Saturday, January 1, 2022

The Farewell Post

Happy New Year! This is normally the day of the year that I announce a fresh To Dine Challenge list. Well, this time comes in almost every blogger's life here on the interweb. This is goodbye.

When I started this blog in 2009, I was freshly moved to Cleveland and quickly becoming immersed in the local restaurant scene thanks to my role at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. I was building relationships with chefs and restaurant owners, learning the stories of this city's makers in the culinary world, and getting to taste and experience all kinds of fabulous things. For that (and many other reasons), I'll be forever grateful to that organization. 

What started as frequent conversations with friends, co-workers, and community members about where to eat, what was opening, who had the "best" XYZ...a curiosity developed for how to start blogging about my own experiences. In hopes that it would inspire others to dine with those local, independent restaurants, buy that locally-crafted product, or attend a chef-driven charity event for a cause that I believed in. My quirky passion for alliteration led to this blog's name. In hindsight, I would have come up with something way better if I knew I'd still be at it this many years later.

But this will always be my little slice of the internet, and one that I am quite proud of. 

However, my life, my interests, and how I spend my time has drastically shifted in the last six months. I left a toxic executive-level career in the non-profit world after being pretty stressed and unhappy for many years. The pandemic allowed for the opportunity to reevaluate, take a leap of faith without a plan, and have the time for me to figure it all out. I never would have slowed down to do that on my own. 

I know I've mentioned here that I started a small business in July. It's always been an "if money is no object" dream to own a vintage housewares shop. While a brick-and-mortar may not be feasible, yet, I took the plunge and opened Evy Lena Vintage (named after my grandmother and great-grandmother) on Etsy and Instagram. I'm learning every day and working harder than I ever have before but am already realizing success and pure JOY. 

But another chapter started right around the same time. I joined Gatherings Kitchen in Lakewood as the Director of Operations, thanks to a friend seeing the potential match. Mr. H and I took our first Supper Club cooking class there probably close to a decade ago, and routinely attend a couple of them every year. The company has some huge plans in the very near future, and I get to fulfill my passion for local food and use my background in such a new and exciting way. 

Daily I pinch myself, and these two opportunities have given me such peace, joy, and energy again. I feel more like myself than I have in many years. 

Very long story short, this blog has become a "chore" and not something that I look forward to authoring anymore. So, I knew it was time to stop. 

The adventures certainly won't. I'll be transitioning my Instagram account to a personal one, and of course you can also follow along on Instagram at EvyLenaVintage and GatheringsKitchen for all things business-related. 

"Thank you" doesn't seem like enough. You've been here on this journey with me, often sharing meals or attending the same events. I've built lifelong friendships, made incredible memories, and eaten the most amazing food near and far. This has been life-changing, and for that...I am grateful.

Thank you for the memories and meals. 

~ Katrina

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Square Scullery

It was a race to the finish, but with 3 days to spare...we completed the 2021 To Dine Challenge list!

This involved a snowy drive down to Akron on a Tuesday night, but just one restaurant left to check off the was a must. We headed to The Square Scullery. With the COVID numbers rising and more and more people that we know with breakthrough cases, we had planned on just getting takeout. The restaurant announced that starting that same day, they were switching back over to carry-out orders only. Wild times out there, folks.

Luckily, you can order on their website and schedule a pick-up in 15-minute increments. It made it so easy for us to schedule and time it right with our drive from Cleveland. 

We tried to select food that would travel back the 36 minutes ok, but a Connecticut-style Lobster Roll ($28) with Old Bay fries didn't sound like it would and it was a must-try for us. So we snacked on it right in the car!

But we saved the rest for home and enjoyed the Pork Belly Bao Buns ($12) with 3 sweet steam buns of house smoked pork belly, pickled daikon radish, hydroponic pea shoots, fermented black bean paste, and gojuchang aioli.

And Crystals Fried Chicken Sandwich ($15) of a crispy fried chicken smothered in New Orleans’s staple Crystal's hot sauce with fresh lettuce, pickles, and buttermilk bleu cheese dressing.
Of course none of it was as good as it would likely be if dining in, but overall we enjoyed the food and would absolutely dine there again if we find ourselves in the area. Nothing was so memorable that we'd do the drive for it again, but I'll happily recommend this place for anyone that lives nearby or is looking for a spot in that area. 

They started in 2015 as a food truck, intended to open a ghost kitchen in the 400sq ft brick-and-mortar, and then took a chance and converted it into the "tiny restaurant" it is today. I love hearing stories like theirs, of a small business growing and making investments in our area. Definitely go check them out for yourself! 

And just like that, another year comes to a close. And another To Dine Challenge completed! 

Square Scullery
783 W Market Street
Akron, OH 44303
(330) 983-9387

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Battiste and Dupree Cajun Grill

Two more to go as the year nears an end! I'm racing to complete my 2021 To Dine Challenge list of 10 restaurants that YOU helped select. Next up was Battiste and Dupree Cajun Grill in South Euclid. 

A very small little place, immediately with a lot of character and charm.

We had placed a takeout order in advance (reasonable 60-minute wait on Saturday evening), so Mr. H just picked up our food at the bar and chatted with the owner for a few minutes about supply chain issues and the impact the pandemic continues to have on our local restaurants. He was so nice!
We wanted to try a little bit of a lot, so we did some sharing of a few items.
Shrimp Etouffee ($16.50)
Cajun Fried Shrimp 3/4 lb of fried shrimp served with remoulade ($15.00)
Cajun Fried Perch Dinner with 4 pieces and any 2 sides ($16.25)
Red Beans & Rice
Mustard Greens
Creole Green Beans
Chicken & Sausage Gumbo 

Everything had such good, classic Cajun flavor. It totally reminded us of our trip to New Orleans. While it has some spice to several of the sauces and seasonings, it isn't heat and you shouldn't shy away. There wasn't a "standout" dish that I'd be dying to get again, but overall, we were just happy with the meal and to support a small business during these challenging times. 

Battiste and Dupree Cajun Grill
1992 Warrensville Center Road
South Euclid, OH 44121
(216) 381-3341

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Good Meal Jane Update

I previously shared our experience with the mouth-watering Detroit-style pizza from Good Meal Jane

While they no longer have a stand in the building on the corner of West 25th and Detroit, they are still slingin' some pies for pre-order pickup in the parking lot of a convenience store in Old Brooklyn. Because the good news is that they've secured a new brick-and-mortar spot on Memphis Avenue, and plan to open after some renovations. 

They'll be introducing new menu items as well, like the Sheesh Burger
Two 5oz smash patties, pickles, Flaming Hot Cheetos brioche bun, nacho cheese, and American cheese.
This may sound like it would be a hot mess, or even unappealing to some, but

I mean, look at the smile on that guy!
Smash burgers and Cheetos are two of my favorite guilty pleasure foods, and I certainly never thought I'd see them together! I'm already anxiously awaiting their opening in my neighborhood. Although this could get dangerous... 

Disclosure: I was provided with the meal complimentary in exchange for my honest review and postings on social media. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Black Box Fix

The countdown is on. The holidays are here, the end of the year is looming, and it's a race for me to finish my 2021 To Dine Challenge list! With three to go in December, can we get it done? Let's go!

First up, we hit Black Box Fix for a Saturday takeout lunch. Located in Legacy Village (second location in Columbus, OH), it can be a great option as you're shopping or there for services. But the parking around there doesn't make it ideal for a single stop on its own. After some circling, we did manage to time it right to slide into the Pick-up meter spot across the street. 

Since it was just lunch and they really are known for their overstuffed sandwiches, we decided to share one. We never turn down an opportunity to try a cheesesteak, so we ordered the "Best Damn Cheesesteak" ($15) with a half-pound of seasoned grilled steak, onions, Swiss cheese, provolone, and Cajun queso. Added on a side of Garlic Parmesan Fries ($5), but it was hard to choose from the yummy flavors they have available!

While my favorite local cheesesteak is still from Original Steak & Hoagie in Twinsburg (Capo's being number two), this was a very good cheesesteak that I do recommend. I would have preferred that the bun be buttered and toasted, but the queso sauce with just that little bit of spicy heat to it was what set this apart from others. 

Online ordering is available, which really helps speed up the takeout process. 

On to the next!

Black Box Fix
25359 Cedar Rd.
Lyndhurst, OH 44124