Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Favorite New-to-Me Places to Eat and Drink in 2016


As 2016 comes to a close, it's time to reflect on the most important things in life, food and drink. Although I have plenty of favorite restaurants that I visit on a regular basis, I do like to try new places, especially when traveling around Michigan. Here are a few of my favorite restaurants and bars that I experienced for the first time in 2016.

Breweries

Tenacity Brewing

Tenacity Brewing
I visited Tenacity Brewing in Flint one afternoon this fall. It had just opened for the night, so I was one of only a few customers. The brewery is in an old firehouse along the Flint River, and it has a great atmosphere with a few different rooms and outdoor seating to sit back and drink. I tried a flight of beers and was impressed. The Farmer's Daughter IPA was very good, and their Oktoberfest was smooth. The highlight was their dark wheat, and I purchased a growler of it to go.

An empty flight
Bell's Eccentric Cafe

Bell's Brewery is the godfather of Michigan craft brewing. Larry Bell and his team started brewing in Kalamazoo more than thirty years ago, and Michigan's craft brewing revolution was born. Even though most of their brewing occurs in nearby Comstock, Bell's still brews on the original site in Kalamazoo, and they serve beer and food next door at the Eccentric Cafe.

Bell's Eccentric Cafe
Despite being a Bell's fan for years, I had never been to either of their breweries. The Eccentric Cafe lived up to my expectations. I had an excellent burger as well as a couple of delicious beers. After finishing my meal, I stopped at the Bell's General Store, which sells t-shirts, homebrewing equipment, beer glasses, beer (of course), and more. I picked up one six pack of the Oracle Double IPA and a mixed six pack of Bell's beers.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Things to Do with Kids in Marquette


My family visited Marquette at the end of August, and my two young daughters (age eight and four) loved everything about it. With its many parks and its location on the shores of Lake Superior, Marquette is a great vacation destination for kids.

Shiras Park and Picnic Rocks Park

When we first arrived in Marquette, we immediately headed to the beach. Even though my daughters are used to the warmer waters of the inland lakes near Detroit, they bravely swam in Lake Superior's cool water at Shiras Park's beach. We practically had to drag them out of the water because they were having so much fun. After they swam, we let them play on the playground at Picnic Rocks Park, which overlooks Lake Superior and is directly next to Shiras Park.

Presque Isle Park

A view from Presque Isle
The highlight of our trip was Presque Isle Park. Presque Isle is a 323-acre city park on the north side of town with several foot trails through its forests. My daughters managed to walk the roughly 2 miles around the perimeter of Presque Isle. They loved the views of Lake Superior and frolicking in the water by the Black Rocks as my wife and I took turns jumping from the cliffs.

Marquette also has a lot of indoor activities for bad-weather days or days when parents don't feel like dragging young children around nature trails. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Shining City Upon a Hill

"I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
On election night, many Americans were overjoyed to see Donald Trump shock the world with his upset of Hillary Clinton. I was not one of them. As someone who believes in treating all people with respect and loving my neighbor as myself, I could not vote for someone who has mocked and denigrated women, minorities, immigrants, and the disabled, especially when he would double down and not apologize for any of it.

Despite his repulsive behavior, I believe that most of his voters are not racist or sexist. Unlike me, they could hold their noses and vote for someone despite his bigoted comments and actions. Trump reached them and moved them in ways that Clinton did not. Republican politicians and pundits have tried to assure those of us who care about combating bigotry that Trump's words are just that, words, and that they will somehow be able to control him and prevent him from violating the Constitution.

In the two weeks since the election, we have Nazis hailing Trump, kids chanting "Build the Wall" at a middle school close to my home, and people painting swastikas and pro-Trump graffiti at a playground dedicated to Adam "MCA" Yauch in New York, and these are only a few of the hateful and racist incidents polluting our great nation.

While our fellow Americans are being terrorized by racist thugs, our president-elect is selecting a questionable cast of characters for important positions in his administration. Sure, Trump said, "Stop it" on 60 Minutes and disavowed one "alt-right" group when pressed by the New York Times, but, instead of making a real effort to denounce pathetic racists terrorizing people in his name, he has spent his limited grasp of the English language using Twitter to attack Saturday Night Live or the cast of Hamilton for asking Mike Pence to work on behalf of all Americans.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people." It does not matter that I do not think Donald Trump is a good person. Even if he were a good person, his silence has been appalling. But even more appalling is the silence of the Trump voters who voted for him despite his racist, sexist, and xenophobic statements.

If you think racism, sexism, xenophobia, and prejudice are wrong but voted for Trump because you believed in his business acumen, his support of the Second Amendment, his trade policies, his concern for the working class, or his promise to replace the Affordable Care Act with something better, then let him know when you are disgusted by his actions and words. Call out people committing hate crimes in his name as the Nazi white supremacists that they are.

These thugs are not the real Americans. Real Americans died on the beaches of Normandy to defend democracy and destroy fascism. Real Americans marched from Selma to Montgomery to secure rights that were supposed to be inalienable. Real Americans left their native lands around the world guided by Lady Liberty's torch and her plea to give her "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be breathe free." Real Americans were arrested for casting a vote merely because they were women. Real Americans speak Polish, German, Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic as their native tongues. Real Americans built the railroads, the interstate highways, and the space program. Real Americans consecrated the hallowed ground at Gettysburg so that a "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

President Reagan often described the United States as a "shining city upon a hill." In his Farewell Address, he described this city: "[I]n my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still."

The shining city will continue to stand if real, decent, honest, and empathetic Americans raise their voices in opposition to hatred. If you held your nose when voting for Trump, stand up to him now by letting him know that he needs to foster an America "teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace." If we are silent, the rising tide of fear and hatred will flood the city, sweeping away democracy and extinguishing freedom's flame. But if we speak up, we will be that city radiating the light of freedom to the rest of the world.

Normandy

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Surviving the Capital City River Run Marathon

The start of the Capital City River Run Marathon
So I guess I'm running a marathon

In 2004 and 2006, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon . . . slowly. Since then my wife and I have added two kids to our family, and I went full-on dad bod. I found time to exercise here and there, but I never really got back to the fitness level I wanted to be at.

In December, I made a goal to run at least 20 minutes, or walk at least 30 minutes, per day. By early June, I had kept my goal and was increasing my running mileage to the point that running 10 miles was not too taxing. The farther I ran, the more I began thinking about my failures in the marathon.

I started reviewing training plans and looking up races in Michigan in the fall. Should I really try breaking that 4-hour barrier that eluded me in 2004? (In 2006, I had no illusions of breaking 4 hours, since my training was a diversion for my bar exam studies.) Did I want to wake up at, or before, dawn for months to fit my runs in before long days at work?

Yes, I decided I wanted to walk away from a marathon satisfied for once. I selected Lansing's Capital City River Run Marathon on September 18, and I made a training plan with a little more mileage than the ones I used in previous attempts.

Over the next three months, I did not miss a workout. I ran on vacation. I ran in the dark. I ran in the rain. I ran in extreme heat and humidity. I just ran.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Presque Isle: More than an Island

A view from Presque Isle
Presque Isle in Marquette is not an island. It's almost an island.

Or is it more than an island?

"Presque isle" means "almost and island" in French, and this peninsular park holds 323 acres of natural beauty. On a sunny Thursday morning, my family and I walked around the perimeter of the park. The park's road along the perimeter was closed to vehicular traffic, as it is for a few hours several times per week, so our daughters were safe to dart to and fro across the street without us worrying about cars.

Presque Isle's breakwater and lighthouse
We parked and began our walk near the Presque Isle breakwater and light, where we watched a couple of kayakers launch and a few people walk along the breakwater towards the lighthouse. The walk along the road is approximately two miles total, but we made frequent stops to appreciate the spectacular views of Lake Superior from the cliffs above the water.

The lighthouse in the distance

Friday, September 9, 2016

Running Marquette

Marquette Harbor Light
Sometimes the best way to see a city or new locale is to go for an early morning run. With only a few cars going by and almost no other pedestrians to get in your way, you can run through empty streets and paths absorbing your surroundings without distractions.

Sailboats in Marquette's harbor
Marquette is a great town to go for a run. It has multiple running paths in and near the city, including the Multi Use Path that follows Lake Superior's shoreline from Presque Isle through the city until it connects with the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.

I took two morning runs while in Marquette. The first morning, I left our rented house near Northern Michigan University and ran north on Presque Isle Avenue toward Presque Isle Park. It started pouring about two minutes into my run, but I continued on and the rain slowed to a drizzle for most of my eight-mile run. A right turn onto Hawley Street brought me to a beautiful view of Presque Isle's breakwater and lighthouse.

Presque Isle breakwater and light at dawn

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Taste of Marquette

Downtown Marquette
I made my first visit to Marquette at the end of August and was impressed by this awesome city. Although it sits on the shores of Lake Superior and is surrounded by wilderness and amazing outdoor activities, Marquette offers great food, drink, and cultural attractions. This is not surprising since Marquette is the Upper Peninsula's largest city, with 21,000 residents, and it is the home of Northern Michigan University, the U.P.'s largest university.

One of the sculptures at NMU's sculpture walk
With so much to do, Marquette feels larger than it is. The areas near NMU and the downtown, with their residential streets, bars, restaurants, and shopping, reminded me of a hilly Ann Arbor. My family and I rented a small house on a residential street near NMU's campus. We could walk to the beach, downtown, the restaurants and bars on Third Street, and campus.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Les Cheneaux Views

Hills Point Docking's boathouse from the beach at Hills Point Resort
The Les Cheneaux Islands are one of my favorite spots in Michigan. This group of thirty-six islands just east of the Mackinac Bridge have long been an important place for my family. My dad vacationed there when he was young, then he and my mom took me and my siblings back every summer while we were growing up. Last year, I finally visited again for the first time in years, bringing my own kids along to experience the serenity and slow pace of these islands.

This year, we returned. We relaxed. We reveled in the beauty of our surroundings.

It's not just nostalgia and good times with family that bring me back. The tranquil waters and quiet shores bring peace to my soul and beckon my return.

Cedarville Bay
Blue skies and blue water
My dog keeping watch for ducks
Most of the islands are only accessible by boat, so boathouses act as garages for homes on the islands.

Wooden boathouses
Nice Front Yard!
The mornings are peaceful. I enjoyed morning runs on Hill Island and Island Number Eight and watching the sun slowly rise over the trees and water.

Sunrise over Flowers Bay
The end of Hill Island Road on a morning run
The islands provide some of my favorite sunsets in Michigan, whether I am on shore or on the water. The last sunset of my vacation was bittersweet because it will probably be at least a year before I can see these gorgeous skies again.

The sky at sunset (My 8-year-old daughter took this picture. Had to share)
Sunset reflecting off the water
Sunset on Hill Island
The southern end of the Islands with Lake Huron before us and the sun beginning to set

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Running the Kal-Haven Trail

Kal-Haven Trail
Before the advent of automobiles and highways, trains carried Michiganders and cargo across a system of rails connecting small towns, big cities, and Great Lakes ports. As cars and air travel became more popular, this rail system slowly became obsolete. Beginning in the 1960s, conservationists and outdoors enthusiasts around the country started a movement to convert these railroads to trails for public use. Michigan now has approximately 120 rail-trails totaling more than 2,000 miles.

On my recent trip to South Haven, I had the opportunity to run along the Kal-Haven Trail on the morning I left town. The trail is a 34.5 mile former railroad that connects Kalamazoo and South Haven. I started at the trailhead, which is about one mile northeast of downtown South Haven. I parked in the trailhead's lot, stretched, and began running.

A view of the Black River from the Kal-Haven Trail
I ran an out-and-back of approximately 15 miles, so I only saw about 7.5 miles of the trail. The first stretch of the trail is paved before it eventually turns into crushed limestone. The starting mile marker is probably about 0.2 miles into the trail. The trail has a mile marker every mile. I  questioned the accuracy of a couple of mile markers because twice I had a very quick (for me) split immediately followed by a slow split, and I don't think my pace was varying that much.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Weekend Getaway in South Haven

Lake Michigan and the South Haven Lighthouse
This past weekend, my wife, Allison, and I visited South Haven for a quick vacation. South Haven is on the shores of Lake Michigan, about an hour drive from Grand Rapids, two hours from Chicago, and three hours from Detroit. We arrived around 4 p.m. on Friday and left around 1 p.m. on Sunday, just enough time to get a taste of South Haven and to leave us wanting more.

Our Accommodations

We stayed in the beautiful Yelton Manor Bread and Breakfast on North Shore Drive. South Haven is carved into two sections by the Black River, and Yelton Manor is on the north side of town, across the river from the downtown. It is far enough away from the crowds downtown and the larger beaches near the mouth of the river to give guests a relaxing setting to unwind.

The Manor
Even though it is on a quiet street removed from the downtown, Yelton Manor is close enough to walk to almost everything South Haven offers. Downtown is about a ten to fifteen minute walk away, and the South Beach lighthouse near downtown is about a twenty minute walk total. Best of all, a public beach access is across the street from Yelton Manor.

Monday, July 11, 2016

An Afternoon in Lake Orion

Downtown Lake Orion
Michigan has so many great towns to visit for a weekend, a day trip, or even an afternoon. In Metro Detroit, there are a lot of walkable downtowns with restaurants and shopping, but not many of them are within a short walk to a lake.

A dragon guarding the art center
Lake Orion in northeast Oakland County feels like a small resort town that you might find Up North, but it is only 45 minutes north of Detroit. The town actually served as a vacation destination for people from Detroit and beyond in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and it even had an amusement park. The lake and a public park (a park pass is required during the summer) with a swimming beach are only a few blocks from the downtown.

Public art near Paint Creek
My family and I visited Lake Orion on a Saturday afternoon and parked in a free public lot between Broadway and Anderson streets. There is also ample and free street parking throughout the downtown, but the street spots have a two-hour limit, unlike the 23-hour limit of the public lot.

Monday, June 27, 2016

What's Been on My Plate During the First Half of 2016

Osso Buco from Roadside B&G
We're almost at the halfway mark of 2016, and I've had the pleasure of eating at several excellent Michigan restaurants this year. Here are some of my favorites from this year.

Roadside B&G

I have eaten at Roadside B&G in Bloomfield Township several times, and I always leave satisfied. Their balsamic glazed brussels sprouts with dried cranberries is a great appetizer. As for main courses, my favorites are the roasted vegetarian enchilada (I get it with short rib added) and the baby back ribs. On my most recent trip, I tried an osso buco with polenta special that was perfection. The restaurant also makes a very good mac & cheese (and the kids menu version, with its large portion, might be the best bargain on the menu).

Chartreuse

Chartreuse makes a lot of "best of" lists for Detroit, and the Detroit Free Press named it the restaurant of the year for 2016. I have only visited Chartreuse once, but one visit convinced me that it deserves the accolades it receives. The restaurant is next door to the Detroit Institute of Arts, so my wife, Allison, and I decided to try Chartreuse after attending the Freep Film Festival at the DIA.

It was a snowy April day, and Chartreuse's bright chartreuse-colored interior felt warm and inviting. We had a short wait for a table, so we ordered a couple of drinks at the bar. I tried the delicious "gon now git," a combination of rye, averna, and lemon. Allison had the Last Word (Then again, she always does), a tasty mixture of gin, chartreuse green, lime, and maraschino. For dinner, I tried the spare ribs, which were phenomenal. Allison had the vegetable bulgogi--a strange mix that included pineapple, poached egg, green curry, and excellent kimchi, but all the flavors worked well together.

Fork n' Pint

Asian beef tacos from Fork n' Pint
I reviewed Fork n' Pint after my first time eating there. I have been back to this Waterford restaurant a few more times because it has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in Metro Detroit. I love their fries. Their pizzas and burgers are very good. The walleye n' chips (served with potato chips, not fries) are wonderful, and so are their vegetarian options, like the coconut curry tofu. And they have fantastic tacos, as I recently discovered when I tried their Asian beef tacos. With its great menu, large drink menu, and relaxing atmosphere overlooking Cass Lake, I am always happy to visit Fork n' Pint.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Five Michigan Books for Summer


Summer is here. Even the upper reaches of the U.P. are seeing temperatures in the 70s and 80s.

It's time to take advantage of the glorious outdoors that Michigan blesses us with. Whether you are packing up beach towels and umbrellas or camping and fishing gear, don't forget a book.

Michigan has produced amazing writers, and it is the setting for many fantastic works of literature. The following books are set in Michigan and written by people who called Michigan home. They are perfect companions for you while you sip morning coffee on a cold morning overlooking a still lake, unwind during quiet evenings in the woods, or relax on a hot, sandy beach.

South of Superior

Ellen Airgood's debut novel tells the story of Madeline Stone, a woman who leaves a safe, yet unsatisfactory, life in Chicago for McAllaster, a small Upper Peninsula town on the shores of Lake Superior. Madeline struggles to adjust to life in the small town and its inhabitants. As an outsider in a new locale, her good intentions often backfire, but she ultimately adapts and learns to love the simple things in life. Airgood's writing captures the feel of the Grand Marais area, where she lives. Her description of the road leading to Lake Superior and Madeline's first view of the lake captured how I felt as I drove over that last hill on M-77 leading to Grand Marais.

The Feast of Love

Charles Baxter spent many years of his life in Southeast Michigan. He taught at Wayne State University and the University of Michigan, though he now lives in his home state of Minnesota, where he teaches at the University of Minnesota. Several of his works are set in Michigan, including The Feast of Love. This novel takes place in Ann Arbor and follows several characters' interconnected tales of love. Baxter's writing superbly examines love in all of its forms. Love is not simple, and neither is The Feast of Love. It is a story full of anguish, yearning, ecstasy, and sweetness.

True North

Confession: I never read a single book by Jim Harrison until this past month. I was turned off by the film Legends of the Fall, and Brad Pitt's Hollywood pretty boy looks on the film's movie posters. The film, which I have not seen, is based on a Jim Harrison story.

When Jim Harrison died in March, I read so many beautiful tributes to his poetry and literature that I decided to cast aside my ridiculous prejudice and read one of his works. I chose True North. I read it quickly, thoroughly, and passionately. The novel follows David Burkett, a descendant of Upper Peninsula logging barons, from his teenage years in the 1960s to the 1980s. David struggles to understand his place in the world in light of his family's destruction of the U.P.'s forests and his own father's wicked crimes. Harrison's writing exposes the beauty of the U.P. and the pain and emptiness in David's heart.

Returning to Earth

After finishing True North, I wanted more Jim Harrison, so I immediately purchased True North's sequel, Returning to Earth. Returning to Earth is set several years after True North, and it follows the lives of David Burkett's family members. Several family members, including David, take turns as narrator of the novel, and it is interesting to see their different perspectives on their family, especially when his half-Chippewa brother-in-law Donald or his sister Cynthia narrates.

Like True North, much of the action in the novel occurs in the woods of the U.P. as the family tries to understand and cope with the death of one of their own. It is clear through Harrison's writing that he loved the woods and lakes of the Upper Peninsula, and it is the land perhaps more than anything that ties the family together.

Here: Women Writing on Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Here is a collection of poems and short stories by women about the Upper Peninsula. This collection begins with the poem Here in My Native Inland Sea by Bame-wa-wa-ge-zhik-aquay (a.k.a. Jane Johnston Schoolcraft), and each subsequent story and poem weaves together a larger tapestry that brings the U.P. to life. In addition to Here in My Native Inland Sea, my favorite stories and poems in the anthology are North Country by Roxane Gay, Imprinting by Janeen Russell, Censors by Stellanova Osborn, Incomer by Gloria Whelan, and Mad Dog Queen by Sharon Dilworth.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day Parade in Keego Harbor

The front of the parade on Cass Lake Road
Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer. In Michigan, it's time for backyard barbecues, trips Up North, or fishing, swimming, or boating on a local lake. The frost that still chilled our bones only a few weeks (or less) before has given way to blooming flowers and grass and trees whose greenness always seems to overtake the land overnight.

Memorial Day itself is a time to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and towns throughout Michigan salute them with parades. This Memorial Day, my seven-year-old daughter had the opportunity to march in the Keego Harbor Memorial Day with her dance school.

Keego Harbor Police

Monday, April 25, 2016

Lending a Helping Hand at Focus: HOPE

Volunteers at Focus: HOPE
"Recognizing the dignity and beauty of every person, we pledge intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty, and injustice. And to build a metropolitan community where all people may live in freedom, harmony, trust and affection. Black and white, yellow, brown and red from Detroit and its suburbs of every economic status, national origin and religious persuasion we join in this covenant." --Focus: HOPE Mission

Since its founding in 1968, Focus: HOPE has striven to fulfill the above mission. It offers the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, career training programs, and the HOPE Village Initiative (a collection of community-based programs to help children, families, and neighborhoods succeed) to the Detroit area.

Focus: HOPE established the Commodity Supplemental Food Program in 1971. The program serves nearly 40,000 seniors and about 5,000 mothers with small children in the Detroit area each month with canned and packaged food. Most of the program's participants pick up their food from one of its four food centers, but Focus: HOPE also delivers food to homebound seniors.

On Saturday, I played a minuscule part in fulfilling Focus: HOPE's mission by taking part in a volunteer event through the University of Michigan Club of Greater Detroit. We met at the food warehouse on Focus: HOPE's main campus on Oakman Boulevard. The main campus has several buildings covering three city blocks, including the warehouse, training centers, a children's center with childcare programs, and a food center.

Rows and rows of food.
When I entered the warehouse, I was astonished by the volume of packaged food that was waiting to be delivered to the food centers and homebound seniors. Rows upon rows of pallets of boxes containing rice, canned goods, juice, and more were a sad reminder of how many people still need help to put a decent meal on their tables.

The Focus: HOPE staff was friendly and efficiently showed our group how to pack the boxes of food using an assembly line. A few other volunteers and I were at the end of line and had the job of loading the boxes onto pallets. Even though I literally had the heavy lifting, I figured a couple hours of hard work was only a small act to help others.

Boxes of much needed food for seniors
In the end, we loaded more than 1,400 boxes of food for delivery. Despite providing only a fraction of what is needed to feed those in need in the Detroit area, it felt good to be a small part of the solution to our metro area's problems. We all have our own lives to live and our own problems to deal with, but I hope we all take some time throughout the year to take ownership of our communities' problems by lending a helping hand.

Friday, April 15, 2016

An Afternoon in Plymouth

Downtown Plymouth
It's easy to stick to the familiar, to not venture outside the vicinity of our hometowns, to eat at the same restaurants, to shop at the same stores. But Michigan is full of smaller towns and cities that are perfect for a day trip or even a quick stop for a bite to eat and stroll around town.

Despite growing up in Metro Detroit and spending my college years in Ann Arbor, I had never been to Downtown Plymouth until this past weekend. It's about half an hour from my home, so my family and I decided to make a short visit to walk around the downtown and have dinner.

The downtown is surrounded by single-family homes on quiet-looking residential streets. Unfortunately, the weather was cold for April (and hopefully it was the last cold weekend of this year), so we did not walk around the downtown as much as we would have liked.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Fork n' Pint: Dining on the Shores of Cass Lake

Fork n' Pint
Fork n' Pint in Waterford opened in December 2015 and offers a large menu of comfort food, including burgers, barbecue, fish and chips, poutine fries, and pizzas. Located on Cass Elizabeth Road, the restaurant overlooks Cass Lake's Coles Bay.

The interior of the restaurant has ample seating, and its wooden tables and large fireplace give it the cozy feel of a ski lodge. Its large patio overlooking the lake will be a great spot to unwind with good food and drink on a warm summer's night.

Outside seating with a view of Cass Lake

With only one visit under my belt, I cannot speak for the entire menu, but the food definitely satisfied. My family and I started with the poutine fries as an appetizer. They were good, but I have had better poutine, and I actually found the plain fries that came with my burger to be tastier.

It might be obvious from its name, but Fork n' Pint has a large selection of draft and bottled craft beer, including many Michigan brews. They also have a good wine selection, as well as cocktails and spirits, including several from Michigan distilleries.

The delicious grilled caesar and cheese soup
For our main courses, I ordered a ridiculously heavy, but delicious, Muenster Monster burger. This 10-ounce Angus beef burger is topped with grilled house sausage, muenster cheese, haystack onions, coleslaw, and Fork n' Pint's tangy barbecue sauce, and it comes with a side of fries. I had been craving a burger for a few days, and the Muenster Monster delivered.

My wife Allison ordered the broccoli and beer cheese soup and a grilled caesar salad. The soup is made with Newcastle Nut Brown Ale and Swiss and roma cheeses. The soup was superb; the beer flavor was subtle and did not overpower the cheeses. As for the salad, Allison and I both love grilled caesar salads and found this one to be quite tasty. Our kids also enjoyed a burger and pizza from the kids menu.

The wooden interior gives the restaurant a cozy atmosphere
With its satisfying food and relaxing atmosphere, Fork n' Pint was a good experience. We definitely will be visiting again and look forward to warm summer nights dining and watching the boaters on Cass Lake.

Fork n' Pint. 4000 Cass Elizabeth Road, Waterford, MI 48328. 248-791-3256. www.forknpint.com

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Freep Film Festival

I finally made it to my first Freep Film Festival. This annual Detroit event is presented by the Detroit Free Press and Michigan.com, and various theaters in Detroit and Royal Oak.

Unfortunately, I was only able to see one film because of my schedule and because a couple of films I wanted to see were sold out. However, I luckily had seen and reviewed two of the films before, Superior and Exported From Michigan.

Although most of the films have a Michigan connection, I wanted to see one that specifically focused on Michiganders, so I chose Accidental Activists. This film explores the journey of two women, Jayne and April DeBoer-Rowse, who tried to challenge Michigan's adoption laws so they could have equal parenting rights to their children. When U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman told their attorneys that Michigan's adoption law wasn't the problem, they then found themselves challenging Michigan's same-sex marriage ban and ending up on the winning side of last year's U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

The film was directed by Mandi Wright of the Detroit Free Press, and she does an excellent job getting inside the everyday lives of the DeBoer-Rowses and the whirlwind of becoming unwitting but unwavering champions of a crusade that they initially had no intention of undertaking.

Following the film, Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson led a discussion with April and Jayne DeBoer-Rowse, their attorneys, Dana Nessel and Carole Stanyar, Judge Friedman, and Wright. The discussion shed light on the filming process and each panelist's feelings about the film and the lawsuit's path through the justice system.

The Detroit Institute of Arts hosted the film and helped make it a great experience. Next year, I hope to attend more than one screening at this fantastic festival.

For more information about Accidental Activists, click here.

For my previous reviews of Superior and Exported From Michigan, click here and here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Saturday Afternoon at Canham Natatorium

A packed house at Canham Natatorium
On Saturday, my family and I attended the Michigan-Michigan State swimming and diving meet at Canham Natatorium on the University of Michigan campus. My wife and I want to expose our daughters to sports that are hard to find on television and that might interest them. Both MSU and U of M have more than 20 varsity sports (and a few high-level club sports). Most of these student-athletes are not household names, and many are not on a full scholarship. 

Other than football, basketball, and hockey, both schools charge a minimal fee, or no fee at all, for spectators to attend their sporting events. Some student-athletes might have Olympic or professional aspirations, but the remainder push themselves beyond their limits to improve their teams and to discover how much faster they than go, how much higher they can reach, and how much stronger they can be.