Tag Archives: Restaurants

Reddstone Cleveland – Another Highlight of the Detroit Shoreway

Reddstone - another highlight of the Detroit Shoreway Neighborhood at 1261 W. 76 St.

Whenever I walk into Reddstone, I always feel like I’m stopping by a party at a neighbor’s house.  Of course, that neighbor lives 30 minutes from my house and Reddstone is actually a snazzy restaurant-bar located in the Gordon Square Arts District.  But, it’s that feeling of being able to comfortably hang out with a group of friends while grabbing a drink or a bite to eat, enjoy the weather on the patio, or watch a game in a lowkey setting that makes Reddstone another highlight of the Detroit Shoreway/Battery Park neighborhood.

Reddstone always seems to have a reason to celebrate which is fine by me - from Sunday pig roasts during the Browns game (with nickel beers to celebrate a victory/cheer you up after a loss), to their ‘Haunted Bar’ Halloween party or 10 cent taco nights. Plus, their patio – known to play host to a party or two - fully deserves its recent Scene Magazine win for best patio dining in the city. Fenced off with tables and stone seating, it features a second bar along the back side of the building. By not removing the trees from the patio area, they’ve established a very intimate and comfortable setting as if you’re hanging out in your own backyard. Even with the chill in the air, it’s still pleasant to spend time outdoors at Reddstone with their fire pit and heaters.   

Scott and I most recently stopped by Reddstone during this year’s Cleveland Beer Week which falls around Scott’s birthday. Given his love of beer (and how much he has put up with shenanigans like this blog), I had been on a search to find a Beer Week event that would be a nice treat.  As soon as I had seen the Reddstone Beer Week event, I knew I had found the perfect match: Bacon and Beer.

Reddstone partnered with the Smuttynose Brewing Co. to select 6 beers they could pair with a 5 course bacon-centric meal.  Founded in 1994 by the same people who started the Northampton and Portsmouth Breweries, Smuttynose Brewing is New Hampshire’s leading craft brewery.  They offer five full-time beers (Shoals Pale Ale, Old Brown Dog, Star Island Single, IPA, Robust Porter), as well as seasonal specialties (Hanami, Summer Weizen, Pumpkin Ale & Winter Ale) and a ‘Big Beer Series‘.

Scott celebrating his birthday with a Bacon Corn Dog at Reddstone's Bacon and Beer event.

Before our first course was served, the evening started with a  pint of the Smuttynose Star Island. Their pale golden ale was a great way to begin the evening and ended up being one of our favorite selections. Although it’s a lighter colored beer – one you could enjoy casually, there was still a dynamic flavor to it, featuring a slight residual sweetness from Honey Malt and hints of citrus from the Belgian yeast it is fermented with. 

After we had time to settle in, the staff brought out the first course which demonstrated the asian influence found in some of Reddstone’s regular menu items: spicy bacon and kim chee pot stickers with an ’Asian Porky’ dipping sauce.  The highlight of this course was the kim chee which had a nice kick to it that mixed well with the slightly crispy pot stickers.  Although the spice was a little too much for Scott (he has a low tolerance), my favorite dish of the evening was a toss up between this course and the third course.

Paired with the pot stickers was Smuttynose’s Farmhouse Ale. Part of their ‘Big Beer Series,’ it’s brewed in the ‘country ale’ style and slightly darker than Star Island – golden to light amber in color with a medium body. 

Keeping with an appetizer motif, the second course was Scott’s favorite (and one he now wants to try cooking at home): Bacon Corn Dogs.  Breaded like traditional corn dogs, the inside was filled with savory bacon. Coupled with a dijon dipping sauce, the bacon corn dogs were so delicious we didn’t care if they may have been mini-heart attacks on a toothpick.

I found that the bacon corn dogs was the dish most complementary to its paired beer – the S’Muttonator Doppelbock. A rich malty German-inspired beer, it’s a good one for sipping so you can enjoy both its sweet and bitter tastes.  It’s a smooth beer with a nip of an alcohol bite at the end which will immediately warm up your face. The 2010 brew’s ABV rated a 9.5% on their website so it’s not for the weak of heart.

Reddstone's spicy bacon and kim chee pot stickers with Smuttynose beer

Midway through the night, it was time for an entree — a smoked pork belly and sausage slider with bacon and cabbage slaw/mayo. As I mentioned earlier, it was a hard choice between the first course and third course for which one was my favorite.  Between all of the meats in the dish, this one was the most complex when it came to flavors.  Every bite held something different and for any other carnivores out there it was a rich, tasty combination. I may have come for the bacon, but the sausage was a really nice addition. Because of this, if I were pressed to make a decision on my favorite dish, the sliders would have won out.  

The sliders were paired with the Smuttynose IPA. I tend to shy away from especially hoppy beers so I’d have to admit the IPA wasn’t my favorite beer out of their entire selection.  Notwithstanding my personal preferences, though, it was still a very good beer and if you love hops, I’d definitely recommend it.  They also bottle it unfiltered, which is a brewing process that always interests me.

The fourth and fifth courses appealed to the sweet tooth: Bacon and Waffles and Bacon Cookies.  The Bacon and Waffles featured a mini Belgian waffle topped with chunks of bacon and Woodford bourbon syrup.  Considering how I typically will eat bacon marinated in syrup, this was an automatic win for me.  This was paired with the Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale,  a full-bodied American brown ale.  The Bacon Cookies were a surprising end –  I really enjoyed that the bacon was baked into the cookie. Similar to the waffles, it gave a nicely matched sweet and salty taste.  Pairing it with the Robust Porter - a full, dark chocolate brown beer – was a wise choice as its coffee undertones complemented the cookie.

Bacon and Beer was hosted upstairs in the Reddstone’s party room, which is open for rentals with its own bar, tv/entertainment setup.  This was nice because it was tucked away from the bustle of downstairs.  And while the tables weren’t on top of each other offering a bit of privacy, we found as the evening went on the setup was intimate enough to socialize with other fans of bacon and beer. Besides the food, the highlight of the evening was meeting another couple at dinner who had a similar love of all things Cleveland. It was really nice to share stories with them over a couple beers. 

Beer and Bacon was held in the Reddstone's upstairs party room

With good food, good beer and enjoyable company, the evening was a success and an excellent birthday dinner for Scott.  I would say the only problem (if you could call it that) was that I had a bit of difficulty getting through 6 whole pints of beer, some of which were on the stronger side.  This, of course, has more to do with my significantly reduced tolerance compared to my younger days.  I just know that I wasn’t feeling as festive the next day.

In addition to their Sunday Tailgating parties and their ongoing wings and taco nights, Reddstone is also participating in Cleveland Independents’ Restaurant Week until Nov. 14th by offering 1 Starter, 1 Entree, and 1 Dessert for $30.

Even if you’re not visiting Reddstone for a special event, Chef/Owner Josh Kabat has managed to create a place that combines neighborhood hangout (with reasonably priced beers and exceptional bar food) and swanky nightspot (with menu items such as Braised 5-spice short ribs with kimchee potato latke, plum sauce, and crispy leeks and a Tubes and Tentacles appetizer with squid, peppers, carrots, scallion and sweet sambal sauce). There’s also a brunch served on Sundays.

Along with producing good food, Kabat employs a friendly staff - from the waitstaff who were helpful and efficient at the Beer Week event, to the kitchen staff including Don Myers and Josh James who were among those that helped put together the mindblowing bacon-centric meal.  While there have been occasions where Reddstone was particularly crowded and it took awhile to place an order or get a bill, those times seemed to have been because they were shorter staffed than usual or balancing a particularly large party with other guests.  Personally, it’s not something that bothers me a lot and the food and atmosphere I think fair outweigh any delays I’ve encountered.  Plus anyone that doesn’t mind chatting with me after 6 beers deserves some sort of award.

Reddstone Bacon and Beer 411:

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.

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

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  

The British Have Arrived at The Pub

The Pub in Rocky River at 19304 Detroit Road - LuvThePub.com

 

 If you consider yourself a fan of Epicurean pursuits, Cleveland is home to an almost endless array of restaurants and bars that could whet any appetite.     

With some restaurants, though, it’s not just the culinary fare, but also the environment that makes a dining experience memorable.  The Pub in Rocky River is the perfect example of this — marrying a fine selection of food and spirits within an authentic British Pub setting.    

The front marquee on Detroit advertises upcoming events and shows

 

The first time I walked into The Pub, the theme of ‘British Pub’ definitely came through.  The Pub manages to achieve British kitsch without overdoing it. From the Union Jack painted across the ceiling of the bar, to the red telephone box and various other British memorabilia and signage, there’s just enough to reflect English pub while still remaining tasteful.  And with a wide selection of seating options – including deep-seating lounge chairs, couches, and a ‘King’s Table’ that looks to be straight out of a courtly dining room, The Pub is the perfect place for a family dinner, casual round of drinks, office party or even a wedding rehersal dinner.    

Of course, if The Pub only offered atmosphere, I wouldn’t have returned time after time. The menu is classified as ’gastropub.’ In addition to traditionl pub fare (which is executed brilliantly with a couple of twists), The Pub also features dishes that go beyond ‘pub grub.’ My favorites include a monstrous serving of fish and chips (which you can get discounted on Quiz Nights); the classic bangers and mash; a shepherd’s pie of ground beef, lamb, chive whipped potatoes and a smattering of parmesan bread crumbs; a tasty assortment of dips including crab or goat cheese; and a delicious reuben pizza which was on last Monday’s specials menu.     

To accompany the food is a vast selection of spirits. In addition to their bourbon and scotch menus, wines, and other liquors, The Pub’s Beverage Bible sports three pages of beers. It includes English draught and cask conditioned beers, Scottish, Irish and domestic selections.  While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every pint I’ve been served at The Pub, my Beverage Bible favorites are Old Speckled Hen and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.     

The Pub's Passport Program for the truly dedicated beer lover

 

The people at The Pub are such fans of beer that they offer a Pub Beer Passport Program through which you can receive a custom passport book with spots for 55 beers. Upon ordering and drinking each one, The Pub will stamp that page of your passport. By consuming all 55 beers, the ‘World Traveler’ earns $4 pints for life. Consumption of the 55 beers and getting stamps from all currently open Pub locations upgrades you to ’Premier Pub Traveler’ status and $3.50 pints for life.    

In addition to providing a hearty selection of food and drink, The Pub at Rocky River provides a social gathering place for locals and visitors alike. From their weekly Pub Quiz on Monday nights, to sporting and music events, to beer or wine tastings, there are multiple reasons to stop by besides grabbing dinner. This Wednesday (March 31) The Pub plays host to a beer and wine throwdown between Goose Island and Gallo’s. And on April 3rd, The Pub will be open for the Manchester United vs Chelsea match. Then, of course, there is the 2010 World Cup this summer which should provide many excuses to stop by The Pub.    

Besides The Rocky River Pub, other Pubs can be found in Cincinnati (Rookwood Mews and Beavercreek), Columbus (Polaris), Kentucky (Crestview Hills, Lexington, and Louisville), and Florida (Pembroke and Naples). So with Pub Passport in hand, I’ll be a ‘World Traveler’ soon enough. 
 
 
The Pub 411:
 
The Pub at Rocky River
General Info and Hours

Cleveland Fish Frys: They're De-Lent-cious!

Map of Cleveland Fish Frys from ClevelandMagazine.com

      

Growing up Catholic, we weren’t allowed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. As a kid, I actually didn’t  mind this too much. I liked the tuna fish sandwiches my mom would pack for lunch and my local church would host a soup and sandwich night where everyone in the parish could get a dinner that met the Lenten guidelines. I remember enjoying not just these Friday meals but also being able to run around in the Church hall where the dinners were held.      

As I grew up, though, the charm of skipping meat on Fridays started to wear thin if I went out to dinner and had problems finding something meatless and appetizing on the menu.  Plus, I missed the community-feeling the parish dinners always held for me.      

This changed when I moved to Cleveland, which seems to transform into ‘The Land of a Thousand Fish Frys’ during Lent. No more am I found wanting for an alternative to meat on Fridays. Everywhere I turn there’s either a church or a restaurant offering some sort of Fish Fry or Lenten menu. From pierogies and potato pancakes to coleslaw and macaroni and cheese, my mouth is usually left watering from the options. And then of course, there are the fish.  Fresh perch and walleye lightly breaded or battered are the most common options. And no matter how you like it – plain or seasoned with a bit of lemon, tartar sauce or malt vinegar, you can’t really go wrong.      

Fish Frys seem extremely popular not just in Cleveland but also throughout the entire midwest region. I’d take a guess that the area’s close proximity to the Great Lakes and their freshwater fish is one of the reasons for this. Because of their popularity, it’s easy to sample at least a few Fish Frys each Lent.      

Jake's on the Lake - Home of Great Food Year Round, and a Particularly Tasty Lent Menu

 

Many Fish Frys are sponsored by local churches and can be used as fundraisers or activities for that church’s community.  For instance, a couple of weeks ago I attended the Annual Fish Fry at St. Joseph’s Church in Avon Lake which was sponsored by their school’s 8th grade class.  So I was able to not only get a tasty serving of fish, cole slaw, fries, dessert and orange soda (which definitely brought me back to childhood!), but also contribute to a good cause.      

However, local restaurants and bars get in on the action as well.  This past Friday, I tried out the Lenten menu at Jake’s on the Lake (again, in Avon Lake) and was very satisfied. Of course, this wasn’t too surprising since they always serve up delicious food from Haas’ 4 Way Chili to a French Dip with Green Peppers Sandwich to an incredible Pasta with Sausage, Blue Crab and Mushrooms dish they had on their specials menu last week.      

For Jake’s Lenten menu, we started with their potato pancakes as an appetizer. The 2 pancakes with sour cream offered a very large and tasty starter.  And while Scott ordered the all-you-can-eat beer-battered fish fry (and he ate a lot of it!), I ordered the herb-battered fish.  At five pieces, it was the perfect size for my slightly smaller appetite and the light-breading was delicious. The batter was light enough that the taste of the fish did not get lost in it.      

Fish Frys in the Cleveland area are typically held each Friday during Lent and can be found in almost every neighborhood of the city.  A guide to Cleveland Fish Frys was created by ClevelandMagazine.com. It has a search function based on different preferences (such as region, the type of fish served, and whether pierogies or alcohol are served) – making it a lot easier to finally get my Friday Fish Fix!      

      

Fish Frys 411:     

Jake’s on the Lake (offers a special Lenten menu)
Standard Menu
Hours and Location
About Jake’s
      

Search for a Fish Fry at ClevelandMagazine.com
Fish Fry Guide