Friday, October 17, 2008

A Cookie and a Cupcake

A great new store opened up today in the neighborhood! The much anticipated A Cookie and a Cupcake, at least for us. Since we've been taking Akemi out for walks, we've noticed a few new stores opening in the area.

For the past 6 days, we walked by staring through the storefront window watching the two women busily baking, turn to wave at us, and signaling how many days until they opened. A cute flyer hung on the glass door that also had the number of days crossed out until they opened.

An open sign! I cheered, "Yay!" as I rushed in (what husband and puppy??). I eyed each cupcake and cookie several times. One of the owners felt bad seeing sad puppy dog eyes belonging to a pretty girl sitting outside obediently in the brisk breeze, and invited Bug in.

Akemi's eyes lit up and she began to lick the owner's nose with her velvety tongue while she cooed, "puppy kisses." Bug held Akemi close to him and mainly stayed to the back, as far from the counter as possible. The owner scrubbed down and asked us what we would like.

What would I like? I didn't want to seem so indecisive and waste her time.

luxuria gula avaritia superbia

I couldn't decide which ONE to buy, so I bought 6 cupcakes. We bought their special (the one that looks like Cookie Monster), carrot cake, red velvet, lemon, German chocolate, and strawberry cupcakes. We did not get the espresso, peanut butter crunch, and chocolate cupcakes because we had to leave something for people coming in after us. There were also a couple of delicious looking cookies with chunks of fruit and white chocolate as well.

Just after taking these pictures, Bug and I immediately split three cupcakes in half -- the red velvet, lemon, and strawberry. I was too busy to document our progress pictorially. They wouldn't have done these cupcakes justice under poor lighting and decrepit batteries anyway, as evidenced by the included pictures.

In general, their cakes are moist and each had its own generously spread deliciously distinct frosting. They were light, but not frothy, gritty, nor too sweet. It was not like eating bland sugar army helmets over sand.

The strawberry cupcake consisted of slices of fresh strawberries atop the strawberry frosting, white cake, and a custard filling. It was a very nice balance of fresh fruit, cake, and frosting. I'm a sucker for strawberry frosting.

The red velvet cupcake had cream cheese frosting and filling. I love red velvet cake. It's rare to find it prepared anywhere and rarer yet to find it done well. The creamy frosting is a solid complement to the dense cupcake. The color contrast worked well too!

The pairing of flavors for the lemon cupcake was delicious. The cake was topped with buttercream frosting and 3 curled raspberry sugar candy shaped like miniature rounded eucalyptus leaves. While the raspberry filling may look funky if you aren't expecting it, it rounds out the citrus well. The raspberry crunchies are a flavor and texture treat.

The carrot cake cupcake was decadent. The cream cheese frosting and filling were ooh invoking, and the carrot cake was amazing. It was extremely moist, studded with carrot slivers and fresh pineapple chunks. It is not an exaggeration when I say that this is the best carrot cake my taste buds have had the indulgence of meeting!

The German chocolate cupcake was wunderbar. While I am not a fan of chocolate cakes, this one hits the spot. I think it's because it's not sweet, nor is it bitter. The umm German chocolateness (that nutty coconut frosting) and the buttercream frosting sweetens the cupcake just right with every bite.

I tell ya, they are selling themselves short. The store should be named, "Cooookies and Cupcakes, Me Want Nom Nom Nom." Okay, maybe that's too long.

My favorites were the carrot cake and the German chocolate cupcakes. Bug's favorite was the carrot cake cupcake. *snarl*

It was great to see Akemi's eyes light up as they oohed and aahed over her puppy breath. I'm sure she can't wait to return.

Yes, that's it.

- Cassaendra

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

Monday, October 13, 2008

O Sole Mio

As a result of a mysterious coin toss by Bug, we ate at "heads," which turned out to be Antonio's.

I've been curious about the place for many years because I figured it has to be good if it's been there for so many years, right? If Drew Carey ordered 45 pizzas to be flown to LA, it has to be incredible. Parma has a million pizza joints, and to be the Chosen One it has to be awesome.

Warning sign #1: An employee there told us a couple years ago that their lasagne was from Stouffer's. Not a knock on Stouffer's since they do a lot of business with restaurants, but this is an Italian restaurant, not a [pick a random ethnicity] restaurant that has a couple of Italian dishes to appease the non-lovers of [pick a random ethnicity] food who tagged along with a friend who was craving Italian.

Warning sign #2: The decor was kitschy. I mean REALLY kitschy. All the seats were covered with plastic and, at least at our table, the chairs wobbled. Okay, maybe they had their share of heavy customers and if I had a lot of kids coming in sucking spaghetti noodles, maybe I might cover my entire place with a plastic tarp.

Warning sign #3: Pizza toppings can be added but not subtracted. I was really excited that I could have Bug try a real deep dish pizza, but after reading that, we were both very suspicious.

We shared an order of fries ($3.95) and a muffuletta with a green olive spread ($9.50). The fries were all right; fried to order with a saucer of ketchup. They didn't have that heat lamp sogginess to them. The muffuletta was okay. I didn't expect it to be as sweet as it was. The bread was okay. The meats were on the salt-lick-salty side. The olive spread was okay. I didn't realize muffuletta were so greasy and messy.

The last time we had one it wasn't that messy. We had it at a fellow WoW player's workplace, a restaurant in North Royalton, French Quarter Cafe. The couple who own and operate the restaurant are energetic and it is evident they love what they do. The made-to-order pizza was damn good. The soup, which was clearly advertised to be from another source, was quite tasty that I wanted more! We gorged while we were there and, yes, we paid for everything. It's been a couple years since we have gone there. Time for another visit!

The service at Antonio's was memorably mediocre. Every time Bug needed a beverage refill he was asked what he had to drink or he had to correct the server. She did come around often so at least he wasn't sucking on cooled air.

It felt weird when I saw our server behind Bug standing and eating a pizza slice off a stack of clean dishes passed out to diners for their appetizer. Not sure why, but I can sort of overlook that, even though that's probably something servers shouldn't be doing. I figured if you're hungry and it's busy, you have to stuff your face some time.

Now or never, heads or tails, sun or rain; I'm thinking never, hoping for tails, and wishing for rain.

- Cassaendra

Antonio's Pizza & Spaghetti
7401 West Ridgewood Drive
Parma, OH 44129
Tel: (440) 886-2511

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Down in the Park

Today was Akemi's first time outside of the neighborhood where she could get out and it didn't result in a shot.

There was a district cross country meet going on at the park so it was full of screaming kids and adults. I'd say at least 1,000 people were there expressly for the meet and waiting to pet our little brat...err princess.

Mingling with the locals

Akemi took to the park quickly and felt right at home. A cute stray tabby was very friendly and actually walked over to talk to Akemi, then followed her around for a little while.

I wonder whose bike that is!

I love the rings around the cat's tail. I wanted to take it home with me!

After we moved away from the cat, Akemi pounced on every puffy dandelion that was in her path and then ate them, chased after leaves, strained at her leash to meet up with every dog.

It doesn't matter how big the dog is. If she's close enough, she'll walk around the dog sniffing for a few seconds. After that, she'll either stand there quietly or she'll hop around and bark at the dog.

Sandy tootsies

After we walked across the confusing cross country course and dodged a few kids running their timed events (they were confusing!), we walked over to the beach. Bug and I were curious how Akemi would react to sand and a body of water. Hell, we still haven't given her a proper bath yet.

She appeared a bit confused by the sand. I'm not sure if it was the texture or the smell. She didn't move for a few seconds, then she dipped her nose into the sand. The nose print was cute, then she began to eat the sand and seashells, which wasn't so cute.

Oooh! Lots of free water!

We pulled her closer to the edge of the lake. She wasn't scared at all, and began licking the water.

A gaggle of little kids with flushed and shiny cheeks stopped by to see Akemi and her sandy nose. She was a bit preoccupied with the water, but still made time for her fans.

Driftwood teasing Akemi

She caught site of a piece of driftwood calling out to her. Being Akemi, she HAD to have it. She hopped around at the edge of the water, even going knee-deep into the water, trying to get to the piece of wood.


Alas, it wasn't meant to be. After several minutes, she barked at the driftwood a few times and walked away.

Water cooler gossip

After being out for an hour, we took a break. More kids came by to pet her. We even had a shadowy silhouette screeching "how adorable!" under the shade of the willow.

The attention doesn't really bother us. We didn't expect it when we brought her home. What annoys me is when people, adults even, ask whether Akemi is a cat or pet her and say she's a cute cat. Uhh, what?

View from the pier

I didn't know the park had a pier. Bug carried Akemi as we walked down the concrete pier in the event there were fish hooks carelessly tossed about along the walkway. People would fall off the pier in fright if they heard her wail if she stepped on a hook.

When we got home, Akemi was ready to take a nap. So were we.

- Cassaendra

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Right Ahn!

Bug has been a touch under the weather (allergies? cold?) and wanted something spicy. We were thinking about going to eat pho at our usual cafe, Superior Pho. At the last minute, he decided to go to a brand new Korean cafe and noodle shop in the same little plaza where Superior Pho is located.

Ha Ahn is located in the tiny space Superior Bakery took as their 2nd home after they moved from their huge space that faced Superior Avenue. I really miss walking into the cavernous 2-story high ceiling with exposed brick space, the aroma of fresh baked pastries displayed along the perimeter, both sweet and savory. I'm not sure where Superior Bakery is now.

To get to the restaurant, you go through the alleyway back door of the plaza and walk through a narrow, brightly lit hallway, past Superior Pho's clear glass facade. The restaurant is brightly lit, simple, and very clean. The cozy, narrow space has 4 white tables that seat 4, 3 white tables that seat 2, and a hulking single door soda refrigerator.

The choices are fairly slim compared to other Korean restaurants, but some of the selections at the larger restaurants I have little interest in trying just yet. The menu lists ramyun, udong, kim chi soup, kim chi bokum, bulgogi, kalbi, kim bap. I was a little surprised they didn't have mandoo.

As I do with all new restaurants, I tried the tried and true dish that I have gotten at other restaurants. Bug was in the mood for beef, as usual. So we both ended up ordering the same dish, bulgogi ($11.95).

Okay, that sounds totally unimaginative, like going to a Japanese restaurant and ordering chicken teriyaki and California rolls or going to a Chinese restaurant and ordering chow mein or beef fried rice, egg roll, and beef broccoli.

For banchan, we were presented with bok choy kim chee, daikon slivers, leek kim chee, salad greens with dressing, eggplant, and a sweet pickled green. I liked the eggplant and the salad the most. The salad dressing was tasty - sesame oil, pepper, and HOT. We saw no red to signify how hot the dressing was going to be. The eggplant had a firm but smooth and creamy texture with a deep sesame flavor.

A tall, slender Asian lady in a long, dark coat stirred the atmosphere when she walked in with her male companion and gossiped about the bakery that was in the suite as if no one was occupying the space, at least in her dimension. She walked over to the waiter and asked for a take-out menu. Bug remarked that the waiter appeared as though he had expected her to order and return the menu, as he looked surprised when she placed the menu in her purse. Poor guy.

The woman then turned her attention to the soda refrigerator and garishly pointed out all the contents in the fridge. She exclaimed, "Oh, look at all the little fishes." Bug's eyes lit up. The couple chatted about other restaurants in the plaza and walked out.

After that distraction, I asked Bug not to eat all the banchan before the food arrived. He picked at the last leek in the bowl. Immediately, the waiter removed the bowl and returned with more leeks. We were shocked. This has never happened at any Korean restaurant we've been to, here and in Honolulu.

The couple who were in the restaurant before we were, received their appetizer order of kim bap, a plate of ~12 pieces of sushi. It looked pretty good as a dish can look blurring by. I might try it out for dinner some time. It was listed at ~$5, if I recall correctly. There are no pictures, since I feel weird taking pictures in a really small restaurant.

Finally, our sizzling platters arrived. My glasses fogged over from the steam. The aroma was intoxicating.

Bulgogi comes with onions. I detest onions. BUT I don't care for ordering it without onions as it does impart a necessary dimension of flavor to the dish. I pawned off the onions to Bug...nicely. I didn't want it to seem like I was angry. After all, it wasn't their fault that my platter was half-filled with those noxious slivers.

After that transfer was done, his platter was heaping! Apparently, the waiter and another person in back were watching as I redirected the onions to Bug. Bug said they appeared concerned, but did not say anything.

Bug hoovered up 3 different banchan bowls, and immediately the waiter removed the empty dishes and replenished them. Wow.

Oh, the bulgogi was sweet and a little salty. The meat was tender, thinly sliced, and was not fatty. The portions were generous, considering how much I removed from my plate. At Korea House, after I picked out the onions, I was left with a nearly empty platter - a heap of slivered carrots and some morsels of beef.

I really want to order bulgogi again, but I'll likely try something else. The food didn't knock my socks off, but the service did. I want to return; however, passing up Superior Pho as I walk to Ha Ahn will be my test of conviction.

Bug LOVES those Korean little dried fishies that can also be found in Japanese stores but without the peppery zing. Since we didn't have to look in the soda refrigerator to know what was in it, like an automaton, I opened the cooler door without looking and picked up a small container of fishies ($3.45) to take home.

If you think the title is cheesy, blame Bug!

- Cassaendra

Ha Ahn Korean Restaurant
3030 Superior Ave E
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 664-1152

Sunday, October 5, 2008



The decisions a puppy must make! Pee versus Play.

For her, this was just another day -- time to go out to the yard to run around and do the doo. Little did she know that we were going to take her far from the familiar surroundings of the yard, down the block to the park! Oh boy!

As she pulled us further away from the house to the park, she kept looking back at us as if wondering, "Is this really okay?"

At the same time, she pounced on every leaf that blocked her path. When we finally got to the park, I saw all the leaves littered across the walkway and the grass and thought, "Oh jeez, this is going to take forever."


We pulled up to the first bench near the edge of the park, which was 15 yards away from a play area where there were a few kids. Akemi was mesmerized with the screaming, laughing, and jumping.

Want to play with kids!

Still mesmerized, she tugged at her leash wanting to play with the kids. Until she found something more interesting in her path...

Ooh, gravel!

Gravel. She picked at it and tried to eat it. Some kids came up with their mother and Akemi got really excited. Not only is she a drama queen, she's an attention whore. She jumped up and down like a bunny when she heard the girls and mother screeching, "HOW CUTE!" They fawned over her, as she's accustomed to being treated, soaking up everyone's adoration.

She even piddled a little.

- Cassaendra

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