Monday, October 31, 2011


The pie counter at Blake's Orchard and Cider Mill. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.

Not that we can't eat pie any old time, but there's something about fall that has America clamoring for the stuff. Maybe it's because some of the country's most popular pies – pumpkin and apple, for instance – pair so beautifully with this most magnificent of seasons. Or maybe it's just that it's getting cold, and we're fattening up for winter. Something that can be easily accomplished with a fork, enough pie and a winning attitude. Here's where to stock up.

#1 Rock City Pies Ferndale
Twentysomething Nikita Santches has a lot going on – he's into personal cheffing, he's got plans to open a restaurant. He also makes pie. Which he sells at Ferndale's year-round, indoor Rust Belt Market, held every Saturday and Sunday. Follow Santches on Twitter – @RockCityPies -- to find out what he'll be bringing to the market. (Tweet at him if he forgets.) Try a slice of his salt caramel apple or buy the whole pie – if there's any left.

This Old Redford institution all ways fills us up with West Side love. Owner Cassandra Thomas began tinkering with the humble yam decades ago, baking them into cookies for her husband. Today, she's got sweet potato cakes (featured on the Food Network a few years back) cheesecakes, cobblers, ice cream – and pie, naturally. Get you some.  

#3 Achatz Pies Multiple locations
For many Detroiters, there's only one place for pie. This one. It's a chainlet of Metro area shops that saw its origins in the early 1990s as a little family business operated out of a home in Armada. Shelly's Pumpkin Praline are the three words you need to know when you hear those magic words, "Can I help you?" Where you go after that is up to you – not that there are all that many wrong turns. Tip: Buy direct from the store. They're better.

#4 Ackroyd's Redford
Aha, you say. Ackroyd's doesn't do pie. Not in the traditional sense, no. That is because Ackroyd's is not an American bakery, it is a Scottish bakery, and has been since before many of us were born (the 1940s). Times have changed, Redford has changed, but this little bit of the Auld Sod remains – hand pies (cheese and onion!) for starters, decadent butter tarts – let's call them tiny little pies – for dessert. That is what you do.

#5 Zingerman's Bakehouse Ann Arbor
You can't discuss pie in these parts and not talk about Zingerman's. (Yes, they crush in this category too -- it's enough to make us want to punch a wall.) Tucked away in a faceless industrial park on the southern end of town, this isn't tourist-land. This is strictly come in, get whatever, get out. Like, for instance pie. Glorious, glorious pie. Of all kinds. As you'd expect, ingredients are way up to snuff. So are prices. (Worth it.) 

BUBBLING UNDER Confections by Lynn (Ypsi), Blake's Orchard and Cider Mill (Armada), Grand Traverse Pie Company (multiple locations), Dexter Cider Mill (Dexter), Schmucker's (Toledo -- yes, Toledo)

Friday, October 28, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Cantina Diablo's

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

"There are a lot of trendy Mexican/Tex-Mex/Mexi-cali/Mexi-Merican/Mexican-fusion restaurants opening in metro Detroit lately. But none of them are quite so ... red.

'Cantina Diablo's in Royal Oak offers a little something for everyone who wants a little of a lot of things. It is the second location of the brand, owned by the same folks behind Rosie O'Grady's, and it carries over a lot of the same themes as Rosie's. Where Rosie's is something of a thematically general Irish sports pub, Cantina Diablo's is the Tex-Mex equivalent..."

Read the rest of the story here.

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

Thursday, October 27, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Halloween Party Foods

Christmas is for kids. Valentine’s Day is for breeders and people who’ve had lobotomies. But Halloween? Halloween is the ultimate adult holiday, from the socially acceptable skimpy costumes to the part where you eat candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner WHY? Because you’re an adult and you can. What better way to honor this most important celebration of the seven deadly sins than with a ghoulishly gluttonous fetish-y fete? Now, we’re no Martha Stuart and we also know the only reason you’re doing this is to (a) show off your skimpy costume, or (b) see all the chicks you invited in their skimpy costumes, so we’re going to keep this as simple as possible with these ready-made recipes.

Spiked Apple Cider
One gallon of Michigan apple cider to one quart of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum. Too strong? Pussy.

Pumpkin Beer
You simply MUST have some on hand, and one of the best on the market is Michigan Brewing Company’s Screamin’ Pumpkin Spiced Ale, available wherever Michigan craft beers are sold.

Candy Caramel Corn
Take a bag of candy corn and toss it with a bag of caramel corn in a large serving bowl. Done.

Candy-Coated Caramel Apples
Halloween is a time for treats, so take the classic fall culinary delight of caramel apples (make your own with DIY kits sold in cider mills and grocery stores) and add a little something extra: after rolling the apple in caramel, then roll it in a mix of plain Halloween-colored M&M’s and Reese’s Pieces for a festive orange and black that tastes like summer diets shot to hell.

Day of the Dead Cupcakes
Get some standard Devil’s Food cake mix and chocolate frosting (we like Duncan Hines’s Creamy Home-Style Classic) from the store and make a few batches of cupcakes. To decorate in your Halloween theme, skip the fancy carved jelly candies and piped buttercream frosting; buy some skull candies from the store (your best bet will be grocers that cater to a Hispanic clientele), or make your own in advance following these simple steps:


Skull molds (optional)
Decorations of choice
1 tsp. vanilla
2 small egg whites (or whites from 1 large egg)
1 tsp. light corn syrup
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch


1. Sift powdered sugar in large mixing bowl and combine corn syrup, vanilla and egg whites in small bowl until well blended. Add liquid mixture to bowl containing sugar.

2. Use hands to mix sugar and liquid together until it begins to form a soft, gritty dough. Shape into a large ball and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Pull off 1 heaping tbsp. of dough at a time and form each into the shape of a skull, or press the sugar dough into each mold. Use cornstarch on hands and surface to keep dough from sticking. Set the sugar skulls in a cool, dry place to harden overnight.

4. Decorate your sugar skulls the following day using a small paintbrush dipped into food coloring or sugar frosting with a pastry bag or frosting tip.

Roasted Pumpkin Fondue - we've already covered this earlier this week with Y Kant Nikki Cook

See the original story here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

[Y Kant Nikki Cook] Cider Mill French Toast

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.
I got inspired while making trips to various cider mills over the last week, so I thought that "Cider Mill French Toast" might be fun. The basic idea was to take stale plain fried doughnuts, soak them in cinnamon custard, prepare them like French toast, then top them with a cider caramel sauce. I decided to make ALL of this myself, because that's sort of the point right? This resulting recipe is sort of a Frankenstein of various other recipes I found that sort of  did what I wanted. I adjusted quantities and tweaked some ingredients to the flavors I wanted.

Cider Mill French Toast
Need: One dozen stale plain fried doughnuts and 1/2 stick unsalted butter.

Cider caramel sauce

4 cups apple cider
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1. Pour cider in heavy large skillet. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Boil cider mixture until reduced to 2 cups, about 15 minutes.
2. Add sugar and butter. Cook until sauce thickens slightly and is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes longer.
3. Transfer to small bowl. Cover; chill. Remove vanilla bean before using.

This can be made up to three days in advance.

Custard sauce

4 cups whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
3 beaten eggs
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick

1. In a heavy saucepan over low heat, cook and stir milk, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean (with the seeds scraped out and added to milk) and sugar until sugar is dissolved.
2. Stir in a small amount of hot milk mixture into eggs (throwing the eggs directly into the hot pan without mixing a little hot milk in first will cause them to scramble and separate); pour egg mixture slowly into pan, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until mixture is thick enough to coat a metal spoon. (Dip the spoon in the pan; it should come out with a thin film, solid enough to run your finger across the back of the spoon and leave a mark.)

2. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature, stirring several times so that the bottom does not continue to cook at a higher temperature.
3. In a deep pan, spread out the stale doughnuts. Pour the custard over the doughnuts and let sit for at least 30 minutes on each side. Transfer the rest of custard to a bowl; press a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap on top of custard. Refrigerate.

And now, it's time to make French toast!

1. Turn burner on to medium heat and coat skillet with butter. Once pan is heated and butter is melted, add four doughnuts to the pan. Cook until both sides are browned (flip a few times to ensure even cooking). There should be no more visible liquid custard on the outside of the doughnuts. Cook remainder of doughnuts (add more butter as needed).
2. To serve, put doughnuts on a plate, pour some of the chilled custard over top, then finish with some cider caramel (heat before serving if you so desire). No syrup needed for this French toast!

I really wish someone would have told me it would take 8 days of nonstop stirring to make custard. So during attempt the first I got really bored then really impatient, so I cranked the heat up to a medium setting and walked away. I came back to find my "custard" foaming and curdled. (Actually, I think "curdled" might not be the best word: I do believe the eggs were actually going through the process of scrambling.) So with attempt the second, I kept it on low heat and patiently stirred occasionally, waiting for that magic "coat the spoon" moment.

It took two hours.*

Of course, nowhere on any of the recipe sites did it SAY it would take two hours (that I saw, or paid attention to, anyway - and by GOD did I try desperately to find out about an hour into attempt the second).

This is why I don't cook.

*Actually I'm not even totally sure how long it took, as I eventually decided I really couldn't afford to sacrifice any more of my day on this and since I'm only using the custard to soak the doughnuts in anyway, that it was simply done enough. As the custard sat it did thicken to "coat the spoon" desirability.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

[Y Kant Nikki Cook] Roasted Pumpkin Fondue

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

It's fall and it's almost Halloween (let's just go ahead and state the obvious, which is that this is the BEST time of the year), so this week we're ditching the Hot List and Feature sections and instead bringing you all easy and unique fall-themed recipes using some of our favorite ingredients (like pumpkin, and cheese) as part of our brand-new Y Kant Nikki Cook section (read more about it here). We're going to launch it with something that is near and dear to our hearts: a roasted pumpkin stuffed with Swiss cheese fondue. Serve this at your Halloween party instead of boring old spinach artichoke dip!

1 large baguette (about 15 inches cut into 1/2-inch slices)
7-lb pumpkin (medium-sized and thoroughly washed)
1-1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup vegetable broth (or reduced sodium chicken broth)
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2-1/2 cup gruyere cheese (coarsely grated)
2-1/2 cup emmental cheese (coarsely grated)
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 450°F; use bottom rack.
2. Toast baguette slices in 1 layer on a baking sheet in oven until tops are crisp, about 7 minutes. Let cool.
3. Remove top of pumpkin by cutting a circle around stem with a small sharp knife. Scrape out seeds and any loose fibers from inside pumpkin with a spoon (including top of pumpkin; roast seeds with olive oil and sea salt for another quick party snack). Season inside of pumpkin with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
4. Whisk together cream, broth, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Mix together cheeses in a large bowl.

5. Put a layer of toasted bread in bottom of pumpkin, then cover with about 1 cup cheese and about 1/2 cup cream mixture. Continue layering bread, cheese, and cream mixture until pumpkin is filled to about 1/2 inch from top, using all of cream mixture. (You may have some bread and cheese left over.)
6. Cover pumpkin with top and put in an oiled small roasting pan. Brush outside of pumpkin all over with olive oil. Bake at 450°F until pumpkin is tender and filling is puffed, 75-90 minutes.
7. Cut wedges through directly the skin of the pumpkin and serve with more toasted baguette slices (everything but the pumpkin skin itself is pretty mushy, but the roasted pumpkin flesh and cheese concoction is a great topper for toast points).

This is why I don't do this.
After four long hours of fighting with a flimsy pumpkin carving knife (they don't make them like they used to), having to stop mid-way to run back to the store for more heavy cream after discovering the one I bought last week was curdled, then spending almost 45 minutes doing dishes in my tiny studio apartment sink with no dishwasher, I was reminded of all the reasons why I "can't" cook. I spent the last hour thinking of all the other things I could be doing and how that block of emmental paired with the baguette is just a fine and dandy meal all on its own with blessedly no prep and no clean-up. Now I have 7 pounds of cheese-stuffed pumpkin jammed in the fridge between all the beer.

For more photos, check out the "Y Kant Nikki Cook" album on our Facebook page.

Friday, October 21, 2011

[EID Feature] Dexter Cider Mill: Reaping the Fruits of Their Labor

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

The Dexter Cider Mill in Dexter (just west of Ann Arbor) is the oldest continuously operating cider mill in the state of Michigan. They've been written up in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Good Housekeeping. They've been named the best cider mill in Washtenaw County and even one of the top 10 cider mills in the country. But Richard Koziski and his wife Katherine bought the old cider mill 25 years ago simply as a way to keep busy and stay active after retirement.

"This was a long desire," he says. "Once I retired I knew I would need to keep busy. I was raised back east where we had a lot of cider mills and I always thought this would be a lot of fun. And it has been!"

The Koziski family has been running the Dexter Cider Mill for the past 25 years, and it is very much a family operation. Daughter Nancy Steinhauer works alongside mom and dad - who themselves at 75 years old put in 11 hour days on the weekends - and Nancy's husband and sons also help out, along with some family friends.

The inside of the cider mill itself is small, but has a very obvious warm family feel as Nancy, Richard and Katherine shout back and forth from the cider press to the bakery to the front store operations with what they need and what they're working on. The barn in which the store itself is located was actually built only 15 years ago, but the floor was made with reclaimed wood which gives it that old, historic feeling. Attached to this barn is the original barn built in 1886, which is used for storage (it's all open to the main storefront so be sure to poke your head in there and check it out).

The cider press is the same one that was used back in 1886. The only thing that has changed is the power source (from steam power to electricity), but otherwise the equipment is the same. The only other place in Michigan that has similar equipment is the Henry Ford Museum, where it sits on display. (They do offer tours of the cider-making process where you can see the century-old equipment up close.) The cider they make is unpasteurized (which many agree makes for a richer, more flavorful cider) and is made with a blend of 3-5 apple varieties to achieve a unique balance of sweetness, tartness and aroma. "We know the properties of each of the apples that we use and are able to pick from the apples that are available to produce a unique, clean cider with a nice aroma, spice and a balance of tartness and sweetness," explains Richard.

The Koziski family does own a small off-site orchard where they get some of their apples, and the rest they get from a variety of small farmers who each focus on different apple varieties so that they get a good mix of apples with different flavor characteristics. They also get some apples from "the Ridge," a rich agricultural region on the western side of the state known for having the best possible fruit growing conditions in Michigan. Michigan is the third largest producer of apples in the country, and most of them actually come from the west side of the state.

In addition to making cider, they also have their own on-site bakery where all the doughnuts and pies are made from scratch every single day. Katherine worked previously as a food technician and worked very hard at developing the perfect doughnut recipe so that they would be light and fluffy. "We're very proud of our doughnuts," Richard says. "We get a lot of compliments on them." The doughnuts have that cakey density with the crispy fried edges, the perfect doughnut to be washed down with some strong apple cider. They also hand-peel their own apples for their apple pies and made all the dough from scratch. Katherine actually wrote a cookbook (which was featured on The Food Network along with the Mill in 2009) called The Dexter Cider Mill Apple Cookbook, which is going for up to $115 on Amazon but is available at the Mill for only $18.

They also carry a variety of Michigan-made products in the store, everything from Michigan honeycomb and maple syrup to more unique items like boiled cider. The store itself has that country general store feel, which is really the ultimate appeal of the Dexter Cider Mill - seated next to the rushing Huron River in an old barn just outside of the charming small country town of Dexter, the Dexter Cider Mill offers the kind of old world countryside, quaint small-town Americana experience that really is very much a regional thing, and for many of Richard's customers it's an experience they've never had before in their lives.

With the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor being so close, Richard will see curious students coming in from China, Finland, Russia and Africa, who have never in their lives had this kind of old-fashioned Midwestern Americana experience. He loves being able to give them this experience, and show them the process of making cider and connect different cultures to local farming traditions. "It’s a way for me to connect with people and experience other cultures and have other cultures see this way of life," he says. "I think that’s really cool."

Because of their proximity to U-M, Dexter Cider Mill has an opportunity to connect with other cultures and educate people from all over the world that other cider mills just don't have. And while they aren't sitting on sprawling orchards, their riverside location also provides a unique, serene setting. (For the full experience, drive along Huron River Rd. back to Ann Arbor to catch the freeways - it's a beautiful drive down a curving road that winds through the country alongside the Huron River. The trees, only just now starting to lose their leaves, provide a canopy of color. You'll also pass two Metroparks along the way, which provide great opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and scenic picture-taking.)

The Dexter Cider Mill will be open through Thanksgiving weekend. Their season is 12 weeks long, and right now they are starting the "late season," which means the sweeter cider most people like best (the later in the season, the sweeter the apples).

Because the cider mill experience is something that's only available once a year for a very short time, people around here tend to have a tremendous emotional attachment to its nostalgic value. For Richard, it was a matter of taking that nostalgia and transforming it into the realization of a life-long dream, and a way to truly enjoy "retirement." "It's a lot of fun," he says. "There's never a dull moment!"

Want to see more? View the Flickr set here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

[EID Feature] The World of the Cicerone

CBS raffle at Merchant's Fine Wine. All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

I met wife and husband Annette May and Mike Bardallis last year during Detroit Beer Week. Or maybe it was two years ago. There's usually a lot of beer involved sooooooo ... anyway, I met them, it was Beer Week, we drank and had good times.

Annette is a beer goddess and also a source of inspiration to me; Mike is an engineer by day and LEGIT home brewer by night (his beers could easily stack against many commercial breweries), but with all due respect to him is not, in fact, a beer goddess. Both are Certified Cicerones, and she was the first female to earn the title.

With beer on the brain all this week and last, I decided to contact Annette and talk to her more about the Cicerone program. The Cicerone program was only recently developed in 2007, and was designed by respected brewer, author and beer specialist Ray Daniels to elevate the position of craft beer in a wine connoisseur's world. Known colloquially as "beer sommelier" (at least until the term "Cicerone" starts building its own respected name recognition), the Cicerone program offers three increasingly difficult levels of professional designation: Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone and Master Cicerone (there are currently over 5,000 Certified Beer Servers, 210 Certified Cicerones, and only 3 Master Cicerones in the world).

Daniels wanted to design a system that would test and certify beer experts - everyone from servers to beverage directors to home brewers - with the same rigor and professionalism as Certified Sommelier exams. Before the Cicerone program, there was no designated standard by which the beer community's knowledge and expertise were tested and credited. There are some copycat programs of the Cicerone program now, and there is still no broadly-accepted beer testing standard, but the Cicerone program is known as the most advanced and difficult beer education/certification program in the world.

Students of the Cicerone program learn about beer storage, sales and service; beer styles and culture; beer tasting and flavors; brewing ingredients and processes; and pairing beer with food. Much like a Sommelier, a Cicerone must have a tremendous command of knowledge - from the history and artistry of beer even to proper stemware (oh yes, there is such a thing - beer is a lot more complicated and advanced than most people realize).

When I first really started getting into craft beer culture I immediately felt like I had discovered My People. Beer people are just ... different. They're fun and wacky and cool and welcoming: case in point, Annette and Mike. So with my own burgeoning beer geekiness and a big fat dangling question mark still hanging over the Sphinxian riddle "What do you want to do with your life," I thought maybe I should learn more about this Cicerone program. I emailed Annette and she invited me over to Merchant's Fine Wine in Dearborn, where she works as the Beer Manager, for a Saturday raffle drawing of Founder's Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS).

CBS is currently the most sought-after beer in the country. An extremely limited-release beer from one of the top craft breweries in the Great Beer State of Michigan (and probably among the top in the country), 750 ml bottles are selling for $45+ in the few restaurants that actually have some, and they're going for upwards of $100 on eBay (retail runs around $18.99). Annette gathers up some of her top customers for a raffle; the losers leave dejected, despondent; the winners bow down before the Precious.

The Precious.

Afterwards Annette invites me back to her and Mike's home for some cheese and beer so we can talk more about her and the Cicerone program. And this is what I love about beer people: come into our home, be our guest, we'll make sure you're well-fed and -watered and we welcome you to come back soon for more! Like a kind couple taking pity on a shy but curious tourist, they welcome me into their world.

Annette and Mike serve up some delish artisanal cheeses and sample after glorious sample of Mike's home brews. And then we got to talking. I was fascinated; I wanted to hear Annette's whole story: how she got to be a Cicerone, how she got into beer to begin with ... I thought, "Here's this totally awesome, adorable woman in a beer-drinkin' man's world who could so easily be a mentor for me, I'M NOT WORTHY." 

Her story was even more inspiring than I could have imagined. Turns out, Annette was never a drinker when she was younger. In fact, she knew nothing of booze or bars until she was in her early 30s. Originally from Australia, Annette moved to Chicago with her Australian husband in 1991, after he insisted on how badly he wanted to live in the States (she wasn't quite so enthusiastic; she had her sights set on Europe). She was a Registered Nurse and worked in that position under her work visa. She immediately fell in love with Chicago. Six months later her husband, who so badly wanted to live in the States before, decided he wanted to go back to Australia. He left; she stayed.

When her work visa expired, she figured she would stay in the country while waiting for a green card (not realizing it was a process that would take over a decade). She had to work cash jobs in order to survive, and ended up at a dive bar in Chicago that happened to serve craft beer (and was in fact one of the first bars in Chicago that did). Prior to working here she didn't know how to mix a drink, but she learned. Then she figured she needed to learn about the beer too, so she did, and she liked it. She would later end up at infamous Chicago beer bar the Map Room, becoming more and more involved with the beer community, attending home brewers' events (since many of them were her customers and friends), and eventually working for an importer.

More than 10 years later, she finally decided she had enough of waiting on a green card that seemed like it was never going to come. She put her notice in at her job, even had a replacement in line, booked her ticket home to Australia and was planning on returning to nursing. And that's when she met Mike.

Mike was a metro Detroit-based home brewer all this time and would attend the larger home brewing events that she would also be at. Their paths had crossed many times over the years, but they had never actually met. When they finally did at a beer conference, it was instant - they were drawn to each other like electricity to water. And yet in six months she was supposed to leave for Australia and wouldn't be allowed back in the country for ten years as soon as she did so.

She stayed. They married in 2004 and they've been blissfully, beerfully happy ever since (and it's obvious in the way they look at each other and how playful they are together). She moved with him to metro Detroit where she then got her job at Merchant's, and when their friend Ray Daniels approached them about his idea for a Cicerone program, they loved it and got right on board. In 2008, they both sat the second round of examinations ever offered and became Certified Cicerones. And now they're here, with me, laughing as they recount their story.

So this is the world of the Cicerone I entered: a world of tough women and happy accidents, a world where people meet and fall in love over beer. This is the world where I belong.

Want to see more? View the Flickr set here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Battle of the Bulge

What with all the tailgating going on, here's a little game day gourmet for 'ya. Also, these foods go REALLY well with beer.

Truffled Deviled Eggs
Why have regular deviled eggs when you can throw some truffle oil in there? (IKR???) These little picnic staples are easy to dress up by just adding some truffle oil (easy to find in specialty stores), then they get an extra fancy-pants kick with the addition of smoked salmon, parmesan and grape tomatoes. Make the eggs at home, transport them in a sealed plastic container or a plate covered in shrink wrap, then top them off when you're ready to eat for some easy game day gourmet that will put others' potato salads and taco dips to shame!

-12 eggs
-3 cups mayonnaise
-2 Tbsp truffle oil
-4 Tbsp finely chopped black truffle peelings (optional)
-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
-1/4 cup thin-sliced smoked salmon (you don’t need to smoke it yourself, over-achiever)
-1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
-6 grape tomatoes, washed and cut in half length-wise

-Place the eggs in a pot and cover with tap water. The level of the water should be about 1 inch above the eggs.
-Bring the pot to a boil and cover. Then turn off the heat and let sit for 13 minutes exactly.
-Uncover and run the eggs under cold water if using right away, or refrigerate until ready to use.
-Peel the eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks from the whites. Mash the yolks with a fork.
-Add the mayonnaise, truffle oil, cayenne and truffle peelings.
-Whip until very light and fluffy. *If you want a little more truffle flavor add a little more truffle oil. Proceed with caution, it is very easy to over-truffle.
-Spoon the yolk mixture into the whites. Store in fridge until ready to use. Top with a single slice of smoked salmon, parmesan shavings, and grape tomato half.

Bacon-Wrapped Venison Burger
This is Michigan, where deer hunting is a $500 million annual industry. Chances are if you're not a hunter yourself, your Uncle Teddy/Bobby/Larry/Jerry/Kenny is, and you know when he comes home with a fresh load of Bambi that meat will fill up four freezers for the next year, so you might as well start enjoying it. Venison meat is lean, mild and extremely flavorful. The saltiness of thick, smoky bacon will offset the venison's mild gaminess, leaving you with a beautiful bacony burger and that manly sense of accomplishment that comes from "living off the wild." The patty mixture can be made in advance and refrigerated overnight, ready for you to fire up on your portable George Foreman and grunt along with the other meat-grilling men.

-6 slices applewood-smoked bacon
-2 minced shallots
-2 lbs. ground venison
-1 tsp minced garlic
-1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
-1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
-1 beaten egg
-6 firm hamburger buns (stop by a proper bakery for these; those wimpy grocery store plastic bag buns won’t do this justice – try Avalon International Bread’s 313 Burger Buns)
-salt and pepper
-crumbled bleu cheese (optional)
-arugula (optional)

-Slightly cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat (cook only long enough to get some drippings; the bacon should still be limp enough to shape around burger patty and finish cooking with the burger).
-Use the bacon drippings to sauté the garlic and shallots until softened. Empty into large mixing bowl and let cool.
-Once cooled, add the ground venison, Worcestershire, parsley, salt, pepper, and the beaten egg until evenly combined. Refrigerate the whole mixture for about 20 minutes (or until ready to use).
-Preheat your outdoor grill for medium-high heat.
-Shape the meat into 6 patties (this will make 6 LARGE patties). Wrap a slice of bacon around each patty and hold in place with toothpicks. Grill to desired temperature. Add bleu cheese and arugula to taste.

German-Style Made In Michigan Sampler Platter*
Nothing says "Pig Skin Party" like actual pig in skins. The sausage-and-cheese plate is an art form; the idea is to get a quality sampler of different sausages and cheeses together with various accompaniments and bread for a simple crowd-pleasing spread. In Germany this is actually called "Abendbrot" and is a standard evening meal shared with the family. Use fresh bakery bread to make sandwiches or just sandwich cheese and mustard between two slices of sausage. And much like any other German dish, this is meant to be enjoyed with BEER. Not like foofy France and their high-falutin' "charcuterie" plates and wine pairings. You eat sausage? You drink beer. There is no wine in football. The best part is, it's easy as hell to make: just slice and serve.

Fixin’s (for 4-6 people):

3 packages of sausage – try to get a mix of pork and beef. Dearborn Sausage Co. makes a wide variety of pre-cooked and smoked sausages.
-Mild Hunter’s Sausage
-Smoked Sausage
-German Knockwurst

3 blocks/wedges of cheese – you’ll want firm cheeses with sharp flavors that are easy to slice.
The British Invasion (three firm yellow cheeses similar in body to cheddar though smoother and creamier): Red Leicester, Double Gloucester, Shropshire (a blue-veined yellow cheese, like stilton smashed into cheddar)
Made in Michigan (warning: these may be a little difficult to track down but Gahblessya for trying): Zingerman’s Creamery Great Lakes Cheshire, Grassfields Farms Gouda, Traffic Jam and Snug’s Blue Asiago

3 small jars of gourmet mustard – do a tasting of all Michigan-made mustards!
-Charley’s Ballpark Mustard (original flavor)
-Sansonetti Sauces’ Spicy Curry Mustard
-Sweet Lorraine’s Honey Bee Mustard

6 fresh-baked medium-large dinner rolls – try Avalon International Breads Russell Street Rustic Italian
1 jar pickles – we recommend McClure’s Garlic Dill Pickles
2 sticks unsalted butter (for spreading on bread)
6 large heirloom tomatoes (sliced for sandwiches)

*All local products are available in area specialty markets, such as Holiday Market in Royal Oak.

Read the full article (with more recipes) here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Dakota Inn Rathskeller

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

"Why do Germans celebrate Oktoberfest in September? They just do, no need to worry your pretty little head over it. But at the Dakota Inn Rathskeller in Detroit's Palmer Park neighborhood, Oktoberfest starts late September and runs through the end of October because this is America and dammit, the name says 'Oktober.'

'The Oktoberfest celebrations at the Dakota Inn are infamous in metro Detroit, with people making reservations months in advance just to ensure a seat (never you fear, late-planners: the 'late' crowd, from about 9 p.m. on, is all on a walk-in, first-come/first-served basis). As Detroit's only sing-along bar, the Dakota Inn is always guaranteed to be a good time; but it's during Oktoberfest that things get extra-rowdy ... and when the chicken hats come out in full force.

'What harvest season Old Country German tradition do the chicken hats originate from? None. Not a damn one. They're just fun. They're chicken hats. Also, the Kurz family, which has owned the Dakota Inn since 1933 and is now in its third generation of ownership, makes the hats themselves and then donates the proceeds to charity. Also, they're chicken hats...'

Read the rest of the article here.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

[Real Detroit Weekly] Detroit Beer Company

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

"Beer is the new black. The Detroit Beer Company (or the 'DBC,' as the locals call it), in the heart of downtown Detroit action, has been open since 2003 and is still one of only a handful of breweries in Detroit city limits despite the fact that the city is brimming over with beer geeks – so much so that last year's Fall Beer Festival in Eastern Market (sponsored by the Michigan Brewers Guild) doubled its attendance from the year before, which was its first year running.

'The DBC will be participating in this year's Fall Beer Fest on October 22 once again, but first they'll be celebrating their anniversary on October 15 with Detroit's largest vat of chili (well, that or a pig roast – we make no promises; there will be food, okay?). They'll also be part of the Detroit Beer Week festivities, 11 days of happy that will start October 13.

'The DBC – owned by the same folks who also own the Royal Oak Brewery and Lockhart's BBQ – has only been around for eight years, but feels like one of those long-time Detroit mainstay establishments, a relic from a former era before Detroit was cool again (aka, B.S.: Before Slows). As trendy bars and restaurants come and go, the DBC is a reliable staple..."

Read the rest of the article here.

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

Monday, October 10, 2011

[HOT LIST] Detroit Beer Week

At the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery on Old Mission. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.

The 2011 Detroit Beer Week starts in 3 days, 5 hours and counting (seriously, check the website, there's a counter). This is the third year of this annual event that celebrates and promotes Detroit's craft beer culture; if you want to learn more about the genesis of DBW, oh hey look I already wrote about that!

Detroit Beer Week brings us 11 days of local beer, presented by Jon Piepenbrok of Liquid Table. This year's DBW has more than three dozen different venues presenting nearly 50 official Detroit Beer Week events in both the city and nearby suburbs - and all of it a grassroots effort spearheaded by Piepenbrok and his many industry friends. From the press release: “We started it small on purpose,” states Piepenbrok. “It’s still small, compared to other Beer Weeks like Philly or San Diego, but those are huge efforts funded by distributors and large regional breweries. This is me and a few close industry friends making a lot of noise without a lot of money.”

Below are some of our choice selections from this year's Detroit Beer Week events, all culminating in the Michigan Brewers Guild Fall Beer Festival on October 22; check their Facebook page and website for more complete events listings and further details as they are published.

#1 10/13 TapDetroit DBW Launch Party, Fountain Bistro (Detroit)
This is the ceremonial keg-tapping to kick off the DBW festivities, and this one's extra special: new this year, Detroit Beer Week has its very own official beer - 313ale, an American wheat/extra pale/saison hybrid. 313ale is a collaboration beer brewed by the Detroit Beer Barons, a clandestine group of beer professionals in metro Detroit. It is the first commercially-brewed beer made entirely with Michigan ingredients, including hops from St. Clair Shores. The first keg of 313ale will be tapped at the Point of Origin at 5:01pm on October 13 - because Detroit was founded in the year 1701, 5:01pm is 17:01 Military Time, and the keg will be tapped at the Point of Origin of the City of Detroit (where Fountain Bistro is located).

#2 10/17 History of German Beer at Jacoby's German Biergarten (Detroit)
They'll be walking you through the history of German beer as well as its influence on American brewing at Jacoby's German Biergarten, Detroit's original biergarten.

#3 10/18 Collabo-beer Dinner at Cliff Bell's (Detroit)
Both hailing from the surprising beer mecca that is Warren, Dragonmead Microbrewery and Kuhnhenn Brewing Company will be hosting a collaboration beer dinner at Detroit's most impressive supper club and jazz lounge, Cliff Bell's.

#4 10/19 Beer vs. Wine Cheese Pairing at Motor City Wine
Exactly what it says, in Detroit's edgy wine bar and live music venue located upstairs from Foran's Grand Trunk Pub.

#5 10/20 Craft Beer Dinner featuring Bell's at the Rattlesnake Club (Detroit)
Five courses and five beers, featuring the inventive fall fare of the Rattlesnake's culinary team. 6:30p.m., $50 per person (excluding tax and gratuity).

Bubbling under 10/17 Happy hour takeover featuring Dark Horse Brewing Co. and MillKing It Productions at Foran's Grand Trunk Pub; 10/18 Arcadia Ales Happy Hour on the Patio at Slows Bar BQ; 10/19 Red Smoke Beer Dinner featuring New Holland Brewing Co. at Red Smoke Barbecue; 10/20 New Holland Brewing Co. Vintage High Gravity Tasting at Foran's Grand Trunk Pub

Saturday, October 8, 2011

[EID Travel Feature] Ontario Wine Country: Lake Erie North Shore + Pelee Island

Cooper's Hawk Vineyards. All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

Obviously we here at Eat It Detroit are huge proponents of local travel and Michigan wines. The wineries of northern Michigan are close; the wineries of southern Michigan are even closer. But if you live in metro Detroit, a geographically unique area where Canada lies both north and south, the closest wine region actually lies across the border in Ontario ... and if you live in the city of Detroit, you can be in the heart of the Lake Erie North Shore VQA in about 35 minutes.

We love the L.E.N.S. VQA because it's so close, and also because it's so cheap. The Canadian dollar and U.S. dollar have been pretty comparable as of late (fluctuations in strength between the two are effectively negligible), which means gold medal-winning wines from this Ontario region priced at a scant $15 are a scant $15. Also, ice wine. Canada and Germany are the world's largest producers of ice wine - a luscious dessert wine that's like liquid honey; truly the nectar of the gods - and most of Canada's comes from Ontario. The wineries here make ice wine in abundance (the name refers to the method of production: healthy grapes are harvested and pressed while frozen, making for a highly concentrated, sweet wine), and unlike the $65+ price tag for a 200mL bottle you'll see here in the States, most of them sell for $20-35 for 200mL; Sprucewood Shores even sells a 375mL bottle for $40.05.

Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery.

There are some distinct differences between southern Ontario and northern Michigan wines. The climates are just dissimilar enough to allow for some divergent areas of focus - both are considered cool climate regions, but it seems that northern Michigan is stronger in their Alsatian-style whites and Lake Erie is having better and more consistent luck with their Rhone-style reds (cool weather red varietals like Cab Franc, the heartbreak grape Pinot Noir, and the hardy hybrid Baco Noir grow well here and make for some exceptional wines).

There are 15 wineries now in the Lake Erie North Shore VQA (with two more opening next year and three more approved down the road), but only a handful have been around for a significant amount of time. This wine region is reminiscent of where northern Michigan was about five or so years ago: they're producing some truly outstanding wines, but no one is really paying them any attention. They are an underdog region, sneered at by Ontario's big dog regions of Niagara and Niagara-on-the-Lake - and oh, hell, we love to root for the underdog. Just as northern Michigan is starting to get some international recognition now, so will the Lake Erie North Shore in the future ... but for now, it's their little secret and they're pretty content to let it stay that way for a little while longer (and so are we).

The topography of the Lake Erie North Shore is also markedly different than northern Michigan - lots of flat land and straight roads, but all situated along (or nearby) the Lake Erie coast in the middle of abundant farmland, so still very scenic and peaceful (a bit reminiscent of the many apple orchard and pumpkin patch stretches in northern Macomb County, complete with the quaint little downtowns interspersed throughout). A weekend tour through Ontario wine country is truly a fantastic way to enjoy the fall colors close to home.

Jack's Gastropub and Inn 31.

The 15 wineries of the Lake Erie North Shore encompass everything from teeny-tiny wineries open all of three months with a case production of only 850 to some of the biggest and oldest wineries in Ontario with an annual case production topping 600,000. Another cool little factoid to stick in your hat, wear around and present at parties: there are four female winemakers in this 15-winery region, including Rori McCaw at Cooper's Hawk and Tanya Mitchell at Sprucewood Shores. By comparison, at best count there is one female winemaker in the entire state of Michigan. One. (There are actually very few female commercial winemakers in the United States at all. This is especially significant when you consider women account for over 60% of wine consumers and nearly 80% of women make all or almost all of the wine purchasing decisions in the home; kinda goes back to that whole women in the kitchen thing.)

So, Canada, Ontario, Lake Erie North Shore ... you have our attention. Now, here's what you need to know about Canadian wine terminology before going in: the VQA is Ontario's wine authority, designating the standards for VQA-designated wine production within the province's distinct appellations. A wine that is designated "VQA" means the grapes were all grown in one of Ontario's specific VQA appellations (i.e., Lake Erie North Shore) and is a quality example of that appellation. Think of it as the same as the Italian DOCG and the French AOC systems.

Next, you'll hear a lot about the LCBO - the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Much as the Michigan Liquor Control Commission controls liquor sales here, the LCBO controls liquor sales there. Because of strict exportation and distribution laws both on the part of the LCBO as well as the MLCC (and also because many of these wineries are simply too small to do any significant distribution), many of these wines you will only ever be able to sample and purchase here at the wineries themselves (most of the wine that gets exported is sent over to China and Japan, where the ice wine market is particularly huge and Canadian wines are generally in good favor). And that will appeal to just about any adventurous quasi-hipster-foodie type looking to find the next cool food thing before anyone else. And, hi, it's less than an hour away.

Another thing to know about Canadian wines is the sugar code scale, a numerical designation referring to a wine's residual sugars. 0 is as dry as it gets; the majority of the wines will clock in at 4 or under, but some ice wines can get up into the 20s. It's a handy designation to determine whether or not a wine is dry and an easy way to self-educate your palate.

Got all that? You are now ready to experience southern Ontario wine country.

Viewpointe Estate Winery.
Day 1
Start at Viewpointe Estate Winery in Harrow, about an hour from the center of downtown Detroit. This brings you through a big chunk of the L.E.N.S. region and right into the heart of it. Have lunch with a glass of wine on their spacious patio overlooking Lake Erie; their patio menu is available Thursday-Sunday when weather permits and emphasizes the local products of Windsor-Essex. Viewpointe has been open since 2006 and strives to be a winery of many hats: they can accommodate large parties both indoors and out for weddings and corporate events; they have a culinary center that does all their in-house catering as well as teaches hands-on culinary classes during the off season; they are a satellite school for Niagara College's Master Taster's program, which basically offers all the same training of a sommelier without the rigorous testing. Viewpointe is also something of a research facility: they worked with a Swiss scientist to produce a hybrid grape specifically for Essex County, one that would be ideal for their climate - early-ripening, cold-hardy, mildew-resistant - promoting environmental and economic sustainability. These grapes are behind their Colchester Cuvee, and while they are the only winery currently making the wine they have sold roots to other wineries, and they hope this will one day be known as Essex County's grape. The Auxerrois is also a varietal wine unique to this estate.

Wine recs: 2009 Colchester Cuvee, 2008 Auxerrois VQA, 2007 High Pointe Syrah VQA, 2001 Cabernet Merlot VQA, 2002 Focal Pointe Cabernet Franc

Next, head over to Cooper's Hawk Vineyards in Harrow, a brand-new eco-conscious winery only open three months now. Because they're new their case production is small and they only have four wines currently available, but MAN if they didn't make the very most of what they had to show... Their Riesling is grown in limestone and so has a huge mineral backbone with NO sweetness; the Cabernet Merlot has a velvety earthiness to it - full-bodied yet still soft with toned-down tannins and lots of dark berry and leather. But winemaker Rori McCaw is most proud of her Cabernet Franc Rosé, a gorgeous rosé that's lush and warm. There are no additions or corrections made to these wines - Cooper's Hawk is off to one hell of a good start. Next year their production will more than double with twice as many wines available. While here, be sure to tour the grounds where you'll find a natural ampitheatre and wetlands.

Wine recs: CHV Unoaked Chardonnay 2010; CHV Riesling 2010; CHV Authentic Cabernet Franc Rosé 2010; CHV Cabernet/Merlot 2008

For your last winery of the day, visit one of the oldest and largest estate wineries in Ontario: Pelee Island Winery in Kingsville. They've been operating since 1983 growing upwards of 40 different grapes on their 1,000 acres on Pelee Island, and are the only Pelee Island VQA winery. The operation is massive and they distribute widely throughout North America and Asia. They make dozens of wines covering a huge range of styles, but their reserve wines are only sold in the winery. The Cab Sauv Reserve is an absolute must, but if you try NOTHING else at this winery you MUST try the Cab Franc Icewine - a pale, dusty rose color, this icewine, though lesser known than the golden Vidal Icewine, is a honey-tongued goddess loaded with cassis and strawberry jam. Luscious and lovely and only available at the winery.

Wine recs: Gewurztraminer Riesling VQA, Gamay Noir Zweigelt VQA, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve VQA, Cabernet Franc Icewine VQA, Chardonnay Barrique VQA

After a day of tasting, head just down the street to Jack's Gastropub in adorable downtown Kingsville for a casual dinner of hearty, homey locally-sourced fare. The greens and produce come from area farmers, the meat from local butchers, burgers are ground in-house and topped with unique items like apple fig chutney and cider mayo (for the fall). You can't get items like a Turducken Rueben anywhere else, and the brisket poutine is comfort food to the extreme. They carry a large selection of local craft beer from breweries like Mill Street and Muskoka, and their wine list is all Ontario wines. After a meal like that on a brisk fall night you'll want to cozy up in bed next to a fireplace and hey look, you can do that here too! Upstairs from Jack's is Inn 31, a three-room bed and breakfast where each room has a fireplace and a big big bathroom with jacuzzi tub.

Inn 31.

Day 2
After breakfast at Inn 31, head back into Harrow to visit Colio Estate Winery. Another one of Ontario's oldest and largest wineries, Colio makes about 75 different wines for just about every palate and price point. Take a full tour of their facilities to learn more about their operations and see their barrel room with just a portion of the medals they've won over time. They've racked up over 500 medals since they started in 1980, and continue to knock it out of the park with their reserve reds like Cab Franc, Pinot Noir, and most recently their phenomenal Shiraz* loaded with white pepper and almost-ripe strawberry. They make several different varieties of sparkling wine, but the best bang for your buck might just be the Girl's Night Out Sparkling VQA, a wonderfully bright, crisp bubbly made with all Riesling grapes for only $14.75 per bottle.
*Look, we can nitpick over Shiraz vs. Syrah; they named it thus because the Aussies gave the grape more recognizability and so Colio gave it the name people are familiar with.

Wine recs: CEV Riesling Reserve VQA, CEV Small Lot Shiraz, CEV Reserve Cabernet Franc LENS, CEV Gamay Noir, CEV Late Harvest Vidal VQA, Girl's Night Out Sparkling VQA

From Colio visit Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery in Harrow, a small family-owned and -operated winery overlooking Lake Erie. Their Pinot Gris is their most popular wine, bright and citrusy and only lightly acidic (a great summertime patio drinking wine), but their unoaked Barrel Reserve Chardonnay is fruit-forward with a smooth butterscotch finish (when Chardonnay comes back into favor in the wine drinking world it will be because of the anti-oak trend). Their Pinot Noir is aged 8 months and oak and is described as being "uncomplicated" - nice and drinkable. But winemaker Tanya Mitchell's masterpiece is their Meritage, a Bordeaux blend of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, and Merlot aged 18 months in oak for a rich, bold, complex wine. Hang out here for awhile and enjoy their picnic basket lunch, an actual picnic basket loaded with gourmet cheese (Dubliner, 3-year aged cheddar, or smoked gouda), meat (prosciutto or salami), a warm baguette loaf, garlicky hummus, antipasti, fruit and dessert for $25 (easily feeds 2-3). Take the basket down to the picnic benches on the shore for a relaxing lakefront al fresco afternoon feast.

Wine recs: Pinot Gris, Barrel Reserve Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Meritage, Hawk's Flight Reserve Merlot, Vidal Ice Wine

Next up, D'Angelo Estate Winery in Amherstburg, another one of the area's old wineries. Owner and winemaker Sal D'Angelo produces award-winning wines from his two locations (the other is in British Columbia). Their unique specialty is their Foch wines, made from the hybrid Marechal Foch grape which only they are growing. Their Old Vines Foch wines are from the winery's first planted vines (around 1983). There are several vintages of the Old Vines Foch available to taste - 2002,  2005 and 2008 - and each is markedly different from the last. Aged in American oak, these are big, rich, jammy, meaty reds (the 2002 has a nose of strawberry Starburst). D'Angelo also makes an exceptional Baco Noir, another hybrid grape that thrives in the area. Where most Baco Noirs are fruit-forward, theirs are edgy and full-bodied; again, try both the 2007 and 2008 vintages to compare. D'Angelo also specializes in dessert and fortified wines, including Vidal Icewine, Iced Foch (in which the juice is frozen and concentrated after the grapes are picked), Iced Foch Vidal, and their signature Dolce Vita, a fortified Vidal Icewine that's all the lusciousness of ice wine with the alcohol kicked up.

Wine recs: Old Vines Foch, Baco Noir, Pinot Noir, Blanc de Blanc, Iced Foch Vidal, Dolce Vita

For your last stop through the Lake Erie North Shore VQA, visit the Muscedere family over at Muscedere Vineyards. Their winery estate is also their home, and the operation has a distinct family feel with a children's playset out back and little ones running around. Muscedere is a small winery, with 12 acres of vines on their estate and an annual production under 1,500 cases. 2010 was their first full production year. They hand-harvest all of their grapes to ensure greater quality control, and plan on staying relatively small in order to maintain that quality. Their 2009 Pinot Noir, Baco Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon all medaled at InterVin, and already barrel samples of the 2010 Cab Sauv currently chilling out in oak show a wine that's going to be HUGE and will only get bigger as it sits on oak another year. Even their Pinot Noir - usually such a soft, gentle grape - is high in tannins and fuller in body.

Wine recs: Pinot Grigio, Baco Noir Reserve, Pinot Noir, Meritage, Cabernet Sauvignon

On your way back to the States, make one last stop about 15 minutes from the Ambassador Bridge at Seasons Bistro in La Salle. The restaurant opened in 2008 with the concept of seasonality and freshness, so they work with local farmers and producers in conjunction with the Grown Right Here - Windsor-Essex campaign promoting local producers. Menus are updated regularly to reflect the season and availability; right now the shredded duck dumplings and roasted squash ravioli are a wonder. The wine list also features several Lake Erie North Shore wines.

Now with a head full of wine and a belly full of food, it's time to go back over the border. Try not to look too guilty, and be sure to visit our friendly neighbors to the south-north again soon and partake generously of their fantastic wines.

For more information on Windsor-Essex and Pelee Island, click here.

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

Thursday, October 6, 2011

[Metromode] Little Baghdad in Sterling Heights

"For over a century, metro Detroit has been a hub for immigrants to settle (largely because of the work opportunities available to them through the auto industry). But despite the shifts in the economy over the last two decades, southeast Michigan has continued to be a metropolis for ex-pats looking to build families and careers in the States.

'Immigrant families from the same countries tend to cluster, forming pockets of cultural heritage, whole neighborhoods that might have been plucked straight from their native countries and dropped into unassuming corners of metro Detroit. To identify these pockets of ethnic diversity, one must simply look for the signs ... the storefront signs, that is. Little Vietnam in Madison Heights is easily identified by the disproportionately large number of Vietnamese restaurants, markets, video stores and salons with signboards written in both English and Vietnamese (if English is used at all).

'According to the Arab American Institute, as of 2008 Michigan was second only to California in its population of Middle Eastern Americans. With nearly 300,000 estimated to be living in the state today, Metro Detroit accounts for nearly 80 percent of that demographic (many of whom are Lebanese, but also Palestinian, Yemeni, Egyptian, and Iranian). Dearborn boasts the highest percentage, with nearly a third of its 93,000 residents being Arab American.

'Driving down Warren Ave. through East Dearborn, there are countless Arab-owned restaurants, bakeries, pizzerias, clothing stores, doctors' offices, law firms and general services. The signs are almost entirely in Arabic; restaurants and markets announce in bold neon that they are 'halal,' which means 'lawful' in accordance with Islamic law (similar to Jewish 'kosher' in that it refers to specific methods of animal slaughtering and the forbidden consumption of certain products). In addition to these businesses, there are also several mosques for community worship as well as cultural institutions upholding Arab and Muslim heritage like the Arab American National Museum.

'But Dearborn's Little Beirut isn't the only corner of metro Detroit that has a large Arab American population, even though it certainly gets the most attention. Over in Macomb County, Sterling Heights in particular, a Little Baghdad is forming in sleepy strip malls, and a strong show of Chaldean culture is making itself known. In fact, of cities with populations of 100,000 or more, Sterling Heights tops the list, with nearly 4 percent of its population being of Middle Eastern descent. (Warren follows close behind with nearly 3 percent)..."

Read the rest of the article here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

[HOT LIST] Wineries of Southern Michigan

Covert cell phone ops at Round Barn's Union Pier tasting room.

Chicago is a four-hour straight shot down I-94, an easy enough road trip for metro Detroit's weekend warriors looking for a quick getaway. The majority of that drive is through farmland and there's whole stretches in the middle of the state where even the strongest phone signals blink out. But just as the you start to see the first billboards announcing Firekeepers Casino and places with names like "Tokyo Spa," you'll also start to see signs leading you to the southern Michigan wine trails.

The I-94 route will take you right past all of the Pioneer Wine Trail and through most of the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Country. While these aren't necessarily destination wine trails (they're surrounded by a whole lot of not much and Chicago is, after all, just a couple of hours away), and most of these wineries simply do not operate on the same level as their northern Michigan counterparts, they're a great way to make the journey itself part of the fun - stretch the legs and lube the brain cells a bit. Crank through four or five of these places on your way out and still be in downtown Chicago in time for dinner, or make it a leisurely drive home in an effort to prolong the inevitable: Monday morning. (There's definitely a few wines worth taking home, too.)

#1 Round Barn Winery Baroda, Union Pier, Saugatuck
Visit the Union Pier tasting room (located right off I-94) and find yourself smack dab in the middle of a mini wine country. Wines from Round Barn Winery and Free Run Cellars are both available in the tasting room; the Round Barn Brewery is located behind the tasting room where you can sample a beer flight; and right across the parking lot is one of St. Julian's many tasting rooms. Since you're here, might as well hit all three! Round Barn is also a distillery, making fruit brandies and sweet fruit cordials as well as vodka, bourbon and rum under their DiVine label.

#2 Free Run Cellars Union Pier, Saugatuck
The sons of the Round Barn family started Free Run Cellars as a way to evolve the family's grape growing and winemaking legacy. Brothers Matthew and Christian Moersch diverge from the traditions of Round Barn by making wines that suit more of a connoisseur's palate rather than being easy crowd-pleasers. The Dry Gewurztraminer and Cabernet Franc are their proudest wines, but be sure to also try the fruity Pinot Meunier and the Alsatian-style, highly drinkable white blend Mezzo.

St. Julian's Braganini Reserve Blanc de Noir.
#3 St. Julian Winery Dundee, Paw Paw, Union Pier, more
One of Michigan's oldest wineries currently celebrating its 90th anniversary, St. Julian is also the most readily available along I-94 (with three tasting rooms on this route alone). Skip the standards, pay the $5 for 5 and go straight to the Braganini Reserve list. It's easy to make assumptions about the quality of St. Julian's wines based on what trickles down to places like Meijer, but reserves like the Pinot Gris and Blanc de Noir will completely change your perception.

#4 Sleeping Bear Winery Albion
It's a cute brand with a cute tasting room and a cute Taste of Michigan store that sells other Michigan-made food products. If you're headed outbound for Chicago this will be the first winery you stumble across and it's a fun way to kick off an impromptu wine tour. This weekend they're celebrating the grand opening of Bad Bear Brewery, a brand-new microbrewery on their property, with Winetoberfest on October 8 from 1-10 p.m. 

#5 Hickory Creek Winery
A small and fairly new winery, Hickory Creek produces wines from grapes grown exclusively in the Lake Michigan Shore AVA. They carry a few different dry whites (like Riesling, Gewurztraminer and an unoaked Chardonnay), a sweet apple wine, a luscious ice wine, and only one red: the red fruit-driven Melange with notes of cherries, dark berries, cocoa and pepper.

Bubbling under
Founders Wine Cellar (Baroda), Cherry Creek Cellars (Albion), Karma Vista Vineyards (Coloma), Tabor Hill Winery and Restaurant (Buchanan), Lemon Creek Winery (Berrien Springs), Lone Oak Vineyard Estate (Grass Lake), Sandhill Crane Vineyards (Jackson)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

[EID Feature] Chateau de Leelanau: An old winery in an even older barn gets a facelift with new owners

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

If you're driving up M-22 on the Leelanau Peninsula to do a little tour of Leelanau's roughly 20 wineries, you'll pass right by Chateau de Leelanau. And if you're anything like me, as you're passing by you'll think to yourself, "Well what the hell, it's right there," and you'll stop in to check it out. And that's kind of what they're banking on.

New owners Matt Gregory, his brother Andrew, their uncle Don, their cousin’s husband Mark Miezeo, and the "wine scientist" Roger Veliquette took over this musty old winery in February 2010 and opened in June 2010. "Musty" refers less to the wines - which Matt admits were decent enough - and more to the whole brand overall. The Chateau de Leelanau label was still stuck in that stuffy faux-"fancy" font that tends to signify an amateurish idea of what good wine should look like; the tasting room itself was cluttered with trinkets and tchotchkes that looked like the attic/basement/garage/living room of a crazy old cat lady. Sure, the blue hairs vacationing in wine country loved it, but that image wasn't exactly going to endear the winery to the new era of young wine connoisseurs curious to explore what northern Michigan has to offer.

Owner Matt Gregory with Ann Hoyt, cheesemaker for the Leelanau Cheese Company at Black Star Farms.

"I call it the seven-dumpster remodel," Matt jokes. When they bought the winery they inherited everything - the tanks, the barrels, the juice, the remaining bottle inventory, and the cluttered tasting room which happens to be in a prime location. Anyone making a trek out to visit prominent LP wineries like Black Star Farms, L. Mawby or Shady Lane Cellars will inevitably pass right by this place, conveniently located directly on M-22 in a plaza which is actually a 150-year-old barn. They gutted the place entirely, opened it up and made it feel fresh and fun. "We wanted to make this a younger, more fun place to hang out," Matt says.

Freshening up the image also meant doing a bit of re-branding. Their new wine labels ditch the fussy old cursive font in favor of a more playful logo which features a simple image of a barn with a wine bottle as a silo (paying homage to the barn they're in as well as their own farming history, and just the slightest bit of playfulness with the whole traditionally snooty Chateau concept).

The Gregory family has a long history as area farmers. They are fruit farmers - cherries, apples - with vast amounts of property on the Leelanau Peninsula just north of Suttons Bay (they also sell some of their Cherry Bay Orchards products in the tasting room, and if you're going to try anybody's cherry wine it should be theirs). Growing grapes was simply a natural progression from there. "We had an opportunity to get into an existing business [with Chateau de Leelanau]," Matt explains. "Their [farm] property was right next to the property we already owned." When the opportunity presented itself for them to purchase Chateau de Leelanau, it just seemed serendipitous.

Their first vintage was 2009, a tough growing year which most wineries struggled to make the best of. When they inherited the inventory, the juice was already in the tanks and barrels but they were at least able to finish them to their own tastes, and in doing so also inadvertently introduced what would become some of their signature wines.

"Hawkins Red," named for the 150-year-old barn in which the tasting room is located built by the Hawkins family, came about by accidental necessity. Because 2009 was such a rough year - the grapes just didn't ripen as they needed too, particularly the red - they knew that their Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc would sell out fast (because there was so little of them) but still needed to have a red wine available for people as they came in. When they inherited the place, the only red in the tanks was the Regent grape, a hybrid used almost solely for blending purposes and almost never as a stand-alone varietal. Since they had nothing to blend it with, they took a (big) gamble and made it into a varietal wine called Hawkins Red. The end product is very similar to a Shiraz: a light body with notes of strawberry and a peppery finish. It has a little bit of an unexpected kick to it, which is exactly what Matt and Roger try to achieve with their wines to set them apart.

Hawkins Red has since become one of their flagship wines that no one else is even making. Another flagship wine unique to Chateau de Leelanau is Bianca. Bianca is a hybrid Hungarian strain of the Bouvier grape (which is grown primarily in central Europe). It's a hearty little grape that resists frost and ripens early, a common sense grape for this region. However, Chateau de Leelanau is currently the only winery that is growing it. But Bianca is a lovely mistress - similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, Bianca is a soft, light white with notes of tropical fruits like mango and tart citrus balanced out with crisp pear. She's a sleeper grape, and one that will surely command some serious attention for Chateau de Leelanau. (Another fun note: when ripe, Bianca is fluorescent orange.)

With the 2010 vintage Chateau de Leelanau was 100% harvested, pressed and blended by the new owners and the label became entirely their own. People are still learning about this "new" old winery, and one of the most important things they want people to know is that they're in it to have fun. "If you want to talk about the idiosyncrasies of wine that's fine," Matt says. "But if you want to just drink and hang out, that's cool too."

I did a little of both. After talking idiosyncrasies and the history of the winery, I drank and hung out, then Matt and I climbed into the Chateau de Leelanau van and took a trek out to the vineyards to see the grapes at work getting all fat and juicy (the growing season isn't quite completely over, but it's looking like 2011 will be a good year). There are certain wineries that are "musts" if you're making the trip up to the Traverse City's wine country; Chateau de Leelanau needs to be added to that list, and with its convenient location there's really no reason not to. Stop in, say hi to Matt (he's pretty much the "face" of Chateau de Leelanau and handles all the marketing and sales), hang out, drink some wine. It's fun without the fussiness; exactly what a wine country experience should be.

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