Tuesday, December 5, 2017

2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Your CLE Foodie

It's Deeeeecccceeeemmmmbbbbeeeeerrrr! One of my favorite times of year, with plentiful holiday cheer, twinkling lights, parties to attend, food and drink to be had, and...gift giving. I keep a list on my phone using the app Wunderlist year-round, and it's been a life-saver for years now. When a loved one mentions something that they need or want, or I come up with a gift idea, I just add it to the list and then reference it when it comes time for a holiday or their birthday. Highly suggest doing this!

Today, I'm going to round up some of my favorite CLE-themed gifts for the foodie in your life.

Sausage Making Class at Saucisson
We did an in-home version a couple of years ago with our favorite lady butchers, and it was beyond fun (and educational, and delicious). They now offer the classes at their brick-and-mortar butcher shop in Slavic Village.

Tickets to Supper Club at Gatherings Kitchen
Always one of our favorite "interactive" dates related to food in Cleveland, Gatherings Kitchen offers a hands-on cooking class on Fridays that ends with a beautiful multi-course meal and the recipes to take home with you. We've been 1-2 times a year since discovering it, and we're busy planning to attend in February with friends! They just released their menus through June (each month has a theme) and they sell out quickly, so don't miss out. $85 a ticket, and it's BYOB.

3-Pack of Spices from Fire Spice Co.
Pick up a pack of spices from this local company, founded by chef Doug Katz of fire. food + drink in Shaker Square fame. $26.75 (other quantities available).

Custom Crate from DistinctCLE
We received one as a gift from our realtor when we closed on our house last year, and it was FULL of great Cleveland-based food products. $45 - $150 for the food-related curated crates.

Or, create your own gift basket of Cleveland food items by shopping at Ohio City Provisions, Tremont General Store, or The Grocery!

Cleveland-themed Canvas Tote Bag from CLE Clothing Co.
Pick up this canvas tote bag ($30), or another version from your favorite local retailer, to show off your Cleveland pride while grocery shopping, hitting up the West Side Market, or visiting one of the many local farmers markets.

Full Measure Bitters
For the craft cocktail lover that wants to create their own masterpiece at home, check out these locally made bitters by a friend of ours. You can order them online through Amazon, or shop locally at places like Happy Hour Collection in the 5th Street Arcades. I gave some to Mr. H last year for Christmas, and he loves using it.


So, what's on your "foodie" wish list this year? Any great gift ideas that you're excited about giving?

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Original Steaks and Hoagies

Rumors on social media always stated that for a "true" classic Philly Cheesesteak in the Greater Cleveland area, you needed to head to The Original Steaks & Hoagies in Twinsburg. Curious for myself, that's how it eventually made its way onto my To Dine Challenge list. Well, I'm happy to finally report that we made it there to try it for ourselves.
Located in a strip mall, there's plenty of parking and this casual shop offers a variety of hot and cold subs, salads, a couple of other items, and...a Philly Style Cheesesteak. Just place your order at the counter, deciding which type of the three cheeses you want, and what toppings (onions, mushrooms, and two kinds of peppers). There are "extras" available for 50 cents, like tomato, lettuce, etc.
The shop is small, but there is seating available for those that want to dine in. For 2PM on a Saturday, the place was hoppin'!

Mr. H and I shared an order of the Beer Battered Fries (add Old Bay seasoning for 50 cents).
I just haven't seen fries like that before, so it was worth trying. They were nice and crispy, and not overly battered. The Old Bay seasoning was a fun addition.

I was there for the Philly Cheesesteak (two sizes available), with cheese whiz, mushrooms, and onions.
Other than wishing the cheese whiz was a little more present, this was a darn good cheesesteak and probably the closest to a "real" classic version that I've had locally.

Only two more restaurants to go on the 2017 To Dine Challenge list! Do you think I can do it by December 31st?

The Original Steaks & Hoagies
10735 Ravenna Road
Twinsburg, OH 44087
(330) 998-6574

Friday, November 24, 2017

EverCrisp Apples at Heinen's

Thanks to Heinen's Grocery Store, I recently got to try EverCrisp Apples, which come from its parent apples of HoneyCrisp (Mr. H's favorite) and Fuji.
This new apple addition is grown locally in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan and it’s initially exclusive to Heinen’s in our area. It originated from the Midwest Apple Improvement Association (MAIA). MAIA is a traditional apple breeding program that began in Ohio as a grass roots breeding program by apple growers 20 years ago.

I was challenged to cook with them, and we found two great ways to incorporate them into meals, but Mr. H and I both enjoyed just plain snacking on them too. They are uber crunchy, and stay fresh for a long time on the counter.

The first way that we used them was that I COOKED (yikes, I know. I does happen sometimes) some apple, brie, pecan, and honey bites wrapped in crescent roll pastry. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes, and boom, a great appetizer for any party or meal at home.
Mr. H then used them a few days later in an apple and raisin chutney over pork chops and a carrot puree with smashed roasted potatoes.
Apple and pork are just always a match made in heaven.

What else is great about the EverCrisp apple is that it is a late season varietal, and you'll still be able to see these on the produce shelves at Heinen's this fall and early winter. I highly suggest you pick some up!

Disclosure: I was provided with a $20 Heinen's gift card to purchase EverCrisp apples in exchange for a blog post and social media posts. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Rowley Inn

Mr. H and I were invited to attend a blogger dinner at The Rowley Inn last week, and I can't tell you how happy I am that we were. Because, I was mildly aware that it existed in Tremont, just across the street from the famous A Christmas Story museum, but it wasn't truly on my foodie "radar" and it should have been.

In existence since 1906, the current owners have been at the helm for about a year. They joked that they are "watching the place" and "keeping it safe" as they preserve the pub's history, while implementing some changes of their own. Top priority became reinventing the food offered, and I can't speak for what it was before, but wow it really blew away any expectations I had of this little bar tucked away on Rowley Avenue.
You settle in for a drink and bite of food to the soft glow of a leg lamp...
...and will immediately be surprised at the pretty extensive list of menu options considering the kitchen is small, how they try to locally source products, and how "Cleveland" themed it really is!

We kicked off the meal with a fried Shrimp Cocktail, that had the most wonderful zingy, creamy cocktail sauce with it. I'm still thinking about that dish!
We also sampled the giant Fried Pickles with a house made beer batter and spicy remoulade. Seriously, biggest ones I've ever seen.
The next course was a bit lighter, a Southwest Chicken Salad. The creamy cilantro dressing was delicious.
Then we got into sample sizes of several of their "In Betweens" of the sandwich section of the menu. This included the Chicken Club (that walnut pesto on there had this chicken-hater gobbling down the full sample).
The Cleveland's Best Grilled Cheese, with smoked gouda, mozzarella/provolone blend, and a touch of mayonnaise.
And the Cleveland Burger. This bad boy had pierogi, kielbasa, and stadium mustard on it! You don't get much more "Cleveland" than that.
Next up was the Mac N' Cheese, which was so rich and delicious that it moved up into my top three mac n' cheeses in Cleveland (Lucky's Cafe reigns supreme, and Tremont Tap House rounds out the top three for me). I'm ready to go back and order this again, immediately.
The show-stopping plate of Loco Moski (their twist on a Hawaiian classic) hit the table next, and by this point in the meal my belly was crying "UNCLE!" But I grab a bite of the pierogi with gravy, and this hearty dish sounds strange, but it somehow really works in a weird Cleveland way.
From the brunch menu, we got to sample the Chicken and Waffles. The waffles are cinnamon flavored, and the dish is topped with gravy and maple syrup, so it has a real sweet/savory combo going on.
The last dish to hit our table was dessert, and it was, you guessed it...Pierogi! Candied apple pierogi to be precise. I would have loved to see this dish warm and topped with some vanilla ice cream. That would have really taken it over the top.
We also got to see their bar tending skills in action, and their craft cocktails were impressive for what feels like just a regular old neighborhood dive bar.
Trust me, they are trying to be anything but, and it's clearly working.

I'm just happy that this spot is within bike riding distance, and on our route of frequent Tremont visits, because I loved the experience and can't wait to go back on my own. This is exactly the type of hidden gem that I love discovering and sharing with you.

The Rowley Inn
1104 Rowley Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 795-5345

Disclosure: I and a guest were invited to attend a media preview dinner where all food and beverages were complimentary. A $25 gift card was received. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Burnham

The Hilton Cleveland invited Mr. H and I to come in for a tour of the property and dinner at The Burnham this past weekend. The hotel is full of Cleveland influence, from the steel-themed design in the lobby to the local artwork featured throughout, and that influence carries over into the restaurant.

Named after famous Cleveland architect, Daniel Burnham, the restaurant offers a fine-dining experience with a seasonal menu and Ohio-sourced products wherever possible.
We were seated in the more casual area near the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Mall B and Downtown Cleveland views.
The menu boasts use of products from local suppliers like The Chef's Garden, Mitchell's Ice Cream, On the Rise Bakery, and more. We were asked to make our own selections from the menu for the tasting.

We started with a cup of Lobster Bisque ($5) with Cognac whipped cream and puff pastry. While it was missing the noticeable chunks of lobster meat that I love, it did have rich lobster flavor and was thinner than the often overly-heavy versions of this classic. Locally, I think the version at Chez Francois can't be beat. A bowl is available for $10, but this was more than enough to share with other dishes coming.
We also shared the 63 degree Egg salad ($12) with asparagus, baby spinach, prosciutto, and a truffle vinaigrette. The vinaigrette in particular really stood out for me on this dish.
The last item we shared was the Grilled Octopus ($12) with cauliflower puree, smashed fingerling potatoes, radish, and chimichurri. The flavors and textures on this appetizer were well-balanced and really enjoyable, but I do wish there was more octopus on the plate. The portion also seemed a tad small for the price.
Mr. H ordered the Crispy Skin Salmon ($34) with Ohio City Pasta's sweet pea and sun-dried tomato gnocchi, charred onions, and asparagus coulis. It was a pretty plate of food, and even I had to steal a bite even though I don't care for salmon.
I went for the Scallops and Pork Belly ($36) with sweet potato puree, charred onions, and bacon jam. The portions of scallops and pork belly were very generous, and I loved the sweet and smokey flavor that the bacon jam added.
We were way too stuffed to try any of the desserts, but I hear that the Sweet Potato Cheesecake is worth getting.

My only real criticism of the experience was that service was not quite up to the price point of the menu. Our server, while friendly, seemed quite inexperienced and forgetful. There was very little knowledge of the menu, we had to ask twice to learn what the Steak of the Day was, and he wasn't attentive enough on drink refills or the pacing of courses. With entrees ranging from $28 - $44, I expect a bit more service-wise.

Mr. H and I travel quite a bit, and I can honestly say that Cleveland area hotels have set the bar high on the food quality, local sourcing of products, and overall atmosphere. Now when I visit other cities and find myself dining in hotel restaurants out of convenience, I long for home even more. These restaurants in Cleveland shouldn't be overlooked by locals.

If you find yourself at The Burnham, head on up to Bar 32 for an after-dinner cocktail. Located on the 32nd floor of the building, it offers stunning views of the lake and Downtown. We headed right up there after dinner, and look forward to coming back when the weather is nice to experience the outdoor patio. Being up there was worth my wobbly legs and flip-flopping stomach. Heights are not my friend.

The Burnham
100 Lakeside Ave East
Cleveland, OH 44114
216-413-5120

Disclosure: I was invited to sample the fall menu at The Burnham as part of their media outreach. We paid for our own alcohol and all food over the $100 allotment. All opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Luca West Opening

I've been a fan of Luca since it opened in the Superior Viaduct. The views of downtown, the intimate setting tucked off of West 25th, and the sacchetti....ahhh. Now, Cleveland west-siders will get to enjoy Luca West as they open their doors in Westlake TODAY!

Mr. H and I got a sneak peek over the weekend.
I think you'll see a lot of familiar modern Italian and other European influences on the menu, including the pastas they've become known for. Seriously, isn't this the largest bowl of pasta you've ever seen?
This sight was drawing everyone in at the soft opening. I kind of wanted to crawl up in there and take a nap after the meal.

Some of the other dishes featured at the soft opening were lamb, lobster, squid, and the most heavenly gnocchi.
Topped off with tiramisu and a cannoli, and I was just rolling out of there. It made the quite hairy ride over during that storm on Sunday well worth it!

Welcome to Westlake, Luca! A great fine dining option for those of you looking on the west side.

Luca West
24600 Detroit Road
Westlake, OH

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the soft opening of the restaurant with a guest and all food was complimentary. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Weekend Bites

The weekend kicked off with the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation's An Old Brooklyn Nite fundraising event at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo on Friday. It brought evening exhibit viewing...
...the opportunity to indulge in Old Brooklyn-based desserts, like Honey Hut, Jack Frost Donuts, and Cake Royale. For example, this cake version of the proposed new OBCDC headquarters and main street anchor that they are raising funds for in the Illuminate campaign...
...and my favorite part of the evening (besides winning 4 auction packages and a bottle of wine in the wine pull), the late night carousel rides after a glass of wine (or three, whoops)!
This was our third year attending, and I've always enjoyed the evening of connecting with our neighbors and having some fun in the zoo after hours.

The next day brought my sister-in-law's surprise birthday party at 16-Bit Bar + Arcade. Have you ever had Pop Rocks in a cocktail?
This "Courtney Love" gin-based drink was tasty, but WHOA it felt so weird to feel the Pop Rocks going down.

These past few weeks have been particularly stressful, so on Sunday I took my stress out on the aisles of HomeGoods. Mr. H was not pleased.
But at least he carried my bags. Sometimes you just need a good retail therapy session. Are you with me?

Sunday ended with a hairy ride over to Westlake during the storm for the Luca soft opening, but more on that later this week!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Sausage Shoppe

Open since 1938, The Sausage Shoppe is a beloved business in Old Brooklyn.
But, I only just stepped foot in there for the first time the other day. I was greeted by a case full of brats, cold cuts, jerky, sausages, pierogi, and more.
It was a lot to take in at first.
However, we quickly settled on some Rudy's Pierogi, Banana Pepper Brats, and Garlic Honey Brats.
The next night was gloomy and cold, and this meal just warmed us up from the inside out.
Felt like a pretty "Cleveland" meal!

The Sausage Shoppe
4501 Memphis Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44144
216-351-5213

Friday, November 3, 2017

Cincinnati Eats: Senate and Salazar

Sorry for the brief hiatus. Work and personal life exploded the last two weeks, but let's pick up where we left off...in Cincinnati! Mr. H and I weren't quite done with our food adventures during my work trip.

That includes lunch at Senate in Over-the-Rhine. Known for their creative hot dogs and poutine, this casual eatery was a fun stop for lunch mid-conference. Mr. H went for the Corn Dogs.
While I just had to try the Korean Pork Belly Reuben.
It was well worth the stop, but just beware that it's very busy and there may be a wait.

The final restaurant stop worth noting is Salazar. We had been there during our last Cincinnati trip, and it had left us wanting more. Luckily, it did not disappoint once again!

We started with a Little Fried Oyster Sandwich ($7) with kimchi, radish sprouts, and garlic mayo. We totally should have ordered two, because one bite of this awesome little slider was not enough. Mmmm...
But, we were also sharing the Heirloom Corn Polenta ($12) with a fried duck egg, local mushrooms, pickled vegetables, and brown butter. This was the best thing we ate that night! Decadent.
I had the fish special, and it was quite good.
But not as good as Mr. H's Ora King Salmon ($29) with an “everything” crust, cream cheese dumplings, pickled fresno chilies, bagel chips, caperberry, and dill sauce.
It was like eating a good bagel and lox, and even this "salmon-hater" stole a bite or two. It was worth the second visit, and I have a feeling it won't be our last.

Senate
1212 Vine Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202

Salazar
1401 Republic Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202