Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Empanadas Latin Street Food

As 2019 winds down, so does my To Dine Challenge for the year. Unfortunately, one of the restaurants selected did not end up opening their doors yet, Half Moon Bakery. I've had their tasty empanadas catered at a meeting, so I was anxious for their restaurant to open on West 25th Street. Fingers crossed it's still in the works!

So I decided that I wouldn't feel satisfied if I didn't replace it with a comparable option. Enter, the new Empanadas Latin Street Food in Parma.
There are a handful of small tables there, but it's mostly a takeout joint. On a Tuesday night, the place was busy with a line of folks waiting for their orders.

We got a side of Fried Plantains (with or without garlic), but they have Ripened Plantains as well. The garlic was potent and a nice addition, but overall they were very dry and needed a sauce. I don't think I'd bother with these again. We've been making them at home and eating them with guacamole. Highly recommend!
Their empanadas range in price from $2 - $4 each, and there's quite a variety. You can get classics like chicken, beef, or four cheese. But they have all kinds of Americanized playful versions like Pizza, Hot Dog and Cheese, Polish, Cheeseburger, Buffalo, and Mac & Cheese.

We ordered the Cheeseburger (my favorite), Meat Lovers (our cashier's favorite and one I'd recommend), and Mac & Cheese (too dry and not worth it).
They are good-sized and reasonably priced. Overall, I'd rate this spot as decent. But there are better empanadas in town. Won't stop us from swinging by there again though.

Parking is difficult. There is a small lot behind the building, but most of the spots belong to another restaurant and they are out there with a watchful eye. Certainly this casual place is kid-friendly, and with the fun fillings that could appeal to little ones, it may be a good chance to introduce them to empanadas.

My last stop on the To Dine Challenge is coming up later this week with a fun group outing to La Plaza Taqueria. If you'd like to join, just message me!

5543 Ridge Road
Parma, OH 44129
(440) 340-5618

Friday, December 6, 2019

Local Foodie Gift Guide 2019

It's that time of year...shopping for gifts for the loved ones in your life or a quick hostess gift as you head to a holiday gathering. Here's my 2019 Gift Guide for the local "foodie" in your life.

J.Lees Knife (price varies)
These locally-made knives are hand crafted and custom with steel blades and reclaimed wood handles with materials obtained from custom bass guitar builders. I was turned on to them this fall, thanks to a local chef friend. We gifted them at a charity event, and they were a big hit. Even a good home cook desires quality and unique knives, and you're supporting a local craftsman with these.

Fix It with Food Cookbook ($18.97)
The latest cookbook from Cleveland celebrity chef Michael Symon was just released, with more than 125 recipes to address autoimmune issues and inflammation. The book is co-authored by Cleveland Scene dining editor Doug Trattner.

Gift Certificate for a Cooking Class at Architectural Justice Gallery and Café (any amount)
Like the French Pastry Workshop ($55) coming up on December 29th. Mr. H isn't on social media and never reads my blog, so I can share that I purchased one for our upcoming anniversary, and we'll enjoy cooking together (ok, ok, mostly me watching) at a class in 2020. Shhhh! It's always a thoughtful gift to give an "experience" and even better if it's something you can do together.

Cheese Grotto ($85 - $135) purchased at Old Brooklyn Cheese Co.
Taking after age-old European traditions, this can be stored on the countertop for effective short-term cheese storage, or it can be stored in the fridge for long-term storage. Mr. H bought me one last year, and it has been life-changing for this cheese lover! Our soft cheeses are room temperature and spreadable at all times, and it's easy to just nip off a bite at any time instead of getting into an entire cheese/charcuterie spread and consuming way more than you need.

Vintage Serveware or Entertaining Items from Helm Collective
Seriously, I am obsessed with her adorable shop on Lorain Avenue. You can pick up stunning platters, bowls, candlesticks, vases, stemware, and more to please any hostess or home cook in your life. Also, giving new life to vintage items just feels good.

Stocking Stuffers or Hostess Gifts:
- locally sourced sauces, dry goods, and canned goods from Ohio City Provisions
- gift certificate for a Sausage-making Class at Saucisson
- Pope's Bloody Mary Mix (or sauces, jams, and more)
- Crepe Mix from Crepes de Luxe at the West Side Market (going in Mr. H's this year, shhhh)
- City Hippie Granola in a variety of kick-ass flavors
- locally-made olive oils, vinegars, pasta sauces, hot sauces, or spice blends from chefs like Dante, Zack Bruell, Doug Katz, or Jonathon Sawyer (many of which you can pick up at Heinen's Grocery Store)

None of these are affiliate links or sponsored content. They are products or services that I've personally purchased or would like to be gifted. I encourage you to shop local this season, as there are so many fantastic vendors right out your doorstep that can sell you that perfect gift for the foodie or home cook in your life. Share your additional ideas in the blog comments. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Michael's Genuine Food + Drink

Situated in the Van Aken District in Shaker Heights, Michael's Genuine Food + Drink had been on my list to check out since it opened. The restaurant concept comes from James Beard Award-winning chef/owner Michael Schwartz of Miami.
The dining room is casual, with booths and tables positioned for a view of the wood-fired oven. There's also a good-sized bar, and you can enjoy 1/2 off snacks, cocktails, wine by the glass, and beer during their Happy Hour on Monday - Friday from 4-6PM.
We popped in for a large lunch, because dinner wasn't going to be until very late that evening. We shared three smaller plates from their snacks and appetizers sections, and split a lunch-portion salad.

That started with an order of Classic Deviled Eggs ($6). Can't go wrong there.
We also shared the Wood Roasted Octopus ($19) with crema, smoked chile, radish, and cilantro. The flavors of this dish were overall very good, but it ended up a real "miss" for us because it was over-roasted and the texture became tough and it tasted too bitter. Also, for the price, the portion was very small. It cut down to four bite-sized pieces.
They offer two sizes for each of their salads, which is a nice option. We shared the smaller portion of the Butter Lettuce ($8) with orange, hazelnut, avocado, and shallot-hazelnut vinaigrette. It was a simple and refreshing salad that I'd eat again, but I kept thinking that it was missing a little something. I personally would add crumbled goat cheese, and more orange and avocado.
So far, the meal had been pleasant but nothing had "wowed us" quite yet. Well the best was saved for last. We ended with the Crispy Pork Belly ($15) with kimchi, crushed peanuts, and cilantro. The portion was pretty generous for an appetizer, the flavors and textures were great, and I'd get this again and again.
There was a whole lot more on the menu that I'd like to try. Including daily oysters and specials. The menu is labeled for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.

Pop in for a meal, then stop in at any of the great shops at the Van Aken District, and top off the experience with ice cream from Mitchell's. I just love dining destinations where you can walk around and make a whole excursion out of it.

3427 Tuttle Road
Shaker Heights, OH 44122
(216) 230-8022

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Time to Submit for the To Dine Challenge!

Wow, where did 2019 go? But it's that time of year again...to submit your restaurant suggestions for my annual To Dine Challenge.

Each December, I have you send in favorite newly opened restaurants, hidden neighborhood gems that don't get the recognition they deserve, hole-in-the-wall spots you frequent, and maybe even some restaurants on the verge of opening.

Then on January 1, I announce a list of 10 restaurants selected from the submissions that I'll challenge myself to dine at and blog about over the next 12 months. It has become a New Year's resolution of sorts.

I took a look back, and I've been doing the To Dine Challenge since 2010. Wow! I did take a year off in 2018, so 2020 will have to mark 10 years of lists.

You can use the Search function on my homepage to search the keywords "To Dine Challenge" to see the past lists and some of the associated posts. If you're not sure that I've visited a restaurant you're thinking of suggesting, check out my Restaurant Reviews page for a full list.

So start sending in those restaurant suggestions by commenting on this blog post or messaging me on social media (@BiteBuff). Then keep your eyes peeled on New Year's Day for the 2020 announcement!