Why? Engage Cleveland YP Week!

This week, Engage Cleveland has a jam-packed schedule of events to help YPs get engaged to Cleveland. YP Week features events from fitness to networking to lunch and learns to wine tastings.

On Sunday, I took in two events that illustrate the wide range of activities happening this week. I started my day at Play: CLE for an open gym.

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From climbing walls to ninja courses to zip lines, Play: CLE offers tons of adventurous fitness options.

The Engage Cleveland event let you explore everything Play: CLE has to offer, while meeting other YPs in a fun, interactive activity.

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Then I headed to Blossom Cleveland for a build-your-own-bouquet workshop.

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Blossom Cleveland’s Flower Bar specializes in local flowers. You can build your own bouquet with flowers and greens priced per stem, have one built for you, or host an event or celebration there.

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Again, the interactive nature of the event allowed you to not only check out a great local business, but build relationships with fellow attendees too.

We also enjoyed some decadent treats, including Engage Cleveland-branded Oreos, from Cake Bites & Other Delights (try the mocha cake bite).

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From belays to bouquets, there is something for every interest during YP Week. You can volunteer, network, work out, and eat and drink, all while exploring Cleveland and meeting new friends.

There are still plenty of great activities left in the week, so check out the schedule and get engaged to Cleveland!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote Engage Cleveland YP Week. In exchange, I received complimentary registration to the events of my choice. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Weekends!

Aside from breaking in the new Lindey’s Lake House, we had a very theatrical weekend, so let’s get on with the show…

Beck Center for the Arts

On Friday, Matthew and I went to see a performance of “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” at Beck Center for the Arts.

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Held in the intimate Studio Theater, you felt as if you were in Emerson’s Bar and Grill in Philadelphia in 1959.

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The show dramatically recreates a performance given by Billie Holiday a mere four months before her death. Her classic songs are interwoven with funny and tragic stories from her troubled life.

Nicole Sumlin is brilliant as Billie Holiday and the practically one-woman show left us riveted.

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” continues at Beck Center for the Arts through April 14. You can purchase tickets online.

Community theater is a vital part of our arts community and Beck Center not only allows performers and audiences a chance to enjoy great shows, but it also furthers arts education.

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Beck Center for the Arts offers multiple theater experiences, from shows suited for adults and families alike. Check out their upcoming shows, including “King Lear” and “Matilda the Musical.” Beck Center also offers educational programs, with a full array of summer camps.

***Disclosure: I was invited to attend a performance of “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” at Beck Center. I received two complimentary tickets to the performance. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

Sesame Street Live

From jazz and blues and tales of addiction to magic and sing-alongs and inspiration, we shifted gears and attended Sesame Street Live Make Your Magic on Saturday.

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Jeffrey felt like he might be a little big for Sesame Street Live, but as soon as the show started, he was transported and thoroughly enjoyed the songs and story.

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Elmo and Abby and friends learned not only how to perform magic tricks, but also how to find wonder if the every day happenings of life.

It was a fun, vibrant performance that we left singing.

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote Sesame Street Live. In exchange, I received three complimentary tickets to the show.***

How was your weekend? Did you get outside and enjoy the glorious weather?

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Why? Local Valentine’s Day Gifts!

Nothing says love to me like shopping local, female-owned businesses. So, since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I thought I’d round up some of great gift ideas, whether to help you complete your shopping or just round out your own personal wish list!

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Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Chocolates

Two of my favorite female-owned chocolatiers can be found in Lakewood: Fear’s Confections and Sweet Designs Chocolatier. You can also find Fear’s Confections at Merchant’s Mrkt at Legacy Village.

Flowers

As for flowers, Lush & Lovely Floristry makes unique and, well, lovely bouquets. Or stop in to Blossom Cleveland‘s flower bar and build your own personal bouquet.

Sweet Treats

If cookies or other dessert treats are more your speed, put in an order with Annie’s Signature Sweets (her lemon lavender cookies are unique and the perfect shape for Valentine’s Day) or stop in and check out the wide selection of dessert deliciousness at Luna Bakery & Café.

Jewelry

Want to give (or get) something sparkly this Valentine’s Day? Both Bombay Taxi Boutique and Oceanne Jewelry are local and female-owned with beautiful, unique pieces to choose from.

Wine

What lady wouldn’t like a little vino for Valentine’s Day? CLE Urban Winery is female-owned and makes award-winning wines (I really enjoy the C-Town Cabernet Sauvignon).

Bags

For a lot of gals, it’s all about the bag. So, where can you find a perfect purse from a local, female-owned business? Go for the modern classic leather bag from Fount or grab a city-pride wristlet or tote from Anne Cate.

This Valentine’s Day, there are lots of ways to get the presents you or your significant other want, while supporting local, female-owned businesses! You’ll be showing some creative Cleveland ladies the love too!

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Why? Landmark!

Since Landmark opened in the former Diner on Clifton space 8 months ago, I’ve heard nothing but positive things, particularly about their smoked meats. So, I was so glad to have a chance to explore their delicious menu this week.

Before we dove into the food, we sampled some of Landmark’s own personal bourbon, created by Buffalo Trace. Landmark has an impressive bourbon selection for sipping or cocktails.

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Landmark has a wood smoker on site and smokes brisket, turkey, chicken, pork, and ribs with hickory wood or cherry wood, depending on the meat. We started with the Smoked Meat Sampler, with one pound of brisket, pork, and turkey, served with toast points, pickles, cole slaw, pickled onions, and BBQ sauce.

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The brisket literally melted in my mouth and was my favorite of the sampler, but all of the meats were tender, smoky, and delicious. None really even needed sauce, but the sauces offered nice variety: Kansas City, North Carolina, Memphis, and South Carolina styles.

We also got to try a new menu item: half a BBQ chicken, served with French fries and cole slaw. The crispy skin, tasty sauce, and tender smokiness made this chicken unforgettable. And there was something about those fries…really addictive!

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We tried the mac ‘n cheese, which was creamy, comforting, and with just a hint of sweetness.

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And we got a sample of Landmark’s truly unique menu item: the Montreal smoked sandwich, with twelve-day smoked cured brisket served on rye with yellow mustard. One of the most delicious “deli style” sandwiches I’ve ever had!

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Landmark offers more than just smoked meat, so we made room to try two of their bowls: the Thai peanut and Mediterranean.

The Thai peanut bowl has grilled chicken served over white rice with steamed broccoli and carrots, roasted red peppers, grilled pineapple, and Thai peanut sauce.

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The Mediterranean bowl has grilled chicken served over white rice with cucumber, tomato, hummus, chick peas, Kalamata olives, and tahini.

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Both bowls were flavorful and filling and offer healthy, non-smoky options.

We took home a couple of Landmark’s decadent homemade chocolate chip cookies, too!

Landmark is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week for dine-in or carry-out. The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly, and filled with the delicious aroma of smoked meat. For a truly elevated neighborhood eatery experience, stop in to Landmark!

***Disclosure: I was invited to a complimentary meal at Landmark with a guest. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Mad Mac’s!

It’s comfort food season, which is just fine with me! This week, Matthew and I warmed up with stick-to-your-ribs mac ‘n cheese at Mad Mac’s in Lakewood.

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Mad Mac’s is all about comfort from the food to the atmosphere. It has a dive bar meets family-friendly vibe, with board games, trivia nights, and throwback decor.

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The drinks all have fun 90’s movie names like “You’re a Virgin Who Can’t Drive” and “The Only Rule of Fight Club.” I had the “Keep the Change, Ya Filthy Animal,” which has apple cider, caramel, and cinnamon in a perfect fall beverage.

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Matthew and I shared the fried pickle chips to start, served with ranch and hot sauce for dipping. The appetizer portions are just enough for two people to share, which is good considering the heavy meal to come.

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We chose the Chicken Bacon Ranch and Chorizo mac ‘n cheese dishes for our entree. The Chicken Bacon Ranch had bacon, fried chicken, and ranch mixed in with the traditional elbow macaroni and mozzarella cheese.

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The proportions on this dish were just right (not too heavy on the ranch.) I think it could be even better if the chicken was served on top of the mac ‘n cheese to keep it a bit crispier.

The chorizo mac ‘n cheese had chorizo, monteray jack and cheddar cheese, hot sauce, cherry tomatoes, Worcestershire, and fried onions.

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This dish was deliciously, warm-you-up spicy!

For dessert, don’t skip a homemade cookie (why would you ever, really?). The snickerdoodles were the perfect treat!

Mad Mac’s is a fun, tasty concept in a relaxed atmosphere that makes the whole experience a throwback to childhood days of games, Teen Beat, and mom’s cooking.

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***Disclosure: I was invited to attend a complimentary meal at Mad Mac’s with a guest. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Weekends!

As of today, we have two weeks left of Jeffrey’s summer break. Just two weeks! So, we’re going to get in every bit of summer goodness we can. Here’s what we were up to this weekend…

Lake Metroparks Farm Park

On Friday, we met up with friends Lane and Nolan for a play date at the Lake Metroparks Farm Park.

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Jeffrey is so sweet with Nolan! The Farm Park was the perfect way to bridge the age gap between the boys by giving them things to see and do that they could both appreciate.

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Photo Credit: Lane

It was a lovely little summer Friday afternoon!

First Watch

Saturday morning, Mom and I met up for brunch at First Watch. I really love the food at First Watch, plus any place that brings me a pot rather than a cup of coffee is speaking my language!

I ordered the Elevated Egg Sandwich, with bacon, Gruyere, avocado, mayo, and lemon-dressed arugula.

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I loved the freshness of the avocado and lemon paired with the richness of the bacon and Gruyere. So good!

Mom chose the seasonal Elote Mexican Street Corn Hash, with seasoned potatoes, roasted sweet corn, chorizo, Cotija cheese, and chipotle crema.

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Spicy, sweet, and satisfying! First Watch is a great breakfast spot!

Buckeye Beer Engine

Then it was off to our friend Kevin’s 40th birthday party at Buckeye Beer Engine. While Buckeye Beer Engine is known for their craft beer selection, I found myself enjoying their bourbon cocktails, including the bourbon ginger mimosa.

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We also chowed down on their boneless wings (the spicy garlic Parmesan are on point), crab cakes, and pierogi. It was a fun afternoon of good drinks and good food to celebrate a good friend!

Cedar Point

On Sunday, we found ourselves at Cedar Point once again, this time for our annual trip with Amanda and Scott.

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As Jeffrey’s godparents and huge Cedar Point enthusiasts, Amanda and Scott are the perfect folks for a day at the amusement park. They love going on the rides with Jeffrey and I can see their relationship with him deepen each time we go.

 

It was a beautiful day to be up at the park too! We’re squeezing in as many Cedar Point trips as we can before the summer is through!

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So, that was our weekend. How was yours? Are you feeling the back-to-school blues too?

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Why? New Year’s Cleveland Resolutions!

OK, let’s get real: I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Eve. Or should I say, I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Eve celebrations, which is so strange since glitter and champagne top my “Things I Love” list.

All that said, I do appreciate the chance to take stock as the year comes to a close and think about the year ahead.

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So, I have some Cleveland resolutions I want to make for 2018:

Finally Eat and Drink At…

Cleveland has so many great restaurants and so many new spots that it can be hard to keep up. Here are some that have slipped through the cracks, but I want to make sure I hit in 2018: Cru Uncorked, Saucy Brew Works, Salt+, Hook & Hoof, and Marble Room Steak and Raw Bar top the list.

Fully Utilize Our Memberships

I’m a big fan of museum memberships, so we belong to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Children’s Museum of Cleveland, Lake Metroparks Farm Park, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the Great Lakes Science Center, and the Western Reserve Historical Society. While we get a lot of use out of memberships through regular visits, I want to take more advantage of special events, exhibit previews, and the like this year!

Listen to More Live Music

We had a pretty full concert schedule this past year, but I’d like to check out smaller venues, music festivals (hi, Brite Winter), and the Cleveland Orchestra both with and without Jeffrey.

What are your Cleveland resolutions for 2018? Hope your 2017 closes out with sparkles and bubbles, too!

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Why? Bertman’s Original Ballpark Mustard!

I love when Cleveland businesses collaborate to not only help each other out, but also create something totally delicious! Last night, we got to see how Bertman’s Original Ballpark Mustard and The Proper Pig Smokehouse blend their individual amazing brands to create a culinary feast!

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Bertman’s Original Ballpark Mustard has been a Cleveland tradition for over 90 years. Most people immediately reach for the Bertman’s to top their hot dog or brat. But Bertman’s wants you to “think outside the bun” when using this delicious mustard.

Which is where our dinner at The Proper Pig Smokehouse came in. We started with a traditional application of Bertman’s, but with one of their newer products: a Texas hot link beef sausage topped with Great Lakes Brewing Co. beer mustard.

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Add a little dash of Cleveland Kraut and you had the perfect hometown sandwich. And check out that heaping helping of potato salad, with the yummy tang of Bertman’s Original in the mix.

Next up, it was time for some serious meat.

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Both the beef brisket and the beef rib at The Proper Pig use Bertman’s Mustard along with The Proper Pig’s own seasoning blend for a mouth-watering crust on the meat.

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The Bertman’s Horseradish Sauce was a great compliment to the beef rib too!

I always have a bottle of Bertman’s Original Mustard in the house, but now I’m thinking about all the ways that Bertman’s can be used to enhance the recipes I make. Everything from our dinner except for the sweet treat banana pudding contained Bertman’s. And it was nothing short of fantastic!

Isn’t that kind of true of so many things in Cleveland? While there are classic, traditional, and still wonderful applications, you can also take something that’s been in Cleveland for 90-plus years and turn it into something contemporary and fresh.

At our dinner, we also had the chance to chat and eat and drink with the CEO and COO of Bertman’s, which I say not to sound impressive, but to stress that the folks running this Cleveland company are as down-to-earth and friendly and real as people running a Cleveland mainstay business should be.

Bertman’s definitely has me thinking outside the bun! Stay tuned for a recipe or two featuring Bertman’s products. And keep your eyes open for Bertman’s popping up on menus at some of your favorite Cleveland restaurants, too!

***Disclosure: I was invited to attend a dinner with Bertman’s Original Ballpark Mustard at The Proper Pig Smokehouse. Our food and drink for the evening were complimentary. I also received a box of Bertman’s products to take home. As always, all opinions and loyalty to Cleveland condiments are 100% my own.***

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Why? Pier W Tour of Italy Wine Dinner!

On Tuesday night, Matthew and I headed to one of our all-time favorite restaurants, Pier W, for a “Tour of Italy” wine dinner. The evening featured four delectable courses, paired with Italian wines from Vanguard Wines.

Our first course was lobster carpaccio, with mango mignonette sauce, poached asparagus tips, shaved shallots, and frisee.

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The flavors were all light and bright. And as was a theme for the evening, all the elements of the dish worked well both individually and together. This course was paired with Il Follo Prosecco Extra Dry, which was crisp and delightful.

The second course was prosciutto and ricotta agnolotti, with a medley of Italian olives, truffle buerre blanc, butter-roasted mushrooms, and porcini powder.

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The earthy, salty flavors in this dish paired perfectly with the Passopisciaro Etna Rosso. For a light-bodied red, this wine packed in a lot of cherry and smoky flavors. Our guide from Vanguard Wines told us the Etna vineyards are near an active volcano, which imparts a lot of smokiness to their wines.

Third course was Australian lamb chops with garlic herb butter risotto and a steamed vegetable medley with a mostardo demi-glace.

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Mark Kawada, Pier W’s general manager, told us about the kitchen’s sous vide machine, as well as Chef Regan Reik’s passion for perfect risotto. Both complex cooking styles shone in this dish. The risotto melted in your mouth, as did the lamb chops. And this course was again expertly paired, this time with a Gianfranco Alessandria Barolo, my favorite wine of the evening.

To end the night on a sweet note, we enjoyed a vanilla napoleon, with maple anglaise and a mixed nut crumble.

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This dessert was not overly sweet, which worked well with the Marco Cecchini Picolit dessert wine. While the dessert wine would not be my choice on it’s own, paired with the vanilla napoleon, it was delicious!

I was not only impressed by the quality of Pier W’s food (which I expected), but also by their expertise in pairing wines with each course. Even the wines I enjoyed on their own were taken to new levels when married with the food. Keep your eyes open for the next wine dinner, which will surely be a culinary treat! And the next time you dine at Pier W, be sure to ask their sommelier to find the perfect wine to match your delicious meal!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the Pier W Tour of Italy Wine Dinner. In exchange, I received two complimentary reservations to the dinner. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Pier W Tour of Italy Wine Dinner!

Pier W is one of Cleveland’s classic restaurants (they just celebrated their 50th anniversary last year) that continually remains relevant due to inspired menus that blend classic seafood choices with modern culinary techniques. Plus, you can’t beat the view, the ambiance, and the spot-on service!

Among the restaurant’s many accolades are “Best Seafood” and “Most Romantic” from Cleveland Scene Magazine’s Best of Cleveland and and “Best Brunch,” “Best View,” and “Best Seafood” from Cleveland Magazine’s Best of Cleveland.

Which is why I’m so excited for Pier W’s upcoming Tour of Italy Wine Dinner on Tuesday, November 1.

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Kliment Stevoff, the restaurant’s wine director and Level II sommelier, along with Executive Chef Regan Reik will guide guests through a four-course food and wine pairing. You will not only get to enjoy delicious food, but you will learn more about Italian wines (personally, ones I don’t know much about) and how to pair them.

The menu is nothing short of incredible, with items like lobster carpaccio, lamb chops, and vanilla napoleon. You can view the complete menu here.

Seats for the Tour of Italy Wine Dinner are $85 plus tax and gratuity. This is sure to be a delicious, educational evening you won’t soon forget. Make your reservations today by calling 216-228-2250.

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the Pier W Tour of Italy Wine Dinner. In exchange, I will receive two complimentary seats at the dinner. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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