Sunday, January 30, 2011

The West Side Market of Cleveland


Clearly, I could not have gone to Cleveland without paying a visit to the West Side Market. Everyone in Columbus who knew anything about food told me that I had to check it out, on my first ever trip to the city by the lake.


So on Saturday morning, my daughter and I said goodbye to the other half of the family who were heading to the R&R Hall of fame. Instead, we took a cab a few miles from downtown Cleveland to what I was told was a North Market-like place, but better.


I didn't know what to expect, really. It was only after we got there that I learned that there are TWO buildings to this market: one is devoted solely to fruits and vegetables while the other houses everything else.


I had to take it all in slowly. Now that I have gotten used to our North Market where the vendors don't bother you, and where you pretty much know where to get your stuff (one or two options for each kind of food). At the West Side Market, there were many options, for everything.


Take MEAT, for example. They must love their meat in Cleveland. There are several vendors selling beef, pork, bison, chicken, among others. I saw a few seafood stalls, several dairy product vendors, coffee roasters, and even a crepe place!


There were also a few bakeries to choose from, but I was told to get my baguette from Christopher's to go with the cheese and salami that we had bought for our lunch-picnic by the lake.


I was tempted to purchase produce in the other building where vendors tried to lure you to buy their good-value products (from oranges to star-fruit)...reminding me of my days at the North End market in Boston.


Without our own transportation, and a kitchen that was a couple of days away, I did not feel like I could partake in all the buying fun. But do I wish that I could have bought everything there? YES, of course!


We did enjoy our picnic later with some goods bought from the market. And we did treat ourselves to a hot crepe filled with lemon curd and mascarpone cheese.

When we finally found another taxi to take us to our next destination (can't flag a taxi there either, I learned), the cab driver informed me, with his middle-eastern accent, that:

"You know, we have another market like this, on the East side of town!"

I said, then jokingly asked "Is it called the East Side Market?"

"Yeah, how did you know?" replied the driver, with an impish grin.

I didn't know, in fact. And I am a bit dubious since my food people from Columbus didn't say anything about this East Side place. But I am happy to learn that there are still many more places to discover in Cleveland, should I return there hungry.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Happy Plants at Portico


If you are anything like me, you will appreciate anything that puts a smile on your face, especially in the dead of winter, in Ohio.


I found just the things that made me just a little happier each time I see them:


The Happy Plants at Portico Cafe, part of Voda Emporium in Olde Town East.


Really, how can they not make you smile?

The owners, Gary and Ted, recently opened the sister-store/cafe to their wonderful Voda Emporium next door. They not only enjoy plants, and creativity, but these Happy Plants, as I like to think of them, are made by Gary from salvaged thrift-store dolls. The plants that become their hair styles are impossible-to-kill house plants, which makes these items irresistible!


Portico Cafe offers other house plants as well, and Ted told me that they will have some flowers, too, come Valentine's Day. In addition, the cafe is the perfect stop if you are looking to warm up with coffee, soup, bagels, sandwiches, and other breakfast and lunch items. It's a cozy nook, with happy plants...what else can you ask for?


Portico at Voda Emporium
85 Parsons Ave
Columbus, OH 43205
Neighborhood: Olde Towne East

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sledding at Sharon Woods


I can (sort of) deal with the cold, if the sun is shining. I think a lot of you would agree! And with the perfect kind and amount of snow on the ground, what else would a family with children do on a sunny Sunday...but go sledding!


We live in Bexley, where there is apparently a sledding hill in someone's back yard (Miller's Hill).

Not quite ready to intrude (but I am sure we will venture there sometime soon), and tired of the mound we made ourselves in the yard, we headed to Sharon Woods Metro Park in Westerville today for some good sledding, on a real hill!


In fact, there were two sections of the same hill, one just for children ages 10 and under. This section is narrower, but as steep and safe (with hay bales as cushions) as the bigger hill just a few trees and shrubs over.


The kids (and grown-ups) had so much fun that we all forgot about how cold it actually was. Knowing that the snow is not going to melt any time soon...we know we will be back again soon.

Note: Do not enter at the main entrance on Cleveland Ave...instead, go just a little north, and take a left onto the street with a small sign that says "Sledding Hill" and proceed to the parking lot area. The sledding hills will be just to your left.

6911 Cleveland Avenue
Westerville, OH 43081
(northern Franklin County)

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Geckos among us


I won't lie to you: I do not like lizards, of any kind.


But oh, we had to go catch the exhibit of these creatures at COSI... it was not only a good excuse to pay our first visit here, it was also a fun thing to do on this MLK day.


We are lucky to have been to a good number of museums in the kids' young lives. We have even been to the infamous American Museum of Natural History in New York City. And we plan to visit the museum of all museums in the next few months.


So I didn't hesitate to get the family membership upon arrival. Like other good museums we have frequented (and become members), COSI promises several more trips back to explore the wonders of nature, and science, and currently...these wonderfully ugly geckos!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tropical Columbus


Just about the time that I am missing our tropical days in Thailand, Franklin Park Conservatory reveals its new exhibit of orchids from different tropical places in the world. I can't be more thankful.


We went there at 11am today, just in time for the Hula Dancing performance in the Palm Room. The Hawaiian music, together with the genteel, beautiful Polynesian dance, put the winter blues away (almost completely!).


Afterwards, the kids had fun with the craft activities offered in the family fun room in the lower level. There are many activities planned around this wonderful exhibition throughout the month and beyond. With our membership, we are free to go as often as we wish... lucky for us!


Here is more information about the exhibition. Columbus is lucky to have such a wonderful conservatory, especially for a mid-winter escape like this one.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cherbourg Bakery


Even though I am not a gluten-free or gluten-intolerant eater, I was very excited when I heard a couple of months ago that a new (gluten-free, nut-free) bakery was opening up in Bexley, just down the road from where I now live!


Now that I have mostly emerged from my foggy world of being jetlagged, I paid the new bakery a visit today. I was lucky to have met Shari there, one of the owners of this new, bright, happy, and very tasty place: Cherbourg Bakery.

I asked about the origin of the name Cherbourg, which I later found out is a port city in France.

"Geri fell in love with this city when she was visiting France," said Shari. "When she came back and told her stories to her family, she found out that there is a lot more family history tied to the city of Cherbourg."

The full story can be found on their blog... I love stories behind names like this!


Cherbourg Bakery has been in existence for a while, actually, just not with its own store-front. Their gluten-free offerings have been available through wholesale, and have been very popular amongst the gluten-free food community. I was instantly confirmed why Cherbourg needed to grow when I took a bite of their lemon bars.


If you a lemon-bar lover like me, you would know a good bar from a bad one. Cherbourg's had the perfect complement of the sweet and the sour custardy top that crunches just enough when you bite from the surface. The crust is moist and buttery, and in no way tells me that there is no gluten in it!

I was sold.

Shari tells me that they are in their 'soft' opening phase right now, with their grand opening day expected on January 26, 2011. Their will be samples and cheer to be had from 5:30-6:30pm on that day.

The decor alone is worth a visit... Something about that bright blue will make you instantly happy, I tell you! Plus a bite of something sweet and a cup of warm coffee... I think I will be back there often.

Cherbourg Bakery
541 S. Drexel Ave.
Bexley, OH 43209