On our way out to watch a good friends band perform at a Kalamazoo bar, hunger strikes. After much deliberation, we settled on The Wooden Spoon in the downtown Brighton area. Being a first timer, I am always excited to try out a new menu, enjoy fresh environments and the people that come along with them, but I am very eager for this meal as I am told it features all local, unmodified ingredients, and a very decent selection of Michigan brews at a relatively low cost. Upon arriving, the first thing I notice is how broken up the dining areas are, which lends a more personal feel layered over the clamor of Friday night business. Right by the entrance are a few tables in a small little alcove that has the feel of a tapas bar, and to my left, the patio. We sat in the main dining area, all three of which are separated by a fresh local artisan market. The vibe is very welcoming, and all of the employees appear very pleased even though it is clearly a busier night. As we sit down, I warmly take note of the local art on display for sale all over the walls, which is when I realized that this place wasn’t all about fresh and local as a current trend to get ahead of, but that it comes from a sense of pride in the local culture.
Naturally, the first thing I check is the drink menu. Full of unique and healthier options, from all natural sodas to infused waters, and even table side Sangria service, I am blown away by the selection of local pints for an absolute steal. Deciding on Short’s Belaire Brown, I move on to the menu. The menu, which changes every few days depending upon availability and quality of ingredients (a practice that I feel more restaurants ought to catch on to…), featured so many wonderful collections of uniquely styled dishes, that I was hard pressed to decide on an appetizer, let alone my entrée. But then, I spotted it. At the bottom of the sandwich list, I see the “Old #7” – Brié, pickled blueberries, crushed pistachios and arugula tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette. Sold. Easy enough, right? In fact, I’m so excited about the sandwich, and their signature wild mushroom and Brie soup, that appetizer choices are next to meaningless and just go with the Greek platter. As I enjoy my beer and try not to keep checking the clock, for fear of being late to the show, our waitress, a funny and warm personality, apologized for the wait on the food and brought out a complimentary appetizer with a sundried tomato and cream cheese spread with crackers, which was quite good. I must be honest, though, the Greek platter was the only disappointment of the experience. Consisting of grape leaves, toast points, and grilled halloumi , the plate was visually lacking. The halloumi, which is a Mediterranean cheese, traditionally made from sheep or goats milk, was exquisite. Let’s just say that my first halloumi encounter will not be soon forgotten. The grape leaves we’re good, but nothing really special, and I found myself eating dry toast points after all was said and done, without anything else to accompany them. This small disappointment was quickly forgotten as soon as I spied my soup and sandwich entering the dining room.
This mushroom and Brie soup, which is Chef Steve Pilon’s “average everyday” signature menu item, was arguably the best soup I’ve had in months. On its own, very well balanced and delicious, but the well-seasoned croutons were an ingenious touch that brought a whole new height and complexity to the soup. That being said, next to this sandwich, everything else was mediocre by comparison. My first bite was so impressive, I forced myself to hold off forming an opinion until I could be sure I got all of the favors in a single bite. I have always loved the pairing of Brie and blueberries, but these pickled blueberries were such an inventive and amazing flavor that it shifted my views on cheese and fruit pairings forever. The pistachios and apple cider vinaigrette made this into, truly, one of the most creative and fantastic bouquet of favors I’ve had the pleasure of coming across. By the time I finished this sandwich, which I unreasonably prayed would never end, I remembered the excellent soup, still half uneaten on the other side of my brown ale. No matter how full I was, I’d be a fool to let a drop of such simple elegance go to waste.
Leaving very satisfied, bursting at the seems, I left with the kind of calm comfort that only a good wholesome meal can provide. I am very excited to go back again and again, to see what inspired favors Chef Pilon has chosen to share with us all. In closing, The Wooden Spoon is on my list of top five favorite metro Detroit restaurants, and I implore you all to check it out. At once. If not, more halloumi for me. 🙂