EASTSIDE: Divine Dining

28 Jul

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As Detroiters we work hard and we play hard; beautiful summer days are something to celebrate. Today we are doing just that. It’s Thursday, a perfect July day; the sun is hot, the sky is blue, we are meeting friends for dinner at 8pm. With plenty of time before we have to be there, we take a spin along Lakeshore Drive through the Grosse Pointes; the sunlight sparkles off  turquoise water, boaters are out in numbers, we make a loop around the Lake St Clair shoreline, then duck into Grosse Pointe Park. There are a lot of changes taking place on this section of Kercheval; restaurants have opened, a bakery is in the works, and then of course, there’s the new Brewery: Atwater In The Park. That’s right, the good folks of Atwater Brewery have converted the former Grace Community Church on the corner of Lakepointe and Kercheval into a Biergarten and Tap Room. 

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We secure a parking space on Kercheval, two brick columns and a metal arch form the entrance to the Biergarten; the patio can seat up to 100, there’s a covered bar with limited seating and a table or two. We enter the tap-room/restaurant through the original church doors, the hostess stand is the former church’s pulpit, today we seat ourselves. Rounding the corner there’s a small dining area on the left with a fireplace, the main dining room is to the right, this is where mass was held. The sun is in a perfect position to illuminate the three stained glass windows at the front; this is also where the brewing process takes place. Original light fixtures hang from the wood-beamed ceiling, leaded glass makes up the side windows. We take a couple of seats at the large horseshoe-shaped bar, additional tables line both walls, church pews are re-purposed for seating. A clipboard holds menus, the selection is huge……they have 40 taps! I am trying the Shaman’s Porter, Kris, the Blueberry Cobbler Ale; patrons all around us are enjoying dinner and a beer. The bartender returns with our selections; Kris’s comes in a plain pint glass, I can smell the blueberry, mine comes in a fancy footed glass. First off, we take a sip of each other’s beer; Kris’s is delicious, like blueberry cobbler and beer——–in a good way! The Porter is dark and smooth, having been aged in a bourbon barrel. Not a bad way to start the evening. Off to our dinner reservation……

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 We drive through a traditional suburban neighborhood in Harper Woods, not far from Eastland Mall, turning on Old Homestead Dr we keep watch for the monastery. A white picket fence runs the length of the property, blue onion domes rise above surrounding rooftops, buildings have a distinct Russian flare. At the covered entryway we are greeted by a monk, following the red-colored concrete pathway, we find ourselves in one of the most charming settings around. St. Sabbas Orthodox Monastery began with the purchase of a single property in 1999, a lone house that now serves as the Monastery Library and Visiting Monastic Quarters. Later that year construction began on the Monastery church, which has been added on to in stages and still has several to go. Today the monastery is situated on roughly 6 acres which include the Monastery Kathlicon, library, Abbot’s quarters, trapeza and candle making shop. The Royal Eagle Restaurant also occupies the monastery grounds; built in the traditional Venetian Style to honor the memory and bequest of an Italian-American church patron, it serves traditional Eastern European Cuisine. Royal Eagle operates as a non-profit, all proceeds go directly toward the building and maintenance of the institution.

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Beautiful gardens surround the monastery, fountains and mosaic shrines are tucked into the greenery replicating the style of the ancient monasteries of Jerusalem, Russia and Poland. It’s beautiful everywhere I look; flowering shrubs, petunias, lilies, purple coneflower, marigolds and hostas are blooming in beds and urns, water trickles in the distance, you would never imagine this paradise exists in the midst of a neighborhood… We requested a table on the patio, we are shown to our seats and delighted to find we are sitting by the pond with a perfect view of the gazebo and bridge; there is definitely a sense of tranquility and serenity in the air. The four of us look over the menu, it all sounds delicious; everything is prepared in house. It’s impossible to pick just one thing; we order three appetizers and each of us chooses a different entree……. plates will be passed around the table.

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 Guests are permitted to bring their own wine, so we did. We start with a sparkling white from L Mawby in Suttons Bay, our appetizers arrive, we commence to cutting them up and passing the plates; the Tower of Basil is a stack of ripe red tomatoes, alternating with fresh mozzarella and basil, drizzled with an aged balsamic vinaigrette, oh, so good! The crab cakes are meaty and delicious the lemon aioli and pomodoro sauce are perfect sides. The Siberian Pelmeni are little round dumplings stuffed with beef, veal and pork accompanied by a garlic dipping sauce, wonderful. When we are finished we open the bottle of Rioja as the rest of our meal arrives. There are four of us at the table, we have enough food for eight! As plates arrive and glasses are filled, the sun sets, throughout the gardens tiny white lights illuminate the grounds, the glow of the gazebo reflects on the water, it is so enchanting I don’t ever want to  leave. The food is magnificent, truly one of the best meals any of us have had in recent memory. I cannot list it all, but here is a sampling of what we had: the most heavenly Chicken Paprikash with divine Eastern European style dumplings, potato pancakes, homemade sausage, barley/mushroom kasha, pirogi dumplings, salmon, and the most amazing sauerkraut ever! We ate and we drank, we shared stories, then we ate and drank some more.

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It seemed impossible to eat anymore, but when dessert was offered we couldn’t resist. While we waited, we wandered over to the church to get a glimpse inside. Built and beautified in original authentic iconography, over 30 icons adorn the walls and ceiling, it’s gorgeous. The gold surrounding the renderings of saints reflects off the glossy floor, they are hand-painted by a local iconographer in the strict, traditional Orthodox style; a tiny chandelier is the only source of light. There is not another Katholicon church like it anywhere in the world. Returning to our table we notice night has fallen, strings of lights are draped across fences and over the entrance, it’s lovely. Coffee is served as dessert arrives; the yogurt cheesecake is rich and delicious, but it’s the Russian Napoleon Cake that we all go crazy for, absolutely outstanding. Talking over candlelight, somebody notices the time, it’s after 10 pm, our server who is dressed in a traditional Russian costume approaches, she couldn’t be nicer; she offers boxes for left-overs and tells us to take our time finishing up. We can eat and drink no more, we are the last people left on the grounds, alas, it is time to go. We all walk out together, leaving this magical place; it is a night that will stay with us, it was an extraordinary experience shared with good friends.

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DETROIT: This Is How We Roll

21 Jul

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In 2005 a group of high-spirited, hard-working, competitive women joined forces to form The Detroit Derby Girls, a women’s flat-track roller derby league based in Detroit. Through the years the league has grown to include more than 120 skaters, 5 home teams and 3 travel teams that compete inter-league. This is not the old-fashioned banked-track derby of the 1970’s where hair-pulling, tripping, punching and chair-throwing was the norm. Today skaters have backgrounds in speed skating, hockey, even figure skating; they are very athletic. These women pay-to-play; they spend their hard-earned dollars buying equipment, practice time, massage therapy, band-aids and ice packs. They practice several times a week, pay for their own travel expenses and manage the league. Players come in all shapes and sizes; during the day they work as doctors, teachers, lawyers, mothers and shop-keepers. 2009 was an amazing year; Drew Barrymore arrived in Detroit to film “Whip It“, many of our local skaters took part in the film, how cool is that? That same year the DDG were ranked #2 in the North Central Division and made a trip to the Nationals. Home bouts are played at the magnificent Masonic Temple; ticket cost is minimal, bouts offer everything: hard-hitting action, speed, competitiveness, live music and lots of fun. The girls still use great names such as Black Eyed Skeez, Ghetto Barbie, Cool Whip, Fatal Femme, Racer McChaseHer and Zooma Thurman, keeping the kitsch part of derby alive. It’s a blast!

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Today the DDG is having a FREE bout outdoors at Eastern Market, using the parking lot behind Shed 3. It’s one of those days when the weather changes every five minutes; we are flip-flopping between pouring rain and sunshine. When we arrive it’s pouring, spectators and skaters are gathered inside the shed waiting for the rain to stop. Today a mix of skaters from all home teams will make up the Motown Wreckers vs the Motor City Dis-assembly Line; dressed in blue and yellow jerseys they are ready to roll. The sun comes out, refs and skaters alike make short work of sweeping the puddles off the asphalt; the temperature hovers in the 80’s so it dries quickly. The track area is laid out with spray paint lines, rocks and debris are cleared and the pack lines up. One blow of the whistle and the jam begins; blockers, pivots and jammers whirl around the track, to say it’s a little tricky skating in a parking lot is an understatement, but the teams rise to the challenge. Spectators who planned ahead are sitting comfortably in lawn chairs, the crowd grows with passers-by checking out the action. Kris makes his way to the top of the parking structure to get a great overall view and take pictures, others are there just to watch. Rows of white folding chairs make up the team benches, the skyline of the city peeks out above the roof of Shed 2, the sky cannot make up it’s mind if it will rain again. It’s inevitable that skaters will fall, one good hip-check or shoulder is all it takes,  the parking lot surface is unforgiving; instead of sliding the surface grabs hold of both clothing and skin…ouch! Taking it in stride the two teams battle it out, the crowd loves it! Keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming bouts and events, the regular season usually begins in November.

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We are having lunch at Topsoil, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant located inside MOCAD on Woodward.  We enter the museum and hang a right down a short hallway to the restaurant/performance space; rectangular tables are pulled together creating long community tables, sunlight pours in through the glass roll-up door in an otherwise dim space. I walk to the counter to check out the menu and place our order. It’s really hot outside so we’re looking for something cold, something light; the cold sesame udon, blk seed, sea salt, carrot salad  and the kale, Farro, lemon and evoo salad fit the bill. Everybody who eats here tells us we have to try the hot dogs, well, Tofu dogs, so I ask the gent behind the counter which one he likes best, ‘Zombie’ is his reply, Zombie it is. I join Kris at the table while our food is being prepared in the open kitchen, before I know it a tray is placed on the counter and my name is called. I am sure to grab silverware and plenty of napkins, we’re sharing everything. The first thing we dive into, of course, is the Zombie, a tofu dog tucked into a bun topped with house-made peanut butter and house-made vegan kimchi………..it is soooo good! The dog tastes like a regular hot dog, no funny texture or anything like that, the combination of flavors is excellent! Both salads are generous portions and quite tasty; when all the food is gone, Kris says, we should have gotten 2 hot dogs!

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The museum is still open, so we have a look around. MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit) is a non-collecting institution, its purpose is to explore emerging ideas in the contemporary arts. The 22,000 sq. ft. building is a former auto dealership; the huge open spaces are perfect for art exhibitions. In addition MOCAD hosts lectures, musical performances, films, literary readings and educational activities for children in the historic space. Today the main exhibit is a show called La Bella Crisis by Jose Lerma, a Puerto Rican artist. The gallery is transformed into an art fair; Lerma created a ‘booth’ a day for 30 days, now complete, the floor is covered in a silver tarp, canvasses hang at different levels, each space is unique. Detroit Native Steve Locke has an exhibit in one of the smaller galleries; “There is no one left to blame” is a series of male portraits on canvas. Midwestern Voices and Visions showcases the work of highly talented artists of color in Midwestern residency programs. Along the back wall is Dana Friedman’s video installation “Projecting”. We like that the museum is ever-changing, there’s always something new to see anytime we pop in. If you’d like to check it out you don’t have much time, the museum and restaurant will be closed from July 28 through September 11 for renovations, so get there soon!

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PORT HURON: I Saw the Light…..

14 Jul

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After a long, cold, winter we have consistently been rewarded with warm, sunny weekends. To us, summer = water; fortunately, living in southeastern Michigan, Lake Huron is just a short drive away. Today we are taking the scenic route, M-25, along Lake St Clair, around Anchor Bay then hugging the shoreline of the St Clair River, gorgeous! The ride itself is a treat, but we have more planned once we reach Port Huron. The city itself is the eastern most point in Michigan, it is also the eastern terminus of both I-69 and I-94. In the 1850’s the town was hopping because of the successful lumber trade and ship building, which in turn resulted in a picturesque downtown; Victorian style brick buildings line Huron Ave. In 1890 the world’s first international under-water tunnel was built here under the St. Clair River to connect the US and Canada, pretty fascinating stuff!

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The city is also home to the first lighthouse established in the state of Michigan: the Fort Gratiot Light Station. Built in 1829, it is the second-oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes after Marblehead. Just north of the Blue Water Bridge, it resides on five acres that also include a lighthouse keeper’s duplex, fog signal building, crew quarters, former coast guard station and equipment building. In 2008, the Coast Guard closed the building to tours due to disrepair. Lucky for us the complex was transferred from the US Coast Guard to St Clair County Parks; with lots of money and hard work, restoration was completed in 2012, the building was once again opened to the public. We are here today to take a tour; we purchase our tickets in the gift shop, it is just the two of us so we get our own private tour, cool. Walking through the grounds there is much work going on, projects near completion as money allows. Our first stop is the fog signal building; a fresh coat of white paint covers the door and windows, the buildings are matching in red brick. Inside, our guide tells us a bit of history before moving on to the duplex building. Groups of 20 or more can stay overnight here; a friend of mine recently did a sleep over with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. Tables and benches fill the main floor, pictures and newspaper articles hang on the walls, rows of bunk beds fill the upstairs space.

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On to the main attraction……This lighthouse actually replaced an earlier one destroyed by a storm; built of red brick and painted white, the 84 foot tower is newly bricked, it’s beautiful. The old circular cast iron stairway is very narrow, be careful as you make your way to the top, it’s kind of creepy/cool. We pass a few random windows on the way up, I can’t wait to see the view from the top. Emerging from the stairwell we walk through the doorway out into the open; a slender observation balcony rings the tower, the big lake is stunning! A sandy beach gives way to turquoise blue water, the deeper the water, the darker the shade of blue, straight across, apartment buildings rise from the shore in Sarnia. To the left, Lake Huron opens up as far as the eye can see, to the right sits the new Coast Guard Station, further on, the double span of the Blue Water Bridge and the entrance to the St. Clair River. The wind is gusty but it feels wonderful. Kris makes his way around the tower taking pictures; you get a complete lay of the land from this height, he even gets a pic of the light itself which was automated in 1933.

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We are having lunch at Fuel Woodfire Grill in downtown Port Huron. Housed in a building more than a century old, the restaurant serves Texas-style BBQ. The tin ceiling, brick and mortar are original, the hardwood floors have been restored. Decorated with vintage artwork of old fuel pumps and service stations, the place has a comfy, casual feel. The menu is full of things you’d expect to find like brisket, ribs and pulled chicken, they also serve up wonderful salads with house-made dressings, steaks and seafood…….did I mention their wide selection of craft beer? I am having a limited edition beer from a Michigan brewery, Kris takes a long pull and we decide to order another. The mixed green salad arrives, the honey white balsamic vinaigrette is delicious. Our server brings the entrée, sides and an extra plate, we taste as we divvy everything up. The brisket is outstanding as is the pulled pork, the jalapeno mac and cheese is excellent, it has a nice kick without being too hot. For the other side we took the sweet potato tots, oh yeah, shredded sweet potatoes with cinnamon, shaped into crunchy tater tots and deep-fried, they’re really good! 

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Good things are starting to happen in Port Huron; new restaurants are opening, a hotel is coming to the old Sperry’s department store space, things seem to be moving towards a more tourist-friendly destination, that’s great! Hey, they even have two places to get coffee, the Raven and The Exquisite Corpse, which is where we are going. Located at the other end of downtown in the Desmond District, the Exquisite Corpse and Gold Rodent Gallery share a space in a lovely historic building. The owner, an artist herself, has done an amazing job transforming the shop. Through the front door hardwood floors gleam, cozy seating areas combine with an extra-large table connecting the two spaces. Original artwork hangs on the wall, works are creatively displayed; we recognize some of the pieces from studios and galleries in Detroit. We walk through to the back and order coffee at the counter, this area also has its own entrance on the side of the building. Taking a seat at the big table we drink our coffee and nibble on chocolate covered coffee beans as we chat with the barista. The day has given us the illusion of being much further away than we actually are. Next time you want that Up North experience without the drive, give Port Huron a try.

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DEARBORN: Goin’ Back In Time

7 Jul

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Everybody knows there are four seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall; here in Detroit we have a fifth…….Vintage Car Season! Like Spring, it starts slowly, you see an old car here and there, by the time June rolls around convertible tops are down, enthusiastic owners are out for leisurely drives on sunny days, cruise nights and car shows are in full swing. One of the best shows around, Motor Muster is held annually at Greenfield Village. This is no ordinary car show, no sir, it’s a celebration of the grandest eras of automotive history, 1933-1976, spread out across 80 acres of Henry Ford’s testament to American life. It’s Father’s Day weekend and we know The Henry Ford is going to be a madhouse, we just didn’t know how much of a madhouse…..We pulled into the grounds and drove toward the parking lot, cars were already parking on the grass, this was going to be a challenge. After driving through every parking lot, to no avail, we joined the host of other vehicles parked on the lawn and made the long (I mean really long!) trek to the entrance; yes, it’s worth it!

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Motor Muster is totally unique; here we wander through streets laden with historic structures such as the courthouse where Abraham Lincoln practiced law, Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory and the home where Noah Webster wrote the first dictionary. On top of that, nearly 1000 vehicles, grouped by model year, are parked along streets, in front of buildings and in grassy areas, it’s amazing! We are walking in no particular order; Kris leads the way, he has a vast knowledge of automobiles so I am always asking him questions. The amount of chrome is staggering, nameplates are large and make a statement, hood ornaments are super cool from birds and flying ladies to rocket ships. We get a good look at finned cars, the tail lights are fantastic, very space-age, headlights are pretty awesome too!  I love the details; badges that call out cubic inches or special features ie “Air Conditioned by Ford Select Aire”, it’s easy to forget what a work of art automobiles were. You don’t have to be an enthusiast to have a pretty good idea of what era a car is from; vehicles from the 30’s sport Art Deco styling, the 40’s cars are voluptuous, turquoise, pink, baby blue and mint were popular colors in the 50’s, big chrome bumpers, grill and trim decorated models from the 60’s and of course, wild colors, bold stripes and big engines populated the muscle cars of the 70’s.

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There’s a lot to take in, folks make a real show of their displays; vintage coolers, picnic baskets, suitcases, are laid out on red and white checked tablecloths. A live band plays music under the gazebo, men and women dressed in vintage attire roam the streets. A large section is dedicated to military vehicles—-I had no idea how many were privately owned. Men dressed as soldiers hold plates while waiting in line for their afternoon meal in a make-shift camp, a lock box holds a serviceman’s treasures: cigarettes, candy bars, photos and medals; a hundreds-of-years old windmill turns in the background. As we wander by Tea at Cotswold Cottage (bummer, they’re full up) we notice a historic 1867 baseball game taking place under today’s flawless blue sky, we take a seat in folding chairs and watch as the Lah-De-Dahs take on the BBC of Mt Clemens; life was much simpler then. After a brief rest we are back among vintage bicycles, fabulous dashboards, Woodies, fire engines and a spiffy 1947 Vernor’s delivery truck.  Cars have a way of telling stories of both the owners and the times; it’s s fun-filled day for all who attend. 

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We zig and zag through the streets of Greenfield Village passing a 1954 Kaiser Darrin, a Lincoln with suicide doors, Packards, an Oldsmobile 98 turned ambulance, oh, and the Mercury station-wagon with the woodgrain on the sides is pretty groovy. We see Thunderbirds, Chargers, Pacers and Pintos, even an old Good Humor ice cream truck! When we reach Main Street the Pass and Review is in process; this is where a parade of cars drive down the street, each one stopping as an expert explains the significance of the car, kind of like a fashion show. Surviving the decades, each one has its own story. We catch a neat old red Jeep, a few other cars pass, then it’s the running of  the Mustangs; led by the Mustang II prototype, a group of the mid-60’s beauties parade in all their 50th anniversary glory while photographers snap photos, it’s all very glamorous. Sure it’s a dream show for gear heads, car lovers and automotive connoisseurs, but more than that, it’s something we can all relate to; in Detroit, cars have always been a part of our lives, automobiles are more than merely transportation—- they mark the time, ignite our memories and make us smile.

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Miller’s Bar has occupied the same building on Michigan Ave in Dearborn since 1941, the reason? Their ‘World Famous Ground Round’. I think it’s more than that…… Miller’s is a cool old bar; stained glass lights hang over booths with deep red leather seats, a 1940’s Brunswick wood bar gleams in high gloss, there’s not a window in the place, or a menu for that matter. When we arrive there are only a couple of open tables; Tiger’s fans sit at the bar and take in the game while having an icy cold beer, family’s and a youth baseball team crowd the tables in back. As soon as we sit, our waitress takes our drink order and asks if we have any questions. She explains the burgers are served on a steamed bun, you can have it with or without cheese ( choose from Swiss or Velveeta). Mustard, ketchup and pickles are on the table, side orders include fries and onion rings, doesn’t get much better than that! Our burgers arrive lightning fast, they come on a white sheet of wax paper, a slice of onion on the side. We dress them up to our liking and share the sides; it’s hard to beat a good burger, and this is really one of the best! The second generation of Miller’s now run the place, it hasn’t missed a beat in all these years. The bar is run on the honor system, when we are finished I walk over to the bartender, tell him what we had and pay the tab,  just like the good ol’ days!

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DETROIT: Eastern Market….Sunday

30 Jun

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Sunday’s were made for relaxing, taking it slow, easy. It’s a day to sleep in, enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee, go shopping  just for fun. If that sounds good to you, we have just the place for you to spend a Sunday: Eastern Market. That’s right, since the beginning of June, sheds 2 and 3 are home to the new Sunday Street Market; let’s have a look. 

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Parking is a cinch compared to your average Saturday; we are in front of Germack Coffee, perfect, we grab a cup to go, cross Russell Street and begin to browse the market. Shed 2 is open-air; a cute vintage trailer with pink and green stripes is parked just inside the entrance, a swimsuit hangs from the open door, scarves hang from a line on the side. A table in front holds old hats, suitcases and other funky items, the set-up is great, like an outdoor vintage store. Across the way an artisan has set up shop, Two Stix 5 Stones sells handmade knits and accessories; her shawls are gorgeous. We take our time strolling past various booths, there’s a nice mix of antiques, handmades and vintage; a mannequin wears a cool old STP jacket, photographs of iconic Detroit buildings are transferred onto pieces of wood, a large jewelry case holds rows of antique rings. Rehash By Amy has taken ordinary light fixtures, given them a whimsical paint job and converted them to solar power, what a great idea! They would look fabulous hanging above a porch or deck. Across the way we spot a grouping of antique signs; Coke, beer and old street signs are all for sale along with a parking meter, you never know what you may find.

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There are a few different T-shirt makers, another booth has a wide selection of items from automotive pieces to the old aprons the newsboys used to wear. On my right I notice an old delivery truck that has been converted into a boutique; step up into the make-shift store, clothing hangs from a rack on the right, accessories are on the left, very clever! Making our way to Shed 3 we pass The Detroit Pop Shop, flavors include chocolate peanut butter banana, blueberry lemonade and cucumber lime basil;  by the number of people eating them, I’d say they’re pretty popular. Shed 3 is completely enclosed, a large Shinola clock hangs from a post, food trucks are serving up lunch, there’s even a gelato truck. A few vendors are selling fresh fruits and veggies, another is selling flowers; dahlias are eye-catching in peachy-pink, scarlet and lavender, zinnias are blooming in bold red, yellow and orange. Live music is being played in the distance, sounds like a xylophone, buskers perform throughout the market. Looks like the Sunday Street Market is a hit!

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The Eastern Market area is also known for its vast array of graffiti, it’s fun to drive up and down the streets looking for new pieces. Right on Russell St a huge mural covers the front and side of Wholesale Produce Distributors; done in shades of turquoise and purple on a tan background, a slew of characters from a guy in a hat, to a shark, are in action. Take the time to really absorb it, the detail and expressions are fabulous! I still favor the grazing cow on the side of Eastern Market Cold Storage, it’s like he’s watching over everybody while he eats—-we are his entertainment. There’s another cool one over on Division, the Greenbriar Foods and Corridor Sausage building; it’s a great scene with a cool cast of characters. Throughout the area you can find wild colors, groovy settings and hip creatures on anything from a building to a dumpster or a roll-up door. We did stop to check the progress on the expansion of the Dequindre Cut, currently running from the riverfront to Gratiot, when the next phase is completed it will continue all the way to Mack; look for it to be completed sometime after Labor Day. 

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It’s such a lovely day we are having lunch on the patio at Mercury Burger Bar on Michigan Ave. The space is really charming; picnic tables are right at home on the brick patio, gardens surround the fence line, nearest to us a goat made from a recycled Quaker State sign appears to be eating the flowers. A graffiti mural covers one wall, strings of lights criss-cross over head, I bet it’s a sweet place to hang out in the evening. While we wait for our food to arrive I notice many Boston Coolers and shakes being delivered to surrounding tables, mmmmm, they look good…… Before long our meal is set in front of us; the French Onion Burger is wonderful, the meat is tender and juicy, topped with crisp bacon, carmelized onion, Gruyère cheese and onion straws, makes you hungry doesn’t it? The Chicago Dog is done up right; mustard, relish, tomatoes, sport peppers, onions, pickle and celery salt packed into a poppy-seed bun. No meal would be complete without an order of Mercury’s hand-cut fries, the sea salt and black pepper are our favorite; the perfect amount of seasoning on incredibly fresh, just from the deep fryer fries…..yum!

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DETROIT: Something New, Something New……..

23 Jun

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Coffee and (____) began life as a pop-up in the West Village neighborhood, it popped-up again last June on Jefferson in the up-and-coming Jeff Chalmers district; the popular coffee shop and bakery has returned to its charming space on Jefferson as a permanent fixture, hooray!  Conferring with Angela, the space was built out last year by the Detroit division of the AIA, she has added her own personal touches such as colorful pillows, potted plants and fresh flowers on the table daily, walls are covered with colorful artwork by local artists. The stars of the coffee shop are, of course, the pastries. Angela is a formally trained pastry chef who knows her way around Key Lime Pie, heavenly scones, gooey chocolate brownies and the best banana bread you’ve ever tasted. Each day a variety of pastries from the full flour, sugar, butter variety to vegan and gluten-free sit under glass domes, tempting all who enter. Let’s not forget the coffee; regular and decaf, drip, espresso or our favorite cold-brew in town, you can have it made to drink in-house or to-go.

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We pull up in front of the shop; the patio has sprung back to life with bright red umbrellas, plants, tables and chairs. Inside, there are open seats at the counter, our favorite place to sit; while Kris takes a seat I eyeball the pastries, it’s no secret I love chocolate—a brownie it is! The atmosphere here is very laid back; customers often engage in conversation with one another about this and that. As I devour my chocolately brownie and sip on cold-brew coffee I take in the large paintings that hang on the walls; Kris and I each pick a favorite. When we have finished, we check out the courtyard in back; benches are made from reclaimed wood, colorful cactus, a money tree and potted palm add color, miniature white lights are strung overhead, it’s truly an oasis. Hello Records second location is taking over the space adjoining Coffee and (____), currently open on weekends, more on that later.

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The transformation of the Detroit riverfront over the last few years has been amazing! There are now 3 miles of completed pathways, parks and green space making the river accessible to all. We are visiting the east riverfront; Mt Elliott Park has been completely renovated by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to include a plaza, water features, restrooms and a cafe—today is opening day. We follow the freshly poured concrete pathway toward the river, the grass is green and lush, benches are arranged here and there, LED light poles flank the path. The tented park pavilion is off to the right, but what really grabs our attention is the water feature to the left; a life-size replica of a great lakes schooner appears to have sunk into the plaza, masts poke out from the ground spraying water into the air. As we approach we notice stacks of crates, the ship’s wheel, treasure chests and barrels, all with the ability to give you a soaker. Here a layer of soft material in shades of blue cover the ground, making it user-friendly, I spot a few yellow disks marked with a blue footprint that activate the water flow, it’s really cool! Further on kids are spraying one another with water cannons,  jets of water shoot up from the ground intermittently drawing screams and laughter from those who are now wet. A trio of children hang on to a giant cattail and spin around, further on, wind chimes are ringing in the gentle breeze. As we head to the silver railing that lines the water a small boy bangs on drums, another bangs on pipe-organ-style hollow tubes, the sight of all of this activity brings a smile to my face. The MacArthur bridge connecting Detroit to Bell Isle is picturesque from this spot. The pathway continues to the right, colorful concrete circles add whimsy to the route, where there is no railing rocks are piled high, where the pathway ends we find ourselves overlooking a Coast Guard boat. Turning around I am able to take in the entire park; the scene is picturesque, even nicer than I had anticipated, seating is plentiful, flowers spill from large planters, multiple generations are enjoying a little fun in the sun at this most welcomed park.

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There’s an old 4-story, red-brick building near the park entrance. Kris notices the new awning and balloons over an open door, I fall into step behind him to check it out. The name on the awning says “Fun Shop“, let’s see what it’s all about. The shop is a combination art gallery, cultural gifts store, snack shop and overall ‘fun’ place. Near the door you can purchase sunscreen, bottles of water and towels, snacks are sold by the register. The walls are covered with old posters of names like Iggy Pop and MC5, works by Gary Grimshaw, Carl Lundgren and Leni Sinclair can be purchased here along with t-shirts, bags and jewelry by local artists, indeed, lots of fun stuff. I pay for my really cool Detroit watch and we are off to get some lunch.

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Southwest Detroit  seems to be calling us; traveling a little off the beaten path we end up on Springwells at El Asador. A brown brick building with red trim, it’s sits across the street from Vince’s, a well-known Italian restaurant that has been around forever. Inside, the walls are painted a golden-yellow, black chairs are pulled up to white tablecloth covered square tables. As usual, we take a table near a window; our server greets us with menus and returns quickly with chips, salsa and glasses of ice water. Along with traditional Mexican favorites, the menu concentrates on steak and seafood dishes, it all sounds good. After taking our order, our server returns with a cart which holds a large stone bowl, avocados, tomatoes, cilantro, salt, onions, lime juice and chopped jalapeno’s—-they make the guacamole tableside, awesome! As ingredients are added and softly smashed together we are asked how spicy we like our guac, she continues to add items from small bowls, mixing them in until, voila’, it’s done. The dip is garnished with freshly made flour tortilla chips and placed on our table; immediately we  scoop up the flavorful green mixture, wow, it is outstanding! We have never had guacamole so fresh and delicious, you have got to try this. Everything is made fresh to order so dishes do not arrive rapid-fire from the kitchen, but don’t worry, it’s worth the wait. This time we have a chorizo taco, tasty and different from any other chorizo we have had, a lobster taco, delish, served with its own sauce and veggies and chicken enchiladas verde. The enchiladas are moist and flavorful, topped with sour cream and diced fried potatoes, they come with yummy rice and refried beans that are an orange-ish hue, also excellent. The food here is wonderful and unique to the area, service is excellent; next time you have a hankering for Mexican food, you know where to go…….. you’re welcome…….

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OHIO: A day in Oberlin

16 Jun

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Road trips have always been a part of my life. When I was growing up vacations were taken in the family car; my dad loved driving out on the open road, my mom would sit in the passenger seat, map in hand guiding him along. On summer days my mom would load my sister and I into the car and take rides in the country; our rides always resulted in an ice cream cone or a root beer at the A&W Drive-In. I did not inherit the driving gene, or the map reading gene, for that matter; but I did marry a man who is happiest behind the wheel. There’s nothing more American than a trunk-load of clothes, bags of goodies, a road atlas, a full tank of gas and a sense of adventure!

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In the last post we were on our way to Cleveland to visit with friends for a couple of days; we had a great time as always. Now we are making our way back to Detroit. Driving southwest out of Cleveland we are heading to Oberlin, Ohio; Frank Lloyd Wright’s (FLW) Weltzheimer/Johnson house is open for public tours today, we’re gonna check it out. In less than an hour we have arrived in the college town of Oberlin; several blocks from campus we park in front of the first Usonian house in Ohio and one of the few in the country open to the public. The L-shaped home is set far back from the street on a sprawling, green lawn. Designed in 1947, completed in 1949 the building is constructed of brick, masonry, and redwood, the house sits low on the horizon; a flat roof and cantilevered car port give it a distinctly modern feel. As we get closer we notice the hundreds of stained croquet balls that form the roof dentil ornamentation; the circular motif is carried on throughout the home. At the side entrance we each pass over $5.00 to gain entry. My first impression of the interior is that it is long and narrow, in typical Wright fashion, tight spaces lead into grand ones; here we are led into the family room, a large, open, but cozy area. Floors are stained concrete slab throughout, furniture is built in, one wall is floor to ceiling glass, doors open out to the front landscape, a red brick fireplace anchors one side of the room. The ceiling is wood, thin strips of molding add a decorative touch.

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The kitchen is closed in except for an open section between brick columns that separate the work space from the living room. The counters are low, they’d be perfect for someone short, like me, colors are earth-tones, work space is set up in conjunction with the location of sink, fridge and stove. Back in the long hallway, my attention is drawn to the shelves that line the length of the wall, above them clerestory windows are covered with wood panel screens, here the circular motif is once again present. FLW had a way of making a residence feel homey and comfortable; maybe it’s the materials he used, or the colors, whatever it is I always feel like I could just sit down and read a book or have a cup of coffee when I’m in one of his houses. Kris is well ahead of me, there is nobody else down at the far end of the house, he can get some good shots of the rooms. There are 4 bedrooms; beds and desks are built-in, the master has a bathroom en-suite, along with a fireplace just like the one in the family room. Interior walls are horizontal wood pieces, the exterior wall is glass with a door that opens out to the common space. Again we find colors of brown, gold, rust and bittersweet; floors have radiant heat to keep the home warm. The original family lived here until 1963, at one time developers “remodeled” the home, they painted the entire interior white–gasp!! In 1968 Art History Professor Ellen Johnson purchased and restored the house, she died in 1992, leaving the house to Oberlin College to serve as a guesthouse for the Art Department and Art Museum; it’s wonderful the house remains open to the public.  Ok, enough of that, we’re hungry, time to head downtown….

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 It is Commencement weekend at Oberlin College, people are everywhere; Kris sees and open parking space and grabs it, Tree Huggers Cafe is right across the street, perfect, let’s have lunch. The little cafe is just below street level, windows look up and out to the sidewalk. Refrigerated cases hold bowls filled with varieties of cold salads, entrée’s and desserts. Standing at the counter we read the list of today’s specials, place our order then have a seat—it feels good to sit down. In no time at all a server brings us a black bean burger with a nice-size helping of orzo salad and a green salad topped with chilled shrimp, goat cheese and berries. The restaurant serves organic, vegan and vegetarian selections; seafood is wild-caught, produce is local, I can tell you, everything was delicious!

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 Oberlin itself was the birthplace of the modern aluminum refining process that made the metal economic for industrial use, the city was Station #99 on the Underground Railroad. The college was the first American Institute of Higher Learning to regularly admit African-American and female students in addition to white males, the first African-American graduated in 1844; this was also the home of the first co-ed dorm in the US (1970). 39 buildings in Oberlin are designated as “Oberlin Historic Landmarks”, 20 of those are also on the National Register Of Historic Places; an interesting place, no doubt! The busy downtown runs several blocks; it looks like Main Street USA, very cute and tree-lined.We begin our walk around the picture-postcard-looking campus; architecture is a mix of old and new, plain and fancy, it’s all gorgeous. One building, the Allen Memorial Art Museum, with its multiple arches, has a familiarity to it—turns out it was designed by Cass Gilbert (Detroit Public Library). Built in the Italian Renaissance style, the museum is said to be one of the five best college and university art museums in the nation, let’s go in. The main gallery is an open space, sunlight streams in through the windows, the ceiling is coffered and dark, archways on both sides lead to narrow halls. The Gilbert Galleries house the Old Master’s and 19th Century paintings, sculpture and decorative arts. On the second level, two Juliet balconies jut out from opposing walls, giving visitors an overall view. In 1977 an addition was built to house Modern and Contemporary Art; they have some great whimsical pieces. Right next door is Hall Auditorium, a cool modern-looking structure designed by Wallace Harrison in 1953.

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Buildings on campus were built from 1887 to well into the 1970’s. We walk along past solid structures, thick and chunky looking they are made of textured buff Ohio Sandstone, they resemble the Romanesque style. In some, the doors are unlocked, giving us the opportunity to check out the insides; beautiful wood, antique chandeliers and fireplaces are not uncommon. To our surprise there are 3 Yamasaki buildings on campus, including the Conservatory of Music (1964); they all feature the signature Yamasaki concrete grates that cover the windows, one reminds me a bit of the Gothic style, these were all done before the World Trade Center. Definitely a walking campus, there is a serenity and calmness  to the overall design; it’s interesting to walk past a 1963 Yamasaki building next door to something constructed in the late 1800’s. There’s another Gilbert building that looks like a miniature version of our library, the Carnegie Library was built in 1908. There are great wooden doors, fabulous torchiers, pretty lamposts, turrets and spires, we walked until we could walk no more!

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We are still a few hours from home, time to continue our journey west. Kris has a great route he knows by heart, lucky for us, it takes us right near the Quarry Hill Winery in Berlin Hts Ohio. Kris grabs a table while I get the wine; I join him at a table on the deck overlooking the orchards; sipping our blueberry wine we relax until dusk, time to go home.

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OHIO: Put-IN-Bay Part II

9 Jun

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We have finished lunch, with a bag of chocolate and a hot cup of coffee we continue our journey on South Bass Island; time to check out downtown. Back on Catawba Street, Kris points our trusty little green cart towards the business district; most of the tourists and summer residents will not arrive until Saturday, there are no crowds and getting around is a breeze. Cafe’s and bars are prevalent, patios are decked out with pots filled with colorful flowers, patrons linger over ice-cold beer at the Put-In-Bay Brewing Company. Buildings are a mix of Victorian and modern structures, souvenir t-shirts and hats hang on racks outside storefronts, a tiki bar complete with sand is doing a good business this afternoon.

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Delaware Ave serves as main street; boutiques, restaurants and bars facing the harbor give visitors an amazing water view. The first thing I notice when we make the turn is the line of golf carts parked along the curb, ours blends in with the other rentals, many independently owned carts are customized to the owners liking. Walking down the street, each establishment we pass has some variety of live music; a row of artificial Palm trees decorate a patio, tourists can indulge in ice cream and pizza. The Round House Bar is intriguing, we have to poke our heads in to check it out; opened in 1873 as the Columbia Restaurant, it remains an island favorite. Built of wood, it is all original except for the interior floor and front porch; inside a red, white and blue canopy is suspended from the ceiling, the round bar sits at the far end of the space, lovely wood moldings still surround the windows and doors, the neon “Whiskey” light above the front door is cool–clearly the ‘chicken patio’ is a new addition. The waterfront is active, a series of construction projects are in the works, the Jet Express has just delivered another group of folks to the island; yes, the summer season has begun!

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With time left before our ferry leaves, Kris is taking the scenic route back; after passing the excitement on the waterfront he turns on to Bay View, the scenery is gorgeous. On the left, a large estate features an elegant yellow house with a three-story tower overlooking the smallest of the Great Lakes. Built in the 1800’s, the Doller House belonged to Valentine Doller, PIB’s wealthiest citizen, it is now home to Put-In-Bay Winery; a glass of wine would be perfect about now. Making our way to the back of the house, we enter the sales and tasting room. Glass in hand we have a seat at one of the tables that sit on the front lawn, we sip our wine and watch the boats, aaahhh, this is the life.

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The rest of the drive takes us through the residential area; tiny cottages are nestled next to modern vacation homes with private beach fronts. Fishing is popular, charter fishing boats do a good business at PIB. The island offers golf, hiking trails, biplane rides, helicopter tours and para-sailing.We find ourselves back where we started, turn in the golf cart and wait to board the ferry; the group headed back to the mainland is small. Back at Catawba the line of cars heading to the island is super long, cars are turned off, people stand near their vehicles taking cold drinks from coolers, talking to others while they wait. We are headed south then east on 163 along the coastline.

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 Sitting in Sandusky Bay, off the coast of Marblehead Peninsula is Johnson’s Island; a causeway takes us to the island for a $2.00 fee. Driving around, we come across a group of homes surrounding a cove; perched high above the water they are expansive, elaborate winding staircases lead from backyard to marina below. Continuing our exploration we spot an old cemetery; a large sign explains that Johnson’s Island was a Confederate Prisoner of War Depot in 1861. This is actually a Confederate cemetery holding the remains of more than 200 men who were imprisoned on the island. The lawn is freshly mowed, slender white headstones form long straight rows, a black iron fence runs the perimeter of the cemetery. We walk over to the statue of a Confederate soldier atop a pedestal, the sun is low in the sky, the statue casts a long shadow across the open gate, a banner reads: Confederate Soldiers 1861-1912. From reading I learn the first prisoners arrived here in April of 1862, captured at battlefields such as Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, they came from the states of Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi. In 1864 rations were cut, the prison was overcrowded, in closed in September of 1865; this is considered Ohio’s most significant Civil War site.

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We are back in the car and crossing Sandusky Bay, so far our journey has led us over bridges and causeways crossing bays and lakes; we are not done…. This time we pay the .50 cent toll for the pleasure of driving on yet another causeway: Cedar Point Road; the homes are amazing, as is the lake view. Back on Route 6 we hug the shoreline through tiny beach towns, when we reach Vermilion we stop for a late dinner. I can’t tell you how many times we have passed The Old Prague restaurant, it just so happens it was never at meal time, that is until tonight. Inside the door we are welcomed and seated at a table near the window; I am extremely hungry and thirsty, our server recommends a Primator Premium Dark, a Czech dark lager, how can I go wrong? After quickly scanning the menu and placing our order we watch as heaping plates of food arrive at nearby tables, the place  has the feel of an old-fashioned family restaurant, servers are on first name basis with customers. First to arrive is the sampler plate: breaded  sauerkraut balls, deep-fried slices of meatloaf, cheese sticks, fried potatoes, applesauce and a horseradish-type sauce; every single thing is delicious! The chicken paprikash and dumplings is outstanding, the chicken is moist and just falls apart, the sauce, a creamy goodness, the dumplings, some of the best we’ve ever had. We are still a good hour or more from Cleveland (via the scenic route) where we will be staying with a friend for the next couple of days. The remainder of the ride on the Lake Erie Circle Tour is an old familiar one for us, but one we enjoy each and every time.

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OHIO: Put-In-Bay

3 Jun

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The Memorial Day weekend officially kicks off the Summer travel season; our car is loaded up and we’re ready to go! We are headed to Ohio for some fun in and along the Lake Erie coastline, our first destination: Put-In-Bay.  As we approach the Miller Ferry in Catawba, we’re pleased to find plenty of room on board, hooray! We park in a local lot, purchase 2 round-trip tickets and board the vessel. It’s a gorgeous day to be out on the water, the only drawback being the cold breeze off the still-chilled lake. Covered in sunscreen and bundled in sweatshirts, the 18 minute trip is over before we know it. Still early on the first Friday of the season, the island seems to be just waking up when we arrive. The Victorian village of Put-In-Bay (PIB) is located on South Bass Island in Lake Erie; the name originally referred to the bay itself, schooners sailing on the lake would “put in” to this bay to wait out bad weather. PIB has been a tourist destination since 1864, it is one of Lake Erie’s most popular resort areas. The island itself is 3.7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide; according to the 2010 Census it is home to 138 people. Let’s see what this place is all about.

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On the island we are immediately greeted by lots offering us rental of golf carts, bicycles and scooters by the hour; we are two miles from downtown and there’s a strong wind, we go for the golf cart….Carts like these are the most common form of transportation on the island–they are everywhere! I sign the lease agreement, am given a yellow copy and a map of the island, Kris takes his place behind the wheel of our newly rented transportation and we’re off…. We are both excited to visit  Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, last time we were here, the line to go up to the observation deck stretched out the door. The only international peace memorial in the National Park System, it was built by a commission of nine states and the federal government from 1912 to 1915. The remains of three British and three American officers killed during the Battle of Lake Erie lie under its rotunda.  The memorial commemorates that battle in which Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry led a fleet to victory in one of the most significant naval battles to take place in the War of 1812; it is from this battle Perry coined the phrase: “Don’t give up the ship”.

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We follow Langram Dr until the memorial comes into view, the 352 ft monument is the world’s most massive Doric column; it is among the tallest monuments in the US and quite a sight. Inside, we climb the narrow, curving stairway to the elevator, a ticket to the top costs us $3 each. The ride to the top goes quickly, we exit the elevator and walk out onto the observation deck with its stunning panoramic view, wow! From here we have a bird’s-eye view of our surroundings; the lake, islands, city, even Canada. The sky is Robin’s egg blue, low clouds hover on the horizon, the water is cerulean, everything else is a vibrant green; indeed, nature has sprung to life after a long, harsh winter, it is quite spectacular. The structure is made up of limestone blocks, ornate grates appear here and there, an 11 ton bronze urn tops the granite column. Maps are placed on each of 4 sides identifying what we see in the distance; Kelley’s Island, Pelee Island, mainland Ohio, Sandusky Bay, Marblehead and Lakeside. Roads are laid out clearly, docks jut out into the bay, marinas wait patiently for the boats to arrive; in the distance it appears sky and water meet. It’s hard to leave such incredible scenery, but we have lots of island left to see.

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We cart on over to Perry’s Cave at the Family Fun Center; I go inside to buy tickets, when I come out I find Kris at the Antique Car Museum. It seems Skip Duggan, lifelong resident of PIB, had quite a passion for antique cars; favoring Ford Model T’s and A’s, his personal collection is on display for all to enjoy. When it’s tour time, our guide, a native of PIB, leads us down the 44 steps into the 208 ft long, 165 ft wide Perry’s Cave, which is a stable, but chilly, 50 degrees. This is a natural limestone cave discovered by Commodore Perry in 1813, they say he and his men slept here during the war. Calcium carbonate covers the ceiling, floor and walls; it is very wet down here today, puddles have formed on the floor, cold water drips on us from above. We follow our guide along the pathway through the cave, hundreds of straw-like stalactites cling to the ceiling as stalagmites are forming on the ground. The ceiling is very low, some of our fellow tourists have to bend nearly in half in certain areas, the floor is slippery too. Our guide shines her light into a pool of water and tells us this is a lake, the water takes on a greenish tone from pennies that have been tossed in on wishes throughout the decades. After looking at the lake we turn around and re-trace our steps, all in all enjoyable…in a tourist-trap kinda’ way.

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On the way to the cave we passed a restaurant with an inviting looking patio, that’s where we’re going now to have lunch. Goat Soup and Whiskey Tavern is a fair distance from the hustle and bustle of downtown, this charming building resides between the church and Heineman’s Winery on Catabwa Ave. Kris parks the golf cart once again, it is #209, important to remember when so many carts look exactly alike. The interior feels old and quaint, turns out this was originally a winery. Round lights are strung from the ceiling of the covered patio, nobody is eating out here this afternoon; a crisp breeze blows and now I know why, we will have to settle for the indoors today. We are seated in a lovely room, sunlight brightens the space through skylights and windows, walls are brick with wood trim, a variety of animal heads are mounted on the walls. We start with a cup of beer cheese soup, it is creamy and delicious. Next up, the blue cheese and bacon burger arrives, the bacon is crispy, the burger cooked just the way we like it, cut in half and served with fries it is enough for two. All of the soups and sauces and made from scratch, vegetables and herbs come from their garden, bread is baked in house and desserts are homemade, yum! Too full for a real dessert, you know what they say, there’s always room for chocolate….. oh,maybe it’s just me who says that…. The lower level of the building is home to a chocolate museum and candy shop. The variety is huge; fudge, truffles, barks, creams, they have nuts, fruits and malted milk balls all dunked in rich chocolate goodness. Kris and I each manage to choose a few pieces, a cup of hot coffee for me and we are back in the cart exploring…but more on that later.

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DETROIT: Mt. Elliott

28 May

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A cemetery can tell you the story of a city; where residents came from, who was rich, how streets got their names, it can be fascinating stuff. Today we are visiting Mt Elliott Cemetery on, well, Mt Elliott, just north of Lafayette. The oldest, still operating, traditionally Catholic, cemetery in Detroit, it was consecrated in 1841, just 4 years after Michigan became a state. The first burial was that of Robert Elliott, notice the name? Elliott was one of the original purchasers and planners of the cemetery, one month after it opened, he was killed in a construction accident at St Mary’s, it was named ‘Mount Elliott’ in his honor.

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We enter through a beautiful stone gateway designed and built by Walter Schweikart in 1882; many prominent families are laid to rest near the entrance. The grass is green and lush, the spring breeze a bit chilly, monuments and tombstones rise from the ground as far as the eye can see. Directly in front of us is the monument of a barefoot scholar belonging to Daniel Campau, son of Joseph Campau, yep, that guy. Surrounded by books, the man looks deep in thought, as if he is pondering some eternal question; his father, Joseph, is buried at Elmwood. We traverse the grounds winding past grave sites; it is tranquil, serene, the only sounds come from the rustling of leaves and songs of the birds. A canopy of mature trees seem to exist to protect those who have passed on. Crosses come in all sizes here; carved of stone, one resembles a log while another has a Celtic design. There are multitudes of statues gracing monuments; angels, women in flowing robes, they all wear grief stricken, sullen expressions, some turn their faces upwards toward heaven. 

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Some headstones are barely legible, weather has taken its toll and worn them nearly smooth, one monument has become very dark, it looks long forgotten. A tiny lamb sits atop a stone rectangular box, details have been washed away. In 1872 the Fireman’s Fund bought large lots for $500 apiece for the purpose of burying firefighters; the Fireman’s Fund Monument stands tall over the headstones, annuals have already been planted in the urns, two red, faux fireplugs flank the site. Jerome Cavanagh, Mayor of Detroit from 1962-70, is buried here, as are many French and Irish settlers, soldiers that fought in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, for and against Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo and the Polar Bear Expedition to Russia after WWI. Little Chief Edward, grandson of Sitting Bull is laid to rest here; the well-known and unknown are entombed side by side.

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The mausoleum architecture is elaborate, fancy, graceful. The Palms is my favorite; framed by a Crimson King Maple on each side, the structure is beautiful; a few steps lead to metal doors that have tarnished over time, creating a lovely patina, short columns flank the entryway, a statue of a woman is positioned on top. The Palms family were Detroit high society through real estate and banking; they have left an architectural legacy in the Palms House, Palms Apartments and Palm Theatre (now the Fillmore). We pass familiar names such as Beaubien, St Aubin and Moross; most mausoleums have gorgeous metal gates, some, ornate stained glass windows, iron grates and urns waiting for flowers to be planted. One tombstone resembles a church steeple, another a tree stump with a log cross, where the bark is ‘peeled’ away we learn the names of those who have passed on. 

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Crossing Mt Elliott, we find ourselves in front of St. Bonaventure and the Solanus Casey Center. St Bonaventure Monastery, constructed of red brick with limestone trim, built for the order of Friars Minor Capuchin, opened in 1883; Father Solanus Casey was a Friar here from 1924-1946. At the Center we pass through the open gateway into the courtyard; brick pavers are engraved with names of donors, large pieces of sculpture dot the garden landscape. A pair of impressive glass doors lead us into the building; sunlight floods the interior corridor. A group of bronze statues are to our left, glass cases display items used by the monks; robes, chalice, sashes, habits, sandals and wood rosary beads. A narrow doorway leads us to a series of exhibits detailing the life of Bernard Francis Casey; born in 1870, he was the sixth of 16 children. There are family pictures and personal items; stories from childhood through adulthood appear on placards, giving us insight into this revered man.

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Father Solanus Casey’s casket lies beneath the north trancept at St Bonaventure’s; today a single red rose and small folded pieces of paper sit atop the wooden tomb; prayers offered for the intercession of Father Solanus. Known as a ‘wonder worker’ he is the first United States-born man to be declared ‘venerable’ by the Roman Catholic Church; he has been proposed as a candidate for Sainthood. The church is quiet, we are the only ones here. The Gothic Revival style is simple and elegant; highly varnished wood wainscoting covers the lower half of the walls, classic lantern-style lights hang from chains. Light streams in from understated stained glass windows that face Mt Elliot, the main focus of the space is definitely the meticulously carved wood altar, magnificent with its tall spires.

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We exit through a rear door that leads to the Votive Candle Chapel, enclosed in glass it provides a lovely view of the grounds. Tiny flames dance inside tall red and green glass jars; the scent of melting wax permeates the air, it is familiar to me, many of the old churches smell exactly like this, I find it pleasant and comforting. A few people arrive with new candles purchased in the gift shop, they will replace ones that no longer burn with their own prayers.

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We leave the serenity of the Center and head to Eastern Market to grab a late light lunch; Germack is now serving bagel sandwiches in their coffee shop–perfect! We place our order at the counter and have a seat at a nearby table, I sip on a hot Chili Mexican while we wait. Our sandwiches arrive and they both look delicious; Kris has a PBJ: Germack’s own freshly ground cashew butter and a layer of a locally made blueberry lavender vanilla jam on a Detroit Institute of Bagels blueberry bagel, if you think it sounds good, you should taste it! I went with the Morning Sunshine–house-made herb cream cheese, cucumbers, tomato and arugula on an everything bagel, yum! When our sandwiches are gone we sit back and chill as we finish our coffee, it has been another great day in Detroit.


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