Good cause — The good people at Detroit's Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS) have put together their 12th annual fundraiser, and it sounds like a fun, food-themed event. Called Soup City 2011, participants can expect plenty of soup, lots of sweets, and a bunch of live entertainment. More than 20 local restaurants will provide soups, breads and desserts, and to dance off the calories, guests will be treated to music from three — count 'em, three — stages. Performers will include the Jerry Ross Band, Arizona Son and even WDIV's Devin Scillian (pictured). The event's emcee will be FOX2 morning anchor Anqunette Jamison. All funds raised will help COTS in its mission to enable homeless families and individuals to get back on their feet. It all happens 5:30-10 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, at the Gem Theatre and Century Grille, 333 Madison Ave., Detroit; for tickets or information, call 313-576-0223; $50, tax-deductible.
Gardener's delight — OK, so the deep freeze of January may not seem a delightful time for metro Detroit's gardeners — at least those without a greenhouse! But it's a great time to curl up, pore over seed catalogs, and dream up next year's garden. Heirloom seed catalogs offer especially unusual possibilities, one of the reasons the popularity of heirloom vegetables has surged in recent years. The catalog of the Seed Savers Exchange is an excellent resource, one you can request online at seedsavers.org. Another catalog worth a look is that of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, online at rareseeds.com. And for the enthusiast who doesn't need full-color photos, the catalog of J. L. Hudson, Seedsman (jlhudsonseeds.net) is an unusual pleasure as well. Time to start dreaming, tillers!
Toasting 2010 — According to the Brewers Association, America's small and independent craft brewers had a banner year, opening 200 new breweries, with plans for 491 more. Even so, the group also said that demand continues to outstrip supply, even as some top-selling beer brands from large breweries even saw a decline. For a great beer state like Michigan, that's good news. We'll drink to that.
Food/Thought — Amanda Hesser devoted six years to culling and testing 150 years' worth of recipes contributed by notable chefs and food writers and published in The New York Times to create The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century (W.W. Norton & Company, $40). The tome contains 1,000 recipes that give a sense of the evolution of what we eat and relish today. From the 1879 recipe for bacon-larded potatoes to 2008's short ribs with coffee and chilies, you're bound to find plenty to satisfy your kitchen jones here.
Bottoms Up — Hungover? One cup of coconut water (the clear liquid inside young coconuts) contains more electrolytes than most sports drinks and more potassium than a banana. In fact, it is sometimes used as an intravenous hydration fluid in developing countries where medical saline is unavailable. Coconut water is also purported to soothe nauseated tummies. Did we mention that it's tasty? A lightly sweetened version with jelly-like bits of pulp, usually called coconut juice, is available in many local Asian and Mexican groceries, and pairs well with spicy food.
The Works — In this age of all things electronic, convenient and effortless, sometimes it helps the soul to return, even if just for a minute, to simpler days. One of the tools that has withstood the test of time is a hand-operated meat grinder. This one, the LEM #10 Clamp-On Hand Meat Grinder and Stuffer, harks back to days bygone. If you ever wonder what goes into store-bought sausage, make your own. Crank the handle and grind the meat and seasonings into the casing on the tube. Easy enough. The varieties are endless. We found this one for $50 online.