Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Detroit Soup (Extended Version from Real Detroit Weekly)

Photo by Vanessa Miller, reprinted with permission in Real Detroit Weekly; click on photo to see original article

As a city dweller and socializer closely linked to “The Scene,” I’ve been seeing increasingly more self-congratulatory glommers-on types popping up all over the Detroit Interwebs and it has been disheartening (when not absolutely infuriating). I've been feeling that the very things that made Detroit great are now being commodified for mass consumption, and NOT by outside media, no – by our very own people.

"You've been really down on the city lately," my friend said to me after we left the last
Detroit Soup gathering on Sunday, October 3. And it's true: between the self-serving sycophants and shameless opportunists hoping to capitalize on the nation's newfound fascination with Detroit, I feel like the true DIY underdog spirit of Detroit has been lost and replaced by people ready to do backflips for the chance to get their names in the papers or their faces on camera. Detroit, for me, had lost its sincerity.

Kate Daughdrill, along with her friend Jessica Hernandez, is responsible for launching Detroit Soup, a once-monthly social gathering which raises money to fund micro-grants for community-oriented projects voted on by the attendees. The event is set up as a dinner party in the loft space above Mexicantown Bakery, which is owned by Hernandez’s family. It is held the first Sunday of every month (November 7 will be the next gathering).

“It started as a gathering experiment just to see what would happen once these conversations started,” Daughdrill says. The intention behind Soup is to engage people from the community in dialogue about how to support each other in a practical way, and then do so. Every project proposal submitted for the month is presented and voted on by those who donated their $5 at the door, and can be anything from traditional art projects to socially-engaged projects, from regional photography to community park renovations to hoop house builds. “We tried to really open it up so it can be anyone from artists to builders,” she explains.

When Daughdrill and Hernandez initiated Soup in February – facilitated with a whole network of friends and community members, each one of them volunteering their time and efforts – it started with about 20 people. Now it has grown to over 150, with the largest crowd yet attending the October gathering. Daughdrill worries about the growing size and admits they may need to start limiting their audience: “For people to actually have these conversations it is important to the experience that it feel intimate and not overwhelming.”

One way it can continue to grow in a sustainable way is for other Soup projects to branch off from this one. Already a second Soup – Soup at Spaulding, which is held every Thursday – has grown from this, and Daughdrill hopes there will be more. “We’re interested in being a hub to launch other Soups, and connecting informally as friends. I want people to feel free to make it their own,” she says. “We’re all talking so much about sustainability now; whatever we do that is going to be sustainable has to be enjoyable too.”

Which is why Soup is organized as a dinner party, with hearty, healthful organic soups, salads and sweets made by volunteers and breads donated from Avalon. “The idea is for Soup to be a spot for some serious dialogue but also a casual connection with people,” explains Daughdrill. “And we also hope it’s really pleasurable and really fun; we want to show we can engage citizens in a way that is pleasure-based.”

Daughdrill, an artist and graduate student at Cranbrook who originally hails from New Orleans – a kindred soul city to Detroit if ever there was one – is most interested in the intersection between art and community; the political and social life of a city. “It’s interesting to see how we develop these little independent hubs alongside the infrastructure and institutions of the city.” A model like Soup is community-driven and democratic; it allows for the people to decide how they want the money they’ve donated spent and encourages conversation about how to do that. It is a microeconomy, an independent cultural infrastructure, which makes it more sustainable than projects tied to nonprofit regulations or corporate interests. It is, in a word, pure.

Media folks just LOVE to make the Detroit-New Orleans comparison, but the truth is there are no two other cities
that were once so almighty who have suffered the same cataclysmic declines, at least not in the last century (and really, NOLA had a lot better go at rebuilding post-natural disaster than we have post-economic, political and social collapse). "It's a very fierce spirit," says Daughdrill of Detroit, "something very raw but it's also a great American city [with a lot of history]." She compares the current national focus on Detroit -- the coast-to-coast *gasp* now-whatever-will-they-do? and *gasp* gee-wow!-successful-businesses-in-Detroit! trivializing treatment we've received in endless waves over the past year or so -- to the influx of people from across the country that descended on New Orleans after Katrina. "New Orleans maintained a lot of its spirit even after other people came in to rebuild it." She postulates that all the interest from the outside created connections between the new energies that were coming in and the city's very old indentity and traditions, enabling it to shape and grow in a new way.

With all eyes on Detroit, there is indeed a lot of shallow opportunism. But there is also a lot of opportunity. Change is possible in an unprecedented way as we continue to be viewed as animals confined in cages made to look like our natural habit, on display for all the world to watch and critique but not interfere. Right now we have a unique platform from which to identify and address the needs of the community and make it happen in a sincere way that has long-term sustainability (and those needs do NOT include another set of self-promoting pseudo-cheerleaders).

“I think that a lot of issues in terms of arts or infrastructure are pretty urgent,” Daughdrill further explains. “There’s a need for this sort of process of how we support each other.” It is about how to learn and grow together, how to engage in important and timely dialogues, and creating true democratic experiences where people hash things out through dialogue. It’s not simply a matter of micro-grant funding; it is a whole new concept of community organization.

My initial instinct is to snark on everything. But after witnessing Soup myself I could find nothing about it to snark on. So often Detroit feels like a self-appointed Tribal Council, but this was like being amongst the tribe itself. This is the future. As I sit in my corner reveling in my sardonic wit, the next crop of energetic, idealistic, hopeful youths are out there actually making a tangible impact in the community, a hell of a lot more than just linking to articles that say "DETROIT!" on Facebook. The group is utterly genuine and sincere in their efforts in a way that is refreshing ... even inspiring. After my experience at Soup and my 30-minute conversation with Daughdrill (during which we micro-machined our way through about 90 minutes' worth of discourse), I felt my Grinchy heart grow three sizes that day.

To everyone involved with making Detroit Soup happen, I thank you.
Detroit needed this. I needed this.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Real Detroit Weekly: Plaka Mediterranean Grill (Canton)

"Plaka Mediterranean Grill in Canton is not the easiest place in the world to find. First off, it's in Canton — which is where mega-store monoliths and sprawling shopping plazas go to reproduce. Secondly, it's kind of hidden behind the giant parking lot of Panera Bread (which is the only way I was able to find it after driving up and down Ford Rd. a few times and finally calling Plaka's owner, Dino). In Cantonian terms, it's two clicks west of IKEA on Ford Rd. (because everything in Canton is on Ford Rd., and all directions must be given in relation to the IKEA).

'But all this urban sprawl means one thing for western Wayne County: there are a lot of people there and they need to eat...."

Read the rest of the article here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall Beer Festival in Pictures

Some say a picture is worth a thousand words. I don't feel like writing a thousand words which is why I'm choosing to share my experience at Beer Fest with images instead.

The Michigan Brewers Guild's Fall Beer Festival at Eastern Market -- the endcap event to the second annual Detroit Beer Week -- was a huge success. Tickets sold out the day before and the day itself was perfect--warm, overcast with only the tiniest bit of briefly-lived drizzle (and by then it was towards the end of the day so most of us barely even noticed, thinking it probably just the backsplash of hundreds of spilled beers misting into the air).

Some quick thoughts: I didn't get there until 2, thinking it ended at 5 ended at 6. My whole theory of "you can do A LOT of damage in 3 hours" was indeed correct but poorly-timed. Probably didn't need those extra 45 minutes of drinking (which is as long as I lasted until I commanded - COMMANDED - my group go to Supino). Note to self: actually look at the event schedule next year.

More thoughts: I wish I had not sacrificed my beer menu to the port-a-john. I would really like to share with you the names of some of the great beers I had but to try to do so from memory when I can barely tell you which breweries I had visited by the end much less which beers I drank throughout would make me feel bad about myself.

However, I do recall that the Wild One from Bell's was the Best in Show. A blend of 20 different batches of brown ale and wheat wort fermented in oak wine barrels, this is a limited release sour they tap only at festivals and I almost hate to admit it but it puts most of Jolly Pumpkin's highly-lauded sours to shame. But that could be the dozen or so beers I had before that talking.

This year was kind of like a Halloween party for beer geeks. (Scroll down to the pics; you'll see.)

I owe a few people apologies: first, to Steve from the Livery, I DID try to find you so I could be the Firkin Virgin but you were not standing still in one place with a sign that said "Steve from the Livery" and I gave up after 3 15 minutes. My humblest apologies.

I also owe the Ian formerly known as Ian 2 and now known as Ian The Second One I Met an apology. I shall henceforth refer to you by your initials, IDRG. (Put a space between the first two letters and a "u" between the last two. Thaaaaare it is.)

Look at how Beer Fest brings people together: a chick in an MSU jersey and a dude in a cowboy hat. I mean, why not?

Brains? *spit* This zombie thirsts only for beer.

I'm not sure what utility the plaster glove provides, but it sure does look cool.

Over in the food stands Traffic Jam & Snug was giving out whole wheels of cheese.

Clam chowder lava from Detroit Beer Co. I think. Or whoever was next to them.

Anthony and Dave from Foran's. Two reasons I hang out there.

The Postmortem Spiced Porter was awesome. I think.


Are those prescription?

This just needed to be photographed and you all needed to see it. Not once...

Not twice...

But three times.

Bottom right: the pretzel necklace - a fashion "do" at Beer Fest.

This guy. This guy right here. I don't know about this guy right here.

So this was getting near the end of the day. The blurriness of this photo is a nice representation of the blurriness of my vision. But I did think the sign was funny. "We drink all we can and sell the rest."

Okay I'm done with this now. I'll do more word-writey kind of stuff later. Buh-bye.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Seriously Guys, This Whole Phil Cooley/Slows Thing

So the New York Times covered Slows again. Which you know because it was re-posted on Facebook twelve dozen times if once. What was most interesting about all this re-posting was the reactions it drew -- some were thrilled and got all gushy over Phil Cooley (part-owner) and/or the restaurant itself, which many throughout metro Detroit claim is their absolute favorite.

With that also came the voices of dissent, the weary sighs of "Slows AGAIN?" and those adamant in their claims that Slows is NOT in fact the best restaurant in Detroit.

Guess what? It's not.

But that's not the point.

Does Slows have the best food? In my opinion, no. When I do go there it's typically just to drink, and even then that's none too frequent -- I love the beer list (big focus on Michigan craft brews; hi I'm Nicole and I drink a lot of beer), but the consistently large crowds and long waits tend to be a deterrent to me.

So okay, they don't have the best food -- hell, if you asked Phil Cooley HIMSELF if he thought his restaurant was The Best he'd probably say no. But that doesn't matter -- people like it. People like it enough to wait in lines up to three hours long on weekends just to get a seat. People like it enough to drive from the farthest reaches of the suburbs just to wait in that three-hour line. People like it enough to warrant THREE different articles in the New York Times and another in the New York Post, as well as a national nod from Bon Appetit as one of the top 10 new BBQ eateries in the country.

How did Slows become as popular as it is? Beats me. "Phil caught lightning in a bottle with that place," one of his good friends once said to me.

But sometimes a restaurant opens in a place and time and causes a ripple effect that is so much bigger than itself. Sometimes that particular establishment comes to MEAN something in its community; it comes to REPRESENT something greater -- not just a restaurant but a symbol. That place then shapes the community around it, creating a new identity for the community and ushering in a new beginning for that particular place at that particular time.

Slows is that place for Detroit.

The article mentioned that it would be difficult to find a business owner in the city who has not been somehow touched by Phil Cooley. That sounds a bit sweeping and maybe even over-grandiose, but if we're talking specifically about NEW business owners who started out sometime within the last 5 years it's sure as hell true. Go ahead; find me one.

A lot of people complained about the portrayal of Phil as the posterboy for the city. You know what? We sure as hell could do worse than him. He's smart, funny, attractive, successful, and above all else humble--why wouldn't we want this person representing us? If not him, then who? I'd rather choke on a Yardbird than see some of the other smarmy, self-serving, self-congratulatory types who would LOVE nothing more than to be given that opportunity be in that position, those who claw so desperately for their piece of the All Eyes on Detroit pie. Give me one Phil Cooley over a thousand of those types and plaster his face on billboards all over the country that simply say " = Detroit."

The article speaks of his commitment to the community, his charity work, the various efforts he makes to help others succeed. Now I don't make it my business to stalk the guy as some seem to, but being yet another grape on this Detroit vine I do hear things. I couldn't possibly try to recount the various Good Deeds of Phil Cooley, but I can say this: he cares more about this city than anyone else I've ever met, and he means it. His brand of boosterism is utterly sincere, and it's also quiet. One thing you won't see Phil Cooley do is post links on his Facebook page to any and every article written that happens to say "Detroit!", nor will his status updates read "Gee willikers Detroit is super-cool! *wide-eyed blink*" Homeboy doesn't even HAVE a Facebook page (honestly -- does he really need one?). And he's certainly not running around time waving his arms around and jumping in front of every camera and microphone he sees cross his path. If you could accuse him of anything it would be being too much of an idealist. A journalist friend once asked me if Phil were "actually crazy enough to want to do something with the train station." My answer: he just may be.

There are worse things to be.

And despite all of this national attention, Phil remains steadfastly humble. Everyone else around him seems to know he's Phil Cooley except for him. I remember, during the short-lived days of the Mercury Coffee Bar, reading another blogger recounting an experience at the MCB where Phil himself was out on the floor sweeping and mopping. At a recent dinner party for over 100 people, Phil was out there serving food right along with the proles. For as much as people seem to elevate, even idolize, even idolatrize him, Phil is still just Phil.

I've commented privately to a select number of friends whom I can say such things to that if I did not live in the city, I would think there were exactly three restaurants here: Slows, Good Girls Go to Paris Crepes, and Supino Pizzeria. And that's it. These are the places that seem to receive the most attention, but you know what? Every single one of these business owners is an absolute stand-up fucking human and if these are the people who are representing my city then all I have to say is thank GOD.

But above them all stands Phil, and Slows. Slows: the restaurant that has become synonymous with Detroit and vice-versa. Is it the only restaurant here? Is it the BEST restaurant here? No and no. But it's not like this is the first time Detroit has been misrepresented in national media--and hell, even our OWN media is often guilty of lazy piggyback journalism. And this is the ONLY restaurant in the city--really even state--that has consistently attracted the attention of publications across the country over the past few years, and it is always represented in a positive way which means FINALLY after all of our grousing that Detroit ITSELF is being represented in a positive way. And bad thing?

Sometimes a restaurant opens and it comes to mean more to the communtiy than simply being a place to eat. Sometimes it becomes bigger than itself.

Phil Cooley didn't ask to be the posterchild of Detroit, but he is. And he's doing the best that he can with it. Detroit needs a hero, it's very own White Knight. Our politicians and community leaders have failed us. So why not an energetic, youthful idealist who owns a really freakin' popular restaurant? We could do worse, guys.

If this were high school (and my GOD does it ever feel like it sometimes, but I digress), Phil Cooley would be the most popular guy in school. In fact his popularity would ECLIPSE the popularity of all others. He'd be the most popular guy in high school even YEARS after he graduated, after he went off to college and moved away. He'd be so popular he'd be mythic. Everyone in this city wants to be connected to Phil Cooley. Everyone here wants to claim him as their personal friend. Everyone simply wants to be in his orbit, or even just be seen near him.

I call him "Prince Phil" but I do it in jest. He may or may not find it funny but he's too fucking kind to say otherwise, so he usually just smiles politely and volleys the comment off to someone else. But I'd vote this guy for fucking President. Detroit is lucky to have him here, being as passionate and sincere as he is, regardless of whether the ribs at his restaurant are any good or not.

I love to snark on things just as much as the next guy, and yes, I AM that person who reads the latest New York Times feature in a flurry of Facebook re-posts and thinks "Slows AGAIN?" But after thinking long and hard about this over the last day I realized, Detroit could do a lot worse.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Detroit Beer Week: BIKE-Toberfest

I've mentioned this event before, but it deserves its own special shout-out. Unfortunately participation is a bit contingent upon either working or living in the city and being able to be home, on your bike, and able to meet at the Detroit Beer Co. at 5:30pm sharp...that counts me out, but that doesn't mean you can't try to recreate this bike tour through Detroit's beer history on your own and try to wobble your way along the same path! Bil has done a great job putting together a tour package where participants not only see historical sites relevant to Detroit's brewing history, but also get to enjoy some of the best beer the city has to offer. Huzzah!

The deets:

Our resident Detroit cycling beer enthusiast, Bil Lusa, will take you on a tour of the D's historical & current breweries. Explore Traffic Jam, Motor City Brewing, the historical brewery buildings of Eastern Market, Atwater and more...

Gather @ Detroit Beer Co for happy hour, enjoy a pint and prepare for a prompt 5:30pm departure. We will end the tour @ Grand Trunk where you can enjoy New Holland Brewing's event and/or the Beer ...vs Wine Cheese Pairing upstairs @ Motor City Wine.

BIKE RENTAL IS AVAILABLE - PLEASE CONTACT BIL LUSA VIA EMAIL -- if you need to rent a bike, we need to know by Tuesday the 19th.


City sights include:

Grand Circus Park
Cass Corridor
Wayne State
The currently closed incinerator
The Heidelberg Project
Eastern Market
Dequindre Cut
Wheelhouse Detroit
Renaissance Center

Current Breweries include:
Detroit Beer Co
Traffic Jam
Motor City Brewing Works
Atwater Block Brewery

Historic Post-prohibition Breweries and Sites include:
Koppitz - Melchers

Real Detroit Weekly: Tin Fish (Novi)

"The newest location of the locally-owned restaurant chain Tin Fish is located at Twelve Oaks Mall, but it is certainly not your average 'mall restaurant.' First, it's enormous, with a separate dining area geared more towards the fine dining experience as well as an indoor/outdoor patio which creates an open, airy feel. But the epicenter, as well as the pièce de résistance, is the large bar with a huge elevated stage for live bands directly on top of it.

'Admittedly, that sounds strange, but the best way to describe it is like this: you walk in and there's a great big open feel in the bar area, which is the 'main' area of the restaurant. All seats and booths are pointed at the bar, which is at the far end of the space, and the stage is directly above it. That clear it up for you? Well damn, guess you'll just have to see it for yourself then..."

Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

DBW: Beer Drinker's Guide to the Galaxy

Detroit Beer Week starts this Saturday. That's really all I need to say. Here's a complete-to-the-minute guide of all the DBW festivities this year. Who wants to play "Beer" with me? (I'm warning you: I'm really good at "Beer.")

Saturday, October 16: Tap: Detroit
(I'll have a little more thorough information on this tomorrow; for today I cut & paste.)

This year’s Detroit Beer Week kicks off on October 16 with “Tap: Detroit” – a charity beer event at St. Andrews Hall, co-produced by Live Nation and Liquid Table, with support from the Michigan Brewers Guild and other sponsors. Tap: Detroit will feature eight of Detroit’s best beer-friendly restaurants pairing multiple dishes with Michigan beer, a rare beer and cask ale sampling, live entertainment on all three floors, and a cocktail lounge showcasing Michigan-distilled spirits and meads. Tickets are $35 for the main event, and $55 for all-access. A portion of proceeds from Tap: Detroit will benefit Pints For Prostates, a charity to build awareness and fund research for prostate cancer. More information at

Tickets are available online at & as well as St. Andrew's box office, Kuhnhenn Brewery, Merchants Fine Wine (Dearborn), Grand Trunk Pub, Meadows Fine Wine (Farmington Hills), Holiday Market Beer Dept (Royal Oak).

Sunday, October 17:
Official Tap: Detroit After Party
The game of "Beer" shall continue from midnight - 2AM at Jacoby's German Biergarten after the Tap: Detroit debauchery. Jacoby's is conveniently located within stumbling distance of St. Andrew's Hall.

Sunday, October 17:
Whiskey & Beer at Ye Olde Tap Room
Hey look, two things I'm good at!

Once you've risen and gotten through your productive Saturday to-do list, following an amazing night at Tap: Detroit, come join us at one of Detroit's oldest & iconic beer bars, Ye Olde Tap Room. The whiskey and beer will be flowing!

This Prohibition-era bar has a rich and fun-filled history (wink-wink). Check it out on their site and experience it for yourself. The "owner Russ 'Big Mack' Mack is known for his deadly skill with a bottle opener and would kill a 6 pack at the slightest provocation".

Tuesday, October 19:
Beer Dinner at Cliff Bell's featuring Kuhnhenn and Dragonmead Breweries

Take one part Cliff Bell's amazing atmosphere, one part innovative culinary offerings from their chefs (Executive Chef Matt Baldridge hails from the Rattlesnake Club), and then mix with beers from Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. & Dragonmead Microbrewery ... the result is an evening sure to please! Join us as we explore beer and food in one of Detroit's historic landmark bars where art deco decor, avant garde cuisine and some of the most cutting-edge beer in the state meet in a polygamous marriage of exceeding excellence.

Tickets are $30 and include 4 courses with beer pairings as well as an opportunity to discuss the wonderful world of beer & food with the brewers and fellow enthusiasts. Reservations are HIGHLY recommended. Please call 313-961-2543 to reserve your spot today.

Thursday, October 21: BIKE-toberfest

Bil Lusa!!!!!! Bil Lusa does things with beer and bikes! Did you know he was one of the people who helped Jon Piepenbrok organize the innaugural Detroit Beer Week? Huh? Huh? How about did you know he is the MAIN organizer behind the annual Tour de Troit bike ride, which this year drew in some 2,500+ cyclists from in and around the city? Hmmmm? Bil Lusa. A Detroit Original.

Anyway, Bil Lusa organized this event, which is a natural combination of his loves of beer and biking. He also writes for Brewing News. He ALSO owns his own company, which does something with computers or cars or databases or something; whenever he talks about it we're usually drinking and I space out until he starts talking about something my 20th-century brain understands.

Bil Lusa. Also single-handedly responsible for increasing the city's Caucasian population one offspring at a time.

No autographs, please. He is a busy man.

Here's the deets:
Explore Traffic Jam, Motor City Brewing, the historical brewery buildings of Eastern Market, Atwater and more.

Gather at Detroit Beer Co, enjoy a few pints and prepare for a 5:30pm departure. We will end the tour at Foran's Grand Trunk where you can enjoy New Holland Brewing's event and/or the Beer vs. Wine Cheese Pairing upstairs at Motor City Wine.



Thursday, October 21: Metro Times Detroit Beer Week Happy Hour at Wolfgang Puck

Allegedly, anyway. It's in the MT's email blast but there is no time or details. As I have not received a Facebook invitation for it and cannot easily located it with The Google, it's as good as not happening in my book. But the next print edition comes out in time for this happy hour to happen so maybe check there. I'm simply the aggregator here.

Thursday, October 21:
Beer vs. Wine Cheese Pairing at Motor City Wine

It's exactly what it says it is, and it's happening in Motor City Wine, which is upstairs from Foran's, which is the Happiest Place on Earth.

Speaking of Foran's ...

Thursday, October 21:
New Holland Brewing Night at Foran's Grand Trunk Pub

Foran's Grand Trunk Pub
= the Happiest Place on Earth. All their taps are Michigan drafts with another 100 or so Michigan labels by the bottle, and probably the most extensive selection of Michigan spirits in the metro area.

New Holland makes Ichibod, El Mole Ocho, and Dragon's Milk, currently 3 of my top 10 favorite beers I'm drinking. If you don't think I'm going to be there then you've never read this blog before, not ever, not even once.

Friday, October 22:
Foxtown/Park Ave. Pub Crawl

Park Bar / Cliff Bells / Rub BBQ Pub / Hard Luck Lounge / State Bar / Hockeytown Cafe / The Town Pump Tavern / Centaur...a $10 wristband will get you drink & food specials as well as waive any cover at each establishment...come explore all that Foxtown has to offer! A Detroit Ber Week representative will be selling wristbands at each location.

Saturday, October 23:
Michigan Brewers Guild Fall Beer Festival at Eastern Market
God bless you, press release:

2nd Annual Detroit Fall Beer Festival (formerly Harvest Beer Festival)
Presented by the Michigan Brewers Guild and Metrotimes
October 23rd, 2010
Eastern Market, Detroit ***
Purchase Tickets***

The 2nd Annual Detroit Fall Beer Festival will take place Saturday, October 23rd, 2010 at the Eastern Market in Detroit. The Harvest Festival is a cooperative effort between the Michigan Brewers Guild and Metrotimes and we expect our combined efforts to result in one of the best local beer events in the region. The Eastern Market is one of the nation’s oldest farm markets and the area is rife with brewing history. In its heyday, there were more than 40 breweries in the Market area and malt silos still stand as a testament to the rich brewing history. The Market will be open on Saturday so you may want to come early and check it out. We are expecting more than 40 Michigan microbreweries and brewpubs to participate and there will be nearly 200 different beers available to sample. The event will be open from 1:00pm to 6:00pm; Rain or Shine. Enthusiast Members of the Michigan Brewers Guild will be allowed to enter the Festival an hour early at Noon. The Festival will take place in the parking area near shed #5 and there is ample parking in the surrounding area.

The cost to enter the Festival is $35 in advance and $40 at the gate if tickets are still available. The total quantity of tickets is limited so advance ticket purchase is suggested. Tickets can be purchased here on our website, at participating member breweries and at select retail outlets. Please see the related post on the MASH (our blog) for an updated list of ticket outlets. 15 drink tokens are included with a ticket and each token is good for one 3 ounce beer sample. Additional tokens are available for purchase inside the Festival for 50 cents each. Live entertainment will be provided by local bands and food prepared by local restaurants will be available for purchase.

Festival attendees must be 21 years of age or older and have ID to enter. Designated Drivers are encouraged and DD tickets will be available on line at the gate for $5 each.

Please look for information to be posted on the MASH regarding participating breweries, ticket outlets and other information. The MASH will be updated as new information becomes available. Please feel free to make a post of your own if you are organizing a bus or have something else to share.

Cheers, and see you October 23rd at the Eastern Market!

Saturday, October 23: Official Detroit Fall Beer Festival After Party

At the newly-remodeled taproom of Atwater Block Brewery from 6pm-midnight.

Sunday, October 24: Sunday "Bloody Mary" Sunday at Third Street Bar

Though it's *technically* not an official Detroit Beer Week event, it's a nice way to round out the week's festivities. From Jon: Scott and the crew from 3rd Street have been gracious to host our closing party for DBW 2010. We will be creating the ULTIMATE BLOODY MARY BAR -- yes you read that correctly, you will be in Bloody Heaven!!! To aid in your recovery, they will be adding breakfast items to their taco truck menu; the chili verde is AMAZING and I can't wait to smother chorizo & eggs with it!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Detroit Beer Week: The Man, the Myth, the Malt

On Sunday I had the chance to sit down and chat with Jon Piepenbrok, one-half of the team behind this year's Detroit Beer Week.

And by "sit down and chat with" I mean go to the bar I visit thrice weekly anyway and do shots of Jamesons with Jon, who also moonlights as a bartender at this the Happiest Place on Earth, as he worked and I jotted notes on my laptop while compulsively updating Facebook.

You're jealous of my job, aren't you?

Detroit Beer Week launched in October 2009 quietly, with only a couple of weeks' notice and minimal media coverage (I was one of the only outlets that even discussed it ... and YOUBET I feel it necessary to point that out now). DBW occurred over an 8-day period with about a dozen participating locations that held beer-related events such as beer dinners, tastings, and even a lesson on proper glassware at a pop-up store specializing in men's wares.

"I put it together in three weeks myself with a little bit of help from some other guys and with no money," Jon tells me. "I purposely did it with zero funding just to show it could be done and show what could be done with it."

It was done with little press and little advertisement; there but for the power of Facebook the events received next-to-no promotion or publicity.

And yet people still came. And buzz still happened. Enough buzz that afterwards, brewers and distributors started calling Jon to ask how they could get involved the following year. Enough buzz that the Metro Times took notice.

"Metro Times is partnered with the Michigan Brewers Guild and Fall Beer Fest, so after the first Beer Week last year they approached me and said they wanted to get involved," says Jon. They joined on as the official media sponsor, providing Detroit Beer Week with promotion, ad space, and a couple of their own coordinating events.

Next year the event will grow even bigger as the organizers -- Jon along with his partner Jason Peltier -- sit down with the Metro Times next month to start discussing next year, with active planning starting as early as March. "This year we started planning in August and it still wasn't enough," Jon notes. "Next year is going to be even bigger."

I'm not gonna lie, homeboy looks exhausted, but all his work is bound to pay off. Since last year he and his partner Jason launched their own "beverage events" production company called Liquid Table, which is producing Detroit Beer Fest this year. This is just the beginning for Liquid Table, which is aimed at any kind of special event that involves beverages, as well as providing services to those in the beverage industry. They'll offer beverage event planning and production services; "catering without the food," as Jon calls it. For industry professionals they'll also offer staff training, restaurant consultation and brokering.

And you can rest assured that any event you attend that is produced by Liquid Table will not be offering Black Swan wine and Miller beer (Heneiken for those fancy types) -- part of what they're trying to bring to the (drumroll) TABLE is the knowledge that for only a little more money -- if any more at all -- you can serve quality products that people will enjoy and remember. "Once we get the good products in front of people in a small setting they remember how much they liked it and they start to demand it." Really you could say they're in the business of bringing people better taste. Damn, I am on a ROLL.

It's no secret that the craft beer industry is taking off something huge in the state of Michigan. (At least to readers of this blog it damn sure shouldn't be a secret because I harp on it every single week.) But while here it's still kind of exciting and new (like sex when you're 14 18), in other states the whole craft beer concept is old hat (like sex when you're married).

"It really started last year when I was sitting in a board meeting with the Michigan Brewers Guild trying to convince them to do a third beer festival in Detroit," Jon explains. "As soon as they decided to do it, it was like a lightbulb went off." Jon, who was working for Arcadia Brewing Company at the time, kept seeing how well craft beer was doing in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and even Kalamazoo, but it had still yet to hit in Detroit. "New York and Philly were already doing it," he says. "It just seemed like the right time, the right place, and the perfect opportunity to promote craft beer -- particularly Michigan craft beer -- and also the city of Detroit."

There are 81 breweries in the state of Michigan currently and many of those have taken home awards and accolades from the country's top beer competitions, including most recently Kuhnhenn, Short's, Big Rock, Founders and Bastone taking home medals at this year's Great American Beer Festival held just a few weeks ago. Thanks also to breweries like Jolly Pumpkin and Dragonmead, Michigan is widely considered to rank among the top craft beer states in the country, and everyone seems to know that but Michigan itself.

The trend has certainly been picked up by the city of Detroit, thanks to passionate bar owners who want to support all things local and also happen to be craft beer snobs themselves. Places like Park Bar, Woodbridge Pub, Bronx Bar, and Roast proudly promote their Michigan-made craft brews, and Foran's Grand Trunk -- the Happiest Place on Earth and also where I sit doing shots conducting this interview with Jon -- has nothing but Michigan beers on tap with another 100 (give or take) available by the bottle. But go out to the suburbs of Royal Oak, Birmingham, Novi, Mt. Clemens or Southgate and "local beer" still means Oberon.

We'll get there, people. I'm here to help.

Of this slowly-growing trend, Jon notes, "It's grown huge in Detroit and in SE Michigan but we're still sorely lagging behind the rest of the state which is still sorely lagging behind the rest of the country." His goal with both Detroit Beer Week and Liquid Table is to get to the level of a, say, Denver, where 70-80% of the beer on draft is local craft beer. "I intend to take what the Guild does and what the brewers and distributors do and go beyond that."

Long-term, Jon and his partner Jason hope to take Detroit Beer Week to the same level as the beer week events in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and San Diego. "These events bring in tens of thousands of people from around the country. I want people to come here for this 8-10 day beercation, experience Detroit, experience Michigan beer, and go home and tell their friends what an awesome time they missed."

At this point in our interview it's nearly midnight and we're ready to get to the serious drinking. There's a bottle of Founders Nemesis calling my name and Jon just poured more Jamesons. Anything else you want to add, Jon? "Um. We rule too."


Detroit Beer Week starts this Saturday with the Tap: Detroit launch event at St. Andrew's Hall, and runs through Saturday October 23 with the Brewers Guild Fall Beer Festival. There will be approximately 15 official Beer Week events as well as 30 beer destinations during this 8-day period. For more information about Detroit Beer Week, check out their Facebook page, and also check back here regularly as I am going to blog the HELL out of this event. Again, I'm here to help.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Big News for Booze

Governor Granholm has done quite a bit to change Michigan's liquor laws since coming into office. Well, laws related to liquor anyway. Such as reducing the legal blood alcohol content limit to be the equivalent of a beer every three hours for a 300-lb linebacker ensuring the state of Michigan and all of its fine defense attorneys a steady flow of income for endless years to come.

She's also given a lot of lip service to keeping bars open until 4AM. This would further feed into the above cycle of more money for the state squeezed out of underemployed twenty-somethings whose subsequent driving and (by extension) employment records are ruined for the rest of their lives by giving them an extra two hours to make bad decisions every single night! (Or at least on weekends.)

How's that whole mass transit thing coming, btw?

Most recently a bill has come across Jennifer Granholm's desk allowing for bars to begin serving alcoholic beverages at 7AM on the mysteriously-still-stigmafied Sundays. This would in effect make Sunday just like every other day, and as people are more likely to imbide on Sunday mornings than on any other mornings thanks be to the time-honored tradition of bottomless mimosa brunches, this change in law might actually prove to boost liquor sales and possibly even attendance.

Now, for those of us who don't roll out of bed before noon on Sundays anyway (hi), this won't make a lick of difference ... except on those days when we're still awake from the night before at 7AM. (Hasn't happened in a GOOD month, I swear. Wait, make that two weeks. A GOOD two weeks.) However, since most places start serving brunch at 11AM (and some even earlier), that extra hour of potential liquor sales can certainly help their bottom line. And heck, it might even entice places to fire up their brunch buffets even earlier, which will appeal to that after mass mimosa madness crowd. Or at least the early risers.

And why should Sunday be any different? It defies logic at this point -- is it a "Sabbath" thing? In a state that is probably 60% Christian AT BEST, most of which are non-observant of the Sabbath (if observant of religious tradition at all)? Makes about as much sense as businesses closing early (if even open at all) on Sundays. It's an antiquated practice that's been outdated for the better part of the last 2 decades. Not to mention super-inconvenient -- my God/Allah/Buddha/Jehovah, there are only so many days in a weekend.

The House and Senate have both passed the bill and now it awaits Granholm's seal of approval. Come on, Jennie -- we know how much you like those dewey dollars. That's 5 more hours every single week times all the boozehounds in the state that you have to cash in.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Opus One Michigan Harvest Dinner

I get a lot of emails about a lot of dinners but this one sounds UH-mazing! All Michigan-sourced products including wines and cheese from Black Star Farms, and DAMN what a menu. Opus One always impresses and the wine selection is an exceptional showcase of what Michigan's vineyards are capable of; this is definitely worth your $65.

From Opus One via email:
We are having a special five-course Michigan dinner scheduled on Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 6:30pm. What makes this dinner unique is that we will be serving primarily products of the State of Michigan. The main entrée is a 4H Blue Ribbon Steer from the Clare County Fair. The fish are all from the Great Lakes. The cheeses are all from local artisan cheese makers. The fruits and vegetables will all be locally grown. The breads, sauces, dressings, and ice cream will be made at Opus One Restaurant. The wines will all be from the award winning winery Black Star Farms located just outside Suttons Bay on the Leelanau Peninsula. Black Star Farms swept all of the winery awards this year and the winery owner Don Coe will be in attendance. The cost for this dinner is $65 per person plus tax and gratuity. Please join for this very unique evening. Attendance is limited and a credit card is needed to reserve seating.

Opus One Michigan Harvest Dinner
Thursday, October 14, 2010
6:30 pm
$65 per person
(plus tax & gratuity)

Passed Hors D'oeuvres

Crisp Walleye Fingers
With basil aioli

Grilled Duck Pizza
With dried cherry and caramelized onion

Smoked Whitefish Pate
On spinach pancake

Chilled Poached King Salmon
On potato cake, cucumber dill cream

Black Star Farms Brut Sparkling Wine NV


Michigan Heirloom Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Gass Centennial Farms greens, basil, red onion, Michigan cheeses, and red wine vinaigrette
Balsamic drizzle and pesto bruschetta

Black Star Farms Arcturos Riesling 2009

First Orchestration

Great Lakes Duo
Sautéed Michigan Lake Perch
With remoulade sauce

Pan-Seared Fillet of Walleye
With sauce Cardinal

Black Star Farms Arcturos Sur Lie Chardonnay 2009

Second Orchestration
(Choose one in our drawing)

Char-grilled Clare County 4-H farm raised
'Blue Ribbon' Ribeye Steak
Char-grilled ribeye steak with Morel mushroom sauce, herbed fingerling potatoes and roasted butternut squash

Char-grilled Clare County 4-H farm raised
'Blue Ribbon' New York Style Strip Steak
Char-grilled Strip steak with Morel Mushroom sauce, herbed fingerling potatoes and roasted butternut squash

Char-Grilled Clare County 4-H farm raised
'Blue Ribbon' Filet Mignon
Char-grilled Filet mignon presented on celery root mashed potatoes with roasted fall vegetables and Black Star farms red wine demi-glace then garnished with herb butter and sweet potato hay
Black Star Farms Arcturos Cabernet Franc 2008

Cheese Course
(Editor's note: can I have two please?)

Trio of Michigan Artisan Cheeses
Blackstar Farms cave aged Raclette (<----sooooo good)
Grassfield Farms organic Lamont Cheddar
Great Lakes Cheshire (Calder Dairy Cows Milk)

With house baked baguettes, locally roasted nuts and fresh fruits

Black Star Farms Merlot Cabernet Franc
'Leorie Vineyard' 2007
(Editor's note: This wine is SUPERB, possibly the highlight of the whole list.)


Warm Apple and Cherry Crisp Tart
Served with Opus One black cherry ice cream

Black Star Farms Sirus Cherry Dessert Wine

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Home Slice (a Fundraiser for MoCAD)

Home Slice is a benefit for the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Click on the image below for complete details about the event happening this Friday at Eastern Market.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Model D: Motor City Wine

The feature 9 months in the making...

"The good buzz has been building for nearly a year and -- yes, Detroit, finally! -- Motor City Wine is officially open for business.

'In mid-July, Motor City Wine celebrated its actual opening after nearly 11 months of practicing the age-old art of sit-and-wait. Not to mention several soft, unofficial openings (that drew standing room only crowds, by the way).

'Owners David Armin-Parcells and Mark Szymanski have waited patiently for the city to extend Foran's Grand Trunk Pub's shared liquor license to include the additional bar permit enabling MCW to sell wine as well as serve it, but those 'in the know' are already familiar with their monthly tastings/parties. 'We kept doing events once a month to keep things fresh and keep people talking about us,' says Armin-Parcells. Word of mouth is make-or-break in this city, but the problem was that word of mouth was so strong for MCW 'it was confusing for people.'

But now, this will likely turn into MCW's greatest advantage. Being in a narrow space on the second floor of Foran's Deluxe Diner, you kind of have to be in the know to even find the place. 'We have a small sign out front to let people know we're here, but you really don't need a sign,' Armin-Parcells says. Lack of foot traffic to this upstairs location is also not a concern: 'Detroit is a city full of places that you just sort of know about,' he says.'We want to be that kind of place...'

Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Detroit Restaurant Week Done Right: Wine (and Beer!) Buys

We are in the final three days of Detroit Restaurant Week (I know; it always seems to go by so fast, like Christmas or vacations in the tropics or days you spend hungover in bed). For my final fare-thee-well thought, I'm going to share with you some choice picks from the vine. Wine, that is. Black gold. Texas tea. Wait, no. Blood of the Christ. Nectar of the gods. There we go.

(At least all the voices in my head do is play a continuous soundtrack of movie, television and music clips spanning the last 60 years of popular culture. I suppose it could be worse.)

There is a perception held by both self-appointed aficionados and admitted novices that good wine has to be expensive. It does not. There is also a perception held widely by Americans that good wine comes from California. It does not.

Let me take a times out there: it's not that I think ALL California wines are crap (though I do think a lot are, particularly the Napa Valley labels ... I'm slightly less prejudiced when it concerns Alexander Valley), but I do believe -- nay, KNOW -- that ohsomany are overextracted and overpriced, a whole lot of pomp and circumstance at the front without too much to back it (hint: if a term you use to describe a wine's mouthfeel is "heavy tannins," it's not a well-made wine. The idea that tannins equals bigger body equals better wine is misinformed.). Then again, not everyone can afford the biggie Italians that are everything California wishes it could be, and for price factor alone I admit to knowing dick about France but for that most Beaujolais blows. For affordability that can also blow your mind, I look towards Spain & Portugal, anything from South America, South Africa (this is more of a gamble; some are tremendous and some awful), and Australia/New Zealand. Staying stateside I stick with Oregon, Washington, and my very own Michigan.

And now let's take a look-see at some of the wine lists of those restaurants participating in Detroit Restaurant Week.

I've already analyzed Roma Cafe, but let's revisit it for the sake of this post:
Jan also keeps a very strong wine list with a lot of Italian wines and common favorites (which she updates regularly for changing times and tastes), but what caught MY eye was the Col Solare, a wine out of Columbia Valley made in collaboration with famed Italian winemaker Marchese Piero Antinori. It's an Old World-meets-New World wine that is absolutely mind-blowing, a wee bit pricey at $110/bottle (pretty average for this label) but my hands-down all-time favorite. If you have expensive tastes and the bankroll to support them, they've got some very nice Barolos, Brunellos, and Amarones to choose from -- big, bold, beautiful wines. Oh, you're a California snob? They've got Cabernet from Cakebread and Sterling ("Vintner's" and label). (Editor's note: Sterling -- the label Cab, not the Vintner's blend-- is actually a wine I quite enjoy, though there are still better buys than this at $52/bottle.) But if you're looking for the same bang on a budget, look no further than the Terra Andina Carmenere, a killer wine with almost as much body as those bold Italians but only $32/bottle. By the glass, try the Dolcetto d'Alba, a nice medium-bodied red that pairs well with most of the food.
Forty-Two Degrees North does not have their wine list available online for me to peruse so I have to do this from memory: I recall being very impressed by the third-floor view of the River and the Windsor skyline as well as the very boutique wine list with most bottles priced $20-30, and a whole section dedicated to Michigan wines from lesser-known labels like Tabor Hill and Brys Estate. All the wines by the glass are priced $8 and this includes the Tabor Hill Gewurtztraminer, a very crisp wine that would pair well with their chicken and salmon entrees. This is also one place you may actually still be able to snag a reservation, so order a bottle and enjoy the view.

Saltwater inside the MGM casino is a AAA Four Diamond restaurant so I probably don't NEED to tell you that their wine list is extensive and impressive (ditto their cocktail list, one of few restaurants that treat cocktails as a craft). Alas, much like the restaurant itself, it's pricey. Extremely pricey. But for a wine list which has an AVERAGE price in the high-one hundreds, one bottle really stuck out to me: the Shaya Verdejo, Rueda, Spain. Described on Wine Gems as "amber in color with a full, rich body and vibrant acidity. It offers flavors of melon, lime, green apple, orange, almond and distinctive mineral notes. No oak. It's long and refreshing on the clean finish." To me this sounds quite similar to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc--crisp, clean and with a lot of characterm without the horrid buttery oakiness typical in French and American Chardonnays. But why this REALLY stood out to me was the $31 price tag, which says to me this: the sommelier (Antoine formerly of Tribute, haa-aaay; I need to swing in and say hi) thinks that this is truly an outstanding wine, worthy of being showcased on a list that, as I noted, has an average sticker of $170+. That's gonna be your best bet right there. Otherwise stop in on a Wednesday when all bottles at Saltwater are 50% off (Tuesdays at Bourbon Steak as well).

Roast is the most popular restaurant in Detroit that isn't Slows, and they have the best happy hour pretty much anywhere: $3 bites, $4 select beer & wine, $5 pours M-F 4:30-6:30pm (bar only). Now they DO have a decent wine list with some interesting selections spanning a good range of prices, but this to me is more of a high-end beer bar. Pretty much everyone in this place knows what's up--and if it's beer you're looking for (let's face it; wine simply isn't for everyone, not like vodka), go visit my boy Brian who, when not bartending here, is drinking at my home base bar Foran's. This is a beer list for beer geeks (with lots of Michigan's finest represented), where Budweiser is buried at the bottom under "Other." The selection is updated regularly based on season and availability; some notable guest appearances have been made by Founders' Breakfast Stout (which was just named by San Francisco Weekly as the BEST beer from this year's Great American Beer Festival) and Kuhnhenn's Oud Bruin, a Flemish sour ale. Their beer list is organized like a wine list -- by taste ("Sour, funky, tart, wacky," "Hop-driven," etc...and "Other," where you'll also find Heineken). My recommendation is anything from the first, third or fourth categories (sorry, but I'm just not big on IPAs), though the very eager and knowledgable bartenders can help you narrow it down a bit more, especially if you don't know your Saisons from your Biere de Gardes. The best part is, beer is cheap and has all of the same food-pairing and flavor complexity potential as wine. I love beer.

For as much great food as there is to eat there is as much great beer and wine to be drink-drank-drunk. Happy eating and drinking; I will recommence my regularly-scheduled blogging next week. If you haven't friended me on Facebook yet do it now (top right in the sidebar, LOOK!) so you can enjoy my up-to-the-minute Food Pr0n pictures from all my fabulous food travels.