Monday, May 5, 2008

In which Brian and Alli adventure to plum market for shrimp.

So, I promised Brian that I would blog about the shrimp we made for dinner the other night. Thing is, they looked nice, and the glaze was delicious- but I was just not happy with them. I have three theories as to why:

1. A classic case of Alli-is-trying-to prepgrillwatchmarinade skewershrimpdirectbriannotforgetanything. Meaning, I love the whole organized chaos in the kitchen thing. Per
haps I took my pot-slamming and spoon twirling too far, and lost the organized bit all together.

2. I (am nearly positive) over-grilled the shrimp. I have the tiniest grill in the world, and didn't adequately spread my coals before starting-- so i had to keep flipping them and offsetting them to get the shrimps on the ends of the skwers. And i just wouldn't believe they were done. And so they were very... rubbery.

3. Poor quality shrimp.
Which leads nicely in to the second topic of this post....

Their logo is simple and beautiful. The store is simple and beautiful. Craigslist would have you know their employees are beautiful(and, perhaps, simple). The billboard I passed everyday on my way home from school was simple and beautiful. So perhaps you can understand my expectations for this place-- simple, fresh, real.

Some background: Plum is the brain child of Matt and Mark Jonna. Their daddy Edward started/ran/owned Merchant of Vino, which I have many fond childhood memories of. Merchant of Vino was bought out by Whole Foods about 8 years ago. Anyhow, as I understand it (comment corrections if I've got my facts wrong) the Jonna boys worked for the big WF during this time period, and, in addition, signed a 5-year non-competition contract: ie, we won't open a new store for five years.
Five years later, out pops Plum, the boys very own store with out daddy.

So: simple, clean, beautiful and a second generation Merchant. What more could a girl want?
Sadly, I was particularly disappointed.

Here lie my beefs:

1. With only two locations, I expected everything within to be local, local, local. I wanted chips from the ann arbor tortilla factory, spices from Detroit spice Co., and pictures of Michigan farmers hanging over the produce. I wanted the name the cow and the farm it came from. Are these expectations may seem a bit over the top. However, I think that what I have described above is the only niche really missing in the ann arbor food market: you can get that local quality and attention in lots of places around town-- but thats just the point. If you want all these things, you have to drive to at least 3 or 4 different places. I'm pretty sure the only cranny left to wiggle in to (at least, successfully) around here is local, fresh and high end all under one roof. The only local I saw at plum was Zingermans. I'm sure someone out there would tell me "but it is there. They really do have these xx local products". And I'm sure thats true. However, if you're going to tell the Ann Arbor News that your focus is "natural, organic and local food" by damn, you had better hit me over the head with it. Sadly, my head made it out of there scott-free. Even whole Foods, a huge chain, can tell me, plainly posted above them, that my beets came from western Michigan. And I like that. Which leads nicely to point number two...

2. Roulette grocery.
Meaning, as I walked through the store, I was struck by this overwhelming feeling of inconsistency and incoherence. I had no idea as to how these foods ended up on the shelf together. I'm not talking about placement on the shelf, but rather the overall contents of the store: why carry Pepperidge farms cookies (which are not natural, organic or local) but not Keebler crackers? It gave off the impression that the contents had been squares on a roulette wheel, and chosen by luck, not by any particular overarching vision. And, indeed this just may be the problem: the about our store page states their vision as"Mixing the very best in natural, organic, specialty and local products".... So...They want to be whole foods, trader joes and kerrytown under one roof? I think its just too broad. Not to mention that the store is far too small.

3. Which leads me to the conclusion that the Jonna brothers are only theoretical grocery jedi's. I feel like they've read every how-to book but never talked to Yoda. They just don't get what people want out the the sort of grocery store they set out to create: intellect. The stuff between the lines, behind the scenes. They can pay someone to decorate the place well. They realized in their stint with whole foods that people will pay a silly amount for food products. What they didn't get was what those food products have in common: integrity-- of growing practices, of ingredients, of production. THAT is what people are willing to pay for.

so... I wouldn't be shocked if the shrimp I bought weren't exactly the best.

Anyhow, the moment you've all been waiting for:

Citrus-rum Shrimp Glaze

¼ cup honey
½ tsp lime peel, set aside
3 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp dark rum
½ tsp orange peel set aside
1 tbsp orange juice
1 ½ tsp cornstarch
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp snipped fresh cilantro
20 fresh extra jumbo shrimps peeled in cleaned
1/4tsp salt and pepper each

for the glaze: in a small sauce pan, combine honey, juice, cornstarch rum and ginger. Cook and stir over medium heat until think and bubbly. cook 2 minutes longer. Cool to room temp. Stir in peels and cilantro.

step two: rinse shrimp. pat dry. skewer shrimp, leaving a ¼ inch between shrimp reserve half glaze. Brush shrimps w. other half.

step three: grill over medium. uncovered 2-3 minutes. Brush shrimp w. reserved glaze before serving.

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