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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Why? Weekends!

***A bit of blogkeeping: Congratulations to @tinktastic (Comment #55), randomly-selected winner of 2 Premiere Grand Tasting tickets to Our Lady of the Wayside’s Grapes and Ale. Please check your email for details. If you didn’t win, you can still purchase tickets online.***

Jeffrey had a very busy weekend (as did we, of course)! On Saturday, we checked out Parade the Circle, put on by the Cleveland Museum of Art. This free event is a great representation of Cleveland’s art community! From the colorful to the unique to the musical, the parade had something for everyone.

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I couldn’t help but think about how lucky we are to live in a city that not only has such awesome cultural events, but also has cultural events that are accessible to all. 1,500 parade participants and over 80,000 attendees (source) can attest to the fun, excitement, and value of events such as Parade the Circle! I know we had a wonderful time!

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On Sunday, we attended our niece Raylynn’s 6th birthday party at the Riverfront YMCA. From fun with balloons and a pinata, to lots of energy burned off in the gymnastics and rock climbing area, the kids had a fun afternoon!

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It’s great to see Jeffrey getting to the age where he can participate and enjoy things with his cousins!

So, all in all, a busy weekend for our little man, but a really fun one! How was your weekend?

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Why? Our Cleveland Cavaliers!

***A bit of blogkeeping: Have you entered to win two tickets to Grapes and Ale, Cleveland’s hottest BBQ? Check it out! Remember, you can tweet daily for additional entries.***

Last night, Matthew and I had the amazing experience of attending Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

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Regardless of the outcome of the game, it was an incredible experience. In fact, this entire playoff run has been and continues to be an incredible experience. Whether you watch the games from your living room, a bar, or the Q, there is a collective experience in watching the Cavs.

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The experience is truly Cleveland. As we waded through the sea of humanity on East 4th Street last night, I ran into, hugged, and chatted with no fewer than 4 people I knew. In this insane crowd, there is still connection and closeness. That’s Cleveland. A big small town.

Cleveland is having a moment in the sun; this team is having a moment in the sun. Obviously, we’re all hoping for a certain outcome. But taking just a pause on this sleepy, under-caffeinated Friday morning to simply enjoy the moment is good too. Because regardless of the outcome, the collective experience of this playoff run is good for the city. It’s truly about teamwork and that is how anything, in basketball or in life, will get accomplished. It’s a lot of fun. And it’s the reason we should all still be #AllinCLE.

Now, let’s get back to work…

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Why? Grapes and Ale Giveaway!

Do you like wine? Beer? BBQ? How about all of these combined? Grapes and Ale, a fundraiser to benefit Our Lady of the Wayside, is the event for you, then!

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This great summer event keeps getting bigger and better each year! On Friday, June 26, Grapes and Ale will take over Progressive Field‘s newly-renovated Right Field District and “The Corner” with over 300 wines to sample, craft beer tastes for purchase ($5 for 10 samples), and succulent BBQ fare and sweet treats from some of Cleveland’s hottest restaurants, such as Barrio, Corleone’s, Hodge’s, and Sweet Moses.

Plus, all of this fun and frivolity benefits Our Lady of the Wayside, which for nearly 50 years has been providing residential and transportation services to children and adults with developmental disabilities.

There are two ticket levels available for Grapes and Ale:

Premiere Grand Tasting – $50 – unlimited food and wine samples, access to “The Corner” to purchase craft beer samples, souvenir glass, and live entertainment

VIP Majic of Wine Tasting – $125 – all of the above, plus private wine blind tasting, complimentary parking, hors d’oeuvres and featured wines, and one-hour early admission

Tickets are available online or you can enter to win 2 Premiere Grand Tasting tickets right here! Here’s how to enter (you can do one, two, three, four, or all five entries, just leave a separate comment on this post for each):

1. Leave a comment telling me whether you prefer grapes (wine) or ale (beer) to sip in the summer.

2. Visit Our Lady of the Wayside and Why CLE? on Facebook and leave a comment here letting me know you visited both pages.

3. Follow Our Lady of the Wayside on Instagram and leave a comment here letting me know you’re following.

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

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

I want to attend Grapes and Ale, CLE’s hottest BBQ, thanks to @OurLadyWayside and @WhyCLE: http://wp.me/p1fb9r-2oD

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

The giveaway will close on Sunday, June 14 at 11:59pm and the winner will be announced the following day. Good luck!

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

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Why? Weekends!

In addition to a dose of grown-up fun at the Zoo, there was plenty of other fun to be had this weekend. On Saturday, Jeffrey and I met up with a friend from his Kindermusik class and her family for a play date at Preston’s HOPE.

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This playground was inspired by a young boy with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and is fully accessible to all children, allowing those with medical conditions to play alongside those without. The playground is beautiful, with tons of playhouses, swings, slides, sandboxes, and more for kids to enjoy.

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Not only did I love seeing Jeffery have so much fun, I was also inspired by Preston’s story and grateful for Jeffrey’s good health. The playground operates from the generosity of the people who play there, as well as the surrounding community. To learn more and make a donation, click here.

After the playground, the play date continued with lunch at Taza Lebanese Grill. I’m pretty sure once you’ve shared hummus, you’re friends for life! I’m so happy for making new friends for Jeffrey (and for myself)!

On Sunday, Matthew, my parents, and I took Jeffrey for his first trip to Cedar Point. I’ve been going to Cedar Point every summer for as long as I can remember, so I love starting the same tradition with Jeffrey! He enjoyed the carousel…

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…watching the “big kids” on the roller coasters…

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…and splashing the afternoon away at Soak City! By far, the water park was his most favorite activity, with plenty of slides and fountains for someone his size to enjoy.

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He also highly recommends the sweet potato fries at Chickie’s and Pete’s near the Blue Streak!

All in all, a lovely summer weekend, mostly spent outside, as summer weekends should be. How was your weekend?

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Why? Zippity Zoo Doo!

***A bit of blogkeeping: Congratulations to arnoldtd (Comment #44), randomly-selected winner of 2 Big Kahuna tickets to Luau on the Lake to benefit Shoes and Clothes for Kids. Please check your email for more details. If you didn’t win, you can still purchase tickets online.***

On Friday night, Matthew and I got to enjoy one of our favorite fundraisers, Zippity Zoo Doo, put on by the Cleveland Zoological Society to benefit the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. The theme of this year’s event was Serengeti Sunset and from sunset-colored martinis to delicious African-inspired food, it was an evening that transported you.

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As always at Zoo fundraisers, there were adorable critters out to play, like this baby owl and this fennec fox.

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But the stars of the evening were the giraffes, as we got a sneak peek at the brand new Ben Gogolick Giraffe Encounter.

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Since Jeffrey is the proud “Zoo Parent” of a giraffe, I was especially excited to check out the giraffes’ new home. The Giraffe Encounter is beautiful and will allow visitors to get up close and personal with these gorgeous creatures.

To continue the giraffe theme, Matthew and I had to ride the giraffes on the Circle of Wildlife Carousel!

IMG_3198We also were the winning bidders on an awesome Step 2 silent auction package, with sent us home with great stuff for Jeffrey, as well as a happy feeling for donating to the Zoo’s education programs!

From food and drink to animal encounters to music and dancing to a table filled with blogger buddies and tweeps, Zippity Zoo Doo was a lovely summer evening for a great cause!

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The Cleveland Zoological Society has some upcoming events that will allow you to both donate to our wonderful Zoo, as well as have a fun time!

If giraffes are your thing, the Zoo is celebrating World Giraffe Day on Sunday, June 21, with special giraffe crafts and activities, “Giraffles” with great prizes, and more. Also, all donations made to giraffe conservation through the Zoo in June will be matched 4:1 (up to $5,000) thanks to the Leiden Conservation Foundation.

And in August, both Twilight at the Zoo and Date Night at the ZOOvies provide fun, adult evenings at the Zoo that can help you prove that you’re #wildaboutCLE!

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Cleveland Zoological Society to help promote Zippity Zoo Doo. In exchange, I received one complimentary and one discounted ticket to the event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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