Fields and fields of corn. This is what’s inside the heart of the heartland. After hours of fields of corn, I was back in the Motor City area to sample some vegan eats.
Lunch, finally was at Inn Season Cafe in Royal Oak. They have a promising brunch menu they only serve on Sundays. (Darn!) And a regular menu with 90’s veggie fare. 90’s because things are served with a side of chips from a bag. The 90’s as in, a time when vegetarian food was rudimentary and unexciting. I opted for a sandwich special, the opened face tempeh. I had hoped that the Daiya was a sprinkling, and not the pile I was served, barely hot, on top of the barely cooked tempeh. I promptly moved the mound of processed cheese glob off the tempeh so I lost most of the pesto. What I was left with was not what I pictured in my mind as I traveled from Indianapolis. The slaw was a little bit of a redemption, but not enough.
I have to say: the best vegan cupcakes I have tried in my travels have been the vegan option at an omnivorous bakery. The fluffiest cake, the best frosting, the best pinpoint-perfect sweetness level… maybe these are more qualified bakers, as opposed to passionate vegan entrepreneurs who bake? But they are getting it right. This cupcake was sublime, an adjective I don’t use lightly, like say “yummy.” Spectacular in all the ways cupcakes can be.
After some exploration of Detroit, both crumbled and wartorn and thriving, I head to the uppercrust city of Birmingham, very different than the dilapidating Detroit proper. I headed to the fancy pants The Stand, a gastropub with a vegan section on their menu, otherwise filled with things like duck fat fries. I asked my waiter if the chef could whip me up a vegan tasting plate with a combination of the menu items, sans the honey and hazelnut roasted carrots.
It was a delight to be presented the dish by the chef! I felt like a V.I.P… although I have been wearing the same clothes for 3 days straight. (My rebellion of airlines’ atrocious policy on bags.) On my plate: the roasted mushrooms with crispy quinoa in a balsamic glaze, candies fennel with beets and walnuts, and the amazing roasted corn with lavender oil and candied almond. Every bit of this dish was scrumptious. It was a welcome veg-based meal done right.
I did some exploring of Detroit. Fancied myself an urban explorer.. from the car. After GPSing all about Gratiot, directed to make turns I would never make without prodding, I became fascinated with Detroit. Motown is a beam of light on the city. Standing in front of Hitsville U.S.A. feels different than standing elsewhere.
I found the juxtaposition of places like Birmingham and Detroit unsettling: how affluent some areas were while other parts were empty, destroyed, abandoned of hope–with wandering specters. But this is the lore of Detroit City. The city is now a museum of its former self, with its once-grand architecture crumbling away, scrapped, yet standing–like the thousands of empty, boarded homes. Visual reminders of the stark contrasts embedded in our society: race, class, money. Detroit’s Michigan Central Station is one large reminder.
Inside the residential streets, where there is a 1:1 ratio of abandoned homes to homes, the Heidelberg Project is thriving. I last saw it like 10 years ago. It has grown significantly since then, hosting other industrial and folk artists in the surrounding homes and yards.
I love this kind of crap.
I also had to visit the abandoned Packard Plant, the largest abandoned factory space in the world, apparently. Packards were luxury vehicles built here until 1958. Now the 3.5 million square feet plant remains abandoned, but still oozes life. Many are living inside the wreckage. Like the man I saw wander out from one of the ghostly buildings.
It was time to say goodbye to Detroit. The gorgeous sunset tucks me in for my early am flight.