Friday, March 31, 2017

The Black Pig

As you all know, I'm always on the hunt for my next fun dining experience at a new-to-me place. But, sometimes, you just need a reminder of why an original favorite remains a go-to spot. Mr. H and I had just that experience last weekend.

When The Black Pig moved from its West 25th location in Ohio City to the new(er) location on West 28th Street/Bridge Avenue, they did a Kickstarter campaign. We supported, and the level we selected included a Chef's Dinner with beverage pairings for two. I'm embarrassed to say that it took this long for us to cash it in.

We've been in quite frequently (in our world) since they relocated, but we just never pulled the trigger on scheduling the tasting. Lucky for us, we finally did, because it was a fantastic time.

They really have one of the better craft cocktail lists going on at a restaurant. Ever-changing, and always tasty. The one that started us off had clarified milk in it! A very cool process that was explained to us, and then I promptly forgot. I blame the wine pairings that followed. Paired with a pork rind and what I imagine was a house made hot sauce, it was a great start to the meal.
They make their pastas in-house.
You can do a pasta tasting, if you're interested in trying more than one. I've never had one that I didn't like.
We had a great piece of trout.
An ash-crusted ribeye.
And dessert that was plated just beautifully.
This is only about half of what we were served. We just rolled out of there.

It was a big smack in the face of why we grew to love this place over the years, and a welcomed not-so-gentle reminder that we need to make it in more often.

The Black Pig
2801 Bridge Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chow Chow Kitchen

Chow Chow Kitchen was on my 2016 To Dine Challenge list, and as you know, I never made it there last year. So, when I decided to pull over any un-visited restaurants from the past onto the 2017 To Dine Challenge list, they made this year's list as well. Then, I heard that they were closing their doors at the end of March and moving on to take over the kitchen at Parkview Nite Club. So, I knew that I had to get my butt in there ASAP if I was going to fulfill the list this year.
I hate to kick them while they're down, but Mr. H and I had a pretty terrible meal there the other day.

They have become known for their Fried Chicken ($7.50 with a side), but they have offered a few other dinners, po'boys, soups, and classic Southern side dishes. The restaurant has four tables for dine-in, but it is mostly a takeout joint.
Of course, we had to go right for the fried chicken if that's the signature dish.
Honestly, it was the oddest textured chicken I've ever had. The battered skin was crispy and not overly greasy, but the chicken itself was so moist that it actually became squishy and sponge-like. Not pleasurable at all, and I barely touched it after three bites. It was probably the worst fried chicken I've had.

The dinner came with one side dish, and I chose the mac n' cheese. It was fine, and I'll leave it at that. We also shared a coleslaw, which was not creamy enough to really any good. I like coleslaw to either be creamy, or vinegar-based. This was just raw cabbage barely dressed and bland.

They are officially closing their Lakewood doors at the end of this month, and taking over the kitchen at Parkview on April 27th. Can't say that I'd ever try that fried chicken again based on this experience. What do you think, have you had it and enjoyed it? Was it just "off" because they are closing down?

Chow Chow Kitchen
14201 Madison Avenue
Lakewood, OH

Monday, March 27, 2017

Taste of Jamaica

I had a mid-day doctor's appointment on the east side last week, and it was just around the corner from a 2017 To Dine Challenge restaurant that I needed to try...Taste of Jamaica.

This casual restaurant gives you a hint of Jamaica in the food, decor, and music. There are plenty of tables, and a couple of booths, but they appear to do a lot of takeout. All of the food is ordered and picked up at the counter and served in to-go containers. There was a lot of foot traffic in and out as we ate lunch.
Mr. H and I grabbed a booth after both ordering the Wednesday special of Jerk Fried Chicken with two sides (after they were out of the Jerk Shrimp I tried to order). I had the rice and beans and fried plantains.
It was a hefty plate of food, and I took half of it home for leftovers. The rice and beans had a great curry flavor to them, and had soaked up some of the sauce from the chicken. The plantains were fantastic, and they would be a must-order for me. I liked the chicken's sauce a lot, but it didn't taste as similar to the jerk seasoning I've had before. As "fried" chicken, it didn't stay crispy at all in that sauce, but it was still quite enjoyable.

I'd say this one was a "win" on the To Dine list!

Taste of Jamaica
5104 Mayfield Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124

Friday, March 24, 2017

Pearl Road Tavern

Mr. H and I have still been supporting the Old Brooklyn Restaurant Month being hosted by the Old Brooklyn Families Group in March. The second week highlighted restaurants and bars from Pearl Road.

We popped into the Hopp Inn first, for a cold beer and a plate of pierogi. The dive bar has its charm, and the homemade pierogi were actually quite good. They are owned by the same folks behind the Polish Diner in Parma.

Sadly, our second stop wasn't as successful. We popped into the Pearl Road Tavern (a little less dive-y) down the street, for another beer (more extensive list and craft beers here) and some food. We shared the fried shrimp platter with pierogi, and they just didn't even come close to what we'd just had. These claimed to be "housemade" but they tasted as though they came from a box.
We also split a Buffalo Chicken Wrap with steak fries, and it was honestly the worst buffalo wrap I've ever had. It had barely any chicken, very little sauce, the wrap was an odd texture, and only lettuce was included. The wrap was packed with it. I didn't even finish my half, once the chicken was gone. I also love a good steak fry, but these were not it. They were so under cooked that several of them were inedible. What a letdown.

Also, do they have a lot of fights there? From the nature of signs posted around the place, I'm inclined to think so. The status of the women's bathroom was enough to turn me off from this spot as well. That's certainly one place that I don't feel the need to visit again.

Pearl Road Tavern
4370 Pearl Road
Cleveland, OH 44109

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Natural Wines at Bruell Restaurants

Zack Bruell Restaurant Group is introducing a new line of highly acclaimed natural wines at two of his restaurants: L’Albatros in University Circle and Parallax in Tremont. Mr. H and I had the pleasure of attending the media preview last week, to sip and sample an assortment of these wines, and to snack on some expertly paired Parallax bites. Like their famous sushi...
...smoked salmon tartar...
...and tempura vegetables, among others.
Bruell's simplistic approach to food pairs well with natural wines, because they are distinguished by a biodynamic or organic growing process, coupled with minimal technological intervention during winemaking and cellaring. No yeasts, sugars or bacteria are added in the process. Fermentation is spontaneous from natural yeasts and bacteria present on the grape skins during harvest. The only additive can be a small amount of Sulphur for bottling stability. Often, the wines are unfiltered.
Tasting the wines on their own, then with food, and after they had sat for a while changed every sip's experience. These wines are always evolving. Their highly active characteristics make them an ideal pairing with contemporary foods that feature intensive flavors. One thing that I learned was that I've probably had a natural wine before, and just didn't know it.

The only one that I didn't care for was a Chardonnay that we sampled, but here is my favorite white and favorite red from the evening:

  • 2013 Dry Tokaji, Oremas, “Mandelas,” Hungary- crisp, gooseberry, caramelized pineapple upside-down cake $44 (left)

  • 2015 Mouvedre, Dirty & Rowdy, “Familiar Vineyard,” California-fresh strawberries, strudel, limestone $55 (right)

I'll be tracking these down.

Right now, diners can find 14 natural wines at L'Albatros and Parallax on a special wine listing, but they will eventually be integrated into the regular wine list and denoted as a natural wine. All fall at a very approachable price point.

The introduction of these wines onto their menus is part of an emerging movement that has upended an influential group of winemakers, Michelin-starred restaurants and sommeliers throughout the world. The trend has only really taken off in New York City, Chicago, and Portland in the United States. Julian Bruell, Director of Service, wants their restaurant group to be on the forefront of bringing this movement to Cleveland.

Disclosure: I was invited, with a guest, to a complimentary media preview and tasting. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Saucisson Opening

The lady butchers of Saucisson opened their doors last week on their brick and mortar shop in Salvic Village!
Mr. H and I stopped by on opening day. Shoppers will find all of their classics that we've grown to love at farmer's markets.
OMG, this lamb terrine pan-fried on a breakfast sandwich was heaven.
But, you'll also now find fresh cuts, like these chops, in the shop.
I also wasn't expecting the cooler of frozen soups!
There are a few tables inside, because they will also be offering a couple of daily specials for take-out or dine in.
They will be open from 11AM - 7PM on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for now. They use only the highest quality local meats, and have a real passion for what they do. So get out and support them!

5324 Fleet Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44105

Friday, March 17, 2017

Kelsey Elizabeth Cakes

I made the mistake of following Kelsey Elizabeth Cakes on Instagram. I don't even have a sweet tooth, but I found myself drooling over their adorable sweet treats.

We found ourselves in Rocky River to pick out some paint samples two weeks ago, and I caught sight of the Kelsey Elizabeth Cakes shop across the street.
So, when we headed back to the hardware store this past weekend to purchase the final paint, I convinced Mr. H to stop in. We were instantly greeted by this gorgeous, and girly, chair.
They had an assortment of cupcakes, macaron flavors, bars, and cookies. The shop also carries products other than their own, like chocolate bars, etc.

I grabbed a Sea Salt Fudge macaron to snack on immediately. There were about five flavors that I had a hard time choosing between.

Mr. H and I took home a stuffed cookie to share later. It was a chocolate chip cookie sandwich with vanilla buttercream and cookie dough (pictured top, left below). Yes, cookie dough INSIDE of a cookie. The buttercream was a little too sweet for my non-sweet tooth self, but getting to that cookie dough in the center was worth it!
From the posts I see on social media, this shop can handle just about anything, while making it uber pretty. I love the frilly, girly look and feel of not only the shop, but most of her goods.

Kelsey Elizabeth Cakes
20033 Detroit Rd.
Rocky River, OH 44116

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dewey's Pizza

I wouldn't normally write about a chain restaurant, but Dewey's Pizza is primarily only located in Ohio, so it'll get a pass. Plus, it's just darn good.

Mr. H had never been, and I'd only been once in Cincinnati and once to the Lakewood location here in Cleveland (also in Cedar Lee and Fairlawn locally).

The Lakewood location is bright and welcoming, with a slight industrial feel.
The pizza making happens behind a glass wall visible to the dining room, so it can be fun to watch them, particularly for kids.

Mr. H and I split the small pizza half and half. We did two of their gourmet pizzas---Porky Fig with a fig jam base, proscuitto, caramelized red onions, and gorgonzola and the Green Lantern with garlic, mushrooms, goat cheese, artichokes, and pesto.
The crust is crispy, yet doughy without being too thick, and the toppings and sauces always have great flavor. Overall, a solid pie.

I still don't think I've found "my favorite" pizza in Cleveland, even after 9 year and an exhausted search. But, I do enjoy Dewey's.

Dewey's Pizza
18516 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107

Monday, March 13, 2017

Medina's Thyme2

It made the To Dine Challenge List years ago, but I never did make it to Thyme2 in Medina that year, and it took until this past weekend for us to finally dine there. The 36-minute drive from the city just wasn't that appealing. But, I made sure that it made its way back on to the 2017 To Dine list.
Diners have two options--- the fine dining upstairs, or the more casual pub atmosphere (and menu) downstairs.
We were there for the fine dining, but the pub below seemed lively and they had a great view of the open kitchen.

We started with some craft cocktails, and I really enjoyed my Tropical Kick Martini with fresh lime juice, tequila, triple sec, simple syrup, fresh jalapeno, and pineapple juice. It left me searching Pinterest for a recipe.

Mr. H and I shared the Beef Carpaccio appetizer special.
The egg was cooked perfectly. We enjoyed this dish quite a bit, but I do think a pinch of salt would have made it even better.

Mr. H ordered the Roasted Rack of Lamb ($30) with a white bean and sausage cassoulet, green bean salad, and herbes de provence oil.
It was taking a very long time in between our appetizer and entrees. Turns out, the kitchen had overcooked his lamb, and the chef had them re-fire it. The chef, John Kolar, personally came to our table to explain and apologize, which was much appreciated. All it ever takes is communication, and a well prepared dish is worth waiting for.

I had the Macadamia Nut Crusted Grouper ($30) with black Chinese rice, vegetable spring roll, pineapple beurre blanc, and pineapple salsa.
I also enjoyed this dish a lot. The fish and rice were cooked well, the spring roll was crisp but not greasy, and the sauce was great. I just wanted a little more of the salsa and beurre blanc on the plate.

Service was attentive and pleasant, always refilling water quickly and checking in on us without being intrusive. I would say that the food and service at Thyme2 is on par with some of the better restaurants in the city of Cleveland. Nice to have a dining option like this outside of the city, because we're fortunate to have so many options at our doorstep. That's not always the case. So, if you live out that way or are passing through, do yourself a favor and stop in.

113 West Smith Road
Medina, OH 44256

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Old Brooklyn Restaurant Month

We're coming off of Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week, and are currently in the Cleveland Independents' Restaurant Week, I'm focusing on my own neighborhood, and supporting the Old Brooklyn Restaurant Month that the Old Brooklyn Families Group is coordinating for March.

Each week selects a different street in our neighborhood, and diners are encouraged to eat at participating restaurants on that particular street. When you're done dining, you leave a copy of your receipt with your contact information on the back in the designated ballot boxes, and you're entered for a chance to win raffle prizes.

The first week is highlighting establishments on Memphis Avenue. For a list of participating restaurants and bars, visit here. Mr. H and I headed to Dina's Pizza and Pub.
This sports bar is known for their wings, pizza, and happy hour. It is just solid American bar food in a casual setting with an expansive bar (bonus points for padded, comfortable bar chairs!), Trivia night, daily specials, and more.

This was my third visit there (and we've ordered delivery countless times), and I haven't had a bad meal. But, this visit was my favorite. I had the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich ($8.99), and it was darn good.
The chicken was extra crispy, not overly sauced so it wasn't running down my arm and all over my plate, and the bun held up well. The mild sauce had a nice zing to it, but provided the good sweet heat I was craving. The fries were also awesome-- extra crispy! That, paired with a cold beer in a chilled glass, all went down very easily.

I love that this restaurant promotion is going on in our neighborhood, and I look forward to visiting others this month. We still have Pearl, State, and Broadview.

Dina's Pizza and Pub
5701 Memphis Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44144