Eating and drinking well in Ann Arbor!

A few weeks back, I finally worked out a way to spend a weekend visiting my friend Steph in Ann Arbor! A lovely small city that is home to a large university, Ann Arbor can offer first-class amenities in pretty much every category of eat, drink, and be merry, so  Steph and I didn’t stint.

Friday evening Steph picked me up at the Detroit airport and took me straight to a wonderful Ann Arbor wine-tasting put on by The Produce Station, with stewards pouring tastes from all the major wine regions of the world. Luckily, the hors d’oeuvres were plentiful and hearty!–We munched as we sipped, and kept both our palates clean and our heads (reasonably) clear. Then we went out to Zingerman’s Deli for hefty Reuben sandwiches dressed up with extra  chopped chicken liver! Think of the most exotic condiment you can, cured meat, or cheese, or oil–Zingerman’s Deli has it, and the incredibly pleasant and knowledgeable staff want to tell you about it. So we were there until closing!

Saturday we straggled down to the kitchen later than we planned and trifled with tea and toast. After taking care of a couple of work projects (part of my excuse for being there!), we polished off the rest of our Reubens and went out to the markets. Ann Arbor has an excellent open-air farmers market, with tons of beautiful produce, flowers, and crafts; we also visited the nearby Kerrytown shops–fish market, cheese shop, Sparrow Meats, everything! And we finished up at nearby Tracklements to get some some beautiful lox. Tracklements is popular!–It looked like a big slice of Ann Arbor was already in line. But proprietor T.R. Durham and his staff seemed to know everybody by name and custom order. Steph was no exception!–She got our lox thin-sliced. (Here she is in her terrific faux-fur coat.)

At this point we had to hustle back to the house because Steph’s early-music group was about to show up for practice. I got to sprawl on the sofa for a couple of hours and pretend to read, reveling in the woof and warp of soprano, mezzo, and contralto, catching brief glimpses of their expertise at work as they stopped, backed up, repeated, discussed. Fascinating!

By the time they finished, we hadn’t eaten for hours, so we went out and had a great fish dinner at The Earle! I didn’t take notes on my dish but I remember that it was a beautiful whitefish, well-prepared and tastily garnished.

How could there be more to eat in Ann Arbor?!? Did I mention that Zingerman’s actually has five different restaurants? So on Sunday morning, before heading me back to the airport, we went off for brunch to Zingerman’s Roadhouse. The place was packed, of course; we decided to eat at the counter. The same friendly staff, the same hearty, delicious food! I had to have the hash with poached eggs, accompanied by warm and earthy bread and jam. And you bet I ate it all.

T. R. Durham of Tracklements has produced a great cookbook, The Smoked Seafood Cookbook: Easy Innovative Recipes from America’s Best Fish Smokery. Smoked fish has not played much of a role in my diet so far, but this book’s wide-ranging recipes have opened my eyes to the possibilities. I’ll cook up something soon and share it with you!

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