Wednesday, August 31, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Orleans Billiards Cafe

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

"Downtown Mount Clemens has seen plenty of change over the last two decades. Before it was the charming, somewhat quaint brick-paved hub of independently-owned businesses and outdoor art installations that it is now, it was ... well, NOT that. When Orleans Billiards Café opened 15 years ago, it was right at the beginning of downtown Mt. Clemens' transformation, and the place is still evolving.

''We have to keep it fresh,' says Paul Boone, who owns Orleans with his brother Mark. 'We have to do something new every year. I want people coming back asking, "what's he done now?"

'His latest change will be a revamping of the menu. Wait, what? What's that you say: Menu? They serve food in a pool hall?

'First off, DON'T call it a pool hall! Yes, there are six pool tables. There are also three shuffleboard tables, three dartboards, 27 plasma TVs (32''-63''), 10 LCD TVs, Keeno, Quizzo, even beer pong on Tuesdays (and starting in August, Thursdays too). There's also a nice outdoor patio. So it's not a pool hall. It is the watering hole equivalent of an everything bagel..."

Read the rest of the story here.

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

Monday, August 29, 2011

Halal [HOT LIST]

Chicken Tikka Pizza from Halal Desi Pizza. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.

Sunset today marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, and the beginning of Eid, the two-day Muslim holiday following Ramadan. Here in metro Detroit we have an estimated population of over 200,000 Muslims, and we also have the highest concentration of ethnic Arabs outside of the Middle East. To honor our Muslim friends (truth be told, Dearborn is one of our favorite cities in metro Detroit), we bring you this Halal Hot List.

Halal means "lawful," referring to food (and other items) that are permissible in accordance with Islamic law. Islam forbids the consumption of pork, alcohol, carnivorous animals and birds of prey, and blood, as well as any food that may be contaminated by these products. "Halal" also refers to a specific method of slaughtering (the Jewish "kosher" is very similar to the Islamic "halal"). A restaurant that is certified halal will serve none of these outlawed items and will prepare everything in accordance with Islamic law.

There are certified halal restaurants all over metro Detroit, from Dearborn to Garden City, Hamtramck to Sterling Heights. They are Iraqui, Yemeni, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Lebanese (we'll look specifically at these ethnically distinct restaurants in future posts). The five restaurants featured here specialize in five very different kinds of foods. "Halal" doesn't have to mean Middle Eastern or Indian food ... it also means burgers, tacos, pizza, and rotisserie chicken; a little something for all palates (including wholly Midwestern American ones). And to our Muslim friends during this holiday, Assalamu alaikum.

#1 Halal Desi Pizza (Hamtramck)
If you've ever driven down Caniff off of I-75, you've noticed Halal Desi Pizza. It's a box of a building at the corner of Lumpkin and Caniff, covered in signage announcing their pizza, gyros, burgers, chicken wings, Chinese food, and Mexican food. Yes, all of those things. This Bangladeshi establishment serves a variety of popular catch-all American fast food items, and every last one of them is certified halal. The pepperoni for their pizzas is made from beef and they also serve a lot of lamb (their New York-style gyros are a bestseller, and they also have a lamb burger for only $5). But the chicken tikka pizza makes a journey to Hamtramck for pizza alone entirely worthwhile. Chicken tikka (marinated and seasoned tandoori chicken) baked crispy on the edges and bright red with seasoning, along with green peppers and onions on chewy, traditional round crust (do yourself a favor and say "yes" when they ask if you want the crust buttered and sprinkled with parmesan). Alhamdulillah, we love a good melting pot!

#2 Al-Ameer (Dearborn, Dearborn Heights)
We couldn't NOT put a straight-up Middle Eastern restaurant on this list, and this is the most famous of all. At Al-Ameer, you get the full Lebanese-Muslim experience: lamb, lamb, and more lamb; skewered, marinated meats (like lamb; also chicken); and also plenty of light, flavorful vegetarian dishes like fattoush salad, hummous, baba ghanouge, tabbouli, falafel, labneh ... and then lamb. "He don't eat no meat? That's okay. I make lamb." Etc. The baked kebbie is tasty, but the raw kebbie is where it's at. (Hint: it's lamb.) But if you only ever order one thing here, the buttery-tender stuffed lamb with labneh should be it.

#3 Fuego Grill (Dearborn)
There is perhaps no other country on earth that loves pork more than Mexico. Except America. So opening a certified halal Mexican restaurant is certainly not without its challenges. Fuego Grill is the only certified halal Mexican restaurant in the state of Michigan: that means no carnitas, no tacos al pastor, no tripe. But the food here is fresh, all made in-house from scratch, and they do what they can with what they have. They make a chicken-based chorizo with vinegar, cumin, and a dried pepper paste that could easily pass for "the real thing" (and even if not, it's still damn good). They also serve excellent tender, juicy steak dishes (like the braised beef tips).

#4 Zayeqa (Farmington Hills)
It's Chinese food done in Indo-Paki style, the end result of Chinese diaspora into northern India. What this means: it's spicy. It has flavor. There's a lot of curry. And it is better than most other Chinese places you will eat; spare us the almond chicken and egg foo young. The menu is a melding of Hakka, Indian and Pakistani items; we recommend the hakka noodles and every last one of the chicken dishes. But take note: this is legit Indo-Paki food, which means it is H-O-T. If your palate is most comforted by Choose-Your-Meins, this might not be the place for you.

#5 Golden Chicken
You want chicken? They got chicken. Chicken shawarma, shish tawook, chicken and rice, etc. But if you order anything other than the rotisserie chicken you are doing both yourself and this restaurant a disservice. It would be like going to Roast and ordering a vegetarian dish. You haven't actually experienced this place and are out of your element in all discussions of it. Beautiful, golden, juicy chicken cooking on a spit until it's charred up crispy on the edges; this is what Golden Chicken is about.

Bubbling under Al-Ajami (Dearborn), Byblos Cafe and Grill (Detroit), Al Sultan Restaurant (Garden City), Tawaa Cuisine (Garden City), Najeeb Kabob House (Warren), Sheeba Restaurant (Hamtramck), Aladdin Sweets and Cafe (Hamtramck)

Halal Desi Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 26, 2011

[EID Feature] Star Lanes Inside Emagine Theatre: It's a Restaurant, Too

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

I have a secret. This secret might shock you. Some of you might be disappointed. Others might even be so devastated they'll choose never to read this blog again as a silent act of protest. I accept these potential consequences because I feel that it is time to unburden myself so I can stop living this shameful, deprived lie. I love food, I do, OBVIOUSLY I do because I'm doing this, but there is something that has my heart even more than all the Neapolitan pizza, craft beer and raclette cheese in the world: movies.

I am a hardcore, unrepentant film and media uber-nerd. So when the $19 million Emagine Theatre in Royal Oak broke ground, as others bemoaned the "big box corporateification" of Royal Oak (something I am prone to do myself) I was silently rejoicing.

It opened on May 16. I saw X-Men: First Class there on June 3. I fell in love immediately. DBOX motion effects! Luxury seating with bar service and 56'' of legroom! Digital posters that play the trailers! Sparkly! SPARKLY!!! Emagine is a movie palace, a SHRINE to movie worship, the Taj Mahal of Michigan movie theatres. It is majestic. And shiny. The 71,000 square foot 10-screen sparkling cinema masterpiece pays homage to the magic of the movies with its grandiosity, and grandiose is certainly nothing new to the Emagine chain: this was the first movie theatre chain in the world to offer all-digital projection, and the first chain in Michigan to offer all-stadium seating (Metromode recently ran this fantastic piece on the chain and its ambitious owner Paul Glantz so you can read about all of their innovations in movie-watching). The chain is also known for offering a full bar at each location (can't really go wrong there), and supporting the local film industry by hosting premieres and screenings of Michigan-made films.

The Royal Oak location is the fifth in the Emagine chain, but it is the first to introduce Star Lanes, an upscale 16-lane bowling alley with three enormous projection screens at the end of the lanes and three flatscreen TVs on each lane (there are over 70 flatscreen TVs throughout the complex, playing everything from Tigers games to PGA tournaments and anything else you might request). And located in Star Lanes is a restaurant, a full-service restaurant with a full bar offering upscale tapas-style bar food. And upstairs is the Skybox Lounge (overlooking the lanes) which can hold private parties for up to 250 people with full sit-down meals, staffed bar and live entertainment, as well as the High Roller Room, which can accommodate up to 50 people with four private bowling lanes, a pool table, shuffleboard, full catering and a private bar.

When you think "bowling alley restaurant" you're probably thinking pizza, burgers, etc. And, yes, you're on the right track ... but how many bowling alleys boast an American Culinary Federation-certified Executive Chef?

"When you go to a bowling alley its greasy burgers and hots dogs. We wanted to get away from that stereotype," says Executive Chef Matthew Johnson. The operation is a full banquet facility which can cater to ANY request. Johnson most recently came from Great Oaks Country Club in Rochester, and if there is one thing a country club chef knows how to do best it's everything (a recent soul food party paired with the film The Help was a huge hit). "We have the chance to 'wow' everyone who comes in the building." Kids' parties, corporate functions, wedding receptions - they can (and do) do it all.

Johnson was recently certified as an Executive Chef through the ACF. He says his has been a "storybook career," starting out as a dishwasher at the Farm in Port Austin and working his way up from there. "I was 16, my parents said 'If you want a car you have to have a job; you can either find a job or we can find a job for you," he explains. "Me being a lazy teen I said, 'Go ahead and find me a job.' They found me a job as a dishwasher at their favorite restaurant in Port Austin."

He remembers the very first day he walked in and instantly knew this was his life's calling. "Sean Loving was there working on his menu" - for what would eventually be the Loving Spoonful in Farmington Hills - "I saw him and the chef who owned the restaurant, I saw the way they talked and acted and lived their lives, how much fun they had cooking ... it was meant to be. I could never imagine myself having as much fun doing anything else."

Loving would end up being Johnson's Intro to Cooking instructor at Schoolcraft College. He would also be Johnson's coach in culinary competitions, and is now a consulting chef for Star Lanes. "It's cool to see it go full circle," Johnson says.

At the Farm, the tiny Port Austin restaurant owned by ACF-certified Executive Chef Pamela Mary Gabriel-Roth, they have a 1-acre produce garden where they grow the majority of their vegetables. "I think that’s a great environment for a chef to grow up in," says Johnson. "If I had to make pesto I had to go and pick the basil!"

He completed his Culinary Arts program at Schoolcraft in 2006. "I would gauge it as one of the top two culinary schools in the country," Johnson proclaims. "The classes only have 16 people so you get more hands-on training with certified master chefs than anywhere else in the world." After the Farm and while attending Schoolcraft, Johnson worked at Great Oaks for almost seven years. With his varied background ranging from remote farm-to-table restaurants to massive country club banquets, Johnson takes his professional training and personal ethos to define the kitchen at Star Lanes.

Johnson demands his vendors source as much from Michigan as possible for him. In the kitchen they make about 80% of the food from scratch - they make their own short ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken wings, pizza dough, soups, potato chips, dipping sauces, guacamole, even desserts (like warm chocolate chips cookies served with milk!). The tortillas for their nachos are bought pre-cut and raw from Michoacana in Mexicantown. They have a $40,000 wood-burning oven ("I call it my Ferrari") for their pizzas, and use recipes from Crust Pizza and Wine Bar.

The menu boasts items like Thai Sweet and Spicy Calamari, cheese fondue (win), baked brie (win!), and a variety of hearty salads, but their signature items are the wood-fired pizza and the nine "Celebrity Row Sliders," mini gourmet burgers made with items like Angus beef, crab and shrimp cakes, tuna, BBQ pulled pork, and portabella mushrooms. But the REAL star - the Marilyn Monroe of sliders - is the "Paparazzi:" a hand-packed Angus beef patty stuffed with a braised short rib, covered in Gruyere cheese and their secret-recipe "galaxy sauce," served on a bun that I swear was dipped in butter and grilled up crispy. This burger is AMAZING. As I sampled/inhaled it I could only grunt and moan. "If I can give someone a culinary orgasm, that's what it's all about!" Johnson laughs. Well Matt, it was good for me, thank you.

Coming for a movie? Great; eat here. Just want to bowl? Great; eat here. In Royal Oak and hungry? Great; eat here. You don't have to be bowling or about to watch a movie to enjoy the food; they're open 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. seven days a week, with happy hour specials 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you bring your same-day movie ticket stub, you'll save up to 25% off food and drinks from their "Why Go Home?" menu. This fall they'll also be participating in the Royal Oak Restaurant Week Fall Harvest with a three-course seasonal Michigan-themed prix fixe dinner menu. So it's not JUST a movie theatre. And it's not JUST a bowling alley. It is a welcome addition to Royal Oak's dining scene, and a progressive Michigan-owned chain that thinks outside the big box.

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

Star Lanes Restaurant & Sports Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Wolfgang Puck Grille

Sauteed Alaskan Halibut. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.

There is no doubt that "foodie culture" has gripped the nation with the kind of obsessive, feverish madness reminiscent of family fallout shelters in the '60s and the Great Bottled Water Rush of Y2K. This has led to the rise of the Food Network and the celebrity chef (an exquisite irony for most of these so-called "celebs," who started their careers when the idea of being an American chef in America was a joke – much like looking classy while smoking, it was something only Europeans could really pull off). Any major city you visit now – Chicago, New York, Las Vegas, L.A. – is populated by an ever-increasing number of celebrity chef ventures.

Chicago has Rick Bayless, Grant Achatz and Charlie Trotter (and a few DOZEN others). In Detroit, we have Michael Symon, Michael Mina and Wolfgang Puck.

But the real celebrity at the Wolfgang Puck Grille inside the MGM Grand Detroit is not Mr. Puck himself. It's Executive Chef Marc Djozlija, who has worked for Puck for nearly two decades and has opened all of the eponymous Grilles. Lucky for us, Djozlija has stuck around for awhile, and the Detroit dining scene is all the better for it.

Read the rest of the article here.

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

Monday, August 22, 2011

[HOT LIST] Hot dogs

"The Frenchy" at Rosie O'Grady's, Ferndale. All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

No, NOT Coneys ... we'll get to that eventually, but Detroit's Coney dog scene is well-documented enough already. What isn't well-documented is the quietly-growing gourmet hot dog trend. It makes sense: Detroit is so close to Chicago and Toronto (Chicago, where hot dogs are SERIOUS business, and Toronto - even Windsor - with the best damn street hot dog vendors in North America) that their cosmopolitan processed meat influence had to take hold eventually. Unfortunately some of the budding flowers of the metro Detroit gourmet hot dog scene have already been stomped back into the ground before they were able to fully bloom - the owner of the building that housed Gourmet Hot Dogs on John R (where a certain crepe stand once called home) decided the space would be better served as an ATM, while legal woes with investors have temporarily closed the brand-new Big City Dogs in Clawson - but the desire is still strong here for a hot dog with anything other than chili. We shall overcome, etc.

The truth is, gourmet dogs are in Detroit's blood. With local meatpacking companies like Koegel Meats (those Viennas in natural casing with the signature SNAP when you bite into them is the stuff Coneys are made of), Dearborn Sausage Co., and Kowalski Meats, it's kind of a shame these tasty dogs get buried under all that chili and onion. Don't worry, there are still hundreds of Coney Islands where hot dogs come no other way and WE'LL GET TO THAT ... but for now ... here's something a little different.Whether loaded up with toppings or so good you want to eat them plain, here's some of our favorite local weiners. (*snicker*)

#1 Hippo's Hot Dogs (Troy; Clinton Township)
There's really only two things Chicago does exceedingly and consistently well, and that's steakhouses and hot dogs. Chicago is a meatpacking town, and as much as it's now trying to all fancify itself to compete with the coasts, it can't, it doesn't, it won't. But. They have some good goddurn hot dogs. Maybe you've heard of Hot Doug's? Hippo's has been doing the Chicago-style dog since 1988. What makes a hot dog Chicago-style is "dragging it through the garden:" chopped white onions, tomato wedges, pickled sport peppers, a dill pickle spear, neon-green sweet pickle relish, yellow mustard and celery salt (or some variation of that). Here it's just called the "Hippo Dog," but it doesn't stop there. Hippo's has about a dozen other gourmet dogs including the "Polish Hippo" - same thing, only with charbroiled all-beef Polish sausage.

#2 Bucharest Grill (downtown Detroit)
There is a temptation to call Bucharest Grill the best-kept secret in Detroit, except it's not much of a secret and no one's keeping it. Their garlicky chicken shawarma is legendary in late-night and lunch circles (being essentially inside the favored local hangout Park Bar has certainly helped that reputation along), but they do serve other food. Their "Gourmet Dog" menu offers six options of knockwurst, bratwurst, and kielbasa dogs, which include the knockwurst-based Coney-style "Detroiter," as well as the "Hamtramck" with kielbasa, braised red cabbage, bacon and grainy mustard on a sesame seed bun. For funsies try the simple 1920 Red Hot, a spicy "old school" dog with grainy mustard.  Do this while drinking a full cold beer.

Best damn ballpark mustard, period. Served at Ford Field.
#3 Rosie O'Grady's (Ferndale; Sterling Heights; Chesterfield)
The 10'' USDA choice beef dogs in natural casings are custom-made just for Rosie O'Grady's, as are the artisan buns steamed to order. Choose from over a dozen "special" and "super special" dogs, including the Frenchy with sauteed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, bacon and Dijon mustard; and the New Yorker with sauerkraut, yellow mustard, and onion-spiked ketchup. For $3 add a side of their garlic parmesan French fries or their homemade onion rings, which are basically like pillowy deep-fried doughnuts with onions inside.

#4 Zack's Hot Dogs (Clinton Township; Warren [coming soon])
Zack's Hot Dogs differentiates their dogs by "snap" and Kosher-style skinless - an important distinction to make for the serious hot dog connoisseur. The "snaps" are natural casing dogs; Kosher are those beautiful all-beef, plump, juicy dogs - your classic ballpark frank. We could start getting into the specifics of Vienna vs. frankfurter vs. weiner which refers to whether they are beef, pork, or a mixture, but that's a whole lot of extra hot dog etymology. For our purposes, Zack's - a Baltimore-based chain that gets its dogs from Chicago's century-old Vienna Beef - covers the major bases, serving only all-beef regionally-inspired dogs.

#5 Tortitas El Rojito (Southwest Detroit)
Who loves gas station food in Southwest Detroit? We do. For as much lip service as Southwest's taco carts and taquerias get nowadays, the happy hot dog seems all but forgotten. Luckily the folks at Tortitas El Rojito haven't forgotten the joys of this Anglo-American treat, and they've added their own Mexican spin; they wrap it up in bacon, cover it in grilled onions, add tomato, ketchup, yellow mustard, and two kinds of homemade salsas.

Bubbling under The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village (Dearborn), Ford Field (Detroit), Lowe's and Home Depot (various locations throughout metro Detroit), Motor City Franks (Ferndale, mobile cart), Detroit Underdog (Ferndale, mobile cart)

Want to see more? View the Flickr set here.

Hippo's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 18, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Steve's Backroom

Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.

"Steve's Backroom started as a back room in Harper Woods: in the early '80s Steve Khalil opened a bakery and deli on Kelly Rd. then decided to open a little restaurant in the – you guessed it – back room. The St. Clair Shores location is their second location, owned by Steve's cousin Charlie Raffoul.

'The general concept is essentially the same, but this restaurant and deli serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, has a full bar and is also about to expand with a brand-new upscale 50-seat bar and dining area. This renovation and expansion will also include an earthstone oven in which they'll bake their own pita bread, which means that now everything will be made from scratch in-house..."

Read the rest of the article here.

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Snacks from the Mitten

All photos taken inside Holiday Market in Royal Oak by Nicole Rupersburg.

We Michiganders don’t screw around when it comes to our snack foods. Some of our all-time favorite snacky-cakes and cheesy poofs (etc.) are made right here at home and they’re some of the best products on the market. We love to support local, but we love it even more when our local products are better.

Kelly’s Karamels
Kelly’s Karamels, based in Troy, are a long-held family tradition. The recipe used for these traditional soft caramels is the same one Grandma Renie used decades ago, using only six ingredients. These slow-cooked, all-natural caramels are soft and chewy – no hard edges, no strange textures, just mouthfuls of beautiful buttery caramel that melt in your mouth but don’t stick to your teeth. Old-fashioned is so nouveau.

Stahl’s Famous Original Bakery
Stahl’s Bakery has been hand-baking in New Baltimore for 78 years now. Their famous “Belly Button Cookies” started as a baking mistake and have since become a Detroit favorite for the past 30+ years. These chocolate and walnut praline-style cookies are delicate and break easily, but their buttery crunch and explosive flavor is addictive. You’ll eat them like chips and, much like Lay’s, you can’t eat just one.

Garden Fresh Gourmet
Garden Fresh Salsa is the number one salsa in North America, racking up numerous awards over the last 13 years. But this Ferndale-based company (in wide national distribution) makes a variety of other fresh products, including our favorite: Garlic Lover’s Hummus. It is exactly what it says it is, and you should be exactly that to fully enjoy it. Their unsalted tortilla chips are some of the best you can buy in stores.

Sanders Candy
Sanders has been around since 1875, so it is with utter and total assurance that we say that no one can remember a time when an ice cream sundae with Sanders hot fudge wasn’t the grand dame of local desserts. Their signature Cream Puff and Bumpy Cake are classic (if you don’t know, you’re not from around here), but it’s the jars of hot fudge we know you stash in your fridge for late-night spoonfuls while your sig-o sleeps. Don’t lie. We’ve seen the morning-after chocolate stains.

McClure’s Pickles
Pickles as a snack? Hell, these pickles could be a full meal. Great Grandma Lala’s old pickle-making recipe has created a whole new legion of devotees. The Spicy Pickles and Garlic Dill Pickles are so packed with flavor you’ll eat them straight out of the jar. Their Bloody Mary Mix is agreed by 10 out of 10 people who know what they’re talking about to be the best Bloody Mary Mix possibly in all of history and the world. Their brine is even used in shots called a “pickleback.” And have you ever had one of their pickles deep-fried? (Go to Rosie O’Grady’s if not.) We rest our case.

Koegel Meats
Since 1916 Koegel Meats in Flint has been making some of the best hot dogs in metro Detroit. They make a wide variety of processed meat products – all kinds of franks, sausages, bologna, brats and loafs – but it is the signature snap of those classic natural-casing Viennas that we always go back to.

Charley’s Ballpark Mustard
And no proper hot dog can be served without mustard. Just ask Charley Marcuse, the infamous Singing Hot Dog Man of Comerica Park, he of the additional “There is no ketchup in baseball” fame. He is so passionate about the mustard-only hot dog that he made his own – and it might just be the best damn mustard you’ll ever taste.

Thomas Organic Creamery

The all-natural, organic ice cream from Thomas Organic Creamery in Henderson starts with their 35 grass-fed Jersey dairy cows. The milk from these cows is rich in butterfat, which makes for a decadent, richly-flavored ice cream. Every item they use is certified organic and the highest quality they can find, from the mint in the Michigan Mint Chocolate Chip to the Madagascar vanilla.

Better Made Potato Chips and Snack Foods

With over 80 years in business, Better Made’s potato chips might be the snack food Michigan is best known for. But what makes a potato chip “better” made? They use locally-grown potatoes and trans fat-free cottonseed oil to produce their slightly thicker, slightly less greasy, slightly potato-ier potato chips. Could this be the reason Detroiters eat on average 7-lbs of potato chips annually, compared to the rest of the country’s 4-lbs? We’re not fat, we’re husky.

Vanilla Crème Soda. Grape. Orange. The appropriately-named Red Pop. (And yes, it’s POP.) The transcendent Rock and Rye. A whole world of fun, colorful flavors (Jazzin’ Blues Berry! Pineapple!) including 6-packs in glass bottles of the original flavors, made with 100% pure cane sugar. You almost have to feel bad for people in other states who don’t understand that “red” is a flavor and “pop” is soda.

Germack Pistachio Company
Since 1924, Germack has been an artisan roaster of a variety of nuts including pistachios, cashews, walnuts, almonds and pecans. But the red pistachios – red for no good reason other than that they can be – is what sticks out in the hearts and memories of Detroiters. As you break open each nut your fingers turn a progressively brighter shade of pink, which is why they’re also called “red lip” pistachios – for obvious reasons. Visit their retail store in historic Eastern Market, or order online at

Good People Popcorn
Good People Popcorn is a family-owned gourmet popcorn shop in downtown Detroit. They make their popcorn fresh daily and offer the standard butter, caramel and cheese flavors (try the caramel and cheese mix for the good ‘ol sweet ‘n salty combo), as well as seasonal flavors such as the bacon cheddar made with cheddar popcorn and bacon seasoning.

A slightly different version appeared in print and online, view it here.

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

Monday, August 15, 2011

[HOT LIST] Raw | Vegan | Organic

These should really all rightfully be their own separate categories, but this ain't California and we ain't dreamin'. For a person adopting the raw and/or vegan and/or organic lifestyle, the options in metro Detroit are just a wee limited. BUT! They do exist, and that's why we're here, so here they are.

Photo courtesy of Detroit Zen Center, Hamtramck
1) Living Zen Organics Hamtramck
The Detroit Zen Center, in what is probably the most ethnically diverse (and more significantly, integrated) square mile of Michigan lovingly referred to by locals as "Hamladesh," is a residential community of Buddhist monks and students who practice the Zen Buddhist lifestyle of daily meditation, manual work and arts. Living Zen Organics is their on-site raw vegan cafe and store that is used to support the Center. They carry local and organic products and also sell their own goods at Eastern Market on Saturdays (and Tuesdays through summer). They're only open on weekends; check out their Facebook page for the weekly menu. The kale chips and their Sunday brunch are the must-haves.

2) Harry's Health Bar Livonia
This raw/vegan-friendly spot inside Zerbo's Health Foods store is a real find. Raw tacos, anyone? Wash them down with some "Green Energy:" strawberries, pineapple, apple, kale, spinach, dandelion, ginger, raw power, coconut water and agave nectar (the fruit overpowers the greens; it's much better than it sounds). All raw juices and smoothies are made with certified organic fruits and vegetables, and all other ingredients are carefully "screened and researched to assure you of optimal benefit." We appreciate the looking out!

3) The Treehouse for Earth's Children Farmington
The Treehouse is a health market that sells vitamins, organic bulk herbs, organic produce, natural remedies, biodynamic gardening preparations, alternative therapy books and other resources. They run Sunday health seminars, workshops led by health consultants, and have an on-site massage therapist. They also have a vegetarian deli and a raw food buffet Sundays from 1-6 p.m. Raw carrot cake, please!

4) Sprout House and MacRobiotics Grosse Pointe Park
An organic grocery store and vegan/vegetarian cafe that serves over 50 different antibiotic-free foods, including homemade soups and sandwiches. Order something fresh from the counter or grab something pre-made out of the cooler for lunch on the go. Try their Mediterranean Tofu Sandwich, packed with spices and leafy greens on hearty whole grain bread. For those on board with "the whole raw thing" but not on board with giving up certain animal byproducts, check out their raw cheese counter.

5) The RAW Cafe Midtown, Detroit
Welp. If the raw movement is going to gain momentum anywhere in metro Detroit, it's going to be in Midtown. The RAW Cafe serves soups, salads, sandwiches, smoothies, and all RAW (all caps, like the name, for emphasis). Owner LaKeta McCauley is passionate in her feelings that a raw, organic, vegan diet will nourish the body and even treat cancer; she should know, she went through it herself. She acquired certifications as an herbalist, blood cell analyst and natural health practitioner, wrote a book, and opened the Cafe where she serves unprocessed, untreated, enzyme-rich and nutrient-dense food. Everything is uncooked, organic and vegan; if you're a raw food n00b, start with their popular wraps.

Bubbling under  DROUGHT raw, organic, cold-pressed juice (Eastern Market vendor, Detroit) Inn Season Cafe (Royal Oak), Avalon International Breads (Midtown, Detroit), Om Cafe (Ferndale), Misho Juice (Dearborn), Mind Body and Spirits (Rochester), Cacao Tree Cafe (Royal Oak), Red Pepper Deli (Northville), Golden Gate Cafe (Highland Park, Detroit)

The RAW Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 12, 2011

[EID Feature] The Root: Back to Basics

Pan-seared scallops. All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

Earlier this week we gave you "The Best of Waterford," but there's one place we did not include. (a) Because it's not actually in Waterford; it's in White Lake (next door), and (b) save the best for last, right?

The Root Restaurant and Bar in White Lake has only been open two and a half months, but greater metro Detroit is already taking notice. They've got over 100 reviews on Open Table, more than 900 fans on their Facebook page, 16 glowing reviews on Yelp, and have also caught the attention of the Freep's Sylvia Rector and Crain's Nathan Skid. On weeknights they'll have anywhere from 70-150 covers (that's HUGE); on weekends they're booked solid for the night. You may find yourself asking, "What's a place like this doing in White Lake?" Newsflash: White Lake is not full of poors, and sometimes people who live here get sick of having to drive to Birmingham or Clarkston or West Bloomfield every time they want to have a fine(r) dining experience. "The food scene up here is a little insulting to the demographic," says 26-year-old Executive Chef James Rigato, who is so passionate about his food ethos you'll want to build a restaurant just for him to head ... not totally unlike how it actually happened, really.

Enter the Root, the BRAND-spanking new contemporary American restaurant located in a shopping plaza just off M-59/Highland Rd. The emphasis is on seasonal and regional cuisine, working with local farmers, growers and butchers on an ever-evolving menu in which everything - right down to the breads, pastries and ice creams - is made from scratch. "We smoke our own bacon, brine our own's an all from-scratch menu. I'm very passionate; I'll fight over my food."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

[Metromode] What Food Trucks Say About Ferndale

Last month in Concentrate, the Ann Arbor-based sister publication to Metromode, we looked at the burgeoning food truck scene in Ann Arbor, with the arrival of the new food truck courtyard Mark's Carts. We also looked at Portland, Ore.'s successful "pod" model, groups of food trucks located in semi-permanent positions on privately-owned lots. The scene has been so successful that there are now over 600 food carts operating in Portland, and they regularly make national headlines in food, travel, and business publications.

This week in Metromode, we look to Ferndale to see how feasible a food truck scene might be here, and what it means for the greater community.

In terms of urban cred, Ferndale doesn't really have any one thing that makes it extraordinary. When considering the amenities that typically make a community stand out - rich history, impressive architecture, unique cultural heritage, major museums, exceptional restaurants - the city struggles to distinguish itself. And yet, distinguish itself it does.

What makes this inner ring Detroit burb so attractive is its energetic commitment to developing a vibrant downtown, nurturing local entrepreneurship, drawing young professionals, and facilitating the creativity of its citizens. The nickname "Fabulous Ferndale" isn't just a tongue-in-cheek response to the city's growing LGBT population. It's become a mission statement of sorts. And unlike many local governments, the city has political and municipal leaders willing to embrace the changes necessary to meet those goals.

"Ferndale is easy to work with as far as the city goes," says Chris Johnston, owner of popular Ferndale spots Woodward Avenue Brewers (WAB), the Emory and the Loving Touch. "A lot of other places seem to have red tape for no reason... it should be a given to not get in the way of people who have a lifelong dream of doing something and are willing to put money up to do it. [It almost seems like] some cities watch you do things the wrong way just to say 'Oh, you did it wrong.'"

As if to drive that point home, consider the New Theater Project, an Ann Arbor troupe that was recently driven out of its small space because of zoning issues. Despite a year of performing and renovating the space, the city demanded $1,000 to apply for an exception hearing or move out. The company ended up relocating to Ypsilanti.

Someone says, "I have an idea" and Ferndale answers, "Let's make it work."

Recently a brand-new mobile food truck called El Guapo made headlines for becoming the first fully-sanctioned food truck in downtown Detroit. It only took 60 trips to City Hall to make it happen.

In Ann Arbor, where the city's mantra is "If it's not specifically permitted, it's forbidden",  Mark's Carts opened against all municipal odds. Given the constraints and requirements, it was the urban equivalent of lightning striking.

In contrast, two weeks ago the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority was approached with four applications for mobile vending permits (two push-carts and two trucks). Three out of four are already operating -- Underdog and Motor City Franks, both sidewalk hot dog vendors, and Jacques' Tacos, which is renting a space in the privately-owned parking lot of Ferndale Radiator. The fourth, another Mexican food truck called Taco Mama, is delayed only until an agreement on the truck's location can be reached and secured. Treat Dreams will also soon be operating an ice cream cart...

Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

[944] Director's Cut: The Toronto International Film Festival Travel Guide

View from the Thompson Toronto's rooftop infinity pool. All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.
For film aficionados and movie nerds, spending a few days immersed in back-to-back screenings of the outlandish, edgy, quirky, profound, and always wholly unique offerings of an international film festival is a sacred experience. But too many film festivals are more about celebrities and their seekers preening and neck-craning than about the movies themselves. Others are so under-the-radar that they only screen third-rate features and a LOT of local talent. A movie buff might feel like Goldilocks trying to sift through the available choices for cinema-tourism: this one’s too big; this one’s too small... But the Toronto International Film Festival is just right.

Since 1976, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has been showcasing some of the best films from all over the world during its 11-day run. The festival has grown to feature 300-400 films every year, ranging anywhere from Asian arthouse horror to documentaries on life as a woman in Afghanistan, and also has included such high-profile premieres as American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire and Precious. It is considered one of the finest and most influential film festivals in the world, yet despite its reputability it still has been able to maintain its indie integrity as a film lover’s film festival (and not a PR machine for various celebs’ latest star vehicles).

In September 2010, the TIFF unveiled their new home in the Entertainment District in the King West neighborhood, the TIFF Bell Lightbox & Festival Tower, a five-story glass-encased complex with an atrium, five theatres, two galleries, learning studios and student centers, restaurants and a lounge. The heart of the festival is here, but screenings still occur all throughout downtown Toronto.
This year the TIFF will be held September 8-18. In between screenings, be sure to explore the vast cultural offerings this sparkling city has to offer – from haute couture shopping to gritty artist enclaves, Toronto has something to appeal to all tastes … kind of like the festival itself.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Pancho Villa's

(All photos by Nicole Rupersburg)

"Pancho Villa's has been the home of the flaming fajita for 12 years now, but they can also lay claim to being the home of something else: the Margorona.

'"It all started with a customer who ordered a margarita with a Corona and said, "This is gonna sound weird but can you dump the beer bottle upside-down inside it?'" explains co-owner Nick Hartigre. This customer had recently been down South and a popular way of serving frozen margaritas was with bottles of beer upside-down inside of them. The density of the ice keeps the bottle from emptying out and overflowing, essentially refilling the drink AS you drink it. Genius, no?"...

Read the rest of the story here.

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

Monday, August 8, 2011

[HOT LIST] The Best of Waterford

"Covert" camera phone shooting inside Calabrese's Pizzeria
Waterford. It is the Macomb County of Oakland County, the bastard child of Pontiac and White Lake, the butt of all local hillbilly, redneck and white trash jokes. And yes, Waterford isn't all hoighty-toighty like Birmingham, and the people are decidedly blue collar (however, there is also a lot of money out there on the western and northern borders of White Lake and Clarkston, FTR). The watering holes are exactly that, and the dining scene is pretty humble. But Waterford is also full of natural beauty, with 34 lakes surrounded by forests, several state and county parks, and protected wildlife habitats. The roads all wind around the lakes and the drive is serene; seeing geese, deer, rabbits and all forms of lake and forest wildlife is very common. And despite their simplicity, there are some fantastic restaurants out here (if you can break out of the white tablecloth mindset). From classic American coney islands to Lebanese cuisine, Waterford has a little of everything.

#1 Calabrese's Pizzeria II (4668 Dixie Hwy.)
Is it possible that one of Detroit's best pizzas is way, waaaaaay up here, hidden in Waterford Township in this tiny little pizzeria with about 11 seats all decorated in retro kitsch? For over 40 years, Calabrese's has been one of Waterford's best-kept secrets. The pizza is excellent, without a doubt; but the piece de resistance is the mozzarella bread. "Can mozzarella bread ever really be that good?" you may wonder. It's really just dough, cheese, maybe some butter and garlic salt...surely nothing terribly different from one place to another, right? Words cannot accurately depict the superiority of this humble-looking bread. It starts with the dough - soft, tender, but baked crispy to the edges...just the slightest crunch, nothing dry, just enough. The dough itself is infused with garlic flavor - we know not how, nor do we ask. Surely garlic salt would be obvious but the flavor wouldn't be so infused, and garlic butter would make it greasy...but there it is, defying immediate explanation. Then, it is covered in mozzarella. The mozzarella doesn't bubble and brown: it liquifies, becoming a glassy coat of cheese covering the bread. The flavor: mozzarella-garlic-dough magic. This is not something that can be described. It must be experienced.

#2 Taqueria San Jose (4550 Elizabeth Lake Rd.)
There is no shortage of places in Waterford and Pontiac where you can stuff your face full of Mexi-Merican fare; it's really kind of the Southwest Detroit of the northern suburbs. But places where you can get more Mexican Mexican food are in much shorter supply. Taqueria San Jose is about as fancy as a mess hall, but the food is hands-down some of the best Mexican you will find in metro Detroit. Not Waterford; not Oakland County - metro Detroit, including the city. Tacos come in all the delicious flavors you'd expect from a proper Mexican joint, including tripe and tongue. Order the three taco entree with al pastor (marinated, slow-cooked pork), chorizo (Mexican sausage) and carne asada (grilled steak). They come on corn tortillas with diced onion and cilantro - wedges of limes and radishes are already at your table, as well as homemade tortilla chips and salsas which include a runny, spicy brownish-red salsa made from roasted chiles that is addictive. The entree also comes with Spanish rice and homemade refried beans; even the beans are outstanding. And all that for $6.75. The horchata (sweetened rice milk with ground almond and cinnamon) tastes like homemade rice pudding.

#3 Heroes Bar-B Q + Brew (998 W. Huron St.)
A no-frills family place by day and boisterous bar by night, Heroes serves up hearty Midwestern food like fall-off-the-bone ribs, juicy burgers and steaks, and planked whitefish. Locals love this place because of the consistently friendly staff who will make you feel right at home (they like to say that "you're only a stranger once"), the lively energy (the place is always busy), and the solid food. Nothing fancy, but a reliable stand-by.

#4 Irish Tavern (4703 Elizabeth Lake Rd.)
Nicole remembers when this place opened several years ago; it was the best bar in the area and also happened to be one of the closest to her apartment. She became a regular pretty quickly. The IT has changed quite a bit since it was one of Nicole's old haunts, but all for the better: they added a kitchen after their first couple of years in business, and a recent remodel has made it look more like an Irish bar and less like a Waterford bar. This is simply a great place to go drink, with a more polished feel than most other Waterford dives. (Not that we don't love a good dive, and Waterford's full of 'em.)

#5 Village Place (4710 Cooley Lake Rd.)
What Lafayette Coney Island is to Detroit, Village Place is to Waterford. It's not that the food here is really so outstanding - and people, you really need to start accepting the fact that Lafayette's isn't either - but it's open 24 hours a day and it is a Waterford rite of passage. Anyone who has ever partied semi-regularly in Waterford, White Lake, Union Lake, Commerce Twp. or West Bloomfield has been here at 3 a.m. at some point. It is also located directly next to the IT (don't let the street names confuse you; they practically share a parking lot), so if you're hanging out at our favorite bar you don't have to go far to sober up. Nicole knows this from experience.

Bubbling under 
Hot Pepper Thai Restaurant (4212 Pontiac Lake Rd.), Walt's Original Coney Island (3425 Highland Rd.), Custard Corner (3005 Pontiac Lake), La Marsa (4240 Pontiac Lake Rd.), Sweet Water Bar + Grill (7760 Cooley Lake Rd.), Grand Azteca IV (2505 Pontiac Lake Rd.)

Calabrese's Pizzeria II on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 5, 2011

[EID Feature] Whole Foods is Really Not That Expensive, We Promise

We're still reeling from the negative response the official Whole Foods to open in Detroit's Midtown announcement received from a very specific contingency of "Detroit is perfect the way it is" cheerleaders. Enough so that we're making it this week's theme.

Anti-Whole Foods "arguments" seem to fall into one of three major categories:

Number One. "We already have University Foods and Honey Bee and that's enough." To that contingency, wherever you got your business and/or urban planning degree from should no longer be allowed to teach. But we already addressed that, so let's move on.

Number Two.
"They're using MY tax dollars to..." We've found that whenever a person starts a sentence with "They're using MY tax dollars to..." what-the-hell ever, that the rest of that sentence is going to be nothing more than a steaming stream of ignorance with a complete absence of understanding of how federal and municipal tax spending works. We call them "armchair politicians" and we just tune them out. But, for argument's sake (because we love a good argument), let's review. Actually, someone already did it for us:

Detroit is paying to attract a supermarket. That’s problematic. When Detroit pays to attract or retain sports teams with multi-million dollar stadium investments? No problem.

Tax credit financing for the Compuware Building or the Book-Cadillac restoration? Never a discouraging word.

Public infrastructure dollars spent so sprawl developers can build houses that will compete (in a shrinking market) with homes (built when this was a growing market) in the inner-ring suburbs? That’s progress!

When Ed McNamara decided taxpayers should build Northwest (now Delta) Airlines’ new branch office in Romulus (i.e. the new airport)? Look to the ground and shuffle your feet.

Hells bells, the very products sold in University Foods, Whole Foods or any other grocer are subsidized to the tune of billions of federal dollars. Leave the Whole Foods nickels alone for a second, and take aim at the piles of cash dumped on “heartland” agri-business.

Yet, a subsidy for a high-profile grocery store in a resurgent part of Detroit is the threat to our free market system? Columnist, please.

(From Jeff Wattrick at MLive, read the full article here.)

For good measure and just to make sure we cover all bases, we'll also throw in those film incentives that everyone was aaaaaaaall excited about and when threatened by "One Tough Nerd" Rick Snyder, created a large-scale uproar with protests and everything. Ironically, by some of the exact same people who are behind such precious jewels as the new Facebook fan page, "Whole Foods Isn't Worth $4.2 Million in Incentives." (Their opposition's Facebook fan page, "I am happy Whole Foods is coming to Detroit because I am not insane," is currently outpacing them in "fans" 90 to 12.) For the record, in 2010, the Michigan Film Office paid out $95 million in movie credits, with another $209 million approved but not yet paid. That equals - wait for it - over 72 times as much of YOUR tax dollars as what is being doled out to Whole Foods. So, please, pretty pretty please, shut up.

Number Three:
"Whole Foods is too expensive and people in Detroit can't afford it."

Is that so? Well, to prove that line of logic totally and completely wrong, we did a little covert research this week, hitting up the Whole Foods in Troy and photographing a random sampling of kitchen cupboard staples and day-to-day necessities that are part of their brand signature 365 Everyday Value line (like Meijer's eponymous generic label and Target's Market Pantry line), then compared their prices to the prices for the same exact items at University Foods and Honey Bee (which, for whatever reason, are being upheld as Reason Number One).

Also, bear in mind, the 365 label is largely organic, which you already know is more expensive anyway, whereas many of the University and Honey Bee comparisons are not. We differentiate where possible. We also note where prices were compared to other generic labels instead of name brands.

Basic cereal
Here we looked at standard cereals, particularly corn flakes.
Whole Foods: $2.69
Honey Bee: $2.49 (generic label)
University Foods: $3.19 (generic label)

Garbanzo and pinto. Maybe not common in every household, but a common enough canned good.

Whole Foods: $1.39 garb & pinto (both organic)
Honey Bee:  $1.39 garb, $1.29 pinto (not organic)
University Foods: $.99 garb, $1.29 pinto (not organic)

We look at 11-oz. non-organic small cans, 32-oz. non-organic large cans, and 32-oz. boxed organic to compare solely to Whole Foods' 32-oz. boxed organic.

Whole Foods: $1.99 (organic)
Honey Bee: $1.19 (small), $3.39 (large), $3.49 (organic box)
University Foods: $1.05 (small), $2.49-3.19 (large), $3.49 (organic box)
Frozen waffles
Here we compare Whole Foods' organic frozen waffles to Eggo and Kashi (limited selections available at comp stores)

Whole Foods: $2.69 (organic)
Honey Bee: $2.99 (Eggo brand)
University Foods: $2.85 (Eggo brand), $4.59 (Kashi brand, closest organic comparison available)

Frozen Fruit Bars
Not popsicles, but whole fruit bars. Best comparison at comp stores was Edy's Fruit Bars.

Whole Foods: $2.99 16-oz. 4-pack
Honey Bee: $3.00 16.5-oz. 6-pack
University Foods: $3.99 16.5-oz. 6-pack

Please note: the weight in ounces are nearly identical though the bar count differs.
Instant oatmeal
Once again comparing Whole Foods' organic product to non-organic products at comp stores, same weight.

Whole Foods: $3.39
Honey Bee: $4.19
University Foods: $4.19

Kettle chips
Here we compare pricing on 15-oz. bags of kettle chips at Whole Foods to much smaller bags at comp stores. We're not making this up.

Whole Foods: $1.49 (15-oz.)
Honey Bee: $3.99 (9-oz.)
University Foods: $3.49 (8-oz.)

Here we look at 32-oz. containers of yogurt from Whole Foods, organic and not, as well as single-serving cups, compared to non-organic comp stores.

Whole Foods: $2.69 (non-organic large), $2.99 (organic large), $.79 (single)
Honey Bee: $3.29 (non-organic large), $4.49 (organic large), $1.29 (single)
University Foods: $2.59 (generic non-organic large), $3.19 (Dannon non-organic large), $.79 (single)

32 ounces of non-organic mayo at Whole Foods compared to 30-oz. Hellman's at comp stores.

Whole Foods: $3.99
Honey Bee: $6.29
University Foods: $5.99

Pasta sauce
25-oz. jars of organic pasta sauce at Whole Foods compared to same size both organic and non-organic at comp stores.

Whole Foods: $3.39 (organic)
Honey Bee: $2.89 (Prego), $4.99 (organic)
University Foods: $3.19 (Ragu), $3.59 (organic Ragu)

Peanut Butter
18-oz. organic peanut butter at Whole Foods compared to same size both organic and non-organic at comp stores.

Whole Foods: $3.99 (organic)
Honey Bee: $2.89 (non-organic JIF), $4.49 (organic)
University Foods: $1.99 (non-organic JIF on sale at time of research), $7.69 (organic)

Items we were not able to covertly snap pictures of include:

Milk (comparing both organic and non-organic at all three stores)

Whole Foods: $3.49 (gallon, non-organic), $3.49 (half-gallon, organic), $1.99 (half-gallon, non-organic)
Honey Bee: $3.49 (gallon, non-organic), $4.59-5.59 (half-gallon, organic), $2.49 (half-gallon, non-organic)
University Foods: $3.69 (gallon, non-organic), $3.79-4.49 (half-gallon, organic), $2.69 (half-gallon, non-organic)

Eggs (comparing all organic at Whole Foods to both organic and non-organic at comp stores)

Whole Foods: $2.99-4.39 (all organic)
Honey Bee: $1.49 (large white non-organic), $1.99 (large brown non-organic), $4.49 (large white organic)
University Foods: $1.00 (large white non-organic, on sale at time of research), $2.99 (large brown organic, on sale at time of research, regularly $4.39)

Orange Juice (comparing all organic at Whole Foods to all non-organic comp stores)

Whole Foods: $3.39 (half-gallon, organic), $3.99 (
half-gallon, organic juice blends)
Honey Bee: $2.49 (half-gallon, non-organic), $4.59 (half-gallon, non-organic juice blends)
University Foods: $2.99-3.99 (half-gallon, non-organic), $3.49 (half-gallon, non-organic juice blends)

Okay? Cool? Can we be done with this idiocy now and just be happy we're going to have something nice for once, FOR ONCE?

Yours truly,
The staff of Eat It Detroit

Thursday, August 4, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Gourmet Undergrad

(All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.)

Just because you’re living in a dorm doesn’t mean you have to survive on Easy Mac, and contrary to popular dorm legend vodka is not in fact a food. These original recipes are all made with easy-to-find ingredients with minimal preparation involved, and can be cooked entirely in a microwave or toaster oven. Get your gourmet grub on while you get your learn on.

Fondue Sandwich (serves 3)
Inspired by Swiss cheese fondue, this recipe takes all those great flavors and puts them in a sandwich.

● Emmathaler cheese (one kind of Swiss)
● Gruyere cheese (another kind of Swiss; can also use Comte, which is the French version)
● 6 slices of hearty sourdough bread (we used Avalon International Bread’s Farnsworth Family Farm deli-style sourdough)
● ½ stick salted butter
● 3 cloves freshly-peeled garlic, sliced thin or minced
● 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
● 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1) Remove rack from toaster oven and preheat to 450˚F.
2) Make a quick garlic-infused “clarified” butter by placing butter and garlic in a bowl and microwave on high until melted (about 1 minute). Scoop white solids off the top. Let butter cool and harden. Spread butter on one side of all 6 slices of bread.
3) Place 3 slices on rack, buttered side down. Cut desired amount of cheese into thin (1/8’’) slices; should have equal quantities of both cheeses.
4) Place thin slices of cheese on bread. Sprinkle nutmeg and pepper onto each slice. Place remaining 3 slices of bread on top (buttered side up) to form sandwich.
5) Place rack in oven and for about 15-20 minutes (flipping once) until cheese is melted and edges of bread are slightly brown. Cut into halves and serve while hot.

Guacamole 3-Way (serves 4-5)
Easy to make, always delicious and GASP, healthy even – the possibilities for guacamole are endless. Now you can say you had your first college 3-way. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

[HOT LIST] Detroit Grocery Stores + Markets

(All photos by Nicole Rupersburg)

How do you start a hipster riot? In Detroit, it seems, all you have to do is click your heels together and say repeat the words "Whole Foods" three times. (Actually, you don't have to click your heels together and you only have to say those two little words just the once. Once is plenty.)

And, right, so, of course we get it. Some of you are happy with the existing options. And why not. Eastern Market is amazing. (We should know. We basically live there.) The Honey Bee on Bagley has Mexican Coke and guacamole and that is also awesome. Some of you, the sort content to go through life quietly punishing yourselves for various hidden sins, even think that University Foods is a real grocery store. (Let's not start another mini-riot; instead we'll just bob our heads up and down in agreement and move on.) You like to think that Detroit is just fine the way it is, give or take a light rail line or two. 'Grats. Loving your optimism.

Us, though? Well, if you're asking, we say Whole Foods can't come soon enough. Sure, it's not going to fix all of Detroit's problems, but you know what else won't fix all of Detroit's problems? Not opening a Whole Foods. That's what. (And neither will light rail, and neither will Dan Gilbert and neither will a Somerset pop-up store, but again, in the interest of keeping the peace, let's move on.)

Yes, come early 2013, we won't be pried out of our Eastern Market lair all that easily, but having a massive selection of organic produce, artisanal food products, assorted imported and organic food stuffs, boutique wine and craft beer, all within walking distance, available seven days a week and late into the evening hours? This is not something we will be unhappy about. Not at all.

Then again, a year and a half is a long way off. In the meantime, let's take a look at some of of Detroit's best existing markets and shops. Some you've heard of, some you haven't; they're all fanbloodytastic.
#1 E and L Supermercado Southwest
You love Honey Bee for the Mexican Coca-Cola in the bottle. Well, it's half the price here. E and L has a huge selection of fresh tortillas and other Hispanic food products and produce (this is Southwest, after all). They also have a fantastic prepared foods counter where you can get proper tacos (chicken, steak or pork with onions and lime) and quesadillas for a buck-thirty each or 3-for-$3 (and you can call-ahead order while on your lunch break for a quick grab-and-go). Their homemade guacamole is also cheaper than Honey Bee (and is better too, IOO), and their homemade tortilla chips and salsa will make you swear off all other pre-packaged store brands forever and ever, amen. But the real beauty is their butcher counter: they have the widest selection of butchered meats at the cheapest prices and highest quality anywhere in the city ... and, really, even beyond. Porterhouse steaks, ribs, filets, beef tenderloin, chorizo, al pastor, even goat (barbacoa); and let's not forget their 16-ft marinade counter loaded with marinated chicken wings, drums, fajitas, and carne asada; or their top-quality luncheon meat counter sliced to order. And it's all criminally cheap.

#2 R. Hirt Jr. Co. Eastern Market
It's Detroit's own genuine, bonafide, olde-timey general store selling lots of odds-and-ends and kitchen trinkets, but the reason we love R. Hirt so very much - despite its severely limited hours - is that cheese counter. THAT cheese counter. The cheese and deli counters are the showpiece of R. Hirt, located right front-and-center (and usually causing some massive bottle-necking in the narrow aisle). The selection is enormous. Blah blah blah meats, BUT, cheeeeeeese. Over 300 different varieties of cheese are on-hand here, some sitting out and letting their luscious aromas waft throughout the building, the rest stored in their massive backroom freezer. The emphasis isn't huge on locally-made cheeses (though there are some), but the import selection is outstanding and, no joke, up to $10 per pound cheaper than Zingerman's. Feel free to ask for samples; we certainly do.

#3 (Tie) Cost Plus Wine Shoppe Eastern Market + Motor City Wine Downtown
Detroit's abundance of liquor stores is well-documented (usually tagged with key words like "food desert"), but despite all the widely-available booze there are two - two - stores in all of Detroit where you can find a quality selection of small-production boutique wines from all over the world. Cost Plus has a larger store and thus a larger selection, and we've found some mind-blowing Chilean wines for a whopping $7. Cost Plus also has a nice collection of Michigan craft beers from some of our favorite labels (Bell's, Founders, New Holland, Short's). Motor City Wine has a smaller but exquisitely-curated wine selection, and is also a hotspot for live music with their "Hot Pot" Detroit techno Thursdays and world-renowned jazz on weekends. They have a leg up on Cost Plus with later hours, weekly events and regular wine tastings, and what they lack in craft beer they make up for by being located above another of our faves: the Grand Trunk Pub, which sells mix-and-match sixers of beer to go.

#4 Azteca Supermercado Southwest
Food desert. Pfffffff. The sheer abundance and per-capita density of grocers, supermarkets, butchers and bakers in Southwest Detroit more than makes up for what might be lacking elsewhere in the city. It's really quite astounding how many places there are to buy fresh food in SW, and how busy they all always seem to be. We don't really love Azteca for any one thing - we love them for all things. Fresh CHEAP produce (and a ginormous selection), fantastic butcher shop, fantastic bakery, a complete line of both American and Hispanic food items (like two full grocery stores in one), a huge and sparkling clean store, and awesome weekly specials that are cheap cheap CHEAP. If you want to settle for smaller selections at higher prices with lower quality and claim that it's "good enough," that's your prerogative.

#5 Goodwell's Natural Foods Midtown 
Goodwell's is essentially the local mom-and-pop version of Whole Foods. The focus is all on natural and organic foods with lots of vegan and raw this-and-thats. Their homemade pocket sandwiches are cheap and delicious, making it a nice little alternative to the often-overrun and rather 'spensive Avalon International Breads next door, while still maintaining the same ethos. The grocery selection is small but has all the staples you need; because it is all organic it is also more expensive, but such is the price you pay for eco-consciousness and sustainability. Which, if you're shopping here, you probably already know.

Bubbling under Honey Bee La Colmena (Mexicantown), Al-Madeena Grocery (Hamtramck), Lafayette Foods (Lafayette Park), Kim's Produce (Midtown), Polish Market (Hamtramck)

E & L Supermercado on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 1, 2011

[944 Detroit] Detroit Restaurant Week

This published in April 2011 for the Spring Edition of DRW. View the PDF by clicking here; below is also the restaurant listings and featured segments from the article. (This was for spring but is also a nice way for you to ramp up for the forthcoming Fall Edition.)

Detroit Restaurant Week launched in fall 2009 with a concept created by the Downtown Detroit Partnership and produced by Paxahau Event Productions. Since its launch it has attracted more than 85,000 people and generated more than $1.5 million in sales for participating restaurants. Featuring the top restaurants in the area offering three-course menus at a fixed price of $28, it has (re)introduced the community to Detroit’s world-class dining destinations. On April 1 through April 10, the spring edition of Detroit Restaurant Week once again showcases the best of Detroit’s culinary talents.

As Detroit Restaurant Week has grown, it has evolved from one season to the next.  For this fourth promotion, DRW is excited to introduce Angelina Italian Bistro into the fold of participating restaurants.

“We had talked to them a few years ago when they first opened and wanted to give them some time to find their way in the marketplace and cement their footing in Detroit,” explains Jason Huvaere, President and co-founder of Paxahau Event Productions. “We’re looking forward to their participation and are really excited to see what they come up with.”

Also new this time around is a sponsorship by Quicken Loans.

“Quicken has been a part of downtown culture for awhile now,” Huvaere states.

“We presented them with the opportunity to get involved with and support DRW and they came in with guns blazing!”

They will provide coverage of Restaurant Week on their “Destination 313” program on WJR, as well as continue to promote the event and the restaurants to their downtown employees, who are within walking distance of many of the participating restaurants.

“As Detroit Restaurant Week continues to grow we want people who work down here to enjoy these restaurants after work,” Huvaere adds, noting that Quicken is committed to promoting these businesses not just during DRW but year-round, in keeping with DRW’s greater goal of presenting these restaurants as places to go not just during the promotion and not only for special occasions but also for dinner and drinks after work, or just because.

Click through for the complete restaurant listings.

204 Michigan Ave
Detroit, MI 48226-1907
(313) 964-3821
A gastro-pub located in the AAA four-diamond-ranked Westin Book Cadillac Hotel, 24Grille offers a casual approach to fine dining, featuring regional flavors sourced from local producers under the direction of Executive Chef Christian Borden in a stunning plush urban-industrial atmosphere. (See feature below.)

Andiamo Detroit Riverfront
400 Renaissance Center
Detroit, MI 48243
(313) 567-6700
Metro Detroiters are very familiar with the Andiamo Restaurant Group, a local group of Italian-American restaurants for over a decade now.  Located on the ground level of the Renaissance Center, this location provides upscale Italian cuisine with breathtaking views of the Detroit River.

Angelina Italian Bistro
1565 Broadway Street
Detroit, MI 48226-2114
(313) 962-1355
This newcomer to Detroit Restaurant Week promises to be a wonderful addition to the lineup with contemporary southern Italian cuisine in an artful urban atmosphere.  (See feature below.)

Atlas Global Bistro
3111 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48201-2723
(313) 831-2241
They call themselves a “global” bistro because their menus feature influences from all over the world – Mediterranean, French, Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern, and all contemporary American.  They also boast a handsome menu of classic hand-crafted cocktails with house-made bitters and syrups.

Caucus Club
150 West Congress Street
Detroit, MI 48226-3208
(313) 965-4970
One part Mad Men and two parts Old Detroit, the Caucus Club is a throwback to a former era.  After 60 years in business it is pure retro nostalgia, offering the same classic dishes that made them famous as the “waiting room” for the London Chop House – particularly their fresh seafood.

Coach Insignia
100 Renaissance Center
Detroit, MI 48243
(313) 567-2622
74 floors high atop the Renaissance Center with panoramic views of Detroit and Windsor, Coach Insignia is initially impressive for its vertigo-inducing views but continues to impress with its contemporary steakhouse menu with clever twists on classic dishes.  It is also a six-time award winner of Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence.”

670 Lothrop Road
Detroit, MI 48202-2715
(313) 872-5110
Owner and Executive Chef Paul Grosz is Detroit’s own culinary genius, and his simply-named restaurant located in a charming historic mansion across from the Fisher Building is where diners can taste a little of his brilliance on an ever-evolving seasonal menu of contemporary French-American “cuisine.”

Da Edoardo Foxtown Grille
2203 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 471-3500
Conveniently located next to the Fox Theatre and across from Comerica Park, Da Edoardo Foxtown Grille offers rustic northern Italian dishes in a casual atmosphere perfect before or after a game or show.

Detroit Seafood Market
1435 Randolph St.
Detroit, MI 48226
Buttery yellow leather booths and high ceilings with exposed brick give this seafood restaurant a bright, airy feel, and their Paradise Valley Lounge is one of the hottest spots for Detroit’s young professionals.

Iridescence (AAA four-diamond ranked)
2901 Grand River Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201-2907
(313) 237-6732
We featured Chef de Cuisine Derik Watson in November as one of the “13 most buzzworthy chefs in the country right now,” and it seems like Iridescence is now on everyone’s radar.  The cuisine is so edgy it should rightfully be called art: classic comfort food deconstructed and gone gourmet. 

Mosaic Restaurant
501 Monroe Street
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 962-9366
With a “world cuisine” menu featuring prominent Mediterranean inspiration in the heart of Greektown, Mosaic is also a visual feast with sculptured glass, copper, marble, granite, woven teakwood and waterfalls, making it a true mosaic of architectural design and multi-ethnic cuisine.

Opus One
565 East Larned Street
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 961-7766
As opulent as its namesake Napa Valley winery, Opus One continues to offer elegant dining with signature dishes such as their Shrimp Helene and tender-as-butter Pork Osso Buco.  The bistro bar menu offers the same exceptional quality without all the white tablecloth formality.

Rattlesnake Club
300 River Place Dr # 1900
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 567-4400
They have attributed their recent interior renovation and menu revamping to the success of previous Restaurant Weeks, much to the pleasant surprise of the DRW team.  The Rattlesnake Club is one of Detroit’s most storied fine dining establishments, where classic steak and seafood meets inventive regional American.

1128 Washington Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 961-2500
Michael Symon’s Roast opened with a bang and hasn’t slowed since.  One of Detroit’s most popular restaurants, everything from the Roast burger to the roast beast is phenomenal, as well as the service and atmosphere.  A robust craft cocktail menu and Michigan-heavy craft beer list also distinguishes them.

Roma Café
3401 Riopelle Street
Detroit, MI 48207-2020
(313) 831-5940
Open since 1890, Roma Café is Detroit’s oldest restaurant.  Rich, classic Italian-American cuisine where trends don’t play a factor in the consistently hearty homemade dishes defines their menu, and the air itself is thick with its rich history (this used to be a hotspot of Detroit’s infamous Purple Gang).

Saltwater (AAA four-diamond ranked)
1777 Third St.
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 465-1777
Inside the MGM Grand Detroit, Michael Mina’s Saltwater has come to define upscale seafood restaurants.  Dishes are exquisitely presented and the wine list is designed for the connoisseur.  Soaring ceilings allow endless opportunities for lustrous tactile design elements.

The Whitney
4421 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201-1821
(313) 832-5700
Built in 1894, the 52-room Whitney mansion is a Detroit icon.  Retaining much of its historic character (including original Tiffany stained glass panels and hand-woven silk wall hangings), the flavors of the Whitney are seasonal American, appealing to more contemporary tastes. 

Wolfgang Puck Grille
1777 Third St.
Detroit, MI 48226
(877) 888-2121
Executive Chef Marc Djozlija effortlessly melds high-end steakhouse cuisine with simple burger-and-beer fare, appealing to a wide demographic as well as a wide range of tastes.  The upscale “Up North” interior is inviting to everyone.  Most restaurants can’t be all things for all people but here they succeed exceptionally well.

Featuring: Angelina Italian Bistro

Proprietors Tom Agosta and Mike Viviano opened Angelina Italian Bistro in fall 2008 in the former Madison Theatre space.  Featuring exposed brick and ductwork with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on Broadway, Angelina has a distinctly Detroit identity.  Tom and Mike set out to open a restaurant with the same from-scratch mentality inspired their Italian grandmothers, but with an updated urban feel.  “We grew up with made-from-scratch sauces and pastas and those kind of influences,” Tom says. “We tried to do a modern version of an Italian restaurant.”  All pastas and sauces are made from scratch by hand (no industrial machinery involved); they also have house-smoked fish and antipasto platters with organic meats.  Recently they started offering cooking classes that have been so immediately popular there is now a waiting list, and they also host a wine tasting series every other Wednesday with “Wine Gal” Erica.  For more information visit

Featuring: 24Grille's Christian Borden

24Grille inside the Westin Book-Cadillac Hotel just celebrated their two-year anniversary, but for too long now they’ve been overshadowed by the high-profile Roast in the same building. Fortunately, with new talent in place, 24Grille won’t be sitting quietly in the background much longer. “I really wanted to reinvent it,” explains the new Executive Chef Christian Borden, formerly of Atlas Global Bistro. “There was a lot of polishing that needed to be done, concept development of who [they] are and what [they] are.” Formerly 24Grille regularly vacillated between a fine dining steakhouse and something a little more edgy and hip, but with Borden’s cutting-edge culinary sensibility and his steadfast commitment to always presenting his eclectic American menu his way – the way he knows to be best – 24Grille will have a whole new identity all its own and secure its position as one of the finest restaurants in metro Detroit.