Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Melange for 2

This past Friday we dined at Melange in Beachwood for the first time. They had participated in a food/wine event that I attended this spring, so I was anxious to try their menu. It was a gorgeous evening, so we requested patio seating. The patio is small- seven tables and a full bar, but hey it's patio seating and this time of year I'll take anything that allows me to dine outside.

We decided to just get a couple of appetizers and share so that we could sample several dishes. I'll be honest- the entrees just didn't sound as good as many of the hot and cold starters. We started with the Farmers Market Tomato Salad (local sourced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, kalamata olives, basil, olive oil, aged balsamic). The fresh mozzarella was firm and creamy, but the tomatoes were a little mushy. Overall, the dish was ok but it was probably my least favorite of the evening. We then moved on to two hot starters: Lobster & Lump Crab Cake (local sweet corn and black bean salsa) and the Goat Cheese Fondue (Lake Erie Creamery Goat Cheese, Seasonal Fresh Fruit, Toasted Bread Assortment). The crab cake was good and full of large chucks of lobster and crab meat, but I've had better. Now the fondue was the shining star of this meal. The thick, creamy goat cheese was so tasty and rich that I fully admit I was scraping the bowl. The only complaint that I have about this dish is that they only serve enough bread and fruit for about half of the fondue. We had to order extra bread just to finish the dish. There was no way that I was leaving half of that cheese behind! Finally, we ended the meal by splitting a Cheese Plate (on the cold starters menu) and The "Candy Bar" dessert (pretzel, peanut butter chocolate mousse, caramel, salted peanuts, chocolate covered pretzels). The cheese plate had a nice assortment of artisan cheeses and fruit. The interested aspect of this dish was the sesame seed spread, which our waitress informed us that most people won't even try this. It certainly looked a little odd, but it was a nice addition to the cheese in moderation.

I was not blown away by Melange, but I would dine there again. The atmosphere inside is quite different than the patio. The plush booths and funky lighting was very upscale but almost stuffy.

2101 Richmond Road
Cleveland, OH
(216) 378-9755

Melange on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 25, 2009

#1 Pho- #1 in my heart

I fully admit that I do not have a ton of Vietnamese dining experience under my belt, but I have to believe that #1 Pho on Superior Avenue is one of the best in Cleveland. My opinion is not only based on personal experience, I have read several reviews that rave about this little hot spot as well. It is tucked away on the corner of Superior and East 31st, and you almost feel as though you are walking into a different world when you enter. The atmosphere is great- light and airy with an Asian twist that does not at all feel "chintzy". The menu is reasonably priced (approx. $10 for lunch) and delicious! I have yet to venture away from my lemongrass shrimp vermicelli with crispy spring roll, but have had the pleasure of sampling dining mates' dishes and everything has been very fresh and flavorful. The sweet and sour sauce is light and tangy, with a hint of orange. If you're in that area for lunch, I highly recommend stopping in.

3120 Superior Ave
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 781-1176

#1 Pho on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

First of the season...

The Cleveland Botanical Gardens launches the first "Gourmets in the Garden" event this evening. For $5, experience cooking demonstrations from some of the best chefs in Cleveland's finest restaurants while you enjoy the beauty of the gardens. All demonstrations begin at 6 PM on Wednesdays from June 10-September 2. This series has become so popular that you have to make reservations, so don't wait! Call 216-721-1600, ext. 100 for reservations.

Tonight, Spice of Life Catering will be preparing a specialty dish. They are one of my favorites. I can't make it tonight, but you should! For a complete list of restaurants featured, click here.

The Gardens is also offering "Cocktails in the Garden" this year. The good news- it's the same night at Gourmets in the Garden! What goes better with delicious food samples than a glass of wine or fun cocktail?! Click on the link above for a list of featured cocktails.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Independents Launch New Site

The Cleveland Independents' new site has launched, and in my personal opinion looks great! I am a big supporter of the Independents, and whole-heartily believe that we (Cleveland diners) should support our local independent chefs and restaurateurs. Not that chain restaurants don't serve a purpose, and I'm a big fan of some, but in this economy we should do everything that we can to support our community businesses. It helps that the best restaurants in Cleveland fall into this category! Take a look at their list of restaurant members. You have over 80 to choose from. Also check out the newly designed Event Calendar, which makes searching for special events even easier.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Aladdin's is Always a Delight

Last night I dined at Aladdin's Eatery with friends. It is a comfort to know that the food will always be delicious! This Lebanese/American restaurant is a hot spot for vegetarians and health-conscious diners. My favorite dish is the Vegetarian Combo appetizer (more than enough for a meal by itself). It includes small portions of: Hummos, Tabouli, Baba, Falaffel, and Dawali. For those of you that don't know...

Hummos: Puree of chickpeas, tahini, and lemon topped with fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil.
Tabouli: A delicate mixture of parsley, onions, cracked wheat and tomatoes seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, lemon and herbs.
Baba: Puree of charbroiled eggplant, tahini, garlic, and lemon topped with fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil.
Falaffel: Mildly spiced vegetarian patties made with chick peas, fava beans, parsley, and scallions. Fried in peanut oil and served with Tahini Yogurt sauce.
Dawali: Grape leaves stuffed with rice, chick peas, tomato, and parsley, topped with Aladdin's dressing, feta cheese and parsley.

Their hummos is excellent and very smooth, with just the right amount of lemon. My other favorite is the grape leaves, or "dawali". The small rolls are fresh and filling, and the Aladdin's dressing is one of the best dressings that I've had on grape leaves. There are several locations, so click here to find one near you!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Spectacular View, Food Just Satisfactory...

I've been looking forward to trying Pier W in Lakewood for some time now, and I have to admit that I am a little disappointed after our dining experience on Sunday night. While there is no contest that the restaurant has the best view in Cleveland (picture beautiful cliffs above Lake Erie and the downtown skyline twinkling in the distance), the food was kind of a let down.

We started with the BRAISED ANGUS BEEF SHORT RIB PIEROGIES served with Caramelized Cippolini Onion Jus. The angus beef was rich and savory and the pierogies' dough was heavenly, but the caramelized onion jus was overpowering and ruined the dish for me. We also sampled the HEARTH ROASTED BLUE HILL BAY MUSSELS with a Rustic Tomato and White Wine Broth. The broth was flavorful but the mussels didn't seem to absorb the broth as much as I would have liked. I almost didn't know that the dish was as good as it was until I took a spoonful of the broth. For my entree, I tried the FRESH LOBSTER PAPPARDELE (Chunks of Fresh Maine Lobster, Fresh Pappardele, Roasted Red Peppers, Haricot Verts, Light Cognac Cream Sauce), which was a little rich and heavy. The "chunks" of lobster were minuscule, but the haricot verts were a nice addition and added a slightly crunchy texture to the dish. Overall, it wasn't bad but I think that I would have been happier with the diver scallops or halibut dishes that I was eyeing up. One of my dining mates ordered the BASIL SEARED #1 HAWIIAN BIG EYE TUNA, served raw with a Potato and Leek Tart, Tomato Jam, Sweet Onion Coulis and Basil Oil. The fish was very fresh and tender. The basil leaves on top of the fish gave it a slight basil flavor, which was very light and complimented the tuna. The sweet onion coulis was flavorless and did not add anything to the dish. It should have remained in the kitchen. We finished with a Lake Erie goat cheese plate, Riesling Poached Granny Smith Apples with homemade cinnamon ice cream, and a Godiva White Chocolate cheesecake. The Poached Apples were unique and creative, but the cheesecake was only so-so. My favorite dessert was the cheese plate. The cheese boasted a "bloomy rind" that was soft and edible. Spread on a toasted piece of raisin nut bread and fruit jam, it was delicious!

While Pier W fell a little short, it is worth trying again and you can bet that I'll be back to give it another go. Maybe for their famous brunch this time...

Pier W
12700 Lake Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107
(216) 228-2250

Pier W on Urbanspoon