Monday, June 30, 2014

AMP Fest 2014

On Friday evening, "R" and I attended the inaugural AMP Fest event at AMP 150 on West 150th Street. The event included live music from the Westies...
...cocktails and beer from vendors like Cleveland Whiskey and Buckeye Brewing Company...
...a silent auction, and food from five chefs. The chef lineup included stations from AMP 150's own Dean James Max...
...who took this whole fish, grilled it for all eyes to see (next to an amazing wild boar from Chef Brad Phillips of Asador)...
...and turned it into some really tasty fish tacos with Asian greens and a pepper aioli.
Also, AMP 150's Executive Chef Jeff Jarrett was grilling up some chicken thighs that even made this self-proclaimed chicken-hater drool.
The red onion jam and blackberry BBQ sauce had wonderful flavor, and the meat was so tender and moist.

The event was held in the outdoor courtyard, and it was filled with tantalizing smells as attendees wandered about and enjoyed the evening.
The event was just $40 for all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink from 5-9pm. A $5 donation from each ticket sale benefited the Children's Miracle Network, and they were able to raise over $2,000 for the organization.

Great food, fun cocktails and beer, watching the chefs grill right in front of you, live music, and a family of ducks made for a fantastic evening. One that I hope they repeat! There is talk of making this an annual event, so fingers crossed. Don't miss the next one. Always keep you eye on AMP 150 events. The food is outstanding, and always a steal for the ticket price.

Disclosure: I was provided with two media passes in exchange for pre-event promotion. I chose to share my experience with you post-event because it was a great event, and one that you should attend in the future. All opinions are 100% my own.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cincinnati Eats: Jean-Robert's Table

I just got back from a working weekend in Cincinnati.
These weekends can be tough, because they include a long drive, early mornings, physically and mentally being "on," and then I go two weeks without a weekend break in between. I've had several of these lately, but I finally made it through our spring events. Cincinnati was the last. Luckily, we did get a little "down" time too, and were able to enjoy two nice meals and a boat tour while we were visiting the city.

The first amazing meal that we had was on Friday night after we arrived in Cincinnati. We dined at Jean-Robert's Table in Downtown.
I loved the eclectic atmosphere of the restaurant. Charming, interesting, comfortable with class, and touches of France. Our server was attentive, with the exception of a huge gap in time after our entrees had been cleared, and he had a dry sense of humor that led to some funny one-liners.

This restaurant is not for the faint of heart. You'll find snails, liver, tartar, frog legs, and more. It was right up our alley! The menu sounded very appealing, but then our server hit us with the laundry list of specials that evening. Frankly, it was too long, and a printed menu of the specials would have been helpful. Too much to remember! 

"R" and I decided to share the Foie Gras special.
He deemed this the "best foie gras" he'd ever had. That sauce was delectable.

We also shared the Surf and Turf Tartar ($14) from the regular menu.
It was very good and I would recommend it, but the version at Luca in Cleveland still stands out in my mind.

I had the Halibut special.
It had a hazelnut crust, mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, fennel, pea shoots, and a light sauce. The fish was cooked perfectly, and everything had nice flavor. So much so, that I kind of wanted the flavor of the sauce to be stronger. They certainly know how to create great sauces there.

"R" had the server surprise him for his entree, and he ended up with the Veal Strip ($36). He liked, but didn't love, this dish.

We truly enjoyed our meal, and the food was so beautifully plated that it was a work of art. Even the salads our two dining companions had looked almost too good to eat. This French-Contemporary chef has quite the list of awards and accolades, and is best known for his role as chef de cuisine at the legendary 5-Star Maisonette in Cincinnati.

Thanks to a recommendation from a fellow Clevelander, we had stumbled right into one of the best restaurants in Cincinnati. I'd head back to Jean-Robert's in a heartbeat for a nice, fancy meal.

Jean-Robert's Table
713 Vine Street
Cincinnati, OH

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lincolns and Short Ribs

The Lincoln Motor Company rolled into Cleveland late last week to offer a unique event. They had partnered with Chef Rocco Whalen of Fahrenheit in Tremont. The event was open to the public. It was simple. Make a reservation at the restaurant during the special event, test drive a Lincoln (your choice from several models), take two surveys (before and after), and then you could enjoy a complimentary three-course meal with two cocktails at the restaurant. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it was even better than I had expected.

Each of these events in their national tour has a PR focus to tell the story of how the Lincoln Motor Company is reinventing themselves as a brand. What do you think of Lincolns? I'm going to be completely honest. I have always viewed them as an "old person's car" and way too high out of our price range. Same with Buick. It looks like these brands are trying to tell a different story recently. The new Buick commercial is kind of funny, where people can't "find" the Buick because it looks too cool and reinvented. This national tour of Lincoln's is trying to achieve the same thing. Refresh the brand and expose people to the cars that may not have thought to test drive one before.

Unfortunately, it was POURING rain on Wednesday night. Hence, no pictures of the car or our test drive. We almost didn't keep our reservation. However, a tiny break in the rain encouraged us to pop up to Tremont, and I'm glad that we did. We test drove the Lincoln MKX crossover. This car starts at $38,575. Of course, you can get much higher with it fully loaded, but its starting price was lower than I had expected out of this larger crossover. We took it for a spin around Tremont, and it was incredibly quiet and smooth to drive. This particular model had most of the bells and whistles. Some of which are just worth paying for these days. "R" was drooling over the air conditioned seats. Not only can you have a warm bum in the winter, but a cool bum in the summer! The test drive and survey only took about ten minutes, and then we were whisked into the dining room of Fahrenheit. Not knowing what to expect for food from a free event, I was shocked when the event included a true three-course meal. Guests had the option to choose from a pre-selected list of Fahrenheit favorites.

We did the stuffed dates and pork belly steam buns for the first course.
"R" had the lobster macaroni and cheese, and I couldn't say no to the chance to have Rocco's famous Kobe Beef Short Ribs. It's been years since I've had them, and there is a reason that they are well-known. So tender, juicy, and Asian-inspired, they did not disappoint.

We finished the meal with dessert. I had the Chocolate Pot de Creme (not as good as I thought it would be), and "R" tried the Roasted Apple Crostata.
See the cute Lincoln symbol on the plate?!

We also enjoyed two (strong) cocktails each during the meal. All for just driving a car and giving our honest feedback.

I don't think that it increased my likelihood of considering a Lincoln during my next car purchase, or my perception of who owns Lincolns. We were considerably younger than the average diner at the event. However, it did expose us to a car that we may have gone out to test drive on our own, and its quality was certainly obvious. I loved the double sunroof, back-up assistance, quiet ride, and the thought of cool leather seats during the humid months in Cleveland. I appreciate that they are trying to change their image and make the brand more accessible, and what a fun way to do that! The restaurant was packed the entire time that we were there, despite the miserable weather conditions. Thanks for the drive and dine, Lincoln! Look for them in a city near you.

Disclosure: This event was free and open to the public with restaurant reservations. I was contacted by a media company representing Lincoln Motor Company to attend the event in exchange for this post and my honest feedback during the test drive. I did not receive anything that the public attendees did not receive. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Recipe: Lemon Garlic Scape Pasta

We're in Week Three of Fresh Fork, and really enjoying the experience. I love menu planning once the newsletter comes out, announcing what will be in the bag that week. Sometimes we receive items that we're not familiar with, or that you tend to cook in only one way. So, I'm also loving the Fresh Fork recipes included in the weekly newsletter.

This one, we adapted from the Week Two newsletter from Fresh Fork.

Garlic Scape Lemon Pasta (4 servings)

1 lb pasta cooked, drained (I recommend Ohio City Pasta's Garlic and Chive Linguine.)
4 tablespoons oil
2 Tbsp. butter
2 bunches garlic scapes, chopped into 1 inch pieces
4 cloves fresh minced garlic
2 lemons- zest some outer skin and then squeeze out the juice
2 cups shredded hard aged cheese (Parmesan/asiago or similar)
1 1/2 cut-up fresh tomato
Fresh spinach
1 cup fresh mushrooms

Cook pasta, reserving some pasta water.
Saute mushrooms until half-cooked.
Add spinach and saute until wilted, and mushrooms cooked through.
Heat oil in a another saute pan to medium heat.
Add scapes and cook until bright green (2-3 minutes).
Add garlic, cooking until fragrant (1-2 minutes).
Add butter and lemon juice, cook until melted.
Add cooked pasta, cheese, tomato, and lemon zest (leaving some zest for plating), cooking until warm.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Use reserved water to gain correct texture if dry.
Plate, topping with spinach, mushrooms, and additional zest.
This dish was phenomenal. Very lemon-y, but we both love lemon and anything citrus. We also had some leftover Fresh Fork chorizo and bok choy from pairing with mussels the night before, so we heated them back up and threw it on top of this dish. I think it would work very well with any seafood too.

It was a winner, and will become on regular rotation for us. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Carnivore Wednesdays- TownHall

Wednesdays have a new meaning at Ohio City's TownHall. Meat. They recently introduced Carnivore: For the Love of Meat as the new Wednesday special. This paleo-friendly menu offers something that I was just talking about on this blog...meat on a stick. There aren't enough meat on sticks in the world! Well, look no further, because TownHall has got 'em.

I was invited in to sample the new special Wednesday menu last week, and the sampling included a surprise beverage pairing with each of the four courses. The pairings were expertly selected, and really brought out the flavor of the dishes or complimented it well. Overall, we enjoyed the four dishes, and TownHall continues to grow on me.

First, we tried the Pulled Pork Bacon and Bleu Meatballs, paired with a Lagunitas Pilsner.
This first dish ended up being my favorite of the evening. The balls themselves are made with smoked pork, smoked applewood thick-cut bacon, gorgonzola cheese, green onion, egg, and breadcrumbs. It is served with a tangy homemade steak sauce, that kept us dunking in for more.

Then, we had the Spicy Coconut Chicken, paired with one of my favorite beers--- Willoughby Brewing Company's Peanut Butter Cup Porter. This particular pairing stood out. The flavor of the beer was more subtle when tasted with the Thai peanut sauce, but the flavor of the sauce lingered in your mouth, brought out by the beer.
The grilled chicken breast is spiced with cayenne, cumin, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. Then, it is rubbed with shredded coconut and served with a Thai peanut sauce. I love Thai peanut sauce and peanut curry, but the addition of coconut was something that I hadn't had before. It worked well.

Our third sample was the Bean Bar Rubbed Ribs, paired with a Rock and Rye Slow and Low honey and orange rye whiskey.
Warning: MUST LOVE COFFEE. This bold sauce is bursting with coffee flavor. The housemade sauce is made from espresso beans, found at the TownHall bean bar thanks to their partnership with Rising Star Roasters. The barbecue sauce was tangy and delicious, but I did recommend that they try to grind the beans finer. It was a little gritty at times. The ribs themselves just fell right off the bone at the touch of a fork. They are marinated for 24 hours in brown sugar, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and smoked paprika. Then, slow roasted in Bell's Two Hearted IPA beer for three hours.

The last dish that we tried was the Marinated Flank Steak, paired with TownHall's very own blend of Jack Daniels Single Barrel that the staff themselves sampled and selected.
The strips of steak are marinated in brown sugar, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. They are served with a homemade chimmi churri sauce. This was my least favorite of the four dishes, but I wouldn't tell you not to order it. I had immediately smothered it in the sauce, but "R" tried some of the meat on its own and actually preferred it that way.

Please note that the pictures above reflect sample sizes for the tasting we were provided. They do represent the full menu of Carnivore, with the exception of the sample platter that includes all skewers. That would be a great option for a table to share. All dishes are served with fried plantains and slaw.

As I said, the food at TownHall is growing on me. My very first visit when they had just opened was far from satisfying, but I think that their food has significantly improved recently. I had a surprisingly good experience at their Vegan Night (on Mondays), and I've had a couple of great lunch meetings and delivery meals within the last six months. The grilled cheese bars have always been good, but now you can order them with a choice from their selection of soups, instead of just paired with the tomato. Also, I've gotten their black bean burger a couple of times now. It's a tad mushy, but really tasty! There wasn't one dish of the four we sampled at Carnivore that I wouldn't order again on my own.

I also really love both their front and back patios. The space has always been cool, and now the food is starting to match that appeal. However, consider yourself warned that very different crowds take over TownHall, depending on the time of day and day of the week. I'm really loving weekdays, and weekend afternoons. The crowd tends to get a little younger and heavy on the drinking on Friday and Saturday nights there.

So, if you're trying to find paleo-centric food in this city, or you just plain love meat, head to TownHall on Wednesdays now for Carnivore.

1909 West 25th Street
Cleveland, OH

Disclosure: I was invited to sample their Carnivore menu. All food and beverage was complimentary, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

2014 World Beer Festival Cleveland Recap

Seriously, can we just repeat the last two days in Cleveland? I need about 200 more of those, in a row. The weather was a little cooler on Saturday, which made for a great day to play in the sun without feeling too hot. Thankfully, we had a fun day planned and the weather just enhanced the experience.

The World Beer Festival Cleveland returned for its second year, and moved locations to the Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica. This event, from All About Beer Magazine, included over 200 craft and specialty beers from around the world. The event stretched all along the pier, and into the Pavilion.
The Downtown city skyline and river running past us made for a great backdrop. I couldn't attend last year's event (sent my friends, "The Aged Cheddars," instead- read their review here), but I have to imagine that this location move was a good choice.

It was bigger than I had expected, and we were never short on beer to sample. The lines weren't too long (only had to wait at popular spots like Hoppin' Frog and Fat Heads). Without looking at the beer list before heading to the event, I was concerned that I wouldn't find enough to sample. I only drink stouts and porters (long story), and they are not exactly summer-friendly beers. I was pleasantly surprised at how many I was able to find, and I was never without a sample as we wandered through the brewery stations.

Some beer favorites among our foursome were: Turbo Shandy from Hoppin' Frog, Apricot Wheat from Ithaca Beer Co., Eugene Porter from Revolution Brewing, Neopaltion Milk Stout from Saugatuck Brewing Co., Kitka Coconut Chocolate Milk Stout from The Brew Kettle, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Peach Wheat from Alltech Lexington, and Hala Kahiki Pineapple from Rivertowne Brewing. I did miss some of my favorite breweries not participating, like Epic, Willoughby Brewing, and Southern Tier. The brewery lineup, at first glance, had seemed a little weak. However, again, I was pleasantly surprised once there.

The Ohio Brewers had a section near the front of the event. I always like to see our great state represented, because they are putting out some good beers that I enjoy. However, Great Lakes Brewing Co. had quite the presence inside the Pavilion.
They were a popular stop for many.

My favorite beer(s) of the day were the infused B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal Stouts that Hoppin' Frog was doing in their tower of beer.
I personally like B.O.R.I.S. on its own, but for the event, the team was infusing it with different things every hour. We got to try the Vanilla Bean, Coffee and Blueberry, and Cherry. Don't make me pick! I didn't have a favorite of the three. This did get us thinking...What would it take to infuse some beers at home???

We didn't even take advantage of our VIP passes or the Art of Beer Experience (educational area with beer seminars and samples), but I feel like we got a lot out of the event and enjoyed the experience. We also stopped by the Cask Ale tent. I sampled a porter from a cask conditioned with cocoa nibs. There were a few food trucks scattered around the event (although, not enough, in my opinion). The line was always too long for the Barrio taco truck, but we snagged a sandwich from Frank's Bratwurst and BBQ from B&M.

However, what truly made the day was running into two of our favorite people, and getting to spend an unexpected afternoon together.
The event exceeded my (originally low) expectations, and I think Cleveland said "Welcome Back" for year two of the event.

Disclosure: I was provided with two tickets to give away to a reader, and two media passes for myself, in exchange for a pre-event post and a review post. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

AMP Fest Winner and Fresh Fork

T.G.I.F. I need this one. The weather forecast is looking good, Cleveland is packed with interesting events this weekend, and it's bound to be a good one. Let's end someone's week on a good note too.

It's time to announce the winner of the two tickets to AMP Fest at AMP150 on June 27th. The random winner is...Jen Hartle! Congratulations, and thanks for entering. Please check your email, and reply by Monday to claim. If you didn't win, you can still purchase $40 tickets by calling 216-706-8787.

It was also a fun week for us because we had our very first Fresh Fork Market bag.
"R" and I decided to take the plunge this year, and buy into a Small Summer Share.

From their website:
Fresh Fork Market is a weekly subscription service to fresh and local foods.  You sign up for a subscription, then every week for 22 weeks over the summer we meet you at one of our pick up locations and give you a package of groceries.  This package is a “grab bag” of fresh and local ingredients that meet our exacting quality standards.  Our program includes meat and dairy, as well as high quality local produce.  For those with special diets, we offer vegetarian and vegan options as well.  For one low price, you will receive a weekly subscription basket, offering you the best selections, savings, and convenience.

We picked up our first bag on Saturday at the Tremont location. It included a couple of types of greens, black beans, eggs, flour, and a whole chicken. We also purchased some "extras" by pre-ordering online by Tuesday night.

One of these "extras" that we purchased were some Chicken Patties. We purchased other goods from the West Side Market, made some of "R's" famous guacamole, and ta-da...yummy burgers on our patio!
We took the whole chicken, cooked it beer-can style on the grill...
...and then adapted Fresh Fork's recipe for Pea Shoot Salad with Black Beans for a tasty and healthy meal.
We adapted the recipe by soaking the beans for 10 hours, chilling in the fridge, and adding tomato and avocado.

Tonight, we're taking a Fresh Fork Skirt Steak (another one of our "extras" purchased) and making some fajitas.

It's Week Two of the Summer Program, and we're already enjoying the experience of waiting for the highly anticipated newsletter that includes the bag's contents for the week and recipe ideas. Then, we menu plan for the week, and look forward to cooking at home a little bit more. I feel good about where our food is coming from, we've been satisfied with the products so far, and it's only just beginning. This program just fits our lifestyle, and now I'm scratching my head wondering why it took us so long to do this.

We're now officially Fresh Fork fans! What about you?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Toast Saturday Brunch

There are not enough Saturday brunch locations. Here is a blog post that I did a while ago that lists a few options, but there are never enough, in my opinion. So, when the relatively new Toast in the Gordon Square area announced that they were going to start hosting Saturday brunch recently, I was pumped.

This past weekend, we popped in for an unplanned brunch with a friend, and enjoyed their back patio and our meal quite a bit.
I'm on board with any brunch that starts with a French press coffee. The sun was shining, but there was plenty of shade on their patio.

The Brunch menu isn't huge, but I think anyone could find something appealing. I was torn between the Savory Crepe, Farm Egg Omelete, and the Lox Bagel. I zeroed in on the crepe, but found out that the ramps had been replaced with asparagus. Hmmm, then it just didn't interest me as much, so I quickly switched my order to the Lox Bagel. This would be the first time that I was ever ordering lox outside of New York City. They just do it best!

The Lox Bagel is served with an everything bagel from Cleveland Bagel Co., chive cream cheese, caper, red onion, and house red sauce ($11).
This smoked salmon was mild and thinly sliced enough that even this self-proclaimed "salmon hater" enjoyed it. The capers, hot sauce, and fresh red onion and greens were great on the lightly toasted bagel. It was still chewy with some crustiness, and I was having flashbacks to NYC visits.

We also ordered a side of the Bacon to share.
It was a thicker cut than your standard breakfast bacon, but they still achieved the crispness that I prefer.

"R" got the Omelete, and enjoyed it. However, he felt that the price point for that dish was too high. It was a medium-sized omelete, with no sides included, for $12. The addition of a piece of toast, a side of easy fix. 

What a great spot, and a welcomed addition to the Saturday brunch options around town. Have you been to Toast yet? We've been in for a special event, and now brunch, but not dinner. I need to change that. Their seasonal approach to the menu, and commitment to local product, is not only commendable, but delicious. 

1365 West 65th Street
Cleveland, OH 44102

Monday, June 9, 2014

AMP Fest Giveaway

Ah, Monday. How was your weekend? "R" and I took full advantage of the sunny day on Saturday (more on that later this week), and I actually welcomed the rain on Sunday. It gave me a break from watering our flowers, and a good excuse to curl up on the couch with a movie and a cup of coffee. Also, time for some blogging, which is always harder to find once the warm weather hits and we're out and about more.

Monday gets such a bad reputation, having to follow the weekend. So, let's kick off this week with a great giveaway. That should perk up those Monday blues. 

I'm talking about two tickets to the upcoming AMP Fest on Friday, June 27th. 
One lucky reader will receive two tickets to the event, which includes food from AMP 150, cocktails, live music, an auction and artwork. It will be held on the outdoor courtyard at the Cleveland Airport Marriott from 5-9PM, and $5 from every ticket purchase will benefit the Children's Miracle Network

It should be a good event, with tasty food from several chefs, including Chef Jeff Jarrett and Chef Dean James Max. Tickets are just $40 each, and well worth the purchase. 

However, you do have the chance to win here. You can enter using Rafflecopter, and a winner will be selected on Friday, June 13th at 4:00pm. Tweet daily for additional entries. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with two tickets to give away, and one media pass, in exchange for this post. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cleveland Plus Patio Contest

Happy Friday!

I don't know about you, but I am absolutely loving the weather in Cleveland right now. The sun has been out, but there's still that spring crisp in the air on most days. "R" and I have been spending as much time outside on our patio as possible. We need to get in some restaurant patio dining time before the humidity kicks in too.

Restaurant patios are what I want to talk to you about today. What area restaurant has your favorite outdoor dining area? I need to make sure that I hit some favorites before it's too hot to enjoy being outside.

Cleveland Plus also wants to know! They are hosting a summer Instagram contest during the month of June. In the spirit of all of the wonderful outdoor dining options Northeast Ohio offers, they are asking followers to post pictures of restaurant patios mentioning @BeThePlus and using the hashtag #patioNEO. At the end of June, they will choose someone at random to win $100 to that restaurant pictured.
Just share an image of the patio you're enjoying, using the tags listed above, and you are entered to win. I think it's a great way to share our patio love, and celebrate the few months weeks (?) where we all love patio time in Cleveland.

Memorial Day weekend helped kick off the season, but summer officially starts this month. Get out there and enjoy the nice weather, and some patios, while it lasts! Clevelanders all know that it doesn't stick around for long.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Market at the Fig

I have to share with you a new-to-me discovery in Ohio City. The Flying Fig is well-known on the Cleveland culinary scene, and we've dined there many times for great happy hour deals, nice dinners, and their popular brunch...but, somehow I've never stepped next door to the Market at the Fig.
The Market is open Tuesday - Friday from 11am - 8pm, Saturday 10am - 8pm, and Sunday 12pm - 7pm.
This "small urban pantry" offers a variety of local goods (dips, spreads, meats, jam, etc.), wine, a few gifts and other merchandise...
...and then a menu with sandwiches, soup, salads, bakery items and sweet treats.
After shopping around the little store, admiring some Cleveland-themed cards and drooling over their cheese case...
...we focused in on selecting our sandwiches. We decided to split two, getting the Keep the Beet with pickled beets, Cloverton cheese, six minute egg, toasted almonds, horseradish aioli, red onion, and arugula ($9.50)...
...and the Maple Bacon Chicken with pulled chicken, candied bacon, herb-whipped feta, pickled fresh chilies, and greens on ciabatta ($10).
The chicken sandwich was a little tough to eat, since the ciabatta was thick and crusty, but both sandwiches had good flavor and interesting contrast of textures. I'd get the beet sandwich again in a heartbeat.

We took these sandwiches home to enjoy on our patio, but shopping in the little market had me dreaming of picnics in the park and delicious sandwiches on the go. It was such a charming place, and a great option for grabbing a quick bite or all of the fixin's for a picnic. We'll be back this summer!
Am I the only one that had missed this Ohio City gem? Certainly had heard about it, but never took the time to stop in for myself. A mistake.

Market at the Fig
2523 Market Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 241-4243