By Crysta Coburn
One morning, while running a tad late for work, I decided to cut through the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market in hopes of snagging a quick breakfast. Tasty Bakery to the rescue!
A chocolate-dipped donut might not sound like the healthiest choice to jump-start the day, but this donut was “wheat free, gluten free, soy free, organic” and “naturally sweetened.” It was also deeply satisfying for both my sweet tooth and my tummy. A lot of donuts are still full of the oil they were cooked in, leaving grease stains behind on napkins and not always settling well in my stomach. After indulging in this Tasty Bakery delectable, I felt great!
I’m not gluten intolerant, so I don’t have to “settle” for gluten-free “facsimiles of real food,” as I have sometimes heard gluten-free breads and baked goods referred to. Let’s get one thing straight right now: you are not “settling” at Tasty Bakery. Their products are just as flavorful as gluten-filled baked goods, and, as I said before, sometimes even more satisfying. I could have eaten three donuts and still felt fine! (Probably. I haven’t tried this. Yet.)
Naturally, when faced with a table full of sweets on an empty stomach, I couldn’t leave with just one thing, so I also grabbed a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie. I could have gone with a cookie that was also vegan, but I decided to go the non-vegan route because I was curious to see how just the gluten-free cookie stacked up against its traditional counterpart. Conclusion: they stand toe-to-toe. I loved it! I’d like to try the vegan next.
On another occasion, while getting a coffee from Sweetwaters in downtown Ann Arbor, I also grabbed a Tasty Bakery Berry Bar, made with “organic gluten-free oats, organic blueberries, organic coconut oil, organic coconut nectar, arrowroot flour, organic Madagascar vanilla, sea salt.” The packaging was also compostable, so you can see not only is Tasty Bakery dedicated to making gluten-free delicious and accessible, but they are also committed to better health for us and our environment.
I’ve made gluten-free baked goods before (check my blog foodandword.blogspot.com for that time I famously attempted gluten-free paczki), so I know it can be a tricky business to get the balance right. There are a lot of traditional wheat flour substitutes out there. Arrowroot flour is popular, as is featured in Tasty Bakery’s Berry Bar. They clearly have gluten-free baking down to an art, and Ann Arbor knows it. You can find their products in coffee shops all over town (check their website for a full list). Don’t be afraid to try them! Your mouth (and tummy) will love you for it.
Tasty Bakery’s storefront is located at 416 West Huron Street, Suite 24, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103. It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Find them on Saturdays at the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market in Kerrytown from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and online at www.tastysansgluten.com.
Big City Small World Bakery
If there is a quintessentially Michigan food, it is the pasty. Usually, this is a delight attributed to the U.P. or at least the northern region of the Mitten. But on the corner of Spring and Miller streets in Ann Arbor at Big City Small World Bakery, pasties are on the menu and they are served up flaky and hot.
I had dropped by for a quick lunch before work, but I was thinking I’d get a simple sandwich and soy latte, not a pasty and a latte made with coconut milk. I’ve never seen coconut milk as a milk substitute on a menu before, so I had to give it a try. Since switching to dairy-free coffee drinks — a hard transition for me — I have often been disappointed. Soy is okay and almond is great with chai. But now? In the Milk Substitute Competition, I give the blue ribbon to Coconut. Thank you, Big City Small World, for giving me the most delicious faux latte I have had yet!
As for the pasty, I ordered chicken, but they also offer veggie, which I intend to try on another trip, and the gravy is homemade and quite flavorful. The sandwich choices also include veggie, as well as turkey and egg salad, all on homemade bread (which they also sell in loaves). In fact, all of their baked goods are homemade.
I’ve been a fan of Big City Small World’s infamous vegan ding dongs for quite some time. (It’s an absolute mystery to me how they’ve managed to make vegan pastries so creamy and moist. It’s wonderful.) I find Big City Small World to be a great place to find vegan goodies like this.
For those who aren’t fans of chocolate layer cake with vanilla frosting dipped in chocolate, I recommend the eclairs. The custard is rich and delicious! (Though this one is probably not vegan, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they had a vegan option.) For coconut lovers, try the golf ball-sized macaroons. They offer a range of gluten-free items as well.
The “world” isn’t the only thing that is “small” here. The bakery is quaint with a few options for indoor seating. If the weather is pleasant, there is ample outdoor seating, where you can admire the eclectic art that covers the side of the brightly painted yellow building, or cast nervous glances at the unexpected wire mermaid sitting on the bench. After the bakery is closed, I like to think of her as a gargoyle-like guardian for nighttime pedestrians. During the day, she’s just another friendly face inviting me in for a ding dong and a coconut milk latte.
Big City Small World Bakery is located at 500 Miller Ave., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103. They are open Tuesday through Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also find them on Facebook.
Encuentro Latino Restaurant
If you are familiar with downtown Ypsilanti, you may recall the Wolverine Grill. Well, the Wolverine is no longer there (moment of silence), but its location has been passed into obviously capable hands, and the new restaurant, Encuentro Latino, is serving up some seriously satisfying authentic Guatemalan cuisine.
The interior of Encuentro is still largely set up the way Wolverine was, with a line of booths down one side of the long and narrow space and a counter with stools lining the opposite wall, offering a cozy diner feel. (They also have diner prices!)
I started off my dining experience with an iced horchata. Whenever I order horchata from a new restaurant, I try not to get my hopes too high. There are countless recipes for horchata across the Spanish-speaking world. (For example, Mexican and Guatemalan horchata is typically rice-based, while in Spain tiger nuts are used, and Puerto Rico favors ground sesame seeds.) Some that I have tried are disappointingly watery and lack flavor. However, Encuentro’s horchata did not disappoint, with just the right amount of sweetness and spice.
I also tried the crispy chicken tacos from the appetizers list — “served with cabbage salad, tomato sauce and cheese.” Why has no one ever told me how perfectly shredded cabbage pairs with mayonnaise? It’s like they were made for each other! And the tomato sauce is to die for. A large part of why I ended up choosing the tortillas de harina for my entree is because it also features mayonnaise and tomato sauce. (Also yummy beef and scallions.)
Speaking of tortillas, Guatemalan tortillas are a little different than the ones you’re probably used to from Mexican restaurants. They are puffier, measuring about a quarter or a half-inch thick, reminiscent of pita bread, warm and wonderful. You can really sink your teeth in, especially if you opt for one of the pupusas (stuffed tortillas) on the menu. There are pupusas de chicharron with pork, as well as vegetarian pupusas de frijol.
Tragically, I did not try the desserts, though both the creme brulee (my favorite dessert) and tres leches were definitely calling my name. Since Encuentro is within walking distance of my home, I know I will return. My mouth is also watering for their breakfast menu and its promise of fried plantains! Hasta pronto, Encuentro.
Encuentro Latino Restaurant is located at 228 West Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197. Find them online at www.facebook.com/Encuentro-Latino-restaurant-106983366342816/. They are open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.