Restaurant reviews and food news from Ann Arbor Observer reviewers M.B. Lewis and Lee Lawrence, and assorted opinionated Ann Arborites.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
A fan letter to the Kosmo Deli, by Noah Cohen
Kosmo's, to me, represents everything good about Ann Arbor. It's not extravagant, not rich, not immaculate, not famous, not large, and definitely not exclusive. It nonetheless manages to maintain a special status in Kerrytown, which I conceive of as the cultural epicenter of Ann Arbor. Everyone can find a fitting meal at Kosmo's, and they do, making its habitues a varied and unpredictable lot. Businessmen in blazers, Community High School students, grandparents with grandchildren, hippies and athletes and geeks of all ages and identities, they all sit side-by-side at those dingy little black tables, like they wouldn't rather be anywhere else. Judging by its patrons, Kosmos couldn't be more cosmopolitan.
The people behind the counter aren't a shabby sight either, and by that, I mean they ARE. Shabby in just about every way, sporting every faux pas from excessive piercings to unkempt, uncovered, greasy hair. But they're lovely. Almost without exception, the waiters at Kosmo's are some of the most open, helpful, considerate early-twenty-year-olds you could find. Which is a funny result of the owner's application process: he doesn't have one. He hires by word of mouth. Most of the current workers at Kosmo's are just the friends of the old workers. Don't let my maybe-overly-generous appraisal put you off, though. These guys really remember what I order, sometimes from weeks past, always ask politely anyway, and generally produce fine service. Two Kosmo's employees in particular (who, I think, recently moved on), named Anna and Evan, were phenomenal. They talked it up, joked with us, remembered my preferences, remembered my mother's preferences, remembered my allergies, served so well that my mom and I began to think of them as friends. And Kosmo's atmosphere encourages friendship like no other. Surrounded by happy shoppers, windows, and the homey smell of fish and spice, it feels like more than a deli. I even had a birthday there once--the owner gave me a Kosmo's shirt for that.
The food, finally, makes it all-American in a way only true Ann Arborites could think of as "American." It takes some of the traditions of Korean cuisine and throws them unceremoniously onto generic, simple American dishes, and the whole always manages to be greater than the sum of the parts. Who would have thought kimchee went so well with hotdogs and cheeseburgers? My mother, for example, always orders the bi-bim-bop--like a chopped salad, except with some crazy-awesome (chili?) sauce, and added tofu. I just ordered that earlier this week; it's the first vegan dish I've ever actually loved. It should finally be noted that you can find either healthy food or junk food at Kosmo's, and all for a fair price. My mom doesn't complain about the price, anyway, which is saying something.
I think Kosmo's has the best food in the cosmos.
posted by John Hilton at 9:46 a.m. | 0 comments
Thursday, July 8, 2010
New at the Farmers Market: "Live" & fermented foods
It's time to get raw, pickled, and fermented! The Ann Arbor's Farmers Market has 2 new vendors featuring fermented veggies, crackers, salads and more. And a longtime Kerrytown proprietor now employs a specialist in relishes, chutneys, and vinegar-enlivened foods.
Here's the roundup:
- The Brinery specializes in naturally "lacto-brined" fermented vegetables. The company owner (and former Tantre farmer) David Klingenberger says these raw foods are rich in lactobacteria, similar to yogurt, and they continue to slowly "ripen" and ferment even when sealed in bottles. Some fans claim they can aid in digestion and boost the immune system. A customer this week told Klingenberger that he drives all day for work and likes to carry preserved kimchi cabbage (a Korean restaurant staple) with him to spice up fast-food hamburgers. He left with a $9 jar of the Brinery's apple-sweetened kimchi, which Klingenberger says uses all Michigan ingredients except for ginger and a premium fish sauce he gets from Pacific Rim restaurant. Try it for a truly complex condiment with a longlasting fresh taste.
- Down the aisle, monks from the Detroit Zen Center in Hamtramck offer sprouted pumpkin seeds, fermented flax crackers, kale salad, cashew cream milkshakes and more vegan, raw, fermented, and organic foods. They're interesting to learn about, and priced reasonably enough to taste without risk--samples also are available. Ask for a business card--it comes handwritten...
- Vinegar expert Jaime Salm, formerly of Zingerman's, has joined Durham's Tracklements on East Kingsley to make mustards, relishes and chutneys as accompanients for fish, brisket, and more. An orangey-pink mango-radish relish is subtle and sweet and crisp. Michigan ingredients like cherries, market vegetables, and pale ale show up in whole seed mustards and other offerings. Watch for evening tastings soon...
posted by Mary Beth Lewis at 10:01 p.m. | 0 comments
Monday, July 5, 2010
Finally tried Comet Coffee
Hello, welcome to a new blog about food in Ann Arbor--okay, yes, there are already several... but the hope here is to capitalize on how much the Ann Arbor Observer crowd cares about good eats in a fun town. And also to share some of the news that gets sent to us from local restaurants, brewers, bakers, briners (more on that soon!).
Meanwhile, it seems only appropriate to start an Ann Arbor food blog with a post about coffee, clearly one of our community passions. I'd been hearing about Comet Coffee since it opened in Nickels Arcade over a year ago, and the phrase "best coffee in town" has come up more than once. I kept meaning to try it, and finally on the Friday before the July 4, when I seemed to be the only person heading to work in the morning, I treated myself to what I thought would be a memorable cuppa. It was good, but not unforgettable. Perhaps my questions distracted the creator (barista doesn't seem the right word) as she went through a codified process of single-cup creation. She poured hot water through a paper filter "to wash out the paper taste," weighed my beans, and dripped-up that cup for me. The provenance was South American--I'm actually not sure which of the various beans I settled on after we discussed a bunch. You choose from what they have each time you walk in.
There was a tiny bit of unpleasant bitterness in the coffee I got, but it was part of a complex and ich flavor that I basically relished. Good enough certainly that I want to go back and pay more attention next time! I can see the potential of the process...
posted by Mary Beth Lewis at 5:04 a.m. | 0 comments