Well, I'll tell you what they no longer don't have over us: Restaurant Week.

For years there have been "restaurant week" events in cities like New York, Boston, San Diego, Dallas, Austin, Washington D.C., Orlando, Philadelphia, and Chicago. These events offer a prix fixe menu at some of their respective cities' most prestigious dining establishments, encouraging people to experience and celebrate their local cuisine and support their local restaurants.

Detroit has never hosted a dining event on this scale...until now.

Over the past several weeks, I have been giving you previews of the Restaurant Week menus at different participating restaurants. I have interviewed chefs both here and for Model D, and I have heard the same response over and over again from each chef and restaurant manager I've spoken with: Detroit needs this.

In the past decade or so, Detroit--once a champion of fine dining in this country--has all but fallen off the national radar for our cuisine. The occasional James Beard nomination or Wine Spectator award has still been tossed our way, but the national public consensus has been dismissive at best (and downright brutal when at its worst).

The biggest problem is that we never lost the great restaurants; we just lost the prestige and notoriety. Sure, the London Chop House closed almost two decades ago and Chef Milos Cihelka has been retired for over a decade, but they weren't the only things that Detroit could uphold as its humble offerings to the culinary gods.

What about the Rattlesnake Club, the Whitney, Opus One? And in the last decade, Cuisine, Atlas Global Bistro, Coach Insignia? And in just the last few years when Detroit has been experiencing an explosion of creative new fine dining establishments, Roast,Saltwater, 24 Grille, and Iridescence? (And mind you, I am speaking only of those within city limits, and not of the countlessnoteworthy restaurants in the greater metro area.)

In Detroit we have chefs with impressive pedigrees who have studied under some of the most famous chefs in the most famous kitchens and schools in the world. Even when our very own public seems to have forgotten about is, we have still received recognition from such national publications as Wine Spectator,Wine Advocate, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and GQ.Yes, over the last several decades our city has made national headlines for a number of negative reasons, and has certainly suffered in population and public opinion because of it. But make no mistake: this is still a great city, and it has always been a great place to eat.

I've heard all too often people claim that Detroit has no culture. To them, I point to the hundreds of art galleries, museums, artist studios, outdoor art installations, theatres, and performance spaces. To them, I offer the countless indie rock, jazz, funk, and techno acts that play on any given night of the week in dive bars, ultra lounges, and upscale jazz clubs. And to them, I point to thedozens of fun, eclectic, noteworthy restaurants, some of which are truly world-class.

I am no true "expert" in the field of dining. I have not been to Tokyo, Paris, or Moscow, nor have I had any kind of formal gastronomical training. But I think it would be fair to say that I at least know more and have had more experience than a good number of diners out there. I've been to some of the finest restaurants in the world--Osteria di Rendola in Tuscanny; Felidiaand the Russian Tea Room in New York City; Spiaggia in Chicago;Thornton's in Dublin; Grano de Oro in Costa Rica. I've experienced fine dining in Chicago, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Toronto, and Phoenix. The only thing holding me back from having more experience is lack of access to a big-budget national publication's handsome expense account (PS, dear big-budget national publication, please give me access to your handsome expense account, KTHX). But just in my own experience, limited in worldliness though it may be, I can say with absolute conviction that some of Detroit's restaurants can compete with any of these highly-decorated world-renowned fact, some are even better.

Why is Detroit Restaurant Week so important? you might ask. Or rather, why have I been harping on you about it for weeks now? The answer is simple: it finally puts Detroit on the national culinary map. It finally puts us on the same playing field as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston. It finally forces people to acknowledge the wonderful dining experiences there are to be had here and situates us as one of the nation's premiere dining destinations--a title we really never should have lost.

Jason Huvaere, Producer of Detroit Restaurant Week, said restaurant week promotions in other major cities across the country have brought customers back again and again -- even after the promotion has ended. And based on early feedback from participating restaurants and the local community, Detroit’s restaurant week is expected to be just as popular as those in Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

“We are home to some of the best dining establishments in the country and this region will welcome this type of dinner promotion,” said Huvaere. “Over the course of the last three months, we’ve been promoting Detroit Restaurant Week at events throughout the region, and we’ve received a very positive response from everyone we’ve engaged.

“And based on preliminary reports from the participating restaurants, reservations are strong, which means that our community is truly embracing the Detroit Restaurant Weekconcept.”

Detroit Restaurant Week starts tonight. 17 participating restaurants are offering minimum 3-course meals at a fixed price of $27.00 (excluding tax and gratuity). Restaurant Week runs through Sunday, September 27th. If you don't understand what all the fuss is about, then now is a good time for you to find out.

Bob Biscigliano

Ernie Harwell permanently connected so many people who listened to him to the amazing game of baseball.  I'm a passionate Detroit Tigers fan who grew up not only listening to him broadcast games, but imitating his calls in my backyard with my brothers as we'd play whiffle ball.  When I think of Tigers baseball, I don't just think about my hometown baseball team, I hear Ernie Harwell.  When I see Tigers baseball, I hear Ernie Harwell.

Ernie Harwell is Detroit Tigers baseball.

So when Ernie gave what seemed like a "Thank you fans, good bye" speech tonight between the top and bottom half of the 3rd inning, I couldn't hold back the tears that built up in my eyes.  It was perfect, it was special, and it was heartwarming.  I got goosebumps all over my body as I let a tear drop loose and slide down my cheek.  I'm sure there were thousands of Tigers fans who felt the same way.

Ernie, thanks for all the memories.
More than 200 people came together for Detroit Public Schools’ Osborn College Preparatory Academy on Friday, Sept. 11 on the first National Day of Service and Remembrance.

American Express and Delta Air Lines employees joined Osborn students, staff and the community on the Detroit campus for the first of three “Travel with Your Mind” projects, the credit card company’s yearlong philanthropic effort for the city. Volunteers from Macomb County and other areas spent four hours painting murals, touching up classrooms, beautifying school grounds and more.

The “Travel with Your Mind” theme was selected to help expose Osborn’s students to the new possibilities travel creates through a series of travel-related projects and multicultural initiatives – without the students ever leaving their own backyard.

“American Express has a long history of supporting causes that are important to its Cardmembers, so as more people in Detroit switch to the Delta SkyMiles Card, American Express wanted to enhance its commitment to the area by supporting a cause that is near and dear to its residents – local schools,” said David Rabkin, vice president, Delta Co-Brands, for American Express.

Even his parents – Ann Arbor residents Eric Rabkin, a University of Michigan English professor, and Elizabeth Rabkin, a retired Ann Arbor schoolteacher, pitched in.

American Express worked with the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, an affiliate of HandsOn Network, the largest volunteer network in the nation, to implement “Travel with Your Mind.” Two additional projects planned for the spring and winter semesters will be announced in 2010.

Detroit Fashion Week is Michigan's only fashion industry event. Beginning September 13th and lasting until the 19th, the week includes fashion events and parties as well as numerous designers and special appearances from the CW 50 Gossip Girl characters. The fashion week kicks off with the opening party at BlackFinn in Royal Oak.

On Monday, the Project Muse Gallery Exhibition opens from 6-10pm. The Goldfish Tea will be featuring short film screenings on Tuesday and Thursday, and the week will culminate will a fashion show at the Farmers Market in Royal Oak. For a full schedule of the events to hit, go to

Part of the hype during Detroit's fashion week is getting a taste of some big name celebs. Designer Reco Chapple from Bravo Networks "The Fashion Show" and Bianca Golden, Americas Next Top Model contestant, will close the runway events at DFW Couture Showcase. Tickets can be purchased through the Detroit fashion week website. There will be free ticket giveaways for the Couture Showcase at each of the events throughout the week.

Other designers featured during the week will be William Malcolm, who will introduce his collection in his first DFW showcase and Robrena Davis, an Alumni of Central Michigan University and student designer from the 2006 DFW. Femelia Couture will be returning for their third year and Jenna Kator will be bringing along a collection of designer handbags and accessories. Also joining the designers will be new student designers from local universities and high schools.

Detroit Fashion Week is a step in the right direction for expanding the industry with so much potential. Detroit is busting at the seams with creativity and talent that is begging to be showcased. Come out for this one-of-a-kind event and support the growth of fashion in Michigan.
Andrea Canter

If my first Detroit Jazz Festival (2008) was a revelation, my second last weekend was at least as much an ear-opening and even more inspiring experience.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary with a focus on Detroit’s jazz lineage, the theme “Keepin’ Up With Joneses” not only recognized the legacy of native sons Hank, Elvin and Thad Jones, but brought “home” famed Detroiters Sheila Jordan, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Charles McPherson, Geri Allen, Louis Hayes, Bennie Maupin, Karriem Riggins, Rodney Whitaker and Carlos McKinney, and a few more who made the Detroit area home, including Gerald Wilson and Marcus Belgrave.

But it was not all about Detroit, as the festival sought to celebrate other musical families—the Brubecks, the Heaths, the Coryells, the Pizzarellis, the Escovedos, the Claytons. Last year’s Artist in Residence Christian McBride appeared in several configurations, as did the 2009 Artist in Residence and another noted bassist, John Clayton. In further tribute to Detroit and the festival’s long history, there were world premiers of commissioned works by Gerald Wilson and John Clayton; a recreation of Detroit legend Donald Byrd’s Blue Note recording, A New Perspective; and recognition of four of Detroit’s “Jazz Guardians” (Hank Jones, Marcus Belgrave, festival founder Robert McCabe, and longtime Detroit jazz educator Ernie Rodgers).

With over 100 music performances scattered across 3 ½ days and five stages, it’s easy to identify the DJF as one of the world’s largest jazz events, and the nation’s largest free jazz festival. Yet the significance of the DJF transcends the art itself, as one of the city’s critical opportunities to push aside its economic challenges and negative public image, and instead show the world a diverse community bound together by artistic pride and a commitment to cultural education equaled by few urban centers.

Jazz needs Detroit as much as Detroit needs jazz. And for 750,000 on Labor Day Weekend, Detroit and jazz are inseparable and inspiring.

Experiencing the friendly efficiency and artistic integrity of the 2009 DJF, it’s hard to remember that only three years ago, the attainment of a thirty-year anniversary seemed unlikely. In 2006, a jazz angel in the form of Carhartt heiress/Mack Avenue Records owner Gretchen Valade offered a ten million-dollar endowment to ensure the future of jazz in Detroit and stimulate further funding efforts.

Valade was a familiar presence throughout the festival, as was Festival Executive Director Terri Pontremoli and an army of spirited, usually smiling volunteers. Having convinced several friends to try Detroit this year, I am confident my recommendations are still credible. In particular, the Detroit festival boasts:

Only free music—no ticketing of selected headliners, everything is free to everyone.

Mostly open seating--there are a few rows reserved for VIP seating (for donors) at the three largest venues, otherwise its first come, first seated, and comfort in setting up your own chair if you prefer. Like other outdoor festival’s I’ve attended, I’ve never had a problem leaving my chair to hit another stage or concessions, always finding it where I left it. There’s an etiquette among jazz festival attendees that seems universal.

Diverse music largely within the umbrella of “jazz”―and leaning more toward bebop and post bop mainstream eras with a small smattering of Detroit’s “other” sounds that often find their way into jazz—Motown, soul, gospel, blues, hip-hop.  None of the smooth palp that confuses naïve audiences about the difference between Kenny Garrett and Kenny G.

More headline acts per day than any one individual can attend (or absorb!)

Strong emphasis on “passing it on” via performances from middle and high school bands, area and national college bands, even a “Kid Bop” tent for the youngest fans to enjoy some hands-on experiences. College student musicians appeared on the main stages with such luminaries as Dee Dee Bridgewater, Stefon Harris and Eddie Daniels.
Sarah Szurpicki

The rails-to-trails concept isn’t new.  Neither is urban greenspace.  Bike lanes have been paved before.  And yet, to a Detroiter, the opening of the Dequindre Cut this May felt almost revolutionary.

The Dequindre Cut is one mile of paved bike and walking lanes, with an adjacent greensward that could, in the future, be used for light rail–and currently functions as a picnic spot–which run from Lafayette to one of Detroit’s greatest community assets, Eastern Market.  It’s a “cut” because it’s set about 25 feet below-surface of roads and sidewalks, like an open-air subway for foot and bike traffic, in the footprint of the former Grand Trunk rail line.  Entrance and exit ramps about every 1/2-mile make the Cut accessible.

On a walk there last week (during which my audio recorder failed me, so I sadly can’t bring you a podcast) with Tom Woiwode, the Director of the GreenWays Initiative of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and one of the major forces behind the building of the Dequindre Cut, and Sue Weckerle, a Program Associate in the Foundation’s Community Investment group, we noted a few families, several people on bikes, and at least one motorized mobility assistive device.  (In Detroit, you’ll often see those devices in the middle of a busy road, because the condition of the sidewalks doesn’t allow passage.)  It was a warm, sunny day, and the landscaping, still-fresh lane paint, and signage made the Cut extremely welcoming.

The city purchased the land in the ’90s with plans to use it as, essentially, a driveway to a casino planned for the riverfront.  The brilliant idea to use the riverfront for casinos was thankfully scrapped, and the possibility begin to gather in several minds that this overgrown, neglected, and dangerous pathway could be transformed.  Funding from multiple government sources–including out of the transportation enhancement pool of MDOT’s ISTEA funding–was matched by the Community Foundation; overall, $3.4 million was required to lay the pavement, clear the brush, deal with a mystery sewer system, shore up the retaining walls, and, perhaps most importantly, provide the few little “extras” that really make the Dequindre Cut work.  Street lighting, benches, and emergency phone boxes (like those you see on college campuses), along with the frequently-mowed lawn, are what make the Cut inviting.

The GreenWays Initiative and its many partners, including the City and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, say that the current Cut is just the beginning.  The mile between the south end of the Cut now and the Riverwalk will hopefully be connected by an extension of the Cut, and talks continue with the private property owner just north of the existing Cut.  But on an even larger scale, they envision a city in which all of our existing greenways are interconnected, and they are developing piece-by-piece a plan for construction of linkages between Detroit’s current parks: from Gabriel Park in the east, to Belle Isle and the Riverwalk, to the Dequindre Cut, to the planned “Midtown Loop,” and beyond.

Tom emphasized that, to him, bike lanes are important–but not in and of themselves, so much as potential triggers to a culture change.  The “greenways” are about inspiring “green WAYS” of living. They are also about the development of a community asset that Detroiters can be proud of and can communally use and celebrate; walking the Cut, you’re likely to receive twice as many smiles and “hellos” from strangers than you will on the sidewalk above (unscientific estimate).

The creation of the Cut involved overcoming several obstacles (like the mystery sewer system mentioned above).  Tom and Sue attribute its success to the dedication of all the involved parties, who met monthly and sometimes bi-weekly over a period of years to hone the plan and gather resources.  The maintenance and expansion of greenways in Detroit is similarly reliant on a series of collaborations.  One small example: the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy is charged with the ongoing maintenance of the Dequindre Cut.  Graffiti that has been preserved on the abutments within the Cut gives a nod to its history and Detroit’s graffiti culture.  But the more sun-exposed graffiti is already starting to flake, and the Conservancy having to vet new graffiti art for family-friendliness probably seems a little counter-cultural to the graffiti counter-culture.  A partnership in the works with an arts organization might circumvent the challenge.

The Dequindre Cut alone is not going to get Detroiters to sell their cars, and its success can’t be measured in miles of pavement laid.  Over time, what I’ll be watching for, with optimism, are answers to questions like: Are new small businesses popping up on the corners with Cut entrance ramps?  Is there less car congestion at Eastern Market on Saturday mornings?  Have obesity levels in the neighborhoods surrounding the Cut decreased?  Will people in those neighborhood start biking to work?  Are those neighborhoods seeing populations increase?  Do their residents feel prouder of their homes, and more warmly towards their neighborhoods?

I ask those questions because I believe that new greenways, especially those with a commitment to the maintenance that keeps them safe and welcoming, can have economic, health, and community benefits–and hope that the Dequindre Cut serves as a tipping point for those transformations in Detroit.

Thanks again to Tom and Sue for spending some time sharing their work and their passion with me.
Life Directions will hold its annual charity golf outing and auction on September 21, 2009 at Sycamore Hills Golf Club, 48787 North Avenue, in Macomb Mich.

The event will being with lunch at 11 a.m., followed by a shotgun start at 1:00 p.m. After a Texas scramble golf format, the cocktail hour will begin at 6:00 p.m., followed by a gourmet dinner and live auction.

Proceeds from this event will benefit Life Directions, a Detroit-based non-profit, that works to prevent students from dropping out of the Detroit Public Schools.

Life Directions’ mission is to motive at-risk young adults, ages 13 to 35, especially the economically poor, to mature into responsible, productive adults through self-direction. The core values of the organization are the fostering of a mission-driven attitude, partnership in diversity, balance in relationships and self-responsibility for one’s own future.

Sycamore Hills was rated by Golf Digest as, “One of the best courses to play – beautifully challenging.” For more information about the golf course, including directions, please visit, or call 586-598-9500.

There will also be individual golf awards during the day, including: longest drive, closest-to-the-pin, and a chance to win a new car with a hole-in-one. Every golfer will receive a gift bag, filled with a variety of free giveaways.

Prices are $125 for an individual player and $500 for a team of four. For further information, including event registration and sponsorship opportunities, please call Life Directions at 313-420-0310.


Danny Glover to Star in Highland Park Library Film

The Associated Press

Actor Danny Glover will star in a movie that could help revive a shuttered library in the impoverished Detroit enclave of Highland Park.

The film project titled "Highland Park" was announced Monday at a news conference at the McGregor Library.

The story line will mirror the ongoing struggle to reopen the library, which closed in March 2002 because the city could not afford to keep it open.

Producer Chris Panizzon says Glover will star in the film.

Lt. Gov. John Cherry Jr. was on hand for the announcement.

Highland Park Mayor Hubert Yopp tells the Detroit Free Press the library will undergo significant restoration and the movie will be a "steppingstone" to its reopening.

Jack White may have moved from his hometown of Detroit, but he’s definitely not leaving behind his old stomping grounds. The White Stripes, Raconteurs, and Dead Weather rock star is trying his hand at philanthropy.

The Detroit News reports that White covertly donated $170,000 towards the restoration of Clark Park field, a baseball diamond where White played ball as a kid. “He was good,” said Mo Blackwell, former brother-in-law to White and father of Dirtbombs drummer, Cass Records founder, and Jack’s right-hand man at Third Man Records, Ben Blackwell. “Smooth left-handed swing.”

Jack has always kept in touch with the volunteers at the park, including Deb Sumner, who recalled meeting once-girlfriend “Rene Wellzinger, or however you say it.” Sumner had been imploring Jack to do a charity concert for years when an LA lawyer called on behalf of a then-anonymous donor. White’s donations paid for restorations that include new dugouts, grandstands, and a revamped infield.

Aww. I can tell that we’re going to be friends, Jack.

Michigan credit unions are riding high in the auto-lending market with an 8.5-percent increase in new loans in the second quarter, totaling $2.2 billion in auto-loan balances as of June 30, 2009.

This represents a record 32 percent increase in new vehicle loans from June 2008 to June 2009.  The record-breaking growth coincides with the launch of the “Invest in America” program in December which offers credit union members discounts on select General Motors and Chrysler products and low-cost financing.  The “Invest in America” member discounts are helping the domestic automakers during a critical time when credit is tight and encourages “buy American”.

“More than 200 credit unions statewide have stepped in to fill the void in auto lending,” said David Adams, MCUL CEO.  “Credit unions are financially stable, increasing members’ savings deposits and supporting their members and Michigan’s auto companies by making the loans that put new and used cars on the road. The ‘Invest in America’ program has strengthened credit union relationships with auto dealers and shown the importance of buying American.  This is not just about market share.  It’s about credit unions helping the auto industry, jobs and our economy.”

“Invest in America” has facilitated more than 190,000 new vehicle purchases for GM and Chrysler nationwide since January.  The program has resonated with Michigan car buyers as the Detroit automakers work to reestablish market share.  By offering a significant discount on a new GM or Chrysler vehicle, the program encourages Michigan’s 4.4 million credit union members to buy American-made products and support local jobs.  By offering lower rates than competing lenders, the program prompts members to finance their purchase through their credit union.  The average new car loan rate from a credit union is significantly lower, at 5.8 percent, than bank rates at 7.0 percent, according to Datatrac July 2009 data.  

 New auto loans are not the only bright spot for credit unions. Used car loans increased 14 percent from June 2008 to June 2009 and small business loans grew 17 percent over the same time period. And the momentum continued into the third quarter of 2009, as Michigan credit unions increased their market share of new and used car loans from 23 percent July 31, 2008 to 36 percent July 31, 2009.  This is the highest market share increase of the 20 most populous states.

Reflecting the trend in the broader economy, credit union savings deposits grew by 2.5 percent in the second quarter.  This represents the strongest growth rate in six years. Overall credit union loans are also on the rise with an increase of 1.6 percent in the second quarter.  This represents a 12-month growth rate of 5.8 percent; the highest since 2005.

Dear Fans of Positive Detroit,

The website expansion of the Positive Detroit Blog, Positive Cities, has been selected by Kickstarter as its newest funding project.

Kickstarter aims to let creative people of all kinds -- journalists, artists, musicians, game developers, entrepreneurs, bloggers -- raise money for their projects by connecting directly with fans, who receive exclusive access and rewards in exchange for their patronage.  Kickstarter has received recent press from NPR and The New York Times.

All projects selected for the site are by invitation only.  It is an honor and privilege to be granted this opportunity.

Kickstarter has already help fund $500,000 in projects and the site has only been in existence since April 2009.

Positive Cities' goal is to raise $41,700 by October 20, 2009. Because a pledging program is not complete (or fun) without giveways, there are several prizes I am handing out based on a tier of pledges.

Make sure to follow Positive Cities on Twitter and Facebook. New giveaways will be randomly announced throughout the pledge drive that are not currently listed on my Kickstarter page.

Curious? I bet you are.

Click Here for more details and to make a pledge.

I appreciate your continued support in helping further my mission to create a platform for communities, starting with Detroit, to interact, engage, and rediscover the love and pride within one's own backyard.

Please spread the word.

Thank You Kindly,