Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sweet Spot

If you love chocolate, pack your bags and head for Pennsylvania. I’ve gotten word from a friend who works at the Hershey Resort about a month long series of events and activities that begins on Friday, Jan 30th called Chocolate Covered February. She even sent photos from last years doings to lure me into coming.
The hotel, lodge, and museum located in the hometown of candy kisses, and just a six hour drive from Cleveland, are offering an irresistible array of chocolate infused entertainment: tastings, themed dinners, chef demos, and dessert buffets. Book a room and spend your days and nights filling truffles, learning about pods and nibs, attending cooking school, and going cocoa crazy at Sunday brunch. '
What really grabs my attention are the more adult pleasures. I’m talking alcohol not anything x-rated: sessions for sampling chocolate paired with wines, rum, or cognac; and Saturday cocktail classes that promise to make me a master of the chocolate martini.

Since everybody knows- and scientific studies confirm- that women crave chocolate more than any other food, I can’t think of a better spot for a girlfriends’ getaway. On the other hand the chemical stew that is chocolate is said to be a stimulant and an aphrodisiac, prompting energy surges and a sense of lightheaded giddiness that feels a lot like love. So this could be just the thing for you and your sweetie. As for me- I could be happy all by my lonesome as long as I have a reservation at the Spa for a whipped cocoa bath, a chocolate bean polish, and a 50 minute cocoa massage.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Christmas (Ale) in January

Since Cleveland Magazine endeavors to serve as this city's definitive guide to the joys of Cleveland beer, we feel compelled to report this important find:

Harvey's, the hotel bar at the Hilton Garden Inn at Carnegie and East 9th, is still serving Great Lakes Christmas Ale on tap.

Careful, though. A month after Christmas, we'd forgotten what a woozy kick a single pint of the stuff packs. (7.5% alcohol is like two beers in one.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

New Year lion dances

With the Chinese New Year approaching on Jan. 26, George Kwan is diligently sewing, painting, gluing and even making new drumsticks in his west side Cleveland home.

Kwan, one of Cleveland Magazine’s 2009 Most Interesting People in this month's issue, lives a double life this time of year as team leader for his family-run Kwan Lion Dance Team and as a 14-year veteran of the Cleveland Police.

The Kwan family task before the Chinese holiday and Year of the Ox begins is tedious: repair a roughly nine-foot long lion costume with intricate color patterns and a cape for future dances.

“The long costumes are a bear,” Kwan says of the repair work. Kwan has five Lion costumes in different conditions and a kid lion costume, too. The team uses one lion for shows, Kwan said. 

The lion repair work has kept Kwan so busy (roughly nine hours a day), he turned down an opportunity to work as a police officer, backing up the Washington D.C. police, at President Barack Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20. 

“With all the New Years prep, there is no way I could go,” he says.

With the help of his family, the preparation needs to be precise, because a flawed “lion” dance performance can bring bad luck. A flawless “lion” dance can ward off evil spirits and can bring good fortune, happiness, wealth and prosperity.

The Kwan Lion Dance Team is slated for 19 local performances, with each lasting roughly 30 minutes, in the weeks ahead. The team, started by George’s late father, a Chinese immigrant, includes Kwan and 12 relatives.

The team’s scheduled performances are:

Jan. 24: Pearl of the Orient, 1 p.m., 19300 Detroit Road, Rocky River, (440) 333-9902.

Jan. 25: House of Hunan Fairlawn, 2 p.m., 2717 W. Market Street, Fairlawn, (330) 864-8215.

Jan. 25: Li Wah, 6:30 p.m., 2999 Payne Ave., Cleveland, (216) 696-6556.

Jan. 26: Li Wah, 11 a.m.

Jan. 26: Hunan By the Falls, 5 p.m., 508 E. Washington Street, Chagrin Falls, (440) 247-0808.

Jan. 26: House of Hunan Medina, 6:30 p.m., 18 Public Square, Medina, (330) 722-1899.

Jan. 27: Li Wah, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 28: Imperial Dragon Mentor, 7 p.m., 8310 Tyler Boulevard, Mentor (440-974-8838.

Jan. 31: Li Wah, 11 a.m.

Jan. 31: House of Hunan Akron, 2 p.m., 12 East Exchange Street, Akron (330) 253-1888.

Jan. 31: Hunan Solon, 5 p.m., 6050 Enterprise Parkway, Solon (440) 248-8836.

Jan. 31: Bo Loong, 6 p.m., 3922 St. Clair Avenue, Cleveland (216) 391-3113.

Feb. 1: Tink Hall Market, 3 p.m., 1735 East 36th Street, Cleveland. 

Feb. 1: Imperial Dragon Mentor, 7 p.m.

Feb. 7: Bo Loong, noon.

Feb. 7: King Wah, 3 p.m., 20668 Center Ridge Road, Rocky River, (440) 331-0330.

Feb. 8: House of Hunan Medina, 4 p.m.

Feb. 8: Imperial Dragon Mentor, 7 p.m.

Feb. 15: Imperial Dragon Mentor, 7 p.m.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oh Mo, He Didn't

Yes, he did. Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Mo Williams helped his team to victory over the Portland Trail Blazers last night with 33 points — a season high for the Jackson, Miss. native. In his first year with the Cavs, Williams is proving to be the answer to the team's often lacking offense behind LeBron James (who scored 34 points respectively). Not only was Williams 12 of 19 from the field, he scored 10 points in the fourth quarter with two three-pointers in the final two minutes of the game. Next up? The Cavs head to Oakland to take on the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.

Photo courtesy NBA photos/Getty Images

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Generous bosses

Publisher Frank Bird was digging around in an old office yesterday, and found a gem. He realized he could give me a big upgrade. He had seen what I'd been writing on during my month of giving up technology :

While no one else in the office would want this find he made, he knew it would be an upgrade for me. Heck, it has spell check!

Things are looking up.

To read about my month of giving up all technology that wasn't in common use at the time of my birth, pick up January's Cleveland Magazine or click here.

Since you're going to be drinking beer anyway...

Samuel Adams sent Cleveland Magazine over two new beers that will be on shelves next month, an Imperial White and an Imperial Stout.

Before I give you my thoughts, some biases to get out of the way: In general, if I'm not drinking a microbrew, I'm drinking Sam Adams. In general, I really like the taste of their beers. I also prefer hefeweizens, anything overly hoppy and I like ales.

The Imperial White is very smooth, and should be drunk out of a glass. I noticed a little yeast sediment in the bottle when I held it up to the light. It had a hint of citrus — maybe orange? — and it goes down too easy considering it has 9 percent alcohol.

Verdict: Definitely a good beer. I'm sure more will end up in my fridge at some point.

The Imperial Stout had me a little nervous. I like some stouts, but they're not what I'm going to order. The beer is not just dark, it is black. The first taste you get is sweet, coffee-like. Then a tiny bit of bitter hits you. I really enjoyed it, which means drinkers who prefer stouts will probably think it was too sweet and not bitter enough.

Verdict: I enjoyed it but not enough to buy.

Fork in the Road

There’s lots of advice for managing your money and weathering the economic turmoil that has most of us anxious in Suze Orman’s 2009 Action Plan. Among the financial planning guru’s prescriptions is to stop going out to eat for a month. Bad idea. There are many smart ways to save money but this isn’t one of them. At least that’s what some of us think. I give you two opinions on the subject.

The first is from Douglas Katz, Owner of fire food and drink and President of Cleveland Independents
As a Suze Orman fan and a chef/independent restaurateur, I must take issue with her recommendation to avoid eating out as part of her 2009 action plan. In principal, avoiding eating out may provide a short-term solution for select consumers, however, it is crucial to view this decision in term of both its short and long-term impact on the economy.
According to All Business, a D&B Company:
• Restaurant-industry employment will reach 13.3 million by 2012.
• In 2010, the restaurant industry will operate more than 1 million units and post sales of $577 billion
• More than eight out of 10 salaried employees at table-service restaurants started as hourly employees
• One third of all adults in the United States have worked in the restaurant industry at some time during their lives
• The number of African-American-owned and women-owned eating and drinking place firms increased at double digit rating during the past decade
• Eating and drinking places rank second, based on sales volume, among retail establishments owned by African-Americans and Hispanics
• Eating and drinking places employ more minority managers than any other industry
With independent restaurants closing on a daily basis due to lack of volume, Suze’s advice can only serve to further impact this situation. It is my hope that she will investigate this situation in a more global manner and ultimately discuss the fact that, in this particular instance, she may have jumped to a conclusion that does not best serve the consumer.

Katz has assembled some important facts and figures. My views are less researched and more personal. With vacation plans on indefinite hold, eating out is one form of fun I can still afford. A restaurant meal may be a luxury, but it’s one that's within reach for me, when so many things are not, and the experience usually lifts my spirits. After working all day or all week, it’s like a mini-holiday just to sit back and be served. It feels good to relax, get out of the house, and put my cares aside for an hour or two. And in these hard times, I need that.

And let’s not forget that those people taking care of us in a restaurant-from the servers and bussers to the prep guys and dishwashers in the back, are our friends, neighbors, family-members, somebody’s son or daughter, all just trying to earn a living like you and me. They live in northeast Ohio and spend their money here so that means they’re helping to keep all kinds of other people employed. We’re an economic eco-system, a community, with every part inter-related and inter-dependent. Now’s the time to pull together, not turn our backs on one another.

And think about this. Virtually every charitable organization and worthy cause in this town enlist the support of local restaurant owners and chefs for their events. They are a regular presence at fundraisers, DONATING time, talent, and countless pans and platters of wonderful food to support the good causes the rest of us champion . Now it’s our turn to support them. If we don’t many will go out of business. We’ll miss them when they’re gone and lose valuable cultural and community resources.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The inauguration as seen from Playhouse Square

I should have known better than to show up at the Palace Theater’s viewing of the inauguration of Barack Obama only 20 minutes before he was to take the stage. I took my place among a row of other recent arrivals who were standing at the back and dutifully texting their friends stuck at the office to say, “Yeah, it’s packed.” Even though only Sen. Feinstein was speaking, no one had a moment to give me a comment; I felt like someone being shushed for talking through the previews.

Aretha Franklin earned cheers from the Palace crowd, twice; so did new Vice President Joe Biden, even though no one (except those in the back) listened when Sen. Feinstein asked the crowd in Washington to stand. The Palace audience sure stood, though, when Obama was announced. Stood, and cheered, thunderously, hands clapping high in the air, then listened breathlessly as Obama repeated the oath, and Chief Justice Roberts’ little gaffe over the first line faded quickly into the background as he concluded, “Congratulations, Mr. President.”

I did manage to talk to a few people after President Obama finished his address — such as C. J. Carter of Cleveland, who works at the juvenile court and brought a group of teenagers from the court's “day report program” to the Palace for the event.

“As a kid, I was forced to watch the inauguration of President Kennedy, and I remember it to this day,” Carter said. “I wanted to give these kids the same experience. It's like castor oil; it's good for them, whether they like it or not.”

James Heidmann, 13, of Solon, admitted that his mom had brought him downtown to watch the event even though it was a school day.

“We couldn’t miss a chance like this,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

Sixteen-month-old Jill Tennant of Lakewood probably wins the award for youngest viewer at the Palace. Maybe in a few years, her big brother Owen, 4, will tell her about it.

“Who was inaugurated president today?” asked Owen’s mom, Jeri.

Owen, running around on the big marble staircase, stopped for a moment and looked up at me with as serious an expression as a four-year-old can muster.

“Barack Obama,” he said.

(Photo: Jeri, Owen, Jill and Tom Tennant)

Local Photographer Wins National Recognition

You probably have seen the work of local photographer Chris Walters on the pages of Cleveland Magazine. He recently photographed legendary TV personality Charles "Big Chuck" Schodowski for our December issue and Superman enthusiast Brad Ricca in this month's issue. Walters' work is honored this month on the pages of American Photo. He was among the select few to win an honorable mention in the personal work category of the 2008 Images of the Year Competition for the above photo. If you are trying to find his name in American Photo, you won't find it. The magazine mislabeled his photo with photographer Chris Waters. Oops. To see more of Walters' work, visit

Monday, January 19, 2009

An inauguration blog

During the inauguration, Cleveland Magazine's staff will be either toiling away here in Playhouse Square or watching the ceremony at the Palace Theater. But we have a correspondent in Washington this week, sort of: Kristin Majcher, a recent intern for us, is one of three reporters blogging from the capital this week for the Athens News, a newspaper in Athens, Ohio.

Their blog is at Check it out.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lunch On Ice

For some of us here at CM, Luchita's on West 117th is one of our favorite lunch spots — though usually we can only sneak away for special occasions. Today was one of those days and even though it was below zero outside we didn't care. We've been waiting for their tasty salsa and chips and amazing burritos and enchiladas all week — and a little cold weather wasn't going to stop us. We made our way to the restaurant only to let out a loud squeal of disappointment when we got to the door. A sign reading: Closed. No heat. Sorry. We couldn't believe it. But we followed the heater repairman inside anyway. The employees at Luchita's, all bundled up with scarves, took one look at all of us and said we could stay if we wanted — we just might be cold. Though we could see our breath and had to keep our coats on, we opted to stay. And by the time we left, others had followed our lead proving that all people want is some good food — even if they have to use gloves to eat it.

Want to let us know what your favorite restaurant is? Fill out our Silver Spoon ballot and enter for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to a winning restaurant and two tickets our Silver Spoon Party. There's not much time left, so vote soon!

Flickr photo courtesy of musicgrl23

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

LeBron on GQ

LeBron James. February GQ. Looking good. Enough said. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eat Out Get Away

I’m tired and grumpy. An Aspen skiing vacation would be nice right about now. As long as I didn’t have to actually ski. I’m more of an apr├Ęs kind of girl. My idea of a good time is hanging out in the lodge in front of a roaring fire with an adult beverage. But with round trip airfare around $700, jetting out to Colorado is definitely not happening.
Luckily there’s Blue Canyon in Twinsburg, a spot much closer to home that can create the illusion of getting away and satisfy my taste for a rustic mountain retreat.

A Saturday evening spent there recently reminded me of just how much vacation vibe there is in the log cabin look, big stone hearth and antler accessories. If the husband and I had gotten a room- better yet a suite- next door at the Hilton Garden Inn , stayed overnight, and come back for Sunday brunch- after a dip in the whirlpool of course- we could have taken the get away fantasy to the next level.

But dinner was a wonderful taste trip in itself. Chef Brandt Evans does creative American food. That means he’s not shy about mixing in some Asian spice, Italian ingredients, and French style. We had scallops wrapped in salmon bacon, poached lobster with lemongrass scallion butter, the polenta crusted calamari pictured here, with a sweet Thai chile and soy emulsion, pierogi filled with duck confit, and braised short ribs with smoked tomato spoon bread. Everything was lick the plate clean delicous. He has wines custom blended to go with his dishes and the pairings we tried at his recommendation really made the preparations sing.
Although stuffed we still had to do dessert- smores on a stick with housemade marshmallows were ridiculously good.

Some January specials make a Blue Canyon “holiday” even more of a bargain. Mondays are Date Night, with dinner for two priced at only $35. Wednesdays school employees and first responders- police, firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs- get 25 % off entrees. Thursdays are Ladies Night- aps and pizza are half price and drinks are discounted. A tasting event on January 20 features 20 wines for $20.

Photos courtesy of Brandt Evans and photographers Brad Ronevich and Steve Zorc

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Smart Investing

Money’s tight these days for many people and I definitely count myself a member of that penny pinching group. But I’ve decided that this is no reason to go on a complete starvation diet when it comes to fun. Having a good meal, prepared, served, and cleaned up by people other than me, and enjoyed with family or friends plus something fermented or distilled, is a favorite way to play. Perhaps that’s because I’m still in recovery from cooking nightly for three sons- now grown and capable of fending for themselves- and a husband, all big guys with big appetites. No matter how often I do it, eating in a restaurant feels out of the ordinary, lifts me up and out of the day’s problems, and goes a long way towards turning any evening into an occasion.

One of the places that delivers a lot of pleasure for a small investment is Sergio’s in University Circle. The menu once leaned heavily towards Brazilian fare, but now has a Mediterranean bent. I come here to do what I think of as table traveling. Chef Ryan Alabaugh runs the kitchen and he’s made it his mission to source the best, most authentic imported products that really ramp up the flavor of everything he offers. I can go all Spanish by ordering a glass of garnet colored Tempranillo and tapas plates of chorizo sausage simmered in wine; scallops with Serrano ham in a zesty romesco sauce; crispy rodillo (artichokes and manchego cheese wrapped in more of that wonderful dry cured country ham); and a baked egg dish called huevos flamencos. Or do an Italian thing with an antipasto of Tuscan style Molinari pepperoni and salami, handmade pappardelle pasta in lemon pistachio pesto cream, and a bottle of Soave or Barbera.

And you never know what fantastic special the Chef and his crew will whip up. I once had the most amazing pheasant broth. Pictured here is chargrilled balsamic glazed beef tenderloin basilico"on a bed of mixed greens with feta. The selection of cheeses-served with fruit, nuts, and other tasty tidbits and condiments- is always changing and always spectacular. So yes- I am trying to spend carefully. But there’s no doubt in my mind that these relatively modest culinary indulgences are a good investment. After all, dining out makes for happy times and nice memories that are guaranteed not to lose value. And I can’t say the same for my house or my 401K

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Most Interesting Contributing Editor: Coondog O'Karma

If you haven't checked out the letters page in January's issue, you missed a great note by Cleveland Magazine contributing editor Dave "Coondog" O'Karma on why he deserves to be named one of Cleveland's Most Interesting People.

Check it out here.

To see who the editors chose instead, click here.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Eat at Great Lakes Brewing in early December?

An odd charge showed up on my online banking this morning. My debit card was charged by Great Lakes Brewing Company, but I haven't eaten there since Dec. 5.

Turns out, the Ohio City restaurant had some trouble with its credit/debit cards for a 10-day period last month. The paper slips are just now being processed.

So if you swiped a debit or credit card at GLBC early last month, you could see that charge pop up in the near future.

Check out our January podcast

This month we talk about Monica Potter showing some skin on our cover, we interview Brad Ricca on Cleveland's Superman connections and we hear about life after ditching technology with, ahem, me (Andy Netzel). One of our Most Interesting People, John Petkovic and his band Cobra Verde provides musical accompaniment.

Click here to listen. If you like it, search for Cleveland Magazine in iTunes and subscribe. (It's free!)