Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Noe and I just returned from a weekend in Michigan. Our original reason for going was my ten year high school reunion combined with finding some very cheap flights, but we ended up getting much more bang for our buck: Chet and Lorraine - our very good friends and former neighbors that moved to England when we moved to Connecticut - ended up coming through Michigan the week before we arrived and ended their stay in Ypsilanti with us. AND some of my mom's relatives that live up north and in Indiana were in town, along with my Uncle Jim. So Noe and I ended up attending multiple reunions of sorts.

Not only did I get to see all my favorite people, but I got to go to most of my favorite places. Being a whirlwind weekend, we kept it pretty casual. On Friday night after we landed (in Detroit via North Carolina - but that's another story) we headed immediately to Sticks/Aubree's to meet up with Chet, Lorraine, and our good friends Jen, Becky, Steve, and Rose, along with my sister Kristen (all of whom still live in Michigan).

Becky, Noe, Jen and me at Sticks

While Sticks is mostly known for lots of pool tables and great beer specials, they also have pretty good food. Lorraine and I were seriously craving some Aubree's pizza and feta bread. Aubree's has always had great pizzas (just the right ratio of crust, sauce, and cheese) with creative and delicious topping combinations. And as if the feta bread weren't enough, some genius invented spinach and feta pizza rolls - all that spinach and cheese stuffed into a garlicky, buttery crust. YUM.

Lorraine and Noe

With all the laughter and conversation, the night passed by quickly. It was 2:00 AM before we knew it. We parted reluctantly, but Noe, Jen and I were able to catch Chet and Lorraine for breakfast at the Bomber on Saturday morning before sending them back across the pond.

The Bomber, an Ypsi institution, is known mostly for the ginormous "Bomber Breakfast" (thanks, Food Network), a glutton's delight. However, if 27 sausage patties (OK, it's really more like seven) AREN'T your cup of tea, the Bomber has plenty of basic, hearty diner fare available, including some very good omelettes. I went for the Greek with feta, tomatoes, and olives (among other things) while Noe chose the Bomber omelette with ham, sausage, bacon, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and American cheese. To add to the Bomber's charm, it's located on a most rundown section of Michigan Avenue and has model airplanes hanging from the ceiling and WWII paraphernalia on the walls.

The Bomber's less-than-glamorous Michigan Ave location

Saturday night brought reunion night - and for me, Noe, Sophie, and Anthony, a great homemade dinner at Jess and Josh's apartment. I should have taken some photos of the interior, because Jess can seriously work wonders when given permission to paint and put holes in a wall. She can also work wonders with a pork tenderloin and a spice cabinet. When I do pork tenderloin, it is usually on the grill, rubbed down with herbs de Provence and basted in garlic oil. Jess kept the herbs de Provence but added several other spices - including just the slightest bit of chili pepper for an extremely subtle kick - and roasted the meat in the oven. The result? Delicious. The drink? There was only one choice for celebrating 14 years of friendship - Champagne.

She and I could have some killer dinner parties:
Jessica's roast pork tenderloin

Rosemary potatoes and stir-fried broccoli

We hit the reunion for awhile and enjoyed catching up with everyone. In the internet age, there aren't exactly many surprises, but it is always nice to see people in person.

Jess and I at the reunion

We finished the night off with a stop at Rose's, where her Mad Men party was still in full swing. Having come from the reunion, we were unfortunately not in costume (Rose and her buddies looked AMAZING), but still enjoyed vodka tonics and gin and tonics and a Neil Diamond/ABBA dance party in the living room of Rose's period-appropriate house.

Sunday was our last full day in the mitten. During the morning we hung out with Uncle Jim (he was staying with my parents as well) and then went to see Gran and Grandpa. Noe and I hit downtown A2 for a bit (I even bought some junk at Middle Earth, just like I was 19!) then headed to the family party at what is quite possibly my favorite restaurant in the world, Sidetrack.

Kris and Noe at Sidetrack

Sidetrack is a bar. It has a great, laid-back bar atmosphere and lots of great beers on tap (including that elusive Michigan favorite, Oberon). However, they also have GREAT food. I am obsessed with their burgers, but I've had salads, sandwiches, and more, and they have always been fresh and delicious.

But let's get back to that burger.

A Sidetrack burger is a beautiful thing. Half a pound of fresh-ground, hand-rolled beef cooked to order and topped with more or less whatever you could imagine. My toppings of choice? Bleu cheese, bacon, and grilled onions - nothing else. Medium rare.

The best meal in the world. Period.

I swear, if I ever by some misfortune find myself on death row putting in my order for a last meal, it's going to be a Sidetrack burger and a draft Oberon.

We had a low-key Sunday night with a campfire and some of Sophie's black bottom cupcakes (chocolate and cream cheese goodness - Soph, you must send the recipe). It was fun, but bittersweet as we knew we had to leave again the next morning.

I have a good life in Connecticut, but weekends like this make me realize just how much I truly do miss my Michigan (and England) friends - and my Michigan food. Hang in there, Michiganders - hopefully we'll be back again soon!

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