Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Black Pig

Tuesday's review was less than flattering, so I want to switch gears and share my experiences with a new favorite-- The Black Pig in Ohio City. The newly opened restaurant is from Chef Michael Nowak (formally of Bar Cento and Market Garden Brewery), and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite restaurants in the neighborhood. I've enjoyed two wonderful dinners, and a recent brunch at this spot, so it's time to stop keeping this place a secret from you.
"R" and I went in a couple of months ago for dinner, and enjoyed pork three ways that night. The pork belly appetizer was cooked to perfection, and had a crispy crust to it but yet melted in my mouth like butter. Pork belly should never really need a knife. We also had the cassoulet (which had several different pork products, and the chef had been preparing it for two days before it landed on the specials menu), and the pork tenderloin special that evening. The cassoulet was my favorite, by far. It was packed with flavor, and perfect comfort food for an unusually chilly night. The pork tenderloin was seasoned and cooked well, but not memorable.

My second dinner there was with some good friends, and I ordered the Simple Salad with greens, radish, and a lemon and tarragon vinaigrette. Nothing special here, but a nice light salad to start the meal. For my entree, I had the Pan Seared Scallops that were served with kale and a small portion of risotto that night. For the price, I was surprised to receive five large scallops. That's almost unheard of, and they had a perfect sear and translucent center to them. Another great meal!

Then, "R" and I ended up there for Sunday brunch a couple of weeks ago. The brunch menu is not posted online, and when we arrived we weren't thrilled with the descriptions. There didn't appear to be many "breakfast" options. But we decided to just order three of the small plates to share, and a side of Toast with truffle butter ($4).
Solid toast, but so not worth the price tag.

We tried the Herb Omelette with Fromager d'Affonis and dressed greens ($7). Look at that huge piece of cheese!
The Braised Pork Belly and Egg with potato, fall hash, and hollandaise ($9).
And the Free Range Toad in a Hole with egg, brioche, raclette, and black truffle ($6).
I seriously couldn't pick a favorite dish of these three. I would order any of them again. The menu may have not excited us when we first saw it, but thankfully we were very wrong.

So, after three memorable meals at The Black Pig, I can confidently say that it is quickly becoming my go-to spot for a nice meal in Ohio City. They also have a large bar area that is great for stopping in and having just drinks. Wine on tap (the cool new craze), and a solid list of beer, wine, and cocktails. I almost hate to share this with you, because we've easily been able to make last-minute reservations or just walk in, but do yourself a favor and get your butt there!

Some nay-sayers have voiced that they feel a restaurant named "The Black Pig" doesn't have enough pork on the menu. Well, it's used in at least one dish on almost every section of the menu, there are always nightly dinner specials, and I personally have had pork four ways already. We can agree to disagree. Also, you can't mistake the smell of pork wafting from the kitchen as you dine. The smells become almost overwhelming at times.

Welcome to the neighborhood, The Black Pig! A great addition, in my opinion. I look forward to many more memorable meals there.

The Black Pig
1865 West 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
216-862-7551

 The Black Pig on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Kumo Buffet in Parma

Sorry for the hiatus, readers. With the holiday, long weekend, and the terrible head cold that "R" and I have been fighting for two weeks...I just haven't felt like writing. I hope that you all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with family, friends, fun, and of course--good food.

Speaking of good food, I wish that today's post was about that--but it's not. "R" and I were recently out running errands and needed to grab an impromptu quick bite to eat in the Parma area. In the mood to try something new, I suggested heading to Kumo Japanese Seafood Buffet. After reading another blogger's rave review, and seeing photographs of the extensive sushi buffet and other offerings, I was intrigued.
Sadly, the buffet was really disappointing. Not that one should ever have high expectations for a buffet, but it still didn't even meet the low bar that I had set in my mind. It did offer a HUGE selection of sushi and hand rolls, traditional Japanese and Chinese dishes, and even a few "American" options for the less adventuresome.

While we certainly didn't try everything, what we did have was lackluster and most of the sushi was just plain scary looking. The fish looked dry and some have even started to brown around the edges, and the vegetables were wilted and unappetizing to look at. I found a couple of pieces that didn't scream "food poisoning", and even those were bland and certainly not fresh.

Items like the lo mien, fried rice, steamed dumplings, and edamame were all perfectly standard and acceptable. But I've had better. Spicy octopus was gummy and impossible to bite through, mussels were dried out and smelled fishy, and even the crab legs were disappointing.

Overall, it was a pretty bad buffet experience and I wouldn't set foot in there again. My expectations were low, but geez. The only thing that I regret not trying was the hibachi. You create your own bowl of goodies, and then staff cook it right there for you. For $14.99, the dinner buffet is a deal, but to me that's not worth compromising quality. Plenty of cheap food out there that is way better!

Kumo Japanese Seafood Buffet
1975 Snow Road
Parma, OH 44134
216-741-3038

Kumo Japanese Seafood Buffet on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Blog Swap! Favorite Places from Beer and Clothing in Cleveland

Today is the Ohio Blogging Association's state-wide blog swap, where participating bloggers are paired up, and we're sharing posts on each other's blogs. Today, I have a post for you from Katie at Beer and Clothing in Cleveland. My post about the CLEDinnerClub is over on Julie's blog at Wearing Mascara. Enjoy!

Cleveland's food scene never ceases to amaze me. Our restaurant offerings are what I would claim is the biggest change I've witnessed in the city. Maybe it's because I grew up in the 'burbs but I think I'm onto something from all of the grand openings I've seen now living on the West Side. I can remember when there was just one Melt people! Now there's four, Lakewood (which boasts the original Aladdin's as well,) Cleveland Heights, Independence and now Mentor. I cannot stand to hear one more person say "I'm not sure if it was worth the wait." Melt is always worth the wait, always. Sorry, I digress...

One of the hardships that come with lots of new exciting places to dine out is not being able to pick a favorite. I know, must be terrible. One thing I would love to be though is a regular somewhere! I want to walk in to somewhere that knows my name, knows my poison, and knows if there might be a special to top my "usual." I'm working on it. Katrina's blog excels at making the restaurant experience personal (From Katrina-- awww, thank you!!) and so, for this blog swap, I wanted to share a few restaurants I personally recommend.

1. Maxi's Bistro in Little Italy. My better half will not be pleased that I'm making this public knowledge. The establishment is not particularly big and it is one place in Cleveland we routinely visit. If you ever get the last order of the Penne Pasta Alla Flavia before I do, words will be had. I typically prefer my dishes to "let the ingredients speak for themselves." This sauce changes everything. I want to put it on everything. I can't keep Boyface out of it frankly. In the fall, they have a drink consisting of apple cider and bourbon. The staff is always warm and friendly and the back patio is perfect when the weather accommodates My one hint here: order bread fast and often. The bread is put in the oven fresh for each table and we occasionally are without bread for the meal. Normally I don't eat bread during the meal but with a sauce like that, it's practically a sin to go without. (From Katrina-- the sauces at this classic Italian place are sooo good)

2. SOHO in Ohio City. I've reviewed SOHO at my blog before but I can't help but mention it again. This is the kind of place I want to be a regular at. I've never had a bad dish, bad service, and most importantly, a bad drink. We've been there just the two of us for drinks and the cheese board. We've been there on a double date. We've been for a very hungover, much needed brunch. We've been to the bar, an intimate table in a corner, and out in the patio with a big ole' umbrella. It was meant to be that we happened to wander in on their public opening night. My favorite dishes so far are the chicken-fried pork salad and shrimp po'boy. Doesn't look like the have the shrimp po'boy yet. I'm crossing my fingers for a crawdad po'boy someday!

3. Eddy & Iggy's. This is a place where I've been a regular. My first place in Lakewood was of walking distance, so we spent a lot of time here. A lot of happy hours, sports games, and late nights. This is a place where they knew my name...they might not anymore but the owner recognizes us. It's been fun to watch Eddy & Iggy's evolve into the bar they are now. They have a few homebrews, always delicious and dangerously potent. I have yet to have a bad dish here too. You would be hard pressed to find anything healthy but it's simple to find something that just tastes good. My favorite is their soft-pretzel sticks. They are perfectly crispy on the outside with a delightful contrast of fluff on the inside. I didn't know one could have a preference on a stadium food, but I do now. My only caveat is this- Eddy & Iggy's now hosts karaoke seven nights a week. How does a sports bar get away with being a karaoke bar? I'm not quite sure, but it works for me. It does not sit well with everyone I love though. Did I mention it's within stumbling distance of one of my close girlfriend's apartments now? There may be an Eddy & Iggy's renaissance in my near future, hope to see you there!



Thank you, Katie, for sharing some of your favorites with my readers! This is why I love blog swapping-- I've never been to Eddy & Iggy's. Who's meeting us there?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Holiday Shopping

I have actually gotten a jump start on my Christmas shopping for my family (and "R") this year, which never happens. In the past, I've liked to use www.gifts.com for inspiration. It still led me to some great ideas this year, but now I am also using Pinterest. Ahh, Pinterest, what did we do without you?

I wanted to share a few fun ideas for the foodie in your life...

Cocktail Buffet Plates
These are great to have at parties when everyone is standing around grazing! You don't have to worry about finding a place to set down your wine glass while you eat.

Fruit Infusion Pitcher

Personally, I love to add cucumber to water for a refreshing beverage. But the possibilities are endless with this pitcher.

Auto-measure Spice Rack
This rotating rack is idiot-proof for the foodie who may not be the best home cook (cough, cough...me), or just plain easy to use for the frequent cook.

The Sriracha Cookbook
My favorite condiment! I can only imagine all of the tasty, and spicy, recipes in this book.

Have you found any great gifts for the cook, craft beer lover, wine aficionado, or lover of all things food-related this season? Please share! I still have a ways to go before my shopping will be done.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Delmonico's Steakhouse

This weekend was relatively low-key for us, which was great. Friday, I wasn't feeling well and had to skip Alexa's event at Noodlecat. It led to some pho from Minh Anh. Soup just always makes everything slightly better when you're feeling ill. Plus, my $6.75 Large Pho Saigon gave me three meals out of it! (Dining Deals Alert!)

Saturday morning, I managed our weekly team run for the Liver Life Challenge program. I have the best team, and coach, this year! They are nine weeks into the program now, and absolutely killing the training and fundraising. The group is just awesome, and we're going to have a great time in Disney for the marathon in January. After our monthly team breakfast at Yours Truly after the run, I did some shopping with a friend (but couldn't find anything that I was looking for). By the time I got home, it was almost dinner time and we didn't have a plan (or groceries). "R" was suddenly craving a steak, so we decided to try Delmonico's Steakhouse in Independence.

Part of the Hospitality Restaurant Group (Blue Point, Salmon Dave's, Cabin Club, Rosewood), it's the closest to home for us but we've both never been. The atmosphere was exactly what I expected-- dark woods, deep red leather booths, retro furnishings and decor, and a real "old boys' club" feel to it. A classic steakhouse. We didn't have a reservation since it was an impromptu date night, but after only a few minutes we were seated in a booth in the bar area.

We decided to try the Bocce Balls with sweet peppers and herbed boursin cheese, flash fried ($7). The dish included five small balls, a marinara sauce, and some grated cheese. Personally, I though that the balls were bland and the sauce was too sweet. I couldn't find the flavor of the peppers, and the cheese had completely melted into a watery substance that squirted out the side of the ball when you tried to snag it with your fork. Big disappointment.

"R" was in the mood to splurge, and I wasn't fighting him when he encouraged me to order the Surf and Turf special of the night.
The lobster tail was one of the biggest, and best, that I've ever had. It was so delicious. The garlic mashed potatoes were very garlicky, but I enjoyed them. A standard classic. Luckily, there were only two asparagus spears, because they were incredibly boring and mushy, yet al dente at the same time. It was so weird, and I quickly moved on. The filet was cooked medium-rare, as requested, and was it was a decent steak overall. The Bearnaise sauce served on the side was creamy and rich, but I personally feel that a great steak doesn't need a sauce and should be able to stand on its own. All it needs is a little pepper or minimal seasoning to really be a great steak, in my opinion. This steak was a little under seasoned, and benefited from the sauce.

"R" ordered the Double Cut Filet with the seasonal vegetables and mushroom risotto as sides. He loved the seasonal vegetables, a medley of squash, zucchini, and roasted red peppers, but the mushroom risotto was terrible. It was watery, and bland. Notice a theme of the meal? Not worth the $6 side dish charge, for sure.

Overall, our bill was just over $125 before tax and tip. Certainly a "splurge" night for us, and we left feeling underwhelmed by the food. Which is never how you want to feel when enjoying a nice night out. I think that there are much better steaks in Cleveland, so I wouldn't recommend Delmonico's. What restaurant in the Cleveland area has your favorite steak?

Delmonico's Steakhouse
6001 Quarry Lane
Independence, OH 44131
216-573-1991

 Delmonico's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Signature Chef's Auction

On Monday, November 12th, the local chapter of the March of Dimes is hosting their annual Cleveland Signature Chef's Auction event at Windows on the River.
Personally, it's always been one charity event that I've wanted to attend. Individual tickets are $150 each, and they include signature samplings from an impressive list of local chefs (led by co-chair Rachel Spieth of Georgetown this year), the opportunity to bid on unique silent and live auction packages, and the chance to hear more about the organization and its mission.
Not only have I heard that it is a great event filled with fantastic food, but the March of Dimes is a worthy cause with an important mission to improve the health of babies. The event is at 5:30PM, and individual tickets and sponsorships are still available. Check it all out, including the list of chefs, online here.

I'm looking forward to trying dishes from AMP 150, the newly opened Black Dog Kitchen & Bar, Georgetown, Pier W, and Spice Bar & Kitchen (just to name a few).

Disclosure: I was provided with one media pass to check out the event for myself, in exchange for this blog post. The opinions stated are 100% my own. Thank you to the March of Dimes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2012 Fabulous Food Show Giveaway

What better way to celebrate Election Day than with a fun ticket giveaway? The annual Fabulous Food Show is about to hit town at the IX Center, and one lucky reader will win two general admission passes to the 2012 event just by commenting on this post.
This weekend, November 9th - 11th, attendees will enjoy over 500 exhibitors, chef demos, food and beverage tastings, and more. Celebrity chefs this year include Michael Symon, Guy Fieri, Anne Burrell, Sara Moulton, Jeff Mauro, and Jacques Pepin. New for 2012, General Admission tickets include access to all chef shows in the Main Kitchen Theatre. They have also added "Kid Friendly" content, and a special Military cooking competition in honor of Veterans Day.

Tickets can be purchased online here, ranging from $25 - $80. Or, you can comment on this blog post for a chance to win two General Admission passes. Tickets include entrance into the show, all exhibits, features, and access to ALL stages including Celebrity Chef Demonstrations in the Main Kitchen Theatre in elevated theatre seating. Just tell me what your favorite fall comfort food is!

You can also gain additional contest entries by tweeting "I want to win tickets to the #FabulousFoodShow on @BiteBuff's blog at http://tinyurl.com/asgvbfu." You can tweet once a day. Make sure to leave a separate comment for each entry. I will select the winner on Thursday, November 8th at 10:00AM using random.org.

Good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with two General Admission tickets to use as a giveaway, and two media passes to enjoy the event myself, in exchange for this post. However, I think it's a fantastic foodie event and the opinions stated are 100% my own.

Monday, November 5, 2012

West Side Market Centennial Celebrations

This post is going to be difficult to write. I couldn't possibly capture all of the wonderful memories, food, and sightings from participating in the West Side Market's Centennial Celebrations this weekend.

It all started with the People's Party on Friday evening. Held at Crop Bistro (just across the street from the West Side Market), the event was hosted by our area's local chefs. Approximately 1,000 people flooded the lower vault level, the kitchens, and the main dining room and bar of the restaurant. Just under 30 restaurants donated their time and talent to serve up tastings, and there were quite a few good ones. Some of my favorites included the papaya salad from Tremont's Bac...
...beef brisket and polenta from Crop Bistro, pork sandwich from Flying Fig, Skye LaRae's butternut squash bisque with diced apples and bleu cheese crumbles, and the fried chicken from Mahall's 20 Lanes (a newly opened bowling alley, and the biggest surprise of the evening).
We were out until around 12:30AM, enjoying friends and feeling quite full from the food and drink at the People's Party. While I didn't agree with some of the decisions that they made about executing the event, it was quite a deal for just $25 and we truly loved kicking off the weekend celebrations at this event with our friends. $25,000 was donated from the ticket sales for this event to the West Side Market.

Saturday evening brought "R" and I to the West Side Market Gala. At $250 a ticket, my expectations were high...and the event beyond exceeded them. We got all dolled up ("R" wore a suit for the first time in the five years that we've been dating).
A giant (heated) tent was set up just outside the West Side Market, and guests wandered in between buildings and the tent to sample food from an all-star lineup of national and local chefs. I am proud to say that some of my favorite dishes of the night were from Cleveland chefs! Hodge's beef was the best thing that I had (Chris--can we get that on the menu, please?!), but I also enjoyed Lola's sweet potato pierogi, Fahrenheit's lobster tempura, and Momocho's tuna chip. Other standouts were the chicken liver toast from April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig in NYC, and Top Chef Master Jonathan Waxman's lamb meatball.
Celebrity chefs were certainly in attendance, and I had my second "star-struck" moment of my life (first was Ruth Reichl last summer). I realized that I only really geek out over chefs or food writers. Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Will Smith...who cares? I couldn't wait to grab a photo with culinary icon Waxman...
...and Top Chef contestant and The Chew's host, Carla Hall.
After a few more bites, we headed into the main tent for the program, auction, and champagne toast.
The live band was hysterical, and really worked the crowd. Everyone was laughing, toasting, and celebrating the history of the West Side Market. About 1,000 people were in attendance at this event as well, but we never had to really wait in line for food or felt crowded. The flow of the event was great, and it ended just in time for us to grab our commemorative brew from Great Lakes, and then hit the streets of Ohio City for some more cocktails.

We rolled home around 1:00AM again, and I was certainly paying the price yesterday. I wasn't vertical for long-- I slept in, and I took an hour nap on the couch. It was so worth it. What a weekend! I am honored to have participated in the Centennial Celebrations, and to take part in the West Side Market's history. It was worth every penny, and the contact high that I'm enjoying today helps erase how tired I still am. The memories from this weekend will not be forgotten.

Cheers, West Side Market! Here's to another fantastic 100 years serving the city of Cleveland. We love you.