Thursday, February 23, 2017

#CLEfood: Scratch

Thanks to Independence's central location, it's a great place to meet friends from both sides of the river. If you venture off Rockside Road, you'll find a gem of a restaurant called Scratch. They serve breakfast and lunch, and as the name implies, most everything is made from scratch.
Since we live right around the corner, we are frequent visitors. We love having such a cute place so close to home. Both the restaurant and the menu are small but cozy. While it's located in a nondescript building, the interior is trendy rustic industrial and has a wall that you can doodle on. Daily specials are handwritten on chalkboards around the room.
Photo Credit
Don't miss their decadent pancakes! These will have you coming back again and again. Thankfully the tiramisu pancakes are a regular menu item. Served with a coffee liquor reduction flavored syrup, chocolate ganache and vanilla mousse, these could easily stand in for dessert. Pro tip: order your toppings on the side so the fluffy pancakes don't get soggy. 
Look for other flavors like chocolate peanut butter, cinnamon roll and pumpkin roll on the specials menu. I wish they offered more varieties as every day options - blueberry or pecan would be easy and tasty additions to the regular menu. You can also satisfy your sweet tooth with bread pudding french toast and strawberry shortcake waffles. All come with your choice of homemade sausage patty or pork belly. If you don't like your sausage smokey, choose the pork belly.

Latke Sliders from the lunch menu are a fun riff on a reuben that has potato pancakes standing in for the traditional rye bread with corned beef in thick slices (a little too thick maybe) and cheese melted overtop. 
One of my favorites is the "Don't Call It...Corned Beef Hash." Potato boxty and corned beef are topped with green peppers, onions and two sunny side up eggs. 
Some other things to try are the fresh made chicken fingers, El Cubano and the Scratch Burger with grilled onions, pork belly, cheddar cheese and a whiskey glaze.

The only thing I ever ordered that I didn't like was the Smokehouse Burrito (smoked pulled pork, potatoes, cheddar cheese, scrambled eggs and salsa verde.) While it sounds like a total winner, the pork was too plentiful and smokey so it overwhelmed the burrito and it desparately needed some contrasting flavors, crunch and a zippier sauce. Even some lime on the side would have helped. To make things worse, at the time I ordered this, they didn't offer any hot sauce - this situation has thankfully been remedied with the addition of Tabasco, Sriracha and Chulo.

Scratch is a tasty spot for an early weekday meal and perfect for Saturday brunch.

Locally owned and homemade food
Swoon worthy pancakes
Coffee - both drip and french press
Taco Tuesday - 2 for $5

Closed on Sunday
French fries
Smoked meats are a bit too smokey

You can also check out my friend Bite Buff's thoughts here

Scratch Restaurant
6595 Brecksville Road #1 
Independence, Ohio. 44131
Hours: Tues-Sat 7am-3pm
Follow them on Facebook and Instagram

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cleveland's Finest Hors d'Oeuvre Contest 2017

Every year, Our Lady of the Wayside hosts one of the tastiest contests in the city, Cleveland's Finest Hors d'Oeuvre Contest. Some of Cleveland's favorite chefs gather at Progressive Field and battle it out for bragging rights. 
When you arrive, you drop off your coat, pick up a ballot and grab a glass. Then the fun begins. Look at this lineup - yum!
There were more entries than ever before so you had to make sure to pace yourself. We succeeded but barely were able to try one of the adorable cupcakes. My personal vote went to the mini veal parmesan sausage sandwich with a brioch bun. It was a creative and incredibly delicious homage to Progressive Field. 
My 2nd place was the beef wonton from Driftwood Catering. Super simple but perfectly executed. It got bonus points for being easy to eat too.
Here are some more of the delicious things we ate:

Shrimp and grits, Lobster and pea risotto cups, Lobster arancini.

Loved my super cute mini cupcake - so good! The banana chip garnish was a fun touch. French onion brioche bites from Tartine were really unique and delicious.

The sold out event hosted 800 guests. My awesome date and I had a blast sampling all the delicious entries and wine.
And the winners were:

Corleone's (citrus scallop with mango puree and pomegranate pearls served in a scallop shell, Tree House (beef rotello with lobster pasta) and Carrie Cerino's (Caribbean shrimp with Calypso rice).

Inaddition to tasty hors d' oeuvres, guests sipped on wine samplings from Sobon Wine Company and Clara C Fioridi and beer tastings from Roosterfish Brewery. Entertainment was provided by singer-songwriters Nate Jones and Jessica Shetler, and Cleveland Firelands Collective.

Our Lady of the Wayside really knows how to throw a fun event and all proceeds are used for the amazing work they . Their next foodie event is Grapes and Ale.

*** Disclosure: I was invited to attend the event in exchange for sharing my
experiences with you. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. ***

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Donut Fest Cleveland

This girl loves donuts. So much so, we had a donut truck at our wedding. Best. Idea. Ever. You know else is a great idea? A donut festival. An even better idea? Bringing it to Cleveland!

donuts, cleveland, Jack Frost, Peace Love and Little Donuts
Donut Fest was started in Chicago by a former NE Ohioan and has only also been held in NYC up until now. This year they debuted in our very own CLE. When I heard about it, I knew immediately it was a Must Do. And a lot of other people felt the same way because it sold out in 3 1/2 hours. Faster than both other cities. Yep, CTown loves its donuts. 

And we have a lot to choose from. Twelve great bakeries were represented at the inaugeral festival and we still have many others that weren't. (maybe next year!) Donut lovers united at Red Space to experience one of the sweetest food buzzes around. There was donut themed art and lots of people wearing clothing to match. People in CLE are serious about their donuts.
donut, Red Space, Cleveland, Prince, art, coffee
The true test of a donut is the traditional glazed yeast version in my opinion. It's always my favorite but I love interesting flavors too. It was nearly impossible to pick a winner. Thankfully I wasn't a judge but here are my top picks. 

Jack Frost may be known for their over the top filled donuts but the glazed are amazing. If you haven't tried them, what are you waiting for?? These guys have been showing off their donut skills for years and it shows. Texture, chew and sweetness are perfect. They offered a huge variety of donuts so everyone could choose their favorite and got bonus points for handing out full-sized instead of the typical 1/4 donuts samples. The canoli donut even had a teeny tiny cannoli on top.

George's has guts and it shows. They ONLY entered a glazed donut. Boom! Get to Twinsburg early if you want to try these because they always sell out early. Pro tip: place an order the day before.
donuts, Cleveland, festival

Road Trip Worthy
MaryAnn Donuts Cafe in Canton and Holey Toledough of Toledo may not be in Cleveland but they would both make for a fun Sunday drive. MaryAnn's entry was filled with Strawberries and Cream, but the powdered donut itself was magical on its own. I will be paying them a visit. Plus they spelled out "Donut Fest Cleveland" in donuts for major style points. 
cleveland, donuts, Donut Fest

Holey Toledough also featured a fruity filling. Their "Best Donut Ever" cake donut with raspberry jam, white chocolate ganache and crushed macadamia nuts was decant and delicious. I also liked the small size.

donuts, Donut Fest, cleveland, festival

Most Unique
Brewnuts is known for their beer infused donuts and they went all out for their entry. The classic raised donut was filled with a chocolate malted mousse, glazed with salted beer caramel sauce and topped with crushed sour dough pretzels and Maldon flaked salt. The flavors were amazing - I could have eaten a bowl of the glaze! Mine was missing the filling and I didn't miss it. If only their donuts had a better texture, this would have been my winner with no competition. If you ever see them selling this flavor, make sure you try it. Knock people out of your way if necessary. (joking!)
donuts, Moxie, cleveland, festival
They also brought the must have accessory to the fest:
Donut Fest, Cleveland, donuts, donut mess with cleveland, Brewnuts
Biggest Surprise
Moxie is normally known for their fine dining but owner Jonathan Bennett is a huge donut lover and it shows. His Vanilla Bean Glazed with Caramelized Krispies was one of my top picks. (put these on the menu please!)

A special shout out for the chocolate ganache on Bloom Bakery's donut hole. Dark and rich it was the real deal.

Here are the official winners:

Judges Picks
1. Peace, Love and Little Donuts of West Park - Raspberry Coffee Cake
2. Holey Toledough - White Chocolate, Jam and Macadamia Nut
3. Brew Nuts - Salty Malty

Fan Favorites
1. Jack Frost - Glazed
2. Brew Nuts Salty Malty
3. George's (Twinsburg) - Glazed
It was a great place to see and make friends at the event! Who doesn't love a photo booth with a giant donut prop?!
Cleveland, Donut Fest, donuts, photo booth, Ohio Festivals, Lisa Sands

And don't you just love @momona_moproblems outfit? She's even more obsessed with donuts then me! I think someone needs to start a donut blog...
donuts, donut earrings, donut leggings, cleveland, donut fest
Thankfully they had lots of coffee from City Roast, Rising Star, Erie Island, Solstice, Heartwood and Joe Maxx plus milk from Hartzler's to wash all the sugary treats down with. A truly unique and surprising delicious beverage was Donut Infused Nitro Cold Brew from 46 and 2 Brewing. The only thing missing was water. We desparately needed water. As we were leaving we found a lonely pitcher and some plastic cups by the exit. I thankfully chugged a glass and headed home in a sugar induced daze.

Good news! If you missed out on the fun they WILL be back next year. Follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter or sign up for their mailing list here.

*** Disclosure: I was invited to attend the event and share 
my opinions. As always, all thoughts are my own. ***

Monday, February 13, 2017

#CLEfood - Sweet Basil Pizzeria

We just so happened to be on the west side on National Pizza Day so we thought it was the perfect opportunity to try a pizza joint that I've been hearing about for years - Sweet Basil Neopolitan Style Pizzeria. I absolutely love a good thin crust pizza and couldn't wait to try it.
pizza restaurant cleveland ohio sweet basil
We were surprised to see what might have been the remnants of a child's birthday party on a Thursday night. There were tons of kids and balloon animals but they were spread out all over the restaurant so maybe they just give kids balloons. Or maybe it was because of #NationalPizzaDay? 

To make things worse, the parents were letting the kids run around. And there's no soft surfaces so it was LOUD - a lot louder than you would expect from a sit down pizza place even without the kids. Anyways, we almost left because of all the noisy chaos and a heavy amount of smoke from the pizza oven hanging in the air, but at this point we had our hearts set on trying this pizza and were starving. 
cleveland westlake pizzeria review Eat*Drink*Cleveland
The server cleaned off a table right on top of the largest group of kids for us so we were definitely rethinking our decision to stay at that point. But we perservered because the pizza looked awesome. (Tip: If you're a server, don't put a couple next to the annoying kids.)

The restaurant has a cool local industrial themed decor. There are two really cozy tables by the window that are tucked away from the main area. Grab those if they are available! Also be sure to check out the specials on the chalkboard by the door.
pizza Westlake Cleveland @EatDrinkCLE
The menu has something for everyone: speciality pizzas, build your own, calzones, gluten-free crusts, several varieties of mac 'n cheese, salads and even desserts from Great Scott's Bakery. They also have Garlic "Not" Knots which I totally would have tried if I had noticed them before placing our order. But we were here for the pizza and decided to build our own.

pizza, National Pizza Day, Westlake, Cleveland

They have an extensive list of possible toppings with some interesting choices like roasted green peppers, pine nuts, ricotta and gyro meat (but no roasted red peppers). We picked our own toppings: mine were green olives, roasted onions and banana peppers; my hubby picked sausage, roasted onions and roasted green peppers. The roasted onions were amazing and I really liked that the roasted green peppers weren't mushy. The sausage left something to be desired. It was pretty finely ground so it was like eating ground beef on a pizza which neither of us care for. Bigger pieces or slices would have made a big difference.
pizza, Cleveland, vegetarian, Westlake, @EatDrinkCLE

We both loved the crust. It had nice charring and a great chew. It's very thin but crispy so you can easily eat the huge slices with your hands. It was my favorite part of the pizza. After tasting the crust I was regretting not getting the Garlic "Not" Knots even more.

This is where the pizza went terribly wrong for us. The sauce desperately needed seasoning. It was bland and just tasted off. We were so disappointed! With a better sauce, this pizza would be killer.

We knew we wanted leftovers so we opted for the 18" pie. If you don't want leftovers, the 12" is a perfect size for two hungry adults. We ate two pieces each that night and then had two more each for lunch the next day. We liked the leftover pieces much better because we added garlic, aleppo pepper and some Italian seasoning. I warmed mine in the toaster oven at work and it was delicious.

There's a lot to love about this place - it's family owned, they use local ingredients as much as possible, the crust is made fresh daily and the staff is really nice. They even give you tiny scoops of lemon Italian ice at the end of your meal. You can tell the owners really care about the restaurant, the product and their customers. They also have a nice selection of beer that you can buy if you are picking up a pizza to go. Sauce is a subjective thing so I'd say you might want to give it a shot - if you like the sauce, you're going to love this pizza for sure. Unfortunately, we were disappointed - especially because it has so much potential.
adirondak chair, pizza, Westlake restaurant, Sweet Basil, @EatDrinkCLE

Sweet Basil Neapolitan Pizzeria
26235 Center Ridge Rd Westlake, OH 
(440) 899-1899

For more information go to their website or follow Sweet Basil on Facebook.

Monday, February 6, 2017

#CLEfood: Thai Thai

I love Thai food and am always looking for a  new place to try. So I was happy to see a new place pop up in my Instagram feed. The pictures of food looked delicious so we decided to check it out.
Eat*Drink*Cleveland: Thai Thai restaurant in Lakewood review

Thai Thai is a tiny (and I mean TINY) family owned restaurant in Lakewood right by Angelo's Pizza. There are a handful of tables and they have a booming take out business. 
Eat*Drink*Cleveland restaurant review of Thai Thai in Lakewood, OH

Bangkok Street Food is the style of food they serve but you can still find many of your favorites on the menu including Pad Thai, Tom Kha soup, Kao Pad (fried rice), curries and mango sticky rice. They also serve Bubble Tea. Oh and nothing on the menu is over $12. (gotta love tasty cheap eats!)

As usual, I wanted to order everything but limited myself to two things. I'm still kind of sad about that!

First was a Thai Egg Roll. It was good, I but was kicking myself that I didn't try the North East Sausage after someone at another table ordered it. Next up was one of my all-time favorites ~ Larb. This version of the ground meat salad is made with chicken, chili peppers, onion, lime, cilantro and roasted ground rice. I was so happy to see that they actually served it with rice (regular white rice instead of the customary sticky rice) but other Thai restaurants in Cleveland skip this so I was thrilled. I prefer my Larb with pork but it was delicious. If you think this dish sounds weird and have never tried it, you should! It has a ton of flavor. And if you want to be carb-free, skip the rice.

Food at Thai Thai
Massaman curry on top, larb and North East Sausages on the bottom
My hubby got his usual Massaman Curry. We both liked how is was served in a bowl instead of a platter - better to scoop up the delicious sauce! The chicken was tender and the sauce had a lot of flavor and just a tiny bit of heat. 

Some other items I wanted to order besides the sausage were the Roasted Duck Noodle Soup,Fried Meatballs on a Stick, Gai Yang (chicken on a stick), papaya salad and the Green Curry. Next time! 

Our waitress was Kiwi, the owner's daughter. She is friendly, helpful and absolutely adorable. She is the girl behind the Instagram account too. When we were talking to her after our meal, she mentioned they had her Mom's homemade hot sauce available. Be sure to look to the right of the cash register because there was a whole assortment of sauces and hot pepper that you can use to enhance your meal. She gave us a to-go cup of the sauce since we missed it initially and it was amazing. I will not make the same mistake the next time I go!
Thai Thai restaurant in Lakewood homemade hot sauce

They are located at 13737 Madison Ave. in Lakewood. You can also find Thai Thai at the Asian Night MarketFollow them on Facebook and Instagram.