So… I’m from Cleveland. Were you aware of that, dear reader?
I’m more than FROM there, I’m genuinely OBSESSED with it. So, of course, spending the holidays there with our family and friends means taking a billion and one pictures and sharing them with y’all, and making you fall in love with it too. Been to the CLE? Cool, go again! Never been? WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!
We packed our bags the week before Christmas to the sound of two royally pissed off cats who demanded we STAAAAAAY,
we played an afternoon gig with the ever-amazing Mount Pressmore shredding on our holiday tune, and then got on the road toward the land of snow, rock & roll, and good old friendliness, with Austin in our rear view mirror.
Since that is a long-ass drive to attempt in one shot, we broke it up – a stop in Little Rock to sleep, a BBQ lunch in Memphis, a DUMB delish hot chicken dinner with sick musician, king of Nashville, and the world’s greatest videographer (need video? can’t get better than Cardboard Films), Mister Taylor Burgess, and topped THAT off with a night in downtown Nashville at the g-g-g-g-gorgeous Union Station hotel.
We jumped up the next morning, as loathe as I was to leave that beautiful bed, because it was CLEVELAND HOOOOO to see SNOOoOooOOoOOW (seriously, I really really really needed to see some snowflakes fall, I hadn’t in over two years) and some of the most important people in our lives:
Our families, most importantly our niece,
(DON’T YOU JUST LOVE HER?!?!?!?!?)
some of our ridiculously awesome friends,
and, you know, LeBron.
Bye, haters. Kiss the ring.
After all of the hellos and the tears and the hugs, there still wasn’t any snow – but there was FOOD. Oh, yes, there was food.
Oh, hey, what’s up, Michael Symon Cleveland-style BBQ complete with cracklins & Lawson’s dip (If you don’t know, look it up. Mandatory CLE knowledge),
GUHHHH our favorite (we only got engaged and had our rehearsal dinner there) Greenhouse Tavern at which you have. to. try. the crispy chicken wings confit, tavern pommes frites, and the buttered popcorn pot de creme. Heaven.
…and of course, there were DRANKS too.
Like this sazerac sipped while gazing down at the CLE from the 32nd floor,
and a stop at our first-real-date spot, the always-magical underground den of delicious, La Cave du Vin in Coventry, which is quite possibly my favorite bar. Like, ever.
…and we got schmoopy there. I mean, what with the first date spot and Cleveland throwback-to-early-Tom-and-Tara-ness and impending anniversary and all,
it was bound to happen.
Suppressed your gag reflex yet? Yeah? Well you’re screwed. Because out of the blue, my CHAMP BADASS KING WINNER WINNER EXPENSIVE DINNER of a husband surprised me for our anniversary by taking me to Jonathon Sawyer’s Trentina for their billion-course tasting menu. I MEAN. WHAT?! 4th anniversary for the WIN.
It was unbelievable. Amazing. Beyond. I cannot recommend it enough.
I didn’t want to be that girl who takes ‘grammable pics of every freakin course, hell no – I wanted to be in the moment. But I couldn’t help but at least snap two of my deceptively simple favorite courses:
The morsi, a swordfish rillette confit in olive oil on a house-fired crisp topped with tabiko roe (we got it twice, it was so amazing),
and, of course, the famous bread course – which is (according to Tom and Tara and Food & Wine mag), MAGICAL.
Call me sometime and I’ll tell you about the rest of it – for like 3 hours because it was that fucking flawless. Still no snow, though. Arrrrrrgh! *shakes fist at sky*
As our time in our town began to wane, we wanted to spend one last night downtown, seeing the city as tourists, endless picture snapping and all.
We saw it all – the skating rink in Public Square (we have a skating rink now?!),
the Visitors Center (we have a visitors center now?!), with us yelling and directing traffic around Dad taking forever to take the photo because New York never *really* leaves you,
the breathtaking but probably-closed (so we kind of broke in but who cares) Arcade,
the Terminal Tower, i.e. the building tattooed on my husband’s arm that everyone thinks is the Empire State Building,
the art installation of neon animals that are all over the city (I was particularly in love with this bird in my favorite color – he seemed cool, so we had a kiki),
and we walked away dumbstruck by the changes, the growth, the crowds, the energy, the absolute beauty that is our city.
But all good things must come to an end, as quickly as our visits home always seem to. So although we put off packing our bags until late the night before we were to leave, we finally got that shiz done and threw on some clothes to go buy as much Great Lakes beer as we could fit in our trusty Fiesta, when we stepped outside, and suddenly…
I cried again the next morning as we drove away, but that happens every visit, so no big shock there – good thing we had our cross-country road trip #2 spread out before us, or it would have gotten MESSY.
We Louisville-ed (Louilllllvulle-ed?) it up with old fashioneds and Hot Browns,
which are, in fact, hot AND brown.
We crawled the beautiful Kentucky Bourbon Trail, hitting Evan Williams, Bulleit (my favorite), and Jim Beam.
Barrels on barrels on barrels – these places smell SO. GOOD. Especially the storehouses!
And after that, we pushed on to scenic, bustling Little Rock (That’s the tea, y’all – there was NO ONE THERE, not even any cars, on a Friday night. This place was Cleveland in ’88. Yeesh.),
where we scored a sick upgrade to the Presidential Suite! It *was* our anniversary, but still! Damn, that joint was bigger than our apartment! I kept asking that if I’m the boss lady in the Presidential Suite in Little Rock, Arkansas, does that make me Hillary For A Day?! No? Well, it should. *harrumph*
We trucked it on home after that, right in time for New Years Eve… and *just* in time for Tom to get a horrible, awful, the-details-are-not-to-be-spoken-of-again flu. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.
Rita was clearly happy he was home and on the couch, though.
We brought home a few souvenirs, of course…
All in all? Nashville, Little Rock, Memphis, Louisville, Columbus and Cincy are all fine cities with plenty to offer, but…
We love you, Cleveland.
As Frosty says, “I’ll be back again someday!”