Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gordon Square NEO Food Tour



So I think I have a problem.  I just might be addicted to the NEO Food Tours!  I've kept it hidden, not wanting to admit that I have a problem.  But admitting it is the first step to recovery, right?  


I knew my secret couldn't be kept for long but never expected to be outed in the Plain Dealer!  The reporter Debbi Snook talked about the food bloggers on the tour but never mentioned us by name (Bite Buff was there too.) BUT the giant color photo on the front page of the Style & Taste section (see it here) let the whole world know that I was there.  Again.  I laughingly joke with our tour guide Todd that I'm going to need my very own lanyard instead of the usual name tag or frequent flier miles or something. This was my 3rd tour.  Previously I have gone to Tremont and Shaker Square.  It was my little secret and I've never blogged about.  Until now.


Gordon Square is one of my very favorite destinations in Cleveland.  I go there regularly for Indian Delight my favorite Indian restaurant and also my favorite Vietnamese restaurant Minh-Anh. They just happen to be directly across the street from one another and I've been known to eat at one and get carry out from the other!  In fact, I'm the area so often I almost didn't sign up for the tour but since I have a problem, I had to go.  Glad I did!
We started off at the Cleveland Public Theater with a tour.  Really funky old building with a lot of history.  Battery Park Wine Bar started us off with in style at a really cool pop up upstairs.  We had great wine (of course!) and a hearty first course of two different flat breads served with some lemony mixed greens.  We found out they were testing the flat breads out on us and both are menu worthy for sure!  One had a pumpkin seed pesto with chicken and goat cheese and the other had spaghetti squash with spinach, raisins, pecans and a kick ass maple sriracha drizzle.My favorite was the one with the squash - I loved the sweet/savory/spicy combo.  The owner Mike Graley was charming and personifies the YOLO (You Only Live Once) motto of the place.
Squash on the left and chicken pesto on the right
We left there and walked past the Capitol Theater and a lovely church.  Our delightful city ambassador Genna Petrolla filled us in on how the revival of this area has taken place.  
Next up was Stone Mad.  Thanks to the weather cooperating, we were able to sit out on their hand crafted stone patio.  It's a work of art that came to being through a lot of sweat and hard work.


Stone Mad's famous patio





We were served a tasty mini beef slider with a creamy horseradish sauce.  While I've heard in the past that this is a destination better for drinking than for food, this makes me think that the kitchen offers more than I had heard.  This and the Guiness were delicious - I only wish the beer wasn't served in a little plastic cup.


Though I had been here many times, I never ventured down to the basement.  In it you will find some pretty amazing bathroom tile work that is definitely worth the trip. I only have pics of the ladies room but I have it from a reliable source that instead of unicorns and flowers, the men's room is decorated with horses.  The sinks here are unique as well.  They were salvaged and refurbished and fit with the funky decor down here.
From there we headed toward one of my favorite restaurants Luxe.  I was really happy that we cut through The Gordon Square Arcade on the way!  I never knew this existed.  It used to be filled with shops and even a market but now it's home to a few businesses including the offices of The Gordon Square Arts District.  I loved the old photographs that lined the walls and the little hidden courtyard.


At Luxe we were treated to what was touted as the Chef's Whim.  It was a double quacker - duck breast served atop lentils and duck confit.  Simply amazing!  The lentils were my very favorite and I could have eaten a whole bowl of them!   The seared duck on top was delicious but almost seemed like over kill because the lentils really stole the show.  They explained to us that they specialize in off-the-wall wines from far flung places so their wine list is interesting and affordable.  We drank a declassified Brunello that was smooth and rich and complimented the duck perfectly.


We had guests from the Tri C Hospitality Management Center at Public Square with us.  They were there to explain their programs and provide a teaser for the upcoming NEO Public Square tour.  Unfortunately, we couldn't hear anything that they were saying because the music from the live band in the bar was just too loud.  



my own little piece of heaven

We had another teaser when we walked by Sweet Moses - an old fashioned ice cream parlor that makes homemade caramel, hot fudge, root beer and candies.  We weren't stopping here but were assured that we would be getting a treat from here later.  They have a bananas foster ice cream here that is soooo good!  And I love how they serve a pretzel with your ice cream as an extra special bonus.


Finally we heading to our last stop XYZ the Tavern.  They are the younger sister to ABC the Tavern just up the road on W 25th Street in Ohio City.  This is the one place on the tour that I had not been to before so I was really excited to finally check it out.  They explained to us that they are known for an amazing craft beer selection and food that is way better than your average bar food.  I agree on both counts!  
We started off with our choice of wine or beer.  Then we feasted on a really unique napoleon.  Normally this would be our dessert course but they decided to interpret this as a savory continuation of dinner.  This was a butternut squash napoleon (circles of thinly sliced squash layered with chevre) served along side apple smoked pork loin, with apples and caramelized onions.  I loved the creativity of this dish and the squash was a taste sensation.  I enjoyed the pork also but would have preferred a little less smokiness.  I much prefer a more subtle smoke flavor but my table mates gobbled it down and declared it dee-lish.
Our End of the Trail cocktail was "Rye Not" - a flavorful cocktail of whiskey, maraschino cherry juice, OJ and bitters.  They ended with a bang!  We were presented our take away bag of goodies and sure enough, there was chocolate from Sweet Moses tucked inside.  We received two large pieces of candy - one filled with their homemade caramel topped with sea salt and the other was peanut butter filled. 
Both were rich and creamy and delicious; however, they were a mess to eat!  Glad I waited until the next day.  The fillings were too runny and oozed out when you took a bite.  I still recommend them, just consider yourself warned!  


Also in our take away bag, we were treated to a muffin and ground coffee from Gypsy Beans and Baking Co.  What a perfect parting gift!  It was so nice to make the coffee and savor the cranberry nut muffin in the morning as I reminisced about the fun we had the night before.
So, like the dearly departed Amy Winehouse sang. "They try to make me go to rehab and I say no, no, no!"  Yes, I'm addicted but it's not illegal and it's a blast!    So why am I hooked?  It's because I love the combination of food, cocktails, local history, architecture and fun!  The NEO Food Tour group is really special!  A great combination of people ensure that you will have a blast.  Especially if you stay late.


Late night fun with NEO's Elizabeth
The Public Square tour is already sold out but thankfully I already bought my ticket.  But NEO Food Tours has other fun stuff planned for the winter months and will be starting up the tours again in the spring. Check out their website for details.


If you want to see more pics from the night, check out my Facebook album by clicking on the link below.


More Photos

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