Ann Arbor switch-up — Earlier this year, we had announced that the busy crowd at Ann Arbor's Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery would have more elbow room. The restaurant expanded its seating capacity by acquiring the adjoining space of Café Habana, which moved downstairs to 207 E. Washington St., becoming Habana Cellar Lounge. It turns out that the arrangement was temporary, as Café Habana is moving into a brand-new space of its own, into the former space of the venerable Parthenon restaurant, which closed March 31, at 226 S. Main St. The owners say the space will get a complete revamp, so expect a space with decor leaning more toward Havana than Athens. And what will become of the basement space Habana leaves behind? Expect a joint called Mash, a "bourbon, whiskey and beer bar," with beer made in-house, along with whiskey and bourbon from distillers around the country. Given the buzz generated by bars for the enthusiast (such as Ann Arbor's Last Word), it sounds like a promising venture.
Italian renaissance — About a month-and-a-half ago, Maria's of Royal Oak quietly opened. Owner "Buddy" Orlando copied the menu of the beloved restaurant his father ran in Ferndale. It has the same warm, pleasant, nostalgic feel, with a seating area, a bar, and behind it an open kitchen. Located at 112 Catalpa Dr., Royal Oak; 248-439-6645.
Scottish revival — If you've thirsted for good Scottish beer too long, rejoice! Scotland's best-selling beer, Tennent's Original Lager, is now available here in the United States for the first time in three years. Tennent's is said to be made with 100 percent Scottish malted barley and pure water from the Scottish Highlands. That's the kind of talk that gets us thirsty. One of the first outlets in Michigan to have it will be Champane's Wine Cellars, at 7007 Chicago Rd., Warren; 586-978-9463.
Made in America — Buzz is building for Gastronomy: A Modern American Bistro, the latest restaurant from the Epicurean Group, whose other restaurants include the No. VI Chop House and Coach Insignia. Gastronomy touts itself as a modern American bistro offering four-star food and service, in an unpretentious, relaxed environment. The idea behind this "American bistro" is that "no ingredients in the kitchen, or wines on the list, will come from foreign soil; even down to staple items like salt, olive oil, or coffee." If not exactly locavore, it's an interesting premise. They're poised to open soon (they hosted a fund-raiser this week) at 1 Towne Square, Southfield; 248-864-4410.
Chef shout-out — Pastry chef Patricia Nash, who works at the Motor City Casino Hotel, was among four individuals recognized with a Cutting Edge Award recently during the 2012 American Culinary Federation National Convention in Orlando, Fla. Congratulations, Chef Nash!
Know of any interesting upcoming food or drink events? Let us know. Call 313-202-8043 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the Farmers' Market with Kids: Recipes and Projects for Little Hands
Leslie Jonath & Ethel Brennan
Chronicle Books, $22.95
Our nation is faced with an epidemic of childhood obesity, a result of diets high in fat and sugar. Children need to eat nutritional, healthful meals. What better place to start than a farmers' market, where food isn't just fresh but also bursting with natural flavors and nutrients? Leslie Jonath & Ethel Brennan's At the Farmers' Market with Kids: Recipes and Projects for Little Hands is a guide down a path to good health that will be fun for kids to follow. Each recipe includes steps that allow even toddlers to help in the preparation. They'll love making edible dried-fruit bracelets, for instance.
the works This handsome Kuhn Rikon avocado knife is a simple-to-use all-in-one tool that cuts, pits and scoops the flesh from an avocado. Use the serrated edge to cut the tough skin, the two teeth to remove the pit and the curved knife tip to remove the flesh in one piece in case you want to stuff it or to use uniform slices in a salad. Or cube the flesh, dice some onion and tomato and mince a hot chili. Add some salt and lime juice and mash it all for a perfect guacamole. We found the knife at Amazon for $12.