Tag Archives: food

Giveaway: A Night of Wine, Food and Chocolate at Locavore

NMSS Ohio Buckeye Chapter's Locavore - September 27

NMSS Ohio Buckeye Chapter’s Locavore – September 27

I think it’s safe to say most (if not all) of us love eating local. There’s something about a meal prepared with fresh, local, high-quality ingredients that just tastes better.

For all of you local culinary lovers who missed last week’s Taste of the Browns giveaway, today’s giveaway features another great food event raising money for an excellent cause.

Continue reading

PlayhouseSquare Partners / Dine Around at Crop Bistro

With PlayhouseSquare's Partners program, members can decide how they want to be involved by joining one of five committees or simply enjoying the Partners events and pre-sale ticketing benefits. (logo from playhousesquare.org)

I’m often looking for ways to get involved in an event beyond the basic experience. For me,  I find that doing instead of attending has always led to a more enriching and enjoyable experience. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Cleveland Sketch Crawl. It allows me to get out there and see different angles of the city through drawing. When I found out about the PlayhouseSquare’s Partners program, I knew this would be another unique opportunity to actively support an aspect of Cleveland I love — the city’s theater scene. 

Partners is the young professionals group at PlayhouseSquare.  Although it’s a donors program, it’s about more than just making a tax-deductible donation to the theater. It allows members to also support the country’s largest performance arts center outside New York City by volunteering their time and abilities.  Unlike other donor programs where you have to ‘buy in’ at a level way beyond the average income to get involved, even the lowest donor amount for Partners ($50 per individual/$75 for a couple) allows you to volunteer on one of the committees.  

The Jump Back Ball committee, for instance, is responsible for planning and organizing the group’s largest fundraising event – an annual black tie/costume ball located inside of PlayhouseSquare. Education committee members help raise money and awareness for the Bus Subsidy Fund, which brings children to the PlayhouseSquare theaters for educational performances. One of the Education committee’s programs is the Tinsel Town Party, an annual holiday-themed party for children and their families. The other committees include Membership, Social, and Fundraising. 

Next Monday, Partners will host a Backstage Tour of PlayhouseSquare open to current members and anyone interested in joining the Partners program. The event will be followed by a complimentary happy hour at Bricco. (image from playhousesquare.org)

Of course, signing up for a Committee is optional. Those who don’t want to get involved in a Committee can still benefit from Partners with invitations to seasonal parties, pre-show receptions, master classes, pre-sale ticketing and other events.  One of these events is the Partners Dine Around program. Dine Around is a networking event (in the social – not business – sense of the word) that allows members to enjoy a Cleveland restaurant while meeting different members of Partners. 

From a list of four options, participants rank their favorite restaurants and then are assigned to one based upon availability. Each restaurant who participates sets everything up on separate checks so you don’t have to deal with splitting a check between a large group.  And because the 4 restaurants are all located in the same neighborhood, participants meet up afterwards at a bar to mingle some more. 

This month’s Dine Around was held downtown with the options of Crop, Metro, Blue Pointe and Sushi Rock (the post-dinner locale was D’Vine Wine Bar).  Scott and I happily ended up with our first choice – Crop Bistro. I’ve enjoyed their lunch before, but wanted to try them out for dinner before they moved from their W. 6th location to W. 25th Street.  Although I usually reserve Crop for a nice meal out, I really enjoy the reputation for creativity, sustainability and local food patronage they’ve built over the last couple of years. 

The interior of Crop Bistro's current location on W.6th (photo by Crop and photographer Doug Kiley; cropbistro.com/tight-crop/food-gallery)

Scott and I started off with the Lobster Latte and  Chile Deviled Eggs with Prosciutto.  I’m going to borrow the description shared by another Crop fan when they recommended the Lobster Latte — it was sheer buttery goodness. A latte-style cup was filled with large chunks of lobster in a rich buttery broth topped with a mouth-watering buttery foam. Sure, it’s probably not the best for your health, but definitely good for the tastebuds.  The deviled eggs were also very delicious.  The mix for the egg yolk tasted and looked like it had a browner mustard than I’m accustomed to eating with deviled eggs and the crispy prosciutto that accented each piece was a nice complement in taste and texture to the rest of the egg.  

For our main dishes, I had the Thai D Bowl; Scott had the Pot Roast Short Ribs.  The Thai D Bowl consisted of cinnamon pappardelle, shiitakes, carrots, bell peppers, leeks and coconut curry.  I was very happy that the cinnamon in the pappardelle didn’t overpower the rest of the dish, which is what I had been a little apprehensive about when I ordered it.  I’ll admit – I didn’t have room for it all so I had to take some home for lunch the next day.  I didn’t reheat it and it was an entirely different (and delicious) experience having it as a cold noodles plate.  Scott’s Pot Roast Short Ribs came with braised root vegetables, pearl onions, and herb jus. Scott loves meat — I’d say he’d be happy eating some sort of beef product every day of his life if he could.  So for him to say it was the most tender, fall-off-the-bone dinner he’s ever had is a large compliment.  As much as I loved the Thai D Bowl, when I tasted some of the Short Ribs, the carnivore in me was kind of sad I hadn’t ordered that as well. 

Crop’s deviled eggs – just one of the delicious items Scott and I tasted during the Partners Dine Around. (photo by Crop and photographer Doug Kiley; cropbistro.com/tight-crop/food-gallery)

I figured if I was going to go all out at dinner, I might as well experiment with one of their drinks.  I ordered the AT&B which was a crisp mix of Apple Vodka and Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc.  It was accented with a slice of spiced apple, which complemented the taste with an amazing aroma.  Another drink definitely worth trying was the Applewood Punch which a couple of the other guests in our party ordered, It consisted of Goslings Rum, Domaine de Canton, Apple Cider and Cinnamon Apple on the Rocks.  The evening was punctuated with excellent service from our waiter Nathan.  It can sometimes be hard to get attentive service in a large group, but Nathan and the rest of the Crop staff definitely delivered. 

The next Dine Around is in January, and I’ve heard rumors that we may be heading to Rocky River for that one.  Other events before then include the Partners 20th Anniversary Celebration Event (a pre-show party and tickets to the delightful Dixie’s Tupperware Party)  and a Backstage Tour of PlayhouseSquare featuring Joe Garry, host of Broadway Buzz, PlayhouseSquare historian and director of Jacque Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.  Although the 20th Anniversary Event is open only to current and past Partners, the Backstage Tour of PlayhouseSquare is open to anyone interested in learning more about Partners.

This year is the Partners’ 20th anniversary and since it’s founding in 1991, the group has raised more than $2.5 million to support the not-for-profit mission of PlayhouseSquare. I’ve only been a member since August, but I’m definitely excited to have discovered the program and hope to see it continue growing through its next milestone anniversary.

 

PlayhouseSquare Partners / Crop Dine Around 411:

About PlayhouseSquare Partners:

About Crop Bistro:

The Happy Dog and DJ Kishka's Polka Happy Hour — finally!

Located at 5801 Detroit Ave. in the revived Gordon Square Arts District, The Happy Dog is one of my top three places overall to take people new to Cleveland.

I’ve wanted to write a blog post about The Happy Dog ever since I started blogging about Cleveland in March. Located at 5801 Detroit Ave. In the revived Gordon Square Arts District, this corner bar is quintessential Cleveland and one of my top three places to take people new to the city.

With an excellent list of draft and microbrews that they’re continuing to build on, consistently friendly service, and a solid mix of live music, there’s reason enough to go. However, what sets The Happy Dog apart as a unique Cleveland experience is in the name. Last October,  Eric Willams, the chef and owner of Momocho, came into the mix with the idea of streamlining the menu to offer just hot dogs, veggie dogs, tots and fries.

The image I will always associate with The Happy Dog -- Scott eating his 'heart-attack-in-a-bun' (hot dog, egg, bacon, cheese)

The quarter pound dogs created by Blue Ribbon Meats specifically for The Happy Dog and Field Roast vegan Italian sausage dogs are the canvas on which patrons can create their inexpensive masterpieces. With over 50 toppings (newly updated in August), you can mix and match to your heart’s content.  For the traditionalist, the black truffle honey mustard, sliced gouda cheese and chorizo chili is a great spin on the classic chili dog.  There’s also Scott’s favorite heart-attack-in-a-meal: fried egg, sliced cheddar and bacon.

But don’t stop there – other options that come highly recommended from my visits include raspberry crunch mustard, warm pineapple-ginger-currant chutney, baby bok choy coca cola stir fry, garlicky escarole, and marcella’s grape jelly and chile sauce.  The best part about create-your-own hot dogs — it’s completely up to you and always unique. It also pays to be indecisive at Happy Dog — dogs cost $5 with as many toppings as you’d like; tater tots and fries are $2.50 with your pick of sauces (bacon, either of the chilis, any of the cheeses and fried egg can be added for only $1 more).

To pair with your hot dog, there’s over 75 beers, including more than 20 on tap and a variety of domestic, craft and import beers. My favorites include their Dogfish IPAs and Ale, their selection of Eastern European beers, and my number 1 choice – the Sea Dog Blue Paw Blueberry Ale from Bangor, Maine (I’m a sucker for fruit flavored ales). There’s also liquor, wine and – if you don’t want alcohol – Frostie Root Beer, Blue Cream Soda, Orange and Grape sodas.

Any place with three pinball machines and an Elvis lamp (not pictured) is a winner in my heart.

If I love The Happy Dog so much, why have I waited this long to write about it? Two reasons, I guess. First, I’m not the greatest food writer. I know what I like (beer and hot dogs with a combination of housemade toppings) and why I like it. However, I’m not that good at describing how the rasberry crunch mustard, baby bok choy coca cola stir fry and gouda combine to form a subtly sweet taste that perfectly complements the beefy hot dog. Really…what did I even mean by that?  There are plenty of bloggers and food critics out there who can describe food like a beautiful painting, but my talents fall short in this area.  Of course my inability to express myself artfully just means you’ll need to go to The Happy Dog to find out how amazing rasberry crunch mustard+baby bok choy+gouda really is.

The second reason I’ve waited is that I first wanted to attend one of The Happy Dog’s most celebrated evenings of entertainment – their semi-regular Polka Happy Hour hosted by DJ Kishka. When I first heard about The Happy Dog, Polka Happy Hour was synomonous with it. However, every Friday it was being held, I was either out of town or had tickets to something else.  Except this past Friday. I placed it on my calendar a month ahead of time so that I could specifically make it. My only disappointment of the evening — the fact that I haven’t been able to go sooner.

Scott and I walked in the door around 7pm (it starts at 6, runs til 9).  I’m glad we got there when we did because the few seats left at the bar were filled within another 15 minutes.  I’m also glad we walked in right behind another couple since DJ Kishka at his station by the door managed to fondly heckle almost everyone who entered or left while he was performing.  However, any heckling is part of the whole ‘DJ Kishka’ experience – complete with lederhosen, alpine hat, and beard.

DJ Kishka entertaining a packed bar at Polka Happy Hour

Add on the occasional accordion playing, dancing on tables, and rim shots and you have the perfect complement to the polka records he played for three hours. There was some classic polka and crowd favorites like ‘No Beer Today’ and ‘Ice Cubes and Beer’ and Happy Dog was as packed as I’ve seen it. The best part is that the audience was an awesome cross section – from 20-somethings to older generations. Tshirt-and-jeans to business suits.  It didn’t matter who you were, everyone was united under the 1-2-3/5-6-7 beat of the polka and Kishka’s rallying cry of ‘Drink Up, Idiots!’

The next Polka Happy Hour isn’t until October 1st. However, there are plenty of other events going on at The Happy Dog. Besides a healthy combination of local and national music acts, this Friday is the Ohio City Opry Happy Hour (Clinton J. Holley djs old country classics – both myself and my parents are huge fans) and next Wednesday is their beer and food pairing event. However, even without a concert or polka happy hour, The Happy Dog stands on its own as my favorite corner bar to go to – not just in Cleveland, but pretty much in any city I’ve lived.

If you haven’t been to The Happy Dog yet, grab a hot dog with toppings piled on, a basket of tots, a beer and follow DJ Kishka’s advice: Drink Up, Idiots.  And if you have already been there? Go again. It’s always worth it.

The Happy Dog 411:

SIDE NOTE: Apologies for the 2nd two photos’ quality. I forgot my camera at home and only had my camera phone on Friday.  Hopefully the next time I go to Polka Happy Hour, I can actually get some good shots.  The 1st two photos were from a previous visit when I did have my camera.

Labor Day in Cleveland – 3 Days of Festivals, Food and Fun

With Labor Day comes the unofficial end of summer. Even though the Fall Equinox is weeks away and there seems to be no end in sight to the stifling heat, Clevelanders who want to grasp that last bit of summer have a huge variety of festivals, parties, and other events to choose from this weekend.    

The Rock Hall celebrates its 15th Anniversary (from rockhall.com)

 

Kicking things off this weekend is the Rock Hall Ball. On Friday, Sept. 3, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a party from 8:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.  Live bands and DJs will perform, including soul singer Eli “Paperboy” Reed, alternative rock band Foxy Shazam and DJ Tommie Sunshine.  Two levels of tickets allow flexibility in cost. Platinum tickets ($55 member/$65 non-member) include access at 8:30 p.m., hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine until 12:30 a.m. and entertainment until 2 a.m. Vinyl Tickets ($15) include access at 10 p.m., cash bar and entertainment.    

Labor Day will also feature weekend-long festivals such as:    

  • Labor Day Oktoberfest – At the Berea Fairgrounds will be the 6th Annual Labor Day Oktoberfest. From attending previous Oktoberfests, I recommend indulging in this weekend of oompah bands, brats and beer.  In addition to the food and the beer, years past have had merchants and other organizations promoting a variety of ethnic backgrounds. New this year – the Cleveland Pops Orchestra will perform Beethoven’s celebrated Fifth Symphony.  I’ll be dusting off my alpine hat and putting on my polka-dancing shoes for this.
  • Cleveland Air Show – As the photo in my last post showed, I love attending air shows, and Cleveland’s annual celebration of flying machines at Burke Lakefront Airport is listed as one of the 101 Best Aviation Attractions. Although it runs Sept. 4 -6,  if you’re downtown this week, you can see – and hear – the jets and planes practicing.  Nearby businesses and museums will also be hosting ‘Watch Parties’ including Reddstone’s When Pigs Fly Block Party on Sunday and the weekend-long William G. Mather Air Show Deck Party at nearby Great Lakes Science Center.
  • Taste of Cleveland – The other major downtown festival this weekend is the 15th annual Taste of Cleveland which will feature national entertainment acts and regional food traditional to Northeast Ohio. In addition to the 30+ restaurants that will be at the event, there will be the American Wine School Tasting Bar and cooking demonstrations such as the “Cooking with Kids” parents/children class, the Ohio Natural Gas Ultimate Backyard Kitchen and the 7th Annual Time Warner Cable Mayors’ Dessert Cup Challenge. One of the entertainment acts Scott and I are most looking forward to: “Weird Al” Yankovic on Friday night. What can I say? We’re UHF fans.

Der Glockenspiel - an actual working clock - is one of the attractions at Oktoberfest (from clevelandoktoberfest.com)

 

If festivals aren’t your thing or you’re looking for a one-off event this weekend, there are other options including:    

  • The Cleveland Orchestra and Joffrey Ballet – On Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 p.m., the Joffrey Ballet returns to the Blossom Music Festival. The Ballet  joins Conductor Tito Muñoz and the Cleveland Orchestra in their presentation of Reflections (choreographed to music by Tchaikovsky), Tarantella (choreographed to Louis Gottschlak), and Pretty BALLET (choregraphed to Bohuslav Martinů). 
  • Cedar Point – Labor Day Weekend is the last weekend to visit the Soak City Waterpark in 2010. It’s also the end of Cedar Point’s regular season. Starting on Sept. 17, the park will open back up for Halloweekends.
  • Aut-O-Rama Drive-In – This weekend, audiences at the North Ridgeville drive-in movie theatre have their choice of a kid-friendly double feature with Toy Story 3 and Nanny McPhee Returns  or cult-classics-to-be Machete and Piranha.
  • The Happy Dog – DJ Kishka’s Polka Happy Hour is back this Friday from 6-9 p.m. (if you can’t make it to this one, he’ll also be at the Happy Dog on the 17th). After DJ Kishka, Adam Tanner and Mark Jackson of North Carolina’s Twilite Broadcasters bring their two-part harmony vocals and acoustic accompaniment to the Happy Dog from 9 p.m. til midnight.
  • Cleveland Polka Association Picnic – The Cleveland Polka Association’s B.Y.O.E. (Bring Your Own Everything) Picnic takes place on Monday, Sept. 6 at  St. Sava’s Picnic Grove (2300 West Ridgewood Drive, Parma). Gate opens at 2 p.m., musical performances run from 3-7 p.m. including Canton, OH’s Polkatones. (More information or large table reservations: 216-661-5227)

The Aut-O-Rama Drive-In presents Machete and Piranha (from autoramadrivein.com)

 

Fortunately, it’s a three-day weekend, which means plenty of opportunities to experience your share of these end-of-summer events.

Open Air in Market Square Summer Series Ends This Saturday

West Side Market and Market Square at W25th St. and Lorain Ave. (photo from westsidemarket.org)

This month’s Cleveland Sketch Crawl gathered in Ohio City for the Open Air in Market Square summer series.  As usual, it was another great opportunity to sketch the city’s limitless assortment of interesting architecture and people.  Regardless of whether you come armed with a sketchbook or just want to do some shopping and listen to music, the Open Air festival is a pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the city.

Open Air in Market Square is Cleveland’s only urban outdoor market. On Saturdays from late May to the end of August, an eclectic array of vendors and performers set up shop in Market Square Park at the corner of West 25th and Lorain Ave (across from West Side Market).

This coming Saturday (August 28, 11am – 5pm) is the last day on the Open Air 2010 Summer Schedule.

When Scott and I went a couple weeks ago, we got to listen to the Hollywood Slim Band. Their jazz and swing covers were a nice soundtrack to the afternoon as people shopped and hung out on the park’s stone benches.  The Market Square vendors who were there were selling Cleveland photography, glass art, handmade crafts, and – my personal weakness – vintage clothing and housewares.

Bike Rack and Patio in front of Great Lakes Brewery (Aug. Sketch Crawl, ADHicken)

I spent most of my time sketching, though.  By far, I don’t compare to the talent of the rest of the group, but it’s still fun to get out, observe and practice drawing. The best part about this month’s Crawl was that there was so much subject matter to choose from.  Some of the Crawl participants gravitated to the musicians, others sketched the West Side Market tower and the surrounding buildings, and a couple of people managed to put pencil to paper to capture the bustle of the produce market. I’ve posted a few of my sketches – one of the bike rack by Great Lakes Brewery and another of a stone column in Market Square.  Each column in the Square is covered in tiles with community members’ own artwork on it – so picking out my favorite tiles to recreate was an hour well-spent.

Sketch of column and tilework in Market Square (Aug. Sketch Crawl, ADHicken)

This Saturday, rockabilly band Lost State of Franklin (11am-2pm), Troupe Shabaana bellydancing (2pm-3pm), and Kristine Jackson‘s acoustic blues (3pm-5pm) will conclude the Open Air in Market Square’s summer season.

If you stop by, plan on doing some food shopping across the street at the West Side Market. Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned market is worth a post all its own, but if you’ve never been there, do yourself a favor and bring an appetite.  With over 100 local vendors, I’ve never gone wrong in shopping there or left empty-handed.

If you like orzo, stop by Urban Herbs for a selection of different mixes. Pickles and stuffed olives? Rita’s. Cannolis? Theresa’s Bakery (they’ll handfill your cannoli to-order from a large selection of flavors; I recommend oreo, raspberry or peanut butter chocolate). Whatever you’re hankering for, they probably have it.  If you doubt me, here’s a complete list of food vendors and a map so you can find your way around.

Thanks again to the Cleveland Sketch Crawl for giving me an excuse (not that I should need one) to explore the Open Air in Market Square series. For those sketchers, painters and photographers who want to join in September’s Crawl, the group will be attending the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Sparx City Hop.  It’ll be a unique experience drawing the going-ons while hopping through 8 districts via trolley.  Art galleries, studio lofts, warehouses, stores, sidewalk concerts, mini-festivals, art shows, restaurants and bars are part of the event, and the Sketch Crawl group will meet at 11 am at E.4th and Prospect Ave. and go until 1pm.   Best of all – it’s free. (Info on the monthly Sketch Crawl can be found on the Cleveland Sketch Crawl blog.)

ON A SIDE NOTE: I’ll be taking another short vacation from posting.  Instead of another stretch of radio silence, I figured I’d have a friend of Clue Into Cleveland guest-blog for me.  Elizabeth Grepp – native Clevelander and huge fan of the eastside – will post on Cleveland Heights.  If you also would like an opportunity to wax philosophic on the Cleve, shoot me an email at clueintocleveland@gmail.com.   I’ll be back sometime next week with your (un)regularly scheduled program.

Downtown tomorrow? Get Dim and Den Sum.

The Dim and Den Sum lunch truck serves up gourmet food on the go. (photo from Dim and Den Sum facebook page)

 

If you’re hungry and downtown tomorrow, keep your eyes peeled for a truck with a crazy-looking octopus on the side. Dim and Den Sum will be stopping by WCPN 90.3 IdeaStream to serve up lunch.   

Dim and Den Sum is Cleveland’s first gourmet food truck and offers a delicious walk-up meal for under $10.  Chefs Jeremy Esterly and Chris Hodgson met when they were both working at Shaker Square’s Fire, and took their act on the road earlier this year. For their unique menu items like the Curried Beef Burrito and Junkyard Dawg with Duck Confit Slaw, they use  ingredients from local farms and businesses.     

Tomorrow, the lunch truck has a full day of travels downtown. From 10am-3pm, they’ll start out serving lunch outside of the IdeaStream Studios ( E 14th and Euclid area) for Around Noon.  If you have some extra time when you stop by at lunch, join the live studio audience for the broadcast. With tomorrow’s Around Noon Open Air edition, Dee Perry hosts Latin jazz musician Justo Saborit, award-winning poet Lou Suarez, and comedian Mike Armstrong who’s performing at Hilarities this week.   

Afterwards, Dim and Den Sum travels over to City Hall at 3:45pm for a photo shoot and to serve food.  And then they wrap up the day at 5pm, when they’ll be cooking dinner at Star Plaza during a free concert.      

If you can’t make it to any of their stops tomorrow, Dim and Den Sum’s facebook page and @DimAndDenSum can help track down future outings.  The good thing about the truck is that wherever you meet up with them, it’s a consistently tasty way to break up the workday.   

Dim and Den Sum 411:
Menu
Dim and Den Sum on Facebook
@DimandDenSum

If a LeBron Plays in the Q, and No One is There to Watch It …

   

… Does it Make a Sound?  

   

A number of Cleveland restaurants are trying to answer that question when Miami plays the Cavs in Cleveland this season.

 

   

What boggled my mind the most about last Thursday’s ‘LeBron Show’ was how many people tuned in.   Nearly 10 million U.S. viewers watched what has been considered a low point for journalism and pro sports.  Although the majority of those who watched it were annoyed, we still contributed to the madness by tuning in.  In fact, Ari Emanuel (Rahm’s brother, the inspiration for Entourage’s Ari and one of the individuals behind the entire thing) has even defended the ESPN special as a win for advertiser-funded programming.   

And he’s right.  From this point of view, it was a success.  No matter what happens to LeBron’s reputation, the advertisers who spent money to get exposure time reached almost 10 million people with their message.  And when it comes down to it, this is only because we fed the media frenzy.  And I count myself among those at fault. Although I decided to read my new batch of comic books instead of watching (thanks, Astound!), I still got suckered into reading the endless coverage of it on Twitter.  

What would have happened if we hadn’t watched this spectacle?  How much of an epic fail would it have been for ESPN and the advertisers?  And how can we starve the LeBrand machine when Miami inevitably faces off with the Cavs this season?    

A growing group of Cleveland restaurants has created ‘The Official Miami Boycott Bargain‘ to answer that question.  

Since LeBron, Wade and Bosh have said they won’t be bothered by Cleveland’s boos and that people will be eager to watch them no matter where they play, ‘The Official Miami Boycott Bargain’ has proposed a plan to boost restaurant and bar sales during these games, support the Cavs’ ticket sales, and get back a little at ‘LeBron and The SuperFriends.’    

The plan is still in the works as they continue to recruit more and more local restaurants; however, ‘The Official Miami Boycott Bargain’ is encouraging fans of the Cavs and Cleveland to purchase tickets to next season’s Miami-Cleveland basketball games and then not attend.  As an incentive, ticketholders can bring their unused ticket to one of the participating restaurants during the hours of the game and receive a discount on food. Right now, they’re asking restaurants to allow for a 50% discount (not an insignificant price cut).   

The goal of all of this is to make the Q as empty as possible during the Miami game while supporting the Cavs’ ticket sales at the same time. Plus, they hope to pack all of the supporting restaurants to disprove the myth that LeBron leaving will affect the city’s economy as much as some think.   

There are a lot of great restaurants who already signed on to participate, and the group only started organizing the boycott this past Saturday:  

Since silence is the best way to starve an attention addict, I hope ‘The Official Miami Boycott Bargain’ gets as much attention as was unduly given LeBron last week. Personally, I think it’s an enterprising proposal and plan on buying my tickets as soon as I can.   

Official Miami Boycott Bargain 411:  

Miami Boycott Bargain on Facebook
Cavs Ticket Info

Cedar Point: Summer on the Roller Coast

With 17 coasters, including Mantis and Millennium Force (pictured), Cedar Point is home to the most coasters in the world.

The Cedar Point Coliseum, originally built in 1906, today houses an extensive arcade in the lower level.

Although summer officially begins in late June, the season seems to start weeks and even months before the solstice.

For some, summer starts the first time they dine on the patio of their favorite restaurant; for others, it’s when the neighborhood pool opens or they break out the grill for a barbeque.

For Scott and me, it’s the first time we go to Cedar Point.

From being surrounded by the history of summers long past, to the delicious assortment of traditional – and non-traditional – park food, and of course the rides, Cedar Point is the thing that most epitomizes summers in Cleveland for me.

The Town Hall Museum houses exhibits showcasing Cedar Point's history.

Long before it was the number-one-rated amusement park in the world, the Cedar Point Peninsula was used for fishing and hunting. In 1870, the idea of Cedar Point as an entertainment center grew when local businessman Louis Zistel opened a small beer garden, bathhouse and dance floor that he would bring guests over to with his steamboat Young Reindeer.

It wasn’t until 1892 that the first roller coaster – the Switchback Railway – was introduced. The 25-foot-tall, 10-mph coaster was the predecessor of the Maverick, Millennium Force and Top Thrill Dragster of today.

Cedar Point helps preserve this long history with the Town Hall Museum. Located near the park’s Frontier Trail, it features displays, videos, mementos and parts of retired rides from the park’s past. One of my favorite features is the display of horses from a former Cedar Point carousel.

Growing up, I visited my fair share of amusement parks – from Kings Dominion right outside of my hometown, to Six Flags, Busch Gardens and Disney. However, it wasn’t until I came to Cleveland and visited Cedar Point that I found a park which successfully delivered not just superior rides but also food and entertainment.

Probably best known for its roller coasters, the park is home to the most coasters in the world — with a total of 17 ranging from wooden to steel, inverted, wildmouse, backward-and-forward launches, stand-up, and a dual-track racing coaster.

But it’s not just quantity that Cedar Point delivers, as three of the coasters are listed among the top 10 steel coasters in the world and year-after-year the park has received Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards in a variety of categories.

Regardless of how great a coaster is, though, you still need to be able to ride it.  One of the things that sets Cedar Point apart from other parks I’ve visited is how efficient the staff is at running the coasters and keeping the wait to a minimum.  For the most part, there’s no need for a ‘fast-pass’ system since most of the rides’ lines run from 15 minutes to an hour giving you plenty of time to fit the majority of the 17 coasters into a day’s worth of riding.

The steam engines of the Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad provide a scenic trip throughout the park.

The 60 horses and chariots of the Midway Carrousel - the park's oldest operating ride - were repainted and restored for the 2010 season.

For non-coaster fans, the park also boasts a number of classic thrill rides such as the Matterhorn and Calypso (just one of the park’s variants on the Scrambler), as well as family-friendly, less aggressive selections.

When it comes to non-coasters, my personal favorites include the Cedar Downs Racing Derby – one of only two racing carousels in the U.S. dating back to 1920; as well as the Paddlewheel Excursions – a relaxing, narrated trip around the  Cedar Point Lagoon on one of the park’s paddlewheel boats.

And when we want to take a break from coaster-hopping, there’s always the Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad.  As huge fans of model trains and classic locomotives, Scott and I never tire of taking the two-mile-long trip through the park on actual coal-burning steam trains.

Scott's grandmother enjoys dessert at last Halloweekends' Boeckling Banquet in one of the park's haunted houses.

Although many parks can deliver thrilling rides, they often lack in quality food options – suffering from dry burgers and grimy food courts.

Cedar Point, on the other hand, provides a myriad of dining options including standard park fare to grab on the run, the Midway Market buffet, and the Game Day Grille which offers an air-conditioned respite with pulled pork sandwiches, lobster bisque, and perch sandwiches.

In addition to the in-park restaurants, Cedar Point excels at serving up different events such as their Picnic at the Point outdoor bbq and the best park dining I’ve ever experienced — last Halloweekends’ Boeckling Banquet, a feast of lamb chops, lobster tail, and filet mignon in the dining room of one of the haunted houses.  No matter where I’ve eaten, I’ve always found the food to be appetizing and the venues well-maintained.

Among other vintage video games and pinball machines is a doublewide Hercules pinball machine with a cue ball for the pinball.

If excellent rides and food weren’t enough, Cedar Point offers a rotation of shows, games and entertainment.

Highlights have included the Hot Summer Nights fire show (try riding the Mantis coaster while the pyrotechnics are flaming close by) and the Starlight Experience canopy of lights through Frontier Trail.

There’s also the Main Arcade in the Coliseum on the Midway which gives the opportunity to play current arcade games as well as an extensive collection of vintage pinball machines and video games.

Not to rest on their laurels, Cedar Point is continually updating their selection of rides and entertainment. 2010 saw the debut of the water coaster Shoot the Rapids.  In 2011, Cedar Point is unveiling WindSeeker, a 301-foot-tall, nothing-below-your-chair-but-air experience that soars over the park’s beach!  With continual updates each year, Cedar Point provides new experiences for even the most veteran Ride Warriors.  (updated 5/15/2011 to reflect park additions)

Between the food, games and neon lights of the Midway, Cedar Point is reminiscent of an amped up carnival after dark.

With the exception of the warm weather’s return, visiting Cedar Point is my favorite part of the Cleveland summer months. Over the last couple of years, we’ve found that the Season Pass is the most economical option if you’re going to visit more than a few times. Between the free parking, admission to any of the Cedar Fair parks, and discounted renewals, the Platinum Pass usually pays for itself if we visit more than three times.  And with the coasters, local history, and feel of an endless summer carnival, there’s more than enough reasons to visit time and again.

Cedar Point 411:

General Park Info
Admission and Season Passes
Staying Overnight
Park History 

Things to do at the Park
Rides
Food
Shows

@CedarPoint

A Weekend Trifecta of CLE Arts, Eats and Roller Derby

 
… A look back at last weekend’s Parade the Circle, BRRG and Chef Jam 2010 …
 

The Sold-Out Chef Jam 2010 on Sunday night demonstrated the thriving partnership between Cleveland's restaurant and music communities.

 

One of my goals when I started this blog was to highlight a variety of the places and events that can be found in Cleveland.  And I hope that I’ve made some progress in doing so.  I truly believe that whatever your interests, Cleveland offers a number of great opportunities to meet those needs throughout the year.   
 
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to demonstrate this notion of a versatile Cleveland by seeing if I could fill one weekend with activities that would appeal to different tastes.  Last weekend I was able to find and attend 3 Cleveland events that would interest fans of arts & culture, sports, local food and music: University Circle’s Parade the Circle, the Burning River Roller Girls’ semifinals, and Chef Jam 2010. 

    

PARADE THE CIRCLE   

Colorful balloon arches introduced each section of Parade the Circle.

 

The floats and costumes found throughout the Parade were full of intricate and creative designs.

 

My weekend started early Saturday morning when I sleepily dragged myself out of bed to head over to Cleveland’s Eastside for Parade the Circle.   

In addition to floats, costumed stilt-walkers and musicians made their way down East Boulevard.

 

I knew that I’d need to gather my strength for a long day, so I first stopped by The Inn on Coventry for breakfast.  The Inn on Coventry, which will celebrate its 29th anniversary this July, is a mom-and-mom community restaurant with three generations of home-style cooks.  It’s been named one of the best breakfasts in Cleveland, and my first time there did not disappoint as they balanced a creative and delicious breakfast menu with the laidback atmosphere and value you’d find at a family-run restaurant.  I ordered a short-stack of their Crunchberry Pancakes and was very pleased with the result — two huge pancakes with granola and blueberry mixed in. Other pancakes on the menu include lemon ricotta, pumpkin and reese’s pancakes.  Not a fan of pancakes?  Their selection of egg specialities had me looking forward to my next visit so that I can try out their Swedish Eggs.   

Hawken School Community's Op and Pop and Things that Go Round! float.

 

I walked off  my hearty breakfast on my way down to Wade Oval for Parade the Circle.  Parade the Circle – often heralded as Cleveland’s signature summer event – is held yearly in University Circle’s Wade Oval by the Cleveland Museum of Art and University Circle, Inc.  At noon, a parade of floats, puppets, stilt-walkers, dancers, and musicians weaved its way down East Boulevard and Wade Oval Drive.  The creativity and intricacy found in the floats and costumes aptly demonstrated the dedication and talent of our local arts groups, community organizations and schools. Another highlight of the parade was how a number of the displays were themed around the environment — incorporating the idea of conservation not just in what the floats presented but also how they were constructed.  For instance, Sawson Alhaddad and Friends’ Phoenix-themed float was a giant phoenix bird constructed entirely of discarded medical supplies.    

After the parade, Circle Village was open in Wade Oval until 4pm for an afternoon of interactive displays, live music, and local food.   

Circle Village featured activities sponsored by local organizations.

 

Among other things, the 32+ activities promoted:    

  • the arts – the Famicos Foundation invited children to paint one of three canvas murals with an image from their neighborhood;
  • science – the Cleveland Museum of Natural History celebrated their 90th anniversary with hands-on science crafts;
  • healthier lifestyles – the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Center had families create a Dream Catcher and provided educational information and a nursing staff to answer questions about sleep habits

Parade the Circle has always proven to be a unique event that does an excellent job in promoting community involvement and an awareness of the arts in Cleveland – and this year was no different.     

    

BURNING RIVER ROLLER GIRLS’ SEMIFINALS   

The jammer for the Hellbombers (left) speeds towards the pack as the Hard Knockers look on from the bench.

 

After spending the day out in the heat, it was nice to head over to the airconditioned Wolstein Center for the Burning River Roller Girls‘ semifinals bout.  The BRRG are Cleveland’s first all-female, skater-owned, flat-track derby league.  Saturday night’s two matches pitted the Cleveland Steamers against the Rolling Pin-Ups and the Hellbombers against the Hard Knockers to determine who would be heading to the fourth season finals in July.   

The Cleveland Steamers and Rolling Pin-Ups line up as a jam is about to start.

 

First up were the Cleveland Steamers and the Rolling Pin-Ups.  Going into the match, the Cleveland Steamers were 2-1 for the season – their only defeat at the hands of the Hellbombers in Bout 1. And with the very first jam of Saturday’s match, they seemed to be on the road to another victory.  During the first jam, the Steamers immediately scored 10 points after the Rolling Pin-Ups’ jammer got penalized and was out of the jam.  However, the Pin-Ups – who were 1-2 for the season – staged an early comeback when they racked up 13 points in two jams, bringing the score to 18-15.  By the end of the first half, the score was 28-19 with the Rolling Pin-Ups in the lead.  During the second half, the Rolling Pin-Ups sealed their victory as the unstoppable Punk’d Pixie scored another 9 points on the half’s 1st jam and brought the score to 37-19.  With each jam, the Steamers continued to fall further behind.  Although they worked very hard and ended up with 35 points by the end of the match, the Steamers were no match for the Pin-Ups on Saturday as the score ended 57-35 with the Pin-Ups headed for the Hazard Cup in July.   

Aaron Bonk of HeyBonk.com thrilled the crowd between the 2 BRRG matches.

 

The second match pitted the undefeated Hellbombers against the Hard Knockers who were 0-3 for the season.  Although the Hard Knockers were the first to score – earning 4 points in the first jam, the Hellbombers’ brutal and nimble offense helped them take a decisive lead in the second jam.  Captain Erin Gargiulo from the Hellbombers scored an incredible 14 points in one jam.  The Hellbombers demonstrated that they were dedicated to victory as their jammers swiftly pushed through the pack jam after jam bringing the score to 17-59 by halftime in favor of the Hellbombers.  In the second half, the Hard Knockers tried to rally together in hopes of a victory.  And when the Hard Knockers earned lead jammer three jams in a row, it seemed as if they were making good progress. However, by the end of the match, the Hellbombers defeated the Hard Knockers 117 to 43.  Although it will be the undefeated Hellbombers in next month’s finals, the Hard Knockers deserve praise for their fortitude on Saturday night as they continued to battle hard despite the Hellbombers’ insurmountable lead.   

With these two exciting matches, as well as the thrilling juggling antics of Aaron Bonk of Hey Bonk! fame, the Burning River Roller Girls’ semifinals were an incredible way to end my Saturday.  And considering how close the Rolling Pin-Ups and Hellbombers’ last match was in May, both teams will have their work cut out for them as they prepare for the finals on July 10th.   

    

CHEF JAM 2010   

In addition to 26 local chefs, Chef Jam featured performances by The Rare Birds (pictured), Melange, Evil Eye, Cream of the Crop and guest Todd Rundgren.

 

The staff from Melange serving their George Thoroughgood-inspired ribs, wings and dill pickle popcorn.

 

After Saturday’s marathon of activities, I took it easy on Sunday until that evening’s sold-out Chef Jam.   Chef Jam 2010 was held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to benefit Cleveland Food Rocks and the Rock Hall‘s education programs and promote the city’s talented restaurant industry.      

Featuring 26 of the best chefs in the city, a selection of local bands, and a performance by Todd Rundgren, Chef Jam 2010 satisfied the epicurean in all who attended.   

Scott tries Melange's incredibly tender Watermelon 'Bad to the Bone' Ribs.

 

The Rock Hall buzzed with the sounds of the 1000 attendees who flocked from table to table sampling dishes themed around a different musician. Understanding how theatricality often goes hand-in-hand with great rock-and-roll, a number of the chefs and restaurants’ staffs also dressed the part for their particular theme.  In addition to the Happy Dog – who put together another hot dog masterpiece with their ‘Aint’ Nothing but a Hound’ dogs, my other favorites included Melange’s selection inspired by George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers and Bistro on Lincoln Park’s Allman Brothers dessert. Melange cooked up a tender Watermelon ‘Bad to the Bone’ Ribs, Effervescent Chicken Wings, and an incredible Dill Pickle Popcorn. And Bistro on Lincoln Park featured a grilled ‘Eat a Peach’ peaches with cracked black pepper ice cream.    

The crowd packed the lobby of the Rock Hall to see Cream of the Crop and Todd Lundgren play.

 

As with any good recipe, you need more than just one ingredient to make it a success.  And the live performances coupled with the setting of the Rock Hall were the perfect complement to the featured chefs.  In addition to complimentary tours of the Rock Hall and its exhibits, guests were treated to performances by local bands and the legendary Todd Rundgren.   Melange’s Melange and Happy Dog’s Evil Eye opened up the show.  After that, The Rare Birds performed for the Greenhouse Tavern closing their set out with one of my favorites, She’s Smokin Hot.  Cream of the Crop closed the night with a guest performance by Todd Rundgren. When Steve Schimoler – owner/chef of Crop and founder of Cleveland Food Rocks – was interviewed by The Plain Dealer, he noted how Rundgren performed for free in support of the Rock Hall and Cleveland’s food scene – both of which he’s a fan.  And with the quality of the dishes and performances featured at Chef Jam, it’s no wonder.   

    

*****   

Although it ended up being a couple of whirlwind days, Parade the Circle, the BRRG and Chef Jam were the perfect examples of not just the variety but also the quality of events that can be found in Cleveland any weekend.   

    

Parade the Circle 411:
Event page
Hosted by:
University Circle, Inc. and
Cleveland Museum of Art    

    

Burning River Roller Girls 411:  
Upcoming Bouts
BRRG Teams
‘What is Roller Derby?’ Video
@BurningRiver   

    

Chef Jam 2010 411:
Event Page
Hosted by:
Cleveland Food Rocks and
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame   

Rare Birds, Polka Happy Hour and Hot Dogs This Friday

Located at 5801 Detroit Ave., Happy Dog has mastered the art of the hot dog.

 

Although I’m looking forward to going on vacation, I’m disappointed that I’ll not only miss Saturday’s Sketch Crawl, but also the DJ Kishka Polka Happy Hour AND Rare Birds shows this Friday at The Happy Dog.  

Scott eating a Hot Dog with Potato Chips, Bacon and an Egg

 

The Happy Dog is worth a future blog post all its own for its sheer awesomeness.  Located at 5801 Detroit Ave. in the Gordon Square District, it has truly mastered the art of the hot dog.  Options range from tasty quarter-pound all-beef hot dogs to homemade falafel and Field Roast vegan sausage (for those who would rather go meatless). And although I’m a carnivore at heart, I can attest from personal experience that the falafel is ridiculously good.  However, the choices don’t stop there — as there are over 50 options for toppings.  

With all of the choices, you can mix and match to your indecisive heart’s content.  For the traditionalist, the black truffle honey mustard, sliced gouda cheese and chorizo chili is a great spin on the classic chili dog.  Or you could give yourself a heart attack with Scott’s favorite: potato chips, egg, and bacon.  And of course, for the truly adventurous, there’s always fruit loops, peanut butter and marcella’s grape jelly and chile sauce.  But that’s the best thing about create-your-own hot dogs — it’s completely up to you. Add on any of the 75+ beers they serve, as well as a side of fries or tater tots with their own substantial choice of toppings, and you have the makings for one of the more unique dining experiences in Cleveland.  

In addition to the food, this Friday at Happy Dog is shaping up to be an awesome night of entertainment.  First, from 6-9pm, there’s DJ Kishka‘s Polka Happy Hour. With three hours of polka music, DJ Kishka’s Happy Hour is something I’ve been trying to get to for months without any luck – since the last few times he’s been scheduled to perform, I’ve been unable to go. Nonetheless, everything I’ve heard about him is fantastic. A post on 52 Weeks of Cleveland talks about both DJ Kishka’s show and Clinton J. Holley’s Ohio City Opry (another regular at Happy Dog whose classic country music I have been able to enjoy).  

The Rare Birds - Rusty Boyer, David Leland Horton and Neal Campbell.

 

After polka, Good Touch Bad Touch and The Rare Birds perform from 9 til midnight. The Rare Birds are a local band featuring a friend of mine, Rusty Boyer, on guitar, as well as David Leland Horton on drums and Neal Campbell on guitar. Fans of the group Doctor Teeeth will recognize Rusty and Dave who also perform in that band. With a heavy soul and garage-based sound that’s coupled with layers of harmonized vocals from all three musicians, The Rare Birds are definitely worth checking out on Friday as they perform a couple of Hank Williams and Neil Young covers in addition to their own songs.  

However, for all you Rare Birds fans who are like me and can’t make it to the show on Friday, there’s no cause for alarm since they are also going to be performing on June 13th in the Rock Hall’s Chef Jam. Chef Jam looks to be yet another powerhouse combination of great food and Cleveland music, and I can’t wait until I get back home for it.  

   

The Happy Dog 411:  

The Food
Menu
Drinks
Facebook
@HappyDogCLE  

The Music
DJ Kishka Polka Happy Hour
The Rare Birds