Category Archives: Ohio City

Fun in the Sun Giveaway: Cleveland Bike Tours

Cleveland Bike Tours Giveaway

Enter to win a Cleveland Bike Tour for you and 11 friends

With my last two “fun in the Cleveland sun” giveaways, we’ve checked out upcoming concerts and gone to the beach. This next one is for the active Clevelander:

I hide indoors during the winter. So once the sun starts shining and temperatures rise, I like to get outside as much as possible: dragging Scott on walks, taking a swim at our pool, and – after last year’s bike tour of downtown CLE – hopping on a bike.

Biking used to make me nervous; I had one too many falls growing up. But when the Ohio Blogging Association went on a bike tour, Anne Smith of Cleveland Bike Tours not just taught us a lot about the city, but was also incredibly patient in getting newbies like me comfortable with biking. (My recap of the downtown Cleveland bike tour)

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Brave the Cold at Cleveland’s Brite Winter Festival, Feb. 16

Brite Winter Music and Arts Festival, Cleveland Feb. 16, 2013

Is it ever going to stop snowing? Who cares! Because Brite Winter is back.

You can read my review of the 2011 Brite Winter Fest here, but in short this annual community-organized music and arts festival is one of the best reasons to brave snow, sleet and 10 degree weather in Cleveland.

After the unprecedented success of last year’s 10,000+ attendees, Brite Winter returns to Ohio City next Saturday, February 16.

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Ways You Can Help the West Side Market Recovery

West Side Market

As we know from last week’s news, a fire tore through Cleveland’s West Side Market in the early morning hours of last Wednesday.   

And while the city will pay for the clean up out of capital funds previously identified for WSM upgrades, there is still a lot of work that will need to be done and business lost for the vendors.

However, just like in the past, Cleveland has proven itself a resilient city – ready to rally when needed.

For instance, over the weekend, Happy Dog in the Gordon Square neighborhood donated $1 from every hot dog sold to the Market’s recovery. They raised over $1,200 for the Market vendors and employees.

If the snow or Superbowl kept you from grabbing one of their delicious hot dogs (or vegan dogs), here are a few more ways you can support the West Side Market.

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Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus Review

Ohio City’s Speakeasy, host to Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus event

Christmas came early for Cleveland food-and-drink lovers at last week’s Emerging Chefs Naughty Claus.

Going in, I knew if there was anyone who could break up the monotony of holiday meals, it would be the Emerging Chefs team. And I was not disappointed as they teamed with Chef Adam Lambert from Ohio City’s Bar Cento/Bier Markt/Speakeasy for an evening of Christmas mischief and culinary adventure.

Located beneath Bier Markt, the sultrily-lit prohibition-themed Speakeasy lounge warmly welcomed us from the frigid December night.

Naughty Claus Course 1: Snow Globe on a Half Shell

After settling into a corner booth with Jen and her husband Matthew, we started the meal off with Chef Lambert’s interpretation of a Snow Globe.

Using a classic Christmas Eve ingredient – oysters – as the basis for this dish, Lambert created the illusion of a snow globe by encasing it in a gel-like substance mixed with juniper, tonic and Douglas fir.

Although it was beautiful to look at, I unfortunately found that the consistency and taste of the gel overpowered the oyster too much, leaving only a hint of it.

While the snow globe’s taste wasn’t to my liking, it was paired with a Bijou. Made of gin, vermouth and chartreuse, it had a very potent, evergreen-like flavor. Stirring in a few ice cubes from my water cut the bitter bite and resulted in a nice cocktail for gin lovers.

Naughty Claus Cocktail 2: Milk Punch

This was followed by Lambert’s XXX-Mas Cookies and Milk Punch.

Ladies, next time you’re having a bachelorette party, these *ahem* “mature audiences only” cookies are a delicious alternative to your typical adult treats.

The suggestively-shaped, lightly-flavored cookies were topped with foie gras and whipped chantilly icing and paired with a warmed rum and milk punch.

Honestly, I’m thankful the punch – my favorite drink of the night – came in such a tiny mug. If I didn’t have work early the next morning, I could have curled inside an oversized bowl of it. The dish was a milk-and-cookies combo fitting for a Naughty Santa.

Naughty Claus Course 3: Truffled Arancini “Snow Balls”

The third course was a pair of “Snowballs” – arancini topped with white truffle shavings. The rich, savory interior of these fried rice balls mixed very well with the light breading that coated it – a winner with me and my tablemates.

It was served with truffle-infused Everclear. Although I wasn’t a fan of the cocktail’s heavy truffle flavor on its own, I decided to give it a second try to see how it paired with the arancini.

After taking a bite of the dish, then a sip of the cocktail, I was floored. The original truffle flavoring of the drink had been replaced with an almost fruity flavor.

I know that there are drink and food combinations which complement each other in taste, but this was the first time I ever had the sum of a pairing actually change its parts. I really enjoyed the experimentation this pairing lent itself to.

Naughty Claus Course 4: Who Ham for One

Chef Lambert’s next course was “Who Ham for One,” in which he took traditional Christmas ham and wrapped and cooked it around a chicken bone to replicate the look of the ham in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

To complement the playful presentation, Chef Lambert prepared the meat with clove, cherry and pineapple – full of succulent flavor.

Unfortunately, my allergy to red wine kept me from trying the mulled Sangiovese served with it – but as Jen noted in her WhyCLE recap, it was her favorite of the evening and a perfect fireside sipper.

Naughty Claus Course 5: Kosher Khristmas

The last course of the night was my overall favorite, both in presentation and taste: Chef Lambert’s Kosher Khristmas.

Inspired by A Christmas Story, he served an Asian-style shredded duck with crisp and colorful vegetables. It was presented in – what else – small Chinese take-out boxes.

Enjoy it we did!

The duck was so moist and rich. Like the milk punch, my Christmas wish is for more servings of this dish.

The Kosher Kristmas was paired with a chilled sake sangria – whose slight fruitiness provided a refreshing contrast to the duck and cut down on the meal’s richness.

Chef Lambert didn’t even waste the ham bone, featuring it prominently in Naughty Claus’ Leg Lamp

Regardless of whether you were nice or naughty, Chef Lambert left us all with sweet treats: a bit of coal for our stockings made of bitter fernet hard candy and more of those delicious cookies with a glass of homemade scotch eggnog.

It was an evening of indulgence, to be sure – with plenty of bawdy laughs and misbehaving elves rounding out the night. We even got a visit from Jolly Naughty Ol’ St. Nick bearing gifts courtesy of Ambience.

Missed Naughty Claus? Chef Lambert and his team have put together a delicious New Year’s Eve menu for Bar Cento, located upstairs from Speakeasy. You can view the full menu – along with details on their other Bier Markt, Speakeasy, Market Garden and Nano Brew parties at http://bit.ly/VnHoUE

Disclosure: I was provided one ticket to Naughty Claus in exchange for blogging about the event. The opinions here are my own.

12 Days of Cleveland – Thankful for Too Much To Do This Holiday Season

This Thanksgiving, there were many things to be thankful for. I’m lucky to have a pretty swell husband (understatement), fantastic parents and sister, friends and even in-laws (congrats Laura and Max on your engagement!). From work to home and in between, there’s not much to complain about.

And even better, I get to spend my time in Cleveland. Whether it’s Downtown, east, west or the suburbs – there’s always something to do. In fact, if I had one complaint it’s that there’s sometimes too much to choose from.

However, I consider that a very lucky problem to have. Clevelanders are blessed with a city that not just offers us a lot of unique entertainment, food, art and shopping experiences, but more importantly is small enough that most of it is accessible.

As we head into the holiday season, Cleveland is bustling with even more activity. In honor of one of my favorite carols, here are my “12 Days of Cleveland” Picks.

Holiday shopping events make it easier to take the pledge to shop local

Day 1. Shop Local Showcase: On Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, get your holiday shopping done early with Room Service’s Made in the 216 Holiday Shoppe (today-12/31), Bazaar Bizarre Cleveland’s eastside show (today and Saturday) and Downtown Cleveland’s Winterfest (Saturday).

And if you’re a procrastinator like me, Yelp Cleveland’s Shop Local Pledge has a full list of shopping events throughout December like Bazaar Bizarre’s huge westside show (12/8-12/9) and Screw Factory’s Last Minute Market (12/15).

Day 2. Circle in the City: One of the things on my Cleveland to-see list is the inside of the Cleveland Trust Rotunda.  Every time I walk by it, I stare longingly wanting to get a glimpse of the murals and stunning stained-glass dome I’ve only seen in pictures. Thanks to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and University Circle, my holiday wish has been granted with Circle in the City!

Every Wednesday between now and Dec. 12, the Ameritrust Rotunda will open from 11:30am-1pm for free cultural events sponsored by University Circle institutions. A food truck or two will be outside where you can grab lunch.

On my day off this past Wednesday, I stopped in for the first Circle in the City: a performance by Robert Cassidy, Department of Music faculty member and pianist for the Almeda Trio, The Music Settlement’s professional ensemble in residence. It was a harmonious complement to the Rotunda’s artwork and architecture whose beauty surpassed the photographs.

Circle in the City offers up beautiful sounds for the holiday as well as a rare opportunity to see the inside of the Cleveland Trust Rotunda

Day 3. Tinsel Town: If you have children, gather your family together to celebrate the holidays at PlayhouseSquare’s Tinsel Town Party (12/1). From 12-2 pm, the beautifully decorated Palace Theatre lobby will host holiday crafts, cookie decorating and of course Santa! Snacks and hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles will also be available. All proceeds benefit community engagement and education programs at PlayhouseSquare (Family Four Pack: $40; Adult: $8; Child: $14; half-price discounts for Pals Members).

Day 4. Holiday CircleFest: Ring in December at the Holiday CircleFest (12/2). From 1-5:30pm, spend your day in University Circle experiencing more than a dozen of Cleveland’s cultural treasures free of charge. Meanwhile, enjoy live music, craft making, historic displays of holiday toys, storytelling, a singing Santa, live reindeer, the city’s best gingerbread house competition, and more.

Wade Oval will also be busy with free horse-drawn carriage rides, ice carving demos, and ice-skating at the Oval’s Rink. At 5:30, the celebration concludes with The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Winter Lights Lantern Procession.

A Cleveland holiday tradition returns to PlayhouseSquare with Cleveland Orchestra and Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker (11/29-12/2)

Day 5. The Nutcracker on Stage and Screen: The incomparable pairing of the Joffrey Ballet and the Cleveland Orchestra returns to PlayhouseSquare with their annual run of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (11/29-12/2). Audiences will delight in the breathtaking costumes, magical music and spectacular dancing.

Although nothing compares to a live performance, if you can’t make it to the Cleveland production, Fathom Events will present the Russian Imperial Mariinsky Theatre’s The Nutcracker (12/3) at ten local movie theatres. Performances are at 2 and 7:30pm. Find your closest location here.

Day 6. Warehouse District Holiday Tour: Each December, hundreds of people descend onto Warehouse District for their annual Neighborhood Holiday Tour. Now in its 13th year, the popular tour (12/5) features a behind the scenes look at the Warehouse District’s beautiful residential and office buildings as well as a feast from the neighborhood’s restaurants.

This year’s tour includes stops at the Bridgeview Apartments Atrium, 425 Lakeside, the Bradley Building, the Cloak Factory, Old Stone Church, the offices of Rieth, Antonelli & Raj, plus a construction tour of the Flats East Bank Project.

Guests will then enjoy holiday treats from Barley House, Bar Louie, The Blind Pig, Blue Point Grille, Bob Golic’s Sports Bar & Grille, BRGR 9, Constantino’s Market, Charkha Exotic Indian Cuisine, Gillespie’s Map Room, Johnny’s Downtown, John Q’s Steakhouse and Taza Lebanese Grill. Proceeds from the tour benefit the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation.

A special Santaland Diaries YP Night on 12/6 features a pre-show reception and tickets to the performance

Day 7. Santaland Diaries: PlayhouseSquare is serving up some not-so-family-friendly holiday fare when David Sedaris’ classic Santaland Diaries comes to the E14th St Theatre (11/28-12/22). Produced by Cleveland Public Theatre, Santaland Diaries recounts the hilarious (and sometimes horrible) stories of an out of work actor who takes a job as Crumpet, the Macy’s Christmas elf.

And on 12/6, join me at a special YP Night at Santaland Diaries. $30 gets you a ticket to the performance and unlimited drinks and light appetizers at a pre-show reception hosted by PlayhouseSquare Partners.

Day 8. Howard Hanna’s Chow Chow: If you’re downtown on 12/7 and  looking for a good deal on lunch, stop by Howard Hanna’s Chow Chow Fundraiser. From 11am-2pm, enjoy food from Blue Point Grill, Brennan’s Catering, John Q’s Steakhouse, Mr. Chicken and Marigold Catering for only $10. Proceeds from the event’s tickets, silent auction, and bake sale will go to the Children’s Free Care Fund which supports local Children’s hospitals including UH Rainbow Babies, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, MetroHealth and Akron Children’s Hospital.

Work off those holiday goodies at the Jingle Bell Run (12/8)

Day 9. Jingle Bell Run: Lace up your running shoes, pull on your santa hat or reindeer antlers and help raise money for the Arthritis Foundation with the Cleveland Jingle Bell Run/Walk (12/8). Jingle Bell teams and solo runners are raising money and participating in the 5K which kicks off at 9am in Legacy Village.  Register to run/walk here or make a donation.

Day 10. Christmas Carols Old and New: While one of Northeast Ohio’s favorite holiday traditions returns to the Hanna Theatre with Great Lakes Theater’s A Christmas Carol, the Cleveland Play House is helming a brand new carol at the Allen. Both shows run 11/30-12/23.

Great Lakes’ adaptation of A Christmas Carol takes place in London on Christmas Eve as the Cleaveland family sits down for their annual reading of the story. Children and adults will enjoy a fresh take on Scrooge’s tale as they see it unfold through the imagination of the family’s youngest son.

Down the street at the Allen Theatre, Cleveland Play House presents the world premiere A Carol for Cleveland. Written by local playwright Eric Coble and author Les Roberts, A Carol for Cleveland is a love-letter to the city and the determination and spirit that make it unique. With my love of Les Roberts and after last year’s stunning The Game’s Afoot, you know that A Carol for Cleveland is top of my list for holiday shows.

Have you been naughty or nice this year? Who cares at Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus Dinner Party! (12/20)

Day 11. Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus: It doesn’t matter if you’ve been naughty or nice this year, Emerging Chefs has a party for every boy and girl (well, man and woman since you should find a babysitter for this holiday dinner).

At Naughty Claus (12/20), Chef Adam Lambert will make the holidays merry, bright and delicious with festive cuisine at Cleveland’s Speakeasy.

From 8pm to midnight, the NY Times-featured prohibition-era-themed lounge will play host to a 5-course meal paired with libations. If you’re not already in a holiday mood, creative courses like Snow Globe Ornaments (with oyster, Douglas fir, juniper and tonic), XXX-Mas Cookies, truffle Snowballs, Who Ham for One and Kosher Khristmas will get you in one. Plus everyone will leave with a bit of “coal” for their stockings. If only for one night, it’ll be good to be bad.

Day 12. Ale, Cookies and Ugly Sweater Party: The Cleveland Foodbank’s YP Pantry hosts its first annual Ale & Cookies party for Cleveland young professionals.  Join them at Bier Markt-Bar Cento on Dec. 17, 6-9pm for some Christmas Ale and holiday cookies while helping the hungry. 15% of the group’s bar bills will go directly to the Cleveland Foodbank and donations of canned goods are always welcome. Best ugly holiday sweater wins a prize!

This list is only the tip of the gingerbread house when it comes to holiday fun in Cleveland. Share your picks in the comments below!

Disclosure: In exchange for previewing and reviewing Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus, I was offered one ticket to the event. I am also on the board of PlayhouseSquare Partners and the YP Pantry which are hosting Tinsel Town, the Santaland Diaries YP Night and Ale and Cookies.

Sunday Funday Plans at WSM100 + Giveaway Winner

Time to announce the winner for the Oct. 25th CCFA Movie Gala!

As I mentioned when I posted the CCFA Giveaway last week, my favorite excuse to visit Gordon Square’s Capitol Theatre is for their monthly Sunday Classics series. Thank you to everyone for sharing your favorite classics in the comments!

From old musicals (the most popular entry) to Harvey, Hitchcock and of course my fellow Audrey Hepburn fans, you definitely put me in the mood for a classic movie marathon soon.

After counting up all of these entries and removing a pingback and duplicate, the winning entry selected by Random.org is…

Congratulations, entry number 11 – Laura Brewer, for winning a pair of general admission tickets to the CCFA Movie Gala! Email me at clueintocleveland (at) gmail (dot) com by this coming Tuesday to claim your prize.

If you didn’t win, you have another chance through WhyCLE’s giveaway which runs through Monday.

It’s also not too late to purchase tickets.  Tickets cost $50 for an evening of food, two drink tickets and an evening of film screenings (VIP tickets include all of this + an open bar for $100). I hope you’ll join me in showing support for the fight against Crohn’s and Colitis. You can purchase tickets here.

I also hope to see everyone at another event I’m really looking forward to – this Sunday’s West Side Market Centennial Celebration:

Image source: WSM100.org

I know I’m not going to be around for the next Centennial (unless all that science fiction I read about cryogenically freezing someone turns out to be true! ;) ) so I’m going to brave the crowd and head down there Sunday morning.

Starting at 11am, West 25th is going to be closed off til 8pm for the West Side Market Street Festival and Parade.  A WSM-themed parade, featuring current and past vendors, neighborhood block clubs and community groups, will step off at noon, while music, food and more festivities will be going on throughout the district all day.

Plus the event will mark the first time in a decade that West Side Market has been open on a Sunday. In addition to freshly prepared foods from WSM vendors, festival attendees can enjoy two beer gardens and the Ohio City restaurants and food trucks that will be selling food along W. 25th Street all day.

After filling yourself with deliciously local fare, 3 stages of live music and family-friendly activities at the Ohio City Farm’s OC Harvest will help burn away the calories.

Image source wsm100.org

I’m thinking WSM100 and a trip to Put-in-Bay on Saturday for their Island Wine Festival should make up for what’s been a very long week.

 

What are you looking forward to this weekend?

 

Four Roses Bourbon Tasting at Crop Bistro

A bit of blog-keeping / update to last week’s mention of the Chardon Healing Fund:

On March 19th, Cleveland chefs are hosting a pair of events on the East and West sides of the city to help the victims of the Chardon High School tragedy. In Moreland Hills, over 15 chefs will be hosting a tasting-style event at Flour. At AMP 150, Dinner in the Dark will be bringing in over 20 chefs for the west-side event.  

Guests at Flour will be able to participate in a one-time silent auction for a dinner for 10 prepared by Iron Chef Michael Symon. A $500 knife set, hotel package, theatre tickets and more are up for auction at AMP 150.

All proceeds from these culinary feasts will be donated to the families.  Tickets and more information can be found here: Flour event and AMP 150 event. Hat’s off to all involved for lending their culinary talents to support the Chardon community.

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Four Roses’ Single Barrel, Small Batch and Yellow Label bourbons at Crop Bistro’s recent tasting

Scott’s not usually the first one in line for top shelf drinks, and especially not straight bourbon. Since college his tastes have changed from the hardest of hard liquor to the lightest of light beers. But on a recent trip to Ohio City’s Crop Bistro, I turned away for a moment and when I turned back found him not behind me, but at the Four Roses tasting bar, sipping a sample cup of bourbon and listening to the history and production process of what he was drinking.

Even more surprising — after he sampled a taste, he asked for more; surprising until I tried some myself.

The Four Roses brand has been around since 1888 – when it was first distilled in Louisville, Kentucky’s “Whiskey Row” by Four Roses founder Paul Jones Jr.  In its early days, Four Roses became one of the preeminent bourbon brands – being one of only six distilleries allowed to operate through Prohibition.

Hard-boiled crime story fans may recognize the name since it’s featured in Raymond Chandler’s novel The High Window as Philip Marlowe’s – one of my favorite hard-drinking private eyes – drink of choice.

After Seagram purchased the brand and started using it for blended whiskey instead of bourbon, the name lost its appeal until it was sold to Kirin Brewing ten years ago. Since then, the Kentucky distillery has been working hard to return its unique bourbon to the U.S.

"Mr. Four Roses" – Master Distiller Jim Rutledge

A good deal of Four Roses’ resurgence can be attributed to Master Distiller Jim Rutledge, who helped host the Ohio City bourbon tasting a couple of weeks ago.

Rutledge has been with Four Roses for over 40 years and the Master Distiller since 1995. When Kirin first bought the brand, Rutledge helped initiate the idea of bringing their bourbon back home.

A member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame’s inaugural class, “Mr. Four Roses” not just watches over the consistent quality of every barrel, but also spreads his knowledge and passion for bourbon as he travels from tasting to tasting.

Personally, I’m a novice bourbon drinker. I started drinking it only a couple of years ago thanks in part to Mad Men. (Yes, I’ll admit a tv show piqued my interest in the whiskey.) But regardless of why I started drinking it, there was no judgment from Rutledge, who was a welcoming host.

The Four Roses distillery where they produce 10 distinct bourbon recipes. (Photo from Four Roses)

Chatting for over an hour, I learned not just about Four Roses’ storied history, but about the recent resurgence of specialty bourbons throughout the U.S. and the distillery’s unique process for crafting each barrel of Four Roses.

Four Roses is the only bourbon distillery that combines 5 strains of yeast with 2 separate mashbills to produce 10 distinct bourbon recipes, which they then age in a one-of-a-kind single story rack warehouse. To create one of their more popular bourbons, the 2010 World Whisky Award-Winning Four Roses Yellow, all 10 recipes are married together through this process by Rutlege and his distillers.

At the tasting, we got to enjoy the Four Roses Yellow, as well as their Small Batch and Single Barrel bourbons.

After comparing the three, my personal favorite was the Small Batch Bourbon. For the Small Batch, four original and limited bourbons were selected by Rutledge at their peak to mingle together. Although the Small Batch’s aroma had a strong fragrance, I found the taste mellow enough to sip neat without a harsh burn – even better on the rocks.  There was a slight sweetness and creamy, thick warmth that reminded me of honey.

Comparatively, the Single Barrel‘s nose was more complex – both sweet and earthy – and its palate more distinct with a lot of spice jumping out at me.  Although I enjoyed the Single Barrel, my preference is for something with less of a bite. The Small Batch fit this bill perfectly – very pleasant, it was something I would easily choose to drink on its own.

Crop Bistro’s Four Roses cocktail

If you like your bourbon in a cocktail, one of Crop Bistro’s mixologists Nathan Burdette handcrafted a drink using the Four Roses Yellow Label. With 10 different bourbons mingled together, it provides an excellent base for complicated cocktails like the one we were served.

Overall, Burdette’s was a very well-balanced drink.  While you could distinguish the bourbon’s taste in the cocktail, it was subtle and didn’t overpower the sweetness of the other ingredients. My favorite touch was the bourbon-soaked date that accompanied the drink. If you’re looking for more cocktail ideas, Four Roses’ site has a nice sampling of drink recipes.

In discussing all things whiskey with Rutledge, he explained how each bourbon can taste different – oftentimes drastically – from person to person. I was curious about other people’s reactions after tasting the Single Barrel and Small Batch bourbons so as different individuals came up, I loved listening in.

Whereas I and a number of others thought the Small Batch was mellower than the Single Barrel, just as many others had the opposite view.  And each person found different notes – from rye and caramel to maple and floral hints.

My favorite of the evening – Four Roses’ Small Batch bourbon (Photo from Four Roses)

What everyone could agree on, though, was that Four Roses provided us with a very unique and enjoyable drinking experience.

For a classic brand like Four Roses, Crop Bistro was an ideal setting for the tasting. When Crop moved from the Warehouse District to Ohio City a few months ago, they took over an old bank. With its marble pillars, carved plaster ceiling, and touches of old walnut, it had a very nostalgic glamour I delighted in.

Scott and I sat in the bar area which I found to be a nice, intimate space thanks in part to the short wall segmenting it from the rest of the restaurant. I definitely want to go back and sit in the main dining room, an expansive space with very high ceilings, to see if the experience changes.

Crop Bistro’s deviled eggs with prosciutto

After we had our fill of bourbon, Scott and I took the opportunity to try out the changes to their menu. I’ve been a fan of theirs for a few years, having first fallen in love with their deviled eggs during a PlayhouseSquare dine-around.

Although some items have changed in the move and because of the seasons, I found the quality stood up.

Braised pork belly on waffle with Apple Cherry Port Demi

We started by splitting the braised pork belly appetizer. It sits atop a small waffle and is topped with an Apple Cherry Port Demi. While I thought the demi was really well made and had a full, sweet taste, Scott – who is a huge fan of pork belly – wanted some more of that flavor to peek through.

For my meal, I ended up ordering a small serving of the Chile Deviled Eggs and a Grilled Flatbread.  The deviled eggs with prosciutto were as good as I remembered and the grilled flatbread with mushrooms, Amish swiss, peppadews, arugla and balsamic was enough to split with a second person and full of many different flavors.

Grilled flatbread with mushrooms, Amish swiss, peppadews, arugla and balsamic

Additionally, the colors in both dishes were incredibe.  While presentation is not usually a huge component of why I like a meal, in this case the vibrant colors of both raised the dishes to the next level and made them even more appetizing.

Scott ordered the Ohio Ribeye.  It comes with Crop’s Sunday Supper Mashed Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts which were both delicious. But what made it the evening’s winner – and while it’s top on my list to order next time we go – was the smoked shallot demi. Between how tender it was prepared and the smoked flavoring of the demi, Crop’s ribeye was one of the more succulent cuts of beef I’ve had in a while.

Ohio Ribeye with Sunday Supper Mashed Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts

Even if you’re not looking for a full meal, I’d recommend Crop just for drinks. While we stuck to bourbon for most of the evening, I perused their impressive libations menu and finally decided on an Ohio City Flip.

As much as I enjoyed the Four Roses, gin’s still my drink of choice and Crop’s combination of Plymouth Gin, House Lime Cordial, Chartreuse, Cherry Heering, Egg White, and Lime Zest was a transcendent experience.  The fact that the bartenders look like they’re right out of a speakeasy – many sporting vintage-looking suspenders and vests – didn’t hurt either.

Ohio City Flip with Plymouth Gin

All in all, the Four Roses Tasting at Crop was an evening well-spent for this bourbon neophyte and her non-bourbon-drinking husband. We not only discovered a new brand for our bar at home (and in Scott’s case he discovered he could handle bourbon), but we also rediscovered an old favorite of Cleveland’s dining scene.

Disclosure: I was invited by a representative of Four Roses Bourbon to attend this tasting at Crop Bistro. As always, the opinions expressed here are 100% my (and Scott’s) own.

Embracing Winter: Brite Winter Fest and Cleveland's First Urban Iditarod

Looking to get outside and enjoy this Cleveland winter? The Brite Winter Festival returns this Saturday 2/18. (photo from britewintercleveland.com)

After the last week of snow, I think we are able to say that winter is finally here.  And just in time for two events that aim to celebrate Cleveland’s snowy season:

This Saturday from 5-10pm, Brite Winter Festival returns for its third year.  The event originally started as the creators’ proactive, grassroots approach to stave off the brain drain they were seeing in Cleveland among their fellow college graduates.

With Brite Winter, they wanted to give Clevelanders a chance to get outside and discover that our winters don’t just need to be tolerated – they can actually be a lot of fun.

For their third annual fest, they’re changing locations and bringing Brite Winter to Bridge Ave. and W.26th in Ohio City.

My favorite game from last year's Brite Winter Festival: Giant Skeeball!

The festival will feature art and games — and sometimes a combination of the two.

Artists from the Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland Museum of Art’s Community Arts Department, IngenuityFest and local companies like cyancdesign will take over the main festival grounds as well as some of Ohio City businesses to present their art installations.

One of my favorite games from last year – giant skee-ball – is back, along with other games like a Climbing Race Game, Light Fight and a Catapult Smashdown.

This year's Brite Winter moves to Ohio City. Pictured is last year's festival lighting up The Flats. (photo from britewintercleveland.com)

And for festival-goers’ listening pleasure, Brite Winter has eight venues and over 35 bands performing when I last counted.

Something that’s different this year: the festival will feature one outdoor stage and seven indoor venues like Bon Bon Cafe, Great Lakes Brewery and Joy Machines Bike Shop. So if you do need to take a break and warm up from the cold, you’ll have a lot of options for music.

The festival and all music performances are free and open to the public, though donations are always welcome. You can read my recap of last year’s Brite Winter here.

The Cleveland Urban Iditarod descends on Ohio City in March - part relay race/part street theatre to raise money for Harvest for Hunger.

In March, Ohio City will play host to another unique event when Cleveland’s Yo-Yo Syndicate demonstrates that being out in the cold can be enjoyable and help raise money for a local cause.

The Yo-Yo Syndicate, creators of IngenuityFest’s Doodle Bar as well as Cleveland’s branch of Dr. Sketchy, are helming the first-ever Cleveland Urban Iditarod on March 4th.

What is an urban iditarod?

While the real Iditarod is the famous long-distance race where a team of dogs tow a sled across Alaska’s frozen tundra, the Cleveland Urban Iditarod is almost the same thing. Except that instead of dogs, it’s people; instead of sleds, it’s shopping carts; and instead of Alaska, it’s Cleveland.

Have fun with your Urban Iditarod team -- dress yourselves and your cart up like this team from the Chicago Iditarod did. (photo from theyoyosyndicate.com)

Teams of 5 (4 to pull the cart, 1 “musher” who’s behind steering) must fill their cart with 40 pounds of canned food and race it through the course. The carts can be decorated (it’s even encouraged as long as the decorations don’t violate the guidelines) and racers can wear the craziest costumes they can pull together. All of this will help raise food and money for the Cleveland Foodbank’s Harvest for Hunger.

Urban Iditarods have been held in places such as Portland, Boston, Cincinnati and Chicago (where over $18,000 was raised for their local food bank), but this is the first time Cleveland will be hosting one.   With themed teams and contests at each stop, the Iditarod is part relay race/part street theater and will bring Cleveland’s creative community to the Ohio City neighborhood.

The race starts at 11:30 a.m. and the entire route is about 5.5 miles with 20 minute stops at each local west side location. The Market Garden Brewery, who’s also planning the first Ohio City Ice Carving contest that day, will be hosting the Urban Iditarod after party.

If you register online by Feb. 24th, the team fee is only $45 (it goes up to $65 through March 2nd; $100 the day of). The cart deposit is $35, which each team will get back once they demonstrate the cart has been taken home with them after the race.

The "Epic Epicness" of an urban iditarod! The Chicago Iditarod (pictured here) helped raise over $18,000 for their local food bank. (photo from theyoyosyndicate.com)

Although there’s officially only a month left of winter, with Brite Winter and the Urban Iditarod there are a lot of opportunities left to get out and enjoy it.

What do you have planned for your end-of-winter festivities?

 

Jump Back Ball 2012 Ticket Kickoff – Nov. 3

A couple months ago at PlayhouseSquare’s Young Professionals Movie Night, I was happy to join my fellow Jump Back Ball co-chair Meredith in announcing the theme of this year’s Jump Back Ball:

Jump Back Through the Looking Glass

The planning has been amping up since then — as we recreate the whimsical world of Alice in Wonderland in PlayhouseSquare’s theatres and gather items for the auctions and raffles.

On November 3rd at Market Garden Brewery, you’ll have your first opportunity to purchase tickets at our Ticket Kickoff Happy Hour.  From 6-8pm, enjoy complimentary appetizers, drink specials, prizes and the best deal on Jump Back Ball tickets. 

Why should you buy your Jump Back Ball ticket at the Ticket Kickoff Party?

  • You’ll save the most money. Tickets will be $130 ($105 if you join Partners) at the Kickoff. The next morning, the ticket price goes up to $150 ($125 for Partners) when they go on sale online.
  • No handling fees. When the ticket price goes up the next day, each ticket will also have a handling fee. But if you buy tickets in person at the Kickoff Happy Hour, you don’t have to worry about any fees.
  • You can sign up for a payment plan. I really like the payment plan option. I used it last year and plan on using it again this year — breaking my purchase up between the months makes it a lot easier on my bank account.
  • Last year’s event sold out really early. If you want to go to Jump Back Ball, don’t wait — each year the event sells out and last year’s Jump Back Ball sold out almost a month before the event.  The earlier you purchase tickets, you’ll not just save money but also secure your spot.

If you haven’t attended Jump Back Ball in the past, it’s an evening of fine food, drinks and entertainment wrapped in a creative spirit. The State Theatre at PlayhouseSquare will be transformed into the world of Alice in Wonderland, with guests invited to dress up either in their finest or a theme-inspired costume.

It’s also PlayhouseSquare’s largest fundraiser with the partially tax-deductible ticket supporting the theatre’s non-profit mission.

Here’s my recap of last year’s Jump Back Ball – I’m excited to go from attending and blogging last year to co-chairing the event this year. Stop by and say hi on November 3rd when you get your tickets to Jump Back Through the Looking Glass!

And if you’re interested in PlayhouseSquare Partners — the young professionals group that hosts Jump Back Ball, check out our next Happy Hour this Thursday at Chinato and the OSU vs. Penn State Viewing Party on Nov. 19.

Jump Back Ball 411:

MissWineOH's Wine and Cupcakes at Market Ave. Wine Bar

A wine tasting with cupcakes? MissWineOH is onto a good thing!

Have you entered the Cleveland LEGO KidsFest giveaway yet? You only have a few more days — the winner gets 2 free tickets to this awesome LEGO extravaganza at the I-X Center.

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While I’d say I love wine, I would not call myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I felt discouraged at any early attempts to develop a palate when I found out I was allergic to red wine a few years ago. I hadn’t really drank a lot of white wine before then and was all of a sudden told that’s all I could drink.

Since then, I’ve tasted my share of white – I know I like Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, and I’ve never enjoyed Chardonnay. But I’m definitely more of a “recreational” wine drinker. I’m not knowledgeable about pairing wine and food, and I’ll admit that I’ve bought a bottle of wine on more than one occasion because I liked its artwork.

So when WhyCLE mentioned a Wine and Cupcakes event, that definitely got my attention as a fun way to educate myself more.

The event was hosted by Tammy Coulson from Miss WineOH (you can find her on Twitter at @TLColson). In September, she went from only offering tasting parties for private groups to hosting unique wine experiences throughout Northeast Ohio.

Wine and Cupcakes was her first public wine tasting event in Cleveland.

Girls night out with old and new friends (photo from WhyCLE)

After a delicious meal at Flying Fig (I stuck to a salad and the buratta cheese plate so that I wouldn’t be too full for cupcakes), WhyCLE, HungryinCLE and I headed next door to Market Ave. Wine Bar for the Wine and Cupcakes tasting.

I love Market Ave. Wine Bar.  It was one of the first places I went to in Ohio City because of a book club I used to be in.  I hadn’t been in a while so it was nice to visit again. 

The tasting was in the back room, which is a fun, comfortable and ecletically decorated space (kind of reminded me of Touch Supper Club’s back room).  After settling into a few of the club chairs and couches, we readied ourselves for wine. 

Before I get into what was served, I need to take a moment to thank both Tammy and Market Ave. Wine Bar for being the most understanding hosts. 

The back room of Market Ave. Wine Bar is where we enjoyed our evening

When you sign up for a wine tasting, you’re tasting wines that have been selected for you by someone else – it’s all about the adventure.   In looking at the menu, I knew there would be a few red wines on the list. 

However, I decided to still go because a) there would also be cupcakes from A Cookie and A Cupcake in Tremont and b) it was a fun night out with friends. 

Because I didn’t want them to waste a pour of red wine on me, I emailed Tammy ahead of the event to ask if I could have soda or water during the red wine pairings.  Instead, she notified Market Ave. of my allergy and they worked to find an alternate white wine pairing for the cupcakes. 

That’s AMAZING customer service and I am really grateful they went above and beyond — huge thank yous to Tammy, Joy Valentine and everyone at Market Ave. Wine Bar. 

So many cupcakes! (photo from WhyCLE)

Our first pairing was a 2010 Golem Riesling with a lemon cake cupcake topped with a strawberry balsamic vinegar icing. I really liked the Riseling because it wasn’t overpoweringly sweet but had a dryness to it that worked really well with the light flavoring of the cupcake.

This pairing was very well-balanced in regards to the sweetness and acidity of the drink and food — however, I could have very well enjoyed both of them separately.  I would have liked to have tasted more of the balsamic vinegar in the icing but the lemon and strawberry flavors definitely made up for it.

Next up was a 2010 Louis Laurant Vouvray with an almond cake cupcake and roquefort icing.  Almond’s a flavor that not everyone likes, but I do so I really enjoyed this cupcake. The fruitiness of the wine was selected to pair specifically with this almond flavoring.  While I didn’t prefer the wine on its own, I really enjoyed it when mixed with the cupcake. 

For the third pairing, everyone was served a white cake cupcake with maple bacon icing paired with a 2009 Bella Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir. Because of my allergy, Market Ave. substituted a Spann Chardonnay Viognier blend for the pinot noir.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a huge fan of Chardonnay. It was the first white wine I ever tried and the bitter, heavy oakiness always left me dissatisfied.

I say this because out of all of the wines I had at the tasting, this was my favorite. I was told this likely has to do with the Viognier that’s blended in, which contributes a lot to the wine’s aroma and taste (the aroma rivaled that of the pinot noir). There was a substantial body to it that paired really well with the bacon cupcake, which was again my favorite — because, well, it had bacon in it.

I was happy to learn Market Ave. Wine Bar also sells bottles and I enjoyed the wine so much I bought one to take home — as an added bonus it was relatively inexpensive (I paid around $12 for it).

The bacon and salted caramel icing cupcakes were two of my favorites

A cherry chocolate cupcake with salted caramel icing  followed. This cupcake was paired with a 2009 The Velvet Devil Merlot.  My substitute was a Geil Scheurebe Kabinett, a hybrid grape with some Riesling in it. Like the Vouvray there was a fruitiness that complemented the saltiness of the icing.

By the way, salted caramel — I don’t know why I didn’t have much of you before recently, but you’re my new favorite flavoring on desserts.  Regarding the wine, there was some citrusy tastes to it that I’d like to pair with dinner one night – so I might need to go back and pick some up.

We ended with a dark chocolate cake with cinnamon icing paired with a 2005 Norman The Vocation. My substitute was a Midnight Cellars Chardonnay. I did some research on Midnight Cellars and read they use French – instead of American – oak barrels during production. Which explains why that aspect of the flavoring is not as overbearing as the Chardonnays I used to drink. 

Although neither the wine nor the cupcake in this final pairing were my favorites of the evening (I don’t enjoy cinnamon that much), they had A LOT to live up to after the first 4 pairings and were still good in their own right. 

Tammy - our host and wine guide for the evening (photo from WhyCLE)

Along our wine tasting journey, Tammy talked about each wine and why they were paired with their respective cupcake. The best part about the conversation was how gracious and approachable she was, bringing a bit of Southern Hospitality to the Cleve. She made wine tasting very accessible — even for a novice like me.

My favorite part was her encouragement to try a lot of wine so that you can figure out what you like and don’t like, and ultimately choose to drink something because you enjoy it.  As she explained, each person’s palate is different so just because a wine is extremely expensive, touted on tv by a food expert or has a high rating, doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily like it more than a $10 bottle of wine you can pick up at Heinen’s. 

Miss WineOH has a lot of upcoming wine-centric events. The next Cleveland wine and cupcakes will be in January with other events listed on their Events Calendar.  She also hosts events in my home state of Virginia and North Carolina and can do private events and wine hikes as well. More info can be found here.

Since I couldn’t taste the red wines, check out WhyCLE’s recap as well as Miss WineOH’s tasting notes for the event.

Miss WineOH 411: