Fair play — Ann Arbor-based Fair Food Network head and author Oran B. Hesterman will appear at Eastern Market to sign his new book Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All. The book takes a critical look at Big Food's emphasis on efficiency, centralization, high yields and profit, and offers principles to guide what a healthier food system might look like, as well as offering resources for those who want to join the fair food bandwagon. For each book sold, about $15 will benefit Gleaners Food Bank. It all happens noon-2 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, outside Eastern Market's Welcome Center, 1445 Adelaide St., Detroit. For more information, see fairfoodbook.org.
A little Beard — Chef Steven Grostick at Toasted Oak Grill & Market has been selected to cook at the James Beard House in July, one of the highest honors — and challenges — a chef can get. Wonder what they'll have in New York? You can have a taste with Toasted Oak's James Beard Preview Dinner. The menu sounds scrumptious, with appetizers including smoked trout rillette, Faygo Root Beer-braised short rib, liver and onions, even a miniature gourmet coney dog! Further courses include sausages, pickled Michigan spring beets, "Great Frickin' Chicken," porchetta and rhubarb-and-strawberry pie. Each course is paired with an appropriate wine or spirit. All in all, it's a great opportunity to see a notable local chef strut his stuff. Dinner is at 6:30 p.m. June 2, at Toasted Oak, 27790 Novi Rd., Novi; reservations required at 248-277-6000; $75 per person.
Spring forward — BRAVO! Cucina Italiana has introduced its new spring menu, which includes eggplant, portobello mushrooms, fresh herbs and ripe berries in lunch, dinner and dessert items. Try their lasagna verduta, layered with roasted red peppers, portobello mushrooms, eggplant, creamy spinach and Ricotta cheese, or go for their braised beef gnocchi, slow-roasted and fork-tender beef with mushrooms, house-made gnocchi and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Detroit locations include Dearborn (18900 Michigan Ave.; 313-271-2363), Livonia (17700 Haggerty Rd.; 734-591-5600) and Rochester Hills (285 N. Adams Rd.; 248-375-9644). See bravoitalian.com for more info.
Up-and-comer — Congratulations to Michigan's Best Teen Chef, as judged by the Art Institute of Michigan: Ta'Shionna Threatt. Her win gives her a tuition scholarship to attend the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Michigan-Detroit. The Southfield native garnered the honor after competing against nine other students in an April 30 cook-off.
Food/Thought — You don't have to be a participant on the competition barbecue circuit to take advantage of all that you can learn from Smokin' with Myron Mixon: Recipes Made Simple, from the Winningest Man in Barbecue (Ballantine Books, $22). His recipes for everything from rubs to ribs, from pork shoulder to whole hog, from sides to salads to sauces, are secrets no more. Without argument, the toughest cut of beef to cook over coals or wood is brisket. Mixon simplifies the process in the "Perfect Brisket" recipe, burnt ends included. Once you can serve a whole hog, friends will beg for an invitation, and you'll be able to feed scads of them.
Bottoms Up — Though its exact origins are a mystery, the Cuba Libre was invented near 1900 in, you guessed it, Cuba. A simple mixture of rum, cola and lime has today turned into an even simpler bar standard of rum and Coca-Cola, hardly useful for anything but getting wasted. For a far tastier and possibly more historically correct version, mix 1-1/2 ounces of 10 Cane rum, 1/4 ounce lime juice, and 2 dashes of Angostura bitters. Pour into a highball glass filled with ice and top with Fentimans Curiosity Cola. Garnish with a lime wedge and drink while wearing flip-flops.
The Works — Robert Felton, aka the Detroit Grill King, has been converting 55-gallon drums into barbecue "pits" for years. A welder by trade but a pit master and grill fabricator in his heart, Felton can make you anything from the $99 Basic-Bulldog up to a $3,800 King Kong and several between. It ain't fancy, but the Bulldog is cheap, and it's one of the best and easiest ways to make killer 'cue. You don't need anything fancy to put down good barbecue. It's all about the proximity of the meat to the heat and the temperature of the fire. Call Felton at 313-221-0617.
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