Not much if you’re like me:
- into food
- in love with trying new places
- in dire need of an excuse to actually go out on a Saturday night (wedding planning has been great for my savings account, not so much for my social life)
This past weekend I was tasked with planning a Saturday evening soiree for a friend as sort of the culmination of her birthday week. My workplace is rubbing off on me so I decided to start with a theme.
You won’t believe this, but one of her favorite things to do is travel. I have no idea what we have in common or why we are friends. (Ha!)
Enter Theme: Around the World
It’s not exactly original, but I had never actually planned an evening out with a theme in mind.
It helped me reel in the 1,000+ dinner/drink locations on my list to those that fit within this context.
I went a little overboard, but luckily I have a friend and fiance who put up with my itineraries and planning and just go along with things (although she did nix India. I’ll have to try that one myself some night).
We ended up having a fabulous evening– the weather was perfect, the patios were open, the bands were performing, the food was yummy and her cup runneth over.
I really wasn’t tied to the itinerary in terms of timing, just in terms of the order we should visit places so we wouldn’t be retracing our steps. However, we arrived at the last location at exactly the random time I had assigned it on my sheet so apparently I put together a pretty reasonable pace.
Here was the itinerary, aka Around the World in eight hours:
- L’Albatros Basserie and Bar (France): The fiance and I ate here–our first Zack Bruell restaurant– more than a year ago and continue recommending it to all of our friends. The food is AMAZING. We kicked off the tour here on the patio, sharing some braised leeks with dijon mustard sauce and some pork rillettes. We also tasted our first caper berries, which I didn’t even know existed.
- Il Bacio (Italy): Cleveland has an awesome Little Italy. My friend had never been there. This restaurant was actually around the corner from the ‘downtown’ of Little Italy, but we walked down after we ate so she could see it. This stop was just ok– we sat on the patio, our waitress smashed my glass of Chianti and had to replace it, we shared the calamari– which wasn’t as spicy as we had hoped– and bruschetta, which I have been pronouncing like an American (it’s bru-sket-ta, in case you wondered). At least we had a restaurant.com gift card.
- Stir Crazy Fresh Asian Grill (China): This would not have been my number one pick for Asian cuisine, but it’s located in the heart of Legacy Village on the green, and you can sit on the patio and listen to the live band on stage all evening so we went. It was fun. We started inside at the bar (wine for her, plum wine for me, Coke for the DD), and were quickly given a table outside where we jammed to classic rock tunes and enjoyed splitting some crazy shrimp (tasty but not spicy enough), crab rangoon and pot stickers. We stayed longer than I had anticipated because our waiter was nice and the patio was lovely.
- Claddagh (Ireland): Believe it or not I was really looking forward to this stop. Believe it or not I was SORELY disappointed. They seated us on a patio as far away as possible for the live band on the green, the lack of remotely authentic dishes left us with some boring chicken and fries, and the service was terrible. We didn’t stay long.
- Restaurant Europa and Vodka Lounge (Russia): This spot came recommended by a friend that takes travel writers around Cleveland, and it was the perfect balance of slightly bizarre and tastefully novel. We were greeted by a violinist playing Eastern European tunes along with a karaoke machine, shared a charcuterie type dish and split some amazing pickled vegetables, ate the most delicious olive butter spread and salmon cream cheese spread on bread, and then tackled the Ice Bar. You grab a restaurant-infused vodka (our choices that evening included lemon, jalapeno, horseradish and cinnamon–we chose lemon), a fur coat and hat, and then head into a freezer to do your shots. Silly, fun and totally worth it. Since the fiance just returned from Russia, he took pictures and gave us tips on how to ‘properly’ drink our shots. I have to admit they were pretty smooth.
- Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar (Cuba): Last stop of the evening for coffee and dessert. I had a delicious Cafe Mocha and sweet potato doughnuts. You heard me. WAY too many for me to eat so half came home in a box– I highly recommend them. The friend and fiance tried the pineapple rum upside down cake with mango sorbet (him) and cinnamon ice cream (her), but thought it could have been a little less dry. We were there just before the kitchen closed and the action had already moved on. The low lighting and section of the room to ourselves was perfect.
I suppose you could say we ended the evening in Germany since we came back and crashed at our residence–if I’d thought things through, I probably could have had some Spaten and spaetzel awaiting us as a midnight snack. As it was, we were ready for bed and I felt perfect–just the right about of food and fun over an extended period of time. I slept well, woke up early and had a great rest of the weekend Sunday.
We stuck to the east and southeast side of Cleveland for this trip–where else should I have added to our themed night? I have a feeling we’ll be taking another trip ‘Around the World’ again soon.