Tag Archives: Detroit Riverfront

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!



Detroit Riverwalk, Slows BBQ, Astro Coffee

19 Jul

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Water, water, everywhere! Did you know that a person in the state of Michigan is never more than 6 miles from a natural water source, or more than 85 miles from a Great Lakes shoreline? It’s true!  I am not a water sports person at all, Boating, not my thing, I don’t fish either, but I just love the water. Living in southeast Michigan, I am a bit spoiled by the easy access I have to many  beautiful lakes and rivers. The Detroit River is situated between Lake Erie to the south and Lake St Clair to the north, it also divides the international border between Canada and the US. Ships travel this waterway to the St Lawrence Seaway and the Erie Canal, making it one of the busiest waterways in the world.

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I have a great fondness for the Detroit Riverfront and River Walk. There are now 3.5 miles of the River Walk completed and open to the public; What do you like to do? There’s Yoga and Tai Chi, a Canine Club and River walking on the riverfront. Biking more your style? Wheelhouse Detroit is a bicycle shop at Rivard Plaza that offers rentals and tours. Have a soft spot for carousels? Take a ride on the Cullen Family Carousel, only a dollar a ride for kids of any age. I have two favorite places I like to hang out; the first is Rivard Plaza, I love to sit under the huge white canvas canopy and watch all of the action. This is where River Walk Cafe is located; you can grab a snack or beverage, maybe an ice cream, and sit at one of the numerous tables and watch all the boats go by, everything from fisherman and pleasure boats to the CoastGuard and ocean bound freighters. The carousel is also located here; I have taken rides myself, but find it’s just as much fun to sit and watch the faces of the riders. It’s a hub of energy and activity, gorgeous landscaping of stunning annuals, huge flowerpots overflowing with fragrant blossoms, raised pools of water flowing into waterfalls, groups of families and friends posing for pictures. On the ground is a map of the area carved into the concrete walkway, can you find your city? 

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Steps away from Rivard Plaza is the William G Milliken State Park and Harbor, encompassing thirty one acres of wetlands, it is the first urban state park in Michigan and is a little more laid back than other areas. Follow the pathway along the riverfront to the new 63 foot light tower that marks the entrance to the 52-slip harbor. This is actually a scaled down replica of the Tawas Point lighthouse. For a change of scenery on your way back, choose the wetland pathway. There are plenty of benches and even some covered seating for you to sit and enjoy the spectacular views.

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Just a short walk away is my other favorite spot, GM Plaza and Promenade.  As you approach this area you will first notice the high pitched screams of small children, not the ow I’m hurt, type scream, but the one of sheer joy and exhilaration.You see, this is where the fountain is located; it is actually a series of water jets sunk in the ground in a triangular pattern that shoots individual streams of water up into the air. Children and adults run in and out of the water, some race from end to end trying to make it all the way before the level rises, others are content to stand in the middle letting the cool water refresh them. The streams of water constantly change levels, there’s nothing more fun that watching someone who has never been before take a walk through the water jets at their low or medium height only to be caught in the middle when it shoots up full height….surprise! Again, there is plentiful seating here to take in the panorama, from this vantage point you will discover outstanding cityscapes of both Detroit and Windsor.

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All that walking built up an appetite, our plan was to have lunch at Slows Bar-B-Q on Michigan Ave over in Corktown, but getting in can be difficult. You see, Slows has this amazing reputation for out-of-this-world Bar B Q. They have been on every Food Network show, movies stars in town filming eat there and then tell about it on the late night talk shows, USA Today and Bon Appetit have written about them,  the hype is enormous. Ordinarily I find when I eat at any of the in vogue restaurants they don’t live up to my built up expectations. That is NOT the case with Slows. Whatever you have heard is TRUE, it’s that good!  At 2:45 on a Friday afternoon the place was still packed, but we were fortunate enough to snag a table.  We ordered the Longhorn sandwich on Texas toast, this is a sandwich to die for; the most tender beef brisket you will ever have the pleasure of eating, sliced and piled high on toast, smothered with homemade onion marmalade, and topped off with smoked gouda and spicy sauce. We are also partial to the House Salad with their Honey Jalapeno Vinaigrette, what makes this salad stand out from the usual green salad to me is the sliced green olives, the Split Pea and Okra Fritters are something everybody should try, I know what you’re thinking, but I’m telling you; taste them. They slice up the okra dip it in a split pea batter and fry them up, served with a sassy dipping sauce and sliced dill pickle, delicious. The place is busy from open to close, once you eat here you can see why.

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This area of Michigan Avenue is currently experiencing a great resurgence, thanks mostly to Slows. Just a couple doors down is a brand new coffee shop called Astro Coffee, which opened on July 12. We wanted to check it out and see what it was all about. The space is wide open, dark wood floors, and exposed brick walls give it an urban look and feel. A large american flag hangs on the wall near the door, a nice touch, the ceiling and light fixtures are bright white, large front windows give the place an airy feeling. The menu is written on an oversized chalk board sitting above a white subway-tile backsplash. On the counter in glass covered dishes are house made baked goods inviting you to partake. We had espresso and a cookie and both were excellent. It didn’t take long for the public to discover Astro and they are giving it a warm welcome. It’s a great addition to the neighborhood.

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