Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hook and Hoof

Hook and Hoof in Downtown Willoughby became our dinner destination when Mr. H and I found ourselves headed out to Willoughby Brewing Co. to finally get my hands on their famous Nut Smasher Imperial Stout (yes, it lived up to the hype). I'm not overly familiar with the area, so I knew that I needed to head to Twitter and ask Jen of Why CLE? for a restaurant recommendation.

She didn't steer me wrong, and we ended up with a reservation at the Chef's Counter, with great views of the action happening in the kitchen!
This "New American" kitchen is also known for their craft cocktails, and they did not disappoint.
A lot of the menu sounded right up our alley, so we had to start with splitting a couple of small plates. Including the Cold Smoked Salmon ($14) with roasted garlic horseradish crema, rye crostini, chow chow and citrus oil. A fancy "bagel and lox" that was light and full of great flavor and textures!
We also shared the Bone Marrow and Arugula Salad ($14) that came out with two huge bones and wonderful grilled bread.
Mr. H went with the Double Bone-in Elk Chop ($32) with rosemary polenta (to die for texture and flavor), cider roasted root vegetables, and chow chow. Because how often do you see elk on a menu?
I ordered the Pan-seared Mahi Mahi ($27) with butternut squash and mushroom risotto and a pomegranate-apple gastrique. Another winner.
Really, this meal was delicious and beautiful from start to finish, and we loved our seats at the Chef's Counter. It's a small place, so I'd suggest making a reservation. We don't find ourselves in Willoughby too often, but this spot will be on our re-visit list!

Hook and Hoof
4125 Erie Street
Willoughby, OH 44094
(440) 571-5312

Friday, November 9, 2018


Michaelangelo's is an iconic restaurant in Cleveland's Little Italy. It's been touted as one of the best in the area, the chef left to open the popular Luca (2013) and Luca West (2017), and I've always wanted to go. Other than a work dinner with a pre-set menu once, I had never been.

Mr. H and I were looking for a date night spot last week, and I had a craving for pasta. BINGO!

I am absolutely in love with the cozy bar area. I could curl up in one of the huge leather chairs with a glass of wine in front of that fireplace for hours. But, we settled in for our meal in one of the two main dining rooms. It's classic fine dining Italian.

We ordered the Grilled Portabella Mushroom, Herb Polenta and Drunken Goat Cheese Sauce ($12) from the hot appetizers section of the menu. The flavor of the mushroom itself was outstanding, but it was very small and not the focus of the dish as the name implied. The goat cheese sauce was not as flavorful as I would have liked, and the whole dish arrived at barely room temperature. I did let our server know (no apology or even acknowledgement that it wasn't right!). So, overall, we weren't off to a great start.
I was drawn to several of the pasta dishes, but couldn't resist ordering their famous Sacchetti al Tartufo ($17/$28) with a Ricotta and Black Truffle Stuffed Pasta, Tartufata, and Black Truffle Cream Sauce. I've had this dish at Luca several times, and it is always outstanding. This version didn't disappoint.
But, Mr. H ordered the Scalloppine of Veal Tenderloin with Prosciutto, Sage, Sauteed Spinach, Vermentino Reduction and a Herb Risotto Cake ($36), and was disappointed in the texture of the veal itself and the breading. The herb risotto cake was also very bland and dry. The reduction had nice flavor, but really that was the only redeeming factor of this dish. For that price point, no thank you.

Service continued to be only average throughout the meal.

I've certainly heard that it "isn't the same" or "isn't as good" since Chef Luca Sema left, but what are your thoughts? I felt let down.

2198 Murray Hill Road
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 721-0300

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Astoria Market and Cafe

It's been quite a while since Astoria Cafe and Market opened, but Mr. H and I finally made it there recently.
Its Mediterranean flair is reflected not only on the menu, but also in the small market---focused on olives...
...cheese and meats, dried pastas and beans, sauces... and more. It's not a huge selection, but you can grab a few items for a meal and pick up wine to-go.
But in the center of the market, there is a large area of open cafe seating.

We shared the Calamari Frito ($13) with Spanish Calamari Fried Crisp in Peanut Oil, served with Mediterranean Olive Salad and Honey-Harissa Glaze. The glaze and olive salad made it a unique, and tasty (bit spicy), version, and the portion was generous enough for sharing.
We also shared the Baked Brie en Croute Belletoile ($14) with Triple Cream Brie Topped with Fig Jam and Fresh Thyme and wrapped in Phyllo and finished with Honey and Crushed Pistachios. You can never go wrong with baked brie! I loved the crushed pistachios with it.
Then we shared two small plates for the next course. Sea Scallops ($16) with Seared Maine Diver Sea Scallops with a Saute of Shallots, Pancetta, Honey, Thyme and Apple Cider and served over Creamy White Cheddar Polenta. The polenta and crispy bacon were a great pairing with the scallops!
We also split the Lamb T-bone ($15) with a Grilled 4 oz. Ohio Domestic Loin Chop with Italian Salsa Verde, Sweet Balsamic Glaze and Truffle-Mascarpone Fingerling Potatoes. The meat was seasoned and cooked perfectly, and I enjoyed the salsa verde with it. The potatoes were a tad under-cooked at times, but the flavor was good.
While we really enjoyed the food, and it's a great menu for sharing a bunch of smaller bites, the atmosphere wasn't what I had hoped. It was bright and loud, with a lot of foot traffic past our table. The service seemed a bit unorganized and hurried, but maybe it was just an off night. I'd like to give brunch a try.

There is a small parking lot down the side street next to the cafe, in case you can't find street parking in front. The menu isn't very family-friendly, in my opinion.

If you've been, what are your thoughts beyond the quality of the food?

Astoria Market and Cafe
5417 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 266-0834

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ohio City Galley

Ohio City Galley opened its doors last Friday.
Ohio City Galley, the third food hall and restaurant accelerator from Galley Group, is a launch pad for exciting new restaurant concepts in Cleveland. The mission is to cultivate and accelerate aspiring restaurateurs by providing a forum to showcase their capabilities, hone their craft, develop business practices, and build a following behind their concepts.

No more negotiating and choosing what type of food you and your spouse, friend, or family feel like eating that night! There's something for everyone between the four restaurants housed there, and I can already tell it will become a good backup for Mr. H and I when we can't agree.

It's housed in the renovated Forest City Bank building on the corner of West 25th Street and Detroit Avenue, which makes for a very pretty backdrop.
With four fully outfitted kitchens, diners get to place orders at any of the four counters: The Rice Shop, Tinman, Sauce the City, and POCA.
I've already written about POCA, since it's the same chef/owner as our current favorite Cleveland restaurant, The Black Pig. We attended a preview pop-up event several weeks ago, and the casual Mexican food is unlike any other I've had in the city.
But, I was also excited to start trying food from the other three as well.
With over 200 seats and a giant communal bar serving craft beer, cocktails and wine, you take a seat with your numbered/color-coded cards and servers bring out your food from each restaurant as it's ready.
It was Saturday Brunch, so we tried the Breakfast Memelas ($10) from POCA with chorizo, toasted masa cakes, black beans, queso oaxaca, over-easy eggs, salsa verde, and cilantro. Great flavors and textures, I'd get this again!
I'd also started to hear that the burger from Tinman was already becoming a "don't miss" item, so we shared the A.M. Burger ($16) with sunny-up egg, American cheese, S&S pickles, and special sauce.
The burger impressed, and was probably one of the best we've had in quite a while. The side of smashed potatoes was also very good (spicy, so beware if that's not your thing).

The space could use some warming up and additional character, in my opinion. But it's been renovated well, and the food and service were almost flawless, even for opening weekend. We'll continue to eat our way through the current four restaurants, and look forward to what the future brings in this space.

Ohio City Galley
1400 W 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 525-9933

Monday, October 29, 2018

Weekend Bites

This was one of those weekends that I was soooo ready for. Our puppy was sick last week, so I had worked from home the last couple of days. By Friday, I was ITCHING to get out of the house. Well, we more than made up for it. We had some fun food adventures that I'll be sharing with you later this week, but for now I'll share the other weekend highlights.

Saturday brought the Grand Opening of the new Lilly Chocolates and Confections location in Old Brooklyn, so we swung through for some sweet treats.

But it also gave us a perfect opportunity to check out their new neighbor as well, the 2020 Schaaf Gallery + Studio. Featuring Cleveland-themed original and print artwork, as well as all kinds of crafting and art workshops and events. It's an adorable and warm space, with artistic activities for all ages being offered and artwork at very reasonable prices. Check them out!
What would any good weekend be without a stop at Old Brooklyn Cheese Co.? In addition to picking up a couple of delicious cheeses, I also learned an important piece of holiday news. They will be offering a CHEESE ADVENT CALENDAR, available to order next month. You may have heard the buzz about this year's new Cheese Advent Calendar offered by Target. Screw that! Get me the local and gourmet version from Old Brooklyn Cheese Co. Just take my money now. All of it. I'm in holiday cheese heaven with this news.
Saturday night, we headed out of our comfort zone and scooted out to Willoughby. Mainly so that I could finally get my hands on the Nut Smasher at Willoughby Brewing Company. It lived up to the beer hype.
After a fun (and boozey) Saturday night out, we needed a Sunday cure. So we headed to Touch Supper Club for brunch. We hadn't been since they reopened after a long process of renovations quite a while ago. I didn't see much change inside, and the menu was almost identical, but it was like saying hello to a long-lost friend.
After brunch, we headed down Lorain for some vintage shopping. Please, please someone go buy this adorable brass Chinese dumpling cart (pictured below) from Helm Collective! What a conversation piece. And you could style it in so many ways, plant stand, bar cart...I wish I had room for it.
As the rain kicked in, we headed home and curled up for the evening. Being so busy made the weekend fly by, but it was exactly what I needed after being cooped up. Thanks for a great weekend, Cleveland. I love you.