Why? Dog Days of Summer!

Summertime is great for getting the whole family out to play and that includes our furry friends. The pups had a busy week, with lots of time to get out and explore. On Tuesday, I took Tobey to Tremont for a fun evening with Anna, Cody, and furry friend Davey.

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We started at Tremont Scoops. The ice cream shop celebrated social media day with free scoops for tweets, which is the best deal I’ve head in a long time! I enjoyed the Buckeye Blitz and Tobey enjoyed some vanilla (mostly which he stole from Davey).

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Tremont Scoops has a dog house out front where you can secure your pup while you buy your treats, which is a really smart idea! They definitely make having your pup along with you an easy thing to manage.

From there, we headed to Yappy Hour at Tremont Tap House. On Tuesdays in the summer, furry friends are welcome on the patio at Tremont Tap House, so you can have man’s best friend along with a great beer selection and tasty food!

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It was a fun evening in a great neighborhood and it’s always nice when you can enjoy favorite spots with your pup along, too. Plus, I highly recommend having ice cream, beer, and french fries for dinner, in that order. That’s what being an adult is all about!

On Thursday, I took both Tobey and Fitz for a pup play date with our favorite part-dog, part-Muppet: Grady. Alicia and I met up in the Cleveland Metroparks Brecksville Reservation. This is the perfect spot for a play date, with walking trails for the pups, a picnic pavilion for lunch, and swings for Jeffrey to enjoy.

Image courtesy of instagram.com/poiseinparma

Image courtesy of instagram.com/poiseinparma

There’s something really relaxing about strolling along with 12 paws ahead of you. Alicia and I had a lovely chat and the pups had a great time, too!

So whether it’s to a park or to a bar, there are lots of pup-friendly locales to get out and about with your furry friends. They’ll love it and so will you!

Where’s your favorite dog-friendly spot in Cleveland?

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Why? Salmon Dave’s!

Earlier this week, Mom and I met up for a girls-only, let’s-be-adults dinner. Every mention of Jeffrey meant you had to put $10 in the center of the table. By the end of the night, I think I owed her $100! Oh well, even if our conversation still revolved around the little one, it was so nice to have an evening out with just us!

We went to Salmon Dave’s, which is a longstanding favorite for great seafood. Right now, Salmon Dave’s is celebrating Crab Fest, with lots of menu items featuring delicious crab.

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We started with appetizers: a baked crab and artichoke dip and crispy calamari.

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Both were very good, but I really loved the Thai peanut dipping sauce and peanuts that accompanied the calamari!

For my entree, I chose the crab-crusted swordfish, served with whipped potatoes and spinach. The light flavors of the fish and crab remained distinct and the simple side dishes were the perfect compliments. I also enjoyed the whole grain mustard sauce on the side for a little added flavor.

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Mom chose the classic crab legs, served with whipped potatoes and broccoli. With this simple dish, the quality of the seafood at Salmon Dave’s really shines through.

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We shared a piece of the key lime pie for dessert. The portion is more than enough to share and this tangy treat was the perfect summery end to our meal. It was a fun night out with one of my favorite ladies!

Definitely head over to Salmon Dave’s to check out Crab Fest! On Sundays, you can save $10 on any of the ” King Crab Feast” items on the menu (crab legs, crab legs and crab cake, crab legs and filet, or crab legs and salmon). It’s a great deal on some of the tastiest seafood in Cleveland!

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Why? Weekends!

Aside from all the Grapes and Ale fun, there were a lot of other activities to keep us busy over the weekend. On Friday morning, Jeffrey and I met up with our favorite Kindermusik friends for an outing at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

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Despite the iffy weather we’ve been having, Friday’s weather cooperated perfectly for time at the Zoo. Overall favorites seemed to be the monkeys, the giraffes, and the Circle of Wildlife Carousel.

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The great thing about our Zoo membership is not feeling pressure to see everything in one trip either. We can take our time and enjoy sections of the Zoo, then come back another day to take in even more. It was a great morning, with long naps for all afterward!

On Saturday, Jeffrey continued to be in charge of our social schedule with a birthday party for his buddy Lincoln. The party was Minion-themed, which made me more excited than Jeffrey, I think. Check out these adorable Minion chocolate-covered Oreos that Lincoln’s mom Patty made for the festivities!

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Jason (Lincoln’s dad) and Matthew grew up next door to each other and it’s so cool to see our kids now hanging out just like their dads did!

Sunday brought a baby shower for one of my college sorority sisters, Emilie. Her shower was held at Brew Garden and was adorably decorated with a children’s book theme. This new baby is sure to be an avid reader!

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It was so nice to get together with this group of lovely college friends. Some I get to see more often and some I see on special occasions, like each other’s showers and weddings. Either way, it’s always great to catch up and feel like no time has passed!

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After the shower, I had to rush home for another celebration: a belated Father’s Day with Matthew’s side of the family. Phew! It was quite a busy, happy weekend! How was yours?

***Disclosure: Matthew and I are members of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Grapes and Ale!

Friday night, Matthew and I got to take in the awesome Progressive Field renovations, enjoy tasty food and drink, and mingle with friends and fuzzy mascots alike at Our Lady of the Wayside‘s Grapes and Ale fundraiser.

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Much like the refreshed feel of Progressive Field, this event felt new and fresh this year. Matthew and I agreed this was our favorite Grapes and Ale so far! We got to check out the VIP area, with a special wine tasting of premiere reds and whites, as well as tasty appetizer from Spice Kitchen and Bar.

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The wine and beer selections at the main event were expansive and all available at your local Giant Eagle, which makes finding your new favorite very easy! I’ve always been impressed by the variety of libations at Grapes and Ale, but the food this year was at a new level in terms of variety and taste.

Barrio and Sweet Moses were two of the food providers and were able to use their new Progressive Field locations for service. We enjoyed a delicious chicken taco and some decadent sea salt caramel ice cream with fudge sauce from these local gems.

Hodge’s served up some addictive crispy pork rinds. But my favorite of the evening came from The Tree House Gallery and Tea Room, whose slider with both a pierogi and a sparkler made for a creative, delicious, and much-talked-about dish.

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It was a great evening at Grapes and Ale. We were so impressed not only with the new feel of Progressive Field, but with the quality of the event as well. It was a good time for a wonderful cause!

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***Disclosure: I was asked by Our Lady of the Wayside to help promote Grapes and Ale. In exchange, I received 2 complimentary VIP Majic of Wine Tasting tickets. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Summer Flight Night at Bin 216!

Last night, Playhouse Square Partners hosted a Summer Flight Night at Bin 216.

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The coursed meal provided a lot of delicious food and wine, with seasonal ingredients and tastes. Our first course was a cheese and fruit tray, served with a vermouth aperitivo. The general manager of Bin 216, who took us through the courses, explained that in Europe, serving a vermouth apperitivo is common to wake up the palate for the courses ahead.

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The next course featured my favorite wine of the evening, paired with one of my favorite summer vegetables. We enjoyed an asparagus salad with chopped hard boiled egg and dijon, paired with Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc.

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The wine helped soften the acidity of the asparagus and made for a delightful, light start.

Our third course was one of my favorite food courses of the evening: seared mahi mahi, served on top a quinoa salad and paired with William Hill Chardonnay.

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Next up was a creative play on the classic beef Wellington dish. A vegetarian Wellington was paired with Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare Rose.

IMG_3436Our last savory course was tied with the mahi mahi for my favorite food of the night: duck confit served on top parmesan risotto and paired with 10 Span Pinot Noir.

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The Pinot Noir was a light, summery red and complimented the richness and smokiness of the duck and risotto well.

Finally, we capped off the evening with lemon sorbet, served in a hollowed-out lemon, and paired with Poema Cava.

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While I am usually a huge fan of any bubbly wine, this Cava was too sharp for my taste. I loved the sorbet, though, which helped give my palate the sweetness I craved without being too heavy or filling.

All in all, it was a delicious evening in one of my favorite theater-district spots. I love the intimate and lounge-like vibe of Bin 216. Cheers to another fabulous Partners event!

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Amanda and her secret wine stash

Playhouse Square Partners will be kicking off our 25th year with a Christmas Eve in July party on Friday, July 24. Join us on U.S. Bank Plaza from 5:30-8:30 for libations, food, quirky Christmas decor, live music from Billy Morris and the Sunset Strip, and more. For more information and to purchase tickets (only $10 for Partners, $15 for non-Partners), click here.

***Disclosure: I am a member of the executive board of Playhouse Square Partners. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Downtown Drinks!

I wanted to share two recent happy hour experiences at two of downtown’s best restaurants: Urban Farmer and The Greenhouse Tavern.

Before one of the Cavs games, Matthew and I met up with Amanda and Scott for happy hour at Urban Farmer. The happy hour runs until 6pm and is available in the bar, lounge, and patio. We snagged a patio table and started with a Cavs specialty cocktail: the wine and gold.

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Unfortunately, this drink was not on happy hour, but it was delicious. Tequila, lime juice, and simple syrup were topped with a pinot noir float. I was skeptical about the combination of tequila and wine, but the drink was well-balanced and tasty. There are specialty cocktails on the happy hour menu for $5, as well as $4 house wines and draft beer.

We ordered a selection of items off the happy hour food menu, including the charcuterie board ($8), the cheese plate ($10), the deviled eggs ($5), and the marinated shrimp ($8). When there was a kitchen mix-up with our shrimp and grits order, the manager graciously brought out a selection of happy hour food items on the house. So, we also got to try the chicken pops ($6), the braised beef popover sandwich ($5), and the beef tenderloin ($7).

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My favorites were the cheese and charcuterie board (get both) and the braised beef popover sandwich (so tender and flavorful)! Urban Farmer offers a great selection of happy hour food and drink for really reasonable prices. I would definitely make it an after-work stop!

A couple weeks later, I met up with Amanda, Alicia, Nadine, and Stephanie for a much-needed evening of fabulous food and friends at The Greenhouse Tavern. Happy hour at The Greenhouse Tavern is available throughout the entire restaurant until 5pm, then at the bar. Since we were able to score seats on the patio, we skipped the happy hour deals in lieu of people-watching on East 4th Street.

I picked the animal frites and the barrel-aged Tobasco fried chicken (because, you know, I was eating healthy).

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I loved every decadent, delicious, James-Beard award winning bite. The fried chicken I ordered is available on the happy hour menu. And while the animal frites are not on the happy hour menu, you can get the gravy frites.

So, in two different areas of downtown, I had fantastic after-work drinks and dining experiences, without spending a ton of money! Where is your favorite spot for happy hour downtown?

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Why? Weekends!

***A bit of blogkeeping: Congratulations to Abby DelaMotte (Comment #5), randomly-selected winner of two tickets to see the Cleveland Centennial Tribute to Robert Lockwood, as part of Tri-C Jazz Fest. Please check your email for details. If you didn’t win, you can still purchase Festival Passes or tickets to individual shows online.***

What a fun weekend, with a great balance of family, friend, and kiddo time! I love it when that happens! On Friday, Jeffrey and I met up with a friend from Kindermusik and her mom at the Children’s Museum of Cleveland.

Both kids had a great time in the Big Red Barn, an exhibit filled with stuffed farm animals, tractors, and more; the Bridges to Our Community and Safe Rides for All Kids, where they could get hands-on in things like an RTA bus and a grocery store; and Splish! Splash!, which is pretty self-explanatory.

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After all this play, everyone had worked up an appetite, so we headed to Mama Santa’s for their classic pizza and capped off the afternoon with delicious sweet treats from Presti’s Bakery.

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It was a great afternoon, not just enjoying two of my favorite neighborhoods in Cleveland, but also building friendships and watching Jeffrey have so much fun!

Saturday morning, I met up with Alicia and Amanda for brunch at Johnny Mango World Cafe. Before we could even dive in to our tasty meals, we were served three super strong cups of coffee in the best and perhaps most appropriate coffee mugs for us.

Photo Credit - instagram.com/poiseinparma

Photo Credit – instagram.com/poiseinparma

In between lots of conversation and coffee, we enjoyed the breakfast quesadilla, the chorizo and potato omelette, and the cashew chicken salad (much like the mugs, I leave it to you to figure whose was whose).

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Flavorful, well-priced food, great coffee, and friendly service make Johnny Mango a wonderful brunch option. Plus, it’s less crazy to find parking even just a few blocks down from West 25th Street!

Saturday afternoon, Matthew, Jeffrey, and I went to the Kirtland Strawberry Festival. There were lots of carnival rides and games, but our main focus was getting a strawberry supreme sundae to enjoy.

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Jeffrey throwing some major shade

The sundaes were delicious, reasonably-priced ($4.50), and benefited the Kiwanis and their many service projects in the area. Plus, I love me a summer festival!

Sunday we celebrated Father’s Day with my side of the family with a cookout at my parents’ house. It was a relaxing day filled with lots of good food. I was tasked with bringing dessert, so I was pretty excited when Mama Jo’s Pies reached out to offer two complimentary pies for our Father’s Day celebration.

After a lot of time spent pouring over their many flavors, I chose caramel apple walnut and cherry pies, which were delivered freshly-baked on Saturday. I paired them with Mitchell’s Ice Cream Vanilla Bean for a totally local and completely tasty dessert! Definitely check out Mama Jo’s for your next special occasion!

IMG_3413More important than the food was celebrating my dad, grandpa, and Matthew. I am so lucky to have them in my life and, even more so, Jeffrey is so lucky to have them in his life. This picture from Sunday pretty much says it all:

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That’s it. My whole heart, in one picture. Matthew, I hope your day was as special as you make every day for us!

How was your weekend? How did you celebrate Father’s Day?

***Disclosure: I received two complimentary tickets for myself and two tickets to give away to the Tri-C Jazz Fest concert of my choice. I received two complimentary pies courtesy of Mama Jo’s Pies. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Tri-C Jazz Fest Giveaway!

Tri-C Jazz Fest is returning to Playhouse Square on July 9-11, with a great line-up of local and national jazz, R&B, Latin, gospel, and reggae artists.

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There will be nine featured concerts throughout the Playhouse Square theaters, as well as free outdoor performances on U.S. Bank Plaza from 3pm-midnight each day of the Jazz Fest. Highlights include a performance by Sheila E. and Juan Escovedo with the Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra and Ernie Krivda’s tribute to the world of Quincy Jones.

Festival passes, which give you access to all nine concerts, are currently on sale. You can also purchase tickets for individual shows online. Or you can enter to win two tickets to see the Cleveland Centennial Celebration of Robert Lockwood, featuring Walter “Wolfman” Washington right here! This concert is on Friday, July 10 at 5:30pm at the Ohio Theatre.

Here’s how to enter (you can do one, two, three, or all four entries, just leave a separate comment for each):

1. Leave a comment telling me your favorite music festival.

2. Visit Tri-C Jazz Fest and Why CLE? on Facebook and leave a comment here letting me know you visited both pages.

3. Follow @TriCJazzFest and @WhyCLE on Twitter and leave a comment here letting me know you’re following both.

4. Tweet the following phrase and leave a comment here letting me know you tweeted:

I want to attend @TriCJazzFest thanks to @WhyCLE: http://wp.me/p1fb9r-2p2 #TriCJazzFest

You can tweet once per day for additional entries, just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

The giveaway will close on Monday, June 22 at 11:59pm and the winner will be announced the following day. Good luck!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote Tri-C Jazz Fest. In exchange, I will receive 2 complimentary tickets to the show of my choice, as well as 2 tickets to give away to that same show. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Blue Point Brewing Company!

If you’re a craft beer lover, you know we have it pretty good in Cleveland. There are lots of delicious craft beer options for every taste. But, you can never have too much of a good thing, right? That’s why I’m excited that Blue Point Brewing Company is now available in Ohio.

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Blue Point was established on Long Island. The brand has a blue-collar, by-the-water feel that should market very well in Northeast Ohio. In fact, most of the Blue Point beers are meant to pair well with seafood (the brewery is named after the oyster), which made the Rusty Anchor at the Music Box the perfect place for the Ohio launch party.

While we sampled some of Blue Point’s beers, we also got to nibble on lobster pierogi, tempura shrimp with bacon and avocado, and a fabulous raw bar with crab, shrimp, and the namesake Blue Point oysters.

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So, let’s talk about the beer. Blue Point will be selling Blueberry Ale, Summer Ale, and their signature Toasted Lager in Ohio as of this week. In July, their Hoptical Illusion IPA will be sold in Ohio. The Summer Ale will rotate with other seasonal beers, including Spring Fling, Oktoberfest, Pumpkin Ale, and Winter Ale.

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I sampled the Blueberry Ale and the Oatmeal Stout and found both to be easy-drinking and flavorful, without being overwhelming. I’m hoping the Oatmeal Stout makes its way to Ohio soon, too! Blue Point beers are a nice entry point to craft beer or a nice respite from palate-wrecking brews.

We also had the special pleasure of tasting Blue Point’s RastafaRye Ale from a firkin. Blue Point has a firkin program featuring 750 firkins (with another 750 on order).

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The head brewer, who makes each firkin personally and tapped our firkin on Monday, spoke to us proudly about the program and the quality of beer from the Blue Point firkins. Beer from a firkin is unfiltered, less carbonated, and generally thought to be the “purest” form of beer. So it was quite a treat to get to try some!

Blue Point is now a part of Anheuser-Busch. The Blue Point employees who attended the launch assured all of us that the quality, innovation, and pride in the beer have only been increased by this partnership. And thanks to Anheuser-Busch, Blue Point is now available in 21 states, including Ohio.

For your next summer party or whenever you need a good patio-sipping beer, I recommend checking out Blue Point Brewing Company, now available at stores and bars near you! Welcome to Ohio, Blue Point!

***Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Blue Point Brewing launch, at which I received complimentary food, drink, and a swag bag. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Twilight at the Zoo!

As you know by now, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is not just for kids. There are so many fun events happening this summer put on by the Cleveland Zoological Society that are the perfect way to get your dose of adult fun at the Zoo.

Today I was going to tell you all about Date Night at the ZOOvies, presented by the Cleveland Airport System. But tickets went on sale yesterday and sold out that same day! There’s some serious buzz about these great Zoo events!

If you missed out on ZOOvies tickets, don’t worry, because there’s another Zoo event that you can enjoy this summer: Twilight at the Zoo, presented by Medical Mutual.

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On Friday, August 7, the Zoo will host 18 local bands, spanning rock to pop to swing to reggae, who will serenade you under the summer sky, while you get to check out the Zoo critters after hours, eat and drink, and just generally have a fabulous time!

The general admission party goes from 7pm-midnight and includes admission to the Zoo and all the bands, small bites, beer, wine, and soda. General admission tickets are $75 in June and $80 in July.

The VIP party, presented by Scene Magazine, goes from 6pm-9pm and includes all the general admission amenities, plus open bar, priority parking, and tasty food from AMP 150, Choolaah Indian BBQ, Sterle’s Country House, and more! VIP tickets are $150.

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Twilight at the Zoo is always one of the hottest parties of the summer, plus proceeds benefit our wonderful Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Buy your tickets today! And stay tuned here later this summer for your chance to win your way into Zoo events… It’s going to be a wild summer at the Zoo!

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Cleveland Zoological Society to help promote Date Night at the ZOOvies and Twilight at the Zoo. In exchange, I will receive complimentary tickets for myself and to give away to these events. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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