Monday, April 20, 2009

Detroit's Eastern Market

The Detroit Farmer's Market began in downtown Detroit, east of Woodward Ave., in 1841. When it moved to its present location in 1891, it was re-named Eastern Market. Today, in 2009, the historic farmers market and shopping center is 168 years old.

From the days of the horse-drawn carts to present day trucks, farmers have annually hauled thousands of tons of fresh produce to Detroit's Eastern Market area for re-sale to wholesalers, retailers and the general public. The figure is estimated to be over 70,000 tons a year.

On any given Saturday, some 45,000 Detroiters, suburbanites, and out-of-staters can be found shopping elbow to elbow at farmer's stalls or area retail shops for products from Michigan and as near as Ohio and Canadian farms, to as far as the European, Middle East, Asian, and South American farming areas.

Eastern Market is not only known for its luscious, colorful farm fresh fruits and vegetables, but also for the meat products (beef, pork, lamb, poultry, geese, ducks and rabbits.) Also, for the herbs and spices, nuts, candies and a variety of condiments supplied by retailers and wholesalers. A variety of fresh fish and seafood is also available.

The Annual Flower Days held at Eastern Market each year (this year, May 17, 2009), offers bedding plants, flowers, shrubs, evergreens, etc. It is recognized as the world's largest bedding flower market.

Eastern Market is also a people watcher's delight. A melting pot of rich, poor, young and old browse and actually bargain old-world style for what suits their interests, absorbing the sights, sounds, color and excitement of the Eastern Market area. Many people make an entire day out of shopping here, arriving before 7 a.m., having breakfast at one of the area's restaurants, then spending the morning shopping!

Built on the site of an early hay and wood market, Eastern Market area was one of three markets founded in the l850's. The farmers market portion moved to the present Eastern Market area site in 1891 from the old Cadillac Square area.

Although an open-air farmer's market existed prior to the Civil War, the first sales shed was built in l89l in the Vernor, Russell, Gratiot area, amid several other food establishments which had already located in the area. As the market area prospered, additional sheds were constructed in 1922 and 1929. Through the post-Depression era, the Eastern Market area grew, expanding in size and logging record truck-loads of farm products and other items as well. Following World War II, pre-packaged foods and the beginnings of the modern supermarket, shopping was altered for Detroiters and the way they shopped for food. So did Eastern Market, as more wholesalers and processors located in the area. Eastern Market developed into an important hub for the southeastern Michigan food distribution industry. Plans are to make it bigger, better and more efficient for the future.

Eastern Market was declared an historic area in 1977 by the State of Michigan Historical Commission. Many of the original buildings are still in operation today.

One of the many colorful murals painted on buildings throughout the market

Although a staple in the Fall, this vendor provides Michigan made apple cider, fresh donuts and homemade jams & jellies all year round at Eastern Market. They are also famous for their "Mountain Dew" jelly. One of these days I'm going to try it!

You can also get some of the freshest eggs of all kinds here. Every once in a while, vendors will also bring live chickens for sale here!

Grapefruits, Cabbages and Pineapple!

Cauliflower and string beans!

A wide variety of potatoes as well!

Fresh broccoli, squash and zucchini's! I'm thinking amazing stir-fry!

Of course my visit this past weekend was very early in the season, so this was just a sampling of the hundreds of items available in the market.

A local bakery sells a wide variety of "healthy" breads as well.

This small corner shop was home to Rafal Spice Company. A family run business in Eastern Market for well over 48 years. Spices, herbs, coffees, teas and other unique ingredients from around the world lined the walls and shelves of this tiny shop. Just walking towards the store you could smell the aroma of fresh spices. One could get just about any spice or herb known to man here.
Martha Stewart even purchased spices here and has listed Rafal Spice Company in the "Sources" section of many of her cookbooks. In return, Rafal Spice Company ran many ads in the "MarketPlace" section of "Martha Stewart Living" magazine.
Unfortunately, due to Detroit's failing economy, Rafal Spice Company closed it's doors in December, 2008. Anticipating re-opening in March of 2009, the store was still closed during my recent visit in April.

Another favorite store of mine, is R. Hirt jr. Co. This specialty goods store founded in 1887 by Rudolph Hirt jr. makes you feel like you walked into a time machine and came out a century earlier in the middle of a bustling general store. The immediate smell that engulfs you is the smell of over 300 varieties of cheeses they offer!

On Saturdays, a line starts at the front of the counter and continues to find its way right out the front door. With the quality products that R. Hirt jr. sells, the line is understandable. Not only is cheese aplenty, but other products sold are meats, freshly baked loaves of bread, tea, chocolates, sauces, oils, pastas and pickles.

These crates contain a wide assortment of only REAL maple syrup.

These shelves are lined with hundreds of different olive oils and vinegars from around the globe! The top of the shelves offer many glass vessels to store such items as well as unique glass beverage dispensers.

The photo above is a display of the many "Michigan Made" items available at the store.

If you wander towards the back of the store, you'll come to a creaky old wooden staircase. Venture up to the top floor to take in the stores extensive collection of wicker baskets, other wicker related items and hand-made crafts.

Just outside the store they offer a wide variety of garden items such as terra-cotta and painted gardening pots and other garden decor such as these whimsical garden ornaments.

The market also boasts a few nice antique dealers as well. Since most of the shops are small, on warm sunny days such as this was, the shops will display merchandise outside in front of the shops.

This hilarious banner, at another shop that sells garden decor, was advertising "Glass Gazing Balls". I assure you, the sign does get your attention!

They also offered these gigantic flower pots! I would love to have a couple of these out front, but they wouldn't even fit in my Jeep!

After exploring Detroit's Eastern Market you're most likely going to be hungry. If you love good BBQ, check out Bert's MarketPlace for their Saturday outdoor BBQ! Huge lines form to enjoy delicious ribs, burgers, chicken, etc.

Enjoy your food on Bert's large outdoor patio. Often times, there is a DJ playing music, as well as karaoke.

Other great dining options in Eastern Market are:

Vivio's - Home of their famous Bloody Mary's

Roma Cafe Italian Restaurant - Detroit's oldest family run restaurant (119 years old)

Butcher's Inn

Louie's Ham & Corned Beef - 3570 Riopelle Street, Detroit MI 48218

For more information on what's going on in the market, including the many special events being held there weekly, check out their website: Detroit's Eastern Market

Spring Has Sprung...So Far!

  This past weekend was the first bout with warm, spring (almost) summer like weather and I just wanted to share a couple photo's of the first flowers to appear in my front yard!

  Unfortunately, now we are experiencing rain and chilly temps, but alas, Spring is still here!  More to come.....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Strawberry Pretzel Squares

This past weekend, I was thumbing through the weekly Meijer grocery circular and saw this recipe, in the ad, which was promoting the sale of some "Kraft Foods" items.

Every holiday, when my family gets together, I try to make something different, and it's usually a dessert. So, I had to give this recipe a "test-drive" and see if it's something I'd like to make for Easter!

Now this would be what I call a "cheater" recipe as it does utilize some pre-made, store bought ingredients. I suppose you could use freshly whipped heavy cream in place of the Cool Whip.

Also, I tested this recipe using low fat cream cheese and fat free Cool Whip and it tasted just as good! So if you want a lower-cal version, go that route!

You can get the complete recipe here: Strawberry Pretzel Squares

Start by smashing up some pretzels into fine crumbs. Another reason I wanted to make this was I had 2 bags of pretzel rods in my pantry from Christmas Time when I made chocolate dipped & decorated pretzel rods to give as gifts.
Making the pretzel crumbs is easy if you have a food processor. You could also place them, a few at a time, in a zip top plastic bag and roll over them with a rolling pin. Note, the salt on the pretzels tend to "poke" tiny holes in the plastic bag when using the "rolling pin" method.

Mix the pretzel crumbs with a little sugar and some melted, unsalted butter!

Press the crumb mixture into a 9 x 13" pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

While the crust is cooling, beat together some cream cheese, a little sugar and some milk until smooth. Stir in a cup of Cool Whip and evenly spread over the cooled crust. Place this in the refrigerator.

While the crust is chilling, make your Jell-O! I'm not going to go into detail here because if you can't make Jell-O, we've got a lot of work to do before you should attempt this recipe! Be sure to make the Jell-O using only 1-1/2 cups of cold water (the recipe states this!) and chill this in the refrigerator for 90 minutes! You want this to just start to thicken.

Remove the Jell-O from the fridge and add your sliced strawberries! This looks good all by itself!

Pour the Jell-O and strawberries over the chilled cream cheese & crust, evenly! Return to the refrigerator and chill until completely set. About 3 hours.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Yummy Cheesy Biscuits!

Looking for something different, yet simple, to serve with your next dinner? Try these delicious biscuits.

These biscuits are very much like the ones served at a popular seafood restaurant chain, but I think they taste MUCH better!

1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup all-vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 stick of melted butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, sugar & baking powder together with a fork. Using a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until it resembles coarse cornmeal.

Add the cheese, then stir in the buttermilk, all at once; mix until just combined. Do not overmix!

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out 8 nice sized biscuits onto a baking sheet either lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat.

Bake the biscuits for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately brush the biscuits with melted butter.

If desired, you can add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt & a pinch of parsley flakes to the melted butter.

These are also delicious served for breakfast. Melt a 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, mix with 2 teaspoons of honey and brush over the freshly baked biscuits!

Some Comfort Food For Thought!

It probably wouldn't be on the menu for your mother-in-law's first dinner visit, and it isn't exactly gourmet fare, but macaroni and cheese is one of the most popular--if not the most popular--American comfort foods. Nearly every soul food cookbook and many Southern cookbooks have recipes for the American favorite, with few differences from one to the next.

Some believe the dish was created by founding father Thomas Jefferson, known for his great interest in food, and in a 1996 "Restaurants & Institutions" article, Barbara Bell Matuszewski wrote that Jefferson served the dish in the White House in 1802. However, noted food historian Karen Hess claims Jefferson did not invent the dish, though he did return from a trip to Paris with a macaroni mold.

According to John Mariani, author of "The Dictionary of American Food and Drink," macaroni and cheese was first made in the nineteenth century, but it took on a even greater popularity when Kraft Foods introduced the Kraft Dinner (macaroni and cheese) in 1937. According to a company spokesperson, Kraft now sells more than one million boxes of the dinners every day! The Kraft dinners are so popular, in fact, that children and some adults have been known to turn up their noses when offered a rich and delicious homemade version (sad!).

Homemade macaroni and cheese can be a simple layering of cooked macaroni, shredded (or sliced) cheese and salt and pepper, or it can be made with a white sauce-cheese base, topped with more cheese and buttered crumbs before baking. This ever-so-humble dish is delicious and satisfying as is, but you can jazz it up (homemade or package version) with the addition of chopped vegetables, meat, fish or poultry, or your favorite herbs or spices.

Recently having this odd "craving" for some good homemade macaroni and cheese, I found this very easy recipe that I've been wanting to try for some time.

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter a 2 qt. cassarole dish.

Next, prepare your ingredients: 4 cups cooked macaroni (2 cups, dry), 1/2 stick of unsalted butter (cut into pieces), 1/2 cup of sour cream, 2 cups of shredded cheddar, 3 eggs, beaten, 1 cup of milk, 1/2 teaspoon course salt.

First, cook and drain the macaroni and place in a large bowl. While the macaroni is still hot, add the cheddar cheese. In a seperate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add this to the macaroni mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cassarole dish and bake for 45 minutes.

If you want some additional "cheesiness", sprinkle about a cup of additional cheddar on top after 35 minutes and bake for the remaining 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool just a bit!


NOTE: Please excuse the odd layout of this entry, but was being a little "stupid" as I was posting this and it won't allow me to correct it!