Ask any American expat what culinary delights they miss most while overseas and they will undoubtedly reply: Brunch. Delicious comfort food, a bit of booze and happy, lingering conversation in a fun atmosphere. Truly? What is not to like?
I would also add to that list of longing: a touch of culinary adventure. For while the food in France is as truly exceptional as its reputation declares, it can often veer back to the safe side. When I am in the States, I delight in discovering the new and taking my taste-buds for a ride.
And so, one rainy Sunday on my most recent trip back, I suggested to my Mom that we try a relatively recent restaurant in Ann Arbor, Aventura.
I love to contradict naysayers with proof that, "the Mid-West is not what it used to be" and Aventura's sleek and yet welcoming design fits that particular bill perfectly.
We were given a gracious welcome - ok, it hasn't changed entirely! Folks are still very friendly even in cosmopolitan Ann Arbor.
Rather than slip into mimosa sleepiness, I jazzed things up by selecting a blood orange, gin and Campari cocktail. One glance at the bearded hipster shaking things up behind the bar (does he call himself a "mixologist"? He might.) told me that I would be in good hands and I was right.
As nothing makes me happier than the "small plate" revolution that is currently trending in the States, I was delighted to see that Aventura, which is a tapas restaurant serving modern Spanish cuisine, had also extended the idea to brunch as well. My Mom and I split a coca or flatbread topped with goat cheese, mushrooms and a farm fresh egg plus a shrimp and polenta bowl topped with sauteed spinach. Both were pitch-perfect excellent.
But the truly melodic tones came from a very talented flamenco guitarist who strummed quietly throughout our meal. As I mentioned to him later, in Arles - home of the Gypsy Kings! - we hear quite a lot of such music and yet his finesse was to be admired. It really was the cherry on the cake of a lovely meal and a good thing to as, foolishly, we declined getting the churros with salted caramel and chili chocolate for dessert. I know, what were we thinking? We weren't.
Afterwards, John, Aventura's genuinely charming General Manager, took us on a tour of the private wine cellar...
...past the open kitchen ("Merci, chef!")...
...through another seriously romantic made for snuggling cocktail lounge and out onto the back patio, where dancing happens on Thursdays. I could be up for that.
I had to do a little "research" on their evening menu. How fantastic that the pintxos start at $2! My Sister has already gone with a group of friends and had a fabulous time. At these prices, one can really taste, try new things and share a plenty, which is, of course, the whole point of tapas!
I will definitely follow the blinking lights leading me to Aventura on my next visit to Ann Arbor...and since I am taking the plane tomorrow morning...well, that might be sooner than later...
216 East Washington Street
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Tel.: (1) 734-369-3153