Cleveland is Your Best Friend

Ye Olde Coffee Table, hand made by Jesse Greene,
As has been pointed out again and again, the Founding Fathers (and Mother) of Chowbacca! all hail from "the mistake on the lake".

For me, that leaves me with conflicted feelings: a deep seated hatred of the NFL, and a deep dislike of the Denver Broncos (Elway!!!), a deep, abiding love of perogies, Bialys and Dortmunder Gold, and hard earned skepticism of anyone who shows too much outward pride for their city of origin. Schädenfreunde whenever someone who boasts too vocally about being from Chicago, San Francisco, New York City or Los Angeles or some other bigger, "better" city is rewarded by the Gods of fate with comeuppance.

For decades, outsiders observing Cleveland had no reason not to discount it as a has-been Rust Belt town: cracks in the pavement, weed encroached sidewalks, crumbling infrastructure.

The natives know better: How could Cleveland be such a useless city with the West Side Market just over the Cuyahoga River? With a renovated Tower City Center gleaming in the distance? What about fall in Chardon? Or Shaker Lakes? Or climbing statues of dinosaurs as a kid at the Natural History Museum? What of the world class University Hospitals, hosting royalty and dignitaries world-wide for their exceptional medical programs? Or its parent, Case Western Reserve University medical school? Or John Carroll University?

What of the Cleveland Orchestra - for many of us growing up in the 1980s almost exclusively under the baton of Christoph von Dohnányi - arguably the best orchestra in the world?

Shaker Square Farmers' Market
Friend of Chowbacca! and blogger Bridget Callahan has labored to document the 67 things she misses most about the Forrest City in her book "Cleveland is Your Best Friend: 67 Things I Miss Most About Home." Neither tour guide nor memoir, but a little of both, the book will flood residents and ex-pats alike with memories of Cleveland in the 1980s and 1990s, reveal imagined pasts, ghosts and monsters. It will paint a more true picture of the until-recently often maligned town to those who haven't had the pleasure of experiencing the Metroparks, long rides on the RTA, kissing under cloudbursts and drunk philosophy in the back of dim Tremont bars.

Of course, Bridget weighs in on some of our favorite haunts, including the West Side Market, Grog Shop and the Greenhouse Tavern.

We have our copy - we're already featured on the Tumblr - you should head out to the Internet and order your copy today too!


The Cuyahoga River from the Detroit-Superior Bridge.
Bridget also blogs over at and was kind enough to give us permission to reprint her Pineapple Salsa recipe.

I think this would go well with a nice margarita, now that we are entering Winter, as we pretend it's not dark when we wake and that snow (maybe) is on the horizon.
I used to think salsa was nasty, pureed stuff that tasted too much like tomato paste. Johnny Mango’s was the first place to really turn my head, with fresh, very simple salsa. I mean, it was basically diced tomatoes, onion, and cilantro. Problem is, I’m not a big fan of tomatoes. I hate them cooked, I like them okay raw, but I will substitute them if I can. The only time I really use them is when they are the good ones from my mom’s garden. 
So I started making salsas out of anything but tomatoes. And that brings us to my two biggest hits this year, corn salsa and pineapple salsa. What follow are basically ingredient lists, because seriously, do you need directions on what to do next?
[... ] 
Bridget’s Wintry Pineapple Salsa : How to Pretend You Don’t Live In Cleveland 
(Seriously, this stuff is SO good, I kinda hate making it for people because they keep asking for it. One girl at the office has been literally pestering me for months. And I sent her the recipe. I said,"just make it yourself". Still...) 
  • 2 large cans crushed pineapple (drain most but not all of the juice) 
  • 2 small cans mandarin orange segments 
  • 3 red or orange bell peppers 
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro 
  • 4 large jalapenos3 tbsp cumin 
  • 2 tbps hot red pepper 
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed 
  • Approx 1 tbps each salt and pepper, to taste 
  • 2 tbps brown sugar1 large red onion, chopped
The whole point of salsa is it’s a salad of fresh cold hot stuff. Onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and cumin are my starting points. After that, it’s whatever you want. And if you’re not such a huge fan of cumin as I am, maybe start adding about half of the suggested amount, and building from there.
Cleveland Is Your Best Friend


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