Greetings from the Great White North!
I've successfully made it up Michigan way and am quickly getting a sense of the place. Thanks to all you wonderful dudes and ladies who passed on excellent recommendations for what I should be doing and consuming. 6 meals a day seems reasonable to me. What? It's colder up here.
As usual, I've been on the hunt for all things local and sustainable. The movement has lagged a bit in Michigan, but it seems that recently they've throttled up and quite a few folks are making some interesting strides.
It's not quite growing season here yet but cheeses (dairy of all kind really), local meats, great lakes critters and some impressive wines and spirits abound.
Last night I made my way to Grange Kitchen and Bar where Chef Brandon Johns is bringing his slow foodie mentality to downtown Ann Arbor. Since it was just me all by my lonesome I didn't get to try as many dishes as is my normal gluttonous m.o. What I did have though was pretty freaking delicious.
I started with a nice Manhattan. It's always good to check out a place's cocktails to see how well rounded they are and if they're really paying attention to the details. Unbalanced, neon drinks sporting odd chunks of canned fruit never bode well for the kitchen.
Grange passed with flying colors. The bourbon and mix of sweet and dry vermouths were well proportioned and the garnish of dried, booze soaked, Michigan cherries was a nice touch.
As I was sipping away, I couldn't pass up a starter listed as fried pig's head, mustard, and sauce gribiche. Hell yes. When it came out though, I was a little disappointed to see that the "head" looked more like a hockey puck than anything temptingly porcine. I feared some sort of midwestern riff on a bad crab cake- lots of bread and binder studded sparingly with tiny meat flecks.
Added delectability after the jump...
I shouldn't have been concerned. As soon as you touch a fork to it the perfectly fried round falls apart into a moist, savory, gelatenous mix of tender pork pieces. The sauce gribiche was great as well. Think of it like a refined egg salad- finely minced and mixed with pickles, capers, mustard and herbs. Johns' version was drier than most but worked nicely with the rich meat and tangy side greens.
After the face, I ordered the whitefish with whitefish cake, house cured lardons, spinach, fingerlings and remoulade. It was solid. The fish was well seasoned, the potatoes done just through, and the sauce full of complementary flavor. The skin on the fish never quite got crisp and that added texture would have really put the dish over the top.
For dessert I went the liquid route and had a glass of ice wine from Peele Island Winery. I thought they were based in Michigan but it turns out they're about 30 miles east of Detroit, just over the Canadian border.
Dontcha just love these adorable little paper flowers?
I guess I might have been disappointed if it wasn't so freakin' good. It was like making a caramel apple with a perfectly ripe granny smith and then liquifying it into a big golden glass of awesome. It wasn't particularly complex but I probably could have finished the bottle.
I'll try to keep you all posted on the excellentness of Michigan. I hope to keep everything up to date- you know, if my pesky job doesn't get in the way.
Grange is at 118 W. Liberty St. in Ann Arbor. 734.995.2107.