Buon compleanno We'd like to wish Ann Arbor's Gratzi restaurant a happy 25th birthday. Since 1987, Gratzi has not only enlivened Ann Arbor's dining scene with its northern Italian fare, but has sustained the sumptuous setting of the former Orpheum Theater. Join the celebration, at 326 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 888-456-3463; gratzirestaurant.com.
More in Milford Several new restaurants have opened this year in Milford. Since May, the Blue Grill (426 N. Main St.; 248-684-4545; thebluegrill.com) has been peddling the healthy fare of the Middle East, packaged in American-friendly formats such as pita wraps and toasted pita bowls. Le Rendez Vous bakery (239 N. Main St.; 248-714-6222) has been selling not just quality breads and desserts but has also embraced the crêpe format; owner Donna Rizk says the best-seller is called "the Opera," packed with spinach, dried cherries, walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette. Longtime local coney owner Tony Vulaj has opened Tavern 131 (131 S. Milford Rd.; 248-676-8888; tavern131.com), a warm, inviting space with a patio that can accommodate 50, an indoor-outdoor fireplace, and flatscreen TVs for the sports addicts; the menu includes generous salads, homemade breads and zip sauce, with more than 20 appetizers to choose from. For Mexican-inspired food and tequila, there's Tequilarita's (525 N. Main St.), whose fish tacos are made with breaded haddock, finely shredded cheddar, diced tomatoes, house tequila lime coleslaw and remoulade sauce. But the very newest sensation in Milford is Palate (449 N. Main St.; 800-685-0909; palateofmilford.com), a brand-new restaurant offering a seasonally changing menu, craft beer flights and an international wine list. As you'd expect from any eatery with a seasonal focus, an emphasis on local ingredients will prevail; in fact, it has spilled over into the rustic interior, which has reclaimed ornaments derived from Michigan's deconstructed barns.
September ends in 'R' Ann Arbor's Real Seafood Company is taking reservations for its annual Oysterfest, a celebration of the slippery little delicacies. Diners can expect a salad, and entrée (baked cod topped with wild mushroom ragout), and a dessert (pumpkin torte) — along with as many cold-water oysters as you can eat. The flavorful beers of Short's Brewing Company will also be available. The oysters run starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, at Real Seafood, 341 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; reservations required at 888-456-3463; $64.95 per person tax and tip included. (And, yes, we know that oyster farms have rendered the old "month that ends in an 'R' rule" obsolete. So there.)
Pass it around The good folks at Buca di Beppo — the restaurant chain that aims for the feel of a homey family restaurant — aims to warm diners up this autumn with some sizzling steak specials. Until Oct. 31, diners can feast on steak Milanese (petite tender medallions) and steak pizzaiola (medallions served pizza-style); both are $26 small, $38 large. There's also an Italian wedge salad, $13 small, $20 large. It's all family-style, so everybody digs in, at 38888 Six Mile Rd., Livonia; 734-462-6442; or 12575 Hall Rd., Utica; 586-803-9463.
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Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing
by Michael Ruhlman &
W.W. Norton, $39.95
Acclaimed food writer Michael Ruhlman has once again joined forces with Brian Polcyn, highly praised local chef and charcuterie instructor at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, to create Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing, a follow-up to their earlier Charcuterie. Salumi, the Italian word for salting and curing meats, begins by illustrating the techniques of butchering a hog to obtain the parts that are used in the eight basics: guanciale, coppa, spalla, lardo, pancetta, prosciutto and salami. One hundred detailed recipes and 16 photos of the meats that have graced Italian tables for centuries could launch a rewarding journey.
the works Just when we thought we'd seen everything there is to see about bacon, we came upon what is arguably the ultimate in bacon kitsch: Porkleen Bacon Scented Hand Sanitizer. The manufacturer claims that it's sanitary and germ-free. Who knows what it will attract? Certainly dogs and cats. Perhaps carnivorous members of the opposite sex? Squeeze a little on your hands. Rub it in. Don't use it hunting in bear country. Homer Simpson said, "You don't win friends with salad." You might with Porkleen. It's yours for $1.99 at thinkgeek.com.