Saturday, March 30, 2013

Canton Food Tours Photo Blog

Who: You and fellow food lovers in Northeast Ohio!
Where: All throughout the Greater Canton Area, Stark County, OH
When: ANYTIME of the year!
Why: To learn about the history, architecture, and art of Canton while dining on some of its greatest dishes!
How: Just get in touch with Barb Abbott of Canton Food Tours to get started!
Photos by OHventures
At Lynda Tuttle Art Gallery

At Lucca

Food From Lucca

Improving Your Lung Health

Improving Your Lung Health
by Michael J. Evans
Breathing is something that many of us tend to take for granted. However, lung cancer and lung-related diseases are an increasing epidemic in the country. With the growing prevalence of respiratory conditions and diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chances are you or someone you know is affected, finding themselves "fighting for air" on a daily basis.
In many cases, making positive changes to your lifestyle can dramatically decrease your chances of being diagnosed with such illnesses. Putting yourself in an environment that is smoke free and pollution free is the most obvious and most important step to take. Quitting smoking can be difficult for many, but doing so will dramatically improve one's health in an extraordinary number of ways. Your lungs will thank you, and so will the lungs of those around you. 
Living in a home where someone smokes or spending time close to others while they smoke poses many health threats. We have known these things for years, yet the addictive quality of nicotine keeps people from kicking the habit for good. If you or someone you love needs help eliminating cigarettes from their life for good, visit Freedom From Smoking online at

In addition to quitting smoking (which is the number one cause of lung cancer), it is important to address the possibility of radon in your surroundings (which is the second leading cause of lung cancer). Radon is an odorless and colorless gas which can enter your home through your water pipes or cracks in your walls or floors. A home test is inexpensive and easy. To learn more about how you can protect youself from radon and how to get your house tested for the presence of this gas in your home, visit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website on the subject at

Saturday, March 16, 2013

10 OHventurous Restaurants

Photos by OHventures. Clockwise From Top Left: Youngstown Crab Company, Melt Bar & Grilled in Cleveland, Crave in Akron, Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace in Columbus, Olive: An Urban Dive in Dayton.

It's time to get adventurous with your food! Here are some of the handpicked best Ohio restaurants that are not afraid to be bold and different with their flavors! Make this a checklist for you to use while traveling the state in search of some unique, memorable meals!

1. Olive: An Urban Dive (Dayton): A true Dayton original, Olive: An Urban Dive is refreshing, eclectic, and surprising in a very good way. Its motto is: "local over import, labor over convenience and service over everything else." It discretely blends in with the metropolitan backdrop of Dayton's downtown roads and humbly presents total knockouts on every dish.Everything found at Olive: An Urban Dive was flavorful, fresh, and fantastic (how is that for alliteration?). The restaurant prides itself in all of these things, along with the fact that they don't even own a microwave or can opener! They have an abundance of gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, and kosher offerings without sacrificing taste. The feel of the diner also adds to the overall experience.

2. Der Dutchmann (Sugar Creek, Walnut Creek, Berlin): The perfect place to become educated and experience the minimalist lifestyle of the Amish is at one of the five Der Dutchman Restaurants in Ohio. The menu consists of many hearty "comfort" foods in generous portions that will leave you stuffed (trust me). I opted to order the Amish Kitchen Buffet so that I could get a sample of all of the different foods offered at Der Dutchman. I piled my plate high with mashed potatoes, salad, baked beans with bacon, ham, macaroni and cheese, green beans, and "broasted" chicken (breaded roasted chicken), which melted in my mouth! I also quenched my thirst with their homemade iced tea, as well as bread rolls slathered with their specially made apple butter and sweet syrupy peanut butter (which surprisingly had hints of marshmallow and maple). 

3. Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace (Columbus): Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace is the epitome of novelty. It's not a tacky kind of novelty, but a breath of fresh air to the downtown Columbus scene. Dirty Frank's boasts a bright yellow awning that begs you to come inside. The hot dog joint has creative combos you'd never think to cook up back home. Or if you have, it has catchy quirky names to refer to them by. For instance, Laura's Pittsburgh Princess (french fries, coleslaw, and vinegar ON the hot dog), Zippity Zam (sriracha cream cheese with roasted red peppers), or one of my favorites, the Classy Lady (crumbled potato chips and cheddar cheese). 

Photo Courtesy of The Golden Lamb 

4. Golden Lamb (Lebanon): The legendary Golden Lamb in Lebanon (Warren County) is known across the state (and country) for its extensive history and impressive guest list! Established in 1803 (the same year that Ohio became a state), the restaurant and inn holds the title of the oldest continuously operating business in the State of Ohio! In over 200 years of operation, The Golden Lamb has served up hearty comfort foods and offered overnight stay for such prominent figures as authors Mark Twain (Samuel Clemons) and Charles Dickens, as well as twelve United States Presidents, including William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, Ulysses S. Grant, Howard Taft, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and more!

5. Melt Bar & Grilled (Cleveland): Everyone loves cheese! Which is what makes "Melt" such a smashing (seemingly overnight) success! Melt has taken our favorite childhood food staple and revoluntionized it! What used to be nothing more than two pieces of Wonderbread, a slice of Kraft Singles American cheese, and a side some Campbell's tomato soup has now become an artform with dozens and dozens of creative, wacky and delicious fixings. Some examples of their fun grilled cheese sammies are: "Parmageddon" which includes 2 cheese and potato pierogis, sauerkraut, cheddar cheese and onions, "The Godfather" which has three-cheese lasagna, provolone and red sauce; and the "Purple Parma" (eggplant, tomato, pesto and provolone).

Canton Food Tours

Canton Food Tours founder Barb Abbott at the McKinley Monument

I have been to the City of Canton many times in my day, but never had I experienced it the way I did just a couple months ago when I went on a fun-filled and flavorful journey through town with the Canton Food Tours

I heart stark van smitikFounded in May 2012 by entrepreneuer Barb Abbott,  Canton Food Tours is a unique way to tour the city, learning not only about local eats, but also about the rich history, architecture, and art of the area. There is a wide variety of tours available to choose from. Some are themed around a geographical region (such as the Warehouse District Tour), a specific cuisine (such as the Heat Seekers Tour or Just Desserts Tour), or you can create your own personal, gathering to meet your own interests!

The tours last a couple of hours and typically cost a very reasonable $40-$50 a person. Depending on the itinerary, tours are traveled on foot, or by a conversion van that provides transportation to further destinations. No matter what tour you go on, you are bound to discover something new and impressive about Canton, in a fun and exciting setting! 

Itkwk salad2 color popAlong with about a dozen other friends and tour guide (Barb Abbott herself), we hit the streets for a tasty trip specially tailored for our friend's birthday. After learning a bit about the industrial history of the city (such as the original vacuum manufacturing plant of the Hoover Company), we put our appetites to the test at our very first spot in town: Lucca, an Italian restaurant located on 4th Street and Cleveland Avenue. Here, we were treated to local pecorino cheese, fresh greens, and red wine while seated around the swanky, slick bar.

Our walking tour took us next to Tozzi's Downtown, another classy Italian restaurant complete with a live jazz band! We helped ourselves to platters of hot peppers, cured meats, and garlic bread while ordering drinks galore (not included). At the next stop, however, alcoholic drinks were included! Picciano's Martini Lounge located in downtown Canton on Market Avenue was a favorite on our tour! We snacked on sushi and washed it down with a chocolate martini!

Photo (96)
Clockwise: Lynda Tuttle Art Center, Basil Asian Bistro, Tozzi's, Lucca. Photo by OHventures.

Lynda Tuttle's Art Center was a special stop on the tour. While it did not include food, this awesome art gallery set up a do-it-yourself crafting session led by the one and only Lynda Tuttle. We got step-by-step instructions on how to make our very own music note ornaments (since it was Christmastime and the birthday boy is a musician). This was a much needed and very enjoyable portion of our night!

To round things out, our group took our ornaments and made it to our last restaurant, Basil Asian Bistro. Here, we had delicious bonbon chicken, pad thai, and of course birthday cake! With a final toast from all of our friends to Canton Food Tours and Barb Abbott, we already began thinking of when our next tour will 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mahoning County Wineries

Mastropietro Winery. Photos by OHventures

If there's one adventure I am always up for, it's one that involves wine! So when I went home recently to my hometown of Hubbard, I welcomed with open arms a proposal by my father and aunt to take an impromptu tour of nearby wineries! This meant heading slightly south to Mahoning County where we eventually visited Mastropietro Winery in Berlin Center, Halliday's Winery in Lake Milton, and Myrddin Winery also in Lake Milton.

The first stop on our trip was to Mastropietro Winery (14558 Ellsworth Road, Berlin Center, OH 44401). We were visiting thanks to some word-of-mouth that my Aunt Patty had heard from friends. It was early afternoon on a Saturday, so when we arrived, driving down the rows of grapevines (pictured above), we found that we were the some of the only ones there (another couple nearby drank wine while playing boardgames by the fireplace inside). However, we soon learned that most times, Mastropietro is buzzing with crowds to enjoy live music and food (on Friday and Saturday evenings), private parties, and the fantastic and picturesque lake view outside!

To get our winery tour started on the right foot, we decided to "wine down at the Mastropietro Winery" and split a tasting platter of all 15 wines they had available that day (photo below, taken after we drank all of the white wines). The young girl working there was super helpful in putting together the tasting and was extremely personable. She delivered the platter to us, in which the wines (7 white, 7 red, and 1 rose) were organized in order of sweetest to driest, and had mini descriptions of their flavors printed on the place mat. 

My favorites here were the driest of reds (something I predicted thanks to my wine making experience at Camelot Cellars), including the Red Zinfandel and Valley Red. My aunt really enjoyed the Frontenac Estate Grown, as it had a "jammy" concord grape taste to it, which she really enjoys (as evidenced by the photo below). The sampler was an awesome way to experience all of the wines made right there at Mastropietro, and was extremely affordable at a price of only $7.50!! I also bought a fun snack to accompany our drinks - "whiskey sticks"! The whiskey sticks were pretzels made with spices and, yes, whiskey, and were made in nearby Salem, OH in Columbiana County.

Moving on from Mastropietro, we hopped on the GPS and found Halliday's Winery located just under 15 minutes down the road at 2400 NE Rive Rd, Lake Milton, OH 44429. This winery was situated alongside a golf course, which had dedicated golfers hitting the green even in February! The building had a large burgundy awning donning the name of the winery (pictured below) and a significant number of people inside its large, open interior. Immediately to the right, as we walked in, was a small gift shop that had jams, jellies, chocolates, and other goods for sale that were made especially for Halliday's. My aunt went ahead and bought the "Traffic Jam," which was a jam made out of a countless number of different fruits. 

We saddled up at the bar and immediately ordered a three-wine flight sampler from the bartender. All of us opted for red wine (we like our teeth purple). There was a much smaller selection at Halliday's (3 reds, 3 whites) and we learned that the wine itself was not made on site. The good news is, it is still made in Ohio, up in Geneva in Ashtabula County.

The last stop for us on our tour was a real quick stop to the magical Myrddin Winery, which was just under 10 minutes away at 3020 Scenic Avenue, Lake Milton 44401. This eclectic spot is situated in the midst of the woods and is easy to miss unless you are on the lookout for the blue decorative lights lining the pathway out front (pictured above). Myrddin, which is an Old English spelling of "Merlin", feels like it has taken a page out of Harry Potter with its wizarding theme. Even the wines themselves have names such as Pendragon and Sorcerer's Red. We tried one that tasted vey much like a chocolate Tootsie Roll! 

Even though we stayed at Myrddin for the shortest amount of time, it was definitely our most favorite of the three wineries we visited. The staff (Evelyn, Kristopher, and Gayle) was awesome, and there was even a dog named George there to greet us! My dad bought a bottle of wine to take home, and, as a parting gift, everyone got a fortune cookie to take with us! The patio was beautiful and had a great view of Lake Milton (below). We can't wait to come back in the summer!

Our tour of these three wineries lasted just about 4 hours and was a total blast. Get yourself a designated driver and plan a Mahoning County Winery tour for yourself this spring!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Arnold Pump & Run Recap

Photos by OHventures

Of all the years I have been attending the Arnold Classic Sports Festival, this year was the first time I have participated in the famed "Pump & Run" event!

The Pump & Run combines brute strength with aerobic ability into one unique fitness event. One must bench press his or her own body weight as many times as possible (pump) and then hit the streets for a 5K race (run). Thirty seconds is taken off of their finishing time for every full rep they were able to bench press earlier that morning. Pretty intense, no?

I had always been intrigued by this hybrid fitness feat, and was always interested in competing myself. However, the slots were always filled up by the time I wanted to register myself. This year, the same held true. In fact, all 850 slots for the Pump & Run were sold out in the very first hours of the first day that registration opened to the public! This speaks to just how popular this meathead mainstay is! 

As fate would have it, one of my good friends Keith had signed up on that first day of registration, but later learned he was unable to compete. This was unfortunate for him, but very fortunate for me, as he permitted me to take his spot! The Arnold Classic also has its very own 5K (sans weight lifting) and I had already signed up for that event (since it has many more slots and was not yet sold out). Thus, I passed along my 5K registration to my friend Matt and Keith passed along his Pump & Run registration to me!

While I was beyond excited to partake in this crazy strongman competition (of sorts), I was also pretty nervous. Even though I considered myself in pretty good shape and had successfully completed P90X, I virtually never bench pressed before (believe it or not, benching is not part of the P90X routine). So I had no idea how much weight I would be able to put up, nor did I know how much I weighed. Thankfully my brother Curt was able to make me more aware of my abilities. He had me over to weigh in (I am 155 pounds, but only because I am really short) and then lift that amount at his home gym. I was able to make 7 reps easily, and this was when I was tired and wearing jeans and a sweater from church that morning. I impressed and surprised myself, and also calmed my nerves knowing I could do it!

On the morning of March 3, 2013 I arrived at The Greater Columbus Expo Center at 8:00 AM to meet up with my fraternity brothers Richard, Jim, and Drew who were also taking a stab at the P&R! Richard and Drew had done the event a few years back so they knew what to expect. We weighed in (I was steady at 155) and then stood in the long line to bench press! There were at least a dozen benches lined up in a row with officials standing at each one to count and spot each athlete. When it was my time, I took a deep breath and went for it! I thought I bench pressed my body weight 11 times, but apparently I did not go all the way down on one of the reps, so they tagged me at 10 reps! That meant I would get 5 minutes off of my running time!

The strange thing is, since benching is such a foreign concept to me, I injured myself by straining my hamstring, of all things! It just goes to show that you do indeed use your whole body to bench! I was afraid that the strain would affect my race, but we thankfully had about an hour and a half before the start so I could work it out.

I was content with my results in the benching portion of the event. I knew some people who had 0 reps, and others (like Richard) who had the max of 30 reps (which is frickin 15 minutes off of your race time)!! We all then prepared for the next portion of the day: the run!

Despite it being March, it also happened to be extremely cold outside when it came time for the race, at about 20-25 degrees! That is colder than it was for the Jingle Bell Run I did in December! This was yet another factor that worried me prior to the race.

The coolest thing ever happened while we were waiting in the frigid snowy air for the race to being: Arnold Schwarzenegger himself appeared at the front of the crowd to thank everyone who was running and to do the official countdown to start the race! I couldn't believe that the Terminator himself was kicking off my race! As cool as that was, I couldn't relish in the moment, as I had to run down High Street, turning right on Nationwide, and looping to Front Street in the cold. The specifics of the route are truly uninteresting and frankly I don't like to remember it, as it was so cold, I just wanted it to be over! This of course gave me motivation to run faster, but that can be difficult in the cold and on hills!

When all was said and done, I crossed the finish line with an approximate time of 25 minutes, which would make my adjusted time 20 minutes. I was proud of my time, but it paled in comparison to people like Richard who ended up with an adjusted time of about 7 minutes! I placed in the middle of the pack, at about 400/850. I was just happy for the race to be over and to be inside at the Expo collecting goodies while donning my medal!

Some people are really good at running but not good at lifting, and some people are really good at lifting but not good at running. The Arnold Pump & Run rewards those who are skilled in both lifting and running. The winners are no doubt folks who ran at a good pace AND were able to bench press their own weight a significant number of times. It was really a fun, different, and challenging race to be a part of!