Sunday, September 23, 2012

New thing #47: Bunco bunch brunch

Anyone who knows me well finds it hilarious that a non-game player like me is in a bunco club. Part of the reason I participate is that "bunco" is code for "get together to eat, drink, gossip, and occasionally toss a pair of dice". But the main reason is the group of women with whom I play.

A job transfer brought us to Michigan ten years ago. We landed in an upscale neighborhood, and I wondered how we would fit in. Senior's hair was longer than mine, I had a couple tattoos, The Girl was in her Goth phase and The Boy hadn't quite grown into his front teeth. We were the only house on the street with resin chairs on the deck and a Harley in the garage. But the neighbors seemed friendly, so when I was invited to fill in as a sub in their bunco club, I decided to give it a try. I remember being intimidated with these women at first. One of them owned a plane, for crying out loud. Another lived in a castle. All were confident, successful and bright. And welcoming. And fun. I've been playing every month since then. If I need to know the name of a good contractor or a recommendation for a great restaurant, I call one of the bunco girls. When I had back surgery, they all pitched in and brought dinner to my family every other night for weeks. We celebrate each others's successes and support each other in hard times, so I really wanted to share a New Thing with my bunco babes.

There is a beautiful venue nearby called the Pine Knob Mansion. It's a popular spot for weddings, and they also host a Sunday brunch. Most of us had never been there, so we decided it would be fun to visit. Since none of us are planning to get remarried, we went for the brunch. We set out on a chilly fall day, only getting lost once on the labyrinth of roads winding up to the Mansion. This English Manor residence was built in 1927 by Colonel Sidney Waldon, who served as VP of the Cadillac Motor Company and was also responsible for creating the landing field now known as Selfridge Air Force Base. Only a few of the rooms are open to the public, but they are all impressive. There is a library straight ahead of the foyer, a beautiful paneled bar and ballroom to the left and the Great Hall to the right, where brunch is served. A stone terrace stretches across the back of the home, anchored by a gazebo and bordered by a serpentine wall. The house and surrounding gardens are located on the highest point in Southeast Michigan, literally right next to Pine Knob ski hill, and offer the best views in town.

The Great Hall has a beautiful arched ceiling, huge windows accented with stained glass, and ornate wood trim. The brunch buffet is laid out with a selection of traditional breakfast foods (including an omelette station) and a variety of heavier lunch selections. I felt it was my duty to sample just about everything they had to offer, even managing to nab pieces off a pyramid of fresh fruit without starting an avalanche across the white tablecloth. The attentive staff made sure our glasses were full and our empty plates were removed promptly. (It could be that they were just trying to stay warm, since there was a cold draft through the hall that lowered the temperature to almost unbearable proportions). After stuffing myself, I noticed that people were coming out of the bar with plates piled with cake and chocolate covered strawberries. Always up for a challenge, I uncorked my hollow leg and went to check it out. You could make your own ice cream sundaes, or help yourself to an array of desserts that I'm pretty sure came straight out of Costco's freezer case. They even had chocolate covered bacon, which of course we all tried. It was very salty and pretty disgusting.

Brunch at Pine Knob Mansion was a lovely, relaxing experience and I recommend it to anyone. But if you want to book a wedding there, I suggest you check the concert schedule at nearby DTE music theater first, or don't bother hiring a band. And wear a jacket. And stay away from the dessert bacon.

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