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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tour Diary: White/Light in Ann Arbor

Posted By on 06.16.10 at 10:15 AM

My first trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan, was in January with Iron & Wine, who were playing the Ann Arbor Folk Festival. We were hanging out at the venue when John, the tour manager, said we absolutely had to check out this deli. Really? I said. I have this Thai place picked out . . .

No, he insisted, we have to hit this deli. So OK. We went to Zingerman's Deli, and John was right. I freaked out. It wasn't just a deli. It was one of the greatest celebrations of food I have ever seen! We went in for sandwiches and an hour later I walked out with bags of hot sauces and pastries and $50 worth of chocolate.

Fast-forward four months and I was trying to book some shows with my band between Pavement tours. I had to book one in Ann Arbor just so I could eat at Zingerman's again.

White/Light have always had better shows at nonrock venues, so we were pretty excited when the folks at Hott Lava wanted us to incorporate film into our performance. Every few months they put together a night of crazy art films and have a band play with one of them. I've been a huge fan of Alivia Zivich for a long time and we were able to use one of her films for our performance. We didn't really know what to expect when we pulled up to the place. All we knew was the venue was called Yellow Barn. It ended up being a pretty good description.

Yellow Barn indeed
  • Yellow Barn indeed

Now, where can we unload all this stuff so we can get out of here and hit Zingerman's? We walked four blocks from the venue over to the deli and on 4 PM on a Friday it was totally dead!

The one, the only, Zingerman's
  • The one, the only, Zingerman's

That's all right with me, 'cause then we can monopolize the dry-goods guy and eat all his caramel . . . and pistachio butter? You could eat either with a spoon. Oh wait, I did. For lunch I had the Leo's Friendly Lion (fresh avocado spread, spicy fire-roasted New Mexico green chilies, Wisconsin Muenster cheese, and tomato on grilled farm bread) and the small portion was actually huge. Fresh lemonade, potato salad, green salad, garlic pickle, and to top it off (I couldn't say no) a strawberry/mint/balsamic salad for dessert. Heaven. The last time I was there I had the Rodger's Big Picnic (oven-roasted asparagus, grilled marinated portobello mushrooms, Vermont cheddar cheese, and Dijon vinaigrette on grilled farm bread). That all goes together better than you could imagine. I'll order that again next time. Also, maybe the best pickle I've ever had? Someday I'll put it up against the Pickle Guys and see who comes out on top.

The spread
  • The spread

The section of the deli with baked goods, coffee, gelato, and chocolate
  • The section of the deli with baked goods, coffee, gelato, and chocolate

The coffee at Zingerman's looked great, but everyone I know tells me that Comet Coffee is the place to go while in Ann Arbor, so we held off and walked over to the Nickels Arcade. Comet Coffee is a small place with two tables and a counter; they sell beans (49th Parallel!) and have a few guest espressos. Sitting at the outside table smelling the cigar shop next door while drinking a wonderful espresso at Comet will be in my mind for a long time.

Comet Coffee
  • Comet Coffee

Comet Coffee
  • Comet Coffee

I love you, coffee. And your friends.
  • I love you, coffee. And your friends.

OK, time to play!

The Hott Lava people had assembled two programs of pretty amazing and freaky stuff. Found films, local artists, and some pretty heavy items from some folks that I recognized. I think they are in the middle of working out the rights, so I won't say who they screened, but they were some A-level underground artists.

After we finished another band called the Butchers played until the neighbor called the cops. We found out later it was the third show in a row for the poor Butchers to end in police intervention. For some reason, having a loud Lynchian dance party after the cops left was OK, but a punk band wasn't? At any rate, good times were had. We decided that the night should end there, so we headed to Eastern Flame for some food at 3:30 AM.

David Lynch Dance Party
  • David Lynch Dance Party

Not bad for 3:30 AM
  • Not bad for 3:30 AM

Woke up early the next morning and wanted to get back to Zingerman's for breakfast, except on Saturday at 11 AM it's slammed. Our friend Forest from Hott Lava convinced us that we had to try another place anyway, so we walked a few blocks (everything is four blocks away in Ann Arbor) to Zola. It's asparagus season and the special was right up my alley. Two eggs over easy with asparagus, a hard cheese (was it a parmesan?), and potatoes. Add a carrot juice and you have quite a nice breakfast.

Breakfast at Zola
  • Breakfast at Zola

I had to stop by the deli again to bring some pastry items to my family brunch on Sunday, so we headed back and fought the line, which stretched out the door. I bought out their sticky buns, and there was no way I was leaving without the rhubarb pie. And maybe a little aged cheddar. Eh, I should probably get that caramel too . . . That olive oil is expensive, but it's so good I could drink it . . . .

Zingerman's front room on a Saturday!
  • Zingerman's front room on a Saturday!

I love you, pie. And your friends.
  • I love you, pie. And your friends.

It really does cost $250 for a regular bottle, but they will let you try it!
  • It really does cost $250 for a regular bottle, but they will let you try it!

Time to head home! Except there was one more place, nearby in Ypsilanti, that everyone had been talking about. It's called Ugly Mug. Could we stop there for a quick one before we split? Yes we could. We met Derek from Awesome Color for espressos and three Faygo Rock & Rye Sodas for the road. What an amazing weekend!

Awesome Derek
  • Awesome Derek

Ugly Mug
  • Ugly Mug

Yes, the rhubarb pie was a big hit on Sunday. Only one slice left over, but not for long . . . .

Bought some strings at Herb David, and found this.
  • Bought some strings at Herb David, and found this.

Jeremy also posts on Twitter and is probably on the road right now. . . .

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