Best Of 2007

After opening Viva Dance! in Strongsville in 2005, Cleveland native Rebecca Sweet and her eight-instructor crew have taught hundreds of budding Baryshnikovs the essentials of competitive dance moves, from the elegant waltz to the sultry rumba to the adrenaline-charged Lindy hop. And Sweet is a master of them all. While a 10-year member of New York's elite Eddie Torres Latin Dance Company, she fine-tuned a dozen styles under the tutelage of Louis van Amstel. Last year, the Dancing With the Stars alum honored his star student by giving seminars on the samba and cha-cha at her studio. The sessions must have impressed his reality-show rivals: Fellow high-stepper Karina Smirnoff spent a couple days in August teaching Sweet's students how to dance the Paso Doble.
Gallucci's is as old-school Italian as you can get, from the guys behind the meat counter passing out slices of capicolla as if they were concert fliers, to the huge blocks of imported cheeses that look as aged as the place itself. (It's been in the Gallucci family since Gust opened the doors in 1912.) It's also the perfect place to wow your date with a romantic Italian dinner. With creamy mozzarella, rows of Italian wines, and -- this is key -- little jars with cool labels that make you look really sophisticated, Gallucci's makes your job easy and cheap.
Did you catch your girlfriend checking the clock during sex last night? Boyfriend like it on top, so he can keep an eye on the World Series of Poker? Then you need to make a trip to Ambiance: The Store for Lovers. Ambiance has everything you need to get each other's attention back -- erotic lotions, dirty dice, and a wide assortment of power tools. At the same time, the friendly saleswomen make you feel as comfortable as if you were shopping at Victoria's Secret, giving you both privacy to look around and help when you need it. They've heard every question you can think of -- "This goes where?" "What do you have in the way of sex swings?" -- making Ambiance a place where you can release your inhibitions, one whip-crack at a time.
Warning: Sharp Pain Ahead. This sign should be hung outside Adult Mart, an XXX store with locations around Cleveland. Adult Mart specializes in dildos you need a gym bag to carry. One phallus in particular, called "The Great American Challenge," is heavy-duty enough to dig the Euclid Corridor. Yet the sales clerk claims she sells out of the novelties, and she's even got a video so you can see them in action. But don't be afraid: Adult Mart has toys in all sizes, as well as an impressive collection of DVDs and magazines to satisfy even the most bizarre kinks. Happy spelunking!
Aesthetician and wax-magician Elena Karlak, the queen cleanup artist of Studio 3 Salon, brings a painterly eye, a surgeon's precision, and a scholar's inquiring mind when shaping a perfect brow. In her quest for knowledge, Karlak has sojourned in Beverly Hills to study under Anastasia Soare, aesthetician to the stars (including Oprah Winfrey). She recently brought her talents to the small but stylish Studio 3, seeking out the salon because of what she calls the staffers' "work ethics and high standards." Clearly, it was a smart move: Karlak's personal artistry and relentless pursuit of excellence are showcased on every face she's touched.
The thought of ripping hair out from the roots in a very special place is no girl's dream, but aesthetician Alia Haloua, at Zen Spa & Salon, has skills. She has an illusionist's quick hands, and the soft, constant voice of a therapist, and she plays tranquil music to keep clients calm and their minds off the unpleasant facts at hand. She's got some other secrets she's not willing to share, but whatever they are, they're helping Alia make her smooth mark on Cleveland.
At Liz Nails, the manicurists sit lined up in a row, their tables wedged next to each other like factory workers. The setup befits both the efficiency and proficiency of the nail artists. Customers can choose from a wall full of colors, from "Aphrodite's Pink Nightie" to a pomegranate "Belize It or Not." The nail artists are mathematically exact in their filings, making perfect moon-shaped or square nails. Their hands are both gentle and firm, as they massage strawberry-flavored lotion around your wrists, arms, and palms. They deftly and carefully apply two coats of polish before sending you over to the heater, conveniently situated next to a wide-screen TV. The nails cost $16. You'll walk away looking -- and feeling -- worth a lot more.
At Spa Walden, luxury and privacy go hand in hand, thanks to 12 beautifully appointed spa suites -- spacious individual rooms where guests can unwind and relax before, during, and after their scheduled treatments. Among the amenities count an enormous steam shower, a bubbly whirlpool tub, and a plush daybed on which to recline and reflect. A mini-fridge holds bottled water; an electric kettle and gourmet teas sit on the counter; and gourmet chocolates await on a tray. And in the closet, find stretchy, cashmere-like robes in a choice of sizes and stacks of luxuriously fluffy bath sheets. Arrive early, bathe and relax, then enjoy your treatment -- a scrub, wrap, facial, manicure, pedicure, or customized massage, perhaps. Afterward, linger, shower, shampoo, and change before heading back to the real world.
Walking into Francesca's is like walking into the closet of a former opera diva -- long gold chains dangle precariously over metal racks, and on the table are fat bangles and skinny bracelets of every color and shape, all priced between $18 and $32. The purse wall is overstuffed with metallic clutches ($28), collapsible leather handbags ($28-$168), and taxicab-yellow alligator bags ($32), while a back table houses reasonably priced sale goods. The store doesn't subscribe to one particular taste; in the same crowded space, prom-goers can find sparkly tiaras and glittery necklaces, while preppies can discover fake strands of pearls and chunky headbands. And everyone can go home with checkbooks intact.
Janis Pace's artful East Side "accessory gallery" offers all the latest trends at prices so reasonable, even we can afford them. That means beautifully presented handbags (including the beloved vegan brand, Matt & Nat) and fashion-forward wallets, organizers, jewelry, watches, hair accessories, sunglasses, belts, scarves, hats, and gloves, each personally chosen by industry-vet Pace to capture the "must-have" look of the season. Yet for all the potential style points Details delivers, its prices rarely wander much higher than $75 ($200 for handbags), and even a spare 30 bucks can fund a fashionable shopping spree.
A furry friend's first shopping spree in Pet-Tique isn't a done deal until a snout-to-snout greeting is given by one of the shop's three mascots: Nemo, Chloe, and Emma. The perky, persistent pugs wouldn't have it any other way. Nor would the pooches' owners, Lawrence and Kevin, who've stocked their shop with designer collars, tags, carriers, and sweaters. They've lined the boutique's bookshelves with handy how-to guides like Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies and Cocker Spaniels: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual. But don't expect to find the ho-hum Purina and 9Lives food lines in the pantry. These guys carry 23 upscale, organic brands, from Chicken Soup and Natural Balance to Eukanuba and Solid Gold.
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