Michiganders are a tough breed; a 30 degree temperature change in twelve hours is hardly worth noteworthy, our tank tops hang next to wool sweaters and our sandals are parked next to our insulated boots in the closet. We stock up on sunscreen before the last remnants of snow have disappeared. When those first warm days arrive we burst from our cocoons and head outdoors to play in the sunshine! Surrounded by lakes and rivers, our recreational opportunities are endless. Southeast Michigan is home to theHuron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority (HCMA), a regional park district that encompasses Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and Livingston counties. Thirteen metroparks cover nearly 25,000 acres of parkland along the Huron and Clinton Rivers providing year-round activities; hike/bike trails, beaches, swimming, boating, cross-country skiing, golf and of course, picnicking.
Today we are visiting Kensington Metropark in Milford, one of the largest of the HCMA, it has 4,481 acres of wooded, hilly terrain surrounding Kent Lake. First stop, the Farm Center; here we meet farm animals and experience rural life through a 150-year old barn, exhibits, field crops and poultry house. The first pen we approach is filled with goats; moms with youngsters and newborns are drawing aaawwws from visitors, adorable in black and white coats they seem to enjoy themselves as they climb on rocks and chase each other around, the littlest ones stick close to mom. Around the corner sheep graze, babies call after their mothers, adventurous ones come right up to the fence and enjoy a good scratch from friendly humans. The brown Swiss Cows are so pretty with their dense fur and fluffy eyelashes; they come right over for a pet on the head. Pink pigs are laying in the dirt, one is pressed against the side of the pen seeking shade on this extraordinarily warm May day. Horses graze in the fields, geese wander freely, miniature donkey’s are adorable; they too appear gentle and like interacting with people, I wonder if they make a good pet…….A covered area is home to a variety of goats and lambs, it is lunchtime; while the bigger ones are satisfied with a bale of straw, little ones are seeking out their mothers. We pop into the barn and are delighted by the sight of a pile of tiny piglets; just a few days old they are snuggled close together under a light to keep them warm as mom watches over them nearby. Upstairs we find exhibits featuring farm equipment and tools, placards explain what everything is and how it is used.
We drive over to the Nature Center and park the Jeep, many of thehiking trails start from here. We begin on the Deer Run Trail, clumps of bright yellow wild flowers bloom alongside the gravel trail, many of the trees remain leafless. A boardwalk takes us over a marsh, the path continues through both field and forest, puddles are leftover from the recent heavy rain. A Cardinal serenades us, Kris spots him in a tree and snaps a picture, wildflowers with pale blue petals are lovely.
We switch from one trail to another; the Aspen leads us to the Wildwing, which encircles Wildwing lake. There is a great deal of activity on this trail, here folks hold birdseed steadily in the palm of their hand, tiny birds flutter from trees to the food, thrilling the feeder and onlookers alike. This trail is quite hilly, Trillium are beginning to bloom; for most of the way we have a nice view of the lake, there is a look-out on one side. As we near the far end we take notice of an island covered in tall trees; the trees themselves are filled with nesting Herons, a rookery. I have never seen so many herons nested this closely together; Kris uses the camera to get a better look. The large birds are two distinct varieties; one is white, the other, almost black, parents take turns leaving the nest to gather food, it is an awesome sight. We near the park road, the trail ends and a boardwalk begins; wispy clouds dot the blue sky, birds chirp from weeds in the lake, here and there we spot box turtles. We reach the end, time to get some lunch!
Kris drives us into downtown Milford, we are famished; on the right side of the street a sign duplicating a hamburger sticks out from a building, there is parking right in front, how can we resist? The place is called The Burger Joint; inside, a menu is posted on the wall near the counter, we make our selections, pay the cashier and take a seat. The dining area is filled with round tables grouped around a fireplace; decorated in bright red, gold, green and stainless, it has a casual feel. Our food arrives, everything looks good; our 1/4 lb burger is cooked perfectly, topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, ketchup and mustard served on a brioche bun, it is delicious. The Southwest Chili Cheese dog is tasty; a black Angus all beef frank is split, grilled and smothered with black bean chili, cheddar cheese sauce, onions and deep fried jalapenos–yum! Everybody knows french fries are a hamburger’s best friend; hand-cut and twice fried in canola oil, these are outstanding.
The Village of Milford is quite charming, there is an old section and a new; making our way down Main Street toward the newer area,we notice The Milford House has a take-out window serving ice cream. We did walk for a couple of hours today………Both of us order malts, double chocolate for me and caramel, made with caribou ice cream for Kris. Guernsey ice cream, and flavorful add-ins make for a decadent treat. Sipping as we walk, we cross the street, stroll over to the waterfall and sit and finish our malts. The heat of the sun feels good, the faint scent of flowering trees is carried on the breeze; these are the kinds of days we live for.
There is a wonderful ritual that takes place each spring; no it’s not the Tulips and Daffodils emerging from the cold ground or the blossoms and sweet scent of flowering trees….It’s the official opening of our beloved Drive-In restaurants! If you have ever eaten at Bill’s Drive-In located in Ypsilanti, you totally get what I am talking about. Though Bills had been open for a few weeks, it was our first opportunity to make the trip out to Ypsi.
Best known for being the home of Eastern Michigan University,Ypsilanti has a lot to offer; from beautiful historic neighborhoods and a downtown on the comeback to independent shops and restaurants that have called Michigan Avenue home for decades. Our first stop in Ypsi was the Michigan Firehouse Museum located on Cross St. This gorgeous building was the original 1898 firehouse, in 2002 a multi-level addition was added. The museum takes you through the history of firefighting; from technology used to fight fires to the equipment and tools. When you step into the main exhibit space you are greeted by rows of impressive vintage fire trucks. There are no ropes to prevent you from getting right up close to these magnificent vehicles; it’s fascinating to see the evolution of the equipment through the years. The museum possesses the largest collection of fire truck bells in the country, and you know what else? You can try them out! Glass cases line the walls detailing the evolution of helmets and breathing apparatus, some of them are pretty creepy looking….The second level overlooks the main floor giving a wonderful overall view of the firetrucks. You will find display cases filled with hats, toy fire trucks and other interesting memorabilia, remember Smokey The Bear? From here cross over into the original building; this is the original bunk area complete with brass pole! Unfortunately, the pole is off-limits, so you have to take the stairs back down to the main level. Being someone who loves old things, this is my favorite area. Large wood cabinets hold vintage lanterns, it seems everything from the trucks and decoratively painted wheels to the accessories are he handsome and elegant. An original switchboard hangs on the wall, there’s a stunning 1910 ladder wagon, and an amazing example of a 1878 fire engine steamer complete with horses. The lower level is host to a group of original vehicles belonging to fire chiefs and a children’s area. The museum brings back the old childhood fascination of fire trucks!
The short drive down Michigan Avenue to Bill’s Drive-In was filled with great anticipation; would it be as good as we remembered? The small wooden building is appropriately painted Mustard Yellow and Root Beer Brown, you eat from a tray that hangs on your car window, or a picnic table in the lot. I read that Bill’s has been around since the early 50′s and the recipe has always stayed the same, why mess with perfection? As soon as we were parked a car-hop came over to take our order; there are no menus here, they only serve coneys, plain potato chips and their own homemade root beer, perfect for the indecisive diner. I’ll start with the coneys; the hot dogs are made with a special recipe by Dearborn Sausage, they are placed in perfectly steamed buns and given a blanket of, in my opinion, the perfect chili topping. I would describe it as a more mild, sweet and smooth chili sauce, dressed with yellow mustard and minced onion, it arrives wrapped in white tissue. It is the tastiest coney I’ve ever had, they’re one of Kris’s favorites too. Then there’s the Root Beer, if you like Root Beer, you have to try Bill’s. With one big pull on the straw your mouth will be in Root Beer heaven; it’s like drinking one of those old-fashioned root beer barrel hard candies that has been rolled in superfine sugar…..outstanding! Many patrons buy a gallon of the stuff to take home. The day was mild so we ate our dogs outside using the trunk as a table, they were even better than I remembered!
It’s always worth a drive through downtown Ypsi to see what’s new, we noticed a couple of new things so we parked to take a look. We first checked out a retail shop named Mix, it has a wonderful blend of new and used items; women’s clothing, furniture, accessories, household goods and even some art. The shop is laid out attractively and is fun to browse through. Across the street is Mix Market Place, as you may have guessed, it is owned and operated by the same owners as the retail Mix. The marketplace is an indoor collection of local entrepreneurs in a farmer’s market type setting. There was a definite buzz of activity when walked in the door; food vendors offered up samples of their specialized goodies, The Ugly Mug Cafe filled the air with the aroma of fresh brewed coffee. From gourmet food and hand-made stationery to antique goods and artisan soaps there was a little bit of everything. Vendors vary from week to week, so you never know what you may discover.
There was one more new place we wanted to check out: B-24′s Espresso Bar, just a little way up Michigan Ave. Named in honor of Ypsilanti’s heritage, B-24′s were built locally at Willow Run, the cafe features coffee, tea, fresh-baked goods and Guernsey Ice Cream. The cafe seems to be a popular gathering spot for locals of all ages. Though the baked goods looked very good, between the coneys, root beer and free samples at the marketplace, we were unable to partake in any of them. Instead we got our beverages to go and began the journey home.
Grosse Pointe Farmer’s Market
West Park Farmers Market is located in the tiny community of Grosse Pointe Park, and is a fun way to spend a Saturday morning. Colorful umbrellas dot tree-lined Kercheval, they have a bit of everything here, selections change as the season does. Lots of plants for sale; vegetable and flower, gorgeous hanging baskets with flowers cascading down the sides. Produce is limited so early in the summer, but increases as the season progresses. Lots of products to sample, bread, bbq sauce and sweets, it’s all good! Stone birdhouses, jewelry, and fabric crafts too, it changes up a little each Saturday. A DJ on a corner played mellow tunes as we took in artists works, blue sky and a gentle breeze, it was a lovely day to be outside. The cool thing about this market is that it is right in the center of the city, as you browse the vendors you are walking past cute restaurants and shops, they’re always happy to welcome you in. Allow yourself enough time when you come, the market is open from 9:00-1:00, and plan on staying for lunch.
The Sprout House Natural Foods Market is located on the corner of Kercheval and Lakepointe. It is like the old-fashioned corner store gone green. In addition to a wide variety of organic and health food products they also sell ready made food items; from sandwiches and salads to soup, let me tell you everything is incredibly flavorful! Our favorite sandwich is the Southwest Avocado, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it, I have no idea what kind of spices they use that can make an avocado taste so good, but it works. The outdoor tables were occupied so we sat in the front window and ate, overlooking the crowds milling about. The dogs looked like they were having as much fun as the people.
Our next stop was a little further north on Kercheval in Grosse Pointe Farms. Morning Glory Coffee and Pastries is the latest addition to the city and patrons are giving it a warm welcome. The decor is distinctly European and loiter friendly, both indoor and outdoor seating are available, the weather will guide you. Inside are two sizable glass cases filled to capacity with whimsically decorated cakes sold whole, cupcakes, individual tarts, cookies, eclairs and creme’ brulee’. There’s lots to choose from and everything is made in house. We had a slice of the Chocolate Creamsicle cheesecake; a deliciously creamy cheesecake with a small center of orange flavor running through it, topped off with a chocolate ganache, yum! The beverage menu is large, Kris had espresso and I an iced green tea, both hit the spot. They also serve breakfast and light lunch fare and are awaiting a liquor license, such a lovely place for a light meal or snack, definitely worth seeking out!
Just outside Detroit, Grosse Pointe refers to a coastal area of Lake St Clair that is made up of five adjacent individual communities. Often referred to as “The Pointes”, all are lovely, studded with with magnificent homes and have a downtown area, each city has it’s own distinct feeling.
When people are on vacation they seem to develop a certain sense of curiosity and adventure, they visit a museum or two, tour a mansion, they drive around a bit, see new things, maybe even try a new type of cuisine. I’d like to challenge you to take that same sense of adventure and do something you’ve never done right here in the metro Detroit area. Detroit is home to top museums, we have the second largest historic theatre district in the country, fine dining, art and culture. Men of wealth and power lived here, worked here, and changed the world from here, one of those men was Edsel Ford.
Edsel was the only child of Henry and Clara, he began working for his father at a young age and found the automobile business suited him perfectly. Edsel’s wife Eleanor lost her father at the age of twelve, it was then that her family moved in with her Uncle, J.L. Hudson. The fact that they came from affluent families paid a big part in their sense of appreciation for fine things. They were both known as extraordinary and generous, thanks to Eleanor their home is open to the public so we too can experience the beauty and elegance of the past. On an unseasonably warm November day we visited the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House on Lake Shore Drive.
Construction on the home began in 1926, it took one year to build and two additional years to finish the interior. The home was designed by Albert Kahn; the Ford’s traveled with Kahn to England to choose the style of home they desired, there they decided on a Cotswold style home. Paneling and fireplaces were purchased from manor homes across England, rooms were disassembled, shipped to Grosse Pointe, then the pieces were fitted into the home. The exterior is sandstone, vines cover the walls, the roof is made up of hundreds of pieces of slate. The home sits on 3,100 feet of Lake St Clair waterfront, the view is stunning!
Enter through the front door into the main hall, the ceiling is low, it is plaster with a beautifully carved pattern, the walls are sandstone, it feels cozy. A gorgeous Christmas tree sits in front of a large stained glass window. It is an old fashioned tree, green and flocked as if there had just been a snowfall. Elongated ornaments hang from the limbs, these were custom made for Mrs Ford by Ford Motor Company. The tree is a replica of one of Eleanor’s favorites they had put up for a party years ago, the ornaments are the originals. One of my favorite things about visiting this home is that it looks the way it did when the family lived here. These are their furnishings, dishes, books, the things they used in their everyday life. It is thanks to Eleanor’s forethought that we can visit her home; she put the house in a trust so that it would be open to the public. She was devastated when the nearby Dodge mansion was demolished, and did not want her home to share that same fate.
As you walk from room to room really look around, the paneling is 16th century oak, the carvings are finely detailed, the linen fold amazes me. The stained glass windows are 14th century, fireplaces are centuries old. The Gallery is the largest room in the home, measuring 25 x 60 feet this is where the family held large gatherings. Here you’ll find another carved plaster ceiling, English paneling and a huge Gothic chimney piece. This is a great time of year to visit, the house is decked out for the holidays, the Christmas trees are lovely and many of the ornaments are original. The Fords had purchased many paintings from significant artists, the ones that were donated to the DIA or were taken by the children have been replaced by reproductions, some originals still hang. Yes, the house is huge, but each room has it’s own feel, the rooms are decorated and arranged in such a way that they feel welcoming and comfortable. I think I like the dining room the most; furnished in dark Pine from a 1740 home in England, it is lit only by sunlight during the day and candelight and the glow of the fireplace in the evening, it is a spectacular room. The table is set for a holiday meal with Mrs Fords china; an elaborate lace tablecloth covers the wooden table, delicate stemware awaits the evening’s wine. Like many homes, they also had a children’s table, this one sits in front of the window overlooking the grounds.
The Fords raised four children here, the youngest William was only four when they moved in. Their bedrooms were redone as guest rooms after the children moved away, other rooms were updated as well. The modern room is a great example of Art Deco; done in the 1930′s it is still stylish by today’s standards. Everything for this room was custom made, much of it is built-in and bolted to the floor. The Steinway piano is custom made and one of a kind. If you like ultra modern style be sure and check out Henry’s bathroom; the walls are a grey glass called Vitrolite, it’s really cool. As you may have noticed by now, photos are not allowed inside the home. You are allowed to photograph outdoors and inside the garage, which is where we are heading next.
The home rests on 87 acres of land, on the property is the main house, gate house, power house, pool house, garage and the playhouse. If you can, walk around a bit outside, the exterior detail on the house is exquisite; simple things like downspouts and brackets are detailed and elegant. If you’re lucky you may catch a glimpse of a passing freighter. The grounds were landscaped by Jens Jenson, he also designed the grounds at Henry and Clara’s home in Dearborn. The man made lagoon once opened out onto the lake, but was closed off for the family’s privacy. Be sure and see Josephine’s playhouse; it was a gift to her from grandma Clara in 1930. It is adorable; everything is scaled down to perfectly fit a little girl, it even has electricity and plumbing!
Walk a little further to the garage; it was built to hold eight cars, and there’s a turntable so you never have to back out of the garage. One of the most impressive vehicles is the 1941 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet, which was designed by Edsel himself, Frank Lloyd Wright called it the “most beautiful car in the world”. It is still one of the most highly thought of designs of all time. The Cabriolet, 1934 Brewster Town Car and the 1938 Lincoln Brougham were all owned by the Ford’s. Check out the kids go-karts. People from all over the world visit the Ford house, come see it for yourself.
For lunch we drove to the area of Grosse Pointe known as “The Village”. On the corner of Kercheval and St Clair is a little restaurant called TN Thai. They have a great selection of sushi on the menu, 35 different sushi rolls alone! We have not had their Thai as of yet, but every plate that went by looked appetizing. In the warmer months we like to sit out on the patio, but those days are gone now. We like to start with their Fresh Rolls, these are some of the best we’ve ever had; rolled tight and packed with delicious fillings like tofu, bean sprouts, noodles and cilantro. They serve a cup of soup with all meals, broth based, with bits of cilantro, it’s really good. We’ve never been disappointed with their sushi, and we’ve tried many varieties, today’s was no exception. I love the Jasmine tea either hot or iced, Kris prefers the raspberry iced tea, either way, you can’t go wrong.
After two years and much anticipation, the Cranbrook Art Museum re-opened 11-11-11 with their first exhibition in the renovated space. Designed by Eliel and Eero Saarinen and opened in 1942 the museum was due for some sprucing up. Additionally the museum was expanded by 20,000 sq. ft. with the attachment of the new collections wing. To celebrate the grand re-opening the museum is offering expanded hours and tours, lectures and events for 11 days, and each day the museum will be open for, you guessed it, 11 hours.These special tours are only offered until November 21, don’t miss your chance to see the vault! Kris was itching to get in an old car and go for a scenic drive; between the two lane roads, magnificent homes, and remaining fall color, a trip out to Bloomfield Hills fit the bill perfectly.
We didn’t know what to expect when we got to Cranbrook, would there be parking, would there be a line to get it, would it be so crowded we wouldn’t be able to see anything if we did get in? We were pleasantly surprised when we found a great parking spot right by the museum, and then again, when we walked right in. Our timing was right on, as there was a tour of the vault, aka the collections wing at 1pm. The new exhibit is called “No object is an Island”, it was an interesting pairing of artists who previously went to Cranbrook with today’s contemporary artists.
We had just enough time to finish looking around when the guide gathered us together to go down to the vault. It was all very surreal to me, like being in some Hollywood film where a big heist is about to take place. We entered through the curved steel door to the faint sound of a tripped alarm in the background. The door slid closed behind us and we started our walk down the concrete block hallway. It is all so modern and high-tech looking, a grey maze of dimly lit hallways, the ceiling has a cage like covering suspended over it, art objects are displayed in small rooms behind a glass walls, it feels very futuristic. We were taken into different rooms where the collections are stored; the brilliance of the new wing is that whatever is not on view in the museum is stored in a manner where it can be easily accessed and observed by students and the public community when desired. It was a fascinating tour.
We continued our lovely drive, stopping in at the Village of Franklin. This tiny enclave oozes charm, from the historic homes to the quaint shops, it’s hard to pass through town without stopping. We were ready for lunch and the Franklin Grill and Tavern looked very inviting. Built in the 1840′s the building was originally home to the local carriage and blacksmith shop, the uses changed over the years and in 2001 it became the grill. The building is painted barn red with pretty white trim, the outside is adorned in Autumn decor. The inside has a sort of rustic-contemporary feel to it, a wood rafter ceiling and the same barn red colored walls works well and feels very comfortable. The menu changes with the seasons, and supports Michigan farmers. Everything sounded delicious, and every plate that went by made us rethink our selection. Finally we settled on the Art of Sicily sandwich; artichokes, mushrooms, spinach, and red onion all grilled and placed on a wonderful focaccia bread then topped with mozzarella and a balsamic marinade, it was sooooo good! Served alongside were the best sweet potato fries I have ever eaten. Thick, steak cut pieces of sweet potato, so crispy on the outside, there was a nice crunch biting into them, yet moist and tender on the inside. The Turkey Stretch salad was wonderful too; roasted turkey breast cut into thick strips placed on a bed of fresh baby spinach, sprinkled with toasted walnuts, dried cherries, the perfect amount of goat cheese and a tasty chive vinaigrette, it was outstanding. $8 for the sandwich and $12 for the salad, not bad, the quality of food is worth it. It was a really nice experience, the staff was great, the atmosphere relaxing, and a menu that left us wanting to come back soon.
We left the car parked in the back parking lot and walked over to the Franklin Cider Mill. Completed in 1837, the mill has been a staple of Franklin for generations and has a huge local following. We make at least one trip here each Fall, you are always guaranteed hot donuts and great cider. The outside has that great cider mill appeal; quaint historic structure situated on a river, offering everything from apples, jams, local honey, caramel and candy apples and Michigan squash to pies, scones, breads, and their famous cinnamon spice donuts. They only serve the one kind of donut here, which makes it easy for people who have a hard time making up their mind. We purchased our donuts which were handed over to us in a brown paper bag, you could feel the heat coming through. By the time we made our way outdoors to eat them, a small grease stain had formed on the bottom of the bag, assuring us that they would be excellent! We ate two each and washed them down with cups of cider. Standing on the small wooden deck with an empty cup in one had and remnants of donut on the other, I looked around the place; dozens of mallards floating in the river waiting to be fed, the last remnants of Autumn color in the trees, hold out stacks of pumpkins and cornstalks and the combined scent of apples and fried donuts in the air. Wearing only a light jacket in November, going for one last ride in an old car for the season; it doesn’t get much better than this.
Here and There In The Metro
It was one of those lazy Sunday mornings, our only concrete plan was to check out the Royal Oak Flea Market. Although the activity starts bright and early (8am), it goes on until 3pm, giving us plenty of time to get there and browse. You don’t have to be a collector to enjoy a visit to the flea market; contained in the building is a fascinating array of items both new and old. There are things to wear, books to read, toys that bring back memories. Stuff for your yard, gourmet caramel corn and a coffee stand, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg…..
We parked in the adjacent lot and took a look around at the outdoor items first, often this is where you will find the bigger items such as furniture. Inside a large array of tables await your arrival; set up into rows and aisles each flaunts it’s own unique display. There’s so much to see, it’s hard to know where to start; it’s fun to look around, you never know what you might find. Creative types get clever with discarded items, making them into cool things such as lamps and birdhouses. Vintage toys are painted in primary colors and decorated with clown faces; noisemakers and horns look nearly new, I assume this is because at some point parents couldn’t take the commotion and hid them away. Jewelry abounds; watches, earrings, bracelets and rings; their age spans the decades. Camera’s, beer steins, record albums and signs, tea cups, sports cards, antique radios and colored glassware, what’s not to like? Each time you go the selection is a little different, but always worth the visit.
While Royal Oak certainly has an abundance of restaurants, today I had something different in mind. Loui’s Pizza in Hazel Park, located on Dequindre between 9 and 10 mile, is just a short drive from Royal Oak. I grew up on “Detroit” style pizza; it’s square pizza that’s not too thick, and not too thin. The dough is flavorful, the edges are a little dark, and the crust has a distinct crunch, there’s nothing else like it! As you enter the unassuming building you are greeted by framed photos of famous people that have had the pleasure of eating here, there are reviews clipped from newspaper, and artwork done by Loui’s patrons. Step into the dining room and it seems as if you have been transported to a previous decade; the main color of the decor is dark pink…..in a good way…. A large square soffit, painted pink and dusted in glitter, hangs from the center of the dining room, dangling from the edges are empty straw-wrapped Chianti bottles. It is a tradition for customers to “autograph” the bottles and leave them to be hung up for display. Booths line the mirror covered walls, pink miniature lights hang in clusters against the mirrors intermixed with more bottles. The main dining area consists of tables that can easily be pulled together to accommodate large groups. Probably the two most popular items are the pizza (of course) and the antipasto salad. The salad is served in large glass bowls; crisp iceberg lettuce is adorned with petite cubes of ham, salami, cheese and slices of tomatoes. Louis Tourtois Sr himself came up with the recipe for the house vinaigrette, tossed right into the salad it’s absolutely delicious! The pizza, well, what more can I add to what I’ve already said? Ours was perfectly cooked, slightly charred on the edges, loaded with delicious toppings, then topped off with a nice coating of tasty red sauce. A small is four pieces, there was none left to take home. Louis Sr, Jr, and the III have been serving up their own unique pizza’s for 35 years, if you’re like me, one taste and you’ll be hooked.
If you’ve ever driven north on Mound Road at Chicago you may have noticed Kuhnhenn Brewing Company on the east side of the road. Originally Lutz Harware, the Kuhnhenn family decided to take a chance and turn it into a brewery when a large chain hardware store opened just a half mile away. Bret and Eric Kuhnhenn were no strangers to the brewing process; they had sold home brewing supplies for years out of their hardware store and were home brewers themselves. The space has been transformed into an 8-barrel micro-brewery and brew-on-premise shop and has earned a loyal following. It was my first visit, something I had been looking forward to for some time. I was surprised the space was so large, the bar takes center stage, high top tables fill the rest of the room. The “menu” is impressive, be sure to click on their link to see for yourself. I had planned on a glass of dark beer, but after the pizza a glass of wine sounded more appealing. I took my time perusing the menu, best known for their German style Hefeweizen, they have a long list of core beers in addition to seasonal brews. I had no idea they offered such a wide variety of wines; Fruit wines, Red, White and Sweet Wines, something for every taste. On our servers advice I had a glass of the Green Apple Riesling, it was excellent! Light and fresh tasting, with a hint of green apple, just what I was looking for. Kris went with the Creme Brulee Java Stout, WOW! is that good, next time I’ll get that. Pizza, cheese plates and Dan’s Sausage are also available. Kuhnhenn’s is a great place to hang out with a group of friends and enjoy some really wonderful beverages.
East Dearborn Delights!
Dearborn Michigan has the largest population of Arab Americans in the United States, so it is no surprise the Arab American National Museum is also located here. This is the only museum in the United States solely devoted to Arab American history and culture. Located on Michigan Avenue in East Dearborn, tiles in various shades of blues and grey adorn the entrance, large glass windows span the the front at the street level. We found a parking space right in front, and went inside. The sun had come out, flooding the lobby in natural light, the space feels bright and airy. After paying our admission we entered the museum, once inside we were greeted by multiple exhibits stored in recessed Moorish archways. Each arch was trimmed in beautiful dark wood with ornate carvings and covered with glass, my favorite was the musical instruments. If you stand in the center of the room and look straight up you will discover a lovely dome painted with traditional designs, below the dome is a level of arched windows allowing more sunlight to spill in, followed by a level of gorgeous tiles. This area has a wonderful sense of serenity about it.
Take the stairs to the second level, you will find yourself on a balcony overlooking the ground floor and an even better view of the museum dome. There are three main exhibits on this level beginning with “Coming To America”. The Arab world is huge; it includes 22 different countries that reach from North Africa to West Asia. This section tells personal stories of the brave souls who left their home in search of a better life; actual trunks, suitcases, handwritten letters, personal papers and photographs are on display. The museum is laid out in such a way that you travel through a sort of maze, I like it when exhibits are laid out in such a manner, it makes it simple to follow the time line and see things in their proper order. I can easily follow along, reading about the experiences of different people; how they arrived, where they settled, and the folks that helped them along the way. “Living In America” introduces us to Arab Americans themselves, many traditions live on through the generations, the exhibits here give you a peek at their lifestyle. “Making An Impact” shares the stories of Arab Americans whose contributions have influenced our way of life from inventions and academics to science and entertainment, athletes and labor leaders. Here is a list of Arab Americans you may recognize: Jamie Farr, Danny Thomas, Candice Lightner, Christa McAuliffe, Helen Thomas, Ralph Nader, Bobby Rahal and Kathy Najimy. You can even listen in on an amusing phone call between LBJ & Joseph Hagar the Lebanese immigrant who founded the Haggar Clothing Company in Texas in 1926. It’s really fun to walk through and learn about the people who invented every day things like the typewriter.The gallery in the lower level hosts changing exhibits. This is a really nice museum and a wonderful introduction to the life of Arab Americans, it’s always fascinating to me to learn about another culture.
There’s a restaurant in Dearborn that we absolutely love: Al-Ajami, located on Warren. The food here is amazing! We made it in for a late lunch, as soon as I walked in the door my mouth began to water. The smell of their homemade bread baking in the wood burning oven permeates the air, revving up our appetite. The decor is contemporary; a mural depicting an evening desert scene is painted on the far wall. Booths run along the perimeter, and tables fill the main dining area. We were seated in a large booth, water arrived immediately. No need for a menu, we know what we want: A Vegetarian Combo and a Chicken Shawarma sandwich. The waiter brought out our drinks a basket of fresh from the oven pita bread and a platter of pickled vegetables. I don’t think you will find a better pita bread anywhere; warm soft pillows of tender bread, a scattering of sesame seed on top, so fragrant and delicious, we nibbled a bit, then the main meal arrived. Falafal, grape leaves, mounds of hommous, taboluee and baba ghanouj, this is the good stuff, fresh and made from scratch. The Chicken in the shawarma is cut into flavorful chunks, pickles are added, it’s rolled up tight in pita and served with the best garlic sauce I’ve ever had. Warning: if you have the garlic sauce it’s best to invite the rest of your table to join you, or at the very least the people with whom you will be sharing a ride home with……. We ate till we could eat no more.
No visit to Dearborn is complete without a trip to Shatila Bakery. Located just a little east on Warren, this is a dessert lovers paradise. As soon as you walk in the door you realize this is no ordinary bakery. The center of the building is a cafe; largePalm trees are wrapped in white lights, the left wall is made into a water feature. One entire side is showcase after showcase filled with tantalizing treats. One section is traditional Mid-Eastern pastries; bakalava, bird nest, fingers and burma. Then there’s the French pastries……I have never seen a selection such as this; they are almost too pretty to eat…almost. What’s your fancy? Chocolate, kiwi, pistachio, strawberry or vanilla. They make cakes, mousse, tortes, tarts and cheesecakes. Are you more of an ice cream person? Not to worry, they have that too! This place is amazing, the pastries are delicious and the prices are unbelievably low.
Ann Arbor’ For Kids Of All Ages!
In the Winter months we like to catch up on our visits to local museums, on Sunday we drove out to Ann Arbor to do just that. The Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum is located right downtown in an old brick firehouse; with over 250 exhibits in 9 galleries, it is 4 floors of activity and fun! The museum welcomes adults as well as children; their mission is simple: Inspire people to discover the wonder of science, math and technology. As we came in the door we were greeted with the sounds of children and parents at play, moms and dads coax the kids to do this or that while taking a picture with their i phone. There’s so much to do in every direction, we started at the top and worked our way down. Upstairs in the Lights and Optics area is a string-less harp, pluck invisible strings with your fingers to hear beautiful harp tones created by a laser, walk into a small room and your movement is converted into a shadow of rainbow colors, teenagers have a blast with this. The Discovery Room is all about Michigan; examples of our native animals, plants, flowers and lake fish are all on display. The Country Store is a recreation of a 1920’s era store, complete with tin ceiling, vintage looking lights and wood plank floor you can put on an apron and work behind the counter or pretend you are a customer picking up your weekly supplies; either way it is a big hit with the kids. There is a Pre-School Gallery specially designed for children age 4 and younger, we watched through the window for a little bit as the kids and parents played together, nothing but smiles there.
Another exhibit shows how a building is constructed; One side wall takes you through from studs, to insulation to the finished wall and roof. I liked the World Around You Gallery, they have piano keys on the floor you walk on to play a tune, just like in the movie “Big”, you can also climb a rock wall here. The first floor was the noisiest with activity; here you will find a water table that kids simply cannot get enough of, what is it with kids and putting their hands in water? They have a full size ambulance you can climb right into, learn how a traffic light or electric motor works. The building has solar panels located on the roof, follow the process of how the sun warms water for our everyday use. Block Party is made up of hundreds of red foam blocks that allow you to construct your own creation; build something small on your own or work with a few friends to make a house. The exhibits are very well done, no matter your age everyone can learn something here. The basement is made up of a series of rooms that can be used for birthday parties, I saw more than one cake being brought in,what a great idea for a child’s birthday. The museum was getting more crowded as the day went on, it’s good to see people getting out and visiting, we should all take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy such things.
If you’ve been to Ann Arbor chances are you’ve been to or at least heard of Zingerman’s. What started out as a deli back in 1982 has grown exponentially into a food paradise. The deli is still housed in the original charming brick building; here you can shop for gourmet foods like farmhouse cheeses, estate bottled olive oil, smoked fish, varietal vinegar, salami, hearth baked breads, mustards, jams, jellies, coffee and teas…whew! Whether it is cheese from their own creamery or a Vermont cheddar, vanilla from Madagascar or one of their own brownies, Zingerman’s sells only the best. When you walk in the door you are surrounded by food; on the right are loaves of bread, bagels are slid over wooden dowels in stacks, brownies and cookies are also available. To the left is the refrigerated section, glass cases are filled with the finest meats and cheeses; liverwurst, peppered ham, breakfast sausage and Montreal smoked meat, cheese that comes from cows, goats and sheep. Zingermans deli has an aroma all its own! This is where you place your order if you are having a meal, menu boards hang from the ceiling, each one dedicated to a particular category; it’s nearly impossible to decide. I always enlist help from one of the friendly employees taking orders, I simply tell them what I am in the mood for, you know like roast beef or turkey and let them take it from there. Today Kris and I were going vegetarian, the woman who was helping us suggested a grilled sandwich with cheese, avocado, tomato, and green chilies for a little kick. For a side we picked a pasta salad and on her suggestion a salad with dark greens, radicchio, dried cherries and a shredded cheese. I paid at the register and we shopped around the tight quarters grazing as we went; a piece of bread with olive oil, a sample of tea, apricot jam, etc. There is no longer seating in the original deli, for that you either go outside when weather permits or you head to Zingerman’s Next Door.
The main floor of Next Door provides tables for dining and retail sales of coffee, desserts, candy and gelato with an incredible selection of each. We took the stairs to the second floor to the dining areas and waited for our food to arrive, which thankfully didn’t take long. The sandwich was huge, I took a first bite and delighted in the mixture of flavors, the crunch of the bread, the creaminess of the avocado, the rich cheese and the heat of the green chilies, yum! The pasta salad was delicious, the noodles were cooked just right. I’m so glad we took the suggestion to order the green salad it was extremely tasty. Zingerman’s Next Door can be a bit of a madhouse, but it’s always worth it to stop in. Here you can sample their incredibly creamy gelato, buy one of their gourmet chocolates, have a fantastic espresso drink or an extraordinary dessert; eat it here or take it home, we’ve never been disappointed. Kris grabbed an espresso to go and we were off to our next destination.
The University of Michigan Museum Of Natural History is located on campus in the lovely Ruthven Museum Building. Completed in 1928 the exterior of the building is constructed of brick and stone, step inside to the view rotunda with its beautiful plaster ceiling, marble floor, and wrought iron railings. The museum showcases Michigan’s pre-historic past, wildlife, anthropology and geology with 4 floors of exhibits. We took the stairs to the fourth floor to begin. The geology area has an extensive display of rocks and minerals, I love looking at the samples and always marvel at the variety of colors and textures. This floor also features artifacts from human cultures around the world. Down the steps we went, the third floor is all about Michigan; great lakes birds, native mammals, reptiles and amphibians are all here displayed in showcases. From the wolverine and squirrels to mallards and an entire family of possums. It’s interesting to see the detail of the animals up close but sometimes I wonder where they all came from….I try not to think about it too much. The second floor is the Hall Of Evolution and focuses on pre-historic life. Fossils, whale skeletons, and dinosaur bones, this museum hosts the largest display of dinosaurs in Michigan. Here you can get up close to a real Mastodon skeleton, it is enormous! When you look around, it is hard to believe these gigantic beasts once roamed the Earth. We made our final decent to the main floor where we came in. One more look around the rotunda and it was time to go. Ann Arbor has so much to offer from culture to dining, it’s close by and easy to get to, check it out!