Food Stuff 

Ann Arbor dines, Mad Hatters drink and more

Ann Arbor Restaurant Week

Our idea of a life of leisure would be to roam the country almost at random, picking the names of cities out of a hat as our next destination. Almost at random we say, because we'd restrict our hat-pulls to cities offering restaurant weeks timed to our otherwise serendipitous wanderings. (We may imagine a life of leisure, but we can't imagine becoming immune to the lure of good deals.) Such a restriction, however, would still leave plenty of options, because, as best we can figure the weeks of fixed price finer dining have spread just about everywhere since their introduction (Wikipedia tells us) as a lunch-only event in New York City back in 1992. For the week of June 12-17, our luck couldn't do much better than to place us in Ann Arbor where the Main Street Area Association has organized a 40-restaurant event for lunches and dinners. Lunches are priced at $12 with restaurants offering a menu of their choice, many offering two-for-one pricing. Dinner is a three-course menu for $25, with some restaurants, again, offering two-for-one deals. A complete list of participating restaurants, their menus and their deals is available at Early reservations are suggested since tables fill quickly.

Hats-off to Hatters

A former boss of ours had a bugaboo about the phrase "first annual." When we let the offending phrase slip into print, he'd ask, "How do you know it's going to last more than a year?" On the other hand, how can a three-block spring march culminating in the smashing of a Hatter Yata (a beer pinata) not catch on? So, we'll just say that the possible first annual Hatter's March is on the horizon, a new addition to what, on Sunday, June 12, will be the fifth annual Mad Hatter Day celebration at Cliff Bell's in downtown Detroit. It's all an elaborate toast to New Holland's limited edition Hatter beers first brewed a decade ago in Holland, Mich., and now including Oaked Hatter, Rye Hatter, Black Hatter, Farmhouse Hatter and Imperial Hatter. The march is at 4 p.m. The Hatter Day Hatters event starts at 6 p.m., and Ann Arbor's blues singer-guitarist Laith Al-Saadi plays at 8 p.m. Cliff Bell's is located at 2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543;


Detroiters' brunch options just expanded. With P.J.'s Lager House recently kicking up its bill of fare, the venerable tavern will now offer weekend brunches. It happens 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with Bloody Marys, homemade corned beef hash and many other goodies. Drop in at 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-4668;


Prepare to be amazed at what Carl Warner can do with food. Carl Warner's Food Landscapes (Abrams Image, $22.50) gives new meaning to playing with your food. He constructs elaborately detailed scenery, all made with fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and seafood, grains and cheeses. Each photo is followed by a list of the ingredients and their place in the landscapes. For instance, mountains of cheddar and chopped parsley overlook sailboats with celery hulls, tortilla sails and garlic spinnakers. Identifying all of the components is a challenge. These images illustrate the true meaning of the expression "It looks too good to eat."of spice.

Bottoms Up

Frappato is a little-known grape grown in Sicily and generally used as secondary juice to brighten the denser Nero D'Avola. That could change if more drinkers wrap their taste buds around cult winemaker Arianna Occhipinti's Tami Frappato. This outrageously drinkable dry red wine seems to straddle the line between the ripe plum flavors of southern Europe and the vivid acidity and cherry flavors of cooler northern climates. Stick your nose into a glass for big aromas of flowers and fruit and even a bit of spice.

The Works

Williams-Sonoma does it again with their exclusive Chef'n panini spatula designed to pick up large panini. We like to use lengths of ciabatta rather than individual portions, and this is the perfect tool to handle them. Made with stainless steel and silicone, it's good-looking and functional. The center groove simplifies slicing and serving. Despite the name, it can, of course, be used for all manner of foods. Fish comes to mind, or steak that you never want to puncture with a fork, letting the juices escape. All this for only 20 bucks.


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