Monday, July 30, 2007

Allen Street Farmer's Market

This is a good time of year for farmer's markets: some spring vegetables -like cabbages and greens - are still on, and the beginning of the bounty of late summer is beginning. I got some great tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini at the Allen Street Market last week. The flavor of real, fresh in season veggies is so wonderful, you have to give it a try. (Yes, we do get pretty good vegetables at grocery stores around here, but really, this is different.) They also have baked goods, canned goods, and potted plants.

The Allen Street Market runs in a parking lot at the corner of Allen and Kalamazoo every Wednesday from 3:30 to 7:30 pm. (And if you are out in Okemos on a Saturday, there is also a Farmer's market just north of Meridian Mall, in the parking lot of the Nakomis center on Saturday mornings.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

El Oasis, the little taco stand that could

(Note: After a temporary closure, this location is back open again, now moved just a few doors down, right next to Lam's Sweeper Service.)

It's just a little taco stand on wheels, like they have in Los Angeles. Except at El Oasis people will stand in line sometimes even in the middle of a snowstorm. They're in a parking lot at the corner of Michigan Avenue and North Francis Street (just east of the light at Foster Street, a few blocks west of Frandor).

Very authentic Mexican food here. You won't find food quite like this anywhere else in Lansing. The tacos - which come with a wide choice of meats, from chicken, shredded beef or pastor (pork) to the more exotic tongue or tripe - are served on a corn tortilla with cilantro and onions and a wedge of lime. I love the shredded chicken myself, and it's good with just the lime, but the salsas are too good to pass up. The mild sauce is a green tomatillo-based sauce that I particularly like on the tacos. The hot sauce is a tangy red sauce, with a milkiness that I can't identify, but hot and tasty. I can't make up my mind, so I ask for both whenever I visit.

Another of my favorites is the tostada, which come with the usual beans, lettuce, tomato, but also with sour cream and a fresh cheese that's crumbly and yummy. They put a little touch of avocado on top, and next time I might ask for more. The tostadas are offered with any of the meats, but I just get a plain bean tostada.

Tacos are $1.50 (2.00 for some of the more exotic meats), and the tostadas are $3.00 with meat, or $2.00 for just the bean version. Other prices are pretty much in that range.

It used to be that you could only get food from El Oasis at festivals, where the lines would be an hour long sometimes. Now that they have a permanent location the lines are shorter, and they get the hand made food to you fast. Give them a try.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

3 Times Cafe - Deli and Teriyaki Grill

A new restaurant has moved into the tiny strip mall in Okemos (where Michelangelos was, across from Bennigans, next to the Mongolian BBQ).

3 Times Cafe is a nice mix that may have a chance in that difficult location: The Korean owners serve American style soups, salads, smoothies and deli sandwiches, as well as their own teriyaki platters - all with a simple, subtle and homemade richness. Of course, the teriyaki - grilled beef or chicken cooked in a homemade soy and sweet sauce - is what to go for. The portions are good and the price is about $6, and it comes with a salad. For about a dollar more you can get a version with vegetables.

The salad is fresh and with just the right amount of dressing. The teriyaki is more subtle than some, but you get bottles of teriyaki sauce and sriracha hot sauce to doctor it at will. It's served over the plain short grain Korean/Japanese style rice -- sticky and pearly, and noteworthy in itself. The beef comes with optional grilled onions and peppers (take them, they're good!) but we preferred the chicken, which didn't come with anything else, but was really good. Add a little hot sauce if you like Korean spicey chicken dishes.

We also sampled their chicken vegetable soup, an American style vegetable soup with Korean richness. It was also very hot (temperature, not spice) and we both burned our tongues because we couldn't stop eating it.

The smoothies are so rich, I have to assume they have fat in them. Of course, I tried the pina colada smoothie, and with the coconut milk in it, it certainly WAS fatty. IMHO, it could have used more pineapple. My friend had the mango, which she said was very rich and very good.

3 Times Cafe, 2090 Grand River Ave., Okemos, (517) 349-3122.