Thursday, February 22, 2018

Gas Station Hummus

If you belong to any of the "foodie" Facebook groups in Northeast Ohio, or if you tune in to local news stations recently, you may have heard buzz about a certain gas station hummus. Yes, you read that correctly. GAS.STATION.HUMMUS.

Could the hype be true? Is it really some of the best hummus in our region? I was skeptical.

Well, thanks to some dear friends that gifted it to me on my birthday, I finally tried it for myself.
The short answer is...yes. Go get some.

I had the Dill Pickle and the Pomegranate. They both were very good, but the Pickle in particular just seemed to disappear. That pita too, wow. It was so soft and was right up there with best pita I've tried from any vendor, any city.

Now that just left me wanting to try more flavors, and more foods, from the Sunoco Cafe Olmsted Falls. Not a statement I ever thought I'd see on this blog, but hey, the quest is for the best. Wherever that may take us.

The good news is that the original location in Olmsted Falls is also now delivering these products to some other local Sunoco stations. But, you'll have to check with the source to verify if there is one near you. I'm not going to attempt to list the locations I've seen swirling around Facebook and Twitter.

So, have you joined the hummus hype yet? What are you waiting for?

Sunoco Cafe Olmsted Falls
9796 Columbia Road
Olmsted Falls, Ohio
(440) 235-0351

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Birthday Celebration

THE.FLU.

It's been quiet over here for the last four weeks. Because I flew to NYC to attend our annual staff conference for work the last week in January, and then promptly caught the flu and spent 11 days bouncing between our bed and our couch. It was horrible. One month later, and I'm still congested and coughing. Nightmare.

In the meantime, it was also my birthday and I did some amazing celebrating with family and friends. That included a dinner party in our home, catered by my buddy, Chef Jeff Jarrett. He's done some in-home stuff for us before, and it's always delicious, easy, and interactive. He's launching a new business focusing on these in-home experiences, called Traveling Knives Culinary. Stay tuned for more details soon.

He kicked us off with a Tuna Tartare to start.
We were just plain having fun watching him cook, plate, and do all the work! Best way to "dinner party" in my opinion. Yes, it's a verb now in my book.
Then came my favorite course of the night, Seared Pork Belly with rosemary creamed leeks, apple butter, and a radish and green onion salad.
Next up was a beautiful and delicious Beet and Chickpea Salad with honey goat cheese, kale, toasted breadcrumbs, and a lemon vinaigrette.
Scallops with butternut squash puree, apple, and parsley followed.
Finished with a grassfed NY Strip with a toasted farro risotto, broccolini, and a tart cherry demi. I want a jar of that tart cherry demi! And I loved his use of the farro in a creamy, rich way.
Having him do all the work in the kitchen left Mr. H and I to just enjoy the evening with my parents and some of my closest friends around the table!
The meal was topped off with a Chocolate Salted Caramel cake from A Cookie and A Cupcake. We still dream about that cake from our wedding, so it was amazing to have it appear again for my birthday.
I wasn't too thrilled about turning 35 this year. I'm no longer in my "early 30s" and that was bothering me a bit, if I'm honest. But, if this is what 35 looks like, then I'll take it!

I'm feeling much better, so we should get back to our regularly scheduled program over here on the blog. Goodbye, flu, it's been real.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Birthday Dinner at The Black Pig

This entire blog is built upon trying new-to-me restaurants and sharing these experiences with you, but sometimes you just have to fall back on a tried-and-true favorite. One that you KNOW will be consistent, and that you just can't go wrong ordering anything on the menu at.

I planned a big night out for Mr. H's birthday recently, and unfortunately it did not turn out as we had hoped. We left the very expensive meal being disappointed in the food, service, pacing, and a couple of big "whoops" moments. I've only reached out to a restaurant a couple of times to share our feedback on a negative experience, but this was one of those times. I always encourage you to do so, as owners/chefs/managers do want address issues, and they may not know they exist if diners simply head to social media or sites like Yelp to vent.

The birthday boy deserved a re-do, so just a few days later we headed straight for The Black Pig in Ohio City. Always in our "Cleveland top restaurants" since it opened many years ago.

We settled in for a chef's tasting, and Chef Michael sent out beautiful course after beautiful course. The dishes are always pretty and creative, but also taste EVEN BETTER than they look. How it should be.

A few highlights was the Seared Scallop with celery root hash brown, tarragon dressed greens, fried capers and topped with trout roe.
This was a tasting menu portion, and the scallop was literally the largest scallop I've ever seen. The photo does not do it justice.

We enjoyed the pasta course, as all of their pastas are made in-house, including the Mushroom Agnolotti.
The real star of the meal was the tender and rich Braised Pork Collar with rosemary creamed Brussels sprouts, poached apple, toasted hazelnuts, and an orange glaze.
Do yourself a favor and get in there to order this before the preparation changes! I'll be dreaming about it for a while.

Let's just say that I had a much happier birthday boy on my hands after this meal (pictured with their Pork Rinds topped with house-made fresno chili hot sauce that I want to own a bottle of).
Service, drinks and atmosphere matched the food. From start to finish, it was a great meal and experience, as usual.

I know I'll always be drawn to trying new spots, but sometimes...why bother? Go for a home run when it counts.

The Black Pig
2801 Bridge Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Bar

Cleveland's first Ethiopian restaurant on the west side just opened on December 30th, Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Bar, and it's right in our neighborhood of Old Brooklyn! I've been meaning to go to Empress Taytu for years, and then Zoma Ethiopian Restaurant opened last year, but somehow I just never got around to trying either. I'd never had Ethiopian cuisine before, and now I was going to get to try it right out my back door. How exciting!

It's on Broadview Road, in a bar-turned-half-restaurant-still-half-bar space, which can make for some interesting dining. During our weeknight visit, the dining room was separated by an accordion wall and the atmosphere and noise of the bar area did not flow over (on our second visit on a Friday the half wall was open and the pop/rock music overpowered the traditional music that was also playing).

We enjoyed taking in the authentic music and decor...
..including their traditional coffee ceremony setup, where they will roast, grind, and brew the coffee beans right in front of you. But you must allow about an hour for the ceremony, and you should call in advance to schedule it. Traditionally, it is held three times a day, involved with all three main meals in Ethiopia. The owner was so kind to take the time to talk to us and explain quite a bit about their culture and the food we were enjoying.
For a newbie like me, it's best to go for one of the Combination plates. You get a little bit of a couple main dishes and sides. I selected the Beef Combination ($16).
It was all tasty, but my favorite was the Kaywat (pictured front). It was a large plate of food, and you're served additional Injera (sponge-like, thin flatbread made with teff flour) too. Traditionally, utensils are not used and you use the injera to scoop. It took some getting used to, but then it was just plain fun to eat with your hands. It did surprise me that they didn't provide any sort of hand-washing method like a wet towel or wipe beforehand though. Just head to the nearby restroom before you get started.

I don't have anything to compare it to at this point, but we liked it enough to head back there two weeks later with friends again!

Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Bar
2218 Broadview Road
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 417-2550

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Weekend Bites

The first weekend of 2018, and it was off to a good start. After seeing an Instagram post of the Tremont Tap House's burger special of the month, I just had to get my hands on the lamb burger with caramelized shallots, Gouda, and a lemon-thyme aioli.
Yes, it was as good as it looks, and they continue to be one of my favorite burger spots in the city.

Saturday morning, we headed to Cleveland Bagel Co. because I created a bagel/lox monster out of Mr. H while we were in NYC last month. They've added sandwiches to their menu, and one includes housemade lox, cream cheese, red onion, and capers. He approved. I was just as content with my classic bacon, egg and cheese. They make a darn good bagel.
Next stop on Saturday morning was grocery shopping at Ohio City Provisions. While you can't always count on specific cuts of meat, vegetables, etc. that you are looking for, you really can't go wrong just popping in to build a meal from what they have available that day. We were specifically looking for leg of lamb to make a ragu with on Sunday night, and we were in luck that day and grabbed the only one!
Saturday night brought a fun night out celebrating one of my favorite birthday girls, but Mr. H and I made a quick stop at Lola's bar for a drink beforehand. Just a stunning setting, and a great start to our night on East 4th in downtown.
The fun, and good eats and drinks, continued over at Chinato. Nothing beats the best of friends.
Due to our "amount" of fun on Saturday, we woke up on Sunday pretty unmotivated to do much. Turned into the perfect lazy day of binge-watching Blacklist and staying cozy on the couch in our pajamas for most of it. Sometimes you just need that, and after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it was just perfection!