Month: November 2018

374. Marcus Market – October 27, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018Marcus2 (2)October2018Marcus1 (3)After a latte-sipping visit to Urban Bean Co. one rainy Saturday afternoon in late October, I wasn’t ready to go home, so I decided to jaunt over to Marcus Market to check it out.

I’d expected the Midtown/Cass Corridor-based business to be an indie grocery shop à la the now-defunct (R.I.P!) Parker Street Market. It is that, but it’s also a liquor store – and a purveyor of smoothies – and tacos!

As witnessed during my late-afternoon visit, the liquor-store aspect appears to be the most popular – at least among the college-student demographic. There were loads of young adults making alcoholic beverage purchases, presumably in preparation for Saturday night (ah, I remember those days!). Marcus Market has a wide selection of liquor, craft beer, and wine.

It also offers a variety of grocery items (bagged coffees, juices, snacks, soups and other canned goods, etc.) and goods you’d find in a drugstore (such as school supplies).

And then there are the two counters toward the back of the store, where the smoothies and tacos, respectively, are offered!

Who doesn’t love a fresh smoothie? I will say, however, that the food counter I’m most excited by in Marcus Market is the one that offers tacos, because that is helmed by El Taco Veloz, a Mexican restaurant based in Southwest Detroit that I’ve yet to visit but learned about this year and SO want to check out. Their tacos are supposed to be BOMB – and you can see from online reviews of Marcus Market that people are digging the ones they’ve ordered from the satellite location of El Taco Veloz located there.

I want to have the full El Taco Veloz experience at its original location in Southwest Detroit (where you order from a food truck and then eat in the dining area in the building behind it), so I did not partake of it within Marcus Market. But isn’t it awesome that Marcus Market helps peddle these purportedly glorious tacos – and so much other stuff?

4614 Second Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

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373. Urban Bean Co. – October 27, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018UrbanBean1 (2)October2018UrbanBean4 (2)October2018UrbanBean2 (2)I love a good coffee house at any time of year, but one’s appeal is of course amplified in the midst of now – a.k.a. the cold-weather half of the year that oft feels as if it’s stretching on interminably here in the Metro-D. Cozy is what carries me through this time of year, and locally-owned coffee shops offer their own signature brands of cozy.

Thusly, on a rainy Saturday at the end of last month, I took myself downtown for some coffee-house-level coziness with a visit to Urban Bean Co., an indie establishment on Grand River Avenue.

The two-level shop is petite, narrow in width and therefore tricky to navigate when it’s busy – and it was kicking when I first arrived there that Saturday afternoon.

Urban Bean Co.’s vibe is retro: wood paneling on the walls; sepia-toned carpet that legit looks like it’s from the ’70s; a general color scheme of oranges and golds and browns, including plastic chairs done in those colors.

Taking my place at the ordering counter, I was greeted by the obviously overtaxed yet still friendly barista. I wanted to try the Pure Evil Latte, which I’d seen rave reviews of with its espresso infused with amaretto, cherry, and milk. But the shop was out of amaretto at the time, so I opted instead for the Green Fairie Latte infused with white chocolate and pistachio syrup. I took my drink up to the second floor, where the bulk of the seating is, and was fortunate to score a seat at a small table.

The narrow parameter of the room made for an intimate environment. Most people seemed to be engrossed in study except for two guys who appeared to be on a first date; it was hard not to feel like a creeper easily taking in their every word in the otherwise hushed room.

But that second-floor perch atop Urban Bean Co. was cozy, and it offered a fantastic view of the streetscape outside, glistening with rain and looking particularly less inviting than the dry, warm environs in which I sat, sipping a deliciously sweet coffee beverage.

What else do I dig about this coffee shop besides its fantastic views, retro-comfy quarters, and tasty signature lattes? Well, I’m pretty obsessed with the fact that it serves The Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company’s wares, as well as those of other local purveyors such as Germack, Better Made, and the pièce de résistance, Dutch Girl Donuts (which you may recall I tried earlier this fall, and damn, were those donuts LIFE!).

200 Grand River Ave.

Detroit, MI 48226

www.urbanbeanco.com

372. Royale with Cheese – October 18, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018RoyalewithCheese1 (2)October2018RoyalewithCheese3 (2)October2018RoyalewithCheese2 (2)Last month, in between visiting Sfumato, a perfumery by day, and Castalia, its cocktail bar alter-ego, a friend and I hit up Royale with Cheese, a Midtown/Cass Corridor-based burger joint.

OMG, had I been eager to try this place! Photos of its beefy burgers exuberantly laden with sides had enticed me from its Yelp profile for months, so it was exciting to finally be immersed within the Royale with Cheese experience.

I got in line at the counter of the fast-casual restaurant and scoped out the overhead menu. I decided on the namesake burger, the Royale, with its pulled smoked brisket topped with cole slaw, avocado, caramelized onions, corn relish, a gouda fondue, and Royale sauce (how’s that for decadence?). I added a side of tater tots – because tots make my heart happy – and my friend and I paid for our food and found a seat in Royale’s dining area to await our orders’ arrival.

Admittedly, I thought the Royale was going to be a burger, with a traditional beef patty and pulled brisket loaded on top of that, so when ordering I’d asked if a cooking temperature was taken for the burger and gave my preferred doneness of medium. But while awaiting my order, I was approached by a kitchen staff member and asked whether I knew the Royale didn’t contain a beef patty – it was pure brisket – and whether I wanted to change my order upon knowing that information.

Whoops – apparently I’d been amiss in my interpretation of the menu. I was a little disappointed to realize I hadn’t ordered an actual burger but decided to stick with the namesake sandwich in the name of exploration – and also in gratitude to the staff member who’d come out to clarify things for me (why make his job harder by changing my order on the fly?).

The food came out promptly thereafter, and I wasn’t disappointed in my decision. Generously coated in rich barbecue sauce, the pulled brisket on the Royale was a tender, flavorful base for the other indulgent ingredients, specifically the creamy avocado and the gouda fondue. Mmm, mmm, mmm, MMM! The tater tots were irresistibly crispy, as well.

After relishing our meals and feeling satisfyingly full, my friend and I agreed that we needed to return to try Royale’s milkshakes. I am thinking the shakes with their house-made custard-ice-cream bases would be meals in themselves – and what sumptuous meals they would make with such flavor options as Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cookie Butter and Nutella, and Chocolate Espresso!

In addition to burgers, sandwiches, and shakes, Royale with Cheese offers salads, soup, and Bites, appetizer-esque snacks that threaten to rival the desserts and main courses in their richness: see the Fried Mac & Cheese and the Nacho Cheese Ravioli, the latter of which is described on Royale’s online menu as “handmade deep-fried Doritos Ravioli filled with Jalapeño Nacho Cheese, ‘New World’ Roasted Tomato Sauce.” Dang! Royale with Cheese is NOT messing around in the decadence department!

4163 Cass Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.royaledetroit.com

371. Sfumato/Castalia – October 18, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018SfumatoCastalia1 (4)October2018SfumatoCastalia2 (2)October was a busy month of visits for me (11 in total!). And when I called upon a gorgeously-kept Victorian manse one Thursday evening in mid-October, I got two visits for the price of one via Sfumato/Castalia, a perfume shop by day and cocktail bar by night.

I’d stumbled across this unique establishment while searching online for naturally made perfumes sold in the area. I was in need of a new scent but wanting to veer away from traditionally-made perfumes with their oft-synthetic ingredients. Sfumato’s site popped up in my search results, and I was psyched to learn that a perfumery creating signature scents from plant-based ingredients resided right in Midtown.

According to Sfumato’s website, its scents are concocted from “trees, flowers, herbs, and spices.” This is evident when you step into its basement-level shop and sniff sample sticks of the eight perfume varieties currently for sale.

Four perfumes reside in Sfumato’s Signature collection, and four are deemed Black Label. An eight-milliliter bottle (dubbed the Travel size) of a Signature scent is $30; a Black Label variety in that size is $40. Sixty-millileter Standard size bottles run $90 and $120, respectively.

And then there are the perfume flights – the route I ended up taking. I couldn’t decide which of Sfumato’s scents I liked the best, so I decided to get to know the four Signature varieties (Epiphany, Gravitas, Siren Song, and Survival Instinct) better via the flight option, which proffers one-milliliter sample vials of each for $15 (the flight containing the four Black Label perfumes is $20).

Three and a half weeks after my visit to Sfumato, I’m down to the dregs of those four vials of Signature scents, and I’ve enjoyed the heck out of them. I find wearing the herbal, woodsy, citrusy, luxurious plant-based scents both soothing and exotic.

It’s a close call between Gravitas, Survival Instinct, and Epiphany as to which one is my favorite, but my snap-judgment verdict at the moment is that it’s Epiphany, with its aura poetically described on Sfumato’s website of “intense greenness with hints of dew-covered moss and life ready to step into the sunlight. An elegant party that always pleases, no matter who attends. The scent of myself, delivered divinity on a fresh spring day.” How can one not feel transformed by the wearing of a scent with a description such as that?

As the wearer feels transformed by the donning of Sfumato’s enchanting scents, so Sfumato itself transforms into something else entirely. In the evenings, starting at 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, its shop counter turns into a bar rail, and it becomes Castalia, the cocktail bar.

And as one might expect, Castalia is not your typical cocktail bar. Each of its signature alcoholic beverages have been inspired by one of Sfumato’s scents. When you order one, it’s served to you with a napkin sprayed with the scent that inspired the drink. You’re encouraged to sniff the napkin as you sip the drink to mingle the olfactory experience with the tasting experience. Non-alcoholic versions of each cocktail are also available.

I decided on the cocktail that paired with the Mocha Valentino Black Label perfume, the Cacao Manhattan, and savored the rich notes of chocolate, coffee, and spice in the whiskey-based drink as well as in the scent that accompanied it.

While as a perfume shop Sfumato’s tiny interior had been welcoming, I especially adored the environs as a bar. With its dusky lighting and stone walls, it was intimate and cozy; the bartenders were the consummate hosts, friendly and charming. What an ideal place to enjoy a warming cocktail and the rich scents that accompany it on a dreary winter’s evening (or any evening, really)!

3980 Second Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.sfumatofragrances.com

www.castaliacocktails.com