Twisted Rooster has much to crow about

Restaurants that use locally produced menu items rank high on my list of preferred places. If a kitchen makes its food from scratch, that eatery also makes my list. And, of course, when the prepared-from-scratch food, using locally and Michigan-produced goods, ends up as a first-class meal, its best of all.

Twisted Rooster, a concept restaurant developed by Grand Rapids-based Meritage Corp., is just such a place unassuming and cordial in appearance, but possessing a pedigree of fine dining that most restaurants would feel fortunate to claim.

Top restaurants from metro Detroit and across the U.S. are well represented throughout their staff, and Executive Chef Mark Noseda II, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, had put in 16 years of food excellence in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Napa Valley, Orlando, until he settled in at the Rooster.

The Chesterfield locations general manager Dave Wilson, who came here via the Cherry Creek Golf Club, has been involved with a number of top
chains, and proudly remembers his beginnings in the food business.

Several of us began our careers working for Chuck Muer, says Wilson. Myself and others came to Twisted Rooster because were given the opportunity to create a unique dining experience.

And, so they have.

Chef Nosedas menu changes seasonally and while still seeking out Michigan-produced foods and beverages, everything in their kitchens is made entirely from scratch. For example, the menu has several offerings of Mac & Cheese. Ordinary, take down a box and open a can kind of school-kid food, right? Not this stuff. As different as a bitter-sour Seville orange is from a Romeo-grown Honeycrisp apple.

These Cavatappi noodles are immersed in a rich cream, butter and freshly grated five bold white cheese blend, mixed with house-smoked chicken, sweet peas, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes, and then baked with cheddar cheese bread crumbs and a sheet of fried Parmesan set into the large ovoid high-sided serving plate as if to look like a sail set upon a small boat. For an extra indulgence, try it with sweet Maine Lobster mixed into the dish instead of the smoked chicken Twistedly awesome

For my personal test of a kitchen, Ill usually try a restaurants calamari. If it comes out looking and tasting like French fried rubber bands, too-deeply-fried in oil thats only switched monthly, with a special deluxe watered-down marinara dipping sauce, then thats a restaurant I just wont try again. There are enough great kitchens in the world, and here in metro Detroit, to keep me happy. I dont have to settle for a pale effort.

Twisted Roosters calamari? Flash-fried steak-cut tender off-white strips of squid, done al dente, (but not too chewy, and not coated and oil-scalded a dismal brown) with spinach, and bathed in a red pepper and ginger Beurr Blanc. Ive had this twice now, and Ill probably order it every time I step across Twisted Roosters threshold. At $6.50, its one of the better (with butter) appetizers on any menu in town.

For one of my lunches, I had an incredible Byron Center Bison Burger, a thick, over-sized patty of lean ground buffalo, cooked to a perfect medium rareness, topped with white cheddar, tomato, leaf lettuce with a slather of secret Twisted Sauce. Accompanied by house-cut salt and pepper fries, this burger takes both hands and ones entire concentration to eat, lest it slip from
your grip. Its formidable and
memorable. And local, too.

All of Twisted Roosters meats are delivered from Byron Center Meats, located just outside of greater Grand Rapids. This ultra-clean family-owned and operated meat-processing house has been supplying top restaurants with local farm-produced and house-made meat-stuffs since 1946. Avid hunters from Western Michigan take their game there, and last season, Byron Center processed more than 300 deer.

Another platter of hand-helds that I tried is Twisted Roosters fish tacos. Again, not ordinary. These are sweet and flaky white Grouper fillets, flash-fried in Grand Rapids brewed Founders Pale Ale-based batter, freshly made pico de gallo, white cheddar shreds, homemade crispy noodle slaw and cilantro sour cream served with crispy tortilla chips. A fabulous trio of tacos for a paltry $8. It would literally cost you more to make this dish at home.

Ill mention the Twisted House Salad, as well. Ive had this twice, also, and honestly, Ive never left a spot of it on my plate. I wont have to describe how insanely good it is, all I have to do is list the ingredients: Mixed greens, Michigan grown apples, Roquefort bleu cheese, strawberries, Michigan dried cherries, cinnamon raisin bread croutons, toasted pecans and dressed in a cherry-maple vinaigrette. No commentary necessary.

For dessert, I had both the Red Velvet and the Cream Cheese Carrot Cake. Both of these dense and luscious desserts are made by Mt. Pleasants Max and Emilys Bakery Caf. The carrot cake was as good as any Ive had.

A very special feature of Twisted Rooster is its bar menu. Along with a solid offering of Michigan wines, both red and white, each of their Roo Brew craft beers, ales and ciders on tap is from a Michigan brewery. And, a most intriguing feature is that along with the usual premium liquor pours, a large selection of the distilled beverages are Michigan made, as well.

The Twisted Rooster Bar Manager, Brandolyn Keller, a most clever mixologist, designed the drink menu and came up with their boffo signature cocktails. I wasnt totally aware that such fare even existed, but Ive come to learn that there are Michigan distillers of vodka, rum, a Hopquila version of tequila, and many other kinds of flavored liqueurs. One that captured my tongue was called, the Pineapple Upside Down Cake Martini, made with Michigan distilled pineapple liqueur and pineapple juice. Yes, its more frou-frou than the typical two fingers of gin with a whisper of vermouth and a lime rubbed across the lip of a martini glass. But, all effrontery to machismo aside, its a winner of a less-serious drink.

This Twisted Rooster is one of four in the state, with the others in Grand Rapids, Holland, Belleville and here, in Chesterfield, near the intersection of Hall Road (M-59) and I-94. These restaurants with their twists on ordinary food, the terrific service, and their dedication to using Michigan produced food and drinks, can be very proud of their well-executed and unpretentious dining concept. Their slogan is Simply Impeccable Food & Drinks. And, I cant argue with them.

By Paul Arlon

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