Thursday, September 29, 2011

[Metromode] Chicks Roux! Metro Detroit's Women Chefs

"If a woman’s place is in the kitchen, where are all the girls?

'Making dinner for the family is perfectly acceptable 'women’s work,' but when it comes to heading up high-profile kitchens and overseeing dozens of employees in the high-stress restaurant industry, it seems like women are still treated like delicate flowers who can’t carry their weight in 40-qt. stock pots.

'In metro Detroit, there are only a handful of females in coveted executive chef positions, but these girls gone gastronomic are making a serious impact..."

Meet these women in the kitchen; read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

[New York Post] Harvest Time in Michigan Wine Country

The vineyards of Chateau Grand Traverse. All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

The car is cresting over the hills of Old Mission Peninsula, whipping around curves at 70mph. It is a clear, late summer night, 80 degrees. The air is damp, perfumed with burning wood and a hint of fall. Top down, music blaring, I look up to my right to see the stars of the Little Dipper burning white hot through ink-black sky. There are few perfect moments in life. This is one of them.

Old Mission Peninsula is nestled in the “pinkie” of the Mitten, on the west coast of northern Lower Michigan (got that?). It is the crown at the head of Traverse City, recently famous for Iron Chef Mario Batali’s unabashed love affair with it and for being named one of Bon Appetit Magazine’s “Foodiest Towns in America.” OMP splits the Grand Traverse Bay into East and West Bays. It is 19 miles long; at its widest point it is three miles wide, at its narrowest you can park your car on the side of the road and drink in panoramic views of sloping vineyards and sparkling bays on either side.

Michigan is not without its share of beautiful places. The state has the longest coastline in the continental U.S., all freshwater and blessedly hurricane-free. Good Morning America recently named Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Michigan’s west coast the “Most Beautiful Place in America,” but if Sleeping Bear Dunes is the most beautiful place in the country then Old Mission Peninsula should by rights be able to claim to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

This is my fourth trip up here in as many years. As a native Michigander, traveling “up North” (that directionally imprecise catch-all moniker used to describe the entire northern half of the state plus the Upper Peninsula by everyone who lives within 100 miles of a state border that isn’t Wisconsin) is a rite of passage and summertime tradition. Around here, they call it God’s Country.

During the summer, it sparkles with every conceivable shade of blue; sapphire and cerulean on a clear, sunny day; pale lapis in hazy light; brooding indigo in the rain. The sky transforms from rosy pinks and pastel yellows at dawn to turquoise smudged with glowing white by day to fiery oranges and reds and deepening violets at sunset. Trees and vines are brilliantly green.

The winter landscape is reminiscent of the massive glaciers that cut this Paradise straight from cold rock. The vines and trees are bare, coated in a layer of perpetual snow. Even on clear days, dusty powder dances lazily across the landscape that’s like an untouched frozen tundra. The world is white. The sky is gray. The water is an impossible silver.

Read the rest of the story here.

2 Lads Winery and tasting room.



MORE RESOURCES:

Old Mission Wineries: 2 Lads Winery, Black Star Farms Old Mission Tasting Room, Bowers Harbor Vineyard, Brys Estate, Chateau Chantal, Chateau Grand Traverse, Peninsula Cellars

More Food and Drink:

7 Monks Taproom: So new you can still smell the paint drying, 7 Monks serves beer from around the world, including a solid show of rare Michigan brews, as well as all seven authentic Trappist ales brewed in ancient monasteries in Belgium and the Netherlands. The beer flows from 46 taps with gastro-brasserie food to compliment it.

The Cook’s House: Even other area chefs call the Cook’s House the best restaurant in Traverse City. Chef Eric Patterson serves regional new American cuisine, sourced 100% locally in the summer and 80% in the winter. His 28-seat restaurant (which recently acquired a full liquor license) is always full, but is well worth the wait.

Old Mission General Store: The Old Mission General Store has been around since the mid-1800s and still operates very much as a “general” stores: coon-skin hats, brake fluid and antiques intermingle with Michigan wines and beer, open barrels of peanuts and their own private label preserves. They serve Moomers Ice Cream, a Traverse City-based ice cream company recently featured in USA Today and Good Morning America, as well as from-scratch soups and sandwiches on bread baked fresh daily.

Peninsula Grill: For casual fare, the Peninsula Grill offers classic American grill cuisine of serious excellence (try one of the flatbreads), along with a solid selection of local wines and beers. Longtime bartender Johnny even promises he’ll remember what you drink for next time.

TASTES of Black Star Farms: Try the Matterhorn Grill Dinner, where you’ll grill up fresh vegetables and sausages in the Swiss DIY style, then pour melted raclette cheese from the Leelanau Cheese Company (located in Black Star Farms) over top. Their aged raclette was named “Best Cheese in North America” by the American Cheese Society cheese competition in 2007.

Trattoria Stella: Two-time James Beard-nominated Executive Chef Myles Anton describes the menu as “northern Michigan Italian.” They make everything in-house from scratch, including the breads, pastas and desserts. In the last year Anton has even started butchering his own animals. “It’s the next level of feeding locally,” he says. “It’s turned into this revolutionary thing in my life and my cooking, and does awesome justice to the animal.” They have won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence every year since they’ve been open thanks to Amanda Danielson’s meticulous organization of her wine list, balancing a robust selection of wine from nearly every region of Italy with probably the largest selection of Michigan wines of any restaurant in the state.

Also: Amical, Bardon’s Ice Cream, Bay Leaf, The Boathouse, Folgarelli’s Market and Wine Shop, North Peak Brewing Co., Patisserie Amie, Phil’s on Front, Red Ginger, Right Brain Brewery

More Lodging:

Chateau Chantal: Sometimes the floral look can be pulled off in a way that is charming (and not in that way when people say “charming” just to be polite): at Chateau Chantal the rooms are all designed around a particular French impressionist painting, so you get floral patterns that aren’t offensive to your eyes or age range. Each suite has its own color theme: Rosé = pink, Merlot = purple … it’s like Sesame Street’s House of Seven Colors! (But, you know, classy.) The Inn is also connected to their tasting room, and guests are free to conduct their own wine sampling after-hours (again, this is northern Michigan, where people still believe in the honors system). Chateau Chantal boasts what might actually be one of the most stunning patio views in the state, and they also host prix fixe seven-course wine dinners every Wednesday and Friday through October.

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa: About 15 minutes from the base of Old Mission is the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme, a beautiful 900-acre property with three golf courses, tennis courts, a full spa and a private beach club. (GTR was named one of the 75 best golf resorts in North America in 2009/2010 by Golf Digest and one of the top 50 tennis resorts in the country by Tennis Magazine in 2000 and 2002.) Aerie Restaurant & Lounge is located on the 16th floor with OMG views of Grand Traverse Bay (have dinner at dusk and watch the sunset over the bay). Certified Executive Chef Guillermo Valencia brings a new Latin fusion to Aerie’s menu while still emphasizing local, seasonal products. Boys get golf, girls get pampered , you still get that big hotel feel and you might even find a wild turkey roaming around in the parking lot but it’s cool, it’s all part of the northern Michigan experience.

Also: Chateau Grand Traverse, Holiday Inn West Bay, Park Place Hotel, Wellington Inn
Hotel Indigo coming soon


Want to see more? Check out these three Flickr sets: Traverse City 2009, Traverse City 2011, Mission Table

Monday, September 26, 2011

[HOT LIST] Wineries of Northern Michigan

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

If you ask any native New Yorker (if there is such a thing), they've probably never been to the top of the Empire State Building. The thing is, when you live in a place, you tend not to look at it with the wide-eyed wonderment of your average tourist. And that's a shame, really: metro Detroiters will dump thousands of dollars on plane tickets to France, cooking classes in Burgundy, guided wine tours through Bordeaux, butler-tended lodgings in centuries-old chateaus ... and they'll spend just as much to get shuffled like cattle through Napa Valley.

But just four(-ish) hours to the northwest there's Traverse City, a cosmopolitan community in the middle of farmland that's been getting some serious national attention lately. And on either side of Traverse City along the shoreline of Grand Traverse Bay lies the best of Michigan wine country.

There are several wine trails in the state of Michigan, but this northwestern corner (comprised of the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas) is cranking out the wines that are making a strong name for Michigan in the world market. Next time you want to book a romantic getaway to wine country, look no further than your own backyard.

#1 Black Star Farms Leelanau Peninsula (farm, vineyards, winery, tasting room); Old Mission Peninsula (tasting room)
Black Star Farms bills itself as an "agricultural destination." Their property on Leelanau Peninsula in Suttons Bay is a working farm and equestrian facility with a winery, distillery, tasting room, creamery (the Leelanau Cheese Company; their Aged Raclette was named "Best Cheese in North America" in 2007), casual cafe and wine bar (the renowned Hearth and Vine Cafe,) and Inn. For the full agro-tourism experience, stay at the modern yet comfortable Inn. Wander the property, visit the tasting room, pet the horses, and enjoy their evening wine receptions and truly farm-to-table gourmet breakfasts - eggs, meats, greens and produce all come straight from the farm right outside your window.
Wine rec: Leorie Vineyard Merlot Cab Franc; Isidor's Choice Chardonnay

#2 L. Mawby Vineyards Leelanau Peninsula
There isn't a winemaker in Michigan who doesn't think Larry Mawby is a genius. He makes sparkling wines and ONLY sparkling wines, and was really the first person in Michigan to not only say it can be done, but that it can be done REALLY freaking well. He's been proving his point with both estate-grown and outside-sourced grapes since 1978 using 100% Pinot Noir and Vignoles varietals as well as blends under two distinct labels.
Wine rec: Talismon; Blanc de Blancs

#3 2 Lads Winery Old Mission Peninsula
The newest of the seven wineries currently operating on Old Mission Peninsula, 2 Lads Winery is an ultra-chic modern/industrial winery and tasting room that specializes specifically in cool climate reds and sparkling wines. The "two lads" - winemaker Cornel Olivier and operations manager Chris Baldyga - both believe that Michigan's wines can be on par even with Bordeaux's (both wine regions rest of the 45th parallel). They designed a facility to maximize their estate-grown grapes' potential with a much gentler and environmentally-friendly gravity-flow system, but what you'll care most about is the stunning view of the vineyards and East Grand Traverse Bay from the tasting room.
Wine rec: Cabernet Franc Merlot; Cabernet Franc Rosé

#4 Bowers Harbor Vineyard Old Mission Peninsula
Bowers Harbor Vineyard has a totally chilled-out vibe and family feel. It could be because proprietor Spencer Stegenga refers to one of his employees as his "Director of Bro-motions," or because the award-winning Erica Vineyard was named for his wife on the plot of land where he proposed to her, or maybe because the family dog Brix is always running around waiting to be petted by the nearest friendly hand. Regardless, this is a fun place to hang out on the patio, chat with the staff, even Dine in the Vines (dates throughout the summer). And they're also kicking out some truly outstanding reds.
Wine rec: Erica Vineyard Cabernet Franc; 2896 Langley Meritage

#5 Shady Lane Cellars Leelanau Peninsula
This may not be one of the best-known wineries in the area, but with just over 52 acres of vineyards they aren't exactly small, and connoisseurs already know the name well. Shady Lane is considered one of the best wineries in Michigan for their delicate wines that elegantly represent their land. They are known specifically for their dry Riesling (this is Riesling country, after all), but in keeping with the apparent overall theme of "Michigan Reds Rock" here, their Blue Franc is a unique beast of dark berries and spice and they are one of only two area vineyards producing this varietal.
Wine rec: Dry Riesling; Blue Franc

Bubbling under Chateau Chantal (OMP), Forty-Five North Vineyard and Winery (LP), Chateau Grand Traverse (OMP), Gill's Pier Vineyard and Winery (LP), Left Foot Charley (Traverse City), Brys Estate (OMP), Bel Lago Vineyard and Winery (LP), Circa Estate (LP)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The 5 Days of DRW: 24grille

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

From the very beginning, it seems that 24grille inside the AAA-four-diamond Westin Book Cadillac has been plagued with issues, not that your average restaurant-goer would know that. Despite problems with partners and upper management on all conceivable levels of common-grade restaurant industry salaciousness and scandal (you've read Bourdain, no?), their initial delay in opening (a full 6 months after the hotel - and Roast - opened), and their struggle to really define themselves in a culinary scene not wanting for lack of steakhouses and contemporary American cuisine, 24grille has survived the rough waters of these past two and a half years and now finally has a strong team in place that will guide it to its greatest potential.

The staff over the past year has changed almost entirely, which includes the addition of Executive Chef Christian Borden and General Manager Nicole Nassif. "She is insanely smart," says Borden of Nassif, and it's hard not to notice: after sitting in on part of the DRW staff training, I can plainly see this is a woman who runs a tight ship, takes no BS, and is exactly the kind of firm-handed manager this high-volume, high-profile restaurant desperately needed.

But solid management can only take a restaurant so far. There needs to be a chef in the kitchen equally as focused, talented and committed for the restaurant to surpass merely "good." And that is where Borden comes in.

Chef Christian (center)


You may recognize his name from Atlas Global Bistro; in fact, many people seem to think he's still there (an easy mistake to make, considering their new chef is also named Christian). Borden is the one who made Atlas what it was. It was his inventive menus, his truly global fusion flavors on every plate, his simply superior food that drove diners out to that desolate stretch of "Tween-town" (that lonely mile between Fox Town and Midtown that has some really nice condos and not a whole lot else). But after five and a half years, Borden was ready to leave, and an opportunity at 24grille presented itself at just the right time (actually, it was around the time of the Fall 2010 Detroit Restaurant Week).

Borden has been here a year now and has spent this time reconceptualizing the menus, redefining the brand, and generally acclimating to the significantly faster pace. We spoke a few days before the Fall 2011 Restaurant Week started; the hotel was at 100% occupancy and they were slammed every day, lunch and dinner, seven days a week, nonstop. And it's been that way since he started.

"It's a completely different world than Atlas," he says. "We're just a mile down the street and it's completely different." He is referring both to the pace and to the volume; there is simply no downtime to be had here.

Which is fantastic news for him, really. While he made a name for Atlas during his years there, 24grille is the place where he can really make a name for himself. The restaurant has an automatic built-in clientele of wealthy traveling businessmen, socialites and celebrities who, let's just be real here, aren't going to be taking casual strolls down Michigan Ave. to see what other options are available (and it's a long walk to Slows). Despite being good-with-so-much-potential-to-be-better, the restaurant has never hurt for business, and that means Borden's food now has more visibility than ever before, and people from all over the world can experience it.

It's also time for 24grille to step out of Roast's robust shadow. While the menu concepts are entirely different, the general appeal is the same and the individual "looks" aren't too drastically different (oh, sure, 24grille is a little more tempered glass and industrial chic, Roast is a little more plush leather and textured walls, are we really going to split hairs here?). 24grille tries to have a little more casual appeal (and their $8 "lunch sac" really just can't be beat), but the menu still boasts decidedly not-casual items like pork belly and duck confit (at the very least, these aren't meant for the "casual" diner). There is a nice mix of small plates and full entrees that will satisfy every appetite and craving, and the menu is also quite approachable: think steaks and seafood, but steaks and seafood done in a way you've never seen around here.

But for Detroit Restaurant Week, Borden is going balls-out. There are no salmon filets, no short ribs, no chicken sous-vide on this menu. It is 22 items of Borden's mad culinary genius, flirting with South American, Asian, and French traditions with influences of the American South and Gulf coast, all prepared in a way that honors Michigan's regional flavors and with an unapologetic disregard to your culture-shocked palate. Just eat it, Detroit. There are 21 fantastic restaurants participating in this season's Restaurant Week, but this is one not to miss.

Crackle sausage.


FALL 2011 DRW MENU
FIRST COURSE

Crackle Sausage
(Spicy homemade sausages, crispy vermicelli noodle and sweet chile sauce)
-or-
Three Sisters Soup
(Prepared with sweet corn, Michigan white beans and butternut squash)
-or-
Michigan Sushi
(Prepared with polenta cakes, succotash and sashimi tuna)
-or-
Yucatanian Pulled Pork Tacos
(Three crispy tacos with three garnishes)
-or-
Poached Pear and Goat Cheese Salad
(Petite herb greens, pomegranate, crispy walnut and Valencia honey vinaigrette)
-or-
Chinese Barbeque Pork
(Cha siu-glazed pork belly, ginger, shallot and lychee)
-or-
24 Caesar Salad
(Baby romaine hearts, croutons, Parmesan cheese, toasted tomato and citrus-anchovy dressing)
-or-
Michigan Corn Crêpes and Wild Mushrooms
(Thin French pancake, seared mushroom, shallot and herb vinaigrette)
-or-
Watermelon Salad
(Local melons, ricotta salata, mint, macadamia, 20-year cherry-oaked balsamic)
-or-
Salmon Gravlax with Jalapeño Waffle
(Toasty waffle, tangy radish salad and cool lemon cream)

SECOND COURSE

Georges Bank Diver Scallops with Ruby Red Grapefruit
(White cocoa butter-seared mammoth scallops, zucchini pearls, bitters and ginger blanc)
-or-
White Marble Pan-roasted Pork Tenderloin
(Spiny pepper-crusted pork, Maytag bleu, wild huckleberries, toasted pistachio and Port reduction)
-or-
Duck Breast on Roasted Italian Plum
(Slow-roasted boneless duck breast with stewed Italian plum jam)
-or-
Lamb Leg on Roasted Vegetables
(Lamb rolled in coffee and vanilla, pickled thyme, roasted shallot, radicchio, Parmesan, shiitake and chives)
-or-
Florida Skate and Minneola Citrus
(Seared, flaked southern coastal fish, Florida citrus, jicama and fried capers)
-or-
Angus Coulotte with Cotton Onions
(Chargrilled steak, Virginia onions and green peppercorn butter)
-or-
Chicken Saltimbocca
(Amish chicken, prosciutto and herbs with white wine-Marsala braise)
-or-
Ratatouille
(Seasonal vegetables, fresh herbs, Calabro ricotta and tomato-Chardonnay butter)

THIRD COURSE

Gingersnap and Apricot Cheesecake
(Peppery gingersnap crust, smooth cream batter and local stonefruits)
-or-
Five and Dime Milkshake
(Vanilla bean gelato, malted milk, whipped cream, scoop straw and sprinkles)
-or-
Soda Jerk Float
(Cherry-vanilla syrup, ice cream, Coke in a bottle, whipped cream and maraschino)
-or-
Bread Pudding
(Nutmeg custard, banana bread pudding, walnut streusel and English toffee)
-or-
Summer's End Blackberry Panna Cotta
(Honey and black pepper Italian custard and minted blackberry-orange compote)
-or-
Scoops
(Chili, lime and lemongrass sorbet, chocolate sea salt gelato, lychee and strawberry ice cream)

Want to see more? Check out the Flickr set here.

24Grill Book Cadilac Westin on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 23, 2011

The 5 Days of DRW: La Dolce Vita

Vitello Piccata. All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.
Words like "hidden gem" and "urban oasis" get tossed around a lot when talking about La Dolce Vita, and with good reason: located in a very unlikely spot at Woodward and McNichols in Detroit's Palmer Park neighborhood, the restaurant is surrounded by a whole lot of bleak-looking nothing (plus a strip club).

If it sounds seedy ... well, a rose by any other name would surely smell as sweet as a sweaty perfume-soaked stripper, right? But LDV owner Enrico Roselli has somehow managed to create a tranquil little corner of serenity here. Natural light floods the interior of the restaurant through arched windows, reminiscent of Old World European restaurants that you'd find tucked away in the corner of the Tuscan countryside. The stamped concrete patio is enclosed in ivy-covered brick, completing the Euro-bistro motif and creating a pocket of halcyon urbanity.


Operating as La Dolce Vita since 1995, this is the kind of place that's a really well-known best-kept secret made popular largely by word of mouth. Their Sunday bottomless mimosa brunches and Tuesday night dance parties on the patio during the summer are hugely popular events, and the rustic Italian dinner cuisine is a constant draw - Roselli was born in the Calabria region of Italy, then moved to Piedmont while in his teens, so the menu reflects the traditions of both northern and southern Italy.

Executive Chef Steve Siekierzynski continues LDV's Italian traditions. He has worked all over metro Detroit directly under such acclaimed chefs as Brian Polcyn and Jimmy Schmidt and has never had a job outside of the restaurant industry. "It's a calling," he says of being a chef. "It's not something you choose; it chooses you."

Penne Norma

The Food Network has made the career of the chef seem glamorous and romantic, showcasing people like Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck as celebrities instead of working men ... what it doesn't show is the 20-30 years of hard work, lost sleep, sweat and sacrifice it took to get there. "I call my wife a 'culinary widow,'" Siekierzynski jokes. "11 hours is a short day." Like anyone else who has taken the vow of chefdom, he does it for the love of it.

This season's installment of Detroit Restaurant Week marks the first time LDV is a participant. "It's a way for us to show ourselves off to a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise come here," Siekierzynski says. "$28 is a good way to get people in who think it's too expensive to eat here - which it's not."


The DRW menu is full of items selected from their regular dinner menu, so even after DRW ends guests can come back again and again for their favorites. Portions are also the same - bountiful Italian-sized portions that is, making the $28 a real value. You'll find some traditional Italian favorites as well as some new concepts. "We continue to try new things," says Siekierzynski. "We can't rest on our laurels, but we're still rooted in the basics."

Siekierzynski is excited to be working with Detroit Restaurant Week, knowing how huge the event has grown in the last two years since it's inception and how it has been able to introduce so many new faces to Detroit's finest establishments. "Detroit is very underrated culinary-wise," he states. "There are some phenomenal chefs in Michigan and Detroit. Events like this really get your face out there a little."

Pollo Marsala

FALL 2011 DRW MENU
FIRST COURSE

Minestrone
(The Classic)
-or-
La Mista
(Baby greens with balsamic vinaigrette, tomato, cucumber, red onion and shaved carrot)
-or-
Portabella Mushrooms
(Roasted portabella mushrooms with balsamic reduction)
-or-
Bruschetta
(Roasted red bell peppers and Parmesan cheese)
-or-
Calamari
(Fried crispy and served with spicy marinara, basil and olives)

SECOND COURSE

Filetto e Scampi
(Tender filet and jumbo scampi with chevre cheese and Marsala cream reduction)
-or-
Vitello Piccata
(Tender veal scallopini with artichokes and mushrooms in lemony sauce)
-or-
Pollo Marsala
(Sauteed chicken breast with porcini mushrooms, in a light Marsala cream)
-or-
Ravioli d'Aragosta allo Zafferano
(Saffron pasta stuffed with lobster and served with Palamino sauce)
-or-
Penne Norma
(Penne pasta tossed with marinara, ricotta cheese and roasted eggplant)
-or-
Salmone alla Griglia
(Grilled salmon with grain mustard and honey glaze)

THIRD COURSE

Choice of a Selection from the Dessert Cart
(Please ask server for details)

La Dolce Vita on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 22, 2011

[HOT LIST] Detroit Restaurant Week

The bar at Roast. (photo by Nicole Rupersburg)


Launched in 2009 at a time when the city needed a lift even more than usual, Detroit's Restaurant Week has grown from modest beginnings into something approaching a full-on celebration of the city's diverse and worthy dining scene. From tomorrow through Sunday, October 2, you'll be able to choose from 21 city restaurants offering special prix-fixe menus at the discounted price of $28 per person. Since there aren't 21 days to try them all, we've gone ahead and selected five of our favorites for this round, plus a few more to have your eye on.

#1 The best one Iridescence
Restaurant Week is the perfect time to dip your toes into the water at this fine-diner, located high atop the Motor City Casino. Their fun and accessible special menu includes pork buns, a kobe burger, an upscale twist on the classic perch plate and dessert from award-winning pastry chef Patricia Nash. Ask for seating on the upper level to take advantage of those great skyline views.

#2 The hip one Roast
Michael Symon's spectacular Washington Boulevard spot has been a downtown favorite since the day it opened, thanks to their housemade charcuterie, their talent for finding great meat and cooking it simply but beautifully, not to mention those fun desserts. Incidentally, you'll be able to sample all of the above, off their special menu for the week. Make sure to book a table, to avoid disappointment.

#3 The surprise one Wolfgang Puck Grille
The man has his name on cans of soup at the grocery store. He probably has to use Google Maps to find his way to his own restaurants, there are no so many of them. How good could this one be? Thanks to a talented team in the kitchen at this MGM Grand sleeper, the answer is, happily, quite. A simple but tasty special menu includes staples like ricotta gnocchi, ribeye steak and dobos torte for dessert. There – that's your dinner sorted.

#4 The secret one La Dolce Vita
Too many Detroiters don't even know about this Palmer Park jewel, hiding in plain sight just off Woodward Avenue near Six Mile. A holdover from a sweeter time, the menu is Italian, the indoor-outdoor atmosphere is just a tiny bit SoCal, though maybe that's just their Sunday Brunch scene that's clouding our judgement. A first-timer to the DRW, and a must-experience.  
#5 The classic one Roma Café
Serving up Italian food to hungry Detroiters since 1890, this Eastern Market stalwart is one of the oldest surviving restaurants in the entire United States. The menu sometimes reads like something you'd find in a museum – we'll have the perch meunière, please – the same museum that loaned out some of the restaurant's déco. And waitstaff, come to think of it. As befits a setting like this, you want to go classic all the way – minestrone, some pasta or some chicken parm, an order of cannoli and un 'spresso. Done.


BUBBLING UNDER: Caucus Club (for its classic appeal), Atlas Global Bistro (for interesting cooking), Saltwater (for good seafood), Angelina Italian Bistro (for its pleasing, modern rustic Italian ethic). 

For menus and information for all participating restaurants, visit detroitrestaurantweek.com

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The 5 Days of DRW: Fountain Bistro

Wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sorrel cream sauce, fingerling potatoes and haricot vert

When Fountain Bistro first opened in June 2010, it was a great place for a quick and casual breakfast or lunch, somewhere you could drop into during one of the city's major events and get a sandwich and cup of coffee on the go. The food was outstanding, but the hours catered specifically to business and events traffic, and it really wasn't the kind of place where you would hang out and relax.

After closing for several months and re-opening earlier this summer, the Bistro has been transformed: the space went through some remodeling and they now offer a full dinner service and bar. The new menu from Executive Chef Tyler Herron is kind of classic Americana with French inspirations: steaks, burgers, salads and seafood, but all just a little dressed up. You can get lamb sliders, oysters on the half shell, black Angus beef burgers, and Michigan Lake Trout Almandine, and as new participants for this season's Detroit Restaurant Week, their prix fixe DRW menu is a little bit of showmanship of what the new Bistro is all about.

Twelve-ounce New York strip, pomme frites and Maître d'Hôtel beurre



Co-owner of Fountain Bistro Jay Lambrecht is also an owner of Bookies Bar and Grille, and they have carried a lot of the same concepts over to the Bistro - sourcing as much as possible from local farmers and purveyors; making everything from scratch; highlighting seasonal flavors; serving hearty, simple, flavorful food. While Bookies caters to the sports bar crowd, the Bistro is more of an upscale, sophisticated environment. There are no TVs inside, but who would need one? The fountain of Campus Martius Park is right outside the window.

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.



If Campus Martius Park is meant to be Detroit's gathering place, then Fountain Bistro is facilitating that. They seat almost 90 inside and another 160 outside on their spacious outdoor patio right next to the dancing fountain. During the summer, enjoy the warm summer sun and outdoor breezes along with the splashing sounds of the fountain; in the winter, cozy up inside with a nice warm cocktail and gaze out on the majestic Christmas tree and laughing ice skaters.

Day boat scallops, wild mushroom risotto and sautéed spinach



DRW FALL 2011 MENU

FIRST COURSE

Soupe au Potiron
(Pumpkin, sweet potato and crouton)
-or-
Bistro Salade
(Gass Farms mixed lettuces, shaved pears, walnuts, goat cheese croquette and lemon-thyme vinaigrette)
-or-
Galette de Crabe
(Fire-roasted red pepper sauce and microgreens)

SECOND COURSE

Le Saumon
(Wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sorrel cream sauce, fingerling potatoes and haricot vert)
-or-
Pan de Poulet Rôti
(Pan-roasted all-natural chicken, mushroom ragout, pomme purée and haricot vert)
-or-
Steak Frites
(Twelve-ounce New York strip, pomme frites and Maître d'Hôtel beurre)
-or-
Seared Scallops
(Day boat scallops, wild mushroom risotto and sautéed spinach)
-or-
Gnocchi Parisienne
(Pâte à choux, sauce Mornay and shaved Parmesan)

THIRD COURSE

Crème Brûlée
-or-
Chocolate Mousse
-or-
Raspberry Millefeuille

Fountain Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The 5 Days of DRW: Cliff Bell's

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

One of the new faces of this year's fall edition of Detroit Restaurant Week is Cliff Bell's, Detroit's premiere jazz and supper club - or, rather, supper and jazz club.

"Detroit Restaurant Week is an opportunity for us to be recognized as a restaurant, not just a jazz club that has good food," says Executive Chef Matt Baldridge. "This validates us as a restaurant. I hope this gets us out there to people who haven't been here yet."

Grilled salmon with spaghetti squash, shaved radish, pumpkin seeds and champagne cream sauce.


Baldridge has been with Cliff Bell's since they first opened their kitchen three years ago. But despite how long they've been at it, it seems a lot of people still aren't aware they actually serve fully coursed-out menus. They serve lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, and also have a killer happy hour. The menu is updated 4-5 times per year in order to stay seasonal and offer the best ingredients available at the time, highlighting fresh, local flavors.

"We try to find the best product available," Baldridge says. "We let the product itself stand alone. There aren't 22 things on a plate; just good, clean flavors."

Butternut squash gnocchi with walnuts, brown butter and fried egg.



The menu is entirely Baldridge's creation. Before Cliff Bell's, he had worked at the Rattlesnake Club on and off for seven years (his last title there was Chef de Cuisine under Jimmy Schmidt). At Cliff Bell's, he has absolute creative control over the menu. "[Owner Paul Howard] lets me do what I want. There's a lot to be said for that; it keeps me here!"

Cliff Bell's is a modern American supper club. Located in an Albert Kahn-designed building, the original Cliff Bell's opened in 1935 - the namesake lounge of one Cliff Bell, a man who opened and operated over a dozen speakeasies during Prohibition. The gorgeous mahogany-and-brass jazz club was shuttered in 1985, but reopened again in 2005 thanks to the efforts of current owners Paul and Carolyn Howard and Scott Lowell. The fully-restored nightclub underwent its final rounds of renovations eight months ago to celebrate their fifth anniversary (a fully-restored Steinway piano will be the final touch), with plush cream and maroon upholstery, expansive murals, and a glittering mosaic showcasing their name.

The interior retains all of its former art deco glory, and is well-known as one of the most popular entertainment spots in Detroit featuring world-renowned jazz acts, electronica and techno, funk, and other eclectic events like burlesque performances and the NPR-darling storytelling series The Moth.

But now, finally, Cliff Bell's is also gaining a reputation as one of the best restaurants in Detroit. "We're upscale without the pomp and circumstance," Baldridge says. Think roasted salmon belly nicoise and oxtail osso buco with savory brown rice pudding, but all of it in a very comfortable, casual atmosphere sans the white linens (and oftentimes with live and loud music). The kitchen stays open until 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and until 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, so other industry folk (restaurant and music alike) have a place to go for a fantastic meal after work.

Cliff Bell's is the ultimate collision of class and comfort, a classic watering hole with hand-crafted cocktails and stunning decor where you're just as likely to run into a group of men in business suits as you are a pack of scruffy hipsters. Black and white, old and young, professionals and artists - Cliff Bell's is that rare breed of place where ALL people of Detroit come together on common ground.

DRW FALL 2011 MENU
FIRST COURSE

Butternut Squash Gnocchi
(Prepared with walnuts, brown butter and fried egg)
-or-
Tellicherry Peppercorn-rubbed Beef Carpaccio
(Served with wild mushrooms, radish and frisée)
-or-
House-smoked Pork Belly
(Served with fingerlings and apple sauce)

SECOND COURSE

Zinfandel-braised Beef Short Ribs
(Served with roasted beets, matchstick potatoes and horseradish cream)
-or-
Grilled Salmon
(Served with spaghetti squash, shaved radish, pumpkin seeds and Champagne cream sauce)
-or-
Maple-cured Chicken Breast
(Served with roasted root vegetables and herbed spaetzle, finished with chicken jus lié)
-or-
Roasted Vegetable Pot Pie

THIRD COURSE

Vanilla Crème Brûlée
(Served with fresh berries)

Cliff Bell's on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 16, 2011

[EID Feature] Cops and Doughnuts: Here's One for the Good Guys

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

People love to joke about cops and doughnuts. Thankfully, so do the cops at Cops and Doughnuts.

When the historic Clare City Bakery, a small family bakery smack dab in the middle of Michigan in the small-town-cute city of Clare, announced it would be closing in July 2009, the officers of the Clare Police Department - all nine of them - rallied together to save the bakery.

"I said to Bubba [one of the nine], 'You know the bakery is going to close?,'" explains Greg Rynearson, another one of the full-time officers behind Cops and Doughnuts (all nine are also still full-time employees of the CPD). "All nine of us came together and said, 'Do you think we can save this?' The original plan was done on a pizza box we were eating for lunch!"

They met two Sundays in a row, got the books from the previous owner, hired one full-time and a handful of part-time employees, and when the bakery closed down on June 30 they re-opened as Cops and Doughnuts on July 1.

While the name is deliciously cheeky (and really shows what a great sense of humor these guys have), the story begins with the bakery itself. Built in 1896 by the Foss family, it was a little from-scratch bakery and that was all it was ever meant to be. Over the last 115 years the bakery has never closed. For several generations families have gathered here and enjoyed the made-from-scratch breads, doughnuts, and pastries - it was even a hangout of the Purple Gang, who would stay at the historic Doherty Hotel and drink rum-and-cokes at the soda fountain-cum-makeshift speakeasy in the pharmacy next to the bakery (that space is also now part of the bakery). Cops and Doughnuts pays homage to this little bit of history with Purple Gang paraphernalia throughout, which includes the bathroom made to look like a cell block.

The Clare City Bakery was a local institution; not just a place to buy bread but a place where the community would come together, a place that each generation of children and adults had fond memories of throughout their lives. It wasn't just a bakery; it meant something more. It was a part of the local culture and history, a testament to small town entrepreneurship and community. The officers of the Clare Police Department knew this, they knew how important this place was to and for the people, so when the opportunity came and the numbers worked out well enough the police force joined forces to save the bakery, becoming the first all-cop-owned bakery (which they did completely with their own money using no grants, no incentives, and no tax breaks).

It didn't take long for the human interest story here to get noticed. One day to be exact. "The Associated Press caught on to it and a guy from Washington called," Rynearson says. "He said, 'You guys better hang on; you’ve never had publicity like this.'" CNN filmed a segment here, followed by Fox News, followed by countless other media outlets. "Four weeks into it people were lined up out the door; we ran out of room!" Which is when they acquired the space next door to expand their operations.

Cops and Doughnuts now gets customers from around the world, and nearly all the non-local visitors come because they either read about it in a magazine or saw it on TV (a quick perusal of their "guest book" just over the last few days prior to my visit showed guests hailing from all over Michigan as well as Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, North Carolina, and about half a dozen more). They now serve between 7,000 and 9,000 people every week with 11 full-time and 10 part-time employees. "Our staff is bigger than the whole police department!" Rynearson laughs.




They've been so successful in the venture that they won the "Small Cities' Most Innovative Business in Michigan" award in 2010, then in 2011 were named one of the "50 Companies to Watch in Michigan." Their operation has expanded from the bakery to an exclusive private label "Cops and Doughnuts" coffee roasted and distributed by Paramount Coffee in Lansing. Roasts include "Day Shift," a regular roast; "Night Shift," a dark roast; and "Off Duty," a decaffeinated coffee.

Their self-referential sense of humor has served them as well as they have served the community. They now have a full line of men's and women's apparel - T-shirts, hoodies, tank tops, shorts - as well as coffee mugs, shot glasses and other clever gift items with witty phrases like "Cuffed and Stuffed," "DWI: Doughnuts Were Involved," and "Don't Glaze Me Bro." The clothing is a hit, and now customers will send in pictures of themselves wearing the Cops and Doughnuts label at famous sites all over the world - the Great Wall of China, the ruins of Rome, there's even one of a guy kissing the Blarney Stone (in honor of Clare's annual Irish Festival). They've got an online store and will ship anywhere in the world, so you can still wear Cops and Doughnuts even if you can't eat it. Their coffee is also available in 45 stores across four states, including Busch's and Hollywood Markets. 

The idea of cops embracing and in turn being embraced by the community has resonated with all those sworn to serve and protect all over the world, from other small town police stations to the Armed Forces serving overseas. Police departments from all over the country now send their badges to Cops and Doughnuts, which they then display. There is even a Cops and Doughnuts apron in a glass case, which was signed by the members of the 984th Military Police Company in Afghanistan - a particularly poignant piece as the company commander was later assassinated.

Rynearson is their in-house marketing genius, the man behind the spirited phrases that play up the "Cops and Doughnuts" name. Cops and Doughnuts isn't just a bakery; it's a brand. Even the doughnuts have tongue-in-cheek names: the Felony Fritter, the Night Stick (a cinnamon twist), the Squealer (a long john with bacon strips on top). To top it all off, they are still a 100% from-scratch bakery, and even use some of the same original recipes that the Foss family used over 100 years ago, even some of the same equipment. They use no preservatives in any of their products, and they charge only a fraction of what other trendy bakeries charge for their giant-sized cookies, doughnuts and pastries.


And even despite their success, they haven't forgotten their community roots. During the month of May, 50 cents from every bag of coffee purchased is donated to the Thin Blue Line of Michigan, which provides support to families of fallen officers. They provide a tremendous amount of food donations to local fundraising events for schools and churches, simply because they feel it's good business and good for the community. They try to buy as much of their non-food products (like wax paper and packaging) from Michigan companies to support the local economy, and they make sure all of their advertising specifically says "in downtown Clare" instead of an address, because "we want people to look for us and see what else is here; we want to support the community."

Rynearson (right) with employee Andy.

Police officers tend to get a bad reputation. "To serve and protect" also unfortunately means "to uphold and punish," which puts them in the position of being the "bad guys" even though all they're trying to do is be the good guys, strict parents in a world full of perpetual children who don't like to be told "no." Most people dread seeing those flashing lights and get stiff when they see a uniformed officer walk into an establishment, but at the end of the day these guys are just doing their jobs ... and people are a whole lot happier to have them once they see what it's like not to (feel free to visit the outer banks of Detroit for affirmation). Cops and Doughnuts really is more than just a bakery: yes, it builds the local community and yes, it is a funny brand and yes, the baked goods are from-scratch and fantastic ... but for all its playfulness what Cops and Doughnuts ultimately does is humanize these men and shows them in a light that makes them less "them" and more "us."

Want to see more? Check out the Flickr set here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Town Pump Tavern

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

"Flash back to 15 years ago: before the casinos, before Comerica Park, before Campus Martius, before the Westin Book-Cadillac renovation, before the Super Bowl, before the greenways and riverwalks, before OMG SLOWS ... Detroit was a very different place. People who make 'Wild West' jokes now obviously didn't see it in the '80s and '90s before hipster artists and the New York Times 'discovered' the city. The Town Pump hails from that era, and owner Sean Harrington remembers.

''Back then, this was one of the only hangouts in town!' he jokes, but he's not really kidding. The Town Pump opened 17 years ago. At that time, people hung out here, at the original Honest John's by Belle Isle, at Union Street and the Majestic. The original 3rd Street Saloon was a favorite hangout for college students for their notoriously lackadaisical attitude towards checking IDs, the Old Miami was full of crazy old war vets and little else, and then there were the bars of Hamtramck ... which were pretty much all the same bars as now with one major difference: Motor. 'We've been here doing this and promoting Detroit for a long time, before it was cool,' he says..."

Read the rest of the story here.

Want to see more? Check out the Flickr set here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

[HOT LIST] Donut shops

This man needs coffee and crullers, STAT!

The classic American doughnut shop is a time-honored tradition, the second most crucial of the Great American Gathering Places (right behind diners). Before coffee shops got fancy and then fancier, the doughnut shop was the centralized early morning meeting place of business people and old-timers alike. There are many truly classic doughnut shops in metro Detroit; some have been around 50 years or more (and look it, gahblessem). These places all serve beautifully misshapen homemade doughnuts and are open EARLY to LATE (many are 24 hours, in theory if not in actual practice). Like stepping back in time, each of these independent doughnut shops that have ridden out the proliferation of Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme offer a little bit of that homey, down-to-earth small-town feel. The coffee isn't fancy; it's all good old-fashioned 1950's commodified American brew. "Good" means it's not burnt, and that's good enough, because the nuanced flavor of a freshly-roasted Nicaraguan French press would just be lost in the mouthfuls of glazed deep-fried dough anyway.

#1 Knudsen's Danish Bakery
(Detroit)
Located in Northwest Detroit's Rosedale Park neighborhood, one of those inexplicably adorable areas of Detroit surrounded on all sides by post-apocalyptic bombed-out third-world Detroit, Knudsen's Danish Bakery is a cute little bakery that specializes in cakes, breads (like thick, dense egg bread), donuts, and - naturally - danishes. Try a rich raspberry or cheese danish and savor the dense, soft, vanilla-perfumed danish dough. Unlike nearly every other bakery on this list, they actually accept credit cards here, but you probably won't need it - prices are incredibly cheap, even by doughnut shop standards.

#2 Dutch Girl Donuts
(Detroit)
Dutch Girl Donuts has been on its little corner of 7 Mile and Woodward since 1947, serving up glazed donuts like crack rocks. (Um. That's not meant as commentary on the area; just to indicate how addictive they are.) The donuts are always fresh and they churn out all the favorites: gooey cinnamon rolls, melt-in-your-mouth traditional raisin and maple doughnuts, crumbly cake doughnuts. Don't plan on hanging out long because the entryway is barely big enough to accommodate four people, but for a quick grab-and-go to/from work/home, this place can't be beat.

#3 Yum Yum Tasty Doughnuts (Melvindale)
You have to love a place with a name that gets right to the point. The doughnuts at Yum Yum Tasty Doughnuts are indeed yum yum tasty! (And in unique flavors like honey-glazed chocolate and Oreo.) So are the soft fresh-baked bagels (in a variety of flavors like cheese, salt and garlic), the monster-sized turnovers and cinnamon rolls, and the French crullers dripping with liquidy glaze. They also serve bagel sandwiches and homemade soups and chili, with plenty of room to sit down at a vinyl-and-formica booth and enjoy them. With all the sleek and shiny new doughnut shops in popping hues of pink and orange with sparkling white counters under bright fluorescent lights, there's something comforting in the old 1970's design palette of orange and brown with a faded old sign out front. This place is definitely an old-fashioned throwback in the grand tradition of donut-shop-as-social-center, and the staff is incredibly welcoming and friendly. This is the full-throttle doughnut shop experience as it was meant to be (even the coffee is better than most).

#4 Apple Fritter (Ferndale)
At the Apple Fritter in Ferndale, the early bird gets the doughnut. The late sleepy-in bird gets only disappointment. But if you get here early enough (i.e., before the crack of noon) to catch these guys still serving fresh, hot apple fritters right out of the oven, you're in for a spiritual experience in fritterdom ... think of it as warm cinnamony apple pie, but in a doughnut. They have a vast variety of other delicious, fresh fried dough-balls too, but when a place actually names itself after a particular item you should probably take their word for it and go with that.

#5 The Donut Cutter (Berkley)
Cinnamon- and sugar-drenched delicate French crullers. Heavy eclairs filled with homemade custard. Melt-in-your-mouth traditional glazed doughnuts. Moist, dense cake donuts fried up crusty on the outside but soft and crumbly on the inside. The Donut Cutter serves all the favorites; they open at 3 a.m. so after your post-bar Taco Bell bender you can have a post-post-bar-bender here with fresh, piping hot, gooey doughnuts ... or, if you're a Responsible-pants, stop in a few hours later during the decent hours of the A.M. and sidle up next to one of the senior citizen sentinels who keep dutiful watch over the place.

Bubbling under Avon Donuts (Pontiac), Knapp's Donut Shop (Rochester, Troy), Detroit Donuts (St. Clair Shores), New Palace Bakery (Hamtramck), Peoples Brothers Bakery (Southwest Detroit), Donutown Dghnt (Redford), Donutville USA (Dearborn), Variety Donuts (St. Clair Shores), Main Doughnuts (Royal Oak), New Martha Washington Bakery (Hamtramck)

Friday, September 9, 2011

[EID Feature] Community COLORS: It's Still a Jungle Out There

Under construction: COLORS-Detroit. (All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.)

Sunday marks the 10-year anniversary of the single event that shook Americans' sense of security to the very foundation. While there is much to be reflected on regarding the events of 9/11 and the decade that followed, for all the media blitz and its immediate historical significance there is a real question that remains of how much actually changed as a result. It may be too hasty to try to analyze just how much of an impact 9/11 had on the functioning of day-to-day society or the ideological imperative of the American consciousness, but there is at least one organization that was born out of the ashes of the World Trade Center that has come to have a much more far-reaching, nationally significant, and continually socially relevant impact beyond the events of that day.

Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the wages and working conditions for the nation's low-wage restaurant industry workforce through training programs and policy work. The organization was initially formed in the aftermath of 9/11 by former workers of Windows on the World, a restaurant on the top floor of the World Trade Center. 73 of its employees died that day, and hundreds more were displaced by loss of employment and income. Many of those displaced were immigrant workers, who had difficulty accessing federal relief funds. ROC United was formed to help them and give them better opportunities, but very quickly the organization realized that not only displaced workers from 9/11 could benefit from it, but that its core value system applied to restaurant workers all over New York City. Eventually ROC United became a national organization, and is still the only national restaurant workers' organization in the country.



The restaurant industry is the largest private sector employer in the United States, yet workers have absolutely no form of legal representation in the form of labor unions, are singularly subject to a drastically lower minimum wage than any other industry, and seldom receive any kind of health care benefits save for the highest-ranking positions.

The fat beast feeding off the marrow of American industry that has become the American Federation of Labor wasn't always so. Unions started to form in the mid-19th century to fight for things we take for granted now: living wages and health care, sure, certainly ... but also safe and sanitary working conditions and an end to wage slavery. If you've never read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, it is the single greatest achievement in exposing the working conditions of low wage and immigrant workers and the pressing need for labor unions to represent and protect them. Ironically enough it is situated specifically in the meatpacking industry, though its concerns apply to workers of all industries.

So why is it now, nearly 200 years later, and in the restaurant industry no less, that wage slavery and institutionalized racism in this largest private sector employer in the country are still wholly acceptable?

This is where the work of ROC United begins.




In the month of July alone, the national restaurant industry posted profits of over $40 billion according to the National Restaurant Association, the nation's largest restaurant employers' lobby. Yet restaurant workers make average wages of $15,092 per year. If minimum wage were to keep up with inflation it should be over $10.00/hour, yet the National Restaurant Association has convinced Congress to keep the minimum wage for tipped employees at a grotesque $2.13/hour for the last 21 years. More than half of the tipped workers are waiters and waitresses, who earned a national median wage of $8.80/hour with tips.

Through their various worker-led research studies, ROC United found that while there are living-wage jobs in the industry, most are very low-paying. Additionally workers of color are concentrated in these low-wage jobs, while white workers tend to have the "good" jobs. Think about that the next time you're in a restaurant with a white Executive Chef and a kitchen full of Mexicans running the joint. Positions such as dishwasher, busser, food runner, and prep cook have a disproportionately large number of ethnic and immigrant workers, versus the much higher ratio of white workers in higher positions. ROC United also found high rates of injury and illness and low rates of health benefits for restaurant workers across the board. ROC United uses these research findings to educate legislators and influence policy debate on issues affecting the restaurant industry.

ROC United also works to create better opportunities for restaurant industry workers through job training programs. The Colors Hospitality Opportunities for Workers (C.H.O.W.) Institute is a workforce development initiative that provides education and training for low-wage workers seeking to advance in the restaurant industry. Classes range from service training to advanced culinary skills and are run by industry professionals. Courses run eight weeks and are absolutely free. (Find out more from the ROC-Michigan website.)




In 2006, ROC United opened a cooperatively-owned restaurant COLORS, which houses the C.H.O.W. training program and acts as an incubator for worker-owned businesses. This fall, ROC-Michigan will be opening its own branch of COLORS in Detroit's Paradise Valley district. The list of nonprofit and private sector partnerships behind the COLORS-Detroit Opening Gala reads like a dream team of Detroit's finest: Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, SEM Jobs with Justice, Phillip Cooley of SLOWS Bar BQ, Marc Djozlija of Wolfgang Puck, Jess Daniel of Neighborhood Noodle and Good Food Entrepreneurs, Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Gleaners Food Bank, Equality Michigan, Fair Food Network, Slow Food Detroit ... the list goes on and on and ON. They will be hosting the event this Monday, September 12, starting at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are available starting at $25 for students/low-income.

The culinary concept behind COLORS is creative local fare reflecting the different culinary traditions of the community (African American, Latin, Middle Eastern, etc.) celebrating the rich food history of Detroit. They are partnered with Earthworks Urban Farm, Grown in Detroit, Brother Nature, and the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (among others) and will be sourcing much of their products from these local urban farms and gardens. The restaurant itself will be opening for lunch service later in the fall, with dinner service and brunch to follow. They'll also be hosting special events in September and October, such as working with Slow Food Detroit on the $5 Food Challenge on September 17 and Food Day on October 24.

Much like the original COLORS in Manhattan, COLORS-Detroit will be a collective entrepreneurship and an incubator for worker-owned businesses (some examples might include a COLORS Catering or COLORS brand food products). The training center will launch first and the entire facility - including the restaurant as well as classroom space and ROC-Michigan's offices - will be located in the Milner Building (the space is beautiful, too: check out all the Pewabic Pottery tile on the floor). Support the cause and check out the new facility on September 12 at the COLORS Detroit Opening Gala, and eat to do good. As COLORS-Detroit General Manager Phil Jones says, "COLORS is about community and the food that binds."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Detroit Seafood Market

Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.

"The Detroit Seafood Market was originally called the Detroit Fish Market when it first opened in 2009, but after a dramatic turn of events with previous ownership, the restaurant was bought out by new owner Kenny Akinwale in partnership with the former chef of the Fish Market, Leonardo Vulagi. They also brought the old General Manager Theodore Oresky back on board, and the powerhouse that built the restaurant's strong reputation was reunited once again to do it a second time.

''We spent the first four months reestablishing the brand,' Oresky explains – in other words, there was some damage control to be done. But they just celebrated their one-year anniversary as the Seafood Market, and business is even more bumpin' than ever..."

Read the rest of the story here.

Want to see more? Check out the Flickr set here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

[HOT LIST] Eat to do good

Fresh Food Share box (photo from Gleaners Food Bank)
Some people eat to live. Some live to eat. And then there are those who eat to do good. While people are becoming more conscious of what they eat in terms of environmental and economic sustainability, still others see food as an opportunity to make a political statement and enact social change. Whether that is getting involved with food activism targeting specific legislation (such as the Michigan Good Food Charter), operating an urban farm through a nonprofit organization, or helping to make inexpensive fresh food available in urban areas, now more than ever you are what you eat.

#1 Fresh Food Share (Detroit)
The Fresh Food Share (FFS) is a community food program in the city of Detroit that is part of the Green Ribbon Collaborative - a partnership between Gleaners Food Bank, Eastern Market, the Fair Food Network and Greening of Detroit. The Hannan Center is the local distribution and volunteer center. Through this program, community members can participate in a monthly fresh food program (similar to a CSA) payable by cash, check, or Bridge card. Shares of fresh fruits and vegetables are available in a variety of sizes up to 30 pounds ($17), or you can choose to support a senior with a 20-pound mixed fruit and veggie box for only $14. Orders are due by noon on the second Thursday of the month through December 8 (the next order is due in by September 8); distribution is on the third Friday. For more information or to place an order, call 313-550-8034.

#2 SEED Wayne
(Detroit)
SEED Wayne is a program administered through the Wayne State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Department of Urban Studies and Planning) designed to help build a sustainable food system on the WSU campus and in the local community. They partner with other area nonprofits to create a culture of awareness and access, and the education starts with their own students. Since its launch, the program has planted three urban vegetable and herb gardens and now hosts a weekly on-campus farmers' market on Wednesdays (through October 26). They are also involved with fledgling programs such as Detroit FRESH (an effort to get fresh produce in corner stores), as well as host an annual Harvest Dinner.

#3 Forgotten Harvest (Oak Park)
The mission of Forgotten Harvest is to fight hunger and waste in metro Detroit by rescuing surplus prepared and perishable food and donating it to emergency shelters. They have hundreds of regular donors in addition to community food drives organized by private entities such as corporate offices and community groups (especially during the holidays). Their efforts benefit over 150 food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless and domestic shelters, senior citizens' and group homes, and children's homes all over Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb Counties. They also partner with other local businesses and organizations for a number of fundraising events including an annual charity golf outing and charity fashion events.

#4 Gleaners Community Food Bank (Detroit)
Gleaners Community Food Bank also strives to fight hunger in Southeastern Michigan through community outreach, education, and food distribution. They deliver 36 million pounds of donated and purchased food to agencies and people in need annually, and hope to raise that number to 50 million by 2013. To assist their fundraising efforts they host special events (such as the Bernie Smilovitz 2011 Harvest Classic this Sunday, September 11) and organize food drives. They also sponsor programs like "Cooking Matters," which teaches families how to shop for and prepare economical and nutritious meals at home.

#5 Capuchin Soup Kitchen and Earthworks Garden (Detroit)
The Capuchin Soup Kitchen is an 82-year-old organization founded by Capuchin friars to tend to people's basic needs, especially the need for food. The organization is inspired by the philanthropic works of St. Francis of Assisi, and serves the people of metro Detroit through a number of programs including the On the Rise Bakery and the Earthworks Garden. They also offer clothing, shelter, and rehabilitative services. You can start doing your part by attending the Earth Works Garden Annual Harvest Dinner on September 17.

Bubbling under
Fair Food Network Detroit, Slow Food Detroit, Feedom Freedom Growers, ROC-United

Friday, September 2, 2011

[EID Feature] iBurger: Hamburgers Gone Halal

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

In Dearborn, there are plenty of places to get a good burger. There's Miller's Bar, which Food and Wine just ranked among the top 25 burgers in the country. Then there's Howell's Bar, which anybody whose anybody knows has a better burger than Miller's (some girls just get ALL the attention; what can you do?). The Biergarten also gives gimmicky Miller's a run for its meat. And now, there's iBurger.

iBurger Lounge is the new kid on the block. It opened about a year and a half ago in the West Village Commons. Everything they serve is homemade, organic and halal-certified, in response to the dietary needs of the area's Muslim population. For your reference, a McDonald's restaurant began serving a halal version of its Chicken McNuggets in Dearborn in 2000. Sales were so strong that they expanded the offering to a second Dearborn location, and later to select stores in the U.K. and Australia. When such a significant number of the population requires such specific dietary needs, even the world's largest hamburger fast food chain pays attention, which just begs the question - why did a place like iBurger take so long?


Owners Hassan Aoun and Houssam Aoude decided to open iBurger - a burger joint in a city with an already disproportionate number of burger joints - so that the area's Muslim clientele could enjoy this classic American food too. Manager Mariam notes that, despite the popularity of places like Miller's et.al., the Arabic (specifically Muslim) community did not have something like that for themselves - most of the halal restaurants serve Arabic food, with very little variety.

But iBurger isn't JUST a halal burger joint. They serve gourmet certified Angus beef burgers; a leaner, juicier beef. "This is something new," Mariam says. "We're offering something entirely different to the area." Their burgers are also less wax-paper-and-ketchup and more gouda-and-arugula. They have 15 signature burgers, like the "Pesto" with tomato, onion, fresh mozzarella, homemade pesto dressing and arugula; and the "Boss," made with two half-pound steak patties, cheddar cheese, beef bacon (Islamic law forbids pork consumption), golden onions, tomato and shredded lettuce. The buns are all firm, hearty artisanal buns. The rest of the menu is rounded out with a large selection of salads, wraps, paninis, classic appetizers, and gourmet thin crust pizzas (try the Filet Mignon pizza, a house specialty).

Phase 2 of iBurger Lounge will be opening in September. The restaurant will expand with more seating in a more comfortable, lounge-like atmosphere, and will have a raw juice bar, a full ice cream shop, and will also offer their full menu and homemade desserts.

Because it is a halal restaurant, they do not have a liquor license nor will they apply for one. They are, however, open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. (3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), so this is a great place to grab a bite to eat after a night out, or just hang out with some friends for a late afternoon lunch on the patio.

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