The Weekend Gourmet: A Food Lover's Weekend In Ohio, Part I: Akron/Canton and Fallingwater F

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Food Lover's Weekend In Ohio, Part I: Akron/Canton and Fallingwater

The Weekend Gourmet enjoyed a fun getaway to Ohio and Pennsylvania this Summer to attend our nephew’s high school graduation. Before and after the ceremony, we enjoyed visits to the Akron/Canton area, Cleveland, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Fallingwater. We enjoyed cooler temps, excellent food, and some fun attractions. We flew into and out of the smaller Akron-Canton airport via Southwest Airlines, so we began our trip with an overnight visit to Akron and Canton. Both towns are located about an hour south of Cleveland, so a visit to both was very easy. Canton is best known for two things: the Pro Football Hall of Fame and DCI’s popular Bluecoats drum corp. When we found out that the Pro Football Hall of Fame was only a 10-minute drive from the airport, we decided to head straight there after picking up our rental car. Michael and I are huge football fans, so we were really excited to visit the Hall of Fame. It's chock-full of NFL history, but it’s easy to see the entire complex in an afternoon.
Each year, nearly two-hundred thousand football fans visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Learning about the history of the game is an amazing and fun learning experience. We first spent some time visiting the Hall of Fame Gallery, which contains bronze busts of all 287 NFL Hall of Fame inductees -- both players and coaches. We immediately looked for a few of our favorite players, and we were very excited to find #34: Texas and Houston Oilers legend Earl “The Tyler Rose” Campbell. 
After spending an hour or so walking through the Hall of Fame Gallery, we decided to spend the rest of our visit checking out some of the exhibits located in the two-level main building. All of the exhibits were educational, and many of them were interactive too. My favorite experience was getting to stand right next to the actual Lombardi Trophy that will be presented to the winner of the 2015 Super Bowl next February! 
Michael had fun creating a computer mockup of a Houston Texans championship ring at one interactive exhibit. A fan can dream…right?!?!? Speaking of the Texans, we were really excited to see a J.J. Watt jersey on display. As you can see, Michael happened to be wearing his favorite J.J. Watt shirt that day. Talk about a perfect photo op! Before leaving, we spent some time in the well-stocked Hall of Fame Store gift shop to pick up a few souvenirs of our visit.
Photograph provided by Sheraton Hotels
From there, we headed to the Sheraton Suites Akron Cuyahoga Falls hotel in nearby Cuyahoga Falls. The picturesque town is located on the scenic Cuyahoga River. In fact, our two-room suite included a lovely view of the river below. The Sheraton Suites also provides a perfect location for travelers – it's right on the river, with easy access to a major freeway. Our suite had a living room, a spacious bedroom, and a large bathroom. The King bed was very comfortable, and the hotel provided free in-room WiFi. We settled in for a bit to relax before our dinner reservation at Dante Bocuzzi Akron -- known as dba -- in nearby Akron. 
For those who don’t know, NBA great LeBron James grew up in Akron -- and he still maintains close ties to his hometown. Akron is also home to the University of Akron, as well as a thriving food scene. Chef Dante Bocuzzi has several restaurants in the Cleveland area, and we had read great things about his Dante Bocuzzi Akron -- known as dba. It's a popular restaurant that also offers a bar and an after-hours ultra lounge. Chef Bocuzzi is also a music lover, which is reflected in dba’s décor and attitude. The restaurant features low lighting, red lighting, and walls that are inscribed with lyrics from famous rock songs. The menu at dba is printed on the back of a vintage LP sleeve, and the bread bowls at each table are handmade by Chef Bocuzzi by melting and reshaping classic vinyl albums -- very fun! 
Chef de Cuisine Ernie Cornelius' dinner menu features creative flavor combinations -- and some of the best food we've eaten in any city this year. We started our memorable meal with a duo of creative cocktail pairings and a shared appetizer. For our starter, we shared the Cola Braised Short Ribs with Asian Slaw and Tempura Shiitake. The ribs were fork tender, and the mushrooms were perfectly fried. The acidity from the slaw worked perfectly with the richness of the beef ribs. So good! 
Our perfectly mixed cocktails were fruity and vibrantly flavored. Michael had a pineapple-based cocktail that came paired with an edible pineapple crisp on top. I opted for the Berry Fizz, which was served with an amuse bouche of panna cotta and dried blueberries. We quickly agreed that our meal was off to a perfect start! After our starter, we shared a Toasted Peanut and Chicken Salad. It was easily one of the best salads we've eaten in ages. It featured perfectly grilled chicken breast, crispy rice noodles, chopped peanuts, and a flavorful spicy peanut dressing. 
For our entrees, we tried two seafood entrees. Michael selected the Seared Sea Scallops with Balsamic Glazed Strawberries, Potato Cakes, and Wilted Arugula. The scallops were perfectly seared, and the tartness of the balsamic and strawberries paired perfectly with the sweet scallops. I ordered Salmon with Crispy Potatoes and Summer Succotash. The salmon was perfectly cooked -- crispy outside and tender inside. It tasted like Summer on a plate. For dessert, we shared a tasting plate of mini desserts. The chef hand-selected a sweet trio for us, including: Strawberry-Pistachio Napoleon, Chocolate Cheesecake, and Lemon-Rhubarb Tart. 
The sampler was perfect for sharing, allowing both of us to have a bite or two of each delicious dessert. We thought our meal was over...but Chef Cornelius came out of the kitchen with one more dessert that was created especially for us. It was comprised of homemade caramel, caramelized bananas resting on top of cake rounds, and homemade caramel ice cream. It was a divine ending to our meal.
Photograph provided by Sheraton Hotelss
After dinner, we made the quick 10-minute drive back to our spacious room at the Sheraton Suites and settled in for the evening. We had been up since very early that morning, and we were on the go the entire day. Needless to say, we were thankful for hot showers, luxurious spa toiletries, and a comfortable King size bed! The next morning, we were rested and ready to continue our trip. We packed our things up and left our bags with the friendly front desk staff while we enjoyed the Sheraton Breakfast Buffet at Beau's On the River, the hotel's restaurant. The buffet featured a wide variety of hot and cold selections, including: made-to-order omelets, pastries, fruit, and yogurt. The restaurant's large dining room featured floor-to-ceiling windows, providing lovely views of the Cuyahoga River. 
Great food and a gorgeous view – what better way to start the day? From there, we headed north of Cleveland to attend our oldest nephew Levi’s graduation festivities. The day after the graduation ceremony, we took Levi and his girlfriend Melinda on a day trip to Pennsylvania to visit architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic FallingwaterThe drive from Cleveland to Fallingwater was quite scenic. We saw lots of lush greenery as we entered the Bear Run Nature Reserve area. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy cares for Fallingwater, which is an official National Historic Landmark. The Conservancy also conducts informative daily tours of the home. We're great admirers of Wright’s architecture, having visited many of his famous architectural landmarks in the Chicago area on previous vacations. When we learned that Fallingwater was only a 4-hour drive from Cleveland, we immediately added it to our itinerary! 

The grounds that Fallingwater sits on are lush and peaceful, and the home itself is an architectural marvel. Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fallingwater as a country home for the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh. The structure was built between 1936 and 1939, and it's a perfect example of how Wright designed his homes to be in harmony with the surrounding natural landscape. Fallingwater is built over a beautiful waterfall! Interior photography isn't allowed, but exterior photographs are permitted. A scenic vista is a short walk away, and it provides perfect views of the home and waterfall.
We had an amazing time – and this was just the first part of our trip! Our Ohio-Pennsylvania adventure continued with two days in Cleveland proper. While there, we enjoyed two amazing dinners and an extensive two-part visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Be sure to come back on Monday to hear all about those adventures.
Disclosure: The NFL Hall of Fame and Fallingwater provided complimentary admission. Sheraton provided our accommodations and breakfast, and dba hosted dinner to facilitate inclusion in this article. Special thanks to the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau for assisting with our travel arrangements. All photographs -- unless noted -- are copyrighted by Michael K. Garcia. They may not be copied or shared without prior permission.

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