Tag Archives: events

pop! goes the biergarten

A few months ago, my friend Suzanne started talking about how she wanted to open a biergarten in Detroit. Little did I know that what I thought at the time was small talk, in the same way you’d casually say “I want to learn how to hang glide” or “I want to visit Turkmenistan”, would turn into the coolest place to spend an autumn Sunday afternoon.  Keep in mind, I didn’t realize at first that she was talking about  a temporary pop-up operation. But had I known she was serious, I never would have doubted for a moment- when Suzanne wants to make something happen, it happens!

She and her partner Aaron assembled a crack team of friends and colleagues to work on the project, each contributing of their talents pro bono (photography, graphic design, marketing, build-out, etc).  I was in the thick of wedding planning and wasn’t able to lend any assistance until the day before opening, but Marvin was on board from day one. Even hearing tidbits from him about the development of the project, though, it was still surprising and impressive to see it come so successfully to fruition.

The biergarten was dubbed “Tashmoo“, a name that may sound strange given that they’re going for a traditional European-style vibe, but which carries a lot of local significance. It was the name of a steamboat that operated in the Detroit River from 1900 to 1936 between Detroit and Port Huron (thus the anchor in the Tashmoo logo), and supposedly means “meeting place” in some Native American language (a curious language nerd, I searched to see which one and came up empty-handed, other than a reference to an Algonquin word for a lake in Massachusetts).  Regardless of nomenclature, though, I think most people were just interested in having an excuse to drink good beer and socialize outdoors on a beautiful 70° day. And let’s admit, much as we all love Roosevelt Park and Eastern Market, it was a welcome change of scenery to hang out in a different neighborhood.

Many of the GUDetroit crew had planned to go right when they opened, at noon. I was initially shooting to be there early as well, but ended up missing all of them so I just waited until late afternoon. The second I stepped outside, I was kicking myself for not having been outdoors sooner- it was a gorgeous warm fall day the likes of which we may not see again until next year. I got down to the West Village around 5:45, just in time to beat the rush of people coming after the Lions game (and, I suspect, some who had only recently woken up from the previous night’s debauchery… or their afternoon nap?).

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Beer in hand, I made the rounds chatting with friends while Marvin did what he does best. The crowd was a nice mix of people I knew from different circles- singles, couples, families all enjoying the great weather and cornhole (slightly monopolized by the kids, but the grownups will get their turn this Saturday). In addition to 5 Michigan beers on tap, there were two local food vendors (who will rotate in the coming weeks), Porktown Sausage and People’s Pierogi. As a meat-eater I went for the brat, beer’s natural partner, at least according to most Midwesterners. I even got the pierogi folks to spot me a bit of their sauerkraut. These are no factory-stuffed sausages- the Porktown guys make their brats by hand and perfectly season them with a nice hit of juniper and garlic.

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Around 8pm the crowd was treated to a screening of “People Mover”, a short film featuring several musicians, poets and chefs of my acquaintance (and many others I’d heard of but not yet seen). The crowd watched with hushed attention, erupting into spontaneous cheers a few times as various familiar faces came on screen.

After the flick, we said our goodbyes and headed out to catch a short set at the Lager House by our talented friends (and fellow newlyweds) James & Melissa Rae… my final bit of vacation before starting back to work. On the bright side, at least there are four more Sundays of Tashmoo to look forward to! And they’re bringing in different beers each week, so what better excuse for return visits?

new column SimmerD, and a belated recap of the detroit holiday food bazaar

I’ve made some vague references to freelance gigs that were siphoning off a bit of time away from this blog, and today I’m excited to introduce SimmerD, a new monthly column I’ll be writing for Model D about all things food-related in the city. Below is Marvin’s accompanying slide show, which contains photos of many of the events I mention in the article that have been filling my schedule the last few months!

I thought that since I mention the Food Bazaar in the article, although it was a few months ago, now would be an appropriate time to go into a little more detail about what it was exactly and how it was developed. I would love to see people re-create these types of events in their own communities, if they don’t already exist! The following text was written months ago but I never had any photos to go with it (see below re: how crazy busy I was that night!) so it got lost in draft-land. I always intended to publish it, though, so here you go.

It started as a little kernel of an idea, and grew into something I could only have dreamed of- a festive, food-filled event attended by hundreds of people, all drawn by their love of local, artisan, small-batch foodstuffs.  An event with 16 amazing local vendors, some of whom sold out of product in the first hour because of the overwhelming response.

I first started thinking of doing a holiday food event after our fledgling jam company participated in the Homeslice benefit for MOCAD in October.  It was a great event, and wonderful exposure for our brand, but the percentage we were asked to donate back to the museum cut into our already slim profits.  It got me thinking that rather than sell at a farmers’ market or other location where we’d have to pay a booth fee, why not organize our own event? I started asking around and brainstorming locations. As luck would have it, the person who lives above me volunteers for an art gallery that was trying to find events to host in order to expose people to their space.  We ended up with 1800 square feet of free space at the Whitdel Arts in Southwest Detroit.

The next step was to find vendors.  Through my involvement with GUDetroit, I know many food producers, both locally established businesses such as Simply Suzanne and Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company, and tiny home-kitchen-based start-ups like Suddenly Sauer, Neighborhood Noodle, Detroit Zymology Guild, and Gang of Pour (links below).  Through long chains of emails, I got everyone organized, and with the help of some of the other vendors (hi, Holly!) got all of the details worked out.  A few more vendors were added through word of mouth, and Suzanne arranged for Michael Geiger to provide music.  Marvin got prints made of 8 food-related photographs he’d taken, and hung those in the space.

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, promoting was a snap.  Between all of the vendors and people inviting friends, the invite list was well over a thousand people.  By the day of the event, over 400 had RSVP’d “yes”.  We also got write-ups in both major Detroit weeklies, the Detroit News and a couple of online publications. I was floored and thrilled by all of the support and interest on the part of the press, but a tiny bit concerned about legal issues.  Since this was originally intended as a semi-private, word-of mouth event, we hadn’t pulled any permits, and some of the vendors weren’t in strict compliance with MI food laws.  Not only that, but our friend James was selling homemade wine on a “donation basis”.  Two days before the event, I got a call from local NPR affiliate WDET asking if I would appear on the Craig Fahle Show to talk about the event (here’s the podcast, I’m on with Will of Corridor Sausage about halfway into the program). The irony was that they were referring to it as “Detroit’s first underground food show”.  But we figured, hey, it took the city 10 years to finally crack down on Theater Bizarre… we might as well go for it and hope for the best.

At the outset, I had envisioned more of a “holiday party” where we would sell to friends and friends of friends, hang out and drink some wine, nothing too crazy.  In actuality, I got to enjoy about 20 minutes of the 5-hour event and the rest of the time I was stuck at our booth because we were so slammed with customers! By the end of the night, we had sold out every last item we had for sale. The other vendors reported a similar hectic pace , but no one was complaining! I think there was a little bit of disbelief (at least on my part) that we had pulled it off, but we were ecstatic to know that this kind of an appetite exists in Detroit for the products we had to offer.

Thanks to everyone who participated, either as a vendor or attendee.  I hope to repeat the event next holiday season or maybe even sooner- now that I (sort of) know what I’m doing, it should be a little less daunting!  Below is a vendor list of links if anyone is interested in contacting them to get more information or order products.

Beau Bien Fine Foods

Detroit Zymology Guild (soon to be Commissary)

Corridor Sausage Co.

McClure’s Pickles

Simply Suzanne

Pete’s Chocolate Co.

Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company

Suddenly Sauer

Neighborhood Noodle

Gang of Pour

Shelby’s Kitchen Therapy

Porktown Sausage

RG Distribution (selling Kenzoil, El Azteco products, and more)