Thursday, September 27, 2012

Priya in Parma

Yesterday began, what I hope, will become a new tradition of meeting old friends, new friends, and some that I was meeting for the first time for a meal of Indian food. Most of us at the table have a shared love for the cuisine, and almost all of us had never been to Priya in Parma before.

Crystal had arranged the group, and we selected a Wednesday because they serve an affordable dinner buffet. You know how I have been on the hunt for an Indian dinner buffet! While it was full of delicious and unusual items, it didn't have the curries that I was looking for. So about half of us decided to order off the regular menu. "R" was getting the buffet, so I knew that I could pick off his plate. The Wednesday Night Chat Buffet ($12.99) features Chat items and Indo Chinese items. It reminded us more of traditional street food, which wasn't quite what I was looking for.

I went with my standard Chicken Tikka Masala ($12.99), but when I asked about spice levels the server informed me that they can't alter the heat in this dish because it is a cream-based sauce. Umm...then why can I order different spice levels at other places with this dish? Ultimately, it did affect my opinion of the dish because I personally prefer more heat.
The presentation was great, but the sauce was dangerously close the edge of the angled round bowl. I can't be trusted. Michelle and I shared our dishes, so I also got to try the Lamb Gosh (sometimes called Saag) in a spiced spinach gravy ($12.99). An order of Garlic Naan rounded out the meal.

Overall, the food was good but not great. I certainly enjoyed my meal, but I've had much better Indian food locally. Also, the guy that ended up serving us was very odd and it was difficult to communicate through his awkwardness. The space is huge, with plenty of seating in booths or tables. It easily fit our large group.

Where should we head next? Udupi Cafe, India Garden, Indian Delight? We do have lots of options.

Priya Indian Cuisine
5747 Chevrolet Boulevard
Parma, OH

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mac N' Cheez Challenge

Yesterday brought a fun break in a week full of work stress and a hectic schedule for me. I was asked to participate as a "celebrity" judge for the Second Annual Harley-Davidson Mac N' Cheez Challenge. Held at the sales dealership on Lorain Avenue in Cleveland, it was an afternoon of live music, bike envy, great outfits, and...10 different kinds of mac n' cheese to sample. For just $5, you received tasting tickets, one hot dog, and a really cool T-shirt.
We had a great view of everything from the judge's stand. I was honored to serve as a judge with representatives from WTAM, TastyCleveland blog, and Nicole with her adorable six-week old son from Gypsy Bean.
We were tasked with sampling and scoring five entries in the "Cheese" category...
and five entries in the "Non-traditional" category.
The standout sample in the Cheese category was the Slap Yo' Mamma Fatboy Baked Wheels of Cheese (not pictured). With 12 varieties of cheese, a crust made with crumbled croissants and French's fried onions, and secret ingredients like steak sauce and hot sauce for added flavor--this was a winner. If the wagon wheel pasta hadn't been overcooked, it would have been scored a 5 out of 5 in every category.

Our favorite in the Non-traditional was a surprise dessert mac n' cheese served to us last (pictured above).
Called "Macadella & Cheese", it was his take on an upside-down cheesecake. It was baked, and then chilled and served cool. I loved it, and finished every bite in my sample and went back for seconds once judging was over. So creative!

While some stood out, we certainly didn't have a bad mac n' cheese. All contestants had clearly put a lot of time and effort into their dishes. The creativity was fun to see, and I loved some of the great names like "Gettin' Zingy With  It" (People's Choice award) and "Spin Doctors Magic Mac". Overall, everyone should be really proud of themselves. For amateur cooks, the mac n' cheese was impressive overall.

Harley-Davidson was also raffling off a motorcycle valued at $20,000 for just $5 raffle tickets, with proceeds benefiting Toys for Tots. Sadly, "R" did not win the bike.

Thank you to Harley-Davidson for inviting me to act as a judge, and to the contestants for putting forth such effort and love into their food. I'd gladly judge again next year! What a fun event.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Arepas for Taco Tuesday

This Tuesday, I took a turn away from your typical taco. Friends and I headed to Barroco Grill in Lakewood for their arepas. Their Colombian "food with character" is gaining popularity, and it was time to check it out for myself.

Luckily, I was using my GPS because I may have driven past it if I wasn't looking closely. It's a small place, with very minimal signage. Free street parking was easily available right in front of the restaurant. Here's a tip: There is a back dining room that is a lot cozier just down the hallway. That's where we headed, thanks to Julie.

I had asked Twitter earlier in the day what we should order, and a popular response was the Cheesy Corn ($8) appetizer to share. Corn al gratin with chicken, bacon, melted white cheese and served with arepa fries.
Personally, I wish that there had been a little more corn in the dish. Cheese was the dominant flavor, but of course that wasn't a bad thing. I mean, come on, it's cheese. The thick-cut, fried corn cakes for dipping were very good. My only complaint? When the arepa fries were gone, we still had about half of the dip left. It would cost us an additional $4 for more. Um, no. Thankfully, we had regular fries coming with the arepas and could continue to dip. But, don't charge me for a dip and then not provide even close to enough chips, fries, whatever to actually eat the dip. That bugs me.

Our arepas arrived shortly after (well, mine arrived about three minutes after everyone else's). Apparently, they ran out of crinkle fries because I received a different kind of French fry from the others and that held it up. All three of us ordered the Pork Arepas ($9) with green peppers, mushrooms, onions, corn, and cheese. It is served with a side (choice of fries, black bean soup, or tortilla chips).
The fried corn tortillas make a little pocket for the meat and toppings, but I do suggest leaving it in the tin foil because it can be messy to eat! I went through five napkins.

The pork had nice flavor on its own, but the real highlight of my meal was the variety of house-made sauces that arrived with the arepas.
Favorites were the Garlic Sauce and the Pineapple. The only one that I didn't care for was the Chimichurri, but I also didn't try the ketchup/mayo combination sauce. It was fun to try them all on the arepa, and as dipping sauces for the fries.

So, splitting the appetizer and ordering one arepa left me with a bill of just over $18 with tax and tip included. Not too bad, and the food was all clearly made in-house and is something unique on the Cleveland culinary scene. Definitely worth going back. Have you been? Head over to Julie's blog to read her thoughts on the place. She's been several times now, and recommends the chicken arepa.

Barroco Grill
12906 Madison Avenue
Lakewood, OH

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pinning Recipes

It's Monday. I'm not too pleased about that today. After a great weekend of celebrating "R's" mom getting married, and some gorgeous weather in CLE, I'm not quite ready for the work week yet.
Also, with a couple of big work events all packed into two weeks...I'm a busy gal these days. Event time can be difficult for me. I'm usually pulled in many directions, jumping into the work day without taking the time to eat breakfast, and food becomes what's "easy" to grab. This summer, that led to me falling off the Weight Watchers wagon. Now that I've been back on for four weeks, I'm determined to not let that happen again.

So, we've been cooking more at home again and taking the time to find healthy Point-friendly recipes. Much of that is thanks to Pinterest again. Here are just a couple that we've (and by "we", I mean "R") made recently:

Crock Pot Chicken Stroganoff from Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans- this recipe sat in the slow cooker and made the house smell delicious for seven hours. We served it over yolk-less egg noodles, and enjoyed the leftovers for days.

Ginger and Cilantro Baked Tilapia from the Kitchn- We didn't love this recipe, but it was a good base to work from in the future. With a few personal tweaks, I think we'd like it more. It needed more ginger and jalapeno to kick up the flavor and give it more depth.

Seared Scallops over Wilted Spinach and Parmesan Risotto from SkinnyTaste- We just made this last night, and overall we really liked it. However, the risotto took FOREVER to make. Much longer than the estimated time given in the recipe. Also, the risotto is made with chicken stock, and on its own it lacked complex flavor. The wine and Parmesan cheese were lost. But all eaten together, this dish was tasty and low Points Plus values for a delicious dinner.

What's next? We're making Grilled Sriracha Barbecue Chicken tonight from Slender Kitchen. We both love sriracha, so I'm looking forward to trying this one.

I hope that you all had a great weekend as well, and that it was full of tasty treats. Do you have any healthy recipes that you like to make at home? What's your favorite website to find recipes on?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Last Hints of Summer

With the temperatures back up to 80+ this week, you can feel summer clinging on for just a little while longer. Personally, I am loving the crisp in the air that we're starting to get, and I can't wait for fall to be here. But we did take some time out last weekend to appreciate what's left of the warmer weeks.

This included a stop at East Coast Custard in Parma Heights. It's no secret that I am a not a sweets lover, and ice cream is pretty low on my list. But, when I do indulge-- I like frozen custard or yogurts. Hard ice cream just doesn't do it for me. "R", on the other hand, prefers hard but will really eat ANY kind of ice cream ANY time. One day, he stopped for ice cream twice. True story.

East Coast isn't my favorite spot, but it has a long-standing history that is fun to support. They opened their doors in Parma Heights in 1985, and now have five locations in Greater Cleveland. It still has the old-time feel, and look.
There is plenty of parking, but they also offer a drive-thru at this location if you're in a hurry.

As "R's" order was being made (Chocolate Chip Cheesecake), I enjoyed watching the frozen custard churn.
They always offer a few classics-- sundaes, shakes, smoothies, and concretes...but it'sreally all about the Flavor of the Day. The custard of the day and yogurt of the day are always changing.

"R" thoroughly enjoyed the custard that day, and kept commenting on how big the chocolate chunks were.

My personal favorite? Rosati's Frozen Custard. So creamy and delicious! I absolutely love the Drumstik flavor. I was so sad when they closed down the North Olmsted location this year, because it was just miles from "R's" mom's house, and a frequent stop for us during the warmer months.

So get out and enjoy the last bits of summer. It looks like we are in for a few more nice days this week. Will ice cream be in your future? What's your favorite ice cream spot in the area?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Taco Tuesday- Grillers Pub

Today is Tuesday, so I bring you another installment in my Taco Tuesday series. I've been having fun with this ongoing series, and I hope that you are enjoying them. There are just so many Taco Tuesday options around the city!

Last week, our hunt brought us to Grillers Pub in Parma. Located on State Road, just a quick drive up the street from the 480 exit, the building is nothing to look at. It's just your typical Parma dive bar, but with plenty of parking in their own lot and a nice big sign so you can't miss the place.

There are only a small handful of booths and tables in the bar, so saddling up on a stool at the bar is really your best option. It provided us with great eavesdropping opportunities, and easy access to the bartender for drinks and food orders.

"R" and I wanted to try something off of their regular menu, so we shared an order of the Fried Reuben Balls ($5.50). Made fresh in-house with their own corned beef and sauerkraut, and served with Thousand Islands dressing.
Five balls were included with the order. It would have been hard to eat an order by myself, because they were a tad salty. But, if you like Reubens then give them a try. It certainly packed traditional Reuben flavor into fried goodness.

Now, on to the tacos. They had two options that evening. The special of the night was Ground Beef Tacos with a Black Bean Corn Salsa (3 for $6). Dining Deals Alert!
The meat was a little greasy, so the juices and grease quickly started to make the tortillas soggy and messy to pick up. The meat was seasoned well, and the taco had nice flavor to it. Chef- just drain some of the grease out before serving, and we'll be all set.

The standard taco that is served every Tuesday was a Pork Carnitas ($2 each, minimum of two).
These were very manageable, and overflowing with meat and toppings. If the pork itself had been seasoned a bit more, I think that I personally would have liked it better than Deagan's Pork Carnitas taco the week before. But for flavor with this particular taco, Deagan's still reigns supreme.

Other than some missteps from the bartender, and our friend never being able to place an order for food, we enjoyed our excursion to Griller's. According to the bartender, they also have great burgers. I do have to note that by the time we left, we were the only ones in the bar. The handful of other patrons had left far before us, and it was only around 8:00PM. I guess that means no wait on seating or your food, right?

Where to next? I've hit almost all of the Taco Tuesday spots that were originally suggested. Where is your favorite place that I haven't been to yet?

Grillers Pub
5455 State Road
Parma, OH

Monday, September 10, 2012

It's Browns Season!

Yesterday brought us the Cleveland Browns home opener.
But, our day started with a tailgate party. It's my favorite part of football season. After yesterday's epic loss in the last few minutes of the game, I was even happier that we had such a successful tailgate party all morning to make up for it.

We typically have around 20 people with us. We were loyal to the Pit, until they got too strict and too pricey last season. So, we found a new home in the Dock 20 lot at the Port Authority this year. It was great being right down by the water on such a gorgeous day, and we had plenty of space to spread out. The day started with appetizers and Jenga.
A new addition to our group this year, and it was thoroughly enjoyed all day--lots of laughs as we battled the build. I think our record was 32 tiers.

Good friends came down.
And then it was time for the main event...the food. "R" spends most of the weekend preparing for this (as you could see from my tweets on Saturday). I hate wasting the entire weekend prepping for tailgating, but Sunday is certainly worth it. The menu for this year's home opener included pulled pork sandwiches (which a friend smoked for 15 hours, yum), cole slaw, and two kinds of mac n' cheese. We had Buffalo Mac with chicken, Frank's red hot, celery, onions, and bleu cheese, and then regular Mac n' Cheese with chicken and a panko crust.
Overall, a successful and fun tailgate, and a great start to the season for us. I just wish that we could say the same about the Browns. Oh well.

Do you tailgate? What's your menu typically look like? I had no idea that tailgating could get as "fancy" as "R" likes to make it. Before meeting him, I just thought of hot dogs and hamburgers and Miller Light. Oh, how wrong I was. Now we're all spoiled.

Tonight brings "R" and I more of the Browns, at the Cleveland Foodbank's annual Taste of the Browns fundraiser. Lots of delicious food from some of our area's best chefs, Browns alumni and current players mingling with the common folk, and great auction prizes. I picked up a dining package in last year's auction with several great gift certificates, so I have my credit card ready for tonight! It all goes to such a worthy cause. For every $1 donated to the Foodbank, they can provide four meals in a local hunger center. Are you attending tonight?

Go Browns!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Labor Day Brunch- Johnny Mango's

"R" and I have had a busy summer, and September is no exception. When Labor Day weekend rolled around, we purposely kept our plans minimal. It was glorious. Slept in each day, bummed around town doing errands and enjoying the few hours without rain, Oktoberfest with friends, and a plan-free Monday. What to do?

Brunch, of course! I knew that only a couple of places were open on Labor Day, Lucky's Cafe being one of them. It's one of our favorite splurge brunch spots, so we headed there around 11AM. The line was pouring out the door, and it was standing room only in the outdoor dining area. Without even getting out of the car, I knew that the wait was going to be longer than we wanted. So, we headed through Tremont and into Ohio City.
I love having easy access to these two neighborhoods. Johnny Mango's on Fulton was our destination.

It's no secret that I generally don't like Johnny Mango's food. On my first visit (years ago), I had the worst burrito of my life. About 85% of it was cold iceberg lettuce, and all other flavor was lost. Since then, I always stick to their Pad Thai (which they are known for). It's decent, but I've had better. But we had never been for brunch, and I do like trying new spots.

The morning was gorgeous, so we settled in on the patio and I ordered a Mango Mimosa. I like that they offer several different flavors.
After consulting our server (who was absent most of the meal, and we had to wait forever for our food and then the check), I ordered the Huevos Rancheros with two sunny side up eggs, ranchero sauce, and cheese atop crispy corn tortillas and served with beans and corn bread.
It is one of their more popular brunch items. Overall, it was what I was expecting-- decent, but very bland. The only thing that I truly enjoyed was the dense corn bread. I'm a sucker for good corn bread.

"R" ordered the Breakfast Quesadilla ($7.95), and his thoughts on the dish were very similar. Good, but not anything special. I do have to mention that the tortilla was so hard to cut through that it became hard to manage.

So, I left there feeling very "meh" about the place--once again. I feel like I am the only one that doesn't like Johnny Mango's food. I guess that I just expect more from a "World Cafe" that is serving traditional cuisines from other countries that typically pack quite a punch of flavor and spice into their food.

What are your thoughts?

Johnny Mango's World Cafe & Bar
3120 Bridge Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Taco Tuesday- Deagan's

It's Tuesday, and you know what that means...Taco Tuesday. Yum-- cheap and delicious tacos available all over our city. Tonight, a group of us head to Griller's Pub in Parma to check out their Taco Tuesday specials.

Last week, Tuesday took me to the infamous Deagan's Kitchen and Bar in Lakewood for their tacos. Known for having some of the best tacos around, it was time to experience it for myself. I've had their shrimp tacos off of the regular menu, and they are quite tasty. On Tuesdays, you can still get the shrimp tacos but the restaurant also offers several other options. This time, that included five varities of tacos for $2 - $3.50 each (Dining Deals Alert!), and one Taco of the Week ($3.50). Deagan's is one of my favorite restaurants, so I was really looking forward to this meal. It didn't disappoint.

My friend and I decided to share the Halloumi and Melon salad, a new item on the menu.
Halloumi cheese is a great grilling cheese, and perfect for this kind of salad. It paired well with the watermelon, giving us a refreshing last taste of summer.

I decided to get one Spicy Shrimp taco (tillamook white cheddar, spicy mayo, guacamole, and cilantro), one Baja Fish taco (slaw, radish, lime, spicy mayo, guacamole, and cilantro), and one of the special tacos-- a Pork Carnitas Taco with grilled onions and peppers, white cheddar, and soy chile jam.
The fish taco is to the left, and the special is to the right of the plate. The shrimp taco barely had any contents in it, so it weakly folded up in the middle. My least favorite taco was the fish taco. It was cod, and a little boring in flavor. They got rid of their ahi tuna taco with the recent menu changes, which we were sad to see. The shrimp taco sauce was flavorful with a slight hint of heat to it, but there were barely any toppings. It needed a crunch factor. The pork special taco was my favorite of the bunch, but extremely juicy and messy. It doused the plate in juices, so I was glad that I had saved it for last.

Overall, the tacos were very good, fresh, and had nice balance in texture and flavor. Little tweaks here and there would rank them higher for my personal taste, but no one can deny that it is a good taco for a reasonable price. Their taco night is very popular, so plan to arrive early if you can. Parking is in the rear (why does that sound dirty?).

At this point, I personally think that Touch Supper Club's tacos still reign supreme in the gourmet taco category. But not by much. Deagan's was a close second. Check them out on Thursdays to compare for yourself.

Deagan's Kitchen and Bar
14810 Detroit Road
Lakewood, OH 44107

Monday, September 3, 2012

Poisoned in Parma

Nothing like a mild case of food poisoning to make your weekend really fun.

After visiting friends in Middleburg Heights yesterday afternoon, we headed down Pearl Road towards home around dinner time. With the refrigerator empty, and no plan in place, we quickly discussed our options. Don Ramons Mexican Restaurant was selected. We've been there four times now, and have never been fully happy with the experience. After last night, I don't think that I'll be dining there again.

Within a few short hours of finishing dinner, I knew that something was wrong. The rest of the evening was quite unpleasant.

Do you know what else I can't stand about Don Ramons? There is no hot sauce(s) on the table. Every standard Mexican restaurant that I've ever been to offers a selection at each table. When you ask for hot sauce at Don Ramons, they look at you like you have ten heads and it's the oddest request that they've ever heard. Last night, in response to my request, our server brought out more enchilada sauce. I like my Mexican spicy, and I need to pep it up.

I think I'll stick to El Jalapenos or Cozumel from now on. What's your favorite Mexican restaurant in the Cleveland area? Momocho doesn't count. It's in its own league. Ole!

Don Ramon
6278 Pearl Road
Parma Heights, OH

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Labor Day Oktoberfest

Labor Day in Cleveland brings us several fun things to do and see around the city. This weather doesn't feel like the "end of summer", but we're doing our best to ignore it. Do you go and watch the Air Show every year?

Yesterday, "R" and I met some friends at the annual Cleveland Labor Day Oktoberfest at the Berea Fairgrounds. With promises of delicious traditional fair treats and a variety of German and Polish dishes, a lot of beer (and boots to drink them out of), great people watching, and daily wiener dog races-- we like to attend. There is always lots to see.
"R" started with some potato pancakes and pierogi. I had a potato pierogi to hold me over, and then we headed towards the wiener dog races with stops to take in the sights along the way. We made it just in time for the last heats of the Adult Races, and stayed for the Championship Races at 5PM. Fritz for the win!

Then it was time to check out the Bier Garten and eat dinner.
"R" and I went for the line at Balaton of Shaker Square, because some of the others were ridiculously long. I ordered the Wiener Schnitzel Dinner, yum.

With the threat of rain upon us, we headed back to the Bier Garten for more drinks and live music. Michelle and I were assaulted by the perverted wiener dog along the way.
Every year, I leave the event wanting to own a wiener dog (free admission if you bring one) and a German hat.

The event also offers a Kids Zone, free hay rides, a huge sand sculpture, arts and crafts, and plenty of "crap" to shop for. There is still time for you to enjoy this event. They open at noon today, closing at midnight, and then are open tomorrow from noon to 9PM. Parking is free, and you can save $1 off each ticket if you purchase them online.

What are you up to this holiday weekend?