Sunday, November 30, 2014

My Year in Food: The Local & Maggiano's Little Italy, November 29, 2014

Our oldest boy, Boot, will turn 22 tomorrow. We were happy he could come for Thanksgiving this year, not only because he was here for the holiday, but because we could take him out for his birthday, too. We actually ended up taking him out twice yesterday, for lunch and dinner. Jeannene wanted to pick up a Christmas gift for me at The Rustbelt Market, so we stopped beforehand for lunch at The Local, just down the street from the market in Ferndale. We'd liked the look of it when we tried to eat there a couple weeks ago & were happy to get the chance. It's got a casual, funky atmosphere and we were lucky enough to be seated by the wood burning fireplace. Our waitress was great, really friendly & attentive.

The menu was not extensive, by any means, containing a few breakfast items in one column and a few lunch items in another column. Boot and I both opted for the Cuban, while Jeannene had a cheeseburger with white cheddar. We all ordered the Awesome Potatoes, which were basically cube-style home fries and were cooked perfectly. I was a little disappointed that they didn't include peppers & onions, which I thought would really have enhanced them, but they were delicious with ketchup. My Cuban, while not completely authentic, was closer to a Miami Cuban than many I've had up north. It was on ciabatta and wasn't really pressed, but it also didn't feature a lot of weird offshoots, instead of plain old ham, pork, Swiss, & pickles. I have learned to drop my expectations and, thus, found my sandwich quite yummy. The bite I had of Jeannene's burger was terrific. I'd also considered the chilaquiles or the short rib hash. Perhaps on another visit.

In the evening, we had Pie & Bubbles join us for Italian at Maggiano's Little Italy. Boot had responded, when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday dinner, "Barbecue, beer, and whiskey!" So, I made plans for us to dine at Union Woodshop in Clarkston. However, by the time Boot arrived, he had started saying, "Or that Italian place. I love that place." By yesterday morning, it had become apparent that he really wanted to go there, as we did last year, for his birthday.

Maggiano's always feels festive, with a busy, chatty crowd and lots of laughter. During the holidays, it feels especially so. It seems like every other table holds a group exchanging gifts and drinking pretty cocktails. Poinsettias are everywhere and the Christmas tree sparkles. I've always found the food to be very good and the service likewise. Last night, we shared a special appetizer, pear and gorgonzola bruschetta, along with spinach and artichoke dip, Boot's favorite. The bruschetta was really wonderful. For my entree, I chose the fettucine alfredo, which is one of the entrees that, oddly, comes with a second entree to take home for later. My take-home choice was spaghetti with meat sauce. Their alfredo is not fabulous, it turns out. Perhaps I have become spoiled by learning to make it myself? They were quite heavy-handed with the garlic and not terribly generous with the parmesan, I think. I like garlic as much as the next guy, probably more, but I like to be able to taste more than just garlic, too.

Jeannene treated herself to veal parmesan, since she doesn't really get to make it at home. I am a little hypocritical, since I will eat other cows and other babies (lamb), but not baby cows. She absolutely loved it, said it reminded her of the veal parm she had when she was a kid, said it was perfectly prepared. Boot knew before he arrived that he wanted gnocchi alfredo with both Italian sausage and meatballs, which he had for his birthday last year, too. He devoured it, the whole enormous portion. Pie has long loved seafood and, being a young adult just starting out on his own, never misses an opportunity to order something he, personally could not afford, so he got the linguine di mare, featuring mussels, clams, shrimp, and lobster. I am not much of a seafood fan, but it was fun to see his eyes light up when his food arrived! Pie has always been our more experimental eater and I am so happy that he remains interested in eating different kinds of foods. Bubbles met us there about halfway through the meal, once she got off work. I hated the idea of her not eating and she turned down Pie's offer to share, so she ended up having alfredo, too, when I set my bowl down in front of her. I'd had plenty and I knew she would eat it if it was put in front of her. She also had Jeannene's spaghetti with marinara. Because it was Boot's birthday celebration, although we were not remotely hungry for dessert, they did bring us some lovely little crescent-shaped, iced lemon cookies. What a nice gesture---and I love lemon!

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