Reinvention Recipes: Monahan’s Seafood

ReinventionRecipesIf Julia Child had specialized in seafood, she would have been Mike Monahan. He has taught a generation of people in Ann Arbor, MI, how to cook fish, including me.

Growing up, my fish experiences were limited to Fridays and fish sticks. But once I discovered Monahan’s Seafood, in the Kerrytown Market, an entire world opened up. Monahan’s sells everything from Lake Superior whitefish to Copper River salmon to a lobster salad that rivals any you’ll find in Maine. Continue reading “Reinvention Recipes: Monahan’s Seafood”

Reinvention Recipes: The Farmer’s Perspective

The Midwest’s food scene depends on its farmers. And those farmers depend on its restaurants, food purveyors and individual customers to stay afloat.

One place where farmers, chefs and customers gather every Saturday is the Green City Market in Chicago. The non-profit market began in 1998 in an alley outside the Chicago Theater. Now, white tents fill a lawn in Lincoln Park during summer Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the displays move indoors come November.

I’ve been a frequent shopper at the Green City Market during my time as senior editor of Changing Gears. As I’ve strolled through the displays, I’ve noticed that many the farmers are from my home state, Michigan. I’ve also noticed that many of those farmers are charging more than they could there. A basket of apples that might sell for $3 at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market fetches $4-5 here. A quart of raspberries that could go for $5 at home cost $7 here.

But behind every box of apples and every bunch of radishes is a story like Rene Gelder’s. Continue reading “Reinvention Recipes: The Farmer’s Perspective”

Reinvention Recipes: Fritz Pastry’s Macarons

At Changing Gears, we want our Great Lakes region to be known as much for its food as the South, the New England States or the Pacific Northwest. To make that happen, we’ve asked chefs and food purveyors from across the region to give us their Reinvention Recipes — fresh twists on classics dishes. This week, Michael Nagrant visits with Nate Meads of Fritz Pastry and Adam Seger of Hum Spirits in Chicago. Continue reading “Reinvention Recipes: Fritz Pastry’s Macarons”

Reinvention Recipes: Manhattans, Two Ways

At Changing Gears, we want our Great Lakes region to be known as much for its food as the South, the New England States or the Pacific Northwest. To make that happen, we’ve asked chefs and food purveyors from across the region to give us their Reinvention Recipes — fresh twists on previous classics. This week, it’s Zingerman’s Roadhouse of Ann Arbor, Mich. Continue reading “Reinvention Recipes: Manhattans, Two Ways”

Introducing Reinvention Recipes: Smoque BBQ

All across the industrial Midwest, a reinvention is going on. Chefs, restaurant owners, food purveyors and farmers are taking a fresh look at the food they make, serve and grow. Changing Gears’ contributing food writer Michael Nagrant brings you the first in an exclusive series called Reinvention Recipes — new ideas for the way we eat.

You might call Barry Sorkin, chef/partner of Smoque BBQ located in Chicago’s Irving Park neighborhood, the James Dyson of barbeque. For, like the designer behind the bagless vacuum cleaner and the scary efficient jet-like bathroom hand dryer, it seems everything Sorkin touches, at least when it comes to smoking meat, he makes better.


Sorkin started out by reinventing himself. Uninspired by a job in corporate IT, he attended night classes at Chicago culinary school Kendall College. After earning a certificate, he and his future partners, weekend warrior pitmasters, asked themselves why there wasn’t better Southern BBQ in Chicago?  They planned, dreamed and traveled across the country studying the ways of America’s legendary grizzled pitmasters. Continue reading “Introducing Reinvention Recipes: Smoque BBQ”

Hungry? You Will Be Monday


There’s nothing like a yummy peach cobbler — but this one has a twist. It’s from Smoque BBQ in Chicago, the first restaurant we’re featuring in Reinvention Recipes.

Come back to on Monday, when our food writer Michael Nagrant tells the story of Smoque and how it serves dessert with a surprise touch.

Where Should We Eat? What Should We Eat?

Whenever I travel, the first thing I like to know is where to eat, and what to eat. At Changing Gears, we’re determined to make our states as well known for their food as they are for their lakes and what we make here.

So tell us: where should we eat — in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and upstate New York? How about Ontario? What’s your favorite dish in Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago? Which farm markets do you recommend? Wineries, bakeries?

Continue reading “Where Should We Eat? What Should We Eat?”

Team Gears Welcomes Food Writer Michael Nagrant

Everybody in the Chicago food scene knows (or knows of) Michael Nagrant, and we’re happy to announce he’ll be a contributor to Changing Gears. Mike is taking charge of Reinvention Recipes, our look at chefs and food purveyors across the region who are taking new approaches to cuisine. Watch for Reinvention videos and recipes to run here soon.

In my short stint in Chicago, I’ve found Mike to be an encyclopedia of the local food scene. Ask him for a recommendation, as I did today, and you’ll get a synopsis of the menu, the backgrounds of the chefs and a description of the atmosphere and prices.

His work has appeared in Saveur, as well as New York Magazine’s Grub Street blog. He’s a regular contributor to Chicago Magazine and the Chicago Sun Times, and the regular food columnist for and CS-Modern Luxury. He also was — drum roll — an essayist in the Alinea cookbook by chef Grant Achatz that won the James Beard Award. Continue reading “Team Gears Welcomes Food Writer Michael Nagrant”

From the Senior Editor: Food’s Revival Role

Can food help revive a city — and a region? It certainly can play a part.

Here’s an example. We sat outside this week for a birthday dinner at a lively bistro. Near our table, a brazier burned brightly as well-dressed guests chatted in the warm evening air.

The wine list featured a variety of intelligent choices, from crisp chilled rose to warm reds and sparkling whites. The special was pork belly, the raw bar included a choice of east coast or west coast oysters, and the frites looked fantastic.

We were not in Paris, or New York, or Chicago. We were at Zinc, on Euclid Avenue, in downtown Cleveland. Zinc, set a historic building, is one of the most recent editions to the city’s growing culinary scene, which is centered around the corner on Fourth Street. Here’s a piece that Dan Bobkoff recently did for our partner ideastream on Cleveland’s new restaurants.

I’m convinced that good food is essential not just to a city’s spirit, but to a city’s revival. Restaurant wise, Cleveland already rocks — and so can the Great Lakes region. Continue reading “From the Senior Editor: Food’s Revival Role”