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DETROIT: Midtown Chill….

8 Dec

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Have you ever noticed how something as simple as a cup of coffee or a glass of wine tastes so much better when you are in beautiful surroundings? And there’s nothing like a cozy public space to make you feel part of the local community. The new Living Room at the DIA accomplishes both of these things and more. As long-time members of the DIA we often find ourselves popping into the museum to check out a current exhibit or visit a favorite gallery. As a member or resident of Wayne, Oakland or Macomb county, admission is free, so you no longer need to set a whole day aside to explore the entire museum, you can drop in for an hour or an afternoon. The recent renovation of Kresge Court into Detroit’s grandest living room is just one more reason to visit this extraordinary building. Did you know the first Van Gogh painting to enter a US museum was Self Portrait (1887) right here at the DIA? 

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Today the sole purpose of our coming here is to have a coffee while sitting on a comfy leather sofa and do a little people watching. The space is wonderful! Originally an outdoor courtyard, the room is surrounded by elegant dark brick walls with inlaid carved stone designs, topiaries, greenery and wrought iron pergola put me in the mind of an English garden. Seating groups are spaced throughout the room, the furniture a mix of traditional and modern; power outlets are readily available. Tall wood library tables are installed with iPads, area rugs add warmth and complete the look. Here you can curl up with a good book while snacking on a cheese or chacuterie plate, meet friends for a beer or glass of wine, page through one of many art books available for your viewing pleasure while sipping a piping hot cup of Starbucks coffee. On Friday nights Tapas are served. If you’re looking for somewhere new to meet friends, do some work or just relax, this is the spot! 

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Our next destination is just a little way down Woodward, from now until December 28th the Detroit Artists Market (DAM) is hosting Art For The Holidays! 125 area artists have put their best creations on display for you to purchase as gifts for friends and family this holiday season. The gallery is festive, decked out in holiday lights strung from the ceiling, snacks and beverages are complimentary today. The elongated space is crowded with shoppers this afternoon. Unique items are arranged on pedestals, tables and shelves; glass pieces seem to glow under the halogen lights. The variety of the pieces is refreshing; clever items like original stuffed animal characters make me smile. There’s a colorful array of fiber articles, scarves and purses for every style, jewelry is plentiful. Photos, books and cards along with glass, ceramics, cool paintings and metal work make it easy to shop for even the most difficult to buy for. The gallery has terrific objects all year around, but I have to admit, this is my favorite time to visit.

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The N’namdi Center for Contemporary Art is tucked away on E Forest in the Sugar Hill Arts District, we love this building. The fascade is limestone with gorgeous detail surrounding huge windows. The gallery showcases national and emerging local artists with a series of curated and juried exhibitions. The building also houses a performance art theater. The front room has raspberry colored walls, today it is set up like a living room; furniture is made of clocks, dozens of watch faces, lots of shells and beads, I wouldn’t dare sit on it! The main gallery is my favorite area; the ceiling is exposed beams, it looks like knotty pine, the wooden floor is silent as we walk. The current exhibit features large black-framed photographs, I feel as though I am looking directly into the subjects eyes. At the back of the space we enter a small enclosed gallery with nautical blue walls, brightly colored paintings line all four walls. We stop in often as there is always something new to see.

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We are off to try the latest restaurant to open in Midtown, La Feria, on Cass Ave. Serving hot (calientes) and cold (frias) tapas, the owners have brought a little bit of Spain to Detroit. Open from 11 to 3, and then again from 5 to 11, we settled on a late lunch to hopefully avoid a long wait. There are two empty tables, we help ourselves to the high-top in the front window, the late afternoon sun warms our backs as we glance at the menu. The place is lively, tables are filled with jovial customers passing dishes and catching up with one another. The ceiling is a deep blue, a red soffit adds a splash of color above the bar, a small chalkboard calls out today’s specials. Everything on the menu sounds delicious, our waitress is super friendly and helpful in our decision making. We start with a glass of house made red Sangria, be sure to have one yourself……First to arrive is the ensalada mixta: tender greens, cucumber, red onion, hard boiled eggs and Spanish olives, sprinkled with coarse salt. The tortilla Espanola is next, two triangular slices of cold Spanish omlette with fried potatoes and carmelized onion topped with roasted red pepper strips, mmmmmm, really good! The Sabor de Espana is a charcuterie board with exceptionally good meats, cheeses and charred bread, we had the small one and it was just right for the two of us. The food is outstanding, we look forward to eating our way through the entire menu!

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 After all the savory food, we are in a mood for something sweet, a new gelato shop called Melt opened just down the street and is creating quite a buzz in the neighborhood. Walking the short distance I take notice of the foot traffic on the block; folks are out walking their dogs, a bag of puppy chow slung over their shoulder, undoubtedly purchased from Cass Corridog. Young couples push baby carriages, college students bear the weight of heavy backpacks after a study session. Inside, the air is scented with the aroma of coffee and sugar, walls contrast in deep red and bright white, the counter is lined with cookies and treats. The gelato case is near the back, stainless steel compartments are piled high with multi-colored flavors; grapefruit sorbetto, roasted pistachio, autumn spice, and, our choice, bourbon caramel gingersnap–it tastes even better than it sounds! Our plastic cup is piled high with the creamy substance, we sit at a table overlooking the sidewalk, for a second I forget where I am. For as long as I can remember this is the Detroit I have been dreaming of; cute little shops, great restaurants, a neighborhood ice cream shop, pedestrians crowding the streets. I have to admit there were days I had my doubts, but I never lost my faith.