With four hours to kill between puddle jump flights (Des Moines to Detroit, Detroit to Ithaca) we discovered all kinds of dining options to make a former a Michigan native and her Kansan happy. Leo’s was the latest discovery, a favorite in Royal Oak Michigan. During our outbound four hour layover, we tried both Papa Joes (perhaps the smaller of two outposts) and Plum Market/Zingerman’s (which had a much bigger but pricey selection, compared to Papa Joes).
The gift shop was also full of Michigan goodies from Cherry Republic to Sanders to Made in Detroit tees.
We took M-22 south from Frankfort to head home, a scenic two-lane road hugging Lake Michigan and dotted with farm stands. We also passed Arcadia Ice where we had good ice cream cones yesterday after our bluff hike, M-22 led us to M-31, also more interesting that 131 through Grand Rapids which we took on the way up here as a detour due to road construction.
In Pentwater, a pretty town, we stopped to picnic in the small park along a marina in town and eavesdropped on that appeared to be the results of a fishing competition. (Someone won for “best of species.”) sorry to leave up north but hope to return (to a different rental house) maybe next summer.
we found more spectacular views from atop a ridge of dunes on the Empire Bluffs Trail and more people too, compared to yesterday’s hike at Acadia bluffs, where we saw a handful of other hikers. The weekend crowd appears to have arrived and it’s almost as hard to urn left onto two-lane Highway 31 as it is to turn left on the Sunrise Highway in the Hamptons.
The weather has gotten cold – 66 degrees at 4 pm – and very windy which ruled out a last swim in the lake but it’s fine for everything else outdoors, so no complaints. We visited a much better -appointed house in empire that may be available for renting next year. No lake view but no decrepit stairs or sleeping quarters, which rules this place out next summer. We do like being so close to the small village and it’s handful of shops and places to eat and drink. And of course this lawn and view and dog-friendly situation can’t be beat. (No dogs at the Empire house.)
A storm huffed and puffed last night but there was no blowing down this house, which has stood its ground for decades. For once I took comfort in how old this cottage is. I figured it had withstood many a storm blowing over the late. Fortunately there was not e wind than rain so the cottage didn’t get more musty and the sun was out by midday. We went to lovely Empire Beach about 20 miles north in the pretty village of Empire where I hoped to stay this year. A maybe next year.
Tonight my best friend from high school Polly and her husband Jamie who live in empire right now while their house in Glen Arbor is getting a makeover came over for a hike in the woods at Railroad Point Nature Center and then dinner of grilled whitefish (an Emma specialty) and white bean & avocado salad (a Noah speciality) and cherry pie. lovely get together up north!
JUST FYI: (This post is from a week ago…Wordpress is acting up.)
I may be allergic to something in this ancient musty cottage (my throat got clogged last night) but beyond that, we are sitting pretty, on the shores of Crystal Lake, a short walk to the town beach and small downtown which does, in fact, have a surprisingly good Jewish deli.
We do most things outside in our enormous fenced-in yard (good for Millie the dog) and the wraparound screened in-porch with an odd assortment of ancient chairs and 3 folding beds (I may try one tonight instead of sleeping in the low ceilinged upstairs bedroom, reached by a small set of steep narrow steps that Millie and I have trouble navigating.)
Noah, Dirck and I rode on the wonderfully scenic and flat, crushed gravel Betsie Valley Trail, all along the southern shore of Crystal Lake past cottages, most modest and old, some new and fancy, but this town feels refreshingly less posh than Harbor Springs or even Glen Arbor. The weather is perfect, sunny, 80s, with a breeze. We rode almost to Frankfort on the trail from Beulah and also rode a few miles the opposite direction into the woods on a rougher gravel trail.
Lunch was excellent deli fare at L’chaim Deli in small, unassuming downtown Beulah. Pastrami on rye, Rueben sandwich, a bagel sandwich with artichokes and peppered feta (the Jerusalem). There’s a few interesting little shops including an old head shop feeling place with lots of stones and jewelry with local stones, not only petosky stones but a green stone found in nearby Frankfort and a blue stone found in nearby Leland. I also learned about a quintessential Detroit stone, “Fordite” (the Detroit agate) so-called because it was made from old congealed paint from auto factories.
I swam In Crystal Lake, walking a half block to the public beach. Warm, shallow, sandy bottom and some risk of swimmers itch, same as 10 years ago, so I showered right after getting out and walking back here. Then off to Frankfort for a swim in Lake Michigan, also sandy, shallow for awhile, calm. We went over to the Point Betsie Lighthouse, a pretty old white brick tower attached to redbrick living quarters. I’m told the Betsie stems from a mispronunciation of a French word.
I bought cherry everything at the old-fashioned Cherry Hut a few minutes away. The waitresses wear white shirts with cherry red shirts that flare out at the waist. Excellent cherry pie, cherry preserves, dried cherries, cherry danish and at a produce shop next door I got real in-season cherries, a dark wine red. tonight we grilled fresh white fish from the famous Port City Smokehouse in the nearby bigger town of Frankfort. Michigan sweet corn is pretty good too!
We found a great place to stop for lunch en route to Crystal Lake in northern Michigan, a sophisticated little cafe called the Farmhouse in Douglas outside of saugatuck. Easy in, easy out, with a nice little area in the woods behind the bakery with picnic tables, perfect for dining with a dog on a leash. And very good sandwiches.
We had the mufaletta and turkey club and got a takeaway pasta casserole for dinner tonight that was delicious with corn, arugula, sausage, bacon, curly pasta and red sauces.
Nice evening settling into our funky old cottage in Beulah with an enormous screened-in wrap around porch, a huge yard for frisbee playing and picnic tables directly overlooking Crystal Lake. We sat outside in plastic Adirondack chairs and watched a spectacular sunset at 9 pm, the sky bright red and orange sinking into the water on the horizon.
I never thought I would be riding my bike along Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit, stopping at a trendy new hotel (Shinola) and eating a tuna melt outside from a trendy bakery (Avalon) overlooking the old Hudson’s department store (now a construction site) but it all happened today. This is not the Detroit of my childhood and amen to that. We brought our bikes down to the famous Eastern Market, east of downtown, on a quiet Tuesday and glided onto the Dequindre Cut greenway, an urban trail that was once a sunken railroad line. It’s a straight shot two miles to the Detroit River, past urban decay turned urban cool, with murals painted onto worn overpasses and hulking remnants of industrial buildings now looking sculptural Instead of menacing. It reminded me of a more urban version of the Greenway in Minneapolis.
We ended up biking west along the scenic riverwalk past RenCen to joe Louis Arena, then back past Hart Plaza to RenCen where we got off the trail and hit the downtown streets. Although there were maps suggesting a trail, we couldn’t find any bike lanes but the traffic was manageable and we rode from Beaubien over to Woodward, passing though greektown (one of the few places we used to go downtown in the 1970s) to near commerica park where the Tigers play and then to Woodward. As always, you see so much more when biking. For the first time I saw how places connect to each other and where they are in relation to each other.
We ate a sandwich outside overlooking Woodward and marveling at how it has changed. It’s not bustling with people, which may be due to the pandemic, and it being a Tuesday. But it wasn’t desolate either and there were enough people around that we felt comfortable. A light rail train glided soundlessly past us.
Hopping back on the riverwalk we rode east almost to the bridge to Belle Isle. The trail appears to be a work in progress. We passed some beautifully restored hulking red brick buildings along the water and then rode past some battered and deserted industrial buildings, a few that seemed to be inhabited by young artists. There are also some new waterfront apartments. What a fascinating area. Can’t wait to explore it again. And so happy for Detroit and detroiters.
Spectacular weather so we drove downtown to see how Detroit is doing. Pretty well, especially given the pandemic. We found pockets of entrepreneurial activity and rehabbed houses here and there downtown especially around Wayne State, the Riverfont, and around Union Station. We ended up near what turned out to be the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater overlooking the Detroit River, watching huge barges slowly glide across the River with the RenCen towers rising like some shiny oz in the distance and a bridge to Canada that we cannot cross, due to Covid restrictions, although we did see trucks crossing it. Strange to think we cannot go there.
Just read that Ochre Bakery in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood has landed on Bon Appetite’s 10 best new restaurants in the U.S. (Details below). So hope to visit. It appears to be not far from Woodward Ave. (my main reference point), west of the Shinola Detroit Store and the Wayne State U. campus. Now if I can only figure out a way to hear the Detroit Youth Choir, which recently took America’s Got Talent by storm!
8:43 a.m. I’m at Ochre Bakery, and the first thing I’m eating today is a danish, the crumbly, deep-golden pastry barely holding on to the squiggles of still-juicy rhubarb in the center.
8:46 a.m. Watching the guy behind the counter make a cortado, I realize that this is as much a Serious Coffee Shop as it is a bakery, which makes sense given that it’s owned by Jessica Hicks and Daisuke Hughes, the same people behind Detroit’s much-loved Astro Coffee. I’m getting lost in the idea that I could live in Detroit and this could be my coffee shop and I could eat this Danish every morning when…
8:57 a.m. My plate of scrambled eggs shows up, but to call it a plate of scrambled eggs is kind of rude given that it’s eggs softly scrambled with turmeric; tzatziki with slivers of kohlrabi; a big pile of bitter greens; a very generous serving of very good butter; two holey slices of country bread; and a tiny handmade ceramic bowl of cumin seeds, Aleppo-style pepper, and flaky salt that I can sprinkle over whatever I like.
8:58 a.m. Can we talk about this bread? I was so fixated on the pastry case, I didn’t notice the room behind the counter where cult local baker Max Leonard babysits the sourdoughs. So not only does this place turn out pastries and coffee and savory food at the highest level, but there’s also a high-key bread program?
9:18 a.m. I’m the person taking pictures of the blue and ochre (duh) tiles hand-painted by Hicks.
9:28 a.m. Yeah, I’m going to need a slice of the lemon-pistachio loaf cake, a piece of the chocolate banana bread, and one of every cookie (espresso shortbread, chocolate-hazelnut, oaty Anzac) to go. Or maybe I’ll just never leave. —J.K.
Some new and old dining in the Detroit area this trip. New included a very lively ( for a Monday night) Mexican Restaurant in a humble, post-industrial neighborhood of downtown Detroit near the Ambassador Bridge (to Canada) called Mi Pueblo. I had good steak and shrimp Fajitas and a cheap margarita.
The next night we celebrated my birthday ( yes, the one in April, again) at Bella Piatti in snazzy Birmingham near the Townsend Hotel . I had excellent Scaloppine Saltimbocca (veal medallions, Parma prosciutto, fresh sage, white wine, lemon crushed potatoes). We shared a delicious Involtini Di Melanzane (Grilled eggplant rolls, seasoned ricotta cheese, tomato sauce.)
The old favorite was The Stage Deli in West Bloomfield, where I had a delicious “small” Mark beltaire salad ( with strips, on request, of corned beef, turkey and Swiss cheese with a creamy white ranch dressing and a bowl of kreplach soup. Yum!