Writing about Anthony Bourdain’s new Travel Channel show, “The Layover,” Mike Hale of The New York Times posed an interesting observation.
“(Bourdain’s) attention to the prosaic, something other hosts gloss over in their desire to focus, simply, cheaply and shallowly, on the weird or wonderful attributes of their destinations, is part of Mr. Bourdain’s larger television persona: smart, profane and sarcastic but, most important, real. Authenticity is the holy grail of reality TV, and he seems to project it effortlessly. Is it really real? Who knows.”
I’ll answer Mr. Hale’s question with another: Shouldn’t we care?
Washtenaw County’s coffee history is full-bodied.
Few things transcend cuisines, cultures and centuries like coffee. What began in Arabia as a broth of dried seeds—the drink of Muslims in North Africa, India and the Mediterranean—today exists as another empire, one that has changed our entire social experience.
Coffee no longer is solely the province of Islamic worshippers: It is the thing we nervously (and blessedly) clasp on first dates, the Grande vessel we use to steer through packed herds on crosswalks and the bean we crystallize for alien desserts.
Coffee in our community is likewise full-bodied. The crimson berries plucked from cloudy rainforest canopies make their way here by way of burlap sacks and traders’ tastes for the exotic. From Istanbul to London, from Paris to America’s first coffee house opened in 1678, featuring drinks called “Coffee Chocolatta” and “Syder,” the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor area has successfully made the drink of the world into something uniquely Midwestern.
Anthony Bourdain in Cajun country.
Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain premiered his Emmy-winning program, “No Reservations,” with a philosophy, a cheeky medium between Julia Child-style cooking segment and (gushing) Samantha Brown travel guide.
Narrating the 2007 Osaka episode, he says, “Most Westerners think they understand Japan better than any other Asian nation. But do they? And do I? If you took away the common reference points of samurai and Japanese pop culture, what’s left? I wanted to see a Japan that had nothing to do with Tokyo, anime, geishas, school girls, giant reptiles or Hello Kitty. I’ve been here to see the face of Japan before; this time, I’d like to take a look at its heart.”
Michigan chefs embrace fresh ingredients. Photo taken at Alber Orchard & Cider Mill.
Dinnertime chat among several celebrity chefs, restaurateurs and writers has lately revolved around what they say is Americans’ propensity for mediocre food — particularly citing our tastes for Kraft Grated Parmesan, breaded meatballs and strip-mall Italian eateries.
David Chang, head of New York City’s Momofuku Restaurant Group, said of the aforementioned cheese that, “[Americans] are more comfortable just staying in the middle — being like, hmm, I can buy this Kraft Parmesan cheese, or I can buy this wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano. And they either don’t want to risk spending the money or they don’t want to risk learning something new.”
Hot tea, chilled tofu: Canton’s Best China is a series of dualities.
Chinese food is a series of contradictions. The sweet of oranges, pears and lychee fruit collides with the sour — seaweed, vinegar and pickled radishes. Chilled and salted duck shank temper hot pots of dumplings, bowls of barbequed chicken feet and fried taro cakes like purple haystacks. Gelatinous meets crunchy.
The Taoist belief of yinyang, the natural balance of things, is illustrated in black and white. But here is a cuisine that lives in the gray and thrives in the tasty distinctions between General Tso’s chicken and rice porridge with century eggs.
Between lo mein and pork’s nasty bits.
Enduringly Midwestern, Evans Street Station in Tecumseh, Mich. will have your heart. The firehouse-turned-restaurant daily carves out a new American cuisine—a proud cuisine—that aptly reflects us as Michiganders, folks with a distinct palate for the freshest and most scrumptious foodstuffs. Surrounded by lakes that pump the richest nutrients into our soil, we’re spoiled that way.
Evans Street Station proudly features Midwestern cuisine.
Executive Chef Alan Merhar indulges with seasonal meals made entirely from scratch using locally-grown ingredients. He gets that Midwestern food equally contends with the meals served in New York and San Francisco.
To tease your palate.
“It would be easy, I guess, from the frenetic, jaded, foodie confines of New York or San Francisco to look at the vast open spaces out there between New York and San Francisco with a patronizing attitude, to make the usual jokes, to suppose that somehow out there it’s unsophisticated, that it’s a wasteland. The fact is that there have been chefs all across America for a long time now, fighting the good fight.”