We are back in California after ten days in the midwest, and I'd like to review a few places we visited while there. Inclement weather and a surprisingly tight schedule prevented us from doing as much exploring as we would have liked, but we did have some excellent food while visiting Michigan. Here are some impressions, in no particular order.
First and foremost, Chowhounds should be aware of a great resource in the Detroit area: the Oakland Community College Orchard Lake campus has a small restaurant run by the Culinary Arts school, called REFLECTIONS. It is open Thursdays only. They offer a four-course, prix fixe lunch for 12 bucks including beverage (non-alcoholic wine only...). I had wonton soup to start, tender tasty wontons in a delicate mushroomy broth. Salad followed, an exquisite shiitake-and-pea-pod salad with sesame dressing, fresh and crunchy and mildly sweet. The main dish was a Thai-style pork stir-fry with a vivid collection of vegetables and even some apricot tossed in for good measure. We tried all three desserts: a Thai rice pudding with carrot sorbet, a chocolate torte with strawberry sorbet and fresh strawberries, and an apple flambe en croute, prepared tableside. The flambe was delicious, a standout in a little crust with cinnamon ice cream. The torte was also excellent: rich chocolate balanced with the cold clean taste of fresh strawberries and strawberry sorbet.
Check out this great little secret before the quarter is over -- call 248-522-3700 for information and reservations.
After getting a recommendation and reading some debates on this board, we were eager to visit TOAST in Ferndale for breakfast. The restaurant, and the waitstaff, is as cute as can be, and the coffee was pretty good, but...the food was only so-so. Some good and interesting ideas, but the execution was less so. My fried-egg sandwich, on thick slices of (untoasted) marble rye, was overcooked (though I asked for over-medium), unseasoned and dry. I got similar reports from my companions. Too bad, because the location and the idea of the place has promise (and they've got some great vintage chrome tables!). Here's hoping they improve. They're on Woodward by 8 mile.
We had great Greek food for lunch one day in Greektown at CYPRUS TAVERNA. We started with saganaki, the flaming kasseri cheese that Holly said she always gets. Delicious and amazing to see! We shared a tasty village salad and I had a huge plate of gravy-slathered gyros with pita and tomatoey rice. Everything was just so delicious. It made me realize that I've never really eaten real Greek food before. A wonderful treat.
We had wanted to visit the new vegetarian Kosher restaurant where Holly's mom works, called MILK + HONEY, but it was the night before Passover and there wasn't a table in the place. So we went to the super-duper fancy NORTHERN LAKES SEAFOOD COMPANY, way out on Woodward at Long Lake. This is one of those places that we only get to visit when under parental funding -- I know we San Franciscans are supposed to like fancy expensive food, but believe me, ten bucks is the most we usually pay for an entree (and we're lousy examples of San Franciscans in that respect). Anyway, Northern Lakes is a $25 entree kind of place, and they live up to expectations. We had consistently delicious, well-balanced dishes here: Holly enjoyed her perfectly cooked beef tournedos with acini de pepe and grilled asparagus, and my stilton-and-brioche-crusted-chilean sea bass was a study of richness balanced with salty sharp clean flavors, on grilled artichokes and orzo in a port sauce. The wine list was also impressive, offering a great selection including some well-picked lower-priced vintages. Plus good chowder, fresh tasty salads, yummy desserts, etc. And the waitstaff was phenomenally attentive, conscientious and well-timed. Again, not the kind of place we'd normally go on our budget, but if you go in for super fancy places to eat (or if your parents are in town -- ha ha!), you need to give this restaurant a try -- they do what they do very well.
The best meal we had on the whole trip was a late breakfast we enjoyed at the RUSSELL STREET DELI while perusing Detroit's incredible Eastern Market on a sunny Saturday morning. Though we were there for breakfast, I had to start with a cup of their blackeyed-peas-and-collards soup, which proved to be a wise choice -- the soup was peppery and rich, with toothy bits of just-tender collard greens and a well-turned legume broth. I also had their tasty corned beef hash and eggs, and Holly enjoyed a beautifully-crafted feta/tomato/basil scramble that made me remember what scrambled eggs can taste like when cooked with a delicate hand. This place was packed to the walls with hungry customers, and we can see why -- the Deli offers excellent food prepared with care and delivered with panache. I wanted to lift the whole thing up with a helicopter and fly it home with us.
Thanks again to all you midwest chowhounds who answered our plea for suggestions. It was indeed a delicious voyage!
Patrick and Holly