Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blog News

Hello Bite Buff readers! Well, it is time that I share some news with you. Both good and bad, so let's start with the bad news...

Some of you may remember that I went on a brief hiatus last fall when I had surgery. It didn't work. It's been a year (+ 2 days) of living in constant pain and wearing a bandage from the open surgical wound that never healed. While not life-threatening, it has been life-altering in many ways. So I have a brand new surgeon (the best of the best for treating my specific genetic condition), and I go under the knife again this Friday. We are taking a more aggressive approach, removing a large area of tissue that was causing reoccurring and extremely painful cysts on the small of my back. This means several months, yes months (UGH!), of recovery and being stuck at home. So the restaurant reviews and event recap posts will be few and far between for a little while, but I'll be back at it as soon as I can! You know that I can't stay away for long. I'll continue to post on events coming up, and any other restaurant industry news that I think is worth sharing- so you aren't quite rid of me. If anyone is interested in doing a guest post, just holler.

However, here comes the good news...My full return to blogging should bring with it a whole new site design. I've started the process of working with a local designer, and I'm super excited to share it all with you when we finish. It will be perfect timing if everything works out as planned!

So, this is certainly not "farewell", but more of a "see ya around" these next several weeks. Stay tuned.......

- Katrina

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cleveland Beer Week

Cleveland Beer Week is not quite over. How have you been "celebrating"?

We've tasted some beers in honor of this festive week, but last night we attended our first of their "Flagship" events- Culture Yourself: A Premier Beer and Cheese Pairing.

In theory, it was a great event. It featured 12 top breweries, including Great Lakes, Bell's, Victory, Hoppin' Frog, Thirsty Dog, and more, and guests could sample from over 30 locally produced cheeses. $35 bought us 25 beer tastings and unlimited cheese, so not a bad deal. I even got my first bite of a pawpaw.

But when we arrived, we quickly realized that the event was WAY oversold. The private back room at Market Garden Brewery was packed, and it became very difficult to move or interact with the vendors. Within the first 10 minutes of being there, a stout was bumped and landed all over three of us. Including my eye. Beer to the eye does not feel very good. Our group of six toughed it out and stayed for the entire two hours, but several people that I know abandoned the event after only half an hour.

Again, this event is a fun concept- but one that still needs a little tweaking.

Anyone attending BREWzilla? We went last year and enjoyed the event. One of the reasons that I love Beer Week is that it pushes me to try new beers. A wine lover at heart, tasting small samples of beer is the way to go. Now I actually have a couple that I would order out in pint size! Enjoy the rest of the festivities. Cheers!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dinner in the Dark Celebrates One Year!

Last night, Dinner in the Dark celebrated their one-year anniversary. The event, once again, proved that their concept of bringing together chefs and diners to have a little fun "in the dark" while raising funds for a worthy charity of the month was pure genius. The celebratory meal was enjoyed by both the guests and chefs involved, which included a couple of new faces in the kitchen this month.

The lineup included:
Bac Nguyen from Bac Asian American Bistro & Bar
Greg McLaren and Patrick Fisher from Luxe Kitchen & Lounge
Matt Mathlage from Light Bistro
Brian Doyle from SOW Food
James Blevins from Downtown 140
and Britt Culey from Couquette Patisserie

This meal wasn't for the faint hearted, and even pushed my culinary boundaries a bit. But that's the fun of Dinner in the Dark!

We kicked off the night with a Ginger 3 cocktail from Joe DeLuca and Tobin Northrup, paired with an amuse-bouche of bacon wrapped dates from Light Bistro. Then came course #1...Braised and grilled chicken hearts with a green papaya slaw, ginger beignet, and a beet juice reduction (for the "blood" effect) from Bac. I consider myself a pretty adventuresome eater, but even I was a little hesitant once we figured out what was on the plate. But, I pushed myself to try one of the hearts and I'm glad that I did. I couldn't bring myself to eat any more of them (Joe G. happily took them off my hands), but I was proud of myself for trying them. It really was just a visual (slight textural) issue for me, since they were served whole and still looked like a tiny heart.

Next up, we enjoyed a fun take on a clambake from the guys at Luxe.It was funny, because the first course of chicken hearts had launched a conversation at our table about unusual foods and blood sausage came up. Well, wouldn't you know that the very next course included blood sausage on one of the clams! They were prepared three ways, with the table favorite being the creamed corn/blood sausage clam. The play on Thanksgiving dinner with duck confit, sweet potato, and cranberry compote was a close second.

Then came an endive, beet, and orange salad from Chef Matt at Light Bistro (the host restaurant for the evening).It was light, and the citrus was refreshing before heading into the "main" courses. Which brings us to tempura-fried halibut cheeks from Brian Doyle. It arrived in a miso broth with three types of basil and fried sweet potato straws. This was my least favorite course of the evening. The tempura batter had started to absorb the broth, and it became very gummy and hard to cut through. However, I did enjoy the flavor of the broth.Our last savory course of the evening came from James Blevins of Downtown 140. We enjoyed "country-fried" beef cheek with carrots and parsnips and a country gravy foam. The other two diners at my table had some tough and chewy bites of their beef cheek that threw them off a bit, but my piece was tender and had no textural issues so I enjoyed the dish.We finished off the meal with a sweet treat from Britt Culey. She had prepared a pear and rosemary tart with chocolate ganache. Dang, arch nemesis. I took two bites of the tart and was hit in the face with rosemary flavor, so "R" greedily took over and finished it off for me. Good thing I still had a full glass of Zinsane Zinfandel to wash it down!All of the courses had included a beverage pairing, and I truly enjoyed all of the red and white wines last night. Which I can rarely say. So, overall it was a great evening spent with friends and other adventuresome diners, all to support a good cause: Feed My Starving Children. If you haven't been to a Dinner in the Dark event yet...why not?! Put your trust in their hands and enjoy a truly unique experience. You may just surprise yourself. I did. They are taking the month of November off, but will reappear at Noodlecat in December.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Morning Coffee Needed!

Monday morning seems like a good time to write about coffee. Because I don't know about you, but I could use a boost right about now. This weekend was glorious, and Monday is particularly hard this week!

About a month ago, a small group of bloggers was invited to a Nescafe Dolce Gusto "Foodie Feedup" at The Greenhouse Tavern. The event included complimentary appetizers, a cooking demo from Chef Sawyer himself, and coffee service with dessert.

After catching up with friends old and new, we headed down to the Greenhouse kitchen for a cooking demo on their famous hand-ground beef tartare.It was delicious!Afterwards, it was time for the coffee demo and tasting. I sampled the Vanilla Latte Macchiato, and it was very good. I usually need cream and two sugars for a cup of coffee, but I only added one sugar to this and it was perfect for me.According to their website, they have 15 different flavor capsules, so there is something for everyone. Including Peach Ice Tea, Chai Tea Latte, Espresso, and a Dark Roast- because the machines can do both hot and cold beverages.

We were surprised that night with the promise of our own (Piccolo) machine. It arrived a couple of weeks later, and I wanted to let it settle in my house before writing about it. I wanted to use it several times, and go out shopping for capsules before sharing this with you.

The long story short is that the machine works well, with a quick heat-up time and clean brewing process. The Piccolo holds enough water to do about two full cups of coffee, so keep that in mind. It is a small machine that tucked away nicely in our kitchen that has minimal storage or counter space. Now finding the coffee capsules has proved to be a little difficult locally. They do have a store locator on their website, as well as an online retail shop. But the only store that I have found them in so far is the nearby Walmart, and they only carry two flavors. I"ll have to keep poking around or order them online. The only other comment that I have is that the packaging on the capsules is designed for the newer models of the machines. Instead of telling us how long to manually flip the brewing switch, the package instructs you on how many "bars" to set the machine for. This is not helpful for the Piccolo, and reading the final fl. oz. for each type has been the best tip. I've gotten the hang of this now, but it does mean that our first attempt at the 4 oz. Espresso did not go so well.

Alright, now it's time for me to go grab a cup before work because I need to brush off the weekend haze! What did you do this weekend? Mine included dinner at Deagan's with friends, pumpkin picking, a picnic in the park, and cleaning out our garage and basement. This weather is amazing!

Thank you again to Nescafe Dolce Gusto for the wonderful time at The Greenhouse Tavern, and the complimentary machine to review. As always, my opinion are honest and 100% my own.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In Search of...

Since moving to Cleveland almost four years ago, I've been in search of two things...

1. A good Indian restaurant that offers a buffet dinner.
2. Affordable sushi that delivers to our home.

The first, I haven't explored as much. Any suggestions are welcome! "R" had never had Indian before he met me, and I'd like to expose him to more than just what I order for us when we dine in or get takeout. A buffet is a must!

The second, I've tried a little harder to find. Living within the city limits, it continues to boggle my mind that we can't find a sushi place to deliver. When I lived in Syracuse, we had about five spots in our area that would. Of course, there is and Food Fetchers. But, we've tried the sushi through these services and it just doesn't measure up. Also, we end up spending about $50 to get it here.

Well last night we were out running errands not too far from home, and I remembered that Alicia had written about a sushi restaurant that wasn't too far from us as well. With a quick tweet, we were on our way. Thanks again, PIP!

Mizu Sushi is tucked away in a small strip of storefronts, across from Sam's Club off of Tiedeman in Parma. We shop in the area frequently, and I've never even glanced in that plaza. If it hadn't been for the recommendation, I wouldn't even know that it existed. But, I'm sure glad that I know now! Turns out that it is the best authentic, "cheap" sushi that we've had on this side of town.

Now, Pacific East has still been my favorite in the Cleveland area. And, of course, Parallax and the newly opened Ginko are surely in a whole different category. But it was nice to find this little spot so close to home. All four rolls (some classic favorites and a House Specialty) and the steamed shrimp dumplings that we ordered were fresh and flavorful, with the bill totaling just $36 with tax and tip (including one soda). This is the first Spicy Sauce that has actually had some heat to it, other than Pacific East. Did I mention that it is a BYOB joint? Grab your favorite beer or bottle of wine, and enjoy. I'll be back, and soon.

Now if I could just get them to deliver...

Mizu Japanese Sushi
10219 Brookpark Road
Parma, OH 44130

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The New and Improved? Bistro on Lincoln Park

Bistro on Lincoln Park has had a lot of changes recently- new paint, new furniture, new lighting, new bar back splash, and...a new Executive Chef. Chef/partner Pete Joyce has stepped away, and Cory Hess moved up in the ranks to take on the Executive Chef position. So I was interested to check out all of the changes, and dragged a friend there for dinner.

To the untrained eye, there didn't seem to be much of a change in the atmosphere of the restaurant. I noticed new soft seating in the bar, better/softer lighting, but beyond that- the changes were lost on us. Luckily, a nice server pointed out all of the updates later in the evening. Overall, I'd say that the restaurant maintained the same "feel" of modern comfort with their upgrades. Now, on to the food (which I'm not sure if the menu was under Cory's control at this point or not, because Joyce has just announced that he had left).

We both started with the Cream of Mushroom soup with Ohio mushrooms, cream, shiitake salad, and mushroom powder ($7).The 6 oz. soup was, dare I say it, a close second to the famous AMP 150 Mushroom Soup. The soup was smooth, but with great pieces of mushroom throughout that added wonderful texture and enhanced the earthy flavor.

I was hoping for a lighter entree after enjoying the soup, so I ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna that was herb crusted with roasted garlic, potato puree, balsamic marinara, French beans, and Parmesan crisp ($26).This is where my experience at the re-vamped Bistro took a turn for the worse. The dish arrived, and I immediately saw that the tuna was smothered in tomato sauce. I was expecting more balsamic, less tomato, as balsamic vinegar is often paired with tuna. But the hearty flavors of tomato and the potato puree completely overwhelmed the subtle flavor of the fish. This pairing just didn't work for me. I kept thinking that lamb or even beef would have been better paired with this dish. It reminded me of a hearty fall dish that warms you from the inside out, but the tuna just didn't belong on that plate. Overall, the flavor of the other components was pleasant. I did express my opinion to our server when she asked how our meal was, and I bet that I won't be the only person to think that this pairing just doesn't work.

So even though I did not enjoy my entree, I look forward to returning to see how Hess does at the helm. I've always enjoyed their Happy Hour, and they offer 20 wines for $20- a good deal. If you haven't been yet, then I do suggest that you go check them out.

Bistro on Lincoln Park
2391 West 11th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 862-2969