Tag Archives: postaweek2011

2011 in Review, the Clue Into CLE Edition

2011 was about taking the bull by the horns - sometimes even literally!

Happy New Year’s Eve Eve! I am so excited because today is the last day before I go on vacation for a couple of weeks. Scott and I are starting things off with a friend’s birthday celebration at Light Bistro, then a lowkey New Year’s Eve at Fat Head’s Brewpub and hopefully Happy Dog’s Biscuits and Gravy Brunch to celebrate the start of 2012.

As I reflect on 2011, I am amazed at how much of it sped by in a whirlwind. From last year’s New Years Cleve until now, it was non-stop – often juggling multiple projects, events, and shenanigans at the same time.

Because I would be bored to tears writing a full year in review (so I can’t imagine how you would feel reading it), 2011 can be summed up in 4 themes of how I experienced my favorite city this year:

Eating local, never hungry

From trying a lot of new restaurants to enjoying events like NEO Food Tours, C-Town Chow Downs, Taste of the Browns and Emerging Chefs, Scott and I had a wonderful year of eating our way around Cleveland.

I discovered some new personal favorites like Greenhouse Tavern, Light Bistro and AMP 150.  And Scott – who used to be a picky eater – has really expanded his tastes.

For instance, prior to this year he never would have eaten peking quail on soba noodles with a juicy “quick” pickled egg, but he did at one of Noodlecat’s Brick and Mortar Pop-Ups and even enjoyed it.

As I noted in my last post, the best part of all this dining out has been my increased desire to cook. Cooking has always intimidated me but I’ve found that I really want to learn how to make some of these dishes I’ve been enjoying.  So I’ve been taking small steps here and there and even Scott has realized he needs to step it up in the kitchen – adding spices and more flavorful ingredients where he wouldn’t before.

Next on our plate (horrible pun intended) is The Chubby Cook’s “Cooking with Beer” class and finishing my list of 10 restaurants I keep saying I’ll visit but haven’t. I have 2 down, and 8 to go!

Getting physical

Of course after eating all of that food, I needed to balance it out with exercise. Although I still enjoy the strength training I’ve done the last couple of years, I branched out this year and found additional ways to be active and have fun.

I surprised myself by how much I loved running my first 5k – the “Run for the Pierogies“. And although I only ran two 5ks in 2011, I’m looking forward to the Spring so I can slowly keep improving my PR.  In the meantime (because I’m not quite at the point where I can run outside in this cold), I’ll be training on the indoor track at CSU.

I’m specifically eyeing up the Jog Into Spring 5K on March 31 and will be registering in the next couple of weeks for the Cleveland Marathon’s 5K.  However, I’ve bookmarked mojamala2’s blog as she continues to update her list of 2012 races.

In addition to running, I also enjoyed Scott’s and my little foray into kickball during the Spring and picked up a couple yoga classes here and there. I have a long way to go before I can say I’m truly active, and there’s not enough time in the day to squeeze much more training in; however, compared to previous years, I improved by leaps and bounds (ugh, another horrible pun!) in 2011.

Experiencing the “Social” part of “Social Media”

In 2010, I felt like I was blogging in a vacuum. I knew there were plenty of other bloggers out there to meet, but – thanks to my social anxiety – I felt awkward about meeting them or putting myself out there in my blog and on Twitter.

2011 was a different story, though.  In addition to incorporating more of my voice and personal stories into my blog, I also worked on getting past my worries of meeting new people. From joining the conversation through things like the Ohio Blogging Association and @clevelanddotcom’s Twitter Twenty, I ended up meeting some pretty fantastic peeps both on and offline.

For the first time I also experienced how social media is not just for work or reading @Nerdist’s Tweets (nerd crush!), but also for doing social good in our community and abroad.

Helping @KaseyCrabtree and @Kimikay organize this year’s Twestival Cleveland was a really rewarding experience. In addition to meeting and working with 2 great people, I got to learn about We Run This City, an awesome organization that helps local children prepare for the Cleveland Marathon. And thanks to over 100 people attending and donating money, over $2000 was raised.

I also enjoyed pairing up with iNeed a Playdate as part of the Soles4Souls Blogger Challenge.  We ended up being one of the finalists after collecting 473 pairs of shoes which are going to support individuals across the world.  I also got hang out with my friend both on and offline more, so that was definitely a plus.

From Observer to Participant

Hands down my favorite part of 2011 has been the longer-term projects that allow me to be active within the community.  Between getting involved with NEO Food Tours and taking on a larger role in PlayhouseSquare Partners, I can’t complain about not having enough to do (in fact, sometimes it’s the reverse complaint).

Co-chairing this coming February’s Jump Back Ball has been a fantastic experience not just because it’s going to be a ridiculous party, but also because I’m passionate about Partners’ mission and am really happy I can contribute to the planning of one of our bigger events in this way.  Although we have a lot of things already done, keep an eye out towards the end of January for my second annual “behind the curtain” look at Jump Back Ball.

NEO Food Tours has been the other big reason I’ve needed an infusion of caffeine this year to keep me going.   Helping to grow a locally owned small business from the beginning has been a very fulfilling learning experience. And on the days I’ve had to get up at 3 am to work on a project, I think about how much I love Cleveland’s culinary scene and the fact that I want others to love it just as much, and it makes the lack of sleep much easier to bear.  We have a lot of cool ideas that we’re working on for our 2012 season, and you can keep up to date on this progress at @NEOFoodTours and Facebook.com/NEOFoodTours. Our next event is February 20 — Battle for Battery Park, Cleveland’s first-ever comedy food fight!


Although there were plenty of speedbumps and a lot of moments where I wasn’t really at my best in 2011, why waste time dwelling on those?   Overall, 2011 qualified as a pretty decent year. I’d rather remember the many moments of awesomeness as I look ahead to 2012 – which I think is a lesson Cleveland as a whole can take to heart.

As the Cleveland Scene noted yesterday, 2011 was the year we did not suck. And with the Cleveland Aquarium opening up, the revitalization of the Flats underway, and many other neighborhoods continuing to blossom, we have a lot to be excited for in 2012.

Have a great new year, everyone! Cheers!

Dolce Gusto Holiday Giveaway Winner!

I want this Dolce Gusto Carousel -- it even kind of looks like a Coffee Christmas Tree

Try as I might, I’m having problems getting into the holiday spirit this week.

Although I’m pretty much done my shopping, have planned our annual Christmas Eve roadtrip to meet my parents and sister for dinner, and have even figured out what we’re doing for New Years (a very low key evening of food and beer at Fat Head’s Brewery), a lot of this year’s festivities just seem like more items on my to-do list.

I know that’s the complete opposite of what I’m supposed to be feeling, so I’m hoping that Scott’s and my Christmas plans of putting together our new LEGO train, cooking dinner, and the Doctor Who Christmas Special will bring me out of the grinch-y mood I’ve been in the last couple of days.

Enough about my first world problems though!  You’re here to find out who won the Dolce Gusto Titanium Piccolo, aren’t you?

After placing all of the entries into an Excel document…

…and then using Random.org to pick the winnner:

Entry 85 — Mojamala2 has won the Dolce Gusto Piccolo! (Jessica, email me by this Friday, Dec. 23rd at clueintocleveland (at) gmail (dot) com to redeem your prize.)

Thank you to everyone who entered and thanks to Dolce Gusto for inviting me to offer this giveaway.  You can shop Dolce Gusto at www.dolcegustostore.com or keep an eye on their Facebook page and @DolceGustoUS for deals and more giveaways.

As this week winds down and all of your holidays begin or have already begun, my wish is that you are able to take a moment to escape your everyday stresses and enjoy it! I know that’s what I hope to do.

Enter to Win a Dolce Gusto Piccolo Coffee Machine

Here's to hoping your holidays are a little happier if you win this Dolce Gusto Piccolo

UPDATE: Congratulations to Mojamala2 for winning the Dolce Gusto!

Besides the normal holiday stresses like shopping and decorating, this season has proven a little busier than normal in our house with the addition of a few roadtrips.

From weddings in Philly to our upcoming drive to Austin, Texas — Scott and I are starting to wear a little thin on energy.

To de-stress, I’ve been trying to head to the gym whenever I can to work out. But when I just need to keep moving, I’ve been turning to my favorite dispensers of caffeine. My electric tea kettle (still one of my favorite wedding gifts) and my Dolce Gusto Piccolo are delicious sanity savers.

I got the Piccolo a few months ago after the Dolce Gusto Foodie Feedup at Greenhouse Tavern.  And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making myself frothy cappuccinos and chai tea lattes without having to run out to Starbucks (here are all of their flavors).

Now, you can win your own Titanium Piccolo to keep you going while you’re out shopping local for your holiday gifts!


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 telling me how you’ve shopped local this holiday season. (Still need gift ideas? Check out my three All I Want for Cleve-mas posts.)

2)  Twitter users can get an extra entry each day for tweeting: “Need a tasty pick me up this holiday season? Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway to win a @DolceGustoUS Piccolo http://ow.ly/7YYo2″.  (Each day you do this, you must leave a new comment.)

3) Like “Dolce Gusto” on Facebook.

4) Like “Clue Into Cleveland” on Facebook.

5) Follow @ADHicken on Twitter.


You have until Monday, December 19 at 11:59PM to enter.  On December 20, 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!  Congratulations to Mojamala2 for winning!

Thanks to Allison of Confessions of a CLE Habitant for organizing this giveaway. 

Reflections from Thanksgiving

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

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

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

Chloe really doesn’t like having her photo taken

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

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

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

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

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

With Gabbie at this year’s Halloweekends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part of Liquid Nails visiting the Christmas Story House

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


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

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

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

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

All I Want for Cleve-Mas, Part 2: Local Holiday Shopping in Cleveland

Shop local this holiday season at stores like Crafty Goodness and Room Service, as well as the fun Cleveland shopping events mentioned below.

Happy Thanksgiving, Clue Into Clevelanders! I hope you have a great holiday with family, friends or relaxing at home.

Of course, the day after (and even Thanksgiving night for some stores) kicks off the holiday shopping season. Before you get swept away in the craziness of shopping for gifts, I suggest making a trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art to see Brian Ulrich’s Copia: Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores.

Scott and I went last week for the Museum’s Buyer’s Remorse Party where Ulrich led a tour through his exhibit and spoke about his photography series.  

The zoned out faces of shoppers in contrast to the delicate portraits of thrift store workers were striking. And although the photographs of abandoned malls and big-box stores were surprisingly beautiful in their quiet desolation, they were also incredibly sad and had a clear impact on exhibit goers.

For me, the series was a perfectly timed reminder of the importance of buying local. 

At times, that means gifting experiences. For fans of Cleveland theatre, check out All I Want for Cleve-Mas, Part 1 about tickets you can give for local holiday shows. 

Or you can gift museum memberships, certificates for some of the city’s amazing restaurants, or tickets to Indians Snow Days and the Frozen Diamond hockey game at Progressive Field.

If you’re looking more for a tangible gift, there are plenty of stores and events inspiring Clevelanders to shop local:

Cleveland Craft Coalition's Black Friday party is just one event in the coming weeks where you can find unique and local handmade gifts.

Cleveland’s Buy Handmade Events

This city has an amazing community of artists and shop owners who champion handmade, local goods.  Unique and funky clothing, jewelry, baby goods, artwork and home decor can all be found at these events from Black Friday through December (updated 12/6):

You can also check out locally made products year-round at stores like Crafty Goodness, Dredgers Union, Room Service and Salty Not Sweet (to name just a couple of my favorites).

Yelp Shops Local Pledge

Finally, head over to Yelp to learn more about their Shop Local campaign. Across the country, Yelp is challenging communities to make an effort to support our cities’ great local businesses and encourage others to “Shop Wisely. Give Locally. Yelp On!”

As part of the campaign, Yelp Cleveland is hosting Shopping Crawls in Cleveland Heights (Dec. 4),  the Near Westside (Dec. 10) and Lakewood (Dec. 17). 

You can also take the 30-day pledge. From Nov. 25 through Dec. 24, check into the Yelp Shops Local event page, see that day’s task and use the hashtag #YelpShopsLocal on Twitter and Facebook to keep everyone across the country in the loop on how you’re shopping local.

Dine and shop with NEO Food Tours on Dec. 1 and 8.

Shop-and-Dine Holiday Tours

On Dec. 1st and 8th, NEO Food Tours is offering Shop-and-Dine Holiday Tours of the Cleveland Heights and Ohio City neighborhoods. In addition to showcasing the neighborhood’s restaurants, the tour will make stops at locally-owned retailers.

For instance, on the Dec. 1st Ohio City tour, the newly opened SOHO Kitchen & Bar will host a pop-up restaurant in Room Service (other stops include Campbell’s Sweets Factory, Bar Cento, Salty Not Sweet, Dragonfly, Something Different, and BonBon Pastry & Cafe). 

If you’d rather explore the eastside on Dec. 8th, Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley will lead the Cedar Lee tour, stopping at the Heights Art Gallery, Abrash Gallerie, Lopez on Lee, Taste, Revive, The Wine Spot, and SweetieFry.

NEO Food Tours is also offering an extended Black Friday special. Go to neofoodtours.eventbrite.com, use the code  BLACKFRIDAY_6011 between now and Nov. 29, and save 10% on the General Admission price. 

Tickets include food and drink at every stop, as well as tax, gratuity and a donation to a local organization (the Cleveland Heights tour will benefit the Heights Emergency Food Center and Ohio City will benefit Ohio City Incorporated).

These are just a few of Cleveland’s local shopping events this holiday season.   If you know of any others, please leave a comment below with more info!

For another great post about shopping local, check out The Chef’s Widow’s My Favorite Things (she also has a pretty sweet giveaway of CLE stuff). 


Disclosure: I work with NEO Food Tours doing outreach to the community on our monthly food tours. However, I started working with them because of my love for promoting the community’s dining and shopping establishments and as always am sharing opinions here that are 100% my own.

Blog Swap: MissWineOH says, Wines you HAVE to try

Today is the Ohio Blogging Association‘s Cleveland November Blog Swap. As part of it, I’m happy to introduce you to Tammy, Chief Tasting Officer at MissWineOH . On this day, bloggers from around the Northeast Ohio area are guest posting on one another’s blogs as a way to get to know each other in our blogging community. For a full listing of blog swap participants, please visit Poise in Parma today.

I met Amanda at a Wine and Cupcakes event recently, and we have a shared love of the city of Cleveland and its culinary and wine delights. I’m happy to be swapping blogs with her today and sharing some of my favorite wines.

Many of us head out for social gatherings or parties in restaurants during the holiday season. And many of those events are held in our local restaurants, where some of the best chefs in the country make their homes – and their incredible food. Some of Cleveland’s best restaurants also have some pretty intimidating wine lists. When you are blessed with great food, you can also be cursed with the “what do I pick off this wine list?” dilemma.

Your first avenue of information should always be the sommelier if he or she is available – a good sommelier can recommend the perfect wine to compliment your palate, your food and your budget.  Your second avenue, however, can be this list.

As I’m a huge fan of eating in my neighborhood, these picks are from Tremont restaurants, but these wines (or very similar ones) are widely available.


Chef Michael Symon’s bistro is reflective of his love of Cleveland. Funky, locally inspired and always changing. One of my favorite things there is the early and late Happy Hour menu. 

Nessa, Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain, 09 8.50 gl – 34 btl 
This spanish white has abundant peaches and pears and a crisp minerality that will blend seamlessly with the Lolita Happy Hour mussels (only $5!).

Revelry, “The Reveler”, Colombia Valley, 08 (Petite Verdot, Merlot, Cab)
10 gl – 40 btl

Washington State makes some great wines, and I love that this one uses Petite Verdot as the primary grape in the blend. It’s inky in color, and you’ll like the chocolate and coffee flavors on the finish. It’s an INTERESTING wine – in that “wow, pretty cool, I’ll sip and savor this a while” sort of way. And I love putting the Lolita burger with it.


While Parallax has a lovely by the glass menu, their strength is in their bottle selections. They specialize in asian fusion and seafood – and they have a sushi menu!

Sauvignon Blanc, St. Supery, Napa Valley 2010 – 40 btl
Grapefruit and lime are the highlights with this wine, but it’s not overly tart like you will find in many New Zealand Sauv Blancs. This one is a perfect complement to the asian fusion and seafood that dominates the menu at Parallax. I love to order this and an assortment of sushi and settle in for a sensory feast.

Pinot Noir, The Four Graces, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 09 – 72 btl
While on the higher end, this pinot noir is one of the best you will find on a restaurant list in Tremont. The subtle fruit and soft tannins on this pinot serve any of the meat dishes well. I particularly love it with the Duck Confit and brussel sprouts.


Dante is a great place to stop in early or late if you find yourself having trouble getting a dinner reservation. They have a lovely bar, 2 pages of wines by the glass and 50 wines under $50 to pair with Chef Dante Bocuzzi’s incredible menu. Their wines reflect the Italian influence of the food.

Vernaccia, Le Rote, San Gimignano, Toscana, 08 8 gl – 32 btl
A Tuscan Vernaccia at this price in a restaurant in Tremont, I’m all over it. Vernaccia is a grape grown and pressed in a particular town in the Tuscan region of Italy (San Gimignano), and this particular wine is medium bodied and just the right balance of acid and fruit. You’ll want to make sure it is well chilled. Pair it with the octopus, or any of the fresh seafood dishes for a little slice of Tuscany in Cleveland.

Barbera d’Alba, Boffa, Buschet, Piemonte 08 11 gl – 44 btl
A quintessential Italian red, the Boffa is a dry selection made from the barbera grape. This wine has some spice on it, but I’d pair it with the venison or polenta, depending on which direction your culinary tastes lead. This wine also works well for the vegetarian dishes on the menu.


One piece of advice I always give: Ask for a taste if you are unfamiliar with the wine. The worst possible thing they can say is “no” – and I’ve never had a sommelier refuse a taste.

Do you have favorite dishes you don’t know what to drink with? Just ask!

Happy Sipping!

LivingSocial's Cleveland Restaurant Survey and My New Resolution

Not surprisingly, in the LivingSocial survey, Clevelanders lead the nation in Food Truck popularity.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like to cook. The fact that I’m not good at it, I’m a perfectionist, and I love great food is a horrible combination because I fear my time spent in the kitchen is going to result in a horrible meal.  While I’m working on getting over this completely irrational fear (thanks to my 30×30 list), I have Cleveland’s restaurants to keep my tastebuds happy.

From E4th to Shaker Square to Gordon Square (and pretty much every other Cleveland neighborhood), I am never wanting for a good place to eat.  And even in the suburbs (which in other cities may be a desert for non-chain restaurants), you can usually find a handful of locally owned restaurants that offer an appetizing menu and good prices. Even the Cleveland Airport Marriott has an amazing, creative restaurant for both locals and out-of-towners in AMP 150

One of my favorite Cleveland restaurants: Happy Dog in Gordon Square

That was why I was interested in a recent LivingSocial survey which said Cleveland dines out less often than any U.S. city but one (Minneapolis-St. Paul). 

The online survey was conducted in the top 20 media markets by Mandala Research, LLC among LivingSocial users 18+.  With Cleveland respondents saying they ate an average of 3.89 meals out per week (including breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner), we ranked #19 compared to the other markets (the national average was 4.78).  Interestingly, we were in the top ten for listing dinner date as the reason we most frequently dine out. 

Pizza ranked #4 both locally and nationally as the most popular food. Edisons in Tremont loads their pizzas with amazing toppings.

Cleveland respondents also rated Mexican as the new type of food they most recently tried out. This compares to the national average which was Thai (Thai didn’t rank for any Cleveland respondents).  Additionally, Spanish food, Cuban and Brazilian which were popular “experimental food” categories in other cities didn’t rank in Cleveland results.

Not surprisingly, though, Cleveland led the nation in the popularity of Food Trucks. And we were above average for respondents who self-described themselves as locavores and meat lovers (ranked #7 and #6, respectively).

Fat Heads in North Olmstead doesn't just have huge, delicious sandwiches, but also award-winning beer brewed on premises.

As with any survey, you’re looking at just a slice of the community. Nationally, more than 4400 people took the survey, with 200 of them being from Cleveland’s DMA. Geographically, the DMA is more than just Cleveland proper; it also includes Ashland, Ashtabula, Carroll, Cuyahoga, Erie, Geauga, Holmes, Huron, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, Richland, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties. 

Additionally, a recent Nielsen survey showed that LivingSocial’s typical user is in a high income bracket (almost 50 percent likely to earn $150,000 or more a year), young (one third fall into the 21 to 34 age bracket), and female.  So you could make the argument that any survey doesn’t necessarily reflect all of Cleveland and that we may eat out more often than that.   

Regardless though, it made me reflect on my dining habits and the fact that I still have the tendency to stick to my favorite restaurants.

Why haven't I been to Deagan's Kitchen yet? Hoping to change that soon with my new resolution.

Because of this, I’ve added one last item to my list of 30 things to do by 30 (this is replacing #30 which was “finish all of the items on the list” – lame).  I’ve identified 10 restaurants that I always say “Oh, I really want to try that” but haven’t yet.  So by the end of next August, I can cross this to-do off my list if I’ve visited each one at least once.

And which restaurants are these?

    1. Dante
    2. Deagan’s
    3. Sokolowskis
    4. Flying Fig
    5. Ty Fun Thai Bistro
    6. Nighttown
    7. L’Albatros
    8. Lolita
    9. Pier W
    10. Brasa

Culinary events featuring a variety of food and chefs is my favorite way to find a new restaurant to try.

If you also think you’d like to get out there more and experiment with what Cleveland has to offer, here are a few things I always find helpful:

  • Not sure where to start? I’m a huge fan of  the Plain Dealer A-List and Doug Trattner’s 25 Restaurants Cleveland Can’t Live Without. There are a variety of dining experiences on these lists, but the one thing they all have in common is their quality. Each listed restaurant also comes with a short blurb so you get an idea why they’re so good.
  • Too many choices? Sample what’s out there at a dining or tasting event. From NEO Food Tours, Dinner in the Dark and Emerging Chefs to Taste of the Browns and the Silver Spoon Dinner, there are a lot of unique opportunities in the city to sample a few chefs in one sitting.  If you enjoyed what you tasted (which you likely will), check out that chef’s restaurant to see what else they have to offer.
  • Don’t want to hurt your wallet? I get this. I’m always looking for a way to save a penny. Deal sites like LivingSocial frequently offer discounts at local restaurants. In fact, restaurants and spas are their two most popular category. You can also keep an eye out for things like the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Restaurant Week where a selection of restaurants offer a fixed price menu.

When you go out to eat in Cleveland, what motivates you?  And do you have another restaurant you’d add to the above list?

Thanks, by the way, to Maire Griffin from LivingSocial for discussing the Cleveland-specific results. You can learn more about the national survey results here.

Guest Post: iNeedaPlaydate Clues Into the Cleveland Ingenuity Fest

Happy Thursday! While I show my sister around Cleveland for the first time in 2 and a half years, Mary from iNeed a Playdate (and my partner in the Flippin’ Good Deeds Challenge) is guest blogging today about her family’s favorite moments at last weekend’s IngenuityFest.

Enjoy! And remember if you like cars, planes and motorcycles, today’s the last day to enter the Piston Power Show Giveaway.

Ingenuity Fest. When I first heard the name it wasn’t immediately the kind of name that invokes the hip, fun, interactive art and technology show that it is or has become in the last six years.  

I remember when the Husband came home one fall day a couple years ago and said, “Hey let’s go look at art under the bridge…” Okay, maybe he did  not say that exactly but he might as well have because that is exactly what it is – art under the Detroit Superior Bridge.

 The Detroit Superior Bridge connects Detroit Avenue from the west to Downtown’s Superior Avenue going east over the Cuyahoga River.  On Veterans Day, November 11, 1989, the Detroit Superior was officially renamed the Veterans Memorial Bridge but I guarantee that if you said that to most Clevelanders they would ask where it was and respond, “Oh, you mean the Detroit Superior!”  When the construction was completed in 1918, it was the largest steel and concrete reinforced bridge in the world. 

In addition to the bridge being a major vein connecting the west side of Cleveland to Downtown, beneath the bridge is a huge space with the most unique view of the Cleveland skyline. On either end of the bridge include what’s left of the former streetcar line along with reminders of a different time — a subway station, dark tunnels and pieces of old tracks.  This is where Ingenuity Fest is held.

The first time I attended Ingenuity Fest, I was mostly fascinated by the unique opportunity to explore what used to be. However, the more I took in all that was there now — the amazing exhibits and the music, I was in awe and hooked!

Although there was also a lot to see this year, with a toddler and four school-aged children, we spent the majority of our time beneath the bridge.  Between the magician, Ray Raymond, who sliced a lime to reveal a $20, and the Art is Therapy exhibit, where they made a wind sock out of recycled water bottles, the children were very much happy and occupied. 

They also happily banged on the drums of the Community Light Beacons demonstration by The Kinetic Light Drum project, described as “a visual, social and scientific exploration of alternative power generation and personal expression.”  The drums convert sound vibrations to light using sensitive speakers and ultra bright LEDs. Or in the words of a third grader, “This is so cool!  I bang; it lights!”

My personal favorite exhibits were I <3 and Currents.  Currents, inspired by the theme of this year’s Ingenuity Fest, amplified the 3 layers of currents that give the Detroit Superior Bridge its life during the festival: the bridge, the people and the river.  You could not only hear the sounds of the bridge through bone conduction headsets, but also see through a real time projection on the ceiling of the bridge. 

The I <3 interactive installation was five hearts, symbolically representing the “life” hearts in video games (such as Zelda), “powered” by the twitter hashtag #ingenuityfest and the life on the bridge.  All five hearts glowed red once 2000 tweets with that hastag were sent via twitter.  I love twitter so you better believe that I was tweeting while I was there and even when I got home.  By the time we left on Saturday night, 3 1/2 of the hearts were glowing and by the end of the festival all five of the hearts were illuminated. 

If you missed out and are feeling a little jealous – you should (kidding!). But never fear, it will back next year and probably bigger and better. 

About the Guest Author: Mary Johnson

Mary Johnson is the wife & mom behind iNeedaPlaydate.blogspot.com where she blogs between working full time and attempting (albeit half heartedly) to do the laundry.  Her topics range from random thoughts, stories from her life and the world around her, and the occasional product review thrown in for good measure. Follow her on Twitter @mryjhnsn.

PlayhouseSquare's Free YP Night at the Cinema

JAWS on the big screen at PlayhouseSquare's Young Professionals Night - Aug. 18.

One of my favorite summer series – PlayhouseSquare’s Cinema at the Square – starts up tonight with King Kong.  As much I enjoy spending the warm-weather months outdoors, sometimes I like escaping into the air conditioning, curling up in a theatre seat and getting engrossed in a movie. And when it’s a classic film — even better!

This year’s lineup, which runs until August 21, has a nice mix of older films like King Kong, Grand Hotel and Charade, as well as “new classics” like a special double feature of Batman and Batman Returns, Superman and Muppet Treasure Island.

The one I’m most looking forward to, though, is Jaws on August 18. In addition to seeing a movie that always has me on the edge of my seat, I’m also excited because it’s Young Professionals Night at the Cinema.

Starting at 6pm,  PlayhouseSquare Partners is hosting a free pre-movie party for young professionals in the Ohio Theatre. There will be drinks, movie theater snacks, and networking. Plus, all of the Partners committees will have info about this year’s Calendar of Events.

One of the evening’s announcements is going to be …  (wait for it!)

… the theme of the 21st annual Jump Back Ball!

I had such a fantastic time at last year’s Jump Back Ball that I can’t wait to share this year’s theme with everyone.

You don’t have to be a Partner to attend. And, if you join PlayhouseSquare Partners the night of the event, you can get 20% off your membership. So a $100 Mezzanine membership for two will cost only $80.

In fact, you’ll save twice if you plan on attending Jump Back Ball, because one of the (many) benefits of a Partners membership is a discount to JBB. I was never a fan of math – except when it helps me save money like this.

Admission for YP Night at the Cinema is free, but tickets are required. You can get a free ticket to YP Night at the Cinema by calling 216-771-4444 x3247 or clicking here to register online.

When you’re at the party, be sure to stop by the Jump Back Ball table, say hi to me and learn more about what our committee is going to be up to this year. Then, at 7:30 p.m., you can wander over to the Palace and hear me yelp in fright when I watch Jaws on the big screen for the first time.

YP Night at the Cinema 411:

Clue Into #My7Links

I love making lists! If I were to ever get a tattoo, it'd be like this one.

I’ve been making a lot of lists lately — to-do lists for NEOFoodTours’ upcoming Kamm’s Corners/AMP150 and Shaker Square Restaurant Tours, lists for Jump Back Ball, and lists to help get me ready for vacation.  I feel a bit like Santa with everything I’ve been checking off.

So, I’m taking a momentary break from them to do a list that’s a little less stressful.  There’s a meme making the rounds called “My 7 Links” where the blogger gets tagged by someone else, shares links from their blogging past that fit in the below 7 categories, and then continues the meme by tagging 5 other bloggers.

If you’re new to Clue Into Cleveland, read on for some posts I haven’t shared in a while as well as a behind-the-music into what I think about them.  This was just the kind of list I needed to take my mind off everything else — thanks to WhyCLE for tagging me!

1. Most Popular

Courtesy of WordPress’ handy stats page:

2. Most Beautiful

Cleveland’s lucky to have a theatre community that produces fantastic shows. My favorite from the last year  was Cleveland Play House’s Legacy of Light. It was beautifully written, acted and staged (loved the set design!). And while I don’t think I fully captured how beautiful the show was, I really enjoyed writing my blog post Embracing Change with Cleveland Play House’s Legacy of Light because it allowed me to look not just at the beautiful changes going on in our city but also in my own life and family.

Cleveland Play House's Legacy of Light. Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni.

3. Most Controversial

Although this is a repeat of one of the most popular posts, I’m going to have to go with my review of the first C-Town Chow Down. This was the first time I got a negative comment on my blog and it helped me learn how to respond to them. I always welcome constructive feedback here and appreciate your comments. Sometimes I’m not the best at replying to them, but please feel free to share what you’re thinking (even if it’s how I can do a better job with my blog).

4. Most Helpful

Every once and in a while I am completely surprised when someone tells me they learned about something through my blog. I don’t know if Clue Into Cleveland is really helpful for others – I mostly do it as a way to document my journey in this incredible city.  So, for #4 I’m going to have to go with the post that was most helpful to me as a blogger – Clue Into Cleveland: One Year Later.  It helped me get some much needed perspective on my first year of blogging – what I learned about the city, my favorite memories and how I couldn’t believe I made it through one year!

5. Surprise Success

Earlier this year, I decided to document the months leading up to PlayhouseSquare’s Jump Back Ball – mostly because, as a first-time attendee, I was really excited for the event and wanted to learn everything I could about it.  I didn’t realize how much fun I would have writing this series of blog posts and that other people would actually read it.  I was even more surprised when the blog series was mentioned as a reason I was awarded New PlayhouseSquare Partner of the Year and would help me out as I start co-chairing Jump Back Ball 2012 (more on that later this week!).

When it comes to blogging experiences, my Jump Back Ball series was one of my most fulfilling and surprising. What began as a fun little project to get myself blogging more helped me become more involved with an organization I love – PlayhouseSquare Partners.

Jump Back Ball 2011

6. Not Enough Attention

I went all the way back to my 2nd month of blogging for this post. For Free Comic Book Day, I combined two loves of mine — Cleveland and comic books.  In Comics in CLE: Drawing Them Together, I looked at a couple ways Cleveland is connected to the characters and creators from the books on my shelf.  With the Avengers movie shooting here this month, I thought this old post would be very fitting.

7. Most Proud

Although my selection for the last category was an oldie-but-a-goodie, the post I’m most proud of is a recent one. Hands down, it’s my recap of my first 5k – last month’s Run for the Pierogies. I can’t believe how much fun I had getting ready for the run and the event itself.  And I’m happy to say I finally registered for this Saturday’s Independence 5K Run/Walk to A Healthier You which I’ll be running with PoiseinParma. Despite the heat and feeling a little under the weather, I can’t wait to get back out there!

Run for the Pierogies

Now that this flashback through my blog is complete, it’s time to pass on the #My7Links love and tag 5 other bloggers. I picked bloggers that I’ve either just started reading or write about a variety of topics.  Go check them out!

(Tattoo Photo attribution: RobStephAustralia)