Thursday, May 27, 2010

I Must Be On A Lobster Kick

Every time I drove by The Harp on Detroit Avenue, I wanted to stop in. As one of the few Cleveland-area restaurants that is close to the lake (still my biggest bone to pick with Cleveland since moving here!), their large brick and stone patio facing the water has been calling to me. Well two years have passed without a visit, but an impromptu dinner last week led "R" and I there. Of course, it started to drizzle the minute we stepped onto the patio to be seated- so we were quickly escorted inside. Darn you, rain!

My first impression of The Harp was exactly what they claim to be on their website: "a locally-owned, friendly, neighborhood pub". The real highlight of the restaurant is the patio. The inside just felt like your typical neighborhood Irish pub with dark, weathered wood and plenty of Irish accents and decorations. A bar for friends to gather at, but family-friendly as well.

I wasn't sure what to order, and I could tell that "R" was struggling with his decision as well since he jumped at the suggestion of getting two entrees to share. We had been running around all day doing errands, and even helped a friend move for a few hours, so we were ravenous by the time we arrived at The Harp. We decided to start with the Spicy Artichoke Dip ($8.59). It was a blend of artichoke hearts, garlic, red peppers, and parmesan cheese and was served with grilled pita wedges. When it arrived- it was not what I was expecting. Almost all artichoke dips that I've had in the past have been heavy cheese and very creamy. This dip was chunky and mostly contained just artichoke hearts. The garlic and red peppers were there to give it flavor, and flavor they gave! The dip had an unexpected heat to it, and we found ourselves enjoying it more than anticipated.

We decided to share the BBQ Pulled Pork Panini with BBQ pork, sweet and sour bacon slaw, cheddar cheese, and served on a pretzel roll ($8.95). The menu indicated that it was a new dish. The pork was nothing special, but the pretzel roll was fresh and chewy. The real disappointment of the dish was the slaw. It was waaay below average. When it arrived at our table it was slightly warmer than room-temperature, which did not feel right, and the flavor/consistency was terrible. We left almost all of it behind. Our second entree option was the Lobster Pierogies ($16.99). They are cheese and potato stuffed pierogie topped with fresh lobster, summer squash, zucchini, carrots, spinach, and served in a white wine cream sauce. The menu indicated that this was a new dish as well. The dish included five large home-made pierogie swimming in a tasty cream sauce and piled high with large pieces of lobster meat and shaved vegetables (pictured above). As mentioned in previous posts, I LOVE LOBSTER. So this dish was probably a winner in my book before I even tasted my first bite. While the dish was not fantastic by any means, it was an updated twist on a classic comfort food and was executed relatively well. It didn't blow me away, but I would order them again.

I would classify The Harp's menu as good bar food, with a few upscale twists. I think it is a great summer spot to grab a bite to eat, a cold beer, and a view of Lake Erie. Being close to the water is enough to draw me back!

The Harp
4408 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 939-0200

Harp on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Resolution Update

In the back of my mind, I keep thinking about my 2010 New Year's Resolution to try 10 new specific restaurants in the Cleveland area. I just took a peek at the list that I posted in January, and I'm doing pretty well! Off to a good start, at least.

1. B-Spot - - - DONE
2. Ponte Vecchio - - - DONE
3. Tartine Bistro
4. Dante (headed there the first week in June)
5. Umami Asian Grill
6. Chinato
7. The Harp - - - DONE (look for the review later this week)
8. Blue Canyon Kitchen & Tavern
9. Bistro on Lincoln Park
10. Tinkers Creek Road Tavern

Any others that didn't make the original list that you think should be included?

It Did Not Hit The "Spot"

So anyone that pays attention to the restaurant scene in Cleveland knew when Michael Symon opened his burger joint, B-Spot. It's been open for quite some time now. I know, I know- I'm a slacker. We just don't make it over to the east side that often, and for some reason I did not think that it was worth driving over just to dine there. Before you gasp in horror (all you loyal Symon fans out there), I certainly wanted to try it. However, I was hoping that we'd end up in that area for other reasons and then we could just pop in. It finally happened on Sunday.

"R" and I spent a glorious day playing at the Akron Zoo and exploring Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens (beautiful and historic, by the way). We headed back towards Cleveland around 3:00 with our tummies rumbling. Unbeknown to me, "R" headed in the direction of Eton. It was calling his name. We rolled up just after 4:00 and were seated immediately. Which I hear is rare at B-Spot.

We excitedly opened our menus and immediately honed in on an order of the Lime & Cilantro Wings ($7). Scolded by our server that we couldn't order until we were ready with our entrees (Symon rule, folks- it keeps you from lingering) we hurried to make a decision. I settled on the Shroomage burger with portabella, blue cheese, Lola steak sauce, and caramelized onions ($9). "R" got the "Chef's Choice" burger of the day, which happened to be a Thai burger with a peanut and coconut sauce, Asian slaw, and a fried egg. His burger was FAN-TAS-TIC. I was so jealous. It was insanely messy and dribbled down his hands, but the combination of flavors was spot on. Although I don't think the fried egg did a whole lot for the dish in this case. And that takes a lot for me to admit, because I truly love a fried egg on a burger. I however, did not love my burger. While it was a decent burger, I think I was expecting more. The portabella mushroom was tough to chew through, and the steak sauce was almost non-existent. The dominating flavor was just blue cheese. Luckily, the order of wings saved the day. I will award these wings the #2 spot in my heart, only behind The Greenhouse Tavern's. Which says a lot. They were crispy and meaty, and the lime/cilantro rub was bursting with flavor. Especially when paired with the small portion of pickled hot pepper salsa-ish stuff that was hiding at the bottom of the basket. These wings were a home run in my book.

Now on to the atmosphere. Here is where I may upset some people- I was not a fan. It felt so commercial to me. And I know that is the direction that Symon is headed (more power to him for being at that point in his career), but it just isn't what I am looking for when dining. Everything felt plastic. The only authentic thing in there was the gorgeous beer can wall. I know the intention behind B-Spot is for him to open others, but you just felt that sitting there and it kind of ruined my excitement over trying the place. Also, the glass wall that faces the mall allows you to watch shoppers stroll by and sitting next to diners with their booth piled high with packages just felt odd.

At the end of the day the question is: will we be back? I can honestly say that I would dine there again if we are in the area, but I will not be making the trip over to Eton just for a burger. Even if it is a good burger. Hmmm, maybe for those wings though!

28699 Chagrin Boulevard
Woodmere, OH 44122
(216) 292-5567

B Spot Burgers on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blogger Dinner- Take 2

Eight fellow Cleveland bloggers and I gathered last night at Fahrenheit for our second "Blogger Dinner", which is becoming a fun monthly tradition. Even though this is only the second time (or first) that I have met several of these ladies, it struck me once again how quickly and easily we all get along. Of course, good food and flowing glasses of wine help (as you can see from the picture)! And for anyone that has ever dined at Fahrenheit, you know that Chef Rocco Whalen's restaurant never fails to deliver both.

Our fabulous dinner coordinator, Allison from Green Dog Wine, arrived early and scored us a great table on the patio. We all settled in with a glass of wine and started to look at the menu. I think several of us had a hard time deciding! Which is a good problem to have. I must have been in a brie mood, because each dish that I was looking at contained this ingredient. I decided on the Butter Poached Maine Lobster Pizza with French brie, roasted tomato, basil, chives, roasted garlic, and parmesan ($17). While it was delicious, I decided after a few bites that I really should have ordered my second option. I think I was in the mood for something lighter and not as carb-heavy. I know, I know- then I shouldn't have ordered a pizza. But I am a sucker for lobster. And since it was paired with brie, whole roasted garlic cloves, and basil- I couldn't resist. The pizza was larger and had a thicker crust than I remembered, so two pieces was more than enough. At least it made some leftovers for today!

We had a tasty meal, good wine, great stories, and lots of laughter. Many of us headed to The Flying Monkey across the street to continue the fun, and it quickly became midnight before any of us realized. Trust me- I am paying for it this morning. But it was worth it, and I can't wait until June!

Here is who was there:
Cleveland's A Plum
The Daily Balance
Green Dog Wine
All Lacquered Up
So I Married A Chef
Food 'N' Such
Life On Mars
Poise In Parma
...and of course myself!

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

Fahrenheit on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 17, 2010

M is for Mussels

The South Side in Tremont has always been one of our favorite happy hour stops close to home. With its funky relaxed vibe, patio seating, and relatively inexpensive food it is a common watering hole for many. Which is why we hadn't been in a while- the wait is sometimes ridiculous and on a nice hot night all you crave is patio seating. But so does everyone else.

Last night, "R" returned from a long boys' weekend at Preakness in Baltimore and we didn't feel like cooking dinner. We weighed our options and decided to head over to South Side. For a Sunday night, it was still hopping. But I'm sure that a lot of this had to do with the marathon being yesterday. Congrats to any runners out there reading this! The wait was only 20 minutes, so we settled into seats at the bar and had a beer. I'm so happy that it is Blue Moon season again!

Shortly after, we were seated in the main bar area and started to look at the menu. I have a hard time not ordering their P.E.I. Mussels (pictured above)- two dozen with shallots, garlic, chorizo, saffron and toasted ciabatta ($9). Luckily, "R" loves them as well so we started with an order of mussels and the Carrot, Snap Pea and Lobster Spring Rolls with sweet Thai chili sauce, and cucumber mint cream sauce ($11). The mussels were great, as usual. The spicy chorizo and diced tomato compliment the shellfish. Of course, the best part is soaking up the garlic saffron broth with the soft ciabatta bread. We were actually surprised at how good the spring rolls were. The contents were bountiful and fresh, and I really enjoyed the sweet Thai chili sauce. The cucumber mint sauce was a little runny and bland for my taste, but "R" seemed to like it. I think he just likes anything that reminds him of a gyro! We then split the Horseradish and Chive Havarti Crusted NY Strip Steak with tri-colored oven roasted potatoes and a veal demi-glaze ($18). The crust was delicious, but I'm pretty much always a happy camper when you combine cheese with things like chives and horseradish! Unfortunately, the steak was very fatty and I was only able to get three good bites off of my half before piling the rest back on his plate.

All in all, another successful meal at The South Side.

The South Side
2207 West 11th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 937-2288

South Side on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 10, 2010

Silver Spoons Awards Party

This Thursday, May 13th, "R" and I will be attending the 16th Annual Cleveland Magazine Silver Spoons Awards Party at the InterContinental Hotel. This fabulous tasting event benefits our local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation. Proceeds will support programs and services for the nearly one million Northeast Ohioans with doctor-diagnosed arthritis, and fund critical research.

I have heard about this event since moving to Cleveland two years ago, and I've always wanted to attend. I also have never been inside of the InterContinental, even though many events are held here throughout the year. So we decided that this was the year! We will be sampling dishes from over 20 of Cleveland's restaurants. All participating restaurants are 2010 Cleveland Magazine Silver Spoon Award Winners. For a list of vendors and what they will be serving, check out my fellow blogger's post over at Poise In Parma. If I thought that I was excited about this event before, reading that post just pushed me over the edge! She asked which dish/restaurant people were looking forward to the most, but I couldn't pick just one. Good thing I don't have to!

Tickets are $80 (sorry, VIP tickets are sold out), and you can purchase them here. You can also check out a preview of their fantastic live and silent auctions. They have some great packages up for bid, and there will be some very lucky winners in the crowd.

If you are unable to attend, but I think you really should consider joining us, you can help by making a donation...

To make a tax-deductable donation to the Arthritis Foundation, please contact Alicia Hansen at (216) 831-7000, ext. 110 or Donations may also be sent to the Arthritis Foundation, Northeastern Ohio Chapter, 4630 Richmond Road, Cleveland, OH 44128. Please make checks payable to The Arthritis Foundation.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Renegade Lunch Today!

Don't miss this month's Renegade Lunch Project that is taking place TODAY! Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a free gourmet catered lunch, courtesy of Spice of Life Catering Co. and Marigold Catering. All they ask in return is that you consider making a donation to the charity of choice, which is The New Agrarian Center (NAC), a 501(c)3 organization focused on growing sustainable local food system in Northeast Ohio. The NAC connects our communities with healthy foods through growing and distribution programs such as The George Jones Farm and City Fresh.

Join this first-come-first-served luncheon at The Galleria at Erieview in downtown Cleveland at noon today. Weather-permitting they will be located in The Courtyard outside of the Food Court. And have you looked outside yet? The sun is shining in Cleveland!

Dine for free, and trust me their food is excellent, and donate to a very worthy local cause. It doesn't get any better than that, right?!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Guest Post- La Mexicana/El Senor’s

Enjoy this guest post from Beau Cadiyo at the Cleveland Sandwich Board...

When he was growing up in Mauritius, my father was always told by his parents that “variety is the spice of life.” When I was little, my father, like his father, drilled that saying into my head whenever we didn’t want to eat something. Back then it was annoying, but like Mark Twain, I thought him stupid at the time and am now impressed by how much he’s learned. He was raised on Indian and Chinese food, studied medicine in France and lived in New York for a couple of summers; when he moved to Cleveland in the 1970's, the food scene was comparatively limited. Much of the fare was beef, chicken and vegetables; nobody talked about anything more exotic than stir fry.

For anyone in Cleveland reading this today, that’s nearly impossible to imagine – the city is small, but we have an exceptionally diverse pool of restaurants. I submit to you that this is because of immigration: without immigrants, our diets would mainly be comprised of burgers, cold cuts, TV dinners and, perhaps, Salisbury Steak, and that’s true across the country. But thanks to immigration, I have Mexican, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Russian, Italian, Chinese, Greek and Lebanese food within a five-minute drive of my house, in as white-bread a suburb of Cleveland as you can get – and these restaurants are owned and run by Mexican, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Russian, Italian, Chinese, Greek and Lebanese people. The only downside is that arguments inevitably break out over where to go to dinner.

I grew up in Southern California, about twenty miles as the crow flies from the San Diego/Tecate border crossing. You’d be excused for thinking that, along the only border in the world that separates the first world from the developing world, there would be some pretty exciting and varied culinary scenery. But in fact, all that’s really on offer is Mexican food. I’ve eaten Mexican food in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon and throughout Baja California. I’ve eaten burritos in Washington, D.C., and I thought that they couldn’t get any worse until I tried one in Cardiff, Wales, where they mixed tinned? peas, broccoli and “salsa” (really canned tomato paste with spices) with the Heinz beans and bland white rice. (Even the Welsh hated it – that place closed within a month.) Now that I live in Ohio, whenever I go home people ask if I’ve missed the Mexican food in California.

The answer is an emphatic no. When I’m in California, I miss the Mexican food in Painesville.

Painesville is not the first place you’d expect to find amazing Mexican food; most people assume that Mexican food closer to the southern border is better. Painesville, though, is a center for Mexican immigration because of the jobs available in labor-intensive manufacturing and tree farming. There is a healthy Mexican population out here and, as with any immigrant community, they brought their food. Their amazing, delectable, delicious food.

It took me a while to realize that not all Mexican food is created equal. Japanese food in the US is pretty uniform – sashimi in Santa Barbara is going to be almost identical to sashimi in Miami. Mexican food is different – it’s a huge country with dramatic variation in its regional cuisine – not that most Americans, or even most Californians, are really aware of this.

By far, the best value item on their menu – and my favorite – is the burrito, Leon-style. They are made right before your eyes, in a time-honored method. First, the cook clears the grill with loud scrapes of his metal spatula. He slaps on shredded Mexican cheese and flings a large white flour tortilla on top of it. His internal timer tells him when he should scrape the melted, browned cheese off and flip the tortilla, toasting its other side, before scooping it into a giant Styrofoam container. Then, he ladles the filler in – rice, beans, whatever else you want. He makes a pass at wrapping it into burrito form; generally he’s filled it so full that it’s more of a tube than a neat parcel. You’re not going to be able to eat it with your hands, so you break out a fork and knife and dig in.

I don’t have a favorite filling; instead, I change things up. The egg with salsa is generally the safest bet, since it’s the least likely to put you in a food coma after lunch. The chorizo is spicy, spilling from a cut burrito in little brown nuggets of fatty deliciousness. The shredded chicken has the best texture of any of the ingredients and is milder than the egg, but still spicy. The tender, delicate pork chunks in green sauce melt in your mouth. Unfortunately, though, the beef is often tough – it’s my least favorite of all the La Mexicana options.

The most consistently beautiful thing about these burritos is the tortilla/cheese combination. The thick, toasted tortilla is simultaneously crunchy and chewy, resisting your teeth almost like chewing gum (as opposed to the Qdoba tortilla I ate last weekend, which only existed to hold the filling in and added almost no texture whatsoever to the burrito). The cheese also gets crisp from the grill, but retains a stringiness that can make it stretch out like fresh mozzarella from a good slice of pizza.

Recently, I’ve noticed more and more white and black faces eating at the bar counters and shopping for spices and pastries. The employees, in response, are learning more and more English in order to perform their duties. It’s a mutually beneficial trade – the immigrants get assimilated more easily and quickly into our country, the counter has different colored faces and the patrons get some of the tastiest Mexican food in America.

My dear father, Bernard Cadiyo, would approve.

La Mexicana Grocery & El Señor's Tacos
170 East Washington Street
Painesville, OH 44077

Thanks for the post Beau! Check out my guest post on The Cleveland Sandwich Board here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

This little piggy went to "Market"...

Friday turned out to be a gorgeous day in Cleveland- much to our surprise! Looking through the windows at work at the sunny day happening right before my eyes was killing me. So when a co-worker (and friend) emailed a few of us to see if we wanted to grab a drink on a patio after work, I jumped at the chance.

Since Ohio City has so many great options nestled on/off West 25th Street, we decided to head down there, park, and then see which patio looked enticing. After 5:00PM, Bar Cento and Great Lakes Brewing Company were both in the shade- not what we wanted! We quickly decided on Market Avenue Wine Bar and settled into a small table on their patio.

A bottle of wine was ordered (a Pinot Grigio that started with a "T" that was crisp and refreshing), and we started to peruse the menu. Market Avenue Wine Bar actually has many great appetizer options, plenty of which are perfect for sharing. I'm a sucker for a cheese plate, and luckily my co-worker is as well. We had a brief discussion about how we could live off of wine, cheese, bread, and fruit. I would fit in very well in Europe, I've decided.

Imported and Domestic Cheeses

Choose three of your favorite cheeses or meats from the selections below. Served with a fresh warm baguette and seasonal fruit.

Choose three of the following:

Garlic Neufchatel Spread

Smoked Gouda

Danish Havarti

Double Cream Brie

Maytag Bleu

Cappicolla Ham

Emmenthaler Swiss


Irish Cheddar

Dill Havarti

Amish Baby Swiss


Hard Salami

$10.75 (each extra item $2.00)

We settled on the Smoked Gouda, Double Cream Brie, and Danish Havarti. All three were excellent choices, and I was surprised at the large quantity of each that came with the dish. Sometimes each cheese selection is very minimal, but this was more than enough for us to share and not be fighting over the last little bites. The assortment of fruit was plentiful and fresh. My only (tiny) complaint is that the french baguette (a crusty bread to begin with) was slightly over-toasted and very difficult to slice.

Two bottles of wine (boy I wish I remembered the name of it), more friends joining us, and a cheese plate was a perfect end to the work week! Market Avenue Wine Bar is a great spot to hit during happy hour, or to pop in for a drink and appetizer before you head to one of Ohio City's great restaurants. Their staff is well educated, and if you describe the kind of wine that you like then they can expertly select a perfect bottle for you. The patio expands over two store fronts, so there is plenty of seating, and the inside is a nice balance of dark and cozy. I think this visit turned me into a bigger fan than I was, so I see other happy hour stops in my future!

Market Avenue Wine Bar
2526 Market Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 696-9463

Market Avenue Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mother's Day Plans

What are you doing this Mother's Day? "R" and I will be spending it with my parents, who are coming in from out of town next weekend. So I knew that it had to be something special. I like to wow them with the best of the best of Cleveland's culinary scene (not that it is hard to do).

We started to think of great brunch hot spots, and scanned several menus of restaurants hosting special Mother's Day brunches. But nothing was jumping out at us. Then I thought, "what about AMP 150?" We've been talking about going there ever since it opened, and I have heard nothing but good things about the meals others have had there. I've had the pleasure of meeting Chef Ellis Cooley, and his passion for what he is trying to do here in Cleveland is infectious. So I hounded him for their Mother's Day brunch details, and he kindly sent over the menu this morning. It looks great! So we just called and made our reservations. He made my decision very easy.

Here's a peek at the special Mother's Day Brunch Buffet from 12-5 p.m. at AMP 150:

Omelet Station
Waffle Station With Fresh Berries and Whipped Cream
Carving Station With Stuffed Eye of Round and Whole Oven Roasted Turkeys
Artisan Breads With Assorted Butters
Fresh Fruit Salad in Watermelon Basket
Cucumber & Mint Salad With Yogurt Dressing
Tossed Garden Salad With House Made Dressings
Sautee of Zucchini With Almonds and Pecorino Cheese
Dill Butter Potatoes
Breakfast Meats (Crispy Bacon & Breakfast Sausage)
Eggs Benedict With Hollandaise
Ohio City Pasta With Fresh Tomato Sauce and Herbs
Dessert Station to Include Assorted Cakes, Pies and Miniature Selections

$27/Adult, $23/Senior, $13.5/Child and mothers eat for FREE (one mother per table). Hope to see you there!

AMP 150
4277 West 150th Street
Cleveland, OH 44135
(216) 252-5333