Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dearborn, MI - Super Greenland Market; Bizarre Foods Detroit episode continues to Super Greenland Market to try their raw kibbeh.

Ordering back at the counter was a bit tough. There was a language barrier and we weren't too sure if we were getting the correct meat. I asked for the raw kibbeh and received some blank stares. After speaking with a few people behind the counter and constant reassurance from them that yes, this is the one you can eat raw, we gambled. Well, I'm still here to write about it, so I guess it was the correct one. Thanks so the butchers.

Having raw kibbeh takes a leap of faith, trust, and goes against your typical teachings of cooking meat. However, we eat carpaccio and don't think twice about it, so what's the difference? The members of my party did try it, I give them credit, but after a bit or so, it was enough for them. I can only palate so much of it as well, but what I had of it, it's very good. If you've never tried it, I recommend it. It has the wonderful soft and mushy texture, but also grainy at the same time from the cracked wheat, mint, and other spices mixed with it. It has a lot of spices, not spicy, but spices.  The spices and the wheat give it much more flavor than if it were by itself, but it really adds the extra layer of texture of not so much crunchy, but gritty-like.  It's better than it sounds, I promise.

Ultimately, eating it raw is an experience.  Also, part of the experience is watching how they convert this glob of ground meat into this presented dish with a whole new color from the spices. Watch them stir the meat, adding spices, stirring, adding, stirring, shaping, etc...  You get the point.  They are masters of their work.

I would have given them four stars if it wasn't for the language barrier that worried us all if we were really getting what we were asking for. On flavor, four stars, whole experience, three.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

 Hamtramck, MI - Srodek's Campau Quality Sausage; Next stop on our Bizarre Foods tour of Detroit was for head cheese. I never had the opportunity to try it or even see it until this episode, so you can imagine my excitement.

I was surprised to see how long the line was in this little grocery store on a week day in the middle of the day. It was the week before Easter which probably contributed. Therefore, if you're going before a holiday, plan for a 30-45 minute wait.

We tried so many things here and some others we wanted, but you have to purchase in larger quantities than we wanted. We wanted to try the pigs feet in jelly, but you have to purchase by the pound and frankly, I really didn't want to commit to that much, just a slice. Maybe next time.

Moving onto something we did try, we started with the Tongue in Jelly. It had the great nice soft and tender texture of tongue, but the jelly in this case, really didn't add to anything other than the slimy jelly texture. Even though it wasn't my favorite, I still appreciate the uniqueness and preservation of still serving this cut from years past.

There were two types of Head Cheese we sampled, regular and hot. Truth be told, I was expecting some rare flavors, gelatinous textures, and probably an overall disappointing experience on this. WRONG! See, never judge a book by its cover. It was far from my misconception. You could not tell that it was from the head, snout, and any other part of the pig that you typically don't think you eat. As a whole, it really wasn't far off from salami. YEAH, SALAMI! What a shocker, I know. Even with the jelly filling around the meat, you really don't get that jelly texture like the tongue. Between the regular and the hot, I would rather eat the hot version. Not that it was spicy, not at all actually, but the little extra spiciness, delivers a little more flavor than the regular. The regular is a similar to a very mild form of salami and its the hot version that really brings the flavors to light.

The smoked liver sausage was worth getting. It had the nice liver flavor, yet the slice wasn't mushy in any way like chopped liver. It is closer to a soft bologna in texture, but not in flavor. Only one organ has such a unique flavor and it doesn't matter how you prepare it, you can tell when its liver. Not any different with this sausage. It has a nice smoky hint to it as well. This one is great to try and I would love it on a sandwich.

Their hunters sausage, watch out, it's big. I was expecting a 6" or 7" piece. Not here. It's about two feet long, each piece and one order comes with two pieces. Be prepared. It had a nice snap casing and was a typical hunters meaty sausage inside, but nothing unique other than the size.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Detroit, MI - Amar Pizza; Pizza is pizza right? Some restaurants use more cheese than others, while some try to flare their pizza with fresh herbs and larger leaves of basil, etc. There are other places that just offer the ordinary pizza and you wouldn't be able to tell from one pepperoni pizza to the next.

Not Amar Pizza. You can get all the traditional pizza you want, but what you won't find at other places is the adventurous and flavorful experience with a Bangladesh spin. This pizza place was one of the stops on our Bizarre Foods culinary tour of Detroit to follow in Andrew Zimmern's shoes.

DO NOT LEAVE THIS PLACE WITHOUT TRYING THEIR DRIED FISH PIZZA! I wrote that in caps for a reason, seriously you have to try it. It was by far one of the best pizzas I have ever tried. Its unique, delicious, and packs a kick of heat.

It is made with dried shrimp, roasted garlic, onions, cilantro, spicy fish paste containing ghost peppers. It does have a small fish flavor, but its minor. The fish is dried and then mashed together, then spread on the pizza. So when it cooks, it becomes dehydrated and becomes this wonderfully crunchy topping. When you combine the fish along with the garlic and shrimp paste, it makes a harmony of flavors. Be careful though, if you don't like spicy food, you may want to stay away from this one. A small amount of ghost pepper is used so it has a kick. It doesn't hit you at first but when the heat arrives slowly, oh you know it. We did ask the owner how they came up with this pizza and it was fascinating how they did, but I can't reveal their secret.  You'll have to go to try it first and ask them yourself.

Be advised, you do order through bullet proof glass, but we didn't see any problems near by or felt unsafe.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ann Arbor, MI - Arbor Brewing Company; Arbor Brewing is a brew pub with unique fare combinations and items that rarely make it onto a pub omnivorous menu, vegetarian options. Although, I'm not a vegetarian, I always like to point out restaurants that make an effort to offer options for others. They offer a variety of vegetarian options, be sure to check them out the next time you're here.

I tried their Bavarian Burger with Garlic Fries. They pleased my belly and more importantly my taste buds. The burger is topped with light red cabbage slaw to help add the crunch and necessary vinegar to cut through the burger's heaviness. The cheese sits on top of the burger covering hidden mushrooms as if they were concealed jewels.The mushrooms add the extra earthiness to the meat.

The real star of the dish was the garlic fries. Wow, were they garlicy and delicious. It's not just seasoned with garlic powder or garlic salt, its minced garlic.  It was the first time having garlic fries and they work so well. Why would I ever want any other fries again. Now I'm spoiled. I could go there and get a plate of just these, however, I'm sure my wife will love my breath afterwards.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Toledo, OH - El Vaquero; I wasn't sure what to expect and it almost met my expectations. I rarely see Huevos Chorizo on menus, so I was compelled to try it. I've had huevos ranchero at so many places, I know what to expect.

I like that they had the option for flour or corn tortillas if you ask. The corn tortillas were served warm, just not enough of them.

The disappointing component is the eggs were not over easy. They were scrambled with the chorizo. Without it being runny, the dish misses the heartiness sauce the eggs bring. It would help to solidify the chorizo more with the eggs. The beans and rice were good, not great, nor bad, but mediocre.
Hamtramck, MI - New Palace Bakery; The D goes crazy when Fat Tuesday starts approaching. Stories in the paper, on tv, around the office, and among friends about where are you picking up puczkis. Or which bakery has the best puczkis. The debate goes on and on every year.

After years of having probably "fake puczkis" from bakeries and then finding that this place has the real deal, from the looks of the two hour line out the store and down the street on Fat Tuesday, I've come to a conclusion. I think I'll stick with the fake ones for two reasons.

1. No two hour wait and even if I preorder mine, which I did, I still had to wait 45 minutes to force myself ahead of everyone to get to the preorder line. I have to mention, when I ordered them, they said there would be a preorder line and if there is a line out the door, just walk right up and come in and say you preordered. Tell that to the guy two times my size who has been waiting for two hours in line and I walk right up, cut in front of him and say, sorry preorder. The looks I got, I could have been a guy on death row. Therefore, two hours or 5 minutes at a local bakery making puczkis not made in Hamtramck.

2. Density. This is what really determined it. Call me a fake puzcki lover, fake polish, what ever you want, but the fake ones, well, they are just better than these dense, brick-like donuts. The fake ones are light and easy to palette all that sugar.

Maybe puczkis are supped to be like that, its tradition, etc... Ok, well then I guess I just prefer the lighter ones than.
Ypsilanti, MI - Wurst Bar; I always really enjoy a place that has a friendly atmosphere, good food, and culinary creativity. They took familiar food and helped spin them into new ideas, new flavors, while still being playful.

I wanted to try the whole menu but had to limit myself to pimento cheese dip, sweet potato tots, rabbit brat, rattlesnake brat, turducken brat, and PBR brat. Do I need to say that I was pretty full at the end of dinner? I do admit that I had friends there to help me with all of this food.

The pimento cheese dip was sized well with being small. Your getting ready to eat these brats that all come on pretzel buns, the last thing you want is more bread. They have a nice pretzel hard shell, soft on the inside and lightly salted. The cheese spreads and is deliciously creamy together.

The tots was a new idea and none of us had seen sweet potato present in this fashion. Extra credit for creativity. The crunch and taste is spot on for tots with the extra sweetness that all other servings of tots lack.

My favorite brat was the PBR that delivers a good snap from the casing and spices with the sausage. My least favorite award goes to the turducken, which wasn't bad, just not as flavorful as any of the others. I was mostly interest in the rabbit and the rattlesnake. Both were very good, all had the casing snap, but both of these are mixed with a variety of spices that cover the flavors of the meat. If your going to really try the unique flavors of the meat, you'll be disappointed. If your not adventurous and scared to try exotic meats, then they are perfect for you since they don't have strong flavors.

The brats can come with a variety of choices for toppings that include: marinated peppers, sautéed onions, and kimchi slaw. Ask your server which ones compliment your brat the best.

We finished with a sampling of mochi! A Japanese dessert made of rice cake that's made into a paste with ice cream inside. The serving size was small so it was difficult to eat with a spoon to cut it, so if you basically shoot it like a shot, it was the best way to go.
Alexandria, VA - Jackson 20; We stopped in here one evening to watch the football game when we noticed the fried green tomatoes on the menu. I can't pass this up! They arrived as they should, deliciously golden brown fried, deliciously cut thick, and deliciously sweet. You won't be disappointed.

Since they delivered one nice late evening snack, I was hoping that they would do the same with breakfast. I tried their Eggs Chesapeake: two sunny side eggs on top of crab patties with a side of hash browns. I would take this instead of eggs benedict anytime. Who needs the english muffin or ham when you can have a crab patty. What's nice is the crab cuts through the dense flavor of the eggs and sauce so that its not missed. It has all the delicious crab flavor I was hoping for.

When you add the hash browns, it completes it with the grease and crunch. Not to mention, it looks so clean when they cut it precisely in their presentation.

FYI, if you order the fruit plate, be prepared to share it with someone. It feeds two.
Alexandria, VA - Caphe Bahn Mi; Its exciting to see a name of a shop dedicated to bahn mi. The question is, will it meet those expectations of crispy bread, flavorful pate, fresh vegetables and herbs, and spicy to delivery heat without over powering the palette?

Nice delivery on one, and mediocre on the other. The Classic should deliver all these expectations, right? Its the Classic. If I never had a bahn mi sandwich, it should have all these elements to try a traditional one to have a point of comparison. I tried this one and it unfortunately was the mediocre sandwich. It did have crispy bread, average pate but not enough. The flavor was lost with the other elements. Once again, had fresh carrots, cucumbers, and cilantro, not enough, especially of the cilantro. It lacked the traditional aromatics the cilantro brings.

The vegan bahn mi was better in flavor than the classic. This isn't the first time a vegetarian option beat the meat, but I was pleasantly surprised. It had more of the distinctive flavors it needed than the Classic. Both sandwiches came with fresh delicious jalapenos to give it some heat. Nice heat.

If I had to choose between the two again, I would go with the Vegan Bahn Mi.
Roseville, MI - Lazybones Smokehouse; There are a few BBQ places throughout Detroit, but the big question is which one to try, spend the time driving, and which to pay for, right?

Although Lazy Bones is good, I'm not sure if its worth the drive and flavor. Compared to other places it falls short in most areas except one cut of meat.

We went with the Texas Sampler that has all the smoked cuts of meat: ribs, chicken, turkey, pulled pork, brisket, rib tips, burnt ends, and sausage. It also comes with two sides, your choice, we went with the smoked beans and cole slaw. In addition, we added cornbread because can you truly have BBQ without cornbread?

The meat to really write about is the burnt ends. I haven't seen that often on the menu and it should be there. It's almost like having pork belly. It's meaty and fatty at the same time.  It has the proper charred side giving it the wonderful smokey BBQ flavor, while being extremely tender with its high fat content. If I had this only, the rating would have been five stars and my arteries would have probably seized up at the end of the meal.

All the other meats were ok, but not exceptional. The ribs were very meaty and not fatty, which was nice, but only a smoked flavor, no dry rub on it. The turkey was cut too thin and was dried out. The rib tips had a wonderful smokey, almost bacon flavor, but they were extremely dry and VERY rubbery. It was the least of my favorite. The chicken was nice, very nice and juicy and smokey. The sausage had a pretty good flavor, but very subtle. I like flavors that are in your face, don't hold back. The brisket was a tiny bit dry, but at least they didn't cut away the fat. They left it to enhance the flavor and texture. I almost forgot to write about the pulled pork, that probably because there's not much to say. Not a whole lot of flavor, little on the dry side. The cornbread was surprisingly good. It wasn't dried out, nice cornmeal flavor, and slightly hard top. Lastly, the sides. The beans were extremely smokey, which was nice. It also had shredded beef or pork in it. Nice size chunks of it too. The cole slaw was also fresh, larger pieces of cabbage, lots of celery seeds, but very little mayo. It was nice to see that it's more on the vinegar side than the mayonnaise approach.

They said they make their own sauces, I say just stop making them. There's no point. I don't think they had any flavor enhancement to the meats. In fact, we had it "cooked" on the ribs, they were just rubbed with the sauce, but it was still cold. I could have easily just put it on myself. The bad thing about it is that it completely masks the flavors of the meats instead of complimenting it.

I also asked about their Mac-n-cheese, they said they make the noodles as well as the sauce. I was surprised to hear they actually make the pasta.

The staff was extremely nice and helpful too.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Royal Oak, MI - Concrete Cuisine Food Truck; This is the only truck so far that truly has a revolving menu and one that has interesting, creative, and delicious dishes. You won't find the same old, same old here. I wish I could follow them around so I could continue to try their new dishes.

I've had the honor to try: Vito meatballs, Castro pork sandwich, fried pickles, Spawn, Tokyo joe, Fungi fu: chicken satay, Salvatore: cheese ravioli, Chesapeake: crab and shrimp cake, Burrito and sweet potato fries, Indian style chicken on naan, and Scotch egg.

Without going into detain on each dish, I can safely say that I enjoyed each one. Some were worth a five star rating and others were three/four star. Most of the dishes were five stars. Those that are five, it was a combination of complex layered flavoring where the flavor started as one and ended as another. It was an unique dish where they combined specific elements, flavors, and textures not found at other places' dishes.

I intend to continue following where they setup shop to make sure I get their dishes.
 Royal Oak, MI - Green Zebra Food Truck; It's nice to see a truck changing their menu and trying new and complex dishes. I've now tried four different dishes, all being ok, and one being very good. If they can elevate the other three, this could be an amazing menu for other trucks to have a tough time competing.

Irish nachos with oberon cheese sauce is made with homemade chips, which is a big plus. The specialty in this item is their sauce. The oberon sauce sounds better than it is. Its good, not anything that I would send back, but I had higher expectations for the flavor. It unfortunately didn't have enough flavor. You could tell that the Oberon does enhance the flavor of the cheese, but the cheese still over powers the additional flavor.

The Michigan PB & J was one of those unique items that I had high hopes. It's grilled well and has a nice unique flavor, but it does fall short on ingredients. It needed more P, B, and J. Those ingredients are not that important right? It's worth trying though.

Turkey Swiss mushroom grilled cheese is supposed to add a unique item to the menu, but I really didn't think it had any elevated complex flavor. I'm not a huge fan of Swiss and some places have several items that help compliment the swiss so it's not so strong. Unless you are trying to highlight the Swiss cheese, then I would either add something to it or decrease the amount of cheese.

Lastly is the Sliders. This is the dish that saves them to get the third star. The meat is cooked well and more importantly seasoned well. The meat still has nice juices inside and the condiments of spicy green chilies with an avocado mayo give it a really nice flavor. They added nice flavor and crunch with the crispy onions. I would easily order this again and happily eat it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Birmingham, MI - Zazios; We tried three appetizers: brussels sprouts, calamari, and seared scallops. These were a perfect beginning to the meal. If we would have stopped here, I would have easily given it four stars, maybe even five. The brussels sprouts were the best I've had in other places. They were perfectly roasted and crispy. The insides were still hot and soft while the outsides were charred and crispy. I wish I knew how to prepare it this way. They had a bit of saltiness to it with it lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar. You have specific expectations for calamari, particularly one is that it is not overcooked, transforming the texture into rubber. However, they cooked it correctly and were delicious. The breading was light and not overpowing, but also had a slight bit of heat. Nothing to burn the mouth, but for you to say, hmm, I think there is some spice there. Lastly, the seared scallops. The scallops were also perfectly cooked and nicely browed on each side. It just lacked some texture.

We tried three entrees, starting with the Seared australian barramundi. It was seared and crispy on one side nicely. It's a mild fish, which is probably why it has enough spices on it. I think it's good, but I wouldn't get it again. It was nice to try something new, but not worth the price.

Second entree was the Braised short rib. It's well prepared, very tender, but unfortunately, just mediocre. The flavors just don't wow you. The potatoes, well, they're mashed potatoes, nothing else to write about.

The last entree was the Garganelli. It was probably the more interesting dish of the three. The flavors work well together with the prosciutto giving it a bit of saltiness and the cheese the savory heartiness.

They finished on a good note securing their three star rating. We ordered the Semifreddo, a fantastic delicious dessert. It was chocolate hazelnut with just the right texture and just the right sweetness.

The server also mentioned they would try to make any dish vegetarian if they could. It's nice to see that they are trying to accommodate dietary needs.

I would return for appetizers and dessert, not sure for dinner again though.