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Detroit's grandest setting for dining: The Whitney

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The Whitney -- now a restaurant -- was a grand mansion on historic Woodward Avenue in Detroit. The 21,000 square foot home was built with 52 rooms, 218 windows, 20 fireplaces and many other glamorous elements of style. The building dates from 1894. It became a restaurant in 1986, "An American Restaurant in an American palace." I was very glad to be hosted for lunch to experience it!

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I started out with a "pickled" Bloody Mary made with locally produced McClure's pickled Bloody Mary mix. It's garnished with 2 green olives and a cornichon, with good texture -- not goopy. It's pickled, but also has a spicy wallop!

The restaurant uses many other locally sourced ingredients on its menu, including Detroit Gruyere cheese, Michigan whitefish and of course, beloved Traverse City cherries. They even have their version of the "Maurice salad," which was a salad served in the much-missed J.L. Hudson's department store. That salad was a favorite of my mom, who's from Detroit.

As for the Traverse City cherries, here's a story regarding that: my mom got really sick one summer as a violinist camper at Interlochen National Music Camp, near Traverse City, Michigan. They had these horrific weekly "challenges," which can best be described by this also former violinist as re-auditioning for your chair in the orchestra every week, with the "judges" being the bitchy little teens clawing for your place! If you got sick and missed the challenge, you were automatically shunted to the back of the orchestra: humiliating. So, my grandfather, a surgeon, got my mom a gallon of Traverse City cherry juice and made her drink it in one day. She got all better! So, I'm no doctor and I don't even play one on tv, but that gives you an idea of how special Traverse City cherries are.

The Whitney has some table-side preparations, such as made-to-order omelettes. That's becoming rarer than hen's teeth in restaurants! I would say that if you're going to order something prepared table-side -- or just enjoy fine dining in general -- you want to make sure that your server is very experienced. That element of graciousness is part of what you expect in grand surroundings. I say this, because our server was quite inexperienced. It makes a difference! So, when you make your reservations for an elegant restaurant like The Whitney, it doesn't hurt to ask to be seated in a section where the server is well-experienced and polished.

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