Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A Kalamazoo Xmas Do

first published in The Malaysian Insider, 02 January 2013

Know that thing about people gaining weight during Christmas? It's true. I must've packed in several days' worth of calories in a single meal over at Café Kalamazoo.

Inside Café Kalamazoo
Interior of Café Kalamazoo

Run by the god-brother of a friend of Melody's and his friends, its early days were fraught with danger. What were they thinking, planting themselves several doors down from the wildly popular Betty's Midwest Kitchen and offering a similar type of cuisine?

Melody and I didn't return until months later, after it underwent a revamp. Some grey walls were replaced with a cheerier theme, and the sign sported a more welcoming pastel yellow. It felt more like a hangout for close friends than a run-of-the-mill café.

Peanut butter chocolate milkshake
The peanut butter and chocolate milkshake is so damn good

Missing the food they used to have during their days at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the restaurant's partners set up shop at Aman Suria to serve up the same, plus a bit more.

Fewer clues to their alma mater exist now than when they first opened; what remaining WMU memorabilia has been relegated to a yellow-painted section of a wall near the counter.

I can't say much about the burgers, but we were charmed by mains such as the cheese-drizzled pesto chicken and the hearty beef meatloaf.

One of the chefs, we were told, spent a great deal of time testing the sauces, and the results were great. Some thought had been put into the combination of dishes, sides and sauces.

Alabama BBQ Pork Ribs
Hearty, fall-off-the-bone ribs... a must-try at Kalamazoo

The peanut butter chocolate milkshake, more dessert than drink, had the effect of a nightcap and sedative on my perpetually strung, hyperactive nerves. A few sips and my shoulders slowly sagged in blissful submission to the sweet, nutty liquid ambrosia.

Some of these goodies, however, made way for a Christmas menu last weekend that included hand-picked regular items. Melody and I decided to skip the Christmas turkey, which she didn't like anyway. She went with "something light": a pork burger. I picked the Alabama BBQ Ribs and Chilli Cheese Fries.

The fries came first. American chilli "with a touch of heat", fries and cheese on a plate make for some heavy, tasty comfort food, but I felt it could use an additional three to four touches of heat. "Chilli" is such a misnomer for a dish whose main ingredients include tomato sauce, minced beef and pinto and/or kidney beans.

Beef meatloaf
Beef meatloaf that makes you wanna sing ... ♪ and I would do
anything for love... ♫

My ribs arrived together with Melody's pork burger; the ETA for the food was faster than I'd expected. My burger fatigue hasn't quite run its course yet, so I gave it a pass — didn't even take a photo. She didn't say much, so I guess the burger's okay.

But oh G*d, the ribs. Pull-off-the-bone tender but not sticky, slathered in a runnier sauce dotted with herbs I couldn't identify. I got pumpkin mash, a sweeter and less filling side dish compared to potato that really made room for more.

I was still dipping into the chilli cheese fries between each rib bone, supplementing my plate of fries with the ones that came with Melody's burger. Once the rack o' ribs was no longer recognisable as such, the cutlery was cast aside in favour of fingers.

Her friend walked over to see a nearly clean plate with picked-clean bones; I'd wiped up the sauce and leftover bits with pieces of a burger bun Melody couldn't finish. She'd noted that any chef would be pleased to see me "enjoy myself so much". I certainly hoped so.

As a token of appreciation, Melody's friend brought us two pieces of marinated fried chicken from the kitchen to try. "Strictly staff fare," we were told. Nice, but a little heavy on the marinade.

And what a shame that both of us were too full for dessert, which included the cakes baked and supplied to Kalamazoo by Melody's friend's mom. The macadamia cake and Black Forest cake came highly recommended. The green tea and red bean cake we had on a previous visit was nice but dry — a glitch that they had pledged to fix.

Back home, the bathroom scales confirmed my worst fears: I'd gained the weight I'd lost pre-Christmas weekend.

Oh, what the heck. Eleven months at the gym and it'll all be gone.

Café Kalamazoo
A-G-36, Jalan PJU 1/43
Aman Suria Damansara
47301 Petaling Jaya



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