Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Crop Rocks

We are really loving spending time down in The Flats since all of the restaurants and bars have been popping up over the last year. There are still a couple of places that we haven't been yet, but we did get to cross two off the other night with friends.

For pre-dinner drinks, we met at Beerhead Bar + Eatery. With six locations spread across Illinois, Ohio, NY, and Pennsylvania, it is a chain, but one that I think will be welcomed in Cleveland, and do well in that area. They are offering 50 beers on tap and 400+ in bottles. Beer is certainly the focus here, but they do have wine and cocktail offerings. Just don't ask them to make a "mock"tail (not for me!), because you'll thrown them for a loop and you'll get a skunky-tasting non-alcoholic beer instead. With so many dining options and great places to grab wine and cocktails in that area now, it's nice to have a craft beer option. They are serving some small plate food and pizzas too, and I've heard that the pizza is good. We'll be back.

We had dinner reservations at the new Crop Rocks restaurant from the folks behind Crop Bistro and Crop Kitchen. They also opened up Crop Sticks right next door to Crop Rocks.
This casual bar setting highlights 50 years worth of Cleveland music history and 15,000 vinyl records. The menu is "American Comfort Food," and plenty of the dishes are served right on metal trays. The vibe is fun, laid-back and will be great during the warmer months when they open up the garage door-style walls behind the main bar overlooking the river.

I went with the Kung-Fu Fighting ($13) with Korean BBQ meatloaf, kim chi, and sriracha aioli on a toasted bun. Yes, almost every dish is named after a musical reference.
The sandwich contents were a bit mushy and I made quite a mess of myself as I ate half of it, but it had good flavor. I'd probably order other items before revisiting this one though.

With the sandwiches, french fries are served, but for a small up-charge you can substitute a side of gravy cheese fries, shrapnel fries, slaw, or a salad. Pictured above are the gravy and cheese fries, and they were outstanding. The gravy was very flavorful, and they didn't overdo the quantity of gravy on on the fries. You got the flavor of it without the fries turning to complete wet mush.

Mr. H and our friends were happy with their food as well. We'll revisit this one. I also popped my head into Crop Sticks (because the bathroom hallway connects both restaurants). This small Asian bistro is more formal than its sister restaurant next door. Something for everyone.

Then, we headed to Punch Bowl Social where I embarrassed myself on the bowling lanes, but we had a good laugh. Between pre-dinner drink destinations, several restaurants, and entertainment like Punch Bowl and Big Bang (dueling piano bar), you can really make a night of it in The Flats now.

Crop Rocks
1075 Old River Road
Cleveland, OH 44113

Monday, December 28, 2015

Campus Grille- Last 2015 Restaurant!

You guys...I did it! I just squeaked by, and finally got to the last restaurant on the 2015 To Dine Challenge list just before Christmas hit. Hooray! 

Mr. H and I scooted out to Berea to Campus Grille for lunch last Saturday.

Just steps away from the Baldwin Wallace campus, it is open Wednesday - Sunday from 12 - 9PM (6PM on Sundays). There is a small parking lot in front of the building, and the signage is easy to identify.

This casual, family-friendly spot is serving up fresh, authentic Caribbean/Latin cuisine. They have printed menus at the counter, or you can order from the chalkboard menus hanging above.
Many were taking their food to-go, but they do have a small section of seating by the counter and another small section by the front door for dining in. We ordered at the counter, and took a seat to wait for our food. The open kitchen was allowing our nostrils to be tantalized from the smells wafting our way.

We decided to share the Caribbean Mango Guacamole ($8 with chips or $3.30 as a side). Guacamole is not served with tortilla chips here. Instead, you get these pressed and fried plantains (tostones) with lots of garlic. We loved them! My dad would hate this place. Garlic everywhere!
Mr. H ordered The Campus "Cuban" ($8.50). Dining Deals Alert!
We both agreed that the version at Moncho's from an earlier 2015 To Dine visit was slightly better, but this was a darn good Cuban sandwich for Cleveland.

I had to order something totally new-to-me, the House Mofongo ($9.50). These fried plantains are mashed together and molded with garlic, olive oil, and pork cracklings. You can add meats for an additional charge. I selected pork shoulder (+$2), and the center of the mold was stuffed with the pulled meat.
It was sweet from the plantains, full of garlic flavor, and salty from the meat. I was thoroughly enjoying this dish! It was unlike anything that I've had before. It was also huge. I took more than half of it home with me, and didn't even touch the salad until the next day. I appreciated that the salad dressing was served on the side. Don't you love the little flag too?

This was a big hit with us, and one that we'll revisit. They are also known for their split rotisserie chicken, so we'll have to give that a try.
The 2015 To Dine Challenge ended on a high note. You guys picked well last year!

Some highlights from the 2015 list included: Campus Grille, Thai Elephant, Forage Public House, Gigi's on Fairmount, and Moncho's. A couple of the restaurants on the list we've even  already been back to this year, like Grove Hill, Forage, and Bourbon Street Barrel Room.

It's not too late to make some last-minute suggestions for the 2016 To Dine Challenge list, so don't forget to head over to the blog post to comment before 12/31. Let's put together another outstanding list like 2015. What a year! I hope that you enjoyed following along as I visited all 10 on the list.

Campus Grille
10 Seminary Street
Berea, OH 44017

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

For those of you that celebrate Christmas, here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas.
My mother has created a "Christmas monster" out of me, according to Mr. H.
I do truly love the spirit and joy that this season brings. Twinkling tree lights, the smell of fresh pine, personal ornaments that we've collected through our travels, holiday tunes on the radio, family traditions, and selecting the perfect gifts for my family and friends all bring me immense happiness and peace this time of year.

I will spend this day surrounded by my family, each appreciating what really matters. We have a lot to be thankful for this year, and much celebrating to do!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Adega Brunch

Mr. H and I celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary on December 13th! How is that even possible? The year just flew by, and our anniversary kind of popped out of nowhere. I'm sure that it will always be a struggle, since it's smack in the middle of the holiday season. But, we couldn't let it pass us by without doing something special!

We decided it was easy enough to plan a "staycation" in Downtown Cleveland. Of course, we made a Saturday dinner reservation at Cibreo. We were married in the Cibreo Privato space, so this restaurant will always hold a special place in our hearts. We were fortunate enough to have a server that actually worked at our wedding. She took great care of us, and truly made the meal very special. Then, we headed over to the Ohio Theatre for A Christmas Carol from the Great Lakes Theater. The unseasonably warm December evening allowed us to walk through PlayhouseSquare and enjoy the city's holiday tree and lights as we strolled back to the Metropolitan at The 9, where we had decided to stay the night. It all brought back great memories of our wedding weekend last year.

For the last portion of our Downtown "staycation," we decided to try Adega at The 9 for brunch on Sunday morning. I wish that I could say that this dining experience was as pleasurable as the rest of the anniversary weekend, but it sadly wasn't.

I had to start the meal with The C-Town Bloody Mary ($15). Pricey, and certainly not the best Bloody Mary that I've had in town.
I ordered it spicy, but it barely had any heat to it at all. Otherwise, it did taste fresh and had some interesting flavors from the sweet relish, yellow mustard, and maple syrup. I love a Bloody Mary that you can "chew" on. This one had stuffed olives, serrano ham, and bacon. Not the cubed cheese or blue-cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers that are advertised on the menu though. Hmmm...

Mr. H ordered The Adega ($14) with serrano, ground chorizo, tomato, cilantro, arugula, pickled red onion, manchego, and a basil pesto aioli on ciabatta.
He was expecting a chorizo patty, but the sandwich is made with crumbled chorizo. This did make it more difficult to eat, and the meat was very greasy. Also, our server offered him hot sauce or ketchup...when he had two bites left of the sandwich. Bad timing. 

He also ordered a side of the Chicken Apple Sausage ($6 for 2 links) for the table. The links were unappetizing to look at, all gray and deep-fried. It reminded me of a mozzarella stick. Had little to no flavor as well. We left most of it behind on the plate.

I decided on a Build Your Own Crepe ($8). They have a list of sweet toppings and a list of savory toppings. Missing was any type of vegetables. I went savory, and you can only select from meats and cheeses.
I ordered Bacon and Boursin. There wasn't much cheese in there, and unfortunately, the kitchen uses the same thick-cut, extra-crispy bacon that was featured in my Bloody Mary. Great for soaking in tomato juice, not so great as large, hard chunks in a delicate crepe. Even Mr. H called the bite that he took "terrible." Again, I left half of it on the plate.

I also ordered a side of Marble Rye Toast ($2). The bread was wonderful, but the solid, rock-hard butter was un-spreadable, and it just shredded the poor toast. Can we all agree that chilled, hard butter should never be served with toast or starter bread at a restaurant? Please, stop. 

With an additional coffee and orange juice, this meal ran us about $60 with tax and tip. A very expensive brunch, and not one worthwhile thing about it. It doesn't leave me wanting to run back and try their dinner menu.

Was this meal just a misstep? Have you dined there and had a different (or similar) experience?

The weekend ended with a home-cooked Hong Kong-style Sea Bass dinner, and the frozen top tier of our wedding cake from A Cookie and a Cupcake. I had very low expectations, but it tasted as if we had just bought it that day!

The Metropolitan at The 9
2017 East 9th Street
Cleveland, OH 44115

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ring in New Year's Eve in Style

With Christmas looming and lots of last-minute gift buying, holiday gatherings, and other tasks to complete, I've overlooked the fact that 2016 is almost upon us. How will you be ringing in the new year? Given it any thought yet? If not, here are some tasty events going on around Cleveland for you to choose from!

New Year's Eve at the Cleveland Museum of Art: Explore the galleries late into the evening, see the blockbuster exhibition "Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse," and dance the night away as Solstice 2015 performer King Britt returns to Cleveland to reprise his non-stop, high-energy set of electronica, house, and soul-fusion, with opening set by DJ MisterBradleyP. Enjoy curator-led tours, gallery programs, stunning visuals in the atrium, late night desserts, a complimentary champagne toast at midnight, and other surprises as you ring in 2016. General Admission – $40 (Cleveland Museum of Art Members $30). Centennial Package – $150. Upgrade your evening with free reserved parking and access to the Centennial Lounge, complete with a complimentary full bar, specialty hors d’oeuvres, and DJ Darrick Grant spinning old school funk and soul all night. Purchase tickets here.

New Year's Eve Prix Fixe Dinner at Spice Kitchen + Bar: Celebrate a year well-lived with the perfect prix fixe menu! Five courses, featuring fresh hoop house produce, sustainably raised meats & fall preserves. $75 per person – menu only. Add wine pairings for an additional $25. Choose one of three seating times: 5:00pm, 7:00pm, or 9:00pm. Reservations required: 216-961-9637.

NYE at Crop Bistro + Bar: 9-course tasting menu. $100 for menu only, and $135 with wine pairings. Call 216-696-2767 for reservations.

New Year's Eve at The Black Pig: 7-course prix fixe menu to ring in the New Year. Reservations are required, and are available between the hours of 6PM - 9PM, and can be made on the website or by calling (216) 862-7551. $75 per person (dinner only) + optional wine pairings for an additional $45 per person.

Celebrate New Year's Eve with Fahrenheit: $80 per person or $120 a couple. Includes a bottle of Moet and Chandon White Star Champagne. Four courses. Call 216-781-8858 for reservations.

Countdown to 2016 from Behind the Mask: Join Lago Custom Events inside the aLoft Hotel for the New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball! Unveil the New Year with a night of lavish dining, dancing and entertainment. Dinner accompanied by live band and music spinning all night from DJ Flaco Flash. Cocktails will be pouring at the premium bar with a variety of decadent food served throughout the night. Ticket Prices: $175 per person | $300 per couple | $500 per couple includes a room at the aloft Hotel for the night. Purchase online here.

New Year's Eve Bash at Graffiti: First Seating (5-7pm) for $30.00 (Tax and gratuity for the buffet has been added to the ticket). Includes- Endless buffet, complimentary glass of champagne, drink specials. Second Seating (9pm-12am) for $30.00 (Tax and gratuity for the buffet has been added to the ticket). Includes- Endless buffet, complimentary glass of champagne, drink specials, DJ and dancing. Reserve your seating online here.

This is only a sampling of some of the great ways to ring in the new year in Cleveland this December 31st. If you have others to share, please comment on this post.

Me? I'll be quietly spending New Year's Eve with my husband and family. 2015 was pretty darn good to us, and we're looking forward to welcoming in 2016 together.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

BOLD Food & Drink

A recent girls' night out took us to The Flats. If you haven't been in that area in a while, it is unrecognizable. The amount of restaurants and bars that have popped up in the last year is remarkable. In the eight years that I've lived in Cleveland, that area lining the Cuyahoga River has been desolate. Well, no more! 

One of the newest additions to the East Bank is BOLD Food & Drink. It opened in record-time in the former Ken Stewart's location on W. 10th Street. From the folks behind Oak Barrel and Forage Public House, this restaurant has a similar feel to its menu and presentation. You'll find a wide variety of "tiny" and "small" plates, 10 entrees, and then the "BOLD" section of the menu that features steaks, chops, and seafood dishes. Their intention is to bring an affordable steakhouse to the Downtown area. Luckily, the quality that I've come to expect from them at the other two restaurants was present here as well.

To start, we shared the Stuffed Pasture Raised Eggs with piquillo pepper and radish sprouts ($3 for one egg).
While I prefer the other version of this dish at Oak Barrel and Forage, it was still a good deviled egg. What is it about this classic and often called "outdated" dish that people still love? I don't know, but I'm a sucker for one!

I wanted to be able to try a few things, so I chose to order two of the "small" plates as my entree. First, I ordered the Stuffed Chile Rellenos with a poblano chile, cotija cheese, chilatomate sauce, and lime crema ($11).
For $11, the portion was large. The chile pepper was lightly breaded and deep-fried, with a golden crust instead of the often too-thick coating that others can have. The cheese was creamy and oozed right out of the pepper when I cut into it. This was a great stuffed pepper! However, I really did not care for the sauce. Its tomato base leaned Italian, and just didn't work well with this dish, in my opinion. It was easy to avoid after a few bites, and I happily enjoyed this pepper even without a sauce.

For my second small plate, I went with the Manchester Farms Stuffed Quail with serrano ham, gruyere, and white truffled cream corn ($13).
The quail skin was crispy, meat moist and tender, and the cream corn was delicate and delicious. I would order this dish again.

Service was very good, even though our server admitted that he was in training and had only been there four days. They also made a delicious mock-tini for my pregnant friend. We were nestled in a cozy U-shaped booth, with a glass fireplace crackling in front of us. It was a great setting for a girls' night out, or a special date night without breaking the bank. They retained most of the decor and atmosphere from Ken Stewart's, so it has a high-end feel without quite the price tag. I think they'll do well in the "new" The Flats.

BOLD Food & Drink
1121 W. 10th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Oberlin's The Feve

With the end of the year looming, it was time to hit another restaurant on the 2015 To Dine Challenge list. This time, we met another couple out in Oberlin at The Feve.

Since 1992, it has been a community favorite for college students, families, and anyone looking for craft beer and tasty bar grub. A lengthy craft beer list is not as easy to find outside of the Cleveland city limits, and The Feve has an impressive one. Instant "points" with me! Couple that with locally-sourced ingredients and fresh, homemade casual food, and you have yourself a winning restaurant concept. It reminded me of our beloved Tremont Tap House, in every sense of the way. Maybe slightly better service here, haha.

They've been voted "Ohio's Best Brunch," but they are truly know for their burgers and tater tots. Although, I could have made a meal from some of their Starters, like the Habanero Rangoon, Fried Pickle Spears, and Mac n' Cheese bites made from Ohio City Pasta.

A big section of the menu is dedicated to French Fries and Tater Tots. You can select from 6 dry seasonings, 4 styles, and 21 dipping sauces. Yes, 21 different sauces. It is so hard to choose!

For 50 cents each, or 3 for $1, I highly recommend trying several sauces. I decided to try the Garlic Mayo, Honey Sriracha, and Thai Peanut with my tater tots.

Each of the sandwiches and burgers come with a choice of side. You can pick between French Fries, Tater Tots, Side Salad, Hummus, Cup of Soup, Onion Rings, and Daily Bean. Just do yourself a favor and go right to the tater tots. Not enough restaurants serve them.

I had to go with the restaurant's namesake burger, The Feve Burger ($9).
It comes with grilled red onion, house-pickled jalapeno, bacon, and cheddar. The burger itself was decent, but the patty was a tad dry. Not my favorite gourmet burger that we've had in Greater Cleveland, but a solid choice and plenty of burger topping options here to choose from.

It was really an enjoyable evening, between the delicious craft beers, gourmet bar food, and the company. I can see why it's so popular in Oberlin. If you find yourself out that way, stop in for some tots! Just note- They do not accept reservations. There was a wait on Friday evening, but they send you a text message when your table is ready.

The Feve
30 S. Main Street
Oberlin, OH 44074

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Thai Elephant

2015 is winding down. By November, I still had three restaurants left to visit on my 2015 To Dine Challenge list. Luckily, I knew that I had some fellow diners all lined up to try Thai Elephant in Kamm's Corners.

The quaint restaurant is located on Lorain Avenue, and they are open seven days a week for dinner. They have recently changed their hours, so be careful. The sign on the door, and hours listed online, and not currently accurate.

A group of six of us met at Thai Elephant for dinner one chilly evening two weeks ago. It was a perfect night for Thai food. The decor and atmosphere is pretty typical, but warm and inviting. The smells from the kitchen were intoxicating as soon as we walked in the door. Bring on the curry! 
Our table shared a couple of appetizers, like the Crispy Shrimp and Dumplings. Both enjoyable, and easy to share.

I had to order the Pad Thai, because I heard that it was very good. I appreciated that I was given several spice level options, which isn't always the case for Pad Thai. Mr. H and I were doing some sharing, so I had to order it at a "medium" level. Normally, I order "Thai hot" for everything. Our server immediately offered to bring out a spicy chile sauce that could be added to the dishes to increase the level of heat. I was grateful, and it did the trick!
This was a solid Pad Thai, and much better than some other local versions that I've had around town.

However, the real star of the meal was the Massaman Curry that Mr. H ordered for us to share. The peanut-based curry sauce is my favorite Thai dish, and this was hands-down the best version that I've tasted in Greater Cleveland.
The sauce was thicker than most, almost like stew or thick gravy. It had wonderful flavor, and I was only able to steal a couple of bites from Mr. H. So much for "sharing," huh? I took that as a good sign. I used to claim that my favorite version was from Thai Gourmet in Independence. I still appreciate that they use additional vegetables, like peppers, that are a bit lighter than the traditional potato and carrot that is served with Massaman Curry.

Worth noting- This restaurant is BYOB!

We'll definitely be back to Thai Elephant. A highlight from the 2015 list, for sure.

Don't forget that it's that time of year. I want to hear from YOU on your restaurant ideas for the 2016 To Dine Challenge. I'll pick 10 from your suggestions, and I'll challenge myself to dine at all of them in the upcoming year. Comment on the blog post here. Where do you want to send me next year?

Thai Elephant
16610 Lorain Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44111

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Submit Selections for 2016 To Dine Challenge

Wow, December 1st already, huh? know what that means. Time for you, dear readers, to submit your picks for my 2016 To Dine Challenge.

For those of you that are unfamiliar: Each December, Bite Buff readers make suggestions on restaurants that I should dine at in the upcoming year. At the end of the month, I'll select 10 and challenge myself to complete all ten by the close of the year. I'll post the final list on January 1st on my blog. As a New Year's Resolution, of sorts.

I want to hear from YOU. Where should I dine in 2016?

What's your favorite neighborhood haunt? A local spot that doesn't get the "buzz" that it deserves? Something off of the beaten path? A new restaurant that just opened and you're dying to try?

Hit me with them! Submit ideas by commenting on this post, or by tweeting (@BiteBuff) or Facebooking me. You have until December 31st to submit your choices.

Speaking of the To Dine Challenge...I hit two of the 2015 restaurants recently, so stay tuned for posts on those this week. Only one more to visit before the end of the month. I can do it!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Skip the Dishes Winner and Slyman's

Thank you to everyone that entered the Skip the Dishes giveaway. Congratulations to Jason Tjoarman! You have won the $50 coupon code to try the new-to-Cleveland food delivery service. They will be emailing you directly.

Also, I wanted to tell you that I knocked an item off of my Cleveland Bucket List last week!

Slyman's Restaurant is an iconic Cleveland restaurant, serving up the "biggest and best corned beef." It's legendary.

Now, I didn't make it to the original location on St. Clair Avenue, but they did recently open up Slyman's Tavern in Independence.

Of course, I had to try the classic Corned Beef Reuben on grilled rye with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut ($15.49 for regular, $11.49 for light). I ordered the "light" which cuts down on the massive mound of meat that typically towers on a Slyman's plate.
It is served with a pickle and a side of Thousand Islands dressing.

I grew up in the Thousand Islands region, known for creating this classic dressing, and this was a damn good one.

I still could only eat half of the "light" sandwich.

While I'd still like to make it in to the original location for the full experience, at least people have the option of popping into the Independence tavern now for a taste of a Cleveland landmark. I'll consider this one crossed off of my bucket list!

Slyman's Tavern
6901 Rockside Road
Independence, Ohio 44131

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Skip the Dishes

A new food-delivery service just launched in Cleveland, called Skip the Dishes. It's currently running in several Canadian cities, and now in three USA cities in Ohio. The service connects customers to local restaurants, and through Food Couriers, great food is just a few clicks away.
Personally, Mr. H and I use similar services often. There are nights when we just don't feel like cooking or going out, but I crave something more than just pizza or Chinese. Services, like this one, connect diners to restaurants well beyond the standard delivery fare, and most restaurants included don't normally provide delivery. Win, win.

Skip the Dishes approached me to review their service. After a quick peek at the list of restaurants available in my area, I gladly accepted. 55 restaurant selections were available! That far exceeds the two other delivery services that we've used in the past.

I saw some exciting listings, like Johnny's Bar, Ty Fun, Le Petite Triangle Cafe, Adega, Wonton Gourmet & BBQ, Koko's Bakery, Number One Pho, Miega Koren BBQ, Sterle's, and Cafe 55. Many of these, we've never been able to get delivered, and a few we haven't even been to.

I was also immediately pumped to see Banana Blossom listed. They used to be delivered through another service, and we had become hooked on their Crab Rangoon before they were yanked from the service that we typically use. I can get those little puffs of creamy, tangy goodness delivered again!

You can order online, or use their app. Both are user-friendly, and creating an account was very simple.

Things that I liked better than other local services:

- full menu is listed in one drop-down menu (no categories to shift through)
- delivery fees begin at $2.99 and range up to $5.99 (lower starting rate than other services)
- no minimum order amount
- tip is not included and we can select the amount to add during check-out
- can sort restaurant list by rating, distance from your location, delivery fee, and cuisines
- more accurate estimated delivery time
- provides an online tracker for your order (including the name of your driver and order packer, estimated delivery time, and the progress of the delivery)
Seriously, the online tracker reminded me of Uber. It was very creepy cool to watch the progress of our order. We could watch his car make its way to our house, including the couple of times that he made wrong turns on the way. The tracker kept refreshing, and it appeared to accurately keep up with his location and the estimated delivery time. 
For us, that becomes very important. We have three pups, and they tend to go quite crazy when someone comes to the door. It's a lot to handle when trying to answer the door and manage payment/food. So, we like to let them outside before any deliveries arrive. With other services, we've ran into times when they are so late that our poor pooches are left outdoors for quite a while. Skip the Dishes kept refreshing the delivery time, and we were able to scoot them out just in time.

We ordered dinner from Cha Pizza Spirits & Pizza Kitchen, located in Battery Park. We haven't been in yet, so it was fun to check out their menu and sample a few items.
We settled in with hot, local food in front of the TV to catch up on The Voice. No fuss, no mess in the kitchen, and we had quality food delivered to our doorstep. Our Food Courier wasn't the friendliest, and he seemed very flustered over getting lost, but otherwise, using this service was a positive experience. That was seriously the only negative that we ran into. Its ordering system is simpler to use than others, the list of restaurants participating is much more extensive, no minimum orders, and the online order tracker is accurate and cool. Skip the Dishes gets a big thumbs up from us! 

I have good news. One lucky reader will get the opportunity to try this service out for themselves. Skip the Dishes is providing one random winner a $50 coupon code for a future order. Just use the Rafflecopter giveaway below for multiple ways to enter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

A winner will be selected and announced on Monday, November 23rd. Good luck!

Head to their website to see what restaurants are participating in your area. So far, they are in Cleveland and Columbus, and will be launching in Cincinnati soon. This service is seriously great for those nights when you don't feel like cooking, but want something beyond your typical delivery options. They are the best service that we've used in Cleveland, and we'll continue to use them on our own.

Disclosure: I was provided with a $50 coupon code to test and review the service, and one $50 code to give away, in exchange for this blog post. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Unexpected Weekend of Nothing

Well, this weekend was pretty near perfect. It wasn't what we had originally set out to do, but it ended up being exactly what we needed.

Life has been really busy lately. You've probably noticed a lack of blog posts recently. Work life has had some stressful events and situations, personal life is always packed to the brim of activities and responsibilities, and we got a new computer. I haven't fully loaded everything on to it yet, so that's part of the reason for the lack of blogging.

But, you're in luck, because I have TWO of the remaining three 2015 To Dine Challenge restaurants scheduled for this week. I have a group headed to Thai Elephant in Kamm's Corner this Thursday evening. The more, the merrier. Anyone want to join? 

So, back to this past weekend. Mr. H and I attended an event last-minute on Friday evening. "An Old Brooklyn Nite" at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, to benefit the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation.
We don't really know anyone in our neighborhood, and we're leaning towards making this area our long-term home (if we can find a bigger, better house sometime in the next couple of years), so we decided to check out the event.

This event exceeded my expectations. About 200 guests gathered to enjoy dinner and drinks at the newly-built Stillwater Place at the zoo. They had a silent auction, and amazing desserts from Old Brooklyn businesses like Jack Frost Donuts...
...and a gorgeous OB-themed cake from Cake Royale.
You can also check out Cake Royale at the West Side Market.

We connected with people that live in our neighborhood, realized that someone we already know lives just walking distance away from us, and snagged a behind-the-scenes zoo tour in the silent auction. I didn't know what to expect from this first large fundraiser for the OB CDC, and our first event in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood, but it far exceeded any thoughts that I had previous to attending.

We were supposed to head out to Columbus the next morning to see Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper live. Alas, the show was postponed due to the Paris attacks. Let's pause. What the heck kind of world are we living in? It's so sad, and scary, at times.

So, we cancelled our trip to Columbus, hunkered down at home, and cooked some amazing food all weekend. Seriously, if you're not getting your fish and seafood at Catanese Classic Seafood in The Flats yet, then you're missing out.

It was a completely unexpected weekend, and sorely needed. We don't slow down enough. I'm guilty of over-booking us. FOMO? There is just always so much happening in Cleveland! Stay tuned for posts on our restaurant outings later this week.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Saturday's SouperBowl CLE

A really great event is taking place this Saturday, November 7th from noon - 3:00 p.m. in the Gordon Square Arts District of Cleveland. The inaugural SouperBowl CLE will feature tasting portions of soups crafted by more than 20 of Cleveland's independent restaurants. This time of year just begs for soup!
The soup tastings will be scattered throughout neighborhood businesses. Attendees will act as judges as they spend the afternoon visiting the local businesses, and then they will vote by text for their favorite soups in various categories, including the prestigious title of "Best Soup in Cleveland." The winning restaurants will be awarded plaques to display in their businesses, with the “Best Soup in Cleveland” winner taking home the trophy.

Tickets are only $25, and they are available to purchase online here. Proceeds from this event will benefit the West Side Catholic Center.

Since 1977, the West Side Catholic Center has offered hot meals, hospitality, clothing and household goods, emergency services, advocacy, a women and children's shelter, and a housing solutions program to those in need at no charge, regardless of religious affiliation. WSCC depends on the generosity of the community. This does not only mean cash donations but a healthy in-kind donation program. Each year in December, actually the only time of the year, WSCC distributes NEW socks and underwear to those in need in the community. Over 1,500 men, women and children benefit from this annual distribution. 

Check-in for the SouperBowl CLE event is at the Cleveland Public Theater. This is a family-friendly event.

Follow them on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Nothing to disclose here. I have no affiliation with the event. I just think it's a great, inexpensive, event that is fun for all ages. Everyone loves soup! You get to explore the Gordon Square Arts District neighborhood, sample a wide variety of soups from 20+ restaurants like Cleveland Vegan, The Flying Fig, Graffiti: A Social Kitchen, Happy Dog, Melt, Souper Market, Toast, Tremont Tap House, and proceeds will benefit a worthy local charity. What's not to like about this event? Get your spoon ready, and come taste some soup on Saturday.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Oak and Embers Tavern

Two of our good friends grew up in Chesterland, Ohio, and they have played the role of our tour guides for that area over the years. That led us to a meal at Guido's Pizza Haven earlier this year, and last week, they brought us to Oak and Embers Tavern.
It had been on my restaurant radar for a while now, but it really started to get people talking after it was featured on chef Michael Symon's new Food Network show "Burger, Brew & Q."

Good BBQ food is hard to come by in Cleveland. Near impossible.

But, I'm happy to report that this was one of the better traditional BBQ meals that I've had in the area, and we left quite happy and stuffed. With a ton of leftovers that lasted me two lunches.

They have a selection of small plates, soups, and salads to get you started. However, our crew of six went right for the Smoke That Meat section of the menu. I was thrilled to see a Pick Two or Pick Three Combo, because, how was a girl to decide?!

I did the Pick Two Combo ($22) with two meats and two sides. I ordered the Pulled Pork and the Baby Back Ribs. Picking two sides was difficult, because I seriously could have made a meal from the tempting choices. I ended up with the Mac & Cheese and Baked Beans. Each platter comes with Cornbread.
I don't think that this photo does the size of the portions justice. I mean, look, it's served on a platter, not a plate.

I thought that the BBQ sauce on the pulled pork and ribs (same) was very flavorful without real heat to it that would turn off people that don't care for spicy food. The meat on both was tender, and not dry. I would have liked a more distinct rub on the ribs, but that's personal taste. The sides were tasty as well, but I could have used some butter for the cornbread.

They also have a decent craft beer list, which immediately won points with me. Although, they had changed a tap out without correcting the menu yet, and the Founder's Breakfast Stout that I was pumped to order wasn't available any longer. I found a replacement in the list of bottled beers, and all was well.

Overall, we left in a food coma, with to-go boxes, and an even better impression of Chesterland than before. It helped that we then stopped in at Red, Wine, and Brew (almost next door) and picked up some excellent bottles of craft beer, including my favorite...Big Bad Baptist from Epic Brewing. Seriously, I'm addicted. Between the food and brews, it was well worth the drive over to the far east side!

Who does your favorite BBQ food in the Greater Cleveland area? 

Oak and Embers Tavern
8003 Mayfield Road
Chesterland, OH 44026

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Berea Union Depot Taverne

Mr. H and I found ourselves near the Berea Union Depot Taverne on a recent Saturday at lunchtime, so our curiosity drew us in for a bite. My brother-in-law had told Mr. H about it, since our nephew loves trains and gets a big kick out of dining at the Taverne as trains roll by.
This casual atmosphere is serving upscale pub fare for reasonable prices. All sandwiches are under $12, and entrees range from $14 - $21. Very family-friendly food, and there's something for everyone on the menu.

The Berea Union Depot was established in 1876, and if you're dining in the Taverne's main dining room, you're actually eating where the train platform used to stand. The still-active train tracks are just feet from their patio.

Unfortunately, the food did not live up to the fun and historical setting.

I ordered the Beer Battered Perch sandwich with yellow perch fillets, "house" beer batter, lemon garlic tartar, shredded lettuce, tomato, house slaw, and a brioche bun ($10). Served with a side of fries.
The sandwich was dry, and so bland that I was seriously missing any hint of "lemon garlic tartar." The bun was stale, which didn't help. At least the fish was lightly breaded, which was appreciated. Also, I discovered that I really don't like pepper on my fries. These were heavily peppered, and it turned me off. Personal preference, but I'll just stick to salt. And malt vinegar. Mmmm, now I'm craving good French fries. 

At least the bill was relatively cheap, and we were in and out pretty quickly. Service was fine, but they only had two additional tables of diners at the time.

Fun location, and great use of a historical building, but I don't think that the food will bring us back. Not worth the stop.

Berea Union Depot Taverne
30 Depot Street
Berea, OH 44017

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Mr. H and I have been trying to soak in the last days of sunny weather in Cleveland before the grey skies settle in. That quest recently took us down to The Flats for lunch. Thankfully, we have several new restaurant options along the river. But, we decided to head to Shooter's on the Water.
I'd never eaten there. Just spent a few drunken nights there in my 20's. But, it has one of the best locations on the Cuyahoga River for boat-watching and soaking up water views...
...and Downtown views.
Sadly, even the views can't save the food there.

Isn't this the most depressing-looking plate of fish tacos that you've ever seen?
Not only were they bland, the filling didn't even come close to the size of the tortilla used, and the tortilla was stale...but they left a funky after-taste behind. Never a good thing.

Mr. H had a Cuban that was much better than my tacos, but still never worth returning for.
What a waste of waterfront space.
The placement and atmosphere have such potential. I would have been content with even average food, but those tacos were downright nasty.

Shooters on the Water
1148 Main Road
Cleveland, OH

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cleveland Beer Week 2015

It's Cleveland Beer Week! It kicked off on Friday, and Mr. H and I plan to hit several beer-related events this week.

The seventh annual CLEVELAND BEER WEEK takes place from October 9-18, 2015 and features 350 keg tapping, beer sipping events throughout greater Cleveland. From special tappings, tastings and dinners to leisure activities and educational programs, there is something for everyone at CLEVELAND BEER WEEK.

Established in 2009, CLEVELAND BEER WEEK is a not-for-profit celebration that raises awareness of the craft beer industry and promotes patronage at local establishments. But they are also philanthropic---proceeds from all of CLEVELAND BEER WEEK's flagship events benefit the Malone Scholarship Fund. (from their website)

We've attended many of the events over the years, and we have some favorites. I never miss Stout Night at Deagan's Kitchen + Bar in Lakewood. Also, we enjoy the flagship event BREWzilla at the end of the week. It allows us to sample hundreds of different beers in one place. My brother will be in town visiting this week. Lucky him!

We kicked off this week of beer appreciation with a Beer, Cheese, and Chocolate Flight at Lilly Handmade Chocolates in Tremont on Saturday.
I wish that they did this year-round! The truffles and cheeses were expertly paired. A little bite of cheese, a little bite of chocolate, and then wash it all down with a sip of beer. This particular event is taking place all week, so stop in to their adorable shop on Starkweather. They are also serving beer floats.

So, what Beer Week events will you be participating in?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mason's Creamery

Ok, why has it taken me this long to get to Mason's Creamery brick-and-mortar shop in Ohio City?
I've had their small-batch homemade ice cream at farmers markets and street festivals, but somehow I let time slip by without stopping for a visit to their shop on Bridge Avenue.

It's so cute, inside and out. There are seats along the counter inside, and several small, cheery tables outside. ice cream sandwich made with churros!
You can build-your-own ice cream sandwich using any flavor and a few different options for sandwiching in that frozen treat, but why waste your time? Just head straight for the churro, still warm from being fried-to-order and starting to melt the ice cream. I selected the Cookie Butter. Go indulge.

Plus, any place that offers a $1 ice cream treat for dogs is a-okay in my book!

Mason's Creamery
4401 Bridge Avenue
Cleveland, OH

Monday, September 28, 2015

A CLE Weekend

Today's a big day at work, so I purposely didn't make any commitments for the weekend. I also needed to blow off some steam and distract myself from the task at hand, so that led to a really great, unplanned weekend, full of fun in Cleveland.

We've had a busy summer, and somehow the Night Market Cleveland had come and gone over the last couple of months, and we hadn't been able to attend the once-a-month street festival. But, that changed on Friday.
It was the last one of the season, but I heard from other festival-goers that this one was the biggest yet, so hopefully that means good things for next summer. Located near East 21st and Rockwell Avenue, in the heart of AsiaTown, the event brings Asian flare to an evening street festival.

We got to sample small plates of food new-to-us, like Lumpia from Carabao.
The lines got long after 7:30PM, so I needed to get out of there after a bit. I found sanctuary on Graffiti: A Social Kitchen's patio. Still one of the best in town.

Saturday morning, we woke up with no plans for the day. Mr. H said "What do you want to do for fun today?" and I replied "Clean the house, get the laundry done, and trim back the bushes for fall." No joke, real conversation. Clearly, he is the more conventional "fun" one. Thankfully, we balance each other out, and he suggested an outing on the Goodtime III. An item on my Cleveland bucket list!
It was a gorgeous day in CLE, and the views from the boat were stunning.
A watery Bloody Mary and two hours on a boat; I was fully relaxed and enjoying the afternoon.
Sunday brought us another CLE outing. This time, to the Ohio City Street Festival.
We listed to some live music, grabbed a crab cake from Kate's Fish, and shared sliders from Nano Brew.
These were so tasty!

We wanted to catch the Browns game (I'm not sure why), so we headed down Bridge Avenue to The Black Pig. They were having a Big Bloody Black Pig Roast, with spicy, and awesome, Bloody Mary drinks and loads of pork.
This weekend was just what I needed. Gorgeous weather, festivals, exploring good food, and being out with other Clevelanders taking advantage of our great city. It's weekends like this that make me fall in love with CLE just a little bit more.

Hope that you enjoyed your weekend as well! Now, wish me luck on raising lots of funds for liver patients this evening. It's our annual Flavors of Northeast Ohio gala.