The Quest

Recently, I went on an epic quest for a rather mundane kitchen implement.

I just needed a rolling pin.

We should have had two, but after vigorous searching, it soon became clear that we either didn’t bring it in the last move, or placed it somewhere very stupid where it likely won’t be found until we move again. But I had already mixed ingredients, and had everything nearly ready, and so I set off for T.J. Maxx in the Westgate shopping plaza, thinking there was likely one there.

After intensely scrutinizing the kitchen shelves, walking slowly through the aisles two times in total, it became clear that T.J. Maxx did not have one.

Slightly disappointed, I decided to do the sensible thing and go up Jackson Road to the Meijer right past Zeeb. For those not from Ann Arbor, this trip takes approximately 10 – 15 minutes, depending on traffic. I took the trip cheerfully enough – a little annoyed I had to trek up Jackson Road, but calmed by the certainty that Meijer would have what I needed. After all, Meijer generally has everything you might want or need for baking purposes.

Except after walking through the grocery entrance and veering off to the right, I came across yellow caution tape and empty shelves where the baking implements used to be. There was a shoddy assortment on the back shelf which I walked through twice – no rolling pin.

I found an employee, who explained that the store was re-arranging that entire session, and if it wasn’t out, they didn’t have it.

I searched the center aisle displays – no rolling pin.

My belief in Meijer’s competence waned as I power-walked out of the store, checking the time on my phone. 6:46. If I hurried, I could check Home Goods, literally right across the street from the T.J. Maxx where my search had started. I waited for another driver to take forever backing out of their parking space. 6:48. I was pretty sure Home Goods was open until 7 – If I hurried, and if I was lucky, I could check Home Goods. If I was even luckier, Home Goods would have one.

I carefully drove 2 – 5 miles over the speed limit down Jackson Road, pulling into a parking space in front of Home Goods at 6:57.

As you can see, I pretty much literally re-traced my steps.

I power walked into the store, where I was greeted cheerfully by a door greeter, and espied the “Kitchen” sign hanging over his head.

I spied it on the second to last Kitchenware aisle. The tiniest rolling pin I had ever seen. Probably just a vanity thing intended to be gifted along with an adorable cookie cutter, a precious sugar cookie recipe. But it is made of wood, and looked like it would work.

Also, as it turned out, Home Goods is open until 9 now, so I wasn’t even one of those jerks keeping the store employees there after hours. Quest: Successful. Home Goods: forever has a good place in my heart. Baking: completed.

Look at how tiny this is! For the record, I’m 5’4″ and do not have large hands.

Disappointment, Thy Name is Antonio

Specifically, Antonio’s Coney Island.

To provide some context, I have heard nothing but glowing reviews from numerous friends and from my husband. It has a 4.5 rating on Yelp – and I know Yelp ratings cannot always be trusted, since they rely on the perception of other reviewers being a fairly accurate representation of yours, but a 4.5 feels rare, and corroborated the verbal reviews I had received. Additionally, this restaurant does serve standard Coney fare, but is primarily cooking and serving Honduran-influenced food. I was expecting a lot, and I think rightfully so, given the circumstances. Instead, I had one of the worst experiences of my life at any restaurant, including the Little Caesar’s I used to go to that was pick-up only and usually operated by people whose physical and mental capacities had been noticeably limited through the use of narcotics.

This terrible episode began when we walked through the door. The location is small, which could make it snug and cozy, but instead was unwelcoming and confusing. It was missing the Coney Island sign informing good citizens who pass through the entrance of whether we should Please Wait to be Seated or Please Seat Yourself. I let my husband take the lead, because he had been to the restaurant before, and followed suit when he sat down on one of a few chairs standing against the wall. No one working at the establishment acknowledged our existence, not even a simple “Hello,” not even a smile, until a three-person family walked in and told the waitstaff who immediately flocked all around them that we were already there and should be seated first.

Instead of taking this negligence as the foreboding it was, I tried to maintain a good mood, telling myself that this was a small establishment and people make mistakes and the food is supposed to be really good, which is really what matters. Particularly since I was very hungry.

After a considerable amount of time had passed, a cute, bubbly young waitress showed up at our table to take our drink order. I will note, she did not mess these up. My husband got his diet soda, my son got his milk, and I got a Jamaica. The Jamaica was almost unbearably sweet and undrinkable, but it was the drink that I ordered. The food order, on the other hand, was another story. I don’t know if it was a matter of the waitress or the kitchen being inept, but have a feeling it was both, and the result was a horrifying experience that made my husband and I both ill.

My son ordered the enchiladas, which are described as ” 3 deep fried corn tortillas topped with seasoned ground beef, Honduran cabbage slaw, sliced tomato, sliced avocado, homemade special sauce and Parmesan cheese.” What our waitress gave him were tostadas covered with something resembling dog food that most definitely was not beef, and which, when my husband the chef tried them, we determined were not the delicious enchiladas my husband had been served on a previous visit, and we did not take umbrage to our son’s refusing to eat them.

My husband had asked the waitress which entree he should try – the fried green banana or yuca dish. She recommended the yuca, but put him down for a side instead of an entree.

I ordered the relatively safe breakfast spread, with over easy eggs, bacon, fried plantains, and slaw. Hard to mess up, although this restaurant managed it, giving me an empty cup in lieu of the side of crema, and putting the driest slaw known to man on my plate.

There was disappointment all around when the waitress gave us the bill, which, when including the tip amounted to around $50. I reluctantly pulled out my debit card. $50 is a bit on the hefty side for a Coney island, and to pay this sum for food that was not what we asked for and was noticeably worse than anything I could have made myself at home (eggs and toast, cereal and milk in a bowl, cheese and crackers, fruit – I’m not a great cook, but all of these edibles are ones that I can prepare and that would taste better) was difficult for me to do.

The stomach pangs started as we began walking back to the car. I thought, at first, I was being dramatic, or was just so pissed about being ignored as though my family and I are not people only to be served expensive food that didn’t taste well that it was physically manifesting itself. But these pangs did not go away. I remained ill for the remainder of the day. And my husband’s stomach began bothering him as well, although he is neither a hypochondriac nor susceptible to illness induced by espousal rage.

So in summation, although many people appear to have a very enjoyable time at this restaurant, at the very least, when it is having an off day, it is not only a bad experience, it is a horrible one. I ended up paying $50 at a Coney island for food that made me ill and tasted worse than if I had just pulled $50 from an ATM and eaten the paper bills instead. If you are in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and go to this establishment, what could it cost you? Do yourself a favor, and eat anything else. Literally anything.

Le Bon, Not Bad, and the Coffee

In my very first blog post, I mentioned that I drink a considerable amount of coffee. The prodigious amounts of the liquid ambrosia consumed results in my opinionated person being potentially persnickety – particularly when the standard cost of a fancy coffee these days is $5. (Because if I’m not drinking fancy coffee, why wouldn’t I just make the coffee myself at home? Isn’t that what travel mugs are for?)

For those persnickety coffee dipsomaniacs in, around, or visiting the city of Ann Arbor, let me introduce Le Bon Macaron.

This coffee shop, located on Fourth Street (right next to where Aunt Agatha’s used to be, before it closed down in August of this year) is actually a chain, and has locations in Grand Rapids and East Lansing. I can only speak to the Ann Arbor location, since that is the only location I have personally visited, but the chain seems to be a mom-and-pop sort of thing, which may mean that all locations have the same standards of quality.

Le Bon Macaron has coffee, tea, and, much as its’ name implies, macarons. Now, if you don’t like a well-made macaron, I will never understand you as a person. And this place has well-made macarons. At $2 apiece, these small delicacies are not cheap, but honestly, you probably only want to eat one or two, anyway (#pretendtobehealthy), and they are well made enough that I consider them worth the price point. Seriously, just thinking about the texture of the biscuits enveloping the creamy insides of these delicious morsels is making my mouth water. I know that I sound ridiculous – but I am actually 100% telling the truth.

Moving on to the coffee. There’s none of this large, larger, largest, bullshit. Each drink comes in one size, so the ratios of coffee to milk to syrup, etc., are made as intended and these proportions don’t get altered based on decisions of magnitude. I am personally a fan of the latte, which can be flavored with various, hand-made syrups that will make you want to abstain from the Celestial Dollar coffee forever more (although, of course, you won’t, because it’s ubiquitous and can be obtained in any location, regardless of where your travels take you). My husband likes the cappucino here, and did not make fun of me for driving a bit out of the way while running errands the other day to grab coffee at LBM, so, you know, it must be pretty good.

If you are not just grabbing coffee while running errands, you can sit down on a bar stool overlooking the street, or grab a small table in the elegant shoppe. I have no idea whether or not the decor feels Parisian, having not yet been to Paris, but it does feel simple, clean, and elegant, and I feel a small thrill when I walk through the door.


Each week, the shoppe offers a “drink of the week,” a recommended coffee drink that, if purchased, includes a macaron. So if the drink sounds like one you would enjoy, I certainly recommend taking advantage of that offer (although if it sounds like one you really do not think you will enjoy, I think you should listen to your instincts, because there’s definitely a difference between expanding your horizons and torturing yourself).

Seriously – look at how cute this cup is. How could you NOT want to go here, if you’re in AA?

If you go, or have gone, to Le Bon Macaron, let me know what drink and/or macaron you had, and if your visit was as enjoyable as mine have been. Bon Appetit!

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