Saturday, July 23, 2016

Restaurant Review: The Laundry - Fenton, Michigan

Sometimes Things do Live Up to the Hype

Word does travel, I just have to listen


I have been hearing that I should try The Laundry for years. When I start talking "food" with people, this invariably comes up and folks ask me if I have eaten at this fine restaurant. For years, of course the answer was "no" and then I would be on the receiving end of an incredulous stare followed by the "YOU have never been to The Laundry?!!!" Yes, that emphasis on "you" and the several exclamation points after the question is definitely needed. Now, I'm hanging my head in shame because they were right; I SHOULD have eaten there years ago.

Old Fashioned and Swiss Chocolate Italian Soda
How much did I like this place? Well, on a few very special occasions I have bought t-shirts from restaurants I like. See, I'm a bit of a groupie when it comes to restaurants. Over the years I have replaced concert shirts from bands with fine dining. Of course the establishment must offer one for sale but you get my point. I now own a T from The Laundry. This one is pretty cool. On the front it says "Call me Old Fashioned" with a cute little graphic of the cocktail. It's quite a conversation starter.
Real Cream Soda

So you may ask what was the catalyst to enjoying this restaurant? Well, since it's in Fenton and that's not really local, we were waiting for a time when we were closer. This past weekend we went to an outdoor party in Fenton for a wedding celebration. It seemed like a good opportunity to eat dinner and try this place and we were cautioned that there might be a long wait but we were up for an adventure. The kids had no reason to complain as they had planned to catch Pokemon while we waited anyways. Sometimes technology is good.

Artie Dip
We were pleasantly surprised that there was no wait, even if it was a little past six. It might be that because of the beautiful weather that people were slow in coming for dinner, or had multiple social engagements with weddings, barbecues and graduation parties. By the time we left the restaurant after a leisurely meal the place was crowded so we must have just missed the rush.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention how cute this place is. I think that old 1950's diner type tables (with the colored surfaces and chrome edges) dream of having a second life.  An old chrome light fixture with protruding silver bowl lamps hangs prominently over an oversized distressed wood table for large groups that screams the 1960's. A Menard's mug held sugars. This is a mish mash but done well. Cozy and intimate even with the multiple tables. Lots of color and eye candy. 
Real French Onion Soup

Of course I wanted to start with a cocktail. I love a fancy cocktail comes in that special little visual package with garnishments, with maybe a little dusting along a rim, or a giant ice cube. However, The Laundry features a menu of 100 Classic Cocktails and I just found it overwhelming. Next time I will peruse this list prior to our visit to pick the most perfect thing. At this particular time, I reverted to what I know best and chose an Old Fashioned. Now, it's completely coincidence that the restaurant agrees with me and places this on a T-Shirt of theirs because really it's #64 on their list. It was really perfect in terms of a choice so I'm okay with it. Next time maybe I will do #46 which is a Knickerbocker. By the way, they are in alphabetical order. Yes, they have a Z (Zombie) but no X. I checked.
Michigan Salad

Most of the time I stop at my drink. Usually the rest of the gang orders water or soda, and there's nothing special about that (unless the glass was especially fancy?). But this time, I actually have more drinks to report on. Non-alcoholic options abound here at The Laundry, including our choices of a Swiss chocolate Italian soda and a Real Cream Soda with generous proportions of vanilla syrup, cream, sparkling soda and whipped cream. I think the days of bottled cream soda are over.

Bacon Jam and Gorgonzola Burger

We can't go to a new restaurant without sampling an overabundance of food to gauge what we might like if there's a next time. In this case there will be a next time but sometimes we just don't know. While a "regular" restaurant order may be limited to just a few dishes and no extraneous appetizers or desserts, we are much more reckless with new places. Frugality goes out the window. Add to this the consideration of how far we drove to sample this place. . . well it's much more free spirited.

Small plate. The fancy new term for appetizers. The Laundry actually labels this "Shared Plates" making the assumption that I will be in a reciprocal relationships with my co-diners. Okay, I will live up to your expectation. We started with Artie Dip. I know artichoke dip is so overdone. You can find versions of spinach artichoke in prepackaged containers at the local party store and for sure at the deli counter at the supermarket. However, I challenge you to find a more decadent version than The Laundry's version. Why? The cheese in this thing was just of a caliber you wouldn't normally put in a dip because it's so damn good. Technically it's a blend of three cheeses with Brie, Boursin and Gorgonzola. It's sharp, and will bite you towards the end of each mouthful but it's a good bite. There are plenty of huge chunks of artichoke hearts in here too. I would say that we could have had three times the amount of bread for good dipping ratio bur our waitstaff brought us more.
Pork and Porridge

French Onion Soup - also done everywhere and often it's bland or at best mediocre. Again, The Laundry celebrates these classic dishes and makes them better. They say their offering is "Real", I say it's "real good". The onions were a nice balance, and did not take up all the broth to be a slushy mess. the liquid itself was hearty and seemed to have a nice amount of beef in it. It was flavorful and fresh. This may not be labeled a "shared plate" but we passed the bowl around. Again, super good cheese covered the top. Cheese that was above what you would normally find bubbling on top of a crock of soup.

Pecan Crusted Whitefish
We also tried a small salad to add to our over the top ordering. It was a Michigan Salad. Yes, I have had all kinds of versions of this throughout the state. This one was a cut above, again, due to the cheese. Maytag blue, with studs of red onion, dried cherries and fresh strawberries, drizzled with maple balsamic. Very crisp and fresh greens make a huge impact on me. I should note that these "small" salads are very reasonable. This version was four dollars. You can't go wrong with a four dollar salad!

At The Laundry, the evening meal is "Supper". I love that word. It's so old fashioned and it adds to the whole theme and charm at The Laundry. Here we also did not skimp and tried a variety of options. No one duplicated. We wanted to conquer all we could.

Cookies and Cream
First up was their version of a burger called the Bacon Jam and Gorgonzola Burger. This was not quite like anything I have had in the past. This was in the Casual Fare section of the menu but didn't seem that casual with a brioche bun, and bacon jam plus an apricot Gorgonzola cheese spread with French fried onions. What really set this burger apart was the smoky flavor infused in the actual beef patty.

I tried the Pork and Porridge. I couldn't resist the name or the fact that there was pork belly in it. Pork belly is much better than sliced bread. It's better than bacon and candy and just about anything. This pork belly was sitting on a bed of pimento cheese grits, along with a side of mustard greens and red eye gravy plus green tomato chow chow. I loved the pork belly. It was as super generous portion that really could have fed four people and be satisfying. I may not have really wanted to share because it had the perfect crispy sear on top covering the buttery soft meat that just melted in your mouth. I have a thing for pork belly and have worked hard, in my own pursuits, to get that same crispy top in my own recipe.  I liked the grits as well and they were far from the usual mundane breakfast side. I did not really like the mustard greens which surprised me because I'm a huge greens fan. These were a little sour, along with the tomato chow chow, and while I can see it may have had more vinegar to cut through the fat and sweetness of the rest of the dish, I thought it was too much. Don't get me wrong, I would order this again and just tell them to hold those sides.

Berry Pie
We also sampled the Pecan Crusted Whitefish. Fresh, perfectly cooked fish, encrusted with a generous portion of pecans with a maple beurre blanc. The side dishes with this were also winners - wonderful sweet potato risotto and a squash/zucchini medley along with sweet potato chips on the top. This was delicious!

When you are going all out, you can't skip dessert, can you? I can't. We ordered the chocolate cookies with cream (ice cream) but because they were out of the small ones they took a generous sampling of larger ones and cut them up for us. Chocolate with sea salt. Cinnamon ice cream. All very good.

The fruit pie was a berry medley. Super delicious flaky crust that screams "homemade!"

Summary? In case you didn't pick up on it this place was awesome. I will be back. There is nothing subtle about this review. I wish Fenton was closer!

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