Wednesday, February 27, 2008
What's Cooking Wednesday and Queen for a Day
I'm late with What's Cooking Wednesday for this week. I've had my mind on other things. So, I think I'm going to join What's Cooking Wednesday on Thursday this week. In the meantime, please check out the wonderful recipes at Shan's place.
Yesterday I was truly Queen for a Day.
I can't tell you the number of lovely congratulations I received both via the blog, via e-mail and through calls from friends. It touched me in a way I can't even describe.
My family also decided to celebrate. I almost never honor my celebrations - I rarely do much for my b'day or other holidays. I'll celebrate for others, but over the years, I've learned to live with my not-really-celebratory DH, and just kind of let that part of me go.
We've been tight (along with everyone else in Michigan and probably the U.S.) in terms of our finances and the economy, and so we haven't been out much for food, entertainment, etc. I don't feel badly about this at all. I'm very grateful for what we have, and I feel we are extremely lucky.
Be that as it may, we decided to go out last night, and we truly had a celebratory dinner. We went to Zingerman's Roadhouse. For those that don't know, Zingerman's is one of the top-ranked delicatessens/food emporiums in the world. It was started in 1982 by Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw in an old grocery on Detroit Street in Ann Arbor. It's now grown to a collection of businesses, of which the Roadhouse is one. Ari has also won a James Beard Award (the Oscars of food), and has written several guides including his bestselling book, Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating. Other businesses include their bakery, creamery, coffee roaster, the Roadshow (a smaller, carry out offshoot of the Roadhouse), a training group, caterers, a very, very active catalogue business and probably others I'm missing. Maybe more importantly, along with the Zingerman's tradition of being extremely generous with the Ann Arbor community and with its own staff (it's won numerous awards as a "best small company to work for"), they were the founders of (and still generous sponsors of) Food Gatherers, a food rescue bank that redistributes tons and tons of food to hungry people every year.
The Roadhouse is Zingerman's upscale restaurant, but in keeping with the informal and fun nature of all of Zingerman's businesses, Ari, Paul and Chef Alex Young modeled the restaurant on a standard (if lovely) roadhouse, and the food reflects American traditions from all over the country. To get a sense of what they serve, you can find the menus here.
So in lieu of What's Cooking Wednesday, this was What I Ate Tuesday:
A classic Manhattan cocktail - a nod to my sister-in-law's family, who've introduced me to this drink over the years
A Wisconsin cheese sampler - including a really good American parmesan - Stravecchio
Chicken Bog - yup, you heard me right. This was a truly amazing dish, however, and one of the best chicken dishes I've ever eaten in. my. life. It was pit grilled chicken (they have a lot of pit-grilled meats at the Roadhouse) and a mound of Anson Mills'corn grits swimming together in a rich chicken broth and garnished with amazingly fresh scallions. It was one of the weekly specials and it was truly out of this world.
Mrs. Russell Loves Lemon - another all-time favorite and another special. This was a reasonably-sized piece of pound cake (made more reasonable by D and I splitting it) drenched in a lemon-honey glaze with fresh whipped cream and candied lemon shreds. Simply out of this world. I know I'm going to have to try to re-create both dishes at home, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to fail. Ah, well, another excuse to go back at some time.
And then there were two things that made it even more special. First off, our server, Debbie, was everything a server should be - friendly, knowledgeable and efficient. She was a delight from start to finish.
But here's where the real Queen for a Day feel came in (no, that's not true - it was all-day pleasure) - Ari was extremely helpful early on in my writing process as my protagonist is an Ann Arbor foodie, and he helped me find folks to talk to in order to get some questions answered about catering, etc. Ari also seems to be at the Roadhouse most nights, pouring water, helping out and gauging the general atmosphere, I guess. I believe that's one of the reasons that all of the Zingerman's businesses WORK (and work beautifully), is there's a great deal of hands-on, warmth and just plain quality control (in a good way) at every level. So when Ari came by our table, I mentioned to him that this was our celebration dinner because I had finished that food novel he'd helped me with back in July.
Well, I was surprised beyond belief when two glasses of champagne, and a glass of ginger ale for C, appeared at the beginning of the dessert course. And it was delicious. Queen for a Day, indeed.
Thank you, Ari, for everything.
I'm in a state of absolute bliss today - celebrations and honoring accomplishments are good, on occasion. ;-)
And now it's time to start revisions...