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.

Thank you.

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...


thailandchani said...

Sounds wonderful! Now revisions. :)

Anonymous said...

More hearty congratulations to you...and man, I'm really hungry now.

Oh and thank you so much for commenting on my relatively sober post last night. It means more to me to get comments on the posts where I'm struggling and I am very grateful to you for reading and writing something about it.

anno said...

Fabulous! And well-deserved! I might be tempted to hold onto that crown just a little while longer///

Goofball said...

Hurray for celebrations and lovely dinners!

Madam Crunchypants said...

That chicken dish sounds so...incredibly yummy.

And so undeniably American. What are grits, anyhow?

And lemon pound cake.

Maybe I'll have to come visit you someday, and we'll go there for cake.

Luisa Perkins said...

Belated congratulations! It all sounds WONDERFUL. Now I have TWO excellent reasons to visit A2 someday.

Jen said...

Chani, yes indeed! And I'm pumped, which is a good thing.

Lilac - I try to comment most days, but got really discombobulated with everyone last week. I'm sorry you've been struggling.

Anno - oh, do you *have* to try that Mrs. Russell thing - maybe we'll have to go some time, just for dessert in the afternoon. ;-) And I think the crown was all the more precious for it being a day's crown.

Goofball - I SO agree!

Thalia - grits are the down home way of saying polenta. They're made more like a porridge, though, and they're very popular down south.

Luisa - I'd LOVE to have you come visit and then absolutely, the Roadhouse would be a must. ;-)

Flower Child said...

wow. I feel like I was there with you and yet I am incredibly jealous that I was not. sounds delish. my husband talks about Zingerman's all the time. must go.

Jen said...

Flower Child - now is he talking about the deli or the Roadhouse? The deli is the long-standing institution, it's certainly wonderful, too, but it's sandwiches and salads, for the most part.

Sai Hijara - Ferraris said...

Sounds a nice meal! I'm envious! ;)

Jen said...

There's no question, Mariposa, it was lovely!

Shan said...

Sounds like a great day! Well deserved too.

Flower Child said...

he's talking deli - but I imagine all things Zingerman's are delish.

so when the book hits the bestseller list do you think you'll be giving tours? that would be fun! sign me up

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Sounds like a great way to celebrate! I had a chicken bog dish for the first time at a dinner party. It is a very good dish. Yum!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you had the chance to go out and celebrate. What a wonderful night out!

Ben said...

We all can be queens for a day. Or princesses. LOL
I know I am late but Happy belated Bday anyway :D

I should stop reading food blogs with an empty stomach I am so freaking hungry now ! hehehe


Jen said...

Thanks, Shan, it was lovely!

Well, Flower Child, you both have to come and visit and see the NEW businesses then. ;-)

NYC - it really was over the top. I have to figure out a way to re-create it.

Leslie - it was great fun - haven't done anything like that in a long while

Ben - it did feel like my birthday, but actually it was because I finished the first draft of my third novel. ;-) Thanks for the congrats, though!

Anonymous said...

HAPPY bIRTHDAY!! a little late. Wow sounds like a fabo time!

Ben said...

Oh, well I need to go back and read more about your novels. This is what happens when you are new in town and don't know much :-p

Third novel, wow, I want to read the first two :D

BTW, there is an award waiting for you on my blog. Click here

Thistlemoon said...

That is awesome Jen! Such a great way to celebrate - WITH FOOD! :)

Liz Dwyer said...

Congratulations to you, even if I'm a bit belated! What a fantastic achievement. I'm so incredibly thrilled for you!

And that cake sounds fab. YUM!

Momisodes said...

What a royal feast! That sounded lovely :) Congrats again and good luck with the revisions...

Jen said...

Capitol Lady - thanks!

Ben - thanks so much. And I haven't written about them too much on here.

Los Angelista - thanks! How is your novel coming along? I'll bet it's amazing. I so love your writing!

Jenn - it made particular sense since my protagonist is a foodie and works as a personal chef and food writer

Sandy - it was... and now back to discipline, lol!

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

I'm a little late but the congrats are just as great :) Woohoo!!!!!!!

Jen said...

Thanks, Espresso! And thanks for coming by!

Jenn in Holland said...

Oh! I am so late to the party! :(
Sorry about the delayed belated well wishes. They are heart felt even if I am a bit slow on the uptake.

Hooray for celebrations!!

Jen said...

They're welcomed no matter when! And now I have to stop partying and put my nose to the grindstone.

Heather said...

Ah, the Manhattan. My husband's favorite, and one hell of a classy drink.

I don't think I've ever thanked you for all of your visits to my joint and your niceness. Thanks!

Jen said...

The Manhattan is, indeed, a fun drink. It takes me back to a time and age that I've always wanted to visit (but just visit, because the politics would have gotten me crazy!). And Heather, I simply love your blog and recipes, so it's always a joy to visit there!