What are the ideological implications of the word “pinnacle?”

In geometry “pinnacle” is the unification of surfaces – the making of singularity.

And the pinnacle of this piece – titled Detroit Restaurant of the Year: How we’re changing it up this time – occurs after a few initial paragraphs devoted to expansion and innovation.

To decide metro Detroit’s Restaurant of the Year, gone is the limiting variable of newly-opened status. A restaurant of any age can win.

The obvious question is whether that variable can ever be gone. It seems to me we now have two separate awards – best new, and best “not new,” both of which are determined by how new they are. Also, one can’t really obviate the variable of newness in deliberation. At best, a human might hope to offset it by introducing the competing one: endurance.

Still, the Freep will soon decide what “represents the pinnacle of dining in metro Detroit.” And to borrow another spatial metaphor, this is where the rubber hits the road.

I say with no irony that this is a high quality award. Resources are generously deployed to ensure its independence, and past winners show this. Furthermore, as imperial as its claim is, I know of no immediate competitor to the Freep’s ROTY brand. (Send me a link if you have one.)

And the concept of one restaurant of the year is legitimate. In a realm of enterprise so finely articulated with goals, it only makes sense to comment on concentrations of achievement. When done well, such an award can inspire an industry.

But how does the word “pinnacle” shape the reader? The singularity this word implies unfairly simplifies the person using it. A pinnacle of dining suggests a large universe in a rigid state.

In addition to “the position of Mercury in conjunction with the sun,” I’d like to suggest just one more variable: the company such an award keeps. This award filters the crowd so strongly, such that attending a winning restaurant can be like walking into a cognitive hall of mirrors.

If dining out is dramatic performance, then the ROTY diner is a stock character: the Trophy Hunter. What happens when the Trophy Hunters multiply and interact under one roof? Monoculture has a toxicology, and we should wonder about its influence on the food.

Hats off to anyone even attempting to define Metro Detroit’s Restaurant of the Year. The collective effort required to determine such a thing is enormous, almost as enormous as the freight load of assumptions that come with it.

Here are places I liked in 2016-2017:

  • Supino. Reheated slice. Doesn’t matter what’s on it.
  • La Rondinella. Now closed. Gnocchi. That pairing of anchiovata and a Monday glass of Boschis’ Pianezzo from a bottle opened prior to the weekend. Pulpete. Stuffed squid. Arugula salad.
  • The Gaelic League Fish Fry Fridays during Lent. It’s not wrong to join this fish with Slow’s remoulade and drink the best draft Guinness in the state.
  • El Rodeo. Shrimp tacos. Some say fish tacos. Definitely burrito de cabeza when mom is working.
  • Katoi. Green cocktail with hot chili. Mutton. Pretty much anything.
  • Supermercado La Jalisciense. This year I counted on the tacos de lengua, as well as the occasional torta de pollo milanesa.
  • Mabel Gray. I shouldnt have to tell you this. If Paul offers you a choice of raw shucked oysters and oysters baked with miso butter, you get the oysters baked with miso butter. James wouldn’t do something to a perfectly good oyster without a damned good reason. Also Rachel has the best wine.
  • Gold Cash Gold. Skurnik’s grower champagnes sold at the bar for retail prices. New chef of locally proven talent doing things with sharp knives.
  • Johnny Noodle King. Happy hour $2 over pour of Japanese sake with torched mackerel. Broth of pigs heads any time.
  • El Asador. Luis was nailing it this week. Charred red rib steaks with poblano cream. Lobster quesedilla, Queso fundido, Tacos de Cayos, Cazuela Mariscos, Guacamole en la Mesa.
  • Roast. Mr. Allerton worked on pairings with different styles of sherry, taking risks only to ace them in style.
  • Happy 4 Liquor. Best shawarma certainly within a bike ride.
  • Wasabi. One of the best thing about this place is the haters. They are not good people and I don’t want to eat near them. Comfort sushi, keep it medium-simple.
  • Chartreuse.
  • Selden Standard. Ritterguts Gose paired with any lunch food inspires the use of the the word “champagne” as an adjective.




Now Offering Degrees

A Wine Monkey degree (WM) from our academy is awarded to scholars who have demonstrated 1) a strong theoretical and personal understanding of homo sapiens in the evolutionary biological order, 2) knowledge of the unwavering rules of cladistics (esp. monophyletic heirarchy), and 3) evidentiary rules for evaluating cultural objects, especially wine, as a monkey. Our graduates know they are monkeys and are appropriately empowered as monkeys.

A Wine Hobo degree (WH) from our academy is awarded to a WM who has demonstrated useful knowledge of a specific non-virtual market environment. Wine Hobos know where to look, who to ask, how to maximize the effective use of resources, and must show an ability to help others navigate their chosen environment. Migration is not required of a WH. A practical understanding of the Hobo Code is required.

A Wine Sherpa degree (WS) is awarded to a WH who contributes to the local wine environment in a way that promotes social, psychic and individual well-being at large, regardless of socioeconomic status, or position in the production and distribution chain. A WS appears to ignore self interest for the sake of summoning muses, enhancing sex lives, and generalizing a state of ecstasy and euphoria for all monkeys.

Our Academy is now accepting applicants. Please submit your application in person or electronically. Enhance your probability of admission to our academy by presenting text in reference to the image immediately below:


Natural Pinot Noir

Some wines are more natural than others.


Spoof – or industrial technique – is applied to vineyards and wine to increase yield, eliminate flaws and add specific marketable flavors and colors. Usually spoof is exemplified by specific chemical and microbiological interventions, but its utility can often be traced to the original choice of what to plant and where to plant it. This is why the dependence on varietal nomenclature – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet – has led to so much spoof on the market. These varieties are not optimal everywhere.

Systematic use of sprays can suppress pests, but it also eliminates beneficial yeasts and their ecological collaborators. After harvest and in the cellar it then becomes necessary to reintroduce isolated strains and nutrients for the functional purpose of alcoholic fermentation. Once the system is compromised it can become dependent on the winemaker’s pharmacopeia.

Spoof is a vicious cycle which at its worst produces wines both of superficially exaggerated character and an enduring sense of dullness. For the purposes of plain drinking, carefully judged spoof can work just fine. When its used to simulate something grandiose, it can be an awful waste.


There is also a virtuous cycle. Like all farming, vineyards are essentially interventions on the land. Major differences in results lie in the scale and discrimination of the intervention. Chemical weed killers tend to harm beneficial organisms in a way that pulling a weed by hand does not.

The best, most flavorful farm products tend to come from farms that use integrated, antique methods. Massale selections, for example, are better adapted and more distinctive than nursery clones. Similarly, and on a micro scale, wild yeasts produce more complexity and thought provoking flavor than do lab-selected yeasts. Wild yeasts occur in the presence of innumerable other microbes, each with its ecological place in the whole. The average human taster can easily recognize the difference.

IMGP4073 - Version 4

Short Name: Pinot Noir
Full Name: 2012 Bourgogne, Clos de Baccarat
Producer: Vincent Thomas
Geography: Yonne Department, Burgundy, France
$13 glass
Varieties: Pinot Noir 100%
Description: Aromas characteristic of Pinot Noir – tea, cola, mushrooms, berries – and a host of wild-fermented winemaking  clues, notably intense acidity, some volatile, carbonic maceration sweetness, and peanut shell.
Comparables: Pinot Noir is its own brand. There is no need to compare this to something else, but a taste for this wine might indicate a taste for Beaujolais, Mondeuse, and Barbaresco.
Pairings: The combination of relatively low alcohol – 11.9% – and intense mature fruit flavor, makes it thrilling with anything dry-rubbed and smoked. This type of pairing was unorthodox when Slows discovered it 8 years ago. Now all the cool kids are doing it.
Interesting Technical Facts: Produced from organically grown grapes, without added yeast or nutrients.

interview with the farmer – terrific

Funky Wine – Ego Mix


A friend of Detroir asked me what we here thought of “funky” as a description applied to wine. In some groups of appreciation, funk seems like a decisive element. In Detroit, funky wines are typically acceptable, even appreciated, but less often is the description parsed, or explained, or theorized beyond its most binary expression – These are funky. These are not.

What would Bootsy Collins drink?

It’s a dumb question on one level. Funky is a flaw to those who like clean wine, and it is a feature for the rest of us. Is Bootsy funkier than James Brown? Is it possible to have too much funk? Mr. Collins says no.

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Simian Semantics, or How I Became a Wine Monkey


the-oph-a-gy, n. In primitive religious practice, the sacramental eating of a god…

Words like “theophagy” were once used to draw a distinction between Us and Them. Primitive people practice theophagy, Christians celebrate the Eucharist. Updated dictionaries now acknowlege the identity of these terms; but I don’t remember a culture battle over the issue; probably because who cares about anthropology jargon?

But call someone a monkey and you get resistance.

As a scientific term, “monkey” is obsolete. There are New World Monkeys and Old World Monkeys and their most recent common ancestor is also your ancestor. But you are not a monkey, or so you’re told. Monophyly dictates: you are a monkey. There is no way to define us out of this perfectly musical word without forcing inelegant and arbitrary semantic caveats. We are supposed to believe there is a big old set of monkeys, except for these – they’re apes. And then there is a big old set of apes, except for these – they’re people. No other biological classification works that way. Get over yourself. People are apes and apes are monkeys.

You are a monkey. If you fix cars you are a grease monkey. If you “study” wine you are a wine monkey. The word “sommelier” is propaganda, an artificial way of separating the various monkeys who drink and study wine.