2007.Jul.28 Saturday · 0 comments

in Life, Restaurants

“We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.”

– Tom Stoppard, playwright

Nixon Bluett

Ann Arbor, Michigan – It was a sign of the times. Only it used to be reversed. I’ll let you think about it a moment… okay, that’s enough. After a few dozens of, probably, college students, stole the crossed signs, the city finally got smart and switched the order so it wasn’t as evident.

Most people who come to Ann Arbor from other places come for the University – either as students, or for some sort of event – or for the summer art fair that I mentioned in the last post. They find a town that was (and, I think, still is) a set of contrasts – the small town feel of the main streets, from its old style local theaters and neighborhood coffee shops that have been there for eons, to gleaming suburban style shopping malls, and back to another age, the stately buildings of the central campus, surrounded by wide green spaces where students sit studying, gossiping, or just taking a bit of fresh air.

Liberty Street, Ann ArborUniversity of Michigan central diag

For those who live there, for those who call it home, even if only for a few years of school, it’s a place of discovery… small moments… there’s the famous cube… it spins, and amazingly enough, it’s a rite of passage for freshman to spin the cube. Younger folk would nearly sneak onto campus in order to spin the cube in hopes of one day having it mean something… “oh yeah, I used to spin the cube when I was ten… you just doin’ it now, in college?” There’s the fairy door, built long ago into the side of a downtown building, a perfectly proportioned, always kempt little porch, where we used to trek to, leave a penny on the stoop, and hope for a run of positive luck. There’s the rock… no picture… but everyone knew the rock. No one knows how big it was originally – though legend has it that it’s about the size of a large watermelon, the truth is it was a very large rock that was placed there, with a plaque on it commemorating George Washington’s 200th birthday – and buried beneath it is a box with a history of the rock and its reason for being there. Somewhere in the 1950s, rival school Michigan State University painted the rock green with a big white S on it (Spartans) prior to a football game. Since then the rock has received hundreds of coats of paint and the plaque has been lost in the depths. I’m actually surprised at how few photos of the rock are out there on the internet…

The CubeThe Fairy Door

Now, for a moment, I’m going to slip up in this trip down memory lane and talk about food. For years there’s been a restaurant in Ann Arbor called The Earle. Some time ago, the owners took over the restaurant in the Bell Tower Hotel on campus and created The Earle Uptown. It’s one of those spots where the food is classic as it can be – Continental dining with a capital C. Now, originally when I planned to go to Ann Arbor for this event I booked a room at a hotel on the edge of town – all the hotels in the heart of the city being booked due to the Art Fair – but that was not to be. Many moons ago (you do the math) when I was in college, I worked part-time in the counseling services office in the student union, specifically in what at the time was known as “the gay office”. The man who ran the office, Jim Toy, was… is… one of the pioneers of the gay rights movement, and when he found out I was thinking about staying at a hotel, insisted I stay in his home. The Earle Uptown - monkfish stuffed with shrimp mousseI gratefully accepted, as well as accepted an invitation to dine at The Earle Uptown. All was arranged, the staff went all out, printing up special menus – sans prices and decorated with… pansies. We found ourselves enjoying a peppery and delicious bouillabaisse, followed by a beautifully roasted monkfish stuffed with a delicate shrimp mousse. TEU is one of those spots that cooks food perfectly, offers no creativity, and no excuses for not doing so, just delightful food, in a semi-formal ambiance. Just the sort of spot for a touch of elegance.


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