Monday, September 23, 2019

Weekend Bites

I've had to work the previous two weekends in September (and another one this weekend, ugh) so I was beeeeeyond ready for this past weekend at home. The calendar got a little full, and I did head into it feeling a little overwhelmed. But, it ended up just perfect! We had a blend of friends, fun, adventure, and good food mixed with sleeping in, being productive around the house, and plenty of pooch snuggles.

It all kicked off on Friday with hosting the monthly ladies Happy Hour for my neighbors at my house. We rotate one Friday every month, the hostess puts out some food and everyone brings a drink to share. I've met some incredible women through this, and fall in love with my neighborhood just a little bit more.

Because I was so busy and on the road leading up to Friday, I decided weeks ago to call in reinforcements. Nobody in this household had time to menu plan, grocery shop, and make my buddy chef Jeff Jarrett to the rescue! And what a spread he brought.
Mr. H and I woke up on Saturday morning and headed towards Akron for an unusual excursion...a ride on the Goodyear Blimp!
He had won the package in a charity auction, and it was finally time to fly. We got to hear and see behind the scenes...
...with views as far as the eye could see.
We were up for about 40 minutes, which was just enough for me. My fear of heights didn't stop me from going, but I wasn't exactly comfortable. It kind of felt like a boat in the air with all the swaying. 

You'll hear more about our Saturday evening later this week, but Sunday brought a lot of chores around the house, a good healthy dinner, and then a late show at The Improv.
While the comedians weren't really my personal taste in humor, Mr. H just loves stand-up and he has been so supportive during this crazy work schedule so I was happy we went. 

I'm back on the road later this week for work, but this past weekend just emphasized how much I crave being at home and enjoying what our city has to offer. October, I see you on the horizon! 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Michael Angelo's Winery

I finally had the chance to get out to Michael Angelo's Winery in Richfield, which opened last summer.
They focus on small-lot varietals with grapes from different regions. For $16.50, you can get a Flight with four 2.75 oz. pours. Since it was my first time, I went that route and selected the Bianco, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and the Wild Flower Cabernet Sauvignon.
I preferred the light-bodied, crisp Bianco from the whites, but the Pinot Noir was my favorite of the four. All were really easy to drink, and I'd happily head back to enjoy more of their wine in the pretty setting.

The winery is linked to the Bakery in Broadview Heights, so they are serving their signature baked goods and other light fare. It is not intended to be a full-service restaurant. You order your wine at one counter and they pour it right there, and you order food at another counter and it is delivered to your table. Personally, I'd love to see this change, as it's a tad annoying to have to deal with two different counters for ordering. But I don't mind that there isn't table service.

Mr. H ordered the Mahi-Mahi Tacos ($15), and he enjoyed them.
I had my eye on their pizzas, so luckily Crystal from Eat Drink Cleveland (Thanks again for the invite!) was there too and she and I shared the Honey Pepper Bacon ($15) with bacon, kale, and honey Aleppo pepper and the Fennel Sausage ($15) with Stracciatella sauce, fennel sausage, scallions and red onion (pictured below).
The flavors of the Honey Pepper Bacon were bolder but the pizza was lacking enough cheese, so we both leaned towards liking the Fennel Sausage one more. It was perfectly enjoyable, but I'd like to see more sauce (it was a bit dry) and slightly bolder flavor beyond the sausage itself.

I'll be ordering the Charcuterie board next time, because it comes with a whole roasted head of garlic!

The food is above average for a winery not focusing on being a full restaurant, in my opinion. So you can certainly fill your belly and there should be something on the menu for everyone (most dishes serve 1-3 people and can be shared). But you'll be heading there for the wine and the pretty setting. And maybe swing by the dessert cooler! 

There's indoor and outdoor seating, with different types of seating from bar to tables to seating around the firepit. There is plenty of parking available, unless they happen to be hosting a wedding or other large private event. If you have a larger party, a reservation is recommended.

Personally, I think this is a great addition to an area where there just isn't much available. But it's also worth the drive out.

5515 Broadview Road
Richfield, OH 44286
(440) 552-2815

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Event Recap: Taste of the Browns 2019

Monday night brought one of our favorite fall charity events, Taste of the Browns to benefit the Greater Cleveland Foodbank.
The event is held at FirstEnergy Stadium, with stunning views of downtown as the backdrop.
It gathers 20+ of Northeast Ohio's best chefs, each preparing a signature hors d'oeuvre.
Some of our favorite bites of the night included the Seared Duck with Fried Farro from Flour, Veal Bolognese (pictured bottom right) from Johnny's Downtown, Seared Ahi Tuna with Mexican Street Corn (pictured top left) from Pier W, Lobster Bisque from Blue Point Grille, Tuna Tartar "Rocco" Taco from Fahrenheit (pictured above), and Avocado Leaf Braised Lamb (pictured bottom left) from Momocho.
And, the one bite that I took seconds of...Salted Caramel Bread Pudding from Heck's Café. I'm not even a dessert person, but man was that good!
The event isn't only just full of good food, but fantastic auction and raffle prizes...
...and celebrity sightings from current and former Browns players, local media faces, and my personal favorite...Chomps.
But the event's true purpose is to raise funds to provide meals in local hunger centers across Northeast Ohio. The 21st anniversary Taste of the Browns raised more than $350,000. This will provide a record-breaking 1.4 million meals!

Disclosure: I was provided with two VIP tickets in exchange for help promoting the event. I am a former employee of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Blu, the Restaurant Opens in Beachwood

When I heard the news that the historic Moxie steakhouse in Beachwood was closing to renovate and refresh into a new seafood restaurant concept for the same management group, I have to say that the thought of another seafood option in town excited me. We just don't have enough in Northeast Ohio.

Enter Blu, the Restaurant. So when I had the opportunity to sample the new menu with a small group of food writers and social influencers, of course I jumped at the chance. We were treated to four courses, highlighting a little bit of everything.
With a raw bar prominently visible in their dining room, the meal had to kick off with the Seafood Platter for Four ($90) which includes oysters, shrimp cocktail, ceviche, trout pate, Alaskan King Crab and Maine lobster. The octopus ceviche and trout pate were highlights for me!
Then came my favorite dish of the night, the Scallops St. Jacques ($18) with mushrooms, white wine, Gruyere, and breadcrumbs. Seriously, I woke up the next morning still thinking of them and I will be back for more.
But the other dishes in this course did not disappoint either, like the BBQ Octopus ($14) with pickled chili, chive cream and crispy fingerlings.
The last savory course brought us a 20 oz. Bone-in Ribeye ($52) with housemade steak oil (they aren't just seafood!) and the Whole Snapper (Market Price) with rice flour, chili black bean, sofrito, scallions and cilantro.
While both were good, they didn't impress me as much as the side of Spinach & Ricotta "Gnocchi" ($18) with house made ricotta and Parmesan cheese (gf).
The history and people of Moxie are still there, but the space underwent a $500,000 renovation and they shifted gears with the menu's focus. This tasting wet my palate enough that I do want to head back soon to explore the menu more on my own. And order more scallops, duh!

3355 Richmond Road
Beachwood, OH 44122
(216) 831-5599

Disclosure: I was invited with a guest to attend an introductory event with complimentary food and wine. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Weekend Bites

Wow, this weekend's weather is the stuff I live for, and we certainly made the most of an unpacked weekend in Cleveland.

It all kicked off on Friday by assembling our first quiche in the gorgeous Tart Plate I received from Carthage Co. stoneware (seriously, go check out their stunning, handcrafted and ethically sourced products). We were certainly happy to have that to kick-start our weekend mornings.
This weekend brought one of my favorite summer festivals, the Garlic Festival to benefit North Union Farmers Market. This event takes over Shaker Square for all things GARLIC for two days.
You can find more types of garlic than you even knew existed from a variety of vendors.
And we always stock up on some of our favorite garlic-based products that we originally discovered at this event, like the Scape Flakes from Dragon Breath Gourmet Garlic and the Roasted Garlic Jelly from Crooked Creek Farm. You can spread that jelly on anything from a cheese plate to pork to a burger, you won't be disappointed.
But, if I'm of the highlights every year is the Fresh Cut Fries with Garlic Aioli from Café Avalaun. Not to be confused with the other fry vendor that puts fresh garlic on top. Skip that one and head for the aioli!
We finished up Saturday by baking some of my grandmother's Apple Walnut Muffins and sipping wine on the front porch.
It was wonderful to have a lowkey evening, because Sunday brought some fun around Ohio City with two of my besties!

We headed to The Cleveland Candle Company on West 25th to make our own candles.
If you're a smaller party, you don't need a reservation and you can walk in off the street to sniff their scents and create your own custom candle. 

It needs about 1-2 hours to set, so heading somewhere close for a meal is a great way to pass the time. We wound up walking over to The Flying Fig for brunch on their patio. Summer perfection. There's a reason this restaurant is an oldie but a goodie. 
It was a relatively laid back summer weekend for us, which was appreciated. Now I have some yummy muffins to start my mornings this week, and the perfect way to remember a good time had with good friends. 
Hope you had a great weekend as well. These summer days in Cleveland are winding down.

2523 Market Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 241-4243

Disclosure: I received a sample stoneware item from Carthage Co. but was not required to share my thoughts. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Maine Eats: Portland 2019

The final blog post about our trip to Maine will take you through our Portland eats. Trust me, it needed a post of its own, because that city is bursting with great local spots. We visited a couple that we knew, and stopped at a few new-to-us restaurants as well.

First, any visit to Portland must include a visit to Eventide Oyster Co. because not only do they have a robust list of raw oysters...
...but you CAN'T MISS their Brown Butter Lobster Roll on a steamed bun. Do yourself a favor and get two!
However, the rest of the menu shouldn't be overlooked as well, including the Fried Oyster Bun...
...or the daily specials posted on the chalk board.
Now it's an incredibly popular place and they don't take reservations, so we've found that the trick is to hit it for a weekday lunch and arrive prior to noon.

The next place we dined at was also a repeat for us, because it continues to rank among the top food we've ever had. And if you follow along here regularly, you know that's saying a lot. I'm talking about Central Provisions.
All small plates, you're intended to share 2-3 per person, and it's so much better that way. The flavors and techniques they use are outstanding, and you just want to try more. We enjoyed several plates between the three of us, including the Goat Pupusa (above), the Foie Gras Bahn Mi...
...Suckling Pig...
...and Halibut.
A final Central Provisions highlight was the Bone Marrow Toast, which we'll be recreating at home. But the menu is changing frequently, so just dig in. You truly can't go wrong at this spot, and there's a reason several of our Cleveland chef friends have suggested it. Just be prepared to put your name in and have the wait be up to 2-3 hours. It's worth it, and there's very few places I'd ever state that for.

I try and keep my eye on the James Beard Foundation Award finalists and winners for cities that we travel to every year, so Drifter's Wife caught my attention recently and we made a reservation as soon as they opened up a month in advance. 

The menu is extremely small and changes daily. The first thing that caught my eye was the Sourdough with dulse butter ($6). I had to look up "dulse" and it is in fact seaweed. Sure enough, the butter had a salty, ocean flavor to it. 
The second thing we had to Google was Spearings, and our serve did confirm that they were sardine-sized fish battered and fried. "Think of them as fish French fries.," she said. Get over the fact that you're eating a whole fish and sometimes you could see their little eyeballs peeking out, and they were quite delicious.
Both my mom and I ordered the Cod ($27) with blistered tomatoes, basil, and charred eggplant.
It was a nice meal, and had us trying some things we hadn't had before, but overall I was underwhelmed and it wasn't my favorite meal of the trip. I've had better in Portland.

Our last dinner was at David's Opus Ten, which is a "restaurant within a restaurant" that is only open 40 nights a year. This intimate chef's tasting only seats 18 diners, and it's nestled in the back of David's Restaurant with chef/owner David himself preparing the meal with a view of the action from your seat.
The 7-course, wine paired meal was wonderful from start to finish, including dishes like the Moulard Duck Three Ways with seared foie gras "buttered toast, tenderloin with date and goat cheese roulade, and sauterne with ginger and tamari sauce and apple-bronze fennel salad.
And Smoked Ricotta Gnudi with porcini, butter oyster and shiitake mushrooms, a madeira sauce, curly kale, Parmigiano-Reggiano and nasturtium petals.
My mom was not beneath licking her plate on several courses!
It certainly ended our Portland dinners on a high note, so if you visit between mid-June through August then I suggest you check to see if any tickets are available for Opus Ten.

My mom left very early the next morning to drive back to NY, but our afternoon flight time left Mr. H and I just enough time to squeeze in Sunday brunch. Since we love Central Provisions so much, I had been curious to try their Italian sister restaurant, Tipo.

Sadly, the quality of the food was so drastically different than Central Provisions, I would never have believed they were run by the same group. While the Scrambled Eggs Crostini ($14) with mushroom duxelle, ricotta, and fresh truffles wasn't terrible, it didn't live up to the high-end ingredient expectations.
At least it wasn't downright awful like the Spaghetti Carbonara ($15) with Romano beans, pancetta, and parmesan. The watery, bland sauce left a lot to be desired.
I wouldn't bother giving this spot another try, particularly when CP is infinitely better.

Phew, did you make it through the whole post? But, Portland is just full of it, and I know Clevelanders often travel there. I hope you find this series helpful if you ever head to Maine.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program...

Eventide Oyster Co.
86 Middle Street
Portland, ME 04101

Central Provisions
414 Fore Street
Portland, ME 04101

Drifter's Wife
59 Washington Avenue
Portland, ME 04101

David's Opus Ten
22 Monument Square
Portland, ME 04101

182 Ocean Avenue
Portland, ME 04103

Monday, August 19, 2019

Maine Eats- 2019

Time to catch you up on our trip to Maine and all of the fabulous eats. It's our fourth trip and we've curated quite a good list of restaurants up and down the state. But this was the first trip that took us as far North as Bar Harbor.

We flew into Bangor and headed to Bar Harbor for a four-day stay. We fell in love with Acadia National Park. You really need a minimum of 3 hours to drive through and occasionally stop, but plan on a lot more time if you want to hike.
The trails, and views, are endless and stunning.
But, to be honest, we didn't care for Bar Harbor. It was too touristy, the shops weren't the cute local boutiques found in other small towns, and the food was mostly terrible. On night two, we called it quits and cancelled our hotel room for the last night. The next morning, we scooted a day early to Camden and a Bed & Breakfast we've stayed at three times now, Blue Harbor House Inn. Under new ownership it's still just as charming, and within walking distance of the center of Camden. 
Of course, some of the best food we eat in Maine are just at roadside lobster shacks and hole-in-the-wall looking restaurants along the water. This trip was no different. Probably the best new Lobster Roll find for us was at Beal's Lobster Pier (the one redeeming meal near Bar Harbor, pictured middle-right).
Another note-worthy stop was a converted gas station, called The Shuck Station. It was recommended by Michael Nowak, chef/owner of The Black Pig here in Cleveland. He's made some excellent Maine suggestions for us before, and this one didn't disappoint either. We split the Oyster Tacos and Bao Buns.
Now that we were back in our favorite area of Maine, that meant we could stop in to our favorite find from the last trip...Glidden Point Oyster Farms. You can tour the farm at 11AM or 1PM daily, but their retail shop is open to the public and you can purchase a variety of raw oysters, take them out back to picnic tables, and shuck away.
The next fantastic meal in the Camden/Rockport/Rockland area that will be a spot we revisit in the future was at 18 Central Oyster Bar and Grill in Rockport. The flavors that this wood-grilled food was putting out were simply fabulous. Highlights were the Broiled Oysters, Scallops and Pork Belly, and Halibut.
The following night (and our last in Camden) was a special occasion. Mr. H and I celebrated 12 years of *officially* being together. For the meal, we headed to Natalie's, which we have been to before. By this point in the trip, my mom had joined us! This award-winning restaurant features a tasting menu with stunning plating and cuisine inspired by Maine. Sit on the outdoor deck for views and the best summer atmosphere.
As I wrap up this post, I can't forget the true reason we've found ourselves in Maine four times...the annual Lobster Festival!
It's soft-shelled lobster season, and you can literally rip them apart with your hands. This local festival in Rockland has been going on for 72 years, and we always enjoy ourselves. And the lobster!

That sums up our good eats prior to the last stop of the trip, Portland. That city deserves its own post, so stay tuned. 

Beal's Lobster Pier
182 Clark Point Road
Southwest Harbor, ME 04679

The Shuck Station
68 Main Street
Newcastle, ME 04553

Glidden Point Oyster Farms
637 River Road
Edgecomb, ME 04556

18 Central Oyster Bar and Grill
18 Central Street
Rockport, ME 04856

83 Bayview Street
Camden, ME 04843