Mikette is a relatively new French restaurant in a strip center away from the downtown area of Ann Arbor. A couple of the other bloggers that I follow have mentioned it, and I am looking forward to trying it, as they tout themselves as “a taste of Southern France in Ann Arbor.” The other evening my Bride abandoned me as she was attending a fund raiser with one of her friends and a co-worker and there were only two tickets, so I was definitely odd man out. My Bride asked me if there was any place I could recommend for them to stop off afterwards for a glass of wine and perhaps a quick bite, because they were not sure of what to expect at the fund raiser.

I suggested Mikette as it is a place that I want to try and I would let my Bride test the waters first. So off they went, leaving me on the threshold watching them drive off together. After the fund raiser, which was kind of a business-related event, they found themselves at the restaurant and they were just going to have a quick bite and some wine. Her friend ordered Crab Cakes which were made from jumbo lump crab and accompanied with frisee and Old Bay Remoulade. My Bride had an order of Ratatouille, the classic dish of Provencal vegetables with olives, goat cheese and crostini. I think women tend to eat lighter when they are together, because they just want to talk and catch up on things.

Mikette has a small, but tight wine list as per the wine authority (My Bride) and when I looked at her slightly blurry photos, which she claims is because her phone is older than mine, there were a couple of interesting wines that were not the run of the mill choices. Her friend prefers wines that are on the sweeter side, so my Bride suggested Frey-Sohler Muscat Reserve 2013 from the Alsace region of France. The Muscat grape is one of the oldest recorded grapes in history and there are many variations of the grape over the years. My Bride used her intuition to decide that the Muscat grape was sweeter and that the Alsace region is more akin to Germany, and hence the wine should be on the sweeter side, though it was still a bit dry for her friend, but I give my Bride kudos for her thought process and without seeing all of the wines on the list, I may have suggested the same wine. My Bride chose for her own wine La Cave des Grands Cru Blancs Pouilly-Vinzelles 2015, which is grown by a group of farmers that established a cooperative in 1929. Pouilly-Vinzelles is a sub appellation of the Maconnais, which is part of the Burgundy region. Pouilly-Vinzelles may sound like its neighbor Pouilly-Fuisse, which has its own appellation and much more famous, hence the appending of the village name of Pouilly. The limestone hills of the region give this Chardonnay wine a unique taste of terroir and it is aged in oak to add more flavor. I think that my Bride did a fine job and now I really want to go to Mikette to try it out for myself.

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A Visit

My Favorite Daughter was in town with one of her cousins to attend several events on the same weekend, and she was even able to squeeze some time in for her dear old Dad. It was a nice visit and a delightful way to celebrate the time. It was not the best trip for her, only because when we saw her, she had already spent one night out with her cousins and friends that she grew up with and she had to change her hotel room twice that evening and still ended up with a room that had no air conditioning, so to put it mildly, she was not a happy camper and she had not slept when I saw her, so she will probably shoot me for publishing her photo.

We picked her up at the hotel that she was staying at and we were going to take her out for lunch, we asked her cousin to join us, but she was just going to try to relax, as they had so much more planned for the weekend. It was a Saturday afternoon and we started driving around Dearborn where she had been born and gone to school looking for a restaurant. We were surprised to see that her old favorite Kiernan’s had been leveled. I finally gave up thinking of places and we drove over to the Dearborn Inn, the first airport hotel in the country, but the airport across the street is no longer there. The hotel is owned by Ford Motor Company who originally built it, as accommodations for their visitors and it is now managed by the Marriott group. We stopped in to have a light lunch, but more importantly to just be together.

One may not be surprised that we had wine with our lunch, at least my Bride and I did, my Favorite Daughter just wanted some pop. Since my Bride was having French Onion Soup and a sandwich and I was having a plate of Mushroom Gnocchi with a Sage Cream Sauce, the wine selection was a bit unique. My Bride suggested something bubbly and we went with Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut Penedes Cava NV. We have had other Cava wines from Segura Viudas and this was a new one for us and it was most pleasant. Segura Viudas was established in 1954, so it is the same age as I am, but the wine we had was much younger. The wine is a blend of Macabeo, Parellado and Xarel-lo, the three dominate wines of Penedes and the whole Catalonia region and this wine is made in the Methode Tradittionnelle way, years ago it was labeled Spanish Champagne, but they had to find a new name and it was called Cava for the original caves that were used for aging and storing the wines. It was a charming wine for the afternoon, made even better having the chance to spend some bonus time with one of the Vegas kids.

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Another Barbera

It was another meeting of my dinner club and I was bringing a lot of items to the meeting in the pouring rain. It always seems to be that way, when I have way too much to carry in my current position with the club. Thankfully The Courthouse Grille is close to my home, as some of the members were complaining that due to the weather, their commute was twice the time of a normal trip. I also thought of my Bride who had to travel quite the distance that evening as she was having dinner with some of her former co-workers and they have been meeting monthly for the last couple of years.

My club meets often at The Courthouse Grille and I have written about this venue many times, because they have several private dining rooms that fit our requirements very well. With the average meeting of thirty men, we need a room off to ourselves to conduct the sessions. Most of the venues that we meet at, only offer us a choice of three different entrée dishes, but here we have the choice of seven different plates, along with a salad and dessert. Normally I have an Italian dish, as that is what they are known for, but the last couple of times there, I was visually impressed with their New York Strip steak, not an item that I order, or even buy for the home. I have to admit that it was quite a nice change of pace, as it was prepared to my request of medium rare and it came with a whole grain mustard cream sauce that had a nice flavor.

We are still in the midst of a one year experiment, each meeting three members are the host for the evening and then for the rest of the year they get to enjoy their meals on someone else’s dime. The experiment revolves around the bar tab, that some members complained about, since they do not drink and feel that it is onerous for them, I think that is rather petty, because even if people came to my home for dinner, I would have their beverage of choice on hand even if I did not drink it. A couple of us have come up with a Plan B to combat this, since we have to pay for our own drinks, what we do is buy a bottle of wine to share among us, that will be far more interesting compared to the wines that are normally offered by the glass. If we were not paying for our drinks as before, we would accept the wines from the bar, but I guess that some will rely on my choice and try a wine that they would not try otherwise and when you split the bottle up, it is not that much more expensive than a bar wine. The wine that we had was Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba DOC 2014. Pio Cesare has been making wines since 1881 and they are famed for their Barolo and Barbaresca wines from the Piedmont region of Italy, and I have had their Barolo and this was a chance to try their Barbera and since they are situated in Alba, it was a natural choice. Barbera d’Alba is an important DOC for the Piedmont and the cellars of Pio Cesare have barrels of all their wines aging in walls that date back to the Roman days. While the DOC laws for this wine allow for some blending, this wine is pure Barbera and it was aged for twelve months in French Oak to tame the wine some. By the end of the meal, the wine was really opening up, as it was quite tight on the initial tasting and to be truthful, this wine was imbibed way too soon. I think that at least five years would have been the ideal time to uncork this wine, but alas, most restaurants that even carry better wines do not have that luxury of cellaring wines that long. It sure beat any of the bar wines offered that evening.

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Easter 2017

There is just something about the holidays that are enjoyable, when you are around family and having nice food and dinner. This was another occasion and we also celebrated the birthday celebrations for the month of April, just to add a bit more chaos to the day. It was a unique day for people watching, because some had heard about the project that we completed in the library and others hadn’t and when they were in the room they just knew something was different, but couldn’t quite place their finger on the change. It was also unique, because one of the usual late comers for any party, was the first to arrive.

My Bride after going to church and then doing a visitation to a shut-in for Easter communion came home and began her routine, and I did mine, by trying to stay out of her way in the kitchen. The appetizers were easy, because it was just basically fruit, cheese and crackers. She was also preparing turkey and ham for the dinner. She also made her always requested stuffing and her Armenian Pilaf. She also made Brussel Sprouts with bacon as one of the side dishes, and she also made a pot of Fettucine Alfredo, so that there was a good mix of dishes and nobody should end up hungry or disappointed. After all of that food was cleared, then the desserts appeared. There were cakes, pies and puddings and a birthday cake and ice cream, just in case some people still had some room left for more.

When she had all the food preparations going at a steady pace, she finally decided that she wanted a glass of wine, since she had given up wine for Lent, and to a certain degree, I guess I had to as well. Now of all the wines that we have in the cellar to choose from and I would have gladly gone and opened any of them since she was breaking her fast, she chose her latest “go-to” wine to enjoy. She asked me to open up one of magnums of Kirkland Signature California Chardonnay 2015, as I truly think that she missed having that wine. This is just an easy to drink and understand new version of the jug wines of old from Costco, who is now the largest wine purveyors in the United States. The Kirkland Signature is also found on wines not only from the States, but also from France and Italy that I have seen, and probably from other countries as well, but she usually shops there by herself, as she doesn’t want me to loiter in the wine section of the store. As for me, I decided to open up one of my more unique bottles to offset her selection and I grabbed a red wine for dinner, and once again, there were only a couple of people that tried the wine. We had a bottle of L.A. Cetto Reserva Privado Nebbiolo 2009. Nebbiolo is that famed grape from the Piedmont region of Italy that has found its rightful honor in the wines of Barolo and Barbaresca, but this wine was from the Valle de Guadalupe or the Guadalupe Valley in Baja California, Mexico. The Valle de Guadalupe is the wine district for Mexico and they tend to grow most of the great varietals of France. L.A. Cetto is the largest producer of Nebbiolo in the world outside of Italy. I found the nose to be lighter compared to a Barolo, but the color was still very dark with just a touch of pink at the edge for a nine-year old. One could taste the grape easy enough, and a different terroir then from the Piedmont and it was earthier and less refined. I am getting slightly more technical than I usually do, because I have not had that many wines from Mexico and it may new to others as well. Even a couple of days later, when I tried another glass, it still had plenty of earthiness to it. There was not a lot of spice to it, and it was still a bit overpowering for the turkey and ham, but I enjoyed it and I am glad that I opened it up.

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The Promise

By the time this article publishes, the majority of the people that have tickets for the premier night showing of The Promise will just be reading some words of William Saroyan at the end of the movie, before the credits roll by. I am not a movie critic by any stretch of the imagination, though I have been a film student forever, but then most people are on the fence as to whether I am a wine critic as well. Kirk Kerkorian, the late philanthropist left money to have this film made and a fine job it was.  The premier of the film is trying to coincide with April 24, the hundred and two year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and I guess one can say one hundred and two years of denial.  Some of the panoramic views of Constantinople and of the villages that later became under the French auspices of Cilicie after World War One were stunning.  The images of how men can be so evil to others permeates the story, and there was one scene that evoked comparisons to Kristalnacht or “The Night of Broken Glass” that began the genocide of the Jews in Germany prior to World War Two.  The viewer is left to interpret their own versions of the inhumanity that they are witnessing as well as the eternal spirit of courage and love by those down-trodden who really cannot believe what has befallen.  The movie even intertwines the story of Musa Dagh, the book and the eventual film, which were both forced out of existence by Turkey, could not force this film from being issued; and as an aside it was even mentioned by Zorba in the book version. As of 20 April 2017, the movie site IMDB.com has had 126,497 rating votes for a film that has been perhaps seen six or eight times in film festivals so far, and the majority were all negative “one” votes out of a possible “ten,” which I find interesting and appalling. I really cannot state the story line, as I am still rather choked up, as I know that both of my grandparents survived those days. If you have a chance I would strongly recommend that you see this film, as the one line of dialogue is still ringing in my ears “Our revenge will be to survive.”

We tried to get our tickets for the premier evening as one of the musicians that will be performing here before the film, I grew up with. We could not seem to secure any tickets, but then when I kept checking I saw that the original Cineplex that was going to show the film had added more nights, and the one night was prior to the premier. We also bought my sister a ticket for the movie as an Easter present and we took her out to dinner before the show as well. The weather was so bad that we decided to eat at one of the restaurants in the mall that is adjacent to the Cineplex. My Bride and my Sister shared an appetizer and a Chinese Chicken Salad that both of them enjoyed, as I have written about the menu at California Pizza before, and I had the Jambalaya Fettucine.

My Sister only wanted to drink a non-alcoholic cocktail and my Bride and I both opted for a glass of wine. We went with something on the lighter side as neither of us wanted to have anything too heavy. My Bride had a glass of Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay 2014. The Russian River Ranches is part of the much larger Sonoma County and as one can guess Sonoma-Cutrer is heavy into Sonoma country. A delightful wine with enough taste to take it way beyond the normal Chardonnay wines that one finds in California and we have had this wine often over the years and my Bride had the better of the two wines of the evening. I had a split of Le Grand Courtage Blanc de Blancs Brut NV with a screw cap for a sparkling wine. This wine comes from the Nuits St. George district of Burgundy and is a Stainless Steel fermented blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Ugni Blanc. There was ever so slight tinge of effervescence, but it was easy to drink and did not battle with the spices and mélange of food in my Jambalaya. I have to say that the food and the wine took a back seat today to the movie, and it is still haunting me, as I write.

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.”

― William Saroyan


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Easter Eve 2017

Twas the night before Easter and all through the house…Oh I think that I have my holidays mixed up. One of my cousins has taken it upon herself a Herculean task of having all of the cousins for Easter Eve dinner. She does this, because we are all splintered off for the holidays with our holiday dinners, with everyone married off and spread across the metropolitan area. Not only does she make sure that all of the adult cousins get together, but she has an Easter Egg hunt for the little ones as well; and it is just a great way to see everyone other than a wedding or unfortunately a funeral.

We arrived at the proper time with some dishes that we made to help out with the task of feeding everyone and most did the same thing, just to be good. I ended up sitting with one of her cousins and an Aunt and some others at the center of attention before the dinner. It was where all of the appetizers were arrayed and we could have all stopped eating then without the main entrée, it was that great. There was Lahmajoon, a delightful individual sized Armenian “pizza” with a very thin crust that is covered with finely ground lamb, mixed with tomatoes, garlic, parsley and other spices and then liberally doused with addition Cayenne red pepper just before eating. There were platters of Armenian Cheese Boereg, which are small individual size parcels of Phyllo-type dough wrapped around white cheese and baked until golden. Then there was Armenian String Cheese and Armenian Basturmah, a delicate cured lamb that is covered with Cumin and Chaiman (an Armenian hot sauce rub) and aged, which is then sliced paper-thin, a dish that I try to avoid only because the spices seem to permeate every pore on the body for several days and having always dealt with the public, is a cause to refrain. There was also Cheehemah or as most people now know it as Kibbe Nyee, the raw ground lamb dish with bulgur wheat, onions, tomatoes and parsley that the Armenians created and has been copied through the ages by other nationalities that knew a great dish. In case you may have noticed a trend that I have only mentioned Armenian delights, there was also a huge platter of mega-jumbo shrimp with a cocktail spice and then there was bread and pickled vegetables as well, and that was only for appetizers and we all had to somehow pace ourselves for the main meal. The main dish was done by a caterer and finished in the circular driveway in front of the house, there was a ninety-five-pound whole lamb that was barbecued and by the time it was done, the meat was literally falling off of the bones. Now add to that dish, Armenian Pilaf, salads, vegetables, an Armenian version of Mac and Cheese and belts had to be loosened. Then if that wasn’t enough there were cakes and desserts that rivaled impressive Sweet Tables at weddings. I think we all over ate.

As for the beverages, there was a liquor cart in one room and my Bride could have her Scotch and water, she may have given up wine for Lent, but she did allow herself to have an occasional Scotch. In another room, there was a bar set up with an assortment of waters, soda pops, beers and wine; and that was the room that I tended to frequent for some odd reason. I started off with Rodney Strong Chardonnay 2015 from Sonoma County. Even though there were appetizers with lamb, the chilled Chardonnay worked very well with them. This particular wine had sixty percent of the juice fermented in a mix of oak barrels and the balance was aged in Stainless Steel and then blended together for a nice refreshing glass of wine or several as the case may be. I brought a bottle of wine from my wine club that I was looking forward to trying, and the truth be told, there were very few wine drinkers there, but the wine did evaporate by the end of the evening. The Sinecure Grenache Noir 2013 with a Monterey AVA was I have to admit a great choice with all of the spices of the evening, as this was a wine that promised and fulfilled a full- bodied glass of wine with the taste of spices and peppers. I liked it and I guess that others that tried it also agreed. Throughout the evening my cousin was also wandering around pouring shots of Armenian Brandy just in case there wasn’t enough representation of Armenia during the affair.

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The Library

I guess that I am a bit of a true curmudgeon, because I enjoy reading books and I prefer hard bound editions with marbled paper, deckled edges and ridges on the spine; and if possible leather bindings with gold lettering – nothing too fancy. I don’t own a Kindle, but I do own books. I even use an old-fashioned dictionary that my Mother bought for me that I still consult and have it sitting on its own stand. I have cryptically mentioned a project that I have been working on, that started before My Week of Hell and has just recently been completed.

We had an arabesque carpet in our library that was starting to show its age, so that is what began the project. One has no idea how much material stuff is owned in such a small room until one starts to move it out, so that the carpet could be pulled up, and then again that meant a new paint job as well. The books and the bookcases, the electric piano, a desk, a table, a dictionary stand and a hat tree all had to be moved out. Not to mention the art work, a silk tapestry that my Grandmother had brought with her from the old country and the drapes and hardware, everything was removed. The three chromatic shades of paint were bought to complement the tapestry, so we were all set to start once we removed the carpeting, so that we could begin search for a replacement carpet too. I slowly and carefully removed the quarter-round shoe moldings from the baseboards to facilitate the removal of the carpeting and I figured that it would be one less expense, if I removed the carpet. The carpet was finally removed and the padding under the carpet was magnificent, I had never seen a padding that had a plastic moisture barrier before and the padding removed in one piece and had not disintegrated even after all of the steam cleanings and shampoos that the carpet had been subjected to over the years. There was an almost pristine hardwood floor underneath and we decided to go with it, instead of new carpeting. We rented a floor sander, bought some special respirators to save us from the fumes of the urethane that we had to apply three times with sanding in between to get a good finish. Yes, I guess I am a geek as well, as the first time I had the air respirator mask on, I looked at my Bride and said “Luke, I am your Father.” With the ceiling, walls and trim freshly painted and the floors finished to our satisfaction, we had to wait seventy-two hours before we could put everything back and we were working against the calendar, because we are having the usual crowd for Easter dinner here. The room is done.

If this hadn’t been Lent, and I am trying to be nice to my Bride who gave up wine for the season I would have opened up a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the completion. I have to be happy for the moment and produce a label from a bottle that may have been appropriate for the occasion. The label was from a split of Duval-Leroy Champagne Brut NV. Duval-Leroy was established in 1859 and is one of the few Champagne Houses that is still family owned and they are located in the Cotes des Blancs region. The Champagne is a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay and this wine is their basic brand as they offer many other choices as well. If anyone asks: Colonel Mustard with the Candlestick in the Library. In a few more days, I can toast the room properly as well as the Season and I wish all that celebrate a wonderful Easter Sunday.

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