Saturday, November 26, 2016

Deck the Hall at Stan Hywet 2016 Season -- Akron, OH

I was invited to participate in the Media Preview Night for Deck The Hall 2016 at Stan Hywet -- this is not intended to be a comprehensive post, because I absolutely want you to go experience Deck The Hall with your family. This is just a little taste of some of the new displays and decorations. Our preview took place last Friday on November 18, during the beautiful and unseasonable 70° weather that we experienced. You'll notice no snow in any of the photos and might note that I'm not even wearing a jacket. Deck The Hall certainly takes place in more chilly weather conditions, but there are places to duck inside to warm-up, and when the temperature is below freezing outdoor heaters will be placed throughout the grounds.

Deck The Hall features over 850,000 lights with both indoor and outdoor displays. There are local musicians, plenty of places for photo ops, and opportunities for both children and adults to be dazzled by the whimsy of Christmas scenes. Deck The Hall is Stan Hywet's yearly holiday celebration and it takes place on November 25-27 and December 1-4, 8-23, 26-30 from 5-8 pm. Tickets are available online and it's highly encouraged that you purchase them before arriving, although they are also available at Stan Hywet. If  you purchase your ticket in advance, make sure to bring the ticket that is emailed to you.

Our past experience with attending Deck The Hall cautions that it will be packed, if you're able to go on a week night rather than a weekend it would be best. Last year we attended on a Thursday with some friends visiting from out of state, but local schools were already out, so Stan Hywet was busy with families.

After you arrive and check-in, make sure to check out the tree lighting which takes place at 5:30 each night in the Courtyard with Santa.

Brand new this year is the Gingerbread Bake Shop window in the Courtyard -- this scene is fully animated. 

Also new this year is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, you can find him corralled next to Santa's seat. This is a great place for a photo opportunity if you have kids, they can visit with both Santa and Rudolph. 

The theme this year is A Storybook Christmas -- most decorated rooms in the manor house portray a popular and beloved Christmas Story. As in previous years, there will be musical entertainment in the Great Hall nightly.

A taste of the included scenes, don't worry, there is a sign with a synopsis of the book inspiration in each room: 

Other rooms are decorated in full Christmas splendor as well...

We took a walk down the Birch Tree Allee to the Tea Houses, this location holds a special place in my heart, because I'm getting married at this specific Stan Hywet location in the fall. I was excited to see both the Tea Houses and the Birch Tree Allee decorated for Deck the Hall -- it adds another layer of magic when you get to see your wedding ceremony location in a whole new light. 

Dazzle, the outdoor light show, has been reconfigured once again to feature new songs and light patterns. You can catch the show every twenty minutes while visiting Deck The Hall.

Corbin Conservatory is also decorated for Christmas and provides a cozy spot to warm up and take family photos during your visit. The poinsettia "tree" is another great photo spot, there are several thought bubble signs available to use for photos at the location. Just off Corbin Conservatory is Gingerbread Land which is the Playgarden transformed into a sugary gingerbread paradise.

There is always something new at Deck the Hall making it the perfect place to start a new family tradition. Thank you to Stan Hywet for extending an invitation to me for the event. Stan Hywet is one of my favorite Northeast Ohio locations and I am always happy to support their events. I look forward to many more visits to Stan Hywet in the future.
Check out Stan Hywet's website to learn more about Deck The Hall in 2016.

**Aside from the complimentary dinner that my guest and I received at Stan Hywet's Deck The Hall Preview, I was in no way, monetarily or otherwise, compensated for this post. All opinions written above are entirely my own, this post contains no affiliate links, and I am not receiving any monetary gain from this review.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Royal Docks Brewing Company -- Canton, OH

Last week Dave and I met up with some friends at Royal Docks Brewing Co., I'm a regular at Barre Fly Studio across the plaza and have been eyeing Royal Docks Brewing Company as a potential meet-up location for a while. The English Pub inspired brewery opened in 2015. We selected Thursday night as the night to check out the brewery due to most of us having a long weekend with Veteran's Day off work.

Dave ordered a flight of beer including: Vlad; Baba Yaga; Docklands; London Sig; Prodigal; and Daemonium. This was a diverse selection including an imperial stout, a coffee porter, a Belgian style, and an IPA. The samples were perfect, we were able to try out a few very different but still good quality beers. In classic form, Dave saved the best for last, and downed the assertive high hops beers earlier on, leaving the delicious and robust imperial stout to cap off the flight.

I was happy to see that Royal Docks had Pimm's Cup on the menu. This is my second time having this delightful cocktail that I fell in love with at Bourbon Street Barrel Room in Tremont.

Dave and I split an order of the Bavarian Pretzel Sticks with mustard and dark ale dipping sauce. I hate beer, which makes it weird that we go to so many breweries, but I love beer cheese or beer mustard sauces. It's clear that Dave is the beer connoisseur of this relationship. We enjoyed the appetizer, but I wish there were more pretzels.

For dinner I ordered the Crispy Pear Salad with mixed greens, fresh pears, candied pecans, goat cheese, cucumbers, and poppy seed dressing (I had them hold the bacon).

Dave ordered the Docks Margherita Flat Bread with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and balsamic. The flat bread was delicious, we both wished there was more -- Dave ended up ordering a side of fries to tide him over.

Dessert was what I was most excited for, French macaroons served with vanilla bean ice cream. There was a lemon, french vanilla, and chocolate orange macaroon. It's so hard to find good macaroons around here, Dave wasn't left with much to try, because I had a little more than half.

The decor spoke to the London vibe with a red telephone booth in one corner, and signs reminding you to "Mind The Tap".

Royal Docks Brewing Company is a pretty casual joint usually you place your order up at the counter, but we were there on a slow night, so we were getting served at the table. There is a patio out front and a lovely fire pit which would be nice to enjoy on a mild evening. Aside from Three Brother's Corner Tavern across the plaza, everywhere else near Royal Docks Brewing Company closes pretty early -- there wouldn't be too much parking lot noise if you decided to enjoy the patio.

Our one criticism of Royal Docks Brewing Company was that for the portion size, we thought we were paying a little much. Both our meals were $10.00 and compared to similar items at other local restaurants we weren't getting much portion for our dollar. The food was really good, I wish I had left feeling more satisfied.

My rating for Royal Docks Brewing Company:

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Fabulous Food Show -- Cleveland, OH

Last weekend Dave and I went to the Fabulous Food Show with two friends. This was my first time at the IX Center and the first time any of us had attended the Fabulous Food Show. We bought the most basic tickets as well as the smallest alcohol package available for both of us -- which provided us each six drink tickets.

According to the Fabulous Food Show, the following demographics represented the 2016 attendees:

"Demographics: Adults 25-54
Household Income: $60-$100k
Attendance: 30,000+
Average Attendee Purchased $100 in Products"
We attended the last day of the three day show and the IX Center was still plenty crowded with attendees. 

Samples galore! 

My first alcohol ticket was spent on Ice Wine! I selected the Riesling Ice Wine, it was perfectly sweet.

Ice carving.

One of my favorite samples was from Bissell Maple Farm -- the Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup and Rum Barrel Aged Maple Syrup were both amazing. Bissell Maple Farm is located in Jefferson, Ohio and takes online orders. They recommend serving the syrup over ice cream. I didn't purchase any the day of the Fabulous Food Show, but I will be ordering some for Christmas gifts.

The Cocktail School was an area with rotating local bartenders from "Tin Play, Robbie Flair, Flying Fig, Barrio, Society Lounge, Velvet Tango Room, The Black Pig, Toast and more" showing participants how to create the latest cocktail trends. This event took quite a bit of drink tickets though, so we opted to use our tickets on other samples since most of us had purchased the smaller package.

More drink samples -- although it looks like all we did was drink, we sampled plenty of food as well -- salsas, jams, jellies, hot sauces, etc. 

Some very popular celebrity chefs were in attendance giving demonstrations and talks -- Cleveland's own Michael Symon; Buddy Valastro; Daphne Oz; Damaris Phillips; Aarón Sánchez; and Melissa d’Arabian.

There were tickets available for book signings as well as VIP tickets for the presentations put on by the celebrity chefs. Although we didn't spring for the more expensive tickets Dave was obsessed with the idea of spotting Aarón Sánchez. 

Graeter's Ice Cream from the Giant Eagle Market District sample area. Market District is a sponsor of the Fabulous Food Show and we love their products. We live near a Market District and it is my favorite place to shop for food products. 

We were calling this the Cannoli "Turducken" from Rito's Bakery, their lemon scone was amazing!

Wicked Cocktail Jam from White Church Co. in Lisbon, Ohio. They offer a Divine brand of wine jellies, and candles inspired by the jams and jellies. I've added these to my Christmas shopping list as well, I have several friends who would love these. Also available online! 

Karate Cowboy was one of the vendors -- Tequila + Sake. Their frozen pineapple mule was delicious! I went back for seconds. 

Dave realized his dream of spotting Aarón Sánchez. 

After we made our way through all of the free food samples it was time to visit the food trucks for lunch. There was a kiosk to pick-up tickets to use at the food trucks, each truck had a variety of items at different ticket points.

Barrio Tacos -- Ballpark Nachos with black beans, chihuahua cheese, queso blanco, ohio sweet corn salsa, pico de gallo, and salsa verde. 

The Orange Trük -- Original Trükballs -- crispy deep fried risotto balls topped with red pepper aioli. This was so amazing, we almost bought a second one just to enjoy it all over again. 

Vegetarian Pita from Off the GRIDdle. 

Sweet! Mobile Cupcakery -- Chocolate Peanut Butter. 

We left the Fabulous Food Show very full, I probably would have still been hungry if we tried to only eat free samples, but the food truck fair filled me up. I love to cook and learning about new products and equipment is always fun. I appreciated how many of the vendors were Ohio based companies, I strive to buy local products and will be stocking up on some of these items for the holidays. If you don't like to spend time contemplating purchases like me, you could easily purchase many amazing items at the food show and skip out on paying for shipping.

We were able to get our $20.00 tickets by purchasing them in advance at Giant Eagle -- but that was the only place that we saved any money. Be prepared to spend if you'd like to eat and drink...and that's not counting any food, products, or books you purchase. It was a fun experience, but I don't know if its something we would check out every year due to the cost. If we do go back, I would want to spend a little extra to do a meet and greet or to sit in VIP seats during one of the celebrity chef demonstrations just for the fun of it.

My rating for The Fabulous Food Show: