Smokin' Downriver — The competition for your barbecue dollar is heating up. Now that barbecue restaurants dot the metro area from Clarkston to Corktown, from Ann Arbor almost to Algonac, we have our first entry in the Downriver area. It's called Real Bar BQ. The specialty is dry-rub-spiced, slow-roasted pit-style barbecue, slathered with your choice of sauce: sweet barbecue, house recipe, Buffalo-style, honey mustard or really hot. Drop in at 3695 Dix-Toledo Rd., Lincoln Park; 313-769-5010; realbarbq.com.
Online gardening — Well, you can't really garden online, but you can follow the efforts of a local group of urban farmers online at the blog of Rising Pheasant Farms. Self-described as a "small-scale, family-owned and -operated urban farm on Detroit's east side," they specialize in quality, naturally grown produce, cut flowers and sunflower shoots." The Rising Pheasant Farm folks sell their locally grown produce in Eastern Market, where you may have seen them. What's more, they deliver their produce by human power — that is to say, pedal power. Take a look at their blog to see the trusty trailers they hook to their bikes to bring wares to market! See risingpheasantfarms.blogspot.com.
Lobster love — Buca di Beppo, the national chain that aims for the feel of a neighborhood Italian joint, has just announced its summer lobster specials menu, including lobster fonduta, a lobster Caesar salad, lobster fra diavolo pizza, and lobster ravioli in rosa sauce. They've even suggested a wine for pairing, the dry, white Fontana Candida frascati. Drop in for a taste, in Livonia (38888 Six Mile Rd.; 734-462-6442) or Utica (12575 Hall Rd.; 586-803-9463). For more details, see bucadibeppo.com.
Gezondheid! — Congratulations to Cadieux Café on Detroit's east side. The historic Belgian haunt has been singled out by the Daily Meal website as one of the best bars for Belgian beer in the United States. They were the only Detroit bar to make the cut in the coast-centric listings. See it yourself at thedailymeal.com.
Month for mouths — You know how, every few years, Congress, the president or some association decide to designate a month for a certain food? July is a little overboard when it comes to these commemorative designations. According to our sources, July is National Culinary Arts Month, National Baked Beans Month, National Blueberries Month, National Ice Cream Month, National Hot Dog Month, National Pickle Month, National Banana Month, and Lasagna Awareness Month ("awareness"?). Oh, it's also National Recreation and Parks Month, as well as National Picnic Month. Remember, however, during your picnic, while you feast on beans, franks, dills, blueberries and banana splits, to lock your car securely. Why? It's also National Vehicle Theft Protection Month.
Food/Thought — The venerable Dorothy Zehnder of Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn reveals nearly 300 of her favorite recipes in Come Cook With Me: An 80-Year Collection of Recipes, Wisdom and Stories from My Own Kitchen. Zehnder, nearing her 90th birthday, still puts in about 60 hours a week at the Bavarian Inn, where she turns out many of these recipes. The dishes resemble those found in church and regional collections, rich and comforting: asparagus chicken divine, breakfast fettuccine Parmesan, as well as Bavarian Inn dressing and Bavarian Inn apple kuchen.
Bottoms Up — Summertime, and the drinking is easy — at least when you're gulping down a wine like F�mega Rose. Produced in Portugal from a blend of mostly Tinta Roriz (aka Spanish Tempranillo) and a handful of other white grapes that usually make up Vinho Verde, F�mega Rose is a low-alcohol, dry, pink wine with enough acidity to take a deep chill without losing all of its character. Crisp with flavors of strawberry and green apple and a mild herbal finish, this $8 wine should appeal to just about everyone at your picnic.
The Works — It's one thing to julienne carrots, zucchini and other root vegetables with a sharp chef's knife, but quite another to create matchsticks of them. The perfect device is a Kinpira Peeler, the Japanese tool that resembles a vegetable peeler with an extra grooved blade that makes quick work of the task. The strips of carrot embellish cole slaw, while strips of ginger are thin enough to enhance the appearance and taste of a stir-fry without requiring the somewhat difficult process of grating and without overpowering a mouthful of the dish. Find one at many Asian markets locally or at wokshop.com.
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