Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Stole the Name Detoberfest from Someone Else

Originally published in D-Tales here.

Now. Let me preface all of the following by saying: EVERY. BAR. will be having an "Oktoberfest" celebration. All of them. They will serve you seasonal Sam Adams on draft and cheap plastic banners that say "Oktoberfest" strung on the walls and maybe even have their waitresses in fraulein costumes if you're really lucky.

What I care about is beer. I likes to keeps it real, dig?

At nearest count, there are (approximately if not exactly) 74 brewpubs and microbreweries in the Great Lakes State. Yes, 74. Yeah, I figured you didn't know that, that's why I told you.

Now. You can go to your (sound of violent wretching) O'Toole's, or wherever the hell you quasi-trendy people go to celebrate Oktoberfest and St. Patrick's Day and Thanksgiving Eve and New Year's Eve and Boxing Day and Guy Fawkes Day and whatever the hell else you use as an excuse to get shitfaced aside from just the plain 'ole sake of it, OR you could try to be a bit more authentic-like and patron one of these fine pubs with indigineous brews.

(Indigineous means local.)

Moving along.

Oktoberfest is now ("But it's only September?!?" "Yes, I know it's only September, but the Germans are strange and celebrate Oktoberfest in September, whereas Americans celebrate in the last weeks of September through most of October. Thus, it has already begun, regardless of your country."), so it's time you got out there and sipped some fine pumpkin ales and cream porters.

And if I see any of you with a Heineken bottle I will break it over your heads.

Don't judge me because I drink Miller Lite; I'm poor and it's certainly not my preference.

But if you're spending good money on beer, please let it not be on that overpriced imported Austrian swill.

Moving along.

The following list is of brewpubs and microbreweries of interest in the metro Detroit/Ann Arbor area with their Oktoberfest specials. Drink responsibly. Adopt a child.

(Mind you: some well-known establishments are missing because their Oktoberfest celebrations have already passed, they haven't got anything special planned, and/or their website is not updated with current information. I did my best. What I do for you...)

Arbor Brewing Company-Ann Arbor: Oktoberfest Beer Tasting Night, Thursday, October 9
Featuring Marzen and Vienna style lagers as well as an assortment of fall specialty ales and lagers. Tickets $25 advance/$30 day-of.

Atwater Block Brewery-Detroit
The Blocktoberfest seasonal brew is worth the off-season trip to the riverfront. Top that off with the Vanilla Java Porter 'cuz it's good.

Bastone Brewery-Royal Oak: September 29-October 23
Purchase a half-liter limited-edition beer stein for only $9 and get it filled with any brew--including the specially-brewed Oktoberfest Lager--for just $3 all during Oktoberfest. Also try the Jagerschnitzel, Sauerbraten, and Roast Chicken.

Big Rock Brewery-Birmingham
Now serving their seasonal beers: K├Âlsch, Wit, IPA, Strong Scotch Ale, and Russian Imperial Stout, with Altbier, German Pilsner, and Doppelbock now on tap.

Black Lotus Brewing Company-Clawson: Black Lotus Turns 2, Friday, September 26
Check out their Birthday Brew, a cream ale made with vanilla birthday cake frosting. Also try the Oktoberfest Bier and the Monster Mash Pumpkin Ale. This Friday, celebrate Oktoberfest with beer brats and DJ 2040.

Detroit Beer Company-Detroit: Anniversary Extravaganza, Saturday, October 18
Huge "Detroit-style" BBQ, $2.50 pints and mugs all day, live music 8:00-11:00PM.

Fort Street Brewery-Lincoln Park: Harvest Fest, now-September 27; Beer Fantasy Camp Sunday, October 5
Harvest Fest offers a special menu of Michigan-grown foods and Michigan-inspired menu items including: Duck & Cherry Ravioli, Baked Trout, Squash Bisque, Michigan Salad, Beer Battered Asparagus, Apple Stuffing, and more. A new harvest beer released at 8:00PM every night, Monday-Friday, through Harvest Fest.Beer Fantasy Camp offers six beer tastings with a three-course dinner. Tickets $35.

Grizzly Peak Brewing Company-Ann Arbor: September 29-October 23
Enjoy $5 pints of hand-crafted beer in a take-home limited-edition glass, with refills only $2 during Oktoberfest. Also enjoy authentic German foods such as Chicken Schnitzel and Braised Short Rib Goulash.

Kuhnhenn Brewing Company-Warren: Saturday, October 18
Enjoy traditional German Bier and cuisine, including Eisbein (smoked pork shank), sausages, and all the sides. Food served noon-8:00PM.

Motor City Brewing Works-Detroit
Try the Oktoberfest beer while they have it. Have some pizza, too. It's good.

Rochester Mills Beer Company-Rochester Hills: September 26-27
German-style beer, food, and music under a massive tent. Lots of good clean family fun with carnival games, balloon artists, moonwalks, pony rides, a petting zoo, magicians, clowns, and more. Friday 5:00-11:00PM, Saturday 1:00-11:00PM. Tickets $5, children 16 and under free. Proceeds benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the YMCA North Oakland WAVES Swim Club.

Sherwood Brewing Company-Shelby Twp.: Saturday, October 4
Celebrate Oktoberfest on the release date of their special Fest Bier Oktoberfest. Bier, food, games, music, bier. And beer. And more bier.

And last, but most importantly:

The Dakota Inn Rathskeller-Detroit: Oktoberfest, Fridays and Saturdays September 26-October 4
Now celebrating its 75th anniversary, the Dakota Inn Rathskeller has been bringing authentic German cuisine, the widest selection of imported beers from Germany in the Detroit area (with special Oktoberfest brews flown in from Germany just for this occasion), and the infectious Old-World-style German sing-along tradition to Detroit for our very own slice of Bavaria! It is a historically designated site featuring intricate, hand-carved woodwork created by the current owner's grandfather, as well as trophy animal heads from family hunting trips, family pictures, and waitresses adorned in traditional Bavarian costume.The Rathskeller has been owned by the same family for three generations, and it continues to be Detroit's only authentic German bar. If you want to really experience Oktoberfest but can't afford the flight, look no further than the Dakota Inn. Tickets to all Friday and Saturday night Oktoberfest parties are $3, and are selling out fast. The party runs from 8:00PM-midnight.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Musical, Artful, Eatful, Drinkful Weekend

Originally published in D-Tales here; edited for content. See original post for pictures.

Yesterday was the last official day of summer. Sad, yes. But I sent the summer off with a bang. A very loud bang. A bang so loud I still can't really hear all that well and I'm probably talking very loudly, even to myself.

Wanna hear about it? Sure you do. But first, riddle me this: how many times did you go to Woodbridge Pub this weekend? If your answer was four, congratulations, you beat me. But you didn't, did you? I win at life.

[Edit]

Friday: The day started with the DSO at 10:45 in the morning. We then had lunch at Woodbridge Pub, after I had been hearing people rave about the food for some time (and by "some time" I mean the 6 days since I had (a) learned it was open and (b) went there for the first time myself).

And so you ask: did it live up to its hype?

OMFGyesyesyesyesyes.

First off, I don't believe in health food. I don't. I don't see the purpose in sacrificing the experience of taste just on the off chance that I might not suffer from colon polyps when I'm 80 after living on soy products for the bulk of my adult life. Sorry, but give me decadent creamy French cheeses and high cholesterol and I'll take my chances, thanks. So when people asked me if the food at Woodbridge was at all similiar to the Cass Cafe I gave a resounding HAYLTHAFUKNO. Woodbridge will lentil burger Cass Cafe up the artsy-fartsy tofu-you ying-yang.

The designer of the Woodbridge menu (the owner's sister and my new favorite human) believes in butter, and God bless her for it. I started with the housemade guacamole--perfection. Just how I like it: HEAVY on garlic, light on onion, with flavorful tortilla chips just the right density and saltiness. I ate the whole bowl. That's about 20 grams of avocado fat, thank you. This I followed up with the Cheese to the Seventh Power, "like grilled cheese on steroids" (as stated on the menu). Brie, White Cheddar, Romano, two kinds of Mozzarella, Provolone and Parmesan on a butter-saturated grilled baguette. How can I describe it? Like 1,000 greasy angels dancing on my tongue? Okay, how about this: the grilled cheese at Cafe Muse in Royal Oak was named by The Oprah "the best grilled cheese in America." I had it. It was tasty. But Cheese to the Seventh Power spanks it like a little bitch, fresh sliced tomato and drizzled honey or not.

My friend ordered the BBLT on a B--carmelized bacon, brie cheese, Michigan leaf lettuce, and marinated tomatoes on a grilled baguette. And by "carmelized bacon" they mean extra-thick cuts of meaty, peppered bacon soaked and fried in thick, rich maple syrup. That, with the brie, and the flavorful tomatoes...I challenge you to fine me a better BLT anywhere in the country. Challenge you.

[Edit]

Sunday:

[Edit]

There were other things at [Ferndale's first DIY Street Fair] too, such as the beer tent a mere 50 paces from the stage. Thank you, organizers, for that. It was thoughtful. Thank you also for being the ONLY festival to emphasize a focus on Michigan-made brews. The rest of you can take your Bud Light and bong it.

In other news, the B. Nektar Meadery is now open. Like from the days of yore. I got to sample some at DIY. It was meady. I think a field trip is in order. Who wants to go play north of 8 Mile?

[Edit]

I had some Pumpkin Ale from the WAB, and something from Sherwood Brewing Company that was quite tasty. Three drinks for $10.00--suck it, other festivals.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Back from the Pitt

Originally published in D-Tales here, edited for content.

...So I get to my hotel, drop off my laptop, and head straight to work around 6:00PM. Now, I haven't eaten since the Bob Evans in Toledo around noon, so when we get out of work I'm starving. So one of the girls, who I refer to as Mini-Me, and I go to the Applebee's by my hotel (this is now officially a Pittsburgh tradition), where we partook of the ridiculously huge Pittsburgh portions of food and smoked our last public building cigarettes, as the Pennsylvania smoking ban went into effect at midnight on Thursday.

Thursday I worked 8:00-6:00. Went back to the hotel, slept for 4 hours, and woke up hungry so I decided to get a pizza from the Primanti Brothers, a local chain famous for their sandwiches and a staple of Pittsburghers' diets. I ordered their White Pizza, with garlic sauce, parmesan, mozzarella, tomato, and spinach. Again, Pittsburgh portions are ginormous, but I did my best to stuff myself sick. Oh, and I could taste the olive oil in the crust...so freakin' good. This was a damn good pizza. And I ate most of it. Which is the equivalent of 2 Michigan larges. Sick. Me.

SIDEBAR: I love the hotel they put me in when I travel there. The Marriott Springhill Suites has the best "continental breakfast" you'll ever find (waffles, scrambled eggs, sausage, bagels, doughnuts, muffins, fruit, yogurt--EVERYTHING), and there is something strangely comforting about staying in a hotel room that's larger than your 580 sq. ft. studio apartment. Even though I'm there for work, the hotel makes it feel like a vacation. Especially since the sink isn't littered with dirty dishes I don't feel like washing or the kitchen table filled with mail I don't feel like reading.

Friday I opened again, and worked straight through 8:00-4:00 so I could hit the road (in the torrential downpours Pennsylvania was having). I decided that since my Pittsburgh experience was a bit limited this time around, I would make the most of it by cruising into Lawrenceville (the arts district) and having a hearty dinner before hitting the road.

I went to Piccolo Forno, which I had read about on the 16:62 Design Zone website before my previous trip. I had caught them before their dinner rush, and had a quiet, relaxing meal in a mostly-empty restaurant. Piccolo Forno, much like many dining establishments in Pittsburgh, is BYOB, so instead of a glass of wine with dinner I had a damn fine cappuccino (best for driving, anyway). I had the Pomodoro e Buffala salad--halved cherry tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and lightly seasoned with rock salt and pepper, with fresh, salty buffalo mozzarella with dollops of housemade pesto sauce. In a big-ass bowl. Caprese salads are among my favorite to begin with, but when all the ingredients are fresh they're amazing.

To follow up the salad, which honestly would have been enough in itself (portions = HUGE), I then had the special prosciutto and squash risotto. It's risotto. With prosciutto. I'm a sucker for both. I had to do it. Even though I was in pain afterwards and all the way through 3.5 hours at 65 mph Ohio. The risotto was great--could have used more prosciutto (I only found a few pieces), but the squash made for an interesting pairing with the prosciutto, and there was a strong presence of parmesan throughout (which made up for the lack of prosciutto for me). Different varieties of squash were used, but the butternut was the most noticeable, though strangely complimentary despite the flavor being so drastically different from the other primary flavors of the dish.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Light Dinner at Iridescence

Originally published in D-Tales here, edited and renamed for content. Visit the D-Tales blog for pictures.

...Now, let's talk about the first portion of the evening. Dinner at Iridescence. OMFG love that place, especially since they moved to the top of the hotel. The 40-foot ceilings and windows overlooking the city create a dramatic effect, and the lighting design and color schemes utilized throughout the restaurant make the environment as visually stunning as the food. Even though we failed to make reservations and the place was "fully committed" for the evening because of three different conferences all in town that weekend which had all the hotels booked up--apparently this was the busiest that Iridescence had been since they opened--and we had to dine in the bar area and were limited to the appetizer, tapas, and dessert menus, we still made the most of it.

From the tapas manu, we ordered the Goat Cheese Risotto Croquettes, with basil oil and a tomato puree, served with prosciutto. Risotto croquettes are great--it's what you do with risotto when it is no longer acceptable to serve but is still okay to eat. Just roll it into a ball, bread it, and deep-fry it. These particular deep-fried balls o'risotto goodness were also stuffed with goat cheese, and the strong flavor of the goat cheese was balanced well by the salty proscioutto and the unobstrusive risotto. The sauces complimented but were unnecessary; all the flavor this dish needed was in the croquettes and prosciutto. My friend ordered the garlic shrimp with potato puree and crispy leeks--I only tasted this, but what I tasted was a tender shrimp doused in heavily garlic-infused butter. Everything should be so doused.

From the appetizers, we tried the Habachi American Kobe Beef Tableside. It was served with three unremarkable sauces...again, the beef was really quite flavorful on its own and didn't need to be drowned in the overpowering garlic aioli, lobster aioli (though points for creativity there), and mustard (bleck). The presentation was...cute. Very fondue-style D.I.Y. The hibachi had cooled after about 5 minutes, so don't dawdle. I'd recommend they ditch the cutesy presentation there and focus on creating a dish in which the superior flavors of the Kobe beef (considered the best beef--the most flavorful, the most tender--in the world) can be highlighted; it seems a waste to have such a great menu item buried in its own presentation.

Presentation is, as always is the style with Iridescence, top-notch, as was the service in the very busy bar area. On top of three espresso martinis (had a craving), I then ordered the super-mega-ultra Iridescence Sampler Platter (at the urging of non-dessert-eating, sugar-shirking friend). You get a root beer float, an chocolate mousse layer cake, a chocolate-covered cheesecake, chocolate chip cookie sandwich, and warm chocolate custard offset with just a dash of strawberry sauce and raspberries. The display was impressive and the desserts tasty; what they lack in creativity they make up for in sheer volume. In the future, I'd recommend something else from the dessert menu, something which better showcases the patissier's style and skills. The rest of the dessert menu is full of unique and eclectic pairings which certainly deserve perusal.

But I still enjoyed the hell out of everything, because it's Iridescence, and Iridescence is amazing. It's worth a trip just for the decor alone...even the bathrooms are impressive. My friend was very apologetic that we didn't get to have a "full dinner," but this was just as good and just as enjoyable. One day...one day...I will try the 13-course Degustation menu. One day.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Food and Fashion

Originally published in D-Tales here, edited for content.

...Wednesday was the Detroit Synergy Supper Club at Cuisine. The group was a little smaller than a usual Supper Club, but this actually became an advantage. The people who were there were Supper Club regulars (and I even succeeded in pulling some super-cool n00bs from the bar into our group), and it just couldn't have been a more fun, more laid-back group. We had a good mix of young and old, all people just looking to experience a great meal and enjoy themselves in the company of others looking to do the same. The vibe was warm and welcoming; this would have to be my favorite Supper Club event to date. I had a lot of fun chatting it up with loads of different people (I even met a fellow blogger!). Plus the food at Cuisine was amazing, as always: the ricotta-stuffed eggplant (and there was definitely some goat cheese in there as well; tasted like chevre) was tangy and delicate; the chicken roulade over parmesan risotto was full of flavor and very tender; and the lemon-line sorbet was a perfect palate cleanser. The wine selection was also very popular and sparked a lot of conversation at my table about wine and travel and other things I like to talk about.

R.I.P. Beans & Bytes

Originally published in D-Tales here.

Beans & Bytes was a coffee shop/Internet cafe in Midtown that quite honestly kind of blew. And while I am sad to see another independently-owned Detroit business closing, I think the closing of Beans & Bytes had less to do with a poor economy in Detroit and more to do with them blowing. Poor business was the stated reason. Poor business due to shitty coffee is more like it.

But never fear: soon (like, in a week or two) we will have Urban Grounds in Eastern Market AND that rumored Good Girls Go to Paris Crepes booth right next to it!

How do I love thee, Eastern Market? Let me count the ways! R. Hirt, Cost Plus Wine Shop(pe?), Vivio's, Butcher's Inn, Bert's Warehouse Theatre, and now good coffee and tasty crepes! Are you trying to make me jealous? I think you are...naughty Eastern Market.

I want to live in the FD Lofts. *Pout*

4AM at the Golden Fleece

So instead we stumbled towards Greektown and into the Golden Fleece Restaurant (they're open until 4:00AM for all the drunkards) and had some saganaki and a platter full of super-garlicky Greek foods that had names we couldn't pronouce nor remember but included octopus, tzatziki (that one I know, anyway--cucumber yogurt sauce), garlic mashed something-or-other, I think some olives, stuffed grape leaves, something else. We really wanted some more beer, but it was past 2:00AM and they weren't serving anymore.

Except when some super-douchey over-coiffed friends and family came in (it looked like they were probably the young male heirs to the Golden Fleece throne and their buddies and girlfriends) and were promptly served beers. Right there! Right in front of all the other customers who weren't allowed to order alchohol! What kind of shit is that? I mean, my God, don't you have a back room or something where the illegal gambling usually goes down that all the owner's sons and nephews can drink in after hours instead of right there in the front room with all the other customers and in plain view of the street ? W. T. F.

We joked about calling in a tip to the cops but of course we didn't. But still. But still.

Worst Bar EVEEEEEER

Originally published in D-Tales here.

Last Thursday I was forced to go to Black Finn Restaurant & Saloon in Royal Oak.

Please know that this is a place I never ever ever would have elected to go of my own volition.

This is, quite possibly, the Worst. Bar. Ever.

Black Finn is pretty much the new trendy hang-out of Royal Oak. No more Woody's, no more O'Tooles, no more Fifth Avenue (all awful in their own special and unique Royal-Oaky ways), no...now it's all about Black Finn.

Because it's a bit trendier, and a bit prettier, and a bit glossier. Because all the artsy types who remained in Royal Oak for some time, clinging onto their memories of better pre-loft-development days, have finally sucked it up and moved to Ferndale; and because all the kids who moved to Royal Oak immediately after graduating college are now grown and have money and are looking for something a little more "posh" than the shitholes (like Woody's and O'Tooles) they used to hang out at. And also because waiting in line to get into a bar makes white people feel important (this is the only explanation I can come up with--it's the same phenomena I've witnessed at Main Street Billiards in Rochester...it's really not that great of a bar, yet people line up around the block and even pay cover to get in). And note, I said bar. Not club. Bar. Waiting in line to get into a bar. See also: St. Patrick's Day.

Now mind you, Black Finn is a straight-up bar. The interior is all oak, there's a bunch of plasma TVs to watch various sporting events, they have drink specials for all Tigers games, and there's a side seating area when you can sit down and eat their straight-up bar food. Aside from some fresh fish and steaks on the menu, it's mostly classic American bar-and-grill fare--lots of sandwiches and salads and starters, some with the occasional interesting twist but most pretty straightforward. Not unlike Mr. B's. And Royal Oakiphiles love Mr. B's. I never understood why.

There is much about Royal Oak I don't understand.

Such as why all the mid-twenty-to-thirty-somethings get all done up to go to a bar. Not club. Bar. A sports bar. A sports bar in a city with a glut of sports bars on a night when there are no sports on and the music consists of tracks from Michael Jackson, the "YMCA," and pop/rap songs popular last summer. And they wait in line for 30-45 minutes to get into said bar just to stand 5-deep at the bar and not be able to get a drink and get constantly jostled around by men with far too much hair product and women wearing halter tops and stilettos at a sports bar.

And I almost hate admitting this, but the men were kind of hot. In that "You're pretty to look at but the minute you open your mouth I will want to punch you in the face" kind of way.

No wonder I'm single...

Afterwards I ended up at my kind of sports bar: The Well. $2.00 Labatt Blues and Blue Lights and only five other people in the bar.

Why do I ever leave Detroit?

Black Finn--don't go. Do not do not do not do not. It's a terrible, awful, dreadful place FULL TO THE BRIM with Royal Oak douchebags. If you must be in Royal Oak...and by this I mean your car broke down and none of your friends can come get you and you don't know how to find the SMART bus or call a cab...go to Town Tavern at least. Phenomenal food, good drinks, and only ranks at a Yellow Alert on the Douchebag Advisory System.

Unless you like that frat-party-for-30-year-olds feeling. Then that's all on you.

As for me...I would have much rather been at the Lager House catching the free Sik Sik Nation show, but I wasn't. I was at Black Finn instead. *cough*