Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Jolly Pumpkin

[Photos courtesy of jollypumpkin.com]

Jolly Pumpkin is a Brewpub on Main street in Ann Arbor. They've got a brewery in Dexter, and a restaurant/brewery/distillery in Traverse City. Jolly Pumpkin is one of my favorite spots in Ann Arbor. I really don't think it is the best at anything (aside from 1 simple menu item which I will definitely get to) but they do perform very well... at everything. The combination of the flavors, ambiance, and ideology really create a trifecta of excellence.

Jolly Pumpkin feels like an upscale brewpub, but it doesn't feel stuffy (physically or socially). It is a place I would feel just as comfortable going dressed to the nines after seeing a performance at Hill auditorium, as I would stopping in and having beer on the way home from a Michigan Football game. The decor is a bit odd in places, but its a muted odd so you just kind of look around and wonder... why are there decorative shrunken heads hanging there (Not in a gross way, just a... ... huh?) The service can be a bit slow if you are in just for drinks, but I've noticed that is a running theme in Ann Arbor at most places that aren't solely bars.

Food and Drink
THE FOOD and drink. Jolly Pumpkin has a menu item which really... introduced me to the simple wonder of the truffle. I've had truffle in foods before, and you enjoy the food but up until I tried the Truffle Fries at JP I really did not have an appreciation of the truffle at the level it deserves. Hell, I'll capitalize Truffle because that is how much it needs to be appreciated. JP's Truffle Fries are a simple appetizer, some shoestring french fries, sprinkled with rosemary and Truffled sea salt. Some may look at the menu and think... $5 french fries? If you go to JP and do not try these, your ONLY excuse is if you are well versed in the reality defying taste of the black Truffle. The fact that it is such a simple and plain food really allows you to completely taste the Truffle and its delicious decadence. [I now purchase black Truffle sea salt from The Spice Merchants in Kerrytown and wow people the same way the truffle fries first wowed me. I bake a loaf of rosemary bread and dip it in oil sprinkled with Truffle salt.] I've had a variety of dishes from JP, my favorite being the Grilled Chicken with Brie. This is chicken, brie, and dried apricots on rosemary focaccia. The sweetness of the apricots with the savory bread and the salty brie balances perfectly with the rather flavorful chicken. The food in general tastes very fresh and is usually on par with what you expect based on the cost.

The Beer
The beer is good. I know that is... one of the flattest sounding approvals, at least it was in my head. I really enjoy the Bam Noire, but their beer on the whole is rather... sour. I enjoy it, but I wouldn't call it the best microbrew. They do have plenty of seasonal selections and their variety is excellent, but many of the beers you must purchase in costly 750mL bottles so you can't really just try a pint so my experience with JP brews is limited mostly to those that are on tap.

The Ideology
JP really focuses on local, seasonal foods. You can find out where their ingredients for many menu items come from using an online tool called Real Time Farms. On their online menu they have links on specific items that explain what farm that ingredient came from. The seasonal/local aspect really is best seen in their appetizer the Farmer's Fritto which is tempura battered vegetables served with an appropriately matched dip. The fritto is made up of whatever vegetables you would find at the farmers market that weekend. If you go later in the year and get butternut squash it is DELICIOUS! Other dishes use things like free range chicken, or locally produced tortilla chips from the Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory. I really appreciate seeing the trend of local business supporting other local business, and ESPECIALLY local agriculture.

Revisiting the Machinations

So Ann Arbor Machinations was about the city, and University of Michigan sports. Apparently all of the old posts are gone. Much like my inaugural post about Leopold Brothers' Distillery on Main street, they are no longer around.

I will be bringing back the machinations with pretty much the same purpose. I left Ann Arbor for a brief hiatus of living in the suburbs (Northville) as I was going to leave Ann Arbor permanently to study law in Arizona. Law school turned out to not be what I wanted with my life and I happily came back to the city nearly two years ago. As I've seen business come and go, I've realized I want to bring the blog back with a primary focus of talking about local businesses. Reviews and commentary. Raving about delicious discoveries. Local/Regional photography. There will most likely be a healthy dose of athletics as well considering I'm a Michigan fan through and through.

Welcome back to Ann Arbor Machinations.