Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lunch at Jean Georges

Going into our trip to New York I had an absolute ton of work to do. I really wasn’t all that focused on where we were going to eat or what we were going to do. I had to make sure that I had all of my materials (for work) prepared before we went on this trip. For me, this was a work/eating trip. For my wife this was strictly vacation time.

Since it was her vacation time, she was the one that did most of the planning. During her search for places to eat, one piece of advice continued to be mentioned: Go for lunch at Jean Georges. Sometimes this advice turns out to be the real McCoy, sometimes it’s total bs.

Most of the reviews we read said that you had to eat in the Formal Dining Room; not the Nougatine Room (less formal with a cheaper menu). In the Formal Dining Room they serve at lunch a selection of the what they serve at dinner, only it’s half price. How cool is that? Two courses are $28, each additional course is $12. For dinner it’s $98 for 3 courses. This was a bargain to say the least, relatively speaking.

So we show up a few minutes early for our reservation. We were probably the third party to be seated. The space is decorated in a very clean modern style. To some degree it reminded me of Table 45. We were seated along the wall. Everyone (who was not in the middle of the room), was seated so they faced inward toward the. This was cool because you could see the food as it came out. There were two alcoves that were recessed in to the interior wall. There was a mix of businesspeople, locals, and tourists, not at all uncomfortable.

The Food

I opted for the three courses + dessert. Regina said she was going to behave herself and order just two courses + dessert. Here is a description of what we had.

My Choices

Sweet Pea Soup, with Croutons and Parmesan- fantastic presentation. The bowl is put down in front of you with the frothy parmesan in the bottom of the bowl. The soup is then poured into the four cornered bowl basically forcing the cheese into the corners and enveloping the soup. The croutons hidden in the cheese surprise you because you don’t see them (about size of a ¼” cube). They are the perfect amount because there seems to be a couple in every bite. Awesome.

Foie Gras Terrine, Slow-Roasted Strawberries and Aged Balsamic Vinegar- The perfect marriage of three elements I don’t normally see together. Set on top of a thin layer of Brioche this dish was full of flavor. I could have eaten three of these. Again, awesome.

Parmesan Crusted Confit Leg of Chicken, White Asparagus, Basil + Lemon Butter- This was just as it was described. The chicken was placed on top of the asparagus which was sitting in the Basil Lemon Butter Sauce. The crust on the perfectly cooked piece of chicken was a crispy salty mouthful of joy. If you mix it with the sauce you can hardly contain your taste buds. At this point Jean Georges is batting 1.000.

Warm Rhubarb Clafouti Tart, Strawberry Crème Fraiche- It was good. I guess trying to follow the previous threes dishes was going to be pretty much impossible.

Regina’s Choices

Gulf Shrimp and Smoked Bacon, Papaya Mustard and Avocado
Arctic Char, Asparagus and Mushrooms with Lemongrass Consomme
Pistachio, Sour Cherry Sorbet, Candied Pistachios, Freeze Dried Cherries

I know this may sound like a big Jean Georges love fest. In a sense, they may just be what it is. I don’t think it’s without merit, though. This is the best lunch I’ve had in my life. The first three dishes I had were so good it’s hard to put it into words. With the exception of the terrine it is something that has been on a lot of menus. The service was fabulous, the setting was gorgeous. I have read reviews on Zagat that were less than complimentary. I think there are just people that are hyper critical. There is no doubt (in my mind) that lunch at Jean Georges is the best bargain you will ever find. The price of the lunch combined with the quality and creativity of the food finished my trip to New York memorably.

Jean Georges on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Union Square Café

Let me start by saying that I think it is possible for one to eat at too many good restaurants in a small span of time. When you go on a trip you’ve got to create a diverse mix of dining levels into your trip. If you eat at top notch restaurants every evening, I think you end up having one clear favorite and the others seem to be a bit of a letdown. In the end they all kind of blend together and you end up wasting a lot of money. To some degree you also end up excluding many places that should probably be visited; if for no other reason but to experience the true local gems.

Not to give too much away, but I think our visit to Union Square Café is a good example of my “too many restaurants” theory.

We had been doing research for quite some time heading into the New York portion of our trip and found that people had a high opinion of the food at Union Square Café. Regina’s two brothers were going to be joining us, so it sounded like it would be the perfect place considering her one brother is a little more on the traditional side when it comes to food. I thought the menu would certainly fit the bill for all tastes involved.

We meet her brothers and take the subway down to Union Square. To our delight we were promptly seated. The restaurant was entirely full (which was a good sign).

We sat down and decided to order a couple appetizers. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of what I would call “shareable” appetizers. We ordered a pasta special that had parmigiano reggiano, corn, and cream sauce. My wife says it was her favorite thing of the evening. For being so special, I don’t even remember it. We also ordered a cheese plate.

Since it was Sunday night the special was Osso Buco which was a White Wine Orange Braised Veal Shank, with Sautéed Swiss Chard and Creamy Saffron Risotto. This was ordered by my wife and her two brothers. Just what you need on a 90 degree day, a nice light meal, right? I would have liked to see a little variety among everyone’s order so there could have been some sampling. Oh well, what are you go to do? It was a huge portion of Flintstonian scale. This isn’t a bad thing when you’ve got a home to take it to. However, when you’re staying in a hotel you either have to eat it or leave it. My wife gave the other half of hers to her brother.

I ordered the Duck Confit with Roasted Potatoes, Glazed Cippolini, Bitter Greens, and Cherry Vinaigrette. This was a good portioned dish, (not ridiculous) and tasted pretty good.

We decided against getting dessert just because we were so stuffed.

I can’t really say anything bad about Union Square Café, but it also wasn’t anything that knocked my socks off. When it really comes down to it, though, I think it’s pretty hard to blow anyone away with Osso Buco. It’s braised meat. It’s pretty straight forward stuff.

I actually think the menu here is geared more toward fall and winter. It’s just solid, hearty food. If you’re dining with picky eaters this would be a good place to take them. In the end, I don’t think it’s anyplace I’d consider to be a “must see”.

In USC’s defense, they were sandwiched between a dinner at Babbo and a lunch at Jean Georges.

Union Square Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Memorable Evening at Babbo

It all started about a month ago when my wife put her little fingers to work speed dialing her way through the morning. By 10:30am she hit pay dirt in the form of a table for four at 8:30. Washington Square here we come! I was never a huge Mario Batali fan until I started cooking out of his Molto Italiano cookbook. I don't think I've ever had a stinker come out of that book. So what was this whole Babbo thing going to be? I had heard about the music, the lack of waiting room, the very crowded bar. Quite frankly, I was mentally prepared to be disappointed.

My boss and his wife, Regina and I got there at a little before 8:30pm. We waited at the bar for our table. There really was not that much room to wait, but we managed to split up, my boss and I in one corner, the wives over by the hostess' station. After about a half an hour we are seated. I can tell my boss was worked up because he didn't like the loud music or the fact that they were a little late seating us. This is one of the reasons I don't like going to special places with other people. I feel the more participants you include in the party the higher the likelihood is that someone is going to not like something and complain throughout the evening.

Here’s my take on the music. I like it. How often do you get to have a fine dining experience and hear Joy Division playing in the distance? It doesn’t happen. It truly is a unique experience. I will say this, I don’t like the level of the music being so high that I can’t hear the person next to me – and that’s what it was like downstairs. Upstairs the music wasn’t as loud. It was something I’ve never experienced before, but that was good.

We were treated to a Sfromatto, a mousse of sorts made of peas, as a treat based on our extended wait. Our table was upstairs, under a fantastic sky light - it really felt separate from the downstairs action, albeit still on the loud side. The appetizers consisted of Babbo Salumi with “Cipolle Modenese” and Babbo Olives , Armandino’s Salumi – Hot Sopressata and Culatello I was amazed by the numerous types on my plate which the Service Director rattled off with ease. It really was a lot to remember. Of the two, I would say Armandino’s was my favorite. There was something on there that really had a lot of kick to it.

Entrees (The first three are in the Babbo cookbook).

Pumpkin“Lune” with Sage and Amaretti – I think what’s nice about this dish is that the lune themselves don’t feel as quite as heavy as one might typically think of ravioli. They were topped with freshly grated amarreti, I'd never seen that before.

Grilled Guinea Hen – this is what I ordered. What can I say other than that it was just a really well seasoned preparation. To top the whole thing off, they drizzled a twelve year old balsamic vinegar over the top of the bird. The saltiness of the Guinea Hen combined with the sweetness of balsamic vinegar made this choice a success.

Pappardelle Bolognese- My boss ordered this one. I’ve actually made this from the cookbook and I can say that it is a really good recipe, and easy too. However, with all of the different items on the menu – why get something so basic? I didn’t understand that one. Especially when he kept saying that the best he ever had was from Rao’s Cookbook before he even ordered it. I’ve often found when people believe that they’ve had the best ------- ever that they’re always disappointed with their meal. Get something else so that the rest of us don’t have to hear about the best ever. He could have stayed at home and been happier.

Black Spaghetti with Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chiles – His wife ordered this. I think I can say that I was torn between this and the Guinea Hen. This was very good. Dyed with octopus ink, this spaghetti has a very unique appearance. What I really liked was the spice of the mixture on top of the spaghetti. I didn’t so much notice the shrimp as much as I did the fine textured crispiness of the Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chiles. This, unfortunately, isn’t in the cookbook. I would highly recommend trying this delicious dish.


Pistachio and Chocolate Semifreddo – Regina ordered this and loved it. As a matter of fact, I think it was her favorite out of everything she had.

Assortment of Gelati and Sorbetti – There was really only one reason I got this one - Olive Oil Gelato. Yeah, that’s right. It was made out of olive oil. The idea itself is very creative and from what I understand wildly popular. You can find it at his other restaurants, as well. It really tasted good. You don’t really taste the olive oil in it until it has already slid down the back of your throat. There’s a nutty whiff of olive oil that pass through your nose and across the back of your tongue. Is it going to pass up chocolate any time soon? No, but it is a creative idea I’ve never seen anywhere else before.

So what was the overall impression of the Babbo experience? First off, I have to say it was a very memorable experience, (for the right reasons). I can say that the service was probably the best I’ve had since my visit to Alan Wong’s in Oahu. The wait staff whirled around like ghosts. Where ten seconds ago there were no plates with food, they would descend upon all four of us with the grace of a gentle wind. As quickly as they appeared, they would vanish; leaving behind beautiful plates of food. It was an absolute treat.

I think it’s pretty clear that Mario Battali and Joe Bastianich have poured over every detail of this restaurant. Like a classic automobile, every detail has been attended to. Though the eventual owner of that car might not like the shape of the steering wheel or the texture of the leather on the seats, it’s an expression of the designer and his tastes. I think that’s what we have here. A restaurant that is a direct expression of what the owners would like their favorite restaurant to be. We could only be so lucky to have more places that paid as much attention to detail as Babbo does.

Babbo on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Finishing the Week at Flying Fig

We figured that since our take from the Grower's Market at Shaker Square was rather large we knew we'd being eating at home during the week. After tonight we were going to give the credit card a rest. We decided to head over to the west side to The Flying Fig. Regina loves small plates; so I never have to twist her arm to go there. She is all about smaller portions but more options. I am more of an entree kind of person. I really think Chef Karen Small does both things very well. I would do the three small plates for the price of an entree thing if there was nothing to choose off of the entree menu, but tonight I would've ordered any one of those entrees.

As a starter we got the cheese plate. Lately this has been our MO. I like it because it keeps you from garbaging up on anything too heavy. The cheese plate here is actually one of my favorites along with 3 Birds and Parallax. It has 3 different types of cheese, along with blueberries and sauce, pecans, bread, and crackers. I think it's a winner.
Regina predictably got the 3 small plate sampler which was comprised of Mackenzie Creamery Goat Cheese Mousse, Pork Belly, and Braised Lamb Shank with Carrots and Scallion Pan Cake (more like a crepe). I wasn't so kean on the Goat Cheese Mousse, but she seemed to like it. The Pork Belly and Lamb Shank (which were specials) were sex on plate. Really, really good!

I ordered the Grilled Short Ribs with Horseradish Potato Puree, Haricot Vert, Pilsner Reduction. I am a sucker for the short ribs here. I've ordered them in a couple of different forms and they never require a knife to eat. Tonight was no exception. It was the first time I'd ever had the Pilsner reduction. It was so good my wife was using it with her pork belly and lamb shank. Finally I had to cut her off when she started licking the plate. Alright, I lied about the last part, but I think she was about to when the server took it away.
Dessert is the one area that I've always thought that The Flying Fig comes up short. Usually it has to do with the portioning of the desserts themselves. Tonight we were pleasantly surprised. I had the Blueberry Bignet with Vanilla Ice Cream. I have to say, it was the perfect size. The dessert I had at Red the night before was borderline glutony. Regina ordered Chocolate Banana Cinnamon Bread Pudding. The bread pudding appeared to have been made in a pop-over pan, which was accompanied by some caramelized bananas. Again, it was well portioned and very tasty.
Tonight was the first night we'd ever eaten outside at The Fig. Not only was it a pleasant night weatherwise, it was also fairly quiet with it being Sunday night. The only disturbance we had was when a guy on rollerblades came through screaming, "GET OUT OF MY COVE!!!, as he flew down the street. This is in the Top 10 of my favorite Cleveland restaurants. Now that the desserts are up to snuff, who know, maybe Top 5. If you can get a seat outside it's a nice little side street to people watch. If you think of it, request Leslie. She's a fantastic server who knows the menu inside and out.

Update January 13, 2008
We started the dinner off with the Cheese Plate (Gouda, Ashed Goat Cheese, Triple Cream Brie)
I had the $5 Blue Cheese Hamburger with Skinny Fries, Happy Hour special - good deal.
Regina had the Duck Confit with Brussels Sprouts, she absolutely loved it.
For dessert I had the Chocolate Lava Cake, very good.
Regina had the apple and blueberry crisp - she thought it was a little watery.

Flying Fig on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Just a couple of things before I forget

Texas Cattle Company
While I was driving out to Kirtland Country Club on Friday I saw that fire trucks at the scene of a fire. The building in question was the Texas Cattle Company. I can't say that I've ever eaten at this establishment nor do I think it's a good idea to eat at places with the name of a state that differs from the state the restaurant is actually in. At any rate, I was talking to a guy at the KCC and he said that this was the third fire at Texas Cattle Co. in the last eighteen months. He told me to read the sign on the front of the restaurant when went home. As I drove past the smoldering building I looked at the sign and it read: Texas Cattle Company "Where There's Smoke There's Fire". How's that for irony?

White Flower Bakery
I had heard back in the spring that White Flower Bakery in Beachwood had been in a competition on Food Network. Well, Sunday night at 8:00pm their competition is going to air. Hopefully they will pick up where Michael Symon left off. Good luck, girls!

I finally made it to Red the Steakhouse

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I think everyone's got a list of restaurants they've wanted to go to but for one reason or other haven't been able to make it there. For me, Red The Steakhouse is one of those spots. My wife and I have always loved Moxie. I've heard nothing but great things about Red (Moxie's next door cousin), so I was pretty excited to finally go there.

The one thing you have to remember about steakhouses is that things are portioned a little differently than your average restaurant. My problem is that my eyes are bigger than my stomach. So I went in with a game plan. "Restrain yourself. You're limited to one side dish.", I told myself. I knew the desserts were going to be good so, I had to make sure there'd be some stomach room left.

We ordered the cheese plate for an appetizer. The plate came with five different cheeses. What I liked was that each cheese was labeled. Most of the time you order cheese plates and the server rattles off the names so quickly you forget all of the names except the last cheese. Worse yet, they simply don't know. I thought they were a little chintzy on the accompaniments, and there were no nuts. Even so, our favorite was "Moonglo" raw goat cheese.

As we considered options for entrees we wanted to make sure we wouldn't over order. Regina knew she was never going to finish an entree so she opted for the Shrimp and White Wine appetizer. I went with the Pork Scallopini special. We also ordered the Green Beans with Pine Nuts. She said that her dish was good but a little oily from the sauce. My pork was nothing that great. It wasn't bad; but wasn't anything I'd order again. The beans weren't bad, but they had an unexpected spice to them that I really didn't care for.

To be honest I think Kate O'Donnell is one of the finest pastry chefs in the city. I've never had a bad or even okay dessert at Moxie. They're always original, sizable, and a good value. Tonight was no exception. I got the Fresh-N-Hot Doughnut Holes which came with carmel, chocolate, and rasberry dipping sauce. Easily could have been shared. It comes with 6 doughnut holes each about the size of a golf ball. Regina got the Trio of Ice Cream Bars. Hers was massive. Essentially ice cream on a stick (honey pecan, chocolate, and banana) individually dipped in chocolate. To say that dessert was the highlight is an understatement.

I'll start by saying that steak just isn't my thing. I actually had it last night when we went over a friend's for dinner. Needless to say I didn't want it two nights in a row. I often times eat at steakhouses for work and its always more food than I can ever hope to eat. There are certainly those more people qualified than me that can attest to the quality of Red's steak. I'll say that I probably won't be back, unless it's dessert at the bar. Moxie is more our style. However, if steakhouses are your thing, I think it's a good bet that this one will not disappoint.

Red the Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sampling some places in The Village

I don't think each one of these necessarily needs a massive write up. Our first day there I basically ate whatever looked interesting. These places that follow are just a couple of places I saw and tried.

Beard Papa's
These little bakeries are dotted all over New York. By little I mean 6 or 7 different items little. Cream puffs, some kind of ice cream thing, a few other things make up the entire offering. I stopped in twice and had cream puffs both times. Earth shaking? No. Good. Yes. Would I go out of my way to go there? Not really. I had seen these in Hawaii but never went in. I figured I'd give them a try this time. I've checked it off my list.

Beard Papa Sweets Cafe on Urbanspoon

This gelateria is the only outpost here in the United States. Started in Turino in 2003, Grom caught fire with its fresh organic ingredients approach. I thought the store itself had a very hip look to it. I got a double chocolate gelato and it was quite good. What I really liked was that it had a bathroom that I could use. That was worth the price of admission right there. Capogiro in Philly is my measuring stick. While I thought this was every bit as good as Capogiro, the creativity in flavors was the difference. I think Capagiro's flavors are much more inventive. There's another place in NYC I wanted to try called il laboratorio del gelato, but didn't have time.

Grom on Urbanspoon

Gray's Papaya
This place was a hot dog stand that drew me in just because of the whole papaya part of the Gray's Papaya? It was one of those deals where I wanted to leave once I was in line but then just said screw it. I might as well try it since I'm here. What was the deal with the papaya? Who knows. I chickened out and just got mustard on the thing. If papaya tasted good on hot dogs it would be at the concession stand instead of onions. When it was all said and done; it tasted like a Nathan's hot dog but smaller. Did I like it? Sure, but I wouldn't waste the stomach space on it again.

Gray's Papaya - Downtown on Urbanspoon

Crumbs Bakeshop
My wife likes cupcakes so we stopped in here. Crumbs is a bakery that is known for a cupcake called the Artie Lange. That brought me into the place. I, however, did not order the Artie (which is filled with butter cream). I, instead, ordered the red velvet cupcake. This might have been the driest cupcake I've ever tasted. Worse yet, it was extraordinarily sweet. They should really have an oral hygenist on site if they're going to serve these things to the public. In a word....bad.....really bad. Don't go here. Your teeth will thank you.

Crumbs Bakeshop on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Some random thoughts

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What's up with the "Style & Taste" section? Can't wait for the "Business, Sports, Style & Taste" supplement to come in this already diluted newspaper we call the Plain Dealer....Speaking of the The Style and Taste section, I saw that Annie Chiu of Sun Luck Garden had heart surgery. Like Bruno's on the west side, a lot of people haven't been to Sun Luck Garden. I knew that they were going to closed for a couple of months; but didn't know what the reason was. My wife likes the SLG because she always gets extra whipped cream for her dessert. Annie happily obliges because she, too, is a whipped cream addict. There's a benefit for Annie in July that I won't miss. Rest up Annie. You'd better believe I'm gonna be Takin' It to the Street for Annie...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sasa Matsu

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I met my wife down at Sasa Matsu down at Shaker Square. This is the new incarnation former Matsu down at Chagrin and Van Aken. While I enjoyed the food at the former location the service could be very slow and the seats were absolutely the most uncomfortable I'd ever sat in. In the end, I'd go there because it was close to my house and I didn't go there with the expectation I was going to get out anytime soon.

So how does the new location stack up?

To start, the uncomfortable seats are now located outside. There are much more comfortable chairs indoors. That's a huge improvement right there. I guess I don't mind them being outside when I can enjoy the beautiful weather. There's also an outdoor area that the other one didn't have. The interior space is a huge improvement that is a more modern and sleak design.

But how's the food?

The food was always good. I didn't have a problem with it before; but they've really taken the menu and added a lot of diversity to it. They've taken things and essentially made a Japanese tapas offering. They have the dishes separated into small, medium, and large. We ordered the fried calamari, Sasa fries, kobe meatballs, daikon wraps, and snow mountain roll. We didn't order anything off the large part of the menu since they are more entree type dishes. My two favorites were the kobe meatballs and the snow mountain roll. The kobe meatballs came in a group of four and glazed with a soy yuzu sauce. The snow mountain rolls had crab meat, shrimp tempura topped with a mayo sauce and masago. What I like about these is that there's this satisfying crunch in the middle followed by zing at the end from the mayo and masago. The menu is quite diverse. I would even go so far as to say that there is something for even the most finicky eater.

How's the service?

The service was vastly improved. Josh was our server and he does a really good job. One thing that I really love is when a server knows the menu inside and out and seems genuinely excited about the food that is on the menu. He's been our server both times we've come here.
Top notch.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't jump and down when my wife suggests Japanese but I'd put this place in the same category as Sun Luck Garden. It's very similar in price and quality. If there was an award for most improved restaurant I think Sasa Matsu gets it. The whole dinner was very pleasant. I think is the perfect place to bring a party of four or more so that you can try all of the different offerings on the menu. I encourage everyone to give this place a shot.

December 23, 2008
We ordered: The Fire Roll, Snow Mountain Roll, Kobe Beef Meatballs, and the Calamari. Pretty much the standard lineup for us. As always, a good time with good food.

Sasa Matsu on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bastille Day/ Terra Madre at Bar Cento

I was very close to passing on the Terra Madre/Bastille Day event at Bar Cento (after dropping so much dosh on food in the last week, little of which was expensed), I decided this was too great of an opportunity to pass on. With an all star line up cooking, a chance to meet other food enthusiasts, and supporting a great cause. How could I pass it up?

On Monday afternoon I took the Rapid out to W. 25th (I could have driven but I spent way too much time in my car last week). I know a lot of people are opposed to public transit but you can't beat the Rapid Transit if it is going to somewhere near your destination. The thing I hate the most in this world is stop lights. Some people hate cats, some people hate school, I hate stop lights.

I met my wife there and we sat down had a couple of drinks. I went to wash my hands and when I came back the line for the food had hit the front dooor.The line actually moved pretty good considering the massive spread that was laid out at the bar. This was definitely not the place to be if you were counting calories or looking for something light. There was an absolute ton of food. Pork, turkey, duck, a slew of different cheeses, charcuterie, pate, there was food everywhere. Many of Cleveland's top chefs were also in attendance Jonathan Sawyer, Steve Shimoler, Rocco Whalen, etc. were on hand to help support the cause. I would have to say that my favorite item was probably the beets with cheese. I typically do not like beets, as a matter of fact I used to gag on them (along with cooked carrots), when I was a kid. My wife took a liking to the turkey. I like things like this because you get sample a lot of things that you don't normally see. Since they're usually small portions you don't feel bad if you don't like it. The only thing I didn't like was the pate.

As far as I could tell the turn out was really good. I don't know what something like this would normally get, but it seemed like a pretty full house to me. Since I'm not going to get to the Veggie U event out in Milan, I figured this would be the next best thing. This really was a lot of fun.

Regina and I are back from our trip to the east coast. The bags are unpacked, the laundry done, the dog is back home, and now it's time to catch up on some blogging!!!We went to a lot of great restaurants out east while I finished up some work New York and New Jersey. In the coming weeks I'll give a recap on some of the highlights.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Antonio's: My Personal Favorite of Cleveland

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he whole Drew Carey post made me want to get my Antonio's on. When I was a kid, my Mom used to give us five bucks and let us get whatever we wanted at the food court. The choices were like that of most other malls: the Chinese place, the corn dog place, a fast food place, a cheese steak place, and a pizza place. I always spent my money at Antonio's Pizza.

I can remember being overwhelmed by the multitude of choices I had. Do I get the one piece of pizza with pepperoni and sausage and some pizza nuggets? Or do I just go for the two pieces of pepperoni & sausage and forgo the drink? This would go on my head for about ten minutes trying to squeeze every last penny out of the fin my Mom had given me. I think we had to give back the change, that's what made this such an excruciating exercise. We aren't even going to get into the fact you could save some money getting it "to go".

The whole "to go" thing was counter intuitive to my brother and I.

"You mean they charge you more money for putting it on a tray?", he'd ask with a pained look on his face.

"Yeah! If you get it "to go" they don't charge you tax.", I informed him.

I think the 30 cents we saved was the difference between getting one piece or two. Or like my brother put it "giving Mom 10 cents instead of a dollar".

Needless to say, he and I were the only dorks fumbling around the food court with our stuff in paper bags and free glasses of water (spilling all over the place since there was no lids on the free water cups). I think combined he and I would give my Mom a total of 16 cents.

Fast forward twenty-five years. Gone is the Antonio's in the food court. Tonight I ate at the flagship restaurant in the strip mall part of Parmatown. I already know I'm getting a pepperoni and sausage pizza before I even walk into the place. Since my wife is anti-pizza, these days she gets the eggplant appetizer with a side of broccoli. We're not here to talk about the eggplant, though.

Pizza is king here at Antonio's. When I taste the pizza I think the sauce is what makes it truly unique. The sauce is actually a dark red color. The crust is also large and in charge. The crimp the crust much like you would on a pie crust. It is actually quite doughy if it is taken out of the oven too soon.

Is it the best? To me it is. Look it up on the Internet and you'll find there are thousands of other "best pizza" nominations. I guess I'm still just a little nostalgic about my Parmatown food court days.

Antonio's Pizza & Spaghetti on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Drew Carey loves Antionio's Pizza

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This one caught my eye a few days ago. It seems that I'm not the only one who calls Antonio's Pizza there favorite. As it turns out, Drew Carey can be counted among the many devoted Antonio-philes. The Parma native likes their pizza so much, he had 45 of the pies shipped out to LA for the season finale of the Price is Right. Last Thursday Antonio's gave away 45 cent pizzas to celebrate the event. I know the 45 cent offer tasted a hell of a lot better than the 23 cent variety.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Perfect Night to Eat Al Fresco at fire food & drink

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oday was the first time it hasn't rained at some point during the day for two weeks! Here in Cleveland (and more so in other places) it just keeps raining. Tuesday, however, was the streak breaker. It was an absolutely gorgeous day out. When we get weather like this in Cleveland it means only one thing.....dinner al fresco. You really have to capitalize on these opportunities because they can be elusive even in the summertime.

I call weather like this "living room weather", because it's not a tad bit too cool or a tad bit too warm, it's like sitting in your living room with the thermostat on the perfect temperature.

Where does one go on a day like this? Well, if I want to stay close to my house it's Fire food & drink. That Doug Katz kicks ass.

Sitting in the great outdoors of Shaker Square my wife and I opt for the cheese plate to start with. I like the cheese plates at Three Birds and Flying Fig a little more but this one isn't bad.

She has taken a serious liking to the Arctic Char that has graced the menu for the last couple of months. Up until she first had it a couple months ago she had never had it before. Served with the skin on (which is quite crispy) it is somewhere between trout and salmon. Not as oily as salmon, but a little meatier than trout. The char also comes with white asparagus risotto and grilled asparagus.

Not only does Char have a nice flavor but it is also has Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch List's "Best Choice" rating. You can actually pick up one of these small guides at the hostess station to put in your wallet or purse. It has lists of different fish that should and shouldn't be bought due to overfishing or environmentally damaging fishing practices. I really appreciate that Fire cares so much about sustainable fishing, a prime example of walking the walk.

I always get something different when I go there because I think life's too short to eat the same thing over and over again. While I was very tempted to get the Hudson Valley duck (which is well executed and would highly recommend), I got the pan roasted organic chicken with Amish polenta and glazed radishes. The organic chicken had a well seasoned crispy skin. If there was one thing I was a little nervous about it was the polenta. I have visions of Blue Canyon when I think of polenta, it's not a good vision.. It was a very good accompaniment to the chicken. Combined with the rhubarb a jus and the radishes (which didn't taste the way I thought they would, good thing) the dish had a good proportions of each item.

We both ordered the strawberry rhubarb crisp with vanilla ice cream. Unfortunately the server thought we were going to share so we only got one. That was fine with me, I let my wife have it and I went a few doors down and got some East Coast Custard afterward.

My dinner was a beautiful end to a beautiful day. Hopefully we can finally get summer started and string some sunny days together.

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Exceptional Pizza in a Vast Pizza Wasteland

There are few things in life that insite feelings of nostalgia more than Ohio State's campus. It always amazes me when I see all of the changes that have taken place since my last visit. While the campus might change quite a bit, it's High Street's business landscape that takes the word visceral to a whole new level. Stores and restaurants come and go in a span of months. The only independent mainstays still standing are Buckeye Donuts, Bernie's bagels, and my favorite Flying Pizza.

I've often wondered,"Why does this place have staying power and the others simply fail?" I think the answer is pretty simple really. I think the requisite elements for college students is cheap, quick, and convenient. If you'll notice I didn't mention anything about taste. This was college and I was broke as a joke.

Flying Pizza has the fourth dimension the others don't...deliciousness. What? I can buy it by the slice at $2 a pop? I get it 3 minutes after I order it? It's centrally located on High Street AND it tastes awesome? No way!

Flying Pizza classifies itself as New York style. I would say it's more like a modified New York Style just because it looks like a NYS but the slice is not thin enough to fold over. I feel that this is what makes it so tasty because it is so crispy underneath the cheese. I would say the crust is definitely NYS. Even though Columbus, Ohio is an absolute wasteland for pizza, think Donato's. Columbus is a thin crust hell. I will say that Youngstown based Belleria opened a couole of outposts 3 or 4 years ago.

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