Don't worry, soon I'll get to yammering about how terrific our visit was to Edwards, Colorado last weekend - but first, I have a few chronological loose ends to tie up back here in Michigan.
Prior to my brother and his lovely lady friend coming to visit the weekend before last, we had a brief gmail chat conversation about restaurants and Roast came up. It's a Michael Symon vehicle in the Westin in Detroit. I recognized Symon's name from his friendship with Michael Ruhlman, that font of cooking and charcuterie knowledge whose books Logan loves to drool over, but the man has also apparently become a celebrity chef in his own right. It seems the man is even an Iron Chef these days! (Have I mentioned we don't have cable?)
So we took David and Courtney there for his birthday dinner. I was dumb and waited until the day before to get us reservations, and the only ones we could get were at 5:15 or 9:30. We ended up deciding on the 9:30 before we learned that there is apparently absolutely nothing to DO in Detroit after the museums shut down and you've toured Greektown and Bricktown and ridden the peoplemover.
This is why we arrived at 8 for our 9:30 reservation. Logan was able to use his elbow-fu to get the four of us seats at the very slick, low-light bar.
This pic is from much later in the night, after we'd managed to shut the place down.
We spent some time perusing the very intriguing beer and cocktail menu. The beer list is really alluring, with a lot of newly-chic sour beers and cool local producers like Jolly Pumpkin (winners of a New York Times Belgian beer taste-off). We ended up eschewing the beer for a round of super-complicated drinks from the menu, but Brian the bartender didn't bat an eye.
The drinks Courtney and I ordered (on the left) were way manlier than our dudes' drinks. Ha. Courtney's was called the subtle smoke, with Laphroaig 15, Sauternes, Plymouth gin, and a lemon twist (more a chunk of lemon peel). Mine was the double barrel, a nicely balanced mix of Basil Hayden's, Noval 10 year tawny port, and a balsamic fig. David got the refreshing cucumber collins, with light house-infused cucumber gin, lime juice, and soda, and I talked Logan into the bluegrass punch, which he thought was too sweet. It had Blanton's bourbon, tart cherry juice, lemon juice, simple syrup, basil, and soda, and is something I'd totally enjoy in an Austin summer.
That was a long list of ingredients. Let's not do that again. Sheez.
While we sat at the bar waiting for our table, we ordered a couple of apps.
First out was a shakerful of pork cracklings ($7) with sea salt, lime, and chili powder.
The flavorings were pretty traditional, and the cracklings were fine, but not outstanding. I think it would have helped had the limes not been so dried out we could barely get any juice out of them. We raided the bartender's stash of lime wedges while his back was turned. Bar faux pas.
The beef tartare ($14) was considerably better (here's Roast's picture). The beef was chopped beautifully, and the avocado mousse and cold poached egg (which was just a poached egg served chilled, not some crazy molecular gastronomy stuff - we asked the bartender) combined for a nice creaminess with the beef.
But to me, the clear winner of the appetizer battle royale was the charcuterie. It was all made in house, with the exception of the prosciutto, because who has the time or space in a restaurant to cure a whole pig leg for 14 months, right? The platter was $12 per person and I think this was two people's worth, but worked fine for 4.
The combination of textures and flavors invited lots of exploration. There was a great pork terrine, a fennelly finocchiona, strips of creamy lardo (the bartender insisted it was guanciale, but I swear he was misinformed), spicy chorizo, and thinly sliced salty prosciutto. We stuffed our faces.
After all of this, it was time for the real birthday eating to begin. We were shown to a table just after our 9:30 reservation rolled around.
Our table had a great view of the partially open kitchen. A huge grill in front was raised and lowered using what I can only assume were wagon wheels. The surface of the grill was covered with sizzling steaks and pans of melting butter when we arrived.
We deliberated for a long time over the menu, settling on more appetizers, some 21-day aged beef, and a smoked pork dish that caught my brother's eye. But then, what to do about wine?
Logan began perusing the wine list and was a bit dismayed to see one of our pet peeves, a heading for "interesting varietals". Hate that - doesn't it imply that the rest of the list is boring? Luckily, Brian popped out from behind the bar and recommended a wine that we probably never would have ordered if left to ourselves - Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley called Domaine Serene. And at only a 100% markup. This wine turned out to be perfect with our wide-ranging order. It was a heavier-bodied Pinot Noir with a bit of jamminess that helped to round out our beef dishes while somehow still complimenting our pork. Plus it was delicious.
Mmm, wine. But then, ha ha, our second round of appetizers arrived!
We had the beef cheek pierogi ($12) with horseradish and mushrooms.
It was a good, heavy, satisfying dumpling, but it sort of paled next to our other appetizer... stupidly rich marrow bones ($9) with oregano, capers, and pickled chilies.
I've only had marrow bones a couple of times, and never cut down the middle like this. This makes it exponentially easier to get at all that richness. So good, and accompanied with absolute appropriateness by pickled, strong-flavored condiments.
Then on to the entrees! I mean, it was my brother's birthday...
Here is the smoked pork chop ($24) with polenta, pickled chilies, and BBQ onions.
I almost didn't want to order this, since I was afraid it would be cooked to death and taste like liquid smoke, but I was oh so wrong. The pork was moist, the smoke was judicious, and the pickled chilies had some heat! And it came with polenta! YES!
Though I'm not quite sure what the deal was with the BBQ onions. I don't think I had any.
And then, the porterhouse steak for 2. We had to. The menu contains a credo - all meats are dry-aged for 21 days and are grilled over hardwood. Also, Logan has a bit of a history with the porterhouse, also known as the bistecca fiorentina - see here. So yes, it's a $59 steak, but...
This beast was not fooling around. It pushed up against the sides of the plate as if trying to escape. The pool of slightly sticky, sour and umami-laden balsamic-based steak sauce underneath kept it in place, but barely. It was SO good, but so rich and meaty (what did you expect, Rachel?) that I could only manage a couple of slices.
Oh yeah, and we had a vegetable. But it was fried, so that was OK.
If you don't like brussels sprouts, may I recommend a toss into the deep fryer?
After all this, I was stuffed and dying. But a dessert was on its way. I was actually so stuffed I didn't get to try the doughnut sundae with maple-bacon ice cream and cherry bourbon sauce. So I must confine myself to making fun of its appearance, which was a bit... architectural. I'm sure there must be a more sophisticated way to plate this. Reports from the rest of the table regarding its flavor were approving.
In a probably unnecessary (who am I kidding, DEFINITELY unnecessary) move, I ordered an espresso and a glass of Michigan dessert wine. Unfortunately, these aren't discussed on the online menu and my memory is failing me, but I think they were both late-harvest rieslings. Too bad the menu isn't available and I didn't take pictures of it when we had it... ah well, another blogging lesson learned.
And then we drove home to Ann Arbor, where I promptly died. Thank you to Michael Symon and his minions for serving a standout meal complete with very good service! I'd say my brother's birthday was a success.