Thursday, May 31, 2012

[Real Detroit Weekly] Baconfest Michigan

Royal Oak, meet bacon. Bacon, meat Royal Oak (see what I did there?). For fairness' sake, let's not just limit this to Royal Oak, Oakland County or southeastern Michigan. Everyone should be able to enjoy bacon. And they shall! On Saturday, June 2, from 6 to 10 p.m., the first-ever Baconfest Michigan will be happening at the Royal Oak Farmers Market. You'll find over 30 restaurants, celebrity chef demonstrations (local celebrities anyway, like our very own Joe Hakim of the Hungry Dudes), live entertainment from the Reefermen and bacon. Lots and lots of bacon. A veritable ocean of bacon. Bacon as far as the eye can see and the mouth can eat. Endless, flowing bacon.

Chicago has its own Baconfest (and, predictably, it's an overpriced shitshow where the chefs act like they're doing you a favor by being there); it's high time Michigan had its own! Not only a celebration of all things bacon, with everything from pork belly to prosciutto to duck bacon to vegan bacon (a nationwide Baconfest first!) on hand, it's also a celebration of all things Michigan. Many participating restaurants smoke their own bacon in-house and source from local vendors using meat raised on Michigan farms. Bars will be stocked with Michigan products including Valentine Vodka, McClure's Bloody Mary mix, Michigan craft beers and a selection of Michigan wines. Baconfest is also striving to be a sustainable festival, utilizing eco-friendly and biodegradable Michigan Green Safe Products for all plates, napkins, cups and utensils.

Read more.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

[HOT LIST] Salads

The Arugula Salad at Olga's Kitchen. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.

Salad. That most underrated course of culinary creations. For too many restaurants, it is merely an afterthought. For too many diners, it is too much filler between the appetizers (small plates! tapas! ...a rose by any other name would surely still be a rose, unless you call it "extra special trendy new never-seen-before rose;" thus how "appetizers" evolved into "small plates") and the entrees. It is usually denigrated to the lowly position of "side," and is munched on seemingly out of pity as the diner patiently awaits his or her "real" food. As an entree choice, salad is a laughingstock and so is the person who orders it - it is considered "girly," often imbued with smug accusations of insecurity over appearance - "diet" is a four-letter word, as is "girl." "Vegetarian" isn't, but it might as well be for all the snide comments that meat-eaters make about them (because meat-eaters eat ONLY meat: every meal is meat wrapped in meat on a meat bun with meat sauce and sides of meat cooked in meat fat).

But a good salad is an art - not merely shredding up some lettuce, throwing on whatever toppings are nearby and slathering it in some uninspired dressing like ranch (*shudder*). A good salad can highlight the very best of Michigan's bountiful produce (second only to California in diversity, and THOSE people know their salads), incorporate unexpected flavors and textures, and be not just the intermission but the highlight of an entire meal. These salads do exactly that, and not one of them is made with iceberg lettuce.  Iceberg has about all of the nutritional value as a handful of wood chips. Which honestly isn't even fair to wood chips, which probably have more flavor. It's time to demand and appreciate a higher class of salad!

Prosciutto Salad at Zin. Photo by VATO.
#1 Zin Wine Bar Plymouth
Still the new guy in town over in Plymouth, which is quickly becoming the new go-to downtown restaurant destination thanks to places like 5ive and the even-newer Sardine Room, up-and-coming Chef Justin Vaiciunas gets the importance of salad, and just how creative a chef can actually be with it. The menu at Zin changes seasonally, but recent salad options included a roasted heirloom beet salad with citrus foam, brussels sprouts salad with black garlic aioli, and a shaved prosciutto salad featuring a pile of prosciutto (MEAT motherfuckers!) over lemon mascarpone and drizzled with Italian white truffle oil. Check your salad prejudice at the door.

#2 The Root Restaurant White Lake
Executive Chef James Rigato (another serious up-and-comer) is passionate about produce, specifically Michigan produce. The overarching ethos of the Root is fresh, local and seasonal, and this is reflected as much in their salads as in any other menu item. Their take on a roasted beet salad includes arugula, goat cheese, pickled onion, orange and marcona almond with a Michigan honey and sherry vinaigrette. For the summer they've got a vegan greenhouse fattoush salad, a strawberry arugula salad, and their signature "Orchard Salad" with green apple, red leaf, marcona almond, dried Michigan cherries, Michigan bleu cheese, pickled onion, crispy house-made bacon (!), and Spicer's hard cider vinaigrette.

#3 The Majestic Detroit
House salads usually suck: "here's a pile of crappy lettuce with chopped up three-day-old tomatoes and canned olives with bottled Italian dressing on top" (and if they're fancy it will be called "Italian vinaigrette"). At the Majestic Cafe, the house salad is one of the best things on the menu, and they've got a damn good menu. Order as a full portion or just as a side (but a side that can certainly hold its own): baby arugula, Saga bleu cheese, candied walnuts and apple tossed in a Michigan maple vinaigrette. And, like, a big-ass HUNK of Saga bleu. No fooling around with this one.

#4 Olga's Kitchen Detroit
Newly opened on the main floor of the Compuware Building in downtown Detroit's Central Business District, Olga's Kitchen was met with a mix of excitement and, to a much lesser extent, disdain. (Disdain: "Waaaaaaaah, it's corporate." Rebuttal: It's a Michigan-based chain! Disdain: "Waaaaaaaaah, you have to order at a counter right inside the door and that's weird and unfamiliar and I don't like it." Rebuttal: this speeds up service by cutting out the middleman and besides, fine dining it ain't; your food is still brought right to your table.) They've got a large selection of salads, but try the one that's inexplicably buried under the "starters" portion of the menu: the Arugula Salad. Baby arugula, tomato bruschetta, candied bacon (BACON!!!), red onions and feta tossed in their signature dressing. They also have a surprising selection of Michigan craft beers (like Frankenmuth Dunkel) - on a recent visit the salad with an order of Olga Snackers (bread + cheese) and a beer was under $11 and the food came out lightning-fast.

#5 Torino Espresso Bar Ferndale
They've got a small but mighty selection of salads to match their small but mighty menu. Their Caesar is made with house-made Caesar dressing and prosciutto bacon, but for something light and simple try their house salad -- arugula, Parmagiano Reggiano, olive oil, lemon juice and balsamic. The best part is you can order one of their outstanding panini and swap out the chips for the house salad for only $2.50 ... totes worth it.

Bubbling under Pizzeria Biga (Royal Oak), Le Petit Zinc (Detroit), Anita's Kitchen (Ferndale), Meriwether's (Southfield), Roma Cafe (Detroit), Mr. Paul's Chophouse (Roseville), Inn Season Cafe (Royal Oak), Big Rock Chop House (Birmingham), 24grille (Detroit), Hudson Cafe (Detroit), Forest Grill (Birmingham), Hilton Road Cafe (Ferndale), Roast (Detroit), Palazzo di Bocce (Lake Orion), Tony Sacco's Coal Oven Pizza (Novi)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

[EID Feature] Why Our Baconfest is Best

Friends, Detroiters, Michiganders, lend me your ear. Too many of you are far too willing to supplicate yourselves before the mighty myth that is Chicago as a quote-unquote real city, and in the process effectively invalidating our entire city - nay STATE - as inherently inferior. You are like abused housewives, so battered by this bully that you are utterly convinced of your own worthlessness and willing to kowtow to a supposed superiority that is truth only because you've heard it enough times to make it so. Stop this. You are good enough, you are smart enough, and gosh darnit people like you. Chicago can't control you anymore. It's time you free yourselves of its oppressive shackles!

What do they have? A few good urban beaches and a snazzy pier! What do we have? 3,288 miles of unspoiled coastline and Belle Freakin' Isle! What do they have? Restaurants where the staff dresses in T-shirts and jeans and sits down next to you like you're in gat-damn Joe's Crab Shack where it will still cost $100 per person before you walk out the door and you practically had to sit in a stranger's lap because you're packed in so tight and you STILL had to wait two hours for a table on a Tuesday! What do we have? Ample Midwestern personal space and hospitality, and talented chefs who don't act like they're doing you favors by letting you eat in their restaurants! ...and also Slows. (The list goes on. For awhile. I'm happy to share any time. Bottom line: if it's New York you want, to New York you should go. Not this fake imitation New York that's just as expensive but only a fraction as good. Would you go to Las Vegas and stay in the New York-themed casino hotel in lieu of going to Actual New York? No, you would not. And neither should you go to a New York-themed city when a flight to Actual New York costs as much as the gas money to drive to Fake New York.)

The Frankenbacon from Detroit BBQ Co., only at Baconfest Michigan!
And now, we have Baconfest. Chicago has a Baconfest too. Theirs sells out in like two seconds because it's Chicago, la-dee-da. Ours sold out three weeks before the event without the help of major media sponsorship, paid advertising, or resting on our laurels. Our first-ever event will have 1,400 people and 37 restaurants and food vendors as well as all Michigan craft beers, wines, and spirits and signature drinks made with McClure's products. Chicago's is larger, yes, but it also benefits from having been around longer and, after witnessing how rabid our hometown bacon fanatics are, ours has the potential to be just as big. But there are a few ways in which our own Baconfest is already better, and you can see for yourself (if you were lucky enough to snag tickets) this Saturday, June 2. Or just read this list below, sign up for our newsletter and "like" our Facebook page, and get pumped for next year's event! (And don't dawdle buying tickets, either. Team Bacon is getting a little sick of the emails begging and/or haranguing us for tickets to a sold-out event. Which brings me to reason #1...)

Reason Our Baconfest is Better #1: Chicago's is a shitshow. Two and a half hours of absolute shitshowiness ensues during which time people get shitfaced drunk and restaurants more or less slingshot food samples at you as you as shit-facedly shitshow yourself past their booths. It's dumb. We realize that people are very upset about not being able to get tickets (PS, guys, SRSLY, sending nasty emails to the organizers is not an effective way to ensure yourself a pass - it's a good thing that it sold out, that was kind of the point. Better luck next year.), and while we could have pulled a Vodka Vodka and WAY oversold the event past capacity and crammed you all in there like cattle we actually want you to have a good time. You can thank us when you're actually able to walk around on Saturday. No no no, it's fine, YOU'RE WELCOME.

Reason Our Baconfest is Better #2: No pampered princess precious snowflake chefs crying about it afterwards. Our chefs are PUMPED, and they are bringing it. Even we couldn't have anticipated the excitement with which our hometown chefs are treating their Baconfest creations - it might as well be a bonafide competition. And restaurants aren't just half-assing their way through one dish - most places are serving multiple items, so while our restaurants are fewer in number we actually have MORE menu items than Chicago. So HA! And this leads to reason #3...

Reason Our Baconfest is Better #3: Unique creations utilizing many different kinds of bacon. Chicago's Baconfest bacon is all 100% Nueske's. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that. Nueske's has great bacon. But much like how when you go to California and EVERY restaurant serves Niman Ranch beef, the homogeneity just gets boring. Not only will we have an enormous variety of bacon (including vegan bacon! see #4), but many of our restaurants actually cut and smoke their own bacon in-house - so when you sample their bacon, you're actually sampling their bacon. The Root in White Lake, Terry B's in Dexter, Forest Grill in Birmingham, Toasted Oak in Novi, Lockhart's BBQ in Royal Oak, Grange Kitchen + Bar in Ann Arbor - these guys are so serious about bacon they make their own. Do the pampered princess precious snowflake Chicago chefs do that? Would I even be asking that question if the answer wasn't no? Additionally, most of the Chicago items are the restaurant's normal menu items with a strip of bacon on top - wholly uninventive and super-lame-o. The majority of our restaurants are making items totally unique to Baconfest. And we're the culinary inferior? Can I get a bitch please?

Reason Our Baconfest is Better #4: We are the first Baconfest in history to feature vegan bacon. You got a problem with that, you take it up with me. I fought for it because I truly believe that the vegan bacon at Seva (Ann Arbor and Detroit), made with toasted coconut, is outstanding. Don't knock it until you've tried it, and if you're going to be all pissy-pants about it don't eat it. See how easy that is? I felt that as a "Baconfest" we needed to include ALL forms of bacon - we already had tons of pork belly and prosciutto, plus turkey bacon and duck bacon are both being served. So why in the world would a festival celebrating ALL bacon not include vegan bacon as an option? This is NOT an effort to make the event vegan-friendly - obviously by its very nature it isn't - but to make meatatarians see that "vegan" is a five-letter word, not four. Open your minds, meatheads.

Detroit (and Michigan), stop apologizing and deferring everything to Chicago. Take pride in what you have! Find your inner celebrity chef and go tell precious snowflake Chicago you don't need it anymore!

And now, a few words from our sponsor (me):

(1) Scalping will NOT be tolerated. Don't be an asshole and ruin this for everyone else. We've worked very hard to ensure that tickets are fair and affordable; if you can't use your tickets we are more than happy to help you sell them at face value. But if you try to scalp them at three times your cost, I will come down on you like the Hammer of Thor. The thunder of my vengeance will echo through the fiberoptics of the information superhighway like the gust of a thousand winds.

(2) Want a pair of free VIP tickets? Stay tuned for the official contest announcement on Tuesday, May 29 on my Facebook page. Please note, THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE EASY. Cry to someone else.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

[Metromode] Almost Famous: Metro Detroit's Up and Coming Chefs

James Rigato of the Root Restaurant in White Lake. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.

Metro Detroit isn’t exactly known for its cutting-edge culinary scene, but that’s not the same as not actually having one. It seems like we’re almost always the bridesmaid (getting sloppy drunk and shoveling gobs of buttercream frosting down our throats as we insist we’re really happy for the bride, really) when it comes to James Beard awards and invitations to compete on Top Chef.

Sure, occasionally we manage to eke one out – Eve Aronoff of Ann Arbor’s Frita Batidos and John Somerville of the Lark in West Bloomfield are still the only Top Chef competitors from Michigan to date, though both got booted early on; Executive Chef Alex Young from Zingerman’s Roadhouse won the James Beard Award (nicknamed “the Oscars of Food” and presumably just as political) for Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2011, which brings the grand total of Michigan winners up to three since the awards were established in 1990 (the other two were Takashi Yagihashi in 2003 for Tribute and Jimmy Schmidt in 1993 for the Rattlesnake Club). Hell, if it weren’t for Coney dogs and Phil Cooley’s Corktown metro Detroit might as well just be Ann Arbor’s country cousin for all the recognition it gets from national tastemakers.

Read more.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

[HOT LIST] Outdoor drinking (Midtown edition)

The Alley Deck. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.

This list started out as a more straightforward list of best patios. They I narrowed it down specifically to drinking patios, because dining al fresco and long outdoor drinking sessions are two very different things. Then I realized that two of my top five best outdoor drinking options were in Midtown. So, fine. Midtown - you win this round.

#1 The Old Miami
The beer selection sucks but everything else about this place is fantastic so drink your crappy overpriced beer and bite your tongue like a grown-up.

The Old Miami.
Inside it's an old Vietnam veterans bar filled with war vet paraphernalia ("Miami" actually stands for "Missing in Action Michigan"), and once upon a time (before Detroit became the "Official Cool-Kids Destination") this place was literally just an (crazy) old veterans bar, but now it's pretty regularly crawling with - here's that word again! - hipsters. (And until someone comes up with a better word than "fauxhemian," which as L Magazine points out fails to capture "that (fading) inflection of 'hipster' that actually refers to those individuals who led the way ... the first appropriators," I will continue to use it thusly. Because "first appropriators" is a bit cumbersome and "fascists in wool caps," as recommended by EID's Co-MFIC, just sounds harsh.) Inside there's a fireplace and couches for napping (what? They're for napping!) and it pretty much looks like a frat house's Salvation-Army-sourced living room/flophouse. On any given night there may be a techno show, a rap show, a punk rock show, a burlesque show or any other variety of cultural randomness. But outside! "Urban oasis" is an overused term (hell I've sad THAT enough times for it to be an overused term) but here, it's like opening the cupboard in a C.S. Lewis novel to a whole 'nuther world. Swinging chairs, lawn furniture, a koi pond ... it is glorious. Crappy overpriced beer aside.

#2 Seva
Located in the quiet heart of Midtown's cultural center behind the George N'Namdi Gallery, Seva offers some welcome respite from clamor of the Cass Corridor. They've got a big, beautiful patio with places to lock your bike up, all done up in the same urban chic motif as the interior. It might not have a river view or be surrounded by a garden, but the space itself is pretty and that makes it tranquil enough. They've also got a fantastic selection of craft beers, wines and cocktails - people seem to get so caught up in their vegetarianness that they totally overlook this very important thing. And while we're on the topic, yes it's a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, and it's awesome. You should try it.

#3 Z's Villa
You can skip the food but don't skip the backyard. Z's Villa is sort of hidden in plain sight (located in a house, which is vaguely villa-like), but out back they have a massive patio with a beach volleyball court. A volleyball court! And a horseshoe pit and fire pit too. They offer shuttle service to/from sporting events and also have WiFi, so regardless of your particular needs (recreational, professional, or a mix of both) they've got you covered. And if you don't skip the food, look no further than their pizza, a unique take on the signature Detroit style that tends to get overlooked in almost all discussions of Detroit pizza.

#4 Jumbo's Bar 
Because you see things like this (left). If for no other reason.

This is a straight-up shot-and-beer place, a total divey neighborhood bar that isn't divey in a trendy way, but divey in a divey way. It's a locals joint where everybody seems to know everybody and the staff is sassy and fun. When you want to escape the trappings of trendy dives (and Midtown has its share), head to Jumbo's. Great Internet jukebox, cheap booze, good people (the grizzled regular types), and a small patio but hey, they have one. Where you can possibly see things like this (above).

#5 The Alley Deck
The only problem with the Alley Deck, located on the rooftop of the Majestic Complex, is that if there's a show going on at the Magic Stick you can't get up there without paid admission. The Deck itself is often used as an additional venue space for the whole complex (DJs on Sundays, that sort of thing), but it's also a great place to grab a cheap drink after work (they have great happy hour specials) and enjoy the sunshine without being pan-handled by passersby (an unfortunate reality of sitting on the Majestic's sidewalk patio). And if you are at a show at the Stick, the Deck can be a nice place for a break between sets or during that crappy opening band you had hoped you got there late enough to miss but didn't because bands always go on late there. Amiriteoramirite?

Bubbling under The Whitney, Motor City Brewing Works, Bronx Bar, Traffic Jam and Snug, Honest John's Bar and Grill, Harry's Bar and Grill

Friday, May 18, 2012

[EID Feature] Eastern Market Rules!

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

Eastern Market rules. As the oldest continuously-operated public market in the country (at 121 years), it has always been a popular place for wholesale distribution and has been home to a number of different meat packers and distributors for decades. Saturdays have always had a draw for families all over metro Detroit, so to call Eastern Market a local destination is nothing new. But lately it has become so much more than that.

It is no longer just a local destination; it is a national one. With the spike in Detroit tourism that has happened really over the past year or so, Eastern Market is a tourism hub and a draw entirely unto itself. The Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed which praised Eastern Market as "a bright spot" and celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern saw fit to pay a visit last summer while filming an episode of Bizarre Foods in metro Detroit ... which is to say nothing of everybody's favorite pizza place Supino Pizzeria, which has grabbed national coverage from the likes of the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and the New York Times. Russell St. Deli is also a belle of the market with their own fair share of New York Times love. The best part is you can walk into any of these places at any time and have a chat with the owners like it's no big.

The recent slew of renovations (which will soon include a community kitchen) have also helped spurn the popularity of the market forward as old meets new, and Eastern Market Corporation President Dan Carmody has actively sought out the DIY artisan food producers who are creating so much local buzz (people like Perkins Pickles, Slow Jams, Corridor Sausage Co. and People's Pierogi Collective, among countless others). New stores are opening with increasing regularity inside the market district, including eclectic boutiques and community spaces as well as food shops. And it has solidified itself as a regional food hub.

Slice from Supino Pizzeria.
In the oft-traversed rhetoric of Detroit's rebirth, there often seems to be an assumption that these things happened overnight. In the case of someone like Midtown's Sue Mosey, Crain's 2012 "Newsmaker of the Year," the seeds for forward progress were planted over a very long two decades and only just recently have borne fruit. She may be newsmaker of this year, but she's been doing it for over 20.

But there are rare cases in Detroit where one can pinpoint an exact moment in time in which a pivotal change occurred, the very clear point at which "before" became "after." One such instance is Corktown. The other is when Dan Carmody and the nonprofit Eastern Market Corporation took over the market in 2006. In a little over five years the market has been transformed, and is in so many ways the heart of Detroit. They have been working hard to reinvent the market and stay at the head of the curve as people have enthusiastically embraced sustainable food culture, local food movements, and DIY food production ... as well as the city itself.

In honor of the 46th Annual Eastern Market Flower Day happening this Saturday, May 20 (the market's most popular event, drawing in over 200,000 people annually), here are some of EID's favorite spots in the market, new (and really new) and old. And more news: starting on Saturday June 9, EID will be offering the long-promised walking tours of Eastern Market - meet some of the business owners and the people behind the products, sample some food and learn a bit of history. More details to come!

Germack Coffee Roasting Co.
Really New
DeVries + Co.
The 118-year-old R. Hirt Jr. Co. is reborn as DeVries - a cleaner, more open space offers the same great products and then some. Read more here.

Germack Coffee Roasting Co.
The company best known for bringing us those pink pistachios now roasts their own coffee on-site in a brand-new, fully spiffy location that also serves as a coffee shop with WiFi and specialty market selling a variety of locally-made artisan food products. Instant love.

Detroit Mercantile
From the original maker of Made in Detroit, Detroit Mercantile is an all-things-Detroit store featuring locally-made clothing lines, cruiser bikes and rock posters. They'll also serve a Detroit-themed breakfast and lunch on Saturdays. Opens this weekend.

OmniCorp Detroit
Sort of a creative think-and-do-tank with actual hands-on equipment like a sewing machinery and even a metal working shop, OmniCorp is a hub for hands-on DIYers with "open hack" nights where anyone can go and make things using salvaged materials.

A fully-functional print shop that uses old-fashioned letterpress for personal and commercial work (they also have a gallery space and teach workshops on using the letterpress and bookbinding).

Red Bull House of Art
It's so new it hasn't even opened yet, but check it out next week as it launches in time for Movement.

Some Unnamed Restaurant with Two Custom-Built Brick Ovens
So new it doesn't even have a name yet.

Also New
Supino Pizzeria
It only just opened in 2008 but fast became one of Detroit's most popular pizzerias, and with good reason - their Neapolitan-style pizzas are superior, and items are all sourced locally from places like Brother Nature Produce, Porktown Sausage and City Wings.

Russell Street Deli
Sustainability-sourced and community-conscious, Russell St. Deli (under new ownership since 2008) sources their products locally straight from the market and makes everything from scratch in-house while also giving back to the community through various philanthropic fundraising efforts. Also vegetarian and vegan-friendly.

Mootown Ice Cream
Just opened in the summer of 2011, this family-owned ice cream shop is the first ice cream shop in Eastern Market's history. Read more here.

Division Street Boutique
A funky, Detroit-centric T-shirt store (makers of the infamous "Detroit Hustles Harder" T's). They're also hosting their 4th annual block party during Flower Days this weekend.

Famers Restaurant.

Bert's Warehouse
Whether you love them for the massive events they host (like the Dirty Show) or for the wall of ribbers lined up outside on Saturdays grilling endless slabs of meat for the masses while metro Detroit's finest warble their best karaoke, Bert's is a classic.

Cost Plus Wine Shoppe
Still one of the only places in the city where you can buy good beer and wine, Cost Plus has a nice variety of affordable craft and imported beers and small-production wineries, including many Michigan producers.

Gabriel Import Co.
Offering a huge selection of imported olives (sample as many as you'd like!) as well as Mediterranean specialties like hummus, tabbouleh and spinach pies made fresh daily.

Milano Bakery
Simple breads; fantastic homemade soups, sandwiches and desserts; and great pizza can be found at this Kosher bakery with the largest hearth oven in Michigan.

A Detroit staple famous for their Bloody Marys and mussels.

A best-kept secret a bit on the outskirts, their stuffed burger is one of the best in Detroit.

"The Meat Mall" (Gratiot Central Market)
Beef, corned beef (made by four generations of the same families), pork, poultry (including game birds), specialty meats (from goat to tripe), fish, BBQ supplies, a bakery, and prepared foods like sammiches. Six days a week (and sometimes seven for holidays and Lions games).

Rocky Peanut Company
An emporium of bulk candies, nuts and other items.

Louie's Ham and Corned Beef
Enough said. Read more here.

Farmers Restaurant
Greasy spoon gut-bombs breakfasts and also corned beef. Read more here, again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

[HOT LIST] Prohibition bars

Two Way Inn. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.

There is a certain amount of Prohibition-era romanticization happening lately with all the new craft cocktail bars around town looking to be throwbacks to the era. (The Sugar House and the Oakland even take their names from the notorious Purple Gang, the biggest Prohibition bootleggers in the country that were based right here in Detroit.) As much as we love these new bars (and for the love of bourbon and bitters we really truly do), we also love an honest-to-God-and-guns dive bar. These places are the real deal: century-old bars tucked away in residential neighborhoods (each grandfathered in as zoning laws were introduced) that operated as bonafide blind pigs during the days of Prohibition and are still slinging drinks to this day.

#1 Two Way Inn (Detroit)
Many bars claim to be the "oldest bar in Detroit," and probably many of them can fairly lay claim to the title when you factor in shades of difference such as "oldest continuously-operated bar" and "oldest family-owned bar." The Two Way Inn, open since 1876, is one of those bars. Over the course of its lifetime it has been a hotel, brothel, jail, general store, blind pig and bar. Now it's just a damn cool place to hang out. The family that owns it live upstairs and it has exactly that kind of family-atmosphere: stopping in is like dropping by your aunt's house and hanging with your cousins. They have parties and host BBQs and pub crawls, but even if there's no special event going on, the Two Way is the kind of place you can always stop in for a beer (they have Zywiec, aka Polish PBR) and end up doing shots of Jerzy (Polish Jaeger) with the new friends you just made. There's a velvet painting on John Wayne on the wall and they have WiFi (hel-lo new office!). Things to note: you have to be buzzed in through the front door (which is just cool) and it's cash only. Oh, and also, it's haunted.

Photo from Hour Detroit.
#2 East Side Tavern (Mount Clemens)
Located in the basement of an old farmhouse on the outskirts of Mt. Clemens (one of metro Detroit's oldest cities), East Side Tavern feels the most like the century-old bar (and former blind pig) that it is. This place is practically a living room, just with a bar instead of a couch. In fact, it's about the size of one, and the ceiling is so low that even at 5'6'' I felt the need to duck. They like to say, “You’re only a stranger here once," and plenty of would-be “friendly neighborhood joints” claim the same, but this is the kind of place where it’s absolutely true. The bartender knows everyone by name, and if she doesn’t know you, you’ll get introduced into the conversation pretty quickly. (Owner Frank DeBruyn, a 76-year-old who jokes about having a bar in his basement, is usually hanging out too.) Once you get past the novelty of this tiny place in this unexpected location, this is simply a great dive bar chill spot where you can go shoot the shit with the natives and eat (no joke) one of the best burgers you've ever had in your life.

#3 Ye Olde Tap Room (Detroit)
Built in the 1800s as a trolley repair station and operating as a bar since 1912, the Tap Room is a Detroit favorite both for the vibe and for the beer and whiskey - 285 beer labels all total (and some really cool stuff too, both American craft and imports) and an extensive selection of single malt scotches and whiskeys. This is a beer and shot place, but fancy beer and fancy shots (though they do sell plenty of Jameson shots with PBR backs). Despite the impressive selection, there's nothing snooty or pompous about this place. The bartenders are some of the coolest and the customers are a good mix of area locals and workers, Detroit scenesters and hipsters, and beeries from near and far. They also just celebrated their annual Prohibition Party (which, admittedly, was the impetus for this list), and were known as one of the Purple Gang's haunts (the basement was a speakeasy). And they have darts, some cool live bands, and an awesome patio in the summer.

#4 The Gold Star (Wyandotte)
Established in 1923, the Gold Star (in Wyandotte's Polish center) is in an old farmhouse smack-dab in the middle of the neighborhood. To give some perspective here, Wyandotte was once in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most churches and bars per square mile of any city in the world (blame the predominant Polish-Catholic roots for their love of God and beer). The Gold Star hearkens back to the day when bars were part of the neighborhood and people could walk to them, and is still very much a local neighborhood hangout. It still has the dirt wall basement that was a speakeasy during Prohibition, and is said to be haunted after a tragic fire that killed four children (it was also the family home). The Bozymowski family, who were the original owners and ran the place for decades, no longer own the bar but you can still stop in and say hi to Val, granddaughter of the original owners who still runs the show. Plus they've got $1 drafts and $5 pitchers all day every day and free pool on Sundays. (Cash only.)

#5 Whiskey in the Jar (Hamtramck)
Whiskey is kind of an infamous Hamtramck hangout that attracts the die-hard bar flies, Hamtramck crust punks, old Poles and Detroit drunks in equal quantities. Everyone knows to go here every time there is a drinking high holiday held in Hamtramck (and there's one pretty much every month), but even in downtime this place is great dive bar hangout. Once a speakeasy, it's now part of the Blowout circuit and is easily one of Hamtramck's most popular bars (and there are many). Sidle up to the bar for some socializing with strangers, and if it's your first time in you have to do a shot of Jerzy. (Seriously. They make you.)

Bubbling under Stonehouse Bar (Detroit), Abick's Bar (Detroit), Tom's Tavern (Detroit), Jacoby's German Biergarten (Detroit), Kovacs Bar (Southwest Detroit), Nancy Whiskey (Detroit), New Dodge Lounge (Hamtramck)

Note: Places like Cliff Bell's, Foran's Grand Trunk Pub, and the Dakota Inn Rathskeller, while all old themselves, did not open as bars until after the end of Prohibition (1933, 1933 and 1935, respectively).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

[Oakland County Prosper] Baconfest comes to the Royal Oak Farmers Market

Let there be bacon! On Saturday, June 2 from 6 to 10 p.m., Baconfest Michigan 2012 will take over the Royal Oak Farmers Market to celebrate the most magical of meats – bacon.

Salted, smoked, cured or candied, bacon is undoubtedly America’s most favorite meat. Nothing else has the power to invoke the same level of rapture and turn us all into drooling Homers quite like bacon. It’s not called the “bacon train” for nothing.

Read more.

Friday, May 11, 2012

[EID Feature] DeVries + Co.

All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

Last fall we all had a sad when it was announced that R. Hirt in Eastern Market was closing.

Well, sort of closing.

In the same breath that the announcement was made about R. Hirt, which had been in the same location operating under the same name for 118 years, it was also announced that the space would be re-opening under a different name but still operated by the same family.

It closed, and they did some much-needed remodeling ... the history of the place is great and all, but anyone who tried to elbow their way in on a Saturday morning past the cashier booths at the front knows it wasn't exactly well-equipped to handle the weekend market masses. Once past the bottlenecking at the front, past the incandiferous cheese and meat counters, shoppers who wandered all the way to the back found themselves surrounded by ... tchotchke. The place was dated, because it is well over a century old, but it was also dated.

So why the name change if it was just staying within the same family? The ownership of the retail outlet, which had previously worked in tandem with the R. Hirt wholesale operations, transferred hands to a different member of the family. David DeVries, grandson of Rudolf Hirt, Jr. who opened the store in his name so many years ago, took over control of the retail operation while the wholesale operation continues to be operated by his nephew Tom. While the two previously worked together as spokes on the same wheel, they are now entirely separate entities - two whole different wheels. (And the respective DeVries males in charge are perfectly happy to be going their separate ways - read into that as you will.)

Under David's ownership, DeVries + Co. has been respectfully remodeled. It still maintains much of that century-old charm, but they tore out those traffic-blocking booths in the front, laid down a wooden floor that they glossed up with maple resin, and restructured it a bit to be more shopper-friendly.

They also ditched most of the tchotchke and beefed up their inventory (which they are still building) to include many more basic grocery items and stock pantry stuffers. Where before there was only a couple of small shelves dedicated to Michigan-made products, now there is an entire section. There's the items you would expect - McClure's Pickles, Simply Suzanne granola, Sanders fudge, Faygo. But then there is Sansonetti hot sauce, Jerky Outlet jerky, Detroit Spice Co. spices, Musky Blood BBQ sauce, Mackinaw Island Fudge, gallons of maple syrup, honey. (And of course, Calder Dairy milk in the fridge.)

And then there was cheese. At closing, R. Hirt had about 300 different domestic and imported cheeses in their beautiful, stinky cheese cave. DeVries currently has about 200 and will continue to build that cheese portfolio back up to all its former glory. They also currently have about 100 meats. Which, who cares, we're talking about cheese right now.

After several months of renovations - which will continue as they begin working on the third floor, which is currently closed but will, much like the new market, be "mostly the same but a little different" - DeVries is now fully open for business as of this week. Visit them Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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

Monday, May 7, 2012

[HOT LIST] Mother's Day brunch

Brunch at Beverly Hills Grill. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg. 

Easter brunch is pretty much a practice run for Mother's Day brunch. If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, the way to mom's heart is through fancy brunch buffets and prix fixe menus. The more she raves about how nice the place is and how you're spending too much money on her, the more you win. Here are some of metro Detroit's best for Mother's Day brunch!

Friday, May 4, 2012

[Metromix] ZIN Wine Bar

French Chicken. All photos by VATO for Metromix.

Plymouth’s Grape Expectations closed their doors on December 31, 2011. After three weeks of interior overhauling it reopened again on January 21, 2012 as ZIN Wine Bar and Restaurant. Much like Grape Expectations, ZIN is a wine bar, but that is where the similarities cease. ZIN is a totally new approach to the wine bar-restaurant concept, not just to Plymouth but to all of metro Detroit.

Partners Jorge Manzano and Steve Papas worked closely with previous owner Lisa O’Donnell to make it a smooth transition between Grape Expectations and ZIN. They hired Executive Chef Justin Vaiciunas in May 2011 so he could start developing the menu and get a feel for the Plymouth clientele … a strategy which has worked well for them, as regular customers were slowly introduced to Vaiciunas’s inventive yet unfamiliar techniques and started to get excited about the new concept.

[NY Post] Flee to the Cleve

By now a familiar face to anyone watching the cable cooking shows — and now finding an even broader audience as the co-host of ABC's food-centric daytime talkshow, "The Chew," Michael Symon — or, rather, make that Iron Chef Michael Symon — began his career far out of the spotlight, in his hometown of Cleveland.

There, he was one of the city's earliest and most vocal advocates for revival, opening a restaurant, Lola, in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood back in the 1990s, at a time when the area was still plagued by arson and the occasional car bombing. Since then, Symon has watched the city's urban core redevelop, one neighborhood at a time.

Symon, who says his New York friends like to poke fun at him for selecting struggling Rust Belt cities like Cleveland and Detroit for his restaurants, shrugs it off, proud of what the city's become.

Read more.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

[Metromode] A Cupcake Supreme

Taste Love Cupcakes opened a year ago on April 16 on a busy stretch of Main Street in downtown Royal Oak. At a time when it seemed like cupcakeries were populating storefronts faster than upscale BBQ joints it was hard to see what set Taste Love Cupcakes (TLC) apart from the rest.

That was a year ago. Now it's a little easier to see what separates this stylish cupcake bakery from their competition: a win on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars.

Read more.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

[HOT LIST] Best of Southwest (Cinco de Mayo edition)

Las Brisas. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.

Cinco de Mayo is this Saturday, and if your idea of Cinco de Mayo celebrations is a mariachi band in a sports bar with the Corona girls giving away free beer and plastic beads, you need to head southwest to see how it's really done. No need to find your passport and book a flight; look no further than Southwest Detroit and discover for yourself some of the lesser-known restaurants and watering holes that make this one of Detroit's most viable, walkable, vibrant neighborhoods.

Southwest Detroit is full of fantastic taquerias, restaurants of various ethnic Latin cuisines, bakeries, cafes and markets (and taco trucks!), but for the purposes of Cinco de Mayo celebrations this list is all about bars. Let's face it, this neighborhood is robust enough for more than one "Hot List."

#1 Donovan's Pub
AKA Southwest Detroit's Official Hipster Bar®. Being just on the other side of of I-75 on Vernor, Donovan's is sort of the Gateway to Southwest and catches what is presumably a lot of Slows spillover. It's hipsterific but the booze is cheap and service friendly and familiar. It's Polish-owned, located more or less in Mexicantown and crawling with men sporting mustaches un-ironically. It doesn't need to make sense; it works.

#2 Giovanna's Lounge
Giovanna's is a small dive bar with friendly service and cheap booze, but the best thing about it is their huge outdoor patio in the summertime. They don't serve food and it's cash only, but the atmosphere can't be beat.

#3 Las Brisas
By day it's a restaurant with a cheap lunch buffet and homemade Mexican and Mexican-American dishes; by night, it's one of Southwest's hottest spots for live music and dancing. The space is huge with separate areas for dining, dancing and a big, beautiful bar. They bring in popular music acts from all over Mexico with hundreds of people forming a line out the door on weekends. Cover and drinks are always cheap and food is served until 4 a.m. on weekends.

#4 Abick's Bar
A true neighborhood bar in every sense of the word (in that it is actually located in a house in the neighborhood, and that it is also a no-frills, divey kind of place where the crowd is mostly regulars and the locals all hang out), this pre-Prohibition bar is loaded with history and character. Grandma Manya (one of the sole old Polish hold-outs this far outside of Hamtramck) isn't as involved as she once was (she's not cooking those huge dinners for family, friends and guests anymore), but the bar is still comfortable and cheap. Manya is relatively sure Abick's is the oldest family-owned, continuously-operated bar in Detroit; no argument here. Stepping inside this place is like stepping back into history, when bars were social and community centers and not places to get who-do-I-need-to-apologize-to drunk.

#5 Mexicantown Fiesta Center/Lounge/El Club
First off, don't let the name fool you - this place isn't actually in Mexicantown. And the only reason this place doesn't rank any higher is because they don't keep regular daily hours (Fridays are pretty consistent but beyond that you may want to call ahead before making a special trip). But if you're lucky enough to catch this place when it's open to the casual passer-by, it's a small but fantastic bar with friendly locals and staff (which includes the owner Dolores Sanchez who also owns El Central Hispanic News, a free weekly paper that is Michigan's longest running bi-lingual Hispanic newspaper) and really cheap booze. If it's nice outside, be sure to check out the backyard. The space is also available to rent for private events and they host salsa dancing classes.

Bubbling under Kovacs Bar, Los Galanes, Armando's Mexican Restaurant, El Chaparrel, Stempien's Sidestreet Lounge, Corner Pocket Lounge, El Zocalo