Thursday, July 04, 2013

Pure Culinary Michigan


  The state of Michigan is heavily marketing itself as a tourist destination under the catchphrase 'Pure Michigan.'  No doubt most of the ‘Pure Michigan’ TV commercials we’ve seen narrated by comedian Tim Allen, himself a Michigan native, are only seen here in the state.  They want us Michiganders to vacation at home.  “We’re on a Michigan adventure,” used to be the sing-song jingle that accompanied these marketing efforts.
 
       So Wendy and I decided to do a weekend Michigan adventure of our own so to speak, hitting some culinary hotspots between Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids.  We’re always looking for a trendy new restaurant or an out-of-the-way diner that’s a hidden gem so to speak.
 
       The Grass Lake Diner placed third in the state for best breakfast, according to the newspaper chain M-Live which sent its own culinary experts out to find the best breakfast spots throughout the state.  Wendy and I stopped there first.  Grass Lake is a just a village and the diner reflects that.  I’ve seen living rooms that have seated more people than this place.
 
      The few people waiting in line with us stood next to the wall overlooking the diners themselves.  I’m sure those eating were conscious of me and Wendy watching to see who was close to finishing so we could grab their table.  While in line, we could study the menu which was on a blackboard behind us.   Their Elvis French toast is supposed to be their hit menu item.  But neither of us likes French toast, so I had a pulled pork hash while Wendy did the traditional bacon and one egg.
 
     The verdict?  My hash was spicy, made more so with tiny jalapeno peppers.    They listed peppers on the blackboard menu, but maybe they didn’t know how to spell jalapeno so they left it off.   Other than that, breakfast was fine if a bit disorderly with the waitstaff huffing and squirming to reach all the diners.  Grumbled one waiter, “We’ve had more diners in the last two months than we’ve had in the last two years.”  That’s the price of fame, bro.
 
     Watching over all of this from her post by the cash register was a woman we judged to be 80 years old.  She helped to clean up tables and spills, seated diners, and answered questions besides cashing people out and wrapping fresh silverware in napkins.  Wonder if she was the bouncer too if there were unruly patrons.
 
     That night, since Wendy and I are big fans of the burgeoning Michigan microbrewery scene, we visited the Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids.   We tasted various ales and artisan cheeses, to the detriment of our pocketbook.  I think “artisan” is to food what “designer” is to clothes, just an excuse to jack up the price.





  One unique aspect of this microbrewery is that it’s located in a former church.  That gave me mixed feelings.  The rotating tap of current brews was listed on what obviously used to be a hymnal board.  And the bar itself was strategically placed on the former church altar.  Wasn’t there a story in the Bible about Jesus throwing people out of the temple for selling their wares?  Can you imagine what He would think about this?  They had outdoor seating here but I’m glad I didn’t sit under the darkening skies there, lightning bolts and all.
 
     Finally, on the way back from Grand Rapids we stopped at Joe’s Gizzard City.  If anyone’s heard of the Food Network’s Guy Fieri, then they probably know of his popular Diners, Drive-ins and Dives book and TV program.  Joe’s  restaurant was featured in a TV segment, one of the few Michigan eatieries so honored.  


This is one place you do NOT want to stop on the way to your doctor’s for a cholesterol check.  Most everything is deep-fried here from the featured chicken gizzards to desserts.  Yes, desserts.  Deep fried cheesecake anyone?  I settled for some onion rings and some fried gizzards which actually weren’t too bad when you dipped them in the proffered side of cocktail sauce.  Though I worried what my doctor would think, I’m glad I wasn’t the lady at the adjacent table who ordered a whole plate of deep fried gizzards as she received assistance breathing from her bottle of oxygen sitting on the floor next to her.
 
      I'll stay away from greasy fried foods when I'm on oxygen.  When it comes to Michigan culinary adventures, you have to draw the line somewhere.

12 Comments:

Blogger Carine Nadel said...

we too are foodies Dave-in fact so much that for one birthday our son and daughter-in-law made my husband a map of the US w/ pushpins so we could put the names and places of not only Fieri stops, but the newspapers and local programming as well. He was also made a notebook separated by states so he could (obviously I'd be doing the writing)write notes on the various restaurants. In Anthem alone, Guy has been to Roberto's and one other place. Hard to find restaurants in a city that can only boast that it has the most number of "bake and take" pizza places in America.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

CARINE--I review some restaurants on TripAdvisor but that's about the extent of it. I do try to get menus from some of the diners we've stopped at during our travels. And if we're ever in Pennsylvania, we have to hunt down a restaurant that offers scrapple. That's probably harder to find out west.

4:02 AM  
Blogger Carine Nadel said...

pretty impossible out here Dave. Although we really want to find that Short Leash food truck that we saw on Eat St. the other night. surprisingly-Adam, Sam and I are more enthusiastic than Steve!

Go figure

11:00 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

As long as you enjoyed yourselves...such culinary adventures aren't enjoyed every day. I think I need to go on one...my taste buds need a kick-start!

I've always loved the name "Ann Arbour"...it has a lovely sound/ring to it.

3:38 AM  
Blogger Lynilu said...

Although I haven't been to Michigan since I was about 4-5 years old, I believe I have eaten at that diner several other places. I wonder .... are there wheels beneath it, hidden by some sort of skirting, perhaps?

I would probably have enjoyed that last place, as I love gizzards. I don't eat them much any more. Growing old has a way of slowing down one's ability to digest such greasy, rich foods. Yeah, I'm that old. :(

7:13 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

CARINE--I'm sure the fish tacos they have out west are something we would envy here. The restaurant chefs around here try, but I'll bet our's pale in comparison.

LEE--My taste buds gets a kick start just reading your recipes and looking at the pictures on your blog. I don't think Michigan is recognized for anything special in the culinary field. Our micro-brewed beers are gaining in popularity.

LYNILU--That diner in 'downtown' Grass Lake was your ordinary aging downtown venue, just a simple storefront. I take chances with a lot that I eat. However, the last time I fell ill, it turns out it was because my wife had cooked sausage that had been sitting on the refrigerator shelf for who knows how long. I hadn't a clue to it until she inquired later whether I'd had a tummy ache that day, and I DID.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Carine Nadel said...

Dave, I have no idea what's going on w/ my blog and the comments! I'm thinking that for whatever reason-the blog somehow added that Google + thing and that might be the cause behind this latest thing it's doing. Did you get the last reply to your e-mail?

3:57 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

CARINE--Yes, I saw the reply. I know I have to use my old bookmark to access your blog on Blogspot. If I click on your link here, it takes me to your page on Google Chrome and then it just get confusing. I left a comment on your Sedona pic just now (nice picture, by the way).

9:29 AM  
Blogger CAROLDEE said...

Howdy Dave..glad you are out and about checking out our PURE MICHIGAN.. I have heard that commercial IS shown in other states close by. Indiana in particular. Haven't heard of Gizzards in a long time..don't think I am a fan anyway. Not eating much fried food at all these days.. Hope you let us know what other treasures you come across too. :-)

3:54 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Dike said...

Any vegan fare at these Michigan eateries?

Unlike Lee, I've always hated the name Ann Arbor. East Lansing is music to the ears, of course.

College football approaches; I have my Spartan Kukui Nut necklace hanging over my rearview mirror in anticipation of a great year - all we need is a quarterback...

Congratulations on the birth of your new grandson - He's adorable! We're expecting our fourth grandchild in September. Try to keep up, Dave.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

"Big Dave's Blog" has been included in the Sites To See for this week. Be assured that I hope this helps to point many new visitors in your direction.

http://asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com/2013/08/sites-to-see_23.html

P.S.: It has been awhile since your last post here. I sure hope nothing bad has happened.

3:57 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

CAROLDEE--We've been on another Michigan adventure, this one to Isle Royale, but their food was strictly ordinary at their one and only restaurant. My wife complained that it was all microwaved.

MRS. DIKE--Math favors me never catching up to you in the grandchild department. I think there was vegan on the menu at Gizzard City but there was so much dust on that part of it I couldn't tell you what they offered. Hard to believe someone who cheers on Moo U. would be vegan though. Go blue. Wishing the Spartans good luck on their out-of-state Big Ten schedule.

JERRY--I do think this is the longest I've gone without blogging. I thought semi-retirement would bring with it more time, but it seems for some reason to be working the other way around. Thanks for checking in on me though.

6:36 AM  

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