Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
I feel like a sham in my quest for "great pizza" because it's not in my blood, so to speak. I've only begun to willingly eat pizza in the past few years and I'm not Italian.
We need to start with what my ideal pizza is and see if it matches yours to glean whether or not reading further will be a waste of time. There are millions of blogs out there, thousands talking about pizza, and hundreds talking about your favorite style.
My ideal pizza has a very thin crust, crisp on the bottom, but not like a cracker, with a bit of char and a slight chew on top. I prefer a dry bottom (anyone lose their appetite?) and crust with a touch of flavor that separates it from cardboard. Margherita ($9.00) is my favorite.
Vero's sauce has a fresh tomato flavor without an acerbic bite. Mozzerella is dense. I love basil, so I would have preferred more! The degree of smoky char was spot on. Crust flavor was all right. I would have preferred a touch sweeter bread.
My one gripe is soggy bottom towards the middle. The only way slices could be consumed without using a fork and knife was to fold slices in half horizontally.
Bug decided on their carne pizza ($13.00) -- a meaty combination of tomato, mozzarella, spicy salami, prosciutto, and chorizo. The pie was meaty-delicious and stuffed a bit more than I expected.
Again, the center was a bit soupy. I don't have a solution. If I did, I'd sell my own! It is, at least, consistent.
Service was awkward. While it wasn't particularly poor, it was not good. After we ordered, several suggestions to order additional dishes were made. When we declined, there was a moment where we stared at each other. The restaurant was empty, so there was no reason to make us uncomfortable and chase us out.
When you walk into the restaurant, it is impossible to ignore the gelato case of 18 flavors at the center of the space. For dessert, I debated between espresso and gelato. The description for affogato sounded perfect - espresso poured atop gelato ($5.50).
The gelato is apparently made by the same people who made gelato when the space was La Gelateria. I regret not stopping in when they were still in that space. Even though we drive by the area fairly regularly, it is not a destination for us.
Sultry tiramisu, smooth hazelnut, comforting vanilla, ...with seventeen other flavors available, I would eat/drink a mug of nutty and creamy pistachio affogato every day.
I look forward to returning in a few months to see if there are any changes. At this point, however, Scott's Fire and Ice continues to serve my favorite pizza in the city despite the variability in doneness over weeks.
12421 Cedar Rd
Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
Tel: 216 229-8383
Thursday, August 16, 2012
This reminds me of a commercial that aired a year or so ago where a father asks his son if he ate a bag of cheese snacks. The kid looks at him innocently with an orange ring around his mouth.
For weeks, I walked by this storefront wondering if this was just a random piece of desk/table curio without practical purpose. I suppose proclaiming you're a dog lover or your attitude about your workplace counts as a purpose.
They are wall hooks!
Jeni's, the ice cream boutique based in Columbus popular for creative seasonal flavors and locally sourced ingredients, has a store in Northeast Ohio. With a couple of detours, it took less than an hour to drive to Chagrin Falls; shorter than the 2-1/2 hour drive to Columbus. Like the Short North location, the store is in a skinny long space and brightly lit with clean lines.
Bug ordered their Chocomole, a sensory playground gone haywire - in a good way. Queen City cayenne ice cream, caramel sauce, whipped cream, a sprinkle of crunchy cinnamon sugar, peanuts, a salty-sweet chocolate disc with crunchy crushed Fritos, a waffle cone wedge, and a luscious cherry covered in chocolate.
After several spoonfuls of the ice cream, one cannot ignore the delightful peppery tingle folded into the rich Mexican spiced chocolate. According to Jeni's website, this flavor was originally called Mexican chocolate until it was renamed Queen City, a nod to nearby Cincinnati's chili, with its Greek flair (allspice, cinnamon, cloves).
I ordered a scoop of juniper lemon and a scoop of sweet corn with blackberries. The herbal, almost pine-like, clean flavor of juniper leaped out from the more subtle lemon. Sweet corn augmented the very berry blackberries by providing a rounded sweetness.
We are very pleased that Jeni's is finally in the area. However, I am still torturing myself over the one that got away - the earl grey ice cream sandwich that I saw while we were at their Short North store in Columbus. (Obviously, I checked and didn't find it during this trip.)
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
67 North Main St
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022
Tel: (440) 247-2064
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Ah, no. We didn't strap reindeer antlers to our dog, Akemi.
We visited the zoo recently and no one could coax this reindeer to come out from behind the tree. What does one really say? Here, reindeer, reindeer, reindeer? And why would it want to come out to a bunch of screaming kids?
I don't recall ever seeing velvety antlers. From where we were standing, they appeared soft like a puppy -- it probably isn't and likely doesn't smell as adorable). The velvet is scrubbed off once the antlers are fully grown and appears as we frequently see them drawn - bony.
Monday, August 13, 2012
When it comes to corned beef sandwiches, Cleveland's favorite, Corky and Lenny's, Jack's (no write-up), and Slyman's rise above the din. We've finally tried the most famous of the triumvirate, Slyman's, visited by celebrities and even a previous US president. The reason it has taken so long is a conflict between my work schedule with their hours of operation -- Monday through Friday, closed at 2:30 p.m.
I was a bit anxious prior to visiting since there is so much written about how long their lines are, the staff being brusque, patrons being testy, and so forth. We made it a point to visit at 10:00 in the hopes the restaurant would not be as packed. I crept through the doorway, peeped my head in expecting yelling and people jammed in a cubbyhole sitting on top of each other.
Raucous chatter between staff and old-time customers greeted us. The dining area consisted of a counter and around 20 tables seating 2-4 in two rooms, of which there were around 15 patrons seated. One of the walls is a Three Stooges shrine. Our server was a friendly and attentive woman who likely knew this was our first visit as we studied each line of the menu.
We ordered the obvious: Reuben (Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, grilled rye, Thousand Island dressing) to share (~$12.50), as well as side orders of cole slaw and potato salad ($2.50 each). Slyman's offers a number of dishes that aren't centered around corned beef. I wonder how many people order their tuna salad sandwich or barbecue beef brisket.
At first, Bug was skeptical about sharing one sandwich between two ravenous adults until the behemoth arrived several minutes later, followed by our hefty scoops of potato salad and coleslaw. A jar of horseradish sits at each table, and a cold squeeze bottle of Thousand Island dressing arrives so one can apply as much as ones heart desires. Bug apparently desired much from the picture below.
Without hinged jaws, what surely must have been at least a 5" stack was cut down by more than half, where the extra corned beef was hoisted to the other side of my plate and devoured gleefully with the slaw and potato salad. The meat was moist, lean, wafered, tasty, yet not overly salty -- the best I've had.
If you like mayonnaise-moist potato salad without raw onions, you'll love the potato salad here. With the inclusion of carrots and cucumbers (or fresh kosher dill pickles), the potato salad was reminiscent of Hawaiian style potato salad. As a result, I gobbled up 2/3rds of it. I would have felt guilty, but Bug prefers onions and a lot of mustard in his potato salad.
The coleslaw was good and creamy. It was not screwed up by the addition of onions, horseradish, mustard seeds, apples, cheese, or any number of other ghastly things people add. Why do people fiddle with coleslaw without any warning?
I walked out feeling like a glutton having only eaten half a sandwich...and most of the potato salad and half the coleslaw. The one downside of splitting a sandwich is sharing their fresh kosher dill pickle. Fortunately, this predicament is easily resolved by ordering another pickle.
Between the three restaurants, Jack's wins overall for their price, service, availability, and menu. However, Slyman's easily wins for their sandwich, and their service is fantastic, too.
Breakfast (corned beef with eggs!) is served until 11:00 a.m. and the lunch menu is served as soon as they open their doors at 6:00 a.m. When I am in the mood for a corned beef sandwich early in the morning on a weekday and off work, I now know where to go. We're not just settling with any old corned beef sandwich, too!
3106 Saint Clair Ave NE
Cleveland, OH 44114
Tel: (216) 621-3760
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Since I'm not a fan of American breakfast foods, I know very little about area restaurants with the best biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, home fries, and so forth. Bug had a serious craving for biscuits and gravy, so I read reviews online for a couple of hours and decided on the Coffee Pot in Lakewood under the assumption that all breakfast places serve biscuits and gravy.
Intrigued by what a "banana can" was, I ordered the Banana Can shortstack (~$3.00). Bug ordered the Don ($6.85) -- bacon, sausages, eggs, home fries, grits, and a choice between toast or shortstack. They didn't have biscuits nor gravy, and yes, I felt bad. Numerous mentions were made online of their amazing toast. Bug chose the shortstack.
Grits, bacon, and sausages were fine; although, you really have to try to mess them up. Good eggs and home fries, on the other hand, are pretty subjective. I didn't try the eggs, but I couldn't stop pecking away at the home fries. The potatoes were crisp and addictive, with an appropriate amount of chopped onions, salt, and pepper that even a raw onion hater could appreciate.
A shortstack is merely two thin discs of pancakes where one actually fills up on toast and coffee, right? Not here. Firstly, toast is not served by default. It is either part of a platter or ordered ala carte.
Primarily, these flat cakes are hefty. They don't look like much sitting on a plate without context, but I was barely able to finish half of my order even after sharing a few pieces with Bug. As for the "can" bit, I expected it to mean that a can was used as a template to shape these flapjacks. The circumference was awfully large. Coffee cans?
When my plate arrived, I noticed two firm, brown protrusions. Playing surgeon, I excised the objects. Hah, pecans. The pancakes were fluffy and moist, with a sufficient smattering of banana chunks and pecans. I was excited with the prospect of enjoying them as leftovers. Since we eat pancakes less than once per year, we don't have syrup. However, we always have a jar of Nutella sitting in our cupboard.
The service bordered along mediocre to fair. Our server was nice when she came around. Bug's coffee mug sat empty at the edge of the table for over 5 minutes, after our order was placed and condiments were dropped off at our table. Meanwhile, another table had their coffee warmed up. Additionally, our food sat at the counter for 5 minutes just a few feet away while she fidgeted behind the counter, hovering around one of the couples until they coughed up their payment.
I would have been loved to walk into the kitchen and leave the cook a tip. One day, restaurants will pay servers a standard wage. If the restaurant doesn't normally fill 3 tables at a time or customers have a habit of eating and running, then my apologies for being overly critical on service.
As for Bug's opinion, he proclaimed that we will no longer eat standard American breakfasts at a restaurant unless we have guests in town or we are on the road. At least we didn't go the restaurant I read a review on that served circular-punched toast as biscuits. Livid would not begin to describe Bug if that arrived at the table.
The Coffee Pot
12415 Madison Ave
Cleveland, OH 44107
Tel: (216) 226-6443
Saturday, August 4, 2012
There really is a live critter in this photo, not an imagined one formed by negative space. A male (blacker head than female) robin sits on a wire with straw for his nest.
Without much to update beyond this picture (Week 03/52) taken 2 weeks ago, first with the wonky weather and not wishing to chance carrying my camera and encountering sporadic deluges of rain to which we've been prone, then getting out of the habit of carrying a camera, I felt much regret this morning when I encountered my very first damselfly.
With four horizontal opaque black wings and an iridescent green-yellow line along its black body, I initially thought I encountered a dragonfly. When I arrived home, I plugged my description online and found out the insect was a damselfly, something I had never heard of.