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Posts Tagged ‘restaurant reviews’

It must be something about fall that pulls us into Logan. (Maybe it’s the autumnal orange walls that we’re drawn to?) Last year around this time, you may recall that Maria wrote a mostly positive review of the restaurant, based on visits by all G3 of us. I regret to report that on a recent visit, Logan didn’t live up to the promise we had experienced last year.

The initial drink order got our evening off to a rocky start. I ordered a Gibson martini, which I don’t consider to be a “specialty” cocktail, and so didn’t spell out what makes a Gibson a Gibson. (For the curious: it’s garnished with a cocktail onion instead of an olive.) After a longish wait, close to 10 minutes, our server brought our cocktails, though she brought me a Gimlet, not a Gibson. Made of vodka (or gin) and lime juice, a Gimlet and a Gibson are visually distinct. Our server didn’t realize that the bartender had gotten it wrong. I politely sent it back, after which she returned to say that they had no cocktail onions. Strike 2. So I just ordered a martini with a twist. All said, from the moment we sat down until I received my drink, a half hour had gone by.

Not a showstopper, but a bumpy and irksome beginning. The amuse bouche (French for “amuse the mouth”) was really yummy . . . but it was the same amuse bouche I was served a year ago: potato leek soup, this time garnished with olive oil, not the truffle oil garnish I enjoyed last time. As my boyfriend might say, this might be a Sign of the Times: with the economy in shambles, perhaps drizzling truffle oil on soup is just Something That Is Not Done in restaurants these days. Fine; I’ll let that pass. Yet an amuse bouche is supposed to show off the creativity of the chef; this one amused my mouth last year.

For an appetizer, we ordered the night’s special, braised pork belly, which displayed pleasing autumnal flavors of pork, carrot, turnip, and parsley. It evoked pot roast–in a good way. Why the vegetables were sculpted into little orange and white polka dots with a melon baller, I’m still not sure. The Logan Salad, which I loved last time, is still a very solid dish. I ordered the mini size, which is a perfect portion–about two handfuls of greens, lightly dressed with sherry vinaigrette and smoky garlic chips. (On our way home, when I asked E what he liked best from our dinner, he chose the salad, and I agreed.)

We liked our entrees well enough, but my dish was stronger than E’s. I ordered the leg of lamb “steak” with a garlicky yogurt sauce that was dusted with fennel pollen, and accompanied by a delicious ragout of fennel and artichoke. I was really happy with the flavors and presentation; it paired nicely with the glass of Chateauneuf de Pape the sommelier had suggested. E ordered the Wild Boar Bolognese, on the server’s recommendation. We could tell that the sauce had all sorts of lovely richness going on; however, the flavor was unfortunately diluted by the water that wasn’t fully drained from the fresh pasta.

I do like the wine list a great deal at Logan, and I also like that the sommelier visits each table. (If you’re young and look like you won’t be buying a bottle from the spendier part of the menu, he will likely spend a lot less time at your table.) The sommelier suggested pairings that we both enjoyed a great deal; however, his suggestions were delivered in the same way that I recalled from the last time I was there. For me, it was a glass that he only had enough for one more serving. For E, it was something that wasn’t on the menu yet. I can understand wanting to make the experience of ordering wine seem special, but this just didn’t feel authentic to me since the spiel was a repeat.

At the end of big meal, you’re usually feeling pretty satisfied. Maybe not completely stuffed, but you’ve got a little good-food-and-wine-buzz going on, and you’d like to linger on this moment a bit. The table has been cleared, you’re finishing the last of your glass of wine, and if you’re on a date, perhaps you’re holding hands with your sweetie or at least looking into his or her eyes . . . and then the server, if you’re at Logan, approaches the table with a big round tray of desserts and starts presenting them to like Vanna White selling vowels. Yes, I’m no fan of the dessert tray. Please, keep the sweets in the kitchen until I’ve decided to have some. It ruins the moment and seems inelegant to be presented with a tray of sample desserts to “tantalize” us.

I anticipate some of you might be thinking I sound kind of snobby here. Or, you’re thinking, we’re in Ann Arbor — what do you expect? Or, perhaps some of you are in agreement–it’s too expensive for what you get, as Mom mentioned in the comments the other day. While I can’t afford to dine out like this often, I do like to do so once in awhile, for a special occasion or date. And I will spend what it costs to get dressed up and eat great food and enjoy great service. Too often, however, I find that service is mediocre and inauthentic. Small details go unnoticed. And, as with many things, the devil is in the details. Logan, I’m afraid, over promises and under-delivers.

What do you think? What kind of dining experience should we expect in Ann Arbor? Should our expectations be different from restaurants in big cities?

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Anne, Maria and Shana have all separately ended up at Logan within the past few months. Regular readers of this blog (hello you brave and few) have probably noticed that we tend not to be kind to Ann Arbor restaurants. I don’t think we’re cruel, but we are often, well, disappointed. Perhaps we’re practicing our guilt-inducing parenting skills. But the restaurants are like head-strong teenagers. They don’t seem to notice, or if they do, they don’t care.

We really do like to be nice, though. So it’s with great pleasure that I can report that all of us left Logan quite happy and determined to return.

My visit was to celebrate an anniversary. We had last been to Logan almost three years earlier when it first opened and were pleased and surprised that they remembered us (we’re also downtown on foot a whole lot, so we may just have been familiar faces). Due to a rare set of circumstances, John and I had also gone out the night before, and, giddy with our freedom, had eaten and drunk a little too much, so we were inclined toward eating light (just to keep in mind while reviewing our menu). (more…)

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It’s a long time since the “tomorrow” that I intended to write. We’ve been on the road, en famille, down to Charlottesville, VA and back, and then several days at home during which John painted and I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. And did some cooking (post on that to come — with pictures even!). This could be a post which muses on all the good restaurants in Charlottesville and wonders why that small-ish university city manages to support such a range of good places while our small-ish university city . . . but I’m not going to go there.

I will though, give a special mention to The Blue Ridge Pig, hole in the wall, mustard style barbecue, side of baked beans and mustard slaw, sort of place. John and I liked it all very much; Naomi was disappointed by the mustard-ness and spiciness. Both she and Nick wolfed down the beans.

And I have to say a little about Bizou, a sort of bistro on the downtown pedestrian mall with a small and frequently changing menu of “up-scale down-home” cooking. Inside it’s diner casual, with red booths and table-side juke-boxes, and old movie posters on the wall. It’s totally unfussy and unpretentious and the kind of place where it was OK for the kids to go stand in front of the open kitchen and watch the chefs on the line. The food is prepared with love and imagination. For an appetizer, I lusted after the creamy grits with bacon and chantarelles, but we ordered the goat cheese and tapenade bread plate as more friendly to all ages at the table. Nick learned the thrill of a good tapenade, using his baguette as a transportation device for moving large blobs of the stuff to his mouth then holding up the increasingly soggy slice with a plaintive “Mama! More!” For entrees we had a perfectly cooked roast pork loin on a bed of risotto style orzo with jambalaya sausage and a tomato broth and a wonderfully spiced but not spicy coconut curry with mussels and scallops. Even skeptical Naomi liked the curry broth, although she deemed her plate of calamari “too fancy” (meaning not fried enough). I believe there was a lovely chocolate mousse for dessert; at least the evidence of my kids’ faces and spoons would indicate so, but since I was in the bathroom when it was delivered and the bowl was empty when I sat down again, I can’t say for sure. (I exaggerate. I got some and it was great, but it did turn the children, particularly the littlest, into ravening beasts).

Much to my delight, Nick’s visit to Bizou was also the occasion of his learning the word cooking (at twenty months, it was high time). Back home at our cabin in the woods next morning, he dragged the pots and pans into a line on the floor, crammed his Easter Bunny into a stew pot and stirred it with a wooden spoon with great concentration muttering “coooooooking” to himself. At one point he frowned, got up and fetched his small plastic elephant and added it to the pot with a vigorous stir. He seemed pleased with the results, and brought each of us in turn a spoonful and watched us “taste” it with great anxiety until we each said “mmmmm.” He is his parent’s child.

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I was starting to put together this post with some brief thoughts about food and eating in Ann Arbor when the blog-surfing Shana pointed out the voluminous commentary on annaborisoverated.com about the quality of the food experience in Ann Arbor. The post and the reactions were exciting to us here at G3 because it was exactly the ambivalence reflected in the commentary that got us started on all this. Ann Arbor is a GREAT food town! Ann Arbor is perpetually in the culinary doldrums of mediocrity! It is SO challenging to eat well here! It is SO easy to eat well here. And so on. We’ve been taking a little while to get this blog in shape (come on people, we have day jobs. We have scholarly publishing to do and digital libraries to build. There are children to care for and aged relatives to visit. You think we spend all our time thinking about food? Well, we pretty much do, but not writing about it) but we are dedicated to exploring both our frustrations and our excitement about cooking and eating in this town (and a few other towns as well). Hope we can get some of that aaisoverated energy going here.
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The food is just never as good as the wine.

The Earle is romantic and cozy, particularly in winter and particularly in the wine bar. The wine list is probably the best in town and the prices for bottles are very reasonable. I almost always have a great bottle there. But I am also always wishing the food measured up. There’s nothing wrong with it, and I don’t mind that it’s traditional French and Italian, but I just want it to sparkle a little more. The bruschetta was a little bit too much like slices of Texas toast. The linguine with garlic sausage was overwhelmed by the sausage; there was a whole pile of it left after we had eaten the pasta. The skirt steak with roasted potatoes and saute-ed green beans was very nice, and I expect that’s what the Earle does best: nice cuts of meat. I return to the Earle once or twice a year thinking it will be a great place for a bottle of wine and some small plates to go with it. But, in truth, it just seems to be a great place for a bottle of wine.

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On Saturday night, John and I went to Melange for dinner with Mark and Claire. This was a pretty big night out for us (no kids!), so the restaurant was going to have to bear some extra burden to justify our investment. I think my response, for good and for ill, is pretty fair (and shared by Mark and Claire who’s children are grown up, so they’re foot loose and fancy free and not nearly as worried about choosing the Right Restaurant). Claire and John both did their research before we went and told us that the reviews said to try the River Rock and avoid the duck. Mark advanced the theory that the duck was the thing to order because restaurants read the reviews too, and so the kitchen would be trying really extra hard on the duck. John said all he cared about what was the rumor that they used Reidel O wine glasses and he’s been wanting to try those. (more…)

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Lunch today at Silvio’s pizza on North U. This is becoming one of my favorite places for lunch. It’s close to work, it’s creative, it’s organic (so I get to feel good about a lunch with cheese in it), and it’s got a great mix of fast-food decor and slow-food sensibility. Silvio’s serves sandwiches and pasta and calzone, but the main event is the organic pizza, in a variety of styles and flavors. Today, I virtuously ate a single slice of mushroom and a cup of lackluster minestrone. Shameless Perry had the stuffed potato and sausage with cream sauce, and vegetarian Jim had a slice of eggplant and something else I fogot to note. We all liked it.
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