Experiencing Annual Happenings and One-Time Extravaganzas


Ghost Tour: The Chicken – Grey Ghost Detroit

The “Ghost Tour” pop-up held at (revolver) Hamtramck

The actual Grey Ghost Detroit Restaurant will open later this year. This pop-up experience I am posting on my Event blog rather than my Restaurant Blog because this was truly an event.

January 8, 2016

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I was one of the lucky ones that got a seat at Grey Ghost Detroit’s second pop-up preview dinner before it was sold out – which happened in just over 24 hours.

It was “The Chicken” dinner with all 6 courses dedicated to the ubiquitous bird.

I have known the Grey Ghost beverage manager Will Lee for a couple years from frequent visits dining at Selden Standard and Wright & Co. I know that his cocktails are the absolute best around, but what about the food? I had not met the chefs John Vermiglio or Josef Giacomino,  or tasted their food. I had no idea what to expect.

This dinner turned out to be quite an event, and the food…..well it was fantastic.

Each course was introduced by Chef John…. well not merely introduced, it was more of a performance that really set the stage to absolutely enjoy the course just set in front of us. Every course was unique and delicious. The best dish was the bbq chicken skin…no, the chicken noodle soup… no, the chicken ballotine… well, they were all great.

The only disappointment – and it was a big disappointment – was that this venue does not have a liquor license.  We could not enjoy Will Lee’s creative cocktails to accompany the courses and add another layer to the flavor experience….but I knew this going in, so it is not a criticism.

The event had a great energy about it, and if this evening is any indication of the personality of the brick and mortar Grey Ghost Detroit restaurant when it opens, it will be a big hit…and I’ll be able to order a drink!

(p.s. – the chicken noodle soup was the best)

Visit my Restaurant blog at Traverse360.com  –  when their restaurant opens, I will post my review as soon as I can get in (I know already there will be a long line!).

Note: I do not use a flash when I take my photos as to not disrupt the atmosphere of the restaurant I am in. Trust me when I tell you that the food looked much better than represented in the photos but I have posted them just to give you a “taste” of what we had.


Keeneland Thoroughbred Racecourse – Lexington KY

4201 Versailles Rd., Lexington KY

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After a week of touring bourbon distilleries, the perfect end to a Kentucky vacation was attending a horse race. The fall meeting at Keeneland Thoroughbred Racetrack was underway in Lexington.  We arrived with the masses, parked what seemed to be a mile away, and then entered a curious new world.

In the courtyard under the old clock the horses are paraded around, warming up.  TV cameras and VIPs with access passes get a close view of the contenders, while us novices watch behind the shrubbery concealed fence. The horses then are escorted through the crowd to the racetrack proper while everyone runs under the grandstands to place their bets (or get a Bloody Mary or “Keeneland Breeze”).

With bet slip and drink in hand we worked our way through the crowd to the rail just in time to see the start of a race. The race track is much larger that I realized, and the multi-tiered grandstands were scattered with white parasols shielding the big ticket patrons. After taking in the scene, the horses were coming around the final turn.  It was much more exciting than I thought it would be, especially when my “to win” horse came in first, and my exacta pick matched exactly – I cashed in a whopping $36.

It was a very memorable Kentucky afternoon that I can recommend for anyone visiting the Lexington area.

Keeneland Website

Buffalo Trace Distillery Tour – Frankfort KY

113 Great Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Franklin County KY

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This distillery has an amazing history, continuously distilling bourbon for over 200 years – even during the prohibition years. After being on the Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam tours focusing on how bourbon is made ( you can only hear that bourbon has to be made with a minimum of 51% corn so many times…) at Buffalo Trace I signed up for the National Historic Landmark Tour.

Being an architect I was of course interested in the historic buildings in this complex, but this tour also shared the history of the storied brands that have been released at Buffalo Trace, and the stories of the people that made it all happen. These stories included the famous familiar names on the bottles as well as the people behind the scenes that have worked at the distillery and enjoyed the comaraderie of being part of the Buffalo Trace family.

Our tour guide was Freddie Johnson. If you go on this tour, try at all cost to get Freddie as your tour guide. Having basically grown up at the distillery, he has first hand insight and experiences that he shares as only he can. His father and grandfather were key lifelong employees at Buffalo Trace for decades. James B. Johnson Sr., Freddie’s grandfather started working at the distillery in 1912 and was one of the first African-American foreman in Kentucky. Col. Blanton entrusted him to operate the distillery, and was his right hand man at business meetings. Freddie’s father James B. Johnson Jr., perfected the ability to repair leaking barrels, and became Warehouse Supervisor, again the first African American  to hold that position in Kentucky. Freddie conveys the history of this special place in a very personal, engaging way.

The buildings in this complex are impressive. Strong masonry warehouses and production buildings that literally span centuries are clustered along the river. Even though this is a working distillery, still producing some the best bourbon in Kentucky, you can walk around and just feel the unique history that was made in these buildings by Col. Blanton, Col. E. H. Taylor, Pappy Van Winkle, Elmer T. Lee, George T. Stagg, and of course Freddie Johnson and his family.

Highly recommended!

For additional photos of the architecture from my tour see my Architecture Blog

Buffalo Trace Website

Woodford Reserve Distillery – Versailles KY

Versailles KY

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After  a very scenic drive, and entering the distillery property through a gated entry I arrived at the Woodford Reserve Visitor’s Center. The building surprisingly resembles a suburban condo development clubhouse. It is nestled high on the property, overlooking a complex of old orange clay tile and grey stone warehouses low in the river valley. I did not have time to go on a tour here, therefore could not taste test the Woodford Reserve libations, but did walk into the Visitor’s Center and found myself surrounded by all manner of branded logo merchandise for sale.

I did purchase a special edition Woodford Reserve “Sweet Mash Dedux” which I am looking forward to cracking open and sampling soon.

Woodford Reserve Website

Wild Turkey Distillery – Lawrenceburg KY

Lawrenceburg KY

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Visited October 2015

As an architect, this Visitor’s Center was one of the highlights of the Bourbon Trail. What a spectacular new building, that fits into the Kentucky black barn vernacular, is beautifully detailed and elevates the bourbon tasting experience – the tasting room is at the top of the central ramp with a panoramic view across the river valley.

See my post on my architectural blog HERE for a detailed description and additional photos of this special building.

Four Roses Distillery – Lawrenceburg KY

1224 Bonds Mill Rd., Lawrenceburg KY

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Visited October 2015

Willett Distillery – Bardstown KY

1869 Loretto Rd., Bardstown KY 40004

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Visited October 2015

Willett Website