Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Date Night in the District

Explore downtown this summer!

Cleveland's Warehouse District is bringing diners something special this summer. Through Labor Day, every Friday is "Date Nite in the District".

14 restaurants downtown are offering prix-fixe menus up to four courses, and some even include alcohol, for just $59 or $89 a couple. This promotion also includes $3 parking, and discounts on entertainment and overnight stays.

The participating restaurants include: Barley House, Blue Point Grille, Brasa, Chophouse, D'Vine, Johnny's Downtown, John Q's Steakhouse, Mallora, Nauti Mermaid, Osteria di Valerio, Sushi Rock, Waterstreet Grill (didn't I just read somewhere this week that they are closing, no?), XO, and Z'dara Mediterrean Grill.

It's a great opportunity to check out a downtown restaurant that you haven't been to before, take in dinner and show and stay overnight, or just share an evening out with your special someone. For more information about the promotion, visit Get out there and explore our city!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Brunch at Deagan's

Our first time dining at Deagan's Kitchen & Bar for brunch was the Sunday of the Cleveland Marathon. And I'm pretty sure that the staff at Deagan's felt like they had run their own marathon when the day was over. The place was packed, and the entire staff (including the owner) were scurrying around trying to keep up. Clearly, they had not planned on hosting such a large post-race crowd. In my opinion, it's all in how you handle the situation thrown at you and Deagan's couldn't have handled it any better from what I could see.

We grabbed two available seats at the bar, and I think this gave us a vantage point to witness the hustle of the staff and direction from their leader. Sure, our menus took quite some time to find us at the bar, we didn't get coffee or order for a solid 15 minutes, and the experience took much longer than anticipated. But...the staff was REALLY moving, they still took time to smile, and apologies were given. That's all you can ask for in times like this, and I walked away being really impressed with how they handled the day.

Now, the food I wasn't quite as impressed with so I'd love to go back soon and try another main dish. We started with an order of the Housemade Donuts ($4).They were pretty darn good, and rivaled Light Bistro's. I didn't even need the house-crafted berry preserves served with them.

"R" tried the Monte Cristo sandwich, and he seemed content with his meal. I ordered the 3 Egg Omelet with local eggs, pork belly lardons, sharp cheddar, green onions, and home fries ($9).The omelet was prepared well, but it just lacked flavor in my opinion. It was a little bland, and the pork lardons were cut a little thick for me. They ended up being pretty chewy bites. I think I expected the sharp cheddar and green onions to give it a little more punch on the palate. The home fries were nice and crispy while retaining a soft potato center, just how I like them.

So we left feeling really good about Deagan's staff, wanting to try more dishes from their brunch menu, and craving a mimosa (they always offer several playful flavors) or Bloody Mary (build your own). We'll be back for sure.

Deagan's Kitchen & Bar
14810 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107
(216) 767-5775

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Veggie U's Food & Wine Celebration

One of the things that I am looking forward to most this summer is Veggie U's 9th Annual Food & Wine Celebration coming up on Saturday, July 16th to benefit their children's education program.

Located in Milan, Ohio, Veggie U has been reaching out to teachers and students across the country to educate them on the connection between the food they eat and their health. With a sharp increase in childhood obesity and diabetes, it's their goal to place their hands-on, exciting curriculum into the 93,000 fourth grade classrooms across the country. You can learn more about their program here.

You may remember from the patio party at Washington Place Bistro that Farmer Lee Jones was in attendance, and generously offered a complimentary ticket to each of the media representatives present. But, I promise you, that this does not affect my opinion of their Food & Wine Celebration and my desire to promote it. This is seriously one FANTASTIC event that speaks for itself.

Nationally acclaimed chefs will be cooking up tastings on the grounds of The Culinary Vegetable Institute. For a full list, check out the website linked above, but here are a few headliners: Aaron Sanchez, Lee Ann Wong, Steve Ells, Govind Armstrong, and Ruth Reichl. Also, local chefs such as Jonathon Sawyer, Demetrios Atheneos, Brandt Evans, Rachel Spieth, and Jeff Jarrett are just a few on the long list of talented chefs. This promises to be an event packed full of delicious food, wine, auctions and raffles, cooking demos, artisan food vendors, and more.

Tickets are $145 and on sale now. This is one event that I think is certainly worth the price tag. I have been dreaming of attending this event since I moved to Cleveland. Thank you again to Farmer Lee Jones and his crew for providing me with the opportunity to do so, and I hope to see you there with me! This is a truly special event for a very worthy cause.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Days Spent at Cropicana

There were a LOT of good eats this past weekend, including Melange (more on that later) and the Tremont Tap House- yum. But we also had a new dining experience. One that just screams "Summer!"

Saturday afternoon we headed to Whiskey Island and met some of "R's" friends at Cropicana to celebrate a birthday with some beers, sunshine, and snacks. This "beach-inspired" restaurant and bar is Crop Bistro owner Steve Schimoler's newest venture, and he was there on Saturday all tan and sporting his shades. He is clearly lovin' the laid back, waterfront vibe.

Great music was pumping from the speakers, all sorts of people and their pets wandering around...The second one is my little pup, Lizzie! And we happily enjoyed several cold beers that afternoon. We reached a point where we were hungry, so we decided to share an order of the Fish Tacos and a basket of french fries ($12).Cropicana offers a limited menu of basic fare: cheeseburgers, ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, onion rings, french get the idea. We thought that the Fish Tacos would probably be the most interesting. While this still may be true, I couldn't help but be disappointed. They were certainly fine, and even had some winning aspects to them (like fresh cilantro, lime juice, and a nice crispy coating without being too greasy), but overall they were bland in my opinion and just lacking something special. They certainly did the trick since we were just looking to fill our bellies, but I was hoping for more from Schimoler. I'll just have to try it again.

But I'll be back to continue to enjoy this unique setting, cool summery vibe, and cold beers by the lake all summer long!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tremont's Fat Cats

Last Saturday evening, we were craving some patio time. We originally headed towards Pete Joyce's Bistro on Lincoln Park, but their patio was full and most of the parties had just been seated. Needing to make a decision quickly on our feet, Fat Cats popped into my head. I've admitted on here before that I often forget about this Tremont gem, but for once I didn't and I'm so glad that I thought of it.

We enjoyed a wonderful evening out on their patio, with a gorgeous view of the downtown Cleveland skyline. The service was attentive without being intrusive, drinks were quickly filled, and the food was exceptional.

We started with their Pizza with grape jam, Gorgonzola, duck confit, Ohio apples, and walnuts ($7). The crispy, thin flatbread held up well despite the amount of toppings, and the blend of sweet, acidic, and rich savory worked beautifully together. Then "R" settled on the Duck Breast with an orange glaze, black rice, and bleu cheese beets. I opted for the Spring Risotto.The risotto was prepared well, and packed full of spring-time veggies. There were so many different varieties that I lost count. The marscapone cheese also gave it a slight creaminess. I was pretty pleased with the dish, and we left there happy, bellies full, and our patio craving satisfied. Fat Cats is tucked away in Tremont, but it is not one to be forgotten!

Fat Cats
2061 West 10th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 579-0200

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chef Jam Rocked My Night!

Sunday night was one of my favorite Cleveland food events - Chef Jam. Chef Jam features over 20 of our area's best chefs and restaurants, but with a twist. The event is hosted at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, and each restaurant station is inspired by a musician/band and the dish, decor, and costumes reflect this. Wigs, bandannas, face paint, and ripped shirts/jeans are just a few of the things you'll see. Some of the chefs really go all out. One other unique highlight of the evening are the live bands, made up of restaurant crews and special guests. These guys not only have talent in the kitchen, but on stage as well.

At this year's event, there were some highlight dishes. In my opinion, Melange killed it with their pork belly (hmmm, maybe I really do like pork belly when it's done right) and BBQ beans. The flavors of both the meat and beans were spot on, and continued to dance on my tongue. I also really enjoyed the dishes from Pura Vida (Brandt Evans' new place), B-Spot, Blue Point Grille, Deagan's, Sweet Moses, and Pier W.

But what I really want to share with you today are some tips for navigating the event. Because this is one that you DON'T want to miss next year!

Here are my Top 5 Tips for Chef Jam:

1. They do not open the doors to the Rock Hall until 7PM, and the line gets very long. Don't panic, get grumpy, and annoy everyone around you by whining. The staff know what they are doing, and they quickly move you through the line once the doors open. I swear, you'll be in tasting food within minutes.

2. Food stations are located on the lower level and the third level only. Most of the restaurants are on the lower level, and can easily be seen from the entrance, so most of the guests head in that direction. Don't be tempted! Head directly to the third floor, where you can enjoy several stations and an empty bar before the crowd makes its way up there. (I almost didn't want to share this tip!)

3. The restaurants will run out of food if it is a popular item. So stratgeically plan out which stations you want to hit if you're really dying to try a certain restaurant or dish. You can always swing back through an area or station that you missed. There is no set traffic pattern.

4. Notice which musician/band the restaurant is portraying. Most of the chefs put a lot of thought into their dish to best reflect the artist or a specific song, and having that knowledge can sometimes enhance your experience when sampling the food. (I did not do a good job of that this year.)

5. Last, but not least, take the time to hang out on the first floor by the main stage and enjoy the live bands. These guys can seriously ROCK (see Steve Schimoler from Crop Bistro below), and their talents on the stage are just as impressive as the food they create. If you focus on the food and drink only, you may lose some of what makes this event so special.
Well, I hope that this is helpful when you are planning your night at Chef Jam 2012, because this is one Cleveland food event that you shouldn't miss!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Roseangel is Rotten

I am typically pretty good at recognizing whether a restaurant is just having an "off" night, or if my gut is correct in assessing that they just aren't very good. I feared the latter about Roseangel, and after a second trip there last week I know that I hit had the nail on the head.

During my first trip, I felt that the food was bland and poorly executed. But I LOVED the white wine sangria, and had been secretly craving it ever since. Well, that craving was kicked...along with any chance of me going back to Roseangel anytime soon.

Again, the food was poor, service barely above neglectful, and the sangria was nothing like I remembered.

I swear that my sangria during my first trip was light and crisp, but there was a heaviness and sweetness to this drink instead of the tart citrus that I remembered (and loved). But it was a hot night, and any cold cocktail would do. It was, again, the food that left me hostile.I ordered the Fish Tacos, with grilled talapia, on house-made flour tortillas. I don't even need to go into how bland this dish was, but my real issue was how "wet" they were when they arrived. The slaw and juices from the fish had completely soaked the tortilla, and it fell apart at my first touch. Tacos are not meant to be eaten with a fork! It's just sad when the only part of a meal that is really edible are the side dishes.Thank heavens for rice and beans.

It's so sad, because I like their space, location, and theme...but as hard as I try to like them- I just can't. Not to mention that they are OVERPRICED. I won't be back if I have any say in it. Sorry if you don't agree, but after two bad visits- I've formed my opinion.

5800 Detroit Road
Cleveland, OH 44102

Friday, June 10, 2011

No Need For Words

Washington Place Bistro's Shrimp & Grits...They are so good that our little table of three diners had three orders. They were so popular on the fall/winter menu as a starter, that they've been moved to the entree section this season. Go get 'em. 'Nuff said.

Washington Place Bistro & Inn
2203 Cornell Road
Cleveland, OH 44106

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Crav"ing Summer Cocktails

With the heavy rains a distant memory and temperatures rising in Cleveland, I am seriously starting to crave some patio time and light, summer cocktails on my favorite restaurant patios. What area restaurant has your favorite patio?

Speaking of summer cocktails, recently a handful of bloggers were invited to a private tasting of a new product on the market -- Crav Spirits.Clevelander Tom Rini has created a smooth, boutique vodka that he is quite proud of, and frankly he should be in my opinion. "Made in Sun Valley, Idaho, by Distilled Resources, Inc., Crav is crafted in small batches, not massed produced, lending to its top-shelf status. It is made from winter wheat and ultra pure water, and distilled once using a four column continuous system." We were given a sample to taste without the mixers, and when I buried my nose in the shot glass twice- I still couldn't smell the typical "alcohol burn" that I am used to vodka giving off. I slowly sipped it, and was surprised at how smooth it was.

But, I do have to admit that I preferred it paired with the light, summery mixes that Pier W's bartender created for us. First up was a Raspberry Lime Crav Sensation with Crav Vodka, Fresh Lemonade, Lime Juice, Raspberry Infused Syrup, and a Mint Sprig. Pure, sweet, refreshing deliciousness! This drink reminded me of one of my summer favorites- lemonade and flavored vodka. What's your favorite light, summer drink?Then I tried the second concoction- the Craving Ginger Rogers with Crav Vodka, Ginger and Orange Blossom Infused Syrup, Prosecco, and a Twist of Lime. Again, the cocktail was light and pleasing. Both helped me welcome in the summer season, and the vodka was untraceable to my palate. Just how I like it!This product only JUST became available on the market (for special order) on June 1st! But several local restaurants and bars have already picked up the vodka, and will be serving it starting this month. Here is just a "taste" (pun intended) of these restaurants/bars: Bier Market, Blind Pig, Clevelander, Dante, Dragonfly, Fahrenheit, Flying Monkey, Happy Dog, Lolita, Market, Southside, Sushi Rock, and The Garage Bar...but there are more. For a seriously smooth vodka, ask for Crav.

Thank you to Tom Rini of Crav Spirits, and Pier W for hosting us and supplying tasty, complimentary cocktails and small plates as we sampled the Crav product.