Sunday, September 25, 2011

Indy: King Ribs Bar-B-Q

It 's no secret that I go creapin' (to borrow a Jersey Shore term), for barbecue whenever I have the chance. Typically, the suspect the neighborhood or the operation, the better. King Ribs got a write-up that said you had to try the ribs. Since I was charged with burning an afternoon while my wife attended a conference..well... what was a brother to do?

King Ribs - at least the one I went to - was a carryout only, hole-in-the wall type place. A black board with the white letters you wedge into the grooves, spells out a rather limited menu of ribs, chicken, and a choice of pulled pork, beef, or chicken, and four side dishes.

The store consists of a counter and a walled off windowed kitchen. It's a pretty sparse, bare bones operation they have here. Surprisingly enough they do accept credit cards. It totally looks like a cash only operation, but who's complaining? I ordered a pulled pork sammie ($4), 1/4 chicken ($3), baked beans, and cole slaw ($1.39 ea.). From the kitchen the cook asked me if I wanted hot, sweet, or mixed sauce. Not knowing exactly what their idea of "hot" was, I asked for the mixed, thinking that if hot was in fact hot at least the sweet would cut it down a little bit. Everything was packaged up in less than five minutes.

 What the....?

I got everything back to the car and opened it up. Be warned: sauce....lots and lots of sauce. Much like makeup, lots of sauce means that someone is either trying to hide something or has poor self editing skills - King Ribs falls into the latter category. The pork and the chicken had a good flavor and moisture to them. The sauce - even though it was way too much - was actually a nice blend of spicy and sweet. I would do the mixed sauce again in a heartbeat. The sides were another story. The coleslaw had WAY too much mayo in it. Inedible. The baked beans weren't much better. I think if they actually added a little pork and maybe stirred in a little of that mixed sauce into them, they could actually be pretty good.

Would I specifically seek these guys out again? If I lived in the area, I'd order the meats they sell, with the sauce in the side. I'd skip the side dishes all together. I will say that if you are after a heavy smoke influenced meat, this is not that. As far as a visitor to the city, if you're hardcore I'd give it a shot, but if you aren't into eating 'cue in your car you'll probably want to skip it.

King Ribs Bar-B-Q
5610 Georgetown Rd
Indianapolis, IN 46254
(317) 291-2695

King Ribs Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dan's Dogs

As a little kid, I grew up in Medina. I left after junior high and rarely find myself in that neck of the woods. The city has certainly changed from when I grew up there in the early to mid eighties. Where there was once woods, there are now houses. Shopping centers have multiplied to the point of over saturation. And the Square? Well, it just doesn't seem to be as relevant as it once was.

Just off The Square sits a little hot dog shop named Dan's Dogs (a couple of doors down from the now shuttered Medina Theater). This little diner has the feel of a Johnny Rockets, but has a ton of memorabilia adorning the walls that celebrate the age of Elvis and Marylin Monroe. Dan's Dogs has a fairly extensive selection of hot dogs as well as a large variety of milk shakes and ice cream treats.

Now as far as hot dogs go, there are the casual consumers and then there are the hardcore regional aficionados. I fall in the latter category. My golfing compatriot and I ordered a few different hot dogs, (they also offer burgers but we didn't try them). I'm not going to lie - the dogs were decent but we aren't talking about Hot Doug's here. Was the Chicago-style a true Chicago? No - not even close. Perhaps in spirit, but there was nary a poppy seed to be found, let alone a Vienna hot dog. 

Aside from hot dog snobbery - if there is such a thing - the food tasted good. I thought for what Dan's charges it represented a good value, ($2.05-$2.35 for regular, $3-3.20 for jumbo). While we were there a number of mothers came in with kids and you could tell that the little ones were thrilled to be there. There's no doubt Dan's is a hit with the Medina elementary and preschool crowd. They do a brisk business in here and tables turn around pretty quickly.

All told, I would probably warn the dyed-in-the-wool hot dog freaks that it isn't worth a significant drive, but if you're looking for a place that is very kid friendly or just happen to be in the neighborhood - Dan's Dogs is a fun and affordable place to stop.

Dan's Dogs
111 W Liberty St
Medina, OH 44256
(330) 723-3647

Dan's Dogs on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

My wife does a fair amount of experimenting with different types cookies. In the past she's kind been all over the place instead of really trying to focus on one she likes and then perfecting it. Thankfully she's zeroed in one of my favorites - chocolate cookies. I've been eating my fair share lately, and I have to hand it to her - she's putting out some seriously good, bakery quality cookies.

 Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

She's more of the soft and chewy type. Me? I fall under the billy goat category. Put a cookie - any cookie - in front of me and I'll happily eat it. I can say that as far as billy goats are concerned this is certainly on the high end of the scale for quality c-chip cookies. Click here for the link to the recipe.

A few notes from the cook:

  • A smaller scoop yielding about a 50g ball of dough seems to be the ideal size.
  • Parchment was used instead of a Silpat. I don't know exactly what is but sometimes a Silpat works better for some cookies, and for other cookies it's the other way around.
  • Sprinkle a high quality fleur de sel. just as you pull them from the oven. It adds a little extra oomph to the flavor of the cookie. She used Le Saunier de Camargue which looks like it was just made by the ocean. It has kind of an irregular look to it that separates it from most sea salts you see. .
  • Two types of chocolate (58% and 64%) were used. For these, the best "cheap" chocolate was used - Peters from Fantasy Candies. If funds allow for it, use decent chocolate, you'll thank me later.
  • Normally cooking times vary from oven to oven, but these were taken out (turning halfway through) at exactly 15 minutes and they came out like an Original Cookie cookie *Whoah, '80's flashback*.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Philly: Amada

There was a time when tapas was a fairly new concept as far as the American dining public was concerned. Chances are, if you asked most people what the word meant - they wouldn't have been able to tell you. The truth is, until the wife and I went to Amada way back in 2006, we didn't really know what it was either.

The experience we got from Jose Garces' restaurant back then was both a blessing and a curse.

It was a blessing because it gave us a true sense of what it meant to eat Spanish style small plates. The decor matched the simple yet high qualiy offerings. Little touches such as the live flamenco dancers on Saturday nights (good luck getting one of those rezzies, they come on at around 10), or uber cool hand cranked meat slicer, are many of the smalls details that create an overall experience you don't get just anywhere.

The curse - like anything that happens to be the best you've ever had, while also being your first time - is that the notion of tapas was so clearly  defined by our Amada visit. Many of the places you see today simply place food on a small plate and call it a day. I see these 'tapas' places and say to myself, "You call this tapas? Sheeee-yit!" (To quote Clay Davis.)

Long before Garces was an Iron Chef, the people of Philadelphia have been filing into this restaurant to enjoy the cheeses, cured meats, Spanish specialties. One item that sits squarely on my wishlist - and will most likely stay there - is the Suckling Pig (must order ahead and have a slew of people to share it with). This man cooked what was probably one of the best pulled pork sandwiches I've ever had at the Alex's Lemonade Stand Great Chef's Event

Amada is what I would consider a moderately priced restaurant. As long as your eyes aren't 10x the size of your stomach and you don't plan on binge drinking, your check with tip will probably hover around the $100-120 range (depending on what you order drink wise).

The Garces empire has steadily been growing since he became an Iron Chef, but take comfort in knowing that the people of Philly have been crowding into this spot way before any of that went down. If you're like us, you'll probably want to walk off dinner before you dive into dessert. Franklin Fountain is just a stone's throw away up on Market Street.

217 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 625-2450

Monday, September 19, 2011


If you're familiar with the intersection of West 117th and Lorain Road on Cleveland's West Side, then you know that this is THE epicenter of Middle Eastern groceries and restaurants in our city.

Diner about town, Stuart Spivack, told me about a noteworthy kebab place. Since I happened to be in the neighborhood we decided to meet there for dinner.

Kabab-G is a little restaurant that sits between W. 119th and 120th. The inside is modest, but still quite clean with booth style seating and not much in the way of decor. There are 5 or 6 booths that run along the right side of the dininng room, and a more stout dining area to the left with tables that looks like it can accommodate parties larger than four.

The hostess/waitress/cashier does a good job of wearing all her hats despite the fact that English isn't her first language. The portions sizes represent a good value when you consider what they charge. We went with the monstrously large Dinner for Two ($24), which includes hummus and lafa (pita whatever you want to call it), salad, rice, pickled veg, and two of each type of kebab. Stuart warned me that the chicken kebab isn't one of his favorites, but the beef was probably the best he's had here in Cleveland.

The Entree Portion of the "Dinner for Two"
After trying the chicken , I'd have to agree - skip it. It's just boneless, skinless chicken on a stick. No spice. Not much char.

The adona is basically minced lamb pressed together with spices. I'd describe adana as having the texture and basic shape of a McRib. It's better than the chicken but not nearly as good as the beef.

The beef is a legitimate superstar. I'm no spice master, but whatever the heck it is they put on that thing - it's awesome. Not to say that it is some overpowering spice mix, just a little added something that coalesces with the meat and char. Here's the equation in case you're interested: Spices + Beef +  Fat drippings + Hot Charcoal = Tasty Beef  (S2 + Bf + Fd² + Q = S2TBf²)

All told, Kabab-G is a high quality, low cost din. If it's ambiance you're after, then keep driving toward downtown. But if you happen to have a hankerin' for a exceptional beef kabab and a cheap night out, then I think this little hole in the wall fits that description. As with most restaurants that have something people really want - it's cash on the barrelhead.

More Clevo posts here.

11901 Lorain Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44111
(216) 476-3335

Kabab-G on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Momofuku Ko English Muffins

A lot of what I choose to cook comes down to just how much time I have available. For the longest time I wanted to try the Ko English Muffins in David Chang's Momofuku cookbook, but never quite had the time. Yesterday I decided to start the whole process and finish them up today.

Momofuku Ko English Muffins

I've found that most of the recipes in this book are not technically difficult. If you read through everything before hand and make sure you've got the right tools and enough time to properly execute every step - it's pretty easy.

I busted out these simply because I just...well...felt like it. There's a link to the recipe at the bottom of the page. Here are some of my notes from the whole process:
  • I made half the recipe. It halves very well. As is usually the case, I think they would have turned out even better with the whole recipe. Due to the smaller batch the dough probably got a little overworked by adhering to the mixing and kneading times provided.
  • 60 grams most certainly does not make a normal sized English muffin. For that you're going to need probably something in the range of 80-90 grams. That being said, the 60 gram size is actually a nice mini size for less hearty appetites. Regina also thinks they "look cute".
  • I sifted the cornmeal through a fine meshed sieve and only used the courser corn meal left in the sieve; otherwise the finer aggregates in the cornmeal absolutely coat the dough. If you look at the picture in this recipe for a hollandaise sauce, you'll see what I mean about too much corn meal.
  • I cut the ones you see above, but WAIT UNTIL THEY ARE COMPLETELY COOL and USE THE FORK TO PRY THEM APART! If you don't wait for them to cool you are going to create a giant mess. Patience Grasshopper.Prying them open provides the "nooks and crannies" that you get from a good traditional English muffin.
  • I didn't include the chive batons. I really didn't see the point in it.
  • I didn't do the bay leaf butter either. Hydrating dried leaves doesn't work very well, and I didn't have fresh ones at the ready.
  • Some type of diffuser plate may be necessary to keep the heat low enough on the cast iron skillet. I used a cast iron fajita plate between the range and skillet to keep a low temp
Link to Momofuku Ko English Muffins from Momofuku, by David Chang, here.

This was my first go at English muffins. I think it's pretty close to authentic. I'd give them another try, or I might try this recipe, which has received quite a bit of praise. This was written by Alton Brown, but I think does a nice job with the pictures and comments. The recipe on its own does look pretty intriguing because the ingredients are vastly different from this one.

Looking for other recipes that I've done go to the Food page here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Philly Gets No Respect

My wife's a huge fan, can you tell?

If ever there was a an East Coast version of Cleveland - Philadelphia is it. Sandwiched between New York and Washington, people look down on Philly and South Jersey like the place is an absolute cesspool. Old stereotypes die hard. Most people still think that South Philly is just as hardscrabble as it was in the days of Rocky.

It's simple: Cleveland will always be remembered for a burning river, and Philly will forever be known as the city that booed Santa Claus.

The truth is, that in terms of population - both city's food scenes are of very high quality. Whether your budget is big (Marc Vetri's tasting menu with white truffle add-on) or the best $8 sandwich you will ever eat (Paesano's).

I find that one of the funniest things, is that when you talk to people from Cleveland about how great Philly is - and vice versa - you get the same constipated look from both sides. The "Why would I want to go to that shit hole when I can go to New York (or in their case Chicago). It's absolutely incredible. I don't really know why that is, but if Cleveland ever had a kindred spirit - Philadelphia is it. We're underdogs, but when faced with the choice of choosing David or Goliath - we go with Goliath. Absolutely mental.

This series of posts is not going to be an effort to persuade anyone to go to Philadelphia. In a all honesty, I don't really care. Go ahead, go to New York for the tenth time. It doesn't really matter to me. But know that you're missing out on a truly fascinating city that has tons of history, down-to-earth people, and is very walkable.

Know that when you go to the restaurants here, you're going to see guys like Vetri, Michael Solomonov (Zahav), Matt Michaud (Osteria) actually working in the kitchen - I've seen it with my own eyes.

Know that using local food isn't something that just started five years ago, Lancaster County has one of the most diverse bounties this side of the Central Valley.

Know that Philadelphians love their food - and will tell you their opinion regarding anything to do with the subject.

Know that this food scene is pound-for-pound better than most cities you'll find in the United States.

So follow us as we talk about some of the treasures that await you in The City of Brotherly Love.

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Ultimate NEO Underdog

Pizza in Cleveland for the most part is pretty average. I don't mean to sound like a snob, but if you look at the majority of the pizza that is consumed in this town it is no better than most you'll find in other middle-of-the-road pizza cities. We can, however, take solace in the fact that it isn't as bad as the stuff being sold in Columbus.

That being said, you tend to have an attachment to the pizza you're raised on. With any luck you didn't grow up across the street from a Domino's or Pizza Hut. I think in his book "American Pie", Peter Reinhart summed up best:
I have come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of perfect pizza: contextually perfect pizza and paradigmatically perfect.......It's the pizzeria where we have a special history, a memory that is woven together with the flavors, textures, and atmosphere of the place. I think that such a contextually perfect pizza - that is, perfect because of the circumstances of a time and situation - at least aspires, even if it fails, to be paradigmatically perfect as well.
Some of my favorites (Antonio's, Compola's Tasty Pizza, Angelo's) all have a very similar appearance and structure that I like. I think they exemplify the pizza that most of us grew up eating. Sweet Basil does a nice Jersey-fied Neapolitan, Vincenza's the best New York Style incarnation, and deep dish....well....a good deep dish can't really be found here in Cleveland.

So where does Noce Gourmet Pizzeria fall in all of this?

On the Outside Looking In

Would you believe they fall in the "None of the Above" category? Most likely, "California or West Coast" style?

On our last visit to San Francisco, we ate a ton of pizza. You can choose to believe it or not, but San Francisco pizzaioli put together the best combination of toppings I've had anywhere. Toppings are king in SF. There's a bone marrow pizza at Flour + Water that I will be trying the next time we're in Mission.

One would think that the "Sour Dough Capital" would excel in the crust department, but in reality New York and New Haven have them beat by a mile.

So what does this have to do with a little pizzeria that sits in the square of snowy Chardon, Ohio?

First let me tell you that you aren't coming here for the crust, the bread, the dough, the cornicione - whatever you want to call it. That isn't to say it's bad - it isn't. What I'm saying is that people will not recognize Noce's dough recipe as being like anything they've had around here. If I had to describe it, I'd say it has the chewiness of a typical Cleveland Pizza crust, but has the crunchiness of a French bread. In reality, this particular crust holds up really well to reheating.

The Grecian

On the West Coast, the toppings are the star. Here's a list of some of my favorites:
  • Grecian - Mozzarella, red onion, lamb sausage, feta, tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil with a side of tzatziki sauce. *I did not think I was going to like this, but it absolutely works. The lamb sausage and the feta are applied in small bits so as not to get a big mouth full of one ingredient.
  • Wild Mushroom - Exotic mushroom mix, roasted peppers, red onions, mozz, chevere, roasted garlic, and olive oil. *I detest mushrooms, but was urged to get this during lent by another customer. The mushrooms are sauteed first and make quite simply the best mushroom pizza I've ever had.
  • Molto Carne - Italian Sausage, pepperoni, bacon, mushroom, Roma tomatoes, black olives, mozz, and tomato sauce. *This one is for big boys. One hell of a heavy pizza that satiates the meat lovers out there. I can only do about two slices. It's a monster, but it's good.
  • Quattro Formaggi - Chevre, fontina, gorganzola & mozz cheese, roasted garlic, and olive oil. *Another Lenten special. Simple, yet tasty.
  • Thai Shrimp - Spicy peanut sauce, shrimp, green onions, sweet peppers, mozz, sesame seeds, crushed chili peppers. *In my opinion, the most "out there" pie on the menu. My wife said it was here favorite (this is a Regina's greatest hits of ingredients). I remember being turned off by shrimp married with mozz, but she singled it out as a fave.
I would veer away from the traditional Margherita (reserved as the measuring stick of a truly good wood fired pizza), Pepperoni (you didn't drive all the way out here just for that, did you?), or the Sausage Combo (the only pizza I didn't like, because there were too many olives.Unless you're an olive freak, ask the kitchen to go easy on the briny little suckers. If you're not a fan, just exclude them all together.)

It gets better! BYO! Most pizzerias have horrible beer and wine lists (the exception being Compola's Tasty Pizza, they have a cooler loaded full of excellent craft beer), but here you have no one to blame but yourself. Pliny the Elder, Golden Delicious, or whatever - it's all up to you. Be warned, there is no place in the square that sells bottles for carryout. There are some grocery stores at the bottom of the hill that you can buy from. I advise planning ahead and bringing something you really like.

This cozy little shop doesn't stay open 'till all hours, so be forewarned that you want to get there before 8:30. I'd hate to see you drive all that way for nothing. If you happen to be in town at lunch, they sell pizza by the slice, as well.

So there it is folks. In terms of not being in the Urbanspoon Top 100 or any other lists that you'll find in Cleveland - Noce Gourmet Pizzeria in Chardon is a heavyweight. Tastefully decorated, BYO, and most of all unique one-of-a-kind pizzas are all here in one place. In my opinion, this is the closest thing to contextually and paradigmatically perfect pizza as you'll find in the area.

Noce Gourmet Pizzeria
125 Main St.
Chardon, OH 44024
(440) 279-0303

Noce Gourmet Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bring Something People Will Eat

With the Labor Day weekend upon us, chances are fairly good that you will have some sort of picnic that requires you to bring something. Typically we try to bring a dish that is not susceptible to heat, while still maintaining some semblance of healthiness.

A friend of ours always has a picnic the week before Labor, so we decided to bring a bean salad and the lemon bars that were highlighted in the previous post (that incidentally brought in quite the audience from Tastespotting).

While Tony Bourdain might not think much ofGuy Fee-ed-ee, we thought Guy's Black Bean Salad recipe was exactly what we were looking for. It would be a welcome respite from the usual heaviness of mayo laden potato or macaroni salads, without the need to have refrigerate.

Guy Fieri's Bean Salad

By the end of the whole affair, the bean salad was pretty much gone. There were a ton of desserts, so the lemon bars didn't get quite as much love. The bean salad, however, was the belle of the side dish ball (and about a tenth of the work).

Is bean salad sexy? No, but it gets much love when lined up against the usual picnic side dish suspects.