Thursday, January 29, 2015

Recipe: Hanky Pankies

It's almost time for the NFL Super Bowl XLIX! While it will probably be forever a while before Cleveland gets to watch our Browns play for a title, it's still fun to do something on Game Day. Even if you just get together with friends to watch the advertisements.

So, Mr. H and I wanted to recreate an appetizer, perfect for Game Day, from our wedding. Hodge's in Downtown Cleveland is famous for their Hanky Pankies, and lucky for us, Driftwood Catering offers them on their catering menu. Our guests were raving about them during our Cocktail Hour at the wedding, and they were certainly our favorite of the four that we served.

Here is a recipe that we adapted, for you to try at home:

Hanky Pankies

1 baguette, sliced
fig preserves
1/4 lb. smoked gouda, grated
1/4 lb. goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 lb. cheddar cheese, grated
1 lb. bulk chorizo sausage
1/4 Tablespoon dry thyme leaves

Pan sear the crumbled chorizo until cooked through.
Add the three cheeses and thyme to the pan, and melt.
Mix well to create the hanky panky mix.
Slice the baguette and spread the slices on a cookie sheet.
Spread 1 1/2 Tablespoons of the mix onto each slice.
Place the pan under the broiler until browned.
Remove, and top each with 1/2 teaspoon of fig preserves.

While they weren't nearly as good as the famous Hodge's version, they were reminiscent and quite tasty. I'd make these again for any type of gathering with family and friends. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Forage Public House

Mr. H actually selected a restaurant from my 2015 To Dine challenge list for a casual birthday dinner out with his family. I wasn't complaining! It was a brand-spanking-new restaurant, and one that I was very interested to try.

We headed to Forage Public House in Lakewood, on a Wednesday.
The restaurant and bar weren't too busy that night, but it is a good-sized place thanks to the large wrap-around bar, bar area seating, and a dining room.
The six of us were seated at a high-top table in the bar area.
The menu is split into two sections, a Build Your Own Burger list of ingredients, and then a section broken down into categories like "Fields" or "Butchers" or "Sea."
Personally, I'd like to see them reorganize the menu. Having both appetizers and entrees listed in these categories made it confusing at times. From the price points, it wasn't always easy to tell what the size of the dish would be. If they are set on keeping these categories, at least break it down by starters and entrees within the categories.

We decided to share the Gold Beets ($10)...
...and the Daily Pickled ($5).
Both were a nice, light start to the meal, and easy for us all to share.

Mr. H ordered the Suckling Pig ($22).
I had our server choose between a couple of entrees for me, and he selected the Shortrib ($25) with whipped white hominey and ancho chile jam.
The varying textures in Mr. H's dish were great, and it was certainly a decent dish, but the flavor of my dish "won" that evening. It was rich and tender, and I loved the whipped white hominey. I couldn't finish it, but it reheated well for lunch the next day. Others at the table enjoyed burgers, and the Rabbit.

Now, Mr. H has actually been back, already! A guys' night out led them there the following week, and he indulged in a burger. The buns are a tad too thick, but otherwise everyone is claiming that Forage is doing a really good burger. With topping options like Foie Gras, Pork Belly, Proscuitto, Pate, Suckling Pig, and Wild Huckleberries, they are certainly offering some of the most unique Build Your Own Burger options that I've seen.

The drink menu is solid, with plenty of craft beer choices, wine (half off bottles on Wednesdays), and several tempting cocktails.

The atmosphere and food (while a bit elevated) don't feel very different than its sister restaurant, Oak Barrel in Valley View. With other similar, and popular, restaurants close by in Lakewood, they'll need to maintain quality, switch up the menu seasonally, and make a few more improvements and decor additions inside. But, that said, I think that it could do well, based on our two experiences there recently.

Forage Public House
14600 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107

Forage Public House on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 23, 2015

Game Day Winner and a Pier W Dinner

It's time to announce the winner of the Heinen's Game Day giveaway. Thank you for sharing your favorite dishes to make. Look for another fun recipe from me as we near the big upcoming Game Day. Using, the winner is.....
...#16, Kayla Grise! Email me by Monday at 4:00pm to claim your prize, or another random winner will be selected. Thank you to Heinen's for sponsoring my Game Day post.

I also wanted to share a recent dining experience with you. When we're looking for a special occasion restaurant, there are a few that come to mind. Pier W happens to be one of them. With stunning views of Lake Erie, the cliffs, and the Downtown Cleveland skyline, it just can't be beat. Luckily, the service, food, and drinks live up to the atmosphere and reputation, and we've enjoyed several memorable meals there over the years.

Mr. H's birthday was last week, and he select Pier W for his birthday dinner celebration. We went all out, and had a wonderful meal.

We started with a Sampler of Oysters ($18 for 8).
I love it when you get to try different types of oysters side-by-side, because I just don't know enough about them. They were succulent, and a great start to the meal.

We also shared the Calamari Fritti ($12), served with Gremolata, Sriracha Aioli, and Sweet Spicy Tamarind Dip.
This was good, but I've had better.

Mr. H ordered the Cedar Planked Salmon ($28), and loved it. It was even mild enough for me to enjoy a small bite. I went with the Grilled Hawaiian Big Eye Tuna ($33), served with Chinese Black Rice, Tempura Snowpeas, Bean Sprouts, and a Tamari Glaze.
The seared tuna was seasoned and cooked perfectly. I do wish that there had been more than three peas included, and that the dish had a bit more sauce to use with the dry rice, but otherwise, this was a great dish.

Pier W surprised us with a complimentary birthday dessert. The vanilla ice cream and homemade whipped cream hit the spot, and it was a thoughtful touch. I had included a note in our OpenTable reservation that it was a birthday celebration. It's nice to know that they pay attention to those comments.
One tip: The window tables at Pier W have the best views, and they are first-come first-served. We arrived a half hour early, checked in with the hostess, and then enjoyed a cocktail at the bar while we waited. We were seated right on time for our reservation, and had one of the best booths in the restaurant.

Thanks for another memorable special occasion meal, Pier W!

What's your go-to restaurant for a celebratory meal?

Pier W
12700 Lake Avenue
Winton Place
Lakewood, OH

Disclosure: Heinen's provided a $50 gift card to give away to one lucky reader, and a $100 gift card for supplies, in exchange for a recipe and giveaway post. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mom's Family Restaurant

On Saturday morning, Mr. H and I were on the hunt for a new-to-us diner experience. I'm all for a fancy brunch meal, but sometimes a greasy, classic diner breakfast just hits the spot.

We didn't have a destination in mind, and just started driving. You know those places that you drive by frequently, but you've never been into? Well, we finally checked one of those out. To get over to the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, we often head down Denison Avenue and take 65th Street to cut over. Mom's Family Restaurant has always stuck out as we drove by, and that's exactly where we ended up on Saturday.
It's a rather large, brown building on the corner of West 65th Street and Clark Avenue. It has a good-sized parking lot in front of the building, and additional free parking next door.

The diner is nothing special to look at inside, but it certainly has that hole-in-the-wall diner charm. Ripped booth seats, cracked ceiling from water damage, wobbly has it all.
We were pleasantly greeted, and encouraged to sit anywhere that we liked.

The menu has all of your standard diner breakfast and lunch fare.
I decided that I was in the mood for French Toast, so I went with the Rise and Shine. It included French Toast, two eggs cooked my way, bacon, and sausage. Dining Deals Alert!
The food was completely acceptable, and fulfilled our desire for a classic diner breakfast. Mr. H even declared his Veggie Omelet as one of the better ones he's had at a local diner. His side of Sausage Gravy was above average in terms of flavor and texture, and his meal overall was really enjoyable.

We really only ran into trouble when it came to the drinks. We both ordered coffee and water when we arrived. Man, that was the WORST tasting water that I've ever been served. Now I understand why they have a cooler of $1 bottled water behind the counter. There was no way that I could drink that with my meal, so I ordered a small Orange Juice. Yikes, it wasn't quite as bad as the water, but it was almost un-drinkable as well. It had that fake taste of Tang to it.

Based on the drink situation alone, I wouldn't return to this diner. With all of the other options out there, we'll move on to another.

Mom's Family Restaurant
6512 Clark Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102

Mom's Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 19, 2015

Recipe: Jalapeno Popper Cheesy Pretzel Bombs

Did you watch the Playoff games? I know that Cleveland no longer has a "dog in the fight" with our Browns, but this time of year it is still fun to get involved with Game Day and rooting for a team. Me? I'm always in for some Game Day fun, including tasty share-able foods like dips, sliders, flatbreads, and more.

Heinen's also wants you to experience Game Day, by preparing delicious recipes to share at home with family and friends. Below is a recipe that we tried recently. You can try this at home, thanks to a $50 Heinen's gift card. See below for details.

To prepare for the upcoming big Game Day, here is a recipe adapted from The Slow Roasted Italian.

Jalapeño Popper Cheesy Pretzel Bombs (Serves 12; Total Time = 50 minutes)

1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast (1/2 packet)
6 ounces warm beer (110°-120°)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt + more for pretzel tops
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cups water
4 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces shredded Mexican cheese blend
3 fresh jalapeno peppers, diced
6 ounces bacon, cooked and chopped
1 egg

Preheat oven to 450°.
Pour beer into large mixing bowl.
Sprinkle yeast over top, add sugar and stir.
Allow yeast to bloom for 5-10 minutes.
In a medium mixing bowl combine cheeses, bacon and jalapeños.
In a small bowl beat egg, set aside.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.
Add flour and salt to yeast.
Knead for 3- 5 minutes until the dough comes together in one ball.
Add more flour a tablespoon at a time as needed, if bread is too sticky to come together.
Place dough on floured counter top and knead in flour until it is no longer tacky, just a minute or two. Form dough into a ball.
Cut this ball into 12 even pieces.
Fill a medium (4 cup) bowl with 2 cups of hot water and add baking soda.
Roll each dough piece (one at a time) into a ball and then flatten it into a circle.
Add 1 tablespoon of cheese mixture in the center.

Pull each side over the cheese to create a ‘cheese package’, pinching the edges closed.
Roll the dough into a ball.
Transfer 3 stuffed dough balls to hot water mixture and allow to set while you prepare the next 3. Remove dough balls from water with a slotted spoon and place on prepared baking sheet.
Repeat until all dough balls are on the cookie sheet.
Arrange all pretzel balls on parchment so they are not touching.
Brush egg wash onto each one and sprinkle with course salt.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until the tops are browned.
They tasted like warm soft pretzels, with the kick of jalapeno popper in the center. I think we could have used a bit more filling, and tried harder to evenly spread the dough between the top and bottom, but they still turned out pretty great.
For a chance to win a $50 Heinen's gift card, leave me a comment below telling me what your favorite Game Day food is to prepare and share. You can also tweet for a second entry (daily) by posting "Game Day is going to be good, thanks to @BiteBuff and @Heinens."

I will select the random winner, using, on Friday, January 23rd at noon.

Disclosure: I was provided with a $100 gift card to Heinen's to purchase products for this post. A $50 gift card was provided to give away to one random reader. All opinions stated above are 100% my own.