Wednesday, April 23, 2014

2014 Market at the Food Bank Giveaway

Yikes, I've been a little "missing in action" over the past week. Work is busy, so that certainly contributes, but here is the real reason...
Our house is a disaster! The contractor and crew have been here for a week working on our living room and sun room. All of our furniture is piled into two rooms and the basement, and we've been confined to the kitchen, bathroom, and master bedroom. Complete chaos, but it should be done today! Anywho...our personal laptop is buried somewhere to the left in the picture above. So, I've had no desire to blog.

However, today's post was worth digging out the computer. On Sunday, May 4th, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank is hosting their annual fundraiser--- Market at the Food Bank.
The event will feature delicious cuisine and drink from some of Northeast Ohio’s top restaurants, as well as exciting entertainment, wonderful auction items and the all-important opportunity to help alleviate hunger in our community. The chef lineup is always impressive, and some of my favorites include:
- AMP 150
- Chinato
- Coquette Patisserie
- Cowell & Hubbard
- EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute
- L'Albatros Brasserie
- Lucky's Café
- Melt Bar and Grilled
- Mitchell's Homemade Ice Cream
- Parallax
- Spice Kitchen and Bar
- Strip Steakhouse
- The Greenhouse Tavern...
...and the list goes on.

Here is a sneak peek at a couple of the dishes that participating restaurants will be serving:
Pickwick and Frolic – Manchego Cheese Risotto Cake with a Smoked Tomato Sauce
Granite City Food and Brewery - Bock n’ Cheese Pasta and One of Their Signature Brews
Pearl of the Orient Restaurant – Shredded Strip Steak Sauteed with Carrots, Celery, Scallion in a Hoisan Garlic Sauce
Fears’ Confections – Hand-Dipped Caramels
AMP 150 – Spring Pea Explosion

This is a can’t-miss evening, and allows the Greater Cleveland Food Bank the opportunity to showcase its tremendous facility and the amazing work being done to provide access to nutritious meals for those in need in our community. Last year, more than 1,000 guests were in attendance. Support of this event will significantly help the Food Bank reach their ambitious goal of generating 17 million meals through the 2014 Harvest for Hunger campaign.

Tickets are $100 for General Admission and $175 for VIP. The event is completely worth the ticket price, in my opinion, and for every $1 raised for Harvest for Hunger, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank can provide four meals in a local hunger center. Tickets are still available here.

Or, you can win two General Admission tickets through this blog. Simply leave a comment below, telling me which of the participating restaurants you'd really like to try. For additional entries into the random giveaway, you can tweet "I want @BiteBuff to send me to #MarketatFB at the @CleveFoodbank! You can enter too at http://tinyurl.com/ksr9zyr." You can tweet once a day, leaving a separate comment for each entry.

The giveaway will end on Monday, April 28th. I will announce a winner in the afternoon, and will use random.org to select. Good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with two media passes for myself and a guest to attend the event, and provided with two general admission tickets to give away to one lucky reader in exchange for this post. I am a former employee of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, and former member of the YP Pantry Council. All opinions stated are 100% my own, and I believe in the work that this organization is doing in our community.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Diamond Grille Wasn't a Gem

When we found ourselves in the Akron area recently, we needed help finding a place to eat dinner. Twitter flooded me with options, and "R" and I headed towards Luigi's Restaurant. However, the parking lot was packed, and the line was out the door at 8:00pm on a Friday. It was a chilly night, so I had no interest in standing outside to wait for a table. On to Plan B.

A friend had suggested the Diamond Grille, if we were in the mood for a classic steakhouse. We had driven right past it, not too far from Luigi's, so that quickly became our destination. I was hungry hangry!

To be honest, from the outside, I thought that it looked like gentleman's club. The glass-block windows, neon sign, questionable surroundings...it didn't quite look like the fine dining experience that it really is.
That was half the fun! Once you enter the building (free, small parking lot in back of the restaurant), you are transported back in time. The restaurant opened in 1941, and it probably hasn't changed one bit since then. Wood everywhere, white linen tablecloths, a big, heavy menu...it felt classically old-timey and like a steakhouse should feel.

The menu isn't huge, but there's something for everyone. A few appetizers and salads to start, and then entrees from The Broiler, Fresh Fish Daily, Seafood, Chicken, and Specialties.

"When in Rome"....I focused right in on the steaks. Normally, menus list the ounces for each steak option. Shame on me for not asking, but I ordered the Royal Filet Mignon ($37.50) because the Filet Mignon was described as "for the delicate appetite" on the menu. We weren't ordering any appetizers or additional sides, and the steak only comes with one potato side and a salad. As I mentioned, it was much later than we would have liked to be eating, and I was very hungry at this point.

However, I was not expecting this giant cut of meat to arrive. It was like two filets in one!
I had to take half of it home with me. Again, shame on me for not asking, but I do wish that the menu listed the weight of the steaks.


Diners have a choice of salad and choice of potato with an entrée. The Tossed Diamond Salad that comes with an entrée order was quite pathetic, from the looks of it at other tables. So, I decided to get the Head Lettuce with blue cheese salad.
It was nothing special, but certainly fine.

Now, I had asked for the steak to be cooked "medium-rare" but it arrived much closer to "rare" than I'd care for. I really didn't want to wait for them to re-fire it, so I just ate the thinner section and around the edges. With the two different thicknesses of meat on this one filet, it had to be difficult to cook it to the desired temperature. Also, it was under-seasoned, and a little more salt and pepper would have gone a long way.

The real disaster was the Baked Potato that I selected as my side. It was woefully undercooked. Dare I say raw? No amount of butter and sour cream could save this potato, and I just left it.

"R" ordered the broiled Atlantic Salmon. The fish tasted fresh and was cooked well, but it was unmemorable in flavor and a tad too high in price ($29.50).

The Diamond Grille is a CASH ONLY restaurant, which is rare these days. It is even rarer when it comes to fine-dining. Diners can pay by cash (no ATM on site), check, or they will mail you a bill. Yes, you read that correctly. You can give them your contact information, and they will MAIL YOU A BILL. Unheard of. I'm still dumbfounded.

I do suggest that they put a sign up on the door, stating that they are cash-only, or they should consider having an ATM on site. "R" had to leave me at the restaurant to drive up the street to a bank. Awkward. The co-workers dining next to us didn't realize that it was cash-only until the guy went to pay the bill and then his female co-worker had to write a personal check to cover the meal. Awkward. There is a small box announcing the cash-only status on the inside of the menu, but I feel like this could be easily overlooked.

So, in summary...it was a charming place with quite a bit of character from the inside and out. However, for the high price tag ($12 Shrimp Cocktail for 4 shrimp???) and inconsistent quality of food during our meal, it just wasn't worth it, in my opinion. I left feeling like we paid an arm and a leg for an average meal at a steakhouse, that included some missteps with the food.

Did we just experience an "off" night there? Have you been? I have to say, I was coveting the Scallops that a woman was enjoying at the table next to ours. Five (maybe six?) large sea scallops for $23. However, they appeared to be served on a piece of standard toast. Odd...maybe worth investigating?

Diamond Grille
77 West Market Street
Akron, OH


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Recipe: Coriander and Ginger-Crusted Tuna

I love tuna, and this was the first time that "R" and I had ever cooked with it at home. WHAT?!?! How did that happen? Well, we picked up some fresh tuna steaks from Kate's Fish at the West Side Market, and tried this recipe:

Coriander and Ginger-Crusted Tuna (Makes 4 servings, Total Time = 25 minutes)
(Adapted from Cuisine at Home magazine)

For the Tuna, Grind:
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. coarse Hawaiian red salt or kosher salt (We used a salt blend that we picked up from Spice Hound)
2 tsp. sesame or olive oil

Grill:
4 ahi tuna steaks (4-6 oz. each)

For the Sauce, Puree:
1/2 avocado, pitted and peeled
1/2 cup each ginger beer and fresh cilantro leaves (We used ginger ale instead.)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. wasabi paste
1/2 tsp. coarse Hawaiian red salt or kosher salt

Preheat grill to medium-high. (We pan-seared them instead of grilling- 2 minutes per side for medium-rare.)
Brush grill grate with oil.
For the tuna, grind coriander seeds, peppercorns, ground ginger, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a coffee grinder until coarse.
Brush tuna with oil and rub spice mixture on both sides of each piece of tuna.
Grill tuna, covered, 2-3 minutes per side for medium-rare.
Remove to a plate while making the sauce.
For the sauce, puree avocado, ginger beer, cilantro, lime juice, minced ginger, wasabi paste, and 1/2 tsp salt in a food processor until smooth.
Serve sauce with tuna.
We paired it with some roasted asparagus and Minute Rice for a quick meal during the week. The tuna rub was flavorful without dominating the fish, and the sauce added a zesty zing to it. A little heat, thanks to the wasabi.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Das Schnitzel Haus

We have driven by Das Schnitzel Haus so many times that it's impossible to count. Parma is an errand destination for us often, so I've always been curious as we passed the restaurant.
Fridays in Cleveland mean one thing...Fish Fry. We had tried to get in to Wexler's, close to home, but the line was out the door at 6:00pm. So, that left us driving around, looking for food. "R" still had his heart set on a fish fry. Das Schnitzel Haus killed two birds with one stone. We finally tried the restaurant, and "R" still got his classic fish fry ($10.95).
They were offering cod or perch, and he went with the cod. I'm a perch girl, myself! He chose Cabbage and Noodles as his side dish, and we both liked it. The fish was heavy on the breading, but it had great crunch to it without over-drying the fish inside.

When I started looking at the menu, I was drawn to the standard German dishes featured.
One of my favorite dishes that my mom makes is her Wiener Schnitzel, so I had to give theirs a try.
For $16.95, it comes with two sides of your choice. I had a hard time selecting, because there were a lot of "carb" options, but not one vegetable side dish available. I guess you can count Red Cabbage or Cooked Kraut, but come on. I ended up with the Cooked Kraut and Mashed and Gravy. The kraut was what you'd expect. The mashed potatoes had the texture of boxed potato flakes, but the gravy saved this side. It was one of the richest, most flavorful gravies that I've ever had. A squeeze of lemon over the schnitzel, and I dug in. While it wasn't as good as mom's, it was a darn good, classic schnitzel.

I think Sterle's still stands out in my mind for this type of cuisine, but this was a fun experience and I'd go back to sit in their heated Beer Garden. I hear that they have a good brunch too! They have a mid-sized parking lot adjacent to the building, and the atmosphere inside is very predictable. Vinyl booths, dark wood, red and green decor, and lots of German knickknacks. It is family-friendly, with a Kids Menu and wipe-able surfaces at the table. The portions are big for the price, and you won't walk away hungry.

Who has your favorite German food in the Cleveland area? 

Das Schnitzel Haus
5728 Pearl Road
Parma, OH

Das Schnitzel Haus on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 7, 2014

April Earth to Table at CVI

12 courses, 5 hours...it was a marathon, not a sprint...but one memorable meal at the Culinary Vegetable Institute this past Saturday evening. "R" and I were invited to attend the April Earth to Table Dinner, featuring Chef Ryan McCaskey from Acadia in Chicago. The monthly dinner series features prominent chefs from across the country, and from our own backyard. It's the best of both worlds---highlighting some of our local talent, and bringing in talent for Ohioians to discover. This dinner, did just that. "R" and I already excitedly planning an excursion to Acadia after this epic meal from the Executive Chef.

It was a gorgeous sunny evening in Milan (Ohio), and the tables each had a touch of spring.
Spring has certainly sprung around the farm.
The rustic and airy lodge was a perfect setting for this farm-to-table dinner.
The massive chef kitchen is open, and guests wandered in and out to admire the chefs at work, and to watch the meticulous plating taking place.
The evening started out with a complimentary glass of bubbly, and an amuse-bouche with a nod to a classic lobster roll.
The first official course was a Turnip Soup with Chocolate "Soil", Purple Royal Turnip, Smoked Trout Roe, Grapes, and Citrus Begonia.
Right out of the gate, this dish was plated beautifully and full of interesting texture and flavor. It ended up remaining one of my favorites of the meal.

We were seated with three other couples, all strangers at the beginning of the meal, but we enjoyed each others' company and the atmosphere. Sitting beside the impressive stone fireplace certainly helped set the mood!
The second course was Stonington Lobster with French Onion Soup, Alliums, and Soubise.
It had bright notes, and delicate flavor, throughout.

Next, we had Swan Creek Farms Duck with Ramp Puree, Yuzu Gel, Dashi, Mustard Greens, and Pea Tendrils.
My first taste of ramps for the season! Northeast Ohio does get a little "ramp fever" around here. The duck was crispy and tender, and we all spooned up the broth until our bowls were clean.

Fourth course was Halibut with Avocado Green Goddess, Black Olive, Preserved Meyer Lemon, Licorice, Hon Shimeji, Anise Hyssop, and Red Ribbon Sorrel.
This dish I could easily imagine as a full-sized serving, and one that I would want to order! Another meal favorite.

We were then served a buttery Tagliatelle with Miso Butter, Truffle, Bottarga, and Fine Herbs.
Sixth course was Swan Creek Farms Pork Belly with Horseradish Pudding, Uni Emulsion, Farm Radishes, and Arugula.
This was the only course that I didn't care for. The flavors were fine, but the texture of the pork belly was not that buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, meat that really good pork belly feels like.

Our "bread" course was a Herb Ramp Waffle with Epoisses Butter.
The table was served two different butters to try, one with sea salt and one garlic. The garlic butter also tasted like it was infused with the rind of a great, stinky cheese. "R" and I both dug in to that one! I've decided that every dinner party should include a waffle course. Make it happen.

The last savory course of the evening was Beef Short Rib with Heirloom Carrots, Fried Spoon Bread, Carrot Puree, Chinese Toon, Demi, and Pansies.
This plate was visually a work of art. The short rib had nice flavor, and pulled right apart.

Now, it was time for two three dessert courses. Since I'm not a "sweets" gal, I figured that the best part of the meal was over for me. Oh, how I was wrong.

We enjoyed a light Honey Parfait with Rhubarb and Cheesecake that was equally pretty to look, tasty, and utilized interesting technique.
Then, the official last course of the meal was served. The Profiterole with Black Walnut and Hot Chocolate was simply one of the best endings to a multi-course dinner that I've ever had.
If all desserts tasted this good, then I would be a convert. It was served with a Black Walnut Liqueur that CVI's Executive Chef made from harvesting the nuts locally. It paired very well, and it was a treat that he shared it with us.

The servers brought out two different kinds of chocolates from the kitchen as we were wrapping up, and another bite of a sweet treat ended the evening.

Overall, this was one of the most memorable dining experiences that we've ever had. The gorgeous plates of food coming out of the kitchen displayed such culinary technique and attention to detail. Maybe too much attention to detail since the meal took five hours to serve? We did hear that they don't usually last as long. Oh well, it was worth it. Chef McCaskey is clearly talented, and Ohio was lucky to have him here to share that with us for an evening. I just had to snap a picture with him, and the famous Farmer Lee Jones from Chef's Garden/CVI.
The meal left me wanting more, from Acadia and from CVI. CVI has a great lineup of spring and summer Earth to Table Dinners, including one of my favorite lady chefs in Cleveland---Anna Harouvis on Saturday, May 31st. She'll show you that vegan and raw food is sexy and delicious! I can't attend, but I've got my eye on the July event. Road trip, anyone???

Culinary Vegetable Institute
12304 State Route 13
Milan, OH 44846

Disclosure: I was provided with two tickets to the April Earth to Table Dinner. I was not asked to post or share photographs from the event, but we had such a wonderful experience that I chose to share this with my readers. Thank you to CVI for the memorable evening!