May began for me at the stroke of midnight on the first with a gathering of friends, some new and some old, hosted by James Cadariu, the green coffee buyer and blender for Great Lakes Coffee. And it’s coming to an end shortly, likely with some sort of family gathering over Memorial Day. In between, it’s been a good time for all my gustatory habits.
James poured us a Romanian rosé from Davino that I believe is a blend of cab and merlot aged in stainless. It was delicious, semi-dry stuff with a tremendous amount of body and flavor.
Jared Gild at Western Market in Ferndale has spurred the brilliant addition of a natural meat freezer at the store. From it, I plucked a pound of frozen buffalo meat. It made delicious burgers, closer to a typical beef patty than anything else but much, much lighter feeling. Almost airy, if such a thing is possible.
I decided to play around one night, muddling rhubarb with just a bit of simple syrup and to it adding aquavit, sloe gin, limoncello, and lemon juice. The resulting drink tasted quite a bit like tart cranberry. Something in me likes the paradox in the name “European Cranberry” for the drink, but that’s a mouthful and a rather dull mouthful at that.
I went to Chicago for a wedding, arriving a few days early to sample some of the city’s culinary offerings. The Purple Pig on Michigan Avenue served me a nice glass of burgundy with this whipped goat cheese and roasted beet salad as well as a glass tub of pork rillettes accompanied by toast and preserved apricot.
Dinner that same evening was at Longman & Eagle, where I had a Zabuton of Dietzler Farms beef — essentially a steak prepared sous vide and then seared. It was served over asparagus, morels, and gnocchi with bone marrow on top and a black olive caramel to the side. Yes, black olive caramel. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.
I also drank a few cocktails, including a unique creation of the bartender, Derek, called the Carpathian that consisted of Aperol and Fernet Branca topped with birch beer over ice. It was too strange to pass up (much like the black olive caramel sauce) and too delicious to last more than 5 minutes sitting on the bar in front of me.
I could live entirely off of places within stumbling distance of the blue line of Chicago’s “L.” I wandered parallel to the tracks, down Milwaukee Avenue, until I hit The Whistler, a small cocktail bar serving lovely drinks. I haven’t tried to replicate them yet, but they were delicious. The “Slippery Slope” featured bourbon, Punt e Mes, Apricot Liqueur, some kind of amaro, and lemon juice. And the “Fig Leaf” was made from Carpano Antica, rum, lime juice, and bitters.
The Violet Hour was a highlight for me. Over two nights, I had nine drinks at this posh Bucktown/Wicker Park spot, but it was the first hour of the first night that really sticks out. In glancing at the menu, I noticed a drink that used Cherry Heering and egg yolk. Not white. Yolk. I understand that yolks played some role in early variants of a gin fizz among other things, but not in one of the 6 or 8 first-rate cocktail bars that I’ve visited had I seen a contemporary drink that made use of the generally discarded fatty cousin of the egg white. And Cherry Heering? Other than a singapore sling, who the hell uses that as an ingredient, let alone a primary ingredient? The beverage, termed “The Golden Age,” came to me in a tall glass with crushed ice and drank like a cherry milkshake. A few rounds of back and forth with the bartender over the various qualities of the drink, and I was hooked for the next three or four hours… and another two-and-a-half hours the next night. (The drink pictured is a Bitter Giuseppe, 1/3 Carpano and 2/3 Cynar with, I believe, a very gentle dose of citrus as well as the lemon peel garnish.)
Red & White is a small, brilliantly stocked wine shop several long blocks northwest of The Violet Hour. Natural wine and small production stuff from around the world, all generally priced from 15-50 dollars a bottle, is pretty much all they do — save for the occasional obscure spirit, like the bottle of Ransom Old Tom gin I bought. One of the proprietors, Nathan, took a few moments to chat, and I had to push my burgeoning sense of jealousy back into the pit of my stomach from whence it came. Several of the wines from Domaine de Briseau/Christian Chaussard were stocked, and I couldn’t resist purchasing a bottle of Patapon, made exclusively from Pineau d’Aunis. I want all of this in Detroit.
While at Longman & Eagle, I’d been alternating between conversations with the bartenders and other patrons and reading the most recent issue of The Art of Eating. The cover story was about Iowa pork. The first thing mentioned was the prosciutto-style ham aged by La Quercia. So when I visited the uber-popular restaurant The Publican the next night and saw La Quercia Rossa among their charcuterie offerings, I had to get it. Mild yet clear and focused, the flavor is outstanding. Very delicate. I’m not any sort of expert, but it’s certainly the best American-made product of this style that I’ve ever had. From what I gather, the ham is made not from the whole leg but only from the best part along the femur. The rest of the dinner was excellent as well, but the sheer coincidence (and the thinly sliced fatty goodness) made the ham memorable.
We did the wedding on Friday and Saturday, and that was a treat — including the seemingly non-stop parade of Indian food. After gorging myself for four days, I vowed to take it easy on Monday — until I remembered that we’d decided to meet my grandparents and dad at Slows BBQ in Detroit Monday evening. While some brisket was melting on my tongue, my grandmother told me she’d left a gift at my house for me. When I got home, I discovered Treasured Polish Recipes for Americans.
My grandma is the one who taught me how to make pierogi that my co-blogger saw fit to mention in the Metro Times, and she’s an eager proponent of the recipes contained within this Other Little Red Book. Someday, I hope to make Beggar’s Cake — a rich construction built from 40 eggs and 12 sticks of butter, among other things, that gets roasted on a wooden rod over open flame. Intense. For now, I’ll stick to pierogi, beets, cabbage, and maybe some tripe if I’m feeling “old country.”
Complaints? Not a one. Here’s to May.Share: