Category Archives: Eateries

Go Halfsies: Eat Less, Give More

Here’s a great dining-out concept I just read about in The Daily GOOD.

Halfsies: Connecting the Dots from Go Halfsies on Vimeo.

Go Halfsies, a social initiative, offers choice to diners to eat a healthier portion size, reduce food waste, and help fight hunger. According to GOOD, “Halfsies plans to partner with local restaurants, beginning in Austin and New York City, that will designate a certain portion of their menu to the initiative. When a customer chooses a meal with a ‘go halfsies’ symbol, she’ll pay full price while receiving only half of the portion. Ninety percent of the proceeds are donated to support the fight against hunger.”

Download their brochure to learn more. And watch for the Halfsies icon on menus! 

A Special Dinner

Last night I had the privilege of collaborating with Butch’s Restaurant in Holland, Michigan to promote my cookbook, Nothing to Sneeze At, during a dinner for which Chef Adam prepared wheat-free, corn-free, cow-dairy-free recipes from the book. I think several of the dinner guests were pleasantly surprised when they tasted the dishes he made and realized how delicious they can be–even with substitutions. For me, it was a treat to taste my recipes made by a professional chef!

We had a great turnout of 20 people and dinner was held in one of Butch’s private dining rooms.

The evening started with a book signing and, after a brief introduction about the cookbook, we began our four-course meal.

Each of the courses was chosen by Chef Adam from one of four sections in the cookbook: soup, meat, pasta, and vegetarian.

Dessert was a yummy vegan chocolate cupcake provided by the baker at Uncommon Grounds in Saugatuck, Michigan, who also bakes for Butch’s.

The event was a fun way to share my experience with food allergies, which were first introduced to me by Bill.

Thanks to Butch for hosting the event–the first of its kind at his restaurant with a focus on food allergies–and showing how the restaurant values its customers by accommodating special dietary needs.

Can You Canoe?

Photo via Canoe Restaurant

During my visit to Toronto this past fall with my friend Cathy, one of the culinary highlights was Canoe.

Located on the 54th floor of the Toronto Dominion (TD)  Bank Tower, it was a big step for me, who doesn’t do skyscrapers–let’s say nothing higher than 30 floors–since 9/11. I know, it’s irrational. But that’s where I landed after the traumatic experience of that event. I figure I can run down thirty flights pretty quickly if I need to.

It was worth the trip once I got off the elevator. Opening a bottle of wine right away helped, of course.

But the real draw–besides the view of Toronto and Lake Ontario–was the chef’s creative use of artisanal Canadian ingredients. It’s all spelled out on the menu.

While our server assured us that the Chef chooses local ingredients whenever possible, not everything was regional. I’ve come across the same dilemma in the States as well. Sometimes you have to go to the prairie states or provinces to get the best pastured lamb because there may not be a supplier nearby that can accommodate a restaurant’s demands. At least it’s better than procuring from New Zealand.

So, I had the Alberta lamb with turnips and butterball potatoes that night. And it was divine. Nothing beats seasonal vegetables to accompany a meat like lamb.

Before the main course of lamb, I started the meal with a duck bacon.

And finished with artisanal cheese, nuts, and cranberry bread.

I think it may be one of the best restaurants in Toronto. And, if you’re not afraid of heights, it won’t be a challenge to zoom to the 54th floor of the TD Tower!

Sunday Brunch at Gilead Cafe

Last month when I was in Toronto with my friend Cathy, one of our favorite spots to eat was Gilead Cafe, a restaurant in the historic Corktown district. It was started by Jamie Kennedy, known across Canada for his commitment to sustainable agriculture, advocacy of local food, and  fostering connections between farmers and chefs.

Isn’t it obvious by the decor?

Jars of preserves, pickles, and vegetables lined the walls of the restaurant.

Sunday brunch, with homemade jams and freshly baked pastries, is a delicious way to start off the day.  The menu changes frequently and is written on the chalkboard and posted at the door.

I had the very yummy Brunch Tart with Salad.

Cathy had the Bacon Rösti with Cheesy Scrambled Eggs.

What I really like about Gilead Cafe is its simplicity: local, fresh ingredients in an unpretentious, intimate setting. It’s the perfect place for Sunday brunch in Toronto.

“Nothing to Sneeze At” Dinner, November 30, Butch’s Restaurant

On Wednesday, November 30, I’ll be teaming up with Chef Adam at Butch’s Restaurant to offer a wheat-free, corn-free, cow-dairy-free dinner featuring a menu from my cookbook, Nothing to Sneeze At: Main Dishes For People With Allergies.

Here’s what Chef’s got planned:

Curried Roasted Squash Soup
Lamb Souviaki with Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Greek Salad
Wheat-Free, Dairy-Free Lasagna
Potato and Leek Quiche

The cost is $35 a person (plus tax/gratuity) and drinks are separate. Butch is hoping to offer organic wines and gluten-free beers.

I’ll have books to purchase at the great low price of $20 each. (Sells at retail for $26.86 on or as an e-Book on iTunes and Barnes & Noble for $13.99.) Don’t forget the food allergy sufferers on your holiday shopping list! Book signing will begin at 6:30pm and dinner will start at 7pm.

Reserve your space today by calling Butch’s Restaurant at 616-396-8227 because it’s filling up fast!

St. Lawrence Market in Old Town, Toronto

Established in 1803, the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto is a must-see if you’re in town. It’s open five days a week and on Saturdays it opens at 5 a.m. for the farmers’ market.

Whenever I travel, I always seek out the local farmers market. It’s a good place to pick up snack foods and lunch and it also gives you a sense of what’s in season in that area so you can know when you go out to restaurants.

Ontario is very similar to Michigan in climate so I wasn’t surprised to see a lot of the same produce we have in October, which is when I was in there: carrots, cabbage, apples, parsnips, kale, etc.

This market is huge. It’s not just produce, but also specialty merchants, vendors, and eateries.

I couldn’t resist the raspberry jam from Stasis Preserves.

All that’s in the jar are raspberries and sugar, which makes this a delightful Bill-friendly treat for his millet and flax toast!

There’s hardly time to get through the whole market, especially on a Saturday. But it’s well worth the visit when you’re in town.

Southwest Michigan Food Trail

Illustration via Midwest Living

Four writers from Midwest Living magazine recently explored the culinary side of Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Called “4 Ultimate Food Trails,” the article describes the places they visited during a weekend food tour in each state.

They visited Southwest Michigan, where I live, following a 125-mile route (each way) from the Lake Michigan shore at Saugatuck and inland to the Indiana state line.

Called the Fruit Belt (news to me, but I’m from New Jersey originally!), it’s laden with  orchards, vineyards, and vegetable farms. Just look up Michigan on to find the bounty of fresh produce in this area.

Because homegrown, fresh food is so accessible, I think it’s easier for restaurateurs to focus on procuring local products for their menu offering–including grassfed and pastured meats, as well as organic milk, eggs, and cheese.

I was excited to see Salt of the Earth, a restaurant located in nearby Fennville, on the tour! It’s one of the restaurants Bill and I like to go to because they try to offer local ingredients whenever possible.

The writers also went to Evergreen Lane Farm & Creamery, which I still need to visit, as well as Fenn Valley Winery, my favorite–and closest–local winery. (If you’re in the area this weekend, check out the Fenn Valley Wine Fest to sample what’s in their cellar!)

I have to agree with them in their description of this region: “The flavors of our past have become the ingredients of our future, and Michigan offers them in abundance.”

48 Hours in Ann Arbor for Locavores: Part 3, Grange Kitchen & Bar

While in Ann Arbor last weekend for a wedding, Bill and I ventured to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and Zingerman’s Deli on the first day in town. We had hoped to try Eve for dinner that night but the farm-to-table restaurant closed in January. However, I found Grange Kitchen & Bar in my farm-to-table restaurant search and promptly made a reservation for Saturday night.

We were delighted. Chef Brandon Johns is all about the philosophy toward food that I appreciate: “Chef Brandon Johns created Grange Kitchen & Bar with the idea that the freshest ingredients, grown sustainably and sourced from people we know are the basis for the best food. At Grange, our commitment to local and sustainable sources reflects both our commitment to the community and our commitment to bringing the best of the farm’s bounty to the table when it’s fresh and at the peak of its flavor. Join us for seasonal menus inspired by the fresh flavors of local farms and farmers’ markets.”

Yes! If I were to own and operate a restaurant, this is the way I would do it. Another thing I always appreciate is seeing the list of local farms that provide produce, meat, cheese, etc. to the restaurant. Our server informed us that food is sourced within 100 miles of Ann Arbor.

Here was the menu for May 28, 2011.

We started with the housemade charcuterie, accompanied by an Orange Blossom for me and a Sazerac for Bill.

Here’s what was on the charcuterie plate (if I remember correctly!): lardons, pork pate with asparagus, duck mousse, pickled vegetables, cured ham in molasses, onion jam, ginger apple butter, stoneground mustard, and caraway crackers.

For dinner, I had the Pan Roasted Pork Loin with Ramps, Fingerlings and Fried Eggs. It was unbelievable….flavor, texture, and temperature.

Bill had the Pan Roasted Duck Breast Sweet Potato Puree and Pickled Rhubarb.

And, it was ideal to be able to order a bottle of Michigan Pinot Noir from Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery.

We were so thrilled with our meal that we went back for brunch the next day!

I had seen the menu the night before and already had my eye on the Goat Cheese and Asparagus Omelette with Sausage and Fingerlings. I don’t know how the sausage was seasoned, but it was delicious. The whole meal was excellent and I enjoyed it with fresh squeezed orange juice and a glass of L. Mawby’s sparkling wine–another Michigan favorite.

Bill also loved the sausage; he had his with fried eggs and fingerlings.

Grange has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants. I wish we lived closer to Ann Arbor so we could go more often!

48 Hours in Ann Arbor for Locavores: Part Two, Zingerman’s!

As I mentioned in my last post, Bill and I were in Ann Arbor over the holiday weekend for a wedding. And any time I go to Ann Arbor, I make a point of stopping at Zingerman’s Deli. Outside of New York City, it’s one of the best delicatessens around.

But I hadn’t been there since I started my food blog in 2009, which is when I changed my philosophy toward food–especially meat. Since then, whenever I go to a restaurant, I ask servers and chefs about their sources for meat unless it is specifically spelled out on the menu (e.g., Grassfed Beef from Such-and-Such Local Farm). If I’m not satisfied that the meat options are from animals that are treated humanely and sourced sustainably, I order a vegetarian meal.

I hadn’t researched Zingerman’s philosophy toward meat prior to my recent trip, so I was all set to make my lunch order a vegetarian sandwich. But as I leafed through the menu, I noticed this blurb on one of the last pages: “Meats made right. Made by responsible producers using humane methods: Columbus Salame, La Quercia, Creminelli, Edward’s, Ham I Am, just to name a few.”

I didn’t have the chance to search all those meat producers via Google on my smart phone while waiting in line to order but I felt that Zingerman’s wouldn’t put that on their menu if they didn’t mean it. So after much perusing of each section….

…I chose #23, Mary’s Commute (a chicken salad sandwich with bacon in it).

Bill had Don’s Rhythm & Blues pastrami sandwich.

After returning home and looking up the meat producers online, I felt funny promoting Zingerman’s as a place for locavores because some of the products have traveled quite a distance. That is the twist here….Zingerman’s is also a provider of gourmet foods and, with the world as their market, I can see why they’ve reached beyond the state of Michigan to offer specialty meats, cheeses, olive oils, and other goods for purchase at the deli (although they do procure many items from local farmers). But before we left, we bought some Garrotxa goat’s cheese from Spain. Sure, we can find goat’s cheese locally but it’s nice to have variety, especially for Bill who’s allergic to cow dairy products so his choices are limited.

These are the dilemmas we face every day in a global economy: Do you buy the grapes from Chile in the wintertime, even though they’ve traveled 3,000 miles and they’re not in season where you live, because they are simply available in your grocery store? It’s a tough call.

At least Zingerman’s tries to incorporate many local products into their offering, and they make many of their own bakery goods, cheeses, gelato, and candy. On top of that, the food is really, really good. And the Ann Arbor Farmers Market is right across the street on Wednesdays and Saturdays!

Back to Verandas in Apalach, with Pleasure

While vacationing on Florida’s Forgotten Coast, Bill and I visited our favorite restaurant in Apalachicola again: Verandas Bistro. When we came last year for the first time, we really enjoyed it so we knew we had to go back.

Chef Ian informed me they have added a number of vegetarian dishes to the menu.

They’ve been getting more people with vegan and vegetarian requests, and Ian is always willing to accommodate them. I love it when chefs are willing to make changes to their menu. This happens a lot in Bill’s case because of his allergies to wheat, corn, and cow dairy. And when Bill ordered an appetizer at Verandas that had cream in it, Chef Ian easily substituted with a wine sauce instead.

Here’s what I had for dinner that night:

The Black Bean Dip, served with fresh tortillas:

Cavatappi Florentine accompanied by organic Burgundy wine:

And homemade bread with sun-dried tomatoes. (“We make everything right here,” our server informed us.)

And how could I pass up Mango Key Lime Torte for dessert (also made in-house)?

We love Chef Ian’s culinary creations and his emphasis on fresh and local ingredients whenever possible. Can’t wait to come back again!