Category Archives: Food

Pier W: Fantastic Food, Even Better Customer Service

Two pieces of housekeeping: 

1) Congratulations to entry #34 – Megan Kilway! You won two tickets to CIFF’s Get Shorty Film Feast. Please reply to my email by January 26 at noon ET to confirm you can still attend.

Don’t have your tickets yet to Get Shorty on January 29? Tickets can be purchased here. You’ll have a great evening out, while helping to raise money for CIFF 39.

ciff tinyu

2) A note about today’s blog post: At various points in both of our careers, Scott and I worked in some form of customer relations. Because of this, we love seeing examples of businesses that go out of their way to provide stellar service, especially in response to a misstep. No one’s perfect; it’s how a business handles a mistake that truly demonstrates the value they place on their customer relationships.

I say all of this because of a recent experience Scott had at Pier W. He asked me if he could share it on the blog. Take it away, Scott.

Pier W 1

There was a saying I often heard as a child:

“It’s not your mistakes that define you, but how you deal with those mistakes.”

Most of the time I find sayings like that trite and indefinable in real life, so when I come across an actual example of it I take note.

Amanda and I have been big fans of Pier W for some time. I’d long been interested in going thanks to the billboard that towers over the Shoreway (especially when the modern ad fell off and the awesome old Pier W ad was visible for a few days).

It’s one of the few places around Cleveland where this Jersey boy can get really good seafood. I was hooked after my first sip of lobster bisque at a happy hour.

Add to their food the lakeside location, view of Cleveland’s stunning skyline, an incredible layout (love the glass elevator that goes past a fish tank!), and live pianist tickling ivories with superhero movie theme songs, and you have one of the coolest places in Cleveland.

It should come as no surprise that when it came time to plan Amanda’s birthday dinner, Pier W was at the top of my list.

Unfortunately, a customer service glitch kept our group from having dinner there that evening. Amanda’s birthday still turned out fine, but like all plans gone awry one does feel somewhat hardened to what threw things off. I loved Pier W, and I didn’t want to have a smudge on my opinion of it. But that was the fact of the matter.

Thankfully, that issue will not be what defines Pier W for me. I reached out to the restaurant, and after I explained to General Manager Mark Kawada what happened, he was determined to make sure what went wrong was put right.

Shortly after the start of 2015, Amanda, I, and a small group of friends were able to have that birthday dinner at Pier W.

Pier w food smaller

Iced Seafood Tower, Lobster Pappardelle, Chocolate Mousse Cake

It was an incredible time, and this was thanks to the wonderful customer service of Mr. Kawada and the staff at Pier W. He was determined that one bad experience would not define my view of the restaurant.

His above-and-beyond work paid off. I could not have a higher opinion of Pier W than I do right now. It was a mistake well fixed. (The free glass of champagne that Pier W is giving all of their guests for their 50th anniversary didn’t hurt.)

As grateful as I am to Mr. Kawada, let’s not forget the true star of our dinner at Pier W: Succulent raw oysters, the Iced Seafood Tower, the salty juices of Alaskan Crab Legs, and of course the lobster bisque.

I know Amanda thoroughly enjoyed the Maine lobster pappardelle she ordered. It’s the addition of ingredients like red peppers and French green beans in the pappardelle’s rich cognac sauce that sets Pier W’s dishes above others.

We were all delightfully stuffed, but that didn’t keep us from some delightful dessert. Chocolate mousse cake for myself and refreshing housemade sorbets for Amanda..

I’m thankful Mr. Kawada was able to put Pier W back in my positive thoughts, because the idea of going through life without any of that again makes me very sad.

So that is my delicious illustration of a trite – but important – saying. Pier W has redefined itself to me as not only a fantastic Cleveland dinner spot, but a true believer in excellent customer service.

I can’t wait to go back and recommend the restaurant to anyone looking for a special night of exquisite food and service that matches. If you go during the first 100 days of this year, you’ll also get a free glass of champagne (and flute to take home) in honor of Pier W’s 50th anniversary.

Because I love any chance to pen a limerick, here’s one dedicated to Pier W:

There once was a man who liked seafood,
And desired some that was real good.
So he tried very hard not to drool,
As he looked at the menu of Pier W,
And when there he’s always in a fantastic mood!

Giveaway: Win 2 Tickets to Cleveland International Film Festival’s Get Shorty Film Feast

CIFF39

UPDATE: Congratulations, entry #34 – Megan Kilway! Random.org’s generator selected you as the winner of this giveaway. Please reply to my email by January 26 at noon ET to confirm you can still attend.

CIFF Winner

The thawing of ice, the sound of chirping birds, the return of the Cleveland International Film Festival. These are all signs that spring has come to Cleveland.

As much as I’ll welcome the warmer weather, I think that CIFF is the sign of spring I’m most excited for.

If you haven’t been to the festival before, here’s a post I wrote a couple of years ago about it.

If you have been, you’re probably saying to yourself: “But, CIFF39 doesn’t start til March. We still have two, long winter months to get through.”

And you’d be right. The 39th Annual Cleveland Film Festival runs March 18 – 29, when 350+ films will take over Tower City Cinemas. (Even better — some of this year’s screenings will be coming to a neighborhood venue near you like the Beachland Ballroom, Cedar Lee Theatre, Chagrin Cinemas, the Akron Art Museum and more.)

However, although the festival is a couple of months away, you and a friend have the chance to enjoy an evening of films and food on January 29th for free!

On January 29 at 7pm, CIFF will host the Get Shorty Film Feast at the Capitol Theatre, and I have a pair of tickets to give away.

CIFF’s Film Feasts are a series of parties to celebrate the arts, cultivate new film buffs, and help raise money for the festival.

Get Shorty is an extra special (and one of the most popular) feasts because it gives you the chance to help program some of the short films that will play at the 39th CIFF.

That’s right: During Get Shorty, CIFF will screen a selection of short films; audience members will cast their vote for each; and the top scorers will be screened at the festival in March. 

And don’t worry about doing all of that “work” on an empty stomach. Before the screenings, Culinary Occasions will be serving food and drinks at the Arcade next door.

Tickets to Get Shorty are $100 each and available at clevelandfilm.org/support-us/film-feasts/get-shorty; however, you can enter my giveaway to win two free tickets to the party!

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**Do one, some or all of the entries. Separate comments needed for each.**

1) What’s your favorite film? Leave a comment on this post with your pick.

2) Follow @CIFF and @ADHicken on Twitter and leave one comment on this post telling me you did both.

3) If you’re a fan of Clue Into Cleveland and Cleveland International Film Festival on Facebook, leave one comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway for tix to the Get Shorty film feast & help @CIFF pick the short films they’ll show http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2D7 #CLE

You can tweet once per day for additional entries. Just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until Friday, January 23 at 11:59PM to enter. On Saturday, January 24, I will select a winner using Random.org and will announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was offered complimentary tickets to Get Shorty in exchange for hosting a giveaway. My opinions are 100% my own.

Why Urban Farmer Has Been My Saving Grace These Last Couple of Months

Steak Final

Steak from Urban Farmer in downtown Cleveland

It’s been a while, I know. Between work and PlayhouseSquare’s Partners board kicking into high gear, I haven’t had time (or residual energy) to blog here.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been busy the past couple of months over on PR Newswire’s Beyond Bylines blog.  (If you’re a blogger, feel free to check out a few of my recent blogging tip articles here, here and here.)

All of this has meant a lot of late nights and working through lunch. I’m not complaining, though. Ever since Urban Farmer opened in the Westin attached to my office building, I have a delicious and terribly convenient go-to for a late after-work dinner or happy hour.

Enjoying a summer happy hour at Urban Farmer

Enjoying a summer happy hour at Urban Farmer

Scott and I have worked in the Penton Media Building for eight years and with the exception of the occasional restaurant in the Galleria like Winks, dinner near work usually meant walking to PlayhouseSquare or E4th Street. Especially if we were in the mood for something special.

Although that 15-minute walk isn’t the worst, I sometimes think twice about it when it’s February and a few feet of snow or ice coat the ground.

With Urban Farmer, the trip consists of one elevator ride and a short walk down the hallway into the Westin.

It’s not only the convenience that makes Urban Farmer amazing.

From a blogger dinner a couple months ago to numerous happy hours and lunch meetings, Scott and I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring their menus. Scott even picked Urban Farmer as his birthday splurge for the year — and there were no complaints from me about having to go there again.

lobster final

Even if you’re not a steak fan, Urban Farmer offers something delicious like this lobster with tomato, avocado, and verjus sorbet

Here are my five favorite picks when I eat there:

For Lunch: The roasted pork bbq sandwich. One of the best sandwiches I’ve had. Wonderful BBQ flavor, juicy. The brussels slaw really complements it.  While I’ve heard wonderful things about their fries from Scott, my recommendation is to go with their salad for your side. Always delicious with seasonal vegetables and quinoa on top.

For Happy Hour: This is my favorite time to go to Urban Farmer. I recommend sitting in the lounge seating instead of at bar. You’ll have table service and still enjoy the happy hour specials.

To drink, try a salted honey beer for $5. This drink is perfect — gin, pilsner, lemon and a honey rim. I wish that it was on their regular dinner drinks menu.

Pair that with: their deviled eggs topped with a large chunk of house bacon and maple; their bangers and mash dish with chicken cherry sausage and potato puree; and the bbq pork shoulder, shrimp and grits. Three fantastic small plates that range in the $5-$7 range.

For a Special Occasion: Go ahead and splurge. Urban Farmer’s steak selection rivals some restaurants’ wine menus. If you can’t make up your mind, go with the New York Steak Tasting (6 oz each of White Oak grass-fed, Creekstone corn-fed and Ohio Proud twenty-one day dry aged).

For the Non-Steak Fan: Although Urban Farmer really shines at steaks, they offer excellent pork, chicken and fish dishes. I actually went with a flounder special for Scott’s birthday and as someone who grew up eating fresh flounder we had just caught off a boat, this dish blew me away. I also love pairing a couple first courses and sides, such as the lobster, tomato, avocado, and verjus sorbet, their prime beef tartare, or creamed spinach gratin.

Save Room for Dessert: I never save room for dessert. Sweets are great, but I’d rather another serving of oysters instead. Not at Urban Farmer. Ever since they served their Great Lakes Barley Custard at the blogger dinner, I’ve been hooked. It’s a mild flavor with an undertone of hops.  And to top it off, a crunchy honeycomb.

Urban Farmer's Great Lakes Barley Custard

Urban Farmer’s Great Lakes Barley Custard

In addition to their food, I love disappearing into Urban Farmer’s beautiful surroundings after a long day. The restaurant designer has created an atmosphere that perfectly encapsulates the Urban Farmer name.

While of course it feels like a posh restaurant you’d find in any city – be it Cleveland, Philly or New York, there are elements that make you instantly comfortable like you’re sitting down to dinner with friends in a warm, comfortable farmhouse.

And although the restaurant isn’t actually that large, it feels huge with at least 4 or 5 interconnected spaces, all a little unique in their decor to one another.

Two of the spaces in Urban Farmer

Two of the spaces in Urban Farmer

I love it because there’s a level of familiarity whenever I dine there, but I also feel like I see the restaurant with fresh eyes each time. Which is good, because I plan on dining there a lot.

Urban Farmer is open seven days a week at the Westin in downtown Cleveland. They offer breakfast, lunch, happy hour and dinner Monday-Friday. On the weekends, join them for brunch and dinner.

If you’re looking for a special way to celebrate New Year’s Eve or Day, join them for dinner on the 31st before heading out to your NYE party (dinner will be served til 11pm) or enjoy a hearty brunch on January 1.

Disclosure: I attended a dinner for bloggers a few months ago at Urban Farmer, but have visited the restaurant a few times since to get a feel for the rest of the restaurant and their other dishes. All opinions are 100% my own.

Giveaway: Spice Up Your Fall with Two Westside Wine Events

Spice up your fall with these two west-side wine events

Spice up your fall with these two westside wine events

UPDATE: We have a giveaway winner! After tallying up the entries and placing the total into Random.org, congratulations to entry #19 – Jessica Z! You’ve won 2 L’Amour du Vin general admission tickets. Please reply to my email by Tuesday at noon confirming you can attend.

lamourduvin

If Target and Lowe’s are right, the holidays are quickly approaching. Ok, maaaaybe Christmas in September is a bit too soon; however, seeing the decorations on the shelves has been a good reminder that there’s one thing I need to do sooner than later: make sure my wine coffers are filled. 

Whether it’s a last-minute Halloween party, Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws, or my friend’s Waffle Christmas bash, I’ll sleep better knowing I have a reserve of reds and whites at the ready for the next holiday party.

What to buy, though? Fortunately, two upcoming events on the westside offer the perfect opportunity for some wine recon.

Keep reading for details on both events and a chance to win tickets to one of them!

Island Wine Festival, October 4

I never need an excuse to spend the day on Put-In-Bay, but if you do, this Saturday’s Island Wine Festival is a really great one.

Hop aboard the Miller Ferry to South Bass Island for a leisurely afternoon of wine, delicious food, and island living. Put-In-Bay’s Island Wine Festival runs 11am to 6pm on October 4 at the Put-in-Bay Winery and Doller House Estate.

Enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Erie or take a stroll through Put-in-Bay Winery's beautiful grounds at the Island Wine Festival

Enjoy beautiful views of Lake Erie or take a stroll through Put-in-Bay Winery’s gorgeous grounds at the Island Wine Festival

Sample more than 400 wines, including ones from the Put-in-Bay Winery, Heineman Winery and other Ohio wineries. Sampling tickets are $1 each with most samples running between $1 and $4. Bottles can also be purchased to take home with you.

In addition to wine, enjoy a display on the history of island wineries and grab a bite to eat from one of the festival vendors. Benefits from the event’s silent auction will go to the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society.

Scott and I went to the Island Wine Festival two years ago and made a full day out of the trip, checking out Perry’s Cave, the Crystal Cave and Perry’s Monument before and after the festival.

Although most people think summer when they think of Put-in-Bay, Fall is where it’s at, in my opinion.

L’Amour du Vin, October 9

I know everyone loves the Arthritis Foundation’s Silver Spoon Awards — I do too. But if I had to pick a favorite between that and their fall fundraiser L’Amour du Vin, I’d be hard-pressed to make my choice.

Presented by University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, L’Amour du Vin puts the spotlight on Lorain County and Cleveland’s Westside.

Enter to win 2 tickets to L'Amour du Vin on October 9

Enter to win 2 tickets to L’Amour du Vin on October 9

The wine and food event is taking place next Thursday, October 9 and will feature wines from Heidleburg of Lorain and cuisine from 41 North, AMP 150, Bistro 83, Taki’s Greek Kitchen, Kiedrowski’s Simply Delicious Bakery, and other area restaurants.

I LOVE this event. Living in Avon Lake, I may be a little biased but L’Amour du Vin’s smaller size and targeted approach is the perfect opportunity to experience what the westside of Cleveland has to offer (spoiler: a lot).

The VIP lounge has also always impressed me, featuring cocktails from Brown-Forman (loved last year’s Ward 8!) plus more food, spa services and other VIP surprises.

Scott and I even purchased L’Amour du Vin tickets for his parents so that they can get a taste of some of the different restaurants in their new neighborhood.

Cocktails and food from last year's L'Amour du Vin VIP party

Cocktails and food from last year’s L’Amour du Vin VIP party

The 17th annual L’Amour du Vin takes place October 9 at the Avon Oaks Country Club from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. General admission tickets are $65 per person ($80 at the door) and VIP costs $95 per person. Event proceeds support local programs and services for the nearly 1.3 million Northeast Ohioans with arthritis. Purchase tickets at lamourduvin2014.eventbrite.com or by calling Alicia at (216) 285-2822.

As much as I’m looking forward to attending L’Amour du Vin,
I’m even more excited that one of you will also be going!

Whether you’re a longtime westsider who’s already clued into our local restaurants, or want to explore more of this region’s cuisine, here’s your chance to win a pair of general admission tickets to L’Amour du Vin:

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**Do one, some or all five of the entries. A separate comment’s needed for each.**

1) What’s your favorite Lorain County or Cleveland Westside restaurant? Leave a comment on this post with your pick.

2) Follow @ArthritisFouNEO and @ADHicken on Twitter and leave one comment on this post telling me you did both.

3) If you’re a fan of Clue Into Cleveland and The Arthritis Foundation, Northeast Ohio Chapteron Facebook, leave one comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

Raise a glass to @ArthritisFouNEO at #LAmourduVin. Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway for your chance to win tickets: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2Bp

You can tweet once per day for additional entries. Just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until Sunday, October 5 at 11:59PM to enter. On Monday, October 6, I will select a winner using Random.org and will announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend L’Amour du Vin with a guest in exchange for hosting a giveaway, I also have been invited to attend the Island Wine Festival. My choice to post about these events and opinions are 100% my own.

Taste of the Browns Giveaway: Tackle Hunger with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank

Win 2 tickets to

Win 2 tickets to the Sept. 15 event

Every four years, Feeding America, the nationwide network of 200 food banks, conducts its Hunger in America study.

It’s the largest survey of its kind, focusing on why hunger happens and its effects on local communities.

The most recent Hunger in America was released just last week, and showed that right here in Northeast Ohio, more than 574,000 people each year turn to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and other hunger programs.

If you’ve been thinking about getting involved with the Food Bank, now is the time.

September is Hunger Action Month, a nationwide campaign to raise significant funds and enlist volunteers in the fight against hunger.

And the Greater Cleveland Food Bank has made it easy and fun for you to contribute with two fantastic events.

First up is the Hunger Action Month Happy Hour on Monday, September 8th. From 5:30-7:30pm, drink and eat up at TownHall in Ohio City. A $20 ticket gets you unlimited selected drafts between 5:30 and 7:30 and flatbreads between 6 and 7. All proceeds benefit the Cleveland Food Bank, and you can find out more and buy tickets at the link.

It’s an excellent warm-up to the Food Bank’s main event the following week. That’s right, it’s time again for Taste of the Browns!

It’s the 16th year that the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, the city’s culinary scene, and the Cleveland Browns have teamed up to tackle hunger in Northeast Ohio.

Photo from 2013 Taste of the Browns, courtesy of Greater Cleveland Food Bank

Photo from 2013 Taste of the Browns, courtesy of Greater Cleveland Food Bank

On Monday, September 15, more than 25 of the area’s finest restaurants and chefs will take over the City View Club Lounge at FirstEnergy Stadium. Some of the restaurants in attendance include:

  • Rocco Whalen’s Fahrenheit and Rosie & Rocco’s
  • Zack Bruell’s Chinato, Cowell & Hubbard, L’Albatros Brasserie, Parallax, Table 45
  • Eric Williams’ Momocho and El Carnicero
  • Sam McNulty’s The Market Garden Brewery, Bar Cento, Speakeasy, Nano Brew and Bier Market
  • And my new favorite downtown dining destination Urban Farmer
Photo from 2013 Taste of the Browns by Poise in Parma

Photo from 2013 Taste of the Browns by Poise in Parma

Cleveland Browns fans also have the opportunity to meet and mingle with Browns alumni and current players and bid for items like Joe Haden’s “favorite things” gift basket; footballs and jerseys autographed by Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel and Barkevious Mingo; and a signed copy of the Draft Day movie script.

New to this year’s Taste of the Browns is a wine and craft beer pull. For $10, attendees can purchase a bottle cap for a six-pack of craft beer, while $20 gets you a bottle of wine.

Need more convincing? Check out Poise in Parma’s guest recap of last year’s Taste of the Browns.

General admission tickets are available for $175, $75 of which is tax-deductible and can be purchased here. Proceeds from last year’s event raised more than $175,000 for the Food Bank, enabling them to distribute 700,000+ meals to agencies in six local counties.

Photo from 2013 Taste of the Browns, courtesy of Greater Cleveland Food Bank

Photo from 2013 Taste of the Browns, courtesy of Greater Cleveland Food Bank

You can also win 2 general admission tickets to Taste of the Browns in my giveaway.
How to enter: Do one, some or all five of the entries; a separate comment’s needed for each.

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**You must leave a separate comment on this post for each entry**

1) Leave a comment on this post telling me which Taste of the Browns restaurant you haven’t been to before that you’d like to try.

2) Follow @CleveFoodbank and @ADHicken on Twitter and leave one comment on this post telling me you did both.

3) If you’re a fan of Clue Into Cleveland and the Cleveland Foodbank on Facebook, leave one comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

I want to tackle hunger at @CleveFoodbank’s #TasteoftheBrowns. Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway and you can too: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2zV

You can tweet once per day for additional entries. Just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until Sunday, September 7 at 11:59PM to enter. On Monday, September 8, I will select a winner using Random.org and will announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Taste of the Browns with a guest in exchange for hosting a giveaway. My choice to post about this event and opinions are 100% my own.

Great Lakes Science Center Brews Up After-Dark Fun

I promised Scott another evening of me being the designated driver and he promised me another sonnet after the response to last week’s blog post. Enjoy!

Even without the Great Lakes Science Center's Beer Goggles, their Home Brew event was a lot of fun

Even without the Great Lakes Science Center’s Beer Goggles, their Home Brew event was a lot of fun

I am a big fan of the Great Lakes Science Center. Every time I go I have a great time. It’s an awesome space filled with experiments and exhibits that consistently entertain and educate me.

We’ve always enjoyed Yuri’s Night, so Amanda and I were very excited to learn the Science Center was continuing their events for the 21+ crowd will Science After Dark: Home Brew.

Home Brew, which took place a couple weeks ago, focused on the science behind brewing beer and coffee.

After settling in, our first stop was a presentation from Paul Benner and Reed Jaskula of The Cleveland Brew Shop. (Correction: Amanda’s first stop was the presentation, mine was for glasses of mead.)

I hadn’t expected the science and story of yeast (The Workhorse of Beer!) to be as entertaining as they made it, but hilarious drawings and a great dynamic made it a lot of fun.

Tremble before the terror of Yeast! Kill it! KILL IT WITH FIRE!

Tremble before the terror of Yeast! Kill it! KILL IT WITH FIRE!

After Paul and Reed wrapped up we stayed for Arthur Gugick’s presentation on Calculus and the Coliseum, an amazing presentation on the math used to create from-scratch LEGO art pieces and monuments. Mr. Gugick is the local Cleveland artist/genius whose work is highlighted as part of the Science Center’s LEGO exhibit.

Minds are about to be blown...into little LEGO shaped pieces.

Minds are about to be blown…into little LEGO shaped pieces.

I love LEGO and the temporary (now through September 7th) LEGO displays were something that I was really looking forward to seeing. I had no idea that a significant portion of the Science Center’s lower exhibit hall was going to be dedicated to landmarks, paintings, and other fantastical works all created by Mr. Gugick.

After thoroughly amazing us with the talent and creativity portrayed in his presentation, Amanda and I were energized to begin our exploration of the Science Center’s other entertainment and imbibements.

Regarding drinks, Amanda was the designated driver and quite enjoyed (and appreciated) Phoenix Coffee’s options. I tried a few wines, beers, and meads, but ultimately my favorite was Sunshine Daydream by Fat Head’s Brewery. It was light and crisp and quite a pleasant surprise!

Beverages are easy to pick favorites from, but I would be very hard-pressed to pick out my favorite activity from the evening’s selections. The Science Center really outdid itself.

The first one we encountered was the Make-It-Yourself Miniature Golf, where all the holes were fashioned from reclaimed and recycled material. All you needed was some duct tape, your imagination, and a couple extra hands and you had your own mini golf hole!

By the time Amanda and I arrived there were already quite a few constructed, so we concentrated on trying out other people’s creations.

I call this "Action Shot Amanda"

I call this “Action Shot Amanda”

We also stumbled (figuratively) across Beer Goggle Cornhole, where you wore goggles that simulated the wobbly vision of inebriation. We didn’t actually play much cornhole with them, but it was fun trying to walk straight lines with the great lake view before us.

Next we found the LEGO Daredevil High-wire Challenge…or it could have been named something else very similar, it’s hard remembering certain details after a few cups of beer! But it was a lot of fun creating a LEGO machine that could make it from the third floor to the second without falling from the wire. Mine smashed to pieces when it reached the bottom, but I still made it the whole way!

Another awesome part of the night was the Tabletop Cleveland area and creating our own board game pieces. Amanda and I put together our little monstrosities and then took part in the evolving board game. If you had to hop on one leg in order to gain points equivalent to Pi, you landed on my challenge. Sorry.

My Cleveland Tabletop board game piece - Mustachio Baseball Bat and Pirate Bunny Drinking in a Rocket Ship - sits next to my bare-bones but uber-functional high-wire LEGO device.

My Cleveland Tabletop board game piece – Mustachio Sword and Pirate Bunny Drinking in a Rocket Ship – sits next to my bare-bones but uber-functional high-wire LEGO device.

As the evening began to near its end Amanda and I made our way down to the LEGO exhibit. It really is inspiring. I’m not even going to bother trying to describe the detail, wonder, and skill that is captured throughout both Mr. Gugick’s works and the traveling exhibit.

It is incredible – and fun – and should absolutely be checked out before it leaves on September 7th.

LEGOs. Aw yeah.

LEGOs. Aw yeah.

As with my last entry I had also threatened promised to include a review a la sonnet, so here goes:

Great Lakes Science Center is quite a place,
Three stories of discovery await.
You will use the thinker behind your face,
Fun for the family, and even a date!

Science After Dark is really inspired,
Get out and learn with a drop of some brew.
With all that there is, your brain will not tire,
There’s so many sciences waiting for you!

Cleveland Brew Shop made yeast science funny.
Tabletop Cleveland brought fun you could make.
The Fat Head’s beer was really quite sunny,
Phoenix Coffee kept Amanda awake!

For a memory that is sure to stick,
Check out the LEGOs by Arthur Gugick!

Disclaimers: 

  • I am much happier with the rhymes in this sonnet. I thought that was worth you knowing. 
  • Amanda was offered tickets to attend Science After Dark in exchange for blogging about it. I got her second ticket because if she hadn’t let me go with her I would have whined like a sad puppy dog for well over a week. The decision to attend and post about an event is her own, based on whether she thinks it’s something that may also interest others.
  • My decision to blog about the event was actually my own this time. Because LEGO.

Sipping Grapes & Ale at Progressive Field (or Scott Writes a Sonnet)

Scott and I decided to switch things up at Grapes & Ale this year. I’d be the designated driver, and he’d have an opportunity to sample all of the wine. The only catch? That he’d write the recap.

Colin Dussault's Acoustic Side Project greeted people near the stadium's entrance.

Colin Dussault’s Acoustic Side Project greeted people near the stadium’s entrance.

Nestled at the corner of 9th and Carnegie, there’s just something about Progressive Field that I really enjoy. I’m a transplant to Cleveland, so my fondness for the stadium doesn’t stem from a home team association. And, as someone who competed in marching band through the Philadelphia and South Jersey region, I’ve been in my fair share of stadiums. But Progressive captures something few others do.

I’ve mulled over what that “something” is, and I currently claim it is “hopeful enthusiasm.” Clevelanders have a solid ability to both recognize “what is” while planning for and looking forward to “what could be.” Something about Progressive Field captures that. Regardless of its corporate origins, the stadium’s current name is very fitting for this city.

What makes everything better is when you have the opportunity to freely drink the official beverages of “hopeful enthusiasm” – wine and beer. The Grapes & Ale at Progressive Field event, which happened a few Fridays ago on June 27th, brings all this together for a great time. And, since it raises funds for Our Lady of the Wayside, we have a perfect storm of good vibes.

Wines, foods, and peoples.

Wines, foods, and peoples.

Arriving at Progressive Field a tad early, Amanda and I could smell the predominantly barbecued food that was waiting to accompany the many spirits that are automatically included with entry.

After getting our etched wineglasses, my first stop was to try the Johnny Appleseed hard apple cider, followed by some flipflop moscato. Then we moved on to grab some of the always-delicious Famous Dave’s wings.

Amanda was Designated Driver that evening, and there was plenty of bottled water and soda (“pop” if you’re not a transplant) for her. There was also salad and veggies, ample seating if you walked in deep enough, and even a putting green.

Famous Dave's not only provided good eats, but a nice take-home surprise.

Famous Dave’s not only provided good eats, but a nice take-home surprise.

If you don’t like wine, the Beer Garden had taken over Progressive’s Budweiser Patio. You don’t need to buy tickets to go in – although you do need an empty glass and then tickets if you want any beer – but the mini hot dogs were delicious and the snow cone machine was a great treat.

There were also some games spread about. If leaving with the little wine glass wasn’t enough, the beer tickets got you a handled mason jar and a Lime-a-Rita sample got you another festive glass. Although I didn’t have any, a trusted source told me the Leinenkugel’s stand had brought a Russian Imperial Stout that was great.

I like my crushed ice plain.

I like my crushed ice plain.

If you didn’t bring extra cash for the beer (like me), no worries. There was still plenty of that free-flowing wine, as well as a few other spirits.

To be honest, my wine preferences are pretty narrow; the wine needs to be white and sweet. I’m not listing a lot of sampled names here not because there wasn’t a large selection, but because there was and my sampling was more copious than my note-taking.

The vendors stretched down an entire side of Progressive Field; there was plenty of wine I didn’t drink, and plenty of wine that I did. But you needed to do something special to stand-out in my memory, and the vendor which delivered that was Cupcake Vineyards:

  • Walk-in wine truck pulled into the stadium? Check.
  • Photo-op? Check.
  • Second photo-op? Check.
  • iPads with all the info and cat videos you could want? Check. (Especially because one of our cats is named Cupcake.)
  • Tiny cupcakes at the ready? Check.
  • Delicious Prosecco? Double check.

When it came to wine, Cupcake Vineyards got my vote for “Win.”

Cupcakes! Cupcakes cupcakes cupcakes! CUPCAKES!

Cupcakes! Cupcakes cupcakes cupcakes! CUPCAKES!

Great venue, great drinks, great food, great company – what more am I to say? Grapes & Ale at Progressive Field was a feel-good event last year, and it was a feel-good event this year, and I eagerly look forward to next’s. Until then, I declared I’d review this as a sonnet, so here it is:

Progressive Field is a really great space,
Open and cool and filled up with big smiles.
If the Indians don’t manage to place,
It’s still a spot where-in I’d walk for miles.

Awesome is Our Lady of the Wayside,
Caring for those who are needing a boost.
Providing shelter, respite, and a ride.
So help by drinking fermented grape juice!

Grapes & Ale at Progressive Field is fun,
Food, spirits, and beer all over – delish!
So buy some tickets, you son of a gun!
“This never should end,” is what you will wish!

So come on down to 9th and Carnegie,
Bring hunger and thirst…but not the baby.

Selfie! Selfie selfie selfie! SELFIE!

Selfie! Selfie selfie selfie! SELFIE!

Disclaimers: 

  • I know Carnegie/baby is a terrible rhyme, but how about YOU come up with a better word that rhymes with Carnegie! 
  • Also, Amanda was offered tickets to attend Grapes & Ale at Progressive Field in exchange for blogging about it. I got her second ticket because I can flap my eyeleshes like a pro. The decision to attend and post about an event is her own, based on whether she thinks it’s something that may also interest others.
  • My decision to blog about the event was not my own, but part of Amanda’s agreeing to be Designated Driver so I could run about downing samples like a thirsty camel at an Oasis Sample Party. It seems batting eyelashes is not as powerful a tool of persuasion as I thought.

Intoxicating Pairings: Cleveland Beer Events for Those Who Like to Learn, Laugh or Draw

I’ve been on the road the past week, so this bit of blogkeeping is belated. Congratulations to Elizabeth P for winning 2 tickets to the Tri-C JazzFest!

Scott and me celebrating his birthday at a beer and comic books event

One of my favorite beer pairing events was Great Lakes Brewing Company’s comic books and beer night

When I hear the phrase “beer pairings,” my thoughts – as yours probably do – immediately go to beer and food. From cheese and chocolate to bacon, seafood, and sushi.

However, this post is not about that kind of pairing. (If you’re here looking for that, save the date for Cleveland Beer Week 2014 October 10-18, which promises to be full of great food and beer events.)

Instead, I’m talking today about beer paired with some unexpected activities. From comedy to science to art, here are 3 upcoming events if you’d like to do something different while drinking your favorite pint.

Science After Dark - Home Brew

Did you miss Great Lakes Science Center’s Yuri’s Night? I have good news for you:

This Thursday, June 26, GLSC is continuing their series of 21-and-over ‘Science After Dark’ events with HOME BREW from 6:30-9:30 pm.

  • Do you know what happens to beer when you take away air pressure? Witness it firsthand when the Science Center staff tests it out with different kinds of brews. 
  • Want to learn about home brewing? Meet Paul and Reed from Cleveland Brew Shop at their “Yeast: The Workhorse of Beer” demonstration.
  • Ever wondered, as I have, why your speech sounds funny after you start drinking? Dr. Amee Shah of CSU’s Speech Acoustics & Perception Lab will discuss your brain on booze.

There will also be hands-on activities including LEGO-building and science board and card games created by Cleveland Institute of Art students. Or you can try creating a putt-putt golf hole using everyday materials.

And, of course, beer and coffee samples from Fat Head’s Brewery, Crafted Artisan Meadery, Jackie O’ Brewery, Great Lakes Brewing Company, and Phoenix Coffee will be available.·

Tickets are $18 in advance/$21 at the door (only $12 for members). Buy tickets online here or call 216-621-2400.

CLEVELAND DRINK AND DRAW

Avengers Artists, Assemble!”

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional, amateur, or completely-out-of-practice artist like me. Join the Cleveland Drink & Draw Social Club at one of their twice-monthly meetups. They’re at Great Lakes Brewing Company the first Wednesday and Lava Lounge the third Thursday of every month.

That means the next one is July 2nd in GLBC’s Rockefeller Room (7-11pm).

Started in 2012 by the Rust Belt Monster Collective, the Drink & Draw Social Club is “a place to exchange techniques, build contacts, and most importantly; bond over what is far too often a solitary passion.”

All you have to do is bring your art supplies. Every event also includes group “jam pieces” and prizes from long-time supporters Carol And John’s Comic shop. 

brewhahalogo

Not into science or art? Well, everyone likes to laugh.

On July 10, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s YP Pantry group will be hosting the inaugural BrewHaha – Lager and Laughs for Hunger Relief.

From 6-9pm at the Food Bank’s distribution center, enjoy the talents of Last Call Cleveland and local comedians Josh Womack, Mary Santora, and Jake Solomon while sampling beer from Chardon BrewWorks, Great Lakes, Market Garden, Willoughby Brewing Company, Platform Beer Company, Deschutes Brewery and others.

The comedy show will be hosted by the always-hilarious Bill Squire, co-host of the Alan Cox Show and live music will be provided by Newshoes.  

Individual tickets are $25, which includes 20 samples of beer in a souvenir beer tasting glass and the evening’s entertainment. Tickets for two are discounted at $45 and designated drivers can enjoy water, non-alcoholic beverages and all of the performances for only $10. Get them here.

All proceeds from the evening go to benefit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s mission to provide food to those in need.

***

I hope you check out at least one of, if not all of these events. The Cleveland beer scene is incredible, and it’s exciting to see the city not just embrace it, but do so in such eclectic ways.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Great Lakes Science Center’s HOME BREW with a guest. I also used to be on the YP Pantry board. However, I chose to blog about these events independently of those decisions and the opinions are 100% mine.

Giveway: BBQ, Brews and Blues at Our Lady of the Wayside’s Grapes and Ale

Nothing – not even an 8-days-and-counting sinus infection – could have stopped me from BBQing with Scott’s family this weekend.

Memorial Day Picnic

The weather was perfect (unbelievably so, after our winter), the grill was blazing with cheese brats and Dad Hicken’s BBQ-sauce-laced burgers, and Scott’s mom put together one of the best macaroni salads I’ve had.

Scott and I even squeezed in a bike ride down to the lake. It was a much-needed distraction to forget about the voice I lost 5 days earlier.

I love BBQs, and the best one of the summer happens in a few weeks. On June 27, Our Lady of the Wayside and Giant Eagle will host their annual Grapes & Ale party at Progressive Field. 

Grapes and Ale

From 7-10pm, enjoy barbeque from Hot Sauce Williams, Famous Dave’s, 100th Bomb Group, Battery Park Wine Bar, and Corleone’s while sampling 200 wines and beers from William Hill Estate Winery, St. Michelle, Chloe Wine Collection, Great Lakes, Magic Hat, and more.

Colin Dussault’s Acoustic Side Project is back this year with live blues music throughout the night.

This party pretty much sums up all the best parts of summer for me: BBQ, beer, and the Indians ballpark.

Just learn from my first Grapes and Ale experience. Don’t wear white unless you’re carrying stain remover.

I’m not the only one who loves Grapes and Ale. The event has gotten so big the last couple years that Our Lady of the Wayside is expanding the space they use in Progressive Field.  That means room for even more fun!

Also new this year: Cupcake Vineyards’ Wine Truck will be making a tour stop  at the event.

Cupcake Tour

Grapes and Ale raises money for Our Lady of the Wayside. Located out in Avon, they provide services for 500 children and adults with developmental disabilities. Their programs include:

Grapes and Ale tickets start at $50 (Premiere Grand Tasting level), which gets you access to wine samplings and BBQ, a souvenir glass, music, silent auction and the Cupcake Truck Tour. Samplings of craft beers are also available for purchase at the WKNR Market Pavilion Brew Garden. The $125 VIP Majic of Wine Tasting ticket includes all of this, plus free parking and a blind wine tasting from 6-7pm.

Don’t plan on drinking? Enjoy BBQ, unlimited water and pepsi with a $20 Designated Driver ticket.

You can order tickets online or you can enter to win two $50 tickets right here!

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**You must leave a separate comment on this post for each entry**

1) Leave a comment telling me what’s your favorite side dish to serve at a BBQ.

2) If you’re a fan of Our Lady of the Wayside and Clue Into Cleveland on Facebook, leave a comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

3) Follow @ADHicken and @OurLadyWayside on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you did both.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

I want to win a night of BBQ, brews and blues at #GrapesandAle – enter @ADHicken’s giveaway for tickets: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2vJ #CLE

You can tweet once per day for additional entries. Just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until Tuesday, June 3 at 11:59PM to enter.  On Wednesday, June 4, Random.org will select a winner and I’ll announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Grapes and Ale with a guest in exchange for previewing the event. My choice to blog about this event is based on how much fun Scott and I had in years past. Opinions are my own.

Giveaway: Celebrate Twenty Years of Silver Spoon Awards

UPDATE: After removing one pingback and three retracted entries, and placing the remaining total in Random.org:

silver spoon winner

Congratulations, entry 26 – Franklin Mayse, for winning this giveaway!
Please reply to my email by the morning of 5/13 to confirm you can attend Silver Spoon.

Silver Spoon Awards Party, May 14, 2014

Cleveland Magazine’s Silver Spoon Awards Party, May 14

When it comes to Cleveland food events, I like to prepare in advance. That means scouting which restaurants are going to be there, developing a game plan for the most efficient tasting route, and getting my appetite in shape.

There are some events I can get away with going in blind; however, if there’s anything I’ve learned from previous years, the Silver Spoon Awards Party is not one of those events.

I mean that in the best way.

When I’m asked for a list of my favorite Cleveland food events, a small handful come to mind. Year after year, Silver Spoon is consistently tops.

tacos

Photo via Silver Spoon CLE, by Lane Baldwin Photography

Each year, Cleveland Magazine readers vote on restaurants that are the best at what they do. Whether that’s pizza, brunch, sushi, Greek food, dessert, happy hour … the list goes on. The restaurant finalists are then invited to show off their signature dish in May to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation, Great Lakes Region, Northeastern Ohio.

Add on top of that, wine from eight international vinters, cocktails from Brown-Forman, a silent auction, late-night after-party in the VIP lounge, and loads of other surprises, and now you know why I prepare like I’m going to run a marathon. 

This year’s Silver Spoon Party promises to be bigger than  ever because  it’s the 20th Anniversary. On Wednesday, May 14, over 40 restaurants will take over 200 Public Square. 

20 Years of Cleveland Magazine's Silver Spoon Awards

20 Years of Cleveland Magazine’s Silver Spoon Awards

And today I’m happy to not only share a sneak peek at what this year’s restaurants have planned, but also 2 tickets for you to win!

Here are some of the dishes you’ll be salivating over:

  • Aladdin’s Eatery: Jasmine’s Favorite and Lebanese Salata
  • Blue Point Grille: Blue Point oysters
  • Bubba’s-Q World Famous Bar-B-Q: De-boned baby back rib steak and Texas style brisket
  • EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute: Rabbit pie and ratatouille
  • Felice Urban Café: Grilled Calamari Salad with New Potato Confit
  • Great Lakes Brewing Co.: A tasting of a variety of beers and Bananas Foster Mousse Cups
  • Humble Wine Bar: Chocolate towers and cheese cakes
  • Jammy Buggars: PB&J Meatball Slider
  • Luca Italian Cuisine: Sacchetti al Tartufata Bianco, white truffle and ricotta stuffed sacchetti, black truffle cream sauce, aged fig balsamic
  • Lucky’s Café: Mini Reuben, corned beef, sauerkraut, on rye with Thousand Island dressing, all house made topped with swiss
  • Master Pizza: Pepperoni, plain, sausage, and the award-winning “Popeye” pizzas
  • Pacific East Coventry: Assortment of sushi
  • Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar: Braised Beef Ropa Vieja
  • Pearl of the Orient – East: Phoenix Salad (smoked shredded duck breast, chicken breast, agar agar, honeydew, cantaloupe, sesame seeds, sesame vinaigrette)
  • Pearl of the Orient – West: Strip Steak with Hoisin Sauce and Crispy Wonton
  • Phnom Penh: Vegetable Kuy Teav Chha Khmer; Chicken Preah Vihear
  • Pier W: Crawfish etouffee and zucchini bloom fritter, fava bean emulsion
  • Salmon Dave’s Pacific Grille: House cured wild salmon with citrus barbecue sauce and a mango poblano salsa
  • Society Lounge: Ramos “Bathtub Gin” Fizz, Kegged and Carbonated Moscow Mule and Barrel Aged Woodford Manhattans
  • Spice Kitchen + Bar: Seared Ramp Ravioli with green garlic sauce and micro greens
  • Sweet Melissa: Chocolate covered strawberries, cannoli, chocolate cake, red velvet cake, NY style cheesecake, keylime tarts, cookies, and more
  • Taki’s Greek Kitchen: Lamb chops w/mavrodaphine syrup, and spicy feta dip w/pita chips
  • Toast: Pigs in a blanket
  • Ty Fun Thai Bistro: Pad Thai
  • Zoup! Euclid & East 4th Street: Lobster bisque and chicken pot pie

Check out the full list of participating restaurants to see who else will be there. Personally, I can’t wait to discover what Cork & Cleaver, DANTE/Ginko, Fired Up Tacos, Lolita, and Mama Roberto’s have up their sleeve.

Hungry yet? You can purchase tickets for the Silver Spoon Awards Party online for $150 (VIP) and $100 (general admission).  Or you can enter to win two general admission tickets right here!

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**You must leave a separate comment on this post for each entry**

1) Leave a comment telling me which dish or restaurant you’re most excited for.

2) If you’re a fan of The Arthritis Foundation, Northeastern Ohio Chapter and Clue Into Cleveland on Facebook, leave a comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

3) Follow @ADHicken and @SilverSpoonCLE on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you did both.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

I want to win tickets to @SilverSpoonCLE! Enter @ADHicken’s #SilverSpoonCLE giveaway: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2uQ #CLE

You can tweet once per day for additional entries. Just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until Sunday, May 11 at 11:59PM to enter.  On Monday, May 12, Random.org will select a winner and I’ll announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Silver Spoon with a guest and give away 2 tickets on my blog. My opinions and the choice to post about this event are my own.