Friday, March 31, 2017

Lausanne, Switzerland: Le Baron Tavernier

Our conference ended up with a final dinner meeting for the conference committee. We convened at this beautiful location for a wonderful dinner. Not only could we enjoy the view and the food, but the wine came from the lands surrounding us.

We started with this amuse bouche. It was entirely vegetables. Unfortunately, I was too busy talking to spend too much time identifying the ingredients.

Our next step was this beautiful pheasant foie gras. I wasn't sure what to expect from pheasant. It wasn't at all gamy and gave a very subtle flavor.

Our main course was this delicate lamb. The bed of mashed potatoes included neatly arranged layers of meat bits and gravy.

Our dessert was this beautiful ice cream in a melange of fruit.

We debriefed on the meeting with coffee and, this being Switzerland, some beautiful chocolates. The bottom chocolate was a truffle. The top chocolate was an amazingly delicate construction: a very thin chocolate cup filled with a lemon custard filling.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lausanne, Switzerland: Gina

My friends and I ended a long day of meetings with a nice meal at Gina. It is located in the SwissTech Conference Center complex on the EPFL campus. The room is large and high-ceilinged. The service is graciously low-key.

We started with this amuse bouche, ricotta wrapped in a zucchini and served on toast. The zucchini gave just a hint of flavor and texture. Its crispness made a nice contrat with the ricotta.

For my main course, I ordered the gnocci, something that you don't see very often in the US. They were tender, soaked with the flavorful sauce, and perfectly formed. The mushroom sauce was rich but subtle.

And we finished the evening with espresso.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lausanne, Switzerland: EPFL Food Trucks

The EPFL campus is modernist and open with lots of gathering spaces. Food trucks seem to gather at several places, including this spot at the center of campus. The collection is impressive: fresh fruit, freshly baked bread, and a cheese truck. This shows the difference in food cultures between the US and Switzerland. We are excited when a burrito truck rolls into the neighborhood; the Swiss consider a truck filled with artisnal cheeses to be a birthright.

Here is my sample. I ate the middle cheese and the bread for lunch, saving the top cheese for a mid-afternoon snack. Both were relatively soft cheeses. The lunchtime cheese was salty in a very good way. The bread turned out to be eggy with a yellow crumb and a great complement to the cheese.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Chamblee: Cafe Mozart

I paid another visit to Café Mozart. If you aren't familiar with the format, they have several tables of individually-wrapped baked goods; they also have a refrigerator case with some beautiful cakes and tarts.

This fruit tart is one example of their visual style as well as taste.

These chocolate cookies were delicious.

Chamblee: The Halal Guys

The Halal Guys have been open since January at the corner of Buford Highway and Chamblee Tucker Road. The night I was there they did land office business. My initial reaction to the décor---bright colors, "World Famous"---was that it was like a Halal hot dog stand. Pictures in the restaurant show that, in fact, they originated as a New York food cart.

The combo plate is the big hit here. It combines chicken and gyro on a bed of rice with a salad on the side. My dish had a combination of tziki sauce---super duper delicious---and a bit of a very nice hot sauce. This is a great meal, very satisfying, and a pretty good value.

Chamblee: Tea House Formosa

Tea House Formosa is a fairly new entrant on the Buford Highway scene. It's on the southbound side and a bit hidden in its two-story strip mall.

Inside, the interior is very stylish. The tables were all full on this Saturday afternoon but they also have takeout. The menu includes a variety of food items, many of them snacks but some seem to be more substantial as well.

Here is my cold oolong tea. First off, the packaging is great. The paper lid is stuck on and you just jab your straw through it. I find this much more pleasant than drinking through a hole in the lid. The tea itself was wonderfully flavorful with that earthy oolong taste.

Update: Chateau Saigon

I've always enjoyed Chateau Saigon and made it back for another visit. Here are some highlights.

A wonderful spring roll.

This is pork wrapped around sugar cane stem. The sugar cane isn't sweet and is mainly used as a support but it is much more mild than, say, a popsicle stick. The pork itself is a bit like a hot dog. Overall, very enjoyable.

This is my favorite burnt rice cake with fish. The fish was wonderfully moist and tender. The sauce was wonderfully robust and filled with umami.

I forgot the name of this beef dish but it didn't last long on the table.

DTW: Longhorn Steakhouse

After a long day of meetings and facing a late arrival home, I was really in the mood for a piece of beef. Longhorn seemed like my only pure-play beef option. So I gave it atry.

My salad was iceberg-intensive but, quite frankly, I like the crunch of iceberg. I enjoyed my salad, philistine that I am.

My steak was appropriately meaty and overall pretty much what you would expect from Longhorn. My big question going in was the amount of MSG I would find on the beef. I could definitely taste it. So this isn't world-class aged beef, but it did do the job and I am grateful that Longhorn was ready for me, steak in hand.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Ann Arbor MI: Gratzi

My University of Michigan friends took me to a wonderful dinner at Gratzi and some good discussions. The space is large and with a high ceiling. The service was impressively gracious.

We started with this sampler of meats and cheeses. I concentrated on the cheeses; the two on the bottom right were my favorites but all were great.

My salad was simple with a very light dressing, just what I had in mind.

For my main course, I ordered the veal scallopini, a favorite that I don't get very often. The meat was very tender and the sauce gave it a nice umami kick. The roasted Brussel sprouts were a good complement.

And a cup of decaf espresso allowed us to relax and discuss.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ann Arbor MI: Sava

I had a great breakfast at Sava---two, in fact, since I went back the next morning. The space has a very high ceiling and tall windows giving an inviting feel. The staff is very friendly and helpful. Early birds beware, though, since they don't open until eight AM.

My veggie omelet was very fluffy and rich; the vegetables were very nicely cooked and gave me a healthy feel. The hash browns were appropriately toasty on the outside and moist on the inside, just as they should be.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ann Arbor MI: Red Hawk Bar & Grill

I stopped by the Red Hawk Bar and Grill for my dinner. The space is large and open. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the service.

For dinner, I ordered the spare ribs. The meat was tender and flavorful. Most of the vegetables were quite good but the carrots were very undercooked and hard to eat.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Detroit: Mudgie's

My first stop upon rolling into Detroit was Mudgie's. It's located in the Corktown neighborhood, a largely intact old neighborhood on the south side of downtown. The restaurant is located in house that has been lovingly restored without being cloying. It also houses a nice wine store. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful.

This sandwich is a beauty, isn't it? The bread is pumpernickel, the meat is pastrami, and everything is accompanied by carmelized onions and a locally made mustard. It was not only beautiful but also truly outstanding to eat. The outside of the sandwich was perfectly toasting, giving a texture contrast to the interior. The term "melts in your mouth" is a cliché but that is the only way to describe how I felt eating this sandwich. The thinly sliced meat giving a little toothiness. But eating the sandwich took no effort. All those ingredients simply melded together in my mouth. The experience was spectacular. I highly recommend Mudgie's.

Mentor OH: Mentor Family Restaurant

I enjoyed my breakfast at Mentor Family Restaurant on my way back to Detroit. The staff is very friendly. They keep a room full of hardworking people happy.

My veggie omelet was very good. The hash browns were very nicely browned and tasty. The whole wheat toast was nicely toasted with a good coat of butter underneath.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Cleveland: West Side Market Cafe

After our market tour, Keith, Ollie, and I stopped for brunch at the West Side Market Café. It has an old-fashioned décor but a modern vibe. The room was packed with all sorts of people.

I kept it simple and ordered the scrambled egg plate. The eggs were great and the potatoes were wonderfully homey. I forgot to take a photo of my rye toast but it was great bread.

Keith ordered the chicken and waffles. That's a cornbread waffle; everyone agreed that was the hit of the meal.

Cleveland: West Side Market

Keith and Ollie took me for a wonderful morning visit to the West Side Market. This is a beautiful, century old building that still bustles with people and bursts with great food.

This nice lady at K & K Bakery is one example. Their cases are filled with scrumptious-looking pastries.

Keith and I split this Russian tea biscuit. This one was loaded with chocolate chips. The bread is closer to a rugelach in texture, great with coffee.

So we ambled over to City Roast for a great cup of coffee.

Keith also introduced me to his favorite jerky place, whose name I unfortunately can't remember. The jerky is probably the best I've ever had. The texture was perfect, firm but still easy to chew. It was wonderfully meaty and very pure tasting.

The Market is an amazing mix of flavors and cultures. The traditional Eastern Europeans are well represented here, with pork in abundance. A number of stalls offer middle Eastern food. I saw Mexican and Japanese, too.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Guest Post: Soup in the SAS Lounge

My friend Shuvra provides this review of the soup at the SAS lounge:

I have had tandoori chicken numerous times in numerous places, but before visiting the SAS Lounge in Helsinki Airport, Terminal 1, I can't remember ever having a soup version of this classic Indian dish. Not only does their soup taste very good, it seems to be a regular item here. Since I noticed it here a couple of years back, I have seen it often in the lounge. Another plus about this item (for some of us) is that it's gluten free.