leave your inhibitions at the door
The usual logic has it that trends start on the two coasts and make their way towards the middle of America. Back when I lived in Chicago I’d read about a new fashion or music item in the New York Times, and think, “who the hell would like that?” Then, of course, I’d see it. But not right away. It usually took a couple years.
When we moved to Ann Arbor, I thought things might be a little different. With all the inordinate amount of New Yorkers and other east coast natives that come to school here, I figured they’d bring all their cool and hip culture here. I was disappointed – it still takes a few years to make it here, usually a year after it hits Chicago.
I just saw a report that a vendor is going to start selling cronuts at the farmers market this summer. That’s at least 2-3 years after they were big out east, right?
Anyway, I’m happy to report that ricewood’s food truck puts us right in line with a food trend happening elsewhere. I’m not talking the food truck part, because there has to be more than one here to make it “a thing.” No, it’s what ricewood serves – rice bowls – that’s the hottest food trend. In this case it’s rice bowls topped with Guam-style barbecued meat.
ricewood is from Frank Fejeran, who has had experience at Alinea, Tribute, and most recently The Ravens Club. The owners of Ravens would be the first to tell you that their food had been less than spectacular. Frank turned it around and I got the sense that there would be good things to come there. So I was a little saddened when I heard Frank would be leaving to spend more time with his wife and young son. Our loss, his family’s gain.
Not so fast…
Then came news that he was going to start serving food inspired from his native Guam out of a food truck. With a simplified menu and shortened hours, the truck allows him to cook what he wanted to and still be able to get that precious family time.
They serve Chamorro-style rice bowls with three kinds of meat – pork shoulder, beef brisket, and pork ribs. All meats are locally sourced and are served with finadene – a sauce made with soy, vinegar, chopped green onions, and chili peppers – and marinated cucumbers.
Lucky for you, I’ve had all three:
Since I had all three within the span of a week, it’s pretty clear what I think about it.
I’ve never had Chamorro food, so I can’t say whether any Chamorros living in Ann Arbor will say it’s authentic. (Then again, I seriously doubt I’ll ever meet any of the indigenous residents of Guam.) But I do know this – it’s the best barbecued meat within a few hundred miles. The pork shoulder and ribs were outstanding – great flavor, nice texture. But the real star is the brisket. Most of the briskets I’ve eaten were covered in sauce, which helped to mask that they’re either chewy or dried out. This beef was fork tender and full of smoky goodness. It is perfect alone, but does just as well with their pineapple barbecue sauce.
They are set-up behind Morgan & York (our local high-end wine and specialty food store) and there’s seating available. They start serving at 11am and are open until they’ve sold out of food, which usually occurs around 2pm or so.
Get there. Early and often.