In Defense of Westland

Over the past six months I have said many terrible things about the city of Westland.  I have done everything from calling out the poor nutrition of its residents to making up fake awards calling it the worst food city in the entire country.  During my report about Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, I made a claim about Westland’s obesity levels that may have taken it a little far.

But before I get into the rest of this post, I have to admit that I made the title of this post “In Defense of Westland” as click bait.  There is no defending Westland.  It’s the worst food city in America.  There is no real award making that an official statement, only the truth. The only cities that prevail over Westland as having a worse food situation would be those that have no restaurants at all.  My goal with this post is to understand why the food is so terrible and to call attention the few places that are getting it right.  This is sort of a quasi-internet deep dive, part review, part rant style post and I hope we get to the bottom of why Westland’s food scene is such an absolute shithole.

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My first step when looking at food in a certain region is to examine the residents. As most American cities were, Westland was inhabited by the Potawatomis, a Native American tribe, in the 18th century.  The Potawatomi people hunted deer, elk, and wild birds and caught fish. The Potawatomis were also among the first to tap trees for maple syrup in Michigan.  Some even refer to the Potawatomi era as the golden era of food in Westland.  In 1827, white people saw this happening and decided to fuck everything up. They saw the maple syrup being extracted from the trees, the women and children gathering berries and then men cooking freshly butchered meat over open fires.  They decided that this was unacceptable and they would work tirelessly to ensure that this settlement became home to the worst food in what later became known as America. They also erased any mention of this from prevalent history books so one hundred or so years of history detailing the destruction of culinary practice remains hidden deep in libraries, which no one in Westland knows of.

After World War II an area of Westland known as the Norwayne Historic District was built for defense workers.  They were given subsidies for their rent and a small town began to form.  They constructed a fire station, two schools and a church.  It became home to over 1200 families.  After the war was over, the families were given the option to purchase the homes and preference for the leftover homes was given to veterans.  In the late 40s, it was a popular place for soldiers returning home to call home.  No information was given to these defense workers and veterans about the strict policies still leftover from the early 1800s on food practices in the area.  As you can imagine, these was a shock to those who risked their lives for this country.  When they returned home expecting a home cooked meal on the table, they were met with well done steaks dressed with ketchup.  They fought these policies and argued that the laws were archaic but the town leaders argued that these policies had gotten them to where they were today and must be kept alive.  Any deviation in food quality would cause the town to turn to Anarchy.

Over the next thirty years there were many attempts to reverse the laws of the 1800s requiring Westland to remain the worst food city in America.  In 1959, Westland appointed Ray Croc as a lead consultant for city restaurant development.  Under his rule, restaurants in Westland were required to either be a franchise itself and/or have a minimum of twenty other locations.  His belief was that these requirements would cause chefs and restauranteurs to look elsewhere in their search of homes for their fancy restaurants.  To take it a step further, a large shopping mall was built in the middle of the city with a large food court specializing in bland food and mass produced meals.

By 2008, Westland became a hotbed for people that wanted to be surrounded by terrible chain restaurants.  Unfortunately, these were not the most desirable class of people and only added to the motivation of the longstanding residents of Westland to relocate. Longtime citizens had endured decades of terrible food but once these people, who were often crass and lacked basic hygiene, began to enter it was too much to endure.  The area that ones housed defense workers and soldiers returning from World War II became know as Shacktown, due to the deteriorating and mostly abandoned homes.

Despite the fleeing of the majority of its quality residents, Westland continued to become a popular destination for the worst chain restaurants in the country.  Applebee’s decided to build a restaurant across from Westland Mall.  Red Robin, not to be outdone, struck ground directly across the street from Applebee’s.  Mike Illitch read about the growing shitty restaurant development in the area and decided it would be a perfect location to serve the second worst pizza in the country.  Not to be outdone, Pizza Hut moved quickly to position themselves to serve the worst pizza in the country to the residents of Westland.  Fifteen coney islands were built between 2005 and 2010, with a brand new Rams Horn being built in 2010 to top off Westland as the shittiest food city in the country. The people who adopted Westland as their home during this time were thrilled that they could have a consistent, recognizable meal whenever they pleased.  Ray Croc’s policies were still intact so there was no chance they would have a bad meal at a place they had never heard of.

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In 2010 two families realized an opportunity in this terrible, terrible city.  They read through Ray Croc’s policies and realized that there was nothing that said they couldn’t open a small grocery in Westland.  There was also nothing saying they couldn’t serve food out of a grocery store.  This developed into Dos Hermanos Market and La Taqueria Alameda being constructed as what some called “Guerilla Restaurants” — Establishments that looked like a grocery store but was really a restaurant.  Word began to spread and a small group of people that had once traveled to other regions to sample quality cuisine began to research the policies that now dated back 140 years.  They eventually hired legal representation and sued the city over their rights to quality food.

There was a long court battle, which took place at the local Buffalo Wild Wings, with the final ruling being that establishments serving quality food would be allowed in Westland. There were several qualifications the establishment must meet though.  The first was that it had to be built around carry out.  The second was that there was to be absolutely no fine dining.  The third was that if you had a capacity of over thirty seats you had to pay a small percentage that went into supporting the existing terrible restaurants in the city.  The fourth was that a good restaurant could only be constructed every five years.  After these policies went into place, Gabrielle’s Cheese Steak Hoagies was constructed on Wayne Rd.  With the obesity levels in the area and the new requirements it seemed like a natural marriage.  Five years later, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken was constructed with the demographics of the area being a perfect customer base.

This all sounds well and good to the majority of people.  Most people just want to be able to take their family out for a good meal.  Unfortunately, the “less desirables” that moved into the area seeking familiarity with their food still cling on to policies created by 1800s settlers and Ray Croc in the 1950s.  Thankfully, because of the internet, these people have a voice and thanks to screenshots I can share them with you. Thanks Yelp!

Here is Icie F. on her visit to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, which advertises on their website as having some of the best hot and spicy chicken around:

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Here is Rick W., who had his life ruined by Taqueria Alameda, because they had to close early and didn’t actually try their food.  Apparently this is a valid reason to boycott a family’s business and tell everyone you know about it:

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Did you know that reviewing a McDonalds is a thing?  Well Rob.S, an Elite Yelp Reviewer does, and he’s REALLY UPSET!!!!

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And finally, it’s very important to Jake G. that everyone knows that Burger King fucked up his lemonade.

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So in summary, the people of Westland are responsible for having no more than three somewhat quality places to eat.  They are to blame.  As you can tell from their history, they have standards and by standards I mean they must have their meals served to them by a familiar name in terrible mass produced fashion.  Even then if you don’t give them what they are used to it will be blasted all over the internet which is enabled by a wonderful website called Yelp.  Newer, more high end restaurants or even restaurants taking chances have no shot at making it in Westland because the people know what they want and they want it the same every single time.  Why would any quality restaurant move in when cities like Dearborn, Plymouth, Ann Arbor and Detroit are a drive away and are home to people who will support good food?

So last thing, there is no defending Westland.  It is the worst food city in the entire country.

Satchel’s BBQ

I get asked a lot for my opinion on who is serving the best BBQ in the area.  When you get a pig tattooed on your arm you kind of open yourself up for these questions.  Usually people assume it’s going to be a well known joint like Slow’s or Blue Tractor.  I know this is a real “Hipster” thing to say but I’m not a big fan of either of those places.  If you’ve ever read my ode to whole hog style BBQ, you know that I’m a firm believer that great BBQ does not come from a place with an extensive menu and a bunch of different sauces. Instead, I believe that great BBQ comes from small places that someone decided to open because they loved everything that goes into smoking meats.  The mecca of greatness, Franklin BBQ, was opened up by a guy who became obsessed with smoking brisket in his back yard and now has a cult following that includes a four hour wait every morning.  The passion and detail that goes into smoking meat at home and then figuring out how offer that same taste on a large scale is what makes BBQ great.

Now I could talk about why I love BBQ for hours but the purpose of this post is to tell a story about what I think is best BBQ joint within fifty miles of where I live.  When you live in Westland, MI, which was voted least desirable city to open a restaurant in the Unite States the past two years, you have to travel these distances to find quality food. Luckily, Satchel’s BBQ has me covered with a short drive to Ann Arbor.

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Satchel’s BBQ was opened in 2010 by a guy named Hugh who worked in Finance, had zero restaurant experience and loved BBQ.  To steal a quote from the Ann Arbor News, he “likes to make BBQ and people like BBQ”.  It’s just that simple.  He opened up in a little 1500 sq. ft space that shares a building with a Verizon store to house his Southern style BBQ joint and named it after his dog.  There is no visible sign out front, just two large smokers that run throughout the day and into the night.  As you drive by on Washtenaw ave., you can smell the smokers from your car, which is probably better than any sign Hugh could have purchased.  The first time I went to Satchel’s was early 2011 when I was returning from some sort of debauchary in Ann Arbor.  The smell made me turn around in Whole Food’s parking lot and pay the place a visit.  I was BBQ rookie back then and I was shocked at the absence of sauce on the meat.  Up until this day, I had always craved different types of sauces poured all over my smoked meats.  This was different, the meat actually stood on its own.  It didn’t need some Sweet Baby Ray’s bullshit sauce to make it taste good.  It has been my favorite BBQ in Michigan since that day.

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There is absolutely nothing fancy about Satchel’s. The menu is written on the wall in chalk and offers the essentials in BBQ:  Chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket and pork ribs. There are no BBQ enchiladas, no pulled pork nachos and definitely no vegan friendly options.  You can get your meat in a sandwich and there are sides — collards, cole slaw, beans and mac and cheese.  If you want desert with your meal there is one option:  Bread pudding with whiskey sauce.  All plates are served with two pieces of dense cornbread, which could be a side item of its own. The beauty of the simplicity of this menu is everything is done well.  They have a small focus on a simple cooking process and have perfected it.  There is no reason to do anything else.  The meat and the wood do the talking.

So let’s talk get away from everything that makes this place great from the outside and just start talking about the food.  It’s fucking fantastic.  It’s smoked slowly over hardwood with what tastes like salt and pepper and that’s it.  The meat is allowed to speak for itself, instead of being complicated by any additional spices.  Still to this day the pork and brisket is served completely naked without any sweet ketchup sauces interfering with the marriage between the smoke and the meat.  People that aren’t used to naked BBQ are given more than five different sauces on the table but they really don’t need it. Everything holds up and can stand on its own.  The brisket is easily the best I have ever had.  It is served with a dark bark, created by the smoke, on the outside and if you are lucky they will include part of the fatty deckle — the holy grail of beef brisket.  It literally melts in your mouth.  The pulled pork isn’t pulverized, rather served in large chunks that fall apart under your fork.

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With the deliciousness of the meat, you would think that the sides becomes an afterthought and are overshadowed.  Well, you would be wrong.  The collards here are among the best I’ve had in the country.  They absorb the saltiness of the pork and end with a little bit of heat. If you don’t like greens, I challenge you to give these a try and tell me you haven’t changed your mind.  The beans are cooked in cast iron pots within the smoker and absorb all of the flavor trapped in the metal vessels.  I have a hard time, no matter how hungry I am, not ordering an extra side to go with my meal.

My personal recommendation:  Get the combo plate with pulled pork, brisket with collards and beans on the side.  Add a sweet tea in there and you’ve got the best BBQ that Michigan has to offer.

In summary, Satchel’s has been my favorite BBQ joint in Michigan since 2011.  If there’s one food item I feel confident to tell you that I know my shit about, it’s BBQ.   You will love Satchel’s, and if you don’t then I’m afraid I don’t respect your opinions on food and/or life in general.  Check this place out if you are looking for all of the things that makes BBQ great:  Passion, simplicity, meat and of course wood.

Let’s Learn About Butter

I must issue a warning before I begin this post about one of the most beautiful ingredients in cooking.  There is no rant in this post.  I will not review anything.  There is nothing about restaurants.  This is the latest in my Internet Deep Dives category where I take something small and expand it into as much information that I can find.  If you’re a home cook looking to step your game up a little bit, this is probably a good post for you. If you’re just here to look at pictures and read a food blog, GTFO.  This one isn’t for you.

The reason I dove into a deep exploration of butter is no oil seems to compete with it. Every tried to make scrambled eggs with canola or vegetable oil?  They taste completely different.  Ever tried to use an oil to brown meats and realized they didn’t do half the job that butter can?  Well, I have.  I knew the basics of where this beautiful yellow stick of fat came from but I wanted to more information.

So what is butter anyways?  Butter is created by separating cream from milk, which actually produces thee separate products:  Butter, skim milk and butter milk.  Skim milk is the result of the cream being completely removed from the milk.  The cream is beaten, or churned, until it separates into solids and liquids. The liquid is drained and the solid portion gives you that yellow fatty yellow substance.  The liquid resulting in the churning process is butter milk.  When you let the solid portion sit in room temperature it solidifies further and is formed into blocks of what is now butter.  Typical American butter that you buy at the store is 80% butter fat, 15% water and 5% other stuff.

If you want to make your own, it’s actually very simple if you have the tools at home. If you don’t feel like reading all of this, here’s a seven minute video on how to make your own butter.

My next question was why is butter yellow when milk is white?  Is this some kind of chemical reaction from the separation of liquid and fat?  Well, this is where things get even more interesting.  I think the single most interesting part of food is the effect of the animal’s diet and physical habits have on the taste and physical characteristics of the food that it produces.  Butter is no different.

The difference in color is primarily due to the higher fat content of butter. Cows that eat grass and flowers store an orangish pigment in their fats that is found naturally in those plants.  That pigment gets carried over through the fat in their milk.  Through the churning process fat globules cluster together, membranes break apart, and that pigment is exposed within the fat which causes to be that yellow color you see.

If cows are raised on pasture, their butter is more yellow when the milk is collected in late spring or summer, when the cows have more grass to chew on. In wintertime, even cows raised on pasture are usually brought inside and fed grain, which doesn’t have much of that pigment. Some dairies freeze butter so they can sell the yellow-tinted kind year-round.   Many industrial dairy producers raise cows without ever putting them out on pasture so yellow color is added to their pale butter to make it more appetizing to consumers expecting a yellow butter.

Now here’s one that most people ask.  Isn’t butter really bad for you?  The answer is yes, absolutely yes.  It’s a very simple fact that eating too much fat in excess is bad for you.  But to play devil’s advocate here, is it really that much worse than the substitute you’re probably eating?

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Let’s use margarine as an example, which is most people’s favorite substitute for butter. At one point in history, 27 states had a ban against margarine.  It’s still illegal in Wisconsin to serve margarine in schools.  Why?  Because margarine is terrible. Margarine was created in the early 1800s as an inexpensive substitute for butter. Early margarines were made from animal fat. In the 1900s, people discovered how to harden liquid oils and vegetable oil replacing animal fat. What is margarine? It is a manufactured, vegetable-oil-based substitute for butter.

Check out the ingredients of I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter:

Vegetable Oil Blend (palm oil, palm kernel oil), Soybean Oil, Water, Buttermilk, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Potassium Sorbate, Vegetable Mono and Diglycerides, Lactic Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta – Carotene.

Here’s my resolution with butter being unhealthy:  Don’t eat a lot of it.  It’s recommended that no more than 7% of you daily food intake should consist of saturated fats.  If you eat at a lot of restaurants but you’re using margarine at home, you’re silly.  Butter and fat are what make most restaurant food taste better than your home cooking.

So the final question, what is the best butter?  Well, if you’re going to really do it right French butter is the way to go. When we talk about French butter, we’re really talking about a style in which butter is produced throughout Europe. French-style butter refers to a cultured butter that has been churned longer to achieve at least 82 percent butterfat. Often times the fat percentage reaches as high as 86 to 88%. Traditionally the butter is allowed to ferment to achieve a light sour taste, but you’re more likely to find butter made with added cultures. Either way, you still end up with a tangy butter.  Some even re-inject cream into their final molds which adds even more richness to the butter.

You can actually find French butter at pretty much any grocery store and it is worth paying an extra few dollars for it.  Scrambled eggs, which led me down this rabbit hole, taste completely different than with American butter.  There is a rich, creamy taste added and the eggs become much fluffier.  My personal recommendation is pick up a brick at Trader Joe’s and you will find yourself asking why you have been using Traditional American butter all these years.

Another type of butter worth checking out is Ghee.  Ghee is an Indian clarified butter, meaning that the milk solids and water are removed leaving only the good stuff.  Ghee has a higher smoke point than regular butter and most cooking oils, stays fresh for as long as a hundred years, contains no dairy and has actually proven to be healthier than traditional butter.  Rub some Ghee on some Naan bread and your life will be changed forever.

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If you chose to read through this entire post about butter, I hope you learned a few things.  I would like to summarize by saying butter is delicious in the right portions.  We spend so much time thinking about what ingredients are bad and what ingredients are good.  If you stop and think, what is in that fat free sour cream you’re eating?  Sure, it’s fat free but what engineered ingredients have been added to something that is primarily made from fat to make it fat free? Butter adds richness and depth to food and assists in making the meal an experience.  Use it to brown your steaks, add richness to eggs, but don’t slather it all over your food on a daily basis.

 

Ford’s Garage

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The Kid and I were out on a mission the other day for some tasty treats.  The only problem with this is that we currently reside in Westland, MI which has been named the worst food city in America five years running.  This means we have to venture out to find good food and that usually means I end up taking her to some crazy place where half the meal involves me describing in great detail what she’s going to eat and why it tastes good.  She’s four, so while I have been training her to become the greatest chef that has ever lived since her birth, she is still picky about her food.  I decided to take her someplace where she could have a real kid experience and eat, as she calls it, a cheese booger.  Keep working on those hard Rs, Eleanor.

I had actually heard a good amount of hype about Ford’s Garage.  From time to time, I’ll throw it out on Facebook asking for new places to eat.  Each time I have done this someone has mentioned it.  Each time I looked a the menu I dismissed it as a Applebee’s level joint specializing in way too many types of burgers.  I decided to finally do some research on what this place exactly was — And yes, if you’re new to reading my stuff, I research everywhere I eat before I go.  I believe every person, place and thing should have a Wikipedia page explaining their story.

Ford’s Garage is actually a small franchise that currently operates four locations in Florida.  There is no actual connection between Ford Motor Company, aside from a licensing agreement.  Dearborn is their fifth location and is owned/operated by Billy Downs, who just happens to be the BD in BD’s Mongolian Grill.  Yes, Ford’s Garage is owned by the same guy who owns Mongolian Grill.  That’s quite the diverse restaurant portfolio.  Two owners of the Florida locations have apparently been charged with DUIs and cocaine possession on separate occasions, see here and here, and also have claimed that they have the mayor of Ford Myers, FL on their payroll.  #interesting.

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I now know the story of Ford’s Garage, which makes it an interesting enough place to eat. The mayor on the payroll part really put this place over the top.  Ford’s Garage specializes in exactly what they have advertised on their sign — Burgers and Beer.  CRAFT beer, to be exact.  I’m always so appreciative of places continuing to specify that they only will serve the finest in craft beers.  They have over two hundred different varieties of craft beer, but if you’re in the mood to be a true American that drinks an American beer sold to a foreign holder they always have Budweiser.  Nothing is more American than Budweiser.  They also have an extensive liquor menu that lists Buffalo Trace as top shelf Bourbon, which is a rant I will save for a different post.

The food menu is a pretty impressive collection of higher end dishes that could all be specials on a Ruby Tuesdays menu.  Appetizers include a giant funnel with onion rings wrapped around it like someone was playing horseshoes with them, hot pretzels with dipping sauces, Ahi Tuna, buffalo chicken dip and BBQ pork nachos.  Seriously, the starters have roots in Ireland, American, German and Japanese.  I’m all for a hodgepodge of different foods from different cultures, but black angus chili cheese fries have no business being next to “sushi grade ahi tuna”.

The main menu has twelve different burgers that have different toppings and are named for various figures in Detroit’s history.  There is a Bob Probert, an Ernie Harwell and somehow Jay Towers got a burger.  You can customize your burger by subbing the standard beef patty for portobello, ahi tuna steak, bison or American Kobe beef.  Here’s where I need to go on a rant.  If you wish to continue reading about the actual restaurant, skip the next paragraph.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AMERICAN KOBE BEEF.  In the late 1990s, the popularity of Kobe beef erupted in the United States.  True Kobe beef comes from a certain strain of cattle, called Wagyu, in a certain region of Japan and is under heavy regulation on what can be called Kobe beef and how it can be served.  The cattle is served beer, massaged with Sake and even played soothing music before they sleep.  The meat is marbled with fat because the cow literally has the best life a cow could possibly have.  They are respected and the meat that results from this treatment is celebrated by the butcher, the chef and the consumer.   “American” Kobe beef means a farmer either put cows on a flight from Japan in the early 1990s, which is illegal according to the regulations of Kobe beef and led to an import ban in the mid 200s, or they cross-bred Waygu cattle with Angus cattle.  American farmers do not participate in Kobe-style treatment, insisting that genetics and grain will give them the same result.  It doesn’t.  So let me summarize all of this for you.  Kobe beef is special. You do not grind up Kobe beef, mold it into a patty and up sell it for an extra $2.50.  It goes against everything the name “Kobe beef” stands for.  Kobe beef regulations in Japan state that it may be served raw or as a steak.  Advertising “American Kobe Beef” tells me that whoever designed this menu is completely full of shit.

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If you’re not in the mood for a burger, Ford’s Garage also has steaks, four different kinds of mac and cheese, fish and chips and pulled pork.  There are also eleven different sides you can add to your meal, ranging from truffle fries to baked beans.  I personally went with the patty melt, which was exactly what a patty melt should be, minus the salt.  It was a good sandwich, but I couldn’t help but think that maybe they should worry less about ahi tuna steaks and kobe beef, and more about seasoning their burgers.

On a positive note, Eleanor thought this place was pretty great.  There are old cars parked in the middle of the restaurant and the walls are covered in Detroit history. While I was fuming about various things that normal people don’t care about, she was having a great time and enjoying her meal.  The place was packed with employees, probably too many, who checked on us regularly and made sure Eleanor was taken care of.  Our server was hustling — offering drinks, appetizers and recommending deserts.  Whoever is managing the front of house is on their game.

So in summary, I would recommend Ford’s Garage.  Their menu is completely full of shit but it’s a fun environment paying tribute to a lot of great Detroiters.  I personally wouldn’t include Jay Towers as a great Detroiter but that’s OK.  There really are some great beers on the menu and you can probably have a really good time here, if you aren’t like me and have to nitpick every little thing on the menu and have strange requirements such as knowing the owner’s criminal record.

Taco Festival Detroit

Several months ago an advertisement popped up on my Facebook, which normally I would ignore, but this one had something that really got my attention. There was a Taco Festival coming to the riverfront in Detroit. Now either this was a completely random advertisement or Facebook’s algorithms finally picked up on the amount of times I post about tacos. Either way, I immediately logged in and purchased tickets. $12 general admission tickets that promised tacos, live music, Lucha Libre wrestling and alcohol. What could go wrong?

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Now I’m not normally the guy that just dives into something like this. I’ll admit, the promises of unlimited tacos and masked wrestlers dug deep into my emotions and basically took over my credit card. I’m usually the guy that will read who is putting the festival together, what additional costs there will be and other details before I pull the trigger on something like this. After purchasing tickets, I started to read and discovered that Taco Festival is actually a traveling festival that hits one or two locations per month. They recruit local vendors, which they actually did a really good job of – more on that later, who pay a deposit to have a booth and then receive a percentage of the money for the tacos that they sell. I searched everywhere trying to figure out who the owners of the festival were but could not find anything. You’re so mysterious, Taco Festival.

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The festival was very well put together. There were several beverage tents selling beers that ranged in price from $4-$8 depending on regular or tall can, a main stage had live music throughout the day and taco tents stationed the perimeter of the festival grounds. There were close to forty different Michigan vendors offering various tacos and other Mexican specialities. They did a good job finding, or being found by, a number of legit taco trucks and taquerias, but there were a few I wasn’t about — See Qdoba and something called the Crazy Gringo Mexican Cantina. Most vendors were offering several cuts of meat — mostly pork, chicken and steak. There were a few vendors who decided to not offer pork and none of these vendors received any money from me. Selling tacos without pork is like Harold Melvin without the Bluenotes.

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My personal favorite? Loncheria El Parian, a taco truck that sits on Dix ave. It was the only vendor I saw that had their Al Pastor on an actual spit, the way it’s supposed to be served, with a pineapple dripping all over the spinning column of pork. Their place included pickled onions and pickles. Absolutely delicious. I will be checking them out for some of their other goods and services at a later date.

Now here’s where I have to get a little negative on the festival. The cost for the festival was $12. The wife and I went together so our total cost of admission was $24. We like beer so the first thing we did was buy two beers. That was another $6. I’m not a normal human being so I ate eleven tacos. That was another $22. My wife is a normal person so she had three tacos. That was $6. We also paid for parking, which was $10. All together, this festival ran us $62.

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I understand their pricing because they need the up front money from the tickets to rent the venue, pay their employees and set everything up. I swear I’m not trying to be a complainer here but the beauty of tacos is they are cheap. They typically house less expensive cuts of meat and can be bought in bulk at various places for a buck or two. When you organize an entire festival around a food item that is typically very cheap and somehow make it an expensive experience it’s just kind of weird to me. I also believe that visiting a small taqueria offers a different kind of experience that is just as fun. That could be just me though.

I also understand that I’m paying for the experience of having all of these different vendors in one place. The only thing I can think about when I apply that logic is information about the best tacos in Detroit is readily available on the Interwebz and I can go directly to the source and give them 100% of my money. I realize not everyone wants to research everything they eat and this type of festival is great exposure for local businesses.

So in summary, Taco Festival is a great thing for your average eater and the city of Detroit. For me, not so great. They claimed this will be an annual event and if you have some disposable income and are looking for an unconventional experience, this is probably for you. I’m glad to say that I attended a festival completely centered around the taco,but I probably won’t be back next year.

The Drink to End All Summer Drinks

Summer is here and of course that means it’s time to add fruity shit to our alcohol and drink it outside.  

Not so fast….

It seems like every Summer in my quest for outdoor drinking I stumble upon for a new beer and/or a new drink .  Years ago it was Oberon and some shitty liquor that probably got mixed with a shittier fruit juice.  It’s graduated over the years to better beer, better liquor but not better fruit juice (looking at you, Everfresh).   The Summer of 2017 has culminated to the best beer and the best drink of any Summer yet.  The best part of all, there’s no shitty fruit juice involved.

If you’re willing to pay a few extra dollars than you’re currently paying for your Summer drink of choice, I have the best concoction that’s ever gone into a glass during a hot summer day for sitting in a chair in your front yard while yelling at cars to slow down. Something to make older people feel young and younger people feel old.  It’s the best of all worlds.

Liquor?  Check.

Beer?  Check.

Lemonade?  Check.

Non-Alcoholic Mixer?  Nope.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you… The Southern 75.

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The first ingredient in this incredible concoction is a beer I finally purchased after hearing people talk about it for months.  Old Nation Brewing’s M-43 IPA is making any other “Summer style beer” look absolutely silly.  It’s a New England Style IPA meaning it’s a cloudier and more full bodied version of those IPAs you were drinking while trying to discover craft beer.  It’s close to 7% alcohol and goes down smooth with a taste of oranges, lemons and grapefruits.  Seriously, if you haven’t had this stuff get off your ass. If you can’t locate M-43 or if $15 for a 4-pack is a little rich for your blood any other IPA will do.  Try to look for something smooth — not a double IPA or anything crazy like that.

The second ingredient is bourbon.  What else?  Be careful here, though.  Use a smoother bourbon — Think Makers Mark or Four Roses.  You could go with Wild Turkey 101 if you’re feeling really crazy but remember that this entire drink is alcohol.  A higher proof bourbon will only allow you 2-3 of these, depending on your drinking abilities, and no one likes a lightweight.

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Once you have acquired your ingredients, it’s time to mix.  Grab literally any glass you have available to you.  It could be a plastic cup.  It really doesn’t matter.

  1. Add 1/2 oz of simple syrup.
  2. Add 2/3 oz of lemon juice
  3. Stir, add ice.
  4. Add 2 oz of bourbon
  5. Add half a bottle of IPA
  6. Go outside and drink

How crazy you want to get with this is up to you.  If you’re into fancy cocktails put all of those ingredients in a shaker, add a few dashes of bitters and mix in a cocktail shaker. This will give you that foam effect you see in the image above that I blatantly stole from a different site. Lemon peel is completely optional.

AAAAAAND there you go.  The Southern 75 aka the best Summer drink in the history of Summer drinks. 100% alcohol mixture of beer, bourbon and Lemonade.  What could be better?  That’s a rhetorical question because the answer is nothing.

 

Stop Putting Sweet Shit On My Kid’s Breakfast

Warning: If you don’t have kids then this post probably isn’t for you.  Feel free to read it, although you will not learn anything new about food or cooking.

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Before I get started with the meat and potatoes of this post, I want to get a few things out of the way.

  1. One of my favorite things to do with my kid is take her to restaurants and allow her to try new things.  I am secretly (not really a secret) developing her into the greatest chef this world has ever seen.
  2. I appreciate when the people at these restaurants go out of their way to talk to my kid and do little extra things for her.  I will literally double my server’s tip if they are good to my kid.
  3. I’m not obsessive about my kid’s diet.  I do, however, monitor the amount of bullshit she eats and try to keep it at a minimum.

That being said, STOP PUTTING SWEET SHIT ALL OVER MY KID’S BREAKFAST.  If I order pancakes I don’t need an additional ingredient added that I didn’t ask for that doubles the amount of sugar she’s eating for breakfast.  I already ordered something with “cake” in the name that is going to get smothered with syrup, which is basically sugar in liquid form.  I truly appreciate you attempting to do something nice for us and I’m sure you think that it will make her happy but dumping a can of whipped cream on a pancake and then smothering it with sugar is not what I want my kid eating for her first meal of the day.

I visited a breakfast joint last week which I’m not going to name because I’m not reaching for self-importance like some Yelp reviewer.  I noticed there were “Funfetti pancakes” on the menu.  I didn’t choose the Funfetti pancakes because I actually give a shit about my kid’s nutrition and this is breakfast.  Some even go as far as to call it the most important meal of the day.  Side note: Does anyone even know the ingredients in Sprinkes?  What are they?  I ordered plain pancakes, and guess what.  The waitress brought out pancakes with a side of sprinkles.  l was then left with a choice:  Do I take the sprinkles away and cause a public meltdown or do I allow Eleanor to dump a colorful mystery ingredient all over her pancakes?  The choice was easy: Take the L and avoid public meltdowns at all cost.  But guess what, we are never returning to this place because in Eleanor’s mind this is where she is allowed to have sprinkle pancakes.

Fast forward to this morning when I ordered her pancakes at different breakfast joint and they came out with whipped cream eyes and mouth with a chocolate syrup drizzle. Why would anyone give their kid pancakes with whipped cream and chocolate for breakfast?  I understand that if a kid was going to make breakfast for themselves it would consist of mainly whipped cream and chocolate but that is why kid’s can’t physically make their own meals.  If they could our entire population would look like Chris Christie.  So don’t enable this behavior because I’m now not going to back to this place either because it will be forever known as the place that puts chocolate and whipped cream on pancakes.

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The really shitty thing about this isn’t that I can’t go back to your restaurant because my kid will expect desert for breakfast, it’s that she will expect this from every place she goes now.  Pancakes will slowly turn into a delivery system for additional sugary ingredients.  It will slowly get to the point where I just can’t give her pancakes anymore.

To close this out, I understand that I can avoid these issues by simply cooking for my kid at home.  Trust me, I do.  There is just something about taking her out in public and letting her read through a menu and ordering her own breakfast.  It’s something I like sharing with her.  The only thing I’m asking here is bring me what I order and not some “kid friendly” version of it.  If you have raised your kids to appreciate different flavors and not just rely on sweet and salty flavors, your kid will actually eat food that doesn’t need to be covered in ice cream toppings.

So that is it.  If you work at restaurant consider this the next time you bring out someone’s order.  It will help parents like me, who actually care about what their kid eats.

And last thing, which is a different subject but I’m including it in here, STOP PUTTING CANDY DISPENSERS AT THE EXIT OF YOUR BUSINESS!

Thanks.

Tom and Chee

Warning: There isn’t anything in this post that’s incredibly interesting, it’s more just me talking about my surprise from a recent visit to a national chain restaurant, which I usually try to avoid. Now that you’ve been warned you may continue to read on or just skip this post all together.

I’m an absolute sucker for any product that has been on Shark Tank but for some reason I had never paid Tom and Chee a visit. Eleanor had a very important decision the other day. Do we enjoy some “Detroit Style” Pizza at Buddy’s or do we eat grilled cheeses at Tom and Chee’s? I was hoping for Buddy’s but for some reason my road dog had a craving for grilled cheeses that particular day. I had always been curious about this establishment specializing in grilled cheese and soups. How could you go wrong with that combination? Even in my younger days I could produce a mean grilled cheese with Kraft singles.

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Now as you can probably tell Eleanor doesn’t have much interest in the documenting your food on-line and writing about it game. She would much rather just eat the food and be done with it. She has deeper interests like toy shows on YouTube, Paw Patrol and jazz camp. It’s OK though, I’ve got the food reporting under control.

I went with the Grilled Mac and Chee which is a mac and cheese, Wisconsin cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon and crispy onions all melted together between two slices of white bread. There is absolutely no way something can be bad no matter what you do with those ingredients. It’s impossible to screw up. For dipping purposes, I got a bowl of creamy tomato basil soup.

Quick question, how much tomato soup do you think gets wasted every year because the only logical purpose of tomato soup is for dipping grilled cheese? Further more, is tomato soup ever really wasted if you don’t have grilled cheese to dip in it?

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There’s only one way for me to describe this sandwich and that’s to say holy shit. This had to be one of those most disgustingly delicious sandwiches I have ever had. It was most definitely the most dense 1200 calories I have ever consumed. I expected a mess of possibly my favorite two ingredients (bacon and cheese) but this was just over the top. I seriously wasn’t the same for about three hours after consuming this. We went to the park after and I laid on the slide while Eleanor played on the swings. It was embarrassing.

Amazingly if this isn’t a fat enough sandwich for you they are proud to offer it to you IN BETWEEN A DONUT. Seriously, Tom and Chee? Are you trying to kill people?

So in summary, you should go to Tom and Chee. Just one time. I will probably never be back because it’s almost too good. In my old age, I can’t be eating shit like this anymore. Mac and cheese with bacon on a sandwich? Come on.

That’s all. Sorry for possibly the most uneventful post in MoorsFood’s history. Look at that sandwich though.

Jesus.

Lobster Week at Mudgie’s – It’s Here!!!

Before I begin, I have to start off with a story. If you are regulator reader of my food writings you should continue to read. If you followed a link simply to hear about and see lobster rolls you can feel free to skip these ramblings.

I do my best to not operate this site as a “food blog”. I know, I know it’s pretty much a food blog but there’s now thousands and maybe millions of people with a cell phone that take pictures of food and write a few paragraphs about it. I try to do things a little differently here. Generally what happens on this site is I eat or cook something really delicious and then immediately write something on my phone and post about it. I try to keep the time between experience and reaction as short as possible. My attention span demands this type of production.

What happened today goes against my typical MoorsFood production schedule. Truth be told, I wrote a really great piece about my visit to Mudgie’s Lobster Week and in between a couple of glasses of Wild Turkey I lost the entire thing. I don’t know what happened between me hitting the publish button and my web host accepting my content but my post went by bye.

So this is a disclaimer. I lost my original content. I then drank more Wild Turkey. Then I drank some Basil Hayden. Then I drank some Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. Then I finished with some EH Taylor Single Barrel. I’m a full twelve hours removed from my experience and under the influence of some really great bourbon. Let’s get on with it.

Actual Mudgie’s Lobster Week post begins here.

I’ve previously documented my love for Mudgie’s and warned of you of their lobster week, which only comes to us one week out of every summer. Mudgie’s is the greatest, and lobster week is their greatest week. Easily translated, lobster week is the greatest week of the year.

A quick summary if you aren’t a fan of clicking links — Every July Mudgie’s has lobsters overnighted from Maine every day for an entire week and serves up lobster rolls downtown. Some might say “But John, I can get lobster rolls at any number of locations in the Metro Detroit Area”. That’s great, but let me tell you why lobster week is a little more special. Maine lobsters are known to be the best and fisherman in the area go to great lengths to ensure this. Small details such as building traps in certain sizes so smaller lobsters are allowed to escape and continue their growth. Female lobsters are labeled and released so they can continue to mate and produce more lobsters. June is the season for soft shell lobsters, which produce more sweet and tender lobster than what you would typically find from a year around lobster. The climate and the temperature of the water are also factors in producing delicious lobster. Getting this type of lobster fresh in Michigan is a big deal.

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So all of these different factors brings us back to lobster week where Mudgie’s has these Maine lobsters shipped in fresh every day. I showed up today at 10AM, a full hour before opening time. I fully expected to hold the “first in line” title but there were already seven or eight people ahead of me. This should be a warning to you — Lobster week has grown in popularity and causes on average of a twenty minute wait, depending on when you get there. They also run out daily, even though they increased production from last year. My advice to you, stop what you’re doing right now and get over there. It’s 9:15 AM. Call off work. Get a babysitter. Hell, steal a car if you need to. Lobster week is worth both unemployment and/or a length prison term.

So this is completely my bad if I missed this last year, but Mudgie’s has now added a lobster bisque to their lobster week menu. I’ve had a few bisques over the years but in no way do I call myself a lobster bisque expert. I can say, however, that this lobster bisque tastes like a lobster bisque people that know a lot about lobster bisques would say is one of the better lobster bisques. This isn’t a bowl of orange colored cream with some lobster flavor. This is a savory, chunky bowl of greatness. It’s easily the best lobster bisque I’ve had. Fully worth the $10 it will cost you for a bowl.

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But the lobster rolls, what can I say about the lobster rolls. They’re delicious and fresh. Not too fishy fasting and unbelievably tender. The bun is a buttery baked New England style roll that contains the generous portion of lobster meat. The only other ingredient, which to me is normally unacceptable, but lettuce on this sandwich adds a needed crunch to each bite. If you’re one of those people that does things the right way, you’ll have a seat at their outdoor Tiki bar, order a cocktail in a Tiki glass and ask for both the roll and the bisque.

Now as I said before this is a hugely popular week where lines form and lobster eventually runs out. There are rumors of a 100lb lobster order in the coming days so hopefully everyone is able to get their share. My advice for you is again, get there early and prepare yourself for a brief wait. Trust me, it’s worth it. If you arrive later on and they are sold out, don’t complain. If you complain about Mudgie’s, you don’t deserve Mudgie’s It’s that simple.

This event runs through the 29th of July and ends with a lobster themed brunch. If you were wondering if I’ll be there on Sunday I can absolutely promise I will be in attendance.

These lobster shenanigans are going down at 1300 Porter in Corktown.

Sweet Baby Ray’s is Really Bad.

I’m going to make a statement that is going to be unpopular to the majority of people who are reading this.  Don’t worry, It’s OK if you disagree because I’m going to spend the next five minutes of your life convincing you that you’ve been absolutely destroying your meat with a disgusting sugar sauce that shouldn’t be allowed allowed to have the word “Barbecue” on the label.  So here we go.

Sweet Baby Ray’s is bad.  It’s really bad.

But why you might ask?  Most of you have probably been using Sweet Baby Ray’s your entire life.  These $2 bottles of “barbecue sauce” sit on end caps in your local grocery store every summer screaming for you to buy it.  That nice vintage looking bottle with “This Sauce is Boss!” written on the neck of every bottle.  That sweet tasting brown sauce that seems to enhance the flavor of your family’s boiled ribs, chicken cooked on the gas grill and even overcooked pork chops.  Sweet Baby Ray’s seems to make everything great!

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No.  Just no.  Sweet Baby Ray’s is not barbecue sauce.  Barbecue is beautiful.  Barbecue is flavored by wood or charcoal and gives the meat a naturally smoky flavor.  Not sauce with smoky flavoring.  Barbecue sauce can be a lot of fun and is often crucial to give piece of meat a nice caramelization on the outside — And before I go on, yes I know caramelization requires sugar.

But what if I told you that for every two tablespoons of Sweet Baby Ray’s you slather on your overcooked ribs, it’s the equivalent of eating the same amount of sugar as three Oreos?

Would you ever add 4 sugar cubes to your coffee?  I wouldn’t either.  Just a heads up, when you dump two tablespoons of Sweet Baby Ray’s on your chicken wings you’re eating just that.  Four cubes of sugar.

Did you know that every time you destroy a perfectly good piece of brisket with two tablespoons of Sweet Baby Ray’s you’re eating 34% of your daily recommended sugar intake?

Here’s where things get really creepy.  There is no actual sugar in Sweet Baby Ray’s. Through advances in sweetener technologies over the years, Ray is able to lower the cost of his sauce by using both High Fructose Corn syrup AND corn syrup which has satisfied Wal-Mart customers across the country.

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Now let me wrap this up for you and clear up a few things. I’ve never claimed to be a health conscious eater.  I rarely read nutritional labels and have frequented many all you can eat buffets.  My point in all this is that you are essentially pouring corn syrup with smoke flavoring over a beautiful piece of meat.  Think about that for a second.  A living thing lost its life and you are pouring a substance on it whose creator won’t even go the extra mile to use real sugar.  Not trying to go all hard hitting on you with that statement, but seriously.  Use a quality sauce or no sauce at all.  The purpose of barbecue sauce is to add that tang to your meat, not to completely overtake the flavor with massive amounts of sugar.

So do yourself a favor and sample a different sauce the the next time you fire up the grill at home.  You can do better than Sweet Baby Ray’s.  There are hundreds of options out there who actually use sugar to sweeten their sauce and whose purpose isn’t to be the focal point in your food.  Barbecue sauce should be the Jamal Crawford of your barbecue, a crucial role player who comes through when you need him and has been there for you throughout the years.

If you really want to get crazy, here is a recipe for something that tastes just like Sweet Baby Ray’s but is actually good.

  • 1 bottle bottle organic ketchup (Real sugar, plus you shouldn’t be using ketchup for anything else anyways)
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (you could add more if you prefer a smokier BBQ sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions: Combine all ingredients.  Cook for five minutes  Enjoy not eating Sweet Baby Ray’s.

I hope this information has allowed you to move past this kindergarten barbecue sauce and graduate to treating your meat to something better.  You’re not a four year old dipping chicken nuggets in barbecue sauce.

You’re better than Sweet Baby Ray’s.