Cleveland’s Hessler Street Fair

You know summer has kicked off in Cleveland, not because of the weather (which has a mind of its own), but because of the festivals. Last weekend, with unseasonably warm 80 degree weather beckoning, we loaded the car full of friends and headed to the Hessler Street Fair.

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair summer festival hippie Case Western Reserve University

This was my first time down Hessler Street, which is nestled in Cleveland’s University Circle between the museums (like the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Botanical Garden, and The Children’s Museum of Cleveland) and the esteemed Case Western Reserve University. The Street Fair has been running annually since 1969, when the Hessler Neighborhood Association was founded as a nonprofit to “enhance the social and architectural quality of the neighborhood.” Because people came together to preserve and maintain the neighborhood, Hessler Road and Hessler Court were dedicated as Cleveland’s first local Landmark District in 1975.

Last weekend, the street welcomed artists, painters, jewelers, bakers, soapmakers, woodcarvers, food vendors, face painters, drummers, and free spirits of all sorts decked in dreadlocks and tie-dye. In other words, Hessler Street Fair is Cleveland’s Hippie Festival, complete with drum circles and hippie vans and reggae music, mon.

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair drum circle

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair hippie Love Bus

 

Here is a very small sampling of the art and artists at Hessler Street Fair:

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair Van Gogh Starry night painting art vendor summer festival Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair woodcarving woodworking art vendor summer festival

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair bean sugar skull art vendor summer festival Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair mandala art vendor summer festival

 

leveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair handmade jewelry Kimberly Monaco leveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair hippie Love Bus painted detail dove

And for dinner, among the array of classic fair food and local Cleveland vendors, we chose the finest organic grass-fed beef hamburgers – that is, both the cow and the grass are certified organic. My boyfriend said it tasted “like the meat you get in Indiana,” which is the home-raised, all-natural, grass-fed beef I buy from my mom’s butcher…and I take that as a sign of good, down-home, wholesome freshness! We followed that up with the requisite funnel cake for dessert.

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair organic grass-fed hamburger cheeseburger

We went on Saturday night to hear roots reggae from Cleveland’s own Carlos Jones. The music was great, the message was positive, the vibe was electric, and the people-watching was interesting, to say the least.

leveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair Carlos Jones reggae music concert

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair Carlos Jones reggae music concert summer festival

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair Carlos Jones reggae music concert summer festival

Coming up next weekend: The Tremont Greek Fest, one of my favorites, to officially kick off summer over Memorial Day Weekend.

What are your favorite summer festivals?

 

Patio Days and Thunderstorm Nights

For once, Cleveland’s blustery winter hangover went into hiding long enough for a beautiful Indians Opening Day. Of course, the sunshine would be no help in beating the Yankees, but maybe we can blame that on the storm rolling in?

Meanwhile, I was sitting outside of Chipotle enjoying the first patio meal of the spring. And we only had to duck inside once to dodge a few raindrops.

I never thought I liked Chipotle, but I learned the trick to eating there. I just don’t like those soggy, overstuffed giant burritos that deliver more rice than meat in each bite. Now, I know to order a burrito bowl and four small tortillas on the side, so I can craft my own manageably-sized, appropriately-stuffing-proportioned burritos.

Throw in a couple (not-quite-ice-cold) Coronas, a warm wind off the lake, and the buzz of Downtown Lakewood passing by – and I’m glad we had the patio to ourselves.

It was only appropriate, then, that the first patio day of spring would become the first evening thunderstorm of spring. The rumbling thunder and flashes of lightning were a fitting backdrop to the new episode of Bates Motel on A&E.

Baseball games, patio tacos, and lightning storms – Spring is Here!

Valentine’s Day $50 Dinner Date

For Valentine’s Day this year, we went back to the Middle Eastern eatery where we had our first date. More than two years ago, we shared hummus and falafel at Aladdin’s Eatery before a movie at Crocker Park.

Let’s face it – you can’t really top last year’s homemade crab leg dinner for Valentine’s Day. So it was best to follow that with something simple and sweet.

As an added plus, Aladdin’s had a Valentine’s Day special: $30 for an appetizer, a dessert, and two entrees. Of course, there was hummus and falafel, and some tasty Lebanese dishes I can’t pronounce that drown in the memory of conversation. And, for another $20, a bottle of wine.

Forget the roses – one of my favorite features at Aladdin’s is the bouquet. On each table sits a vase of recycled flowers fashioned from circles of industrial plastic remnants, crafted by a local shop down the street. Quaint, retro, local and best of all: repurposed.

And then, just when I think I can’t eat any more: dessert. It’s usually baklava at Aladdin’s, but this Valentine’s meal came with a Chocolate Truffle Heart – which I could eat all of five bites before richness overload. Of course, I kept eating anyway – long after the beau backed down. But I did manage to save a few bites for the trip home the next day – which didn’t last long.

Pizza Night Every Night

When you were little, you were lucky to have pizza night once a week. When you’re in college, it’s nothing strange to have pizza night every night.

This week I struck a fine balance with pizza night every other night, twice so far. And I struck that balance even finer for going out one night and staying in the other.
Tuesday we went out to Dewey’s Pizza in Lakewood. And we didn’t just go out — we went all out. Wine? Of course. We’ll take the Red Rock winemaker’s blend, the smoother of the two we tasted.
Salads? Sure. I went for the Candied Walnut and Grape, served up with Gorgonzola and citrus basil vinaigrette. When the greens arrived, we realized $5 was well-paid for a heaping side salad the size of a full one on most menus.
And then the ‘za — the toughest decision of the night. I had trouble ruling out any of the specials, actually. Like the Green Lantern with mushrooms, goat cheese, pesto and artichoke, or Ryan’s Inferno with buffalo chicken, red onion, ranch and celery. The decision eventually and unanimously narrowed to one: the Billy Goat. On a fresh, soft crust, you get: goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, green peppers and mushrooms, plus garlic and the mozz. Delicious, and soon gone.
Pizza sounded good again by Thursday, and we had the time and gumption to do it ourselves. Thanks to a leftover packet of Chef Boyardee dough (just add water!), a convenient squeeze bottle of sauce (which, we commented, should have been invented decades ago), and a fridge-full of veggies (2 heaping cups, to be precise), we mastered it.
You’re looking at red onion, black olive, fresh garlic, green pepper, pepperoncinis, fire-roasted diced tomatoes (which is my new favorite thing) and a variety of cheeses. All it’s missing is mushrooms, but you should be jealous anyway because it was delicious. And you wish you could have pizza night every night again, too.

Night on the Town: Pickwick and Frolic

Think crepes are just for breakfast? I did, and boy was I wrong.
Last night I finally had the pleasure of dining at Pickwick and Frolic on East 4th Street, downtown Cleveland, where my boyfriend serves and bartends. For a year, I’ve been listening to him rave about the scallops, so it was about time I put Pickwick’s food to the test, objectively, as someone who doesn’t receive a paycheck from them.
We started with the Caprese Salad, a starter that looks too pretty to eat. Slices of melt-in-your-mouth beets, fresh red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, and crispy-gooey fried mozzarella are layered atop a bed of greens and drizzled with EVOO and a balsamic reduction. The only bad thing is that it’s not big enough — I’d like a whole plateful of the fried mozzarella slices, please.
Then, much faster than I expected, our entrees were delivered. The Pan-Seared Diver Sea Scallops are seared to plump perfection, but what makes them delectable is the lemon-chive Beurre Blanc sauce. Really, I want to drink it. Another nice presentation, too, with the scallops arranged in a ring around a mound of orzo pilaf topped with spinach.
He ordered (and I tasted) the Tuscan Chicken, the closest thing to a French dish on Pickwick’s rustic menu. The meat rests on top of two crepes stuffed with ricotta cheese and lavender, and that’s all topped off with a “rustic floral” tomato concasse sauce. I know, it seems like that game on Sesame Street: “Which of these does not belong?” I never would have thought to pair lavender-cheese crepes with a tomato-based chicken dish, but it works — quite well. It’s a nice, light floral accent to balance out the hearty tomatoes.  
I know I was supposed to be blown away by the scallops — and I was — but it’s those crepes I keep thinking about.
All in all, a terrifically delicious meal in a luxurious environment. Pickwick has a lot to offer, far beyond the excellent food. The Pickwick part is the actual restaurant, and then there’s also Frolic Cabaret, The Champagne Bar, Kevin’s Martini Bar, and Hilarities 4th Street Theatre — all in one building.The establishment suffers from a bit of an identity crisis, with each room claiming its own brand, but it’s in a good way — like if each of your multiple personalities was a beautiful, rich celebrity each with a distinct taste in alcohol and humor. Every room has a retro film noir feel, making it seem like a club that would be better suited for Hollywood than Cleveland. What better way to spend a night on the town than treating yourself to a magnificent dinner followed by a comedy show at Hilarities?
We ended the evening in loge seats for Adam Ferrara’s show. I can’t say that I watch him on either “Rescue Me” (Denis Leary frightens me) or “Top Gear” (I don’t care about cars), but I will say he was quite funny. I felt like I really got to know him during the show because of the personal family stories he told, often pausing for very serious moments to reflect on his father’s death or how much he loves his wife. A good blend of humor and poignancy, and a good way to end a great night.

FREE Large Pizza from Romeo’s

This is why Facebook marketing works:

Don’t want to cook tonight? Then today may be your lucky day! Call your local Romeo’s Pizza at 4pm and give them code FB10. If you are one of the first 5 people to call with this code, then you will get a FREE Large 1 topping Pizza!

 ·  · Share · Yesterday at 9:15am · 

Why no, Romeo, I don’t want to cook tonight, especially if you’re offering free pizza as an alternative. Against my better judgment, I immediately shared the offer with my friends, knowing it would diminish my chances of being one of those five lucky callers. But a free large 1-topping pizza from Romeo’s, valued at about $14 — I just couldn’t keep that deal to myself.
The day went on, and I kind of forgot about the deal. That is, until I stopped to glance at the clock and it read 4:01. I had a brief moment of panic as I scrambled for my phone and dialed the number.
“Hello, Romeo’s in Westlake. Is your order for pick-up or delivery?”
Oh…I had no intention of “ordering” a pizza. I just wanted to win one. So I said, “I don’t know yet — have you given away your five free Facebook pizzas?”
“No, we have not. What would you like as your one topping?”
Score. “Mushrooms.” Double score. “That’s all free, right?”
“Absolutely free. We’ll see you in 15 minutes.”
It’s really that easy to get a free pizza? Bravo, Romeo. Frankly, I don’t know why they need to be giving pizzas away for free. With the best pizza in the area, they can obviously get away with charging $14 for it because of that special sauce.

 

But the free offer did present a bit of a conundrum: What am I going to do with a large pizza at 4:00 in the afternoon? I can’t save it until I get home from work and miss out on fresh, free pizza. Facebook got me into this situation; Facebook can solve it. Back to the drawing board (my FB wall, in this case) to find some hungry friends.
  • I know that by sharing this I’m diminishing my chances of winning, but this is a great deal!

    Don’t want to cook tonight? Then today may be your lucky day! Call your local Romeo’s Pizza at 4pm and give them code FB10. If you are one of the first 5 people to call with this code, then you will get a FREE Large 1 topping Pizza!

     ·  · Share · Thursday at 11:10am
      • Brooke Bates So I just ordered this free pizza. Who wants to help me eat it?

        Thursday at 4:05pm ·  ·  1

My cubicle at work soon filled up with colleagues and the free Romeo’s 1-topping pizza didn’t last long at all.

And that, folks, is why Facebook marketing works. Thanks, Romeo’s Pizza!

McFattyDelicious

My follow-up to the Double Down just might be the McGangBang off McDonald’s secret menu. It’s fairly similar to my suggestion in the Double Down post to have them drop the buns and make a “sandwich with something delicious between two burgers,” except it’s got the buns too – it’s basically a chicken sandwich stuffed between two hamburger sandwiches. Uh, yum. And my side dish is going to be fries with special Big Mac sauce. Heart, get ready to attack.

mcdonalds mcgangbang secret menu

Forget dieting. My new diet is to try all the deliciously greasy concoctions I can. I’d rather live life eating all the junk I want than counting calories.

I’m Double Down with KFC

Whoever invented the sandwich had it all wrong. The meat should be on the outside, and there should be no bread. The sandwich should just be the KFC Double Down.This is, indeed, the greatest innovation since sliced bread. (Take note, McDonald’s, I want to see a sandwich with something delicious between two burgers. Just skip the bread — Atkins at least had that much right.)First, to start the story, I was driving home with the Double Down nestled in its brown paper bag, patiently waiting next to me. And what song would come up on my totally random iPod shuffle but Morrissey’s “You’re the One for Me, Fatty.” No joke. This must be fate, the meeting of this 540-calorie sandwich and I.One bite in, I eeked out an elated “aahhhh” that would have been embarrassing in public. Yeah, it’s that good. What makes the Double Down work is, first and foremost, KFC’s thick, juicy, premium chicken — and that’s a huge compliment coming from a farm girl who was raised on meat that previously had a face and lived in our field. But chicken is, after all, the bulk of this beast of a sandwich. You have to engage snake-like expandable jaws to sink your teeth into that stack of white meat that just falls apart in your mouth. Ah man, I’m getting hungry again thinking about it…even though my belly is still plenty full after 5 hours.

To offset the juiciness, there’s the crispy fried crust of the chicken and the crispy strips of bacon tucked in between — though those were really more floppy, greasy, delicious fat than anything. Then there’s the cheese, the spicy slices of creamy Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese melting out of the sides of the sandwich and oozing out tangy, orange Colonel’s Sauce. To quote Jess on foodgeekery.com, I don’t know what’s in the sauce, but it’s a party in my mouth… and, subsequently, in my tummy. I’ll admit, I tore open the wrapper so I could lick off every last drip of sauce and melted cheese. I’m not ashamed to say it.

KFC Double Down sandwich

As in any gourmet concoction, it’s the amalgamation of flavors that makes the dish. It’s the subtle seasoning in the chicken breading accented succinctly with the spice of the cheese and the tang of the sauce. Overall, it’s mouth-wateringly delectable. Sure, maybe part of the enjoyment is knowing I’m devouring a day’s worth of salt in one sandwich, or feeling my stomach expand as my arteries choke up a little bit. Part of the reason bad food tastes so good is not just because it’s good, but because you know it’s bad. And the Double Down is both of these things.

So congratulations on the innovatively delicious Double Down, KFC. I would have given it two thumbs up if the use of both hands wasn’t necessary for hauling the sandwich up to my drooling mouth.

And yes, I did work out afterwards — though I’m not sure if I waited long enough after binging. Now, I won’t feel bad about some ice cream for dessert…
This blog was reposted by Pop-Break.com, a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and more (like food, sometimes.) In the past, I’ve blogged for Pop-Break about obscure music and, yes, even reality TV.

I Support You, KFC

Are you guys kidding me? “Corporate irresponsibility?” Never mind that KFC’s Double Down chicken-wich — two strips of bacon, melted Monterrey and special sauce sandwiched between two slabs of fried chicken (grilled, if you’re as lame as The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, who are calling for this delicious concoction not to be advertised near school zones because of the threat to childhood obesity) — looks heavenly greasy. It rings in at 540 calories, 32 grams of fat and 1380 mg of sodium — almost a day’s worth of salt — or, if you get the aforementioned lame grilled version: 460 grams calories, 23 grams of fat and 1430 mg sodium. At that rate, you might as well go all out with Original Recipe.
But really, you’re blaming the company and asking for a warning label and basically a restraining order? Maybe you should invest your efforts in teaching parents how to cook decent meals for their children, and educate them about proper nutrition, instead of worrying about those children ordering fast food gutbusters. Never mind the Big Mac amounts to about the same waist damage; where’s your restraining order on that? Pick your battles, fat-fearers, and stay away from my next meal. All 540 calories of it.