Friday, March 30, 2012

Blogger Brackets and CIFF - What a Week!

Well, today is the last day of voting for the Blogger Brackets competition. Thanks to all of you, I'm in the Championship Round!! I really am amazed that I've made it this far and am SO thankful for everyone's support and votes. We'll find out who wins on April 2nd. If you haven't voted already, you can cast your vote HERE. Voting ends TODAY at 5pm.

No matter what happens, I already feel like I've won. It was such an honor to be included. Any time I'm having a bad day I can look back and remember all the awesome people who were excited for me and kept me going on this incredible ride. THANK YOU!!!!!

In addition to the excitement of making it to the final round, it's been a fun but exhausting week at the Film Fest. Only one film so far has been a disappointment: 17 Girls. How the French could take a shocking true life story  about teen pregnancy and make it a snoozer of a movie, I'll never know!

I saw a great film called Come As You Are. It's a fun Belgian road trip movie about three young disabled men who travel to a special brothel in Spain so they can finally lose their virginity. It's a riot but also very touching. If you can find this one on Netflix or the library, I highly recommend it.
Today I took the day off of work. It will be nice to be able to hang out downtown during the day and not have to rush to get down there after work. I'm going to see The Salt of Life. I'm really excited to see this one because it contains the same character "Gianni" from one of my favorite movies from a previous Fest: Mid August Lunch. Both are Italian films about a middle aged son who still lives at home with his elderly mother. This time, Gianni is trying to get his groove back and find love. It's on stand by but if you get in line by 3:20, you have a great chance of getting in.

I'm rounding out the final weekend of the Film Fest with these films:

King Curling - a comedy about of course, curling! And who doesn't love that!
Tokyo Playboy Club - a dark look at the underworld of Tokyo's crime scene. It's my first Japanese film at a Film Fest. If you play the trailer, be prepared for some loud crazy music...
The Art of Love is available this weekend with subtitles. There was a mix up last weekend when we were originally supposed to see it and the copy that arrived was in French only. This is my favorite kind of CIFF movie - French, romantic, and sexy. I'm so glad I get the chance to see it on Sunday. Tickets ARE available so grab 'em while you can.
I'm also seeing the Family Shorts program #2 and the Jury Award Winner Shorts. The shorts are always the highlight of the CIFF for me. I wish that more of them weren't scheduled at 4pm during the week so I could see a lot more of them.

And what have I been eating? I finally got some movie theater popcorn! Even though I'm a popcorn fiend, I rarely indulge because it's so bad for you. But every year at the CIFF I get some at least once, maybe twice. We were shoveling it in our mouths so fast that I didn't think to take a picture. Of the popcorn... or the mess we left in the hallway from missing our greedy mouths.

I've been slightly obsessed with Noodlecat and went AGAIN on Tuesday. I tried their vegetarian special: quinoa with roasted root vegetables. 

It was fabulous! Loaded with beets, it was also pretty to look at. It was served with baby carrots from the Chef's Garden and a celery root puree. The tonkatsu (fried pork) and chicken yakitori buns and the super salad rounded out the meal. Another great evening perched on the bar stool at Noodlecat!

Don't forget - next week the Film Fest is no more but Cleveland Independents Restaurant week kicks off. You can dine at some of the city's best restaurants for $33 for a 3 course meal. It's a great deal and the perfect excuse to try that place you've been meaning to get to but just haven't gotten around to yet. Make your reservations now because it's a popular event and you don't want to end up eating dinner at 10pm!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Film Fest far!

First I'm happy to share the news that I made it to the Cleveland Magazine #BloggerBrackets Final Four!! Thank you to everyone who has voted for me. I REALLY appreciate it! This week you have until Weds. at 1pm to vote -  click here for the link.

It's been a great Film Fest so far! Their campaign is one of my all time favorites - Be Carried Away is so darn adorable I just have to share it with you in case you haven't been to a film yet. 

There's all sorts of cool stuff like reusable shopping bags, shirts, mugs and magnets so you can enjoy the cuteness all year. I got an orange reusable shopping bag with a giraffe - swoon! And a blue whale bag. And the set of magnets. And there's still 6 more shopping festival days left! 

I was very excited to be included in a blogger reception hosted by the CIFF. It was great to finally be able to see the fabulous Hospitality Headquarters in the Skylight Lounge. It's a fun place to hang out between movies, get a break from the crowds and refresh with tasty snacks. During our visit, we were treated to mini sandwiches and a perfect orzo salad featuring asparagus and peas. Gatherings Kitchen provided the dee-lish food for us - thanks! They are not only great caterers but they are also known for having really fun cooking classes. I haven't been to any yet, but they are on my list.
If this is any indication of the normal food available, it's a HUGE perk of being a pass holder! Passes are a VIP golden ticket that get you access to all films (without having to stand in line!) in addition to the Hospitality Suite. Day Passes are available while supplies last during the Festival at the Challenge Match area for a donation of $150.00 for weekdays (Mon-Thurs) or $200.00 for weekend days (Fri-Sun) per day.
Hot Line is a crazy funny movie about three German ladies who take up phone sex to save their struggling shop. Obviously not for kids or the prudish, it's a delightful romp that will leave you grinning from ear to ear. One more showing on 3/31 @ 9:15. I definitely recommend seeing this while it's here.

Headhunters is a must see! Thankfully, it will opening at the Cedar Lee in May so everyone that missed it at the Film Fest can see this one. Thrilling suspense with a touch of comedy thrown in. I absolutely loved it.
Superthief is about Collinwood native Phil Christopher and how he pulled off a record setting $30 million bank burglary. This film is by Tommy Reid, the same director as Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman from last year's Film Fest. Love learning more about our city's history. I had no idea it was so colorful!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Film Fest Eats

Every year I look forward to the Cleveland International Film Fest. It's 11 days of movie madness at Tower City. Normally the choices for really good food are limited because of trying to cram as many movies as possible and the limited choices close by. This year I'm thrilled about some newcomers that make taking a break and grabbing a bite MUCH more delicious!

Every year, I treat myself to lunch at Muse at the Ritz. It's a calm and inviting oasis that's the perfect escape from the crowds at the theaters. It's definitely a splurge but it's totally worth it. They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner and their French press coffee is a Must Do - it's java perfection! They have a rockin' Sunday brunch too. In addition, the Lobby Lounge on 6 offers formal tea on the weekends and a great Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 5 to 7pm. Bar bites and cocktails are only $6 each. And they have free peanuts too. If you present a festival pass or ticket, you'll get 10% off your check.

If you need a quick pick me up, Susy's Soup and Mixed Greens have soup, salads and sandwiches that are better than your average food court food and reasonably priced. Caribou Coffee not only offers the best cup of coffee (after that heavenly french press!) but also has decent snacks. Caribou give you a 10% discount with a pass or movie ticket as a bonus.

The Power Hour at Morton's is one of the best Happy Hours in Cleveland. Sunday through Friday from when they open until 6:30pm and 9pm to close you can sample some excellent appetizers for a steal. The four petite filet sandwiches for only $7 are legendary.  

This year there are excellent choices within easy walking distance. I'm thrilled that Noodlecat is located just a quick walk down Euclid Ave. Their famous Happy Hour is from 3-7pm Monday through Saturday and practically ALL DAY Sunday (from 11am to 11pm!) This is a Must Do for anyone looking for some awesome slurping and the best damn buns in town. My favorites noodles are the Takahachi, Roscoe's Fried Chicken and Spicy Octopus. Some of the best buns are the BBQ Ohio Pork, Chicken Yakitori, Tsukemono Pickle and of course the Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana. And I'm in love with the Super Salad!

Pura Vida is another new hot spot near Noodlecat. They offer some great eats including vegetarian and vegan dishes. The desserts are tasty works of art. On Wednesday 3/28 after 4pm they have a special Passport Express featuring food from Piedmont Italy. 3 courses with beverage pairing for only $30! Plus they offer 15% off your dinner bill with a movie stub or pass.

A little further walk across Public Square is the Marriott at Key Tower. It has Jake's Lounge and David's Restaurant. Both are a tasty place for a cocktail and a snack or meal. Check out this cool spot in the lobby:
Now you can get some great food in addition to seeing awesome movies! Many other restaurants and shops in the area offer discounts to film fest patrons. Click HERE for details. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Guitar Mania Tweetup

First, I want to send a big shout out to all of you who have voted for me in the Cleveland Magazine #BloggerBrackets! So excited to have made it to this far! If you haven't voted already, you can get your vote on HERE.

I joined Twitter a few years ago, before I was blogging for all of you, and really was confounded on what the heck to do with it. I really didn't get it at all. When I took the blog public I decided to take the plunge and try Twitter again. I'm so glad I did! It has enhanced my life in every single way. I absolutely love it and all the great friends I've made.

Another cool thing about being on Twitter is the Tweetups! So much fun to finally meet your Tweeps in real life. When I heard about the Tweetup at the House of Blues for Guitar Mania I knew I had to go. I always look forward to see what kind of awesome creativity is displayed every year. The guitars are so creative and I love how the proceeds from their sale go to the United Way and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame children's art program. Here's some of my favorites from previous years:

I was so excited to get to include my Twitter handle @EatDrinkClev on the guitar being done by local artist Garrett Weider! If you haven't seen his stuff, you need to check it out. 
We were so excited that we ended up being early, so Cleveland and I met up at Dredgers Union (my first time there!) and shopped around a bit. This dress is on my wish list...actually BOTH of ours!
When we got to the HOB, we grabbed a beverage & secured a spot right next to the food of course..

As more people showed up, the mingling and chatting was on overdrive. 
Saw some familiar faces:

And I FINALLY got to meet @clevelandsaplum,@lzone,@dawgpndgirl and@KTOinCLE!
Sarah, Nidhe, Charlene, me, Reshae, Kimberly and Katie
Kimberly, Katie, Rich, Nidhe, and Reshae
They gave away prizes like Cavs tickets, concert tickets and other fun stuff.

 giveaway!!!! A mini guitar! won!!

I had a lot of fun - such a social event! I can't wait til the next #CLETweetup!
@SGertner and @MKate105 were so nice - great party ladies!
Since we were so close, a group of us decided to head over to Noodlecat for some slurping. But we were too early for Happy Hour and I couldn't possibly eat a whole full size bowl of noodles. So I ended up with my favorite buns: BBQ Ohio Pork and Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana. Bliss!

Others eagerly slurped their giant bowls. 
We were treated to a surprise pickled everything platter from the chef...we gobbled it up like we were starving!
from top left: cucumbers, okra, beets, cabbage, broccoli stems and butternut squash
center: pickled ginger, sauerkraut and soy soaked hard boiled eggs
my favorite veggie - the pickled okra - don't knock it until you try it!
Scott and Amanda
As you can see, a fun (and delicious!) time was had by all! Another great night in Cleveland...

Thanks, United Way and House of Blues for hosting a super cool Tweetup - can't wait to see our finished guitar!

Garrett is talented and CUTE!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cracking Open Happiness at Whole Foods

First of all, let me start off by saying I love Whole Foods! I grew up a Heinen's girl thanks to my Dad working there (and I eventually did too.) And when Whole Foods came to town, I initially was hesitant to check them out because of my lifetime loyalty to Heinen's. Would it be cheating on my favorite store to visit the new kid in town? Eventually, curiosity and my love of food won out and I paid my first visit. Well, I've been hooked ever since! I still love Heinen's and shop there regularly but I love Whole Foods' large assortment of organic products and their delicious (but pricey!) prepared foods. But what I love most of all is all the fun stuff they have going on! Seriously, it's definitely more than your average grocery store.

I live closer to the Woodmere store so that is where I go practically every Friday night for their "Five by Seven" wine tastings. For $5 you get a wine glass to keep and five wine samples paired with small tastes of foods. If you bring back the glass the next time you attend, it'll only set you back $4. Where else can you start your Friday night off on such a happy note for so little cash? It's win-win: great deal for us and they get a lot of buzzed customers shopping with wild abandon. 

The next one is today and its theme is St. Patrick's Day of course! 

5x7 Fridays: St. Patrick's Day
Friday, March 16th
5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Details
Come celebrate St. Patrick's Day with us a day early!  
We'll have Irish-inspired foods paired with a variety of wines--
the perfect way to kick off your weekend festivities! 

You should visit their website because they have A LOT going on besides wine. They also have beer tasting events, cake decorating, etc. We had our Ohio Blogging Association's January meetup there for a Pizza Throwdown and I learned that you can even get growlers of beer at the University Hts. location. When I saw that they had something on the calendar called "The Crack Heard Round the World" that celebrated the King of Cheese Parmigiano Reggiano I knew I had to brave the Saturday crowds to experience it first hand. Parm is one of this Italian girl's favorite cheeses. When I received an invitation from Alicia of Poise in Parma to join in a special foodie blogger pre-event, I was excited! More cheese? Yes, please!
It was a gorgeous day and I was happy to be seeing our wonderful Whole Foods hostess Lisa and some of my favorite bloggers: Kimberly of Cleveland, Kristian of Adventures of a trapped 300 pound man and Ohio Festivals, Brad from Cleveland Food and Brews and of course Alicia from Poise in Parma. Twitter friend Renee also joined us.

This is their special Parmigiano Reggiano menu for the month of March:
As we settled in, Lisa was pouring glasses of this luscious brunello and even let the beer folks pick out beer from the cooler. This wine was a perfect match for the cheese. If you want to splurge on a special bottle, this would be a great choice. (thanks for sharing Lisa!!)
Then we chatted with Tom as he prepared our food about the dishes of the day.

Melon and crispy prosciutto crostini
Isn't it pretty? Tasty too!
Orecchiette with butternut squash, thyme and parmigiano
Both were excellent! I could have eaten a huge bowl of the pasta especially after Kristian asked for some honey to be drizzled on top - wow! I really enjoyed the crostini too but it was really hard to eat nicely. I think I would try to slice the melon so the little chunks wouldn't fall all over. Otherwise, it was fresh and fun. I can't wait for cantaloupe to be in season.

Jim the Cheese Monger was up next with a very informative discussion about the cheese. He said that in Italy, parmigiano is considered an athlete's cheese and in fact they eat it instead of protein bars, etc. because the cheese is such a great source of low fat, easily digestible energy. Also he explained that the crunchies inside that I love so much are NOT salt, they are the pure amino acids that make the cheese the choice of athletes. So not only is it tasty but I can enjoy it virtually guilt free! 

Next we headed over to the main event - the simultaneous cracking of 90 pound wheels of cheese at this store and across the country. Special tools are used to preserve the texture of the cheese.

Joe vs Elvis aka Ron

Elvis takes the win

Elvis was the champ by a few seconds but both guys did a great job. They were so fast with the tools - it was really impressive. Elvis not only got the glory, but also the job of serving up some of the freshly cracked parm.
The King of Rock 'n Roll, The King of Cheese and The Queen of Whole Foods  Fun
They also had some other snacks for everyone to try. This one was really cute delicious... 
panko breaded eggplant
They also had a penne pasta with jarred red sauce and a cold gnocchi salad. The gnocchi salad was an interesting twist on the typical pasta salad that would be perfect for a picnic.

As always, Whole Foods hosted a fun and tasty event. There were a lot of people there and everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves. I may or may not have eaten enough cheese to train for a marathon...

Thank you Whole Foods and Lisa for reaching out to us local bloggers and including us in this fun event! And thanks to Elvis for the special appearance. 

And be sure to visit Whole Foods for some more upcoming cheesy events:

Ask The Cheesemonger
4 p.m.
A brand new weekly feature, Ask the Cheesemonger will take place at the cheese counter. It can be an intimidating place, but our cheese experts will walk you through a cheese every week. Ask, sample and learn how to select cheese for different dishes and pairings. Just walk up Saturdays between 4 and 5 p.m.
March 17  Irish Cheddars
March 24  Organic Cheeses
March 31  Kosher Cheeses

Cheese 101

Wednesday, March 28th 
7 p.m. Free
Our Cheesemonger Jim Shalala will educate you on a specific variety or type of cheese each month. Next up: American Artisan cheeses. Learn how to select and buy, serve and savor cheese for yourself and your guests. RSVP for this class at Customer Service. You'll be an expert soon!

And if you're in the Woodmere store on a Friday night and you see a girl with a silly grin and an overflowing cart, make sure to say hi. You can't help falling in love with this place!
You can read Alicia's blog here, Kristian's here and Kimberly's here. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lola - Michael Symon Hype or the Real Deal?

Do you have a restaurant that EVERYONE goes crazy over and you're just like meh, ok? For me, it's always been Lola. I am a huge Michael Symon fan and loved Lola when it was in its original Tremont location, but the few times I had been to the E. 4th location left me underwhelmed. I always felt that there was too much hype and the perfection had been tarnished with the move. The space is gorgeous and the food was always good but something was missing. I never left there wowed. 

A couple weeks back, my friends asked me if I wanted to join them during Restaurant Week. I've been there previously during RW and ended up ordering off the regular menu because the special menu was unappealing. But this time the menu at Lola sounded really good so I decided to give it another shot. Man am I glad I did!
The hot crusty bread and soft butter got me purring as soon as it arrived. It's a huge pet peeve when butter is rock hard and unspreadable. The bread was chewy perfection. We had to control ourselves not to eat another basket.

We split an order of the famous beef cheek pierogies - it's one of my favorites and my friends were eager to them. I really think they are something you should be required to order when dining here. So beefy and delicious, we were talking about how we could eat a dozen each. At $12 for 3, we decided that we should order more wine instead.

We all started with the cauliflower soup. It was a generous bowl served piping hot. I loved the unexpected addition of golden raisins and the crispy bacon and cauliflower florets - yum! No pic of this one because I was too busy devouring it in record time.

One of my friends chose the trout with citrus, olives, and mint with baby bok choy. I'm not a huge trout fan because it's just a little fishy for me but this was a great preparation! The flavors mellowed the fishiness and was a tasty light entree.
Cleveland Restaurants, Iron Chef, Lola
The rest of us ordered the hanger steak. I've been on a quest for a great slab of beef ever since I went to Crop Bistro and couldn't wait to try Lola's steak. I was extremely disappointed when it arrived. Another case of over-done meat and it looked messy. Not at all what one would expect from an Iron Chef establishment. I ordered medium and there was no pink in sight. This time I was not going to accept an overcooked mess so I sent it back. Luckily I had a cone of the rosemary scented Lola fries to keep me busy. I love them being served in a cone because they stay hot - everyone should serve fries like this.
Michael Symon, Lola
I didn't have to wait long at all - only a few minutes - and this arrived:
Michael Symon, Iron Chef, Cleveland
MUCH better! You can see that the steak is cooked properly and even the presentation is much better. While I was shocked to receive the first version of the steak from a restaurant like Lola, I was very happy with the way they promptly took care of it. The waiter and restaurant manager both came by to see if I was happy with the replacement. Cooked properly - it was fantastic! Beefy, tender and juicy it was exactly what I have been craving. 

Next up was dessert. I almost ordered the panna cotta:
dessert, Michael Symon
A blood orange and vanilla bean panna cotta layer was on a thin slab of clove cake and topped with mint and citrus. It was good but didn't knock my socks off. 

But I was swayed with the waiter's description of the Napolean as "almond joy like." It was a very light almond pastry cream layered on top of chocolate pastry with a tiny scoop of coconut sorbet. The real star of this was the wafer thin nut brittle - to die for! It would have benefited from more chocolate punch in the crust and maybe a drizzle on the plate with some more of the nut brittle but it was a great finish. I was super tired from a long day at NASA and the 50th Anniversary John Glenn celebration so I opted for a cup of coffee instead of more wine. It was dark and rich. I liked how the coffee enhanced the flavor of the Napolean. 
I'm so glad I gave Lola another try. After this meal, I'm officially a lover of Lola! While the first steak was terrible, the way the restaurant handled it and the rest of the meal totally made up for it. Once this was fixed, everything was perfect. The decor, service and food were spot on. 

I still prefer the coziness of Lolita ~ it seems like Chef Symon's restaurant for us locals instead of the touristy glamour of Lola. But that being said, I am really looking forward to going back to Lola again. Even if you aren't a food crazed tourist, it's a wonderful restaurant that everyone should try - it's worth the hype. There are so many great dishes on the menu it will be hard to chose. For my follow up visit, the 6 a.m. Special (brioche french toast, maple-bacon ice cream, caramelized apple) is calling my name...