Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Here's wishing for holidays filled with friends, family, fun, and food and to a fantastic 2011!

Happy Holidays to you and yours.
From Katrina and "R"

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lilly Handmade Chocolates in Tremont

I really have to thank Twitter for my recent discovery. Many, many months ago I saw chatter on Twitter (and then Foursquare) about Lilly Handmade Chocolates in Tremont. I discovered that owner, Amanda Montague, was on Twitter herself and I quickly added her to my list. And the curiosity began...

From the social media postings, I felt that I had a good sense of what to expect: delicious, homemade chocolates and a good selection of beer and wine to pair with them. This is exactly what we got when we finally found our way there on Friday night. What took me so long?!

The shop instantly put a smile on my face when I saw their playful, pink window display for the holidays. I am sucker for window displays- I've been known to wander down 5th Avenue in NYC for hours staring into the detailed holiday displays. But Lilly's display helped set the mood for our first time shopping there.The next thing that my eye was drawn to was the wall of bottles- beer, wine, and champagne. It was a little overwhelming for a first-time shopper. "R" quickly found his way to the stouts and ended up purchasing several (both old and new favorites). Finding a white wine was a little more difficult (since they don't pair as well with chocolate), but we eventually found a clean, crisp Chardonnay to do the trick. Note that the picture included here is only a portion of the wall- there is more.Now, on to the chocolate...
Shoppers can walk right up to the display and hand-pick their chocolates. There are a few different options, but we settled on the 12 chocolate box for $22 so that we could each select 6. Let me just say that picking 6 was difficult! I was able to easily choose my top 5, but committing to the final 6th chocolate was hard. There were still several of the chocolates that sounded creative and delicious.

But here were my picks:
Pistachio- bittersweet pistachio ganache, milk chocolate
After Midnight- bitter stout, dark chocolate
Cinnabunny- Vietnamese cinnamon, ground ginger, clover honey, dark chocolate
PB Monsters- milk chocolate, all natural peanut butter, clover honey, feuilletine crunch, himalayan pink salt
The Black Diamond- black perigord truffle infused honey, dark chocolate
Sweet Cheeks- burnt salted caramel, dark chocolate

For a full list, and close up (gorgeous) shots of the chocolates, go visit their website. They were all very good, but my favorite two were the Pistachio and After Midnight.

So we walked out of there very happy with our new Tremont find, and I can guarantee that we'll be back. I do have to mention that the prices on the alcohol are a little steeper than you would find for the same bottle at the grocery store, but I'll happily pay a few dollars more to support a local business. Take a look at our loot:We walked away with six stouts, a bottle of wine, 12 chocolates, and a gift bag of four different chocolate bars that will be my holiday present for my boss this week. Quite a nice haul, if I do say so myself. So thanks, Twitter!

Lilly Handmade Chocolates
761 Starkweather Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 771-3333

Lilly Handmade Chocolates on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dinner in the Snow...uh, Dark.

You may remember a few months ago when I blogged about a new dining concept coming to Cleveland- Dinner in the Dark. The brainchild of local chefs Brian Okin (formally of Verve), Ellis Cooley (AMP150), and Jeff Jarrett (formally of North End Wine Bar, and opening his own restaurant Palate, in Strongsville, very soon) just executed the third installment of their creative dinners. The concept is simple: area chefs come together to have some fun in the kitchen, challenge diners to push themselves out of their comfort zone by not knowing what will be served that evening, and all proceeds benefit that month's charity of choice. I've read some great reviews of the first two dinners, and this month's was no exception.

I finally had the opportunity to attend, and this was one foodie who was really excited to "dine in the dark", and put my trust in the hands of some of our area's most capable chefs by having no clue what was to be served that night. The dinner was held at AMP150 on Monday night in the middle of a snow storm, but the drive was worth it for everyone that attended. I was not disappointed...

After a tasty shrimp amuse-bouche and the cocktail of the evening- 12th Night Punch, we started the main meal with Buttermilk Fried Chicken Livers with Cheesy Polenta, Green Onion Salsa, and Spiced Honey* from Chef Jeff Jarrett.I was a little leery after hearing the word "livers", but the dish surprised me and it ended up being one of my favorites of the evening. The crispy buttermilk breading masked the texture of the liver without taking away from the flavor, and I absolutely loved the creamy polenta. The bites that included the salsa and a hint of honey just pushed this dish towards the top of my list.

Then we moved on to the vegetable course, from Chef Brian Okin. He introduced us to a member of the mint family- chrosne (honestly, none of the diners at my table had heard of this). Okin had prepared them three ways: raw, pickled, and bacon-flavored.Our table agreed that we enjoyed the pickled and bacon-flavored versions the most. Duh, everything is better with bacon! We actually tried to play a game of thinking of items that wouldn't be better with bacon. Can you?

Course three came from Chef Kimberly McCune: Panatone French Toast with Seared Foie Gras and Blackberry Caviar. Sorry no photo- I dug right in. In my opinion, the dish was good but not great (However, the two men at our table did disagree with the women and they loved this course). The "french toast" was flavored and prepared well, but I think the foie gras was lost in the dish.

A shot of warm lemonade and a frozen basil ice cube was served to help cleanse our palate before moving on to the fish course. This little drink was fantastic, and truly helped clear the way for the next three courses.

The fourth course was prepared by Chef Okin, and it was a flaky striped bass wrapped in crispy bacon with cranberries. I didn't catch the full description, but this dish was beautifully cooked and well-balanced in flavor. I may wrap my white fish in bacon from now on! See, everything IS better with bacon. This course was my second favorite of the meal.I always like to end on a high note, and Chef Adam Bostwick from Melange certainly delivered. The highlight of the meal was his take on a winter-inspired cheeseburger. This was interpreted into Braised Short Ribs in a Tomato Broth served with Aged Cheddar, a Crispy Onion Ring, and Cucumber-Tomato Salsa.
Umm, wow. I barely touched the short rib and the tender meat instantly fell apart- the true sign of a perfectly cooked short rib. The meat was so flavorful, and all of the components were paired very well together. We didn't quite get the sensation of eating a cheeseburger, but who cares- the dish was phenomenal. Kudos to one of my favorite chefs in the city!

If you know me well enough by now, you know that I will always choose savory over sweet. So I was a little hesitant to end with the dessert course after having such an amazing dish from Chef Adam. On its own, I don't think I would have been disappointed in Pastry Chef Lauren Stephenson's Lemon Chiffon Cake with Pomegranate Ice Cream. It was light and airy, and the other diners at our table were very pleased. It was good, but I would have taken another bite of short rib or Chef Jarrett's polenta over dessert any day!

Phew, thanks for sticking with me. It was an amazing meal, and I couldn't possibly leave out any of the wonderful dishes that our chefs prepared. One thing is for sure- our area's chefs are true masters of their craft. For just $65, this six-course meal was well worth the price tag, and diners can feel good knowing that the proceeds go to a very worthy local cause. This month's charity was the Cleveland Foodbank. The dinner also featured a wine pairing with each course, expertly chosen by a representative from 55 degrees. Diners have the option to purchase these wines by the bottle at the end of the event. With small raffle and auction items as well, this really is an enjoyable evening out and one that you should consider if you have not yet attended a Dinner in the Dark. Follow them on Facebook to stay updated on upcoming events.

Thank you to all of the chefs who contributed their time and talent to this fun event. I will gladly "dine in the dark" knowing that you are in the kitchen. We had a great time sampling dishes that we may have not ordered on our own, and getting to know the wonderful couple that was seated with us. Isn't it always refreshing to meet people that you enjoy talking to? I think it only proved to enhance our overall experience. "R" and I don't have too many other foodies in our lives, so dining with other food-lovers is always fantastic. And this is the right town to be a foodie in...I'm already looking forward to attending another Dinner in the Dark. Bravo, chefs!

*All descriptions of the dishes are my own. I tried to catch everything that the chefs said when they presented the courses, but I may have missed some things.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Minh Anh in a Snowstorm

Since moving to Cleveland almost three years ago, I have tackled almost all of the restaurants that "R" grew up with and raved about...and another one was checked off the list on Wednesday night (Yes, we voluntarily went out to dinner in the snow storm on Wednesday. That's what close to two months of being house-bound will do to you!).

I really like Vietnamese cuisine, and frequent #1 Pho for lunch, but I had yet to try Minh Anh ("R's" favorite) in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. My dad was in town visiting this week, so "R's" mom suggested that the four of us get together for a casual bite to eat. Without any discussion needed, Minh Anh was selected.

After a treacherous trek down West 25th Street, we turned onto Detroit Avenue and soon came upon the restaurant. The decor and atmosphere are what you would expect from a standard "American" Asian restaurant, but they did have comfortable booths- which has been key for me since the surgery. Since it was the first snowy evening of the season, the restaurant was empty except for a few other brave diners. But this did lead to attentive service and our food arriving fresh and quickly.

At "R's" mom's suggestion, we all started with a Shrimp Spring Roll served with peanut sauce ($2.95). This light, fresh, and large spring roll was one of the best that I've had. The peanut sauce was slightly sweet, and a great accompaniment to the flavors of the other components. We all thoroughly enjoyed the spring rolls, and my dad even jokingly stated that he would be happy ordering 4 of them for an entree. But he did end up with the Seafood Curry with scallops, shrimp, squid, okra and tomato in a yellow curry sauce ($14.50). The flavor was okay (not great), but the seafood and vegetables were overcooked and very soft. The entire dish sort of turned to mush in his opinion. "R" ordered the Seafood Szechwan with squid, scallops, shrimp, red peppers, pineapple and asparagus ($14.50). He was happy with it, but I just don't really enjoy szechwan so I wasn't a fan of the dish. "R's" mom swears by the Deluxe Singapore Noodles with curry-flavored shrimp, pork, chicken, egg, bean sprouts, green beans, carrots, and mushrooms ($11.50), so we both ordered the same dish.She wasn't kidding when she told us that the portion was large, but that just meant that I had delicious leftovers to bring home with me! After digging in, I realized just how many vegetables were included in the dish and they created great texture and flavor. I did add a little siracha for heat, but other than that I was happy with the subtle curry flavor. Overall, the dish was good but it didn't blow me away. I would probably try another dish off of their extensive menu on our next visit. But one thing is for sure- I'll be ordering my own spring roll. Hands off, no sharing!

Minh Anh
5428 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 961-9671

Minh Anh on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A "Wild"-ly Good Dish

Last Sunday,"R" and I scheduled an impromptu dinner with his mom (who had just returned from a warm and sun-filled week in Cabo- so jealous!). She recently moved to North Olmsted, and has started to explore local eateries. But one that she had frequented before, Wild Mango, became our destination of choice.

It was a very early dinner, so only a few other diners were there when we were. The restaurant is located in the Great Northern Mall, which may throw foodies and fine diners for a loop. But it really was not what I was expecting. The atmosphere was very elegant and tastefully Asian-inspired. The prices are a little high for what most mall-goers would be looking for, but this restaurant can stand on its own.

At "R's" mom's suggestion, we started with the Pepsi Shrimp ($7)- Pepsi-cola battered, Asian cucumber salad and crispy soba noodles. The lightly battered shrimp were tasty with a hint of sriracha, but the cucumber salad offered a nice balance of cool acidity to the dish. Overall, it was very thoughtfully prepared and presented. "R" and his mom both got dishes that included the Beef Tenderloin, and I settled on the Scallops with lobster risotto, mushrooms, and baby bok choy. My dish was outstanding. From the first yummy bite to the last, I was thoroughly enjoying it. The only critique that I can say is that the dish could have used a little more bok choy to help cut the richness of the rest of the components. By the time I was finishing, it was still delicious, but a little heavy. The risotto was so creamy that it melted in my mouth, and the six medium-sized scallops were cooked perfectly. The slight mushroom flavor gave the dish a hint of earthiness, really balancing out the seafood. I would order this dish again in a heartbeat, and "R" stated that he would too after just a few bites that I reluctantly shared. And that says a lot, because his surf n' turf dish that included the beef tenderloin was very good as well. The meat was done to a perfect medium rare, and was so smooth that the meat also melted in your mouth. The sauce was paired well, and both "R" and his mom were really pleased with their dishes.

So, in summary this impromptu dinner was a nice surprise and we certainly found a place (and dish) that we'll come back to! Just be prepared to drop some dough and ignore the mall shoppers.

Wild Mango
362 Great Northern Mall
North Olmsted, OH 44070
(440) 979-1888

Wild Mango on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A "Taste" of Cleveland Heights

So before my surgery, I went on a little bit of a "fun" spree. The threat of spending 4-6 weeks horizontal on the couch will do that to you! This included dining out with friends at Market, BREWzilla and other Cleveland Beer Week festivities, dinner and drinks at Roseangel, and lastly dinner out with "R" at Taste in Cleveland Heights. Located in the Cedar/Lee dining district, we easily spotted the restaurant's awning and then found parking after circling the block a few times.

When we walked in, I was immediately impressed with the overall decor. The soft, warm lighting, modern, clean lines of the furniture, and exposed brick walls are all up my alley."R" and I started to look at the menu, and I quickly realized that the prices were a little steep. I just hoped that the food was really that good.

It was one of those first chilly nights of fall, so we both decided to start with the Soup du jour ($6). The soup that night was turnip with pesto oil. The flavor of the soup was spot-on, especially once the pesto oil was stirred in, but the consistency was not what I was expecting. It was thin, with an almost watery appearance, and I think I was picturing a thick, creamy, hearty soup similar to the standard potato or squash-based soups that I love. For my entree, I chose the Duck Breast with mustard mashed potatoes and passion fruit sauce ($24). Again, the flavors were nice but I was disappointed with the dish. For $24, the plate included three slices of duck breast and three small dollops of mashed potatoes that when put together would equal about 1/2 of what a typical restaurant serving includes. The duck was cooked perfectly at medium-rare, and the flavor of the mashed potatoes with the hint of mustard was unique and well-balanced. I just felt that what I received was not worth the price. "R" settled on the special of the evening, a white fish with couscous. It was beautifully presented, and he really enjoyed the dish. But, again it was not worth the upper $20's price tag. We also split a side order of the Sautéed Spinach ($5). This was a complete waste of $5, because the kitchen staff did nothing with the flavor of this dish. A little salt, citrus, or garlic would have gone a long way.

So, overall I thought that interior of the restaurant is well thought out and inviting, but the quantity and quality of the food is just not quite worth the total of your bill. It was good, but not great, and I don't see us going back.

Taste Restaurant
2317 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 932-9100

* photo courtesy of

Taste on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 12, 2010

Browns Tailgating

With yet another Cleveland Browns game coming up this Sunday, I thought that this post was appropriate...What does "tailgating" mean to you? For 24 years of my life, I thought that it meant throwing burgers and hot dogs on a grill and drinking beer in some parking lot outside a stadium before a game. And to many, this is what tailgating stands for. But then I met "R" and tailgating was elevated to a whole other level that I didn't know existed. I learned one thing very quickly...Browns fans are serious about their tailgating.

My first experience was a December 31st game three years ago (now that's new love, right?!? I mean what girl agrees to go to a game and sit outside for almost 10 hours in late December when she could care less about football? Typically not this one, but I did it anyway. True love.) From that tailgate on, I have been blown away at the quality (and quantity at times) of food that comes out of the tailgate party that "R" and his friends throw each home game. From crab-stuffed peppers, home made Philly cheese steak sandwiches, gyros, the "all fried foods" extravaganza (um yuck, I wanted to puke half way through the game from all the grease), home made corn dogs, pineapple chicken sandwiches, a clambake...the list goes on. While the traditional hamburger and hot dog still have a place at many tailgates...I look around and see amazing food, Browns gear galore, interesting home made contraptions, and over-the-top everything from Browns fans. Tailgating in The Pit (our personal favorite) or Muni Lot is quite a sight to be seen. With the game coming up this weekend, I wanted to share a recent tailgate with you...

Our tailgate meals always have to involve this...
Yes, that is an industrial-size french fry cutter that provides us with fresh cut fries for every tailgate. "R" ordered it online and built the stand (which will be newly painted brown, orange, and white for the next tailgate). This is my favorite part of tailgating. But this time we took the fresh fries and combined it with...
Fresh, thick-cut Italian bread from Micheal's Bakery on Broadview Road, and sliced deli meat (we had our choice between three kinds- I went with roast beef) smothered in Provolone cheese. This, topped with a vinegar-based cole slaw (thanks, Granny for the recipe) became...

HOME MADE PANINI OVERSTUFFED SANDWICHESThey were amazing. "R" outdid himself once again. My mouth is watering just looking at the pictures.

Now we all know that tailgate parties are centered around the food and drink, but I did mention gear and contraptions above. What is the best Browns item that you've seen at a tailgate party? The motorized couch in the Muni Lot is legendary. I love the shaggy orange van decorated with carpet, ears, and googley eyes to look like a dog in The Pit. I'd kill for a motorized cooler- they are so bad a**. And the fan outfits, you can't forget those. "R" and his friends haven't taken their "gear" too far (yet?), but I do have to give a shout out to his newly built corn hole boards...
...that quickly turn into a beer pong/flip cup table with just the small addition of custom legs. Three games in one! Check out the bottle openers on each board- very handy indeed.

So what does tailgating mean to you? How do you celebrate the Browns games? Where's your favorite spot to tailgate? Here's hoping for another W this Sunday!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Guest Post- Green Dog Wine

Note from Bite Buff: Just a quick update on my status...recovery from the surgery is going well. I head back to the surgeon today to get the last of the stitches removed- yay! I have a few more weeks ahead of me before I'll be back to 100%, but I hope to be fully blogging again very soon. I've missed it! Thank you again to all of my fabulous guest bloggers. You're doing a great job of keeping my readers entertained. I've got at least one more for ya coming up. But today's guest post comes from Allison over at Green Dog Wine...

Hiya Bite Buff Readers! My name is Allison, and I’m a fellow Cleveland Blogger! I write the blog, Green Dog Wine, and have the pleasure of knowing Katrina both professionally (blogging) and personally! I’m absolutely honored to be guest posting here!

When I was stressing out thinking about what my guest post should be – I had no idea what direction I wanted to take it – do you want a recipe? Do you want dog insanity? Do you want a restaurant review? (Do you get a feel for what my blog is about now?! :lol: )

Then it hit me.

Spicy Oats.

Every time I make this beautiful dish:
I have someone either:
A: Barf and/or making gagging noises
B: Ask me: “How do you make those – I MUST know how!!”

For a long time now – I’ve only been able to respond with a quick note, and link to this recipe (which is the ghetto “make it at work” version – still delicious, but not as good as “home made”).

So without further ado – Spicy Oats V2.0Homemade!

Ingredients you’ll need:
You could definitely use whatever oats you like, or are comfortable with cooking, but since I found these “Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats” at TJ’s last year – I haven’t looked back! (Nor have I bought a container of Old Fashioned Oats!)

For the egg preparation – you can use whatever method you feel comfortable with – I always go with one of two options:
1. Cooking them in a pan
2. Poaching them in the microwave with my Egg Poachie

I always get the water boiling first, while I’m getting all the other supplies ready:
(Dirty burner pans OPTIONAL. Funny thing is – I actually took the time to turn them around because the dirt was all under the front burner and I thought “Oh I don’t want people to see what a terrible housekeeper I am!” – and really, turning it around just made it WORSE! I digress...)

Once the water comes to a boil, add the desired amount of oatmeal, reduce heat and cover:
After the oats have been dealt with – I get the egg going (whether it be in the microwave or on the stove):
Optional: Dirty glares from tired, still half asleep dogs, saying “Where the heck is OUR breakfast, woman?”

After about 7-9 minutes (for the Quick Cook TJ’s brand), the oats should be done! I always like to uncover, and let sit for a few minutes so it can sort of thicken up! (perfect time to finish packing your lunch, or brush your teeth, or any of those other AM things you need to take care of!)
After the oats have thickened – add in desired amount of Frank’s sauce (in my case, TONS!):
Optional: (Depending on how much you like your family/co-workers?) Onion related spices.
Last but not least – throw the Morning Star Sausage patty in the microwave for 45 seconds!

Combine oats, egg, and sausage in bowl – top with additional Frank’s (if you’d like), and whatever seasonings you’d like!

Other variations/toppings I’ve added in to spice it up even further:
• “The Heat Is On” Peanut Butter from PB&Co.
• Laughing Cow Cheese Wedge
• 2 eggs, no sausage
• Sriracha

The possibilities are endless! ENJOY!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Guest Post- Mile 26 and More

Hi Bite Buff readers!

My name is Heather, and I blog over at Mile26andMore. I met Katrina through one of our many CLE blogger dinners and have since had the pleasure of getting to know her one on one (she's so sweet!). Whenever I need a recommendation for a restaurant, I always know to contact Katrina. This girl knows her stuff! So when my husband and I were celebrating our 2 year anniversary a week ago and wanted to try somewhere new for brunch, I remembered Katrina mentioning how much she and "R" enjoy Tremont Tap House. So Tremont Tap House, it was!

First of all, I have driven past this place AT LEAST 20 times and never knew this is where the Tap House was! The only reason J and I knew this particular Sunday was because the Garmin told us to stop. However, despite the lack of a sign, we were pleasantly surprised when we entered.

The restaurant is small, but very inviting. The long bar and exposed brick really add to the charm. And since it was a nice day, they actually opened the big window behind the bar (like a garage door!) so we could enjoy the weather. It was a nice surprise.

Being that this was the close of Cleveland's Beer Week, J decided to stray from his norm of no flavored beer and tried a pumpkin ale. (I decided to stick to water since I had just run 8.5 miles that morning!)

This is the Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale.

Here's what he thought:
Hehe. I think this beer may have actually convinced him that he needs to try more flavored ales!

Now, let me explain that the beer tasting all happened before we even got our food. Katrina was right when she said that you don't go to the TTH for the service, you go for the beer and food. I was crabby and STARVING by the time our food arrived. Running over 8 miles will do that to a girl. :)

Since J reviewed the beer, I figured I'd review the food.

I ordered the blueberry and granola pancakes with a side of fresh fruit. I have to say, at first bite I wasn't so sure. But after a few bites in I was in LOVE. They really load up the blueberries - just what I like!! I had no trouble putting these down.

Wow, they were fantastic. Light and fluffy, but still dense with great texture from the fresh blueberries and crunch from the granola. I was really impressed. They tasted 100% homemade, like my grandma had made them for me. I left there with a happy belly. I love when that happens. :)

So, I guess Katrina knows what she's talking about when she reviews restaurants. That's what Bite Buff is all about, right? So, take a look around her blog and check out her reviews. She won't steer you wrong!

A big thanks to Katrina for having me. Now stop reading and go grab some grub!

From Katrina- Thanks for the guest post, Heather. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the Tap House. It is certainly one of our favorite spots in Tremont. Do I spy a chorizo burrito hiding in the background of your pancake shot? Mmmmm...

And a very special Happy Birthday (on Saturday) to our guest blogger, Heather!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Guest Post- Life on Mars

Congratulations to lucky #9...Ben! You're attending Laura Taxel's workshop at the Fabulous Food Show on Saturday, November 13th. If you did not win and are interested in attending, please visit the site for more information. Thank you again to Laura and the FFS for providing me with a pass to give away. Now, I have another guest post for you today!

Hi, I'm Suzanne from Life on Mars and you are stuck with me for the day while Bite Buff is away.

I like to eat. I do not like to cook-mainly because I hate cleaning up. Luckily for me (and the Cleveland economy) I like to dine out and I tend to dine out a fair amount during the week. Most weekends, I am pretty sure you will not find me in my own kitchen and that includes breakfast/brunch. When dining out, I try to keep it as local as possible, dining at places that are locally owned and operated as well as places that get their food as locally as possible. I am super excited that Cleveland's food scene has been getting the recognition it deserves. But if your old favorite hangout/favorite place to dine becomes one of the places lucky enough to get some national attention, I would be scared. It's kind of the kiss of death in my opinion-at least in this town it kind of is. Can you say Parma Perogies?

Here is my theory on why national attention isn't always a good thing. Chefs are kind of egomaniacs. If you ever spent some time with a good one, you'll know it. Most of the time they will tell you. The problem with some national attention in a small(ish) town like Cleveland, you become a big fish in a little pond. Or at least you think you are. You think you are awesome. You think you are a rock star. You are hitting event circuits like you are Lindsay Lohan pre-rehab. But guess where you aren't? Your kitchen. Remember that place that made you kind of a big deal? So while you are are partying like it's 1999 telling everyone how awesome you are, your kitchen, your restaurant is most likely suffering. Unless you have staffed your kitchen with some amazing people, I am pretty sure it isn't your dream that's being carried out in your kitchen while you are out patting yourself on the back. And then who really suffers? The diner. I can name a few spots (but I won't here, I am pretty sure anyone who has been around a while can think a few of their favorites that jumped the shark with some national attention) that I used to love. I loved them because they were (not are, were) great. The chefs were working their asses off to make sure you had an amazing meal and if it was a chef/owner they were worried about your whole experience. Now after a little notoriety, I am not so sure the chefs are interested in making sure what I am eating nightly in their restaurant is what they might call their "A game". And some of these places have even resorted to asking if it's your first experience dining with them when they have been open for years. This really annoys me especially when it's the same waiter you have had the last 4 times you have dined there in the last month. Are you going to treat me like differently if I say "no"? Or what if I say "yes", are you going to roll out the red carpet for me? Shouldn't I be treated like it's my first time, every time. Because while it might not be my first dining experience with you, it surely might be my last.

*photo from here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Win a Spot at the Fabulous Food Show!

I've got a "fabulous" and unique giveaway for one lucky person this week. One of our city's own acclaimed authors, Laura Taxel, will be partnering with Dianne Jacob to offer an interesting workshop at the upcoming Fabulous Food Show at the IX Center. The 5th annual show is being held from Friday, November 12th through Sunday, November 14th. Taxel's session is closed for chefs and other industry professionals on Friday, but the Saturday session is open to the public. And...they have generously reserved one spot at the Saturday session for a Bite Buff reader!

Read more about the session...

Do you dream of writing a cookbook or blog? Award winning food journalist and author of Cleveland Ethnic Eats Laura Taxel, and writing coach Dianne Jacob, who's book Will Write For Food is the definitive and highly acclaimed guide to all forms of culinary writing show you how. They are leading workshops on Friday and Saturday morning, November 12 & 13 at the Fabulous Food Show in Cleveland Ohio. Get practical tips and real world guidance on getting started, doing it well, and what it takes to get published and get readers. The interactive 2-hour sessions will demystify the process of writing and selling a book and explore the pros, cons, and steps for launching and maintaining a food blog, plus advice on how to improve your food writing skills. The Friday workshop is strictly for chefs and other professionals. The Saturday version is for the general public. Tickets are $50, include all day admission to the Show, and must be purchased in advance. More info about the presenters and the class on the show website.

So you can learn "tips of the trade" from experts, improve your own writing skills, and increase traffic to your blog- all while enjoying a pass to the Fabulous Food Show! If you have never attended the show, I've heard that it is a foodie's dream. You can learn cooking techniques from world-renown chefs (including our own Michael Symon), collect recipes, shop, and of course...sample fantastic food and wine.

All you have to do to win the pass to the Fabulous Food Show and the spot in the Saturday workshop session is leave a comment on this post expressing your interest. I'll pull a winner on Tuesday, November 2nd. Good luck!

*photo found at

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Guest Post- Poise In Parma

Hello readers! Well you are in for a treat over the next few weeks. I finally had surgery on my lower back yesterday (nothing scary, I'll be fine), and will be recovering at home for about a month. So a few of my fabulous fellow bloggers have offered to step in and keep you entertained. I know that you will enjoy their guest posts, because these fantastic bloggers are ones that I keep up with regularly in my blog roll and I always look forward to what they post! I've also got some great posts planned (including a fun giveaway for a session at the upcoming Fabulous Food Show), so stay tuned for some posts from me and enjoy reading the guest posts as they come in.

Greetings from Parma! I’m Alicia from Poise in Parma, another Cleveland food blog. There you’ll find my ramblings about finding that elusive “balance” we all seek in life – and in my case – work, blog and dog. If you are a frequent reader of Bite Buff or Poise in Parma, you know we enjoy attending local culinary events. In many ways, we’ve become quite the experts on the strolling food and wine fundraiser! Today I’d like to share my tips on how you too can make the most of these foodie and wine lover extravaganzas.


DO get there early. If the event starts at 6:00PM, arrive on time to avoid the valet parking rush and to get a jump start on the freshest tastings.

DO NOT forget to arrange how you are going to get home, especially if the emphasis of the event is more on the beverages. Either decide who in your group will DD, or arrange for a ride home before arriving at the event. You don’t want to remember this evening for the side trip to the police station on the way home.

DO scout out the participants. In that venue, there is an event planner somewhere that spent FAR TOO MUCH time on an event program. Do these poor folks a favor and actually READ the listing of participating restaurant and beverage providers. Create your “must eat and drink” list early on in the evening. You’ll be better prepared because of it.

DO NOT automatically grab the first piece of food or glass of wine that you see. I understand that you are hungry because you starved yourself to “save up”. (HUGE mistake, by the way.) Since you’ve check out who’s in the room, head to your “must have” participant first, then work the room accordingly.

DO be selective and remember your previous experiences. Say you dined somewhere before and had a horrible experience with their product. Why would you waste the time and stomach space for a sample of their lame excuse for a sample? Instead, take advantage of the restaurants and beverage providers that you haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy.

DO NOT feel obligated to finish anything if it doesn’t taste good. I’m not saying spit it out in front of the person who served it to you. If after one bite you decide that it was enough, just dispose of it. There’s probably something else in the room that you’ll like better and will enjoy more.

DO go back for seconds after you’ve made your first round. If something is THAT good, take advantage of your situation and enjoy it. Don’t get greedy – limit it to two visits. Any further consumption of their food need to be made at their restaurant.

DO NOT “hog” a popular chef with unnecessary, drawn out conversation. You’re a foodie – we understood that when you purchased tickets for this event. But so am I, as well as the other few hundred folks here. Don’t be selfish. Remember there are others that may have a quick question to ask. If you want more time with them, come back at the end of the event or, better yet, reserve some seats at their chef’s table for next weekend.

DO know when to call it a night. Are you starting to feel a bit wobbly? Did you already unbuckle your belt an hour ago? Unable to tell the difference between the two red wines you are drinking? Time to head out. Don’t be THAT GUEST that stayed WAY TOO LATE and became the laughing stock of the Northeast Ohio society pages. Instead, head home as you earned the right to enter a food/wine coma.

By following these tips, you too will survive AND enjoy all that our lovely region has to offer! For more fun Cleveland themed food posts, stop by Poise in Parma! I promise it’s more than just pierogies and flamingos!

Thanks, Alicia for the guest post! If anyone else out there is interested in doing a guest post while I am out of commission, please feel free to contact me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cleveland Beer Week Re-cap

This was one girl who was really looking forward to this year's Cleveland Beer Week. I think by the time the first Beer Week was in full swing last year, I was just starting to hear about it and missed out on the festivities. One of the events that guests raved about was BREWzilla (held at the Arcade in 2009). So when I was approached to help promote the 2010 event by hosting a giveaway, I jumped at the chance to attend and to help spread the word about this fun finale event for Beer Week. But I'm going to back up first and tell you about the other events that I attended...

I started out my Beer Week (BW) celebration by having dinner and drinks with two friends at Market in Rocky River. They were pouring several special brews in honor of BW. This beer-inspired establishment is a great place for a wine-lover like myself to dive into the wonderful world of beer. I ordered my first ever pumpkin beer, and really enjoyed it! BW also motivated "R" and I to host our own stay-at-home beer tasting on Thursday night. We were in the middle of making dinner, and all of a sudden had a craving to sample some fall-inspired beers. "R" ran to the store and picked up two different Octoberfest beers and a pumpkin beer to satisfy my new-found love. We happily sipped on all three while finishing dinner and then playing some board games. It was a fun evening spent at home.

Friday evening brought Ales on Rails, a beer tasting featuring 7 breweries and a box dinner provided by the Winking Lizard aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. We stumbled upon friends on the train that we didn't know were attending, and the four of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on the trip. The brewery representatives were all enthusiastic and informative as they interacted with the passengers. I can't remember all of them, but we sampled brews from Thirsty Dog, Ithaca Brewing Company, and Sam Smith. My only complaint is that the event started at 6:30 p.m. and it gets dark quickly after that this time of year. So we really only had about 30 minutes of the three-hour ride to enjoy the gorgeous view of the valley.

Saturday night was the second annual BREWzilla. This year, the event moved to the Galleria at Erieview and took over the entire space. 51 different breweries were stationed around the mall for all general admission guests to enjoy. Each brewery was pouring several brews, so the options were almost overwhelming. You can see from above that my good friend Sam Adams was in attendance (we're related if you go back through my family tree!). "R" was all about the stouts, so we HAD to find each and every single one. I just attempted to find a few lighter beers along the way. I was hoping for a few more wheat beer options (yes, I know that summer is over), or additional pumpkin beers and Octoberfests, but a hop-head would have been in heaven. I know that "R" certainly was! It really was a nice event, and a great opportunity to push myself to try some new types of beer and discover great breweries from around the globe.

I think that I will be a little more adventuresome in my beer selections now, and I am already looking forward to Cleveland Beer Week 2011! What did you do to celebrate Beer Week? What was your favorite event?