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  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday

    This Saturday, April 19, is Record Store Day, and there is plenty going on in metro Detroit and Michigan. Of special interest to us is Chiodos’ 7” single “R2ME2/Let Me Get You A Towel,” Mayer Hawthorne & Shintaro Skamoto’s 7” “Wine Glass Woman/In a Phantom,” Chuck Inglish & Action Bronson’s 7” “Game Time,” Chuck Inglish & Chance the Rapper’s 7” “Glam,” Chuck Inglish & Chromeo’s 7” “Legs,” Chuck Inglish, Mac Miller & Ab-Soul’s 7” “Easily,” James Williamson’s 7” “Open Up and Bleed/Gimme Some Skin,” Black Milk’s 12” “Glitches in the Break,” Mayer Hawthorne’s 10” “Jaded Inc.,” Wayne Kramer & the Lexington Arts Ensemble’s 12” “Lexington,” and best of all, Ray Parker Jr.’s 10” “Ghostbusters.” We wrote about James Williamson’s release this week. Go shop. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May

    Margaret Doll Rod will celebrate the release of her new EP, Margaret, with a show at PJ’s Lager House on Saturday, May 10. A statement reads, “The EP contains 3 new original songs and one Chrome Cranks cover with Italian actress Asia Argento singing background vocals. Margaret moved to Italy after the end of the Demolition Doll Rods where she still lives touring and performing festivals in Europe. The Dollrods were a Garage Rock force for over 20 years, opening for Iggy, Jon Spencer, The Scientist, The Monks and The Cramps. Margaret was the front person and principal songwriter for The Dollrods. Her chief musical foil was Danny Kroha, who joined the Demolition Doll Rods after the now legendary Gories called it quits. Margaret’s sister, Christine, on drums, rounded out the legendary trio. Margaret will do a special performance in the round that night with a 360 degree revolving stage and special guest DJ Adam Stanfel.” The bill will also feature the Stomp Rockets and the Volcanos. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Music review roundup

    Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, Metro Times, 1200 Woodward Heights, Ferndale MI 48220. Email MP3s and streaming links to Ricky Rat’s Tokyo Pop/Glitter People (New Fortune) 7” single highlights all that’s great about the Trash Brats guitarist, but also his limitations. The man can write a bubblegum rock ’n’ roll song to match anyone in the city and most beyond. He’s also a killer guitarist, ripping out one throwaway riff after another with reckless abandon. He’s a machine. On his own though, without Trash Brats frontman Brian McCarty, his voice doesn’t have enough strength to do the songs justice. Not that you need to have the greatest voice in the world to sing this stuff – you don’t need to be able to perform vocal gymnastics – but you do have to be able to wail the tunes out. Both of the songs on this single are great, but you can’t help but wonder how much better they would sound with McCarty or somebody similar talking the mic. Still, as they are the songs are great fun. We’re just being picky. The Paper Sound’s Trajectories is a dense, atypically dark Americana-tinged album, unrelenting and […]

    The post City Slang: Music review roundup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes

    “Neighbors wanted.” That’s the message on the homepage of, a new website launched by the City of Detroit today to auction off city-owned homes to prospective buyers who pledge to fix them up and move in. “We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement today. “There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment.” The website to facilitate the auctions went live this afternoon. The first auction is scheduled to take place Monday, May 5. Officials said in a news release that one home will be auctioned per day, Monday through Friday. Fifteen homes are available for sale on the site, a dozen of which are in the East English Village neighborhood. Any Michigan resident, company, or organization that can do business in the state can bid, according to the website. Properties will be for sale for only one day, with bidding taking place from 8 […]

    The post Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes

    In case you haven’t heard, two of the biggest names in film, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, are collaborating to put on a benefit concert for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this summer. In case you wanted to go- well, you’re too damn late. The DSO says tickets to the June 14 concert were snapped up in a record-breaking 15 minutes after they went on sale at 9 a.m. today. The DSO has since released this statement to fans who didn’t snag seats: Our apologies to everyone who was unable to buy tickets this morning for our historic benefit concert featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Despite increasing our phone and internet system capacity for the day, a surge of hundreds of ticket buyers purchased tickets in a matter of minutes, filling the phone lines and temporarily maxing out our web servers. After a one-hour pre-sale made available to donors and subscribers at 8am, we released additional seats at 9am to the general public, including seats available for as low as $30. All seats sold out immediately. The concert program seems nothing short of top notch: Williams will conduct the orchestra as it performs some of his most iconic tunes, such […]

    The post Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Sloshed 2012

Pure essence

Rifino Valentine's push for excellence, local production and style reap rewards

Photo: , License: N/A

Valentine Vodka

161 Vester St., Ferndale


Open 4:30-11 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 

4:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday.

When we last checked in with Rifino Valentine two years ago, he was building out his distillery and tasting room, tucked away on a side street in a former pool table manufacturing facility. The 5,000-square-foot building was getting a new lease on life, rebuilt with ancient reclaimed timbers, some 12 inches thick, and windows and brick recovered from former Detroit warehouses. He was preparing to install a gorgeous batch still from Portugal made of hand-pounded copper. The storefront space roughed out, ready to house a 1,000-square-foot tasting lounge for his Valentine Distilling Co.

Just two years on and the dream is not only complete — it's expanding. Valentine now has a brand-new 15-foot-tall still from Germany, many more tanks, and the storefront is more a cocktail lounge than a tasting room, an atmospheric space filled with couches, high tops and a gorgeous copper bar, with views into the distillery. And the quality of the drinks served is paramount for Valentine.

"Cocktails are a focus," he says, "and so is using fresh ingredients. You're not going to find canned juices here. We fresh-squeeze oranges, lemons and limes, and in our infusions we use as local ingredients as we can — real, natural ingredients. This whole mixology thing that has been catching steam in last few years or so, we kind of wanted to step away from that a bit. For instance, instead of five or six fancy ingredients in a cocktail, sometimes just the simplest preparations and freshest ingredients make the best cocktail, when you let simple flavors work together."

That emphasis on quality isn't just at the distillery's bar; it permeates the company, and Rifino Valentine's vision for building up manufacturing in Michigan, creating excellent products in a gritty environment.

"The philosophy is the same as with all of our products. That philosophy is: doing things the way they were meant to be done. It sounds trite, but so many things nowadays aren't done that way. The type of distillation we do is centuries-old but really revolutionary nowadays, because it's costly, it's time-intensive, it's labor-intensive. But that's how we're able to work out of this 5,000-square-foot facility and able to compete and beat the biggest companies in the world — because we take the time, use good ingredients, and do things right."

Rifino is referring to a recent rating Valentine Vodka received from Anthony Dias Blue, editor-in-chief of The Tasting Panel magazine, as one of the top vodkas in the country — getting a 94-point ranking that placed it above such noted international brands as Belvedere, Ketel One, Grey Goose and Absolut. Earlier this year, Valentine Vodka also won a Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. And those are just this year's honors.

"That 94-point rating from Anthony Dias Blue. I set high standards for myself when I set out to do this thing, but that really blew me away. To beat some of the biggest companies in the world was really truly amazing."

Though Valentine says he has plans to branch out a bit — a Valentine gin is available in the tasting room, and some other products are in the pipeline — vodka is a passion he's committed to.

"Vodka is the most challenging to me. There's no room for error. If you make a mistake in any step in the process, it'll show in a vodka, because it's the cleanest, purest form of a liquor. Lot of people think it's just boring, but for me, as a distiller, I think it's one of the most challenging. With whiskey, there's room for error — just throw it in a barrel for three years and hope the mistakes go away. But I would rather do a few things really well." —Michael Jackman

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