Urban Foragers

September 24, 2012

Today you will learn how to tune into nature and turn seemingly useless acorns into edible delights. But first, a bit of blog keeping: apparently Nidhi has given up on our fair city and her socialite status. COME BACK FROM MICHIGAN and be fabulous in CLE again, bestie!!!!


FFB4426C-C64E-4015-AA58-371CF41EFEDC Acorns are ubiquitous whether you live out in the woods or in the middle of a large city because oak trees are hardy and resilient. Acorns may also be one of the most sustainable sources of food; but certainly one of the most labor intensive. If all Native American tribes and Pioneers used this much effort in bread-making, I’m certain I would have thrown myself to the wolves. 

If you are anything like me and 99.99999% of the world, you’ve never picked up an acorn and said “I bet this is a fabulous substitute for flour in muffins”. In fact, you likely didn’t know or care to know that there is fruit inside of an acorn! And you most certainly did not ever entertain the idea of spending a Sunday afternoon boiling and re-boiling and re-re-re-re-re-boiling acorn meat to release all of it tannic (read: harmful to your kidneys) acid.

B8DA6A61-A5FA-4CC0-B11B-F76C7E3579F3I can honestly say I was not overcome with excitement when Stephen proposed scavenging for acorns, but since it was a lovely morning and I’d never been to Shaker Lakes (a travesty, I know), I agreed to the hunt if it could be prefaced a lovely brunch at Bon Vivant (see earlier post). Stephen claims he felt an urge 8BD44B7E-B2C8-4EA8-9C97-50BF2AD4742Eto Google “acorn bread” after viewing some plump acorns on the ground, but I think he must have been replaying a scene fro m his childhood, when he attended a Pioneer Day in Chagrin.

Last weekend, once we found the mother of all white oak trees (the type of oak lending the meatiest, tastiest, least poisonous acorns) I did actually enjoy myself – until I was whacked on the back by an angry acorn, tumbling 50 feet from the top of the tree.

After two hours of careful gathering (soft shells are no good, as are ones with holes in them frIMG-20120916-01421om worms or squirrels), we amassed somewhere between 600 and 800 acorns, later resulting in 12 cups of acorn flour. FYI: If the idea of behaving like Pioneers and baking, smashing, drying, boiling, blending and baking acorns is tantalizing, know that the greatest time sink is the shelling process. And I thought pistachios were annoying!

The foodstuffs you can produce with acorn flour is endless, as it easily IMG-20120923-01497substitutes for all-purpose flour; We’re thinking muffins and pancakes for starters. The bitter taste of the acorn dissipates the more you boil, but to me, it could never be something to eat on it’s own, like pistachios or almonds. However, I did thoroughly enjoy the bread and look forward to making my own to share with skeptical co-workers and friends.

Make your own by following our slightly amended version of the recipe below.

“Urban Forager” Acorn Bread by Ava Chin, the Urban Forager, is a professor of creative nonfiction and journalism at the College of Staten Island-CUNY

IMG-20120922-01472 1 cup acorn meal
½ cup corn meal
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon melted butter or oil
2 teaspoons sugar, with a little on reserve for the yeast
1 packet of yeast with ¼ cup of warmed water
1 egg
IMG-20120922-01478 ½ cup tap water
½ cup of milk

***Stephen added cranberries and walnuts, based on rec’s from other bloggers.

1. Combine acorn and corn meal with flour, butter, and sugar.
2. Mix yeast with warmed water and reserved sugar (follow packet recipe), and allow to sit until frothy.
IMG-20120922-01474 3. Add yeast, egg, water, and milk.
4. With floured hands and on a floured surface, knead dough until stiff.
5. Allow dough to sit in warm place to rise, covered. ***We found this to take about an hour.
6. When dough has doubled in size, knead again, and allow to rise.
7. Place dough in greased pan, or fashion it into a desirable loaf shape, IMG-20120923-01492 before placing into a pre-heated oven, 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Voila, acorn bread!

Squirrels, watch out.


Link to Urban Foraging on The Local, by the NYTimes.   

IMG-20120923-01494 Everything you ever wanted to know about acorns, and more: http://www.grandpappy.info/racorns.htm




Foodie Thursday

September 20, 2012

I know, I know, the common term is “Foodie Friday” (in fact, I just wrote about a great Foodie Friday event that happens weekly!) but today, was definitely a food-centric day!

This morning’s early arrival to work was made sweeter (literally) with a french toast bagel and hazelnut cream cheese by Panera.

Quite frequently, different building product representatives will provide us with lunch in exchange for an hour of our attention. We also get Continuing Education credits, which are necessary for obtaining and maintaining architectural licensure. Basically, we win, a lot. Occasionally, we get people who’d rather feed us a breakfast and learn or cookies and learn and so working a stone’s throw from Little Italy and a brand new Panera Bread is perfection.

Cleveland Connects

And the day only got better from here. Stephen and I attended the third ‘Cleveland Connects’ live broadcast from the IdeaStream studios tonight, sponsored by PNC and The Plain Dealer. In exchange for participating in a discussion amongst the city’s brightest local foods champions, audience members were treated to a catered spread by Nature’s Bin, out of Lakewood.

The event was perfectly time with the Mayor’s Sustainabiity Summit and the non-profit Project for Public Spaces’ national conference at the West Side Market this weekend. Fittingly, tonight’s topic was about placemaking and the role urban farms and restaurants play (can, or should play) in rebirthing Cleveland neighborhoods.

IMG-20120920-01430 Moderated by the Chief Editorial Writer at The Plain Dealer with a special presentation by the Senior Director of Markets for PPS in NYC, the conversation between giants like Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s founder, farmers and CDC leaders brought issues and solutions to the table.

Clearly, the best practices of the future hearken back to a time when people did shop at local butchers and grow tomatoes in their backyard, but those were days well before we became accustomed to quick and easy access to things like Folgers and Wonderbread.

Pat Conway reminded us that in the 1880s there were 3000 breweries in America, and less than 300 in the 1980s. He suggested that microbrews – not unlike boutique coffee shops, chocolates, clothing, etc – were an essential component in placemaking, which is certainly true of Great Lakes on West 25th – soon to be rebranded “The Market District”. ***

IMG-20120920-01446 After so much talk about food, I was uber curious what everyone’s next meal was going to be? How many people emerged from the talk at close to 8pm and thought to themselves “let’s grab a bite at Rascals?”. Hmm.

IMG-20120920-01438 Earlier in the day, during lunch naturally, I was scanning Cleveland.com’s pages for Thursday happy hours. Of course, Thursday is the new Saturday night for many people, and so specials abound, but one in particular caught my eye: Thursdays at Sterle’s. Just east of Downtown, on E.55th and Superior, this old Slovenian Hall stands out like a tree on the Great Plains. Not unlike Empress Taytu, a gem of an Ethiopian restaurant, this place is bordered by some of the city’s poorest. But that’s what makes Cleveland Cleveland – the strong immigrant populations that fight for their right to honor their heritage against the grit.

IMG-20120920-01445 Even though I had never heard of Sterle’s, I knew it would be the perfect dinner spot. From 7-10pm and for under $10 a variety of schnitzel and pretzels can be loaded with authentic picked beats and sauerkraut. $5.50 flights of beer – from seasonal local brews to German Pilsners – compliment the hearty fare. Earlier in the night, 12 drafts are discounted. While our server, Josie, was perfectly sweet, overall the service was lacking and confusing. It took us a while to place our orders and when my “veal schnitzel” arrived, my bun was meat free, as though she had been a bit too eager to grab it from the kitchen. She brought us popcorn in apology.

IMG-20120920-01449 Despite the less than attentive service and the average food certainly not the best Eastern European fare I’ve had, but since I lived there and am half Hungarian, I’m really a tough critic!Thursdays at Sterle’s is a winner in my book for the entertainment value alone. From late summer through October, polka bands and djs rock the stage and people dance! Everyone dances! Tonight, we were treated to the Chardon Polka Band, a charming group of young men who were really talented and played music far from the polka you might imagine. After all, Sterle’s slogan is “not your Grandma’s schnitzel”.


It’s never been a better time to be a socialite! Check out this week’s earlier post for great events happening in our city this weekend!

***Hey you! Interested in PPS and growing our city’s public spaces? Check out these articles!***

What Public Spaces Like Cleveland’s West Side Market Mean for Cities


The great outdoors: five public spaces vital to cleveland’s well-being

Cleveland Public Square during the July 4th Celebration


I’m FALLing for CLE

September 19, 2012

Well, obviously!

B8DA6A61-A5FA-4CC0-B11B-F76C7E3579F3 While strolling around Shaker Lakes, searching for mighty white oak trees bearing edible acorns (more on this bizarre Sunday activity later) Stephen and I had an epiphany: the season is called ‘Fall’ because all the leaves / berries are falling from the trees!!! I can picture the Pioneers saying “Ya know Maw, I reckon the great Fall is acoming”. And then all the acorns just went thud.FFB4426C-C64E-4015-AA58-371CF41EFEDC

***In the interest of full disclosure, in my head all Pioneers have southern accents.  I’m certain all the voices in my head are historically accurate. ***

Anyway, it’s officially Autumn in Cleveland and September is the most perfect month. Luckily, all the great event planners of Cleveland recognize this loveliness. Unluckily, the big push to soak in all that the city has to offer before mandatory winter hibernation occurs leaves me feeling sleep deprived and study deprived. Of course, there is still time to blog. I have priorities, after all.

***If you’re looking for activities for this upcoming Fall weekend, scroll down! For a recap of this Cleveland weekend, stay put!***

IMG-20120915-01396 In addition to the very many fantastic art gallery openings (refer to a future post!) this weekend played host to the epic Ingenuity Festival, this year held at the Port of Cleveland. On Saturday evening we toured the giant warehouses and surrounding platforms overlooking Lake Erie.

IMG-20120915-01391 The space was cavernous and housed more spectacles than my eyes could behold. Some of the art was inventive, some just bizarre and some, plain ordinary. I think my impressions of the event were largely based on my initial shock and quickly onset disgust after viewing a stall for bathfitter. I understand the necessity of sponsorship, but really, bathfitter? I felt like I was on a soap opera – because I think that’s when those commercials air, during the day, when the soaps play (Maybe Calvin from the Brown’s game was right after all!).

IMG-20120915-01387 ***My sense of being underwhelmed could also stem from the fact that I hold events held in warehouses to high standards: I’ve been to majorly rad parties and likewise events in warehouses and bunkers and it might be hard for anything on this side of the Atlantic to ever be as cool as it is in Eastern Europe.***

IMG-20120915-01397 I was also very hungry – because apparently on the weekdays three square meals is perfectly adequate but come the weekends my stomach wants to be fed every two hours. Stupid body. So, when everybody was about ready to abandon the fest and flame throwers, we headed to W. 25th to meet up with friends celebrating a birthday at the new Nano Brew and also to grab grub.

IMG-20120915-01401 This of course, led us to Bogtrotters, which has got to be the strangest sandwich shop in the city (and a not very kind name for an Irishman). I’d heard  rumors swirling about this place, specifically concerning the bi-polar lady who works the counter and sometimes jumps over it to throw people out. Needless to say, I was expecting something spectacular during my first visit.

IMG-20120915-01410And I got it.

Our food, HUGE sandwiches, were free because the register wasn’t working. And the lady was even sweet about it. She was less nice to the group of drunkards who were kicked out after us. I deduced that she probably has a good eye for people’s level of sobriety and in my case, after a very long week of work and extracurricular projects and workshops all day Saturday, I looked dead tired and so she probably pitied me, the sober, tired, hungry girl!

Prior to this epic night, the weekend began IMG-20120914-01382with a trip to Whole Foods for their Foodie Friday, where 5 alcohol samples are paired with food samples for four dollars! Since I was returning to the studio to finish compiling a portfolio for a Saturday morning review as part of an architecture convention in town, I subbed out some of my wine options for extra trail mix. OMG, it was a brilliant move.


****While I imagine our readers pour over these posts and wish they could time travel to live our fabulous lives, sometimes you don’t have to have a time machine to be cool like us! Go to Whole Foods on September 29th and see my friend Ariel Clayton perform while you guzzle and nosh!***

And of course, no weekend is complete without brunch! We attempted Luna but there were more people packed into the little Cedar Fairmount cafe than pastries available, and so we ventured to Larchmere, a darling street technically in Cleveland, just south of Fairhill and north of Shaker Square. Amidst Loganberry books and Big Al’s Dinner is a new establishment, Bon Vivant. In the former Bean and Vine location, the contemporary French restaurant feels rich and cozy inside while the garden in back is an oasis that must be experienced.

IMG-20120916-01414 While we had a bit of sticker shock when we saw the $15 prix fixe menu, brunch options are plentiful and the price includes a mimosa or a highly recommended bloody mary – the new chef’s own concoction. My eggs benedict was perfection and Stephen’s tofu scramble was our waitress’ favorite.

I highly recommend the spot not only for the food or ambience, but also for the wonderful service. After refilling my coffee, our waitress came back with a new cup and said “I think this tastes better!” and after waiting not very long after ordering, we were presented complimentarIMG-20120916-01416y mini-muffins as an unnecessary apology.

The best part was when our waitress told me I looked like Britney Spears “in her prime”. She referenced the ‘Lucky’ video, so Stephen pulled up some pics on his phone and when I posed like a doe-eyed sixteen year old starring longingly into the camera he said he saw the resemblance.

***Later, Nidhi said I was prettier and more talented. I’m certain she meant more talented at singing, because I really am. Not.***’


FRIDAY: Join the Brooklyn CDC and area architecture firms in the first official Parking Day. From 11am-1pm in the Prospect Triangle, we’ll be laying down astroturf to create mini-parklets out of asphalt parking spots. studioTECHNE will be screening PeeWee Herman’s Big Adventure with bikes on loan from Joy Machine Bike Shop in Ohio City.

Later, meet halfway at the new Midway, the temporary name for the lower level of the Detroit-Superior Bridge, open to the public just for the day to explore the potential of this great cavernous space. 7-11 event time is just that, from 7am to 11pm!

SATURDAY:  Celebrate the 8th International Public Markets Conference in Cleveland – which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the West Side Market – without needing a ticket at the Centennial Market, across the street from the WestSide Market from 10:00 – 5:00. With almost 40 handmade vendors and lots of other neighborhood fun happening all weekend long, it’s the perfect outing for everyone!

Later, check out the Latin dance party at SB Eight One in Westlake. Son Gitano, Stephen’s band is a headliner, along with DJ Nacho Mirando.

What: Live Salsa Band Party
Where: SB Eighty One, 24481 Detroit Rd, Westlake, OH 44145
When: 8pm for salsa and bachata lesson, 9pm starts the party
How: Dress up or casual nice and take I-90 to the Clague Rd exit
Why: No work the next day so let’s party!

SUNDAY: Sleep / Study / BLOG 🙂

IMG-20120915-01413 Above: WestSide Market in cardboard, at the 2012 Cleveland Ingenuity Fest.

Discover! AsiaTown

September 9, 2012

chinatown1jpg-75ee1a75466f943a Although the street sign along Superior may read ‘ChinaTown’ and vacant, industrial lofts dominate the streetscape, AsiaTown is a true gem of a Cleveland neighborhood with diverse offerings.

The first two M+artys (meeting + party, a new networking concept for small businesses and their supporters launched this year in Cleveland) were held in the AsiaTown Center plaza this past Spring. The Center also plays host to numerous festivals and openings, including a photography exhibit debuting this Friday featuring the family of a friend of mine, Lisa Wong.

IMG-20120903-01307 Of course, the real draw year-round is the super market, where you can find inexpensive, delicious taro filled sesame buns and vegetables like bok choy  changsha squidand chinese eggplant.

Last weekend, after a scintillating trip to Toronto and the best dumplings in this Hemisphere (read about all the adventures here!), Stephen and I were inspired to create an ethnic meal of our own, above.

changsha eggplant With a recipe in tow for Sichuan Style Eggplant (I lived in Changsha, capital of the Hunan province, where I had the most amazing garlic smothered eggplant and squid and where spicy food is also king. If you’re interested in reading an article about eating ‘beyond white rice’, which I wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Travel Section after my first stint in China, click here!), we took to Asia Food Co. and began a very atypical grocery searching trip!

seaweed In Toronto we dined on seawood, right, a myriad of dumplings and scrumptious eggplant. Stephen had never had the vegetable and fell head over heals for the melt-in-your mouth dish so naturally, this dish was a first priority, but when we saw the leafy bok choy and piles of seaweed begging to be tossed on a stove, we couldn’t resist!

The meal was so delicious we vowed to create Steve’s World Cuisine, a concept IMG-20120903-01295restaurant that may or may not exist for my own personal gain 😉

If you endeavor to make such a scrumptious meal on your own, do go to AsiaTown and pick up some authentic Sichuan Peppercorn, chili paste and fresh ginger and of course eggplant!





chili paste and ginger



Bok Choy and Ginger


  seaweed, chili paste and garlic


The yummiest eggplant this side of the Pacific!!!!


August 17, 2012

feast musican crowd When it comes to Lent, the Catholic tradition of giving up gluttonous materials like wine and chocolate, I am a total failure: read, I always eat meat on Fridays in March. However, when it comes to the Roman Catholic celebration ‘The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin’, which happens to correspond to my birthday, I’m all for practicing my faith!

An amazing perk of living and working in University Circle is its proximity to Little Italy, and so while the district is part of my daily commute and a routine lunch stop, nothing compares to the liveliness of Mayfield Rd. this weekend.

While the prices are steeper (Presti’s keeps it under control, FYI), if you consider that you’re paying for the atmosphere of street performers and live music, you can view this event as your well worth-it weekend splurge on entertainment and nourishment 🙂


The actual Feast began on Wednesday (my bday! / India’s Independence Day) of this week. This and last year my office packed the streets to enjoy the fabulous food, including stuffed hot peppers and Cassata cakes that WILL make you swoon.

Following the mid-morning mass and solemn funeral procession (that many mistake for a parade), the Little Italy district swells with vendors of all sorts, locals and out-of-towners alike.

There are rides all weekend for kids and entertainment throughout the day until midnight, especially at La Trattoria on E123rd and Mayfield Rd, where an open air nightclub pops up.

feat_poodle Plan a trip tonight, where you just might run into Cleveland Socialites like us, live on the scene 🙂


For a complete schedule of the events happening today and tomorrow, including the fireworks spectacular on Saturday, check out the Holy Rosary Church’s website.

To learn more about Cleveland’s own Little Italy, check out: http://www.littleitalycleveland.com/

it was a BLAST!

August 5, 2012

431990_4435760100356_679252226_n Today, north winds brought waves crashing over the rocks that line Euclid Beach in North Collinwood, and despite the noise, created an atmosphere of serenity.

Yesterday, southern winds ushered in hundreds of people from all over greater Cleveland to join a rocking party on the beach, aptly titled Euclid Beach Blast.

Both scenarios demonstrate why the shore point, former home to the Euclid Beach Amusement park, is a great destination in North East Ohio. And with the combined efforts of the Sewer District, the local CDC and groups like Alliance for the Great Lakes in support of the newly launched Urban Beach Ambassador’s program, the water quality of Lake Erie is on its way to healthy levels, even after a rainfall event. 


The second annual Beach Blast truly was a blast, combining the creativity of neighboring artists with locals’ passion for one of the region’s best resource. The Blast is Stephen’s creation, a way for him to express his love for and belief in the greatness of the north coast shore in a way that people of all ages can enjoy.

BeachLab, an interactive aspect of the Blast and brainchild of Collinwood artist Ivana and CIA employee Ivy, demonstrated to Blast goers the varied potential of the park’s vast property while a masterplanning proposal from MKSK (out of Columbus) and Land Studio (in Ohio City) generated conversation about linking Wildwood, Villa Angela and the Recreation Center to the beach.

557032_4435758300311_277440116_nMy recycled paper roses, manufactured for sale at this summer’s Collective Upcycle pop-up, made a return appearance in the “Recycled Rose Garden”, suggesting that plantings could spruce up patches of under-utilized lawn (above).

561415_483538204992590_203958145_n As a volunteer, I was awarded a t-shirt, a food truck voucher (which I redeemed for a Po Boy at B&M BBQ) and a voucher for a free burrito to Chili Peppers on E.185th (which we redeemed today, and the burrito was sensational. FYI: all Beach Clean-Up attendees at Euclid will be given a burrito voucher in the future, and this fact alone should be motivation enough!).

578848_4435761900401_1629504070_nIn addition to installing my artwork and assisting in the creation of the children’s playground on the plinth of a former amusement park ride, I spent the evening crafting trash mobiles with Nicole of Plenty Underfoot. 

304554_483538488325895_1344259188_n A crew of us made samples at Nicole’s studio last week and tirelessly scrubbed recyclable trash for beach goers to string onto mobiles of their own. You can read about our craft night on the Detroit Shoreway, hereMy mobile is pictured above and is resplendent with bottle caps, plastic toy pieces and a tampon applicator – all found by clean-up crews on the shores of Lake Erie! GROSS! GROSS! GROSS!

219633_482016545144756_1465801136_oFunded by the generous support of backers on Kickstarter, in addition to raising awareness, the Blast provided a safe, fun atmosphere for people of all ages to dance, craft and dine at Cleveland’s Famous Food Trucks! Other activities included games, face painting and of course, music!

In addition to the after-party at the nearby Beachland Ballroom, three bands performed with Lake Erie in the background including The Hesitations singing covers from the ‘50s and ‘60s and Son Gitano, Stephen’s band, performing original Latin fusion jams.

412419_482926978387046_1968983587_o Sad you missed it? I bet you are! Well, never fear, the Euclid Beach Adopt-A-Beach team is always looking for volunteers and clean-up events happen through the Fall with Ivana leading the occasional free yoga class as a cool down to lugging around pounds of recyclable trash!  Planning for the Blast 2013 will likely start soon, so stay tuned to the FB page for details!

Also, the next Urban Beach Ambassador’s training will be held at Edgewater this Thursday at 6:30pm-8:30pm.

556280_451652438181167_2029691742_n Sources:



Social Balloon

July 24, 2012

3-mr-7web Lately, I have felt like my CleSocial life is ballooning to enormous dimensions.

Weekly, I forge new friendships and existing relationships in the 216 strengthen. I relate this phenomena to the Midwestern friendliness I feel all around me, but its honestly not a position I thought I’d find myself in only 1.5 years after uprooting from the East Coast and moving to this city where I didn’t know a soul!

3-cf-6-web I feel so lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful, giving, hilarious, intelligent and creative people. So much so, I WANT TO STICK THEM ALL IN A GIANT BALLOON, a balloon that folds up and neatly tucks away into the back of an old milk truck, where I could take my friends with me, wherever life leads me next!

Lucky for me – unlucky for friends who may be claustrophobic -  such a balloon IS COMING TO CLEVELAND THIS WEEK!

from CUDC’s Facebook page where you can RSVP to the event:

You’re invited to have lunch in the SPACEBUSTER!
The SPACEBUSTER, a delivery truck carrying a 40′ long inflatable room, will be stopping in Cleveland this week en route to Flint, Michighan from Brooklyn, New York.

SPACEBUSTER will park in a vacant lot adjacent to the Agora Theater on Euclid Avenue and deploy a pop-up social space in the burgeoning Midtown District. The SPACEBUSTER will open to the public from 11am – 2pm on Thursday, July 26th.

Grab lunch from Umami Moto Food Truck or The Hipp restaurant next door and bring it inside the SPACEBUSTER, learn more about plans for the Euclid Corridor and share your thoughts for the area. Representatives from MidTown Cleveland will be on hand to gather your feedback.

The SPACEBUSTER’s current road trip is part of the Flint Public Art Project (http://www.flintpublicartproject.com/) organized by Producer & Artistic Director Stephen Zacks in partnership with the Flint Institute of Arts and funded by the NEA’s Art Place grant. Invited by Storefront for Art and Architecture in 2009, the SPACEBUSTER was initially developed and designed to explore the qualities and possibilities of public space in New York City. SPACEBUSTER interacts with the architectural and the social space and its conditions. It opens urban space for temporary collective uses.

More info and images of the SPACEBUSTER: http://www.raumlabor.net/?p=1799




24 hours in Pittsburgh

July 23, 2012

24+ hours in Cleveland.

This weekend was thrilling for me as I was fortunate enough to reunite with so many collegiate friends still living in the 412 and one very special friend, Diana, who currently resides in Heidelberg, Germany but was on holiday with her family in Western PA.

IMG-20120722-00913Pittsburgh will always be a city after my heart, despite CLE’s strong pull. Not dissimilar in many ways, Pittsburgh and Cleveland are both cities with storied, glory days of yore whose working class neighborhoods sunk into despair after the closing of steel and coke furnaces. Now, both cities are part of a rustbelt revival and the friendly mid-western attitude mixes splendidly with artists and entrepreneurs pouring in from all over the world.

IMG-20120722-00923 In fact, I often feel like PITT and CLE are the NYCs of the 1920s, pulling in people from all walks of life and each day is flush with the possibility of a total transformation.

Lucky me, I got to spend my weekend in both of my favorite Stateside cities.

IMG-20120722-00917 On Friday evening I left work to attend my duty as a volunteer info desk attendant at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Contrary to Friday nights of late, this particular evening was booming due to a member’s only speakeasy happening in the basement outside of the 1920’s in America exhibition. If you haven’t seen it, slide on over to alithearchitect to read my review and then GO SEE IT!

Afterwards, I dined with one of my Cleveland besties, Tracie, at Presti’s in Little Italy which may just be my new go-to Friday night dinner spot because of their excellent food and reasonable prices and fantastic al fresco dinning options! (Check out Tracie’s blog, it will have you saying OHHHHHMMMM!)

IMG-20120720-00876 After afterwards, Nidhi and I jumped in Anita’s super fancy Lexus and partied it up in the basement of the Market Garden Brewery in Ohio City. In case you were there, NO, we were not the table of people making out. I swear.

After after afterwards, I went to sleep. Eventually.

558254_916733451699_1851343098_n Which brings us to Saturday. I attempted to go to Zumba, I really, really did. It didn’t happen. Oh well, the world spins round. I told myself  “I’ll get a good work out in at the beach cleanup this afternoon.” But then I remembered that I am not a big fan of picking up of trash, IMG-20120721-00884and so I went to the gym anyway. Lifting weights and using the stepper is not as fun as Zumba. Why can’t I wake up earlier on the weekend?!

I did go to the Beach Cleanup at Euclid Beach and Nidhi did, too! Surprise, surprise, we ended up showing up 1.5 hours after the cleaning commenced and we looked rather out of place in cute tanktops and hot sunglasses. The people who actually cleaned were from Target. They looked great, its just that we looked like rockstars that had partied too hard and somehow landed at a beach cleaning event.

IMG-20120721-00891I took a bunch of photographs, we ate a lot of donated salsa and chips and put a new box of untouched gloves in the storage room. I felt like a do-gooder, for sure, until Stephen, who organizes the Clean Ups as part of Euclid-Adopt-A-Beach, pointed out that I have come to three of these events, helplessly late and had yet to pick up a piece of trash. Miraculously, he doesn’t hate me 🙂IMG-20120721-00888


IMG-20120721-00893Post cleaning up the salsa from its container with our mouths, I began my journey to Pittsburgh. Man, gas prices are on the rise. One of these cities ought to pick up and move closer to the other!

In Schenley Park, I had hoped to see the antique race car races, but instead was treated to many detours because of them. Joyous. Finally, I landed on Craig Street where I dined with the Fabulous Diana and family at the Union Grill. We were planning to take in a Pirate’s baseball game on Saturday, but apparently, the team has much improved since the days when they would give you a hat, a hot dog and a seat to watch the game for $12.


Post dinner, Diana and I decided to stroll up and down Forbes Ave to see what had changed, and to my surprise, much had! We stopped at a trendy weigh-your-yogurt shop and then at Hemingway’s where we chatted over BlueMoon pitchers. It felt like school, only the smell was a bit worse.

IMG-20120722-00914 Am I that much of grownup that collegetown dive bars now reek to my refined nose? NO!!!!!!!! Bar number two was Kelly’s in East Liberty, to which I had never been. East Liberty is another area that is rapidly changing and IMG-20120722-00901I wished to go to Abay, the Ethiopian restaurant. Some day! Kelly’s drinks were subpar, especially the firefly, which was the daily special and was most likely just grapefruit juice. Luckily, I discovered this via a free drink. Here, we learned that Amanda was very recently (48 hours ago) engaged and Natale would soon be a licensed architect (48 hours from then).

IMG-20120722-00900Also, I discovered the existence of an amazing organization, LUPEC, the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. I like it. A lot. CLE needs a charter chapter!

On to Ray and Angela’s abode in Millvalle, a darling suburb on the Northside.

After a delicious sleep, we schelped to P&G Dinner on Lincoln, which used to be a pharmacy and soda fountain and is now one of the handful of Pamela’s affiliates. The wait was longish, but typical for Pam’s. Luckily, there were plenty of bizarre knickknacks to ogle over, including candles whose flames burn the color of the wax. I had to buy them!IMG-20120722-00903 

IMG-20120722-00905The wait was well worth it: we were eventually seated at the table were Michelle Obama sat in 2009 when her and her husband came to the city for the G20 Summit. Outrageous. Angela had the honor of sitting in the First Lady’s chair. She said she felt special. I bet that chair never gets a rickety leg.


IMG-20120722-00902 If you are ever in Pittsburgh, or better yet, if you ever have a hankering for super rich chocolate chip banana hot cakes (really, like crepes), drive to Pittsburgh to go to a Pamelas! Seriously. Amazing. Diana and I split the aforementioned heaven on a plate and a Tex Mex omelet with really yummy chorizo sausage.

Fighting a nasty food coma, Diana and I departed ten minutes down the road to the Andy Warhol Museum, a Carnegie Museum. There we reunited with her family and managed to effortlessly spend over three hours in the galleries viewing film strips and interacting with floating ScotchPak, heat sealed balloons. Intrigued? You’ll just have to go and see for yourself!


I just love this man, that Carnegie Mellon man! I was so inspired by the work inside, after not having visited the museum in nearly four years, I dreamed of painting and illustrating the whole drive back to CLE.

IMG-20120722-00920Oh to have been Edie Sedgwick in the Factory.

WHY WASN’T I ALIVE IN THE 1960’S?!??!?!?!?

No trip from I-480 to I-271 is complete without a pit-stop at 330733_10151942902730007_50316297_oTrader Joe’s on Chagrin Blvd, where I stocked up on goodies to make it through a week of mounds of paperwork, bench building and blog keeping. CHECK, CHECK AND CHECK! The hectic summer fun wound down with a lovely home-cooked meal ready for me as I walked in the door, and a night of wine guzzling and porch sitting.

All in all, it was a fabulous weekend of museums and alcohol.

What more could a socialite ask for!?!?!

Food Friendzy

July 20, 2012

IMG-20120719-00875 See what I did there? Food Frenzy w/ Friends = Food Friendzy!

So clever I am.

Sitting at my workdesk on this overcast Friday eating leftovers puts me in the mood / allots me the time to fondly recall all the yummy, free food I amassed this week in CLE.


IMG-20120717-00846 I can’t begin to tell you what I ate prior to Tuesday evening’s Craft+Wine club picnic at Olivia’s, but likely it was Hummus and goat cheese. Oh yes, it was, with the small exception of an Original Dave’s from Dave’s Cosmic Subs on Coventry to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of the principals of my architecture firm. I also drank a lot of beer on Tuesday afternoon (50 bottles / less than 10 people in the office, you do the math!). This could partially be why I am having trouble remembering my week prior to this binge?

IMG-20120717-00844 Regardless, after taking a dip at the Cumberland pool and snacking on some Trader Joe’s hummus, I took my chlorinated self to Olivia’s for some tasty kabobs. I’m sure Nidhi enjoyed her veggie kabob, but I think its safe to say that the highlight of her evening was playing with Olivia’s two two-month old kittens, even though she is highly allergic.

IMG-20120717-00847 Also, Julie of wearingmascara.com did an excellent job of recounting the food through photographs well in advance of my belated lunchtime musings, so feel free to live vicariously through me, Nidhi and Julie!

Nidhi’s cous cous was so delicious, Juliana kept swearing she was going to stop piling it on her plate. This happened three or four times. I want the recipe, Nidhi, because apparently, I am now a chef. Keep reading.

IMG-20120717-00840 My contribution was a delightful jar of champagne jam from Damn Good Jam, a small CLE business. Paired with Stacey’s pita chips, I could have eaten the whole jar had there not been yummy cous cous and kabobs and other people at the picnic who may have frowned upon me eating the entire jar 😦damngood


Wednesday was a great day for earning free food in CLE. Unfortunately, it also happened to be the day of the week I was free to grocery shop. I was surrounded by food. I may have gained 10 pounds in 24 hours.

IMG-20120718-00856 My first deal of the day wasn’t free, but damn cheap. Brueggars sent me a coupon for 13 bagels and two cream cheeses for less than $10 which served Julie and I well while we chit-chatted pool side. I used about six more bagels to make bagel chips on Wednesday along with some incredible homemade, easy hummus. The rest of the baker’s dozen I will continue to eat until someone makes me stop. Make me stop!

IMG-20120718-00850 When Julie heard that my next plans were to attend Walnut Wednesday with some TriDelta Sorority alumni she was like “wait, wait I know how you can eat for free!”. Turns out, Progressive was having a promotion whereby tweeting them and then tracking down a Progressive employee, the first 500 people could win a $10 voucher to any food truck on E. 12th. I was extra happy because Umani Moto, my fav truck,  had a small line and the Korean beef burrito was free. (TIP: I tipped the truck and my food was ready in minutes. I think this is an excellent tactic / rewards system when the alternative is standing in the hot sun on a busy street waiting!)

IMG-20120718-00852Even though I was super full and didn’t want to focus on food, I stopped at Alesci’s and a local produce stand to grab some ingredients for homemade pizza.

IMG-20120718-00859 Jen of Why?CLE’s recent post about Fresh Fork and her Fresh Tomato, Zucchini, and Pepperoni Pizza induced my dormant culinary skills and Nidhi’s Mediterranean dish from the night before had me salivating at the thought of making my own hummus.IMG-20120718-00858 I used this recipe, but added a tablespoon of red pepper flakes and a table spoon of sunbutter. YUM!

Despite wanting to sit on the couch and rub my very full tummy, I packed up and angrily sneered at motorists afraid of construction cones all the way up MLK. GO FASTER.

IMG-20120718-00863 Finally, I arrived at Happy Dog for the IdeaStream and NPR 90.3 Sound of Ideas broadcast. I was happy to learn that in addition to a dog any way I wanted it, I was also entitled to free tator tots.

My strategy at Happy Dog is to order a ton of toppings for meal one, like Matt’s suggestion of Blue Cheese Coleslaw and chili, and save the veggie dog and other toppings for a second meal. This worked especially well on Wednesday, for if I had eaten that dog, I would have tied a record with that dude on Coney Island.

IMG-20120718-00865 Left to right, the Ladies at Happy Dog: Stephanie, Nidhi, Kate and Julie

All my free food gathering worked out especially well for Stephen, who returned from a long day of work, Euclid Beach cleaning and of not eating very much at all to have a happy dog and fresh hummus and a fridge full of food promising to turn into future yummy meals.


Why is it that after a day off, I was more exhausted than before? Maybe overeating makes you tired. I’m sure I’ve seen that on an episode of The Dr’s.

Yesterday I drank an unusually large sum of Phoenix Coffee’s iced coffee from my office’s stock before heading to lunch with a furniture representative who treated me to a yummy crab dish at Club Isabella’s in Little Italy. I’ve been there a few times for lunch and it never disappoints!

IMG-20120719-00870Post work, I attended a happy hour with the Carnegie Mellon NorthEast Ohio’s Alumni Board for a summer meeting at Claddagh’s in Legacy Village. I’ve never eaten at any of those big box restaurants, but the $3 classic martini was spot on and still came with three olives at happy hour pricing.

After a fun, productive meeting of the board and quick run to Nordstrom Rack for a new wallet to hold all of the dollar bills I didn’t spend on food this week, I dashed home to make Ricky and Stephen dinner.

IMG-20120719-00873I want that sentence to sound like I am not a mom and they are not starving children. I hope it does, because if I were really a mom my children would legitimately starve as I would forget to feed them whilst I drink $3 martinis. Still, they were pretty hungry, so I diced tomatoes and squash with fervor and twenty minutes later we were munching on handmade pizza and goat cheese, lime-basil tossed salad and sipping a Barefoot wine.

nidhicat DISCLAIMER: I would probably feed my children wine. Nidhi would, too. But not to this kitten, because she loves him. And in general, cats are more self-sufficient than babies.

It’s like fruit juice.

And I always wanted to be European anyway.

Social Crafting

July 13, 2012

working hardMonths ago, on one very unproductive day tending to our day jobs, Nidhi and I were gchatting like our lives depended on how many times we pressed the ‘enter’ key and developed a brilliant crafting / fame-making strategy called “POP!Craft”.

POP!Craft would be a pop-up, where we would caravan the bones of Craft+Wine club (bones = craft supplies, alcohol, friends) to various locations around CLE.

It was a brilliant idea that was poorly executed.

We talked about it a lot, mostly saying the phrase “POP!Craft” in a funny, robotic, high pitched voice. Unsurprisingly, Nidhi and I became busy with other socialite activities and the act of contacting bars and vacant storefronts, begging for their consent ceased to happen.

CRAFT AT PROSPERITYThen, a group of Cleveland Museum of Art employees had the same idea, called it something (“Make and Take”) and showed us up with actual follow through. Damnit.

The first ever Make and Take took place this Tuesday at Prosperity Social Club in Tremont. The well-worn tables and omnipresent shrill sound of the skeeball machine make me believe that at one time this place must have been more prosperous and private club-like (maybe not, it opened in 2005?), but their happy hour sangria is delicious in price and taste, the patio is large and the crafting was FUN!

Make and Take part one featured paint chips – a great material easily swiped from stores. Scissors and glue dots (which incidentally, may be my new best friend, sorry Aileen’s Tacky) were provided by the museum, too, as well as handy pictogram instruction sheets which explained how to make a lidded box out of the paint chips.

pine cone basket Juliana and Stephen (pictured above) joined me alongside about a dozen other crafters. The three of us stuck to the box motif, while others were arguably more creative, designing bunting and jewelry. My box came out decently well for eyeballing the measurements and cut lines. Stephen had the fantastic idea of creating a basket in lieu of crafting a lid. It’s functionality and color choices may be in question, however (right).

The event was a lot of fun and exactly what POP!Craft envisioned itself to be. Damnit, again.

The next Make and Take will be held this upcoming Tuesday at Lava Lounge and will be a bookbinder delight. No RSVP is necessary, as the events are casual. If you’re interested, you should absolutely stop by, as the organizers are looking for input on how to expand and take this concept back to University Circle.

Check out the Make and Take new blog  for more information and updates and for better photos of the inaugural event.