By Hannah Miles
Ryland Peters & Small, $12, 64 pp.
Don’t get us wrong: Take freshly popped popcorn and drizzle it with real butter and a few dashes of salt and you have a snack beyond compare. And given today’s uncertain economy, popcorn may be the ultimate recession-friendly snack. But what about kicking your popcorn game up a notch? Hannah Miles’ Popcorn Treats shows how to make even richer flavors of popcorn, including butter toffee, white chocolate, pumpkin seed and more. It doesn’t stop there, with some of the more exotic flavors including margarita, black truffle and salted caramel! Take that humble movie-time snack and turn it into a medium for delivering all kinds of flavor to your mouth.
Whirley Pop Popcorn Popper; $19.99
It’s a sad commentary on our declining culinary skills that some people don’t even know how to pop popcorn on a stovetop. So ubiquitous have those little bags of microwave popcorn become, we have a generation that doesn’t know the joys of this oil-popped snack. When popped on a range in a thin layer of oil, popcorn tastes better, can be seasoned to taste more easily, and doesn’t contain stuff like partially hydrogenated oil, diacetyl or perfluorinated compounds. For the beginning stovetop popper, we recommend the Whirley Pop popper. Durable but light aluminum container turns a layer of popcorn kernels into six quarts of that fluffy, delicious snack, and all you have to do is turn the crank. Available for about $20 from Bed Bath and Beyond.
More than cornfields out there — Congratulations to Diamonds Steak & Seafood in picturesque Howell. Right across the street from the courthouse lawn, Diamonds marks 30 years in business this week. And it would seem to be in good hands, with an enthusiastic 31-year-old chef named Adam Merkel running the kitchen, and a menu of such crowd-pleasing dishes as filet mignon tips. But Merkel says it can be tough to get metro Detroit diners to sample his fare in the outlying area, but points out that it’s just a mile off I-96. An entrepreneur in Livingston County who wants to be associated with the metropolitan region? That’s refreshing. As an added draw, he’s offering to serve a dish of rib tips for 30 cents until Nov. 20. Want to give it a shot? Diamonds is at 209 E. Grand River Ave., Howell; 517-548-7500; diamondssteak.com.
Fall’s Changes — Ann Arbor’s Vinology is bringing its seasonal menu in line with autumn. That means heartier choices centered on what’s being harvested this time of year. The wine bar’s chef, Jim Leonardo, has come up with a creative menu that includes pumpkin manicotti, a crispy pork terrine, tandoori Boston cod, pumpkin and apple chutneys, squash dishes, cider-braised apples and more. The bar will be serving a few fall-themed cocktails as well, such as Autumn Punch and Pie in the Rye. Drop in for a taste at 110 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; vinologya2.com.
Meat in Milford — When Cinco Lagos (formerly Five Lakes Grill) closed earlier this year, it left a hole in the heart of downtown Milford. The spot had been an early arrival in a scene that mushroomed into a host of restaurants in that quaint village. Now that hole is filled, as Smoke Street moves into the space, using a template that has worked in dozens of restaurants in metro Detroit: pairing low-and-slow barbecue with local beers and spirits. The menu is rounded out with wood-fired pizzas and down-home fried chicken, offering a bit of something for every diner. Curious? Smoke Street is at 424 N. Main St., Milford; 248-529-6464; smokestreetmilford.com.
Salute! — The Italian dining experts of the Andiamo chain introduce a new kind of spot to their mini-empire. It’s called Joe & Aldo’s Italian Tavern, and it seems to be Andiamo’s bid for the casual dining experience so in-demand these days. The family-friendly restaurant features some signature Andiamo items, but the rest of the menu, including salads, sandwiches and entrées, are all new and created exclusively for Joe & Aldo’s. You can have a taste at 42705 Grand River Ave., on the lower level of the two-story banquet complex; 248-348-3838; www.joeandaldos.com.
Lunch for Locavores — Chef James Rigato of White Lake’s Root Restaurant & Bar is the consummate locavore. He lists his regional purveyors on the Root’s website, and the tasting menu lists Michigan sources from Kalamazoo to Detroit. Now Rigato has implemented a lunch menu that features new sandwiches and salad options, but with the same emphasis on local ingredients. The Root is at 340 Town Center Blvd., White Lake; 248-698-2400; therootrestaurant.com.
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