New garden center offers plethora of magnificent Mother’s Day gifts

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In Michigan, the anticipated warmth and beauty of spring’s arrival can sometimes be anticlimactic. March 20 was the first day of spring this year, but we still experienced cool weather, cloudy skies and even some snow in late April.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, now is the perfect time to shake off the chill and look toward the sunny skies of May. That’s right – it’s time for bright-colored annuals, hanging baskets and even vegetables.

The newest garden center to open in Macomb County is Drew’s Garden, and it’s the perfect place to find gifts for mom. You can’t go wrong with a birdhouse, wind chime, patio pot, 10-inch hanging basket (for only $12.99!), colorful watering can filled with flowers, butterfly bush or hummingbird plant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADrew’s Garden is located in what was formerly Semrau Garden Center in Eastpointe. Opened in 1916, Semrau was in operation for 99 years, with four generations of Semraus working there. For me and many others, it was a staple of spring and summer, and I was heartbroken when I saw the “for sale” sign go up. However, after some time to process and a visit to the new garden center, much like spring, my spirits have been renewed.

Opening just this past March, Drew’s Garden has already made a large investment in the community. The store was completely gutted and freshly painted in vibrant colors, the bathrooms were remodeled and there is a ton of new merchandise including houseplants, gardening tools and supplies, exotic tropicals such as palms and pineapple plants, seeds, bird feeders and fairy garden landscapes.

Renovations have been occurring outside as well. A new electronic sign, a 48-by-44-foot wooden pergola and a 60-foot flower box (soon to be a wall of flowers) have all gone up. The pergola is stocked full of hanging baskets and their outdoor merchandise includes shrubs, roses, vegetables, herbs, annuals and 279 varieties of perennials. You will also see familiar faces as many of the Semrau employees have stayed on staff.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPatrick Kouza is the proud new owner, but this isn’t his first time running a business. He also owns Penny Lake Market in Walled Lake where he added a flower market in the parking lot. His love for flowers has led him to buy this nursery, which he named after one of his children. In addition to renovations, Pat has also lengthened the store’s hours and season. In August, he plans to have a farmers market, offering Amish-grown plants.

Exciting new things are happening at 23751 Gratiot, and now is the perfect time to check it out – and don’t forget to pick up something great for mom!

 

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23751 Gratiot Avenue, Eastpointe, MI 48021 (586) 775-3770

 

Hours
Monday – Saturday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Warren business serving up locally-sourced Latin American cuisine

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Pilar’s Tamales in Warren is offering something really unique in Macomb County – gluten-free Salvadoran food with dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan options. It’s made with many all-natural, free-range and organic ingredients from local Michigan farms.

You may have had a tamale the last time you dined at your favorite Mexican restaurant (see A look into Plaza Mexico), but when was the last time you had a pupusa with fried yuca root and tamarind?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI hadn’t even heard of these savory dishes until I tried them at Pilar’s. A pupusa is a grilled handmade tortilla made from stone-ground corn masa filled with your choice of chicken, pork or black beans and cheese. Fried yuca root is derived from the root of a shrubby plant with large, starchy roots. Fried and coated with a spicy seasoning, it is essentially a tropical French fry. Tamarind is a Latin American drink made from the fruit of an Asian evergreen tree. Pilar’s peels their own pods to make this tart and fruity drink.

And of course, there are tamales. Handmade with stone-ground corn masa, these tamales are filled with all-natural chicken, chicken and cheese, all-natural pork, spicy pork with ghost chili peppers, chorizo (pork sausage), jalapeno and cheese, black beans and cheese, vegan black beans or tempeh (soybeans). Then they are rolled, steamed and served with a delicious homemade sauce and a side of curtido (cabbage slaw). In fact, all of their stocks, salsa, sauces and salads are made in house. I recommend the perfect pair special because you get to try both a tamale and a pupusa.

Pilar’s opened their first location in Ann Arbor in 2000. A family of refugees fleeing from the Salvadoran Civil War, they began their business with a tamale cart, selling to University of Michigan students. The business expanded as they became vendors at several farmers markets, offering cold tamales that can be easily frozen and reheated. In early 2014, after looking for a satellite kitchen to be closer to Eastern Market, the Royal Oak Farmers Market and the Birmingham Farmers Market, Juan Carlos Nolasco and his wife Sandra Naimou found an affordable spot in Warren and opened a second Pilar’s Tamales kitchen and restaurant. Juan Carlos’ sisters and mother still manage the Ann Arbor location.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocating on Mound between Chicago and 14 Mile Road has proven to be a good business decision. In addition to their proximity to nearby farmers markets, Pilar’s is also seconds away from the popular Warren Community Center and pool and two of the largest employers in the area: the GM Technical Center and TACOM Life Cycle Management Command. GM has even invited Pilar’s to participate in a rotating lunch program they offer to their employees.

Juan Carlos was surprised by how much support they have received from the community. “The people here really care about what they are eating; they care about their health,” he said. His favorite part of running Pilar’s is meeting people who are open to new foods and to trying something different.

The recipes are not necessarily traditional Salvadoran because the concept of healthy food was incorporated from the very beginning. While authentic Latin American recipes often contain some not-so-healthy ingredients (think lard), Pilar’s has created their own delicious and healthy versions while still remaining true to their Salvadoran roots. They have devised more varieties of tamales and have included healthier meats raised without antibiotics, hormones or artificial growth stimulants. Kale, squash and other seasonal produce are locally grown at Vanhoutte Farms in Armada. Since everything is free of gluten, it is the ideal dining destination for patrons with celiac disease or food allergies.

I could go on and on about the different sides, drinks, desserts and specials available (casamiento made with organic black beans and organic white rice; fried plantains (like a fried banana); and gluten-free, vegan, soy-free and nut-free chocolate chip bliss bars), but you should really explore this restaurant for yourself. Keep an open mind, and remember, this is Salvadoran food and might not be exactly what you expect at first – but I promise it will grow on you!

This tiny restaurant offers carry out and minimal dining in. Open Tuesday through Saturday, hours are limited, so be sure plan your visit accordingly. And don’t forget their cold tamales, perfect for freezing and reheating for a great meal at home or an office lunch.

 

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32247 Mound Road, Warren, MI 48092 (586) 838-5608

 Pilar’s Tamales Menu

Hours
Tuesday – Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday – 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Saturday – 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday