Monday, August 23, 2010

Shifting Gears in the 216

Some people have referred to the group as "Terrorists on bicycles". During July's event, two riders were ticketed and threatened with jail time. The officer told the pair that he was "sick of this group".

Who are these people, exactly? Are they a rowdy bunch of rough, tough bikers with a penchant for terrorizing our fair city?

The "plague" sickening the law enforcement officials of Cleveland consists of bicyclists; and if the Critical Mass rides in June and July are any indication, they are strong in numbers - and I'm one of the many.

I commute to work by bicycle most every day. The HealthLine is slow, and I can't seem to go on a single bus ride where someone isn't dramatically pulled from the bus for freeloading, so I ride. As a commuting cyclist, I can attest to the dangers of Cleveland streets. In many areas, the roads resemble spent minefields, scattered with holes and large pieces of glass. The roads, combined with your average motorist can make even a 5-mile commute a truly horrifying ride.

On the last Friday of every month, Critical Mass Cleveland meets Downtown at Public Square at 6:00, shoving off at 6:30 for an uncharted and leisurely ride through Downtown and surrounding areas.

What's the point? In a way, it's social networking on two (more or less) wheels. We ride, we talk, and we end up at a bar. Sometimes, cake is involved. Another important purpose is to show people what it would be like with a significantly higher number of cyclists on the road. Yes, we're slower than your motorized vehicles but we also have every right to be on the roads.

We're here, we're geared... Get used to it!

The mood however, isn't so militant. Through the bicycle bells you will hear riders wishing onlookers and passers-by a "Happy Friday". If someone rides by on a bike in the opposite direction, Critical Mass riders will often clamor for that person to join in the fun. Sometimes, at least once in the ride - it works.

Riders of all skills and types are welcome. There is no charge to ride. The most important thing is to have fun, and make friends. Check out the Facebook page or the group's Twitter. I hope to see you there this coming Friday!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I (less-than-three) CLE


I really am very glad that I moved here, and I can't believe that it's actually been nearly two years since I did so.

There have been some life events that have prevented me from updating lately, Jeff had a cycling accident three weeks ago where he ended up fracturing his hip. He had surgery and is now on the mend. He's on crutches and has been home for a couple of weeks. We aren't going out as often, but it's not going to stop us from getting around.

There are so many reasons I'm in love with the 216, and I talked about some of those (food related) reasons in my last entry. Cleveland is a fantastic place to find good food, but there's a lot more to our fair city. Many of you probably already know about the things I'm going to touch on today, but I hope that this will open up discussion amongst my readers. I'm not really a Cleveland newbie anymore, but I'm also a little partial to the East side. I have a feeling that there's so much more to love about CLE.

Terra Verde Soap Co. - They do for soap what Michael Symon does for pork. They take a simple thing that has been around for ages and make it scrumptious (please, do not eat the soap!). I discovered them for myself at the Bizarre Bazaar last Christmas. I have a love for all things soapy anyway (see Lush), but absolutely loved the Grass/Pumice soap. We also picked up some solid perfumes and candles as gifts for others. You can find TVSC at their Etsy shop, and at Salty not Sweet in Waterloo (yet another place I love here!). Last year they had candles poured into bottles of Christmas Ale, but they went quickly!

Little Italy - I live here. Perhaps then, I'm a little biased. But between the restaurants, the galleries and the PEOPLE - this is a wonderful place to be, on a temporary or permanent basis. The people in my community came to Jeff's aid when he fell at Murray Hill and Random Road. Councilman Kevin Conwell personally called EMS, and Fabio from Gusto found our house and alerted me that Jeff was injured. People who didn't know him came and brought him water, lifted him and carried him out of the street and waited with him until the ambulance took us to UH. People at the Alta House held his bicycle safely until we could be home to retrieve it. The Cipullo Bocce Tournament is coming in July, and the Alta House is raffling off a lease on a new car or a 7,000 dollar cash prize. All proceeds benefit the Alta House. Sure, I have the trains to lull me to sleep, but I also relish the sound of bocce balls colliding in the evening.

Music Saves - Everyone should know about this place, and if you don't - consider yourself informed and get over there. Instrumental in the vinyl resurgence in Cleveland, Music Saves is a great store for your vinyl, and non-vinyl musical needs. They also carry locally made jewelery, and clothing. They may still have some limited edition CLE Clothing Co. shirts. I picked up one a while back and I always get comments at the gym when I wear it. (About the shirt!)

Beachland Ballroom - I love the Ballroom/Tavern for a lot of reasons. They hosted my cousin's first gig in Cleveland (if you missed it, you should check her out) and are by far my favorite music venue in Cleveland overall. I love the brunches, especially when Tom and Leia are working - and I can't wait to get to one of the barn dances.

Speaking of Tom and Leia, I also love the Afternoon Naps!

This really just scratches the surface. I'd like to hear from my readers, though - what else do you love about Cleveland? This can include places to eat, of course!

On a personal note, I completed 27 miles in the Sunday in June bicycle tour in Burton today. I planned on 50 but as it turns out, I don't really care for a soggy chamois when I'm riding!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cleveland Reruns

I'll admit that I haven't been as adventurous as of late when trying out new places in Cleveland. When we have gone out, we've stuck to the tried and true, the not-so-new - and that's fine for us. We did have our first Momocho experience recently, but that's another post.

Work has kept me busy lately, and I've really enjoyed cooking at home. We made liege waffles a while back, and I've also had a thing for breakfast burritos (Greek yogurt instead of sour cream = loverly!). Since we bought our pizza stone, we hardly go out for pizza anymore. I'm also doing my very best not to unleash my bridey-ness all over this blog. It's not even relevant. We're not even getting married in Cleveland!

Tonight's post is about the reruns, the places you go back to again and again. I've already touched on my love affair with L'Albatros in previous posts so I won't do that this time. Here's just a couple of my favorite "reruns".

India Garden (Lakewood). Despite the fact that one of the waiters consistently hits on me and tells my fiance that he's a "lucky, lucky man" when he finds out that we have no babies, this is on my personal list of favorites. Their mango lassi is great (second only to Cafe Tandoor's) and the buffet is inexpensive and tasty. We lucked out on our last visit and had gulab jamun with kheer after our lunch.

Richie Chan's (Cleveland Heights). This is one of those unassuming places, kind of like Thai Kitchen in Lakewood - where you're not quite sure what to make of the non-decorated, folding tables and chairs. The menus are partially hand-written in the case of Richie Chan's.

A person attempting to be judicious might tell you that this gives a place character, makes it unique, and that a restaurant doesn't need to pop out to you in some way to get you in the door. I disagree. I think most people want something to pop. Sheherazade had to keep King Shahryar hooked on the stories she told so as to protect her own life... Hookless restaurants generally have a harder time of it.

That being said, if you're brave or trusting enough to visit either of these places - I don't think you'll be disappointed. Hooks? They don't need no steenking hooks, mang.

Tell me about your reruns. What places do you visit in CLE again and again?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Less Than Three Cleveland (that means LOVE)

Yea, verily... Happy are we in Cleveland.

The parks, the fantastic music venues, the countless amazing chefs and restaurants - oh, and the bloggers...These and many other things make Cleveland a great place to live and visit. I am so in love with this city. That's right Alexa... This is an EDA - for CLEVELAND. Yep, I'm madly, madly in love with the 216.

Some people don't think so, and that's okay, because most of us know better. It is up to us who really believe in Cleveland to help make this city a better place for those who might disagree with us. If that means volunteering, supporting local businesses, or showing friends and loved ones who may not know how awesome this place is, then so be it.

I will be at the Literary Cafe in Tremont this Friday from 9:00 to whenever as a model for the pretentious artists in the Literary Cafe Drawing Club. Stop by, if you're not snowed in already. If you are, please be safe and make some hot chocolate.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A miracle? You must be trippin'.

It took me a minute to write the opening line of this entry. I first typed that I heard about flavor tripping on Food Network, but that may not be true. Then, I was going to say that I heard about it on the Goons with Spoons website. Maybe...

Flavor tripping is something that I can tell you with complete certainty that I have wanted to try since I heard of it. I mentioned it to several co-workers who turned up their noses at the thought of eating lemons and swilling vinegar. My mother thought it was a "drug thing" when I explained that you dissolve a little tablet on your tongue. My best friend shook her head disconcertingly when I offered her a tablet the next day, telling me that she doesn't like to "experiment".

Well, what is flavor tripping? It involves ingesting either a tablet or the pulp of the miracle berry. The miracle fruit, Synsepalum dulcificum, is native to West Africa and has been known to Westerners since the 18th century. The cause of the reaction is a protein called miraculin, which binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids.

Miracle fruit is even being tested with cancer patients, as it seems to alleviate a metallic taste that some chemotherapy patients experience, possibly causing a loss in appetite.

This means lemons taste like lemonade, goat cheese tastes like cheesecake, and strawberries taste as if they're coated in sugar.

The party took place Monday night a B Side Lounge and was hosted by Stove Monkeys. It featured food from Light Bistro (one of our favorites) and North End Wine Bar. We were offered the choice of a fresh berry or a tablet (Tablets were provided by mberry) and opted for the fresh berry at first. I'm not going to lie, I wasn't very taken with the fresh berry. I constantly asked myself, "Did I do this right?" and didn't really notice a drastic difference in the taste of most foods presented to us. I really wish I would have tried a lemon before I had the berry. After 10 minutes or so, I decided to return to the table where the tablets were sold. We purchased tablets this time. I dissolved one completely on my tongue, making sure to rub the tablet along the receptor areas completely. A minute later, I enthusiastically bit into a lemon wedge.


The tablet did the trick, for sure. It tasted just like a drink of lemonade. There were ceviche shots and the scallops tasted even sweeter than before. Hot sauce was still hot, but I think I was able to go past the heat somewhat and taste the pepper that the sauce was made from. The same could be said for the jalapenos. The salt and vinegar chips tasted as great as I think they do normally, but not in a face-puckeringly tart way. I wish we would have tried the beers provided after the tablet, it would've been neat. Luckily, we purchased a pack of 10 on the way out (thanks, mberry!) so we'll be able to trip again and again. If we had more space in our apartment, I'd even like to host a party but that would never happen where we live, currently.

You can purchase the tablets online from mberry for $14.99.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

L'amour... L'Albatros...

I've heard other foodies refer to the "Tour De Bruell" before. For the uninitiated, it involves going to each Zach Bruell restaurant (Parallax, Table 45, L'Albatros and now Chinato). If I am a participant of this tour, my mode of transportation seems to be stuck somehow - because I keep going back to L'Albatros.

Our first visit was on one of their first nights. The restaurant wasn't packed by any definition, and the walls were sterile and bright, save for a painting of a woman's eyes hanging on the back wall. Naturally the servers were still a little green on the menu, but ours handled everything wonderfully. I had the Hangar Steak and Frites, and Jeff had the Skate Wing. As I started to eat, I wondered if what I was experiencing was commonplace. Had I just not been to a restaurant of this caliber before, or was the food just that good? The steak was flavorful and done as a steak should be. The fries were perfectly salted, hot and crisp. As we left that night, I told Jeff that I really hoped that the place would do well, that other people would realize how great it is, and that we'd be able to come back and enjoy the same wonderful cuisine for years to come. So far, our wish has come true.

On each visit, I have ordered the very same entree and have relied on Jeff to order new things to sample. I think I became fixated on steak frites when I first heard Anthony Bourdain talk about it at his restaurant, Les Halles. At the time, I had only had steak with a baked potato. "Who in the heck eats french fries with a steak?" I asked myself. It didn't make sense to me, to my unenlightened self. I simply didn't go out to eat that often back then, and I certainly didn't go to anything that wasn't a chain. Now, Bruell's take on this "nonsensical" dish makes sense - and is all I can think about ordering when I go to L'Albatros.

We chose to go there a third time for a date which just so happened to take place right around this "holiday" called Valentine's Day. We, much like Cleveland Foodie do not buy so much into the commercial aspects or celebration of Valentine's Day. The restaurant was packed and yet, they seemed to try and accommodate even those who hadn't placed a reservation. We had a great table and decided to go all out and order whatever we wanted (truthfully, we had been given a gift card for Christmas). We started with a salad made with greens, shaved fennel, feta and I thought beets, but I do not recall seeing them in the salad. They split a single salad between us and it was delightful. There was a little too much black pepper in mine, perhaps - but that was completely my fault.

We opted for cheese for a second course, picking five wonderful cheeses to sample. We were also offered a sixth tasting of bleu cheese (because we said we weren't fond of it) that we were urged to try. Every single cheese was amazing - except for the bleu. I didn't spit it out and neither did Jeff (we were promised we would not be thought poorly of if we did so), but I did take a healthy swig of my Manhattan immediately thereafter. I described it as tasting like an old hymnal.

Aside from our final cheese sampling (which we still tried in earnest!), there was not a single thing we disliked our of the entire evening. Based on our previous experiences with L'Albatros, this was not surprising. Their staff is attentive, polite, and concerned with every single patron's enjoyment of their evening.

Halfway through dinner the candle on our table went out. Jokingly we whispered, "This is an outrage!" when truthfully, it didn't matter. The food was just as good and the night just as romantic. We thought nothing more of it. Minutes later, a new candle was placed at our table. This touch may have been minute, but the attentiveness to something so small was an inextinguishable mark of how every detail of the food, presentation and ambiance is important to Zach Bruell and his staff. Are you rolling your eyes at me now? Did she just write a whole paragraph about a candle? The voice in my head that once scoffed at "steak and french fries" wants to mock me for this.

It says, it's a candle. A CANDLE. Come on.

The candle was the cherry on top of the best sundae I've ever had, let's look at it that way. The evening was amazing, but the little nuances were what made it spectacular. We actually did end up with a brownie and ice cream (not quite a sundae) and the cherry was actually in my Manhattan... But you get my drift. Maybe that's what it is.

I'm drifting. I'm in a rowboat with only one oar, and I'm drifting blissfully - circling L'Albatros again and again. I simply must find my other oar and proceed onward to the next stop in the tour, though there is no question I will be making a round trip, coming back to one of the restaurants, certainly the favorite so far, that made me fall in love with Cleveland's cuisine.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pedals and Pancakes and Pizza... Oh My!

Jeff and I have been going to spinning classes on Saturday and Sunday mornings. He bought me a membership to Urban Active for Christmas, and ended up getting a free 30 day trial membership in the process. He liked spinning so much, that he got a month-to-month membership. He says he'll keep it until spring.

After doing several cycling tours in Northeast Ohio, I realized that I needed to do something to become adept at tackling the hills of our rural roads. The company I work for has a cycling team that commits to do Pedal to the Point every year, and many people take a spinning class in Strongsville that 1. I have no way to get to and 2. It starts before I even get off of work. Urban Active had a holiday special where you could get an 18 month membership for $299 and after I noticed their spinning classes on weekends, I decided that I wanted the membership and I asked "Santa" for it.

First of all, you won't believe how people became outraged that my own boyfriend bought me a membership to a gym. "Aren't you offended?!" asked one co-worker. Nah. Going to the gym with a BF (or even your BFF) is like having a date/outing where you just happen to get in shape. Urban Active (like many other gyms) has a cardio "theater" where you can hop on a treadmill, elliptical, arc trainer or a stepmill and watch a movie. I also started the "Couch potato to 5k" program this week in hopes to run in an alumni race for my high school in Dublin. Now, I am hardly a potato but I am no runner. The next several weeks will be interesting, to say the least.

After spin last Sunday, we stopped by Lush at Beachwood Mall and picked up some goodies and then headed to Woodmere to have breakfast at the Original Pancake House. When you've been spinning and shopping for stuff that smells good - Sometimes all you want is a plate full of carbs. And those carb-frisbees can be stuffed with coconut (my pick), strawberries (Jeff's pick) or even bacon. Yes, OPH makes a pancake even Michael Symon would love, and he'd only have to walk across the street to get it. The food is inexpensive and good, and in some way it kind of reminded me of going out for breakfast on a Sunday morning when I was a kid, even though I'd not been to an Original Pancake House before last week.

We went to Sur La Table afterwards, and bought a molcajete, much like this one and a new corkscrew (with a bottle opener on top, perfect for opening Mexican Coke found at Alesci's and Marc's!). We also stopped by Trader Joes, and I was very sad to see that they've evidently stopped carrying honey chevre. Does anyone know of a place to find it? I cannot wait for the Sweetfire chevre at the Shaker Farmer's Market. Come on, Spring!!

Once at home, I made a sandwich fit for a Superbowl. Using a loaf of Italian bread, hot capicola ham, salami, hot pepper rings and provolone (all from the West Side Market) I put together something the exponentially outclasses Subway or any other sandwich shop I've been to. The meats and cheese cost about 10 dollars, and the bread was a couple of bucks, but we have enough deli cuts to make two sandwiches and then some (hey, guess what we ate tonight?). After using olive oil and red wine vinegar on the bread and sprinkling some oregano on top of the cheese, we piled on the meat, peppers and cheese and stuck the whole thing under the broiler for a few minutes. Yum.

I actually don't have a lot to say about pizza, except that since we bought a pizza stone we hardly go out for it anymore (Angelo's is the exception). With the closing of Vidstar Video in Coventry, we got set up with Netflix and will be having a date night (in) while watching The Dark Knight and making good use of our pizza stone. Tomorrow will involve a pineapple, ham, and bacon pizza.

What do you like on your pizza?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Naps and Dogs

I wasn't really into the local music scene when I lived in Columbus, and I hadn't really even heard of half of the bands I currently listen to. Over the series of several shows however, I have become friends with Leia Hohenfeld, singer/keyboardist of Afternoon Naps.

Afternoon Naps, the "Too Twee to live in this world" band hailing from Cleveland, Ohio plays happy, upbeat music that you can't help but (at the very least) bounce around to, in a way reminiscent of the awkward "dancing" at a middle school dance. They're awesome. Leia and Co. may have served you brunch at the Beachland Ballroom, but if you've never seen them play, you're missing out.

I got to have my first Afternoon Naps full show experience and hot dogs from Happy Dog on Friday. Let me say that it was very packed. We didn't get to sit down for a while, but once I got past the hunger pangs I was okay! A packed restaurant usually means that the food is good and also that people are there to listen to some great local music. I am not sure who the guy was that covered Cherub Rock, but it was unforgivable! The Naps had some sound issues at first, but played a very nice set.

The hot dogs were very tasty, and very large. I loved the toppings though one of the dogs was completely missing one of the toppings I had requested. Overall, I'd say they did pretty well with such a packed house, but I did miss the kimchi. Columbus has a similar place called Dirty Frank's which I have to admit, I like a little better. The hot dogs are a little smaller and the topping list isn't quite as vast, but what they do have is great (check out the Cowboy Curtis). I can't help but be a little biased towards a place that serves Jeni's ice cream, anyway! (That reminds me, I'd like to make it to Bar Cento sometime...).

Happy Dog gives you unlimited dipping sauces with your fries or tater tots. The grape jelly chile sauce and the chimichurri were amazing. We'd like to go back when it's not packed quite as badly. It was an interesting scene, to be sure. My first reaction, admittedly was to send a text message to a good friend that read; "Trapped in hipster bar, send help!". I'm glad we went though, for the music and the food.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hidden Gems

"Good news, everyone!"
- Professor H J Farnsworth

At long last, I was finally able to score a $50 gift certificate to Light Bistro, courtesy of Cleveland Independents. We always forgot about the sales and really missed out on the deals. I caught a forums post (by a troll, no less) about buying a certificate and snatched up the last LB certificate.

I don't think I'd call Light Bistro a hidden gem, though. I'd say it's pretty scintillating on its own. If you just want to get your feet wet with Chef Matt's cuisine, visit Light during their reverse happy hour. It's way too easy to have several small plates and a few cocktails on the cheap.

I'm hardly one to know about any significant number of Cleveland's hidden gems, but I have discovered a few that are (in my opinion) really worth checking out, and not discussed all that much.

Mekong River -1918 Lee Road, Cleveland Hts, OH
Don't let the lackluster storefront fool you, inside is an extensive Thai and Cambodian menu with 14 levels of spice available to you. The pineapple fried rice (at level 3) is amazing. Try it with a thick version of bubble tea.

Thai Kitchen - 12210 Madison Ave, Lakewood, OH (Okay not technically Cleveland...)
I admit, I walked out of this place for a moment based on its aesthetics. It's not a fancy place, but when you sit down to a plate of pad thai (authentic; not the fluorescent red/orange kind) you actually feel like you're being served an amazing Thai meal in someone's house.

Aoeshi Cafe - 2175 Lee Road, Cleveland Hts, OH
Aoeshi is another one of these places that doesn't look the best in decor, but the sushi is amazing. I've discussed this restaurant before. Catch a movie at the Cedar-Lee and have some sushi afterwards. Go for the futon, it's faboo.

Tom's Seafood Restaurant - 3040 Saint Clair Ave. NE, Cleveland, OH
Maybe I'm just new to dim sum and have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, but all-you-can-eat dim sum for $8.99 is a great way to get your (chicken) feet wet without a big financial commitment. The ladies with the carts are a little persistent at times, and absent at others - but free oolong tea and AMAZING char siu bao are worth it.

Tell me what you think are truly hidden gems in Cleveland dining. Have you been to the restaurants I listed? What did you think?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What makes a blogger stop posting?

I've wondered this again and again over the past several months. When did I stop posting and why? My posts slowed and eventually stopped right around the time that Jeff moved in. Is it his fault? No. He even started his own blog and has been posting in it. Spending weekends and evenings completely blissed out on cohabiting. I've been falling in love like it's going out of style, seriously. Deeper and deeper, I guess I could say - high on delta brain waves.

But perhaps a more interesting question is, what make a blogger start posting again? The answer to this is less cloying and more... Porky.

The answer is Michael Symon. We work out in Beachwood and realized it was only a short drive to Woodmere to B Spot. Since neither of us had actually been to a Michael Symon restaurant, we decided to go for a post-spin lunch. Before last Saturday I don't think you would have ever caught me saying that eating a hamburger could equate to having a meaningful religious experience - but I think I can safely say with every blasphemous keystroke that I now know why people are smitten with this man's culinary creations.

I had the Lola Burger and Lola Fries, and we shared a basket of the lime-cilantro wings. I also had a milkshake that was less like a shake and more like a half-melted pint of Mitchell's ice cream. There's not one bad thing I could possibly say about the entire meal, or the staff. I mean, the man got me to eat onions, and I hate onions with a passion.

We definitely want to go back, and we also want to try the other restaurants. I even mentioned to Jeff that if we visited friends in Detroit that we could go to Roast.

We could however, get to go to Lola (and other fine Cleveland restaurants) just for donating to a good cause. You've heard of this, haven't you? By donating a minimum of $5 to Veggie U, you will be entered to win over $1800 in gift cards. For you coupled people, that's a lot of date nights. GOOD date nights. For you singles, that's just plain old good food and boo-on-you for keeping it all to yourself.

To quote Michelle over at Cleveland Foodie:

If you donate $5 to Veggie U, you will automatically be entered to win more than $1,800 worth of gift cards to all your favorite eateries and shops. Want to increase your odds? Donate $10, $25, $50 or more (I promise you won’t miss $25). For every $5 you donate, you will earn another entry into the drawing. The more you donate, the greater your chance of winning. You have until February 13 to donate and be entered. It’s easy – just call 419.499.7500; you must reference Cleveland Foodie.

And she's right, we don't miss that $25. It's for a great cause and who doesn't like good food? If you haven't and you've got at least $5 to spare, please donate. (In the name of SCIENCE!!!)

In music news, Shearwater is coming back to Cleveland. We went to the show last year and feared that due to the low attendance, they might not want to come back. Please, if you have never listened to Shearwater - do it now. Tell your friends, buy a ticket or three and be prepared to be blown away by some amazing music/vocals.

As for this particular moment, I am listening to Baroque music and it makes me feel like I want to drink tea and watch Dangerous Liaisons.