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

Steak Final

Steak from Urban Farmer in downtown Cleveland

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

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

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

Enjoying a summer happy hour at Urban Farmer

Enjoying a summer happy hour at Urban Farmer

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

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

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

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

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

lobster final

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

Here are my five favorite picks when I eat there:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urban Farmer's Great Lakes Barley Custard

Urban Farmer’s Great Lakes Barley Custard

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

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

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

Two of the spaces in Urban Farmer

Two of the spaces in Urban Farmer

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

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

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

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

Jump Back to the Future: PlayhouseSquare Partners’ #JBB24 Ticket Kickoff Party

PlayhouseSquare Partners' Jump Back Ball 24: Jump Back to the Future

The Back to the Future trilogy has a very soft spot in my heart.

Like most kids from the 80s, I watched the first Back to the Future a zillion times growing up. I don’t know whether it was my penchant for only listening to oldies music, but the Earth Angel scene was the one that stuck with me the most. The film also instilled in me a life-long obsession with Christopher Lloyd.

For some reason, though, I never saw the second installment and only a few scenes from the third on tv. So, when Scott and I started dating, he decided to remedy this.

For our first of many road-trips together, Scott bought a portable dvd player (this was before we could stream or rent movies on our tablet) and loaded it with the full trilogy. As we drove through the night, Scott and I watched the three films, back to back to back.

Back to the Future is also the reason I ended up joining PlayhouseSquare Partners when PlayhouseSquare showed it during their Cinema at the Square Young Professionals Night. I met Dawn and Robert, that year’s Membership Chairs, at the happy hour beforehand and that was it. I was hooked.

Five years later, I’m co-chairing the Partners board. So it’s sort of fitting that this year PlayhouseSquare Partners is jumping back to the future.

Of course that’s not the reason Jump Back to the Future is the 24th annual Jump Back Ball’s theme. In all honesty, I found out the theme the same time as everyone else. This is one reason why, though:

Screenshot from Back to the Future 2

Screenshot from Back to the Future 2

Yep, the future that Marty and Doc jump to in Back to the Future 2 is 2015.

For one night, you can pretend that time-traveling DeLoreans and hoverboards do exist. (Actually, a hoverboard of sorts is currently being Kickstarted.)

This year’s Jump Back Ball is taking place February 28, 2015 at PlayhouseSquare. While it’s still a few months away, you’ll want to get your tickets at the Ticket Kickoff Party on November 10.

Last year’s Jump Back Ball sold out in only 10 days – breaking another record for ticket sales for this event. So if you don’t want to miss this year’s Jump Back Ball, you need to get your tickets right away. Here’s the scoop on how.

Jump Back to the Future Ticket Kickoff

When? Monday, November 10 from 5:30-7:30pm

Where? Hofbräuhaus Cleveland (1550 Chester Ave.)

How much? $130 for Partners* and $165 for Non-Partners, a portion of which is tax deductible. Ticket prices increase by $15 plus handling fees the next day, so save the most at the Kickoff Party.

How many? Ticket limits will apply at the event. Non-Partners can purchase two tickets per person. Partners* can purchase two tickets at the Partners price and two at the Non-Partners price per membership.

Learn more about the Kickoff Party: facebook.com/events/1462714320674361

What’s all the fuss about? Read my recap of last year’s Jump Back Ball to find out.

*If your current membership expires before Jump Back Ball, renew on or before November 10 to be eligible for discounted tickets.

PlayhouseSquare Partners is also partnering with the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland at this year’s Kickoff Party.

Bring a new, unused personal care item to do be donated to Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland and be entered into a raffle to win an overnight stay at the Wyndham the night of Jump Back Ball, a VIP upgrade for yourself and a guest, and loge tickets to upcoming performances at PlayhouseSquare.

Here’s a suggested list of items to donate:

  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Lotion

So, join me at the Hofbräuhaus on November 10 because once Jump Back Ball sells out, there’s no time machine to take you back.

Disclosure: I am a co-chair of this year’s PlayhouseSquare Partners board. I’m also a blogger for the event, offered one complimentary ticket in exchange for blogging about and purchasing a ticket to Jump Back Ball.

Lake Erie Love: Falling in Love with Fall on Put-in-Bay

Smiles all around - it must be Fall in Put-in-Bay

Smiles all around after a wonderful Fall day on Put-in-Bay

Although everyone may think of Put-in-Bay as a summer locale, Fall is my favorite time to visit the island.

Island life is a little less hectic. The ferry trip on the lake’s choppier waters is its very own thrill ride. And the tree-lined streets are absolutely gorgeous — all of that red, yellow, orange, and green against the backdrop of Lake Erie. 

Earlier this month, two of our friends from college visited us for a weekend of Northeast Ohio winery hopping, with our first stop being the Island Wine Festival on Put-in-Bay.

Throughout the afternoon, we sampled from more than 400 wines, including ones from Heineman and other Ohio wineries. Old Forge was also on hand serving up their delicious crepes. In my opinion, nothing pairs better with sweet wine on a Fall day than a prosciutto, brie and apple drizzled with honey. 

Crepe from Old Forge and our silent auction win from Put-in-Bay's Island Wine Festival

Crepe from Old Forge and our silent auction win from Put-in-Bay’s Island Wine Festival

While Scott and I didn’t bring home any wine from the festival, we did win a Put-in-Bay history basket from the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society’s silent auction. The cloth Hotel Victory napkin, early 1900s island postcards, and signs were pretty cool, but my favorite find was the vintage tea cup featuring my birthday bud Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry.

After enjoying a couple hours at the wine festival, a break was needed so we hopped back in our golf cart and puttered around the island. 

The wonderful thing about any visit to Put-in-Bay is that if you need a break from whatever activity you came for, there are plenty of other ways to spend your time. We spent the afternoon spelunking in Perry’s Cave, braving the winds atop Perry’s Monument, and grabbing some of the Candy Bar’s chocolate-covered bacon to enjoy at home. 

Scott and I even took in another tour of the Put-in-Bay Winery. After my third tour, I can say it’s the only place I’ve taken a tour of more than twice and still enjoyed myself. (The wine you get to sample throughout the Doller House’s buildings doesn’t hurt.)

Touring the ice house at Put-in-Bay Winery with delicious wine in hand

Touring the ice house at Put-in-Bay Winery with delicious wine in hand

I love being able to show off Put-in-Bay. Over four bowls of the Boardwalk’s hearty and delicious Lobster Bisque, I was happy to hear that our guests are just as enamored as we are with this little getaway. 

You have one more chance to enjoy Put-in-Bay’s Fall festivities this year. Today through tomorrow is the annual Halloween Boo Bash at the Bay

For Ohio’s largest island Halloween Party, Put-in-Bay’s downtown bars and taverns will be decked out in halloween decorations and live entertainment throughout the two days. Come in costume and you could win a cash prize in one of the island’s costume contests (the Miller Ferry blog has some great island-themed costume ideas). Many of the island’s stores will also be offering end-of-season discounts on some of their wares.

If you need one final Put-in-Bay fix before the long winter, check it out.

You can keep up with Put-in-Bay’s other upcoming events at millerferry.com/events/put-in-bay and find out what’s currently open on the island at millerferry.com/events/put-in-bay/2014/10/open412.html.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Island Wine Festival and received 4 tickets for the Miller Ferry, 1 ticket to the festival, and a golf cart to use throughout the day. We had already been planning a trip to the island, though, and opinions here are 100% my own.

Giveaway: Halloween Fun for Everyone at Cedar Point’s #HalloWeekends

Enter to win 4 tickets to Cedar Point's Halloweekends (good through November 2)

Enter to win 4 tickets to Cedar Point’s HalloWeekends (good through November 2)

UPDATE: We have a giveaway winner! After tallying up the entries, removing two duplicates, and placing the remaining total into Random.org, congratulations to entry #54 – All Lacquered Up! You’ve won a family 4-pack of tickets to Cedar Point. Please reply to my email by Wednesday at 5pm confirming you can attend.

Halloweekends Giveaway Winner

When it comes to Halloween, it can be difficult to find one place that makes everyone happy.

Sure, there are some places that do family-friendly fun exceptionally well. And there are other places that can put a fright in the bravest of souls. But excelling at one usually happens at the expense of the other.

That’s not a problem with Cedar Point’s HalloWeekends. Just like the amusement park’s regular offerings, their HalloWeekends festivities offer something for everyone.

The monsters come out to play at Halloweekends

The monsters come out to play at HalloWeekends

Scott and I made back-to-back trips to Cedar Point this past weekend (thank god for season passes) – Saturday was spent exploring Cedar Point with Scott, his mom and grandmother, while Sunday was spent rollercoastering and haunted housing with Scott.

And over the two days, there was not a moment where we weren’t having a blast. In fact, we’ll probably find an excuse to make use of our season passes one more time before the season ends Nov 2.

Here are 5 reasons why:

Unlock More Haunts: Cedar Point’s 5 haunted houses and 6 Scare Zones have always been fantastic, usually worth the wait in line. However, a new feature for this year’s Fright Lane pass had me purchasing one on Sunday’s visit to the park.  In addition to front-of-line access to all haunted houses, Fright Lane gets you a skeleton key that unlocks a secret room in each house.

Each Skeleton Key room offered an experience that preyed on a different fear – we got plenty of scares out of it and even a few laughs. Scott’s and my favorite room was at Boeckling’s Estate, followed by Cedar Point’s newest haunted house Hexed. Fright Lane costs vary depending on the day you’re going to the park.

Dine in a haunted house at Cedar Point's Boeckling's Banquet

Dine in a haunted house at Cedar Point’s Boeckling’s Banquet

Dinner with Ghouls: Boeckling’s Banquet at Cedar Point has been a longtime favorite of Scott’s and mine. Dining inside of a haunted house on delicious lobster tail, perfectly cooked filet, and a unique Halloween-themed dessert? Who wouldn’t miss that? This year’s was the perfect way to celebrate Scott’s birthday with his mom and grandmom. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind Halloween experience, Boeckling’s Banquet is worth a look.

Midway Monster Invasion: Every Saturday and Sunday at 5pm, the Cedar Point midway is taken over by monsters …. friendly monsters! It doesn’t matter what age you are, Cedar Point’s Midway Monster Invasion will put a smile on your face and a bob in your step as you dance along to the parade music.

The Peanuts make an appearance in Cedar Point's Midway Monster Invasion

The Peanuts make an appearance in Cedar Point’s Midway Monster Invasion

Take in a Show: The Cleveland-based music group Midnight Syndicate has come to Cedar Point for their first live performance ever. Known for their gothic horror instrumentals, Midnight Syndicate has put together a performance that blends music, theatrics and film. After experiencing it for ourselves, Scott and I definitely found ourselves in the Halloween mood. Another must-see is the cirque-style Skeleton Crew on Celebration Plaza. I’m not always one for big outdoor shows, but I really enjoyed it.

Entertainment you make yourself: Often the best moments are the fun you make for yourself: From posing with all of the incredible decorations throughout the park…

Scott sees into his future, and his future doesn't like what's looking back

Scott sees into his future, and his future doesn’t like what’s looking back

…to grabbing a beer or glass of wine at the Trail Tavern and watching a scare zone unfold in front of us from the comfort of the Tavern’s front porch.

On top of all of the Halloween fun, there are the rollercoasters, bumper cars, merry-go-rounds, and other entertainment that make up every visit to Cedar Point.

There are only a few weekends left to enjoy this year’s HalloWeekends, which runs Friday-Sunday through November 2nd. But you can enter my HalloWeekends giveaway today and win a family four-pack of one-day tickets good for one of the final two weekends.

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

Please note: This giveaway runs til Oct. 20 and tickets are for this year’s HalloWeekends only, which ends Nov. 2, 2014.

1) What’s your favorite thing about HalloWeekends? If you haven’t been to HalloWeekends yet, what are you most excited to do? Leave a comment on this post with your pick.

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

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

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

Scare up some fun at @CedarPoint’s #HalloWeekends. Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway for a family four-pack of tickets: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2BN

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

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

You have until Monday, October 20 at 11:59PM to enter. On Tuesday, October 21, I will select a winner using Random.org and will announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was offered complimentary tickets to Cedar Point; however, as a Platinum Season Passholder, I did not need them. I was also offered the opportunity to host this giveaway. My opinions on Cedar Point are and always have been my own.

Giveaway: Spice Up Your Fall with Two Westside Wine Events

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

Spice up your fall with these two westside wine events

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

lamourduvin

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

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

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

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

Island Wine Festival, October 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L’Amour du Vin, October 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 Seconds to Help Greater Cleveland Food Bank Win $60K

Hunger Action Month is almost done, but you have the ability RIGHT NOW to help Greater Cleveland Food Bank win $60,000.And it will take you only 30 seconds!

Hunger Action Month is almost done, but you have the ability RIGHT NOW to help Greater Cleveland Food Bank win $60,000.And it will take you only 30 seconds!

Fall is here and in less than a week, October will be too. While that means Halloween is around the corner, it also means that September’s Hunger Action Month is coming to an end.

Have you taken action yet to fight hunger with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank?

So far in September, the Food Bank has offered fundraising and volunteer opportunities and hosted events like the YP Pantry’s Hunger Action Month Happy Hour at Town Hall.

Of course, there was also last week’s Taste of the Browns fundraiser. 25+ restaurants filled First Energy Stadium, offering such delicious dishes as Hodge’s shrimp, chorizo and grits; Corleone’s Ristorante’s calamari steak; Momocho’s outstanding chicken tacos; and Little Devil Cupcakery’s sweets.

TASTE OF THE BROWNS FOOD

Attendees were also able to hang out with Browns players like Joe Haden (and his AWESOME shoes), Chomps and Brownie the Elf.

Taste of the Browns Twitter Image

By the end of the night, Taste of the Browns raised over $180,000 for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, equivalent to 720,000 meals for Northeast Ohio’s hungry.

With 6 days left in September, there’s still plenty of time to contribute to Hunger Action Month. Check out greaterclevelandfoodbank.org/about/hunger-action-month or the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s Facebook page for more ideas.

Don’t think you have enough time to make a difference? Think again. Even if you only have 30 seconds per day, you can help the Food Bank win $60,000 to fight hunger.

Help the Greater Cleveland Food Bank win $60,000. Vote for them DAILY through October 5.

Help the Greater Cleveland Food Bank win $60,000. Click here to vote for them DAILY through October 5.

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank is currently in the running for a huge grant from Walmart. Walmart has committed to donating $3 million divided between 50 food banks across the country, and those 50 food banks will be selected by YOU.

Vote now and every day through October 5 to ensure the Greater Cleveland Food Bank is one of those 50 food banks awarded this much-needed grant. Vote at http://goo.gl/UOZaTo.

As of this blog post, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank is tied at #49 on the leaderboard so they NEED YOUR VOTE to stay in the top 50.

It’s a very impactful and easy way you can help #fighthunger this Hunger Action Month. Go do it now!

Disclosure: I was given two general admission tickets to Taste of the Browns which I shared with Poise in Parma in exchange for hosting a giveaway. The opinions here and hoice to blog about the Fight Hunger, Spark Change contest is 100% my own.

#PartnersCLE Free Tailgate Party at PlayhouseSquare

Blogkeeping: Without further ado, we have a Taste of the Browns giveaway winner!

TOB Winner

After checking all of the entries and removing two pingbacks plus several duplicate entries, the winner as selected by Random.org is Cheryl Scheckel. Congratulations! 

If you didn’t win, I have another way you can celebrate the return of football to Cleveland … and this party is free for everyone!

PlayhouseSquare Partners' Season KickOff Party: Enjoy a tailgate followed by outdoor showing of Draft Day

PlayhouseSquare Partners’ Season KickOff Party: Enjoy a tailgate followed by outdoor showing of Draft Day

Join PlayhouseSquare Partners, the theatre district’s young professionals organization, for a Season KickOff Party and Movie this Friday night.

At dusk on September 12, PlayhouseSquare will be showing Draft Day out on the U.S. Bank Plaza. The movie’s free and part of PlayhouseSquare’s Summer Movie Series presented by Elk & Elk.

Our pre-movie kickoff will take place 5:30-8:30pm in the Idea Center’s Gund studio space on Euclid Ave. The tailgate-themed party includes:

  • A Chipotle Buffet
  • Cash Bar (First drink on us!)
  • Ice Cream Bars
  • DJ Playing Music
  • and Cornhole and Other Tailgate Games

PlayhouseSquare Partners will also be there with tables and information for each of our committees and upcoming activities.

Best of all, everyone who attends the party will be the first to find out what this year’s Jump Back Ball theme is. (I’m on the board and I won’t even find out til then!)

It’s free to attend the Partners KickOff Party, and if you decide to join Partners at this event, you’ll also receive 20% off a new Partners membership (excluding Balcony’s Best $50 membership).

Just RSVP for the party by emailing sarah@playhousesquare.org. See you Friday!

Disclaimer: I’m a co-chair of PlayhouseSquare Partners’ board and involved in the hosting of the movie’s Tailgate Party.

My #LakeErieLove Story: Cedar Point, A Century-Old Love Affair

Reminder: TODAY is the last day to enter my Taste of the Browns giveaway. You have until 11:59pm tonight (Sunday, 9/7). I’ll announce the winner on Monday.

Cedar Point's Gatekeeper

Cedar Point’s Gatekeeper threads the needle

As you walk up to Cedar Point’s front gate – tickets in hand, anticipation running high – the first thing you notice is the screaming.

Screams of excitement, of course, from their roller coaster “ride warriors.”

Framing the park’s front gate is Cedar Point’s most recent coaster, the aptly named Gatekeeper. The winged coaster takes riders on a two-minute-and-twenty-second jaunt through sharp turns, rolls, and dips up and around the park’s entrance. The highlight of which is when the track – and you – thread the keyholes in the gate’s dual towers.

Gatekeeper is only one of the 17 coasters at the park. (Soon to be 16…your last chance to ride the Mantis is October 19).

With all of these thrills, Cedar Point has definitely earned the moniker of “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World” and its 16 consecutive Golden Ticket Awards for Best Amusement Park in the World.

What about if you don’t like roller coasters, though? On this summer’s #LakeErieLove blogger tour, we met Cedar Point’s Bryan Edwards who showed us how much more there is to Cedar Point.

A non-coaster rider himself, Edwards told us about the park’s focus on providing an experience that everyone can enjoy. At Cedar Point, there’s something for young families, history buffs, food fanatics, beachgoers, and everyone in between.

I’m a huge coaster fan; it’s one of the reasons Scott and I buy a Platinum Season Pass every year. However, when our group was let out into the park to do what we wanted, I decided that this was one CP visit where I wouldn’t run straight to Millennium Force.

Instead, I joined Midwest Guest on a hunt for some of the Park’s historic highlights.

Our first stop was Cedar Point’s Coliseum. As you walk down the Midway, it’s hard to miss this huge structure.

The Cedar Point Coliseum from the side

The Cedar Point Coliseum from the side

Although I’ve explored every inch of Coliseum’s downstairs arcade on previous visits, I hadn’t seen the upstairs. Dominique and I took a peek at Cedar Point’s beautiful ballroom. Opened in 1906, the Ballroom has hosted music greats such as Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and Duke Ellington, At one time, it even housed a roller skating rink.

Inside the Cedar Point ballroom

Inside the Cedar Point ballroom

It wasn’t difficult to imagine Ellington playing to a packed house as we walked around the space. The art deco accents, beautiful wooden floor, vintage chairs and tables, and massive stage are all still there.

The next time I’m playing a game of pinball, it’ll be cool to know what’s right above my head.

Cedar Point arcade and pinball machines, first floor of the coliseum

Cedar Point arcade and pinball machines, first floor of the coliseum

After this, we hit the beach. Cedar Point’s boardwalk and beach are beautiful, and worth taking a break from the coasters to explore.

It’s also how Cedar Point got its start. In 1867, an editorial in the local newspaper called on “some enterprising person” to utilize the Cedar Point Peninsula’s beach. That person ended up being Louis Zistel, who opened up a beer garden, bathhouse and dance floor, ferrying guests across Sandusky Bay on his steamboat, Young Reindeer. It wouldn’t be another 20+ years until Cedar Point’s first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway, was introduced.

This summer's Cedar Point Beach Blasts featured food, drink, games, live music, and fireworks

This summer’s Cedar Point Beach Blasts featured food, drink, games, live music, and fireworks

In 1913, the beach would play a significant part in another moment of history – the perfecting of football’s forward pass by Notre Dame and college football legend Knute Rockne. Knute and his teammate Gus Dorais both worked as lifeguards that summer at Cedar Point. During their freetime, they made use of the long stretch of beach, practicing throwing and running the ball.

A historic marker, as well as plaques telling the story, can be found down by Hotel Breakers.

Historic markers found near Hotel Breakers on the Cedar Point beach

Historic markers found near Hotel Breakers on the Cedar Point beach

That’s not all you’ll find at Hotel Breakers, either. The hotel, which originally opened in 1905, offers a glimpse into its past, with a beautiful Rotunda and original Tiffany glass.

If you were to stop by Hotel Breakers right now, though, you’ll notice that parts of it are closed. Just in time for its 110th birthday, the hotel is undergoing a full update to its hotel rooms, lobby, and more.

The renovations are to be completed by next summer. You can read about all of them here.

Inside Cedar Point's Hotel Breakers

Inside Cedar Point’s Hotel Breakers

Of course, you don’t have to just look at the history. You can experience it for yourself on a few of the park’s rides.

From Blue Streak (the park’s oldest coaster) to the Cadillac Cars, Scrambler, and the Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad, many of the park’s current rides have been bringing enjoyment to Cedar Point guests for more than half a century.

My personal favorites, though, are Cedar Point’s trifecta of carousels – the Midway Carousel, Kiddy Kingdom Carousel and Cedar Downs.

Cedar Point's Midway Carousel

Cedar Point’s Midway Carousel

Built in 1912, the Midway Carousel is one of the few Daniel Muller carousels still in existence. It’s also the park’s oldest operating ride.

The Kiddy Kingdom Carousel features 52 stunning animals (16 standing and 36 jumping) and two chariots. I love the variety in this carousel. It was built in 1925 by the William H. Dentzel firm in Philadelphia.  

Cedar Downs Racing Derby, a “must-rides” anytime I visit Cedar Point, is one of only two racing derby rides in the U.S. Originally built in 1920 for Cleveland’s Euclid Beach, Cedar Downs ran there for 47 years under the name the Great American Racing Derby. The ride is still housed in its original structure featuring 64 horses. Each row of four moves back and forth as the carousel’s turntable rotates at speeds up to 15 mph. If nothing else, the music that plays while you’re racing will put a smile on your face.

Cedar Downs Racing Derby (or, as our friend Dave called this, "The last thing you see before you die")

Cedar Downs Racing Derby (or, as our friend Dave called this, “The last thing you see before you die”)

You can get an even better look at Cedar Point’s history by stopping by the Town Hall Museum located near the Mine Ride. It features old maps and pictures and digs into a lot of the park’s past. Cleveland Scene also put together this neat slideshow of vintage Cedar Point photos.

Across the entire park, Cedar Point continues to balance its coasters with attractions for families and non-coaster-enthusiasts. For instance, they introduced two new family thrill rides this season with Pipe Scream and the Lake Erie Eagles.

I was particularly happy about the addition of Lake Erie Eagles because an identical ride at Virginia’s Kings Dominion was my favorite as a kid. I’m not going to lie…it’s still one of my favorite rides to go on.

Cedar Point's Lake Erie Eagles in action

Cedar Point’s Lake Erie Eagles in action

This post just grazes the surface of what Cedar Point offers beyond roller coasters. I didn’t even mention the farm or their new wine and beer bar in Frontiertown! Every visit between now and November 1, gets you access not just to the park’s usual attractions, but also the fun of HalloWeekends.

Regardless of whether you define “Ride Warrior” by the thrill of Maverick or a leisurely ride on the Cedar Point railroad, this Ohio amusement park offers a lot to love for every guest.

Catch up on the rest of my #LakeErieLove Story:

And keep an eye out for the final chapter in my Lake Erie Love Story: Getting back to nature.

Disclosure: I was invited on a 3-night/4 day blogger tour of the Lake Erie Shores and Islands, in exchange for writing about my experience. Opinions in this and other related posts are 100% my own.

Celebrate IPM’s 40th Anniversary with an Evening with Rick Steves and the Inaugural Cleveland General Assembly Week

Giveaway Reminder: Don’t forget to enter to win 2 tickets to Taste of the Browns. The giveaway ends Sunday, September 7. Tweet daily for extra entries!

Colombian Children in the Niños Trabajadores program, one of IPM's project partners

Colombian Children in the Niños Trabajadores program, one of IPM’s project partners

Children suffering from Cerebral Palsy in Kenya are given an opportunity to learn computer skills and tailoring.

Impoverished and visually impaired women in Palestine are able to learn Braille, Arabic, and English and earn a high school diploma.

Teenagers in Nicaragua, forced to work during the day to support their families, have the chance to complete their studies at night.

These are just three of the global projects that International Partners in Mission has supported over the last 40 years.

ipm

For four decades, IPM has reached the far corners of the world from its home in Cleveland Heights. Last year alone, the organization helped 60,000 people by providing financial support, tech assistance, and training opportunities in 20 countries.

One way they do this is through Immersion Experience travel programs. The Immersion Experience goes beyond the traditional service project by focusing on a person-to-person exchange. As IPM explains on its site:

By meeting and living with individuals from across our global community, participants provide the greatest service there is – being present to listen and learn from their hosts. Participants’ roles are to share their compassion and to share themselves. By exposing the past and current socio-political conditions from a variety of perspectives, IPM Immersion Experiences allow participants to learn from our local friends what faith means to them, how their programs develop and improve their community, and about the local culture while taking in the sights, sounds, and foods of the country.

To mark its 40th anniversary, IPM is bringing their project partners and national and international experts to Cleveland for a week’s worth of panels, luncheons and dinner events for the public to enjoy.

IPM’s inaugural General Assembly week will take place October 13-17 and feature talks by individuals such as Dorothy Nyong’o, a consultant at the Africa Cancer Foundation and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o’s mother, and Sister Anthonia Ugheighele, whose Speranza II program provides a safe haven for African women trafficked from Nigeria to Italy.

At the same time, General Assembly week will also be a time of celebration with two special events: An Evening with Rick Steves and Namaste.

An evening with Rick Steves will take place October 17

An evening with Rick Steves will take place October 17

The party starts with IPM’s 12th annual gala and fundraiser Namaste! One Night for One World on October 16. The evening will showcase a world-tour of music and dance, as well as food and drink and fair-trade handcrafts from the regions touched by IPM’s programs.

The following evening, join IPM and The City Club’s Dan Moultrop for a private reception and talk with Rick Steves, host of the popular public television series “Rick Steves’ Europe” and best-selling author of over 50 European travel books.

Steves is a perfect fit for IPM’s General Assembly, often encouraging Americans to travel independently and become “temporary locals.” He’ll present his new book and reflect on how a life of travel has broadened his own perspectives and can be a significant force for peace and understanding in the world.

Steves’ talk will start at 6:30 at The Breen Center for the Performing Arts. General admission tickets cost $30 and can be purchased here (student and VIP tickets are also available).

If you’re interested in learning more about Namaste and IPM’s other General Assemby events, visit IPM’s Facebook page or contact Raluca Besliu at rbesliu@ipmconnect.org and 216-932-4082.

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

Win 2 tickets to

Win 2 tickets to the Sept. 15 event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo from 2013 Taste of the Browns by Poise in Parma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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