Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Day-Long Food Fest

Oh, man, Sunday was an incredible festival of food!  Tom, Jeremy and I started out in Berkley, at O'Mara's Irish Restaurant on 12 Mile at Coolidge (as opposed to Coolidge at 12 Mile ... inside joke, after my father corrected me for phrasing it improperly).  It was an occasion for Tom to meet my parents, for me to visit with Tom's dad and stepmother again, for Jeremy to meet some of Tom's family ... it was -- as Tom succinctly put it -- "Lunch with the In-Laws" despite there not even being any engagement let alone a marriage.  It was a convenient way to phrase a complicated arrangement ... and it's kinda sweet, too.  And we needed to play yenta and get all of the old(er) folks together, since my parents live in Birmingham while Tom's live in Royal Oak ... they're practically neighbors!

I'd never been to O'Mara's before, but it was well worth the schlep across 696; Jeremy -- who has recently embraced being 1/8 Irish with a manic devotion -- has now declared it his new favorite restaurant.  There was a beautiful mural of charming Irish doorways along one wall, a gigantic Guinness mirror on another wall, and just a warm, friendly atmosphere with no one rushing anyone out the door.  I never got to look at a menu, because a Sunday brunch that was exceptionally good -- with lots of choices for everyone (from good eaters to picky nuisances) -- was already waiting for us: a beautiful assortment of breads and rolls, a lovely green salad, a gorgeous fruit tray, tuna pasta salad, macaroni and cheese, bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, corned beef hash, hash browns, French toast, a variety of cakes and pastries, and -- the absolute pièce de résistance -- some of the best scalloped potatoes I've ever eaten (which both my mother and Monica, Tom's stepmother, had raved about before we went up to the table to peruse the offerings).

Now, anyone who encounters me for even a few brief moments knows at least two things about me: I'm not shy about being the first one up at the buffet table, and I'm also not shy about going up for seconds.  But I didn't want to be a glutton -- not to mention being unable to eat the breakfast meats because the ubiquitous sodium nitrite gives me migraines -- so I exhibited restraint and stuck to salad, fruit, mac 'n' cheese (it was home-style, with real cheese on top ... how could I resist???), the divine potatoes, and splitting small pieces of luscious mocha and lemon cakes with Tom.  (Still recovering from the hamantaschen binge of Purim, no massive quantities of food were on the agenda.)  I enjoyed myself immensely, always happy to eat and to converse and to eat a bit more.  And everyone else seemed to enjoy both the food and the company, as well; our parents even compared notes on afternoon naps and having doctor appointments as their primary source of entertainment ... groan.  My father and Gary (Tom's dad) were similar sorts who long for the good ol' days and an old-fashioned work ethic, while my mother and Monica were the last to leave the table because they were so congenially engaged in conversation with each other.  "Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match ...."

After that, we went to my new favorite grocery store: One Stop Kosher Food Market at 10 Mile and Greenfield in Southfield.  I'd been there once before, a few weeks ago, and only had sufficient time to peruse the perimeter ... but that was enough for me to fall in love at first sight.  I felt right at home, as though I were back in NYC where I grew up, shopping side-by-side with Orthodox Jews wearing yarmulkes and wigs and tzitzit and black hats.  And the food -- oh, the food!!!  Bagels and rugelach (crescent-shaped cookies, usually with a chocolate or a fruit filling) and babka (an exceptional coffee cake) and knishes (single-serving savory "pies" with a variety of fillings, from potato to cheese to -- oh, my God!!! -- pastrami) ... I was in my gluttonous glory just absorbing it all!

I bought some Bazooka gum (sugar and all, I'm sorry to say) because the writing on the wrappers was in Hebrew.  I bought some cotton candy (more sugar, virtually nothing but sugar) because it was made by Manischewitz (which has a very special place in my heart after inviting me to be a semi-finalist in its 2nd cook-off) and the container would be perfect -- priceless! -- for bringing lunch items to work.  (I have a very strong sense of whimsy, it seems.)  I bought chocolate-covered matzahs, because that's one of my favorite Pesach (Hebrew for "Passover") foods and the price was better at One Stop than I find it to be in Ann Arbor.  And I bought another box of my beloved Alef Beis (alphabet) cookies so that I can not only have a treat to enjoy with cocoa or with tea, but so that I can practice reading Hebrew by forming words with the cookies ... my equivalent to eating Alpha-Bits or alphabet soup and playing with my food!  I even bought a container of something called "Whip," which is a non-dairy cream.  In order to make baked goods that are pareve [PAHRv] -- neither meat nor dairy -- for my Jewish friends who keep kosher, as well as being able to provide treats for one who has a dairy allergy, I use Earth Balance vegan butter substitute and soy milk or yogurt; but now I can melt some pareve chocolate chips with Whip and even make a glaze or ganache or frosting, as well.  It takes so little to make me happy ... :)

And then, once we got back home, it was on to my food for the Oscars.  I'm not much of a t.v. fan, but will admit to watching the occasional movie on Turner Classics (usually an MGM musical), baseball (lots of baseball ... lots and lots of baseball!), the Tonys, "Monk," and the Oscars.  I care a bit about who wins the awards, but not a lot since I usually haven't seen many of the movies.  But I love to see the clothes, even though I know this makes me seem very shallow and inane ... oh, well, we all have our moments.

For the show, I offered a buffet with not much of a theme other than simply not requiring any utensils -- I'm not Wolfgang Puck, after all, making Oscar-shaped pumpernickel bread toasts with lox or mini gold leaf-covered chocolate statues!  (In a previous life, I might have tried; but now ...?)  We ate a tropical chicken salad (minced chicken, papaya, pineapple, toasted coconut, and a curried coconut milk sauce to kinda/sorta/maybe bind it together) dolloped onto crispy rice crackers, fruit, an assortment of vegetables for dipping, some exceptionally good salt-and-pepper kettle cooked potato chips, and an experimental dip for which I should win some sort of prize:

1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon each cumin and paprika
1/2 teaspoon Ras el Hanout -- a Moroccan spice blend
a splash of Tabasco
a pinch of kosher salt
a sprinkling of Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon of my new favorite condiment -- Polish Mustard From Hell

And I made peanut butter cookies -- adding both chopped honey-roasted peanuts and peanut butter chips -- because ... well, who needs a reason???  They're fabulous, soft, crumbly, rich, delicious, and addictive.  It's sort of surprising that there are any left, but then I did bake a lot of them ....

So, that was my Sunday -- eating food, buying food, making food, eating more food.  Not a bad way to end the weekend!

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