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.


Christina K said...

You are quick! So nice to spend time with you guys last night. Our Fire stop was my fave because Doug Katz was such a delight and the food/portion size was awesome!

Alicia at Poise in Parma said...

Wow, that looks like quite the tour! I feel like Shaker Square might be one of the best venues for something like this as there are so many wonderful restaurants in close proximity to one another.

p.s. THANK YOU for the pronunciation of Sarava!!

eatdrinkcleveland said...

It WAS a wonderful night! You must have gotten up really early to get this done already! Great meeting you - looking forward to many more fun food events : )


CLEgal @ Why CLE? said...

Sounds like a great night! I love Shaker Square and don't get there nearly enough.

I'm hitting up the tour next month in Gordon Sqaure and am really looking forward to it!

Bite Buff said...

Christina - Nice to see you too! Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Alicia- Yes, we were all surprised when he pronounced it that way so I did want to share that. Shaker Square was a perfect venue for the tour!

Crystal- So nice to meet you too!

CLEgal- Enjoy your tour! That's a great neighborhood for this concept.

Green Dog Wine said...

That Shrimp Corness looks amazing (but shame on them for not making it spicy ;))

Looks like a fabulous tour - can't wait to see you tomorrow!

Bite Buff said...

Sergio's and Sergio's Sarava have both closed. 3/18/13

Bite Buff said...

Grotto has since closed.