Archive for the tag “ann arbor”

Maiz Mexican Cantina – Ann Arbor, MI

Author’s note:

I have typically corrected people who call me a runner by saying I am “one who runs”.  But, in fact, I do run and train for occasional races – the last one being The St. Patrick’s Day 10K in Holyoke, MA (about an hour and a half west of Boston) last month.  In the wake of the horrifying events in Boston yesterday, I want to express my grief for the victims, their families, and the city of Boston itself.  The running community is such a tight-knit group, and Boston is a city filled with such pride…I have faith that the group(s) responsible for these terrible attacks will ultimately lose in their quest to break down Boston’s spirit.  #PrayForBoston

Boston

Photo credit unknown – shared from Facebook posts. My apology to the owner/originator.

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One of my most dear friends changed jobs earlier this year and now works at one of our business units ~30 minutes away (in the great town of Ann Arbor, MI).  I realize that 30 minutes is not much in the grand scheme of things, but for folks working in Corporate America, a 60  minute round-trip commute (or even 30 minutes if we meet halfway in between) creates quite the challenge for meeting up for lunch.  And, Jessi and I used to have lunch at least three times a week together!

Friends…the past few months have put me in shock!  I’ve missed my one on one time with her so very much!

So, when I had the opportunity to head out to Ann Arbor last Friday afternoon, I was thoroughly excited to spend some QT with my girl.  She guided me to a Mexican place a few minutes up the road from her office.  She said that they have the best quesadillas, and who am I to argue with a friend of mine who has fantastic taste in food!  It was formerly a steak joint, but now Maiz Mexican Cantina is the patrons’ destination.

I love that Maiz uses local purveyors and local ingredients.

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Jess and I had so much to catch up on, although we stay in contact daily via texts, phone calls and emails – that we failed to look at our menus for the first several minutes we were at Maiz.  During the second check-in (I think), our server Zach mentioned fresh made guacamole, and I pounced!  Oddly enough, I saw a segment on the news about avocados that morning, and I had been craving them ever since!  Once the seemingly small bowl was delivered, Jess and I dug right in – using the multi-colored chips to quickly consume most of the bowl. And, the bowl yielded way more guacamole than I thought it would!  I’d love to say it was the best guacamole I’ve ever had, but honestly, I ate my portion so quickly that I can’t honestly remember anything specific or special about it.  It clearly was tasty enough guac!

I started to peruse the menu, and then Jess and I laughed.  We both knew that I wouldn’t be able to figure what I would want from this expansive menu full of items I LOVE!  Jess was set on ordering the quesadilla, so when our waiter (Zach) came back, I simply asked him to please bring me his favorite dish. His response: “Okay, (to Jess) and for you?”.  Jess’s response was “I love when they don’t flinch!” (or something similar in sentiment).  Again, Zach didn’t get flustered.  She then proceeded to order the steak quesadilla.

After just enough time had passed that we’d been able to catch up on what we needed to, but not really a long wait, our food was delivered.  Jess was served her quesadilla and I was served the mixed fajitas (chicken, steak and shrimp) – along with all of the fixin’s, and rice and beans.

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The HUGE plate of assorted meats, peppers, and onions came with three steamed tortillas, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, and pico de gallo. In my opinion, there was WAY too much “content” for a lunch meal, so I ended up taking a to-go box for another meal (or two!).  Because…it was quite good!  (and, please note that I did make leftover fajitas for Sunday evening dinner – excellent reheated too!)

And, Jess’s quesadilla…she gave me a bite…good Lord!  So very good!  I’d certainly recommend it to others!

Our only regret? That we couldn’t indulge in a margarita while we were at Maiz!  Maybe another time…

If you’re in the Ann Arbor area and looking for Mexican fare, Maiz had delicious food, good service, and is big enough to accommodate a large lunch crowd without having a long wait.  I’d recommend stopping in for a meal at Maiz.

Cheers!

Ker

Za-Za-Zingerman’s – A devine dinner with dear friends!

Friday’s outing started long ago with a Facebook message from a friend of mine – someone I met during my first job out of college.  A friend I love as much now as I did then – the same is true for her husband!  Her message came in January of this year, and I marked my calendar, but then…months passed, and it may have (allegedly) slipped my mind. Allegedly!

No harm, no foul.  I was supposed to have another friend come into town this weekend, and I thought it would be fun to introduce these friends to each other. My friends tend to get along, even without knowing each other well.  But, plans changed, and I suddenly found myself without a house-guest and free to make plans as I chose.

Since my friends, Scott and Julie, were coming from Cincinnati, OH through Ann Arbor, and heading “up north”, as Michiganders say, it made sense for me to meet them in Ann Arbor.  And, I was glad to have a reason to head to A2 again.  The last couple of times I’d been there were for sporting events…the “Big Chill” (MSU at UofM hockey) and the first UofM game under the lights (against Notre Dame).  GREAT reasons to be there, but not super conducive to really getting a feel for the city on a “normal” night.

An important note: Masco’s CEO, Tim Wadhams, is a former DB for UofM football, and he and I bonded over our mutual love for our collegiate football programs (mine being Clemson, if you somehow (how could you have?!?) missed that) long ago.  He’s also still actively involved in the UofM and Ann Arbor communities.  So, when I was looking to go to Ann Arbor with friends, I didn’t hesitate to ask him for a recommendation.  And, he gladly obliged.

(Yes, he runs a multi-billion dollar company, and is an incredibly smart businessman, but he’s also a guy who is just as willing to take a minute to help an employee find just the right spot for dinner.  I really appreciate that about him and the rest of our leadership team.)

Tim gave me a few options, but his highest recommendation was Zingerman’s Roadhouse on Jackson Ave. So, our plans were set.

I drove to Ann Arbor (35 min or so – a ride I should take more frequently!), chatted with my friends for a bit, and then we headed up the road to Zingerman’s.

I have to admit that I didn’t do too much research on the restaurant.  I trust Tim’s judgement.  As we walked up to the door, past an airstream trailer, we noticed oyster shells created the garden landscaping – our first indication of the unique qualities of this place.  (BTW, if any Zingerman’s employees or “insiders” are reading this, please comment and tell me what the trailer sells – we didn’t have a chance to check it out.)

And, when we received our paper menus wrapped in their newsletter, I was overwhelmed by the number of choices.  I had read in a recent Detroit Moxie blog post that Zingerman’s has great Mac ‘n Cheese, so I thought I might go for that…but then there is an entire section dedicated to Mac ‘n Cheese!  So…our server was going to carry the burden of choosing for me.

Chris was the lucky one that night!  He came by to take our drink orders.  Julie ordered a glass of Chardonnay, Scott ordered a beer ( a Stout that featured Michigan fudge as an ingredient!), and I declared that I’d have Chris order my entire meal and that I’d like a glass of wine that would compliment his choice.  Chris didn’t flinch, and simply politely asked if I had any restrictions (I hadn’t given him my card).  He said he knew what he’d order for me – if – IF, they hadn’t run out!  A good sign.

We also ordered the Cornman’s Farms‘ Fried Green Tomatoes (amongst the best I’ve had – with hot sauce and ranch drizzled over them) as an appetizer.

Fried Green Tomato

After he had delivered each of our drinks (initially serving Ben, 4, Scott’s beer rather than the milk that was ordered for him! 😉 ), Chris asked if I would like to know what he had chosen.  Of course I would!  Chris is one of those servers I love encountering…he knows his stuff!  He advised me that he chose a Cab-Franc for me (Beaucanon), providing a detailed  and accurate description.  A very nice choice – and a varietal blend I quite enjoy.

He also, very astutely, asked if he should place an order for Ben while we adults enjoyed conversation.  And then came back later to take our, well, Scott and Julie’s dinner orders.  It’s clear that this establishment knows how to cater to their customers!

After Scott and Jules split a Bacon and Blue Cheese salad, our dinners were delivered.

Dexter Black and Blue

Salmon with Cucumber Soup

BBQ Pork

The “Dexter Black and Blue” had been placed in front of me, Julie did a semi “She Ordered What?!?” by asking for Chris’s favorite seafood recommendation (Grilled Salmon and Chilled Cucumber Soup), and Scott had the BBQ Pork entree, with collard greens and smashed potatoes (skins still on them – yum!).  For the record, Ben had already been digging into his homemade Mac ‘n Cheese.

Chris explained to me that he chose this particular dish, which featured three types of heirloom tomatoes, peppercorn rubbed bacon, and bleu cheese in a stew, of sorts.  As has happened many times before, I admit that this is a dish I probably would not have chosen from this expansive list of options…but I’m REALLY glad Chris chose it for me.  I gave bites to Julie and Scott, and they both agreed – so fresh and flavorful.  And, per Chris’s recommendation, soaking up the sauce with Zingerman’s bread was a grand idea!  YUM!

I had to take ~1/3 of the dish home, even though I was really hungry going in.  The meal was quite filling.  My plan is to make a tomato sauce from the leftovers – I think an immersion blender will do the trick nicely! (and I don’t use mine often enough!)

But, not so filling that we didn’t split dessert!  🙂

Cheesecake trio – we dug in before I thought to take a picture!

We shared a cheesecake trio – NY style, chocolate, and Muscavado (raw brown sugar – a true delight, IMO <– Jules, NOT a fan!).  Now…please note that Julie is a SNOB with respect to dessert…if it’s not chocolate…it’s not worth even reading about, let alone eating!  So, she enjoyed the chocolate slice (w/each of use stealing a bite here and there), while Scott, Ben, and I enjoyed the other slices.

All in all, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in quite some time. The location, the Zingerman’s team, the food, the company, etc…all truly exceptional.

And, here is the cute to-go bag they provide.  The attention to detail was fantastic, from the way they packaged leftovers (everything separately) – to the way Chris chased Julie down in the parking lot to make sure she didn’t forget her leftovers (literally, her last bite!  It made us chuckle that Chris even bothered to package it).

I’m so glad that I asked Tim for a recommendation, that he didn’t hesitate to provide one, and that we had such a delightful experience!

My only complaint:  Chris took my debit card when I handed it to him, and then accepted Scott’s card and allowed him to pay for dinner.  People…these were my friends who were MY guests for dinner…he should have allowed me to pay.  After all…the card does advise him that “I tip well”. But, I guess I’ll have to forgive him.  And, I thank my friends Scott and Julie for a wonderful dinner and a great night out!

With Jules and Ben

With Scott

Another important fact:  Please also note that Zingerman’s has a sustainable farm at which they grow their own produce and livestock.  Everything is extremely fresh, and obviously, the ingredients are controlled.  I really love that restaurants are procuring more and more locally – this being an extreme (but a good one!).  I encourage anyone in the area to give Zingerman’s a try!

Cheers!

Ker

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