Category Archives: Michigan

ricewood Ann Arbor Food Truck

I just got back from a lovely al fresco lunch at ricewood. The Pacific-Island-inspired BBQ food truck (really, maybe the only one anywhere) was recently launched by Frank Fejeran  – the former chef at The Ravens Club, about which you can read here: http://detroit.eater.com/2014/11/18/7243493/chef-frank-fejeran-helps-the-ravens-club-realize-its-potential and which I am a fan of, for both the whiskey cocktails and the homage to my beloved Baltimore Ravens.

Oh, what’s that? The Ravens Club was not an homage to the Baltimore Ravens NFL team? Uhhhhh….well the cocktails are still delicious and I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear that part about the name. [Aside: Jeff from TRC, if you are reading this, if you put a TV in the bar that plays Ravens football in the fall, I will be there on the regular.]

Okay, back to the point. Ricewood. So good. So much food.

For $12, you can get your choice of a BBQ pork shoulder rice bowl, ribs, or a brisket rice bowl. All are served with a side of marinated cucumbers. You can get it gringo style or spicy. (http://www.ricewoodbbq.com/uploads/4/8/1/3/48139611/ricewood_-_final_menu.pdf) Obviously, I got spicy.

photo 2

The bbq pork was indeed pleasantly spicy. Beware if you are expecting what we’ll call “MidWest spicy,” which is to say, not at all spicy. This may be too hot for you. Fortunately for you, on the cutlery table, there is also a bottle of AH-mazing pineapple bbq sauce which is sweet-ish and really pineapple-y. Like a pureed pineapple chutney with a hint of smoky bbq flavor.

The meat was also really tender, with awesome salty burnt end bits, and the rice was perfectly sticky – like sushi rice – with an Asian-flair pico of diced tomatoes and green onion.

Also it was a TON of food. I pretty much ate the whole thing but only because it was so good and not because I was still hungry. Apparently I glazed over the part on the menu where it said “half pound” of meat.

And, because I’m a VIP (jk Frank just recognized me), he gave me a small chunk of brisket too, which had a great flavor and was not dry at all.

After receiving my large bowl of treats, I sat at one of the covered picnic tables. Each table had a cup of Sharpies that people used to sign their names or decorate the table. I think I spotted a child’s rendering of the Voldemort-Harry Potter wand duel. It was very elaborate – or at least as much as a stick-figure scribble can be elaborate. (See top left of picture below to catch a glimpse of the Voldemort figure in black. Harry was in green fyi.)

photo 3

All in all, a super filling and delicious meal and a perfect day to be outside enjoying it. photo 4

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Happy New Year! Michigan Sparkling Wine

Welp, it’s 2015.  We had a very successful New Year’s Eve, which consisted of a time-consuming disaster of a first-try making gnocchi that culminated in ordering pizza from Pizza Pino, Mark falling asleep on the couch at 8pm, me reading and listening to whatever musical show was on PBS, Mark waking back up at 11:30, us being really confused but somewhat mesmerized by Pitbull’s Miami New Year’s Eve Special, which was a lot of Pitbull speaking Spanish and gazing up at fireworks, and then going to bed by 12:09.

We did, however, manage to open and partially consume a bottle of sparkling wine from Michigan bubbly producer Mawby.

photo 3

M. Lawrence’s US was definitely drinkable, and the price was right at Kroger (somewhere around $15).  Not the best of the best but smooth tastes of green apple and maybe some juicy pear.  Here’s what their website has to say about it:

BRUT
Sparkling Wine
‘Pale yellow gold… complex fruit aromas… yeasty accents… fruity… crisp style.’
A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes that are hand picked and carefully whole-cluster pressed. The juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks, then blended with reserve wines and fermented a second time in a closed tank [the cuve close method]. The wine is then filtered, dosaged, and bottled.
I liked this more than a lot of other local sparklers that I’ve tried.  Not sweet at all.  Almost like a crisp sparkling cider….that did make me a little bit thirsty after a glass and a half.  Well anyway, if you’re looking to try something local that isn’t syrupy sweet and won’t break the bank, this is a safe bet.
photo 1
Cheers and Happy New Year!
photo 2

ARGH! Zip Car Drivers!

I love the idea of Zip Cars – rent a car just for the few hours that you need it to get from point A to point B; pick up and drop off where’s convenient for you.  Totally get it.  Makes sense if you’re in a city and don’t want to own a car.

Here’s the problem: When someone doesn’t own a car because they don’t know how to drive/rarely ever drive/don’t like driving.  I’m sure there are plenty of licensed, well-trained drivers out there who don’t have the need to own a vehicle and prefer to rent from time to time for shopping or errands.

BUT…There seem to be a LOT of Zip Car renters here who are afraid of driving/don’t know how to drive/don’t know the very specific rules of the Ann Arbor driving scene/don’t even have a license.  Well this last one might not be true because I HOPE Zip Car makes you prove you have a license to rent one of their cars.  But I honestly can’t be sure.

If you see a Zip Car cruising (likely super slowly) down the road STEER CLEAR.  Like literally pull over to the side of the road and wait 15 minutes.  You’ll probably catch up with them at the next light.

The second option is to hit the gas hard and scoot by, but you’ll likely end up being side-swiped in slow motion as they gingerly try to “merge” into your lane (read: don’t check the mirrors and just aimlessly drift all over the place).  This is not Seinfeld.  These lanes are NOT “so luxurious” – they are normally spaced.  Stay in yours.

Sorry Michiganders, I find that you are generally terrible drivers, and having Zip Cars at the disposal of the least practiced of you seems dangerous.  So if you’re one of those people renting Zip Cars who has only ever driven like three times in life, please do me a favor and get an Uber instead.

Thanks.   Sincerely, All Other Drivers

Ann Arbor Summer Fest and Highland BBQ Competition

Now that summer is really and truly here (and I’ve become such a Michigander that 85 and humid is feeling SUPER hot…words that would have never left my mouth in any other Baltimore year), Ann Arbor is seriously busy.  Knowing that there is a limited amount of time when being outdoors will be physically comfortable (I had a dream the other night that it started snowing and summer was over and I started crying…just kidding…but I was sad), Ann Arborites (and all Michiganians – also acceptable nomenclature) jam as many activities as possible into that time.  The Huron River is literally PACKED with kayakers and tubers…I don’t know how a river can be packed, but it is.  You can’t even get the oar in the water without hitting someone in the face.

The number of potential activities one can partake in is kind of overwhelming, but don’t even think about trying to sit outside for dinner because all those seats are already taken.

There are tons of festivals and fairs – at least one a weekend – and some, like the Summer Festival, last almost a month.  The Summer Festival comprises outdoor movies, concerts, workshops, beer-gardens and more, mostly concentrated on UMich Central Campus, but with certain events taking place elsewhere around town.  Mark and I had wandered around one morning before anything got going.

A2SF stage beer gardenLight installationThis was an inflatable light installation that you walk around inside of, but when we tried to go last weekend, the wait was about an hour and a half, so we gave up.  But we heard it was cool.

Mark and I went with some friends Friday night to the Summer Fest with a picnic to listen to a folk band and take in the scene.  And the scene was kids.  Granted we went at 7pm and didn’t stay for the late-night DJ that started after 11, but it was like strollers-on-parade.

band bell tower The sun hitting the bell tower made the lines look so sharp and like the clock was floating off of the wall.

The evening started amicably enough…we sat on the lawn and chatted…watched the costumed French drum-line as they marched around after the band’s set.  And then as the sun was starting to set, things started to get a bit more tense.  An overabundance of excitement, missed bedtimes and ice cream came back around, and everywhere we looked, kids were crying, screaming, kicking and furiously straining on their stroller belts.  Parents realized they had pushed the limit and started packing up, while toddlers ran off in the other direction, tried to pour water on one another, or clawed at the sugary dregs of that purple sno-cone.

While I’m sure things would have calmed down again after the familial set retreated and the adults-only groups took their spots, we had sat on the ground long enough and so also took our leave to the comforts of faux-leather chairs and adult beverages at Knight’s, a new branch of an old steakhouse downtown.

The next day, Mark and I set out north to Highland, Michigan, where one of his co-workers, James, was competing in a bar-b-que contest.  This was James’ first competitive cooking challenge, which he entered because he just wanted to cook out and no one took him up on his offer to come chez lui for a backyard bbq.  Whatever works.

highland garden Cute community gardenjamesJames

James, originally from Georgia, now of Ypsilanti, is building his own grill in his backyard, but since that wasn’t transportable, he purchased a new grill for the occasion.  When we arrived, he had it fired up, and was just prepping the beer-can chickens to go on.  He made three kinds: jerk chicken, Creole butter, and Hawaiian (which we didn’t get to taste since it didn’t cook all the way through by the time it started raining and we had to pack up).  He entered the jerk in the competition, along with pork ribs and his vinegar-based BBQ sauce (which tasted like a delicious BBQ-Bloody Mary mix).

stuffing chickens Prepping the chickens with beer cans (apparently the beer steams on the grill and flavors/moistens the inside of the chicken…my college roommate used to do this with Coke or Dr Pepper I think).shoveling coal Shoveling coals in the grillour grill chickens coals chickens on the grill

Although he didn’t win in any of the three categories, everything turned out really well, and one of the judges brought his whole family over to taste “the best chicken.”  The judge said he was disappointed James didn’t have a restaurant or anywhere he could place an order!!  So that’s a great vote of confidence!

chicken and ribs on grillCooking the ribs and chicken

chickens cooking Chicken’s almost done!

cut ribs Sliced ribsCreole butter chickenCreole butter chicken

There were 18 entrants along “BBQ Row” many of whom had campers or trailers with full kitchens.  People had smokers, rotisseries, charcoal or wood-fired grills.  I don’t think I saw anyone else doing whole chickens like James; a lot of people chose just to do thighs or drums; so lots of credit to him.  It definitely came down to the wire in terms of cooking time!

smoker2 smoker The guys across from us had this big BBQ/smoker and a mobile home

ribs close up ribs peppers in rotisserieSome competitor’s ribs that had a nice kick to them (no one was allowed to sell their food due to health code, but if you were friendly, you’d get some tastes).  Some peppers cooking in a rotisserie (aka one of those raffle spinners) over wood.

horseshoe This lucky horseshoe/grill door handle must’ve work because these folks placed in a category or two.

grill1 Gas-fired

gingerbread churchHard to see the architectural detail on this gingerbread church

copa di vino If anyone watches Shark Tank, remember Copa di Vino (single serving peel-the-lid wine glasses)?  Well here it is.  Didn’t try it though.

A huge storm rolled in which forced everyone to pack up a little faster and make their way over to the beer tent to await the winners announcement on the main stage, where bands had been playing all afternoon.  Fireworks were set for after 10pm, but there was no way we could hang around for another 5 hours to wait for that.  Apparently this was the first year of Highland’s “Red, White & Blues” festival and BBQ competition, and while the weather definitely kept some people away, I think it will get bigger year over year given the number of BBQ entrants already.

It was nice weekend to get outside and take advantage of some local festivities.  Since we’ll be in town for 4th of July weekend, anyone have any suggestions of local activities taking place that we should check out?

Baltimore vs. Detroit

As a native Baltimorean, I’ve seen and heard a lot of media comparisons between Detroit and Baltimore.  Whether it was Anthony Bourdain putting both cities together (along with Buffalo) in his “Rust Belt” episode of The Travel Channel’s No Reservations, or the seemingly endless descriptions of either/both cities as a “murder capital,” “dope capital,” etc., I felt like the cities were somehow linked in American minds.  I recently finished Charlie LeDuff’s book, Detroit: An Autopsy, where the former New York Times and Detroit News journalist and Detroit native, LeDuff, describes the undercounting of murders by the Detroit police, and how Baltimore could breathe a sigh of relief when Detroit’s true numbers were revealed because that meant Baltimore was only #2 in murders that year.  Yes, we’re all so very relieved, thanks.

I recently attended a pop up dinner in Detroit where I asked my fellow diners (all Detroit-area natives) if they had heard the same Detroit-Baltimore comparisons.  They had not.  They had heard Detroit likened to Pittsburgh.  They also wondered if there were ads on TV for tourism in Detroit outside of Michigan because they had noticed an influx of East Coasters “vacationing” in the D and thought it was weird.  I said we had those “Pure Michigan” ads, but I hadn’t seen anything specifically Detroit-related.  But maybe Baltimoreans trek to Detroit just to see what all the fuss is about and if it’s really Baltimore’s twin city.

I guess all stereotypes stem from a grain of truth blown out of proportion, so peeling the onion and mixing my metaphors, let’s see what we come up with.

Both Baltimore and Detroit had booming industrial businesses in the past: Baltimore with ship building and steel, Detroit with autos.  Did you know that according to the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, “the first US Navy ship ever to enter service was launched from the Harris Creek Shipyard in Fell’s Point on September 7, 1797“?  That’s pretty cool stuff.

Both cities’ industrial based economies fell on hard times.  Baltimore’s before Detroit’s, and so perhaps Baltimore has had a bit more time to “pivot its concept” to more viable revenue sources (i.e. tourism/healthcare/finance).  It seems to me (from an outsider’s perspective) that Detroit’s auto business is still trying to find its way back to greatness, plagued by scandal and financial mismanagement, they haven’t decided to throw in the towel (yet?).

Okay, crime.  Both cities definitely have bad reputations for lots of drugs, assault, murder, etc.  I think this still holds fairly true (looks like in 2012 Detroit was #1 in murder and Baltimore was #4), and luckily I never experienced first-hand any muggings or assault (unless you count that super unfortunate incident in a Subway sandwich shop where a (homeless? high?) man rubbed scented oil on my arm and the people behind the counter did nothing to throw him out or stop him from cornering me while I stood in shock utterly forgetting all karate moves I learned as a kid…and that was the shop located in the same building in which I worked!)…but I do know many people who were mugged or assaulted…often in broad daylight.  I don’t really understand enough about the societal roots and antidotes of endemic crime to speak intelligently, other than to say poverty and oppression, but that seems obvious.  Are there best methods or even uniformly applicable best practices to lowering crime?

Corruption.  Surely political corruption exists all over, and these cities are no exception: Detroit had Mayor Kilpatrick whose Wikipedia page discusses all matter of scandal from the standard (i.e. kick-backs and abuse of power: indicted) to the extreme (i.e. a stripper party and subsequent murder: metaphorical “jury” still seems to be out on his peripheral? involvement).  Baltimore had Mayor Dixon with her gift-cards-intended-for-the-poor embezzlement scandal.  Interestingly enough, Mayor Dixon’s Wikipedia page mentions that crime actually dropped during her tenure as mayor.  Good job, I guess!

Those seem to be the main hard-on-their-luck/down-and-out/blue-collars-out-of-work-when-industry-left kind of comparisons I’ve heard.  Here are some thoughts on what sets these cities apart:

Both cities are quite old by American standards: Detroit was founded in 1701 by the French and was an important city for fur trade and then for the Underground Railroad during the Civil War; Baltimore was officially founded in 1729 by the Maryland General Assembly but was settled in the prior century by the English.  But what’s interesting to me is that even though both these places have long histories, the feel in each city is very different.

In Baltimore, the neighborhoods are packed together with small row homes on cobblestone streets in the oldest parts of town, getting progressively bigger as you move away from the center.  In Detroit, the historic homes I’ve seen are larger, of the Victorian persuasion and the roads tend to be larger and wider.

The roads are the second major difference.  Detroit’s roads were perfect for the automobile industry that would become the major growth driver of the city in the 20th century.  According to Wikipedia on the history of Detroit:

“After a devastating fire in 1805, Augustus B. Woodward devised a street plan similar to Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s design for Washington, D.C. Detroit’s monumental avenues and traffic circles fan out in radial fashion from Campus Martius Park in the heart of the city, which facilitates traffic patterns along the city’s tree-lined boulevards and parks. Main thoroughfares radiate outward from the city center like spokes in a wheel.”

Yep.  But to me, those huge boulevard type roads are not conducive to walking from place to place easily, especially if there are large deserted patches along the way.  While Baltimore has been revived neighborhood by neighborhood, so, it would seem, has Detroit.  But whereas Baltimore’s colonial neighborhoods typically center around a market or square, with spidery roads and alleys all around, perfect for close knitting of revitalization, Detroit’s neighborhoods are more main street-esque…that is to say down a particular corridor, which may in fact be a really wide road.  Not necessarily cozy for leisurely strolls from here to there.  I think it would be hard to create that neighborhoodly charm that seems to be needed for urban renewal.  But I guess that’s why Baltimore is “charm city” and Detroit is not.

Okay, so these are completely just my newbie observations after a lifetime in Baltimore, so please feel free to disprove my theories or add in any other relevant thoughts!  But I will leave you with these two pictures of sculptures: one in Baltimore and one in Ann Arbor….not exactly Detroit, but don’t they look really similar??

bmore sculpture

aa sculpture

 

Gymnastics, Jazz, Infinite Winter

What do these have in common?  Nothing except enumerating my weekend’s activities.Gymnastics, Jazz, Infinite Winter

Friday, we went with some friends to the Men’s NCAA Gymnastic Team Finals.  Not because we’re huge gymnastics buffs or anything but because we figured it would be something fun to do, and how often do you get to attend the NCAA finals in any sport?  Michigan was defending their 2013 team championship title, and they didn’t disappoint, winning again this year.

gym1

The whole thing was an interesting event held at the Crisler Center, where they also hold men’s basketball.  They had draped off the upper deck so it wasn’t sold out, but it was still pretty packed, and those fans are LOUD!!!  We were sitting near the Stanford cheering section who were deafening, as well as the almost equally rowdy Cal section, even though Cal wasn’t competing for a team championship; they just had a handful of gymnasts competing individually.  Shockingly, when we got home, our ears were ringing as if we’d just been to a rock concert.  Ugh.

Also, note to self, perhaps bring one of those dust/hygiene masks next time – the chalk dust floating through the air was intense.  It almost looked cloudy from afar, and everything was covered with fine white powder by the time we left.

gym2These dudes had orange shower slippers..Illinois I think.

gym3gym4Penn State on the Horizontal Bar.  They came in last, and by the end, I felt like they were hanging their heads and not really even trying…awkward.  Surprisingly the Big 10 Conference had the most schools represented between University of Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, and a few individual participants from Minnesota and Nebraska.  I’m not sure why the Big 10 takes their gymnastics so seriously, but I guess once one school does, they all do, and clearly they are quite good.  I gotta say though, I felt like Michigan made it look pretty easy as compared to some of the other schools.

gym10There was even a Michigan storm trooper cheering. gym9 This guy from Iowa has the biggest back muscles I’ve ever seen in person.  It looks like he has pillows stuffed in there.  Even though it’s more grainy, can we just zoom in on this a second?

gym9  C’mon, that looks fake…

gym8 Getting set mentally.

gym7Parallel bars look really painful.  When they land on the undersides of their upper arms…ouch!

gym6 gym5 Michigan dominated on the pummel horse.

UMich’s Sam Mikulak came in first all around.  Way to go UMich – two in a row!

Saturday, we went with our new friends, fellow Ann Arbor blogger, The Winegetter, and his wife, to downtown Detroit to check out Cliff Bell’s and find some Thai food.cb1 Cliff Bell’s is a dark and cozy jazz bar which opened in 1935.cb2 A nice little jazz trio to warm up the evening, and I love this art deco backsplash lit up in pinks and purples.

The club was one of John Clifford Bell’s many bars/clubs that he opened during and after Prohibition.  It was closed from 1985 until 2005 when it was renovated and reopened.  Some interesting features include little cocktail tables attached and jutting out at intervals from the bar itself and the fact that the building was designed by Albert Kahn.  Albert Kahn was a renowned architect of the late 19th and early-mid 20th centuries, who is credited with designing many many buildings in Detroit and the environs, including University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and according to Wikipedia, is sometimes called “the architect of Detroit.”  Fun fact: his dad was a rabbi.

cb3The dark gilded interior.  The ceiling is domed and painted a deep copper color that almost looks like mahogany and softly reflects the light. cb4The exterior marquee.

After cocktail hour we exited, blinded by the fact that it was still light out, and headed to Bai Mai Thai, located barely two miles from Cliff Bell’s, still technically in downtown Detroit, but really in a seedy Dollar Store strip mall.  No matter that it smelled a bit funny and none of the empty tables had been bused since the last diners, our food was actually really tasty.  We’d been hard pressed to find good thai food in Ann Arbor, since the fast-casual chain No Thai seems to dominate the Yelp ratings, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that this was a pretty good version of drunken noodles and peanut curry (I may have even been convinced to try making curry whereas I have always shunned its coconut creaminess in the past).  We did, however, discover that those two were the better of the four dishes ordered that evening.  Good to note for later.

What with the weather being nice, it was good to get out and do some fun Ann Arbor and Detroit activities this weekend.

Monday, I made my first solo-attempt at cooking Passover Seder for Mark and me.  I made (way too much) roasted sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus and charoset (apples, walnuts, wine, dates) and gathered the ingredients for the Seder Plate (I even roasted the hard boiled egg, which was impressive since I never make eggs of any kind).  I also made a yellow Passover cake from a box with chocolate frosting which tasted a little weird (as many Passover desserts do) but good nonetheless.  The only thing I fudged was the roasted chicken which I bought pre-made at the supermarket.  Somehow it was actually cheaper than buying a raw chicken and roasting it myself, so why wouldn’t I?

passover I even broke out the good china, which I believe was my great grandmother Hannah’s.  Mark and I did the Seder readings ourselves, but we skipped the actual singing of songs since that would entail a solo on my part and chose instead just to read the lyrics.  Overall it was pretty successful if I do say so myself!!  Imagine my horror to wake up on April 15th to this wintry mess:

snow

Ugh.  Even if I’m assured that this is “the last snow of the year” it’s way too late for that; the “last snow of the year” should’ve been a month ago. 😦  Can we all agree that it’s time for spring now?  Thanks.

Ann Arbor Bucket List

Since I’m trying to get out and take better advantage of all that Ann Arbor and Michigan have to offer, I figured the best way to organize my adventures was to make a list.  Looooove lists.  And schedules.  And maps.  Okay, digressing.

In this post, I’m going to offer up the Michigan bucket list.  Restaurants, museums, cultural activities, outdoor adventures, etc.  I’m going to link back to any posts I may have written about these items, and check off anything that’s already been accomplished with an asterisk (*).  Please note that sometimes more than one of these items are discussed in the same post.  Going forward, as I write posts, I will reference back to the list and hopefully link accordingly and appropriately.  I see lots of linking and circular references in my future.

PLEASE OFFER SUGGESTIONS of things to do/see/eat that I can add!

Okay, here it goes, in hopefully some particular order:

Places to Visit in the State of Michigan:

1. Upper Peninsula

*2. Sleeping Bear Dunes

3. Mackinac Island

4. Frankenmuth

*5. Grand Haven

Cultural Activities in and around Ann Arbor/Detroit:

6. Belle Isle Conservancy and Aquarium

*7. North American International Auto Show – Detroit

*8. Dexter Cider Mill

*9. University of Michigan Museum of Art

*10. Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

11. University of Michigan Museum of Natural History

*12. Concert at The Ark

*13. Movie at State Theatre

14. Movie at Michigan Theater

15. Concert at Hill Auditorium

16. Broad Art Museum (at Michigan State)

17. The Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art

*18. Ford Presidential Library

*19. The Henry Ford (Museum)

20. Greenfield Village

Sporting Events:

*21. Detroit Lions Football

22. Detroit Tigers Baseball

23. Detroit Red Wings Hockey

*24. UMich Football

*25. UMich Wrestling

26. UMich Hockey

*27. UMich Basketball

*28. UMich Gymnastics

Outdoor Activities:

*29. Kayaking

30. Botanical Gardens

*31. Kerrytown Farmers’ Market/Artisan Market

*32. Nature Walks

Food & Drink Related:

*33. Zingerman’s (deli)

34. Zingerman’s Roadhouse (bbq)

*35. Lab (coffee and pastries)

*36. (Espresso) Bar

*37. Sweetwater’s (coffee)

*38. Sava’s

*39. Isalita

*40. Aventura

*41. Bigalora

*42. Logan

*43. Lena

*44. Vinology

45. Cafe Felix

46. Gratzi

*47. Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery

*48. Slows Bar-B-Q (Detroit)

49. Traffic Jam & Snug (Detroit)

50. Mexicantown (area of Detroit)

*51. Liberty Street Brewing (Plymouth)

*52. Cliff Bell’s (Detroit)

53. Guns and Butter (Detroit)

54. Two James Distillery (Detroit) – Can someone please weigh in on this?  This is the first Detroit distillery since prohibition (and I think currently the only) and they have a club called the Corktown 500 for which you apply (capped at 50 people), get exclusive tours and discounts, and if you are a member you can go to a weekend WHISKEY MAKING CAMP!!!!  This sounds totally up my alley of learning new skills and interesting experiences.  Problem: to join the club it is $2,000!!! Ahhhh so expensive!  Worth it?!?!?!  Anyone think yes?  Anyone want to subsidize me?  🙂

55. Eastern Market (Detroit)

*56. The Lunch Room

*57. Vellum

*58. Pacific Rim

59. Try “Detroit-style” pizza – I had no idea Detroit had its own pizza style, which is square, and according to Wikipedia: “The square shaped pizza is the result of being baked in a square pan, which is often not a pizza pan.  Rather, industrial parts trays are often used, which were originally made to hold small parts in factories.”  Crazy!  It sounds like the anti-health food, as Wiki goes on to say: “The crust of a Detroit-style pizza is noteworthy because in addition to occasionally being twice-baked, it is usually baked in a well-oiled pan to a chewy medium-well-done state that gives the bottom and edges of the crust a fried/crunchy texture.”

60. Try a Coney Island hot dog (aka Coney Dog)

Other Areas of Southeastern Michigan:

61. Corktown (Detroit)

62. Heidelberg Project (Detroit)

*63. Royal Oak – Got a “butterbeer latte” at a local coffee shop that I found on Yelp called Bean and Leaf.  It was super sweet and delicious with some toffee/butterscotch flavor, however I was confused and dismayed by the coffee sleeve that read Zingerman’s Coffee…it’s everywhere…I don’t actually feel like I’m trying something new when they have such a monopoly on the coffee/bread/sweet treat market all across Southeastern MI.

*64. Troy – To be honest, when I wrote Troy, I meant the mall.  LOL.  The Somerset Collection mall in Troy is akin to Tysons Corner in VA.  There are actually 2 malls connected by a sky bridge: one with Saks, Neiman, Burberry and other posh stores (only one salesperson even approached me in Saks because I clearly was looking more bum-like than the regular ladies who lunch set and I was even wearing jeans and not yoga pants – in other words, stepping it up!); the other mall has Nordstrom (yay for a Nordy fix) and all the other regular stores you would expect in a mall.

Misc:

65. Take a ride on the Detroit People Mover

*66. Literati Book Store

Okay, I think that’s a pretty exhaustive list at this point.  Ann Arbor friends: what am I missing?!??!

Detroit Auto Show

Detroit Auto Show

This post is a bit delayed as the North American International Auto Show was back in late January, but I just didn’t really know what to say about it.  I’m not a car person, but when in MotorCity…  So Mark and I went over to the COBO Center in Detroit one day after work to check out what all the fuss was about.

To say the show was massive would be an understatement.  These photos can’t even do justice to its scale.  Each brand had its own section with concept cars, the newest lines, light-shows, floors that swooped and sloped and changed color, walls that were entirely made up of hi-def videos, and 20-30something ladies in black dresses or suits with extra long fake eyelashes giving car commentary and specs over the sound system.

The comments I overheard were like a foreign language.  Middle aged men spouting off facts to one another about this component or engine or whatever (I have no idea).  I’m glad we went for the experience, but I am none the wiser about anything automotive, except to say “Look at that crazy one!”

So on to the photos:

IMG_2014 IMG_2015 IMG_2016 IMG_2017 IMG_2018 IMG_2019 IMG_2021 Moving machine parts on displayIMG_2023 IMG_2025 IMG_2026 IMG_2027 IMG_2029 IMG_2030 IMG_2031 IMG_2032 IMG_2035 IMG_2036 IMG_2038 IMG_2039 IMG_2040 Virtual reality driving simulatorIMG_2041

IMG_2043Loving this grill IMG_2045 There’s the color-changing floorIMG_2046 IMG_2048 IMG_2049 Enclosed scooter thing?IMG_2050 IMG_2051 IMG_2052 IMG_2053 IMG_2054 Trunk in the frontIMG_2055 IMG_2058 IMG_2059

IMG_2060Cool colors at BMW

IMG_2063A little girl starting early IMG_2064 IMG_2065 IMG_2066 Do you think these wings help with aerodynamics or just look cool?IMG_2067

IMG_2068Here we have a family rocking matching camo. I think the person on the left is the mom.  Or the son.  Ummm. There’s a third person behind them that you can’t see who is either the mom or the son also.

After the car show, we hit up Slows Bar BQ which is a super popular BBQ restaurant in a strangely vacant part of Detroit.  Maybe not strangely.  We couldn’t even find the door because it blended right in with the building, but once we got inside it was jammed packed.  An hour wait on a Tuesday?!?!?!  Car show I guess.  They moved quickly and we got amazingly delicious meat, mac n cheese, mashed sweet potatoes, fries, cornbread, etc.  I ate until I felt really sick, and it didn’t even look like I had touched my pulled pork, chicken and brisket.  They had five or six different sauces, which were all so good, I kept rotating different meat with different sauces to find the best combos.

IMG_2071 IMG_2070 IMG_2090

An excellent night out in Detroit.  Can’t wait for warmer weather to explore more!

Come to Ann Arbor, Get a Wedding Dress

As I discussed in my wedding dress post, I purchased my previously-worn wedding dress from a not-for-profit, volunteer-run shop called The Brides Project in Ann Arbor.  Dresses are donated second-hand by brides or donated new by boutiques or designers that have overstock.  (To manage inventory and make sure that the dresses have some market value, they typically only accept styles from the past 5 years.)  All proceeds from the dress sales (which are priced at least 50% off the true retail price or more depending on the condition) benefit the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor.

tbp

(Photo from thebridesproject.org)

A) I had so much fun working with my two bridal consultants at the shop (open by appointment only for now), B) I was impressed by the selection and range of sizes and styles available, C) I was touched that so many people had donated their dresses, and D) I loved the idea of benefiting a good cause in buying this dress, that I just had to sign up to become a bridal consultant myself!

I had my training a few weeks ago: half at the Cancer Support Community (CSC) itself and half at The Brides Project (TBP).  I went in initially interested in being a bridal consultant at The Brides Project wedding boutique, which would mean helping brides try on and pick out dresses (yesssss, so fun!!!), and I did sign up to do that.  But being the volunteering overachiever that I am (I just get really excited about projects, okay?) I may have checked the boxes for all sorts of other volunteer opportunities too: yoga teacher at the CSC, photographer/blogger/social media correspondent for The Brides Project, dress intake/inventory/processing assistant, special events volunteer (the CSC holds a number of annual events such as an Ann Arbor version of Amazing Race, so you know I had to sign up for that!!).

I hadn’t realized that the CSC is a national organization and this is the local chapter, which is great because it means they have national resources but local autonomy to create programming that meets their members’ needs.  They offer so much, all for free, to those in all stages of cancer/remission, as well as to loved ones and care givers who are either dealing currently with the effects of cancer or have lost someone from cancer.  Not only do they have support and grief groups, they also hold weekly yoga and meditation classes, kids karate, nutrition and cooking demonstrations, knitting circles and “walks with docs” where a different volunteer doctor will host a nature walk through one of Ann Arbor’s parks, where members can informally ask questions or chat with him or her.  Here is a seriously touching video on the Kids Kicking Cancer karate class, which was started at Children’s Hospital of Michigan; I was trying not to cry watching this during the training!  There are lots of other videos out there if you google “Kids Kicking Cancer youtube”.

At first, I will be a bridal consultant trainee, which means that I will shadow a more experienced consultant on appointments.  I will do this until I feel comfortable dropping the trainee designation to become a full-fledged bridal consultant able to run appointments myself.  Every bride is given a two-hour appointment, and they try to only schedule one bride at a time so that she can have the run of the store.  They also typically schedule two consultants for every appointment so that one can help with the trying on and one can run/return dresses to and from the racks.  They are very good about creating a true bridal boutique experience with great customer service and selection.  You don’t feel like you are shopping in a second-hand store by any means.

Since the shop is run out of donated space, The Brides Project has had to move locations a fair amount since its inception, as landlords tend to want to lease out space to a paying tenant if possible.  The current location isn’t quite large enough to house all the dress inventory that they’ve collected, so they decided to experiment with a weekend trunk show held at the main offices of CSC.

The trunk show was my first hands-on training experience, and it was fantastic.  They opened up the CSC (a larger space than TBP) from 10-4 on Saturday and Sunday.  Even given the crazy snowstorm going on all weekend, 42 brides came through the door.  We helped them pick dresses that suited their styles and try on the gowns, advised them on how they could be tailored, and closed the sales.  The mood was upbeat and fun, with music pumping and families swooning and clicking away with their cameras.  They raised $8400 for the CSC over a goal of $5000, and sold 21 dresses, which is typically what they sell in a month!  Most of the brides came to the show because they had heard about it through social media and word of mouth, and I hope that the event will have a ripple effect on TBP’s brand recognition in the community.

Already the show has created a demand for weekend appointments at the shop through February.  Two other consultants and I helped a bride, who had lost her mom to cancer when she was young, find a great dress last Saturday (you know someone loves the dress when she cries seeing herself in it! So touching!), and I’m scheduled to meet with brides both days this weekend and the following weekend.  I can’t say enough about how much fun it is combing through dresses, swooning at new arrivals and fancy designers, and seeing the look on brides faces when they know it’s the one (or definitely NOT the one).

I’m excited to continue helping brides and have even offered to staff some afternoon hours to keep the shop open for walk-ins…there goes that volunteer-overdrive again.  So come visit me in Ann Arbor and together we’ll find the perfect dress!