Tag Archives: Ann Arbor

ricewood Ann Arbor Food Truck

I just got back from a lovely al fresco lunch at ricewood. The Pacific-Island-inspired BBQ food truck (really, maybe the only one anywhere) was recently launched by Frank Fejeran  – the former chef at The Ravens Club, about which you can read here: http://detroit.eater.com/2014/11/18/7243493/chef-frank-fejeran-helps-the-ravens-club-realize-its-potential and which I am a fan of, for both the whiskey cocktails and the homage to my beloved Baltimore Ravens.

Oh, what’s that? The Ravens Club was not an homage to the Baltimore Ravens NFL team? Uhhhhh….well the cocktails are still delicious and I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear that part about the name. [Aside: Jeff from TRC, if you are reading this, if you put a TV in the bar that plays Ravens football in the fall, I will be there on the regular.]

Okay, back to the point. Ricewood. So good. So much food.

For $12, you can get your choice of a BBQ pork shoulder rice bowl, ribs, or a brisket rice bowl. All are served with a side of marinated cucumbers. You can get it gringo style or spicy. (http://www.ricewoodbbq.com/uploads/4/8/1/3/48139611/ricewood_-_final_menu.pdf) Obviously, I got spicy.

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The bbq pork was indeed pleasantly spicy. Beware if you are expecting what we’ll call “MidWest spicy,” which is to say, not at all spicy. This may be too hot for you. Fortunately for you, on the cutlery table, there is also a bottle of AH-mazing pineapple bbq sauce which is sweet-ish and really pineapple-y. Like a pureed pineapple chutney with a hint of smoky bbq flavor.

The meat was also really tender, with awesome salty burnt end bits, and the rice was perfectly sticky – like sushi rice – with an Asian-flair pico of diced tomatoes and green onion.

Also it was a TON of food. I pretty much ate the whole thing but only because it was so good and not because I was still hungry. Apparently I glazed over the part on the menu where it said “half pound” of meat.

And, because I’m a VIP (jk Frank just recognized me), he gave me a small chunk of brisket too, which had a great flavor and was not dry at all.

After receiving my large bowl of treats, I sat at one of the covered picnic tables. Each table had a cup of Sharpies that people used to sign their names or decorate the table. I think I spotted a child’s rendering of the Voldemort-Harry Potter wand duel. It was very elaborate – or at least as much as a stick-figure scribble can be elaborate. (See top left of picture below to catch a glimpse of the Voldemort figure in black. Harry was in green fyi.)

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All in all, a super filling and delicious meal and a perfect day to be outside enjoying it. photo 4

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New Job = No Blog

Not really too much else to say about that.

I’d been volunteering for a local not-for-profit here in Ann Arbor, The Brides Project, since January, after finding my wedding gown there last November.  The Brides Project sells gently loved wedding dresses; everyone’s a volunteer, the shop space is donated, and all the dresses have been donated; 100% of the proceeds benefit The Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor that provides free services to anyone touched by cancer.

The former shop coordinator (the only staff person) decided to stay home after having her second child, and because I had been in involved in so many aspects of the operations from a volunteer perspective, The Cancer Support Community Executive Director asked me if I wanted to step in as the new coordinator.

In loving this mission and the fun of helping brides find wedding dresses, how could I say no?!?

Well it’s been about a month, and it’s been crazy hectic trying to get up to speed on all the various aspects of the operations and meeting everyone – 99% of whom are fabulous volunteers.  But it’s been rewarding, and I finally feel like I’m starting to get into a routine with it.

But in juggling all the emails, events and volunteers, other things – like this blog – have slipped through the cracks.  I wasn’t writing much for Eater.com, but I finally was able to publish a few articles a few weeks ago…an interview with a master sommelier…and a list of October wine events in Metro Detroit.  Anyone have any good leads for other Eater articles I should write?  I’m currently lacking in inspiration…I need to get back to downtown Detroit one of these days, and I also have some errands to run in Royal Oak if anything needs to be covered there.

Hopefully more to come here!!

Ann Arbor Pizza Review: Anthony’s Gourmet Pizza

Sunday seems to be our go-to pizza night.  I’m especially fond of a super thin crust specialty pizza, a glass of wine and The Amazing Race.  But even when The Amazing Race isn’t in season, like now, pizza is still always a viable Sunday night option (or Thursday night…or really any night, but particularly Sundays and Thursdays).

Coming home after a long drive from “Up North” the last thing we wanted to do was get in the car again to go pick up food, so we took the opportunity to try another Ann Arbor pizza spot.  This time, we went for Anthony’s Gourmet Pizza.  It had some good Yelp reviews, so I guess it was about time for us to try it.

Going into the order, we knew that deep dish was their thing.  Not all the Yelp reviews were specific as to what was ordered, but generally good reviews could span all dishes (one would hope unless otherwise noted by said reviewer).

They do have all sorts of crusts.  And by all sorts, I mean one “New York style” and a million thick crust styles.  Again, I was unaware that 1. Chicago style stuffed pizza, 2. Deep Dish, 3. Sicilian Deep Dish, 4. “Round pizza” (which says is “traditional” but sure looked thick to me on their website) were all different.  I’m pretty sure I thought those were all the same.

I just wanted a normal cheese pizza so I got the New York style.  Mark wanted to try a pan pizza (is that an even different style? I will have to investigate, but for now I’m using that as a synonym), so he ordered a Chicago style.  The guy taking the order asked if this was our first time ordering from them, and when Mark said “Yes,” he said, “I thought so” and encouraged us to scrap the Chicago style in favor of the Deep Dish which is their “signature dish” (pun intended).

I’m typically not a fan of deep dish pizza, and I completely concur with Jon Stewart’s assessment that “it’s not pizza…it’s a…casserole.”  And I was highly amused by the comparison of deep dish pizza to “tomato soup in a bread bowl.”  But the guy at Anthony’s was correct in suggesting we try their signature pizza.

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While it did indeed have a crust as thick as a two-by-four, the pizza was flavorful and satisfying.  Two tiny pieces were plenty.  It was definitely greasy, and you absolutely had to eat it with a knife and fork like a quiche or something, but I would eat it again if I had guests over who preferred deep dish.  The crust was meh, but that’s probably just because I don’t like how there was so much of it.  The texture was kind of like focaccia bread and I actually really would have enjoyed it with rosemary and sea salt.  Maybe they should offer that as an option!

So on to the thin crust.  Here was the real disaster: greasy, yet somehow dry at the same time, with zero flavor.  Zero.  It’s been days – DAYS – and there is still 75% of a pizza sitting in the fridge.  That’s unheard of.  It looked delicious from afar, but upon closer inspection, it kind of looked like the pizza you would get at the snack stand at the pool (i.e. literal cardboard crust)…although that pizza is kind of delicious after a long day of swimming.

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I guess the thin crust is really and truly NOT their signature dish.  Lesson learned: always trust that restaurants know what they do best and just order that.

Should we have been tipped off by the fact that the boxes were plain white?  What pizza delivery place has plain white boxes?  Weird.

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Verdict: good at what they say they’re good at, just not my jam.

Wine Tasting Wednesday and Tasty Treats

I’m totally late to the party on this one: Espiral Vinho Verde.  It’s been written about on so many blogs and my friend, The WineGetter, has been talking it up ever since the thermometer got above 60.  So finally, I purchased a bottle to try.  It’s $4.49 at Trader Joe’s. Well that’s why I haven’t ever tried it!  I still have a hard time believing you can buy alcohol at Trader Joe’s and supermarkets and that you don’t have to go to the wine store.  Also, I never go to Trader Joe’s because I feel like I just end up buying sugary snacks masquerading as health food.

So anyway, onto the wine.
vinho verdeIt was delicious!  It’s hard to go wrong with vinho verde I think in general.  It’s so light and refreshing, and sometimes, like this one, has a hint of effervescence such that it’s sort of like a wine spritzer.  At 9% ABV it’s not super strongly alcoholic, and it drinks crisply without an aftertaste.  Vinho verde, from Portugal, literally means green wine, and I think that’s an appropriate name for this bottle since it reminded me of tart green apples.  Vinho verde can be made from a blend of up to six grapes, but I couldn’t find out if Espiral was made from all six or just certain ones.  Does anyone know?

I highly recommend picking up a bottle if the Trader Joe’s near you sells alcohol.

Okay, on to some other treats.  It’s been a while since I’ve done any baking or dessert making, so I decided to do some of each this past week.  I made chicken ‘n’ biscuits and strawberry shortcake ice cream bars a la summertime ice cream truck (Good Humor?)…

The biscuits are super easy; my go-to recipe is here.  It doesn’t specify, so I use salted butter because I think it adds more flavor than unsalted butter which can be a bit bland…and I would end up slathering salted butter on them anyway once they’re ready.
chicken&biscuit2I did Shake ‘n’ Bake chicken breasts (Mark likes the SnB…I think it’s okay…I’d never had it until he persuaded me to buy a box a few months ago).  We did different toppings like ketchup, pickles, hot sauce, pickled jalapenos and banana peppers.  chicken&biscuit3
chicken&biscuit 1(These biscuits are also great for breakfast with butter…and maybe some honey? or maple syrup?)

The strawberry bar recipe was from The Chew on ABC here.  I skipped the corn starch because I didn’t feel like buying corn starch just for the two teaspoons it called for.
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In tasting just the crumbly topping mix I wasn’t sure I was sold on the flavor matching that of those ice cream truck bars.  But once layered on the vanilla ice cream and strawberry sorbet, it really came together flavor-wise!

Everything was so delicious  – especially the biscuits right out of the oven.  It’s great what you can do with some flour and butter and not much else.

Next up: I’m going to try to recreate those crunchy chocolate bits in Carvel ice cream cake. If anyone else has other fun foods they want me to try to make, just comment here!

Ann Arbor Summer Fest and Highland BBQ Competition

Now that summer is really and truly here (and I’ve become such a Michigander that 85 and humid is feeling SUPER hot…words that would have never left my mouth in any other Baltimore year), Ann Arbor is seriously busy.  Knowing that there is a limited amount of time when being outdoors will be physically comfortable (I had a dream the other night that it started snowing and summer was over and I started crying…just kidding…but I was sad), Ann Arborites (and all Michiganians – also acceptable nomenclature) jam as many activities as possible into that time.  The Huron River is literally PACKED with kayakers and tubers…I don’t know how a river can be packed, but it is.  You can’t even get the oar in the water without hitting someone in the face.

The number of potential activities one can partake in is kind of overwhelming, but don’t even think about trying to sit outside for dinner because all those seats are already taken.

There are tons of festivals and fairs – at least one a weekend – and some, like the Summer Festival, last almost a month.  The Summer Festival comprises outdoor movies, concerts, workshops, beer-gardens and more, mostly concentrated on UMich Central Campus, but with certain events taking place elsewhere around town.  Mark and I had wandered around one morning before anything got going.

A2SF stage beer gardenLight installationThis was an inflatable light installation that you walk around inside of, but when we tried to go last weekend, the wait was about an hour and a half, so we gave up.  But we heard it was cool.

Mark and I went with some friends Friday night to the Summer Fest with a picnic to listen to a folk band and take in the scene.  And the scene was kids.  Granted we went at 7pm and didn’t stay for the late-night DJ that started after 11, but it was like strollers-on-parade.

band bell tower The sun hitting the bell tower made the lines look so sharp and like the clock was floating off of the wall.

The evening started amicably enough…we sat on the lawn and chatted…watched the costumed French drum-line as they marched around after the band’s set.  And then as the sun was starting to set, things started to get a bit more tense.  An overabundance of excitement, missed bedtimes and ice cream came back around, and everywhere we looked, kids were crying, screaming, kicking and furiously straining on their stroller belts.  Parents realized they had pushed the limit and started packing up, while toddlers ran off in the other direction, tried to pour water on one another, or clawed at the sugary dregs of that purple sno-cone.

While I’m sure things would have calmed down again after the familial set retreated and the adults-only groups took their spots, we had sat on the ground long enough and so also took our leave to the comforts of faux-leather chairs and adult beverages at Knight’s, a new branch of an old steakhouse downtown.

The next day, Mark and I set out north to Highland, Michigan, where one of his co-workers, James, was competing in a bar-b-que contest.  This was James’ first competitive cooking challenge, which he entered because he just wanted to cook out and no one took him up on his offer to come chez lui for a backyard bbq.  Whatever works.

highland garden Cute community gardenjamesJames

James, originally from Georgia, now of Ypsilanti, is building his own grill in his backyard, but since that wasn’t transportable, he purchased a new grill for the occasion.  When we arrived, he had it fired up, and was just prepping the beer-can chickens to go on.  He made three kinds: jerk chicken, Creole butter, and Hawaiian (which we didn’t get to taste since it didn’t cook all the way through by the time it started raining and we had to pack up).  He entered the jerk in the competition, along with pork ribs and his vinegar-based BBQ sauce (which tasted like a delicious BBQ-Bloody Mary mix).

stuffing chickens Prepping the chickens with beer cans (apparently the beer steams on the grill and flavors/moistens the inside of the chicken…my college roommate used to do this with Coke or Dr Pepper I think).shoveling coal Shoveling coals in the grillour grill chickens coals chickens on the grill

Although he didn’t win in any of the three categories, everything turned out really well, and one of the judges brought his whole family over to taste “the best chicken.”  The judge said he was disappointed James didn’t have a restaurant or anywhere he could place an order!!  So that’s a great vote of confidence!

chicken and ribs on grillCooking the ribs and chicken

chickens cooking Chicken’s almost done!

cut ribs Sliced ribsCreole butter chickenCreole butter chicken

There were 18 entrants along “BBQ Row” many of whom had campers or trailers with full kitchens.  People had smokers, rotisseries, charcoal or wood-fired grills.  I don’t think I saw anyone else doing whole chickens like James; a lot of people chose just to do thighs or drums; so lots of credit to him.  It definitely came down to the wire in terms of cooking time!

smoker2 smoker The guys across from us had this big BBQ/smoker and a mobile home

ribs close up ribs peppers in rotisserieSome competitor’s ribs that had a nice kick to them (no one was allowed to sell their food due to health code, but if you were friendly, you’d get some tastes).  Some peppers cooking in a rotisserie (aka one of those raffle spinners) over wood.

horseshoe This lucky horseshoe/grill door handle must’ve work because these folks placed in a category or two.

grill1 Gas-fired

gingerbread churchHard to see the architectural detail on this gingerbread church

copa di vino If anyone watches Shark Tank, remember Copa di Vino (single serving peel-the-lid wine glasses)?  Well here it is.  Didn’t try it though.

A huge storm rolled in which forced everyone to pack up a little faster and make their way over to the beer tent to await the winners announcement on the main stage, where bands had been playing all afternoon.  Fireworks were set for after 10pm, but there was no way we could hang around for another 5 hours to wait for that.  Apparently this was the first year of Highland’s “Red, White & Blues” festival and BBQ competition, and while the weather definitely kept some people away, I think it will get bigger year over year given the number of BBQ entrants already.

It was nice weekend to get outside and take advantage of some local festivities.  Since we’ll be in town for 4th of July weekend, anyone have any suggestions of local activities taking place that we should check out?

Ann Arbor Pizza Review: Domino’s

Am I really writing a pizza review about Domino’s?  Well yes, yes I am.  Did you know that Domino’s is headquartered in Ann Arbor and the first store was down the road in Ypsilanti?  Now it makes more sense.

I hadn’t had Domino’s in a few years but always enjoyed their thin and crispy crust while in college, so when fellow Ann Arbor food blogger The Food and Wine Hedonist told me that it was probably his family’s favorite pizza, I figured I should give it another try.

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Last week I ordered a thin and crispy with banana peppers and a “Brooklyn-style” with pepperoni.  Both were pretty good, but I definitely enjoyed the Brooklyn-style crust more.  This more “traditional” NY crust was introduced by Domino’s in 2006, and they tout it as “large and foldable.”  Obviously this speaks to me.

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The thin and crispy was good too, but I did find the super smooth crust bottom a bit disconcerting….a slick bread product doesn’t seem like the correct texture for pizza.  Maybe if they had roughed up the bottom somehow.

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As I had been told, one of the best parts of the Domino’s experience is their online ordering feature.  It was a super simple process of customization and couponing, and once you’ve hit submit, a cartoon pizza maker rings the cash register and starts prepping your pizza.  A real-time index shows you where in the pizza-making process your pie is, and it tells you the name of the person doing the work.  For instance: “Jim is now putting your pizza in the oven.”  “Your pizza is now cooking.”  “Tom is now in the car delivering your pizza.”  And then the doorbell rings.  It’s Tom with our pizza!  Fantastic!  It’s all a bit cheesy (no pun intended) but fun and makes the time fly by as you check in to see pizza-status updates.

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All in all, I quite enjoyed my hometown Domino’s experience and would definitely get the Brooklyn-style crust again.

Gymnastics, Jazz, Infinite Winter

What do these have in common?  Nothing except enumerating my weekend’s activities.Gymnastics, Jazz, Infinite Winter

Friday, we went with some friends to the Men’s NCAA Gymnastic Team Finals.  Not because we’re huge gymnastics buffs or anything but because we figured it would be something fun to do, and how often do you get to attend the NCAA finals in any sport?  Michigan was defending their 2013 team championship title, and they didn’t disappoint, winning again this year.

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The whole thing was an interesting event held at the Crisler Center, where they also hold men’s basketball.  They had draped off the upper deck so it wasn’t sold out, but it was still pretty packed, and those fans are LOUD!!!  We were sitting near the Stanford cheering section who were deafening, as well as the almost equally rowdy Cal section, even though Cal wasn’t competing for a team championship; they just had a handful of gymnasts competing individually.  Shockingly, when we got home, our ears were ringing as if we’d just been to a rock concert.  Ugh.

Also, note to self, perhaps bring one of those dust/hygiene masks next time – the chalk dust floating through the air was intense.  It almost looked cloudy from afar, and everything was covered with fine white powder by the time we left.

gym2These dudes had orange shower slippers..Illinois I think.

gym3gym4Penn State on the Horizontal Bar.  They came in last, and by the end, I felt like they were hanging their heads and not really even trying…awkward.  Surprisingly the Big 10 Conference had the most schools represented between University of Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, and a few individual participants from Minnesota and Nebraska.  I’m not sure why the Big 10 takes their gymnastics so seriously, but I guess once one school does, they all do, and clearly they are quite good.  I gotta say though, I felt like Michigan made it look pretty easy as compared to some of the other schools.

gym10There was even a Michigan storm trooper cheering. gym9 This guy from Iowa has the biggest back muscles I’ve ever seen in person.  It looks like he has pillows stuffed in there.  Even though it’s more grainy, can we just zoom in on this a second?

gym9  C’mon, that looks fake…

gym8 Getting set mentally.

gym7Parallel bars look really painful.  When they land on the undersides of their upper arms…ouch!

gym6 gym5 Michigan dominated on the pummel horse.

UMich’s Sam Mikulak came in first all around.  Way to go UMich – two in a row!

Saturday, we went with our new friends, fellow Ann Arbor blogger, The Winegetter, and his wife, to downtown Detroit to check out Cliff Bell’s and find some Thai food.cb1 Cliff Bell’s is a dark and cozy jazz bar which opened in 1935.cb2 A nice little jazz trio to warm up the evening, and I love this art deco backsplash lit up in pinks and purples.

The club was one of John Clifford Bell’s many bars/clubs that he opened during and after Prohibition.  It was closed from 1985 until 2005 when it was renovated and reopened.  Some interesting features include little cocktail tables attached and jutting out at intervals from the bar itself and the fact that the building was designed by Albert Kahn.  Albert Kahn was a renowned architect of the late 19th and early-mid 20th centuries, who is credited with designing many many buildings in Detroit and the environs, including University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and according to Wikipedia, is sometimes called “the architect of Detroit.”  Fun fact: his dad was a rabbi.

cb3The dark gilded interior.  The ceiling is domed and painted a deep copper color that almost looks like mahogany and softly reflects the light. cb4The exterior marquee.

After cocktail hour we exited, blinded by the fact that it was still light out, and headed to Bai Mai Thai, located barely two miles from Cliff Bell’s, still technically in downtown Detroit, but really in a seedy Dollar Store strip mall.  No matter that it smelled a bit funny and none of the empty tables had been bused since the last diners, our food was actually really tasty.  We’d been hard pressed to find good thai food in Ann Arbor, since the fast-casual chain No Thai seems to dominate the Yelp ratings, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that this was a pretty good version of drunken noodles and peanut curry (I may have even been convinced to try making curry whereas I have always shunned its coconut creaminess in the past).  We did, however, discover that those two were the better of the four dishes ordered that evening.  Good to note for later.

What with the weather being nice, it was good to get out and do some fun Ann Arbor and Detroit activities this weekend.

Monday, I made my first solo-attempt at cooking Passover Seder for Mark and me.  I made (way too much) roasted sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus and charoset (apples, walnuts, wine, dates) and gathered the ingredients for the Seder Plate (I even roasted the hard boiled egg, which was impressive since I never make eggs of any kind).  I also made a yellow Passover cake from a box with chocolate frosting which tasted a little weird (as many Passover desserts do) but good nonetheless.  The only thing I fudged was the roasted chicken which I bought pre-made at the supermarket.  Somehow it was actually cheaper than buying a raw chicken and roasting it myself, so why wouldn’t I?

passover I even broke out the good china, which I believe was my great grandmother Hannah’s.  Mark and I did the Seder readings ourselves, but we skipped the actual singing of songs since that would entail a solo on my part and chose instead just to read the lyrics.  Overall it was pretty successful if I do say so myself!!  Imagine my horror to wake up on April 15th to this wintry mess:

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Ugh.  Even if I’m assured that this is “the last snow of the year” it’s way too late for that; the “last snow of the year” should’ve been a month ago. 😦  Can we all agree that it’s time for spring now?  Thanks.

Ann Arbor Pizza Review: Pizza Pino

It’s finally warming up a bit here in MI.  I didn’t wear a scarf and sweatshirt under my full-length down-comforter-slash-sleeping-bag-slash-coat today.  But two weeks ago, this was hardly the case.  I know it’s cold elsewhere, but really I’d never experienced temperatures like this.  I woke up one morning to a bright blue, cloudless sky.  It was so sunny and beautiful, I thought maybe I’d go for a walk!  I checked the temp: -6.  NEGATIVE SIX.  Hm.  Two hours later it had gotten up to 0.  Zero degrees.  It had gotten up to zero.  No.

So when Mark asked me if I wanted to come downtown for dinner out (yay a chance to try a new restaurant) or stay in with pizza, it was a tough call, but not that tough: stay in please!

It was tempting to fall back on a pizza place we had already tried and knew we would be satisfied with, but we decided to branch out.  The place we chose was called Pizza Pino….Pizza Pino, Pizza Pino, why is this name sticking in my head?  I can just hear my dad enthusiastically shouting, “Pizza-Pino!” over and over again.  Is there a Pizza Pino we used to go to?  Long Island?  New Mexico?  I will do some research.  With that memory in mind, I had a good feeling about Ann Arbor’s Pizza Pino.

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I got a thin crust (I don’t know whether it’s a good or bad sign that a lot of places here have a range of crust choices from extra thin to Chicago and deep dish – which apparently are two distinct crust types….maybe I will make a Linnaeus System of Crust Classification.  You know: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.  Although mine will be the Lowe System and have many fewer levels.  The choice is good if you don’t like a particular crust-type, but can they really do all those crust-types well?  TBD.)  ANYWAY…..I got a thin crust pesto chicken pizza (you know I love a good chicken pesto), which involved pesto (obviously), tomatoes, chicken, spinach, mushrooms (that was a new and welcome twist), and mozzarella.

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My gold standard for chicken pesto pizza is obviously Bagby in Baltimore as I have discussed many times over.  I have also discovered that Pizza House here in Ann Arbor makes a good version, however I later uncovered that their extra thin crust is made on a tortilla, not an actual crust.  I don’t know how I feel about this.  On the one hand, I couldn’t tell when I first got the pizza.  On the other hand, now that I know….I guess it doesn’t matter.  Fine.

The pizza was delicious – just a little bit salty, with a stiff crust that held up the plethora of toppings.  I’m a big fan.  Whereas other “specialty” pizzas sometimes are more like flatbreads with just a sprinkle of cheese, this was a traditional pizza in the sense that it started with a good cheese pizza and added the toppings to that (although remember no tomato sauce, as this is replaced by slices of tomatoes).  I also enjoyed the fact that the tomatoes were sliced and not diced since sometimes diced tomatoes feels more like salsa in your mouth.  The sliced tomato is a more expected texture I guess.

I would definitely get this pizza again or try one of their other kinds.  Oh, and by the way, I looked up Pizza Pino, and I found one in Paris, which is where I think my Pizza Pino memory developed on vacation as a kid when all my sister and I would eat was pizza and ice cream.  Yum!

Ann Arbor Bucket List

Since I’m trying to get out and take better advantage of all that Ann Arbor and Michigan have to offer, I figured the best way to organize my adventures was to make a list.  Looooove lists.  And schedules.  And maps.  Okay, digressing.

In this post, I’m going to offer up the Michigan bucket list.  Restaurants, museums, cultural activities, outdoor adventures, etc.  I’m going to link back to any posts I may have written about these items, and check off anything that’s already been accomplished with an asterisk (*).  Please note that sometimes more than one of these items are discussed in the same post.  Going forward, as I write posts, I will reference back to the list and hopefully link accordingly and appropriately.  I see lots of linking and circular references in my future.

PLEASE OFFER SUGGESTIONS of things to do/see/eat that I can add!

Okay, here it goes, in hopefully some particular order:

Places to Visit in the State of Michigan:

1. Upper Peninsula

*2. Sleeping Bear Dunes

3. Mackinac Island

4. Frankenmuth

*5. Grand Haven

Cultural Activities in and around Ann Arbor/Detroit:

6. Belle Isle Conservancy and Aquarium

*7. North American International Auto Show – Detroit

*8. Dexter Cider Mill

*9. University of Michigan Museum of Art

*10. Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

11. University of Michigan Museum of Natural History

*12. Concert at The Ark

*13. Movie at State Theatre

14. Movie at Michigan Theater

15. Concert at Hill Auditorium

16. Broad Art Museum (at Michigan State)

17. The Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art

*18. Ford Presidential Library

*19. The Henry Ford (Museum)

20. Greenfield Village

Sporting Events:

*21. Detroit Lions Football

22. Detroit Tigers Baseball

23. Detroit Red Wings Hockey

*24. UMich Football

*25. UMich Wrestling

26. UMich Hockey

*27. UMich Basketball

*28. UMich Gymnastics

Outdoor Activities:

*29. Kayaking

30. Botanical Gardens

*31. Kerrytown Farmers’ Market/Artisan Market

*32. Nature Walks

Food & Drink Related:

*33. Zingerman’s (deli)

34. Zingerman’s Roadhouse (bbq)

*35. Lab (coffee and pastries)

*36. (Espresso) Bar

*37. Sweetwater’s (coffee)

*38. Sava’s

*39. Isalita

*40. Aventura

*41. Bigalora

*42. Logan

*43. Lena

*44. Vinology

45. Cafe Felix

46. Gratzi

*47. Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery

*48. Slows Bar-B-Q (Detroit)

49. Traffic Jam & Snug (Detroit)

50. Mexicantown (area of Detroit)

*51. Liberty Street Brewing (Plymouth)

*52. Cliff Bell’s (Detroit)

53. Guns and Butter (Detroit)

54. Two James Distillery (Detroit) – Can someone please weigh in on this?  This is the first Detroit distillery since prohibition (and I think currently the only) and they have a club called the Corktown 500 for which you apply (capped at 50 people), get exclusive tours and discounts, and if you are a member you can go to a weekend WHISKEY MAKING CAMP!!!!  This sounds totally up my alley of learning new skills and interesting experiences.  Problem: to join the club it is $2,000!!! Ahhhh so expensive!  Worth it?!?!?!  Anyone think yes?  Anyone want to subsidize me?  🙂

55. Eastern Market (Detroit)

*56. The Lunch Room

*57. Vellum

*58. Pacific Rim

59. Try “Detroit-style” pizza – I had no idea Detroit had its own pizza style, which is square, and according to Wikipedia: “The square shaped pizza is the result of being baked in a square pan, which is often not a pizza pan.  Rather, industrial parts trays are often used, which were originally made to hold small parts in factories.”  Crazy!  It sounds like the anti-health food, as Wiki goes on to say: “The crust of a Detroit-style pizza is noteworthy because in addition to occasionally being twice-baked, it is usually baked in a well-oiled pan to a chewy medium-well-done state that gives the bottom and edges of the crust a fried/crunchy texture.”

60. Try a Coney Island hot dog (aka Coney Dog)

Other Areas of Southeastern Michigan:

61. Corktown (Detroit)

62. Heidelberg Project (Detroit)

*63. Royal Oak – Got a “butterbeer latte” at a local coffee shop that I found on Yelp called Bean and Leaf.  It was super sweet and delicious with some toffee/butterscotch flavor, however I was confused and dismayed by the coffee sleeve that read Zingerman’s Coffee…it’s everywhere…I don’t actually feel like I’m trying something new when they have such a monopoly on the coffee/bread/sweet treat market all across Southeastern MI.

*64. Troy – To be honest, when I wrote Troy, I meant the mall.  LOL.  The Somerset Collection mall in Troy is akin to Tysons Corner in VA.  There are actually 2 malls connected by a sky bridge: one with Saks, Neiman, Burberry and other posh stores (only one salesperson even approached me in Saks because I clearly was looking more bum-like than the regular ladies who lunch set and I was even wearing jeans and not yoga pants – in other words, stepping it up!); the other mall has Nordstrom (yay for a Nordy fix) and all the other regular stores you would expect in a mall.

Misc:

65. Take a ride on the Detroit People Mover

*66. Literati Book Store

Okay, I think that’s a pretty exhaustive list at this point.  Ann Arbor friends: what am I missing?!??!

Come to Ann Arbor, Get a Wedding Dress

As I discussed in my wedding dress post, I purchased my previously-worn wedding dress from a not-for-profit, volunteer-run shop called The Brides Project in Ann Arbor.  Dresses are donated second-hand by brides or donated new by boutiques or designers that have overstock.  (To manage inventory and make sure that the dresses have some market value, they typically only accept styles from the past 5 years.)  All proceeds from the dress sales (which are priced at least 50% off the true retail price or more depending on the condition) benefit the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor.

tbp

(Photo from thebridesproject.org)

A) I had so much fun working with my two bridal consultants at the shop (open by appointment only for now), B) I was impressed by the selection and range of sizes and styles available, C) I was touched that so many people had donated their dresses, and D) I loved the idea of benefiting a good cause in buying this dress, that I just had to sign up to become a bridal consultant myself!

I had my training a few weeks ago: half at the Cancer Support Community (CSC) itself and half at The Brides Project (TBP).  I went in initially interested in being a bridal consultant at The Brides Project wedding boutique, which would mean helping brides try on and pick out dresses (yesssss, so fun!!!), and I did sign up to do that.  But being the volunteering overachiever that I am (I just get really excited about projects, okay?) I may have checked the boxes for all sorts of other volunteer opportunities too: yoga teacher at the CSC, photographer/blogger/social media correspondent for The Brides Project, dress intake/inventory/processing assistant, special events volunteer (the CSC holds a number of annual events such as an Ann Arbor version of Amazing Race, so you know I had to sign up for that!!).

I hadn’t realized that the CSC is a national organization and this is the local chapter, which is great because it means they have national resources but local autonomy to create programming that meets their members’ needs.  They offer so much, all for free, to those in all stages of cancer/remission, as well as to loved ones and care givers who are either dealing currently with the effects of cancer or have lost someone from cancer.  Not only do they have support and grief groups, they also hold weekly yoga and meditation classes, kids karate, nutrition and cooking demonstrations, knitting circles and “walks with docs” where a different volunteer doctor will host a nature walk through one of Ann Arbor’s parks, where members can informally ask questions or chat with him or her.  Here is a seriously touching video on the Kids Kicking Cancer karate class, which was started at Children’s Hospital of Michigan; I was trying not to cry watching this during the training!  There are lots of other videos out there if you google “Kids Kicking Cancer youtube”.

At first, I will be a bridal consultant trainee, which means that I will shadow a more experienced consultant on appointments.  I will do this until I feel comfortable dropping the trainee designation to become a full-fledged bridal consultant able to run appointments myself.  Every bride is given a two-hour appointment, and they try to only schedule one bride at a time so that she can have the run of the store.  They also typically schedule two consultants for every appointment so that one can help with the trying on and one can run/return dresses to and from the racks.  They are very good about creating a true bridal boutique experience with great customer service and selection.  You don’t feel like you are shopping in a second-hand store by any means.

Since the shop is run out of donated space, The Brides Project has had to move locations a fair amount since its inception, as landlords tend to want to lease out space to a paying tenant if possible.  The current location isn’t quite large enough to house all the dress inventory that they’ve collected, so they decided to experiment with a weekend trunk show held at the main offices of CSC.

The trunk show was my first hands-on training experience, and it was fantastic.  They opened up the CSC (a larger space than TBP) from 10-4 on Saturday and Sunday.  Even given the crazy snowstorm going on all weekend, 42 brides came through the door.  We helped them pick dresses that suited their styles and try on the gowns, advised them on how they could be tailored, and closed the sales.  The mood was upbeat and fun, with music pumping and families swooning and clicking away with their cameras.  They raised $8400 for the CSC over a goal of $5000, and sold 21 dresses, which is typically what they sell in a month!  Most of the brides came to the show because they had heard about it through social media and word of mouth, and I hope that the event will have a ripple effect on TBP’s brand recognition in the community.

Already the show has created a demand for weekend appointments at the shop through February.  Two other consultants and I helped a bride, who had lost her mom to cancer when she was young, find a great dress last Saturday (you know someone loves the dress when she cries seeing herself in it! So touching!), and I’m scheduled to meet with brides both days this weekend and the following weekend.  I can’t say enough about how much fun it is combing through dresses, swooning at new arrivals and fancy designers, and seeing the look on brides faces when they know it’s the one (or definitely NOT the one).

I’m excited to continue helping brides and have even offered to staff some afternoon hours to keep the shop open for walk-ins…there goes that volunteer-overdrive again.  So come visit me in Ann Arbor and together we’ll find the perfect dress!