the gourmet underground detroit picnic: a summer tradition
There’s something to be said about traditions. Whether it be a religious rite, a certain food made every year without fail for a holiday, or some corny family ritual that has you groaning inwardly each time it’s performed, traditions bind us and make us feel a sense of community between ourselves and those who share them. Most traditions revolve around church or family, but just as meaningful are the ones we create or choose purposefully, rather than the ones we inherit.
My favorite tradition which falls in the latter category is the annual Gourmet Underground Detroit potluck picnic on Belle Isle. Every year for the last three years (and hopefully many more to come), we gather under the willow trees on the north side of the island to eat, drink, socialize and bask in the beautiful views. Anyone is welcome to attend, but there is a core group that shows up each year. You can be relatively assured of a delicious and potent punch or shrub made by Evan or Dave, creative DIY eats and coffee drinks from James, elote from Amber and Nate, homemade sausage from the Porktown Sausage boys, and a host of other treats that go above and beyond the standard picnic fare. And of course there’s Todd, who (along with Evan) organizes the picnic, comes early to set up, and stays until everything is returned to the condition it was in when they arrived.
In addition to the usual suspects, there are always new people to meet and new foods to try. Probably the craziest thing I sampled this year was basil parmigiana marshmallows with roasted figs, made by Angela (note to self: invite a pastry chef every year!). I also got to chat with a new friend, Natasha, whom I had briefly met at the bar a couple months before, but it was so much nicer to get to know each other in a more laid back setting. Coincidentally, her mother is from Cordoba, and so was the dish I had brought- salmorejo cordobés (recipe post
coming soon here). It was quite the compliment to get her seal of approval- she was even telling all the newcomers they had to try it! Other food highlights included James’s pickled shrimp and the knackwurst John of Porktown brought, complete with homemade currywurst sauce. I’ve always been scared to attempt an emulsified sausage at home, but he reassured me it’s not that terribly difficult as long as you keep everything cold. Part of the fun of the picnic is talking to everyone about their contributions- what’s in them, what was the inspiration, how were they made, etc.
For the rest of this post, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. And if you’ve contemplated joining us in the past but haven’t yet for some reason, there’s always next year to make the picnic part of your summer tradition.
For more photos, see my flickr set.