Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thirsty Thursday 2 - Minted Cucumber Water

This week, the Thirsty Thursday posting had to be postponed due to having a cooking class that night.  Little did I know that after the class, I would be thirstier than I ever imagined possible!

Thursday brought one of the hottest days in Cleveland in several years.  When I arrived at the cooking class, I was stunned to find out that they did not have air conditioning!!!  And we would be using the oven.  AND we were boiling pasta!  It was like your worst sauna nightmare come to life in a kitchen.  

Thankfully, I had mixed up my Thirsty Thursday special before I left for the class.  This week, I kept it really simple and made one of my all time favorites - Cucumber Water.  But I added a new twist - mint!

I first tasted cucumber water when some friends and I went to Chicago last year for my birthday.  We stayed at the elegant and gorgeous Palmer House.  My roommate and I opted for the upgrade to one of the luxury executive suites.  It was amazing and totally worth it!  In addition to having our own bathrooms and walk-in closets, we also had 24 hour access to the Executive Lounge.  This delightful bonus consists of complimentary breakfast, hors d'oeuvres,  snacks and beverages.  Our favorite beverage was cucumber water - a refreshing and thirst quenching infusion.  

I loved it so much that after returning home that at my next dinner party I made a batch for my friends.  I was wondering if they would enjoy it as much as I did. Thankfully I made it in a huge beverage dispenser because they all loved it.  Now it's a staple at ALL our parties!  

Because I have an explosion of mint growing in my yard, I've been experimenting with adding it to just about everything.  I decided to add it to my beloved cucumber water and it really added an extra layer of freshness.  My favorite is having a fresh sprig in my glass so I can smell the sweet mint as I take a sip.  Fabulously refreshing!  

And the recipe couldn't be simpler - 

1.Fill a glass pitcher with filtered water

2. Add 1/2 of a cucumber, sliced thin 

3. Add approximately 15 mint leaves 

4. Let steep for several hours or overnight.

TIPS:  Make sure your cuke doesn't have a waxed skin on it - if it does, peel it.  I added a intact mint stem in addition to the leaves - just because it looks so pretty!  You can refill the same pitcher several times without changing the cucumbers.  Be sure to add a sprig of mint to each glass when serving.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Leave the ciabatta. Take the cannoli.

Last weekend my friends and I went to Little Italy.  It was a perfect summer evening and we were looking forward to walking around and soaking up the sunshine and ambience of this favorite ethnic enclave.

We started our evening with some pasta and vino at Gusto.  It was my first time there and I was looking forward to checking it out.  We were surprised at how empty it was especially for a Saturday night.  It did get busier as the night progressed but was never at full capacity.  We ordered wine and bruschetta. The bruschetta sounded amazing  - grilled Ciabatta with smoked mozzarella, grilled asparagus and prosciutto drizzled with white truffle oil.    When it arrived we were EXTREMELY disappointed because it consisted of two slices of bread, four slivers of prosciutto, and one stalk of asparagus...for $11!  Thankfully it tasted good but we all considered it one of the biggest rip offs ever. 

We each ordered different pastas so we could taste an assortment of flavors while we were there.  I ordered  Fettucini with wild boar meat sauce with Parmigiano Reggiano because I had read about it in several online reviews.  We also had cavatelli with butternut squash in a sage butter sauce and gnocchi with a green olive caper pesto.  Everything was fabulous!  The pesto was unusual but the flavors were a nice contrast to the gnocchi.  The portion sizes varied with the cavatelli being the largest and my linguine being the smallest.  Mine was so good I literally wanted to lick the sauce off the plate...probably because I hardly had received any food!  : )  Our overall impression was that the food was very good but the prices were out of line.  There are places with equally flavorful food that are a better value. 

We then walked around and took a peak at a bocci tournament that was being played at Alta House.  We also stopped at the Murray Hill Market which is a great little neighborhood grocery store.  They have a surprisingly good assortment of canned and fresh foods including Jeni's ice cream. They also sell homemade prepared foods.  We'll have to go back for some of the porcetta!

Next we decided to head over to Washington Place Bistro.  This is the new spot at the former Baricelli Inn.  A table opened up on the patio and we grabbed it.  We were disappointed that there was not a Baricelli cheese plate on the menu.  We were informed that they use the cheeses in the dishes but do not sell them separately.  Due to the constant requests for it, they are considering adding it to the menu.  We were looking for something small and light.  There were so many fabulous sounding choices on the menu that we had a hard time chosing.  We finally decided to split the Field Greens Salad at our waitresses' suggestion:  great lakes growers hydroponic greens, shaved fennel, dried cherries, navel orange, sunflower seeds, citrus vinaigrette.  It was a refreshing choice and the perfect size to split with a friend.  After looking at their menu, we decided that we are definitely coming back here for dinner - and soon! 

I must try:
*OXTAIL PIEROGIES [ oxtail and mushroom ragout, ohio city pasta truffled potato pierogies, caramelized onion, horseradish crème fraiche ] — 13.5 
*PORK BELLY SANDWICH [ grilled brioche, honey & huckleberry preserves, manchego and truffle fondue ] — 8.5

Everything on the menu sounds like heaven and the prices make this a great value.  They also have a special 2 for $40 menu on Wednesdays that make this a must do!  For $40, you share an appetizer, enjoy 2 entrees and get a bottle of wine!

We decided that no visit to Little Italy is complete without a cannoli so our plan was to get dessert to go.  I always have gone to Corbo's for cannoli but my friend said that she always goes to Presti's.  I figured that this was the perfect excuse for a cannoli taste off so we got one from each (plus some other goodies too!)

Corbo's had a choice between plain or chocolate dipped shells and we went for the chocolate.  Presti's only offered plain shells.  We figured that while this wasn't truly and "apples to apples" comparison, we would still be able to pick a winner.

Presti's cannoli is pre-filled and did not look as appetizing. We we worried that it would be soggy. Corbo's looked better out of the box.  I think  the chocolate dipping really helped the  presentation.

Flavor Elements:
Presti's filling has a hint of lemon.  It added an unexpected element of brightness.   And the shell held up well in spite of the pre-fill.  Corbo's filling is creamy, lightly sweet and has  mini chocolate chips in it.  This went well with the chocolate dipped shell.  The shell was crisp and light.

When I had the first bite of the Presti's cannoli, I initially thought it was a poor relative of the Corbo's version.  Additional tastings of the filling on it's own made me appreciate the slight tang of the lemon.  My final conclusion is that it is a really tasty, just different, version that I would definitely recommend, especially for those who do not like or are allergic to chocolate. The Corbo's version is still my favorite.  Their filling is much creamier and the flavor is outstanding.  The chocolate chips are a welcome addition, especially when ordering the chocolate dipped shells.

In conclusion,either one would be a tasty ending to a wonderful meal in Little Italy.  I recommend having a taste off of your own.  Buon appetito!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Emerging Chefs ReHival preview

This is sure to be a great event!  Get your tickets here

First Annual Return to Earth Dinner
Join us for a journey to the rural retreat of Geauga County, for a most authentic “Farm to Table” gathering. Our first annual “Return to Earth Dinner” will be held just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and will showcase the culinary harvest of beekeeper’s daughter, Chef Kimberly McCune, Owner/Chef of Vine & Dine. 
This quintessential “Pasture to Plate” dinner party will feature Chef McCune’s creations from 100% local food, sourced within 50 miles of the pastural countryside setting of Meadowlane Farms <>.
Designed with the foodie in mind, ReHival™ will present a new modern twist on family style dining, and the debut McCune’s own ReHive Ale, a local brew crafted by Little Mountain Brewery in Mentor, Ohio.
McCune’s Allstar Culinary Team will showcase the talents of Lanny Chin of Bon Appetit, Jimmy Gibson of Case Western Reserve University, Amy Ryan of Viking and Scott Roitblat of Vine & Dine.
Come enjoy the feeling of the Sunday supper again, where time slows, memories awaken, and the opportunity to break bread with friends old and new awaits

When:  August 19th (Friday) - 7pm to 10pm
Where: Meadowlane Farms - 11339 Butternut Road, Chardon, OH 44024
Dress: Country casual. Throw on your best blue jeans and boots if you got 'em.
Package offers currenlty in the works with:
Punderson Manor Lodge <>
Bass Lake Tavern & Inn <>
Click with the Chefs Online:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Taste of Tremont 2011

So, I've finally recuperated enough from the heat and my food buzz to share my thoughts of the best damn food fest in Cleveland with you.  Sure there are bigger ones, but none pack the punch of so many great local restaurants in a cool neighborhood setting like the Taste of Tremont.

If anybody noticed, Sunday was a scorcher!  Super hot and humid weather like this would keep me away from most outdoor events but my grumbling stomach urged me on.  It was worth enduring the heat-stroke inducing weather and the expected parking difficulties.  It was nice to see our local celebrity chefs out in full force sweating right along with us to make sure we left with full bellies and happy thoughts of their neighborhood.

I love Tremont and enjoy its restaurants often, but there is something about food of this caliber eaten while walking around on a summer day, or standing on a shade dappled sidewalk that just seems BETTER for some reason.  Maybe it's the fresh air and the once-a-year excitement that takes it to another level.

The heat dulled my hunger slightly but I still accomplished my goals of sampling interesting food and discovering a new restaurant while gobbling up Tremont's tasty offerings.  No matter what you were looking for, from pierogies to ribs to a pig roast to various Asian-style dishes, there was something for everyone.  Many of the local shops were also out and selling their wares.  The folks from The Christmas Story House were handing out free magnets to go with their brochures too.

Sure people complain about the heat or the parking but my only food complaint is that there were SO many ribs.  I think I'm in the minority but I don't enjoy walking around eating such a messy dish.  Unless I go to a rib fest, I'm not ordering them.  They did look and smell wonderful but I was looking for something else.  The stuffed cabbage, pierogies and cabbage noodles from Sokolowski's and the church also looked great but it was just too hot for these steaming plates of goodness.  My second complaint was that there were plenty of garbage cans but no recycling bins.  This was really disappointing considering all the plastic water bottles and other items that could have been saved from a landfill.

The Bistro on Lincoln Park was one of the places I really wanted to check out after sampling their food at the June NEO Food Tour-Tremont.  Somehow I got full and forgot to go back for their turkey wing confit.  I'm happy that this is something that they offer at the restaurant on their Happy Hour Menu because I really was looking forward to trying it.

Here's the rundown of my food choices:
Kai Kra Prow at Ty Fun.  It was a spicy chicken and vegetable dish with Thai basil served with white rice.
Short Rib Sliders with fresh corn relish from Dim and Den Sum.
Pork spring roll and green papaya salad from Bac.
Lemon cupcake with raspberry filling from Cookie and a Cupcake.
Iced Key Limeade from Lucky's.

Everything was awesome!  I have been wanting to try Bac since I first heard about them and I will be heading to the restaurant soon.  The papaya salad was my favorite of the day - perfectly refreshing and delicious.  Their menu also included guacamole with bacon that looked really good too.  I overheard people commenting on how tasty it was and wanted to try it but I was saving room for that cupcake!

There was definitely a heat wave in town for the Taste of Tremont but the two hottest places to be were Fahrenheit and Dante.  Rocco and Dante really know how to throw a party!  The lot next to Dante had a roof top band, dunking booth and a mechanical bull.  The Fahrenheit patio was hopping and Rocco himself was manning the grill. Fahrenheit's sangria was calling my name but it was just too packed to try to get a glass.  I definitely wanted to try Rocco's Cleveland Nachos (homemade potato chips with goat cheese fondue and scallions) and their Tremont Cheese Steak sandwiches - if only I wasn't so hot and full I would have! The tacos sold out so they must have been great too.

So if you didn't go on Sunday, make sure you check it out next year.  It's always fun and you are sure to leave with a full belly and a smile on your face.

Great Lakes Beer Dinner at Angelo's in Lakewood

I love pizza.  All kinds of pizza.  Thin and crispy.  Thick and chewy.  Chicago style.  New York style.  And everything in between.  I also love Great Lakes Brewing Company beer.  So when I heard about an event that merged the two, I knew I had to attend.

Angelo's Pizza in Lakewood is some of the best pie around.  They've been in business since 1981 and have won numerous awards for their pizzas.    Known for their specialty pizzas, people come from all over to get their fix.  My personal favorite is the Super Deluxe with meatballs instead of bacon.  This is what pizza dreams are made of! A kitchen sink mix of pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, black olives, pineapple, onions, mild banana pepper rings, meatballs, ham and green peppers create a taste sensation unlike any other I've tried.

Two of my Great Lakes and Angelo's loving friends and I were the first to arrive for the Great Lakes Beer Dinner and were fortunate to have our choice of seats.  We eagerly sat on the patio to soak up the perfect summer evening.  From the moment we arrived, the Angelo's staff and Great Lakes representatives really went out of the way to make the evening special.  Everyone was friendly and the service was prompt.  The beer pours were varied and generous.We were pleased to find out that our meal was created specially for the event.  The menu really impressed us.  We were expected run of the mill offerings but Angelo's chefs really rocked this one!

We could have made a meal out of this course!
Love the fresh basil garnish
The first course was two platters of antipasta that included dry cured salami, assorted cheeses, olives, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts and homemade marinated mushrooms.  Garlic bagel chips and a seasoned Tricuit cracker rounded out the offering.  The standout was the blue cheese - it was very creamy and the flavor did not overwhelm.  Our only complaint was that the seasoning on the cracker did not compliment the other flavors on the plates (Garden Herb?)  We would have preferred a milder flavor such as the cracked pepper olive oil Triscuit or water crackers.  Two beers were served with the antipasta - the award winning favorite Dortmunder Gold and the Wright Pilsner. This was my first time having the Wright Pilsner.  I thought it was a great crisp summer beer.  Both were excellent pairings but the Wright Pilsner was our choice for the course.  This being said, the Dortmunder was especially good with the cured salami.
Very generous and delicious assortment

Holy Moses White Ale was served with the salad course.  I am a huge wheat beer lover and this selection was one of my favorites.  It matched perfectly with the spring mix based salad of beets, mandarin oranges, candied pecans and herbed goat cheese.    We all loved this pairing but noted that the canned sliced beets were a huge disappointment.  Roasted beets have a fresher yet richer flavor that would have made the salad perfect.

Perfect except for the canned beets
The much anticipated main course consisted of  two pizzas.  And yes, two whole 8 slice pizzas for the three of us to share!  Angelo's went for a more traditional flavor profile with the Tomato Tart pizza - garlic butter sauce with slices of fresh roma tomatoes, parmesan and provolone cheeses, fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil.  The pizza was served piping hot and was simple yet delicious.

Tomato Tart Pizza

Bratwurst Pizza

The chefs got creative with our second pie - bratwurst, caramelized onions, sauerkraut and provolone and cheddar cheeses.  One of my dining companions will not touch sauerkraut so he continued with the Tomato Tart.  I dug in immediately because I love sauerkraut and was eager to see how it worked as a pizza topping. I absolutely loved it and really applaud the chefs for taking a chance with this flavor combination!  It went soooo well with the Eliot Ness Amber Lager and the Burning River Pale Ale that were served with it.  The flavors really complimented each other.  My preference would have been for smaller, more evenly distributed pieces of bratwurt but that is hardly a complaint.  I also commented that adding some potatoes would have been a nice addition too.  The crust on the Bratwurst pizza was our favorite - it seemed chewier even though it was likely the same dough.

The dessert course was our choice of either a Decadent Chocolate Bomb Torte or Rich Italian Tiramisu.  At first glance, these choices did not excite me.  I love chocolate but figured that the torte would either be a dry cake or mousse - neither of which I ever order.  Tiramisu has disappointed me so often that I hesitate to order it because you never know what you are going to get.  We opted to order two Tiramisu and one Chocolate Bomb Torte so we could try both.

We were extremely surprised to find that the desserts served were both beautiful to look at and amazingly good!  Both exceeded our expectations and ended the meal on a very delicious note.  The Chocolate Bomb was a mousse-like dessert covered in high quality chocolate.  It was plated very nicely with a squiggly drizzle of raspberry puree on the white plate.   The texture and flavor were much better than the average mediocre mousse offered at most restaurants.  The Edmund Fitzgerald Porter complimented this dessert the best.
Decadent Chocolate Bomb Torte
The Rich Italian Tiramisu was a show stopper!  We were shocked to see what was on our plates because it looks nothing like any Tiramisu that I have ever eaten.   It was a very pretty two layer cake-like dessert with a heaping pile of chocolate shavings on top.  We were initially disappointed at the amount of chocolate in this dessert because we had the Chocolate Bomb to cure any chocolate cravings.  One bite changed our opinion immediately!  This was all of our favorites.  The first bite revealed that there was a nutty caramel layer sandwiched between the creamy and cake layers.  Definitely not expected or true to tradition but it was outstanding.  We were very pleased that we had two of these to fight over!  We asked if the desserts were made in house or were a special addition for the Great Lakes Dinner.  We found out that they are baked by a local specialty bakery that only sells to restaurants BUT they are a regular menu item.  I highly recommend saving room for the Tiramisu the next time you visit Angelo's!

Rich Italian Tiramisu

We also found out some other great news while were chatting.  Angelo's is planning an expansion of this location that will include a roof top patio AND they are looking to open another location! I can't wait to check out that patio!  Roof top patios are one of my favorites and there are too few of them in the Cleveland area.  Can't wait to see where their next location will be.  Hopefully it will be in a a different part of town so more people will be able to benefit from Angelo's in their neighborhood.  

No matter where you live, Angelo's is worth the drive!

I'll be sure to post the future events so you can check them out too.  I highly recommend attending.  The hospitality, quality food and value can't be beat!  We all took pizza home and Great Lakes gave everyone souvenir glasses for their upcoming Burning River Fest. If you are a fan of Christmas Ale, this is a do not miss event!  They have freshly brewed Christmas Ale that will be available and it's a benefit for the Burning River Foundation.

Thank you Angelo's and Great Lakes for a fantastic event! 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Guest Blog by Princess Buffy - Sun of a Biscuit Doggie Treat Review

I want to introduce myself.  I am the pampered pooch of Eat*Drink*Cleveland. My name is Buffy.  I really don't slay vampires - I much prefer squirrels.  I love it when I get leftovers from my Mom's awesome food adventures.  I'm known for my smile and my circus tricks.  Today I'm here to share my very own culinary "tale" with you for a special canine guest blog.

Saturday was a gorgeous summer morning and my person left me home alone.  I was sad and forlorn until I discovered the reason for her abandonment.  TREATS! Well if any of you know me, you know I LOVE treats! They are my favorite thing in the world, and if the people would let me live off them, I would.

I wanted to dig right in but my Mommy wanted to tell me a story about another little dog. Like I care - the world revolves around ME you know and don't forget, treats were waiting! But I indulged the human because they seem to like to talk an awful lot and sometimes I actually listen.

She told me a story about another human named Andrea Miller 
Holzheimer that loved her dear little dog so much she made HOMEMADE treats. What?!?! I see where I rank. I never get those! Anyways, I digress.

This other little dog's name was Pudding. They found her when somebody pushed her out of a car and left her in the street. Andrea rescued Pudding and loved her very much for many years. Pudding was a sweet Shih-Tzu that smiled all the time. We must be distant cousins because I'm Shih-Tzu and Maltese and I smile too!

One day poor little Pudding became sick so that is when her Mommy decided that she wanted to feed her something special to try to make her feel better.  The treats were so good, she decided to share them with other dogs and Sun of a Biscuit was born. Pudding eventually got so sick that she went to Doggie Heaven in April of 2011. Her memory lives on through Sun of a Biscuit. Andrea now bakes up tasty wholesome treats and donates a portion of the proceeds to animal shelters in honor of her special furry friend.
Son of a Biscuit at Shaker Square
The story is very sweet and very sad. I'm glad I listened. I wish I would have known Pudding. We might have been friends. But back to the treats!
Pretty treats for me!
My Mommy knew that I would just love the pretty pink cone of treats she selected. See how it matches my pink princess bed? It was packaged very nicely (perfect for gift giving) in paw printed wrapping and bow. The flavor was Banana Peanut Butter Bliss - my tail started wagging just at the sound of it!  

Can't wait to take a bite!
When the package was opened, the spicy scent of cinnamon filled my twitching nose. It smelled like an oatmeal cookie. This is when I finally got a good look at the treats. They were a perfect size for my salivating mouth AND they were heart shaped!  After being forced to pose for pictures, I finally got to take my first bite.  WOW! These things are bow wow fabulous!  

I gobbled the treat down in record time. It was very crunchy and big enough that I actually had to chew it.   My Mommy says this helps clean my teeth. I think that's a better idea than brushing them - I really hate that!  She also says that they are really good for me. They are made of people food especially for spoiled dogs like me.  This flavor contains rolled oats, whole wheat flour, peanut butter, bananas, apples, carrots, extra virgin olive oil, blackstrap molasses and cinnamon. That's it!  No salt, sugar or preservatives - just the way we like it. My Mommy said that they smelled good enough to eat. No way - paws off! These are all mine!

Dear Santa, more Bonz please!

You can get your favorite pooch some at Whole Foods or look for Andrea at the North Union Farmer's Market at Shaker Square on Saturday mornings (she's not there every week to check before you go.) You are definitely going to want to get some. Buffy says, "TWO PAWS UP! These treats rock!" I know exactly what I'm going to be asking Santa for this year.  

I want to bark out a special thanks to my Mom for getting me such great treats and letting me do a doggie guest blog. Also, thank you Andrea and Pudding for helping make the world a tastier place for dogs everywhere.
I hope other dogs out there are as lucky as me and Pudding

You can find Sun of a Biscuit on Facebook now too. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thirsty Thursday Debuts

The inspiration for my first Thirsty Thursday posting in honor of my fabulous Kufra pitcher from Bormioli Rocco (yes!  made in ITALY instead of the usual China - bonus!) came to me at dinner earlier this week.  

My Auntie and I went to one of our favorite restaurants in Chagrin Falls,Umami. It's a teeny but stylish spot right on Main Street that specializes in food with a Asian flair. It was bustling on a gorgeous Tuesday night. Dearest retired Auntie arrived first and was already enjoying a jasmine iced tea with a ginger infused simple syrup. Refreshing and delicious but a little too sweet for me since I never sweeten my tea. The waitress offered a basil lemonade and that immediately caught my attention. It did not disappoint. I macerated the fresh basil that was served in the glass and found it to be absolutely perfectly refreshing. The basil was an unexpected but very complimentary element - delicious!

I decided to try the easiest route when making my version to see if it could truly be that simple. I found out, not surpisingly, it is not. I used Minute Maid frozen lemonade concentrate, filtered water and basil out of my herb pot. While it was tasty, it does not have the sublime basil flavor of Umami's lemonade. Some tweaking is in order.  

Next time, I will still try to stay with the frozen concentrate but will either infuse it for a day with a basil chiffonade or may try to make a basil simple syrup to add a touch of sweetness to the mix. And I'm sure I will try this with vodka at some point... Nonetheless, it was the perfect refresher for a sultry summer evening.
Basil Lemonade

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Refreshing Inspiration

Yesterday's mail brought the much anticipated Italian made glass pitcher just in time for our heatwave. Its mere presence in my humble home has inspired me to embark on a thirst-quenching journey. Every week from now until Labor Day, I will make a different beverage to celebrate summer. 
Stay tuned

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Turning to Jerks to Restore Allure of Soda Fountains -

Turning to Jerks to Restore Allure of Soda Fountains -

An old fashioned soda fountain has always been one of my very favorite things! Growing up, my first experience with a soda fountain was at the Mantua Pharmacy.  I was delighted to discover that Coke could be flavored!  This was obviously back in the Stone Ages before Cherry Coke and other flavors were available at the grocery stores in cans and plastic bottles.  My favorite was the chocolate Coke - what a treat!  Believe it or not, there is still a soda fountain presence in my hometown.  The Pharmacy moved and is now Mantua Station Drug which is noted not only for their soda fountain, but also for the train caboose out front.

Glad to see that more people are  realizing how awesome the old fashioned soda fountains are!  Some of my local favorites are the Malley's in Lakewood and a gorgeous newcomer - Sweet Moses in Gordon Square.   Both are a combination of ice cream and sweet shop with candy, popcorn, fudge and other treats available.  Sweet Moses also has bananas foster ice cream which you have to try.  If you are afraid to order a whole scoop, they will give you a taste.  Homemade hot fudge is available at both - taste them both and see which is your favorite.  I can't seem to make up my mind so I just have to keep going back and taste testing them over and over...