When we were planning our wedding, we realized that no matter where we had it, more than half of our friends and family would have to travel to be there. We were also doing all the wedding budgeting and planning ourselves, so we talked to our families, who agreed to host reception/parties in our home towns. We left it up to our families – the event could be as large or small, complicated or simple as they wanted – and so we found ourselves in the Cleveland Metroparks this afternoon, having a cookout with friends and most of Shane’s family.
Here are a few things we learned about throwing parties today:
- It is difficult to have a party at a place without a street address! We realized at the last minute that we had the wrong name for the picnic area, which resulted in a lot of panic and confusion. Somehow everyone made it, though, as did a few other friends who saw Shane’s signs and just stopped by.
- No matter how well you plan, there will still be unexpected problems. Like the two groups that were already using our rented park shelter – one for what appeared to be a family reunion, the other for a small memorial picnic for a friend. Everyone was very understanding, but I still felt pretty bad about kicking them out. We scored a totally hot grill, though, so all’s well that ends well.
- My asbestos hands from Aroma paid off, as I found myself manning the grill armed primarily with a couple of plastic forks. I made it work, though, and we had grilled asparagus and zucchini, burgers, sausages, and veggie burgers.
- Everyone likes chocolate cake. For reals.
After the initial stress, though, we had a really lovely afternoon with cake and bocce, talking and playing on the swings, beer and still more grilling. By the end of the day, we were totally sacked out, and barely managed to stay awake for a quick dinner at the Beer Engine for Spaceman Orin on the eve of his 21st birthday.
Our meals this morning/afternoon hit both ends of several spectrums. We had delicious baked goods, and underwhelming sandwiches. We had good coffee in questionable cups, and questionable coffee in regular cups. We had an uninterested server, a nice server who was wearing her pajamas, and a server whose demeanor concealed a hidden evil (according to a fantastic Yelp review). There was a pancake-eating contest. It was that kind of morning.
While Shane’s family went to meeting, we grabbed a quick breakfast at The Root Cafe, which offered a dizzying array of vegan and non-vegan baked goods – we went for the latter, and were very happy with our warm and buttery savory scones. Shane had heard good things about their coffee, but the barista taking orders seemed pretty blasé about both his job and their offerings, and we felt similarly blasé about both the coffee and the Styrofoam cup in which it was served. The Root apparently has a recycling program, but honestly, what’s the likelihood of the average coffee-to-go person bringing their dirty Styrofoam cup back at some later date?
After taking a scenic drive down to Berea to check out our reception site, we met up with the family and had a late brunch at 56 West. The brunch buffet deal – $7.56 all you could eat! – was perfect for the guys, at least two of which immediately engaged in a pancake eating contest. The brunch options just weren’t appealing to me, so I ordered the B.E.L.T – a BLT with roasted tomatoes, a fried egg, and arugula = hooray! Unfortunately what I actually received was an over-hard egg, a smushy oily tomato, arugula mixed with regular lettuce, and some tasty bacon sandwiched between two VERY LARGE pieces of baguette. If I could open my mouth very wide and also had metal teeth like Jaws, I might’ve been able to eat this sandwich as a sandwich. Instead, I ate it in pieces, and saved my sweet potato fries for the drive home. I’ve mentioned that eating out often serves as cooking inspiration – this is definitely a meal I think we can improve upon at home.
Shane’s mom suggested that we cook at home rather than going out – so we met her at Cleveland’s West Side Market to do our shopping and plan dinner. Somehow I slept terribly last night, and as a result, the market was a bit more overwhelming than it would’ve been otherwise. Like Philly’s Reading Terminal Market or the lovely North Market in Columbus, the West Side Market is a hectic maze of independent vendors selling cheese, produce, baked goods, fresh pasta, spices, and all manner of meats in preparation for various ethnic cuisines – plus places to grab a quick lunch or a cup of coffee. We shared a very hot crêpe complète for lunch, which we hastily ate in a stairwell as we couldn’t find anywhere to sit. Better than standing over a garbage can, I suppose.
What did we get for dinner? Fresh black pepper linguine, a loaf of bread, and a slab of butter made from the pasteurized cream used to make Parmigiano-Reggiano. A bottle of Italian red wine (can’t remember the kind, but we liked it a great deal) picked up later in the day, and a homemade marinara. A happy compromise, and a nice day (after I got a nap).
While I no longer experience daily pangs of homesickness for Champaign, nights like tonight remind me of the things I do miss about living there. In my four years in Champaign, I never lived further than a 15 minute walk from the downtown area – an easy stumble home from a handful of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, music venues, and a great movie theater. In Alexandria, a fantastic restaurant and our favorite coffeeshop/bakery were just around the corner. We have yet to find those favorite spots in Ann Arbor, and when we do, they’ll be at least a 20 minutes walk that manages to be up hill both ways.
So after a full day of work and a 2 1/2 hour drive to Cleveland, it was really nice to walk a few blocks to Prosperity with Steve and Kate. We’d had dinner on the road, but by 10:30 were snackish again, so we split the pork empanadas – delicious pockets of meat and veg served with rice and pineapple salsa. I’d like to go back when I’m more awake – by the end of the evening, 3/5 of us were literally falling asleep at the table – but that will have to wait until next time. In the interim, I will continue to long for a third place (or a Galaxy Hut) in our neighborhood.