Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hyde Park Group Launches New Concept

Ever since they closed the Blake's Seafood Restaurant location in Chagrin Falls in 2008, I have been awaiting the opening of their new concept. Well it's here!

Write-up courtesy of Joe Crea from The Plain Dealer:
But the Falls' splashiest (and most anticipated) newcomer debuts Thursday. Hyde Park Restaurant's latest concept, Jekyll's Kitchen, opens its doors at 4:30 p.m. Hard to imagine a more beautiful setting. Housed in the former Blake's Seafood Grill, Jekyll's is poised above the Chagrin River with a four-star view of the falls. With a window wall that provides a view like that, the operators might have settled for a quick scrub-and-polish. Instead, co-owners Joe Saccone and Rick Hauck opted for a complete redo of the restaurant's two levels. "It was time for an entirely different concept and a new look to go along with it," says Saccone. Intense black, bronze and red tones set the motif. Dramatic contemporary lighting and well-burnished original floors lend drama to the space. In addition to an open exhibition-style kitchen, a sleek new raised bar affords guests a clearer view of the spectacle below. Booths and low, bar-side chairs provide comfortable seating for those who don't do bar stools. (Daily happy hours, 4:30 to 6 p.m., will include a full cocktail menu priced at $5. Cocktails are normally $8.75, including the signature Jekyll, a black martini topped with strawberry foam, and a hauntingly fragrant Elderflower Pear Martini made with St. Germain cordial.) The food's not bad either. During a session to acquaint the restaurant's staff with the menu, I had the opportunity to sample a few dishes. Cardboard calamari has become all too common, but here the rings and tentacles are first marinated in a combination of fish sauce and spices, then coated and deep-fried to yield a lively depth of flavor ($9.50). Saccone installed a wood-fire oven that burns a mix of local hardwoods, and its advantages show with the menu's pizzas. If you're in for a lusty indulgence, go for the combo of lobster meat, lobster sauce, mozzarella and parmesan ($16.50). Executive chef Kevin Foley builds a cream reduction and lobster butter into a lush base that leaves most Alfredo sauces begging, then tops the pie with nuggets of tender shellfish baked to a turn. Safe-bet steaks and seafood populate the docket of main dishes, and the standard bases are covered. A couple of pastas and rotating daily features round out the entrees. A brined then beautifully crusted 16-ounce double-cut pork chop ($18.90) was one highlight. Surprisingly, even more delicious was a perfectly roasted marinated half-chicken ($15.90). Juicy within, crispy on the outside, it's served with tender green beans and a big mound of mashed Klondike potatoes, a cross between redskins and Yukon golds that neatly marries each variety's best qualities. There's more in progress at the restaurant. Three private dining rooms and a covered deck are being completed on the lower level and a pair of patios are being installed. One offers street-side dining and a cabana bar, the other a smaller, lower-level patio closer to the falls. New public-access steps enable visitors to have a closer look at them. As if this picturesque town and its cascading waters aren't enough of a draw, these new destinations might be enough to make you rethink your dining plans.

This is one foodie who will be checking this new hot spot out very soon...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Chefs Bring Exciting Culinary Concept to Cleveland

If you have not heard of "Ben and Greg's Renegade Lunch Project" then you are missing out. This culinary creation from Chefs Greg MacLaren and Ben Bebenroth from Marigold Catering and Spice of Life Catering Co. brings Clevelanders an exciting first-come first-served gourmet lunch, complete with linens and china, to 20 random unsuspecting diners in a crowded Cleveland building or outdoor area. Each month, the location and time are unknown to the public. But you can get a sneak peek by checking out their blog! These lunches will take place once a month, with each event benefiting a different local charity. The first lunch, held in January at the Galleria, raised money for the Cleveland Foodbank. The March event just took place on the 24th at Tower City, and raised over $2,300 for the Rape Crisis Center! As a participant of the first lunch, this project is worth following and you should try to attend one of these fabulous lunches. Part performance art, part community outreach, this is definitely worth checking out!

Dining with Dante

This is one foodie who is anxiously awaiting the opening of Dante Boccuzzi's trademark restaurant- Dante. It has relocated to 2247 Professor Avenue in Tremont, and plans to open in May. I unfortunately did not have a chance to try his culinary creations when it was located on Rockside Road (location now open as Lockkeepers once again). I was unaware that another restaurant is on the horizon for Chef Dante. Ginko Restaurant (Modern Japenese cuisine) is slated to open in the Fall of 2009. I look forward to trying them both. I think that Dante will make an excellent addition to the Professor Avenue strip of some of Cleveland's best restaurants. One of my personal favorites is Lago Restaurant & Wine Bar owned by Fabio Salerno, who also owns and operates Gusto in Little Italy and just opened Grotto in Shaker Square. Both Lago and Gusto are warm, intimate settings featuring an outstanding wine list and food that melts in your mouth. The portions are perfect, prices reasonable for a nice evening out, and the seasonal menu keeps the loyal patrons happy. I recommend the Gnocchi- Lobster meat, truffle, sweet corn, basil, and roasted tomato at Lago!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Verso Casual Italian = Dinner Rolls!

After seeing several positive reviews of the new Verso Casual Italian restaurant in Parma, I wanted to check it out for myself. I now have, twice. I would have to say that it is reasonably priced and better than your average Italian delivery joint, but it did not quite satisfy my craving. I first ordered their gnoochi with vodka sauce, which was a little sweet for my taste but the portion was perfect and gnocchi was cooked to doughy perfection. My second try brought rigatoni with bolognese sauce, which was watery and too sweet (again). This is also my personal opinion about their pizza sauce, but the crust is out of this world. Which leads me to the dinner rolls. Each "Large Plate" as the pasta options are called on the menu include a side salad (fresh assortment of greens, vegetables and shredded cheese) and a dinner roll. Let me just say that next time I may consider ordering a dozen rolls instead of a meal! Now I have always been a carb-o-holic, but these buttery rolled dough balls are just heaven. My partner-in-crime "R" ordered a peperoni roll made from this same delicious crust, yum! Many of you may not know, but Verso Casual Italian was formally Holiday Pizza. They have now moved up the road in Parma and changed names. The location is definitely a step up, and they seem to be doing well. I recommend this restaurant for a night that you are seeking reasonably-priced comfort food with low expectations. Just remember to order a dinner roll!

Verso Casual Italian
5869 Broadview Rd.
Parma, OH 44134

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cleveland independent restaurants supporting Rock Hall Inductions

Here's a post from cleveland foodie about ways that Cleveland independent restaurants are supporting the Rock Hall inductions by adding special menu items, live music and more. Check it out and support your local restaurateurs.

cleveland foodie: cleveland rocks and so does its food (tell me why and win $50 to crop)

Friday, March 13, 2009

The journey begins...

Well, if we are going to be technical here it actually began over a year ago when I moved to Cleveland and my passion for food led me to many local mom & pop neighborhood favorites, high-end independent restaurants making a name for themselves nationally, and everything in between. It has been an exciting exploration of what Cleveland restaurants have to offer. Lately, we are seeing many doors close, but with this comes the opening of new ventures that has the city in a buzz. Anyone who is in tune with the restaurant scene in Cleveland patiently awaits the opening of Chef Jonathon Sawyer's The Greenhouse Tavern. The exciting news is that they will be serving on the street during the month of March! Plan to stop by East 4th on St. Patrick's Day to sample his duck fat fries.