Monday, December 8, 2008

Cara and the Amazing Technicolor Peacoat

The title refers to my multi-colored attire while hiking. Olive green, fluorescent orange, purple, gray and denim blue. I announced to Jeff that I looked like a homeless woman. He denied it.

This is a pretty dark picture, but it fits the mood. It was one of the first significantly snowy days in Cleveland and the darkly-lit La Dolce Vita was perfect.

It was icy tonight, so much that on several occasions I feared for my life while walking home. I feared for my safety due to other drivers, not myself with treadless shoes.

Jeff and I are going to L'Albatros tomorrow night. I'm curious about this restaurant, mostly because I've managed to survive 30 years without ever having any French food. I will post a review with pictures tomorrow night.

Jeff and I went hiking with some of his family members the day after Thanksgiving. It was a nice little hike, though I have to admit I was a little hesitant to hike considering what an ass I made of myself on Cascade Mountain in August.

We had a blast and the weather was great. This horse seemed to pose for me when I took this picture. It'd be a good hike when the leaves were changing.

Being in places like this make me wish I lived farther away from the city. I really do like Little Italy, however. There's something about it that I'm sorry to say I'll be tired of at some point, but that's not for many years. I hope I don't live here long enough to take it for granted. It's bound to happen at some point, but I enjoy the fact that I still see this little stretch of road through the eyes of an enlightened tourist.

I beg my mother to come here and visit. I tell her she'll love it.
She tells me that Cleveland is intimidating and that I shouldn't have moved. Do I have buyer's (renter's) remorse? No. Not in the slightest. Even though riding the RTA is an adventure in itself, and sometimes I feel almost painfully alone - I really do like it here quite a bit.

I'm doing a two-day 150 mile bicycle tour in August with the company I work for. I am really looking forward to it.

I remember the first week I lived here. I strolled down this street and sat on the swings at Brush Park and felt like a little kid. I was thankful to have friendly neighbors and people to watch over me. I live in a house (though it's not all mine) that is free of insects and filth.

I think I've finally started to find my niche.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Some Things Just Aren't Worth Glowing For

Friends, I know you might think that playing miniature golf in a dark room that looks like a hippie vomited fluorescent paint to his own delight could be a wonderful thing...But allow me to tell you that it (in fact) is NOT.

Jeff and I went to Strongsville and played Monster Minigolf which is basically as described above, but add music coming back to haunt us from the late 80s and early 90s, along with costumed children who have over imbibed on sugary drinks and sweets - and you have Monster Minigolf.

In retrospect, this was not worth the $7.00 Jeff forked out (per person). I believe we went under false pretenses. One reviewer states:

"This place is amazing! Better than Chuck E. Cheese"

This was a promising review, because what's worse than Chuck E. Cheese? Sure, John McCain and Sarah Palin stink out loud...But there's seldom something quite so bad as eating pizza made by a rat. Let's be honest for just a moment.

Had we read the additional reviews, we would have had an epiphany like one that a drunk man has when the lights come on at last call.

"We've been to both places and we don't go to the one in the mall no more. Its bigger they have an arcade and you should see the big dude in the back stand up and talk."

Jeff commented that we've been to two miniature golf courses in Cleveland and they've both only been "ironically fun". If you can direct me to a happening mini-golf course, I'll buy you a drink at La Dolce.

We decided to make our way to Melt but the wait was a little long. We decided to go to Angelo's in Lakewood instead. In my opinion, this place has the best pizza - their pizza is better than Mama Santa's (I know, blasphemy). Keep in mind, that pizza is one of the 7 deadly sins to me. It's almost worse than McDonald's to me. Pizza is "slumming it" as far as sustinence goes, for me.

There's something about their slightly quirky pizzas that is so damn good. Ask me to place a finger on it and I cannot - it's just very good pizza. Tonight it was the meat lover's pizza, or as I call it, the "petting zoo" pizza. I liked it but have deep regret for eating it now. It was heavy, it was seasoned and was very...piggy. Give me something like the Acapulco Chicken BBQ (pineapple, chicken, bbq sauce, etc) that's a little lighter and I'm a happy sinner. It's a shame (for Jeff and I, not for Melt) that Melt was so busy. I think it even put Jeff in a hammy coma, because I called him from La Dolce not a half hour after we got home and he sounded as if he had been sleeping.

We had a lot of fun (sans Jeff, sadly) at La Dolce tonight.

CJ and I went and acted like normal customers on Thursday night. We had a cheese platter, a bottle of Meridian Pinot Noir and the Ravioli Fellini (cheese ravioli in a gorgonzola/parmesan/pancetta sauce). We were given fruit bathed in triple sec and a slice of tiramisu at the end. I have talked a lot about this place since I started this blog, but it's only because it is pure heaven and worth every single penny you spend there. La Dolce Vita (and a large part of Little Italy) doesn't get nearly as much love as it deserves.

If you want to be immersed in a cozy nostalgia with incredibly friendly people, Frank Sinatra blaring from some storefronts (I can't help but feel a little more carefree and happy when I experience this) as well as the best cassata cake (which is from Presti's - don't let Mario Batali tell you otherwise) - live in Little Italy.

I hope to catch a hayride and a bonfire before autumn is over.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Black Sheep Boy

I haven't traveled much in my life - not until fairly recently anyway.

Jeff and I just got back from visiting Buffalo, New York. We drove up on Friday night to see Okkervil River (my 4th time seeing them, his 5th) and stayed so that we could tool around Buffalo. We visited the Elmwood Farmers Market and picked up some pasta and a dark chocolate bar made with curry powder. I haven't tried them yet.

We went to an unremarkable Indian restaurant that seemed to be far too Americanized for my own tastes. They called the saag "spinach with curry" and it had corn in it. The best part of the meal was the kheer - and it came with some colorful fried things that looked like giant fish eggs. Truthfully (in my opinion, anyway) - it's hard to screw up kheer. If you can ruin kheer as the proprietor of an Indian restaurant, you should probably close your doors.

We went to the US side of Niagara Falls after that, and took some pictures. I will post these shortly, hopefully by tomorrow.

We stopped at an apple orchard on the way back to Cleveland and picked some great apples. I will be making an apple crisp sometime later this week.

Niagara has a bit of charm, but I'm less enchanted with it than I was the first time. I'm glad I saw the Canadian side when I went the first time, but I am not sure that I would do it again. First of all, it cost $15 to park. If I go to Niagara (Canadian) again, I'm parking in NY and walking or riding my bicycle to Canada.

I stopped at La Dolce Vita tonight and saw some friends. In other news, I have friends. Cleveland friends. Sweet.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hello, Cleveland!

I lived in Columbus, Ohio for the first 29 years of my life. The apartment where I spent the last 11 years of my life was mere blocks away from my childhood home. It was time for a change of scenery - but I just couldn't get the timing right.

I lost my job in Columbus, the very day that I was leaving for a trip to the Adirondacks. While on this trip, I got a phone call from a company in Cleveland that I had applied to many months ago. I had my first interview when I got back to Ohio, and had a second interview later on that week.

A drug and tobacco screening later, and I was offered a permanent position. I was told to report for work on September 15th, just a week before my 30th birthday.

I agreed to rent an apartment that I didn't actually get to see until the day I moved in, and hastily packed my bags and cat and took a 14-foot truck up to Cleveland. Fortunately, I love the apartment and I love the neighborhood (Little Italy).

I've been following Cleveland Foodie ever since I became a regular visitor of Cleveland (about two years ago) but I haven't gotten to go to many of the places she writes about. I hope to change that as time goes on.

I too, am a foodie. Before I get into that, I'm going to share some observations I've made as a Cleveland "newbie".

1. People seem to like corned beef a lot - but something tells me that I shouldn't get the kind advertised on the fluorescent orange signs.

2. There's a lot of talk about clambakes lately. I admit, I'm curious.

3. So far, Cleveland seems to be a lot more cyclist friendly, though I haven't found a bike shop quite as nice as BikeSource.

Just a few random observations.

I haven't really driven around much, and I'm okay with that. The bus seems to suit me just fine for most excursions, and I walk if/when I can. There are a lot of activities in Little Italy and a lot of very nice people. The bus can be interesting at times. I've learned that it's best to tune everything out with my iPod or pretend you don't speak English (I once told a man asking me for change on the #6 that I only spoke French - the truth is that I can only say one thing, and that is that I don't speak English).

CWRU is extremely close, so I can catch football games on certain weekends. You really can't beat 1/2 price wings at The Spot on Wednesdays, either. I was told that Andrew Bird performed there once. I wish I could have seen that performance.

I've been to the Beachwood Mall twice to get my Lush fix and have tooled around Coventry a few times (on foot). I've only had one "bad" day since I got here, and that's when I lost my credit card. Everything's okay though, and I didn't have any obscure pornography sites charged to my card before I cancelled it.

I went to La Dolce Vita tonight, as it is Ladies' Night. If you buy a drink (and that's any drink, even a soda) you can order from a special menu that is completely free - Save for a mandatory $2.00 gratuity. Let's face it - when you get such incredible food for the cost of a soda...I hope you give a bit more than two dollars. I had the Greco pizza, which had artichokes, spinach, feta and mozzarella cheese. Aside from the pizza needing garlic (in my opinion) it was amazing. A friend was having a ravioli dish that I will order the next time I go there for dinner. The staff is amazingly friendly and the food is amazing. Don't pass this place up.

When I tell my Columbus friends that I moved to Cleveland, they normally say - "On purpose?" and seem surprised. I know the jokes, I remember when the river caught fire... But I love this place.

I have a nagging urge to explore some of the abandoned buildings I see on Euclid when I go to work every morning, even though I know that probably wouldn't be very safe. One of the many gifts of being a passenger and not a driver is that I can gaze into the broken/absent windows and see a little bit of a light fixture, a cracked ceiling - and I want to know what else is there. I'd like to explore one of the old office buildings, especially - like the Victory Building that seems to have seen defeat. I saw a taller building that quite obviously held offices at some point. One of the windows was broken out and the blinds were partially hanging out of the window. On the way home that day, I imagined that it came to be this way when a frustrated employee found out that his company was closing. Either they jumped or threw a fax machine out the window in protest. I like to think the latter. I imagined that if I walked into the parking lot below I'd see the pulverized piece of machinery, thrown to its demise - still broken and laying there as if it happened earlier that day.

The reality is probably that a homeless person, dismayed to find that the air conditioning no longer functioned, probably broke the window out on a humid August night. I like my version a little better of course - perhaps it makes the reality of it all a little more palatable.