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The patio was hopping at Platform Brewing Co's Grand Opening

The patio was hopping at Platform Brewing Co’s Grand Opening. Yes, they’ve already released a Prodigal Pale Ale in honor of King James’ return.

It’s been quite a summer in Cleveland. Not only has the weather been completely reasonable and summery, but good things are happening here.  I’m basically indifferent to the basketball scene, but I appreciate the sentiment behind Lebron’s announcement to return home and I know that it means a lot to a lot of people (and not just Clevelanders) that he chose to come back. It strengthens Northeast Ohio’s reputation as a beacon of culture in the Midwest, as a desirable place to live, and a freaking cool place to visit. This summer especially it seems like there is an endless list of openings and festivals and tastings going on around town, many of them new (or at least new to me). I spent quite a bit of the spring and early summer physically or mentally elsewhere, and in the past few weeks I’ve finally had a chance to take a look at all the wondrous people, places and things making waves right here in the CLE. It feels good to be home – and as it just so happens, today is Cleveland’s 218th birthday! Just one more thing to celebrate.

Porco's impressive collection of tiki glasses

Porco’s impressive collection of tiki glasses. Can’t wait to check out their brand new patio too!

Sure, the nomadic life is romantic and exhilarating, but discovering (or re-discovering) a local gem can be equally thrilling. My sister and I escaped to Porco Lounge one week night back in June, and I felt completely transported to some kitschy mid-century beach resort. Cocktails are strong and colorful, and our waiter didn’t just offer his recommendations and take our drink orders; he was a full-blown advocate for tiki culture and history. The Cleveland Sheraton downtown was home to one of the famous Kon Tiki restaurants until it closed in 1976, and Porco’s owners managed to snag some bits and pieces of decor from Kon Tiki’s collection. Don’t ask what’s in the drinks; the fun is in the mystery.

Getting ready to talk about dirt!

Getting ready to talk about dirt!

June 10 brought Dan Barber, owner and chef at Blue Hill in New York, to MOCA Cleveland for a discussion of his new book, The Third Plate. Joined in conversation by Clevelander and celebrated food writer Michael Ruhlman, Barber summarized his vision for the future of our food systems. The current trend of consuming organic, non-GMO, local food whenever possible is a step towards eating “truly good food,” as Barber calls it. But it’s not the final solution to a healthier population, or a healthier planet. Rather, we need to look at where the real flavor and nutritional value of our produce and our livestock lies — in the soil. Everyone should read the book though — it’s on deck in my queue — so I don’t want to give too much away. Listening to Barber was a pleasure; he seems adamantly and genuinely concerned with every creature that crosses his path, man or beast, and he’s a compelling storyteller. Ruhlman was a perfect counterpoint to Barber’s gentle sermonizing, translating his arguably lofty statements and ambitions for an audience of laypeople. Matt and I were still mulling over some of the primary points of the discussion the next day. The solution is there, and has been executed on a relatively small scale at Blue Hill, but I’ve yet to be convinced it can be implemented on a large scale.

Loving this summer's new additions to Mitchell's menu, including the strawberry jalapeno!

Loving this summer’s new additions to Mitchell’s menu, including the strawberry jalapeno!

What else? It’s been a summer of sweets, that’s for sure. Plenty of Mitchell’s, of course, although I have yet to visit their new kitchen and shop in Ohio City. I consider myself spoiled to live a few minutes from the Rocky River location, but that’s no excuse. We also took our first trips to Tremont Scoops and A Cookie and A Cupcake (on separate days, with a workout in between, of course). Both scrumptious, especially the raspberry truffle ice cream at Scoops. My next dessert quest will be tracking down the Chill Pop Shop for an artisan fruity popsicle or two. Recommendations welcome!

The gang at Platform

There is literally nothing more American than craft beer. Except maybe eagles.

And there’s been no shortage of beer. Platform Beer Co.’s grand opening fell on the Fourth of July, and we stopped in for a peek at the space and a quick pint in the afternoon. Visually, the interior reminded me of The Tremont Taphouse — a narrow, long bar with lots of expose brick and the available beers hanging on chalkboard panels behind the bar. A few people amused themselves with arcade games in the front of the house, while the patio teemed with red, white and blue-clad revelers relaxing at picnic benches. They had three of their own micro-brews on tap, and at least a dozen other craft beers from the likes of Three Floyds, Revolution, Great Lakes, etc. It was packed, of course, and they didn’t have food available yet (we were starving, hence the short trip) but I’m anxious to see what kind of concoctions the Platform team has in store for this beer-crazed town. Unlike most breweries, they are shying away from “flagship” beers in order to “introduce drinkers to unfamiliar beer styles as well as unequaled examples of classics.” Their Incubator program also gives home-brewers a chance to test out their beers on a wider audience. I applaud them for finding a way to distinguish themselves from the slew of other beer-related projects in the works in NE Ohio.

Just thought I’d share a few other shots from my summer highlights in Cleveland so far. We’re already half-way through and there’s so much more to do!

The colorful, uplifting designs from Corita Kent, at MOCA

The colorful, uplifting designs from Corita Kent, at MOCA

More from Corita Kent - she was a nun!

More from Corita Kent – she was a nun!

At Scene Magazine's Ale Fest in Lincoln Park this past weekend

At Scene Magazine’s Ale Fest in Lincoln Park this past weekend

Tito's Vodka was also in attendance at Scene's AleFest, handing out swag!

Tito’s Vodka was also in attendance at Scene’s AleFest, handing out swag!

The Celtic group Scythian rocking out at the Irish Cultural Festival this past Saturday

The Celtic group Scythian rocking out at the Irish Cultural Festival this past Saturday