Thursday, June 30, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Brownie's on the Lake

(Photo by Nicole Rupersburg)

"Earlier this year when the Andiamo Restaurant Group announced they would be re-opening the iconic Joe Muer's seafood restaurant in downtown Detroit, the positive response and excitement over the resurrection of this Detroit staple was so overwhelming that the Vicari brothers decided to try their hand at another metro Detroit institution: Brownie's on the Lake.

'Brownie's was formerly located where the Beach Grille is now but was shut down after 40 years of business when a devastating fire destroyed it. When Jack's Waterfront Restaurant on the Nautical Mile in St. Clair Shores closed earlier this year, the Vicaris secured the rights to the old Brownie's concept from the previous owners and even brought in Brownie's long-time (and now retired) chef Sam Giardano.

''We brought him out, picked his brain, reinvented some of the things Brownies was famous for,' explains Andiamo's Corporate Executive Chef James Oppat. 'The heritage is very much the same as Andiamo: everything made fresh, prepared from scratch daily, with an emphasis on quality ingredients and methods of preparation...'"

Read the rest of the article here.

Want to see more? Check out the Flickr set.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Speaking of pizza...

(Photo by David Landsel)
The Buddy's feature from Tuesday reminded me that it was high time for one of my favorite Detroit pies: Pepperoni, straight out of the coal oven at Tomatoes Apizza in Farmington Hills. (14 Mile E of Middlebelt, you're welcome.)

It is presented here. Without further comment. Because, really, what more can be said? Wait, I know -- it only cost $8.99. That is something that should be mentioned. Look at the detail and quality of this pie. Bits of basil. Parmesan sprinkled before baking. The perfect thickness of the crust. The bright color of the tomato.

I've paid more than double in other cities for pies that can't even touch what Tomatoes does.

[Real Detroit Weekly] Coo-Coo for Cupcakes

Photo by Nicole Rupersburg

"There we were: four frenzied foodies, two photographers and a writer staring down over 70 sexy cupcakes, each more visually tantalizing than the last.

'Before us were fudge-covered, sprinkle-splattered representatives from seven different local cupcakeries: Cupcake Station (Birmingham), Rockin' Cupcakes (Rochester), Just Baked (multiple locations), Cupcakes & More (Detroit – Renaissance Center), Cup.Cake (Royal Oak), Nom Nom's Cupcake Factory (Westland) and Pink Elephant (coming soon in Saint Clair Shores). We had a cornucopia of colorful cupcakes ranging from strawberry cheesecake and Key lime pie to German chocolate and Drumstick (like the ice cream cone). We had four different kinds of Red Velvet, five variations on Bumpy Cake, five kinds of carrot cake and a variety of candy- and cookie-themed flavors like Snickers, Heath, Oreo and M&M's.

'The task was this: sample each and every cupcake. Take some notes to share with the masses. Try to get through to the end without succumbing to sugar shock. And that was all. Easy, right? 'We're all going to puke tonight,' one in our illustrious number of iron-clad stomachs and steel pancreases moans.

'And so it begins..."

Read the full story here.

Want to see more? Check out the Flickr set.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

[EID Feature] Buddy's Pizza: A Detroit Original

Photo by Nicole Rupersburg

Detroiters just don't know how lucky they are when it comes to pizza. Everyone knows of the New York vs. Chicago style pizza debate, but really neither can compete with Detroit-style deep dish. Those squares of thick, crispy, crunchy, grease-soaked heaven are something New Yorkers and Chicagoans can't even hope to understand. And Buddy's Pizzeria started it all.

This year Buddy's is celebrating their 65th anniversary at their original Detroit location at McNichols and Conant, where back in 1946 then-owner Gus Guerrera and employee Connie Piccinato developed the deep dish pizza we know today with a recipe that has changed very little over the years. Guerrera sold the place to Jimmy Bonacorsi and Jimmy Valenti, who renamed it "Buddy's" simply because that was where all their buddies who worked in the nearby Chrysler plant would meet. In 1970, Bill Jacobs bought the place and his son Robert now runs it. (Guerrera went on to open Cloverleaf Pizza in Eastpointe, which also claims to be "Detroit's original deep dish" - tomayto, tomahto.)

Robert insists that the original recipe has only been tweaked over time, making changes like using a higher-quality, more consistent cheese, increased topping selections, new sauces, various crusts such as nine-grain and gluten-free, and adding a variety of other menu options like sandwiches and pastas. But the classic traditional is exactly that - it's the pizza that made Buddy's famous, the one that has been called one of the "25 Best Pizzas You'll Ever Eat" by GQ Magazine food critic Alan Richman.

Monday, June 27, 2011

[HOT LIST] Breakfast

Russell Street Deli (Photo by David Landsel)
Monday morning again. You're at your desk, nibbling on something un-awesome, pretending like you're working. At least you can dream of a real breakfast, right? 

For this installment of the Hot List, our soon to be super-indispensable weekly look at the best food and drink Detroit has to offer, we pick five spots that are really floating our boats right now, breakfast-wise. Don't see your favorite spot on our list? Tell us about it in the comments below -- if we haven't eaten there yet, we'll definitely be considering it for future coverage. 

#1 Russell Street Deli Detroit
Convivial and cozy, up-to-date but unpretentious, this Eastern Market institution just keeps getting better, now serving their famous, farm-to-table Saturday breakfasts during the week. (Don't be surprised if you see members of your friendly Eat It Detroit team in here, eating omelets. Say hey.)

#2 Mae's Pleasant Ridge 
This new-ish rethink of a vintage counter joint (the oldest restaurant in the village) could serve just about anything and it would still be totally awesome-o, particularly on a weekday, when you can sit there, sip on some iced tea and stare out at the traffic on Woodward, going all sorts of places you're not. Luckily, they don't just serve anything; the breakfast menu is vast, inventive and ass-kicking. They open at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday through Friday; weekends at 8.

#3 Cafe Muse Royal Oak
Every day is Sunday at this srsly-adorbs S. Washington charmer that serves up elaborate weekday breakfasts, the likes of which most cities only get at weekend brunch. And at fairly reasonable prices, too. It's only been open since 2006, but it already feels like a classic.

#4 Jumps Grosse Pointe
This smart spot on The Hill does not-so-Grosse Pointey things like chorizo-avocado omelettes, malted pancakes and also bloody marys and mimosas. On a weekday. (Yes!) Next time you're tempted to hit the OPH on Mack (and who isn't, from time to time -- mmmm...49'ers), sit it out for a round and give this worthy place a try.

#5 Toast Birmingham
The only thing lamer than snobs in B'ham are the reverse snobs living elsewhere who get their knickers in a knot about how snobby everyone in B'ham is. Or how fancy-pants this much nicer branch of the Ferndale original can be. Y'all figure your shit out, and when you do, join us inside for peach cobbler waffles and etcetera. Peace

Bubbling under: Duly's (Detroit), Beverly Hills Grill (Beverly Hills), Commonwealth (Birmingham), The Fly Trap (Ferndale), Star Diner (Allen Park)

Russell Street Deli on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 26, 2011

[Metromode] Bohemian Rhapsody: Metro Detroit's Coffee Chemists

My latest article on Detroit's fast-maturing coffee scene appeared June 23 in Metromode. Here's a taste (or is it a sip?) -- Nicole

If 'Ethiopian Harrar' is an integral part of your early morning ritual, then you already know about Chazzano Coffee in Ferndale. And you also know that when first roasted this particular coffee has notes of juicy blueberry which after a week will evolve to luscious dark chocolate.

''I've created monsters!' jokes Frank Lanzkron-Tamarazo, owner and roaster at Chazzano Coffee. 'They want coffee that's been roasted the same day [so it still has all its flavor profiles]; they'll ask me, "What are you roasting now?" I want people to be crazy about coffee like that and I train the staff to be crazy about coffee like that.'

'In Metro Detroit, the seedlings of a whole new kind of culinary culture have begun to grow.

'Or, more accurately, the beans..."

Read the rest of the article here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

[HOT LIST] Coffee

Cafe Con Leche, Detroit (Photo by David Landsel)

All this talk about coffee giving you the DT's? Us too. And while it has most definitely been established that there are plenty of people roasting it, brewing it and serving it in and around Detroit, who's doing it best? Why, we'll tell you, in our inaugural Hot List, one in a series that will highlight the best food and drink in Metro Detroit.

#1 Commonwealth Birmingham The 2010 debut of this truly impressive Hamilton Row hangout (now expertly -- and we do mean expertly -- roasting their own single estate coffees) was, for local coffee lovers, a highlight of the year.

#2 Astro Coffee Detroit Dai Hughes' years of experience in various global coffee capitals are being brought to bear at a sleek shop on the Slows block in Corktown. A true game changer for the city.

#3 Chazzano Ferndale Want a vanilla latte and a scone? Please go elsewhere. This roaster/cafe in the almost-Hazeltucky no-man's-land is for serious drinkers only. (Ask for Frank, the owner.)

#4 Cafe Con Leche Detroit Barcelona expat Jordi Carbonell's colorful, Clark Park-facing coffee house has grown to become an essential part of life in Southwest. Order the tiny but powerful cortado.

#5 Shatila Bakery Dearborn This little bit of Las Vegas (by way of the Middle East) on the Warren strip is secretly a great place for an espresso -- the beans are supplied by local roaster Great Lakes.

Bubbling under: Ugly Mug (Ypsi), Comet Coffee (Ann Arbor), Chez Zara (Detroit), Cafe 1923 (Hamtramck), Bean & Leaf (Royal Oak), Far Bella (St. Clair Shores).

Commonwealth Café on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 19, 2011

[New York Post] The new Detroit cool

This past week, I explored Detroit's hippest 'hood -- Corktown -- for the New York Post. The article was 'liked' over 1,300 times on Facebook! -- Nicole

"IN most cities, the opening of a youth hostel might not be all that big a deal. But Detroit isn't most cities, and in an era when most of the news is bad, new things, positive things — well, the locals pay attention.

'A lot of it was about being in the right place at the right time. Hostel Detroit (it sounds like the title of an upcoming Eli Roth movie, but it's really not) made its debut this spring in Corktown, Detroit's oldest neighborhood. Once a bastion of traditional Irish-American culture, Corktown has become a place to see Detroit at its coolest.

'In this historic section of the city, settled nearly 200 years ago, you can see a Detroit that is on the verge not just of renewal, but also in the process of forging a whole new identity. In a town that most people identify with the old lunchpail, punch in, punch out mentality, an explosion of DIY is leading Corktown (and the city at large) into the future..."

Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thistle Coffeehouse: Coffee Culture and Community in Midtown

Nicole Rupersburg
I first heard about Thistle Coffeehouse from Pastor Brenda Jarvis (of Riverside Community Church) and her son Kevin at a large group dinner at the Whitney in October 2009. What they told me sounded too good to be true: a third-wave coffeehouse offering free WiFi, free printing, late-night hours, student art showcases, in DETROIT. I immediately went home and wrote my then-editor at Model D, telling her how exciting it is and how we just have to cover it. This was early on in my business coverage days and I wasn't quite yet aware of the general journalism rules of thumb, which include not covering a business that has no lease, no equipment and no business license, just an enthusiastic idea and some business cards. She let me down easy, saying, "It sounds like heaven. If it ever opens."

Sometimes the truth hurts. Truth is, a lot of people have a lot of ideas. Making them a reality is something different entirely.

A year and a half later, I get a Facebook message from Kevin: "Thistle Coffeehouse now open!"

I'll be damned.

Er. Maybe I should re-phrase that...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Beer, Burgers & B-Dubs for a Cause: BRU Fest!

On June 18 at 7 p.m. BRU Fest, a charity event benefiting the Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan, will be held at the Royal Oak Farmers Market. I'll go head an copy the full press release below (because, really, why take the time to effectively re-write it?), but what's most interesting about this event is that it is a charity fundraiser that is actually affordable. CLFMI Director of Special Events Jackie McIntosh says, "It was important to us to create an event at a lower price point to engage the younger generation with this event as well. We wanted to make it a great casual event that will ... appeal to a wide range of people and create advocates at all levels."

Better than the stuffy (and oft-overplayed) black tie charity events that only the really REALLY rich can afford to go to, anyway. Ditch the tie and roll up your sleeves: for $35 ($40 at the door), you can do your part to benefit the Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan, and in a way that won't break your bank while still providing you with a fun evening out. I mean, how many charity dinners feature 13 different kinds of Bell's beer (including Batch 10,000!), burgers from Bagger Dave's, wings from Buffalo Wild Wings, and ice cream from Treat Dreams? BRU Fest is putting the "fun" back in "fundraiser."

And - AND - we're giving away a pair of tickets! Just tweet "Beer, burgers & B-dubs for a cause @EatItDetroit @BRUFestMI #BRUFest" (YES ALL OF THAT) for your chance to win! Winner will be notified by 5 p.m. Thursday June 16.


Good luck to all of you and even if you don't win you can still cough up the $35 and go. (10 tastes of beer and all the burgers, wings and ice cream you can eat? It practically pays for itself.)

PS, be careful with that Bell's Batch 10,000; that there's a black magic beer. (I do believe that was the official "Point of No Return" for me last year at the Detroit Fall Beer Festival.)

[Real Detroit Weekly] Danny's Irish Pub

Nicole Rupersburg     
For the latest edition of Real Detroit Weekly, I head out to Ferndale, where I learn that cool and trendy aren't necessarily the same thing -- Nicole

"25 years ago, Ferndale wasn't the charming community full of cute boutiques and cozy brunch spots with forward-thinking community organizations, arts programs and edgy theatre troupes that we know it to be now. 'People told me not to buy a bar here because it wasn't a good area, but I grew up here and I liked the area; I had high hopes for it. Now it's justified!'

'That's Dan Reedy. And this is his bar.

'Danny's Irish Pub opened 25 years ago and stands as a testament that a traditional friendly neighborhood pub never goes out of style. It looks pretty much the same as it always has – lots of Irish paraphernalia on the walls, long wood bar, wood paneling on the walls. Not much else. It looks like a bar, the kind of place you come to NOT crane your neck to see who's noticing you, but the kind of place you go to whet your whistle and flap your jaw with your fellow humans..."

Read the rest of the story here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

[944 Detroit] Morning, Noon and Night! Frita Batido's

"Chef Eve Aronoff has an infectious energy. She is fun, wacky, light-hearted and makes one feel instantly comfortable in her presence without even trying. Her latest restaurant venture, Frita Batidos in downtown Ann Arbor, reflects her welcoming spirit, seemingly as effortless as her naturally gracious demeanor.

''I wanted it to be super casual,' she explains. 'I’m a very informal person … [Frita Batidos] has the conviviality and warmth I wanted without compromising the integrity of the food.'

Frita Batidos exhibits a little less decorum than her previous venture, eve: the restaurant, but retains all of the same painstaking attention to detail in a decidedly more relaxed atmosphere. Meals are served on paper plates, water is placed in carafes alongside plastic cups on the long, communal tables, silverware is found on a counter at the back — the whole concept is cafeteria-style self-service, perfect for a more conscientiously unpretentious vibe and also in keeping with the college town-chic of Ann Arbor. “It’s just fun,” says Aronoff. 'It feels like a party. I was ready for a change in that direction....'"

Photograph by Scott Spellman for 944 Detroit. Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

[EID Feature] Royal Oak's Bastone Complex (4 unique businesses, 1 unique chef)

Chef Robert Young doesn't want his picture taken. Why? "Because my face is blotchy and I look fat in pictures."

Robert is the Executive Chef who oversees operations of the four distinctly different entities that make up the Bastone complex in Royal Oak: Bastone Brewery, Vinotecca, Cafe Habana, and Commune. Originally from the U.K., Robert has worked in kitchens since he was 14 and has been with Bastone for a year and a half now. And what he may lack in photogenic finesse he makes up for in menu-management prowess: most chefs have a big enough job managing one restaurant; Robert runs three (plus a lounge).

The three restaurants are as different in theme and identity as any three randomly-selected restaurants can possibly be. "It's funny 'cuz you'll see people rip me apart on Yelp for something they had at Bastone then praise me a few weeks later for something they had at Cafe Habana, not knowing it's the same food, same kitchen, same cooks and same chef behind it all," he laughs. (Robert has a very dry Welsh wit, which I'm not entirely sure is inherently Welshian but is very no-bullshit and I'd like to think of that as a trait indicative of his native land. Totally the kind of guy you'd want to spend several hours in a pub with, anyway.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Brunch of Champions

"To paraphrase Joyce Kilmer, I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as brunch. Maybe it's because you can only get it once (sometimes twice) a week. Or maybe it's because it's the only time it is socially acceptable to binge-drink before 3 p.m. in polite company. Or maybe it's just because we love eating breakfast foods at non-breakfast times. Regardless, brunch is not a meal. It is an art. Here's some of our faves..."

Read the full article here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

[944 Detroit] Cork Wine Pub

To view this article you must view the PDF by clicking here.

Here is also the full text of this brief "Inside Dish" piece:

Birmingham, Royal Oak, Ferndale…Pleasant Ridge?  Thanks to the newly-opened Cork Wine Pub, this stretch of Woodward that was previously a dead zone is now the new “it” place to be, and with good reason: while there are no shortage of bars, clubs, lounges, and restaurants in the surrounding areas, there are few that truly cater to an adult crowd with a sophisticated palate.  “This is a place adults can go to and enjoy a bar,” explains Beverage Director Jeffrey Mar.  “It’s a place you can feel like a gentleman.”

The cozy space is bright and colorful, full of natural light and warmth.  As a “wine pub” they offer 150 wines by the bottle with 40 available by the glass, all of which were chosen because they are a great value, immediately drinkable, and really represent a place – there are no big-name mass-produced labels here.  They also offer a small but handsome selection of craft beers, but where they perhaps shine the brightest is in their extensive selection of liquors and liqueurs.  “I’m a big connoisseur of craft cocktails,” Mar admits, and the timing couldn’t be better: the trend is catching on like fire on absinthe and Cork is ahead of the curve with a robust menu of classic cocktails, hand-crafted contemporary creations, and limited-quantity barrel-aged cocktails.  This may not be a lemon-drop-and-Jaeger-bomb kind of place, but it’s not trying to be.

The menu is an equal accomplishment.  Executive Chef Bree Hoptman is putting forth exceptional effort.  The menu is seasonally-themed with locally-procured ingredients featuring succulent combinations such as duck with quinoa and winter vegetables and roasted beets with brown butter, garlic and bleu cheese.  The artisanal cheese selection is decadent, as is Pastry Chef Tanya Fallon’s tantalizing spread of housemade breads and desserts.

Also in keeping with growing trends, Cork has a retail wine shop next door open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to last call where all their wines are available for purchase at 35% off their restaurant prices.

23810 Woodward Ave
Pleasant Ridge, MI 48069
(248) 544-2675

Thursday, June 2, 2011

DishKin: Local Entrepreneurs Launch All-Food Answer to Groupon

Dishkin's Donny Minchillo / Photo by Nicole Rupersburg
By now you’re familiar with Groupon. Living Social. Half-Off Depot. Hour Detroit’s Deal du Jour. Fox Detroit’s version, the upcoming Free Press version … let’s face it, there’s a TON of copycat discount sites styled after Groupon that follows the same business model – give them your email address, they send you daily emails with discounted deals, and you buy these deals at half off or more from the face value. 

For businesses, particularly new and struggling ones, it helps drive traffic through their doors and gets them huge amounts of exposure they wouldn’t have otherwise had; for customers, obviously you’re getting a great deal and nowadays it’s savvy to save. Win/win (for the most part, though there are businesses that have legitimate objections to just how much they’re actually “winning”).

The thing is, the business model is so new – bear in mind, Groupon launched barely over two years ago in Chicago in November 2008 with only 400 email addresses on their mailing list – and the opportunity so infinite that, while we can of course expect these off-shoot sites to keep popping up by the day and there seems to be an endless supply of consumer support for them, there are also some flaws.

Take Groupon, for example. Aside from the moronically goofy intros they insist on including for each deal, (which I consider a flaw but probably most people do not), the speed at which they grew and expanded into new markets allotted for very little localization, and because of the simplicity of the site – both a blessing and a curse – there is no way to narrow down your search parameters.

In preparation for a recent trip to Vegas, I had to keep consulting Google Maps to see just how far off-Strip the various deals were (most of them were pretty far). Here in metro Detroit, deals are scatter-shot across the broad tri-county area in a way that makes sense to pretty much no one (at the time of writing, deals were located in Romulus, Troy, Sterling Heights, Richmond, Royal Oak and Brighton for offers that included discounted bowling and lunch-only seafood specials). And across the board with Groupon, Living Social, Half-Off Depot and all the MANY many others, the offers include everything from … well, bowling discounts to lunch-only seafood specials.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Real Detroit Weekly: Penny Black

"In light of the Slows phenomenon, metro Detroit is giving Mizzourah a run for its slow-smoked, dry-rubbed money. The newest addition to this upscale BBQ trend is Penny Black in Rochester.

'See, that was a great intro. But I ALSO could have said: in light of the upscale Mexican phenomenon, metro Detroit is giving chi-chi Mayan Riviera all-inclusive resort restaurants a run for their dinero (and incidentally, their dinners). The newest addition to this trend is Penny Black in Rochester.

'Because Penny Black is not just BBQ. And it is not just Mexican. The best way to describe it is coast-to-coast Southern cooking – BBQ, Tex-Mex, Southwest, Mexican, Cajun, Creole, deep South. It's the kind of restaurant you'd find in a place like Galveston, Texas, where the food is directly influenced by the surrounding cuisines of Texas, Mexico and Louisiana..."

Read the rest of the article here.