DETROIT: Boats, Bagels and Beans ??

13 Jan

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When the weather turns cold we head indoors to local museums to see the latest exhibits. Today we are on Belle Isle visiting the Dossin Great Lakes Museum; closed for five months for renovation we’re excited to see what’s new. The museum is dedicated to telling the story of maritime history on the Great Lakes and the Detroit River spanning 300 years; everything from shipping fleets and industry to social history. After parking in the lot we stop at the Miss Pepsi Pavilion for a look at the first hydroplane racing boat to top 100 mph. Raced by the Dossin family in the 1950’s, she’s quite a beauty; wood is varnished to a high shine, paint scheme is red, white and blue, the dashboard surprisingly ordinary. On the lawn nearby lies the bow anchor of the Edmund Fitzgerald, it’s huge! 

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Once inside I am happy to see the “Gothic Room” looking better than ever; removed from the passenger steamer City Of Detroit III before it was scrapped, the room exemplifies the golden age of Great Lakes cruise ships. The vessel carried passengers between Detroit and Cleveland or Detroit and Buffalo, the Gothic room itself was originally three times this size and even had a pipe organ. The elaborate English oak carvings are done in true Gothic design, stained glass windows and unique chandeliers exude elegance. Display cases in the room contain memorabilia such as dishes, schedules and renderings of the ship.  No matter how many times we come here I am still in awe of the beauty of this room!

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Further into the museum old exhibits have been revamped and new ones installed, here we find hands on activities; quite popular is the interactive video display simulating a speedboat racing down the Detroit River, there’s an 18th century re-creation of a canoe that you can climb into as the early settlers did. The newest permanent exhibit called Built By The River explains the ways in which Detroiter’s have used the rivers and lakes around us, did you know that at one time the Detroit River was the busiest waterway in the world or that Detroit shipyards built more vessels that any other city in the region? All pretty cool stuff! A River’s Roar will be on display until April, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s all about the history of hydroplane racing in Detroit. For over 100 years the Detroit River and Belle Isle have featured some of the finest racing in the country during the Gold Cup–the oldest trophy in Motorsports. Boats, trophies and artifacts along with vintage programs, pins and buttons are displayed behind glass. Trophies are quite elaborate and elegant, photos of racers such as Gar Wood, Guy Lombardo, Wild Bill Cantrell and Bill Muncey hang on walls along with stories about each man.

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We stop to look at the showcases filled with model ships then make our way to the former pilot house of the SS William Clay Ford, one of the city’s most noted freighters. From here we look out across the river to Ontario Canada, the sunlight dancing on the river’s surface. The entire interior is painted mint green, children love to pretend they are captain standing at the ship’s wheel. A voice comes over a speaker, we are able to listen to communication between ships on the river, you can also watch the action on the river right from home by clicking on to the Detroit River Watch Webcam.

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The Detroit Institute of Bagels on Michigan Ave opened Thanksgiving week and has been busy ever since. Reworking and adding on to an existing building, the end result is a cozy space made up of exposed red brick, beam ceiling, white walls and blonde wood floor. Tables line the perimeter of the space, we hang our coats on chairs in front of a sunny window then place our order. A handwritten menu board hangs behind the counter, metal baskets overflow with plain, sesame, poppy, salt, cinnamon raisin and everything bagels–made that morning they are boiled and then baked. There are six regular and small batch flavors such as bacon cheddar or rosemary olive oil available each day. While we wait for our sandwiches to be made we peek into the open kitchen, it gleams in white and stainless steel, the bakers are finished for the day. We have ordered two different sandwiches, each taking a half we dig in; the ham, egg and cheese on a salt bagel is delicious, the bagel tender with enough filling to make it hearty. The turkey, bacon, avocado is a handful, lots of textures working together; chewy bagel, crispy bacon, creamy avocado–yum! Definitely get a new dill pickle with your sandwich, they’re excellent! Open everyday except Tuesday, give ’em a try.

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Often we like to end the day with coffee, located just a few blocks away we choose Anthology Coffee in the Ponyride building on Vermont St. Outside the building a small sandwich board reads ‘Coffee’, an arrow points to a wall covered in black and white graffiti. The space inside is stark; cinderblock walls, four singular light bulbs hang above a simple counter. A chalkboard menu is surrounded by a woodplank wall, a barista is busy at work measuring and weighing coffee beans. I walk over to the counter as Kris explores the space, I order a decaf for me and an iced coffee for Kris. On the tiny counter rests a coffee grinder, scale, pots of hot water, paper filters and a variety of glass bottles. I watch with interest as the beans are ground, then placed in a filter where hot water is poured over them, I love the scent of fresh ground coffee, the process takes several minutes. As Kris wanders over to grab his drink he notices a plate of triangular bar cookies, we each take one, they go perfect with our coffee. Anthology keeps it simple: Source Roast Brew Tasty Coffee. You can’t ask for more than that!

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