Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chicago Takeover: BlogHer '13- The Expo

I have to begin to touch on the real reason that we were in Chicago--- to attend the annual BlogHer conference. The blogging conference of blogging conferences rotates cities each year, and last August when they announced that it would be held in Chicago--- Michelle and I just knew that we had to make it happen. So, we purchased early-bird tickets in September, and I started to forget about the July trip. It suddenly was upon us, and I didn't sleep well for two nights leading up to our departure. I was excited, and maybe a little anxious. This would be my first blogging conference. I wasn't sure what to expect. So, I wanted to share a bit of my experience, for anyone that is considering attending next year's conference.

Night One: The Expo

We traveled in Thursday to Chicago, and Thursday evening brought attendees a "Night at the Expo" to cruise through all of the sponsor booths. There were all kinds of products, and lots to see. I can understand why this conference is sometimes referred to as "SwagHer", because it is easy to get distracted by the shiny things that someone is offering to you for free. I picked up a few items that I will never blog about (like an entire bag full of health/beauty products from CVS Minute Clinic or the Windex), but I tried to stay focused and only engage in conversations with the food and beverage booths. The highlight?

Meeting celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein in the Lean Cuisine booth! This foodie had a total geek-out moment, and I suddenly became painfully shy.
She's been working with the company on their New Lean Cuisine Honestly Good line, and guess what...they are honestly good. So many frozen meals, particularly the diet ones, are so bland and boring. They only have six versions right now, but I opted to try the Lemongrass Salmon from the booth.
This self-proclaimed salmon-hater wanted to truly put it to the test. The fish was mild, and the sauce was packed with flavor! Someone asked me if they were preparing it using a microwave at the booth, and that I can't swear by because I didn't see them actually heat it up for us. Certainly, if they were warming it using another method, then this could affect the presentation. However, this sample did leave me wanting to try one for myself at home. This is by no means a sponsored post, and Lean Cuisine has no idea that I'm writing about them. I was just impressed by the product, and wanted to share that with you. You can find them in Whole Foods and Target locally, but look near the organic frozen section instead of by the regular frozen diet meals. They retail a bit higher, but I think flavor and better quality product are worth it.

We also ran into the Pillsbury Doughboy out on the Expo floor.
I had imagined that the Expo would be a bit bigger, with more vendors, but overall they did a nice job. There was often complimentary food and beverage stations (including alcohol at times), and even some treat stations throughout the day (like the ice cream cooler!).
We ended up spending the entire three hours at The Expo the first evening, mingling with brands and finding friends. I stopped in a few other times throughout the conference to kill some time in between sessions, or to catch a booth that I had missed. I saw some interesting products, had a few conversations that I hope lead to something for this blog, and mostly I just had an entertaining time.

Some Expo Tips:
- be prepared to break your shoulder carrying the heavy tote bags of product
- wear comfortable shoes, as the floor is hard and you walk a lot
- engage in conversation with only the brands that you may be interested in working with
- map out a clear path through the booths so that you don't miss something
- ask the brands "How are you working with bloggers currently, or what do you hope to do?"
- you'll get plenty of swag throughout the conference, so don't bother accepting something that you won't use or won't want to transport home
- If you're flying, bring an extra suitcase or leave enough room in your bag to pack all of the swag

Next up: The conference sessions, and some things that I took away from the experience!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Chicago Takeover

Cleveland has my heart, but I may have a little crush...

I spent Thursday - Monday in Chicago for the annual BlogHer conference, with a little bit of playtime built in as well. I'm back in the 216, with a happy glow from my trip and full of ideas for this blog. You'll see some changes coming! But all good things, I hope.

We'll be having a little Chicago takeover this week on the blog, as I have lots to share with you. Tourist stops, BlogHer lessons and tips, and of course...the food. Ah, the food.

First, I want to share with you a few of the things that Michelle and I did during our "play day" on Sunday. We certainly packed a lot in, and saw several of the classic CHI spots.

We took in "the bean", Cloud Gate, in Millennium Park.
A walk through the park then led us to the Art Institute of Chicago. We strolled through, taking in some iconic pieces that were breathtaking to be in front of. Totally worth the $23 price tag of admission.
A quick cab ride got us over to the Navy Pier, with just enough time to squeeze it in before heading out for an epic Chicago meal.
The view of the city from the pier was beautiful, and it made me a little wistful for what Cleveland "could be" if we really utilized our waterfront.

The only thing that we didn't get to that I had wanted to do was an architectural boat tour. But, there's always next time...because there WILL BE a next time. I fell in love with Chicago a little bit. I kind of felt like I was cheating on Cleveland. Forgive me?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Luna Bakery and Cafe

As Michelle and I prepared for our trip to Chicago to attend BlogHer'13, we met for lunch at Luna Bakery and Café to talk through our travel plans and the conference sessions and tips.

I didn't realize that it was so close to Mad Greek, and that I had been right by it so many times. Since it's tucked just around a bend in the street, it can be hard to miss if you're not looking for it. But it has a great little patio dining area out front, and signage that was hard to miss once I knew to be looking for it. Parking was free in the lot behind the strip of buildings. When you enter the restaurant, you're met with a counter full of sweet and savory treats...like these s'mores bars that was teasing us from the moment we laid eyes on them.
The menu may not be large, but it features enough appetizing panini sandwiches, salads, soup, and crepes. I was thrilled to see their combo options, and decided to do a half sandwich/half soup combo so that I could sample two dishes on my first visit.
Since it was a hot summer day, the fresh mozzarella sandwich with tomato and basil pesto sounded good to me. I paired it with the soup of the day, a strawberry concoction with mint and yogurt.

The panini was served hot, and the cheese had melted into a delicious gooey treat. This would be so easy to recreate at home. Now, the chilled strawberry soup was just too sweet for me to enjoy. It tasted like eating a melted popsicle. The mint and yogurt could have been kicked up a notch to help balance the sweetness of the strawberries. After about a quarter of the bowl, I had to quit.

The sweets were just too tempting to deny, so I sampled a Salty Caramel Macaroon during my meal. It was a good macaroon, but I got very little "salty" or "caramel" flavor from it. I also took home a Crepe Cake with layers of crepe and rich, dark chocolate for "R" to enjoy later. I may or may not have stolen some bites, and it was simply heavenly. I hear that the red velvet cupcakes and croissants are not to be missed.

I was also surprised at how much seating the restaurant had, with a separate room providing plenty of space in addition to the patio and main café area.

Have you been to Luna Bakery and Café? It was a great little find in the Cedar-Fairmount area.

Luna Bakery and Café
2482 Fairmount Boulevard
Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
216-231-8585

Luna Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

CLEDinnerClub Hits Up Deagan's

Last week, the monthly gathering of the @CLEDinnerClub brought the group to Deagan's Kitchen & Bar in Lakewood. Chef Tim Bando was excited to cook for us, giving him a chance to do "his food" and have some fun with a group of diners that are always up for trying things. Which is exactly what we got to do...

The meal started with some fresh oysters.
Then, my favorite course of the evening--- the sweet corn soup with poached lobster and mushrooms.
Next, a light halibut dish with a variety of beans. Beans and fish is not something that I would have thought to pair, but it worked!
Then, we had salmon. It is well-known that I do not care for salmon. I will never order it, and will only try a bite occasionally. It is just often too "fishy" in flavor for my personal taste, and as hard as I try to like it...it's just a "no". I've only enjoyed salmon twice. The first time was during a Touch Supper Club farm-to-table dinner, and the second...this dish at Deagan's.
The fish was very mild, and paired with beets and cheese (two of my favorite things). So, I happily enjoyed this course and was pleasantly surprised.
Now, on to the meat courses, and first up was squab (or pigeon, if you will).
The dish overall was incredibly flavorful and enjoyable, but the meat itself was a little tough. I don't think that I'm a fan of squab. I could take it or leave it.

The last savory course of the meal was a lamb chop seasoned to remind you of eating a gyro.
This dish was polarizing for our group, but "R" and I fell into the category of people that really liked this dish. A couple of diners even felt that this dish should be added to the regular menu.

Chef Tim ended the meal with a perfectly refreshing serving of Mitchell's vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries, and a balsamic chocolate drizzle. Isn't it crazy that no matter how stuffed you are, you can always find room for a good dessert?! This last course just hit the spot, and ended the experience on a high note.

Deagan's always seems to shine brightest during the special events and private dinners that I've attended. This dinner was no exception, and we all left there completely stuffed and content after a good meal with good company. I always love attending the dinner club events that Joe G. coordinates. There are always familiar faces, and new foodie friends to meet. "R" may have been put in the hot seat for a bit about why we aren't married after six years of dating, but I found it amusing. He can stand to sweat a little. I get questioned about our status all the time! Hopefully, he doesn't think twice about attending the next one.

I hear that Joe is likely taking the group to the newly opened District in Downtown Cleveland next month. Follow @CLEDinnerClub on Twitter, and DM the account to be added to the mailing list. It's always a fun time, and the food and experience for just $40 can't be beat. Thanks for another great event, Joe and Deagan's!

Deagan's Kitchen & Bar
14810 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio 44107
(216) 767-5775

Sunday, July 21, 2013

BlogHer 2013

You may have noticed that I added an icon to my blog. I'm headed to BlogHer'13 this week! Not only will it be my first time attending a blogging conference, but it will be my FIRST time in Chicago. I know that all Clevelanders just shook their heads in disbelief. But, I grew up in NY, so our travel cities were Boston, D.C., NYC...you get the point. I haven't done much traveling in the mid-West. So, I'm beyond pumped for both aspects of the trip.

Any must-try Chicago restaurants? I want some good deep-dish pizza. Danny Boys here in Cleveland just doesn't cut it. Sightseeing stops that we should make a point to visit (we're staying an extra day to explore)? I want to take a picture at "the Bean" like any good tourist.

Have you attended BlogHer or another blogging conference? Any tips? There is certainly a lot of information out there.
So far, the advice themes are:
- wear comfortable shoes
- bring an extra bag for swag
- bring devices and chargers
- take breaks and eat/drink so that you don't run out of energy
- pack business cards
- attend the Voices of the Year session

What else am I missing? Any tips for navigating blogging conferences or being a tourist in Chicago will be appreciated.

Thursday won't come soon enough, I feel! BlogHer'13--- here we come...ready or not.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

World Beer Fesitval- Guest Post

As you know, World Beer Festival provided me with two general admission tickets to give away recently. They also provided me with two media passes in exchange for my help promoting the event. An unexpected trip out of town to visit my family left me unable to attend the event, so I sent my two friends in my place. May I introduce you to...the Aged Cheddars (inside joke, and a great pen name).

Cleveland World Beer Festival- as told by the "Aged Cheddars"

Thanks to Katrina for allowing us to post about our experience at the Cleveland World Beer Festival last weekend.

The Cleveland World Beer Festival is an event hosted by All About Beer Magazine. They hold a few of these festivals each summer around the country. While the event is called the "World" Beer Festival, we only encountered a couple of international breweries.  Newcastle (England, owned by Heineken) and Chimay (Belgium) made up the international contingent as far as we could tell. Regardless, it is hard to complain about the amount of exhibitors at the festival as there were over 80 breweries represented.  Each brewery brought along three or four beers for the thirsty patrons to sample.  We found breweries from Boston to Oregon and all points in between.  Some of our favorite breweries such as Harpoon (Boston, MA), Bell’s (Galesburg, MI), and Lagunitas (Petaluma, CA) were on hand to offer their porters, stouts, ambers, hefeweizens, IPAs… you get the point.  While this may seem like an event catering to the craft beer snob, it wasn’t.  The atmosphere was loose and fun and there were even booths for the everyman like Pabst and Yuengling.
Bell’s Brewery Exhibition Booth

Living in Shaker, one of the great benefits for us is the convenience being able to take the Rapid downtown.  For an event that offers sample after sample of beer (with wide-ranging alcohol contents) this service was particularly useful.

We were uncertain as to what type of food options would be available at the festival so we got off the rapid at Tower City and figured we would stop somewhere for a quick bite as we walked across downtown (we’re smart enough to know this is not the type event you attend on an empty stomach).  After a quick lunch at Black Dog Kitchen and Bar we ventured down East 9th, took a left on Lakeside and walked through the grass lawns on the Mall.  We remarked how beautiful it was with the elevated view of the lake and how exciting it was to see the convention center and Global Center for Health Innovation completed.  We also saw a couple on a guided Segway tour of the area and made a mental note that it looked like it would be a fun experience for another day. Note from Katrina- I want to do this!

As we entered North Harbor Dock 30 on the north side of Cleveland Browns Stadium…I mean First Energy Stadium…we were not sure what to expect of the space.  What we found was the perfect place for this type of event, which really ended up being a big party. The space had three tents: a tent for the local breweries, a tent for one of the event’s sponsors, Great Lakes Brewing Company, and a tent which had seating for demonstrations and seminars. The building at Dock 30 was used to hold the booths for all of the other breweries.
Dock 30 Building

Throughout the area there were plenty of places to sit, hangout, and enjoy the gorgeous views and breeze off the lake. The festival had cornhole boards and a giant Jenga set up and many festival goers took full advantage.  There was a band playing in the Dock 30 building which added to the party atmosphere. People were dancing as The Thor Platter Band rolled off fun tunes like Get Lucky, the current Daft Punk summer jam. Yelp even hosted a booth with a beer pong shooting game.  It turned out food was available; B&M Barbeque and The Green Machine trucks were on hand along with Sweet Spot Gelato and Benice World Café.  We were glad we had eaten earlier because the lines looked a little long.
Corn hole
Giant Jenga
Yelp Beer Pong

Our event tickets allowed us forty 2 ounce tastings from any of the breweries we wanted to sample. In most cases the brewers were generous with their pours and few insisted on taking tickets.

Some of our favorites from the Ohio beer tent:
     Buckeye Brewing Spicebush  - A very summery, refreshing wheat beer with interesting citrus/berry flavor.
     Willoughby Brewing Company Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter - Very popular choice at their brewpub in Downtown Willoughby, but we hadn’t tried it until the festival. The name says it all. A note from Katrina- This beer makes my Top 3 list! It's outstanding, and local. Doesn't get much better.
     Great Lakes Brewing Company Independence Ale - Only available in their Ohio City Brewpub. American Red Ale with a sharp, hoppy flavor.

Some of our favorites from other breweries:
     Victory Brewing Company Liberty Bell Ringer Double IPA - Rich, flavorful with citrus and hops.
     Rogue Amber Ale – Smooth and hoppy with a slight hint of coffee.
     Bell’s Midwestern Pale Ale – We’re suckers for most things Midwest and most beer from Bell’s. Aromatic, flavorful, and just a tad bitter. This was one of our favorites.

Of course, what would a beer festival in Cleveland be without our most famous local brewery Great Lakes Brewing Company having a large presence? GLBC had their own tent and offered three beer and food pairings. GLBC paired their Edmond Fitzgerald Porter with an incredibly yummy chocolate cupcake with salted caramel buttercream frosting. The cupcake was made by their newly hired pastry chef. This sample was certainly enough to convince us to plan a trip to the brewpub and save room for dessert. They also offered a pairing of three Middlefield Cheese selections (bleu cheese, buffalo cheddar, sharp cheddar) with GLBC’s Silver and Gold IPL. The cheeses were awesome and paired well with the IPL.
Great Lakes Brewing Company’s beer and food pairings

The final pairing offered by Great Lakes was their popular Dortmunder Gold Lager served with sautéed kale with bacon and onions.  The recipe was simple and delicious and has given us a great idea for something we can make to enjoy with one of our favorite local beers.
GLBC’s sautéed kale w/ bacon and onions, they offered paired with Dortmunder Gold

All in all, we had an awesome time at this event.  The weather was perfect, the venue was great, and everyone we met seemed to be enjoying themselves.  If the World Beer Festival makes its way back to Cleveland any time soon, we’ll definitely be there.

Thanks, Aged Cheddars, for the fun recap. You covered it all! I'm glad that you enjoyed the event in my absence. I appreciate the guest post. It's always fun to share my blog space. So, did any of you attend the Cleveland World Beer Festival? Thoughts?

Disclosure: I was provided with two media passes, and the World Beer Festival transferred them when I made an unexpected trip out of town and couldn't attend the event. The opinions stated are 100% my friends'.

Monday, July 15, 2013

July 2013 Events

Hi all! Well, I've been away for a last-minute trip to Upstate NY to visit my family. I spent six glorious days on Lake Ontario, and I'm not quite ready to get back to the "real world" yet. More on my vacation later, including a fun dining excursion. So, for now, I'll indulge you with a few upcoming events that might tickle your palate.

Wednesday, July 17th- Cleveland Clinic’s Community Farmers Market Program, hosted in conjunction with North Union Farmers Markets, welcomes Zack Bruell, chef and restaurateur of five Cleveland restaurants, to demonstrate live-cooking and food sampling using locally grown produce, purchased at the market.  Chef Bruell has created an original menu for the event including Farmers Market Gazpacho, and Chilled Pasta Primavera with Pesto. Anyone, and everyone is invited to attend! Join them for lunch and live music at Cleveland Clinic Main Campus (downtown) -- Crile Mall -- near E. 100th Street, between Euclid and Carnegie Avenues. Chef Bruell will tour the market, picking up last minute items needed for cooking beginning at 10:30 a.m.  He is expected to begin his demonstration around noon.


Tuesday, July 23rd- Grovewood Tavern: Ultimate Cocktail Party. Twists on classic cocktails paired with a delightfully seasonal tasting menu - just in time for your next shindig! $48 per person. 6:30PM. RSVP.


Tuesday, July 30th- Pier W Hosts Dreyfus Ashby & Co. Wine Dinner. 6:00PM. The restaurant's Wines of the World event will feature several wines expertly paired with dishes created by Pier W’s renowned Chef Regan Reik. Kliment Stevoff, the restaurant’s Level II sommelier and Dreyfus Ashby & Co. Regional Manager Todd Pederson will guide guests through the four-course food and wine pairing. Guests can expect an intimate, tutored event with a promise to leave satisfied and educated. The dinner will feature Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Barolo and Moscatel Oro wines paired with Clams, Lobsters, Crab, Scallops, Wild Mackerel and Poached Pear. The event is part of the restaurant’s ongoing commitment to culinary education and its quarterly wine dinner series. The Wines of the World dinner is $75 plus tax and gratuity. For required reservations call 216-228-2250.

Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the farmers market cooking demo, and the Pier W wine dinner. I received no compensation in exchange for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, July 5, 2013

World Beer Fest Winner

Thank you to everyone that entered my World Beer Festival ticket giveaway this week!

Using random.org this morning, it selected comment #25...Holly. Congratulations, Holly, your tweeting paid off. I hope that you enjoy the event. Email me your full name and address by Monday to claim your prize, or another winner will be selected.

If you didn't win, you can still purchase tickets online here. Hopefully the Cleveland weather will produce a fabulous summer night down by the lake.

Did everyone have a Happy 4th of July? "R" and I enjoyed a low-key backyard BBQ and pool party with good friends, and then caught some fireworks in our neighborhood. At first, I appreciated being able to sit on my front steps and see them. Then, when they were still going off at 2:30am and our dogs were freaking out all night...not so much. Did you go and watch fireworks somewhere?

I'm off today, and major changes in the kitchen are taking place today. Very exciting! We're about three weeks away from completion. Home renovation is totally worth it, but such a pain to go through. Enjoy the day if you're on vacation, and if you're stuck at work like "R", then at least it's Friday!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Cleveland Chop Brunch

Has anyone been to Cleveland Chop since the location re-opened? We decided to pop in for brunch on Sunday to check it out.
We had a ton of errands to do for our kitchen remodel, so a brunch cocktail was too tempting to deny. It helped to take the "edge" off of shopping for kitchen gadgets, a toaster oven, drawer organizers, etc. I went for the Fired Up from the Chop Bloodies with chipotle-infused vodka, house seasoning, san marzana tomato juice, and lime.
The tomato juice was a tad thick for my personal taste, but the addition of lime to this cocktail was refreshing and delicious. I had requested it to be "extra spicy", but they were a little too light on the hot sauce. "R" was drawn to the cocktail special of the day--- Caribbean Lemonade ($6.50). It packed quite the punch.
"R" also ordered the Chef's Skillet Special of the day ($13).
With a base of grits, and then layers of scrambled eggs, sausage, gravy, and a hefty amount of melted white cheddar---this dish was heavy and filling (but delicious). I had two bites, and I knew that there was no way I'd be able to tackle that dish on my own. Good thing that I was in the mood for a "Benny."

I went with the Crabcake, with lump crab cakes, poached eggs, and hollandaise ($15). Served with a side of breakfast potatoes and fresh fruit.
Overall, it was a decent dish and the eggs were cooked perfectly. The hollandaise just didn't have as much flavor as the similar dish at Press Wine Bar. I enjoyed my brunch choice, but I'd give this battle of the Crab Benedict to Press. The fresh fruit cup was disappointing, and the potatoes were pretty standard. I barely touched either.

Do you know what did score major brunch points? Complimentary cinnamon rolls!
They certainly weren't needed, since the brunch portions are generous, but they were so sinfully sweet and warm. They hit the spot as we waited for our meal.

It was a good brunch, but it didn't swing its way into my favorite Sunday spots close to home. However, there were several other dishes on the menu that were appealing. I'd love to try one of the omelets, and "R" was torn between the skillet and the Breakfast Burrito. By the way, Downtown Cleveland was so quiet at 11AM on a Sunday. Free street parking was a breeze to find. We almost had the restaurant to ourselves too.

Anyone been in for lunch or dinner service yet?

Cleveland Chop
824 St. Clair Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
216-696-2467

Cleveland Chop on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 1, 2013

World Beer Festival Cleveland Giveaway

Since I am always writing about the Cleveland restaurant and event scene, you may not realize that I'm also a lover of the craft beer world. If you follow me on Twitter, then you have witnessed my insane tweets about Epic Brewing's Big Bad Baptist and the collection of bottles that I hoard. As I'm typing this now, I'm enjoying a Cleveland Porter from Buckeye Brewing Company.

So, when All About Beer Magazine contacted me about the upcoming World Beer Festival being hosted in Cleveland on Saturday, July 13th, I jumped at the chance to partner with them and offer a ticket giveaway. This event will bring together over 200 craft brews for tasting, and the Art of Beer Village for food/beer pairings, educational seminars, and cask ale. It is being held at the North Coast Harbor Dock 32 near the Cleveland Browns (FirstEnergy??? not used to that yet) Stadium. The event starts at 1PM and goes until 5PM. Tickets are $40 for General Admission, and VIP ticket holders gain entrance at noon and other bonus features for $75.

Or, you can win two General Admission tickets here. Just leave a comment below telling me what your favorite craft beer is. I'm vocal about my love for the "triple B", but my other two favorite beers that round out my Top Three Craft Beers are Founder's Breakfast Stout and Willoughby Brewing Company's Peanut Butter Cup Porter. I was thrilled to see that Epic will at least have their Imperial Stout at this event, and Willoughby will be serving their delicious Porter. Check out the full list of beers here that will be offered at the event.

It's the first year that this event is being held in Cleveland. The craft beer community in Cleveland is a pretty welcoming bunch, so I expect that this event will be fun and a place where beer aficionados and novices alike can enjoy a good brew together.
 You can be entered to win by:
1. Leave a comment below, telling me which craft beer is your favorite.
For Additional Entries:
2. Follow me on Twitter at @BiteBuff and follow All About Beer Magazine here, and leave a comment below.
3. "Like" my blog's fan page on Facebook here and "like" the All About Beer Magazine Facebook page here, and leave a comment below.
4. Tweet "I want to toast @BiteBuff at the #WorldBeerFestival, and you can win tickets too at www.bitebuff.com." You can tweet daily for additional entries.
5. Share this blog post on Facebook.

I will select a winner using random.org on Friday, July 5th. Good luck, and I hope to see you on July 13th!

Disclosure: I was provided with two media passes, and two General Admission tickets to give away from All About Beer Magazine and the World Beer Festival. All opinions stated are 100% my own. Thank you, World Beer Festival, for the opportunity.