Tag Archives: speakeasy

My #LakeErieLove Story: A Merry Visit to Sandusky, Ohio

This is part 2 in my #LakeErieLove series. Catch up on part 1 here.

Sandusky, Ohio

Sandusky, Ohio

In my mind, Sandusky, Ohio has always been synonymous with Cedar Point.

That’s not to say I didn’t know there’s more to Sandusky than the “World’s Best Amusement Park” (a title I fully agree with).  When I’m waiting in line for Millennium Force or taking the Cedar Point train through the park, I would catch a glimpse of downtown Sandusky across the water.

However, until a recent trip to downtown Sandusky, my relationship with the city has always been from afar — looks of longing and curiosity.

It may be difficult to tear yourself from the rollercoasters; however, my advice for your next trip to Cedar Point is to make some time for Sandusky. You’ll find there’s much more to love about the city.

Sandusky 3

When I arrived in Sandusky on this last trip, I was a hot mess. Only a few hours earlier, I had rushed out of the house from work. And, even after checking into my hotel, I could feel the stress radiating from my shoulders.

However, as we strolled down the tree and flower-lined streets of downtown Sandusky, that tension evaporated.

Scenic parks and stunning historic architecture like the Sandusky Library and Follett House will do that to you.

Sandusky 1

Although it felt like I had been transported to a sleepy seaport town, I discovered that Sandusky is anything but as we explored its restaurants, bars, and attractions.

Much like Cleveland, Sandusky is undergoing a revitalization. Formerly empty storefronts are now being filled and the downtown is flourishing with many options for a nice night out.

Take ZINC brasserie, for example. Located along the waterfront, the building that houses ZINC was beautifully restored by husband-and-wife team Cesare and Andrea Avallone. Filled with warm touches of brick, wood, and pressed tin ceilings, the French-inspired restaurant would rival many in Cleveland.

Hearth Tavern at ZINC

ZINC’s menu offered so many delicious options that I struggled with what to get. Lobster Bisque En Croute (which got rave reviews from my tablemates), Duck Wellington, Steak Tartar, Escargot, and Lump Crab Stuffed Salmon are only a few of the choices. 

After a long debate between my eyes and my appetite, I settled on an order of ZINC’s House Pickles snack, a nice selection of sweet, spicy, and sour pickled vegetables, and their Farmstead wood-fired pizza.  Loaded with pork belly. a very juicy egg, and balanced with arugula and crisped crust, it was as good as Bar Cento’s breakfast pizza (a favorite of mine).

pIZZA

Adjoined to ZINC is Hearth Tavern, which offers a number of ZINC’s starters, pizza options, and a Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese that has my name all over it.

In addition to ZINC, the Avallone Restaurant Group has also opened CRUSH winebar and Dockside Cafe in Sandusky.

Another restaurateur helping to transform downtown Sandusky is Kha Bui, who followed the opening of Perkins Township’s Mekong a couple years ago with Small City Taphouse this summer.

During our walk around Sandusky, we made an impromptu stop at Small City for a quick drink and small bite to eat. Their menu features 45 beers on tap, hundreds of bottles to choose from, and a selection of sushi and Asian dishes. I loved the spring roll I sampled and the dichotomy between the olde-town exterior and modern interior design. It’s definitely worth a return visit to explore further.

Sandusky 2

Wherever you decide to eat, work it off with a stroll down to the Volstead Bar on E Water Street. As is fitting for a speakeasy, Volstead looks very unsuspecting from outside. However, the Green Door building has a colorful history having formerly hosted the Dorn Winery and a brothel under its roof.

Between its storied past and the curtains that cover the windows, it feels like you’re being let in on a really juicy secret when you enter the Volstead.

Like Small City, the decor strikes a perfect balance – modern with a few nostalgic touches that hearken to the Prohibition era. I got a big kick out of the old file folders – something you’d see in a Prohibition agent’s office – that hold their impressive cocktail menu.

The space is very intimate, perfect for an after-drink libation; however, it doesn’t get cramped because the owners have incorporated an inventive way to signal how much availability they have.

On the window facing the street, a row of lights signals whether Volstead is open and how many seats (be that 5+, 4, 3, 2, or 1) are open. The lights are linked to their website’s Seating tab , which updates automatically as the lights are changed.

Restaurant 5

The food and drinks we experienced in Sandusky were impressive, but the highlight of our visit was Sandusky’s Merry-Go-Round Museum. Opened in 1990, the Merry-Go-Round Museum got its start thanks to a simple stamp.

In 1988, the U.S. Postal Service issued a set of four stamps commemorating carousel figures from around the country. One of those featured was the King Armored horse at Cedar Point’s Kiddieland carousel.

To celebrate the first-day issue of the stamps, a group of residents decided to throw a party. They put together a carousel display, hoping a few hundred people would attend.  Instead, more than 2,000 showed up.

Now, the Merry-Go-Round Museum is filled with a menagerie of carousel animals including the traditional “painted ponies”, ostriches, giraffes, and a “sealobster.”

Their extensive collection includes all three styles of carousel horse – Coney Island, Philadelphia and County Fair, along with guides for visitors like me who didn’t even know there were specific carousel styles.

It’s one thing to marvel at these whimsical creatures; the Museum also gives you the opportunity to see one being made. Each year, the museum’s Master Carver Kate Adam and carving crew bring a carousel horse to life. The horse is then raffled off at their Toast to the Town fundraiser on New Year’s Eve.

This year’s raffle horse is Halloween-themed. When you visit the museum, don’t forget to stop by their workshop and check out its beautiful detailing.

Carousel 9

Admission to the museum is only $6 for adults, $4 for children (4-14), and free for children under 4. Every ticket includes one ride on the museum’s 1939 Allan Herschell carousel, filled with horses from the museum’s own collection and private collectors.

The evening we spent in Sandusky showed off the perfect balance their downtown has achieved – combining olde town charm with the dining, drinking, and other amenities you’d expect in a larger city.

The next chapter in my Lake Erie Love Story: Cedar Point, a destination not just for coaster fanatics, but families and history lovers alike!

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

Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus Review

Ohio City’s Speakeasy, host to Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus event

Christmas came early for Cleveland food-and-drink lovers at last week’s Emerging Chefs Naughty Claus.

Going in, I knew if there was anyone who could break up the monotony of holiday meals, it would be the Emerging Chefs team. And I was not disappointed as they teamed with Chef Adam Lambert from Ohio City’s Bar Cento/Bier Markt/Speakeasy for an evening of Christmas mischief and culinary adventure.

Located beneath Bier Markt, the sultrily-lit prohibition-themed Speakeasy lounge warmly welcomed us from the frigid December night.

Naughty Claus Course 1: Snow Globe on a Half Shell

After settling into a corner booth with Jen and her husband Matthew, we started the meal off with Chef Lambert’s interpretation of a Snow Globe.

Using a classic Christmas Eve ingredient – oysters – as the basis for this dish, Lambert created the illusion of a snow globe by encasing it in a gel-like substance mixed with juniper, tonic and Douglas fir.

Although it was beautiful to look at, I unfortunately found that the consistency and taste of the gel overpowered the oyster too much, leaving only a hint of it.

While the snow globe’s taste wasn’t to my liking, it was paired with a Bijou. Made of gin, vermouth and chartreuse, it had a very potent, evergreen-like flavor. Stirring in a few ice cubes from my water cut the bitter bite and resulted in a nice cocktail for gin lovers.

Naughty Claus Cocktail 2: Milk Punch

This was followed by Lambert’s XXX-Mas Cookies and Milk Punch.

Ladies, next time you’re having a bachelorette party, these *ahem* “mature audiences only” cookies are a delicious alternative to your typical adult treats.

The suggestively-shaped, lightly-flavored cookies were topped with foie gras and whipped chantilly icing and paired with a warmed rum and milk punch.

Honestly, I’m thankful the punch – my favorite drink of the night – came in such a tiny mug. If I didn’t have work early the next morning, I could have curled inside an oversized bowl of it. The dish was a milk-and-cookies combo fitting for a Naughty Santa.

Naughty Claus Course 3: Truffled Arancini “Snow Balls”

The third course was a pair of “Snowballs” – arancini topped with white truffle shavings. The rich, savory interior of these fried rice balls mixed very well with the light breading that coated it – a winner with me and my tablemates.

It was served with truffle-infused Everclear. Although I wasn’t a fan of the cocktail’s heavy truffle flavor on its own, I decided to give it a second try to see how it paired with the arancini.

After taking a bite of the dish, then a sip of the cocktail, I was floored. The original truffle flavoring of the drink had been replaced with an almost fruity flavor.

I know that there are drink and food combinations which complement each other in taste, but this was the first time I ever had the sum of a pairing actually change its parts. I really enjoyed the experimentation this pairing lent itself to.

Naughty Claus Course 4: Who Ham for One

Chef Lambert’s next course was “Who Ham for One,” in which he took traditional Christmas ham and wrapped and cooked it around a chicken bone to replicate the look of the ham in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

To complement the playful presentation, Chef Lambert prepared the meat with clove, cherry and pineapple – full of succulent flavor.

Unfortunately, my allergy to red wine kept me from trying the mulled Sangiovese served with it – but as Jen noted in her WhyCLE recap, it was her favorite of the evening and a perfect fireside sipper.

Naughty Claus Course 5: Kosher Khristmas

The last course of the night was my overall favorite, both in presentation and taste: Chef Lambert’s Kosher Khristmas.

Inspired by A Christmas Story, he served an Asian-style shredded duck with crisp and colorful vegetables. It was presented in – what else – small Chinese take-out boxes.

Enjoy it we did!

The duck was so moist and rich. Like the milk punch, my Christmas wish is for more servings of this dish.

The Kosher Kristmas was paired with a chilled sake sangria – whose slight fruitiness provided a refreshing contrast to the duck and cut down on the meal’s richness.

Chef Lambert didn’t even waste the ham bone, featuring it prominently in Naughty Claus’ Leg Lamp

Regardless of whether you were nice or naughty, Chef Lambert left us all with sweet treats: a bit of coal for our stockings made of bitter fernet hard candy and more of those delicious cookies with a glass of homemade scotch eggnog.

It was an evening of indulgence, to be sure – with plenty of bawdy laughs and misbehaving elves rounding out the night. We even got a visit from Jolly Naughty Ol’ St. Nick bearing gifts courtesy of Ambience.

Missed Naughty Claus? Chef Lambert and his team have put together a delicious New Year’s Eve menu for Bar Cento, located upstairs from Speakeasy. You can view the full menu – along with details on their other Bier Markt, Speakeasy, Market Garden and Nano Brew parties at http://bit.ly/VnHoUE

Disclosure: I was provided one ticket to Naughty Claus in exchange for blogging about the event. The opinions here are my own.

Time Traveling with Ingenuity Cleveland, Emerging Chefs and PlayhouseSquare

Scott and I finally saw Midnight in Paris last week (which hands down deserves its 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). His mom and sister had been urging me for weeks to see Woody Allen’s latest comedy because like Owen Wilson’s character, I can often be a sucker for nostalgia.

From shopping for vintage clothing and housewares to scooping up a well-priced antique typewriter or gramophone at a yard sale, I get giddy at finding things that hearken a lost generation.

It’s why I’m looking forward to the next couple of months, as a handful of Cleveland events hope to transport guests back in time for an evening:

Ingenuity Cleveland’s SpeakEasy 2.0 

Ingenuity Cleveland’s SpeakEasy 2.0 returns to the Detroit Superior Bridge’s subway tunnels on July 15.

20s and 30s nostalgia get thrown in a blender with the cutting edge innovation that has become a trademark of previous Ingenuity events.

Entertainment will include Vance Music Studio’s Syncopated Sin Swing Jazz Band, neo-vaudeville duo Pinch and Squeal and the Hilar-A-Tease Dancers, while screenings of Louise Brooks’ Pandora’s Box with live jazz, DJs Graydar and Lo_Tek Jackers, and appearances by Uno Lady and Dr. Sketchy add a modern twist to the evening.

Of course there will be food and enough drink to make Zelda Fitzgerald happy.  And it’s all in the subway tunnels. Last year’s IngenuityFest was my first time on that part of the bridge, and I just remember being blown away by how much character that location has as the light and shadows play along the catacombs.

The flexibility of the three ticket levels is a huge win for me:

  • $100 (4 pack available for $350): Doors open at 6pm, include dinner and open bar with live music, entertainment, and dancing until 1 AM
  • $30 ($40 at the door): Party starts at 8 PM with gourmet snacks, more live entertainment, two drink tickets
  • $15 ($20 at the door): At 10 PM the Speakeasy 2.0 goes 21st century by mixing vaudeville entertainment with DJs and dancing. Admission include 2 beer tickets.

All proceeds benefit IngenuityFest 2011 which returns to the bridge Sept. 15-17.  I was disappointed when I couldn’t attend last year’s SpeakEasy, but after Cocktail Party Redux and Temple of Tesla, I’ve been saving July 15 in my calendar for a while.

Buy SpeakEasy 2.0 Tickets Here

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Emerging Chefs’ Summer White Party

 UPDATE: Summer White Party has been cancelled. More info here.

After June’s very modern evening of sushi, the next Emerging Chefs will put their tasty spin on classic lakeside soirees with the Summer White Party. Joined by Executive Chef Regan Reik of Pier W, they’ll head down to the historic East Ninth Street Pier to create a spectacular luxury pop-up restaurant for one night only – July 16 from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

Chef Reik will be designing a menu of summer seafood fare to enjoy on the lake as Emerging Chefs invites guests to sport their special summer whites or yacht clothes (I feel a trip to a vintage store is in order!). The evening will be fitting for the Rockefellers and Hannas of Cleveland’s past as everyone enjoys a luxurious lakeside evening.

Scott and I have been fans of the unique dishes created by previous Emerging Chefs – so much so that we took two of our friends from Philly to Sushi at Sunset. With a swift but efficient change of venue to the Asian Town Center to avoid the rain (huge kudos to Emerging Chefs for getting that up and running in only a few hours), Scott, Ali, Gary and I enjoyed an intimate evening of Chef Daniel Cassano’s creations.

One of Chef Cassano's Sushi at Sunset creations - Japanese style beef tartar over pickled and fried lotus root. The surprising crunchiness of the lotus root was my favorite part of this dish.

Beef Sushi Brochette in a Sake soy beurre blanc reduction and the poached shrimp gazpacho were definite highlights – one for its tender, buttery richness and the other for a bright freshness with pops of scallion. The beurre blanc reduction was so good, we all remarked we could have eaten it on its own with a spoon.

If Chef Reik can play the same magic with seafood that Chef Cassano did with sushi (which I know he can if Pier W’s menu is any indication!), then the Summer White Party will be another dazzling Emerging Chefs event.

Buy Summer White Party Tickets Here

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source: Playhousesquare.org

PlayhouseSquare’s Cinema at the Square

Cinema at the Square is back for its 14th year August 4-21.This PlayhouseSquare series holds a special place in my heart because it was at last year’s Back to the Future night that I was introduced to PlayhouseSquare Partners. Having been recently voted onto the Partners Board (more about that excitement later!), I can’t wait to check the classic film series out again because the lineup looks great and the event holds fond memories.

As in previous years, Cinema at the Square will feature 16 film favorites projected on the Palace Theatre’s famous screen (a 20 foot-high by 47 foot-wide super Hurly-Glo projection screen).

The lineup consists of a well-balanced mix of classics like the original King Kong, Grand Hotel and Charade, as well as more modern fare including a double feature of Batman and Batman Returns, Jaws, the 1978 Superman and Muppet Treasure Island.  Check the full list of films here.

Moviegoers will also be treated to pre-show organ recitals on the theatre’s restored 1927 Kimball organ that contains 16 sets of pipes, a xylophone, Glockenspiel, a complete set of drums and cymbals.

Besides the rare opportunity to enjoy classic movies projected on the big screen, the organ concert was definitely one of my favorite parts of last year’s Cinema at the Square.

Buy Cinema at the Square Tickets Here

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For a nostalgia junkie like me, these are just a few ways to catch a glimmer of a bygone era without constructing a time travel machine. If you have any suggestions of similar places or events to check out, share them in the comments!