Friday, December 19, 2014

Trip to Trentina

The Sawyers' new restaurant, Trentina, located in the heart of University Circle's world of arts and culture has garnished a lot of hype and speculation. This northern Italian-inspired restaurant focuses on an intimate and unique dining experience that you can't find anywhere else in Northeast Ohio. Adopting the concept of offering only a chef's tasting menu, that is all the rage in major "foodie" destinations across the country, was something new to our area. Some diners were hesitant. Could this concept, and high ticket price, work in Cleveland? I felt that if anyone was going to make it work, it would be the Sawyers. Their famed Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat have created quite the loyal following. The chef team behind these restaurants are quite good at their craft, and Trentina was going to push this reputation even further.

Nestled in the former Sergio's location, next to The Glidden House, it's quite small, but immediately charming.
It's intimate, and provides diners with a "experience" that isn't meant to be rushed. If you're there for the seven-course tasting, give yourself one and a half hours. If you're doing the full twelve-course Menu Bianco tasting, allow for two and a half hours.

We were there to get the full experience, and even though the restaurant is now offering a la carte options and a pasta tasting menu as well, we went right for the Menu Bianco ($115 each). Beverage pairings are also available, for an additional charge. We decided to order wine by the glass, and they made some excellent suggestions during the meal.

The menu will be changing often, to highlight their artistry and the seasonal ingredients that they source locally. You won't even be able to get the meal that Mr. H and I had, even though it was just weeks ago. So, I won't go into detail about the food itself, but here are a few images of our meal:
Each dish brings different variations of the course, and you won't be eating the same thing as the person next to you. So, you better like whomever you bring with you, because you're going to want to dig into their plate as well!

The portions are a tad more substantial as you get into the pasta and meat courses, but as you can see, these servings are small and it's intended to provide you with an experience of tasting many things in small amounts. However, the process is long, and we did leave there a little hungry after almost three hours of small bites. I love tasting many things in small portions, but I don't like it when the digestion catches up to you, and you leave a restaurant wanting more. Particularly at the high price of Trentina.

You get eleven courses, expertly designed by the chefs to showcase some of the best technique that I've seen on a plate in the Greater Cleveland area. The "extra" twelfth course is one where you can re-visit a favorite previous course. I loved that.

Now, the creativity and kitchen technique aside, I wasn't really impressed by our dining experience. Many of the courses were good, but I won't even call one "great." The flavor just wasn't there, in the way that I had expected. Also, the service fell short of my expectations. At that price point, and the high-class atmosphere, I expected the service to match. Drinks often went unfilled, servers stumbled over descriptions of the dishes often, and it just didn't have the polish that I think this place begs for.

For the most expensive meal that I've ever had in Cleveland, it left me disappointed. The price was high, portions a hair too small, outstanding moments for the food lacking, and service lackluster. It was fun to get all dressed up, to feel like we were experiencing something special, but this visit just didn't live up to my high expectations.

I'm not writing it off, and I'd certainly love to try the al la carte options or brunch, but it just didn't live up to the high-end, memorable experience that I thought we were going to have. For the price, it will be a while before I'd be back for the Menu Bianco. This is just my opinion, as I know others have been raving about their own experiences. I try to always be honest, to share my personal thoughts and experiences, and to welcome feedback and other opinions. If you've had a great experience there, feel free to chime in by leaving a comment.

Here's a funny tip: Visit the bathroom, and your bum will love the heated seat.

1903 Ford Drive
Cleveland, OH 44106

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Wedded Bliss

I'm back, and I'm a MRS.

It was an absolutely amazing three days, spent with family and friends and enjoying every minute of our wedding weekend. I'll be posting more later about the wedding at Cibreo Privato and our memorable Rehearsal Dinner at Urban Farmer, but for now, I'm just basking in the glow of the memory of the weekend and the fact that I (finally) married the love of my life.

Marriage looks good on us. I even had the urge to cook last night. Who am I? I decided to surprise my new husband by cooking dinner. By the way, I think he needs an "upgrade" here on the blog now. I shall call him "Mr. H." 

I started with an appetizer of Goat Cheese Crostini, with orange/tarragon goat cheese, fig jam, and fresh basil leaves rolled in proscuitto. They were wonderful, and Mr. H declared that I must make them for our annual Christmas "appetizers night" at the Marshall household this year.
I served them on our wedding platter. Instead of a traditional guest book, we had our guests sign a ceramic platter with paint markers. I baked it yesterday, and now it's ready for use! What a special way to continue to relive our wedding day, and much more practical for our lives than a standard guest book we'd tuck away in storage.

Then, I attempted a main course of some Lemon Ohio City Pasta Linguine with a Roasted Garlic and Chive Butter, sauteed vegetables, and shrimp. All courtesy of shopping at the West Side Market.
The squash was overcooked a little, but otherwise, I even surprised myself at how good this turned out. Maybe there is hope for me after all? Ohio City Pasta certainly makes it easy to look good in the kitchen, with their wonderful pasta flavors and a variety of sauces and butters to mix it with.

We ended with some leftover wedding cake. We had two cakes at our wedding, both from A Cookie and A Cupcake in Tremont. They've always been my favorite place to get cupcakes from, with their light and creamy butter-cream frosting. But, they even exceeded my high expectations on these cakes.

I had designed a traditional wedding cake with them, and I think it was even more beautiful in-person than I had hoped for. I think it's the most stunning wedding cake I've ever seen, but I am biased. It helped that the German Chocolate was just as delicious as it was pretty!
Our second cake was a surprise, to me. Mr. H had secretly worked with the bakery to create a custom cake that truly reflected "us." I present, the Round House Bar...
If you've ever been to Put-in-Bay, then you'd recognize this simply by the design. Well, we met there over seven years ago, and the bar will always hold a special place in our hearts. It was very fitting to have it represented during our wedding. Now, if I only hadn't blown the reveal by wandering into the reception area on my own to check on the set-up of the room...

The Round House cake was Salted Caramel, and the design and flavor stole the show that night.

Enjoying some leftover cake last night was a perfect ending to our first night home as a married couple. I could get used to this married life...

Thanks for all of your well wishes through social media! It was the best weekend of my life, and one that I'll never forget. We feel so loved, and fortunate.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ring in 2015- Events

It's almost the end of the year. That often brings a time of reflection, thankfulness, planning for the next year, and celebration. That's what today's blog post is all about.

There are a ton of special New Year's Eve events taking place around town. How will you be bringing in 2015? Perhaps one of these will appeal to you...

Cibreo: A Tuscan New Year- On December 31st, the restaurant and Cibreo Privato will offer three options. 1. $85 per person for a five-course traditional Italian feast. Reservations available from 6pm-10pm. 2. A New Year's Eve Party at Cibreo Privato with live music from Kiss Me Deadly, small bites, top shelf open bar, and a champagne toast. $100 per person. 3. All-inclusive VIP experience, with all benefits from option 1 and 2 included. $150 per person. Call 216-862-9212 for reservations, or purchase online here.

Fahrenheit: Celebrate New Year's Eve. Four-course menu, includes two glasses of alcohol. $85 per person. Call 216-781-8858 for reservations.

Bar Cento: Celebrate 2015. New Year's Eve three-course dinner with house salad, choice of entree, and a special New Year's Eve dessert. Option beer or wine pairings available. Begins at 4:30pm. $35 per person, $15 wine pairings, $12 beer pairings. Reserve your table by calling 216-274-1010.

Pickwick & Frolic Restaurant and Club: New Year's Eve Comedy Packages. Multiple dining and show packages available. Reservations at 216-241-7425.

fire food and drink: New Year's Eve Specials. Enjoy their winter menu, and some extra special dishes on the menu. Reserve your table by calling 216-921-3473.

Great Lakes Brewing Company: Brew Year's Eve. 7pm. $60 a person, includes three drink tickets (beer and wine only), heavy hors d'oeuvres, photo booth, and live music and magic. Special beer toast at midnight.

This is only a sampling of special events and dinners happening in the Greater Cleveland area. Any that you'd like to share?

Make the most of the last few weeks of 2014, and start planning for 2015 (including how to ring it in)!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lakewood's Thai Kitchen

It's my wedding week!!!! Eeekkk, how did that happen? That also means that December is just creeping by, and I have some restaurants left on my 2014 To Dine challenge list. So, let's talk about one today...Thai Kitchen.
Located in Lakewood, on Madison Avenue, it's a cute little place that you might miss driving down the street. It was a weeknight, so we easily found a parking spot at a meter directly in front of the restaurant. It's small and cozy inside (only about six tables), with wonderful Thai smells wafting from the kitchen.
"R" started with a hot tea. I recommend the lemongrass or ginger, because they are house-cut. The restaurant offers daily specials, but I was drawn to a couple of my favorite go-to dishes, since this was our first time dining there.

We shared an order of the Thai Kitchen Fresh Rolls with fresh basil, cilantro, lettuce, and mint leaves rolled in rice paper and served with their homemade sweet chili sauce. You have your choice of adding vegetables, chicken, shrimp, or a combination. We wanted shrimp, and an order of two rolls was $4,99.
While Minh Anh's version of this roll remains my favorite (I could bathe in that peanut dipping sauce), this was a close second.

I ordered the Tom Kar soup, one of my favorite Thai things to order. This soup is with coconut milk, Chinese lettuce, galangal, lemongrass, sweet onion, lime juice, and lime leaf. You have the choice of a Small Bowl or Big Bowl, and diners can add chicken, tofu, or shrimp. I selected chicken, and a Small Bowl for $3.50.
It was a chilly and wet night in Cleveland, so this hit the spot. A little more lime would have won me over, but otherwise this was a very good version of my favorite Thai soup.

For my main dish, I stuck with my tried-and-true classic of Keang Musamun ($11.99 with shrimp and white rice). Musamun is a mild curry with a sweet and sour taste, tamarind sauce, peanuts, potatoes, sweet onion, and coconut milk. You order your own spice level, but beware that they suggest ordering at least two levels lower than what you're used to ordering at other Thai restaurants.
The dish was swimming in sauce, and a little less would have been preferred. It was quite a big plate of food, and I happily took leftovers home. I think my favorite version of this curry is from Thai Gourmet in Independence, but this probably took home "second place" in my mind.

They've won quite a few awards and recognition, like Cleveland Magazine's Silver Spoons, Cleveland Hot List Best of 2014, etc. and it's easy to see why. Overall, they do a nice job. The food was tasty, hot, and served quickly. The staff was knowledgeable, helpful, and attentive. The space is small, but inviting, cheerful, and cozy. They appeared to do a ton of takeout. Only one other table of diners were having dinner while we were there, but a parade of people came in and out to grab to-go orders. They are closed on Tuesdays, which is unusual, so plan accordingly.

Thai is one of my favorite cuisines. What's your favorite Thai restaurant in the Greater Cleveland area?

Thai Kitchen
12210 Madison Avenue
Lakewood, Oh 44107

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies Christmas gift shopping has been delayed this year. With our wedding creeping up, and lots to do, it just hasn't been a focus. So, I've kicked it into high gear and Amazon has been my best friend. I load up my cart, and then click, click and it's done.

Anyone else looking for last-minute holiday gifts, particularly for the "foodie" in your life? Here are a few gift ideas:

Personalized Cutting Board
Like this one, or this one.

Stackable Measuring Cups
These are cute enough to leave out on your kitchen counter!

Cookbook or iPad Stand
Making it easier to read as you cook. I like this one, or this one.

Outdoor Pizza Oven
I'm picturing some summer nights on the patio, using one like this.

Onion Goggles
Anyone have proof that these actually work? If so, I need them! I always pass the onions over to "R" when we're prepping dinner.

Electric Salt and Pepper Grinders
"R" got a set last year from my parents, and they are life-changing in the kitchen. We've never looked back. Try these.

I hope that these may have peaked your interest and helped you find that last gift for someone in your life. Any other "foodie" gift ideas to share?

Monday, December 1, 2014

2015 To Dine Challenge

Wow, December 1st. How is that possible? How is it possible that I'm getting married in just 12 days?! 2014 seemed to fly by. But, you know what that means...

It's time to start talking about my 2015 To Dine challenge. Each year, I ask you, readers, to submit restaurants that you feel I should visit in the upcoming year. I select 10 from the suggestions, and challenge myself to dine at all 10 over the next 12 months.

So, what's your new favorite spot? Any hidden gems in your neighborhood that don't get enough recognition for their fantastic food? Is there a good dish at a hole-in-the-wall that shouldn't be missed? A new restaurant hitting the Greater Cleveland dining scene that you're curious about? I want to hear about it all!

Leave me a comment below, or tweet me at @BiteBuff, to enter restaurants for consideration. I'll select 10, and announce them at the start of the year. I also accept volunteers to join me on these dining adventures!

Some highlights from 2014 included: Dolce Wraps (we've been back twice), Seoul Garden, and the unique pizza burger from Petti's. As of today, I still need to visit Thyme2 and The Original Steaks and Hoagies. Phat Daddy's closed, so no matter how hard I try in the next couple of weeks, I'll never conclude the full 2014 To Dine list. So sad.

So, where are you sending me in 2015?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Recipe: Bacon and Egg Pastries

Happy Thanksgiving! What a glorious holiday. It's all about family, friends, football, floats, Ah, Thanksgiving food. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to this annual meal. The one Thanksgiving that my family tried to switch it up and serve ham and scalloped potatoes, without informing this college student that was headed home for the holidays, will go down in history. I'll never forgive them. However, I really could care less about the turkey itself. I usually only have a few bites. For me, it's all about the sides. So, I want to see mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, get the point. All swimming in mom's homemade gravy.

The Friday after Thanksgiving is meant for leftovers. Who has mastered the leftover sandwich? But, in the morning, while you wait to build that perfect leftover sandwich for lunch, you may want a more traditional breakfast. Here is something fun to make with the family, a recipe that we adapted from the April 2008 issue of Cuisine at Home:

Bacon and Egg Pastries with Spinach and Mushrooms (makes 4; Time = 1 hour)

Fry; Add and Saute:
4 strips of thick-sliced bacon, diced
2/3 cup potatoes, cubed
1/3 cup onion, diced
1/3 cup mushrooms, diced
1/2 teaspoon of fresh minced rosemary
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach
salt and pepper to taste

Beat; Add:
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne

Roll Out; Brush Pastries With:
1 sheet purchased puff pastry; slightly thawed
1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon of water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Coat four 4" quiche pans with removable bottoms with non-stick spray (Note: We used small ceramic oven-proof ramekins.),
Arrange on a baking sheet.
Fry bacon in a large saute pan over medium heat, until crisp.
Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
Pour off all but 1 Tablespoon of drippings and return pan to burner.
Add potatoes, mushrooms, onions, and rosemary to pan.
Cook, covered, until potatoes are tender (about 8 minutes).
Stir in spinach, reserved bacon, salt and pepper.
Set filling aside.
Beat cream cheese in a bowl with a hand mixer, then blend in eggs.
Add milk, cheese, flour, and seasonings, beat to blend.
Roll pastry on a lightly floured surface unto a 12" square.
Cut into four 6" squares, then lightly press 1 square into each quiche pan.
Spoon about 1/3 cup potato mixture into each pan.
Pour about 1/3 cup egg mixture on top.
Fold corners of dough onto filling, brush with egg wash, and bake until crust is browned and filling is set (20 - 25 minutes).
Let stand 5 minutes before un-molding.
They were delicious individual breakfast pastries.

So, enjoy your Thanksgiving, in whatever form that may be. This is the time of year to be thankful for what we have in our life.

Today, I am thankful for my family, my good friends, our upcoming wedding (just two weeks away, eek!), my pup, my job, our home, good food on the table, and the ability to appreciate the little things in life right now. Some things happening in my life right now are putting things into perspective, and we're all focusing on the important ones. Treasuring the time we have with each other, and for that, I am thankful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Parma's Seoul Garden

Thank you, to whomever submitted Seoul Garden for my 2014 To Dine challenge! We finally made it there, with friends, on Saturday evening. Obviously, it was already on my "to-do" list, but the recent Scene article had peaked my interest even more. I'm happy to report that it did not disappoint.

This was only my second time eating Korean food (my first experience was through my 2013 To Dine challenge), so I am by no means an expert on this cuisine. However, I can safely say that this experience trumped my first, and we've found a new spot to frequent in Parma. Apparently, it's not a secret spot, because the restaurant was hopping on Saturday at 7:00pm.

Our group of six settled into a table after a brief wait, and began to look over the menu. One dish did give me quite a chuckle...
I love a good misprint.

I went straight for the Bibimbop ($10.95), a "gateway" to Korean food, for those of us that aren't familiar. It is steamed rice, topped with shredded vegetables, ground beef, and a raw egg yolk. It is served in a piping hot clay pot, and it literally cooks right in front of you. The idea is to slowly stir the pot, crisping the rice, cooking the egg, and blending in some hot sauce.
This version easily was better than the first one that I had tried at Miega, and I hadn't thought that one was bad. There was just something about the flavors and textures in this one that had me digging in for more.

We also shared some Fried Dumplings (you can order 8 or 16).
They were actually stuffed with beef, instead of pork. They were okay, but not the highlight of the meal.

Now, one thing that is wonderful (and a tad overwhelming) about a Korean dining experience are all of the little side dishes that arrive at your table with every meal. Plate upon plate is placed in front of you, all little dishes of different pickled, spiced, raw, or unusual items to try. Your table suddenly becomes quite full!
Some highlights included the spicy kimchee, pickled radish, gelatin herb "noodles", and crispy tofu. We probably had at least eight different ones to try.

A couple of our friends ordered the Bulgogi, and seemed pleased with the marinated beef. "R" went for the traditional Pajeon (pancake).
It's usually a popular Korean appetizer, stuffed with scallions and in this case, a variety of seafood. Miega's version was a lot smaller, and this dish was clearly intended for a table of diners to share. It was HUGE.

The price tag on many of the dishes may seem high when you're browsing their menu, but if you look closely, they are intended for 2-3 diners to share. They have a few Barbeque dishes, where diners can cook their own food at the table, and a selection of Jungol (stews/casseroles). I'd love to try the spicy chicken that we spotted at the table next to us.

The restaurant itself is nothing to look at from the outside, and it's not much better on the inside. Dated decor, old carpet, wobbly tables, bright overhead lighting. But, the food wins you over. My only complaint? Several times we could smell the most offensive fishy aroma that I've ever smelled in my life that was wafting over from other tables. I almost gagged.

Another restaurant was checked off of the 2014 list, and this one will remain in rotation for us. We had a great evening, with good food, good friends, and some good stiff cocktails at Drink. Bar + Grill down the street afterwards.

Seoul Garden
5270 Pearl Road
Parma, OH

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Annex Bar and Grille

Last Sunday, we found ourselves at another 2014 To Dine restaurant...the Annex Bar and Grille in Solon. It popped into my head, because we wanted to watch the Browns game. Now, if only the game had been a little less disappointing...

At least we were at a fun place for the game, exploring and checking another restaurant off of my challenge list!
As we pulled up to the bar's parking lot, a party bus was unloading. Apparently, we were crashing a birthday party for a regular patron that was clearly well-liked. The bar was packed with his family and friends, and we did feel a bit out of place the whole time. But, everyone was very friendly and in a good mood, despite the game.

The Annex is quite the hole-in-the-wall, but in a good way. It's very casual, with plenty of charm and classic hometown bar atmosphere.
They have a pretty appealing menu of bar snacks. During the first quarter, we shared a basket of Fried Pickles (five for $4).
Once they cooled down a bit, they were awesome. Not too much breading, the pickle was still a bit crispy, and the unusual house-made dipping sauce (maybe a Cajun Ranch?) was delicious.

Now, I've heard a lot about their hamburgers. That's why we were there. Some claim that they are the best in the Greater Cleveland area. While I won't give them that title, I was pleasantly surprised.

I ordered the "Shroom Burger" with mushrooms, onions, bacon and choice of cheese ($4.75). I went with bleu cheese. You also have your choice of fries, between steak or fresh-cut and regular or Cajun. I knew "R" was getting the fresh-cut, so I wanted the steak fries.
The bun was fresh, and toasted lightly on the grill. You don't always see that, so it was appreciated. The bacon was crispy, and there was a lot of it. The onions were grilled, and tasted great. The mushrooms were canned, but that didn't detract too much. The patty was clearly handmade, because it didn't quite stick together very well. It crumbled a couple of times, making it pretty messy to eat. The meat could have used more seasoning, but overall this was pretty darn good for a bar burger.

"R" got the "Western Burger" with BBQ sauce, bacon, onion ring, and choice of cheese. He also selected bleu cheese, and paired the fresh-cut fries with his order.
He thought that the BBQ sauce was nothing special, and a little watery, but overall another good burger for this type of bar.

Best burger in the Greater Cleveland area will remain from the Tremont Tap House, in my opinion.

It's been a while since I've seen that much camouflage and Jager bombs, but it was endearing and I felt like I was back home in Upstate NY. The place was lively, everyone was so friendly, great music was on when the game wasn't playing, there is plenty of parking in the lot next to the bar, and the bartender was as sweet as can be. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Our Solon adventure was a success.

Annex Bar and Grille (unofficial website)
36200 Pettibone Road
Solon, OH 44139

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

La Kabob

The end of the calendar year is looming, and that means that I need to wrap up my 2014 To Dine challenge. With six restaurants left, the list was looking a little daunting. I'm going to call it...I probably won't complete it this year. Thanksgiving, our wedding, and holiday travel plans are going to limit the amount of time I have left this year. All good things, that we're really looking forward to.

However, I did accomplish dining at three over the last few weeks!

Today, I want to share a recent lunch at La Kabob Lebanese Grill on Pearl Road in Strongsville.
They've won quite a few awards and honorable mentions through local media outlets. This family-owned business opened in 2011, and has been recognized for having some of the best Lebanese cuisine around.

It's a casual atmosphere, with an ordering counter as you enter. Once your order is placed (but you pay after your meal), there are several tables and high tops around. I imagine that they do a lot of takeout as well.
I ordered the Beef Shawarma Wrap, with slices of seasoned beef, onions, Mediterranean pickles, tomatoes and lettuce ($6.45). It was topped with tahini dressing and wrapped in a pita, then toasted.
"R" and I also shared an order of the Stuffed Grape Leaves ($5.45).
The wrap was full of flavor, and I loved the addition of the pickles, but it was really wet and messy to eat. That took away from the pleasure of the flavor. The grape leaves were some of the best that I've had around Cleveland. A lemon wedge would have been nice, for a squirt of citrus, but otherwise I couldn't think of other grape leaves that I've preferred.

The only real disappointment of the meal was "R's" Gyro ($5.95). It was pretty average, and not worth ordering.

We literally stumbled upon this restaurant, as we were driving down Pearl Road, while doing some errands this past weekend. We were looking for a quick lunch, and their sign in the strip of businesses just happened to catch my eye. It wasn't a planned 2014 To Dine adventure, but I'm happy that it happened. I don't know that I'd drive to Strongsville for it, but it was certainly good and I'd recommend it.

La Kabob Lebanese Grill
14228 Pearl Road
Strongsville, OH 44136

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Butcher and the Brewer

"R" and I had our engagement photo shoot in Downtown Cleveland last week. Honestly, I was more excited to take some nice photographs in our "regular" clothes. That's who we are, and I can't wait to see them. The city lights, streets, and buildings made for a great backdrop. But, we were quite hungry once we finished up.

Since we ended on Euclid, near East 4th Street, we quickly decided on the newly opened Butcher and the Brewer.
The restaurant comes from the guys behind one of our favorite casual restaurants in Cleveland, the Tremont Tap House. For an outstanding beer selection, quality upscale bar food, and a casual atmosphere, we've loved dining there for years. Also, the Executive Chef for Butcher and the Brewer is a familiar face. Jim Blevins (formally of Downtown 140 and Hodge's) is crafting their farmhouse-inspired menu.

The restaurant's concept plays on diner interaction, and a sense of community through public house seating, progressive dining, and shared plates. Long communal tables are what you'll find here.

We plopped ourselves at the bar, and ordered a few small things to share. We started with an order of the House-Smoked Corndogs with whole-grain mustard aioli, and house-made ketchup ($10). The corndog itself was very good, with a tasty and fluffy batter, but the aioli and ketchup could have been better with more pronounced flavor. They didn't add much to the dish.

Then, we shared the Steak Tartar with horsey sauce, capers, poached egg, and crispy bread ($12) and the Tempura Asparagus.
Both were very good, and I would order them again. However, the beef tartar at Luca across the river still reigns supreme, in my opinion. That version just seems to stick in my brain.

Overall, a great first visit to the new Butcher and the Brewer. We weren't presented with a menu that listed the various Shucked (oysters), Cured (meats), and Cultured (cheeses) options to build your own boards, but that's something that I'd love to try next time.

Have you been to the new restaurant on East 4th?

Butcher and the Brewer
2043 East Fourth Street
Cleveland, OH 44115

Monday, November 10, 2014

Recipe: Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach, Mushrooms and Blue Cheese

We made a dish this weekend that I just had to share with you right away. We adapted a recipe originally found on the kitchn, and it instantly became a new favorite. We'll be seeing this on our dinner table again this fall.

Recipe: Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach, Mushrooms and Blue Cheese (Serves 4 to 6)

2 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash (1/2 inch cubes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 oz regular orzo
2 cups shredded spinach
1 cup diced mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. shallot, minced
1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup pasta water

Preheat oven to 425˚F.
Toss butternut squash with the olive oil.
Spread into a single layer on a sheet tray.
Bake until squash is tender and starting to brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
Place the spinach in a large bowl and set aside.
In a small skillet, heat olive oil until just warm.
Stir in garlic and mushrooms, remove from heat and allow to sit until ready to use.
Place the orzo in a pot and cover with at least 2" of water.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender but not mushy, 8 to 9 minutes.
Drain and immediately pour the hot orzo on top of the spinach.
Let sit for a few minutes to slightly wilt spinach.
Add butternut squash to the pasta along with the cooked mushrooms, blue cheese, garlic, and olive oil.
Toss until well combined, pour pasta water over combination and stir, and serve warm.
We also topped ours with a peppercorn-crusted steak, sliced. The peppery and beefy flavor worked really well with this recipe.

We were able to use up some of the last Fresh Fork items lingering in our fridge and cupboard, and it was actually the first time that we had cooked with orzo. This dish will be making it into the rotation. It was relatively easy to make, didn't require a ton of time other than baking the squash, and we loved the flavor and textures in it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Alton Brown Live- Ticket Winner

Thank you to everyone that entered the giveaway for the two tickets to see Alton Brown's live tour this Friday evening at PlayhouseSquare. The giveaway has closed, and our winner is....Jay Tron. Please check your email, and you have until noon tomorrow to claim your prize.

If you didn't win, you can purchase online here.

Now, where should "R" and I go to dinner before the show?

Friday, October 31, 2014

WISE Cleveland Happy Hour

Happy Friday, folks. Is everyone in a funk from last night's Cavs game and the hoopla in Downtown? I'm ready for the weekend, and for some Browns' fun with my brother and his girlfriend. Build-your-own fajitas are on the menu, and let's hope for a win.

Speaking of sports, I am a member of the local chapter for Women in Sports and Events (WISE). WISE Cleveland strives for empowerment and career advancement through socialization, education, networking and mentoring programs and events. I've been a member since I moved to Cleveland almost seven years ago, and I am currently serving in my third term on the Board of Directors.

It's an organization that has provided me with genuine personal and professional relationships, business opportunities, and a wealth of education through our monthly programming. I also benefited from the WISE Within one-on-one mentoring program when I was first starting out in Cleveland, and I served as a Mentor for the first time year. I believe strongly in the organization.

The membership is greater than the name implies. We have approximately 150 members from career areas like special events, sports management, non-profit administration, marketing/communications, sales, media and more. The access that members have to networking and educational opportunities, both locally and WISE nationally, is invaluable. I'm at my current job because of WISE! If your current job or interest in a particular field even remotely touches on one of these areas, then I highly suggest checking out WISE at

I have an in-person opportunity for you to do that, while checking out a new restaurant. Driftwood Catering (the guys behind Hodge's, Washington Place Bistro, Cibreo, etc.) have opened Sanctuary in the Hilton by Doubletree in Beachwood. WISE Cleveland is heading there next week for cocktails, appetizers, and a private tour of the venue and lounge. All attendees will be entered to win an overnight stay at the hotel. It is from 6-8PM. The event is free for WISE members, and just $15 for non-members.
WISE Cleveland is generously giving away two tickets to this event to a Bite Buff reader. Come check out the new restaurant, meet some incredible women, network, and enter the raffle for an overnight stay at the hotel. I'll be there!

Just leave me a comment on this post for entry. I'll use on Tuesday at 3:00pm to select a winner.

If you are unable to attend the Happy Hour event next Thursday, but you're interested in learning more about the organization and our membership, please visit or contact me by email.

Disclosure: I am a paid member and active Board member for WISE Cleveland. I was asked to post about our upcoming event, and was provided with two tickets to give away. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Recipe: Pork au Poivre

I hope that everyone in Cleveland took advantage of the gorgeous weather this past weekend! This time last year, we had already experienced snow.

"R" and I did by getting some yard work done, and by fitting in a couple of bike rides.
We also cooked at home on Saturday and Sunday nights, which felt great. We've been super busy lately, and the next six weeks will be more of the same. We're wedding planning at warp speed, and trying to squeeze in time with friends as well.

On Saturday night, we were on a mission to use up a bunch of our Fresh Fork items. We're down to the last few weeks of the summer share, and we still have several items to use up. This recipe, adapted from the most recent issue of Cuisine at Home, took care of four, and it was quite tasty if you enjoy the flavor of peppercorns.

Pork au Poivre (servings = 2, total time = 30 minutes)

Two boneless pork loin chops (8-10 oz each), seasoned with salt
1/4 cup peppercorn blend, crushed

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup brandy

1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. fresh chopped thyme
3 Tbsp. salted butter, cubed

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Coat both sides of the pork chops with salt and the peppercorns.
Heat oil in a saute pan at medium-high heat until it simmers.
Add pork chops and sautee until browned (about 2 minutes per side).
Transfer pan to oven and roast pork until meat reads 145 degrees (about 8-10 minutes).
Transfer pork to plate and tent with foil.
Deglaze same pan with brandy.
Cook at medium-high heat until liquid nearly evaporates (about 2 minutes).
Add broth, vinegar, and thyme to pan, and reduce (4 minutes).
Off heat, whisk in butter.
Serve sauce over pork.

We wanted to use up more Fresh Fork items from our weekly bags, so we used some Ohio City Pasta garlic scape linguine as a base for this dish, and steamed some broccoli as a side.
The peppercorns have quite a bite to them, and a little heat, but we both love that flavor, so it worked for us. The pasta was a perfect pairing, and we enjoyed this last-minute dish that we had created.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour

The Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour is coming to PlayhouseSquare next Friday, November 7th at 8:00PM at State Theater.
"Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour" features a pinch of comedy, talk show antics, a multimedia lecture, live music (he sings!) and a dash of extreme food experimentation! Renowned "foodist" and TV personality Alton Brown is familiar to viewers for such food series as "Iron Chef America," "Good Eats," "Cutthroat Kitchen," and "Food Network Star." The James Beard Award winning author of seven books, Brown created, produced and hosted the Peabody Award-winning series "Good Eats" which ran for 13 years on the Food Network and now can be seen on the Cooking Channel."

Alton Brown will bring his brand of quirky humor and culinary-science antics to the stage.  The two-hour show is a unique blend of stand up comedy, food experimentation, talk show antics, multimedia lecture, and, for the first music.

Tickets range from $35 to $125. The $125 tickets include a pre-show meet and greet with the star. You can purchase them online here.

Or, you can WIN TWO TICKETS by entering my giveaway. Use the Rafflecopter below for several ways to enter. I'll select a random winner on Tuesday, November 4th.

Good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with four tickets to the show, two for myself and two for a giveaway, from PlayhouseSquare in exchange for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Crop Kitchen Opens!

Chef Partners Steve Schimoler (Crop Bistro owner) and Matt Anderson (formerly of Umami Asian Kitchen) have opened the doors of the new Crop Kitchen in the east-side Uptown neighborhood.

The menu feels like a blend of the two, with some familiar Crop Bistro (sister restaurant in the Ohio City neighborhood) specialties, with sushi and a few crowd favorites from Umami sprinkled in. We saw Crop's signature Cherry Bombs and Popcorn, and Umami's Goat Cheese Dumplings ($8), just to name a few.
We had perched ourselves at the "chef's table" sushi bar this weekend, and had a great view of the workings of the kitchen, and a front-row seat to the sushi rolling.
As "R" stated, "I wouldn't want someone staring at me while I worked." Yes, this open-kitchen layout certainly puts all eyes on the staff, but it was pure fun to watch them work. We also had a chance to chat with Chef Matt, whom I've known since I moved to Cleveland almost seven years ago. We joked about the fact that Umami's entire restaurant could fit into the size of the new Crop's kitchen space. I'm sure it's going to take some getting used to, but he was handling it well.

Matt rolled us a complimentary Salmon and Goat Cheese roll (all rolls are $10), and we also ordered some sashimi later on (3 pieces for $12).
For now, the restaurant is offering three kinds of rolls, and three kinds of sashimi, with plans to expand that section of the menu later.

It doesn't feel like the restaurant changed too much in the layout from the previous restaurant's concept (actually, look up at the ceiling to still see the Accent letters), but Crop has certainly put its signature stamp on the place in some ways. Warmer colors, food art on the wall, and playful accents like these colander lamps.
The cocktail menu also has several tempting choices. I just had a glass of wine, but "R" went for the Mr. Figgy with fig-infused bourbon, sweet Vermouth, maple bitters, and bruleed bacon.
I stole a bite of the bacon, and it was divine.

Welcome to Uptown, Crop Kitchen! We'll be back for more.

Crop Kitchen
11460 Uptown Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106