You know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that? --Ratatouille (Pixar, 2007)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Chowing Down on a College Trip--Ann Arbor, Michigan

"Where are you looking at?"

As a rising Senior in high school, I'm stuck hearing that question on the daily. As the year rolls around, most rising seniors are becoming more and more preoccupied with the idea of finding a  few universities that fit us best and then doing our best to make sure we get into those places.

Last week I went to the University of Michigan, and, besides just finding a nice new university, I found a lot of delicious new food. So--here's the spots I would recommend if you find yourself on a visit to the cute mini-city of Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Our breakfasts were probably the most disappointing meals in Ann Arbor. We went to two different places but neither was particularly outstanding. Both were slightly pricey for what they were and neither had a truly perfect menu--just a couple decent items. 

The one I'd most recommend is Afternoon Delight (251 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor, The strong points were the fresh baked multi-flavor bran muffins and the super strong and super hot coffee. We opted for blueberry over peanut butter chocolate but the muffin was perfectly moist and fluffy. The weak points (sadly) were the actual breakfast items--I got cinnamon french toast which was awfully dry and overcooked. I also tasted the egg sandwich which wasn't anything special. Here's my disappointing french toast, the egg sandwich, and the top of the funny looking but scrumptious muffin. 


For lunch we felt morally obligated to go to one of the most famous places in all of Michigan. Zingerman's Delicatessen (422 Detroit St., Ann Arbor,, is widely known all over Michigan as somewhat of the Zabar's of the Midwest. However, Zabar's blows Zingerman's out of the water. Zabar's, my favorite New York City Delicatessen and gourmet food market, will always be tops on my list. Though Zingerman's was delicious, it had simply comparable food to Zabar's at a surprisingly higher price. Zabar's competes with extortionate New York rates and Zingerman's was still more expensive. We found ourselves shying away from the bagels and cakes below because they were simply unreasonably priced for their quality. 

The one upside to Zingerman's is that it has a well-oiled machine of a restaurant in back. Zingerman's offers a humongous selection of sandwiches and sides like home baked kinishes. The only caveat is that my sandwich and the other below were both predictably expensive. I ordered the most famous Binn's Reuben sandwich and the other sandwich is a turkey/chopped liver combo. Below, the sandwiches were really delicious but I'm not sure mine was 100% deserving of the $14 price tag. 


Dinner in Ann Arbor is absolutely the best. Whether you're a college student on a budget or a local that can afford to dine in style, Ann Arbor has a restaurant for you. I sampled a restaurant at each end of the spectrum.

(216 S. State Street, Ann Arbor,
Sava's features both an extensive list of delicious and fairly priced sandwiches and a list of more lavish entrees and a variety of sides. I had the Cuban and a side of mac and cheese (on the waiter's suggestion) and my mom had the Kalifa Panini with sweet potato fries. My sandwich was juicy and delicious and my mom's was also pretty yummy. The Cuban was filled to the brim and, as the local UMichigan student waiter said, "great after a long, hard day." The only forgettable piece was the mac and cheese I ordered on recommendation.
Also, it doesn't hurt that Sava's has a well decorated interior with an upper level of seating as well. The restaurant (below), is pretty aesthetically pleasing.

They also make kick-ass mixed drinks out of their full bar. The "poolboy" (pictured here) was heavenly.

(Corner of Packard and S. Division St. in Ann Arbor,
I heard about this place on Guy Fieri's infamous Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Though I'll agree with the haters, Fieri is obnoxious and annoying, the restaurants he visits tend to be worth visiting. Krazy Jim's did not disappoint.
To order, you stand in a snaking line and put together your burger as you go through. First, you have to order your fried goods. DON'T SKIMP! Jim's deep fries a selection of delicious fresh vegetables in addition to the classic onion rings and french fries right before your eyes. As you can see below I got myself a hefty basket of fried mushrooms.
Next you order your burger. Their ordering system is a little particular but they have directions on the wall to guide you. The frycooks will only give you a cute heckle if you get it twisted up. You can order from 2-5 (or more on special order) patties. Their patties are thin, so don't hesitate to go for three or more. Also pick from one of their six different cheeses, one of their four unique buns, and many grilled veggies and bacon/salami to top your burger.
My burger and Krazy Jim's experience was the foodie highlight of my trip to Michigan. This pre-football-favorite is a MUST-SEE during any Michigan visit.

At any rate, the University of Michigan was in a delicious foodie town. Maybe I'll be back in Ann Arbor soon...only time will tell!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The First Taste of Turkey--Recipe for Turkish Ezme

     I recently got back from got back from a trip to Turkey and have been desperately trying to figure out how to blog and share how much I enjoyed the food I had there. Over the time I was there I sampled way too many new and interesting foods from way too many restaurants and markets to simply explain them all or review each restaurant individually.
     So, instead of responsibly finding a good way to blog all my thoughts, I gave up. I gave into my impulses and went into the kitchen to try to recreate just one of the dishes that I missed most from Turkey. Turkish "Ezme" is sort of the ketchup, salsa, or soy sauce of Turkey. A chunky tomato dish that vaguely resembles salsa--but doesn't really taste like it--Ezme makes for a spicy and delicious start to most meals. And, just as most meals at an Italian restaurant would start with Bread and olive oil, a typical Turkish meal always starts with Bread and a dish of Ezme. 
     Naturally, after a few meals at home, I began to miss Ezme. My meals felt boring. So, I decided to try to recreate my favorite dish. I found a few recipes online but they looked kind of weird. Each one had its own twist that led me to believe it wouldn't hold up to the Ezme I knew. So, I decided I would make my own recipe and just revise it as needed. It ended up really pretty spicy. Probably just a little too spicy for the normal person. However, as it sits in my fridge for a week, it has gotten more deliciously dull as the days pass. At this point I think the Ezme is right where I want it to be. It's really spicy--but not inedibly so. A good Ezme is deliciously spicy--but shouldn't require you to gulp down your whole drink after each bite. My recipe is as follows:

One Scotch Bonnet Pepper
1 Long Green Hot
1/2 White Onion
1/2 Red Bell Pepper
6 Small Tomatoes
1/2 Cup chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
2 Tbsp Tomato Thickening Powder or Tomato Paste to thicken
1 Tsp Sumac
2 Tablespoons strange Turkish Spice
Salt/Pepper to taste

Some of these ingredients might sound weird or unattainable but I'll try to make a few substitutions where possible. 

So the recipe starts by sweating the onions in a large saucepan with a small amount of olive oil for a few minutes. Don't fry them--if they begin to wilt and fry, turn down the pan and realize you're using far too much oil. After the onions warm in the pan for about 3 minutes add in the Parsley. Parsley will never really overcook and should be a part of the cooking process in order to add their flavor to the whole dish as ingredients are incorporated. 
     After about a minute add in both the chopped Scotch Bonnet Pepper and the Long Green Hot. To be honest (and you've probably realized it) Long Green Hot probably isn't the real name of the pepper. However, when looking for something I thought would taste good in Ezme, I went to Giant to find hot peppers. I knew already how Scotch Bonnets work and was excited to buy those. However, I had never seen what was labeled as "Long Green Hots" in the market. If you don't go to my local Giant, substitute any spicy green pepper--maybe something like a serrano or even a jalepeno or two. Dice both peppers up and throw them in with the onion and parsley. Then chop up the bell pepper and toss that in as well. Finally, coarsely chop the tomatoes and throw them in as well. 
     After you let the ingredients meld in the pan for about 5 minutes, add the thickener (the powder or the tomato paste). My mom came home that day with a strange powder she got from our favorite spice/nut store in Havertown (THE HEAD NUT! that she claimed acts like a thickening agent as tomato paste does. I used about 2 tablespoons and it thickened my mixture really nicely. Then I added the sumac. Sumac is a sometimes poisonous plant that has berries that are crushed to make a lemony and delicious spice. The spice is uncommon and you may have to go to a spice store (like mine above) to find it. The final weird spice is something I truly know you can't find. I bought it in the Turkish Spice Market and it most closely resembles red pepper flakes. You can either use some red pepper flakes or simply omit this step. It might help make the spiciness of the dish more manageable to omit it.
     Next, turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 2 minutes. Pour the contents of the pan in a blender or food processor. BE CAREFUL HERE: if you over blend, the mixture will turn into tomato soup. All you want to do is pulse it carefully until it combines and the largest chunks have been cut down. 
     Hopefully when you're done it should look something like mine did!
If yours comes out too spicy for your liking, try leaving it in the fridge for a few days. This stuff will keep (refrigerated) for quite awhile and it has been proven that spices dull when they're let sit.

Thanks so much for reading! I'm going to attempt to revise this recipe soon. Look for a different version soon!