Monday, October 27, 2008

Fridgid Temps Thawed by Fahrenheit

Tonight we braved the flying slush and met my mother-in-law and brothers-in-law at Fahrenheit for dinner (yeah, we just ate with them yesterday). We hadn't been there since last winter. The last time we were there I was struck by the smallish size of the entrees. I don't know if it was reality or just a case of bad memory, but I was interested to see what tonight's dinner would hold.

We had just came in from the freezing monsoon outside and were starved. After a short deliberation we decided on the 12" Pizza with Serrano Ham, Fig Chutney, Melted Brie and Leeks. I thought it was a little undercooked, otherwise it was okay. I don't know what it is, but sometimes we order something that is absolutely epic and end up judging everything from that day on against it. We had an unbelievable fig pizza in San Francisco at NOPA, so now we end up disappointed when we order anything close to it. I might be done with fig pizzas all together.

What about entrees? I ordered the Butternut Squash Ravioli, Brown Butter, Parmesan Cheese, Fried Basil. The ravioli was perfectly cooked. The squash filling was nice and soft . While I was really intrigued by the fried basil I couldn't really taste it. The verdict is thumbs up. Mrs. Dine O Mite opted for the famous Kobe Beef Short Ribs, Teriyaki Lo-Mein, Asian Vegetables, Ginger Soy Reduction. This dish belongs in the pantheon of Cleveland restaurant entrees. They're right there with Lola's beef cheek pierogies, and Parallax's chicken. Whenever you see short ribs on a menu they are typically sitting on top of potatoes. Not here. Lo-Mein noodles kick this dish upstairs into the aforementioned pantheon. For whatever reason the ginger soy reduction sticks to these noodles so well that there's as much flavor in these as there in short ribs. Awesome dish, and big too. A very healthy portion.

For dessert I had the Apple Cranberry Crostada with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. It had a soft outer edge to it, and a crumbly topping. Highly recommended. She had the Pumpkin Cheesecake. It was okay. It tasted more like a mini pumpkin pie without the crust. It wasn't bad, but not nearly as good as the crostada.

Overall it was a very pleasant dinner. Aside from the pizza, which I thought was the only miss all night, the food was great. I can say that the portions were NOT on the smallish side. In fact, had I gotten the short ribs I probably would have taken half home. It had been too long since my last visit, and can say that it won't be as long between now and my next visit.

2417 Professor Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 781-8858

Fahrenheit on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lunch at Bubba's Q

Since I returned to Cleveland a couple of years ago it has been a goal of mine to find good barbeque. When we lived in Columbus it was a no brainer, whenever I had to get my "-que" on I just went to City Barbeque. Most people in Cleveland that I've talked to about the subject either don't have an opinion or don't really offer a passionate recommendation. Since we were going out to North Ridgeville for our godson's birthday, I figured it would be a perfect time to visit Bubba's Q in nearby Avon.

We met my two brothers-in-law, since they're always up for this type of food. Let me start by saying the place is very clean and grease free. There's typically a sticky factor that goes into most BBQ places, but there was no grease in the air, no sticky floors or tables. Very pleasant.

I knew since this is such a haul for us distance wise, that I wasn't going to be back anytime soon. That being said, I decided early on that I was going to try as many different things as I could. I ordered the appetizer sampler, which had good sized portions of pulled pork, beef brisket, three St. Louis style ribs, fries and a small side of chili. I also added a side of baked beans because I'm obsessed with good baked beans. Since the missus is able to excercise restrain,t she ordered the smaller pulled pork sliders with sides of cole slaw and green beans. One brother-in-law got the $40.99 MVP platter which consists of 1/2 rack of St. Louis style ribs, 1/2 rack of baby back ribs, 1/2 chicken, 1/4# pulled pork, 1/4# smoked brisket, coleslaw, baked beans, and fries. Ugh. He ate half and took the rest home. My other brother-in-law had the beef brisket with sides of Mac n' cheese and cole slaw.

My overall impression was that it's a good place. My wife and I both felt the pulled pork was a little dry for our liking (I felt the brisket fell in that category as well). We were also plus minus on the sauce. It's a sweeter sauce that I would put a notch above Open Pit. I enjoy a sauce that has a more vinegar in it. On the up side, we loved the ribs, coleslaw, and baked beans. The ribs were top notch, on par with City Barbeque. Perfectly smoked with a crispy exterior these ribs were very good. The baked beans had a brown sugar base that was absolutely delicious. Although I didn't have any of the coleslaw, Mrs. Dine O Mite gives it a huge thumbs up (with a special nod to the fact that's it's made in house).

If you're Jonesin' for some barbeque and don't mind trekking out to Avon, you've got to give Bubba's Q a shot. It's the best I've tasted, so far, in Cleveland.

Bubba's Q
820 Center Rd
Avon, OH 44011
(440) 937-7859

Bubba's Q World Famous Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Arctic Char with Hoisin Glaze and Wasabi Butter Sauce

Doug Katz, the chef and owner of Fire Food and Drink has been recognized by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program for his commitment to offering sustainable seafood choices on his restaurant’s menu. It’s the only place in town where I can go knowing that any seafood dish I choose doesn’t require me to refer to my handy dandy pocket sized Seafood Watch guide …no Atlantic Salmon, no Snapper, no Chilean Sea Bass, etc. So when I discovered Artic Char on his menu this April, I was wasn’t I fish I had really heard of and I sure as heck didn’t recall seeing it at my local markets. When I tasted his crispy skin artic char with white asparagus and lemon risotto, I was smitten. I love salmon, so it makes perfect sense that I would be taken with the char as well. I would consider it a cousin to salmon, but with a milder flavor. Many describe it as somewhere between salmon and trout.

When I got home from that dinner, I began an almost immediate quest for Arctic Char recipes. However, I found out all too quickly, with the help of my friends at Google and Yahoo, that there is a real lack of mainstream exposure for this tasty, largely sustainable and relatively low cost fish. Why no love for the char, people? Is it because you’re consuming that terribly cheap and ecologically unsound Atlantic Salmon (don’t be ashamed, I too once was a fan of Atlantic Salmon, until I learned its dirty little secrets).

Through the Spring, I continued my periodic searches for char dishes and even went back to Fire Food and Drink and ate it again for my birthday dinner…just as good as the first time around, if not better. Then I discovered Fish Without A Doubt by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore at the bookstore and low and behold, it featured Artic Char and best of all, it had a recipe with one of my favorite ingredients (as a lover of all things asian), hoisin.

I’ve since found the char at my local Whole Foods…it was hard to find this summer and then a few weeks ago, there it was, calling out to me at the seafood counter….eat me.

So today, I finally had the time to make this dish and it was fantastic. The authors of Fish Without a Doubt suggested a side of Bok Choy or Cabbage…instead of using their recipe though, I turned to for a suggestion. Their Braised Baby Bok Choy was a perfect accompaniment to the sweet and salty hoisin glaze and wasabi butter with the char.

Before I jump to the recipes, I just want to express my love for this book. It’s educational, focused on sustainable seafood choices and it gives you ideas for fish substitutions and side dishes. It’s a well rounded book that tops out at over 450 pages and yes, it has lots of Artic char recipes…I can’t wait to try the next one.

Sauteed Char with Hoisin Glaze and Wasabi Butter Sauce

(Adapted from Fish Without a Doubt: The Cook's Essential Companion by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore)

2 6-8 oz. Artic char filets with skin on
Kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper
All purpose flour
Vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter

Hoisin Glaze
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (we prefer Lee Kum Kee brand)
Juice of 1/2 lime (we used a whole lime)
Coarse salt
1 teaspoon honey
1 small garlic clove, minced or put through a press
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

Stir the hoisin, lime juice, honey, garlic, and cilantro together in a small bowl. Season with salt.

This can sit on the counter for a couple of hours; or store it, covered, in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Wasabi Butter Sauce

2 tablespoons wasabi powder
2-3 teaspoons dry vermouth
Basic Butter Sauce, just made (see below for recipe)

Moisten the wasabi powder with the vermouth, stirring to make a smooth paste. Add the wasabi paste to the butter sauce and mix with an immersion blender. Serve or keep warm for up to 1 hour before serving. Add a few drops of water if the sauce becomes too thick.

Basic Butter Sauce

1/2 cup slices shallots
3/4 cup water
1 sprig thyme
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Coarse salt

Put the shallots, water and thyme into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium and cook at a low boil until the shallots are very soft and water has reduced to a generous 1/4 cup.

Remove the thyme and turn the heat to very low. Use an immersion blender to start pureeing the shallots. Add a piece of butter and continue to puree, emulsifying the water and butter. Continue to add the butter piece by piece, incorporating each bit of butter before adding another. Tilt the pan as you work and keep it over the heat. The sauce will become light and very pale yellow.

Strain the sauce through a fine sieve, pushing down any solids that remain with a wooden spoon. Return the sauce to the pan and season with salt.

Serve right away or keep at the back of the stove for an hour, whisking occasionally. Add a few drops of water if sauce becomes too thick.

For the main dish:

Heat a saute pan over high heat. Season char on both sides with salt and white pepper. Dust the skin lightly with all purpose flour.

Add some olive oil to the pan. Set the fillets, skin side down and reduce heat to medium-high. Press down on the fish with a spatula, listening for the sizzle that tells you you're making a good crust. Add 1 tablespoon butter to the pan, breaking it into smaller pieces so it will melt quickly. Once melted, tilt the pan and baste the fish with the butter. Cook for about 3 minutes on the 1st side. You will see the fish cooking from the bottom up. When almost cooked through, turn over the fish, turn off the heat and allow the fish to sit for 30 seconds or so. Transfer to paper towels.

To plate, put baby bok choy on the plate and set the fish on top of it. Add hoisin glaze as you like and drizzle the wasabi butter sauce onto the dish.

Braised Baby Bok Choy (from
– Serves 2

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chewy Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies

I first made these cookies about 3 years ago. Since then they have become a part of the list of "go to" recipes when looking for something people are going to devour. If done right (1/4 cup of dough rolled into a ball and then pressed to a thickness of a 1/2") these cookies come out looking like something from a bakery. As a matter of fact, I took them to a picnic one time and no one was eating them. I asked my sister, "Did you try one of these? There awesome." My sister said she didn't want to eat something someone bought a bakery when there was so much homemade food to eat. I told her they were homemade. By me! By the end of the picnic they were gone. Happiness is taking home an empty container.

Jumbo Cranberry Oatmeal Jumbles
Recipe by Nicole Rees, co-author of Understanding Baking

Yields 16 to 18 big, chewy cookies

• 6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• ½ cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 large egg, at room temperature
• 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
• 1 tpsn pure vanilla extract
• 6 ¾ ounces (1 ½ cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 ounce (1/4 cup) cake flour
• 1 tspn baking soda
• ½ tspn table salt
• ½ cup sweetened dried-cranberries
• ½ cup rolled oats (old-fashioned, not quick cooking)
• ½ cup pecan pieces (or coarsely chopped pecan halves), lightly toasted
• ½ cup sweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted
• 3.5 ounces good-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Position two racks near the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Line three baking sheets with parchment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl. Add the egg, corn syrup, and vanilla; beat for 1 minute on medium speed. Mix in half the all-purpose flour on low speed until thoroughly combined, 30 seconds to a minute. Scrape the bowl. Briefly mix in the remaining half of the all-purpose flour. Sprinkle the cake flour, baking soda, and salt into the bowl and beat on low speed until well blended, 30 seconds to 1 minute. With a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries, oats, pecans, coconut, and white chocolate.

Using your fingertips, shape 2-ounce pieces of dough (about a scant ¼ cup) into 2-inch diameter disks that are a ½ inch thick. Space them at least 2 inches aparton the parchment-lined sheets. Bake until the cookies’ edges and bottoms are golden and the centers feel dry on the surface but still soft inside, 15 to 16 minutes. When baking two pans at once, switch the position of the pans after 8 minutes for even browning. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for at least 1 minute before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. These cookies will keep for three or four days at room temperature or for several weeks in the freezer.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Our Monday in San Francisco

Monday was going to be our first full day in San Francisco. The night before had been a small taste of what the city had to offer. What can I say? After just half a day it was lust. Would I fall in love with this place. Would it displace the current love of my life NYC? Highly unlikely, but never say never.

We started our day where most first time visitors find themselves, Alcatraz. Much like the Statue of Liberty, I figured this would be the first and last time I ever go there. I was right. It was a very interesting place but it's like the Statue of Liberty or the Roman Coliseum, once you've been there once I think you check it off your list and move on. Very interesting histories, but do you really need to back for seconds?

After our visit to Alcatraz we went to the Ferry Building Marketplace. Wow. If The Rock is someplace you go one and done, the Ferry Building is on the other end of the spectrum. I could eat at that place every single day. Loaded with a fantastic collection of locally owned artisanal vendors (think Reading Terminal, Quincy Market, North Market, and to a lesser extent West Side Market), this market offers something for everyone.

We went to Boulevard for dinner. Located in the Audiffred Building near the Ferry Building, Boulevard has a very warm and homey interior. For the starter we had Dungeness Crab Salad. It was actually a light way to begin since we both knew that we were going to order entrees that were going to be a little on the heavy side. Her entree was the Berkshire Pork Chop which was wood oven roasted with Melted Sage & Butterball Potatoes, Pancetta Black Mission Figs with Huckleberries, Pinenuts & Chestnut Honey Erbette Chard, Roasted Pork Jus. I had the California Lamb T-Bone wood oven roasted mint, parsley & parmesan stuffing
Fresh Italian Butter Beans with Tomato, Herbs, Garlic & Arugula petite lamb sausage & roasted lamb jus.

For dessert we both had the Warm Valrhona Chocolate Ganache Cake. Wow. The whole dinner was very good. Some people complain that they think that this place is overpriced. It was about what I would have expected considering the location and the high quality of the ingredients.
The food at Boulevard is very solid. It's not a place that you're going to find a bunch of crazy starters and entrees. Some might even say that the food at Boulevard is "safe". That may be, but I think overall there's something for everyone here.

1 Mission St

San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 543-6084

Boulevard on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 18, 2008

3 Cheers for 3 Birds

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One of the biggest benefits to living in Cleveland is the dramatic change during each season. There's a special joy I get when presented with a newly changed seasonal menu. Three Birds in Lakewood recently unveiled their new selections. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to see what they had to offer for this fall. (My wife has tendency to browse menus online prior to dining, scoping out her options...this time I told her, no looking prior to our visit).

First thing that jumps out at me, as I look at the menu, are the Acorn Squash Dumplings. The one other thing that caught my eye is the Pork tenderloin with the chili honey glaze. Luckily my choice becomes very easy when the missus is torn between the same two things.

While buying more time for our choice of entrees we decided on the Prosciutto, fig, and blue cheese pizza for our appetizer; it was topped with pine nuts and a sweet Marsala reduction. I thought the blue cheese and prosciutto were a great match. I wish the figs would have been cut in slim wedges as opposed to being cut in disks. I also like when they're cooked or roasted a little bit, but nonetheless, it was still tasty and stood toe to toe with a similar starter we had a NOPA in San Francisco last month.

Mrs. Dine-O-Mite decides to order the pork tenderloin and I get the squash dumplings. Once the food arrived, she took one taste and deemed the tenderloin too spicy. So we ended up trading. I thought the glaze the the pork came with was very tasty. Made with honey and chiles it was loaded with flavor. It came with whipped sweet potatoes and broccoli rabe (substituted by my wife for the brussel sprouts). The dumplings also came with brussell sprouts, so in the end, she wasn't able to avoid them. She liked the nutmeg cream sauce, studded with raisins, pecans and apples, but felt that the dumplings were a bit too heavy. She thought she was going to get pasta stuffed with squash...instead they were more like gnocchi.

For dessert, I had the upside down apple cake with caramel ice cream and a side of diced apples. It was good, not great, but good. She had the flourless chocolate cake that was a dessert special. Served with peanut butter ice cream and whipped cream, the cake had a very rich center with an ever so thin outer crust to it. It was flanked by a fried banana...Mrs. Dine-O-Mite has been on a chocolate, banana and peanut butter kick lately, so this dish was right up her alley. She loved it.

Judging by the comments above you might think that I don't really like this place. That couldn't be further from the truth. I would rather consume food that is a little more on the creative side and not be spot on, than to have the same old ho-hum food you see at most places. Three Birds is my favorite restaurant on the West Side (just ahead of Flying Fig). I would strongly urge anyone who hasn't been to finally treat yourself.

December 28, 2008

Cal:Oven Roasted Half Chicken · Crispy Smashed Fingerling Potatoes · Apple Braised Cabbage · Bacon · Mustard Chicken Jus - highly recommended. Absolutely loved it.

Regina: Pan Seared Sea Scallops · Celery Root Puree · Roasted Baby Carrots · Spicy Mustard Sauce - good not great. Puree was a strong celery flavor.

Cheese Plate - one of our favorites as a total package in Cleveland. Loved the Chimay Grand Cru, Cypress Grove goat milk cheddar?, and Haystack Mountain were good, too. Love the thick sweet Digestive wheat crackers (we each got one).

Didn't get dessert. For some reason the selection of desserts just doesn't seem as strong on this fall menu.

3 Birds
18515 Detroit Ave
Lakewood, OH 44107

Three Birds on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I've Called a Truce with Geraci's

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A few weeks back I was in New York City trying to figure out where I was going to eat for dinner. For the last few years I’ve been trying to get to Una Pizza Napolitana. As far as Pizza goes it isn’t cheap (I think it’s about $20 bucks for 12 inch pizza), and they only take cash. The price isn’t why I didn’t go. The cash only policy isn’t why I didn’t go. It was Tuesday, and they were only open Thursday – Sunday...that's why I didn't go.

So what’s this got to do with Geraci’s?

About year ago I got pissed off at Geraci’s. Long story short, they only take cash and I got tired of having to go to the cash machine every time I wanted a pizza. I just think it’s a pain in the ass. I hate it. I don’t always carry cash with me. That’s it. That’s why I decided to boycott Geraci’s. They had a cash only policy.

So why was I happily going to go to "cash only" place for pizza at a place in New York that is charging 3 times that of one in Cleveland? Good question. It was then that I decided to end the boycott with Geraci’s.

The pizza is awesome. The pepperoni is thick, the sauce has chunks of tomatoes in it, and the edges have crunchy char on them. Oddly enough, the cheese is not a co-star in all of this. The pizza is my favorite on the East Side (Antonio’s wins the West Side).

I think Geraci's has its issues. The service and attitude at the counter isn't what I would call friendly or top notch. We were once charged five dollars for a side of broccoli (five small pieces max) when we sat in the restaurant. I no longer go to Geraci's expecting to get friendly consistent service. I don't eat at the restaurant. Order a pizza to go. Get in and get the hell out. That said, I enjoy Geraci's pizza, warts and all.

2266 Warrensville Center Rd
University Heights, OH 44118
(216) 371-5643

Geraci's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Favorite Fall Pork Chops

I love cooking in the fall. Cranberries top my list. Usually by the end of August I run out of my stash from the year before and I'm waiting for the fresh harvest to hit the shelves. I found this recipe last winter in the Niman Ranch Cookbook. Let me just say that this cookbook has a lot of useful information on how beef, pork, and lamb is raised at Niman Ranch (and its affiliates). The cookbook portion is a little under half of the book.

This recipe was actually written by Cleveland (Seven Hills) native Andrew Carmellini. I saw Carmellini on Iron Chef a while back and saw him narrowly lose to Batali by a point.
Having left A Voce in NYC this past summer, the chef has written a new cookbook called Urban Italian. Since I love the following dish so much, I think it's safe to say that I will probably be purchasing this new book.

Serves 4
Start to finish time: about 2 hours

Pork Chops
8 cups water
1 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup honey
4 double-cut pork rib chops (I used 1-1/2" Kurobuta pork chops from Mr. Brisket)

2 cups freshly pressed apple cider
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon cracked back pepper

Squash and Apples
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1# butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2" dice
2 tablespoons hulled pumpkin seeds
2 Gala apples, peeled, cored, and cut into a 1/2" dice
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh lemon juice

For the pork chops, combine the water, salt and honey in a stock pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Put pork chops in a shallow baking dish and cover with the brine. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

For the glaze, combine the cider and vinegar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for around 20 minute, more importantly make sure it's reduced to a thick, syrupy consistency. Stir in the cracked pepper. Set a side. I prefer to split the glaze into two bowls so I can brush half on the chops while cooking, and drizzle the other half on the chops after plating.
Prepare and light a charcoal grill for direct cooking. Put 2 handfuls of apple-wood chips in a large bowl and cover with water. Remove the chops from the brine and pat dry. Bring to room temperature.

For the squash and apples, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the sqash begins to brown. Add the apples and cook for about 10 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the cranberries and cook for 2 and 3 minutes, until soft. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Keep warm.

When the grill is at its hottest (when the coals are red and glowing and too hot to hold your hand over for more than a couple of seconds), remove the wood chips from the water and carefully put on top of the coals. Wait for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the chips begin to smoke. Season the chops on both sides with salt and pepper and set on the cooking grate directly over the coals. Cook uncovered for about 4 minutes, or until browned. Brush the chops with the glaze, turn, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until browned. Brush with the glaze turn, and cook for about 2 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 140 degrees F. Transfer to a plate or cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Slice chops or serve whole with the squash and apples.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Magic of Melt

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I am a huge fan of Melt. I just think it's such a fun place to go. Check the diet and the concept of time at the door. Within this space diets and time don't exist. One of the frequent complaints I hear is, "It takes too long to get a seat." When did you go? Thursday thru Saturday? Did you think it was going to be empty?

I was meeting my brother-in-law, sister, and 1 1/2 year old nephew. I got there at 6:30 and we had maybe a 20 minute wait. True story. I hate when people make it sound like there's always a huge line or wait to get into a place. A little bit of planning goes a long way.

We sit down at the table and the nephew was loving the plastic jack-0-lanterns (Ra Ra's as he calls them), that lined the shelves behind the bar. I love the laid back atmosphere, the beer selection, and the menus. In case you haven't been the menus are pasted to old album covers ending at about 1985-ish. It's a great topic of conversation, impromptu singing of songs from one of the album menus along with a childhood story usually ensues. In this case Ratt would be the album cover, Round and Round would be the impromptu song, and some seriously unattended childhood friends of mine huffing gasoline would be the story. Ah yes, memories...(or if you're huffing gasoline lack of memory).

I ordered the Curried Pumpkin Soup. I like spice and I got it. Served with goldfish, the soup is going to be a real winner once it gets below 50 degrees. Speaking of things that are going to taste good when it gets below 50, I had the Founder's Breakfast Stout. Snap! A) It'll put hair on your chest (maybe your back, too) B) It could put you in the happy place if you should happen to drink too many too quickly. I wish I had been drinking those during the Browns game on Monday Night. Try it.

For dinner I had the Mama's Meat Loaf. It's served as a sandwich, but there was no way I was going to be able to eat this thing without it ejaculating something all over my lap. The human mouth can only open so wide. How am I or anyone else besides Bowzer from Sha Na Na going to fit a healthy slice of meatloaf sandwiched between two slices of thick Texas Toast?

As usual everything was good. I always like to take fun people with me when I go here. My sister and her husband were great company, and my nephew held up well through the entire visit (only being occupied by an old disconnected Blackberry and a candy necklace). If you like beer, don't worry about the wait. Drink up. What's the big hurry?

Melt Bar & Grilled
14718 Detroit Ave
Lakewood, OH 44107

Melt Bar & Grilled on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 13, 2008

Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer

This past summer we had the pleasure of going to NYC and Philadelphia for a week. One of the stops we made was the Saturday morning Green Market at Union Square. I thought we had a really good farmer's market at Shaker Square until I saw this one. It was absolutely eye popping. Piles and piles of produce lined the L-shaped market. There was stuff I had never seen in those quantities and qualities before. Although I don't remember him specifically, Tim Stark of Eckerton Hill Farm was one of the growers at the market. After ten years of growing tomatoes he decided to write a book about the experience in, Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer.

Tim used to be a management consultant in New York City, but one day he decided to try his hand at growing some tomatoes at his apartment in Brooklyn. This decision would eventually lead him to move back to his childhood home in eastern PA and becoming a full time organic tomato farmer.

Stark is very good at layering each chapter in such a way that you get a real sense of the good and the bad that goes with making such a transition. He describes how he first got started with minimal equipment and even less hired help. How family and friends help keep him afloat those first few years.

I particularly enjoyed his chapters on the Amish. Stark talks in depth about the different sects and what made them split from each other. As it turned out, the author had more in common with them than he did with the conventional farmers around him. In the end it would be the knowledge from them that would help him better understand farming.

I particularly enjoyed the very end of the book because there is a fairly lengthy discussion about how hard it is to even have a farm that is within three hours of the city. Outlined are the issues growers in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania face.

Land values in New Jersey are off the hook (and despite what people in Ohio might think all of New Jersey does not look like Newark; quite the opposite). He describes the carrots from a farm in Orange County (yes, where Orange County Choppers is, and no, it isn't south of LA). How the soil has so much peat carrots of all different colors seem to grow forever. I actually took the picture of these carrots [above] at the Union Square Market back in July, during our trip.

The book truly is an eye opener. There are times that I see these people at the farmer's market and think, "Man, they must really have the life." In a sense they do, but they work really hard for it. This book does a great job of showing the good with the bad. Do I think I could do it? I don't think so. I went to school to be a golf course superintendent, and I know how tied to the weather that job was. I would strongly recommend reading this book. If you enjoy local produce like I do, it will really open your eyes to what it means to be a local organic farmer.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Restaurant Gary Danko

Whenever I hear the name Restaurant Gary Danko I think of the movie Donnie Darko. In some ways I suppose it was kind of fitting. By the end of the night it may have actually had some similarities in terms of the bizarre behavior that took place during our dinner.

This was one of the first reservations we made once we decided we were going to visit San Francisco. As it turned out, it was also the first dinner we had once we arrived. Since we were staying at the Washington Square Inn in North Beach it was maybe a fifteen minute walk to the restaurant. Mrs. Dine-O-Mite and I arrived a little early for our reservation and ended up waiting about fifteen minutes to be seated.

The hostess takes us to our table which was a small table for two, sandwiched between another table for two and a four top. Once we sat down we both decided on the 4 course tasting menu.

First Course:
We each chose the Sweet Corn Soup with Dungeness Crab, Red Pepper, Créme Fraiche and Pancetta Biscuit. All I can say is that this dinner was over before it started. Hands down, right out of the gate this was the best dish of the night. I say this not because the other dishes were that bad, but because the soup was that good. Some seriously sweet corn and large chunks of Dungeness crab put this soup in the same league as the Jean George pea soup from last summer. If you get anything off of the Gary Danko menu, this would be it.

Second Course:
She had the Horseradish Crusted Salmon Medallion with Dilled Cucumbers and Mustard Sauce I had the Pancetta Wrapped Frog Legs with Roast Tomatoes, Garlic and Parsley Purées. I had never had frog legs before so I figured I’d give it a whirl. That being said, I think they were okay but I would have rather had something else. I can now check frog legs off the list. As for my wife, she really enjoyed her entree and that's saying a lot because she's not typically a big fan of dill.

Between the second and third course A pair of husbands and wives sit down next to us. My guess is that they spent too long waiting at the bar. The women (one in particular) were pretty crocked, the men weren’t drunk but were getting pretty loose with their comments. Anyway, the table next to them is getting up and one of the drunk women almost starts a fight with a girl in in the other party because she thought she was listening in on her conversation. You would have thought it was Friday night at the local watering hole.

Third Course:
She had the Herb Crusted Loin of Lamb with Tian of Vegetables and Polenta.
I had the Seared Filet of Beef with Potato-Leek Napoleon, Cassis Glazed Shallots and Blue Cheese Butter. What can I say? It’s filet of beef and lamb. Again, it tasted good but this was not ground breaking.

At about this time. a couple sits down on the other side of us...he’s dressed like he just happened to be walking by and decided to pop in, complete with computer bag. They get settled and almost immediately, he pulls a laptop out of his bag and puts it on the table. I thought it was a little strange, but whatever. I figured he’d check his email and put it away. Wrong. Instead, he puts the computer between he and his date so that they can both look at it at the same time. The staff is trying to take their order and put dishes down on this 3’x3’ table with a laptop in the middle of it. Since there were mirrors on the wall we could see they were looking at pictures they took of food. It was strange as hell, comical really. They barely had enough room on their table for bread and drinks, let alone the laptop and their camera...I guess they were posting on their blog in real time!

Fourth (and final) Course:
We both opted for the highly recommended Baked Chocolate Soufflé with Two Sauces. The server comes to the table and carries out a dramatic table side presentation where they puncture the soufflé and pour in the two sauces. It was probably the next best thing to the soup. I would highly recommend this dessert over the others I saw coming out. Actually most of the desserts coming out were soufflés.

Overall, I thought I got my money’s worth. Would I go back? Probably not. I think there are just too many other good, if not great places, to eat at in this city. The service was very gracious (even to laptop watchers and drunken wives), the ambiance was wonderful, I just don’t think it warrants a trip back. However, if you haven’t been there I would recommend trying it at least once.

Restaurant Gary Danko
800 N Point St
San Francisco, CA 94109

Restaurant Gary Danko on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tremont Tap House – Do Believe the Hype

Make sure to check here for more Cleveland posts

There are a few places around town that we’ve wanted to try for some time now: Luxe, Tartine Bistro, and Tremont Tap House. I’ve heard nothing but good things about all three. On a whim we decided to head down to Tremont Tap House for the happy hour specials.

While it’s technically in the Tremont neighborhood, Tap house is actually in a standalone building at the corner of Starkweather and Scranton. It’s right in the middle of a residential neighborhood with a small parking lot in the back of the building. The interior space is long and narrow and connected to a very spacious outdoor patio.

The happy hour specials included $1.50 off draught beer, $5 Tap House burger ($2 extra for fries *a ton of*), $5 calamari, and about 5 or 6 other $5 items.

We started out with the calamari and the short rib sliders. The calamari is an incarnation that seems to becoming more and more popular, lightly breaded calamari with roasted hot pepper rings and a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. We both approved. The short rib sliders were awesome. Two sliders with small toasted buns, ultra-tender beef short rib, topped with a pickled slaw. I literally could have eaten a dozen of these things.

For dinner I ordered the Joshua Burger (bacon, cheddar, and barbeque sauce) with a TON of fresh cut fries. The burger was juicy as hell. Be warned, hold that thing over the plate when you bite into it or juice is going to fly everywhere. Delicious.

The bride had the Smoked ham and turkey sandwich with brie, cranberry relish, on raison walnut bread. I don’t know what it is but turkey and brie are a great 1-2 punch. I had a similar sandwich at Cosi (Cosi bread is the shite), and loved every bite.

Breaking with tradition, we did not order any dessert. We were too full. It was a good amount of food. So what did we think? I’ve actually been there again since our first visit. It’s a great place. Good beer list, good prices, and good atmosphere. My sense is that Tremont Tap House will be here for a very long time. It’s the consummate Cleveland eatery: good food, large portions, unassuming atmosphere, and great value. I would put this in the same category as Melt, without the wait. Let me say this about that. Why do people get so worked up about waiting when there’s a good beer selection. Just drink until you’re seated. For me the time flies.

Tremont Tap House
2572 Scranton Rd
Cleveland, OH 44113
Tremont Tap House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Is there a more apropos name than Passionfish?

701 Lighthouse Ave
Pacific Grove, CA 93950

One of the things I dread is when I hear everyone rave about a restaurant. It's so hyped up that you're ultimately going to be disappointed. For us, Passionfish in Pacific Grove was the place that was being hyped like no one's business. Located on the main drag in Pacific Grove, the place had a line out the door before we even got there at 7pm. I was a little worried going in, since we had a table reserved for 7pm. When we got inside we sat right down. Nice.

The dining room is divided into two separate rooms. It actually doesn't appear that big from the outside but it's got quite a few tables. We sat in the row of tables in the north side of the restaurant. It was actually kind of a cool because I could see directly at the kitchen from my seat.

We kicked off the night with the Bacon wrapped and gorgonzola stuffer mission figs. What can I say other than that this was absolutely delicious. Great start.

I can't help but to think that the close proximity to Monterey Bay Aquarium explains why none of the fish on the menu was a red light on the MBA list. I had the ‘Quinault’ Sablefish crusted with pepper, wasabi slaw, ginger vinaigrette. Mrs. Dine O Mite had the Hand lined Mahi with black pepper-rum sauce,cucumber salad, green onion rice. Very simple preparation. These were perfectly cooked with a small simple side of vegetables.

Dessert came out right after we ordered it. She had the Espresso Mint Mud Pie, I had the Torte. Again, just like Montrio Bistro the portions weren't massive. I like that. Who wants to walk out of a restaurant feeling packed to the gills?

My overall impression was that this place was top notch. The food was interesting but not too far out there. The prices were extremely reasonable. We had a starter, 2 entrees, 2 desserts, and a cup of coffee for $71 (w/o tip)! Considering the location, Passionfish is a really good value.

The subtlety of the preparation, the respect for our fisheries, and a devoted following shows that the staff at Passionfish truly have a passion for fish.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Vincenza's Pizza and Pasta

Vincenza's Pizza and Pasta
603 Prospect Ave
Cleveland, OH 44115
(216) 241-8382

I had to go downtown to pick-up some plotter paper. Since I was in the neighborhood I figured I'd stop by Vincenza's in the Arcade. I don't get downtown during lunchtime much, so it's always an opportunity for me to try something new. Well, Vincenza's isn't really new for me (I'd been there once before), but I figured I'd give it another try.

I'd remembered the last time I was here I walked away somewhat hungry, so I decided to try a plain, a pepperoni, and a sausage New York style. As far as by-the-slice pizza service goes these people were very friendly. Not just friendly, but friendly enough to where it stood out of the ordinary.

So how's the pizza? Eh. I think it's kind of different, not in a good way or a bad way. The crust is very crispy on the bottom (ala Flying Pizza in Columbus, OH). It's unique, but this doesn't help the foldability factor. The rest of it ain't bad, but it's nothing that knocks me off my seat. The sauce? The cheese? The crust? New York style? Not really, kind of like Flying Pizza (only not as good). Remarkably, the crust is so "airy" that I still didn't feel very full after 3 pieces. If being full is what you're after they also do Sicilian, as well. I just can't stand that much dough.

My verdict is this: If someone had it at a party I'd eat it. I just wouldn't go out of my way to go there.

Vincenza's Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon