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The Week In Yum July 17-July 30 - Two Weeks Actually - Ottawa and A Taco Bus at the Eaton Centre

I am actually covering two weeks in my week in yum because I missed last week as I was busy being a tourist in Ottawa. I will be spending lots of time there this August and so I will be cooking less but eating out more as I travel back and forth to divide my time between The Kid and Shack.

Alysha Brilla and her kick ass female horn section

On Saturday, July 18 I had been invited to go down to Woodbine Park by Two Oceans to have a glass of wine and check out some music as part of the Jazz Festival. I hate big crowds so the chance to sit in the VIP area and watch the bands was an offer I could not refuse ( I love what the Jazz Festival does for my Beaches neighbourhood but I can't go myself). Along with some tasty beverages, we heard this amazing young Tanzanian Canadian singer/songwriter, Alysha Brilla 
Imagine Amy Winehouse if Amy Winehouse had a bit of a reggae vibe, was full of positive energy and light and taught yoga instead of drank lots of booze and wrote songs about self destructing.
We both LOVED her and you will too so go check her out.

I spent the rest of the week in Ottawa, eating and being good a Canadian tourist. I have to say, Ottawa is a really pretty city and a great place to visit in the summer time. The bike path along the Rideau Canal is gorgeous and although they don't have bixie bikes, they do have a brand new bike share program called VeloGo Bike Share. It's more expensive at $5/hr as opposed to Bixie's $5 for 24 hours but the bikes are brand new and it's in its infancy, so I downloaded the app and set off on my shiny, new green bike down the canal. We visited the War Museum and while Shack worked, I watched the changing of the guard, took a boat tour, rode my bike and just explored our nation's capitol.

I will spend the rest of the summer going back and forth from Ottawa, since the old ball and chain is working there so be on the lookout for lots of restaurant sharing. I will give more detailed accounts of the places I have been to and like so far next week, so for now, here are the places I have been happy with:

Ace Mercado

Ace Mercado is a trendy, Mexicanish joint in Byward Market is a great place for tasty cocktails and decent food. They are not the best tacos I have ever had but they are good and they have a half price deal where you can get a "flight" of tacos (4 different types, two of each) that is perfect for sharing over drinks.

Wilf and Adas

Wilf & Ada's calls themselves a "from scratch diner" and that would appear to be exactly what they are. I had a delicious corn/potato soup and Shack had that giant Dagwood Club Sandwich, full of real, roast chicken, bacon, chopped egg, crispy onions, cheese and honey mustard and mayo. It was so big and filling that he actually had to have the second halve wrapped up to take to work. 

Ola Cocina

On the map, it looked like this place was far from downtown but, in reality, Ottawa is so condensed that it was just over the bridge a few minutes drive east of Byward Market. A little blue house sits on the corner with tables outside and great, fresh food is being banged out in the small kitchen. Shack really loved his Huevos Divorciados - we both love a place that serves eggs all day, and my trio of tacos were also very good. The tortillas were clearly freshly made on site, both the pico de gallo and the salsa were also fresh and delicious. I will be back here for sure.

LowerTown Brewery 

I popped into Lowertown brewery not knowing what to expect since too many places in Byward Market seem happy to serve subpar, overpriced food to tourists but I had heard good things. Because I was alone, I only got to try a kale/sausage soup, which was delicious and tasted homemade and those really great, fat, potato wedges and a glass of cider. Based on that quick lunch, I will also be back here for a meal with the boys this coming weekend. 

RichTree Taco Bus

RIchTree Natural Market Restaurants operates a mini food court that occupies the southern food court of the Eaton Centre right by the Queen St exit. It looks like a regular food court, but, in reality, all of the different outlets are owned and operated by Richtree (they used to own Marche and so it's a very similar thing going on). It's a market style restaurant where you can go and each person in your group can eat what they like under the umbrella of one parent restaurant - I get some tacos, The Kid can grab sushi and Shack can have pizza, pay together and all sit together and eat. Despite offering traditional food court fare, Richtree endeavours to use all natural, in season ingredients so it's elevated food court dining.

When they decided to add a Mexican menu, they wanted to something a bit different so, instead of just putting it in another stall, sandwiched between the sushi and the juice bar, they dissected a 2,500 lb VW microbus and had it moved into the Eaton Centre where it was put back together and turned it into a taco bus and it is ADORABLE. Okay, a cute concept is important but if the food is not up to snuff, what's the point?

I am happy to report that the food is good. I tried guacamole (absolutely fresh, simple, delicious guacamole), a spicy chicken taco, a fish taco, a chipotle beef taco and a chicken burrito. I will order that fish taco every time I am forced to shop at the Eaton Centre from now on. The fish is crispy, not greasy, the slaw is crunchy and  Executive chef, Andre Walker was formerly the Corporate Chef for Pusateri's before moving on to the Distillery Restaurant Corp, where he was responsible for overseeing four restaurants including El Catrin, so he knows a thing or two about tacos. 

Like the guacamole, the tacos taste fresh and natural and can stand up against most tacos served in the myriad of trendy taco places scattered about the city. The flavours are a bit more muted than I would like but they have to appeal to a wide audience so, although I would prefer more chipotle in the chipotle beef, I understand and there is lots of Mexican hot sauce for those of us that like more of a kick to our Mexican food. 


-          Pollo Chilorio (Chicken)
o   Pollo chilorio, black bean puree, xni pec, cilantro, green onion, cotija
-          Chipotle Braised Res (Beef)
o   Chipotle braised res, salsa verde, pickled onion, cilantro, cotija 
-          Hearts of Palm (Veggie)
o   Orange and guajillo hearts of palm, guacamole, chipotle mayo lettuce, pickled onion, cilantro, cotija
-          Baja (Fish)
o   Crispy fried cod, beer batter, chipotle lime dressing, coleslaw, cilantro
All tacos are $3.69 each or three for $9.99.

-          Pollo Chilorio
o   Pollo chilorio, black bean puree, xin pec, gouda, lettuce, chipotle mayo and rice
-          Chipotle Braised Res
o   Chipotle braised res, salsa verde, Oaxaca, rice, lettuce, cilantro and chipotle sauce
-          Hearts of Palm
o   Orange and guajillo hearts of palm, rice, guacamole, pickled onion, cotija, cilantro, lettuce and orange aioli
All Burritos are $9.99 each.

I attended a media preview and got to taste all of my food without charge and, of course , my opinions are absolutely my own

The Grover

I just want to give a shout out to my local pub, The Grover. We started going to The Grover when we first moved to this place and I was pregnant. Every week we went for wing night and played trivia and after The Kid was born, we continued to go all the time with baby in tow. At some point, there was a fire and it closed down for a long time and after it finally reopened, it was never really the same. The food was never as dependable and we slowly stopped going.

Fast forward to a year or so back, new owners took over, started serving a huge array of craft beers, totally revamped the menu and added fun theme nights like Karaoke night, a "choir" night where people can sit around and sip beer and basically engage in a sing a long, which becomes more appealing the older I get.

I am happy to report that after a bumpy start, the food is fast becoming consistently good pub grub (have to be honest, I just sent back my salmon last night because it looked like hospital food and was bland and boring so just stay away from the salmon). The burger on the pretzel bun is a good bet, as are the wings, fries are crispy, most of the daily soups have been good and the beer selection is excellent. Again, this is good pub grub so don't go expecting earth shattering cuisine but for crispy hot wings and a pint of Beau's while you sing old Beetle songs, you can't beat it in the Beach.

The Week in Yum July 10-16 A Whole Lot of Netflix Going On

Shack said I look like a Ninja Chef

Since I have spent almost the entire week closeted inside my house, fighting off some nasty lung infection, I have nothing to share, in terms of where I went or what I ate so I will share some of the cool stuff I have seen on the internet. Being sick means lots and lots of time on the internet.

It also means a ton of Netflix so I worked my way through the Danish series, Rita which is a crash course on how much more socially advanced the Danish are when it comes to sex, drugs, education and every other issue that North Americans think are too scandalous to discuss with kids. It's clearly a show that a family would watch in the evening - think My So Called Life but with nudity, swearing, pot smoking, rampant drinking, gay teens making out, abortion and chain smoking. Actually, the only backlash this show received in Denmark was about the lead characters constant chain smoking, always right outside the school doors as she greets smiling blond children on their way in and out of the school. If you like that, there is a short, spin off season called Hjordis  with a different teacher taking the lead that deals beautifully with bullying and a boy in grade one who wants to be a girl.
BAM, try that on NBC during prime time.

I did manage to get myself together enough to cook at a Dietician's Class at Loblaws on Thursday night (thank God for antibiotics) and I actually learned a few tricks myself. Maxine Silberg is a lovely young woman who is a Loblaws dietician and she was a wealth of knowledge on the topic of seeds. I certainly cook with lots of pumpkin and sesame seeds and I love quinoa but that was about the extent of my seed repertoire. The chef doesn't cook their own recipes at these classes so it's all stuff I haven't tasted before and I will admit, I was leery about using chia seeds as a binder for meatloaf in place of egg and breadcrumbs, but it works beautifully! For people with egg allergies or gluten issues, this a wonderful solution for meatloaf, meatballs etc. I am going to experiment with it and report back with a recipe.

You can teach an old dog new tricks.
Also, did you know you can book an appointment with the store dietician and it's free? You can do a walk through of the store or a sit down to talk about specific health/food concerns. Did I mention that it's free?

I did manage to publish three posts that I had written this week:

My thoughts on how the food scene is playing a huge role in bringing that city back to life

as well, I also posted my restaurant review roundup from my trip to Detroit

I also managed to get around the sharing my first two recipes using my Yonanas, which I love

Okay, enough about me.

My kitchen assistant and I made salted butter-dipped radishes for a dear friend's "French-y" birthday picnic today. // I...
Posted by Not Without Salt on Saturday, July 11, 2015

This video from Amy Shumer won the internet this week. Okay, she almost always wins the internet. 

Awkward First Date Gets Live Tweeted and It's Glorious

I have saved the best for last. This is why I will always adore my hometown.

For those of you who are not from Toronto, this happened this past week and is precisely why I adore my hometown
Posted by The Yum Yum Factor on Thursday, July 16, 2015

Another wonderful Toronto Artist and his fabulous Instagram feed

I am not exactly sure how this travel story app works, but I think it's really cool


Will Food Save Detroit? I Think It Just Might

Meet Godwin Ihentuge, one of the faces of the new Detroit

abandoned buidlings like the former Central Train Station, while hauntingly beautiful, are a reminder that there is still much work to do

When I say Detroit, what comes to mind? Do you think of the abandoned buildings that abound in the city? Do you think of the fact that the population has dwindled from over 2 million down to 700,000? Maybe you think about the dying auto industry, the lost jobs, the bankrupt, failed pillar of the American Dream.

Well, those things might be true, to an extent, but to write Detroit off is short sighted. I just spent a weekend in downtown Detroit and the city that I experienced is full of energy, hope and, most importantly to me, really great food. I did not consume one morsel of food that did not wow me. Every restaurant that I set foot in was beautifully designed, bright and airy and staffed with knowledgable, excited young locals who are so happy that you are there that they bend over backwards to show you the Detroit that they are building. These people are innovative, energized and committed and are making something big out of next to nothing.

One of those people is Godwin Ihentuge, but before I can talk about Godwin, I have to tell you about Nathan.

Shepard Fairey has helped transform the alleyway behind the gallery into an outdoor gallery space

We arrived in Detroit on a cold, windy, rain soaked Saturday afternoon. The minute we dropped our bags off at The Hilton Doubletree, we had the hotel shuttle take us straight to the Library Street Collective to see the Shepard Fairey exhibit. Because Fairey also painted up a storm in the alley (along with work from other artists- the alley is gorgeous), we wandered around the building, in the rain, and then, on the recommendation of the ever helpful gallery maven, Angela, we ran over to Wright & Co for a drink and something to eat (more about that restaurant later). After a pleasant hour spent sipping rose, snacking on burrata and tuna tartare, we thought we would just go outside and flag a cab, as you do in any big city, and continue on to the next restaurant on my list.

toasting the start of a remarkable weekend at Wright & Co

Lesson #1:
Cabs are not plentiful in Detroit, don't plan on flagging one and Uber doesn't work with foreign credit cards (you have to set up paypal which you can't do through the app on the fly, as it happens) so if you are not American, get that sorted beforehand. We had to brave the rain once again and walked until we hit a hotel, thinking, again wrongly, that like any other big city, cabs would be waiting by the curb in front of the Westin. Although there was an abundance of door men lingering outside of the beautiful front doors, there was not one taxi waiting curbside so when Shack finally saw a yellow taxi cruising by, he ran out and waved at it wildly and the cab did a U turn and came to get us.

Serendipity sent this cab driver to us. Nathan Liverman was personable and chatty and asked where we were from, was this our first visit to Detroit, etc. When I told him that we were there so that I could write about the emerging food scene in the city, he lit up! He told us a bit about Bamboo City,  a group he is involved in that supports and encourages young Detroitonians (does that sound right?) to become entrepreneurs. Bamboo Detroit is expanding to the Julian C Madison building and will offer about 70,000 square feet of space of entreprenurial buzz. There will be pop up space, a free resource library, 10,000 square feet of co working space, event space, a light manufacturing facility as well as retail and restaurant space. Formed in 2013 by a team of four Detroit businessmen, this amazing place gives its members 24/7 access to shared office space, conference rooms, wi-fi, a mailing address, etc and, most importantly, a huge community of support. Nathan, it turns out,  has a management company called LIVEtown Music, thanks to Bamboo Detroit.

He drops us off at the Seldon Standard, wishes us a wonderful visit and we think that we have seen the last of him but, sadly, we could not get a seat and had to venture out in search of another place to go. After a disastrous couple of hours wandering Midtown in the rain, dropping my camera in a puddle and ending up at a collegiate style brew pub that was packed and totally not what we needed, I called him (he gave me his card, right??) to see if he can come rescue us. He is about 15 minutes away, so, because we are idiots, we tell him that we will just call a cab instead and ask the manager of the brewpub to do that. It was 20 minutes later, still cabless, that we realized this was a huge mistake but that tale is for another story and another day.

Fast forward to the following morning and we are buying tons of beautiful, cloth bound, hardcover note books from the Shinola store in midtown. Shack gets a call and hands me the phone, shrugging and saying that someone wants to talk to me. It's a local number and I do have a couple of friends and a cousin in the area so I take the phone. Godwin Ihentuge is on the other end and he wants to invite me to come to a place called Yemans Street to meet him as well as the owner of the place and a chef who cooks brunch there every Sunday. Nathan has contacted Godwin and told him about the lady from Toronto who is writing about the food scene and was sad that she couldn't connect with anyone in the pop up restaurant world and Godwin, as it happens, is from the pop up world.

Is it wise to drive to a neighbourhood you have never been to, in a city that still has some very dangerous neighbourhoods and meet some guy with a name you can't pronounce just because he has dangled a pop up chef and some brunch in front of your nose?
Probably not, but that is exactly what we did.

Yemans Street is a permanent pop up hosting spot that opened in September of 2014 by husband and wife team, Matt and Corrie Tinker. This place is so new that I had to spend a day getting Zomato to add it to it's data base.

 If you know Detroit, it's across the street from the iconic Polish Village Cafe and apart from a little chalkboard signboard out front, you might walk right by it but once you open the door, you are immediately wowed by the bright, airy space that can easily sit about 60 people. From Thursday to Saturday they offer a revolving door of chefs, from Detroit and beyond,  cooking dinners that require pre-booking by patrons and on Sunday, they are open for walk in  brunch. At this time, the regular brunch chef is Jeremy Kalmus. He and Godwin had just pulled off a HUGE pop up for over 600 on the previous Friday. It's a small that menu changes weekly, depending on what he finds at the market and what he feels like cooking. The idea for the Korean Schmear Lox and Bagel that I am served came to owner, Matt, in a dream and is a one off menu item. Who knows what his dreams will tell him to serve next Sunday?

Tater tots, cheese sauce, fresh salsa, scallion, scrambled eggs, avocado and lime crema for $10

Poppy seed bagel, wasabit cream cheese, smoked salmon, kimchi, capers, pickled red onion for $13 

owners, Corrie and Matt Tinker and Chef Jeremy Kalmus

So, back to Godwin. After attempting to chef his own pop ups, he realized that he was spending 80% of his energy on trying to get something off the ground and arranging the business end and about 20% of his energy on the actual food. This gave him an idea..... what chefs really need is an agent. In a city like Detroit where too many talented young people don't have the means to open up a brick and mortar restaurant or a food truck, the pop up restaurant has become huge but the logistics can be daunting. This is where Godwin and his company, Yum Village, comes in.

Yum village will do all of the business of the pop up for the chef. The find the right venue, take care of all of the needed permits and insurance, source everything that is needed for the event and arrange all rentals of said stuff, figure out the kitchen set up and, most importantly, market and promote the event. At that point, all the featured chef has to worry about is the food.



The night before I arrived in Detroit, Godwin, along with Chef Kalmus, hosted a sold out event for 650 people at the Eastern Market. He is calling this event PNO, or Professionals Night Out and it provided an opportunity for Detroit's entrepreneurs (this word is very important in Detroit), professionals, foodies and creative people to network over a great meal, drinks and an afterparty. Godwin's dream is to expand PNO until it becomes a semi annual event that is held, simultaneously, in multiple cities across the country. Sadly, I tried to get tickets before I left but it was already sold out and I had not yet met Godwin but I will absolutely make my way to Detroit for the next one.

After spending just under 48 hours in Detroit, I am just as excited as these good people are about the future of the city and if it's food scene is any indication, they way back to Detroit's heart is going to be brought through it's stomach.

If you are planning to go to Detroit, I cannot recommend Nathan highly enough:

  1. (DTW) Airport Pickup/Drop off-- (1-2 people, $55) (3 people, $65) (4-6 people $75) *This is not priced per person.
  2. Canada Pickup/Drop off-- (1-2 people $60) (3 people $70) (4-6 people $80) *This is not priced per person.
  3. For hire service rate per hour is $45.00.  
  4. City Tours--  (2 hours) Adults $59, Seniors/Students $49, 17 & Under $20 ( include complimentary Downtown pick-up and return).
  5. Payment methods include cash, credit/debit cards, and bitcoin. 

Yemans Street

Yum Village

Book a Ride with Nathan

PNO Detroit

Bamboo Detroit

The Library Street Collective Gallery


Chambord Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Spekulas Cookie Butter Yonanas

I have been using my Yonanas machine constantly since it got here and I have to tell you, I love it. My only regret is that I didn't have this thing when the kid was little because, if I did, I would have made him this stuff every day of his little life.

I used to try to make "ice cream" from frozen bananas with a blender and a food processor but it would get over whipped and gummy and I just gave up and kept buying the Haagen Daz. I do have a soft serve ice cream machine as well as the attachment for my kitchen aid but the main drawback to those machines, apart from all the cream and sugar, is the fact that I have to make room for the big drum in my freezer and I have to know I want to make ice cream 24 hours in advance to make sure the drum spends that time chilling in the freezer, where I have had to remove a turkey to make room for it so every time we make ice cream, we eat turkey dinner.

With this thing, you just plug it in. That's it. You make sure to always have fruit in the freezer, which I do because we love smoothies and that's it. You can peel your bananas and pop them in freezer bags and just take a couple out every time you want ice cream. Throw in about a cup of frozen berries or mango or whatever other fruit you have in there and that's all you have to do. You can get fancy and add crushed up cookies, chocolate chips or peanut butter but it's really delicious with nothing but banana and strawberries, to be honest. There is no sugar, no dairy, no egg, no custard - just fruit. It's rich and creamy and the first time I served it to the boys, neither of them would believe that there was no cream in it.

In our house, the only sweet that is always around is ice cream. All three of us love ice cream and Shack, my picky toddler, is very particular about his. He is a Haagen Daz Strawberry addict.It's a problem. So far, he has been so satisfied with a bowl of straight up strawberry banana yonanas that we haven't bought ice cream in weeks, so, so far so good. Is it fatty and creamy like ice cream? No, of course not but I am telling you, I am not missing that aspect one bit with this thing and that means I can eat "ice cream" every day. I can eat it for breakfast since it's just fruit in there and if you care about such things, it's vegan too. So far, we have eaten every batch as soon as I make it and I can't really vouch for how well it holds up upon putting it in the freezer for later but I will be making some things that will require freezing so I will let you know as I go along.

In the spirit of coming up with some fun flavours, I have been playing around with adding all kinds of things. Fresh mint is quite nice but I was not so happy with my attempt at adding coconut milk frozen in ice cube trays. Chocolate is always good so if in doubt, throw some chopped dark chocolate in.

Instead of just scooping it into a bowl, I used these little chocolate lined wafer cups that I was given called Chococup from Chocobella . Originally intended as an edible cup for espresso, they make great, single serving cups for desserts. Once you finish your yonanas, you can eat the cup. No bowl to wash, no waste - it's a double win.

I will be getting fancier in over the summer and I have plans to make yonanas sandwiches and do something fun with a waffle but, for now, I will just share two of my favourite combos that we have all agreed on.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that because it's nothing but frozen fruit


I received my Yonanas machine free to try out and review. All opinions are my own, I can't be bought yadda yadda yadda.

Chambord Dark Chocolate Yonanas

serves 2

170g (6oz) raspberries
2 tbls chambord
2 frozen bananas
50g dark chocolate, chopped and frozen
soak the washed raspberries in chambord for about an hour and then put them in a freezer bag, with the chambord and juices, lay it out in the bag in a single layer and freeze overnight.
the chocolate and whole bananas must also be frozen at least overnight.

When it's time to make ice cream, remove the berries, bananas and chocolate from the freezer and let sit out ten minutes. Turn on the yonanas machine. Chop the bananas in half.  Insert one piece banana and then a bit of the berries and use the reamer to push down. Now add some chocolate, then banana, then berries, alternating until all the ingredients are used up but ending with the banana. Give the "ice cream" a good stir to blend well and serve.

Cherry Spekulas Cookie Butter

serves 2

150g (approx1 cup) pitted cherries
2 frozen bananas
1 heaping tbls spekulas cookie butter (from Trader Joe)

Remove the cherries and bananas from the freezer and let sit out for ten minutes. Turn on the Yonanas machine, half the bananas and feed in half a banana and a quarter of the cherries. Use the reamer to push the fruit down. Add the spekulas cookie butter, another half of banana and more cherries. Alternate the cherries and banana until all the fruit is gone, give it a good stir to mix well and serve.

Don't have a cherry pitter? Me neither. If you have a chopstick and a clean, empty beer or wine bottle (or in my case, a gin bottle) you just pop the cherry on the mouth of the bottle, stem up, pluck out the stem and then plunge the chopstick through the spot where the stem was attached. Out pops the pit into the bottle and you have a pitted cherry.
It's even more fun because you have to drink whatever was in the bottle first.

Eating My Way Across Detroit

a toast at Wright and Company starts off a 1.5 day eating bacchanal 

So, when I told people I was taking a road trip to Detroit to eat, most of them looked at me like I had three heads.


Yes, Detroit has suffered in recent years and it's downtown population has shrunk from 2.5 million to about 700,000. It's more famous for it's hauntingly beautiful, derelict buildings than it's former, GM fueled, glory but walking around downtown, you can imagine what this place was like in it's hey day. Detroit was the ultimate showpiece of the American Dream and it's downfall was dramatic and swift, weighed down with corruption and a huge economic and social disparity.

view from the delightful People Mover

All of that may be true but the Detroit of today is experiencing a renaissance of sorts and it's an exciting place to be right now. Young chefs, entrepreneurs , artists and movers and shakers are working their asses off to breath life back into their city so instead of deserting Detroit, they are staying put. After years of an intense pop up restaurant scene, amazing brick and mortar establishments are popping up all over the city and I don't think we visited one place that has been open for longer than a year and a half.

Book this trip

best view of the Shepard Fairey Mural on the back of the Compuserve building is from the People Mover

Sure, there are still challenges for the visitor who is used to big city conveniences. Hailing a taxi is little more than a pipe dream but thanks to Uber, which is thriving here, you can still get around. Hotels are well maintained and comfortable and staff is lovely but the customer service you might have come to expect from high end hotels is kind of hit and miss. You need to relax, be patient, plan ahead a bit and go with the flow and I promise you, you will leave with a full belly and a smile on your face, planning your next visit.

I will write about some of the people I met who are working to build this city back up and some of the things that you must experience when you are there, but, for now, here are the restaurants that we checked out in our whirlwind day and a half trip. Take note that I usually just don't talk about the places I don't like but in this case, I did not leave one place off the list because every place we ate in was wonderful.

It's an easy 4-5 hour drive from Toronto (a little closer than Montreal and we think nothing of driving to Montreal for the weekend, right?) and Virgin US now flies in and out. Trust me, if you want to experience a city that is exploding with amazing talent and energy, get off your ass and get to Detroit.

photo: Shack Shackleton

P.S. If you can swing a trip before Aug 15, you can catch the amazing Shepard Fairey exhibit that I wrote about here

Wright & Co

On the recommendation of Angela at Library Street Collective Gallery, which is right around the corner and a place you must visit as well, our very first restaurant on our trip to Detroit was Wright and Company. We arrived about 30 minutes after their 4pm opening and easily grabbed a table by the windows but within another 30 minutes, the place was almost completely packed, so take heed.

Housed in the historic Wright Building in the heart of downtown, you can only reach this second floor eatery by elevator, which sort of adds to it's already abundant charm. Greeted with a great selection of wine, beer and craft cocktails and an array of sharing plates, we were both very happy to be there.

I ordered a glass of Lini 910 "Labrusca Lambrusco Rose", a Italian sparkling rose for a very reasonable $9, Shack had a Stiegl Grapefruit Radler for $7, also very reasonable for such a busy, popular spot. We devoured a bowl of Moroccan Spiced Cashews ($6) while we sipped our drinks. I don't even know if you could buy a bag of cashews for $6, never mind nuts that were this delicious. We actually returned at the end of the night with friends and those nuts were the perfect late night nibble.

Next up was a plate of soft little pillows of burrata cheese sitting on top of thin peach slices, drizzled in maple syrup, with some spicy micro greens, pomegranate seeds and a really delicious sesame brittle. ($11) That was quickly followed by the tuna tartare with spicy mayo, crispy wonton chips and a drizzle of sweet soy sauce. ($14) Both plates were beautiful to look at , fresh and delicious as well as very generous for these prices. We were very happy campers.

We can never pass up a charcuterie plate and this one ($13) was, again, surprisingly large with a great selection of treats.

Our server could not have been friendlier or more helpful, giving us wonderful suggestions for other places to try while we were in the city and seemed truly thrilled to see us back later that night. The restaurant is beautiful, with high, tin ceilings, beautiful fans, chandeliers mixed with open bulbs, sumptuous red leather banquets and floor to ceiling windows. Get there very early or very late if you want to get a table because this place fills up quickly and stays full all night.

There is a great mix of old timey industrial opulence going on here

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Charteruese Kitchen and Cocktails

 The second place we ate at was Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktail Bar. We tried to get into Seldon Standard and even a bar stool was going to require an hour+ wait so we continued on our way, in the pissing rain, to a brew pub that was packed to the rafters and not our kind of place at all. I had dropped my camera in a puddle and was pretty much ready to curl up in a ball and die by this point. I was afraid that Chartreuse was going to be more of the same and that we would not be able to get in there either but I called the Midtown restaurant from the brew pub and asked if there was any chance of getting a spot if we got a cab and came over. The lovely hostess, probably hearing my tears and emotional breakdown in my voice assured me that she would save a couch for us in the lounge area at the front. She also assured me that we could eat food there so that is where we went and I am soooo happy that we did.

Chartreuse is bright and airy (as are most of the restaurants in a city where real estate prices are at a record low and space is not at a premium like it is in other large cities), the walls are, indeed, painted chartreuse and the vibe is upscale but casual. Just as I was about to sit down on our half of a shared couch, Shack went back to check for bar seats and there two, right at the end of the bar and in front of Chef Doug Hewitt's prep station, which is always our favourite seat in any restaurant.

First things first, we order two gin and tonics and are promised that they make their tonic in house so we are excited. The drinks arrive and they are alarmingly flat so we alert the waiter who immediately whisks them away to be replaced with a perfect, effervescent and absolutely delicious gin and tonic. I also tried The Last Word ($11), a house speciality with gin, chartreuse and lime because I am in a place called Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktails so it would be remiss to not try a cocktail containing chartreuse. This is a potent little boozey bomb of a drink and although delicious, I don't think it wise to drink more than one of them.

Grilled Cap Steak, Tantre Farm Potatoes and The Recovery Park 
Grilled Spanish Octopus

We ordered grilled Spanish octopus with fennel, pickled onion, chorizo and and cucumber and the Recovery Park ($9) plate to start. While we were enjoying our cocktails, we were totally seduced by this sexy looking plate of roasted vegetables that Chef Hewitt was plating and had to try it. He chooses the best of the produce from Recovery Park, an amazing, non profit urban farm that employs local residents who have barriers that affect their employability and transforms that produce into something magical. I am telling you, as much as we both love our protein, this man is spinning vegetables into magical plates that will guarantee that you don't even notice the absence of meat. Okay, that doesn't mean that we didn't also order the Grilled Cap Steak ($22 and big enough to share) but the vegetables are the star of the show here. 

Oh, and gluten free, I'm on a low carb diet be damned. Order the damned bread with in house, home made butter for the love of pearl. It will change your life.

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Two James

I am going to just throw in a quick word for Two James Distillery in Corktown. It's lively, crowded, serves good cocktails and we had a fun hour or so having a drink with friends here. It's a local distillery that changes the cocktail menu to reflect the seasons.

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Astro Coffee

 Our waiter at Chartreuse recommended Astro Coffee in Corktown, so that is where we headed as soon as we woke up. I loved it as soon as we pulled up. I love the little strip it sits on, I loved the welcoming, homey interior, I loved the chalk murals on the wall and I loved the way the sunlight flooded the space and made it warm and inviting. Luckily, the coffee and the small morsel of food that we ate lived up to the hype, making it the sort of place I would frequent every day if I lived there.

We split a slice of really delicious frittata and I had a flat white that made me very happy. All of the breakfast sandwiches and pastries looked amazing but we had a big day of eating ahead and neither of us are big breakfast eaters but based on the frittata, I would say you are safe ordering anything here.

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Yemans Street

This wonderful little gem of a place hosts regular pop ups with an exciting array of guest chefs that require pre booking but every Sunday, Chef Jeremy Kalmus churns out an every changing brunch offering that is open to the general public on a walk in basis.

Located in Hamtramck, it sits on what looks like a residential street across the street from the Polish Village Cafe and from the outside, you would almost walk right by the unassuming brick building if it weren't for the little chalkboard sign out front beckoning you inside for brunch. Husband and wife team, Corrie and Matt Tinker, have turned this former machine shop into another airy, high ceilinged, warm and inviting space that is absolutely worth the trek to Yemans Street.

We shared the Tots - homemade tater tots with cheese sauce, scallion, fresh salsa, avocado and lime crema for $10 and the Korean Schmear Lox and Bagel for $13. I didn't actually eat the donut holes coated in breakfast cereal but my dining neighbour at the communal table certainly seemed to enjoy them and let me photograph them in exchange for letting her photograph my Korean Schmear Lox and Bagel. It's all about working together.

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Seldon Standard

After striking out at our 6pm attempted visit on Saturday night, we had much better luck getting a seat shortly after they opened for Sunday dinner service at 4:30 pm. Once again, we were happily seated at the end of the bar with a fabulous view of the huge , open kitchen, the wood oven and the bartenders at work.

Knowing that we still had a dinner reservation elsewhere at 8pm, we stuck to sharing the beef tartare and some grilled octopus.

The beef tartare comes with a raw quail egg and some bread that is toasted in their wood oven and it's really, really good. The beef was fresh and soft and delicious and, again, a very fairly priced $14.

Fennel, citrus, olives and saffron provide a tasty bed for perfectly charred octopus , also only $14. I wish we could have enjoyed a full meal here and plan to make reservations when we return to Detroit because, clearly, reservations are a must. We also ate more delicious homemade bread with homemade butter to go along with my rose. This city knows how to crank out great bread and butter.

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El Asador Steakhouse

Without exception, starting with Angela from Library Street Collective and continuing with every chef and waiter we met, we were told to make sure we eat at El Asadore Mexican Steakhouse. All that fine dining and trendy, hipster food is all well and good but sometimes, you just want a big, delicious dinner that was made with love.

photo: Shack Shackleton
You have to get a taxi or drive about 6 miles southwest of downtown Detroit to reach this unassuming looking restaurant but believe me, it is well worth the trek. You can't miss it since it resides in a stand alone building right on the corner with that beautiful mural on one side of it. Luckily, there is a well stocked store across the street where you can buy your beverage of choice since there is no liquor license here. We found a $6.50 bottle of Beringer Rose that we opened with a corkscrew borrowed from the restaurant and shared with dinner. You can't beat that.

We were told that we HAD to order the table side guacamole, so we did and we were not disappointed. Our lovely waitress rolled over the cart and whipped up a fresh, delicious guacamole to order for a mere $6.99.

There is no way I could ever finish the Cazuela de Mariscos ($17.99) on my own but I am okay to die trying. When this bowl of salmon, mussels, shrimp, scallops, calamari and lobster nestle in a rich, smoked chili broth was put in front of me, I actually cracked up. It is HUGE and unlike many places that serve Flintstone sized portions, it was also hugely delicious. Shack's Ribeye Con Rajas ($17.99) was not something he would normally order, as he likes his steak kind of pure and thinks he doesn't like it with sauce but who could say no to that fetching young lady when she recommends that this is the steak you should order? As it happens, he devoured it and said the steak was perfectly medium rare as well. Honestly, we could have easily ordered exactly what we ordered if our teenager was with us and shared it all and still would have had some leftovers.

I thought that this was going to be some old, family run place that had been there for ages but it's not. After some digging, I found out that owner/chef Louis Garza opened El Asador after working at Italian restaurant Andiamo and then Rojo Mexican Bistro,  it seems to have opened only in late 2013. For now, there is no decor to speak of but I read that he has plans to expand, renovate, add an outdoor patio and and an upstairs venue but really, when the food is this good, who cares about the colour of the tablecloths?

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Dime Store

 Despite the fact that we are not big, early breakfast people, I insisted we stop in at The Dime Store before leaving Detroit. Housed in the historic Dime Building, now called Chrysler House (hence, The Dime Store), this place became so popular that they were forced to open on the weekend after initially planning to be a breakfast/lunch spot for people who work downtown.

Sadly, we could only sample one dish but, wow, what a dish. If this is any indication of the other menu offerings, I feel confident telling you to eat here. We shared the Duck Bop - duck confit potato hash with spinach and Korean BBQ sauce for an astounding $12. Even though neither of us was particularly hungry, we still managed to eat every last morsel of duck and the eggs, leaving just a mound of potatoes. There was nothing wrong with them and, in fact, they were delicious, but we have priorities and duck, runny fried egg and trump potato when you have limited stomach real estate available.

 Salads range from $6 to $13, breakfast sandwiches from $6 to $8, eggs benny dishes from $10.50 to $12.50 and sandwiches from $6 to $13. Bacon, Parm and Truffle Fries and the Duck Rueben will be the first thing I order on my next trip to Detroit and there will be a next trip.

 Coffee was good, the view provided great, rush hour people watching, service was friendly and attentive and the restaurant is, again, bright, airy, high ceilinged and modern. Another great bet for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Their tag line says Breakfast/Brunch/Booze which really should be everybody's mantra, no?

Book this trip

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