I feel so lucky to be able to give everyone a little taste of Detroit. Thank you to Danielle for this opportunity. I’m Amanda – a high school English teacher, wife, baker, blog reader. I’ve grown up and lived in Michigan all my life. Michiganders can get a bad rap for many reasons, but I would love to shine some light on the good stuff - the little things that can bring enjoyment to us that live here and make us take pride in our city, even when in some ways it’s crumbling around us.
This is me at the high school I teach at. Isn’t it amazingly beautiful? It was built in 1926 and was the first high school in the US to cost more than a million dollars. Those large windows on the front of the building shine light into library where Henry Ford used to hold meetings surrounded carved wood walls and a large fireplace. I am lucky to be able to come here for work each day.
Let me start off with how my husband and I like to start every weekend, a great breakfast. One of the best places to eat is a little place up Woodward called Mae’s. Last year our friend Sean (above) and his wife Jess opened this place up. They have everything you could ever want, made from scratch, in the cutest little retro cafe ever. Mae’s serves Avalon Bakery Bread, Great Lakes coffee, and the list of local foods and drinks goes on. Last weekend we stopped in and I enjoyed the potato latkes served with sour cream and homemade applesauce. What?! How many places serve homemade, cinnamon spiced applesauce? Yum. http://www.maesdetroit.com/
Another great stop on a weekend morning is the Eastern Market. This place has been selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and baked goods since 1891. They recently built beautiful, huge sheds to enclose a lot of the open-air market and this allows for them to be open year round. Every time I go there, I have a renewed sense of energy for what’s going on in the city. There’s locally grown food and people are everywhere. That’s my husband above buying a bushel of brussel sprouts. MMMmmm. And below that you’ll see me buying Avalon Bakery cookies, some buttery almond croissants, and the cutest little coffee car. By now you should be getting a feel for what my husband and I enjoy – pretty places and good food. http://www.
This store is A-ma-zing. It’s located right in Eastern Market’s square, so you can stop in every weekend after you pick up your fruits and veggies. R. Hirt Jr. has everything from imported cheeses to handmade baskets. Last weekend we picked up a couple small gifts for friends and some delicious sage infused cheese. I love cooking with sage but don’t always have it in the house. Now, anytime I want that sage flavor, I can just grate a little bit of this cheese into a dish and, as my husband says, it tastes like a Christmas tree. But I think he means it in the very best way.
There’s so much history here. And so much beautiful architecture too. When you see it all, sometimes you have to see past the shattered glass and decaying structure. Or maybe those details are part of the beauty here. This is Michigan Central Station where the last train pulled away in 1988. You can see this landmark stand above other buildings with its ornate columns and broken windows. The mere size of it reminds us all of a once thriving city. It’s easy to see the destruction around us and watch depressing stories stream the news, but there is so much beauty here.
If you pass the train station you can head into a wonderful area, Mexican Town. Something you’ll notice when you look around is the number of families walking the sidewalks. Mexican Town seems to have been able to hold onto a strong, tight-knit community even through the hard economic times. They’ve also been able to hold onto their tasty foods. There are two bakeries I love to visit here – La Gloria Bakery and Mexican Town Bakery. We go there to get the freshest tortillas, tamales, churros, tres leches, and coke - made with real sugar.
Another area of the city that has been able to hold onto its cultural heritage is Hamtramck, an area with a large Polish population. This little chunk of the city has a special place in my heart because it’s where I lived when I started dating my husband. I got my first teaching job, was living cheaply, and was curing all my hangovers with the most delicious dill pickle soup a girl has ever tasted. Going to the Polish Village Café feels like you’re going into your Grandma’s basement to eat her homemade pierogies filled with potato, kraut and mushrooms, and farmer’s sweet cheese. If you haven’t had fresh pierogies, you’ve never really eaten pierogies at all.
I know this isn’t a cooking feature, but I love to think about how food goes from farmer’s market to our plates. To me, this represents what the city is able to provide us with. And look how yummy that is? I made butternut squash and pea risotto. Usually I throw some sage in, so this time I shredded up that vibrant marbled cheese right into the risotto. And instead of stopping there, I decided to coat some in flower and fry them. This was my first time trying to make risotto cakes and they came out wonderfully. The herby sage flavor definitely added to the fall comfort flavors. Then I chopped all those brussel sprouts off the stalk and roasted them in a pan with some apples and bacon. Once they were tender I tossed them in red wine vinegar. My husband was a happy man that night.
There really is so much more to this city. Young people, artists, musicians, everyday people, are trying to reverse the effects of years of hardship. The museums are wonderful, there’s urban farming blossoming, new shops and restaurants are trying to get rolling daily. It’s easy for even Michiganders to write off Detroit and not pay attention to all the culture, growth, and life happening here.