Take a sample — This summer, Hiller's markets will hold weekly in-store samplings showing shoppers how to get the most for their money. The mini-chain's executive chef, Peter Julian, will host the events, dubbed Hiller's Homemade Saturday Samplings, at noon, 1 and 2 p.m. at three locations over the course of six weeks. The next is all about smoothies, on Saturday, June 20, at 39950 W. 14 Mile Rd., Commerce Twp.; 248-960-1990). See hillers.com for more info.
Hot off press — Props to Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor and Slows Bar BQ in Detroit for making Bon Appétit magazine's "Hot Ten" list of the best new barbecue restaurants. But does this mean it'll be even harder to get a table at Slows after work? Maybe we spoke too soon.
Ham on rye — You'd think with all the glitzy dining options in Greektown, guests at the new hotel would have scant reason to visit a venerable greasy spoon like the Ham Shoppe. But owner Sal says his gut-pleasing breakfasts win big praise from hotel guests, ranging from eggs and toast ($2.50) to the "hungry man" special ($7.50). Whatever happened at the tables, Ham Shoppe's a winner. At 1219 St. Antoine, Detroit; 313-965-0888.
If you're a noodle lover and want to explore the recipes and techniques behind the dishes served at Asian noodle houses, Takashi's Noodles (Ten Speed Press, $24.95), can help. Takashi Yagihashi's book is a primer on the various types of noodle dishes, from soba and udon to Italian pasta, mostly with Asian interpretations. Be sure to read the recipes in advance, as many ingredients will require a trip to a specialty grocery. This is an exploration of Japanese soul food at its best.
Not all pink wine tastes like sugary soda pop. Cavalchina Bardolino Chiaretto is refreshingly tart and dry, with a nose of northern meadows and wild strawberry hulls. Served good and cold, it's an ideal counterpart to grilled seafood and the effort of grilling itself. It's made from a blend of three grapes you've never heard of at the Azienda Agricola Cavalchina, just south of the Swiss and Austrian borders, where nobles once required the finest wine their land and domestics could provide.
Perhaps our use of high-tech electronic kitchen gadgets has robbed us of the pleasure of hands-on food preparation. Take the molcajete: It's a basic tool that has been used for centuries to prepare salsas, to grind spices and chiles for mole, and, most commonly today, to make guacamole. Essentially a mortar and pestle made from lava rock, its coarse surfaces are perfect for mashing avocados and combining finely chopped chiles, onions and tomatoes. Keep it chunky for an appealing texture.
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