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Friday, April 30, 2010

The Last Drag and the smoking ban in Michigan

Folks that are familiar with the bar scene all over Michigan will be headed out tonight for the last night of legal smoking inside Michigan's fine beer and liquor serving establishments.  Starting tomorrow, all the juke joints, holes in the wall, watering holes, pubs, taverns, clubs, lounges, and neighborhood bars will be under the watchful eye of Michigan's finest.  Having a cigarette indoors at one of these places will now be punishable by fine.  In order to celebrate this final night of cancer accelerating behavior, bar crawlers will be visiting all their favorites across Detroit's bergs, and I assume across Michigan, to smoke enough cigarettes to last them the total amount of time they plan to spend in a bar for the rest of their lives.

If you are one of the many then you have options for tonight.  In Ferndale, the Ruth Ellis Center and D. Erickson PR bring you the Take the Last Drag pub crawl.  The crawl will be lead by fashionable drag queens and will take smokers and non-smokers to all the hot spots like the WAB, Dino's and Como's.

The Last Drag Invite

At the Belmont Bar in Hamtramck owner Darren Grown will be hosting The Last Great Michigan Smoke Down to celebrate those who choose to smoke and those who don't.  Entertainment will be provided all night will a variety of Detroit bands.  Grown says that the party is to lament the loss of yet another personal freedom.  

Not all the last chance smoke events are against the ban.  In the same article it mentions The Magic Stick in Detroit will be ushering in a new era by having fun and celebrating both sides of the ban.  Also mentioned is the New Place Lounge in Dearborn.   

Whether you are for or against the ban I suggest you go out and celebrate tonight to support your local main street and business owners!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pita Way in Clarkston, MI.

Do you love Mediterranean food?  Then you'll love Pita Way on Sashabaw Rd. in Clarkston, MI.  This small mediterranean fast food joint has been serving fresh, great tasting food for almost a month now but there were a few customers who seemed to establish themselves as regulars already.  Among them a group of high schoolers that might have been ditching class.  

I just got done eating lunch there and I was impressed.  I had the #1 Chicken Shawarma sandweech (as they are called) and the chicken was flavorful, the veggies were fresh and the home made hummus topped with paprika and olive oil was rad!  But they do a lot more than just pita sandwiches.  They have soups (home made lentil), salads and will even do a pita-less sandweech (with rice instead of pita).  Their take out menu also offers catering and delivery.  

When I walked in I was promptly greeted and asked if I wanted to try a sample of anything.  Everybody was getting samples... of the meat (they have beef and chicken), the veggies, the sauces, everything.  All samples were prefaced with a "Have you tried my...?" or "You're gonna like my..."  You can tell Pita Way wants to be customer friendly and provide extra value to its customers during a time that everyone seems to be pinching pennies.  For $6.50 I got a sandweech, a side of hummus and pita and a fountain drink.  It's not cheap, but reasonable.  I still think Subway's $5 6" sub with chips and a drink beats any deal around. 

The only thing that could be seen as a downfall is that if you are a fan of pita sandweeches, as I am, then most of what they do there can be done at home with the same ingredients.  But since I live in Ferndale it is worth it to me so that I'm not wasting gas driving 45 minutes home for something I can get close by.  For those of you living in and around Clarkston I would highly suggest you try this place out if you enjoy mediterranean food... and then trying to make it at home.

Owner Brandon Bahoura is a recent Oakland University grad who hopes to become a successful entrepreneur in the area.  I would say that he is off to a good start with Pita Way.

Gogol Bordello

New words must be invented to describe the sound of Gogol Bordello from Brooklyn, NY.  If I had to put a label on their genre I would call it Alternative Gypsy Rock.  The band sounds like a mix of traditional Eastern European folk music by Borat with the angst of Kurt Cobain.  Their live shows include a troupe of live dancers that frolic around the stage while lead singer and guitarist Eugene Hutz works his mustache and the microphone.  The shouting choruses remind me of Irish drinking songs but the feel is totally Fiddler on the Roof.  

Go to fullsize image

Gogol has been around since 1998 when the first members met at a Russian wedding in Vermont and started "jamming in A minor."  Since then they have played house parties, small clubs and other event spaces till now.  Their new album, Trans-Continental Hustle, has just been released and is available on iTunes as well as your local record store.

If you would like to see them live they will be playing two shows in the US (Baltimore 4/30, and Philly 5/2) before heading overseas to the UK, the rest of Europe and even Russia.  But if you go to their website you can follow along with updates, tweets and even some free song samples.

As of right now my jury is still out on this band.  I love their story and how they have risen through the ranks by word of mouth and playing small parties and venues.  The fact that they are the first of their kind is also awesome.  The music industry is always looking for something new and right now Gogol Bordello is it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ferndale's Via Nove

via nove logo

Like all good husbands I took my wife out to dinner for her birthday last Wednesday to a local restaurant named Via Nove.  We had heard good things about this local Italian spot but had not yet experienced it so we decided to make it our destination for the evening.

When I looked at their website,  it said that I should probably make reservations so I did.  When we arrived at 8pm there was one other couple eating dinner and we got to pick out table next to one of the two garage doors which are propped open during the summer evenings.  Outside on the patio there were some scattered tables and chairs that are set up for outdoor dining as soon as the weather turns.

When it came to ordering drinks we wanted to get a mojito but our waiter, Claude, explained that the mint they grow themselves in front of the restaurant was not yet blooming.  As Claude further explained, Via Nove grows a lot of their own herbs, spices, and vegetables right out front.  Walking by on 9 mile I don't know if I would have noticed on my own, but that added to the cool factor of our experience.  After drinks came the bread.  Soft, chewy, seasoned with herbs and served generously with a plate of olive oil with some spaghetti sauce on top.  I could have just had bread this bread and would have been happy.  We also had the Mozzarella Caprese which is basically mozzarella cheese slices and fresh tomato slices served with olive oil and basil leaf.

Our entrees did not take long to prepare and were excellent.  I had Filettino di Manzo and my wife had the Tagliatelli Gabriella.  The Filettino is a petit filet served with grilled prawns, peppers and rosemary potato flan ( which was like mashed potatoes formed into a crab cake like fried shape.  The Tagliatelli is actually from the pasta dish and is spaghetti with a lobster sauce with grilled prawns and scallops.  Both dishes were well prepared, tasty and VERY filling.  We took a lot of the spaghetti home in a doggy bag.

After dinner we enjoyed a few cups of coffee which Claude gladly served us while we chatted him up about working and living in Ferndale.  He rides his bike or walks to work and enjoys the Ferndale community.  Originally from Austin, TX. Claude moved to M"cichigan about 20 years ago and has been in Ferndale for 10.  He was very attentive and seemed like he enjoyed waiting on us and talking with us. It might have been him just trying to get a bigger tip, which he did, but he seemed genuine.  He even took us up to the bar/lounge area upstairs that Via Nove rents out for office parties, receptions and even weddings.  There is a dance floor area and an extremely tall bar that is lit up with a cool neon green light.  Although the food was great, I would say Claude was the highlight of our evening and we greatly appreciated his service.

I will definitely go back to Via Nove, probably during the summer to experience their new patio furniture and sample another one of their great entrees or pastas and to see Claude.  I would also like to check out some of the specials they are offering.  Friday nights are "Date Nights" when you get to choose an appetizer, salad, entree and dessert from a limited menu for only $50 per couple.  Saturday nights are "Celebration Nights" at Via Nove where you can get a choice of salad, a pasta course, a choice of entree, a choice of dessert and a choice of a bottle of wine, all for only $89 per couple.  Some great deals from a great establishment.  Thanks Via Nove!

Friday, April 16, 2010

National Park Week

Starting Saturday all of the 392 National Parks in the United States will be offering free admission in an effort to get Americans out to see the beauty and diversity of our nation in an initiative they are calling National Park Week.

Having just recently visited Arches National Park in Utah I think this is a sweet deal and would love to take part.  Unfortunately Michigan's only National Park, Isle Royal,  resides a little closer to the UP than Detroit.  My favorite, Glacier National Park in Montana is also a little far, but if you get a chance go see it because the glaciers are slowly disappearing (melting) with only two remaining.  Here are some pics from Arches.

Some rad stats on National Parks...

Yellowstone was the first established in 1872

Alaska and California have the most with 8

The largest is Wrangell - St. Elias in southern Alaska

The smallest is Hot Springs in Arkansas

The most visited is The Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina

The least visited is Lake Clark in Alaska (debated)

Visit for more info on all the national parks!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Awesome Site

This site was featured on The Colbert Report last night and I though it was a great idea.  I think we need a fact checking site for the politicians in the city of Detroit!

Highlights include an Obama Promises kept-o-meter and the truth-o-meter!


It's here... tax day and I wish all those who are still doing their taxes good luck.  This year I used an online tax preparer for the first time, Turbo Tax, and it was sooooo easy.  Did I get all the deductions possible and make the most on my return?  I don't know... I just know that Turbo Tax saved me from all that reading of the tax forms which always send me on a wild goose chase for Forms, Schedules and the like.  If you are looking for a quick and easy solution and don't mind paying a reasonable amount then I highly recommend Turbo Tax for all your tax needs.

Of course back when tax started in Ancient Egypy (3000 B.C.) Turbo Tax did not exist.  I guess the pharaoh would walk around his kingdom and collect a deben or grain tax from the people.   So I would like to take this opportunity to thank and chide the ancient Egyptians for creating this now crazy, weird, puzzling but in theory helpful system.

In honor of the tax season coming to an end I decided to delve in to the definition of tax a bit and see where all the tax I pay goes.  Upon reading a little about tax I found out about the four R's; revenue, redistribution,  repricing and representation.  The Revenue part is for the government so that we can enjoy public services like schools and roads and also to pay our beloved politicians who preserve social order.  The Redistribution part is for those who are unemployed or less fortunate than ourselves who can afford to pay taxes.  Our money is distributed to them (supposedly) so that they may enjoy a partial sliver of the lives we do.  The Repricing part is like a "sin tax" that is levied on things like alcohol and tobacco so that tax revenue is not depleted by the costs that these products can cause.  Finally, we do not allow our government to levy these taxes on us without some sort of accountability, the Representation part.

To sum it all up I think taxes could be rad.  If they were actually used for what the government tells us they are used for.  I think what happens in many political elections around the world is that tax is manipulated by candidates to try to sway elections.  Those with power and wealth are promised fewer taxes in return for their votes.  But the problem is that those with power and wealth are then paying fewer taxes while those without pay more.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tigers Opening Day without a ticket

It was a cold opening day in downtown Detroit, but the fans and the win made it a little warmer inside my heart.  I was able to venture downtown to witness the craziness that surrounds the holiday of Tigers Opening Day.

I will admit that I did not get up and head down early like I planned.  In fact I was driving through downtown trying to find a (free) parking space around first pitch time.  I would usually have parked at the Greektown Casino but the line was long and only one of the structures was open.  Instead I went a little further out of the way to the Eastern Market parking (which is also free) and walked a little further towards Comerica.  While driving around I did get a lot a few pictures of just how crazy some of the sights were, and how expensive parking near Comerica was.  Do the prices change on opening day?  In front of the ballpark was almost like a state fair atmosphere with booths, vendors, food and activities.

After parking I walked about 10 minutes back into the Foxtown area and the ballpark down Brush St. to the Ellwood Bar.  It looked as though my chances of getting in to the park, not to mention a fine dining establishment while the game was going was very slim.  Other places I tried to get in were the Old Shillelagh and Cheli's Chili.  For a moment I thought about joining some fans trying to climb the fence for a peek, but decided against it.

Luckily during about the fourth inning I wondered into a place called Shotz at Greektown where I met my brother and some of his friends.  It was still extremely hard to get a beer if you did not have a seat at the bar but I could tell the staff was working as hard as they could given the circumstances.  The word around was that if you had a waitress it could take 1 hour to get food!  I will say they had ample standing room and plenty of TV's to catch the opening day action.

If I had to do it again I would definitely get downtown earlier to stake out a seat or seats before the game started.  I would also like to get actual tickets to the game but don't want to pay inflated food and beverage prices inside Comerica.