Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Love the food, love the chef"

When "R" selected Fahrenheit as his restaurant choice for one last birthday celebration with his family, I was thrilled. I am a huge fan of Rocco and his food is typically outstanding. It helps that he is one of the nicest chefs in Cleveland and his outpouring of love for Cleveland and Tremont is infectious.

Fahrenheit is nestled in the heart of Tremont's dining district, within walking distance of several other great bars and restaurants (ex. Treehouse, Flying Monkey, Edison's Pub, Lago, Lolita, and of course the newly opened Dante). I think Fahrenheit's success is due to consistent high quality dishes and the innovation of Chef Whalen. The crowd was varied, which I think is the goal of the restaurant's warm and comfortable atmosphere. The bar was packed and the dining room was bustling. I've had the pleasure of eating Rocco's creations on many occasions, but this was actually only my second time dining from his regular menu.

On our first visit (about a year ago) I ordered the Coffee & Mustard Crusted Pork Tenderloin- Maple Glazed Sweet Potato, Garlic Spinach, Toasted Macadamia Nuts ($24). I remember that this dish was flavored well and the delicate crust of ground coffee and mustard was a surprising combination that danced on your tongue. The dish can still be found on the menu, but its presentation has changed. Last year, the dish was presented as a bed of spinach topped with a pile of mashed sweet potato and sliced pork to top it off. One of our dining companions last night ordered the same dish, but I was a little surprised to see something quite different arrive at the table. The dish is now served in a mini casserole dish- which gives it a slightly more upscale presentation. This just shows that Whalen is constantly challenging himself and his team to deliver the best food possible, even if that means taking a delicious dish and pushing it just a little bit further.

Last night, we started with the Little Meatballs- Roasted Garlic, Tomato Reduction, Basil, Parmesan ($6) and an order of the Fahrenheit Potato Nachos- Goat Cheese Reduction, Crisp Bacon, Chives, Scallions, Sea Salt, Parmesan ($12). The potato nachos were very popular, as we saw at least five orders of them go by as we dined. The house-made chips were good (although Symon's were better last week) but the real gold was at the bottom of the plate. At first I thought that the serving plate was white, but then we realized that the melted goat cheese was drizzled on the plate and we hungrily dipped and scooped the buttery goat cheese onto our chips. I had one perfect bite of rich goat cheese, crushed bacon bits, and fresh scallions. The meatballs on the other hand were nothing special- sorry Rocco. I've had better at a backyard BBQ made from the frozen bulk meatballs you buy at Sam's Club. Moving on...

Our table ordered the Fahrenheit Signature Kobe Beef “Short Ribs”- Teriyaki Lo Mein Noodles, Baby Bok Choy, Roasted Mushroom, Ginger Soy Reduction ($29), Lobster Macaroni & Cheese- Local Goat Cheese, Oven-Dried-Tomato, Cognac Reduction, Poached Lobster & Chives ($ 26), Grilled Beef Tenderloin- Roasted “Ohio City” Fingerling Potato, Roasted Asparagus, Melted Brie, Port Wine-Star Anise Reduction ($30), and I ordered a ravioli special with cremini mushrooms, goat cheese sauce, and large chunks of fresh lobster meat. The short ribs fell apart as "R's" mom slid her fork into the meat, and everyone enjoyed a small bite. The beef tenderloin received rave reviews from both men who ordered it, but each decided to leave the brie behind on their plate- which broke my heart. The only small complaint was that the anise reduction was a little too sweet. The lobster mac & cheese was served with a combination of creamy goat cheese and roasted tomatose as the sauce, which created a flavorful pink cream sauce. It was good, but not the highlight of the meal. My ravioli special was one of our crowd's favorites. It makes me a little sad to think that I can not order it again (hint hint)!

The only down side to this fabulous meal was the service. It wasn't that it was terrible, but all three of the staff members who waited on us were a little off last night. Twice they mixed up who had ordered what dishes, several of the main entrees arrived without the others, and the desserts were served without silverware and we had to sit there as our ice cream and sorbet melted. Also, we ordered three bottles of wine throughout the meal. The first was poured and then placed in an ice bucket with a serving napkin decoratively tied around the neck of the bottle. The napkin disappeared from the second bottle, and the ice bucket disappeared by the third. Not that it made a difference in the quality of our wine, but I thought that it was interesting to observe the level of service as our meal went on.

Overall, it really was a great meal and the quality of food was consistent with Chef Rocco's reputation. We'll be back for sure, and I wish him luck at the national Taste of the NFL event on the eve of the Super Bowl. Cleveland is lucky to have you representing us chef!

2417 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 781-8858

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Symon Says

So we've all heard of Cleveland's very own Iron Chef and his fabulous restaurants that are popping up all over our area. I've had the pleasure of dining at Michael Symon's flagship restaurant, Lola, but experienced Bar Symon for the first time the other night.

The restaurant's atmosphere has a great casual vibe, with just a hint that you're in for something special. The waitstaff all run around in logo T-shirts, and that combined with the extensive bar on one side of the dining area helps make guests feel comfortable and casual. I loved the drop-down tin ceiling panels. The details in the decor were well thought out. There was a nice mix of people- a variety of ages, couples vs. singles, and even a family or two- there when we dined on Saturday evening.

We started with Symon's famous House Chips- three cheese fondue and chives ($6). The chips were nicely done, but I did wish that the cheese fondue had a little more flavor. It was relatively bland, and the dish wasn't a great start to our meal as first-time diners. I ordered the Duck Paprikash- duck confit, dumplings, turnips and paprika ($16). The steaming plate arrived with a bed of dumplings and rich sauce, with two duck thighs perched on top. The skin was perfectly crisp, and the rich meat was so tender that it fell right off the bone. I enjoyed my dish quite a bit. "R's" love for gyros led him to order the Zorba- lamb sausage, tzatziki, pickled onions, grilled romaine and pita ($10). The tzatziki sauce was bursting with flavor and one of the best we've had in Cleveland. Fergie's bar in Parma still holds the title. The only issue with the dish is that it is a little awkward to eat. The overflowing contents don't allow you to pick up the sandwich, but eating the dish with a fork just didn't feel like you were doing it justice. Don't get me wrong- we happily ate away, but it did take a second to figure out how to attack it. We ended the meal with the Turtle Sundae. The vanilla bean ice cream, topped with caramel and chocolate sauces, was a refreshing way to cleanse the palate and finish our dinner.

While Avon Lake isn't an area that we frequent, I think we'll keep Bar Symon in mind when we're in the area. It is worth the trek to try it at least once. Now on to B-Spot!

Bar Symon
32858 Walker Road
Avon Lake, OH 44012
(440) 933-5652

Bar Symon on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Just a Reminder...

Sokolowski's needs no introduction. Established in 1923, this hearty, stick-to-your-gut, cafeteria-style restaurant is infamous in Cleveland. Locals and tourists alike flock to this Tremont location on Friday and Saturday nights. I'm sure we all wish that they served dinner all week long! At least those in the area can enjoy lunch Monday - Friday.

We popped in there recently, and their delicious mashed yams with melted marshmallows and thick home-made sautéed pierogi reminded me why I love it there (5 for $8.95). The food warms you from the inside out, and you can't help but leave there completed stuffed.

The rustic-looking restaurant is nestled away from the hustle and bustle of other Tremont hot spots. Located off of Abbey Avenue, I think people forget that this gem is hidden over there. So this is just a reminder to head over there some chilly winter day and fill your gut with some of the best "kind of food that grandma used to make" that there is in Cleveland.

Sokolowki's University Inn
1201 University Road
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 771-9236

Sokolowski's University Inn on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happy Hour at Touch Supper Club

Last night, we headed over to Tremont for a quick bite to eat at South Side. As we walked in the door, we were surprised by the packed house and long wait for a table. We quickly turned on our heels and scrambled back to the car. While weighing our options, we decided to pop over to Ohio City and dine at Touch Supper Club instead.

They have been voted "Best Happy Hour" for many reasons. First- they have free sushi on Fridays, and it is actually pretty good. Second- they have several tasty dishes and drinks on their happy hour menu that allow you to dine pretty cheaply. Third- the atmosphere is fun and you can feel the energy in the room. Now the average age of the patrons last night was about 28. I have only ever been there on a Friday night, but I imagine that the crowd is more diverse throughout the week and in particular for their famous Sunday brunch.

We secured two seats at the bar (Ladies- they have purse hooks under the bar as well. I've decided this is my new quest in life- to search out bars and restaurants in Cleveland that have hooks for our "goods"), and placed our drink order. My only complaint is that their wine by the glass options are limited. Thankfully, both the Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio that I've had there have been good selections. We settled on the
Loaded Flat Bread - ($10) Grilled flat bread, oven dried tomatoes, herbed lake Erie creamery goat cheese, kalamata olives, and roasted garlic. The combination of these ingredients was magic. The creamy goat cheese blended with the salty olives and whole cloves of roasted garlic left me wanting more. We also tried the Tempura Green Beans. We first experienced a similar dish at Flying Fig (also Ohio City), so we were looking forward to trying this version. The beans were heavily coated in a soft, dense tempura batter, and the dish was served with a spicy mustard aioli. Their version wins!

Touch is a little off the beaten path of Ohio City's trademark restaurants, but it is worth the two-block trip. The crowd is always a little eclectic, and the food is mostly spot-on. Stay away from the lamb ravioli! If you're looking for a different scene, and easily one of the best happy hour spots in Cleveland- check it out.

Touch Supper Club
2710 Lorain Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 631-5200

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Giddy at Grotto

Not too long ago, "R" and I found ourselves in Shaker Square one evening. It is not an area that we frequent (being West-siders), but with its growing list of notable restaurants I was looking forward to exploring. After attending a cocktail party catered by fire, food and drink restaurant (owned by chef Doug Katz), we wandered over to Grotto Wine Bar. Grotto is owned and operated by the Salerno Group, which includes one of my favorite chefs in Cleveland- Fabio Salerno. He also owns Lago (my favorite of the three) in Tremont, and Gusto! in Little Italy (my least favorite).

This was our first time at Grotto, so I was looking forward to trying it since we've been to his other two restaurants. We settled in at a small table next to a roaring fire (perfect on the snowy evening we were experiencing!), and browsed the menu. We love to sample multiple small dishes, so we immediately settled on two appetizers and a personal pizza.

We started with the Arancini ($10)- shrimp stuffed risotto ball with saffron cream. The risotto was a little gummy, but the overall flavor was nice and subtle. The taste of shrimp was certainly not lost in this dish. Then we moved on to the Bruschetta ($10)- scallops on a mushroom duxelle canapé with leeks and truffle oil. This was our favorite of the evening. It was inventive and unique, and executed perfectly. Lastly, we shared the Dominic pizza ($12)- ground meatballs, banana peppers, pickled jalapenos and fennel. We had a hard time selecting a pizza, as several of them sounded delicious, but I was happy with our decision. The addition of the banana peppers and pickled jalapenos on pizza was a treat!

While Lago will remain my favorite, umm can you say Gnocchi with lobster, truffle, sweet corn, basil, and roasted tomatoes?!, Grotto was cozy and fun and we'll be back.

P.S. Ladies- they have hooks under the bar for us to hang our purses on! Hallelujah!

Grotto Wine Bar
13101 Shaker Square
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 751-9463

Grotto Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dine in Style and Support a Good Cause- from "Cleveland Foodie"

From Michelle at Cleveland Foodie:

Do good. Eat Good.

After writing this blog for nearly four years, I think I can safely make some assumptions about you, my readers. Assumption one: you like food. Two: you like food prepared by one of our many talented chefs. Three: You’re pro Cleveland and will always support local when able. Four: You care about this community and supporting others when in need. Five: You have $5. (and I’m willing to bet you’d happily exchange that $5 for free dinner out the rest of the year.)

meeting Farming Lee Jones, I learned about the Veggie U initiative, a national program that promotes the well-being of children through a healthy lifestyle with a focus on making wise food choices, combating adolescent and juvenile disease, and attaining an understanding of sustainable agriculture. The program is embraced and loved by teachers and students alike. Locally, 150 schools in the Cleveland Metro School District have been using the 4th grade Veggie U science program. Unfortunately, they don’t have any funding to continue as $200 per classroom is needed to fund the kits.

On the way home from that initial meeting and fabulous dinner, we had an idea to try to help these students and teachers. Would you be willing to donate a minimum of $5 to help this cause? That’s your morning Starbucks. If we all help and spread the word, we have an opportunity to make a difference here. And if you’ve watched the news lately, you know Cleveland students can use a little bit of good news.

If you donate $5 to Veggie U, you will automatically be entered to win more than $1,200 worth of gift cards to all your favorite eateries and shops. Want to increase your odds? Donate $10, $25, $50 or more (I promise you won’t miss $25). For every $5 you donate, you will earn another entry into the drawing. The more you donate, the greater your chance of winning. You have until February 13 to donate and be entered. It’s easy – just call 419.499.7500 ext 119; you must reference Cleveland Foodie (a winner will be picked using

As soon as we worked out all the details with Veggie U, I reached out to the chefs and owners to share the idea and ask for support. Almost immediately I started to hear back. The backing of our food community and willingness to work together to help all sorts of causes beyond this is inspiring, admirable and personally greatly appreciated by myself. Thank you to everyone for your generosity and willingness to pitch in.

One incredibly lucky diner will spend the year eating and drinking their way throughout Cleveland:
Western Reserve Wine / $50 gift card
Tartine / $50 gift card
Momocho / $50 gift card (Eric Williams also generously donated an additional $200 to fund one classroom)
Lola / $50 gift card
The Greenhouse Tavern / $50 gift card
Heinen’s / $100 gift card
Blue Canyon / $50 gift card
The Flying Fig / $50 gift card
Fire / $50 gift card
Erie Island Coffee / $50 gift card
Fahrenheit / $50 gift card
Miles Farmers Market / $50 gift card
Jekyll’s Kitchen / $50 gift card
Moxie / $200 gift card!!
Touch Supper Club / $50 gift card
Parallax / $50 gift card
L’Albatros / $50 gift card
Chinato / $50 gift card (opening very soon!)
Crop Bistro / $50 gift card

And to top it all off, the winner will receive one ticket to their choice of upcoming dinners at The Culinary Vegetable Institute (you’re in for a real treat here) and The Chefs Garden will send you one of their e-commerce family boxes.

To kick it off, Jamie and I will donate $100 (we will not be counted for the drawing). Would you also consider making a pledge? I know times are tough for many, and if you can’t, it’s completely understandable. But if you’re able to give something back and if you’re a follower of this blog I can only assume it’s a greater cause that matters to you, please call. Let’s follow the lead of our chefs and local owners and show what the Cleveland food community can accomplish when we work together.

Thank You.

Update: Just learned that The Culinary Vegetable Institute will give a copy of the 2009 official cookbook of the Food & Wine Celebration to the first 20 people that donate $50 or more!

I'm going to say it- I think it would silly to not enter this fabulous drawing. Your dollars will go to a good cause, and just think of all the dining fun that you could have! Although if you don't enter, that does increase my chances of winning (*wink* *wink*).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wait, Are We In Cleveland?

While visiting my family for the holidays in upstate NY, we dined at the Sackets Harbor Brewing Company one night. It had been years since I've been there, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. Their beers, in particular the 1812 Amber Ale, are popular in the area (ex. similar to Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland) so we were looking forward to sampling them. We ordered two of their 7 Beer Samplers, and after several attempts of identifying the brews our poor waitress gave up. How do you work at a brewery and not be able to identify the beers to your patrons?! So we happily sipped away and argued over which beer was which as we waited for our meals.

I started with the Onion Ale soup, which was basically a French Onion soup cooked with a hint of beer. The soup was flavorful and rich, but a little odd. There was hardly any broth left by the time it was served. The bowl was filled with thick-cut croutons, and they had absorbed almost all of the broth. My brother loved it, but I was looking for a little more "soup" and not as much "soggy bread". For my entree, I ordered their meatloaf wrapped in bacon with a house-made spicy ketchup. It was served over cheddar mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. The two side dishes were outstanding. The cheddar mashed were creamy and melted in your mouth. The meatloaf itself was dry and could have used a little more ketchup, but overall I was happy with the flavor. The onion straws balanced on top of the meatloaf were a nice touch, and added a little crunch to the dish.

If you are a fan of Great Lakes Brewing Company, and you're ever in the Sackets Harbor, NY area looking for a similar experience- then I suggest that you check this restaurant out. Their food and beers are quite good, and it is nestled in an adorable harbor just off of Lake Ontario. The quaint village of Sackets is fun to explore, and offers several great restaurant options.

Sackets Harbor Brewing Company
212 West Main Street
Sackets Harbor, NY 13685
(315) 646-2739

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Big 3-0, But Not Mine!

This Thursday, my boyfriend turns 30. It is not an occasion that he feels is momentous, but I do (maybe because he gets there first). So six months ago, I made the decision that I would throw him a surprise party. For months I have pondered over the perfect location. It had to be a casual atmosphere (his best friends are very "burgers, beer, and football" kind of guys), but I knew that having amazing food at the party would be the most important thing for "R". We have that in common.

Friends and co-workers made several suggestions, but nothing really jumped out at me as "the perfect spot". That is until "R" and I were out at one of our favorite spots, the Tremont Tap House, just before the holidays and their chalkboard stated "Ask us about booking your private holiday party." I jumped for joy (internally, of course), and called them the next day. For the past six weeks I have worked with Jason at the Tap House to create the perfect menu and make all of the arrangements. He was fabulous to work with by the way.

Lucky me, I have a close friend who has a birthday one week before the bf's- so the story of going out to dinner to celebrate her birthday made tricking him a breeze. And trick him, I did! We arrived at the Tap House to find about 30 of his close friends, family members, and my family (who drove in from NY just for the occasion- I think they like him more than me). The party was fantastic and everyone had a great time, but the real star of the evening was the food.

Jason helped me put together a killer menu of:

Chorizo Tacos- with goat cheese and a fire roasted pepper salsa

Calamari- covered in a sweet and firery red sauce with cherry peppers

Short Rib Sliders- strong ale braised, house slaw

Assorted pizzas- including Chorizo pizza with boursin cheese and scallions, an amazing white pizza with goat cheese, and the Portobello mushroom pizza

All of the dishes were fantastic, with hidden bursts of flavor within the layers. The pieces and parts of each complimented each other well, and left you feeling a bit surprised by the complexity of what appeared to be simple dishes. Tap House has mastered the art of "upscale bar food". A big thank you goes out to Jason and co-owner Chris Lieb who took such good care of us all night long. I could not have asked for a more perfect evening to celebrate his birthday, and it is one night that both of us will never forget.

2572 Scranton Road

Cleveland, OH 44113

(216) 298-4451

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Finally, a 2010 Resolution I Can Keep!

My New Year's resolution will not fall in the list of Top 10 New Year's Resolutions. It is not to lose 20 pounds (although I should), quit drinking (what's the fun in that?), get out of debt (slowly but surely, but not worth a resolution), or enjoy life more (I think I pretty much do that already!)...but my resolution will be to try these 10 Restaurants in Cleveland in 2010. I'm going to keep it local by supporting our independent restaurants, and have some great food and wine along the way! So here's my list (in no particular order):

1. B-Spot
2. Ponte Vecchio
3. Tartine Bistro
4. Dante
5. Umami Asian Grill
6. Chinato
7. The Harp
8. Blue Canyon Kitchen & Tavern
9. Bistro on Lincoln Park
10. Tinkers Creek Road Tavern

Any others that you feel should have been on my list? Feel free to post a comment and let me know.

I am confident that I will be able to achieve this New Year's resolution for once. My parents thoughtfully gave "R" the Cleveland Independents' deck for Christmas- Each card in The Deck features a $10 special offer from 52 of Northeast Ohio’s favorite restaurants! This amazing deck of cards filled with savings is only $29.95. We will certainly have fun in the upcoming year trying to use all of them up. Stay tuned for our dining adventures in 2010!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Home of the Original Buffalo Wing

I lived in Upstate NY for 23 years before moving to Cleveland, and I can't even count how many times I have driven through Buffalo, NY without stopping in to try the "Home of the Original Buffalo Wing" (a.k.a. the Anchor Bar). Friends and family members have been many times, and raved about the wings. It was my turn to try them on Sunday night as "R" and I headed back to Ohio from spending 12 glorious days of vacation playing in the snow of Upstate NY. We plugged it into the GPS and off we went in search of the original wing. We were a little nervous about the wait since the Bills were playing that afternoon, and we all know that football fans love wings, but the parking lot didn't appear too full and once we went inside we quickly realized that the restaurant/bar is quite equipped to handle a large crowd! The buffalo wing phenomenon began in 1964 as a quick fix for the friends of the owner's son who were visiting the bar late one night, and now they produce tens of thousands of wings a year.

We started with the Pizza Logs ($11)- pizza dough stuffed with mozerella cheese and pepperoni, served with pizza sauce. I think the description is a little misleading. What arrived at our table could be best described as "pizza egg rolls". The dough was rolled and deep fried, and was not what we were expecting. They weren't bad, but we did wonder if they were made in-house. They had the look of something out of a box. I don't reccomend trying them when there are so many other tasty options on the menu.

Now on to the wings...we ordered 10 hot and 10 spicy barbeque just to try at least two different sauces (they only have 4). Both types were meaty and had a wonderful crisp to them. Anchor Bar has certainly perfected creating a great crisp on the outside without completely drying out the chicken inside. The hot sauce was pleasant, but standard, and the spicy barbeque seemed a bit more intense than the hot which was surprising.

I've had better wing sauces here in Cleveland (ex. Winking Lizard), but overall we enjoyed the experience and it is worth stopping in if you are passing through or visiting Buffalo.

Anchor Bar
1047 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14209
(716) 883-1134