Thursday, December 27, 2012

Paladar Latin Kitchen

Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar in the Eton development on Chagrin Boulevard in Woodmere has always intrigued me. I've heard many rave reviews over the years, but I just never seemed to make it in there for myself. It's hard when Pacific East is just next door, and they have some of my favorite sushi. However, the other night "R" and I tried to get into Pacific East for dinner, but the wait was going to be too long. So we found ourselves wandering over to Paladar.

Since it was my first time dining there, I let our server help guide our menu selections. We started with the Cuban Braised Beef Ropa Vieja with shredded skirt steak braised with tomatoes and spices, served with sweet plantains, pickled onion slaw, and aji pepper aioli ($11.95).
The beef had a nice, subtle flavor of spices and it was prepared so that it just fell right apart. There was interesting textures and flavor in this dish, but overall I wasn't loving it. It was good, but not great. A larger portion of this dish is also available on their entree section of the menu, and apparently it's one of the most popular dishes.

For my entree, our server suggested the Jalapeno Spiced Lamb Stew with lamb, hominy, and spices in a jalapeno-cilantro broth with cinnamon rice, crumbled queso fresco cheese, pico de gallo, and fresh herbs. Served with flour tortillas on the side. ($16.95)
First impression? SALTY! Like make-your-lips-pucker salty. Once the initial shock of salt subsided, the dish really did have great heat from the spices and the lamb was cooked well. I just couldn't get over the saltiness. When I went to heat up the leftovers at home the next day, I added a ton of lime juice and that helped cut the salt. Much better.

"R" ordered the Ocho Hora Braised Short Rib ($18.95), and to put it simply-- it was the blandest piece of meat that I've personally ever had. It was also tough, and didn't fall apart like a good braised short rib should. The smokey grits and spinach served with it were both really good, but even they couldn't save the dish.

Overall, our meal was decent (minus the short rib) but nothing that I'd want again. We felt that the meal was a little pricey for what we received, and that the whole restaurant has a "chain" atmosphere that just isn't what we tend to go for when dining out. If I'm in the area again, I'll stick to Pacific East.

Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar
28601 Chagrin Boulevard
Woodmere, OH 44122

Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Just a quick note to wish you a very Merry Christmas! I hope that the holidays bring you a time to relax with family and friends, and time to just enjoy each other (and some delicious food and drinks).

2013 will bring to the blog a new Top 10 "To Dine" list, the continuation of the Dining Deals series (meals under $10), and more Taco Tuesday excursions as I continue to sample our city's taco scene. Anything else that you'd like to see on Bite Buff this coming year?

To all, Happy Holidays.

- Katrina

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tremont's New Press Wine Bar

Dining at Lago is one of the first food memories that I have of Cleveland. "R" and I had started dating that summer, and by the time my birthday came around in February--he had selected Lago, because he said that "it had a lot of my favorite foods on the menu." It was cozy, a little romantic, and I remember enjoying their lobster gnocchi as we toasted my first birthday together.

Needless to say, I was sad to hear when Lago was closing its doors in Tremont.

A few weeks ago, Press Wine Bar popped up in Lago's location on the corner of Professor and Literary. Even though it's only been open for a short period of time, I've already found myself there three times. The layout of the space hasn't changed too much. The biggest differences are that they opened and widened the bar area, and installed a floor-to-ceiling wine unit. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, and the food has overall been very good. Normally, I shy away from newly opened restaurants. But with the management team from Market and Southside behind it, and Chef Rachael Spieth from Three Birds/Georgetown fame running the kitchen-- I was comfortable dining there when they opened.

Now, on to the food. People dining with me have ordered: Duck Sausage Pizza ($13), Pumpkin Linguine ($12.5), Press Burger ($12), and Crab Burger ($12). All dishes were enjoyed. One of my friends even exclaimed that the Press Burger was the best burger that she's ever had!

Twice now, I've ordered the Pear Pizza with blue cheese, roasted pears, fig, prosciutto, arugula, almonds, and saba ($12.5).
The flatbread is so crispy, while still maintaining a doughy texture, and the combination of things on this particular dish just work so well together. I've had other good pear flatbreads before, but I love the addition of sliced figs and almonds at Press.

On my first visit, I also tried the Five Spice Seared Ahi Tuna with black bean spread, pickled red onion, and apple relish ($9).
So far, this has been the only dish that I disliked and would never order again. The black bean spread completely dominated the delicate tuna. It just didn't work, in my opinion.

On another visit, this time with "R" for date night, we split the Breakfast Pizza, Arugula Salad ($8), and Pan Seared Scallops ($24). The Breakfast Pizza, with breakfast sausage, butternut squash, sage, goat cheese, poached egg and maple syrup, was very good but I preferred the Pear Pizza slightly. The salad was fine, but not memorable. It was under dressed, and wasn't very interesting. The scallops? The flavors of the orange and coriander grits, blood orange supremes, roasted baby fennel, and carrot beurre blanc were wonderful. However, our (five) scallops were severely overcooked that night. Had they been cooked perfectly, this dish would have been one of my favorites that I've had there. I'll be ordering it again.

Lastly, the Cheese and Meat Board. A small is $13, and a large is $20. It includes sixteen items, and has a nice assortment of meats, cheeses, and accoutrements. You can also choose to do "double-cheese", if you don't want the meats. A small is large enough to share between a couple of people. It will never be as good as L'Albatros, but it's nice to have a decent cheese board option closer to home.

Okay, drinks. The have a good-sized menu of signature cocktails, wine on tap, wine by the glass, draft beers (all from Ohio), and wine and beer by the bottle. Press is claiming that they are the "first location in Cleveland to have Wine on Tap" on their website. Ummm, what about The Black Pig that offers a couple of options, and they've clearly been open longer? Both are technically "in the city of Cleveland" if you're arguing that point, but Lager and Vine in Hudson was the first in Ohio. I did notice that our server at Press sometimes used the words "first wine bar in Cleveland", instead of first location. I'm confused, but oh well. I just feel that if you're going to make such a big deal about it, then please make sure that you are accurate in your statements.

I do feel that their Wine on Tap options are a little pricey. $7-$15 for a glass (most are $8 or $9.5). Isn't the point of kegged wine to keep it fresher and more cost effective?

Anywho, I've enjoyed my three visits there, and witnessed very few "opening jitters" from this team. Personally, I think that it's a great addition to the area, and I look forward to many return visits.

Press Wine Bar
2221 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH
216-566-9463

Press Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fairview Tavern

I'm slowly making my way down the 2012 "To Dine" list that I set back in January. Some friends, both old and new, helped me knock another one off of the list-- Fairview Tavern. Located on Lorain Road in Fairview Park, it was not only a new restaurant that I was visiting, but a new area that I was exploring too. I can't say that I've really spent any time around there. The restaurant was a little hard to find. It's tucked away in a strip of businesses, and the neon sign just states "Tavern".

We had a party of five, and the place was already pretty busy by the time we arrived at 6:30PM, so we were seated on the slightly elevated stage in the back. It felt a little weird sitting down, with all lights (and eyes?) on us, but once we started chatting-- then I forgot where we were.

The menu offered a little bit of everything-- an assortment of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, sandwiches, and pizza. The Fairview Tavern offers a ton of different specials throughout the week, and Monday night happened to be Pizza Night. $5 personal cheese pizza with 50 cent toppings, 40 cent wings, and $2 brat sandwich.

It was suggested that we get an order of the Black-n-Bleu Chips ($7) for the table, with freshly fried tavern chips topped with chunky bleu cheese and baked until hot and bubbly, finished with a balsamic reduction. A little something different that you don't see every day on a bar menu. We happily munched away.

I wanted to try their pizza, but instead of doing the build-your-own special of the night, I went with one of their specialty pizzas-- Prosciutto and Goat Cheese with garlic butter, red onions, kalamata olives, and thin slices of prosciutto sprinkled with mozzarella, provolone, and goat cheese ($11).
For a personal pizza, it was huge. I had a ton left over to take home with me, which "R" didn't mind. Overall, it was a really good pizza. Very doughy, great balance of flavors with the creamy goat cheese, salty and crispy prosciutto, and I loved the addition of the olives. Worth driving over to Fairview Park for from where I live? Probably not.

But it was a great hole-in-the-wall bar, and their menu is well beyond your standard pub fare. One of my friends ordered the Meatballs, and they were seriously the biggest balls that I've ever seen. Yes, we had fun joking about balls all night. You can tell that a lot of their food is made in-house, or locally. They also offer several different specials throughout the week.

I had never heard of the Fairview Tavern before it was suggested for my "To Dine" list, it brought me to a new neighborhood, and I enjoyed a good meal...exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!

Help me select the 2013 "To Dine" restaurants by leaving a comment on this blog post: http://www.bitebuff.com/2012/12/time-to-pick-2013-to-dine.html

I'll pick 10 restaurants from the comments, and announce the list on the first of the year.

Fairview Tavern
21867 Lorain Road
Fairview Park, OH

Fairview Tavern on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Rib Cage Bar and Grill

With Fat Casual in Macedonia closing its doors (don't worry, they will still be doing catering jobs and focusing on their food truck), we needed to find a good BBQ restaurant. Was the newly opened The Rib Cage Bar & Grill in Cleveland Heights the answer? I'm still not sure, but there were elements of our meal that were darn good.

I decided to go for the Pulled Pork dinner, which included two sides and a corn muffin ($14).
As you can see, the "pulled" pork is actually thinly sliced (which I knew before ordering). You have your choice of sauce, but I stuck with the recommended Carolina Mustard Vinegar. Their meats are marinated, smoked, seasoned with a dry rub, and then sauced to-order. Personally, the pork was a little fatty for my taste. More bark would have added enough contrast in texture for me. But the sauce was quite wonderful with its acidic kick from the vinegar.

I took our server's suggestions on the side dishes. I went with the Three Bean Bourbon Baked Beans with red and black beans with Maker's Mark bourbon and house BBQ sauce, and the Greens. The greens are a mix of Collards, fresh garlic onion, and smoked turkey in a lightly spiced broth. The beans were not as good as Fat Casual's beans, but they were still very good. I also enjoyed the greens, and they reminded me of our trip to New Orleans.

The only real clunker of the meal? The corn muffin! It was absolutely awful. Dry, dry, dry, and very little flavor. We told our server about this at the end of the meal. Apparently later that week, they were still atrocious. Our same friends that we were dining with stopped in again for dinner, and the corn muffin was still the same. Epic fail.

Now, we were dining a little late that night (9:30PM), but that doesn't totally excuse the very slow service that we received. There were only a couple of other diners at the bar, and our food took forever to make its way out to our table. Getting the check was even worse. But I do appreciate that they are serving food until 1AM, making it a great late-night stop if you are in need of grub.

Overall, there were some winners in this meal, but I can't say that I am dying to go back. I'll still continue my hunt for good BBQ. I never did get that famous Fat Casual prime rib...sigh.

The Rib Cage Bar & Grill
2214 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH
216-321-7427

The Rib Cage on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Events

To help me get back in the Christmas spirit, today I want to share with you some upcoming holiday events taking place at local restaurants. There are plenty of special dinners and events taking place to help you celebrate the season.

Monday, December 17th- Ale, Cookies, and Ugly Christmas Sweaters. Join the YP Pantry of the Cleveland Foodbank to celebrate the holidays at Bier Market/Bar Cento. 6:00PM, free to attend. 15% of your food and drink bill will be donated to the Cleveland Foodbank. Plus, there will be a prize for the best ugly Christmas sweater! RSVP here. All are welcome to attend, enjoy some beers and cookies, and learn more about the Young Professionals group.

Monday, December 17th- Holiday Beer Dinner at Grovewood Tavern. 6:30PM. $48 + tax and gratuity. Reservation only, call 216-531-4900. Six-course menu, paired with different holiday brews. Recipe book available.

Thursday, December 20th- Your Last Meal at The Black Pig. Come celebate the Mayan calendar ending with a meal full of people's favorite "last meal" goodies. Six-course meal. 7:00PM. Call to reserve your spot at 216-862-7551.

Saturday, December 22nd- "A Christmas Story" Dinner at Touch Supper Club. Classic dishes from the movie, with wine pairings. Following the dinner, an Old Skool Club Kids Holiday Party. All proceeds will benefit the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland. Call 216-631-5200 for reservations.

Sunday, December 23rd- Classic Holiday Dinner at Light Bistro. Reservations available from 4:00PM - 8:30PM. $45. Chef Matthew presents his take on a traditional Dickensian holiday feast, straight from some of our favorite classic holiday movies. Reservations only, call 216-771-7130.

Monday, December 24th- $3 Christmas Ale all night long at the Tremont Tap House.

Thursday, December 27th- Champagne Dinner at Bistro 185. 6:30PM. Five courses. $100 + tax and gratuity. Call 216-481-9635 for reservations.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stink, Stank, Stunk- My Christmas Funk

So, usually I try to keep things pretty positive on this blog. Sharing my experiences dining out around town (luckily, most of them are good ones), and promoting local events and businesses that I believe in. However, I am so riled up right now over something that has happened that I just felt like sharing it with you.

The situation has made me question how some people can justify their actions. It has put me in a real GRINCH mood, because it's related to a Christmas present.
Normally, I procrastinate my Christmas shopping until the last minute. This year, I did what I always say that I am going to do-- get a head start on my shopping, and spread out my purchases. I started in October, which amazed even me. I selected a couple of fun, small items for family members, and placed some online orders.

One item was from Sur la Table, for my dad. I received an email receipt, and then notification of UPS tracking just a couple of days later. It was noted to arrive on November 5th. November 5th came and went, so I checked online and UPS tracked it as being "delivered". I went outside and dug through the leaf piles by our doors, nope. Nothing showed up at the house for days. So, I emailed and then called their Customer Service line.

Plan of action? File a claim with UPS and make them look into the delivery of my package. Uhh, ok, I guess. This took several weeks, and was only just resolved yesterday through UPS. Luckily, I have a great local delivery guy that took my claim very seriously. A different driver had been on my route that day, and sure enough-- he had delivered my package to the street behind us. Over a month ago!!!

Satellite tracking proved it. My neighbor received my package, which clearly was not addressed to you, you jerk, and they decided that instead of delivering it to our address themselves or contacting UPS, they would just KEEP it. You are now in possession of my property. UPS has knocked on their door twice now (he was convinced that they were home at least one of the times).

Meanwhile, Sur la Table...can't you just replace my $26 item instead of making this drag on for so long? I paid for it, and I don't have it. That's not great customer service, if you ask me. I finally received a call from them this afternoon, confirming that they are replacing the item and shipping it in time for the holiday. I'm still going to cross my fingers.

This whole ordeal did lead to some pretty evil dreams last night. Some of which may have included a flaming bag of dog poo on my neighbor's steps, me confronting them at their door with the scariest-looking of our three pooches with me, filing a police report, etc.

I mean, WHO DOES THAT?!?! I hope you enjoy my dad's Christmas gift, punk.



"You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You're a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk.
Mr. Grinch.

The three words that best describe you, are as follows, and I quote: Stink, Stank, Stunk!" - The Grinch Song

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dine and Dash Guide

Happy Monday, folks. Where did this weekend go? While we did enjoy a nice date night on Friday (more on that later), got some Christmas shopping done, and wrapped all of the presents while I ferociously cleaned the house as Hoarders played in the background (dead cat behind a dresser, eww)...I still feel like it flew by.

This is a busy time of year, so I wanted to share something with you from The Plain Dealer that you may not have caught last week. In the Friday Magazine, they had an article called "Dine and Dash Guide" with great dining deals at some area restaurants. Some of which, I had never even heard of. This article is perfect for my ongoing Dining Deals series (meals under $10), so I had to post this article. Thanks, The Plain Dealer!

Here is the link to the full article: http://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2012/12/dine_and_dash_guide_bars_resta.html

$5 burger and beers
$4.99 steaks
Tacos
Wings
Sushi
$9.99 Indian buffet (for dinner, yay! You know I'm heading here soon.)

...something for everyone. If you're dining on a budget, or just looking for a deal, this is a fun resource to check out. I'll be continuing the Dining Deals series into 2013, so always keep your eye out on my posts.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Marotta's

I knocked another restaurant off of my 2012 "To Dine" list-- Marotta's in Cleveland Heights. Located on Lee Road, it's funny--because I've dined at restaurants on either side of this small Italian place without ever realizing that it was there.

When you walk in, you're immediately wrapped in a dark, cozy, and warm atmosphere. Very romantic, or a great spot to be able to catch up over intimate conversation with friends. However, it did make it difficult to read the menu or take pictures of our meal.
The menu isn't very large, but they have a nice assortment of appetizers, salads, pastas, entrees, and their famous pizza. Be warned-- the menu online isn't accurate. I had my heart set on a pasta dish packed with veggies in a lemon cream sauce, but sadly it is no longer offered.

My lovely dining companion, Crystal, and I both decided on the pasta special of the night-- Butternut Squash Ravioli with seasonal vegetables in a Prosecco and brown butter sauce.
It was a sizable portion, and I took some home for lunch the next day. It included a house salad with my choice of dressing (I went with Creamy Garlic), and crusty Italian bread. The salad was just your average boring salad, but the bread was very good. Overall, I liked the ravioli dish but I didn't love it. It was missing "something" that I couldn't put my finger on. I also took a Tiramisu to-go for "R" (it's one of his favorites), and was disappointed in the size of the portion when I got home and he opened it up. For two glasses of wine, two entrees, and one dessert-- the bill came to $105. I felt that was a little pricey, but we've experienced similar over-pricing in that area.

I do have to say that the staff was amazing. They were always attentive, the timing of our food was perfect, and they really didn't seem to care when we sat there chatting for over three hours ("R" thought that I had been kidnapped). It is worth noting that they don't accept reservations.

I hear that their pizza is quite good, but I just wasn't in the mood for pizza that night. So, if you do decide to go, then maybe give that a try. For this west-sider, I don't think that I'll make the drive back over there for Marotta's. But it was fun to check it out, and to knock another restaurant off the list that my readers selected for me this year.

Want to help me choose the 2013 list of ten restaurants to dine at? Head on over to this blog post, and leave me a comment with your suggestions. I'll pick ten, and announce them in January!

Marotta's
2289 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
216-932-9264

Marotta's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Time to Pick 2013 "To Dine"

It's hard to believe, but December is here and this year is coming to a close. While it didn't turn out quite how I had planned, this year was still pretty good to me. I continued to receive amazing support from "R", family, and friends as my health issue continues (never-ending story), I met new friends, traveled, welcomed my friend's beautiful little girl into the world, and of course--enjoyed some wonderful meals along the way. 2012 may not have been all that I had hoped it would be, but 2013 will be...I can feel it.

Even though I still have three restaurants left on my 2012 "To Dine" list, it's time to look ahead. Help me select my Top Ten Restaurants to make the 2013 "To Dine" list! I enjoyed having my readers make the suggestions last year, and it's been great checking them all out. So, we're going to continue that theme.

Tell me about some of your favorite spots that simply don't get the recognition that they deserve. That hole-in-the-wall bar with an outstanding burger, the best kept secret in AsiaTown, a suburb hot spot that is worth the drive--I want to hear about them! Ten will make the list, and I'll reveal them at the start of the new year.

What restaurant(s) do you think should make my 2013 list?