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

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Taste of the Browns Winner and an Upcoming Event

Today is a good day...because someone has won my Taste of the Browns giveaway! Drum roll please....congratulations to @masongoodman! Mason- email or DM me on Twitter to claim your two general admission tickets. If I don't hear from you by Monday, then I will select another winner using Thank you to everyone that entered! It's a fantastic event that I hope you consider attending. Tickets can be purchased here, and all proceeds benefit the Cleveland Foodbank.

As we head into fall, Clevelanders are busy soaking up the last days of summer. This often means dining outdoors. Which leads me to an upcoming event that I think is worth sharing. Touch Supper Club is hosting a "Farm to Table" dinner at Stone Garden Farm on Tuesday, August 30th from 7-11PM. The event includes a multi-course meal with beverage pairings, Richfield grown hand-rolled cigars, live folk music, a bonfire, and...the unveiling of their new food truck.

Touch has been teasing us for quite a while through social media that they were working on a food truck, and I personally can't wait to see it in all its glory. I think it will be a great addition to our growing food truck scene.

I will be attending the Stone Garden Farm event on a media pass, but "R" is joining me to enjoy the event in his hometown. I think that you should come as well, and soak in the last rays of summer. Tickets can be purchased online here, and the first 20 people to purchase also receive a $20 gift card to Touch Supper Club.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

NEO Food Tours- Shaker Square

It's been harder for me to find inspiration for blogging lately. Maybe it's the 3 Year Slump, the beautiful weather that we've been having so when I sit down to type I get it whatever you will, but I've been struggling to feel passionate about it for a few weeks now.

But this morning I woke up, and one of my first thoughts was "I have to share my NEO Food Tours experience!" I had such a wonderful time exploring Shaker Square on a gorgeous summer night, learning a piece of Cleveland history, meeting new and interesting people, and of course...sampling some fantastic food from the restaurants.

The tour kicked off at Sergio's Sarava (Manager pronounced it "Sarah-va") with three small appetizers and then the first official course of the tour- Shrimp Corness featuring fresh gulf shrimp, Ohio sweet corn and chive butter, with a hint of heat from locally grown peppers.I didn't find the "heat" in this dish, but the notes of coconut milk sung through and I really enjoyed this dish. We also had a chance to hear from the Executive Kitchen Manager, who has been with Sarava since it opened. He shared with us that his favorite dish on the menu is their Xim Xim- a slow braised stew. Then we enjoyed a demonstration on how to make the cocktail that was paired with the dish- a traditional Brazilian Caipirinha. It was strong, but tart and tasty!Next, we wandered across Shaker Square (led by our guide, Todd) to Japanese restaurant SaSa Matsu.Here we enjoyed a Lamb Mini Burger on homemade sesame buns with SaSa fries. The dish was paired with two kinds of sake.The spices in the lamb burger left my tongue dancing, and I really enjoyed the kimcee slaw that topped the burger.

Then we made our way over to Doug Katz's fire food and drink, a Shaker Square hot spot. After a warm greeting from Katz himself...we were served a 4 oz. Tandoor Roasted Hanger Steak with leek bread pudding, crumbled bleu, sauteed spinach and porcino jus paired with a red wine.This was my favorite dish of the evening, overall. The steak was cooked perfectly, and the flavors of the rich bread pudding, sharp bleu cheese, and earthy spinach all worked very well together. We also really enjoyed listening to Katz talk about his love affair with Shaker Square, and his passion for our area's restaurant community and their friendly competition. And it's true, our independent restaurant community is unique if you look across the country. Todd, our guide, compared our restaurant owners to siblings- "You'll push them in the puddle, tease them, but if they fall- you're there to pick them up." Katz also told us about his partnership with the museum and their new restaurant in the works, and a new addition to the fire location- an "underground", almost speakeasy, restaurant next door to the current restaurant. This should open up in the next few months.

Our last stop for the evening was Grotto Wine Bar (one of the two, including fire, that I had been to). Diners had a choice of a Grilled Peach with Mascarpone or a Cheese Plate. Duh, I went with the Cheese Plate.It included fresh mozzarella and shaved parmesan, but my favorites were the gorgonzola and the cranberry stilton. We also enjoyed a wonderful Syrah at this stop.

The evening didn't quite end there. We topped off the evening with a signature cocktail from NEO Food Tours beverage partner (the name has slipped my mind, sorry!) and treats to-go from Britt-Marie Culey's Coquette Patisserie. Along with some other fun swag, we headed home very happy and satisfied. The tour was interesting and educational, the food was delicious and portioned properly (which has been a complaint of others on previous tours), we tried two new restaurants, and I met some great new people. I sincerely suggest that you check out an upcoming NEO Food Tours, but don't wait because there are only two left in the Signature Tour Series before they shut down for the winter! So go and explore one of our area's neighborhoods, and dine on yummy food along the way. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I was offered two media passes to come check out NEO Food Tours. The opinions in this post are 100% my own. Thank you again to the NEO Food Tours staff for the opportunity- we'll be back! For more pictures from my tour, check out my Facebook Fan Page.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Win Taste of the Browns Tickets!

With the temperatures cooling down and our Browns' season tickets hanging on the fridge, it's starting to feel like fall is just around the corner. And you know what that season. "R" and his friends are already planning the home opener tailgating menu, and chatter about the Browns training camp litters my Twitter feed. It all puts me in the mood for one of my favorite fall food events in Cleveland...the Taste of the Browns.Now, my opinion of this event is a little biased because I used to work at the Cleveland Foodbank and planning this event was one of my big projects...but this does not change the fact that this is a fun and unique event, and truly one of the season's best food events. Now that I no longer work there, I get to actually attend as a guest and I can't wait!

It is being held on Monday, September 12th from 6-9PM. The event features over 25 of our area's best independent chefs and restaurants. Here are just a few of my personal favorites: Bar Cento (pictured above at the 2010 event), Fahrenheit, AMP 150, Light Bistro, Melange, Momocho, Zack Bruell's restaurants, and the list goes on...

And you're sampling all of this food (and wine, beer, and specialty martinis) down at Browns Stadium while you meet and mingle with alumni and current players. There is usually quite the crowd of them in attendance! The event also features a fabulous silent and live auction, including restaurant dining packages, Browns tickets and autographed memorabilia, and more. All proceeds benefit the Cleveland Foodbank. Tickets are $150, but each dollar donated to the Foodbank translates into 4 meals served in a local hunger center!

You can purchase tickets here, or enter to win TWO general admission tickets by leaving a comment below telling me which Taste of the Browns restaurant you want to try the most. It will be hard to choose! For a second chance to win, just tweet the following statement: "I want to win #TasteoftheBrowns tickets from @BiteBuff at" Please leave a comment on this post for each entry. I will use to select a winner on Thursday, August 25th. Good luck, and I hope to see you there!

Disclosure: I was previously employed by the Cleveland Foodbank. They have provided me with one media pass in exchange for this post. As always, the thoughts and opinions above are 100% my own.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Upcoming Events Not to Miss!

There are several fun food events coming up in Cleveland that I wanted to share with you...

Sunday, August 15th, Cleveland's very own Chris Hodgson from Dim and Den Sum and his newest food truck, Hodge Podge, is one of eight trucks that competed for $100,000 in the second season of the Food Network's show - The Great Food Truck Race. The show features gourmet food trucks as they literally race across the country, competing in weekly challenges with a losing truck leaving to head home. Now, Twitter gave away some clues about Hodge Podge's stint on the show, so we know that Chris hung in there for quite a while...but did he win? Tune in this weekend for the premier, and don't miss this season. A viewing party will be held at Happy Dog this Sunday.

Wednesday, August 17th, NEO Food Tours hits Shaker Square for a walking tour and progressive dinner at restaurants such as fire, Sergio's Sarava, and Grotto. The tour is $75 (includes wine pairings) and meets at 6:20PM. Tickets can still be purchased online here. I will be checking out the tour for the first time, and was offered a media pass to do so. Come check out Shaker Square with me! This west-sider is really looking forward to it.

Saturday, August 27th- Dinner in the Dark at the Culinary Vegetable Institute. 6:30PM. Join area chefs at the farm as they create a multi-course meal, while you are "in the dark" about what is coming and who is behind the dish. $65 plus tax and gratuity, and proceeds benefit a local charity each month. This month's charity is Veggie U. The chefs behind this concept have been leaking clues through social media, and I think you can expect more than the traditional 6 chefs to be involved in this month's event. Don't miss this edition of DITD!

Saturday, September 3rd, local printing company Jakprints brings us "Jak of All Trades Fest" from noon to 7PM at their downtown location. It is a free event, but you must RSVP. The festival is family-friendly with live music, a fashion show, street course-style skateboard park, art and games, raffle, and area food trucks (portion of proceeds going to charity) with a complimentary beer garden.

Seriously, our city is amazing and there is ALWAYS something fun to do. I hope that you check out some of these great things happening in Cleveland, and feel free to share any other upcoming events in the comments section. Hope to see you out and about!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Favorite Summer Weekend

This weekend is always one of my favorite summer weekends. "R" and I have attended Twilight at the Zoo for several years in a row now, and the promise of zoo animals, live music, endless buffets, and unlimited beer and wine leave me in anticipation for months. It's also the weekend of other well-known summer events. So even though I'll be out of town and missing it all, I decided to dedicate a post to this fantastic August weekend. It's one for the books!
Friday, August 5th- Twilight at the Zoo. Wind your way through the Zoo enjoying an assortment of complimentary food, beer, wine, and soft drinks. Dance under the stars to the rhythms of 17 bands playing Motown, rock, salsa, swing, country, and blues. 7-midnight. General admission = $75. Sorry, this event is Sold Out.

Friday, August 5th - Saturday, August 6th- Vintage Ohio Wine Festival. 1-10PM. Kirtland, OH.

Saturday, August 6th- Akron's Blues & Brews. One of Northeast Ohio's largest craft brew events, hosted by Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. and the Winking Lizard Tavern. Located at Lock 3 in Akron. From 2-6PM, sample more than 200 brews from over 75 different breweries, and enjoy live music and food from Winking Lizard. All proceeds benefit charity.

Saturday, August 6th- Krusty's Summer Sauce Camp. 20th Annual event hosted at Whiskey Island to benefit Cleveland's Malachi House. $60 at the door. Live music, food, and drinks.

So, I'll be in Put-in-Bay celebrating a friend's bachelorette party. Where will you be this weekend? Hopefully checking out at least one of these fantastic summer events!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Market Garden Brewery Review

Thanks to, Heather from Mile 26 and More is the winner of the two tickets to this weekend's Blues & Brews event! I appreciate everyone that took the time to enter, and to tell me about your favorite summer beer.

Speaking of beer...

A group of us recently went to Market Garden Brewery (Ohio City's newest addition to West 25th Street) to check out their food and brews.I immediately liked the atmosphere, except for the orange bulbs in the chandeliers that hang from the ceiling. That just gave them a "Halloween" glow that caught the eye of several of us. We were seated in the main bar area, so I didn't have a chance to check out the outdoor seating, but I hear that it is very nice and a welcomed addition to the area. I didn't feel like drinking a beer with dinner (a sin at a brewery, I know), so I started with a glass of white wine. MGB offers a few different wine options, and several unique cocktails (more on that later).

I decided to get the Classic Wedge salad with iceburg, oven cured tomatoes, bacon, and bleu cheese dressing ($8).I also ordered the Pretzel, which was soft baked with mustard and garlic cheese spread ($6).You can't really screw up a soft pretzel, so I enjoyed it thoroughly. The salad itself was a little bland. I know that sounds weird to say about a salad, but the dressing didn't offer the usual punch that a good bleu cheese typically has. It all tasted a little "watery", and while the tomatoes were an interesting addition- they didn't add much to the dish overall.

So I was a little underwhelmed by the food, and consensus at the table was the same for the beer. The general reaction from those at the table that were sampling the brews is that they didn't have a whole lot of flavor. Now the Shoreway Cooler on the other hand had everyone happily sipping away. Progress Pilsner with housemade honey gin, lemon juice, lillet blanc, and simple syrup ($8). This cocktail was unique, and really refreshing on a summer evening.

But while the food and beer didn't impress on our first visit, they really have created a nice spot that I feel will just improve over time. The atmosphere and service were great, and the food and brews can be adjusted as they find their footing as a new restaurant. Our server handled our large table very well, keeping all of our orders separate and never being too far away when we needed another Cooler. We'll be back for sure!

Market Garden Brewery
1947 West 25th Street
Cleveland, OH
(216) 621-4000

The Market Garden Brewery on Urbanspoon