Why? Weekends!

It was a busy, fun, outdoorsy weekend (yes, this is the right blog and I said outdoorsy). Let’s get right to it…

Camping

Matthew, Jeffrey, and I embarked on an overnight camping adventure with Matthew’s siblings and cousins and their kids. As you know (or can probably surmise), camping is a bit outside my wheelhouse. But Jeffrey was excited to go and I ended up having a really great time!

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We spent the weekend on Matthew’s cousins’ property in Thompson. We made a bonfire and roasted hot dogs and s’mores…

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…we took a creek walk and went waterfall sliding…

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…we went canoeing…

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…we watched fireworks…

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…and just generally had a good time with family in nature. Tobey even joined in the fun!

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Being that we’re not big campers, we needed some supplemental gear, which is where CampRents came in.

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CampRents is a local company that rents backpacking and camping gear and can get you outfitted for everything from backyard camping to hiking the Appalachian Trail.

We rented a one-person tent (to add to our three-person tent), sleeping bags and pads, and a headlamp. Everything came cleaned, packed, and ready to go.

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When we were done camping, we just packed everything back into the bag to return. This is an easy, cost-effective way to try out new gear or get yourself ready for an adventure that might not happen often enough for you to buy your own supplies.

All in all, I survived the great outdoors and even enjoyed it!

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***Disclosure: I received complimentary rental items from CampRents. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

Yoga + Beer at Platform Beer Co.

On Sunday, after returning to civilization and showering, I headed to Platform Beer Co. for an hour-long vinyasa flow with a beer chaser taught by Alicia.

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Alicia’s accessible, but still challenging, teaching style was the perfect thing to wake me up on Sunday morning (and get out some of the sleeping-on-the-ground stiffness). Plus, it’s always fun to practice outside, especially on such a beautiful morning!

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After class, we stayed to chat and enjoy a beer. I highly recommend the Passionista Wit!

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Plus, the whole event was a fundraiser to benefit the Arthritis Foundation. What a win!

If you’re interested in starting your Sunday with a little detox to retox, Alicia is teaching another Yoga + Beer event at Platform on Sunday, August 18. Cost is $20 and includes an hour-long class plus a beer.

You can also trade your beer for wine when Alicia teaches Yoga on the Viaduct on Wednesday, July 31, with incredible sunset views and a social at Luca Italian Cuisine to follow. Cost to attend is $25 and includes an hour-long class, glass of wine, and appetizers. Both events benefit the Arthritis Foundation.

Splash Park

Sunday afternoon, we cooled off with friends at the Lyndhurst Spray Park.

This is one of our favorite places to go in the summer, because it’s always bright, clean, and has a lot to keep all ages entertained.

It was the perfect end to a fun summer weekend! How was your weekend?

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Why? Bottle and Bottega!

Last night, Matthew and I had a fun date night at Bottle and Bottega Cleveland West. I always think activity-based dates are great because they not only give you something to talk about, but they give you a glimpse into your partner’s (perhaps hidden) talents.

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We had the choice between two paintings for last night’s class, which was something unique from other wine and paint events I’ve attended. Our instructor Erika went between the two paintings, instructing our classmates through the painting of their choice.

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Erika made the painting easy, with step by step instructions and plenty of space to add our own artistic touches.

It was neat to see the progression of our paintings. Despite all starting with the same “template,” everyone’s paintings took on their own unique style.

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Matthew’s architecture skills and ability to be detailed and deliberate definitely served him well in his painting. And mine, well…I had a lot of fun at least!

We packed snacks and wine for our painting adventure. Bottle and Bottega provides wine glasses and bottle openers to make your packing lighter.

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Bottle and Bottega offers not just canvas painting, but also wine glass painting and wood pallet painting, too.

They even have Paint Your Pet or nude model figure painting. Something for everyone!

It’s a great spot for a date night, girls night out, birthday or bachelorette party, or corporate outing. Check out the upcoming class schedule or book a private party. Unleash your creativity, with the help of a little wine, at Bottle and Bottega!

***Disclosure: I was invited to attend a complimentary class at Bottle and Bottega Cleveland West with a guest. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? All Star Game!

OK, I promise this is the last of the wall to wall MLB All Star Game coverage. But as I sit here sunkissed and happily exhausted, I would be remiss if I didn’t put down a few thoughts on Cleveland’s moment in the spotlight:

Play Ball Park was a blast! From the World’s Largest Baseball…

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…to the memorabilia from the National Baseball Hall of Fame…

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…to the hands-on activities…

…there was something for every age of fan.

Working the magenta carpet at the T-Mobile Derby After Dark Party was a bit surreal. And Francisco Lindor is as gracious as you think he is. And his smile is as mega-watt as it seems on television.

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Photo Credit: Manny Wallace, Cleveland Scene Magazine 

The Red Carpet event prior to the MLB All Star Game was quite the spectacle. To see East Ninth Street turned into a massive red carpet…

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…to see so many talented players arriving at a pinnacle moment in their career…

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…to just see this ballpark and city that I love so much just bursting with energy…

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I honestly can’t overstate what an incredible few days it’s been to be a part of the All Star excitement.

We have so much to be proud of, from cultural institutions to restaurants. Cleveland is an amazing destination and there should be no question that we can show all of our visitors an incredible time.

But more than that, Cleveland really shines in times like this, not just with the ability to pull of a large national event, but in our ability to be warm, welcoming hosts.

Did you take part in any of the All Star festivities?

***Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to Play Ball Park and media access for the Red Carpet courtesy of Destination Cleveland. I was invited to cover the magenta carpet at the T-Mobile Derby After Dark Party. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Caruso’s Coffee!

The best part of waking up is something local in my coffee cup. Recently, I had a chance to sample several varieties of coffee from Caruso’s Coffee.

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Formed in 2003 as a family business, Caruso’s Coffee harnesses Mike Caruso, Sr.’s nearly 40 years of experience in the coffee business. Caruso’s uses only the finest Arabica beans, which are custom-roasted to order for coffee shops and roasted in various flavors for consumers, packed the same day, and shipped within 24 hours of roasting. This process ensures the highest quality coffee!

Caruso’s roasts and blends a wide assortment of Fair Trade Organic Coffees. Their roasting facility is certified organic by OCIA (Organic Crop Improvement Association) International.

Caruso’s offers a variety of roasts to meet your tastes. Full City roast is their standard and most popular roast. Caruso’s also offers Viennese, French and Italian, each of which gets progressively darker. Light roast is available upon request.

I sampled four varieties of Caruso’s Coffee: Erie Island Coffee Co. Perry’s Brew, Caruso’s Coffee Sumatran Viennese, North Coast Coffee Co. Ohio City Blend, and Zack’s Brews Parallax Blend.

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I tend to like medium-bodied coffees, while Matthew likes bold, dark roasts. My favorites were the Parallax Blend (ironically my favorite of Zack Bruell’s restaurants) and the Ohio City Blend. Matthew loved the smoky Perry’s Brew. Both of us enjoyed the Sumatran Viennese for easy waking up.

I love encouraging you to shop, eat, and drink local as much as possible. And what better way than to kick off each morning with delicious locally-roasted coffee that is perfectly suited to your taste? Check out Caruso’s Coffee today!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote Caruso’s Coffee. In exchange, I received four complimentary bags of coffee chosen by Caruso’s. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Weekends!

Oh my gosh, you guys. It’s JULY! When did that happen?! Here’s how we closed out the last weekend in June…

John Carroll Alumni Volunteer Summit

I spent a good part of my weekend up at John Carroll University attending the inaugural Alumni Volunteer Summit, which was truly energizing and inspiring.

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Image Source: @jcualumni 

The Summit brought together alumni volunteers from various university departments and areas of the country to share ideas, learn about the university’s vision for the future, and eat ice cream overlooking our beautiful alma mater’s campus.

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We kicked off the Summit with a cookout outside of Murphy Hall, spent Saturday hearing from various departments within the university, and ended with a party on the Quad with a band and food trucks.

Matthew and I stuffed ourselves with pizza, mozzarella sticks, and truffle fries from Sauced Wood Fired Pizza (the firecracker chicken pizza is so good).

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As one of the incoming members of the Alumni Association Board, the Summit was a great chance for me to connect with other Board members and get ready to once again give back to a place that has given me so much.

Dear Evan Hansen

On Saturday night, Matthew and I attended one of the final Cleveland performances of “Dear Evan Hansen.”

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This deeply moving, funny, true, heavy, beautiful story made me laugh, cry, and think about loneliness, human connection, parenting, and so much more. I was so glad we had a chance to see it!

Cedar Point

On Sunday, we met up with our dear friends (and some of Jeffrey’s godparents) Amanda and Scott for a toasty, fun summer day at Cedar Point.

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Jeffrey is enjoying his new height and was able to ride Thunder Canyon for the first (and second and third) time this season.

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From rides to lunch at Famous Dave’s to ice cream at Toft’s to fun with some of our favorite people, it was a perfect summer Sunday!

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How was your weekend? Do you have big plans for the holiday week?

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Why? Punch Bowl Social Summer Specials!

By now, my love for Punch Bowl Social is well-documented. From delicious food that utilizes lots of local ingredients and providers to a fun environment with tons of games and entertainment options to those cocktails and punches…

Last night, we got a chance to sample some of Punch Bowl Social’s latest seasonal menu additions. Matthew tried the featured punch: The Watermelon Polo Bowl, with Sauza Blue Reposado Tequila, Teakoe’s Watermelon Spearmint Tea, McClary Bro’s Watermelon Shrub, house-made strawberry syrup, and fresh lime juice.

I had the It’s a Mer-Man’s World, with Old Forester Bourbon, Teakoe’s Pineapple Papaya Tea, house-made cardamom syrup, Bacardi 8, and fresh lime juice. What light, refreshing summer drinks!

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And there’s no better place to enjoy them than Punch Bowl Social’s rooftop bar, offering great views of the city, Lake Erie, and the rest of the Flats East Bank.

We started our meal with a new appetizer: Umami Bomb Chips and Dip, with charred onion, sour cream, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, and anchovy, served with celery sticks and sea salt kettle chips.

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This dip was creamy, salty, savory deliciousness! It’s a great spin on the classic chip and dip combo.

For Matthew’s entrée, he had the Mediterranean Salad, with crispy falafel, marinated feta, marinated cabbage, romesco, hummus, tzatziki, mixed lettuce, and sumac lemon vinaigrette.

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This salad is a trip around the Mediterranean, with lots of different styles and flavors incorporated. And what a bright, colorful presentation too! It’s not often that just a salad fills Matthew up, but he was completely satisfied after this one.

I had the Shrimp Burger, with butter lettuce, roma tomatoes, pickled red onions, Old Bay mayonnaise, on a sesame seed bun with rosemary fries on the side.

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Much like a crab cake sandwich, the Shrimp Burger was hearty, packed with shrimp, and a great summer sandwich option.

Jeffrey devoured the Lil Knock, the kids menu cheeseburger, in between rounds of Candy Land at the table.

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For summer fun, summer sippers, and summer seasonal menu items, you can’t go wrong with a trip (or two) to Punch Bowl Social!

***Disclosure: I received complimentary food items at my visit to Punch Bowl Social. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Weekends!

Was this weekend not the most glorious kickoff to summer?! Oh my goodness, we soaked up every moment of it!

JCC Camp

Friday wrapped up Jeffrey’s week at the Mandel Jewish Community Center‘s Anisfield Day Camp.

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The kids got to swim, play dodgeball and Simon Says, do crafts, run a ninja course, and generally burn a lot of energy and get really dirty, as kids should in the summer.

Jeffrey had so much fun and I managed not having my buddy with me all day better than I thought I would, so it was a win all the way around!

Brim Kitchen and Brewery 

On Friday night, I met up with my friend Elizabeth for dinner at Brim Kitchen and Brewery.

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Brim has a great rooftop deck, as well as a second floor that soaks up lots of wonderful sunlight. Brim brews their own beers, as well as having a tasty cocktail menu. I enjoyed the Pom Delight, a Belgian light ale brewed with pomegranate.

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For dinner, I had the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich, with yum-yum sauce, pickles, and house coleslaw.

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In an effort to be healthy, I swapped the truffle fries for grilled asparagus and was totally happy with that choice.

It was a fun and yummy kick-off to the weekend!

Cuyahoga50

On Saturday, the entire family celebrated Cuyahoga50, the 50th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River fire that sparked a national wave of environmentalism.

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For the third summer, Matthew rows crew on the Cuyahoga River with Western Reserve Rowing. He had a regatta on Saturday morning, so Jeffrey and I went down to cheer him on and take in the Cuyahoga50 events too.

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We got to check out the Blazing Paddles event, see the Never, Ever Give Up installation, and just generally enjoy the amazing transformation the Cuyahoga River has undergone.

It made my heart so happy to see how many people of all ages were out and about on the River!

Indians Game

Saturday afternoon, we celebrated another big Cleveland anniversary: 25 years of Progressive (cough, still Jacob’s, cough) Field.

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The giveaway for the game was a replica ballpark, which is currently in Jeffrey’s room, but I might be stealing it back soon!

The weather was perfect to take in an Indians win, enjoy a beer and some Momocho nachos, and generally feel like summer.

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Heck’s Cafe

Between activities on Sunday, I met up with my mom for lunch at Heck’s Cafe in Avon. The weather was perfect for sitting outside and enjoying a champagne mule.

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I had the Asparagus Salad, with mixed greens, avocado, tomato, black sesame, and a lemon ginger vinaigrette. I added seared tuna for a delicious, light lunch.

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I love dining al fresco this time of year!

Engage Cleveland YP Week

Stay tuned tomorrow for my recap of my Sunday spent doing activities with Engage Cleveland’s YP Week, which is happening now!

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Why? Weekends!

What a glorious summer weekend! We had so much fun, so let’s get right to it…

Safety Town Graduation

Friday morning, Jeffrey graduated from Mentor’s Safety Town.

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The program was really well put together, with fun crafts and songs each day and great teen helpers. Plus, Jeffrey would come each day last week and be able to tell me exactly what he learned about fire, water, traffic, bus, stranger, and gun safety.

I’m so proud of our little graduate!

Zippity Zoo Doo

On Friday evening, Matthew and I attended the Cleveland Zoological Society‘s annual Zippity Zoo Doo fundraiser.

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The event not only raises money for the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo‘s conservation efforts and educational programming, but it also puts a swanky cocktail party right in the middle of Wilderness Trek!

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We were able to explore Asian Highlands and the Rosebrough Tiger Passage while sipping cocktails and nibbling on small bites.

Driftwood Catering did a great job with the food, with everything from corn soup shooters and mini chorizo tacos passed around to lamb chop with couscous and chicken nachos to sit and enjoy.

The cocktails were delicious too…this Bourbon-y Arnold Palmer was my favorite!

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We also got to feel like a kid again with Art of Sucre‘s delicious and fun cotton candy cart (I had the pink lemonade and champagne flavors combined into light, fluffy goodness).

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From food to friends to fun to philanthropy, Zippity Zoo Doo had it all!

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***Disclosure: I was asked by the Cleveland Zoological Society to help promote Zippity Zoo Doo. In exchange, I received one complimentary and one discounted ticket. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

LaureLive

On Saturday, we met up with friends for some fun and music in the sun at LaureLive.

I was a little apprehensive about taking Jeffrey to a music festival, but he had a rockin’ good time! Check out this awesome “air guitar” from the local Original Air Guitar!

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They had a promo giveaway at LaureLive and I don’t think Jeffrey has put the guitar down since.

The weather was perfect for sitting outside and listening to a lot of great local and even international bands. I was impressed with how the festival switched from stage to stage so there was almost no break in the music and you could easily hear and see all the acts.

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The food selection was awesome, with lots of food trucks and vendors to pick from. I grabbed lunch from Wok on the Wild Side and it was so yummy! And who can resist Luna Bakery and Cafe‘s macarons?!

When the kids got fidgety, there were bounce houses, face painting, and balloon artists to keep them happy.

And while we started too early in the day to make it all the way to Hozier, we did have an awesome time and were really impressed with the whole LaureLive experience!

Cedar Point Shores

The summer fun continued on Sunday with our first trip of the season to Cedar Point Shores, where Jeffrey went on water slides and I worked on my “mom tan” (you haven’t been laying out in the sun, you’re just outside chasing after someone).

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All in all, it was a busy, perfect summer weekend! How was yours?

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Why? James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner!

When the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner was announced, it was one of those events I immediately knew I wanted to attend. And while the ticket price might seem like a splurge, when you get 10 courses of phenomenal food prepared by celebrated chefs, plus wine pairings, you realize it’s a total steal!

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We started the evening by getting a glimpse at the entire group of chefs, who clearly all get along so well!

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Then we headed into Urban Farmer for the big event. We started with a cocktail hour with signature cocktails, as well as local beer and wine. Matthew tried the interesting Salt-Acid-Fat-Heat, with Tito’s Vodka infused with house-grown chili, Ardberg 10 year scotch, lemon, rosemary, and prosciutto and I had the light and fruity Spring to Summer, with Tito’s Vodka, aperol, grapefruit, lime, and Prosecco.

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We also nibbled on passed appetizers. There was Duck & Pancetta Polpetta from Chef Brian Okin of Dinner in the Dark; “Hillbilly Crudite” from Chef Adam Bostwick of Polpetta; Curied Foie Gras on Toast from Chef John Selick of Sodexo, University Hospitals; Yukon Gold and Sartori Mini Pierogi from Chef Chris Quinn of US Foods; and Braunschweiger Mousse from Chefs Penny Barend and Melissa Khoury of Saucisson.

Our first course from Chef Karen Small of Flying Fig was a Crisped Spring Onion Crepe, with asparagus and wild shrimp, tarragon, red chili butter, lemon confit, and Heritage Lake Farm watercress.

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This dish was springtime on a plate: delicate, light, and yet filled with distinct flavors.

Next was Roasted Summer Vegetables, with basil, smoked parmesan, and quinoa from Chef Justin Lucas of Urban Farmer.

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The vegetables had a rich, smoky flavor and the quinoa added nice texture.

The third course was A Walk through the Chef’s Garden, with squash blossom, egg, nasturtium, asparagus, green tomato, oyster leaf, and turnip.

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This dish was visually stunning, from the drop of “water” on each leaf to the perfectly runny egg nestled inside the squash blossom.

Next up was a play on a classic favorite from a hometown favorite: Chef Michael Symon of Lola, Mabel’s BBQ, and B Spot Burgers.

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The Chicken Liver Matzo Balls, with summer truffles, were a gourmet and luscious spin on the classic comfort food.

Next up was what I found to be the most interesting dish of the night: Koji Cured Crispy Maitake, with wild greens and walleye bottarga from Chef Jeremy Umansky of Larder Delicatessen & Bakery.

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Tangy, crispy, fresh, and delicious, this dish really showcased Chef Umansky’s unique ides.

The eating kept right on going with Ohio Wagyu Beef, with fritter, tomato chutney, carpaccio, beef fat tonnato, horseradish, rocket, quinoa, and maldon from Chef Vishwatej Nath of Urban Farmer.

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What a tasty way to enjoy wagyu two ways!

Our final savory course  was Lamb Loin, with napa cabbage, cannellini beans, tomato glace de viande, and celery root espuma.

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From Chef John M. D’Amico of Chez Francois, this dish was so delicious, I was tempted to lick the plate. This celebrated chef rarely leaves his kitchen, so it was truly a treat to enjoy his food at this event.

We had two dessert courses, which is how I plan to end all my meals now. First was Raspberry Tea Mousse, with lemon poppy sponge, fig, lemon verbena, and rye crumble from Pastry Chef Kara Swortchek of Urban Farmer.

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So many different flavors and textures at play in this bright, fruity dish!

Our final course was decadence defined and deconstructed: Dark Chocolate Toasted Rice Ice Cream, with black sesame almond chocolate cake, black sesame streusel, candied almonds, fennel caramel, coconut ginger cream, and pickled ginger chip, from Pastry Chef Annabella Andricks of The Dinerbar on Clifton.

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Each course was expertly paired with wine, some local, some not. But I loved seeing some of my local favorites from M Cellars and Ferrante Winery make appearances!

It was a fun, delicious, long evening of incredible food, wine, and camaraderie.

We have an incredible food community here in Cleveland, certainly worthy of such an amazing Celebrity Chef Tour experience.

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Why? Weekends!

It was a busy weekend of celebrating the start of Jeffrey’s summer break and our seventh anniversary. Here’s how we acknowledged those special occasions:

Cedar Point

On Friday, Jeffrey and I kicked off his summer break by taking a trip to our favorite summertime spot: Cedar Point.

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This is the third year we’ve gotten season passes (Jeffrey has the awesome Pre-K Pass, which is such a good deal). I love the ability to go up there as many times as we want, stay as long as we want without feeling pressured to do everything in one trip, and save on food and merchandise purchases and parking.

Jeffrey loves the spinny rides and I did my best to hang in there with him!

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We also checked out the special Monster Jam Thunder Alley area, which is happening through June 30.

You can climb up into some of the trucks and even take a ride in a monster truck!

It honestly felt like summer as soon as we arrived and we can’t wait for lots more trips to Cedar Point this season!

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Art in the Village

Saturday morning, Jeffrey and I met up with friends to check out Legacy Village‘s annual Art in the Village.

We strolled through all the talented vendors from Northeast Ohio and beyond, listened and danced to live music, and let the kids run around the lawn. All in all, a pretty nice way to spend a couple hours!

***Disclosure: I have an ongoing relationship with Legacy Village to promote their events, for which I receive compensation in the form of Legacy Village gift cards. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

An Evening in Coventry Village

On Saturday, Matthew and I had a date night in Coventry Village. We started with dinner at Pacific East. We shared the massive and delicious Sushi Bridge, with sashimi, nigiri, a California roll, and a spicy tuna roll.

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We also shared the roti canai appetizer. Pacific East has a huge menu with both Japanese and Malaysian cuisine, so everyone can find something to suit their tastes.

From there, we headed to Grog Shop to hear my dear friend Melissa and her School of Rock classmates rock out in an awesome performance.

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Melissa started taking drum lessons at School of Rock earlier this year and she’s already a total pro on the drums! I was so proud of her for learning a new skill and totally killing her gig.

And if you haven’t been to Grog Shop, it is such a cool, funky place to see live music (with a killer local craft beer selection), so check it out!

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Seventh Anniversary

On Sunday, Matthew and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary.

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Photo Credit: New Image Photography

We spent the day doing yoga, playing with Jeffrey in the backyard, and making dinner at home, so it was pretty perfect!

I made this delicious paella (recipe here), which was packed with everything from chorizo to chicken to shrimp to clams to lobster.

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It was a lovely, relaxed day and a wonderful way to celebrate seven great years!

How was your weekend?

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