Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Supporting Black-owned Local Restaurants

There are some powerful things happening in our country, and our city, right now that need attention, and more importantly...action.

I have posted a few things on my social media accounts that resonated with me, but what has felt more authentic is to take action in my personal life. Conversation is important, but it's already been happening. It's taking action that will have true impact moving forward.

However, I wanted to use my platform to call attention to some great black-owned businesses. I'm re-sharing a handful of past blog posts below of local restaurants in Northeast Ohio, and highlighting a few that were either already on my mental "list" to try or have recently caught my attention that I'm committing to visiting soon. Thanks to the foodie community online, I've been able to see and add several new restaurant accounts to my feed recently!

Past Posts:
Kelly Catering Co. Carry Out
Irie Jamaican Kitchen
Johnny Mango World Café
The Rib Cage Bar and Grille
Sauce the City
Taste of Jamaica
Capo Steaks (coming soon!)

Coming Up:
The Crispy Chick
Dreamz Café
Battiste and Dupree Cajun Grill
Zanzibar Soul Fusion
Black Box Fix
Elite Bistro
Brooklyn Soulfood & More

Unfortunately, in looking through my 1,000+ past blog posts, several of the black-owned restaurants that I've dined at in the past have since closed. Local restaurants need our support more than ever right now, so please consider ordering takeout, having any small gatherings catered, or dining in as you feel comfortable.

There are some fantastic lists compiled by The Cleveland Bucket List and Cleveland Scene of black-owned restaurants in Northeast Ohio that you need to check out. Commit to supporting new-to-you businesses and remain loyal to the ones you already loved.

Please leave other restaurant suggestions in the comments below, or share how you are taking action in our community to impact change.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Salted Dough

Even though we're on self-quarantine and many restaurants were either closed entirely or open for limited carry-out/delivery, it was time to get back to tackling the restaurants on my 2020 To Dine Challenge list.

We decided that Salted Dough in Broadview Heights would be one that could travel well and that the dine-in atmosphere wouldn't be one we'd regret not experiencing in-person.
The BURRATA ($13) with caramelized butternut squash, lime pickle honey, pumpkin seed oil, apple cider gastrique, and pavon vermouth may have been the item I was looking forward to the most when we ordered. It sounded unique, and who doesn't love burrata? For me, the spices and "fall" flavors were too overpowering and battled each other. I really didn't care for it at all, and they also didn't package the toasted bread separately so it was very soggy by the time we got home. This dish was a major miss for us. 
They have HAND ROLLED RICOTTA GNOCCHI and you can select from five sauces. We went for the Bolognese with local cream, pancetta, and nutmeg ($18). I'll say it was certainly a good version and worth getting, but not "knock-your-socks off."
I've heard mixed reviews of their pizza, but for us, it was the best thing we got from there. We ordered the SPANISH with Spanish chorizo, pimento goat cheese, fresh rosemary, roasted garlic, fire roasted red peppers, smoked mozzarella, and red sauce. The dough was thin but had a nice chew and crispy edge to it, and the flavors of this toppings combination just popped.
All pizza crust is finished with pecorino Romano, roasted garlic oil, and pink Himalayan sea salt. You can choose from three sizes. They have specialty pizzas or you can build-your-own.

It's in a large complex so there's plenty of free parking. In addition to options on the regular menu that would be kid-friendly, they also have a Kids Menu. They have an extensive wine list, 75 local craft beers, and cocktails. Plus 20 flavors of gelato and tiramisu! Outdoor dining is available.

Overall, I wasn't wild about the experience, but it was solid. If I was in the area, I'd likely still choose a couple of other spots before dining here again.

Salted Dough
9174 Broadview Road
Broadview Heights, OH 44147
(440) 587-1098

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tales from Social Distancing...

As we enter Week 11, it still seems a little surreal that it's been that long. I drove a car this weekend for the first time since March 16. Weird to think about. 

But we're hanging in there in at home. Now enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of full-blown Spring.
There are still a handful of chilly and damp days, so one of those evenings we ordered in Gnocchi al Burro from Trattoria Roman Garden in Little Italy. I can't speak to the rest of the menu, but that gnocchi makes an appearance once a year for us!
Do you remember when I recently visited Tapatia's Taqueria? Well we discovered their sister restaurant Hacienda Tapatia, and it was just as good. I still prefer the Chile Poblano from Cozumel, but their version of Chile Rellenos slid into the #3 spot for me (close behind Luchita's).
We're still supporting The Black Pig once a week, and we recently enjoyed their Pasta Night for 2. Their house made pastas have always been excellent, so it was great to experience them again.
I have always loved getting lost in a good book and used to devour 5-7 books a week when I was a kid on summer break, but as an adult I don't read much fiction anymore because I have a hard time putting a book down once I'm reading. It often leads to staying up into the wee hours of the morning until I finish, and then I pay the price for days. With self-quarantine, I decided it was a perfect time to distract my mind and dive into a couple of books. My new gorgeous bookmark from Oceanne makes it feel extra special. Any recommendations?
One of the things I'm enjoying about takeout these days is focusing on foods that we (by "we" we all know I mean Mr. H) don't make at home. Indian falls into that category, and we enjoyed Chicken Tikka Masala from Tandul in Tremont. They have the best Garlic Cheese Naan that I've had locally.
I'm really missing "my people" during this. So Mr. H and I decided to take a random day off of work, whip up some Ramp & Spinach Pesto (thanks for the recipe, Meghan!), and deliver jars with a note to a few of our favorite neighbors. It felt great to take that time to step away from the stress of work to do something nice for people we care about and miss.
The last takeout experience that I want to share with you is the Walnut Shrimp from Li Wah in AsiaTown. It's always been my favorite dish there if I'm not doing dim sum, and after eating it again, it inspired us to try and make a version at home this week. Fingers crossed!
Stay tuned later this week, because I've been slowly starting to tackle takeout from 2020 To Dine Challenge restaurants to still try and complete the list this year. Only 5 more to go!

Li Wah
2999 Payne Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114

2505 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113

2801 Bridge Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113

12207 Mayfield Road
Cleveland, OH 44106

Hacienda Tapatia
1572 W. 117
Lakewood, OH 44107

Friday, May 1, 2020

Tales from Social Distancing...

For the most part, I'd say we're settling in to our new "normal" these days. I work from home and rarely leave the house for anything other than exercise outdoors, and that helps keep my anxiety lower. Mr. H's business is essential, so he's still at work full-time but finds ways to unwind. Often through fun in the kitchen, like this homemade Ramp Linguini
We also threw some ramps in with a boxed wild rice for a quick, easy weeknight meal with scallops and roasted broccoli. I love that they can really be tossed with almost anything. If you're still looking for some, check out Greg's Produce at the West Side Market.
By Saturday, we knew that we had to stock back up on proteins for our freezer. I was actually pretty proud that we had gone over a month without needing to. But, when we did, we headed to Saucisson. You can order online starting Wednesday for Thursday-Saturday curbside pick-up. The shop is also open for two customers at a time. 

In addition to their locally-sourced and house meats, they have ready-to-eat meals, some pantry items, and even desserts from Dramatic Snax like this Fudge Brownie. It was rich, moist, and HUGE. 
We stay committed to ordering takeout from The Black Pig once a week, and last Saturday we had a decadent night in with Osso Buco over Polenta with Roasted Vegetables, Salad, and Squid Ink Cavatelli with Shrimp & Crab
We're just trying to do our part to support our favorite restaurants during this time, so I was totally shocked and a bit teary-eyed when they had some gorgeous flowers waiting for us at pick-up. It was incredibly thoughtful, and the vase brightened up my home office all week long.
Over the weekend, we also got some outdoor time with the younger pup. She's loving (and so are we) the secluded walks in the woods. 
And we all enjoyed the addition of a fire pit in the backyard! We recognized that we'll be spending a lot more time at home this summer, so it was worth purchasing for those nights when we need some zen.
I want to also put a reminder out there that it is not only the local, independent restaurants that are suffering from the stay-at-home order. Don't forget about your favorite boutiques, specialty shops (I miss you, Lakewood Plant Company!), and other small businesses that you're used to shopping at in-person.

Take a look at their websites and social media accounts, as they may have options like curbside pick-up, online shopping, or delivery if you're not comfortable going there in-person as things open back up this month. 

I've collected quite a few pieces from my favorite vintage shop, Helm Collective. I've had my eye on this sweet (pun intended) little honey jar ever since I saw it on her Instagram account months ago.
I sent a message to ask if it was still available and she shipped it to my house for a small fee. It'll join some of the other pieces from there on a shelf project I'm working on in our breakfast nook. More on that soon! 

How are you doing? What have you been able to get out and do now that the weather is cooperating more? Are you getting into a routine that feels better now?

2801 Bridge Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113

5324 Fleet Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44105

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Tales from Social Distancing...

What a difference some sunshine can make, especially right now in these more stressful and isolating times. Even though the temperatures were still a bit chilly last weekend in Northeast Ohio, Mr. H and I were able to get outside and it instantly improved my mood.

We headed to the Brookside Reservation to take in the Cherry Blossoms, which bloom around this time each year for only a brief time. We took the pup and had a nice, short stroll through the park.
That left me wanting to see more signs of spring, so we took a drive over to Lake View Cemetery (my first time!) and battled the crowds at Daffodil Hill. This is only a tiny portion of the gorgeous rolling hill of sunny blooms.
The next day, we headed out with the pup again for a 2 mile hike in Richfield.
She got to run through some creek beds, traipse over wooden bridges, and scout out some ramps. Everyone was happy.
We also had some fun with food over the last week, including more of Mr. H's home cooking.

But on Saturday evening, we ordered the Dinner for 2 carry-out from The Black Pig. The meal was fancier than usual, so I secretly set the table with all the fine crystal, candles, and place settings it deserved while Mr. H picked up our meal. 
The filet, crab cakes, roasted potatoes, broccoli, and shrimp cocktail (not pictured) set the stage for a fabulous evening at home that still felt special and "date night" worthy.
I am extra grateful that they started offering dessert carry-out two weeks ago, because it's something that we don't make at home and felt like such a treat. We're both still dreaming of the Peanut Butter Mousse and Flourless Chocolate Cake.
In addition to supporting The Black Pig once a week, we're also rotating in other favorites around town. This past week, it was Thai from Banana Blossom.

They have the best Crab Rangoon I've ever had, because the shape allows for a better filling to wrapper ratio. It's a must-order item when we eat there.
I also like their Pad Thai, and it hit the spot on a chilly, windy day last week. The only dish I don't care for that we've tried is the Massaman Curry, as I've had much better around Northeast Ohio.
During this past week, I also felt motivated to start dabbling with my New Year's Resolution to learn a new hobby in 2020. I was gifted several items over the holidays to help with this goal, including a deck of tarot cards from Mr. H. So I busted them out and did my first reading!
How are you staying busy lately? Anything fun you've cooked up in the kitchen that you'd like to share? Any great take out you're enjoying?

Monday, April 6, 2020

Tales from Social Distancing

Like many of you, I'm in Week 3 of working remotely from home. Trying to find small joys every day to keep me sane and happy in very overwhelming and challenging times.
I suggest bringing in some of those spring flowers to brighten up your home, play some music you enjoy, and light a candle. All of these small elements have helped create a pretty pleasant home office atmosphere.

Mr. H has been cooking even more than usual through this.
Sometimes tackling new-to-us dishes that take more time and care, and sometimes quick and easy is what fits us best. Like these Smash Burgers the other night while hanging out in the garage after some yardwork!
We've been getting a lot of use from the bread maker and the pasta maker my mom bought us this past Christmas.
We continue to try and do our part to support local, independent businesses through carry-out or delivery services. That even included stocking our fine cheese supply with a delivery through Mercato from Old Brooklyn Cheese Co. this week!
Which led us to trying to recreate their Raclette dish over baby potatoes, prosciutto, pickles, and their Pepped Up Mustard.
Alllllmost as good.

We committed to getting takeout from The Black Pig once a week, since it really is our favorite restaurant and we'd be devastated if it doesn't make it through this. They've done a phenomenal job with minimal-contact takeout, and I've felt very safe picking up our food each week. Every Wednesday, they announce the week's menu for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. So far, we've enjoyed sharing their Burger and Pork Collar, then a family-style Taco night...
...and Sandwich Night this past week.
With the Italian and the Banh Mi, it was a smashing success in this household!
One day each week, we rotate ordering from other restaurants we love. This past week, it was Mexican from Cozumel in Independence.
They make my favorite Stuffed Poblano in town. I get the vegetarian version.

It may get challenging given the circumstances, but I'm still going to try and work through the 2020 To Dine Challenge. I think we'll be ordering carry-out from one of the spots this week, so stay tuned!

How are you balancing cooking from home and/or ordering out? Any local businesses that you'd like to give a shout-out to? Any great dishes you've tried making at home for the first time?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

This Bites...

Look, there's no flowery way to put this. We are living through some truly wild times, and it's changing by the hour. I know we haven't even experienced the worst of it yet.

When news hit Ohio on Sunday that all bars and restaurants were being forced into mandatory closure (with the exception of carry-out and delivery), it really started to hit "home" and I began worrying about our friends in the business and how all of our favorite local eateries may or may not be able to weather this storm.
Now, I want to be clear that I agree with most of the decisions being made. Because, let's face it, people won't make the right choices for themselves and staying home is the only way to flatten the curve. (Umm Florida and West Virginia, what is WRONG with you?!) Honestly, I wish the government was taking more of an aggressive approach nationally. I've been proud to be a resident of Ohio, leading the way in many of the tough and conservative decisions.

But some people are just nutty with the panic and hoarding, and it's a real problem to get some products that are broadly needed or critical for our health care providers. I had to chuckle as Mr. H tried to buy some toilet paper in bulk for his small business (35 employees go through quite a bit quite quickly!), and Instacart made THIS a suggested replacement item...
That's certainly not something I'd want near my lady bits.

We had been out of the country for a week (gasp, I know), so we stocked up on groceries over the weekend with a focus on supporting our favorite local shops. That included stops at the West Side Market, Old Brooklyn Cheese Co., and Ohio City Provisions
I don't take it for granted that our budget allows for us to shop at places like these, and I hope we can continue to have that ability.

Restaurants are making tough decisions every day now about laying off employees, closing their doors indefinitely, or trying to stay open for carry-out and delivery on a skeleton crew. I'm doing my part to share information. Head to my Instagram and view the NEO Updates highlights for information on restaurants staying open.
I know not everyone feels comfortable with it, but for now health care providers are saying that it doesn't appear to be transmitted through food and not as easily on some surfaces. Just keep your safe distance (6' suggested) from delivery or restaurant employees and consistently wash your hands and disinfect items that touch other surfaces or people. 

We'll be doing our part by purchasing takeout, gift certificates to use at a later date, and retail wine/beer. Mr. H and I decided to focus our support on 3-4 of our favorite local spots, to have the most impact. 
I urge you to do the same during this time. It's our small, local businesses that will be hurt badly in this. At least it sounds like there are additional relief programs on the way. At The Black Pig, we called in our order, interacted with only one employee and she stayed at a safe distance (they'll also deliver it to your car), and they had hand sanitizer available for use after signing the check. 

We don't know what the future will look like, particularly our local restaurant scene. Please do your part, and I'll continue to share information on my social channels. 

In the meantime for this blog, you'll likely see more home cooking (from Mr. H, of course) and updates on local businesses we're trying to support in different ways. 

One beautiful thing we're witnessing in this is a renewed sense of community and humanity. People are helping each other, thinking of others, and doing more to reach out. Sometimes in really creative ways! A neighbor's child was turning 3 years-old this week, so another neighbor created a "parade" route and a collection of neighbors stood outside on their porches or walked to a spot across the street on the route to sing Happy Birthday and wave as she marched past.

Cleveland, I love you. We're in this together.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Twisted Taino Takeover at Opal

A new Restaurant Takeover event series kicked off at Opal on Pearl in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood. The first Monday of every month from now through July (fingers crossed for an extension!), a different chef/restaurant will take over the Opal kitchen and offer a special menu for the evening. You pre-purchase your reservation, but then the deposit is applied to your bill that night.

We couldn't make the first event in February, but we made it in with some neighbors for the Twisted Taino Frappé Bar & Grill takeover last week.
No brick-and-mortar restaurant yet (hint, hint come to Old Brooklyn!), but word on the street is that they are looking for a location. They currently do pop-events around town, and just finished up a stint at Forest City Shuffleboard

Mr. H and I started with the Bandeja Criolla ($12) with pork and chicken chicharrones, fried yucca, and tostones served with pink garlic sauce and Jaramillo sauce. I didn't care for the tostones as they were denser and drier than others I've had, but the other items on the sampler platter were excellent. The real star was the Jaramillo sauce! Rumor has it that they may look to have it bottled for retail. Yes, please. Everyone was asking about it.
I had the Chile Relleno ($15) with two stuffed poblano peppers in either a Crema sauce or Tomato sauce. I selected the crema.
It was spicier than poblanos often are, but I love heat so I was good with it. They were quite tasty. 

However, not as fun and tasty as Mr. H's La Torre del Cacique ($17).
This tower was made of mashed yucca, sweet plantains, mofongo, Spanish yellow rice and choice of meat. It was a large portion, and reheated nicely the next day topped with some hot sauce. Or so I heard...

For $20 a ticket, it was affordable and we really enjoyed the evening. The kitchen got a little backed up so food took a long while, but Tony and his crew from Opal were slinging drinks and we enjoyed our time catching up with friends.

Next month...Momocho! Chef/owner Eric Williams lives in the neighborhood. Actually just down the street from me, hey neighbor! Don't miss this one, guys. Check out the Restaurant Takeover tab on Opal's website or the Facebook event for more information. Will I see you there?

4250 Pearl Road
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 417-2030

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Village Martini and Wine Bar

I had kind of a crappy birthday this year. It was just days after the 1-year anniversary of my dad passing, I was in NYC for a work conference and had to travel back very late at night on the actual day of my birthday, I had caught a terrible upper respiratory infection during the trip and was still feverish, and then I was still very under the weather once we got to the weekend celebrations planned with my friends. *cue the tiny violin*

Even Mr. H must have been feeling badly for how my birthday went down (because I'm also a BIG birthday celebration person for myself and anyone I love), because he decided to plan a surprise "birthday do-over" this past weekend.

All I knew was that I needed to be ready at 6PM. An Uber came to whisk us away, and the driver immediately said, "You're headed to Chagrin Falls?" and my mind started spinning with restaurants we hadn't dined at yet in one of my favorite quaint, east-side towns.

What Mr. H had up his sleeve was a pre-dinner drinks spot, the Village Martini and Wine Bar.
Had never heard of it!

Located outside of the center of town, this cozy restaurant and bar was tucked away in a small business complex. We settled in at the bar, and immediately I saw several delicious-sounding cocktails on their list.

Turns out, they do a lot of their own infusions (as you can see behind the bar) and the cocktail menu was really interesting. The name and ingredients of my first drink escapes me (having too much fun with my hubby!), but I think it was something like The Bohemian (??) and it had blackberry(??)-infused gin and some tropical juices.
Mr. H declared this Manhattan with Peanut and Chocolate Chip-infused Bourbon as one of the best drinks he's had in a while.
Which says a lot, because we were just in NYC at some great cocktail bars, Mr. H makes some dreamy ones at home, and we have several favorite cocktail bars around Northeast Ohio.

I enjoyed both of my cocktails from the Seasonal Cocktails section. The Winter Paloma was just as good.

We didn't try any of the food because Mr. H had a dinner stop scheduled too (more on that in the next blog post), but it looked really decent coming out of the kitchen. Charcuterie and cheese board, stuffed mushrooms, ahi tuna, pasta, big all looked above what you'd find at an average wine bar.

I'd like to go back in the warmer weather to try the food and enjoy some more cocktails (I'm sure the wine list is good too and they had a few craft beers on tap), because there was a patio out front of the restaurant.
It was twinkling in the fresh snow.

I love finding gems like this spot! You could tell that they have a lot of regulars based on how people were interacting with the bartender and servers. Plenty of free parking in the lot too.

Village Martini and Wine Bar
516 E Washington Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022
(440) 893-9463

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

West Side Market Cafe

I'd consider us pretty regular shoppers of the historic West Side Market in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood. Our visits haven't been as frequent since great locally-sourced shops like Ohio City Provisions and Saucisson popped up over the last few years, but we still enjoy our outings to the WSM often enough.

With the continuing decline of occupancy, the poor structural conditions some of the vendors face, and other issues that appear to be on the rise with the management from the city of this treasure, we've been trying to do our part to shop there more frequently to support those that are still there trying to make a living. I encourage you to do the same.

However, I admit, I hate trying to shop there once the tourist crowds come in on Saturday. So I've always tried to get in and out before 10AM. Weekday shopping with the hours the market keeps just doesn't work for us.

But that means that somehow, for all these years, I overlooked dining at the West Side Market Café.
One quick look at the menu, and I figured that I wouldn't be making that mistake again.
I already want to head back to try the Hot Mess, Fried Egg Sandwich and Pierogi Melt.

But, I tried The Remedy Breakfast Sandwich with a fried egg, hashbrown patty, breakfast sausage, and American cheese on a pretzel bun and topped with sausage gravy. Holy moly, this thing was a beast. I barely ate half of it.
It just sounded unusual, and most of the ingredients were sourced from the West Side Market vendors. The pretzel bun was one of the better ones I've had. My only critique would be that the sausage was sliced links, and it seems like a patty would work better. Most bites didn't have any sausage. Doesn't really matter though, this is a knife and fork kinda sandwich!

Then we headed into the market hall for our shopping, and with full bellies we made much better decisions!

West Side Market Café
1979 W 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113