Monday, January 18, 2016

Sarita Opens in Lakewood

Ok, well, winter is officially here in Cleveland. If you're finally crawling out of your post-holiday daze, and this weather has you feeling a bit down, then I have something right up your alley today.

Right before Mr. H and I scooted to NY to spend the holidays with my family, we attended a blogger event at the newly opened Sarita restaurant in Lakewood.
The restaurant opened in the location of the former (and well-loved) Players on Madison spot. However, fans of Players won't be disappointed, because its longtime Executive Chef, Anthony Romano, is the one behind Sarita. He and his business partner, Sandy, met at Players, and have been friends for 15+ years. The restaurant space has been overhauled, and it has a clean and modern feel to it now.

On that particular evening, the bloggers and our guests were treated to samplings of various dishes. Most of which can be found on the Sarita menu, like the Cast Iron Cornbread, Sarita Salad, Lime-Coriander Dusted Sea Bass, Espresso Crusted Bison Strip, and incredible desserts.
There was not one bite of food that I wasn't happy with, with the exception of the tomato-basil sauce paired with the stuffed dates. It just didn't need it. This was one of the best meals that Mr. H and I have had in a long time, and that's sayin' a lot. Because, you all know, we dine out a LOT.
I had never dined at Players on Madison, so I don't have anything to compare it to, but I love the look of Sarita. White, black, and pops of red give the space a clean and crisp feel to it. Sandy herself designed the wall installation of various plates and bowls, and the utensil fixture above the communal bar table.

Confession...the food was so good that Mr. H and I had to immediately go back and try Sarita again on our own. Like, the very next night. 

It's been a while since a restaurant menu just sounded so tempting from start to finish. We had an empty fridge at home and one evening left with no dinner plans before we loaded the car up for the holiday break. Enter Sarita. Perfect timing.

Mr. H and I shared the Oysters of the Day ($12 for 6 or $20 for 12).
We also couldn't resist an appetizer special that evening, the Butternut Squash Pierogi with bacon, caramelized onions and creme fraiche. The portion was so large that it could have been an entree. On a chilly December evening, this hearty dish warmed me up from the inside out.
I ordered the Horseradish Crusted Grouper with chantrelles, corn, tarragon, whipped potatoes, and a orange-pommery vinagrette ($29).
The fish was a tad overcooked and dried out, probably in an attempt to really crisp up the horseradish crust, but the flavors were delightful. More sauce on the plate could have helped mask the dryness. That aside, the dish was so enjoyable. I loved the flavor and texture of the whipped potatoes, and the mushroom and corn mixture was wonderful.

Mr. H ordered the Ancho BBQ Pork Chop ($24), and he loved it. It was thick-cut, prepared expertly at medium-rare, and the flavors were spot-on.

The price point is a bit high on a few of the dishes, in my opinion. However, the food quality is there and the portions are a good size. You never like to feel cheated on portions when paying a high price tag.

The atmosphere is fresh and modern, but still inviting and warm. The staff was incredible during both visits. Their attentiveness and knowledge of the menu were appreciated. We also enjoyed a couple of craft cocktails, and I had a lot to choose from on the wine list. I've already sent some people in since our December visits, and I hope that you'll go check them out too. I think that this restaurant will now be thrown into our rotation of "special evenings out" destinations.

However, they are also offering daily Happy Hour at the bar from 5-7PM, which is hard to find. $6 - $10 food items, and drink specials daily.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend a blogger tasting with a guest, and all food was complimentary. We paid for our drinks, and the second visit on our own. I also received a $25 gift card. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 

14523 Madison Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107

Friday, January 15, 2016

Red & White Winner

Phew, it's Friday. What a week it's been, and I'm so happy to see the weekend ahead. I've been serving jury duty this week. Have you ever served? Not the most fun way to spend hours of a day.

But, it's over, and yesterday was Mr. H's birthday. So, that means birthday celebrations this weekend! I am taking him to Ginko tomorrow night. It will be our first time dining there. Have you been? What should we get?

Also, today is fun because I get to announce the winner of the Red & White on Thursday Night ticket giveaway. Thank you to everyone that entered. The random winner is...Dale (for tweeting on January 14th). Please check your email and reply by Monday to claim your tickets, or another winner will be selected.

If you did not win, it's not too late to purchase tickets. Visit their website for more information.

Happy weekend, all!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ticket Giveaway: Red & White on Thursday Night

On Thursday, January 28, 2016 you could join me and more than 750 guests at the 19th Annual Red & White on Thursday Night, a wine and food event presented by Cleveland Clinic Akron General, benefiting the Arthritis Foundation.
The evening takes place from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. at Quaker Station at The University of Akron, 135 S. Broadway St., Akron, OH 44308.

The event, voted one of the best in Akron by AkronLife Magazine, is expected to raise more than $82,000. All proceeds support critical local Arthritis Foundation initiatives including advocacy and access, help and support, and research.

In addition to delicious dishes from Akron’s top chefs and a variety of wines from domestic and international wineries, Red & White on Thursday Night also features an exciting silent and live auction. An exclusive VIP Lounge experience is also planned that will give VIP ticket holders access to special fare from Chef Dante Boccuzzi of DBA, specialty desserts and high-end wine pairings. Special features and other surprises are planned. VIP ticket holders also have access to the main event.

General admission tickets are $85 in advance, or $95 at the door. VIP Lounge tickets are $125 in advance, or $135 at the door. Purchase tickets online at or call 216-285-2822.

You also have the chance to win two General Admission tickets to this event! I've partnered with the Arthritis Foundation to host a ticket giveaway this week. Use the Rafflecopter method below, and a random winner will be announced on Friday, January 15th. Don't forget that you can tweet daily for additional entries!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Participating restaurants include: 
Chef Dante Boccuzzi of DBA
Barmacy Bar & Grill
Bistro on Main
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse
Cilantro Thai & Sushi Restaurant
Chocolates by Erin
Chowder House Café
Hudson’s Restaurant & Catering
Melt Bar and Grilled – Akron
Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar
Panera Bread
Saffron Patch in the Valley
Silver Lake Country Club
The Galaxy Restaurant & Banquet Center
The Pierogi Lady
The Taverne of Richfield
Thorpe’s Market Avenue Grill & Pub
West Side Bakery

Personally, I can't wait to try food from Chowder House and Nuevo, two places that I've been meaning to get to.

About the Arthritis Foundation
Arthritis is the nation’s leading cause of disability and affects more than 50 million Americans and nearly 300,000 children. In Northeastern Ohio, nearly 1.3 million people of all ages have been diagnosed with arthritis. More than 108,000 of those are Summit County residents, according to 2013 figures. The Arthritis Foundation is the Champion of Yes. Leading the fight for the arthritis community, the Foundation helps conquer everyday battles through life-changing information and resources, access to optimal care, advancements in science and community connections. The Arthritis Foundation’s goal is to chart a winning course, guiding families in developing personalized plans for living a full life – and making each day another stride towards a cure. The Foundation also publishes Arthritis Today, the award-winning magazine that reaches 4.2 million readers.

Good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with two VIP tickets for myself and a guest, and two General Admission tickets to give away to one lucky reader in exchange for this blog post. All opinions stated are 100% my own. Image and content provided by the Arthritis Foundation. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Jarrett Family

If you have followed my blog for a while, then you have probably caught on that Jeff Jarrett is one of my favorite Cleveland chefs. I met him during his North End Wine Bar days, was thrilled to see him take the helm at AMP 150 for years, and have been excited to support him in his newest gig as General Manager/Executive Chef for the Hub 55 Project that is revitalizing the 55th Street and St. Clair neighborhood. He is literally at every culinary event that Mr. H and I attend around town, with his hands in everything, and constantly giving back to the community. Including the monthly Dinner in the Dark chef series, which he co-founded with chef Brian Okin, that donates a portion of each event's proceeds to a local charity.

Over the years, I've grown to consider him a good friend, and I've enjoyed following his family's story. You see, he and his wife, Tammy, are high school sweethearts. After having three sons, they decided to start the adoption process. Since 2008, the Jarrett family has opened their home to two little precious girls, both with unique special needs. You can read more about their story on Tammy's blog here.

Their story is full of challenges and obstacles, but their love and spirit have persevered. The family is moving forward with the adoption process once again, with possibly two special needs children from China.

The adoption process can be lengthy, and quite costly. I have much admiration for anyone that chooses that path. It's not easy.

But, you can help this family.

To raise funds to aid in the adoption, Chef Jeff is raffling off his culinary services! He will come cook a Valentines's Day dinner for two in the winner's home. Tickets are just $10, or 3 entries for $20. For each additional $10 donation, you will gain one more entry into the raffle.

To enter the Valentine's Day raffle, visit Tammy's blog and use the Donate button in the right-hand column. Make sure that you leave a comment on the blog post with your name and donation amount, so that they can easily track the entries.

The winner will be announced on February 7th.

Please consider supporting the family in their journey towards adoption for the third, and fourth, time. I am humbled by their love for one another, and their drive to expand their family with these children that so desperately need it.

Thank you for supporting one of Cleveland's best chefs, and my friend, that has personally and professionally given so much back to the community. It's our turn.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 To Dine Challenge

Happy New Year! I hope that you enjoyed last night's festivities, whatever they may have been.

As most of us ring in the new year, we often think ahead to the year to come. What will it bring us? How will we improve? What new challenges will the year present itself with?

For me, that always means setting the annual To Dine Challenge. Each December, my readers submit restaurant suggestions for the upcoming year. On December 31st, Mr. H and I sit down and narrow down the list to just 10. Then, I challenge myself to dine at each of those 10 restaurants over the next 12 months. I publish this list on January 1st each year, to hold myself accountable, and to encourage you to join me on my dining excursions!

So, here it is...

2016 To Dine Challenge
Banter Beer and Wine
Caribe Bake Shop
Chow Chow
Citizen Pie
Craft Beer Bar
Great Scott Tavern
Koko Bakery
North End Wine Bar
Red Lantern Kitchen & Bar
Taste of Jamaica

What do you think of the list? As always, it was hard to choose. You all come up with some great suggestions each year. I had 39 restaurants to choose from this year. Thank you!

So, who's dining with me at each of these restaurants? Just leave me a comment below. It's always fun to have you come along.

Here's wishing you and yours a Happy New Year, and I hope that 2016 brings you everything that you hope for. This time of year can be exciting, thinking about what lies ahead for us. For me, that means some delicious eats, thanks to you!