Searching for the perfect Rueben Sandwich

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Ever since I had my first Rueben Sandwich, I have had a love affair with the sandwich. When I see the sandwich on a menu, my stomach seems to say please order the Rueben. The traditional Reuben is corned beef, Swiss cheese, Russian or Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut on a grilled rye. Each restaurant seems to put their own twist on the Rueben. Some work and some don’t.

I went to the Stage Deli in West Bloomfield, MI where I had had good food in the past. I saw a Russian Rueben on the menu and ordered. This one was Pastrami, coleslaw, Russian dressing, Swiss cheese on a grilled pumpernickel.

Although this one was not the traditional, it was a very good Reuben. I tasted the coleslaw before biting into the sandwich and discovered that it was a bit bland so I added a spicy mustard to the sandwich. The pumpernickel bread added a robust flavor not usually encountered. The grilling adds a crust to the outside of the sandwich and aids in the eating process. The substitution of coleslaw for sauerkraut added a crunchy texture to the mix. So, the sandwich was a new and very good experience. I’m sure I will continue to seek the perfect Rueben. The Detroit Metro area is a big place and I don’t know where the journey will lead me.

Spencer Barefield Quartet at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe

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Last night on June 5, 2014 I went out to see the Spencer Barefield Quartet at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. This is a place where the food is also something to remember.

I got there in plenty of time and was seated at a table where it was easy to see and hear the musicians. There is a little note on each table reminding patrons not to talk during music. It did not deter the ladies next to me. However, they were talking quietly and were not really a disturbance. They had the special of three courses for $ 30 and I found that it was too much for me to eat the last time I went so I order a starter and an entree of things I had not ordered before. Taking pictures of the food is so difficult since the lighting during the music is red and it colors the food. So I will describe it as well as I can.

The starter I ordered was fried onions. They came after they served me some different kinds of bread with an herbed butter. The bowl of fried onions was large enough to serve as a starter for two or three. They were very thinly sliced sweet onions which had been dipped in a batter and fried to a crisp. They were served with a curry garlic aioli and with a spicy ketchup. They were great dipped in either sauce. I ate about half and the waitress asked if I wanted them to start the entree. I did.
I had ordered what they call the Fork and Knife Burger. It was once ground beef on a garlic toast with cooked spinach, mushrooms, a fried egg, a thin slice of foie gras topped with béarnaise sauce. It was large and more it was served with French fries. I was stunned by the size of the meal. It was wonderful. All the flavors went so well together. It was cooked medium rare just as I wanted.. Next time I ll order this alone. It is enough. I took home portions of the fried potatoes, fried onions and half of the burger.

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Left to Right: Djallo Djakte (percussion), Dave Young (bassist), Spencer Barefield (guitar) and Dwight Adams(trumpet).

Although I was eating and a split attention can make it harder to listen, they did a great job of having a balanced set that went with the atmosphere. I had not heard either Spencer Barefield or Dave young before. I can only say I enjoyed the set a lot. What I liked was that each of the musicians had a place to shine during the set and all of them did. None of musicians dominated and it was one of those times when you here people playing together and making each other sound better.

The two numbers I liked the most were “Nigerian Marketplace” and “A Night in Tunisia”. On “Nigerian Marketplace”, Dave Young took the lead since he had played this with Oscar Peterson. I liked it and came home to see other versions on YouTube. I am relatively new to jazz and sometimes when a song is in my head, I like to hear more of it. And this was one of those nights. The good thing about “A Night in Tunisia” for me is that it is familiar. When they play a familiar song, I like to see what they can do with it. And I enjoyed their version.

It is so good to hear a set of mature musicians who know what they are doing and do it so well.

Northern Lights Lounge on May 14, 2014

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Last Wednesday night I went to Northern Lights Lounge to see the Mike Jellick Trio. And Mike was in New York replaced by Zion Israel. I was a bit disappointed. So, I decided to make it a little adventure and ordered the “Lava Wings”. I had been disappointed at another restaurant with the hot wing recently and remembered seeing this one on the menu. The best part is that appetizers are half off the price on Wednesday night.

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The wings were hot and tasty. The blue cheese dressing cuts the heat just enough. And the wings were good. They were done without being dried out. My mouth had a flood of heat cooled by the rich taste of chunky blue cheese dip.

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Left to right: Zion Israel, Miles Brown and Jesse Kramer.

About half way through the set, I got over my snit and was able to listen to the music. It was so different than what I had been expecting. I was so good in its own way though. I was fully won over by the last tune of “Caravan”.

Sunday Evening at the Cadieux Cafe

20140513-203615.jpgLeft to right: Dwight Adams, Damon Warmack, Gordon, Sasha Kashperko

Last Sunday was one of the first evenings this years that didn’t require a jacket. The trip to the East side of Detroit is about 45 minutes and with my new car, I didn’t have to worry about the for a change. I arrived a little after the quartet was supposed to start playing. And they were not playing.

The group was put together by Damon Warmack and I knew he would have a good group of musicians. But, this was Mothers Day and many spend time with family for the day. Or, musicians play as background music in various restaurants where people take their mothers for brunch or dinner. I spotted Damon immediately. He was waiting for Dwight Adams( trumpet) who is one of my favorite musicians.

I talked to Damon for a few minutes and went to a table to sit down and order the “hot wings”. I was looking forward to the meal. Just thinking about it made my mouth water. I ordered and anticipated. The waitress was new and when she deliver the wings, she delivered them with only one napkin. The wings are completely covered with a spicy, hot barbecue sauce. Eating them with a knife and fork does not work. Each wing is picked up and dipped in the blue cheese dipping sauce. The dipping sauce cuts the spicy sauce just a bit. I like to wipe my hands after each wing. And after finish with a hand wipe before washing my hands in the bathroom. They are really messy.

This time though they were different. I think they made the change the last time I was here. I didn’t like it then and the wings were disappointing. The barbecue and dipping sauce were the same. They changed the wings. The wings were fatty. They had globules of fat in each wing so the texture was off. Eating unmelted chicken fat is not a taste I want I my mouth. I did get the extra napkins and hand wipe. I do not think I will order them again.

On the other hand, the music selections were really pleasing. The group did all Miles Davis tunes. With Dwight Adams playing trumpet, the interpretation of Miles could not have been better. They started with “So What”. Coincidentally, I have been playing Miles in my car and it was fun hearing another version. Damon carried his weight as usual and added some great runs on the bass guitar with that number. Sasha is relatively new on the scene and is a very good player. However, I think the volume of his guitar is too loud as compared to the other instruments. Sometimes you can’t hear the other players. He’ll learn. The drummer, Gordon, is also new on the scene. He has a lot more maturity than many young drummer which means he is not all about how loud he can play. I really was enjoying the music.

As the set went on though I began to have indigestion. Wing attack. I left after the first set so I could go home and take care of myself.

BLT Heaven

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Each year I work a seasonal job and right now is the season. Yesterday I helped one of my coworkers and he bought me lunch. We have a restaurant in the strip mall where I work called Crispelli’s. He asked me what I wanted and I said the BLT.

The sandwiches from this place last for two meals. The BLT is my favorite BLT of all time. It has at least 5 slices of thick sliced applewood smoked bacon. Even at this time of year, the tomatoes taste like summer tomatoes. They have the rich tomato taste without any mealiness. The lettuce is crisp Romaine lettuce which adds a whisper of a bitter bite. They make their own bread and the taste and texture is a major addition to the sandwich as a whole. They also make their own chips. The chips are warm when they are added to the bag. Each element of the lunch complements the rest.

The picture is what was left after lunch. Guess what I had for dinner last night?

My Cheesy Holiday

20131223-162542.jpgTop Row: apple, pear, Touvelle cheese, Somerdale Red Dragon cheese. Second Row: Smoked Gouda, Havarti with Horseradish, Wensleydale Abbot’s Gold Cheddar with Carmelized onions, Somerdale Harlech (cheddar with horseradish and parsley)Third Row: Cheddar, Havarti with dill, Extra Sharp Cheddar.
I really like cheese. More times than not there is cheese in my refrigerator. Recently though, I have had a cheese explosion.

It all started when I was shopping to take something to my son’s house in Ohio for Thanksgiving. I thought cheese would be a good afternoon snack while waiting for the turkey. While I was walking through a local store, I noticed some cheese samples and crackers. I tasted one of the cheeses and it was ok. Then, I tasted another cheese and my immediate though was that this was the best cheese I have ever had. The cheesemonger suggested another one and it was almost as good. I got the Red Dragon and the Wensleydale with carmelized onions. The Red Dragon is cheddar combined with ale and mustard seed. It is a wonderful creamy cheddar with a bite at the end with the mustard seed. The cheddar with the carmelized onions has such a depth of flavor, it is amazing. I took both of them on my visit. And they were eaten in short order. When I got home, I got some more. They are so rich that one or two crackers are enough. The smell is so strong that when I open one, my dog Bonnie makes an appearance at the kitchen door. Her nose knows.
It is overwhelmingly wonderful.
I already had the Havarti with dill and extra sharp cheddar on hand. Then, I got a Christmas package from my aunt and brother and more cheese with the apples and pears. I’m just so glad cheese lasts a long time if it is wrapped carefully.