Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday ~When I'm Old

Monday, August 27, 2012

Winos and Corks

I've said it before but I'll say it again - I love wine! And I've attracted lots of fellow winos as friends. Between popping a bottle and having olives, cheese, pickles and crackers for dinner on a Tuesday to elaborate rotating wine dinners, we go through a lot of wine. 
recycle wine corks
Photo Credit
Some of us save corks and store them in a big container. Some have cats that like to steal them and hide them under the couch. Some have made cork boards and trivets from kits. But eventually you just have way too many corks! 

A lot of people just toss them because they are natural and biodegradable. But did you know that it takes 25 YEARS for the cork oak tree to be ready to harvest? The cork can only be harvested from the tree every 9 years. And only the cork from the very first harvest is suitable for wine corks. See why they need to be recycled?

I was so happy to hear about Whole Foods' recycling program and wanted to spread the word because I know there's a lot of other folks up to ears in used corks. Thank you Whole Foods because I now have a way to get rid of the excess corks and save them from a landfill. Hope you'll recycle yours too. 

Sarah from Cooker Girl also has another favorite place that recycles corks for you, Western Reserve Wines in Solon. 

Updated: You can mail your corks to CorkClub - and they even recycle both natural and synthetic corks. (Thanks for the tip John!)

For more information check out Cork ReHarvestCork Forest Conservation Alliance and the Whole Foods Green Mission.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Paladar Turns 5

Happy Birthday to Paladar!
And here's a nice little present for you too. TODAY you can get free guacamole and 1/2 off mojitos. Perfect for happy hour, girls night out, or date night with your sweetie.

I love their rum glazed pork cubano - I could eat that coconut mango rice every day! Their soft tacos are delicious too. But no visit would be complete without their sweet potato donuts ~ swoon!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where Oh Where Should Our Wedding Be?

I'm officially on lock down until I find the answer to this question!

As a newly engaged bride-to-be, I know this is the most important thing to take care of. Without a venue, I don't have an official wedding date.

So --- I've been looking all over trying to find the perfect place that is still budget-friendly. Thanks to all the great suggestions I've received so far, I've been busy. I've even put the Moms to work for me. I'm really hoping I can find the perfect "pop-up" but I'm looking into traditional venues too - just in case!

Then I can get busy thinking of the fun stuff - color scheme, dress and of course the food!
Any ideas?
We are going for casually elegant. Nothing too industrial. Ideally a farm-to-table feel would be perfect. Strands of lights, lanterns, candles and flowers. We need a REAL bathroom and prefer to be indoors due to possible weather issues. And we are looking at approximately 200 guests.

We are looking at Hale Farm and Botsum. We would rather be a little closer to the city if possible so there are more lodging options close by for our guests. I know there's a perfect place out there somewhere! 

Thanks to Kristian for this great video

Friday, August 17, 2012

Love NYC!

Hello everyone!
I've been neglecting you lately and I'm here to fill you all in.

Remember this post? It's the one where I gave you my NYC wishlist and got some GREAT tips from all of you. (thanks!) We accomplished most things and added other fun stuff too. Here's an update.

1.Where we stayed: The Inn on 23rd was our B+B and it was fabulous! We lucked out and got their last available room. Super cute, fantastic hosts and a great location. I would definitely go back. 

2. What we ate: Every single bite of food we ate was absolute yumminess! Grimaldi'sLocanda VerdeGoodMomofuku's Ma Peche and Milk were amazing! I'll post more on the food later.
3. Where we went: So much to see, and never enough time! We accomplished most of our must-do's but not Eataly! Can you believe it? We had so much fun and are already planning a return visit so I'm totally OK with that. 

Times Square, Chrysler Building, 9/11 Memorial, Wall St., St. Patrick's Cathedral, the High Line, Top of the Rock, Brooklyn and Little Italy are just some of the places we went.

My favorite? Central Park. The rainy morning on Friday cleared up just in time for us to enjoy a beautiful stroll around the Pond. It's a magical oasis in the middle of skyscrapers. 
And it's extra special now because this is where Mark proposed!
my favorite souvenir
I was totally surprised and almost rendered speechless but of course said yes! 

I finally remembered to take a picture at the Top of the Rock...
It's been a whirlwind ever since! This week has been filled with telling our families and friends, parties, picking a date (next September!) and looking for a venue. 

So if you notice fewer posts - that's why! Stay tuned for more NYC details.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Guest Post: Wearing Mascara and Skeeball

If you are looking for something fun to do in Cleveland, look no further! Julie from Wearing Mascara is a fun, cute and sweet friend of mine who is here helping me out while I'm recuperating from a fun-packed weekend in NYC (more on that later!)  Hope you enjoy her guest post as much as I did. Be sure to check out her blog for all sorts of fun and craziness. She's also a Stella and Dot stylist so she can also help you accessorize. 

Hello, hello!

While Crystal is eating and exploring her way through New York City, I'm here to take over her corner of the Internets for the day! Muhahaha! Oh, the possibilities are endless.

First, allow myself to introduce... myself. I am Julie and I run a blog called 
Wearing Mascara. It's my place to share whatever it is that I have going on that day. It's about my life as a 20-something female navigating through Cleveland, Ohio. 

Today, I'm here to tell you about the Co-Ed Skeeball League presented by Hermes Sport and Social. I learned about it through my friends Lindsay and Justin and my boyfriend, Todd. They make up Team Awesome and every Thursday this year, they fought to the death to become the number one team in the Cleveland area!

Many Thursdays of this year were dedicated to supporting Team Awesome as they fought to win the Skeeball Championship. Winking Lizard is a tavern filled with yummy food, including excellent wings, and a huge beer selection. I used to love going there with my family when I was in high school. When I left to go to graduate school in DC, I sure did miss it! When I came back, I realized it was still thriving and continued to be one of my favorite hang outs. Oh, and they have free popcorn, which is one of my favorite parts about Winking Lizard. Seriously, I'm a popcorn addict.
Skeeball has three seasons in the Winter, Spring, and Fall. This past season, Team Awesome took home the Lakewood Championship and, as an Official Team Awesome Cheerleader, I was so proud of them! The leagues play for 7 weeks and then participate in the tournament, if they qualified. It's only $20 per person and includes playing each week, play-offs, a t-shirt, beer specials, prizes, and an all-you-can-eat buffet at the end of the season! The buffet is the best part! The food is always plentiful and they are very good about putting more food out once something is gone. It's a bar food lovers heaven!

You really get a lot for your ticket price which is not too shabby for $20! In addition to $20, you need to have quarters ready for your games. This is very important!
The Team Awesome Coach Justin means business. Just because this is a recreational league does not mean you shouldn't take skeeball seriously!
In fact, I've never seen anyone take it as seriously as Coach Justin. Let's just say, you don't want to get on his bad side. ;-) One time, I subbed for Todd because he was out of town. I didn't do too well and almost cost the team the championship! Next time, I will need practicing time for sure. For now, I'm content being a cheerleader. 
Also, this next season, Team Awesome will have a new player named David since Lindsay will be in Columbus. Will David be able to fight to the death to the par that Coach Justin sets for him? We shall see, my friends. I'll be sure to keep you updated through my blog and Twitter. 
Do you think you have what it takes to take on Team Awesome? If you are interested in forming a team, you better get on it! Registration closes on September 18! You can click here for more info. I hope you enjoyed learning about skeeball and Team Awesome! 


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sagra di San Rocco - Emerging Chefs

When you first read the title, you are likely wondering what a sagra is. It's an Italian feast celebrating food. It's the perfect way to get a taste of the country life Italian style. And Sagra di San Rocco was a fabulous evening of food and wine that tasted like a bite of Italy.

It was held at Saint Rocco's outside with old warehouse buildings as the backdrop. It was a sultry night but there was a nice breeze that kept things from being unbearable. Long tables were set up around the area by the bocce court and everyone mingled and helped themselves to sparkling water and beer before dinner.

The wines were all from Puglia in a last minute switch. Tuscany Distributors wanted to showcase some new wines they just received. These are not wines that you have probably heard of, but they were all delicious! Definitely worth seeking out. If you want a bottle (or two!) talk to Raffaele or Margaret and they will hook you up. Here's the list:

     Colli della Murgia Fontana di Ticchio Spumante - bubbles! 
     Tenuta Fujanero Nero D'Troia - white
     Cantine di Marco Bianco Locorotondo - white
     Tenuta Fujanera Falanghina - white
     Colli della Murgia Ambasciatore Rosso - red
     Ca Montebello Sangue di Giuda - red
Chef Jeff Fisher kept the food simple but packed full of flavor, taking advantage of seasonal ingredients at their peak. 

We started off with everyone's favorite - pizza! We had to control ourselves not to eat every single slice. We had a full pie between the four of us so it wasn't easy. Lots of fresh basil and smoked mozzarella made the flavors pop. 
Next up was a combo platter of gnocchi and panzanella. I'm an unusual Italian girl who doesn't normally love gnocchi but these were little soft pillows bathed in a light broth-type sauce that made me scoop up 2nds.

Panzanella is always one of my favorites and this one was especially tasty. The bread had absorbed just the right amount of juices so the chunks were soggy and the mixed heirloom tomatoes were bursting with flavor. I wanted to eat the whole bowl but everyone else loved it too so I couldn't get away with it!

We were already feeling very satisfied but we had 3 more courses to go. The highly anticipated octopus salad was next. It was like no other octopus salad I have ever had and it was absolutely delicious! You could easily make this a summer entree. 
A huge bowl was filled with white beans, more tomatoes, capers, green olives, caramelized onions, parley and baby octopus on a bed of fresh spinach. It was a party in your mouth. I loved the creamy beans paired with the bite of the olives and capers. A squirt of lemon brightened the flavors. Even if you THINK you don't like octopus, I bet you would have liked this. 

Even though we thought we couldn't eat more, we gobbled up the stuffed HOT peppers filled with ground pork and topped with a fresh marinara. I love hot food but these were like stuffed dynamite in your mouth! Thankfully they were served with some heavenly fresh focaccia. I wanted to stuff some in my purse but somehow managed to control myself. It was thick and just the right combo of chewy yet slightly cakey. 
Dessert was a homey polenta limoncello cake topped with the freshest of strawberry purees. I loved how the cornmeal gave the cake a little crunch. It was dense yet moist and the strawberry mixture was perfect with the lemon. I would have loved a little something creamy to top it with but it was fantastic as it was.

This event was definitely one of my favorite Emerging Chefs events. Maybe I'm biased because of the Italian theme but everything was absolutely delicious. I really hope that Chef Fisher finds a permanent kitchen because I want to see what else he has up his sleeves. You can see the rest of my pics here. And you can see the Emerging Chefs' video here.

Emerging Chefs has three more events in the works. Get your tickets early because they will certainly sell out. Click here for details.

Wordless Wednesday - Where I Work

In honor of being off work for a few days...

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Monday, August 6, 2012

Happy Hour at Bahama Breeze

When I was contacted about hosting a Happy Hour at Bahama Breeze I jumped at the chance to sample their newest tropical drinks and snacks.

I'm sure some of you are wondering why I would be excited to go to a chain restaurant since I'm such a vocal advocate of shopping local and supporting our local food scene. Some chains are worth visiting once in awhile - especially when they offer something unique. There's something about the faux tropical vibe at Bahama Breeze that is just FUN - plus they have killer cocktails that are perfect for a Happy Hour or after dinner drink.

I was really hoping that the event would be worthwhile since I had invited a bunch of friends to join me. If it was a dud, I would have felt bad for people that drove from all over town. But as soon as it started, I knew my fears were in vain. They knocked our socks off ~ the hospitality was amazing!!! 
Our servers Colleen and Cameron were knowledgeable and a total blast! Colleen told us the history of the drinks (fun stories!)
Chef Veronica was super sweet too and kept coming out to check on us and talk about the food too. 
And the food - it was great! I always thought of Bahama Breeze for cocktails more than food but it was sooooo yummy! Here's what we had:
1st cocktail: Barbados Rum Punch
Yummy punch with a twist ~ fresh nutmeg grated on top!
Chips and REALLY good salsa
White Bean Hummus
Corn Cakes
Now, at this point we were thinking that this was all the food we were being served; however, it was only the first wave of what they had in store for us!
Cocktail 2 - Pain Killer
Super tasty combo of rum, creme of coconut, pineapple and OJ
Also topped with fresh nutmeg
The much loved Coconut Shrimp
I think we ate our body weight in these!
Truffled Yuca Tots
1st time trying them - sort of like potatoes - yum!
Mojo Marinated Pulled Pork
Best part - it was served on top of grilled plantains - taste sensation!
And there was STILL more to come!
Cocktail #3 - the Goombay Smash
Captain Morgans, Meyer's Original Rum,  OJ and pineapple juice
Love that last pic - Kate was caught enjoying her tasty cocktail! And there was even more food:
Conch Fritters - another first for me!
Chicken Empanadas
These were a huge hit at the table. Loved that they charred the corn in the salsa.
Cheesy Sliders
Not really tropical, right? But they were good!
Perfect for any picky eaters in your group.
We were having such a blast! The food and drinks kept coming and we were tempted to start dancing to the steel drum beats.

But we still had dessert to try to fit in somehow so we decided to stay seated. We didn't want to miss this...
We found out that Cleveland is one of their test locations for new bite sized Island Delights desserts. We each got to pick one - and let me tell you, it was a very difficult decision!
Mark got the Almond Joy
The coconut cream was so good we didn't need the choc cake
My choice was even better!
Fresh fruit with lemon cream
Tony and Tim
Everyone found room for these sweet treats
Happy Bloggers!
Julie from Wearing Mascara, me, @ClevelandChick from Happiness is a Hot Pierogi and Sarah from Cooker Girl
Sara from Sara Finding the Time and Amie from My Retro Kitchen left before we could snag a pic of them too

There were tropical birds....and love birds!
And they even sent us home with their homemade Key Lime Pie with a cute drawing on the box.

I have to say, Bahama Breeze really impressed me with the quality and taste of the food and their incredible service. I will definitely be getting food next time I go there instead of just drinks for sure. They made that easy for us by giving everyone a $10 gift card (and a super cute palm tree bottle opener key chain.) Kate was the winner of a $25 gift certificate for Tweeting even though she didn't Tweet. We think they did a random drawing instead?

There are 5 more Legendary Island Cocktails on the menu that I can't wait to try.
And until August 15th, they are offering a special deal: $10 for a burger and Aruba Red Beer. Click here for details and to print out your coupon. And Happy Hour is from 4-6pm.

A big THANK YOU to Bahama Breeze for treating us to a ridiculously fun Happy Hour! We left stuffed and looking forward to our next visits. 

If you are looking for a fun place to grab some drinks after work or a tropical dinner, check them out. I also think it's a great place to escape the blustery days so keep it in mind when you need a quick winter escape. Now if they only could bottle and serve up the sunshine...

For more photos, click here. You can also click here for some of their recipes.

**Disclosure: Besides all the great food and drinks Bahama Breeze provided for this event, I also received a gift card. This in no way influenced my post. As always, my thoughts are my own. **