Well, it's over for another year. The Cleveland International Film Festival was exciting and exhausting. Like I said before, I highly recommend having an all-access pass. While you will still run frantically from one screening to another, you don't have to worry about buying tickets or waiting in lines with the poor luckless people who don't have all-access passes. So try to get one next year if you can. No, I'm not going to tell you how to get one.
The main reason the CIFF is so exhausting is the Tower City Food Court. An all-access pass is no good to you here in this crowded, nonsensical chaos. A garish, cacophonous nightmare; lines queue willy-nilly in all directions. Seemingly omnipresent, food kiosk employees frantically shove soy-sauce dripping chunks of mystery meat on toothpicks in your face at every opportunity, so much so that I called going into the Food Court "Running The Chicken Gauntlet". Even though there are no fewer than 3 chinese restaurants in this cramped neon gastronomic disaster, good luck trying to get food at any of them. Sure, there's a McDonald's, a Subway, and a Sbarro, with endless lines filled with rambunctious teens, but why on earth would you want to eat there? I'm too cantankerous after 8 hours of watching depressing foreign films to tolerate eating a depressing Quarter Pounder With Cheese.
At the most, I only had approximately an hour between screenings if I was lucky. Usually it was far less than half an hour. I don't have time to wander around trying to find food. I don't think it's too much to ask to find something to eat that's delicious, somewhat healthful and easy to acquire. I'm not looking for haute cuisine, but I don't always want batter-dipped fat fried in fat either. The CIFF is a marathon of sorts, and you won't survive on 10 days of french fries.
Feeling a little light-headed from existing on popcorn, I decided to try the salad place inexplicably located in the center of the Food Court. After wandering around its four sides trying to sort out the menu, I finally decided on a panini. I attempted to order one, only to find I was on the wrong side for paninis. I was on the salad side. I had no idea there were multiple lines for different food items, as the kiosk was one of those overly-signed monstrosities telling you simultaneously everything and nothing in dry-erase. Sure, I saw a large sign that screamed the word "Soup!", but what kind? I never found out. I left in a huff, because I'm often in a huff right before passing out from malnutrition.
The only way to keep what little sanity I had left was to leave the Food Court and try my luck in the mall. There was a kiosk selling delightfully packaged cake slices in plastic containers, so I tried to buy one of those, because I'm a sucker for delightfully packaged cake slices and I think I was starting to hallucinate. The woman who ran the kiosk suddenly yelled at me, "Please don't touch the product, sir!". Not sure how I was to purchase a hermetically-sealed container of cake without touching it, I left in embarrassment. Starting in a 'Please' and ending with a 'Sir' does not cloak the fact I was yelled at, and I try not to give people money who yell at me, even if they have cake.
People have the right to run their businesses any way they'd like, but friendly, efficient customer service should be a top priority when people from all over the world are trying to order food from you. You just never know when you are selling food to someone with a really big mouth and readers from every country on earth.
I staggered from the culinary abyss that is Tower City onto the streets of downtown Cleveland, and lo and behold, just a block away was a delightful little restaurant called The Flaming Ice Cube Cafe. A peaceful, intimate cafe; they have the very best veggie burger I have ever had. It's remarkable. It's so good, I went back 3 times. If you think, "Eeew, veggie burgers aren't good.", you need to try this one. It completely redefines the concept. Moist, beefy, delicious, and most importantly, served quickly, I would eat one every day if that was possible.
That's the Western Burger, with a refreshing pasta salad. So next year, avoid the "Chicken Gauntlet" and hit Flaming Ice Cube. It's healthful and delicious.