Category Archives: Spring

Springtime Sights from the Great Big Home + Garden Show

Great Big Home and Garden Show

I keep repeating to myself “Spring will be here soon. You’ve seen worse winters.” as if it will warm my chilly bones and make the bumpy commute to work better. However, there are moments where my patience for this year’s winter has worn thin and I need a better reminder that I’ll soon be enjoying summer days at Cedar Point.

Attending the Great Big Home and Garden Show last weekend was the boost I needed. Everywhere we turned we saw the vibrant green of Spring.

We saw many plants and flowers…

Great Big Home and Garden Show - Flowers

Got home improvement and landscaping ideas from the experts…

Great Big Home and Garden Show - Ahmed Hassan

And even played some pinball at The Pinball Shoppe‘s booth!

Great Big Home and Garden Show - Pinball

I will have you one day, Space Station pinball machine!

Out of everything we saw, The Ohio Valley Group‘s Beer Garden was the best. They partnered with Great Lakes Brewing Company for a garden dedicated to GLBC and other Ohio beer.

There was the beer bottle chandelier, the topiary wall cut into the shape of all of the Great Lakes, and various fountains and light fixtures made from brewing and bottling materials.

The highlight, though, was the beer tap waterfall.

Great Big Home and Garden Show - The Ohio Valley Group Beer Garden

Although my all-time favorite garden is from the year they were Classic TV-themed, Ohio Valley Group’s beer garden reminded me of all my favorite parts of warm weather: Hanging out at one of Cleveland’s awesome patios. Sipping wine while overlooking Geneva’s vineyards. Enjoying a game of lawn bowling in our backyard.

Although I’m definitely ready for Spring, if it’s going to take its time getting here, I’ll be ok.

Great Big Home and Garden Show - The Ohio Valley Group Beer Garden

You still have a few more days to visit the Great Big Home and Garden Show, which runs through February 16. You can read about the show’s other features and programming in my Great Big Home and Garden Show preview.

Buy your tickets online and save. Online tickets cost only $11, plus take another $1 off by using promo code CIC when you check out online.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the show with a guest in exchange for hosting a giveaway and sharing my opinion after the show. The opinions here are 100% my own.

Exxopolis lights up PlayhouseSquare’s International Children’s Festival

Exxopolis at PlayhouseSquare's International Children's Festival

The Bowser-like entrance of Exxopolis at PlayhouseSquare’s International Children’s Festival

Last night, Scott and I stepped off the streets of Cleveland into an alien world. I can’t do it justice, but what looked a little like Bowser’s Super Mario World Castle from the outside, on the inside was like walking through a series of gigantic balloons.

If you were down in PlayhouseSquare yesterday, you may have seen them setting it up in the parking lot across the street and wondered what it is.

Crew member from Architects of Air outside Exxopolis

A crew member from Architects of Air, which designed and tours Exxopolis around the world

It’s Exxopolis, a special interactive exhibit designed by Great Britain’s Architects of Air. And it’s open today through Saturday (May 9, 10 and 11) as part of PlayhouseSquare’s International Children’s Festival.

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Tri-C JazzFest Review: Lionel Loueke Trio at MOCA Cleveland

MOCA Cleveland

Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art hosted Tri-C JazzFest’s Lionel Loueke concert

I have a not-so-secret obsession when it comes to organizing things. I feel bad sometimes for Scott who has to put up with my unquenchable urge for lists, schedules and Google Docs (though he does admit he’d be lost without them).

The funny thing is that I wasn’t always like this. My parents lovingly (and sometimes worriedly) called me Space Cadet for the first 2 decades of my life.

But then a switch flipped after college and lists were how I got myself through the day. I like things orderly and prioritized – and I sometimes fear a tiny part of me would fall apart if I had to go cold turkey without my planner.

Lionel Loueke at Tri-C JazzFest

Lionel Loueke at Tri-C JazzFest

There is one part of me, though, that prefers chaos over order – and that’s when I’m listening to music. When things aren’t fitting in their little square checkboxes and I need to quiet my brain, my favorite music to turn to is jazz.

With all its frenetic energy and sometimes maddening cacophony, I can focus just on unpacking all the sounds and find some temporary solace.

That’s why – after a particularly stressful week – I was happy to attend Tri-C JazzFest’s Lionel Loueke Trio concert at the Museum of Contemporary Art last Thursday.

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Tri-C JazzFest Giveaway: Lionel Loueke Trio at MOCA

Tri-C JazzFest

Cleveland’s Tri-C JazzFest, April 19-27, 2013

In January, I blogged about coming up with my Cleveland “bucket list” for the year – new-to-me places or events I’ve wanted to, but haven’t yet explored.

I’m glad to be able to cross one off my list in a couple weeks: the Tri-C Jazz Festival.

What started in 1980 as a weekend event, has transformed into 10 days of jazzing up Cleveland.

Staying true to its roots, Tri-C JazzFest brings world-class, awarding-winning Jazz musicians to Cleveland while fostering the history and nurturing the future of Jazz.

What this means for you and me is a line-up of funky, fantastic, and unforgettable concerts throughout downtown and the Cleveland neighborhoods.

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Cleveland Date-rday: CLE Botanical Garden and Shakespeare

Congrats to entry 6 – Jess(ly) in Cleveland – for winning tickets to Band Aid Bash! Tickets are available for MedWish’s fundraiser at medwish.org/bab2013Come back Friday to win tickets to Tri-C Jazz Fest!

Band Aid Bash

It’s no secret, Scott and I spend a lot of time together. A LOT.

We carpool and work together. We share most of our hobbies like model train and comics collecting. And in what I think may test both our patience, we’re starting to write a comic book together.

Not to say everything’s the same (he has his vintage video game collection and he puts up with my hockey obsession). But for all the fun we have together, Scott married a worrier. And sometimes I worry we’re going to fall into a rut.

Although I know it’s unwarranted. we decided to mix things up last weekend by declaring Saturday ‘Cleveland Date-rday’ with a cross-town date of our favorite things in our favorite city.

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Spring into Upcoming Events in Cleveland

Springtime in Cleveland

Even our gnome is ready for Spring!

As we March into Spring, eager to trade in those winter coats for short sleeves, Cleveland is full of upcoming events to help shake the winter blahs.

Here are a few I’m looking forward to. Be sure to leave a comment with your picks!

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Cleveland Public Theatre's Transformative Akarui

From Cleveland Public Theatre’s Akarui, left to right: Beth Wood, Dionne D. Atchison, Rose Sengenberger, Amy Schwabauer, Faye Hargate, Carly Garinger, Roxana Bell – laying down is James Alexander Rankin

When I compare it to other theatres, what sets Cleveland Public Theatre apart is that I never know what to expect when I walk in their doors.  When I see a show there, I get the same on-edge excitement as when I stick my hand into a mystery box at a fair, not knowing what I’m going to pull out.

From a transatlantic love story that bears witness to the tragic consequences of extremist ideologies to experimental dinner theatre that’s not really dinner theatre – their shows often take the audience on a wild ride challenging our views on certain topics and sometimes even the fabric of reality itself.

I love this element of surprise, and CPT delivered on it again when my friend Kate and I saw their latest production – Akarui – last week.

With Reddstone’s renovations complete, theatregoers have another option for pre-show drinks and dinner

Before we headed to CPT, we stopped at nearby Reddstone to try their revised menu and see the newly renovated space. I really enjoyed the bulliet black cherry sour and o*y*o mule served in mason jars, while their goat cheese and chorizo-stuffed mushrooms were the highlight of our meal.

With our whistles wetted, we headed over to Detroit Ave. for opening night of Akarui’s world premiere. Written by up-and-coming playwright Jen Silverman, Akarui is a contemporary tale of transformation that transports its characters across time and place to a rave where DJ Akarui spins beats for the lost, the desperate and the dangerous.

Among those that answer the call are a pre-op transboi, a beautiful musician, a victim of violence and a fearsome scientist caught up in her experiments. Everything comes at a price, though, in this world led by the hypnotizing sounds of DJ Akarui.

Akarui’s chorus looks on from the scaffolding at James Alexander Rankin and Davis Aguila

When we walked into the theatre, we were struck by the set’s industrial, urban feel. Designed by Great Lakes Theatre’s Marketing and PR Director Todd Krispinsky, it featured three sets of scaffolding platforms and graffiti artwork by Christopher “Pokes” Cook.

Over the next couple of hours, this well-utilized space would be the backdrop for a town in America, Brazil, Dr. Baba Yaga’s hut in the middle of a swamp, and finally DJ Akarui’s rave-cave at the end of the world.

As everyone settled into their seats, thumping music started to swell and a veiled, androgynous chorus entered the stage. With echoes of a Greek Chorus, DJ Akarui’s rave children weaved the seemingly disconnected storylines of the play together until they all collided with one another in the second act.

The chorus and DJ Akarui (back: Faye Hargate, Dionne D. Atchinson, Roxana Bell, Chris Seibert, Amy Schwabauer, Carly Garinger, Rose Sengenberger; front: Adam Seeholzer, Jeremy Paul)

Akarui had a very entrancing cadence to it thanks to the rhythmic nature of the script and a percussive songscape influenced by the Afro-Brazilian Candomble Tradition.

In Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan’s Director Notes, he wrote about traditional music’s ability to ease humanity through moments of transition – to transport and guide us.   The music was central to Akarui because it is a play about people, who (like all of us) are half done.

While some of the transformations in Akarui were physical (like DC’s and the Mantaray’s), others were emotional such as the killer who sought redemption and his victim who sought revenge and then forgiveness.

These characters were all guided in their change by either DJ Akarui or Baba Yaga who were excellent foils as to how to achieve a successful transformation.  Whereas Baba Yaga sought a scientific, “easy” and immediate approach to change, DJ Akarui embraced an organic process in which the person seeking something new needed to fully want and accept it and be willing to give up their former self.

I’ve always been intrigued by Roman and Greek myths about transformation (that’s what 7 years of studying Latin will do to you!) and Akarui was a very interesting, contemporary take on it.  The notion that you have to be truly open to your change before you can undergo it successfully really hit home for me.

Richard Brandon Hall and Molly Andrews-Hinders as the musician and DC in Akarui

There were a couple of spots within the performance that I thought could possibly be smoothed out. Specifically, the very end – which admittedly had the challenge of wrapping up so many intertwined story lines – left me wanting something more.

I felt that there was such an incredible peak in energy leading up to it which didn’t carry over to the last note. Regardless though, the rest of the journey more than made up for it.

The performing arts revolve around the notion of transformation – from the writing of the script and the transformation of a bare stage with props and sets, to the emotional experience actors and audience share during a performance. Akarui is a strange, beautiful ode to this Transformation that takes place not just onstage but also in our lives.

Akarui is at Cleveland Public Theatre through June 9th with performances at 7:30pm on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. Tickets range from $10 to $25 and can be purchased at www.cptonline.org, by calling 216-631-2727, ext 501 or by visiting the box office.

Because this is the last production of CPT’s season, join them after the closing performance on June 9th for their End of Season Party. Starting at 10pm, the event is free, open to the public and features dancing, free desserts and a cash bar.

Disclosure: All production photos courtesy of Cleveland Public Theatre – credited to Steve Wagner.  A guest and I were invited to attend Akarui’s opening night in exchange for blogging about the experience. As always, though, my opinions are 100% my own.

The Cleveland Marathon 5K: Learning to run just for fun

Alicia and I before the race – we have our bib numbers and are ready to go!

Months ago I had a huge plan for this past weekend – I made a calendar and thought I had all the time in the world to train, train, train for the Cleveland Marathon’s 5K.

Then life got in the way.

While I was able to squeeze in a run on the treadmill most weeks and kept up with strength training, Jump Back Ball, weddings and the occasional muscle pull got in the way from really getting outside this Spring to run.

Because of this, I decided to approach the Cleveland Marathon’s 5K differently. Instead of completely giving up or pushing myself without proper training, I was just going to have fun.

The perfect accessory for any fun run, my Spongebob SquarePants toe socks

Doing something “just for fun” is a completely foreign concept to me, but I made a conscientious effort to put aside my competitive streak, not worry about my time and just go out there and enjoy the run.

Fortunately, the organizers behind the Cleveland Marathon made it easy to enjoy.  Their 5K course winds its way through downtown Cleveland – all the way from the Cleveland Browns stadium, up W. 6th, down Huron and Prospect, and even by my office on E. 9th.

While there are some inclines, it’s not too daunting (even for this newbie runner) and the last half of the course is primarily a fast, downhill dash.

The best part about the course, though, is the finish line – not just because it meant I was done running :) , but because you end the race by running onto the field in Cleveland Browns Stadium.

The 5K’s finish line on the Cleveland Browns field

Seriously, there’s nothing cooler than running through the players’ tunnel and feeling the turf beneath your feet as you run the last few yards across the finish line.

With this in mind, I snuck in a little bit of prep last week – getting in a yoga session at Nishkama in North Olmsted (where my yoga intention for the session was to enjoy Saturday’s 5K) and a practice run in my neighborhood (my first outdoor run since fall).  I was as ready as I was going to be.

Also in my favor this time around: I had a running buddy who was looking to enjoy the race. Because she’s been focused on her yoga teacher training, Alicia from Poise in Parma opted to join me in our game plan of doing a fun run together (you can read her recap here).

Scott doing his best impression of my coat closet (thanks for holding everything while I ran!)

With Hans DJing our run and Scott doing his best impression of my coat closet, Alicia and I laughed and sang our way through 3.26 miles, not really caring about our time (even when we got held up for 30 seconds at an intersection).

Not to say I didn’t work hard – the 80 degree heat was definitely a challenge. And although my legs held up, I got a huge side cramp about 3 minutes in.

Fortunately, Alicia was fantastic at pushing me when I thought I couldn’t run any further and kept track of our walk breaks. If her guidance during our run was any indication, she’s going to make an excellent yoga teacher.

Silly photo opp in front of my office building!

When I finally checked my chip time this week, I was happy to see I actually PRed (even if only by 8 seconds). However, I didn’t need to see my time to know I had met my goal for this year’s Cleveland Marathon 5K.

I knew it as soon as I crossed the finish line on Saturday morning (here’s the video from Brightroom):

I learned how to just run for fun.

Hans, Alicia and me after a well-run fun run

That’s my story from Marathon weekend and there are lots of other great ones out there (all from much, much better runners)!  If you’re interested in checking out other bloggers who ran the 5K, 10K, half or full, Alicia has a full rundown here.

However, I wanted to give a shoutout in particular to one of the 5K runners — Christian from Training 4 Autism – Cleveland Style.

The 2012 Cleveland Marathon 5K was presented by the Organization for Autism Research, whose Run for Autism events raise funds and awareness for autism research.  Through his work as the Cleveland chapter president of Train for Autism, Christian was a huge supporter of the races — running in the 5K and marathon and organizing one of Sunday’s water stations.

All of the runners at the 5K’s starting line – I’m much (much) farther back

He runs not just because he enjoys doing it (the guy’s clocked A LOT of races), but also as an amazing advocate and fundraiser for the cause.  Saturday was a special run because he ran it with his son Cal. It was great seeing them out there and you should check out his recap of the weekend to see how every mile was a memory.

I also recommend if you’re interested in getting involved to check out the Train 4 Autism Cleveland page for future events and showing your support for autism research by donating at The Heldawg’s T4A Fundraising site (his next big race is the Ragnar Relay in October, a 200 Mile team relay in the Appalachian mountains – yowza!).

There are no 200 mile relays anytime in my future, but I am thinking about moving up to the 10K at next year’s Cleveland Marathon (2013 registration is already open). Of course, that’s only after I get a few more 5Ks under my belt this summer.

Any suggestions for 5Ks this summer?

Making Our Escape to Geneva-on-the-Lake

On a recent visit to Geneva-on-the-Lake, we found The Lodge offered the perfect getaway amidst a region teeming with things to do.

As a kid, my favorite time of year would be when we’d travel down to the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia during the summer. Mornings would be spent waking up to the sound of the waves outside our windows, followed by days fishing, swimming, and rowing. If I wasn’t in the water, I’d be nearby – biking up and down the beach or digging into a bucket of crab legs.

When Scott and I were considering our move to Cleveland, one of the deciding factors was that it was right off the coast of Lake Erie — because with the lake, comes small lakeside towns and resorts waiting to be explored.

Scott and I packed up the car for just such a getaway when we traveled out to Geneva-on-the-Lake a couple of weekends ago.

One of the most peaceful sunsets I’ve enjoyed in a longtime – looking out on Lake Erie from our hotel balcony.

Called Ohio’s First Summer Resort, Geneva-on-the-Lake is an aptly named, quaint lakeside town in Ashtabula County. Although some establishments are open year-round, Geneva-on-the-Lake is really coming alive right now. As the summer season is about to start, with it comes fishing, boating and swimming during the day, and arcades, amusement rides, restaurants, live music and other various nightlife in the evening.

As Scott and I quickly discovered during our visit, it was the perfect mix of the Chesapeake’s laidback respite with the more high-energy shoretown of Brigantine, New Jersey where Scott spent his summers.

Although we visited Geneva-on-the-Lake at the tail-end of the winter season with many businesses yet to open for summer, we were able to find a lot to do – like a stop by the Old Firehouse Winery (which boasts a dinner theatre, ferris wheel and great views of the lake in addition to wine and food) as well as indulging in our mutual love of arcades at Adventure Zone which we left with a handful of winnings – a set of dominoes and 3 plastic dinosaurs.

Nearby Geneva offers antique shops and corner stores like Rees’, an old-fashioned soda fountain and ice cream shop in the town’s old pharmacy.

What sets Geneva-on-the-Lake apart from other shore towns, though, is that the surrounding area offers even more to do.

For those looking to take in Ohio countryside, there’s no shortage of rolling hills and beautiful scenery (including over 15 covered bridges).

In nearby Geneva we enjoyed a morning of eclectic antique shops and a visit to Rees’ Corner, an old-fashioned soda fountain and ice cream shop in the town’s old corner pharmacy. If you visit Geneva, I definitely recommend stopping by for a lime phosphate or a rootbeer float.

With so many wineries, there were a lot of difficult decisions to make when planning our trip.

And then, of course, there are the wineries. With 20 wineries in the area, many make a trip to Geneva, Geneva-on-the-Lake and the rest of the Ashtabula region just to sample the wine.

Because we wanted to pack as much of the area as possible into 2 days, Scott and I paid a visit to just 6 of the wineries – the aforementioned Old Firehouse in Geneva-on-the-Lake, heavy-hitters like Ferrante and Debonne, and more intimate settings like South River, Laurello, and Spring Hill.

I loved that every winery had something unique to offer – whether it was the wine, the food, the setting or all of the above. While it was difficult to choose, our favorites were Laurello, South River and Debonne.

Even though you’re likely there for the wine, dessert lovers should try the Lemoncello Truffle Sorbet at Laurello Winery.

At Laurello, we savored a lemoncello truffle sorbet – an absolutely delightful dessert that was the perfect complement to their wines. They also offered one of the best tasting deals with 6 wines of our choice, cheese and crackers, and a souvenir wine glass for $10.

Sipping wine on Debonne’s patio provided us a rustic last stop for our tour – where we watched an old plane practice landing and taking off at the adjacent airstrip and also sampled some of their Cellar Rats beer. Scott and I are planning our return trip for hot air balloons and remote controlled planes later in the season.

South River was so peaceful and relaxing, I don’t think Scott ever wanted to leave.

Finally, South River not just had our favorite wines of the trip (I may have brought home more than a few bottles of Riesling and Semillon), but the historic church that the tasting room is located in is a unique, quiet setting for sipping wine. It looks out on a beautiful pavilion and 70 acres of vineyard.

Because you can’t explore everything in one day, you’ll most likely need to look for a place to spend the night. And as we learned when we stayed there, The Lodge at Geneva is the perfect place to rest up.

If I could have taken home one thing from The Lodge, it’d be their beautiful stone fireplace in the lobby

Adjacent to the State Park, The Lodge offers everything this visitor needed and then some:

  • on-site dining and a bar that overlooks the sun setting on the lake
  • indoor and outdoor pools
  • access to park trails and walkways that will either lead you for a stroll along the lake or into town
  • a lobby reminiscent of a mountain lodge featuring a beautiful stone fireplace

For many rooms at The Lodge, the scenic views aren’t limited to just the Ohio artwork hanging on the walls. Many rooms look out on beautiful Lake Erie.

The rooms themselves are styled like a country inn – complementary to the Geneva wine-country. Guests can choose between rooms with views of the lobby or the lake, and large suites, family rooms, and whirlpool king rooms are available in addition to standard-sized rooms.

When we stayed at The Lodge, our room featured a balcony which looked out on the lake. Waking up in the middle of the night to hear the lake and see the lights of the buoys was a nice reminder of growing up in Virginia. Plus, having the sun wake me up instead of an alarm was a much needed break from my normal morning routine.

Although it was a little chilly, The Lodge’s beautiful walking paths were worth bundling up for.

The rooms come with standard amenities as well as free wi-fi.  Additional amenities such as mini-fridges and microwaves are available upon request.

We didn’t spend a lot of time in the room, of course! During our downtime from traveling around the region, we spent the rest of our weekend exploring what the hotel offered. From bike rentals to swimming and massage services, there are a lot of activities to help you escape without leaving the comfort of the hotel.  And if you don’t have a designated driver for the wineries, you can reserve a spot on The Lodge’s wine shuttle (be sure to call ahead for this because we learned the hard way that the shuttle fills up fast).

If forest trails are more your thing instead of the lake, The Lodge is also adjacent to Geneva’s State Park.

Depending on the season, there’s fishing, birdwatching, an outdoor playground for children, volleyball nets and horse-shoe courts; winter fun includes snowshoeing and cross country skiing.  Many of these activities are family-friendly as well — during my visit, I was impressed by how child and pet-friendly The Lodge is, while still accommodating conference groups and adults on vacation.

While we were at The Lodge, we enjoyed a dinner at Horizons restaurant, a swim in the indoor pool and walks along the shore – it was hard to choose, but I think the pool was my favorite highlight.  I haven’t been swimming since last summer and their huge indoor pool features gigantic windows that look out on the lake.

I would have gladly spent my entire day in this pool if I had had the time.

Regardless of the amenities, though, a hotel stay can often be easily ruined by subpar service. Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem with The Lodge. No matter whom we spoke with – whether it was our server at dinner, housekeeping or the team at the check-in desk – everyone was proactive in ensuring their guests’ stays were comfortable.  In particular, I was impressed by Jason who helped us when we arrived a bit early for check-in – he was very friendly and made a number of great suggestions on how to spend our time before check-in.

Although Scott and I have been big into long roadtrips this year, we recently started to discover there is a world of daytrips right outside of Cleveland just begging to be explored. And if they’re anything like our trip to Geneva-on-the-Lake, I have the feeling Scott and I will be trading in the 8-hour car rides for much closer locales this summer.

A weekend sipping wine and lounging by the lake makes for a very relaxed Amanda.

Disclosure: After being unavailable to attend a Blogger Weekend last Fall at The Lodge at Geneva, I was invited to stay at The Lodge this Spring. One night’s accommodations and one dinner and breakfast were included; however, I paid for the rest of the trip.

Guest Post: Market at the Foodbank Recap

Because Scott and I were at a wedding last weekend where this happened:

I had to miss out on this year’s Market at the Foodbank. Fortunately, Kate Galo (you may remember her from this and also this guest post) was able to attend and blog on my behalf. Enjoy her recap below along with photos from Sarah Casto!

Guests get a taste of local restaurant and beverage purveyors as well as the facility that benefits from the evening’s event – Cleveland Foodbank itself.

I think it’s fair for me to say that I am still growing into my foodie ways, still getting my knowledge of what’s really innovative ingredient-wise, and which just-opened restaurants are super hip. As a person who ate tortilla chips and some grape tomatoes for dinner, I don’t exactly have a particularly discerning palate, and I am willing to eat just about anything.

So when Amanda let me know that after running a great giveaway for the Market at the Foodbank event (congratulations again, @Dawgpndgirl!), she would be unable to attend, I very graciously said, “If you insist, I will go try inventive morsels of food from prestigious Northeast Ohio restaurants and delicious wines while supporting one of the most well-known local charitable organizations. If I must.”

Our good friend Sarah Casto and I dusted off our camera and notebook respectively, and headed over to South Waterloo Road!

Silent Auction prizes included romantic weekend getaways, Cleveland sports tickets, family-friendly birthday parties, dining packages, tours, and more!

The Market at the Foodbank is the Cleveland Foodbank’s annual Harvest for Hunger fundraiser, showcasing restaurants and catering companies from Rocky River to Solon, assisted by Celebrity Servers, and featuring exciting prizes in their Silent Auction and Raffle.

Doing my preliminary research, I was doubly excited to see that this year’s Market at the Foodbank was taking place at the actual 110,000-square-foot community food distribution center. In previous years, the benefit has been held at the Galleria on East 9th Street in downtown Cleveland.

I really enjoyed walking into the dramatically lit and decorated distribution center. I have been there in the past to assist with sorting or with dropping off food and seeing the transformation of a space that can be usually described as “warehouse” into a lit and musical party space was a treat for attendees. Several commented on being able to see firsthand the results of the hard work and fundraising of the Cleveland Foodbank.

Table 45, sharing a table with Chinato, offered a variety of fresh and tasty sushi.

Attendees of the event worked their way through the large distribution center, with chefs and catering companies set up in the open spaces and up and down the aisles, each offering one or two signature items from their restaurants and kitchens, beautifully served. With almost 50 different restaurant and beverage distributors, there were plenty of options for the dessert lovers to vegans.

Baker Leah Smith, cookie purveyor of Bake My Day, said she loved the friendliness and enthusiasm. She shared my surprise at the amount of attendees sampling the Ohio-themed cookies (Browns, OSU and Harvest for Hunger colors graced the sugar cookies) and said how much she appreciated the chance for her start-up bakery to be a part of the event.

Columbus-based start-up Bake My Day served Harvest for Hunger and Cleveland Sports Team themed sugar cookies.

Brandon Chrostowski of L’Albatros Brasserie in Cleveland, now in his third year of participating in the event, noted that there was great energy having the benefit in the warehouse, as well as the importance of letting people really see where their support goes. Attendees sampling L’Albatros’ foie gras and charcuterie certainly seemed to enjoy it!

Current food trends call for fresh herbs, vegetables and fruit, and healthier meals. The Cleveland Foodbank is undertaking several programs to achieve this goal, with Produce to People distributing over 5 million pounds of donated fruits and vegetables to Cuyahoga County communities; Mobile Pantry, where Foodbank trucks are sent to a central location and clients can pick up a three-day supply of food; and Community Gardens, with local agencies and Foodbank staff working together to plant and maintain gardens on the Foodbank property.

To promote community gardening and increased use of fresh fruits and veggies in homecooked meals, Cleveland Foodbank plans to use on-site gardens for education as well as food.

Development Officer Stephanie Mowls let me know that the Foodbank is aiming to double the amount of produce distributed by 2014, and to begin including cooking demonstrations and recipe cards, so the Foodbank‘s clients will also receive ideas for food preparation.

And how to prepare this produce and fresh food? Ben Bebenroth, chef at Spice of Life catering company and Spice Kitchen & Bar, had a great idea. While I slurped down the potato and wild ramp soup that he and executive chef of Spice of Life Brandon Walukas showcased, Ben discussed their restaurant’s commitment to high standards for where their food is sourced from, in working with local farms, and being able to use what’s in season well.

Ben Bebenroth, chef at Spice of Life catering company and Spice Kitchen & Bar, puts the finishing touches on his Potato and Wild Ramp Soup sip.

To that end, he suggested using some of the fresh herbs and vegetables that a client might get from the Foodbank to make a salted herb vinaigrette with vinegar, salt and any herbs you might have on hand in a metal saucepan, using low heat and a little time to make a dressing that can be served over salad, noodles, potatoes, or really any piece of food that’s laying around and could use a little spicy vinaigrette drizzle (a fuller version of the recipe that Ben directed to me is at Edible Cleveland).

And despite Sarah and I not winning anything from the raffle (prizes included Cleveland Indians tickets, an iPod touch, gift baskets and more) or the Silent Auction (among the many offerings were Colorado skiing vacations, tickets to Legally Blonde at the Beck Center, cooking classes at the Western Reserve School of Cooking), we, along with the Market at the Foodbank’s 1000+ attendees, enjoyed the music, the food, the chances to win, and the opportunity to contribute to our fight against hunger.

Opportunities to support the Cleveland Foodbank can be found here: www.clevelandfoodbank.org (select Donate Funds or Volunteer from the options to the left).

Kate and Sarah enjoy one photo in front of the camera.

About the Guest Contributors:

Kate Galo is a homegrown Clevelander who enjoys restaurant dinners, visits to theaters and museums, and gin cocktails. She used to blog a lot more but then she decided she wanted to spend more time reading other people’s blogs.

Sarah Casto used to live near Columbus, Ohio, but became a Clevelander last year. She enjoys photography, exploring Cleveland’s art and food scenes, and volunteering at the Cleveland Museum of Art in her free time.

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Disclosure: Amanda, here – I was invited to attend Market at the Foodbank in exchange for hosting a giveaway and previewing it.  Because I was unable to attend, Kate Galo and Sarah Casto attended on my behalf to blog about it.