Last Saturday we attended the Live Love Local Celebration hosted by the Greening of Detroit and located at the Eastern Market. We were even able to go for free, thanks to tickets from my future sister-in-law, Meg! More than 25 restaurants were represented, with their chefs offering up small plates that used local food.
The plan was to get to Eastern Market early and pretty much eat tacos for breakfast. I was ready to have my first food truck experience, well, besides the trucks and stands at carnivals and festivals. The El Guapo taco truck stops at Eastern Market at 7 am on Saturdays and I have been wanting to try their goods! I’ve been pitifully following them on Twitter and letting out a heavy sigh when they tweet their location, which is always 45 minutes away from where I live and work.
We didn’t get down to Eastern Market at 8 or 9, as we’d hoped. It was more like 10:30 after we parked and found El Guapo. An hour and half before more food than we could possibly eat was offered to us from the area’s finest restaurants, we ordered tacos. I was obviously serious about trying El Guapo.
I don’t have pictures of the tacos themselves because our fingers quickly became messy with delicious El Guapo sauce. We ordered the Korean beef, spicy shrimp, chorizo and pork belly confit tacos. They were small tacos, but full of flavor. My hands down favorite was the pork belly confit, but you probably guessed that would be the best, right? It was crispy, meaty and delicious with a bit of slaw and El Guapo sauce. The Korean beef was sweet and savory while the spicy shrimp was light and fresh. I did not get a bite of the chorizo because Marc’s taco wrapper was messy with orange drippings and I knew I would be wearing it if I went for a bite.
The combination of hot tacos and hot sun made us very thirsty. The line at El Guapo had lengthened as we enjoyed our tacos and getting back in line for a beverage seemed silly after we remembered Grandad’s Sweet Tea from the last time we went to Eastern Market. We walked a bit and found Grandad’s bright yellow stand and the energetic man that sold us on his tea the first time. He was busy enticing customers over after they picked up their food from The People’s Pierogi Collective and Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes lines. The pierogis and crepes looked wonderful, but Marc reminded me that we were already pushing it with the tacos.
We had a few more minutes before the event and walked around Eastern Market and looked at all of the beautiful late summer produce. Tomatoes, watermelon, peaches, corn, squash, eggplant, jalapeños, lettuce and cabbage were everywhere.
We stopped at the stand above to buy some cabbage. As we looked at a huge bin of flat Dutch cabbage and red cabbage, the friendly farmer came up and offered us a taste of the sweet cabbage. She ripped off two pieces with her hardened hands and took a piece for herself. We all smiled as we munched on the sweet cabbage this woman was obviously proud of. She asked if we might be interested in eggplant and although I have limited experience preparing it, I could not resist the purple beauties. She recommended one type (that I can no longer remember) and then threw in a few of another type for free. She was so nice and very passionate about her vegetables.
On our way to Shed 5 for the event, we passed by an accordion player in his 20’s or 30’s playing “Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani. The accordion made the tune sound a bit French and all of the quick notes in the song made it oddly wonderful on the instrument. I loved it.
I really didn’t know what to expect, but upon entering the building, I saw booths set up with people working quickly, but efficiently to crank out the prettiest little plates of fresh food with Michigan ingredients.
Corn Purée Ravioli with Roasted Tomato and Bacon – Roast
Roast’s ravioli was incredible. The corn purée was sweet and flavorful, enhanced by the deep flavors from the roasted tomato and bacon. We couldn’t believe how tasty it was until we went around to the other side of the booth and saw the mounds of butter with sprigs of thyme that the ravioli bathed in before plating. We ate at Roast last winter and their food is meat-centric with a “beast of the day” and fancy comfort food sides. Their cocktail menu is something special with housemade infusions and unique flavor combinations.
Chorizo with Michigan Peach – Grange Kitchen and Bar
At first I thought the chorizo was topped with melted cheddar, but was pleasantly surprised to find it was sweet peach to balance out the richness of the very delicious chorizo. I just checked out the rest of their menu online and I need to make a trip. Their logo and business cards are pretty sweet, too.
Kickin’ Kale Salad with Pickled Onions and Carrots – Students of the Greening of Detroit
I was very happy to eat this kale salad to cleanse the palate. It was very fresh and I loved the addition of the quick-pickled red onion.
Michigan Eggplant Caponata with Goat Cheese and Duck Egg Crème Brûlée – Dorsey Culinary School
The eggplant caponata was very flavorful and wonderful with the scoop of fresh goat cheese on the side. The crème brûlée was my first sighting of dessert at the event and it was delicious! Silky and rich with a tang of fresh raspberry. You could tell the students were very proud of their dishes and for good reason.
Slow-Roasted Smoked Bacon with Summer Squash Cake and Grilled Corn Salad – Rattlesnake Club
The salad was fresh and a nice way to balance out the cube of roasted bacon. I wanted to take a bite with all of the elements of the dish, but the bacon cube would not yield to the compostable fork I was given. It was tasty, though. The summer squash cake was a little bland, but it sure was pretty. We loved our meal at The Rattlesnake Club last fall during Detroit’s restaurant week.
Smoke Otto’s Farm Chicken with Roasted Tomatillo, Grilled Sweet Corn and Traverse City Cherry Salsa – Union Woodshop
The Union Woodshop is affiliated with both Clarkston Union and Vinsetta Garage. I sadly have not been to the Woodshop, but Emily went recently! The top picture shows Chef Aaron Cozadd finishing his small plates and presenting them on the coolest wood slice boards. The dish was really, really good. I loved the texture and all of the elements came together nicely with a bit of smoke, sour, sweet and spice. In a non-food related note, I thought their booth looked great.
Baguette with Brie and Homemade Raspberry Peach Jam – Russell Street Deli
Incredible jam! The picture at the top of this post shows a gal from Russell Street Deli pouring jam into glass jars. I could have stood there and watched her make jam in that beautiful pot all afternoon, but the crowds didn’t really allow us to stay in one spot very long. It most likely would have made me look creepy, too.
Salt Baked Shrimp with Hot Peppers and Michigan Blueberry Gastrique – The Lark
This dish was so good! It looked simple, but it had so much going on. The shrimp had a lightly crisp exterior and it worked so well with the spicy peppers and the sweet and sour blueberry gastrique. Standing out was quite a feat considering how full I was at that point.
Michigan Blueberry Swirl Ice Cream and Coconut, Almond and Dark Chocolate Ice Cream – Calder Dairy
I was seriously full and only the happy thought of ice cream from Calder Dairy got me through the next course. It was hot and something sweet and cold sounded good. This booth was full of people and was situated right in front of a large, booming speaker. It was difficult to navigate that corner of the venue, but we got our scoops! It’s so nice to see ice cream without all of the crazy artificial colors and flavors you see at many ice cream shops. Go Calder! They also happen to have the best chocolate milk in the world.
Pulled Pork Sliders with Quick Pickles – The Henry Ford
This is the part where I was almost too full to move and Marc had spotted pulled pork. He went off to get his slider while I was faced with Zingerman’s booth. They offered a gorgeous caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes, housemade mozzarella that was drizzled with olive oil. I was physically and mentally in a bit of pain at that point. I wanted that beautiful plate, but I just knew I couldn’t. I had to walk away. It was time to leave the Zingerman’s booth and the other booths, as we no longer had room for even the smallest of small plates.
We had a great time and learned some valuable lessons about how many foods you can try in one afternoon. Next time we’ll get there earlier and have that pierogi and crepe I had my eye on.
It was inspiring to look around and see chefs that care about sourcing local food for their restaurants and also care about feeding their customers the best our area produces. A big thank you to Meg for the tickets and to Marc for being such an excellent hand model and eating partner.