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I’m not quite sure where I first ran into Brad Greenhill, but I do know Shana introduced us.  In the period of recovery from my accident, I was struck by the idea that I wanted to throw a big thank you dinner for the many really wonderful friends who had helped me through the roughest period and Shana said she’d like to cohost and (bright girl) “we should get my friend Brad to cook. He’s doing some of the best cooking in town.” Sold! Next thing I knew, we were chatting over my dining room table, talking plates and counting vegetarians. And then next thing I know, Brad was standing in my kitchen on a Saturday night, calm and collected and turning out a miracle of a dinner for 18 people. Ok, there may have been a drop or two of sweat on his brow but in spite of that he produced CARROT SOUP with hazlenut, nigella, yogurt, and mint,CECI BEANS dressed with sesame, jalepeno, meyer lemon, scallion, and OMG RAVIOLI short rib, rojo (Brad’s patented red sauce), fiore sardo and basil and DEVIL’S CHICKEN aleppo (shown, in all its glory, above), salsa verde, warm bread salad and OLIVE OIL CAKE with a citrus glaze. The guests were generous in bringing wine, and there was good food and friendly conversation until all hours, and though I felt there was little I could do to repay the amazing generosity of my friends during my time of need, I ended up feeling like dinner by Brad was a pretty good start. Love and a fuly laden table . . . they do go together, don’t they?

Since that first meal, I’ve made a small hobby of stalking Brad’s cooking. and luckily he hasn’t made it or himself hard to find. He’s been doing “Pop-up” dinners around town, located in some interesting venues and full of small and tasty surprises. You can find out about them at his website,  (one coming up soon at the late. lamented Jefferson Market)where he is also kind enough to share a few recipes including one for that trademark rojo

We joined several friends at his Jefferson Market dinner in April, where we ate:

SAIGON TOAST
pig face pâté, pickled roots, sriracha aioli, cilantro

63° QUAIL EGG
fiddleheads, pea tendrils, anchovy

CHARRED CARROTS
green garlic, aleppo, lemon oil, crumbs

RABBIT RILLETTE
apple, celery root, hay, ‘shrooms

SHEEP’S ASS GNOCCHI
ewe’s milk, ramps, black pepper

PORCHETTA
braised coronas, arugula, lemon, horseradish

PETIT GATEAU
salt caramel, brown butter, sage

 And drank and chatted with a room ull of loud and happy townies and felt, ourselves, glad to live in Ann Arbor where such things are possible. Another night in April, we went to dinner at 327 Braun Court, a space in Ann rbor new to me, as was much of the food, but in both cases I fervently hope those first weren’t lasts. More onsen eggs please!
The “About Brad” section o his web site tells us:”Brad has been cooking professionally for over 13 years. He first cut his chops in various Ann Arbor restaurants before joining his friend Michael Berardino in the two-man kitchen team behind Carmen, in Boston’s North End. During his tenure, the restaurant’s cuisine was featured in The New York Times, Bon Appetit and Gourmet in addition to receiving two “Best of Boston” awards. Over the last seven years he has chosen to work under the radar: hosting underground dining events and catering for small, private parties and weddings. His influences are the cuisines of Italian-America, Southern bbq, Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean and McDonald’s. (Can’t wait to see what he does with the big Mac concept).Brad’s dinners are usually served in two seatings. If you want to linger late, you are encouraged to sign up for the later seating.  Tickets are available online and are one price and have the option of beverage pairings (more on that icoming up).So, great fun for me at these dinners has been partaking of the cocktail pairings. Although I have known and loved wine pairings for a long time now, I had never considered cocktail pairings, and I now see they give a little more room to roam, and a bit  more chance for surprise, than wine. The mixologists Brad has hooked up with have done some lovely things with herbs, bitters and fruit juices. They make the food seem even better.Which is a tall order as it’s pretty darn good, cocktails aside.  The thing I want to call out especially about Brad’s cooking is the variety and novelty of the flavors. Consider the ASPARAGUSwith morels, kerisik, mint, and lime from the Braun Court dinner.  At one point there was a conversation at our table that went: (mouth full of asparagus bite) “What’s going on in here?” and (second mouth also full) “I don’t know, but I really like it.” A little while later, I noticed both my table and Shana’s had diners studying their i-phones as we looked up new ingredients like kerisik (coconut butter, turns out). I want to call Brad’s food challenging, but I’m afraid that might suggesst its hard to eat, which it isn’t all. It’s challenging in the sense of not being familiar. The tastes are new and that’s why I love them, and I venture even some of the most jaded palates will feel the same.
a perk of patronizing Brad’s dinners is that he’s doing some nice work with other local businesses. He sources wine from Everyday wine and attractive floral decorations from Pot and Box, and of course he’s giving exposure to those venues like Braun Court and The Jefferson Market. Eat good food and dsupport our local folks at the same time. Bonus!In an email chat bout his start in cooking, Brad reminisced a bit about his time in Boston  and then said “After about two years there I began getting burned out and queestioned whether or not I wanted to be or am a chef. I felt a bit of pressure, be it societal or how I was brought up that i needed to be more than that in life. In those days being a cook / chef didn’t have the “cool” cultural cache and level of career acceptance it does now. . . . right about that time  books like Soul of the Chef, Kitchen Confidential and the Food Network started to bloom. Anyway I left the business and started my current web business. I vowed one day I’d be back but on my own terms and with my own restaurant / bar, which is something I’ve wanted to have since I was in college.” Me. I’m glad those questions had an answer that led to my eating Brad’s food, and I kinda hope the restaurant works out in Ann rbor, so I get to keep doing so.

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Mint MniHello there. Long time. Or, as one regular reader said to me “again withe fava beans.” Yes, the favas have hung out on the home page a long time. Things happen, you know? Like, this happened: a little over a year ago, I woke up on a beautiful spring morning and had my usual Saturday morning consultation with my domestic and cooking partner. “shall we go to the market?” — “Yes! it’s spring.” — “What shall we eat tonight?” –“How about grilled duck breasts and asparagus?” — “Yes! It’s spring!” — “Shall we ride bikes?” — “Yes! It’s spring!” So, filled with the joy of the season, we hopped on the bikes and headed toward Kerrytown and to the Saturday market. We had just turned a corner at good speed when my pedal clipped the curb and, seconds later, my bike went over and do did I. One damaged brain, one snapped clavicle, one shattered elbow, one ambulance ride and emergency surgery later, I, well, almost died. And then there were weeks and months of almost dying and recovering from almost dying and in that time, no cooking and certainly no blogging. One of the other victims of my accident was my appetite and for weeks I could not eat without being ill. This, despite friends and family ferrying me food (thank you Shana!) to balance the hospital grub.
Flash forward a year. It’s spring again, and I am whole and intact, (if a bit slower than I used to be) and hopeful. While I was gone, my much loved blogging partners went on living and living well but not blogging (I like to think they just couldn’t do it without me). Our co-conspirator, Anne, moved to a Big City on the East Coast, where we like to think of her cooking with exotic ingredients and enjoying fabulous restauraunt meals. Shana and I had a long confab over drinks a couple of weeks ago and talked about how we both missed the old blog and how it even seemed like some readers missed us. Conclusion: “let’s try again!” So, we will, though it may be a slow road back. I think we’ll remain three for now, although there are only two of us (Anne, we miss you). Who knows, a third may find her way to us,

So, what’s cooking? Well, last Saturday, on a beautiful spring morning, my domestic partner and I decided it was time to celebrate life and explore the meal not eaten, so we headed up to the market (on foot this time!), stocked up on duck breast and some of the season’s first aspargus (oh yeah, and a great bottle of rioja) and came home to cook and shake our fists at mortality.

The accident also took out my left aka dominant aka chopping hand, so there’s a bit of a crimp in my cooking style, but I can still turn out a meal, especially when i can dragoon someone else (see domestic partner, above) to chop onions. I assume most of you could figure out a grilled duck breast and some blanched asparagus, but I did want to pass on a recipe and praise for a mustard mint sauce for the duck because a) I wouldn’t have thought of it on my own b) it is a bright and interesting combination of flavors, c) it was yummy and d) if your garden is anything like mine, the mint has taken on an exaggerated life of its own and must be eaten before overgrowing the house.

This recipe comes by way of the almost-always-helpful-about-meat-Bobby-Flay. It’s recommended as a father’s day dinner.  We didn’t wait that long, and although it would be a fine way to spoil a dad, I recommend that you don’t either. Why deprive yourself?  While normally, I would add helpful commentary, I’ll paste this in as is because we followed the letter of the instructions and it was both easy and verty tasty:

Grilled Duck Breast with Mustard Mint Sauce

Serves: 4

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 duck breasts, extra fat trimmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Whisk together the mustard, horseradish, mint and salt and pepper in a small bowl, cover and let sit at room temperature while you cook the duck.

2. Heat grill to medium. Season duck on both sides with salt and pepper. Place a drip pan on top of the coals and fill halfway with water. Place the breasts on the grill, over the pan, skin-side down and grill until golden brown and lots of the fat has rendered, about 8-10 minutes. Flip over and continue grilling until cooked to medium doneness. Remove from the grill and let rest 5 minutes. Cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices. Drizzle with some of the mustard sauce.

Now go pick some of that mint and enjoy.  Much has happened in Ann Arbor food while I’ve been out of circulation, and I have Things to Say. I hope I get to share them with you soon,

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capp

I don’t know about you, but my least favorite kind of blog post is the kind that apologizes for being away from the blog for so long. While I feel all kinds of remorseful for not stopping by here for two whole seasons, I’d like to dispense with the “what I’ve been doing these past months” and say that it’s nice to be here, and that I’ve missed this space.

While I get back into the hang of taking photos of food, not to mention reacquainting myself with my kitchen and meal-planning and cookbooks — I’m woefully out of practice, folks — I hope that those of you who are on Twitter will follow my food-related account, shanaeats. It’s been fun to update — in brief, and on the go — my eating adventures around town and beyond, as well as share links and ideas.

The above photo was taken of me sipping a cappuccino at Ann Arbor’s Comet Coffee, my favorite place to get my morning, afternoon, and weekend caffeine fix. I hope that this first bracing winter-esque day finds you sipping something equally warm and comforting.

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discount code

This is a quick note to say that the good folks at Zingerman’s are sharing a family & friends discount code to friends of The Gastronomical Three. So if you want to send your sweet mama something sweet from Ann Arbor, here’s your chance to do so and save a little dough.

Use the secret code LOVEMOM and get 20% off your order.

Check out the details over at Zingerman’s Mail Order.

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Just a quick note to pass on a bit of local food celebrity news that I gleaned this morning at Diner for a Day: local cake artist Heather Anne Leavitt will be on the Food Network Challenge this evening at 8pm, along with Courtney Clark of Cake Nouveau. Check it out!

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I’m on my own this week, as Lenny has gone down to New Orleans to visit family (he’s been posting photos of oyster po-boys and such on his Facebook to make everyone jealous). In any event, that hasn’t stopped me from soothing my post-holiday/return-to-workweek blues with some good eating when I get home at night. Last night, in an attempt to use up items in the pantry and leftover bits in the fridge, I decided I needed to make a Salad Nicoise. I had most of the ingredients (that I wanted to include) on hand, and picked up a baguette and a couple extras at Busch’s. While I had a can of oil packed tuna in the pantry, Busch’s actually had some decent looking vacuum-packed tuna steaks, in small enough portions (1/3 lb or so) that I decided to buy one of those and cook it myself.

I looked at a couple recipes online really briefly before I left work – and there are a lot of slight variations on a pretty standard theme out there – but this is what I came up with:

the leafy parts of romaine lettuce leaves, torn
4 or 5 thick slices of cucumber, cut in half
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 hard boiled egg, cut into 8 slices
1 white boiling potato, cut into 8 pieces
2 whole artichoke hearts (from a can) chopped
a handful of nicoise olives, pitted
4 rolled anchovy fillets
1/3 lb tuna  – salt and pepper, sear on both sides, slice

I’m not a big green bean fan unless they are pretty much just-picked, summer-y fresh, so I didn’t include, although that is one of the staple ingredients. Oh well.

Nicolas Aliziari Olive Oil from Nice

For the dressing, I made a simple vinaigrette of lemon juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil (the last drops of a liter of Nicolas Alziari olive oil from Nice – a Christmas gift from last year), plus some chopped fresh thyme, salt & pepper, which I drizzled on top of the salad.

It took a bit of time to put it together, but it was especially satisfying after a month of eating a lot of rich and heavy holiday meals.

Anne's Salad Nicoise

Anne's Salad Nicoise

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All Sorts of Celebration


Sometime in the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the streets begin to empty, the stores shut down, the lights go on in houses, and we are in the quiet of Christmas week.  I love this point in the holidays, when silence falls upon the town and the hustle and bustle fall away. We snuggle, we settle in,  we celebrate.

At my house there’s feasting of various sorts, butternut squash soup, smoked duck breast, good cheese, dark beer, or, another night, crab cakes and lamb and scalloped potatoes and chocolate souffle. For some, there is  time for running and saunas and reading. For others, “Peter in the Pan” ( a misnomer I like to think indicates my three year old’s culinary interests) and more trucks than we know what to do with. And, for one of us, the unalloyed joy of chasing ducks. For all of these, we are most grateful.

Here’s wishing that our readers who celebrate Christmas had a merry one and that those who don’t find this quiet time rich in pleasures. Whatever form they take.

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