Thursday, September 21, 2017

Event Recap: Taste of the Browns 2017

This year's Taste of the Browns to benefit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank was just as fantastic as every other year. We got to mingle with Cleveland Browns' players, alumni, and icons...
...sit in the quiet and serene stadium...
...bid on silent and live auction packages, featuring many exclusive Browns' packages...
...and, of course, nosh on food from the 25+ restaurant and beverage purveyors.
We enjoyed the Lobster Bisque from Blue Point Grille, AMP 150's Pork "Burnt Ends" with maple bourbon BBQ sauce, the Chicken Liver Mousse from EDWINS, and Shortribs Pierogi from Deagan's Kitchen + Bar.
One of our favorites of the evening was the Lobster Crepinette from Chef John Selick of University Hospitals and Sodexo. He always has one of my favorite dishes at any event he's at. It's a don't-miss station for us.
At this event, you do have to be selective and pace yourself. There's no way I get to try all of them. The setting of the event at FirstEnergy Stadium is always special, with the views of the Downtown skyline and the opportunity to step out into the silent stadium stands. I also love seeing the hope in Browns' fans' eyes as the start of the season is upon us.

The event raises critical funds for the Food Bank, and they are able to provide four meals in a local hunger center for every $1 raised at this event. From the way the auctions and raffles were going, and the packed room, I think it's safe to say that they raised the funds and awareness they were hoping for! I believe that I saw on social media that the event had raised $240,000 for the Food Bank. That's a lot of meals to be served in local hunger centers!

Disclosure: I was provided with tickets to the event in exchange for blog posts. I am a former employee of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Event Recap: Chefs Unbridled 2017

On Saturday, Mr. H and I got to attend Chefs Unbridled to benefit the Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center, under a gorgeous tent that is always one of my favorite event settings of the year.
We've attended this event for years, and it always promises a stunning setting, mission-driven messaging and fundraising opportunities, and fantastic food from area chefs.

Some food highlights for me included the Lobster and Shrimp Manicotti from Scott Kuhn at Driftwood Restaurants + Catering.
And the Mole Braised Pork Shoulder with an Ohio Corn Puree and Avocado Relish from Chef Adam Bostwick of Graffiti and Cork & Cleaver.
Other crowd favorites at our table of attendees included the scallop from Chef Matthew Mize of Abo's Grille, and the Seasame Crusted Ahi Tuna (below) from Chef Brittany Logan of Rocky River Wine Bar.
I made sure to leave room for some donuts from the Donut Lab food truck parked outside the tent. There were several dessert options from food trucks that opened up at 8PM.
Seriously, hunt down the Donut Lab truck if you haven't had it before. These little pillows of donut heaven are worth every calorie.

Personally, one of the things that I love about this event is that they do incorporate mission-related activities and special guests of honor, like these gorgeous horses that greeted us when we arrived.
The true stars that evening, sorry chefs!

Fieldstone Farm started the therapeutic riding program in 1978, and serves more than 1,300 students annually from all ages and a variety of special needs. They have over 60 partnering schools and non-profits, and house the Gaitway High School Alternative High School on site with 61 graduates since 2007. The organization has many ways for the community to give, and I suggest that you look into them further if this sounds of interest to you.

It's a beautiful event that benefits a very worthy cause, and we just always feel fortunate to be there to support it.

Disclosure: I was provided with two tickets to the event in exchange for posts. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bearden's

After stopping at my in-law's new house in Bay Village recently, the family headed out to the iconic Bearden's Steak Burgers in Rocky River. Around since 1948, I'm guessing not much has changed. The decor and atmosphere will "teleport" you back in time to a real 50's diner.
They are known for their steak burgers. Luckily, Mr. H was in the mood for one. Served on a butter toasted bun with your choice of toppings.
Even though I was secretly dying to try their famous Peanutburger with peanut butter and sweet pickles, I just wasn't in the mood for a burger. Guess I'll have to go back!

I opted for the Hot Dog with a side of homemade Onion Rings.
Nowhere on the menu did it state that it was TWO hot dogs. I totally would have gotten the Peanutburger if I had known. Oh well, it was still a decent dog and I got to take one home for later. The onion rings' batter was dense and clearly not a frozen product. Even though there were only three, I still couldn't finish them and I also took one home to accompany the hot dog.

Our nephew was enthralled with the train that circles the ceiling and the SpongeBob cartoons on the TV. Certainly a great place for families. You order at the counter, seat yourself, and the food comes out quick and hot.

Bearden's Steak Burgers
19985 Lake Road
Rocky River, OH 44116

Friday, September 15, 2017

City Diner

Mr. H and I continued our Friday evening out in the neighborhood with another stop on Memphis Avenue, at the newly opened City Diner.
It's a classic American diner, but trying to kick it up a notch with the food quality and local sourcing. This isn't your $2.99 breakfast plate special kind of diner, and I'm totally on board with that! We have several of those options in the neighborhood, and our restaurants should be as diverse as the people that live in Old Brooklyn. So, welcome, City Diner!
It's bright and cheery inside, and just retro enough to feel fun without the outdated and grungy feel that diners sometimes have.
The menu leans a little hearty, with several Eastern European inspired dishes. You can also get breakfast served all day.
Every "City Main" dish comes with your choice of salad or soup. Mr. H and I both went for the soup that evening. He enjoyed the Creamy Tomato Soup, and I really liked the Roasted Chicken Soup. Both were clearly homemade and much better than any diner soup I've had before.
Mr. H ordered the Short Rib Stroganoff ($13) with Braised Beef Short Rib, Caramelized Onion, Mushroom-Cream Sauce, and Egg Noodles. It was a little milder in flavor than he had hoped for, but overall it was good.
I got the Pierogi, Kraut, & Kielbasa ($11) with Potato and Chive Pierogi, Caramelized Onion, Homemade Sauerkraut, Kielbasa, Sour Cream, and Warm Apple Sauce. If you look closely, you can see that the onions and sour cream didn't make it onto the plate. I immediately recognized that it was missing sour cream, and our server brought it right over. Sadly, I didn't notice that the onions were missing until I was almost done. However, I did bring it to her attention so she could share that with the kitchen. She said the chef had stepped out of the kitchen to greet customers, so that's probably why. Certainly newly-opened kinks there, but they'll work that out.
I enjoyed this dish too. For the price point, the plates of food were large and clearly higher quality than you'd typically get at a neighborhood diner. I think they'll do well in Old Brooklyn.

City Diner
5109 Memphis Avenue
Cleveland OH, 44144

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Vino Veritas Cellars Opens in Old Brooklyn

On Friday, Mr. H and I decided to spend the evening in our neighborhood. This started with a stop out at the newly opened winery in Old Brooklyn, Vino Veritas Cellars.
I've been a couple of times already, thanks to volunteer meetings with the OBCDC. Bike riding distance and wine involved...of course I'm enjoying volunteering my time with them!

When the weather is nice, you can purchase your wine samples, glasses, or bottles right outside...
...and then head to their outdoor seating area. Cute, but secretly I hope that they add some more comfortable seating options over time. My old butt starts to hurt after a few minutes of perching on a log!
I'm obsessed with the wine corks scattered throughout the gravel.
Since the weather has started to chill, they've now opened up an indoor tasting room and seating inside of a very large greenhouse structure. It'll be open all winter long, but there are plans for a tasting room and production facility to be built on the property in the future.

It was just warm enough that we wanted to still sit outside to soak in the sunset and last hints of summer. There were a handful of tables positioned outside of the greenhouse, and we settled in for a cheese board (supplied by Old Brooklyn Cheese Co.) and two glasses of wine.
So far, my favorite of the four offered is the Sicilian Stallion, but we also like the Chardonnay. The other two are too sweet for my personal taste.

The owner has big plans for this plot of land, and I look forward to seeing it develop. They will also host events, like the pig roast/clam bake Wine, Land and Sea Bash on October 15th. Mr. H and I will be there!

I mean, come on, does your neighborhood have its own winery? A great, fun addition to the community.

Vino Veritas Cellars
4103 Memphis Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44109

Monday, September 11, 2017

Weekend Bites

After spending 10 days in NY to prepare for, and of course celebrate, the wedding of these two (yay for my brother and new sister-in-law!)...
...we were quite ready for a lazy weekend at home in Cleveland.

Friday kicked it off well, since I received the news early in the day that our landscaping project would be done a day sooner than anticipated. I got to arrive home to a transformed front yard, thanks to Impullitti Landscaping.
Mr. H and I decided to spend Friday evening in the neighborhood, first stopping for a glass of wine and an Old Brooklyn Cheese Co. cheese board at the newly opened Vino Veritas Cellars on Memphis. The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed it there. More on that later this week!
We then popped over to the newly opened City Diner, on Memphis as well, for dinner. Also more on that later this week!

On Saturday, we headed over to my in-laws' new house in Bay Village to see it for the first time, and have lunch with the family. Then we ran some errands, including a stop at Saucisson. Among other things, this Korean Spiced Pork Terrine had to come home with us.
On Sunday, we had additional errands to run and some chores around the house, and we didn't want one of them to be grocery shopping. So, we took advantage of the new partnership of Heinen's Grocery Store and Instacart to get home delivery for a reasonable delivery fee. You can also choose to tip your driver. The only thing we didn't love was the additional "service fee" included. We'd like to learn more about their pay structure. 
We were able to set the delivery time for a one-hour window later that day, and BOOM our full grocery list appeared right on time. Ready for the week!

As we headed out to North Olmsted for errands, we stopped at a new-to-us diner, Ari's Family Restaurant, on Lorain. A simple and classic diner, and it did the trick.
While I was too scared to try the $2 Bloody Mary, I did appreciate the vintage cash register.
Overall, this weekend was exactly what we needed after the whirlwind that was my brother's wedding and 14 hours of NY travel. There are plenty of fun September weekends ahead that are packed with events and commitments, so it was nice to not have any!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ticket Giveaway: Chopped Watch Party

Join Cleveland for a Watch Party as my buddy Chef Adam Bostwick of Graffiti: A Social Kitchen and Cork & Cleaver Social Kitchen as he competes on Food Network's Chopped!

You can also get involved in their contest to win two tickets to the Watch Party by building a signature cocktail and menu item. Follow along on their Facebook to participate in the contest. It ends on Thursday.

Official Watch Party
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
7:30pm - 11:30pm
Hosted at Graffiti: A Social Kitchen

Cheer on our city's own Chef Adam Bostwick as he competes on Food Network's Chopped. Tune in with as the episode airs on Tuesday, September 12th at 10:00 pm ET/PT.

The official Watch Party starts at 7:30pm and runs 'til ??. Tickets are $20 per person, and it includes: Food inspired by secret basket ingredients, secret basket-themed cocktail and a parting gift!

Place your ticket order online at Eventbrite or via phone at 216-651-6969. Tickets are limited and they will sell out.

Or, you can win two tickets here!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I don't know about you, but I love seeing Cleveland chefs compete on a national stage. The word is continuing to spread about what an amazing culinary scene we have here. and these shows do make a difference. I'm even more excited because I get to call this guy a friend, and I'm super excited for him. Come watch with me! Go, Adam!

Disclosure: I was provided with four tickets in exchange for this post. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

2017 Harvesting Hope Preview

The fourth annual American Cancer Society Harvesting Hope event is taking place on September 25th at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. It is an extraordinary farm-to-table experience, showcasing local chefs surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the Garden.
Mr. H and I attended this intimate event for the first time last year, and we not only enjoyed food from some of our favorite chefs, like Jeff Jarrett of Dinner in the Dark, Adam Bostwick of Cork & Cleaver/Graffiti, Zack Bruell's restaurant group, and John Selick of Sodexo/University Hospitals, but we also learned more about an incredible organization and their mission and we scooped up an in-home dinner party live auction package. Needless to say, it was a fantastic night!

The 2017 celebration will begin at 5:00PM with a VIP Reception, where guests will have the pleasure of meeting local celebrity chefs. The dinner portion of the evening will begin at 6:00PM with local breweries offering tastings, and farm-to-table chef stations. Included will be a live auction, silent auction, live music and a special Cleveland Hope Lodge guest speaker and mission moment.

Harvesting Hope appeals to those interested in quality local food, wine, beer and those who are passionate about finishing the fight against cancer. Funds raised at Harvesting Hope will benefit the lifesaving mission of the American Cancer Society, and support the Joseph S. and Jeannette M. Silber Hope Lodge community in Cleveland.

Tickets are $100 or $150 for VIP and can be purchased here.

Disclosure: I was provided with two tickets in exchange for posts about the event. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Maine Eats: Portland

The second half of our Maine trip took us to Portland. We had some exciting dining plans to look forward to, and I'm happy to say that they did not disappoint!

On our first night, we headed to Grace, which was formerly a Methodist church. It's on the National Registry of Historic Places. The restaurant renovated the church, but left its character and integrity in place, honoring its history.
Simply stunning inside, and quite a unique setting to enjoy a meal in.
We had a large lobster roll lunch earlier at McLoon's Lobstah Shack (would have made our top 3 lobster rolls list if the lobster had been warmed and we had a squeeze of fresh lemon), so we just headed straight to an entree and skipped any small plates to start.

I ordered the English Pea Risotto and added the suggested Lamb Loin and Goat Gouda. It came with Tuscan mountain mint, pickled peppers, baby corn, grilled artichokes, and peanuts. I thought the plate was not only beautiful, but the food was really good too.
The next day brought us another lobster roll lunch (when in Maine, right?). This time, we headed back to an old favorite, Fishermen's Grill. They had recently moved locations, and we wanted to see if it was as good as we remembered.

This much is true...the rolls are piled HIGH and it's a very generous portion. It was still very good, but not as good as I remembered it being. The roll had gotten very soggy at the bottom, and the wet portions completely fell apart and weren't pleasurable to eat. I also don't care for lettuce with the warm buttered lobster meat, because it starts to wilt and get a little gross. But, that is one monster lobster roll and was still better than many we've tried!
We had planned a filling lunch, because our dinner plans included heading to Central Provisions. Many would say it's Portland's best restaurant, and several of my Cleveland chef friends have raved about it. So, it was on our "must dine" list this trip, but we knew they don't accept reservations. The wait was two hours, so we grabbed a drink and cheese plate at another nearby restaurant while we waited. We finally got in around 10PM. Thankfully, it was soooooo worth the wait!

We were seated at the bar, with front row seats to the action.
Everything is small, shareable plates, and they suggest 3 per person. We shared the Bluefin Tuna Crudo...
...Bone Marrow Toast, Suckling Pig, and a Foie Gras Torchon (pictured below). The foie gras was out of this world.
Instead of sharing dessert as we had planned, we just ordered another Torchon to split. One of the top dishes I've ever had in my life. I'll never not go to Central Provisions (several James Beard nominations) when in Portland again.

Our last night in Portland also brought a fun and memorable experience, the Sunday Supper,  a tailor-made, one-of-a-kind six-course meal by reservation only (only 6 spots available), at Piccolo (James Beard semi-finalist).

Sunday Supper gets you up close and personal for a chef's tasting menu, and wine pairings are optional. Our group of six all chose to add the wine pairings.
I knew the meal was off to a good start when we had this gorgeous stuffed squash blossom.
The meal was playful and creative, with our elevated Chicken and Waffles course being served in vintage lunch pails. I was pretty pumped to get one of my favorite childhood cartoons, Fraggle Rock!
We were impressed with the food, and the overall experience was special. We had a wonderful time chatting with the chef/owner after the meal about the Portland dining scene, Cleveland restaurants, and the beef currently dry-aging in our basement. Her eyes lit up!

We had to leave the next morning to head home, but not before one quick last meal in Portland. I grabbed a Bloody Mary and a Fried Clam Roll ($15) with whole-belly clams, pickled red onions, and red-eye tartar sauce at The Old Port Sea Grill & Raw Bar.
The pickled red onions and red-eye tartar sauce just kicked this classic East Coast sandwich up a notch, and I really enjoyed it.

Now completely stuffed and ready to get back to our daily routines of home, we headed back to Boston to catch our flight. It was bittersweet, since we had such a wonderful trip and I always leave Maine wanting to do more, but it was great to get home. And sleep in our own bed!

I hope you've enjoyed our Maine adventures this week, and maybe I've inspired you to take a trip to that area one day. It does seem like a lot of Clevelanders do! Til next time, Maine...

Grace
15 Chestnut Street
Portland, ME 04101

McLoon's Lobstah Shack
315 Island Road
Spruce Head Island, Maine

Fishermen's Grill
650 Main Street
Westbrook, ME 04092

Central Provisions
414 Fore Street
Portland, ME 04101

Piccolo
111 Middle Street
Portland, ME 04101

Old Port Sea Grill & Raw Bar
93 Commercial Street
Portland, ME 04101