Monday, July 15, 2019

Weekend Bites X 2

Phew, what a whirlwind last two weeks. It's been a bit quiet over here, but that's only because we've been out and about in Cleveland enjoying those summer days.

The past two weeks have flown by, and it all kicked off with my mom and brother visiting for the long holiday weekend. It included dinner on The Black Pig's patio...
...and an evening at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo for the second year of the Asian Lantern Festival.
If you haven't been, you should really check out this visiting exhibit. 

Then they headed back to NY and the Cleveland summer days kept going with a day at Wendy Park with our pup...
...and a last-minute offer for FIRST ROW seats at the Home Run Derby. I was waaaay more into this than anticipated by the way!
It didn't stop there, and this past weekend was full of summer memories as well. 

That weather on Friday evening was too good to not spend on a patio. So after some errands to prepare for Saturday's party (stay tuned), we landed on Dante's garden patio for the Chef's Tasting.
Seems to happen about once a year for us, and it never disappoints!

Saturday was something we've been envisioning since November when Mr. H purchased an auction package for the rental of a giant outdoor movie screen. It was thrown up in the parking lot at his work, and we invited a large gang to join us for the movie, outdoor games (like Giant Cornhole and Giant Connect Four), and BBQ and ice cream from Smokin' Rock n' Roll food truck.
We hosted about 80 co-workers, neighborhood friends, and some of my besties for a memorable summer party.

Summer is typically not my favorite season, if I'm honest. But this one's been pretty good to us so far, and these last two weekends in Cleveland have been packed full of fun. I hope that you're enjoying these longer days of sunlight, warmer temperatures, and the lengthy list of events happening all around town.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Russo's Restaurant

For the next stop on my 2019 To Dine Challenge list, I headed to Peninsula to Russo's Restaurant.
Known for the eclectic menu of Italian and Cajun, I was interested to see how this mash-up worked.

I leaned towards the Cajun side, as you can't find that just anywhere in Northeast Ohio. I started with the Southern-Fried Green Tomatoes ($12) with Creole boiled shrimp and jalapeño remoulade sauces.
I felt the shrimp were really unnecessary and the texture wasn't pleasant, but the tomatoes were fried nicely and I enjoyed the two sauces.

My friend headed to the Italian portion of the menu. They do make their pasta in-house. The Wild Mushroom Pasta ($22) over pappardelle had sounded good to both of us, so I was happy to see her order it. It looked great, and she said she enjoyed it.
Again, I leaned on the Cajun side for my entrée and ordered the Corn-Fried Perch and Maine Diver Scallops ($28) with smokey baked mac-n-cheese, assorted grilled vegetables and chipotle pepper tartare sauce.
The scallops seemed out of place on this plate, and were under-seasoned and not cooked to my liking. I also had pictured them corn-fried as well based on the menu description. The vegetables were good, and I liked the zing to the tartare sauce. But the fish wasn't crispy as it should be. Soggy fried fish is just never appealing. The sauce on the mac-n-cheese definitely had a nice smoke flavor, but the mushy pasta and thick creamy texture of the sauce really reminded me of Velveeta shells and cheese. I could have passed on this entire dish.

So I walked away not really a fan of this spot, but I think the menu items could be really hit or miss based on what we had. They certainly have a loyal following and the restaurant and separate patio restaurant were packed on a Tuesday night. For me? It just wouldn't be worth the drive again. 

4895 State Road
Peninsula, OH 44264
(330) 923-2665

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Lobster Pot

The New England style Lobster Pot Restaurant has a long history in the area, dating back to 1972. Eventually, the business was sold to the owner's son. When it closed in 2005, he had every intention of re-opening some day. Time slipped away and suddenly over a decade had passed, but The Lobster Pot opened in August 2017 and has since built a reputation again for its seafood.

I'm always on the hunt for a hint of our fond Maine memories, so I had no problem driving out to Willoughby Hills to check it out for myself recently. It was a gorgeous night (finally!) so we sat on the patio.
We may have been overexcited to have access to such a seafood-focused menu, because we ordered quite a round of appetizers to kick off the meal. I had some Raw Oysters ($2.75 each), Grilled Oysters ($3 each)...
...and Oysters Rockefeller ($3.75 each). They were all large, plump and briney. Just the way I like them. I tend to lean towards East Coast oysters. I really enjoyed the raw, and the Rockefeller were one of the better versions I've had. But I thought the grilled oysters lacked the grill char flavor I had hoped for and I wouldn't order them again.
On special that night were Crab Stuffed Mushrooms with an alfredo sauce, so those couldn't be missed. Good thing, because it was probably one of my favorite bites of the night.
Lastly, we ordered the Ahi-Tuna ($13) that is pan-seared rare and served with a homemade sriracha aioli sauce, capers, diced red onion and seaweed salad. It had all of the fixin's of an everything bagel and lox, and with everything combined in one bite it was ok, but really this dish was underwhelming in my opinion and I wouldn't recommend it.
While getting quite full, we couldn't overlook the real reason we had driven all the way to Lake County...the Naked Lobster Roll (1 roll $14, 2 rolls $23) served with fries. Since we didn't want two sides, we ordered the double roll plate. They aren't too big, so it was a perfect end to the meal for us. Buttered and toasted bun, warm lobster, and a squeeze of fresh lemon was definitely the best version I've had locally. Just a hint more of the warm butter on the lobster, and it would be near perfect in my opinion. I'd ask for a side of drawn butter next time to liberally add my own.
If you've never had a Connecticut-style lobster roll like this and are only used to the Maine-style with chilled lobster, celery and mayo, then give this type a try. You won't want to go back! Trust me.

Look, it's no Maine, but this was absolutely the closest thing we've had in Northeast Ohio. Warmed me right up for our August trip.

I know there are a couple of other spots in the area that are rumored to have a good lobster roll on the menu. Hit me with those suggestions! 

2749 Som Center Road
Willoughby Hills, OH 44094
(440) 569-1634

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Quintana's Barber Speakeasy

Ever since I heard about the "secret" speakeasy above Quintana's Barber and Dream Spa in Cleveland Heights, I've been wanting to go. Craft cocktails, a secret back door buzzer, and a bookcase passage? I'm in!
Some of the spa services have moved to the building next door as the business has expanded, so two floors above the barber shop have been converted into a swanky speakeasy bar that seats about 20-25 guests.

Lucky for newbies like us, there's a small sign at the front door that provides you with directions on how to enter the speakeasy.
Once we were inside, it was a little harder to find, but someone took pity on us and cracked open the bookcase door after we all fumbled around a bit.

We were greeted with a small swanky bar, low lighting, comfortable seating, and a great list of craft cocktails (and other adult beverages). Even some mocktails. They also serve a handful of Small Plates for those that need a nibble.
They have some cool events hosted there too, such as Tarot Card Readings, Hands-on Craft Cocktail Classes, and live music nights.

This may have been my first visit, but certainly won't be my last. 

2200 S Taylor Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 321-7889

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Daisy's Ice Cream

Just about a year ago, chef Walter Hyde (of Fat Casual BBQ fame) took over the iconic walk-up Daisy's Ice Cream in Slavic Village.
While he's still slinging ice cream (and some cool ones at that), he's also added savory items like BBQ beef, mac n' cheese, hot dogs, and specials like smoked meats and pierogi.
I'll have to head back to get my BBQ fix another day, because the sun was shining and for a brief moment it actually felt like summer wasn't far away in Cleveland. So we dove into the ice cream. I had the Strawberry Shortcake Cone (only one size available).
While messy, it was quite delicious.

Mr. H ordered the Oreo My God Milkshake, and it was a sight to be seen!
Join them for their First Birthday Party tomorrow, June 21st to celebrate the business, and the official start to Summer. 

5614 Fleet Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44105
(216) 441-3426