Saturday, January 31, 2015

My Michigan Home is Where the Lakes Are

Home. It's not just a word, a place of origin, or a destination. It's more than where the heart is. It's where the soul is. You may not even know where it is until you find it, but when you find it, you feel whole.

My family and I found our home in an area of Oakland County that we did not originally plan to move to. We did not know the area well, but when we found it, we fell in love with the natural beauty of the area's many lakes.

When we first bought our home in the fall, we were surrounded by a stunning canopy of red, orange, and yellow leaves hovering above the area's lakes' blue waters.

Fall in Michigan
Every day is a postcard when you live near lakes
By the time we moved into our house, fall was quickly becoming winter, but we were treated to beautiful mornings of pink skies, ever changing ice formations along the lakes, or light dustings of snow on the ground.

Ice forming around the edge of a lake under a pink and blue sky
A rowboat longing for spring

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cuban Street Food in Ann Arbor

The home of Cuban-inspired deliciousness
When I visit Ann Arbor, I always struggle when deciding where to eat. The city has so many excellent restaurants. I can go with the safe choice of one of my old favorites from my college days, or I can take the risk of trying something new. This past week, I ventured into Frita Batidos for the first time with some friends and my family.

The restaurant serves "Cuban Inspired Street Food," including its mainstays, fritas (Cuban-style burgers) and batidos (Cuban milkshakes). Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis at several long picnic tables or barstools at counters along the wall. Although the restaurant may have a minimalist interior, diners should not fret, because Frita Batidos saves the extravagant details for the food.

I ordered a beef frita with muenster cheese, avocado spread, and sweet chili mayo. My wife ordered the fish frita with avocado spread and cilantro-lime salsa, and we got a mini black bean frita and a grilled cheese frita for our girls and the twice-fried plantains for an appetizer (The restaurant also serves chorizo and chicken fritas). We had to try to the other half of the restaurant's name, so I ordered a lime batido, and my wife ordered the coconut cream batido.

The beef frita
Despite being covered in fries, the fritas were not as greasy as I thought they would be. The burger meat was tender and tasty, and the fries were delicious. The burger was not huge either, so I would recommend a double burger to anyone who is really hungry. My wife described the fish frita as a perfectly browned patty of tasty flavors. The black bean frita was good but a little too spicy for my daughters.

The batidos were amazing. The first sip of my lime shake shook my taste buds. The shake was very sour for a milkshake, but not too sour to be unpleasant. My wife's coconut batido was full of chunks of coconut. The smooth taste of coconut soothed the taste buds, instead of assaulting them like the lime batido. 

The lime batido
In the end, I was happy we ventured outside of our favorite restaurants when choosing Frita Batidos for lunch. Deciding where to eat will be more difficult on our next visit to Ann Arbor because we now have another "old" favorite on our restaurant list.

Frita Batidos is located at 117 W. Washington Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Telephone: (734) 761-2882. Website:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Seeing the Michigan Union for the First Time

My daughter looking out at the world
I lived in Ann Arbor during my undergraduate years in the mid-1990s. I spent many hours studying and socializing in the Michigan Union during that time, but a recent visit to Ann Arbor with my two-year-old daughter introduced me to a Union that I had never experienced before.

While my wife, oldest daughter, and our friends were listening to a Martin Luther King Day lecture that my two-year-old could not sit still through, I explored every floor of the Union with my tiny travel companion. As she looked out the Union's windows for the first time, I noticed for the first time the number and variety of window panes throughout the Union and the unique views of Ann Arbor that they provided.

State Street and the University of Michigan Museum of Art

The University of Michigan Museum of Art

Colored panes distorting the view of State Street

Angell Hall

Looking out and in

Multicolored panes distorting a view

A tour group by the Cube

Three windows. Many panes.

Opaque glass looks like ice

The Law Quad

A courtyard

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Filling Up at the Michigan Beer Growler Company

A growler to keep you warm in the winter.
I love craft beer, but I have a confession to make: I had never bought a growler of beer until my recent visit to the Michigan Beer Growler Company ("MBGCo"). MBGCo opened this past fall on the corner of 13 Mile and Southfield Road in Beverly Hills, bringing Oakland County one of its first growler filling stations.

Growlers are 64 oz. jugs that breweries fill directly from their tap, seal, and then sell to costumers to take home. Until recent changes in Michigan law, beer drinkers who wanted to purchase a growler (or the smaller 32 oz. howler) of their favorite beer could only do so at the brewery that produces the beer.

A great selection of craft beers awaits at MBGCo
MBGCo has taken advantage of more liberal growler laws by providing twenty-six craft beers (most of which are Michigan brews), two hard ciders, and two pops on tap. Its customers can take brews home in growlers or howlers or drink pints or flights of multiple 4 oz. beers on site.