Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Girl's Night at DC Pasta Co

One of the best things about writing this blog is all the super people I've met because of it. I love how you can follow someone on Twitter and then meet in real life and love them even more!
prosecco started off the night
So when my one of my blogger besties Kimberly of Smitten in Cleveland arranged a girls night out to spend some quality time with Jody (whom we met at this month's OBA meet up) and to meet Lilia of Indulgence Cakes at the newly opened D.C. Pasta Co, I didn't hesitate to join in. As always, we immediately went about chatting and carrying on like we were long lost friends (sometimes a little too loudly!) and had a blast.

I'm a huge fan of Dante in Tremont and one of my favorite things about the menu is the ability to order three sizes of the pasta dishes. I love being able to get just a few bites or an entire plate full, depending on my mood and what else is being ordered. When I first heard of his new collaboration in Strongsville with Carmela del Busso, I was pretty sure I would love it - and I was right! The menu is set up so you can try ten different pastas in three sizes: $4 taste, $8 appetizer and $15 main. They also have five kinds of meatballs that you can add on at $1.50 each. Starters, Olives, Salumi, Formaggi, and traditional entrees give you a TON of options. It's the perfect place to share food with friends.

We started out with Funghi al Forno: oven roasted mushrooms
and Fritto di Mare: fried smelts, shrimp and squid. 
I was so excited to see smelts on the menu! My Grandma used to make these every year for Christmas Eve and since she is gone, the tradition has died out. Both apps were excellent. I loved the richness of the mushrooms topped with fresh greens. And the breading on the seafood was light and not at all greasy. The lemony aioli was bright and tangy. 

Then we decided to order two tastes each of the pastas so we could try eight different pastas without busting out of our pants. Check out the full menu here. We chose everything except the Pappardelle and the Lumache and all of them were delicious. I really don't know why we didn't just get one of everything because the ones we didn't pick sounded great too. And really, after all that pasta, what's two more morsels?
Lilia, me, Jody and Kimberly with our feast

My favorites were the "Ruote alla Puttanesca" - wagon wheels with olives, anchovies, and capers, "Strozzapreti alla Norma" - pigtail shaped pasta with eggplant, basil, ricotta and tomatoes, and the "Bucatini con Salsa di Agnello"-featuring tomato braised lamb and mint. The mint really made the bucatini pop with flavor. Everything wasn't perfect (overcooked wagon wheels, invisible eggplant) but the flavors were fantastic and made up for the slight missteps. I also got a pork meatball thanks to a suggestion by the waiter. It was an above average restaurant meatball and was tender and juicy but I wasn't blown away. I was wanting more garlic or seasoning in general. Lilia got a beef one and I actually forgot to snag a bite or even ask how it was.
We even managed to save room for dessert! They had a lot of great options so it was a tough choice.
We shared the tartufo di cioccolate, the pistachio gelato, and the affogato al caffe. We gobbled them up like we never ate dinner. These were all extremely tasty and the perfect ending to our fun evening. Tip: if you get the tartufo - don't inhale the cocoa powder when shoveling it into your mouth.
the reason I'm up late writing this blog - I drank 3 of the 4!
Beware the cocoa powder!
Pistachio gelato parfait
We are looking forward to seeing each other again next Thursday 3/8 at an upcoming Emerging Chefs event, Corks & Cupcakes. Lilia's decadent cupcakes will be paired with Italian wines from Tuscany DistributorsHere's a little menu tease to whet your appetite... Chocolate Bacon Cupcake with Caramel Espresso Buttercream affectionately referred to as "Marry Me at Breakfast." Excuse me as I wipe the drool from my keyboard...
Sounds awesome, right? You can get your tickets here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week 2012

The dates are set. The menus are posted. Get ready for another tasty Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week!

The Downtown Cleveland Alliance wants you to "See what Downtown Cleveland brings to the table. Eat, drink and be Cleveland." With a tag like that, you KNOW it's a Must Do! 

The 5th annual event starts Monday and it's sure to be another huge hit! Many of the best Cleveland restaurants are participating including some of my very favorites like Chinato, Greenhouse, Muse, Noodlecat, and Lola. Click here for the complete list and menus.

Here's the scoop: each restaurant is offering a 3 course meal for $30 ($15 for lunch.) And the menus are fantastic! This is a great excuse to finally try a new restaurant, visit one that's normally a splurge or revisit and old favorite. 

As an extra incentive, certain parking lots are offering $2 parking - you can't beat that!

And if that isn't enough to get you downtown, you can also enter to win a Restaurant Week Foodie Dream Package. It really is a great prize - the winner gets to dine downtown every week for a year!

And don't forget, make your reservations now because they book up quick.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

OBA February Meet Up

Last night was one of my very favorite monthly events - the Ohio Blogging Association's monthly meeting. I know it's a guaranteed fun time no matter what is planned. But I knew this month's event was not to be missed for another reason - WINE!

Greg of Wine & Design graciously let all us crazy bloggers take over the store for the night. It was my first time there and it definitely won't be my last! Such a cute shop loaded with wine, awesome decor and comfy couches. I decided that I'm going to do a crawl of Starkweather once the weather is a little nicer and grab a bite at Lucky's, indulge my chocolate obsession at Lilly's and then finish up with some vino at Wine & Design. Sounds like a perfect night to me!
Tammy of Miss WineOH treated us to quite a spread that paired wonderfully with the line up of wine. A special thanks to her very talented friend who made the homemade pepper jelly - dee-lish!

My favorite wine of the night was surprisingly bubbles! Normally real champagne is a little too dry for me but I fell in love with the 2010 Monmousseau Champagne. And at only $14.99 it is now my go-to bottle of bubbles. I controlled myself and only got one bottle...for now!

My second favorite was not-surprisingly a red. It was a 2005 Crianza Camparron and was also a great value at $12.99 a bottle. Tammy has the complete tasting notes if you want to know more.

As always, a ton of fun was had by all! This is the list of everyone who came this month:

Alicia from Poise in Parma

Danyell from @chariturbanista

Holly from Rust Belt Runner

Jen from Why CLE?

Jill from Thrifty Volunteer and friend Rick

Jody from The Days Go On

Julie from Wearing Mascara

Kasey from @KaseyCrabtree

Kimberly from SMITTEN…in cleveland

Lindsay from @LMeggas

Nidhi from NIDHIZZLE

Raizel from OmStone Aromas

Reanna from Big Shot Dot The I

Sara from Finding The Time

Stuart from @sos_jr

And a big thanks to Kristian who surprised us by bringing in Pazcki in honor of Fat Tuesday! 

Next month, we are going to be working at the Cleveland Food Bank Monday, March 12th from 6PM to 8PM. Click here for details.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Revolver and the Baby Dane

So when my dear friend Jodi called and said she got her very first puppy, I knew a road trip was in order! Who can resist a puppy? And besides, since the new baby is a Great Dane, I knew that if I didn't see her NOW, the next time I saw her she would have morphed into a mini horse...

I hurried up and packed up my car and hit the road. 2 1/2 hours seemed to take forever - I was so excited! But luckily I wasn't speeding too much since I saw at least eight State Troopers on the Turnpike.

When I first got there, the Baby Dane was shy and a little frightened. But after she figured out that I was a new playmate, it was game on!
Gracie is a harlequin Great Dane and is as cute as can be! I love all her spots and her giant paws...
She loved her Bully Sticks from her cousin Buffy. They are a 100% beef treat that's like rawhide but is fully digestible. They are one of Buffy's favorites but she wanted to share since she couldn't make the trip...this time.
We played and snuggled. Then it was dinner time. We fed the pooch and started figuring out what we were going to do.
We decided to try our luck and see if the local gem Revolver had availability. And lucky we were! Amazingly, we were able to score a 7:30 reservation at the counter. Jodi has been talking about this place for 6 years and it's been on my Must Do list for just as long.  We stashed Gracie in her cage and headed out.
Revolver is a hip restaurant in downtown Findlay, OH. It focuses on locally sourced modern mid-western cuisine. Their menu features a weekly musical artist that is their soundtrack for the week.
The artist for our visit was Erykah Badu. I loved our seats at the counter because we were able to see a lot of the kitchen action. We had a hard time deciding what to order because everything sounded really delicious. Before ordering, I had to ask the most important question - what did they have for dessert. With fingers crossed, we waiting to see if the much anticipated chocolate creme brulee was on the list. It was! I knew I had to save room when I heard that one of my friend's favorites was available.

We started with an amuse bouche of popcorn soup. Yes, you read that right. It. Was. Amazing! Better than any buttered popcorn you could ever imagine ~ it was luscious and fun. We may or may not have scored the recipe...
They are known for a wonderfully unique bread service. They bake up fresh rolls with a surprise inside - a pillow of butter and sea salt. I can't believe such a simple idea can be so innovative and exciting. Our fabulous server Amanda asked me if I wanted extras to take back to Cleveland with me. Yes, please!
For my meal, I decided to go with soup...
sweet onion bisque with fried farm egg, toasted brioche, bacon and parsley oil 

House salad with mixed greens and parmesan
and the stunningly delicious pork belly...
Chili roasted pork belly over a bed of pea shoots
I could have eaten 3 of these and skipped the other items, that's how good it was.

Jodi chose the pork loin with farro and brussels sprouts...
local pork loin with farro verde and jerusalem artichokes

and the Revolver Fries...
Rosemary fries with goat cheese fondue
Everything was delicious! Even the simple sounding salad exploded with flavor. I need to see if I can recreate that soup. Loved the little circle of toasted brioche with an egg on top. And the goat cheese fondue was tangy and creamy and the perfect compliment to the crispy fries.

Then we eagerly dug into our Chocolate Creme Brulee with Sea Salt. It's the best I've ever had! The salt on the sugar topping ends up tasted like a crunchy salted caramel. To die for!

Two VERY happy girls!
We stayed up late talking and playing with Gracie until we were all pooped out. 
 The next day was more of the same...

...until it was time to go home. Lots of good-bye kisses were had by all and then I was back on the road. I wasn't ready to leave because we were all having so much fun.
What a great spur of the moment get-away! Nothing better than some quality girl time with my friend as she adjusts to her first baby. She's off to a great start and I can't wait to see how big my little (for now!) niece gets.

On a sad note, we found out during our visit that Revolver is going to be closing! This is a real loss for Findlay and all of their fans. Chef Michael Bulkowski is closing shop and will be working at a country club in Toledo. You have two weeks to make the trip and experience it for yourself. It's well worth the drive!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hooooo....needs a last minute Valentine?

So if you are scrambling for a last minute Valentine's Day gift, you are almost out of time! Here's some super easy ways to show some love to your sweetie  or other special friends and family for every budget. You can shop on your lunch hour and impress your loved one with your thoughfulness just in time!

Remember those Valentine's mail boxes we would make in school? Here's some printable cards that you can hand out to friends, co-workers, and anyone else you want to make feel special.

For your sweetie, print out some love coupons for a gift that keeps on giving well after the holiday is over.

If your love is the sun, the moon and the stars to you, name a star after them.

Or share your love year round with a gourmet gift of the month. L'Albatros cheese of the month is the stuff true love is made of! Amazing Clubs has any type of club you can think of and those you never imagined: lobster club, chocolate club, bacon club all sound like a tasty treat!

Say "Olive You" with a year long gift. 

Sign up for the olive oil club at Temecula Olive Oil Company and discover my favorite olive oil. How about adopting an olive tree? Tre Olive is one choice that tags your tree, sends you a photo AND sends olive oil in the spring.

If you are not part of a couple, grab some friends and celebrate Singles Awareness Day

Read up on the origin of Valentine's Day at NPR and celebrate like Shakespeare and write your loved one a poem. Or for a more carnal fest, party like the Romans.

You can grab a free cookie at Quizno's! Click here for your coupon.

Show your love of nature and sponsor an acre at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park! Click here to sign up. And it's tax deductible too.

See if you can score a last minute dinner reservation. Here's a great list from Smitten in Cleveland. I love going out to eat at an ethnic restaurant on holidays because they are never booked up. Try Ethiopian at Empress Taytu - it's always delicious and you can feed each other with your fingers in a fun setting. Another more traditional fun spot would be Amp 150...they are offering Amp is for Lovers. It's a great deal...especially if you wait until Friday to celebrate when they offer Friday Night Date Night. 3 courses for 2 for only $50 - can't beat it!

If you hate eating out because it's so crowded, cook your Valentine something special and stay in. If you don't like to cook, pick up some heat and eat from Miles Farmer's Market, Heinen's or Whole Foods. How about breakfast for dinner? Make some heart shaped pancakes part of the meal and mix up some champagne cocktails. Enjoy the time together and save lots of time for smooching!

If your Valentine is a four-legged friend, take your pooch for a walk! It's free and they love it. Plus it's good for both of you. A new toy or a special treat will remind your dog or cat of how special they are.

And a donation to a pet charity or shelter is always the sweet thing to do. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Great Big Home & Garden Expo - Last Weekend

Don't let the snow scare you away!
Head to the Great Home & Garden Expo for a little taste of spring. 

If you haven't been yet, this is your last chance!

There's one more appearance by Rocco Whalen of Fahrenheit, Rocco's Taco's and Fat Chef. He will present “Easy, Elegant and Entertaining Eats” on the Main Stage Feb. 12 at 2:00 p.m. It's worth the trip to get a chance to get some great recipes and healthy eating tips from one of our favorite home town chefs.

And be sure to check out Club Cambria in the Showcase Garden area - it's the hot place to be when it's cold outside. 

Tomorrow has a lot of fun stuff - 
At the main stage

Feb1211:00AMTiling a Kitchen Back Splash, The Home Depot
NoonBryan Baeumler, "DIY, or hire guy?...Things you need to know before you renovate!"
1:00 PMJohn Hall, 25 Design Tips Towards that Perfect Kitchen
2:00 PMRocco Whalen, Fahrenheit Restaurant - Easy, Elegant & Entertaining Eats
3:00 PMHome Insulation Installation, The Home Depot
4:00 PMStoring Bicycles in Your Homes, Tracey Bradnan from Century Cycles
At the Petitti Garden Stage

1211:30AMDeer Proof Your Garden by Paul Mendezoff, Petitti Garden Centers
1:00 PMSlim & Trim is In: Easy Care Woody Plants by Maria Zampini, UpShoot LLC
2:30 PMLEAP into the Garden with Native Plants by Ann McCulloh, Cleveland Botanical Garden
And at the Loretta Paganini Stage, you'll get to see Loretta herself

Feb1211:00AMPasta Favorites by Loretta Paganini, Sapore 
1:00 PMItalian Comfort Food by Loretta Paganini, Sapore
3:00 PMFlavors of Sanibel by Loretta Paganini, Sapore

Tickets for the show are normally $14 each but you can save $3 by purchasing them online and another $1 by entering promo code EDCLEVELAND. That's only $10 a ticket! Click HERE to order your tickets. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Noodlecat - A Slurpy Tale of Two Girls and a Whole Lotta Food

So last night I FINALLY went to Noodlecat! Even though Japanese is my least favorite type of food, I've been dying to go because
   1. Jonathan Sawyer rocks.
   2. I love soup!
   3. The "Super Salad" sounds amazing.
   4. Kimberly has been raving about it & she has great taste.

Since the temps recently dropped into the freezing zone, it was the perfect night to slurp up some noodles. We were originally supposed to meet at 7 o'clock but I was SO hungry after thinking about it all day that we decided to move it up to 6:30. Kimberly didn't need much convincing either as seen on Facebook:

 Kimberly Morris is it bad I wake up thinking about dinner?
Thursday, February 9 at 9:22am (16 hours ago) · Reply
I had no idea at the time what a great love that was - we caught the tail end of Happy Hour. And boy did we make the most of it! We loved the 1/2 portions of noodles and salads for $5 and steam buns for $2 - seriously a great deal!

We started with some bubbly to toast my first visit...
I had the Poochi Poochi sparkling sake - who could resist with a name like that!
Then we heeded the advice of Allison and ordered the rice balls...
which aren't really balls at all...but were amazingly deelish with the ponzu sauce. 

I finally got to try the "Super Salad" of winter greens, adzuki beans, dried blueberries, ancient grains, and green tea granola...
and yes, it's as refreshing and delicious as it sounds!

Next up - Steam buns:
BBQ Ohio Pork Belly
Japanese Fried Chicken
Ohio Beef Burger
And then on top of all that, 4 bowls of noodles for two girls - the server didn't believe he had the right table when he brought all of it out!
Roscoe's Fried Chicken & Ramen w/  hot sauce and maple syrup
Ohio Beef Brisket and Matzo Ramen - loved the dill
Takahachi Ramen w/ garlic pork broth x 2
And we couldn't forget dessert...
Chocolate peanut butter banana steam bun - look at that oozing goodness
We talked and talked and had a great time! In fact, we stayed so long we got to enjoy Happy Hour again! So we decided to get one last drink before calling it a night. It was a hard decision - check out this menu:
Kimberly got the C-Town Citrus - so fresh tasting it made us long for summer and I had the Vanilla Bean Toddy - a steaming mug of grown up tea made just sweet enough with the honey whipped cream...
I was absolutely blown away by how tasty everything was - it definitely exceeded my expectations. The only dish I wasn't super excited about was the brisket and matzo ball. It was good, just a little bland after the party in my mouth created by the other dishes. I took some of the power ketchup home with my leftovers and think that it will be a lot better with a little kick. My favorite? The Takahachi - hands down! The broth was luscious and I loved all the garlic. So glad we each got our own bowls of that one. We really wanted to try the rice pudding and pot de creme but that will have to wait until next time. And there will definitely be a next time...SOON!

You know it was a super funstastic night when you go home looking like this...


Check out Kimberly's blog Smitten in Cleveland here and Noodlecat's full menu here.