Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Low and Slow at Slows BarBQ

During our trip to Ann Arbor my requisite stop was to be Slows BBQ in downtown Detroit. I had heard rave reviews about the food and endless griping about the wait staff (as well as the wait to get in). I actually enjoy going to a spot that people complain about the wait times. For me it means there’s something special going on. In fact, what’s going on inside those four walls is so special; people are willing to wait inordinate periods of time for the sole privilege of getting a seat.

I’m not a big service person when it comes to barbecue. Give me a reasonably clean place to sit, a decent selection of beer, and refrain from raping me on price, and I’m a happy man. Admittedly, waiting a long period of time to eat does up the ante. If I have to wait over a half an hour then it has to be above average. In case you were wondering, at Slows there are plenty of clean places to sit, the draft selection was well above average, and the prices are very reasonable.

But as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. For the sake of this review various smoked meats were substituted for said pudding.

The interior (and exterior) of Slows is very smart. The lacquered wood you see all around the restaurant was all reclaimed when they opened the restaurant. The bones of the actual building are exposed and give the space a very hip yet rugged feel. The outside patio has lots of seating that certainly allows them to seat more people, but I think puts more stress on the kitchen. There’s actually a nicely landscaped area just outside the restaurant where you can sit and wait for your table to be ready. Slows gets very high marks for aesthetics and attention to architectural detail. With all of the hard surfaces indoors it does get pretty loud, but this is a barbecue joint.

Waiting area outside

I have heard repeatedly that the service here leaves much to be desired of, but I’d actually disagree. Our server wasn’t bad, she just had too many tables. Getting through the crowd around the bar is an absolute bitch. Without elbowing people in the back of the head it can be quite the task getting from table to kitchen. In reality, I think a big part of the problem is that they spend more of their time weaving than they do serving, which in the end is no fun for either party.

So what about the food?

I wanted to sample all three meats, so I ordered the Niman Ranch brisket enchilada and the chicken wings, while Regina ordered the Niman Ranch baby backs with baked beans. For me the brisket enchiladas were probably the best part of the whole dinner. They had a perfect amount of spice to them, without being ridiculously cliché. I thought the wings and the ribs were cooked properly – I just didn’t really care for their sauces. Some people say that, “The sauce is the boss.” I don’t buy that shit. If the meat has a good rub on it, smoked properly, and cooked to a perfect internal temp, you don’t have to hide behind a sauce. These needed a little bit of sauce, because the rub just didn’t do much for me. I found this to especially be the case with the wings.

I don’t typically write up a place on the first go around, but seeing as I live in Cleveland it’s hardly around the corner. Do I think Slows is worth another try? Sure. Do I see myself going back anytime soon? When I have to wait and the food is just “good”, I tend not want to jump right back in line. There are too many other places that I want to try in the Detroit area, which I don’t often get to, that are on my radar. I will say that Slows has a fantastic selection of drafts, cook with high quality meat, and have prices that are certainly inline with what you find at other barbecue restaurants.

Slows Bar BQ
2138 Michigan Ave
Detroit, MI 48216
(313) 962-9828

Slow's BarBQ on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Chocolate Cherry Bombe

This year we decided to give my dad a break and celebrate Father's Day during the week. Since I knew he would most likely be making the rounds with all of my brothers and sisters we thought it would be better to celebrate the event with both of our fathers on Thursday night.

I was manning the grill and Regina was in charge of dessert. She dug up this little gem somewhere on the internet. She generally likes to get ideas off of the information superhighway (sorry, I'm old school) whereas I tend to stick more to my favorite cookbooks.
In theory the recipe looked good, but I'm naturally skeptical of those who shill for places like Applebee's or TGI Friday's.

As it turned out, these little things were very good and pretty easy to make. When the whole thing is put together there is definitely a wow factor that you don't get with say banana pudding.
Here's a link to the printable version.
Don't ask me why there's an "e" on the end of bomb. Is this similar to when Joe Dirt added an "e" to the end of his name? Essentially making it Joe "Deer-tay"? I guess money can't buy you class. (Elegance is learned....my friends.)

Chocolate Cherry Bombe

Chocolate Cherry Bombe
by Tyler Florence

  • 2 pounds fresh cherries, pitted
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or cherry syrup (recommended: kirsch or Torani syrup)
  • 3/4 cup water, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios
  • 10 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut in chunks


  1. Line a 1 1/2 quart glass or stainless bowl with plastic wrap, leaving enough excess hanging over the edge, and stick it in the freezer.
  2. In a medium pot, combine the cherries, 1 cup of sugar, lemon juice, kirsch, and 3/4 cup of water. Simmer over medium-high heat until the juice from the cherries is released and the fruit is soft, about 20 minutes. Mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water to make a slurry and add it to the cherry mixture. Simmer, stirring, for another 2 minutes to thicken. Remove the cherry sauce from the heat, you should have about 4 cups. Put the cherry sauce in the freezer or in an ice bath to chill until cold.
  3. Using a wire whisk, beat 2 cups of the heavy cream, the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and vanilla together until soft peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into half of the cherry mixture (2 cups) to make a light mousse – don't overdo it, it's ok if there are streaks of cream in the filling. Gently fold in the pistachios. Take the plastic-lined bowl out of the freezer and spoon the cherry mousse into it, filling it all the way to the top, and spreading evenly around the rim. Freeze again for at least 8 hours, so the mousse sets up firm.
  4. Heat the remaining 1 cup of cream and the chocolate in a pot over medium-low flame. Stir to melt the chocolate completely and smooth it out into the cream. Cool until warm to the touch, the chocolate should still be pourable.
  5. Take the bowl of cherry mousse out of the freezer and invert it, bottom-side up, on a wire rack set over a sheet pan. Carefully peel off the plastic and pour the chocolate ganache over the bombe to cover it completely, allowing the excess to drip down into the sheet pan. Stick the chocolate cherry bombe back in the freezer to chill. Using a couple of flat spatulas, carefully remove the bombe from the rack and put in on a chilled platter. Cut into wedges; serve with the reserved cherry sauce.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger

When you go to Ann Arbor there is no shortage of delicious lunch options. To be clear here, I’m not talking about, “Mmmm, that was good.” I’m talking about, “Damn, that may be all time top five.” In the past I’ve talked about Le Dog and Zingerman’s Deli as noteworthy places to have lunch.

I’ve always wanted to try Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger, but never wanted to risk the disappointment of a bad burger and missing out on lunch at two places I already love. Since Regina wanted to hit Haifa Falafel (which will be tomorrow’s post speaking of all time top five), I figured I’d just go ahead and try Krazy Jim’s.

To be honest, you can go to just about any college campus across the country and there is a place that has been there that is wildly popular among students and the nostalgia hungry alumni. Krazy Jim’s has been going strong since 1953 and certainly falls in the category of “Ann Arbor Institution”.

When you walk in you notice that there is definitely an assembly line, insider knowledge, ordering language, don’t upset the apple cart by not knowing how to order, feel to it. The ordering at Krazy Jim’s is very similar to the anxiety you feel when walking up to the counter at Pat’s or Geno’s and ordering a cheese steak in Philadelphia.

You pretty much faced with the task of knowing pretty much all of the stuff that you're going to have on your burger right from the get go. You’re standing in line with a slew of people in both in front of and behind you. The fear of looking like a dork in front of everyone forces you to focus on the menu to know exactly what you want.

The burger patties when rolled up like meatballs (which is what they start out as) are about the size slightly larger than a golf ball. They go on the flat top as a meatball and are then smashed into a patty. One of your first tasks is to tell them how many patties you’re going to have on the burger (I went with an unmanly two patties). The second thing you had to tell them was if there was going to bacon, grilled onions. If I remember correctly, the last decision was what type of bun to use. (I chose the standard issue plain bun.)I was happy to make it through the line without drawing attention to myself (unlike I did at my first visit to Pat’s Steaks).

Since this was my first time here I went with a fairly standard bacon cheddar burger. When I took the first bite I thought for sure that if I closed my eyes I would think I had been transported to Madison Square Park in New York City. This is very similar to Shake Shack’s burger (my all-time favorite burger and just opened an outpost in Miami, FL). As I ate this little work of art my wife looked at me and said, “Well?”

The Shiz-nit

Well? “Fucking awesome” pretty much sums it up. I wanted to get back in line after I finished my sandwich. The crispy edges, the soft bun, the flavor of the patties made this worthy of a special trip.

I’ve been meaning to get to Miller’s Bar in Dearborn, but always seem to be in the area on a Sunday when they’re closed.

I now have three places that I have to seriously ponder for lunch in Ann Arbor. And yes, Krazy Jim’s easily makes my list of all-time top five burgers. I love this place.

Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger
551 S Division St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

(734) 663-4590


Blimpy Burger (Krazy Jim's) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Barbecue Legend

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that it’s been slim pickins the last month or so. Inexplicably, the less I post the more the traffic goes up. Wouldn’t it be nice if the less you worked the more you got paid? The whole thing is very strange and I stopped trying to figure it out a while ago.

With the exception of a few, I’m sure most people are sick of hearing about my barbecue obsession. Fresh off my visit to the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, I've got another little nugget for you to put in your pipe and smoke: Zingerman’s Roadhouse is hosting Ed Mitchell (yes, The Pit's Ed Mitchell) for a barbecue buffet that will be held on July 6th and 7th. This is the description from their website:

“Seven years after he visited the Roadhouse (before it opened) to teach the traditional Eastern North Carolina whole hog barbecue style we still use today, Ed Mitchell will return to the Roadhouse. He and Chef Alex will spend three days preparing for a two-day feast of traditional barbecue styles from all over the country. You can count on really great ingredients, like grass-fed meats managed by Cornman Farms – our very own farm in Dexter, MI, plenty of local vegetables, and all your favorite fixins.”

The bride’s going to be sitting this one out, but my guess is that my barbecue (and pizza…and hamburger) partners in crime (my brothers-in-law Cheesecake and Walt) will most likely being going up for the occasion. My guess is that it’s going to sell out, but whatever, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Billy Bar

The Schmutz Buster

If it’s one thing I hate, it’s cleaning the grate on my grill. I think the only thing worse is going over to someone’s house and seeing someone cooking your food on a filthy, schmutz coated grate. As you gingerly bite into burger just waiting to taste a bit of last summer’s Sweet Baby Ray’s, on top of a touch of poultry seasoning from ’08, with a sweet kiss of grate rust.

I really wanted to find an alternative to the wire brush. I find that the brushes work great when you first get them. After a few uses (depending on how liberally you tend to let the sauce flow), the bristles begin to get gummed up pretty bad. By the end of the summer the brush's bristles are a mashed down filled with gunk mess on a stick.

When I was browsing the internet looking for an alternative to the gum loaded brush, I stumbled upon the Billy Bar. I think this little implement falls under the category of "This is so simple. Why didn't I think of that?". The Billy Bar is basically a hardened steel rod with a fork-like tip on it. The leverage of the bar makes easy work of the most baked on gunk. When your done using it all you have to do is wipe the tip off with a paper towel.

I haven't really seen this stocked in stores but I ordered mine from Northfield Fireplace & Grill. The Billy Bar definitely makes my list of grilling/barbecue "must have" tools.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Make sure to check here for more Cleveland posts

Most people either love Asian food or they hate it. Of the people that do love Asian food, most people have a definite preference for a particular country. I, myself, am more of a Japanese and to a lesser extent Thai kind of diner. I'm certainly not opposed to going with Chinese, Vietnamese, or a Korean place, it's just that there seems to be a fanaticism the Japanese have about craftsmanship that appeals to me on some strange level.

On Memorial day (night actually), we went to Umami Asian Kitchen in Chagrin Falls. I'd never actually been there so to be quite honest I didn't really have much of an expectation one way or the other. So often you hear (or read) about the original chef leaving and whether or not the quality of the food is going to survive. Is it worth trekking out to Chagrin Falls for a bum dinner? It was the end of a holiday weekend and we had the time to spare; if nothing else we were going to walk away with 1,000 Open Table points for our effort. (My guess is that the points were being offered because of the holiday.)

The first thing you notice is that the small (about the size of Tartine, maybe smaller) tastefully decorated space makes good use of the booth allotment. There are even two bar-type benches in the very front that look through the glass onto the front door a la Greenhouse Tavern; the perfect spot for a couple (who don't have the overwhelming desire to gaze into each others eyes across from across the table), to people watch.

I'm going break the dinner down rather quickly so as not to make you nod off in boredom. Mickey was our server and to be perfectly candid - he was great. Mind you, because the place is so small I think there are only two servers, so you have pretty good odds of getting him. Our crew actually decided to go full on tapas, okay, everyone except me. I ordered the curried chicken which had that refined restraint that I love so much about Japanese food. This was not a mouth full of fire, but a developed flavor that really seemed massage a hint of heat after you had swallowed a few seconds earlier.

With Regina leading up the charge, an armada of small plates started to make landfall on our table. I don't really want to talk about every single dish, so I'll focus on the must haves. If you order anything from this menu, it has to be the Goat Cheese Dumplings. These "dumplings" (10 to be exact) are small (think gnocchi sized), delicate (think gnudi), little pillows of delicious goat cheesed-ness, topped with greens and ginger butter. The only reason we even ordered these is because this people implored us to, as they were walking out the door (and now I am imploring you to do the same). I would also recommend an order of the Roasted Shiitakes, as well as the Togarashi Crusted Fresh Bacon. All three appetizers are packed with flavor, but not of Cheesecake Factory proportions, (and that's a good thing).

We had initially ordered the sushi rolls to come out before the other hot appetizer/entrees, but they ended up coming out last. After the amazing show that was put on by the small plates, there was no way these sushi rolls had a chance. What I did like was that they were of such a size that you could actually stick the whole thing in your mouth without looking like a pig. One other thing I liked was that the soy did not come out in a larger bowl so people could dunk the poor roll up to its eyeballs. Instead the soy came out in a rectangular dish so that you simply swiped the roll through the soy. In a sense, I think it was letting the patrons know that these were not meant to be dripping with soy - nice touch.

If haven't already been able to tell, I thought it was a fantastic dinner. Any more I am more interested in well crafted and thoughtful offerings than I am anything else. While the place doesn't have to have ambiance, Umami does (in spades). It's refreshing to see someone doing this kind of quality at a reasonable price. If you're looking for a quiet evening with a well thought out menu and you appreciate Nippon-ese cuisine than you, but not the kiddos, need to make this stop in Chagrin Falls.

Don't forget to ask for Mickey as your server. If want a window seat or one of the two tables for two outside make sure you request them when you make your resie here.

Umami Asian Kitchen
42 North Main Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022
(440) 247-8600

Umami Asian Kitchen on Urbanspoon