Monday, August 31, 2009

What We Did on Our Summer Staycation

Despite the fact that rain derailed some of our initial plans, the a2eatwrite family had a good staycation last week.

There were a variety of culinary things we wanted to do, but honestly, after fitting in just a few of them, we decided to save others for later, just because we’re not really used to that much rich food.

We always see staycations as a chance to “splurge” in our hometown.

What do we do on staycations that we don’t usually do?

Well, one thing we don’t do frequently is eat out. We had a list of places we wanted to try: Neehee’s in Canton, courtesy of a great post by Kitchen Chick, burgers at The Sidetrack in Ypsi, one of Sparrow Market’s “Feast” dinners, The Grange Kitchen and Bar (see the great post on The Grange Kitchen and Bar by The Farmer's Marketer), and the last German Park Picnic of the season.

Neehee’s was a total delight, but Kitchen Chick gave a fairly comprehensive overview of Neehee’s so I’ll let her speak to that. I will say that our favorites were Papdi Chaat (crunchy puffed rice with potatoes, chilis, yogurt and chutneys) and the cheese Uttapam (a rice pancake with fresh mozzarella cheese, dipped in chutneys. We’d also second Kitchen Chick’s appraisal of the saffron-pistachio (kesar pistachio) ice cream - it was simply out of this world. I’ve included the Neehee’s link here, but while it was working fine a couple of days ago, it’s having problems today - just keep trying.

I still can’t believe that The Sidetrack has been on our radar all these years, and yet we’d never been there. If you love burgers, this is the place to go. Well, actually, we are rich in great burgers in Washtenaw county - I can’t slight Blimpy Burgers on one end of the spectrum nor those at Zingerman's Roadhouse (especially as the Monday night special with a fabulous tossed salad). If you like thick, cooked-to-order burgers, The Sidetrack brings back memories of burgers gone by. I loved my toppings of grilled onions and swiss, my husband loved his sliders with goat cheese and roasted red peppers, my mom followed my lead, but had cheddar instead of swiss, and my son was equally happy with bacon and cheddar. Not only were these burgers voted one of the top twenty in the country by GQ magazine, but there is an insane of topping combinations that can be derived from the menu. We also enjoyed a basket of fried dill pickles, which we thought were loads better than the fries.

German Park was great fun, if a little cold. The lines were apparently longer than they’d ever been, perhaps thanks to notice by German Park Picnic and a review in August's Ann Arbor Observer. Part of my varied ethnic background is Bavarian, and that part of me was delighted with the bratwurst, spatzen and sauerkraut. Music, schuhplatter dances and parades helped the evening, as did the good company of friends and some mean games of Sequence.

After The Sidetrack, we decided to hold off on the Grange Kitchen and Bar for another time, as we’d already decided that the bar menu was more friendly for our sixteen-year-old and our wallets, and we felt like we were done with the rich foods (um… except for that German Park Picnic) by the time late week rolled around.

As for the Sparrow South American Market Feast, it was incredible. In fact, it was so incredible that it merits its own post, which will be up later this week.

Our other culinary experiences were our traditional, staycation cheese and chocolate dinner, courtesy of “cheese ends” from Whole Foods Market (there is a basket of small cheese pieces where you can gain maximum choice for minimal buck right near the “cracker” section in the Washtenaw Whole Foods), daily tomato sandwiches with farmers market tomatoes, and a family sushi-making night.

Our other activities included geocaching, park walks, lots of reading, exploration of the new U. of M. Museum of Art, several rounds of Kill Dr. Lucky, and a viewing of Bride and Prejudice (to accompany our feast from Neehee's), too many episodes of “Angel”.

If you had a staycation this summer, how did you spend it?

32 comments:

City Girl said...

sounds like you had a fantastic time!

thank you for all your comments. I do cook a lot of vegan Indian food at home, but as you can tell, my list was very much about missing eating out as much as specific foods.

As for the happy place, I am still working on it. I really had associated a Starbucks break with "quick, fast but satisfying mind break" that I am working on finding new rituals, especially non-food related rituals. i never really thought of myself as an emotional eater because one square of dark chocolate would do the trick but I am seeing that I am. Or was. Most of my friends who call themselves emotional eaters would have a bad day and eat a pint of ice cream, so i thought that was what emotional eating meant. You know?

Brian Miller said...

sounds like you had some great food on the staycation. we were at the park playing yesterday, smelling the cookout happening int he shelter. we totally changed dinner plans to grill out burgers...could not do without. the sidetrack sounds amazing!

Kill Dr. Lucky...had never heard about that one before, but followed the link. Sounds really cool. Will have to check it out. There was a limited edition Clue game that came out just one year called Museum Caper, where one person tries to steal the pictures while everyone else gives chase to the invisible person moving around the board. we love it. this sounds right up that alley.

glad you had a great time. glad you are back!

City Girl said...

Just got your comment that my gratitude lists inspire you so much. That SO made my day. Thank you :) You inspire me too - your blog having all those interests was absolutely part of the reason I thought I could pull that off with my blog, you know? And your very authentic accounts of things like your mother moving out of her home have really helped me as I know I will face those issues in coming years {and I am an only child whose parents are far older than my peers so it's something I think about}. So thank you :)

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

City Girl - it was. Also, in terms of happy places, like you, I had to find substitutes. I now allow myself a quick read as a break or a walk outside. It's been the right break for me. I hope you find your happy place soon!

Brian - we love grilled burgers, too - they are standbys for us. Also, we've found "Save Dr. Lucky" recently, but somehow it's not as much fun. There's a lot of humor in "Kill Dr. Lucky" which is a plus for us.

City Girl - THANK you for those kind words! BTW... I'm in exactly the same position as you. My father was 48 when I was born and my mother was 36 - I had a half sister, but she died in 1997, and she wouldn't have been responsible for my mom, in any case. We'll have to connect offsite on this.

anno said...

Sounds like a week of epicurean pleasures, omnivorous delights: the kinds of staycation where I'd rather than stay than return. Glad to see you are made of stronger stuff!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Anno - it rejuvenated me, so I think it did its thing. It's like that wonderful post you wrote a while back - these kinds of experiences are so much the better when they are the rare special time. ;-)

Jenn@slim-shoppin said...

That's really a great idea to plan for a staycation and be a tourist!

I am 8 miles from down town Chicago and my kids have never been to the top of the Sears Tower, or taken a boat ride on Lake Michigan. And there are TONS of restaurants of course!

Thanks for the review of yours, it sounds wonderful!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Jenn, we started doing this a few years ago, and it's really been wonderful for us. We've done things like build a (huge) guinea pig habitat, see different series/movies that we like, give in to our addiction to the latest game that we favor, and do things like have that cheese and chocolate dinner. And we're always discovering new things about where we live. It's a lot of fun.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I'm sorry to hear about the rain derailing your plans! Anyway, it seems like you had lots of fun....

Cheers,

Rosa

Acedog said...

A staycation provides a wonderful opportunity to see and experience hometown with fresh eyes and a "beginner's mind." Congratulations on what sounds like a wonderful time.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

It really was a good time, Acedog. One thing it made me realize was that I really need more time for reading. Every. Day.

Goofball said...

aren't you tempted to get trapped again in household routines and not truly having that "vacation" really?

I really need to be away

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Well, Goofball, we've been at this long enough that we've mostly learned how to keep things in "vacation" mode.

Brittany Noel said...

Sounds like you had an awesome staycation!! I'm glad you guys had some time to yourselves. It's nice to just take that time and relax.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Rosa - I don't know how I missed your comment! Thank you - we really did have a wonderful time despite the rain.

Brittany, it really was exactly what we needed. Your traveling vacation looked wonderful, too!

Jane said...

Sidetrack?! That's the one in Depot Town, isn't it? I love that place! The burgers are the best, and the moose is cute, too.
I heard that the great candy store across the street is gone now--true? If so, it's a shame-it was a great place to find just about any kind of candy.

painted maypole said...

it always amazes me people who don't explore their own surroundings...like people here who have never been into the French Quarter, and folks in Long Beach california who had never driven the 30 minutes to Hollywood Blvd or the La Brea tar pits (we took locals on a tour. it was crazy)

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Jane - yup, it's the one in Depot Town. And yes, I think that candy store is gone, unfortunately - I think I read something about it.

PM - I used to feel that way about NYC, too. Although I admit that growing up there were certain things I thought I was "too cool" for and didn't do. I've done pretty much all of them as an adult, though.

ben.herrera said...

That sounds like a lot of fun. We don't go out to eat very often either so checking out the local food scene would be a great idea for our next staycation.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

It was fun to do that, Ben. Truly. And now you can see what you're missing in Ann Arbor. ;-)

Jeanie said...

Oh, this sounds like such a lot of fun -- and good restaurant hints, too. Glad to know about the Washtenaw Whole Foods cheese bargains! Chocolate and cheese...who could argue with that!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

No arguments here, Jeanie! The fact that it's rare makes it even better.

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

My staycations are usually spent in A2. But I've never made it to the Sidetrack. I must try it--providing they've got decent beer, that is.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Meg - They have amazing beer from what I've seen and heard. Click on one of the links - I think their beer menu is up on the site.

peter said...

Ours was a hybrid- a week at my family's place in VT. Honestly, I would have rather stayed home, but mostly for the garden. It's hard to be away for any length of time, especially in a nutty-weather summer like this.

Sounds like you did pretty well.

Oh said...

Oh, yum on those daily (fresh) tomato sandwiches!!!! Funny about watching Angel - we used to be fans. Sounds like a lovely staycation. I actually hope to do a long weekend staycation with HM this month - feels like the summer flew by, doesn't it?

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Peter - it sounds like you had some good family time, though - if family time can be good? I know it can be a mixed bag. And oh... Vermont! But I agree about leaving when summer is both at its height and funky.

Oh - fresh tomato sandwiches may just be my favorite food. Especially now that I have Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a day, and almost always have homemade bread on hand! Enjoy your staycation/long weekend!

burpandslurp said...

My family and I do staycations often, esp since my dad is sometimes too busy to take a real vacation. We love to explore culinary places around our hometown, too!
Pity you had no pics, I would have liked to indulge with you! ;-)

Betsy said...

Sounds like a great staycation, Jen! I would love to go to Neehee's-- it sounds like my kind of food!

I liked Jenn@slimshoppin's comment and your answer. It's so easy to think of far-away places we'd all like to visit and too often we forget all of the interesting opportunities that are available in our own backyards!

Am glad to hear you've come back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Hope all of that good energy stays with you for a looooooooong time! :-)

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Burp - there will be plenty of pics with the post on the South American Feast we had! That's coming a bit later... And yeah, I kept forgetting my camera!!!

Betsy, I think you'd totally love Neehee's - they also have many vegan choices! And yes, I think the rejuvenation will stick. I hope yours will, too. I must say, I was also getting wonderful vicarious enjoyment from your vacation posts!

Marianne Arkins said...

Wow!! I'm finally trying to catch up with everyone, and your blog has left me breathless. Sounds like a fabulous time. I really think the idea of a staycation is a great idea -- we tend to get very blase about what our own areas have to offer. I'm going to make a list of things I want to do here and start DOING them.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

You know, Marianne, we really had a great time, and have done so for most of our staycations. I believe this was our fourth or fifth. One time didn't work because it was in March (the blechiest time of the year in MI) and we weren't careful enough about "carving out" time. Plus, I think I had a regular teaching week that week.