Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New York City Eats

I've been a little quiet over here for the past week. Because...I was in New York City for work, but flew in a day early to enjoy 24 hours with my good friend, and personal food tour guide. There was no shortage of good eats.

We started with some ramen for lunch from Minca on East 5th Street. The exterior of the restaurant looked beyond questionable, but the ramen was fantastic.
Never a place that I would have chosen to go into on my own, based on appearances. But, well worth the trip in.

That evening, we headed to Momofuku Ssam Bar. We sat at the bar, and shared several small plates.
Highlights were the pork steamed buns (not on the menu, but they have them, so ask!), brown butter roasted scallops, steamed duck dumplings, and the pork chop. Ok, so most of the meal. There wasn't a bite there that I wouldn't eat again.

The next morning, I had to get my NY bagel and lox craving satisfied. So, we headed to Russ & Daughters Cafe.
It totally hit the spot.

After another afternoon of walking the city, I had to head to work. Four long days of a work conference, trapped in a hotel meeting room. Exhausting, but beneficial. It sure felt good to get home though!

536 E 5th St
New York, NY 10009
(b/t Avenue A & Avenue B)

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 Second Avenue
(at 13th Street)
New York, NY 10003

Russ & Daughters Cafe
127 Orchard Street
New York, New York 10002

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Jack Flaps

I hadn't been to Jack Flaps before. It was so popular upon its opening that I heard about lines out the door and long waits. Well, now they have two locations (Ohio City and Downtown), and I thought that it was time to try it for myself.

It's still quite popular, so we had a 25-minute wait on Sunday. The place was hoppin'. We even shared a 6-top table with another couple so that we could get seated faster.
I don't have much of a sweet tooth to begin with, and sweet things certainly don't appeal to me much in the morning. So, I skipped right over most of the Jack Flaps menu, and went straight for the Savory section.
Luckily, two dishes sounded good to both of us, so there was going to be some sharing. Mr. H ordered the Benedicto Mexicano ($10.50) with jalapeno cornbread, chorizo ranchero gravy, herb crema, and sunny-up eggs.
He liked it (and I enjoyed my one bite), but he wished it had more gravy and that the gravy texture was thicker. The cornbread was a little dry, and it could have used it.

I ordered the Real F'ing Breakfast Burrito ($10.50) with Adobo-braised beef, hash, scrambled eggs, Manchego, smoked tomato salsa, and crema.
I thought that the flavors and layered textures were very good, but unfortunately it was pretty cold by the time it arrived at the table. I was hungry, we'd had a long wait, and it wasn't worth sending back to the kitchen. So, I just ate it. It wasn't terribly cold, but I do think the quality was comprised, so it wasn't as enjoyable.

Everything was decent, but I wasn't blown away. I can't say that I'd go again.

Jack Flaps
3900 Lorain Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Japanese Fondue at Ushabu

I'm heading into the new year with a drive to start tackling the restaurants on my 2017 To Dine Challenge list. A cold night two weekends ago brought the perfect opportunity to check out Ushabu in Tremont. It's the new shabu-shabu (Japanese fondue) restaurant on Professor Avenue.
Shabu-shabu is a Japanese nabemono hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water. Here is a video on how to properly eat shabu-shabu. Our server told us that it means "swish, swish" like the sound of the meat being cooked as you lightly drag it through the broth with your chopsticks for 3-5 seconds.

While I didn't see the video, or do much research, in advance, it wasn't needed. What can appear to be an intimidating cooking process...
...was expertly explained by our server at the bar. I think your experience will depend a lot on the server you have at Ushabu. Ours was outgoing, interactive, informative, and checked on us frequently. I did notice that the other server was very shy and didn't seem to be instructing as much. I got over my hesitation pretty quickly, and just started throwing things into the simmering broth.

You have your choice of three broth bases. I had the Spicy Miso, Mr. H had the Ginger Chicken, and there is a Kombu (most traditional option). The spicy miso had a subtle heat to it, that didn't overpower the other flavors.

You cook some of the firmer vegetables first, then add in the other vegetables to continue to develop the broth's flavor. Our server gave us a timing estimate on each item, which I promptly forgot, but it didn't seem to matter much. A few items got a little overdone, and I did have to "taste test" items along the way to check their progress. Lastly, it's time to cook your meat.
I ordered the Seafood ($26), which included salmon, flounder, a scallop, three shrimp, and two clams. Mr. H and I wanted to do some sharing, so he ordered the Combo Meat (choose two- $22) and had Ohio Wagyu Beef and Australian Lamb. Rice and three side sauces are served with the meal. I suggest really letting your cooked items drip onto the rice to soak up some broth. Otherwise, it was very dry.

Once you're done cooking, you can choose to ladle your broth over the udon noodles provided. This was my favorite part of the meal! That bowl of soup warmed me right up, and made for some great leftovers.
Now, the restaurant is SMALL. Do yourself a favor and make a reservation, so that you don't get turned away at the door when you heart is set on it.

It was a new style of cuisine for me, but felt familiar as I've done Korean BBQ and traditional fondue before. My brother-in-law just traveled to Japan recently, and he said Ushabu's version of shabu-shabu wasn't too far off what he experienced there. I enjoyed the steamy, cozy restaurant on the cold night, and our server enhanced the experience. Right now, it's also BYOB before they get their liquor license.

First restaurant down for 2017, and it's one I'd recommend!

2173 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ticket Giveaway: Akron's Red and White on Thursday Night 2017

Last year, I attended Akron's Red and White on Thursday Night event for the first time. It benefits the Arthritis Foundation, and it was fun for me to attend an event in the Akron area that exposed me to some restaurants that I don't typically see at events or have the opportunity to try.

Well, the event is back this year, and celebrating its 20th anniversary on Thursday, January 26th.
Very cool. Event proceeds fund critical arthritis research and support local services for the 1.3 million Northeastern Ohioans with arthritis and related diseases.

It's being held at the Quaker Station at The University of Akron from 5:30PM - 9:00PM, and it will feature restaurants like Bistro on Main, BOMBA Tacos, Chowder House Cafe, DBA, Nuevo Modern Mexican, and the Taverne of Richfield.

I enjoyed sampling some new-to-me restaurants last year, like Chowder House Cafe. I even won a silent auction package for a dinner at Chowder House Cafe, so that I could go check it out for myself (and 5 friends) at a later date.

Tickets are $85 for General Admission, or $125 for VIP (the VIP Lounge is worth it!). They are available online for purchase.

One lucky reader will get to attend this year's event! Just use the rafflecopter form below for multiple ways to enter the giveaway. You can tweet daily for additional entries. A winner will be announced on Friday the 13th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with two event tickets for myself, and two to give away, in exchange for this post and a review of the event. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 To Dine Challenge

Happy New Year! Forgive me, I'm two days late in posting this, but here it is...the 2017 To Dine Challenge list!

Each year, you send me restaurants suggestions throughout the month of December. On January 1st, as a New Year's resolution of sorts, I announce the 10 that I've selected and then challenge myself to dine at them over the next 12 months.

In 2016, time just flew by and other things in my life were a priority. As I wrapped up the year, I realized that I had several more restaurants left on the To Dine Challenge list. There was no way that I could get to them all before December 31st. So...that got me thinking. What other restaurants have I not made it to in the past?

I dug up the previous lists, and decided that we'll do something a little different this year. I'm starting the 2017 To Dine Challenge list with any restaurant that I've skipped in the past (only 3 in addition to the 2016 list if we exclude the ones that closed). Here they are:

North End Wine Bar (2016)
Taste of Jamaica (2016)
Chow Chow (2016)
Koko Bakery (2016)
Tinkers Creek Road Tavern (2011)
The Original Steaks and Hoagies (2014)
Thyme2 (2014)

That left me with 3 spots to fill for the 2017 list. I decided to pull in "newly" opened restaurants that I haven't tried yet.

Proper Pig Smokehouse 

There you have it. 10 restaurants, 12 months.

Who's coming with me?