Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Happy Cows Group Share

The owner of Happy Cows Group Share reached out to me to share a little about her business and asked if I'd be willing to come in to check out their retail location in Seven Hills.

It is exactly the type of local business that I like to bring to you guys. They offer locally raised meat in convenient, affordable, and customizable shares.
They have bulk pricing, so you buy by the share, instead of by the cut. 
They also have an extensive line of locally produced pantry goods.
Including some of our favorite brands...
...and several that we hadn't heard of yet.

We were gifted a pound of their Ground Beef. Mr. H whipped up some homemade brioche buns for the first time, and wow that was a good Smash Burger!
We also took home Short Ribs...
...that Mr. H smoked...
...and seared...
...before turning it into Smoked Short Rib Steamed Buns. Yum, yum!
You should definitely go check out their retail store and meat shares. When you shop with them, you are supporting local farmers and makers and getting such quality products to feed your family. 

7529 Broadview Road
Seven Hills, OH 44131

Disclosure: I was gifted the meat in exchange for my honest review and sharing my experience on social media. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Aqua di Luca Opens in Downtown

This post I'm catching up on from July (whoops), but we headed to the newly opened Aqua di Luca in Downtown Cleveland. Normally, we don't head right in when a new spot opens up. We like to give them time to settle in and fix any opening issues. But this was opened by the folks behind one of our very favorite restaurants in the city, Luca (and Luca West). So we made an exception. 

Plus, we wanted to celebrate a successful first month of my small business! That meant delicious cocktails from their bar. 

Sappy moment...this guy has been so supportive, encouraging, and involved in my starting my dream business. I feel pretty lucky to have him by my side, and there's no one else I'd rather celebrate with!
We started with the Sashimi Grade Tuna ($15) with honeycomb and spicy peppers. It's a simple dish, but one that I think is a not-miss if you're dining there. We were inspired to try making this at home.
We split the Cacio e Pepe ($10), but this dish needs some work before I'd recommend it. There was not enough dressing on the plate, and very little flavor to it. Iceberg lettuce needs assistance. 
Mr. H ordered the Salmone con Ravioli ($45) with Jumbo Lump Bluecrab and Lobster Ravioli. 
I had the Filet Mignon and Lobster Gnocchi ($55).
There were definitely some opening growing pains in food execution and service, but I have no doubt it will settle in to be a staple of Downtown Cleveland dining. The space used to be XO Prime Steaks, but you wouldn't recognize it from all of the gorgeous work they've done inside. Outdoor seating available, and a nice long bar for more casual dining.

I'll give it a little more time, but you bet that we'll be back!

Aqua di Luca
500 W St. Clair Avenue
Cleveland, OH

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Istanbul Grill

 Well, that was an unexpected two-month hiatus from the blog. But not surprising. I have NEWS! I started my own small business, selling vintage housewares on Etsy and Instagram. It's called Evy Lena Vintage, after my grandmother and great-grandmother, and it's been an "if money was no object, what would your dream job be" for a while. This pandemic and other recent big life events really put things into perspective for me, and I decided to stop holding myself back from chasing that dream. But it leaves very little time, energy, and interest for this space of the internet. So the posts will be fewer and far between as I navigate this new phase of my life. Thanks for coming along with me all these years.

In an effort to still complete the 2021 To Dine Challenge, Mr. H and I swung by Istanbul Grill in Avon the other night (I had some estate sale auction winnings to pick up, so win-win!).

This one had made it to the list because there used to be an Istanbul Grill (no relation) in Tremont that made this particular dish I loved, and this restaurant also had that dish on their menu.
We were greeted with seasoned bread and two dips, a cool yogurt-based one and a slightly spicy almost marinara-like one. A mix was Mr. H's favorite!
He ordered the Sultan's Delight "Hunkar Begendi" ($19.99) with tender cubes of lamb, red and green bell peppers in a tomato sauce, served over a creamy bed of pureed eggplant and cheese. The portion was huge, piping hot, and quite tasty. 
I was there for the Iskender Kebab with Yogurt ($19.99) of fresh Doner "Gyro" served with croutons and topped with a tomato butter sauce and a side of yogurt.
I remember liking the Tremont version a bit better (flavor of sauce, texture of pita), but this was very good too and I'd happily order it again.

We don't find ourselves out that way very often, but I'd pop in here again in a heartbeat. Open for lunch and dinner, has a kids menu, plenty of free parking, and lots of vegetarian options. 

35840 Chester Road
Avon, OH 44011
(440) 937-0733

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Tommy's Restaurant

There are a handful of restaurants in Greater Cleveland that if you tell people you haven't been there, they will gasp and shame you. Tommy's Restaurant in Coventry became one of those in my life. 

So, I had to remedy that by adding them to my 2021 To Dine Challenge list, and we recently grabbed our east side buddies to dine there for dinner on a weeknight.

The menu is hefty. So I had taken to Twitter a few days in advance to ask for everyone's favorite menu item.
One rose to the top, the Donovan ($8.99) with falafel, veggies, sesame sauce, cheese, mushrooms and baba. While the flavors were all satisfying, I have to say that feeling overwhelmed on how to properly eat this took away from my enjoyment. I did not see a way to pick it up safely, so I knife and forked it.

But who are we kidding, we were really there for the famous French Fries ($4.99). They are purposefully not seasoned, and a neighbor gave us the hot tip to order a side of the Loui sauce (thinner version of Thousand Islands dressing) to dip them in.
To get a taste of several items, Mr. H tried the Wellson ($11.89) sampler platter with 2 falafel balls, mini spinach pie, 1 scoop of hummus, 1 scoop of baba, a side of sesame tahini and pita. The spinach pie was our favorite. 
No trip to Tommy's is complete without a milkshake. I love a simple, classic Vanilla, but they have more than 15 flavors to choose from if you're more adventuresome. 
Look, this stop is all about a piece of culinary history in our area. It's right on Coventry, within steps of other great restaurants and shops, and full of tradition in the family-owned and operated business. Was it the best Mediterranean influenced meal I've had? No. Best diner food I've had? No. But it was a fun excursion, and one that I'm happy to now say that I've done. 
1824 Coventry Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 321-7757

Monday, June 21, 2021

Keep the Change Kitchen Collective

It's rare that a new-to-us restaurant shoots to the top of our "favorites" list, but it happens. Keep the Change Kitchen Collective, from the masterminds behind Spice Catering Co., Spice Acres, Spice Field Kitchen, and the former Spice Bar + Kitchen did just that.

In fact, we've already ordered multiple times since our first takeout meal from there.

Currently, you place an order on their website for curbside pickup or from one of the third-party delivery platforms they've partnered with (UberEats, GrubHub, DoorDash). You place one order, but have access to more than one culinary concept! 

We placed an order from Leif for Shiitake Storm with Adobo Rubbed Chicken Thigh ($15.50) with grains, marinated greens, roasted mushrooms, chili piperade, herby broccoli, marinated onions, furikake seeds and cider-fennel vinaigrette.
Then from Woo! Noods and Rice we ordered the Shiitake Mapo Tofu Udon ($14.50) with Cleveland tofu, shiitake + button mushrooms, and GGS (garlic/ginger/scallion) over udon noodles.
Lastly, I was intrigued to try the crispy gluten-free chicken tenders from Winner Winner, so we shared the Little Ones ($8.50) with 2 crispy, gluten-free Ohio Amish chicken tenders, choice of 1 mini side + 1 sauce. Because the list of house made sauces is ah-maze-ing!
Don't forget to add on a canned wine for the perfect picnic.

No need to go into detail on the dishes, because they were each fantastic and we've enjoyed everything else we've ordered so far as well. The only thing I didn't care for was the Marinated Cucumber Salad because it didn't have enough vinegar flavor for my taste.

Keep the Change Kitchen Collective
5601 Tillman Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 465-1133

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Valley Villa Custard

Ok, I know it's not "official" yet...but with consistent 80+ degree days and lots of sunshine lately, it feels like summer in Northeast Ohio! So after a glorious pool day with friends, the mere mention of ice cream had us interested.

Our friends grew up in Chesterland and recommended that we stop at Valley Villa Custard on the way home. They know I'm a sucker for soft-serve. 

And it delivered! Rich, creamy...everything I want Vanilla Soft-serve to be. I'm a minimalist when it comes to my ice cream, so I wasn't ready to commit to a loaded up serving...but get the special crunch topping there. It's crushed peanuts, sprinkles, puffed cereal...a little bit of everything you could ever want all rolled into one.
They also have a very extensive list of frozen custard flavors, sundaes, flurries, milkshakes, and more.

Just be aware that they are a cash-only operation! This spot is definitely worth a stop if you're in the Chesterland area. 

What's your go-to ice cream order in the summer?

Valley Villa Custard
8200 Mayfield Road
Chesterland, OH 44026
(440) 729-4124

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Daily Press

I recently discovered that the owner of Daily Press lives in our neighborhood. We got to sample some of her cold-pressed organic juices at a community clean-up event, and we were hooked.

She previously had a brick-and-mortar juice bar in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood of Cleveland, but made the decision to close the shop and pivot to home delivery during the pandemic. 

Shortly after meeting her and sampling a couple juices, we were ready to place our first delivery order! 

I had been dreaming of the Spicy Apple since I first tried it, and yup...it's still my favorite. 

Here's what we tried:
  • Spicy Apple ➤ green apple, extra extra ginger, lemon, cayenne
  • Sweet Heat ➤ cucumber, pineapple, cilantro, jalapeno
  • Dragon Berry Punch ➤ amla berry, camu camu, dragonfruit, carrot, beet, watermelon, pineapple, green apple, extra ginger, lemon
They run $9 - $10 a bottle, and there's discounted pricing if purchasing a cleanse pack. 

There are many health benefits to raw, organic, cold-pressed juice. And nothing tastes quite like it! Our minds headed in a different direction, and started dreaming of craft cocktails to mix with these. 

Here's a refreshing cocktail Mr. H created that is just perfect for the summer ahead:
  • 4 oz. Spicy Apple Daily Press juice
  • 2 oz. Mezcal
  • 1 oz. Lemon Juice (lime juice would be tasty too!)
  • .5 oz. Green Chartreuse
  • .25 oz. Agave Syrup
  • Place in shaker with ice, shake, and strain over fresh ice.

Head over to her website and check out the full list of products. Place an order, mix up that cocktail, and share if you liked it! 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Wicked Lobstah and Blue Monkey Brewing Co.

Blue Monkey Brewing Company opened in North Royalton just over a year ago. I had heard about it from friends that know the owners. We don't find ourselves out in that area much, but all it took was a Facebook post about a certain food truck scheduled to be there.

First, we settled in on their small patio with a Colobus PBP (Peanut Butter Porter) and Salted Caramel (Blonde Stout). They were already speaking my language! Both were pretty good, but I enjoyed the porter more. 

Then it was time for dinner at the Wicked Lobstah that was in from Columbus for a few days around Greater Cleveland.
There just aren't enough good lobster rolls around Cleveland, and I couldn't wait to dig in. We had to try The Plain Ass Roll ($18) with warm buttery lobster on a toasted bun.
But they have a list of specialty lobster rolls with everything from guacamole, smoked salmon, blue crab, and sriracha. We ordered The High Society Roll ($20) with black and white truffle mayo. 
Both were quite tasty and brought me back to our Maine trips. I'm not a huge potato chip person (unless they are Lay's Salt & Vinegar), but the seasoned chips with these were good too.

I'm glad that we caught the food truck while it was in town, and it was fun to check out the brewery. You can tell they have a loyal bunch of regulars. While I won't be going out of my way to head there again, it's a nice option if in the area. They rotate food trucks or you can bring in your own food. There's often live music, and plenty of parking since it is tucked on the side of Discount Drug Mart.

Blue Monkey Brewing Co.
5540 Wallings Road
North Royalton, OH 44133
(440) 628-9152

Monday, May 10, 2021

Rood Food and Pie

Alright, I've been sleeping on the Salt & Honey Pie ($5.75) from Rood Food & Pie in Lakewood, so I'm hear to tell you to stop making the mistake that I did.

First, the restaurant is super cute. Just look at this adorable bar as you enter the dining room.

They've pivoted their business model a couple of times since opening, but they currently offer Dinner and Brunch with a Late Night Pie Bar coming soon.

But we were there to try the signature Salt & Honey Pie that I've seen on Instagram hundreds of times (it feels like). With wildflower honey custard, Euro butter, maldon sea salt, and bee pollen...it's certainly unusual and not too sweet.
The bee pollen even comes in this tiny, cute glass container for you to sprinkle it on for yourself. 
While this pie was definitely our favorite, we also tried the Tequila Lime ($6.5) with blanco tequila, organic sugar, orange zest and orang liqueur, fresh lime, whip, and lime zest.
We need more places like Rood where you can pop in for just a quick piece of pie! From this experience, I'll definitely look forward to checking out their savory food menu. But I won't be skipping that Salt & Honey pie...

Rood Food and Pie
17001 Madison Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107
(216) 712-4506

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Home Bistro

Home Bistro opened in August 2020 on Mayfield Road, right in the heart of Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood. They've been making quite a splash, despite us being in the middle of a pandemic. Including recently being named Best New Restaurant of 2020 by Cleveland Magazine readers.

So as my two friends and I got together for our very first patio dining experience since the pandemic began, we were excited to try this new spot out. The owners, Victor Morenz and Emily Gilbert, had a restaurant in Chicago (by the same name) with rave reviews from my friend's family there. I may have been counting down the hours before our visit all week!

Let's just say, it did not disappoint. From the Starters, we shared Beer Battered Asparagus ($12) with IPA beer batter, and salt & vinegar aioli.
And Shishito Peppers ($8) with sea salt and olive oil.
I then got super torn between several of the Mains that all sounded good, so my indecisiveness led me to two additional Starters instead. First, the Grilled Haloumi ($12), which is a Mediterranean cheese with strawberry, pickled green garlic, black pepper, and arbequina olive oil. Isn't that plating stunning?!
And the Artichoke Edam Fritters ($12) with garlic aioli and lemon.
My friends enjoyed the Korean Fried Chicken ($24) with crispy-fried smoked chicken thigh, sweet & savory soy, peanut puree, snap peas, and spring onion kimchi; Caesar Salad ($13); and one of the Mussels specials (Tuesday was Mussels Night with several options for $18). Every single dish was wonderful.

Now, service definitely had minor issues. Food arrived out of order, we were out of water for quite a while, and they seemed stretched thin. But our server and the manager were very sweet and attentive overall. The manager shared with us how difficult it still is to find restaurant workers that will come back to work in the pandemic, and how busy they've been since the Cleveland Magazine coverage and the warmer temperatures. I have no reason to think the service won't improve as things continue to get back to "normal." 

We dined on their patio, but the interior was just adorable too. Parking is a real issue in that neighborhood, but with some patience and lots of circling I did eventually find a street parking spot right outside the restaurant. 

This was one of the best meals I've had out in a long time, and that's not just the pandemic talking! I'm already looking forward to a return visit with Mr. H.

Home Bistro
12022 Mayfield Road
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 795-5582

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Conforti

When Conforti opened in January in Tremont, we knew that we'd have to try it because as chef David Kocab has made his way through kitchens like Trentina, The Black Pig, Ushabu, and Bar Oni...we've become big fans. 

Chef/owner Matt Spinner and Kocab are focusing on takeout only, Thursday - Monday. Delivery is available from Uber Eats. 

Immediately their Meatballs started hitting my Instagram feed. They did not disappoint!

But our favorite of the meal (and Kocab's personal favorite combo) was the Tomato Braised Cod with red sauce, capers, olive tapenade and parsley salad and a side of the Grilled Rapini with fried garlic, red chili flake, and lemon.
The Fried Arancini is served with garlicky pesto aioli for dipping.
The Gulf Shrimp are cooked in caper butter served with parsley and grilled lemon.
The menu changes slightly, so you want to keep your eyes peeled. There's more that we plan to try (hello, Personal Pan Lasagna and Gnocchi Alla Romana), but that Cod, the Rapini, and Meatballs will be hard to resist ordering over and over again.

Conforti
2173 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH
(216) 334-9746