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

463. Rocco’s Italian Deli – January 30, 2020 – Detroit, MI

January2020Rocco'sItalianDeli1 (2)January2020Rocco'sItalianDeli2 (2)My mouth still waters when I think about the meatball sub I ordered at Rocco’s Italian Deli over a month ago. That Want Nonna to Make You a Meatball? sub was exquisite with its tender beef meatballs nestled in an irresistibly chewy bun and slathered in flavorful marinara sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan!

Rocco’s is more than a sandwich shop. The establishment based in the Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit is also a grocer offering shelves of Italian dry-goods staples such as pasta, canned tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, and wine, plus a full deli counter proffering olives and slice-to-order cheeses and cured meats. It’s also a bar, serving beer, wine, and cocktails – AND a coffee house, serving coffee and espresso drinks. All that wrapped into one – with killer sandwiches, to boot!

I’m apparently not the only one who finds Rocco’s so appealing: it was bustling with clientele when I entered it on the afternoon of my visit. The lunch crowd was in full swing! I’d hoped to stay and enjoy my sandwich at one of its tables or counter seats, but based off of the scarcity in seating at that time, I opted for carryout instead.

Scanning Rocco’s prepared-foods menu of entrée salads and sandwiches, I encountered numerous delectable-sounding options before making Want Nonna to Make You a Meatball? my choice. Take, for instance, the Mozz and Mozz of Fun sandwich boasting fresh mozzarella, roasted tomato, basil pesto, and balsamic drizzle and the Little Puzzo Loves His Pork with its roasted pork, sautéed broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone. Yum and YUM!

I ordered at the counter, and despite the busyness, waited no more than 10 minutes for my order; Rocco’s staff was operating as a well-oiled, sandwich-building, salad-slinging machine!

Once home, I dug into my Want Nonna to Make You a Meatball? sub and found that my choice was justified. It was DELICIOUS! I ate it with such relish that I didn’t pause to take a photo of it. Bonus points go to Rocco’s for putting the marinara sauce on the side to ensure the optimal sponginess of the sandwich bread once I bit into it (hooray for not-soggy sandwiches!).

My consensus around Rocco’s Italian Deli is obvious to me: it’s DEFINITELY revisit-worthy. My intention for Visit Number Two: to enjoy one of its tasty sandwiches in-house, accompanied by a glass of red wine or a cappuccino (or both!).

3627 Cass Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

(Closed Sundays)

www.roccosdetroit.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

444. Sawmill Creek Farms – November 9, 2019 – Richmond, MI

November2019SawmillCreek1 (2)November2019SawmillCreek2 (2)Sawmill Creek Farms, I’m so happy to have been introduced to you!!!

The Richmond-based family-run farm breeds livestock and sells the resulting wares at a shop on the farm premises. A coworker brought the farm to my attention, raving about how great tasting the meat was, how reasonable the prices were, and how well treated the animals appeared to be.

Her high praises had me intrigued. Scoping out Sawmill Creek Farms’ website, I read about the husband-and-wife duo, Sarah and Nick, who run the farm and their philosophy of raising livestock humanely, livestock fed on grain and hay grown on the farm and without antibiotics or hormones added to their diet, as well as the farm’s use of an USDA-inspected processing facility to process the animals into meat and its holding of a retail food license.

Liking what I saw on that website,  I knew a visit to Sawmill Creek Farms was in order. So on a sunny Saturday in early November (just two days before that snowstorm that dumped mega inches on us!), I jaunted out to Richmond.

Perched at the edge of Memphis Ridge Road, Sawmill Creek Farms’ shop was easy to spot as I approached it. It was a welcoming sight with its neat red exterior with white shutters and trim and its cheery fall displays of hay bales, pumpkins, and potted mums.

Stepping inside the shop, I was greeted by Sarah and a visiting customer who was chatting with her. One of Sarah’s two young boys bounced about on a couch in the corner, playing and watching TV.

Sarah explained how each of the white freezers inside the shop was labelled with the different cuts of meat it held. She handed me price lists showing the current costs of the cuts of meat offered as well as a sheet explaining six available meat bundles. She mentioned that depending on the current availability, some of the products offered might not be available at that time.

I was so excited to mine those freezers! They were filled with all manner of cuts of beef, chicken, and pork, plus sausages and bologna. The cuts available ranged from chicken breasts to bacon to beef fajita meat to various types of roasts to various types of steaks to pork chops . . ..

From this dizzying array, I selected: seven pounds of ground beef; two whole chickens; a beef rump roast; and a packet of pork country ribs. I got all of this (plus a Sawmill Creek Farms reusable shopping bag, which I received for free for spending a certain amount) for around $80, which I found to be quite reasonable. My haul is shown in the photo above.

While Sarah was ringing up my order, we chatted about the farm. She confirmed that the animals are allowed to roam the Sawmill Creek Farms pastures during their lives there and are so beloved by her and her family that a few have been taken out of eligibility for processing and designated pets (which she said her husband jokingly refers to as “hay-burners”). I told her how happy I was to find a place that raised meat ethically, how I am an unabashed meat eater but that it’s important to me to buy meat for my home cooking that comes from animals that have had a good life and how such meat can be hard to find.

I really enjoyed chatting with Sarah and getting to shop at her family’s store. I have also enjoyed getting into the Sawmill Creek Farms wares! Since my visit about three weeks ago, I have roasted one of the whole chickens I purchased and cooked two of the pounds of ground hamburger meat I bought (incorporating one into chili and the other into tacos), and all of the meat has tasted most delicious. In my book, Sawmill Creek Farms is emphatically a keeper.

If you are a meat eater and live in the area, I encourage you to check this farm out! Knowing where your meat comes from is most definitely a good feeling.

76320 Memphis Ridge Rd.

Richmond, MI 48062

(Closed Sundays and Mondays)

www.sawmillcreekfarmsllc.com