Friday, July 20, 2018

LockKeepers

Let's talk about LockKeepers in Valley View. Now, I've been there before for lunch meetings since my office is just up the road, and I've always enjoyed my food, the service has been fine, and it's nice to have a fine-dining atmosphere in the area for some occasions. But, I hadn't been in for dinner yet, and also had never enjoyed their outdoor deck.
While you could still hear the humming of cars driving by on busy Rockside Road, at least you got to gaze off at the river and trees.
Mr. H and I started the meal with a new seasonal dish on their menu, Grilled Peaches and Proscuitto ($15) with burrata, grilled crostini, and balsamic vinegar. In theory, this sounds like an amazing summer dish. I was skeptical that the peaches would be sweet enough, since they weren't quite in season yet. But that was the least of the problems with the poor peaches. These rock hard un-ripened peaches shouldn't have even made it out of the kitchen. They were that bad, and I'd like to think any chef would be embarrassed to serve them.
Not a good start to the meal, but it picked up from there.

Mr. H ordered the Parmesan Crusted Marlin ($32), and he did enjoy the dish.
I ordered the Parmesan and Ricotta Gnocchi ($35) with smoked duck ragu, fresh English peas, local corn, tarragon pickled tomatoes, and fresh shaved truffles. It was a rich and heavy dish, so I ended up taking more than half of it home with me. No problem there!
While the entrees were much better than the Starter, I can't say that either of them knocked my socks off. Also, service was pretty bad, both at our table and our surrounding tables. They seemed to have all kinds of issues happening- timing, wrong orders delivered, table arrangement. At one point in the meal, we were asked to get up and slide our table over. At that price point, I want more. For me, I think I'll stick with lunch meetings there.

LockKeepers
8001 Rockside Road
Valley View, OH 44125
(216) 524-9404

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Bakersfield

This will likely not be a popular post, but I have to say it...I officially don't like the tacos at Bakersfield.
I'm sorry, it's true. After two visits, it's concluded...the tacos are not for me. I wanted to like it, truly, I did. The space is Instagram-worthy, the tacos look vibrant and fun, and who doesn't love a margarita?
But, service has been less than stellar on both visits, both times I've been greeted at the host stand with a hint of annoyance, and since I don't care for the tacos, there just aren't enough of options on the limited menu to bring me back.
On my first visit with friends, I ordered three tacos. The Fish with crispy mahi, tabasco lime sauce, citrus slaw, and cilantro.
The Baja Shrimp with crispy shrimp, chipotle lime crema, guacamole, red cabbage, pickled fresno, and chive.
And a daily special taco with pork that was the only one with even the least bit of flavor to it. They were served at barely room temperature, which really starts to mess with the pleasure of eating certain things like fish or seafood.

I left there a little surprised that I hadn't enjoyed it, since I know that many do. So, I decided to head back a couple of months later with Mr. H.

This time, I ordered the same two standard tacos to give them another shot, and then threw in an Al Pastor with chili marinated pork, pineapple, pickled white onion, and cilantro and then a Carnitas with beer braised pork, guacamole, tomatillo crema, pickled red onion, and cilantro.
Same summary, sorry. They are barely warm, pretty bland, and just not for me.

It also grossed me out that the share plates on the table were dirty when we arrived. So I asked the server for new ones, and when he set them down on our table I realized it was meat grease on his fingers that were making the plates dirty. I just ate off of the serving tray, thank you.

But, the meal was slightly redeemed through Mr. H's Cochinita Pibil with achiote braised pork, black beans, guacamole, pickled red onion, cilantro, and queso fresco.
The sandwich was truly really good. So good that I requested that he save me one bite so I could finish the meal with it. Must always end on a good note!

This is why I do love exploring food and restaurants, because each one is not for everyone. This one, just not for me.

Bakersfield
2058 W 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 443-0460

Monday, July 16, 2018

Heinen's Wine Finds: Spain and Portugal

Mr. H and I were invited to Heinen's Grocery Store to sample their newest wine finds, from Spain and Portugal. We were taken through a tour of their travels, sampling some really rare and unique finds from regions less well-known. I can confidently say that we enjoyed all of the 8 wines we sampled.
They also paired them with some great cheeses and Spanish and Portuguese-inspired foods that will be available in their prepared food cases. Mr. H was a little envious of this enormous paella cooker!
These bolder flavors paired really well with the wines.
All of the new wines are priced between $7.99 and $24.99, with most of them falling within $10 - $12. Incredible deals for some great tasting wines! We picked up bottles of the Zagalin White Wine, Pedrera Red "Reserva", and Juramento.

These wines will be available at all Heinen's locations starting today! The grapes used will be mostly unfamiliar to you, but trust the gurus in the wine department to make some suggestions based on the type of wine you typically gravitate towards. You won't be disappointed.

Disclosure: I was invited to participate in a complimentary wine and food tasting at Heinen's. All opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Weekend Bites

After a quick holiday week getaway, I was back in town on Friday evening and ready for a Cleveland weekend! Saturday morning started with a handful of usual stops for us, like Ohio City Provisions...
...and Old Brooklyn Cheese Co.
With another stop at Lakewood Plant Company, to *ahem* replace the plant I killed lost. I have the best of intentions. But between my black thumb and a six-month old puppy who likes to eat dirt, I'm visiting their adorable shop more frequently lately.
That afternoon, we headed to Tremont for the Crafted 2018 Local Food, Beer & Music festival taking place in Lincoln Park. There were 7 local restaurants (like Dante, Butcher & the Brewer, Collision Bend Brewery, and Tremont Tap House) serving up small bites, and 38+ craft beer samples on site. We found a couple of new-to-us breweries that we'll have to visit real soon.
It was an absolutely gorgeous summer day to be out and about in Cleveland, so we didn't end there. We did some patio hopping in Ohio City before heading to a house party, which led to some delicious gin punch and a very late night.

Let's just say that I paid for it the entire next day, and lost a beautiful day. Whoops! So, this was more of a "Saturday" roundup than the weekend. You'll have that sometimes.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Umami Asian Kitchen

So, I haven't written about Umami Asian Kitchen since our first visit in 2011. And then we only went once after that. I did mention that we just don't find ourselves in Chagrin Falls very often. But, there have been chef changes over the years, and Chef Corey Kosel has been at the helm of the kitchen for a few years now. I knew him from his days as Chef de Cuisine at Market Garden Brewery, and he's been a loyal participant in the culinary fundraiser that I plan each year. So, it was time to get our butts out there again, and I'm so glad that we did.

We curled up in one of the two window nooks at the front of the restaurant, which provided great views and people watching as we dined. Wine kicked off the meal, of course.
We ordered a special of the day, Pork and Garlic Scape Wontons.
Chef Corey sent us out some of the restaurant's famous Goat Cheese Dumplings with Mackenzie Creamery goat cheese, medjool dates, romanesco cauliflower, and sprouts.
Mr. H ordered the Faroe Island Salmon with crispy sushi rice, braised wild mushrooms, kale, and sweet tamari. The crispy rice cake is something that we'll be trying to replicate at home, as the texture really added something great to the dish. The fish was cooked perfectly, but the real star of this dish was the mushrooms! I snagged two.
I ordered another special of the day, Red Snapper over a pork belly fried rice.
The food was all excellent, and it left me wanting to make sure it wasn't another 5+ years before we come back!

As if we weren't full enough, every visit to Chagrin Falls means a stroll over to Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream shop.
Even though it had been raining off and on all day, it ended up being a nice evening and we really enjoyed ourselves. Do yourself a favor, and don't let Umami fall off your radar like we did.

Umami Asian Kitchen
42 N Main Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Gasoline Alley

After hitting up Farmer's Rail, we needed to grab some lunch in the area, so Mr. H took me over to a haunt from his youth, Gasoline Alley.

Open since 1995, the husband/wife duo have a cute story about how they met and their shared love of wine, cheese, and sandwiches. Hmmm, sounds familiar. What they have is an eclectic little restaurant that provides an endless amount of "flare" to gaze at.
We settled up to the bar at about 11:30AM, and I'm glad that we came when we did, because the place was PACKED by the time we left at 12:30PM. On a Friday. Always a good sign. 

The menu is large, and mostly concentrated on gourmet sandwiches. They also offer daily specials, burgers, pizza, soups and salads, and a handful of large plates. We had a hard time selecting a sandwich to share, but decided on the Sassy Sammie ($10.99) with corned beef, hot pastrami, and cream cheese on toasted rye.
I had the good sense to ask for a side of Thousand Islands dressing, and that kicked this sandwich up the notch that it needed. But it was a good sandwich!

We also shared a special of the day, Beer Battered Shrimp.
The pile of fresh cut fries underneath was a meal on its own.

For the price point, you get a huge meal and the quality and selection was very good. I don't find myself in the area often, but I'd certainly head back there when we do.

Gasoline Alley
870 N Cleveland Massillon Road
Bath, OH 44333
(330) 666-2670

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Farmer's Rail

Mr. H and I had to be down in the Akron area last week, and had some time to kill while our pup was at the vet, so we wandered over to the newly opened Farmer's Rail.
This farmer-owned and operated butcher shop is gorgeous inside and out, and bursting with locally farmed and produced goods. Everything from beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and seafood line the coolers. The beef, pork, poultry, and lamb are locally raised on Brunty Farms.
Shelves throughout the store carry local dry goods, like sauces, jams, pickles, and more.
There's fresh baked bread, pies, pastries, and cookies. And we spotted several of our favorite local products on the shelves.
A large dairy section also offers cheeses, milk, and some produce.
I kind of wanted to take home that whole Hog Snapper just because he looked cool!
Aren't these summer-themed cookies so sweet too? Would be perfect for a backyard party.
All I have to say is that I'm glad we don't live a little closer. We walked out of these with dry-rubbed ribs (which were fantastic for dinner that night!), steaks, lamb and feta burgers, and a few sauces and jams. Including a locally-foraged Garlic Scape Pesto that I'm looking forward to trying soon. This shop was a little slice of foodie heaven for me.

Farmer's Rail
1572 N Cleveland Massillon Road
Akron, OH 44333

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Blackbird Baking Company

How have I never stopped in to the Blackbird Baking Company's retail location in Lakewood before?
I've enjoyed their products for years, since many area restaurants and retailers sell them. But, I finally stopped in there for myself, and I'm just glad that I don't live closer because everything we picked up there was simply fabulous.

We snagged two Croissants, and then made egg sandwiches on them the next morning. Buttery, flakey heaven.
We also scooped up a Blonde Levain (pictured left) to grill and serve with Roasted Bone Marrow. Mmmmm....
Mr. H also ordered a Chocolate Chip Cookie, and I'm still mad days later that I only had two bites. I'll be dreaming about that soft, gooey cookie for a while.

Blackbird Baking Company
1391 Sloane Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107
(216) 712-6599

Monday, June 25, 2018

Ironwood Cafe

The Ironwood Cafe in Westlake has been around for quite a while, but with Chef Lloyd Foust now at the kitchen's helm, the menu is seeing big changes.
First thing to note, you don't enter the bar/restaurant through the front door. The main entrance is around the right side of the building, which can be accessed from a sidewalk from the front or through this super cute breezeway between the large parking lot and The Copper Cup next door.
I immediately got a peek at Ironwood's patio, and it was a perfect night to be out there.
We settled in on the patio, and started to look at the menu. It's classic bar food kicked up a notch, and now incorporating in some products from local farms and producers, like Oberlin Food Hub, Ohio City Farm, Green City Growers, Ohio City Pasta, and more.
There are your standard classics, like Nachos, Wings, Quesadilla, Chili, Classic Cheeseburger, BBQ Chicken Wrap, and Philly Cheesesteak. But, you'll also find some elevated bar food like Lettuce Wrap, Smoked Pork Salad, Salmon Burger, Cuban, and Fettucini. Chef Lloyd is also running daily specials that fall under the more unique category, like Mussels with a Pear and Orange Broth, Italian Sausage Po' Boy, and a Short Rib Melt.

We zeroed in on two of the more unusual menu options, the Mozz Burger (a special) with bibb lettuce, mint pistou, mozzarella sticks, and a fire roasted pepper aioli.
The aioli gave it quite a fun kick of heat, and man are those house cut fries so good! Do yourself a favor and order a side of the Garlic Aioli featured with the Fries on the starters section of the menu.

I ordered the Fried Bologna Sandwich ($12) with American cheese, spicy pickles, and a paprika leek aioli on sourdough.
Apparently I had selected one of Chef Lloyd's personal favorites, and we can see why. Mr. H said it was a "damn good sandwich" and one that "is worth driving there just for that." So I'd say the dish was a hit for us.

Although it didn't seem to be currently functional, any bar with a Skee-Ball machine gets instant points with me!
The inside is large and has a classic bar feel to it, but the patio garden is where you'll want to be this summer.
Lucky for us, Ironwood is right on the border of Bay Village and my in-laws live just miles away. I can see us heading over there with the family, because this is totally a family-friendly place too. They even have a Kids Menu.

Follow along on Instagram for drool-worthy food pictures and features on daily specials. This is one menu shake-up and new approach to bar food that I fully endorse.

Ironwood Cafe
688 Dover Center Road
Westlake, OH 44145
(440) 835-9900

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Ticket Giveaway: Crafted 2018

A Farm-to-Table Meets Beer & Music Festival is about to hit Tremont on July 7th in Lincoln Park.
Crafted consists of local food & beer tasting with music by Elementree Livity Project & Doc Robinson. Eat well, drink well and have fun with a portion of the event's proceeds benefiting Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland!

Taking place from 2:00PM - 6:00PM, you can sample food from restaurants like Dante, Collision Bend Brewery, Butcher & the Brewer, Tremont Tap House, and more.

A $60 General Admission ticket includes 16+ food vouchers and up to 84 oz of beer! And with  38+ craft beers to choose from, as well as 7 participating restaurants offering a variety of artisanal dishes inspired by responsibly sourced meat and fresh local vegetables, there’s a little something for everyone. A $75 VIP ticket gets you reserved seating in the VIP tent.

You can purchase tickets hereOr...you can win two tickets by entering the giveaway below. A random winner will be selected on Monday, June 25th. 

1. Leave a blog comment below sharing which restaurant from the participating list you most want to try at the event.
2. Tweet "I want @BiteBuff to send me to Crafted." (You can tweet once a day for additional entries.)
3. Like or comment on my Crafted post on Instagram

Good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with four General Admission tickets in exchange for event coverage. All opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Sérénité Restaurant & Culinary Institute

Mr. H and I got out to the newly opened Sérénité Restaurant & Culinary Institute in Medina last week. Similar to its sister restaurant, EDWINS in Shaker Square, the mission of Sérénité is to instill leadership skills in men and women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction through an education in the culinary arts.

From the outside, the building is eye-catching and historic. There is a handful of tables on the front porch, and a few patio tables with umbrellas around the right side of the building. There is free parking available in a lot connected to the building.
Inside, it reminded me of an old upscale Western saloon. It is very small, so I do suggest getting a reservation.
The food is French-influenced, as is EDWINS. We started with the Artichoke a la Barigoulle ($11), which was so good that I immediately headed to Pinterest to see how we could create this at home.
Mr. H ordered the Trout Almondine ($25), which was very good and came highly recommended by our server. Trout still remains a bit too "fishy" at times for my taste. But the Whipped Potatoes with it kept me reaching across the table.
I was torn between a couple of selections, but went for the Braised Leg of Rabbit ($25) with spinach, grilled polenta, and a Dijon mustard cream sauce.
That sauce! It was fabulous. The rabbit was also super tender and just fell off the bone.

For only being open since late March, you'd never know it. The service was great from start to finish, the food was just as good as EDWINS, the setting is charming, and the mission of the training program is worth supporting on its own. We don't find ourselves out in Medina very often, but this restaurant will bring us back soon.

Sérénité Restaurant & Culinary Institute
538 West Liberty Street
Medina, OH 44256
330-952-2611