Tuscan son — At 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11, winemaker Michele Scienza, from the Podere Guado al Melo estate in Italy, will host a winemaker's dinner at Modern Food & Spirits. The small, 42-acre vineyard is in a hilly, stream-crossed part of Tuscany, under grape cultivation for centuries. Have a taste at 1535 Cass Lake Rd., Keego Harbor; 248-681-4231; $60 per person plus tax and tip.

Queen's bounty — The Queen's Residence Bed and Breakfast will host a six-course Valentine's Day dinner in their stately 1870s manor and 18th century colonial tavern. For reservations, e-mail [email protected]. Seatings are at 5 and 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14, at the Queen's Residence, 220 S. Huron St., Ypsilanti; $75 per person.

No smoke — Visitors looking for a smoke-free bar in Hamtramck will be rewarded with a trip to Skipper's Hamtown, which has taken over the old Chill & Mingle. The owner, Nolan "Skipper" LaFramboise II, is former owner of Skipper's downtown. Amenities include a country-stocked jukebox, a pool table and ice-cold brewskis. No credit card machine yet, though. Drop in at 9735 Conant St., Hamtramck, open 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Mondays-Saturdays.


Using simple techniques, Italian food can be a combination of comfort food and convenience. Michele Scicolone's The Italian Slow Cooker 125 Easy Recipes for the Electric Slow Cooker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22) illustrates how to keep it simple. Such dishes as polenta and risotto that normally require constant attention are effortlessly prepared in a slow cooker. Her stews, beans, grains, sauces and protein — meat, seafood and poultry — are soothing, especially on a blustery day.  


When dining out in Mexicantown, try washing down your meal with a glass of horchata (or-CHAH-tah). Originally made in Egypt with the chufa nut, horchata made its way through Spain to Mexico, where the local population used rice, almonds, cinnamon and lime to flavor this milky-looking drink. To make horchata at home, you can grind, steep and strain all of the ingredients, or  you can buy powdered horchata from Mexicantown groceries — or just add cinnamon, sugar and a squeeze of lime to rice milk. 


This whimsical Chef 'n Garlic Zoom is a pretty fun-looking way to chop and mince garlic. You insert garlic cloves in the clear acrylic holder, roll it back and forth, and, voilà, minced garlic, without the usual garlic smell on your hands (although who says that garlic doesn't smell good on your hands, signaling friends that you are a chef). The transparent case allows you to see when the process is done to your liking. The stainless steel blade is removable and the whole thing is dishwasher-safe.

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