Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christmas Tea at The Ritz

Afternoon Tea is truly one of my favorite activities. And it's even more special when it's holiday themed. My Auntie and I went to the Holiday Tea at The Ritz-Carlton in Cleveland this past weekend and it was magical.

The hotel is decked out in all her holiday finest with multiple Christmas trees, wreaths, a gingerbread house and all things sparkly. And we were feeling festive too.
Each table had a beautiful floral arrangement and the natural light from all the windows made everything sparkle.
Instead of providing a pot of tea for the table, the staff came around to each table, explained the varieties and poured your choice. I really liked that you were able to try as many of the five teas as you liked and they were always piping hot. My favorite was the vanilla.
Tea is great but champagne is even better! We of course had to try the champagne cocktails. 
Next they brought us a tower of savories. Everything was beautifully prepared, incredibly fresh and delicious! Smoked salmon on pumpernickle, chicken salad on whole grain, caprese and egg sandwich circles, and of course a cucumber sandwich were included.
I loved the attention to detail in all of the garnishes. So pretty!
The bread was soft but dense enough to hold up to the hearty fillings.
After we nibbled and sipped and relaxed a bit, they brought out the tower of sweets. What an assortment! I'm torn because I would have liked two of everything, but then the variety would have had to be smaller. We had to bring a few items home because we were absolutely stuffed.
They even include house made candy that is stunning. Almost too pretty to eat!

Definitely mark your calendar for next year to escape all the hustle and bustle of the holidays and spend a delightful afternoon at The Ritz for one of their Afternoon Teas.

The Ritz offers non-holiday teas though out the year. No matter when you go, I guarantee it will be a delightful and delicious experience!

** Disclosure: I was invited to experience the Holiday Tea with a guest. I have also gone to several teas at the Ritz throughout the years at my own expense.
As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. **

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Gift Guide: Cleveland Foodie Edition

Can you believe that Christmas is just under two weeks away? If you are looking for gift ideas, I have some delicious local ideas for you. Here are a few of my favorite Made in CLE gifts for the foodie on your list.
Cheese from Old Brooklyn Cheese Company. The Goatzart is a must! Definitely get some of their mustard too. They also have themed cheese boards, cutting boards and other local products.
Vinegar made by Cleveland's own James Beard award winning chef Jonathan Sawyer. Purchase Tavern Vinegar at his restaurants, at Room Service or online. 

Chocolates from Lilly Chocolates & Confections. Head to new location for some of her delightful and giftable candy. They are almost too pretty to eat!
chocolate, Cleveland Ohio Chocolate, Lilly's candy, truffles
Bloody Mary Mix from Pope's Kitchen. The best mix I've ever hand! The gift set is a party in a box. They also have lots of different hot sauces, spreads and jams so there truly is something for everyone. Bring a couple of their cocktail syrups and a bottle of booze to holiday parties and everyone will love you.
Bloody Mary, gift set, Pope's Kitchen, olives, skewers, gift ideas, Cleveland Ohio

Coffee. Cleveland is lucky to have so many great options. Rising Star is one of my favorites. You can also grab bags of one of Zack Bruell's blends, Erie Island, or Bent Tree at Heinen's.

Olive oil and balsamic vinegar from The Olive SceneThe Olive and the Grape or Zack Bruell will make any foodie happy.

Craft Beer from Great Lakes, Platform or your favorite local brewery is always a great gift! Add a Yeti Stainless Steel Colster or create your own custom 6 pack and present them in a wooden or Neoprene carrier.

Sauerkraut from Cleveland Kraut is the best kraut around! If you have someone on your list that like sauerkraut, grab them a few bags and some sausage or kielbasa from Saucisson, Dohar Meats or Ohio City Provisions. Saucisson also has sausage making classes where participants learn how to make it AND get to take some home. 
There are so many great locally made products, you can find something for everyone on your list. Do you have a favorite?

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Spectacular Holiday Lights

It's the sparkliest time of year thanks to all of the gorgeous holiday light displays. Hop in your car and head to these beautiful spots both near and far to enjoy the magic of the season. 

Cleveland Area

Downtown Bedford - Bedford
This southeast suburb has one of the prettiest city displays around! You can walk through the town square and listen to music. Stop by the Bedford Falls Café for a hot drink or a bite to eat and enjoy the lights while you dine. Head there this Saturday 12/8 from 12-4pm for the annual Christmas in Bedford Falls. Santa and Mrs. Clause will be there as well as lots of other activities and giveaways. {free}

Nela Park - East Cleveland
Northeast Ohio’s oldest and most famous holiday light display returns for its 94th year. The display is located at GE's 92-acre campus at Noble Road south of Euclid Avenue. It includes more than 500,000 LED lights and a replica of the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. GE has lighted up the tree for 56 years!! {free}

Public Square - Downtown Cleveland, OH
Right in the heart of the city is a magical wonderland. In addition to the beautiful lights, there is also ice skatingGeneral admission is just $10 per skater, which includes skate rental. If you bring your own ice skates, tickets are $7. 
Grab a FREE cup of coffee or hot chocolate from Rebol, now through 12/24/2018. Just connect to the free WIFI now available in Public Square and they will send you an instant REBoL Reward via email. {lights - free}

Pinecrest - Orange Village
Take a stroll down Park Ave at Pinecrest and enjoy original holiday window displays from the iconic Higbee’s Department Store in downtown Cleveland. The 22 consecutive windows are located between REI and West Elm.
You can also enjoy the magic of outdoor skating in Central Park at Pinecrest. Skate around the decorated tree and take in the sights and sounds of the season.
Seabury Avenue - Fairview Park, OH
This neighborhood takes Christmas decorating very seriously. There are over 700 homes participating on Seabury and the surrounding area. In many areas you can walk along the sidewalks to enjoy the spectacular views. Check out their Facebook page for details. They even have a map to help you find all of the homes.
Just a short roadtrip away!
Image may contain: night and outdoor

Road Trip Worthy Light Displays

Hop in the car and plan a quick getaway to see this road trip worthy displays. 

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium – One of the most cherished holiday traditions in central Ohio runs until January 6, 2019. Featuring 3 million LED lights, this is the 30th year of the annual event.
During Wildlights, the Zoo’s 500 acres are transformed into a winter wonderland featuring an animated light show, holiday star light star bright seek-n-find, Santa’s holiday home, Polar Bear Express, camel rides, a 1914 historic carousel rides, meet and greet with Rudolph and friends and access to a variety of animals, including polar bears, reindeer, lions, gorillas and more.
Admission is $14.99 for ages 10 to 59, $10.99 for ages 60 or older, $9.99 for ages 2 to 9 and free for children younger than 2. Parking is $8.

Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights - Delaware, OH
This drive thru light show is located right on the water at Alum Creek (the largest inland lake in Ohio) and features over a million LED lights (and over 450 displays). The three mile display features animated lights, synchronized music displays and visits to Santa’s House to meet Santa and enjoy free hot chocolate. Cost: Monday-Thursday: $20; Friday-Sunday: $30.
A portion of proceeds from the event go towards Recreation Unlimited and A Kid Again. Organizers also offer three sensory sensitive nights for children with Autism, so they can enjoy the display while not being startled or scared.

Holiday Lights on the Hill – Hamilton, Ohio
Remember when we visited Butler County? We went to the fabulous Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park. That's when we first learned about the award-winning drive through lights display at one of the area’s most loved parks.
This winter wonderland contains over 2 million lights covering the surfaces of the sculptures. Cost: Monday – Thurs $20; Friday – Sunday $25 (Per carload). Combine this with a the Donut Trail for the perfect winter weekend getaway!

Light Up Middletown –  Middletown, Ohio
This is a great display to combine with the Holiday Lights on the Hill. This annual display takes place from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. This driving tour of lights takes you through a 100 acre park and features several themed displays, including the American flag, Sea Serpent in the reflecting lake, penguin village and more.

Just a short distance across the state line is one of the nation’s largest holiday light shows. The Winter Festival of Lights features three hundred acres of twinkling lights over a six-mile drive. The dazzling display includes 90 lighted attractions boasting more than one million energy-efficient LED lights.  Enjoy a kid’s train ride and family wagon ride at the new Winter Carnival, encounter Santa’s reindeer at the Good Zoo, unwind with live music at the Nightly Holiday Reception, and much more! Your $25 donation also includes a family 4-pack of 3D Sleigh Bans glasses where holographic technology transforms every point of light into a magical display.

Pro tip: pack a thermos of hot cocoa and some popcorn for the ride.
And if you are visiting a house or neighborhood, please be courteous and cognizant of the families that live there.

Northeast Ohio Family Fun has a county by county guide for NEO that has even more great spots.

What is your favorite holiday light display? 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Lake Effects Holiday Pop-Up Bar

Now that Thanksgiving is over, everyone is thinking about the holidays. And the perfect place to embrace all things Christmas is the fun and festive Lake Effects, a holiday pop-up bar at the Kimpton Schofield.
They have a huge color-changing tinsel chandelier, beams wrapped up in festive paper, tons of lights, giant ornaments, a leg lamp, and a Christmas tree of course. They even have a 20 foot custom bar with several kinds of vintage televisions playing classic Christmas movies (or static, just like the olden days!)
But my favorite spot is the photo backdrop that practically guarantees you a smooch. Seriously, who can resist a completely Instagram worthy backdrop of tinsel adorned with tons of of cleverly placed mistletoe and a neon Kiss Me sign?
And not only is it fun, but the bar is putting the Holiday spirit to work for a good cause. For every Great Lakes draft beer sold, Great Lakes Brewing will donate $1 to the Shoes and Clothes for Kids special 50th Anniversary Program Growth Fund. The CLE non-profit provides new shoes, school uniforms, clothes and school supplies to kids in need. Sounds like a good excuse for a beer to me!
As an extra dose of holiday cheer, all guests of the Kimpton Schofield Hotel will enjoy special perks, including 20% off their entire Lake Effects bar tab.

Where:  2000 E. 9th Street (corner of E.9th + Euclid, across from Heinen's)
When:   Friday, Nov. 23, through Monday, Dec. 31 
            4 p.m. to close Monday-Saturday
You can follow Lake Effects on Instagram or head to their website for more details.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Der Braumeister 12 Beers of Christmas

Der Braumeister is a 100 year old German restaurant that has a long history of being family owned for generations. Recently, they have taken the much loved German classics that they are known for and freshened them, incorporating farm-to-table sourcing and modern updates.
Every year they host an annual 12 Beers of Christmas event -  on the night before Thanksgiving, they debut all 12 of their featured Christmas beers and it is quite a party!
This year, head to Der Brau on Wednesday, November 21 from 5:30 p.m.- midnight to try this year’s seasonal features including Brouwerij Corsendonk Christmas Ale, Boulevard Brewing Plaid Habit, and lots of other unique and hard-to-find beers.
There are two seatings 6pm & 8pm. After eating and drinking, join the entire restaurant in a “Silent Night” sing-a-long in English and German at 7pm and again at 9pm.
Reservations are required — this event will sell out! Reserve your spot by calling 216-671-6220 and receive an early Christmas gift from Der Brau, a retro beer glass or mug filled with candy for your table. 

Our evening started off with a platter of assorted cheeses, sausage, and meats with pickles, spreads and fruit. 
photo from Kristian at Ohio Festivals
The thinly sliced radishes with butter on a baguette were incredible and something I will definitely be attempting to recreate at home. I am still wondering how something so simple can taste SO good!
We were provided a few bites each of Sauerbraten - Burgundy wine, ginger and juniper marinated Ohio beef in a sweet and sour sauce, and served with spätzle + red cabbage and the Rheinlander Platter - smoked pork chop, bratwurst, potato croquettes and red cabbage. Both left me wishing for more but the smoked pork chop, spätzle + red cabbage were my favorites. 
It was a fun evening and I found several beers that I will be stocking up on for the holidays. I'm looking forward to visiting Der Brau again for a full meal and more of their unique beers. They have an extensive beer selection and offer 40 German and 30 Belgian imports and 24 American craft brews so there is definitely lots of reasons to return.

13046 Lorain Avenue
Cleveland OH 44111

You can also follow Der Braumeister on Facebook and Twitter.

** Disclosure: I was invited to get a sneak preview of the event along with some other bloggers. We were provided beer and food samples. As always, all opinions are my own. **

Friday, November 16, 2018

Getting hygge with it! Let's Have a Soup Party

If you like the idea of entertaining, but think you don't have time or it's too much work, I have the party for you. A Soup Party! It's the perfect party, especially at this time of year. When the temperature drops, we naturally spend more time indoors and start thinking of all things hygge.
Photo Credit
Hygge, in case you don't already know, is the Danish art of coziness. Candles, knit scarves, fireplaces, blankets, cocoa or tea and of course soup are all things that create hygge. But hygge isn't just hibernating alone in your house. It's about enjoying the company of friends and family too. A Soup Party captures this concept perfectly!

So what exactly is a Soup Party? Well, obviously it features soup. But it's a bit more fun than that. Each person brings a pot of soup to share. Add an app or two, some crusty bread and a something sweet, and simple soup turns into a fabulous feast. My friend Sarah hosts a Soup Party every January and it's one of the most anticipated nights of the year!

This Roasted Butternut Squash Soup recipe is perfect for a Soup Party. It can be adjusted to be vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free so it easily accommodates the dietary needs of any guests. 

This soup is like a warm hug. Plus it's quick, customizable and healthy too! You can roast all the veggies ahead of time and whip it up in minutes when you are ready to serve it. The recipe is very forgiving and you can swap out or add ingredients to take advantage of what you have on hand or food preferences. You can leave out the sweet potato or swap it for a russet. Use veggie broth and maple syrup to make it vegan. Leave out the hot pepper if you don't like spice. And if you have some leftover canned pumpkin, you can stir that in too.
Photo Credit

You can see me make the soup on New Day Cleveland, and then make this at home with the recipe below.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

2 medium butternut squash, cubed (about 4 cups)
1 large sweet potato, cubed
2 carrots, sliced thick
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 roasted hatch chile, or other hot pepper such as jalapeño, poblano, etc.
1/4 c. apple cider
Olive oil
1/4 t. aleppo pepper (or cayenne)
4 c. broth or stock
1 T. Adobo seasoning
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. paprika
3 T. honey or maple syrup
S+P to taste

Preheat oven to 375℉. Put all veggies in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with aleppo pepper and season with S+P. Spread on a large shallow tray and bake until tender, approximately 25 minutes. You want the squash to be very soft with lots of brown spots. 

Pour broth in Vitamix container. Add roasted veggies, apple cider, Adobo, cumin, cinnamon, paprika and sweetener. Blend on soup setting. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. 

If you don't have a Vitamix, you can easily make this on the stove. After roasting the veggies, add them to a pot. Add the other ingredients and bring the liquid to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth.

Now comes the best part - the toppings! Set out an assortment of tasty toppings and guests can customize their bowls and create their own masterpieces. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Green onions
Pomegranate seeds
Crumbled sausage
Crispy sage leaves
Creme fraîche
Chopped fresh parsley
Candied almonds
Goat cheese
Goldfish crackers
Roasted delicata slices
Feta cheese

If you dread cutting up the squash, you can but it pre-cubed at the grocery store. But it's expensive and doesn't taste as fresh. You can also cut the squash in half and roast it cut side down, then scoop out the flesh. But my favorite way to prepare squash is super simple and fast. Here's how:

- Cut off the ends of the squash
- Prick all over with a fork
- Microwave for 3 minutes
- When cool enough to handle, use a potato peeler to easily remove the skin

That's it! Easy peasy. 

What is your favorite kind of soup? 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Holidays at the Ritz: Afternoon Tea and Dinner Feasts

A tea party is one of the loveliest ways to spend the afternoon. This time of year, afternoon tea is a perfect time to escape the hustle and bustle of the holidays and enjoy what makes them truly special - the people. Spending a couple hours relaxing and reconnecting is a wonderful way celebrate the season. The Ritz Carlton Cleveland hosts some of the very best teas throughout the year, but during the holiday, they are even more special.

This year they are featuring two types of teas for the holiday season: Afternoon Tea and Teddy Bear Tea.

Afternoon Tea

The classic. This beloved tradition offers a selection of festive teas, tea sandwiches and tempting sweets.

December 2, 9 , 15 - 22
2pm - 4pm
$48 per person for adults
$22 per child 10 and under
+ tax and gratuity

Teddy Bear Tea

This tea is truly special. The Teddy Bear Tea is the perfect setting for an enchanting holiday afternoon where children can savor a child-friendly tea menu and create their own bags of candy, receive a teddy bear gift, and enjoy holiday story-telling courtesy of Mrs. Claus.

December 15 - 21
11am - 1pm
$68 per person
+ tax and gratuity

These will definitely sell out so be sure to call for reservations: (216) 902-5254.
And if tea isn't your thing, you can still celebrate the holidays at The Ritz. Reservations are required for all dates - call  216-902-5255 to reserve your spot at Turn Bar + Kitchen at The Ritz.


Guests can give thanks with family and friends and savor a four-course feast featuring traditional favorites of holiday soup, salad, turkey with all the trimmings and a pumpkin pie root beer float for dessert. Yes, a pumpkin pie root beer float! What a fun way to end the meal.

Thursday, November 22, 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
$70 for adults
$30 for children 10 and under
+ beverage, tax and gratuity


Holiday diners are invited to create Christmas Eve memories and savor a four-course dinner of roasted chestnut soup, salad, prime rib of beef and an adorable mini yule log.

Monday, December 24, 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
$75 USD for adults
$30 USD for children 10 and under 
+ beverage, tax and gratuity


Tuesday, December 25, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
$75 USD for adults
$30 USD for children 10 and under
+ beverage, tax and gratuity

A dazzling array of flavors provides the perfect Christmas dining experience in the warm, inviting ambience of TURN Bar + Kitchen. Soup, salad, holiday prime rib and yule log dessert highlight the menu.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Homegrown Cleveland

Join me this weekend at Homegrown Cleveland to support local makers and get a really early start on your holiday shopping.

The Homegrown marketplace will feature goods sourced from across downtown neighborhoods including apparel, jewelry, ceramics, tableware, poster art and more.

Enjoy beer from Great Lakes and wine from ManCan and take a break from shopping and relax in the K&D Lounge.

Saturday, November 3
11AM – 4PM

Red Space
2400 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44114

All attendees receive a free Homegrown tote bag designed by Cleveland Clothing Company and two drink tickets.

Get your tickets online and use Promo Code "Crystal" for a 50% discount!

** Disclosure: I was asked to help promote this event and 
received a free ticket for my personal use. **

Friday, October 26, 2018

Cocktails: A Special Halloween Punch Recipe from Punch Bowl Social

Punch Bowl Social is hosting a Witches and Warlocks themed Halloween Party. Dress up and head to the Flats East Bank on Saturday, October 27 from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. to join in the fun!
halloween party, punch bowl social, cleveland, punch recipe
There is a costume contest and the best overall costume will win a $50 gift card! Enjoy specialty Halloween punch, live DJ music and treats. Your favorites like The Knockoff Burger and the Lobster Bacon Fries can still be ordered from the menu all night. You can find more info on their Facebook page.
Orange is the New Black Sabbath Punch Recipe, Punch Bowl Social, Halloween punch
Punch Bowl Social’s special Halloween punch, “Orange is the New Black Sabbath,” will be served in honor of this spooky occasion. It’s a vibrant, citrusy and satisfying punch to enjoy at the party, or even make at home! Punch Bowl provided the recipe created by Amber Boutwell as a treat - so you can mix up your own batch for Halloween.

“Orange is the New Black Sabbath” Halloween Punch

Makes an 8-serving punch bowl


4 oz Agave nectar (we recommend Tres Agaves, otherwise dilute 2:1 agave and water)

6 oz Orange juice

12 oz Reposado tequila

16 oz Teakoe Orange Octane tea

8 oz Red wine

orange wheels, for garnish


Add all ingredients except wine to a large pitcher (at least 44 ounces). Stir all ingredients. Fill cocktail shaker halfway with the punch, add ice, and shake vigorously for seven seconds. Strain into a punch bowl. Then add fresh ice to properly fill the bowl. Pour red wine slowly around the edges of the bowl for the red wine float. Garnish with orange wheels.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Pumpkin Palooza at Pinecrest

Do you love Halloween as much as I do? I love the crisp air, the crunch of the leaves and the spook in the night. It's the perfect excuse to dress up and eat a bunch of candy. Plus Trick or Treating always makes me feel like a kid again...even if I'm the one handing out candy instead of going door to door.

This year, you can grab your favorite kiddos and head to Pinecrest’s Pumpkin Palooza! It's a trick or treat style party that's perfect for kids of all ages.

Put on your costumes and get a jump start on Halloween at Pinecrest Sunday, October 28 from 1-3pm!
Enjoy an afternoon filled with all things sweet and spooky, including:

• Trick-or-Treat throughout the district. Look for the Pumpkin Palooza signs displayed at each participating location.

• Pumpkin decorating ~ while supplies last!

Hotel Transylvania outdoor movie showing in Central Park

• Bubble show with Dr.U.R Awesome

• Interactive stations
This family friendly event is completely free. Find out more on the Facebook event page including a complete list of all the Trick or Treat stops.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Fall in Love with Pinecrest

Pinecrest is the newest shopping destination in CLE. It opened with much fanfare this summer, and has steadily been adding new tenants ever since. 

Now that the weather is turning cooler, it's a great time to put on your favorite boots and scarf and explore this east side lifestyle center.

There are lots of fun seasonal things to do that will have you falling in love with Pinecrest all over again, even if you are already a fan.
First stop - Whole Foods. They have the cutest fall decorations including mums and heirloom pumpkins. Grab some local cider and a pumpkin spiced latte to sip on while you stroll.
Definitely make a stop at the super cute Ohio shaped sculpture. It's a photo op you don't want to miss! Snuggle on the outdoor couch and warm your hands at the firepit too.
Williams-Sonoma is full of fall flavored goodies to tempt you. Their Oooey Gooey Pumpkin Bars will make you the hit of the party for sure. Plan ahead and grab a festive spatula, quick break mix and Pecan Pumpkin Butter for a hostess gift.
Fall is the perfect time to dine at Pinstripes. They have cozy fireplaces both inside and out. And their rooftop patio offers the best views of Pinecrest no matter what the season. Be sure to check out their happy hour Monday through Friday from 3 to 6:30 pm for some great dining deals.

To help you fall in love with Pinecrest, I'm giving away a gift certificate to Pinstripes!

This is a fun place to eat and drink! Besides bowling and bocce, they also offer brunch and these delicious daily specials:

Monday-Friday: $3 Kids Club Bowling 11 am -1 pm
Monday: $12 bottomless spaghetti, meatballs and chop salad after 5 pm
Thursday: $6 handcrafted cocktails all day
Friday:  Enjoy 50% off bottles of wine priced at $50 or less
Sunday- Thursday Night: $1 Games 9pm-close
Sunday: Pintastic Brunch 10 am – 2 pm + Kids eat for 1/2 price after 5 pm

Enter via the Rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends Monday. Winner will be randomly selected. Winner must provide contact information and respond within 24 hours or another winner will be selected. Good luck!

**Disclosure: The post is sponsored by Pinecrest. I was provided with a gift card in exchange for hosting this giveaway. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. **