Thursday, June 28, 2012

To Hell and Back Again


You may not believe in Hell, but it exists. Don't believe me? Look at a map! Early last week, my roommate Kimmy and I decided it was high time we went to Hell. So on Wednesday, when we both had the day free of job responsibilities, we hopped in my car and set out on the highway to Hell. It's actually two highways. We took M-23 north to D-32 and drove through a lovely stretch of country. The roads must have recently been worked on because the pavement was smooth and easy to drive on.

A short drive northwest of Ann Arbor is the tiny village of Hell, Michigan, and it's really quite nice. There are three Hell-themed buildings, a souvenir shop, a little ice cream shop and deli that also shares space with a teeny-tiny post office, and a restaurant called the Dam Site Inn, behind which is, in fact, a dam.

After stopping to take some pictures, we headed to the Hell In A Hand Basket shop, purchased some goofy Hell-themed postcards, and mailed them at the tiny post office. Before they put them into the mail, the post office stamps “Been Thru Hell” onto the cards and then holds them over a candle to singe them. Fun times!

When I'd told my friend that my roommate, Kimmy, and I were going to Hell, she insisted that we had to have burgers at the Inn. I needed no persuasion. The Inn reminded me of places I'd been to in the UP; a bit rustic, roughly decorated, staffed by some friendly folk serving some simple, down-to-earth, delicious food. The prices were more than reasonable. There is also a decent happy hour that we just barely missed.

The Inn has a somewhat varied menu. Burgers, of course, and chicken, and fish, each with an amusing, horribly puntastic name. There's a fish fry once a week, though we weren't there for that. Kimmy ordered a bowl of fried chicken tenders over mashed potatoes and covered in cheese. It usually comes with gravy, as well, but Kimmy asked for no gravy. I opted for the large burger with mashed potatoes, gravy, and cheese sprinkled on top. I wasn't sure when ordering if this was going to be a burger on a bun or what, and it turned out to just be a large hamburger patty on a bed of mashed potatoes smothered in gravy and cheese. I was okay with this.

Since we had already learned from the bathrooms that the water smelled like sulfur, I was wary of the glasses of ice water that the server brought. Indeed, the water tasted of sulfur. Grand. So I ordered a fountain root beer, which tasted fine until the ice melted. It lasted my meal, however, and that's the important thing.

Satiated on nourishing vittles, we next headed to Scream's Ice Cream (in the same building as Hell In A Hand Basket and the post office) for dessert. Really, how can one go to Hell and not eat something frozen? They serve Hershey's ice cream, which is really quite creamy and delicious, though it does make me feel sort of bad eating it since it comes from Pennsylvania and not Michigan. (There are so many good ice cream distributors in Michigan.)

Scream's doesn't only offer hand-dipped ice cream cones with fresh, handmade waffle cones, but there is also a sundae bar. In a coffin. Seriously. They put a coffin on a couple of logs, lined it with metal, then placed various ice cream toppings inside, and topped it with a sneeze-guard. We opted for waffle cones instead.
I have been told numerous times that Hell has beautiful lakes and beaches (Portage Lake is supposed to be especially nice, and I've heard Silver Lake touted many times), but sadly, we did not end up going in search of them. All together with the good food, goofy atmosphere, and potential of nice, sandy beaches, Hell is pretty good place to spend the day. Bring the family. You know. I bet you'll have a hell of a good time.

If you'd like to see the Travel Channel's clip on Hell, MI, check out this YouTube video.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Brief Post

This lack of internet at home thing is really bugging me. I've had some really busy days lately that have made it very difficult to update my blogs! 

At the moment, I am sitting at DiBella's in Ann Arbor and using their free wifi, fresh from an interview for a second job. (I've got my fingers crossed real tight for this one!) DiBella's has - hands down - the BEST submarine sandwiches in the entire state of Michigan. It's true that I have not personally tried every sandwich shop in Michigan to make this statement with complete authority, but I feel pretty confident in my assessment. DiBella's is just that good. I highly recommend the assorted Italian on everything bread; toasted or cold doesn't matter.

I have this big update on a day trip that Kimmy and I took last week, but I don't have the pictures ready for it yet. (Boo!) It's such a special update that I really want to take the time to do it up right, so that will have to wait for the next update on Thursday.

Update: My boyfriend Greg was able to procure us some of the previously mentioned Mountain Dew jelly. It honestly doesn't taste that strange at all. Very lemony. Or citrusy. In the same way that we say wine taste citrusy when there is absolutely no citrus involved. Yes. It's like that. Seriously, it's not that bad. I put it on a piece of toast with my breakfast the other day, and other than being very sweet, it was perfectly enjoyable. It's probably not something that I would buy on a regular basis, but it's not so bad that I'd regret the purchase by any means.

So there you have it. My brief, perfectly random blog post. I hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Eastern Market Booty


One place in Detroit that I've been wanting to visit for a while now, but have been unable to due to my busy work schedule, is the Eastern Market. Starting July 10th, it will be open Tuesdays, but until then, it is only active on Saturdays. Last Saturday, My boyfriend Greg went with his family and returned with some goodies.

The first interesting item that he brought us was pickled garlic. You read that right. And it is amazingly delicious! I was worried that it might be too strong for me, since I already have a hard time munching on straight up sauteed garlic. Pickled, however, seems to be a-okay to my taste buds. A lot of people at game night agreed. Somehow the vinegar mellows out the sharp flavor of the garlic. I'm not really sure what one is supposed to do with pickled garlic aside from eating straight out of the jar, and it's difficult to research uses when one does not have the internet ready at one's fingertips. I'm really rather content with eating straight out of the jar, though.

Side story: This reminds me that a coworker picked up some garlic tops (she said they were), long smooth threads that are supposed to be what grows out of the top of garlic bulbs. Talk about a concentrated garlic flavor! I think they'd be awesome in stir fry, or sliced up and mixed into a salad. Maybe even used as a pizza topping!

But back to Eastern Market treasures. Greg also brought me some peach melba jam from Fuhr's Valley View Fruit Farm. I'm not sure where the “melba” comes in; the jam is made from peaches and raspberries. It is quite tasty! The place that makes it is better known for its Mountain Dew jam made from genuine Mountain Dew. That was Greg's goal in shopping there, but, sadly, they hadn't brought any with them that morning. Another time, I guess. The jam is quite delightful spread onto toast, and at game night, we served it on shortbread cookies, which went over very well.

Hopefully, once the Market is open on a weekday, I can go there myself. Saturdays are extremely difficult to get off at my job, most especially during the summer when everyone wants to take weekend vacations. (I'm so grateful that I took Sunday out of my availability. There's one weekend day to myself, at least.)

If you are in the Detroit area, you should check out Eastern Market for yourself. I'm assured by everyone that it is well worth the trip.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cheese (And Meat)


Not having the internet in my own home makes it extremely difficult to regularly update a blog, let alone three blogs, one of which updates daily. I have also been very busy, and really haven't made the time to make meals. The few that I have put together have either already been written about in this blog, or are simply not interesting enough to update about. Breakfast has been extremely carbtastic, much to my chagrin (but what can you do when your resources and time are severely limited?), and dinners have been scrounged at work and generally revolve around a sandwich now that I am on nearly all midnight shifts.

For a few weeks there, I was eating a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which, though satisfying to my mouth, are not exactly fulfilling to my stomach. A week or so ago, my boyfriend Greg brought me a giant hunk of imported provalone cheese at his mother's orders. Apparently, their fridge was too full of cheese. (I wish had that problem.) Once I was able to buy food again, I picked up some sliced turkey lunch meat so that I could make a more grown-up sandwich of meat and cheese, maybe even a few condiments.

The provalone proved to be a lot sharper than I am used to, very close to cheddar, though I suppose this makes sense since I usually consume provalone in the pre-sliced for-sandwich variety, and I find cheeses in this state tend to be much more on the moist and floppy side than crumbly. The first sandwich I made with it practically had the turkey giving up all of its flavor to the cheese, which didn't mesh very well with the mustard and mayo that I had also spread onto the bread. My next sandwich gave up the condiments and was made with just cheese and meat. This made for a less complicated taste of competing flavors.

I really could just eat hunks of the provalone by itself since it is so flavorful. Which I will probably end up doing because my roommate isn't interested in it and there really is a ton of it. I don't know how much it cost, but it must have been a lot of money because it's priced at $9.95 per lb, and is obviously much more than 1 lb. I hope I can eat it all before it molds!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Schuler's Restaurant & Pub


Along I-94 between Jackson and Battle Creek in the state of Michigan, there are at least four billboards for a restaurant called Schuler's Restaurant and Pub that is located in historic downtown Marshall, Michigan, exit 112. It turns out there are about four more billboards along I-69 to the south of I-94, too, but I wasn't familiar with those billboards until recently. Those on the sides of I-94 have been there for as long as I can remember, making Schuler's restaurant a fixture in my memory, though I had never been, nor had anyone I knew until I was into my twenties, and they were lured there by these same billboards.

And so, since my roommate Kimmy, my boyfriend Greg, and I all happened to be in Marshall last Monday in celebration of Kimmy's 25th birthday, I felt that we had no choice but to dine at the infamous, persistent Schuler's. I didn't realize this until we entered, but the establishment is divided into two dining areas, so to speak, much like I was used to from Kalamazoo's former Black Swan and Martell's (it's all Martell's now, and it's so lovely). To the left, upon entering, is Winston's Pub, which is where we sat down for lunch. 

As is befitting a pub, the menu was simple, but a very many things caught my eye, and I had a difficult time choosing my entree. The pub nachos were too enticing, so the three of us split a large order. It turns out, we would have done just fine with a small plate, but leftovers can be tasty, too! I settled on the Bistro Chicken Sandwich, which was both delicious and unexpectedly messy. I also ordered a Peach Sangria to drink, and my, was that ever delightful. Definitely a drink I would recreate at home. Very summery, as they say.

Much to my surprise, Greg did not order the Barbeque Pork Sandwich (something he nearly always orders at restaurants), instead opting for the Winston's French Dip. Kimmy was craving a burger, and requested they bring it to her as rare as they were willing to cook it. And they did. She reported that the burger was barely holding together because it was so lightly cooked, thus making her one happy birthday girl. 

I was very pleased to find that Schuler's did not disappoint as I half expected it to. With advertising like that, one can never be sure. Indeed, I was rather impressed, and I would definitely eat there again, and certainly go back and try the restaurant side of the establishment. I think I need to sample their creme brulee, as well as the peppermint ribbon pie that I spied on their dessert menu. Lemon-blueberry bread pudding doesn't sound half bad, either!

We didn't learn whether or not Schuler's is haunted, though given its long history and location (Marshall is one of the most haunted cities I think I have ever visited), it would not surprise me in the slightest. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

More Grilled Chicken and Some Tamales

Since I had the free time, I decided to cook up a bunch of chicken and save it in the fridge for future lunches. My first batch was the grilled chicken and broccoli from the previous entry. The second batch was grilled with garlic salt, turmeric, curry powder, ground ginger, and a dash of ground cinnamon. 

Although the taste was satisfactory, I think I preferred the first kind of grilled chicken. It was juicier, and I think the taste of curry on the second chicken was a little confusing to my tongue because I am used to curry being gravy-like, or at least more moist. Which makes me really want some good chicken curry now. I have some Japanese curry roux in my cupboard, so that may be happening soon.

Anyway, to accompany the second kind of chicken, I steamed some sweet corn and sprinkled on garlic powder and some sea salt. That was quite delicious! And so simple. I think I need to put garlic on more vegetables in the future.

After all the chicken was grilled and packed up in Tupperware for later in the week, I decided to cook the little  bite-size tamales that were in my freezer for dinner. This proved more difficult than I had anticipated when I bought them. I really should have read the cooking instructions before making the purchase, but they were so tasty when I tried them at the demo stand! 

I don't own a steamer, so I had to fake one using a pot of water, a metal strainer, and a slightly oversized pot lid. It was small, so I could only do about 4 at a time, and it took longer than the box said it should, but it worked, and the tamales were just as tasty as I'd remembered. 

It would be interesting to try to make tamales from scratch, but I don't know if I could do it. Maybe it's something to try someday. We'll see!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Grilled Chicken and Broccoli

On a rare day off, I decided to dig through my sparsely filled kitchen and find something healthy to make. The only protein I have at the moment is in the form of frozen chicken tenders, so I pulled those out first, along with the George Foreman grill I keep on top of my fridge.

The chicken went on the heated grill and on the chicken, I sprinkled on Himalayan pink salt, dried oregano (I wanted to try something different), garlic powder, and celery salt (which I have found terribly useful as of late). 

And while the chicken was cheerfully grilling away, I decided to steam some broccoli in the microwave, but I didn't want to just do buttered or salted broccoli, as I usually have it, so I decided to add some lemon juice, which I was inspired to use from my month of making Greek food, garlic salt (I keep both the salt and the powder in my cupboard), and dried thyme for something really different. 

I don't know if it was the thyme or the broccoli florets themselves, but the dish came out tasting very earthy, almost dirt-like. They did, however, compliment the chicken tenders, which is what was most important to me at the time. Since I used the Foreman grill and the microwave, none of this took very long to make, and I had my netbook set up on the counter - well out of the way of food stuffs - so I could watch classic episodes of Doctor Who while I cooked. 

I find that I can make some very tasty and simple dishes just by going through my spice cupboard. Doing the ethnically themed months has really introduced me to a lot of spices and their uses, so I am no longer afraid to try new things even when I have no idea how the flavor will turn out. Aside from the earthy taste to the broccoli, which was only a little unpleasant at times, I have yet to make something that I could not eat and even enjoy.

In fact, I didn't even stop here, but you'll have to wait until next time to read about that creation.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cuppa


It starts with the smell;
Embracing warmth, wet vapors,
The richness of the earth.
Leaves steeped in hot water,
An old ritual, as old as bones.
Simple, comforting, protecting.
Sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter.
As different as the cup that contains it;
As unique as the tongue that tastes it.
A line of history and culture
That ties our globe together.
Enjoy a cup of tea.