Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point

Disclosure: As a #BloggingatCP blogger for Cedar Point my family stayed one night at the renovated Hotel Breakers and entered the park for free.  Food, travel and all other purchases were on my dime. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own.

I have lived in Ohio my whole life and an annual (or more!) trip to Cedar Point is a must. While I’ve been going there for decades I’ve always lived close enough to not necessitate an overnight stay. I recently learned that there is no reason to “need” to stay overnight when the accommodations are enough of an¬†attraction to stand on their own.

When Cedar Point offered me a stay in the newly renovated Hotel Breakers I very literally gasped at the offer. Hotel Breakers has always been the fanciest place to stay near Cedar Point. The U.S. National Historic Landmark¬†beachfront hotel has¬†been there for 110 years and has¬†always been “THE place” to stay when going to Cedar Point. In it’s heyday it hosted celebrities like John D. Rockefeller, ¬†Hellen Keller and many US Presidents. I said yes immediately and started counting down the days to our trip.

The reason I was invited was to see the new renovations Р2 years in the making and the largest cost project ever at Cedar Point. The results are stunning.

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With an indoor pool, outdoor pool, zero-depth entry splash pool with watersides and¬†the beach there is something for everyone. Plus each pool is watched by some of the most alert and attentive lifeguards I’ve ever encountered.

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The indoor pool was a good size, guarded and had plenty of chairs. Bonus Рit overlooks the lake! IMG_6192

They each got 2 trips down the slide before the thunder started rumbling, sending us inside. This pool has 2 very alert guards and is enclosed by a fence. The opposite end is zero entry and has all kids of splash/spray stuff. 

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Lots of room on the beach to enjoy the sun and sand.

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Of course, there are two more lifeguards keeping watch over the Lake Erie swimming area.

If dry activities are more your thing there is an arcade, fire-pits overlooking the lake, a bar with views of the beach, lots¬†of lounge chairs and rocking chairs . Plus tons of eating options including an ice cream shop serving delicious, local Toft’s ice cream, and a full-service Starbucks.

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With the storms keeping us inside, we had lots of time to explore the hotel. We found this great ice cream parlor tucked away near the doors to the outdoor pool area.

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When your kids are up before 7:00 AM no matter what, you are some of the first guests at the on-site Perkins restaurant

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View from Starbucks on Sunday morning.
Lake Erie was angry that day and the rain was pouring down.

Guests staying at all Cedar Point resorts get early entry into Cedar Point, discounted tickets, free shuttle service, and free¬†parking. From Hotel Breakers you can enter the park at the beach entrance – a 2 minute walk with no lines, no crowds. Due to the thunderstorms¬†the weekend we stayed we didn’t get to take advantage of these options but it would make for a very easy trip. Plus the early entry would mean getting to ride a number of rides before there are any crowds! That is worth a lot.

The rooms are playful with punches of red in the decor and the best headboards around. The desk chairs are so cute I was looking at the bottom to see who made them because I want to buy them for our kitchen table.

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A seagull nest was right outside our window and the kids checked on the bird constantly. 

But what really stood out throughout the whole hotel was the family-friendly attention to detail:

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The area near the front desk has tons of seating and the kids immediately started making faces in the fun-house mirrors on the wall. It made checking in so easy to have them entertained nearby. 

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The rooms have a dorm-sized fridge with a real freezer – an unexpected bonus – plus a microwave and shelves to stash snacks. I loved this set-up.

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This seems so silly but this drying rack in the bathroom MADE MY DAY. We are always draping wet suits and bath towels all over the bathroom when we’re at¬†hotel and they get in the way. I have been know to travel with those Command removable hooks just to have a place to hang wet swim gear. Having a¬†bathroom with plenty of hooks is a DREAM.

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We got to say goodnight to Snoopy, who was dressed for bed himself.

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The room had plenty of space for the 4 of us and our stuff. It was very comfortable. 

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I think she was excited to ride. Too bad the storms meant we couldn’t¬†go the following morning.

Mark and I also really enjoyed the attention to detail they took when renovating and decorating. As owners of our second¬†100-year old home we could appreciate the craftsmanship and care they took in the work of updating the historic Hotel Breakers. From the beautiful stained glass in the entry to the often-photographed rotunda. Everything was well done and well cared for. We also enjoyed the artwork – nostalgic photos of the park’s 145-year history.

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We went back to the park to ride 2 weeks after our stay and I found myself wishing we had booked a room for the night on this very hot day. Even so, we had a great time as always:

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After 2 Cedar Point trips with him refusing to ride anything but the CP & LE Railroad it was fun to watch him ride a few things this year.

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¬†I can’t leave the park without taking this pictureIMG_6345

Checking out the view of Hotel Breakers from the top of the Giant WheelIMG_6336

She has refused to even think about riding the Gemini ever since her first time in 2013¬†that included the train stopping while going up the first hill. After a little bribery (I promised to ride the Pipe Scream with her) she conquered her fear and declared the Gemini “the best ride ever”.¬†
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Madman and I spent some time in the (air conditioned) Town Hall Museum in Frontier Town while Matilda and Mark rode the Mine Ride. It was there that we found this great Gemini photo set up.

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It was Matilda’s idea to recreate this shot to copy the artwork from the Hotel Breakers bathroom.

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THIS is how you end a 95 degree day at Cedar Point.
Which leads me to my #1 Cedar Point tip: ALWAYS bring a complete change of clothes, including shoes, for every person!

Garden Local with Petitti + a Giveaway! #ad

Disclaimer: This post is part of a Petitti’s¬†campaign. I was given a gift card to use for myself and one to give away in exchange for a post about my experience.¬†As always, my¬†thoughts are 100% my own. Since I was already a Petitti’s¬†customer, I was happy to be a part of this campaign.¬†

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Update: Congratulations to Jennifer – winner of the gift card!

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Last month Matilda and I were lucky enough to get a tour of¬†Petitti Garden Center’s Casa Verde, in Columbia Station. This massive greenhouse operation is where 98% of the live product sold at Petitti is grown.¬†NINETY EIGHT PERCENT! It means that every plant you buy from¬†Petitti is already acclimated to our climate (hello 80 degrees one day and 45 the next!) because they were grown from seed right here. In fact, Petitti is one of the only area growers that takes the plants through 3 stages of growing (in different greenhouses) before deeming them ready for purchase.¬†During high growing season they have as many of 100,000 hanging baskets at Casa Verde – it’s truly amazing to see!

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Casa Verde is also where they do things like mix their custom blends of potting and planting soils, and assemble and plant their beautiful planters that are ready for your porch.

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During our tour we got to hear Angelo Petitti’s story of how he immigrated to the US from Italy when he was 16, started his business and grew it to 9 stores plus a 32-acre greenhouse which employes up to 400 people during peak season. I have always known that Petitti was a family-owned operation but hearing his story and seeing the facility was eye opening. I always like to shop as local as possible and it was great to see “behind the scenes” of a robust local company.

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As part of the visit we were given a gift card to start our garden for this year (and some awesome Troy-Bilt garden tools – also a local company!). This past weekend Matilda and I were finally able to hit up the original Petitti Garden Center in Oakwood for our plants. We were after some tomatoes and herbs to fill our patio pots of for the summer. Our yard gets a lot of shade, the soil is a terrible clay, and our neighbor has a black walnut tree so growing veggies in the ground is nearly impossible. So we make due with a hodgepodge of pots on the back patio.

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Matilda picked what we were planting this year – lots of cherry tomatoes (the kids snack on these right off the vine when they are playing outside), some big heirloom tomatoes, cilantro, basil, rosemary and mint. She was also pretty excited to pick up several bags of Petitti’s soil since we saw it being mixed and bagged at Casa Verde. We added a bag of organic vegetable fertilizer and some compost to the cart before we checked out.

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Once we got home she declared the planting her project. With just a little guidance from me she filled up all 6 pots with soil and plants. She might have more of a green thumb than I do!

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Do you have a garden project you want to tackle? A black thumb you want to turn green? I have a $50 Petitti’s gift card to give away and it could be yours! To enter leave a comment about what you would buy with $50 at Petitti’s. For an extra entry tweet the following: I want to win a @Petittis gift card from @kakaty #Pettitis: http://wp.me/p3i9i6-Pa¬†

Limit 2 entries per person (one comment + one tweet). This giveaway will run until Monday, May 25th at 11:59 pm. Good luck!   Giveaway is closed.

Game Day Apps

Disclaimer: This post is part of a Heinen’s campaign. I was given a gift card to use for myself and one to give away in exchange for a post with my favorite Game Day recipes. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. As a weekly Heinen’s customer, I was happy to be a part of this campaign. 

UPDATE: ¬†This contest is CLOSED. Congratulations to commenter #8 ‚ÄúCourtMarshall‚ÄĚ! Please check your email.

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Word on the street is that there is a big football game tonight. And another big game coming up for the NFL on February 1. I may not be a big sports fan but when¬†Heinen’s¬†asked me to share¬†favorite Game Day recipes I knew right away what I would do: DIPS. Because everyone loves dips and a “dip dinner*” is a fabulous idea. Of course, three¬†dips are better than one, so I’m sharing a Trio of Dips for you to make for Game Day or any get-together.

First up –
Pan-Fried Onion Dip, adapted from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa on Food Network

I’ve made this a few times based on a recommendation from a friend who said this dip “gets hoovered up every time I make it”. She wasn’t lying… people LOVE this dip. I’ve modified the instructions a bit to suit my taste. It’s really easy but takes a bit more than an hour to get the onions where they need to be so I make it the night before.

2 large yellow onions
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (adjust for your tastes)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup good mayonnaise

My version:
Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick quarter-rounds. Take your time to slice the onions very thin. The first time I made it some of the onion was too big and it made the dip hard to eat. I take it a step further and then cut the onion slices into quarter-rounds or smaller. A mandoline slicer would be VERY handy for this part

Heat the butter and oil in a large saut√© pan over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saut√© for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 40-60 more minutes until the onions are nicely browned and caramelized. (I found that Ina’s cooking times were way off – to get a good caramelization and sweet, incense flavor the cooking time was closer to 75 minutes – see photos below.) Allow the onions to cool, drain off some of the oil if needed.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature with rippled potato chips, pita chips or even toast points.

onion chopping

Chopping the onions into smaller pieces is key so take your time.

 

10 minutes

Onions after 10 min over med-high heat

 

35 min onions

Onions after about 35 min. This is where Ina tells you to stop. I say keep going.

 

final onions

After about 1 hour 15 min over the heat the onions are transformed into delicious delicious stuff. Make sure you stir often during the last 30 minutes, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.

Dip #2 –
Whipped Feta, adapted from Ina Garten

I heard about whipped feta on twitter and immediately had to make it. I LOVE feta and the idea of a spreadable/dip-able feta make me swoon. Of course after I did some investigation I found that it all originated with Ina. What can I say? The Barefoot Contessa knows her stuff. This is a very basic recipe that can be made with 2 ingredients in just minutes. Dress it up with your favorite flavors for variation.

8 ounces feta cheese, at room temperature (I typically use a solid block of feta and crumble it myself)
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

Add feta to a food processor and pulse until it’s chopped into very small crumbs. Add cream cheese and puree for 4-5 minutes, scraping down the sides when necessary, until feta is super creamy and fluffy. Serve with raw veggies, pretzels, pita chips, crackers and/or baguette slices.

Variation ideas:
When adding the cream cheese to the food processor add:
– 1 clove of garlic – roughly chopped, approx. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, a tablespoon or so of dry white wine to get consistency right.

– 1 clove of garlic – roughly chopped, 2 teaspoons lemon zest, salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

– roasted red pepper slices (approx. one pepper), 1‚ĀĄ4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste), 1‚ĀĄ4 teaspoon paprika, 1‚ĀĄ2 – 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice.

Dip #3 –
Buffalo Chicken Dip

Everyone has their own version of a buffalo chicken appetizer, this is our favorite. Recipe from a college friend.

1 1/2 packages cream cheese (12 oz), room temperature
1/2 cup Texas Pete Hot Sauce
1/2 cup Ranch salad dressing
3 cups shredded or diced cooked chicken (we usually used canned but left over roast chicken or rotisserie chicken is really good, too)
2 cups shredded colby-jack or cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese and hot sauce until well blended. Mix in the ranch dressing, chicken and 1 cup shredded cheese. Spread into a 9×13 inch baking dish and sprinkle on additional 1 cup cheese. Bake for 30 minutes until cheese is bubbling.¬†Serve with Tostitos Scoops and celery sticks for dipping.

Here’s the giveaway part: Contest is CLOSED
To help you with your own Game Day recipes, I have a $50 Heinen’s gift card to give away to one reader.¬†To enter: leave a comment with your favorite Game Day food.¬†Bonus entry: tweet about the giveaway: “I want to win a @Heinens gift card from @kakaty http://wp.me/p3i9i6-NL”, then leave a comment letting me know you tweeted. One comment and one tweet comment per person (two total possible entries). Winner will be chosen¬†from comments (so don’t for get to comment if you tweet) at 5¬†p.m. on Friday, January 16. Good luck!

 

*I’ve been trying to make “dip day” (AKA a dip potluck) happen at work for months, and no one has bitten yet. This is tragic

 

Cedar Point HalloWeekend Giveaway!

Disclosure: I am a #BloggingatCP blogger. I was given tickets to give away but was not compensated for this post.  As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. 

UPDATE: ¬†Congratulations to commenter #2 “Managed Chaos”! You are on your way to HalloWeekends at Cedar Point!
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You know we are big fans of “CP” and if you’ve read previous¬†posts you know that HalloWeekends at Cedar Point is my favorite time to go.

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There are only THREE weekends left to enjoy the thrill and chills at the park, and Cedar Point wants one of you to go. Yep – I’m giving away a 4-pack of four-pack of tickets to HalloWeekends (nearly $200 value!).

Just comment telling me your favorite ride (or what you want to ride if you’ve never been there).¬†Bonus entry: tweet the following phrase and leave a comment letting me know you tweeted:¬†I want to Celebrate Halloween with @cedarpoint and #HalloWeekends! @kakaty is giving away tickets here:¬†https://kakakakaty.com/2014/10/13/cp-halloweekend-tix/

One comment and one tweet per person (two total possible entries). Winner will be randomly selected from comments on this post at noon eastern, Thursday, October 16. Winner will receive 4 Cedar Point tickets – tickets are only valid this year. Good luck!

Cedar Point is¬†open on Friday nights (after 6 p.m.), Saturdays and Sundays now through Nov. 2, 2014. Enter now and get one last trip to “the Point” before the snow flies.

HalloWeekends 2014 at Cedar Point

Disclosure:  I was invited to attend the #BloggingatCP HalloWeekends event.  Tickets were provided but food, travel and all other purchases were on my own.  As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I was not asked to post about my trip, but I am because it was fun. 

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Last year I had a newly-minted 7 year old who was finally tall enough to ride some roller coasters, but totally freaked out about all things Halloween. This year I have an almost 8 year old who wanted to take her BFF to Cedar Point for the first time. Oh how a year changes things. Matilda wasn’t scared of anything this year, and even posed for photos! I was shocked!

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Matilda’s birthday is next week so when I got invited to check out 2014 HalloWeekends at Cedar Point I knew it would be a fun pre-birthday celebration. We planned to go as a family like we did in the spring, but things changed and I ended up taking Matilda and her best friend, Audrey. Since it was Audrey’s first time to “the Point” the whole drive there was chatter about what they wanted to ride (Iron Dragon! Pipe Scream!) and what they didn’t want to ride (Witches Wheel).

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Like last year, it was a perfect weekend to go. Cool temps, lots of sun and light crowds. Our longest wait for a ride was under 10 minutes. It was perfect.

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Once we were in the park the girls warmed up with some of the midway rides – Dodgem cars, Cedar Downs and the Antique Cars. Then it was time for the big one – the Iron Dragon. I rode it with them twice then I bowed out as they rode it 3 more times in a row. They’d run down the exit, run through the line gates and sprint up the stairs. They tried riding in the very front, the very back and the middle to see what they liked the best (Matilda = front, Audrey = back).

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I finally got them to move to a different ride so we headed back to the new Pipe Scream. We didn’t ride it in the spring due to long lines but this time there was hardly a wait. It was really fun and different, but I was so woozy by the time I got off. The girls, of course, rode it a couple more times in succession. How they do that and not lose their breakfast is beyond me.

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After swinging through the back of the park and hitting more rides (the Wave Swinger was a huge hit, with multiple consecutive rides)¬†we worked our way back up to¬†the new¬†Chickie’s & Pete’s for lunch. I have to be honest here: the food and service were pretty poor.¬†There was nothing horrible about it, but our waiter took forever then never came back to check on us, and for the price the food was “meh”. Next time I’ll skip the table-service and stick to midway fare.

After lunch we hung around in Kiddie Kingdom for a bit to¬†take it easy. This was the magic of this trip… Matilda and Audrey are both about 50 inches tall. Tall enough for many of the bigger rides but still short enough for the kiddie rides. The did look kind of funny riding next to toddlers, but they giggled the whole time. We also stumbled onto¬†Howl-O-Palooza and the girls trick-or-treated through the rides and played in the foam pit (like a rave for kids – hysterical!).

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The day was winding down so we did one last loop through the park and the girls decided they wanted to tackle the Corkscrew – the first coaster in history to invert riders three times. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t ride it until I was 10 or 11! I rode with them the first time – they were behind me in a car – and I fully expected them to be freaked out at the end. NOPE – they burst out of their seat and asked “can we do it again?!”. They rode it 3 more times on their own. I was pretty proud! (maybe next year Matilda will tackle¬†the Magnum or Millennium Force?)

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Before heading back out to the car I stopped for my favorite Cedar Point food – cheese on a stick – and the girls played a few games and were each victorious.

Roller Coaster count:
Iron Dragon: at least 6 times
Corkscrew: 3 times
Mine Ride: 2 times
Pipe Scream: 3 times
Blue Streak: once (they weren’t fans).
Woodstock Express: 2 times – mainly for the in-ride photos

It was a pretty awesome day.

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You’ve got 6 weekends left to check out Cedar Point and HalloWeekends before they close for the year. It’s my favorite time of year to go.

Trentina for Lunch – Giveaway

Disclaimer:  As a part of the Trentina friends and family preview, I was lucky to be invited to attend a lunch tasting menu opportunity with a guest, and to giveaway a gift card to a local reader. My thoughts always my own.

If you live in Cleveland and don’t live under a rock, you no doubt heard about the opening of Chef Jonathan Sawyer’s newest restaurant, Trentina, earlier this summer. This is new fine dining establishment blew our socks off back in June when we were able to experience The Menu Bianco -a 15 course dinner tasting menu at Trentina. So when I was asked to be part of their lunch-service preview I quite literally jumped at the chance.

I took a colleague for a delightful Friday lunch. It was her first Sawyer experience and I was excited to share it with her. Lunch at Trentina is decidedly more relaxed than dinner, yet still refined and elegant. Lunch offers an a la carte menu showcasing the Northern Italian fare and Midwestern ingredients featured on the the more extensive dinner menu. Trentina will host a soft opening on Friday, September 5 (more info here), followed by the official lunch launch on Tuesday, September 9.

On to the food… I didn’t capture each of our 4¬†courses ¬†but I managed to grab pics of a few, before digging in. I was lucky that my companion was willing to share each plate¬†with me so we both got to taste everything. As we sat with dazzling sunlight surrounding us we were able to sample 8¬†dishes put out by Chef Sawyer and Executive Chef Matt Danko, each one delicate and flavorful. As dishes were cleared we would declare a certain item our favorite only to be presented with the next round which made it hard to pick a “best” dish.

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 Wood-Fired Broccoli with eggplant sauce, anchovies, crab apples, and parsley.
I usually HATE broccoli but I enjoyed this dish a whole lot.

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 Oysters on the Half Shell with Prosecco mignonette and apple
I can usually take or leave oysters but there is something about the addition of the finally diced apples
that makes me swoon. I could eat an entire plate of these.

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Beef Carne with herbed and moustarda
This was a highlight among highlights. My dining partner never had¬†beef tartare before so she was hesitant. But one bite and she was sold. This dish is simple but has such complex textures and flavors that it’s an absolute luxury.¬†(My apologies for the photo – we were a few tastes in before I remembered to snap a pic)

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Baked Shellfish Spaghettini: tomato, saffron, sofritto with fennel and celery.
This dish stole my heart. Served in a cast iron pan it seems rustic and straightforward but¬†there was such a delicate complexity to the flavors that I found myself sad when I passed the dish to my friend. The briny, sweet mussels paired with the spaghetti which was lightly flavored with saffron and pressed in the bottom of the pan almost like a crust. Oh and the tender haddock – cooked to perfection –¬†perched on top, this dish is one I can’t stop thinking about.

One of the things I most appreciate about Trentina is the attentive yet not overbearing waitstaff. They take seriously any dietary restrictions you may have, including requests for vegetarian and vegan menus. They explain each dish as it is brought out and make sure there is nothing lacking during your dining experience. Also worth noting: they ask about time constrains so your meal will happen at a pace suitable to your schedule Рsomething I was grateful for as we had to get back to the office. Add that to the charming design of the interior and you have a memorable lunch hour, no matter if your catching a lunch date with a special person, a business lunch, or enjoying a leisurely lunch with friends. I was actually so impressed (and Mark was so jealous) that I will be going back this Friday for the soft opening!

Trentina will serve lunch Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. –¬†2 p.m, starting on September 9th. Reservations are encouraged but not required and can be made via OpenTable or by calling 216.421.2900.

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Jonathan and Amelia Sawyer want you to experience Trentina for yourself and have generously given me a $25 gift card to give away to one of my readers. ENTER TO WIN: Just leave a comment or tweet this post (leave a comment letting me know you did so). I will pick a winner from my comments around 9 PM on my birthday – Sunday, September 7 – and notify the winner via email.

 

Summer Weekends Are For Grilling – a Heinen’s Giveaway

Disclaimer: This post is part of Heinen’s #HeinensGrill campaign. I was given a gift card in exchange for a post about what we like to grill. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own.

When we moved into our house about 7 years ago my parents offered to buy us a grill. After several years of grilling with gas we opted for a charcoal Weber kettle grill and we haven’t looked back. We use it nearly every weekend in the summer. When you own a house without air conditioning, everything gets cooked on the grill so the house doesn’t heat up. It’s either that or eat cereal every night (which I’m sure the kids wouldn’t mind). Mark is the official griller in the the family, although I do sometimes take a turn by the coals. We cook all sorts of meats, pizzas, fish, veggies, fruit – you name it, we’ve likely grilled it.

On Sunday I had done my usual weekend Heinen’s run and picked up some nice steaks. It’s one thing that I can count on at least 3 of us enjoying (the only meat Madman will eat are hot dogs and ham). But Matilda loves steak so much that I now have to get her her own cut because she will eat the whole thing. So I got 2 rib-eyes and a top loin (mostly because I couldn’t decide between the two cuts and I wanted to do a side-by-side taste test). I used my favorite method to prep the meat – heavy salting with a few added flavors. I read about this years ago and it really does make a big difference in meats – especially lesser cuts. I had pretty good steaks but salt only improves the flavor and tenderness.

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 Steaks marinating in salt Рrosemary and smashed garlic came to the party, too.

Basically the method is this:

  • Season steaks liberally with kosher salt – use more than you think you need. You want the steaks to be pretty well coated with salt. Use 2 tsp+ per side. Add aromatics if you want.
  • Let the steaks sit at room temperature for 1 hour per thickness of steak (so a 1.5 inch steak will sit out for 90 minutes).
  • Rinse, rinse, rinse. Rinse the steak really well under running water to get rid of all the salt.
  • Dry, dry, dry. Use clean paper towels to pat the steak very very dry so that zero moisture is left on the steak.
  • Grill!

We had an outing planned for the afternoon so I couldn’t do this to the letter, but I’ve found that you can still do it even if you won’t be around right before cooking. Just adjust your amount of salt – the more salt the quicker this works, less salt means you have more time. Since I figured we’d be gone about 4 hours before the steaks hit the grill, I cut back to about 1 tsp of salt per side, then put the steaks in the refrigerator. It worked fine. (edited to add: I googled around to see if I could find where I originally read about this method. I couldn’t but this post does a good job at explaining why this works).

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Mark, doing his thing on the Weber

Once we got home the first thing I did was pull the meat out of the refrigerator to start warming up to room temp. While Mark got the coals started I rinsed and dried the beef. Then it had about 30 minutes to get to room temp before the grill was ready. I used that time to prep a quick caprese salad and boil some read potatoes for sides.

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Local tomatoes, fresh basil from our plant = YUM!

The result? A perfect, easy Sunday dinner (with enough for leftovers for Monday lunches). I am a steak purist and will totally cringe when I see someone put steak sauce or even herbed butter on their steak‚Ķ and please don’t ever cover my steak with mushrooms and onions. I will not be happy. I like my beef cooked medium rare and served plain. This method gives you a perfectly salted, tender steak that you can practically cut with a butter knife.

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 Taste test result РI was surprised liked the top sirloin better.
If I had purchased thicker-cut rib eyes I think it would have been a tie.

What is your favorite thing to grill?

Giveaway for readers: If you live near a Heinen’s they have offered a tote full of grilling supplies as a giveaway to one of my readers. You need to be local to a store as you will pick up your prize at your local Heinen’s. All you need to do is leave a comment with your favorite thing to grill OR tweet your favorite thing to grill, just make sure you use #HeinensGrill and tag me (@kakaty) in your tweet. Example: “Hey @kakaty I love salmon on the grill! #HeinensGrill”.

Use only one entry method, one entry per person.

Winner will be picked after 8 PM on Sunday 8/10.

A Day of Memories at Cedar Point

Disclosure:¬†I was invited to the¬†#BloggingatCP¬†blogger day at Cedar Point and my family entered the park for free. ¬†As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. See bottom of post for some Father’s Day offers.

Was Memorial Day weekend really 3¬†weeks ago already? How did that happen? Maybe it’s taken this long for me to recover from a weekend of pure fun. It all started Friday night when the ClassyChaos crew rolled into their old stomping grounds of NE Ohio. We hosted a little get-together at our house and as always this group of 7 kids got along like BFFs and laughed well into the night.

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After a later-than-usual night, Saturday dawned with perfect blue skies and 70-degree temps which meant the #BloggingatCP blogger day at Cedar Point would be amazing. We arrived shortly after the park opened and quickly met up with TeamSawyer who we caught on the brand new Pipe Scream.

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After that the kids scrambled over the other new ride for 2014, the Lake Erie Eagles.

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Since we were right there, we hung out in Camp Snoopy for a bit so the kids could do a few rides. Since it was the beginning of the season and a beautiful holiday weekend, lines were longer than I’m used to… but the kids had buddies to chat with no one got cranky. Before we knew it, it was time to eat¬†so we headed to the¬†#BloggingatCP lunch where we met up again with Pauline and her fam. We ate a delicious lunch while looking out over the lake. This reminded me of all the times as a kid that we’d pack a cooler with lunch and eat a picnic and eat in the pavilion at the front of the park. That’s one way to save a few bucks. Or you can get the new CP all-day dining plan which lets you get food every 90 minutes throughout the¬†whole day – what a sweet deal for an always-hungry teenager!

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After lunch the older kids took charge and declared it time to ride the water rides. Shout out to both Jeff and Jonathan who took the kids on Shoot the Rapids. Jonathan was the hero of the day when he agreed to take one for the team and ride Thunder Canyon, too. This ride gives you a 50/50 chance of getting completely soaked. You can probably guess what happened to Jon.

10346631_10152419635282674_6439873088178376276_nAbout 30 seconds before going under a huge waterfall. Photo by Pauline. 

 After that the kids took some time to visit the animals in the petting zoo (I had NO IDEA Cedar Point had a petting zoo!) And ride some of the smaller rides.

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By this time it was around 4 PM and Madman hadn’t ridden a single ride. He was more than happy to just hang out in his stroller and watch it all. So we decided to check out Dinosaurs Alive¬†which has 40¬†¬†life-sized animatronic dinosaurs. The area where the dinos are is the where the¬†Paddlewheel boat used to be. If you remember the¬†Paddlewheel you’ll remember the groan-worthy¬†jokes the captain used to make. I’m happy to say that along with all kinds of paleontological education, the lame jokes still exist.¬†DinosaursAliveJoke

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The C.P. & L.E. Railroad was the only thing he would ride Рbut he was happy 

It was a wonderful day filled with friends, fun and lots of laughs. Memories were made for all 7 kids and the grown-ups, too! We can’t wait to head back to “the Point” later this summer.

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Cedar Point is celebrating all fathers this Sunday, June 15, with great money-saving offers:

On Father’s Day, all Season Passholders can bring their dad (or a friend) to Cedar Point for just $19.99. Also this Sunday, when you buy one Meal Deal for just $13.99 plus tax, dad enjoys his meal for free (limit one free meal per group). Dads also get free admission to Dinosaurs Alive this Sunday!

All guests can still take advantage of the H2O offer where they can purchase a one-day Cedar Point admission ticket now through Sunday, June 15 and receive a FREE Soak City ticket! The Cedar Point one-day ticket for this offer is $39.99, a savings of $20 off the gate price and must be used by Sunday, June 15, 2014. For more details, log on to cedarpoint.com 

 

 

Castaway Bay Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: Castaway Bay provided one night of accommodations with water park passes, as well as four day passes to give away to one reader. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. 

Update: Congratulations to commenter #6 – Andrea! Please check your email!

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Confession time: While I’ve been to Cedar Point probably one hundred times in my life I’d never been to any of their water parks. In fact, I’ve never been to any indoor water park. So when I was invited to be part of an overnight at Castaway Bay as part of #CPMoms I jumped at the chance.

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Timing was perfect – right in the middle of (another) polar vortex and we were all itching for something different, something warm, something fun. The 82 degree air of the indoor water park was calling our name. We didn’t tell the kids where we were going so they were super excited when we pulled into the parking lot and they saw the three tube slides that snake their way out of the building. We wasted no time checking in and getting ourselves ready to hit the slides. We were given a¬†“Starfish” room with 2 queen beds, a closet, a mini fridge, a microwave, a small table with 2 chairs, a bathroom with a bathtub/shower, and a screened balcony with view of the frozen bay. The room was nice and was clean (and the fridge was great to have), but it’s nothing special. It’s a standard, if a little dated, hotel room. Castaway Bay also has suites with bunk beds and 2-room suites for bigger families.

But, you’re not at Castaway Bay for the hotel rooms, are you? You’re there for the WATER PARK! Which is why as soon as our bags were in the room and we grabbed some pizza we suited up and headed to the slides. And here is where I totally fail as blogger… because I didn’t take my camera with me into the water park and therefore I have no pictures. You guys, I’m so sorry. But the thought of chasing kids around the water with a camera just sounded like a disaster.

However, here is what I can report… the park is perfect for young families. Matilda, at age 7, was able to roam the park freely. Castaway Bay had plenty to keep her entertained without being enormous. She beelined for the wave pool and rode the waves for awhile before exploring the¬†Lookout Lagoon Family Funhouse. She spent a ton of time running up and down the stairs, going down the smaller slides and cheering as the giant bucket dumped 1,000 gallons of water over the whole structure. She finally found her way up to the top of¬†Rendezvous Run¬†water roller coaster that shoots you uphill using water jets. After her first run she was hooked! And I have to agree. Mark and I both rode this ride several times and it was really fun.

While Matilda was feeling all “big kid” and having free rein, Madman found his bliss in the Toddler Tide Pool. With a few shorter slides, water pipes and lots of room to splash he was a happy dude. And with the set up, it meant he was able to do what he wanted (go down the tandem slides over and over and over) while either Mark or I hung out near the pool edge keeping an eye on him. I honestly was worried about the logistics of wrangling 2 kids at a water park, but the set up of Castaway Bay gave us parents peace of mind. Neither kid could really get out of our sight at anytime so we were able to breathe easy. And it also meant that Mark and I could take turns checking out the bigger slides like the¬†Paradise Plunge and¬†Tropical Tube Slides.

This seems like a good time for me to give a shout out to the Castaway Bay Lifeguards.¬†They are trained as are part of Ellis & Associates National Pool & Waterpark Lifeguard Training Program. As a former guard myself, I know that Ellis guards are some of the best trained in the industry as they have very rigorous standards. Castaway Bay has received numerous awards of excellence from Ellis and the guards were attentive and friendly. I was completely at ease with Matilda and Madman going on all the slides and in each pool even if Mark or I weren’t right at their sides.

Fun at CB doesn’t stop when you leave the water park. We took a swim break to check out the arcade and later we did some crafts including decorate-your-own beach towels. We also got info on¬†Club Castaway but didn’t partake (the kids wanted MORE SWIMMING!). But in Club Castaway kids can sing¬†karaoke, attend a dance party with the Peanuts gang and even watch a Peanuts movie or have a bedtime story with Snoopy. There is a¬†Club Castaway schedule at the front desk and most activities are free. Mark, the coffee addict, wants you to know that there’s a Starbucks on-site, as well.

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Now that we’re no longer water park newbies we’ll definitely be going back to Castaway Bay to break up the winter doldrums. It was a perfect quick getaway (only 90 minutes from the eastern Cleveland ‘burbs!) and it was a much, much needed family break from being trapped inside our house. Even if we don’t go for the full overnight again this winter, it’s nice to know that it’s totally worth the drive for a tropical day trip.

And now the giveaway… Castaway Bay gave me 4 day-passes for one reader ($100 value!). Just leave a comment before midnight (eastern) on 2/12 telling me why you want to win.

The Nutcracker Tradition with Ohio Dance Theater (Giveaway!)

Disclosure: I was invited to a social media night, including a preview of the upcoming Ohio Dance Theater production of The Nutcracker but I was not compensated for this post. I was given tickets to a performance I am unable to attend, so I am giving away those tickets to one of you. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. 

I grew up going to The Nutcracker every year and it’s a tradition I’ve carried on with Matilda (when he’s a little older, Madman will join us). I just love the splendor of going to the theater during the holiday season. Not to mention that The Nutcracker is, in my opinion, a great introduction to ballet for kids – it’s got an easy to follow storyline, fantastic action scenes and a magical set. So when Ohio Dance Theater¬†(ODT) and the¬†Niche Parent Network¬†invited me to attend a preview night, I jumped at the chance to get a behind the scenes peek of my favorite ballet.

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I’m going to be honest: before I was contacted to attend this event I had never heard of ODT, mostly because I had limited my searches for shows to the downtown Cleveland area. Forgetting about the strong commitment to the arts in the college town of Oberlin was dumb move on my part because that’s where the critically-acclaimed¬†ODT has been since 1992. And it’s less than an hour away from my house…duh! Having a chance to see what they were all about was an exciting prospect. They have been putting on The Nutcracker for years and this year’s¬†lavish production includes a cast of 20 professional dancers, two trainees, two apprentices and¬†New York City Ballet Principal Dancer, Daniel Ulbricht will be a guest artist. We had such a great time at the preview – seeing a few dances, examining the costumes up close and meeting the professional dancers.

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Matilda and Life in Cleveland’s daughter were inspired to start dancing as soon as the ballerinas were done

Anyway, now I know better and will broaden my search for performances of The Nutcracker in the future, and I’m looking forward to attending other productions put on by this local professional dance company. The good news for you is this…I was given¬†two complementary tickets to attend any Nutcracker performance between¬†December¬†20-22nd¬†at the¬†Stocker Arts Center¬†and I want to pass them on to one of you!

To win the tickets all you have to do is¬†tell me in comments what your is your favorite scene in the Nutcracker or, if you’ve never seen a performance, tell me your favorite holiday tradition.¬†Bonus entry: tweet the following phrase and leave a comment letting me know you tweeted:¬†I want to see @OhioDance perform the¬†#ClevelandNutcracker¬†thanks to @kakaty. ¬†

One comment and one tweet per person (two total possible entries) winner will be randomly selected from comments on this post at noon eastern, Monday, December 16. Good luck!

If you want to see the Nutcracker with Ohio Dance Theatre performances run from Dec 20-22.  You can purchase tickets here.

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The Nutcracker is one of our favorite Christmas traditions. Thanks, Ohio Dance Theater!