A Wintry Wine Tour in Traverse City

A benefit of working in the automotive industry is we get all sorts of weird holidays off… It has something to do with union negotiations (even though engineers don’t have a union, we still get all their holidays off. Pretty sweet deal!)

So we all get MLK day off, which means three day weekend, which means a visit to wine capital of Michigan! Yea, you heard that right. When you think wine, you think France, California, Italy, but not Michigan. Well let me show you what a wine tour looks like in the mitten state.

P.S. I will not be commenting on how the wine actually tastes because it all pretty much tastes like grapes, alcohol, and maybe oak if I’m smelling really hard.

Winery #1: Bonobo Winery

Our first stop was Bonobo winery, and probably my favorite of them all. We rented a bus to drive us to the different wineries (don’t drink and drive!), and our amazing driver set us up to have a room all to ourselves (about 14 of us in total). We were taken to this beautiful white room with huge windows overlooking the vineyard. Our waitress brought us a tasting menu with explanations of all the wines, and we got to tasting. The full tasting cost about $10, and we got to sample about 5 different wines.

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Cheers! Our first tasting of the tour.

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Bonobo winery had a piano in the main room, so Corinn played us a song!

Winery #2: Chateau Grand Traverse

I think we must have come on a bad day. There was an event going on, called Winter Warmup I believe. This meant there were A TON of people trying wine, and we weren’t able to do a tasting with such a large group. However, they opened up the patio for us (which was covered thank goodness!!), and we were able to order a glass out there and enjoy the sunshine and snow while covered in some snuggly blankets.

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Cheesin’ because we have this patio all to ourselves!

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Here’s me warming up with a good glass of wine and a warm blanket.

 

Winery #3: Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery

This wasn’t our last stop, but this is the last one I clearly remember so it’ll be the last for this post. We went to Brys, and they were also participating in the Winter Warmup event so they were incredibly crowded. The crowds were handled a bit better. In order to do the tasting, you had to walk in line around the winery to different stations. It felt like waiting in line at an amusement park. We were able to see some barrels and how the wine is fermented, but the waiting in line kind of dampened the experience. Still a cute place though!

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Some wine barrels at Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery.

 

All in all, it was a fun day with friends. To rent a bus with ~14 people, it cost $40/person. At each winery I spent about $10 on glasses/tastings. It’s a great way to see some popular wineries in Traverse City, and I’m sure you could ask the driver to go elsewhere if you had other wineries in mind. My only recommendation is to not go when they are having large events. I think I enjoyed Bonobo Winery so much more because they were the only place not participating. I can’t wait to visit Traverse City again in the summer, and to try some more wine!

-Nina

Theatre Bizarre 2018

It’s been about two months since Theatre Bizarre, and I’m still in awe about what I saw that night. I remember the dapper mime in the DJ booth, with phonographs surrounding him, playing electro-swing to all those dressed in costume below. The memories of burlesque are burned in my mind. The words “Hail Zombo” ring through my head, and we worship who brought us into this other world.

Let me rewind a bit.

First of all, Theatre Bizarre is a yearly Halloween party thrown in Detroit’s historic Masonic Temple. This venue is huge, and this party fills up the space appropriately. I wouldn’t even call it a party, but more of a create-your-own-adventure. With eight floors of interactive art, music, shows, etc., there’s no limit to what you can do in a night. John Dunivant started this masquerade illegally in a studio space in an old warehouse in Detroit, but eventually went the legal route and opened it up to the public. For those who love Halloween, it’s a spiritual experience. For those who don’t, it’s still a fun time.

Your night doesn’t start at the party. It starts with getting ready. A costume is 100% required for entry, and everyone gets really into it. I dressed up as a dead Playboy bunny, full in a leather skirt, corset, fishnets, and a leather pair of bunny ears. I also took the opportunity to play with prosthetic’s, and fitted myself with an awesome gash across my throat and blood spattered everywhere.

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Ready for the party!

After your costume is ready, you are finally allowed to enter Zombo’s world. We walked in, and started the night by visiting the Sinema. They were playing old vintage horror pornos (???), and giving out popcorn in exchange for your most embarrassing story. The other partygoers were chatting all around the theatre, hardly paying any attention to the movie.

When we had our fill of shame-ridden popcorn, we made our way to the Burlesque show. The room had a long catwalk-like stage, and we were lucky enough to snag a seat on the side of the catwalk (others had to stand near the back). We were then entertained thoroughly by all the burlesque dancing. I was sad to see it end. But alas, it was time to explore the rest of the party.

The rest of the night was a blur. We stopped and saw clown shows where, for a small fee, you were able to staple money to the clown himself as he put swords down his throat. There were women suspended from giant hooks, metal bands playing in the basement, silent rooms with actors playing the clown king, and secret dance floors everywhere throughout the building. We created our own adventure, and it became one of the best nights I’ve had this year.

I’ve attached the few photos that I took below, but it’s nothing compared to experiencing this party for yourself. The price is steep at $100, but it is absolutely worth every penny. Try it out for yourself, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

-Nina

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Detroit’s Best Vegan Food – 2018

I’ve been living in Detroit for over a year now, and I have been thoroughly impressed by the vegan food scene. There is an extensive list of restaurants that are fully vegan, or have solid vegan options available. Here are my top 10 favorites in 2018.

1. Detroit Vegan Soul

Address: 8029 Agnes St, Detroit, MI
Expected Cost / Person: $15-$25

This has to be the top restaurant on anyone’s vegan list. With two locations, either in Detroit’s historic West Village or in the Grandmont / Rosedale neighborhood, you have two opportunities to enjoy all the amazing vegan food this place has to offer. You can get some new takes on classics like vegan mac ‘n cheese, ‘catfish’ tofu, smothered tempeh, and seitan pepper steak. I came here for dinner with a friend, and left 25 pound heavier. It’s that good.

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Full spread from Detroit Vegan Soul. It includes catfish tofu, hush puppies, mac ‘n cheese, and potato salad!

2. Takoi

Address: 2520 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI
Expected Cost / Person: $40-$60

Takoi is a Thai-inspired Asian-fusion restaurant in Corktown, Detroit. Its menu changes constantly, creating new experiences every time you go there. Although not specifically vegan, the menu is clearly marked with vegan options and options that could be made vegan. I’ve never had a problem eating here.

Along with amazing food, Takoi also has some amazing cocktails. Make a night of this restaurant. They don’t take reservations, so you may be stuck waiting a while (especially on Friday and Saturday nights). Have no fear, they have a room specifically designed for waiting diners, full with a bar and DJ booth.

It’s not a cheap place to eat, but it’s an experience and well worth the money.

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One of the options at Takoi was this spicy mushroom dumpling soup. It was beautifully plated, and so so so delicious.

3. Korea Palace

Address: 34744 Dequindre Rd, Sterling Heights, MI
Expected Cost / Person: $15-$20

Okay, so this restaurant is hardly vegan. It’s super legit Korean food, and everything on the menu has some sort of fish in it. However, get the tofu bi-bim-bap (and make sure to say “No egg!”), and your world will change. Located in the Sterling Heights/Madison Heights area, it’s right in the center of all the amazing Asian restaurants.

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Some tofu bi bim bap from the most authentic Korean restaurant I have ever been to. Who would’ve thought you could find this in Detroit?

4. Que Huong

Address: 30820 John R Rd, Madison Heights, MI
Expected Cost / Person: $10-$20

Okay, also pretty far off from a vegan restaurant. This little whole in the wall pho restaurant makes some amazingly authentic Vietnamese food. Madison Heights has a ton of Vietnamese immigrants (so it obviously has the best food). Just ask for some vegan pho, and you’ll be presented with a delicious, steaming bowl of noodles for like $8.

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Vegan pho from Que Huong. This has become a weekly meal for me at this point. So cheap, so good.

5. Russell Street Deli

Address: 2465 Russell St, Detroit, MI
Expected Cost / Person: $10-$20

It took me a while to make it to this restaurant. Located by the historic Eastern Market (which you should all absolutely go to!), I never thought that a deli would have anything remotely vegan. Boy was I wrong. They make a delicious TLT (tofu, lettuce, and tomato!). I think there’s other vegan options there, but I was waaaayyy to into my tofu.

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I never thought I would find vegan sandwiches at a historic deli. Luckily, they went out of their way to make this amazing TLT (tofu, lettuce, and tomato).

6. Ima

Address: 2015 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI
Expected Cost / Person: $20-$40

This is an absolute must on anyone’s restaurant list, even if they’re not vegan. The chef made a completely vegetarian friendly menu. The menu features Japanese udon bowls, curries, and other small Asian inspired plates. It’s a small restaurant, so get there early or be prepared to wait. It’s on the pricier side, but worth every penny. Also located in historic Corktown, Detroit (I swear, this is where all the good food is).

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Ima is a vegan heaven. This mushroom udon dish is no joke.

7. Urban Ramen

Address: 4206 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI
Expected Cost / Person: $15-$25

Urban ramen has a small but mighty menu. Located in Midtown, this restaurant has its roots in LA. The second ever location is right here in Detroit, and it is absolutely fantastic. They have three ramen options, and one is vegan! You’ll have some amazing food for only around $15. Be careful, this place is new and tiny tiny tiny. For a group of four, we had to wait around 45 minutes on a Friday night.

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The vegan ramen option at Urban Ramen is so good! And it’s one of their three menu items.

8. Greenspace Cafe

Address: 215 W Nine Mile Rd, Ferndale, MI
Expected Cost / Person: $15-$30

Greenspace is a vegan paradise. They’ve got all the tofu, tempeh, and seitan you would ever want. Their food is very wholesome (tons of fresh veggies, classic vegan proteins). You know exactly what you’re eating, and the freshness is just… well, refreshing. They also make a mean vegan brunch (for when you reallyyyyy need that french toast). No vegan brunch is complete without some vegan cocktails, which they have plenty of.

If you want a sit down experience, definitely go to the location in Ferndale. The decor is beautiful, and nothing beats sitting outside on a beautiful summer day. If you’re in a rush, stop by Greenspace Cafe To Go in Royal Oak. They have a smaller menu, with offerings perfect for when you’re in a rush.

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A bowl from Greenspace to go. Full of tempeh, noodles, and kale!

9. Ale Mary’s

Address: 316 S Main St, Royal Oak, MI
Expected Cost / Person: $10-$25

Ale Mary’s hasn’t always been vegan-friendly. However, they recently released an entire vegan menu! If you want bar food, definitely go here. They have tons of dishes made with “impossible meats.” My personal favorite is their buffalo cauliflower. They also have a bunch of vegan milkshakes available, with the option of getting them spiked with rum. Could it get any better?

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Some nomz from the Oktoberfest menu at Ale Mary’s. We had the buffalo cauliflower and some beer brats!

10. Detroit Institute of Bagels

Address: 1236 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI
Expected Cost / Person: $5-$15

This place is mostly not-vegan, but they have some hidden gems. DIB (Detroit Institute of Bagels) has the absolute best bagels in town, and it’s located in none other than the famous foodie neighborhood of Corktown. They specialize in bagel sandwiches, and my favorite item is the “Lost Elmo” on an everything bagel. They smother the bagel in hummus, and add avocado, cucumber, pepper, and arugula. SO GOOD.

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The Lost Elmo at DIB. Non-vegans, get this too.

Sand Dunes at Silver Lake State Park

Nestled in between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan on the Western side of Michigan, lies a landscape that is otherworldly. We started off in Hart, Michigan, where our cute Airbnb was located. Driving towards the beaches on Silver Lake, we started to notice all sorts of dusty jeeps and SUV’s driving around with an orange flag swinging around on the front of the car. There was no rhyme or reason as to why these trucks where chosen. All-wheel drive seemed to be the only prerequisite for the homemade dune buggies.¬†We followed the line of trucks, and were quickly greeted with a sand dune that soared over our heads. The beach was just over that dune, we just had to climb it.

Climbing dunes isn’t so easy, but it’s oh-so worth it. You slide back half a step every time you walk up, and the sand burns the bottom of your toes. It takes all four limbs to make it to the top of these behemoths, but when you make it to the top, it’s sand and lakes for miles.

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Racing up sand dunes! Humans for scale.

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So close to the top…

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Made it to the top! This is the view of Silver Lake.

Spending the day along Silver Lake is a perfect beach day. There’s tons of shoreline and opportunities to rent pontoon boats and party on the lake. We didn’t rent a boat, but instead opted to claim a piece of the shore for ourselves. Beers in hand and with perfectly chilled water, we spent the day running up and down the dunes, burying each other in sand, and trying to make a human pyramid.

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Success!

As the day progressed, we got hungry and decided to make our way back to the Airbnb. We booked a place with 12 beds and 1 bathroom, so showers for everyone was an hours-long process.

After everyone was good to go, we decided to go out to Kristi’s Pour House, the local bar in Hart. They had a live band playing and $1 cans of beer! It was a wild night of dancing and singing.

The next day we decided to check out the Lake Michigan Side of the beach for a little bit. The waves were surprisingly large for a lake! We stayed for a bit on the public access portion, and then decided to walk down the shore towards the lighthouse.

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The squad hanging out on Lake Michigan. You can’t even see the other side!!

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Lighthouse in the state park.

Apparently $5 buys you entrance into the lighthouse so you can get to the top. We didn’t do it, but it definitely looked like a sweet time!

It was a short weekend at Silver Lake State Park, but it was a good weekend. It’s definitely been my favorite state park in Michigan thus far. I can’t wait to go back!

-nina

South Higgins Lake State Park

If you’re looking for a party campground, you’ve found the right place! South Higgins Lake State Park is complete with campsites stacked almost on top of each other, fire pits, open container laws, and picnic tables. Many people pull up their RV’s, plug in their space heaters, and enjoy the comforts of home while surrounded by nature (kind of).

Camping at this state park isn’t a bad time. If you go with friends, food, and plenty of beer, you’ll have a great time. The scenery is also quite stunning. The first night we arrived, we were surprised with an absolutely beautiful sunset.

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Sunset on Higgins lake.

Many of my friends decided to swim, but I was put off by the freezing cold water and the abundant signs warning of swimmers itch. Those who went in seemed to have an excellent time, though!

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Some of the guys debating whether they should go into the water.

For those uninterested in taking a dip, there were some hiking trails across the road. If you’re looking for any solitude here, take a hike! There are 1, 3, and 5 miles loops that you can take around another lake in the area. There is minimal elevation gain, and tons of trees!

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There are few easy trails around the state park for those who want to get away from the crowds.

When taking these trails, make sure to bring plenty of bug spray! We were attacked by mosquitos, and had to cut the walk short. You should also bring some waterproof shoes. There was tons of mud!

The majority of the weekend consisted of cooking, hiking, and drinking beer. It wasn’t a solitary weekend in the woods, but it was fun nonetheless! Definitely a way to get away from the same bars in the same towns with your friends for the weekend!

-nina

P.S. Before you head out, make sure your car has a Michigan recreation passport. It’s a little sticker that goes on your windshield. If you don’t have one, you can purchase one at the campground for $16 that is valid for a year!

Kayaking in Port Crescent State Park

I woke up bright and early Sunday morning to go explore the thumb of Michigan. My first thought was to go kayaking around Turnip Rock, which is right up at the tip of the thumb, in Port Austin. We set out on the 2.5 hour car ride up M53 at around 8:30am. Not quite early enough, but given that the trail takes around 4 hours, we thought we had plenty of time.

We were wrong. After we arrived at the kayak rental place, they said that they would stop renting kayaks to Turnip Rock at 10am (we got there around 11:30am soo….). I had been wanting to do this for a while, so was pretty bummed about not being able to go. These feelings didn’t last long because we were able to rent kayaks to use around Port Crescent State Park, which is also in the tip of the thumb.

With a double kayak in tow, we set off into the river, on our way to Lake Huron!

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Gus doesn’t seem too excited about my lack of paddling

The kayaking trail was gorgeous! It was a beautiful day out (it was also 100 degrees outside, but oh well). Along the trail we saw swans, turtles, and tons of birds!

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We found a swan on the river!

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Such a beautiful river! And so peaceful too.

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I couldn’t stop taking pictures haha

The river led to a beach that was right on Lake Huron. These great lakes always amaze me. You’d think they were an ocean! The beach was really nice. It was long, so you could take a long walk along it. It is also only accessible by boat, so it wasn’t too crowded, and you could see all the kayaks and canoes lined up along the shore. A lot of people brought their lunch along. Gus and I opted for a nap in the sun.

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The beach along Lake Huron. Being only accessible by boat means there’s basically no crowds!

We hung out on the beach for a little while, and then walked back to our kayaks. The trip only took about an hour each way, and you were able to go at a pretty leisurely pace. You can rent the kayaks from Tip-A-Thumb Canoe and Kayak Rental. Our double kayak only cost $30 for the entire day. They continue to rent out kayaks until 4pm, and all boats must be back by 6pm!

After we returned our kayaks, we started to make the drive back down to Royal Oak. On the way down, we noticed signs for the Pioneer Log Village and Historical Museum in Bad Axe. We decided to stop by, as it was right on our way home. We were not disappointed! This Log Village is exactly what it sounds like. They are old log cabins, filled to the brim with historical antiques from around Huron county. They have an old one-room classroom, a house, a general store, and blacksmith room, and a barn. They’re only open from 2-4pm on Sundays, which was incredibly lucky because we showed up at 3pm. Members of the Bad Axe historical society showed us around and gave us some context about what happened. Walking around took 30 minutes, and was well worth the time!

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Pioneer Log Village in Bad Axe, Michigan

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A look inside the log cabin!

Overall, going up the thumb was a great way to spend a Sunday. Although we didn’t make it to turnip rock, we got to explore one of Michigan’s many state parks, and learned a little bit about historic Huron county. Now, I’m on a mission to visit the rest of Michigan’s state parks! I’ll keep you all updated!

-Nina