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Travel: Explore Ann Arbor

    If I told you I’d gone to the city to see a few shows, listen to some impressive live music, catch a cutting-edge film festival, spend time in world-class museums, and chow down on an astonishingly diverse and multicultural dining scene including Cuban, Ethiopian, Mexican, Italian, Asian and Turkish food, you’d probably assume I was talking about a big city. Somewhere like Chicago or Seattle or New York.

 

    When when I tell you I did all that in Ann Arbor, Michigan, you should pay attention. 

 

    Ann Arbor, with a population of around 116,000 and home to sports and academic powerhouse, University of Michigan, rivals big urban destinations in terms of food, entertainment, and culture.

 

    I spent a few days looking, tasting, and exploring. Here’s a roundup of my favorites:

 

Feed Your Mind

    

    Ann Arbor boasts a number of superior museums. The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) offers an impressive collection of fine art and artifacts. Two of my favorite pieces were the Samurai armor in the Asian collection and John Stanley’s “Mt. Hood from the Dalles”, a beautiful landscape painted in 1871 with an iconic view of Mt. Hood from the Columbia River. 

    Another fascinating stop is the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. This state-of-the-art facility, housed in an exquisite Victorian-era Romanesque building complete with turret and Tiffany window, is centered around the late-19th Century and early-20th Century collection of it’s namesake, Francis Kelsey. Some highlights of the more than 100,000 artifacts include Roman glassware, Egyptian masks, and an elaborate sarcophagus. The coffin’s owner, the missing Mummy Djehutymose, has his own popular Twitter feed and Facebook page.

    The nearby Gerald Ford Library Museum and archives is also worth a visit. Primarily a holding place for more than 25 million pages of historical documents pertaining to Ford’s political career and the Cold War era, the center offers an intriguing view of the man, including the story of Ford’s birth and childhood.

 

 

 

Taste the World

    My first meal in Ann Arbor, a Cuban burger and batida ( a frozen concoction of mango, pinaeapple, scoop of ice cream and a splash of dark rum) and a basket of what may be the best fries I’ve ever tasted, at Frita Batidas, set the tone for the rest of the week. Everything was delicious and often unexpected. Some of my other favorites were the Ethiopian Injera (soft bread) and Gomen (collard greens cooked with spices, onions and jalapeno peppers) at Blue Nile and lamb-stuffed grape leaves and cold vegetable salads at Ayse’s Turkish Cafe. Of course, no visit to Ann Arbor counts unless you stop by world-famous Zingerman’s Deli. For beer lovers, there are a growing number of microbreweries in the area and you won’t regret a day spent tasting local brews.

 

Always Entertaining

     Football may draw the crowds in the fall, but Ann Arbor hosts large events throughout the year. Seasonal favorites include the winter Folk Festival, a springtime FestiFools puppetry and public art festival, and a three-week summer festival with art, music, food, and film.  

 

Treasure Hunting

    The number of antiques, collectibles and vintage shops within walking distance of Main Street was a nice surprise. Treasure Mart, in the Kerrytown area near the farmer’s market and Zingerman’s Deli, is a rambling historic building full of all kinds of interesting things. Some of the rooms are decorated and arranged like an antiques mall, others are crammed with goodies strewn on tabletops or piled in corners just waiting to be discovered. 

    Located in the Nickles Arcade, a 1918 covered passage lined with unique shops that make the place feel like a bit of Paris in the mid-west, The Arcadian antiques is a jewel box. Crystal and china line the shelves and the store stocks fine antique furniture, but the highlight is a collection of beautiful estate jewelry.  I watched a couple shop for wedding rings, trying to choose from trays of lovely old diamonds and gemstones.

    I did a lot of window shopping but I didn’t come home empty-handed. At Antelope Antiques and Coins, a funky store on the lower level of a downtown building. I plucked an autographed photo of Woody Herman ($10) out of a box of old photos and postcards, and did a little happy dance when I found a Waterford goblet in my (somewhat obscure) "Kylemore" pattern, for only $15.

 

    Like most travelers, I have a fantasy “I could live here” list in my head made up of places I’ve been and couldn’t forget. After this first visit, Ann Arbor moved to the top of the list. A robust arts scene, a vibrant main street, an energetic farm-to-table movement and a cosmopolitan foodie-friendly ethos, paired with a dedication to preserving the past, makes Ann Arbor, Michigan hard to resist. 

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

 

Dining out, Mason Jar style

After eight years of living in Portland and abroad, Douglas LaBar returned to Cheney, his hometown at the end of the summer of in 2012, opening The Mason Jar two months later. He shared some of his recipes with us.

Mason Jar Hearty Granola

From The Mason Jar, Cheney

4 cups rolled oats

2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

½ cup dark honey

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/3 cup whole almonds

1/3 cup whole hazelnuts

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss oats, cinnamon and salt. Whisk together oil, honey, brown sugar and vanilla until completely combined. Pour honey mixture over oats and use hands to combine, making clumps. Pour mixture onto pan, spreading out evenly. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, flip with spatula and sprinkle almonds and return to oven. Bake for another 5 minutes, remove from oven, flip with spatula and sprinkle with hazelnuts and return to oven. Bake for another 10 minutes, remove from oven, and let cool completely. Sprinkle raisins and cranberries on top and transfer to airtight container.

Note: The Mason Jar uses locally made Wild & Sweet Rich Honey.

Yield: 1 pound

Bruschetta

From The Mason Jar, Cheney

½ cup chevre

10 slices baguette

1 large roasted bell pepper, sliced into ½-inch thick strips

Fresh Basil (15 to 20 leaves)

Balsamic reduction (See below)

Toast baguette. Spread chevre on toasted baguette. Place slices of bell pepper on each toast. Roll basil leaves and julienne them, then sprinkle over baguette. Drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Note: The Mason Jar uses Heron Pond Farms Garlic and Sea Salt Chevre.

Balsamic Reduction

From The Mason Jar, Cheney

1 cup balsamic vinegar

Place balsamic vinegar in small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then let simmer until liquid is reduced by at least half.

Tomato Bisque

From The Mason Jar, Cheney

3 pounds ripe tomatoes

¼ cup chopped onion

½ teaspoon celery seed

1 bay leaf

4 whole cloves

6 ounces tomato paste

¼ cup butter

¼ cup flour

3 cups milk

1 ½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh basil, for garnish

Croutons, for garnish

Core, peel and chop tomatoes, then place in saucepan. Add onion, celery seed, bay leaf and cloves. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes until tomatoes very soft, stirring occasionally. Blend in tomato paste.

In another other saucepan make a rouxrue: melt butter, add flour, and stir with wire whisk until blended.

In a third saucepan bring milk to boil, then add it all at once to roux rue mixture. Stir briskly until sauce is thickened and smooth; season with salt and pepper.

Combine rouxrue/milk mixture with tomato mixture; stir until smooth. Season to taste. Garnish and serve.

Note: Tomato mixture can be made and frozen.

Your favorite summer hangout?

Last week, this shady spot on the Lindaman's patio became my temporary work space.

Where is your favorite patio or deck for summer dining?

Spocasual? Or, Spokasual?

A colleague told me this morning that she heard a local restaurant is advertising "SpoCasual" dining. (Or, is that SpoKasual?)

I'm a little worried about what diners might show up wearing, considering how casual we are with casual dress these days.

What do you think?

 

Is this SpoCasual?

I fear it looks a little more like this:


Love crepes? A new downtown creperie is calling your name, will open in June

Judie and Ryan Sowards are leasing a downtown Spokane storefront for a new Euro-styled creperie called Beignets, in the Crescent Building, at 707 W. Main.

The mother-son team believes Spokane foodies are ready for a place that full-service business that serves thin, French-inspired crepes and other lunch and dinner items. They plan to open the business in June.

Ryan Sowards said the name is meant to convey atmosphere and variety. Diners will be served fresh beignets — deep-fried pastries — before the entree, he said.

They’re leasing 3,800 square feet at in the back side of the building, directly behind Madeleine’s Cafe. It’s The Sowards are taking the space once used by Cucina, Cucina.

They plan to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Stephen Pohl and Jon Jeffreys represented property owner Red Tail LLC. Chris Bell represented the Sowards. All three work with NAI Bla

“Now That’s Progressive”?

We’ve all seen those Progressive commercials with the car insurance shoppers literally “shopping” for car insurance, and the gimmick always seems to be “name your price.”  With a struggling economy, cost has become the primary means of competition among companies, although quality definitely remains a factor as well.

For one London restaurant, “name your price” has become a head turning idea.

Obviously, the U.K. is experiencing a slightly different economic situation than the United States.  A recession is underway, and a “credit crisis” has affected everyone.  The Little Bay restaurant has begun to make waves with its revolutionary pricing.  Like Progressive Car Insurance, The Little Bay restaurant has adopted a “name your price” system.

Peter Ilic, the owner of four restaurants including The Little Bay, encourages his customers to evaluate the meal and service and to pay whatever they feel is appropriate.

Ilic boasts an increase in revenue because of customers’ payment methods.  Many will overpay in an effort not to offend anyone nor to feel embarrassed.

Peter Ilic reiterated his theory as he stated, “It just seemed the right thing to do with everyone under the cash and feeling pretty miserable.”

Yesterday’s free breakfast at Denny’s…

Good morning, Netizens…


Rather than set traps for wolverines or badgers this morning, I turned my rheumy eyes toward one of those icons of American plenty, Denny’s Restaurants. (http://www.dennys.com/en/) Although I cannot personally tolerate the food at Denny’s, as corporate chow nearly always makes me ill, at least it beats roasted wolverine over an open campfire, and I don’t have to discover where I hid my Swiss Army Knife.


Apparently Denny’s had a national advertising campaign which offered free Grand Slam breakfasts yesterday, and judging by the look of this picture, a lot of people decided to take Denny up on their offer. As one Spokane Denny’s manager stated, “When you’re in a recession like this, free counts.”


The South Carolina-based restaurant chain figured they would be giving away over 2 million free Grand Slam breakfasts, excluding the coffee and orange juice, of course. Customers lined up in really long lines at most major cities in the United States to hold Denny’s to their promise. According to the AP at several cities, Denny’s had to hand out rain checks simply because the lines were so long, people were still waiting in line at 2:00 PM, when the deadline expired for this event to conclude.


At least in a state like California, which recently began issuing IOU’s to its creditors, at Denny’s a rain check for a free breakfast is good for something more substantial it would seem.


Not having been born yet, this reminds me of the historied food lines in the Great Depression, except people didn’t eat nearly so well then.


Dave

“Squirrelly” Dining: Cruel or Charitable?

British farmers’ markets, butcher shops, village pubs, and elegant restaurants have become more creative with their cuisine.  Along with the traditional roast beef and chicken, squirrel has graced the menu.  Don’t get Great Britain wrong, though.  This is a proactive approach to maintaining the balance between two squirrel species.

Like the fight between the Trojans and the Spartans in ancient history, the gray squirrels and the red squirrels are competing for superiority and dominance (not to mention survival).  The squirrel species’ ”Trojan War” is alive and competitive all throughout Britain.

Because of the treasured and beloved tales of Beatrix Potter, the red squirrels are cherished by Britain more than the gray squirrels are.  The gray squirrels have the abilities to invade the red squirrels’ habitats and to pass on a deadly virus (parapox) to the reds that does not affect the grays.

Gamekeepers, hunters, and trappers are glad to help in any way posseble.  In fact, they encourage people to eat the squirrel meat so that it is not wasted.

“Save Our Squirrels” is campaign that began in 2006 to protect the red squirrels from their North American cousins.  By eating gray squirrels, the Britains hope to control their squirrel population and help the environment out, too.

The rallying motto for “Save Our Squirrels” goes, “Save a red, eat a gray!”

Do you agree with eating squirrels, even if it appears to be for an environmental cause?