Hurray! The holiday season is here! A season that starts with a rush of excitement and is always chock-full of love and joy. I, too, am chock full of love and joy, and it has a lot to do with a new and exciting restaurant —Red Haven. Let the festivities begin! A feast for the festivities is what Red Haven gave our beloved Editor Emily and me. I can’t help but get into a happy tizzy when confronted with a novel menu in a beautiful restaurant. Red Haven is the new brain child of Nina Santucci and Anthony Maiale, whose success with The Purple Carrot food truck, landed them these new digs. The truck is great in that it has such a sophisticated and satisfying menu coming out of a side window, of all things. Apparently, give them four walls and … WOW! As for the walls, they are lovely. The venue is simple and serene. It allows the food to speak for itself. And speak it does. Let’s discuss the menu. It is based on the farm to table concept using local first. There is no breakdown of starters, salads, entrees, etc. Rather the menu is broken down into cooking styles, each served in a tapas style portion. You see “Poached,” “Smoked” and “Stuffed.” It is such a cool way to encounter your options. It defines your culinary direction straight from the get-go. Emily and I were ready to dive in. We sat at the “chefs’ counter,” where we got a bird’s eye view of all of the food being prepared. This worked in our favor as we saw everything leave the kitchen and we were like “What’s that!?” Hence we had a lovely and very complete smorgasbord of gastromic delight rained upon us. We started with three things. The “Baked,” “Carpaccio,” and “Fry.” The “Baked” was a basket of assorted artisan bread accompanied by four condiments. There was a lovely roasted garlic clove that we smeared like butter, a crisp and zingy gardeniera, a sharp and clean radish pesto and a crazy good homemade ricotta spread. Sop and smear your carbohydrate allocation to your heart’s content. The “Carpaccio” was such a surprise. Nothing is better than a dish that calls in all the textures to tease your senses. There were apples, butternut squash, radishes and beets, all bathed in a sweet and light sherry vinaigrette. It was topped off with puffed rice that added the most interesting contrast to the produce. As for the “Fry” I wanted to pass. Really, with so many cool things on the menu, who can breathe something fresh into a French Fry? I am happy to admit I was very wrong. These lemon and rosemary drenched fries were so intriguing I had to discuss them with practically the entire staff. They were great. Next up was the “Mash.” Out comes this lovely fried square. Housed inside —as my fork broke the crusty exterior — was luscious sweet potato, so soft and creamy it oozed out like melted cheese. To make it sing, Red Haven throws chorizo and feta in to join the party. Emily and I were so glad it was a part of ours. To continue (I know, it was a gluttony of riches), we had the “Ravioli,” the “Sear,” and the “Broil.” That’s it. Then we were done. I swear. The ravioli came and I could have gone home. I could have died with a giddy smile on my face. Three perfect butternut squash ravioli topped with fried leek and sage. Emily almost got hurt trying to share. Our “Sear” was a bold rib-eye topped with a lovely Meyer lemon hollandaise and an aggressive ball of blue cheese. This steak is a totally cool choice for the adventurous gourmet. Finally was the “Broil.” Nina described it perfectly. It was like eating a satisfying chowder in the form of an elegant fish dish. Broiled walleye with a rye crust accompanied by root vegetables in a bacon and cream sauce that brought it all together. And that was only part of the menu, people! Again, the tapas approach really does let you open up your ability to try numerous things. Thank goodness because Emily and I enjoyed everything we tried at Red Haven. We left happy and full (of more than just joy, mind you). It was so exciting to try such new and novel dishes. Share your love of the holidays and the people in them by heading over to this great new restaurant in the hood. Red Haven is here. Hurray! Red Haven is at 4480 S. Hagadorn Road, Okemos. For more info call (517) 679-6309.
Colette Evangelista sells certified organic, non-toxic beauty, health, baby and home products at www.healthandhopeorganics.com. Twenty percent of her profits go to Ascending Above Autisim, a charity that helps parents pay for autism treatment.