Tag Archives: Tap Room

The Thumb: Be Cool…

21 Jul

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It’s in the mid 90’s… again; we scan the weather forecast, looks like the Lake Huron breeze is going to help us out, low 80’s on the thumb coast. We point the car north and aim for the tip of the thumb, in less than 2 hours we’re looking at the beautiful blue waters of Lake Huron. Kris zig zags his way north and west to Caseville Rd, we make a right on 25, this is where the view gets really good. The lake is gorgeous, a kaleidoscope of blues and greens, cars fill cottage driveways, beach-goers have their arms full carrying towels, coolers and floating devices, I swear I can smell Coppertone in the breeze. We follow the shoreline north and slightly east, public parks and beaches are in high demand today. We catch glimpses of the lake between cottages; many look like they were built in the 1950’s, others are new and stately like something from HGTV. We reach Port Austin, park and walk out to the lake. The town is buzzing with tourists, lines form at restaurants and cafes, we have something else in mind.

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A short drive from downtown Port Austin on Grindstone Rd leads us to The Tap Room At Bird Creek Farms. The 40-acre farm grows alfalfa for local dairy farmers, vegetables, strawberries, raspberries, edible flowers; their largest crop is garlic. The large white farmhouse has an inviting wrap-around porch, pretty planter boxes and colorful hanging pots; all of the activity is out back. The covered deck plays host to a corrugated metal bar, mismatched bar stools and tables; a brief menu lists today’s food offerings, a chalkboard lists beverages. Kris is drinking B Nektar’s Zombie Killer, I’m having Blake’s Flannel Mouth; crisp and cool it’s perfect for a day like today. Before long cardboard serving cartons arrive filled with Sausage Gravy Poutine Fries, traditional BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos and Baja Tacos. Everything is very tasty, they even manage to keep the fries crispy under all that yummy gravy. 

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Continuing our lakeside journey we drive on to Grindstone City. In the mid 1800’s two companies operated out of two quarries producing grindstones; by 1888 the population rose to 1500 people. Unable to survive the Great Depression the companies folded. There are two buildings left in the Historic District, one of them is the 3-story grain mill, the other is Rybak’s Ice Cream Store built in 1884 by Capt. A.G. Peer. Visitors sit on benches placed on the deep front porch when we arrive, each has their hands full eating humongous ice cream cones. The building is charming in that very old-fashioned way; floors creek, black and white photos line the walls, antique lights illuminate the space, posts are quite decorative. There are a variety of items for sale, candies, cards, gifts and notions; I’m here for the ice cream. I study the list of Guernsey flavors and choose the mint chocolate chip, it has some kind of dark chocolate cookie chunks in it too, it’s sooo good! I have to eat it quickly before it all melts.

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White Church Gallery is just across the street, I meet Kris inside. The building is a simple white church with red-trimmed Gothic-style windows. Inside purple paint covers the walls, a mix of old and new light fixtures hang from the ceiling; the way the light is coming in right now everything seems to glow. In the front room a gorgeous Art Nouveau cabinet is used to display the works of Michigan fine artists. We wander around on wide-plank floors looking at photography, lovely jewelry, life-like paintings, stained glass and  attractive wooden bowls.

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We are headed south and east on 25 passing through Historic Huron City. This was a lumber town back in the mid 1800’s, several of the original buildings still remain, they are maintained through the Lyon Phelps Foundation. The buildings are open to tour on Saturdays in July and August from 11 am – 4 pm. The Pointe Aux Barque Lighthouse is next. The original lighthouse was constructed of stone taken from the shores of Lake Huron in 1848,the light keepers house was separate from the tower. This area was complete wilderness back then, winters were rough, storms were wicked. The weather and a fire took their toll on the building, a new structure was built in 1857, this time living quarters were attached to the tower. The light is still in use making it one of the oldest, continuously operating lights on the Great Lakes.

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The house and tower have been completely restored, it’s now a museum open to the public and it’s free. Let’s go in. We walk around in the house where the light keeper lived, rooms are tiny, I like the turquoise stove in the kitchen. Artifacts are on display; models of ships, books, newspaper articles, blueprints of the building and a lens. The sleeping quarters are upstairs, there’s an old wood-burning stove to keep the family warm and a pitcher and bowl for washing up. You had to maximize space so rooms were multi-purpose, beds share the space with a sitting area and desk. Back on ground level we learn more about the history of the lighthouse and the people who lived here. 

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Outside we walk around the grounds, in 1875 a Class A lifesaving station was built south of the house, it was the first lifesaving station on the Great Lakes. In 62 years of service the crews performed over 200 rescues. Walking toward Lake Huron I stop and read the signs telling us about shipwrecks and storms, the Great Storm of 1913 also referred to as the “White Hurricane” is legendary, it was a blizzard with hurricane-force winds. It killed 250 people, destroyed 19 ships and stranded 19 others. Today the lake is calm and beautiful, bluish-green water laps at the rocky shore, trees cling to the coast line, wildflowers grip the sandy soil, the water is clear to the bottom. Kris traverses the rocks, you can see how they’ve broken away from the shoreline. Notice their unusual coloring, almost like they’re rusty, moss covers the ones closest to shore, it’s slippery so he has to be careful. Meanwhile I stand on shore looking out into infinity.

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25 leads us through Port Hope and Harbor Beach, the beaches, lake and piers are shrouded in swimsuit clad visitors. We stop in Lexington to get something cold to drink, to our delight the Cadillac House Inn and Tavern is open. The building has been completely renovated back to its 1859 glory. When it opened July 4, 1860, it was such a big deal they celebrated with a parade and a steamer ship brought guests all the way from Detroit for the occasion. The 3-story Italianate structure has never looked better! We enter the building and are greeted with a blast of cold air, the dining room is busy, guests are in a waiting area to be seated. There are empty bar stools at the bar, perfect. Kris orders a craft cocktail with Gin, blueberries and lemon, I’m having a Kalamazoo Stout. I like the simple interior; antique-looking lights, wide moldings and wood beams. It feels good to sit back, cool off and enjoy a drink. It’s nice to see people embracing the old Cadillac House once again. It’s been a full day of Lake Huron adventures, we’ve enjoyed good food, good booze lake breezes and unbeatable views.

DETROIT: Recycled

16 Sep

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Beauty can be found everywhere. From the most obvious places like Detroit’s riverfront and Belle Isle to the less conspicuous alley or neighborhood garden. Today we are visiting places off the beaten path, the nooks and crannies of the city. Lincoln Street Art Park and Sculpture Garden is just a short distance from New Center; murals, sculptures, a fire pit and gardens all reside in the shadow of the iconic Fisher Building. We park on the side of Lincoln St, walk over to the low-cut lawn and have a look. 

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With curiosity as our compass we walk through the park, on the backside of an old industrial building, boarded up windows are decorated with murals, Lincoln is spelled out over several. Graffiti, street art and elaborate scenes cover concrete surfaces, we recognize certain artists work from other places in the city; the owl is one of my favorites. Over to the left a field of painted poppies covers a wall. In a mulched garden daylilies are out of bloom but lovely metal-sculpture flowers bloom year-round.

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The dinosaur sculpture is imposing; a closer look reveals chairs, a cart, step stool and a bevy of salvaged materials used in the construction, he’s huge and seems to patrol the park, keeping watch. It’s like visiting an art gallery, we wander from piece to piece, me going one way, Kris the other; each fascinated by what we see. A rusty metal sculpture reminds me of a rainbow, Kris admires the vintage steering wheel. Discarded items are put together in unusual and pleasing ways, the gypsy with wings, the combination of fluted sheets of plastic and metal rods, old pieces of wood. 

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We walk Lincoln St to the underpass, more artwork by well-known artists. In the center brick pathways lead in both directions along the elevated train tracks, I wonder what they were used for. The golden tower of the Fisher building seems as though it’s only a stone’s throw away, the U-Haul building is visible too. The entire expanse of concrete before us is a collection of colors, forms, letters, designs, all mashed together; the face of the American Indian is captivating. We climb the elevation to the train tracks and get an entirely different perspective on our surroundings; the sculpture park below us looks small, contained. Train tracks stretch out for miles in opposite directions, one way leads to the city, the other looks so rural. Walking further we pass ancient looking lampposts, an old water tower watches over us, we reach the next overpass, cars whoosh by below us on Trumbull, a train rumbles by the next track over, my heart pounds with excitement.

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Investigating the underpasses reveals a wonderful collection of characters; storm troopers, panda’s, a flamingo, a doughnut with a cigarette sipping a juice box. Arches create frames, every surface is considered a blank canvas. Fel 3000 ft has created an amazing scene of buildings, bridges, skyscrapers; a city in motion. An image of a child all in blue on one side, on the other, a letter begins Dear Dad. The next underpass is completely covered in primary-colored cubes, the way the sun is lighting them is extraordinary.

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Recycle Here! on Holden resides in a huge building built by the Warren Motor Car Company in 1909. The company folded pretty quickly, the Lozier Motor Company moved in. During WWI the building was acquired by Henry Leland (creator of Cadillac) for airplane engine production, he then used it in the manufacturing of Lincoln automobiles. Dietrich Inc was the next to inhabit the structure. In 1926 Dietrich was the largest semi-custom production-body business in the country, producing 16-25 bodies a week for customers such as Chrysler, Packard, Lincoln and Pierce Arrow. Though all details are fuzzy there’s a big chunk missing in the timeline after Dietrich left; eventually a grocery distribution company bought the building which brings us to current owner, who purchased the building and turned it into the recycling center.

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Detroit artist Carl Oxley is responsible for the Recycle Here! signature bumble bee, you will see the bee everywhere throughout the premises. The building’s walls are a continuation of the art we’ve seen in the park, artists have used their imaginations creating characters and scenes from silly to scary. The art carries us right inside the building. The interior is like some kind of funky gallery you take your garbage to, sort and dispose of it. Everything here is fair game; walls, dumpsters and vehicles are covered in colorful designs, a portrait of Bozo hangs next to one of a sunglass-wearing Yoda, Mc5 and Elvira are close by.

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Huge cardboard boxes overflow with empty glass bottles, there’s a place for newspapers, magazines, plastics and batteries. A tangle of mufflers and exhaust pipes are the beginnings of a sculpture, paintings hang throughout the center. An endless stream of residents show up with bags and boxes of recyclables, music plays in the background, children are having a blast throwing things into their proper containers, neighbors and friends exchange friendly conversation. Outside used tires are stacked and used as planters, we walk around the immediate area, a manhole cover for the public lighting commission is dated 1916, buildings and bridges look long forgotten, a giant rat made from old pallets is situated on the lawn; artists have left there mark all over the district.

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Tucked inside the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is Cafe 78, a collaboration between Wright & Company and MOCAD, the dining space serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. We park in the lot and enter the building, people are milling about, an event has just finished. The museum is closed while the work on Woodward continues, the cafe remains open. The bar is the focal point of the wide-open space. We sit at the counter and sip on icy-cold water waiting for our food to arrive. The super creamy Mac and Cheese is served in a small ceramic bowl, corn and thinly sliced scallions are mixed in, a shredded cheese and breadcrumb topping add flavor and texture. The peameal bacon sliders are served on brioche buns with a honey mustard sauce, it’s a great flavor combination. The tomato mozzarella salad was larger than expected; a rainbow of summer’s juiciest tomatoes and red onions sit atop creamy pesto, topped with fresh herbs, sunflower shoots and olive oil–Delicious.

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8 Degrees Plato Beer Company on Cass had their soft opening Friday, we’re checking it out. The bar and bottle shop sells craft beer, mead, cider and has an area dedicated as the tap room. The building was most recently home to Mantra and Showcase Collectibles in the old Chinatown neighborhood; after a great deal of hard work, time and renovation the building looks amazing! The exterior features large windows surrounded by stone, old lettering on the building remains intact, inside they were able to keep the original tin ceiling and terrazzo floors. The reclaimed mahogany tables came from the former Agave restaurant as did the bar top, the bar back was constructed with oak from Cass Tech bookcases, shelving is made from old bleachers and antique bakers racks, old subway tiles and windows all work together creating a quaint, cool atmosphere.

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The 16 tap bar allows for a wonderful selection, we order 3 small pours: Oddside Mayan Mocha, Starcut Squishy and Right Brain Beaubiens Ribbon Farm sour mash red ale. Honestly, they were all great, but the Starcut Squishy semi-sweet cider with cherries really hit the spot, so we ordered another, full-size this time. It’s fascinating to just walk around looking at all the bottles; Michigan Craft Beers, regional beers, imports, Belgians, the list goes on. You can have a growler filled or pick up bottles, cans, 4 packs, 6 packs, cases– room temperature or ice cold. They sell snacks too, think Better Made chips, crackers, jam and jerky. 

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The transformation taking place in Detroit right now is incredible, astonishing. Buildings with impressive history or once beautiful facades and interiors, shuttered for years, are being uncovered, repurposed and used again. The recycling continues……..