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Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Taste of Detroit - Tail & All

Detroit's Restaurant Week launched last weekend, featuring the flavors of some very unique eateries unknown to many Metro-Detroiters. I was invited by friends Dave & Gladys for an evening with their very gracious neighbors to enjoy an evening at Atlas Global Bistro on Woodward.

Upon arrival, Atlas was bustling at 8 pm, and we took a seat at the bar, waiting for their other friends, chatting and enjoying the atmosphere. When our table was ready, we sat in a booth looking out onto Woodward Ave. Though the restaurant was quite full, the seating was comfortable.

During Restaurant Week, restaurants feature a pre-fixe menu (a limited menu, featuring your selections from appetizers and salads, entree, and dessert). Each restaurant, though their offerings and menu items were different, offers the menus priced at only $28, which is a tremendous deal!

What I enjoyed most, was the company of my friends and their wonderful neighbors, in such a relaxed setting after a grueling couple of weeks. The other thing I enjoyed was that the city was busting (you know what I mean - in the way that Detroit bustles). Detroit bustles the way my bulldog runs. It's a little awkward, not that fast, but it's on purpose, and it's an accomplishment in itself. Watching Lucy prance around (in 10 second intervals) brings a proud mama smile to my face. In all of her awkwardness, that's still "my girl" and it makes me happy. People laugh when they see Lucy run. Watching her pudgy little body prance around with a tennis ball brings a combination of surprise and laughter. They often remark that they're surprised that something "so large" could be "so agile".

Detroit, with all of its awkwardness, sputters and starts, reminds me of Lucy in a lot of ways. Ridiculed by most, particularly those who have never been there, and feared by many, Detroit has been dismissed, written off as the fat kid with the bad haircut. No style, no taste, no plan, no hope. The exciting thing is that with the dedication of many who live and work in the city, and the growing foodie revival in Southeast Michigan, our awkward (and shrinking city) is realizing something of a makeover.

By no means am I comparing Detroit's growth to other dining scenes like Chicago or New York. In my opinion, we will never be comparable, and, in my opinion, that is just fine with me. Instead, I'm comparing Detroit to what it was, to who it is (very slowly) becoming. The meal I had at Atlas was comparable to a meal I enjoyed in January at Longman & Eagle in Chicago (a very hip eatery). The food was comparable, sophisticated but approachable, but there was something I liked more about Atlas.

Chicago is a very tough restaurant market because it has so much very good competition. In Chicago, rent is incredibly steep, making it even tougher to survive. Because of the demands of doing business in such a tight market, Chicago restaurants can be surprisingly small. With restaurants and chefs popping up all over the city, there's a frenzy to the Chicago market that makes for uncomfortable dining. The wonderful and exciting thing about Detroit is that rent is cheap so restaurants can have a bigger footprint, making the restaurant more approachable and relaxing. Enjoying my meal without feeling cramped made me feel at home.

Detroit is crawling back and emerging with its own flavor and profile. You may have noticed the trend in food often called "tail to nose" cuisine (the celebration of the traditionally unpopular parts of the animal such as organs, ears, glands, etc.). What was once bound for the trash, dismissed by many as "inedible", "unappetizing" and "dirty", is now considered a viable ingredient.

If Chicago is Filet Mignon, Detroit is Cripsy Pig Ear, and when Michael Symon and other talented Detroit chefs prepare it, that is just fine by me.


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