On a foggy October morning two weeks ago, Nick and I left Chicago's Union Station aboard the Amtrak Wolverine line. The route is a beautiful one, beginning in industrial Indiana towns that give way to sand dunes and Michigan vacation spots. The train passes through Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and Ann Arbor - arriving in Detroit by mid-afternoon.

Neither of us had visited Detroit before, though it had been on my list for years. For my birthday, Nick decided to plan a trip around the Smashing Pumpkins concert. It was a wonderful surprise and a very thoughtful gift.


After checking in at our hotel, we walked the two miles from downtown to our dinner destination in Midtown. On the way, we found Motor City Brewing Works which turned out to be far more exciting than our original destination. The place was full of friendly people, served good beer, and had fantastic pizza options (like roasted pear & fig). I would definitely be a regular if I lived in the area.


The first real concert I ever attended was the Smashing Pumpkins on their Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness tour. The Smashing Pumpkins were my favorite band and I was thrilled when my best friend Eileen invited me to attend. The show was at a huge arena near Chicago and it was a truly epic experience for a 13 year-old.


This concert took place at the Fillmore Detroit, a beautifully converted 1925 movie theater. The crowd was great and the show was appropriately epic for the moderately sized venue. Nick and I mused about the absence of solid mainstream rock and roll these days - and then felt kind of old.

Downtown Detroit

I know my Detroit history fairly well and I have a number of acquaintances who have beautifully documented parts of it in pictures, but I wasn't really prepared for the incredible emptiness of the city. I had expected to find a small district of fully occupied downtown businesses surrounded by vacant properties, but activity was much more spread out and the vast majority of the buildings we passed were vacant - even in the more populated areas.

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and the city was virtually empty until the evening when suburban residents drove downtown to parking garages to attend various cultural events. Only a handful of people patronized the few local businesses before or after the performances. Our visit was short and certainly not representative of the city at large, but the impressions were powerful.


The next morning we woke up early to watch part of the Detroit Free Press Marathon. It was a dreary day that looked perfect for a race. We made our way along the race route to Corktown to visit Astro Coffee (pictured above). This beautifully designed coffee shop just opened over the summer and already appears to have a strong following. We enjoyed coffee and excellent breakfast sandwiches on housemade bread. Another highly recommended spot.


It was a wonderful, yet brief trip. Detroit is a beautiful city and I think everyone should visit and support the amazing small businesses that are breathing new life into the area. I'm already looking forward to returning. There are a number of places that were recommended to us that we didn't have time to visit, including Belle Isle, Slows Bar BQ, the Motown Museum, Avalon Bakery, Woodbridge Pub, Cadieux Cafe, and Nancy Whiskey. (Thanks to Elizabeth and Will for all the excellent suggestions!)  Anything else we should add to the list? Feel free to share your recommendations in the comments. You can find more photos from the trip here. I'll be back soon with a new recipe for you.

Herb Roasted Red Kuri Squash & The Kentucky Bourbon Chase

In early October I left my Thursday night Interface Design class and headed straight to Louisville, Kentucky. It was my first visit to this lovely state and I was excited to explore while running in the Bourbon Chase - a 12 person, 200 mile relay race through distilleries, horse farms, and charming small towns. While training for the big event, we also raised over $6,000 for the National Hospice Foundation.

Bourbon Chase

Our team began in the afternoon on Friday and ran straight through until the evening - on Saturday! We were able to catch a few minutes of sleep in dewy fields and crowded vans, but for the most part this was an around-the-clock event.

Lebanon, KY

The race began at the Jim Beam Distillery and headed to Bardstown and Heaven Hill Distillery, continuing on to Maker's Mark Distillery, Lebanon, Perryville Battlefield, Stanford, Danville, Harrodsburg, Four Roses Distillery, Wild Turkey Distillery, the Tyrone Bridge, Versailles, Woodford Reserve Distillery, Midway, and finally into Lexington where we enjoyed our much anticipated first taste of Kentucky Bourbon.

I ran with a group of people that, for the most part, I'd never met before. It was a really awesome and intense experience, and I miss them all dearly. It was a wonderful way to make new friends and I'm already looking forward to next year.

Bourbon Chase

Kentucky was unbelievably beautiful. We visited during the peak of autumn colors and were welcomed with inspiring hospitality in every town. We stumbled upon an old abandoned distillery, saw multi-story mash tubs, visited Keeneland, and made a detour to the charming little town of Columbus, Indiana on the way back north. You can find more photos here.

Squash 11

After running 18 miles over 36 hours with little sleep and few proper meals, I've been reveling in kale salads, homemade soup, and autumn squash. I suspect that few of you need a recipe for squash preparation, but let this serve as simple encouragement to enjoy the current seasonal bounty.

Herb Roasted Red Kuri Squash


1 squash
2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl butter
Fresh rosemary
Fresh thyme
1 tsp roasted ground cumin
1 tsp sweet curry powder
1 tsp turmeric salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds from the cavity (reserve the seeds, see recipe below). Arrange the squash halves face-up on a heavy baking sheet. Rub the olive oil over the squash (including the skin) and place the remaining ingredients in the squash cavity.

Roast the squash for about 50 minutes. Check the squash periodically and spoon the butter-herb mixture over the rest of the squash surface to season. When you can easily pierce the flesh with a knife, the squash is done. Allow to cool slightly and serve warm. Any leftovers can be tossed with pasta and parmesan for a simple dinner.

Cumin & Parmesan Roasted Squash Seeds


Seeds from one squash 1 Tbl olive oil 1/2 tsp roasted ground cumin salt and pepper to season 2 Tbl grated Parmesan


Preheat oven to 350F.* Remove any large pieces of squash from the seeds and place the seeds in a large bowl. Don't worry if a bit of squash remains on the seeds.Toss with the olive oil, cumin, and salt and pepper.

Spread the seeds evenly over a heavy baking sheet lined with a Silpat mat or parchment paper. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the seeds are golden brown. Check and stir frequently.

When the seeds are done, remove them from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with the grated Parmesan.

*(You can also put them in the oven with the squash at 400F. Just watch them carefully.)


I'm in Glacier National Park hiking with my family for two weeks before my last semester of graduate school begins in late August. In my absence, I'd like to give you a taste of one of my favorite bakeries. (A version of this story originally appeared on Gapers Block.)

Grinnell Glacier

If you have ever had the opportunity to enjoy an extended backcountry hiking trip, you are surely familiar with the campfire moment when you begin to fantasize about your first meal off the trail. If you happen to find yourself in northwest Montana, hiking in the North Fork Valley, you will likely be fantasizing about Polebridge Mercantile. This general store, bakery, and gas station is a mile from the northwest entrance to Glacier National Park and the only bakery between the Apgar ranger station and the Canadian border. Though, even without that distinction, Polebridge would be worth the long, gravel road drive.

Pastries at Polebridge Mercantile

Built in 1914, Polebridge hosts a large and eclectic staff from all corners of the country. The faces change from year to year, but the one thing they all have in common is a passion for the great outdoors and this little town in the middle of nowhere. Polebridge Mercantile bakes all day long, seven days a week, turning out loaves of bread, cookies, and sweet and savory pastries. Few items have a chance to completely cool before they are on their way to the trailhead with a happy customer.

Spinach, Poppy and Blue Cheese Pastry

Pastries run a dollar and change and a baker's dozen of their cookies are only $5. Don't miss the huckleberry macaroons, the spinach and blue cheese pastries with garlic and poppy seeds (pictured above), or their sticky buns. They also sell excellent hot and cold sandwiches and breads.

Beers at Polebridge Mercantile

Polebridge sells a wide variety of home and camp supplies, toiletries, food, and beverages. The big porch and picnic tables out front provide the perfect invitation to enjoy one of the regional microbrews they sell while you take in the mountains surrounding this picturesque corner of the world.


Camping is plentiful, but Polebridge also rents cabins on their property for $45 a night. Call ahead for details and be mindful that the area is fairly inaccessible for much of the year without serious snow equipment. Remember to sweeten up the hard-working Apgar rangers with a bakery delivery on your way back south.

Polebridge Mercantile 265 Polebridge Loop Polebridge, MT, 59928 (406) 888-5105

New Orleans

The American Library Association annual conference took place in New Orleans this year. I waited until the last minute to decide to attend, but in late June I joined thousands of other librarians and archivists for a week in a truly lovely city.

It's no secret that I have a special place in my heart for long-distance train travel. I take the City of New Orleans route between Chicago and Champaign several times a month, but this was my first ride heading all the way south on this line. Most of the daylight hours on the 17 hour trip are spent traveling through the beautiful state of Mississippi and the end of the route skirts Lake Pontchartrain before arriving in New Orleans.


I'd visited New Orleans before, but several years ago when I was still a teenager. I remember the trips fondly, but they were fairly limited in location and activity.

New Orleans

I am lucky to have two warm and generous friends, Will and Jeanne, living in New Orleans who hosted me in the Bywater neighborhood. On my frist night, we went out for fried shrimp po'boys from Parkway and saw the Stooges Brass Band play at the Hi-Ho. The musicians were stacked three deep on the small stage and kept us out late. It was the perfect introduction to the city and away from the typical tourist path.

We were fortunate to enjoy wonderful weather. The week of rain that had been predicted held off for the most part. It was hot, for sure, but it was pleasant enough for walking, biking, and plenty of patio dining.

New Orleans

The population of New Orleans is just shy of 350,000 people (nearly 30% less than a decade ago), and 20,000 librarians flooding the convention and French Quarter districts made quite an impact. Nearly every place I went, I spotted hip glasses, vacation smiles, and sensible shoes.

I love to eat and drink, though I tend to keep a fairly vegetarian diet, making exceptions for local fare and well-raised meats. New Orleans cast a spell on me and I wound up eating more meat in five days than I have eaten in the last ten years combined (no joke). This is a city that has immense pride in their culinary traditions and it was a joy to take part. At Coop's, I went so far as to order the Taste Plate and did my best to wade through Seafood Gumbo, Shrimp Creole, Cajun Fried Chicken, Red Beans & Rice with Sausage, and Rabbit & Sausage Jambalaya.


The best meal of my trip was at Boucherie where we ate mussels, hamachi, smoked scallops, ribs, and crispy duck confit with cucumber dill salad and sauce gribiche (pictured above). Every dish was beautifuly presented, fresh, and complex. The meal was reasonably priced and the service was wonderful. Chef Nathanial Zimet was recently shot in front of his home. He survived, thankfully, but is facing daunting medical bills. If you are planning a trip to New Orleans soon, don't miss the chance to enjoy a superb meal and support this business.

After dinner, we enjoyed blueberry mojitos at St. Joe's Bar on their dreamy patio. The midwest could certainly learn a thing or two about outdoor hospitality from our southern friends. The outdoor bar, breezy fans, and gently rocking lanterns made for a serene evening.

I enjoyed several excellent breakfasts in New Orleans. One morning, I skipped an early conference session and met Julia - my friend, fellow student, and daily companion for the week - for our obligatory visit to Café du Monde.

Cafe Du Monde

The beignets were just as flaky and sugary as I remembered, and the to-go line made for a quick wait followed by a leisurely rest in Jackson Square Park.

A few miles away in the Bywater neighborhood is Satsuma, a bustling coffee shop with a fairly extensive menu and delicious food. The beet lemonade and bacon, egg, and cheese on a cheddar biscuit were simple, but extremely satisfying.

Elizabeth's, just a few blocks away in Bywater, served the last great breakfast of the trip. It is a fairly plain looking restaurant. However, their eggs, cheddar grits, biscuit, and praline bacon are anything but.

Pimm's Cup

After our last full day at the conference, I realized I had yet to have a Pimm's Cup, Sazerac, or Muffuletta - three items with a strong attachment to the city.

I made my way over to Napoleon House with a few friends and set out to correct that. It had just rained, and the gorgeous patio was nearly empty.

Napoleon House has been around since 1797. While nothing we ordered was amazing (lime and no cucumber in the Pimm's Cup...), the venue was truly impressive. It was full of old wood, ferns, and natural light.

New Orleans

New Orleans is a welcoming, bike-friendly, laid-back city. It's full of amazing food, vibrant colors, and great music. I'd like to see more of the south. I tend to stay above the 37th parallel, but I think I've been missing out.

I'm incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to become reacquainted with New Orleans, reconnect with Will and Jeanne, and become more engaged in my professional community. It was a fun and invigorating trip.

Aboard the City of New Orleans

You can find more pictures here.

Seattle Road Trip

My brother recently moved from Chicago to Seattle, and thanks to the flexible schedule of grad school, I was able to take a few days off to accompany him and his two cats, Sprout and Turnip, on the three-day drive. Evan is my only sibling and our family is very close, the two of us even lived together last year. It's been hard to adjust to having him so far away, but I'm excited for his new adventure and I'm grateful we were able to spend this time together.

Fargo Flooding

We stopped in St. Cloud, Minnesota to see Evan's friend Sten and grab dinner at the White Horse, a nice bar in the charming old downtown area. We spent our first night in Fargo, North Dakota. The next morning as we left town, we watched the floods rise to meet the expressway. Had we left a few hours later, we would have been stuck. It was eerily beautiful in the early morning light, but it was clear that the families who owned the farm fields we passed would be facing a hard year without their crops.


Sprout and Turnip are young cats and they did amazingly well with the drive. We were able to let them out of their crate for most of the trip and enjoyed watching them peer out the windows or find sunny spots to sleep. We drove all day and made a quick stop for dinner at the excellent Montana Ale Works in Bozeman, Montana. Thanks to many family trips to National Parks growing up, Evan and I share a deep love for Montana. Bozeman was a gorgeous spot to stop and enjoy the sunset behind the mountain range.

Hob Nob

We stayed in Missoula, Montana that evening and had breakfast at the Hob Nob, a fantastic diner recommended by my friend Angela. Their menu included pancakes made with 100 year-old sourdough starter from Red Lodge. I'm normally a savory breakfast type, but I couldn't resist a legacy like that and they were delicious.

Road Trip

Our third day of driving was our shortest. The state seems to have a bit of an image problem, but for those of you that haven't had the pleasure of visiting Idaho, I think the beauty of the northern portion is one of the best kept secrets in the U.S.

Sprout & Turnip

On the afternoon of an uncharacteristically sunny April day, we made our way along the Puget Sound and into Seattle. We stayed at a lovely place in the Fremont neighborhood and set to work trying to find Evan an apartment. The cats were pretty thrilled to be out of the car, as were we.

Veggie Burger at Julia's

Apartment hunting might not sound like a great way to spend a vacation, but it was actually really wonderful to be outside all day, getting to know different neighborhoods, and sampling the local fare. I went to school in Portland, Oregon and visited Seattle a few times, but I never got a great sense of the city before.


We spent the majority of our time in Fremont, Capitol Hill and Queen Anne. Rent rates weren't as bad as we had been expecting, but nearly every place in Seattle appears to have carpeted floors and electric stoves. It was a rough transition from the hardwood and high ceilings that seem plentiful in Chicago. Ultimately, we did find a nice spot in our favorite neighborhood.


I have two great friends who live in Seattle, Tara from high school and Jen from college. It was really fun to finally get out to see them and I'm looking forward to more frequent visits. They took us to some excellent local establishments and helped us get a better sense of the housing market.


Seattle is a beautiful city, full of interesting people and lush landscapes. The air feels amazing, their produce beats Chicago's nearly all year round, and the opportunities for outdoor activities are endless. I've really missed the northwest since I moved away years ago. It is nice to know that I will have a good excuse to get reacquainted.


I'm really excited for Evan. It's hard to move away from home, but I know he is going to have an incredible time in his new home. It was so hard to say goodbye at the airport. And even harder during a few idle hours in Chicago last weekend when I went to give him a call, and had to remind myself that he wasn't in Logan Square anymore. He's one of my best friends and I already miss him a ton. I'm so grateful we were able to take this trip together.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor
"Bad dinners go hand in hand with total depravity, while a properly fed man is already half saved."

So cautions the 1912 edition of the Alliance Cook Book: A collection of tested and approved recipes, contributed by the ladies of the Wollaston Unitarian Church. I spent my graduate school spring break in Ann Arbor, Michigan volunteering in the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the University of Michigan. As a library student with an obvious interest in food, the Longone Archive had been on my travel list for quite some time. I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Longone last year and during that conversation she welcomed my interest in a visit. It is difficult to clearly articulate the wonderful experience I had in the archive. Jan is the kind of woman that is simply bursting with energy, ideas, and good stories. She has dedicated much of her adult life to collecting American culinary works that - until quite recently- were largely regarded as unimportant to many institutional collections. We have people like Jan and her husband Daniel to thank for collecting and preserving a portion of this valuable material.

Clements Library

Over ten years ago, the Longone's generously donated their collection to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and it is now housed in the Clements Library. (I adore this bas relief quote from Professor Ulrich Phillips on the Clements' facade: "In darkness dwells the people which know its annals not.") The archive is inspiring not only due to its holdings, but also due to the small dedicated staff (like JJ and Betsy) and the large group of dedicated volunteers that work to process, catalog, arrange, and research the pieces in the collection (like Phil, Lily, and John). Some of the volunteers have been there for ten years!

I spent my week primarily working with community cookbooks from the late 19th century and early 20th century. Some of these books are the only known copies and they document the recipes, family names, and sometimes even the addresses of women who lived all over the United States generations ago. The volumes contain illustrations, marital advice, advertisements, and recipes ranging from molasses cookies to "beef tea for invalids." I also had the opportunity to work with a fascinating collection of ephemera including a 1941 menu from the Café de Paris in Chicago signed by Chef Henri Charpentier who popularized the dish Crêpe Suzette. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time with the wonderful staff and material at the Longone Archive - and I feel incredibly honored to have been able to spend time with Jan Longone herself.

Ann Arbor 2 Ann Arbor 3

When I wasn't at the archive, I was out in search of delicious food and drink in Ann Arbor. As the home to Zingerman's and a slew of other formidable establishments, this was not a difficult project. Thanks to my friends and readers who offered excellent suggestions before my trip. The deli counter above is a shot from inside Zingerman's Deli, also pictured first in this post. I had always been under the impression that Zingerman's was a single location, but in reality the Zingerman's Deli, Bakehouse, Roadhouse, Creamery, and Coffee Company are spread around Ann Arbor. (You get a t-shirt if you visit them all in one day, though this is sadly quite difficult for those of us traveling on foot.) I was happy to be able to try the superb Roadhouse bread (I hear they consulted the archive when developing the recipe years ago) and the City Goat cheese.

Comet Coffee, unassociated with Zingerman's, is a charming little storefront in Nickels Arcade that pours the best coffee I tasted in Ann Arbor. This is not the place to go if you need a cup in a rush, but a sweet little company that takes itself seriously - and with good reason. Their pale green chairs out front had me wishing for warmer days. It would be the perfect spot to spend an afternoon with a good friend.

Zingerman's Roadhouse

By midweek I was ready to brave the buses and I took myself out to Zingerman's Roadhouse. I was tickled to find a notice for a recently passed dinner event, Mark Twain's Feast: "A Tramp Abroad," that Ms. Longone had helped to organize at the restaurant.

Zingerman's Pimento Cheese & Bacon Macaroni

The service didn't make me feel at all odd for dining solo, photographing my food, and devouring an entire bowl of Pimento Cheese & Bacon Macaroni. They also brought out the heartiest "amuse bouche" I have ever seen.

Ann Arbor 5 Ann Arbor 4

Near the end of the week, Betsy, JJ and I made a trip over to Le Dog, a tiny, red hot dog stand that is widely known for their soups - especially the lobster bisque, which is available on Thursdays and Fridays.

Le Dog: Lobster Bisque

It was quite a surprise, but it turns out one of the best lobster dishes I've tasted can be found in Michigan. The soup was the perfect treat for a chilly spring day - warm, rich, and salty. The soups go quickly, so be sure to visit on the early side of the lunch hour and order a Zingerman's pretzel roll on the side.

Jolly Pumpkin

Ann Arbor is lucky to have half a dozen brewpubs in the middle of the university district. I tried most of them and sampled a variety of beers - but in the end the best beer bar I visited was Ashley's. They don't brew, but they have a huge tap selection and a comfortable environment.


I stayed with two awesome librarians that I found through Airbnb. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that library professionals are excellent and helpful hosts, providing me with everything from beer recommendations to safe running routes. Their sweet cats (that's Basil above) were an added bonus.

Ann Arbor from Huron

It was a wonderful trip and I hope to return to Ann Arbor soon.

New York City

Just after the new year, Nick and I traveled to New York to visit with my cousin Matt and his lovely wife Ana. The trip was a very generous birthday gift from Nick. We both love long-distance train travel and he booked us a sleeper car on the Lake Shore Limited for the journey from Chicago.

Amtrak Lakeshore Limited Amtrak Lakeshore Limited
Amtrak Lakeshore Limited Amtrak Lakeshore Limited

Nick and I took the train to Portland, Oregon a few years ago (for Matt and Ana's wedding no less!) and have now traveled the apporoximate width of the United States by rail. There is something very serene and romantic about watching town after town and state after state pass by from a train car. We always meet fascinating fellow travelers and I love to imagine the fine-dining of days-gone-by as we enjoy meals in the dining car.

We arrived at Penn Station in the evening and met Matt and Ana, along with my Uncle Brad, Aunt Gayle, and cousin Lian, for dinner at a nice little French bistro named Bar Breton.

New York New York
New York New York

The next day we stopped for a bagel at Bagel Berry (a hold-in-the-wall place that had way better bagels than anywhere in Chicago) and enjoyed a windy winter afternoon at Coney Island. Nick and I have both been to New York City a number of times, but had never made the trip. We enjoyed some very mediocre food at Nathan's and then headed to Bierkraft in Brooklyn for some drinks and to get growler for dinner. That evening, Matt and Ana took us to Ali's, an Egyptian restaurant near their apartment. The food was wonderful and Ali was a warm and joyful man who made the dinner a highlight of our trip. We finished the night with a beer at Sweet Afton where I ordered my second beer of the day from the excellent (new-to-me) Captain Lawrence Brewing Company.

New York New York 1
New York New York

The next moring, we met my old friend Jason and his charming son Amory at Blue Bottle for fancy coffee. Nick ordered a cold brew that really was worth the hype, though my americano was a bit disappointing. We then made a quick stop at the Bagel Store before a fun tour of the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory. We wandered around Brooklyn and stopped at Mugs Alehouse and the Manhattan Inn for drinks before meeting Nick's friend Nathaniel for dinner at Roberta's where we enjoyed delicious pizza.

On our last day, we took the train into Manhattan to visit Murray's Bagels, to take the 6 train through the out-of-service City Hall stop, and to share a warm winter lunch at Menkui Tei noodle shop.

While we weren't able to spend time with all of the people we had hoped, and we certainly weren't able to visit all of the places on our list, we packed a lot in for a three day trip. Thank you to Nick, Matt and Ana!