Saturday, August 31, 2013

Spice Kitchen & Bar

Ugh, I don't want to write this blog post. I've been dreading it for a while now. But, I'm all about honestly sharing my dining experiences and opinions. You probably won't agree with this one, but I have to share it anyway.

I've been a big fan of Chef Ben Bebenroth for a long time now. His food is phenomenal, and he is one of the nicest and most genuine chefs that I've met in Cleveland. He takes his farm-to-table approach literally, and so much of the food that you enjoy from him comes straight from a local farm (often, his own). When they took his catering business to a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Spice Kitchen & Bar, in the Gordon Square Arts District, I was thrilled. I had also had nothing but outstanding food from his Executive Chef, Brandon Walukas. I had a sneak peek of the space during a friend's private party before they opened, and I loved the layout and decorative touches. I also had the opportunity to sample some of their food during a charity event shortly after their opening. We enjoyed their now-famous Mushroom Beignets ($7), an okay flatbread, and a very disappointing dry and bland cornbread. I chalked it up to opening jitters.

Somehow, it took us over a year to return. Not really sure how that happened, but time slipped away and I continued to hear rave reviews about the restaurant.
Well, we finally made it back in for dinner. I am still in love with the vibe and décor, our server was fantastic, and our food was very good. But....I think it's overpriced for what you get. Now, before you yell at me, I understand that using local and high-quality product is more expensive. I have no problem paying for this, and it's worth every penny to support local and use quality ingredients. I just feel that the prices were a tad too high at this particular restaurant.

We started with the Beef Carpaccio ($12).
It was probably one of the better versions that I've had, but there wasn't a whole lot there for $12 and it was served with only three small pieces of toasted bread. Still, it was very good and I do recommend it.

I went with the Pan-Seared Walleye with rice fritters, spring beans, and a scallion mojo ($24).
Again, this dish was clearly made with fresh and quality products. However, it wasn't one of my favorite things that I've had from this chef, and I felt that the portion was very small for the price. It was kind of disappointing. Knock a couple of bucks off, and maybe I wouldn't have felt this way.

Ok, there, I said it. I'm not as in love with Spice Kitchen & Bar as I thought that I would be. That's even hard to type. I so want to love it.

It's not that I won't return, but this will probably be reserved for a special night out when we don't mind splurging a bit more. The menu changes often, and seasonally uses product that is at its best. It certainly should be towards the top of your list for a treat on a special occasion.

Thoughts?

Spice Kitchen & Bar
5800 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Parkview Nite Club

First, let's get to the good stuff...picking a winner of the two General Admission tickets to the Taste of the Browns event. Thank you to all that entered the giveaway! Using random.org, the winner is.....#37- Alexa from Cleveland's a Plum. Congratulations! Email me by Monday to claim your tickets, or a new winner will be selected. Didn't win? It's not too late to purchase tickets to this event to benefit the Cleveland Foodbank on September 9th. This is one event that you shouldn't miss.

Now, on to some food....

A Sunday breakfast craving led "R" and I to Parkview Nite Club recently.
They are open for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, and their tagline is "A Cool Place for Shady People." I like it. The exterior of the building is very unassuming, and the place is a complete dive bar inside as well. "R" immediately stated that we don't dine in places like this often enough. I agree. Plenty of hole-in-the-wall bars and dive restaurants are serving up good, and interesting, food.

Their brunch menu has a lot of unique items, like Eggs Wellington, Steak Oscar, Krabby Crepe, and Frittatas. "R" couldn't resist the Hash Lafayette with sautéed andouille sausage, peppers, and onions with hash browns and topped with two poached eggs and a Creole mustard sauce ($8). Only complaint? The sausage was sliced cased meat again. What's with that lately? Give me crumbled sausage any day.

Several of their brunch items are topped with a champagne cream sauce, so I was drawn to picking one of those dishes to try it. I selected the Krab and Asparagus Scrambler with scrambled eggs, krabmeat and asparagus, and topped with champagne cream sauce on an English muffin ($8.50). I added cheese.
I missed the line on the menu that informed us that "All Brunch items are served with Hash Browns" and they were just overkill with this large portion of scrambler. I barely touched them. Other than the fact that it is fake crab, the dish was overall tasty. It didn't earn itself a spot on my favorite brunch locations, but based on our first experience, I would certainly go back. The portions are also huge for the price point.

The atmosphere was casual and fun, family-friendly, and they made a good Bloody Mary. Parking was free on the street, and there is very little around there so finding a spot was no problem. It's just North of Detroit Avenue. It also looks like they have nightly specials, and live music often.

Has anyone been to their famous Reggae Brunch event that is held annually? I want to go!

Any other "dive" bars with good food that we should check out?

Parkview Nite Club
1261 West 58th Street
Cleveland, OH 44102

Parkview Nite Club on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Recipe: Cilantro-Lime Marinated Steaks

"R" and I both absolutely love cilantro and lime, so when we saw a recipe in the June 2012 issue of Cuisine at Home for Cilantro-Lime Marinated Steaks, we knew that we had to try it.

Cilantro-Lime Marinated Steaks (makes 4 servings, Total Cook Time: 20 minutes plus marinating)

2 cups packed fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 cloves of garlic
4 scallions, chopped
1 Serrano chile, seeded if desired, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 New York strip steaks (1-inch thick, 10-12 oz. each)

1. Process cilantro, lime juice, oil, garlic, scallions, serrano, and salt in a food processor until smooth; reserve 1/2 cup marinade for the serving sauce. Place steaks in a large dish (use glass, if possible) and pour remaining marinade over the top. Turn steaks to coat both sides with marinade. Cover dish with plastic wrap and chill for 2-3 hours, flipping once.
2. Preheat grill to medium-high, brush grill grate with oil.
3. Wipe the marinade from the steaks to keep charring to a minimum.
4. Grill steaks, covered, 2-3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks from the grill to a platter, tented with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve steaks with reserved sauce.
Now, "R" and I cut this recipe in half and only made one strip steak to share. We also ended up topping it with more sauce after I had snapped a picture. When we had tasted the marinade on its own, it was quite punchy and tart from the lime juice. The steak hadn't really absorbed that much during marinating time, so for our personal taste we could stand to top it with more sauce for additional flavor. I think this sauce would also be great on fish or chicken, but you must love cilantro and lime!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Taste of the Browns Giveaway

Happy Monday! Why is it a happy start to the week? For me, it's because I get to meet Bethenny Frankel this evening. There are very few celebrities that I "geek out" over, but she's one of them. She's come a long way since her Real Housewives days, and her success as a businesswoman, openness about her struggles in relationships, and blunt sarcastic sense of humor have me awestruck. Now, the only questions is...What does one wear to meet Bethenny?!??!

So, because I'm having a fabulous day...let's host a fabulous ticket giveaway that will make your Monday brighter as well. I'm talking about Taste of the Browns to benefit the Cleveland Foodbank. It's coming up on Monday, September 9th (the day after the Browns' home opener), and you have a chance to win two general admission tickets.

It's the 15th anniversary of the event, so it promises to be an extra special night out. The event features samples from some of our area's best chefs, including: AMP 150, B-Spot, Blue Point Grille, Deagan's, Fahrenheit, Georgetown, Greenhouse Tavern, Hodge's, Lago, Light Bistro, Momocho, Piew W, XO Steaks, and the Zack Bruell Restaurants.
There is also beer and wine included with your ticket, and the chance to bid on some great auction packages. You can meet and mingle with current and former Browns players, and enjoy live music while you stroll through the event. It's held at Browns Stadium FirstEnergy Stadium, and you get an amazing view of downtown at this event.
 
A General Admission ticket is $175, and a VIP ticket is $250. All proceeds benefit the Cleveland Foodbank, and for every $1 donated, they can provide enough food for 4 nutritious meals in a local hunger center. Tickets are still available, but don't wait because this event typically sells out.
 
One lucky reader will receive two General Admission tickets! Just leave me a comment below, telling me which of the participating restaurants you'd like to try first. If you'd like additional entries, here are a few ways:
 
1. Comment below, telling me which participating restaurant you want to try first.
2. Tweet "I want @BiteBuff to send me to the #TasteoftheBrowns! www.bitebuff.com"
3. "Like" my blog's page on Facebook, and "Like" the Cleveland Foodbank on Facebook
 
You can tweet once a day for more entries, until the contest ends. Make sure that you leave a comment for each entry. I will use random.org to select a winner on Thursday, August 29th.

Good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with two General Admission tickets to give away, and two VIP passes for myself in exchange for this post. I am also a YP Pantry Council member for the Cleveland Foodbank, and a former employee. I choose to support this organization, and believe in their mission. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Washington Street Diner

Two weekends ago, "R" and I had some errands to run on the east side. So, we decided to try and find a breakfast spot close to where we needed to be. With some help from Urbanspoon, we stumbled upon the Washington Street Diner in Chagrin Falls.

It was your typical greasy diner, located in a small strip of businesses, with a shabby interior and the delicious smells of breakfast. Unless we're dining at a fancier brunch restaurant, I'm so boring and just order the same thing at every diner. Two eggs, over-medium, with wheat toast and bacon. Sometimes I'll splurge on hash browns or homefries. My meal was perfectly acceptable, and I really liked their multi-grain toast.

"R" had a harder time choosing, and several of the more interesting breakfast creations sounded good. He finally decided on the Breakfast Enchilada.
It was only okay. It was missing the sour cream that the menu listed as one of the ingredients, and the chorizo was sliced into large pieces from a cased sausage. I think "R" was a little disappointed, and from the looks of it--- I didn't even bother with a bite.

I love a good, greasy, dive diner...but this one just isn't worth returning to for us.

Washington Street Diner
8233 Washington St
Chagrin Falls, OH 44023

Washington Street Diner on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Brunch in Cleveland

This post has been waiting to come. It's a topic that is discussed almost every weekend, and I've often thought about putting together a list for my readers. Brunch on Sunday is a lot easier to find, so here's a list of some known Saturday brunch spots in the Cleveland area. Please feel free to add any that I missed in the comments below.

Saturday Brunch:
Blue Door Café
BonBon Pastry and Café
Fat Cats
fire food and drink
Flying Fig
Grumpy’s Café
Johnny Mango World Café & Bar
Le Petit Triangle Café
Lucky’s Café
Press Wine Bar
Stonetown
Sweet Melissa
The Inn on Coventry
Town Hall
Washington Place Bistro
West Side Market Café
XYZ the Tavern

Now, this list is not really intended to include restaurants that serve breakfast every day (a couple slipped in) or your neighborhood diner. We have plenty of those around as well! I, for one, am a lover of all things breakfast for my first meal of the day. So, I'm always on the hunt for weekend brunch. I hope that this list helps!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Recipe: Chicken Riggies

I think my blog gives out the impression that "R" and I don't cook at home, which is not true. Okay, well, maybe "R" cooks at home and I watch, but you get my point. I want to start sharing some of this with you. I'll be posting recipes that we've made at home, and I hope that you enjoy them. First up? A nod to my home state of NY.

Chicken Riggies (From Wikipedia):
Chicken riggies or Utica riggies is an Italian-American pasta dish native to the Utica-Rome area of New York State. It is a pasta-based dish usually consisting of chicken, rigatoni and hot or sweet peppers in a spicy cream and tomato sauce.
It was always a go-to dish when my family was dining at Italian restaurants, and "R" and I recently found a recipe in Light & Healthy 2012. We made it on Sunday, as our FIRST official meal in our new kitchen.

Chicken Riggies (serves 6)

4 (6 oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of all visible fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons jarred sliced hot cherry peppers, chopped fine, plus 2 tablespoons cherry pepper brine
2 tablespoons water
Salt and Pepper
10 ounces of white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces (we only used 1)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1 lb rigatoni
1 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1/2 cup)

1. Combine chicken, 1 tablespoon cherry pepper brine, 2 tablespoons water, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a zipper-lock bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to an hour.
2. Combine mushrooms, bell peppers, and 1 teaspoon oil in Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium, and continue to cook until well-browned, 8 to 10 minutes longer (Note: You'll think you're burning them, but it's okay.).
Transfer vegetables to medium bowl and set aside.
3. Add onion and remaining 1 teaspoon oil to empty pot. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in cherry peppers, garlic, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
4. Whisk cornstarch into half-and-half, then whisk into pot along with tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
Stir in chicken and reserved vegetables, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Off heat, add olives and remaining cherry pepper brine, cover to keep warm.
5. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water (We forgot this step!), then drain pasta and return it to the pot. Add sauce and Pecorino Romano cheese to pasta and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Before serving, add reserved cooking water as necessary to adjust consistency.

There you have it, folks. Our first meal prepared in our new kitchen.
I'm not usually a fan of leftovers, but this dish reheats well and we've both been enjoying it for days. It brought back great memories of Chicken Riggies in NY, and "R" deemed it tasty enough to put on our rotation of recipes.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

El Tolteca Mexican Grill

I feel very loyal to my favorite local Mexican restaurant. After trying a few others, I've determined that Cozumel in Independence is where I want to eat if I'm craving Mexican food. That doesn't mean that I won't try other restaurants...which led "R" and I to trying El Tolteca Mexican Grill in Brooklyn recently.

It's conveniently located in the same plaza as one of the Giant Eagle stores that we shop at, and it's just a short drive down the street from the Ridge Park Square shopping plaza. We're in that area running errands often, so a good non-chain restaurant option would be perfect for us. Unfortunately, this was my first, and last, visit to this restaurant.

The atmosphere is like any other American-Mexican restaurant around. Plenty of booth and table seating, bright colors, and cheesy decorations. We were seated and waited upon right away, and service was always attentive and speedy. It really just came down to the food, which was some of the worst Mexican that I've had around here.

I ordered the NO. 7 Combination Platter ($6.25) with one enchilada, chile relleno, Mexican rice and fried beans.
The ground beef in the enchilada was dry and bland, and the sauce was pretty standard. The rice and beans were fine, but should they be the best thing on the plate? No. The real kicker was the chili relleno, which is a dish that I typically love. This version was a tiny slab of undercooked green pepper, the same bland and dry ground beef, and it was just a huge disappointment. Where is my roasted pepper that is stuffed with delicious meat and cheese before being battered in egg and deep fried? This was a far cry from what a traditional chili relleno is supposed to be, and a terrible version at that. That poor excuse for a pepper is reason alone for me not to return.

So, I've been to Cozumel, Jalapenos, and Don Ramon's (gave me food poisoning). This list does not include burrito restaurants like Chili Peppers and Ohio City Burrito. Any other Mexican restaurants that I should try locally?

El Tolteca Mexican Grill
7106 Biddulph Road
Brooklyn, OH 44144
 
El Tolteca Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dinner Club at District

Last night, the monthly outing of the @CLEDinnerClub took us to the newly opened District in Downtown Cleveland. In the heart of the theater district, it's trying to appeal to not only the diners out to catch a bite before a show, but to drawn in diners with their Contemporary American cuisine with a Mediterranean soul, European influence, and local focus. Their dinner menu features a small section of soups, salads, and appetizers, and then a selection of about a dozen entrees. They are also open for lunch.

Unfortunately, the dishes that we had last night aren't on the regular menu. Sous Chef Jessica Ernande had crafted a special menu for our group, but I can confidently say that their approach to food and her execution will bring me back for a return visit. Everything was quite good, and one of the better @CLEDinnerClub events that I've been to.

First course: Bread Pudding with heirloom tomatoes, boursin cheese, and mixed field greens.
I don't see this dish listed on their lunch or dinner menus featured online right now, but apparently this is a dish that they are becoming known for. The bread pudding was delicious, and I also really loved the punchy citrus dressing on the greens.

Intermezzo: A small bite of tomato, basil, mozzarella, and balsamic. Such a perfect summer bite, and one of my favorite salads in the warmer months.
Second Course: Risotto with Parmesan Reggiano, red wine, butter, and local mushrooms.
This dish was rich and heavy, and probably my least favorite of the evening. Maybe only because it was so rich, and there was a sizable portion of it? However, it was a good risotto and a favorite of many others in the group.
 
Third Course: Cape Cod-North Shore Scallops that were pan-seared with a roasted garlic beurre blanc, and served with rice pilaf.
Now, this was probably my favorite course. That beurre blanc sauce was insanely good, and it should make its way onto the menu immediately.

Fourth Course: Panna Cotta that was whipped with vanilla and served with glazed nectarines.
It was a perfect ending to a wonderful meal. The vanilla was faint, so the dessert wasn't overly sweet, and the caramel and grilled nectarines were fantastic.

From start (greeting us with a glass of red wine) to finish, this dining experience was special. As usual, the dinner club rate was $40 for all of this fantastic food. Service was outstanding throughout the meal (thank you, TJ!). I'm not in love with the space. It needs more character and some artwork on the walls, and parking can be tricky in that area, but food and service speak for themselves and I can't wait to go back. Luckily, I already had a girls' night planned for September there. See you soon, District!

District
1350 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
(216) 858-1000

Monday, August 19, 2013

West Point Market

Thank you to everyone that entered the Chefs Unbridled ticket giveaway last week. To kick this Monday off with a bang, let's select a winner. Using random.org, the winner is...#4- Dave from Live to Cook at Home. Congratulations! Email by 8AM tomorrow to claim your tickets, or another winner will be drawn. If you didn't win, tickets are still on sale through tomorrow. To order tickets, contact Maureen Foster at (440) 708-0013, ext. 123 or mfoster@fieldstonefarmtrc.com.

On to the post for the day...

Have you been to West Point Market in Akron? Why did it take me to long to get there? It was an impromptu stop after our anniversary excursion out to the Blue Door Café. We were greeted by an expansive wine collection, and then...the cheese.
This is only one of three cheese cases in the section. For a cheese fanatic, it was both heaven and hell. So many delicious options, but how do you choose? We picked up four cheeses, including one of the best Goudas that I've ever had, and a Mango Ginger Stilton.

Then came the olive bar.
And then we wandered through aisles upon aisles of dry goods, fresh produce, meats, dairy, and several other areas of bulk goods ("R" particularly loved the candy counter) and prepared foods.
We didn't pick up any of their prepared foods, but visually they looked better than what I've seen at Heinen's and Whole Foods in many cases.

They had a great selection of sauces, dips, spices, marinades, salsas, and more. We found some interesting sauces to try in the kitchen later, and picked up a fig spread to have with our cheeses that reminded me of the fantastic one at L'Albatros.

I have to say, I was really impressed and kind of sorry that I hadn't been there before.

West Point Market
1711 West Market Street
Akron, OH 44313
(330) 864-2151

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Grilled Corn

Cooking out this weekend? Why not throw some corn on the cob on the grill? It's one of my favorite summer foods, and we just don't eat it enough because "R" hates getting the little pieces stuck in his teeth. I've even bought him one of those silly corn shavers to entice him into eating it more. He's used it once.

But, I was able to convince him last week to pick up some corn on the cob from Szalay's Farm. We were grilling out that night, and it was a perfect compliment to what we were already planning. Plus, I wanted to try a grilling technique that my mom had been raving about.

Cuisine at Home magazine is our favorite recipe subscription, and I purchased a subscription for my mom a while back. Now, she's hooked as well. We've never made a bad dish from this magazine. There isn't much clutter or ads in the magazine, which we love. Just great (and mostly easy) recipes, and some solid techniques and tips thrown in there. My mom had found one tip for grilling corn on the cob, and they've been using this technique all summer long. It was our turn to give it a try.

1. Husk the corn.
2. Wrap each corn on the cob in tin foil, adding three ice cubes to each packet, and wrap it with three layers. (Add seasoning if you'd like, but it mostly steams off. We also substituted a teaspoon of butter for one of the ice cubes in each packet.)
3. Grill for 10-12 minutes.
I have to say, it came out great! It was much quicker than some other methods that we've used. "R" said that he'd like to use this method, grilling it for 8-10 minutes, and then take them out of the foil and place them directly on the grill to give it some more smokiness.

What's your method of grilling corn on the cob?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Humble Wine Bar

On Wednesday evening, "R" and I attended the Friends and Family Night at Humble Wine Bar in Lakewood. They officially opened their doors for business yesterday, and I personally feel that this is a great addition to the neighborhood.
Owned by Dan Deagan of Deagan's Kitchen & Bar, just a block down the street, this space is the yin to Deagan's yang. As Deagan's is cozy with dark woods and color scheme, Humble Wine Bar is bright, airy, stark white, and full of light. Garage doors open up to the patio, white tile surrounds the gorgeous pizza oven and walls, and the restaurant is full of light wood tones. There is such attention to detail in this new space, and some really creative touches. I absolutely fell in love with the wine bottle chandeliers.
For the soft opening party, servers were wandering through with an assortment of pizzas and a meat/cheese board. We tried a few different slices, but my favorites were the Mushroom and the Chicken Pesto. We stayed away from the classic Margherita, as we wanted to try the more unusual ones (like Clam), and I did not get to try the Lardo. The strawberry dessert pizza was also very good, but it wasn't listed on the menu that we saw. Maybe on a separate dessert menu?

They have a good wine list, with reasonable prices by the bottle. We noticed one of our go-to bottles at a much lower price than we've seen at other restaurants. Deagan's is known for their craft beer selection, and that did spill over into the Humble Wine Bar drink list. The list is shorter, but they have selected some really good ones. I also heard a rumor that there will be a "secret beer list" that you can request from your server. Shhhh...

I decided to try two of their signature cocktails while we were there. I first had the White Sangria. It stated that peach schnapps was in there, but there was no peach flavor at all. Maybe it needs a heavier hand, because I think that would taste delicious in a sangria! Then, I had the Bee's Knees. I'm not usually a gin drinker, but this cocktail was light and refreshing with only a hint of gin flavor.
 
The menu is limited to a variety of pizzas, a few small plates and antipasti, cured meats and cheeses, and salads. I think too often restaurants try to bulk up their menu to include too many offerings. Simplify it, do it really well, and you'll succeed. I think Humble Wine Bar may just have it right.

My only real complaint? The dining room is mostly high top tables and bar seating, and the chairs/tables are just not made for short people. At 5'3", my feet couldn't reach the bar on the chair, and there was no ledge or foot rest on the tables or at the bar. After sitting there for a while, my legs just started to hurt from the dangling. A common problem. It's also really, really loud in there right now. I hope that some sound proofing elements will be added quickly. Tin, concrete, tile...it all leads to an elevated sound level when the restaurant is full.

Personally, I can't wait to grab a few friends, a bottle of wine (or two), some pizzas, and settle in for a fun night out.

Humble Wine Bar
15400 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107
216-767-5775

Thursday, August 15, 2013

2013 Chefs Unbridled

The 2013 Chefs Unbridled event, presented by The Jim Thome Family, is a tasting dinner event benefiting the Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center.
About Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center
Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center (located in Bainbridge) is one of the largest therapeutic riding centers in the country, serving 700 students annually (from preschoolers to veterans). Through a special partnership with horses, Fieldstone offers programs designed by professionals to foster personal growth and individual achievement for people with disabilities.

Chefs Unbridled is their annual fundraiser, and guests can enjoy food from some fantastic participating chefs, live music, carriage rides throughout the Gates Mills Village, as well as new event features like on-site food trucks serving cupcakes and microbrews.
Tickets start at $125 per person ($75 tax-deductible). To order tickets, contact Maureen Foster at (440) 708-0013, ext. 123 or mfoster@fieldstonefarmtrc.com. RSVP date for tickets is August 20.

The chef lineup is quite impressive, featuring food from:
- Chris Hodgson of HODGES
- Jeff Jarrett of AMP 150
- Melissa Khoury of Washington Place Bistro & Inn
- Scott Kuhn, Restaurateur/Chef of Driftwood Restaurant Group
- Paul Minnillo of Flour
- Matt Mytro of Flour
- Jonathon Sawyer of The Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat
Date:     Saturday, September 7, 2013
Time:    6:30 – 9:30 pm – cocktails and tasting dinner
Place:   Chagrin Valley Hunt Club Polo Field (7620 Old Mill Road, Gates Mills, OH 44040)

One lucky reader will win two tickets to this event! Just leave me a comment on this blog post for entry, telling me which of the participating chefs you'd sample first. This list makes it hard to choose, I know. Personally, I'd head straight to AMP 150's table. Chef Jeff is always cooking up something great at tasting events. I will select a winner, using random.org, on Monday, August 19th.

Good luck.

Disclosure: I was provided with two media passes for myself, and two tickets to give away to a reader in exchange for this post. All images were provided by Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center. All opinions stated are 100% my own. I only accept partnerships with local charities that I believe in.

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 2013

Over one-thousand creative minds are set to descend upon Cleveland for three days in August to see 20 speakers, 20 designers, and over 40 bands at the Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 2013Will you be one of them?

Now in its fourth year, WMC Fest is the premier art, design, and music event in the Midwest. Founded by the Cleveland based creative agency Go Media designer and partner Jeff Finley, Weapons of Mass Creation Fest inspires, motivates and celebrates those who live to create.

Running August 16th through 18th, this year’s Weapons of Mass Creation Fest will feature over 70 performances, and will include inspiring talks on topics such as graphic design, art, entrepreneurship, leadership, productivity and creativity.  Jaw-dropping art and design shows will highlight both local and regional talent including album art, t-shirt design, typography, poster art, toy design, fashion design and illustration. Over 40 bands will hit WMC’s intimate stages, and attendees will also be treated to epic breakdancing battles from boys and girls from all around the country.

Attendees can look forward to speeches from Jon Contino, Brandon Rike, Kern and Burn and These are Things as well as the design work from Derek Hess, Strawberry Luna, Derrick Castle and Lauren Marx. 

Special events will excite, including workshops, a live Adventures in Design podcast, and an artists battle hosted by a DJ and two MCs, called Ink Wars, sponsored by Adobe.  

Those interested in attending WMC Fest are encouraged to purchase tickets online before they sell out! The Standard 3-Day Pass is $75, and there are still tickets available. You can also purchase Day of Show Passes: Friday Mixer Party is $10, and the Single Day Pass is $35. The event takes place in the heart of the Gordon Square Arts District.

Will you be checking it out?

Disclosure: I was asked to help promote WMC Fest. No compensation or passes were provided in exchange for this post. I simply enjoy sharing upcoming events in Cleveland that you may be interested in. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Chicago Takeover: The Food- An Epic Progressive Meal

This is the last of my Chicago posts, and we're going out with a bang. Strap in, because we're going on a ride.

Michelle and I had asked our readers to share Chicago dining suggestions with us. You all came up with some great ideas, but one seemed to really stand out--- The Purple Pig. Unfortunately, it is incredibly popular and they don't accept reservations. Even with us dining there on a Sunday, we anticipated a long wait. So we decided to be strategic about our evening, and to do a little progressive meal with some small plates and cocktails before arriving at The Purple Pig for our wait.

First up? Bravo's Top Chef Fabio Viviani's Siena Tavern. We may have been trying to get a peek at swoon-worthy celebrity chef Fabio, but sadly he wasn't there. Luckily, the food, drinks, and atmosphere more than made up for it!
We both really liked the feel of the restaurant. We plopped ourselves at the bar, and it was a perfect place for a drink and small bite.
I had a No. 1 cocktail, which was light with a hint of tartness ($12).
After discussing a couple of options with the bartender, Michelle and I decided to share an order of the Coccoli, which is crispy dough with stracchinco cheese, prosciutto, and truffle honey ($14).
Apparently, people come from all over just to try this dish. It's one of their signature items, and I can see why. It was the best thing that I ate the entire time that we were in Chicago, and we had some pretty good meals! The intent is that you break open the fluffy dough, and insert the small wrap of prosciutto and cheese, soak up some honey and pesto, and you're ready to go. Do NOT miss this dish if dining at Siena Tavern!

It was just a quick walk down a few blocks to our next stop--- Giuliana and Bill Rancic's RPM. In case you couldn't tell, we were on a brief celebrity tour. Sadly, even though we were advised of our rights when entering...
...there was no filming of their TV show going on, and no celeb sightings. Again, we were fortunate that the food and atmosphere didn't disappoint. It was a bit darker and more "swanky" feeling inside than Siena Tavern. We found two spots at the bar, and settled in for another drink and two small plates. I stuck with my cocktails, and ordered a Heart of Another at this stop.

We couldn't be in an Italian restaurant and not order Italian food, so we shared an order of the Fried Olives ($5)
 and the Maine Lobster Ravioli- spinach pasta with lemon and chili ($15).
Maybe not remarkable, but it was certainly good and a bit unusual with the chili, lemon, and basil combination.

Now, it was time to move on to our last and final stop---The Purple Pig.
Their tagline is "Cheese, Wine, and Swine", so we knew that this restaurant was right up our alley. Those are three of my favorite things in life! We were correct in assuming that it would be a wait (an hour and a half, to be exact), but our bellies weren't rumbling and we were working on a nice buzz, so we happily parked ourselves on a bench in the outdoor patio waiting area. Here's the great thing about this restaurant...they have a dedicated server that takes drink orders while you wait. Genius. It kept us content while we waited, and they easily moved it over to our bill at the table.

Once we did get seated on the covered outdoor area, it was hard to choose from the menu. Too many small plates sounded so good. This restaurant is designed for you to mix and match small plates to create a meal, so there are actually no entrees on the menu. We decided on a Pork Neck Bone Rillette and Mostarda from the Smears sections (I love the word smear.), three cheeses, and the highly recommended Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with mashed potatoes.
This pork shoulder was the best pork that I've ever had in my life. Michelle was quickly searching "milk braising" online. Again, do NOT miss this dish if you're dining at The Purple Pig. We both also really enjoyed the chilled rillette spread. Overall, it was a fantastic meal and reasonably priced for the quality. The only thing that I felt was a tad pricey was the cheese board. The build-your-own cheese plate at Cleveland's L'Albatros is cheaper, and better.

So, it was a memorable evening, filled with amazing eats and great company. I had a blast exploring these restaurants, and I'd go back to every single one of them. You never know with celebrity-owned restaurants, but the first two stops just didn't disappoint. The Purple Pig was by far my favorite, but all three were winners. This Twitter post sums up our meal accurately...
Thanks for a great time, Chicago, and some amazing meals. This Cleveland foodie is hooked, and I'm already planning my return visit. If Cleveland is my love, can Chicago be my mistress? What spots shouldn't I miss when we go back?


Siena Tavern
51 West Kinzie Street
Chicago, IL

RPM Italian
52 West Illinois Street
Chicago, IL

The Purple Pig
500 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blue Door Cafe

As part of our anniversary celebration, "R" and I took a "staycation" day on Friday to just enjoy a day off together. The only goal? Have a fun lunch together and explore someplace new. We woke up with no plans, but somehow the Blue Door Café and Bakery popped into my head. It's on the 2013 "To Dine" list, and I've been meaning to get there all year.

We decided to drive out to Cuyahoga Falls for the day, and to start with a late breakfast at Blue Door. When we arrived, I couldn't see any signage for the restaurant. But, you knew that you were there from the distinctive blue door.
So cute, right?!

The menu isn't huge, but they do offer daily specials and it was hard to select what we wanted from the tempting descriptions. I was drawn to the Croissant Monsieur ($10), and I added an egg.
It was basically a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich, but oh so good. That flaky croissant was clearly the star. The fruit was also very fresh, and much better than what you typically receive for a side of fruit.

We couldn't resist a stop at the bakery counter as we checked out.
My mouth was drooling instantly. "R" and I purchased a ham and cheese croissant and a cinnamon pastry. We split them later as a pre-Twilight at the Zoo snack, and they were both heavenly.

The rest of the day led us to bumming around that area, playing mini-golf, and a stop at West Point Market in Akron. Have you ever been there? More on that later!

Then we headed home to get ready for one of our favorite summer events- Twilight at the Zoo. This is our fifth year going, but the first for rain. The evening started out so nicely...
Oh hey, there's a band, and a polar bear!
Then, this started to happen...
...and we ended up like this...
I'd like to pretend that we just partied in the rain and stayed all night, but we did not. We toughed it out for a while, but most of the bands had to pack up, and the covered areas were packed and it was tough to find space to camp out. We eventually found a prop to sit on outside of Australia that had easy access to a wine station and the bathrooms, but after about two hours of just complete downpours, we bailed and got a cab home. There's always next year!

Blue Door Café and Bakery
1970 State Road
Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223
330-926-9774

The Blue Door Cafe & Bakery on Urbanspoon