Jalepeno tamale

IMG_0603

Courtesia de La Botana.  Mole, being on the list of things to do, motivated a trip over to one of the only Mexican restaurants anywhere near that serves good food — only about 15 miles away, or, 45 minutes by car — reason being, they carry the necessary peppers at the counter.

Hilariously, the only thing walked away with was a good lunch, because they no longer sell the peppers — the guy said no one ever bought them!  He helpfully pointed out that they did still sell Mexican candy, many of which are spicy, including tamarind (funny where that shows up) candy that’s “Just a little bit spicy.”

It’s a little silly to have ordered tamales, seeing as the freezer is full of them, but it was a tamale moment and a delicious one at that — made all the better by the spicy salsa topping.  They warned that it was hot, and for a change it actually was.  Everything ever tried there is above par.

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Ms. Abraham’s Misgivings

From the social D:

Those coated polyester dinner napkins that refuse to absorb spills, and then slide off your lap onto the floor . . . Ingredients that require consultation with the Food Lover’s Companion to decipher (what are fennel pollen and maple “air” anyway, and do we really need them?) . . . . Large menus in heavy leather binders – don’t drop that thing on your foot! . .

As for being taken to the worst table in the house when there are plenty of open tables:  How about cramming a 5-crew family into a 4-person table and adding on another chair at the end — when there are plenty of large booths and larger tables available at you mostly empty restaurant?

 

Roma Cafe

Roma was the only Italian restaurant we knew, growing up.  Memories are of a much darker and redder decor — always good food.

Fork in the road

Speaking of forks

Don't you pick and refuse me,

Serendipity led us to this lovely little joint on a brief stop off to Lansing.  It was one of the options we’d considered, but plans were rapidly falling by the wayside.  Somehow, we yet managed to drift here.

'Cause the things people refuse

Will was very impressed with their garden, intrigued by the fruits that grew on the plants, since we don’t do that, ’round here…

Are the things they should choose.

He ordered the apple pecan pancakes, with brandy butter, before remembering he doesn’t like nuts — which is more of a position, than a preference.

Do you 'ear me? Hear what I say!

We opted for the quinoa/tomatilla tacos…

Stone that the builder refuse

and a side of their tater tots.

Will always be the head cornerstone-a; tell me why

Fantastic little place – all homemade food, fresh and great, creative options for all sorts of ‘vores.

Grand!

2012 Hatch Detroit finalists Detroit Vegan Soul will celebrate a grand opening in its new space in West Village at 8029 Agnes St. this Saturday, Sept. 28.

After starting out with a vegan meal delivery and catering service, Kirtsen Ussery and Erika Boyd realized that there is a real demand for homemade vegan comfort food in Detroit. Both vegan themselves, they started veganizing their family recipes and found that people really loved it.

Ode to Niki’s

Eat at Niki's

Somehow, over the past few years, something called, “Detroit Style” pizza has developed – as, once before, noted previously.  In the past, this was sometimes referred to as “Sicilian” style pizza, or, more frequently, ‘round here, simply square.  It was never considered to be a particularly novel, local element, as it seemed ubiquitous, available widely and the source of numerous, square-v-round debates at various gatherings in many parts of the country. 

It’s unclear why this is now considered a Detroit thing, but square has always been our preferred style, and there are a number of local places that make a decent one – including the one, in particular, that is always lauded, ranked as one of the best in the country, and noted as the harbinger of the style.  They make a decent pizza, no doubt, but it doesn’t seem remarkably unique; better than the many, the others –the only one that really sets itself apart, is Niki’s. 

The interior was completely re-done, a few years back

Niki’s is sometimes mentioned, usually as, good, too – I think, 24th in the country, by GQ.  This is incomprehensible…  Niki’s pizza is a masterpiece:  From the unparalleled crust to the presentation – the others are pale comparators.   

We miss the torn, vinyl benches and non-smoking tables

Admittedly, there is extreme sentimental and proximate bias, here.  Many summer days were spent on the little front deck , enjoying pizza, sipping beer, trying to make conversation with the weird suburbanite girls that came down to the big city for the Simply Red concerts, or – more often:  Waxing philosophic with friends, on such haute intellectual topics as, the implication of exhaling flies, instead of smoke when having a cigarette.  It’s remarkable, really, that we haven’t found greater success, over the years…

No Greeks were seen, on this pass.  Way back, this was a choice spot for recent immigrants to land some work.

Yet, even outside of that, the raves of those further out, of their similar haunts with similar style, those pizzas never stacked up – it was simply presumed they had never experienced one of Niki’s outstanding pizzas.

As with the best of the others, the crust cooks up to a marvelous, caramelized crispness, its flavor akin to a slightly yeasty, rustic white bread, infused with olive oil.  Where most pizzas have crust that is present principally as a platform – including most squares – the crust on Niki’s pizza is a critical focus, and perhaps, the best part.  It does not end with that edge – though, it’s best to only order a small, so to maximize the crispy crunch of the crust – but the bread beyond:  Delicious and slightly chewy!  Not tough, at all, but just slightly resistant to the bite, as with a very tender piece of meat, or, tempeh or seitan.  Alone, the crust could be savored, but then – they make it remarkable! 

As with all pizzas in this style, the dough is topped with cheese, but Niki’s adds a sprinkle of feta.  And, in contrast to some places that slather on sauce as if with a roller, or others, that paint two minimalist lines in parallel – sauce is splashed abstractly across the pizza, giving each piece the perfect moisture compliment, bites, the perfect infusion of sauce.  As the pizza bakes, the feta melts and browns, creating a golden ring around the edge, framing the elements of a culinary Matisse.

Sometimes Stella would lean over the fence and threaten to steal our pizza.  We'd over-react, and she'd walk off laughing.

The result is extraordinary, the combination of textures and flavors, unmatched.  The crunchy edge, light but chewy bread, magnificently cradles the slight sweetness of the sauce, counterpointed by the slightly acrid and tangy feta and salt of the mozzarella.  Toppings are essentially irrelevant.

Remember the old parties, in the alley?  Those were good times...

Good pizza has ruined lazy nights.  When exhaustion, or time, or, often, yearning, begs a thought to carry in – we waggle until surrender, resolved against the tough-crust, over-cheesed, franchise disks of disappointment, nearby.  We’d rather make our own – far better, with rare disappointment – other than Niki’s…  Or, Chicago style…  And Brick Street, over in Grand Rapids was the best round to date.  But Niki’s is the best.

Friday night feasting foray, proposition four: The Dish Cafe

Liquid crystal drips from my lip -- because I ate my display.  I believe it needed mustard.

A grilled ciabatta, portabella melt with pesto, and a pickle, from the Dish Cafe in lovely downtown Traverse City.

Again, one of these is likely too much for one person.  Fortunately, I’ve never been one to let such obstacles get in the way of over-indulgence.  Incredibly good — a cute, quaint cafe, with numerous, generous options.

Gratefully, Traverse City has plenty of walkable points of interest to help justify a bit of prodigious consumption.

To that end — thanks to whomever fed the meter — psychic good thoughts to you:  Your deed has been carried forward.