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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Event Recap: Taste of the Browns

Last night, Mr. H and I attended the 17th annual Taste of the Browns event to benefit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. It did not disappoint, providing us with endless samples of food from some of Cleveland's best restaurants, great people-watching, views of Downtown and the stadium, and a fabulous auction item from Chef Chris Kafcsak from Deagan's and Nomad Culinary that I will enjoy with friends at a later date!
It can often be hard to choose my favorite dish of the night at this event. Some of my highlights included the Romano Crusted Lamb Chop from Johnny's Downtown, Shellfish Ceviche from Market, Chocolate Towers from Humble Wine Bar, Lobster Bisque from Blue Point Grille, Roasted Shrimp Pizza from Fahrenheit, Braised Wagyu Beef from Lago, Fried Chicken from The Greenhouse Tavern, and Chorizo + Corn Cakes with Roasted Corn Shooters from AMP 150.
See how hard it is to pick just one?!? And we didn't even get to try all of the food. As Mr. H said, "This is one event where I don't leave full, I leave regret-full." My only real critique of the event is that several of the dishes were hard to eat because they required cutting and no knives were supplied. Many of the chefs are quite savvy at these types of events, and they strategically plan their dish to be able to eat while balancing a wine glass and standing/walking. Thank you!

There is always good people-watching at this event. After the Browns' win on Sunday, it was great to see so many of the current players there in attendance. I literally ran right into Travis Benjamin and his wife at Fahrenheit's table. He had a great game on Sunday, so it was fun to see him up close and personal. I also had to snag a picture with Chomps.
The event raised a record $220,000 for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. For every dollar donated, they can provide up to four meals in a local hunger center.
They throw two of the best fundraising parties of the year, and I'm proud to still support the organization after working there for almost four years. It's a mission that will always be near and dear to my heart, and I'm just happy to be able to do my part. If you missed this year's event, truly consider attending next September.

Disclosure: I was provided with four passes to the event in exchange for a ticket giveaway post and post-event recap. I am a former employee of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Weekend Warrior

I don't know about you, but I'm not quite sure where my weekend went. It flew right by, and we'll be busy tonight at Taste of the Browns too! On Friday, I attended a Pampered Chef party at a friend's house. My first. This is what my 32 year-old life has come to. Tupperware on a Friday night. Exciting times. But, I'm looking forward to my goods arriving!

Saturday evening brought Chefs Unbridled to benefit the Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center at the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club Polo Field. It's one food event that I attend that feels unique and special, being all dressed up in a big, fancy tent on the polo field.
The Driftwood Catering Group headlines the event, and each of their food stations hit it out of the park. From truffle Wellington, lobster with corn risotto, and short ribs...the food was some of our favorites of the evening.
I also enjoyed the dishes from Toast, Flour, and Market Wine Bar.

Their fund-the-mission donation appeal and the live auction were very exciting to watch. The crowd donated more than $26,000 to the appeal, and two gentlemen each bid $12,000 for a catered private party in their homes for 20 guests from the Driftwood Group and John Owens Group. The best part of the fund-the-mission was seeing an actual horse from the therapeutic center. The gorgeous animal was led into the tent, and it certainly made an impact. This center is helping hundreds of community members with varying disabilities get into the saddle and enjoy a new skill. It's a unique cause, and a unique night to benefit it.

Sunday was weird. This was the first time in 8 years that I haven't had a beer or Bloody Mary in hand down in some dirty parking lot tailgating for the Browns home opener. We just weren't feeling it this year. The end of an era? 

Disclosure: I was provided with two tickets to Chefs Unbridled. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Cake Royale's New Retail Location

We are frequent shoppers of the West Side Market in Ohio City. Just a short drive from home, we enjoy getting our proteins and specialty items from the market. The only thing that I don't care for there is the produce. So, when we saw that one of our favorite dessert stands was opening a retail location in our neighborhood, we were thrilled!

We stalked their "Opening Soon" sign for quite some time, and then started to forget about it. They opened quietly, but then we always seemed to be driving by after-hours. Well, that finally changed last weekend.

We were headed to the grocery store, and the lights were ON in the new Cake Royale shop on Pearl Road in Old Brooklyn.
We stopped in, and I was immediately struck by the charming Parisian entryway.
This storefront is the family-run business' production facility, but it also has a counter and cooler for grab-and-go items like cakes, cookies, macaroons, and more.
I couldn't pass up a slice of what the owner called "the best of both worlds" with layers of cheesecake and moist (ugh, I hate that word) chocolate cake. Mr. H took home a slice of the Cookies n' Cream, and half of it didn't even last an hour.

They'll also do catering orders, custom cakes, and more. We stood and talked to the owner for about twenty minutes, and her passion for the business and our neighborhood is infectious. When they were looking for a new retail location and production facility, they considered several neighborhoods. But, they ultimately chose to invest in the neighborhood in which they live, and we, for one, are very happy about that! Check them out in the West Side Market, or at the new location.

Cake Royale
4276 Pearl Road
Cleveland, OH 44109

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Moncho's Bar and Grill

With the close of summer, it's time to get back to tackling my 2015 To Dine Challenge list of restaurants that I need to hit before the year ends. Last week, that quest brought us to Moncho's Bar and Grill on Denison Avenue to meet friends for dinner.
Just a quick bike ride from home, I'm surprised that it took us this long to get there.

Construction on Dension Avenue from the corner of West 25th Street is making it a little challenging to get to the restaurant. The street is temporarily a one-way, but don't let that keep you away. Once you arrive, there is a parking lot connected to the restaurant that is newly paved. The exterior is thoughtfully decorated with all sorts of planters and twinkling lights. We met our friends at 7PM, and we were the only ones in there for quite a while, but others trickled in during our meal.

The interior is stark in some areas, but also has colorful chalk board menus and displays, beer bottle cap table-tops, and a fireplace.

Serving up Colombian comfort food, this family-run business is a hidden gem. We quickly discovered that there was a language barrier, but the four of us stumbled through our dusty Spanish and were able to order our drinks and food accurately.

Mr. H and I shared the Arepa y Chorizo ($7) to start.
The chorizo has a nice kick to it, and the corn patty was delicious. The only thing missing was something "wet" on this dish.

I ordered the Toston Sliders ($10) with three deep fried plantains as the base, and then topped with shredded steak, shredded beef, and shredded pork. On top of the meats was hogao and it was served with a side of guacamole.
This was a huge plate of food for the price point. I couldn't tell the difference between the steak and the beef, but one of them was bursting with flavor and was by far my favorite of the three.

Mr. H ordered the Bocadillo Cubano ($8).
It was a big sandwich, and it left him quite full. We both love a good grilled sandwich that leaves the center of the bread soft and doughy, but with a great crusty outside. I also enjoyed stealing a few of his french fries and garlic aioli.

The margarita and mojito were very good. We even saw our server/bartender go outside to grab a handful of fresh mint to muddle for the mojito. The beer list is limited, but features a handful of craft beers, domestics, and imports, both draft and bottle.

This is a place that my mom would love, and I'd love her interpreter services! The food overall was very flavorful and fresh, and the place is casual but with some flare. We'll be back. Dining Deals Alert!

Moncho's Bar and Grill
2317 Denison Avenue
Cleveland, OH

Monday, September 14, 2015

Taste of the Browns Winner and GARLIC

Monday, already? I had to work for most of Saturday, and then the rain kept us from participating in the NEO Cycle Night Ride event, so I'm not quite sure where the weekend went. Let's brighten up some one's start to the week with the announcement of the winner of the two General Admission tickets for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank's Taste of the Browns event.

Thank you to everyone that entered the giveaway. It's always one of the most popular ones that I do! The random winner is...Cari Jeanne Wildasinn for following @CLEFoodBank on Twitter. Congratulations! Please check your email and reply by Wednesday at 10AM to claim your tickets, or another winner will be selected.

If you didn't win, tickets are still available here. This really is one fall event that you don't want to miss.

Speaking of events, did any of you catch the Cleveland Garlic Festival this weekend in Shaker Square?
Hosted by the North Union Farmers Market, it offers two days of all things garlic. Okay, with a few other vendors and fun food and products sprinkled in. But, I go for the garlic. Sorry, Dad. 

We picked up four varietals of garlic to cook with, and a couple of other garlic-based products, like this Garlic Rub.
We always enjoy a few garlicky food items at the festival too, and one of my "must-haves" is always the handcut fries with garlic aioli from SowFood.
Bypass that other vendor trying to sell a similar product, and head straight to SowFood. They were even selling the garlic aioli in two sizes of larger to-go containers this year!

We also caught part of one of the chef competitions taking place during the festival. I saw two of my Cleveland favorites, Anna from Good to Go Cafe and Anna in the Raw and John Selick from University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center. It was a fun way to spend an hour on Sunday, with plenty of garlicky treats to eat for lunch and to take home with us for enjoying later.
If you missed it this year, please do check it out next year. I am not affiliated in any way. It's just an event that I enjoy. Maybe partially because my dad hates garlic, and I like to taunt him with photos from the festival.

Have a good week!

Disclosure: I was provided with four tickets to Taste of the Browns in exchange for two blog posts. All opinions stated are my own. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

2015 Taste of the Browns Ticket Giveaway

I've been sharing a lot of events with you lately. It's that time of year. But, coming up is one of my favorites. After working for the Food Bank and planning this particular event for four years, I'm happy to say that Mr. H and I have continued to support the organization, and we've been able to attend almost every Taste of the Browns since I left.

Celebrating 17 years of tackling hunger for Northeast Ohio families, Taste of the Browns returns to FirstEnergy Stadium on Monday, September 21st. The event is the major annual fundraiser for the
Greater Cleveland Food Bank, the region’s largest hunger relief organization. With the more than $190,000 raised at the 2014 event, the Food Bank was able to distribute more than 760,000 meals to agencies in six counties.

Guests will stroll through the newly renovated Club Lounge as they sample food from 25 of our area's best chefs, including some of my favorites like: AMP 150, Butcher and the Brewer, Deagan's, Edwins, Fahrenheit, Hodge's, Lago, Momocho, Pier W, Greenhouse Tavern and Trentina, and all of the Bruell restaurants. You can see the full list of participating restaurants and beverage purveyors here.

You can also mingle with current and former Browns players, bid on really unique silent and live auction items, and take home a bottle from their Wine Pull Raffle. Honorary event co-chairs are Cleveland Browns Two-Time Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden and former Browns Linebacker and current Judge of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Dick Ambrose.
General admission tickets are available for $175 ($75.00 of which is tax-deductible) or VIP tickets are available for $250 ($150 of which is tax deductible). All proceeds benefit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Access to the VIP Lounge will include exclusive tastings, access to Cleveland Browns celebrities and a personalized listing in the scrolling Thank You video played during the event. Tickets are still on sale here.

Or, you can win two General Admission tickets here! To enter the ticket giveaway, use the rafflecopter form below. There are several ways to enter, and you can tweet daily. The random winner will be selected on Monday, September 14th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Greater Cleveland Food Bank
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank is the largest hunger relief organization in Northeast Ohio, providing 45 million meals in 2014 to hungry people in Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Ashland and Richland counties. Their mission is to ensure that everyone in our communities has the nutritious food they need every day. They do this through both food distribution and SNAP outreach efforts. The best and easiest way to help is to go online to The general public can help by making a monetary donation. For every dollar donated, the Food Bank can provide enough food for four nutritious meals. 

Good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with two General Admission tickets to attend, and two to give away, in exchange for this blog post. I am a former employee of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Indianapolis Eats

My work takes me to Indianapolis occasionally (and about to be more often), so of course, I was on the search for good, local eats during my recent trip. Well, Indianapolis did not disappoint.

The good food started with a Mixed Slate plate of 3 meats and 3 cheeses and a La Gallete Monsieur Seguin with walnut, goat cheese, and apples from Cropichon et Bidibule for lunch.
It was a little slice of France on Massachusetts Avenue, and it very much reminded me of Cleveland's Le Petite Triangle in the Ohio City neighborhood.

Dinner that same evening led us to the highly recommended Mesh Restaurant. I can see why. We had a remarkable meal there.

We started with the Tuna Tartare ($14)...
...and the Mushroom and Goat Cheese Strudel ($10).
The tartare was fresh and flavorful, but nothing unique. However, that strudel was simply heavenly and it left us Googling recipes to try and recreate that dish at home. It's a "don't miss" dish at Mesh, in my opinion.

I was torn between several of the entrees, so I let the server suggest one from my top picks. I had the Seared Diver Scallops with fresno chile jam and a shrimp and spinach risotto ($28).
Not only was it gorgeous on the plate, it was packed full of interesting flavors, and the unusual pairing of spicy chiles and scallops worked so well together that it had me licking the plate.

I ended the meal in dessert nirvana. You know that I'm a "savory" over "sweet" girl any day of the week, but I was tempted by the Salted Caramel Pot de Creme. It was hands down one of the BEST desserts that I've ever had. It may have caused some moaning at the table. It was that good. We love this place so much that I signed up for their free VIP Card. The restaurant group owns several establishments, and once you spend $1,000, you receive a $100 gift card.

Thankfully, they also own Bru Burger Bar, where we dined the next night. Seriously, I don't think that I've had a burger that good in all of Cleveland. I know that's a bold statement, because we have some fantastic burgers, but this was better.

Last, but not least, we had lunch from BazBeaux. They've been voted as "Indy's Best Pizza" since 1986. The pizza was quite good, and I highly recommend it if you're looking for pizza in the area.

I have several more restaurants on my list to try in Indianapolis, and I look forward to exploring the city more. However, nearly all of these will be repeats! The only one that I probably don't need to do again is Cropichon. Mesh and Bru Burger are MUSTS.

Cropichon et Bidibule
735 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Mesh Restaurant (also located in Louisville, KY)
725 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Bru Burger Bar (multiple locations)
410 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204

BazBeaux (multiple locations)
329 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hatch Chiles from Heinen's

Mr. H and I enjoying cooking with new-to-us ingredients. It's one of the reasons that I enjoy purchasing a share in Fresh Fork Market during the summer. We end up with items in our refrigerator that we wouldn't normally purchase for ourselves at the grocery store. So far this summer, we've had fun cooking with tomatillos, eggplant, garlic scapes, and radishes. All of which have never really made it onto our grocery list before.

So, when Heinen's approached me to partner with them to cook with Hatch Chiles, I jumped at the chance to try something new-to-me in the kitchen. These chiles are from Hatch, Mexico, which is known as the chile capitol of the world.
Ok, ok, let's be honest...Mr. H cooked them, not me. I supervised.

We found a recipe in the Melissa's Hatch Chile Cookbook that used them two ways, and put something on our table that I loooove. Chile Rellenos!
It's my go-to dish at any Mexican restaurant, and we'd never tried making them at home. This version was made with hatch chiles and topped with Melissa's Hatch Salsa Ranchera. We adapted both recipes slightly, and I was pretty pleased with our first attempt at cooking this dish at home.

Chiles Rellenos
8 whole large Hatch Chiles, roasted, peeled
1/2 lb. shredded Mexican blend cheese
4 large eggs, separated
4 Tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil

Roast the chiles on the grill until heavily blackened.
Wrap in tinfoil to slightly steam before peeling the skin from the whole peppers.
Slit the chiles lengthwise and remove the seeds.
Stuff with cheese, using toothpicks to hold the chiles closed.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and yolks and mix thoroughly.
Heat the oil to 350 degrees in a large skillet over medium heat.
In batches, dip the stuffed peppers into the batter.
Fry, turning once, until golden brown (about 3 minutes per side).
Drain on paper towels.
Top with Hatch Chile Salsa Ranchera and serve.

Hatch Chile Salsa Ranchera (makes 2 cups)
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 large white onion
2 cloves of garlic
4 Hatch Chiles (roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded, and sliced into 1" pieces)
14 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
ground cumin to taste
salt to taste
1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup chicken broth

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and cook until softened.
Add the peeled and diced garlic, brown for 1 minute.
Add the chiles to the pan and cook for 3 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes and their juice.
Add cumin and salt to taste.
Bring to a boil, then lower heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in the chicken broth.
Add the mixture to the pan and bring the salsa to a boil.
Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Top the chile rellenos with the salsa and serve.

I was pleasantly surprised by how spicy the de-seeded Hatch Chiles were! I love spicy foods, and this was tickling my tastebuds in just the right way. If you don't love heat, this recipe may not be for you.

Hatch Chiles are only available for a limited time. This special August/September pepper is available in any Heinen's produce department right now. They are also featuring cool Hatch Chile Roasting events. You still have time to catch one at the Mayfield Village Heinen’s location.

Friday, Sept. 11th: 2 – 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 12th: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 13th: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Pick up some hatch chiles at Heinen's and give them a try. They also come pre-roasted, if you're looking to skip a step and ease the prep for a weeknight meal.

Disclosure: I was provided with a $50 Heinen's gift card and the Melissa's Hatch Chile Cookbook in exchange for this post. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Chef's Tasting Menu

One of my favorite things to do at a restaurant where we know the chef and trust that it will be a great meal, is to do a Chef's Tasting Menu. This is usually 3 - 5 courses (although Dante offers up to 21) that the chef crafts specifically for the tasting menu. They are typically dishes that you can't order on the regular menu, and it can be quite fun to give up control and let yourself be surprised as each course arrives.

Recently, Mr. H and I took advantage of the five-course tasting at Dante in Tremont, while enjoying a gorgeous evening on their secluded garden patio.
We splurged and added wine pairings (often available with Chef's Tastings). Each course, and the wines, delighted our senses and we rolled walked away quite impressed with the experience. Our favorite was the "salad" course with tempura asparagus and tempura jalapeno.
This dinner got me thinking...What other restaurants around Greater Cleveland offer a Chef's Tasting option on their menu? Here is what I came up with:

AMP 150
Crop Bistro (Chef's Table)
The Black Pig
Greenhouse Tavern (Chef's Table)

Do you know of any that I missed? I'm on the hunt for more. Leave them in the comments!

I encourage you to lower your inhibitions and take a risk ordering a chef's tasting. Diners can experience things that they may not normally order for themselves, in the trusted hands of one of our area's best.