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Archive for the ‘The Joy of Not Cooking (Ann Arbor Take-out)’ Category

The Community Farm of Ann Arbor’s affiliate, the Community Farm Kitchen (see my post from about a year ago), is introducing a new program this winter – the Community Farm Bakery. From Mary Wessel Walker, who runs the CFK:

“… sign up soon for the CFK Bakery, which will be running for the months of January and February.  Bakery pick ups will be Tuesday afternoons at the Ann Arbor Masonic Temple, located on West Liberty.  You don’t have to be part of the Community Farm or the CFK to participate in the Bakery. A two-item subscription to the Bakery is only $96 for eight weeks!”

The offerings will change weekly and will include breads, muffins, cookies, granola and more – and if you’ve ever tasted Mary’s pumpkin bread  – well, that bread alone is worth the price of the subscription! <wink>

To join you can email info@communityfarmkitchen.com. For more information on share options, pickup location, etc., check out the CFK Bakery homepage.

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Those of you who are up on the Ann Arbor food scene will know this already, but two of the talented young chefs from the late and much lamented Lunch at Everyday Cook have joined forces to set up a gourmet take-out and catering operation, A Knife’s Work.  They’re in the early stages yet — their web site is just up and running, and they seem to be distributing only out of Everyday Wines in Kerrytown, but they are cooking, and their changing weekly menu that is seasonally and locally inspired looks very promising.  John and I were lucky to wander into Everyday Wines on Friday afternoon and happen upon the introductory special with all dishes half off.  We picked up one entree to share between the two of us (eaten in between managing trick-or-treaters both incoming and outgoing). One entree hardly qualifies as criteria for a review, but let me call this an excited and favorable mention.  In other words, the smoked paprika braised pork shoulder with amontillado sherry and stewed white beans was really good. As in we each took a somewhat harried bite, suddenly slowed down and went mmmmm.

At a list price of fourteen dollars, the pork isn’t cheap take-out (at the introductory rate of seven dollars it felt like a steal). The first week’s menu ranges from six dollars for soup to nine dollars for salad up to eighteen dollars for lamb shanks.  But, for people like us, who, um, don’t get out much*, it’s a reasonable price for a nice meal that we don’t have to cook. Mary at Everyday Wines is happy to suggest wine pairings; with the pork we had a nice French Bordeaux. One entree is generous; it might be a little light for two, but with a green salad from home and a dessert of York Peppermint Patties and Snickers (hey, it was Halloween), it was just right.

I’m happy to see a new addition to the Ann Arbor dining possibilities and looking forward to trying more.

Random Fall Flavor; Too Busy on Halloween to Take Pictures

Random Fall Flavor; Too Busy on Halloween to Take Pictures

*Witness some chatter between me, Anne and Shana on “what did you do Friday night?”  Shana: We went to Logan and watched the Halloween scene downtown. Anne: We had dinner at Cafe Habana and checked out the Halloween cabaret at The Blind Pig. Maria: We put Nick to bed and watched  Return of the Jedi. One of these things is not like the other.

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IMG_4728.JPG Michael and I showed up for the first time at La Zamaan the day after the glowing Bix Engels review appeared in the Ann Arbor Observer in early December. Upon reading Bix’s tales of the freshest, most authentic Middle Eastern food around, we knew there was only one thing we could do: head to La Zamaan and stuff ourselves. While I’ve found that some reviews in the Observer are a bit more charitable than are warranted, I am here to confirm that the La Zamaan review is well-deserved; Ann Arborites, you no longer need to schlep to Dearborn for your Middle Eastern fix.

For the sake of contrast, let me tell you what La Zamaan is not. There is a Middle Eastern restaurant on South University, just a three minute walk from my office, whose spinach-halloumi salad I fell in love with a while ago. Really fresh, really delicious, and topped with a house-made vinaigrette of lemon juice, oregano, sumac and olive oil. I was a regular for a few months, until one day I went in and ordered the spinach-halloumi salad and they quietly substituted feta for halloumi. An honest mistake, I thought. The next time I went, my spinach-halloumi salad appeared with feta again. When I asked the cook about it, instead of giving me what I ordered, asked, “What’s wrong, you don’t like feta?” When I tried to explain that my relative affection for feta was beside the point, he scoffed, and said that most people like feta better than halloumi.

I can’t imagine this scene repeating itself at La Zamaan, on South State Street, in the space formerly occupied by Pilar’s Cafe. It’s halfway between the Produce Station and Howard Cooper. Its culinary location, however, is closer to Beirut. Ali Hijazi, the restaurant’s owner, tells us that he is eager to create an authentic experience for his customers — providing a robust menu of standard Middle Eastern fare, supplemented with fresh, seasonal delicacies that will be available on a limited basis. It’s a recipe that seems to be proving successful so far.

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Front to back: hummus, grape leaves, karnabeet, fattoush

IMG_4733.JPGOn that first visit, we were greeted by a buzzing crowd of curious lunchtime customers, a harried chef, an even more harried waiter, phones ringing with take-out orders, and heavenly aromas from the kitchen. There are only about 8 tables in the place, and we were lucky to grab a small table for two. Our first two choices for appetizers, spinach pies and kibbeh, were sold out — the kitchen couldn’t keep up with demand, spurred by the Observer review. They had just hired two more employees to help out in the kitchen, one of whom was happy to pose for us when we came back on a quieter night (right).

Admittedly, the decor isn’t much to look at, and every time the doors open — which is quite frequent — the cold Michigan air disrupts any Mediterranean reveries you may indulge in. Nonetheless, this restaurant is warm and inviting — it’s the kind of place you want to tell your friends about, your neighbors, your co-workers. The kind of place that is inspiring a bit of cult-ish loyalty — maybe even a bit of an addiction. Witness G3 guest-blogger Eric’s account of a recent visit:

On my way there, the two cars driving in front of me, turned into the parking lot. I looked in the rear view mirror to see if the cars behind me were going there too. I got out of my car, and there was a guy getting into his car and he said to me, are you going in there to eat? And I responded, yeah, why? Did you eat all the food? And he said, no, just be careful, the food’s so good you might not want to leave. Ever. And then he laughed a crazed and diabolical laugh. Thanks for the invite to dinner, but I’m not going to be able to make it. The bottom line is I can’t wait until tomorrow or Wednesday to go back.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what accounts for such devotion among the customers, but I’m happy to keep pursuing the elusive formula. I’ve tasted pretty widely during my visits and takeout adventures: hummus, falafel, baba ghannouj, fattoush salad, grape leaves, stuffed cabbage stuffed baby squash (special dishes, not on the menu), chicken tawook, kibbeh, and my hands-down favorite, karnabeet. The house specialty, karnabeet is the most transcendent cauliflower dish I’ve ever tasted. Lightly fried till golden brown, drizzled with tahini sauce, and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds . . . I want some now.

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Simply put, the food is done really well, the portions are generous, and the dishes are reasonably priced. We really love the combo for two — which includes 2 tawook, 1 kefta, 6 falafels, hummus, roasted red peppers, fattoush, and rice — for about 23 dollars. IMG_4723.JPG I’m not sure what they’re doing to their rice, besides adding vermicelli and butter, but it is fluffy and light and surprisingly standout. The portions are generous enough that two people will likely take home some of this platter in to-go boxes. I ordered the “Pita Combo” for delivery at lunch one day — (pita bread with falafel, hummus, baba, and mujuddarah, along with garlic sauce and tahini sauce), which was so abundant that I got 2.5 lunches out of it. Despite the glut, save room for dessert — baklava from Shatila bakery.
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Finally, two caveats: The first two times we had the tawook, it was accompanied by grilled tomatoes and onions. The most recent time, the tomatoes were not grilled, which was a shame, considering they are so out of season right now. I would heartily recommend that the restaurant put off serving anemic tomatoes altogether. The pita bread is also a disappointment — the standard fare that is typically sourced from New Yasmeen bakery in Dearborn. Though Ali mentioned the other night that they’re interested in trying to make their own bread in-house. I’m looking forward to that and other innovations coming out of the kitchen at La Zamaan; although I’d be perfectly happy if things there don’t change much at all.

La Zamaan
2285 S. State St.
734-761-5800
Mon-Sat 10:30am – 9:00pm
Sun 12:00pm – 4:00pm
Dine-in, carry-out, delivery (limited area/$20 minimum)

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Recently, I met a woman through work who is new to town. Our first conversation quickly turned to that sometimes engaging, sometimes agonizing topic: Ann Arbor restaurants. She was looking for recommendations for my favorite weekday dinner spots — places you can get a meal for under 15 dollars (not including wine or tip). I find that AA is particularly challenging in this range, but here are a few quick ideas along these lines.

  • Paradise Restaurant, in the Colonnade shopping center on Eisenhower, fits this bill perfectly. A bowl of pho (about 8 bucks), some spring rolls or potstickers, and you have yourself a delicious Vietnamese meal. The proprietors, Vicki and Allen, have been running this multi-asian (Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese dishes all on offer) for about 8 years, and from the way they are greeted by their customers — hugs, questions about their daughter, effusive compliments — they’ll be around quite a while longer.
  • I’m a fan of two Thai restaurants, Tuptim, on Washtenaw towards Ypsilanti, and a new place that just opened at the corner of Main and Williams next to the BP station, Marnee Thai. Tuptim is a bit of a haul for me, since I live on the West side of AA, but Marnee Thai is nearly as good. It’s a good sign that when I picked up a takeout order last Wednesday at Marnee Thai, there wasn’t an empty seat in the place. Their prices are roughly the same (around 10-12 bucks for coconut curry).
  • I like Kosmo’s in Kerrytown and University Café on Church St for bi bim bop and other Korean fare, though Kosmo’s is a funky diner/lunch counter that stays open till 9pm and has typical lunch counter offerings in addition to its Korean ones. Bi bim bop will set you back about 8 bucks at both places.
  • Burgers and fries at Café Zola. The absolute best in town; french fries are hand cut and served in a milkshake cup. Comes in at $14, easily enough for two to share.

What are your picks for weekday dinners out in Ann Arbor?

Paradise Restaurant
883 W. Eisenhower (Colonnade)
930–1988
Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.–11 p.m.; Sat. noon–11 p.m.

Tuptim
http://www.tuptim.com/
4896 Washtenaw
528–5588
Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–2 p.m. & 5–9:30 p.m.
Sat. & Sun. noon–9:30 p.m.

Marnee Thai
414 S. Main
929–9933
Mon.–Thurs. 11:15 a.m.–2:30 p.m. & 5:30–9:30 p.m.,
Fri. 11:15 a.m.–2:30 p.m. & 5:30–10 p.m., Sat. 11:15 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 5:30–9:30 p.m.

Kosmo’s Deli
407 N. Fifth Ave. (Kerrytown Shops)
668–4070
Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

University Cafe
621 Church
662–7162
Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Sat. noon–9:30 p.m. Closed Sun.

Cafe Zola
http://www.cafezola.com/
112 W Washington St
Brunch Hours:
7:00am – 4:00pm daily
(omelettes and waffles not served after 3:00)

Dinner Hours:
5:00 – 10:00pm Sunday through Thursday
5:00 – 11:00pm Friday & Saturday

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My husband Lenny and I recently had a surprisingly lovely evening celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary. The next day he sent an email to some family and friends telling them about the great food (and wine) experience we had. So I thought I’d just steal his text and make it into a post (then Maria and Shana will fall over in disbelief since it looks like I posted twice in one day).

Just thought I’d apprise you all of our great anniversary dinner. After I mowed the lawn and we were sitting on the deck our new neighbor Stefan and his daughter Yo-Yo brought us some very freshly made authentic egg rolls (they’re from Taiwan) that his wife had just cooked. They were AMAZING and we thanked them profusely– those were our ‘appetizers’!

Then we went to Vinology (for which Anuj had given us a gift card at Christmas – thanks Anuj!) and sat outside and had two very nice glasses of wine. Mine was Paoletti, Piccolo Cru and Anne had a crisp Setzer Gruner Veltliner (from Austria).

We went in for dinner where our talented waiter Alec (Russian Jew from Moscow) guided us through our choices of ‘small plates. We had some pan fried chick peas with herbs that were fantastic (now I’m mad I left the rest there), we had a lovely garden salad w/red wine vinaigrette, hazelnuts and goat cheese toast, also a savory white bean bruschetta with garden tomatoes, parmesan that was perfectly garlicky! In addition to these plates we also had a wonderful gnocchi (potato pasta) that was pan-fried with shallots and asparagus – it was
crispy brown around the edges and melted in your mouth!

We accompanied this with a very nice (very tannic) 2005 Bordeaux that was (remarkably) only $31. Alec said it was very good and we should invest in the 2005s because they were only going to get better!

We finished off the dinner with a Blue Franc Lemburge – another very nice, pretty full-bodied.

Just thought I’d make everyone jealous — it was a wonderful night!

Thanks Lenny for the text (and the nice night) – feel free to comment!

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OK, it seems like I never have such rich food-filled weekends (at least lately!). You guys are artists of eating. Can I just tell you how pathetic I am? OK here goes.

Friday night Lenny had rehearsal so I sat drinking the end of a nice cabernet from a few days before and went to all my favorite online shopping sites and put clothing in the shopping carts. I didn’t buy anything. Then I had a delicious dinner of frozen weight watchers lasagna (which I always doctor up with some red pepper flakes, and crumbled dried oregano, plus a lot of extra fresh grated parmesan cheese in order to negate the weight watcher-ness) and I had a salad with sundried tomatoes, mushrooms and pine nuts to go with it. (more…)

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