The concept for the Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery has literally been stewing for years. The eatery, located in downtown Ann Arbor, is the brainchild of chef, and managing partner, Maggie Long and brewer extraordinaire Ron Jeffries. Jeffries has been crafting his artisan sour beers in Dexter, Mich. for years – and now has a restaurant and brewery in Traverse City along with the cafe, which opened in September of 2009.
Long says the philosophy behind the food at the cafe is fresh and organic. For example, her oldest daughter volunteers at an area farm where some of the ingredients come from for the cafe. And the sourdough pizza is fashioned with a sourdough starter that Long received from a fellow foodie who’s held onto it for 130 years. Beyond the fresh ingredients, Long says that the aim of the cafe is “welcoming.”
“We want everyone to feel comfortable here, especially families,” explains Long. “I love to see families here, and I’m honored to provide food for them that is both healthy and delicious.” She notes that the menu includes kid favorites like chicken strips, but that the strips are made from locally raised chickens and breaded in organic cornflakes.
For a taste of Long’s organic creations, you can try this recipe from the Jolly Pumpkin cafe’s appetizer menu. This edamame spread is served alongside fresh, grilled sourdough pizza.
What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
Quinoa, organic peanut butter – it’s gotta be crunchy – and honey from the farmers’ market. Those are the staples in my house. It doesn’t mean I put those all together!
Your favorite meal to make or serve?
That’s a hard one. I absolutely love Tamworth hogs. A braised pork shoulder is my favorite meal – slow cooked. Tamworth is a heritage breed of hog and it’s a flavor not to be missed. It’s a darker meat and it has a ton of flavor.
We all have a favorite indulgence, for a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?
Ron introduced me to Alan McClure, a small chocolate maker in Missouri. I’m not usually a fan of dark chocolate, but the stuff this guy puts together is absolutely amazing. My favorite is the 70-percent Madagascar chocolate bar with little cocoa nibs in it. It’s addictive.
What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?
Anything that I burn. Once, I burned the mac ‘n cheese sauce – totally toasted it. I tried to fix it, but you can’t. I use really good pasta and really good cheeses, but nothing can take that scorched flavor out.
There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?
For me, anything seasonal. Rosewood Farms (in Ann Arbor) makes a phenomenal tofu.
What do you suggest for first-timers to Jolly Pumpkin? What menu item should they make sure to try?
I make a smoked tofu salad that’s really good. There’s spinach, cherry tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, shaved broccoli, a sesame vinaigrette and, of course, smoked tofu. The flavors meld really well. The sourdough pizza is always good, too.