Thursday, March 31, 2016

CIFF: "Good Ol' Boy" Provides Nostalgic Open to 40th Fest

Jason Lee (left) and Roni Akurati (right) star in Good Ol' Boy, which opened the Cleveland International Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Good Ol' Boy

From the opening credits of director Frank Lotito's Good Ol' Boy, it's clear that this kid-falls-in-love-with-the-girl-next-door story is going to hook us with its metal Star Wars lunchboxes, odd-colored rotary telephones and plastic kitchenware that serve as instant shorthand for 1970s America.

Set in the final year of that decade, the film merges that nostalgia with the tale of an Indian couple trying to navigate a new land after immigrating to the American suburbs with their two children. The opportunity available to them is obvious, as are the perils of keeping their traditions alive, which all sounds a lot heavier than the movie actually feels. But that thread of tension becomes ever more taut as the film progresses. 

Early on, we meet 10-year-old Smith (his father wanted to give his son an American-sounding name) riding through his neighborhood on a bicycle with a woven flower basket and streamers while calling out to his neighbors through a loudspeaker hooked to the back fender. He is cute and charming and, yes, completely out of his element, even though America is the only land he can recall living in. (We later learn he was 3 years old when his parents left India.)

What follows is a funny, heartwarming and sometimes sad tale that recalls the memories of how adrift we often feel as kids and how our closest friends (In Smith's case, Amy Brunner, the girl-next-door played by Brighton Sharbino, who many will remember as Lizzie from The Walking Dead) become our entire world.

Although the story centers on the kids, it's as much about the parents and the choices they are faced with, and how the simple act of being neighbors soon intertwines their lives. By the end, it's clear that Good Ol' Boy is an American story — one that plays to our hopes, memories and belief in love. 

The Cleveland International Film Festival is at Tower City Cinemas through April 10. For a film lineup, ticket information and more, visit Good Ol' Boy will have a theatrical release in September. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

13 Egg-cellent Easter Brunches

Whether your youngsters are hopping out of their seats to meet the Easter Bunny or you're looking for a swanky spot to get you out of the kitchen and out on the town, we have a Easter brunch for you.

Easter brunch at The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland


The Ritz Carlton
1515 W Third St, Cleveland; 216-623-1300;
Add a touch of glam to your Easter celebration with the Easter Ballroom Brunch at the Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland. With seven stations including fine cuisine ranging from sushi to wild mushroom pasta and Easter-themed desserts such as Coconut Bunny Tails, foodies and kiddies alike will leave satisfied.

Nautica Queen
1153 Main Ave., Cleveland; 216-696-8888;, 1-3:30 p.m.
Set sail with the Easter Bunny for a family cruise and brunch. The Nautica Queen’s first cruise of 2016 will take you under historic bridges and along the city skyline. Depart at 1p.m. and enjoy a special Easter meal topped off with unlimited coffee and tea.

Table 45
9801 Carnegie Ave., Cleveland; 216-707-4160;
Eat your fill into an ocean trance to the sounds of live Caribbean music. There will be children’s face-painting  and breakfast drinks, including Champagne cocktails and bloody marys, for adults.

Cleveland Chop
824 W St Clair Ave., Cleveland; 216-696-2467;; 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; $30 for adults and $12 for children ages 5-12, 4 and under free. 
If you’re looking for sugar and spice on your Easter morning, Cleveland Chop is the place to be. Made-to-order omelettes, a carving station and freshly baked cinnamon rolls add variety to your plate. While drinks are not included, there are plenty of inventive options to tempt us such as the house-infused chipotle bloody mary.

Urban Farmer
1325 E. Sixth St., Cleveland; 216-771-7707;; 8 a.m.-3 p.m.; $48, for adults, $20 for children under 10.
Local favorites await you and your family with Urban Farmer’s impressive spread. Action stations include an omelette and a carving station, and be sure to visit the deviled egg bar. Breakfast breads and sausages are made in house, and your youngster won’t want to miss the kids' buffet featuring mini grilled cheese and other fun-sized bites.


The Lodge at Geneva on the Lake
4888 N. Broadway (state Route 534) Geneva-on-the-Lake; 440-415-1546;; 10:00 am-3:00 pm.
Hop over to the Lodge Easter morning and enjoy one of three Easter egg hunts at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., or 2 p.m. Treats and prizes will be awarded alongside a delicious spread of springtime brunch foods.

Valenti’s Ristorante
3365 Richmond Road, Suite 130, Beachwood 216-464-4665;, 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; $39.95 for adults, $15.95 for children under 12, under 5 free
Add some Italian flavor to your holiday with Valenti's antipasti created by Milo Valenti himself. This family-friendly setting will offer both omelet and carving stations. Don't fill up on the main course though. With bread pudding, cakes and cookies, you'll want to save room for dessert.

Forest Hill Kitchen
3099 Mayfield Road, Cleveland Heights; 216-505-1345;; 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
With banquet-style seating, an a la carte menu, and a bloody mary bar, this pop-up Easter brunch in the old Rockefeller's space is difficult to beat. Try the popular Orange Cardamom French Toast ($10), made with challah bread and creme chantilly. While there is no children’s menu, don’t despair — the chefs will happily prepare a smaller portion of any dish for your youngster.


Deagan’s Kitchen & Bar:
14810 Detroit Ave., Lakewood; 216-767-5775;; 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
If you need to take a break from binging on Peeps but still want something to satisfy your sweet tooth, try Deagan's blueberry waffles spread with lemon curd and lavender meringue. There's savory here too such as the white asparagus bisque or the beet and hamachi salad.

100th Bomb Group
20920 Brookpark Road, Cleveland; 216-267-1010;; 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Toast the holiday with the Champagne buffet and comforting breakfast foods as you and your family visit the Easter Bunny. Brunch is served until 2:30 p.m., but the feast will continue through the afternoon featuring prime rib, ham, chilled seafood, sushi rolls and more.

Luxe Kitchen & Lounge
6605 Detroit Ave., Cleveland; 216-920-0600; 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.
If you’re over all the pastel bunnies and  egg-shaped candies, escape to Luxe for a sophisticated brunch. Try the poached eggs ($15) with crab, potato cakes, cheddar and herbed hollandaise. Fans of ricotta you want to miss the lemon ricotta pancakes ($12) or the house-made ricotta gnocchi with Gorgonzola cream sauce ($21).


The Taverne on Richfield
3960 Broadview Road, Richfield; 330-659-0610;; 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. $26.99 adults, $13.99 children under 8, children under 2 free. 
Get your fill of breakfast items such as the homemade pastries with your choice of toppings including bourbon walnut syrup or hearty lunch items including the veggie lasagna Alfredo at Taverne of Richfield’s diverse Prime Rib & Brunch Easter Buffet. A maple and brown sugar ham awaits you at the carving station and kids can finish up with dirt cups.

111 Bistro
2736 Medina Road, Medina; 330-952-1122;; seating 10 am, noon, 2 p.m. $26 adults, $7 for children 10 and under. 
Feast on carved sirloin roast with spinach and artichoke risotto, or indulge your taste buds with petite four desserts from Dancing Desserts. Kids can munch on anything from white mac n’ cheese to chicken fingers and fries.

Additional reporting by Madeline Sweeney

Friday, March 18, 2016

One Year Later: An Adoptee Reconnects with Her Birth Mother

Julie Mooney was one of 400,000 adoptees who were able to legally access their birth certificates for the first time in Ohio one year ago thanks to the advocacy efforts of Adoption Network Cleveland. The change in law that allowed adoptees born in Ohio between Jan. 1, 1964, and Sept. 18, 1996, to access their birth certificates was a first step in a new direction for Mooney — she lost both of her adoptive parents and wanted answers about her origins. Having access to her birth certificate meant she could finally connect the dots and discover the secrets of her past.

Cleveland Magazine
followed Mooney on her life-altering journey to find her birth mother Lyssa Marie Kappel* over the course of four months for the feature, "My Name is Julie," published last August. The reunion wasn’t without obstacles, but through a long-awaited healing process, the two created a bond. Mooney also discovered she had two younger siblings.

“After print, the story got even better because then Lyssa opened me up to her whole family, but it took that to get her to that point,” says Mooney. “I finally bit the bullet and got over everything as hard as it was. I’m so much more confident in my life. So many positive things happened after that whole event.”

Distant at first, Julie and Lyssa are now close. 

"I went to spend Christmas with them and it was awesome," Julie says. "I felt like a new puppy at Christmas. The holidays are a hard time anyways missing my parents. I was just thinking, What are the odds that you lose your parents and you get a second chance at family? It was absolutely amazing."

This weekend, March 18-20, Adoption Network Cleveland is hosting an annual three-day conference at the DoubleTree in Westlake to celebrate and honor adoptees and the various roles adopted parents and birth families have in their lives. Events include talks, workshops and performances. 

By James Bigley II

* Cleveland Magazine changed her name to protect her identity.

A Sea of Green

Not only is St. Patrick's Day a time to play Irish with Emerald Isle flags, face-paint and green brews, but it's also an opportunity to sample some of Cleveland's Irish cuisine. Here are some of the tastiest dishes that will satisfy your inner leprechaun.

The HarpThis West Side hot spot isn’t only known for its iconic view of the skyline but also its irresistible Irish boxty cakes, which are delicious and fluffy potato pancakes. The corned beef boxty ($13) packs in house-prepared brisket with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and is topped with Russian dressing. Or take your pick from the other wide variety of other flavors including salmon ($16), steak ($15), chicken ($14), veggie ($13), and turkey ($13). 4408 Detroit Ave., Cleveland 216-939-0200,

Mavis Winkles: This premier Irish pub sits in the heart of Twinsburg and has its roots in Ireland. Mavis offers classics such as shepherd’s pie ($8.99 half, $12.99 full) with ground beef slowly cooked with corn, celery, carrots and onions in a rich gravy, topped with garlic mashed potatoes and Parmesan. 8870 Darrow Road, Twinsburg, 330-405-3663,

Winking Lizard Tavern: The Cleveland institution has taken its own spin on the holiday with dishes including the Irish Pizza ($8.79), made up of fresh rye pizza dough topped with corned beef, mustard and Swiss cheese. 811 Huron Rd E, Cleveland, 216-589-0313,

Flat Iron Cafe: 
For 100 years, the Flat Iron Cafe has been one of Cleveland’s go-to Irish hangouts. The Irish Bend burger ($8.99) is smothered in freshly sliced mushrooms, sauteed to perfection and topped with Swiss cheese. If you fancy yourself an Irish jig, stop by from 7-11 p.m. to hear a performance by Donal O'Shaughnessy, who is a self-taught, multicultural musician and has performed throughout the country. 1114 Center St., Cleveland, 216-696-6968,

PJ McIntyre’s Irish Pub: If you're looking for an all-star Irish appetizer, the Irish egg rolls are the one for you. It is your classic Reuben sandwich stuffed in a deep-friend wonton wrapper ($8.99). If you want something heartier, order the Wicked Irishman ($9.99), which is a burger with jalapenos, served with Sriracha ketchup and pepper jack cheese. 17119 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, 216- 941-9311,

Nighttown: This Cleveland Heights staple opened its doors in 1965 and serves a creative Irish take on a Lobster dish. The Famous Dublin Lawyer ($26), served with rice, is sauteed in a mild cayenne butter cream sauce, mushrooms, scallions and one more key ingredient: Irish whiskey. 12383 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-795-0550,

Tilted Kilt: This chain eatery with roots in Las Vegas has a spread that will satisfy your drunk cravings for greasy, fried snacks including Irish nachos. The appetizer is a pile of crispy potato chips covered with melted cheese sauce, seasoned ground beef and tomatoes ($8.50). 21 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, 216-771-5458,

Hofbrauhaus Cleveland: Enjoy St. Patrick’s Day with a Bavarian twist. You'll want to start the party here with a special kegs and eggs breakfast, from 8-11 a.m., with offerings such as corned beef hash with sunny-side up eggs ($9.99) and bier-battered pancakes ($9.99). 1550 Chester Ave., Cleveland, 216-621-2337,

Slyman’s Restaurant: Established in 1964, Slyman’s is famous for its corned beef. They go through up to 700 pounds of corned beef daily and get Jewish rye delivered every day from Orlando’s Baking Co. Their tall corned beef sandwich is only $14 and well-worth waiting in line for. 3106 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, 216-621-3760,

Monday, March 7, 2016

Casa Roja Out; Gamekeeper's Cottage In

The folks behind Gamekeeper's Taverne will try their hand at another dining concept inside the quaint red building at 79 West St. in Chagrin Falls. What started in 2008 as Village Exchange and later that year as West End Bistro, most recently became Casa Roja. While its June 2015 opening looked promising with a menu of Spanish-style tapas, Gamekeeper's Taverne owners closed the doors last month.

But the space won't sit empty for long. Gamekeeper's Taverne has plans to revamp it in time for the iconic Chagrin Falls restaurant's 40th anniversary this spring. "I know for sure it is going to be called Gamekeeper's Cottage," says general manager Bob Humphrey.

Foodies can expect a wide array of mouthwatering options at Gamekeeper's Cottage along with a warm, welcoming atmosphere. "It's primarily going to be a lot of sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, salads with salmon or chicken," says Humphrey. "We want to do kind of a more family-friendly style place."

Although the main focus will be on the food, Gamekeeper's Cottage will have a full wine list and happy hours. "If it is not open for lunch during the week, then we might open at like 2:30 and do an aggressive happy hour," says Humphrey. "When we opened the Casa concept, we kind of did a happy hour from 2:30 to 6 p.m to catch that crowd that wanted to do happy hour."

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

You Decide: Voters Select Public Art for Collinwood

Democracy has gotten more creative. This election season, not only can pick your politician, but now you can pick your art too. Thanks to Collinwood's The Ballot Box Project, residents of Ward 8 have a say in what art lines the streets and  fills establishments. It's the first participatory budgeting effort in Ohio, which means residents decide where neighborhood funds go. The funds in question are $120,000 from ArtPlace, a collaboration of foundations working to make arts and culture a core concept of community planning and development, for arts placemaking in Collinwood. 

Citizens chose the community issues the art projects should address: Collinwood history, vacancy, healthy eating, and youth engagement.  Thirty-four artists have worked on proposals on the topics and now, from March 4-9, members of the community can vote on the projects at various locations. A minimum of eight artists will be awarded: the project with the most votes from each category plus the next four highest voted projects. If there is enough money for an additional project there could potentially be a ninth award. The winners will be announced March 17, and projects will be implemented over the rest of this year. Before you hit the polls, here is a sample of ideas you'll see on your ballot. 

Collinwood History: Residents want the history of the neighborhood to be remembered. Comedian Timothy Cornett proposes a monthly podcast, recorded live at the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern , that will relay stories of Collinwood’s rich history. “I am taking residents’ personal stories and putting them in podcast form for free,” he says. “We will have local artists and musicians texturing the storytelling to make it entertaining.”

Cornett would like to see the history of Waterloo recorded in a podcast at the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern.

Vacancy: “I live on a block of two or three vacant houses,” says artist Jessica Pinsky, executive director of Praxis Fiber Studio in the Waterloo Arts District. “I thought the Ballot Box Project would be a great opportunity to do something to beautify and unify the neighborhood while drawing attention and awareness on vacancy.” Pinsky is proposing hanging peace flags throughout the neighborhood. Community members, with thickened dye, can write or draw on the flags before taking a large squeegee and blending the colors together. The flags will hang throughout Collinwood’s vacant lots and homes.

Examples of peace flags painted at Praxis Fiber Studio in the Waterloo Arts District

Healthy Eating: Kevin Scheuring, market manager of Coit Road Farmers Market, hopes to engage the community with area chefs to produce free food shows and inspire more people to be home chefs. “One of our primary challenges is getting people to cook so our farmers can actually sell the fruits and vegetables they grow,” he says. The goal of this project is to have a food show with vendors and farmers, and add an educational component of teaching basic cooking techniques such as sauteing or knife handling.

Free cooking class sponsored by Coit Road Farmers Market

Youth Engagement: When Bridget Caswell picked up her first camera at the age of 15, she knew she found her passion. The photographer is proposing to create Collinwood Camera Club, an after-school club that will bring in high school students from around the region and teach them about photography. “We would have a studio, and professionals could help teach students do things like photo essays," she says. Caswell hopes students will be able to share their community stories through the lens of a camera.

Photograph by Bridget Caswell