When in Rome … or Romeo

Letter From the Editor
1357

You wouldn’t visit an Olive Garden in Italy, would you?

During the holidays, I drove to California with my daughter. After the first day’s coffee- and fast-food-fueled 12-hour drive deep into Missouri, we decided that any chance we got, we’d sample local specialties instead of resorting to safe and predictable national chains.

Near lunchtime, we approached the Texas border — that meant barbecue! I knew that one of the country’s best regional magazines, Texas Monthly, had hired a barbecue editor. (A barbecue editor? Seriously? I want one, too!)

While there are legitimate complaints about being tethered to our electronic devices, the cellphone can be one handy planning tool. I had my daughter Google “Texas Monthly, barbecue, Amarillo.”

The name “Tyler’s” popped up. It was right off I-40 in a converted Long John Silver’s fast food joint. Inside? The brisket was absolutely killer.

Better yet was the comment when I ordered Green Chili Stew. “Best decision you’ve made today,” said the guy at the counter. He was right.

We betrayed our tourist status by ordering a “pop” (it’s called a “coke” here, whatever the flavor). So Tyler himself came out to ask how we heard about them.

He shared his stew recipe and didn’t even ask me to sign a no-compete clause (and I can source the ingredients at Honey Bee La Colmena in Detroit).

That experience sealed the deal. The trip became a culinary adventure: A Navajo Taco with “fry bread” at Salsa Brava’s in Flagstaff, Ariz.; meatloaf and a shake at a Route 66 diner; and fresh seafood omelets at The Coffee Pot in Morro Bay, Calif.

I bought a cookbook at Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland — and not just because famed owner/chef Tanya Holland was there to sign it. I wanted her recipe for the best fried chicken ever (two secrets: an overnight buttermilk bath and only deep fry until crisp, then finish in an oven).

What does this have to do with Detroit? Sites like Thrillist and Eater have been singing our praises. Local chefs get invites to appear on those made-for-TV “competitions.” More seriously, we’re getting a fair share of James Beard Foundation Award recognition.

The bottom line: We have become a food destination. Guests from as far away as Europe have reportedly trekked north of Romeo to dine at The Mulefoot Gastropub in Imlay City. And from downtown’s Chartreuse to The Root in White Lake, our chefs are putting local ingredients to delicious use.

This issue explores where some chefs source veggies and pork, along with a visit to an experimental indoor fish farm. We talk special ingredients, from pine trees to Pop Rocks. We claim bragging rights about Michigan’s agricultural prowess, then touch on how to preserve that goodness for the long winter.

Other articles are Pure Michigan, too — stunning images from a night sky park and historic photo postcards that fetch big bucks on eBay. We also see what it’s like to work on the Detroit Tigers grounds crew.

By the way, the “buy local” trend is evident at Comerica Park. Next time you’re there, check out the Michigan craft beer stand. After all, if you’re paying ballpark prices, it might as well be for good beer.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to convince management to let me hire a barbecue editor … — Steve Wilke 

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