Friday Fries

French fries are a miracle of culinary ingenuity. Where else can you find something so perfect, so incredibly delicious, so amazing in a few quick bites?

Which French fries do you prefer? Are you a McDonald’s fry fanatic? Do you put anything except salt on your McD fries? Of course not! McDonald’s fries are the only ones in the world that scream, “Don’t dip me in that!!”

If McD fries are hot and fresh, they’re terrific. If they’re beyond their life cycle and luke warm, they’re nasty. Ever gotten a bag of McD fries that were the crunchy burnt end pieces instead of real fries? You can break your teeth on those. Dogs love them, by the way.

Do you always look for the stray fries in the bottom of the bag? They’re actually the best ones in the whole bag. In their attempt to escape to freedom they fell into the bag anyway, but the effort shows they really are the best ones. The other fries just climbed into the box like most good fries do, followers instead of leaders.

My most wonderful memories of hot, scrumptious, mouth-watering McDonald’s fries was when I ate them with the old fashioned, huge, delectable cinnamon rolls McD used to have. Those cinnamon rolls were not twisted cardboard with crunchy white stuff on top. They were huge, soft, bulging with cinnamon and butter, made with real yeast dough, and smothered in icing.

I went to McD’s just for those cinnamon rolls as often as I could. I also ordered extra icing. Sometimes the icing dripped out of the container. I didn’t care. I could tell by the weight they had fully granted my request for more. I dipped the hot, thin, salty fries in the icing, and ate them. Then, I devoured the cinnamon roll and immediately started thinking about the next time I would get away to have another one.

Where do you get your favorite French fries? You might not have “Culver’s” in your area, but they have amazing fries. They’re thicker than McD’s and rippled. They require ketchup, not because they don’t taste good enough by themselves, but ketchup increases the delightfulness.

At a few restaurants, I have had breaded fries. Are you kidding me!? Breaded fries!? Maybe they don’t call them breaded, but they’re dipped in something before they’re deep fried. I call that breading. Anyway, they’re incredible.

What about “steak fries?” These are fries that look like small deep fried slabs of wood. Delicious.

Have you had cheesy fries? How about chili fries? I love cheese, and chili, and French fries, but not together.

French fries have different names around the world. “Chips” is a name that comes to mind. When I was young I had fries in a bag with vinegar on them. We were in Canada on a fishing trip.

I would love to hear about fries where you live. I wonder where “burger and fries” came from. Who decided burgers needed French fries? What about “fish and chips?” Whoever decided burgers needed fries and fish needed chips, I’m glad they made the call.

Giving Thanks – Day 9

I’m thankful for smells. The good ones. You might think fragrance or aroma would be a better word. I think smells is best.

We’re coming up on Thanksgiving. I’ll bet you could make a list of at least a dozen experiences you’ve had during family Thanksgiving celebrations, just thinking about the smells in the house while dinner is being prepared. It doesn’t matter what your tradition is, maybe your family meal includes fish, or lasagna, or tacos, or breakfast food, or hot dogs. The smells combined with the experiences make the memories indelible.

When we were growing up our parents used to cook the turkey all night. It’s a wonder any of us survived! And the stuffing was inside the turkey! Unbelievable! The house slowly filled with that indescribable smell as the turkey roasted.

Bacon! Can’t you actually smell bacon, just seeing the word?! Bacon! What would camping be without bacon? What would spending a weekend at the cottage be without bacon? What would bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwiches be without bacon? They would be LTs. That just wouldn’t work. Eggs would be so lonely without bacon! What would the Smokehouse Breakfast at Cracker Barrel be without bacon?!

Chocolate chip cookies! I just gained three pounds imagining the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies! When I was young, somehow it became my job to make the chocolate chip cookies at our house. I was really good at it. It was my Grandma Ola’s recipe and it was fool-proof.

Cinnamon! I make awesome cinnamon rolls, if I do say so myself. Ever since McDonald’s made the incredibly awful business blunder of dropping their delicious, soft, huge cinnamon rolls literally swimming in icing (of which I always got extra) I have sought for a replacement. I make them myself! They’re buried in icing. Warm, dripping, luscious cinnamon rolls! The smell in the house is wonderful!

Grilled burgers! Are you kidding me?! You cannot beat grilled burgers for that beautiful smell that wafts through the yards telling people a mile away someone is grilling burgers!

Sauteed onions! Come on now!

Lilacs! Roses! Burning leaves! Christmas trees! Candles!

I have saved the best til last. Coffee! Coffee! Coffee! Where would we be without the smell of freshly brewed coffee? There are actually people who love the smell of coffee but can’t stand the taste! That makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.

Coffee shops make most of their money because of the smell of coffee, not because their coffee is so much better than anyone else’s. Well, maybe Starbucks coffee is better. Perked coffee is still the best. It fills the house with that smell that says, “Everything is going to be okay. I’m home. I’m in the house and it’s warm.”

Well, there it is. I’m thankful for smells.

Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery

I have been a fan of Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery for many years. After all, coffee is really my middle name. I don’t use it often on legal documents and such, but it’s always there.

Coffee is one of those important things in life I don’t mess around with too much. It’s either coffee, or a mocha. I don’t venture too far beyond that. I might get a frappuccino once in a while, but that’s as wild as I get. I think of myself as a purist. Yeah, right.

New owners began their quest for coffee and ambience perfection two years ago. The Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery in Caseville, MI, is the excellent destination for everything coffee on the shores of Saginaw Bay. The new beverage menu is colorfully displayed with an incredible number of choices from basic hot or iced coffee, to almost any kind of variation you can imagine. I have always loved Brew Moon for the way the coffee bar is arranged. I am just a few feet from the baristas as they prepare my hot mocha.

The new owners obviously love interacting with visitors. Everyone who enters Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery is greeted as a friend, not just a customer.

In the bright display case there are many delicious items from which to choose to enhance your beverage experience. One of my favorites is the amazing homemade, large, dripping with icing, cinnamon rolls. Oh my word! I haven’t had a cinnamon roll even close to that since another business, which will go nameless, made the catastrophic mistake of removing their lovely, warm, delicious, cinnamon rolls (for which I always ordered extra icing so the roll was actually swimming in it) from their menu. A real blunder. I always felt so sad when my cinnamon roll was gone. No more! Now the Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery cinnamon rolls have taken their place! Yummm!

Not only is the Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery your place for delicious beverages, it is an experience of art waiting to capture your attention. The owners emphasize local and Michigan artists. A terrific decision!

The coffee house has been completely repainted and decorated. The color choices create a feeling of warmth and comfort embracing everyone with an invitation to stay longer. Customers move easily throughout the store without a feeling of being crowded.

I personally love the drawing/painting of the businesses in Caseville. I wish I could include the name of the artist, but I forgot to write it down!

The new Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery is truly a place to experience, not just stop by for a coffee. A coffee beverage, whether it’s dark, light, tall white, latte, mocha, frappuccino, iced, hot (never lukewarm), vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, or any other combination of flavors, is best enjoyed by wonderful ambience. That’s what the owners of Brew Moon have accomplished.

The next time you’re in Caseville, do not leave town without meeting the good folks at Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery and purchasing your favorite beverage made to perfection. Then stay a while and enjoy everything it means to have a great cup of coffee. You’ll immediately begin anticipating your return visit.

The Up North Experience

People who live in the great state of Michigan actually argue over what it means to be up north. Most particularly, where up north actually begins. To some, it begins after travelers cross the beautiful Mackinac Bridge and begin to explore St. Ignace, Escanaba, and all points in the Upper Peninsula.

To many, up north means the beautiful region of Houghton and Higgins Lake. The fishing at Houghton Lake is unsurpassed. The beautiful blue water of Higgins Lake is known around the world. But still, there are many who say this very popular area is not truly up north.

Oddly enough, there are many who live in the southern areas of Michigan who consider the middle “thumb” region of the state to be up north. There are small lake areas south of where we live in the lower thumb that are favorite destinations of those seeking to go up north.

Up north is a state of mind. It involves a million different experiences all inspiring their own memories, each with a special feeling folks try to recreate by returning up north, wherever that may be. And that is the beautiful thing about going up north. You can have it wherever you are. Up north is yours to enjoy, whether it is in Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Otter Lake, Bay City, Mio, East Tawas, Clare, Gaylord, Ossineke, East Jordan, Brutus, Onaway, Rudyard, Brimley, Eckerman, or Au Train.

My wife has captured a little bit of up north with her Up North Flannels. A few years ago, while we enjoyed a trip to visit family in Tennessee, she purchased a flannel shirt that had been re-purposed and re-tagged. An idea was born. Why not do the same thing in our area and call the shirts Up North Flannels? She began by designing her own label, then started searching for used plaid flannel shirts.

Over the last three years her hobby has continued. Although two shops where she had a display of shirts have closed, she has two other stores specializing in home decor that also sell Up North Flannels.

We visit community thrift and other stores that sell used items. My wife has become very good at hunting and knows just where to find the shirts. Sometimes she finds just one or two, sometimes a bag full. We bring the shirts home where she washes and irons them. She then uses the iron to place her special Up North label. I get to help by sewing the label to the shirt. We have quite a production line going and we make a good team.

We recently have had great fun participating in a local Farmer’s Market. Our tent is surrounded by those who actually farm the items they sell but they have graciously allowed us to join them. Last week we decided to include home made cinnamon rolls which my wife named “Dale’s Delicious Delectable 3D” cinnamon rolls.

An Up North state of mind is a lot like A Coffee State of Mind. I don’t have to be enjoying a cup of coffee to have that state of mind. I can think about a delicious cup of steaming hot coffee and have the mind to enjoy the thought. I can think about the wonderful experience of being up north without actually being there and enjoy the state of mind all the same.

We all need to find that kind of thinking. Whether it’s enjoying traveling, spending time with family and friends, taking a walk, or listening to birds singing, our thoughts can take us there. If we stop for a moment and purposely think about the things we enjoy, we return to that state of mind.

It’s definitely time for more coffee. Literal coffee, not thought coffee.