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Food Stuff 

Grape deal — It's been a tough decade for the Merlot grape. Though Merlot acreage mushroomed tenfold in the 1990s, not all that land was suitable, and the wine's popularity waned. (That movie Sideways didn't help either.) But don't give up on Merlots. Or so say the wine-lovers at Vinology, who are hosting a tasting of wines based on the grape. On Tuesday, Sept. 22, at 110 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-222-9841; call for reservations; $40 plus tax and tip; light appetizers served. 

Eat for art — Ypsi's What Is That Gallery is hosting a fund-raising night of art and food to help Ypsilanti-area arts organizations. Expect a homemade Italian dinner and a look at the gallery's new exhibition, City Trips: Images of Ypsilanti and Beyond. It happens 5:30-8 p.m., Sept. 23, at 130 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; $15; reservations recommended at 734-485-0113.

Smoke 'em out — Sad news from Lazybones Smokehouse: Somebody stole their smoker! It is a big unit the owners say would be tough to miss. Notice any suspicious new smokers? See their website (lazybonessmokehouse.net) and compare. If you find the stolen smoker, it means a year of free barbecue for you! Call Chef Deni at 586-775-7427.


FOOD/THOUGHT

Julia Child singlehandedly transformed American cooking styles, enlightening us with the techniques of French cooking, the foundation of haute cuisine. From Mastering the Art of French Cooking, now celebrating its 40th anniversary, to the TV shows that enriched (and amused) us, her legacy is immeasurable. Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking (Knopf $14.95), recently released in paperback, teaches the basics of cooking.  


BOTTOMS UP

In the mid-19th century gold rush, San Francisco saw a boom in population and thus taverns and thirsty drinkers to fill them. With little means of cooling, necessity called for a hybrid beer made with lager yeast that was meant for cold-aging but allowed to ferment at higher temperatures. Combining the smoothness of lager with the fruitiness of ale, steam beer was born. Today, the style now known as California Common Beer is best represented by a malty, balanced glass of Anchor Steam.


THE WORKS

The trouble with most cocktail shakers is removing the two-piece top and then separating the parts. The solution is a patented Flip-Top Cocktail Shaker. Simply remove the screw-on lid, put in the "juice" and ice and replace the lid. Snap it shut. Shake it up and strain the liquid through the grid that opens with a touch. This handy device is made of double wall stainless steel and is dishwasher safe to boot.

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