Monday, December 29, 2014

Cheese Please for a Tasty Way to Kick Off Your New Year

To help start your New Year off right, I'm sharing this awesome excerpt from Bon Appetit to help you create your own amazing night of cheese.
This list makes me want to go shopping NOW!

Zimbro: “Small-format, sheep’s-milk cheese from Portugal coagulated with thistle rennet. Cut the top off and spoon this baby out.”
Pairing: Mast Brothers dark chocolate with sea salt
Piper’s Pyramid: “From Capriole in Indiana. Small-format, pyramid-shaped goat cheese dusted with paprika. The texture is like a marshmallow: light and fluffy.” 
Pairing: Emily G’s Jalapeno Raspberry Jam
Bleu Mont Bandaged Cheddar: “From Wisconsin. Willi Lehner‘s traditional cheddar is aged 16 months; it’s crumbly and balances earthiness with caramel sweetness.” 
Pairing: McQuade’s apple-and-ale chutney
Point Reyes Bay Blue: Possibly the most gorgeous farm ever: It butts up against Tomales Bay in Marin, for crying out loud. It’s a rustic and sweet blue cheese—think brown sugar. I could not stop eating this at Festival of Cheeses at ACS this year.” 
Pairing: Mast Brothers dark chocolate with sea salt
This list is really good because it includes some pretty tame options along with more interesting choices so everyone is sure to find something on the cheese plate to love.

La Tur: “It’s everything I want in a cheese. A little funky, a little tangy, a little milky. And a lot gooey.”
Cambozola Black Label: “A blue cheese that isn’t all up in your business. It’s sweet, it’s creamy, it’s your friend.”
Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (pictured): “Think of this as block cheddar on really tasty steroids.”
Ossau Iraty: “A people pleaser. Goes with everything.”
Harbison: “It’s as if the cow only ate mustard for its meals, and then was milked.”
Pimiento Cheese: “This is a dream cheese plate, right? Well then I want some Ritz crackers and pimiento cheese.”

Add some marcona almonds, sliced apple and pear, water crackers, thinly sliced bagette, and a flatbread style cracker. I would also need to include Lemon Stilton. It's perfect eaten solo or stuffed in a date. 

What are your favorite cheeses?


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Holiday Shopping in CLE: 2014 Edition

The holiday season is coming fast and your shopping days are numbered. Don't panic! Here's some great ideas for all the loved ones on your list:

Head to these local shopping events this weekend for tons of local and unique items. Clothing, food, decor, jewelry, kids stuff and more.

Tremont Brewhaha
The Cleveland Flea
Free shuttle from 9:30 - 4:30 

Cleveland Bazaar - Celebrate 10 years of awesome shopping this weekend!
Saturday 10-9, Sunday 10-6:00 p.m.

78th Street Studios (MAP)

1301 West 78th St

Cleveland OH 44102

NOTE: Detroit Shoreway is running a trolley 11-4:00 on Saturday, the stops are at Bazaar (78th Street Studios), Cleveland Public Theatre's lot and at the Capitol Theatre. Maps and details available here.

Rock 'n Roll Holiday Flea - Today noon- 5pm. Vinyl records, CDs, cool crafts and vintage wares. Free.

If these events aren't your style - here's a bunch of other goodies:

Cleveland in a Box - Perfect for the out of town family. They're customizable and start at $30 for up to 5 items.

Amazon Prime - You can't get everything local unfortunately. When I'm shopping online, this is one of my go to sites because of Prime. This is a gift they will love all year! Free 2 day shipping is just one of the awesome benefits. Streaming videos, e-books on Kindle, Prime Music and more make this a gift the whole family will love. I love using my Prime membership for all my last minute shopping - that free 2 day shipping is the best!

Cleveland Jam - Locally made jams with cool labels and fun flavors. For the beer lover, Beer Jam made with Raging Red Apple Ale and Great Lakes Brewing Co. Burning River Pepper Jam.

Coffee - For the coffee lovers, get some beans from Rising Star, Pour Cleveland or Zack Bruell's Zack's Brews at Heinen's. Add some homemade treats, some fancy chocolates, or a bagel gift card if you want to make someone really happy.

Books - Support your local bookstore, or better yet, your local authors this year. My favorite was written and published by my friends at Lucky Missy Publishing. The Legend of Tommy the Tiny Christmas Tree is a gorgeous book with a feel good story. Order your copy here.

Sweets - For the ultimate basket for the sweet tooth on your list, combine the following:

  • Coquette Patisserie ~ macarons - sooo many delicious flavors! Pistachio, Pomegranate, Gingerbread, Candy Cane and more.
  • Lilly's Handmade Chocolates ~not only do they make the BEST artisan chocolates in the city, they'll also pair them with spirits for the perfect combo.
  • Malley's ~ the classics done right. Great choices are chocolate covered pretzels, Chocolate Santas, hot fudge sauce or Malley Oh's. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lunch at Provenance Giveaway

*** Update: I was informed that ALL of the Holiday Tea times have 
officially sold out! Unfortunately, that means that I 
can't give away two spots that no longer exist. 
However, the Provenance team is
offering LUNCH for two at Provenance instead. ***

One of my favorite activities is indulging in a fancy tea. It's a perfect way to relax and catch up with the ladies in your life while enjoying delicious nibbles and pretty pots of tea. I hosted my own Valentine's Tea last year for the first time that was such a big hit I'm already planning my next one.

This being said, you can imagine how excited I was when I found out that Provenance at the Cleveland Museum of Art is hosting Holiday Tea through the end of the year. It combines three of my favorite things: the museum, Provenance and tea. That's a winning trio in my book!
This seasonal offering will be available at Provenance from 11:30am to 2:30pm each Saturday in December and daily the week of the 26th through 31st.

The holiday high tea includes assorted teas and accompaniments, three tea sandwiches, assorted miniature pastries, a variety of cakes, cookies and quick breads, sliced fresh seasonal fruit, and fruit scones served with clotted cream, seasonal jams, and marmalade. The tea is priced at $26 + taxes and a 20% service charge. Reservations must be made in advance by calling 216-707-2600. 

The nice folks at Provenance invited me and a guest to join them and they are also providing a pair of tickets for one of my awesome readers! Wouldn't this make a great holiday treat to enjoy with a favorite lady? Or gentleman, guys are definitely allowed and encouraged to attend too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

This giveaway ends 12/15. Be sure to use the Rafflecopter and complete the individual requirements fully in order to be entered. You will need to make sure I have a way to contact you if you win. Winner must also respond within 24 hours or another winner will be selected. 

Some other fun upcoming events at the museum are the Winter Lights Lantern Festival and the Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse Exhibit.
A membership to the museum also makes a great gift. Click here for more info.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Confetti Cake

Everyone love a good homemade cake. But when the holidays are in full swing, if you are like me, you are wishing for an elf to come help you out with your To-Do list. 

There isn't an elf in this recipe but Santa's little helper is a boxed cake mix that let's you whip up this festive and delicious cake in no time. 

  • Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream or yogurt, eggs, oil, and milk in mixing bowl. Beat on low for 1 minute to combine, then beat on medium for 2 minutes until fluffy. Stir in the sprinkles and mini chocolate chips by hand.
  • Pour batter into a greased and floured 10 inch Bundt cake pan. Bake at 350* for 55 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a plate to cool completely.
  • Place the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl with 1/2 teaspoon shortening. Heat for 30 seconds. Stir until melted and creamy. Place in a plastic baggie with one tip cut off and drizzle over the top of the cake.
  • Repeat with the white chocolate chips.
  • Top with the extra sprinkles.
  • Let set before wrapping or serving so the chocolate will set.
I'm serving this on Christmas Eve with homemade candy cane ice cream. What are you making for the holiday?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Choolaah Indian BBQ

After waiting months for it to open, I couldn't wait to try Choolaah Indian BBQ. It has taken over the former Saturn dealership on Chagrin across from Whole Foods and fills a void in this busy shopping district with it's take on Chipotle style service and Indian cuisine.
Indian restaurant, Choolah
The space is modern and cool looking with lots of tile and wood. But we found out later that all the hard surfaces make for a noisy dining experience as did the unexpected number of small children. When you arrive, head to the cash register to order your food. On our visit, the cashier was very knowledgeable about the menu and offered helpful suggestions.

The menu is divided into plates, bowls, sandwiches, salads, sides and sauces. They have a kids menu that includes a naan pizza and two sandwiches made on Pepperidge Farm's goldfish sandwich thins - super cute!
image credit
After much deliberation, I ordered the naan, samosa chaat and chicken tikka masala bowl. The food came out really quickly and looked good.
Indian restaurant
Add usual, I started with the naan because it's normally one of my favorite things about Indian cuisine. Not this time. It was dry and bland, more like a pita. If they offered garlic naan, it might help with the flavor but the texture was still off. Maybe it was stale? I was surpised because they pride themselves on using fresh ingredients and making most things in house.

Next I tried the samosa chaat. It's three deep fried samosas cut in half and served with seasoned chickpeas. Normally this is another of my favorites but this version was bland. Cutting the samosas allowed the filling to fall out and didn't add to the dish in any way. My suggestion: keep them whole and serve them with the mint chutney that came with the regular samosas. It added a burst of flavor that was missing from my dish. If you're looking for samosas, the regular version is a solid choice.

But the chicken tikka masala made the meal. The chicken was tender and plentiful and the sauce had a ton of flavor. The optional chili oil added some extra heat. It was a nice portion and at $11.99 is a good value too. I would definitely order this again and again.
Indian food restaurant
For dessert we shared the mango and malai (cardamom) kulfi - flavorful ice cream that were delicious. I kept going back and forth trying to pick a favorite but couldn't pick a winner. They also had a chocolate truffle on the menu which would be a nice small bite to end the meal.

Beverages include chai tea, mango lassi, beer, wine and an extensive list of soft drinks. The soft drinks are dispensed from a very cool machine that is definitely not your average soda fountain. I was happy to see that they unsweetened lemon seltzer - an unusual treat that I wish was on more menus.

Some things I'd like to try next time are the biryani which was described as a rice pie type dish topped with naan, the chickpea masala, lamb meatballs and lettuce wraps. You can make a lot of different combos by mixing the various proteins, sauces and styles of preparation. The spice levels were mild in my dishes but can be adjusted by using the chili oil and a special sauce called  Choolaah Fire. That one sounds interesting!

Overall, it's a quick, tasty and affordable spot that should do really well, especially once they get the minor kinks out.

Follow them on Facebook or on Twitter

Choolaah Indian BBQ on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

One Hundred Foot Journey Giveaway

I love movies. And I obviously love food. So when a foodie movie comes out, I tend to get excited. Like Water for Chocolate, Ratatouille, Chocolat, and even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are all films that make you hungry as they take you on their journey. 

So when I first saw the preview of The Hundred Foot Journey, I knew it was something I had to see. France, Indian food and Helen Mirren made this a must see for me. 

Here's the scoop: "When the chill chef proprietress of a Michelin-starred French restaurant in southern France (Mirren) gets wind of a culinary immigrant opening an Indian restaurant just 100 feet from her own, her icy protests escalate to all-out war between the two establishments." Sounds like a recipe for a fun film to me! 

Are you hungry for a delicious film? Satisfy your craving with the chance to win your own Blu-ray copy of Disney’s THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY, available to purchase today. You just might be inspired to whip up some Indian French fusion of your own. 

Click here to enter.

In case you are already thinking of recipes to go along with your movie night, here's one to get you started.


6 to 8 servings

4 tbsp Canola oil

2 1/2 lbs boneless short ribs of beef, fat removed and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

Salt and pepper

3/4 cup all purpose flour

6 ounces apple wood smoked bacon cut into 1/4 inch pieces

2 tbsp butter

4 cloves tied in a string

2 bay leaves

18 small pearl onions peeled

18 baby carrots, peeled and cut into halves if longer than 2 inches

18 baby turnips peeled and cut into halves

1/2 pound chanterelle mushrooms cleaned, trimmed and cut in half

2 onions diced

1 garlic head, cloves separated, peeled and chopped

1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger minced

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground brown mustard seed

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper

1 750ml bottle red Burgundy wine

1 quart white beef stock

4 sprigs thyme

2 tbsp brown sugar

1/4 cup parsley and 1/4 cup chervil for garnish

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F

Season the beef with salt and pepper and lightly coat with the flour. Keep the beef at room temperature for 30 minutes. Reserve the extra flour.

Place a large stew pot over moderate heat and add the bacon and canola oil. Cook until fat is rendered. Remove bacon.

In the same pot sear the short ribs until lightly colored. Take care not to burn the pan.

Remove the beef and add the pearl onions cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove onions and reserve.

Repeat this process with the carrots and turnips.

Add the chanterelles and saute for 1 minute, remove and reserve.

Add the butter to the leftover oil and add the cloves, bay leaf and cook for 1 minute. Add minced onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until transparent.

Add the ground spice and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the leftover flour and the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.

Deglaze with the wine and bring to a boil, then add the beef stock and bring up to a boil.

Add the bacon and the short ribs to the pan. Bring up to a boil then reduce the heat. Add thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Place the pot in the oven and cook approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Add the carrots, turnips and the pearl onions. Cook for 30 minutes more.

Take the pan out of the oven and remove the clove, parsley and bay leaves. 
and Add the sugar and chanterelles. Season with salt.

At this time the stew should be not as saucy and a bit thicker. Garnish with parsley and chervil.

*Disclosure: I was given a copy of the film in exchange for helping to promote it. Regardless, my opinions are my own.*

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

It's December 1st. One part of me says "already?!" and the other says "it's felt like December for a month already." The exceptionally cold and snowy November and late Thanksgiving seem to have had people in the mood for the holidays even earlier than normal.

But Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and as usual, it didn't disappoint. We went to the hubby's Great Aunt Nina's house on Turkey Day and then hosted an After-Party at our house on Saturday for my family to continue the fun. Here are some highlights:

Pinterest gone right for a change!
My Mom's cranberry relish is always a hit.

Soooo many desserts...

This little cutie
Seasonal cocktails
And so much yum!
The pork loin turned out perfectly! It's based an Epicurious recipe for maple glazed pork. I used a whole loin, added fresh cranberries and thyme and roasted it in the oven. Dee-lish!

Pro tip - don't print your menu until you know what everyone is making (oops!)
Hope you had a wonderful holiday! What was your favorite dish?  Did you get any great deals?