Thursday, May 29, 2008

After Mass Mimosa Madness at Atlas

Originally published in D-Tales here; edited and renamed for content.

...Okay, so my weekend started a bit late because of my trip to Pittsburgh, but I made up for lost time on Sunday with the Detroit Guerrillas' Second Annual After Mass Mimosa Madness at Atlas Global Bistro (where we saw Vince from Enoteca now working, super-yay!). The french toast was thick and gooey and wonderful; the perfect basecoat for the barage of bottomless mimosas that came after (at $15.00...other places in Detroit charge $12.00, but I still got my money's worth). It was also a productive meeting day, where we got started on planning the sure-to-be outrageous 5th Anniversary Party (never fear, details will come)...

The Crepes Have It!

Originally published in D-Tales here.


So there's a crepe stand which will be called Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes that will be opening on...June somethingth (the weekend of the 13th seems to be the approximate timeslot).

Um. 'k.

So yeah, so apparently the hours will be Monday-Thursday 7:00AM-7:00PM, Friday-Saturday 7:00AM-2:00AM (as in the next day...don't try to do the math, it will confuse you), and Sunday 7:00AM-4:00PM. They will also be serving Canticle Coffee, a fair trade 100% organic coffee, for $1.00 (suck it, Starbucks).

This new little stand, which is actually a teeny-tiny room inside the Oslo building with a service window to the outside, will feature 15 signature crepes with a selection of toppings to build-your-own, and all produce/ingredients will come from Eastern Market vendors and R. J. Hirt.

They had a "practice run" this weekend which was least buzzworthy-wise. Doesn't really sound like anyone talking about it actually ate there, but people are pumped.

Okay, so my details are still a little fuzzy but...HELLS YES TO THE NEW CREPERIE IN TOWN!!!!

(Which I know will be so much better than Josephine's in Ferndale, which I only dislike due to a personal vendetta of a friend of mine whom I have chosen to support in said vendetta.)

I wonder if now people will understand the crepe-pan-seasoning joke from Frasier that I occasionally like to reference...

*Sigh* probably not...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How to be a Better Pittsburgh

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

...In Pittsburgh, you've got Lawrenceville, the Strip District, and the 16:62 Design Zone (which spans both Lawrenceville and the Strip), which is basically the heart of the arts--a "zone" in which you can find hundreds of independently-owned businesses that focus on interior design and home furnishings that are designed and created by the artists/owners themselves, making almost every single solitary piece you might find one-of-a-kind. You've also got clothing boutiques that feature the works of independent and emerging designers (Sugar Boutique is a favorite), as well as galleries that specialize in works by Pennsylvania artists. Dining is just as creative, with places such as Coca Cafe (very creative brunches), brillobox (art, music, and comfort food), Bigelow Grille (specializing in "contemporary Pittsburgh cuisine;" high-end with a focus on local ingredients), and Church Brew Works--a brewery inside a deconsecrated church, which maintains every last bit of its churchiness both inside and out except for the tables, the long bar, and the huge fermentation tanks where the pulpit once was.

I didn't take any pictures inside because other people were taking pictures inside and the bartender was making fun of them with me and I didn't want to be "that guy." But it looks like a church--you could just as easily have a beer on Saturday and the Body and Blood of Christ on Sunday.

This place also had some of the best pizza I've ever had (literally dripping with cheese, with a very light plum tomato sauce, fresh garlic and plum tomatoes on top, the occassional kick of basil that only freshly-chopped basil can have, and the distinct flavor of olive oil infused in the crispy/chewy crust). Word of warning: portions in Pittsburgh are huge, so order light. And despite the rising cost of hops (I was filled in with all the details by the very friendly and comedic bartender at Church Brew) beer in Pittsburgh is still cheap.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fine Dining at Fusia

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend the Detroit Synergy Supper Club at Fusia inside Asian Village. Now, I've been wanting to check out Fusia for quite some time, but just never got around to it. Since opening last summer, Fusia has introduced a new chef and, under his authority, redesigned their menu to much critical acclaim.

And would you like to know who that new chef is? Of course you would.

Fusia's new chef is Shawn Mac...formerly of Twingo's most recent failed incarnation, as well as boocoo in Royal Oak (at the time they won Hour Detroit's Restaurant of the Year in 2004--and before they shuttered their doors in late 2006).

Wanna know who else works there? Rick Jewell, formerly the sommelier of Tribute in Farmington Hills (and where I got to know him), and manager of Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor. Imagine my surprise as well as my elation when he snuck up one me with a "Well, hello there." At Tribute I knew him only in his som. capacity, but at Fusia he is the General Manager, where he utilizes his skills learned as a som. as well as a manager at Zingerman's to give patrons a wonderful dining experience with the most friendly and welcoming demeanor coupled with the utmost professionalism. Rick served the wine that was selected with the meal (an optional wine package was available for only $10.00) and explained its origins and flavors to each attendee; he also aided in the serving of the food, and even brought out Chef Mac when my table raved endlessly about how wonderful everything was (fortunately for me I was sitting with some real foodies).

The service was top-notch--exactly what one would expect from a four-star fine dining establishment--and that's impressive, considering the Synergy group filled the entire dining area to capacity and the servers were nothing short of swamped. Rick & Co. had the event flawlessly organized and executed, with courses perfectly timed and served with four-star flair.

Ah, but the food...ah yes, the food.

ZOMFGZ. Being with the Detroit Synergy Supper Club, the menu was prix fixe. For only $30.00, supper club participants got a 4-course meal as selected by the chef, as well as an optional wine packge for an additional $10.00 which included 2 glasses of wine. To order all of the items a la carte likely would have cost about $65.00, so this was a real steal--not to mention a great way to experience a new restaurant for the first time.

First we started with the Baby Shrimp Tempura with Creamy Chili Garlic Sauce--or, what they refer to as "Asian Mac & Cheese." And despite the fact that there is absolutely neither mac nor cheese in this dish, the nickname does it justice. The shrimp were perfectly crispy all over with just the right amount of the creamy sauce to cover them--the effect was distinctly comfort-foody, and these baby shrimp disappeared quickly from all of the trendy white tilted appetizer dishes.

Our second course was the Mixed Asian Greens with Chow Mein, Spicy Tofu Croutons, and Passionfruit Vinaigrette. Now, I'm not big on tofu, in any incarnation, and this was really no exception. However, I can say that the pairing with the crunchy chow mein noodles and the passionfruit vinaigrette as well as the salty spiciness of the croutons themselves were certainly a winning combination, though I personally would have preferred less (as in no) tofu and more vinaigrette. Regardless, this certainly tops my list of one of the more interesting salads I've ever had, and was indeed tasty despite the tofu.

For me, tofu is like polenta. It doesn't matter how you dress it up, it will always be disgusting.

Ugh, I hate polenta...

For the entree, we were treated with Togarashi (aka--the Japanese version of all-spice)-Encrusted Filet of Beef with Udon Noodles and Chinese Long Beans. This dish was superb. Firstly, the beef was expertly prepared somewhere between medium and medium-well, with absolutely no fat (I understand the fat gives the meat its flavor, but I just prefer not to have to chew on it myself--especially when it's all chewy and fatty and nasty, or all stringy and fatty and nasty....gross). The flavor of the beef was rich and juicy, as if it had stewed in its own juices for hours, just soaking it all in. And then came the udon noodles--somehow the beef had escaped the flavor of the noodles and the sauce they were served in. Sampling only the beef at first, I was quite satisfied with the simple flavor, and then I incorporated the noodles--thick Japanese noodles perfectly al dente in a kickin' spicy sauce that, while entirely different in style and flavor from its beef component, complimented it expertly. This dish literally exploded with flavor--so much so that it burned a little.

For dessert, we received an Asian Key Lime "Pie"--more of a tart, which was wonderful on its own, but when paired with the pineapple caramel and the lighter-than-air coconut mousse (I would call it more "foam" than mousse, as mousse tends to be densely creamy and not at all the consistency of this), this dessert became a unique delight. Again, a combination of flavors that paired well, with consistencies that were very complimentary (the creamy key lime filling, the foamy coconut, the sticky caramel, the crumbly tart--all come together for a big mouth forgy).

For the wine pairings, we sampled two Charles Smith wines. For the appetizers and salads, we had Smith's Kung Fu Girl Riesling, a light, zingy wine that matched the equally zingy notes of the first two dishes, offsetting the spices of the shrimp's chili sauce nicely and complimenting the traces of fruit in the salad's vinaigrette dressing. Hints of crisp pineapple and florals abound with this one, and it is definitely a standout in American-made Rieslings (one of very, very few). For the entree, we got to sample Smith's Holy Cow Merlot--and it's not just a clever name. Holy Cow does well to bring out the soft, subtle notes of the merlot varietal (which can often be too heavy for its own good and is typically better when blended), allowing the notes of fruit and earth to dance a little on the palate before the tannins take over. Charles Smith Wines--further proof that the Columbia Valley in Washington State is THE BOMB (and Napa is only a name). The best part of this producer is that the wines are very, very cheap. Charles Smith began his eponymous label when he decided he wanted to make wines full of depth and character available to the market, he did. And we thank him for it.

For dessert Rick broke out a little something special for us all--a Sauternes-like dessert wine (though not itself a Sauternes, and DAMN IF I CAN REMEMBER THE NAME OF IT) as a little extra bonus treat for everyone. It had all the honey-like characteristics of a Sauternes, and as I recall is made by the same methods (botrytis infection, or noble rot, of the grapes), and the concentrated golden sweetness of this wine was a wonderful offset to the tart tanginess of the key lime.

Overall, it was a wonderful event, with top-notch service, a beautiful backdrop, and first-rate food. I kick myself a little for never having been before, but very much look forward to going back.

But first I need to convince Shawn to put the Duck Three Times entree back on the menu...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Booze at Zaccaro's

Originally published in D-Tales here.

By 5:00PM today you will be able to get beer and wine and Zaccaro's Market.

This has been a public service announcement.

Monday, May 5, 2008

May is Asian Heritage Month!

Originally published in D-Tales here; see original post for pictures.

And so for you, dear readers, I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of 7 days of Asian-themed fun.


Head over to Fashionable Ferndale to Sakana Sushi Lounge. Fridays and Saturdays are busy, sure, but Tuesday nights are just as hype and are a touch less jam-packed.

Sakana has a great super-trendy atmosphere, very modern minimalist, and as far as sushi joints go, Sakana is probably one of the more artful and exotic. Their sushi selection goes far beyond your basic California roll, with a choice of specialty rolls, nigiri sushi, sashimi, maki, temaki, and now also brown rice sushi. They also have the most impressive presentation I've seen for a sushi place, treating each piece as its own stand-alone art instead of a full roll sliced, plopped on a plate and served.

They also have one of the most impressive drink menus, with over 50 specialty drinks made with hard-to-find liquers. Resident mixologist Brent Foster knows that the drinks are just as important and can be just as artful and unique as the food, and I appreciate anyone who understands that. I like drinky.

Tuesday nights you can expect lounge, jazz, and electronic music courtesy of Tuesday night resident DJ Shortround and guests. Get there early, because it can get a bit crowded--this place is kind of like what the Bosco used to be before everybody went there, back when only mostly everybody went there.


Celebrate Hump Day at Mon Jin Lau in Troy with their extremely popular Shanghai Wednesdays. This party has grown out of control; make reservations and get there EARLY if you have any ambitions of getting a seat. Chill with the music of DJs Tom T and Matt A, featuring the "Medicine Man" Bruce Cobb on percussions.

Now that it is getting warmer, people are pouring into the restaurant and out onto the patio as early as 7:00PM. As for the dress code...I was just there a couple of weeks ago wearing a cute summer dress and heels and felt woefully underdressed. Men wear suits, or at least shirts with ties, and women are dressed like they're going to V afterwards--low-cut barely-there tops, microminis, sky-high heels, 3 pounds of makeup, straight-from-the-salon hair, lots of sequins and even some latex.

This is your standard club night, just in the middle of the week. It is a singles haven (but of the slightly older singles crowd), and the clientele is pretty much the same that you would find at Crave the Sunset (i.e., lots 'o Arab folk--which is probably in part due to the fact that Jay Noonchester used to promote this, though I don't think he still does), with some Troy-area 30-something divorcees mixed in.

Mon Jin Lau has great Nu Asian cuisine, though I actually think their Chinese-focused dinner menu is superior to their sushi selection, which I found to be standard at best.

But, honestly, if you're coming out to Shanghai Wednesdays, you're really not there for the food anyway.


Metro Detroit's newest dining darling, Chen Chow Brasserie, just opened last November in Birmingham and is has already exploded on the scene as the newest hotspot, as well as already garnering accolades for Restaurant of the Year (well, almost--the buzz is pretty solid there that they will win when the various publications start bestowing the honors again).

A quick flip through any of the nightlife publications (Metro Times, Real Detroit, Six Degrees) will show you many mentions of Chen Chow, whether as something cool coming up, something cool that happened, or just something cool in general. They were also voted by Real Detroit readers as 2008's "Best Restaurant to be Seen At."

So they've succeeded in attracting the trendy Birmingham crowd, but how is the food?

Under the guidance of acclaimed Detroit Executive Chef Robert Courser (who hails most notably from Opus One and Seldom Blues, which won Restaurant of the Year while he worked as Executive Sous Chef under Jerry Nottich), the menu is being hailed as one of the best and most inventive contemporary Asian menus around, incorporating American classics (beef, beef, and more beef) with a distinctly Asian flair. The wine list is unsurprisingly Napa-heavy, but surprisingly French-infused. And yes, you can order Cristal and Latour, and it will only cost you your monthly car payment (if you drive a Benz).

Thursday nights are as good as any at Chen Chow Brasserie (and a popular night to be out in Birmingham--see: Forté, the Corner Bar). The interior design of proprietor John Janviriya (who also designed Mosaic, as well as other lesser-knowns) is rich, warm, and terrifically trendy. It's cozy contemporary, with a soft circular pattern throughout. The lighting is dim but richly golden, with the intricate detailing of the walls and ceiling adding to calm coolness of the atmosphere.

It will be busy. There will be loud groups of trend-seekers crowding the bars. But for a stylish drink and a stylish meal in a stylish setting, Chen Chow Brasserie can't be beat.

(Reservations strongly recommended.)


Oslo has reopened...quietly, and without much ado. They started by reintroducing DJs into their basement, then suddenly, without much word, the restaurant was once again open and serving.

Of all the restaurants and bars that open and close in the city of Detroit (and my God there are a lot of them), Oslo's mysterious and sudden closing kicked up the most rumors as well as the most mourning.

Everything from unpaid taxes, borderline bankruptcy, disputes with the landlord, and prejudice against the owner as a gay man were cited as reasons for Oslo's shutdown.

Then, about a year later (at the end of 2007/beginning of 2008), Oslo began hosting DJs again (and Kevin Saunderson was one of them), and shortly thereafter the tempura was cracklin' once more--this time under new ownership. Katalia Lemos and mother Lumpai Rossbach are now in charge of Oslo, and they've decided to take it in a slightly different direction--adding hot food to the menu, and bolstering more of a Thai food theme (Rossbach is a native of Thailand).

Known as both the best place for sushi in the city as well as the best electronic music venue, Oslo is the place to be on a Friday night to catch some phenomenal local DJs spinning hardcore techno and trance tracks--something you won't find at the majority of other "electronic" clubs, which pretty much just play house.

Plus, the food is great, and pretty cheap.

The best part is, Oslo's reopening was done so very quietly that the place isn't yet flooded with people who want to be seen there, as it was shortly before it closed. At this moment Oslo is kind of an open secret--those of us who know about it don't want to jinx it again by buzzing about it too much.


Take thee to Asian Village. You can choose to first dine at the phenomenal Fusia, or just lay low until 10:00PM to hit the newest much-hyped Saturday night party as AV transforms into the newly-launched Sutra Lounge. My fave Jay Noonchester is promoting this party, and booths are already selling out in advance.

I've talked about Asian Village several times before, and have tracked its progress from rumored near-closure to Detroit's newest hotspot, thanks to the help of night manager and special events coordinator Scott Hummell and key partnerships with nightlife powerhouses like Noonchester. Since then, Asian Village has taken a 180 and is now considered one of the top nightlife destination spots in the city on a Saturday night. Over the past couple of months the buzz over AV has become increasingly louder, and now I overhear friends and customers of mine talk about how they'll be at AV.

Sutra Lounge is $10.00 for ladies, $20.00 for guys, and tables are $199 with Ketel One Bottle Service or $225 for booth, bottle service, and 5 admissions. Ketel One cocktails and appetizers free until 10:30PM.


It's almost summertime, and you know what that means? Crave the Sunset is back.

The hottest parties of the summer start Sunday, May 18th, and this one has a Halloween theme. Slutty costumes aren't just for October anymore! So break out the old naughty nurses and angel wings (worn only with a matching white lace bra-and-panty set, natch), and keep it sexy.

Crave the Sunset is a five-part party series that runs over the course of the summer at Crave Lounge in Dearborn. The outdoor patio is all done up with white tents and tiki torches and local DJs (like DJ Tom T) spinning. Make dinner reservations and hang out for a while to get into the party free; otherwise tickets are $20.00 per night ($30.00 for the end-of-season White Party), and a season pass to all five events is $45.00. Tickets are on sale now at Neptix; the party starts with dinner at 5:00PM and runs all the way until 2:00AM.

This is another Jay Noonchester party (this blog entry officially DINGS!), so you know it's going to be good. (And packed to capacity, so get there early, and be sure to dress the part of Detroit-area's hottest annual series of parties. I.e., they won't kick you out for wearing jeans, you just shouldn't.)

Oh, and Crave is also considered to have the best sushi in the metro Detroit area (formerly second only to Oslo, and now probably up for debate), so you won't want to miss this dining experience either.


Sadly, I know of no hot Asian-related parties happening on Mondays. Mondays remain the one night of the week that people just don't do anything. However, if you want to get a full 7 days' worth, here are a couple of suggestions:

Try Hong Hua in Farmington Hills, previous recipient of Hour Detroit's "Restaurant of the Year" title. Hong Hua succeeds in offering a quality Chinese menu in a fine dining atmosphere, with superior service and dishes that range from classic Chinese (Peking Duck, Hot and Sour soup) to more exotic choices like Shark's Fin and Abalone. This is some of the best Chinese food you will find in the metro Detroit area, and the prices are quite reasonable. The atmosphere is quite unabashedly fine-dining, and not of the trendy sort--white tableclothes, high-backed plush booths, minimalist lighting and dark oak comprise the décor. The service is also stellar, forgoing the typical burn-and-turn Chinese food mentality for true attentive and leisurely fine dining service.

You could also try Ronin Sushi Bar in Royal Oak, located on the plagued northeast corner of Lafayette and Fourth St. (over the years in recent memory that spot has played host to a very good steakhouse and a sports bar, but no restaurant has been able to hold that spot yet), and home to some of Oslo's former sushi chefs. Ronin's menu is best described as New-Nu Asian: try their signature "slider," made with your choice of Kobe beef, crab cakes, or Ahi Tuna. Or how about some diver scallops with some black rice risotto, or cripsy King Salmon with Asian Cherry BBQ sauce? Or, for sushi lovers, try the "Mountain Dew Roll"--tempura-battered asparagus, shittake mushrooms, and sweet potato wrapped in green soy paper. As for their drink menu? Drinks with names like "Hot Orange Spiced Sake" and "Lemon Ginger Sorbet" rule the drink menu...color me impressed. Ronin Sushi Bar certainly has a unique, creative take on now-old Nu Asian favorites...let's just hope this place can survive its curse.

Royal Oak also has Little Tree Sushi Bar, a long-time Royal Oak staple and a favorite of many who want to eat some sushi without all the trendoid frills. They also have an extensive pan-Asian menu--order dishes from all corners of Asian cuisine, including the slightly-more-exotic Korean and Phillipino preparations. The atmosphere is very casual; lots of bamboo. Actual Asians inside eating. Caters to American tastes, but the conoisseur can sidestep this. Smells like tea.


Well, kids, let's here it for your 7 Asian Days in Detroit. Everything from high-end dining to trendy nightlife and quiet corners await you (plus there's all the ones I didn't include, like NOMI in Northville or Katana Japanese Steakhouse, another Royal Oak spot). And celebrate Asian Heritage Month the D-Tales way: with food and booze!

Honest John's Hangover Cure

Originally pubished in D-Tales here; renamed and edited for content.

...Brunch at Honest? John's at about 3:00PM the next day. This is the kind of place that doesn't allow pictures taken inside, has a killer bar food menu which includes a very nice breakfast (even though they call themselves officially "Honest? John's Bar and No Grill"), has neon signs that say everything from "Take Your Change" to "Men Lie" and a jukebox full of '70s rock, and is one of those locals-only favorites that suburbanites have never even heard of. The eggs, pork sausage, and American cheese English muffin breakfast sandwich is superb...even if you hadn't spent the whole previous night drinking your face off.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Good Times and Gays at the Harbor House

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

Last Friday the Detroit Guerrilla Queer Bar took over the new Harbor House downtown for their annual Guerrilla Idol karaoke event.

The gays came out en masse (once again, not a lot of lesbians, which is always disappointing and kind of defies explanation) to sing their favorite diva ballads, there were definitely a couple of Kylie duets betwixt myself and "Eddie Edwards," Guerrilla organizer, and there was even some hustling (of the dance variety) happening on the not-very-line-dancing-conducive small stage area/dance floor.

The drinks were cheap and strong, the bartenders friendly, the karaoke entertainingly awful.

The Harbor House is a great place to go for karaoke on a Friday night. There are precious few places left in the city that offer karaoke, and of those that do one must ask oneself if it's really the kind of place one would want to go to. LJ's in Corktown is too small and they don't accept credit cards (and I believe karaoke is only a Thursday thing there); since the Comet Bar changed ownership it is catering a bit more to know...40+ -year-old women with bleached blonde hair and feathered bangs with their biker beaus...that kind of downriver folk...probably not very gay-friendly like it used to be when Tammy Fay drag queens would show up...then there's Vivio's, which is perfectly fine but so been there, done that...

Well, now there's Harbor House. The new Harbor House location at 440 Clinton St. (on the outskirts of Greektown) is a great place to grab a bite to eat or sit at the long, spacious bar and have a few beers. It looks every inch the deep-fried fish place that it is, with a solid oak bar, booths, and chairs, and stained glass faux-Tiffany light fixtures. Kind of...well, not really "rustic," but quaint, and very Boston fishhousey.

The place is filled with the smells of fried fish and vinegar, which is great if you like those things but probably kind of gross if you don't. And on Friday nights, they have karaoke, so you can get your fix of sing-a-long favorites (but no Journey! For shame.) while making a drunken ass out of yourself in front of all your friends.

Obviously the night of the Detroit Guerrillas was a bit more gay-centric than the crowd would typically be. The Friday night prior while location scouting we were there and were fortunate enough to witness a very talented gentleman sing "I Believe I Can Fly" (which my one friend did a very humorous mock miming number too, not to make fun of the singer but the song, but the table of middle-aged black folk who were the man's dining companions did not seem amused by the miming renditions of this young drunk white boy...not amused at all), and then another very talented and energetic gentleman sang Mr. Lionel Richie's "All Night Long (All Night)," which got the whole bar area up on their feet clapping along. We ended up sitting with a group of single, middle-aged Canadian women and doing Sambuca shots with them all night. The women, painfully oblivious, flirted with my two gay male friends, singing duets and dancing with them. They flirted back in good humor, and I got to play the role of cousin and old college friend visiting from Chicago.

My Chicago alter-ego runs a successful PR firm, btw. She's not doing too bad for herself. I'm kinda jealous. Of my non-existant other self.

So, Harbor House is a great place to catch some karaoke any Friday night. The crowd is a good mix of people; young and old, black and white, gay and straight (well--at least when we were there). It's a very comfortable, homey kind of atmosphere and very relaxed. Grab some friends, get some fish fry, and sing along poorly to former hit songs.

As for the Guerrillas: we came, we sang, we got drunk. Good times.