Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Slice of...Detroit, Michigan!

This week, my "Slice of" feature takes us to Detroit, Michigan, where the lovely Amanda will be giving us the grand tour. I really enjoyed reading all about her hometown...and now I just wish she had a blog we could all enjoy! (hint, hint!)

Slice of...

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.

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.

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 CafĂ© 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.


  1. from what i've heard (though the only time i've been to detroit was stopping over at the airport, unfortunately), detroit is one of the leading cities in urban agriculture--which i think is very cool. i love that the local/organic foods movement is finally becoming popular. so thank you for sharing about your city!

  2. It seems to be a beautiful place! It makes me feel like taking a trip!

  3. No doubt this is a fantastic place.... I also wanna a trip there....Hope I really get a delicious meal over there and having lot of fun just like you....

  4. wow. that school is breathtaking. it must be amazing to go there to work every day. thanks so much for the glimpse into your hometown!

  5. Being from Detroit myself, this post made me smile. Wonderful job on all the amazing things that are going on and it's great to see it! Now I can't wait to take a trip back and check out some of those tasty cafes listed. :)

  6. Oh my gosh I was so excited to see Detroit! I live in the suburbs and work in the city and it is by far my favorite US city. So many people see the city as a decrepit old place full of crumbling buildings and crime. I won't deny that almost every other building is abandoned, but Detroit has so much potential and many young people are trying to help bring the city back.

  7. I'm originally from Michigan too, and spent a lot of time in Detroit. This is the nicest, most heartwarming summary of Detroit I've ever read! Mostly you always hear about how its Decaying, the crime, the gloom. Thanks for shedding some bright light on Motor City. From a fellow michigander! :)

  8. Great feature. Any city with that much fresh, flavorful food has my vote. There is a great video series about young people bringing new life to Detroit.

  9. Awesome...I'm originally from just outside Detroit...thanks for doing us right!

  10. Wow, now I know why some of the family I have living up there is always telling me to visit! That market looks amazing.

  11. ahhh, danielle, i am so happy to see this post!! detroit's my city! <3 a lot of people are 'afraid' of it, but there is so much to see &do if you ignore the stereotypes &get out &enjoy yourself! i LOVE polish village! mmm, dill pickle soup is the BEST!! &mcs breaks my heart with its crumbling beauty.. i hope it gets put to good use someday soon. being an architecture freak, i must mention this.. don't forget about the beautiful (&successful!) lafayette park! it's my dream to live in one of the two-story town homes! thanks, amanda, for including our great city in this post!! xoxo

  12. I'm so happy and proud to live in Michigan. This post definitely showed some of the places you can go around Detroit!!
    I've lived in Detroit for four years while i was going to school and it was the best thing ever!

    I enjoy going to the eastern market. They have some sweet little antique shop there.

    Detroit has so much offer.
    Other cute places to go to is Good Girls Gone To Paris. They sell crepes, hot cocoa, and the the wallpapers are filled with French movies.

    Cass avenue has a some good restaurants and shops.

  13. I would love to know where you found that Detroit Is For Lovers t-shirt featured at the bottom of your blog!

  14. Wow! Thanks so much guys for all the feedback. And I am so delighted to see so much Michigan love on here. : )

  15. If you want to see more love for the city, check out SweetJuniper's newest post. He updated his city guide.
    @SP - my husband & I watched that series and loved it!
    @Nicole - that's honestly the first time I've seen those townhomes. How wonderful.
    @Hanny - I so wanted to included good girls go to paris! There was so much more I wanted to put in here and there's just not enough space.
    @KwatieWarms - The tshirt is at a stand right outside of easter market. They have some really great ones. They're supposed to get a storefront soon. Check 'em out!

  16. It's wonderful reading about the beauty and culture of Detroit. I grew up in Windsor, Ontario, Canada (the Canadian city which borders Detroit) and whenever I mentioned where I was from in University people made crime rate jokes. There is so much more to the Motor City. The theater there is great, the sports, the music scene...people tend to forget the positive. Great post!

  17. I'm so excited to see Detroit on here! I'm a michigander -a person who uses their hand as a map- and love the local vibe. It's beautiful, the people are wonderful, but we have a bad rep (which just makes us cool). Also, Mae's rocks!!! Come visit!

  18. As a Michigander I'm happy to see Detroit here. I just saw a pretty good film about the school where Amanda works.