Welcome to Get Sauced!

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I am a PR pro, marketer and fundraiser. I enjoy writing about food, wine, and craft beer. I'm a social media junkie who is always looking for the next great app. Follow me on twitter.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Arts du Jour serves up tasty event preview

Getting ready for Arts, Beats and Eats? One thing you can count on, there will be plenty of good food. I enjoyed an appetizer of the “eats” portion of the festival last week at Arts du Jour. Fifty of metro Detroit’s finest restaurants, sweet shops and more provided samples for all who attended.

There were several standouts. The soon-to-be-open Hamlin’s Corner dished up some fine salmon filet soft tacos. 2 Unique Caterers presented an heirloom tomato cobbler that was filled with fresh flavors, and Mitchell’s Fish Market presented a simple plate of boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce.

One of my favorite sections was the area under the tent featuring Streetside Seafood –oysters on the half shell, and Town Tavern with their dreamy lobster mac and cheese. I may have gone back for another sample. Just a bit down the table, Café Muse served up some delicious slow cooked beef. Holly Hotel prepared a tasty lobster chowder chock full of lobster meat and sausage.

Crispelli’s was under the tent, serving up a prosciutto carpaccio salad with arugula, white beans, and some thinly shaved Romano cheese.  One of my favorite guilty pleasures of the night was the sweet potato tots at Rosie O’Grady’s – served up in paper cones with several sauces available for dipping.

Southfield’s Beans and Cornbread offered rib tips and signature cornbread, while Slab-N-Slice served up ribs that were just plain delicious. BlackFinn’s bacon wrapped meatloaf was a pleasant surprise. Following along the comfort food theme, Polish Village Café offered a duo of their delicious pierogies—with an eye on saving room for other things, I stuck with one potato pierogi and it was divine.

There was plenty of Mexican style offerings, notably Armando’s and Zumba, and a couple noodle dishes including several choices from Noodles & Co.

I stayed away from dessert—was basically too full, but you can count on the Cookie Cool Cookie Company, Hudsonville Ice Cream, Just Baked and Schakolad at Arts Beats & Eats this year.

Nine nonprofit organizations are slated to receive 75 percent of the proceeds from Arts du Jour. and event attendees were able to choose which of those organizations their ticket benefits. The recipient organizations are Forgotten Harvest, Gleaners, Arthritis Foundation, South Oakland Shelter, Boys & Girls Club of South Oakland County, The Rainbow Connection, Rose Hill Center, Michigan Pet Fund Alliance and Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan.

The 15th annual Ford Arts, Beats & Eats, Oakland County's Taste, Music & Arts Festival, will be held over Labor Day weekend in downtown Royal Oak, August 31 – September 3, 2012. Follow the fun on twitter and Facebook too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shopping Matters teaches Detroit

A confession. Grocery stores frighten me. I’ll go to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, no problem. But a place like Meijer– with aisle after aisle of far too many choices for any single item, just makes me nervous.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I joined a recent Shopping Matters class for bloggers, hosted by the folks who run CookingMatters.  The latter is an amazing program that teaches low income and food insecure people how to cook, shop, and get the most bang for their grocery buying buck.

Six of us toured Meijer’s in Troy, starting with fresh produce.  Led by chef Jake Williams, we learned several things:
  • ·         Grocery stores are arranged to encourage the average person to spend one dollar per minute of shopping
  • ·         By shopping with a plan and a full stomach, you can avoid the calculated temptations that encourage consumers to overspend
  • ·         Reading food labels and comparing unit pricing allows you to spend wisely on healthier items
  • ·         Turkey bacon has just as much fat as regular bacon, and you’re really better off just eating regular bacon—trust me on this one.
After our tour, we were dispatched on a mission—spend $10 (and not a penny more) on groceries to provide a healthy meal for a family of four—hitting all five food groups.  Lucky for me, I came with a recipe in mind. The trick was whether or not I could stretch those dollars to buy all the ingredients I needed.

Here’s what I bought: A bag of brown rice, two large orange peppers, one can each of black beans and  diced tomatoes with green chilies, one bag of shredded cheddar, and an avocado.  I came in at $9.71, (FTW!) and I’ll make Southwest style rice and beans stuffed into orange pepper halves, with some avocado slices on the side.  See a future blog post for specifics.

Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters™ is a nationwide, groundbreaking nutrition-education program that teaches adults and teens how to prepare healthy, tasty meals on a limited budget. In Michigan alone, Cooking Matters reached more than 1600 participants through 132 courses last year.  That’s a lot of people learning to cook and eat healthy!  

Through Cooking Matters, professional chefs and nutritionists volunteer their time and expertise to lead hands-on courses that show participants how to purchase and prepare nutritious foods in healthful, safe and tasty ways.  Cooking Matters Michigan is part of a national program, and partners locally with Gleaners Community Food Bank, in Detroit.

Cooking Matters is seeking volunteers. For more information, contact Vani Sohikian, MPH, at 313.923.3535, ext. 202, or email her at vsohikian@gcfb.org.   You can also connect with Cooking Matters on Facebook and Twitter  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Shrimp Scampi makes a quick and easy meal

Is there anything simpler than shrimp scampi?
It’s a dish I love.

I rarely order shrimp when dining out. Basically, they never give you enough shrimp. I’m always left wanting more.  So I make shrimp at home—lots of it. If I’ve got time to grab fresh shrimp, that’s great, but for those days that I get suddenly inspired to make shrimp, I always keep a bag of frozen from Costco around.

A favorite at our house is Shrimp Scampi--

Start with the noodles, get them boiling. Five minutes in, start the shrimp.
Clean the shrimp, remove the tails and pat them dry with a paper towel.  Season with some lemon sea salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil and butter in a saucepan. Add a little minced garlic and chopped shallots. Toss the shrimp into the pan and let cook for two minutes. Turn them over and add some fresh chopped parsley, while slightly turning up the heat.  After another minute, add some fresh lemon juice and a splash of white wine. The noodles should be done by now and resting in a colander. Throw the noodles back into the pan and add the shrimp. Toss together and start plating.

Delicious food doesn't get any easier.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Crispelli's in Berkley offers fresh, fun Italian options

We stopped in at Crispelli’s in Berkley recently, seeking a casual dinner without a lot of fuss, and without going broke. I think we achieved all three, although the whole process of ordering your food takes a minute to get used to.

If you haven’t been to Crispelli’s yet, here’s what you need to know—

The food is good. My wife and I split a large white pizza (listed on the menu as simply “Prosciutto”) topped with aged prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and arugula. There were four slices left to take home, so we could have ordered a small, along with our entrée size Caesar. The salad was crisp and the dressing homemade—and plenty for the two of us. The pizza was delicious, with that nice slightly charred crust, as a result of the 700 degree brick oven. The crust was thin, but not paper thin or crunchy. The mozzarella and prosciutto were top notch.

Kids ordered turkey sandwiches. Real roasted turkey, with arugula, mayo and cheddar, on house baked rustic Italian bread. On the side was a large helping of “crispelli chips” –house made thick sliced potato chips, nicely salted and simply irresistible. The menu also offers Panini sandwiches and daily soups.

Drinks—there’s three or four beers on tap including at least two Michigan craft beers. Wines by the glass and homemade Sangria round out adult beverage choices. Italian sodas and regular old fountain coke/sprite, etc, are available. Wine is also sold retail here, and if you’d prefer, you can pick up a bottle at a decent retail price to have with your meal. A small corking fee will be added.

Now about the food ordering confusion that some people gripe about. It’s not that tricky. It’s “market style”, which people in other big cities have been enjoying for years.  Simply place your order at separate stations for pizza, salads, bakery, sandwiches, desserts, drinks. I left my credit card at the beer/wine station—ordering beers while waiting for our table. We ran a tab for the rest of the food, just as you’d do if sitting at a bar. After enjoying a great meal, I cashed out. No brainer.

Crispelli’s is an attractive, casual spot that’s family friendly and a good value. Find them at 28939 Woodward, Berkley, and on Facebook.   

What I'm Eating: Crab and Pasta Salad

What do you do when it’s too hot to cook?  How about crab and pasta salad?

It was already a hot summer morning. Temperature was going to reach 100. I was wasting time on browsing facebook, when I came across a recipe for Crab Pasta Salad, posted by my friend Annabel Cohen. Annabel is a local chef, writer, professional traveler, and great foodie.

Anyway, back to the crabs. I looked over the recipe and it sounded pretty easy, especially since it involved very little to do with stoves or ovens, other than the boiled water for pasta.

Here’s what you need:
12 ounces small uncooked pasta shells—I used farfalle
1 pound (1 large can) crabmeat
1 1/2 cups chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped Bermuda onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 pint small grape tomatoes, halved or 1 1/2 cups diced seeded tomato
1/2 cup fresh chopped dill
1/2 cup mayonnaise, (or thick Greek-style yogurt) (or more to taste)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
Fine sea salt (or kosher salt) to taste (I used lemon sea salt)
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Here’s what you do:
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until just al dente (it should be pretty firm – do NOT overcook – I beg of you).  Drain and rinse with cold water and drain again well.
Transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss well with clean hands or a large spatula.  Adjust seasonings to taste. Chill until ready to serve and toss again just before serving.  Makes 4 servings. 

I served this with fresh Motown Multigrain rolls from Avalon Bakery. Deeeelicious.

What’s your favorite recipe for a hot summer night?

What I'm Eating: Fried Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts-- an often misunderstood veggie. I mean, what is it anyway?  It looks like a mini cabbage. It has a fairly strong taste, and if you had a mother who thought boiling them for I don’t know, hours, was a great idea, you are probably repulsed at the thought of eating this vegetable.

Enter Michael Symon.  A true Iron Chef, and well known fan of bacon.

I was at his restaurant Roast a while back, and before going, I asked around and kept hearing this recommendation for fried brussel sprouts.  Did I hear this right?  Could people really be recommending a veggie as a standout dish?  Rather than say, pork belly or some other super delicious meat item?

Anyway, long story short, we order the fried brussel sprouts and were amazed.  Crispy, bacony (is that a word?), none of that pungent awful overcooked green flavor I remembered from my childhood.

So impressed with this creation, we’ve made it ourselves a few times now. 

First take some pancetta—three thick slices.  Chop it up, and toss it in a sautee pan with a little olive oil.  After a minute, add a chopped shallot or two.  Let the fat render a little, and add some chopped garlic. 

While that’s cooking, take each brussel sprout and remove the bottom nub. Cut in half and peel away any dirty leaves.  Once the fat has rendered enough, toss them into the pan. Let the whole mixture cook for 5-10 minutes, until the brussel sprouts begin to get soft.  Deglaze pan with dry white wine. Cook a little longer until everything looks nice and crispy. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

You’re done!

We enjoyed this dish with grilled filet mignon and roasted potatoes.

Royal Oak's 2 Unique Caterers does it all

I was looking for a top notch caterer, while planning a “major” birthday party for my wife.  Being a foodie, writing food blog posts and restaurant reviews, the pressure was on to find a caterer that would live up to the expectations of our guests. 

I had toyed with a couple ideas. Seafood—a big lobster and clam bake?  Or maybe just make several paellas myself?  No way-- too labor intensive.  Chicken Shack?  Super tasty, but not quite right for this special evening.

Asking around, a friend pointed me in the direction of 2 Unique Caterers in Royal Oak.  The name sounded familiar, and I realized that I’ve had their food at Arts, Beats & Eats, and the prelude fundraiser, Arts du Jour. I gave them a call.

On the phone, Kate (PR Ninja) was super friendly and helpful. I told her what I had in mind, number of people, etc., and she emailed me a bunch of menus with several options. After some consideration, I gave her the basics of what I wanted, and she adjusted quantities based on number of guests. Here’s what we had:

We started with a baked artichoke dip. Served warm, it was rich and creamy, which played well against that certain “tang” you get from the artichoke. The dip came with assorted crackers and flatbreads.

Next up, some forest mushroom tarts—again, rich and delicious individual phyllo dough filled tartlets of mushroom ragout. My wife, the mushroom queen, sort of swooned at first bite.

The chicken satay skewers were great. Cooked perfectly, they came with a peanut satay sauce. Next up, my wife loves coconut shrimp. These didn’t disappoint. Sizeable cleaned/deveined whole shrimps, dusted with a tasty crunchy coconut and breadcrumb coating, and some tangerine sauce for dipping.  Heating instructions were provided for all of the above.

Finally, our guests enjoyed a platter of beef tenderloin. Roasted to a perfect medium rare and hand sliced, the beef was seasoned well, practically tender as butter, and served with balsamic grilled onions and roasted peppers, and some mustard caper and horseradish sauces. On the side were a variety of artisan rolls for making sliders. Several comments on the flavor, perfect doneness, and tenderness.

In all, I’ve got to highly recommend 2 Unique. We ordered for 20 people, 23 came, and we had a bunch of leftovers. Everyone was happy with the food, and the customer service was outstanding. 

Kelli L. Lewton is owner and chef for 2 Unique Caterers & Event Planners, and purefood2u. Chef Kelli’s passion for fresh food and personal service led her to create 2 Unique in 1991, and purefood2u organic meal delivery in 2008. Chef Kelli began her culinary career at Schoolcraft College of Culinary Arts, where she worked in a number of fine dining establishments before launching 2 Unique.

You can find 2 Unique online, on Facebook, Twitter, or the old fashioned way at 248.549.5242.