event recap: Cleveland Zoological Society’s Animal Attractions

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.

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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:

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…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!

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Creekside Restaurant & Bar came ready to serve with plenty of chicken milano, potato pancakes and various specialty tortes:

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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.

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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:

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We also found a table full of friends as Whole Foods Market Cedar Center shared tofu skewer and tropical quinoa salad:

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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:

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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.

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While we were happy to meet those animals, we were excited to run into some familiar faces.

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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.

event recap: OBA Cleveland September Blogger Meetup at The Chubby Cook

The ninth official meet up of the Cleveland chapter of the Ohio Blogging Association is in the books!

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Bloggers and blog supporters gathered at The Chubby Cook in Beachwood for a good ol’ fashioned meet and greet on Thursday evening. The blogroll for the evening: included:

It was wonderful to have a mix of those whom were “blog curious”, new bloggers and vets around the room. Conversation flowed as guests enjoyed an array of treats prepared by The Chubby Cook team, including:

Hummus Poppers – another version inspired by our original BLT poppers

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Remoulade served with French Bread, Veggies, Meats and Cheeses

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Chubb’s Pulled Pork Sliders (PIP’s personal favorite)

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Rustic Caramelized Onion Toasts

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Chicken Meatballs with Pan Gravy on Skewers

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After we all ate, made the traditional round of introductions and chatted away, Scott and I lined up the bloggers in our kitchen and put them to work:

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That’s not true. These are the only two in attendance that I ask to do manual hard labor on a regular basis:

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PIP Mom has got to stop falling asleep in random places.

In the kitchen, Scott had the opportunity to explain what we’re all about at The Chubby Cook: using REAL food – local and organic whenever possible – to help spread his love of food. The bloggers then had some great questions about the operations of the business.

We always love showing folks our space, so it was an absolutely joy to have some wonderful folks stop on by for a bite to eat and a tour. Many thanks to all that attended last night! And to those that didn’t – you missed one tasty evening!!

Stay tuned for announcements of the October and November meetings – we’ll be on the West side in October and downtown in November – if all goes to plan! SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO!

ten things this tuesday: Cleveland Garlic Festival 2011

Last year when I heard I had missed the first annual Cleveland Garlic Festival, I was pretty bummed. I’m not obsessed with garlic by any means, but it sounded like a cool, Cleveland event was taking roots. Thankfully for Clevelanders, the North Union Farmers Market organization kept the clove rolling and decided to repeat the fun this year.

This past weekend – September 10 and 11 – I enjoyed this year’s festival both as a vendor and as an attendee. And this being Tuesday, there’s only one way to recap my experience:

    TEN THINGS THIS TUESDAY: MY WEEKEND AT THE CLEVELAND GARLIC FESTIVAL

    1) BEING GREETED BY THE MONSTER GARLIC: As you drove up to the East side of Shaker Square, this is what welcomed you:

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    Yup, there was NO question I was at the right place!

    2) MY HEADQUARTERS: It was a busy weekend as The Chubby Cook team set up shop on the North side of the square.

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    We sold roasted garlic pulled chicken sandwiches, roasted garlic hummus, roasted garlic confit and deep fudge brownies (no garlic, but lots of love). With all those hours logged, it didn’t take me long to earn this:

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    Social Media FTW!

    3) OUR NEIGHBORS ACROSS THE WAY: This is what tempted me all weekend long:

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    The staffers at the Dewey’s Popcorn Shop tent were cool folks – and kept me well supplied with plenty of garlic popcorn samples.

    4) COOL ARTWORK AND PERFORMERS: Early on Saturday, these artists created this neat chalk drawings…

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    You never knew what might coming down Shaker Blvd. Case in point:

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    5) TRYING GARLIC ICE CREAM: Mitchell’s Ice Cream had a variety of flavors available, but of course the roasted garlic with pink peppercorn was the natural choice of the weekend.

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    I have to admit, it was pretty good! It wasn’t “in your face” garlicky and the pink peppercorns added a fun crunch and spice. Such a unique ice cream experience!

    6) LUSTING OVER PICKLES: I’m SO mad at myself for forgetting to go back to the South side of the square for a jar of these bad boys:

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    Guess I’ll just have to make a trip to fire food and drink… darn…

    7) GETTING A BIT SPICY: If you haven’t tried Blaze Gourmet’s salsa yet, I would highly encourage it.

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    Their Raspberry Chipotle is my favorite! They also sell an array of spices and hot sauces. All so good.

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    8. CATCHING UP WITH FRIENDLY FACES: On Saturday, the Food Network’s newest favorite food truck contestant Chris Hodgson from Hodge Podge swung by our tent to say hi. Chef Hodge was there to demo in the Chef Demo Tent, where he made garlic hummus – using The Chubby Cook’s roasted garlic confit!

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    Many thanks again to Chris for bringing over that hummus sample after the demo!

    On Sunday, I found Todd (@TheEventsGuru) holding down the fort at Judy’s Oasis’ stand where they were featuring some great gourmet middle eastern food. Always great to see a familiar face, Todd and I chatted about the festival – the weather, the crowds, the products:

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    …as well as chatting about other Cleveland events. Todd and the team at NEO Food Tours have got some crazy cool stuff planned for their September Gordon Square tour and their October Public Square tour.

    9) EATING MY WEIGHT IN SWEET CORN: Don’t tell my boss, but I think I spent the most time at the Middle Ridge Gardens tent buying several ears of some awesome Ohio sweet corn.

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    They also sold some cups of wonderful tomato salad (on the right side of the pic) and crazy fresh wax beans.  I made such great friends with them that they brought me a bushel of corn and a bunch of flowers at the end of the weekend! Many many thanks to the kind folks there!

    10) SPENDING LOTS OF TIME WITH LOVED ONES: The Chubby Cook team rocked it out this weekend!

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    That photo was taken on Sunday at 6:30PM – after one long, rainy weekend. But we had a great time and this tweet sums it all up:

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    What’s your favorite way to eat or use garlic? If you attended this weekend, what was your favorite garlic dish?

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