Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nunzio's Pizzeria

I was driving through the area on my way to go see a friend. Since this is not a regular route for me, I figured I'd try Nunzio's Pizzeria on my way over there.

From a citywide perspective, these slightly out of the way or relative unknowns can yield some pretty good results. Since this place has been in business for twenty years and had a banner proclaiming "Best in Cleveland 2009 and 2010", I figured at the very least would be good, possibly even great pizza.

The takeout only location I went to on Lorain had quite a few people inside picking up their orders (they also have a location on Detroit and one on Pearl). I was in and out in short order. Service was fast and friendly.

In a matter of minutes I had the box open and was ready to grub. At first sight the pie looked very good. They didn't chintz on the cheese, pepperoni, or the sausage. The crust looked like it was perfectly cooked, maybe even a little overdone. For me, I would rather it be slightly overdone rather than underdone. Nothing sucks worse than underdone doughy pizza.

The Pie

So I take the first bite had absolutely no flavor. I thought maybe it was just me, but by the second piece it was quite obvious that for whatever reason the pepperoni and sausage were positively bland. Unfortunately the cheese was not even up to the task of saving the day. Sure it tasted fine, but it had a strange mouth feel to it.

Would I recommend Nunzio's? Stone cold sober? No. If, however, you have consumed a large amount of alcohol, there is a very real possibility that you will blame the lack of flavor on drunkeness. The staff is fast and friendly. The place is very clean. I just don't think it's very good. A switch to more flavorful toppings would probably put Nunzio's in the good category.

Nunzio's Pizzeria
7020 Lorain Ave
Cleveland, OH 44102

(216) 631-4149

Nunzio's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Momofuku Shrimp and Grits

There are two kinds of people, those who love David Chang and those who hate him. I happen to be a lover. Er....maybe that didn't quite come out right. More specifically, I love his cookbook.

Since recently completing my programming project from hell (for work), I have found that I actually have time to cook dinners that require more time to make. I actually decided to make Chang's Shrimp and Grits recipe, since I had pretty much pillaged all of North and South Carolina of their grits. On my way home from Augusta, I bought three different kinds of Anson Mills heirloom grits at Rosewood Market in Columbia. I also bought some other kind of non Anson Mills brand that came highly recommended.

From there I got sidetracked on my way through North Carolina where I ended up at a place that mills their own grits using a....get this.....water powered gristmill. The place was so old that the road was named after the mill (and I'm not talking about some bullshit cul-de-sac either. This was like a real road, named after an old school place!) While I was there, I ended up scoring a large jar of cane sugar molasses that you have to taste to believe. Fifty dollars later I was able to make my way back to I-77.

They start out as "True Grit" (until they meet the whisk)

So here we are, up to our eyeballs in grits.

The Good Stuff

While I was gone the bride ordered me up some bacon from Benton's in Tennessee. If you've not had this stuff...well....let's just say you haven't lived. If you go on the internet you can ordered pre-sliced, but since we prefer it uncut from the slab, we just call Allan directly. Great stuff. Ellis uses it over at AMP 150.

The Soft Poach

I also decided to try making the soft poached eggs from the cookbook, and I have to say the instructions worked perfectly. The key was that you had to use something to keep them off the bottom of the pan and the water temp between 140-145.

The Finished Product

So at the end of the day here it is......Blue Corn Anson Mills grits, Sauteed Shrimp, with bacon and a soft poached egg.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The S'mores Ice Cream Sandwich

The S'mores Ice Cream Sandwich

It doesn't take much to make me happy. While grinding away on a project that has dragged on for the better part of three months, my wife surprised me with this little beauty - a S'mores Ice Cream Sandwich (homemade graham cracker ice cream sandwich with Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams' Askinosie dark milk chocolate ice cream, topped with burnt Plush Puffs marshmallows).

We are both self professed S'mores whores. (Sounds dirty, I know, but to invoke an extremely overused phrase 'it is what it is').

Looking at the picture some might think that she burnt the hell out of the marshmallows, but in this house that's the way we like it. What can I say? That's the way we do. The more burnt, the better...i.e. let's set this sucker on fire and see what it can do. Who doesn't like a little campfire action on a Sunday night?

Regina's tried other graham cracker recipes...this one from Nancy Silverton was acceptable, but in the end she declared that Karen DeMasco's crisp honey graham crackers from "The Craft of Baking" as the ultimate. Interesting story about how Graham flour came to be.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Survey of some Local Pizza

It's been a while since I've ripped off a multiple pizza review. I had an absolutely cracker of a pizza on Saturday night, but in all fairness it deserves its very own post. Come to think of it, there's another place that puts out a mean pepperoni and sausage, has a pretty good rolling draft selection, and an outdoor patio. I'll save that one for when it gets a little warmer.

This is a sampling of some decent pizzas, but nothing that is going to make any top ten lists.

I have one other thing on my mind. Restaurant Owners: It is now 2011. Get a FREAKING website. I think the last time I looked at a phone book the country's biggest problem was that the Bush twins were drinking underage. (It's been a while.) Seriously, just put a list of how much your stuff costs and your phone number, that's all I need.

Ohio City Pizzeria
OCP (Yeah you know me! Who's down with OCP? Every last homey!) is a neighborhood pizza shop that turns out a typical Cleveland type pizza. The dough is thicker than you find on the east coast. The toppings are consistent with most of what you find around town. There's nothing that really sets them apart. The shop itself is more geared toward carryout than it is for dine in. The staff was friendly (and even a little amusing). I got a five minute explanation as to why they had run out of takeout menus. It was almost like she thought I was going to hit her because they didn't have them. OCP has a heavy hand with the cheese, which can give you the "rabid dog eating a dirty diaper look" as an entire slice worth of cheese drapes itself over your chin. So sexy.

Ohio City Pizzeria
3223 Lorain Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113

(216) 281-5252

Ohio City Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Pizza BOGO
I had high hopes for this place. Let me just say that the store was ice cold. I'm guessing with the heat lamp they might have neutralized the frigid temperatures in the building. I'll say this: the website is really sharp looking - until you try to use it. When I go to a restaurant's website my primary objective is to look at the menu. That is not any easy thing to do. To see what I mean click here. How many minutes did it take you to figure out what a certain pizza costs?

The pictures of their pizzas make drool slide from the corners of your mouth. Like most things in life though, the pictures lie. Unfortunately I wasn't able to lift off any photos from they're snazzy Flash powered website. I will, however, share with you the picture of my meat lover type pizza. (I tried to find the actual name but got fed up with the website). Let's just say the pictures didn't quite match up. Needless to say, I'd skip this place.

Dude, where's my toppings?

Pizza Bogo
13434 Cedar Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

(216) 371-9700
Pizza Bogo on Urbanspoon

Vicinato Pizza and Pasta
I'm going to make this short and sweet - Compola's Tasty Pizza is across the street. Go there and thank me later. I had the white pizza at Vicinato P&P and thought it was very average. It didn't help that I hated the way the guy at the cash register was talking to one of the employees. Move on.

Vicinato Pizza & Pasta
5080 Mayfield Rd
Lyndhurst, OH 44124

(440) 442-9000

Vicinato Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon

Scotti's Italian Eatery
Let's end this on a high note. Be forewarned: Scotti's is CASH ONLY!!! With that out of the way, they're serving up pretty good pizza here in Euclid. This smallish restaurant serves it up to the red sauce crowd, and I have to say the place was hopping for a Thursday night in Euclid. A bar welcomes as you walk through the door, with a stout dining area mixed with booths and tables off to your right. The pizza itself had lightness to the crust that made for easy eating. The toppings are for the most part run of the mill, but on the plus side does not run high on the grease scale. I walked away definitely wanting to go back. Unfortunately, I don't find myself in that neck of the woods very often.

Scotti's Italian Eatery
882 E 185th St
Cleveland, OH 44119
(216) 481-8995

Scotti's Italian Eatery on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Joe's and Jeni's

Joe's Deli over on Hilliard, in Rocky River has a massive following. It's pretty much packed all day long on the weekends, and pretty full the rest of the week. West Siders love this place. If I had to describe it, I'd say it's got the feeling of a Perkins (carpeted floor and overall decoration) with the menu and service of those large diners you find on the East Coast (the ones that have the shiny chrome and are also always packed). I think it's more like a diner than a deli, but whatever.

I ordered the Philadelphian which consisted of hot pastrami on rye with sides of yellow mustard and prepared horseradish. The sandwich comes with a pickle split in half lengthwise as well as a fruit cup. Since the sandwich didn't come with fries, I made the mistake of ordering a side ($3.75, ouch!). First off there were a lot of them. Secondly, they weren't cheap. And once they arrived, the sandwich was so big I couldn't come close to eating all of them.

The pastrami was surprisingly very good. Not just, "Oh, nice. I like the way that tastes." But, "Day-yam! I just wasted my $3.75 on those diamond encrusted french fries that I'm not going to have any room for." Slaw (good) + horseradish + yellow mustard + pastrami = fries in the trash.

I was very skeptical about how tasty the food was going to be versus what they charge, but like anyone that sells anything that is reeeeeally good, whether it's Steve Jobs, the local crack dealer, or Joe from Joe's Deli, they have calculated precisely the threshold at which someone says it's not worth it and walks away, or can't help themselves and stays.

Joe's Deli charges a premium, but the service is very attentive, the place is spotless, the food comes out quickly, and most importantly tastes really good. It's the kind of place you can take someone of any age, with any level of palate sophistication and everyone will be happy.

Joe's Deli
19215 Hilliard Blvd
Rocky River, OH 44116
(440) 333-7890

Joe's Deli on Urbanspoon

Cheesecake (my brother-in-law) and I went to the Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Chagrin Falls last Friday night around 10. I have to say, it's been a while since I've seen that many intoxicated middle-aged people (which is saying something since I just got back from the Masters last week). I mean, seriously, more than a few customers were incapable of pronouncing the flavor 'Brambleberry'.

I'm not one to jump to the newest restaurant openings, but Jeni's has pretty much got it's formula down by now, so we figured we'd grab some dessert. The only real criticism I have of the place is that you don't even know they sell sundaes until you make it to the cash register. In the back corner of the store is the menu with the sundaes they offer. I think something a little more visible from the ice cream case would at least let people know they even offer them.

The Cocoa Rococo sundae (dark chocolate ice cream topped with their caramel sauce, whipped cream and nuts) is quite the after dinner treat. I have it on good advice that the Pistachio Honey ice cream sandwich (or what they call a macaroon) is very popular as well.

Some will pass on Jeni's because of the price. Some will pass because of the drive. If neither is a problem, then why not have dinner at Umami and dessert at Jeni's?

Jeni Britton Bauer also has a book coming out in June. If your like us and make ice cream at home, these home adapted recipes should be pretty interesting.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
67 North Main Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022

(440) 247-2064

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Chowhound Wack Job

I'm a huge fan of Chowhound, but sometimes people can really come up with some interesting threads (and I don't mean in a good way). Take this one entitled: Vacuum Food Sealers. The only reason I clicked on it is because I'm actually in the market for one, but not for the reasons this lady is.

From what I can gather, this woman is afraid that solar flares in 2012 are going to somehow interrupt the food supply chain and wants to be able to freeze food for possibly years. A vacuum food sealer would go a long way to get all of that air out of the package before she puts her pork chops into their long, long slumber. Excuse me, but isn't one of the biggest fears from these flares a possible loss in power? I'm guessing she's also doing her research on $100,000 solar arrays to run the gigundous freezers she'll need to hold her multi-year, vacuum sealed, food stash.

I, too, am afraid of an event in 2012, but it's not going to occur until the first Tuesday in November.......

BTW, if any of you guys have any recommendations let me know.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Washington Place Bistro and Inn

We had the good fortune of celebrating my brother-in-law's birthday at Washington Place Bistro and Inn. Formerly the old Baricelli Inn, the space has had new life breathed into it. The new owners have gotten rid of the tired '80's/'90's decor, and lightened the mood a bit with a brighter, more contemporary, and less stuffy atmosphere.

One reservation I had was that the interior might be better, but the food wouldn't be on par with what Paul Minillo used to do inside these walls. Fear not. The quality of the ingredients as well as the thoughtfulness of the menu is superb.

I shared the Shrimp and Grits with my lady friend (my first wife) for our appetizer. Since she's a spice wimp she picked out the chirozo and gave it to me in a nice, neat little mini pile. Since I'm a shrimp wimp (okay, I'm not. In fact there's no such thing.), okay, okay, okay, I ate my share of the shrimp, too. Good dish, but what did you expect from a grits whore like myself?

Feeling particularly porkalicious, and always up for anything sweet and spicy (just like my women, er...woman), it was the cider brined pork chop with jalapeno and scallion spoon bread and Chef's Garden spinach. I thought that for $19 it certainly represented a good value. Regina actually said she wished she had ordered the pork chop as well. (She got scallops and thought they were okay, but not that exciting.) Well, duh, their scallops!

Since the dessert flight was going to be taking place back at my crib, we didn't get a chance to sample any of the desserts.

Clearly the new regime here on the Corner of Cornell and Random have done their due diligence. The restaurant has been updated all the way from the bathrooms to the deepest corner of the dining room. The quality of ingredients is top notch. Chef's Garden produce, Jeni's Ice Cream, Western Reserve Bakery bread are all being used on the menu. What I really like is the menu is affordable. It's someplace that you can come for a special occasion and everyone will find something they like. (There's no 'weird food' as my dad call's it.)

For all of the upgrades to the property, quality of ingredients, and quantity of food, I think Washington Place Bistro and Inn represents a good value.

Washington Place Bistro and Inn
2203 Cornell Rd
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 791-6500

Washington Place Bistro and Inn on Urbanspoon