Month: December 2016

214. Honcho – December 17, 2016 – Clarkston, MI

20161217_18410320161217_20344020161217_194606-3Hello, all! I hope you are enjoying the holiday season! I am breathing a sigh of relief now that Christmas is over and enjoying the last dregs of 2016 before the new year is here. I hope you are finding free time in your schedule to relax, set New Year’s intentions, and get out there and do some exploring.

I am a sucker for new years and new beginnings. It’s become a joke among me and two of my best friends how, in approaching the start of every new year, I always exclaim, “It’s going to be the BEST year EVER!” It’s the same with every summer; it’s not the start of the warm-weather season if I haven’t proclaimed that it will surely be the BEST summer EVER. What can I say, I’m an eternal optimist!

Every year is great in its own way – but it also inevitably presents its own set of challenges. Knowing this, there is still something about a fresh start that lights me up – and makes me excited to face January despite it being plunked right in the middle of a seemingly never-ending Metro-Detroit winter.

In this coldest and gloomiest time of year, I find it most critical to my well-being to make time for trying new places. So when weather allows, I am out and about! The Saturday night before last, I donned an ugly holiday sweater and made the trek out to Clarkston for dinner and drinks with a good friend.

The first stop: Honcho. It’s the latest establishment to join those under the Union Joints umbrella, the family of locally-owned restaurants that includes the Clarkston Union, Union Woodshop, and Vinsetta Garage.

The sign above the door of the restaurant bills it as “Latin Street Food and Coffee,” and there is indeed an area of the interior partitioned off for the purpose of serving coffee and donuts. You can also order the house-made donuts for dessert if you are eating in the dining area and man! are they good. They are freshly fried, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. You can order a batch of donuts – I believe they come in an order of 10 – with sides of chocolate and caramel dipping sauces to share. They are definitely worth the extra calories!

Then there’s the Latin Street food part of Honcho. Honcho’s interpretation of Latin food is unlike any I’d previously experienced. The menu featured during my visit had heavy Asian and Indian influences.

Take the Hot Chicken Burrito that I ordered, pictured above. The refried black beans had a distinctly Asian flavor to them; if I’m remembering correctly, I believe they were flavored with miso. Fish sauce was another component of the dish, and the burrito also contained: pickles. Yes, pickles!

The meal was very good, and I love trying unique, inventive fare, but I’ll admit, I found myself wishing there were some more traditional Latin dishes included on the menu, too. Because when I think of Latin food, I think of Mexican food, and I LOVE excellent Mexican food. If you are seeking authentic Mexican food, you are better off going down a ways to Pontiac and one of my latest obsessions, El Patrón.

But just because Honcho’s take on burritos and street tacos isn’t the one many of us know and love doesn’t mean its fare should be discounted. It’s pretty darn good food. I was reminded of that when I ate the leftover half of my enormous chicken burrito the next day. I was like, “Damn, I already forgot how good this was!” If you can suspend your expectations about what Latin food should be and simply appreciate the dishes with no preconceptions clouding your experience, you will likely enjoy dining at Honcho.

Other stuff I loved about the place: it’s done up in a hipster-Western theme, with black-and-white wallpaper studded with cactuses and agave plants in the area near the bar, which made me happy simply because it presented a polar opposite of the heavily snow-strewn landscape outside the window. Also, the Bad Hombre drink is wholly worth the $12 investment if you are into a cocktail that is a little bit spicy, a little bit sweet, and not short on tequila.

3 E. Church St.

Clarkston, MI 48346

www.eathoncho.com

 

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213. Exferimentation Brewing Company – December 3, 2016 – Pontiac, MI

exfer3-2exfer2OK, it’s officially-officially winter now here in the D. We got a bucket of snow dumped on us Sunday night – over 9.5 inches in my neck of the woods! Consequently, I was in hibernation mode this weekend as I anticipated and then witnessed the storm. But I still have my trip to Exferimentation Brewing Company from the weekend before last to report on. 🙂

The craft brewery is nestled in downtown Pontiac, which I was pleasantly surprised to discover is in the midst of a revitalization period. I worked in Pontiac for a few years back in the late ’00s, when it was, to put it tactfully, not exactly a destination. But now new businesses such as Exferimentation are cropping up, including a Slow’s Bar BQ outpost (!) and another couple of breweries. It’s exciting to see a long-stagnant area experience growth. Pontiac, you deserve it!

I became kind of obsessed with Exferimentation while I was there. I mean, look at it: the interior set-up is basically that of a coffee shop, but instead of coffee, there is beer! I love the cozy furniture that is scattered around in addition to the long tables incorporating repurposed doors, many with handles still attached, as their top surface. I entertain the idea of visiting solo with a book, kicking back in one of those plush leather chairs, and enjoying a pint of the Spicy Bloody Rosemary served in a beaker (Exferimentation has the science theme going in both its logo and glassware). It was equally as enjoyable to sit there with a group and sip beer and play one of the available games.

By the way, that Spicy Bloody Rosemary beer is great. It has a nice kick to it heat-wise, as the name suggests – as does the Dragon Piss, which has more of a DAMN! kick to it. I also sampled the Pink Tickler hibiscus beer, one of the lighter beers, and that was quite good, as well. What I really need to go back and try is the Tres Winery. It’s a Belgian beer infused with pinot noir, my favorite wine. How about kicking back with a pint of that and an absorbing novel on a snowy winter’s night? Sounds perfect.

7 N Saginaw St.

Pontiac, MI 48342

www.exferimentationbrewing.com

212. Roadside B&G – December 3, 2016 – Bloomfield Township, MI

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Roadside B&G’s Kale & Farro Salad with added grilled chicken breast

Bloomfield Township represented on the blog! Or Bloomfield, as most of us locals know it. That’s the city where today’s featured locale, Roadside B&G, resides.

A classy bar and grille such as this one is a beautiful thing – you know, the kind of place where you can sip a glass of wine and enjoy well-made food and scintillating conversation. It makes being grown-up feel glamorous. Of course, I also love the aspect of being a grown-up that allows me the freedom to drink wine on the couch in my sweatpants and yell at the characters in my favorite TV dramas – but it’s good to experience the elegant side of the spectrum from time to time, right? Just as sometimes it’s good to order the dish you don’t expect yourself to get.

Case in point: I am generally not one to order an entrée salad in a restaurant, because I feel that dining out is an excuse to consume as much decadence and saturated fat as my body allows. I operate under the old-school perspective that eating in a restaurant is a treat. And while main-course salads are a staple in my day-to-day, home-cooked life, I don’t consider them a treat per say. But while perusing Roadside B&G’s menu, I couldn’t shake a craving for greens, so I went with the Kale & Farro salad topped with diced apples, shaved fennel, toasted pumpkin seeds, and a cider vinaigrette and added grilled chicken to it.

I’ll admit, I didn’t expect to be especially enthralled with the salad, but it was excellent! The flavors of the fennel and the apple and the kale and the cider vinaigrette complemented each other well. Well played, Roadside B&G! I would recommend my move of adding the chicken breast to the salad if you are a meat-eater; I believe it was only about a $4 add-on, and it was a sizable portion. Without it, the salad would not, in my opinion, have been dinner entrée-sized.

Roadhouse B&G had some other intriguing items on the menu that I would love to go back and try: the Short Rib Tacos appetizer; the vegetarian enchilada (with the option to add short rib to it if you are an omnivore!); the beef filet flanked by truffle tater tots (the classy spin on those potato nuggets!).

1727 S. Telegraph Rd.

Bloomfield Twp., MI 48302

www.roadsidebandg.com

211. Crystal Treasures – December 3, 2016 – Pontiac, MI

crystal1-2crystal2I am a hippie inside my heart. So when a friend asked if I would like to accompany her to Crystal Treasures, a new-age/metaphysical store in Pontiac, I was like, “absolutely!”

My childhood love of rocks and gemstones stirred inside the small storefront incorporated into a building that was obviously once someone’s home in a residential-ish area of Pontiac. SO.MANY.ROCKS! Or crystals, as the new-age terminology describes them. There are rough-hewn crystals, polished crystals, geodes with a banal exterior split open to reveal glittering crystal vibrance inside: crystals in every color and proported to embody every positive trait you could ever want. Next to each variety are tiny pieces of paper enscripted with the benefits of that stone so you can take the description with you upon purchase, which I appreciated. I spent more on crystals here than I would care to admit (They are pretty! And it can’t hurt to believe at least a little bit in their powers, right?).

Crystal Treasures carries an array of other goods with a metaphysically spiritual bent, such as books, candles, jewelry, and incense.

92 W. Walton Blvd.

Pontiac, MI 48340

(Closed on Mondays)

www.crystaltreasuresonline.com

210. Bologna Via Cucina – November 30, 2016 – Rochester, MI

Happy Sunday, all! Did you get a chance to explore this weekend? Blessedly, I did; I got to try three new-to-me places this weekend, which I’m excited to post about on the blog next week! But today, it’s all about Bologna Via Cucina in Rochester.

Downtown Rochester is a treat to visit right now, with the Main Street buildings all brightly aglow come nightfall, decked out in holiday lights. The exterior of Italian restaurant Bologna Via Cucina is adorned with a shower of rainbow-colored lights.

Inside, the immediate storefront and bar area are tiny. There’s additional seating down a small hallway that snakes past the kitchen and bathroom. The interior has a cozy, sophisticated vibe. I found myself musing over that Billy Joel song, “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.” Remember that one? “Bottle of red, bottle of white . . ..” OK, getting tangential here – focus, Jackie! In a nutshell, the restaurant gets high marks for style.

It also gets high marks for food! The Italian wedding soup was excellent. It had little cheese raviolis in the soup in addition to the meatballs and the spinach and all of that jazz. And my fettucine alfredo, despite its simplicity, was pretty great. It had a very rich, garlicky bechamel cheese sauce and thick, doughy pappardelle noodles.

Sometimes, simple is all you need. Although admittedly, ordering fettucine alfredo at an Italian restaurant is out of character for me – because in general, my stance is why choose an entree that I can easily prepare at home? Consequently, I usually steer toward novel or complex dishes. But when ordering at Bologna, I was annoyingly indecisive and craving cream sauce; hence, this impulse choice.

Later, I was regretful, as there were so many excellent-sounding and atypical choices on Bologna’s menu, such as the Maddie pizza topped with peaches, burrata cheese, basil, speck (a type of Italian cured pork), and a balsamic glaze; and the Traverse City Chicken, described on the menu as “almond crusted chicken, dried cherries, button mushrooms, cherry brandy béchamel” (and which my mom got and loved). For God’s sake, there is even a create-your-own pasta option where you can pick your noodle variety and sauce and add various meats and veggies! What can I say, I got an uncharacteristic bout of decision paralysis. Maybe I subconsciously wanted an excuse to come back and enjoy that cozy dining area fronting postcard-perfect Main Street.

334 S. Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

www.joebologna.com

209. Pho Tai – November 26, 2016 – Madison Heights, MI

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Pho Tai’s beef Pattani curry dish

Hello, everyone! I hope you are doing excellently on this Thursday and first day of December! Can you believe we’re in the last month of the year already? I definitely cannot. The holiday season is a wonderful time, but it’s a hectic time, and I’m not sure I’m quite ready for it. I’ve got to eeeease into it. I’ve got to simplify it. Online shopping and saying no to invites that don’t thrill me are my staple survival mechanisms at this time of year. And cookies – lots and lots of holiday cookies!

Saying yes to things that I love – such as exploring – is another way I keep myself sane. Last weekend, I was fortunate to have an opportunity to get out and try a new-to-me restaurant when I went bridal dress shopping in Madison Heights with my friend whose upcoming wedding I’ll be in (she didn’t find The Dress, but hopefully soon!). Afterwards, we lunched at a wonderful locally-owned establishment, Pho Tai.

If you aren’t familiar with it, Madison Heights boasts a plethora of restaurants and markets that are Asian-influenced, with Vietnamese and Thai cuisines especially represented. Pho Tai is a hybrid – it offers dishes from both ethnicities! So decisions, decisions when you dine there! Do you want pho, with its delicious slurpy brothiness and long noodles, or Pad Thai, with that irresistible spiciness and crushed peanuts? A pork vermicelli bowl or Drunken Noodles? Enticing choices abound!

After much deliberation, I went with a Thai dish, Pattani, with beef, a coconut curry sauce, a variety of vegetables (including my absolute fave, baby corn – LOVE those cuties!), cashews, and rice. It was excellent! My only critique is that I asked for the spice level to be hot, and from my perspective, it was definitely more of a medium. I like my spicy food SPICY! I want my tongue to burn and my nose to run; I’m one of those people. I’ve gotta think that Pho Tai’s kitchen can offer up that kind of power, but maybe that heat level is categorized under another designation, such as “extra hot.” Regardless, the coconut curry sauce had great flavor – and I’m sure my digestive track was happy I didn’t get the intensity I wanted!

Service was great at Pho Tai; our waitress was very pleasant and present, and our food arrived quickly. Prices were reasonable, too. Worth mentioning: Pho Tai offers alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, and liquor). Helpful to know, right? When you need respite from the chaos of the season, ducking into this joint for some hearty, flavorful sustenance is a much-recommended remedy.

30577 Dequindre Rd.

Madison Heights, MI 48071

www.photaimi.com