Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Friday, November 2, 2012

Land and Sky


My father makes the best fried rice. I think it's because he lives life fully and, as a result, seasons without restraint -- but not with reckless abandon on either. Garlic, Spam, peas, eggs, onions, salt, pepper, beni shoga, and a healthy dash of furikake provides a wonderful fusion of salty, sweet, nutty piquancy in every bite.

Fried Rice Breakfast
Fried rice

Breakfast was to have been a light meal, but it was quite filling. For a mid-morning snack, I was tantalized by two flavors of Japanese Kit-Kat bars, pumpkin and vanilla. My father mentioned that Kit-Kat is very popular in Japan, a bit by chance and a bit by marketing genius. By advertising the bars with the slogan, "kitto-katsu" (go ahead, say it out loud), students and anyone attempting to overcome any challenge will "surely win" (literal translation). Neat, huh?

After we made our visits and did some shopping, we embarked on our journey to Japan. Our meal on our Hawaiian Airline flight was to have been Japanese curry with rice, then we were informed it would be Hawaiian barbecue pork. We received barbecue chicken and rice with edamame and bamboo shoots.

Hawaiian Airline Lunch HNL FUK
Airline lunch

The grilled chicken marinated in shoyu was neutral-good, neither dry nor moist. The rice was overcooked, but adding edamame and bamboo shoots is a good idea, perhaps with a little shoyu, mirin, and shiitake. Of course, I didn't eat the salsa (raw onions). Dessert was a cloying and semi-fluffy pineapple cheesecake slice. A drink that I often miss, the taste of Hawaii, passion-orange-guava juice, was offered throughout the flight.

- Cassaendra

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Whiskey and Cookies


Cupcakes.

Strawberry Cupcake
Strawberry cupcake

Cupcakes at a Cookie and a Cupcake are always a treat - from their cupcakes available daily to their special cupcakes available for 1-2 days. I've been thinking about my favorite daily flavors. Strawberry and apple come to mind immediately.

Whiskey Bacon Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Whiskey maple bacon and cookie dough cupcakes

Whiskey maple bacon and cookie dough cupcakes were specials of the day. Cookie dough was delicious, but the whiskey maple bacon was superb with its salty bacon and a large scoop of sweet whiskey maple buttercream. It's no wonder this is one of their best selling cupcakes! 

- Cassaendra

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

Friday, September 28, 2012

Goat Banana Oreo Carrot


Goat Banana Oreo Carrot
Goat cheese and fig, banana, Oreo, and carrot cupcakes

The special cupcakes of the day at a Cookie and a Cupcake were Oreo and goat cheese and fig. Second to their date pudding cupcake, the goat cheese and fig is one of my favorites. Goat cheese (chevre), not feta, works marvelously as a cupcake topping with its slightly sour and satiny texture. Slightly sweetened, I would eat mounds of this. Moist figs top off an already delicious cake.

- Cassaendra

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Unlucky


We recently went for breakfast at Lucky's Cafe in Tremont.

Short version:
We won't return.
1) Food is decent.
2) Service sucks.
3) Prices are laughable.

Long version:
We ordered biscuit with sausage gravy ($14) and pierogi with sauerkraut (~$19) -- price of my pierogi dish was calculated from the total check of $40. No drinks were ordered (I'll discuss this later).

Luckys Biscuit Sausage Gravy
Biscuit with sausage gravy

First, the flavor of each dish. Scallion biscuits and sausage gravy together were fine. Texture was fine, neither under nor overcooked, floury, greasy, nor lumpy. Bug thought it was all right, but not out of this world. The one cube of potato I tasted, tasted like...a potato. It wasn't as crisp as I would prefer. I didn't want to take another cube or I would have eaten one-fourth of them.

My pierogi were all right. I should have known better than to order something new from the menu. There probably wasn't much time to perfect the platter. The pierogi were doughy and bland. I admit that I am being picky on this point, but I also prefer pierogi to be crisp in such a way that they have a light crackle on the front end of the bite, followed by a chew, similar to gyoza.

The corn and peppers were all right. Texture was at least spot-on, crisp. The sauerkraut was fantastic - not too sweet or sour. The orange rind sprinkled atop was a creative idea. We took this idea home when we made our batch of red cabbage sauerkraut.

Luckys Pierogi
Pierogi and red cabbage sauerkraut

The service wasn't serviceable. I'm not sure why I left a tip. I usually walk out of a restaurant if we are not acknowledged within 5-7 minutes and it is sufficiently staffed; what we have done here previously.  If we're interrupting someone's day by our presence, then why bother?

Bug was very patient and asked me to calm down. We waited 15 minutes before we were acknowledged and inquired about our drink order. As a result, even though he wanted to order coffee with his breakfast, he decided against it fearing that he would end up choking down his meal on a bone dry coffee mug.

Granted their niche is local sourcing of ingredients. Even if the potatoes, wheat, corn, cabbage, and grapes, were organic and sprinkled with droplets of Himalayan water from a leaf, this breakfast experience wasn't worth $40.

We're lucky to be in Cleveland where there are an abundance of restaurants to not have to return to unsatisfying establishments.

- Cassaendra

Lucky's Cafe
777 Starkweather Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
Tel: (216) 622-7773

Friday, September 14, 2012

Breakfast


Panera bread is a hit and miss affair with us. My first visit over 10 years ago was enjoyable with a well made sandwich. Five years ago, several ingredients were out and the service, or lack thereof, left a bad taste so we didn't feel a need to return.

Before we set out for our drive to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, we decided to grab a bite to eat. Actually, this was going to be my second breakfast (shh!). Panera was on the way.

Panera Sausage Egg Panini
Sausage egg panini

We ordered sausage and egg panini and sausage gouda egg souffle. I took a few bites of the panini. It tasted like it looks - a bit dry. The egg was not bland, fake tasting, nor rubbery as many other fast food restaurants.

Panera Sausage Gouda Souffle
Sausage gouda egg souffle

My sausage gouda egg souffle, on the other hand, was much tastier -- saltier, buttery, flaky, and warm. I would order this again, but the price teeters at just barely acceptable, around $4.50, for a pastry around the size of a hockey puck.  

- Cassaendra

Panera Bread
17090 Royalton Rd
Strongsville, OH 44136
Tel: (440) 846-0377

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bubba's Q


Bubba's Q is a local rib joint in Avon, OH created by a former Cleveland Brown football player, Al "Bubba" Baker. We didn't expect to see the restaurant sitting on a gravel lot in a metal building. It reminded me of the great rib places in Tennessee. Upon walking in, the restaurant appears smaller with around 20-25 tables.

Bubbas Q Building
Storefront

We were seated quickly; however, it took ~8 minutes to be acknowledged, followed by a ~5 minute wait for water service. A rough start, but the service was all right once the food order was placed. Our bread basket with dinner rolls and corn muffins arrived a few minutes later. I should have waited until after the food arrived to devour my warm, puffy corn muffin. Barbecue sauce and chili with corn muffins are like fried Spam slices with white rice, a cosmic food pairing.

Bubbas Q Bread Basket
Biscuits

We ordered a sampler ($14.99) of beef brisket, fries, barbecue sauce, pulled pork, ribs, and chili. The brisket was fattier and not as smoky as expected. Doused in tangy, sweet, and smoky barbecue sauce, the pulled pork and ribs were all right but tough. Bug was forced to eat most of the sampler, with the exception of the zesty chili.

Bubbas Q Sampler
Sampler

Since we ordered the sampler, I wanted to try something different so I ordered the TurQue dinner ($13.99) despite not being a big fan of turkey. It wasn't very smoky, so I doused a few bites with barbecue sauce. The salty green beans were my favorite. I'm not being sarcastic (I'm very sensitive to salt). There was something about it that was addictive.

Bubbas Q TurQue Dinner
TurQue dinner

As expected, Bug made a bee-line for their baby back ribs. Of course, since he's a guy, he ordered a full rack ($22.99). When the plate arrived, I laughed loudly. It was a ridiculous amount of ribs. He was only able to eat 4 pieces of ribs -- partly due to being full from the sampler and mostly from the tough and bony ribs. We left with a heap of leftovers. Bug ate my TurQue and gifted me with his ribs, so I ate a few bones.

Bubbas Q Baby Back Rack
Full rack of baby back ribs

The food at Bubba's Q was fine, just not our glass of sweet tea. While I prefer to support very small independent restaurants, etched into the flavor center of my brain are Famous Dave's tender Memphis style dry rub baby back ribs; smoky, lean, and very tender beef brisket; a variety of tasty sides; hot custard-like bread pudding with pecan praline sauce and vanilla ice cream; their very affordable prices; good service; and convenience. It's quite an insurmountable hurdle.

- Cassaendra

Bubba's Q
820 Center Rd
Avon, OH 44011
Tel: (440) 937-7859

Monday, September 10, 2012

Candy Corn Cookies


Oreo Candy Corn Half
Candy corn fun

Seasonal food gimmicks are fun like candy corn, cocoa cat Peeps, Reese's pumpkin peanut butter cups, and, now, candy corn Oreos, a Target exclusive. Since I prefer the sugary filling over the chocolate cookies, the candy corn filling not having that caramelized honey flavor wasn't particularly horrid but disappointing. I have a feeling we won't be seeing these on Target shelves in a couple Halloweens.

- Cassaendra

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Koka


A much anticipated box arrived from a good friend of mine that included one of my favorite foods -- noodles! I tore open the box and discovered packets of Koka brand curry and mi goreng noodles from Singapore. These were high recommended by a local Singaporean while he was there.

Koka Curry Noodles Wrapper
The packet

Since we've signed up for Fresh Fork Market (CSA), we always have fresh vegetables and eggs. This was our first week receiving Brussels sprouts, Hungarian peppers, and yellow pattypan squash. Corn and eggs were part of our bag the previous week.  Leftover bamboo shoots and a sprinkle of shichimi togarashi, and I was good to go.

Koka Curry Noodles
Steamy bowl of yum

The amount of noodles packed was twice as much as expected and not as temperamental as some instant noodles are, with an ample al dente window. For a powder only base, the soup had a rich curry flavor that was pleasing to my palate. Cumin was neither overpowering nor bitter, with a nudge toward the sweet curry spectrum. How fortunate I am to have such a sweet friend! He took great care in transporting this fragile cargo to the US evident by the noodles arriving in perfect condition. (Thank you!)

- Cassaendra

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Strip


Pennsylvania is one of my favorite states to drive through with multitudes of lush mountains resulting in quaint villages and a variety of bridges to cross through, over, and under.  Since we had a couple of places to go to in Pittsburgh and just half a day to accomplish this, we didn't have much time to smell the roses.

One of the PA Turnpike Bridges
Somewhere along the PA turnpike

We weren't sure what to expect when we arrived at the Strip, a district of repurposed warehouses converted into clubs and shops in downtown Pittsburgh along two streets -- Smallman St and Penn Ave.

The Pittsburgh Public Market takes up several loading dock spaces. Brightly lit, the small market is a busy place, but not obnoxiously so. The walkways were clean and wide enough without having to rub shoulders walking along stalls of fruits, vegetables, soaps, prepared foods, and textiles.

A little further along were a couple of nifty looking buildings with clubs and a haunted house. It would have been interesting to walk into one to see how or if the upper floors are utilized.

The Strip Clubs
Clubs along the Strip

Further along Smallman St, I noticed a crowd snaked into a small door leading into a hole in the wall and people trickling out of another door with containers of doughnuts. I stood in line and found out it was a line for doughnuts at Peace, Love, and Little Donuts.

The regular doughnuts were dry, so I ended up eating the toppings and leaving the a bit of topping and the rest for Bug. Maple bacon and Treehugger (granola) toppings were good - no surprise. After we got home, I was disappointed to find out this was a national chain and one in the west side of Cleveland had been open for several months.

Peace Love Little Doughnuts
Mini doughnuts

Grudgingly, Bug toted around the box of doughnuts as we came across the breakfast place he had heard about and wanted to try. Packed with people waiting to get in and being carbed out, he decided to pass it up.

Adjacent to a McDonald's along Penn Ave is a church converted into a nightclub. Bug and I have often joked about opening a club in a large old church. The older and more gothic, the better.

The Strip Altar Bar
The Altar

It would have been great to catch Rammstein when they played there, or My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, scheduled to play on Monday, October 22nd!

- Cassaendra

The Strip
Smallman St
Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ikea


We didn't hear the trumpets as we entered Ikea on our second visit like we...I...did on our first visit.  Because we don't have room in our postage stamp place to buy furniture, Ikea is a different store for us -- a place for contemporary, interesting, and/or inexpensive doodads and utensils, and, most importantly, a dining destination.

Ikea sits atop the highest hill in the ~100 acre Robinson Town Centre, a mega shopping mall. Their dining hall is a spacious cafeteria on the second floor, surrounded by two walls of glass and outdoor seating with a gorgeous view. Unfortunately, I didn't think to take a picture.

At the front of the line are self-serve refrigerated cases with plates of desserts, salads, and appetizers, followed by warm items served upon request, then a self-serve salad bar. Cups are given for water and soda at the register.

Beckoning from behind the cold glass door was a beautifully dressed plate of Najad salmon ($4.99), cold smoked and cured with dill, served with lime-marinated root vegetables. Along with a small bowl of salad greens, the substantially thick slices were supple and filling; a perfect traveling lunch that did not weigh heavily in my belly. The vegetables were decorative and didn't add much flavor.

Ikea Najad Salmon
Najad salmon

Bug ordered the Swedish meatball meal ($3.99), which includes mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam. For $1.00, he received another 5 meatballs. The meatballs are firm but not rubbery, evenly textured, and have a spiced and oniony flavor. Lingonberry jam augments the meat with a sweet and tartness that is akin to a bite of a Thanksgiving feast with dressing, gravy, and cranberries.

Ikea Swedish Meatballs
Swedish meatballs with lingonberry

Apple pie with vanilla sauce ($2.99) concluded our trip to Ikea. The vanilla sauce doesn't have very much flavor just sweetness so it is unnecessary to enjoy the spiced apple pie. On our first visit, the apple pie looked neater, but this was still quite presentable.

Ikea Apple Pie
Apple pie


A nice incentive at the store is a free meal when $100 is spent. The price of the meal is taken out of the total purchases made.

I am not going to say that the food is "just like grandmother's," but the dishes are tasty and phenomenal for its price point. We don't normally purchase soda, but I had to try the lingonberry soda offered from their drink dispensers. I regret not buying lingonberry syrup so we could make the sweet-tart soda at home.

- Cassaendra

Ikea
2001 Park Manor Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15205
Tel: (412) 747-0747

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sweet Moses


After seeing "Iron Sky" at the Capitol Theater, we stopped by nearby Sweet Moses, a beautiful soda fountain shop right out of the 1950s located in the Gordon Square district of Cleveland.  The parlor is brightly lit and polished to a sparkly shine.

There are so many treats to drool over offering ice cream churned on-site, malts, phosphate sodas, milkshakes, egg cream, sundaes, floats, egg shakes, candies, and sweet snacks.

Sweet Moses Prep
Temptress behind the counter

We shared a Temptress egg shake made with egg, milk, orange syrup, raspberry syrup, and cherry bitters. This isn't like a "milk" shake, thick and icy, but a deliciously complex, eggy, creamy, crisp, effervescent, and sweet elixir with a foamy head.

Sweet Moses Temptress Egg Shake
Egg shake

On our first visit, we ordered a blackberry phosphate soda. Phosphate soda is made with phosphoric acid, which contributes a tangy flavor. The skill of the soda jerks make these drinks addictive. It has taken a lot of willpower to keep us from visiting more often.

This was our second time here and our second time devouring a Gordon Square sundae. Made with Bananas Foster ice cream, caramel, and hot fudge served over a brownie. Each time, the brownie has been fantastic. The dense, rich chocolate retains its texture to the last bite.

Sweet Moses Gordon Square
Gordon Square

"Iron Sky" is an outrageously funny movie about Nazis having fled Earth in 1945, built a base on the dark side of the moon, then attempting to take over the world in 2018. While this is a comedy science fiction, this isn't a flat, cheap looking film. It has a great steampunk art deco feel. Also, one of my favorite bands from Ljubljana, Laibach, worked on the soundtrack.

- Cassaendra

Sweet Moses Soda Fountain and Treat Shop
6800 Detroit Ave
Cleveland, OH 44102
Tel: (216) 651-2202

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vero


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 Margherita
Margherita

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.

Vero Margherita Under
Margherita upskirt

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.

Vero Carne
Carne

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.

Vero Carne Under
Carne upskirt

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.

Vero Pistachio Affogato
Pistachio gelato affogato

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.

- Cassaendra

Vero
12421 Cedar Rd
Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
Tel: 216 229-8383

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cleveland Jeni's


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.

Jeni's Chocomole
Chocomole

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.

Jeni's Juniper Lemon Corn Blackberry
Juniper lemon and sweet corn with blackberries

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.)

- Cassaendra

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
67 North Main St
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022
Tel: (440) 247-2064

Monday, August 13, 2012

Slyman's


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.

Slyman's Corned Beef
Corned beef sandwich

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.

Slyman's Potato Salad
Potato salad

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?

Slyman's Cole Slaw
Coleslaw

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!

- Cassaendra

Slyman's
3106 Saint Clair Ave NE
Cleveland, OH 44114
Tel: (216) 621-3760

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Coffee Pot


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.

Coffee Pot The Don
The Don pictured without pancakes

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.

Coffee Pot Banana Can Shortstack
You can, toucan

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.

Coffee Pot Banana Can Shortstack Half
Guess not

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.

- Cassaendra

The Coffee Pot
12415 Madison Ave
Cleveland, OH 44107
Tel: (216) 226-6443

Monday, July 23, 2012

Half Baked?


Tomato soup and grilled cheese baked into a cupcake. Yes, it really exists and it wasn't just tomato cake with a wedge of grilled cheese on top nor a gimmick like dirt Jelly Bellys from 10 years ago.

Tomato Soup Grilled Cheese Cupcake
Tomato soup and grilled cheese cupcake


Wendy and SynDee of A Cookie and a Cupcake phenomenally captured the essence of the savory-sweetness of tomato soup, dialing up the latter, into a moist, tasty, and memorable dessert. Oh, and the grilled cheese was crisp and buttery.


- Cassaendra

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

Barrio


After enjoying the tacos at Barrio at the Taste of Tremont earlier in the week, despite the last taco swimming from the downpour as we sat alone out in the open, as hundreds of people around us scampered in all directions to take cover. Half an inch of rain collected in our platter within 5 minutes. Bug still enjoyed the wet taco (that sounded awkward).

Conditions were much better on our first visit to Barrio -- low 70s (°F), dry, and windy. We don't normally select patio dining, but we invited Bear and Bear's dad to join us. With it being such a lovely day, dining outdoors in the shade couldn't have been more splendid

Tacos are $3 each and made to your specification by selecting from printed checklist slips of paper available at each table. You choose:
1) the type of shell (flour, corn - hard or soft);
2) protein (various meats, fish, beans, or tofu);
3) numerous cold vegetables;
4) cheeses (queso fresco, manchego, chihuahua); and
5) an abundance of salsas and sauces.

Pre-set tacos are not offered except for the taco(s) of the day, which were $4 each on the day we went. 

Barrio Chorizo Tofu
Chorizo and tofu tacos

I ordered two tacos, one that I was positive I would enjoy and another was an experiment:
1) hard shell with chorizo, lettuce, tomatoes, queso fresco, and Barrio secret taco sauce ("mucho caliente")
2) soft shell corn tortilla with tofu (yes), lettuce, tomatoes, manchego, and guajillo sauce (tomatoes and dried guajillo peppers)

The order slip noted their chorizo is made at the restaurant. It was fantastic -- salty, smoky, spiced, and peppery -- and went well with the crisp lettuce, tomatoes, nutty hard shell, and salsa. There was a nice tickle to the sauce but by no means caliente.

The tofu taco, on the other hand, was a big miss. I don't know if it was the tofu, guajillo sauce, manchego, or the combination, but the sweet barbecue type sauce was unexpected and wasn't my thing. I'll try tofu again, but with more straightforward ingredients, especially if it is not served automatically with that sweet sauce.

Bug created two tacos:
1) flour tortilla with chorizo, lettuce, queso fresco, and chipotle crema
2) flour tortilla with pulled chicken, jicama with strawberries, manchego, and Barrio secret taco sauce

Barrio Chorizo Chicken Jicama
Chorizo and chicken strawberry jicama tacos

I can't think of an application where great tasting chorizo would taste awful. Perhaps dessert, then again I can't knock it if I haven't tried a serious effort. Tomato soup and grilled cheese cupcake was incomprehensible until I tried it at A Cookie and a Cupcake. The chipotle crema added a sultry smoky flavor to the smoky spiced sausage. I haven't decided which chorizo taco was better, mine or his.

The jicama and strawberries were an interesting blend to the pulled chicken taco. I had never knowingly had jicama before so I was looking forward to trying it. It has a texture of daikon with a subtle flavor. The strawberries didn't really contribute much.

BLT and Korean BBQ were the special tacos this evening. Both tacos were made with very thick cuts of pork belly. I love mayonnaise in many things, so I knew these were going to be nifty tacos as both were accompanied by different mayo based sauces. Adding a zestier oomph, the BLT taco was better than an actual BLT sandwich. 

Barrio BLT Korean BBQ
BLT and Korean BBQ tacos

Marinated in Korean barbecue sauce prior to grilling imparted a slight sweetness to the pork, not cloying like many American barbecue sauces. Pickled vegetables mimicking kim chi provided a nice crunch and tartness. The creamy spicy mayo was fantastic binding all the flavors together.

Barrio was much better than we expected for being a new establishment during the heart of dinner rush on a Friday night sandwiched between two parties of 10 and 12 on the patio. I've had a lot worse tasting food and service at other restaurants with much fewer customers. I look forward to our next visit to Barrio.

- Cassaendra

Barrio
806 Literary Rd
Cleveland, OH 44113
Tel: (216) 999-7714

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Taste of Tremont 2012


The Taste of Tremont took place on a rather warm day that could have been worse. The midday rainstorm that flooded the area was fun.

SouthSide Home Wrecker
SouthSide's Home Wrecker

We walked the entire length, extended from last year, of the festival first to get an idea of what we were going to spend our $20 on, if anything. The extension was made up mostly of food trucks.

I've wanted to try Michael Symon's famous macaroni and cheese at Lolita's stand ($5). It was a lot like alfredo. We washed down our food with Lolita's mint lemonade ($2). 

Lolita Mac Cheese
Lolita's mac and cheese

Barrio, a taqueria that opened recently, was one of the busiest stands serving three types of tacos for $4 each or three for $10.

From left to right:

House made chorizo -- Thai basil summer slaw, Asian barbecue sauce, flour tortilla


Barrio black beans -- Thai basil summer slaw, Avocado goat cheese spread, flour tortilla
Cilantro lime grilled chicken -- Thai basil summer slaw, queso fresco, spicy mayo, flour tortilla


Barrio Tacos
Barrio's taco trio

Since the Thai basil summer slaw was mixed with raw red onions and the chicken had a cilantro sauce, I took a small bite of black beans and chorizo.  I am typically underwhelmed by black beans, but these were tasty (perhaps cooked in broth and garlic or onions) but a bit salty. It left an impression on Bug to encourage him to want to go to Barrio when, previously, he was disinterested at least for another few months.

- Cassaendra

Lolita
900 Literary Rd
Cleveland, OH 44113
Tel: (216) 771-5652

Barrio
806 Literary Rd
Cleveland, OH 44113
Tel: (216) 999-7714

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tsukuneya


My father and I went to Tsukuneya for dinner last November. As is always the case in our adventures, he chose a great spot. What makes this restaurant different from other Japanese restaurants is the region-specific cuisine of Nagoya and tsukune.

Across the street from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I felt like I stepped through a wormhole as I walked into a structure I passed by daily for 8 years and, instead of entering a standard-build Pizza Hut, arrived at a warmly lit izakaya.

Tsukuneya Interior
Pizzakaya

This was my first trip to an izakaya where I actually perused a menu. My previous visit was during a visit to Japan, when I was too young.

Not being a fan of raw radishes as a main ingredient, as opposed to grated into a sauce, due to its overwhelming bite and peppery flavor, "shiso gelatin" was all I needed to read in the description of their daikon salad to place my vote for this dish with only a bit of trepidation.

Tsukuneya Daikon Salad
Daikon salad + sake (background)

My first serving of daikon was a pinch, small in proportion to the other ingredients. Expecting a sharp snap, I was surprised when the crunchy daikon sticks were sweet with an essence of daikon and a subtle peppery finish. The shiso-yuzu gelatin lent the salad an acerbic spark with a hint of licorice. If I were still a student at UH, I would definitely stop in for this dish many times.

To my father's disappointment, chicken cartilage was unavailable. Instead, he ordered grilled gizzards and chicken thighs. The gizzards were pretty tough and gamey as I expected.

Tsukuneya Gizzard
Gizzards and thigh

I don't recall having ever eaten grilled musubi (nigiri) with soup before. I gobbled up the nigiri before my father could explain that I was supposed to eat the rice in soup. Since the rice is grilled with shoyu, it won't get too soggy from the soup as well as it contributing a nutty flavor.

Tsukuneya Musubi Soup
Grilled musubi with soup (not pictured)

For this vocal onion despising person, I proclaimed to my father that the onion kakiage was my favorite dish next to the daikon salad. What is so special about this batter fried onion stack? Sweet and mild Maui onions. It really helped that the onions were cooked completely through. I was a bit peeved there was only one piece of shrimp. It was good, but why even bother?

Tsukuneya Onion Shrimp Tempura
Onions + 1 shrimp tempura

I didn't get a great shot of the dengaku tofu, grilled tofu basted with sweet miso sauce. An order comes with four rectangle pieces skewered with bamboo, shown in the background to the left of the tempura stack (above). 

We ordered another type of nigiri, tenmusu, another specialty of Nagoya. "Tenmusu" is a shortened form of tempura musubi. M and n are interchangeable in Japanese much like in English, depending on what follows. Rice at a real Japanese restaurant is always delicious. Our musubi were filled with shrimp tempura.

Tsukuneya Musubi
Musubi

For dessert, there was a choice of various Haagen Dazs ice cream flavors, Japanese gelatin, housemade annin tofu (almond jelly), and Monkey Ice. While I certainly love almond jelly, the choice here was obvious: Monkey Ice. It didn't matter what was in this dessert. How could one not select a dish named Monkey Ice?

Tsukuneya Monkey Ice
Monkey Ice!

My father and I enjoyed the fried banana with vanilla ice cream. Our love for vanilla ice cream must be genetic. I think I may have enjoyed this dinner more than my father. Each dish was new to me, so it was definitely an adventure.

- Cassaendra

Tsukuneya 
1442 University Ave
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 943-0390

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