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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ham, Brie and Black Raspberry Melts

Connie bought me a new cookbook a couple of weeks ago.  It's all about grilled cheese.  One of my very favorite dishes.  We've always been the type who'd try anything on grilled cheese.  Mix up four different kinds of cheese.  Add salami or pickles.  Add cole slaw.  It's made for some wonderful dishes.  And, some that could best be described as interesting - lol. 

Needless to say, the cookbook got me really hungry for melted cheese.  Brie in particular.  Now, I'm not sure why but that's what it was that I wanted - brie.  I'd also used some black raspberry preserves from Huber Farms for our Fig and Prosciutto Salad.  That meant I had an open jar of fantastic preserves.  Brie and black raspberry.  Hmmm, sounds like a winner to me.  So, what meat would be best?  Ham, of course. 

This morning I packed up food for three meals at the office - pepper steak for an evening meal, ham and brie sandwiches and an oriental chicken salad.  Well, I forgot the waterchestnuts.  Darn the luck.  I'd have to fix the ham and brie sandwiches for lunch.  Actually, timing wise it worked out well because I had a conference call at 11:00 and another coming up at 1:00 so I needed to keep my nose to the grindstone and not spend half an hour in the kitchen chopping oriental veggies...

What did we think?  I almost wish I didn't have the chicken for the salad.  Although I know it's much better for me than another one of these sandwiches, I'd much rather have a repeat of this tomorrow.  But, there's always Thursday, now isn't there?

Ham, Brie and Black Raspberry Melts


2 slices of bread
6 thin slices of ham
3 thin slices of brie
1 T black raspberry jam


Toast the bread.  Schmear on the jam.  Pile on the ham.  Top with the brie slices. 

Broil until the brie is nice and melty but hasn't melted down totally.  Serve warm.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Salad with Figs and Prosciutto

Saturdays are normally spent in the office. Not this one. This time, we drove to South Bend, IN. A place I've never been. My friend, Anne, had arranged to have me as a speaker at a conference - in South Bend. We had two choices. One, drive up and back the same day - a total of six hours of driving. Or, two, drive up and spend the night. Now, there were plenty of things to do in South Bend. But, there were also plenty of things to do in Indy. Mostly involving taking care of clients. And, my clients come first. So, we drove up and back. It's a miserable drive. You get stopped at EVERY light in Kokomo. My friend Jeb is the economic development director up there and he drives down here to Indy all the time. He's obviously a LOT more patient than I am because I'd lose my mind if I had to make that drive very often.

Now, the good news is that I had a blast up in South Bend. We had 52 women registered for the Social Security seminar. I've never had so much fun teaching this. Talk about laughing. And great questions. These ladies took the cake. Then, it was time to head south. But, on the way we needed to see two things. One was the Notre Dame campus and the other was the world's largest egg. Notre Dame was gorgeous. We saw the gold dome

and Touchdown Jesus

and lots of other stuff. Then we were off to Mentone and the egg. I called Mom on the way to make sure she'd made it through the church rummage sale ok. Told her where we were headed. You're right. She thought we were nuts. Ok, fine. We are. But we have fun being nuts. She said she'd not walk around the corner to see the egg. We drove about 20 miles out of our way. And, laughed the whole way. See, just talking about the world's largest egg is funny. That's what I love about Connie - he's curious.

Needless to say, we didn't get home quite in time for Annie to get her dinner on time. Nor did she get her lamb snack on time. We were a few minutes ahead of the 8:30 scooby snack. Whew! On the way home we debated. Stop for dinner? Nope, takes too long since Annie's got to go out. Get carryout? Nothing sounded good. We were both focused on a recipe I'd read in Cooks Illustrated. A salad recipe. There was leftover chicken stirfry on brown rice if we wanted it. But, we both wanted this salad. Figs, prosciutto, parmesan. On bitter greens. And, have we ever got the bitter greens in our garden. Fine then. It was decided. Home to fix THAT salad.

What did we think? I could make this once a week and we'd not get tired of it. The flavors played together perfectly. It took just two strips of parmesan to pull it all together. We had some leftover blackberries so I added them. They fit in just fine.  One other change was to toss the minced shallot into the skillet with the prosciutto instead of adding it raw.  The whole premise of the article was that by incorporating the right types of ingredients into a salad with bitter greens, you can neutralize the bitterness.  I'm here to tell you it works!  There were two more salad recipes with the article and we'll undoubtedly try both since this one was such a homerun. 

Bitter Greens Salad with Figs and Prosciutto


4 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/2" wide ribbons
1 T raspberry jam (I used black raspberry
3 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 c dried figs, stems removed
1 small shalot, finely minced
8 c arugula or other bitter greens (5 oz) (I used sorrel and red giant mustard greens)
1/2 c walnuts, toasted and chopped
shaved Parmesan


Chop the prosciutto and mince the shallot.  Saute both in a small amount of olive oil.  You want the prosciutto to be a smidgen crispy but not totally. 

Toast the walnuts. 

Whisk together the blackberry jam and the balsamic vinegar.  Add the figs, cover the bowl with plastic wrap (cut a couple of holes to vent)  and microwave them for 30 seconds to one minute until they plump.

Remove the figs from the vinegar, cool them and chop them into 1/4" pieces.

Whisk the other three tablespoons of olive oil into the vinegar/jam mixture.

Now, it's time to put the salad together.  I decided to use a smaller amount of greens that the 8 cups called for in the recipe primarily because it's still pretty early in the growing season and our greens aren't super huge yet. 

Here's what the goodies look like close up:

Last, but not least, shave a couple of ribbons of parmesan over the top.

adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Monday, March 19, 2012

Vegetable Candy

Step away from the pan!  I mean it!  Step away from the pan!

This is what you're going to have to say to your family if you want to have any of this vegetable candy left to serve for dinner.  It is so incredible on its own that it really doesn't need the feta et al.  But, all of that is pretty awesome also.  So, yes, you want to serve the whole deal. 

How did I find this wonderful dish?  The Secret Recipe Club.  Once again, I got a GREAT blog.  They have all these rules for the times you get a blog with nothing you'd like to cook.  Or one where you try some recipes and they're all duds.  It's never happened to me.  I know I'm going to miss one or two here but I've got to say that some of my favorite dishes I've tried from other bloggers have come from The Secret Recipe Club.  Irish Pancakes.  Josie.  What a total delight.  We keep making these and loving them more and more.  Wendy's Burgers.  Wow - that gal can cook.  Oh, and she's a hoot too.  Barbecued chicken dip.  Crack dip as her husband called it.  Indeed it is. 

Here's how it works. Every month we are assigned a blog.  Once a month we all post a recipe from our assigned blogs.  Actually every week there's a group who posts their recipes.  The most popular tend to be the sweets.  Since I'm not a baker like my friend Liz at That Skinny Chick Can Bake, I go for the savory dishes.  That is unless I find a dish like this with roasted vegetables.  One of my favorite things in the world.  I've never tried roasting carrots and parsnips together.  And, I love both of them.  Even if nobody comes to visit because I'm blogging about boring old vegetables, it's ok.  Because I have a fantastic new recipe. 

Who's my secret pal this month?  Cookin' with Moxie.  Jamie's involved with more recipe swaps and blogging groups than you can shake a stick at.  I have NO clue how she does everything she does AND makes such great recipes.  I started with half a dozen choices.  This one was my favorite but I wanted Connie to participate.  So, I printed all the recipes on Adobe and put them on my desktop.  Read them all to him and he ranked this as number one too.  Fine, it was decided. 

What did we think?  Umm, you can probably tell from my opening line.  This was fantastic!  I can't wait to try the feta mixture on other roasted vegetables.  Actually, it'd be great on roasted red potatoes too.  And, the carrots and parsnips?  A match made in heaven.  I'll make these just with the glaze.  Do be careful that they don't get too done.  I'm one of those folks who really has a problem peeling most vegetables.  Feels like I"m getting rid of way too many vitamins.  So, I left mine unpeeled.  I did leave out the centers of the parsnips as they were a bit tough.  I made everything the night before so just had to assemble the dish quickly after a long day at work.  This will be a regular vegetable dish for us.  Thank you so much, Jamie!!

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips


1 4-oz package feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 c chopped dried cranberries
1/4 c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 t lemon zest
1/2 t crushed red pepper
4 T olive oil, divided
2 lbs carrots
1 lb parsnips
2 T brown sugar
3 T balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


The feta, cranberries, parsley, lemon zest, one tablespoon of olive oil and crushed red pepper get mixed together to make a dressing.  You can make this the day before if you'd like.  Preheat your oven to 400.  Cut the carrots and parsnips into matchsticks. 

Mix the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and three tablespoons of olive oil. In a baking dish, toss the carrots, parsnips and brown sugar sauce. 

Bake them for 35-45 minutes, tossing them every 15 minutes or so.  Remove the pan from the oven and toss the carrots and parsnips with the feta dressing.  I actually put the dressing on top of my vegetables.  Now, the recipe says it'll serve six.  I made half and we inhaled it. 

adapted from Cookin with Moxie.  Originally from Southern Living.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Italian Margarita

We've had weird weather here in Indiana.  A couple of weeks ago we had snow.  Then we had tornadoes that destroyed some small towns in Indiana and throughout the Midwest shortly thereafter. Our hearts go out to those in the path of those storms.  Our friends at Huber Winery were spared.  They watched the tornado skip around the farm.  As did the good folks at Capriole Farms (makers of incredible goat cheese.)  Now, we've set a record for a high temperature.  I'm actually going to leave the office a bit early and work in the garden then finish up some work at home later. 

We have a lot to be thankful for, as do most people every day.

We actually got to watch the IU / PU basketball game. Yet another thing to be thankful for, GO HOOSIERS!  IU won and now they're in the big dance.  For those of you not in the know, there's a huge rivalry between Indiana and Purdue Universities.  Those of us from IU like to remind our Purdue friends that the view in their Mackey Arena is better than that in our Assembly Hall.  You see, we've got too many championsip banners in the way.  LOL.

Our Colts are doing spring cleaning.  Ok, maybe it's more than that.  We'll show up this fall and will know about three of the players.  Happily, one of them will be Reggie Wayne.  Good old number 87.  He's fun to watch. 

So, as is our tradition on a Sunday, it was cocktail night. Rather than a retread, Connie says, “Let's try something new”. I am scoured the saved recipes, as he delved through his books.

Computers are both a boon and a bane. You want to find something? “PLEASE WAIT.” Well, it's not as if I had a choice. The programmers might as well design a message that says, “Sit there, sucker, while we load a whole lot of crap, that even if you knew how to use it, you wouldn't want to. PPPPPPPLLLLLLLBBBBBB!”

Okay, that feels better. The old vent your spleen trick.

So I pull up the Italian Margarita. We don't have sweet and sour mix, but Connie assures me that it is pretty straight forward. Now here is something interesting, people that know us, probably know us as competitive, but not geeky. Well as it turns out, we're both pretty knowledgeable about math and science, etc... We both analyzed this problem and discussed the solution.  So, the drink took another 15 minutes to make as we debated about the precise makeup of the sweet and sour. 8 oz of lemon juice to 2 tablespoons of sugar. I, the cook, broke it down as I know, 16 tablespoons in a cup, versus 2 in the recipe. He breaks it down by measuring how many ounces are in 2 tablespoons (1) versus the 8 called for for the lemon juice. Anyway, we finally figured it out and we decided that the recipe was wrong. The first pass at the drink told us that it got the sour, but forgot the sweet. We are going to make our sweet and sour from now on with our world famous :-) simple syrup. Probably half and half. The drink finished much more nicely. Tart to start, and sweet to the finish. Just like Connie likes me! (He added that - thank you sweetie!)

Italian Margarita

for two, of course

2 oz Amaretto (we use diSaronno)
4 oz sweet and sour mix (we made our own)
1 oz gold tequila (we use Jose Cuervo)
1 oz triple sec (we use Dekuyper's)
Salt for the rim of the glassOrange or lime wedges for garnish (we used limes)

Truth be told, Connie did not add the salt. I am not that fond of it, and he just didn't bother since the drink was at least 15 minutes late to begin with. The salt could cut down on the simple syrup modification, but to each their own! What ever you do, never forget to toast the one you love and enjoy!

adapted from

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chicken Piccata and Glazed Potatoes

Since our ill-fated trip to The Villa Restaurant a couple of weeks ago I've been craving chicken piccata.  REAL chicken piccata.  Not the crud they served that was made with salt and balsamic vinegar.  I wanted lemon juice and white wine and capers.  As luck would have it, we ran errands Sunday afternoon and one of the magazines I got through while we were driving around was another old Cuisine at Home.  Unbelievable.  There was a recipe for chicken piccata.  I didn't even have to hunt for one.  I also found a great recipe for glazed potatoes in the latest edition of Everyday Food.  Those would be perfect along with some asparagus. 

Actually, I'd planned on making one of the recipes I found from my Secret Recipe Club blog but it took too long so asparagus was the substitute.  If you want to see the Secret Recipe Club post, please check back next Monday :-)

By the time we'd spent about five hours in the office, then took leftovers over to Mom, bought some seeds at The Garden Center, trudged through Sam's Club and picked up the last few items at Marsh, it was well after 5 pm.  I still needed to spend a couple of hours finishing a financial plan for next week.  And, prepping for a couple more reviews.  Yup, it was about 7:30 by the time I finally headed to the kitchen to fix dinner.  i was pretty darned glad it was a relatively quick and easy meal. 

What did we think?  This made up for the horrid dinner two weeks ago.  The chicken was moist and tender and very flavorful.  The potatoes were great.  Just a hint of sweetness and very tender.  And, the asparagus made a perfect dipstick for the last of the piccata sauce.  Best of all?  We had leftovers for lunch!

Chicken Piccata


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c flour
2 T olive oil
1 t garlic, finely minced
1/4 c white wine
1/2 c chicken broth
2 T lemon juice
2 sliced lemons
1-2 T capers
2 T butter
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley


Cut the chicken breasts into cutlets.  I actually cut them into cutlets (cutting the breast into half so you have two very thin cutlets) then cut those in half.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Dust the chicken with flour. 

When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken to the skillet.  Saute until it's a bit brown then turn. 

Remove the chicken from the pan and add the garlic.  Deglaze with the white wine.  Once the wine has almost cooked away and the garlic is browned,

add the chicken broth, lemon juice, capers and lemon slices. 

At this point, I thickened the sauce with a bit of cornstarch mixed with chicken broth.  Add the butter and melt it into the sauce.  Add the cutlets and pour the sauce over them.  Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.

adapted from Cuisine at Home

Glazed Fingerling Potatoes

1 lb small fingerling potatoes
2 T unsalted butter
1 1/2 c water
salt and pepper
3 T honey
2 T cider vinegar
1 T butter
1 t fresh thyme leaves


Use a skillet for this dish.  Combine the potatoes, two tablespoons of butter, the water, salt and pepper in a medium skillet.  Make sure the potatoes are in one layer. Cook the potatoes until they're tender.  It'll take about 15 minutes.  Once the potatoes are fork tender, increase the heat to boil off most of the water.  Once the water has pretty much evaporated, add the honey, vinegar, one tablespoon of butter and thyme. 

Continue to cook until a glaze has formed.  Remove from the heat and allow the potatoes to cool for a couple of minutes prior to serving.

adapted from Everyday Food

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pomegranate Prosecco Cocktail

First, the disclaimer, we don't use champagne.  We happen to like Prosecco.  We find it slightly drier and more approachable than champagne.  It's just a preference, and although neither one of us were big on bubbly, we have, over the past couple of years, found that sparkling wines have their place in the rotation.  Adding to that, our friend, The Wine Guy, Doug Pendleton, sells this wonderful Prosecco in 187 ml bottles (6 oz), Riondo, from Spago Negro.

Last night, my brother and sister-in-law came over for dinner.  We'd cleaned the house and generally scurried around, and we had a bit of time before they were due to arrive.  Connie had chilled the wine for dinner. I'd marinated the pork tenderloins in Hanger One Spiced Pear Liqueur, brown sugar and Kikkoman Teriyaki Sauce.  The sweet potatoes were cut and ready to be roasted.  The head of cauliflower was cored, slathered with olive oil and ready to be roasted.  I could actually unwind for a couple of minutes.  I asked for a glassof wine or a cocktail.  Connie said that a champagne cocktail might be nice because it's lighter and we have the whole night in front of us.  Then I hit on it.  What about some of that wonderful pomegranate liqueur, Pama mixed with the Prosecco?

Home run!  This was not only delicious, but beautiful.  This is going to be a regular cocktail for us.

Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail

1 1/2 oz Pama Pomegranate liqueur
3 oz Prosecco

Pour the liqueur into a flute, top it with the Prosecco, toast the one you love, and enjoy!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Steakhouse Steak

I'm working my way through a stack of old cooking magazines.  Like ten years old.  Antique.  Please don't ask me why I've saved them.  It's just that I hate to toss cooking magazines.  This morning on the way to work I read an old Cuisine at Home.  The lead article was about Steak House Searing.  Now, I've always been a steak grilling kind of gal.  Stovetop steaks were not on my radar.  Comes from having a father who thought the only way to cook a great cut of meat was on the grill.  Even though we didn't see him much since he lived in Orlando and we lived in Indy, grilling became part of our lives.  My brother, John, is the grilling pro.  Man, he's perfected grilling.  I can only hope to come close. 

Let's add up the facts.  1) I had an article about steak house searing.  2) There were a couple of pieces of tenderloin left from the trimmings from the holiday party.  They'd been in the freezer long enough.  3) I was REALLY hungry for beef.  Kinda the perfect night to fix some tenderloin.  Add in the fact that a gal who'd been a friend of my mom's and who'd played bridge with Connie died a couple of days ago.  She was the original creator of Jane's Rice - which is perfect with beef.  Oh, and we're having company for dinner tomorrow night so getting the house a bit clean was a great idea.  A quick dinner would help. 

Now, the magazine had some great sauce recipes.  Not on our diets these days...  I decided to make a change to the morel dusted ribeyes recipe and try the rub on the tenderloin pieces.  It turned out to be a good call.

What did we think?  I think I may have found my new preferred way to cook a piece of tenderloin.  The crust was perfect.  The interior was medium rare.  Flavor, great.  Tender.  We loved the steak.  And, the Jane's Rice was awesome as normal. 

Here's the basic premise.  Preheat your oven to 425F.  Cut the tenderloin into serving size pieces.  The article calls for cutting them about 2" thick. Mine were close to that but not perfectly shaped.  Rub the steaks with whatever rub you're using.  I used our morel dusted ribeyes rub but substituted brown sugar for white.  Then, you heat an ovenproof skillet.  I mean heat that skillet.  The recipe called for using oil.  I had some butter and thought that'd work.  Not so much.  I dropped it in the HOT skillet and it burned pronto.  Here's what it looked like after about 10 seconds:

I poured that out and wiped out the skillet and poured in some oil.  In went the steaks.  Five minutes on high heat, flip them then five minutes in the oven.  Pull the pan out - watch out for a hot handle! - and set the steaks aside to rest for five minutes. 

Now, the recipe in Cuisine at Home says this'll create rare meat.  It says to roast for seven minutes for medium rare and nine for medium.  My pieces were not uniformly thick AND I didn't remove them from the skillet immediately upon removing them from the oven.  So, I wound up with medium rare.  Which was fine.  I'd have preferred rare but Connie prefers medium rare so it worked out just fine for him. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Foodie Adventures

This weekend was pretty much foodie nirvana!  It actually started on Friday with lunch at Seasons 52.  Connie and I went there several years ago in Orlando with my older brother John and his wife, Linda.  It was very good but I don't remember it being extraordinary.  Friday's lunch certainly was extraordinary.  We call it the Kappa Lunch Bunch.  It's a group of sorority sisters who get together for lunch several times a year.  We rarely repeat a restaurant.  I think Seasons 52 will be an exception.  Everyone seemed thrilled with their food.  Gay had the fish tacos and raved about them.  Lori, the hamburger.  Mary, the sushi.  Patty the salad and bruschetta.  Debbie and I had the portabello mushroom flatbread.  The others at the far end of the table seemed to be as happy as we were but were too far away to chat with.  The flatbread was perfect.  Thin slices of mushroom, four kinds of cheese, fresh spinach and roasted garlic drizzled with truffle cream.  Here's a photo of my flatbread:

Friday evening was the Indy Wine Fest.  It's a fund raiser for WFYI - the public radio station.  No, the food wasn't great.  Well, except for the eggplant.  But, the focus was on the wine.  300+ wines.  All you can test.  Several wines disappeared early.  We'd gone through the list and highlighted several we really wanted to try.  They ranged from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnays to Pinot Noirs and Cabernets.  There were a few bubblies thrown in for good measure.  We were smart about the whole deal and took a cab downtown.  The reds really weren't at their best not being served with food.  The whites were a different story.  Awesome!  We had several that'll go on our list.  And, we got to spend some time with our dear friend, Chef Joseph and his partner Juan.  We also got to chat with some of the folks from Huber Winery and were very relieved to find out that they watched the tornado skip around the farm and had no damage.  Now, we need to confirm that our friend, Maggie (who owns Rosewind Farms) is ok.

Saturday morning it was up at the crack of dawn to head to Columbus for a meeting.  Connie took a nap and I met with my clients.  One of my favorite kinds of meetings - the yes you can afford to retire ones!  Makes it all worthwhile!!  From there, we were off to Burton's Maplewood Farm for the National Maple Syrup Festival.  We've gotten to know the Burton's from the Broad Ripple Farmer's Market.  Their syrup is amazing.  I always have a bottle of it in my fridge. 

Registration was at the school.  On our way down we'd passed our friend JJ Boston from Chef JJ's Back Yard in Broad Ripple.  He was driving his Big Green Egg Bus.  We'd honked and waved and laughed that he was probably heading to Medora.  Indeed he was.  On our way into the school we bought a "tour" from JJ.  A pork taco, a beef slider and frites.  All were fabulous.  A total home run!  Here's JJ:

Inside the auditorium there was a maple syrup and King Arthur flour cooking contest going on.  One of the judges was a friend of mine from way back when - Rick Hofstetter.  Rick and his wife own the Story Inn.  Not only is it a great place to stay but the restaurant is worth the drive!!

We boarded the bus to the farm at the school.  Aussie was helping:

Oh, and yes, it was a school bus.  No seat belts and teeny, tiny, windy southern Indiana roads.  Yikes!

Off the bus and up the driveway.  Lots and lots of buckets!  Here's Connie, Mark and Chris:

And, some of the buckets:

Then, off to the side was a re-enactment of a coffee house.  Fascinating.  One of the estimates is that there was a coffee house for every 250 Londoners in the 1700's.  The gal described the entire process of coffee making from roasting the beans to the sugar. 

Up the hill we saw the man eating chicken:

I know, I did the same thing.  GROAN.

They had a lot of vendors set up.  One of our favorites was Local Folks.  We thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the owner.  We've talked to his wife at the farmer's market but haven't bought any of their products because I prefer to make my own pasta sauce etc.  That'll change now that we've tried their mustard.  Wow, was that stuff ever good.  Mark loved their blueberry preserves.  In fact, he named that as one of his favorite things about the day!

Our other favorite was a fellow who was working with clay - primarily plates.

From there we were off to the other re-enactors.  First up was a family fixing dinner.  The fellow was cutting up a pumpkin and was going to roast it over the fire with port and maple syrup.  Sign me up!  He was going to toss the seeds for the heirloom pumpkin so I asked if we could have some.  We now have a baggie of wonderful seeds! 

Next, we learned how maple sugar is made.  Best of all, we got some samples.  Here's Connie chatting with the fellow about the various sugar molds. 

The last re-enactors were Lenape (Delaware) Indians.  This fellow was  softening a deer hide to make moccasins.  He said he'd first soaked it in deer brains then was rubbing it on this rope.  He was SO interesting to chat with. 

After we finished with the festival, we were off to find two local covered bridges.  The Medora Bridge is in pretty good shape.  The Shieldstown bridge, not so much.

Finally, on our way to drop Chris and Mark off in Columbus, we stopped at The Brick in Jonesville for one of their famous hamburgers.  I can see why folks love them!