Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Weekend in Northeast Ohio

Friday June 12, 2015
Today my husband, Andrew, and I drove up to Northeast Ohio to do a little sightseeing on the eve of the big ‘Parade the Circle’ event held annually in University Circle, Cleveland.

I’m not sure I’d call us foodies, but we do enjoy seeing and sampling a variety of food. Hence, I figured Andrew would enjoy visiting the historical and much loved Cleveland landmark, the Westside Market. It certainly is far superior to our much smaller North Market. The Westside Market is Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned market and consists of two buildings – the main one and the arcade portion. One building contains fresh produce stalls. Walking through it feels very much like a European (or even NYC for that matter) market where the various vendors yell down to you – “hey lady, how about some strawberries?” Since it was going to be quite a hot weekend and we didn’t have adequate cold storage, we knew we couldn’t really take much home with us, so we didn’t buy any of the colorful nutritious food they were hawking.

My favorite building was the arcade portion where they sell meat, bread, and all manner of lovely desserts. They’re both a delight to the eyes as well as the taste buds. After walking around for about an hour browsing and photographing all the heavenly delights, we made our lunch choice – pasties from an Irish booth (Reilly’s) selling their version of the Cornish Pasty. I had a turkey & swiss while Andrew went for the traditional pasty. Andrew said they were closer to the ones I attempted to make a month or two ago, but still tasted good, even if they weren’t quite authentic. Our runner-up choices were the crepes booth (Crepes de Luxe) or the Mexican booth (Orale Contemporary Mexican Cuisine) selling every variety of enchiladas, etc.

Of course we weren’t going to leave without having dessert, so it was an agonizing choice for me to make. I knew I only had one shot at getting it right, so I took my time backtracking and zigzagging around (no doubt annoying Andrew since he knew what he wanted straight away). I wanted to get something I couldn’t easily find at home, and also something nostalgic like kuchen or kolachkis. I finally settled on a chocolate Russian teacake and Andrew had a monk. A monk is chocolate cake and chocolate mousse with whole raspberries in a soft folded chocolate shell. Apparently Cake Royale, where he purchased it, is famous for them, so I think he made the right choice (I sampled it and can whole heartedly agree). My Russian teacake was good, but quite messy. I decided to save half for later.

 When we were done there I remembered seeing a bookstore near the brewery (we were scheduled to visit later in the day at 3pm), so I suggested we kill some time in there. According to their website, Horizontal Books is the latest bookstore in a long line of bookstores that have been in that space, and is owned by a couple Case Western Reserve graduates. We were greeted upon walking in and asked if we had ever visited before. We both said no, and then the employee proceeded to explain the pricing guide. If you purchase only one book, you get 50% off the cover price, two books, 60% off, three or more books, 70% off the cover price. All the books are new – remainders and overstock, and they certainly varied in quality of content, but I still found a handful I was interested in purchasing (and even put a few back). All total my three came to a little over $20, so I didn’t think I did too badly.

We both got a little wet as the heavens opened just as we were making our way to the brewery (and Andrew had dashed to the car to stow my books). Thankfully it was pretty warm inside many of the rooms, so we both dried off by the time the tour was over. There were perhaps a dozen of us being led around by our guide, Alex. Unlike the free Sam Adams Brewery tour we took in Boston last year (where it was all the beer you can drink and a free sampling glass), we had to pay ($8?) and didn’t get a free glass, and only a limited amount of beer, but Andrew still thought it was worth the price of admission, so it didn’t matter.

Having already been on one brewery tour I felt pretty well versed in the whole brewing process. Andrew, who has already brewed his own beer on at least two occasions, is practically an expert. Hence, we knew the various ingredients that go into brewing – hops, malt, barley and yeast. Also, we knew that ale ferments at a higher temperature than lagers, so ales float at the top of the tank, while lagers sit at the bottom.

“It was interesting because at the Sam Adams Brewery they were using hop flowers, but at the Great Lakes Brewery (and the brewery in Columbus where Andrew made his stock), they were using pellets (which is the same thing, but compressed so they take up less space),” Andrew observed.

Probably the most exciting thing was when we were in the stock room and Andrew saw a Crown forklift, which is the company he is currently contracting for at Leading Edje. He quickly snapped a few pictures with the same enthusiasm Japanese tourists shoot ordinary subjects to the bewilderment of other Americans.

After a brief visit to the gift shop (to mostly buy souvenirs for our neighbors who are also microbrewery enthusiasts), we left Ohio City to drive to University Circle to check in to our hotel.

I booked us into the Glidden House Hotel because of its excellent location right in the heart of University Circle (across the street from the Botanical Gardens and down the road from the Western Reserve Historical Society museum). I wanted somewhere we could park and leave our car while we enjoyed the festivities on Saturday. Of course I shouldn’t have assumed that we could leave our car all day, but fortunately the staff said it was okay as long as we kept our parking permit in the window.

It’s a wonderfully charming century building with classical art deco windows and details throughout the property. I loved having our breakfast out in the atrium breakfast room. The only downside to staying in such an old building was the lack of water pressure in our shower. By the time I got the temperature right, the water would slow to a trickle, so it definitely took some trial and error to get enough water to come out so I could at least wash my hair. As soon as I was done I yelled for Andrew to get in so he wouldn’t have to struggle with the taps like I did.

Friday evening we had dinner in Little Italy (a short walk from our hotel) at Mama Santa’s as recommended by my friend, Leslie (who is also Italian and has visited many times). I ordered the Manicotti and Andrew had the Chicken Cacciatore. I didn’t want to order anything too large since I knew we wouldn’t be able to keep any leftovers, so the Manicotti was perfect since it was just a couple slices. Poor Andrew was a bit intimidated by the amount of food on his plate – half a chicken with a side of spaghetti. I give him credit for nearly finishing it all, though it meant he wasn’t as enthusiastic as me when it came to having an appetite for visiting the local bakeries afterwards.

We stopped in Presti’s and Corbo’s and bought an assortment of treats including a small portion of tiramisu and a couple cheese kolachkis, all of which we later ate back at our hotel. The rest of our leftovers were left with mom and dad (mom seemed pretty excited by that as she eyed the macaroon I bought).

Earlier in the evening Andrew noticed a shop (called Moonstruck) with some interesting masks hanging just outside the door, so we went in to take a look. It was one of those places that sells antiques and oddities as well as upcycled and homemade items. I bought a couple old pieces of printing press type once I managed to find my initials (CM). I also bought an antique, Realorama  slide viewer, which is not only a wonderful piece of bakerlite to add to my collection, but is still viable for viewing my big box of slides.

On the way back to our hotel we noticed lights and music coming from the direction of MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), so we wandered over to check it out. It seems they were having an open gallery night for their How to Remain Human exhibit. There was a cash bar and a table selling food and even a band. Since we didn’t have any other plans, we decided to stay awhile and look around the museum. I’m glad we did because I saw some cool art. One of my favorites was a small black and white painting called ‘untitled’ (Coffee Maker) by Mary Ann Aitken. I also liked a cartoon by a local artist by the name of Derf Backderf. In one panel a couple garbage collectors find a shoebox of photos discarded on the curb. One of the men starts looking through the photos and says he doesn’t feel right tossing out the box because maybe they were thrown out by accident. The other, more experienced trash collector sets him straight, “…used to think that way. After a few foreclosures you realize it’s pointless to worry about it. Think of the economy as a giant digestive tract, and we’re here at the ass**** of the free market to clean it all up.”

Back at the room I sat down to write in my journal while Andrew watched an old Peggy Cummins movie on TCM called “Gun Crazy,” which is apparently her best known film. I liked the scene where she is holding a gun while standing outside a bank waiting for her husband who is inside conducting a robbery. The policeman, a Barney Fife type, admires her pistol and asks her what kind it is and they get to chatting about it. She asks if she can see his gun, but he declines saying he never lets anyone touch his gun. I think her husband eventually comes out and she probably kills the policeman. I had to laugh at the whole absurdity of the scene with the policeman admiring a gun being held by someone standing outside a bank. It smacked of the kind of humor we’re used to seeing in a Hal Roach or Charlie Chaplin film.

Saturday June 13, 2015
Woke quite early to the sound of rain pelting the windows (we had a corner room, so two windows). I was optimistic it would stop by the time the parade started since that was still several hours away. We both showered and then went downstairs to enjoy our free breakfast buffet while we ate in the quaint atrium.

We were both surprised by how few people seemed to know about the Parade the Circle event, especially as the hotel was right in the heart of it. We chatted with a lady on Friday who was part of a wedding party and she seemed a bit worried by the news (rightly so), especially considering parking was going to be difficult with so many roads closed during the parade. However, we did hear the two older couples sitting at the table next to us discussing it over breakfast, and one of the hotel staff said she attends every year rain or shine. I was hoping it would be shine rather than the latter.

Since we still had a couple hours before the parade and at least an hour until we met my friend, we decided to walk over to the Western Reserve Historical Society museum. I wanted to ride the old Euclid Beach Carousel and see my favorite set of stainless steel cars in the basement. I convinced Andrew to photograph me while I looked like a complete dork (but didn’t care since there were no kids there and just an Alex Dunphy lookalike manning the booth).

We eventually met up with my friend, Leslie and her husband, Jay. It didn’t take much convincing to talk Leslie into joining me on the carousel while our husbands pointed and laughed (and photographed us). After we were done reliving our childhoods, we went outside to stake out a spot on the grass. Of course it was a good spot until some tall people arrived who were joining the rest of their party, so we had to bounce back and forth to see between them. It should be a rule that unless you have a child you’re trying to assist or you’re someone who’s taking pictures, you should have to remain sitting or go in the back. Also, if you’re over 5’6” you definitely need to stand in the back. It’s just plain rude to be tall and stand by the curb!

I was aggressive enough to just dart in and out of the crowd and only got tapped on the shoulder once to move, so I was confident I captured the photos I wanted to get (until my two batteries died and I was stuck with the digital camera with almost no zoom).

Everyone was right who said it’s quite a long parade (and starts at noon). The various sections are distinguished by different colored flags so you know where one ends and another begins. There were eight different banners and I think we decided to finally call it a day about halfway through so we could get lunch before the afternoon was completely over. Leslie and I got wraps while the guys split up to get pizza and hotdogs. Poor Jay had the longest wait and his hot dog wasn’t even that impressive (at least compared to the monster size one I had at the Henry Ford Museum).

I was glad we could see some of the different floats and creations afterwards as people set them down to seek out sustenance. We weren’t the only ones posing for pictures near them, which was also frustrating waiting our turn when kids would run in front of us. Also frustrating when giant kids (I’m looking at you Jay!) photobomb you. : P

My overall thought about the parade is that it’s a grand spectacle and a long one at that. I reckon it lasts approximately two to three hours. One would be advised to get your food beforehand or pack a picnic lunch and stake out your spot early. In comparison to the Fourth of July Doodah Parade in Short North, it’s a much longer, PG (family friendly) version of our little, somewhat political, and always controversial parade. As I’ve never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I can’t make a comparison, but I bet it’s similar.

By midafternoon the sun had come out and was heating things up, so we parted ways and headed out to Madison to see my parents.

I had mentioned to my mom that I’d quite like to try a bottle of the Gewurztraminer wine that Ferrante bottles. She was thinking of going to Ferrante’s too, so it was definitely one of those like-minded moments.

After consulting her entertainment book for winery coupons, my mom decided we should visit a new winery first – the Hundley Cellars where we split a bottle of Traminette after sampling all their semisweet wines (and a sip of Andrew’s Chardonnay). I enjoyed sitting out on the patio in a mixture of sun and shadows drinking away the rest of the afternoon.

The plan was to go to Ferrante’s and see how long a wait it was to get seated for dinner. We lucked out and didn’t have to wait long at all. In fact, we had just enough time to look at everything in their gift shop before dad’s buzzer started vibrating and we were seated. We were torn between the Gruner Veltliner and the Gewurztraminer, but ended up going with the Gewurztraminer, which was a good choice. Funnily enough, three out of four of us ended up ordering the lasagna, which is what Andrew fancied but didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon, so he ordered one of the chicken dishes instead. Mom and I decided to stop eating about halfway through our meal so we could save room for dessert at our next winery, so mom got a free (though she & my dad paid for it) lunch of our two leftover pieces of lasagna.
Our last stop of the evening was to a winery called Kosicek Vineyards. Apparently their specialty is apple streudel. My mom had a coupon for a free slice if you buy a bottle of wine or something, so we all split a bottle of their I-90 (eye) wine. By this point I was pretty stuffed, so it was all I could do to drink about a half of glass so we could bring home the empty bottle with us. I felt a bit like Dawn French in the Christmas episode of “Vicar of Dibley” when she has a meal at each of her friend’s houses on Christmas Day and practically crawls home because she’s so stuffed from her polite overeating. Hence, I wasn’t surprised when I saw that I had gained a couple pounds over the weekend. Andrew was surprised that we visited so many wineries in the same day with my parents. We have each done that separately, but never together. Next time I think I’ll have to call it a day after maybe the second bottle of wine as I seem to have turned into a bit of a lightweight. : P

Have a good week everyone!

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