(MOVIE PLANNING VIEWING: "MAJOR LEAGUE" & A COUPLE OF "IRON CHEF AMERICA'S")
Chapter 1: It's only an Hour to Cleveland?
Friday, 3rd June and the end of week 2 of our Coaster Expedition already! Check out time from Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point was 11am so we planned to meander our way along the scenic shores of Lake Erie to Cleveland; build the anticipation to our dinner at Lola (Michael Symons restaurant) and see some more of the rural areas of the US. But Simon (our GPS) had a different version of the route we needed to take which had us doubling back on ourselves to get to a town that one right turn would have found easily... Oh well, Simon has done a brilliant job up until now! And we went past the huge Christmas tree farms - sooo cute! We decided to track into the township of Vermilion for brunch. Ohio has 2 towns with the same name but spelt with either one ‘l’ or two.... Once Simon got us back on track, we found Vermilion with no trouble and it was a lovely little town that was opening up under the summer weather after being in hibernation for the winter. There were a couple of busy diners and so we parked and selected Ricks Cafe and went in. Being Australian we caused a little commotion upon entering and asking to be seated (our accents were 'quaint'), but our waiter bought our menus and left us to our own devices. For about an hour. We ordered our meal not long after being given menus (mac n cheese for Kelly, cheeseburger for Justyn and french toast with apple bacon for me) and waited. And waited. We amused ourselves by engaging with the three older ladies seated next to us who had ordered the soup of the day which was cheeseburger soup as we all speculated what cheeseburger soup would look and smell like – we thought it would be cheesy soup with meatballs but it ended up being a beef stock with a slice of cheese floating on top! And it really smelt like a cheeseburger! Finally our meals came and we gulped them down as we still had an hour to get to Cleveland – which was how long it was supposed to take and we’d already been going for two hours! Siiiimon!! So we left the township of Vermilion, left the back roads, left Simon’s cute British accent and pronunciations of locations (Toll-leh-doh) and found the interstate to Cleveland and hotfooted it to our hotel destination.
Chapter 2: Cleveland Does Rock!
Simon had one last bum-steer for us as we tried to get to our hotel in downtown Cleveland, doing a few loops around Progressive Field (the Cleveland Indians home ground) and the Public Square before we finally found it. By this time, it was getting on for 3pmish and we still had to return the hire car out at the airport and hopefully get back in time to check out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which makes it home in Cleveland. Simon, one chance to redeem yourself! Which he did. We drove out to the airport and to the Land of Rental Cars, said our goodbyes to our Buick which had provided us with a very comfortable drive around Ohio, and caught the train back into Downtown Cleveland. On the train, we rang the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to double check what time they closed and of course we had 90 minutes to get there; we tried willing the train to go faster but that just did not work! So passing the time away on the train, we started people watching (not all that wise in the US) and what was interesting was the transit police; they were checking everyone had valid passes, fair enough, but wearing flack jackets and very obvious firearms?? Very extreme when compared to the security on our public transport which is a couple of guys with a notebook and pen as their weapon of choice! The train pulled into our stop and we snuck through some more goings-on at the exit with the friendly transit police, found a taxi and went straight to the Hall of Fame for rock 'n' roll. We had one hour! Fortunately they let us in for the student price, told us where we should go first and wished us luck! Before we went through the entry however, they told us they take a photo of everyone against a green screen which we posed for – including electric guitar – and we were to check the photo out when we were leaving. I was sure it would be an unreal pic – I look great with a guitar in hand! Highlights of the RNRHOF included the Bee Gees pastel organza shirts, Stevie Nicks gypsy dresses, some of Mick Jagger’s and the Beatles outfits, even Jim Morrison’s cub scout uniform! They also had a tribute to Bruce Springsteen – From Asbury Park to the Promised Land which was really interesting. It had everything from the outfit he wore on the cover of Born in the USA, hand written song lyrics, even the desk from his house where he wrote most of his songs! And tucked in amongst the notebooks was an electricity bill – odd yet it made Bruce more real as a person and not an untouchable superstar. I think that even if you were not a Springsteen fan, there was something there to interest everyone. I enjoyed my jaunt around the RNRHOF, and would have liked to purchase a book which provided images and stories around the exhibits, especially as you are not allowed to take photos, but they had nothing like that at all – not to worry, I managed to add to my magnet collection :o) Finally we went to check out our awesome photo that had been taken only an hour ago, and purchase a copy as a great souvenir, but they had lost it in the system! We were offered the opportunity to re-pose, but the moment had slipped away and Justyn and Kelly were ready to head to our hotel to freshen up for our dinner at Lola. A quick side note, Justyn is a HUGE fan of the Cleveland Browns NFL team and the RNRHOF was right next door, so before heading back to the hotel, we detoured for some happy snaps for him.
Chapter 3: Lola, Coffee and Gastronomic Coasters!
When we worked out that the best way to get from Sandusky to New York was via Cleveland (and after an online Facebook poll determined Cleveland was preferable to Detroit, our other option!) we looked at dining options to continue our gastronomic tour of the US. We had been watching Iron Chef America with Michael Symons and Googled his restaurants just out of interest and felt the planets were aligning for us when we found out Lola was in Cleveland! So it was with great eagerness that we arrived at Lola for dinner. We were seated in a great booth which looked across to the kitchen and also provided an awesome vantage point for some people watching whilst dining. The ambience of the restaurant was just lovely. Cocktails were ordered while we perused the menu, but I already knew what I wanted! For entree (appetiser), Justyn went with the soup of the day which was sweet corn soup with bacon, baby cilantro and glazed onion and came with its own table side preparation, Kelly ordered the lobster with curried cauliflower puree with apple and lime and I went for the roasted bone marrow which you spread onto toast with a sprinkle of salt flakes and a choice of accompaniments such as onion marmalade, flat leaf parsley, salsa verde, lemon slices and eschallots. Beautiful!!!! Mine was definitely the highlight although the low point was K having to season hers to bring out the flavours. Oh well, we moved onto the next course – mains (entrees)! Justyn and Kelly decided on exactly the same item, slow roasted pork shank with cabbage, lentils and apple – it was huge! And the meat just fell off the bone and melted in your mouth. Gorgeous!! My main was scallops with pork belly, shitake mushrooms, asparagus, cucumber and yuzu broth. Pretty good also. Presentation of all meals was exquisite as well as delicious. But a meal is not complete without dessert. Justyn ordered a dessert wine, while Kelly and I agonised over the dessert menu. Michael Symons is famous for his ‘9AM Special’ which is French toast pound cake, with bacon ice-cream, however Kel decided on the Mint Chocolate Chip which was chocolate fudge cake with mint syrup and choc mint ice-cream with chocolate cookie crumbs and in the words of K ‘a-maze-ing’. I agree! For my dessert, I chose the blackberry sorbet with toasted meringue and caramelised coconut; very refreshing and delicious. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Kelly found coffee nirvana with her long machiatto made by our lovely waitress Amanda, my cup of tea was the best I’d had all trip and the honey for J’s peppermint tea was just divine. All in all a dining experience that surpassed all expectations! Where does our gastronomic coaster go from here????