a wednesday in kerrytown

So, there is a part of Ann Arbor referred to as Kerrytown. It’s an adorable historic district complete with brick paved roads and old brick buildings. There is a variety of food markets as well as restaurants, offering everything from coffee and pastries to Korean fare to fresh fish and produce. One staple of Kerrytown is the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market, held every Wednesday and Saturday May through December, and every Saturday January through April. Since I don’t have classes until 2pm on Wednesdays, I took my first trip out to the market this past week! I came straight from an interview, walking a total of approximately three miles in my flats, but the blisters were worth it (and I had to work off the food I was about to buy somehow!).

Upon arriving, I found that the market was smaller than I anticipated, but cute and packed full of mouthwatering products nonetheless!

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I had been told by a friend (check her blog out at http://www.medhacooks.com !) that amazing pastries and honey crisp apples could be found here, so I was on the lookout for these items as I strolled through. Most of the stands were produce oriented, so finding apples and other delightful looking fruits & veggies wasn’t difficult – it was just a matter of choosing where to buy from! I ended up choosing a produce stand at random, and I have to say that I succeeded! I bought a quart for $5, which consisted of about 6-7 medium-sized apples. I’m no fruit expert, but I’d say this was a pretty sweet deal for such fresh, homegrown fruit. I lived in a farming area for the past fifteen years, and I’ve found that I miss having the luxury of local produce, so this was heaven to me. The apples are sweet and crisp and just so fresh tasting – it reminds me of my days working at our local apple orchard! I definitely need to go back to try some other items, like the emerald zucchini and crimson peppers I eyed.

While scanning vendors for pastries, I came across a stand by Wasem Farms. A wide array of jams and jellies laid before me, tantalizing my taste buds. I wanted so badly to try multiple, like the red gooseberry, pear, and peach ones, but decided to play it safe with a small jar of blackberry jam, since these homemade products can add up fast, and this jam was low in sugar – watching out for the infamous freshman fifteen here! Upon getting back to my dorm, I was dying to taste this, so I spread some on a Club cracker. The taste was so fresh and strong and tangy and sweet all at once. It was so clear that this was not made with chemicals or preservatives, unlike most one would find at a chain grocery store. I then paired it on a cracker with some coconut flavored honey I purchased from the market, and that combination was surprisingly amazing! The coconut isn’t overpowering; it is just enough so that you can taste its presence.

I was curious about other flavor combinations I could experiment with using these two products, so I took these down to the dining hall this morning as a base for my breakfast.

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(my breakfast ~ plain Greek yogurt with the coconut honey, along with many toast combos: cream cheese & blackberry jam, peanut butter & coconut honey, cream cheese & coconut honey, butter & blackberry jam, and peanut butter & blackberry jam)

 

The coconut honey was a fantastic sweetener in my Greek yogurt, and paired exceptionally well with the cream cheese on toast. The blackberry jam was a perfect complement to all I paired it with, but I particularly loved it with peanut butter, as I am a HUGE proponent of PB on just about everything, so of course I loved the classic PB&J flavor it provided. I’m dying to taste the jam with some goat cheese on a cracker – the tangy and sweet flavors would combine beautifully! I did sample some phenomenal goat cheese with cranberry at the market, but unfortunately, my tight college budget wouldn’t allow me to drop $8 on a container. I was also very tempted to buy a cronut (the child of a donut and a croissant, born and raised in New York City) from this stand.. but I restrained myself.

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products available for sampling at the White Lotus Farms stand ~ plain goat cheese, herbed goat cheese, and cranberry goat cheese spreads were featured

I found a few stands specializing in baked goods, and finally decided on a Brie, apple, & raspberry croissant from Golden Wheat Bakery. The buttery, flaky pastry was baked with tart Brie, tangy raspberries, sweet apple slices, and crunchy almonds, creating a harmonious combination of flavors and textures. I would make the trek back out to Kerrytown just to try some of the other croissants, like the feta, tomato, & basil one, or one of the various fruit flavors.

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LEFT: the Brie, apple, & raspberry croissant, topped with sliced almonds
RIGHT: the Golden Wheat Bakery’s menu

 

 

 

Overall, though this market is smaller than others I have visited, it is not lacking in any way! Whether you come to buy produce, baked goods, jellies and jams, fresh herbs, dairy products, or honey, you will discover just what you have been searching for, and then most likely some more! I will definitely be returning when I’m able in hopes of fresh, wholesome, natural produce, as I’ve been having withdrawals from those my family so often bought from local farmers on the side of the road in my hometown, and, of course, more delicious pastries. I cannot yet attest to what the selection is like in the winter, as much of the plants and produce most likely wouldn’t be available, but I will be sure to update on it! This is a must-visit if you are in the area and ever have a hankering for anything mentioned above. Like all markets similar to this, some items can be pricey, but are, most of the time, worth the difference in cost from a similar chain grocery store product to taste the wholesome freshness of these homemade/homegrown items.

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cupcake station

If you’re going to be reading this blog, you should know I. am. a huge. dessert. person. Ice cream, creme brûlée, cake, cannoli, cookies, churros, etc – I love it all. So following our meal at Aventura (see previous post!), it was imperative we stopped by The Cupcake Station to sample some sugary confections. I had discovered this bakery while browsing dessert places in aa on Yelp the night before and was already dying to stuff my face with every single flavor they offered. While I was only able to sample three of their many mouthwatering varieties, those three I did blew me away.

My roommate and I purchased a half dozen (or, should I say, my mother did. thanks, mom!!) to taste. We were both equally excited, as we had been lying in our beds the previous night when I discovered this place and read the entire menu aloud at 2am. We were stuffed from our dinner, but couldn’t pass up an opportunity to get free dessert, so we took them to-go. The cakes have been delightfully devoured over the past three days, and I’m already ready to go make the trek back out to East Liberty to try more flavors, particularly more of the monthly flavors, which include cookie dough, mocha latte, and coconut.

They did not stay untouched for long. By the time I photographed the box the next morning, my roommate had already eaten half of one of hers. The flavors, pictured below from left to right, top to bottom, are Station’s Samoa, Not Yo’ Mamma’s Pancakes, Chocolate Cheesecake, Whiskey’ed Away, PB&C, and (partially consumed) Chocolate Petal. The ones I tried were the samoa, the pancake, and the whiskey’ed.

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The first I sampled out of the three was the Whiskey’ed Away. This was a caramel cake topped with honey cream cheese frosting and a caramel drizzle, containing a whiskey apple filling inside. holy moly. It’s like apple pie combined with cake combined with heaven. The cake was moist and not too dense, the frosting was sweet but not overpowering, and the apple filling provided that texture and sweetness associated with apple pie. I 10/10 would eat this again – it is worth every calorie.

I took down my second one the following day, deciding on the pancake one, as I realized the blueberries on top would most likely not be good anymore. While they weren’t, the rest of the cupcake sure was. A blueberry vanilla cake was perfectly moist, and paired with the maple buttercream, it conjured up memories of making pancakes at my friend’s house with fresh berries from her yard the morning after a sleepover in elementary school. The moistness of the cake and sweet maple in the frosting work together to deliver that perfect pancake flavor – it was hard to believe I was eating a cupcake at 9pm instead of pancakes at 9am! It’s a hard decision to make, but I think this may have been my favorite out of the three.

Finally, on the third day, I ate my third – the Samoa. Made with vanilla bean cake, filled and frosted with buttercream frosting, and topped with toasted coconut, caramel, and dark chocolate, it surely is reminiscent of the classic Girl Scout cookie. The cake, despite me eating it on Saturday night after purchasing them on Wednesday night, was still fluffy and delectable, not stale at all. The buttercream being both inside and on top was a bit much for my taste, but the coconut added a nice layer of texture. This cupcake certainly was enjoyable, but I think it would be even better if it had been made with coconut cake rather than vanilla – the flavor of a samoa was there, but not as much as I would have liked it to have been.

 

If you’re looking for a new, exotic twist on a classic dessert, definitely give The Cupcake Station a try! In addition to the Ann Arbor location on East Liberty, there are stores in Birmingham, Plymouth, Rochester, and Ferndale, which is home to my all-time favorite ice cream shop (a post on this will eventually come!). Take advantage of their monthly flavors – the Not Yo’ Mamma’s Pancakes flavor as well as the Whiskey’ed Away are both September flavors and they were fabulous! And if you’re weary of spending money on these sizable desserts (there are discounts for buying half dozen or dozen boxes, as well as different specials throughout the week to make your inevitable addiction a bit easier on your wallet), there are mini versions of each flavor made daily. Definitely hit this spot earlier in the day, though – I went around 8pm and many flavors were completely gone or very low in quantity, and others were only left in miniature! I plan to visit sometime in the morning on a Wednesday when full size cupcakes are buy two get one free!! Check out one of the multiple locations, branch out, and try something totally new; you won’t regret it!

mi primer aventura a Aventura

Anyone who is relatively familiar with aa has surely heard of Aventura. Famous for its various tapas, Aventura surely packs a punch to the tastebuds (and slightly to the wallet). I have been hearing rave reviews of this dimly lit traditional Spanish restaurant for years, so when my mother came to visit and offered to take my roommate and I out to a meal away from the dining hall (at Aventura, no less!!!), I was quick and grateful to accept!

Upon entering, I was not expecting the fancy atmosphere the dimly lit and delicately decorated space gives off, but it was not intimidating by any means. Overall, the restaurant’s indoor (I believe there is some outdoor seating) has a very sleek appearance with black furniture and brick accents. Each table had a pop of color provided by a single pink/red flower and was illuminated by a small candle, contributing to the aura.

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We had a difficult time ordering – possibly the most difficulty I have ever had when ordering, and I am a very indecisive person – as we had planned to order a few different tapas to get a taste for the cuisine. After several minutes of intently scanning the Spanish dishes and their English descriptions, we finally ordered a total of four tapas to split among the three of us.

The first item we received was off the pinxto (defined as skewered snacks on a grilled baguette) section of the menu, called Alemndras y Piña. In our severe hunger, we devoured the single slice of baguette immediately, so unfortunately I do not have a picture to provide. But, I promise it looked and tasted fantastic!

This dish was a slice of toasty baguette topped with a spread of goat cheese, a slice of candied pineapple, thyme, and almond pieces. The goat cheese had the slight tang that makes it so unique, which paired brilliantly with the warm, juicy, sweet pineapple. There was a thin carmelized outer layer on the pineapple, offering new layers of flavor and texture. Thyme and almonds round this concoction out, providing a savory flavor and a slight crunch, in addition to the crispy bread. While this plate only was a single slice of baguette, I would be willing to pay to eat this again – the ingredients were in perfect proportion, making for ideal flavor complements.

Next came our two orders off the tapas (small plates) section of the menu. We were very excited to taste these after we all loved the first dish! Or maybe we were just still ravenous…

The Patatas Bravas were described as “an Aventura favorite” in the menu, so naturally, we had to order it. And oh my… was this amazing. A bowl of crispy potatoes reminiscent of French fries arrived, topped with brava sauce (we were unsure of the contents of this sauce, but agreed it had a smokey/barbecue taste), honey aioli, paprika, and a sunny-side up egg. The scent was heavenly, and the bites were even more so. After ensuring we broke the yolk, we each took a portion and devoured. The smokey brava sauce was in perfect balance with the sweetness of the honey aiòli, while the egg yolk thinly coated the potatoes in a richness. It is safe to say this might have been our collective favorite of the night.

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After the savory and slightly sweet patatas, the Datiles Con Chorizo followed with a mostly sweet, but also a spicy and savory, taste. These four dates wrapped in thick bacon sitting upon a bed of spicy chorizo were absolutely mind blowing. While my roommate, who is not a fan of dates, did not enjoy this dish, my mother and I loved the dramatic contrast of the dates’ sweetness and the chorizo’s spice, which was mediated by the bacon. This was a contender for my personal favorite dinner dish.

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After tasting these exotic pairings, our coca (Spanish flatbread) came to calm down our taste buds a bit before dessert. While this Huevos y Chorizo coca did not contain dramatic differences in flavors, the soft flatbread baked with chorizo de español, chili flakes, parsley, and oregano and topped with arugula salad and a sunny-side up egg definitely did not leave us searching for something extra. Once again, we of course had to break the yolk of the egg to add that rich layer.

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While these portions were all fairly small for three people to share, the combination of all four left us feeling full. However, I have heard nothing but great things about Aventura churros, so it was essential that we placed an order. Five churros in a black skillet were served alongside a cup of thick, dark chocolate, and suddenly our appetites returned. Upon biting into the churro, there was the crunch of the cinnamon sugar coated exterior, which soon gave way to the light and fluffy pastry inside. Other churros I’ve had in the past have sometimes had too thick of an outer layer from absorbing too much oil, but these were unbelievably delightful. The chocolate gave a richness that complemented the airiness of the pastry well. I do have to say, though, that I enjoy the Mexican and Cuban style of churros and chocolate more, simply because of the spices that are added in the chocolate.

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While we were between dinner and our churros, I noticed Flan de Cabra (goat cheese flan) on the menu, and was dying to try it. So this arrived after our churros, and we ignored our expanding stomachs. This flan was unlike any other I’ve had, due to its strikingly similar texture to that of cheesecake – it had the creaminess and density I associate with cheesecake, but was accompanied by marcona almond pieces, honey, and stone fruit. I did not realize what fruit was on top until revisiting the menu later, but I assumed it was apple, as it had the taste and texture of apple that one would find in an apple pie, or other apple dessert.

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Needless to say, my first Aventura adventure was phenomenal, and I can’t wait to return (but my wallet can…)! If you’re looking for a nice meal out, possibly as a date or with family when they come to visit, definitely give this place a try! I intend to eventually try one of their three paellas, and would love to try cochinillo (roasted suckling pig, a Spanish tradition). Getting a small taste of Spain was awesome, and I cannot wait to study abroad there in a few years!

new city, new cuisine

hi all!

I’ve begun this blog to document my culinary adventures as I spend the next four years in Ann Arbor studying, sampling the extensive menus in the area, and beginning my life. in addition, I will post about experiences at restaurants outside the Ann Arbor area as well as my own creations!

I so look forward to sharing these exciting + yummy times with you all!!