Yes, February is National Celebration of Chocolate Month. And, sure, Valentine's Day is coming up. So there's going to be some pressure to provide the sweets. But what if you could make them yourself, add a bit of personality, and save a bit of money? Craftsy.com instructor and chocolatier Gayle Harte (of Gayle's Chocolates) is offering a complimentary online course "Dipped, Dusted & Rolled." The high resolution, professional online video course is meant for everyone, from novice to experienced. Raw materials for Harte's course can be purchased at any grocery store, but Harte is also offering a $25 pre-made Chocolate Making Kit that includes 2.5 pounds of chocolate, enough to make 60 truffles, as well as special gift-worthy packing materials. To learn more, see gayleschocolates.com, call 248-398-0001, or drop in at 417 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak.
Downtown will soon get another lunch choice, with the opening of a 3,000-square-foot Olga's restaurant in Detroit's Compuware Building. The new joint is scheduled to open in March.
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Sear, Sauce and Serve: Mastering
High-Heat, High-Flavor Cooking
Running Press, $20
Frosty weather is made more bearable thanks to the aromas of slow-simmering braises, their meat falling off the bone into rich, tasty gravy. Tony Rosenfeld's Sear, Sauce and Serve: Mastering High-Heat, High-Flavor Cooking (Running Press, $20) offers simple alternatives when lack of time is a constraint. He explains the techniques of sautéing, grilling, stir-frying or broiling meat, poultry, fish and vegetables, providing recipes for marinades and sauces. Most of the dishes require less than half an hour. The author considers the costs of the ingredients, suggesting cuts of meat that won't break the bank. No pictures, but invaluable tips.
the works There's no better skillet for searing than one made of cast iron. It's durable, will probably last forever (although we've only used ours since the early 1970s), and can withstand high temperatures on a stove, in a fireplace or over a campfire. Lodge cast iron products are forged in the United States and, given their quality and longevity, they are sold at bargain prices — $34 for a 12-inch skillet, perfect for frying chicken, cooking a pot of jambalaya, hash browns, biscuits and even pineapple-coconut upside-down cake. The variety of sizes and shapes all come pre-seasoned.
Back in the blue-collar days when people came to Royal Oak for its army-navy store, Gusoline Alley was but a typical joint; now it's more a relic of bygone times in an increasingly ritzy downtown. Beneath the orange glow of a streetlamp, Gus' gas pump mascot still squirts beer into an overflowing mug. Inside, a wall of hunched-over backs fill up their tanks at the bar, cashing in on the drink specials that run Sunday-Thursday and feature deals like $2 Miller, Labatt or PBR, $2.25 well drinks and $1 off Bells. In steady rotation, people rise from the burn-pocked barstools to feed the jukebox, dialing up a schizophrenic playlist that perfectly reflects Gusoline Alley's Jameson-infused clientele: a perplexing mixture of grizzled regulars, blue-collar workers who just finished their shift, young people and a surprising number of couples — some of whom appear to be on first dates. The profanity-ridden bumper stickers, the bathroom graffiti, the no-nonsense bartender, and the strict cash-only policy make it perfectly old-fashioned — and the perfect place to get tanked.