Drawing another blank now that gift-giving season has arrived? Maybe it's time you retrained your focus on the wonderful gifts growing in our own backyard. Who says manufacturing is dead? Not a single recipient of these locally mined delights.
In addition to the Clevo-centric options that follow, take time to scour your own neighborhood for more fabulous finds. There's life beyond the big box stores, after all.
Happy shopping — and happy holidays from your pals at Scene!
Take a Tasting Tour
Cleveland's rich culinary history is a long and tasty tale, stuffed with pierogies and Polish Boys, Little Italy and AsiaTown — and of course, Iron Chef Michael Symon. Taste Cleveland Food Tours specialize in exploring and explaining the area's food culture and touring historic neighborhoods that harbor famous food venues. "We show you off-the-beaten-path gems and introduce you to local owners and chefs," says the boss, Jeff Swedarsky. The West Side Market Food Tour is $42; the Historic Tremont Food Tour is $58.
202-683-8847 or visit
A Wallful of C-Town Pride
A fund-raiser for Cleveland Public Library is also an apt celebration of Cleveland's legacy of progress. The library is offering a series of four posters from its archives, each one honoring a key era of Cleveland's past: two of the posters are richly detailed city maps from 1877 and 1883; the others are promotional posters from 1909 and 1924 (pictured), each one glorying in Cleveland's forward-thinking reputation — a reputation we're just beginning to tap into all over again. Each poster can be had for just $20; they're available at the Ohio Knitting Mills pop-up shop at the home of Twist Creative in Ohio City.
1983 West 28th St., 216-272-6375,
Beer Class Is in Session
The art of craft brewing is actually quite an interesting science. Ingredients, fermentation, bottling, production, and marketing are all part of the curriculum at Beer School, held twice a month at the Great Lakes Brewing Company. During two-hour sessions at the facilities, you'll learn how Great Lakes beers go from specially selected grains to the grocery store shelf. Participants receive an official Beer School Graduate T-shirt, 5-oz. GLBC tasting glass, light snack, and an extensive tasting of beers. It's only $30.
216-771-4404 or register at greatlakesbrewing.com
Fashions by McFluff
Local designer Faith McFluff works magic with old clothes and scraps of fabric. Give her a pile of discarded garments or remnants, and she'll disassemble and reconstruct them into one-of-a-kind jackets, kimonos, and dresses. Her Rock Star Rehab pieces are not only distinctive, with their wild mix of textures, colors, fabrics, and appliqués — they're also comfortable and easy to wear. Prices range from $40-$200. McFluff also sells custom hula hoops to whittle your midriff, the better to slide into her clothes.
Soap With a Smile
Tim Kempf and Scott Suskowicz's stylish DuoHome home furnishings store in the Gordon Square Arts District has rolled out a new line of impossibly cute, organic scented European soaps from kalastyle, with names like Be Good, Peace, Swedish Gingerbread, and Save Water, Shower With a Friend. At $5 to $8 each, the soaps are whimsically packaged and embossed with clever admonitions like "Be Good" and "Good Girl/Clean Hands."
507 Detroit Ave.,
On the Chopping Blocks
Over the years, Cleveland has been known for many things — not all of them so flattering. But these days we're attracting attention as a fine-food destination, with increasingly sophisticated restaurants and celebrated homegrown chefs. The hip Tremont gift shop Banyan Tree offers a pair of gifts that merge Cleveland pride with culinary excellence — and keep the price between the $50 and $100 range: a wooden cutting board boasting "CLE" in block letters and a complementary bread board that proudly bears the city's name.
2242 Professor Ave., Tremont, 216-241-1209, shopbanyantree.com
Big-Ass Beer and Then Some
Akron's Hoppin' Frog Brewery specializes in making award-winning craft beers, which it peddles exclusively in 22-oz. bottles — the perfect gifting size. In the Christmas Beer category, the Frosted Frog Christmas Ale ($7.99) makes a great stocking stuffer or office gift exchange idea. Its crimson mixture of rich malted barley and Christmas spices might even replace the glass of milk you leave out for Santa each year. "It has this wonderful, satisfying Christmas cookie flavor that keeps calling you back for more," says brewmaster Fred Karm.
1680 East Waterloo Rd., Akron
The Envy of Napa Valley
Ferrante's Vidal Blanc Ice Wine ($28.99) has already won four gold medals at wine competitions in 2011 alone. Ferrante's Cabernet Franc Ice Wine ($34.99) is just as good. The uniquely sweet Cleveland spirit is made from grapes left to freeze on the vine. "Ice wine is harvested in the dead of the winter, but its sweetness fills your heart with the warmth of the season," says Alyssa Sekerak, marketing director and resident poet at Ferrante Winery in Geneva.
5585 State Rt. 307, Harpersfield Township, 440-466-8466, ferrantewinery.com
Smart as a Rock
Music geeks love their rock knowledge battles, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Trivia Board Game ($29.99) provides music lovers on your Christmas list the opportunity to show off their skills in a somewhat more formal capacity. The game includes more than 1,700 questions and clues about the greatest people, events, recordings, and dates in rock and roll history. Be the first to travel 86 spaces and get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
1100 Rock and Roll Blvd.,
All the Nature Money Can Buy
The call of the wild is at its strongest during the frozen winter months. Luckily, outdoor enthusiasts experiencing Cleveland cabin fever have some excellent options to reconnect with Mother Nature. Buy them a membership to the Cleveland Botanical Garden (for $63, with its one-of-a-kind, indoor Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse), the Lake Metroparks Farmpark (for $45, with its family-oriented science center devoted to agriculture, farming, and country life), or the Holden Arboretum (for $50, with 600 acres of cultivated gardens and more than 20 miles of hiking trails in Lake County).
Recapture the Magic
Give a personal gift and crystallize a favorite memory. The Euclid Beach Carousel Pendant and Ornament (both are $19.95) have that sort of nostalgic and Cleveland-centric charm. The pendant and ornament are a tribute to the old Euclid Beach Park, established on the shore of Lake Erie at East 156 Street in 1894. The former park occupies a special place in the memories of many Northeast Ohio residents, and the pendant and ornament represent one of the favorite horses from the complete set of over 50 figures on the Euclid Beach Park Carousel.
wrhs.org or 216-721-5722, ext. 286
The 2011 season brings two new uniquely Northeast Ohio records to the Christmas music category. The Ohio City Singers, a local all-star band of Cleveland's coolest musicians (people like Chris Allen, Doug McKean, and Brent Kirby), capture the warmth and fun of a classic Cleveland Christmas on Snow Days ($10). Package that full-length album with a bonus single: Northcoast Christmas ($2), a three-song EP from the burgeoning folk rock four-piece the Modern Electric. "It captures all the joys, struggles, and triumphs of the Cleveland holiday experience," says Modern Electric singer Garrett Komyati.
Snow Days: theohiocitysingers.com