By Crysta Coburn
Southern French cuisine is varied and rich with fruits of the land and sea, wine, and herbs. Mikette Bistro and Bar located on Ann Arbor’s north side brings a little of this beloved culinary region to southeast Michigan.
Mikette’s atmosphere is relaxed yet far from quiet as the air is filled with the animated conversations of contented patrons. Though the menu’s presentation reflects the simplicity of a children’s menu, Mikette is not really a family restaurant (though there is a small children’s menu with three items). It is a gathering place for friends to enjoy food, drink, and — well, maybe not song exactly.
The food menu is divided into six sections: oyster and raw bar, cheese, les plats (small plates), soup and salad, les classiques (main dishes), and a three-item kid’s menu. You can choose to treat each section as a course or make a meal of oysters, crab, or shrimp cocktails; cheese served with French bread, almonds, and pickled peaches (as it was when I dined); and the wide selection of small plates such as Moroccan spiced meatballs, eggplant tagine, ratatouille, and frites (french fries).
When I see an assortment of cheeses on a menu, I am certain to order some. My companions and I chose for our spread the Valencay (classic French from goat’s milk), Fromage d’Affinois (similar to Brie, but creamier), and Country Wind Farmstead goat cheese. We were all skeptical of the pickled peaches, but they paired so well with the creamy cheeses and french bread that I really liked them. They’re sweet, like bread and butter pickles.
The Moroccan spiced meatballs were savory and had a courser texture than El Harissa’s (CWJ issue 59). They were also not “spicy” in the sense of “hot,” but packed with spices and herbs. Southern France is known for its herbs and has historically traded with its Mediterranean neighbors like Morocco.
Speaking of herbs, my steak frites (steak with french fries) was surprisingly herby. Obviously, steak is prepared countless ways. It is fitting that Mikette finishes theirs with Maître d’Hôtel butter, though I’ve never had it this way before. It adds quite a punch of flavor!
I want to touch on the beverage selection. Yes, the wine, beer, and cocktail lists are very fine, exactly what I’d expect from a French restaurant in Ann Arbor. (I hear good things about their Vie en Rose, and my husband was impressed with their inclusion of the Sidecar.) But for non-drinkers, Mikette also offers some delicious alternatives, such as the Honey and Sage Spritzer — delightful! — and citron pressé. They also serve Orangina, which I haven’t had in ages.
If you’re looking for a new place to pass a pleasant evening with friends in a relaxing atmosphere where the wait staff really takes care of you, consider Mikette. Et bon appétit!
Located at 1759 Plymouth Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, Mikette Bar and Bistro is closed on Mondays and open Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Find them online at mikettea2.com.
Located in downtown Saline, Salt Springs Brewery is beautiful. The 116-year-old building was once a church, and obvious care has been taken to preserve the polished blonde wood and vibrantly colored stained glass windows. What was once the place for the choir is now the kitchen, and a dining room has replaced the pews, a bar to one side.
Yet a restaurant is not out of place in these surroundings. The tables and chairs are simple and unobtrusive; the seats at the bar, cushioned and with backs, are light brown and comfortable. The beer is made in-house and ingredients for both the food and the beer are sourced locally as much as possible. According to their website, (regarding the beer): “Located in farm country, fresh, local ingredients are used whenever possible. In return, spent grains are sent back to farmers for feed and compost.”
I’m not big on beer, but I do love fresh, local ingredients. “There isn’t even a deep freezer on site!” proudly proclaimed our amiable server. I also love menu items like poutine, a dish synonymous with Canada. It’s a simple construction of french fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy, and it is catching on rapidly in the States. With just the right amount of salt, the poutine at Salt Springs Brewery is the best I have had since my trip to Quebec.
Though I could have made a meal out of the poutine, I shared it with my husband and ordered the Creamy Shrimp Pasta for my dinner, composed of Key West shrimp (so plump!), broccoli, red peppers, garlic, shallots, butter, Parmesan cheese, and a white wine cream sauce. It was a true delight. The pasta was cooked al dente. (Coming from an Italian background, I am a stickler for pasta.) I paired it with an Arnold Palmer, another perfect blend, not too sweet or sour. I tried the smallest bite of my husband’s Smoked Pulled Pork sandwich (I don’t eat pork), and I was surprised by the pronounced smoky flavor. It made me even more curious about the Smoked Chicken Salad sandwich, which had originally caught my eye before I settled on the pasta. I will just have to go back and try it on another visit.
Atmosphere and food are wonderful things to have in a restaurant, and I do appreciate them immensely. But people can make a difference. I really liked our server! She was friendly, attentive, and ready to answer any question. She clearly had pride in her job and the brewery, and that enthusiasm was inspiring. I had a great time, and I’d like to go back soon! In warmer weather, we can try the biergarten and firepit.
Salt Springs Brewery is located at 117 South Ann Arbor St., Saline, MI 48176. Closed on Mondays, they are open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Their website is saltspringsbrewery.com.
When I stepped through the door of Chive Kitchen, an all vegan restaurant in downtown Farmington, Michigan, I smelled food. I don’t mean it smelled like a restaurant. A freshness permeated the air unlike I’ve ever experienced outside of a farmers’ market. Per their website, Chive Kitchen “focus[es] on fresh and local products.” And my nose confirmed it.
The atmosphere is super casual with a youthful vibe. Vintage style light bulbs singularly hang from the ceiling on black wires, and art dots the walls. When I spotted the painting above the front door of a woman writing on parchment with a quill, I decided this place was for me.
Unlike other vegan restaurants I’ve visited, this one has a bar. It is a little known fact that many alcohols are not vegan-friendly due to animal products used in the filtration. Modern crafters have gotten better about this, and many no longer use that technique, so Chive Kitchen’s bar is fully stocked and vegan-friendly. They also offer some tasty nonalcoholic drinks, such as the refreshing Cherry Bitty (like a cherry limeade).
Many of the dishes are, or can be made gluten-free, though the grill and fryer are not. My favorite of the appetizers happens to be gluten-free: the fried chickpeas with smoked paprika salt. They pop in your mouth! I want to have these at home! Far superior to popcorn for movie night or beer snacks.
I almost ordered the mushroom pasta with its smoky cream sauce (our server’s favorite, she later confessed), but instead, I was persuaded by the bourbon-maple brown butter in the sweet potato rigatoni. Though cooked a little beyond al dente, this was still an enjoyable dish. I loved the sage-sweet potato cream sauce! I can’t imagine anyone who didn’t already know it was vegan would have guessed that it was.
Chive Kitchen’s menu is not sparse by any means, and I think it will surprise a lot of non-vegans. Take, for example, the oatmeal cream pie on the dessert menu with its “buttery oatmeal cookie” and “vanilla bean buttercream” filling. Or the orange cream cupcake with orange-infused buttercream. They have unique items, too, such as the kombucha float made with coconut ice cream (which is creamier than dairy ice cream, for the record). I would have tried one if I hadn’t been so full!
A meat-eating friend recently declared to me that vegan lentil tacos are the best tacos he has ever eaten “hands down.” Chive Kitchen’s tacos are made with tofu, but their chili is composed of lentils, mustard cumin aioli, and red onions, which sounds scrumptious to me. I wouldn’t have thought to use lentils as a meat substitute in a recipe. My culinary horizon has been expanded. Thanks, Chive Kitchen!
Chive Kitchen is located at 33043 Grand River Ave. in Farmington. Closed on Sunday and Monday, they are open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Find them online at chivekitchen.com.