A wish list for 2013
When it came to food, 2012 was a pretty good year. We saw the pop-up phenomenon start to blossom. We saw rallies promoting food trucks, which continue to make inroads around town. We saw a bunch of inventive new restaurants open, not just in the suburbs but many of them in the city, especially in and around Corktown (Mercury Burger Bar, Brooklyn Street Local, Green Dot Stables). We saw our inner-city food shopping horizons open a bit, with ground broken on a Whole Foods and the opening of the long-awaited Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe. And, as this year's Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar demonstrated, the area has an abundance of small craft food producers, from picklers to chocolatiers.
What more could we want? We do have a wish list for the coming year.
We'd like to see brick-and-mortar restaurateurs come to better understand the food truck phenomenon. We can understand that knee-jerk impulse to say a food truck is unfair competition, but, frankly, a lot of the restaurant owners doing the complaining seem to offer food that's radically different from that being sold out of the truck. And anything bringing more pedestrians out for food is a good thing for everybody, provided your menu fits the market.
We'd like to see the state offer a sensible, organized path to certification for craft food producers. One local sausage-maker told us that, even though the rules have been loosened, allowing the market to flourish, the state still isn't prepared to walk producers through a process, and that it's often the producers themselves who have to do all the hand-holding. There's a whole industry waiting to take off, creating jobs, keeping money in the state and rewarding local growers; it would behoove officials to do all in their power to help it along.
We'd also like to see the pop-up phenomenon mature into something greater. For instance, we heard of a place on the West Coast that was a restaurant with a fully certified kitchen, but it hosted a different pop-up restaurant every day. Is such a thing possible here?
We'd also like to see more local distilleries. Yes, Valentine Vodka's Ferndale tasting room is a hit, and we hear the Two James Spirits Company is planning on opening in Corktown in 2013, and that encourages us. But here's a whole segment of the market that's been closed off to local producers for a long time. What a terrific way to keep those dollars in our local economy, while reddening a face or two.
Finally, we'd like to encourage everybody to go out with friends and have a fine meal. Sure, we know times are tough, but those who look closely enough will notice that even our better restaurants have ways to make the experience more affordable. Whether it's going for lunch instead of dinner, eating in the bar instead of the main floor, or simply asking about upcoming prix fixe deals, where there's a will, there's usually a way.
And, finally, we leave you with one hint: If there's a restaurant in town that's usually mobbed and impossible to eat at, there is one guaranteed way to get a reservation — provided you're a football agnostic: Go on Super Bowl night.
Know of any upcoming food or drink events? Let us know! Call 313-202-8043 or email [email protected]
Dirt Candy: A Cookbook: Flavor-Forward Food from the Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant
By Amanda Cohen & Ryan Dunlavey
Clarkson Potter, $19.95
First of all, you gotta love the title, Dirt Candy: A Cookbook: Flavor-Forward Food from the Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant. Chef-owner Amanda Cohen and Ryan Dunlavey share many of the restaurant's recipes that reflect Amanda's attitude toward the food she loves and cooks. It's an unusual book, partly in comic book format, with recipes that explore tastes and preparations that, while unfamiliar, could tempt you to undertake them. Try a starter of hushpuppies with maple butter; move on to smoked cauliflower and waffles and then broccoli ice cream for dessert.
Any cook in the know will tell you not to buy grated cheese, that it's no substitute for what comes right off the wedge. Fresh is just plain better. One problem, though not a big one, is containing the stuff. A simple and inexpensive solution is a Microplane Elite Paddle Grater. Zesters, originally woodworking tools, now are can't-do-without-kitchen tools, for zesting and grating. The cover on this one holds a cupful, enough for a salad and a couple of bowls of pasta. Careful! No one, least of all you, wants a knuckle sandwich. Available in four sizes at Williams Sonoma.