TOLEDO: Old West End

30 Jun

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We are in Toledo, Ohio today for the 44th Annual Old West End Festival. Spread out over 25 blocks in the Old West End neighborhood, activities include historic home tours, garage sales, antiques, food trucks, music and an art fair. We pick a centrally located street in the neighborhood to park on, sidewalks are crowded with pedestrians in search of a great find or that ‘can’t live without’ item at one of the many garage sales. Small children have set up lemonade stands on the lawn, homeowners have relocated their grills to the front of the house and are selling hot dogs with all the fixings, I spot an ice cream truck parked up ahead, a band plays on a large front porch.

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  The houses in the neighborhood are an eclectic combination of architectural styles, very Toledo. We stroll by traditional Tudors with stucco, wood beams, leaded glass and large front porches. Queen Ann’s, Victorians, Romanesques, Arts and Crafts and Edwardian’s are well represented. I love the detail in the trim, doors and stone. Elaborate gardens and well maintained landscapes fill front lots, antique urns are spilling over with colorful flowers and vines. Graceful entryways are welcoming, window boxes are packed with annuals, wrought iron surrounds balconies and yards, many homes have sleeping porches. Built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries this is where the wealthy families of Toledo resided.

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Garage sales trail out onto driveways and lawns, tables lined end to end lead us to backyards; bottles of ice water are for sale at every stop. From the really old to the not-so-old, items range from furniture and clothing to antique hardware, sterling silver, souvenir spoons, housewares, glassware, kitsch and seasonal decorations. As we walk from house to house well-behaved dogs rest on shady porches, a pair of cars drive down the street draped in a fish costume, how fun is that? Artists display their wares hoping to sell them to passersby; framed paintings, stained glass, and bold, colorful, hand painted furniture get our attention. One house has gobs of vintage items for sale, the sides of their car have been covered in bamboo, a portable tiki bar follows behind. Down the street another art-car is covered in stones, car parts and toys in every color of the rainbow. The Freeman-Hirt home on Glenwood Ave is on the home tour, the line stretches down the block, I think it’s my favorite house in the neighborhood. Built in 1896 it’s a mix of architectural styles, conical towers, shingle and clapboard siding, concave gables, the witches hat dormers are awesome.

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Block after block we pass beautiful homes, ornate apartment buildings, lush green lawns, food stands and antiques. Did I mention the super cool phone booth for sale? On the side of a lovely old building an acrobat swings on a length of white silk, a young girl gives a hula-hoop a whirl. Music is being played in a neighborhood park, listeners sit at tables drinking cold beer. We make our way through the marketplace, art fair and a quick pass through the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion, the air conditioning feels fantastic. We are done, time for lunch.

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Tony Packo’s is a Toledo tradition, with two locations in town we choose Packo’s At The Park by Fifth Third Field where the Toledo Mud Hens play. The interior displays cool old neon signs, vintage black and white photos and baseball related items. Our server takes our order quickly and returns promptly with icy cold soft drinks; in no time at all lunch arrives. The Fried Pickle Salad is heaped onto the plate, piles of mixed greens and romaine are topped with blue cheese crumbles, bacon, grape tomatoes croutons and, you guessed it, Tony Packo’s fried pickles; served with house Italian dressing, it’s really good–hey, don’t knock it till you try it! The two-dog combination comes with two Hungarian hot dogs slathered in house hot dog sauce ( think chili), mustard and onion. I love that slight crunch when biting into the hot dogs. We choose the paprikas dumplings with gravy for our side and they are delicious as always, yum!

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Kris likes to drive around cities we visit and see what’s new, the Uptown District is beginning to come to life with Handmade Toledo leading the way. The 10,000 sq ft building from the 1930’s was originally a car dealership, through the years businesses came and went, today it is a combination maker shoppe, workshop space, gallery and event space. The Maker Shoppe’s main focus is the work of local and regional artists, makers and designers, all items are for sale. There are lots of Toledo-centric items such as T-shirts, coasters and mugs. The pieces are of high quality, paintings are eye-catching. A nice variety of jewelry is offered along with ceramics, candles and textiles; they even have beans from one of the local coffee roasters. Speaking of coffee……..

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Before we hit the road and head north we stop in at Black Kite Coffee and Pies, a local coffee shop on Collingwood. A gorgeous mural covers an entire side of the building, a tribute to the street, neighborhood and city the shop is located in. Inside, a white tin ceiling adds character, pendant lights hang above the counter, a refrigerated case displays the days offerings; all food is made in house, from scratch. We each order a cold brew, and are immediately distracted by 4 large donuts on exhibit. Holey Toledough(great name!) creates handcrafted doughnuts in flavors like maple bacon, siracha honey sesame, pineapple macadamia and raspberry limoncello and sells them through local businesses and farmers markets. Unable to choose just one, we go for the raspberry and the pineapple, eat half and switch; both are very good. Coffee and doughnuts, not a bad combination…. It’s been a great day in Toledo, just a hop and a skip from Detroit, we’ll be back.

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ANN ARBOR: Naturally…

23 Jun

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We’re in Ann Arbor today at Nichols Arboretum to see the largest collection of heirloom herbaceous peonies in North America. Operated by U of M, the 123- acre “arb” is located near the eastern edge of Central Campus. The naturalistic landscape was begun by O. C. Simonds back in 1907; home to natural areas, trails, pathways, specialty gardens, broad valleys and thematic areas, it provides an easy escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. We park in a neighborhood off Geddes Ave and make our way to the entrance; we are greeted by a floral display, a newer iron gate closes the gap between two very old stone posts. Walking straight out we reach the highest point in the arb, they say the escarpment and slopes were created by glaciers, here we have a panoramic view for miles.

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We begin our walk through the main valley following a wide gravel path north and west toward the Peony Garden. The path winds through shaded woodlands, giving us respite from the afternoon sun, wildflowers bloom in purple and white against a lush green background. Leaving the main path, we follow a narrow dirt trail deeper into the woods, a deer nibbles leaves a few feet away. As we ascend the hill we eventually emerge from the woods, the peony garden is below us in the distance, a large grassy area surrounds it. In 1922 Dr. W. E. Upjohn, founder of Upjohn Pharmaceutical Company in Kalamazoo and passionate collector of peonies, offered to donate peonies to the arb, regents accepted his offer, appropriated $2,000 to establish a peony garden, which then opened to the public in 1927. Today each of the 27 beds contains 30 peonies, the garden holds nearly 800 peonies and up to 10,000 flowers at peak bloom.

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Our timing is perfect, beds are bursting with blooms in white, every shade of pink, deep red and burgundy, it’s fantastic! I wander from plant to plant in awe of their beauty, a closer look reveals the difference in varieties; some are shaped like goblets, others are flat and cupped, there are inner petals, outer petals, pistols and stamens, crowns and collars. Placards give detailed information, I love the names: Fortune Teller, Lady Emily, Do Tell, Loveliness, Madame Jules Dessert and Nanette. Some are quite fragrant, I bend at every one hoping to be rewarded with sweet fragrance. Kris joins dozens of others taking photos of these delicate beauties. Up close the colors are stunning, one is all white with flecks of red near the center, multicolored blossoms fade from bright rose to pale pink to white, centers are yellow or gold, petals are ruffled or smooth, wide or narrow. It is an amazing thing to see!

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We choose a wide path that takes us through the woods, mushrooms cover a fallen tree, in the distance yellow flowers top reed-like stems, we come upon a stairway terraced into the hill, it leads us to the bank of the Huron River. We stand in an open area, the sun blazes overhead, two women in  kayaks drift by us carried by the current. Buildings on the opposite side of the river remind us we are actually in a city. We duck back into nature, taking a more secluded trail this time, a Robin sitting on the edge of her nest watches us closely as we pass. Mature trees and more wildflowers surround us as we make our way back, another set of stairs leads us gently up a hill, at the top we take in the vista that surrounds us, and then we are back to where we started.

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By now we are famished, Angelo’s On The Side is a short drive away, I hope we make it before they close. We’re in luck, there’s a space in the back lot and they’re open. The original Angelo’s opened in 1956, serving breakfast and lunch, it is still owned and operated by the same family. This side is a coffee-house and carry-out counter with limited seating for dining in. Chalkboard menus surround the counter, we quickly agree on what to order and take a seat overlooking the street. A wax paper lined tray arrives, upon it sits giant battered onion rings and a mouth-watering California Club Sandwich. A stack of turkey breast, bacon, lettuce, tomato, guacamole and cucumber are piled between two slices of exceptional homemade white bread Thick slices of onion are nestled in crispy batter; we exchange few words, the food is too good to be interrupted with talk.  

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A couple of blocks away on S University we stop in at Mighty Good Coffee Roasting Co. before hitting the road. The coffee shop is located on the ground floor of a mid-century style building, three walls are glass and there’s also a patio. Kris and I drink cold-brew coffee regularly, every shop uses its own method and choice of bean; this is the first time we have encountered Nitro-infused cold brew. This method uses a stronger mix of cold brew concentrate with cold filtered water, they put it in a keg, add pressure and serve it up on a nitro tap. What you get is a creamy, slightly bubbly coffee that’s higher in caffeine. It’s usually served in a pint glass without ice, cream or milk, just looking at it you’d swear it was Guinness Stout. Kris orders one on ice, I stick with traditional cold brew. We relax on the patio drinking our coffee and sharing a chocolate chip cookie; the nitro is outstanding as is the regular cold brew. What a great way to end the day.

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DETROIT: What’s up at Heidelberg??

16 Jun

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The Heidelberg Project has been drawing visitors from near and far to Detroit’s East side for 29 years. Created by native Detroiter Tyree Guyton, the project is an ever-changing, constantly evolving, open-air art gallery covering a two block area once dense with family homes. Heidelberg and controversy are no strangers to one another; in 1991 and again in 1999 the City of Detroit demolished several homes in an effort to close the project, stating that it deterred development of the area. Since 2013 there have been a number of fires, houses have been burned to the ground; arson is suspected. And yet, on this lovely, summer-like day, visitors roam the neighborhood streets taking one photo after another, cars parked along the curb wear license plates from Ontario, Illinois, New Mexico and of course, Michigan. Conversations in several languages can be overheard. Colors are cheerful, the mood hopeful, discarded objects appear content in their new purpose.

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Sidewalk squares are decorated with Tyree’s signature faces, polka dots are painted in the street, old tires are stacked two deep and re-used as planters. A doghouse belonging to Congo The Art Dog has been erected on a grassy patch across the street, cut-outs allow visitors a silly photo-op, clocks are a recurring theme throughout the landscape, the openings in a section of chain-link fence are stuffed with white shoes. The backyard of Tim Burke’s Detroit Industrial Gallery is filled with whimsical sculpture; giant flowers sprout from the Earth, beings created from found objects stand about, there’s a lot to look at. The Polka Dot House still stands, I can only imagine the stories it could tell…..

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Long dead trees provide the foundation for artwork and shopping carts alike, a toilet looks awkward sitting in the open. The foundation is all that remains of one house; hundreds of items surround the perimeter, baby dolls and stuffed animals wear smiles, making me think they know the answers to so many of life’s questions. Portraits cover automobile hoods and boards, pretty glass panels hang from a wooden frame near Mt Elliot. We peek into the basement of a house on the next block, an assortment of blue-painted shoes are scattered on the floor, a rusty antique stove has baked its last cake. Further down, vinyl records are attached to the frame of a house, completely open, an old-fashioned radio sits central in the space. An old boat has run ashore, dozens of stuffed animals are wedged inside, a giraffe is about to board, perhaps they are planning a trip?

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We walk down the sidewalk past a playground where polka dots have taken up residence, sculptures are created from old doors, trophies cover a makeshift floor and there are more clocks. Kris and I point things out to one another, funny how we each notice something different, art is subjective. Here in the quiet our imaginations run wild, I like that all the unwanted shoes are grouped together, that the discarded gloves have found a new home on chair legs, that some of the old “taxi” signs are still around. To me it is a testament to survival, persistence, perseverance; something every Detroiter knows about.

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It’s a short drive to Milano Bakery and Cafe on Russell Street in Eastern Market; the bakery, originally opened in 1958, has been at this location since 1999. Inside you’ll find a bevy of breads, pastries, whole cakes, tarts, cookies, well, you get the picture. Today we are having lunch in the cafe, large menu boards hang on the wall above the pastry cases, one for pizza, one for sandwiches; everything sounds delicious. We place our order at the counter, Kris takes a seat at a table while I study our dessert options. 

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Before we know it lunch is delivered to our table. We chose an onion roll for the pepper-jack roast beef sandwich; roast beef topped with sautéed mushrooms, red and green pepper, onion, pepper-jack cheese and Milano’s homemade sauce. The onion roll is toasted so it keeps the sandwich from becoming soggy, the meat is tender, the cheese has melted, all the flavors have combined into one tasty combination. Sandwiches come with a side, we had potato salad and ordered an extra side of pasta salad, both are very good; the pickles are excellent too. About the time we came in the door, our willpower went out, it’s impossible to resist temptation with such a gorgeous selection of pastries in view. Choosing which to have is an entirely different dilemma….. Caramel Bumpy Cake proved irresistible; moist yellow cake topped with pastry cream and submersed in caramel frosting, yum! Scrumptious food, delectable desserts and fair prices keep us coming back.

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CLEVELAND: Art, History And A Grilled Cheese Sandwich…….

10 Jun

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We’re in Cleveland where new and exciting things are going on all over the city. Today we’re on the East side, University Circle, re-visiting a couple of museums that have undergone recent renovations. The Crawford Auto Aviation Collection of the Western Reserve Historical Society was founded by industrialist Frederick C Crawford of TRW and opened in 1965. Exhibits trace the automobile through its development in Ohio and across the nation. John D Rockefeller, who attended Cleveland Central High School and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery, founded Standard Oil in Cleveland, the city comes by its automotive history naturally. We begin our visit on the lower level, with the newest exhibit, REVolution. With about 50 automobiles on display we see the evolution of design and technology from the 1890’s to the 21st century. 

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Paint jobs gleam under halogen lights, vehicles are gathered into groups, a replica Standard Oil Company gas station complete with vintage gas pump is off to one side, historic photos of Cleveland have been enlarged big enough to cover walls. We meander through the maze of cars, chrome bumpers are huge, hood ornaments elaborate, all the cars in one section are made of stainless steel. Vehicles wear name badges of Studebaker, Pierce Arrow, Auburn, Hupmobile and more familiar ones such as GTO, Impala, Cadillac and Belvedere. The wood on the Chrysler Town & Country is beautiful, the concept AMX is really cool.

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The ‘Road Trip’ display includes the Jordan House car, an early version of a camper, there’s an old trailer too; the Need for Speed section highlights race cars. The World Touring Hupmobile has survived its travels, we see a Stanley Steamer, a turbine car engine, vehicles that ran on alternative fuels; we learn about tires and check out accessories that at one time had to be purchased separately but are now standard equipment, I’m talking bumpers, headlights, even windshields!

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Upstairs, Setting the World in Motion is all about northeast Ohio’s impact on the automobile and aviation industries in the first half of the 20th century. By the 1930’s over 100 automobile manufacturers called this area home. There are about 50 vehicles on display, each manufactured in Cleveland. Roscoe Turner’s only surviving Wendell Williams model 44 looks as though it’s flying through the room, Turner broke the world speed record in 1933. The gondola from the “Spirit of Goodyear” blimp was active for 31 years and flew over such events as the Kentucky Derby, the US Open tennis matches, NFL and MLB games, you wouldn’t get me up in that thing!

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In the old days, entertainment was often based on transportation; air shows, car races and the like. Cleveland was home to National Air Races and the Great Lakes Exposition in the late 20’s and 30’s with Lake Erie serving as a stunning backdrop. Free tickets for the air shows were dropped from planes with little parachutes attachedI love the collection of souvenirs on display; programs, posters advertising Billy Rose’s Aquacade, drinking glasses, spoons and numerous trinkets. We have reached the newest addition to the museum, a glass pavilion built to house the newly restored Euclid Beach Grand Carousel.

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To me nothing defines the mood or character of the early 1900’s better than an old-fashioned carousel; this one is gorgeous! We received tokens to ride when we paid our admission, now we choose from 58 hand-carved, hand-painted wooden horses. The ride begins, we rise and fall to carnival-type music while passing scenes depicting Euclid Beach Park and other Cleveland icons, a smile crosses the face of every rider…..Come to think of it even the spectators are smiling. This is one of only a few carousels to return to the city where it was originally located, how cool is that?

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Next we make our way to the Cleveland Museum of Art, this will be our first visit since the renovation and expansion project has been completed. The original Neo Classic building opened in 1916, there have been several expansions through the years but nothing like this. Gallery space has been increased by 33%, a 39,000 sq ft glass enclosed atrium has been added to connect the new to the old, there’s a cafe and a 76-seat fine dining restaurant called Provenance; welcome to today’s art museum.We head directly to the atrium and are in awe of what we see, it resembles a plaza or a town square. The glass ceiling allows the light in and affords us a view of the outdoors. Rectangular beds are filled with ground cover in varying shades of green, wood benches give a park-like feel to the space. In the distance dwarf trees bask in sunlight of the day, cafe tables are filled with hungry visitors, a mezzanine level overlooks the activity, the existing 1916 building makes up the south side. 

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Our main focus of the day are the new galleries, we visit the East Wing first. Home to Contemporary and Modern art along with Impressionism, Abstract and Photography, all of our favorites are in the same section. Hardwood floors lead us down long hallways, in and out of spacious galleries, past Picasso, Monet, Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin and Anselm Kiefer. We check out Rebecca Norris Web’s photography exhibit, My Dakota, before moving on.

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Though we have visited the museum a number of times, no visit would be complete without walking through the Armor Court, we have great affection for the original building and the rotunda, it’s wonderful. While we’re here who can resist Tiffany or Faberge? The West Wing is also new, the ‘glass box’ is a gallery in which all four walls are entirely glass; it’s like being in the middle of an amazing garden that just happens to have spectacular Indian and Southeast Asian sculptures set about on pedestals, wow! Kris and I are extremely impressed with the transformation, if you’re in Cleveland you have to check it out. 

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Time for lunch, we are headed to another Cleveland original: Melt Bar and Grilled on Detroit Ave in Lakewood. The restaurant space is decked out in quirky, eclectic items like vintage outdoor lighted decorations such as snowmen, pumpkins, penguins and the Easter Bunny; it works great with the antique tin ceiling. Owner Matt Fish takes ordinary grilled cheese sandwiches and elevates  them to gourmet with combinations like the Parmageddon with potato and onion perogi, kraut, sauteed onion and sharp cheddar or the Lake Erie Monster with crispy battered jumbo cod, sweet slaw, jalapeno tartar sauce and american cheese. There are dozens of combinations to choose from or create your own.

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We are seated at a table near the bar, we’re hungry so we concentrate on the menu and make a quick decision. First out is the Attack of the Green Tomato: battered, fried green tomatoes covered with an outstanding southern herb remoulade, topped off with fire-roasted corn salsa, delicious. Our Hot Italian Grilled Cheese arrives, it’s huge! Honey ham, pepperoni, salami, basil marinara, roasted garlic, banana peppers, provolone and romano on fresh-baked grilled bread sprinkled with herbs and grated cheese, excellent. If you’re a beer drinker, you may be interested to know they also offer 150 beer selections—-seriously. It’s been another great weekend in Cleveland, the city has a lot to offer without all the hassle and expense of those bigger cities people flock to. Only about 3 hours from Detroit it makes for a fun, easy get-away.

 

CLEVELAND: What’s New ???

3 Jun

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We’re in Cleveland for the weekend; our home base, Stone Gables Bed and Breakfast is nestled in the vibrant, charming, historic Ohio City neighborhood. A group of young entrepreneurs have given new life to the area now known as Hingetown in Ohio City. It’s a familiar story, vacant old buildings are restored and repurposed, new businesses move in and flourish, elevating the quality of life, which in turn attracts new residents and visitors. We’re on 29th Street in the midst of  a sun-drenched Saturday, the old Ohio City Firehouse building is buzzing with activity, people sit at picnic tables on the patio drinking cold beverages, dog walkers greet one another as they pass, bicycles whiz by. We step into the air-conditioned space of Urban Orchid, a floral and gift boutique. The place smells amazing, like Gardenia, fresh-cut flowers have been arranged into colorful centerpieces for a reception that will take place later in the evening. Cleveland goods such as t-shirts and cards as well as gift items created by local artists are available for purchase.

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Just around the corner of the firehouse is Rising Star Coffee Roasters, this was the first business to take a foothold on the block. Inside the line moves swiftly, the guy in front of me has the highest praise for the coffee and the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie–who am I to argue? Standing at a high-top table we have our cold brew coffee and cookie, both are excellent, never doubt a local. Back outside we cross the street to the Striebinger building with businesses on the street level and apartments on the second level. We wander in and out of each space, long and narrow interiors are accented by exposed brick and Edison bulbs. Glass storefronts allow sunlight to wash in giving shops an open, airy feel. Beet Juice Bar is doing a brisk business selling cold-pressed juice, I love the drop tin ceiling in Cleveland Tea Revival, the lunch crowd has started to arrive at Juke Box. Harness Cycle is a spinning studio that also sells cool work-out gear, pet owners make their way to Ohio City Dog Haven. This little district has the feel of a small village integrated right into the neighborhood, it’s wonderful.

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Heading west in the Jeep, we stumble upon the Madison Arts District on, what else, Madison Ave in Lakewood. We both spot the sign at the same time, Kris manages to turn around and park us in front of a quirky, vintage, antique, Mid Century shop called Googie Style. Googie is that modern, futuristic, atomic, car-culturish, bright-colored, starburst, anything goes style found from the 40’s to the 60’s. Inside we meet Margaret, one of the owners, she’s awesome. She points out some of the more unusual pieces, shares stories of great finds as we take in the fun and funky collection of items. Sure there’s the great mid-century design furniture, beautiful glass and copper sculptures, but there’s also a jack-a-lope, masks and a framed painting of parrots. With names of other shops in the area and a school to check out, we’re off.

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First the school, Lakewood High School on Franklin is home to Viktor Schreckengost’s 1954 sculpture, Johnny Appleseed. A native of Ohio, Schreckengost attended the Cleveland School of the Arts, designed the Jazz Bowl for Eleanor Roosevelt, taught industrial design and was a bicycle designer for Murray, Sears and others. The sculpture is kitchy-cool and definitely worth a look. Back on Madison we drop in and out of several antique shops. Great 70’s kitchenware, Corning Ware had some far out patterns, mushroom canisters were all the rage, ahhh, the memories… The Good Goat Gallery is a great place to stop and browse, the art ranges from fine to fun. Kris and I wander, we find it all quite attractive, dolls have amazing faces, paintings use bright colors, some of it is humorous, some solemn, much of it puts me in the mind of Latin America. The gallery is gearing up for a big show called Six Degrees of Vincent, Vincent Price’s daughter Victoria will be there for the opening, looks like an awesome show!

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We are having lunch at Barrio, Cleveland’s own taco house serving up specialty tacos, tequila and whiskey. We are seated on the patio, pencils and menu pads stand in a metal bin on our table, our server brings us icy cold glasses of water and explains the ordering process. We’re hungry, too hungry to create our own tacos from the vast list of available ingredients, so we go with El Jefe’s Selecciones, we ask our server to bring us the first four on the list. Munching on still-warm chips and flavorful salsa our basket of tacos arrives. We each take two, eat half and switch, thank goodness for the roll of napkins in the basket. The Vegan Stoner is a soft shell with grilled peppers, onions, portobello, corn salsa, pickled veggies and a herb vinaigrette, delicious. El Jefe is a hard shell, wrapped in a soft shell and stuffed with queso, chorizo, chicken, corn salsa, smoked cheddar, lettuce, chipolte honey sauce, wow, a great combo of flavors and textures. El Puerco is the combo soft and hard shell with white cheese, pulled pork, queso fresco, chipolte honey, salsa roja, lettuce and tomato, so good! The Spicy Sapanaro is spicy, but not so hot that it’s hard to eat. Here we have the soft and hard shell, cheese, chorizo, chicken, queso fresco, salsa roja and secret sauce, yum! I can see why Barrio is such a local favorite.

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Refreshed and re-energized we drive into downtown Cleveland to check out Heinen’s on 9th and Euclid. This gorgeous building, designed by George B Post, opened in 1908 as the Cleveland Trust Building. The building was occupied by Cleveland Trust, then Ameri Trust and finally Society Corp until the 1990’s. Today Cleveland’s oldest family-owned grocery chain, Heinen’s operates out of this iconic domed structure. The exterior is richly detailed with carvings and columns, one look and you know it was an important building in its day.

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Inside, your eyes are immediately drawn to the elaborate, beautiful glass dome. A ring of super-ornate plaster covered in gold leaf caps arches and more columns, illuminated rosettes are magnificent, a stunning railing runs the perimeter of the mezzanine level, hand painted murals peek out between arches, plaster details are heavy. Cafe tables fill the circular ground floor, grab a coffee, something from the bakery or a meal at one of the counters. The mezzanine level offers wine tasting, a huge selection of bottles and beer. From here the overall view is spectacular; above, the murals, dome and all of its details, below, the patterned marble floor, the stairway is pretty snazzy too. Aisles are located in the space beyond the dome for all your grocery needs.

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We make one last stop on our way back to our room, there’s a new ice cream shop on Bridge Street we want to check out. Mason’s Creamery is housed in a tiny Mid Century building with a covered patio that looks like it has always been a neighborhood ice cream shop. Folks are gathered along the freezer staring into five-gallon drums of frozen deliciousness; tasting is encouraged and everyone seems to be doing their part. Along with the usual suspects, Mason’s offers flavors like popcorn, Cleveland Whiskey, butterscotch and Paw Paw. Flavors are made in-house in small batches, today there are about a dozen to choose from. I taste and I taste, it’s the dark chocolate I like the best, Kris goes with the Roasted Peanut, they add a drizzle of strawberry for that peanut butter and jelly combo. We eat our dessert sitting at a small table, it’s fun to watch people try the different flavors, the line continually repopulates. It has been a day of fun and new discoveries in a place so familiar to us. There’s still tomorrow………..

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SOUTHFIELD: American Dreaming

27 May

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There was once a blissful time in the United States when Americans believed anything was possible. After the Great Depression and two World Wars the country was recovering. The Big Three were back in the business of building cars. The public was in need of personal modes of transportation that would take them to newly developed suburban neighborhoods, shopping malls and trips across the country. Manufacturers grew huge styling departments, hiring artists to capture this new futuristic spirit. It was the “Golden Age” when cars were a thing of beauty, they stirred our imagination, put us in the mind of outer space, science fiction didn’t seem so far-fetched. These talented, mostly unknown, artists took eye appeal to a whole new level that shaped not only the auto industry but every facet of American design.

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We are at Lawrence Tech University in Southfield to view a historic collection of sketches assembled by Robert Edwards called ‘American Dreaming‘ Detroit’s Golden Age of Automotive Design. The exhibition takes us inside the styling studios of the American auto manufacturers from 1946 to 1973. The walls of a small banquet room are covered with framed sketches; created in pencil, pastels, ink and airbrush, their mere existence is incredible. Back then due to fierce competition between companies all drawings were ordered to be destroyed, preventing them from ending up in someone else’s hands. These drawings were smuggled out by the wildcat artists themselves under the threat of termination if they were ever caught. Today the room is crowded with appreciative viewers enjoying the works of Rodell Smith, Don Hood, Bill Brownlie, Allen Young, Del Coates, Carl Renner, George Krispinsky, John ‘Dick” Samsen and many others who names you may not recognize, but their designs you would. 

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We move around the room slowly, sidestepping others, dodging cameras, in effort to get a closer look. The designers were predicting the future and showing us how we would get there. The early sketches are more conservative in nature, traveling forward on the timeline bodies become exaggerated, elongated, surrounding landscapes are futuristic with rocket ships blasting off in the background; cars look like they could join them in space. There are renderings of Corvettes, Barracudas, Toronados and Gremlins, Studebaker, Packard, AMC, DeSoto and so many more. There are studies of interiors, wheel covers, hood scoops and badges. Model cars are displayed in plexiglass cubes, placards give us insight to the artists and their careers. The evolution of the automobile and the country is laid out in front of us, what an incredible ride it is!

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We take a brief walk around campus before going back to the Jeep. LTU was founded as a private university in 1932, classes were held in the former Model T assembly plant in Highland Park before moving to Southfield in 1955. Theory and Practice have always been the schools motto, offering degrees in Engineering, Architecture and Design. You may recognize the names of these former students: A. Alfred Taubman, Steven A Ballmer, Donald W Date, John Z DeLorean. Buildings are a mix of old and new, all modern in design; my favorite is the architecture and design building with its glazed brick, folded plate roof and courtyard. Landscaped gardens and sculpture dot the campus.

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Sticking with the Modern theme of the day, we decide to drive through some of Southfield’s noteworthy neighborhoods. We start in Northland Gardens off 8 Mile Rd, ranch models sprawl with breezeways, car ports and forecourts. Most are brick accented with stone, lots of windows, skylights and large entryways. One of the most unusual sits on Westland Ave, built in 1961 it is long and low, the stepped roof lend an Asian feel to it. Leaded glass windows contain blue circular patterns, the glazed brick cylinder in front is one of a kind.

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Further north we pop into Washington Heights and Cranbrook subdivisions with multiple California Modern ranch style homes. Low sloping roofs, wide eaves, large fireplaces and tall windows are prevalent. Many of the homeowners put forth great effort keeping the homes architecturally correct from the colors of the time period right down to the lighting. The Ravines neighborhood is nestled into a wooded area along the Rouge River; palatial homes are built on sweeping, rolling lots above the waterway. Several homes are completed in the same style as the “Brady Bunch” house. Most of the homes in these subdivisions were built in the 1950’s and 60’s when Southfield was booming.

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We’re having dinner at Sweet Lorraine’s Cafe & Bar on Greenfield Rd, Chef-Proprietor Lorraine Platman has been in the restaurant business since 1982. Know for her “world beat cuisine” she has a reputation for turning out tasty dishes made with interesting combinations through the decades. The dining room is a lively space with colorful murals, attractive lighting, glossy wood tables and booths. We are greeted at our table immediately with menus and glasses of ice water. There’s a lot to read making a decision difficult. The flavors cover the globe, there’s something for everyone from meat-eater to vegan. Kris and I each pick a dish to share.

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While we wait for our dinner, our server brings us each a piece of focaccia bread and a shallow bowl of red sauce for dipping, it’s outstanding. I could have added a glass of red wine to that, had a second portion and been completely satisfied. I’m glad I didn’t, as our entrée’s were delicious. The pear brie quesadilla is stuffed with thin-sliced pear, melted brie, drizzled with a cilantro cream sauce and served with a side of red pepper jelly. Basic ingredients when combined give a variety of flavors and textures. The Veggie Vietnamese “bahn mi” is a crusty roll filled with organic tofu steak, portobello, spicy slaw, sriracha, cucumbers and cilantro, so flavorful, so good! At the end of the day our appetites for art, architecture and delectable food have all been satisfied.

 

 

DETROIT: Breaking Down Borders

21 May

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There are places, pockets, that exist outside the mainstream, under the radar, that go completely unnoticed until some event, a happening, comes along inviting us to take a closer look. Today we’ll attend two such gatherings and find some surprises along the way.

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 The Porous Borders Festival takes place (mostly) along Carpenter Street, the border between Detroit and Hamtramck; the usual offerings are there: art, music, food, t-shirts, but in a completely different way. The Jeep is parked on Gallagher, we walk the short distance to Carpenter, looking around we wonder where all the activity is. I grab a map from the information hub in the parking lot, my attention is diverted by the sound of cheering voices, a ball being hit and laughter; we cross the street to watch a group of young men learning to play Cricket. Heading westward we intercept a car cruise; earlier in the day participants created their own wire vehicle in a workshop led by the Wire Car Auto Workers Association of Detroit (WAWAD), suddenly musicians from both sides of Carpenter raise their instruments and begin to play as they chase the tiny cars down the street. Looking closely at the map and schedule I realize it is merely an idea of what you may see, many of the activities are random, unexpected, participant driven.

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Walking past long forgotten businesses, empty homes and buildings, the cities are mirror images of one another; a make-shift tank is parked on broken concrete, weeds grow between the cracks, a boat sits on a trailer in a patch of grass. The door to Turtle & Inky’s, a local bar is open, it’s quiet inside, there’s a break in the action; a large figure of a man, beer in hand, sits way up high on the chimney. We duck into Record Graveyard, the air conditioning a welcome respite from the mid-May heat wave. The new location sports the same green walls as the old building, continuity, I like that. Oren Goldenberg’s installation, The Portal, fills the front window; the scene is of water, a pink geometric shape and a giraffe, anybody walking down the sidewalk becomes part of the scene, you can attempt to swim or splash around entertaining shoppers inside. Further down a residential garage-turned-music studio invites us to stop in and make some noise. Hand-held instruments, drums, and a microphone dare to bring out the rock star in us.

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On the Detroit side a seesaw sits in a beautiful field of green, wildflowers (or possibly weeds) are blooming as the sun blazes overhead. A pair of girls glide up and then down, a sign nearby reads “take a seat, make a friend”, looks like it worked. We arrive at the WAWAD workshop, wire cars are parked in the street, each one is different, some look vintage, there’s a truck, a police car and a dragster complete with headers. Somebody has built diminutive versions of abandoned houses in the area. Around the corner we wander into Popps Packing, a cool art gallery. The pieces on display are modern, the former slaughterhouse has been re-imagined into a great space, Kris likes the multicolored windows. Deeper into the neighborhood a backyard has been transformed into a vineyard; I wonder what kind of wine they’ll make.

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Time for a snack. In 2012 Lisa Ludwinski’s Sister Pie began as a Cottage Food business; hard work, lots of dancing and winning the 2014 Hatch contest culminated into the opening of a quaint storefront at the corner of Kercheval and Parker just a few weeks ago. The building is from the 1920’s, large windows look out onto the streetscape where positive changes are taking place. Inside we are greeted by the aroma of buttery goodies baking in the open, professional grade kitchen.

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Directly in front of us, under glass domes, are the stars of the place—the pies! Today the selection includes Honey Lemon Meringue, Chocolate Coconut and the signature Salted Maple…….enough said. Kris orders his Salted Maple heaped with fresh whipped cream, I take the Chocolate Coconut as is. Sitting at the large community table we dig in, the salted maple has the consistency (and look) of pumpkin pie, the crust, made from high fat French butter, is tender and flaky, the filling is full of maple goodness balanced out perfectly by a little saltiness, you’ve got to try it! The Chocolate Coconut is delicious, soft chocolate filling is chewy at the edges, long shreds of coconut throughout give it a nice flavor and texture, yum! Pies are available whole or by the slice, savory items are available as well, eat in or carry out, you’ll be glad you did.

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Blocks away, we park in front of a gray-painted building on Bellevue that was originally a pickle factory. The Atlanta-based non-profit Dashboard Co-op has turned the building into a temporary art gallery. Dashboard sent folks out to Detroit in search of vacant property to use as exhibition space. They zeroed in on the Pickle Factory, invited several Detroit artists to create works that ‘respond or enhance the uniqueness of the city’ , threw in  a few national artists asking them to create a piece depicting their initial impression of Detroit, put it all together into a contemporary collaboration called Detroit Boom City.  

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Approaching the entrance we stop for a look at After Aris a lined mural by Mitch Cope on the side of the building. Inside we are as interested in the building as we are the art; the space was last used by an automotive surplus company as storage. All of the artwork was created from items found in the building or the surrounding area; much of that being automotive, the Detroit connection is obvious and immediate. In front of us is a miniature parking lot, we recognize the wire vehicles, the artist Chido Johnson, is the creator of WAWAD. The space is cool, windowless, items such as the time clock remain; it still works! Wandering from piece to piece, we can identify many of the items used: fenders, oil filters, hoses, bumpers, very cool. Narcissus Inc by Scott Hocking is the most ambitious of the bunch, the office-like area looks like it could still be in use today. Huge swordfish and bookshelves cover the back wall, paintings, clocks, wheel covers and record albums are incorporated into the setting. Chrome pieces are stacked high creating sculptures on each side of the room. Popps’ Mobile Sauna, a 1989, yellow and orange striped van turned mobile sauna is parked in the courtyard, it even works. The gallery is open Saturday and Sunday from 1 pm to 7 pm until June 12.

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DETROIT: I Got Rhythm….

13 May

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It’s 2:00 on a Sunday, with no reason to rush out the door we’ve slept in late and are now in search of food. Why is it anything with eggs or maple syrup tastes even better after noon?  Craft Work in West Village is said to have a great brunch, we’re here to check it out. Located on the ground floor of the Parkstone Apartments, the restaurant is integrated into the neighborhood perfectly. That’s one of the things Kris and I really like about this area; restaurants, cafes and shops are intermixed with single family homes and apartments making it very walkable. Mature trees, gorgeous architecture and well-kept homes create a charming district.

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Housed in a space that was originally a pharmacy, then occupied by the Harlequin Cafe, Craft Work has kept the old-world charm alive and well. Dining room tables are full when we arrive, there’s plenty of room at the community tables in the bar area. Everything on the menu sounds appealing; we choose one sweet and one savory dish to split. Before long, large plates piled high with breakfast foods arrive at the table. Lets start with the savory; tender bacon fat biscuits are literally smothered with house made sausage gravy nicely seasoned with tender chunks of sausage. Next to the biscuits are two perfectly fried eggs; I put mine on top of the biscuit, eggs Benedict style. Cutting into it, golden liquid yolk drips down the biscuit and combines with the gravy, delicious! Golden french toast made from eggy, tender, slightly sweet challah is stacked high, pats of butter melt slowly and eventually slip down the stack, a cup of syrup shares the plate, Kris is in his glory, it’s exceptional.

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Now for the entertainment portion of the day. Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church (JAPC) is hosting “A Gershwin Rendezvous” as part of their free concert series. The building itself is stunning, designed by architect Wirt C Roland (Guardian Building) in the English Gothic style, it was completed in 1926. The interior is a medley of wood carvings, plaster castings, stained glass windows and stone carvings. The Sanctuary itself is elegant, understated, with colorful stained glass windows, simple chandeliers and stepped buttresses. The Skinner pipe organ is one of only three, large, four-manual instruments that remain in their original form.

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We park in the lot behind the church and follow the other attendees inside. Wooden chairs have been set up in rows facing the black piano, volunteers are busy setting up refreshments to be served at the conclusion of the performance. After placing our jackets on the back of our chairs, we have a look around. There are several lovely rooms in the Parish House; stone fireplaces, leaded glass windows and decorative plaster adorns each of them. The church has a very welcoming feel to it, members are friendly and chat eagerly. Though this is not my neighborhood or my church, I feel a part of the community gathered here today.

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Back in Dodge Hall we take our seats as the concert is about to begin. Penny Masouris will be performing many Gershwin favorites today; pianist and vocalist, she will also weave in a bit of Gershwin history and stories between songs. A number of reproduction paintings rest on easels, our hostess introduces each of George’s paintings and tells us a little about them. She’s a wonderful lecturer and fascinating to listen to. It’s evident she has studied the composer and pianists life and career extensively. Taking her seat at the piano she kicks off the afternoon with Gershwin’s first big hit (1919) Swanee. Penny shares stories of George and Ira’s early days in New York, how George became the composer and Ira the lyricist, then she plays and sings some more.

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We are sitting in the back row with the vantage point of being able to see the physical reactions audience members have to songs like “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”. Some close their eyes and sway, others mouth the lyrics. Once in a while there is a joyful gasp, a body sitting  a little straighter in the chair, a tapping foot. Music has that effect on people. “Rhapsody in Blue” is probably the piece of music most associated with Gershwin, it’s hard to believe it came out in 1924, it’s magnificent. George wrote pieces for stage and screen, American in Paris (1928), Porgy and Bess (1935) along with Jazz, opera and popular music. George Gershwin died when he was only 38 years old during surgery to remove a brain tumor. His career was short but brilliant, filling the pages of the American songbook.

Time has passed quickly, the concert comes to an end. Enthusiastic applause shows our appreciation for the performer.   The concert series continues through June with performances on Sunday afternoons at 4:30 pm. Be sure to check out the website for all the musical programs at JAPC. It has been a wonderful afternoon, Detroit-style, I can hardly wait for next weekend!

DETROIT: Tiki Time

6 May

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In the 1930’s a young man from Louisiana traveled by sailboat through the South Pacific. Intrigued and excited by what he saw he changed his name to Donn Beach, moved to Hollywood CA and in 1934 opened the first Tiki/Polynesian themed restaurant in the US called Don The Beachcomber. The restaurant was decked out in rattan, bamboo and thatch, it served Cantonese cuisine and tropical drinks dispensed in coconut shells, tiki mugs or huge bowls meant to share, oh, don’t forget the little umbrella. Donn is credited with creating the tropical drink genre of mixing flavored syrups and fresh fruit juices with rum. Three years later Trader Vic’s opened in Oakland CAPost WWII, interest in the South Pacific swelled, Tiki infiltrated music; artists such as Les Baxter, Martin Denny (Quiet Village) and Arthur Lyman (Yellow Bird) created a whole new genre called Exotica. Songs conjure up images of tropical rainforests, Hawaiian luaus, Tahitian villages, beaches and palm trees. Tiki bars sprang up from the California coast to the Atlantic coast; the Tiki culture of mid-century America was born.

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Detroit  joined the Tiki bandwagon with a Trader Vic’s downtown, Chin Tiki on Cass (featured in the movie 8 Mile) and the ultimate in Polynesian grandeur, The Mauna Loa. As a young boy Kris actually had dinner at the Mauna Loa, the place was so spectacular it remains a vivid memory of Palm trees, waterfalls, gurgling streams, foot bridges, giant Blowfish lanterns and tall torches. It is said to be the most expensive restaurant built east of the Mississippi at the time, $1.6 Million dollars in 1967. Though none of the buildings remain today, stories, photos and memorabilia of Detroit’s lost Tiki palaces keep the memories alive and well. Today Zenith at the Fisher Building is hosting a Tiki Brunch, I’m so excited!

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When we arrive the Tiki party is in full swing; tables are filled with diners noshing on the likes of cornbread french toast, huevos montulenos, chicken and waffles, candied mango bacon and grilled biscuits. Roland Remington and Johnny Ukulele are serenading patrons with the relaxing sounds of mid-century Exotica tunes such as Blue Hawaii, Hypnotique, Henry Mancini’s Moon River and Tequila. Roland is classically dressed in jacket, tie and Shriner’s hat as he plays the xylophone. Johnny is a little less formal in his print shirt, he switches between the electric organ and the ukulele. The Tiki mood has been set, tropical flowers are arranged near the performance area, smoke filters out the mouth of a tiki, leis are draped over the ukulele case, very swanky.

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We are seated at the bar in the lounge area, this section is steeped in Tiki style from the bamboo furniture and hula girls to the tropical flowers painted on the walls; the lamps are pretty awesome too! We love the brunch here, at Zenith Poutine is a MUST, today’s version goes like this: crispy french fries topped with scrambled eggs, shredded cheddar, jalapeno hollandaise, scallions and 4-pepper gravy, it’s worth every single minute you spend on the treadmill. Then there’s the Red Velvet Waffle, served with a slightly tart pomegranate sauce, tamed by the cream cheese icing, it’s delicious!  We finish our brunch right as the musicians take their break.

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At 2:00 pm members of the Detroit Area Art Deco Society arrive for a tour of the space in celebration of Detroit Modernism Week; being members ourselves, we join the group. Owners Melissa and Robert Jasper have been collectors of all of the fabulous stuff we see here for the last 30 or so years. Gathering in the Tiki lounge, Melissa points out specific pieces, she explains the significance of the item, where she got it or what she likes about it; the fountain is new since our last visit. Kris and I have been to a least a hundred flea markets, antique stores and vintage shops all over the south and mid-west, this is some of the coolest stuff we’ve seen.  In the very front of the restaurant facing W Grand Boulevard is the “paint by numbers” room, you guessed it, individual paint by numbers from western scenes to animals and sailboats to the Eiffel Tower decorate the walls.

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The space the restaurant occupies was originally a bank, our hostess leads us downstairs, through the gates to the old safe-deposit-box-room-turned-lounge area, super cool! Next to that is the performance space now known as the Wrectory, a heavy metal karaoke nightclub. The decor is a mix of religious items and adult themed posters creating a humorous contrast. Back upstairs the music has resumed, we reclaim our seats at the bar and sip on tasty tropical drinks made for a lazy Sunday. If you’re looking for a bit of the good life, the next Tiki Brunch is May 17—we’ll see ya there!

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COLUMBUS, OHIO: German Village

29 Apr

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We are in the lovely, historic German Village neighborhood just south of downtown Columbus Ohio. Spring has already sprung, the temperature today is supposed to reach the low 80’s, luring us outdoors, on foot, through neighborhood streets. The first order of business is breakfast, there is a wonderful mix of small businesses nestled among charming homes in this area. Walking down 3rd St we approach a superb little bakery called Pistacia Vera, cute cafe tables are drenched in morning sun, customers sip on coffee and tea while eating fresh-baked pastries. Inside, a tantalizing array of baked goods await us, for me it doesn’t get much better than a buttery, flaky croissant, well, unless you add chocolate, pain au chocolat it is! Now we are ready to continue our expedition.

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The Village, settled by German immigrants, was mainly developed between 1840-1914, with a majority of the structures built in the last quarter of the 19th century. The jewel of the neighborhood is Schiller Park; it is the gathering place, the activity center, a place for festivals, picnics, reunions. This is where folks walk their dog, soak up the sun, take respite from a hectic day, sit by a fountain and read a good book. A sizable bronze statue of Friedrich von Schiller, the famous German poet for which the park was named, stands proudly in the park, some of his quotes are chiseled into the granite promenade near the statue. Today the roughly 23 acres are full of action; dogs race after frisbees, joggers are getting in swim-suit shape, Canada geese and ducks paddle around in the compact lake.

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The Huntington Gardens are coming to life, everything is lush and green. Square in shape, the park is bordered by some of the village’s finest homes. After walking the entire perimeter we take a seat on a bench facing the Umbrella Girl fountain; I think this is my favorite spot. The original Umbrella Girl mysteriously disappeared, Columbus sculptor Joan Wobst is responsible for the statue we see today of a young German girl in a dirndle carrying her shoes and holding an umbrella. Village native Phil Kientz designed the octagonal pond that surrounds her, if you look closely you’ll notice the designs in the sandstone resemble those found in doors and cornices throughout the neighborhood. 

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Not far from the park is Barcelona, a Spanish fusion restaurant with one of the best patios in the city. We have timed our arrival perfectly, we have our choice of tables. The space is perfect. Flower pots are brimming with colorful pansies, leafy ferns bask in the sun, water flows gently into the above ground Koi pond, blue umbrellas shield us from the warmth of the afternoon, perennials are making their return. We sip on glasses of ice water as we check out the Siesta Fiesta menu, feeling famished I think we ordered half of the menu! The plate of crusty bread and dip of olive oil and some kind of sun-dried tomato mixture disappears instantly. The parade of small plates begins. Patatas Bravas, delicious chunks of twice fried potatoes, garlic aioli and spicy tomato sauce, next, a perfectly ripe avocado stuffed with goat cheese served with a handful of mixed greens, a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette is drizzled over top of everything, then the chilled spiced peach soup, if you like peaches, you’ll love it. Then there’s the Costillas, braised beef short ribs in a Spanish blue cheese mushroom sauce a little green olive aioli and fried leeks, the meat just falls apart—- had to get more bread to soak up the amazing sauce; did I mention the Sangria…… The meal was outstanding, the atmosphere delightful, the service excellent.

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Time to walk. When we come to German Village we just wander, today tulips and daffodils are in full bloom, giant bumble bees gather by the dozens in weeping cherry blossoms. Homeowners have been busy filling urns and window boxes with pansies, violas and Gerbera Daisies. Each house is unique from the wrought iron gates to the stained glass windows. There’s a strong sense of community in the Village, residents walk down the street stopping to admire a neighbor’s yard, greetings are exchanged, compliments given. Die-hard gardeners work diligently creating manicured lawns and picture perfect landscapes; in one yard there’s a statue of a woman tending her lupines, it’s quite beautiful. Roots of mature trees have had their way with brick-paved sidewalks, it’s a good idea to glance down from time to time. This is a designated historic district, the facades of houses have changed little in the last 100 years, isn’t that wonderful?

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Jeni’s German Village is a walk-up ice cream shop consisting of a blackboard menu, take-out window and a smattering of colorful patio tables and chairs. With the old brick building as a backdrop, a string of white lights, and the tree-lined street, this sidewalk shop exudes a charm. Kris reads the list of today’s flavors, he smiles when his eyes reach Brambleberry Crisp. With cone in hand we continue our stroll. Like so many other cities or neighborhoods German Village has seen it’s share of hard times; two wars of anti-German sentiment forced changes to street names, they even changed the name of the park for a while, eventually reclaiming the name Schiller Park. This area was home to as many as seven breweries, then came prohibition, the district eventually fell into decline. In 1960 the German Village Society was formed, things started to change; homes were renovated, businesses moved in, they say it is the largest privately funded restoration in the US. It is truly the premier place to live in Columbus.

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Our time in the city is running short; we have walked for hours having seen quaint red-brick cottages, grand homes, marvelous displays of tulips. It seems every other person we pass has a four-legged companion; I have enjoyed my encounters with friendly pooches happy to get a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears. Walking in the direction of the Jeep I see the words Chocolate and Coffee on a storefront window, our pace picks up a little. Winans Fine Chocolates and Coffees has been making fine chocolates and candy in the German tradition for 5 generations. Approaching the door a cream-colored canine is napping on the concrete, maybe he needs a shot of espresso. The shop is aromatic, a blend of fresh ground coffee and chocolate, kinda like heaven…. We are pleased to find they have cold-brewed coffee, it’s one of the best we’ve had anywhere. Now for something chocolate, the glass case has rows of amazing looking treats, shelves display boxes and bags of milk and dark varieties, but it’s the dark chocolate Oreo that calls my name.

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Contented, we head north via the scenic route. The drive is an integral part of the get-away; Kris has refined the route over the years into a pleasant 2-lane trip through farm country and tiny towns. It has been a great couple of days, though we’ve only traveled a couple of hundred miles, it feels as if we have been somewhere far away. 

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