Author: Jackie F.

Exploring is a major theme in both of my blogs, 100 Places in the D (where I chronicle my quest to visit new-to-me restaurants, bars, shops, parks, etc. in the Metro-Detroit area) and A Cookable Feast (a food blog focused on whole-foods-based cooking, located at www.acookablefeast.com). I love to try new things and exercise my creativity. I believe that life should be full of adventures - even if the adventures we seek aren't of the crazy mountain-climbing, skydiving variety. Everyday adventures can be pretty darn awesome, too!

523. PizzaPlex – September 19, 2021 – Detroit, MI

Is there anything better than a summer’s day in Detroit? I think not – especially when it’s spent on PizzaPlex’s patio, enjoying one of its INCREDIBLE pies!

The pizzeria is located in Southwest Detroit, in delightful proximity to Clark Park, El Club, and Mexicantown Bakery. Besides that of being located in one of my favorite Detroit neighborhoods, it holds an honorable distinction: it’s a certified maker of authentic Neapolitan pizza. This accreditation is awarded by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, an organization dedicated to preserving the method of pizza-making that originated in Naples, Italy.

It’s a big deal to be certified by the AVPN, which has specific rules around what constitutes a true Neapolitan pie; see its regulations around everything from cooking temperature to dough thickness to how peeled tomatoes are crushed (by hand). There are fewer than 900 AVPN-certified pizzerias in the world, according to Pizza Plex’s most recent newsletter – and only two in Michigan.

Such a certification means nothing if the taste isn’t there. But I’m here to tell you that the taste is wholly present at PizzaPlex!

I was in the mood for an outdoor lunch on the day of my visit. So I sat at a table in PizzaPlex’s backyard seating area: a delightful little hideaway. There I listened to the breeze rustle branches while admiring a mural featuring monarch butterflies and vibrant swirls of color.

I decided to forego a drink but admired PizzaPlex’s collection of beers, craft cocktails, digestifs, and Italian wines. I started instead with its side salad, a super-fresh mix of greens and cherry tomatoes drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and deliciously pungent Parmigiano.

Then came my pie: a Margherita. PizzaPlex’s rendition of the classic pie was phenomenal. Its fresh basil leaves, tomato sauce, drizzles of olive oil, and ample chunks of mozzarella had the pizza bursting with flavor. But the real showstopper was the crust.

I’m not typically a pizza-crust person. I eat it, but it’s not why I’m there. When it comes to PizzaPlex’s pie, though, I’m most decidedly a crust person! It has to be the best I’ve ever eaten.

This Margherita’s dough was fire-kissed on the outside, yet so sumptuously doughy and chewy. It’s hard to put into words how something so seemingly simple could taste so wonderful; it begs to be experienced. The Neapolitan spirit was in full force in this pizza dough!

Another element of PizzaPlex where that Neapolitan spirit is fully alive is in its pay-it-forward program – sospeso, as it’s called in Naples. It allows patrons to pre-purchase meals for future guests. What a win-win it is to visit PizzaPlex when you can allow both yourself and a fellow human to enjoy its delicious pies!

4458 W. Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.pizzaplex.com

522. River’s Edge Brewing Company – August 14, 2021 – Milford, MI

Dining on River’s Edge Brewing Company’s patio was a deliciously relaxing way to end a busy day.

The locally-owned brewery in downtown Milford showcases a selection of house-made beers. These include its PSAle (an IPA described on its menu as “Pineapple. Citrus. Hoppy.”) and a stout named Fritter Frank, whose flavor profile includes autumn-esque elements (coffee, donuts, cider, and cinnamon). Several hard ciders from Northville Winery & Brewing Company are also offered.

I enjoyed one of those ciders during my time at River’s Edge: the Blue River. A smooth, not-too-sweet mix of blueberry and apple, it went down easy. It was summer in a glass!

I also had an excellent Greek salad at River’s Edge. It was a fresh and flavorful medley of mixed greens, seasoned chicken, pickled red onion, yellow pepper rings, olives, tomato, cucumber, feta, and a zesty house-made vinaigrette. The brewery’s food offerings include hearty sausages, wraps, and sandwiches – the perfect accompaniments to ice-cold brews. Pop-up menus offered by outside entities such as Barlow’s Gourmet BBQ and Burger Burger are regular occurrences, as well.

125 S. Main St., Ste. 400

Milford, MI 48381

www.riversedgebrew.com

521. Bakehouse 46 – August 14, 2021 – Rochester, MI

Here’s Bakehouse 46, offering up a sweet serving of collaboration! And cupcakes, and donuts, and cider . . ..

Located in downtown Rochester, Bakehouse 46 marries Blake Farms (of cider mill and hard cider fame) and Cupcake Station (whose eponymous treats have been delighting Metro Detroiters since 2006) with a sleek style that’s all its own. If you’re familiar with these beloved local businesses, you already know this is one EPIC mash-up!

I visited Bakehouse 46 during a jaunt in mid-August that had me bustling around downtown Rochester: to Catching Fireflies, The Home Bakery, and the farmer’s market. All that shopping worked up a hunger in me. Enter the Bakehouse Club: a delightfully soft Everything bagel sandwiching layers of bacon, ham, turkey, arugula, tomato, cheese, and scallion cream cheese.

WOW, was that sandwich delicious! What a melding of flavors: rich cheeses, smoky meats, juicy tomato, and zesty seasonings. And arugula! Bakehouse 46, you had me at the Everything-bagel sandwich – but add fresh, peppery arugula to the mix, and my taste buds are kvelling!

Bakehouse 46’s menu showcases several breakfast- and lunch-oriented bagel sandwiches. It also sells bagels sans the sandwich filling, plus coffee and the previously mentioned cupcakes, donuts, and cider. Check the shop’s online menu for its enticing – and numerous! – cupcake offerings, which include Snickers, Chai Latte, and Bump-a-licious (Bakehouse 46’s riff on Bumpy cake).

As someone whose grew up on Blake’s donuts (donuts so fresh as to make you cry tears of joy when you bite into them!) – I know Bakehouse 46’s are bound to be special. Blake’s cider (the best of the best!) is served there, too. There are also caramel apples made from Blake’s apples, and Blake’s jams and maple syrups. Other baked goods such as cheesecake bars, cookies, and brownies are sold at the shop, as well.

Let’s talk about the shop itself. Bakehouse 46’s interior is an ultra-modern, ultra-gorgeous amalgamation of glistening white tile, slate-blue walls, wood floors and furnishings, and buttery leather furniture. Potted plants, accent pillows, and a red Oriental rug provide pops of color. It’s a feast for the eyes – the perfect counterpart to the culinary feasting facilitated by Bakehouse 46’s menu. Here’s to harmonious collaboration!

205 S. Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

(With an additional location in Birmingham)

www.bakehouse46.com

520. The Home Bakery – August 14, 2021 – Rochester, MI

The Home Bakery: purveyor of sweet treats for over 90 years!

The bakery based in downtown Rochester has been in business since 1930, according to its website. It mixes up all manner of baked goods, including beautifully imaginative cakes (check out the Zombiecorn and PB&J cakes on its website!).

Have a craving for a cupcake, cookie, cannoli, or eclair? The Home Bakery has you covered. How about a donut, danish, muffin, or pie? The Home Bakery makes those, too! It also bakes up one of the most wonderfully decadent desserts I’ve ever eaten: the cronut.

The Home Bakery’s cronut is a hefty iteration of the donut-croissant hybrid that had so many going gaga at its 2013 debut. This cronut’s layers of flaky croissant are formed into a square shape, dusted with vanilla-infused sugar, and thickly coated with vanilla bean glaze.

When I bit into that cronut, my taste buds exclaimed with joy! The juxtaposition of the deep-fried, sugar-kissed, vanilla-glazed exterior and the flaky-soft interior was SOOO good.

And that wasn’t all! Hiding inside The Home Bakery’s cronut was the pièce de résistance: a creamy filling the bakery’s website describes as “vanilla bean pastry cream.” I describe it as “WOW!”

All of these elements melded together to form one supremely rich, SUPREMELY DELICIOUS dessert.

At $4.50 apiece, The Home Bakery’s cronuts are not cheap. But they are worth every penny. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks that, as they routinely sell out (as I learned the first time I attempted to buy them). Calling ahead of your visit and ordering over the phone is an option – one you likely won’t regret!

300 S. Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

www.thehomebakery.com

519. Catching Fireflies – August 14, 2021 – Rochester, MI

I was enticed inside Catching Fireflies not by its namesake bug, but by bubbles!

The shop based in downtown Rochester bills itself as “a whimsical gift gallery.” That value of whimsy was on full display when I stumbled upon its storefront one Saturday in August. Streams of bubbles danced in the air.

I followed the bubble trail to an open mailbox planted near Catching Fireflies’ entrance. A machine housed inside the mailbox spewed batch after batch of the soapy orbs – and kindled my curiosity about the shop. How could I not visit this whimsical gift gallery with a bubble machine and turquoise exterior?

I succumbed to spontaneity, entering the shop – and a treasure trove of goodies. It was filled with neatly curated collections of greeting cards, candles, soaps, socks, books, toys, knick knacks, magnets, and more. Beautiful items, quirky items, hand-crafted items – they were all there. It was everything a great gift shop should be: a wonderland of delights!

As would any gift shop of its ilk, Catching Fireflies made me want to buy gifts – for myself. I purchased a “Michigan Things” magnet that features such local institutions as party stores and “using your hand as a map.” I also snagged a copy of the Sister Pie cookbook, which I’d coveted for years! Visiting Catching Fireflies gave me an excuse to buy it. After all, I had to show my support for the whimsical gift gallery and its bubble machine – bubbles certainly don’t grow on trees!

203 E. University Dr.

Rochester, MI 48307

(With additional locations in Ann Arbor and Berkley)

www.catchingfireflies.com

518. The Proving Grounds Coffee & Ice Cream – August 12, 2021 – Royal Oak, MI

I’m primed for a revisit of The Proving Grounds Coffee & Ice Cream! Fickle fate cut short my original visit to The Royal Oak location of this family-owned coffee brand.

Actually, fate wasn’t so much to blame for my premature departure as technology. I couldn’t get my work computer to connect to The Proving Grounds’ guest wifi (the laptop’s security protocols didn’t seem to like the way it was configured). Alas! I had to abandon The Proving Grounds’ inviting, rustic-chic interior for home (where the interior is less chic but the wifi connection is generally reliable).

At least I had the parting gift of the iced lavender latte I ordered before I left – which was definitely not a consolation prize. The rich espresso laced with creamy milk and subtle floral sweetness was delicious!

When I return to The Proving Grounds, I’d love to try another of its lattes. The coffee shop offers that iconic combination of espresso and steamed milk in a variety of flavors, including Beetroot, Caramel Maple, and Activated Charcoal (that last one has my mind going all, “???! I must try it!”). Other compelling items on The Proving Grounds’ coffee menu include the Cafe Miel (espresso infused with steamed milk, honey, and cinnamon) and the Nitro Cold Brew Coffee. These drinks are made from The Proving Grounds’ roasted-in-house beans.

Also made in-house is fresh, flavorful-sounding food. The Proving Grounds’ menu includes breakfast fare, salads, and sandwiches such as the Pere Marquette (turkey breast layered with radishes, roasted red pepper, a vegan garlic-and-roasted-red-pepper mayo, and McClure’s Sweet and Spicy pickles) and the James Cracked Cheese (a grilled cheese made with gruyere, cream cheese, and sourdough bread). Pastries are offered from Fenton’s Crust Bakery. And, as The Proving Grounds’ name suggests, there is ice cream! It’s from locally-owned, artisan ice cream makers Brown Dog Creamery, so you know it has to be good.

As you can see, there’s a lot for me to return to at this delightful indie coffee shop. May fate – and the technology gods – smile upon my next visit to The Proving Grounds!

417 S. Washington Ave.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

(With an additional location in Milford)

www.provinggroundscoffee.com

517. SheWolf – August 6, 2021 – Detroit, MI

Dinner at SheWolf – what a special experience! It was a dream come true to finally visit the Detroit-based Italian restaurant – and a magical one, at that.

I dined at SheWolf on a Friday night in early August. My mom, stepdad, and I had a reservation for right when it opened, 5 p.m. We’d spent the previous hour priming ourselves for the experience in the backyard of The Old Miami; we were ready to eat! And SheWolf was ready to serve us.

I was struck by SheWolf’s gorgeous dining room: its sage-green walls, caramelly leather, dark-stained wood floors, and profusion of fresh flowers.

Another striking detail was how many employees were working that night. There was a full floor of them – I’m talking a pre-COVID-level, busy-weekend-night number of staff members. This was both surprising and incredibly heartening to me. I interpreted it to mean 1) SheWolf is a place where people love to work and 2) they are doing well enough during these COVID times to employ a full staff.

With its phenomenal food and impeccable service, how could SheWolf not be doing well? At least, I hope it is. We need restaurants this wonderful to thrive!

Speaking of the impeccable service at SheWolf: here’s an example. I happened to drop my napkin twice that night. Both times I did, staff members swooped in with a fresh one. Employees consistently appeared eager to step in and deliver food, decrumb our table, check on us . . .. They did so with friendly, professional attitudes, seemingly happy to be there and serving us. As someone who served in restaurants for years, I really appreciated being in the midst of this high-vibing staff who worked seamlessly together as a team. I could see myself on a crew like that . . .. But I was a patron that night at SheWolf . . . so I’ll put my serving nostalgia aside!

The server we had that night was great and adeptly guided us through SheWolf’s menu. We all ordered her recommended cocktail, Aperol These Years, a spritz incorporating strawberry, balsamic, and basil-infused Aperol. It came garnished with a marigold and went down really easy.

We shared two appetizers, again recommended by our server: the Carpaccio and the Sformato di Zucchine.

The Carpaccio was a revelation for me! I’d previously been put off by carpaccio’s layers of paper-thin, raw beef. But SheWolf’s carpaccio was so tender and flavorful, an utter delight to eat. It was accented by capers, toasted hazelnut pieces, and an ample layer of shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

The Sformato di Zucchine also blew my taste buds wide open. I didn’t know what to expect of this dish described as a “savory zucchini custard.” But wow, was it luxuriously full of flavor!

We continued our journey through SheWolf’s menu. From the carefully curated pasta, meat, and seafood dishes, I chose the Paccheri All’Arrabbiata. The dish of house-made pasta topped with a spicy lamb neck ragu, whipped ricotta, plum tomatoes, and banana peppers was SO, SO, SO, SO GOOD. The tender lamb and flavor-rich sauce! That creamy ricotta! There was a lot to exclaim over – including the house-made pasta, which was wonderfully fresh and al dente-chewy.

SheWolf’s pasta production, by the way, includes milling its own flour. Talk about dedication! There’s a glass-walled area on the way to the restrooms where the pasta is made by hand.

While the drink, appetizers, and main course I enjoyed at SheWolf were satisfying, I couldn’t stop there. Dessert was the icing on the cake of this exquisite meal.

So I savored SheWolf’s Torta di Cioccolato, a slice of flourless chocolate cake accompanied by chantilly cream, crème anglaise, and bits of honeycomb. It was a rich, chocolatey treat. But the dessert my mother ordered, the Zeppole, REALLY blew me away. These were piping-hot, freshly fried ricotta fritters, perfectly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with a drizzle of chocolate-hazelnut spread, they were exceptional.

Like those Zeppole, the entire experience of dining at SheWolf was exceptional. This is one of those meals that I find myself visiting again and again in my memory. I feel privileged to have had this special experience at this special restaurant!

438 Selden St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.shewolfdetroit.com

516. Too Ra Loo – August 3, 2021 – Rochester, MI

Visiting Too Ra Loo was a highlight of my week-long staycation in early August. The restaurant/bar based in downtown Rochester provided integral staycation elements: delicious food and drink and a pretty patio (the optimal environment from which to enjoy summer sunshine and conversation with a good friend!).

Based on its name, I’d assumed Too Ra Loo was an Irish bar. But according to its website, it’s actually inspired by “Italian influences and inventive fare.”

Both Italian influence and inventive spirit are evidenced in Too Ra Loo’s pizza offerings. The extensive list of pies include the Belgian with its brussels sprouts, bacon, parmesan, and balsamic glaze and the Lafayette topped with the makings of a Detroit coney dog (chili, mustard, hot dog, and red onion, naturally!).

Too Ra Loo’s menu offers a wide-ranging variety of dishes besides those pizzas. The Small Plates section offers both traditional bar apps (nachos, quesadilla) and more refined ones (mussels in a “red curry coconut broth,” a whitefish pâté). There are entrée salads, burgers and sandwiches, and comfort-food fare such as the Steak and Potatoes and Spaghetti with Meatballs.

I surprised myself by choosing from that menu the Ancient Grains, a salad featuring a mix of greens and kale topped with lentils, chickpeas, pepitas, shredded carrots, zucchini, and cabbage, quinoa, and other grains and tossed in a citrus vinaigrette. I generally wouldn’t choose a healthful salad from a menu that includes such decadent fare as a Reuben sandwich or Cheeseburger pizza! But that Ancient Grains salad called to me in that moment. And I’m so glad it did, because it was FANTASTIC! All those fresh, hearty, healthful ingredients melded together to form supreme deliciousness. Despite its generous proportions, I gobbled that Ancient Grains salad in its entirety, savoring every flavorful, nourishing bite.

I also savored a pint of hard cider chosen from Too Ra Loo’s extensive beer menu. Many of the craft beers and ciders featured are Michigan made. And while I did said savoring outside, on Too Ra Loo’s patio, I’d love to return for a drink and a meal inside.

I’d characterize Too Ra Loo’s attractive dining room as upscale-industrial: lots of gleaming dark wood, brick, and exposed duct work. A wrap-around bar dominates the center, and plenty of TVs are featured throughout, primed to broadcast the games du jour. It’s a totally inviting space to cozy up with good food and friends – staycation or otherwise!

139 S. Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

www.tooraloorochester.com

515. Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles – July 24, 2021 – Detroit, MI

A summer Saturday in Detroit, visiting Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles? Yes, please! As this season of sunshine and heat waves winds down, I’m more than happy to reminisce about my visit to the famed Avenue of Fashion-based restaurant.

I’d aspired to dine at Kuzzo’s for years. So it was exciting to make that dream a reality when a friend agreed to lunch with me there in late July. We weren’t the only ones with Kuzzo’s on the brain that day – the place was bustling with patrons! We waited about 40 minutes for a table before scoring seats at the bar.

While Kuzzo’s interior is fairly small, it brimmed with energy on the day of our visit. Something about the acoustics of the place (the high ceilings?) seemed to amplify sound – but hey, that added to the convivial vibe! I dug the restaurant’s bright red walls and stylish, contemporary look, its signature decorative detail: the definition of “kuzzo” painted above the bar. (That definition reads, “A term of endearment for one who is a friend or family member / A person of a kindred culture, race or nation.”)

Speaking of the bar: Kuzzo’s offers fun cocktails, including Spiked Kool-Aid (your childhood classic – adulting with Tito’s vodka!), a Pear Punch that its menu refers to as a “patio pounder,” and Mimosa Flights (which include four different flavor varieties of the classic champagne-and-juice riff).

As tempting as those cocktails were, I had my eye on the prize at Kuzzo’s that day: the chicken!

While I love both chicken and waffles, I admittedly prefer to enjoy them separate from each other. This feels totally sacrilegious to admit in a post about a restaurant whose oeuvre revolves around the combo! But it’s why I bypassed the 12 chicken-and-waffles combos on Kuzzo’s menu and went with Hazel’s Southern Platter. It features three pieces of fried chicken, two sides (I opted for the Mac & Cheese and Candied Yams), and a cornbread muffin.

If you also aren’t a chicken-and-waffles devotee, you’ll find plenty of other appealing choices on Kuzzo’s menu. It showcases several omelets and a variety of breakfast combo plates, including ones featuring biscuits and gravy, salmon croquettes, and chicken and grits. There are also a couple of sandwich offerings, including the Chicken BLT and the Nashville Hot Chicken (whose menu descriptions are literally making my mouth water!).

When my order arrived, I saw there’d been a mix-up. My Hazel’s Southern Platter was supposed to feature a breast, a leg, and a thigh. But it came with two pieces of chicken – both breasts. I communicated the mix-up, and the third chicken piece arrived – and was another breast. I didn’t have the heart to tell our bartender server about the bungle; she was busy enough! So I embraced the three-breast meal. I was happy to find the white-meat chicken to be quite juicy. The breading was nice and crispy, too.

But you know what the biggest surprise was for me on that Hazel’s Southern Platter? The Candied Yams. WOW, were they DELICIOUS! Those little root veggie nuggets were loaded with flavor. They were in this cinnamon-laced syrup that was SO good. I could eat a bucket of those candied yams!

My friend had one of Kuzzo’s omelets and loved it. Both of us made an unconventional choice that day at the chicken-and-waffles restaurant. But I must say, as I peruse Kuzzo’s menu now, I feel I wouldn’t mind returning to try one of its namesake choices: maybe the Mrs. Irene (waffles and fried chicken smothered in gravy and onions) or the Big Red (red velvet waffles with a cream cheese glaze paired with three wings or chicken tenders). Enticing choices abound on that menu!

19345 Livernois Ave.

Detroit, MI 48221

www.kuzzoschickenandwaffles.com

514. Deshi Kitchen – July 16, 2021 – Sterling Heights, MI

Friday night carryout from Deshi Kitchen: what a treat!

In these COVID times, having the ability to order takeaway is not something I take for granted – even now that life is (somewhat) back to normal. I felt that sentiment the night I picked up my meal from this Sterling Heights-based Indian restaurant.

It was a delight to devour Deshi’s delicious fare. The chicken vindaloo I ordered was optimally spicy, while the aloo gobi was utterly tasty with its potato and cauliflower chunks tossed in a sauce of warm spices. The garlic naan was fresh, pillowy goodness!

Deshi’s menu boasts a plethora of favorite Indian dishes, including chicken korma, butter chicken, goat curry, palak paneer, and biryani.

43095 Hayes Rd.

Sterling Heights, MI 48313

www.deshikitchenmi.com