A few Thursdays back, Hans and I headed out on a brisk February night to a location more known for its tropical temperatures: the Rainforest at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. That evening, the Cleveland Zoological Society held its Animal Attractions food and wine event in the space to raise funds to support its mission as they create compelling experiences that connect people with wildlife and inspire personal responsibility for conserving the natural world.
It’s hard to believe that The Rainforest is celebrating its 20th year anniversary in 2012. I remember my first grade school field trip to the spot and the exact details of the educational activity . I was OBSESSED with preservation for months at the age of 9 and remember walking my Parma side street asking my neighbors for donations to “Save the Rainforest!!” Just shows how important educational funding can be! But as for 28 year old me, I was excited for both the education experience and the treats we’d find!
Upon entering, we were greeted with a glass of champagne (always a good thing for me) and then found our way to the Amazon Café. While the event started at 6:00PM, our arriving at 7:00PM meant missing out on a few of the restaurants as they had already run out of food – there was a hungry bunch in attendance that night!
Luckily, Paladar Latin Kitchen still had chile-spiked chocolate brigadeiros to spice up things:
…and Fahrenheit – with Chef Rocco Whalen from recent Food Network Fat Chef fame – had plenty of bacon wrapped dates, quail and sweet potatoes. I could have eaten the quail like chicken wings all night long if given the opportunity!
Creekside Restaurant & Bar came ready to serve with plenty of chicken milano, potato pancakes and various specialty tortes:
Their location down in Brecksville has one of the most beautiful patios in Northeast Ohio. The perfect spot to relax with a glass of white wine on a warm summer day – I can’t wait to get back there again!
As I saw a familiar face with Chef Jeff Jarrett behind the table, AMP 150 Restaurant & Bar’s celery root soup knocked it out of the park.
No matter what soup comes out of that kitchen, I’ve always been a fan. I hope this is on the menu the next time I visit the restaurant.
We then headed into the exhibit hall to find Tree House Gallery & Tea Room serving a key lime curried chicken with grapes and almonds:
We also found a table full of friends as Whole Foods Market Cedar Center shared tofu skewer and tropical quinoa salad:
I love when “unusual” grains such as quinoa are served at food and wine events. It was fun to see guests walk up to the table, unsure of what was on the plate, and then end up loving it. I happily chowed down on a plate of the quinoa as I catch up with their Community Manager Lisa and the rest of the team from WFM.
On the stairway landing, House of Blues had some pulled pork sliders that Hans very much enjoyed. They were also giving away tickets for upcoming events but unfortunately we couldn’t take advantage of the concerts due to scheduling conflicts. It was a nice bonus from the concert venue. Also, I must note there were plenty of bar stations around the Rainforest to keep you well hydrated – I never was without a beverage!
Throughout the Rainforest, members of the Zoo staff were presenting on various love & relationship based topics (it was the Thursday before Valentine’s Day after all) and how they occurred in the wild. From The Mating Game, to My Two Dads: Same-Sex Couples in the Animal Kingdom, they covered all the bases. They weren’t even afraid to get a bit scandalous:
We also had fun seeing creatures of all shapes and sizes – and much closer than you’d expect to as animal handlers were places around the venue introducing guests to the residents of the Rainforest.
While we were happy to meet those animals, we were excited to run into some familiar faces.
Old college friend and former intern Brendan works for the zoo – and was recently promoted! Congrats to him! While catching up with Brendan, our blog partners in crime – Team WhyCLE – appeared after a long night of texting in a space with little cell phone coverage. Who knew the tropical rainforest wasn’t covered by AT&T? (Group pic from WhyCLE’s event recap – she even included the old school 1992 Rainforest song YouTube clip!)
After a night of good eats and plenty of drinks, we had a lovely time at Animal Attractions. The Cleveland Zoological Society holds events throughout the year, so visit their website to see what’s up this Spring. I’m already looking forward to Twilight at the Zoo – no excuses, I WILL make it this year!!
Disclosure: I was provided a media pass to the Animal Attractions event via the Cleveland Zoological Society. My thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.