MICHIGAN, DETROIT, GRAND RAPIDS food and produce. Beef Spare Ribs Recipe.

This is our second port of call in the US. After New York we went to Michigan and stayed with friends in Okemos. They took us to see many places mainly around Detroit and Grand Rapids and we have met many of their friends.


We covered some considerable distances in Michigan including a trip in their spacious motor home with an overnight stay on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Michigan has a very different food culture and life style from our previous destination, New York City. We appreciated observing the very different landscape and land use. Looking at the expansive, lush, green fields of corn, sugar beet and wheat I was very aware that this was summer and that their rainfall must be very high. I kept on looking for the sheep and cattle that are so very much part of the Australian landscape, but there were none.


I was once again impressed by organic produce. It seems very much appreciated by the inhabitants and there is also a wide range of organic produce sold in supermarkets. We visited a number of farmers’ markets and I was dazzled by the quantities and low prices of quality farm produce, especially berries.


Blueberries reigned supreme. Fresh seasonal tomatoes, apples, cherries, carrots, potatoes and pickling cucumbers were as fresh as could be.


I did find a very small stall in one of the markets selling Asian greens. This was most unusual. I bought and stir fried some pea shoots that night in olive oil and garlic.


I also took a photo of a stall that sold chard, small eggplants and basil – this too was not the norm. I spoke to the vendor and praised her stall.


There were no artichokes or broccoli rabe and the like, as we saw in NYC. Is this because they are seen as exotic vegetables or is it more because farmers sold local, seasonal produce? Artichokes and broccoli rabe do not grow in summer.

There were simple cheeses (cheddar mainly) and I particularly liked the fresh curds. I remembered how when cheese cakes were fashionable in the 70’s (pre-Philadelphia cheese cheesecakes) I used to use cottage cheese instead of curds….ignorant me, cottage cheese is nothing like fresh curds.


As always we ate and drank very well both at home and in several restaurants including one Mexican and one Middle Eastern restaurant where the food was very good.


I am not a beer drinker, but I enjoyed the tastings of the different varieties of ales and lagers that the area around Grand Rapids produces. This consisted of sampling 6-12 different types of beer per couple so between us all we sampled quite a bit of beer in the three breweries we visited; some beers had very pronounced aromas and complex tastes including flavours of coffee and chocolate. Some were dry and not very bitter or tasted like wine and I can now more easily understand how beer could easily accompany food instead of wine.


Once again there was very little time to write or to take many photos of the food, but I hope that some of the photos tell the story but accept that this is not the whole picture. I noticed that in the US diners do not seem to be obsessed as Australians are about taking photos of the food they are about to eat – Americans just dig into it. Do what the locals do – a good motto!!


Pizzas as in NYC seem to be popular. I do not usually eat pizza, but these had good quality, thin pastry and interesting toppings. Pizza was a good soak-up food in one small brewery restaurant.

This is meat country.


These photos are from the meat market in Detroit.


At our friends’ house we ate venison. We watched some deer frolicking at the back of their house. Deer are so common and can be seen in people’s gardens nibbling flowers.


We ate local pork and chicken and the only fish we ate was local, fresh water fish- Michigan has many fresh water lakes and rivers.


In Milford we were invited for dinner by one of their friends. We ate bison prepared à la bourguignonne. How kind of these friends. We had never communicated or met and they cooked bison for us. It was very tasty. Unfortunately I did not take a photos of these meals, there was much going on, talking and enjoying our conversations with new friends.

In one restaurant in Detroit we had ribs and chicken wings. I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to sample these. They were not as greasy as I had imagined because they are cooked very slowly and  most of the fat drains off.


The salads in this restaurant however were not the salads I am used to. The wide range of salad dressings we were offered were sweet and thickened and not what I expected. What they called French dressing was a deep red colour and it was sweet and sticky.


Blue cheese also seems to be a favourite ingredient crumbled on salads.


This is how my friends cook ribs but is not to say that this is how others cook ribs.


How my friends cook ribs (pork or beef)

Pre-heat oven to 250- 270 F.( roughly 120- 130 C)

Cut ribs into manageable sizes so that they fit into the rack standing upright and do not over crowd. Season both sides of the ribs with  a little salt and pepper. (Many season the ribs with spices and sugar).

Into the bottom of the baking pan place about  2-3 inch layer of water (roughly 6-8cm) . Add one sliced onion and some garlic cloves.  Cover the baking dish with the lid or foil and place on center rack of pre-heated oven. Bake for approximately 3-4 hours. Check on the water level now and again as the ribs are meant to keep moist with the steam.


Remove the ribs from oven and place them on the BBQ for about five minutes to brown. Serve with your favourite BBQ sauce. I asked about this – the sauce is a prepared sauce usually made with tomatoes, vinegar, spices and hot pepper.


It’s Tiger country!