Papa Turts: So Hot It Hurts!
Papa Turts home grown and handcrafted hot sauce was born from a love of spicy foods and an overabundant yield of habanero peppers one summer. Matt and Mandy, of Fowlerville, Michigan, are the creators of a line of seriously kickass hot sauce that promises to add both flavor and a punch of heat to any kitchen. Papa Turts is gaining recognition and winning awards, including three (yes three!) 2016 Scovie awards. Their spiciest flavor of sauce, So Hot It Hurts, recently won Best In Show at the Chicago Hot Sauce Fest. Each Papa Turts sauce has won at least two awards. These award winning sauces are still made in small batches, all natural, gluten free, vegan, and with very low sodium.
Papa Turts is a grass roots endeavor with a down to earth, Michigan-proud backstory. When a summer garden crop of peppers left Matt and Mandy buried in habaneros, Matt started experimenting with recipes for hot sauce. After several batches, he had something he loved, and so did Mandy, their neighbors, friends and family. Again and again, they heard, “You guys should sell this stuff!” Pieces fell into place, as they tend to do in a successful, passion driven project. Matt and Mandy crossed paths with people who pointed them in the right direction in terms of starting a small business and bringing the hot sauce to market. With more trial and error, this dynamic duo finally perfected their product, packaging and marketing plan.
They needed a name. Papa Turt’s name comes from an evolution of Matt’s high school nickname, Turtle (Mandy describes her husband as a dreamer, often lost in his thoughts). Over time, Turtle became Turts, or Turtsie McGurtsie, or Tortulious J. Funk. Matt met Mandy years ago at Bell’s Brewery in a Michigan town that also has a fun name: Kalamazoo. After their daughter was born, Matt’s closest friends started calling him Papa Turts instead of Turtle. As the couple worked toward bringing their newly developed hot sauce to the public, they posted on Facebook, “Hey, friends, we’re going to sell this hot sauce you all love, but what should we call it?” Matt’s friend, Jody, suggested “Papa Turts – So Hot It Hurts!” It was a perfect fit: weird enough to be remembered, but not so weird that it’ll be quickly forgotten.
Not content to sit back and rest easy with the three primary sauces, Mama’s Sweet Chile, Papa’s Smoked Peppa, and So Hot It Hurts, Matt and Mandy have plans. The mark of a true artist is the will to create; it’s not only about the end result, but about the process. Next spring will see the introduction of a Papa Turts green sauce, a concoction made with roasted jalapenos, parsnips and tomatillos, fresh garlic and onion, green apples, and cilantro, great on tacos and with guacamole. Also in the works is the Scorpion Reaper hot sauce, aimed at those with an incredibly high heat tolerance, to be released sometime next year. A nice perk of liking Papa Turts on Facebook and checking out the website is gaining access to exclusive recipes incorporating the sauces.
One unique thing Papa Turts does is offer custom designed hot sauce labels. Wedding favors, birthdays, retirement parties, retreats, a marketing tool for businesses — customers can have a one-of-a-kind label and special sauce name added to each bottle they order. It’s a fun way to commemorate any event, and a great way to advertise a business.
As Papa Turts has steadily grown in popularity, so has the couple’s commitment to staying true to their love of Michigan. Papa Turts utilizes business practices they can be proud of, including recycling, composting, and calling on other Michigan based businesses, both to help grow the Papa Turts name and to spread the word about the state’s great consumer resources.
Mandy calls Papa Turts a labor of love. Producing, packaging, marketing and selling is a long process. Weekends and evenings are often spent in booths across the state, at fairs and events, gaining visibility for the product. Matt and Mandy’s two kids even pitch in, mirroring the couple’s overwhelmingly positive attitude when they appear now and then behind the counter with mom or dad. There’s no denying the work involved in bringing a dream to fruition. But it seems every time the couple feels discouraged or wonders if all the work is worth it, another win happens, like the Scovie awards, or another Michigan store or restaurant adds Papa Turts to their shelves. Just yesterday, the product was added to four Whole Foods stores in Michigan. Feedback from customers doesn’t hurt either. One of the most rewarding moments of manning a booth at an event is when a Papa Turts fan stops to mention how much they love the sauce, or to tell Matt and Mandy how awesome it is that they’re following their dream.
In its fourth year, Papa Turts has already beaten the odds, surviving longer than most new small businesses. The burgeoning success story of Papa Turts isn’t just the sauce. It’s not just the talent in the chef’s apron, or the marketing sense and attractive label and all those hours spent sharing the product with the public. Papa Turts flavor sells itself. It’s the attitude of the couple behind the sauce that makes it worth buying.
FIND PAPA TURTS:
Rebekah Purdy, Young Adult Author
Rebekah Purdy was born and raised in Michigan where she spent many late nights armed with a good book and a flashlight. She's lived in Michigan most of her life other than the few years she spent in the U.S. Army. At which time she got a chance to experience Missouri, Kansas, South Carolina, and California. Rebekah has a business degree from University of Phoenix and currently works full time for the court system. In her free time she writes Young Adult stories, anything from YA Fantasy to YA Contemporary Romance. Rebekah also has a big family – 6 kids! She likes to consider her family as the modern day Brady Bunch complete with crazy road trips and game nights. When not hiding at her computer, Rebekah enjoys reading, singing, soccer, swimming, football, camping, playing video games, traveling, and hanging out with her family and gazillion pets. With several recently published books under her belt, the author has a fresh perspective on writing:
Rebekah, tell us about your writing corner: what do you absolutely need to get in the mood?
Usually I need to have all my notes laid out on my desk, a bottle of lemon water and some snacks (LOL). And I normally throw on some music to fit the mood of the story.
Do you have a favorite character in the newly released THE SUMMER MARKED? Please elaborate!
Ooh, this is hard. I have a few favorites from this book. But probably getting to write a new character named Darach. He’s a ghost that you meet in this book and when the main character first has a run in with him, the reader will be trying to guess whether he is friend or foe. He’s someone who was killed by the Winter Court and now tethered to the Ruined Kingdom. It was fun kind of trying to figure out the reasons behind his bitterness and the mechanics of him being caught between the land of the living and the land of the dead. And watching him to try help Salome, even though he has ill feelings toward the kingdom of Summer.
Name three things you love about writing.
I love creating characters. I love connecting with readers through my books. And I love seeing my books on the shelves of bookstores!
Name one thing you don't love about writing.
I have a love hate relationship with editing. I love cleaning up the story and making it better, but I hate losing control of my characters and storylines, because if an editor doesn’t like a certain scene or chapter or character, they can cut it. There have been some tears on this front as the story, once it’s written, is no longer yours.
Name one thing you love about our beautiful state.
The four seasons we have—and I LOVE the U. P. (The Upper Peninsula to Non-Michiganders)
What is your current favorite book?
I don’t really have one—I’ve got “many” LOL. But probably The Summer I turned Pretty series by Jenny Han, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers….
What did you grow up reading with that flashlight late at night?
I really loved books by R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, L.J. Smith, and Richie Tankersley Cusick. As a child I loved Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls and any book by Roald Dahl!
If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would it be?
Probably L.J. Smith or R.L. Stine.
Any parting words of advice for aspiring authors?
Never give up. Write, revise, then write some more. And most of all have thick skin. Sometimes it can be daunting and a hard road. But just stay focused on your goal and keep writing and improving your craft.
THE SUMMER MARKED:
The sequel to the chilling THE WINTER PEOPLE returns to the world of Faerie, and is a romantic and enchanting follow-up.
Fresh off a break-up with her boyfriend, Kadie’s glad to be home from college for Thanksgiving. All she needs is a rebound guy, a box of chocolates, and some girl time with her best friend, Salome. Problem is, Salome isn’t returning her calls, and her family won’t say where she is. Feeling sorry for herself, Kadie ends up at Club Blade, a place filled with pumping music, dangerous guys, and promises of a good time. However, when midnight strikes, Kadie’s fun turns into a nightmare as she’s ripped from the human world into Faerie by a vengeful Winter Prince named Etienne. For the first time in her life, she realizes the monsters Salome always spoke of are real, and they’ll stop at nothing to destroy her friend.
Salome thought the winter curse was behind her. But winter has left its mark. Not just on her, but on the whole summer court. The Kingdom of Summer is falling apart, and Nevin is hanging onto his throne by a thread. With war on his doorstep, he has no choice but to send Gareth into enemy territory, which means Salome will be left alone—vulnerable in a world she doesn’t understand. A place where beauty is deadly and humans are pawns in the macabre games the Fae play. Both Kadie and Salome will have to call on all their strength to survive in a world where humans aren’t meant to be. With death and enemies all around them, it’ll be a miracle if they can survive.
Find Rebekah Purdy here:
Twitter Link: http://www.twitter.com/RebekahLPurdy
Link to all my books on my website: http://www.rebekahlpurdy.com/books.html
MG Buehrlen, Author
MG Buehrlen is the author of THE 57 LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE and the upcoming THE UNTIMELY DEATHS OF ALEX WAYFARE (available Spring 2016). She is also the co-creator of YABooksCentral.com, the largest social network for YA book lovers. When she’s not writing or web developing, MG is a hillbilly hipster foodie who, some say, is way too picky about the quality of her coffee. MG was kind enough to sit down for a Q&A today:
What inspired you to write THE 57 LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE? I've always been a huge fan of time-travel and out-of-body stories. My childhood was filled with them: Doctor Who, Back to the Future, Bill and Ted's, and Quantum Leap, just to name a few. I loved stories where characters were thrust into the unknown and came away better people and more understanding of other cultures.
Name three things you love about writing. I love that writing is like time travel. It doesn't matter if you're writing a daily journal entry or the Great American Novel, you get to walk through your memories. You get to go back, slip inside those old shoes, and explore the moments that shaped you.
I love the freedom it gives me to create. My life motto is: Consume art, create art. As long as I'm doing those two things freely, then I'm living my dream. Writing helps me achieve it.
I love that each story I write stretches me somehow. I learn from all of my characters and their struggles. Writing is a way for me to explore motives, both sides of the fence, and it gives me more empathy for others and their struggles.
Name one thing you don't love. I don't love the deadlines. I'm such a free artistic spirit that having a timeframe to create is often stifling.
What is your current favorite book? The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Are there any specific writing rituals you use? Not really, although life with a toddler has taught me that focus is a precious commodity. Over the summer I got into a nice rhythm of coffee shop + headphones + playlist + my essential oil blend Focal Point that worked really well for productivity. It's my new recipe for success.
If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be? Study and learn what's currently on the shelf, what publishers are buying, and what top authors are writing. Writing for yourself is great, it's what fuels all of us, but writing to sell your work is a completely different beast. If you want to turn your writing into a business, then you have to treat it like a business. Study your competition, find what's missing from the shelves, what readers are longing for, and write that. Otherwise, if you only want to write for yourself, then just write, my friend.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
THE 57 LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE
One girl. Fifty-seven lives. Endless ways to die.
For as long as she can remember, 17-year-old Alex Wayfare has had visions of the past. Visions that seem so real they leave her breathless, feeling as if she really was onboard a ship bound for colonial America, or rising to the top of the first Ferris wheel at the Chicago World’s Fair.
But these brushes with history are not simple jaunts back in time, nor do they come without a price. Alex’s visions wrench her from her life in the present without warning, returning her with mysterious wounds and inexplicable, lasting effects. Desperate for a normal life, Alex wants to discover the meaning of her visions and get rid of them once and for all.
It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who seems to know more about her than she knows about herself, that Alex learns the truth: she is a Descender, capable of traveling back in time to her fifty-six past lives by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife.
With fifty-six lifetimes to explore, historical secrets to unlock, and hidden treasures to unearth, descending back in time becomes irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with blue eyes keeps showing up in each one of them. But the more Alex descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever. And will stop at nothing to make sure her current life, her fifty-seventh, is her last.
Find MG Beuhrlen:
Web & Tumblr: http://www.mgbuehrlen.com/
Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Google Play | Kobo | iTunes | Powell’s
True or False:
David C. Hayes is a horror novelist.
David C. Hayes is a college instructor.
David C. Hayes is a film actor.
David C. Hayes is a playwright.
David C. Hayes was a professional wrestler.
David C. Hayes was a stand-up comedian.
David C. Hayes was a paranormal investigator.
David C. Hayes only fear is boredom.
Which of these are true? If you answered all of the above, you get a gold star. Born in Garden City, Michigan and now a Livingston County resident, David C. Hayes describes his passion for creating new works as "mayhem in multiple mediums." Prolific and darkly gifted, the man behind all of these roles has one foot planted in the here and now and the other up ahead, in his next project.
Hayes’ films, like A Man Called Nereus, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, Dark Places and The Frankenstein Syndrome, Vampeggedon, Machined, Reborn, Back Woods (and approximately 60 more) can be seen worldwide. He is the author of several novels, collections and graphic novels including The Midnight Creature Feature Picture Show, Cherub, Cannibal Fat Camp, Pegged, American Guignol, Scorn and Muddled Mind: The Complete Works of Ed Wood, Jr. As a playwright, David's full-length and one-act plays have been produced from coast to coast with a run Off-Broadway for the comedy Swamp Ho and sell-out performances in Phoenix for Dial P for Peanuts.
David C. Hayes is a voting member of The Horror Writers Association, The Dramatist's Guild and the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers. When not creating, David teaches film production, creative writing and communications as an adjunct instructor at Siena Heights University, Kaplan University and Grand Canyon University. He holds bachelors degrees in psychology and English as well as a master of science in forensic psychology and a master of fine arts in creative writing. Locally, David is a frequent contributor to WHMI 93.5FM, the Livingston County radio station, and speaks frequently at book signings, comic conventions and gatherings of geek-culture. He can be found recording a weekly political podcast at Howell, Michigan's Blue Frog Books along with professional journalist Jon Arking and book seller Rob Vedro. Can’t stop by the Blue Frog? Check out David C. Hayes below, along with several film trailers:
Click on David's Official Website!
David on the IMDb!
Visit Cinema Head Cheese for film-type goodness!
Go shopping for Hayes-merch at Amazon.com!
My review of Keeping Molly by David C. Hayes and Kevin Moyers:
Keeping Molly is a compelling story. Hayes and Moyers create sympathetic characters that I rooted for and cringed for as things went south fast. The writing is perfectly paced and kept me turning pages. Not just another zombie story, but thought provoking, intense commentary on some of the big issues in today's world too. I will definitely be reading more of these authors works! MORE REVIEWS
Laura Lee, Author
Metro Detroit native Laura Lee is the author of more than a dozen non-fiction books with such publishers as Harper Collins, Reader’s Digest, Running Press, Broadway Books, Lyons Press and Black Dog and Leventhal. Her Pocket Encyclopedia of Aggravation has sold more than 85,000 copies. She has also written two collections of poetry, a children’s book (A Child’s Introduction to Ballet) and two novels, Angel (which will be released in a second edition in November) and Identity Theft. She brings to her writing a unique background as a radio announcer, improvisational comic and one-time professional mime. The San Francisco Chronicle has said of her work, “Lee’s dry, humorous tone makes her a charming companion…. She has a penchant for wordplay that is irresistible.”
When not writing, Lee produces educational ballet tours with her partner, the artistic director of the Russian National Ballet Foundation. The project has taken them to all but 7 of the continental United States (Lee notes that Edinburgh, Scotland is her favorite place to have lived). The entertainment industry is a natural fit for the author, who attended the Specs Howard School of Broadcasting after receiving an independent major in theater studies at Oakland University. Though Lee’s first paid gig as a writer was when she was 12, for a piece titled “My First Day of Junior High School,” she’s built quite an interesting resume of work experience along the way to the above noted published books.
Laura Lee began her radio career as an intern at the alternative music station 89X in Detroit, cuing vinyl records. She went on to become a radio announcer, but notes she received “way more comp tickets and opportunities to do cool rock n’ roll type things as an intern than I ever did as a radio announcer in my own right.” She recalls a highlight of her radio career as the time she was a "celebrity judge" for country Karaoke and got yelled at by a guy she didn't pick as a winner. Radio and communications are in Lee’s blood. Her great uncle, James Jewell, oversaw the writing staff that created the Lone Ranger for radio station WXYZ in Detroit and her grandmother was the radio actress who played Miss Case in The Green Hornet.
Lee notes that her best brush-with-fame story was when she was working in a hippie tye-dye shop and Harrison Ford walked in. Unless, she says, you count the fact that she had the same high school theater teacher as Madonna did (different years), and her brother babysat for a family who were Madonna’s dog-sitters.
Despite an illustrious radio career and ill-timed, intersecting paths with the Queen of Pop, Laura Lee is meant to be a writer. Once, while in London, a stranger approached her on the street and told Lee that he could see her aura. He insisted that “they” were telling him that Lee was supposed to be writing and she wasn't and that this was very important. No surprise there; the proof is in the pages of Angel, Identity Theft, and each of the author’s other published works.
Find Laura Lee:
Rachelle Marie Willnus, Designer
You’ve been invited to an event - maybe a charity benefit or a fashion show with girlfriends. Wouldn’t it be nice to add a little oomph to your standard go-to look? Something that brightens the mood, an accessory that infuses more flair than a new bracelet or earrings.
Or what if you’re getting married? Imagine your bridal party dressed to complement you and your groom, the overall effect beautiful and artistic, as much a part of the desired ambience as every other painstakingly chosen detail.
Rachelle Marie Willnus is a magician. Her magic wand is a deft artist’s touch backed with engineering technique and a creative streak a mile long. Derby Hats by Rachelle offers hats, fascinators and clothing with pleasing aesthetic flair to add style and beauty to any event. The master's prepared manufacturing designer morphed her skills at Ford Motor Company into a career as a clothing and fascinator designer as a way to spend more time with her two daughters. Designing hats since 2009, Rachelle finds the endeavor provides her a fulfilling creative outlet, and the fashion world is benefitting.
Derby Hats by Rachelle is widely recognized in the Metro Detroit area and beyond, with her work appearing on ABC television, Fox 2 News, WDIV local 4, in the Detroit News, Modern Model Magazine, The Metro You, SOLIS New York and more. Her hats have been featured as StyleLine Magazine Editor’s choice for headwear three years in a row and her bridal line, Marie Rachelle, has been featured as trendsetter three years running as well. Rachelle’s work is soon to be seen in the September 2015 issue of KEEL fashion magazine in a several page layout. Derby Hats by Rachelle was the winner of the Head-to-Head Hat Competition at Michigan Fash Fest 2012 and named Best of the Best for 2012.
In an exciting recent development, Derby Hats by Rachelle is the selected designer to create crowns for the upcoming Lucas Miles film, CROWNING JULES (by a Disney writer). The film stars local actresses Elizabeth and Jacqueline Labadie.
Each creation in Derby Hats by Rachelle is designed, sewn and hand-crafted by the artist. The fascinators are gorgeous, unique, whimsical … and as individual as the vast variety of wearers. The photos below provide a much better vision of the work than any words ever could.
Rachelle Marie Willnus believes in good design – whether it is for an engineer training program or to look great during a special event. Her chapeaus require a strong knowledge of design, shape and form. “As with engineering design, hat designers must be able to assess fit of product, such as a client’s face and head shape in relation to hat size and function,” Willnus says. “It’s about finding the best design to compliment the shape of the face and head size of the wearer. Any woman can wear a hat or fascinator.” Check her out below and prove her right!
Find Rachelle Marie Willnus:
Photo credits (1): Attire: Rachelle Marie Willnus. Photographer: Jennifer Alder. Model: Lia Morse. Makeup: Stacey Manuel. Hair: Jennifer Nelson. Styling: Hoda Salameh.
Photo credits (2): Headwear: Rachelle Marie Willnus. Photography, skirt, and jewelry: Janna Coumoundouros. Styling: Marv Neal. Makeup: Stacey Manuel. Model: Joan Lutz.
Photo credits (3): URBAN DECAY Series, Detroit; Headwear: Rachelle Marie Willnus. Photographer: Janna Coumoundouros.
S. Copperstone, Author
Some of the best things in life happen in a roundabout way. Author S. Copperstone knows this all too well. The fantasy and historical fiction author has just released Bittersweet Tavern, her first book with indie publisher Bygone Era Books, Ltd, after a long journey through the landscape of both independent and traditional publishing. Her story is one most of us will recognize: the labor of love that is creating a novel, followed by querying literary agents and publishers and more agents and publishers until our eyes cross and we lose count.
“Breaking into any type of publishing is not easy,” says Copperstone. “Competition is fierce, and I tend to write unusual stories which can be hard to place or market.” She chose a pen name as a way to remain somewhat anonymous and separate herself from her writing. With the pen name, the author can say, “Yeah, that S. Copperstone comes up with some strange ideas.” The name is taken in part from a southeast Michigan restaurant sign that caught her eye.
Copperstone is a longtime resident of Livingston County, a unique location in the mitten state that combines large stretches of rural area with patches of suburbanites. Acknowledging that writing is therapeutic for her, the author has been writing novels off and on since her teens. After compiling an impressive file cabinet filled with rejections from some of the best literary agents and publishers in the business (these are the battle scars of any committed writer), Copperstone was excited to receive an acceptance letter from independent publisher Bygone Era Books.
Bittersweet Tavern is a historical fiction sparked by the old 1970s song, “Brandy,” by Looking Glass, and an unforgettable trip to Maine. “I wanted to incorporate that feel (the scents of the ocean, fish and pines) into a story. After some research, I discovered more than a few interesting historical events that had taken place in that area. One of the most intriguing was the burning of Falmouth (today’s Portland, Maine) in October 1775. I had found a setting in which to bring two of my favorite main characters to life. Daniel and Jerusha hope to entertain.”
In Bittersweet Tavern, Jerusha, a widowed barmaid in the upper Massachusetts Colony, was feisty and could handle herself, but she was also a bit of a klutz. This was not necessarily a bad thing when she stumbled into the arms of a mysterious ship captain, hardened by the early battles of the American Revolution. Yet, beneath that gruff exterior, she thought she detected something more in the sea-dog. Something … almost familiar. A follow up novel covering their future adventures is in the early planning stages.
Earlier in her writing life, Copperstone took the plunge and entered into the self-publishing world with The High King’s Embalmer. Check out the thrilling video trailer for it here. The author’s first novel, it’s a story about an alien shape-shifter who was born into slavery in a dystopian world and finds himself entangled in the middle of a plot to kill his master and his family. Due to his loyalty to the family and relationship by blood, he can’t allow that to happen. It incorporates a touch of Ancient Egypt with modern North America. Originally, the main character was a pirate, then a vampire, but now he’s a shape-shifter (in the form of Anubis) and part human. Copperstone has two additional novels in the works to accompany The High King’s Embalmer. The novel is currently available in e-book form on Amazon, with a plan for re-release in the near future in paperback.
Copperstone is quite diverse and enjoys writing across several genres. Another story, Two Bits is about centaurs in the American Old West and Copperstone’s first paid acceptance from a publisher. The author describes it as a western with a bit of Greek mythology thrown in. Two Bits is currently an ongoing web serial on JukePop Serials.
Copperstone is also working on another series of unreleased novels set in medieval Scotland and France which focus on a knight, his family and friends and misadventures. Like many writers, Copperstone becomes attached to the characters she writes and talks about them as if they are real. She says the main character in this series is another of her favorites and he would like his story to be told.
When she is not writing, S. Copperstone enjoys traveling, old buildings, history, genealogy, hand weaving/braiding rugs, and collecting fossils which she likes searching for herself. The author frequently spends time with her horses and is owned by her cat, Hobbit.
S. Copperstone can be found wandering all over the internet:
• Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/S-Copperstone/...
• Wordpress: https://scopperstone.wordpress.com
• Tumblr: http://scopperstone-author.tumblr.com
• Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/story/29124715...
• iAuthor: www.iauthor.uk.com/the-high-king-s-em...
• Twitter: @SCopperstone
• Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/shari0
• YouTube: http://youtu.be/0BwBi_Mgytc
• Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3519023.S_Copperstone
The face of fine dining is changing in Detroit. Renowned visual artist Janna Coumoundouros and innovative gourmet chef Matthew Baldridge have created Dinner Club Pop Up, a recurring event that makes for a delightful evening out. Imagine elaborate four course meals set against the backdrop of expertly curated art exhibits, a soundtrack of eclectic modern hits, and the occasional pop culture classic projected silently on one wall, in rotating venues. Coumoundouros, a multi-talented artist and possibly Detroit’s busiest woman, explains, “I'm passionate about the project because I believe in what we are doing. There is a need here in the Detroit area for it.”
Business collaborators and recently engaged Coumoundouros and Baldridge’s overall vision was a singular, unique dining experience: an inviting, intriguing affair combining modern art culture immersion with an exquisite, painstakingly chosen menu prepared by culinary artist Baldridge. The final piece fell into place initially with the addition of Derek John and The Storefront Gallery. While Dinner Club Pop Up began at the gallery, the effort is now a traveling feast, making appearances at such Metro Detroit venues as Treat Dreams, Supino’s Pizza, The Menagerie, Always Brewing and even as far as Columbus, Ohio. The overwhelming success of Dinner Club lies in the fact that people are looking for something new and interesting to savor at an affordable price. With events frequently oversold and patrons asking for more, the vision is working.
The gourmet chef handling the delectable menu is well prepared for the challenge. In addition to his recent stints at the esteemed Revolver restaurant, Matthew Baldridge’s 16 year history in Detroit includes serving as Executive Chef of the upscale Cliff Bells, Chef de Cuisine at the Rattlesnake Club, and Executive Chef at Seldom Blues. Early on, Baldridge worked side by side with James Beard award-winning chef Jimmy Schmidt. His meals exhibit a French influence with a modern twist. Baldridge also confers with local growers and urban farmers to develop the best cuisine possible based upon the season, while giving back to Detroit’s noted rebounding economy. Several Michigan-made brands are incorporated into the meals from time to time, including Treat Dreams ice cream, Better Made potato chips, Sanders Hot Fudge, Mary Ann’s Soda and Faygo. One memorable Pop Up was even Faygo themed, complete with Faygo’s blessing and vintage posters donated by the company.
Janna Coumoundouros provides the artistic flair that drives the endeavor. She frequently works from home on much of the planning and marketing for Dinner Club Pop Ups. In addition to fine art photography and fashion photography incorporating a variety of mediums, Coumoundouros crafts unique, nationally recognized jewelry from typewriter parts, old cash registers, bits and pieces of auto parts and any other metals that catch her eye, and also runs her own successful real estate photography and virtual tour company. She even created the winning dress for the Detroit Institute of Arts Samurai Design Competition. Coumoundouros visits her art studio from time to time, mostly for fashion photo shoots and as a space to exhibit new work. She acknowledges all of these as hard won freedoms she’s thrilled to finally have. Her jewelry and print work is an eclectic, stunning mix of provocative pieces (see Coumoundouros' own Made in Michigan feature here).
For Dinner Club Pop Ups, Coumoundouros’ diverse talent means a constantly revolving art exhibit to enjoy before, during and after dinner. The artist describes the endeavor lovingly as a “perfect symphony of teamwork” from the moment patrons enter the space, through the warm welcome, to each course being carefully and aesthetically prepared and delivered to the intimate 20 person seating, to the moment guests are graciously bid farewell. Regardless of where the evenings are hosted, an art gallery or quaint café or lush, private Detroit mansion, involving all the senses makes the experience rich and relaxing.
The food is to die for. If you need proof, check out the photos below, or better yet, make a reservation. Menus include such courses as cilantro risotto, quail egg, smoked pork stock, peanuts and lime zest; the loaded potato with soft egg yolk, caviar, and creme fraiche and bacon; peppers stuffed with orange coriander-roasted pork with potato pearls and mojo sauce; and delectable desserts. Each meal is completely unique from the one before, giving Baldridge enviable creative license.
To fully appreciate the passion and drive poured into the endeavor by The Artist and The Chef, Dinner Club Pop Up must be lived first-hand. In the name of research, I secured tickets and invited a date who happens to have a culinary background. The gallery hosting tonight’s meal is small and inviting. The quiet soundtrack for the night is an eclectic mix of modern hits and B-side tunes from contemporary artists. Say Anything is projected on one wall, muted, and one knows exactly what’s going on in the popular classic with just a glance. The patrons seated at the long table down the center of the gallery are friendly and animated in anticipation of the four courses about to be served.
Janna Coumoundouros is the attractive redhead filling water glasses before setting the carafe down and moving to the head of the table to join Baldridge, a tall guy in a long white chef’s apron and Chuck Taylors. The Artist begins to speak, thanking those seated for attending and explaining just a bit about Dinner Club Pop Up. The initial idea came as a result of a fancy dinner out, says Coumoundouros. She is referring to high end restaurants where the tab grows into the hundreds, the food isn’t that great and the service is pretentious and snobby. Such an evening left Coumoundouros and Baldridge feeling dissatisfied, ultimately leading to the creation of Dinner Club. A conversation began. “Our idea was to bring high end dining to a completely casual and fun atmosphere. Who wants to have to go to a stuffy restaurant to get good food?"
Chef Matt Baldridge weighs in: “I’ve realized it’s possible to do this type of food preparation, while also exercising creativity and sort of stepping outside the mold. It’s liberating. It’s not about us. The people you’re with, the food, the experience -- that’s the point. It’s simply about the food.”
Back to that firsthand experience. As the evening progresses through each course of the sumptuous, beautifully prepared menu created by The Chef, one thing becomes clear. It could be the music that is somehow impeccable yet barely noticeable. It might be the setting, always inviting and aesthetically pleasing. Maybe it’s the gorgeous collection of artwork surrounding the space. It is without a doubt the food, and most assuredly the collaborators who so thoroughly enjoy their patrons delight in the experience. Janna Coumoundouros and Chef Matthew Baldridge’s Dinner Club Pop Up is not to be missed.
Find Dinner Club Pop Up:
Event tickets: http://www.eventbrite.com/o/dinner-club-pop-up-6507116181
Lisa Peers, Author
Author, actor and rock-and-roll savant, Lisa Peers penned the best book I've read this year. Love and Other B-Sides is a fun rock-and-roll romance that grabs hold of the reader and doesn't let go until the last page.
Stee Walsh is the seventh most successful American rock musician still performing today. Toting a gut, a sobriety chip and a crushing case of writer's block, he's long overdue to deliver the album that will crown his musical legacy. He decides to search for inspiration in Virginia and, while sorting out some painful family business, trips over Connie Rafferty, a newly minted fan of his music.
Connie is restless in Richmond, raising a teenager while processing her anger over her philandering husband's death. When Stee hires her to direct a music video she jumps into the project, unaware that she'll be expected to manage all the problems in his personal life as well. Their unanticipated romance puts Stee back on the path to rock and roll glory, but when the album's done and the music stops, will Connie stay stuck on Stee?
Love and Other B-Sides was inspired by Peers' own immersion in classic rock while producing a corporate video that required a solid rock-and-roll soundtrack. Her experience began with Tom Petty and culminated in an intense crash course in hundreds of rock songs and artists, making her an insatiable fan, not only of Petty's music but the entire genre. One thing led to another and Peers found herself discovering a newfound passion for live concerts, rock documentaries and all things rock and roll.
Peers started wondering what a day in the life of a rock star might actually be like. A chance sighting of Carlos Santana picking up his dry cleaning near her Marin County, California home led to the next logical thought: Does Bruce Springsteen pump his own gas? If a non-musician were to become involved with a rock star, could she (would she) continue to do the 9-to-5 thing at a normal job? Or would it be necessary to give all that up to follow the band?
Peers notes that there is something undeniably romantic about the relationship between performer and fan. In her blog, LPon45, the author deftly brings to light the nuances of how music touches our souls, changes our lives, and colors each experience depending on our own personal soundtracks. Her features center around current pop culture and rock music, including musings on the frequent concerts she attends - hey, all in the name of research!
A Harvard graduate and Virginia native, Lisa Peers has acted professionally and worked as a speechwriter and TV/radio producer for companies in San Francisco and metro Detroit. Her short fiction earned award recognition in the 2014 Detroit Working Writers competition. Apparently one of those people who seem to live several lives, Peers' background in theater is extensive. In San Francisco, she was a two-time winner of the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Awards, and also received the Dean Goodman award twice for her one-woman cabaret act. She performed in several Sondheim musicals in Bay Area as well. Peers received her MFA in acting from the American Conservatory Theater. Additionally, she and her partner Dani Kurepa produced several shows in the city, including the drag musical version of Whatever Happened to BB Jane, the drag (non-musical) version of Hush Up, Sweet Charlotte, and Joe Orton's Loot. Peers now resides in Birmingham, Michigan where she is happily at work on her next novel.
The Desired Effect, the author's current work in progress, focuses on a workaday actress in 1970s San Francisco cast in her first film role as the beloved of the God of Love, Eros. Her onscreen romantic lead has a backstage crush on her, but his mother - playing Aphrodite herself - is a diva of mythic proportions.
Find Lisa Peers:
Find the book: http://tinyurl.com/LoveAndBSides
Lisa and I will also be at the Arts, Books and Brews Pub Crawl at the end of this month!
My review (remember when I said I love this book?):
Rock and roll references are liberally scattered in all the right places, and Connie and Stee felt like friends of mine as I got into the story. I enjoyed the well developed, multi-dimensional characters, the realistic issues set against a wildly exciting premise, and the authenticity of the worlds in which these two unlikely soulmates reside. Can't wait to read more from Lisa Peers!
Blue Frog Books
Fate couldn't have planned it better. Blue Frog Books opened its doors a little over a year ago in my town -- a town sorely lacking a great indie bookstore. When my first book was published six months later, the Blue Frog welcomed this new author with open arms, happily showcasing my work and scheduling a signing. The thing is, the proprietors of Blue Frog Books extend this attitude to everyone. Walk through the Tardis entry door into an inviting oasis filled with books of all genres, unique gifts and trinkets with local and literary flavor, and a smiling face behind the counter.
The atmosphere inside on the other side of that Tardis door is a book lover's dream. Looking for that new bestseller? Right here. What about the limited release graphic novel by that author you love? Over there. Obscure literary fiction for your kid's accelerated English course? They'll order it and call you in a few days when it's in. Rob and Penny, the proprietors/owners, are friendly without being overbearing. They are helpful when you need them and scarce when you don't, as it should be. There's even a cozy sitting area in the back, just right for taking a little extra time to leisurely peruse your options.
Blue Frog Books is the product of owner Penny Coleman's avid reading habit and dream to open a bookstore, and Investor/Manager Rob Vedro's small business experience. The location is the halfway mark between Penny's and Rob's hometowns, with the actual store perfectly positioned proximal to downtown Howell in a growing commercial business strip mall. Getting the shop up and running was a hands-on project, with friends and family pitching in to help. Penny Coleman still works as a pharmacist, necessary in today's world of book selling and publishing. Rob Vedro lends his 25 years of photo industry expertise to the printing and photo side of Blue Frog Books, a nice added perk the store offers. This includes photo services such as scanning, restoration, art creation, stretched canvas prints, large format Epson photo printing, and custom designed stationary cards for all holidays and occasions.
Blue Frog Books brings a cohesive feel to the arts and literary scene in the area. The owners have their finger on the pulse of what the consumer wants, hosting frequent author signings, story time, music nights, poetry nights and book clubs. There's even a summer reading bingo program with a prize drawing at the end. This month, Blue Frog Books will be on hand for the fun Arts, Books and Brews Pub Crawl (more on that in next week's feature!). A really cool thing happens when a much needed new business opens in a small town. Especially when the enthusiasm and gratitude emanating from the proprietors is so apparent, as is the case with this bookstore. The community embraces the effort. Vedro notes that as the best surprise in the endeavor: the overwhelming support. "We still have people pulling up to get their selfies in front of the store. Everyone seems very excited to have a bookstore back in town."