Taco Heaven

So, as it turns out, there is something of a taco war going on over on the west side of Ann Arbor. I’m not sure that the two parties involved in the taco war realize that it is going on. I’m not sure the patrons of the parties involved in the taco war realize it is happening, either. Before this week, I didn’t realize that either of these two places existed, let alone that both existed and were right around the corner from each other.

The winner? Me, because I ate tacos twice this week and both times were delicious.

To backtrack: I’ve become obsessed with the idea of tacos since I met my friend David, who hails from LA. LA is apparently a magical land of food trucks and taco stands, and as I listened to David tell me about these things, my mouth began to water uncontrollably and I essentially made it my life’s mission to find a taco that did not have a hard shell, cheddar cheese or sour cream.

Enter Taco King and Chela’s. Taco King is located on West Liberty in a building that formerly housed a futon store. Chela’s is a short jaunt down the street, around the corner onto South Maple, in a strip mall. I read about both in the comments section of annarbor.com – NOT a place I normally look for worthwhile recommendations on anything, let alone restaurants. But I saw these places mentioned under an article about a different restaurant, and decided to check them out next time I was on that side of town.

I got my chance to try Taco King post-haircut on Wednesday afternoon. I was driving down Stadium headed back toward my office when I remembered – just in time to make a crazy turn on to W. Liberty – that tacos were in the vicinity. The man that flipped me the bird did nothing to dull my anticipation.

I was in a bit of a hurry, but the lunch counter located in the Tienda La Libertad market wasn’t busy and put together my order quickly. I chose the al pastor (marinated pork) and the chorizo (spicy Mexican sausage). I ordered two of each so I could take them back to David and get the LA opinion.

When I got back to the office and we opened the container, we were delighted to see the tacos packaged in doubled-up corn tortillas (no gluey flour here), bursting with meat, and covered with diced onions and cilantro (does anything smell better than cilantro…I think not). The restaurant had provided fresh limes and salsa verde.

Marinated pork and chorizo tacos at Taco King

The marinated pork was a bit sweeter than I expected, and my LA judge said it was a bit sweeter than he was accustomed to. Still quite tasty, however. The chorizo appeared to be ground rather than diced and had some nice heat on the finish. The cilantro cooled everything down a bit, and the salsa verde provided a but of a kick with the lime adding some zing.

All in all, for $1.50 per taco, we thought this was a pretty good find. Yet we still had to try Chela’s…

Chela’s definitely had a but more ambiance, not being attached to a grocery store. We once again chose chorizo and al pastor tacos, and also threw in some carne asada. According to my LA counterpart, these three taco meats would give us a good gauge on which to judge the restaurant. He also picked up several containers of not only salsa verde but of some spicy-looking red sauce as well.

We started with the Chorizo. This was diced into small cubes, not ground like Taco King’s. Once again, chorizo brought flavorful heat – accentuated by the red sauce we liberally poured over the meat.

Chorizo tacos at Chela’s

The al pastor was next, and in this I dare say we found a mutual favorite. Less sweet than Taco King, with a rich savoriness to the marinade that was perfectly complimented by the slightly tangy salsa verde, these were hands-down winners.

Carne asada was fine, but a bit “blah” after the warm, spicy sausage and richly-marinated pork. The steak was appropriately chewy and had a nice char, but it was by far the weakest of the three offerings.

At $1.85 per taco, Chela’s was ever-so-slightly more expensive, but we considered that $0.35 a relatively small price to pay for flavor profiles that fit our personal palates a bit better.

(Also, at Chela’s, David introduced me to Horchata, a rice-based cold beverage seasoned with cinnamon. WOW. It was milky and a bit sweet and just bursting with that warm, spicy cinnamon flavor. It had a cooling property that complimented the heat of the food extremely well. I loved it!)

Chela's tacos and horchata and our piles or hot sauces and salsas

Although I’d say we preferred Chela’s just a bit, either of these establishments is a solid choice for an inexpensive, flavorful lunch. Next time you’re on the west side, give one of them a try.

Curry on, my wayward son…

The end of July approaches. I’ll end the month the same way I ended it in 2011: spending a week among countless airplanes and aviation enthusiasts in glamorous (read: “glamorous”) Oshkosh, Wisconsin, attending the annual AirVenture with my coworkers. As far as business travel goes, it’s not a bad gig. And we do eat well on our trips – however, options are somewhat limited and by the end of the week, everyone is a little tired of the sushi/hibachi restaurant and the hotel steakhouse, tasty though they may be. (However, no one gets tired of the bar that plays five decades of music videos, heavy on the nineties. It’s physically impossible to tire of that.)

Luckily, I’m being sent off on a high note this year, food-wise.  We gathered with friends on Friday night – the first time in awhile; it’s been a busy summer all around – for beer and pizza on the deck. Sound mundane, right? Well, this wasn’t just any pizza: this was a most perfect marriage of pizza and Indian food and flavors combining to form the incomparable Curry on Crust.

From what I understand, Curry on Crust is the pet project of the wives of the proprietors of a popular Indian street food restaurant. Located on Ford Road in Canton (that’s right, Ann Arborites – you have to – gasp! – leave the city for this deliciousness), the restaurant does a brisk carry-out business, though there is a small seating area inside the restaurant.

The restaurant divides the pie menu into three basic categories: veggie, paneer (a crumbly fresh cheese used in Indian cuisine, often marinated) and chicken (the only non-vegetarian ingredient on Curry on Crust’s menu). We chose one option from each category: #4 – the Spicy Veggie Treat; #14 – the Palak Paneer Pizza; and #20 – the Chicken Tikka Pizza.

Chicken Tikka Pizza (foreground) and Paneer Palak Pizza

We started with the spicy veggie, featuring the house red sauce. The sauce itself had a spicy, flavorful kick (though not hot enough to offend any spice-phobes) while the addition of ginger and chilies kicked up with the usual veggie pizza combination of onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and olives. A healthy dose of garlic rounded everything out. Hands-down the most flavorful veggie pizza I’ve ever had.

We moved on to the paneer, which pretty much wow-ed the entire group at first bite. The spinach sauce was a brilliant addition, both texture and taste-wise. The sauce offered the rich taste of spinach without any leafy stringiness. It was almost pesto-like in composition. The marinated paneer was almost meat-like. Onions and red peppers added additional crunch and flavor depth.

We were all ready to declare the paneer pizza the winner for the night until we tasted the chicken tikka pizza. Everyone in the group had a hard time deciding which, if either, was the better of the two. The crust was spread with a warm-spicy tikka sauce and sprinkled with chunks of tikka chicken, green peppers and – of course – garlic. The warm flavors of tumeric and corriander permeated the dish, complimented by the mellow flavors of the cooked garlic and the toned-down bitterness of the green pepper. Nothing short of amazing.

We washed down the pizza with Spotted Cow beer from New Glarus Brewing Company out of Wisconsin (this was not an homage to my trip – Matt is from Green Bay). The farmhouse-style ale had a touch of fruitiness and a nice weight without being too heavy. I could see this beer being complimentary to many food options. A great summer deck-drinking choice.

On that note, I think I’m ready to head off to airplane land for a week. I’ll be back and ready for more eating and blogging adventures in August, so stay tuned!

Rock (well, roll) Lobster

I’ve claimed to be done with blogging, or at least with blogging about food and beverages. I was feeling uninspired, there were too many people doing the same thing, my writing was getting repetitive and stale, my phone camera (which I rely on for food photos when out and about) is super-crappy (yes, I’m still toiling along with that BlackBerry, AKA the VCR of cell phones)…my handful of excuses all amounted to pretty much the same thing: boredom. My food blogging days were done.

Done until I tasted the Frita Batidos version of a lobster roll, that is.

I could wax poetic about both lobster rolls and Frita Batidos at length – in fact, I’ve done so here and here. The idea of combining the two was almost unfathomable. It was either going to be the most wonderful or most horrible thing on the planet. I knew it would be – there could not possibly be any middle ground with this one.

To recap for those not inclined to click backlinks and read my old posts: a traditional New England lobster roll is served one of two ways: A) hot, meaning the only condiment is lots and lots of clarified butter or B) cold, meaning the lobster chunks are combined with mayo/other ingredients into a lobster salad. Both versions are served on a hot dog roll. This is not the same thing as a hot dog bun. The hot dog roll is split open on the top rather than on one side. The exposed bread on the sides toasts up splendidly. It’s genius, really, and I’m not entirely sure why we don’t get rid of the stupid bun all together.

As usual, I digress.

I have an aversion to mayonnaise that generally makes a cold lobster roll a less-appealing option. I like the sweet meat dripping in butter and not much else. But here in landlocked (or at least freshwater-locked) land of the Mitten, I was willing to take what I could get.

Hot lobster roll at Captain Scott’s during 2011’s CT Labor Day visit.

I really knew nothing about Frita’s version going in other than the fact that it existed (thank you, Facebook – finally, “liking” a bar or restaurant has actually paid off). I placed my order and then immediately placed an order for a mojito to calm my nerves as I waited. (That proved to be an excellent idea in itself. Frita Batidos makes a mean mojito – just enough sugar to take the edge off the rum and tasting more of fresh lime and mint than anything. I highly recommend it.)

The Frita Mojito

I was approximately halfway through my mojito when my meal arrived. After intense visual scrutinizing, I came to the following conclusions:

  • This was not so much a “roll” as a sandwich. It was served on the soft egg brioche bun that Frita’s serves its Fritas on. The interior of the bun was toasted.
  • We were looking at a “cold” roll; AKA a lobster salad situation. However, the goop of the salad was an orange-ish color, which I deduced was most likely the sweet chili mayo that comes on many a Frita and as a dipping sauce for the fried plantains. (Have I mentioned Frita Batidos plantains? The delicious, garlic-y, cilantro-y double-fried plantains? These are a MUST try.)
  • The lobster salad was topped with Frita’s tropical coleslaw, which I knew from experience to be very crunchy with fruity, fresh flavors.
  • The bun was overflowing with chunks of lobster meat – a great sign.

Once the visual inspection was complete, I smelled it (my 201o holiday stint at Zingerman’s Mail Order left me with what some consider the rather peculiar habit of smelling all my food before I eat it). I smelled the chili mayo and a sweet; subtle seafood-y smell (not too strong or fishy – a good indicator that the meat was pretty fresh); and a very slightly fruity smell, most likely from the tropical slaw.

Lobster Frita

It was finally time to take a bite. There would be no going back. Was I setting myself up for an incredible taste experience or the biggest disappointment of my life?* (*That might be a bit of an exaggeration.)

My teeth sank through the soft bun and before hitting the pleasant crunch of the toasted interior followed by the slaw,  immediately contrasted by the slightly chewy meat held together by the not-quite-goopy mayo mixture. I crunched through the bottom layer of bun and pondered the flavor combination as I chewed through the pleasant variety of textures. I noticed that the salad was not quite cold – almost room temperature, possibly warmed from the heat of the bun. It was actually a great temperature and really let the flavors shine through.

And what flavors they were.

Lobster meat has a bit of natural sweetness to it, so adding a little heat from the chili mayo and the fruitier elements of the slaw were actually quite complimentary. It had a kick from the mayo without being “hot” – just flavorful. The bun itself had sort of an egg-y, buttery flavor – extremely subtle and mild, but more discernible than regular processed white bread/buns. There was nothing abrasive in the taste of the sandwich – just very harmonious elements combining for a fresh, slightly sweet mouth explosion.

The lobster Frita – I’m not sure I should call it a lobster roll – is on the messy side – but then again, so are most of the sandwiches at Frita Batidos. They are literally bursting out of the buns. As long as you aren’t particular about things like licking fingers or picking up chunks of food with your hands, this is NOT a problem – just something to note.

I asked our server about the availability of the lobster Frita. She told me it was originally something that the chef (Eve, I’m assuming) wanted to try out for a limited time, but that the reception has been excellent. In fact, it sells  out most nights. Our server indicated that the restaurant might be toying with the idea of keeping it around, but she wasn’t sure.

I hope they do. In the meantime, call, check Facebook, do whatever you need to do to find out if the lobster Frita is being served – and if you find that it, go get it immediately. It’s not a New England lobster roll, but it might just be the most delicious sandwich in Ann Arbor.

Everything’s up-to-date in Traverse City

After gorging on Spicy Bob’s pizza and desserts (thanks again, Rob and CJ) on Friday night, it was probably something of a miracle that we were able to get out of bed at all on Saturday, the second day of Spring 2012 Cabin Weekend. But get up we did, and, fueled by bagels and cream cheese (Thanks, Kristen!) we made our way to Traverse City.

I mentioned in the previous post that this spring’s Cabin Weekend differed a bit from our usual pattern. Not only did we have Roz and Sandi with us (and no Rikster) but our favorite restaurant, The Cooks House, was closed for the weekend, meaning we had to change up our dinner plans. Since we were already changing so many things anyway, we decided to hit some new (and new-to-us) wineries along with a couple of our favorite hot spots.

We started the day at Brengman Brothers, a family-owned winery operated by brothers with a legitimate interest and background in farming and hospitality. Their tasting room had a clean, modern feel, avoiding the hokey “barrel and grapevine” decor found in so many tasting rooms. The space was light and airy and open, a perfect place to taste Brengman’s lineup of whites. The standout here was the Black 65 blend, a refreshing mix of Pinot Gris, Voigner and Sauvignon Blanc (I know, I know – how surprising that I like something with a Sauvignon Blanc component). This wine had a hint of spice to it, along with refreshing citrus flavors. We also enjoyed the Runaway Hen Syrah, made from grapes grown in Washington State (no way can your grow Syrah like that with a growing season like Michigan’s) – this hit a lot of earthy, chocolatey notes at a relatively low price.

Girls at Brengman's - we actually took pictures of US and not just wine and food this time.

Our second stop was at Mawby, another usual suspect on our list of wineries. Mawby does amazing sparklers and visiting their tasting room is always fun. They even dug up some non-alcoholic sparkler for Miss Mietzel while the rest of us tasted the current vintages. Though most Mawby wines are available widely downstate, we always stock up on Sandpiper – a very friendly, accessible, and – at $11 a bottle – affordable sparkler only sold on the premises.

Why the ugly label?

(Note to Mawby: I love you guys. Really, I do. But these new labels are awful! I can handle the groovy design, but why is it paired with the “I’m trying to learn medieval calligraphy” font?)

From Mawby, it was on to another favorite, hidden treasure Willow Vineyard. Tucked away but offering the best views around, Willow is one of the friendliest tasting rooms we visit. They only produce four or five things, but they do them well, and we ALWAYS leave with multiple bottles of their Baci Rose.

At Willow

Post-Willow (and post lunch at a pub in Suttons Bay), we tried out Forty-Five North. Melissa alone had been there before. Good experience, and a very strawberry rose. Sandi, Diane and I managed to share three tastings between us and try more or less the entire menu.

Great pic by Diane

At the Forty-Five North tasting room

From 45 North, we headed to Circa Estate, which was supposed to be open…but disappointingly, was not. Maybe next time?

The last stop on the wine tour was at Black Star Farms, not so much for wine but to stock up on Leelanau Cheese aged Raclette. The Raclette is a Swiss-style cow’s milk cheese that pairs well with just about anything. While we prefer the stronger, more flavorful aged variety, the mild “newer” Raclette will not offend anyone’s palate.

With the wineries all closing up shop for the day, we headed back to downtown Traverse City for our traditional stop at American Spoon. The preserves, salsas, sauces and spreads here are all made in small batches with the best ingredients. American Spoon relies on good farm product to supply the necessary flavor – not adding disgusting amounts of sugar or weird preservatives. They also have the world’s most amazing gelato (sorry, Zingerman’s) and Diane and I could not help but spoil our dinners.

SO MANY CHOICES!!!

I went for a pistachio/hazelnut combo

We wound up our TC trip with dinner at Amical, a French-style bistro downtown. We ordered an assortment of entrees and small plates. I had a braised short rib that was literally falling apart on the plate. It had a wondrous melt-in-your-mouth texture. While we mourned our usual seven course tasting menu at the Cooks House, we were not at all disappointed with our choice.

The BlackBerry is terrible for food pics. I should get an iPhone.

Stay tuned for part three, when we stop at Dingman’s Bar in Kalkaska…where the REAL adventure begins!

Spring awakening

I’m currently suffering from my annual seasonal depression, so I haven’t posted much lately. (And yes, I realize that most seasonally depressed people get depressed in the winter, not the spring. However, spring to me is like being trapped in somebody’s gross basement – it’s damp and moldy and not that warm and you know what? I kind of hate it.)

In Connecticut, I could combat my depression with the opening of Captain Scott’s, new wine releases at JE, and my aquarium friends. However, in Michigan, the one and only thing that can (at least temporarily) snap me out of my spring funk is Cabin Weekend.

This year’s spring weekend was a little different – no Rikster, for one (horror of horrors!). On the bright side, we added Roz and Sandi and Kristen to the mix, meaning we had six instead of our usual four, and also added some great new experiences.

Diane and I actually took Friday off and headed up on Thursday night. We decided to low-brow it for dinner and stopped at Tony’s I-75 Restaurant in Birch Run, where Diane was served a pound of bacon with a club sandwich on the side.

Club sandwich from Tony's

Upon arriving at the cabin, we immediately changed into pajamas, opened a couple bottles of sparkling wine, and turned on a Golden Girls marathon. Relaxation at its finest.

I am literally (in) the cat(s) pajamas.

How did this hipster get up north?

I should add here that the cabin is the best place ever to get a good night’s sleep. Grandma put shutters on the windows of the bedrooms, so you can sleep in complete darkness and sleep in successfully (take that, morning sun!). In addition, all the beds have electric blankets. That’s right – you can crawl into your warm, dark burrito and sleep to your heart’s content. Even I can sleep well and sleep in at the cabin – and that’s saying something.

Fully refreshed on Friday morning, Diane and I headed off to Traverse City – we didn’t let a little snow and sleet deter us. At the recommendation of Andy from the Produce Station, we sought out Patisserie Amie, where we enjoyed amazing crepes and celebratory bellinis.

Great suggestion, Andy!

Ham, bleu cheese and walnut crepe

Our waiter, Luc (well, we’re pretty sure it was actually “Luke” but we were eating crepes in a “patisserie” so he became “Luc”) was fantastic. We also picked out an assortment of pastries from the case to share with the other girls by means of apology for enjoying this treat before their arrival.

Treats for the girls

Fueled by crepes, Diane and I headed up the Old Mission to our perennial favorite, 2 Lads Winery. I’ve enjoyed a well-documented relationship with 2 Lads and their wines since moving back to Michigan in 2010.  This trip was extra-special, as I FINALLY got to meet Caryn, the 2 Lads marketing guru who does all their blogging and social media. Caryn and I have spoken so many times through channels such as Facebook and Twitter that I sometimes forgot that we’d never met in person. Diane and I spent a delightful hour or two with Caryn, trying the newly-bottled releases (oh man, that Cab Franc/Merlot is going to be AMAZING) and talking wine and food and Michigan in general. And even though the new releases weren’t yet available for purchase, we still left with a number of current faves:

I save up for this.

Post-2 Lads, we still had time to kill before the other girls arrived. We headed back down the peninsula, popping into Brys Estate for their new release party, and then headed over to the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. The Village was known in its former life as the Traverse City State Hospital, and before THAT, the Northern Michigan Asylum.

Maybe a BIT creepy.

That’s right – the former mental asylum has been transformed into upscale shops, condos, and restaurants. There’s a slight aura of creepiness when walking amongst the lower levels, but it’s quickly forgotten upon entering Trattoria Stella.

Stella was our destination for a mid-afternoon snack and cocktail before heading back toward Frederic. Nestled in the catacombs of the Village, Stella is dark and intimate and very, very cool. Diane and I sat at the bar and ordered cocktails to offset all the wine we’d been drinking. Mine, the Stella Five Year Itch, was crafted from rye, Campari, and caramelized orange oil. It smelled like citrus and tasted bitter, bitter, bitter. I loved it. Don’t be fooled by its deceptively pink appearance: like all Campari-based drinks, it is not for the faint of heart or the sweet of tastebuds.

NOT a cosmopolitan.

For our snack, we ordered the Tavola, an assortment of ham, cheese, marinated veggies, crusty bread and greens served on a wooden board. Delish.

A light snack before dinner.

We arrived back at the cabin just in time for the arrival of Kristen – and our resident pitbull, Faygo. Several hours later, Melissa arrived with Roz and Sandi – and pizza and silly sticks from our northern favorite Spicy Bob’s – in tow. Like all good cabin girls, they put on their pajamas before doing anything else (even opening the pizza boxes). Once we were all properly attired and had pizza in hand, we inspected the goods the gals had hauled up – including a mystery bag from Roz’s husband, CJ, and a box from Sandi’s boyfriend, Rob.

Well. This was something new. Normally at cabin weekend, we have an abundance of savory snacks and next to no sweets – which was why Diane and I chose to purchase pastries for the group on our Friday outing. Rob and CJ had somehow sensed this lack of sugar and loaded us up with the most mammoth carrot cake cupcakes, an assortment of mini cannolis, eclairs and fruit tarts, chocolate of all varieties, and more. In addition, CJ had added several containers of guacamole, a variety of cheese, and other goodies.

The dessert buffet

We had a FEAST. We may have been more buzzed from sugar than wine – a definite first for cabin weekend.

On that note, we end night one. Stay tuned for Saturday’s Traverse City – and Dingman’s Bar! – adventures.

The Wurst Place in Town

Just when I was starting to get sick of my usual Ypsi haunts (which, coincidentally, is amazing for my waistline and bank account), the Wurst Bar opened on Cross Street.

Photo: markmaynard.com

The Wurst Bar opened on a block of West Cross that I previously was never tempted to go. An atypical Eastern Michigan University student, I was not even remotely interested in this bar when it was Theo’s*. Seriously. I could not have been less interested in Theo’s. (Nor was I interested in the Tower Inn, though I did pop in there for the occasional post-ENG 424 drink with our old Written Communications crew.)

My, how times have changed. The interior of the former Theo’s – gross college bar extraordinaire – has been transformed into something unrecognizable (well, to be fair, I probably wouldn’t be able to recognize Theo’s interior anyway, seeing as how I really never went in there). The menu has undergone an equally astounding transformation.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a warm welcome to the Wurst Bar. Specializing in gourmet bratwursts and burgers, a rotating selection of over 100 veggie burger recipes, and a beer list heavy on craft and microbrews, the Wurst Bar is destined to become Hipster Haven – but it’s also DELICIOUS.

The interior of the Wurst may cause one to wonder if Urban Outfitters opened an Ypsi outpost: the decor is heavy on cardboard animal heads and plastic chandeliers. Vintage movie posters adorn the walls, and black leather (or pleather) banquettes adorn the floor. The menu and specials are written in colored chalk on old-school green chalkboards and the perimeter walls are painted a deep, maroon-y red.

Low-end taxidermy

Classy.

It may take a few minutes to notice all these details, however, as this gloriousness greets patrons upon walking in the door:

Photo: Diane Kay

The meat case, filled with dreams and promises of what’s to come.

We found a seat (at a little past eight on a Saturday night, we seemed to have hit the happy medium between the dinner and drinking crowds) and perused the menu.

We started with the Curry Wurst Mini Corn Dogs.Served with a spicy catsup and a very garlic-y pimento cheese, these nuggets of perfectly-spiced meat arrived encased in cornmeal batter worthy of any county fair. The combination was heavenly, and we agreed these were a keeper.

Curry wurst corn dogs

The brat menu is divided into two columns: “Usual” – featuring the house specialty, a PBR-poached brat seasoned with marjoram, ginger, celery seed, and coriander; as well as a spicy Italian sausage and a couple veggie options – and “Unusual” – with highlights such as rattlesnake chorizo, a turducken sausage, and a rabbit option. The burger menu was similarly divided, with “Usual” featuring both a beef and a veggie patty and “Unusual” getting a little more non-traditional with the toppings. (A burger AND brat together on one bun? Peanut butter on a burger?) Both burger and brat offered the option of a pretzel or brioche bun.

After much deliberation, I ordered the rattlesnake (mixed with pork and and seasoned with chipotle, oregano, and red wine) – which, according the bar’s website is one of their best-sellers. Diane went for the turducken, which was reminiscent of Thanksgiving with additions of pecans, cranberries, and apples. Noe went all in on where meat was concerned, ordering the brat/burger combo that is the Wurst Burger, served up with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. We all chose tater tots as our side, Diane and I opting to mix sweet potato and regular tots.

Rattlesnake Chorizo and Wurst Burger

YUM. The rattlesnake chorizo was warm and spicy – the chipotle giving it a slightly smoky flavor. The meat was extremely flavorful as well, though quite honestly I could not discern any notably different taste from the addition of the rattlesnake meat (but that could possibly be because I was distracted by the delicious seasonings). I ate it with spicy stoneground mustard (very zingy, almost a horseradish-like sensation) and sauteed onions.

Close-up: rattlesnake chorizo and mixed tots

Diane’s turducken was rich and filling. Her choice of sauteed onions for a topping and the pretzel roll added a sweet and salty element that complimented the richness rather than competing with it.

Noe’s Wurst Burger was an exercise in meat excellence. I pulled a piece of the PBR-poached brat off the burger and ate it by itself – wow. This may be the Wurst Bar’s “basic” brat option, but it is juicy and flavorful and incredibly delicious.

Close up: Wurst Burger

The tots were all extra-crispy (the way we like them) and the sweet potato variety were accompanied by a cinnamon-spiked marshmallow fluff for dipping. I’m not a fan of the sweet potato/marshmallow combo in general but the fluff was greatly appreciated by those at our table who DO enjoy it.

We weren’t overly adventurous in our beer selections – Bell’s all around, Best Brown and Winter White – but none of us are true beer aficionados, though we all enjoy beer and in the case of Diane and I are trying to avoid another potentially expensive tasting hobby. The Rikster did up the beer game when she showed up and order the most amazing chocolately/spicy beer, which was like a Mexican hot chocolate meets chocolate or espresso stout. I can’t remember what it was called, but I’m sure she’ll be able to fill in that piece of information.

Maybe not adventurous, but tasty.

PBR is also available in both draft and bottled form. Rikster followed up her heavier dessert beer with a draft of Pabst, explaining that “Drinking PBR is like drinking a loaf of bread – wonderful.” I couldn’t wordsmith it better!

The prices were extremely reasonable – the beers tend to run in the $4.50 – $5.00 range and brats/burgers range from $5.75 – $7.00. The quality is hands-down higher than the price.

The Wurst Bar is an excellent addition to Ypsilanti and gives that section of Cross Street a much-needed boost of creativity. Definitely check it out next time you’re in the mood for meat or just need a break from Depot Town (don’t we ALL need a break from Depot Town now and then?) – maybe we’ll see you there.

*I mean NO disrespect to the operators or patrons of the former Theo’s – as I said, I was an ATYPICAL college student!

I can dance if I want to, even if I AM running on a treadmill at the time.

Dear Important People Who Work Out on the Treadmill Next to Me,

First of all, congrats for on getting in to the gym! It’s hard, right? I know. The gym is literally, like, 30 feet from my desk and I still have a hard time getting my butt in there after work. So for those of you who are at the other end of the building, it must be way harder. I mean, you could park near the other entrances and not even have to pass the gym to exit the building. I know this because I’ve thought about parking over there so I wouldn’t get stricken with “gym guilt” on those days that I just don’t feel like working out.

I then realized that it would be weird for me to do that because I’d have to walk about five times as far to get to and from my car and it would add at least fifteen minutes to my coming and going since I’d have to talk to all the people I know on the other side of the building on my way in and out. And  if I don’t have time to run two miles, do I REALLY have time for that?!

(The answer is YES because I like talking to people much more than I like going to the gym.)

Perhaps you’re getting the idea of how hard it is for me to motivate myself to go to the gym. But I digress.

I’d like to apologize for my weird treadmill behavior.

See, I loathe running on the treadmill. To be honest, I kind of hate running in general. If it isn’t in the context of a sport – like soccer or tennis – it just seems pointless (because maneuvering a ball up and down a field in a scoreless game for 90 minutes and a point system that goes from 15 to 30 to 40 to DONE makes complete sense).

However, I’ve come to terms with the fact that running is one of the few activities that actually provides me with any satisfaction when I’m finished (Matt – I’m giving you that one…and no, I don’t “do it in heels”).  And since I’m terrified to run in the dark, the treadmill will have to do until we “spring forward.” (FYI, daylight savings time is stupid.)

Where was I? Oh, right, my treadmill behavior.

See, the only way I can force my way through a 30-minute treadmill run is with the assistance of my iPod. Or more accurately, the music on my iPod. I’m sure any device that played music would do, though running with a discman would be a bit awkward (ooh, do hipsters do that? It would be sort of ironic, in that “I want to support the artists and not the man” sort of way…)

ANYWAY. I’ve loaded my device up with super-motivating tunes*. The problem with these super-motivating tunes is that they kind of make me want to dance more than they make me want to run. And dancing is WAYYYY more fun that running.

My inherent fear of falling off the treadmill keeps me from getting TOO involved in my moves. (Seriously, on my list of fears, falling off the treadmill ranks a close third behind tornadoes and being buried alive.) But I can not keep the occasional pointing at bay.

(This is probably a good time to explain to those who may not have realized that I am A) white and B) completely lacking in rhythm and C) only capable of dancing while pointing.)

I try to confine myself to the allotted treadmill space, but I realize that every now and then an arm might flail into your area. For this I do apologize. And please realize that I am not pointing AT you. (I was going to say I’m pointing with you; however, I have yet to see anyone else dance-pointing on the treadmill.)

As for the facial expressions – well, those can’t be helped either. Just know that I’m probably NOT in agonizing physical pain; rather, I’m just listening to a really emotional (but peppy and motivating!) song.

Also, I want to acknowledge the fact that I do sometimes mouth the words along with the song I am listening to, and may have accidentally sung them out loud on one or more occasions. This happens as a result of A) my white girl dance routine (singing expressively goes hand-in- hand with pointing) and B) being occasionally song-repressed by Captain Buzzkill (see the panties conversation for an example).

In short, I understand that my treadmill behavior is a little…odd. I also understand that it may be hard to take me seriously after witnessing such odd behavior. But please don’t let my bad dancing, overly-animated facial expressions and occasionally tendency toward wheezing overshadow the fact that outside the gym I am quite professional and very good at my job.

Perhaps you’ll take me more seriously when you hear that I am considering abandoning running for Jazzercise.

Sincerely,

Amy