Urban Agriculture’s Healthy Roots in Detroit

Urban Agriculture’s Healthy Roots in Detroit

Urban farming may seem like a recent phenomenon, sprouting up in cities across America, but it’s been around much longer than that.

According to the 2014 documentary, “Plant This Movie,” narrated by actress Daryl Hannah, as far back as the 1930s, people were using their own land to grow their own food and raise their own livestock. During World War II, victory gardens produced hundreds of tons of food a year. In 1944, 40 percent of food was grown at home and school gardens, totaling 20 million gardens coast to coast.

After the war, soldiers came home and wanted their own piece of the pie, paving the way for a watershed moment in the late ‘40s. The lawn became a symbol of upward mobility as suburban sprawl took hold. Much like the lawn, grocery stores became a symbol of a high standard of living and made it easy to pick up peas for that night’s dinner instead of waiting for them to come into season.

As Hannah said, “The highway system and advances in refrigeration divorced people from their food. Local food was not a lifestyle choice — it was the only choice available to most people until the 1950s.”

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Joe Nader of Ford Field Talks Stadium Food Trends

Joe Nader of Ford Field Talks Stadium Food Trends

By Dorothy Hernandez, Foodable Contributor

Local food is a trend that’s not going away, but for chef Joe Nader, that word gets tossed around a lot. It’s not just about sourcing food from urban gardens and farms (which is important, of course) — it goes beyond that.

“What we're talking about is local brands and signature foods,” says Nader, who is the executive chef at Levy Restaurants at Ford Field in Detroit where he oversees every aspect of foodservice in the 65,000-seat stadium, including 132 luxury suites, five mini restaurants, 40-plus general concessions, The Hall of Legends Restaurant, and catering. 

“You can't come to Detroit and not have a coney dog, right? These are signature things … it doesn’t make any sense if you're coming in to a game for the Lions and you can't get a proper coney dog or you’re not gonna get Slows Bar BQ. These are things you come to expect in Detroit … that’s really what the local thing means to me, creating signature dishes or signature items or iconic brands that bring in the fans.”

Nader has been at Ford Field since 2005, when he returned to his native Detroit to take a job as executive sous chef for Levy Restaurants at Ford Field. Prior to that, he was working in California where he honed his chops in the fast-paced, upscale boutique hospitality industry. The following year he was promoted to executive chef after Super Bowl XL. 

When he’s not feeding 65,000 on game day, he’s also advocating for childhood nutrition and food access for all Detroiters. Last year he testified before the U.S. Subcommittee of Nutrition of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture. 

Below, Nader talks to Foodable about partnering with local brands, how Ford Field has been at the forefront of stadium trends, and the shift from tailgate culture.

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Detroit Beverage Experts Weigh in on Trends for 2016

Detroit Beverage Experts Weigh in on Trends for 2016

By Dorothy Hernandez, Foodable Contributor

In recent years, Detroit has not only seen a boom in restaurants but also the rise of craft cocktail culture. 

“Personally, I am looking forward to the continued mainstream acceptance of properly made mixed drinks across metro Detroit,” says Dave Kwiatkowski, owner of The Sugar House in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood and partner in Wright & Co. “When I opened The Sugar House and told people I was opening a ‘craft cocktail’ bar, most people had no idea what I was talking about. Now, it’s completely common to walk into a restaurant and see a selection of house cocktails on the menu that don’t actually use flavored vodkas or a bottle of sour mix. It’s a great thing.”

Sandy Levine, owner of The Oakland Art Novelty Co. in Ferndale, Mich., and Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktails in Detroit’s Midtown district, says with the explosion in creativity and experimentation, quality is crucial.

“Quality is pretty much a given,” he says. “Bars whose drinks don't actually taste good are given less leeway from guests than before. Many of the drinks made a few years ago were kind of made for bartenders rather than for the general public, and I think now people are realizing that good drinks are universally good, not just good to certain palates.” 

There’s been a lot of talk about hospitality, but Joe Robinson, director of beverage and hospitality at new Detroit hot spot Standby, says that’s the name of the game.

“No matter what kind of bar or restaurant you're in, the guest should always be the focus. Hopefully, we remember that bars are all about having fun and being able to let loose a little.”

To find out what will be trending this year in cocktails, we asked Kwiatkowski, Levine, Robinson, and other cocktail experts around Detroit for what to watch out for in 2016.

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For Winter Wine Pairings, Think Michigan

For Winter Wine Pairings, Think Michigan

By Dorothy Hernandez, Foodable Contributor

When it comes to wine, Michigan might not come to the top of the list of wine country destinations. But for Cortney Casey and her husband, Shannon, Michigan doesn’t get the recognition it deserves and they are on a mission to put the wines of the Great Lakes State on the map. 

In 2009, the husband-and-wife team launched MichiganByTheBottle.com, a website dedicated to wine from Michigan. “We had fallen in love with visiting Michigan wineries and felt like many of them were hidden gems that weren’t getting the recognition they deserved,” says Cortney, a certified sommelier. 

It was a fun side project for the duo, who added more video features on wineries, podcasts, interviews, articles, tasting notes, and contests on the blog and website. But as time went on, they were surprised by how well received they were. The pair decided that the Michigan wine industry was where they belonged, and they wanted to make it their “real” jobs. “Thus, the brick-and-mortar offshoots were born,” Cortney says. 

Through partnerships with several Michigan wineries, the Caseys established two collaborative wine bar/tasting rooms in suburban Detroit with another one in the works. They maintain MichiganByTheBottle.com to focus on the entire Michigan wine industry.

Below, Cortney gives Foodable some insights on how to build a wine list for the winter, pairing food and wine, and how far the Michigan wine industry has come in terms of red wine production.

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Detroit Pastry Chef, Food Network Competitor Is a Double Threat

Detroit Pastry Chef, Food Network Competitor Is a Double Threat

By Dorothy Hernandez, Foodable Contributor

For many savory chefs, pastry is a weak point. Not for Scott Breazeale, a trained pastry chef who is equally skilled with his savory dishes. The executive sous chef at Levy Restaurants, and food and beverage partner at Ford Field in Detroit, had a big year last year. He recently appeared on Food Network’s “Halloween Baking Championship,” where he battled seven other bakers, making it to the final round, and was nominated for “Pastry Chef of the Year” by the local American Culinary Federation chapter. 

The skateboarder and old-school punk rocker took some time out from his busy schedule at Ford Field, where he oversees the hot side of suites and all of the pastry items, to talk about blurring the lines between sweet and savory, his plans for 2016, and how his day job at the 65,000-seat home of the Detroit Lions is easier than competing on TV.

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