Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bivouac Eats: The Raven's Club (Ann Arbor, MI)

The Raven's Club, Ann Arbor, MI.

    Restaurant Week is a celebration of all things Ann Arbor: community, participation, and, well, food. As you may have guessed by now, restaurant culture is central to Ann Arbor's mystique. UM graduates proclaim it "The Best Food Town in All the Land". Over 470 restaurants populate Trip Advisor's Tree Town rankings. And twice a year, dozens of Ann Arbor eateries craft delicious, affordable tasting menus for the express purpose of exposing as many people as possible to all the fine dining available within city limits.

    Restaurant Week is also the great equalizer. Previously off-limit (read: out-of-budget) places are suddenly prix fix. There's an odd democracy in a starving college student bumping elbows with wealthy retirees over the same food, even if it's only for two weeks out of fifty-two. I decided to leverage this invaluable opportunity to visit a place known to insiders and outside of the mind and budget of most college students: The Raven's Club on Main Street.

The extensive drinks menu at the Raven's Club - if you had any doubts that TRC was perhaps Ann Arbor's premier bourbon whiskey destination.

    The Raven's Club (TRC) is a modern interpretation of the storied 207 Main Street space that has played host to many previous bar and restaurant tenants. TRC's reputation is twofold: great food and legendary bourbon. A massive wooden bar situated directly in front of the entrance vestibule dominates the room. If the bottles of rare bourbon lining the entrance way didn't tell you already, TRC is first and foremost a whiskey joint. TRC's bottle selection boggles the mind and overwhelms the eye - lit by Art Deco-style lamps made specifically for TRC, row after row of liqours cascade from behind the bar in an unintentional light show that would make Ron Swanson melt.

   Interested in a complete list of what they serve? Check out TRC's website.

    The interior is antiquated yet far from old: wood and metal furnishings dominate the space, colorful 20's-inspired glass provides dimly-lit ambiance, but everything inside the TRC has an element of intentional refinement on top of the backroom jazz club atmosphere. Sitting at your table feels somewhat exclusive and important without being stuffy: you, because you were tasteful enough to recognize good food and drink, are part of the Raven's Club. It's as if a Prohibition speakeasy had just earned a Michelin star. Table set and my order essentially pre-determined (re: Restaurant Week), it was time to see if the food lived up to the reputation.

Course #1: Mixed Greens salad with buttermilk dressing and pickled radishes.

   The first course of the night was a mixed greens salad with buttermilk dressing and pickled radishes. As an ensemble taste, the salad was surprisingly sweet and refreshing - the buttermilk dressing contributed sweet top notes without weighing down the production with excess creme. Fresh greens and a liberal sprinkling of radish garnish added vibrant texture and color to the overall simple production.

    Simplicity is not a bad thing - I was just shocked at how cut-and-dry the dish was. Most of TRC's peers feature menu descriptions besieged by commas where fancy ingredients are name-dropped to add a certain mystique to the dining experience. TRC, however, made an A+ salad out of common goods. There was a definitively "down home done right" feeling to it all, a feeling done oh so well.  

Course #2: Fried chicken sausage with cole slaw, glaze, and 1/2 sour pickle.

   Course #2 was home-cooked to a T: fried chicken sausage served with cole slaw and half of a sour pickle. If I'm being blunt, I ordered this course out of curiosity: I wanted to know how a top-rated restaurant would do something as seemingly non-cuisine as "fried sausage". Remember that whole "done right" part from earlier? Imagine some of the most flavorful sausage you've ever had and wrap it in a deep-fried coating that doesn't CRUNCH; rather, one that crunches. The first kind is your gas station fried chicken - dried out meat, overly-breaded exterior, heaps of grease. Gross.

Pictured: fried food as a delicate art form.

    The second kind is TRC's immaculate coating. A light breading with just the right amount of texture to keep the coating present and interesting wrapped around juicy chicken sausage that was cooked, but not desiccated, by the oils it once called home. Drop those heavenly pieces on some Southern cloeslaw, cover it all in a sweet glaze, and add a spear of crunchy sour pickle on the side of it all to complete a plating of perfect complements. Crunchy pickle vs. succulent fried sausage; tangy glazed slaw vs. savory chicken. This is Southern-style comfort food as an artistic achievement.

Course #3: Pork tenderloin with broccoli coulis and ginger butter.

     The third and final course was pork tenderloin served with broccoli coulis and drizzled in ginger butter. Anyone who has ever tried to cook pork tenderloin at home knows the knife's edge you walk every time that pork hits the grill. Even a second too long over open flame turns formerly tender loins into overcooked rawhide. Cooking perfect pork is listed next to bomb diffusal under the category "tasks not for mere mortals". The moral of the story: let TRC cook the tenderloin for you. Imagine the tenderest pork ever concocted, then drizzle it in garlic butter.

    Juicy meat, with just the slightest suggestion of char on each piece to keep every bite engaging. Submerged in an absolutely sublime sauce and covered in broccoli so delicious and verdant it almost couldn't have been cooked. Every slice of pork I ate was bittersweet: I had to watch some of the best white meat I've ever eaten get picked off one by one. I also got to savor every bite. Win some, lose some.

Dessert: house-made chocolate chip cookies and TRC's own custom-made coffee.

    The Raven's Club wins tons of bonus points for providing an unexpected Restaurant Week dessert course at no additional charge - two massive, warm chocolate chip cookies were delivered to our table the moment the third course was cleared. No micro-cheesecakes on asymmetric plates - just the classic sweet indulgence on a plain napkin. To no surprise, it was an incredible cookie. I chased my crumbs with a mug of TRC's house blend coffee, a delicious concoction they developed specifically with Ann Arbor's own Roos Roasters. Melty chocolate cookies and steamy black coffee? "Down home done right" indeed.

    The Raven's Club is an Ann Arbor restaurant experience unlike any other: recognizable food made incredible, with ingredients you can pronounce at first glance in a gorgeous retro setting. I'm told it's all even better with a house Old Fashioned, but at the ripe age of "not yet 21", I'll just take their word for it. Bear with me on this one, but there's an "upscale Southern comfort food" feeling to the menu: just like the restaurant's decor, it's refined but not exclusionary. You know the food (mixed greens salad; chicken sausage; pork tenderloin) - you just haven't yet sampled it at its highest expression. Well, until you've been to the Raven's Club. If this is just like how someone's Momma used to make it, I hope they adopt me.

~Alex R. -Men's Fashion


Need some fodder for your winter Restaurant Week brainstorm? Check out previous editions of Bivouac Eats as we visit Frita BatidosMani OsteriaAventura, and The Jolly Pumpkin!

Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Trip Report: Canyonlands National Park, UT

   Southern Utah has always been a place near and dear to my heart. Growing up in Salt Lake City, outdoors destinations like Moab, Torrey, and Escalante were just a short drive away and made for the perfect weekend getaway. This past May, I went back to my happy place for the first time since moving to Ann Arbor. Upon arriving in Salt Lake City, I packed up my car with various gear and hit the road. Four hours later, I arrived at my campsite outside of Canyonlands National Park ready to relive my favorite Utah memories and make some new ones along the way.

Clouds moving in near Canyonlands National Park, UT.

    First: the weather. The state of Utah consists of mostly high altitude deserts where rain is rare, even in the spring. That doesn't mean you shouldn't pack for the unexpected: the moment I pulled into Canyonlands to do some trail running on the afternoon of Day 1, the sky opened up and a torrential downpour nearly washed me out. Luckily, I packed my Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Jacket. The Stretch Ozonic jacket features a durable waterproof laminate membrane with high-mobility stretch paneling that makes it my first choice for any high-output activity like running or climbing. Forget the rain - I was ready to run! No matter how prepared I was, the trails were another story. Every line had become a gully, a sandy river of former trail now racing to the end of the plateau and plunging over the edge. It was quite a sight, and an unforgettable experience to move through!

    When I got back to my car at the end of the rainy run, I was caked in red, sandy mud from my knees down. Honestly, I was really surprised I hadn’t rolled an ankle considering the unsteady ground conditions. Even though my trail shoes were old, my tried-and-tested Brooks TrueGrit 2 held up like champs. Plus, my Icebreaker socks kept my feet warm and dry even as the rain and mud evaporated. I normally run in synthetic socks, so the Merino was a nice and welcome change.

Scenic Byway 128, Moab, UT.

    One of the most amazing things about Canyon Lands is how overwhelmingly expansive it all is. The entire park is situated on top of a massive red rock plateau, sitting a whole 2,000 ft above the desert floor below. From the edge, you can see for miles across the vastness of southern Utah.

    After attempting to clean up by the Visitor Center, I headed back to my campsite, where it promptly proceeded to rain even more. The instant I threw on my tent's rainfly, the downpour restarted and I hunkered down for shelter until morning. The rain continued all night, but my Mountain Hardwear tent kept me nice and dry. Even after 15 years of heavy use, their gear (specifically their tents) just improves with age. I can also tell you that the Cat’s Meow sleeping bag by The North Face is a wonderful investment. I'm the proud second owner of this family hand-me-down, and just like the decades-old tent, it's still going strong. Because it's a synthetic bag, the Cat's Meow was perfect for the out-of-season humid and rainy weather I was experiencing. Its breathable coating kept me both warm and dry without roasting me alive like a down bag would.

Fisher Towers, Moab, UT.

    The next day, I dried of all my waterlogged belongings and met up with a couple of friends to hike Fisher Tower and the Onion Creek Slot Canyon, two of Moab's most famous sights. I brought my Nalgene backpack and insulated bladder to keep my water - and my lunch - cold. The hike started out looking a little questionable weather wise, but by 11am it was absolutely gorgeous outside. We spent the day hiking, taking pictures, and attempting to catch geckos (key word: attempting. They’re really fast!)

Morning Glory Arch, Moab, UT.

    We ended the day with a short evening hike: the Negro Bill Canyon trail to see Morning Glory Arch. Rain clouds cut our sightseeing time short, so we went back to our campsite to make dinner and stargaze for the rest of the night.

    A note about stargazing: if you ever get the chance to spend a night in southern Utah, just look up. The Midwest has some stars, but the population density of the Detroit suburbs means there are enough lights to just spoil the splendor. Canyonlands is another story. The same uninhabited deserts that make the landscape so beautiful during the day don't just magically fill with cars and strip malls at night. Outside of Moab, there is absolutely no light pollution. As a result, the sky is absolutely brilliant. You can see everything - stars, planets, galaxies, constellations, all of it. It's an incredible sight to see.

 Canyonlands National Park, UT.

    For my last day in Moab, I went back to Canyon Lands and headed out to Upheaval Dome. The Dome is a geological anomaly: a circular crater structure 3 miles across, circumscribed around the remains of an eroded dome structure. The area is considered something of a geological mystery, with no certain explanations as to why the crater formed. If you like geology, topography, or even just a good 'ol meteor impact theory, you can read all about Upheaval Dome here.

    After my lunch on top of a very large boulder on the wall of the Dome, I headed back to my car to continue my journey across Southern Utah. Even though I was only in Moab and Canyonlands for three full days, it was well worth the trip! For me, coming back after so many years away felt like a pilgrimage back to my outdoors home. For any first time visitors, well - you'll just have to see it to believe it. If you ever travel out West, you have to go to Moab and Canyonlands!

~Alexa W. -Women's Technical Apparel


Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Passion.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Men's Fashion: Curated Looks for Spring/Summer 2015, part IV

The Polo Player

Shirt: Patagonia Men's Sender Rugby Shirt
Pants: Vineyard Vines Breaker Pant (in-store only)
Shoes: Tom's Broque in Brown Chambray (in-store only)
Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Wayfarer
Belt: Bill Adler
Watch: Luminox "Navy Seal" Steel Chronograph 
Accessories: Rowdy Gentleman Sunglass Straps (in-store only)

    Summer sports are more than just ultimate frisbee. Even if you've never set foot on a proper outdoor grounds, this outfit will still project a little part "pomp" and every part "circumstance". A Patagonia cotton pique shirt in properly large contrast stripes showcases your athletic build - all the benefits of a tank top, just done more maturely. "No shorts allowed" dress code? Good thing you brought along Vineyard Vines' prep staple chino pants. Add in some wardrode essentials like the eponymous Ray Ban Wayfarer and a hulking steel Luminox watch to complete the ensemble, then sit back and enjoy the match. When you look this good, who'd rather not be the Polo Player?

The Second Date

Shirt: Lacoste Lightweight Poplin Shirt in Blue Check
Sweater: Vineyard Vines 1/4 Zip in Grey (in-store only)
Pants: AG Protege 
Shoes: Clark's Desert Boots in Beeswax Leather
Sunglasses: Ray Ban Wayfarer
Belt: Bison Belt in Rough-Out Leather
Watch: Timex Weekender

    Last time was all about open-ended questions and generous tipping; now, you get to show her who you really are. Let that same confidence out in a put-together look that doesn't scream "I'm trying really hard to impress you", but impresses anyway. A Lacoste button up in understated blue contrast check sets the tone with an easy pattern that's sure to please. Throw on some AG Protege denim in a deep, non-distressed rigid indigo to really dress up your denim, then, add a simple casual watch like Timex's iconic Weekender. Expecting a late night out? Pack a Vineyard Vines 1/4 Zip sweater just in case the cool summer evening gets the best of you. Finally: the shoes. Clark's Desert Boot in Beeswax passes any up-down with flying colors. Forget the canned laughter and uncomfortable tie - it's time for the Second Date.

The Cutting Edge

Jacket: Arc'teryx A2B Commuter Hardshell
Shirt: Icebreaker Merino Tech T in Lunar
Pants: Fjallraven Keb Trousers
Shoes: Teva Terra Fi Lite in Black
Hat: The North Face Horizon Hat in Olive
Bag: Arc'teryx Cordova Backpack

    The best we have to offer. Style and expression made supremely functional. The Cutting Edge is light-years ahead. Tricot Gore-Tex, taped seams, reflective cuffs, merino baselayers, articulated pants, waterproof highly-organized packs. And it all looks good. Prepare for any scenario (and look fresh doing it) with Arc'teryx's 24 line, featuring stand-out pieces like the A2B Commuter Hardshell Jacket and the Cordova backpack. Fjallraven Keb trousers adjust, move, and breathe as you do with stretchable paneling around your joints, leg zips to dump excess body heat, and adjustable snap cuffs. Convertible pants? Neon green nylon rain shells? Not even close. The Cutting Edge is technology, wearable.

~Alex R. -Men's Fashion


This post wraps up our Spring/Summer 2015 collection. Curated Looks will return Fall 2015.

Check out Parts One, Two, and Three to see more photos, or browse a gallery of all the looks here!

Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bivouac Eats: The Jolly Pumpkin (Ann Arbor, MI)

    When I heard I'd be going to a place called the "Jolly Pumpkin Cafe", my heart sank. I had been punished from someone in the main office for going to too many provocatively-named, minimalist-interior bistros serving carefully manicured salads in the center of large white dishes. My sentence: what was sure to be a trite, cliched family theme restaurant - just replace mid-meal rainforest sounds with Halloween costumes.

    "The Jolly Pumpkin". Chew on that name. It's fun. It's playful. It's cute. There's no way it could be in the top 25 restaurants in Ann Arbor according to nearly every list ever published. My fears quelled by a preemptive Google search, I walked in on a standard summer Friday evening with a newfound confidence in everything "Jolly Pumpkin": gone were the Pieces of Flair-inspired nightmares; I had been surprised once so far in this journey and eagerly awaited whatever lay next.

On your left: the enchanting ambiance of craft liquor.  

    First things first: the entrance to the restaurant is just, well, impressive. Rack after rack of colorful bottles (filled with all manner of liqours, spirits, and the Jolly Pumpkin's own brews) line the vestibule between the door and the hostess stand. At the right time of day, the beautiful glow of sunlit artisanal booze escorts you into the dining room and nearly carries you through the front door. The preceding is one the proudest sentences I've ever written.

The upstairs bar at the Jolly Pumpkin Cafe, Ann Arbor.

    I was seated quickly in the "bar" area - an upstairs section filled with high-top tables and wooden furnishings. The Jolly Pumpkin is in many ways both a gastropub and a classic American watering hole: a menu bedecked with lamb burgers and truffle fries is offset by big TV's, a hefty draft beer selection, and the friendly din of careless chatter not usually found in a more "serious" foodie haven. It's like Happy Hour meets Le Cordon Bleu, and absolutely perfect for bringing the kids along. I can think of no place serving remotely equal food that is anywhere as family friendly as the Jolly Pumpkin.

    In order to truly crown my gastropub experience, I went for the standard issue tavern order: I got a burger. Not just any burger - the "JP Burger". What's more pub food than the house special cheeseburger? The JP Burger is a far cry from the grease-on-a-bun that phrase brought to mind. Sure, it's a bacon cheeseburger. There's a beef patty, fix-ins, bacon, and cheese on a bun. Now take that mental image, send it to finishing school, and you'll get the following:

Pictured: a proper, "this needs two hands" burger.

    This is a JP Burger. A hand-formed beef patty made exclusively with grass-fed beef slathered with melted cambozala cheese, and then topped with crispy applewood smoked bacon and crimini mushrooms. Throw that all on a fluffy brioche roll and you've got the Jolly Pumpkin's claim to fame. Your old bar cheeseburger grew up a bit after high school. 

    The first bite into my burger inspired the same primal race-against-the-clock reflex that a proper Frita activates: you have damaged the structural integrity of your food by daring to eat it, and gravity is now winning against your grip on what was once whole. The only proper reaction? Bite #2. If you're losing this war against the mouthwatering burger crumbling in your hand, you're gonna go down fighting. 

Post-bite: a cross-section of burger paradise.

    You know how good every bite is, and there's no way you'd sacrifice a complete bun-bacon-mushroom-cheese-beef-bun experience by daring to set the JP Burger down and watching it collapse into separate, irreconcilable (and certainly not finger food-compatible) parts. A burger is not meant to be eaten with a fork and knife. So you press on, fulfilling your duty to the burger you ordered, pausing between bites to chew, savor, and perhaps even readjust condiments. 

    Then, suddenly, it's over. There's a bittersweet feeling in knowing that you had the best greasy, savory, meaty, certainly most delicious meal out of anyone at the table - even though you now have to watch them pick at their non-burger entrees at a civilized pace for the rest of the meal while you eat nothing. The old adage is true: a candles that burns twice as bright burns half as long.

   The best part? Friday night dinner and drinks for two (with tip) cost just over $40. I don't believe a better value exists anywhere in town.

    You literally can't put a JP Burger down. Between mouthfuls, there's no reason I ever wanted to. My excellent meal experience thoroughly humbled me for daring to judge a book by its cover. The JP Burger isn't a bar cheeseburger - it is ground beef and bacon nirvana humbly extended to you at an absolute steal. The Jolly Pumpkin isn't an adorable Sleepy Hollow theme restaurant - it's one of the best restaurants in Ann Arbor. 

~Alex R. -Men's Fashion


Wanna check out more Ann Arbor restaurant reviews and recommendations? Check out previous editions of Bivouac Eats as we visit Frita BatidosMani Osteria, and Aventura!

Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Van Boven x Bivouac presents: How to Take Care of Your Leather Boots


There are two kinds of boot people in this world: 
the love 'ems and the leave 'ems.

    The love 'ems take special care to research the leather, research the oil, research how best to apply oil to leather, and then photograph every step of the process to make sure their boots clean up as well as they did last time. To them, cleaning is an hours-long, cathartic process that restores their boots - their investments - to proper upkeep.

    The leave 'ems take their boots off, and, they leave 'em. A well-worn boot is a badge of honor. Cleaning? Leave it to the weekend casuals.

    Shockingly, both parties are right: if you want the absolute best life and results out of your leather boots, there's a time to clean and a time to neglect. Shoes aren't inexpensive, and a good pair can easily cost as much as your best weatherproof jacket. If you'd techwash your jacket and specially treat the rest of your gear, your shoes should be no exception.

    No matter the leather, no matter the welt, cleaning and conditioning your leather footwear will add years back to the life of your investment and protect it from cracking, instability issues, and sweat-related rot.

    If there's anyone in Ann Arbor who knows leather footwear, it's the team at Van Boven Shoes. Since 1933, a shoe store has occupied the space at 17 Nickel's Arcade. Close to a century's worth of expertise now finds itself in the capable hands of Richard Bellas, operator of the footwear arm of State Street's Van Boven Clothing. On the promise that we'd take his advice and finally clean up our ten-year-old Vasque's, we sat down with Mr. Bellas to discuss how to make leather boots last generations.

    Today on the Bivouac Blog, we learn how to clean and condition any pair of leather boots, from your trail-tested Merrells to your downtown-ready Wolverines. Get some towels ready.

How to Take Care of Your Leather Boots

Step 1: Prep Work. 

"First and foremost, you have to analyze the leather to see what type it is
 and be better able to select a care product for it"

    "First and foremost, you have to analyze the leather to see what type it is and be better able to select a care product for it." (Merrell's Moab shoe uses bonded Dura-leather with a generally rougher texture and so can be treated with nearly any leather care product, for example. At Bivouac, we use Nikwax's Leather Conditioner.)

    "The Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot uses a smooth, full-grain Horween Chromexcel leather (similar to the paneling of a Vasque Sundowner, but with much higher quality skin) that requires a bit more care and a more gentle conditioner."

    Your shoe's leather profile is usually found either on the inside of the shoe's upper, or can easily be researched with a quick Google search.

    Once you've done your homework, it's time to do the prep work: "Once you've got a general idea of the level of care your shoe's leather demands, the next step is to prep the surface. With a damp, soft cloth, wipe the surface down and make sure any salt, dirt, dust, any sort of surface particulate that's visible.

    "If you wore the boot that day and there's visible particulate build-up especially from salt, the best long term strategy is to actually wipe it down then and there because otherwise that line will set in and cause irreparable damage as the salt eats into the skin. A simple home remedy for the winter is a white vinegar and water solution - if you treat your boots with a light coating, it actually prevents salt from sticking."

Step 2: Love 'em.

"A little goes a long way with any cleaning product: 
start with a little and add more throughout the process."

    "Once you've prepped your boots, they're ready for the application of some kind of cleaning product. Usually, you want to start with a leather conditioner (Allen Edmonds brown leather conditioner shown here). Place a dab on a paper towel or a soft cloth, and really work it into the leather. A little goes a long way with any cleaning product: start with a little and add more throughout the process.

   "Remember to condition the seams, and make sure every exposed surface of the boot is covered. Conditioner soaks into the leather like a moisturizer does on your own skin, so it may darken the appearance of the boot temporarily. In my experience, the boot will lighten back up just fine with wear. If you really want to add the color back in right away, you can use a complimentary colored polish, but with any sort of casual leather, the more character the better. The boot develops its own personality along the way and really becomes 'your boot'."

Step 3: After Care.

"With any full-grain leather, a good brush is a must." 

    "After you've cleaned the shoe, a nice leather cream is essential to rebuild the shoe's protective barrier. The cream will give the shoe an oiled coating to help guard against all that inclement weather and particulate damage we discussed earlier, and even just the smallest coat of product will yield dramatic results come winter.

    "Once the cream is on, I recommend buffing the entire shoe with a horsehair brush to restore its luster and shine. With any full-grain leather, a good brush is a must. Cedar shoe trees are also a good idea because they help draw out sweat (which is especially damaging, since it essentially just puts all that salt on the vulnerable side of your boot's protective barrier) and also keep the general shape of the boot while they're off your feet."

Step 4: Leave 'em.

"For longevity's sake, plan to fully clean and condition them about once a season"

    Once the cleaning is done, it's time to hurry up and do... well, nothing: "Let the boot sit for overnight to really let those products absorb in and set on their own, uninterrupted. If you have to run right out the door, that's fine too, but ideally you'd give the shoes their time and space to dry.

    So what's the best cleaning schedule to make sure you don't stress the leather through over-cleaning? "For longevity's sake, plan to fully clean and condition them about once a season. Dealing with the immediate weather damage after an especially wet or dusty day out is a given, but find time every few months to do the full routine. Just how you'd moisturize your hands to prevent them from cracking, so should you condition your leather boots. Proper maintenance is essential to protecting against premature cracking, unnecessary weather damage, and whatever else you can throw at your boots."

    There you have it: with some prep work, a little bit of love and conditioning, and just a bit of downtime before you wear them again, your leather boots will last decades longer and fight even the most brutal Michigan winter that make better.


Thank you to Mr. Richard Bellas and everyone at Van Boven Shoes for taking the time to sit down with us and discuss everything boots!

Want to pick up any of the cleaners discussed here today, try on a pair of those gorgeous Wolverines, or even just smell some really good leather? Head on over to Van Boven Shoes in Nickel's Arcade and see it all for yourself.

Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Women's Fashion: How to Spice Up Your LBD

Women have always been told that the LBD is a wardrobe essential, the one that will take them practically everywhere.  The "classic" LBD look is effortless, simple, and elegant with little to no accessories -  But what's the fun of that? We all love to save money so why not change your "simple" little black dress and have it last a lifetime. Let's give a new meaning to the Little Black Dress.

 Bold Sun Shades

 Who said bigger isn't better? By adding a bold, dark frame to your face, you create balance and sophistication with only one signature item. An over-sized frame like these seen on Victoria Beckham will guarantee that you turn heads.

Our recommendation: try a pair of Ray-Ban's Cat Sunglasses

Fun Casual Jacket

In a hurry? Add a casual jacket to a tailored black dress to lend your look nonchalant cool (seen here on Jessica Alba). The rushed-out-the-door look pairs surprisingly well with the formal You can easily create a whole other vibe in just seconds! 

Pair your favorite sleek LBD with a Blank NYC jacket (in store only) 

A Tad of Lingerie

To show the bra or not to show the bra? That is the question. Depending on the occasion, accessorizing with a hint of visible lingerie will add the ultimate touch of spice to your LBD - just don't overdo it! By adding a lacy bra, you change the look from understated to sexy with one simple piece. 

Looking for the perfect lace? 

Bold Statement Jewelry
Raise your hand if you own jewelry. We thought so. 
Make a statement with loud necklaces and bold accessories (both seen here on Hillary Duff) that grab attention. Paired with the subtlety of an LBD, even the wildest ornaments won't overpower your outfit. Try adding diamonds, precious gems and stones for texture.  

Our favorite statement necklace? The Small Cortina Necklace by Giles and Brothers.

Subtle Shiny Lip

Move over, diamonds - lip gloss is a girl's best friend. A subtle shiny lip gloss is perfect for any occasion where you're going to be drinking and eating, since you can easily reapply it without a mirror! Nathalie Emmanuel shows it best in her unconventional LBD: 
bold lip color (the glossy lip) + bold dress = the perfect outfit  

Try the Stila Lip Glaze for an easy-application shiny lip that's sure to wow!

~Allyson Mae. -Women's Fashion


Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bivouac Eats: Aventura (Ann Arbor, MI)


    If you've spent any time at all in the Ann Arbor area, you probably know about SavCo. Founded by restaurateur and household Ann Arbor name Sava Lelcaj, SavCo Hospitality is the result of year's worth of culinary sweat and toil on the part of its owner, who opened up her namesake restaurant Sava's in 2007, when she was just 23 years old.

    SavCo's not-so-secret ambition is to take over your life (well, at least the eating parts) with the freshest, healthiest ingredients possible, whether they're being served to you at one of the brand's two restaurants or being selected by you at babo market, SavCo's grocer on E. Washington St. In November 2013, Sava's latest project, a modern tapas restaurant named Aventura, opened its doors. With perhaps the greatest tapas menu this side of the Atlantic, SavCo is one step closer to world dominiation. 

    Aventura is both bleedingly modern and full of old-school charm. The interior is decked out in tiles that bring to mind images of the Spanish coast, but otherwise adorned with sharp, clean lines and burnished metal. The window bar area where I was seated was a single sheet of white granite, with sleekly-designed chairs and minimal decoration on the table itself. Every space in the restaurant is at both heritage and new: the wine cellar, for example, is constructed of red brick with copious wooden detailing. Yet, at its center, a one-piece stark white bar top with skeletonized high top seating. Between the patio, special event rooms, and multiple bars, there are so many different spaces throughout Aventura that its nearly impossible to eat in the same environment twice.

    That brings me to the most important point of fact: the eating. Aventura is tapas-style, meaning a large quantity of shareable dishes best experienced with a group. Because there were so many dishes, I'll avoid my usual poetic waxing and let the pictures do most of the talking. 

Coles De Bruselas Y Uvas: 
shaved brussels sprouts, manchego, marcona almonds, pickled grapes, sherry vinaigrette

I had to start with a salad. Think of it like a "calm before the storm" that is sure to consist of many delicious cured meats and fried potatoes. The pickled grapes turn a normally-refreshing appetizer into potentially the perfect summer cool down. Now, it's time for meat. God bless Spanish food.

Patatas Bravas: thrice fried potatoes, sunny-side up egg, honey aiòli, brava sauce

Quote: "the most popular menu item since we opened". Essentially, tapas french fries. Drizzled in creamy bravas sauce and topped with a fresh egg. Divide your party by 2 and order that many - they go too fast otherwise.

Albóndigaslamb meatballs, manchego, almond picada

For the first "meat" course of the night, I had to go with something special. In my opinion, lamb is perhaps the best meat available: not too gamy, not too light, and just as good ground as it is whole. Lamb metaballs, submerged in cheese and almond picada, have only validated that opinion. Easily my favorite dish of the night. 

Hamburguesa De Cordero:
lamb burgers, garnacha caramelized onions, lemon aiòli, arugula, olives, boquerones, manchego, layered on a brioche bun
Tapas sliders. More of the superb ground lamb from the Albóndigas, more of the sublime vegetables and cheeses from the ensalade. I knew exactly what I was going to get when I ordered. Consider my expectations exceeded. 

Pulpo a La Gallegaconfit octopus, potatoes, paprika

If you've never tried octopus before, this is the dish to try. Octopus done well has a slightly crispy exterior, with a warm yet spongy interior flesh. This is octopus done very well.  

Ensalada Asturia:cider stewed chorizo, gigande beans, roasted red peppers, celery, scallion, spinach, almond romesco
No one does roasted peppers quite like a Spanish restaurant. Throw it on a bed of spinach, pair in some inspired additions (beans and almond romesco? Try it to believe it), and baby, you've got a salad goin'.

Dátiles Con Chorizo:
bacon wrapped dates, chorizo, almond romesco. 
Savory, sweet, and divine. The texture is an odd combination of bacon crunch and date chewy, and this dish of seeming contradictions just works so well in tandem. The romesco perfectly complements the flavor profile of the dates.  

    Whoa. If none of the above had you scrambling to phone in a reservation, nothing will. After my incredible dinner at their newest restaurant, a world run by SavCo doesn't sound too bad at all. 

~Alex R. -Men's Fashion
Aventura is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, and open Saturdays and Sundays for brunch. 

Still craving more? Check out some other editions of Bivouac Eats as we visit Frita BatidosMani Osteriaand The Jolly Pumpkin!

Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Comet Coffee x Bivouac presents: How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee

   If you have red blood and sleep at nights, there's a good chance you're familiar with the superheated grounds-water solution commonly referred to as "coffee". And if you're Comet Coffee, there's a good chance you even dream about it.

    Tucked away in Nickel's Arcade, an alcove in an alcove between State and Maynard streets, Comet defines "off the beaten trail". But for the coffee devotees, the detour is worth it: since 2009, Comet has made a name for itself in places like the New York Times and Travel + Leisure Magazine by serving superb pour over coffee brewed from single-origin, seasonal beans. Comet's owner, Jim Saborio, believes the best cup comes exclusively from "good water and good beans" - no fancy set-ups required.

    Today on the Bivouac Blog, we learn how to make the perfect cup of coffee (hot or iced) at home by one of the best guys in the business. Saddle up the hot plate.

How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee At Home 

Step 1: Good Water.

"getting good water at home... really is a process."

    "The really big factor is water, which, honestly, is also the biggest pain. For example, Ann Arbor tap water is super hard, which if brewed unfiltered results in a light-bodied cup that doesn't really have a lot of complexity to it. It'll be thin and sour, even with the best, freshest beans you can buy."

    So what can be done to solve that? "Spring water is the ideal choice, but that would require you buying copious amounts of spring water specifically for brewing coffee. A Brita filter will remove some of the hardness, but not nearly enough."

    "At Comet, we use a reverse-osmosis machine that takes Ann Arbor tap water, strips it completely of minerality, and blends some carbon-filtered water back into it so you get adequate levels of dissolved solids for really good coffee brewing. I wish there was a cheat sheet to get good water at home, but it really is a process."

Step 2: Good Beans. 

Barista Chris' choice for current favorite coffee: the Ritual Coffee Hacienda Carmona.

    "Everybody wants to think that there's a special coffee brewer or a special grinder that's going to completely change their game or really revolutionize the way they make their coffee at home, but in my opinion that's just not really true," explains Jim.

    "Good coffee means probably not buying it at the grocery store. It means getting it from a coffee shop or a roastery that prints when the beans were roasted on the bag, and most of the time, grocery store coffee bags just don't have that information. If the coffee is sealed in a mylar bag with a one-way valve, that'll usually keep coffee fresh for two to three weeks from the roast date.

"It’s worthwhile to note that flavors develop in coffee post-roast. Most light-roasted coffee isn’t at its best until it has rested three or four days. The best espresso, for example, comes from grounds that have rested 6-10 days. There’s such a thing as too fresh!"

    "Beans are still a crop, and as such are incredibly seasonal. There are big lags between when the crop is harvested, when it’s finished at the mill, when it’s exported and when our roasters receive it. Every producing country seems to have its own timeline for production, and knowing which beans are best when is crucial to brewing well. For example, we just got a lot of Costa Rican beans in since it's our summer is their peak. After all is said and done, we always want to make sure we're getting the freshest possible beans available.  Great coffee in is the best way to get great coffee out."

Step 3: Technique.

"Unless you're making coffee for a group, a pourover cone is the
way to go for the best coffee at home."

    "A lot of the criticisms of home coffee pot makers is that they don't get the water hot enough, and that's by design for safety purposes. Ideally, the water should be between 195-205 F, but that's splitting hairs unless you get the big stuff."

    "The biggest problem with many home coffee makers is that they don't let you pre-infuse the beans. Here, we briefly soak the grounds in water before we brew them to let the coffee 'de-gas' before we really brew it. Usually, your Keurig or Mr. Coffee will just turn on and pour the hot water right over the beans, and the moment that hot water hits the beans, the beans start leaking carbon dioxide. That C02 creates almost a 'protective bubble' around the coffee grinds, and the water can't really get in there to extract anywhere near the full flavor."

    The good news: "While most automated coffee makers can't accommodate the pre-infuse without making a huge mess, a pourover cone by its very nature will give you good access to the coffee bed for pre-infusion. Unless you're making coffee for a group, a pourover cone is the way to go for the best coffee at home. Out of all the ones on the market, I love the Beehouse dripper because it doesn't require an expensive proprietary filter. You can use the exact same ones you'd buy in bulk for your old machine."

Step 4: The Japanese Iced Coffee method.

    But what about iced coffee? "A lot of people do the classic 'cold brew' method, but I've never been particularly happy with it. Cold brew tends to bring a lot of the syrupy body out of the coffee, and anything that's distorting the flavor that much isn't really desirable. Instead, we lean towards the Japanese Ice method."

   "The Japanese Ice method is where you brew the coffee extra strong (think: same amount of coffee, less water) and make a really, really strong cup of coffee. Then, just flash chill it over ice. Because you put less water in originally, the melting ice actually restores the cup back to neutral rather than watering it down, and, you get many of the flavor notes found in a hot cup without the distortion of the cold-brew method."


Thank you so much to Jim and the entire Comet team for letting us come in and pick their brains about the art of coffee!

Want to try any of the amazing beans, devices, or methods we talked about today? Just want a really good cup of pour over? Pop on over to Comet Coffee in Nickel's Arcade and see everything they have to offer. Yes, the latte tastes as good as it looks.

Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Women's Fashion: 5 Things a Chic Woman Can’t Live Without

 Every Chic woman needs her own signature items! Whether it’s a night out on the town or a casual brunch with a friend, you always need your staple pieces with you. As women, turning heads is what we live for. These pieces will always help you do so.

J Brand - Maria - Night bird Grey

A perfectly fitting pair of jeans is a necessity for women of all ages.  Finding that perfect fit can sometimes be daunting, since there are millions of sizes, shapes and styles out there. Just remember; “Variety is the spice of life”, so consider buying a few different washes of jeans! These J Brand jeans in a grey wash are especially good to have in your closet.  The skinny leg can easily transition from a casual day-look to sophisticated evening date by simply adding a tailored blazer or blouse.

Rebecca Minkoff Jules Satchel -Black

 A purse is much more than a simple accessory.  It is a way to carry your life and express your style, all while looking effortlessly fashionable. Since you keep it by your side 24-7, why not purchase the most eye-catching one? Handles, size, color, quality, structure and cost are all important things to keep in mind while in the market for a new purse. Consider this Rebecca Minkoff bag! It is the perfect size to hold all necessities, and it’s durable enough to deal with day-to-day chronic over-stuffing. Short handles give a more business look, while the long strap provides a more relaxed appearance. 

Ray Bans - Chris

They save your day when it is just too sunny- the perfect pair of sunglasses can make or break your outfit. It’s always good to have a standard pair of Ray-Bans to help block those intense sun rays and prevent squinting and wrinkles (while still looking fresh and fabulous). So behold, these classic Ray-Bans will provide the shade that you need while it’s sunny and a great accessory on your head when it’s not.

 Splendid –Rayon Voile L/S Shirt

We’ve all heard the classic style of jeans and a T. The jeans and t-shirt combo gives off that low-maintenance, natural and approachable vibe that appeals to men (and really, to everyone). While capturing that same effortless approach why not upgrade to a flowy splendid button down top? By changing from the plain-T to the blouse you are able to still give off the same vibe with more of a polished look.

In stores only

It’s summer, which means that it is the perfect time to find a new fragrance!  Deciding whether you want a signature scent or a seasonal scent is very important. This Juliette has a gun line provides great options in both of these categories.  Juliette Has A Gun “anyway” has a blend of musk, woods and citrus, leaving you with a subtle and persistent trail.

-Allyson Mae - Women's Fashion