Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

So, what does your family's holiday meal include?

We'll be enjoying turkey dinner with all the traditional side dishes. Mmmm, the side dishes...

We're deep frying the turkey for the first time this year. Wish us luck!

Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Last Minute Gift Ideas

Need a couple of last minute gift ideas for the foodie or cook in your life? Or maybe a fun gift for yourself this holiday season? I have a couple of local ideas to share...

1. Gift certificate to a Friday Supper Club event or cooking class at Gatherings Kitchen in Lakewood. The Friday Supper Club events are so much fun, and a really unique gift. The concept is that a small group (about 12-16) gather on Friday evenings to spend a few hours preparing a multi-course meal and learning tips and tricks from the pros in an industrial kitchen that will make anyone jealous. Each pair is responsible for one dish, and then you sit down to enjoy the meal with your new-found friends from the kitchen. "R" and I attended one this summer, and here are a few highlights:

Chef Ruth showing one of our "supper club friends" how to prepare a delicious beef dish.The chorizo-stuffed mussels that "R" and I were in charge of making. I, uhh, chopped stuff--- that's about it.Lastly, a shot of the gorgeous table where we settled in for our meal.
It's BYOB, which is a lot of fun. For just $55, it is so worth it. You can also win two passes to an upcoming GK event over at today!

2. Cooking Classes from The Chubby Cook. Scott and his crew have launched their cooking classes, with several fun concepts that I haven't seen anywhere else. Also, if you register for a January class and use the code ALF2012- then 40% of all proceeds will benefit the American Liver Foundation and Stephanie's Liver Life Challenge goal of running the Disney marathon. Disclosure- I work for the American Liver Foundation, and manage the LLC program in Cleveland.

3. Gift certificates or The Deck from the Cleveland Independents. Visit their site to purchase certificates for some of our area's best independently-owned restaurants, or buy "The Deck" for that foodie in your life to enjoy all year long. It offers 52 cards with discounts offered on each card for a particular restaurant. You can have fun working your way through the deck for 12 months. Both options can be purchased through "The Shop" section of the website.

Well, I hope that this was helpful if you're looking for any last minute gift ideas. Shop local! I hope that this week flies by, because my whole family is coming in from NY and I couldn't be more excited to celebrate with them. Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Key Rewards Week Winner

So who enjoyed free lunch from our area food trucks yesterday? What did you have? Thanks Key Rewards Week!Now, KeyBank also generously provided a $25 MasterCard gift card for me to give away to one lucky reader. Thank you to everyone that commented on yesterday's post! If I had been able to get out, I would have tried Hodge Podge. So, drum roll please...

The winner is #18, Mark Johnston. Mark, please email me your mailing address to claim your prize. If I do not hear from Mark by Monday, then I will select another winner using

Thank you, KeyBank. Enjoy the rest of, there are still lots of fun promotions coming up!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

FREE Food Truck Lunch On Wednesday

If you haven't caught on yet, it is #KeyRewardsWeek and Clevelanders have already enjoyed free Starbucks on Monday and a free Josh Cribbs T-shirt on Tuesday at participating locations. That's right, folks--- KeyBank is basically "picking up the tab" Monday-Sunday through different promotions each day.

Wednesday's freebie is one that I was pretty excited to learn about. They have partnered with 10 area food trucks to offer a FREE lunch.Now, you'll have to find the trucks on your own. They'll be scattered throughout the area, and you can track them through social media.

Here is a list of the participating trucks:

- JiBaro (@JibaroWorldEats)
- StrEat (@strEatmobile)
- Nosh Box (@TheNoshBox)
- Fahrenheit (@rock1chef)
- Dim and Den Sum (@DimAndDenSum)
- Hodge Podge (@hodgepodgetruck)
- Umami Moto (@UmamiMoto)
- Motor Mouth (@MotorMouthFood)
- Zydeco (@ZydecoBistro)
- Sweet! The Mobile Cupcakery (@mobilecupcakery)

I love that KeyBank decided to partner with local, independent food trucks during Key Rewards Week. You do not have to be a Key member to get this offer. You can learn more about the week-long promotion and other offers at

But, the fun doesn't stop there for one lucky reader. KeyBank is offering a $25 MasterCard gift card to one of you. Just simply leave a comment on this post telling me which food truck you want to try for FREE tomorrow, and you'll be entered to win. I will pull a random winner on Thursday.

Go forth and be "rewarded" with a free lunch on Wednesday thanks to KeyBank!

Disclosure- KeyBank offered myself and one reader a $25 gift card in exchange for this post. However, I believe in promoting the partnership with our area food trucks for this promotion and the opinions stated are 100% my own.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Giving Back This Holiday Season

Today I have something special to share...two ways that we can give back to our (food) community this holiday season.

The first local business that needs our help is Lucy's Sweet Surrender. It is a Cleveland bakery, located on Buckeye Road, that is owned by Michael and Marika Feigenbaum. Over the past two years, I have followed news of multiple break-ins, a shooting, stolen delivery vehicles, etc. that have all happened to this one local business. Yet, the couple remained encouraged to stay at their location and provide wonderful pastries and treats for their community. Well, after another recent incident, they have finally decided to move locations. You can read more about the move in Laura Taxel's post here, but the point is that they need our help. Approximately $20,000 worth of our help. So let's rally behind this wonderful local bakery and help them make the necessary, and safer, move to the new location. Please consider making a donation. No amount is too big or too small, and there are even some incentives for those who give. Not that we need a reason to give back to our community this holiday season!

Secondly, one of my favorite food bloggers, Miss Cleveland Foodie herself, is once again hosting her fabulous gift certificate giveaway to benefit Veggie U. The list of restaurant certificates in the prize package (3 this year) is insanely long, and you'd be nuts to not donate for an entry to win such a unique and fantastic prize. It also helps that all proceeds are benefiting such a worthy, and local, cause. You can read more about it over on her site, but I encourage you to donate (every $5 donated earns you an additional entry) and support this important educational program for our youth. This year, they also offer the option of donating online- which makes it even easier to give!

Please take the time to support these two worthy fundraisers. The true gift of the holiday season is giving.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Help Me Set My Top 10 List for 2012

Wow, December. How did it get here this quickly?

Well, it's the time of year that I start thinking about my New Year's Resolution for the blog. Every year, I have challenged myself to dine at 10 new (to me) restaurants that are pre-selected (by me). The first year, I fell short with 5 left to go. I carried them over into 2011, and I'm happy to report that I've visited 9 out of 10. This dumb surgery got in the way of completing the list, but hey I do have a few more weeks so I guess it's not entirely out of the question.

This year, I want to do something different. I'm tired of reading blog reviews of the same restaurants over and over again. So help me spice up this blog in 2012 by challenging me to come dine at your favorite local hidden gem. I'm talking about hole-in-the-wall, "why doesn't everyone eat here?", best food in your area that no one talks about kind of place. Tell me about them! East, west, south...I don't care, I'll drive there.

I'll compile a list and reveal the 10 that I will be dining at in 2012 on January 1st. So come on, what restaurant/bar do YOU think should make my list?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Winner Announced

Congratulations to Jeannine- the winner of the Piccolo from Nescafe! Thank you to everyone that entered the giveaway, and to Nescafe Dolce Gusto for providing the winner with a brand new machine. Jeannine, please email me to claim your prize. If I do not hear from the winner by Tuesday, then I will select another.

So how was your Thanksgiving? Growing up with a small family of five (yes, that's the whole extended family), I've always dreamed of big holiday gatherings. Lucky for me, "R" comes from a large family and most of them live in the Cleveland area. So, yesterday involved about 25 family members, three turkeys (one deep fried, one brine, one traditional) and a whole ham. Let's not forget the two tables worth of side dishes and desserts. Whoa! What does your Thanksgiving look like?

I'm off to mash some of our leftovers into a sandwich for lunch. Yum...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! Are you one of the masses that goes out tonight with friends and family? Or are you spending it at home resting, cooking, and finding the best pair of stretch pants that you own?

A Twitter conversation last night inspired this post. What's your favorite dish at Thanksgiving dinner? Most of us could pass on the turkey, but can't live without the side dishes!

Here are a few of my standard favorites...

Mashed Potatoes and GravyGreen Bean Casserole (or "Green Bean Bullsh*t" as "R's" family calls it)Sweet Potatoesand, of course, STUFFING!So tell me about your favorite dish, and then go enjoy it tomorrow! Have a wonderful holiday, no matter how you celebrate or who you spend it with. Even if turkey is your favorite dish, we can still be friends.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dolce Gusto Giveaway

Happy Monday! Even with the knowledge of a short work week for most of us, Monday mornings are still tough to swallow. If a cup of coffee is needed most, it's usually Monday morning. So let's talk coffee...

Remember a couple of months ago when Nescafe Dolce Gusto held the small private event for a few local bloggers and rewarded us with a complimentary Piccolo machine? Well, now they are generously offering one Bite Buff reader the titanium Piccolo.This compact machine fits into any kitchen, even our tiny 1940's kitchen with no counter or storage space. It's relatively easy to use once you try it out a couple of times. You can read about my initial thoughts in my original blog post (linked above). Since then, I've noticed that it stays very clean and we've had fun trying out a few different flavors of coffee. Finding them locally still proves to be difficult, and I curse the K-cups every time I'm shopping, but just plan on using their online ordering.

Interested in winning the machine? Just leave a comment below telling me what your favorite local coffee shop is, or your favorite coffee drink. You can also get a second entry into the giveaway by tweeting: "I want to win a machine from @DolceGustoUS from @BiteBuff at". Make sure that you leave a second comment to be entered twice. I will select a winner on Friday using

Happy Sipping!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless (Kind of) Wednesday- Deagan's

Some pictures from the first Deagan's Kitchen & Bar Beer Dinner back in August... This dinner was amazing, from the food to the beer to the service to the price. My only complaint was that it ended.

You're in luck--- Deagan's just announced that their next Beer Dinner is on Monday, December 5th at 7:00PM. For just $50 (tax, tip, and service fees included), you'll receive a five-course meal of small plates paired with some great holiday beers. Don't miss this event!

Deagan's Kitchen & Bar
14810 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday- Yelp Helps the Foodbank

Check out this event taking place tomorrow...

Entertainment, good eats from several local restaurants and food trucks, and donations being accepted for the Cleveland Foodbank. Click on the link above to learn more.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Upcoming Events- November

Hi guys! Well I am already missing blogging on a regular basis, so I guess that is a good sign. Also, I received my first round of blog header designs last night from the designer and they look great. Which helped to boost my excitement for the redesign project even more.

But, while we're waiting for my full return I did want to share a few events happening this month that may interest you...

Monday, November 14th- Tartine Bistro: Wine Dinner. Five course dinner with wine pairings. $60. 7:00PM. Reservations required- (440)331-0800.

Tuesday, November 15th- Bistro on Lincoln Park: Fall Wine Tasting. Four course meal with wine pairings. 6:30PM. $50 per person + tax and gratuity. Reservations required- (216) 862-2969.

Tuesday, November 15th- Fountain: Thanksgiving Wine Dinner. 7:00PM. Seven course dinner with wine pairings. $65 per person + tax and gratuity. Reservations required- (216)755-1225.

Wednesday, November 16th- Bistro 185: UniBroue Beer Dinner. Five course French- Canadian dinner paired with Canadian beers. 6:30PM. $50 + tax and gratuity. Reservations required- (216)481-9635.

Friday, November 18th- Creekside Restaurant: Wine Tasting. $40. 7:00PM. Advance ticket sales required.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wordless (Sort of) Wednesday

A little glimpse into the items that are getting me through post-surgery recovery...1. Tempur-Pedic mattress and pillow
2. Body pillow to lay against
3. Down comforter
4. New iPad (thank you "R"!) to stream Gossip Girl on Netflix, keep me up-to-date on social media, play games, and watch live TV through Time Warner
5. Kindle: currently loaded with The Hunger Games
6. Water, water, water
7. Medical supplies up the ying-yang
8. Pup for all kinds of good snuggles and kisses
9. Tray table for the yummy comfort food that my mom's been making all week
10. Sleep, and lots of it

Thanks again for all the well wishes on my last post and through Twitter/Facebook!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blog News

Hello Bite Buff readers! Well, it is time that I share some news with you. Both good and bad, so let's start with the bad news...

Some of you may remember that I went on a brief hiatus last fall when I had surgery. It didn't work. It's been a year (+ 2 days) of living in constant pain and wearing a bandage from the open surgical wound that never healed. While not life-threatening, it has been life-altering in many ways. So I have a brand new surgeon (the best of the best for treating my specific genetic condition), and I go under the knife again this Friday. We are taking a more aggressive approach, removing a large area of tissue that was causing reoccurring and extremely painful cysts on the small of my back. This means several months, yes months (UGH!), of recovery and being stuck at home. So the restaurant reviews and event recap posts will be few and far between for a little while, but I'll be back at it as soon as I can! You know that I can't stay away for long. I'll continue to post on events coming up, and any other restaurant industry news that I think is worth sharing- so you aren't quite rid of me. If anyone is interested in doing a guest post, just holler.

However, here comes the good news...My full return to blogging should bring with it a whole new site design. I've started the process of working with a local designer, and I'm super excited to share it all with you when we finish. It will be perfect timing if everything works out as planned!

So, this is certainly not "farewell", but more of a "see ya around" these next several weeks. Stay tuned.......

- Katrina

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cleveland Beer Week

Cleveland Beer Week is not quite over. How have you been "celebrating"?

We've tasted some beers in honor of this festive week, but last night we attended our first of their "Flagship" events- Culture Yourself: A Premier Beer and Cheese Pairing.

In theory, it was a great event. It featured 12 top breweries, including Great Lakes, Bell's, Victory, Hoppin' Frog, Thirsty Dog, and more, and guests could sample from over 30 locally produced cheeses. $35 bought us 25 beer tastings and unlimited cheese, so not a bad deal. I even got my first bite of a pawpaw.

But when we arrived, we quickly realized that the event was WAY oversold. The private back room at Market Garden Brewery was packed, and it became very difficult to move or interact with the vendors. Within the first 10 minutes of being there, a stout was bumped and landed all over three of us. Including my eye. Beer to the eye does not feel very good. Our group of six toughed it out and stayed for the entire two hours, but several people that I know abandoned the event after only half an hour.

Again, this event is a fun concept- but one that still needs a little tweaking.

Anyone attending BREWzilla? We went last year and enjoyed the event. One of the reasons that I love Beer Week is that it pushes me to try new beers. A wine lover at heart, tasting small samples of beer is the way to go. Now I actually have a couple that I would order out in pint size! Enjoy the rest of the festivities. Cheers!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dinner in the Dark Celebrates One Year!

Last night, Dinner in the Dark celebrated their one-year anniversary. The event, once again, proved that their concept of bringing together chefs and diners to have a little fun "in the dark" while raising funds for a worthy charity of the month was pure genius. The celebratory meal was enjoyed by both the guests and chefs involved, which included a couple of new faces in the kitchen this month.

The lineup included:
Bac Nguyen from Bac Asian American Bistro & Bar
Greg McLaren and Patrick Fisher from Luxe Kitchen & Lounge
Matt Mathlage from Light Bistro
Brian Doyle from SOW Food
James Blevins from Downtown 140
and Britt Culey from Couquette Patisserie

This meal wasn't for the faint hearted, and even pushed my culinary boundaries a bit. But that's the fun of Dinner in the Dark!

We kicked off the night with a Ginger 3 cocktail from Joe DeLuca and Tobin Northrup, paired with an amuse-bouche of bacon wrapped dates from Light Bistro. Then came course #1...Braised and grilled chicken hearts with a green papaya slaw, ginger beignet, and a beet juice reduction (for the "blood" effect) from Bac. I consider myself a pretty adventuresome eater, but even I was a little hesitant once we figured out what was on the plate. But, I pushed myself to try one of the hearts and I'm glad that I did. I couldn't bring myself to eat any more of them (Joe G. happily took them off my hands), but I was proud of myself for trying them. It really was just a visual (slight textural) issue for me, since they were served whole and still looked like a tiny heart.

Next up, we enjoyed a fun take on a clambake from the guys at Luxe.It was funny, because the first course of chicken hearts had launched a conversation at our table about unusual foods and blood sausage came up. Well, wouldn't you know that the very next course included blood sausage on one of the clams! They were prepared three ways, with the table favorite being the creamed corn/blood sausage clam. The play on Thanksgiving dinner with duck confit, sweet potato, and cranberry compote was a close second.

Then came an endive, beet, and orange salad from Chef Matt at Light Bistro (the host restaurant for the evening).It was light, and the citrus was refreshing before heading into the "main" courses. Which brings us to tempura-fried halibut cheeks from Brian Doyle. It arrived in a miso broth with three types of basil and fried sweet potato straws. This was my least favorite course of the evening. The tempura batter had started to absorb the broth, and it became very gummy and hard to cut through. However, I did enjoy the flavor of the broth.Our last savory course of the evening came from James Blevins of Downtown 140. We enjoyed "country-fried" beef cheek with carrots and parsnips and a country gravy foam. The other two diners at my table had some tough and chewy bites of their beef cheek that threw them off a bit, but my piece was tender and had no textural issues so I enjoyed the dish.We finished off the meal with a sweet treat from Britt Culey. She had prepared a pear and rosemary tart with chocolate ganache. Dang, arch nemesis. I took two bites of the tart and was hit in the face with rosemary flavor, so "R" greedily took over and finished it off for me. Good thing I still had a full glass of Zinsane Zinfandel to wash it down!All of the courses had included a beverage pairing, and I truly enjoyed all of the red and white wines last night. Which I can rarely say. So, overall it was a great evening spent with friends and other adventuresome diners, all to support a good cause: Feed My Starving Children. If you haven't been to a Dinner in the Dark event yet...why not?! Put your trust in their hands and enjoy a truly unique experience. You may just surprise yourself. I did. They are taking the month of November off, but will reappear at Noodlecat in December.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Morning Coffee Needed!

Monday morning seems like a good time to write about coffee. Because I don't know about you, but I could use a boost right about now. This weekend was glorious, and Monday is particularly hard this week!

About a month ago, a small group of bloggers was invited to a Nescafe Dolce Gusto "Foodie Feedup" at The Greenhouse Tavern. The event included complimentary appetizers, a cooking demo from Chef Sawyer himself, and coffee service with dessert.

After catching up with friends old and new, we headed down to the Greenhouse kitchen for a cooking demo on their famous hand-ground beef tartare.It was delicious!Afterwards, it was time for the coffee demo and tasting. I sampled the Vanilla Latte Macchiato, and it was very good. I usually need cream and two sugars for a cup of coffee, but I only added one sugar to this and it was perfect for me.According to their website, they have 15 different flavor capsules, so there is something for everyone. Including Peach Ice Tea, Chai Tea Latte, Espresso, and a Dark Roast- because the machines can do both hot and cold beverages.

We were surprised that night with the promise of our own (Piccolo) machine. It arrived a couple of weeks later, and I wanted to let it settle in my house before writing about it. I wanted to use it several times, and go out shopping for capsules before sharing this with you.

The long story short is that the machine works well, with a quick heat-up time and clean brewing process. The Piccolo holds enough water to do about two full cups of coffee, so keep that in mind. It is a small machine that tucked away nicely in our kitchen that has minimal storage or counter space. Now finding the coffee capsules has proved to be a little difficult locally. They do have a store locator on their website, as well as an online retail shop. But the only store that I have found them in so far is the nearby Walmart, and they only carry two flavors. I"ll have to keep poking around or order them online. The only other comment that I have is that the packaging on the capsules is designed for the newer models of the machines. Instead of telling us how long to manually flip the brewing switch, the package instructs you on how many "bars" to set the machine for. This is not helpful for the Piccolo, and reading the final fl. oz. for each type has been the best tip. I've gotten the hang of this now, but it does mean that our first attempt at the 4 oz. Espresso did not go so well.

Alright, now it's time for me to go grab a cup before work because I need to brush off the weekend haze! What did you do this weekend? Mine included dinner at Deagan's with friends, pumpkin picking, a picnic in the park, and cleaning out our garage and basement. This weather is amazing!

Thank you again to Nescafe Dolce Gusto for the wonderful time at The Greenhouse Tavern, and the complimentary machine to review. As always, my opinion are honest and 100% my own.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In Search of...

Since moving to Cleveland almost four years ago, I've been in search of two things...

1. A good Indian restaurant that offers a buffet dinner.
2. Affordable sushi that delivers to our home.

The first, I haven't explored as much. Any suggestions are welcome! "R" had never had Indian before he met me, and I'd like to expose him to more than just what I order for us when we dine in or get takeout. A buffet is a must!

The second, I've tried a little harder to find. Living within the city limits, it continues to boggle my mind that we can't find a sushi place to deliver. When I lived in Syracuse, we had about five spots in our area that would. Of course, there is and Food Fetchers. But, we've tried the sushi through these services and it just doesn't measure up. Also, we end up spending about $50 to get it here.

Well last night we were out running errands not too far from home, and I remembered that Alicia had written about a sushi restaurant that wasn't too far from us as well. With a quick tweet, we were on our way. Thanks again, PIP!

Mizu Sushi is tucked away in a small strip of storefronts, across from Sam's Club off of Tiedeman in Parma. We shop in the area frequently, and I've never even glanced in that plaza. If it hadn't been for the recommendation, I wouldn't even know that it existed. But, I'm sure glad that I know now! Turns out that it is the best authentic, "cheap" sushi that we've had on this side of town.

Now, Pacific East has still been my favorite in the Cleveland area. And, of course, Parallax and the newly opened Ginko are surely in a whole different category. But it was nice to find this little spot so close to home. All four rolls (some classic favorites and a House Specialty) and the steamed shrimp dumplings that we ordered were fresh and flavorful, with the bill totaling just $36 with tax and tip (including one soda). This is the first Spicy Sauce that has actually had some heat to it, other than Pacific East. Did I mention that it is a BYOB joint? Grab your favorite beer or bottle of wine, and enjoy. I'll be back, and soon.

Now if I could just get them to deliver...

Mizu Japanese Sushi
10219 Brookpark Road
Parma, OH 44130

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The New and Improved? Bistro on Lincoln Park

Bistro on Lincoln Park has had a lot of changes recently- new paint, new furniture, new lighting, new bar back splash, and...a new Executive Chef. Chef/partner Pete Joyce has stepped away, and Cory Hess moved up in the ranks to take on the Executive Chef position. So I was interested to check out all of the changes, and dragged a friend there for dinner.

To the untrained eye, there didn't seem to be much of a change in the atmosphere of the restaurant. I noticed new soft seating in the bar, better/softer lighting, but beyond that- the changes were lost on us. Luckily, a nice server pointed out all of the updates later in the evening. Overall, I'd say that the restaurant maintained the same "feel" of modern comfort with their upgrades. Now, on to the food (which I'm not sure if the menu was under Cory's control at this point or not, because Joyce has just announced that he had left).

We both started with the Cream of Mushroom soup with Ohio mushrooms, cream, shiitake salad, and mushroom powder ($7).The 6 oz. soup was, dare I say it, a close second to the famous AMP 150 Mushroom Soup. The soup was smooth, but with great pieces of mushroom throughout that added wonderful texture and enhanced the earthy flavor.

I was hoping for a lighter entree after enjoying the soup, so I ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna that was herb crusted with roasted garlic, potato puree, balsamic marinara, French beans, and Parmesan crisp ($26).This is where my experience at the re-vamped Bistro took a turn for the worse. The dish arrived, and I immediately saw that the tuna was smothered in tomato sauce. I was expecting more balsamic, less tomato, as balsamic vinegar is often paired with tuna. But the hearty flavors of tomato and the potato puree completely overwhelmed the subtle flavor of the fish. This pairing just didn't work for me. I kept thinking that lamb or even beef would have been better paired with this dish. It reminded me of a hearty fall dish that warms you from the inside out, but the tuna just didn't belong on that plate. Overall, the flavor of the other components was pleasant. I did express my opinion to our server when she asked how our meal was, and I bet that I won't be the only person to think that this pairing just doesn't work.

So even though I did not enjoy my entree, I look forward to returning to see how Hess does at the helm. I've always enjoyed their Happy Hour, and they offer 20 wines for $20- a good deal. If you haven't been yet, then I do suggest that you go check them out.

Bistro on Lincoln Park
2391 West 11th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 862-2969

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall Events- Dinner in the Dark, March of Dimes, and more.

I'm alive! I've just been buried in event planning for the non-profit that I work for, but my event was Monday night and it was a huge success. Phew!

Speaking of events, there are a couple coming up that I wanted to share with you. The great food events in our city just don't stop.

Monday, October 3rd- Charity Night at Johnny Mango's to support the Liver Life Challenge team that is training and fundraising on behalf of the American Liver Foundation for the Disney half, full, or Goofy marathon in January. Bring a special flier to Johnny Mango's from 11AM-11PM, and 20% of your check will be donated to the team. Click on the link above to get the flier. Disclosure- I work for the ALF, and manage the Liver Life Challenge team.

Friday, October 14th
- Best of Cleveland Party, hosted by Cleveland Magazine. 7-11PM, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. General admission tickets are $45. Go check out what Cleveland Magazine has deemed "the best" of Cleveland!

Sunday, October 16th- Dinner in the Dark at Light Bistro in Ohio City. 6:30PM. $65 plus tax and gratuity. Enjoy a six course meal prepared by six different chefs, but you're "in the dark" on what the menu will be and what the chef lineup looks like. All proceeds benefit a local charity.

Monday, November 14th- March of Dimes' Cleveland Signature Chef Auction. Tickets are $150, 5:30PM, The Cleveland Aquarium. Highlights over 25 of our area's chefs as they prepare a signature dish for all to taste. Win fantastic prizes in their live and silent auctions. The Honorary Chef is Jeff Jarrett from AMP 150, but the restaurant list is quite lengthy.

Enjoy these events and more this fall! Any fun food events coming up that you plan on attending?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dining at Flour

In an effort to get out to the east side of Cleveland more often, a recent Girls' Night Out brought us to Flour- Paul Minnillo and Chris DiLisi's (formally of the Baricelli Inn) newest venture. Offering rustic Italian fare in a sleek, but casual, atmosphere was what they were going for, and I personally think that they delivered.

They offer a small area for patio seating out front, but this evening we decided to dine inside. Picture lots of clean lines, minimalist decor, tons of stainless steel, and plaid shirts on all the waitstaff (this last bit I found a little odd). Our server was pleasant, attentive, and knowledgeable about the menu, although she had some missteps later in the evening and also proved that she knows nothing about how a cheese plate should be presented and enjoyed (start with the mild, end with the stinky).

This particular group of diners LOVES a good cheese plate, so we decided to share the 7 Piece Formaggi ($19) with strawberry compote and crostini as a starter.Overall, it was a decent cheese plate but I don't think that it lived up to Baricelli cheese fame, and it certainly couldn't compete with our personal favorite- L'Albatros. But the cheese selection was nice, although every good plate with this many varieties should include a bleu- in our opinion. But we were off to a good start.

I decided to try the Melon salad ($11) with arugula, ricotta salada, chili, and lime.There were a few different types of melon in the salad, and they were all crisp and refreshing. The chili added a subtle heat to the dish, but we agreed that it was "missing something". Maybe some prosciutto? I don't think that I would order it again.

Then on to the main course- Gnudi ($18 entree portion) with pancetta, corn essence, corn salsa, and crema.Some helpful tweeps had suggested this dish to us, and it didn't disappoint. This was the highlight of the meal for me, and the portion was so large that I was able to take half of it home for lunch the next day. The gnocchi were a probably little dense for some people's taste, but the wonderful sweet corn flavor and crispy pancetta bites just did it for me. It was a little rich towards the end, but I really enjoyed the dish and it reheated nicely. I would order this again in a heartbeat.

So, overall we enjoyed checking out one of the area's newer additions, and I think that they will continue to thrive. The (free) parking and location are convenient, the food is good with some standout dishes, and the atmosphere is casual yet modern and sleek.

34205 Chagrin Boulevard
Moreland Hills, OH 44022

Flour on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 12, 2011

September Events

I am totally in a full-blown fall mood now after the Browns' home opener yesterday, one of my favorite September food events taking place tonight- Taste of the Browns, and a crisp in the air that just wasn't there a few weeks ago.

But festival season is not over! This month brings some other great events that I wanted to share with you:

Monday, September 12th - Sunday, September 18th- First ever Downtown Cleveland Patio Week, featuring $30 three course options and $15 lunch options at participating restaurants. There will also be special events and offers from specific restaurants, and you can check all of this out for only $2 parking. Visit the website (linked above) for more information.

Tuesday, September 20th- Dinner in the Dark. Held at Brandt Evan's new Pura Vida this month, the event will feature six different chefs preparing a six course meal with beverage pairings. But you'll be "in the dark" about who is cooking each course, or what you will be served. All proceeds benefit charity. 6:30PM. Use the link to learn more, or to purchase tickets online.

Friday, September 23rd - Sunday, September 25th- Cleveland's RIPE! Fest, hosted by the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. Featuring food, entertainment, farmers market, shopping and more. Tickets are only $12 for adults and $6 for children. Event hours are 11:00 a.m. - sundown each day. Family-friendly. Check out the event website for more information.

I am simply sharing these events happening in Cleveland because I think they are worth checking out. What events are you looking forward to this month?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back to Bac

One of the most controversial blog posts that I've written was my review of Tremont's Bac. Several of you stood up for what you feel is "one of the best Asian restaurants in Cleveland", and told me that I didn't know what I was talking about.

Here's the thing...restaurants and food are subjective. Even when dining with friends, family, or "R"- we can be having the same food in the same restaurant at the same time with the same server, and our experience and opinions will be different. That's the beauty of it, I think.

As you know, our first experience at Bac led us to one of the worst dishes that I've ever had (spoiled scallops, and the dish isn't on the menu anymore), and the rest of the food was only average- in my opinion. Of course I always believe in second chances, and try to not judge a restaurant based on one experience alone. So when many of you reached out about that particular blog post, I knew that I had to go back.

I did, and I'm sorry to say that my opinion hasn't changed. In the picture below you see three small plates: Summer Rolls, Pork Rangoon, and Chicken Satay.Once again, there was nothing "wrong" with the three dishes (other than the Chicken Satay being a little fatty). But there was absolutely nothing that stood out or impressed about these dishes. I've had better rolls, better satay, better peanut sauce, and better dumplings in other Cleveland restaurants. Let me just note that I was sharing these dishes with a friend, and she felt the same way.

Now...I've heard that the Bacon Guacamole, Green Papaya Salad, and Bahn Mi Sandwich are very good. But why should your menu only include a short list of items that stand out? It should be the other way around, especially in Tremont where it is a restaurant mecca of good eats. I'm sorry folks, but my second trip left me feeling the same way.

And that's the beauty of opinions- to each their own. I just try to write this blog honestly about my experiences and opinions, but I do always love to hear your feedback and own dining adventures. We all know what we like best, but it sure is fun to share it with others. I could talk about the Cleveland culinary scene all day!

I do wish Bac the best as he seems like such a nice guy and a hard worker, but the restaurant just isn't for me. I only decided to write a second post because so many of you spoke up after the first. Clearly, the restaurant has a loyal following and that's wonderful!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Touch Supper Club Farm to Table Dinner

On Tuesday night, "R" and I attended the Touch Supper Club Farm to Table Dinner at Stone Garden Farms in Richfield. The setting was gorgeous, and it was a perfect late summer evening (you know, one with just a slight chill in the air once the sun went down).They were also unveiling their new food truck, which is about to hit the streets of Cleveland serving up tasty tacos.Touch had set up tables of 8 on the grounds of the farm, surrounded by interesting old buildings and beautiful gardens. Before the dinner started, we explored the buildings......poked around the gardens......and made some new friends.Then we settled into our table for a seven course meal served family-style, inspired by Stone Garden Farms. Many of the courses included produce picked fresh from the grounds, and our sixth course was a suckling pig right off the farm. But first up were Assorted Deviled Eggs with Fried Green Tomatoes.I love deviled eggs, and these did not disappoint. The kimchee and blue cheese eggs were my favorite two. The lightly battered fried green tomatoes were also a big hit at our table. This course was paired with a light, summery Cucumber Melon Margarita.

Second course was a Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad with wild lamb quarters (a green, as our table learned), arugula, and goat cheese.Paired with it was a Ketchup Martini- my least favorite drink of the evening (whoa, strong and spicy), but fun. I really enjoyed this salad, and it included some of the sweetest and flavorful tomatoes that I've had yet this summer.The third course was a Stone Garden Salt Roasted Beet Salad with romaine, candied walnuts, strawberry rhubarb vinaigrette, and Danish blue cheese. This was a table favorite, but the salt-roasted beets were just a tad too salty in my opinion. I think it lost some of the great earthy flavor of the beets. But the five different varieties of beets were picked straight from the farm, and it doesn't get any fresher than that! Next up was the Garden Beans with toasted cumin, lemon and feta cheese, tomato salad, and toasted pine nuts. It was paired with a sparkling white wine, and is the chef's "favorite summer side dish".

Now we moved into the "main courses", which started with a Grilled Smoked Salmon with heirloom tomato bread pudding, oven dried cherry tomatoes, and a leek corn slab bacon compote. This dish was paired with a refreshing Lynchburg Lemonade.Let me state that I typically hate salmon. It's always too "fishy" for me, and I would never, ever order it out. This was my favorite course of the evening. The bread pudding was outstanding, and I absolutely loved the Rose Hip Gastrique that Chef Fisher had whipped up for the meal. The fish was mild, with a nice crisp to the outside.

Now it was time for the main event, the Roasted Suckling Pig.This was served with smoked sweet potatoes, house-made BBQ sauce, and a slightly sweet red wine. The sauce was exceptional, and several of us dipped our utensils into the jar to savor just that flavor by itself. My first piece of pork was very fatty and too tough to cut into, but the platter kept refilling itself and I enjoyed some delicious smokey, tender pork.

The last course was a Blue Berry Pie with white cheddar cheese ice cream, and was supposed to be served with a Ginger Peach Cobbler cocktail. Unfortunately, as our server made his way to our table he tripped over a chair leg in the dark and down went the tray of drinks. Alas, we didn't get to try the cocktail but it sure sounded good! I am not a pie lover, but I did pick at a few bites and watched as everyone else at the table happily cleaned their plates. So it must have been good, because we were all feeling stuffed at that point.

With our bellies full, we wandered over to the roaring bonfire and continued to listen to the beautiful live folk music that had entertained us all evening. It was a perfect ending to an unique, and delicious, meal on the farm.For more pictures from the evening, check out the album on my Facebook Fan Page.

Thank you to Touch Supper Club for providing me with a media pass to come check out the event and the debut of their new food truck. It was a fun and tasty meal, and one that we won't soon forget. The opinions above are 100% mine.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Dragonfly at Dragonfly, Shaped Like a Dragonfly

A few weeks ago, a friend and I met up for dinner at Dragonfly Lounge in Ohio City. I've heard mixed reviews about the food and atmosphere, and was looking forward to checking it out for myself. Recently, well-known chef Marlin Kaplan (One Walnut, Luxe, Roseangel) also became involved with Dragonfly and re-vamped their menu.

I immediately like the interior of the restaurant. It had a great "lounge" vibe with the modern furniture, lighting, and bar decor, but also had exposed brick (which I love) and sunlight streaming in through the front windows.

Luckily, my friend and I almost always just "share" our meal by splitting a couple of small plates. We decided to start with the Crispy Lobster Pot Stickers with avocado, pomelo, and Indonesian sweet soy ($12.5).The pot stickers were decent, but the lobster flavor wasn't as prominent as I think we both had hoped. Next up was the Dragonfly sushi roll with crab, bok choy, cucumber, avocado, mango mustard, and char su glaze ($13.5).As you can (sort of) see, they playfully arranged the sushi roll to look like a dragonfly on the plate. Bonus points here! I always enjoy a good sushi roll, and this was pretty good. Everything tasted fresh, and I liked the crispy outer coating. But I did wish that the roll was slightly thinner. It was impossible to eat in one bite, and cutting the pieces resulted in the ingredients spilling out.

Last up, we split the Dragonfly Paella with mussels, calamari, snapper, shrimp, and forbidden rice in a coconut curry broth ($22).I appreciated that they split the dish for us (so what you see is only a half portion) for no additional fee. This was my favorite dish of the evening- packed with curry and coconut flavors and fresh seafood. I don't usually enjoy steamed fish in dishes such as this, but even the fish was prepared well and complimented the overall dish. I was happy to end on this note.

So, overall we enjoyed the atmosphere and food- with some dishes being better than others. Several more on the menu sounded tempting, and I always love it when sushi is on the menu! I think we'll both be back, and I'll even bring "R" this time. He gets a little salty when I have these fun dining adventures without him. Hehehe.

Dragonfly Lounge
1859 West 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 696-7774

Dragonfly Lounge on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 26, 2011

Austin's Wood Fire Grill Disappoints

"R's" grandma lives in Brecksville, and he has dined in the area often with her. So when a Groupon for Austin's Wood Fire Grill popped up one day, he purchased the discounted certificate and plans were made to dine there.

It is located in the same plaza as Heinen's, so parking is very easy and free.We arrived around 7PM, and the restaurant was mostly full. It was a nice mix of ages and type of groups dining, and appeared to be family-friendly as well. We settled in and each ordered a drink as we looked at the menu.

Immediately, I had sticker shock. I was in the mood for a steak, and my eye was drawn to a $32 hunk of beef topped with a special sauce. No way. So I settled on a 12 oz. (only size option) NY Strip for $27.99. No frills (cheese, sauce, extra spices, etc.) and no dinner salad included. Just one side dish of my choice. Pretty skimpy, in my opinion. I went for the baked potato, and also ordered a side of the garlic spinach. We had started with an order of the Stuffed Mushrooms, and the dish included six crab-stuffed mushrooms for $8.49. "R" had ordered the Crab Cake Dinner.

Let's just say that there is something wrong with the bland baked potato being the best part of my meal. The stuffing inside the mushrooms was dry and there was no hint of crab flavor. My steak was seasoned "okay", but even a little more salt and pepper would have gone a long way. A good steak doesn't need much, but this one needed a bit of something more. At least it was cooked to a perfect medium. The spinach was disappointing, and "R's" crab cakes were very similar to the dry and bland crab stuffing in the mushrooms.

All in all, I thought it was an incredibly expensive meal for what it lacked in quality and portions. We won't be back, and I honestly wanted to stand outside and warn people as they walked in. Whoops!

Austin's Wood Fire Grill
8121 Chippewa Road
Brecksville, OH 44141