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illustration of White Pine Kitchen dishes

White Pine Kitchen

A restaurant without walls

by Lee Lawrence

From the October, 2021 issue

Not to overstate the obvious, but, like most, I've missed eating out this last year and a half. Because I've cooked, both professionally and otherwise, my entire adult life, my friends think I'm just tired of cooking twice a day, every day. True--but I'm also tired of my cooking. No matter how many ways I know to cook a pork chop, the number is still finite, and during this unending pandemic, I've leaned into the ways most ingrained in my hands and brain. Repetition becomes certainty becomes boring.

But it's not just someone else's cooking or the very real luxury of sitting back to be indulged and served that I fancy. I miss the whole shebang--diverting faces, unexpected tunes, tidbits of gossip and entertaining conversations, nearby laughter, and walls and fixtures that express a fresh personality and character and focus. But as Covid's Delta variant joins us at the table, we're likely to continue making adjustments to our 'dining-out forays.

Answering many, if not all of the needs, desires, hesitancies, and tantrums of the preceding paragraphs is White Pine Kitchen, a "virtual restaurant" opened a year ago by Bryan Santos and Forrest Maddox. Two world travelers, they've brought the area a new concept in restaurants--or at least delivery.

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Working out of Rosie's Community Kitchen, a commercial facility available for rent in Ypsilanti, Santos and Maddox post a new online menu every Wednesday for delivery in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area on the following Sunday or Tuesday. Menus have ranged from regional American to global offerings, representing an astounding breadth of research, writing, and production by Santos, Maddox, their colleague Beth Ellis, and, occasionally Santos's wife, Dur e Aziz Amna.

Our meals for two arrived in nifty green delivery bags, each accompanied by a topical cultural and/or historical review, written with a viewpoint; a menu description highlighting culinary backgrounds and potential dietary pitfalls; drink recommendations; a curated musical playlist on Spotify; a featured recipe or two; and, of course, reheating

...continued below...


and finishing instructions. In other words, except for the serving staff and new walls and carpet, White Pine Kitchen gives you the tools to create a restaurant within your home, or, if you order additional meals, the means to cater your own party. All that for $75, including delivery.

And the meals are generous. Both deliveries we ordered provided food sufficient for at least two meals, and all of it was well-made and delicious. The first, "Dinner in Zanzibar," brought us interpretations of street food and more traditional dishes. Looking at the multitude of containers we pulled from our bag, we set aside the Zanzibar "pizza," made with flaky pastry and spiced ground beef, for our next day's lunch. For dinner, that left us with Mchuzi wa Kuku wa Nazi--a wonderfully rich coconut chicken curry made savory with browned strips of 'caramelized onions, alongside a spiced rice pilaf. More coconut--but not too much for us--infused the Mchicha wa Nazi (a creamed spinach side), and lime enlivened the Kachumbari, a tomato and avocado salad. The Kashata za Njugu, a dessert of crumbly peanut squares--half candy, half cookie--finished off the meal, and leftovers filled out our lunch the next day.

We waited too long to order the Honolulu spread, which looked like a lot of fun, with Kalua Pig, Spam Fried Rice, and Lomi Lomi Salmon, but a couple of weeks later we signed up for "Dinner in Dubrovnik." While this menu included a bit more work--I had to make crepes!--it was extremely bountiful.

Looking over the dishes, I again divided them into more than one meal. For dinner that night we started with one of the assorted appetizers--Soparnik, a small, earthy chard-and-onion pie that crisped up nicely in the oven. Following that, we enjoyed Crni Rizot, a deeply flavored squid-ink risotto brightened with lemon zest and parsley, as well as a few cherry tomatoes from our garden. Lamb Peka came next, a light, brothy stew flavored with herbs and vegetables and garnished with potatoes.

Needless to say, dessert wasn't in the cards for us that night, but I cooked the Palacinke--crepes with a house-made hazelnut and chocolate spread--a few days later for brunch. (Thoughtfully, Santos and Maddox anticipate the universal kitchen wisdom that dictates you'll mess up the first crepe--which I didn't contradict--by sending along extra batter.)

In the meantime, we made lunch the next day from the remaining appetizers--Juha od Rajcice, or tomato soup with bacon and mozzarella toasts, and Salata od Hobotnice, a summery octopus and potato salad. Pretty luxurious for weekday fare.

Friends of ours have also discovered White Pine Kitchen and, like us, have been impressed. They go into the evening as if entering a restaurant--tuning in the Spotify playlist, pouring the suggested cocktail or drink, pulling out some festive linen and dinnerware, and sitting down to a party. After all, a delivery from White Pine Kitchen isn't takeout from your local storefront; it's a restaurant without walls.

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White Pine Kitchen

thewhitepinekitchen.com

All transactions are online; sign up for emails or check on their website. A weekly prix-fixe menu comes out on Wednesday for the following Sunday (order by Saturday noon; delivery Sunday 4-6 p.m.) or Tuesday (order by Monday noon, delivery Tuesday 4-6 p.m.). The number is limited, so menus can sell out.     (end of article)

[Originally published in October, 2021.]

 


 
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