Jelly roll! — It's that time of year again: You could call it Shrove Tuesday, but it doesn't capture the energy and decadence of Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), or, closer to home, Paczki Day! It's when Hamtramck's bakeries lean toward excess, using lard, sugar, eggs and fruit to create one last batch of calorie-bombs before Lent sets in. And there is no better place to mark Paczki Day than Hamtramck. This year's fest falls on March 8, but you can get your start early this year, with a paczki bake-off at 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 3, at Hamtramck City Hall, right in Council Chambers. The competitive event will pit local bakers against each other in a judged competition. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 5, celebrants will take over a heated tent near the corner of Joseph Campau and Holbrook. Expect dozens of varieties of paczki from local bakeries, live music, Polish dancing and a special appearance from the big day's mascot, Mr. Paczki. Needless to say, many informal bar crawls will wander the city all Saturday.
Falafel on Third — For years, an old tavern on Third Street near Wayne State University sat empty and shuttered. But three months ago, it reopened as the Harmonie Garden Cafe, serving a mix of Middle Eastern fare and American favorites. Self-described as the "Home of Falafel," its menu spans everything from shawarma to burgers, with juices and coffees to wash it all down. And the mid-city area gets another place to eat. Just north of University Village Market, at 4704 Third (aka Anthony Wayne Drive), Detroit; 313-638-2345.
Sun and sand — OK, so the beach party at Camp Ticonderoga isn't exactly a getaway. There is sand, yes. There is surfing, sure. You see, for a few weeks, the restaurant becomes a tropical oasis, with a sand-covered dance floor, a mechanical surfboard machine, live reggae bands, limbo contests and much more. This madness has been going on for 15 years now. Want to see it? Drop in Friday-Saturday, March 11-12. Expect music from That '80s Band on Friday & Saturday, do some body shots, or drink Camp Ti's "Flaming Zombie." No cover. It happens at 5725 Rochester Rd., Troy; 248-828-2825.
Cajun off Michigan — Lovers of New Orleans music, culture, and food will descend on Howell's Bar in Dearborn on March 8th, where Jimmy Lesnau will cook up killer New Orleans dishes, both traditional fare and fantastic variations; in the past, he's done shrimp Creole, fried chicken, shrimp jambalaya, and Jimmy's signature smoked duck po' boy with blue cheese cole slaw. Lunch is 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and dinner is 4 p.m. to whenever Lesnau tires. It all happens at 1035 Mason St., Dearborn; 313-565-6322. Tell Jimmy Metro Times sent you!
Food/Thought — Scanning cookbooks at the bookstore means tome after tome of full-color photos and up-to-the-moment recipes. Nonetheless, we still treasure the spiral-bound cookbooks filled with community-collected recipes from generations of home cooks. The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook (University of Georgia Press, $24.95), edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge, reveals some of the best the American South has to offer. The story about, and the recipe for, Nan Davis' Aunt Ella's blue ribbon pimento cheese sets the tone for the pleasures that follow.
Bottoms Up — Normally a beer that smells of regurgitated fruit pie would be something you would want to avoid drinking but Hanssens Lambic Experimental Cassis proves to be the exception. It's as funky as Sly and the Family Stone, as if someone filled an athlete's jock with black currants and lemons and then squeezed the whole mess into a glass. The beer is tart and dry enough to strip the taste buds off your tongue, and it finishes with enough characteristic barnyard flavors to make any "real lambic" enthusiast cream. In other words, it's fantastic.
The Works — Glance at a Proteaks display of furniture, flooring, countertops and butcher blocks, even a skateboard, to find products that are not only stunning, but made of organic, sustainable teak, a durable wood containing a high level of oily resins, which repel moisture and prevent warping, resisting signs of aging. Design and style are in no way compromised. The cutting boards enhance any countertop or tabletop, perfect for serving antipasti or as a cutting board for artisanal breads. The end-grain chopping blocks are easier on your knives too. See proteak.com.