Monday, August 13, 2018

Cocktail Party

I have a post-weekend glow on this Monday morning, thanks to a fabulous evening on Saturday. A year ago, Mr. H and I won a silent auction package at the Silver Spoon Awards charity fundraiser for an in-home cocktail party for 25 guests catered by Toast.

We finally got a date on the calendar, invites out, and we opened our home to just over 20 neighbors.

Thanks to Old Brooklyn Cheese Co. and Heinen's, I put together quite an impressive cheese and charcuterie board for our guests! They say...practice makes perfect. And I finally got to use my Brass Porcupine Toothpick Holder.
Toast rolled in to our house and whipped up quite the spread of food and drink. Five different hors d'oeuvres, wine, beer, and a dangerous delicious punch. They stayed through most of the evening, refreshing the food and serving beverages.

Now, our neighborhood was affected by the power outage on Saturday. We were only about a half hour into the party before BOOM...no lights, oven, or power to the fridge. Have no fear, Toast kept the food and drinks flowing and we partied by candlelight into the wee hours of the morning. I knew I liked my neighborhood for a reason! 

It sounds fancy schmancy to have a cocktail party in your home catered, but it's not as expensive as you would think and there are a ton of Cleveland companies and restaurants that will do it. They do all the heavy lifting, and you get to sit back and just enjoy your guests (hence no additional pictures of the party or food). Very little work for you, no stress, delicious food and drink, and most of the party clean-up is taken care of too! We had such a wonderful evening with our neighbors. It exceeded all expectations.

I'm just going to sit here in the post-party glow for a while. Thanks, Toast!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

New Look!

Welcome to the new, fresh look of Bite Buff! I've been blogging for nine years about the Cleveland restaurant scene, events, and local products, and it was time for a little reboot. You'll still see all of the same content, with just a new look and feel.

Check out the About Me section to learn more about the blogger behind the name, and what brought me to Ohio a decade ago.

You'll notice that the right-hand column of restaurant names and neighborhoods/cities is no longer there. It's been moved over to its own page, and you'll be able to search them a little easier under Restaurant Reviews. Just be patient with me as I build out the content for this page. Almost 1,000 blog posts later, it's going to take me a few weeks to update! But I love the cute new headers for this page.

You will also still see Upcoming Events taking place around town that feature our area's chefs and food/wine, and links to my social media accounts. I suggest giving me a follow on these platforms, if you don't already, because I share a lot more food pictures, our adventures around town, and more of my life on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

I want to thank Ashley from Little Leaf Design for working with me again to freshen up my blog's look and feel, and redesigning the Bite Buff logo and graphics. She takes the ideas and thoughts from my head to real life in a way that I could never do on my own.

I hope that you enjoy the new look and format changes. Let's keep exploring the Cleveland dining scene together for many more years to come!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Georgetown Happy Hour

I recently popped in to Georgetown in Lakewood for happy hour with a friend. Formally Three Birds, they have a wonderful front garden patio with two tiers, huge trees, and twinkling lights. And apparently one heck of a happy hour!

There are drink specials, like the $5 glass of wine I enjoyed, and then most of their appetizers (+ two salads, which you rarely see) all have special happy hour pricing. If you see a double price listed next to an item, that means the lower price is the happy hour price. We enjoyed a Friday happy hour through 7:00pm, and had three shared plates and three drinks for $36!

We split the Pear and Gorgonzola Salad...
...Crispy Calamari...
...and Georgetown Mini Sliders.
The food was all good, service was good even though they had a busy restaurant and a private wedding rehearsal party happening, and we got quite a lot of food and drink for those happy hour prices. I don't think this will be the last time I take advantage of that happy hour!

Complimentary valet parking is available in the lot behind the building, and there is a convenient back door.

Georgetown
18515 Detroit Road
Lakewood, OH 44107
(216) 221-3500

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

LJ Shanghai

I finally got my butt to LJ Shanghai to try these soup dumplings they've been known for since they opened on Superior Avenue in AsiaTown (next to #1 Pho).
A small menu, but filled with pictures to help you decide what to order. I settled on the Shredded Pork and Pickle Noodle Soup ($8). The bowl was huge for the price, the noodles were a perfect texture, but the broth was a little too mild for my taste. So I just kicked it up with some spicy chili oil that was provided on the table. Easy fix!
But, let's be honest...we were there to try the Soup Dumplings ($5 for six).
From what I've read online, there is a trick to eating them properly. They are filled with a piping hot broth, so you poke a hole in the wrapper or bite the top of it off to let the broth out onto the spoon. It's suggested to dip in soy sauce and vinegar prior to opening the dumpling, and both were provided on the table.

Now, maybe we made a mistake by not eating them immediately, but the dumplings we got did not have "broth" inside of them. The meat filling was moist, but certainly no significant juices came out. Is this normal? 

Either way, they were delicious little nuggets, and that vinegar sauce provided was amazing. I could pour that on just about anything. Eating these just wasn't quite the experience I thought we were in for. Was this exactly what it should have been, was this batch just off a bit, or did we do something wrong in how/when we ate them? Educate me if you know more about these famous soup dumplings!

LJ Shanghai
3142 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 400-6936

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Trio

I've only been to One Eleven Bistro in Medina twice, but both meals were very good. So, when I heard that the same guys behind that restaurant were going to open Trio in Tremont, it became one of the most anticipated openings ever for me.
Located in the former Bac space on West 14th Street, Chef Anthony Scolaro and his team went in and did a quick face-lift. The space is brightened up with lots of cool gray hues, modern sleek lighting, wood feature wall, and great new artwork and logo features. I particularly love the cityscape piece in the bar area, check it out.

The main dining room is tucked around a big wall, with lots of natural light coming in from their main street patio.
It's always a good sign when so much of the menu is calling out to you.
We decided to share the Carbonara ($9) Black garlic pasta, botarga yolk, pecorino pepato, guanciale, black pepper, and chive. It was a little over-sauced, but otherwise we did like it. I think the flavor of it could be punched up just a bit though for this to be a home run.
We also split the Crispy Head to Tail Pork ($12) with crispy pig ear, crispy belly, and crispy tail. I wasn't sure what this dish would look like when it came out, but the pork was prepared three ways and each was quite different. A few small tweaks are needed to perfect this dish, but it was still pretty good.
The entrees were executed a bit better, and we enjoyed both! We did some 50/50 sharing, which is always the way to go if you can agree on dishes.

We ordered the Wagyu ($37) with potato salad, dijonaise, demi, and espelette. The beef was soooooo tender, and the demi was thick and decadent.
We also shared the Duck Two Ways ($20) as a roulade, breast, stone fruit, porridge, nectarine, lavender, and cherry duck jus. The demi from the first dish appeared on the second plate too, and it paired just as well with the duck. But the porridge was the surprise favorite on the plate. The texture and flavor paired so well with the duck.
It was really like having two dishes in one, which was great!
Our serve was attentive and friendly. He came from One Eleven Bistro, and you could tell he was proud of the new place.

A few small tweaks to make here and there as they are getting their feet wet. It's literally been like only a month. But, I think this has the potential to be another go-to for us, and they are certainly going to produce the food and experience that Tremont diners expect.

Trio
2661 W 14th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 952-7035

Friday, July 20, 2018

LockKeepers

Let's talk about LockKeepers in Valley View. Now, I've been there before for lunch meetings since my office is just up the road, and I've always enjoyed my food, the service has been fine, and it's nice to have a fine-dining atmosphere in the area for some occasions. But, I hadn't been in for dinner yet, and also had never enjoyed their outdoor deck.
While you could still hear the humming of cars driving by on busy Rockside Road, at least you got to gaze off at the river and trees.
Mr. H and I started the meal with a new seasonal dish on their menu, Grilled Peaches and Proscuitto ($15) with burrata, grilled crostini, and balsamic vinegar. In theory, this sounds like an amazing summer dish. I was skeptical that the peaches would be sweet enough, since they weren't quite in season yet. But that was the least of the problems with the poor peaches. These rock hard un-ripened peaches shouldn't have even made it out of the kitchen. They were that bad, and I'd like to think any chef would be embarrassed to serve them.
Not a good start to the meal, but it picked up from there.

Mr. H ordered the Parmesan Crusted Marlin ($32), and he did enjoy the dish.
I ordered the Parmesan and Ricotta Gnocchi ($35) with smoked duck ragu, fresh English peas, local corn, tarragon pickled tomatoes, and fresh shaved truffles. It was a rich and heavy dish, so I ended up taking more than half of it home with me. No problem there!
While the entrees were much better than the Starter, I can't say that either of them knocked my socks off. Also, service was pretty bad, both at our table and our surrounding tables. They seemed to have all kinds of issues happening- timing, wrong orders delivered, table arrangement. At one point in the meal, we were asked to get up and slide our table over. At that price point, I want more. For me, I think I'll stick with lunch meetings there.

LockKeepers
8001 Rockside Road
Valley View, OH 44125
(216) 524-9404

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Bakersfield

This will likely not be a popular post, but I have to say it...I officially don't like the tacos at Bakersfield.
I'm sorry, it's true. After two visits, it's concluded...the tacos are not for me. I wanted to like it, truly, I did. The space is Instagram-worthy, the tacos look vibrant and fun, and who doesn't love a margarita?
But, service has been less than stellar on both visits, both times I've been greeted at the host stand with a hint of annoyance, and since I don't care for the tacos, there just aren't enough of options on the limited menu to bring me back.
On my first visit with friends, I ordered three tacos. The Fish with crispy mahi, tabasco lime sauce, citrus slaw, and cilantro.
The Baja Shrimp with crispy shrimp, chipotle lime crema, guacamole, red cabbage, pickled fresno, and chive.
And a daily special taco with pork that was the only one with even the least bit of flavor to it. They were served at barely room temperature, which really starts to mess with the pleasure of eating certain things like fish or seafood.

I left there a little surprised that I hadn't enjoyed it, since I know that many do. So, I decided to head back a couple of months later with Mr. H.

This time, I ordered the same two standard tacos to give them another shot, and then threw in an Al Pastor with chili marinated pork, pineapple, pickled white onion, and cilantro and then a Carnitas with beer braised pork, guacamole, tomatillo crema, pickled red onion, and cilantro.
Same summary, sorry. They are barely warm, pretty bland, and just not for me.

It also grossed me out that the share plates on the table were dirty when we arrived. So I asked the server for new ones, and when he set them down on our table I realized it was meat grease on his fingers that were making the plates dirty. I just ate off of the serving tray, thank you.

But, the meal was slightly redeemed through Mr. H's Cochinita Pibil with achiote braised pork, black beans, guacamole, pickled red onion, cilantro, and queso fresco.
The sandwich was truly really good. So good that I requested that he save me one bite so I could finish the meal with it. Must always end on a good note!

This is why I do love exploring food and restaurants, because each one is not for everyone. This one, just not for me.

Bakersfield
2058 W 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 443-0460

Monday, July 16, 2018

Heinen's Wine Finds: Spain and Portugal

Mr. H and I were invited to Heinen's Grocery Store to sample their newest wine finds, from Spain and Portugal. We were taken through a tour of their travels, sampling some really rare and unique finds from regions less well-known. I can confidently say that we enjoyed all of the 8 wines we sampled.
They also paired them with some great cheeses and Spanish and Portuguese-inspired foods that will be available in their prepared food cases. Mr. H was a little envious of this enormous paella cooker!
These bolder flavors paired really well with the wines.
All of the new wines are priced between $7.99 and $24.99, with most of them falling within $10 - $12. Incredible deals for some great tasting wines! We picked up bottles of the Zagalin White Wine, Pedrera Red "Reserva", and Juramento.

These wines will be available at all Heinen's locations starting today! The grapes used will be mostly unfamiliar to you, but trust the gurus in the wine department to make some suggestions based on the type of wine you typically gravitate towards. You won't be disappointed.

Disclosure: I was invited to participate in a complimentary wine and food tasting at Heinen's. All opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Weekend Bites

After a quick holiday week getaway, I was back in town on Friday evening and ready for a Cleveland weekend! Saturday morning started with a handful of usual stops for us, like Ohio City Provisions...
...and Old Brooklyn Cheese Co.
With another stop at Lakewood Plant Company, to *ahem* replace the plant I killed lost. I have the best of intentions. But between my black thumb and a six-month old puppy who likes to eat dirt, I'm visiting their adorable shop more frequently lately.
That afternoon, we headed to Tremont for the Crafted 2018 Local Food, Beer & Music festival taking place in Lincoln Park. There were 7 local restaurants (like Dante, Butcher & the Brewer, Collision Bend Brewery, and Tremont Tap House) serving up small bites, and 38+ craft beer samples on site. We found a couple of new-to-us breweries that we'll have to visit real soon.
It was an absolutely gorgeous summer day to be out and about in Cleveland, so we didn't end there. We did some patio hopping in Ohio City before heading to a house party, which led to some delicious gin punch and a very late night.

Let's just say that I paid for it the entire next day, and lost a beautiful day. Whoops! So, this was more of a "Saturday" roundup than the weekend. You'll have that sometimes.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Umami Asian Kitchen

So, I haven't written about Umami Asian Kitchen since our first visit in 2011. And then we only went once after that. I did mention that we just don't find ourselves in Chagrin Falls very often. But, there have been chef changes over the years, and Chef Corey Kosel has been at the helm of the kitchen for a few years now. I knew him from his days as Chef de Cuisine at Market Garden Brewery, and he's been a loyal participant in the culinary fundraiser that I plan each year. So, it was time to get our butts out there again, and I'm so glad that we did.

We curled up in one of the two window nooks at the front of the restaurant, which provided great views and people watching as we dined. Wine kicked off the meal, of course.
We ordered a special of the day, Pork and Garlic Scape Wontons.
Chef Corey sent us out some of the restaurant's famous Goat Cheese Dumplings with Mackenzie Creamery goat cheese, medjool dates, romanesco cauliflower, and sprouts.
Mr. H ordered the Faroe Island Salmon with crispy sushi rice, braised wild mushrooms, kale, and sweet tamari. The crispy rice cake is something that we'll be trying to replicate at home, as the texture really added something great to the dish. The fish was cooked perfectly, but the real star of this dish was the mushrooms! I snagged two.
I ordered another special of the day, Red Snapper over a pork belly fried rice.
The food was all excellent, and it left me wanting to make sure it wasn't another 5+ years before we come back!

As if we weren't full enough, every visit to Chagrin Falls means a stroll over to Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream shop.
Even though it had been raining off and on all day, it ended up being a nice evening and we really enjoyed ourselves. Do yourself a favor, and don't let Umami fall off your radar like we did.

Umami Asian Kitchen
42 N Main Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Gasoline Alley

After hitting up Farmer's Rail, we needed to grab some lunch in the area, so Mr. H took me over to a haunt from his youth, Gasoline Alley.

Open since 1995, the husband/wife duo have a cute story about how they met and their shared love of wine, cheese, and sandwiches. Hmmm, sounds familiar. What they have is an eclectic little restaurant that provides an endless amount of "flare" to gaze at.
We settled up to the bar at about 11:30AM, and I'm glad that we came when we did, because the place was PACKED by the time we left at 12:30PM. On a Friday. Always a good sign. 

The menu is large, and mostly concentrated on gourmet sandwiches. They also offer daily specials, burgers, pizza, soups and salads, and a handful of large plates. We had a hard time selecting a sandwich to share, but decided on the Sassy Sammie ($10.99) with corned beef, hot pastrami, and cream cheese on toasted rye.
I had the good sense to ask for a side of Thousand Islands dressing, and that kicked this sandwich up the notch that it needed. But it was a good sandwich!

We also shared a special of the day, Beer Battered Shrimp.
The pile of fresh cut fries underneath was a meal on its own.

For the price point, you get a huge meal and the quality and selection was very good. I don't find myself in the area often, but I'd certainly head back there when we do.

Gasoline Alley
870 N Cleveland Massillon Road
Bath, OH 44333
(330) 666-2670

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Farmer's Rail

Mr. H and I had to be down in the Akron area last week, and had some time to kill while our pup was at the vet, so we wandered over to the newly opened Farmer's Rail.
This farmer-owned and operated butcher shop is gorgeous inside and out, and bursting with locally farmed and produced goods. Everything from beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and seafood line the coolers. The beef, pork, poultry, and lamb are locally raised on Brunty Farms.
Shelves throughout the store carry local dry goods, like sauces, jams, pickles, and more.
There's fresh baked bread, pies, pastries, and cookies. And we spotted several of our favorite local products on the shelves.
A large dairy section also offers cheeses, milk, and some produce.
I kind of wanted to take home that whole Hog Snapper just because he looked cool!
Aren't these summer-themed cookies so sweet too? Would be perfect for a backyard party.
All I have to say is that I'm glad we don't live a little closer. We walked out of these with dry-rubbed ribs (which were fantastic for dinner that night!), steaks, lamb and feta burgers, and a few sauces and jams. Including a locally-foraged Garlic Scape Pesto that I'm looking forward to trying soon. This shop was a little slice of foodie heaven for me.

Farmer's Rail
1572 N Cleveland Massillon Road
Akron, OH 44333