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Cooking with Diana Leitch always an adventure

Once, during one of her classes, Hockessin cooking teacher Diana Leitch rooted around her galley kitchen looking for a nutcracker.

When the spirited Le Cordon Bleu trained cook couldn’t find one, Leitch, a firm believer in practicality, took off her shoe, placed a walnut on the wooden counter top and whacked the shell open with the heel.

Students’ mouths gaped open and then everyone began to laugh. The tone for the lively night was set: Anything goes in one of Leitch’s freewheeling, hands-on classes.

Leitch, who ran Diana’s Distinctive Dining and taught cooking classes in her Skyline Orchard home for nearly 30 years, died Sept. 27.

RELATED: Friends, family celebrate Matt Haley’s life

Her beloved husband Bob, her partner of 51 years, said Leitch, preparing to entertain friends from Norway, was shopping Sept. 19 at a local grocery store. While sampling cold cuts from the deli, Leitch apparently began choking and then went into cardiac arrest.

Her husband said emergency responders got her heart started, but she never regained consciousness. On Sept. 25, the family learned her prognosis for recovery was poor. She died peacefully two days later at a local hospice with her family at her side.

This is not the story I planned to write about Diana Leitch. I had just visited with the vivacious 74-year-old, whom I’ve known since at least 1997, at her Hockessin home on Sept. 16.

We snacked on a few dishes – a creamy mushroom spread served with toasts, and simple hearts of palm sprinkled with spices – while she showed me the gorgeous loaves of bread she baked. I was there to talk about her longtime cooking career and the upcoming classes she was planning.

The conversation veered from various recipes – Leitch wanted the Thai noodle soup recipe from Buckley’s Tavern – to recent restaurant visits – she loved Indian cuisine – to a YouTube video she wanted me to see – Forno Campo de’ Fiori, a small bakery in the heart of Rome. “Drool!” she said. (And, indeed, it’s delightful.)

Then, we caught up on our personal lives, like old friends do. I took only a few notes because I planned to see Leitch later this month.

Recent emails she sent summed up her culinary career and the pleasure it brought her.

“I’ve just realized that September starts the 29th year continuous teaching of hands-on classes. I can’t think of a single thing that I’d rather do! The great joy that I get from sharing cooking tips, techniques and ‘tricks,’ is reinforced by compliments/reactions/comments from students over these years,” Leitch wrote on Aug. 20.

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“Oh, the memories: the night the electricity went off, and I had 40 or more candles all around for the French Bistro class … the grilling class when I ran out of propane. … a couple met in a class and were married … so many more!”

Leitch, a tiny dynamo of exuberant energy, was a joyful, clever fast talker and thinker. Anyone who knew her could honestly say she devoured life. You never knew what to expect from one of Leitch’s quirky, relaxed $40 classes and that was half the fun. Students – beginners to advanced cooks – brought their own beer or wine and settled in for a thrilling three-hour ride that ended with a lavish sit-down meal.

She might not have been conventional, but Leitch was trained in classic cooking techniques and understood flavors and textures. She studied, in both French and English, at Le Cordon Bleu in Switzerland, Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris and Ecole Migros de Geneve with chefs Paulo Valentino in Geneva and Ann Roberts in Gex, France. Additional study in France was with Aileen Martin in Annecy, a town in the Rhone-Alpes region.

Leitch was featured in numerous articles in The News Journal, local and college magazines and on public TV (WHYY). She was a recipe tester for Cook’s Illustrated magazine, served on the advisory board of Chef Anthony Stella’s Italian Market in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and was a staunch supporter of the nonprofit organization, Healthy Foods for Healthy Kids.

As a teacher, she could be more like a zany, hilarious Julia Child than a calm, methodical Jacques Pepin, the celebrated French culinary instructor whom Leitch had once served as a sous chef.

Her classes often had a waiting list and she introduced students, never more than a dozen at a time, to everything from chervil – an aromatic herb with an anise flavor – to coq au vin, the classic French stew.

During some classes, Leitch would lead students outside to her yard, abutting Ashland Nature Center, and pick fresh herbs from the garden.

Her “tablescapes” usually featured interesting items related to the meal. One time, various gardening tools, with dirt still clinging to them, were placed in the middle of the dining room for a “Cooking with Herbs” class. It made me laugh because it was delightfully “so Diana,” though one classmate that day wasn’t as amused at what was truly a farm-to-table meal.

Last month, Leitch told me she was putting together an autumn menu called “Let’s Take Sides” which would be full of fall vegetable side dishes and feature Pear Bread Pudding as the sweet ending. She also planned to feature many more grains and vegetables dishes. Leitch was always up on the latest culinary trends.

The 1965 graduate of Washington College studied culinary arts while living in Geneva, Switzerland, for five years with Bob, a DuPont Co. chemist. When they moved to Delaware and Leitch began teaching, Bob always joined students for dinner at their dining table. (He also cleaned up and did the dishes.)

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The couple, along with their daughter, Melinda, were seasoned travelers. Far-flung adventures took them to more than 60 countries – everywhere from Cambodia to Zimbabwe.

Diana’s classes were often influenced by the vacations, and her recipes could include Vietnamese, French, Lebanese, Italian, Burmese and Malaysian dishes.

“I usually do a class on the country we’ve visited. In June-July, we were in Iceland. I’d love to do an Icelandic class,” Leitch told me. Bob said the couple had two trips planned.

Over the years, Leitch often shared cooking advice with The News Journal. When we asked her the proper approach to choosing good cookware, she said, “Basically, what you want to do is buy the heaviest pans you can afford. When you get a good quality pan, it’s like storing a little bit of time in your home – it will last a long time.”

Leitch then pulled several pots and pans from her walls and cabinets, and placed them on the kitchen island.

“Go ahead and lift it,” Leitch instructed, and seemed to relish when a reporter found something heavier than expected. One of her favorites was a 5 1/2-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven, made of cast iron and coated in bright turquoise enamel.

Leitch suggested three items that are essential to any kitchen: A 2-quart saucepan, a 10-inch saute pan, and a Dutch oven of at least 4 quarts.

“The quality of your cookware,” she said, “will absolutely be in direct correlation with the quality of your food.”

Bob Leitch said the family is planning A Celebration of Diana Leitch’s life. Details were not yet available.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Diana Leitch’s memory can be made to The International Women’s Club of Delaware, P.O. Box 9999, Wilmington, DE 19807; Washington College, Office of College Advancement, 300 Washington Ave., Chestertown, MD 21620; or Healthy Food for Healthy Kids, PO Box 847, Hockessin, DE 19707.

Contact Patricia Talorico at (302) 324-2861 or Read her culinary blog Second Helpings at and follow her on Twitter @pattytalorico.


Diana Leitch said the recipe for this eggplant dip came from “a dear Lebanese friend” who shared her grandmother’s recipe.

1 large eggplant, about 1 ½ to 2 pounds (make sure it’s “a perfectly gorgeous color, with no spotting”)

1/4 cup minced onion

1 to 2 garlic cloves, depending on your taste

1 teaspoon salt and black pepper

1/4 cup tahini paste

1/4 cup lemon juice, plus 1 teaspoon, and also some of the lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice or cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons minced parsley

Roast the eggplant. (This is what gives it that delicate smoky flavor!) Prick eggplant several times and turn on gas flame. Cook, turning often, until skin chars and begins to crack. Or pierce the eggplant all over with a fork, place it on a baking sheet and broil 4 inches from heat, turning to char on all sides, about 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut in half, scrape the flesh into a bowl and discard skin. Chop the eggplant flesh. Mash onion and garlic with the salt and pepper; then add eggplant flesh, tahini, lemon juice and zest, and spices. Taste and correct seasonings. Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, sprinkle with olive oil and minced parsley. Serve with plain or toasted pita, or as a dip for fresh vegetables. Makes 2 cups.


The recipe for this French classic comes from Diana Leitch’s 1997 “Cooking with Herbs” class.

2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken, cut up into eight pieces

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, chopped

12 baby onions (you can use frozen baby onions that have been thawed)

1 carrot, diced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup cognac or brandy

2 cups red wine

1 can chicken broth

Bouquet garni (fold 4 parsley stems around a small bay leaf and a sprig of fresh thyme. Tie herbs together with a string in a tight little bundle or tie them in cheese cloth)

1/4 pound bacon, chopped

1/4 pound mushrooms, quartered

2 tablespoons flour, plus 2 tablespoon butter (this is a beurre manié)

Lightly flour the chicken pieces and saute in the olive oil until well-browned. Remove the chicken and set aside. Add the shallots, baby onions, and carrots and cook until softened. Toss in the garlic and saute just until fragrant. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons flour and mix. Pour in cognac and shake pot back and forth.

Add wine, chicken broth, and bouquet garni. Mix well. Add chicken pieces back to the pot. Simmer about 20 minutes, or until chicken is almost tender.

Meanwhile, boil bacon in water for a few minutes to remove a lot of the fat. Drain and rinse. Then, add bacon and mushrooms to the pot and cook a few minutes. Remove chicken from the pot, discard bouquet garni, and reduce liquid on high heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and correct seasonings. Mix together the flour and butter – this is the beurre manie – and drop into the pot to thicken. (NOTE: You may not need the beurre manie; it depends on the reduction. If it’s already thick enough, skip this step.)

Put chicken back in pot to heat through. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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Exchange shoppers fall into savings with the Autumn 2014 Exchange Catalog

Exchange shoppers fall into savings with the Autumn 2014 Exchange Catalog
Courtesy Photo

The Autumn 2014 Exchange Catalog has the latest in home accessories, appliances, fall fashions and tech toys. The Army Air Force Exchange Service goes where Soldiers, Airmen and their families go to improve the quality of their lives through goods and services provided. Exchange earnings provide dividends to support military morale, welfare and recreation programs. The Exchange is part of the Department of Defense and is directed by a Board of Directors, responsible to the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force through the Chiefs of Staff. To find out more about the Exchange history and mission or to view recent press releases please visit our Web site at

DALLAS – Soldiers, Airmen and their families looking for the latest in home accessories, appliances, fall fashions and tech toys can find all that and more in the Army Air Force Exchange Service’s Autumn 2014 catalog.

The 36-page guide, available now at Exchange stores and, has the kitchen covered with a variety of Keurig, Cuisinart, KitchenAid and Ninja appliances. Shoppers can also update their home’s look with the latest styles and colors from Croscill and the Martha Stewart Collection.

Home theater enthusiasts will find a full range of Samsung, Bose and other high-tech products, while fashion-forward shoppers can experience the latest change-of-season couture from Coach and Michael Kors.

The Autumn 2014 catalog is available at all main stores. Shoppers can also browse the interactive catalog online at by clicking the Savings Center button in the upper left corner of the home page and then choosing Catalogs.

Prices in this all-services catalog are valid through Oct. 31, 2014, for any authorized exchange customer. Active duty military members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, as well as military retirees, reservists, National Guardsmen, Department of Defense civilians stationed overseas, exchange employees and their Family members are all authorized exchange privileges.

Orders can be placed by mail, fax or phone. Toll-free orders can be placed from the United States, Puerto Rico or Guam at 800-527-2345. The Exchange call center is open around the clock, seven days a week. Complimentary international access calling is also available from several countries. Those numbers are:

Germany 0800-82-16500
Japan/Okinawa 00531-11-4132
Korea 00308-13-0664
Italy 8008-71227
Belgium 0800-7-2432
The Netherlands 0800-022-1889
United Kingdom 0800-96-8101
Spain 900-971-391
Turkey* 00800-18-488-6312

* Calls cannot be placed from phones on base. Use off-base commercial lines.

Connected Media

ImagesExchange shoppers…
The Autumn 2014 Exchange Catalog has the latest in home…

Public Domain Mark

This work, Exchange shoppers fall into savings with the Autumn 2014 Exchange Catalog, by Chris Ward, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.

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Ryan Seacrest: fashion mogul

Ryan Seacrest has taken up residence in Miami. Well, his clothing line has — at Macy’s.

The television host, producer, radio personality and entrepreneur has added designer to his title.

The assortment of men’s tailored clothing and accessories, aimed squarely at the millennial male, is sold at the Aventura and Dadeland stores and the Broward Mall and Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale.

Called Ryan Seacrest Distinction, it’s not so much designed by the hardest-working man in TV as it is inspired by his on-screen wardrobe of sharply tailored three-piece suits, spread-collar dress shirts and crisply folded pocket squares.

A novel feature of the line is a color/number matching system called “Style Made Smart” that organizes jackets, trousers, shirts and ties into four numbered color categories to aid the suit-wearer in putting together an outfit. Hangtags also offer up additional pairing and styling tips.

“We’re always in a rush; we never have enough time to do a fitting or to try something on,” Seacrest told The Los Angeles Times. “So any system that make it seamless and quick and lets you know that you’re probably not going to get it wrong is a good system.”

As for his input into the look and feel of the clothes that bear his name, Seacrest is quick to admit he’s not steeped in the fashion world. “I often don’t use the right words so I try to articulate what I’m thinking by referring to architecture or other inspiration,” he said. “But I definitely have a point of view, and I know what I like and what fits me well, so we started with that. And then [we] widened it and broadened it out into an entire line.”

Among the inspirations Seacrest cited for the launch collection were the ’50s and ’60s, Frank Sinatra in his Rat Pack days and Mid-Century Modern architecture.

“I love attention to detail,” Seacrest said. “I said to [my partners], with each component of this line, “Tell me about the depth of detail, how far we can go and keep it accessible and affordable.”


Gordon Ramsay is one tough cookie, but Dustin Ward lived to tell about having him as his boss. The Chef de Cuisine at BLT Prime at Trump National Doral. worked under Ramsay from 2004 to 2009 while at Cielo in Boca Raton.

“Gordon was passionate and a perfectionist,” recounts Ward. “If you were creative, energetic and precise you didn’t have a problem. I learned early on what buttons you didn’t want to push.”

Think you could you handle working with the hotheaded chef on a reality show? Producers from Fox’s competition, MasterChef, on which Ramsay is a judge, are coming to town for an open casting call from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the JW Marriott Marquis. Home cooks ages 18 and older who do not currently and have not ever worked as a professional chef can try their luck. Though Gordon won’t be there, his associates will.

Does Ward have any tips on how to impress the panel?

“Stay true to the ingredients, let the flavors shine. Be sure to challenge yourself in everything you do, but don’t try to be something that you are not. This is to showcase food and talent, not your acting skills or ability to create conflicts.”

And if you make it to the show, try not to be afraid.

“He can seem scary in the kitchen, because of the love and passion he has for this business. He doesn’t understand or tolerate anything less than maximum effort and perfection. You will not be able to fake it and get away with it with him.”

And remember if he yells, “it’s only because he cares.”

Visit for more details.


Even though Jennifer Lopez and Maksim Chmerkovskiy never confirmed they were dating, the fling seems to be over. The American Idol judge is rumored to be back with Caspar Smart and Maks, well, he’s playing the field.

“I am a hopeless romantic who falls in lust and gets in trouble,” the former Dancing with the Stars pro told People Saturday night at the Alfalit International Global Literacy Dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel. “I love my work and am very productive, yet I always find time to play.”

So what about J.Lo?

Chmerkovskiy would only say, “I have fun. And while other names are out there … I am not a s—bag.”


For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, telenovela actress Adamari Lopez is helping the cause on behalf of Procter Gamble’s so called Orgullosa (proud) campaign. For every like on the Orgullosa Facebook page, PG will donate $1 to Liga Contra el Cáncer, a non profit organization providing medical care to the needy. Later that evening, Lopez will also do a live Facebook chat (9 p.m.)

As a breast cancer survivor herself, the cohost of Telemundo’s morning show, Un Nuevo Dia, will be speaking about the importance of early detection at a private event Wednesday at Liga Contra el Cancer’s offices.

“We must encourage all the women in our life to engage in early detection practices and conduct monthly self breast examinations,” said the 43-year-old Lopez, who wrote a book, Viviendo, about her experience with the disease.

Cancer free for almost nine years, the Puerto Rican beauty is expecting her first child with fiance, dancer Toni Costa, and “feeling awesome.”

More info: 305-856-4914

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More cooks returning to classic cast-iron skillet

The cast-iron skillet — the utilitarian workhorse of the American kitchen, the darling of
Southern grandmas and the friend of campfire cooks — is experiencing its biggest resurgence in
popularity in the past 100 years.

There was a time when a cast-iron skillet graced every kitchen. Most homes, in fact, had several
sizes and a Dutch oven, too.

Then, in the 1960s, heads were turned by nonstick coatings and the promise of fried eggs sliding
right out of the pan.

Cast iron, by comparison, was big, black and heavy — and occasionally needed maintenance. Teflon
was carefree.

By the 1990s, names such as Le Creuset, Calphalon and All-Clad — with their colorful enamel
finishes and copper cores — had made their way into the cooking lexicon.

Home cooks were more sophisticated and demanded chef-quality pans. The cast-iron skillet —
producer of mountains of cornbread and piles of fried potatoes — became a castoff.

By the early 2000s, however, health-conscious Americans began to question the safety of nonstick
coatings. Perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical used to make them, came under scrutiny.

No studies have linked the chemical to cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, but the
concern was great enough for the Environmental Protection Agency to work with manufacturers to
remove it from cookware by 2015.

“People are more and more aware that the miracle of nonstick coating is potentially hazardous to
our health, and, if anything, cast iron is absolutely the opposite,” said Ellen Brown, a cookbook
author from Providence, R.I., who recently released The New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook Sterling
Epicure, ($24.95).

“There are absolutely no health dangers to cooking in cast iron.”

The safety issue aside, Brown said, home cooks are returning to cast iron for a much more basic
reason: It performs well.

“We’ve really underestimated its potential,” she said. “You can make anything in cast iron from
any cuisine. And the beauty is, it heats hot. It’s far better than a wok for the American kitchen
(for stir-fry).”

Cast iron can go from fridge to stovetop to oven — where it can withstand high heat better than
other cookware and even enameled cast iron, whose finish can crack, Brown said.

Searing a steak in a cast-iron skillet, she said, reinforces the point: “You end up with meat
that tastes like meat, but it’s juicy.”

Which helps explain why the only major American maker of cast-iron cookware — Lodge
Manufacturing of South Pittsburg, Tenn. — is in the midst of its largest expansion in the company’s
119-year history.

“We have experienced tremendous growth,” spokesman Mark Kelly said. “We’ve had about a 40
percent increase in sales over the last 10 years, with the last six really progressively

The company — which had always considered itself a regional manufacturer, not national or
international — is undergoing a foundry expansion that, when completed in November, will increase
its smelting capacity from 8 tons to 20.

Although concerns about nonstick finishes helped, Kelly said, the cast-iron resurgence has been
propelled by other factors, too.

It began in 2002, he said, when Lodge introduced a line of foundry-seasoned cookware,
eliminating the need for maintenance.

The pre-seasoned line attracted media attention, and, suddenly, all the TV chefs were using cast
iron, Kelly said.

Shoppers followed suit.

Then, when the recession hit in 2008, cast iron grew only more appealing.

With their disposable income shrinking, many Americans stayed home to cook.

And cast iron is affordable: A 12-inch Lodge skillet retails today for about $40, compared with
upward of $140 for a 12-inch saute pan from other cookware makers.

The economic downturn, Kelly said, also inspired many shoppers to embrace American-made

“The psyche wants heart and home and nostalgia,” he said. “Cast iron is American cookery.”

In appeal, cast iron spans all classes. The Lodge skillet sold at Wal-Mart, Kelly said, is the
same one sold at Williams Sonoma, Sur la Table and gourmet shops in Paris.

No-frills millennials embraced it, as did vegetarians and vegans — for the small amount of
dietary iron it imparts to food cooked in it, he added.

See a recipe for Cauliflower

with Garlic and Parmesan

Just when it seemed the wave could get no higher, the U.S. food world underwent a Southern
revival, making Grandma’s cornbread pan cool again.

“We didn’t know the surge would continue and would be so prolific,” Kelly acknowledged.

This year, Lodge released its second cookbook: Lodge Cast Iron Nation (Oxmoor House, $24.95),
featuring recipes from across the country.

See a recipe for
Trout Almondine

from this book

Brown, the cookbook author, said no home should be without a cast-iron skillet.

She recommends a 10-inch pan for singles and couples, 12-inch for a family of four.

“It’s affordable. It’s durable. It’s tried-and-true.”



Easy maintenance

To season your cast-iron cookware:

  • Wash with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush.
  • Rinse and dry completely.
  • Apply a very thin, even coating of melted solid vegetable shortening or cooking oil of your
    choice to the cookware inside and out. (Too much oil will leave a sticky finish.)
  • Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven (not directly on the bottom) to catch any
  • Set oven temperature to 350 to 400 degrees.
  • Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven to prevent pooling.
  • Bake the cookware for at least one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware
    cool in the oven.
  • When cooled, store the cookware uncovered in a dry place.

Source: Lodge Manufacturing



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Diana Nelson Jones’ Walkabout: Brookline woman’s flea markets have been … – Pittsburgh Post

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Stephen Strasburg

In this photo taken Sept. 27, 2014, Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park in Washington. Two years after famously being shut down by the Washington Nationals to protect his elbow, Stephen Strasburg finally will make his postseason debut this week for the NL East champions. “It’s worked as planned,” says Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, the man responsible for holding out Strasburg in 2012. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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Chef Jeremy Grandon takes BBQ up a notch at Yardbird

After more than 20 years in fine dining — 10 of them as chef-owner of the stylish Jeremy Restaurant Bar in Keego Harbor — chef Jeremy Grandon decided last spring it was time to change things up. And what a change it turned out to be.

Yardbird Smoked Meats — the new restaurant he opened this month in the former Jeremy space on Cass Lake Road — is about as different from the upscale Jeremy as it gets.

The Yardbird menu ranges from slow-smoked meats and fish to burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken and mac-and-cheese. And the dining room — once decorated with classical and Art Deco prints — now sports a wall hung with dozens of cast-iron skillets and happily mismatched mirrors.

Grandon’s new business partner — Chicago restaurant and bar owner Brad Cousens — designed the room and built virtually every part of the décor himself. A Bloomfield Hills native, he got reacquainted with Grandon — the two attended junior high together — while visiting the area to look for a summer cottage.

“It was a once-in-a-career opportunity to get involved in something with a chef of Jeremy’s caliber,” Cousens said. And as they talked about what kind of place would work best in the lakefront community, “we both had the exact same concept in mind.”

The Cass Lake area, he says, includes “people in multimillion-dollar homes who still want to wear tank tops and flip-flops, but they also want style and culture and they want Jeremy’s food.”

Both owners wanted a casual, laid-back, affordable place where “a millionaire banker could sit next to a plumber and both would feel comfortable,” Grandon said, adding that “Brad was able to create an aesthetic where they do.”

Grandon developed the rubs and sauces for the meats. Two of his sous chefs and another employee run the big Southern Pride smoker that stands behind the restaurant, surrounded by stacks of wood.

Besides the requisite smoked brisket, pulled pork, ribs, sausages and chicken, they also feature smoked salmon filets rubbed with a mixture that includes lemon, brown sugar and chile flakes. They tried it once as an experiment “and we were shocked at how good it was,” Grandon said.

He branches out from barbecue to chili and gumbo, smoked-then-fried wings, side and entrée salads, five Griddle Burgers, a quartet of all-Angus beef Yard Dogs, and a section of dishes called Comforts that includes buttermilk-marinated fried Yardbird (chicken).

They’ll soon begin making their own sausages, will offer smoked turkeys and hams nearer the holidays and, as soon as they can get to it, will start bottling and selling Grandon’s four sauces.

“We always envisioned selling the sauces, but we just haven’t had time,” said Cousens, who runs the front of the house and the bar. “We didn’t expect to be as busy as we have been.”

They plan to add Saturday lunch and Sunday brunch sometime in October and weekday lunches within 60 days. “It’s a question of Jeremy and I playing catch-up. Our waits on Friday and Saturday have been up to an hour and a half-plus,” Cousens said.

Both say Yardbird, which opened softly in early September, is still a work in progress.

I’ve visited only once so far and tried a limited number of dishes. Among them, my favorites were the tender and juicy sliced brisket — with just the right amount of smoke — and the excellent fried chicken. It’s juicy inside, crispy outside and topped with an unexpected pan sauce that includes grainy mustard, lemon and rosemary. The pulled pork, served in a very generous portion, also was good.

The ribs are the chewy, tug-off-the-bone kind — a little too much so, I thought.

Yardbird’s sides are more elaborate than usual for a barbecue place. Some — like the crunchy, rustic, tangy apple slaw — were better for their nontraditional ingredients. Others — like fried green tomatoes with a hint of sweet spice and toppings of salsa and mayo — were unnecessarily complicated.

Desserts are simple and homey and include a delicious bourbon butterscotch pudding.

The bar offers a dozen craft beers, craft cocktails, Michigan-made spirits, numerous bourbons and a half-dozen wines, Cousens said.

For now, Yardbird is open 4-11 p.m. daily. A limited number of reservations are available for parties of 6 or more. (1978 Cass Lake Road; 248-681-2124 and

Contact Sylvia Rector: and 313-222-5026. Follow her on Twitter @SylviaRector. Subscribe to her weekly dining newsletter at

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