Monday, February 28, 2011

A 30th birthday surprise

Clefoodgoddess and I are close friends in real life. This past weekend, she turned 30. Due to a massive scheduling conflict and oversight on my part, N, Dave and Jess ended up having plans on Clefoodgoddess' birthday; specifically, we had tickets to Playhouse Square's Jump Back Ball 20 (more on that in the next post). Since we were going to miss her actual birthday, I decided that we had to come up with a super special gift. Something that she would absolutely love, and make her day truly spectacular. Since she has a food blog, my first thoughts went to some sort of experience with one of Cleveland's amazing chefs.

I tried getting Clefoodgoddess and her fiance a seat at the Chef's table at Lola, with a tasting menu. (This is an option if you would like to gift it to someone; call Lola for details). Of course, Lola gets booked up weeks in advance, especially on a Friday or Saturday night, and especially when its restaurant week. My only options were either a 5:30 table or a 8:45 table. Either would've worked, but since it was a weekend, they would be sharing the Chef's table with other diners. A solid option, but I decided to do some more exploring.

I thought back to my own 30th birthday in July, and the fabulous meal N and I enjoyed at L'Albatros. On a whim, I shot them an email inquiring about their Chef's table, and received an almost-immediate response from Sommelier Brandon Chrostowski. As I told him about my idea for a special culinary experience, he recommended an experience that they had previously created for another diner; an experience in the kitchen itself, followed by dinner at the restaurant. DING DING DING!!! I knew we had a winner.

The plan was this: With fiance's help, we were going to keep this whole experience a surprise. Fiance would drive a blindfolded Clefoodgoddess to L'Albatros around 3 pm. The blindfold would be lifted, and she would then spend a couple of hours in the kitchen, experiencing life behind-the-scenes. She would be given an apron and a knife, and put to work! After that, she and fiance would enjoy dinner at the restaurant. I requested that the staff sign her apron and hand it to her as a souvenier, and Brandon was more than happy to oblige. What do you know?? Things went EXACTLY according to plan. In fact, the experience went above and beyond plan, in that Chef Bruell HIMSELF handed Clefoodgoddess her apron!!

I can't say enough positive things about the staff at L'Albatros. They were an absolute delight to work with. Its not everyday that you can go from idea to plan to execution so easily, and it was in very large part due to the fabulous staff, and of course Clefoodgoddess' fiance, who helped coordinate the surprise. In all seriousness, if you're looking to plan an important and/or special event, I highly recommend that you consider L'Albatros as your location. I can tell you from experience, if you're looking for flawless execution, they certainly know how to deliver!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

XYZ The Tavern

 If you live/work/drive past the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, you may have noticed some activity close to Near West Theatre. Its been going on for some time, and I've been (im)patiently waiting for its completion since last fall. What is it that I'm waiting for? The opening of XYZ the Tavern!!! N and I attended the "soft opening" this past weekend, and here's a sneak peek:

I apologize for the dark picture, but I LOVE the garage doors. They open up to a patio that runs around the side and back of the restaurant. They had a few menu items available to sample, one of which was their chicken and waffles. N deemed them "amazing. Just like my mom makes them", which translates to "I can't wait to eat a real meal there, and of course I'm ordering chicken and waffles".

So here's what the restaurant will look like when it really open (picture courtesy XYZ).

XYZ officially opens on Thursday!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

You're welcome Cleveland

As is my custom every year, I order a pair of new boots in February (for the record, I don't buy shoes in stores any more. Its way too time consuming and frustrating, and why bother with malls when you can just order online with free shipping and returns). Its usually because by this time in the winter, my boots are really beat up with the salt and slush. Also, there's usually some great deals on boots this time in the season. This year, I ordered my boots a little earlier in February than I normally do.

Merrell Spire Peak, piperlime

What I haven't told you is that usually, a week after my new boots arrive, the weather starts to warm up and soon and I can't wear my boots any more. My boots arrived today. You're welcome, Cleveland.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dim Sum in my Tum

A belated Happy Valentine's day to all of you who celebrated. If you follow me on facebook (which you totally should if you don't already), then you know that I spent last night eating Coffee and Donuts with N at Light Bistro in Ohio City.  Seriously, THE BEST DESSERT EVER (and I don't take say these things lightly). I highly recommend making a trip over even if its JUST for dessert.

What I haven't shared yet is what N and I did Sunday. We went to Dim Sum at Li Wah in the Asian Plaza! Li Wah serves Dim Sum everyday, but on Sunday's, its an extra special  authentic experience in that there's actually servers walking around with dim sum carts, and you essentially get to pick what you want. My favorite dishes are the pork-stuffed steamed buns and wonton soup. I don't know what they do to that soup broth, but it is MAGICAL! I will warn you that I don't think there are too many options if you're vegetarian, but if not, its a SUPERFUN brunch alternative on a Sunday. I have no pictures, so I guess you'll just have to go try it out yourself!!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Arm Candy

 No, not that kind!

THIS kind:

I'm really into cuff bracelets these days: they're dramatic, and unlike bangles, not noisy for work. This is one of the more interesting ones I've seen lately. Its made of clay and has a unique look that I've never seen before! Hmmm, I may just have to go ahead and self-gift this beauty!! Do you buy your own jewelry? And not "fun" jewelry, I mean "real" jewelry? I'm a firm believer in not waiting around for someone to buy something that you could just go ahead and get yourself, even if it is something special and sparkly!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bath Candy

N and I have lived in our "somewhat" new place since April. We have a beautiful master bathroom, which includes this magnificent tub.

In which, I have taken ZERO baths!!!! Why, you might ask? Well, for one, I'm not big on baths. Second, I don't have the pretty fizzy things (aka bath bombs) that make your bath all delicious smelling!! A few weeks ago, I finally made it into the Lush store at Beachwood Place, and while I didn't end up buying anything, I did notice these:

At about $5 each, it would be an expensive bath, but oooooh, the indulgence!!! What about you? Do you enjoy long baths? Do pretty bath products make you more inclined to take one? Guys, it goes without saying that these would be a great gift for the woman in your life (including as a just-because gift. Serious bonus points for that one!).

Monday, February 7, 2011

Theme of the week: Candy

So I've been sick with this upper respiratory virus thing-y since Wednesday, and it sucks. Luckily, I've started to feel better this evening, although I still have coughing fits that make me sound like an old man. Gross. Now that I've updated you on my weekend activities, here's a look at what I'm looking forward to this weekend. First off, clefoodgoddess and I will be taking on a bunch of Cleveland bloggers including WhyCle?, Hungry in Cleveland, Poise in Parma, and others in the bowl-a-thon to benefit Secondhand Mutts. Saturday, I'm atttending a 30th Birthday Party, and Sunday, N and I are taking the pups to Grateful Dog Bakery to get Clair some birthday treats to celebrate her very first birthday, which is on Valentine's Day!!!

Valentine's day makes me think of candy, and so, in honor of this much loved/hated holiday, my blog theme of this week will be candy.

I have categories of favorite candies, indulgence vs. vending machine. Indulgence candy is one that is not so readily available, maybe you have to go to the international/fancy candy aisle in the grocery store or a specialty store, while vending machine is well, self explanatory. My favorite vending machine candy is Twix. My indulgence candy favorite(s) are a toss up between Ferrero Rocher (the one that has the crispy shelll, and nutella-like filling) and Cadbury Flake, which is, as the name suggests, flaky.

I remember eating Flake as a kid from street vendors in London, who serve it stuck in a vanilla soft-serve (delicious, btw). I'd forgotten all about them until about two years ago, when my coworker found some at World Market!! World Market seriously has one of the best international candy selections!! Flake+ vanilla softserve= heaven!!!!

So here's a question: given a choice, would you rather receive candy or flowers  for Valentine's day. Ideally, I would receive a candy bouquet, but I don't know if those exist in real life!! How about you??

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review: J Romer Salon

I've mentioned this before, but my regular hair stylist, the fabulous Anna Goldstein, works out of Dino Palmieri at Beachwood. Anna has done my hair for 6+ years, and I LUUUURRRVVE her work. Since N and I became west-siders, Beachwood is just too inconvenient to drive out to every 8-10 weeks. So, I've been searching for a closer salon, and decided to try out J Romer Salon (10904 Clifton Blvd, Cleveland), which is a short walk from where we live.

The salon is small (maybe 4 seats), and is an Aveda salon, but doesn't have its own website. So, all I had to go on was this review from 2006, and I was nervous. 

Since I have such a love-hate relationship with my bangs, I decided to follow the reviewers advice and made an appointment to see Michelle Smith. She started off with a head massage, and it was amazing!!  I took a picture in, and talked to her about my hair-issues; she listened to what my big-picture plan was, offered a few suggestions, and then explained how she planned to cut my hair and why. I really appreciated the detail; being a new client at a new salon can be nerve-wracking!! Ladies, you know exactly what I mean!! Hair washing followed, and she decided to straighten my hair and then cut it dry (which is how I've had it done for the past 6 years). The woman is a BANG-GENIUS!!! Happy day!! I'm over my bang-hate, for now!

So, if you're in the market for a new stylist, I recommend Anna Goldstein on the East side, and Michelle on the West Side, especially if you're thinking about bangs.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A semi-ode to snail-mail

Growing up, I was a big letter-writer. I would write letters to my grandparents and my aunt, and I would be SO excited when I got a reply back. At the time, living at my parents house, it was pretty much the only mail that was addressed to me. Funny how things change in 20-something years. Now I get TONS of mail, 80% of which is stuff I really don't really want/care to see, 8% are coupons, and a mere 2% is fun stuff, and that's usually around the Holidays, when people send Holiday cards (sadly, N and I are not one of those people, but we're going to make a SERIOUS attempt to change that in 2011). Anyway, as a nod to my former love for snail mail, I picked this up at The Cleveland Auction Company a few weeks ago:

How cute is that?!?!? Its a little piggy bank!! Reminds me of visiting my grandparents in London! Hmmm, maybe this is time for a new resolution to send more letters, but since that's realistically not happening, maybe I will just send more cards....