Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cleveland Oktoberfest 2014

Cleveland's Labor Day Oktoberfest is happening all weekend long at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea. Admission is only $10 for adults ($2 off if you purchase online in advance), and parking is free. The event features food vendors, German and craft beers, live entertainment, a large kids zone, a cool sand sculpture, flea market, and...wiener dog races.

"R" and I met friends there yesterday, for a brief, but hot and sweaty time. I had two goals:

1. Watch the wiener dog races.
2. Eat a schnitzel.

The second goal was accomplished in even a way that I hadn't imagined possible. The menus of each food vendor are posted on the event's website this year, which is great for planning out your stops. First, I was drawn to Schnitzel & Giggles due to their playful name.
Secondly, they were serving Schnitzel-on-a-stick, people! I do love me some meat on a stick.
There just aren't enough meats on sticks in this world.

We did manage to also share a corndog. Another meat on a stick, hooray.

"R" doesn't discriminate, and he'll just eat anything on a stick. Including the Cheese-on-a-stick, which is a giant hunk of Swiss cheese, dipped in corndog batter, and fried. This gooey blob was better than I had anticipated, and I stole two bites.
Three food items on a stick. Mission accomplished. 

This did leave us pondering what other festival food items could be served on a stick...

For some polka, beer, great people-watching, and all the German food you can eat, head over to Oktoberfest today or tomorrow.

How are you spending your Labor Day Weekend?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Weber's Custard and Ice Cream

If you're looking for a sweet treat over the holiday weekend, head to Weber's Premium Custard and Ice Cream in Fairview Park.

They have a variety of classic and specialty flavors of hard ice cream and smooth, creamy frozen custard. It's the best of both worlds!
"R" will eat just about any kind of ice cream, but I'm a soft-serve or frozen custard kinda gal. We were each happy with our options at Weber's! Also, Lizzie was loving the fact that they sell Purina's Frosty Paws for pooches.
She licked that whole thing clean, and then looked up at us like "Where's the rest?"
"R" ordered a scoop of hard ice cream (Strawberry Cheesecake, maybe?) and a scoop of Salted Caramel Frozen Custard.
I love that you can mix and match your scoops.

I went straight for a scoop of the salted caramel custard.

There is a large counter and display cooler (products also available by the pint) when you enter the shop, but no seating. You can find a couple of picnic tables outside though. Plenty of parking for a quick stop in, and it was easy to find on Lorain Road.

Lizzie demands that we return.

Weber's Premium Custard and Ice Cream
20230 Lorain Road
Fairview Park, OH 44126

Thursday, August 28, 2014

#HeinensGrill- Recipe: Grilled Pork Chops with Spicy Balsamic Grilled Peaches

It's time to announce the winner of the #HeinensGrill contest. Using random.org, the winner is Comment #1- Linley. Congratulations! You have won a tote bag of grilling supplies. Please email me to claim your prize, and we'll arrange for you to pick up the tote at your local store.

To wrap up this grilling promotion, I wanted to share another grilled fruit recipe with you. Adapted from foodiecrush, we made this tasty recipe last week for a quick and delicious meal.

Grilled Pork Chops with Spicy Balsamic Grilled Peaches

Ingredients:
2 thick cut pork chops
2 cups apple cider
2 cups water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
olive oil
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the Grilled Peach Salsa:
3 peaches, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup slivered red onion
3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Vietnamese chili garlic sauce
Kosher salt

Rinse the pork chops, pat dry and place in a freezer bag.
Bring the apple cider, water, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup kosher salt to a boil in a small saucepan.
Stir until sugar and salt dissolves.
Remove from heat and add a few ice cubes to cool the brine.
Allow to cool completely then add to the freezer bags with the pork chops along with the garlic cloves and black peppercorns.
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, no more than 8.

Remove the pork chops from the brine and discard the brine.
Pat the pork dry and lightly brush with olive oil, and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Preheat one side of the grill to high and one side to low.
Brown the chops for about 5 minutes, and then turn to the other side and cook for another 5 minutes.
Turn the chops over and move them to the low-heat part of the grill.
Cook for another 10-12 minutes or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees in the thickest part of the chop.
Transfer to a platter and tent with aluminum foil for about 5 minutes and chops reach 160 degrees.

While pork chops are cooking on the low temperature side of the grill, lightly coat the peach halves on the fleshy side of the fruit with olive oil and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of the sugar.

Grill the peaches flesh side down on the high temperature side of the grill for about 4-5 minutes, flipping half way through.
Transfer to a cutting board and cut into slices.
Mix the red onions with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, chili garlic sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of kosher salt.
Add the sliced peaches to the red onions and gently mix.
Top the pork chops with the mix once plated.
We served the chops with a raw Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad that was surprisingly delicious. We'll be making that salad again, for sure.

So, what have you been grilling this summer?

Disclosure: I was provided with a gift card from Heinen's to purchase supplies. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Urban Farmer Blogger Round-up

Last night, twenty lucky bloggers (including me!) were invited to Urban Farmer- Cleveland's Steakhouse for a five-course tasting of their menu. Even though I had to miss the Cork & Cleaver pop-up dinner at Toast, I really wanted to go. I've been hearing nothing but glowing reviews of the food, cocktails, and atmosphere, but I hadn't had a chance to dine there myself yet. It's been a busy summer! I'm so glad that I accepted the invitation, because the food was exceptional.

We started the evening on the patio with a cocktail and charcuterie spread. The cheeses, meats, and oysters were all very good. The Oysters are typically $4 each, and Charcuterie is $13 or $21.

Then, we moved inside to their private dining room for the five-course tasting menu. This room is available by contract, and a really fun space to host a small event. The feather chandelier and crazy animal wallpaper alone is worth the food and beverage minimum.

The first course that we received was their signature Beef Tartare with beef heart and deviled egg.
I'm kind of on a tartare kick here lately, and this one was very good. This dish you can find on their regular menu under "Chilled" First Course.

Next up, a Chilled Lobster salad with tomato, avocado, fennel, mint, and verjus sorbet.
This was a favorite course of many at our table, and it can be found on the restaurant's regular menu (also under "Chilled" section). The use of avocado and the refreshing sorbet was what really kicked this dish up a notch. I could eat an entire entree-sized plate of this.

Our fish course was intended to showcase some of the things that they are doing at the restaurant. It can't be found on the menu, but pieces and parts of it are there. It was a Seared Scallop with corn, candied bacon, and roasted tomatoes.
I'm a sucker for anything with Ohio sweet corn in it during the summer, and I'd love to know how to create this creamed corn at home. It was packed with flavor, and complimented the scallop and crispy bacon well. The creamed corn can be found on their "Sides" and they have a scallop dish under "Fish" on the menu.

Next up, STEAK! I mean, they are a steakhouse after all. We were treated to the Roasted 21 Day Dry-aged Strip Loin with boulangere potato, summer squash, and tallow.
You won't find this dish quite like this on the menu, but the 21 dry-aged is part of the New York Steak Tasting and "New York" section of the steak menu. It had an amazing crust on it, and the texture of the steak was divine. It left me wanting more, and plotting a return visit to the restaurant. "R" would love it.

We finished the meal, already stuffed beyond belief, with the dessert course. We had the Great Lakes Malted Barley Custard with malt balls and honeycomb.
This dish can be found on their regular dessert menu. I'm not a dessert lover, but this was delicious! The honeycomb in particular was a pleasant surprise, and reminded me of toasted s'mores.

We also enjoyed a few expertly paired wines with the meal, and exceptional service. It really was a fantastic meal, and overall experience. It certainly left me with a wonderful impression of the restaurant, and a craving for more. I think that was the point!

They focus on sourcing locally, building relationships with the farmers and producers, and knowing where the food is coming from. They pride themselves on wasting as little as possible, using as much of the cow as they can and often pickling local produce that would typically go to waste. They firmly believe in the relationship between land and plate, and if this is what that tastes like...then yes, please!

Based on my experience, and what I've been hearing from other diners, go check them out on East 6th/St. Clair Avenue in the new Westin Hotel. It's a tad pricey, but worth the splurge. Anyone want a steak date?

Urban Farmer- Cleveland's Steakhouse
1325 East 6th Street
Cleveland, OH 44114
216-771-7707

Disclosure: I was invited to attend this complimentary blogger round-up. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Pillars Lakewood Wing Crawl 2014

What a weekend! In some ways, it went by too quickly. Saturday is an example of that, because we spent eight hours crawling through Lakewood eating chicken wings. I'm talking about the 9th annual Pillars of Lakewood Wing Crawl. This "Best Wings in Lakewood Contest" had 11 restaurants/bars slinging chicken wings from 1-7pm as hundreds of people walked up and down Detroit Avenue (a free shuttle service was also available).
The list included:
Around the Corner
Bobby O's
Booths Tavern
Deagan's
Humble Wine Bar
Harry Buffalo
Merry Arts
Plank Road Tavern
Quaker Steak & Lube
Riverwood
Vosh

I had agreed to act as one of the official judges for the contest, tasked with taking at least one bite of each kind from each place. The participating restaurants/bars had to serve one "Buffalo" and one "Open" (or chef's choice) wing. Your ticket got you two of each at each stop. Early on, "R" and I were just splitting one order of four at each place, and I quickly moved to just taking one bite of each. But, it was still a lot of chicken wings!
I've never seen so many wings in my life.
I loved that it brought us to places that we haven't been to before, like Plank Road Tavern and Merry Arts Pub & Grille.
Quaker Steak won for best presentation of the wing station, which included extra sauce, vegetables for dipping, blue cheese and ranch dipping sauces, crazy straws, candy and...wet naps. Why were they the only place with wet naps during this sticky, messy, saucy wing crawl?!?
It should be mandatory, and they were very much appreciated. I've never washed my hands so many times in one day before.

It was fun to see restaurants/bars participating that don't usually sell chicken wings. Deagan at Humble Wine Bar was trying his hand at chicken wings by baking them in their pizza oven. I heard from other crawlers that some of the wings there didn't hold their crispness, but mine did, and the Garlic Parmesan wings in the "Open" category should be perfected and kept on the menu. They won best wing in that category, for me, based on the flavor. But, I'm a garlic-lover.
There were beers had along the way.
Chicken wings and beer just go together like peanut butter and jelly.

We had a great day crawling through Lakewood. There were only a few really bad wings, like Vosh (tiny and dry) and Bobby O's (meaty and crispy, but served in crock pots with bottled sauces).

Here is how I voted:

Best Buffalo-
1. Riverwood
2. Booths Tavern
3. Around the Corner

Best Open-
1. Humble- Garlic Parmesan
2. Merry Arts- Jamaican Jerk
3. Plank Road Tavern- Asian Sesame

So, who has your favorite chicken wing around? Here is the list of official winners, both People's Choice and Judge's Choice. Every participant was encouraged to vote, and had a chance of winning a Great Lakes Brewing Co. package.

Have you attended this event before? Would you? For $20, I think it was a deal, and a fun way to spend the day. However, it will be a very long time before I want to see a chicken wing again.

Disclosure: I was provided with two passes to the event and a T-shirt, in exchange for acting as an official judge. I was not asked to blog about this event. All opinions stated are 100% my own.