Saturday, February 28, 2009

Going to RapaNui (and I'm not talking about Easter Island)

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If you’ve ever been to “downtown” Kailua-Kona you know that it represents just about any and every cliché you could possibly come up with about the Hawaii experience. It is a tourist trap in every sense of the word. With its endless number of shops selling trinkets and tours, surf wear and sun tan lotion.

Most of the restaurants you find in this area are not going to be anything extraordinary. However, thanks to some research on KonaWeb and Yelp, we were able to find the exception - RapaNui Island Café. It's fabulous little restaurant serving up island fare that is as original and delicious as you’ll find in the area.

Named not after Easter Island, but a beach in New Zealand where the owner grew up, Rapanui offers an amazingly diverse selection of appetizers and entrees.

For appetizers we started off with the Spring Rolls. The dipping sauces they came with were awesome (Mango Mint and Soy Garlic Lime).

Regina ordered the Macadamia Shrimp Stir Fry which was composed of wok seared garlic shrimp and packed with a medley of vegetables (carrots, zucchini, broccoli, sprouts). It was garnished with a ton of macadamia nuts and served with a tasty peanut sauce.

I ordered the Tepuke Thunder Steak comprised of beef marinated in red chiles, black pepper and lime. Grilled to perfection and served with stir fried vegetables, rice, and cucumber salad. For me this was the best entrée I had on The Big Island.

Sides included a vinegar marinated cucumber salad and choice of rice. We both chose the House rice, which has added to it Coconut milk, lemongrass and onions. The rice itself is of the sticky variety and while both sweet and savory, it was the perfect pair to the garlic shrimp....don't even think about the white or brown rice, you want the House rice with your entree!

Many reviews we've seen have raved about Rapanui Cafe's condiment tray. Served with your entree, it consists of Sambal (hot), peanuts and Hawaiian chiles (very hot). If you were a heat freak, I could easily see how you'd love this little extra.

Portions at RapaNui Cafe are so generous that you could easily share an entree, or take half home. By the end of the night we were absolutely stuffed, so I took a Peanut Butter Bar and a couple of Wasabi Peanut Butter Balls to go.

While there, we took a few minutes to speak with one of the owners and discovered that, as with most local businesses, things have been slow lately. It's likely a combination of economy and location. RapaNui Cafe is in the Banyan Tree Mall on Alii Drive in Kailua-Kona. The area is full of chocky shops and sub par restauants and unfortunatley, this little gem is tucked waaaay in the back, just off the main drag.

We fear that this place will fall victim to it's location and that would be a total crime. Those who aren't in the know, will continue to frquent less than ideal establishments on Alii Drive. RapaNui Island Cafe deserves your's creative, tasty and well priced. If you're in the neighborhood, do yourself a favor and seek them out.

We thought this was a really great dinner. No pretense, just really good food. If you’re looking for something excellent that won’t break the bank – this is the place.

RapaNui Island Cafe
75-5701 Alii Dr
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
(808) 329-0511

Rapanui Island Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 20, 2009

Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp with Garlic and Chile

I always look for a recipe that easily allows me to make half of it spicy and the other half without (for the wife.) I made these with the Chinese Green Beans, but it’s a dish that you can mix with a pretty wide variety of sides.

Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp with Garlic and Chile
By Dawn Yanagihara Serves 4
  • 2 Tbs cornstarch
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • Pinch of Chinese five-spice powder
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 5 large cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Serrano Chile, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 4 large Scallions (green parts only), sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 1-1/2 lb. large shrimp (26 to 30 per lb.), peeled and deveined, tails left on
  • 1-1/2 Tbs peanut or canola oil
  • 1 small lime, cut into 4 wedges

In a large bowl, mix the cornstarch, sugar, five-spice powder, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. In a small bowl, mix the garlic, chile, and scallions; set aside.

Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. Line a small baking sheet or large plate with a double layer of paper towels. Add the shrimp to the cornstarch mixture and toss until evenly and thoroughly coated.

In a heavy-duty 12 inch nonstick skillet, heat 1-1/2 Tbs of the oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add half of the shrimp in a single layer. Cook without disturbing until deep golden and spotty brown on one side, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, quickly flip each shrimp and continue to cook until the second sides are spotty golden brown, about 1 minute longer. (The shrimp may not be cooked through at this point.) Transfer the shrimp to the prepared sheet. Add another 1 Tbs of the oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining shrimp, transferring them to the sheet when done.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 Tbs oil to the skillet. Add the garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the chile and scallions are softened and the garlic is golden and smells toasted, about 1 minute. Return the shrimp to the pan and stir to combine. Serve immediately, with the lime wedges.

A Few Things

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As you can probably tell, I’ve been inspired as of late. I don’t know why but it’s been much easier to write these things with some good music. A few months ago I happened upon 92.3. It takes me back to the old days of Cleveland’s “The End” 107.9, or CD 101 in Columbus. Alternative rock and 1 minute station breaks, I love it.

I think it was sometime back in October or November that Regina came back from Whole Foods with the Half and Half from Snowville Creamery. She said that there was an older guy and a younger girl at the store talking about their dairy products that were going to be carried there. I know CFT and Nancy Heller have talked about using their milk. The WF on Cedar carries it, I don’t know about the one on Chagrin (which I call WF lite.) Normally I would say milk is milk, but this is not the ultra pasteurized stuff that is good until 2014. I can certainly taste the difference. The only downside is that it only comes in half gallon containers. Luckily I am a coffee fiend; so I’m able to use up a carton before it expires. It also helps that they’re an Ohio dairy. Goin’ local, baby!

We went to 3 Birds on Friday for the preemptive Valentine’s Day strike. They've added a new pastry chef that absolutely kicks ass. The last few times we had been there we either thought the desserts were okay, and went somewhere else. When I looked at the dessert menu I thought to myself, “Where the hell has this been for the last 6 months? Someone’s been holding out on us.”

I had the special, which was a variation of baked hot chocolate, with ice cream and whipped cream. The flowerless cake was nearly entirely gooey and was awesome with the melting ice cream and whipped cream, and a reasonable size. Regina’s eyes nearly fell out of her head when she saw her first semifreddo in Cleveland. This is my wife’s favorite dessert. If you haven’t tried it you’re missing out.

I had lunch with my mother at Sweet Basil in Westlake. Man do I wish that place was closer to my house. We had a pizza called The Grapes of Wrath. When I first saw it on the specials board I was imagining Tom Joad picking the produce for the pizza. It was actually a very good pie that basically consisted of white pizza with basil, grape tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar drizzled on it. If this place was in my neck of the woods it would be my “go to” pizzeria.

On Sunday we went to Slow Food’s Tierra Madre presentation at Moxie. The chili (3 types) prepared by the kitchen staff were really tasty. One of Goatfeather Farm’s 40 pound turkey monsters was used in the turkey chili. She said they still had like half a turkey leftover after making the chili. It was a good time, though. The delegates shared their experience of attending Tierra Madre in Turino, Italy. Don't think that I haven't been keeping my eye on the exchange rates. The euro is approaching $1.20. While it isn't 80 cents like it was when we went in 2001, it's at least approaching affordability. I think when these people went in the summer it was still up around $1.40 or more. It truly is an awesome place. I'd love to go back.

Monday, February 16, 2009

La Bodega

Since I was going down to Tremont to pick up cupcakes at A Cookie and a Cupcake I figured I might as well grab lunch while I was down there. My brother-in-law had good things to say about past experiences at La Bodega. I’m always game for all things good, especially when they have to do with food.

After the cupcake pickup I headed over there. Located caddy corner to Tremont School, the sandwich shop is half kitchen and half dining area. The dining area has about 6 or 7 tables in it with a couple of two tops and four or five 4 tops.

Usually when I go into a place for the first time, especially in Cleveland, I’ll just ask for the best thing on the menu. My reasoning is that if that sucks then I will most likely not return.

In this case the best (or most popular) is the #45 Southwestern Sub with turkey, bacon, jalapeno peppers, colored peppers, tomato, onion, spices, hot sauce, cajun mayo, jack cheese, served with a bag of chips. If you like spicy things this thing is pretty long on flavor.

The night before, Regina and I were talking about the importance of bread when it comes to the making of a great sandwich. How important do you think the bread is when it comes to a great sandwich? Does it account for 50% of a good sandwich? Maybe the question can be posed like this: What would you rather have awesome meats and condiments on average bread, or vice versa? I don’t know, I probably want the better bread.

On the subject of bread, La Bodega has a thin crusty French bread roll that they use. It’s not an artisinal kind of bread, but one that kind of reminds me a little bit of Mr. Hero. At any rate, I think it’s a winner.

At the end of the day there are over 60 kinds of sandwiches offered on nine different kinds of bread. No matter what your preference I have to believe that there’s something for everyone at La Bodega.

La Bodega
869 Jefferson Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 621-7075

La Bodega on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Chinese Restaurant-Style Sautéed Green Beans

This is a green bean recipe that is very easy to do, yet will agree with some of the most finicky eaters. I have a teenage brother who will sit down and just shovel loads of Cheez-its in his mouth when there is perfectly good food in front of him. That changed when I brought these green beans over to my sister’s house last November. He kept going back and eating more and more of these things.

If I had to describe the taste, they actually taste like green beans with the sauce from PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef. I love Mongolian Beef, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted my green beans tasting like that. As it turns out it’s absolutely delicious.

Chinese Restaurant-Style Sautéed Green Beans
By Susie Middleton

Serves 2 to 3 as a side dish (more like 2)

  • 1 Tbs less-sodium Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbs Honey
  • 1 Tbs unsalted Butter
  • 2 Tbs extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 1# younger Green Beans, trimmed
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tbs minced Garlic

Combine the soy sacue, honey, and 1 Tbs water in a small dish and set near the stove. Set a shallow serving dish near the stove, too.

In a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan, heat the butter with the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the green beans and ½ tsp salt and toss with tongs to coat well. Cook, turning the beans occasionally, until most are well browned, shrunken, and tender, 7 to 8 minutes. (The butter in the pan will have turned dark brown.)

Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until the garlic is softened and fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds. Carefully add the soy mixture (you’ll need to scrape the honey into the pan). Cook, stirring, until the liquid reduces to a glazey consistency that coats the beans, 30 to 45 seconds.

Immediately transfer the beans to the serving dish, scraping the pan with the spatula to get all of the garlicky sauce. Let sit for a few minutes and then serve warm.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Cookie and Cupcake (with an accent on the cupcake)

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I decided to head down to Tremont to procure a Valentine’s Day dessert for tonight. Regina had wanted to surprise me with some cupcakes from A Cookie and a Cupcake on Professor, but they were out of the red velvets when she called on Friday.

Who here thought the cupcake craze would last this long? It's been raging pretty hard for a while now and like this recession it doesn't show any signs of stopping. I can't really say what it is, but if I'm at a party with a tupperware container full of these things I lose all self control. As a courtesy I'll verbally warn everyone.

I'll say, "Listen up everyone! If anyone would like a (with an emphasis on the singular) cupcake take them now. In fifteen minutes their open game and it ain't gonna' be pretty." Women, children, and especially men will come running.

Have you ever seen anyone leave a party with leftover cupcakes? It's never happened. Ever. Go ahead Google it.

Opened by Wendy Thompson and Syndee Klingenberg last fall, Cookie and a Cupcake is a pure pastry shop. These two women teamed up at Lockkeeper/Dante as the top two pastry chefs. I think it’s kind of funny that these two set up shop only to have the new Dante set to open sometime this year about 5 or 6 doors down.

*Sorry for the blurry picture. It was my idea to put them in front of the brick wall. The 50mm lens offers great field of depth, but when you hastily focus you end up with misfires like this.*

The shop has a wide range of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and other small pastries. They also specialize in creating cakes for special occasions. No bread, no scones, no muffins, or croissants. Diabetics beware.

From the get go the cupcakes looked good; plenty of frosting, not insanely large, and quite a variety. I picked up a Grasshopper (mint frosting with chocolate cake), Carrot Cake, and a couple of Red Velvets. I’m a huge sucker for red velvet.

So how do they taste? I mean that’s really why we’re here, right?

After dinner we decided to cut these suckers in half and taste test the three different varieties. This is what I really liked: when Regina split them in half you could see that they jammed the pastry bag into the center of the cupcake (I’m assuming that’s what they did). I like it because it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Let’s face it, the frosting is the best part. Why not share the love with the center of the cupcake? The frosting is a butter cream, with a cake that is not at all dry.

I think the interesting thing about Tremont is that it lacks ice cream shops and bakeries. I think these ladies definitely fill a void in the neighborhood. A Cookie and a Cupcake is worth A Look and a Taste.

A Cookie and a Cupcake
2173 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 344-9433

A Cookie and a Cupcake on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 13, 2009

Big Island Day 2 at Roadhouse

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Roadhouse Cafe is a little cafe in downtown Kealakekua. If you aren't paying attention you just might miss it. Run by a husband and wife team (she runs the front and he cooks), Roadhouse has pictures that reflect their love of motorcycle riding. Their bike was actually parked right outside the restaurant.

Open for lunch, Roadhouse offers a vast array of hot lunch offerings. This is not your typical Hawaiian plate lunch sort of place. They have decent number of lunch that change daily, which explains why I wasn't able to get a menu. Aside from the lunch items they offer an equal number of bakery items. There are a couple of large cases that are filled with pastries. A local woman stopped us to comment to us on how good all of the desserts were, Kona Lime pie, carrot cake, honu bars, lilikoi cheesecake and a decadent looking cheesecake within a brownie.

Cal had: an All Beef Sausage Roll - Hot Louisiana link sausage wrapped in phyllo with cheddar, onions and New Orleans style Muffelata relish and mustard.

Macaroni salad with each dish - tasty and unlike any I've had before, with scallions, olives, celery, carrots, parsley

Honu bar - macadamia and caramel

Veggie "burger" - not your traditional veggie burger; you could actually identify the assorted veggies within it and could tell it was made fresh. It was topped with cheddar, onion, tomatoes and sundried tomato aoili.

Additional options on the limited lunch menu included Thai sweet chili chicken sandwich, pulled pork sandwich daily special, Phyllo parcels with fillings that change - today's selection was a greek style, and tomato soup with rice

There is a number of tables as well as a few outside. The prices are reasonable. I think what I liked most is that the food was different from the plate lunch, yet also different from what I eat at home, in Cleveland. For lunch I think the food shows a lot of thought. It's a great place for a low key and inexpensive lunch.

79-7399 Mamalahoa Hwy
Kealakekua, HI 96750

(808) 322-0616

Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Flying Fig: Past and Present

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I’ve lived in Cleveland the majority of my life, but it wasn’t until a few years ago, that I had an “epiphany” of sorts with regard to what fantastic dining experiences this city has to offer. At the time, my husband and I were living in Philadelphia, and expanding our culinary horizons with dinners at places like Buddakan and Django.

We returned to Cleveland in the Spring of 2006 for a family wedding and decided to have our first dinner at the Flying Fig. I recall the ever so charming waiter suggesting a dinner comprised of three of their small plates…the most memorable of all being the Hoisin glazed short ribs. With that meal, I fell in love with this the Fig. The ribs were fall off the bone, melt in your mouth, sweet and salty goodness. To this day, I yearn to see those Hoisin short ribs back on the menu (over a year ago they were replaced with a Pilsner reduction version…no offense, but they just aren’t as good). I’ve even gone as far as writing Karen Small, the chef and owner of the Flying Fig, to request the recipe (she politely declined and indicated they may return again some day…I’m still waiting and watching the menu….patiently….).

My not so secret yearning for the return of the Hoisin glazed short ribs to the menu is part of what brings me back to the Flying Fig again and again. However, on this occasion what also brought us in was my husband’s desire for their kickin’ $5 Blue Cheese Burger and Fries off the Happy Hour menu. A gourmet, full size burger and fries, for $5…you can’t beat that with a stick in this economy. I went with what has become my current darling on their dinner menu – the Seared Duck Breast & Confit of Duck Leg with Butternut Squash Spaetzle, Brussel Sprouts with Bacon & Apple and a Cranberry Reduction ($25). I’m a bit of a sauce girl, and as a result, I just couldn’t get enough of the sweet cranberry reduction. It reminded me of the cranberry compote that they’ve served with the cheese plate in the past, not too thin and definitely thick enough to coat each delectable piece of duck.

This evening I had what I considered to be one of their best and most generous desserts, the Peach and Blueberry Crisp. I switched out the Buttermilk ice cream for Cinnamon Almond ice cream, and let me tell you, that was a winner of a substitution. Cal had the dessert special of the evening, which was French Toast with Strawberry compote and a Maple Reduction. They were just about to launch their new Brunch service, so we felt this dessert might have been a trial run of sorts. He only shared a small taste of the Maple reduction sauce, which was super thick and better than any maple syrup I’ve ever tasted.

All in all, it was a solid, well rounded meal and we went home as happy as we could be considering we had just returned from Hawaii the day before.

I look forward to returning the Flying Fig, always in search of new favorites and ever dreaming that my first true love, the hoisin glazed short ribs, will return again some day to grace my palate.

Salmon Quick, Salmon Delicious

I think most people that cook with an regularity have a group of recipes that fall under the "Easy and Good" category. There are just some nights where the whole thing is so last minute that you know you're going to have to pull one of the Easy and Good recipes from your arsenal.

I have a client that is particularly difficult when it comes to wanting everything right away. Everything is a crisis and needs to handled immediately. I spent the majority of the afternoon jumping through hoops. Needless to say, last night was one of those last minute meals.

Enter Grilled Salmon with Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise.

Written by one of my favorite cookbook authors, Molly Stevens, this is a definite winner. I actually cook this on our panini maker. Since it's non-stick and folds open to convert into an electric grill, last night's warm temperatures made it a no brainer.

Grilled Salmon with Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise
by Molly Stevens

  • 1 1/2 Limes
  • 1/2 C Mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Wasabi Paste; more to taste
  • 2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper
  • 4 - 6 oz. skinless Salmon fillets
  • Vegetable Oil for the grill
Prepare a medium-hot grill fire (be sure the grill grate has been scrubbed clean with a wire brush).

Cut the half lime into four wedges and set aside. Finely grate the zest from the whole lime. Cut the zested lime in half and squeeze the juice from one half into a small bowl (save the other half for another use). In a medium bowl, combine 1 tsp of the lime juice with the lime zest, mayonnaise, wasabi paste, ginger, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Stir to combine. Taste and add more wasabi paste if you'd like a zippier flavor.

Run you finger along each salmon fillet to feel for tiny bones; use tweezers or needlenose pliers to pull out any that you find. Season the fillets lightly with salt and pepper. Spoon about 2 Tbsp of the mayonnaise mixture onto the salmon fillets and refrigerate the rest. With your hands, Spread the mayonnaise in a thin layer over all sides of the fillets.

When the grill is ready, oil the grill grate using tongs and a paper towel dipped in oil. Grill the salmon until crisp and slightly charred on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn and continue to grill until the salmon is just cooked through, another 3 to 6 minutes. Serve the salmon topped with a dollop of the mayonnaise and a lime wedge on the side. Pass the remaining mayonnaise at the table.

If you use a non-stick surface you can skip the vegetable oil step. If not, make sure you do use the oil or you will have a mess on your hands.

For grating the ginger I use one of those ceramic ginger graters. Unlike a rasp style grater, it does a better job of keeping the fiberous threads out of the grated portion of the ginger.

You can find the wasabi paste at any Asian market. I've tried the powder (since that's all they had at the grocery store), and it didn't work very well. I prefer the stuff out of the tube.

While you're at the Asian market, I like to use Cupie Mayonnaise. I don't know what it is, but it tastes great in this recipe. Never tried Cupie? I'm not really sure why it's named that. It comes in this crazy, extremely pliable plastic bottle.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

We have a winner! A visit to Rotuno's

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Barbecue, like pizza, ice cream, sushi and so on, incites a passion in people that is hard to explain. Why is it that we get so damned chippy when it comes to any of the above subjects? I think it ultimately comes down to the fact that we are all brought up with, and develop, different ideas about what "good" represents.

I had made a comment some time ago about Hot Sauce Williams on Yelp that didn't go over too well. This lady who was somehow related to the owners of HSC told me I didn't know what I was talking about. That HSC was the best she had ever tasted.

Hey, whatever, if that's what you think, great. Don't come to me saying that I'm a moron when you're related to the owners. I don't think it's a very objective opinion. It's kind of like the guy from Flemming's who a few months ago was reviewing his own restaurant.

Why do I bring up the above examples? Its pretty simple actually, this review is about the other side of the spectrum. This is about the restaurant that wasn't on Urbanspoon (until I added it). It's about the restaurant that doesn't have a website. It's about finding the Big Foot of Northeast Ohio barbecue, some had tasted it, but no one had seen an actual menu ,(at least not on the Internet).

When I went out to the nether regions of Lorain County to see some friends of mine, I had to take the opportunity to try Rotuno's Texas Style Barbeque, in Elyria.

My favorite barbecue in Ohio is City BBQ. I love it. I love the meat. I love the sides. It's just a great place, the only problem is it doesn't have a Cleveland presence. Rotuno's, I had heard, was just as good, (if not better).

What!?! Shut yo' mouth!

"Blasphemy", I said.

My good friend Jonathan, who is the biggest carnivore I know, and I walked into Tim Rotuno's little rib joint in Elyria.

The interior reminded me of Chipotle. There was a combination of corrugated metal, wood, and painted gray drywall. It was actually a very smart way to do it. There wasn't a lot of porous surface area for stickiness to adhere to.

We both ordered the half slab of rib dinners. Normally I don't get something like that for lunch, but I thought it only appropriate to judge a barbecue place by it's ribs. The first thing I did was tear off one the rib bones. A smile immediately came to my face as I saw the pink meat, a telltale sign of slow cooked meat, staring back at me. We had were enjoying the real deal here.


I thought the sauce was good, but a little plain. I like a sauce that is a little more vinegary (if that's a word). I think it adds a little more zing.

The one thing I was really disappointed by was the sides. The fries were the wide frozen ones like you find at Arthur Treacher's. The beans and cole slaw seemed very plain. None of them tasted bad, I just thought they lacked the same care that the meat had received.

I got a pulled pork sandwich to go, (for lunch the next day). Awesome, by the way.

Rotuno's has been in business for a little under a year, I think, (don't quote me on that). I think he's perfected the meat cooking. It's done extremely well. Very authentic. He needs to start working on the sides and making them more personal to the restaurant. That is the only real criticism I have. Oh wait, I have one more : no website. I think if your in an out of the way place like Elyria you have to have a website. People want to see if it's worth the drive.

The store is kept spotless. The staff is very personable. They cook everything from pork, to beef, to chicken, to turkey. The prices are very reasonable. A half a slab dinner is $12, a full is $20, served with two sides and Texas Toast. They also cater and have family sized meal deals.

This is the best in Cleveland, and if the sides improve, probably Ohio. You have got to go here if you are a barbecue fan. I think it's better than Al's Bubba Q, and much more reasonable in price.

Rotuno's Texas Style Barbeque
(440) 366-5027
515 North Abbe Road
Elyria, OH 44035

Rotuno's Texas Style Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pearl of the Orient

We didn't really feel like going too far from home for dinner so we decided to go to Pearl of the Orient in Shaker Heights.

We had been here some time ago and as I recall it was above average Chinese. The one thing that really strikes you when you walk through the door is the interior. I think the decor is the most tasteful of any purely Chinese restaurant I've ever been in.

We ordered the Shrimp Fried Rice, Kung Pao Chicken, and the Twice Cooked Pork with hoison, pineapple, and onion. My favorite was the pork. It's basically a pork tenderloin battered and then sliced and tossed with onion and pineapple. I thought the crispiness of the pork combined with the sauce was awesome.

I always enjoy supporting the Cleveland Independents. One thing I saw on the menu that was interesting is that they have "Retro Mondays" where they offer $5 dishes. Pearl of the Orient has many of the Chinese favorites as well as some Thai offerings.

With the exception of Sun Luck Garden, I think Pearl of the Orient is one of the best Chinese restaurants I've been to in Cleveland.

Pearl of the Orient
20121 Van Aken Blvd
Shaker Heights, OH 44122
(216) 751-8181

Pearl of the Orient on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pizza and a Sandwich

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I don't like to devote entire posts to pizza places and sandwich shops if I can help it. While there are a few exceptions, I like to combine some of these restaurants because I get a lot of people that look at the pizza stuff.

Growing up, I spent a few years in Berea. My favorite pizza was always Donte's Restaurant & Pizza. As you might know, Berea isn't exactly teaming with mom and pop pizza shops. I think one of the things I liked about it was that it tastes a lot like the old Carlo's Pizza in Solon.

I actually called Donte's from Baltimore and told them what time my flight arrived at Hopkins. I got off the plane, walked to my car, and picked up the pie right there as you hit that first light after the IX Center.

When I got there it was ready to go. One pepperoni and sausage, ready to be inhaled. If I had to compare it to another pizza, I'd say it's a lot like Antonio's in Parma or Angelo's in Lakewood. The sauce is a probably a little more plain than Antonio's or Angelo's, but I like the crust.

Should you have the occasion to go to the IX Center I'd give it a try. I wouldn't say it's worth a special trip, but it is an affordable dinner option if you're in the neighborhood.

If you call make sure you use the number below. There's another Donte's/Dante's Pizza that mistakenly gets calls all the time.

Donte's Restaurant & Pizza
20850 Sheldon Rd
Cleveland, OH 44142
(440) 243-0332

Donte's Restaurant & Pizza on Urbanspoon

 One of the more convoluted shopping centers I've seen is in Solon. There are businesses nestled in the back that you don't even know are there. Grum's Sub Shoppe is luckily out front where it can be seen.

Grum's replaces the mysterious Harvey's Famous Barbeque that was formerly housed in this space. No one seems to know what happened to Harvey's (it was only open a short time before it put up its "Closed for Inventory" sign). At any rate, it would appear this strip mall has made a love connection with Grum's. There was quite the line at 5:30 on a weekday afternoon.

Unlike the one in Cleveland Hts, this Grum's offers a decent sized area to sit down and eat.

I ordered a half of a "The Grum" sandwich. It has ham, capicola, salami, along with your typical veggies. The bread was decent. The sandwich overall was decent.

Is there anything earth shattering going on here? I would say no, but if your looking for cheap lunch, or lazy dinner to fill you up, Grum's fits the bill. I'll probably go back during a Miles Market run, but I don't think I'd go out of my way. It's a decent sandwich at a decent price ($6).

As a side note: if anyone has eaten at the Japanese place a few doors down from Grum's I'd love to hear from you. It's on my list of places to try. It seems that the Vietnamese place further down strip is mired in red tape, hopefully that opens sometime soon.

Grum's Sub Shoppe
28500 Miles Road Suite A
Solon, OH 44139

(440) 248-3232

Grum's Sub Shoppe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Keei Cafe on Our First Day in Hawaii

Make sure to check here for more Hawai'i posts!

Once we finally arrived in Oahu we were headed straight to the Big Island, also known as Hawai'i.

After we found our way to the bed and breakfast (which I'll talk about at a later date since it deserves its own post), we went to the nearby Keei Cafe in Kealakekua, HI.

Housed in a two story building nestled into a steep slope on the mountain side of the road, Keei (pronounced KAY ay) Cafe takes residence in the top floor. Tables sit out on the porch that runs along the front of the restaurant.

Even though the bottom floor has a business that isn't very glamorous (pool supplies, maybe?), it doesn't detract from the tastefully decorated dining room upstairs. With a Hawaiian plantation feel to it, the owners create an inviting and friendly atmosphere. Tastefully decorated, Hawaiian island style, we took a particular liking to the two Hula girl lamps in the waiting area.

The night we were there the service was a little bit slow since there were only two servers working. It wasn't a total surprise to us, though, since past reviews had warned of such things. In fact, Hawaii Revealed said that in the past that, "you needed a flair gun to get the server's attention."

The menu was well represented by contemporary Hawaiian fare. As with most things here, everything pretty muchncame with rice.

After the long flight I was absolutely famished, so I opted for the Pineapple Glazed Pork Chops with rice, and julienned vegetables. I thought the chops were tasty, but I would have liked just one big thick chop.

It seems that during every vacation each of us falls in love with some sort of food. While I didn't start my affair until will we went to Oahu, Regina had the fortune of finding sensuous Butterfish on the very first night she was here. She ordered the Wahoo (Butterfish) with Thai curry sauce (which she had taken a liking to at Ty Fun), with rice and veggies.

Since I didn't want to eat all of that rice I had plenty of room left for the Kailua Candy Company's award winning Lilikoi Cheesecake with Honu chocolate crust & chocolate ganache frosting. The lilikoi adds a tartness that went great with chocolate and cheesecake.

Regina is always a sucker for ice cream, so she went with the Keei Cafe Hot Fudge Sundae.

I think the restaurant is a definitely a must try. This is as good as anything you're going to find down in the Kona area. If you find yourself down in this neck of the woods (south of Kona) I think you'd do well to call and make a reservation.

Keei Cafe
79-7511 Mamalahoa Hwy
Kealakekua, HI 96750
(808) 322-9992

Keei Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

We're Baaaaaaaaack!

We spent historic inauguration day stuffed in coach, flying over the Pacific Ocean. We were headed to one of my favorite spots on the planet - Hawai'i.

We spent the last two weeks looking for some of the best food we could find. Before I had ever gone there I just assumed that it was going to be nothing but food slathered in syrupy pineapple sauce placed on top of a pile of rice. Okay, maybe everything does come with rice, but the food was phenomenal.

While we were there we saw so many different things. We look forward to sharing these experiences with everyone. We'll be starting on the Big Island of Hawai'i, followed by Maui, and finishing up on Oahu. Since it's pretty obvious this might take a while, we will be including the usual Cleveland and cooking stuff while making our way through the Hawai'i trip.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ty Fun

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Tremont never ceases to amaze me when it comes to the sheer number of good restaurants that exist in such a small geographic area. I like to try new places just as much as anyone else. I, however, it a little harder to do in Tremont because so many of my favorites already reside there. It's hard to pass up a tried and true fave for the unknown.

Enter Ty Fun.

This choice wasn't particularly hard for me, due to the fact that my wife was including it as part of my surprise visit to The Improv to see Lavell Crawford. As a side note he has one of the funniest acts I've ever seen.

If there's one thing I don't like about Tremont it's that the snow removal can be horribly lacking. On the night we went it was not pretty.

After parking the sled we head into the restaurant. I'm immediately struck by how small it is. I'm guessing that capacity is somewhere around 20-30 people.

The décor is very tasteful and restrained. I've noticed that a lot of Thai restaurants have a tendency to go trinket crazy. You aren't going to find any of that here. Pillows double as backrests along the side wall, which has inward facing benches. The back walls have modern artwork with gold leaf decoration.

For dinner I had the #18 (the server told me that was her favorite dish), which is the Kai Kra Prow Sautéed sliced chicken breast with red pepper, onion, string beans and basil leaves in chili garlic sauce. Wow! I thought it was a great balance of spice and flavor, while not being overly heavy on the sauce.

Regina had the Gang Keow Whan which had Jumbo Shrimp, green curry cooked in coconut milk with string beans, eggplant, zucchini and basil leaves. She runs from anything spicy just as quickly as I run to it. Overall, she was pleased with the large amount of vegetables and shrimp that were swimming in a savory (not spicy) broth of coconut milk and curry.

If you've read any of our past posts you know that we're dessert freaks. Typically when it comes to Asian food the equation goes something like this: Asian Restaurant = Bad Dessert. Not here. You have got to get the Chocolate Mousse Cake. It was the best dessert I've ever had at a purely Asian restaurant. It consisted of chocolate mouse covered in different types of chocolate shavings.

I'm adding Ty Fun to my Tremont rotation. It is definitely a must try if you're daring enough to go somewhere other than one of the established Tremont institutions.

Ty Fun
815 Jefferson Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 664-1000

Ty Fun on Urbanspoon