Tag Archives: The Whitney

DETROIT: A Little Night Music

19 Apr

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It’s dusk when we arrive at the Detroit Yacht Club on the banks of Belle Isle, interior lights are just beginning to glow within. The building, designed by George Mason in the Mediterranean style was completed in 1922. We enter through revolving doors, ascend a stairway and find ourselves in the main lobby. Directly in front of us is the Detroit River, the view is spectacular. It is here the fairy-tale like evening begins.Tonight the Downtown Opera Club, one of 14 opera clubs across southeast Michigan, will be performing in the ballroom. Opera clubs present performances in local communities as a way of educating and entertaining both the novice and die-hard opera enthusiast. Programs feature the operas seen on stage that season at the Michigan Opera Theatre, during the evening the host talks about the operas, piquing interest in the upcoming season.

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We have a little time before the performance begins, we roam a bit taking in the beauty; amazing works of art come in form of paintings, sculptures and architecture. Peacock Alley, named after the Peacock Alley in the Waldorf Astoria where society ladies would have tea, is where a number of paintings hang, the elegant chandeliers came from Rose Terrace (the former Dodge mansion), arched windows line the exterior wall. Inside the ballroom rows of chairs have been set up in front of the massive fireplace, enormous chandeliers light the room, the gorgeous wood ceiling is over 3 stories; the room exudes an old-world charm. At the bar we have our choice of red or white wine or beer, one long table holds platters of cheeses and assorted crackers. Did I mention this event is free?

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We take our seats as does the pianist, after a brief introduction music and voices join together. The acoustics and beauty of the room create an incredible dynamic for the performers. Three men and two women take turns as soloists and ensembles, singing numbers from Macbeth and Magic Flute along with songs from My Fair Lady and Carousel. The showstopper of the evening was Leo Delibes Flower Duet. I don’t think a single person moved or took a breath for the 6 or 7 minute duration of the melody; it gave me goosebumps, some were moved to tears. It seems impossible for a piano and two voices to create such an enchanting, tranquil sound. Nearly two hours later the opera club finishes with the full ensemble singing the final number. 

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The only proper way to end such an evening is dessert at The Whitney. This magnificent mansion has stood on this spot at the corner of Woodward and Canfield since 1894. The Romanesque Revival residence, designed by Gordon W Lloyd, was the home of lumber baron David Whitney Jr. The rose-colored exterior is fitted with a slate roof, stone carvings and Tiffany stained glass windows. The interior is even more impressive with its bronze balustraded staircase, quarter-sawn oak, English tile and 20 fireplaces. The home has been a fine dining restaurant since 1986. We’re headed to the second floor, home to the Katherine Whitney McGregor dessert parlor, named after Mr. Whitney’s daughter.

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We climb the massive staircase, stopping on the landing to admire the 2-story Tiffany window, amazing woodwork and ornate light fixtures. The second floor was originally the ballroom and bedroom suites, tonight glass covered cake plates and multi-tiered stands hold cakes, tortes and individual pastries. We study the selection then are seated in a cozy candle-lit room. Our coffee is served with a tray of sugar cubes and 2 petite dishes of fresh whipped cream. The white chocolate marscapone cheesecake is topped with sliced bananas and cinnamon-roasted almonds, an amaretto glaze finishes it off. We’re also trying the miniature chocolate banana boat and the chocolate peanut butter mousse…..yum! I’ll be honest, they could serve Twinkies and we’d be happy just to be sitting here in this spectacular, grand, lavish place. Another magical night in Detroit…..

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Detroit: Out For The Evening

5 Jul

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We begin our evening in Eastern Market, we park in front of Cutter’s Bar & Grill and head inside, your stereotypical Detroit dive bar, good food, good times. The space is dark, I turn towards a television and let my eyes adjust, the Blues flows from a nearby speaker, the bartender tells us to sit anywhere we want. We take a high-top table in the bar area, surrounding conversation leads us to believe many of the patrons are regulars. Yellow paper menus are kept on the tables, we have a look. Burgers are the main feature here, the meat is fresh, never frozen, high quality and hand-pattied; you can get everything from a 4 oz slider to a full 1 pound burger. What catches my eye is the selection of “stuffed” burgers, I read the list of choices, they all sound good, but the 8 oz burger stuffed with pepper jack cheese and pepperoncini is definitely the winner. We wait for our food to arrive, the variety of music changes, some sing along, the restaurant is small and windowless giving no clue as to whether it is night or day. Our burger arrives in a basket along with a pile of hand-cut fries, I dress it up, cut it in half for us to share, and take a bite. The meat is perfectly cooked and tender, the cheese and pepper rings are  a tasty addition. The fries are delicious, there is no mistaking these for the typical frozen variety. When the burger is gone we linger long enough for Kris to finish his drink and then we are off; we have a party to go to!

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Detroit Mercantile on Russell Street is celebrating its 1st Anniversary and we’re invited. This is one of those shops where you just want to buy everything; each shelf, every display and item is presented in an attractive way. Each item, whether new or vintage is carefully chosen; the store specializes in goods Made in the USA, many are made in Michigan and even more are made right here in Detroit. A large american flag hangs from the back wall, on a nearby shelf I see a vintage roller skate, old Faygo pop cans and a beer stein from Stroh’s. There’s a huge variety of books, they all have something to do with the motor city, I find them stacked on an antique safe and on lovely old trunks. If you are in the market for a Detroit-centric T-shirt, look no further, they have many to choose from. From purses, jackets and Stormy Kromer hats to tins of Better Made chips, handmade chocolates and Germack gift baskets, the store has something for everyone.

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We proceed through the showroom into the warehouse, this area is reserved as rental space for parties, weddings and events such as tonight. Immediately in front of us on the floor a pair of acrobats are in the middle of their routine, in the distance a woman is sifting through guests on stilts. In the center of the room  a young woman is performing on the aerial ring, to the left a juggler takes turns throwing a set of three pins into the air; these would all be members of the Detroit Flyhouse Circus. The space is super cool;’ exposed brick and block walls, red ceiling beams and polished concrete floors. Folding chairs are scattered about the space, a cozy sitting area to the right includes a couch and comfy chairs. A representative from Civilized Vodka (Traverse City) is making drinks with Faygo soda pop, next to him they are serving up coffee made from Great Lakes coffee beans. Whole Foods has set up an amazing buffet of cheese, fruit, crackers and wraps, so much to taste! We wander about in the 5000 sq ft warehouse, a weathered car from an old amusement park ride sits off to one side. In the year that The Detroit Mercantile has been in business we have seen them grow from a small showroom, to a larger showroom with the added rental space. The owners started with a nice variety of goods and now carry everything from jewelry and leather goods to Carhart clothing and bicycles, I can’t wait to see what they do next!

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Before turning in for the evening we make one last stop; the Ghost Bar at the Whitney. We enter through the oversized wooden doors, this 1894 mansion turned restaurant is absolutely stunning! We go directly up the magnificent stairway, passing by elegant stained glass windows, to the third floor. The room is gorgeous; the unique barrel-vaulted ceiling is highlighted with narrow wooden beams, the original skylight is still in tact. We have ourselves a seat at one of the few round tables scattered about and order up cocktails. We sip our drinks surrounded by the elegance of days gone by.

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