Tag Archives: Chicken & Waffles

DETROIT: Cabin Fever…

29 Jun

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Thomas Palmer, a Detroit resident, U.S. Senator, American ambassador to Spain and land owner—farming 640 acres of land that included orchards, cattle and Percheron horses, in what is now Palmer Park, married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Pitts Merrill in 1855. By 1885 Lizzie was looking for a place to escape the traffic, noise and crowds of Detroit. Her husband presented her with plans for a rustic cabin, built to her specifications, on land he owned along Woodward Ave, which at that time was considered out in the country; the cabin would be used  for entertaining and as a summer retreat. The team of George Mason (Masonic Temple) and Zachariah Rice (The Grand Hotel and DYC) designed the cabin which was completed in 1887.

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Nearly 130 years later the cabin still stands on its original spot. Eventually Palmer gifted the land and cabin to the City of Detroit, in 1897 the area was officially designated Palmer Park. Once a year the People for Palmer Park and the City of Detroit open the cabin to the public, today is Log Cabin Day. We follow the sidewalk along Lake Frances, a young girl expertly riding a Penny-farthing (or High Wheeler) passes by. We approach the cabin, volunteers are dressed up in 1880’s clothing, we hear musket blasts coming from the Civil War camp in the distance, the 102nd USCT  history group is putting on a demonstration. A policeman sits atop a beautiful horse, visitors have gathered waiting for their chance to pet the majestic animal. Behind the cabin the Saline Fiddlers Philharmonic play American folk, fiddle and bluegrass tunes as Appalachian step dancers perform on a makeshift stage, these high-schoolers are impressive.

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Walking around the cabin we pause to look at the building, it was constructed with trees harvested from the surrounding forest, awnings are made from split logs. The structure is in need of repair, the fireplace exteriors are shrouded in tarps that have seen better days. Cheery flowers have recently been planted in front, flowering shrubs are in full bloom, members of PFPP have been hard at work on the cabin. Inside, historians dressed in period attire speak about the Palmer family, they tell us about the cabin with its stone fireplaces, pocket doors, wooden floors and the indoor toilette–something that was unheard of in those days. The stairway is central in the house, the woodwork is in remarkably good shape, pretty fancy for a cabin. The home had 21 lovely stained glass windows, volunteers demonstrate the expensive restoration process, the remaining windows are protected by metal screens, a donation jar nearby is stuffed with 1 and 5 dollar bills. In another room the Detroit Unity African-American Quilters show off their handiwork, photographs and postcards cover the walls sharing Detroit history and memories. The American Jewel stove is the highlight of the kitchen, from where I’m standing I can feel cold air seep from under the cellar door. A continuous stream of visitors make their way from the front to the back door.

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Outside, a cast of 7 from Project Daydream is performing Cinderella, Guernsey Dairy is handing out scoops of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, kids and grown-ups are hard at work creating hats out of paper bags, scraps of material, ribbons, feathers and beads for the Mad Hatter contest. We see more members of The Wheelman group wearing vintage clothing and riding antique bikes. CJ Forge Blacksmithing demonstrates the craft of creating hand-forged items. We check out the bright yellow International pick-up truck, cool. The Detroit Mounted Police Unit moved to Palmer Park in 2010, we visit the horses, they seem to appreciate the company, leaning their heads against the fence hoping for a pet. Palmer Park is truly an urban oasis with 296 acres of lawns, historic woodlands, Lake Frances, hiking and biking trails. Be sure and check out all of the activities PFPP offers throughout the year.

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Kuzzo’s Chicken &Waffles is just minutes away, we’ve written about them before, but you can never have too much chicken & waffles. We slip in just as a number of tables leave, good timing. Today’s special is Motor City Blues; a blueberry Belgian waffle served with 3 chicken wings or tenders, we love the tenders. The waffle is delicious, beyond delicious if that’s possible; studded with sweet, juicy blueberries, dusted with powdered sugar and a scoop of butter, drizzled with maple syrup, YUM! The biscuits and gravy are a must; flaky, moist biscuits served with a bowl of creamy sausage gravy……enough said. We still have yet to try one of those fancy layered Kool-aid drinks served up in Mason jars–next time.

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Driving down 8 Mile Rd we notice the sandwich board on the sidewalk for Detroit Vintage, we drive around the block, park in back and stop in for a coffee. The building has been in the owners family since 1956 when it was the Paris Inn restaurant, the current incarnation is a whimsical, eclectic, coffee shop/tea room/espresso bar/gallery/boutique. Attractive displays fill the space; antique, vintage, interesting items are stacked, layered and hung. Seating areas are tucked in among the whimsy. Glass-domed dishes contain Italian creme, lemon pound and triple chocolate cakes, cookies and cupcakes look equally tasty. We make ourselves comfy, drinking iced coffee as we take in strings of white lights, large red stars, clocks, sconces and a bicycle that hangs from the rafters. What an absolutely delightful place.

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DETROIT: A Night At The Redford

7 Oct

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There are four words a person living in the Detroit metro area need never utter: “There’s Nothing To Do”. Sports, we’ve got them; Tigers, Lions, Red Wings, Pistons, hey we even have Roller Derby! There’s the Symphony, Opera, Broadway shows, concerts, festivals, tours. Special events like Dlectricity, Detroit Design Festival and Noel Night attract people from all over. Detroiters’ love films, we have wonderful, unique venues such as New Center Park, The Detroit Film Theatre, Cinema Detroit and The Redford. Any night of the week, 7 days a week, you can enjoy a craft cocktail, pop-up dinner, live Jazz, bicycle tour, gallery opening, Riverwalk, poetry, lecture, you get the idea….. The last week of September had so much going on I couldn’t fit everything into the allotted squares of my calendar, don’t you love it? 

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It’s Saturday evening, we jump in the Jeep and make our way down Grand River. Making a right on Lahser, we quickly scan the street for an open parking space; once parked, we meander into Sweet Potato Sensations, a family run bakery and cafe. Cassandra Thomas began her home business baking and selling sweet potato cookies, 16 years later she opened a storefront on Lahser, the current location is about 5,000 sq ft. The menu has grown to include sweet potato pie, cheesecake, cobbler, ice cream, cupcakes and more. Cassandra’s daughters Espy and Jennifer have joined the family business; it has blossomed. Folks are warmly greeted as they enter the cafe, large refrigerated cases display today’s offerings. Now serving Saturday and Sunday brunch, we were happy to learn we could still order off the menu this evening. With her usual smile, Espy takes our order then disappears back behind the counter. The cafe is busy tonight, the Redford is showing West Side Story, which is where we are headed after dinner. First to arrive is the black eye pea and collard green soup, it’s outstanding; good thing we got a bowl! Served with a chunk of sweet potato corn bread, I could make a meal of this alone. Before we know it, our chicken and sweet potato waffle is set on the table, the combination of fried chicken and spices from the waffle smell wonderful. First thing I do is tear off a piece of waffle, crisp and tender it reminds me of pumpkin pie, the chicken is hot, Kris carefully picks up a piece and manages a hot bite, mmmmmmmm, delicious, he says. From there it is each man for himself, using forks and fingers, we eat and we eat until only a pile of bones remains; we are full, but more than that, we are content.

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Across the street at the Redford, it is nearly show time, the marquee dazzles with its flashing lights, a long line leading to the ticket window remains, I take my place in line as Kris gets some photos. This is no ordinary movie night; along with showing the ever-popular West Side Story, Rita Moreno is making a special appearance before the movie, signing books and posing for pictures at intermission, how cool! For one panicked moment, I wonder if they will sell out before we get our tickets, luckily, that isn’t the case; in all the years we’ve been coming here, I don’t think I have ever seen this many people attend a show. Inside, the 1928 movie house is lovingly cared for, restoration is an ongoing thing, the grand foyer is gorgeous from the elegant chandeliers to the hand painted ceiling and walls. We are relegated to the upper balcony to find an open seat, no worries, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. From here we have a panoramic view of the house; stars twinkle in the night sky, the Barton theatre organ is belting out tunes, a Japanese garden motif surrounds the stage. It is after 8 pm and folks are still trickling in, the announcer introduces Rita Moreno and the crowd erupts into applause. For the next 15-20 minutes Ms Moreno shares stories of growing up in Puerto Rico, then her move to New York with her mother. Her talents as a singer and actress were recognized at an early age. She told great behind-the-scenes accounts about the making of West Side Story, she had to learn to dance for the film as her  experience was limited to traditional Hispanic dance; she divulged some fascinating stuff, but if you want to more about her relationship with Marlon Brando or Elvis, you’re gonna have to buy the book!

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At intermission, as long lines form for autographs, we dash next door to Motor City Java House to grab some coffee. Our speed and agility get us there ahead of the crowd; I order our drinks and some yummy dessert as Kris nabs us a table. By this time the rush was on, patrons were ordering coffee drinks, tea and dessert, some for here, some to take back to the theatre; our window of time has closed, we finish our carrot cake and we’re outta’ here! Outside the entire block is aglow from the marquee, I love the Redford, each and every time we come here I marvel at its beauty and detail; the wall sconces, stairways, old-fashioned exit signs, painted panels…..sigh…..

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Back in our seats Ms Moreno is again brought onto stage, she is the only Hispanic actress/singer to have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and a Tony. She won the 1961 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Anita in West Side Story. Next thing we know, the guys in the projection booth cue up a clip from the Oscars, we see a young Rita accept her award. The volunteers here at the Redford really do an amazing job of running the theatre and hosting special events such as this one, we thank them for that! The lights are dimmed and the curtain goes up, a local dance troupe is performing  “America” from the movie; you know, the one where the girls sing the praises of living in America while the boys defend their homeland of Puerto Rico, it’s definitely one of the more popular production numbers in the film. Girls twirl about the stage in red frilly dresses, guys are decked out in black suits, we all watch with admiration as they leap into the air. The audience shows their appreciation with a long round of applause. Ms Moreno compliments their skills, poses for a few pictures and bids us all farewell. At 82 years old, she still sparkles; she’s vibrant, witty, clever, entertaining and continues to work on new projects.

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Settled into our seats we watch the conclusion of the movie, there are so many wonderful, magnificent, sensational aspects to the film; Jerome Robbin’s spectacular choreography, I am especially fond of the Sharks and Jets numbers (Jet Song, Cool), Leonard Bernstein’s musical score, Steven Sondheim’s lyrics; songs like Maria, Somewhere and Tonight. The 1957 Broadway production marked Sondheim’s Broadway debut–not bad for a beginner. West Side Story was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, it won 10 including Best Picture for 1961. And here it is tonight, in a lovely old theatre in Detroit, star-studded, complete with red carpet.