Fall into the season
A quick guide to seasonal dining — and beer
Published: October 26, 2011
What do we mean by "seasonal dining"? Well, this time of year, it means instead of leaner cuts of meat grilled for an instant, we can dig into heartier, fattier cuts that are cooked long and slow. We trade the lighter breasts of chicken for a crackling cut of duck. And not only do we anticipate fall foods, but our mouths begin to water for seasonal beers, including spiced pumpkin ales and other liquid delights. But it's not just for beer drinkers and meat eaters: There's evidence that even vegans can benefit from switching things up in the colder months, cooking their veggies and wilting their salads to ease digestion and avoid straining the system. With all this in mind, we put together a list of places that pay attention to what time of year it is. And we hope this shortlist helps keep us all in the swing of the season.
Assaggi 330 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-584-3499: Assaggi's diners have long known that the restaurant starts switching things up in the fall, given its knack for incorporating fresh seasonal produce. Diners can expect the new menu to include butternut squash, more braised meats, short ribs, and Bolognese pasta sauce, veal cheeks, switching out basils for sages and going for a more comforting effect. Though it won't be on the menu, you can often expect osso buco on special. And fall's wild mushroom blends should include shiitakes and creminis. Co-owner Josie Rotondo-Knapp says, "It's that time of year when people want to eat a little bit heartier, so you'll see more meats on the menu."
Atlas Global Bistro 3111 Woodward, Detroit; 313-831-2241: There's bound to be a breakfast item on the Sunday brunch menu at Atlas for any taste bud palate to go bonkers over. Such options include grilled-veggie benedict with eggplant, zucchini and Portobello mushrooms or their "C3" (Cass Corridor Cakes) which are made from a vanilla bean patter. Their lunch, dinner and dessert menus are transitioning to a fall theme, but with desserts including ginger carrot cake and lavender vanilla crème brûlée plan on bringing an empty stomach and an appetite to feast like royalty.
Detroit Beer Co. 1529 Broadway, Detroit; 313-962-1529: Oh, sure, the classic menu at DBC doesn't change very much, but the beers do rotate throughout the year. We expect their brewmaster Kevin Rodger has prepared enough pumpkin ale for the season, a spiced amber ale featuring an autumn snap all its own, or perhaps their black IPA. If you're lucky enough to walk in while they're brewing a batch of that spiced pumpkin ale, though, just follow your nose. Late fall and early winter will also have further rewards, such as a Russian imperial stout.
Due Venti 220 S. Main St., Clawson; 248-228-0220: Husband and wife chefs David and Nicole Seals present a Northern Italian cuisine seasonal experience. There's as much cultural history packed in the fine establishment as there is a wide array of food with a bit of France, Switzerland and Austria — Italy's border countries — thrown into the mix. The late grandmother to Chef Nicole contributed the beautiful paintings that fill the interior and exterior of the restaurant. They offer up everything from ice cream, fresh pastas, homemade bread, house smoked fish and poultry.
Eagle Tavern inside Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford, 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn; 313-982-6001: When food writer Michael Pollan suggested that we should eat as our grandparents did, he probably meant it slightly less literally than they do at Eagle Tavern. There, in a historic 1831 stagecoach stop, you'll find 19th century meals that do seasonal the old-fashioned way, before the advent of the 3,000-mile salad. And it's all presented with classic recipes, and dished out by costumed, accented servers.
Forest Grill 735 Forest Ave., Birmingham; 248-258-9400: The intimate, American-styled bistro tucked away in Birmingham's Triangle district sums their eating experience up by the phrase "cooking what nature provides." While that may seem quite broad, almost romantic, their seasonal-changing menu is concise, varied and less expensive now. They now offer a three-course "stimulus" deal; $15 for lunch, $30 for dinner. Vegetarians rejoice as their entrées include a drool-inducing Parisan Gnocchi of wild mushrooms and seasonal market vegetables.
Grand Trunk Pub 612 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313 961-3043: There's been a buzz building about the newly renamed (formerly Foran's) pub on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit — and with good reason: The food is good, the ambience is one-of-a-kind and the beer selection kills. Michigan seasonal brews now on tap include Bell's October, Octoberfest, Auburn Strawberry, Short's Nobel Chaos, and La Parcela Pumpkin Ale (with Arcadia Jaw Jacker on the way). And though there isn't a specific fall menu, many of the regular selections are hearty, including shepherd's pie and Jameson meatloaf, as well as Friday's special, lobster bisque, and the irregularly appearing but worth-it pork chops with stuffing and applesauce.
Inn Season Café 500 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-547-7916: Frequent winner of Metro Times' Best Vegetarian honors and a pioneering institution that dates back to 1981. Amber Poupore, Inn Season's general manager, says bringing local food to the table is vital to their mission. "We have reached out to so many local food providers. We're at the farmers' market five days a week. We buy into a CSA and have it delivered to us. We're using cornmeals from Michigan. We're using tofu from soybeans grown in Michigan. The local economy supports us and, if we continue to support that, we're just going to continue to expand." All this ensures that you're eating seasonal ingredients picked at the peak of freshness, and that the meals are season-appropriate, especially their specials, which ingeniously use whatever the bounty of the week is.
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