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?