Thursday, May 16, 2019

Pie Punks

A new bakery quietly opened in our neighborhood, Pie Punks, near the corner of Memphis and Pearl.
Like so quietly that you can't even find them in a Google search, Facebook searches get you nowhere, and the website listed on their products' packaging is not live.

But, their doors were open and the cases full!
They had a variety of whole pies in a couple of different sizes, quiches in the same sizes, cookies, and pastry bars.
We snagged three small Quiches and each were really fabulous heated up. I also picked us out a small Peach and Cherry Pie, which we warmed up and added a scoop of vanilla ice cream to. I'm not a big dessert person, but I kept digging in for "one more bite" before I shared with Mr. H.

I'm not sure what this mysterious business' story is, but their stuff is good, so I'll keep coming back.

Pie Punks
3434 Memphis Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44109

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Van Aken Market Hall

The Van Aken District is just exploding on the east side. Local business favorites like Cleveland Clothing Co., Mitchell's Ice Cream, and Room Service have opened locations, and shoppers can also enjoy additional boutiques like Whiskey Grade and Luster. The restaurants have also flocked, and I personally look forward to trying Michael's Genuine Food & Drink (now open) and the soon-to-open Jonathon Sawyer spot.

In the heart of it all is the Van Aken Market Hall.
In addition to the sit-down restaurants, the area now offers a 21,000-square foot food hall. It's a great place to gather, with a little something for everyone. We recently met our friends and their two young children there for dinner on a Friday. There is plenty of room for the kids to run around, a couple of food stands to choose from, and Craft Collective where the adults can grab an alcoholic beverage.
We sample a bit of everything, including the Mac and Cheese with Focaccia Bread Crumbs ($8) from Scorpacciata Pasta Co. (one of my little friends' personally favorites)...
...and their Carbonara ($14) with black pepper fettuccine, Ohio pancetta, yolks, and arugula.
We've always enjoyed the poutine and cased meats from Banter on the west side, so we just had to dig in to a couple of the Sliders, which you order individually.
They did not disappoint. That's a jalapeño popper on top of that beef slider pictured above! An order of poutine graced the table too.
A couple of takeaways from our experience...
  1.  I am falling in love with a Food Hall concept. It's great for groups or families, because everyone gets to choose what they want or you can mix-and-match a couple of small things from more than one place to make a meal.
  2.  When the garage doors on the Van Aken Market Hall can be open in the warmer months, the flow and vibe will be really cool.
  3.  Ohio City Galley has the logistics and atmosphere figured out much better. First, the positioning of the restaurant stands and designated seating areas are more clear and cohesive. Second, their liquor license includes the entire space so you're not limited to where you can enjoy an adult beverage (Craft Collective space only here).
  4. The food was all solid and no real complaints, but the food quality and flavor are better at Ohio City Galley. 
  5. Timing. The food flies out at Ohio City Galley, but the waits were around 45 minutes at Van Aken Market Hall (after you waited in line for quite a bit) on what seemed like a steady but not slammed night. 
  6. Mitchell's Ice Cream is right across the street, and made for a perfect end-of-the-meal treat!
What are your thoughts on food halls? If you've been to both, which do you prefer?

3441 Tuttle Road
Shaker Heights, OH 44122
(216) 491-8800

Monday, May 13, 2019

Event Preview: Silver Spoon Awards 2019

It's Silver Spoon Awards week! One of the absolute best ways to sample dishes from all over the city in one place, and all for a good cause.

The 25th Anniversary Cleveland Magazine Silver Spoon Awards Party, to benefit the Arthritis Foundation, is a strolling food and wine tasting event and one of Cleveland’s finest social and culinary evenings. Guests will sample delicious signature dishes from nearly 50 of Northeast Ohio’s best restaurants and several international wineries. All participating restaurants are 2019 Cleveland Magazine Silver Spoon Award winners and finalists.
It will take place this Wednesday, May 15th at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown from 6-9PM. The event also includes an exclusive VIP Lounge, a highly-anticipated silent auction and exciting raffles. Complimentary valet is offered for all guests and tickets include a year subscription to Cleveland Magazine.
But, let's be honest, it's all about the food! This is one event where you have to pace yourself and be strategic about stations to stop at, because you simply can't taste them all.
Event proceeds fund critical arthritis research and support local services for the 1.3 million Northeastern Ohioans with arthritis and related diseases. Arthritis is the nation’s #1 cause of disability. Join the organization in becoming a Champion of Yes for the more than 50 million Americans, including 300,000 children, with arthritis.

Tickets are still available. It's not too late to join!

General Admission: $125 Event Day
VIP: $175 Event Day

But if you can't be there, you can support the event by making a donation online or bidding on their silent auction packages. Online bidding means you can take home one of the fabulous prizes, right from your couch.

Disclosure: I was provided with two VIP tickets in exchange for my assistance in promoting the event. All opinions stated are 100% my own. All images above provided by CLE Weekly / @orvillemceachronphotography. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Stella's Music Club

We recently headed to East 9th's Stella's Music Club for an influencer event with CLESeats.
This bar was 'built by musicians, for musicians" and the ambience, events, and even some of the names of menu items all reflect that passion and purpose.
They have a full bar, and one bartender in particular that made several of us different "surprise" craft cocktails that did not disappoint.
There are several great small plate Snacks to start with, and we dove right in to the Corn Dogs ($10) that are cornmeal battered bites with a tomato aioli and stadium mustard. It was a generous portion, and a perfect ratio of batter to dog.
Mr. H was feeling like a burger so he ordered The Jam Burger ($14) with Great Lakes yellow cheddar, double-cut bacon, and your choice of a brioche or pretzel bun. Served with a side of fries. I went for the Grilled Chicken Tacos ($13) with queso fresco, valentina aioli, sweet peppers, onions, and cilantro. They could have used a bit more seasoning or something to really impress, but they were a solid choice and apparently a menu favorite.
The team at Stella's were very generous and brought out several Snacks for the group to try, and then three Pizzas as well. I didn't snag a sample of the pizza, but the Chicken Wings and Bavarian Pretzels were both good versions and easy to share. The mountain of Stella's Nachos also looked pretty darn good with a tower of toppings, including pulled pork, but I didn't sample them.
Then the real fun of the night kicked in. A round of Jello shot syringes appeared...
...and Live Band Karaoke started. It was my first time experiencing karaoke with a live band, and man what a difference! Our night's fearless leader, Lauren, slayed it up on the stage.
Opened in 2018, I had not yet discovered Stella's Music Club (across the street from Progressive Field). But this live music venue has a lot to offer with a full bar, menu with food coming from Brickstone next door, events, and more. Maybe not my usual "scene" but a great stop on a future Indians game night. Hopefully, on Live Band Karaoke night again. Such fun!

2217 E 9th Street
Cleveland, OH 44115
(216) 202-1002

Disclosure: I was invited to attend a tasting event with a guest where all food and one drink was complimentary. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

CVI: Chef for a Day Experience

The Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, Ohio is home to fine dining events featuring visiting chefs from all across the country, using seasonal ingredients grown right on their James Beard Foundation award-winning Chef's Garden grounds.

In addition to the events held monthly, a select few can "upgrade" their experience by purchasing a Chef for a Day package, which gives you a full day of access to this beautiful kitchen equipped with every tool and toy you can think of...
...and the opportunity to prep, cook, and serve right alongside the CVI and visiting chefs. This time, we worked with the team from JUST. Go read more about their plant-based products.
Sounded right up Mr. H's alley, so that was his birthday gift this year!
They even let me have a knife! 
He's still all smiles, even several hours into trimming and cleaning mushrooms.
After working for a couple of hours, you settle in for a fabulous private lunch and chat with CVI Executive Chef Liaison Jamie Simpson.
Seriously, it was almost too pretty to eat. And our mushrooms made their first appearance! That green item on the left is chicken. The skills and techniques of CVI Chef Tristan Acevedo blew me away during this lunch. He whipped this all up in what felt like minutes.
The carrot sorbet to end the meal was a highlight for me.
We were put back to work for a little while longer in the kitchen, but then popped out to the Chef's Garden grounds for a brief tour and to clip some of the edible flowers to use as garnishes at the evening's event.
I could have wandered through their greenhouses for hours.
But it was time to pop back to freshen up for dinner in the rustic and picturesque dining room. Your package includes two tickets to the dinner, but you can choose between sitting for the meal or staying in the kitchen to help finish cooking and plating.
The evening kicked off with the delicate signature cocktail of the evening. I had to get a second, it went down so nicely! Wine, beer, or wine pairings are also available for an additional charge.
Then the courses from JUST started to roll out. This was their version of Crudité, with this amazing vertical Kalamata olive crisp that we got to watch them make.
The Waffle course included crispy chicken, slaw, and a JUST waffle.
Our mushrooms made their second appearance next in the Pasta course with JUST egg noodles (no eggs were harmed in the making of this pasta), lemon beurre monté, and mushrooms. This dish was so good that Mr. H took a crack at recreating it the following week, and it turned out pretty darn good.
The team from JUST couldn't have been any cooler to hang out with that day, and the chefs at CVI were wonderful about working with us even though we're at very different skill levels in the kitchen (a.k.a. I'm useless and Mr. H is a whiz). The servers later that day also embraced us crashing their training meeting, and continued to check on us all evening. I was a little sad to see the day end. But I did confirm that I'm not cut out for a 12-hour day in the kitchen!
It was such a unique experience. One that we'll never forget. But I don't need to see another mushroom for a little while. Mr. H had a blast, and happily cleaned mushrooms a few days later.

12304 Mudbrook Road
Milan, OH 44846