Category Archives: Fall

A Day on Put-in-Bay at the Island Wine Festival

As the Miller Ferry pulled up, Scott was literally jumping up and down with excitement for the trip to Put-in-Bay

When I think about Put-in-Bay, thoughts of summertime come to mind – balmy weather and a cool breeze coming off the mirror-smooth lake. However, this past weekend I was surprised to learn how Lake Erie’s islands are also the perfect Fall escape when we visited for Put-in-Bay’s Island Wine Festival.

We drove out to Catawba early Saturday morning and hopped on the Miller Ferry. The winds and whitecaps were pitching the boat around so I stuck downstairs to avoid getting seasick (or would it be ‘lakesick’?).  We had fun, though – it was a bit like going on a water ride at Cedar Point.

Everyone unloaded onto South Bass Island when the Ferry docked – it was time to hunt down transportation!  From shuttles to walking to bikes, there are plenty of ways to get around Put-in-Bay. My favorite? Zipping around the island on a golf cart.

Island Bike and Cart Rental welcomes you as soon as you arrive making it easy to get around Put-in-Bay

At the top of the hill leading away from the ferry dropoff is Island Bike and Cart Rental where you can rent an electric golf cart from 2 to 6 seats. If you’d rather some exercise while touring the island, they also rent bikes for the day.  This is who we usually use when we visit Put-in-Bay and Saturday was no different.

Because we had a very full day ahead of us, we huffed our way up the hill to be first in line for a cart. A little short of breath but keys in hand, we were off to our first destination: Perry’s Cave.

Named after the Commodore who is credited with discovering the cave during the War of 1812, Perry’s Cave offers a fun journey underground for amateur spelunkers.

The highlight of the tour was the underground lake, famously used for drinking water by Perry’s men during the war as well as Put-in-Bay’s infamous Hotel Victory in the early 1900s.

One of the over 50 types of butterflies at the Perry Cave Butterfly House

In addition to Perry’s Cave, the grounds has expanded to offer a full family fun center. We got a combo ticket for the day which allowed us to pick 3 attractions from their list of 5. Even though Scott and I don’t have kids, we had a whole lot of fun acting like them.

We took a break from the cold in their Butterfly House, a large greenhouse home to hundreds of beautiful butterflies. A few of them seemed to really like Scott, landing on him as he walked.

And for our third attraction, we tried our hand at Fort aMAZE’n. The maze may not look that tough from the outside, but let’s just say I didn’t do so “amazing” in navigating my way through. At least I gave Scott a good laugh as he watched me backtrack through the maze from his perch in the observation tower:

Help! I’m lost!

While the combo pass also includes the War of 18Holes mini-golf and a rockwall, there’s a free exhibit I really recommend not missing out on the next time you visit.  Tucked away in the back corner of the property is Skip’s Antique Barn. This free museum features the impressive antique car collection of Charles “Skip” Duggan, who started the Island’s weekly antique car parade.

Highlights included the Popcorn-Peanut Wagon and Put-in-Bay’s oldest automobile, but the jewel of the collection for me was this 1924 Model T snowmobile:

This special Model T was built specifically to deliver mail in the winter in Minnesota

After our visit to Perry’s Cave, we drove across the street to Heineman’s Winery.  Although their wines are a little sweet for my taste, I like going to Heineman’s for their patio and the Crystal Cave, the world’s largest geode.

The cave is currently closed for the season (which runs May-September) but Scott satisfied his sweet tooth with a glass of his favorite Pink Catawba.

Our brief stop at Heineman’s was just a taste of what was to come, as we headed over to the Island Wine Festival at the Put-in-Bay Winery.  Showcasing over 350 different wines – a healthy mix of both local and international – the Wine Festival was a delicious way to warm up on that blustery Fall afternoon.

Cozied up in our coats and hats, Scott and I walked through the tasting tent and around the Doller Estate sipping white wines and grabbing a bite to eat from Old Forge Cafe and Creperie.

Old Forge Cafe and Creperie at Island Wine Festival

While Scott opted for their dessert crepe filled with dark chocolates, caramel and sea salt with a side of whipped cream, their savory prosciutto crepe hit the spot for me.

The prosciutto was paired with fresh pears, goat cheese and arugula – flavors that were all sharpened with a balsamic reduction.

Having found success with their crepe cart this past summer, Old Forge is setting up shop next door to the Put-in-Bay Brewing Co. in 2013. Definitely pay them a visit next summer!

Out of the 20 or so wines we tasted, our favorite – Twilight from Vermilion winery Paper Moon – had us going back for multiple tastings and eventually a bottle. The sweet and spiced blush instantly gave me red cheeks – a great wine for the brisk weather we’ve been having. We also took in a bit of grape-stomping and checked out the Doller House’s gazebo and tasting room.

The Island Wine Festival at the beautiful Doller Estate benefited the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society

With all of the time we spent at the Festival, my only regret was missing the day’s winery tours and not actually picking up a bottle of one of Put-in-Bay Winery’s wines (loved their sparking moscato Celebration!).  However, I’m looking on the bright side: this gives me yet another excuse to return next season.

Before catching the last ferry out, Scott and I made a pit-stop at the Put-in-Bay Brewing Co. to get some fortification against the cold with a beer and bowl of Guinness Onion soup. While their Pass Out Stout didn’t have the kick I was expecting from the Kentucky Bourbon it was aged in, the oatmeal stout did offer a nice smooth finish.  We also got to catch a glimpse at Perry’s Monument – it was nice to see the scaffolding off of it and I’ll be making time next trip to take the elevator ride to the top.

With the Monument reopened, you can now take an elevator trip to the top

Put-in-Bay may be slowing down for the upcoming winter, but there are still a few great Fall parties to enjoy on the Island in 2012:

  • This coming weekend – Oct. 13 and 14 – is their annual OktoberFest. Held in DeRivera Park in downtown Put-in-Bay, it’ll feature German food and beer, island wines and entertainment.
  • On Saturday, October 20, the Roundhouse Bar will mourn the passing of another season at their annual “Put-in-Bay Wake“.
  • And the last big weekend of the year takes place Saturday, October 27 when all of the downtown taverns celebrate Halloween with decorations, costumes and parties.

Whether you go for one of these events or just to take in some of the Island’s attractions, the Miller Ferry runs regularly through November 25th so bundle up and spend a day on Put-in-Bay.

Until next Spring!

Disclosure: I was invited by the Miller Ferry Service to spend a day on Put-in-Bay and share my experiences. I was provided with roundtrip tickets on the ferry and a golfcart rental. I was also invited by Perry’s Cave and the wine festival to visit during my trip. As always, though, the opinions expressed here are my own.

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 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:

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

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?


Tremont's First Annual Steelyard Chef

The tree-and-church-lined Lincoln Park in Tremont is often buzzing with festivals and markets

Before Scott and I moved to Cleveland, we flew out one weekend to take a look at the city. We kept hearing about this place called Tremont from a couple of coworkers who used to live there.

Unfortunately, this was before we owned our GPS and being a bit directionally challenged we couldn’t find it (I’ll confess that at the time I don’t think we realized it was a neighborhood in Cleveland and not a nearby town).

So after returning home wowed by the rest of Cleveland but disappointed we didn’t have a chance to visit Tremont, we put it at the top of our to-do list for when we moved here.

A trip to Prosperity Social Club was our first Tremont adventure, whose old neighborhood charm and vintage bowling machine instantly won the neighborhood a spot in my list of favorites (their selection of gin and tonics doesn’t hurt either).

Enjoying our latest visit to Prosperity in Tremont with Scott’s mom and grandmother

Of course, as we learned each time we returned to Tremont, it’s difficult to not find something to like.

Culinary experiences abound, like homemade ethnic cuisine at Sokolowski’s, fine dining from Dante, Lolita and Parallax (among many others) and pubs like Tremont Taphouse and Treehouse.

Art galleries and local businesses such as Loop, Wine and Design and Visible Voice offer unique local shopping. And architecture and cultural centers give a glimpse into Cleveland’s rich heritage.

All this is set against a gorgeous backdrop of tree-lined streets and green spaces like Lincoln Park.

For the past 30 years, Tremont West Development Corporation has worked to maintain this dynamic community. While protecting the neighborhood’s history and culture, they work with local businessowners and residents to continually improve Tremont for the future.

Chalk artist at Tremont’s Arts and Cultural Festival a few weeks ago

They also host events throughout the year to showcase the neighborhood’s gems. Every Tuesday, they help host the Tremont Farmers’ Market, and on the second Friday of each month, the Tremont Artwalk. Other events like Taste of Tremont, Arts in August and the recent Arts and Cultural Festival fill the year with more reasons to visit and stay.

Tremont West’s latest event is the first annual Steelyard Chef.  Starting at 6pm on Oct. 10, four of Tremont’s finest restaurants will come together and go head to head for a new neighborhood fundraiser.

Chefs from Dante, Fat Cats, Fahrenheit and Lolita will each prepare one entree that will be rated by guests. At the end, the chef with the highest number of votes will be awarded the title Steelyard Chef.

Tremont resident Anjelica Pozo, a nationally renowned ceramic artist, has created a one-of-a-kind art piece which will be displayed in the winning restaurant until next year’s Steelyard Chef is crowned.

Steelyard Chef @ St. Theodosius, Oct. 10

For $75, guests will be able to enjoy each chef’s dish, as well as passed appetizers prepared by the competing restaurants, an open bar featuring beverages donated by Goose Island Beer Company and Wine Trends, and dessert from A Cookie and A Cupcake. Live entertainment will be provided all evening by the Tony Koussa Jr. Band.

This all takes place on the grounds of Tremont’s historic St. Theodosius Orthodox Cathedral, where guests can marvel at one of the neighborhood’s most iconic sites – the onion-shaped domes and classic Russian architecture of the oldest Orthodox Christian church in Ohio.

Tickets are available at Proceeds from Steelyard Chef will benefit neighborhood development.

"See you in September" – Farewell, Summer 2012

Superhero Hot Dog Races at the Indians – go, Wonder Woman!

With the exception of Saturday’s epic dinner at Greenhouse and a short stop by the Horseshoe Casino, Scott and I spent the long Labor Day weekend relaxing at home.

While we tinkered with projects around the house and enjoyed a walk down to the lake, the unofficial end of summer was the perfect time to reflect back on the season. And looking back I couldn’t believe how it passed in the blink of an eye.

This photo would’ve been perfect if I was looking at the camera

From back-to-back weddings in June (congrats, Jen and Matthew and Ali and Gary!) to fireworks at the Cleveland Indians, we didn’t let the heat stop us from celebrating summer’s festivities.

Putting our Cedar Point season pass to good use

Scott and I were grateful we became season passholders again for Cedar Park, where we said goodbye to Disaster Transport and hello to the swim-up bar.

And between all this, we squeezed in quality time at some of our favorite Cleveland institutions like the Zoo, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, and Art and Natural History museums for unicorns and krakens and dragons – oh my!

A few blue crabs went missing in Fleeton, VA that day

All of this culminated in our annual trip to Virginia where we picked a lot of crab, practiced our swandives off my parents’ dock, and I turned a year older.

The best surprise party a super hero-loving gal could ask for

My only regret? Not having time to make it to the pool – but there’s always next summer for that!

As fun as Summer 2012 was, I’m happy that my favorite time of year is finally upon us. I fell in love with Fall the first time I took a bite of pumpkin pie and it’s been a love affair I’ve cultivated ever since.

Watching Jason Mraz at Blossom

After squeezing in one final outdoor concert at Blossom, I’m ready for all that this season is ready to bring.  From football to Fall feasts, Halloweekends, hosting Scott’s family for Thanksgiving, and a couple of weekend roadtrips we have planned, there’s a lot to look forward to.

What are you looking forward to this Fall?

Leave a comment below and if you need some inspiration, here are 10 links to upcoming events that already have me in a Fall mood:

Cleveland Garlic Festival – Sept. 8 and 9 (this weekend!)

Clam Bakes – Now through early October

Cedar Point Halloweekends – Sept. 14 – Oct. 28

Sparx City Hop – Sept.15

Cleveland Botanical Garden’s RIPE Fest – Sept. 22 and 23

Geneva Grape Jamboree – Sept. 29 and 30

OSU Viewing Party to Benefit PlayhouseSquare’s Bus Fund – Sept. 29

MOCA Cleveland’s Opening Night HEX Party – Oct. 6

Put-in-Bay Island Wine Festival – Oct. 6

Cleveland Beer Week – Oct. 19 through 27

Pandemonium Celebrates Cleveland Public Theatre Season

Blogkeeping Note: You have until 11:59 pm on Sept. 4 to enter the Taste of the Browns giveaway – good luck!

Celebrate the start of the 2012-2013 theatre season with Cleveland Public Theatre on Sept. 8

Cleveland theatre fans, rejoice! The summer break is over and many of our local theatres are ready to premiere their new seasons. A few quick bits of note:

  • Football and theatre enthusiasts alike will love Cleveland Playhouse‘s Lombardi.
  • The thought-provoking, but comedic Milk Milk Lemonade is currently playing through Sept. 8 at the often-off-the-wall, boundary-pushing convergence continuum.
  • Beck Center for the Arts mounts the first locally produced run of Xanadu.
  • And community auditions for Near West Theatre‘s November production of Children of Eden just wrapped (they’re still seeking volunteers for backstage crew and front-of-house work — call 216-961-9750 if interested).

If you want to keep up-to-date on what’s onstage,’s theatre page and BroadwayWorld Cleveland are my favorite sites to bookmark.

CPT’s Pandemonium features dozens of local theatre, dance, visual and performance artists

Cleveland Public Theatre, in particular, knows this time of year is one to celebrate. So before they roll out their 2012-2013 shows in October, they’re throwing their 10th annual Pandemonium bash on September 8.

At Pandemonium: House of Dreams, CPT invites you to “choose your own adventure” with an extravaganza that features dozens of local theatre, dance, visual and performance artists and fabulous food and drink.

At Pandemonium, performances will pop up (or drop in) in the most-unexpected places

Check-in starts at 7pm, where guests will receive a performance schedule for the night. From there the evening is up to you as innovative performances will be popping up in surprise spots throughout CPT’s campus:

  • Dance performances will feature Verb ballets, Inlet Dance Theatre, Wind and Sand Dance Company, Double-Edge Dance, Kevin Marr, Antaeus Dance and MorrisonDance.
  • Live music by We the People, Queue Up, Last Call Cleveland, and Bobby Williams.
  • Stand-up comedy by Ramon Rivas’ Accidental Comedy Feast.
  • Original work by CPT’s The Dark Room, Eric Schmiedl, Holly Holsinger, Greg Vovos, Opera Per Tutti, Theater Ninjas and dozens more.
  • Wandering performances by Talespinners Children’s Theatre, Ray McNeice, Robin VanLear, and Mark Zust.
  • Cabaret Acts featuring Paul Hoffman and Alison Garrigan.
  • Original performances by Raymond Bobgan.
  • And installations by Jeon Francis and mother/daughter team Faye & Joan Hargate.

Meanwhile, chefs from BonBon Bake Shop, Latitude 41 N, Luxe Kitchen and Lounge, Root Café, Touch Food Truck and XYZ Grill and Tavern will be cooking up an outdoor feast. Treats from Sweet Moses and tastings from AMP 150, Players, Light Bistro, Fat Cats, Vento La Trattoria and Tartine will also be available.

The evening culminates with music and dancing til midnight.

Pandemonium supports CPT’s mission of developing new, adventurous works and education programs that speak to contemporary issues and empower positive change in the community

Tickets can be purchased in advance for $135 ($75 of which is tax-deductible) and valet parking, unlimited food, drinks and entertainment are included – so indulge yourself as much as you’d like with no regrets (at least til the next morning ;) )!

Purchase Pandemonium tickets online or call 216.631.2727 x 212.

Still need convincing? Catch a glimpse of last year’s Pandemonium experience then go get your tickets:


Pandemonium 2011 from Ted Sikora on Vimeo.

Photo Credits and Disclosure: Photos credited to Steve Wagner. Graphic provided by Cleveland Public Theatre.  A guest and I were invited to attend Pandemonium in exchange for sharing about it on my blog.

Giveaway: Tackle Hunger at Taste of the Browns

Enter to win 2 tickets to Taste of the Browns

Thank you again to Smitten in CLE, Wearing Mascara and Cooker Girl for guest posting while I was on vacation. If you didn’t have a chance to read their posts yet, check them out below:

To celebrate being back, I’m giving away 2 tickets
to one of Fall’s tastiest events.

This September, the Cleveland Browns will team up with 25 of Cleveland’s finest chefs and the Cleveland Foodbank to tackle hunger at the 14th annual Taste of the Browns.

On Monday, Sept. 10th from 6-9pm, feast on award-winning food, wine, beer and cocktails, hang out with current and alumni Browns players, and enjoy beautiful views of downtown Cleveland from the AT&T Club Lounge at Cleveland Browns stadium.

Last year’s Taste of the Browns was not just a lot of fun (here’s my recap), it more importantly helped raise over $140,000 for the Cleveland Foodbank, Northeast’s Ohio largest hunger relief organization. For every dollar donated, the Foodbank can provide four nutritious meals to the hungry. Thanks to these donations, they’re able to reach 223,700+ people annually through their member agencies.

A selection of food from last year’s Taste of the Browns

On hand at Taste of the Browns will be an all-star lineup of Cleveland restaurants serving up signature dishes like:

  • Momocho’s wild boar tamales
  • AMP 150′s Ohio corn soup with pickled ramp and corn salsa
  • Market Garden Brewery’s chicken and jalapeno sausage on pretzel crostini
  • Pier W’s lobster taquitos with avocado and corn juice
  • Greenhouse Tavern/Sawyer’s Street Frites’ whole braised beef shin a’la bourguignon

When you’re not sampling the food, you’ll enjoy the evening’s entertainment and auctions and meet Browns legends such as event co-chairs Cleveland Browns Offensive Lineman Joe Thomas and former Defensive Lineman Al “Bubba” Baker.

Al “Bubba” Baker will also raffle off one of the evening’s most sought-after prizes – a catered tailgate party for 30 guests from his Bubba’s Q restaurant. The winner will not just get all the food and fixings for the perfect Browns party, but Baker himself will personally deliver it.

Other auction items to look forward to include tickets to see a Broadway musical in NY, DisneyWorld passes, a family membership to the Cleveland Zoo, and a Gibson SG Guitar. The prize that tops my wishlist, though, is the Tour de Bruell: dinner for two at all five Zack Bruell restaurants!

This is the auction item I want (but am likely going to be outbid for) at Taste of the Browns (image source:

Tickets are $150 (50 percent of which is tax-deductible) and all proceeds will benefit the Cleveland Foodbank.  They can be purchased at or by calling the Foodbank at (216) 738-2126.

You can also enter the Clue Into Cleveland giveaway for a pair of tickets!

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) Like Cleveland Foodbank and Clue Into Cleveland on Facebook and leave a comment letting me know you did both.

3) Post a link to this page ( on your Facebook wall and leave a comment letting me know you did.

4) Twitter users can get an extra entry each day for tweeting: “I want to tackle hunger at @CleveFoodbank’s #TasteoftheBrowns. Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway and you can too:”  (Each day you do this, you must leave a new comment.)

5) Subscribe to receive Clue Into Cleveland blog posts in your inbox or blog reader like Google Reader and leave a comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “You’ve Got Mail” section of this page.

You have until Tuesday, Sept. 4 at 11:59PM to enter. On Wednesday, Sept. 5, I will select a winner using and will announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided 2 tickets to give away to Taste of the Browns and a pair for myself in exchange for this post. As always, though, my thoughts and the choice of events I share are 100% my own.

Reflections from Thanksgiving

The name of this boat says it all about the impact my family and friends have had on me

Because this blog is a year-round love letter of the things in Cleveland I’m thankful for, I wanted to kick off the week after Thanksgiving by sharing a few of the non-Cleveland things that I’m really grateful round out my life.

I don’t have many opportunities to talk about these people so I apologize for the slightly self-indulgent interruption. However, I’ll be back later this week with more about my favorite city.

Chloe really doesn’t like having her photo taken

Scott and Chloe: Without Scott and Chloe, I don’t think I would have made it to Cleveland. I’m thankful everyday for these two imports from New Jersey.

Scott’s an amazing husband and someone I’ve been glad to call my best friend for over a decade (writing that out makes me feel really old). He never complains when I drag him out to dinner or a show, even on the days he’d rather relax at home. And when I’ve exhausted myself  from running between meetings, he’s usually there to take me home.

Our cat Chloe puts up with the both of us. She’s a troublesome feline I adopted from a friend in Philly. Despite her unruliness, though, Scott and I are happy to be “stuck” with her because she adds a bit of welcomed drama in our home.

My parents: I lucked out in the mom-and-dad department with two amazing and loving parents.  They were absolutely dedicated to my sister and I growing up, and still remain excellent role models for how to live lives full of honesty and integrity and sustain a loving marriage.

I think the gifts I am most grateful for from them are an understanding of how important it is to push yourself to do your best and that when things don’t go the way you want, to relax and move on.

With Gabbie at this year’s Halloweekends

My sister: I don’t come from a huge immediate family, only having one sibling.  However, that was and still is perfectly fine with me.  Two years younger than me, she was the missing puzzle piece in our family.

As a child, her rambunctious personality added excitement and an unending element of surprise to our household. As an adult, she is the most fiercely loyal and selfless person I know.

My in-laws: When I was younger and thought about marriage, the chronic worrier in me fretted about the in-laws I would one day gain if I ever married. Fortunately, reality was much kinder to me than my own anxieties when I married Scott and became a Hicken.

One reason I think Scott and I relate to each other so well is that he also lucked out with two amazing parents and a dynamic younger sister. All three were instantly welcoming to me when I first started dating Scott, embraced my idiosyncrisies and continually treat me much better than I probably deserve.

Scott’s mom and grandmother at Cleveland’s Serbian Orthodox Festival

I also gained another grandparent with Scott’s Grandmom.  All of my grandparents have passed away so I am extremely thankful for Grandmom P.  She is a sparkling lady – kind, spry and witty, and generous in her love, loving me as if I were her own granddaughter.

They also get along with my parents and sister – which makes Augusts in Virginia one of my favorite times of year when we all trek down there to spend time together.

Liquid Nails: When I went away to college in Philadelphia, it was the first time I was away on my own – leaving my parents, sister and high school friends behind in Virginia. 6 years later, I had found a group of friends through La Salle University’s theatre group that made moving to Cleveland extremely difficult.

As much as I love this city, the one thing I’d like to change is to have my family and friends here (and am not above trying to bribe them here with the delicious food, wonderful arts and low cost of living).  They’re the only thing that’s missing which would make this city perfect.

Part of Liquid Nails visiting the Christmas Story House

In particular, I’d like to ship my Liquid Nails to Cleveland. Angie, Ali, Jess and Amy have seen me at my absolute worst and shared my best moments with me. And much like the incredibly strong construction adhesive (clearly, we’re theatre tech nerds), they unwaveringly stick around and tend to keep the universe together when stuff starts falling apart.


I spent a lot of time thinking about these family and friends over the last week while I’ve been in Philadelphia. They were on my mind not just because it was Thanksgiving, but also because the father of one of Liquid Nails passed away.

Anthony Colletta was an incredibly active member of the community, a dedicated husband, and an amazing father to Angie and her sister Jen.  As was spoken of him during the funeral, he was a constant cheerleader – a rare and inspiring quality.

Thoughts go out to his loved ones and donations can be made in his name to an organization he was very involved with, the Northeast Catholic Alumni Memorial Scholarship Fund (P.O. Box 7005, Philadelphia, PA 19149).

I hope all of your Thanksgivings were special and that you have much to be grateful for.

Cleveland's Fabulous Food at the Fabulous Food Show

WearingMascara and I at the Fabulous Food Show

This weekend the Fabulous Food Show traveled to Cleveland. In addition to some food sampling, excellent people-watching opportunities and culinary stars like Bobby Flay and Restaurant Impossible’s Robert Irvine gracing the stage, Cleveland’s talent was also showcased.

Having attended the Food Show a couple years ago and because I’m on an alcohol-diet in November (so no beer or wine samplings), we set about exploring the local chefs that were there.

Saturday, we started out with Michael Ruhlman’s presentation.  I’ve been on a Ruhlman kick lately. Although I’ve followed his writing for a while at, he’s recently been in the news promoting his newest book (check out his post on his appearance at the Martha Stewart Show).

Michael Ruhlman

Ruhlman’s Twenty covers the twenty ideas anyone needs to know to cook pretty much anything. And with his wife Donna’s beautiful photography to illustrate the 100 recipes (sometimes even step by step), it makes it easy to put the concepts into practice.  

His session at the Culinary Celebration stage demoed a few of the processes in his book, including: how to make bacon at home, how to cure salmon and how to make a simple grouper cerviche.

Based on tv appearances, I wasn’t surprised by how well-spoken, at ease, and low-key he was. Although I’ve heard about the importance of cooking at home, this is one of the few times where I sat there and thought “I could do this.” The thing that stuck with me the most is how the key ingredient to any recipe is commonsense – “thinking” is the first concept in Twenty.

If this had been our only highlight of the weekend, the Food Show would have been a success for us.  However, we had more to look forward to.

Brian Doyle from SOW Food

After Ruhlman’s presentation, Scott and I decided to avoid the crowds surrounding the Main Kitchen Theatre. We met up with some friends like WhyCLE and Wearing Mascara and explored the Taste of the Neighborhood and Sweet Street stages.

Presented by the Plain Dealer, the Taste of the Neighborhood Stage featured demos from local chefs.  Each chef presented a dish suitable for holiday entertaining that wasn’t your typical turkey and stuffing.

Chef Brian Doyle from SOW Food made Swiss Chard cakes and eggs. It was a recipe his family created so during the demo we discussed family traditions and the importance of keeping these dishes alive. 

Team HodgePodge: Chris Hodgson, Catie Hodgson and Jacquelyn Romanin

Later on, we caught Chris Hodgson from Dim and Den Sum and Hodge Podge. Hodgson’s dish definitely made me excited for Thanksgiving — well, the day after.

Hodgson showed the audience how to make Thanksgiving Left-over Turkey Enchiladas with a butternut squash enchilada sauce. I need to track down a recipe for this because it looked much more appetizing than your standard turkey sandwich.

Our first day fittingly ended with dessert from Anne Thornton at the Sweet Street Stage. Thornton is a Bay Village native and hosts Dessert First on Food Network. She demoed a tasty tasty smores brownie. After the presentation, Scott saw me salivating for sweets and being the wonderful husband he is went up and got me one. My favorite part was how the small marshmallows just popped in your mouth.

Dessert from Anne Thornton

On Sunday, we changed gears. Since things were a little less chaotic than Saturday, we focused on the Main Kitchen Theatre and explored the exhibitors.

Although there were a number of exhibitors from around the country like Hak’s BBQ Sauce and Red Cedar Coffee, I was happy to check out locals like Chef Kimberly McCune.

At her Hungry Bee stand, we picked up honey and sweets. Her Rehive AIe is coming out soon and from what I heard after her Emerging Chefs event, it is not to miss.  The Farmers Market section and Growhio booths were also big draws for me.

Michael Symon and his Braised Pork Shank with Shaved Brussel Sprouts Salad

Sunday’s Main Kitchen Theatre schedule was highlighted by Cleveland son Michael Symon. For his first presentation, we joined a packed hall to watch him prepare a Braised Pork Shank.

During the presentation, he shared his love of brussel sprouts (what he considers an underdog – the Cleveland Browns of the vegetable world), talked about how the tastes in Cleveland have changed from when he had to call his ‘Beef Cheek Pierogies’ ‘Pot Roast Pierogies’ to get people to order them, and had audience members periodically check the score of the Browns game.

He also talked about the need for complicated flavors and textures – so he topped the shank with a shaved brussel sprout salad and homemade vinaigrette . I may not cook, but I’m a huge fan of avoiding bottled dressings whenever possible so I’m going to have to make this at home.

Robert Irvine and Jonathon Sawyer

After that we stuck around for Robert Irvine’s demo. He decided to mix it up for his last session of the weekend, inviting one of my favorite chefs, Jonathan Sawyer of Greenhouse Tavern and NoodleCat, to an Iron Chef “Irvine Style” competition.

While Irvine took questions, Sawyer and a chef from Irvine’s team faced off with members of the audience acting as sous chefs. While it’s always a treat to see Sawyer prepare something, Irvine (whom I’ve not watched a lot of) was also really engaging and entertaining — very high-energy and running into the crowds (even the back section) to answer questions.  He seemed to really like meeting his fans.

After this, our Fabulous Food Show experience ended as it had begun – with Michael Ruhlman.  Ruhlman – along with Crop Bistro’s Steve Schimoler and the Plain Dealer’s Joe Crea – were brought together for the Michael Symon-hosted “Cleveland Culinary Scene.”

Michael Symon demoing how to make your own sausage at home

Like a pairing of good food and beverage, each guest’s expertise and experience complemented the other. After Symon demoed how to grind your own sausage at home, Schimoler cooked up a dish while the group discussed different local food trends.

From the East and West Coasts’ growing recognition of Cleveland’s food scene to tips for aspiring chefs and restauranteurs, it was an incredible opportunity to engage with some of Cleveland’s greatest food voices.

One of my favorite topics was discussed: the importance of buying locally farmed meat and produce. It’s something I’m trying to do more of with small steps here and there, but as was discussed during the demo, we can only break our habits and make a statement about wanting local food by where we choose to spend our money.  

If you’re like me and never know where to start, here are a few lists of area farmers markets and CSAs. And when you’re in your grocery store, ask questions of the butchers or store managers. If they’re not sure where the product came from or how it was taken care of, there are plenty of other places in Cleveland who do.

Roundtable discussion: Robert Irvine, Joe Crea, Michael Symon, Michael Ruhlman and Steve Schimoler

Out of all of the events, I wish this one had been better attended. While a smaller crowd in the Main Kitchen Theatre meant for a more intimate, personal experience for audience members, I think there were a lot of people at the Food Show who could have benefited from hearing this.

I know I did, because as much as I enjoy eating food, I’ve always disliked cooking.  I get nervous in the kitchen – wanting it to turn out perfectly. And from listening to Ruhlman talk about the simplicity of cooking and Symon and the other local chefs talk about the need to preserve family food traditions, they won me over to the other side.

In fact, after the show on Saturday, we picked up a few ingredients from the grocery store and tried to cure some salmon.  Creating the salt and sugar mix and zesting a grapefruit and lime took no time at all.  And after allowing the salmon to cure for 24 hours, we ended up with this:

Cured Salmon with grapefruit and lime zest

Scott called it candy salmon because of the slight citrus flavoring to it.  I topped a few bagel chips with the salmon, cream cheese and chives – it was an ideal snack and we were amazed at how easy it was to throw together.

Prior to this weekend, you’d only see me in a kitchen if I was dragged there by my husband.  Now, after the Cleveland talent at the Fabulous Food Show, this formerly self-professed “non-cook” is already eyeing up a mac and cheese with sourbise dish for Thanksgiving.

If you missed the Fabulous Food Show, you don’t have to wait until next year to check it out. This April 28 and 29, the I-X Center will open up its doors to the Spring Fabulous Food Show.

Featuring Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse and Steven Raichlen demonstrating their summer grilling techniques, the spring show will focus on Outdoor Entertaining for the summer months. Our plan is to construct a stone firepit this year, so I’m hoping to pick up a few recipes we can try out on it.

Fabulous Food Show 411:

Disclosure: I was offered two media passes in exchange for the giveaway I hosted a couple of weeks ago. As always, the events I choose to cover and my opinions of them are 100% my own.



Buyer's Remorse Party at Cleveland Museum of Art

Granger, IN (detail), 2003. Brian Ulrich -- part of the Copia-Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores exhibit at Cleveland Museum of Art

How many times have you gone shopping, then gotten home, put your purchase in a closet and used it once or never again? Personally, I’m ashamed I’ve done this more times than I’d like to admit.

For the last decade, contemporary photographer Brian Ulrich has documented this habit of American consumers. He traveled throughout the United States and took photos of shoppers overwhelmed by the wall-to-wall goods found in malls and big-box stores.

To complement this, Ulrich then photographed thrift stores as they tried to catalogue the vast amounts of donated, discarded and unwanted consumer products. And from 2008 to 2011, his Dark Stores photographs highlighted the abandoned buildings and empty parking lots of the 2008 financial crisis — some of them in Cleveland.

This three-part collection, which was recently featured on, is currently on exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Copia: Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores is in the East Wing’s Photography Galleries.

On November 18 – one week before Black Friday, the Museum is hosting Buyer’s Remorse, a young professionals’ reception to celebrate the exhibit.

Have something in your closet that you bought on a whim and never wore again or a vintage outfit you’ve been wanting the perfect opportunity to premiere? Wear it to the party, where you’ll have the opportunity to meet the artist Brian Ulrich and enjoy high-energy rock and roll from DJ Reena Samaan and the cash bar. 

I’m actually considering a two-fer: a vintage dress I bought last year I still haven’t worn (I know — horrible).  I’m looking forward to the event because it’s an excellent reminder to be a more thoughtful consumer when the holiday shopping season starts the following week.

Buyer’s Remorse starts at 7pm and goes until 10. Tickets are $8; $6 for students and museum members.  They can be purchased here or by calling 216.421.7350.

Copia: Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores can be seen at the Cleveland Museum of Art until January 16, 2012 and the entire Copia series can be found in the book Is This Place Great or What.

Cleveland Museum of Art / Brian Ulrich 411:

Disclosure: I was offered a pass to this event. However, the choice of which events I blog about and my opinions on them are 100% my own.

Fu Baoshi Retrospective Premieres at the Cleveland Museum of Art

Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904-1965) is at the Cleveland Museum of Art until January 8th.

A couple of weeks ago I got to check out the Cleveland Museum of Art’s new special exhibit when they hosted a Young Professionals Night to kick off the exhibit’s opening.

Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904-1965) is the first retrospective of Fu Baoshi’s work in the Western Hemisphere.  It’s at the Museum until January 8th.

To bring the exhibit to Cleveland, the Cleveland Museum of Art partnered with the Nanjing Museum, one of the oldest and most comprehensive museums in China, and the Musashino Art University in Tokyo. After the artist’s death in 1965, the Nanjing Museum worked with his family to store and preserve his works — saving them from destruction during China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

At the Bamboo Grove Young Professionals Night, we were guided through the exhibit by curator Anita Chung.  As we started, she shared how the exhibit traces Fu Baoshi life — demonstrating how his personal self-discovery and struggles over time were reflected in his evolution as an artist.  

While each room in the exhibit chronologically covers a different stage in Fu Baoshi’s development, they also trace the revolutions in art and politics that were happening in Republican and Communist China at the time.

During the Bamboo Grove Happy Hour, guests enjoyed food and drinks while trying their hand at the painting technique Fu Baoshi used in his work

In the first few rooms, we enjoyed seeing Fu Baoshi’s earlier works, which exhibited his traditional landscape and figure paintings. My familiarity with Asian art is lacking, so to see the complexity of emotions that can be expressed in ink brushwork was revealing.  

As we continued to explore the exhibit, we learned how being an art history scholar in addition to an artist influenced a lot of Fu Baoshi’s style — even later in life when others were turning away from traditional styles. 

After the Communist victories in 1949, Fu Baoshi shifted his focus to producing ink and brush work that would speak to China’s people. And then later in the 1950s and 1960s, his landscapes of China’s beautiful natural wonders were used to express the patriotic values of the revolution – even incorporating Chairman Mao Zedong’s poetry. However, although his subject matter changed to fit modern China’s times, he continued to express himself with the beautiful, traditional ink painting he used earlier in life.

As much as I enjoyed his paintings, some of my favorite items in the exhibit were the seals Fu Baoshi created.  When he was younger, Fu had been a sealmaker. And throughout his life, he would continue to carve seals to imprint writing on his artwork. 

Sometimes the seal just had his signature; other times, though, they had poetry or phrases that expressed his mood. 

One of Scott’s and my favorites was the seal he used to imprint any works he made while drinking which expressed “often while being drunk.”  He said of himself that he could only touch the paper with the brush in the right hand if there was a glass of liquor in the left — a trait that was visible in the fluidity of some of his works.

My other personal favorite was the ironic, double-sided seal that said “Obsessed with seals.” 

One of my favorites from the exhibit: Fu Baoshi's Crossing the Dadu River, 1951

Another element that made it one of the more different exhibits I’ve experienced at the Cleveland Museum of Art was the beautiful fabric that each scroll was mounted on.  As I mentioned earlier – I’m not terribly well-versed in Asian Art. I’ve never really attended an exhibit in person so I wasn’t accustomed to seeing how a scrolled painting is mounted. However, after the Fu Baoshi exhibit, I was intrigued by that part of the process.

Much like a frame, selecting a fabric’s pattern and color for a hanging scroll’s mounting is a careful decision — chosen to complement the painting without distracting from it.  However, unlike changing a frame on a Western-style painting, once a scroll is backed with layers of paper and surrounded by a silk fabric, it will remain like that due to the extremely labor-intensive process to change the mounting.

If you go to the Fu Baoshi exhibit, take a look at how the aesthetic of the mountings change from piece to piece. For instance, the hanging scrolls from the early part of his career are surrounded by different kinds of fabric than the ones in the rest of the exhibition.

Those early paintings were created and mounted while he was in Japan and are on loan from the Fu Boashi collection at the Musashino Art University in Tokyo.  They have a Japanese aesthetic, while most of the rest of the artworks, from the Nanjing Museum, have Chinese-style mounting.

Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904-1965) is yet another extremely well-presented exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  Tickets for the special exhibit are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and college students and $4 for children ages 6 to 17 (free for museum members).  

For only $8, there’s no excuse to miss this exhibit.  If you’re new to Eastern art like I am, Fu Baoshi’s brushwork, seal carvings and mountings are breathtaking examples of the traditional art he was so talented in. And if you are familiar with the style, it’s still worth a visit to see the first-ever Western retrospective of his work.  After it leaves Cleveland in January, you’ll have to travel to the Met in New York to enjoy it.

Cleveland Museum of Art 411: