Monday, May 27, 2013

Town and Country

Driving along West 25th, there are numerous buildings with murals that show the goings on of each neighborhood.

Displayed along a surface lot on W 25th Street and Church Ave, near Detroit Ave, reflects Ohio City's cycling and sidewalk cafe scene.

W 25th Church Ave Mural

A few blocks away, across from West Side Market, is the typically bustling Market Square Park of shoppers and foodies. Having taken this early Sunday morning, only a couple of people were roaming about.

W 25th St Lorain Ave Mural

Red brick is a lovely canvas, regardless of whether the fabric is worn or well kept.

- Cassaendra

Along West 25th Street
Ohio City
Cleveland, OH

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pizza Pizza

The weather was beautiful last night, clear and cool in the 50s (°F), almost fall-like, perfect for something spicy and butternut squash. Why not pizza at Crust?

We ordered our usual hot pepperoni margherita pizza -- medium, thin crust. We've had the best result with Crust's medium pizza, while not cracker crisp along the bottom, it is not soggy in the center like the large. In addition, we ordered their butternut pizza.

Crust Hot Pepperoni Margherita
Hot pepperoni margherita pizza

The thickly sliced pepperoni was meaty, salty, and spicy, but not overwhelming over the smoked mozzarella, garlic, and roasted tomatoes. One of the charms of tonight's pizza was its irregular shape, not perfectly circular.

Butternut squash pie sounds odd, but if you're open minded about pizza it is quite good, especially when it is well balanced -- sweet apple cider reduction and caramelized onions, spiced butternut squash, nutty pumpkin seed oil, smoky bacon, and sharp Danish blue cheese.

Crust Butternut Squash
Butternut squash pizza

My next pizza will be roasted eggplant, which has roasted tomatoes and red peppers, red sauce, smoked mozzarella, oregano, fresh basil, arugula, balsamic reduction, and romano. The Capocollo sounds pretty good, too, with Italian cured ham, roasted tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, basil, and olive oil.

- Cassaendra

1020 Kenilworth Ave
Cleveland, Ohio 44113
Tel: (216) 583-0257

Sunday, May 19, 2013


We discovered Breadsmith of Lakewood last Saturday and have nearly filled their customer loyalty punchcard of 12 loaves. Their bread is baked in small batches each day. A monthly and weekly calendar denotes the schedule of available loaves. Not only do they have a large variety and great tasting bread, their service is fabulous -- cheerful, personal, knowledgeable, and warm.

Our current favorite is their Greek olive focaccia with cheese -- cheesy on top and  loaded with olives, enough to flavor it but not overwhelming. We're on our 3rd loaf.

Breadsmith Monkey
Mini-monkey bread

The mini cinnamon monkey bread pictured above is also quite good, lasting less than half a day. We've also tried their sour dough, sun dried tomato and basil, multigrain, and zucchini walnut loaves, as well as the chocolate chip, sugar, and ginger cookies.

Ginger cookies are wonderfully soft. Each time we've visited, we've indulged in one. Sugar cookies were fine. The chocolate cookies are soft, thick, and chocolaty, but not as much my preference as the ginger.

For dinner, Bug served up grilled cheese sandwiches using slices of the sun dried tomato and basil loaf with Mayfield Road Creamery's smoked gouda and some American cheese. Lunch tomorrow will be herb roasted turkey on sour dough bread. Can't wait!

By our next purchase, we will have filled our punchcard. It was noted during our most recent visit that the free loaf would be the most expensive. That is a first for me.

- Cassaendra

Breadsmith of Lakewood
18101 Detroit Ave
Lakewood, OH 44107
Tel: (216) 529-8443

Saturday, May 18, 2013


We ducked in from the rain into an office building a few steps from Kumamoto Castle. Packed into a small elevator, we zipped up to Uotami, an izakaya chain. It was the first of several visits to izakaya during this trip, more times than I had in my lifetime previous.

Stepping out of the elevator into the restaurant, one is transported from concrete, traffic, and bright lights to warmth, wood, tatami, paper, and soft glowing lamps. Shoes are removed in one area and taken to a room with three walls of square-foot wooden lockers.

Kumamoto Uotami Shoe Key
Shoe key

The characters on the key slide into a slot in a matching labeled door, which is pretty nifty since you don't have to remember the exact location of the locker, except when you pick a locker with a blank key like my uncle accidentally did. The characters had been rubbed clean. Fortunately, we remembered the general area so it took two tries before he was able to retrieve his shoes.

While I'm not a big fan of random sashimi, I don't mind salmon and shrimp, especially amaebi. When abalone was part of the order, I was excited to try this delicacy. Similar to scallops with a faint fishy flavor and crunchy, but more chewy and sweeter; it was a little tougher than I expected. The mollusks are located at the bottom, 6 o'clock, in the photograph below.

Kumamoto Uotami Sashimi

The next platter that arrived was basashi, a local delicacy in Kumamoto of thinly sliced raw horse meat.   It was similar to raw beef (tried in Hida over 15 years ago), but tougher. With the shiso (perilla leaf) as a wrap and dipped in shoyu, basashi tasted like shiso dipped in shoyu. For me, shiso provides a sharpness to a dish but can overwhelm.

Kumamoto Uotami Basashi

Next up was chicken yakitori - cartilage, skin, heart, thigh, and I think liver. There are specific names for different types of skewered meat. I once asked what yakitori is called when the skewered meat is not chicken (tori) and was informed that it has become a generic term for skewered meats, so it is acceptable to call skewered beef, beef yakitori.

Kumamoto Uotami Yakitori

Their gyoza was perfectly fried, crunchy, chewy, and not too garlicky. No complaints! What was memorable about this serving of gyoza from the hundreds of plates of gyoza I have had in my lifetime was the sauce.

Kumamoto Uotami Gyoza

The dipping sauce was not just the standard shoyu, rice vinegar, and rayu. The dab of green is yuzukosho, a citrusy peppery paste made from yuzu, chile peppers, and salt then fermented, a specialty of Kyushu. I fell in love with this paste and imaged the possibilities -- in potato salad, with grilled fish, in fried rice or noodles, ramen, many dishes! It didn't take more than 2 seconds after I found a tube of yuzukosho, to purchase it. Why the delay? Question posed: How many?

Kumamoto Uotami Gyoza Sauce
Gyoza sauce with yuzukosho

Shared between 5 adults, this meal was a fantastic deal. It left me sated; cost less than $100 total; and broadened my palate by allowing me to try a number of new foods with little risk.

- Cassaendra

1-22 Kamitori-cho
Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto 860-0845
Tel: 096-324-2288

Friday, May 17, 2013

Kumamoto Castle

The packed tram ride from Suizenji Park to Kumamoto Castle took ~15 min. Visiting Kuamamoto Castle has been a bit of a dream since I was a child since I've wanted to visit that cool black castle. Unfortunately, when we visited in the fall, it rained through the day and evening.

Palace and courtyard

Windows along the base and a little higher were used to scope out the area for enemies.

Stone base with castle

As majestic as these castles appear on the outside, they are quite functional. Stone stairs near the entrance were purposely built craggy and the steps long in stride to slow invaders. Curved base walls made of stone were difficult to scale.

Kumamotojo Aerial
Aerial diorama of old Kumamoto

Two buildings within the keep are museums with castle and overhead models, and artifacts like helmets and early arquebuses, to building equipment, post and beam fittings, and screens. Both models below were quite sizable.

Kumamotojo Model
Models of the keep

The original castle was built in the 15th century. Through the years, the keep was expanded, rebuilt when certain areas were burnt from a rebellion in the 19th century, and reconstructed.

The tools that are on display weren't used for torture, but for building the castle. It's interesting to see how little certain tools have changed over time.

Kumamotojo Tools
Tools used to build the castle

A stairwell circles the center of the castle, becoming narrower with each higher level. At the top is a panoramic view through large wood frames. I wanted to stand there for much longer to drink in the beautiful mountains with treetops starting to turn. The view from the other side is of the sprawling city.

Kumamotojo View Top
View from the top

A few of the rooms were refurbished, providing us a glimpse of what parts of the castle must have looked like when it was inhabited. Below are pictures of the main reception area.

Kumamotojo Doors
Gold doors of the main reception

I haven't done the screens and ceiling of the main receiving room justice.

Kumamotojo Gold
Kumamoto Gold

Kumamotojo Rooms
Main reception room

From exquisite gold and colorful depictions of nature to clean symmetry in wood and paper, my favorite is somewhere in between. Several wooden doors were on display. This set with pheasants was my favorite.

Kumamotojo Door
Refurbished wood doors

We didn't have days to tour Kumamoto castle, so I quickly toured everything so I wouldn't regret missing anything. By the time we left, part of the grounds were closed and marched through the drizzle through a different gate forcing us to see a different angle of the castle from the outside, for which I am glad.

Time for dinner! Kumamoto is famous for basashi (horse meat sashimi), so I was going to be in for a treat!

- Cassaendra

Kumamoto Castle

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