Shops

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

497. Saigon Market – January 30, 2021 – Madison Heights, MI

Saigon Market introduced me to the delights of rice vermicelli noodles and pickled ginger!

A January visit to the family-owned, Madison Heights-based grocery store brought both of these delicious (and now staple) items into my life. What a treat it was to stroll Saigon Market’s aisles and browse for such goodies! The shop’s interior is relatively small, but it’s mightily packed with Vietnamese grocery goods, meat, seafood, and produce. There’s even a carryout counter from which you can order freshly prepared báhn mì and other savory and sweet Vietnamese treats.

I was supposed to visit Vietnam last year; COVID squashed that plan, as it squashed so many others. But the beauty of living here in Metro-Detroit is the plethora of establishments that bring Vietnam to us. Thank you, Saigon Market, for being one of those wonderful establishments!

30573 John. R. Rd.

Madison Heights, MI 48071

www.newsaigonmarket.com

494. 168 Asian Mart – January 10, 2021 – Madison Heights, MI

168 Asian Mart’s website bills it as the “largest Asian market in the Midwest.” That’s a weighty claim – but totally believable given the dearth of goods available at this Madison Heights-based grocery store!

What a treat to explore such an expansive store during intense pandemic times that weren’t exactly brimming with novel experiences for me (at least not with ones I preferred to encounter). I picked up fresh produce; admired 168 Asian Mart’s extensive meat, seafood, bakery, and frozen food sections; and navigated shelf upon shelf of soups, spices, condiments, candies, noodles, and other dry grocery goods. My purchases included a container of red curry paste, a delightfully spicy chili oil, and a five-pound bag of (still unopened) glutinous rice. Here’s to cracking that bag open and making the mango sticky rice recipe that was the inspiration for buying it!

In addition to being a purveyor of grocery goods from across Asia, 168 Asian Mart has a food court. You can choose from a variety of fresh-prepared dishes and even have the kitchen cook up items purchased from the meat and seafood counter. I love that level of service!

32393 John R. Rd.

Madison Heights, MI 48071

www.168asianmarket.com

488. Weiss’ Meats & Deli – November 21, 2020 – Chesterfield, MI

During these pandemic times, I’m finding joy in simple pleasures – such as a juicy T-bone steak from Weiss’ Meats & Deli!

The Chesterfield-based market offers exceptional service alongside its meat, seafood, and deli counters and grocery area proffering dry goods, wine and beer, produce, and other foodstuffs. The polite, friendly staff will bring your parcels of meat and seafood to the cashier counter for you – an impressive touch, in my book!

Weiss’ offers online ordering and curbside pick-up, plus party-sized subs and trays of fruits and veggies, cold cuts and cheeses, and other festive finger foods. For all of you hunters, Weiss’ offers deer processing, as well!

I am not a hunter – unless you count stalking butchers’ counters as hunting. In that case, I achieved three kills at Weiss’: the aforementioned T-bone steak, plus country ribs and two pounds of ground round. The T-bone steak was cooked the night after I visited Weiss’ and was a tender, delicious dinner. The ribs and ground round are nestled in my freezer, ready to be unearthed when simple pleasures of a carnivorous kind are called for!

51094 D.W. Seaton Dr.

Chesterfield, MI 48047

www.weissmeatsanddeli.com

474. Carnival Market – May 9, 2020 – Pontiac, MI

May2020CarnivalMarket1 (3)May2020CarnivalMarket2 (2)Grocery stores are, blessedly, one of the places we can visit during the COVID-19 pandemic. And that means I got to visit Carnival Market in Pontiac recently!

As with many of the places I highlight on 100 Places in the D, I’d known about and been wanting to visit Carnival Market for years. The grocery store features all manner of Latin American foodstuffs, including house-made tortilla chips, salsas, and desserts. It even operates an in-store Mexican restaurant with a full menu.

I was fortunate enough to try Carnival Market’s restaurant fare last year when it was brought in for lunch at my then place of work. WOW, was it delicious! The tacos, chips, and salsas were AMAZING, and my desire to visit the store amped up. Somehow, another half a year passed before I did that . . ..

Not having visited Carnival Market became a blessing in the time of COVID, when it became one of the few public places I was able to explore. Entering the store was an absolute thrill for me – both as someone who loves to grocery shop and as one who has been starved for adventure.

Carnival Market’s interior was clean and stocked with neatly-stacked produce and other well-curated wares. One row was nothing but bagged and bulk spices; another section contained refrigerated cases showcasing multiple varieties of house-made salsas and pretty desserts. There were shelves of flour and corn tortillas, some of which were locally made; a meat counter; a bakery section; ample aisles of dry goods, dairy, frozen foods, beverages (including beer), and household cleaning supplies. It was a cornucopia of grocery goodness!

I picked up a variety of produce; a package of tostadas; bags of corn and flour tortillas; two kinds of house-made salsa (the Red Hot Salsa and the Super Hot Green Salsa); a bottle of hot sauce; and an individually-sized portion of tres leches cake.

It’s been so fun to enjoy these purchases! I’ve found Carnival Market’s salsas to be phenomenal, bursting with flavor. The chips are awesome, too: thick, well-fried and addictively crunchy. And the tres leches cake, wonderfully soaked as it was in sweetened condensed milk, captured my heart with its decadence.

I’m all about looking for the bright spots in this pandemic, and my visit to Carnival Market was definitely a bright spot. I’m excited to be in proximity of this well-curated grocery store and the joyful prospect of visiting it again.

1101 E. Walton Blvd.

Pontiac, MI 48340

www.carnival-market.com

471. E&L Supermercado – March 8, 2020 – Detroit, MI

March2020E&LSupermercado1 (2)March2020E&LSupermercado2 (2)As of the writing of this post, I haven’t been to a grocery store in almost two weeks – or anywhere, really. But it cheers me to know that wonderful grocery stores such as E&L Supermercado are still in operation during this challenging time, doing the noble work of feeding the masses.

I visited the Southwest Detroit-based grocery store in early March, marveling over its well-stocked meat counter, mounds of fresh produce, array of fresh-baked breads and sweets, and ample selections of locally-made corn and flour tortillas, house-made salsas, and Mexican dry grocery goods.

I enjoyed shopping in the store bustling with families and friends running into each other. After perusing all of the goodies, I came out with a variety of fruits and vegetables, a sack of house-made tortilla chips, bags of fresh flour tortillas, canned salsa, a package of El Milagro non-GMO tostadas (LOVE those – they’re so deliciously crunchy!), and what turned out to be my favorite purchase, a container of E&L Supermercado’s house-made Salsa a la Diabla.

I ADORE spicy food. But I’ll admit: buying a salsa labeled “Salsa of the Devil” gave me pause; I wondered if it would be more heat than I could handle. Happily, it was not; that Salsa a la Diabla was nowhere near as spicy as I’d expected it to be – but it was wonderful.

It brought the heat, but in a pleasant way – at least, in a pleasant way for someone who has a high heat tolerance (I acknowledge that those who prefer mild heat might indeed find it as hot as a work of Satan’s); it had such beautifully nuanced flavor. It struck me as more of an oily, spice-infused paste than a traditional salsa; it didn’t have chunks of tomatoes or veggies in it but appeared to contain an ample amount of ground red chiles. I became OBSESSED with it, consuming it daily mixed into meals or slathered on E&L Supermercado’s perfectly crispy, salty tortilla chips – until it ran out and I found myself scrambling for an excuse to drive down to buy more.

Even if E&L Supermercado wasn’t doing the work of heroes at this intense time in history, feeding people fresh and nutritious and tasty food when they need it most, I’d still view the store as a superpower for manufacturing that Salsa a la Diabla and for offering such stellar produce and groceries. E&L Supermercado has definitely been added to my rotation of top-notch locally-owned markets!

6000 W. Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.el-supermercado.com

460. Boston Tea Room – January 21, 2020 – Ferndale, MI

January2020BostonTeaRoom1 (2)Boston Tea Room: what an emporium of high-vibing goodness!

I’d intended to explore the shop based in downtown Ferndale for years. When I finally attempted to in late December of last year, I discovered that it’d moved to another location: still in Ferndale, but north of downtown, in a suite in a building on Woodward Heights Boulevard. I visited it several weeks later.

When I stepped inside the large, beautiful space that the Boston Tea Room is now located within, I was happy that I’d waited to visit. The friendly employee who helped me select a deck of tarot cards to purchase told me it’s about five times the size of the former space. It was a delight to walk through the airy storeroom with its well-organized displays of spiritually-centered goodies: tarot cards, books, crystals, candles, clothing, incense, jewelry and accessories, and more.

Boston Tea Room is more than a shop: it also offers tarot readings, sessions with mediums and intuitive counselors, workshops on topics such as journaling, astrology, and reading oracle cards, and Level I and Level II reiki attunement/certification classes. Like I said, it’s an emporium of goodness! And I’m glad to have finally become acquainted with it.

1220 Woodward Heights Blvd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.bostontearoom.com

455. Discount Candles and Blessings – December 31, 2019 – Detroit, MI

December2019Discount Candles1 (2)On the last day of 2019, a Detroit jaunt was in order! A visit to Discount Candles and Blessings in the Eastern Market neighborhood seemed like an appropriate way to prepare to usher in the new year.

The shop sells candles in tall glass jars, many of which are emblazoned with intentions, such as the Block Breaker!! candle I procured during my visit. There are candles that encourage the finding of love, the winning of the lottery, the victorious resolution of legal disputes (see the amusingly titled Other Lawyer be Stupid candle). There are candles depicting saints and ones branded with signs of the zodiac (I got one of those, too). Crystals, herbs, incense, essential oils, and other items of a spiritual bent are also sold.

I found the candles I bought at Discount Candles to be affordably priced; they cost around $7 each and are long-burning.

When candles are purchased at the shop, they can be dressed for an extra charge: anointed with essential oil and blessed, upping the goods-vibes ante. Another cool feature of Discount Candles on the day of my visit was a burn bin, where patrons could incinerate lists of things they wanted to rid themselves of before entering the new year.

Whether you are into spiritual shops or simply a candle devotee, this place is worth a visit!

1484 Gratiot Ave.

Detroit, MI 48207

 

449. Mongers’ Provisions – November 29, 2019 – Detroit, MI

November2019Mongers'Provisions1 (3)I was drawn into Mongers’ Provisions by the prospect of cheese but blown away by another of its offerings: its chocolate collection.

I love cheese, but chocolate, that resides in a place smack-dab at the center of my heart. And WOW, does Mongers’ Provisions proffer a LOT of chocolate! Artisan chocolate bars, from all parts of the world and infused with all kinds of flavorings, fill shelves along one wall of the shop based in the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit. Study those shelves, and you’ll see varietals as wide-ranging as chili-infused dark chocolate and white chocolate melded with duck egg, curry, and cereal (!).

Both of those varietals listed above, by the way, were ones I got to sample during my visit to Mongers’. The employee assisting me insisted that I sample any chocolate I was interested in, an offer that I found to be extremely generous, as the bars offered at Mongers’ are not cheap. It showcases artisan chocolates, with many – if not all – focused on using cacao procured via fair-trade means. These are distinctive chocolate bars, crafted with superior ingredients. I can’t recall exactly how much that white chocolate/duck egg/curry/cereal bar cost, but I believe it was in the $12-to-$14 range. And it was phenomenal, I might add. Who knew such seemingly discordant ingredients could meld into such creamy, flavorful deliciousness?

The chili-infused dark chocolate variety I sampled at Mongers’ was quite good, as well. But it was the third bar I tasted, the Raaka Raspberry Mint, in which I decided to invest. I love the rich, almost jammy raspberry flavor and subtle hint of mint in this creamy, 65-percent dark chocolate bar, which uses unroasted cacao beans sourced from the Dominican Republic. And at $8, the price of this bar was admittedly more in line with my current budget than some of Mongers’ other chocolate offerings.

Since my visit, I’ve definitely been keeping this shop and its fantastic chocolate collection in mind. Not only do I hope to delve into it more in the future, but I also think the singular bars that comprise it would make excellent gifts, different as they are from the generic (and oft subpar) chocolates commonly found at chain grocers.

Similarly, the cheeses offered at Mongers’ are a far cry from the waxy, hyper-processed, is-there-even-dairy-in-here? stuff that often passes as cheese. They are specially curated varieties, with some – such as the Bayley Hazen Blue featured on its website – priced at over $30 a pound. These are cheeses that are meant to be savored, perhaps alongside a nice glass of wine or squares of that artisan chocolate.

Mongers’ Provisions offers more than thoughtfully compiled chocolates and cheeses. Keeping to the provisions part of its name, it also sells beer, wine, drink mixers, cured meats, and dry goods that would pair well with cheeses and chocolates, such as aged balsamic vinegar and one of my favorite locally-made products EVER, Gus & Grey jams. It also offers epic cheese and charcuterie boards; check out its website for oh-so-pretty (and mouth-watering) images of them.

I’m happy to have become acquainted with this shop that brings such care and attention to detail to its offerings and to its customer service. Thanks, Mongers’ Provisions, for being such a top-notch provider of charcuterie, cheese, and that element most near and dear to my heart: chocolate!

4240 Cass Ave., Ste. 111

Detroit, MI 48201

(with an additional location in Ferndale)

www.mongersprovisions.com

433. Hugh – September 22, 2019 – Detroit, MI

September2019Hugh1 (3)September2019Hugh2 (2)Hugh, in a nutshell, sells pretty things!

A more accurate assessment of the shop based in Detroit’s Cass Corridor neighborhood is that it sells items that are both aesthetically pleasing AND functional: well-designed home goods such as glassware, barware, candles, clocks, coffee-table books, and furniture, plus personal care items and accessories.

Hugh’s interior is a well-organized place, pleasing to browse. The woman working the store the Sunday afternoon I visited was welcoming, and while I didn’t end up buying anything, I was especially intrigued by the Chemex coffee makers, elegant glass vessels (which remind me of beakers with their middles cinched) used to make pour-over coffee. Now that I’ve read this post on Hugh’s blog about the history of these coffee makers, I’m feeling increasingly taken with them. Maybe it’s time for a revisit?

If you aren’t in the area, you can still shop for Hugh’s pretty-slash-purposeful wares via its website (which also shows more furniture available for sale than is on display in its brick-and-mortar store).

4240 Cass Ave, Ste. 107

Detroit, MI 48201

(Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

www.thankhugh.com