Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Summer Thursdays at Graffiti

Ah, summer is officially here, and Cleveland is ALIVE right now. Between the Cavs excitement, better weather, and longer daylight...we are all a little happier. For me, summer is filled with some of my favorite foods, like good BBQ.

We all know that I love the guys behind Cork & Cleaver and Graffiti restaurants, so I was pumped to see a special event hit the patio of Graffiti: A Social Kitchen this summer...
Summer Thursdays- Fat Casual BBQ Take Over
The regular menu is not available on Thursdays, and diners can select from a special menu of appetizers, salads, meats by the 1/2 pound, and classic BBQ side dishes. Or, you can go straight for The Fat Casual Picnic, which includes a little bit of everything.
You get small portions of all of the meats (except the Prime Rib) and all of the sides (except Cornbread). Mr. H and I split it, and it was a great way to get a taste of everything.

Favorites included the smoked chicken wings, ribs, sausage, and corned beef. Don't forget to grab some of the homemade BBQ sauces from the station.
This is the aftermath...
Needless to say, we enjoyed it, and you'll find us back on the Graffiti patio on a Thursday this summer.

Edgewater Live is also happening on Thursdays in the same neighborhood, so Graffiti is offering a boxed BBQ picnic to-go option as well. Head on over to check it out in the Gordon Square Arts District!

Graffiti: A Social Kitchen
1261 West 76th Street
Cleveland, OH 44102

Monday, June 20, 2016

Old Brooklyn Summer Cinema

As Mr. H and I continue to picture our future in Cleveland, we are leaning towards staying in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood. His family's business is here, it's affordable, accessible, and a real up-and-coming neighborhood. We just need to find our "forever" home, and the inventory is limited.

In an attempt to connect with and support my neighborhood, I joined the #whatsyouroldbrooklyn Social Media Ambassadors program with the Old Brooklyn CDC. If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook (all @BiteBuff), you'll start to see highlights from our life in the neighborhood.

Like last Tuesday, when the Cleveland Summer Cinema kicked off. Each Tuesday, through August 9th, Loew Park will feature a movie, farmers market, Green Machine food truck, and Platform Brewing beer tent.
After riding our bikes over, Mr. H and I browsed the local goods, purchase some unbelievable strawberries, sipped on a local Platform brew, and had a little picnic on a blanket as Trivia kicked off.
We enjoyed a Chicken Quesadilla, grilled garlic scapes in soy sauce, and Green Machine Grilled Cheese from the Green Machine food truck. They will be the exclusive food truck all summer long.
With the longer summer days upon us, the start of the movie was just too late for us this time, so we headed home before it started. One of these days, I'll stay, because that HUGE screen is awesome. If you live close by, check out the Summer Cinema in Old Brooklyn each Tuesday. Next up...Minions.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Gyro Spot

I was sooo excited when Mr. H heard that the former Fergie's in Parma was opening as Gyro Spot. We'd been in mourning since it closed. It was hands-down the BEST gyro in Greater Cleveland.

A co-worker of Mr. H's had stopped in to the new bar, and reported back that the gyro was just as good as he remembered. Sadly, it's not true.

Mr. H and I stopped in there on Saturday. The renovated bar and kitchen space is much improved. Lighter, brighter, open, and more seating.
We perched on some bar stools, right in front of the main event.
I was salivating at this point.

I didn't need a menu...
...bring me a gyro!

Immediately, we could tell that the "original Fergie's recipe" that they were boasting on their website is a lie. The sauce was thicker, chunkier, and didn't come close to the wonderful tang that the original had.
The meat was nicely seasoned, and had a lovely crisp to it from the rotating spits. However, Fergie's was allllllll about the sauce, and this sauce? Not the same. Also, my pita was slightly stale and immediately split when I picked it up (after eating quite a bit of the meat off this plentiful sandwich first).

This gyro may still be a step above others around town, but it's no Fergie's. Maybe they'll tweak the sauce, and it'll improve? One can hope, because I'm still jonesing for an original.

Gyro Spot Bar + Grill
5587 Ridge Road
Parma, OH

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Punch Bowl Social Cleveland

One thing that I'm loving about the new development in The Flats is that you can make a whole night of entertainment within walking distance. For us, that has included stops at Punch Bowl Social on several occasions.

I was already familiar with the place, having stopped in there for both pre and post-dinner drinks and games. The monthly CLE Dinner Club outing had also given me a taste of the menu several months ago. But, when they reached out to me to see if I would be interested in partnering for a review, I wanted to take them up on it to really experience the "three prong approach" of Eat.Drink.Social.

Armed with two friends, we started off the evening right, with one of their signature punches. I went with the bourbon-based The Bachelor's Bowl.
I've almost always ordered one of their punches, and I can say that they go down easy.

With drink in hand, we got a full tour of the facility, which can be hard to take in when it's a busier weekend night. I noticed things that I hadn't seen before, and I finally got a peek at the upstairs area. Which includes this giant Scrabble board!
The upstairs would be perfect for a private party, with plenty of gaming options, a bar, and karaoke room. They have four bars total, and plans for a fifth once the rooftop patio opens. That space alone will accommodate up to 300 guests (150 seated), with stunning views of the river and Downtown.

Then, it was time for some food. I did notice that the Executive Chef was a change since the CLE Dinner Club event we attended. They are a scratch kitchen, making everything in-house, except for their bread and desserts. The desserts are coming from Luna Bakery on the east side of Cleveland.

The meal started off on a high note, with these fresh biscuits and jam. I'm glad that there weren't more.
We decided to share the Stuffed Creminis with taleggio ($9).
And Deviled Eggs ($6). Two standard classics that were easy to share.
I had a really hard time choosing my entree from the appetizing menu, but I settled on the Very Serious Grilled Cheese ($12).
With gruyere and goat cheeses, poached pear, and quince...this is an "adult" grilled cheese on steroids. My only wish? The ciabatta needed to be grilled a bit more to hold up to the gooey insides. Otherwise, this was a fantastic sandwich, and I'll be adding some poached fruit to my homemade ones in the future.

The Cubano ($13) was another hit at the table. The mustard cream was a real standout there. Just a bit more toasting on the bread needed here as well, but an excellent choice and the "reason" that our server started working there. Their version of Chicken and Waffles ($16) is too sweet for my personal taste, but a shot of local Pope's Hot Sauce was the perfect addition to the dish. The waffle itself had great texture.

They are sourcing a handful of products from local Cleveland vendors, and many others from the home of the original Punch Bowl Social, Denver. Which is always a good thing.

In a complete food coma, it was time to play some games. Aside from classic arcade games, you can choose from things like darts, shuffleboard, bowling, table tennis, Foosball, karaoke, and more.
Our choice? Bowling!
Let's just say that two of us combined still didn't touch the score of our winner, but we had lots of laughs (and gutter balls). One thing that I discovered...they have "bumpers" and you can actually set the lane to put them up only on certain players. Great for families, or me.

So, while you can make a whole night of it down in The Flats, you can even do that at just one stop at Punch Bowl Social. Also, it's totally family-friendly before 10PM, and they are running a summer special where kids can bowl for free on Monday - Wednesday from 11AM - 2PM. Breakfast is served until 3PM every day, and it's a great location for a workday lunch. An escape to the riverside, and maybe a quick game of skee-ball?

I enjoyed myself even more than past visits, and we'll continue to stop in here. Visiting another city and looking for something to do? They have 11 locations, and more on the way.

Punch Bowl Social Cleveland
1086 West 11th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113

Disclosure: All food, drink, and games were provided in exchange for this blog post. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Coastal Taco

Personally, I am enjoying all of the development on the east bank of The Flats, and we find ourselves down there often now. When we heard about Coastal Taco Bar + Chill going in down there, we were excited about the concept. To be honest, Mr. H just loves anything in a tortilla.

Well, they opened their doors about two weeks ago, and we popped in on Friday evening.
The menu is limited to a handful of assorted tacos (no build-your-own here), and a couple of appetizers, sides, and bowls. Narrow menus can often be a sign of limited items being done well, so I'm usually in favor. Not the case here, unfortunately.

The interior has a high-level of detail to capture the atmosphere of a beach-side, nautical East Coast joint.
The crisp white and soft gray tones are soothing.
But it does feel "chainy" as soon as you walk in the door.

We saddled up to a table inside, because the weather was GORGEOUS and their patio and outdoor bar were packed. I was immediately drawn to the Happy Hour drink specials. It hit the spot on a warm evening.
A tray of complimentary "chips" arrived, but our server didn't tell us what they were. Nothing to dip them in either, which seemed odd.
To order, you take one of the forms and a pencil provided on your table (multiple people on one form), and check off your desired items. It all arrives family-style on one tray.
Which would have been fine, but two servers couldn't identify them on the tray, so we just dug in and hoped that we were grabbing the right ones. Overall, very bland and uninspired. They are small---about two generous bites each. And corn tortillas only. I don't mind a good corn tortilla, but I prefer flour, and having options would keep all diners happy. Hope that changes in the future.

While we were munching away on our tacos, runners tried to deliver food to our table three times that wasn't ours. Safe to say that they all need a bit more training on the table numbering. It's to be expected with such a brand new spot, but it was still comical.
The outdoor area of Coastal Taco is fantastic, with stunning river and city views, outdoor games like Giant Jenga and Cornhole, fire pits, soft seating, and more.

This could be a really great addition to the area, if they can clean up their service issues and improve the quality of the food a bit. It may seem like I'm being harsh here, since they are so new, but it doesn't mean that I don't think it can get better with time. I'll never forget about how the beloved Barrio in Tremont was downright awful the first two times that we dined there. Look at them now. But, Cleveland has some great taco restaurants these days, and Coastal isn't on par yet. It was a really disappointing visit. Fingers crossed. 

Coastal Taco
1146 Old River Road
Cleveland, OH 44113

Friday, June 3, 2016

Tremont's Tandul

I'm still on the hunt for my favorite Indian restaurant in the Cleveland area. I may not have found it in Tremont's new Tandul, but I did find something else that I'd been looking for...an Indian restaurant with a buffet available other than weekday lunch.

I was first exposed to Indian cuisine at a charming little hole-in-the-wall in Syracuse that had a huge buffet on Sunday evenings. That's how I was able to sample many dishes, and discover my favorites. I've been looking for something similar to take Mr. H to in Cleveland, since Indian isn't his favorite cuisine. I'd like him to be able to try a wide variety of dishes, instead of being stuck with what I always order for us to share.

Last Saturday, I met a group of girlfriends for lunch at the newly opened Tandul on Professor Avenue. The smells were intoxicating in that place, and we all couldn't resist the lunch buffet. It was small, but still allowed us to try a handful of dishes. The lunch buffet is offered daily, including weekends.
For my personal taste, I would have liked a higher spice level. But, the food was all enjoyable, and I do like their naan.

Mr. H and I also recently had takeout from Tandul, and I had my first Garlic Cheese Naan with the cheese baked right in. Heavenly. 

I liked the food both times, but I'm not ready to declare it in the running for my favorite Indian restaurant in town. I feel like I need to give it one more try, and order a dish to my preferred heat level. I was also conservative with my spice level when we ordered takeout, and it just didn't have the heat that I love from a good strong curry sauce.

Good news for those that haven't made it over to Tremont yet. You can have Tandul delivered to your door through Skip the Dishes and GrubHub.

Tandul Indian Restaurant and Bar
2505 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Peek at What's New at Table 45

If you've followed this blog for a while now, then you know I am a fan of basically everything that Cleveland restaurateur Zack Bruell does. The cheese at L'Albatros would make it to my "death bed meal" list, the atmosphere and views at Alley Cat can't be beat in Cleveland, and his restaurants are a frequent stop when entertaining out-of-town friends and family.

So, when I was invited to an intimate tasting at the Table 45 chef's table last week, I didn't even blink before saying "yes!" For me, it was the first time seeing the chef's table, and it truly is a special nook that is unique and quite an experience. Tucked in the kitchen of Table 45 at the Intercontinental Hotel at the Cleveland Clinic, guests have front row seats.
Before the food had even hit the table, we were enjoying quite a show from Chef Bruell and the new team at Table 45. The Intercontinental Executive Chef Michael Swann, and Table 45 Chef de Cuisine Matthew Anderson (who I've known and loved during his time at Umami and Crop Kitchen), produced one heck of a meal, and we got to watch every step of the way.
Four "food media" representatives (who, me? I'm just a little ole blogger over here. The rest were serious journalists, and it was an honor to dine with them), and our guests, started with some sushi on the Table 45 patio, with my favorite wine of the night...Von Schleinitz Secco Sparkling Dry Riesling.
That is one wine that I'll be tracking down to purchase. Also, I asked Chef Matt if sushi will make its way back on to the lunch menu at Table 45. I host business lunches there often enough, and I really missed the sushi options when they disappeared from the recent menu. Fingers crossed, because Matt has always put out great sushi wherever he's been.

The eight-course meal included highlights like the Pan Seared Diver Scallop with chickpea puree, raspberry glace and fresh lemon, the classic Creme Brule with torched sugar crust for dessert, the Pan Seared Chilean Seabass with buttermilk smashed potatoes and a caper-tomato white wine broth...
...Roasted Chicken with mole rojo, Spanish rice and fresh coriander (served with another favorite wine of the night, the Chateau Musar Juene Rouge from Lebanon)...
...and a Grilled New York Strip with warm fingerling salad, wilted arugula, wild mushrooms, and a port wine sauce.
I was stuffed after the generous family-style meal, but I couldn't resist a second piece of that beef!

What made the evening truly special was the interaction with the chefs, and the company we dined with. That's the beauty of a good meal. It brings people together, whether you're family, friends, or complete strangers that share a bond over an appreciation of food and the city we love.
Mr. H wasn't feeling well that day, so a quick text to my buddy Crystal was sent that morning, and I don't think she minded the last minute plans! Poor hubby, he really missed out.

But, lucky for him, and you, there are two ways that you can experience Bruell Restaurants coming up.

The annual Tour de Bruell kicked off Memoral Day Weekend. Diners have until Labor Day Weekend to complete the tour by ordering an entree at six of Bruell's restaurants, get your pass stamped, and then be entered to win some fabulous prizes like dinner in your home from Chef Bruell, a NEW progressive dinner excursion for five lucky winners that complete the tour within 30 days, and everyone that completes their card is invited to a private party at Table 45 in September. These are some serious rewards, just for dining at some of Cleveland's best restaurants.

I've been to all of his restaurants (except Dynomite), but I've never completed the official tour. It's on my "Cleveland Dining Bucket List," which I'll be sharing with you shortly. Maybe this is the year?

Aren't up for taking on the challenge of the tour? You can also get a taste of Bruell's restaurants by attending a free wine tasting on June 6th with CBS Sports commentator Jim Nantz's wine label, The Calling. Reservations for the complimentary wine tasting can be made at L'Albatros (6PM), Table 45 (7PM), Parallax (8PM), and Alley Cat (9PM). Zack and Jim will be traveling to each of the restaurants, so you don't want to miss this. The Calling is the official wine partner of the Tour, and only 40 reservations will be accepted at each of the locations on June 6th.

Each of Bruell's restaurants have a unique vibe and style of cuisine, and I think that Table 45 is often overlooked by Cleveland diners. Well, it shouldn't be. Zack calls it his favorite dining space in Cleveland, and its sleek, international vibe is truly unusual. With Chef Matt at the daily helm of the kitchen, I think that I'll be finding my way there more often.

Table 45
Intercontinental Hotel Cleveland
9801 Carnegie Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106

Disclosure: I was invited, with a guest, to attend a complimentary dinner with wine pairings at the Table 45 chef's table. All opinions stated are 100% my own.