Tag Archives: BBQ

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.

photo 2

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.)

photo 3

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

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?

Michigan Second Impressions, an Official Engagement, and More Pizza!

Last Thursday, I went to visit Mark in Ann Arbor for the second time ever.  The weather was nice, if not fall-like, which is making me concerned for how cold it’s going to be when fall actually gets here.  Maybe we’ll be going to fewer UMich football games and more Detroit Lions football games (since they have a dome).

For some reason I thought it might be a good idea to take a 6am flight out of BWI that landed at DTW at 7:30.  I must’ve still been in work mode when I booked it, since I did a lot of 6am flying over the past two years.  I also must’ve forgotten how miserable it is to set your alarm for 3:30am, and how even a few cups of coffee can’t keep you from falling asleep on the plane with your mouth open, head jerking side to side every few minutes like a possessed marionette.

Upon landing ridiculously early, I took a cab to the Residence Inn and had plenty of time to work out, check emails, Yelp some good Ann Arbor hair places and book an appointment for Friday, before meeting Mark for lunch at 11:30.

We ate at Biercamp, a BBQ and artisan jerky restaurant/deli counter in a small house on the southern part of State Street near the hotel.  The pulled pork sandwich was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, if slightly buttery for my taste.  Mark liked how they actually seemed to have cooked the meat in the BBQ sauce so that each piece was coated, rather than making you put your own sauce on top of dry pork, where you really can’t get the sauce distributed evenly.  The small things in life.  We wanted to try some of the homemade dill pickles, but they were currently out.

After lunch, I went to the local mall to find a cover for my new iPhone.  I was thinking I wanted a cutesy artsy case, but my sister reminded me that those probably aren’t the best damage control if you actually drop the phone (which I’m definitely prone to do). So I got a hearty case at the Apple store (ugh I’m not into the Apple store Kool-Aid – it tastes like conformity) and will go about my klutzy life hopefully a bit better prepared.  The mall there is pretty nifty.  It’s sort of smallish – all on one level – with not the best anchor stores (Penny’s, Macy’s and Sears) but all the rest of the stores are great!  There’s the usual Banana, J. Crew, etc., but then there’s also Michael Kors, Vera Bradley, L’Occitane and Lush.  Alright!  Mom would love it, as those last two are some of her faves!

I then decided I needed a “wedding vision book.”  Actually I had no idea it was called a vision book until someone else called it that….I just wanted an old school photo album with the peel back sticky pages so I could conglomerate all the scraps of magazines that are currently lying on the coffee table, and the bedside table, and the dining room table, and stuffed in corners of my purse.  I tear scraps out of all magazines – it’s really getting to be a problem – recipes, yoga poses, inspiring color combos, etc.  I have a shoebox full of yoga-related magazine bits that I’ve NEVER looked at again.  Maybe I should make an album for those too, so at least they are arranged in some semblance of order.

Well back to the photo album quest: it’s really hard to find photo albums these days since everyone keeps their photos online.  And when you do find an album, it’s of the newer, slip the photo into this perfectly sized slot, kind.  I tried to find a Wal-Mart near Ann Arbor on the car GPS but it kept telling me that the closest one was about 450 miles away.  That GPS is terrible for that kind of search.  I reluctantly went for the iPhone.  I know that’s what it’s there for – to look up every last bit of information that you could ever want – but it sort of feels like cheating, like I should just be able to find these things without it, and I don’t want to waste the data! LOL

Well, as far as I could tell, there isn’t a Wal-Mart close by to Ann Arbor, so I looked for a KMart.  See, my thinking was that Target might be too classy to carry such things as tacky photo albums with sticky paper, which is why I was sticking to the lower end big box stores.  Just in luck – a KMart not too far away that did indeed carry TWO fly paper photo albums!  Perf!

I got Mark from work and we went up to the new apartment to do the owner’s punch list before dinner.  And that’s when IT happened!!  I was taking an initial walk-through when Mark got down on one knee and did the “official” proposal!!  Here is a glamor-shot of the bling.

Image

And then we cracked a bottle of wine and did the punch list.

For a celebratory dinner we went to Mani, a modern Italian restaurant downtown.  I may have been laughing a little too loudly and was certainly very animated.  The people at the table next to us kept giving us the eye.  Ooops.  Just happy.

We each got appetizers and split a margherita pizza.  The pizza wasn’t amazing.  A bit too dry and cheese that fell off in clumps when you bit into it.  BUT the burrata appetizer I had was SO GOOD!!  Fresh, cool and creamy burrata cheese with macerated sour cherries, mint, fennel, micro greens and salty olive oil crostini.  I could’ve eaten two of these and skipped the pizza altogether.  It was perfectly sweet, salty, sour, crunchy and creamy all together.  Best burrata of the season (and I’ve had at least 3 others at various restaurants).

Friday I got my hair cut (not bad and reasonably priced) and started piecing together the photo album.  It took a lot longer than anticipated given I didn’t have any scissors!  That evening, we drove out to Grand Haven, about 2.5 hours west of Ann Arbor on Lake Michigan to visit a former co-worker at her summer home there.  Grand Haven is also called Coast Guard City, USA, as dubbed first by the locals, then officially by President Clinton.  There didn’t seem to be a great story behind the name that I could glean, other than there is a coast guard station there.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Spring Lake about 2 miles from downtown Grand Haven because the city was packed with 250,000 people for Coast Guard Week which culminated Saturday with a 2 hour parade.  Friday night we walked around and ate a yummy dinner of steak and salads at Kirby House.  There were lots of teeny boppers out at the street fair dressed in their summer cutoffs (I was feeling old and cold in full-length jeans) and lots of campers lining the parking lots with their grills going.  Different tents held various bands – everything from Beatles to 80s hair band covers.  There was definitely that beach town vibe going on.  Also, we noticed that people had already staked out patches of grass with blankets or bits of string to rope off seating for the fireworks display – Saturday night.  We were told later that you weren’t allowed to start saving spots until Thursday night….2 days in advance!  These must be some good fireworks we thought!

Saturday, we walked the 2 miles into town to set up at our friend’s house for the parade.  She has an awesome house on an elevated corner lot right along the parade route.  There were marching bands, old and new cars and various floats in the street.  And out back there were great summer drinks, including Bloody Mary’s made with dill juice and a pickle (yum!) and amazingly juicy pork tenderloin and half chickens grilled up by her husband’s high school friend who’s a butcher.  You know it had to be good since the man deals with meat all day everyday.

After taking an afternoon siesta, we went downstairs to watch the fireworks across the river from the hotel lawn, where the mosquitos were buzzing and humming all over.  We didn’t stay too long out there for fear of giant bites, so we only saw a bit of the show.  It was odd because about 10 fireworks went off and then it stopped.  We thought, hm I’m sure that can’t be the end of it.  And then a woman behind us said, “Was there another fire?”  We said, “Huh? Was there a fire earlier?”  And she said, “Oh a few years ago the fireworks caused a fire and they had to put it out before they could resume.  Ya know, it’s Grand Haven,” shrugging.  And we said, “Oh hm.”  And she said, “I guess you’re not from around here.”  Nope.  So we went back upstairs and heard the fireworks resume a bit later.  Oh well, I’ve seen ’em before.  I subsequently found a YouTube video of the 2005 fireworks fire – it looked pretty massive, like the whole hillside was on fire.  I’m not sure they could’ve resumed the show after that!

All in all we had an excellent time visiting Grand Haven and thank you to our wonderful hosts for having us!  I’m liking our Michigan explorations, from Traverse City to Grand Haven.  We still need to see downtown Detroit, Mackinac Island and perhaps some other small towns along the way.

Sunday we grabbed some fresh salad, local Michigan cherries and a Michigan hard cider at Produce Station – a boutique grocery, garden center and cafe near the hotel.  I loved this place – it has a lot of gourmet-y type food products that you wouldn’t find at the regular grocery store, as well as very fresh produce (as the name suggests) and locally-made products, like the cider, ice cream, bread and desserts.

Monday I flew back to Baltimore at the more reasonable hour of 2pm.  This week I’ve really got to buckle down and sort through things I want to take with me or give away.  I’ve also got to create an area for items that we will move ourselves, since once the movers take our stuff next week, it will be 2-9 days before we get it in Michigan.  I can’t believe the move is almost here.  I can’t believe I’ve been out of work for almost 2 months.  I’m done volunteering, which was a great experience, and now I’m on the farewell tour of lunch dates with various friends.  My friend Graham and I are going to hit the pool and work on our blogs.  Graham is leaving Bmore to travel the world for a year or two and has started cataloguing his planning and future travel at exploringsevencontinents.com – check it out to see where he’s going – I’m jealous of that adventure!

Next time I’m in Ann Arbor it will be for real, and that’s going to be an adventure all its own!