Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fondue Fusion for Valentine's Day

Congratulations to deanna for winning the $25 Sushi Rock gift card and Kristin for snagging the $25 Wonder Bar gift card from my Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week post. Email me (can be found in my blog profile), message me on Twitter at @BiteBuff, or leave a comment below with your email address. You have until Tuesday to claim your prize, or I'll pick another winner. I selected the winners using Thank you to everyone that entered!

Okay, so normally I would never write about a chain restaurant...but "R" and I had such a wonderful (delayed) Valentine's Day celebration at The Melting Pot in Rocky River that I just had to share it with you. I won a $25 "dip" certificate from them on Twitter in December, and "R" shocked me when he said that he had never actually had fondue. So I knew a trip was in our near future, and when we were looking for something "special" to do for Valentine's Day- I thought this might be just what we needed. Since we dine out so often, it can be difficult to make it "special". Usually, this means selecting a higher-end restaurant with a romantic setting, but this time it meant doing something fun, interactive, and unique.

When we arrived, we were immediately whisked away to their "best room" called the Red Room. This space offered private dining for two, separated from the main dining room and certainly more romantic. We were tucked away in our little booth, and started to look at the menu. Eric, the General Manager, then showed up to walk us through the menu and highly suggested doing the "Big Night Out" menu option. BNO offers four courses: a cheese fondue, salad, entree fondue with the choice of four cooking styles, and a dessert fondue. The BNO offered specialty items not featured on the main menu, but you could easily swap out items if you preferred. We opted for the BNO so that we could fully experience the restaurant's menu.We started with the Fondue à la France- a rich, smooth combination of baby brie, fontina, gruyère and raclette cheeses accented with nueske’s bacon, onions, white-truffle cream and fresh chives.They had us at brie and bacon. With it came three different types of bread, raw vegetables, and granny smith apples. While I enjoyed all of the courses, this may have been my favorite. But,'s things smothered in hot, gooey cheese.

Then came the salad course, and we were each able to select a different salad (which was good because we were arguing over what to order when we thought we only had one selection for the both of us). I went with the Cesar and "R" had the California Salad with mixed-baby-salad greens, roma tomatoes, walnuts and gorgonzola cheese with raspberry black walnut vinaigrette. We were each happy with our salad course. I really loved the Parmesan-encrusted pine nuts in mine.

Next up was the main course, the entree fondue. We selected the Fondue Fusion with a cold-water lobster tail, filet mignon, peppercorn-crusted NY strip, chicken provençal, roasted-garlic shrimp, maple leaf farms duck a l’orange, ratatouille and goat cheese ravioli and fresh vegetables. So basically, a little bit of everything. For our cooking style, we went with the Mojo: Caribbean-seasoned bouillon with a distinctive fresh-garlic flavor and a citrus flair.
Once it arrived, we had a blast dipping and cooking our bites. I loved the seasoning in the bouillon. "R" said that this was the only meal that could ever slow down his typically inhale-style eating, so for that I was grateful.

After we finished, our fabulous server "British Chris" (who really was British and had the best accent I've heard in a long time. It helped that he was very cute too. Shhh, don't tell "R".) presented us with the dessert menu. We chose the Flaming Turtle with milk chocolate, caramel and chopped pecans flambéed tableside.It was served with fresh strawberries, bananas (we opted for more strawberries instead, since "R" hates bananas), cheesecake, Rice Krispies Treats, marshmallows, pound cake and brownies to dip into the rich chocolate fondue. The only dipper that we didn't care for were the marshmellows. We were happily dipping away when a surprise arrived at our table. We had not ordered the Big Night Out White Chocolate Crème Brûlée- a fondue version of the classic French dessert, including white chocolate and caramelized sugar, because I tend to shy away from white chocolate. But the manager, Eric, insisted that we try it so he personally delivered a small portion of it to our table for us. I was proven wrong. He instructed me to throw out any previous concept of white chocolate, and he was right. "R" started eating it with a spoon after the dippers were gone. I kid you not.

Lastly, the evening ended with the hostess coming and taking a picture of us at the table, printing it out, and framing it for us since they knew we were celebrating a special occasion. At first I was a little thrown by this, but when the picture arrived it was actually a great shot of us and it now hangs on our refrigerator as a reminder of our fun evening out.

Overall, the service was phenomenal- attentive without being intrusive. The pace of our meal was perfect, and we were happy with the cozy, intimate atmosphere since we were celebrating. I walked out of there pleasantly surprised at how well our evening had gone, and I think "R" is now an official fan of fondue!

The Melting Pot
3111 Westgate
Westgate Mall
Fairview Park/Rocky River, OH 44126
(440) 356-8900

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Giveaway Time for Downtown Restaurant Week!

You've heard me blabbering on about how it is the 4th Annual Downtown Cleveland Restaurant what have you done about it? I want to hear about where you've been dining this week, and who you think has the best specials/events going on. Tried any new restaurants?


It's giveaway time! I have been provided with a $25 gift card to Sushi Rock and a $25 gift card to Wonder Bar. How does a night on the town sound? Just leave a comment below telling me which one you would like to win. To spread as much Downtown Restaurant Week love as possible, I'll be giving away the gift cards separately. So, go on, comment!

I'll be drawing the two winners on Saturday, so hurry!

Here's a little tidbit from the chef at Sushi Rock about our downtown restaurants:

Sushi Rock- Daniel Cassano, Corporate Executive Chef (interview with Falls Communications): Downtown Cleveland has received national recognition as an emerging culinary scene. How would you describe the culinary scene Downtown? What is happening?

It’s an eclectic group of truly talented chefs and restaurant owners. Collectively we are starting to pay more attention to the quality of the food and where it is coming from. At Sushi Rock, I’m trying to buy as much seasonally available local product as possible. Certain products can be purchased locally, but other products, in order to bring the best quality possible, we need to source. Right now, I’m buying my tuna direct from Hawaii. That means that I’m getting tuna 23 hours out of the water. It’s not sitting in a warehouse somewhere. In this case it is really about bringing the customer a better product - tuna is not available locally! It becomes about balance. Procure as much local top-quality product as possible, then if something is not available - go to the best source. This attention to the quality and sourcing translates into a higher level of dining consciousness.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dining at Deagan's Kitchen

About a month ago (yes, I am such a blogger-slacker sometimes), "R" and I finally made our maiden voyage to Deagan's Kitchen & Bar in Lakewood. It was an unscheduled trip, but we happen to be in the area one evening so we decided to stop in for dinner. Since opening, Deagan's has made quite a splash and the "buzz" around the restaurant has led to some long waits from what I've heard. It was a Monday night when we stopped in, so I figured that if we were going to give it a try- then this was probably a good night to do so (historically being slow in the restaurant industry).

There was convenient parking behind the restaurant, and the back entrance led us right to a hostess stand so we were quickly greeted and seated (hehe, that rhymed). We slid into a booth along one wall, which gave us a great view of the main dining room and the bar area. I instantly felt comfortable in the setting, and loved the atmosphere that they have created. Something that jumped out at me right away was that each of the chairs at the tables in the main dining room were different. It created a funky vibe, and reminded me of the mis-matched coffee mugs at Grumpy's Cafe in Tremont.

There was lots of food consumed during this meal (you know, "research" purposes), so let me get on with it...

We each started with an order of the Deviled Eggs (since it is really one egg) with lake erie goat cheese and english mustard ($3).
The strong mustard flavor dominated the dish a bit too much, but at the end of the day a deviled egg is a deviled egg- and I love deviled eggs.

Next up, we decided to share three small plates: Sesame Crusted Calamari with three sauces and scallions ($8), Spicy Shrimp Tacos with avocado, corn, white cheddar and micro cilantro ($9), and Peking Duck Confit Mac -n- Cheese with roasted shallots, mahon cheese and english peas ($8).
The shrimp tacos were easily our favorite, and really reminded me that we need to get to Deagan's for their Taco Tuesday celebration. The fresh cilantro and (I'm assuming) house-made guacamole both added such a freshness and "clean" flavor to the dish. We both really enjoyed the tacos and they left us wanting more. The mac and cheese was the weakest of the meal, with not as much punch in the cheese flavor as I was hoping for, but it was still a solid dish that will not disappoint many. The calamari fell somewhere in the middle. It arrived with all three sauces drizzled over top, which I was not expecting, but they all worked well together and each bite was slightly unique. Really, all four dishes were solid and ones that I would eat again. But not before trying several others off their menu!

Overall, they are doing a fantastic job at providing a casual, yet upscale, bar atmosphere while still being family-friendly, and they are nailing the food preparation from what I can tell. I think this establishment is here to stay.

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

Deagan's Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Blue Canyon Birthday

Two quick notes:
1. Don't forget about the 4th Annual Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week happening February 21st - February 27th! I already have plans to dine out on Monday. Where will you be headed? This is a great deal, don't miss it!

2. I am seriously kicking my 2011 "To Dine" list's buh-thooey. I have completed 4 out of 10 already! In case you missed it, I selected Lolita as my final #10 restaurant. Then I will have completed my tour of Symon's restaurants. And my grandma generously (and thoughtfully, since she lives in NY) sent me a gift certificate to Dante for my birthday. So that will be another one knocked off the list soon!

So, on to the post...

It was my birthday on Saturday. The big 2-8, and "R" and I decided to celebrate by heading to Blue Canyon Kitchen & Tavern in Twinsburg for a late dinner. Opentable provided us with a 9:00 reservation, but we decided to head over early and grab a drink at the bar while we waiting. But, no wait necessary! When we arrived at 8:40PM, the hostess informed us that they were ready and led us to an amazing table by their floor-to-ceiling windows in the Great Room. Snow covered bushes and evergreens decorated in twinkling blue lights was our view to the right, and our view to the left was Blue Canyon's open kitchen and the giant stone fireplace and chimney smack in the center of the room. On this chilly winter night, I was loving the view and "lodge" atmosphere. The added throw pillow found on my chair was a bonus! Very comfortable seating and a cozy glow to the rustic room.
We started with the Cast Iron Cheese Bake ($9) with fontina, asiago and goat cheeses served with crunchy bread. We also added the Alaskan king crab for an additional $4. We had been torn between this dish and the duck flatbread, and our server had suggested this starter with no hesitation. I mean, come on, it is a crock full of steaming, gooey, delicious cheese. And delicious it was. A little greasy, but overall tasty and we loved the crusty, browned cheese around the edges. It was a little too large of a portion for just two diners, so I had to stop myself after a while or I never would have been able to enjoy the rest of the meal.

Our server then brought over a bread basket, which we were going to refuse until she told us that the spread served with it was a white bean, cream cheese, and pesto blend. We had to try it! This is one spread that I know we will be attempting to recreate at home. It was silky smooth with just a hint of pesto flavor. It also helped that the bread had just come out of the oven.

I had checked out their menu online earlier in the day, and had zeroed in on one entree- the Braised Beef Short Ribs and Sweet Potato Gnocchi ($21) served with brussel sprout leaves and caramelized onions. I have been on such a short rib kick lately. I blame Adam Bostwick from Melange for the amazing short rib dish that he served at the December Dinner in the Dark! I've been hooked ever since. Several since have lived up to my expectations, but unfortunately tonight's dish did not. The meat was cooked well, but the sauce was terribly bland and took away from the great piece of meat. Also, the gnocchi were mealy and gummy...not at all an enjoyable texture. I left most of them on the plate.

"R" was in the mood for a steak, and ordered the 16 oz. Bone-in Rib Chop ($29) with whipped potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and a smoked blue cheese and maple butter. To be honest, I think he just wanted the butter! The steak was okay and certainly cooked to order, but in my opinion- it was nothing special.

I needed my birthday dinner to end on a high note, and the entrees were certainly not offering that, so we decided to share a dessert. On special that evening, it was a double fudge cheesecake with bourbon whip cream. Thankfully, it did the trick and wiped away the memory of our entrees (at least temporarily).

So overall there were some highlights (atmosphere, open kitchen, bread/spread, dessert, service, and wine), but the lingering feeling towards Blue Canyon is one of disappointment. The entrees are supposed to be the star of the meal, yet they really let us down. When we have so many fantastic options closer to home in Cleveland, I doubt that we will make the drive back to Twinsburg for another attempt at this restaurant.

Blue Canyon Kitchen & Tavern
8960 Wilcox Drive
Twinsburg, OH 44087

Blue Canyon Kitchen and Tavern on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Double-Whammy Weekend

We all know what "holiday" is right around the corner. But I am one of the lucky (unlucky?) ones that gets a double-whammy this time of year. Yes, it is also my birthday. Only separated from Valentine's Day by two days, I've always received a "bundled" package from every boyfriend. I'm doing my best to train "R" that these two days need to each be celebrated, and he is slowly catching on. We are planning to dine out on Saturday night to celebrate my birthday, but the thought crossed my mind this morning that we should probably make reservations since many couples will be out dining this weekend. That led me to this post...Here's a list of some upcoming Valentine's Day (Weekend) specials and dinners happening around Cleveland. If you haven't yet made plans with that special someone (or your friends), I hope that this helps!

St. Valentine's Day is Saturday at Americano with a "lavish list of lovely specials".

Saturday, February 12th and Monday, February 14th- Touch Supper Club: Aphrodisiacs and Champagne Soiree. 4 courses. $70 a couple. 216-631-5200.

Wednesday, February 16th- Bistro 185: Valentine's Day Chocolate Dinner. 6 courses paired with wine. 6:30PM. $75. 216-481-9635.

"The Sweetheart Special" at Light Bistro celebrates Valentine's Day on Friday, February 11th, Saturday, Feburary 12th, and Monday, February 14th with a prix fixe four-course menu for $100 per couple.

Valentine's Weekend at Grovewood Tavern on Friday, February 11th - Monday, February 14th will offer the option between the regular menu and a special, flexible prix fixe menu.

Crop Bistro will offer a Valentine's Tour de Crop that includes six courses for $80 and a glass of bubbly.

The Greenhouse Tavern is featuring a Loverly Valentine's Day menu on Sunday and Monday with special lova'carte specials Friday and Saturday evenings. Six course tasting for $65 and $25 for beverage pairing.

Don't miss Chinato's four course “Aphrodisiac Menu” for $75 per couple plus tax and gratuity. Featuring live music on Friday, February 11th, Saturday, February 12th and Monday, February 14th. Also offering an exclusive rate for the Hyatt Arcade on East 4th.

Valentine's Day Special at Melange features a special menu with starters, entrees, and dessert. Friday - Monday.

Palate will open their normally closed doors this Monday for a special Valentine's Day dinner.

You can also check out the Cleveland Independents' website for a list of events taking place at their member restaurants. So go forth and dine this weekend. Happy Valentine's Day to you, and Happy Birthday to me!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cleveland State Vikings and Hot Pretzels

Last night, I attended my first Cleveland State Vikings men's basketball game vs. Valparaiso at the Wolstein Center, courtesy of Alexa from Cleveland's A Plum. She gathered friends, fellow bloggers, and lovers of social media in a pretty "sweet" court-side suite located just behind the basket. The casual suite included high top tables, informal front row seating, and a snack bar filled with your typical sports arena grub.
This food blog may mostly be about the finer things in life, but this is one foodie that also appreciates a good hot dog and the ability to PUMP a mound of nacho cheese over tortilla chips and a hot pretzel. These treats are just in their own category, and are perfect in the right time and place. Last night was one of these times.

All in all, we had a great time watching the game (a winning team at that), laughing at green eye shadow, mimicking the dance team's moves to New Kids on the Block, and even catching a photograph with the Viking himself. Growing up in the Syracuse area and then attending SU has caused me to grow up loving college ball. It's been a few years since I've been in the Orangemen's Dome, so last night brought back great memories. It's almost March Madness time, woo hoo. Thanks, Alexa!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Brunch with Blends at Flying Fig

I feel like I have been writing about brunch a lot lately. I do love a good brunch, but it makes me feel kind of old. Maybe it is the impending birthday next week that is contributing to that as well!'s another brunch post, but this one is slightly different because I was dining with some of my fantastic "blends" and one of my very best friends. Girls' brunch!

Allison, Heather, Suzanne and I try to get together for dinner and drinks every so often, and while trying to plan a trip to Umami in Chagrin Falls (which we still need to do, ladies) the concept of brunch was brought up and we immediately jumped all over it. Karen Small's Flying Fig in Ohio City across from the Great Lakes Brewery was suggested, and I was actually surprised to learn that they served brunch. Turns out that it was a pleasant surprise.

We gathered last Sunday at 11:30AM...
Coffee and waters were ordered, and our glasses/mugs were never empty. Even though we stayed at the restaurant for close to 3 hours. Now that's service! Four out of the five of us ordered the Migas ($11)- local eggs scrambled with tortillas, peppers, scallions, roasted chili, aged cheddar, tomatillo cilantro salsa, crème fraiche, and breakfast potatoes. For an additional $2 you can add house-made chorizo, and two of us did that, including me.The dish had a great use of texture, and each bite was unique. While there was not as much "heat" as I had expected, the subtle flavors were nicely balanced and one component did not dominate the plate. I really enjoyed the tomatillo cilantro salsa, and anything with crème fraiche is usually a thumbs up in my opinion. Although, I did feel that the dish cooled down too quickly. Overall, I think all four of us enjoyed it. But I was eyeing Suzanne's pancakes, which says a lot because I don't typically like them. Of course, the real star of the meal were the Tempura Battered Green Beans ($7) with ponzu sauce and pineapple caramel. These are a "must order" anytime that you are at Flying Fig.

So it was a great Sunday morning spent with hilarious company, delicious food, and wonderful (and patient) service. It left me already looking forward to our next excursion!

Flying Fig
2523 Market Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 241-4243

*group photo stolen from Allison at Green Dog Wine

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Trip to Paris, Uhhh I Mean Ohio City

If you follow this blog on any sort of regular basis, then you are very aware that "R" and I love brunch. There is just something about waking up on Sunday morning and heading out for some delicious eggs, toast, hash browns, chorizo burritos, breakfast sandwiches, crab Benedict...see, I could go on and on. My mouth is watering...

Ohio City has several great Sunday brunch spots, but one of them that we hadn't been to was Le Petit Triangle Cafe on Fulton Road. I had heard about their amazing crepes, home made croissants, and unique Parisian atmosphere...but some regular go-to's close by had kept us away for too long. So we decided to change that recently.

The restaurant is near Johnny Mango's and Momocho on Fulton, and street parking was not too hard to find. As we entered, I was immediately struck by the restaurant's shape. The interior is seriously a triangle. Hence the name, I guess. We settled into a table by the front window, and started with a French Press for Two.
When it came time to order food, I knew that I had to try a crepe and order a croissant on the side. I decided to get the Mushroom Roquefort Crepe with scrambled eggs, sauteed creminis and tangy French Roquefort ($9).I love bleu cheese, really I do, but the Roquefort did overpower the other ingredients so this crepe is not for anyone that doesn't truly appreciate a strong bleu. But the crepe itself was light and fluffy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I should have asked for the croissant to be served un-toasted, but that was my fault. I couldn't truly enjoy its freshness and soft "pillowy" texture once it was toasted. "R" opted for the Stuffed French Toast with raisin walnut bread layered with sweetened chevre, maple syrup and fresh fruit. He was pretty quiet through the meal, and from the bite that I stole...I could tell that it was good.

While this won't take the crown away from some of our favorite local brunch spots (Tremont Tap House, Touch Supper Club, Lucky's Cafe), I know that we'll be back. Maybe when we're in the mood for a trip to Paris, but realize that we are broke and live in Cleveland.

Le Petit Triangle Cafe
1881 Fulton Road
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 281-1881