Monday, August 18, 2014

#ThisisCLE Culinary Tour: Part One

I had the chance to play ultimate culinary tour guide this weekend, thanks to Positively Cleveland. They contacted me a while back to see if I would be interested in partnering with them to host an out-of-town food blogger on a three-day culinary tour of our city. I got to set the itinerary, and all meals, tickets, and transportation would be covered. I didn't even hesitate to say "YES!"

Now that it's over, I don't even know how to begin to describe our three-days of culinary bliss. But, I'll try...

I was partnered with Sarah from EatPGH. Four friends are behind this food-blog-turned-brand, and they certainly know their Pittsburgh eats. They've turned their blog into a business, focusing now on event production and authoring wonderful dining guides. It's very inspiring, and I knew that I had my work cut out for me. I needed to impress. I couldn't let our city down. It was more pressure that I had originally thought, and selecting restaurants and attractions to visit during her short three days here was harder than it sounds! I think that I did a pretty good job, but you be the judge.

I'm going to have to break this tour into three parts, to summarize each day that we spent touring the city. Day one began on Thursday evening, with a quick stop at the last Edgewater Live event of the season. The Cleveland Metroparks introduced a fantastic new event to Edgewater Park this summer, bringing in live music, food trucks, and more. The weekly Thursday event was free to attend, and Clevelanders arrived in droves. Sarah was interested in hearing about our food truck scene, and it sounds like our city has embraced food trucks much quicker than Pittsburgh. I'm sure that they still have their challenges, but the amount of food trucks in Cleveland has grown exponentially over the last few years, and there seems to be a great community built around the concept. Working together on events like Walnut Wednesdays, and rallying behind all kinds of public events and causes. Sarah wanted to try a bite from at least one truck, so I recommended a taco from Touch Supper Club.
She enjoyed pulled pork and shrimp tacos, and I got my hands on my first Chorizo Mac n' Cheese Taco from Touch. The little patty of chorizo, macaroni, and cheese was breaded and fried. It held together well, and was still creamy when I bit into it. However, I do wish that the "scallion cream" on it had more flavor. For just $10, we enjoyed three good-sized tacos as a pre-dinner snack.

After a stroll around the park, I took her downtown to Playhouse Square.
With the addition of the new signage and outdoor chandelier, the area is impressive and just feels special. We're so fortunate to have such a large theatre district with amazing shows year-round.

We had dinner at Cowell and Hubbard.
While L'Albatros will always be my favorite, I had to bring her to at least one Zack Bruell restaurant during the trip.

We started off the meal with Bruell's famous cheese service.
While the other restaurants don't have quite the spread of selections like L'Albatros, the build-your-own cheese plate and presentation of the board is still unique at all Bruell restaurants. It takes "cheese plate" to a whole other level.
The kitchen also sent out their Crispy Pork Stack with vegetable risotto and a one-hour egg ($9).
The pulled pork was quite crispy on top, and balanced the creamy texture of the risotto well. The greens had a subtle heat to them, and I enjoyed this dish.

Getting a little full, and still needing room for dessert, we decided to share the Sea Scallops entree with pea puree, roasted fennel, and Thai curry cream sauce ($26).
I appreciated that they split the dish for us (only a half-portion pictured above). This dish was light in flavor, and a perfect end to our meal. We also decided that peas don't get enough recognition.

They didn't let us leave with a special after-dinner dessert wine.
Then, we walked over to Bin 216 for dessert. I hadn't been to the newly-opened Driftwood Catering spot, so I was interested to check it out.
Located inside of the Ohio Theatre, it has that great feel of an ornate, swanky theatre inside of the restaurant and bar. We settled ourselves into two plush chairs, and located the list of desserts.
Specializing in small plates and desserts, I was surprised by how limited the list of desserts was. From a handful of choices, we decided to share the Chocolate Fondue and the Pound Cake (pictured below).
The chocolate fondue was made with dark chocolate, so it was very rich and decadent. It arrived with mixed berries, pound cake, bananas, and then two original dippers: spicy bacon and mini s'mores. I haven't seen either served with fondue before. The pound cake, however, was disappointing. A little too dry and dense, for my personal taste.

This stop at Bin 216 was really the only disappointment during our three days. I loved the space itself, but the dessert menu needs some work, and there was only one other patron in the place on Thursday evening. I think that they opened two months ago a little too quietly. However, I did think that the small plates menu sounded appealing, and I'd like to go back to try some of the dishes.

Exhausted after a busy evening eating our faces off, we called it a night and headed back to the hotel/home. Day one was a wrap, and overall very successful. Tune in later this week to see where I took Sarah on day two and three!

What's one restaurant that you always take out-of-town guests to in Cleveland?

Disclosure: I partnered with Positively Cleveland to host a three-day culinary tour. All food, admission tickets, and travel expenses were paid for by Positively Cleveland. I also received a Cleveland-themed goodie bag. All opinions expressed are 100% my own. 


Crystal @EatDrinkCLE said...

Those scallops at C&H look amazing - I'm definitely planning on trying those! I can't wait for days 2+3 - have you gotten over being STUFFED yet?

Bite Buff said...

Crystal- Not quite yet! Ha.

Renee said...

What a brilliant concept! I thoroughly enjoyed this first part and look forward to days 2 & 3!

Bite Buff said...

Thanks, Renee!