Throughout her life, high-society doyenne Gertrude Seiberling drooled over plates of prunes stuffed with cream cheese. That's why the wife of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company's co-founder, Franklin, made the hors d'oeuvre a staple at her sumptuous parties in the couple's Akron mansion back in the day. You can try them yourself at tonight's 1920s Appetizers tasting, which is part of Stan Hywet's Creative Cooking series. "The prunes are actually quite tasty," says Chrissy Kozy, the museum's education specialist. "The cream cheese accents the tangy flavors of the fruit. This isn't heavy food at all; it's delicious history."
Your chef for the evening is actor Jim Urban of the Ohio's History First-Hand Society. During a 90-minute demonstration, he'll prepare munchies from the menus that the Seiberlings put together for their pre-Depression Era blowouts. Patrons can also take home the family's cookbook, Gertrude's Favorites, which features treats like celery-and-crushed-peanut sandwiches. "While the character [Urban plays] is fictional, the dishes really did appear at all those high-profile gatherings at Stan Hywet," says Kozy. "It was all about the show back then. They didn't build an estate to quietly read a book in a room. They wanted to showcase the opulence of their wealth." Step back in time at 6:30 tonight at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, 714 N. Portage Path in Akron. Tickets are $15 ($12 for museum members). Call 330.836.5533 or visit www.stanhywet.org. - Marge Perko
With election day a couple of months away, comedian Alonzo Bodden has been fine-tuning his political jokes, which he'll try out at his stand-up shows this weekend at Hilarities. A Clinton-Obama barb is one of his faves: "There was a lot of great stuff between Hillary and Barack in the primaries," says Bodden, who was crowned champ of Last Comic Standing's third season. "America was asking, 'Who do we hate more: women or black people?' Women won."
When he's not touring the country, the 46-year-old Queens native tries to keep up with his idols, Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld, by building up his collection of cars. But his garage can't quite compare. "I wish," laughs Bodden, who hosts the Speed Channel's 101 Cars You Must Drive. "I'm not that funny yet. I have a Mini Cooper and a Hummer - kinda both ends of the spectrum."
Still, escalating gas prices are starting to get him down. "It's not Exxon's fault," says Bodden. "They had nothing to do with it, yet they did make $12 billion last quarter. They just got lucky. And I'm buying gas with an adjustable-rate mortgage." Showtimes are 8 tonight, 8 and 10:15 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Hilarities East 4th, 2035 E. 4th St. Tickets are $15 to $23. Call 216.241.7425 or visit www.pickwickandfrolic.com. - P.F. Wilson
Jenn Thomas proved she could feed an army on the cheap last November, when her lasagna cheeseburger helped her win the Rachael Ray Show's "So You Think You Can Cook" contest. The Cuyahoga Falls resident will show you how to make an inexpensive steamed-salmon-and-mojito dinner this weekend, when she hosts cooking demos at the 13th annual Taste of Cleveland, which runs today through Monday. "I'm a bartender, so it's not like I'm rolling in money," says the 25-year-old Thomas, who slings cocktails at Brubaker's in Hudson. "All my stuff has a lot of leftovers. And I use a lot of things you can find at a Giant Eagle. My stuff is not expensive, because that's how I have to live. Why would I expect anyone else to spend a lot of money on dinner?"
Besides Thomas' daily appearances, the foodfest will dish up delicacies from 30 restaurants and caterers, including Parma's Das Schnitzel Haus, South Euclid's Battiste & Dupree Cajun Grill and Cleveland's Transylvania Bakery Shop. Tomorrow, Northeast Ohio mayors square off in the annual Dessert Cup Challenge. And on Monday, Bubba's Q World Famous Bar-B-Q of Avon defends its title as "Best Restaurant," while the Toledo-based Real New Orleans catering crew tries to score a second straight victory in the "Best Entrée" division with a jambalaya dish.
Thomas will be targeting some of her demonstrations to schoolkids who think Taco Bell and Burger King are food groups. She's also writing a cookbook, Making the Most of What's in Your Cupboard, to cash in on her fleeting TV fame. "A celebrity is somebody who does something positive on camera and can make a difference in somebody else's life while actually making money from it," says Thomas, who's been cooking and baking since she was 7. "I guess I'm like that, only without the money part. I'm just a person pursuing a dream." Give your taste buds a workout from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. today, noon to 11 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday and noon to 8 p.m. Monday at Time Warner Cable Amphitheater at Tower City, 351 Canal Rd. Admission is $7; free from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. Call 216.241.5555 or visit www.cleveland.com/tasteofcleveland. - Cris Glaser
The J...germeister Girls and Miss Budweiser will work the "bier-garden" crowd at this weekend's Labor Day Oktoberfest. But you don't have to be German to appreciate all the brew that'll be poured at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds. "I come from German heritage, but you would never know it," says fest organizer Candyce Traci. "I don't even know how to say hello in German. But we want to keep the festival as authentic as possible." That includes lots of lightning-quick dachshunds, which will compete over three days before squaring off at Sunday's "Champion of Champions" finals of the National Weiner Dog Races. Dozens of dogs from North America and Europe are registered to run 25- and 35-foot laps for coveted medals in the puppy, adult and senior categories. "They make me laugh," says Traci. "We can't afford gas to drive to work, but these people can fly in from all over the world to race their dachshunds."
The International Pavilion will serve as the fest's epicenter, where bands and dancers from 18 countries will perform. Nine local microbreweries - including Rock Bottom and Great Lakes - will compete at tonight's brew-off. And Schmidt's Restaurant and Sausage Haus (from Columbus) will join the local Der Braumeister and Seven Roses restaurants to create German dinner staples. You'll also find fair grub like pizza and gyros. "If you're coming out all four days, you don't want sauerkraut every day," says Traci. "And kids won't want Wiener schnitzel at all; they want a slice of pizza. But we're so proud that we're not a Kiwanis-Rotary pancake breakfast. We're not as big as Columbus' Oktoberfest, but we're getting there." Raise your mugs from 5 to 11 tonight, noon to 11 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday and noon to 9 p.m. Monday at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, 164 Eastland Rd. in Berea. Admission is $8. Visit www.bereaoktoberfest.com for more information. - Glaser
It's no coincidence that the International Women's Air & Space Museum is holding tonight's Corks in the Concourse benefit to help jump-start your Labor Day weekend. The third annual wine-tasting goes hand in hand with the first day of pilot practice at the Cleveland National Air Show. "If it's nice outside - and it was last year - there's a large grassy area overlooking the runway, so the air-show planes will be out on the tarmac," says museum director Toni Mullee. "What's nice this year is that the Blue Angels' planes will be parked here. And that's kind of a neat thing for people to see."
Ticket prices for the tasting include eight samples of wine from Northern Ohio vintners like Ferrante's in Harpersfield Township, Debonné's in Madison and Sandusky's Firelands. You can also meet U.S. Air Force Captain Jammie "Trix" Jamieson, who is the country's first woman ever to command an F-22 Raptor fighter jet. A silent auction featuring gift baskets, wine coolers and hot-air balloon rides will peak with a $900 "fighter pilot for a day" package from the Air Combat USA civilian dogfighting school. "It's your chance to be a top gun," says Mullee. "I think people see a movie and think, 'I wish I could do that.' Well, now you'll be able to." Pop the cork from 6 to 10 tonight at the International Women's Air & Space Museum, 1501 N. Marginal Rd. Tickets are $60 ($35 for designated drivers and $55 for museum members). Call 216.623.1111 or visit www.iwasm.org. - Glaser
Psst. Wanna avoid all the crowds at Burke Lakefront Airport taking in the air show? Check out the Steamship William G. Mather Museum's Air Show Deck Parties this weekend. As jets roar overhead, you can watch the show outside and take a tour of the retired Great Lakes bulk freighter, which is now owned by the Great Lakes Science Center. You can also nosh on $3 hot dogs and $6.50 chicken Caesar wraps, which can be washed down with pop and bottled water. Heads up, though: Booze isn't allowed on board. The parties run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Monday on the Steamship William G. Mather Museum, 1001 E. 9th St. Pier, Dock 32. Tickets are $15 ($12 for museum members). Call 216.694.2000 or visit www.greatscience.com. - Glaser
Drop a double dose of testosterone and flex your manliness at tonight's Dudefest in downtown Cleveland. Hosted by Firestorm Pro wrestling, the men-behaving-badly bash is all about muscles, sports and war games. "The idea was mainly conceived during a whiskey-fueled dream where Achilles, Abe Lincoln and John Wayne descended from heaven and kicked the piss out of me," says Firestorm star Mike "the Deviant" Hutter. "Every man worth his salt had a hand in the conception. I was just the first to put it in action."
The second annual gathering starts at Peabody's and is followed by an impromptu bar crawl. At each stop, the guys cast aside skirt-chasing with a toast to every alpha male in Cleveland. There are only two rules: Bring lots of cash and a taste for beer, and leave your cell and girlfriend at home. "It takes a real man - preferably with tough facial hair - to go out on the town and rock his soul away, all without the incessant need to play a role for anonymous chicks," says Hutter. "We want dudes to get their faces rocked off so hard that the coroner will need to obtain dental records to identify them." Unleash your Y chromosome from 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. today at Peabody's, 2083 E. 21st St. Admission is free. Call 216.776.9999 or visit www.myspace.com/dudesdudesdudesdudes. - Chad Felton
"LOUIESIANA" SHRIMP BOIL
Spice up your senses with the scents of Cajun country at tonight's "Louiesiana" Shrimp Boil, Bar Louie's first-ever tribute to the tasty crustacean. "Making the evening an all-you-can-eat ensures people will gladly stuff themselves," says manager Chastity Bogard.
The dinner comes with side orders of andouille sausage, potatoes and corn-on-the-cob, all spiked with Cajun spices. The bar will also sell $2 bottles of beer to douse the heat. But the feast has nothing to do with Big Easy debauchery, so leave those beads at home. "It's all about the shrimp," says Bogard. "The theme is Louisiana, but the event isn't a Mardi Gras party by any means." Gar-on-teed. Savor the flavors at 5 tonight at Bar Louie, 24337 Cedar Rd. in Lyndhurst. Dinner costs $15. Call 216.325.1120 or visit www.barlouieamerica.com. - Felton
Sidewalk Cinema: In Indiana Jones' first movie adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the snake-fearing archaeologist tangles with Nazis in a quest to find the Ark of the Covenant. One cliff-hanger after another awaits as Indy crisscrosses the globe from Nepal to Egypt. The 1981 classic lights up a ginormous screen at 9 p.m. Friday at Home Savings Plaza, at the corner of Water and Main streets in Kent. Call 330.673.4970 or visit www.standingrock.net.
Cleveland Peace Show: Folk singer Pete Seeger's grandson, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, follows in his activist ancestor's footsteps by headlining the seventh annual protest outing. Sponsored by both the Cleveland Noviolence Network and Artists for Peace, the Labor Day demonstration is intended to promote conversation over confrontation as a way to solve problems between nations. It runs from noon to 6 p.m. Monday at Willard Park at the corner of East Ninth Street and Lakeside Avenue. Call 216.926.4806 for details.
Night Ride on the Towpath Trail: Pedal by moonlight with more than 100 cyclists, who'll ride 20 miles through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It's hosted by folks from the Century Cycles bicycle shop, who say the ride is one of Northeast Ohio's best-kept date-night secrets. Helmets and bike lights are required. Shove off at 8 p.m. Friday at Century Cycles, 1621 Main St. in Peninsula. Call 800.201.7433 or visit www.centurycycles.com.
Joe Eszterhas: The Hollywood screenwriter of Basic Instinct and Jagged Edge reads from and signs his latest book, Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith. Now living in Bainbridge, Eszterhas will reflect on his rocky childhood, substance abuse and throat cancer, all the way up to his "discovery of God on a hellishly hot day in 2001." The meet-and-greet is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 24519 Cedar Rd. in Lyndhurst. Call 216.691.7000 or visit www.josephbeth.com.