Monday, December 17, 2012

Yes, Cleveland, There Is A Christmas Unicorn

I don't normally write about music and concerts, I leave that up to my very capable husband over at Guy About Cleveland - however last night we went to a concert that was so spectacular and so wonderful in every way, that I feel compelled to write about it.

Last night at the Beachland Ballroom was the Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant on Ice, featuring one Christmas Unicorn, AKA Sufjan Stevens.

You're a Christmas Unicorn too. It's alright, I love you.

First of all, I have to say that I love my city and I love the people in it - including the visitors! While we stood in line we met and spoke to a couple of women from Columbus who had driven up for the show. The camaraderie that developed between total strangers over the course of one evening made the show even better.
The majority of the music was Christmas/Holiday related with sing-a-longs interspersed. The songs we sang (the audience and Sufjan) were chosen by the spinning of a Wheel of Fortune-style wheel that extended from the floor to the ceiling of the ballroom. Inflatable Santas and unicorns were flung about the room throughout the show while streamers, confetti and tinsel were also thrown around the stage and audience.
There were times where the show took a more serious and sacred tone, with four-part harmonies of old hymns being sung by Sufjan and his band acapella. Those moments caused the hair on my arms to stand on end - and at times I would look to either side of me and observe the rest of the audience standing in quiet awe, in reverence of what was happening before them.
At a climactic point or two in "The Child With The Star On His Head", a bubble machine started - filling the room with even more whimsy and excitement. At the end of the set, white paper confetti shot out of an air cannon for several minutes, blanketing concertgoers with Cleveland's first accumulating snowfall of the 2012 holiday season. The performance was over the top and exceeded my expectations in every way.
What we were party to last night, was a musical and theatrical performance of sorts, led by a man who loves music, loves Christmas, and loves to delight people - who wasn't afraid or ashamed to bare his soul and passion in a magnificent and flamboyant display.
The encore was made up of non-holiday themed songs - all but the final two being performed by Sufjan alone. The night ended with Sufjan's "Chicago" which as an added bonus, happened to be the song we played as the recessional for our wedding in 2011. I ran the gamut of emotions at last night's concert, but ended invigorated; with happy tears in the arms of the man I married.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Food Porn - Braised Short Ribs (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

We have been experiencing unseasonably warm weather here in Cleveland, but it doesn't stop me from getting into the holiday spirit when it comes to food. For me, this means baking bread and cookies, and making food that perfumes the house with its wonderfully comfort-foodie smells all day long, because it takes hours to finish.
As I took pause to gaze yearningly at the snow falling during the Packers/Lions game, something was happening in my kitchen. I started prep for the braised beef shortribs around 2:00, hoping to have dinner around 7.
I chopped the mirepoix and put it in the refrigerator. I set the stock to simmer on the back burner of the stove, and set the container with the seasons ribs on the counter to come back to room temperature. Once the ribs were back to room temp, I seared them and set them aside to rest. The pearl onions went on a baking sheet and into the oven while I cooked the mirepoix. The caramelizing vegetables made the house smell WONDERFUL.
Once everything was put together it pretty much became a waiting game. I started the potatoes and veggies (I made asparagus instead of swiss chard) about 20 minutes before the ribs came out of the oven.

Here's the end result:

I substituted Greek yogurt for creme fraiche in the horseradish cream. I used a 2% yogurt to give it a little more body, but I don't think there would have been anything wrong with using a 0%. The finished product was well received and there was a ridiculous amount of braising liquid/sauce left over. I suppose you could shred the beef and use the sauce as a jus of sorts and make a sandwich the next day!

For those who are curious, here's the recipe. SK is often my go-to for yummy recipes. I've never had a bad meal/dish from the site.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Alive and Kicking!

I realize that every now and again, I return to this blog and lament that I am an absentee blogger. It's true, I lack the dedication that many of my fellow Cleveland bloggers have when it comes to posting.

There has been a lot going on in my life, and I mean a LOT. I've changed my diet a lot due to a medical condition I've been diagnosed with, and have been exercising more. This means, less time spent on the computer, and fewer restaurant trips. In addition to all of that, I just moved!

This blog isn't going away, it's just going to change a bit!

I try to tweet whenever I can - so if you're not following #GirlAboutCLE on Twitter, you might want to start!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I got egged at the Waterloo Arts Festival

The Waterloo Arts Festival is one of my favorite summer events in Cleveland.

The street is the main vein of the Collinwood neighborhood on the East side of Cleveland. Several small businesses occupy the storefronts on Waterloo and are worth your visit, year round. The Beachland Ballroom and Tavern make up one of my favorite music venues. Beachland's Sunday Brunch (PDF) isn't to be missed either. They have a lot of options for just about anyone.

The food I want to talk about today however, is the food I had from the Cracked Mobile Foods truck. Until a few years ago I wouldn't have associated eggs with anything more than breakfast, and as a Thanksgiving side-dish. It's a tough thing for me to admit, but it's true.

Cracked had 6 options, but I chose a sandwich with fried egg, cottage ham, pear preserve, Dijon mustard and white cheddar. The bun was a little large, but still very good. The mildly salty ham was grilled slightly, and the mustard was generous but not overwhelming. Everything went together very well, and I can't wait to try another sandwich.

I love events that have multiple food trucks, because I get to try them. Most lunch stops aren't close enough to me to leave my office, and the ones that stop by the Circle are the same ones - so there's not much chance to try a new one. Check 'em out!

What's your favorite "non-traditional" way to have an egg? Let me know!

Sunday, June 17, 2012



[suh-pur-luh-tiv, soo-]


1. of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others; supreme; extreme: superlative wisdom.

When I woke up this morning, I had two different Facebook posts from two different, very good ice cream places in my news feed - both asking me to vote for them in a "Best of Cleveland" sort of competition. The truth is, both places are the best at what they do. The only similarity that they have, really - is that they both make and serve ice cream that tastes amazing.

There are at least three different places I'd tell you to go for the best Mexican food, my specific answer would be dependent on what kind of Mexican food you wanted to eat. There are just as many, if not more places that have the best sushi. Three places have the best burger in Cleveland. I live in Little Italy where there are many Italian restaurants who obviously serve Italian food. To me there is no "best Italian" because they all do something (Italian), very well.

I believe that in some ways, this is where these sorts of contests can fail us, and where blogging and word-of-mouth can be beneficial. If you just go to the one place that a publication tells you has the "best" of a certain cuisine or sub-genre, you are potentially missing out on something else in that same little niche of food that is equally grand. Then again, I have friends that will tell you that Chili's has the best damn fajitas you've ever had, and I just *know* that's not true. If the best fajitas you have ever had came in a plastic bag, you need to begin thinking outside the box.

It's not to say it's impossible to have a "best" of anything, but that to break it down to really, truly know the absolute best that the restaurants of a city have to offer to break it down by cuisine, genres and sub-genres, you'd be looking at a book - not a newspaper article or magazine. They are great guides, and it's interesting to me to see what the voters choose as the definitive taco of Cleveland, or who has the most transcendent bowl of pasta.

I know they're all in good fun, and hope this doesn't portray me as supreme repudiator of the printed page because I'm not - as a blogger I can't help but be a little biased about the fun of becoming more intimate with experiencing food, wherever you happen to be. Read the suggestions, but ask your friends and even your bartenders/servers once in a while. Some of the most delicious food I've found in Cleveland has never made its way to the pages of a magazine.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Foodies Ride Bikes, Too!

From road races to street fairs, and even a commencement ceremony or two - there was a lot going on in Cleveland today. A little more than an hour away from Cleveland, there was a time trial for cyclists - and that's where I was.

My day started around 5:20 AM with a reluctant tap to my snooze bar, only to get up about a minute later. I tried to eat something light, but my nerves wouldn't let me. I nursed my protein shake and got ready to go. Jeff wasn't racing today but has signed up as my coach, so he woke up with me and we headed out to Deerfield. When we got closer to the race location, the car became much quieter. I asked Jeff if I shouldn't talk so I could "get in the game". He shrugged. A few miles from the race start point, we started to see cyclists warming up.

The Eastern Ohio Time Trial Series takes place in Deerfield, Ohio. There is one race per month, and there are categories for various types of bikes/cyclists. The aero category is for cyclists who have aerodynamic equipment such as helmets, aero bars, and time trial bicycles. They tend to be the fastest, and have the most interesting bicycle components. Aero cyclists are grouped by age. There are standard categories for males and females - you would be in this category if you had a basic bicycle with no aero components. There are no age groups, for standard cyclists. There are also fixed gear and tandem categories, which are self explanatory.

I ride in the "Standard" category at this point. It's possible that several years down the road, I may end up in the aerodynamic category, but only after I myself become a bit more aerodynamic! A friend of mine once said that her husband told her that if she wanted a 15 pound bike, she could lose five pounds. Some might balk at this advice/jibe - but I feel it to be true. If you've got any weight to lose, take care of that first before spending thousands on your bicycle.

The point of this blog entry was not to lecture you on how to choose a bicycle, though. I just wanted to share my thought process when preparing for a race.

The Hype

Not so many years ago, I was a couch potato. To look back at the things I used to eat and (not) do is both amusing, and scary. My favorite food used to be Bagel Bites. I'd drink several cans of soda a day. I rarely cooked, and had an odd fetish for a certain nationwide pizza chain. When I first bought a bicycle, I couldn't go a mile without wanting to throw up.

I used to think this was a hill:

I figured out how wrong I was about two years later, when I moved to Cleveland. I didn't really know a whole lot about cycling, and after one season of hilly bike tours - realized I'd been riding in my middle ring the whole time. When I figured this out, it made stuff like this, a LOT easier:

...And this isn't even what I'd consider to be "hilly". 2007-me would have probably collapsed, two miles in. It's both amazing and amusing to me, what I can do now compared to what I could do then.

I cannot help but bring this up to people. Richard Simmons can't help but advocate exercise because he KNOWS - he used to weigh 268 pounds. If you ask me what you should do to get fit and lose weight, I'd tell you to get your butt on a bicycle - whether you cruise around the neighborhood or eventually graduate to doing crit races. It's fun. It's crazy good for you.

So yeah, I brag a little.

"What am I doing this weekend? Why, I'm doing a time trial." I'll say to friends/co-workers. Not because I'm an elitist ass, it's because sometimes I can't even believe I'm saying it, or actually doing it - but I am. I used to go nowhere fast, and now I'm going fast - in the middle of nowhere!

 Sometimes I'll add my PR into the conversation and say I'm hoping for a new PR this season (my current is an average of 18.25 MPH, which is still mighty slow in the company I keep during those races). Heck, 15 MPH is impressive if you don't know any better - and that's how horrible I was last year. It was raining, I was not as in shape as I was for that PR.

The Fear

It wouldn't matter if it was 72 degrees outside with no clouds or wind, I tend to try and psych myself out the morning of a race. Maybe the humidity is too high, or my head hurts. It doesn't have to make sense, and to be fair I've never actually chickened out - but I will try to convince myself that I can't do the race. I don't usually shake this feeling until I'm about a mile in and get past the initial muscle ache of pushing my limits. Then and only then, do I make the realization that I can - and AM doing the race.

The Reality

Just like the truth, it can hurt a little. My muscles ache and scream out for protein by the time I'm finished. Depending on where the bike tour/race is, I could very possibly be covered in a layer of filth. My throat tends to get dry on races, because I'm breathing heavier - but damn if it isn't worth it. I love, LOVE how it feels to complete a bike tour or race. I may not get a medal, but I finished something I wouldn't have ever dreamed of only a few years ago. It's a pretty awesome feeling.

Today, I averaged about 17.35 miles per hour over 12.7-ish miles. Not a PR, but one heck of a lot better than 15 and that's good enough for me, for now. I didn't ride "in the drops" today, which would have made me significantly faster. Jeff suggested that I might have gotten a new PR today had I done so. I'm not used to it, and really should be for the shorter, faster rides.

Riding in the drops means your hands are on the lower part of the handlebar, and your body assumes a more aerodynamic position.

Lucky for me, there's another race next month and another chance at a PR. I've already promised myself a new tattoo if I can accomplish this, so I might be coming to see you soon, Voodoo Monkey!

If you ride a bike and want to see how fast you can go, I would recommend giving this time trial a look. There are riders of all ages and abilities, and 100% of the proceeds go to the Portage County Park District.

Long live Cleveland + Clevelanders!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Doing Cleveland Right

Long after the cards and flowers of Valentine’s Day were gone and forgotten, Cleveland Chef Michael Symon wrote a love letter of his own – expressing his undying love and commitment to the city that many of us know and love – Cleveland.

Chef Symon fondly recalls his childhood around Cleveland with his Grandparents, and even about his teenage years where he spent hiding from Cleveland in the suburbs – in the “wide world of vanilla” and the regret he inevitably felt upon leaving. It was then that he truly began to appreciate the many flavors of Cleveland.

If you haven’t headed over to Huffington Post to read Symon’s letter in its entirety, it’s worth the read whether you live here, or are simply a curious bystander.

I mentioned the letter to a friend of mine living in Columbus who, when quoting Symon’s last paragraph said “Cleveland is like a woman you’d date for who she is, not what she looks like.”. While I can see how someone who has never been to Cleveland could make that sort of jibe about a place they’ve never been, I had to disagree. While the city does have a lot to offer in music, food, culture and small businesses, and yes…Sports – Cleveland IS beautiful.

When Chef Symon’s letter first appeared on Huffington Post, there were only a few comments. One commenter stated that he was very annoyed with Symon’s restaurant, Melt.

“But anyone that goes to Melt, waits an hour to eat, and then realizes the best thing about that place is the beer selection, will agree with me.”

Many readers were quick to defend Symon and sing the praises of his actual restaurants (for those not in the know, Melt Bar and Grilled is headed by Matt Fish, and is WAY more than grilled cheese).

Another commenter said, “cleveland sucks! Can't wait to get out!” to which I quipped,

You’re doing it wrong.

I have a hard time believing that anyone living in, or visiting Cleveland could be so repulsed that they felt compelled to leave post haste if they could only have the chance to take in some of the many things that are completely amazing here. I wonder, has that guy ever had the duck fat fries at Bar Cento? Has he ever been to an Alley Cat Friday or Record Store Day at Music Saves? Did he ever consider going on a ride with Cleveland Critical Mass? Probably not. I simply cannot believe for a second that the commenters above are even trying to enjoy any of these things - or anything else Cleveland has to offer.

How do you “do Cleveland right”?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A look back on something COMPLETELY new...

Back in the days when I was a fan of Def Leppard and Firehouse – among other bands whose least menacing addiction was probably Aqua Net, the prized trophy  from one of the concerts would have been a drum stick, or a guitar pick (if you were so lucky as to be within throwing distance). At the more “indie” shows and smaller venues, the Hipster “Holy Grail” seemed to be the band’s setlist – I have a few of those myself, including the one from the farewell show of A Northern Chorus.

I was sitting at home about a week ago, just reading over some news articles when I noticed that one of the tabs in my browser was flashing. I looked up and it said that I had a message from Zack Bruell, and I found that very peculiar. Bewilderment quickly turned into elation when I read that I was one of the four winners of the “Blast From The Past” dinner at Table45!

The dinner was held on Tuesday, April 24th at the Chef’s Table in the kitchen of Table 45. It featured menu items from as far back as 2007. All entrees were paired with wine. My husband and I met with six others (the other three winners and their guests) in the glass-enclosed seating area and marveled over the kitchen before the first course began. Regrettably, I had forgotten to bring my camera – but I can tell you that the kitchen at Table 45 is compact, efficient and linear. The kitchen was pristine and bright, a far cry from the kitchens I worked in many years ago, when the phrase “mise en place” would have gotten you a gezundheit or a strange look from the BOH staff.

For the duration of the evening we had a host that was dedicated to our table, and were in constant communication with the Chef. Before we started dinner, we were served some of the House Naan bread with different dipping sauces. Table 45’s kitchen features a Tandoor oven, which is ideal for making numerous dishes but works very well with Naan. Cooked on the side of the oven, the bread ends up crisp and slightly charred on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside.

Before long, the first course came out.

Course One (2011)

Grilled Hearts of Romaine Salad with Shaved Red Onion, Parmesan Cheese, and Smoked Paprika Vin

The salad, a lightly grilled wedge of romaine, was simplistic and thanks to its short time spent on the grill, needed little to no seasoning. Many of us agreed that the smokiness of the grilled lettuce was complimentary to the other flavors. My husband and I have also vowed to try grilling romaine hearts at home!

Course Two (2010)

Vegetarian Lasagna with Red Pepper Coulis

There were a couple of fascinating aspects to this lasagna, the first being that it contained absolutely no pasta. Secondly, there was no tomato to speak of in the sauce. I’m not normally a vegetable type of person (something I am trying to change) and might have turned my nose up at a lasagna made completely of vegetables – save for a little cheese baked in as a binder – had it not been made so perfectly. The coulis was innovative and added a little bit of heat and zest to the dish, something that might have been harder to do with a tomato based sauce.

Course Three (2009)

Rice Paper Wrapped Crab Cake with Carrot-Daikon Salad

The crab cake drifted away from the traditionally heavy, cornmeal based cake that you’d find. The cake itself was light, and borrowed some Thai flavors. The remoulade had a little heat, and the spring roll wrapping made the cake slightly crispy.

I’ll break from the menu descriptions here just to comment that one of the most delightful things about the dishes I experienced was that they were all “true” flavors – and what I mean by that is that everything tasted exactly like what it was, without any excessive seasoning and no attempt to mask the true flavor of the meat or veggie we were tasting. It was one of the most wonderful things about the evening!

Course Four (2008)

Thai Coconut Broth wth Shrimp, Scallops, and Fried Rice Vermicelli

I voted for this entrée when I entered the contest, and it was undoubtedly my favorite. The very moment that the eight of us tucked our spoons into the slight spicy, velvety coconut broth – a hush fell over the room. There was nothing to say for a moment, because it was just that perfect. In addition to the shrimp and scallop, we were also treated to a mussel (the best I’ve ever eaten – perfectly cooked and smooth) and a small clam. I would have this dish – even the broth by itself – again and again without ever becoming tired of it.

Course Five (2007)

Rack of Lamb with Indian Mint Sauce, Mashed Yellow Lentils and Tomato/Cucumber Salad

The lamb was placed atop a pillowy portion of the mashed lentils, which were actually very spicy. I’d also like to add that at this point, I had begun to “hit the wall” in terms of how much I could manage to eat.  The lamb was lightly spiced, and the accompanying  raita-like sauce helped to calm the heat of the lentils, as did the tomato and cucumber salad. I loved this dish, but wished that the lentils would have been a little creamier. I was also getting pretty full!!

After the final entrée course, I think that Chef sensed that people were a little full, and we had a short pause to reminisce over the dishes we had just tried. It really was a great group of people, with all but two of us being bloggers/Tweeters of some sort.

Sixth Course (2009)

Apple Galette with Minted Crème Anglaise

The galette was enormous yet very light, and the accompanying sauce tasted like a classed-up thin mint. The flavors went very well together, and our host snuck in a SIXTH wine pairing!

Contented and slightly tipsy, we took our leave after another bit of good conversation. The Chef’s Table at Table 45 is available for booking and is listed on their website as a two-hour, multiple course experience. This was my third time at a Chef’s Table (first at Table 45) and was just as memorable, if not more so because of the direct contact with the Chef.  Speaking of which, during one of our exchanges I mentioned using smoked sea salt, and let him know about the Bonfire salt at Urban Herbs. I tend use smoked sea salt (and only the salt) when seasoning steaks for the grill. This produces a completely awesome steak that requires no additional sauces or seasoning.

At the end of the dinner, the Chef came in with a small container of a charcoal-smoked salt that he uses in cooking. To me, this was the foodie version of scoring the drummer’s stick or the band’s setlist. I don’t know exactly when I’ll use the salt, but I know that I’ll remember the amazing food that we had that night!

I will also disclaim that while I attended this dinner as the result of winning a contest, I am not writing this blog under any responsibility or urge by Table 45. My opinions and evaluations are my own.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chowing Down in C-Town!

My husband suggested heading to the C-Town Chowdown tonight for dinner. I have to admit I was reluctant at first, considering how packed the 2011 Winter Chowdown was! When we pulled into the parking lot of The Agora, I wondered if it was going on at all. I learned that Umami Moto's brick-and-mortar venture, The Hipp - was hosting patrons inside their new restaurant space (which was an EXCELLENT idea... It's super cold outside!).

We had a choice of Umami Moto, Zydeco, StrEat Mobile, Sweet! Mobile Cupcakery and Seti's Polish Boys. One of the benefits to going with friends and or/loved ones, is that you get the chance to try out more things. The only truck we did not sample tonight was StrEat. Next time!

Here's a quick review of the things we tried tonight:

Zydeco: Hush puppies. For only $2 you could get a total of six, bite sized. My only prior experience with hush puppies was about 20 years ago at a place that rhymes with Don Juan Wilbur's. Yum! Zydeco's hush puppies were simple and what I'd expect them to be. They didn't take any artistic liberties, and that's good in this case.

Umami Moto: Banh Mi and Sweet Potato Tots. I really liked the sandwich quite a bit. UM has the great gift of offering up fresh and straightforward food. Their Banh Mi is served with pulled pork, jalapeño, cilantro, and daikon/carrot pickles. I could eat the pickled veggies forever, and the bread and other accouterments were fantastic. It had great flavor and was the perfect size.

The tots were also very good, and reminded me of French Toast (I know that sounds odd, but I do not see this as a bad thing - Hello, curried French Toast anyone? I may have to try that). They came with a curry aioli that I wish there had been a bit more of. We got a huge portion, perfect for sharing.

Seti's: While it's not a "first date" kind of food in my book, Seti's served up one of the most flavorful hot dogs I've ever had. The Polish Boy we got was covered with fries, barbecue sauce, cheese, slaw, and chili. It was indescribably messy, but that's the way it should be. While this one was technically Jeff's - I had a few bites and was wishing for my own Polish Boy - and a not-full stomach!!

On the way out, we stopped at Sweet! and picked up a Red Velvet and also a Buckeye cupcake. We waited until we got home to try them, and they were great! Sweet! has several flavors to choose from, at only $2.50 a piece - with better deals when you buy in bulk (6 or 12)! Totally worth it.

The C-Town Chowdown is going on until 10pm tonight (3/3) so if you're out and about and a little hungry, go for it! If you're not out and about, get going - I promise you it's worth the trip!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

There's A Lot Going On

Through many of my adult years, I'd get to December 31st and pine for a better tomorrow to follow the mediocre yesterdays. The 2011-2012 transition was one I spent with friends in a cottage on the shores of Lake Erie in Ontario. Instead of hoping for a better 2012, I remember just hoping that 2012 would be as good as 2o11 was.

2011 wasn't a perfect year, but as it went on it definitely got better. I got married last year, and went to Costa Rica for our honeymoon. A few weeks later, we spent a week in the Adirondacks. A couple of months later, we went to Albany and witnessed history in the making when our Aunt legally married her long-time partner. It was a very good year.

While in Canada, we visited a restaurant that boasted Mexican, Indian, Thai, Japanese, and other types of cuisine. The food was not bad by any definition, but I personally felt that some of the dishes seemed to lack depth, especially the vegetarian ones. A burrito that my friend had could have easily had beans or tofu or more vegetables, but only had sweet potato and salsa. I had an udon dish that was great in concept, but was very salty. I remarked how it almost tasted like it had been seasoned with a packet of extremely salty ramen seasoning. I wondered if by taking on so many cuisines, the restaurant lacked focus. I've been to "fusion" restaurants, but nothing like the place we went in Ontario. Has anyone seen a restaurant take on so many cuisines and do it well? I'd love to hear your comments!

Here's to 2012!