - Ann Arbor, Michigan | Everydayfoodieblog.com

I know I’m enjoying a great latte when it tastes rich and luxurious even when I order it with skim milk, and that’s exactly what I’ve gotten every time I’ve ordered one at this sweet little cafe. Beezy’s, and now The Songbird Cafe, are my two favorite places in the Ypsi/Ann Arbor area to order an espresso drink.

I’ve also had some tasty food at Songbird, including:  oatmeal cookies, a divine apple hand pie, a simple, but delicious caprese sandwich and breakfast.

For breakfast I always order the green tea muffin with candied ginger and topped with walnuts, their cherry granola yogurt parfait,  a side of fresh fruit and a caramel latte, of course!

The muffin is lightly sweet and heavenly. I love that the walnuts are sprinkled on top so they don’t interfere with the soft texture of the muffin too much. The candied ginger wakes up the taste with a subtle and sweet zing. The granola parfait is made to order in a cute little mason jar. The yogurt is plain Greek yogurt so I usually grab just a touch of honey from the coffee bar to take the edge off. The fruit Songbird serves has always been well picked and absolutely fresh.

Songbird Cafe - Ann Arbor, Michigan | Everydayfoodieblog.com

I also enjoy seeing the love that went into the decor of this little place. I never went into this building when it was the beloved Flim Flam diner, but I imagine it’s quite a bit different inside now than it was then.

You walk in to be greeted by the friendly staff at the coffee counter and the chalkboard with specials of the day (their daily soups are fabulous as well!). The counter has lovely slats of wood and a granite top. The side walls have a touch of exposed brick for a rustic feel.

To the right is the dining area, the open entryway to the seating area is accented on side with a lovely leaded glass door. The tables are plenty with a mix of cushioned benches and simple wooden chairs. Library shelves line the back wall. Light pours in from the front window making for a very comfortable and cozy atmosphere to enjoy some simple, but lovely food.

Cherry Pecan Granola

Cherry Pecan Granola

After eating Mary’s Wild Oats at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor a number of times I was on a quest to recreate it at home. At $7.50 a pop it’s not cheap to eat granola at their restaurant, but it’s made from inexpensive and easy-to-find ingredients so I figured I could make a similar version myself. I searched the web, but Zingerman’s has not yet parted with their recipe, although their description on the website gave me a enough clues of what ingredients to look for when comparing other recipes. Oats, of course, honey, butter, dried cranberries and whole almonds.

Homemade Granola

Of course, the beauty of making your own granola is that you can adapt it to your tastes, which is what I’ve done here. You can easily change out the choice of nuts, sweeteners and dried fruits to your own favorites. I found a good base recipe on CDKitchen’s website and adapted that to include my favorites. I’ve experimented enough times that my current favorite recipe combo is the recipe below. It includes, pecans, dried cherries, cinnamon and honey. Shhh… but I’d argue that my version is even better than the recipe I was first out to find.

I purchased a yogurt maker a number of months ago, so in addition to making my own granola each week I also make a batch of fresh vanilla yogurt. I also pick up fresh berries or bananas and consistently eat the combination for breakfast every morning. It keeps me full until my workday lunch at noon and I never get bored with it. This past week I made a version with pistachios and maple syrup, also tasty! So, feel free to try different variations until you find the perfect one for you!

Cherry Pecan Granola

Adapted from cdkitchen

  • 4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup honey (or other sweetener)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup dried tart cherries

 

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Mix oats, pecans, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl combine oil and honey; you do not need to stir. Microwave for 60 seconds then pour over oats mixture.

Stir oil mixture into oats until it is completely incorporated into the oats mixture. It will still look a little dry. Spread on a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 40 minutes, stirring carefully every 10 minutes. Let granola cool completely then add to a large Ziploc or other storage container. Mix in dried cherries. Store at room temperature for up to one week.

Back to the Roots – Chelsea, Michigan

Back to the Roots – Chelsea, Michigan

I love that we found a new breakfast place recently, but Back to the Roots is a bit of a destination breakfast for us as it’s located in downtown Chelsea, about 30 minutes from Ypsilanti, where we live. Chelsea is a cute little town with some interesting shops so I don’t mind making the trip. We’ve been to this restaurant  four times since we first discovered it about 2-3  months ago.

Back to the Roots Caramel Latte

Back to the Roots is right off Main Street in the center of downtown. Don’t be fooled when you first walk in as you’ll see the store portion of their business, keep on walking toward the back and you’ll be greeted by a member of their friendly staff who will ask if you’ll be dining in their cafe.

They set themselves apart from other businesses in the area  by donating a portion of their proceeds to benefit social justice issues around the world and in the surrounding communities.

I’ve had both their French toast and the buttermilk pancakes. While the French toast is pretty tasty, it’s also very simple. The pancakes are my favorite because they’re topped with a lovely, not-too-sweet apple-raisin compote with spices that make the dish taste like a bite of autumn, my favorite season.

They also have a coffee bar in the front, so you can order a fresh latte or cappuccino with your hot breakfast. I can attest that they serve a mean caramel latte! I’m also addicted to their herb breakfast potatoes. They are full of flavor and cooked up with a great crispy outer crust, but soft potato inside. They’re big enough to share, but trust me when I say you may not want to!

Back to the Roots - Herb Potatoes

Josh highly recommends the biscuits and gravy, although on our last visit he had something more traditional, their eggs, meat and toast meal – The American – which he also said was good.

Service has been great every time we’ve stopped in, which is very important to me. If the food is good somewhere, but the service is consistently bad I still won’t come back. The staff here are very friendly and even chatty, in a good way. I feel very welcome every time we go in.

This is one of those places that I’ve wanted to hold on to as my own little secret spot, as we haven’t had to wait in any lines on the weekend yet! But, it’s also a place I’d like to get the word out about because they run a great place which everyone can enjoy in addition to promoting fair trade practices and social causes around the world. So, if you visit and enjoy it I encourage you to share it with your friends!

Traverse City, Michigan – A Foodie Delight!

Traverse City, Michigan – A Foodie Delight!

My husband, Josh, and I went to Traverse City, Michigan in late June to enjoy a few relaxing days and eat some fabulous food. We succeeded in doing both. In fact, given the amazing weather we had while we were there, the beautiful scenery, food and siren song of the bay, it was rather challenging to convince ourselves to come back home on the last day. I think our bosses should consider themselves lucky that we didn’t call in to quit and tell them we were buying a cottage on the water up north!

Before I dive into the food portion, take a look at some of the gorgeous morning views of Traverse Bay and sunsets over the water from our great hotel room at The Cherry Tree Inn.

Traverse City Sunset

For this trip we decided to plan ahead and make dinner reservations for the nights were there instead of taking our chances with long waits. Friday night was Mission Table on the Leelanau Peninsula, Saturday was The Cook’s House and Sunday was Amical.

Mission Table

Mission Table had great food and excellent service. Our waiter was very attentive, knowledgeable on the food and wine menus and very friendly. The menu is sectioned into four courses which are based on increasing portion sizes. We decided to order a couple of smaller dishes to share and each get our own larger entree course.

Mission Table is part of Bowers Inn Estate vineyards so they make their own wine on the premises. I had a glass of the Peninsula White and, although not generally a wine drinker, really enjoyed it. It was light, crisp and slight fruity. Josh opted for an amber ale also brewed on the property, which he liked.

We started with a salad with fresh red and yellow cherry tomatoes, a creamy white cheese (I can’t recall the type), and microgreens. I found certain bites to be a bit on the salty side, but I loved the tomatoes and cheese. Josh, not a lettuce fan, ate some of the tomatoes and cheese and liked it as well. The colors really popped on the plate!

Mission Table - Summer Salad

Next, we had a pork belly appetizer, which of course I forgot to take a photo of because I was so excited to try it. It included, pickled mustard seed, goat cheese, figs and wheat berries. I loved the crunch the wheat berries added to the dish – and shockingly, so did the non-adventurous husband of mine. The pork belly was rich and tasty, with the sweet figs and tangy goat cheese as great compliments.

The main entree I chose was the Walleye, in part because it’s a well known Michigan white fish, I’ve even caught one in the past when I went fishing! This was served in ramp sauce with baby carrots. I really liked the oniony flavor of the ramp sauce and the tenderness of the fish. The carrots were nice and sweet, but still slightly crisp.

We passed on dessert that night because unfortunately nothing on the menu quite grabbed us. Maybe next time, but I definitely would come back for another meal.

The Cook’s House

I was searching local articles and blogs for Traverse City before our trip because you can sometimes find the best insider tips that way. Did you know that Mario Batali has a vacation home in that area? I stumbled across one of his favorite TC restaurants, The Cook’s House,  in a blog article. How can you go wrong with a restaurant that’s backed by a Food Network star?

I was really exited about our visit to The Cook’s House and it did not disappoint. It’s situated in what truly appears to be someone’s home and the tables, only about 10, in what would be their living room. I didn’t realize how small the restaurant was at the time I made the reservation, but I’m really glad I had booked a table in advance!

One of the only slight dings I have against this place is that one of the front staff is a bit on the bristly side. We walked in and she immediately said, ‘What’s the Name?’. A, ‘Hello, how are are you?’ or ‘Welcome’ would have been nice when we were about to drop the amount of money this dinner cost. She also scoffed a bit when we asked for recommendations on the wine menu as we were new to wine drinking. Aside from her the rest of the staff was impeccable, extremely professional and personable.

We were seated at a table that was right next to a bookshelf lined with old tattered cookbooks and food resources. I loved the inviting feeling of being able to pick up a recipe book and start paging through it while we waited. We had a clear view of the chef himself preparing the food toward the back of the room and separated by a counter and deli case showcasing fresh ingredients. My favorite part was the Sponge Bog pail sitting on top of the case amongst the fresh spices – how cheeky and non-pretentious!

I started with a gorgeous strawberry and mixed green salad with sprouts and a balsamic dressing. The lettuce was some of the freshest I ‘ve ever had, I believe they have their own garden out back. The strawberries were perfectly sweet and juicy and the garlic sprouts added a great texture and flavor.

Strawberry and Sprouts Salad - The Cook's House, Traverse City, MI

Josh and I shared a Smoked Rabbit Barley Risotto that was absolutely divine. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better risotto. It was rich, complex and almost buttery. The seasoning was absolutely perfect.

Smoked Rabbit Risotto - The Cook's House, Traverse City, Michigan

I went for Pork Belly the second time in two days when I chose it as my entree at The Cook’s House. I wondered if it would be too much meat for me, since I normally eat mostly vegetarian or vegan the rest of the time. After one bite, my concerns disappeared, it was delicious! It was crusted in a mix of sweet spices and filled with a rhubarb puree. I usually don’t care for anise because of it’s licorice flavor, but the other spices and the richness of the meat made me enjoy the spice in this particular environment. The tartness of the rhubarb puree was a perfect foil to the sweet spice crust and richness of the pork belly.

Pork Belly - The Cook's House, Traverse City, Michigan

After three great dishes, I couldn’t leave without trying dessert – that would be a crime! I had the Honey Cake with Vanilla Mousse. The cake was rich as sweet, but again, the only other ding I’ll give the restaurant is that the luscious light fluffy mousse texture I was expecting was spoiled because they set it right on top of the still very warm cake and it melted by the time it came to my table. It was still tasty, but I was missing that lightness I had expected instead of a sauce.

Honey Cake with Vanilla Mousse - The Cook's House, Traverse City, Michigan

Truly, despite the first front staff contact and the melted mousse, this was still one of the top five meals I’ve ever had. The chef even came out at the end and made sure everything had been to our liking (I confess I couldn’t voice my disappointment about the dessert at the time). I loved the intimate and unique atmosphere of this place. We had a total of three staff attending to our table throughout the night. One gentleman even plucked a crumb, (a crumb, people!) off the tablecloth in front of me as though that was an absolutely unacceptable mess!

Mario did not steer us wrong, and although we did not have a sighting of him that night as I had hoped, it was still a great experience and we’ll be back for sure.

Amical

Our last dinner in Traverse City was downtown at Amical. It sits right in the middle of town on Front Street near the canal. I was glad we had made reservations for here as well because even on a Sunday night at 7pm they were packed. We were seated as soon as we arrived at a great table in back near the window. Our server greeted us promptly and was another great server with personality.

We stated with a fruit and cheese plate to share. I can’t remember the specific selection of cheeses that night, but almost all were very good. I’m not fan of strong blue cheese fan so the one on our plate when fairly uneaten, but the Granny Smith apple slices and walnut bread that accompanied the rest were devoured.

Cheese Plate - Amical, Traverse City, Michigan

I had fish again for my main dish and it was good, but not exceptional.  It was roasted salmon with fermented limes and a spicy sauce over broccolini. I didn’t find the fish to be particularly spicy or flavorful, but it was cooked well. I did take a bite of the fermented lime on top, but found it to be very overwhelming. The side of broccolini was well seasoned and tasty though.

Salmon Entree - Amical, Traverse City, Michigan

When we reviewed their dessert menu I told the waitress how unfair it was that they had so many of my favorite sweets in one place. How was I to choose? She finally helped me narrow it down to the espresso pots de creme and I was very happy with my choice. How can you go wrong with coffee in dessert? This was served in a cute little latte cup and filled with a decadent, espresso-flavored custard and topped with fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings. I finished every last bit!

Espresso Pots De Creme - Amical, Traverse City, Michigan

So, if you’re looking for a wonderful beachfront town, full of incredible eats and sweet little shops look no further than Michigan’s Traverse City. Sleeping Bear Dunes is only 20 minutes away and was voted one of the country’s ‘Most Beautiful Places‘ by Good Morning America last year.

 

Austin Food Adventures

Austin Food Adventures

My husband, Josh and I took a vacation to Austin, Texas at the end of March. In addition to hearing what a great town for music and art Austin is I was, as usual, most excited about the food possibilities! We had lots of good eats while we were down South, from the ever-talked-about food truck experience (we have a few in Ann Arbor now, too!), to tasty BBQ and some higher-end cuisine.

We had a few hit-and-miss experiences so I’ll highlight my favorites, in no particular order:

Gourdough’s

A raved about doughnut trailer just west of hip and artsy South Congress (SoCo) area. I read about this place when doing some pre-vacation foodie research and it was also recommended by boss’s Austin-local cousin.

The folks in this trailer make doughnuts with crazy, nostalgic, childhood-dream toppings. It’s basically a doughnut sundae topped with anything you can come up with, although they already have 23 pre-determined concoctions for the indecisive folks.

These confections are easily split between two people, and thankfully Josh and I chose wisely and did just that. We picked the Funky Money which is a freshly fried doughnut topped with grilled bananas, gobs of cream cheese icing and brown sugar. It was one of the best doughnuts I’ve ever had, but be warned that it’s extremely rich and not for the faint of heart!

Frank

Whether you’re a traditionalist or a sophisticated connoisseur when it comes to hot dogs and brats you’ll find an amazing selection of top-quality items to please at Frank in Austin.

We hit this place three times while we were in town for the week, it was that good! Plus, the atmosphere is cool and the staff are friendly. It felt like a neighborhood place for both townies and out-of-towners.

The first visit I had a brat on special that had a blackberry gastrique, goat cheese and crispy sage. I had them switch out the venison brat for their Jackalope which is a blend of antelope, rabbit and pork sausage. It was served on a fresh artisan bun and was amazing. The flavors really popped and the bright flavors of the berries, creaminess of the cheese and crisp herby bite of the sage made for great textural contrast and a rich taste.

My husband went the more traditional hot dog route and loved his too. We also split an order of their waffle fries with special house-bbq sauce on the side – delish! The only small disappointment that day was the chocolate chip and bacon cookie which turned out to be a mediocre cookie topped with crumbled bacon (rather than part of the cookie).

We went back the next day for a late lunch and I tried one of the regular menu choices, the Texilina. It’s a pork and beef brat with grilled coleslaw, mustard bbq sauce and white cheddar cheese. Another winner!  A nice middle-ground between traditionalist and a more adventurous palette.

Bonus points! We came back in the evening for to hear a local band play and actually saw Zooey Deschanel hanging out there! I was too busy admiring her adorable dress and shoes to notice who it was until Josh poked me! New Girl is one of our favorite TV shows.

Second Bar & Kitchen

We had dinner here the first night we were in town. Very friendly, but sophisticated vibe with knowledgeable staff. It’s attached to the posh The Austonian hotel.

I bet this place is packed on Friday and Saturday nights. I’m glad we came in on a Sunday when it was almost full, but we didn’t have to wait for a table. There were enough people in the restaurant to know we had found a good place, but quiet enough to be able to enjoy the experience.

I found a new favorite beverage here, Crispin Natural Hard Apple Cider. It wasn’t too sweet, but was crisp and refreshing. This reminds me that I need to find a local store that carries it!

For dinner I had the roasted chicken breast with grilled corn “panzanella” consisting of citrus jus and sourdough. The chicken was succulent and cooked perfectly. It was seasoned well and every element of the dish came together. This was one of the best meals we ate Austin.

Malanga Tapas & Bar

There’s a fabulous tapas place in Chicago that we love so we’re always hoping to find the next great small-plate restaurant on our visits out of town. Malanga’s was a pretty good find.

The prices here were more than our favorite in Chicago, Cafe Iberico which is surprising, but the food was still very tasty. We split lamb chops, an antipasto platter and dessert.

The lamb chops were fabulous! The baby chops came medium-rare and were marinated in aged balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil. The side of basil-mint pesto and balsamic reduction was my favorite part!

The meat and cheese were a selection of 15 month old Spanish Serrano Ham, Pamplona Chorizo, Garrotxa with rosemary, and 6 month old Manchego cheeses, also very good.

For dessert we had the Mantecadas. It came out with a beautiful presentation, but the dish itself was underwhelming in flavor. It was described as ‘pastries stuffed with cream cheese and lightly topped with fresh strawberries and a strawberry reduction’, but we didn’t find much in the way of pastry and the strawberries weren’t very sweet.

Overall, we ate well in Austin and really enjoyed the trip overall. If you’re looking for some details on non-food places to go I can share those too, just give me a shout!