Omelette! Cafe Zola vs Angelo’s

Breakfast, the most important meal of the day is my favorite. I love waking up a little later on a Saturday afternoon and have brunch at a breakfast restaurant. In Ann Arbor, there are several places that you can get a hearty breakfast: Broken Eggs, Afternoon Delight, and our subjects of this topic, Cafe Zola and Angelo’s

ATMOSPHERE

I have previously already talked about Cafe Zola, so here’s just some more pictures of the environment in and out.

Cafe Zola – Interior

Cafe Zola – Outdoor Seating

This Ann Arbor famous Angelo’s has been a part of the town since 1956. The restaurant was opened by Angelo Vangelatos and his wife Patricia Verames. Business flourished over the years and their son Steve took over the family business in 1986. Located on the corner of Catherine St. and Fuller St., you can often see the line out the door especially on the weekends.

SELECTION

Angelo’s omelette selection

Cafe Zola Omelette Menu

TASTE

Southwestern Omelette

The omelette was very appetizing. I loved the blend of peppers and chili. The only down side was that the omelette was a little watery from the juices that were infusing out of the pepper and chili.The herb roasted potatoes are full of flavors in and out.

I really love the customization option at Angelo’s of the omelettes. There is a good portion of the omelette. My favorite is to stuff the omelette with cheese, mushroom, and a form of meat. The side of potato is delicious.

WHO REIGNS SUPREME?

ANGELOS

Both places have superior food, but overall Angelo’s wins over due to the price and options.

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All American Food! Burgers! Sava vs Red Hawk

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Who doesn’t love a well cooked burger? This popular American dish has its fair share of prominence in Ann Arbor. There’s the places that specialize in burgers such as Five Guys and Blimpy Burger. Of course there are more places that serve burger such as Buffalo Wild Wings, Charlie’s, and the two places I recently visited, Sava’s and Red Hawk. 

ATMOSPHERE

Sava’s Restaurant opened in June of 2007 in a small location next to Totoro Japanese Restaurant. Over the years as business thrived, they moved to their current larger space which is located next to the Starbucks on State St.The new location is very spacious. The bi-level restaurant has seating suitable for all party sizes.The inside is well lit during the day and the lights are dimmed for dinner time to give a more romantic atmosphere.

Red Hawk is a popular campus bar and grill located on State St. right in between 7Eleven and Amer’s . The front door doesn’t seem very large, but it extends to the back in an elongated shape with booth along both side of the restaurant and seating in the middle. The environment is definitely more cramped, but fit for college student social settings. There isn’t a lot of seating for bigger parties of more than 6 and it is quite crowded during rush hour time.

SELECTION

Sava’s serve a wide range of dishes from Panini Sandwiches, Pasta, Burgers, and other specialty dishes they offer. They have traditional hamburgers as well as a few unique creations such as the Inside-Out 4 Cheese Burger, which has the cheese stuff inside the burger patty.

At Red Hawk, you can customize your own burger from a list of toppings.

TASTE

Top Right: Mushroom Swiss Burger
Bottom Left: Inside-Out 4 Cheese Burger

At Sava’s, the meat is cooked to medium-well. The patty is nice and thick. It was a very solid burger, difficult to fit into your mouth. The bread is also spread with a unique burger sauce instead of the traditional mayonnaise. The bread was delicious and the spice makes it unique. I always love sweet potato fries with my burger, adding just a little bit of sweet and savory to the burger.

Classic Burger with Cheddar Cheese, Grilled Mushroom, Guacamole

As I was looking for new burger places to explore, a friend of mine recommended the Red Hawk to me. I has excited about customizing my own burger. It was the first time I’ve had guacamole with burgers and it was quite delicious. The burger isn’t as aesthetically pleasing and the bun isn’t very well risen. The meat is cooked just right at medium well. When you eat the burger as a whole, you can’t taste the grilled mushroom too much, but separately it tastes well seasoned and grilled just right.

WHO REIGNS SUPREME?

SAVAS!

The reason I picked Sava’s is for their atmosphere as well as a overall more well rounded burger. The bun and the sauce definitely makes Sava’s unique.

Crepes and all that is good! Cafe Zola vs Rendez Vous

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Crepe is a very thin pancake that is a traditional French dessert that originated in the northwest region of France. The common ingredients include flour, eggs, milk, butter, and a little bit of salt. Crepes are usually made either sweet or salty. Savory fillings of crepe include egg, various meat and vegetables. The sweet crepes usually contain powder sugar, Nutella, and fruits. Ever since taking French in middle/high school, I have fell in love with this dessert. Once I got to college, I had to hunt down several places that sell this delicious treat. Two places that I frequently visit are Cafe Zola and Rendez Vous Cafe.

ATMOSPHERE

Cafe Zola, not one of the most typical student visit cafe’s in Ann Arbor. It is located on Washington St, past Main st. downtown. For the winter, it is definitely quite a hike. It is a very popular breakfast and lunchplace in Ann Arbor. The little cafe is very cozy on the inside. Not a very large place, you often will find a heavy line out the door on the weekends. I especially enjoy coming down and taking a seat outside of the cafe to enjoy the good weather days. Inside, the cafe is dimly lit and gives people a soothing and enjoyable time to dine.

Rendez Vous is conveniently located on South University St. near the diag. The cafe offers a variety of signature sandwiches and Mediterranean dishes. A smaller place than Zola, Rendez Vous gives a small homely feeling. There is enough seating in the cafe for 15 – 20 people.

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Cafe Zola is proud of their crepe as they consider it a fine work of art. They use two kinds of flour: freshly ground buckwheat flour, which is used for the savory crepes and pastry flour for the dessert crepes. These crepes are also offered throughout the day. In terms of the sweet crepes you can choose from a list of 6 specialty crepes. Amongst that I have tried the Normandie, which includes sautéed apples, walnuts and cranberries, drizzled with honey and crème chantilly, the strawberry banana, which includes, fresh sliced strawberries and banana slices, served with Michigan maple syrup and crème chantilly, and nutella banana, which includes chocolate-hazelnut spread, ice cream, banana slices, toasted almonds, crème chantilly and raspberry sauce. The crepes are a bit pricey, ranging from 8 – 12 dollars. The portions are huge, guaranteed to fill you up.

Rendez Vous is also known for their large savory and sweet crepe selection. You can choose from a list of 8 sweet crepes. Usually the crepes are made right in front of you, so you can see the entire process. Some of my favorites include Nutella split, a combination of Nutella spread and bananas topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, Crepes sucre, which is a crepe topped with a sprinkle of sugar, and Specialty fruit, which is a blend of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and bananas, drizzled with raspberry sauce and topped with ice cream, whipped cream and powdered sugar. The price at Rendez Vous is definitely more student friendly, ranging from $3.5 – 6.

TASTE

I had the pleasure of getting the strawberry banana at Cafe Zola recently. The crepe is nice and soft. It is fluffy and thin. The powder sugar gives the crepe just the right amount of sweetness. Inside, the bananas and strawberries are fresh and sweet. If you want an extra hint of sweetness, you can drizzle some maple syrup that is prepared for you, but I usually just prefer eating it without the extra glaze just so I can better appreciate the natural taste from the crepe.

One of my favorites to get at Rendez Vous is the Nutella banana. There’s nothing that is better than the combination of hazelnut-chocolate spread and crepe. It is the classic combination. The crepe at Rendez Vous is thin and soft.  The banana covered crepe with Nutella inside the crepe can always satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. Sometimes this dish can be a little over powering in the Nutella, which makes the crepe extra sweet.

WHO REIGNS SUPREME?

CAFE ZOLA!

Cafe Zola is a bit more expensive than Rendezvous, however in terms texture of the crepe, over balance of taste, there is no doubt that Cafe Zola wins over. Also the atmosphere for Cafe Zola is more relaxing. A good place to venture down one a nice sunny day!

More noodles! Udon! Totoro vs Sadako

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I know, I have been writing a lot about noodle based products, but I can’t help it. It’s the winter season and my favorite type of food against the bitter wind chill is usually “soupy” dishes.

Udon, it is not ramen or any other plain soup noodle dish. Udon is a special type of thick wheat-flour noodle that is a specialty in Japanese cuisine. It is usually served with hot noodle soup, which is mildly flavored with dashi, soy sauce, and mirin. The soup varies a bit from region to region in Japan. The noodle is often topped with chopped green onions. Often the dish will come with tempura, vegetables, or meats.

Ann Arbor is not short of its fair share of Japanese restaurants. Just within the central campus vicinity, there are 5 Japanese restaurants: Totoro, Sushi.com, Ayaka, Sushiya, and Sadako. Each restaurant has its own signature dishes that I like to go for. Two places that I prefer to sample udon at were Totoro and Sadako.

ATMOSPHERE

I am going to try and let the pictures speak for themselves. You guys can formulate your own opinions about what you think of the atmosphere and where it fits you better.

Totoro – Sushi Bar

Totoro – Interior

Sadako – Interior

SELECTION

Each place has the standard selection of udon dishes: regular, chicken, beef, seafood, and tempura udon. There is a few more selections offered at Totoro which includes: Nabeyaki (tempura udon with an egg and extra veggies added), Tofu and Sensai udon.

On a side note, not related to Udon, a friend of mine does prefer the overall dish selection at Sakado because of more options for vegetarians.

TASTE

Here’s a few dishes that I got.

Totoro – Nabeyaki Udon

Sadako – Chicken Udon

A break down of what I think of each place?

Totoro

Pro: More traditional dish style, egg is well cooked with a runny yolk, noodles are cooked just right without losing the bite of the noodles.

Cons: Could use more vegetables, the soup is a bit too salty

Sadako

Pro: Lots of vegetables, refreshing and light brooth, option of adding pepper flake seasoning, noodles cooked through and not soggy.

Cons: Some vegetables weren’t as cooked through and a bit tasteless

WHO REIGNS SUPREME?

SADAKO!

I am still a fan of Totoro, it might even be one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in Ann Arbor; however when it comes to Udon, I really enjoyed the uniqueness of the dish offered at Sadako. The plentiful vegetables and the light and refreshing brooth puts this dish over the top. From this experience it has really taught me that to discover great food, you really have to just give everything a try. You might discover something surprising!

Steaks! Yum! Chop House vs Gratzi

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A good steak is hard to come by. You want just enough char on the outside of the meat but still tender enough that once you cut into the meat you can see the juice. There are many many different cuts of steak, one of the most popular kind is the filet mignon. Everyone has their own specifications to how they want the steak to be cooked ranging from rare to well done and even overcooked.

Two places that I had the pleasure of visiting and get a steak at in Ann Arbor is the Chop House and Gratzi. Both places are definitely not for the daily visit, but rather for more special occasions.

ATMOSPHERE

Both places are located right next to each other on Main Street. The Chop House is an elegant and high class restaurant that is perfect for special celebrations and gatherings. It features the finest mid-western grain-fed USDA prime beef, fine wine, and flawless and considerate services. Inside, every decoration and detail is carefully considered. The restaurant is dimly lit, which gives all customers a soothing dining experience. Each table is covered with white table cloth and candle lighting. The service is prompt and competent.

Gratzi has been a part of Ann Arbor since 1987. It is an upscale Italian restaurant that features Italian food from mainly the northern provincials of Italy. The restaurant is decorated with Renaissance-style mural and wood finishes covering a majority of the restaurant giving it a homely and classic feel. The restaurant has two levels. The second floor is  right above the bar, overlooking the main dining room. The dining room is not as spacious as it could be. The tables are more clustered together, which makes moving around difficult, but the atmosphere is still pleasurable.

SELECTION

Of course the Chop House is most famous for its steak. It has a variety of different cuts and portion sizes offered such as an 8 oz filet mignon, 15 oz New York Strip steak. There’s a wide range of tenderness of the cut and the size of the steak. You will probably find a cut that will suit your desire.

At Gratzi there is more of a focus on combining a traditional Italian style cooking to all types of dishes, but they do offer a selection of meat dishes in their menu.

TASTE

At the Chop House, I got the classic 8 oz. filet mignon. As always I order my steak to medium-rare. I need enough cook through of the meat, but not too much that it takes away from the tender texture of the meat. When I cut inside of it, the meat is slightly pink but not raw. The meat was cooked just right. The tenderness of the filet mignon was not ruined at all. It was juicy and well seasoned.

I have to say though, I expected a little more from such a high class restaurant to work on the presentation. Just having a slab of meat in the center of the plate really wasn’t as appetizing as it can be.

Filetto di Manzo at Gratzi was served on portebello mushroom and garnished with various vegetables. The meat was just a little over medium-rare, but still tender. The glaze over the portebello along with the stuffing was overly seasoned. It was stronger than I preferred. The natural taste of the meat was detracted by the strong taste of the stuffing. Overall the presentation of the dish is much more visually pleasing than that at the Chop House, which makes the food seem more appetizing.

WHO REIGNS SUPREME?

THE CHOP HOUSE!

Both the Chop House and Gratzi are very excellent restaurants, but each has their own specialty. I would definitely focus on more traditional Italian dishes at Gratzi and enjoy a nice cut of steak at the Chop House. Even though the presentation of the dishes could be better, the chop house won in terms of service and taste. Next time parents come to visit, ask them to treat you to a nice dinner at either place!

Coffee in a dessert! Tiramisu! Amer’s vs La Dolce Vita

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This is another one of those less traditional posts as I am really only focusing on this one dessert so I will just focus on the taste.

Tiramisu, literally means “pick me up” in Italian. It is made of ladyfingers soaked in coffee and topped with a cream and cheese mixture with powder chocolate sprinkled to cover. This is by far my favorite kind of dessert. The aromatic smell of coffee, the smooth and creamy consistency of the cream, and the hint of sweetness from the ladyfingers all give just right right balance to the overall satisfying taste. Almost everywhere I go, I try to get my hands on Tiramisu if possible. I have also successfully made this dessert at home. Delicious I tell you!

Many places on campus offer this in their dessert menu: Za’s, Cottage Inn, Amer’s, La Dolce Vita, The Earle, and many more. Two places that I most recently visited is La Dolce Vita and Amer’s.

La Dolce Vita is a gourmet dessert and fine wine store that is right next to the Chop House in downtown Ann Arbor, located on Main St. Like many places in downtown Ann Arbor, it is considered much more pricey. The dessert at La Dolce Vita is quite well known and worth treating yourself to if you get a chance. The Tiramisu is $7.95 here. It is served with chocolate drizzle and chocolate curls on top. Taking a bit in to the Tiramisu, you can taste the rich coffee, soft ladyfingers, and the heavy mascapone cheese. Everything is well blended and balanced in taste. The coffee is just strong enough that there is still a strong hint of it even through the sweetness of the ladyfingers. The chocolate curls on top are made from smooth milk chocolate that melts in your mouth.

Amer’s, as I have previously introduced is located on central campus. It is a sandwich, dessert, frozen yogurt, and ice cream store. Talk about variety. Amongst the many dessert items offered, there’s the Tiramisu. Originally I was hesitant about trying the Tiramisu here, but every time I went to the store, the Tiramisu always caught my attention. At Amer’s, the Tiramisu has a thick coco covering on top. The more bitter coco taste works very well with the sweeter taste of the rest of the dessert. The mascapone cheese is creamy and you can taste the hint of coffee. However, the lady fingers are not as well soaked through with coffee as it could, some parts is still just a little bland with only the taste from the ladyfinger.

WHO REIGNS SUPREME?

LA DOLCE VITA!

Both places offered good quality Tiramisu, but La Dolce Vita won due to is more well balanced texture and flavor. If you are ever craving for something sweet, don’t forget to give Tiramisu a try!

Chicago Adventure Part 2! FOOD!

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So these past two posts haven’t really been about food wars in Ann Arbor, but since we are on the topic of food, I figured I would just share some from this recent trip of mine. Basically a food overload if you want to look at it that way. So come with me on this day of food adventure!

After 4 hours of car ride, we arrived at Chinatown where we stopped at Sweet Station to get some warm brunch. I discovered this small cozy store when a friend of mine too me there last year. I really like the porridge. This time I also got authentic almond milk. It is not the type that you would fine in the typical American grocery store. The Chinese almond milk tend to have more bean taste and less milk taste, which I prefer.

Of course one of the reasons I love going to Chicago Chinatown is for its baked goods.

Egg Tarts!

While downtown, I finally stopped by Garrett popcorn shop to grab some crunchy treat. I never knew how popular this shop was in Chicago until I saw the lines out the door all the way around the corner of the street. I guess people really do go great length to get a savory satisfaction.

Then toward the end of the day, we stopped by Joy Yee’s for dinner.

Of course, bubble tea!

Thai-style Duck Spring Rolls

Duck Noodle Soup

I have to say, getting Chinese food in Chicago is a lot cheaper than in Ann Arbor. There are in general more choices in different style of dishes.


Chicago Adventure Part 1! Old vs New!

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So something a little different from the usual posts. This one is not going to be about food, but something I felt during my Fall Break trip  to Chicago. I love Chicago. It is one of the big cities in the U.S. that I would really love to work/live in the future.

Chicago is a city rich in culture and diversity. I have visited Chicago many times in the past few years, but this time, instead of the usual reason of shopping, eating, and visit friends, I went because of my art history class. For the end of the term, we will have to write a paper on a painting from the late 19th century French art, mainly one from the impressionism period. What better place to visit than the Chicago Institute of Art. The museum houses more than 300,000 pieces of art and it has an especially impressive collection of French impressionism paintings. It is actually my third time to the Art Institute. During my visit I realized the importance of progression and the value of both history and modern world.

The traditional staircases of the original section of the art institute gives feeling of grandeur. The new contemporary section of the museum is bright and modern. Here is the perfect example of history mixed with the modern society.

This old verses new is also easily seen in paintings. I didn’t use to appreciate the progression of art, but after taking my art history course, I can better appreciate transition of art. The smooth and monumental history paintings of the 17th and 18th century changed very dramatically over the next century to rougher stylistic paintings. The powerful history painting subjects shifted to more daily life and still life paintings.

Adam and Eve (1533-1537) – Lucas Branach the Elder

A Sunday on La Brande Jatte (1884) – Georges Seurat

Painting has changed a lot over the centuries and it continues to evolve and shift through the ages. Just within this one building, there is the record of the old and the new. Even though our society is advancing it doesn’t mean we will forget history and the past.

 

Smoothies! Freshens vs Smoothie King

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Surprisingly in such a large college campus, there isn’t a lot of smoothie places. There use to be a Beyond Juice on Liberty, but that has since closed. This flavor ice blended drink is my go to whenever I am looking for a refreshing cool down during those warm summer days.

Here on campus, there are two places that still specialize in selling smoothies, Freshens and Smoothie King.

ATMOSPHERE

Freshens is located at the bottom of the Michigan Union along with all the other food places such as Auntie Anne’s and Subway. Its smoothies are all natural, with no high fructose corn syrup and no trans fats.

I didn’t discover Smoothie King until this past summer. Located in Kerrytown, it is not a common area of campus that people frequently visits. It is mainly a store that focuses on combining nutritional values such as protein and vitamins into this a delicious blended drink.

TASTE

My favorite drink by far at Freshens is Mango Beach. Even though it is a low cal smoothies, it definitely does not detract from the refreshing and sweet taste of a smoothie. It is not very heavy, but rather well blended of peach and mango taste.

At smoothie king, the portions are rather large. Even the smallest drink will fill you up and their large is almost impossible to even hold with one hand. When I visited, I had the pleasure of tasting the strawberry kiwi. The smoothie because of its more nutritional ingredients is thicker. The strawberry kiwi had a very strong taste of the kiwi, which was a bit sour. Overall the smoothie was thicker and more filling.

WHO REIGNS SUPREME?

FRESHENS!

Whenever I think of smoothies, I always look for ones that are refreshing, smooth, and doesn’t require effort to drink through a straw and freshens does all of that. Even though both smoothie king and freshens offer tasty smoothies, I find myself missing the smoothies from freshens more often than smoothie king. The thicker consistency of smoothie king set me back a little more.

And the coldness continues! Stucchi’s vs Ben and Jerry’s

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My last attempts to enjoy good weather basically ended in me grabbing anything that is cold. Of course that includes ice cream. Ice cream was one of my favorite type of dessert growing up. Surprisingly since coming to college, I have actually slowly drifted away from eating ice cream (of course having majority of the school year be winter does not help).

ATMOSPHERE

In Ann Arbor, there are two prominent ice cream stores, Stucchi’s and Ben and Jerry’s. I was first introduced to Ben and Jerry’s over 10 years ago. Back then I was in the stage of my life where I loved the fancy dishes such as the banana split. Eating so much ice cream would always give me the stomachache afterward. Ben and Jerry’s is a store opened by two close friends in in 1978. This Ben and Jerry’s store is located on S. State. St. Inside, the store is colorfully painted. Going to Ben and Jerry’s always brightens my day. During the cold winter days, it could warm me up. There is enough seating for about 20 people with a few booth along the walls, some individual round table seating, and some high seating along the windows.

Stucchi’s, unlike Ben and Jerry’s, is a more locally owned. Mainly located in Ann Arbor with a few branches spread in Houston. There are two Stucchi’s in Ann Arbor, one on S. University and the other right next to the Ben and Jerry’s on State st (talk about competition). The inside of the store is definitely not as nicely kept up as Ben and Jerry’s. The store is dimmer and less aesthetically pleasing. There isn’t a lot of seating space, mainly spread along the walls of the store, which will probably seat 10 – 15 people.

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Of course, every kid wants choices. I have to say, when it comes to ice cream, both stores have quite a nice range of choices from your traditional heavier flavors of cookie dough, chocolate fudge, to the healthier alternatives of raspberry sorbet, both stores got it covered. Ben and Jerry’s offer just a little more creative flavors/names such as chunky monkey, chubby hubby, creme brulee, and red velvet.

TASTE

I think, to judge ice cream fairly, I really have had to try a variety of flavors from each store. Over the years, my taste in ice cream have changed from liking more chocolate flavors, to my coffee flavored ice cream craze, to now more fruity desires. All these years, I haven’t even come close to sampling all flavors offered.

At Ben and Jerry’s I feel that the flavors are heartier and heavier. You can definitely taste the cream that is inside the ice cream. It is also just a tad overly sweet, especially the more chocolate flavors. Some of my favorites include: Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, Black Raspberry, and Berry Berry Extraordinary.

At Stucchi’s the ice cream tend to be silkier and smoother. It is less creamy than at Ben and Jerry’s but the flavors are more balanced and not overly sweet. Some of my favorites include: French Silk, Raspberry Sorbet, and Coffee and Cream.

WHO REIGNS SUPREME?

BEN AND JERRYS

This one was also a difficult one to choose from. I always change my mind depending on my mood and the season, but Ben and Jerry’s won over a little more for it’s more varied taste and creamier consistency. Overall, I enjoy ice cream that is heavier in cream. Of course the only way to find your desired taste is to go out there and explore! Don’t be afraid to try new flavors every time you stop by to get a scoop!