Sunday, February 21, 2016

Restaurant Review: Buddy's Pizza

A Detroit Icon. . . 

Buddy’s Square Deep Dish Pizza

Many people probably don’t automatically think “pizza” when they think of Metro Detroit but we do have some claim to fame, according to at least a few sources, including Pizza Today as seen in this article in Crain’s Detroit Business. This was really to do more with chain pizza sales (think Little Caesar’s and Domino’s, both based in Michigan, along with Hungry Howie’s) but it does speak to the fact that locals here really like pizza.

When you think of deep dish, you might think more of a Chicago pie, such as Geno’s or Lou Manati’s, both very good. I have been known to navigate my travels in Chicago to include a slice every time I go. Detroit’s version of Deep Dish is just different and Buddy’s Pizza really is what comes to mind when you talk Detroit Deep Dish.

Buddy’s has multiple locations in the area, including some that just offer carry out. It had been years since I visited the original location and last night we were up for an adventure. The original Buddy’s is located on McNichols (a.k.a. “Six Mile Road) at the corner of Conant. It’s very close to both Highland Park and Hamtramck.  It’s a nostalgic trip and worth the drive even if I could get carry out five minutes from my house at the Royal Oak Woodward location. Part of it is the atmosphere, and at least a good portion of it is those original pizza pans. Yes, there are red checked tablecloths, and an Italian color scheme.

Lake Huron with Pine Nuts
This is not a fancy place but it’s clean and inviting. We were on the main floor where quite a few tables are jammed in before you descend into the bar. In the summer they have Bocce Ball outside. In our short time there we saw a real diverse crowd; including families, young adults, and some Detroit police officers in uniform. One girl near us had flaming magenta hair with furry black cat ears. A group walked in that looked like they had time traveled from the 80’s and were on their way to a bar after this stop. The people watching was really an added bonus.

I haven’t been at this location in over twenty years so for me it was a blast from the past. The pizza is the same but over the years they have added many more choices to the menu, including some more gourmet varieties and items. While Buddy’s has always boasted about putting the pepperoni under the cheese to prevent burning, they now officially offer pizza choices that include the meats on top of the cheese. We ordered three different pies during our trip to accommodate different tastes. I split a Lake Huron 4 piece with my friend from the Great Lakes Collection. This was traditional deep dish with roasted tomatoes, spinach and artichoke blend, along with fresh spinach. It comes with a lemon wedge that added that little something. Because we had trouble deciding between this and another pizza, we asked them to add fresh pine nuts. We also ordered a Motown Museum Pizza from the Motor City Pizza collection, which included Motor City cheese blend, pepperoni (on top, curled and crispy) and bacon. My daughter ordered a custom build, with turkey, ham and sliced pineapple (she stressed the sliced pineapple as opposed to diced, somehow this was very important).

Motown Museum
What makes Buddy’s pizza different is that crust, especially the corners that are crispy and buttery. This not your normal pizza dough texture and that's what makes it special. The pizza is then loaded with a ton of cheese (now with different choices in that area as well) along with sauce and toppings. These pizzas are very generous, and are offered in both a 4 piece and an 8 piece. Two pieces of Buddy’s Pizza is more than enough for me but I really do like leftovers the next day. Tip of the Day: Reheating pizza? Use a nonstick frying pan and heat from the bottom. It will taste like it just came out of the oven.

It’s important to note, well in my world anyways, that there are
Custom Pizza
also plenty of drinks to choose from including a nice range of beers. I had a Buddy’s Brew, which was a wheat beer with coriander, lemon peel and grapefruit. It was on draft and made by Griffin Claw. There were plenty of choices in bottles as well as wine, and a few limited cocktails although I’m sure the bar there could make just about anything.

I plan on visiting again soon and won’t wait another 20+ years to enjoy this place. Next time we are going to add a salad. Once we saw them at the other tables we were sorry we didn’t get one!

Restaurant Review: Norm's Field of Dreams

We call it “F.O.D.” around here for short, but those burgers are big on taste!

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed B-Spot which is a fancy burger joint in downtown Royal Oak and realized while writing that article, that I had never taken time to post about Field of Dreams. These two burger places are really not to be compared because they offer a different type of menu and their atmospheres really aren’t’ in the same ballpark, no pun intended. But when it comes to a really good, and I mean good, straightforward burger, I really recommend Field of Dreams.

This is a sports bar, no frills. Before Michigan passed laws about smoking in public establishments this was a place I would go to during lunch or after work, during the week with my office mates. I don’t like eating in a cloud of smoke but the burgers were just worth it, especially on Wednesday nights when there were specials. Friday lunch also included a free lottery ticket to really reinforce those “dreams”. Once the smoking ban went into effect, it became a good place to also take the kids for lunch, especially on a Snow Day. Now that they are older, we also will go for dinner on the weekend if it’s early enough. While it’s a bar, I feel its friendly enough for the kids. There’s typically music on the jukebox, and folks playing dart and pool, but my kids enjoy the TVs all showing different sporting events, ranging from basketball, football and NASCAR this time of year.
The décor is typical bar. Lots of high tops, with a few lower tables, and the stools feature cushions made of out baseball bases. A string of bright green rope light marks the delineation between the ceiling and the walls and I suppose is to brighten the dimmed room. There is a stage for bands but I think that’s a Saturday night thing.

In terms of food, this is your typical bar food. There are your regular offerings of appetizers like chicken wings and jalapeño poppers, along with bar pizza and burgers. There are also salads and sandwiches. Like I said earlier, for me it’s about those burgers. You can build your own and while there isn’t a long list of choices like you will find in a gourmet bar, these are staples. Bacon, onions, sautéed mushrooms, along with a few choices of cheese, really does what it needs to do. The burger comes in a 1/3 lb. and ½ lb. offering, along with sliders.

What makes this burger so good? I’m not really sure but it’s definitely fried on a grill in their kitchen. I think that they are good at getting the outside crusty, and keeping the inside moist, when I ask for a medium rare. The meat is never overly seasoned and shines through. Their buns are delicious. I typically order mine with just American cheese (I know, very ungourmet) and a side of their Thousand Island dressing. I’m not a big French Fries fan typically but their fries are very good and I always upgrade from the potato chips. 

One of my kids loves their Fish Sandwich which is definitely an upgrade from a Filet O Fish from McDonalds. While he is typically very picky he never gives us a hassle when we plan eating dinner there. There’s also the obligatory grilled cheese but that’s just a typical bar grilled cheese and I have nothing to add to that. Their salads are very fresh if you want to try to have some healthy food at a bar. . . 

There’s a selection of beer that ranges from typical drafts to more of the microbrews. On this particular visit I chose an Illusive Traveler Grapefruit Shandy in a bottle that I will definitely get again. They offer all the typical things you would expect at a bar. For me, while it’s a bar, it’s really my local burger joint.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Pot Roast in the Dutch Oven - My Version

This One has been Brewing for Quite a While. . . 

Or should I say "roasting"?

I haven't posted any recipes in quite a while. I often use Pinterest as well as some other sources to try some new things but if I'm using someone else's recipe I want to make sure to give credit. I haven't stopped cooking obviously (although I do go through phases) but sometimes it's just going through the routine with a tried and true recipe.

I have been playing around with a Dutch oven for cooking for a little while now. We actually purchased it with the single minded purpose of creating French Onion Soup after the husband saw a recipe that required a Dutch oven. Honestly the end result was disappointing but after that stage of cooking those onions down for hours it was anticipated to be perfection. Something clicked and I realized this new cookware could probably be a good addition to our kitchen.

The first recipe I tried was The Pioneer Woman’s Braised Short Ribs. That is really tasty and if you haven’t made it I highly recommend it. I have made it several times and I learned from this recipe how much putting red wine in the recipe, in combination with the beef broth, will do to add to deepen the flavors into a more complex offering. Using the wine to scrape the sides of the pot, and then to boil it, just makes it taste so much better. 

I also began researching different pot roast recipes because short ribs are not cheap and while they are delicious I wanted to try something with a chuck roast which can be close to a third of the price. Pioneer Woman has one of these recipes too but it didn’t include roast potatoes, most likely because she serves it with mashed potatoes – and wasn’t in the Dutch oven. The best pot roast recipe that I have tried so far was as at Real House Moms and was made in a Dutch oven. It came out very tasty, with meat that was almost buttery in texture, and a nice combination of potatoes, carrots and parsnips. I wouldn’t have thought to put parsnips in my pot roast although I use them when I make chicken soup. 

So in doing this “research” which included sampling actual recipes, perusing others, and taking some of the experiences from other dishes, I came up with what I wanted to do. I have learned parsnips are a nice addition, that I really can’t stand peeling all those little mini potatoes, and that I think an addition of garlic and an abundance of red wine would be better than just a sampling and that adding some additional flavors with red pepper and brown sugar might be interesting. I also thought that thicker gravy might make this all around heartier. So without further ado, here is my version which I hope you will like.

I prep ahead of time. I can’t help it. I like all the vegetables peeled and cut and ready to go. It’s kind of silly since the meat had to cook in the Dutch over for a couple of hours but here you have it. I want to move on to other projects today including painting a chair that I have been working on over the course of a few months. I also have kids running around and am anticipating shuttling them before the Super Bowl starts. . .

I started with a handful of multi colored carrots and two large parsnips. You could use regular carrots. I just can’t resist this bag from Trader Joe’s that does not cost any more money than traditional orange carrots. They look so pretty, especially that purple one with the cream colored center. No, they won’t be as vibrant when they are cooked but gosh they look nice now. I peeled all of these vegetables and cut them into slices. I do try to get them somewhat consistent but it’s usually a losing battle.

I also peeled about 1.5 lbs. of Yukon Gold potatoes. I refrained from the Dutch Yellow Baby Potatoes out of sheer laziness. This way I only had to peel four potatoes instead of the thirteen last time. I cut these into bite sized pieces as well. 

I cut a Vidalia onion into thick slices. I imagine any onion would work but I like something a little sweeter than and not as sharp as a white onion. I also minced three cloves of garlic to put in with the onion. I have a wonderful little gadget that smashes the clove and minces it with one squeeze. I don’t even have to peel it completely. The wonders that you can find at Home Goods!

The star of this dish was a 3.25 lb. boneless Chuck Roast. I have seen the recommendation of getting one with a bone in it but it’s not an option at my local butcher. I sometimes do put in a strip of short ribs for the bone flavor but I skipped it this time. I know that with the size of this particular roast, along with my vegetables, there won’t be any room to spare. I rinsed the roast, patted it dry, and then sprinkled it with a generous helping of sea salt. 

I heated about a tablespoon of oil in the Dutch oven and added the roast to sear it on all sides. The Real House Moms website recommends that you put your stovetop vent on and it’s true. I take the added precaution of putting the Dutch oven lid on, slightly askew, to avoid oil spattering everywhere. With this cut of meat, you can really only sear the two larger sides but I held it with a pair of tongs to at least get a little browning on the other smaller edges. It will take 10-15 minutes per side to get it really seared. The browner the better. Once this was done, I removed the meat, and put it on a plate. The best part is as it rests, it collects some juices which are going to get put back in that Dutch oven along with the actual meat.

I placed the onions and garlic in the pot, and let it cook on medium for about fifteen minutes. A lot of recipes state that it will only take a few minutes to soften onions but I find it always takes longer than anticipated. After they were semi soft, I added a ¼ cup of flour to the pot and stirred it for a few minutes. There was a lot of flour that didn’t actually coat the onions but I am going for a thicker gravy rather than meat juice.

Once I had the onions coated, I added a cup of red wine. I used a Cabernet Savion from Trader Joe’s that I used for the last pot roast. It is what they refer to as “two buck Chuck” but costs three something in Michigan. Good wine for cooking. With the onions it made a bubbly roux to which I added three cups of beef broth. Once this was boiling I added a 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1 tsp each of dried rosemary and thyme, two bay leaves, and generous amount of salt and pepper, as well as some Aleppo pepper. I actually ran out of the Aleppo pepper and added some cayenne. I figured the heat with the sweetness of the brown sugar would add some more depth. I am not saying that you need to go out and buy Aleppo pepper, it’s just a staple in my pantry from some other recipes and I really like it.

I added the meat back into the pot, along with all those reserved juices. I put it in my oven at 300 degrees on Convection Roast although I believe that just backing it in the Dutch oven works. It smelled really nice, permeating the entire house in those two and a half hours. 
At that point, I turned the meat over, adding all those vegetables, and returned it to the oven for another two hours. I really don’t think you can overcook in the Dutch oven with all that liquid. It’s a low temperature and it’s a slow process to really break down that meat to its ultimate softness.

The meat will easily break down to chunks. I take it out of the oven and make it into bite size portions. With the vegetables and potatoes, it’s really a complete meal but adding a nice hearty slice of bread (with some butter of course) wouldn’t hurt my feelings! A bottle of beer would be nice too since its Super Bowl Sunday.

Hearty Pot Roast in the Dutch Oven

1 boneless chuck roast, approx 3-4 lbs.
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Vidalia onion, thickly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 cup Beef Broth
1 cup Red Wine
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 tsp Alpeppo pepper, or Cayenne
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
5 - 6 medium sized carrots, peeled and sliced
2 large parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size wedges

Rinse meat and pat dry. Sprikle with sea salt. Place into Dutch oven that has been preheated to high, with the oil. Sear meat on all sides, using your vent fan, and a lid on top, slightly askew to keep down spattering. Heat each side ten - fifteen minutes.

Remove meat and place on plate to collect juices. Add onions and garlic to pan and stir every so often to soften. Add flour and coat the onions, allowing to soften some more. Add wine to pot and scrape the sides of the pot to get all stuck morsels into the liquid. Let boil and thicken, making a roux. Add beef broth and bring to boil again, before adding all spices.

Add meat back to pot, along with meat juices, and place in the preheated over at 300 degrees. Let cook for 2 1/2 hours. At that time, turn the meat and add vegetables into pot. Return to over for another two hours to cook.

Remove bay leaves to discard. Take meat out of the pot and tear into chunks. Place back in the pot with the other items to serve.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Restaurant Review: The B Spot

Bologna Burger

B Stands for "Burgers Brats and Beer",
but they should add "Bologna" too!

In the last few years I have really grown to love burgers. I know many of you have probably appreciated these little gems (or sometimes oversized patties) for years, beginning in childhood, but I didn't. It was probably because I did not have the experience of a delicious perfectly cooked patty on the grill but had countless opportunities to eat dry disks that were broiled in our oven, or the frozen kinds that were reheated for school hot lunches.

I love a good burger. Some of my favorites are Green Dot and Field of Dreams (which I just realized I have never posted about!). B Spot was a different joint than the two of these although of course there is only so much you can do to make your burger restaurant stand out. We went yesterday after a move and it was a Friday night but the place was close to empty. As we walked over there we realized that most of downtown Royal Oak was close to empty; there was an abundance of good parking spaces and not a lot of people walking around. . . After seeing a movie with zombies, I had to wonder if something has happened in real life or if I was wrong that it was Friday night?

In any event, the decor itself is pretty cool in B Spot. Of course there is the obligatory homage to Michael Symon (Iron Chef) who owns this restaurant with a little niche (shrine?) with his books and photos. The rest has an urban feel with a large piece of graffiti art, steel tables that look to be decorated with spray paint that have an automotive feel, and booths that kind of feel like church pews.  In the center of the room is a pickle bar so you can grab your own accompaniments that include additional offerings of kimchi (spicy!), fried green tomatoes, and jalapeños.

We started out with milkshakes. These are some very huge offerings, coming in a metal cup that is reminiscent of the 1950's but there are definitely updated. My daughter ordered a Chocolate-Banana-Marshmallow one that had toasted marshmallows on top. You can add dark rum to this one and I would definitely do that for myself when I go back. . . My friend and I each ordered the special shake of the month which was Mocha flavored with liberal amounts of Jameson whisky and Bailey's. Remember I said it was huge? Do yourself a favor and ask for an extra straw and split it. It was over ten dollars and because it contained alcohol we couldn't take them with us.

So burgers, without further ado, there are a ton of options. The fine folks at this establishment have created some mash ups already for you to pick from. The catch is you can remove any items from their predetermined combinations but you can’t add or substitute. That is hard for me so I prefer a build your own. There are all kinds of choices, from the kind of patty you build upon including beef, turkey, and bologna (more about that later), to items like griddled mushrooms, slice avocado, pickled red onions, and sauces that include signature BBQ offerings, spicy Lola ketchup and a shasha sauce which has quite a bit of horseradish in it.

My daughter built her own quite naturally, including a beef burger medium, with a sunny side fried egg, bacon, griddled mushrooms and cheddar. It was good but the burger itself wasn’t all that in my opinion. It was the topping that made it. Adding a couple of garlic dills was also appreciated.

My friend had a grilled cheese that she said was very good. The grilled cheese included roasted red peppers and arugula. She also ordered rosemary French fries that we all shared. These were really thin, shoestring style, and very very good.

I didn’t order a conventional burger. The patty of bologna really intrigued me. You can order bologna by the way as a topping but that’s a thin little piece. When it’s a patty it’s a thick wedge and it was quite good. I ordered it with a fried egg, white cheddar, coleslaw and Russian dressing. I was actually glad the Russian dressing came on the side because it was not what I was used to and had a fair amount of horseradish or spice in it that would have tasted a bit odd on the actual burger. This was a good “burger” but I would have preferred if the bologna had been fried up a little longer to have those crisp edges. It tasted more like a thick wedge of uncooked bologna.

No room for dessert. The milkshakes really made sure that we had no room. I have a ¼ of a burger for breakfast today and my daughter had at least half left over so that’s something. That makes me a little happier about the final bill. This place is not cheap, two burgers and milkshakes totaled $50 dollars and while it was delicious I’m not sure it was worth all that. Once you add a tip. . . I will have to review Field of Dreams soon because that burger is about a third of the price and really really good if you just want a bar burger. No fancy toppings but good food.

Of course the milkshakes make this a fun place, along with the décor and the bustle of downtown Royal Oak. This is going to be a “special” place to go to, probably not with the whole family. The idea of spending $100 for the four of us doesn’t really seem like a good use of a night out. For that kind of money there are a lot of options.

Verdict? Definitely a fun spot and something to experience but not a whole family adventure if you have any semblance of a budget in mind!

Updated February 21 2016: I now have reviewed my fave burger place, Field of Dreams.