Best Out of State Brews

Yes, I love Ohio. Yes, I love the many alcoholic beverages brewed in this state. That being said, there is still room in my heart for a few, special out of state brews.

Southern Tier Brewing Company The fact headquarters are in Lakewood, NY (the namesake of where I currently reside) is only one reason I have fallen for their beer. I was first exposed last fall to Pumking. This is (no surprise) a pumpkin pie inspired beer. It is not for the weak beer lovers, or those without a sweet tooth. High in alcohol potency and flavor, this was a Katie-pleaser. Don’t be surprised to see this as a regular in the starting line-up for Browns tailgating. Southern Tier began brewing in 2004 and produces other great beers too! I’m eager to try more. “Old Man Winter” is a divine winter ale, not a Christmas Ale, but more like a GLBC Dortmunder.  The Unearthy IPA is my other favorite, not for those faint of hop. At 11% abv is perfectly brewed with enough hops to last a night.

Brewery Ommegang– Belgium brewing in America. If Delirium Tremens was brewed in America, only Ommegang could possibly do it justice. Gnomegang (Nome-eh-gong) is the most prevelant of their beers and is always thirst quenching. Definitley a beer you can drink two or six of. Another New York brewery, located in Cooperstown, produces this slightly hoppy but drinkable by everyone delight. I would recommend this beer to a Bud Light drinker looking to join the promised land of craft beers.

Flying Dog Brewery- Am I biased because the artwork on the beer is done by Ralph Steadman, Hunter S. Thompson’s illustrator? Absolutely. At least it’s the reason I first picked up the brewskis. The full flavor keeps me coming back. The brewery has a wide variety, from the “In-Heat Wheat,”  “Doggie Style” Classic Pale Ale, to the “Old Scratch” Amber Lager and Wild Dog Variety. “The damn thing tried to jump up and bite me when I opened it.” –Ralph Steadman on his first Wild Dog brew. How do you not love that? I will always be a fan of a beer that bites a little.

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The Eternal Optimist

There are days when I would venture to describe myself as a realist. Being a realist is just a euphamism for pessimist though, am I right? How many times have we heard a Negative Nancy say, “I’m not being mean, I’m just being honest.” Even on my worst day, I don’t don’t think I could truly be negative. Recently though, there are times when the fact that I’m an optimist is undeniably true.

On St. Patrick’s Day the RTA was the fullest I’ve even seen it. I comparable to the subways I rode in Beijing, crazy. We were packed in like sardines. Each stop, everyone on the tran would yell to not let anyone one. This mortified me! I was have a great St. Patrick’s Day thus far and wanted as many other people to have a positive experience too. What harm would squeezing two more people in at each door really do? We were already squeezed and it wasn’t going to last a lifetime, or even twenty minutes. When everyone jumped to putting themselves, their space, and their experience first, I wanted to share mine.

Finally, last night we played Monopoly. Second time I’ve played in the past week. Prior to these games I can’t remember the last time we played Monopoly. This was the first time though I realized the full objective of the game is to make everyone else but yourself go broke. How horrible is that?! I knew I was in trouble when I landed on my roommate’s property with a house and she wasn’t doing well and I was genuinely excited to be helping her stay in the game. What’s wrong with me?

Talk that Talk (Radio) to Me

Sometimes I’m just not in the mood for music. I can put no more words to my feelings than those. Music may be the one form of entertainment I’m most passionate about; reading a narrowly close second. For the past year and a half my commute has been about forty minutes and this will not be changing anytime soon. When the top 40 isn’t cutting it and every station has commercials on, which is all the time, I turn to talk radio and podcasts.

Yes, my six CD changer in the trunk has quite a selection, but I do not rotate the music like a should. At the risk of overplaying some of my favorite artists, Rihanna, Michelle Branch, and Smashing Pumpkins, I rarely listen to my preselected CDs.

Below are some of my favorite programs/podcasts and why I love them:

NPR’s Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me- My favorite program of all time. I love the humor and I’ve listened to it enough that the panelists feel like my friends. Sure I don’t know what they look like, but I do know they like My Little Pony and poking fun at current issues. Not My Job is a segment where they will have well-known people come on and answer questions about a topic completely unrelated to their expertise, the quizzing is great but the interview leading up to the game is always wonderful. The best part is the prize for listeners when they win. They earn Carl’s voice on their voicemail. Two dreams of mine subsequently result from this show 1. To attend a live show and 2. To have Carl’s voice on my answering machine someday.

The Adam Corolla Show- My guy listens to Howard, I listen to the Ace Man. Is it a bit of a guilty pleasure? Yes. Am I going to continuing listening no matter how petty the topic? Probably. Allison who does the news is great and most of the guest are relevant and interesting. The most recent interview with Natasha “Light” Leggero is a favorite of mine. I like his rants, his jokes about parenting, and his grip on what “real people” are like versus celebrities and the entertainment lifestyle. Sidebar: Howard Stern completely weirds  me out. From the bizarre people he has on his show that you can’t tell if they’re patronizing or not, to the fact he refuses to fly in airplanes, leave his hotel room in other cities, and constantly wants to know if people get to the point to quickly in the bedroom. Ew.

Freakonomics- This is the show I recommend to anyone asking for podcast recommendations hands down. Relatable to everyone, the hosts breakdown case studies and complicated questions to a level I can understand and appreciate. This program has reassured me that drinking affordable wine is desirable and how conspicuous conservation drives consumers to choose the prius over the hybrid civic (depending on where you live, of course.)

Slate Magazine’s Podcasts- Though I don’t tune in as often as I would like, these are always great! They don’t hang on topics too long and know how to hold an interview. Best of all, after listening to a podcast I always have great conversation starters!

What I am in search of:

A good sports talk show. Mike and Mike in the morning makes my blood pressure rise.

A good entertainment outlet. Yes, I want to hear about the Bachelor. No I don’t not want to hear a hour’s worth of it.

Last but not least- I listen to most of these programs on Stitcher. It’s an app I have on my phone and a website I log into on the computer to stream the podcasts and shows. I don’t have to wait for anything to download. I don’t have to remember to delete anything once I’ve listened to it. I don’t have any podcasts I downloaded because I meant to listen to them but never did but feel guilty about deleting them without listening to them.

A Never-Ending Saturday

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, the time when the sun is shining more often and the days are temperate if not pleasant. St. Patrick’s Day is only a few days away, and the forecast looks promising.

Before I get ahead of myself though, which is easy to do with how action packed my life has been lately, I need to recap the weekend!

On Friday, my guy and I went to Tartine in Rocky River. It was quaint, delightful and French. I’m looking forward to returning in the summer. A tartine is an open-faced sandwich. I had a chicken/apple/gruyere one. Needless to say I was delighted. The bottle of wine didn’t hurt either… Not to mention we were able to watch the whole second half of the Cavs vs. Thunder game and I was elated with the result.

Saturday was the big day. The day was a weekend unto itself. Throughout the day we ran the St. Malachi, met up with friends in the flats, played volleyball/basketball, went to happy dog, napped, went to the aquarium, went to Ginko in Tremont, and watched SNL. Phew. I’m exhausted simply thinking about the day and am even more in disbelief my partner-in-crime hung in there for the whole thing…in fact he rallied to go to Ginko. Not that I need convincing to get sushi, honestly.

The St. Malachi Run

This run is going to be a great starting point for me! Keeping in mind the hills and the bone-chilling weather, I am satisfied with my 2-mile time of 18:32…so 9:16 miles. It can only get better, right? When I ran four miles last week, I did it in forty minutes…so 10 minute miles…cut the distance in half, the time goes down by less than a minute? I can achieve higher. None the less, I’m proud of myself for just getting out there and most importantly not walking any of it.

A great sensation sweeps over you at the start of the race when you look around at all of the different people doing the same thing you are. When you get past worrying about tripping over walkers or elbowing little ones, it’s awe-inspiring to see the variation of age, race, and gender. I cannot help but create stories in my head about people, wonder what walk of life they’re from, and of course, compete just a little bit.

Harbor Inn

Somehow, I had never been here before! My ideal type of bar, tons of junk on the walls, massive brew selection, and friendly/attentive service. The establishment had quite the challenge before them, trying to bartend for hundreds of thirsty runners. I was impressed with their speed and calmness. Since I (only) ran the two-mile we were able to claim prime real estate bar location. I will have to return with my roommate because the pinnacle selection was immense and eclectic.

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I saw so many great people here too! First a good friend from work and his whole family who participate in the St. Malachi each year. Swapped Lakewood stories for beer, always a good time. I was even able to finally meet-up with a new friend! One of my best friends from college has a cousin about my age, works/lives in Cleveland and we had been following each other on Twitter! She actually ran the 5-mile (#blondeambition.) We imbibed and chatted, even got to know her friend who works at The Cleveland Public Theater- which reminds me, I want to see a play in Cleveland soon!

Mulberry’s

Around noon we headed over to Mulberry’s, our favorite indoor recreational bar! I had my first Summer Shandy of the year (YES!) Then we stopped downstairs to check out the action. There were pick-up games of volleyball and basketball! So naturally I played volleyball, and the boy went to play basketball. Needless to say after running and the Harbor Inn I wasn’t my quickest, but got in some quality time. All of this nice weather is getting me very excited to get back in the sand!

Happy Dog

After volleyball and basketball it was more than time for some sustenance. We met up with a couple of friends at Happy Dog. Might I note this is yet another bar in Cleveland with an excellent brew selection. Their seasonal drafts never fail me. After promptly ordering a Bell’s Third Coast, I took on the enormous task of selecting my hot dog toppings. Each dog I’ve created has been amazing. I’m due for a flop with the risky toppings I choose, but I keep skirting by. There are a few “musts” now- French’s fried onions, black truffle honey mustard, and a pickle spear. Did I mention the tots? We ordered a BBQ Sauce for dipping- scrumptious.

Nap- Self-explanatory

The CLE Aquarium

The Cleveland Aquarium is now offering extended hours the first weekend of each month for pass holders. This is reason #56 to be a pass holder to the aquarium. We couldn’t love stopping up there more. It’s close to home and the exhibits are already changing! I want the octopuses back though…everything in time. It was quiet and the exhibits were accessible. Spent some time with the turtle, Nemo, and walking through the shart tank. I even touched a few creatures! Eek.

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Ginko in Tremont

This experience is a blog post unto itself. For now, all I can say is if you love sushi and cool places in Cleveland- GO! Stop doing whatever you’re doing, modify your plans for tonight, and go.

SNL- Last but not least

Jonah Hill hosted SNL with The Shins as their musical guest. What’s not to love? I cannot wait to see the Shins in Cleveland in June. They’ll be at the Masonic Auditorium, my absolute favorite venue. The skits were good! I’ve been following SNL through these dark ages and really, truly think the show is coming around. There’s quite a few new faces oozing with talent and some (now) veterans who know the ropes. Jonah was great and so were The Shins. I can’t believe we stayed up to watch it! Usually one of my favorite Sunday morning activities is watching SNL on Hulu from the night before while eating breakfast.

Almost four days later I’m still tired even thinking about this day. The fact I didn’t travel more than 20 minutes away from my apartment is what I might love most.

#RW12

Restaurant Week for Downtown Cleveland is great opportunity to have an affordable dining experience at premier restaurants. This is the first year I’m participating and I’m so pleased. I can’t help but think our amazing dining culture will play an immense role in Cleveland’s resurgence.

Sadly, I don’t work close enough to downtown to take advantage of lunch. $15 for two courses at Lola? Yes please. Most of all, I just think this week is a great excuse to get together with someone. Ask someone out for the first time. Meet up with an old friend. Go out on a real, intimate, dress-up nice date with your significant other. I can’t stress the importance of dining out with savory food, a glass of wine, and no tv for everyone to stare aimlessly at during gaps in conversation!

Restaurant week plans came down to the menus. Which, mind you, were not very easy to find. I had no qualms, but my roommate and my guy were at a loss. One out of three average, web surfing persons is not a great marketing stat. It would be nice for Open Table to have a link to them as well. The menus were very telling of not only the food but the atmosphere at well. Go ahead and just compare Barley House vs. Green House Tavern, it’s hysterical. Originally, we had booked at Lola for Wednesday night. I have been once before and had an amazing experience. After reviewing the restaurant week menu though, I wasn’t moved. Which is fine, Lola is a high profile, popular enough the menu can be OK and people will still flock for a fiscally responsible experience there. Other menus looked delicious, like XO, and Mallorca, but two stood out to me. Muse and Blue Pointe. My guy has wanted to try Muse for a while and so we adjusted our Wednesday night plans from Lola to Muse.

We arrived early for our reservation with intentions of sipping on a happy hour drink before dining. The lounge at the Ritz (where Muse is also located) is darling. We sat in front of a marble fireplace with our drinks. For happy hour they feature a “6 on 6” menu. Various appetizers, cocktails, and wines are available for $6, and the lounge and restaurant are, of course, on the 6th floor of the building. It was evident there were multiple people from a company meeting in Cleveland and the lounge was a check point before loudly making plans to go to Johnny’s (something I would like to do sooner than later.)

When we were seated in the restaurant I was surprised to see how few tables were full. I don’t think I knew what to expect. Our service was beyond excellent. Our server was Kathy and she was attentive and witty, you can’t ask for much for. From the Restaurant Week Menu I chose Mussels, Kobe Beef, and Berry-White Chocolate Crème Brule. All of the food was prepared flawlessly. The mussels were my favorite part of the meal. The crème brule was more savory. I would change one thing about my choices, the entrée. Not that the Kobe Beef Shank wasn’t perfectly prepared, tender, juicy and flavorful. The polenta and potatoes were divine too. I just am not that much of “red mat person” and I don’t know why I panicked and made that choice! I think the meal would have been perfect for me if I had opted for the chicken and red potatoes. Something about the rich red meat was too overwhelming for my palate. Again, not Muse’s fault, but something I’ll keep in mind for the future. Also- I had a couple glasses of a Pinot Noir that I couldn’t resist. I don’t remember the vintage…something with a Bear? Anyways, selecting a good wine (and having good wines to select from) is essential for a well-rounded dining experience.

On Saturday I will be headed to Blue Pointe with my darling roommate. I haven’t decided my menu choices yet, but I’m sure it will be delectable. If you haven’t yet, there are still places taking reservations. Why not ask someone to lunch or dinner under the guise of a delicious meal and fun, new experience?