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