Tag Archives: Avalon Bread

DETROIT: A Feast For The Eyes And The Appetite

18 Mar

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In the past we’ve taken you into some of Detroit’s great places to shop for antiques, today we’ll take you to the finest; Du Mouchelles auction house on Jefferson. Here  you’ll find a selection of top quality antiques, more like a museum than a store. The Du Mouchelle family has been in business since 1927, they are experts in estate appraisals, they buy and sell fine diamonds, gems, jewelry, artwork and objets d’ art; they are probably best known as auction house.  Pausing at the front windows, I took a look inside while Kris snapped a few photos of the building. The first thing that caught me eye were beautiful pieces from an antique carousel, a couple of horses and a lion that at one time thrilled children as they rose and fell to the rhythm of loudly playing music. Once inside I was dazzled by the light reflecting off the multiple crystal chandeliers that hang from the ceiling. Kris pointed out a stairway to the second floor, so up we went.

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The second floor is an immense space filled with gorgeous things; tall glass cases line the walls and make up rows on the floor, antique paintings, movie posters and cartoons are framed and hang on walls and dividers. As we roam the space I linger at displays of fine china decorated in frilly patterns, crystal pieces and highly detailed figurines. I love antique furniture; there was an amazing dining room table and chairs that I had to get a closer look at. The table was dark wood, thick legs are lavishly carved, two candelabra’s rest on top. Glass counters are filled with a bevy of vintage jewelry. Each item bears a tag with a description, when the item goes up for auction and how much it is expected to sell for; many of the estimated prices surprised me, some higher, some lower than I would have thought. We descended the stairs back to ground level; a pair of lights look as if they once called a theater home, many large pieces are displayed here. All items that will be sold at the next auction are on display for potential bidders to see and touch before the bidding begins. Next time we come it will be to watch a live auction; I can’t wait.

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It is such a beautiful day and Detroit has a spectacular riverfront, the thought of outdoor dining comes to mind; a gust of wind blows, reminding us that is still a couple of months away, we have the perfect compromise: lunch at Volt. The Renaissance Center is often described as a “city within a city”, I’d have to say that’s an accurate description; its seven towers and 5 million square feet can be a bit overwhelming. Today we are just concentrating on the central tower; home to the Detroit Marriott, this is the tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the western hemisphere, not to mention the tallest building in Michigan. Volt is the Marriot’s  lobby bar and restaurant, with floor to ceiling windows it offers a wonderful view along with contemporary dining. We placed our order and took in the bright and airy room while we waited for our food; translucent amber-colored glass bubbles dangle above the semi-circular bar, the carpet pattern is  done in rich shades of red, purple, sapphire and gold, as are the accent colors of the room. Our lunch arrives; a Roast Turkey BLT served with a mini Caesar salad and Artichoke Dip with house made tortilla chips, everything was tasty! In the summer you can dine on the patio with an unobstructed view, now that’s something to keep in mind when the warm weather finally arrives. Before we left we took a walk around the tower, enjoying more water views and thinking there’s still more to explore…..next time.

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It seems as though Detroit is always in the news for one awful thing after another; newspapers and newsrooms seem to take pleasure in the decline and despair of a city with a lion’s share of problems. Allow us to tell you about the good. Avalon International Breads has been providing Detroit with wonderful products and positive stories for years, and they’re doing it again! Due to the bakery’s growing presence in restaurants, cafes, grocery stores and retail outlets they recently purchased a 50,000 sq ft building on Bellevue in Detroit that will serve as the center for production. This new branch of the business, City Ovens, recently held an open house to show off their new space and is it ever impressive! A former manufacturing facility, it has been turned into a pristine work space that is expected to double its current workforce.

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We enter the building in the area that will eventually be a small retail outlet for baked goods, we are welcomed by employees and volunteers, they point the way to food, drinks, and tours. Each area is white from top to bottom, equipment shines in stainless steel, we pause at a table with an amazing spread of fresh-baked bread, fruit, veggies and dips. Visitors are huddled in small groups eating from paper plates, I see chocolate cake in the distance and waste no time snatching up a piece for us. We pass into the next room where the Marion Hayden Trio plays on a small platform stage, a huge oven is front and center in the room, it is so large I could stand up inside of it. Several feet away a cooler waits to be filled with all the tasty items that will go into Avalon’s goodies. In another space enormous stand mixers rest on the floor; whisks and dough hooks are as big as my head, I have to wonder how many people it takes to lift the bowl.There is such a positive vibe going on, good bread, cookies and chocolate cake seem to have that effect on people….But it’s more than that, Avalon was the dream of two women who wanted to feed Detroiters’ good quality products that are incredibly delicious. The bakery has become a neighborhood staple, a place where people stop in for a loaf of Scallion Dill, a Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie and a good cup of coffee; they provide sustenance for the body and the soul, and employment to boot; now that’s a success story! Bad news is easy to find, you may have to dig a little deeper for the positive; but believe me, it’s out there!



Shopping Pure Detroit, Midtown, West Willis

16 May

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The day began with a trip to the Guardian Building, originally known as The Union Trust Company, it opened in 1929. Designed by Wirt Rowland and costing $12 million dollars this structure is a true work of art.  With it’s combination of exotic marble, Pewabic and Rookwood tile, Monel metal and stone it is a true Art Deco Masterpiece. We stopped in at Pure Detroit to have a look around, we have been regular patrons since the opening of their very first store back in 1998. Owners Shawn and Kevin are dedicated to Detroit, and that is clearly reflected in their stores. The products they sell all represent the city, everything from T-shirts and hats to local food products, books and gifts. We then proceeded to have a coffee in the cafe, this is truly one of our favorite buildings, I never tire of  staring at the intricate Aztec design, but more on that another time.

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Our minds were set on lunch at Mid-town Shangri- La, a fabulous Chinese restaurant on Cass near Wayne State’s Old Main. We’ve had the Chinese, it is very good, but we come for the Dim Sum, you MUST try it sometime.  I had never tried it before I had it here, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Basically it is small portions of food served in steamer baskets or on small plates, think appetizers, lots to choose from here. Depending on when you arrive, they may have the Dim Sum cart from which you can select the dishes you’d like, or they  can be made to order. I would highly recommend the Shrimp Kau, fresh shrimp steamed in a soft noodle like wrapper, so simple, and so delicious. We also had the Curry Chicken Pastry, so good, I’ve never had such flaky pastry before, the Deep Fried Squid with Spicy Salt, I actually crave this dish, the most tender squid you will ever eat, and of course the Shiu Mai. A friend got this one day when we had lunch together, and it’s been a staple for us ever since. I can’t forget the Bubble Tea, it may look strange if you’ve not had it before, there are large dark colored Tapioca balls sitting in the bottom just waiting to be sucked up the oversized straw. Be sure to chew them! The Mango is my favorite.

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There’s a great little up and coming district over on W Willis, also in Midtown, where Avalon International Breads resides. This is one of those places that once you discover it, you’ll wonder how you lived without it. Walk in the door and enjoy the scent of fresh baked goods, the industrial looking space is warmed up with walls painted the golden color of crusty bread. Large menu signs are suspended from the ceiling, and shelves of large chrome racks are filledwith items fresh from the oven; focaccia, loaves of Motown Multigrain, Poletown Rye, Greektown Olive and baguettes. The mouthwatering counter display of cookies, scones, Amazing Amazon Brownies, and Seriously Sticky Buns are all tempting, and make it nearly impossible to decide. Coffee, espresso drinks, hot chocolate, and smoothies are also available. Avalon has grown through the years, they also offer breakfast, homemade soup, grab and go sandwiches and salads. There are a few tables and limited counter space inside, when weather permits the patio offers multiple tables for outdoor dining. Everything is made with organic flour and tastes divine.

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Joining Avalon on W Willis is Goodwells Natural Food Market, with fresh organic produce, pre-made salads and sandwiches, beverages, and supplements, it is a nice addition to the neighborhood. Next door is Flo Boutique offering womens clothing and accessories. On the corner is Spiral Collective, they sell works by local artists, and have a lovely selection of gifts, and books,  Del Pryor gallery has a space inside too. I love to browse in this store, the selection of items is always changing, and is always top quality merchandise. Rounding out the district is the Willys Overland Loft project. The historic building has been converted to beautiful lofts, exposed brick and excellent views of the city come standard. We were lucky enough to get a personal tour of several different floor plans, 15 of the units have been sold so far.  Right around the corner on Cass is the Curl Up & Dye Salon offering all types of hair and nail services, this part of Midtown continues to thrive, that’s good to see.

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