Wrought Iron Grill, Owosso, MI; also Father’s Day

We had a number of adventures this past weekend starting with a brief jaunt to Ft. Wayne for storm-chasing on Friday night. The night ended with me driving home through that horrible downpour/second great flood/electrical storm south of Lansing. Fun times!

However, I am working my way backwards from my food notes for the weekend so we will begin with Father’s Day dinner. On Saturday, I called my dad to arrange dinner but we didn’t have plan for where to go yet. Initially, I considered taking him out on Saturday when we were going to go sample the contestant restaurants for our rehearsal dinner- ribs and pizza will make a man happy. Then, we went camping instead so we planned for Sunday.

Driving back from camping on Sunday (in Marshall), I started thinking about where to go. My parents live in Flushing, just west of Flint. We live on the west side of Lansing. I didn’t really expect my dad to drive all the way to Lansing nor did I really want to drive all the way in to Flint considering I also had a paper to finish write from scratch for class, due before bedtime. In the back of my head, I remembered this steakhouse/ grill type place in Owosso. Or maybe Corunna or even Durand. When we got back to Lansing, I went online to try to find it. You would think locating a restaurant in the small town of Owosso wouldn’t be that hard but it took 3 or 4 google search pages for the name to show up in a page- and not the restaurant’s actual home page even! After confirming I had the right place, I called to see if we needed reservations (nope) and the hours (until 8pm) then passed on the pertinent info to dad.

Only then did I look at my blog readers. And lo and behold, my fellow mid-Michigander had just been there the day before. Please read about his lunch experience and note the similarities.


We arrived before my dad and, following the behest of our GPS, drove right past the place and around the block to come in from the side. The restaurant is located in an old factory building/warehouse and is surrounded by several other buildings of the same variety. This area is right near the train tracks and across from the grain co-op, apparently the commercial-industrial center of Owosso, in its heyday. We parked along the side and noticed the adjacent building is the (former?) home of the Owosso Casket Company.

I spent some time in Owosso as a teenager. The hip thing to do was go “Owossoing” which is pretty much like cruising except lame-er. My recollections of the town are dim and consist mostly of a strip that reminds me of many towns along state highways or commercial fares (For you Flint-ites, think Dort Highway, the nicer parts): fast food joints, random stores, maybe a strip club. Oh, but Owosso has a castle! Curwood Castle was the home of author James Curwood. In case you don’t know that name, he was born in 1878 (in Owosso) and wrote such books as God’s Country and the Woman (1915) and The Valley of Silent Man (1920), several of which were made in to movies as well.

We didn’t go to the castle, having already toured a historic home down in Marshall earlier in the day. Instead, we went right to the restaurant. After a little confusion because the hostess wasn’t listening when we said we’d like to sit outside, we grabbed a table on the porch/patio. There was additional confusion because she said “wherever you like” but then said if we wanted smoking, we had to sit on the south side. And we didn’t so she said we didn’t have to smoke to sit there. Okay, but I don’t want to sit next to smokers either. Who chooses that??? The al fresco dining was perfect. The patio faces east so we didn’t have to worry about baking in the sun and it was neither too hot nor too humid.

Someone brought us water right away but it did take a few minutes more for the waitress to come and ask if we had drink orders. My dad hadn’t arrived yet but we went ahead and submitted an order for an appetizer, the Medicciettes: marinated tenderloin of beef encrusted with Parmesan breadcrumbs and served with sauce Bernaise. I also ordered a glass of red wine, a zinfandel from Melanto Terrace Wines (California). Not a favorite but not awful either, just a little too much pepper in the first taste.

After my dad arrived, the appetizer was delivered. I don’t really eat beef but of late, I’ve been sampling a few bites. Seems like if I’m going to review restaurants, I should be trying the food. I’m not likely to order a burger on our next outing nor would I order a steak entree but I’ll try a bite here and there. Chris made steak fajitas one night and I had a slice of the steak. It was good and about what I recall decent steak tasting like (oh, stopped eating red meat in 7th grade). These Medicciettes were not to my liking. The meat seemed stringy and didn’t taste like much of anything. The boys however, had no problem eating the rest.

After our appetizer, we finally ordered our entrees. I went with the Seafood Risotto, Chris ordered the Wrought Iron Pizza
and my dad had the salmon “burger.”

We’ll start with Chris- He waffled a bit before settling on pizza. Burgers and steaks were also on his mental checklist but once he picked the pizza, he stuck with it. Its not uncommon for Chris to change his mind right when the server shows up to take orders so this could be significant. The Wrought Iron Pizza consists of roasted chicken, grilled pineapple, Black Forest ham, red onion and green pepper with house barbeque sauce. He omitted the green pepper. The pizza was quite large, more than enough for two people to split. He was very happy with his pizza. Around the first bite he was asking me how long I’ve known about this place and why hadn’t we come here before. Half the pizza came home and I did have a slice tonight which I thought was pretty good and probably better warmed up.

My dad was also waffling, between the salmon entree and the salmon burger. The entree is served with a creamy dill sauce, rice and vegetables while the burger comes grilled with roasted red pepper aioli on an asiago bun with steak fries. He chose the sandwich and was a little thrown when the waitress asked how he wanted it cooked (i.e. to what degree). Truth be told, so was I. Generally, salmon is cooked all the way (excepting sushi of course). The only fish I’ve ever been asked about doneness on is ahi tuna (which should be rare, no exceptions!!!). Maybe she was just confused by the word burger and asked out of habit. The burger arrived with a scant serving of steak fries, as noted in review linked above. Maybe they are trying to help people control carbs? In any event, dad liked his burger, in fact he said it was really good. Coming from my generally quiet, “its okay” dad, this is huge!

Now I, I did not waffle. I did look at the whole menu. A few things caught my eye but once I saw risotto with lobster, shrimp and scallops in a cream sauce, I was only window shopping. Because I hadn’t really had much in the way of vegetables thus far, I added a dinner salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette to my order. It was your typical salad so let’s move on to the main event. I love risotto. I still reminisce over the risotto at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham (MI) which I had at the wedding of my now ex-boyfriend’s sister six years ago. Good stuff. I make it a lot at home, look through the archives here and you’ll find the recipe for the mushroom version we like best. Now, I would probably not ever make seafood risotto at home because Chris is so picky about the source of our seafood. Oh, and he doesn’t like scallops. So, this on a menu, was gonna be on my plate. And it was exactly what I was hoping for. Delicious and creamy with a generous amount of sweet lobster meat mixed in to the risotto then several shrimp and two jumbo scallops served over the top. Besides the cheesy creaminess, the plate was dressed with a bit of balsamic vinegar. Browse this site, you might also notice a certain fondness for the balsamic. IThe risotto was expensive and considering the price and trend in America, I expected a huge serving but was pleasantly surprised to receive an amount, while no doubt high in calories, that a reasonable person could eat without needing trolley assistance to the car.

In fact, I was so not overly stuffed that I convinced the boys to go in on a dessert with me. Its June! In Michigan! Hello strawberry shortcake with local berries! Sadly this was not fabulous. The strawberries were good but the shortcake was a little too dry for the amount of berries and cream. Which didn’t stop me from eating a fair amount, I’m just saying.

This meal was pretty extended what with all the talking and eating and ordering so I ended up ordering a second glass of wine, this time Elusiv Pinot Noir which was very cherry in flavor. I liked it better than the Zin. Too bad for me that its apparently from a boutique winery sold to restaurants only. Gee, I guess we’ll have to go back to the Wrought Iron Grill soon….. The waitress mentioned that the menu changes seasonally with some carryovers based on popularity and an overall focus on locally sourced products. You know I love that!

All in all, a great place for Father’s Day or any other nice night on the town. Owosso has some other things to do (besides the castle) and also has a pretty decent community theater troupe. For this night, it was just nice to have a good meal and let Chris and my dad get to know each other better.

Details

Wrought Iron Grill
Website with Menu
317 Elm Street
Owosso, Mi 48867
989-472-9025

HOURS:
Mon – closed
Tu-Th 11a-10p
Fr-Sa 11a-12a
Sun-12n-8p

Melt in Your Mouth Morel Risotto

Remember that non-homogenized cream I mentioned in my last post?  I used it tonight in making this risotto, served with chicken and more mushrooms plus steamed snap peas.

Risotto Ingredients:

1 cup brown short grain rice
3-4 cups water/broth/wine, hot
1 cup chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic
10-15 morel mushrooms, sliced lengthwise and rinsed
several sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter
Heavy cream
Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
olive oil, salt & pepper

Directions:

Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy pan over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant then toss in onions.  Cook 3-4 minutes until onions are softened but not browning.  Add rice and continue to cook another 1-2 minutes.  Add approximately one cup of the broth or wine to the pan, stirring constantly.  Let the liquid mostly absorb then add the next cup of broth.  Continue until the rice is softened to your liking (we like al dente rice so 3 1/2 cups of broth/water worked great).

After you add the last cup of broth or water,  melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a separate pan over medium-high heat.  Add thyme, stripping it off the stems.  When the butter is melted, add the morel mushrooms and saute, seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper.

When the last cup of broth is almost completely absorbed, add the morels and any juice or butter in the pan to the rice.  Allow the rice and mushrooms to cook together a few minutes then remove from the heat.

Stir in a couple handfuls of cheese (or 1 handful if its grated) and about 1/4 cup of the heavy cream.  Mix until the cheese melts. Add more cream based on desired consistency, season with salt and pepper.  Dig in!

To make the accompanying chicken with mushrooms:

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts, tenderloin removed, pounded to an even 1/2 inch thickness if necessary
1 cup of shiitake mushrooms sliced (stems removed)
1/2 cup small diced onion
1 tablespoon butter
olive oil, salt & pepper
smoked paprika
fresh thyme
garlic
balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add about 1  clove of mashed garlic.  Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper and smoked paprika.  Saute about 5 minutes per side until golden.  Remove chicken to plate and cover with foil to keep warm.   Splash a little balsamic vinegar in the pan to deglaze then add the onions.  Turn up the heat and cook until the onions get soft and most of the liquid is gone.  Add shiitake mushrooms and about 1/8 cup of water or broth.  Cook until the mushrooms and onions are soft and golden brown.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of cold butter to the pan to thicken the sauce.  Return the chicken to the pan, turn to coat and keep warm until the risotto is done.

Some tips:

  1. Rinse your morels after slicing them; grit and small bugs can sometime be trapped inside.  Pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Taste the rice before you add the cheese and cream. You may need to add more broth and continue cooking until it reaches your desired consistency.  Expect it to take at least 45 minutes but an hour is more reasonable.
  3. I strongly encourage using a combination of wine and broth for the cooking liquid.  A medium-bodied Chardonnay with just a little oak would be a good choice.  Red wines work great, if you don’t mind red rice.  Avoid really crisp whites.  Any sort of broth will work, match it to whatever else you are making. Tonight, no wine on hand so I used vegetable broth and 3/4 cup of water.
  4. I used 2 pans for this meal: cooked the rice in one while in the other, I sauteed the chicken then the mushroom/onion mix.  I put the chicken and mushroom/onions on a plate, covered in foil then wiped out the pan to cook the morels.  I didn’t clean the pan so the morels probably benefited from some of the chicken/onion/mushroom bits but I don’t think it was signficant.  After I added the morels to the risotto, I put the chicken and onion/mushroom mix back in the pan and added the butter to create a sauce then kept it warm while the rice finished.
  5. Dish up your servings then quickly put the rest in the fridge. Not for food safety- to guarantee leftovers for tomorrow! Chris went back for seconds before he finished his chicken.

Again, Chris’s verdict is that I could make this a couple times a week. Its getting easier to cook for him since he keeps telling me that.  I can also make turkey tacos and Turkey-Mushroom Noodle Goodness and Balsamic Chicken (recipe coming soon) on a weekly basis.  With leftovers, that just about covers 7 days.