Welcome “bAAck,” welcome home, welcome freshmen, welcome all … Welcome Week. Nothing screams the start of the school year quite like kiddie pools filled with sweat and beer, freshmen running around campus without chaperones for the first time in their lives and eating and drinking as though your body is a garbage disposal. Oftentimes I commit myself to portraying the world of food and wine on this campus as sophisticated, graceful and classy. And while I will attest to the fact that the students on this campus effuse elegance in their palettes when it comes to good food, that the Ann Arbor restaurants are top notch and unique and that a vast majority of Michigan students would consider themselves “foodies,” I cannot sugarcoat the one time of year that all of that foodie knowledge goes flying out the door. That special time of the year is Welcome Week. In honor of the end of such a sacred, foul and so-forgettable-that-it’s-memorable week and the beginning of Syllabus Week, I have compiled the official Welcome Week Food and Beverage Pairing Recommendations to ensure that you celebrated the start of the 2018–2019 school year with the perfect mix of class and utter disgrace.
No Thai and Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio: It wouldn’t be Welcome Week without No Thai, which means at least two days worth of leftover fried rice for just under $10. When splurging on your Thai food feast — in between forkfuls of oily, glistening pad thai noodles spattered with fried egg and onion — I recommend a nice, chilled glass of Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio. The perfect mix of elegance and efficiency when curing a hangover. Yellow Tail also balances and counters the potential spice involved in various No Thai dishes, making it all the more mild and enjoyable.
Pancheros and Mango Four Loko: If you’re desperate enough to opt for Pancheros vs Chipotle or BTB, you’re desperate enough to have a casual dinnertime Floko. The casual Four Loko has been opposed and look down upon, but truly, if you are on the road to sprinting the marathon that is Welcome Week, there’s no better way to do it then a Floko + Pancheros pairing. I’d opt for a chicken quesadilla with a side of chips and guac, keep things simple and traditional on the food end to make way for the real star of the show: the beverage. Wait until you are truly desperate and at your wits' end before trying this dangerous duo; you may not make it to the next darty.
Leftover Domino’s and lukewarm Natty Lite: This pairing may sound like your worst nightmare. But imagine it like this: You stumble out of bed at 7:00 a.m. with a blaring headache, an unwelcome Svedka taste in the back of your mouth and the sudden urge to yak. You walk into your kitchen for a cup of water, but what’s there? Your roommate’s half eaten Domino’s pizza and a can of not-cold-but-not-warm Natural Lite beer. You reach for the pizza and crack open a lukewarm one, not with the boys, but simply yourself and realize that you were always destined to hit this rare form of rock bottom.
Rod’s Diner and Barefoot Moscato: How much sugar is too much sugar? In the event of Welcome Week, there is never enough sugar. Dessert wine is meant to pair with dessert — and that’s why Rod’s thick, creamy, blissful colliders pair perfectly with the goddess of all sweet wine: Barefoot Moscato. You may need some water and perhaps a pre-pregame nap after this duo knocks you out.
Amer’s Açaí Bowls and White Claw: The OFFICIAL basic Michigan girl Welcome Week food and drink pairing is an Amer’s açaí bowl topped with granola and peanut butter in one hand and a can of 100 calorie White Claw hard seltzer in the other. Due to prime location and the menu’s opportune breakfast options, this pairing is also a definite game day duo, ingested by all the girls who occupy the hallowed halls of Arbor Blu, Landmark and Zaragon.
Fleetwood Diner Hippie Hash and Smirnoff Ice: When going for the quirkiness that is Fleetwood Diner, one must always expect the element of surprise. And what’s more surprising than finding a planted Smirnoff Ice in your Fleetwood booth upon arrival, planted there by only your sneakiest friends? After getting on one knee and making it onto all of your friend’s snapchat stories in all your shame and pajamas, hippie hash will never feel so right, so fulfilling, so greasy and so good.
Smoke’s Poutinerie and Kamchatka: Both of these have something in common: You don’t know how you got there, you never intended to get there, you promised yourself you wouldn’t get there, but alas, there you are. Nobody goes out with the intention to end up at Beaver Trap eating poutine or taking pulls of Kamchatka in a sweaty basement, but nobody goes into this week with the intention of meeting many goals either. That’s why each bite of cheesy, gravy-drenched poutine should be washed down with a nice big gulp of Kamchatka vodka.
Pizza House Feta Bread and Franzia: Perhaps the most coveted, most important, most popular of all food and beverage pairings during welcome week, the pair who always knows five brothers and runs into 24 people they know in the Diag at any moment of the day, is feta bread and Franzia. Perhaps it’s the alliteration, perhaps it’s the tradition, perhaps it’s the so-bad-it’s-good sentiment running deep through both choices — whatever it is, these two wrongs certainly make a right. Whether you’re ordering a late night feta bread after going out, cozying up in a midday Pizza House booth or having a quick pre-nap-and-rally snack, nothing pairs better with gooey, cheesy feta bread than a nice drag of Franzia wine straight out of the bag.
Rick’s Mind Probe and 7/11 Taquitos: What’s in a Mind Probe and what’s in a taquito from 7/11? Many of us don’t know the answer to either. On a normal week I’d offer the opinion that both are horrible choices. But something about the dimly-lit staircase descending into Rick’s juxtaposed by the blinding, fluorescent 7/11 sign swinging ominously on South Forest makes me want to venture a guess that a Rick’s Mind Probe would be missing something without the crunch of a 7/11 taquito between each sip.
I cannot be disappointed by this campus, though it loses its foodie attitude for the week before school begins. Ann Arbor celebrates so many highs in the gastronomic field — trendy restaurants, tasty new dishes and daring chefs — but we must remember our late-August roots. Once classes begin and school is in full swing, the Kombucha bottles, trendy lattes and ramen noodle bowls will be all the rage once more. Until next year, that is, when we can consult this trusty guide for the best recommendations of just what to pair with that leftover, early-morning feta bread in order to have the best Welcome Week yet.