Why? Cleveland’s Finest Hors d’Oeuvre Contest!

One of my favorite food events in town is Cleveland’s Finest Hors d’Oeuvre Contest, to benefit Our Lady of the Wayside.

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So often at food events like this, you see chefs trying (and sometimes struggling) to make dishes bite-sized and easy to eat as you’re strolling. But when the entire category of offerings is hors d’oeuvres, well, everything becomes poppable and portable.

You also have to love the venue: the Terrace Club at Progressive Field. Baseball season is just close enough to have me excited to be back at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario!

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Some of our favorites from the night:

The scallop with cheddar grits and jalapeno bacon (pictured above) from Corleone’s Ristorante and Bar took home the crowd vote for Cleveland’s Finest Hors d’Oeuvre

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The short rib and potato pancake dish from A Taste of Excellence was delicious, especially the horseradish sauce!

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The shrimp scampi with garlic butter and parmesan risotto from the Hilton Garden Inn Cleveland East was the sleeper hit of the night. It was my favorite dish and won #2 overall.

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And their creme brulee offerings were delicious too!

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The BBQ pork served atop chips from Zack Bruell Restaurant Group were tasty and had me thinking summer…

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…as did the generous pulled pork taco with apple slaw from Berea Depot, which took third place overall.

And speaking of thinking of summer and baseball, you can enjoy some awesome food at the game!

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The Cleveland Indians Zydeco chicken and waffle had a lot of fun, creative elements!

Of course, there were sweet treats too, like the graham cracker cookie sandwiches from Melt Bar and Grilled and mini cupcakes from Cupcake Cravings.

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But the sweetest part of the evening was contributing to Our Lady of the Wayside’s mission, in particular this year to helping build a brand new facility in Westlake for the Pathways Day Program.

Cheers to great food, a great cause, and a short wait until Opening Day!

***Disclosure: I was asked by Our Lady of the Wayside to help promote Cleveland’s Finest Hors d’Oeuvre Contest. In exchange, I received two complimentary tickets for myself and two tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Yuri’s Night!

“Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty — not destroy it!” – Yuri Gagarin

The Great Lakes Science Center is preparing for Yuri’s Night 2018, an out of this world party. Yuri’s Night celebrates Yuri Gagarin, who was the first human to complete an orbit of the Earth, as well as all the achievements in space flight since then.

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On Saturday, May 19, the Great Lakes Science Center will be filled with food, drink, music, and fun in celebration of Yuri’s Night. Live music from 7:30-10:30 and a DJ from 10:30-11:30 will keep the dance floor packed.

There will also be a space-themed costume contest and a scavenger hunt, if you’re feeling like showing off your competitive side. Add to this an open bar, appetizers, and amazing lakefront views, and you have all the makings of a cosmically fantastic night!

VIP tickets for Yuri’s Night are $120 and include early admission, access to the VIP lounge with it’s own bar and additional menu items, and complimentary parking. General admission tickets are only $55 through February 28 and include open bar, appetizers and specialty bites, live entertainment and demonstrations, and access to the scavenger hunt. Plus, you can save an extra $5 per ticket if you’re a member of the Great Lakes Science Center.

Money raised from Yuri’s Night helps fund the Science Center’s STEM education initiatives, day camp scholarships and other programs that encourage curiosity and provide opportunities for tomorrow’s scientific leaders. Tickets for Yuri’s Night are currently on sale online.

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Why? Puerto Vallarta!

We’re back! And I can’t wait to tell you all about our fabulous vacation in Puerto Vallarta. Our friends Justin and Nick invited us to join their group staying in Puerto Vallarta and we left with a tan and a ton of new friends, too!

Playa Fiesta

We stayed at this gorgeous, boutique hotel called Playa Fiesta.

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Playa Fiesta specializes in weddings and small groups and provides a beautiful, intimate, service-focused vacation. We’re used to staying at larger resorts, so staying at a 28-room hotel was a shift for us. But what I loved was how we got to know everyone from the staff to the guests and how the entire time felt like one big party with friends.

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The food at the resort was amazing, too. Unlike the bigger resorts, Playa Fiesta has one restaurant, but the offerings at breakfast, lunch, and dinner were diverse and delicious. The French toast became a morning favorite and the pesto chicken salad at lunch was not to be missed.

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And whether it was a fajita bar or ordering off the menu at dinner, we were never disappointed in the quality of the food.

Downtown Puerto Vallarta

Playa Fiesta is close to downtown Puerto Vallarta, which allowed us the opportunity to go into town and explore.

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The boardwalk area in Puerto Vallarta is lovely, with tons of restaurants and shops and a beautiful pier.

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We had dinner one night at La Palapa, a restaurant with tables right on the beach so that you could watch the sunset. The food was delicious! The seafood was so fresh: grilled octopus and shrimp to die for!

Between the sunset and strolling mariachi players, it was a perfect Valentine’s meal!

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But it’s not just fine dining that you can find in Puerto Vallarta. A favorite spot among our group was Blondies, an alcoholic slushie bar that was fun and breezy and the perfect cocktail spot.

After a few Blondies, Matthew decided to try strapping a jetpack to his feet and levitating over the ocean. He had a blast!

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We loved going down into Puerto Vallarta! The city has a lot of charm and character!

Rock Star Sailor

We spent an entire day sailing around the Bay with Rock Star Sailor charters. Captain Rick was awesome, making the day relaxed, fun, and filled with great sailor stories.

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We spent the entire day out on the boat. Not only did we get to see an incredible sunset, but we also got an amazing show from the humpback whales living in the Bay.

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That splash is a whale! We got to see them play and splash and have a great time. It was incredible!

We also had some amazing food on the boat, from mahi mahi ceviche to grilled skewers to avocado stuffed with shrimp. And don’t get me started on the margaritas!

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What a perfect day out on the water!

We both feel so lucky to have been able to have the chance to get away, make new friends, and experience such a beautiful place in the world!

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Why? Luca West!

If you’ve been to Luca Italian Cuisine in the Flats, you know their delicious take on Italian food is not to be missed. Which was why I was so excited to hear about Luca West, the new restaurant from the couple that started Luca in the Flats.

We started with some of the to-die-for, eat-it-all Luca bread, served with oil, Parmesan, and garlic.

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Seriously, I cannot get enough of this bread. It’s amazing!

Mom and I then shared the truffled crab bisque, which is not overly creamy and filled with rich truffle flavor and large pieces of tender crab meat.

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Use the bread to dunk in the soup. Thank me later (or just steal me some of the bread).

For my entree, I chose the bucatini with Maine lobster tail. The handmade pasta was perfect and the spicy tomato and rose prosecco sauce was a nice compliment to the richness of the lobster.

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Mom chose the veal chop with shaved black truffle and truffle butter.

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The veal was spot-on! Who can resist the earthy flavor of truffles, too?

And of course we couldn’t resist dessert! We shared the cannoli, which were the perfect sweet treat to cap off all the Italian deliciousness.

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Luca West is just as tasty and welcoming and wonderful as the original! Don’t miss this western version of this fantastic restaurant!

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Why? Hook & Hoof!

There is definitely a foodie renaissance happening in downtown Willoughby, with new, more chef-driven restaurants opening in the area. One of these is Hook & Hoof, which offers cocktails and food that are thoughtful and interesting and delicious!

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I had the Bardstown Fire cocktail, with Buffalo Trace bourbon, Pierre Ferrand dry curacao, hickory smoked salt, Geauga County maple syrup, black walnut bitters, and oak barrel stave smoke. This drink was rich and warming, with just a hint of smokiness.

Our group shared the smoke kissed clams and mussels to start.

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The broth, with lager and coconut milk and chorizo, was drinkably delicious. We definitely requested extra toasted baguette to soak it all up!

For my entree, I chose the caramelized scallops, after much debate over all the yummy-sounding options.

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Served with butternut squash risotto, black truffle pate, and blood orange reduction, this dish was packed with delicate flavors that didn’t overpower each other. The scallops were perfectly cooked and the risotto was fabulously creamy.

Matthew got the Butcher’s Cut, which was elk that night. Served with boursin smashed potatoes, lemon zest roasted broccolini, and tomato burgundy demi.

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Our dinner companions, Nick and Justin, both got the tomahawk pork chop, which was so good that it’s forgivable that they double up on the order.

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Served with sweat tea brine, crispy fried fingerlings, demerara sugar and bacon brussel sprouts, local apple and green tomato chutney, and horseradish crema. There were a lot of elements to this dish, but they all combined so well!

We all split the creme brulee cheesecake and bourbon bread pudding for dessert.

What a decadent end to a fabulous meal!

Hook & Hoof has amazing food and cocktails in a cozy, modern bistro setting. Downtown Willoughby has upped it’s food game and Hook & Hoof is worth a stop to see what’s going on!

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Why? Weekends!

As we jet off today for vacation, I’m reflecting on what a fun weekend we had to send us off from Cleveland!

The Beauty Room

On Friday, I headed to what has quickly become my favorite pampering spot: The Beauty Room. Seriously, mimosas and manicures get me every time!

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I got my vacation manicure and pedicure looking perfect, plus Jeffrey had a chance to hang out with one of his fairy godmothers: Kimberly.

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It was a win-win!

Zen at the Zoo

On Saturday morning, I met up with my friend Katie for Zen at the Zoo, hosted by the Cleveland Zoological Society‘s Ambassadors Circle.

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We enjoyed an hour-long yoga class in the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo‘s Primates, Cats, and Aquatics Building. The monkeys seemed particularly interested in our antics once we started to flow!

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I love practicing in unique locations and the Zoo definitely made for a great environment for the class! Plus, we got to stick around after class to enjoy more of the Zoo’s animals.

Ambassadors Circle is the young professionals group associated with the Cleveland Zoological Society. They help raise money for the Cleveland Zoological Society and host lots of fun events, including their signature Zoo Clues and Brews scavenger hunt, scheduled for August 30.

Donut Fest

For the second year in a row, Donut Fest brought a sweet party to Red Space, with a selection of 11 amazing local donut purveyors.

Donut Fest is definitely a pace-yourself event, because you could easily over sugar yourself on all the delicious donuts. Pro tip: make lots of stops at the Hartzler Family Dairy table for their milk to wash down the donuts.

The crowd favorite award was handed to Brewnuts, whose peanut butter Nutella donuts were pretty dang amazing.

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I also have some awards to hand out (completely made up and without any trophies):

Best Traditional Offering: The creme stick from Madsen Donuts

Freshest: Peace, Love, and Little Donuts was serving their donuts warm, including these tasty raspberry zingers

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Best Fruit Donut: The apple pie donut from Circles on the Square

Best Vegan Donut: the vegan peanut butter and jelly from Holey Toledough

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Most Unique: This foie gras-filled creation topped with pistachio and bacon from Urban Farmer Cleveland

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There was a ton of donut deliciousness on display at Donut Fest from traditional to truly unique! Tickets sold out in a day, so keep your eyes open for next year’s event!

Yoga at Nature Center at Shaker Lakes

Continuing my quest to down dog all over town, I attended a free yoga class on Sunday at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. The class was taught by teacher trainees from Yoga Roots, so it was not only a great flow, but a great chance to help the teacher trainees get some experience.

If you’re interested in attending, there are two more opportunities: Saturday, February 17 at 10am and Sunday, February 25 at 2pm. Click here for more information.

It was a great weekend! I have posts scheduled for the week, so you’ll still get more Cleveland goodness here. And if you enjoy a little peek at warmth and sunshine, I’ll have plenty of that for you on Instagram this week!

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Why? #FunWithFish at Heinen’s!

Lent is just around the corner, which really is just an excuse for me to weekly incorporate fish and seafood into my diet. While I love fish and seafood, though, cooking it is intimidating between worrying that I’m overcooking it or worrying that I didn’t get a good product to start.

Which is why Heinen’s #FunWithFish event was so great, because it put my mind at ease on both counts.

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Held at the gorgeous Trevarrow Inc. Showroom (if you want an instantaneous desire to redo your kitchen, head there now), Heinen’s brought together cookbook author Carla Snyder, along with representatives from Catanese Classic Seafood, Philly Seafood, and Foods in Season to teach us all about how to select and cook great fish and seafood.

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Carla took us through three easy, imaginative, and delicious dishes, sure to tempt even those who might be a little wary of fish. We watched her prepare and got to sample each dish, as well as taking home the recipes and some of the essential seasonings for the dishes, too.

First was a shrimp salad with arugula, feta, ouzo, tomatoes, and fennel. The shrimp (courtesy of Philly Seafood and available at Heinen’s) were so delicious and the fresh, Mediterranean flavors allowed the seafood to shine.

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Carla’s tip for spot-on shrimp: cook them in heavily salted water and boil for only a minute, then let the shrimp set in the pot off the heat for a few more minutes.

Next was my favorite dish of the night: sole with curry browned butter, served atop roasted cauliflower. Simple, delicious, and packed with flavor!

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I would be so nervous about overcooking this delicate fish. Carla’s tip: cook on medium/high heat for seven minutes per inch of fish. This tip can be easily applied to any type of fish to create a perfectly-done piece!

Finally, we enjoyed salmon with charmoula. While all of Carla’s dishes were well-seasoned and dressed, the accoutrements still let the fish be the star of the dish.

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Carla’s tip: the fresher the fish, the less likely it is to have a “fishy” taste. Buy fresh and take advantage of Heinen’s amazing selection, as well as their ability to overnight ship fresh fish and seafood from around the country right to you.

Heinen’s also provided great wine suggestions, from champagne to rose to pinot noir to pair with each dish. One stop shopping for your perfect meal!

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Aside from all the great cooking tips, the big takeaway of the night was the pride that Heinen’s and the Heinen’s vendors take in their products. They are committed to sustainability and high-quality products, both wild and farm-raised, that taste great and that you can feel great about purchasing.

If you want to check out Heinen’s amazing seafood and fish selection for yourself, there’s no better time. Heinen’s Hook, Line and Sinker Sale takes place February 9 through February 11 with deals on shrimp, salmon, crab cakes, and more. Don’t miss out on this great catch!

I’ve been a committed Heinen’s shopper for a long time and I’m constantly finding new reasons to be impressed and further convince me not to shop anywhere else!

***Disclosure: I was invited by Heinen’s to attend the complimentary #FunWithFish event. I also received a take-home bag of Heinen’s products. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Annie’s Signature Sweets Tart Class!

While I love to cook and bake, there are certain items I don’t generally take the time and effort to make. Tarts are definitely one of those precision treats that I love to eat, but don’t often make.

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So when my friend Ann of Annie’s Signature Sweets said she’d be teaching a tart-making class, I immediately signed up!

The class was held at the commercial kitchen where Annie’s Signature Sweets shares space in the Hildebrandt Provisions Company building. This building is a great example of making use of existing space to give up-and-coming small businesses a place to work their craft.

Ann took us through how to make the perfect tart dough.

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And then we got to roll it and shape it into 4-inch tart pans.

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While the shells were baking, we all helped make three different tart fillings: chocolate ganache, lemon curd, and sauteed apples with brown sugar.

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Then we got to pick our fillings and our tasty additions. I added raspberries and chocolate-covered espresso beans to my chocolate ganache tart, blueberries to my lemon curd tart, and oats and caramel to my apple tart.

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Everyone had their own spin on adding to the fillings, which were delicious even on their own. I took home 4 homemade tarts, as well as a ton of knowledge on how to make these tasty treats for myself.

Ann made learning how to make pastry fun and relaxed. Everyone in the class worked together and we all felt like friends by the time we left. If you want a hands-on experience that gives you a tasty take-home gift, Annie’s Signature Sweets is offering another tart class on Sunday, February 11 from 11:30am-1:30pm. Cost to attend is $45.

And if you need some professional tarts for a party, meeting, or just your average Wednesday, Annie’s Signature Sweets sells the same 4-inch tarts we made in the class for $6 a piece in pecan, chocolate, lemon, and cherry oat. Click here to order and to see the other offerings such as cookies, cheesecakes, and larger tarts. Support this sweet local small business!

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Why? Passport to CLE!

It’s that time of year when the cold and grey can have you wanting to travel. You don’t have to go far, though. Grab your Passport to CLE from CLEseats on Friday, February 23 from 7-11pm.

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Held at Lago Custom Events, Passport to CLE lets you enjoy unlimited food samples from over 20 awesome Cleveland restaurants. You’ll collect passport stamps from each restaurant that you try, so bring your eatin’ pants and try them all!

Your ticket also gets you 3 complimentary drink tickets, as well as live entertainment from Big Bang Dueling Pianos all night.

Tickets are on sale now online. You get all this fun and food for only $45! CLEseats partners with some of Cleveland top restaurants to bring you great deals via their app and now you can experience all the deliciousness in one spot! So, grab your passport and head to Lago Custom Events!

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Why? Weekends!

Phew! It was a super busy weekend in the CLE! Here’s what we were up to:

Cleveland Goes Red Luncheon

On Friday, I donned a sassy red dress and headed to the Cleveland American Heart Association‘s Go Red for Women Luncheon.

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The event kicks off with a fun and educational expo, with health screenings, CPR training, heart-healthy Jeopardy, photo opps, silent auctions, and more.

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I brought my best little buddy and biggest motivator to stay heart healthy with me! He had a great time too!

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After the expo, we headed into the luncheon, which not only featured a tasty, heart-healthy meal, but also speakers sharing their personal heart health stories and doctors sharing information on how to be heart healthy and recognize signs and symptoms of a heart attack, which are very different in women than in men.

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The theme of this year’s luncheon was “Everyone Plays a Role,” which is really true. From donating to the American Heart Association to educating ourselves and others, we all can help to reduce heart disease as the number one killer of women. I know I want my heart to be strong and healthy so that I can enjoy life with Jeffrey!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the Cleveland American Heart Association Go Red for Women Luncheon. In exchange, I received a complimentary ticket to the luncheon. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

Vodka Vodka

On Friday night, Matthew and I went to Cleveland Scene‘s Vodka Vodka event at Red Space.

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The event included vodka cocktails from Skyy Vodka, Three Olives, Tito’s, and Amsterdam Vodka.

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I really liked the Skyy Pineapple Apple Spritzer and the Tito’s Cosmo, which was made with Cleveland’s own Pope’s Kitchen mixers.

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You could also grab tasty, vodka-soaked treats like strawberries and gummy bears.

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And enjoy truffles made with liquor from The Bom.

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The tunes were pumping with a great DJ and there was a fashion show featuring local boutiques like Whiskey Grade and Tres Sorelle.

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The atmosphere was clubby, energetic, diverse, and fun! I do enjoy a vodka cocktail and when you add in lots of local fun too, you have the makings of a great Friday night.

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote Cleveland Scene’s Vodka Vodka. In exchange, I received two complimentary tickets to the event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

Hot Mommas at JBB

Playhouse Square Partners Jump Back Ball is right around the corner and this year, we are going with a group of friends who have never been to the event before. So, in order to fully chat dresses and jewelry and all the trimmings of the evening, we had a girls night in.

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We’ve dubbed our group “Hot Mommas at JBB” and you can see why, obviously. I can’t wait to share one of my favorite evenings in town with these fabulous friends!

Yoga/Brunch

I really love that Alicia has increased her Yoga/Brunch offerings at Dante Next Door, because it means I can enjoy this perfect way to kick off Sunday Funday even more often.

My friend Beth and I met up and practiced a strengthening, opening, Alicia-patented wonderful flow. Then we headed downstairs to Dante Next Door for mimosas and brunch. I couldn’t pass up the crab cake Benedict.

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The crab cakes are meaty, the eggs are perfectly cooked, and the Hollandaise adds just the right lemony tang.

The Yoga/Brunch events are a great way to spend a Sunday morning. $15 gets you an hour-long yoga flow, plus a complimentary mimosa or coffee afterwards. You have two more chances in February: the 11th and the 25th. Click here to register.

The rest of Super Bowl Sunday was spent vegging with the Puppy Bowl, Justin Timberlake, and “This is Us.” How was your weekend?

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