If the cosmic gamma rays do get us in the end, one of the places I wouldn't mind being when they do is The Brass Cafe' and Saloon , as I'm sitting there enjoying the last of a great meal.
This is our favorite place to eat within a 50-mile radius. We have never had a bad dinner here, ever. The menu is wonderfully varied, and amazingly reasonable in price -- many fancy-schmancy dinner entrees under $20. And The Brass provides one of those rare intimate dining atmospheres where you can enjoy nice music (live jazz on weekends) while being able to actually speak with tablemates at a conversational volume. The waitstaff is polite, helpful and discreet. The restaurant interior is homey in an eclectic way(I dig the row of swaying palm fans providing ventilation overhead) without being gimmicky.
After weeks of postponing an evening out because of our various health issues we finally got to The Brass this past weekend.
FT, ordering from the regular dinner menu, had a half-rack of lamb chops, seasoned Mediterranean style and topped with a black-olive tapenade. That came with an unsweetened mint sour cream, garlic smashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. I had walked in expecting to order duck with berry sauce -- a menu item I loved the first time I tried it, and something I'd probably not fuss with at home -- but instead ordered a specical of the day, balsamic glazed chicken breast with crispy fried kale and roasted root vegetables.
The chicken was fine. But the vegetables are what really excited me. I've made kale before, Irish-style with mashed potatoes and steamed, and found it so-so; like the kids in the old Life cereal commercial, my assessment was a lukewarm..."It's 'sposed to be good for you..." Well, this kale was absolutely delicious -- I'm thinking very quickly stir-fried so that it became crispy without becoming browned; not only was it still a bright green, but it was tender, and not not bitter at all. The roasted vegetables included potatoes, beets, carrots and onions; a kind of chunky red-flannel hash with a pleasantly cripsy outside, and an appealing sweetness thanks to the roasted beets.
Desserts aren't the Brass' strong suit, but we both enjoyed ours -- I had a square of creamy tiramisu, while FT ordered a white-chocolate raspberry gelato. The gelato was especially wonderful.
We also had a very nice, inexpensive wine -- one I picked because, frankly, I hadn't brought my glasses, couldn't read the tiny, 6-point wine list type very well, and didn't want to think too hard about what wine might work with both lamb and chicken. I took a stab and selected Lolonis Ladybug Old Vines white wine. It's a crisp, dry white wine from California, made from a mix of several varietal grapes, with a peachy-apple-y flavor and just a tiny hint of effervesence (believe it or not, there's a French term for this little tingle on the tongue that is escaping me at the moment). It's a lot like a Riesling with maybe a little more "oomph." Afterward, when I Googled the vintage, I found out that the "Ladybug" on the label refers to Lolonis' organic farming methods; they use ladybugs as pest control on their grapevines. I also found out that old grapevines, which means vines from maybe 30 years old or more -- which are often uprooted by vineyards because they're less productive than newer vines -- often produce grapes with a more concentrated flavor; so rather than destroy them, some vineyards use them to produce special reserve vintages that spotlight those flavors. Anyway, it's a great, fun (and "green") wine that retails for only about $12 a bottle.
And -- coffee lovers take note -- The Brass' house java rocks; it's smoooooth going down.
If you're ever in the middle of Michigan's mitten, 'round about the Mt. Pleasant area, The Brass is the place to go for lunch or dinner. Two enthusiastic thumbs up.