Thursday, June 25, 2015

Brews & BBQ at Portage Lake Brewing Company

Brews & BBQ at Portage Lake Brewing Company
by Brit Charek

To me, the idea of a prix fixe menu set by a great chef sounds like an exhilarating opportunity, but I can see how it would be intimidating for some some people. I mean, what if you end up with a plate of mushy peas over a bed of kale? Sure, those things might be in season and locally accessible but, umm, no thank you.

Portage Lakes Brewing Company has come up with a fool-proof idea for a prix fixe dinner: Beer, Barbeque and Ice Cream.

Executive Chef Dick Kanatzar and Pav’s Creamery have teamed up this summer to offer a monthly Brews & BBQ dinner that features various Brewing Companies. The next event will be July 11, 2015, starting at 6pm and will be held at Portage Lakes Brewing Company.

"Everyone loved the first Brews & BBQ event so much, we decided to have one every month until it gets too cold," said Jason Keel, owner of PLBC. Along with a great atmosphere, attendees can expect three courses prepared by Chef Dick, some amazing beers from Hoppin Frog Brewing Company and a delicious dessert by Pav’s Creamery to top off the night.

If those names sound familiar, it's because we've written about them both. Joanna wrote about Hoppin' Frog's tasting room back in October of 2013, and I wrote about Pav's Creamery's Charity Ice Cream Eating Contest.

“The first event was probably the most fun I’ve had cooking. I’m so stoked to be able to collaborate with awesome people and bring my style back to my hometown," said Chef Dick.

If that wasn't enough to convince you, check out the full menu:

Hoppin Frog Beers - Turbo Shandy and Very Rare Mystery keg

1st Course - Turbo shandy battered walleye "fishsticks" beer vinegar, grilled lemon and lime aioli and purple and orange slaw

2nd Course - Peaches and cream Caesar, grilled lettuces, corn bread, grilled peaches, creamy strawberry IPA dressing, avacado, pickled strawberries

3rd Course - Sous vide beef rib with Chef Dick's signature sauce Smoked Cheddar beer pimento mac n cheese

Dessert - Cafe Boris Ice Cream Cake made with Hoppin Frog Cafe Boris

Portage Lakes Brewing Company is located at 503 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319.
For reservations (highly recommended) or questions about Brews & BBQ events, contact PLBC at (330) 644-2337.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Urban Buzz: Made in Akron

Urban Buzz: Made in Akron
by Joanna Wilson

Last April, I joined a group of eager-to-learn leaders and entrepreneurs on a trip Akron2Pittsburgh.  On this trip, I met Kaley Foster, a young woman with a refreshing attitude about her own business named Urban Buzz.  You may have already seen Kaley--she was at Crafty Mart's Mom & Pop Shoppe, and she also set up shop at North Hill's Better Block event last month.  When I first met Kaley, I was touched by her willingness to take her life in a new direction and pursue her own passion.  I asked if she was willing to talk to me about her business Urban Buzz and the following is her response.

Me: What is Urban Buzz--and what do you sell?
Kaley: Urban Buzz is a beeswax candle company located in Akron, Ohio which uses only the purest beeswax from local apiaries and all natural essential oils.  We sell Tea Lights, Votives, Aromatherapy Tins, and two types of Pillar Candles.

Me: How did you get started?  What inspired you to start your business?
Kaley: I have always wanted to own my own business and use my talents to create a unique experience for customers.  I enjoy natural products, but what I enjoy more is inspiring and motivating others to live their dream.

Me: What makes you unique from other small businesses or/and other candle makers?
Kaley: What makes Urban Buzz unique is its passion for the City of Akron.  I was born and raised here and want to make our city the best it can be.  If this business can inspire other businesses and motivate people to take action, in turn creating a more engaged city, I will have reached my goal.  One other thing that makes Urban Buzz different from a product standpoint, is the beeswax.  The beeswax used is from the Akron Honey Company and also an apiary in Ashland.  Both waxes are 100% natural and local.

Me: What's your biggest challenge?
Kaley: My biggest challenge is what the next steps are for Urban Buzz.  It could go in many different directions, and figuring out what is the best direction can be a tough decision.  Luckily, I have some great mentors who I trust will guide me in the right direction. 
Me: Where do you see your business five years from now?
Kaley: In five years, I see Urban Buzz having a large online presence with an increased product line and also a storefront in downtown Akron with an array of honey based products.

Me: What if anything should others know about Urban Buzz--but too few people ask?
Kaley: I would love if more people knew that our goal isn't just to sell beeswax products.  It's bigger than that.  We're here to inspire others to use their talents and live their dream.  To take action.  Have courage.  Do what makes them come alive. 

If you're interested in learning more about Urban Buzz, check out the Facebook page: Urban Buzz
the website:

And, you can check out Urban Buzz at a Local Artists Show this Fri June 19th, 6-10pm at Old 97 Cafe on Kenmore Blvd.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Akron History: Founder's Day and Alcoholics Anonymous Landmarks

The following essay will appear in the June 10thth/issue #7 of The Devil Strip--our new, twice monthly, arts & culture newspaper in Akron. Issue #7 will soon be available--go out and pick up a copy or read it on-line.  As many of you know, I love researching and writing about Akron history. I'll be writing a regular column about Akron history for The Devil Strip in upcoming issues.  If you have any suggestions or requests for particular topics, let me know.

855 Ardmore in West Akron--Dr. Bob's Home and Museum.

Akron, OH: Where Bill W. and Dr. Bob Changed the World
by Joanna Wilson

You’re so Akron hear the louder-than-usual rumble of motorcycle engines on W. Market Street in June and smile knowingly that it must be Founder’s Day. This year, the annual Founder’s Day celebrations take place June 12th, 13th, and 14th in Akron--the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous.  2015 happens to be the 80th anniversary of the founding of A.A.--the self help group that has had an enormous impact on our society.  Not only does the group help alcoholics achieve sobriety but it introduced the Twelve Step program for self-improvement.  The Founder’s Day celebrations bring visitors from all over the country and the world to our city to honor the group’s origins and to join with others who share the recovery experience.

Front yard marker at Dr. Bob's Home

The roaring sound of motorcycles on W. Market Street is an annual experience because it has become popular with AA members who own bikes to make the annual journey.  Akron’s west side has several landmarks important to those commemorating Founder’s Day and these locations have become must-see destinations over the years.  At the top of the list is Dr. Bob’s Home at 855 Ardmore Avenue.  The modest arts and crafts home was where Dr. Bob, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and his wife lived for years.  The Akron home has since been turned into a museum with its own gift shop. 

Another popular destination is the Gate Lodge at Stan Hywet.  This is the place where Dr. Bob first met Bill W.--the other co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.  At meetings at the Gate Lodge, the two men shared their experiences and understood each other’s struggles with alcohol.  Although they didn’t originate the concept of group meetings, it was the power of the shared experience that convinced them to incorporate it as an important element of A.A.

Dr. Bob's Way, also known as Olive Street, runs adjacent to Summa St. Thomas Hospital.

You’ll probably also see people gathering at Mount Peace Cemetery on Aqueduct Street in West Akron.  The rolling green span is Dr. Bob’s final resting place and a popular place to honor the man who dedicated his life to helping others. Another destination of historical importance includes the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel (now the Mayflower Manor apartments) downtown where Bill W. used the public phone in the lobby to call Dr. Bob--the man who would help to change his life.  Additional locations include the A.A. Archives located on N. Main Street, and the Dr. Bob’s Way street sign (Olive Street) next to Summa St. Thomas Hospital in North Hill which acknowledges Dr. Bob’s work alongside Sister Ignatia Gavin with alcoholic patients.