Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dinner at The Ravens Club

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending a dinner for food bloggers at The Ravens Club. It was a wonderful opportunity speak with the folks who make Ravens Club such a great restaurant and also meet some local bloggers in the real world.

I am impressed with TRC's dedication to finding what works and willingness to adapt. Everyone from Jeff, the owner, and Chef Frank to us food bloggers think TRC's current menu is their best. In keeping to their dedication to using local and seasonal ingredients, most items will rotate through every 6 weeks. Chef Frank told us though, he realizes there is value for costumers in knowing that they will always be able to find something they like. To that end, the menu is ballasted by two stalwart american classics: fried chicken and a hamburger. They are both delicious.

There are of course, options for more adventurous eaters too. Having arrived late, I ended up sitting sitting at the end of the table with the wine bloggers. Thought they laughed politely when I mentioned I had been really enjoying Trader Joe's new boxed wine, I felt like I needed to impress them. I ordered the grilled bone marrow. It was delicious. Though it was a special at the time, the consensus in the blogosphere is that it should become a regular part of TRC's menu. I also ate other delicious things throughout the night.

Toasted cashews with truffle salt--thinking about these cashews is making my mouth water

Pork Rillete with sweet pickled onions--TRC makes great pickles.

Chef's Selection Charcuterie board--though this selection of meats and cheeses on the board change daily, it always seems to come with housemade pickled curried cauliflower. Yes, the meat and cheese selections here are superb, but I'm always blown away with how great the cauliflower are.

Now let's talk about the drinks. TRC has really mastered small batch draft cocktails. If you are looking for a great happy hour, check them out. At the dinner I tried the Vieux Carre, a hand drawn cocktail named for and inspired by New Orleans' French Quarter. It's a spirit-forward blending rye, cognac, benedictine, aromatic wine and house made bitters. If you like rye whiskey and cocktails that are not too sweet, you will really like this cocktail. The 5 Parts with Two James is a delightful gin cocktail based around the Detroit Distilled gin and grapefruit. You also can't go wrong with TRC's standby, the hand pulled Old Fashioned or their newer Ill Fashioned.

On the drink front, it's also worth noting that TRC has a small, but well curated selection of wines. Ben Eberlein, is TRC's wine guy and he has put together a selection of a dozen wines: 6 red and 6 white. In keeping with the theme of American food, all the wines are from the US save for the sparkling selection a cava from Spain. Now, I don't have the most refined wine pallet, but I think TRC has really done a good job striking a balance of having wines that are approachable for the casual drinker, as well as some exciting wines to entice the more hardcore vinophiles. I especially enjoyed the Corvidae Ravenna Riesling from Columbia Valley, Washington. It's a delicious, semi-dry Riesling that the wine bloggers really liked. I also liked it because I thought it was clever that Ben tried to incorporate raven themed wines into TRC's menu; Corvidae is the raven and crow family.

Gentle Readers, I think The Ravens Clubs current menu is awesome and you should really check it out. But you don't have to take my word for it. Here are the articles from the other folks who were at the dinner that night:

Meg.Goes.Nom.Nom--The Ravens Club Blogger Dinner

Food and Wine Hedonist--Ann Arbor Eats: The Ravens Club

The Winegetter--An evening at the Ravens Club

Eater--Chef Frank Fejeran Helps The Ravens Club Realize Its Potential

Clover Eats--Visions and Philosophy at The Ravens Club

Beyond having their own unique prospectives on the menu, these folks also have much nice pictures than I do. You should check it out.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Arb Troll is dead

I snapped the above picture at around 3:30 pm yesterday. By noon the Arb Troll lay in pieces. Some folks have suggested the wind may be responsible. Given the troll survived the worst of the windstorms on Monday, I am leaning towards humans (or fairies) as the responsible parties. Regardless, it's pretty disappointing. I think somebody should write a requiem for the Arb Troll.

Via Mary Morgan via Matt Callow

Damn Arbor's guide to Bars, 2014

Attentive Damn Arbor readers may notice this article bares a strong resemblance to one posted Wednesday, November 27th, 2013. Today's post is almost identical to last year's with the exception of Woodruff's which has shuffled off this mortal coil. Without further ado, here is our largely un-updated 2014 bar guide:

Tonight is the best bar night of the year. Or at least one of the busiest. It's a great time to grab a drink at your favorite hometown watering hole with some friends and just see who shows up. Incase you're having some trouble deciding where to grab a drink tonight, we here at Damn Arbor have worked tirelessly to update our guide to the Ypsi-Arbor Area's bars. We hope you find it useful.
Gentle readers, are you going out to grab a pint/tumbler/pitcher with your friends tonight? Do you have anything you'd like to add to our Bar Guide? And remember, if you go out tonight, make arrangements for a DD or call a cab.


Arbor Brewing Company: 114 E Washington St

BCB: I’m a big ABC fan. I think they do a good local food/pub food fusion. The vegetarians and vegans I know really appreciate ABC’s extensive selection of good food they can eat. Their standard beers are good standbys, but I usually like their seasonal and limited run beers a lot better.
G$: I always found ABC kind of mediocre, kind of like ordering a Heineken, but it’s a good place to take a group and have a casual beer and some passable food.
EJ: I like the atmosphere at ABC: it can accommodate a larger group of friends as well as an intimate Sunday night book club. Plus, now you can hit up Literati right next door and make a whole evening of it.
Quinn: I used to not really be on the ABC bandwagon. I’ll admit I still don’t like that it’s too nice for how sticky all the tables and seats are, much like The Arena. Unlike The Arena, the food menu has gotten wayyyyy better than it was a year or so ago, in health, taste and variety. Not as big on their beers. Yes G$, that’s it! Mediocre.
BCB: Boooooo! you guys are all hating on their beer. Sacred Cow and Bavarian Bliss are good beers. And I'm not just saying that about the Bliss because I married EJ. G$: She truly is bliss, isn't she? I like the Brasserie Blonde on a summer's day, I will give you that.

Monday, November 24, 2014

DTE Outage Map

There's a whole lot of wind outside today. If you're wondering whether you will have power when you get home, the DTE Outage Map is always a useful tool. Not only does the map show where outages are, it also shows you the cause of outage (wind) and an estimation of when the repairs will be complete.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dinosaur graffiti

This is a T. Rex right? Saw it next to Urban Outfitters on State. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is Ann Arbor arbitrarily redacting information in FOIAed documents?

Ann Arbor has an Absentee Voter (AV) File. This file contains the full names and addresses of individuals who have requested absentee ballots, and whether the ballot has been voted yet or not. This information is useful to political campaigns who can us it to identify likely voters for campaign mailings. Damn Arbor contributor and local FOIAer extraordinaire, Ed Vielmetti, submitted a FOIA request (No. 14-315) for the names of individuals who have asked for the information in the AV File for the most recent election. It should be noted that the information in the AV File is very personal (full name, address). The City of Ann Arbor in responding to Ed's FOIA, returned this list redacted list of people who had FOIAed the AV File:

In justifying the redactions in the list, the City cited privacy concerns. It seems strange that the City would want to shield the identities of folks who have requested very personal non-redacted information about voters. Also, if you look at the redactions in the list above, it looks like the email addresses of people who requested the AV Fist have been more, or less arbitrarily redacting some of them. Also, why has the City completely redacted the names of two entities who have requested the AV File? It a waste of staff time and city resources to redact information that should be available to the public.

Don't fear gentle reader, Ed has appealed the redactions in his FOIA request. We'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Buckle up for Christmas Caroled at the Encore Theater

Behold! The trailer for Encore Musical Theatre's original musical Christmas Caroled, written by the theatre's co-founder Dan Cooney and Dayle Ann Hunt, his writing partner. The show is musical take on Charlie Dickens' Christmas Carol, through the scrim of a 1960s Christmas special. This show has everything you have come to expect from the holidays: the tree, the presents, the dancing, the strained family relationships, "O Holy Night" sung by a choir of freaking angels, the alcoholism, the sequin bow ties, the washed-up show biz types, the time travel, the men in their underwear. Seriously: everything.

The show opens for its world premiere Friday (with a special preview night Thursday, November 20) and runs through December 21st. Adult tickets range from $28 to $32, and discounts are available for seniors, students and youth. If there are seats remaining for the show, $15 student rush tickets are available at the box office one hour prior to the show.

Tickets are available here.

(Disclaimer: I'm in the ensemble.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ypsilanti fire knocks out power to 3200+ residents on a cold night

WXYZ and other Detroit television stations are reporting that it was an apartment fire that knocked out power to 3255 Ypsilanti residents this morning.

Power went out at about 1:00 a.m and was restored to most subscribers just before 8:00 a.m. An area on Russell St with 165 subscribers is still without service, with no estimated restoration time given.

Four schools - Erickson Elementary, Forest School, Washtenaw International Middle Academy, and Washtenaw International High School - are closed as a result of the outage, reports the Ann Arbor News. There is a warming shelter open at 239 Spencer Lane near the Ypsilanti Community Middle School at Willow Run.

Map as of 8:04 a.m.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Photo: Holiday lights being installed along Main St.

This morning, I stumbled upon lights being installed along Main St. at Liberty. Ann Arbor should look again for the winter again soon!

Main and Liberty, Nov 17 2014.

Lame Duck 2014

Remember the good old Lame Duck Session of 2012? Man, those were some crazy times. Only time will tell if Lame Duck 2014 will match up. Currently the State Senate is working on passing a road funding bill that would raise gas taxes in order to fix our crumbling roads. The State House of Representatives is working on a bill that would change how Michigan allocates Electoral College votes. Instead of being a winner-take-all state, the bill would allocate some of our Electoral College votes by our gerrymandered Congressional districts. Yikes.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Images Of America: Downtown Ann Arbor

I bought a preview copy of Patti Smith's new book on the history of downtown Ann Arbor, and I finally had a chance to read the book cover-to-cover this morning. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Patti's been working on the book since the summer of 2013, and she got the first physical copies of the book at the beginning of this month. I asked her what inspired her to write the book, and rather than rewrite her answer in my own words I'll just quote her:
I absolutely love Ann Arbor. As cheesy as this sounds, I was raised to give back to things, not take them for granted, and I didn't know how to give back to the city that I love and that seems to have accepted me. I'm not a politician, not a businessperson, not a musician…but I've always been a good writer. So I looked at some of the excellent books that have already been written (notably by Susan Wineburg and Grace Shackman) and sent a query letter to their publisher. A few months later, we had a book contract!
Mayor (or, now, former Mayor) John Hieftje wrote a nice foreword to the book, which features just over a hundred pages of historical photographs and commentary.

I spent hours today reading through pages of anecdotes, mentally placing old photos atop my mental map of downtown, and jotting down notes for further research. And I learned a lot; somehow I didn’t even know there's a bandshell in West Park!

The stories accompanying the photos provide a fascinating look into Ann Arbor's earlier days; I absolutely loved reading about the businesses, citizens, parades, train crashes, fires, parks, fights, and day-to-day life in this town a century ago.

Though the book focuses on downtown, there's also a section dedicated to “Kerrytown, Lower Town, and Near Downtown” (wherein I learned a bit about the history of that land across the railroad tracks from the Amtrak station).

And of course I enjoyed the shout-out to the #a2council crowd on page 54 :)

A huge thanks goes to the Bentley Historical Library, whose archives were very helpful for Patti.

We've noted that there'll be a launch party Monday at 7pm, and this Wednesday, Nov. 19 there will be a signing at Grange Kitchen & Bar! I'll be at both these events; hope to see you there.

Firearm deer season starts today

Today is the start of Michigan's 15 day firearm deer season. Good luck and stay safe in the woods everyone.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Launch this Monday

On Monday the 17th Friend of Damn Arbor, @teacherpatti, will be hosting a party at the sh/aut/ space across from /aut/ bar. Patti's book, Images of America: Downtown Ann Arbor, looks at the history and the people that built Ann Arbor. The event starts at 7 pm and will feature an introduction by Ex-Mayor John Hieftje.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Record store coming to Ypsi's Depot Town

Two Jerks Music will be opening in Depot Town just in time for the holiday gift buying blitz. From their Facebook page:

Opening December 2014!
Music equipment, records, collectibles. Custom guitar repair and mods. Handmade, small batch amplification. Buy/Sell/Trade. Consignment.
It's exciting to see a new record shop opening up.

Via: u/alanblah in r/ypsi

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Strictly Platonic: Seeking Astrophysicists

In honor of the fact that we, as a species, shot a freaking comet with two harpoons today, I thought I'd share this gem from the local Strictly Platonic with y'all:

Cosmologists, Astrophysicists, Particle Physicists Needed (Ann Arbor) Hello all!

I am looking for a Cosmologist, Astrophysicist, Particle Physicist, or someone with expert knowledge and a degree, who is familiar with Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials", to be a source for an academic paper. I am most specifically looking for someone who studies dark matter/energy and has opinions or evidence either supporting or eliminating Pullman's theory of Dust.

I am a Math/Science major at Washtenaw Community College. I am in the Ann Arbor area. I am looking for either a face-to-face conversation (will buy coffee!), or an email exchange with an expert in this field of study. University of Michigan or Eastern Michigan University faculty and/or researchers are most preferred.

Please email me if you're willing to talk to me and be cited as a first-hand source. I must stress that I need to find someone already familiar with Pullman's books. Thank you for reading. This is a matter of great interest to me, and this paper will mean a lot to me, whatever information I find.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Changing of the Guard

Sunday, November 9th, was Mayor John Hieftje's last day in office. Hieftje served as mayor for 14 years making him Ann Arbor's longest serving mayor. In appreciation of all his hard work for the city, and the hours of enjoyment he has provided us watching him on CTN, @cdzombak and @juliewbee presented the outgoing mayor with a flask engraved with "#a2council."

@teacherpatti also presented the council with twitter cookies.

John, if you want to come to our next City Council viewing party, let us know. We would love to have you.

Update: @cdzombak sent in this picture of the flask:

On the origin of Tupperware parties

Tupperware Brands Corporation logo.svg

If you can overlook the drippy title, here's a Mental Floss article about the Detroit News columnist/secretary/cleaning supplies saleswoman/marketing genius who figured out how to sell Tupperware in the 50s.
[Brownie Wise] didn’t know that the key to fulfilling this dream would be in plastic food-storage containers. Wise first glimpsed Tupperware at a sales meeting. One of her coworkers had seen the products gathering dust in a department store and decided to bring them in. At first, Wise didn’t think they were anything special. But when she accidentally knocked a Tupperware bowl off the table, she realized its full potential: Instead of breaking, it bounced. 
It seemed like magic. Tupperware was unlike any home product she’d seen before. It was attractive, coming in pastel colors and flexible shapes, almost like art. More importantly, it was functional—no other competing product even came close. Convinced of its potential, Wise traded in her Stanley brooms in 1949 and started throwing parties to sell Tupperware. What she didn’t intend, exactly, was to kindle a revolution.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ann Arbor in the New Yorker

Gary Shteyngart is currently documenting his tour to promote his book, Little Failures, for the New Yorker's Page Turner Blog. In lieu of writing something more creative today. I am just going to excerpt Shteyngart's entire three paragraphs on Ann Arbor:

I hereby declare Ann Arbor the best small city in America. I start my day with pumpkin pancakes at Angelo’s. When I’m in the Midwest during the autumn months, I like to say to people, “Brr, the frost is really on the pumpkin this year!” This never gets the colloquial response that I’m looking for, but it makes me feel a hundred-and-ten-per-cent American. After I eat two pumpkin pancakes drowning in whipped cream, I go for a long, quiet walk in the Nichols Arboretum, along the burbling Huron River. My fat-slathered heart calms down for the first time in weeks. But not for long.

It’s time for the groundbreaking Reuben sandwich at Zingerman’s Deli and then the important shawarma at Jerusalem Garden, followed by another three-hour-long nap. At my reading at the Ann Arbor District Library, the librarian points out my three main constituencies as they gather in the room: “The Russians, the Jews, and the town’s intellectuals.” In the signing line, a young woman tells me, “My mother gave me your book and said, ‘You have to read this! It’s about this dysfunctional Russian family.’ And I said, ‘Mom, it’s about our family.’ ”

For dinner, the kind library folks take me to a restaurant that Mario Batali recommended in a tweet. I forget the name now, but it’s something colorful, like, The Shtupping Turtle, and it’s housed in the building formerly occupied by the original Borders. The duck-fat-fried chicken alone is worth a visit. I am seriously thinking of moving to Michigan.

Thanks for the love Gary.

Via: u/khisinthehouse and r/annarbor

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gentri-fried Chicken in Ypsi

Damn Arbor reader and Blogger-in-Arms, Ruth Kraut, sent in these two pictures. They are from the storefront next to Beezy's on Washington. Anyone know what Gentri-fried Chicken is? The Google tells me that there is a restaurant in Brooklyn with the same name.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


It's election day! Polls in Michigan are open from 7 am until 8 pm. The Secretary of State, and County Clerk's Office both have good resources for voters.

Michigan Radio is hosting a special Issues and Ale at the Circus tonight from 7:30 - 10:00 to view results as they come in.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Not sure which candidates to vote for a Nov. 4th? Here's a guide.

While I go to Ben for what's happening in local politics I have a less clear picture of candidates at the state and federal level. I came across this on my morning reddit surf and thought it might be useful for those of you, like me, with relatively clear ideas and policies they would like to support, but no idea who to vote for that supports them; or if you just want to compare your own political leanings to others on social networks this is the site for you.