Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter Beer Festival Advice

Lines are long and pours are small at Grand Rapids’ Winter Beer Fest. While others plan their beer sampling itinerary and discuss strategies for pretzel necklaces, snow pants, and designated drivers, here’s the only advice you need: Bring a flask of bourbon.

Bourbon will keep you warm and happy, and help you avoid giant beer pisses in the port-a-johns. The point of the festival is, of course, to sample local beer and to mingle with like-minded craft beer enthusiasts. Do that, first and foremost. But it’s cold out there, kiddies, and sobriety is a death sentence in such a frustratingly crowded and slow-moving environment. Bourbon will help -- trust me.

View my photos of Winter Beer Fest 2009, and to read about last summer’s beer festival in my July 27th blog post. For more information, visit the Michigan Brewers Guild website, and head to Michigan Microbrews for a thorough consideration of Saturday's festivities. Hope to see you at 5/3 Ballpark. Say hello, and have a pull from my cleverly disguised flask. Cheers.

... and chase with bourbon

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

100 Years of Winter Roads in Michigan

"Detroit, Michigan, circa 1910. 'Woodward Avenue in winter attire.' Rising in front of the church is one of the city's arc-lamp 'moonlight towers.' View full size." Image from Shorpy, with a thank you to Tom Shea for sharing the photo.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Frita Batidos Redefines the Burger

Wives and pals only, never a date. Schedule a nap to follow, wear an old shirt, order the frita – a Cuban burger made with chorizo and topped with fries – and get it “loco,” with sweet chili mayo, Muenster cheese, cilantro lime salsa, tropical coleslaw, and a sunny side up egg. Add an extra patty for good measure. Locate the pile of napkins and commit them to memory. Forget the yolk and crumbs in your beard. Push through. Get a side of shoestring fries and a passion fruit batido – a tropical milkshake made with fresh fruit, crushed ice, and sweetened milk, and (hopefully soon) rum. Enter food coma.

Frita Batidos makes no sense. In a city as small as Ann Arbor, this is the second Cuban-ish restaurant. The stark white space is half cafeteria and half table service, and there’s still no liquor license. You might ask yourself why you’re spending $20 on a burger and fries and think of leaving. Stick with it. Because after all the ordering and seating frustrations, the sandwich – my god the sandwich – will make you forget you’re sitting at a picnic table, forget the bottlenecked line looming over your dinner, and just maybe forget every burger you’ve tasted before it.

Thank you Eve, may I have another?

Eve Arnoff of “Top Chef” fame closed her wildly popular French restaurant, eve, to open Frita Batidos. Learn more about the story, menu, and philosophy at Located right next door to the Earle on W. Washington in Ann Arbor.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Taste Michigan in Leelanau Brewing’s Petoskey Pale Ale

Northern Michigan, bottled
Can you taste the Petoskey Stones? I’d like to think so. Petoskey Pale Ale is aged in French oak vats with real Petoskey Stones, “more to impart the soul of the land than an actual flavor,” according to Leelanau Brewing. But if the “soul” of Michigan is in our unique geological history, our clean water, and our French and Native American ancestry, then I’m willing to suspend disbelief -- I taste Michigan, and I toast Chief Petosega with every sip.

Petoskey, and thus the beer itself, is named after Chief Ignatius Petosega (1787-1885) who founded the community. Petosega’s father was a French fur trader and nobleman, and his mother was an Odawa Indian. As described on the beer bottle, “the word Petoskey, in the language of the Odawa Indians, the area’s original inhabitants, is said to mean: ‘where the light shines through the clouds.’” If there were a flavor of light shining through clouds, it would taste like this:

Petoskey Pale Ale has a cloudy body and a tall head that breaks down fast, like Lake Michigan on a stormy day, when the golden sand bottom stirs in the white-capped waves then crashes into shore. The aroma is citrus and fruity, verging on candy, and the consistency is effervescent and tart enough to make you pucker. The beer tastes distinctly sour and orange, but isn’t remotely heavy or full of itself - reminiscent of spring water with the slightest hint of hops - as refreshing, clean, and honest as a late summer dip in the Big Lake.

Leelanau Brewing’s website suggests pairing this beer with lamb kabobs, ratatoullie, and bison burgers with blue cheese. The beer, as they say, “cuts through the fat and barbeque sauce of a rack of ribs like none other, leaving one's palate refreshed and ready for more. For the true Leelanau experience, drink it in the woods and cook on an open fire.” I just happened to pair the beer with mac & cheese topped with peppers and bacon, which was also a winning food-beer combination.

Petoskey Pale Ale is 100% natural, 5.5% alcohol content. If you live near Ann Arbor, Leelanau Brewing is available at Tippins Market in Saline at $17.99 for a bottle of Petoskey Pale Ale - expensive, but worth it for a special occasion. For more information on where to purchase Petoskey Pale Ale and other Leelanau varieties, visit And check out Leelanau Brewing Company’s founder Charles Psenka discussing Petoskey Stones and the brewing process in this Kalamabrew video.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vote in the "I Love Michigan" Video Contest

Voting is now open for the Prima Civitas Foundation’s I Love Michigan Video Contest. If you aren’t familiar with the contest or PCF, here’s an introduction video, and here’s the top ten videos and voting. I don’t want to sway anyone’s vote - and all the entries are fantastic - but this is my personal favorite:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Communing with Hemingway

My new favorite TV show, Under the Radar Michigan, featured Petoskey in last week’s episode and showcased the City Park Grill, one of Ernest Hemingway’s old haunts [Video: 12:40 mark]. Under the Radar Michigan and my rekindled interest in fly-fishing and men’s fiction inspired me to give a nod to one of Michigan’s greatest literary treasures. I offer this photo of Hemingway writing while on a fishing trip in Michigan in 1916, and a poem, “Along With Youth.”

Courtesy of the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Along With Youth

A porcupine skin,
Stiff with bad tanning,
It must have ended somewhere.
Stuff horned owl
Yellow eyed;
Chuck-wills-widow on a biased twig
Sooted with dust.
Piles of old magazines,
Drawers of boys’ letters
And the line of love
They must have ended somewhere.
Yesterday’s Tribune is gone
Along with youth
And the canoe that went to pieces on the beach
The year of the big storm
When the hotel burned down
At Seney, Michigan.

-Ernest Hemingway
Paris, 1922

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Robocop Roundup, Facts Mostly

"Robocop" is not a good movie. Mayor Dave Bing responded to a tweet about erecting a Robocop statue in Detroit. Now we’ve lost our minds. There’s a movement to raise money for the statue, “Robocop fans raising money for statue in Detroit.” There’s some disagreement as to whether Robocop is even the most deserving, “Eight Detroit film icons Mayor Dave Bing should immortalize instead of Robocop”. And there’s even a logical rebuttal at Super Gay Detroit, “Ten Reasons Why a Robocop Statue is a Bad Idea.” Is this Robocop statue a ridiculous idea? Of course. But if someone wants to spend their money and energy on a ridiculous statue, who am I to stand in the way of progress(?)? We’re crazy, y’all, every last one of us. And this just in: Stefan of No You Shut Up alerted me to the fact that "Robocop" was filmed in Dallas, not Detroit. Great Lakes Guru, keeping Michigan informed.

Monday, February 7, 2011

5 Reasons Michigan Loved the Super Bowl

1. WMU alumnus Greg Jennings stole the show with two touchdown catches. And Jennings knows the “Hilltoppers” fight song [video and song].

2. U-M alumnus Charles Woodson won a Super Bowl ring. Woodson is surely the most exciting defensive player I’ve ever watched at the college level. He also appears to be a stand-up guy. The 1997 Heisman Trophy winner recently donated $2 million to Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

3. Four CMU alumni played in the Super Bowl - Green Bay’s Josh Gordy, Cullen Jenkins, and Frank Zombo, and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. The Chippewa’s had more representatives than any other college in the country. Huh?

4. The Packers won. And since our upper half (and maybe our better half) cheers for the Pack, there’s reason to smile. Congratulations Yoopers. Enjoy it while it lasts, because Suh is coming for you very soon.

5. What can I say about the Chrysler Super Bowl ad that hasn’t already been said? Just seems my blog would be somehow naked without it:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Brewer Bio: Charles Psenka, Leelanau Brewing Company

This video profile of Leelanau Brewing Company comes from Kalamabrew's Josh Smith. Founder Charles Psenka discusses some of his "barrel-aged beers including their Petoskey Pale Ale that is brewed with real petoskey stones." Leelanau Brewing and Jolly Pumpkin have been two of my favorite Michigan beers of late, and Psenka is one of my favorite characters online. Worth a watch, and I  recommend following @kalamabrew, @LeelanauBrewing, @JollyPumpkin, and @psenka on Twitter.