It seems like just yesterday that I was running soft whole wheat loaves of yeasty bread through the faded green bread slicer at Wildflour Bakery in Ann Arbor. I watched in awe and delight as co-founder Annie, in her long hippie skirt, ate raw cloves of garlic, baking bread at dawn. It was the 80s, and I was a periodic student volunteer, in between political science classes and protests against intervention in Central America.
Ann Arbor sure has changed in 25 years!
Writing this, I am sitting by the wood fireplace at Selma Café, a weekly breakfast at the Ann Arbor home of Jeff McCabe and Lisa Gottleib. As many as 186 people pay $12-$15 to fund local farms, hoop houses and a sustainable food system in SE Michigan. Jeff just cut off a sliver of homemade proscuitto at the table cloth covered card table where I am sitting, duck livers are soaking in milk for the “duck confit and poached egg on charred bread” entree, and the conversation is about advanced engineering of hoop houses. Executive Chefs from U of M Catering Department, donned in crisp white chef coats, are braising local beet greens, warming buckwheat crepes and frying up local root vegetables. The coffee is strong and locally roasted (Roos Coffee); the tea is loose and locally–grown; the salad greens are perfectly dressed and grown in a 4 season hoop house nearby. And, by the way, I haven’t been around this many carnivorous locavores…well…ever.
This is not the tofu-crunching Ann Arbor of the 80s.
Ann Arbor and Avalon have always had a special relationship. Wildflour, which closed just months before Avalon opened, was an original source of inspiration for Avalon. And throughout the years, our Ann Arbor wholesale clientele has continued to grow in both size and enthusiasm. More and more cultural tourists visit us from Ann Arbor; students from U of M are now a steady stream of new Detroit residents.
The loop is beginning to close. I am thrilled to be a guest chef (ok, really a sous chef and trafficker of Praline French Toast and brioche sticky buns) with Maggie Long, Executive Chef and Proprietor of Ann Arbor’s famed Jolly Pumpkin (and loyal Avalon customer) next Friday, March 4th at Selma Café, I’ll sling root vegetable hash along dozens of Ann Arbor folk giving their hard earned time and money to create a new vital and sustainable regional food economy.
Check out Selma’s wonderful website at www.repastspresentandfuture.org to find out more about the incredible work they are doing. And join Maggie and I on Friday, March 4th, from 6:30 a.m.-10:00 a.m. at 722 Soule Blvd. You will see a few familiar faces from Avalon. You will meet some great new people from Ann Arbor. And you can help close the loop further, creating an even stronger local food movement in SE Michigan.
And the food is gonna rock.