Friday, September 28, 2018

Event Recap: Taste of the Browns 2018

Monday was the 20th Anniversary Taste of the Browns to benefit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The event is packed full of great small bites from the 20+ participating restaurants.
Some of our favorites included the meatball from Lago, lobster bisque from Blue Point Grille, octopus from Parker's Downtown, eggplant rollotini from Corleone's, and polenta cake from Cleveland Browns Hospitality Group. It does appear that we skipped some crowd favorites, but you simply can't try them all at this event!

Aside from the food, the event is star-studded. And I'm not just talking about the current and alumni Browns players that you're rubbing shoulders with.
The event also raises important funds through great raffles, live auction, fund-the-mission, and silent auction. Mr. H was lucky enough to snag some Browns club seats in the silent auction.
For me, I just love seeing how charitable our city's chefs are, and how excited they are to participate in this particular event every year. We are seriously so fortunate that our chefs are generous with their time and talent to make events like this possible.
Including Chef Chair, Rocco Whalen of Fahrenheit. He's been chairing this event and representing Cleveland at the annual national Taste of the NFL event for YEARS.
When I worked for the Food Bank, I had the honor of planning this event each year. While fun, I do enjoy attending as a guest and supporting the cause through our auction and raffle purchases much more!

The setting, celebrities, and energy of Browns fans make this event truly special, and raised $260,000 for the Food Bank this year! For every $1 raised at the event, 4 meals are provided through hunger centers in our community. Dare I say there was even some "hope" in the air this year after that big win last week?

Disclosure: I was provided with tickets to host a giveaway and attend myself in exchange for posts. I am a former employee of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Chicago Eats: Aviary

Here it is, the final Chicago Eats post from our recent trip to the Windy City. And I saved the BEST for last!

As soon as we started planning our trip months ago, Alinea was on our "must do" list and quickly its sister bar, The Aviary, made its way onto that list as well.

Located in the West Loop, it's known for its creative craft cocktails and innovative food. At its heart, it's a cocktail bar. But one that you really need a pre-paid reservation for. It also has some incredible food to complement your beverage experience.

Mr. H had apparently booked us for the Kitchen Table, without truly realizing what he had signed us up for. What we got was a a true "Chef's Table" of a behind-the-scenes high-top table for two, perched in the kitchen with a front row view of all the cocktails and food being prepared. Just us!
What followed was an incredible 8-course dinner of cocktail and food pairings!

Immediately, I was having fun watching the humongous crispy pork skin come out.
Then our Amuse cocktail course, with Jamaican jerk, summer fruits, and mezcal, arrived at the table, and I knew we were REALLY about to have fun.
Each course was creative, playful, and something I haven't seen before, including the Micahlada cocktail course with yuzu, whiskey, hot sauce, gose, mole, and elotes. Served in a gorgeous glass bird with a glass straw, and two small bites balancing on the wings.
They are known for their "Porthole", and the 20,000 Blueberries Under the Tea with cinnamon, clementine, thyme, and apple brandy cocktail grew more flavorful the longer it sat.
Of course, there was a smoked cocktail! Infernal Imagery with spruce, sherry, brandy, and juniper.
Of all the cocktails we were served, there was only one that was too "boozey" for me to enjoy. The others were all so delicious and interesting.

But, the food was just as great! We started off with some of the Crispy Pork Skin pictured above, served with hummus with lime zest and chili oil. The combination of chili oil and zest was fantastic, and something I'd like to replicate at home.
The Alaskan King Crab course was fun to eat, as the hand-molded plate didn't rest on a table, but was meant to sit in the palm of your hand.
The true star of the night, and best bite of the whole trip, was the Sweet Corn Agnolotti with shaved truffles. I'm still dreaming of this dish.
The courses continued, like an A5 Miyazaki Ribeye.
A fun, small bite, Black Truffle Explosion, served on a cool hallow plate.
A refreshing Yuzu Sorbet cleansed our palate before dessert.
Two sweeter dishes headed our way to end the meal, paired with cocktails like the Lassi-Faire with lime, honeydew, meringue, and charteuse.
The Peach dessert was as gorgeous as it was delicious.
The final bite was a playful Ice Cream Sandwich.
The night exceeded any expectations we had, and will always be a memory-maker. One of the top dining experiences of my life, and one that I hope to repeat some day. Aviary should be on your "don't miss" list for Chicago!

955 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Chicago Eats: The Purple Pig

Screeching halt. I forgot to include one fabulous meal in my first Chicago Eats round-up post. Silly me. So you'll just have to suffer through one additional post, because I still have to save the best for last (more later this week!).

Mr. H and I had our first meal of the trip at the one stop that I had previously been to, The Purple Pig.
A glass of wine on their covered patio and some shared plates was just the right way to kick off the trip! Since it was a weekday late afternoon, we got right in. The wait times on this popular restaurant can be 2+ hours at times and they don't accept reservations, so beware. But, it's worth it. Don't go hungry, put your name in, and go grab a drink somewhere else close by.

We shared three cheeses and two meats. Most of their Cured Meats are actually made in-house, and the Duck Prosciutto was particularly divine.

We also split the Deviled Egg with arugula and capers.
And the English Muffin and Truffle Sausage with foie gras butter, fried egg and membrillo.
It was just as good as I remembered, and a great way to set the tone for our culinary extravaganza. How did I forget about this stop before now? Shame on me.

The Purple Pig
500 N Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Chicago Eats: Alinea

We're still doing a Chicago takeover on the blog, and today I'm sharing a highly anticipated culinary experience...dining at Alinea.

Michelin Star restaurant, World's 50 Best Restaurants, James Beard Foundation winner, and many other noteworthy recognition nationally and internationally. You must pre-purchase tickets in advance, and it's known for selling out a date within minutes of being released. I can confirm, because we were online the minute our desired date went on sale, and we lost out on the type of ticket we wanted (The Galley). So we purchased a reservation for The Salon, which offers a 10-14 course tasting menu for parties of 1, 2, 4, or 6. Wine pairings can be added (which we chose to do).

Expectations were set high, but were they met? Read on...

There was fire!
There was ice!
They even moved our room of 7 tables down to the kitchen for one course!
Each course came out, and you often wondered how to eat it or didn't want to dig in because it was beautifully plated. This was course Terrarium with Iceburg, Avocado, and Herbs.
From the plates and bowls used, to the thoughtful placement of each ingredient, it certainly was a feast for the eyes as soon as anything hit the table. This course was Smoke with Osetra, Sunflower, Onion, and Lemon.
Crunch with Rouille and Nori.
Wood with Hoja Santa, Tamarind, and Chocolate. These stunning plates were custom made by hand overseas, and I wanted to sneak one in my bag.
Heirloom with Peach, Begonia, and Nasturtium.
There was almost always an interactive element to each course, which certainly made the evening entertaining.
The embers from one course then smoked some fresh lavender under steamed buns, leaving the table filled with the soothing aroma.
There were often courses that required you to do something special (with ALL eyes in the room watching). The pressure!
Including the last and final course, a green apple flavored helium-filled balloon that you sucked open and ate. There was a trick to doing it without the balloon exploding all over your face and hands, and it was certainly fun watching others in the room do it too. Some not so gracefully! 
Here's the bottom line. I hate to burst your bubble (pun intended). It was certainly a memorable and unique dining experience. The techniques and plating are truly something special. Each course was so complicated that it comes with instructions, and there were many words on the menu that I have never seen before and still don't know what they are. But, the food itself just wasn't that remarkable.

Also, the small room of seven tables we were in was uncomfortably quiet. No background music or noise from other rooms/floors helped ease the painful silence in the room. Our tables whispered, and everyone just sat around and stared at the other tables as they received each course. Which really sucks when you are all getting the same coursed meal and you see every dish and hear all of the presentation/instructions prior to it being your turn.

At the insane price point that we paid for this experience, I just expected to enjoy it more and walk out satisfied. It was fun. It was cool. But the food didn't have a whole lot of flavor, just show. And I felt awkward for most of the night in that particular room. Now, wine and service were both fantastic, and the restaurant itself is beautiful. For me, it just wasn't worth the expensive price tag. Glad we did it, but don't need to again.

Now, stay tuned for the real culinary highlight of the trip!

1723 N Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60614

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Chicago Eats: Girl and the Goat, Au Cheval, The Gage, Eataly, Longman and Eagle

Hold on to your stretchy pants, folks. It's a Chicago take-over on the blog for the next three posts, because Mr. H and I just traveled for an epic culinary adventure that just has to be shared.

We shopped, took in the sights, did a couple of the classic Chicago tourist attractions (hello, Shedd Aquarium and River Architecture Tour), and ate our faces off at some of the city's best restaurants. Way too much to pack into just one blog post, so I'm breaking out two of the biggest food adventures into separate posts. Today, you're getting a rundown of the "other" food stops we enjoyed on this trip.

It will start with the famous Girl and The Goat, from Top Chef fame chef Stephanie Izard.
I watched her on the show, have heard nothing but rave reviews of her restaurants, and boy did it live up to expectations. It's small-plate style, intending for you to select 2-3 shareable dishes per person.

We had a group of four at this meal, and dug in to dishes like the Wood Grilled Broccoli with rogue smokey bleu and spiced crispies (probably the BEST broccoli I've ever had), Sweet Corn Pierogies with charred scallion sour cream, sweet corn-tomato, and chimichurri, and the Squash Blossom Crab Rangoon (pictured below) with almonds and chive yogurt.
Mr. H and I took a walk on the "wild" side of the menu and enjoyed the Goat Belly and the Duck Tongues (pictured below) with tuna and black bean poke, crispy wontons, and piri piri.
Overall, the atmosphere, drinks, and food all lived up to the hype and I'd happily dine there again. Maybe the best food of our trip?

The burger at Au Cheval is called "best in the country" by many, so we had to check it out for lunch one day. Located right across the street from Girl and The Goat!
Even for a weekday early lunch, the wait was just over an hour (very small and VERY popular restaurant), and it was about two hours after putting our name in before we had our food. But, once we were in, we did have prime seating at the bar with a bird's eye view of all the burger makings!
We started with an order of the Roasted Marrow Bones ($18.50) with beef cheek marmalade and toast. I'm sure that slowed down the burger process, but it was worth it.
Ok, now someone please explain to me why a "Double" on the menu is actually THREE patties? The patties aren't big and thick, so we thought we were fine ordering the Double Cheeseburger ($14.95), but it was three patties instead of two and I had to remove one to really enjoy the proportions of the toppings. Newbies, like us, need some education before ordering.
Look, it was a darn good burger, and I'd eat it again in a heartbeat. But do I think it was the best burger I've ever had and worth the hype and wait? Not really. But go check it out for yourself, because yes, it is a really good burger and cute spot.

Saturday brunch was a stop at The Gage (right across the street from Millennium Park and "The Bean"). Mr. H and I split the Scotch Egg ($9) with whole grain and dijon mustards. A little softer outer layer than I'd like, but overall good.
Mr. H then ordered the Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich ($17). We had planned on doing some sharing, but it was huge, the chicken was too thick for my personal taste, and it was kind of a sloppy mess. But, my Eggs Benedict ($15) was quite good and saved the day for me. Does that hollandaise look like Velveeta or nacho cheese, or is it just me?
Saturday shopping took us to our first trip to Eataly! This Italian eatery and food market is just jaw-dropping and drool-worthy. I wanted to take it all home. Check out their list of locations, and do yourself a favor and stop in if you visit a city with one.
I know this post it loooong, but I didn't want to do too many posts about Chicago and bore you to death. The two upcoming ones deserved their own posts, so you'll have to wait for those. But there's one more stop to talk about.

Longman and Eagle came highly recommended by many. This hipster spot with modern farm-to-table fare and nose-to-tail eats (plus whiskey and craft cocktails) reminded me of Cleveland's (and our favorite) The Black Pig.
We waited for a table on the outdoor patio, and it was an absolutely gorgeous, cool summer night that was worth clinging onto as the season winds down.

This restaurant also is all about small plate sharing, and we ordered a couple of things at a time to build a meal as we went. One of the first to come out were the Broiled Oysters (pictured below) with crab butter, chive, and lemon pepper pearls ($4 each). That crab butter was to die for.
We also snacked on the Crispy Octopus, Heirloom Tomato with Ricotta and Ham, Sweet Corn Tortelloni, and the Smoked Trout Brandade (pictured below) with Brie, pickles and baguette ($16).
It was an absolutely heavenly meal, and competed with Girl and The Goat for best food of the trip. It's in an off-the-beaten-path neighborhood, they serve food until 1AM, the whiskey list is longer than I've ever seen, the craft cocktails are delicious, there is a popular tiki bar within walking distance called Lost Lake, and I highly recommend checking it out if you find yourself in Chicago.

Phew, that was a LOT. But soooo worth sharing. Stay tuned for two of the most memorable and epic food experiences, ever.

Girl and The Goat
809 W Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60607

Au Cheval
800 W Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60607

The Gage
24 S Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60603

Eataly Chicago
43 E Ohio Street
Chicago, IL 60611

Longman and Eagle
2657 N Kedzie Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647

Friday, September 7, 2018

Honey Hut

How have I never written a full post about Cleveland's own Honey Hut ice cream?
Started in Cleveland in 1974 (original location right in my neighborhood of Old Brooklyn!), Honey Hut has remained a family-owned business for more than 40 years.

With summer winding down, Mr. H and I made our first stop in this season for some ice cream the other night. The sun was setting, the warm summer air still kissing our skin, and the picnic benches outside the ice cream stand were just packed with customers. We were hanging on to what felt like some of the last bits of summer.
With 13 regular homemade flavors, seasonal flavors, and all kinds of other treats like sundaes and malts, there is something for everyone.

It was unusual for me, but I had a huge craving for something super rich. I headed right to the Hot Brownie Sundae. Topped with homemade vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream, it's a real splurge.
Now, it was so big that I could only eat about half of it. They offer a Regular (pictured) and a Large. But Mr. H didn't mind digging in for several bites after I was done!

For now, I'm going to continue to cling to summer activities and foods. I see some more ice cream in my future. What's your favorite local spot?

Honey Hut Brecksville
7304 Chippewa Road
Brecksville, OH 44141

Honey Hut Brunswick
922 Pearl Road
Brunswick, OH 44212

Honey Hut Old Brooklyn
4674 State Road
Cleveland, OH 44109

Honey Hut Parma
6250 State Road
Cleveland, OH 44134

Honey Hut Solon
28300 Miles Road