Every so often we find a friend who has a way with words. Maybe they've got a blog of their own, or perhaps they're a closeted comedian. Who would we be if we didn't give them a shot to stretch their wings and write? So, in that supportive way we know so well, please give a warm welcome to our guest blogger, Cleveland's own Tony Winn! Remember last month's writeup? Yeah, you do!
All photos by Danielle Brassard.
The mission was simple: spend five hours at the inaugural Food Flea and chronicle the boozy, brunchy, spectacle that I like to call “Sunday”.
Considering the Cleveland Flea’s stellar reputation for throwing too-cool-for-school urban meet-ups and hip, pop-up markets, I only had one response when presented with the proposition of writing a story: Hell yes.
So what exactly is the Food Flea anyways? Good question.
You know how you love going to brunch on Sunday and grabbing a few drinks / bites to eat with close family / friends? (It’s practically religion for some of you)... well, The Cleveland Flea has decided to up the ante and make the whole “brunch” thing their bitch.
The Food Flea is designed to be the premier outdoor brunch spot for the entire Forest City to enjoy, complete with live music, games, a well-stocked bar and an encampment of some of the hottest food trucks in town. This is the brunch you should be at – trust me.
In my never-ending quest to fill my empty stomach, I think I may have struck gold. Lend me your eyes and walk with me into and out of the depths of the first ever Food Flea.
The day is young and my expectations are high. This is the first ever Food Flea after all – an event designed to be the premier Sunday kick back in all the land!
The South American, Frank Sinatra-esque, Bossa Nova sounds sailing from center stage hit my ears and my pupils widen as I set my gaze on the carousel of food trucks tantalizing me with their colorful exteriors and flavorful smells.
I catch a glimpse of an intense volleyball game going on – someone got spiked in the face... ouch. “The embarrassment must hurt more than the physical pain” I conclude to myself. Relaxed, I take in the sight of it all when I see a lighthouse calling me to its shore; like clockwork, my legs move me to my beacon.
Let’s be honest – the “lighthouse” I was referring to was a metaphor for my favorite spot at the Food Flea: The Happy Camper Bar Car. Hair of the dog, man. Last night was rough and I need one of their magic elixirs to calm the storm raging inside my head.
My potion of life takes the form of a Moscow mule, which I happily down. Soon after I order several more to ascend to that boozy, loopy level I like to be on while brunching (don’t judge me). With a focus on fresh ingredients and healthy respect to the craft, Happy Camper Bar Car never ceases to impress.
I decide to check out the ever-popular MoBite Café. Here’s what I’ll say: forget about “I can’t believe it’s not butter” and replace that with “I can’t believe this is vegan.” As a lifelong carnivore that often scoffed at the word vegan–let alone accepted the idea that vegan food could actually you know, taste good–I sit here uncomfortably typing with my foot in my mouth. Hands down this the best vegan food I’ve ever had. Moreover, I’ll claim that this operation is serving some of the best food currently being plated in the sixth city!
I ordered their catfish sandwich and I was convinced that the “fish” came fresh from the water – so much in fact I’m having trouble fully accepting that this dish is vegan! I repeat, in a blind taste test I would not be able to guess that this dish was vegan – sincerely - their focus on using high end ingredients pays off in a big colorful way.
I asked the chef what his secrets were, because clearly, he must have a trick up his sleeve. The answer was simple: love. Luckily for you and me, MoBite café plans to open a food truck soon. When it’s finally here, I’ll be the guy drooling in line.
Depending on the mood, badminton can bring out the best or worst of humanity – it’s a volatile game like that. Although I love the drama and fiery spirit of a highly competitive badminton game, today’s game reflected the vibe of the flea: mellow. We didn’t keep score, we just had fun – I like that.
When there is live music in the area, my ass is usually in a chair enjoying the moment – today is no exception. The smooth sounds of the live band have the crowd believing they are on the beach of Ipanema watching the waves as they crash into the shore. With each sip of my Moscow mule, I drift off to another world.
Feeling a grumble in my stomach, I make my way to Sauced Wood Fired Pizza. Eight words: Wood. Fired. Pizza. In. And. Around. My. Mouth. Pizza lovers unite, it’s time to come out of the shadows for I have found your sanctuary. If you’re anything like me, when you want a pizza, you want it NOW! Insert Sauced Wood Fired Pizza to the rescue. With a mobile wood fire oven (Which is rare / cool as shit), this institution delivers elite quality pizza that tastes better than it looks (and It looks pretty damn good if I may say so myself). I tried their brie, strawberry preserves, prosciutto and arugula pizza. It’s very balanced in flavor distribution with enough sweetness that makes you look forward to the next bite. I think I’ve found my new favorite pizza – thank you Sauced Wood Fired Pizza. Simply put, The Ninja Turtles and their pizza-a-day habit would absolutely love this place.
At this point in my life it’s addiction, when I see someone serving doughnuts, I come running with dollars in hand. I made my way to The Vegan Doughnut Company, and if you remember my last article, you’d know that I compare all doughnuts to a lifetime spent eating them. The stakes were high to say the least.
The beauty about food trucks and pop-up eateries is that you can often guess how tasty the food may be based on the number of people waiting in line. Well, The Vegan Doughnut Company passed the line test – a good start indeed. Their doughnuts are aesthetically pleasing as they are flavorful. Seriously – it’s not often that I struggle to eat a doughnut because I want to look at it. I’m usually far too much of a Neanderthal for that line of thinking, but this place is different, they have great presentation.
The Vegan doughnut company churns out batch after batch of vegan friendly doughnuts with a flavor that keeps you coming back for more. These are some of the prettiest and best tasting doughnuts I’ve ever sampled.
I make my way back to the Happy Camper Bar Car and order their lemon basil Daiquiri. Go ahead and judge me, I don’t care! If you ask me, this is the only way to cool down on this hot, summer day.
Call it my small-town upbringing, but I’m from the school of thought that believes putting an egg on anything will improve the taste. With that thought in mind, I make my way to the Fire Spice Company tent where my suspicions are confirmed. I ordered their lamb masala, basmati rice, poached egg and serrano chutney. My oh my what a treat indeed. This dish was a matrix of spice and flavor that is hard to replicate. The Fire Spice Company focuses on improving the dull spices that people become numb to and replaces the monotony with vibrant, aromatic spices that will improve any meal. Rest assured I will be back for more – a spice guy always needs his fix.
The eighth grade, emotional version of myself is a sucker for taking bad yearbook photos along with snapping scene-y pictures in front of colorful brick walls. With a reluctant sigh, I let thirteen-year-old Tony take the helm as I pose for countless pictures in front of the iconic colorful walls that encircle The Flea.
Controversy strikes when my friend is caught red handed interfering with an intense game of cornhole. The punishment: death! Just kidding, but this paragraph will serve as a reminder that people don’t forget!
It’s my damn sweet tooth that I have to thank for every trip to the dentist. Feeling the weight of the persuasion springing from my mouth, I make my way to Annie’s Sweet Shop. The first thing I notice are the elegant designs that her treats are presented with. The smell of lavender hits my nose and I immediately order the lemon-lavender butter cookie. This cookie is so good you can taste each individual crumb… like, seriously. Feeling an utter disrespect for my diet I decide to up the ante and try their truffle almond fudge brownie. This is like a warm sweater on a cold day – it’s feels right; the chocolate melts in your mouth. Moved by the carnival of sweetness taking place in my mouth I leave the booth happy with the expectation to come back for more.
The rest of Food Flea flashes by like a blur. Conversations were had, friendships were won, games were played and hangovers started to make trembles in the otherwise calm waters.
Summed up, the Food Flea is food, love, music and games. What more can you ask for? I encourage you to check out the next Food Flea so you can do brunch the way you’ve always dreamed of. Until then – practice your bump, set, and spike. I’ll see you on the volleyball court in July.
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