Friday, February 24, 2012

Dining Through Three States

Wow, what a crazy past two weeks. Sorry for the neglect! With birthdays, a visit from my parents, and travel for work...time has just flown by. But, not to worry, there has been plenty of good eats along the way.

It all started with me turning 29 on the 12th. I celebrated with just over 20 friends at Deagan's Bar & Kitchen in Lakewood. We took over the front end of the bar, and had a great time hanging out, drinking, and noshing on some food. I, however, did quickly learn that mac & cheese and tequila do not go well together. Either that, or my body was reminding me that I am heading towards 30. My tummy was tossing and turning, and I was home and in bed by 12:45 a.m. on the eve of my birthday.

My friends put the pressure on "R" that night, and he surprised me with a birthday brunch at Pier W the next morning. Their brunch buffet is famous in Cleveland, and I was pretty darn happy as I sipped my complimentary mimosa, munched on fresh seafood and breakfast treats, and listened as the live piano player tickled the ivories with "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid. After brunch, we headed to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium for the first time. It was something fun to do on a Sunday afternoon, but for the price ($46 for the two of us)- I wasn't very impressed with the size or exhibits.

The birthday celebrations continued last weekend, as my parents came to town. We hit up Deagan's (hmmm, a theme to this post?) and Sweet Moses on Friday, had a fantastic meal at Washington Place Bistro on Saturday night (I love their Shrimp & Grits), and then watched our SU men's basketball team take home another win on Sunday while we enjoyed dogs from Happy Dog.That was my creation of the day.

Then bright and early on Monday, "R" and I took to the road. I had to be in Cincinnati and Indianapolis the rest of the week for work, and I was lucky enough that he could travel with me. So in between meetings, we were able to squeeze in some fun- including a fabulous meal at Local 127 in Cincinnati (that deserves its own post). We also took the advice of my Tweeps, and enjoyed some BBQ at Montgomery Inn at the Boathouse. The view along the river in Cincinnati was gorgeous, and even though it wasn't the best that I've had- the BBQ hit the spot that night. We shared the Crostini and then split the Big Ted's Platter. This allowed us to sample pulled pork, sliced smoked brisket, and their world-famous ribs for just $24.99.From Cincinnati, we headed to Indianapolis to the regional office of the non-profit that I work for. The week ended with dining at nothing but chains, so by then I was more than ready to come home to Cleveland! I love searching for local gems when visiting new cities, but I think we don't truly appreciate how easy it is to dine at local, independently-owned restaurants in our city. My love for the CLE just grows a little bit more every time I leave!

Phew, I'm tired just looking at how busy these past two weeks have been. So this weekend, I am laying low and sticking close to home- except to attend the baby shower of one of my very best friends. I'm off to make pasta salad for 40 guests. Wish me luck, and I'll keep the fire extinguisher near this time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Valentine's Treat

I don't usually post recipes on the blog. In fact, this is a first. We all know that I don't cook, but "R" is a wonderful cook. In a recent post, I mentioned a dish that I tease about the fact that it made me fall in love with him. It is the first meal that I vividly remember him making for me when we first started dating. Clearly, the way to my heart is through my stomach. Well, I am one lucky girl tonight because he is making it as our Valentine's Day treat. So I thought that I would share it with you, in honor of the day.

Peppered Beef Filets and Balsamic Reduction
(Makes 4 servings; Total time: 40 minutes)

Coat, Sear in 2 t. olive oil:
4 beef tenderloin filets, trimmed, 2" thick (6-8 oz. each)
1/4 cup peppercorn blend, coarsely crushed Kosher salt

Deglaze with; Swirl in:
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 T. unsalted butter, cold

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Coat both sides of filets with peppercorns and salt, then sear on 1 side in 2 T. oil in an ovenproof saute pan over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.
Sear filets on their sides, then turn over, transfer pan to oven, and roast 8-9 minutes for medium-rare. Remove pan from the oven, transfer steaks to a plate, and tent with foil. Return pan to stovetop over medium-high heat.
Deglaze original pan with vinegar, simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup and the consistency of maple syrup, about 3 minutes. Swirl in butter, set aside.
Plate the filets and drizzle with sauce.There you go! The recipe from Cuisine at Home (our favorite cooking magazine) suggests serving it with garlic spinach and roasted potatoes with blue cheese and chives. We've made both side dishes before, and they are fantastic. This magazine is awesome- go get a subscription if you like to cook at home.

So we'll be celebrating at home, enjoying each other and a wondeful meal that brings back memories for me. Sounds pretty perfect to me. How do you celebrate the "holiday"?

Happy Valentine's Day to my amazing, wonderful, loving, playful, sexy, sarcastic, thoughtful, handsome, funny boyfriend. I love you, "R".

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bonbon Cafe in Ohio City

On Sunday morning, "R" and I headed out to do some errands. I wanted to swing through Target to try to "Wu" (big fail), and we wanted to go check out the new west-side grocery store, Earth Fare. Well no Sunday can be complete without we decided to pop into Bonbon Cafe in Ohio City first.The cafe on Lorain offers pastries (look at all those tasty options!), desserts, a full brunch menu, and a "vintage" feel as you dine in the restaurant. The place was packed, and the line only continued to grow as we ate. We had to wait about 10 minutes, and in doing so we ran into two of my favorite people to run into. So the four of us decided to brunch together (something that we've been meaning to do for a while), and settled into a table by the outer wall. Lots of floor-to-ceiling windows in this place, and the sunlight was streaming in!

The menu offered several items that sounded tempting, but I went with the traditional Breakfast Special of two eggs, cider bacon, grilled focaccia, and French press coffee or Genesse ($6)- Dining Deals alert.Of course the eggs were nothing special (could have used some salt and pepper, but they were not on the table), but they were cooked to over-medium--- as requested. The hearty bread was great for dipping, but the cider bacon was the real star of this plate. I want more. Crispy and just a hint of sweet and tart...yum. The French press coffee was also very good.

"R" ordered the Sunday Special of Bangers, Biscuits, and Gravy. The gravy was well-seasoned (I hate bland sausage gravy), and the house-made biscuits were delicious. Although they were a little dense, and the dish could have used a bit more gravy so that the biscuits didn't get as dry. That was his only complaint. I happily stole two bites.

Overall, we enjoyed the experience and will be back. When I'm not dieting, I'm totally hitting up that pastry case to try a cupcake, scone, or croissant. They are also open for lunch, and on Fridays and Saturdays until 7PM. In addition to a variety of brunch foods, they offer some savory entree options and daily specials.

BONBON Pastry & Cafe
2549 Lorain Road
Cleveland, OH 44113

Bonbon Pastry & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 3, 2012

Getting to know you...

Happy Friday! Any fun dining plans for the weekend? We're having a low-key weekend, with plans for our very own "cheese dinner" at home tonight (courtesy of the cheese we purchased at the L'Albatros event) and then an excursion to the Great Big Home and Garden Expo. Lots of exciting plans coming up over the next couple of weeks- including tackling one of the restaurants on my Top 10 for 2012 list.

So, Stephanie from Hungry in Cleveland tagged me in her "Getting to know you" post this week. I wouldn't normally participate in things like this, but her post was right up my alley for two reasons. With the new blog design, I also made a secret vow to share more of "myself" with my readers through my posts. What better way than to share some random facts about myself, and to answer Stephanie's questions? Most of her questions are food-related, so it's perfect! Here we go...

The Rules:
- You must post 11 random things about yourself
- Answer the questions set for you in their post
- Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer
- Go to their blog and tell them you’ve tagged them

11 Random Things About Me:
I set our stove on fire last night while trying to make coleslaw. Sounds weird, but true story. I don't exaggerate when I state that I can't cook.
2. I moved to Cleveland four years ago after falling in love with "R" in Put-in-Bay. I am originally from the Syracuse, NY area. Go Orange!
3. The first restaurant that I remember dining at in Cleveland is Symon's Lola.
4. My first job in Cleveland was working for the Cleveland Foodbank, planning two of our city's best food events- Market Under Glass and Taste of the Browns. I credit my passion for food and our restaurant scene to that job.
5. The dish that "R" made for me that I tell him made me fall in love with him was a peppercorn-crusted filet with a balsamic glaze. It still makes my mouth water!
6. I HATE chicken breasts. I didn't eat any meat for a while, and when I started again I would only eat chicken. I overdid it, and now I can't stand them- 12 years later.
7. The first chef that I ever met in Cleveland was Marlin Kaplan, of One Walnut/Luxe/Dragonfly fame. It was a memorable experience, ahem.
8. I have only a couple of foods that I won't eat/drink- any kind of soda (almost 29 years and I've never had one), mayonnaise, and jelly.
9. My favorite adult beverage is a dry white wine with a clean, crisp finish.
10. I don't like B-Spot burgers (I can hear the outcries now).
11. I am currently on Weight Watchers and trying to make a life change.

Stephanie's Questions:
What is the most adventurous thing you have ever eaten? Easy--- whole chicken hearts at a Dinner in the Dark event.
2. What would your last meal be if you had a say in it? It would have to include lobster, carbs, and stinky cheese with crusty bread. And wine, duh!
3. What is your all time guilty pleasure food? Cheese
4. What are you currently listening to? In the process of building my playlists on my iPad. Suggestions welcomed!
5. What is your favorite sport (to play, watch, or both)? Watch--- Syracuse University men's basketball
6. One thing you are dying to try (this could be anything). New Crop Bistro location, Ginko, Hodge's, Cowell & Hubbard
7. Fill in the blank: Food makes me _________. Happy. So many good memories are associated with food and special meals.
8. If you could have dinner with just one person, dead or alive, who would it be? My grandfather on my dad's side. I never met him.
9. What is your "go to" restaurant for taking out of towners? Don't have one spot- too many excellent choices!
10. What quote sums up your life right now? Tomorrow is a new day. This year has been a struggle, and I just try and stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. It's coming!
11. What is your favorite holiday? Halloween

Phew, that was harder than I thought it was going to be. But hopefully you learned a little bit more about me, and I did enjoy giving some thought about my 11 Facts and Stephanie's Questions. However, I am not going to play by the rules and tag an additional 11 friends in this post. I simply did it to share a piece of myself with you.

Again, enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

February Fun

February is a short month, but I always feel like there is a lot packed into those 28 (or 29) days each year. Maybe because it is my birthday month (woo hoo), and we always have lots of fun plans around that. But whatever it is, February is always one of my favorite months of the year. This year, there is no shortage of events- so I thought that I would share a few coming up.

Tonight! February 2nd: Watch chefs Rocco Whalen and Kimberly McCune of Cleveland tackle their weight loss and the path to healthy living on the new Food Network show "Fat Chef". Tune in at 10PM to watch them on their journey. Cleveland is just blowing up the Food Network lately, and I'm lovin' it.

Friday, February 3rd: Zack Bruell opens his fifth restaurant, Cowell & Hubbard in Playhouse Square in Downtown Cleveland. Bruell's restaurants are some of my favorites in the city, so I can't wait to check out his new spot. Read more about the opening here. I saw the menu online, and it's pretty extensive.

Sunday, February 13th: Dessert Cooking Class and Dinner for Two at Pura Vida. Call for reservations at 216-987-0100.

Monday, February 14th: A wide variety of Valentine's Day special events are happening at local restaurants. Check out the Cleveland Independents' listing to find one that suits your style. Enjoy a special night out with your significant other, or hit the town with your friends in protest of this Hallmark Holiday!

Tuesday, February 28th: D'Vine Wine Bar in Downtown Cleveland is hosting "Colors and Bottles", a hip way to take an art class. A three-hour painting class with wine and cocktails, taught by local emerging artists, and you walk away with your own masterpiece. 6-9PM. Sign up at or by calling 216-241-8463.

Any other February events that you are attending or want to share?

Are you attending the sold-out Dinner in the Dark at Harvest in Solon? These events are selling out quicker and quicker each time, so don't miss the March event and purchase your tickets early. They also have a contest going on, called "Light Up Our Menu". Enter a photograph of a dish that you've created, and the winner will have their dish recreated by a Dinner in the Dark chef at an upcoming event + you'll win two tickets to the event.

Happy February--- even if we can expect six more weeks of winter. Darn you, you little groundhog. At least we've been pretty lucky so far with this weather.

Where do you think I should dine for my birthday celebration? I need to ring in the last year of my 20's in style!