Tag Archives: Detroit

Detroit’s Best: Gemmayze is Gemmayzing

Royal Oak's New Gemmayze: Lebanese Kitchen and Lounge

There is no shortage of Lebanese restaurants in metro Detroit, a region that is the most concentrated area of Arab-Americans in the U.S.  This is quite convenient for someone whose heritage is half Lebanese and loves to come back to Detroit for a traditional meal of grape leaves, kibbe, hummus, tabbouleh and other dishes that evoke childhood memories and are difficult to find as perfectly-prepared as I can enjoy at home. When I do go back to Detroit, there is a shortlist of Lebanese restaurants that my family tends to visit, so it’s rare to get us to break habit, try something new and be delighted by it. But on a recent trip back home, we went to visit a new restaurant in Royal Oak called Gemmayze {pronounced je-maisy and named after the hip SoHo-like district in Beirut,} a kitchen and lounge that is focused on introducing the best of modern Beirut to a community that is already familiar with traditional Middle-Eastern cuisine. The result is outstanding.

The modern atmosphere is a welcomed upgrade to the typically over-decorated, mural-walled Lebanese restaurants we usually visit. With two levels of seating, outdoor dining, a full bar, and an open kitchen with a brick oven for continually produced fresh puffed pita, Gemmayze has created an exciting atmosphere that gives its diners an accessible peek into the secrets of Lebanese cuisine.

But while atmosphere can only get you so far, especially in an area that knows a thing or two about what hummus should really taste like, it’s the menu that really sings an artistic tune.

Gemmayze Hummus

My first point of critique is always with hummus. I’ve eaten my fair share of blended chick peas in my life and there is certainly a wide range of outputs depending on who made it and their chosen ratio of beans:tahini:lemon:garlic. While many fail the hummus taste test, Gemmazye did not disappoint, sending out a smooth and creamy version that is made so by slow cooking the chick peas to tenderize the bean and enable the perfect consistency for flawless blending. There was just the right amount of lemon and garlic to make their hummus a dish that didn’t last long when scooped up with the hot-from-the-oven homemade pita. A successful introduction to the rest of our meal.

Gemmayze Fattoush

We decided to forego ordering any entrees and instead ordered up a varied selection of appetizers. The Fattoush was fantastic — a salad that is typically served with lettuce as the main component, Gemmayze’s version eliminated the leafy green in favor of the other typical toppings: sweet crispy cucumbers, bright red peppers, juicy tomatoes, onions and the all-important crisped pita, all tossed in a lemon-sumac dressing that adds a lovely citrusy-spiced flavor to the otherwise straightforward veg. Amazing.

Gemmayze's Sumac-Encrusted Seared Tuna

The Sumac-Encrusted Seared Tuna was an innovative take on a typical American pepper-encrusted version. It was fresh, light and a welcomed addition what we would ordinarily order when we sit down for a Lebanese meal. A menu must.

Gemmayze's Grilled Baby Lamb Chops

And while we’re on the topic of exciting additions to what we typically think of when ordering Lebanese food, let’s add the insanely succulent Baby Lamb Chops to the list. While lamb is central to the Lebanese diet, it usually takes the form of ground lamb kibbe or kafta. I have never eaten a lamb chop as juicy and flavorful as what Gemmazye served up on their menu. They are available in a small appetizer version — good for a few quick bites, or as a main entree if you’re craving more. These chops are perfect for less adventurous eaters who doesn’t want to try the typical raw lamb dish, kibbe nayee, which also exceeded expectations {a very important thing when you’re venturing into the raw meat world.}

Kibbe Nayee

One of the best surprises on the menu and a menu must: Ara-yes Halabi. Sadly devoured before a photo could be taken, this app consists of kafta stuffed in bread and toasted. Sounds simple, but the spiced kafta in the crispy bread was a new Lebanese dish for our family and we all agreed, it was the best thing on the table.

The Skim: It’s nice to see an innovative food scene on the rise in Detroit. It’s especially nice to see that even though I’m used to mama’s traditional Lebanese food, a place like Gemmayze can take the best of tradition, add a few exciting modern twists and package it all up in an atmosphere that appeals to both the past and next generation of Detroiters. In my opinion, they’ve set the bar very high for Middle-Eastern cuisine.

Map: 310 S. Main St., Royal Oak
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 248.399.4900

In Detroit? Motown Musts:
Best Breakfast: The Chocolate Gallery Cafe
Best Dessert: The Chocolate Gallery Cafe
Detroit’s Slows Bar-B-Q is Quickly Becoming a Motor City Beacon
Home for the Holidays, Having Italian to Write Home About @Bucci
Going Back to the Old Country @ New Yasmeen Bakery

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Al & Ry’s Revolutionary {Meat} Pies

A Dozen Delectable Pies

Every now and then something revolutionary comes along in the food world and I stop to think — how do I get my hands on THAT, right now? I’ve dined at many restaurants across the globe, from hole-in-the-wall gems to slick molecular-gastronomy geared establishments. I’ve visited several 10,000+ vendor food shows, crowded with purveyors looking to launch the next big trend. But my most recent discovery hit close to home {and perhaps rocked my world} because the product is an innovative twist on something I’ve been eating since the day my mom transitioned me to solid foods: The Meat Pie.

A Meat Pie Defined: A fresh baked, warm bread pocket that you can take anywhere. Growing up in a Lebanese family, we ate these little pockets of goodness often — at family functions, on nights mom didn’t want to cook, as snacks on the way to after-school tennis practice. While we only ever had two flavor options, meat or spinach, these pies were SO good, I never thought twice about wanting anything other than meat or spinach.

But on a recent trip home to Detroit, said world was rocked. A new food start-up called Al & Ry’s Meat Pies, started by a 30-something friend of mine and her boyfriend, is taking this traditional pocket of goodness and transforming it into an updated pocket of greatness.

Al & Ry's Chicken Enchilada, Tomato Caprese, Sausage & Peppers Pies

Al & Ry’s homemade meat pies are filled with a variety of meats, cheeses and fresh vegetables. Choose from Taco, Slider, Sausage & Peppers, Reuben, Chicken Enchilada, Beef Stroganoff, and Jalapeno Popper with Bacon. Meat-less pies are also available in Caprese and Roasted Veggie. AND, a new Breakfast Pie with scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and cheese just rolled off the line {hello hangover cure!}

I sampled a few of these and can honestly say I wouldn’t be able to pick a favorite from the line-up. The dough is light and airy and each is stuffed with a combination of flavors we’re used to eating elsewhere, but fits perfectly into these pockets. I bought a dozen to serve at a family barbecue, cut them in half to make them last longer — long they did not last, they were gone in a matter of minutes. The Chicken Enchilada Pies were  juicy with only a slight spicy {and welcomed} kick to them, the Caprese Pies were stuffed with the sweet concentrated flavor of sun-dried tomatoes and creamy fresh mozzarella with fresh-picked basil, and the Sausage & Peppers Pie was like having a ball game all wrapped up in a perfect hand-held pocket. I also sampled the Slider and Breakfast Pies and can attest to their brilliance. I can’t think of a better snack to pull out of the fridge after a long night at the local watering hole.

Seriously, I don’t know if I can ever look at those traditional meat and spinach pies of yesteryear the same again. Why didn’t someone think of this before?! — take the casual foods we love, and put them in a fresh handmade pocket that can be eaten on the go or whenever you want a DELICIOUS, but quick snack. The best part about them is they are all made from scratch, using only fresh ingredients, so throw some in the freezer and you have a healthy snack whenever you want. I could see these being the perfect thing to have on hand for lunch or dinner when you’re in a pinch, to serve as a fantastic appetizer for an impromptu party, or even take on the boat or to the local park for a picnic.

Taking A Bite Out of Al & Ry's Caprese Pie

Al & Ry’s Meat Pies currently only serves the Michigan area and are available for catered events, mid-week meals or late-night snacking. They are also available hot and fresh at Ye Olde Tap Room — perfect snack to wash down with a cold draft. Get ’em while they’re hot!

To Order: Email Alison or Ryan at al.ry.meatpies@gmail.com

Other Detroit Delights:
Best Breakfast: The Chocolate Gallery Cafe
Best Dessert: The Chocolate Gallery Cafe
Detroit’s Slows Bar-B-Q is Quickly Becoming a Motor City Beacon
Home for the Holidays, Having Italian to Write Home About @Bucci

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Do This!: Vote for The Chocolate Gallery Cafe for Best Breakfast

Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

It’s that time of the year again — I’m calling in all my favors to get you to vote for my Aunt and Uncle’s family-run restaurant, The Chocolate Gallery Cafe, which has been nominated again for Detroit’s Best Breakfast Award.  If you live outside of the Motor City and your first response is “I’ve never eaten there,”  all you have to do is take a look at the picture above to know and trust it is well-deserved.  I’m asking for this favor not only because I think it is THE BEST, but because as a small family-run business, an honor such as this is essential to keeping the coffee flowing and the omelets flipping — so do your part and spread the love!

They have been nominated for and won countless local and national awards, which speaks volumes for the love and passion they pour into their family run business. While The Chocolate Gallery Cafe has been crowned the 1st place winner for the past two years and placed in the top 3 for the past four, it IS the undying energy they pour into their food and service that is the most compelling reason to support, visit and love this family cafe. So read on, drool over the pictures of their food, VOTE and then tell any friends or family you know in Michigan to stop by for a meal they are sure to enjoy!

The Chocolate Gallery Cafe opened its doors over 17 years ago, but got its start even earlier when a love for chocolate and hours of experiments in a home kitchen resulted in the recipe for their famous award-winning Chocolate Buckingham Torte. So rich it has royalty in its name. The award-winning Chocolate Buckingham Torte is layered to perfection, with a chewy brownie bottom, creamy chocolate mousse center all topped off with crunchy English toffee and whipped cream florets that provide the ideal contrast to its other rich layers. The answer to every chocolate lover’s quest for the perfect dessert, this torte is the jewel of my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Chuck’s boutique cafe.

Chocolate Buckingham Torte

With many food fans clamoring for their desserts and a catering business taking off, The Chocolate Gallery decided to settle on a home and open a quaint cafe in Warren, Michigan, where their talents could be showcased and enjoyed on a regular basis — breakfast, lunch or dessert!

And thank goodness, because have you ever had something as delicious as Strawberry Stuffed French Toast (pic at top)? Made from thick cut french bread, stuffed with cream cheese and fresh strawberries, heated to crispy perfection and topped off with a warm homemade strawberry puree — 100% deliciousness!

Not extravagant enough for you? Like the line between breakfast and dessert to be crossed? Not surprising that The Chocolate Gallery Cafe does too! And so was born The Very Berry Stuffed French Toast, topped with a drizzle of premium chocolate and homemade whipped cream.

Very Berry Stuffed French Toast

More of a traditionalist? How about the Fresh Blueberry Pancakes to satisfy your morning sweet tooth? Light and fluffy, they are the perfect breakfast bed for those sweet Michigan blueberries to burst with warmth on.

Fresh Blueberry Pancakes

A Menu Must: And for those of us that are just plain ‘ole egg lovers, The Eggs Benedict is out of this world. Topped with homemade hollandaise sauce and served with a side of cafe potatoes, this savory selection wins my vote.

Eggs Benedict

Hungry yet? Dreaming of breakfast or a sweet treat? Hopefully you live close enough that a visit to The Chocolate Gallery Cafe can be a reality, but if not, for now you can support this sweet cafe with a click of a button and a vote to win Best Breakfast in DetroitThe Chocolate Gallery Cafe is also available for Full Service Catering, Chocolate Fountain Rentals and custom sweet treats, including Truffles and Molded Chocolates.

Map3672 Chicago Road, Warren, Michigan
Reservations: Not Taken (Open Thurs-Sun 8am-2pm)
Phone: 586.979.1140
Photos: John Martin Photography

 

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Home for the Holidays, Having Italian to Write Home About @Bucci

Bucci

There are a handful of places I love to visit when I go home to Grosse Pointe to visit my parents — one of them is Bucci, an unexpectedly good Italian bistro worthy of a New York City corner, but nestled between a barber shop and a physical therapy storefront in suburban Michigan.

Bucci, the childhood nickname of Chef and owner, Bujar Mamuslari, was established in 1999 and has been packing seats with its open kitchen concept ever since. The extensive Italian menu was inspired by Bujar’s travels throughout Italy during a summer culinary school internship. Hitching a ride from town to town, Bujar was welcomed into the kitchens (and generations of nonna’s family secrets) in homes spanning the knickers to the heal of Italy’s boot.

Sitting at Bucci’s kitchen bar this evening, we had a front row seat to witness how all those countryside learnings inspired Bujar’s own stateside venture. There was so much going on at once, it was hard to keep track of it all. As our waitress chatted with us, she uncorked our wine and shouted out our calamari order to the chef, who with a nod, relayed to the line cook to toss the squid and peppers onto a sizzling pan, all while throwing the makings of, what I counted to be, 30 take-out orders into pots and pans for expedited boiling and saucing. Down the line, the third cook was expertly lining up each of the take-out containers, filling, stacking and double checking each order before moving them aside for pick-up. All of this was over in a matter of minutes and the three behind the counter were back on point, preparing dishes for the dining room. Easy entertainment while we sipped our wine and tore at our fresh Italian bread.

Back in suburbia, entrees still come with a soup or salad (why doesn’t anyone do this in NYC?) It’s not just a small, wilted pile of mixed greens drenched in house dressing. No, at Bucci you can have any salad off the menu as a side to your entree. I went for the spinach salad with crumbled blue cheese, walnuts and dried cherries, all tossed in a lovely bright lemon dressing.

For my entree, the Veal Pizzaiola topped with fresh tomatoes, herbs, olives capers and parmigiana reggiano was calling my name. The meal itself, was a thing of beauty, but what added to the artful presentation of Italian flavors was a crafty little plate painting drawn using oils and vinegar in the shape of a flower.

Veal Pizzaiola

Generally with Christmas around the corner I would have saved room and passed on dessert, but there was mention of a homemade hazelnut semi-freddo, enrobed in a warm chocolate sauce — one order, 3 spoons please! Just as no dish before it, the dessert did not disappoint.

Hazelnut Semi-freddo

 

The Skim: Next time you find yourself in the Detroit area and looking for a hearty meal reminiscent of a trip to Italy, pay a visit to Bucci. Everything from the fresh, warm bread to anything on the actual menu will have you thinking your Italian grandmother is in the kitchen. And whether you’re chatting with Bucci, his wife or any of the friendly staff you will feel as though you have been welcomed into someone’s house for a home-cooked meal.

Map: 20217 Mack Avenue, Grosse Pointe Woods, MI
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 313.882.1044

More From the Motor City:
Best Breakfast: The Chocolate Gallery Cafe
Detroit’s Slows Bar-B-Q is Quickly Becoming a Motor City Beacon
Going Back to the Old Country @ New Yasmeen Bakery

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Detroit’s Slows Bar-B-Q is Quickly Becoming a Motor City Beacon

Detroit's Slows Bar-B-Q

Despite being a city that has largely fallen to corruption, been abandoned and left for broke, there seems to be a lot of positive attention on Detroit these days – TV shows, Oscar nominated movies, NY Times articles, documentaries. Regardless of these outside influences, Detroiters remain proud of and hopeful for the Motor City on their own. When some small gem succeeds against all odds, the buzz spreads quickly drawing crowds that give the establishment a feeling of being part of a more populous metropolis.

So when the NY Times wrote a piece on Slows Bar-B-Q, I figured it was time to pay a visit to this Motown miracle while I was home for Thanksgiving. Despite being a Monday night, the tables were full and the projected wait exceeded 20 minutes. To pass the time, we grabbed a craft beer from a selection of about 20 local and national artisanal brews and perused the menu. I was happy to learn that all the meat is sourced from Niman Ranch, a network of family farms that raises its livestock sustainably, using all-vegetarian feeds and no antibiotics and added hormones.

Slows Pulled Pork Sandwich "The Reason"

After we finally got a table, we ordered several items from the menu to sample a little bit of everything. By far the best thing we ate was “The Reason” – Niman Ranch pork butt, smoked slow and pulled, bathed in Slows sauce and topped with a signature crispy and slightly spicy coleslaw, thin dill pickle strips, and served between two thick slices of Texas toast. With a selection of Slows sauces on the table, we were able to adjust the flavor of everything we ordered to our liking – spicy, sweet, apple-based, mustard-based, and even a seasonal sauce. I would also highly suggest the mac ‘n cheese – an item that is a perfect companion to any good BBQ, Slows uses jumbo macaroni shells and a generous amount of gooey, melty cheese to make each bite truly rewarding.

Slows Bar-B-Q Sauce Selection

 

The Skim: If you happen to be in Detroit and are looking for a Reason to appreciate this once-thriving city, be sure to add Slows Bar-B-Q to your list of memorable Motown stops. The Detroit renewal may be slow coming, but it’s through establishments such as this that will continue to inspire growth and polish the city’s tarnished image. While you may be tempted to order their smoked, dry rubbed ribs, take my recommendation and go for the juicy, flavorful pulled pork sammie – it’s named such for good Reason.

Map: 2138 Michigan Avenue
Reservations: Not Taken

Phone: 313.962.9828

Craving BBQ?:
18 Favorite Meat Dishes For Men & Barbeque Heaven @Fette Sau
SF Best: RoliRoti Rolls Out Revolutionary Rotisserie
recipe goodness :: red chili-lime cornbread muffins

8.ate@eight #3: Went Whole Hog and Hog Wild @ the Big Southern BBQ

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Do This!: Vote for The Chocolate Gallery Cafe for Best Dessert

You may remember back in July when The Chocolate Gallery Cafe was up for Best Breakfast in Detroit.

Do This!: Vote for The Chocolate Gallery Cafe for Best Breakfast

I wrote about it. You voted. They won!

And now this sweet little cafe, my Aunt and Uncle’s gem, has been nominated for Best Dessert in Detroit by AOL’s City’s Best and I’m asking you to vote again. Just because you haven’t eaten there {why haven’t you?} or don’t live in Detroit, doesn’t mean you can’t cast a vote and support their family run business from afar. They have been nominated for and won countless local and national awards, which speaks volumes for the love and passion they pour into their family run business. This year, The Chocolate Gallery Cafe has been nominated again for AOL’s City’s Best Dessert award, so read on, drool over the pictures of their food, vote and then tell any friends or family you know in Michigan to stop by for a sweet bite they are sure to enjoy! {Also makes for a crowd-pleasing treat to bring to holiday parties}

Here’s a cyber taste:

The Chocolate Gallery Cafe opened its doors over 16 years ago, but got its start even earlier when a love for chocolate and hours of experiments in a home kitchen resulted in the recipe for their famous award-winning Chocolate Buckingham Torte. So rich it has royalty in its name. The award-winning Chocolate Buckingham Torte is layered to perfection, with a chewy brownie bottom, creamy chocolate mousse center all topped off with crunchy English toffee and whipped cream florets that provide the ideal contrast to its other rich layers. The answer to every chocolate lover’s quest for the perfect dessert, this torte is the jewel of my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Chuck’s boutique cafe.

Chocolate Buckingham Torte

Chocolate Flourless Decadence Torte

Hopefully you live close enough that a visit to The Chocolate Gallery Cafe can be a reality, but if not, for now you can support this sweet cafe with a click of a button and a vote to win Best Dessert in DetroitThe Chocolate Gallery Cafe is also available for Full Service Catering, Chocolate Fountain Rentals and custom sweet treats, including Truffles and Molded Chocolates.

Map: 3672 Chicago Road, Warren, Michigan
Reservations: Not Taken (Open Thurs-Sun 8am-2pm)
Phone: 586.979.1140
Photos: John Martin Photography

Want Something For Your Effort?

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