Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pizza Roma

This little pizzeria sits just off the intersection of Wilson Mills and SOM Center Rds, in Mayfield. Since I had never heard anyone really talk about the pizza here, I figured I'd stop in the next time I went to Microcenter.

The store itself is very clean and is decorated in the style of Pizza Parlor Chic. Red checked table clothes, faux stone arches, and a rustic fireplace round out the interior. The takeout counter sits at the front of the shop with testimonials to the late founder of the business. I forget his name (something along the lines of Big Pete), but the stories that were posted in the front of the store described a larger than life character. In his pre-pizza career he was the owner of a landscape company, but saw this little shop as something he'd like to do in his older years. He has unfortunately passed away, and now his daughter now assumed the company reigns.

I ordered a pepperoni and sausage pizza to go. When I get home I was struck by the fact the sausage was cut into cubes. I had never seen this before and instantly thought, "Wow! What a good idea! I bet this is going to stay on the pizza a hell of a lot better than the stuff that comes crumbled into little balls." Wrong. As I bit into the first slice, the sausage just rolled off the cheese. Note to self: Sausage cubes are less likely to adhere to cheese than most other forms of pizza sausage.

Square Sausage on a Round Pizza

The crust was of a medium chewiness (similar to Pizza Hut, but more "bready" and much better). The sauce is bright red with a kiss of sweetness to it. Pizza Roma is not what I would consider a greasy pizza, either.

Overall, I think they represent a good neighborhood restaurant with good value, but not one that I'd go out of my way for.

Pizza Roma
785 SOM Center Rd
Mayfield, OH 44143

Pizza Roma on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tartine Shortbread

Tartine Shortbread Cookies

We absolutely love Tartine in San Francisco. Since we can only get out that way once a year (if we're lucky), the Tartine cookbook was going to have to fill in the 51 weeks out of the year.

Only recently was this book cracked open, but there are two things that really drive me nuts about cookbooks with a focus on baking. The first is recipes that use volumetric measures for dry ingredients. I love Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc, but that damn book uses volumetric measurements for the baking recipes. I've seen my fair share of things turn out "iffey" over a tad too much or too little of dry something or other. (Keller's chocolate chip cookies come to mind.) Second, is a recipe that tells you what to do but not why. It's the little nuanced explanations that allow the home cook's knowledge of what they're doing grow because of these little nuggets.

The Tartine cookbook is definitely one for the bookshelf (and uses measurements for both ounces and grams). When I told Regina I was making shortbread cookies she groaned. Before the actual recipe starts, the authors explain why they use cornstarch rather than rice flour or potato starch. They said that cornstarch basically creates a softer melt-in-the-mouth texture, while the other two result in a firmer even crunchy kind of shortbread. Armed with the information you're almost being dared to try the other two out, just to see what happens.

I'm a note taker when it comes to cookbooks. If something doesn't seem right I'll typically jot it down on the actual page so I don't make the same mistake twice. In this recipe they call for cutting the cookies into 2"x1/2" rectangles. If you know what this actually looks like, you know there's no way these cookies are that small. I cut them to 2"x1" and the seem to look just like the picture. You could maybe cut them 2"x3/4", but I still think they'd be pretty small.

My only other note is to make sure you let these set up over night. When they've only been out of the oven for an hour or two they're way too soft. An overnight stay in the fridge seem to give them the perfect firmness. The superfine sugar is an absolute must. Don't use regular sugar! You can warm the bottom of the glass pan on the stove to help loosen the cookies' grip on the glass dish.

The book is awesome. Get it

Here's a link to the recipe

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Steve's Hot Dogs

If Steve's Hot Dogs isn't a blast from the past, then I don't know what is. This dinky little 24 hour breakfast/lunch counter on Lorain Road is about as old school, blue collar, stereotypical Cleveland as it gets.

Steve's concept is pretty simple: an array of different breakfast options arranged in a million different combinations are posted on the wall. Non breakfast choices range from their popular hot dogs, to chili, to burgers and fries.

I go there really for one thing - the slaw dog. Is it anything fancy? No. Do they serve them on poppy seed buns? No. Are they big 1/4" dogs? No. The slaw dog has nothing fancy in its cole slaw. In fact, the slaw is of the bland "straight out of the container" variety. The hot dog itself is your garden variety cheap-o, skinny little dog - again, nothing fancy. The bun, while warm and soft, is nothing that you really take notice of. I like to have brown mustard added to mine for a little bit of pizazz, but all of the elements together somehow work. It's a good cheap lunch.

The interior of the place looks like something lifted from a late night scene in Pacino's Needle Park. Go here after hitting the bars and it's hard saying what you'll encounter (which I think adds to the excitement). I love going to places like these because they are really the only functioning remnants of what's left of the old west side working class neighborhoods.

Steve's Hot Dogs
5004 Lorain Road
Cleveland, OH
(216) 961-1460

Steve's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pizza Express

I'm always looking for places within a fifteen minute drive of my house. No matter how skeptical, I'll try anything once. Enter Pizza Express. Not only do they do pizza, but they also serve...subs (which many pizza places serve)....ribs (okay, some do. Not great ones, but still)......fish (okay, now your starting to lose me)....falafel (What?!?!?). They pretty much run the gamut.

Excuse me if I was a little skeptical when I read this Pizza Express review with the title "Too Good to be True" by a Google user with one whole review under their belt

"To good to be true This one of the only pizza resturants that I have came across in a very long time, that everything that they serve, its just excellent, pizza, sub, fish, ribs, you name it they have it, and believe me the taste is out of this world, more people need to know about this place. Once you have ate there, believe me you will go back!!!"

Ain't she a beaut? Marco's called, they want their pizza back.

With such a sterling recommendation I had to try it, right? As you can well imagine the pizza could have easily passed as that of Marco's. Let's just say that if you're not close enough to walk to it, the trip is probably not worth making. Pizza Express is what it is, very inexpensive pizza that serves the immediate neighborhood around it.

Pizza Express
3971 Warrensville Center Road
Cleveland, OH 44122-6764
(216) 491-9138 ‎

Pizza Express on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gillespie's Map Room

A friend of mine was in town (by "in town" I mean staying downtown with no car), for his cousin's wedding. Since I was catching the red eye back from California and he had a wedding to attend that Saturday afternoon, it looked like lunch was going to be the only time we were going to meet up.

Since I knew he was most likely going to be eating and drinking the rest of the day, I figured we could just split a pizza at Gillespie's Map Room and catch up a little. I'm normally skeptical when people tell me a place has good pizza. In the case of Gillespie's, though, some were adamant that not only was it good - it was great. Always a sucker for the impassioned plea, I decided to give them a try.

Located in the Warehouse District, Gillespie's sports high ceilings and the long narrow room that is synonymous with the buildings in that area. Since my friend was a bit rushed and I was fresh off an all night (or partial night) flight from the West Coast we just kept things simple with a small pepperoni pizza.

When the pizza came out it looked like just an average pie (run-of-the-mill pepperoni, cheese, and crust). I don't mean to sound like it was bad - it wasn't - it's just that I didn't understand the ferocity with which some people touted Gillespie's. For me, it was just a very average pizza (served with plasticware and paper plates at the bar).

Would I go out of my way to try the pizza here? No.

If I was drinking with my friends and we ordered a few of these, would I eat a couple of slices? Sure, I just wouldn't go out of my way expecting something miraculous.

While I'm not intimately aware of the pizza shops in that immediate vicinity, it may just be that GMR is the best option in downtown Cleveland - but that wouldn't be saying a whole lot for the others.

Gillespie's Map Room
1281 W 9th St
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 621-7747

Gillespie's Map Room on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jack Frost Nipping at Your Waistline

Doughnuts: not just for cops anymore.

I love me a good doughnut. As I was coming back from running some errands on the west side I thought to myself, "You know what I haven't had in a while? A Jack Frost doughnut.

It was mid afternoon and I knew the trays were only going to be half full ('cuz I'm a tray half full kind of person). No bother, I'd take that last dozen of whatever they had left, over the first dozen anyone else in Cleveland was serving up.

The main difference between Jack Frost and the others is that most, if not all, of their doughnuts have cream filling on top. I'm not going to say that it's organic this, finest ingredients that, or in a round about way healthy for you - they're not. The frosting seems to be the same stereotypical frosting you can find at most doughnut shops, only it's on every single one. It's seems like such a simple difference that would be much a deal - but it is.

Peanut Butter Cream with Grape Jelly (forefront)

My old man used to take my brother and I to the construction site with him on Saturdays (not by choice, but because my mom made him). If we were working in Parma somewhere he'd always send someone to JF for coffee break. The taste of the cream filling takes me back to those Saturdays. (A dusty work truck with the faint smell of gasoline seems to do the same thing.)

Maybe it's because it's in an odd angled building. Maybe it's because it's old school. Or maybe it's because it's just a throwback to my childhood. Whatever it is, I just love Jack Frost.

Jack Frost Donut Shop
4960 Pearl Rd
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 351-3638

Jack Frost Donut Shop on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 10, 2011

Post & Beam

Cheesecake called me out of the blue to see if I wanted to grab a burger for lunch. Normally I would be hesitant to grub on beef after just celebrating Rib Sunday at the homestead, but I've maintained my weight through the holidays and felt I had an lb or two to spare.

The Post and Beam is your typical hole-in-the-wall Cleveland tavern that was probably going gangbusters back when the GM plant down the street was running at capacity. Unfortunately Cleveland is living its own version of Billy Joel's Allentown, and places like this have suffered as a result.

The inside space is dark - not Casablanca, "Here's lookin' at you kid" dark, but Silence of the Lambs, "it puts the lotion in the basket" dark. Once your eyes adjust (or your night vision goggles get warmed up) you see a giant U-shaped bar sits in the center of the space with a post and beam structure (which is holding up...well....nothing) framing the central space. A very curious array of computer monitors and video slot machines ring the outer walls. I can't say that I'm sure exactly how the whole thing worked, but it seemed a bit shady.

Darkness and mysterious video slots aside, we were here for the burger. I prefer to err on the plain side when ordering for the first time. The 1/3# cheddar burger with onion, lettuce, and ketchup was one healthy sized creation served on a soft potato bun. Cooked to my preferred medium (again playing it safe the first time) the patty was very juicy. Served with a side of generic frozen fries (which weren't all that bad), the Post and Beam actually surprised me.

Picture of Burger and Fries (30s, f1.8, ISO 100)

My cohort in crime had eyes that were bigger barely the size of his stomach. Weighing in at a full half pound, it took all of the fortitude he had to tamp down those last few bites. He was also had the good fortune of going back to work with a giant ground beef spooge stain on his shirt from where the juice shot out of his sandwich. Nothing says to your coworkers, "How was that leftover hamburger helper I saw you warming up when I left? Probably didn't beat my lunch!", than a big greasy treasure trail down the middle of your shirt.

There's not much ambiance here at the Post and Beam, but if a good burger and some cheap domestic macros are what you're after - you've come to the right place. I did without the beer but give the burgers two thumbs up.

Post and Beam
11790 Snow Rd.
Parma, OH, 44130
(440) 888-6303

Post & Beam on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The 2010 10 Favorite Places

I'm not going to get into too much bs about the past year's eating, except to say that I was pretty fortunate to have some pretty cool cities to visit for b0th work and vacation).

10. Pistacia Vera, Columbus - About a month ago Michael Ruhlman got absolutely ripped by Clevelanders over his gushing blog post on Columbus. Pistacia Vera is an absolutely wonderful bakery located in German Village. This is by far the most meticulously put together bakeshop I think I've ever seen. Sorry Cleveland, I haven't seen anything close to PV in these parts.

9. Sunset Grille, Boston - There were 112 different draft beers on tap. Like the crazy aunt that has chachkis sitting on every flat surface in her home (tops of window panes included), Sunset has managed to shoehorn taps around the perimeter of the space. The food is very affordable, and not your garden variety bar food. I had the pig wings special - excellent! If you go, don't drive.

8. Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burgers, Ann Arbor - The collective flavor of these mid-sized meat balls smashed into patties, topped with whatever you'd like, on a bun that is soft as an angel's pillow makes for one addictive little burger. When I return I'm not holding back. Since I was so overwhelmed by the line, burger combinations, and ordering protocol, I decided to go with a fairly basic burger. The best way to describe the ordering process is that it's very similar to sex, the first time you're about 80% sure of what you're supposed to do - the other 20% comes with experience (or at least I hope it does).

7. Brooks' House of BBQ, Oneanta, NY - I'm a huge fan of Southern Tier Brewery, but Southern Tier chicken? After this summer I'm a fan of that, too. This place has been a local favorite for well over a half a century. As you drive past on the highway way it looks like a building is on fire - that would be Brooks'. The smokehouse is more like a smoke-mansion. I had to walk all the way out to the road and still couldn't fit it in the frame of my 50mm lens. Me + Southern Tier Chicken = Pile of Clean Chicken Bones.

6. Bi Rite Creamery San Francisco - If I designed an ice cream store it would look like Bi Rite. The menu is not overwhelmingly large, but also not too small. Much like Franklin Fountain, high quality local ingredients are at the forefront. I ordered the After School Sundae which included "how the hell did they make these" graham crackers that were the perfect texture (sort of sandy), resulting in an awesome sundae.

5. Sally's Apizza, New Haven - Sally's is old school. It has a bathroom that rivals the one in Transpotting. It's cash only. It lets regulars make reservations while those out of the loop wait in a line outside. They make a pie that is a perfect marriage of bread, cheese, toppings, and most of all the dusty bits of char. (The char should be bottled). They do it at their own pace. On their own terms. And I love it. Everyone should go once in their lifetime.

4. Toronado, San Francisco - Happy hour runs from 12-6pm (actually a happy afternoon). What better way to spend 93 degree un-airconditioned afternoons in San Francisco? If you're like me you spend four straight days drinking Pliny's at $4 a crack. Rosamunde next door does hamburgers on Tuesdays that you can eat at the bar. This is by far the coolest bar I've ever been in (not cool like VTR, but cool in a beer nerd way). I was in here for 3-4 hour stretches and shot the breeze with these guys like I'd known them for years. Epic.

3. King Umberto, Long Island - Two miles down the road from Belmont Park sits a pizza place that invented the Grandma Style pizza. This thin, soft, chewy pizza totally caught me by surprise. Grandma Style falls under the category of "you've got to eat it to know what I'm talking about". All I can say is that you must, must, must try this pizza.

2. Zahav, Philadelphia - We had the opportunity to try Chef Michael Solomonov's cooking at the Alex's Lemonade Stand benefit. We walked away so impressed with his dish that we knew we were coming back to try his Israeli eatery. Zahav gives the venerable Vetri a run for its money. Solomonov hits on all points, from the decor, to the food, to the service. Philadelphia is a monster food destination that continues to open incredible restaurants like this.

1. Fette Sau BBQ, Brooklyn - I had my shirt from the night before wrapped in a plastic bag. I opened my suitcase and said to Regina, "Smell this shirt. Can you smell the smoke? Isn't it amazing?"

Smoke permeates throughout this barbecue joint. Meat is sold by the pound, and put on aluminum sheet pans. Once you've got your food, you plop down at one of a few large indoor communal tables. The bar serves up an incredible variety of beers (Captain Lawrence being one of my favorites) in mason jars. The pork is Berkshire. The music is loud. The vibe is great. Thursdays are whole hog days. I was a little bummed because I missed the Duroc whole hog by a day. This was an absolutely awesome dinner, the smoke, the meat, the beer, the music, the friends. I was totally caught off guard by the whole experience here.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Top 10's from 2010 (Mrs. Dineomite)

Top 10 Meals or Dishes from 2010
10. Almondine Cookie Pistacia Vera (Columbus, O.) - While they are known for their fantastic French macarons, this little cookie took me by surprise...packs a real almond punch with a chewy, soft center.
9. Alex's Lemonade Stand Benefit (Philadelphia) - The entire event was top notch. Highlights included dishes from Nancy Silverton, Jose Garces, Gina DePalma, Mark Vetri and crew and Michael Solmononov. Hoping they repeat this event at the Naval Yard in 2011.
8. Lemon Cake Vittorio's (Cleveland, O.) - I admit I was skeptical when my friends said that this cake was really good...from now on, I will listen to my friends. This super moist, tasty cake is really good with some ice cream. The serving is large enough to share (or stretch out over a few days).
7. Roasted pumpkin
w/ speck Flour + Water (San Francisco) - A heavenly combination. I know some people who have a family tradition of cooking speck over an open fire. They catch the fat drippings with some white bread and that's what they eat...doesn't sound fancy, but after having this dish, I understand the magical powers of speck.
6. Dulce Malted Milk Ice Cream w/ Frosted Almonds Humphrey Slocombe (San Francisco) - I went, I tried the exotic flavors (Peanut butter curry ice cream anyone?) and I pronounced this flavor as the winner. I am proud to acknowledge that Jake Godby, Humphrey Slocombe's creator and owner spent some time at The Ohio State University. His frosted almonds were the icing on this sundae...not to be missed.
5. Coconut Cream Tart
Tartine (San Francisco) - I eyed this item from the long line in Tartine the first time I was there. Two years later and back in San Fran, I wasn't going to let this pass me by...I ate it for breakfast and it was worth every bite. Now I have their book and can't wait to try my hand at making this at home.
4. Butterscotch Chocolate Pot de Creme Town Hall (San Francisco) - We do all the research in the world prior to a trip, scoping out all the "must try" items and then we discover something on a fluke...this is one of those examples. We stumbled upon this place through some obscure internet posting and low and behold, we hit the jackpot. I'd venture to say that restaurants in San Francisco offer Pots de creme more than anywhere else in the world. This version is special though...butterscotch and chocolate custard with the richness cut by pieces of butterscotch chocolate crunch.
3. Sweet Potato Fries w/ Maple Dipping Sauce Blue Smoke (NYC) - Fries have ketchup and all sweet potato fries should have maple dipping sauce. The sleeper dish of the meal.
2. S'Mores 3 Birds (Cleveland, O.) - This may usurp Moxie's Baked Hot Chocolate as my favorite dessert in Cleveland...it's no ordinary s'mores. House made marshmallows and graham crackers are paired with a decadent, pudding-like chocolate cake...the only thing better is when I get this dessert to go so that I can torch the marshmallows on my stove top and then put every component together in a symphony of deliciousness. Props to Diana Jankowski, pastry chef at 3 Birds...she does not disappoint.
1. Entire Meal Zahav (Philadelphia) - The highlight meal of the year. If you go to Philly, do not miss this place and do not pass up the tasting menu. It's the best bang for your buck. Can't wait to go back and try their other tasting menu with the roasted lamb shoulder and their Turkish hummus. The crispy halloumi is not to be missed.

10 Favorite Home Eats & Products
10. Greenburg Smoked Turkey -Spotted in the NYT and WSJ, this was a Thanksgiving present from my hubby. After eating it, I don't know if I will ever make another turkey for the holidays again. I am hoarding some in my fridge for the winter.
9. Almond Cream Tart w/ Raspberries - Not only did this have one of my favorite flavors, almond, it also had my new favorite ingredient, which is what made it so good - mascarpone.
8. Sour Cherry Tortoni - I waited ever so patiently for the sour cherries to emerge at the Farmer's Market this summer and then I pounced! Takes some TLC to make, but this was one of my best desserts of the year.
7. Spumoni Cake - Hard to come by and not often done right, I've found some of the best spumoni in town at Crostatas. Even harder to find than good spumoni, is a spumoni ice cream cake, which is why my hubby had to take matters into his own hands (literally) and make one for me for my birthday. Spumoni and yellow cake...a match made in heaven.
6. Stramondo Pistachio Cream - My pistachio obsession continues. Pistachio paste is almost as hard to come by as a Spumoni ice cream cake in Cleveland (see number 7). This product, imported from Italy, has taken my pistachio fixation to a whole new level.
5. Malted Milk Ice Cream (D. Lebowitz) - Dave Lebowitz is touted for his Salted Caramel Ice cream, but in my opinion this is his best ice cream recipe. I made it over and over again this summer and each time it was more delicious than the time before.
4. Seriously Delicious Ribs (Food 52) - These go against my husband's Big Green Egg rib cooking style, but when the BGE is covered under 2 feet of snow, this recipe brings some real good BBQ flavor into your home. Super easy and as the recipe says, "Seriously delicious."
3. Baby Swiss Cheese (Northeast Pastures) - Amish cheese from right here in Ohio. The sharpest and tastiest swiss cheese I've ever had.
2. Lemon Curd (Talula's Table) - Nestled in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, you'll find this delightful specialty shop/cafe by day and restaurant by night. Their lemon curd is like none other...super smooth and super tangy. It made for some delightful raspberry lemon curd ice cream sundaes this past summer. So good that I bought two jars the 2nd time I was there.
1. Chewy Chocolate Chip Gingerbread cookies (Martha Stewart) - A last minute entry, discovered at the tail end of the holiday baking season. You might not think it, but chocolate and gingerbread really do go together. Thanks Martha.

Honorable mentions: I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the Macadamia Nut ice cream from Harry Waugh Dessert Room at Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa, Florida. Reportedly they've been through 300+ versions of this recipe, trying to perfect it all along. I'm glad that they were persistent because it's darn near close to perfect.

Also, on a visit to Betabrand in San Francisco, some of the locals pointed us in the direction of another famous, although sometimes overlooked ice cream shop in town - Mitchell's. We were happy to discover their very purple Ube and the super tasty Macapuno (young coconut) ice creams.