Michigan’s Pocket of Prosperity
Carole Kotkin is a syndicated Miami Herald food columnist and co-author of “MMMMiami – Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere.” She is also the manager of The Cooking School at The Ocean Reef Club, food editor for “The Wine News” magazine, and co-host of “Food and Wine Talk” on southfloridagourmet.com.
In a state of small towns and industrial cities, Ann Arbor is Michigan’s cultural capital—a civic and business hub and home to a world-class university. Ann Arbor has 114,000 residents, spans 27.7 square miles, and was named one of the top 25 U.S. cities to live in by CNN/Money Magazine in 2006 as well as the fourth smartest city in the U.S. by Forbes Magazine. Downtown has a thriving music scene, farmers markets, the famous Zingerman’s Deli, and new restaurants, coffeehouses, theaters and galleries.
One of the city’s artistic gems is the University of Michigan Museum of Art, considered one of the finest university collections in the country. In 2009 UMMA opened a 53,000 square foot expansion to the Museum, named the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Family Wing, and completed a major restoration of its historic, 41,000-square-foot home in Alumni Memorial Hall. A few blocks away and you’ll find the Michigan Theater, an old-fashioned movie palace that’s now a venue for “serious movie lovers” and home to the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra.
Ann Arbor visitors will be happy to find that the city’s culinary highlights have as much local color and history as its other cultural offerings. There are nearly 300 restaurants serving everything from regional Italian foods to trendy, contemporary American dishes.
Many chefs are proponents of the farm to table movement and it’s not unusual to see locally produced products on menus. Certified foodies know Zingerman’s specialty foods even if they haven’t been to the Ann Arbor deli. In 1982, Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig opened Zingerman’s (it’s a made up name) near the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in the Kerrytown District, serving classic Jewish dishes and sandwiches. Today, Zingerman’s makes thousands of sandwiches each year and has its own restaurant (Zingerman’s Roadhouse), dairy (Zingerman’s Creamery), catering service, bakery, a coffee company, a mail-order business, and management consulting service (Zingerman’s Training). Owner, Paul Saginaw, refers to it as a “community of businesses.” Food and Wine magazine called it one of the top 15 markets in the world. 422 Detroit St., 734.663.DELI.
After walking the town, you will inevitably work up a thirst. Satisfy it with a cold brew at The Jolly Pumpkin (Jolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery, 311 S. Main Street, Phone: 734-913-2730), where they take pride in their beers and production methods, which focus on open fermentation, oak aging, and bottle conditioning.
The Farmers Market is held every Saturday year-round from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Wednesdays, too, from May through December. Celebrate spring’s bounty, with locally grown asparagus, delicate salad greens, and crisp radishes. You’ll also find farm-fresh eggs, cheese and dairy products, artisan bread, local apples and apple cider, artisan crafts, delicious baked goods, honey, maple syrup, cut flowers, humanely-raised meat, annuals and perennials for your garden. The Kerrytown District is a neighborhood that was part of the original village of Ann Arbor. Adjoining the marketplace are historic buildings dating to 1874 that were renovated for shops and restaurants.
The university’s athletic traditions may hog the spotlight, but if you make it to Ann Arbor in the off-season, you’ll find its long cultural history, outdoor offerings, and food finds are all at the head of the class.
Where to Eat:
Zingerman’s Roadhouse.2501 Jackson Ave
Phone 734-663-3663 (FOOD)
James Beard-nominated Chef Alex Young offers a menu of high quality versions of traditional American cooking. He sources heirloom ingredients from Cornman Farms which he established in 2004. Regional American dishes such as Eastern North Carolina pulled pork barbecue, Tennessee buttermilk fried chicken and Texas beef brisket are among the menu items.
The Grange Kitchen & Bar, 118 W. Liberty.
Executive chef Brandon Johns prides himself on seeking out local and seasonal foods because they are simply the freshest, most flavorful ingredients available. House made ingredients are a mainstay on the menu. Look for homemade pasta and pickles, house made breads, sausages, pancetta, and preserves. Menu offerings include: Grilled lamb loin and leg, carrot-chickpea mash, with mint chimichurri; Pan roasted chicken, radishes, apples, leeks, fingerlings, and preserved lemon; Portuguese seafood stew: Grilled scallops, sausage, kale and white beans; and Caramel Chocolate Panna Cotta.
Paesano, 3411 Washtenaw Ave;
Executive Chef Isabella Nicoletti comes from a small village outside of Venice where she discovered her love for cooking. She has been creating “home grown” rustic Italian dishes at Paesano’s since 1988. Many of her dishes focus on seasonal specialties, and represent true authentic food preparations found in Italy today such as: Potato gnocchi with mussels; Sicilian country grilled vegetable cannelloni served with a charred summer garden tomato and caper sauce, and black pepper roasted chicken breasts with grilled plums.
Vinology, 110 South Main Street,
This wine bar and restaurant features locally sourced, seasonal small plates and entrees paired with an extensive wine list. Over the years the Jonna family has enjoyed sharing wine, food, and spirits along with wine tastings and education. Lake Perch, warm potato salad and grilled asparagus; seared duck breast, caramel miso glaze and sugar snap peas, grilled flatbread pizza, and ricotta gnocchi are featured.
Eve—The Restaurant, 415 N. Fifth Ave
Chef/owner Eve Aronoff, Ann Arbor’s version of a celebrity chef (she was a contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef) features contemporary cuisine based on the French philosophy of cooking. The menu with influences that include North African, West African, Cuban and Vietnamese dishes changes frequently, with the seasons, and highlights locally grown, limited production produce and foodstuffs. The restaurant also includes a diverse collection of wines including over 30 wines available by the glass. Curried mussels, lemongrass pork, macadamia encrusted salmon and lemon bread pudding are menu stand-outs.