Why? Weekends!

It was another glorious fall weekend in Cleveland, this one packed with lots of family fun! Here’s what we did:

Halloween Hayrides

On Friday, we headed to Lake Metroparks Farmpark for the Halloween Hayrides.

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We started with a hayride past several fun, not-too-spooky stations with everything from traditional Halloween scenes…

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…to movie characters…

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…to cute decorations.

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The hayride drops you off where you can select your path: scary or not scary. We stuck with the not scary side, where we enjoyed glow dancers…

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…festive decorations…

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…and yummy concessions (Corbo’s Bakery apple fritters are not to be missed.)

Before we left, Jeffrey had to take a pony ride, too!

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The Halloween Hayrides have definitely become a favorite Halloween event for us. And while they are sold out for this year, keep your eyes open for next year’s ticket sales!

Pumpkin Party

Saturday morning was the annual Pumpkin Party at Jeffrey’s school. They create a mini pumpkin patch for the kids to pick a pumpkin and decorate, as well as other crafts and donuts and cider to enjoy.

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And since the weather was so fabulous, the kids got plenty of time to play outside on the playground too!

Marvel Universe Live!

Saturday afternoon, we met up with Jeffrey’s godparents Amanda and Scott for Marvel Universe Live.

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Jeffrey is just starting to get into superheroes and Amanda and Scott are very into superheroes, so it was the perfect activity. Jeffrey enjoyed the show (he thought most of the fight scenes were simply funny due to the number of flips and crazy moves) and declared Spiderman and Ironman to be his favorites. For me, I love that Jeffrey and his godparents can connect and have so much fun together!

Birthday Party

Sunday, we had a fifth birthday party for our niece Hannah. Elizabeth was pregnant with Hannah at our wedding…time flies! The party was at West Side Gymnastics Club and Jeffrey had a blast bouncing and playing with his cousins.

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Home Cooking

Despite all the activity, we managed to squeeze in some dinners at home too. I made my favorite homemade mac ‘n cheese, which has hatch chiles and chorizo.

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I use this recipe, but add in the chorizo. So spicy and comforting and yummy!

On the lighter side, I made swordfish with tomato relish (recipe here) and rice and broccoli pilaf (recipe here).

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Lots of good, fresh flavors in this meal! With as crazy as our schedules can be, I miss being able to cook at home and it was nice this weekend to have the time to make some meals for us.

So, that was our weekend! How was yours?

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Why? Mia Bella Restaurant!

On Wednesday night, I met up with Ann of Annie’s Signature Sweets for a chatty and carby dinner at Mia Bella Restaurant in Little Italy. We started with generous drinks: a Moscow Mule for Ann and a Old Vine Zinfandel for me.

After devouring the delicious bread with garlic butter, it was entrée time (AKA, bring on more carbs). I chose the scampi risotto, with butternut squash, zucchini, huge scampi, and a slightly spicy red sauce.

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The seasonal vegetables were the perfect compliment to the not-too-creamy risotto. And as someone who is almost always in the clean plate club, I will confess to taking some of this large dish home for leftovers!

Ann chose the Mia Bella pasta, a traditional linguini with marinara dish that was executed flawlessly. I totally approve of Ann’s decision to add mushrooms…I love me some pasta with mushrooms.

 

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Photo credit: Annie’s Signature Sweets 

We had decided to go to Presti’s Bakery for dessert, but we lingered over dinner too long and they were closed. There’s nothing sadder than pressing up against a bakery window, longing for a cannoli.

Luckily, since I had dinner with a baker, I got to take home some of Annie’s Signature Sweets ginger cookies, which helped to satisfy my sweet tooth!

The next time you find yourself in Little Italy, Mia Bella is a delicious, cozy, friendly choice!

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Why? Weekends!

This weather, right?! What a gorgeous weekend! And a busy one too…

Light the Night

On Friday evening, Jeffrey and I went up to Hathaway Brown for their Light the Night celebration, which kicks off homecoming weekend. From balloon artists to games to music to food trucks, there was something fun for every age.

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While the event was mainly to celebrate the high school athletes, Hathaway Brown did a great job of making even the youngest in the community feel welcome and engaged.

Halloweekends

Jeffrey loves Cedar Point and I love a fall festival, so Halloweekends is the perfect combination! The Great Pumpkin Fest transforms the kids’ areas of Cedar Point with trick-or-treat stations, hay bale mazes, pedal tractors, and non-spooky haunted house, and more Halloween fun.

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Plus, there are still all the favorite rides to enjoy! Jeffrey escorted Brenna on one of the car rides…how sweet are they?!

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Plus, the Halloween decorations throughout the park are impressive! There are tons of pumpkins everywhere, some creatively shaped, too!

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Plus, the summer-like weather and the chance to spend a day with some of our favorite people made Halloweekends quite the perfect day!

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Yoga and Brunch

On Sunday, I met up with my friend Beth for another round of Alicia‘s Yoga/Brunch series at Dante Next Door. After a challenging and centering practice, we headed downstairs to brunch. By happenstance, I knew almost all of the other yogis, so I not only had a chance to catch up with Beth, but chat with other Yoga/Brunch loving friends, too.

I’m working my way through the Dante Next Door brunch menu (it’s a tough job). This time, I chose the braised beef croissant, with shortrib, Gruyere, Dijon, and fried onions. The sandwich was so flavorful and tender!

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The flavors reminded me of French Onion soup, just in sandwich form. Delicious!

The next Yoga/Brunch is Sunday, October 22. $15 gets you an hour-long practice, plus a complimentary mimosa or coffee at brunch. Click here to register!

So, that was our weekend. How was yours? Did you enjoy the weather and cheer on the Indians?

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Why? Flour Restaurant!

I’ve talked before about the black hole that certain Cleveland places fall in for me. And while I had been to Flour Restaurant for brunch and lunch and have always loved their food at events, somehow having dinner at Flour had eluded me.

I finally remedied that last night at a belated birthday dinner with my dear friends Robin and Amy.

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I started with the Perfect Pear, a cocktail with Belvedere Vodka, Prosecco, St. Germain, pear, and rosemary. We also shared the aptly-named Big A$$ Meatball, with whipped ricotta, tomato sauce, provolone, and crispy sage.

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I would like some of that whipped ricotta to spread on everything. Literally everything.

For dinner, Amy and I both couldn’t resist the lamb garganelli, which came highly recommended by our server.

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The lamb was so tender and added the perfect flavor to the rustic sauce. And of course the pasta was perfection! We both got the smaller portion, which was more than plenty of food with the appetizer and dessert. I always appreciate restaurants that offer these kinds of portion options, allowing you to try even more things from the menu.

Robin chose the traditional Margherita pizza, made in Flour’s own wood-fired oven. For dessert, I had the tiramisu, Robin had the spiced chocolate cake (get this on your next visit), and Amy had the sorbet.

I don’t know why it took me so long to have dinner at Flour, but the casual elegance, delicious pasta, and tasty beverages will make it a place I won’t neglect again! And now you can take home your own Flour pasta to make at home thanks to Flour Pasta Co. Mangia!

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Why? Weekends!

Aside from all the eating we did this weekend, we also had some great family time too!

Great Lakes Science Center

We met up with friends for a fun, whole family play date at the Great Lakes Science Center. The kids spent most of their time in the Polymer Funhouse, which has a ball pit, slides, and lots of hands-on things geared to their age (see what I did there?!).

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To celebrate the Halloween season, check out Spooktacular Science at the Great Lakes Science Center on October 21-28, with things like a Monster Mash Dance Party, Eerie Science behind Lake Erie, and Pumpkin Explosions.

PAW Patrol Roll Patrol Tour

On Sunday, we took Jeffrey to play in Adventure Bay come to life at the PAW Patrol Roll Patrol Tour. He got to explore a life-sized Lookout…

…captain the Sea Patroller…

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…drive PAW Patrol-themed vehicles…

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…and, best of all, meet some of his favorite PAW Patrol characters!

Jeffrey LOVES the PAW Patrol, so the chance to not only meet the characters, but explore a life-sized version of their world was so exciting!

So, that was our weekend! Lots of eating (as you saw over the past two days) and lots of family fun too. How was yours?

***Disclosure: I was asked by Spin Master to help promote the PAW Patrol Roll Patrol Tour. In exchange, I received a box of Spin Master toys and a PAW Pass that granted me VIP access to the Roll Patrol Tour. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? L’Amour du Vin!

It’s probably time to admit that I’ve become a confirmed East sider. And while much of my life is spent between Downtown Cleveland and the 90/271 corridors, I will always travel for good food, good wine, and good friends.

Which is why I couldn’t miss the 20th annual L’Amour du Vin, held at Avon Oaks Country Club to benefit the Arthritis Foundation Ohio. And with Amanda as my date, I knew I’d have a wonderful time!

We started in the VIP area, with specialty cocktails from Brown-Forman, chair massages from EXHALE Spa, and delicious nibbles from Bonefish Grill.

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Their pumpkin ravioli with grilled shrimp and feta had me dreaming of fall-like weather!

In the main room, there was so much good food to enjoy that we had to pace ourselves. Amanda and I took breaks in the eating with regular stops at the silent auction tables, where we both ended up winners!

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When we weren’t silent auction perusing, we were enjoying food and beverages from places such as Heck’s Café. Their take-home packets of coffee were a lovely touch too (and I might be drinking mine as I write this!)

The strawberry balsamic bruschetta from Rocky River Wine Bar was a favorite of the evening!

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We also enjoyed the walleye chowder, an Ohio spin on a classic soup, from Blind Perch.

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There was plenty in the pasta category to enjoy, but my two favorites were the rich and decadent sacchetti al tartufo bianco from Luca Italian Cuisine, which will soon be opening a Westlake restaurant…

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…and the classic and comforting Bolognese from Café Piccolo.

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And to satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth (raises hand) there were desserts from Melt Bar and Grilled, which just recently opened their Avon location, and Kiedrowski’s Bakery, which this year covered most of their desserts in edible glitter which sent me over the moon.

 

It was a fabulous foodie evening and a good reminder that a drive to the West side is almost certain to be a culinary journey worth taking!

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Arthritis Foundation Ohio to help promote L’Amour du Vin. In exchange, I received two complimentary VIP tickets for myself and two general admission tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Weekends!

What a beautiful, fall-like weekend in Northeast Ohio! Here’s how we enjoyed our time:

Cafe o’Play

One of our favorite indoor play date spots is Cafe o’Play, which offers a ton of fun things for kids to do from slides and climbing to basketball to video games to a dance party room.

But even more than the chance to run around and burn off energy, I love that Cafe o’Play is run by some of the kindest, most caring people you’ll ever meet. To that end, through the end of September, Cafe o’Play is collecting diapers, Pull-Ups, adult diapers, and wipes to donate to the Houston Diaper Bank.

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We took our donation there on Friday and I think it’s a great way for even little kids to do something charitable in a way that they can understand.

Brunch at The Flying Fig

On Saturday morning, I met up with two of my favorite ladies at what has become our favorite brunch spot.

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Alicia, Amanda, and I enjoyed a chatty and delicious meal at The Flying Fig. I ordered the French toast, served with a crispy chicken thigh, bourbon bacon jam, and berries.

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A perfect balance, this solved my usual brunch dilemma of whether to order savory or sweet. Add a spicy bloody mary and time to catch up with my girls and you have a perfect Saturday morning!

Dinner at BRIM Kitchen and Brewery

Saturday evening, we met up with my parents for an early Grandparents Day dinner at BRIM Kitchen and Brewery. Every time we eat at BRIM, I’m impressed with the quality of the food and friendliness of the service.

I chose the pan-roasted duck, with sweet potato puree and truffle pierogi.

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The duck was tender and flavorful and I loved the pairing with the pierogi and sweet potato!

My mom had the short rib gnocchi, which she is still raving about!

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And of course we can’t pass up dessert. I had the churro pound cake with chocolate ganache and malted milk ice cream and Matthew had the carrot cake with marscapone ice cream.

We all enjoyed our dinners and had a lovely evening at this bright and bustling downtown Willoughby spot.

Woofstock

Sunday was a perfect day to groove, play, and fundraise at Woofstock to benefit the Geauga Humane Society.

There was so much furry fun to take in, from a puppy costume parade with all kinds of creative outfits…

…to a vendor fair with dog toys and treats; services such as grooming, pet sitting, training, and more; and lots of fun things to make life with your pooch even more awesome…

…to my favorite part: Resuce RRRow with adoptable dogs from various humane societies and rescue organizations around the area.

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Woofstock was a celebration of all things fuzzy and it certainly warmed my heart to spend a morning loving on some sweet pups!

So, that was our weekend! How was yours?

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Geauga Humane Society to help promote Woofstock. In exchange, I received one complimentary registration to the event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Weekends!

I wanted to hold off to do an evening edition of the Weekend Recap, so we could squeeze as much juice out of the unofficial end of summer as possible. So, here’s our weekend:

Memphis Kiddie Park

On Friday, Jeffrey and I met up with friends for a play date at Memphis Kiddie Park. This park is the perfect size for small kids, with just the right amount of rides to keep them entertained, but not overwhelmed.

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Jeffrey’s favorite is the roller coaster, but I still managed to convince him to enjoy some of the “tamer” rides like the carousel and the train, too.

Downtown Willoughby Corn Roast

I love me a good festival and I also love me some good sweet corn. So, of course I couldn’t miss the Downtown Willoughby Corn Roast.

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We enjoyed Mexican street corn and cheeseburgers from The Wild Goose/The Morehouse/Fiona’s Coffee Bar & Bakery folks. There was live music and bounce houses to enjoy, too.

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And we snuck over to Fiona’s after our dinner for some Mitchell’s Ice Cream (try the sundae with Fiona’s homemade mini donuts…yum!) The Corn Roast is in its early stages and still small, but I’m hoping it will grow bigger each year!

Good Home Cooking

Between Friday night at home and Sunday at my mom’s, we enjoyed some yummy home cooking! On Friday night, I made this Cheesy Ham and Gruyere Bake (recipe here) but added in some hatch chiles from Heinen’s for some extra kick.

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My mom made way too much delicious food when she had us over on Sunday, but my favorite was this tomato tart, which looks complicated, but is easy to make and so delicious (recipe here.)

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It’s tomato season, so don’t pass this one up!

Lake Metroparks Farmpark

On Sunday, we attended a birthday party for one of Jeffrey’s friends at the Lake Metroparks Farmpark.

We got to see lots of critters, as well as take a wagon ride through the Farmpark.

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We also enjoyed the birthday party classics of pizza and cake, although the dirt cups were my personal favorite!

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The Farmpark is a great place for a birthday party (we had Jeffrey’s second birthday party there)! It gives your guests lots of things to do and see beyond just eating and opening presents and it makes a theme pretty fun and easy too (ours was Elmo on the Farm.) Stay tuned for some grown-up happenings at the Farmpark tomorrow…

Air Show Family Picnic

One of my favorite Cleveland summer traditions going back to when I was a kid is watching the Cleveland National Air Show.

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Last year, Jeffrey saw some of the planes from a downtown parking deck and really enjoyed it. So, this year, I wanted to find a fun way for him to see the Air Show, but realizing that he’s not ready to sit out at Burke Lakefront Airport yet.

Which is why I jumped at the Great Lakes Science Center‘s Air Show Family Picnic. You got admission to the Science Center, lunch on their outdoor deck, and a great view of the Air Show. When there was a break in the action (or Jeffrey just needed a break), we could pop inside and explore the Science Center. Plus, there were experiments and bubbles set up outside to keep kids entertained too.

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The Air Show views were outstanding (including quite a few flyovers of the deck we were on) and it was the best way to experience the Air Show with a three year old!

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So, that was our weekend! I think we sent off summer in style! How was your long weekend?

jenclesig_pur

Why? Cleveland Zoological Society Ambassadors Circle!

Last night, Team Porcupine Rainstorm stormed our way through the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo hunting for clues (and brews) at the Cleveland Zoological Society Zoo Clues and Brews scavenger hunt.

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We fueled up for the scavenger hunt with small bites from the Zoo, as well as beers from Great Lakes Brewing Co., as we studied Zoo maps and planned our route to victory.

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Throughout the hunt, we learned more about the Zoo, its mission, and its residents; walked (or ran – go, Scott, go) a lot; and took a ton of silly photos.

The scavenger hunt is put on by the Ambassadors Circle Young Professional Group, which combines the benefits of Cleveland Zoological Society membership with opportunities for volunteering, networking, and leadership.

Membership in Ambassadors Circle is $120, which includes a full-access Zoo membership, as well as invites to events such as the signature scavenger hunt and FUNdraisers like a World Giraffe Day event at Platform Beer Co. and charity brunch at Lago.

Ambassadors Circle helps connect young professionals to the Zoo and shows them that it’s not just a great place for kids to play and learn, but also for adults to enjoy. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has an important role in the fabric of Cleveland, setting standards in animal care and welfare, acting as a hub of research for graduate students from Case, Otterbein and other local colleges, providing educational support for over 100,000 local schoolchildren, and working with partners around the globe to help secure a future for endangered species.

If you’re a young professional looking for a way to connect to not only other YPs, but also to some curious critters, check out the Cleveland Zoological Society Ambassadors Circle! Click here to learn more and join!

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Cleveland Zoological Society to help promote Ambassadors Circle. In exchange, I received complimentary registration for two for the Zoo Clues and Brews event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Zoma Ethiopian Restaurant!

When I moved to DC in 2003, I was amazed at the wide variety of ethnicities represented in the city’s cuisine. One that always intrigued me, but I somehow never tried, was Ethiopian food. So, naturally, 14 years later, back in Cleveland, I would finally try Ethiopian cuisine (and wonder what the hell took me so long.)

My friend Melissa and I met up for dinner at Zoma Ethiopian Restaurant last night. The decor was colorful and welcoming and the restaurant staff was similarly so friendly and inviting.

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Our table came with helpful instructions on how to enjoy Ethiopian food.

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Melissa and I started with an order of sambusa, which is fried dough stuffed with lentils. We both loved the spicy (and I mean, spicy) sauce served with the sambusa.

For my entree, I chose the lamb tibs, which is cubed lamb prepared with onion, garlic, rosemary, and jalapeno peppers and served on a sizzling skillet (think: fajita-syle.) For my side, I chose the flavorful split yellow peas, with onions, garlic, and turmeric.

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The food is served atop injera, a spongy Ethiopian bread used to dunk and eat the food. The texture of the bread is really different, almost pancake-like, but stretchier. And while it’s a great compliment to the food, it definitely takes up a lot of space in your stomach, so even our server warned us to not overdo the bread!

Melissa is a vegetarian and Zoma offers a ton of flavorful options for non-meat eaters. Melissa got a combo platter with chickpea stew, cabbage with ginger and curry, and red lentils in hot garlic and onion sauce.

We loved our meal and I really enjoyed exploring a different way of eating and different flavor profiles. After dinner, we popped across the street to pick a bottle of The Wine Spot‘s rose tree and enjoy some more good girl time.

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It was a lovely, spicy evening! I’m so glad I finally tried Ethiopian food and I can’t wait to go back and dip my injera in more flavorful offerings!

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