I was so happy for Scott and me to be going out on the heels of the NFL Hall of Fame Dinner, that as we drove down the I-94 freeway, I swear, the thought crossed my mind to lower the passenger car window and scream, “We’re the parents of two under three…and WE’VE ESCAPED! We’re GOING OUT!!!! And the kids are AT HOME!!!!! And don’t ask me for goldfish crackers, anti-bacterial wipes, or a clean bib, because I have no such thing in this clutch!! ”
Scott and I were en route to Ford Field (again); this time to attend the annual Taste of the Lions, where gourmet food from the finest local restaurants, professional football players, and die-hard fans all collide amid the backdrop of an NFL stadium.
And the night was, in a word, nothing short of awesome. I didn’t have time to do a video diary of my preparations beforehand (like I did for the NFL Hall of Fame Dinner here), but I’ll tell you that my ensemble was pretty vanilla: No Spanx, no girdle. My shoes were a pair of Jessica Simpson 2 ½-inch mules I purchased from TJ Maxx back in 2007 during my career days, and my dress was a little A-line shift dress from Isaac Mizrahi’s Target line that I bought off eBay for less than $20 (with the tags attached; score!)
So let’s get down to the good stuff! I present to you the photographs from this wonderful evening – in precisely the order they were taken:
The night starts with a bang, or shall I say Vrrrooooom: As soon as Scott and I turn the corner onto Brush, the street on which Ford Field resides, and drop our car off at valet, we are whisked onto one of several golf carts reserved for both current and former Lions players. We are driven down the tunnel that leads onto the football field, but then re-routed to a special elevator that leads to a VIP lounge designated solely for current Lions players, staff, and alumni. This “selfie” of Scott and me was taken right before we jumped into the elevator. (I briefly thought about puckering my lips and flashing the peace sign, but my voice of reason kicked in and told me that it would not have been cute for a 37 year-old mother-of-two to pose like a 13 year-old, so I ultimately decided against it.)
Just like old times
Scott and I quickly ditch the VIP lounge in favor of mingling among the ever-growing throng of guests. The first familiar face we see is former Detroit Lions defensive tackle Luther Elliss, whom Scott played with for several years of his career.
Next, we run into Joe Nader, the Executive Chef of the Detroit Lions. Very important is this man, as he oversees every aspect of food in Ford Field, including the suites, the restaurants, the concessions, and catering. Chef Nader always takes care of Scott and me when we see him and is the absolute best as far as hospitality goes.
We then make our way to the locker room – as in the official locker room where the Detroit Lions suit up on Sunday – but today it’s the site of another private VIP hideaway. And guess who’s holding court outside the entrance? Mixologists from Sugar House, Detroit’s premier cocktail lounge. They’re whipping up a one-of-a-kind drink just for tonight called The Brush Street Cooler: El Jimador Blanco tequila, blue caracoa, house made ginger syrup, cinnamon syrup, and fresh lime juice, all of which is shaken to perfection and poured over ice. I had every intention of taking a picture of my glass so you could see how pretty this drink was, but, alas, my thirst got the best of me and before I knew it, it was gone.
This is what an actual locker of a Detroit Lions player looks like. With its recessed lighting, sleek woodwork, and plush carpeting, it resembles a state-of-the-art conference room and is nothing like a conventional locker room where one might find metal benches and the stench of athlete’s foot.
As soon as Scott and I exit the locker room (where we devoured the most delectable grilled prawn – YUM!), we run into this gentleman, Bill Keenist, Senior Vice President of Communications for the Lions. His title sounds Big Time because it is: Bill is the team’s chief spokesman on organizational matters and also leads the team’s football communications initiatives. He was a member of Lions personnel back when Scott played, too, so he and Scott go way back.
On the air
Bill asks Scott and me if we want to meet Jim Caldwell, the brand new head coach of the Detroit Lions. Of course, we do! So Scott and I hang tight while Coach Caldwell wraps up his interview with 97.1 FM The Ticket, which is airing live as we watch.
Put me in coach
Then, our photo op arrives: Coach Caldwell, Scott, and me.
In search of more food – we here that that a vendor, somewhere, is offering the best macaroni and cheese this side of the Mississippi, Scott and I head back out and endure the crush of equally hungry party-goers. And that’s when we see this guy, Rory, the official mascot of the Detroit Lions. Man, his teeth are white.
Those outside of Detroit may not know this, but the Detroit Lions are owned by the Ford family, who also owns Ford Motor Company, hence the name of the stadium, Ford Field. (What I wouldn’t give for one of those cupcakes right now…)
Here’s the beef
Mmmmmmmm. Filet sliders from Prime 29.
It’s the cheesiest
Mac ‘n cheese from Slows Bar B Q. I may never want to eat the boxed variety again.
Tired from having trekked the length of Ford Field, Scott and I come full circle and head back to where we started: the VIP lounge for current Lions players, staff, and alumni. As soon as we collapse in the nearest pair of brown buttery leather couch chairs for a much-needed breather, Bill calls us over to a table where a quiet petite woman is holding court with security detail nearby. “Come over here and say hi to Mrs. Ford.” Mrs. Ford? I repeat to myself. Yes, Mrs. Ford. As in Martha Firestone Ford, the owner of the Detroit Lions, and, of course, the owner of the company that made the car we drove here in tonight. When we arrived at her table and Bill introduced Scott as a former player and me as his wife, Mrs. Ford actually rose from her chair to shake our hands. She was kind, down-to-earth, and the farthest thing from pretentious. (Some backstory: Mrs. Ford only recently became the owner and chairwoman of the Lions after the passing of her husband, William Clay Ford Senior, the last surviving grandchild of Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company. Mr. Ford purchased the Lions in 1963 and was the owner for Scott’s entire career.)
Scott and I were all but ready to leave the VIP lounge and head out to valet, when we run into these guys, who, like us, were just looking to take a break from the crowds and regroup: (From left): Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, aka "Megatron," (#81), Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford (#9), and Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush (#21).
One last thing: This was all for a great cause. Taste of the Lions extends the league’s own Taste of the NFL program which began in 1992. The Taste of the NFL is held the night before the Super Bowl in the hosting city and brings together the country’s top chefs to raise funds for local food banks. Proceeds of Taste of the Lions will benefit Detroit's Eastern Market and the Lions’ community outreach programming, which improves access to fresh food options in underserved areas.
And there you have it. Our evening in pics! Oh! And one more thing: Congratulations to Heather S., the winner of the Smooth as Silk 100% Silk Charmeuse Pillowcase giveaway! Please keep reading! More awesome giveaways are on tap for the coming weeks...