Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Accent Rockin the Robata

Normally when a new restaurant opens up, I avoid them like the plague for weeks if not months. I like them to have time to get the kinks out so I don't have to suffer through the craziness of new staff, new menu and general craziness. But some friends of mine were going and the temptation was just too great. Well, I broke my rule for Accent and I'm happy I did!
Sasa's Scott Kim has a gorgeous space that is perfect for the location in the newly branded Uptown District. We could see the red glow from across the street and it was a welcoming beacon in the Hurricane Sandy inspired blustery night.

My friends used to work with Accent's Chef Michael Lyon back when he was a seemingly ordinary guy in their office. They had a glimpse of his culinary skills back in the day and couldn't wait to see his dream come to fruition. We all agreed, he was rocking the chef's coat and the kitchen!
He treated us to platters of mixed pickled vegetables that whet our appetites while we waited for our drinks.
The star of the plate was the yellow 1/2 circles that look like yellow squash. They tasted like butternut squash but were actually a type of daikon radish. They had a meatiness that was unexpected and addictive.


The cocktail menu is full of surprises too. I had a hard time choosing but finally opted for the Sweet Heat based on our server's recommendation. It's a blend of peppercorn simple syrup, Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey, and fresh clementine juice with a peppercorn sugar rim. And if you think that sounds good, you should taste it. It was the perfect mix of fresh juice and warming whiskey with just the slightest kick. This is my new fall drink of choice for sure! And the Tennessee Honey is soon to be an addition to my home bar as well - yum!
I also tried the Bourbon Stinger (bourbon, honey and cinnamon simple syrup) and it was a close second. There's a delightful lime cocktail (forgot to write down the name) on the menu that's really really good too.

We shared the famous Sasa fries to start off. Then we had to make the hard decision on what to order. Accent features two unique cooking methods not utilized in any other Cleveland kitchens. The Robata Grill reaches 1,000 degrees and this high heat ensures that the food's exterior is crispy and the interior isn't overcooked. The Josper Oven combines a traditional oven with the characteristics of charbroiling. 

I had my heart set on trying the Robata grilled items but found that they are on the Tapas dinner menu which ended up being a bar only menu. They offered Robata whole snapper and scallops on the dinner menu but I was really in the mood for grilled meat. They were really nice and let me order them but make sure you sit in the bar if that's what you are looking for.

I ordered the mixed veggies and was swayed by the server's high praise of the turkey ribs and ordered those.
The veggies received ended up being yellow and green squash only and I would pass on those next time. They are good but nothing special. On the other hand, the turkey ribs were incredible! Besides being unique (who ever had a turkey rib before?!) they were meaty and delicious. Definitely order these - you won't believe how good turkey can taste.
the secret? the "ribs" are actually the collarbone
I also ordered the kim chee and beef bulgogi flatbread with goat cheese. I am a huge fan of all three main ingredients so I couldn't resist.
As an appetizer, you definitely want to share. Even though it was my entree, I still shared. I expected it to have more punch because of the kim chee but it was mild so don't be afraid to order it if you don't like too much spice. It was a huge hit at the table.

Thankfully my friends let me sample their selections too:
shitake and tofu ravioli - gluten free and vegan!
Robata cold smoked pan seared scallops with yam puree and roasted veggies and katsu sauce
The Korean Celebration of Nine was something I was going to order until my friend did. Check out this assortment of goodness:
In the center are mung bean pancakes with thinly sliced daikon in between each. You could make tiny little wraps or just eat each element separately. You might share this with a friend but you would both be fighting over the pork belly, shrimp and scallop because they were so good and the portions of these were small. 

Our table also ordered the hanger steak with chimichurri sauce and roasted fingerling potatoes. While I may have forgotten to take a photo, I won't forget how good it was. It proved again that Accent really shines when it comes to meat.

We finished off the meal with an order of the S'mores.
This was a unique and fun preparation (less messy too!) of a traditional campfire favorite. Each marshmallow is skewered, rolled in chocolate ganache, rolled in graham cracker crumbs and then blasted in the Robata. They were gooey and a nice sweet bite to end the meal.

My heart was set on the pumpkin bread pudding but they were out. Much moaning and whining ensued but the S'mores helped ease the pain. The other choices were a creme brulee and a molten chocolate cake. I would really like to see some other choices that match the creativity of the rest of the menu.

Especially considering that we dined on day 2, most everything went smoothly. Besides being out of the bread pudding and the short ribs, and running out of some ingredient in the lime cocktail, the only misstep was the slowness of getting our drinks out to us. The lag was really long especially considering that they weren't busy. The waitress had a fairly good understanding of the menu and made two solid recommendations so I think that they are off to a great start!

We all loved Accent and will definitely be back. It's a perfect Happy Hour spot for sitting in the bar and trying all the Robata items. I can't wait to see what they do with the beef brisket and the egg and prosciutto. What a perfect stop after hitting the newly opened MOCA!

This new Uptown District is looking like quite the hip destination thanks to Accent, MOCA, a new Jonathan Sawyer restaurant in the works, the 2nd ABC the Tavern location and more. 




Friday, October 26, 2012

MedWish Huddle Fundraiser Giveaway

Just added: former Browns middle linebacker and Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas judge Dick Ambrose will be at the event. Meet one of our favorite Kardiac Kids in person at Huddle while you eat, drink and mingle for a great cause.

** Giveaway extended until Friday at 5pm **

Well, it's been quite a week! So many ups and downs and I've barely had time to think. I'm looking forward to the upcoming weekend and the jump start on Halloween.

But - today it's FRIDAY - woo hoo! And as a reward for all of your hard work this week, I have a special treat (no tricks!)
The MedWish folks are hosting a fun fall fundraiser. Huddle with MedWish is a football themed event on Nov. 17th at 6pm at the Wickliffe Italian-American Club. You'll get an Italian-style dinner, drink ticket and the opportunity to win prizes for your $25 donation. Lots of great goodies will be up for grabs thanks to a gambler's auction and raffles: sports memorabilia, a Bernie Kosar signed photo, gift cards and more! Cleveland Browns fashion is encouraged for this casual event. To order tickets, click here.

MedWish is a great organization  - they repurpose medical equipment/supplies and share them with over 55 countries all over the world. Humanitarian aid and recycling for the win!

How do you make the team? 
1. Mandatory Entry: What is your favorite tailgating recipe?
2. Follow MedWish on Twitter @medwish or like them on Facebook
3. Subscribe to my posts - click here +/or like my Facebook page
4. Get an extra daily entry by tweeting: 
“ I want to win tickets to the 2012 Huddle with @Medwish #giveaway from @EatDrinkClev http://ow.ly/eMuUT  ” 

Please leave a separate comment on this post for each individual entry.

I'll pick a winner on Sunday in honor of the upcoming Brown's game - think we can pull off another win? I sure hope so! Some of my awesome friends invited me to join them for my very first tailgating - can you even believe I've never been?! I'm hoping you give me some great ideas on what to bring :)

Good luck!

** Disclosure: I was provided a pair of tickets to the event in exchange for hosting this giveaway. But I was a fan of MedWish before and will continue to support their efforts after this event because I love what they do. As always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Martini

Pumpkin Pie Martini
Fall in a glass. This martini is pumpkin perfection. The hardest part is finding the Hiram Walker Pumpkin Spice Liqueur. If you find a bottle, buy two. You'll thank me later.


Pumpkin Pie Martini

3 oz. butterscotch schnapps
3 oz. Bailey’s
3 oz. half and half
2 teaspoons pumpkin puree
dash of cinnamon

Rim a martini glass with crushed graham crackers and chill.

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice.

Shake, pour, enjoy!

Serves 2


Tip: 
This is my favorite pumpkin puree - it tastes so much better thanks to not being in a can. Get it here.
http://amzn.to/2fSYWu7

Friday, October 19, 2012

Edwins - Taste the Potential

Brandon Chrostowski is the general manager at Zack Bruell's L'Albatros and is known for his amazing cheese knowledge. Many agree (myself included) that an assortment of their cheese is on their deathbed wishlist. But he is also involved in a new project in Cleveland called Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute.
Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute
Edwins (Education Wins) takes at risk youth and those recently released from prison and offers them a second chance. They are taught business and culinary skills while working in the not-yet-open Edwins restaurant. They are also provided counseling and medical care while in the 6 month program. The goal is to give the participants hope, skills and confidence that will ensure they succeed once they are on their own.

When I was approached about this organization, I jumped at the chance to help promote it. People released from prison are an extremely high risk group and normally end right back in prison if they don't have support once they reenter society. Finding a job is one of the hardest aspects of their return because a lot of people don't want to hire an ex-con. With the help of Edwins, the participants will have a distinct advantage that not only helps them, but helps society as well.

The launch party was held last Friday at the eclectic and opulent home of Christopher G. Axelrod in Bratenhal. He opened up literally every room of his beautiful condo to over 100 guests (brave man!) 

As we entered the complex, we were greeted with this
I knew we were off to a great start!

Chris himself welcomed everyone into his home personally with his own special flair...
We were able to explore the many rooms, each one decorated in a different style from Baroque to French Provincial. Food was set up throughout the condo so everyone kept moving and mingling.

In my opinion, Karen Small of the Flying Fig stole the show. Her trio was cohesive and absolutely delicious - a mini meal that I've been thinking of ever since.
Karen serving her amazing white mushroom and fennel salad with lemon, arugula and parmesan - amazing!
crunchy little bites of yum AKA Tallegio Toast with local honey, marcona almonds and fig
Veal and ricotta meatballs with marscapone polenta, parsley, pine nuts and golden raisins
The other food was plentiful and delightful as well:
prosciutto, fois gras and fig roulade - David Waltuck
duck pastry from Chef Said of Bodega - he also made lamb with prunes and couscous - yum!
Chris and Catie Hodgson dishing up wild mushroom gnocchi with grape musk and roasted grapes
sushi and noodle salads from Zack Bruell
assorted charcuterie and cheeses from Paul Minnello from Flour
In addition to the never ending food and open bar, there was a silent auction fundraiser. I was the happy winner of the OSU Football basket including awesome seats, a blanket and gloves. I'm hoping we won't need those...c'mon Indian Summer!

Thank you Brandon for bringing this idea to Cleveland and for including me in your Launch Party. I look forward to continuing my support and can't wait for the restaurant to open! If you would like to donate to this worthwhile organization before the restaurant is open, click here. Once it's up and running, the public will be able to help out by dining and enjoying Brandon's dream in action.

you-know-who with the dashing and delightful Brandon
 We even got a sweet for the road...
 a pumpkin cupcake from Main Street Cupcakes in Hudson


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Weekend Fun All Over Town

Fall is a fantastic time in NE Ohio! There's not any snow (yet!), the leaves are gorgeous and it seems like every day there's something fun to do. This weekend is no different. Here are three of my favorite things to do this weekend.

West:

Everyone thinks of the Lake Erie Islands as a summer destination. Did you know that the fun doesn't stop when summer ends? They have wine festivals, haunted events, special dinners and more. One of the most anticipated is the Put-in-Bay Oktoberfest. This year is the 19th festival and it's Saturday from 11am-7pm and Sunday from noon to 5pm. The will have all sorts of German food (potato pancakes and sauerkraut balls FTW!), beer, hot spiced wine, and live polka and German music. It's Put-in-Bay's Homecoming Weekend. Jump on the Miller Ferry for only $6.50 each way. Click here for their fall departure schedule.

Central:
The east side of Cleveland is the location for the next event. Edwin's Leadership and Restaurant Institute is hosting Taste the Potential, a fundraiser on Sunday 10/14 at 6pm at Chris Axelrod's gorgeous home in BratenahlWhen I heard about this event, I knew it was a Must Do! 

Brandon Chrostowski, general manager of one of my very favorite restaurants L'Albatros, founded this innovative not-for-profit restaurant program that helps people in at risk neighborhoods and those who have been released from prison learn job skills by working at the soon to open Edwin's restaurant. The participants receive free housing, medical care and job placement. They also attend life-skills classes and obtain counseling that helps ensure that their transition will be successful. This unique and very worthwhile program helps ex-cons return to society as productive self-supporting people - that's an often overlooked segment of society that really needs our help.

Tickets cost $200 per person with $125 of the ticket price being tax deductible. It's a lot of cash I know, but the money raised helps so many local people right here in Cleveland. The event is packed with fantastic food and local chefs that we all love: Zack Bruell, Karen Small, Paul Minnillo, and Chris Hodgson. 

David & Karen Waltuck of New York City's must loved (and sadly closed) Chanterelle Restaurant will be bringing their James Beard winning talent to CLE for the event as well. Pastries from Adam Gidlow of On the Rise Bakery and wine pairings will round out the night.

There's only a few tickets left - you can get yours here

East:
If covered bridges are your thing, you are in luck! This weekend is the Ashtabula Covered Bridge Festival. You can participate in a drive yourself tour of the 17 bridges or attend the festival at the Astabula County Fairgrounds or both! You can visit the Harpersfield Bridge (the longest historic covered bridge in the state) or a recent addition, the Smolen-Gulf built in 2008 and said to be the longest covered bridge in the United States. The bridges are all unique and they have activities, food and crafts set up to entice you to linger. The festival costs $3 per person and includes entertainment, demonstrations, a farmers market, a quilt show, chain saw carving, rides, games, a parade and more. Lots of food will be available of course too. Click here for the full schedule.

I like to use this festival as an excuse to visit the many wineries in the area as well. Lunch or dinner at Ferrante is always delicious. And it's the perfect time to pick up some of their Celebration Spice wine for mulling.

And as a bonus, here's another event: 

Johnny Mango's in Ohio City is the place to be on Monday. Did someone say margarita's? From 11am to 11pm, dine for a cause. Just print out this flyer 

and present it to your server and 20% of your purchases will be donated to the American Liver Foundation. That's a win/win in my book!

**Disclosure: I will be attending Taste the Potential thanks to a ticket provided by Edwin's. That does not affect my opinion in any way. I would support this worthy cause regardless. 

My awesome friend and fellow blogger Katrina is organizing the American Liver Foundation fundraiser. Again, this does not affect my opinions in any way. **










Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Cheers!




Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Harvest Moon - Emerging Chefs


Saturday was the perfect night for the aptly named latest feast by Emerging Chefs. A beautiful September evening on the patio of Spice Kitchen & Bar under the start of a Harvest Moon was the setting for a fantastic seasonal meal celebrating local cuisine.

The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox, marking the beginning of fall. It has a striking orange tint and looks larger than a regular full moon. Before the days of electricity, the Harvest Moon would provide additional light so the farmers could harvest their crops late in the night.

Chef/Owner Ben Bebenroth and Executive Chef Brandon Walukas of Spice Kitchen & Bar were the perfect hosts for this event. Spice’s City Gardens behind the restaurant, herb beds surrounding the patio and rooftop potted garden were all harvested for this event. In fact, fresh herbs were cut between courses for our meal. Now that is really fresh!

We started with the most amazing soup:
A pink banana squash was pureed with just a touch of cream to a silky smoothness and topped with apple creme fraiche, fresh sage and micro greens. This girl loves her squashes and this was truly one of the very best soups I've ever eaten. The apple creme fraiche was the perfect touch to an already amazing soup. This was my favorite course of the night.

Next up was a cool and fresh contrast:
Heirloom tomatoes were tossed with sweet onions, mixed greens and feta with a truffle vinaigrette. I loved the mix of tomatoes, especially the green zebra striped variety - so pretty on the plate! I especially appreciated this salad because tomato season in Ohio is sadly coming to an end. A version of this dish is on their current menu - grab it while you can!

Our 3rd course was an Ohio favorite:
Crispy perch was served steaming hot on a cool bed of coleslaw with ramp tartar sauce. Panko bread crumbs ensured that the fish was super crunchy. This is not your typical fish fry for sure.

I was really torn when reading our menu for the night. We were going to either have cauliflower and wilted greens (some of my favorites!) or the fish. After eating the fish, I wasn't disappointed any longer!

The 4th course was one that I was drooling over as soon as I read about it:
Roasted pork loin was served with spaetzle, cubes of butternut squash and brussels sprouts ~ fall on a plate! I gobbled this up as did everyone at the table - it was a huge hit all around.

We finished our evening on a sweet note:
Hot apple bourbon cobbler with salted caramel ice cream - oooh la la! Loved the additional sea salt that was sprinkled on top for an extra crunch. I am definitely going to add a splash of bourbon to my next apple dessert at home - love the additional layer of flavor it added.

A Spanish sherry-like wine was poured with this course and it was very unique.
(image from Amazon.com)
There was lots of discussion about this sweet syrupy dessert wine. People either loved it or hated it. I thought it was the perfect pairing for this dessert! The intense flavors complimented the apple and caramel and was a perfect sipper for a cool evening. Bonus points to the chefs for this one.

After dinner, we were invited to experience the rooftop -what a view! There are plans to eventually open this area to diners and I can't wait. It will be a coveted spot in Gordon Square for sure. 

If you haven't yet visited Spice, you really need to. Chef Ben is a super sweet guy with true talent. The menu is small but packed with great choices. They have unique desserts, a nice craft beer selection and cocktails that will make you swoon! You can even have them cater an event for you.

Emerging Chefs had another spectacular event. And check out what they have planned for October! Next up is an insanely decadent feast, "The Roaring Twenties" at Crop Bistro
This one is a splurge for sure at $175 per person but it will be a dinner party like no other. Chef Steve Schimoler is going for the gold with a 3 act masterpiece of food where you will not only get to eat amazing food by one of Cleveland's favorite chefs, but you will experience all the beauty of this stunning restaurant including the vault. Rumor has it that there will be double digit courses. Period costume or black tie required for this glamorous gala.  October 28th 6-10pm. Get your tickets here.

*disclosure: I was provided a media pass for Harvest Moon. This in no way influenced my opinions - my thoughts and words are my own. I've been a huge fan of Spice since they opened and regularly frequent the restaurant at my own expense.*