Archive for May, 2010

Wheatberry Tavern & Restaurant

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Wheatberry Tavern & Restaurant
15212 North Red Bud Trail
Buchanan, MI

Good Food : 3.5/5 | Good Service : 3.5/5

A night when we didn’t feel like cooking ended up with us trying a new local restaurant. Wheatberry Tavern is located in a town not really known as a tourist destination, so this intrigued us. Their extensive beer/draft menu also appealed to my husband.

Even though we went on a Saturday night, we didn’t think that it would be that busy, as Buchanan is a small sleepy town. So we were surprised when we pulled into the parking lot at 7:30pm and it was full – a very encouraging sign. We only had to wait about 15 minutes for a table, and were also pleasantly surprised that the restaurant was 100% nonsmoking, prior to the May 1 Michigan statewide smoking ban taking effect.

Wheatberry advertises themselves as ‘a regional American restaurant & smoke house’, taking pride in using local sources for their kitchen. We were impressed by the interesting mix of main entrees, barbecue items and sandwiches on their menu.

Reflecting their slightly quirky sense of humor, the staff dress code consists of casual pants with shirts that remind you of the striped shirts worn by car mechanics or gas station attendants. It’s a little touch of humor that brings a smile to your face when you walk into the door.

Attention to service was inconsistent – we sat at the bar before being seated for at least 5 minutes before the bartender took our drink order. And this was despite 1 other waitperson running behind the bar. Table service was also a little lax – we did not have any silverware when we were seated, so when our appetizers came out (a cup of the house tomato soup and crabcakes), we spent at least 5 minutes trying to wave down one of the wait staff.

Having read several articles on the 2 owners’ food philosophy, my expectations were pretty high going in. The tomato soup was very good – it wasn’t a sweet soup, but leaning more toward a herb-based/savory soup. No cream was in the soup and I was glad to not get the standard bag of saltines or oyster crackers, as they would have distracted from the flavor. The crabcakes were unfortunately lukewarm by the time we got our silverware, and were heavily mixed with breadcrumbs, creating a very dense bread-y cake. The lemon-chive aioli drizzled on top was very tasty, but there wasn’t enough of it.

I decided to order one of their signature vegetarian dishes (Three Sisters) and my husband decided to sample their barbecue (beef brisket with sweet potato fries and the house slaw). Presentation was great – my dish was a colorful mix of different local vegetables, and my husband’s barbecue was cleanly plated

Food highlights included :

  • Perfectly roasted seasoned veggies in my dish, with a very flavorful light cream garlic sauce.
  • A coleslaw that didn’t hit you over the head with vinegar or mayonnaise, but was lightly seasoned and almost acted like a palate cleanser
  • The BEST sweet potato fries we’ve ever had – crispy & crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside and they were fresh-cut vs. formed!

There were several hiccups which we could not ignore :

  • While the roasted vegetables in the pseudo hash in my dish were well cooked and seasoned & the slightly creamy garlic sauce had good body and taste, I was shocked to discover that the polenta cake/frybread had little to no taste. You could see the dried herbs that had been mixed into the polenta mixture, but the other flavors in the dish overwhelmed and created a texture-only item. A newspaper article that published the recipe confirmed the lack of salt in the ingredients list.
  • The brisket slices in my husband’s dish had good flavor and were pre-slathered with the house bbq sauce, but it was evident that the beef could have gone several more hours in the smoker, as the individual slices were still chewy despite having been sliced on the bias.

And the noise level in the main dining area created a constant din of voices, which didn’t die down until about 2/3 of the dining room was empty.

Overall, we will definitely be going back for ’round 2′ ….

No Smoking Ban for Michigan

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

It finally happened today! Michigan was able to pass a no smoking ban on workplaces, which includes restaurants and bars! Now we can enjoy our food without the aura of nicotine. Read more about the law at the Michigan government website.

Market Bar

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Market Bar
One Ferry Building
The Embarcadero at Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

Good Food : 4.5/5 | Good Service : 4/5

When I am in San Francisco, I always make sure to stop by the Ferry Building at the far north end of Market Street. This building was renovated several years ago into a gourmet food marketplace. You can find not only food vendors such as Cow Girl Creamery, Acme Bread Company and Recchuiti Chocolates but also several restaurants, cafes and delis to satisfy your food cravings.

I decided to have dinner one night at Market Bar. The challenge with trying to do dinner at the Ferry Building is that most of the restaurants don’t stay open past 9pm. Market Bar is one of the few places which stays open past 9pm. They are located in the far east end of the building, a little away from the main foot traffic area.

The night I went, Market Bar was doing a prix fixe menu, so I decided to try that. First course was a mixed green salad. I chose the Wagyu beef skirt steak with shoestring fries as my main entree, and had the key lime tart for my dessert option.

The salad was a pleasant mixture of baby greens & grape tomatoes tossed in a light vinaigrette dressing. My skirt steak was perfectly cooked – a proper medium with a pink center and a beautiful sear on the outside, cut into long strings against the grain. The steak pieces melted in my mouth due to the texture and the amount of fat riddled throughout the meat. And the fries were perfectly crisp. My only disappointment was in the dessert – the graham cracker crust for the mini-tart was too thick in proportion to the tart custard.

Service was mostly good, but a little spotty. The dining room was not even half full when I arrived, and while I was seated immediately it took a little time for the waiter to come to my table & take my drink order. Attention to timing after that though was spot-on, with no delays between the pickup of my finished dishes and the entrance of the next dish. Like most California food establishments, they have gone to ‘green’ food packaging and my leftovers were packed into a paper-based takeout box which did not have any plastic coating.