Han Chinese Kabob & Grill

October 19, 2014

IMAG1268Some friends and I recently dined at one of Asiatown’s newest (it opened this summer) and most unique restaurant, Han Chinese Kabob & Grill. Han Kabob (as I will call it) is located in the small strip mall on Payne Avenue just west of E. 40th in which Map of Thailand and Koko Bakery are located. It is small, yet turns out consistently good Northern Chinese food. The decor is modern without all the kitschy Chinese trappings. They are appealing to a younger, more modern diner and attract a lot of students in the area and from as far as Kent and Akron. The diners around us were mostly young Asian-born students, which lent it a great vibe. It is also open late, usually until 10:30 or 1:30 PM (note: they are closed on Wednesdays).

They are the only Chinese restaurant in Cleveland to serve grilled meat kabob skewers, such as grilled lamb, chicken, beef, squid, and other choices. IMAG1274Not all of the skewers are served every day, but the signature lamb kabobs are. The lamb kabobs are marinated and garnished with lots of cumin and spice and grilled fresh.

There were eight of us, and we were seated at a comfortable table that allowed us to talk easily amongst ourselves and pass our food around. We are a bunch of sharers, so we were all able to try the numerous dishes.

IMAG1270I started my meal ordering the lamb kabobs for the table and a wonton soup. The wonton soup was quite a large portion that could easily serve two. It featured five or six wontons, lots of fresh bok choy and carrot strips in a flavorful broth. The wonton lover in me savored every dumpling. The wontons had a nice pork filling, and I really liked the addition of the cabbage to the soup.

Ordering an entree was a tough decision, because there were several things that sounded wonderful to me. Luckily someone else planned to order my first choice, the crispy fish in a sweet and sour sauce, so I ordered the pork with garlic sauce.IMAG1271 I loved it. It had a nice subtle spicy kick to it. The pork was cut into thin strips and served with some vegetable strips and chilis. The large bowl of rice for the table cut some of the heat.

IMAG1276I have to say that out of all the entrees that the table ordered the whole crispy fish with sweet and sour sauce was my favorite. The sauce was not at all the gloppy orange sweet and sour stuff that is so ubiquitous at Chinese restaurants here. As you can see from the picture it was a brown sauce that was scrumptious. It was delicious and was worth the wait (we aren’t sure if it took that long to prepare or if the waitress forgot to put it in to the kitchen, but it came out after most of us were finished with our meal). The fish was crispy outside and perfectly cooked inside. I particularly loved the bright sauce and the fresh ginger and aromatics served on top of the fish. I can’t wait to go back and order this again for myself.

Some of the other dishes we enjoyed included the Yuxiang Shrimp (which had a sauce that was very similar to my entree’s garlic sauce), a spicy lamb special (which was even better than the kabobs with a nice jalapeno kick to it), a chicken dish, the shredded potato salad (pictured to the right), IMAG1273a crispy squid special, and a pork belly with pickled vegetables that was very similar to sauerkraut and pork.

Several tables of Chinese diners were enjoying a huge boiling pan over a tableside grill. It was the Hot Pot, which was described to me as a kind of Chinese fondue in which various meats and vegetables are boiled in broth.


Picture from the Han Chinese Kabob Facebook page

It is apparently the ultimate test of Chinese spiciness. Choose what you’d like to cook in the soup: ultra-thin beef slices, cabbage leaves, needle mushrooms, potato slices, etc. It’s a secret menu item for the brave souls only – some Chinese people can’t even handle the spicy level!

I was a bit dismayed to note that there were no drinks offered other than water and tea – at least our waitress didn’t offer any to us. But on the bright side I was not tempted to order a cocktail or soft drink, which my diet appreciates. The restaurant was great. The bill was very reasonable. There was not a single dish I disliked. Everything here was delicious, and we all left very happy.

Contact info:

Han Chinese Kabob & Grill
3710 Payne Avenue
Cleveland, OH
(216) 769-8745


October 12, 2014

IMAG1027Chef Jonathon Sawyer and his wife Amelia recently opened Trentina, a northern Italian inspired restaurant in the old Sergio’s location, to much fanfare this summer. They raised funds to open the restaurant on Kickstarter, and it was successfully funded in March 2014 by 206 backers. They exceeded their $21,999 goal by $18,000. The food is inspired by the Trentina Alto-Adige region of Northern Italy.

The night before I started my diet I met some friends at Trentina for one last hurrah. I can’t imagine a more perfect way to end an era. The portions are small, but 12 courses can add up. The courses change with the season, so this review no longer reflects what is being currently offered. In fact, it was no longer accurate a week later. However, several of the stalwarts have not changed. As the Cleveland Scene explained, “Trentina is not for every diner, but rather foodies with a capital “F” who seek out once-in-a-lifetime meals flush with one-of-a-kind creations.” This is fine dining at its best. The 32-seat Trentina focuses on Sawyer’s “Menu Bianco,” a daily procession of tasting courses served in small courses, priced at $100 per diner (purchased in advance and non-refundable) or $115 (if paying at time of dining) – not including beverages, gratuity and tax.

IMAG1020We added the wine tasting for an additional $40, but I would recommend just ordering a couple drinks as you go. We simply couldn’t keep up with a new wine with every course and at one point had four glasses each in front of us. One of my dining companions chose not to order the wine tasting and enjoyed a cocktail customized to her tastes by Trentina’s beverage director Nate. The cocktail with a coffee ice cube was divine. She also enjoyed one of my wines.

We were immediately greeted and escorted to a table. We had tried to get a reservation for 6, but the restaurant could only accommodate our smaller table at an earlier time, which necessitated some of my friends dropping out. The restaurant became packed over the night and quite loud, which is due to the interior design. With mirrored tables and bare walls there is nothing to muffle sound. We had trouble hearing the explanations of the various courses at some point, so please bear with me as I try to recreate the evening.


Primi Assaggio

The first course, Primi Assaggio, featured Crusto di Polenta, Charcuterie alla Trentina and Vegetables from Larder & Fields. In our case, the polenta was flash fried to a crisp parchment wafer, the charcuterie was a house-cured meat and pickled carrots.

Caviar and Ciccoli

Caviar and Ciccoli

This course featured sumac, cucumber and puffed pasta. I didn’t so much as think “pasta” as I did the puffed shrimp chips you get at a Chinese restaurant. At this point I was thinking, “Oh, I don’t think this is for me.” I quickly changed my mind.

Suet candle

Edible candle

Next up they brought out a candle molded out of aged beef suet, edible 24k gold leaf, honey and crunch salt, which melts into a dipping sauce for the crusty baguette that is brought out later.

Crostaceo Crudo

Crostaceo Crudo

This course started turning me around. The crustacean (conch?) was poached and served on a bed of sea foam. The flavors that stood out were apple and citrus. This innovative dish was a lot of fun.

Sable Fish Al Cartoccio

Sable Fish Al Cartoccio

This next course was my favorite of the night – a white fish and foraged mushrooms in a parchment paper. The paper sacks were cut open at the table and steaming, and the sauce was then poured into the parchment. My sauce was a pea puree. I loved the flavors of this. When it came time to revisit a favorite course this one was a very close second.

Crusty bread to accompany the suet candle

Crusty bread to accompany the suet candle

The edible candle had melted down at this point and was a delicious accompaniment to the fresh, crusty loaf of bread from On The Rise Bakery. I love On The Rise. They are the best bakery in Cleveland, so it is not surprising that I loved this course.

Pasta alla Chitara

Pasta alla Chitarra

This next course was another one of my favorites. Normally served with an Ohio farm egg, mine was served without the egg to accommodate my egg allergy (they asked at the beginning if we had any allergies or dietary restrictions, which I appreciated). The pasta is cut with a chitarra, which is a “guitar-stringed” pasta cutter. This long pasta was dressed in a very rich sauce made of egg and lentils. I don’t know what they chose instead of egg, but my pasta did not lack the creaminess of the pasta of my fellow dining companions. The pasta my fellow diners enjoyed had an egg is cooked on a wooden spoon in embers, which is then carefully placed over the pasta along with a bit of the ember to the side.

Pasta Cuscino

Pasta Cuscino

This was almost everyone’s favorite course. The Strangolapreti (pasta dumpling) is stuffed with Formaggio Che Cola and coated with what I believe to remember were nettles and served with a reduction of cabbage, onion and Spicebush (a foraged berry). This seems to be the stand-out dish of the restaurant and the one everyone talks about.

Game birds roasted with embers

Pasta Cuscino

This was the other Pasta Cuscino course. It was a pasta stuffed with crown tipped coral fungus.

Game birds

Game birds

Game birds roasted in embers was the next course. My course featured guinea fowl, foie gras, sauce of oxidized wine, and morels. There was also some kind of lentil or grain served with it. This was a nice bite of bird.

Beast roasted with embers

Beast roasted with embers

This course featured my favorite bite of the night. Although the beef was excellent and perfectly cooked, my favorite was the cauliflower puree. In fact, when it came to revisit a course I decided to just get a portion of cauliflower puree. It was that good.

Primi Dolce

Primi Dolce

This palate-cleansing sorbet was topped with a light yogurt sauce. It was a nice intermezzo before the desserts.

IMAG1023 IMAG1025

IMAG1026These three Dolce desserts were the perfect end to a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The course is billed as “fruit and cream.” My dessert was the raspberry one on the right. The berries were in season and they were accompanied by what tasted like crispy milk balls.

The meal ended with a final course, Grazie, which was a bite of gold chocolate, but I failed to photograph it. I don’t know how I did that.

Trentina is now serving lunch as well as a 7-course Pasta Degustazione tasting menu for $60 and an a la carte dinner menu that changes with the season. However, I highly recommend the 12-course Bianco menu if you are looking for something special.

We walked out of the restaurant full, happy, and, as one diner stated, “so lit” from all the wine. This is definitely a great choice for a special occasion like an anniversary. Chef Sawyer and Executive Chef Matt Danko are outstanding chefs who are passionate about serving local ingredients in a unique way. The service is impeccable and you will be pampered every step of the way.

Contact info:

Restaurant Trentina
1903 Ford Drive
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 421-2900

Sanctuary at the Doubletree Hotel in Beachwood

October 10, 2014

IMAG1243I was invited to Sanctuary’s media event Monday night before they opened on Tuesday, October 8th. Normally I turn down or ignore unsolicited publicity requests, but when I heard it was another venture by the Driftwood Group (aka Scott Kuhn and Chris Hodgson) I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Hotel food used to not have a good reputation until Amp 150 made it cool to have good food in a hotel. The Driftwood Group is not only taking over the old Capers and IMAG1242Porter’s locations, but they will be taking over all the hotel room service and catering. It makes me want to stay in the restaurant just to order room service!

After walking into the hotel I was greeted by a long line of women bearing brochures. I checked in and was escorted into the Wine Bar, where I was offered a Beehive cocktail (their signature drink featuring Old Forester Bourbon, IMAG1246St. Elder Natural ElderFlower Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, ginger-honey syrup and soda – which was quite refreshing) and an upscale hanky-panky featuring chorizo sausage, Tillamook cheddar cheese and fig jam on a toasted crostini. The hanky-panky was nothing like the sausage and Velveeta cheese on rye bread squares I am used to. The chorizo gave it a nice little kick and the fig jam cooled down the heat.

My second drink of the night was a Jack Lemmon. It features Caravella Limoncello, Plymouth Gin, Ginger, Mint, and Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon Soda. I love Bitter Lemon soda, which you don’t find here in the States that often. I had been wanting to try this cocktail since I saw it on the Cibrèo menu. IMAG1250The restaurant has brought some well-loved Driftwood favorites with them to the Beachwood location. It was delicious. I highly recommend you try it or one of the other many cocktails on the menu.

We were then ushered to the next room for the meal portion of the evening. The bread service was brought to the table along with softened butter (yes! a restaurant that knows to serve butter that isn’t rock hard and tears the bread) and a nice pesto spread. I am not in love with the bread at Cibrèo, but I really liked this bread. IMAG1252I think it has a little more moisture to it, yet it holds up well to the spread.

Our first course was a Blue Crab Hushpuppy, which was absolutely delicious. It was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside with no trace of fishiness. The menu said it was made with blue crab and “Old Bayonnaise”. Well done, Chef Hodgson. I will definitely be ordering these appetizers when I dine here.

IMAG1253The next course was a Wedge Salad topped with cherry tomato halves, crumbled bacon, hard-boiled egg crumbles, picked red onion, a subtle blue cheese, and a light and delicious white French dressing. One of my dining companions joked that it was BLT wedge. In any event, I would definitely order this again as well.

Next up was the Seared U-10 Sea Scallops over a risotto made of butternut squash, caramelized apples, fried sage and apple gastrique. The golden beets were crisped and served on the side of the scallops. IMAG1254It was billed as a gluten-free entree. The scallop was perfectly seared and it paired well with the sweet risotto. Some people didn’t enjoy the risotto, but I did. They felt it was too sweet, but it paired well with the unseasoned scallop.

The major course of the evening was the “C.A.B. Hanger Steak” (C.A.B. being Certified Angus Beef) with shoestring potatoes. IMAG1255I loved the presentation of this course. The shoestring fries were served in a metal container with a parchment paper cone, and the steak was plated over an asparagus spear and topped with a salsa verde. The potatoes were perfectly seasoned and light and crisp on the outside yet creamy on the inside. The malt vinegar aioli reminded me of the mayo I dipped fries in Belgium into. The steak was perfectly cooked if you like a medium rare steak, which I do. It fell apart easily IMAG1257with just a fork. It was topped with a salsa verde that was somewhat overpowering and also managed to drip onto my shirt. I had done so well up until then!

I was less impressed with the dessert course, but that might be because my diet has me completely off sugar and my tastes have changed. The Chocolate Mousse was light and fluffy and was topped with a salted caramel sauce, whipped cream and pretzel rod bits. It tasted like a chocolate covered pretzel, but the pretzel had soaked up a little moisture while it was waiting to be served and had become a little stale.

Crystal at Eat*Drink*Cleveland questioned why the table was set with wine glasses when no IMAG1248wine was served. The table was beautifully set, but the glasses really should have been cleared away once it was determined no one would be using them. I also felt odd ordering a beverage when no beverage list was offered at the table, so once I finished my cocktail I stuck with water.

IMAG1244I can’t wait to go back and try some other things on the menu, like the Braised Beef & Wild Mushroom Ragu Pierogies, Veal And Shiitake Mushroom Meatloaf, and the DoubleTree Double Decker Burger. Sanctuary will offer lunch, happy hour and late-night fare and both a la carte breakfasts and DoubleTree’s signature breakfast buffet.

I’m also a bit concerned that there might be some confusion with the name, Sanctuary, because there is already Sanctuary on Green in Beachwood. I guess time will tell. They plan to open a Sanctuary on the west side next year in the old Holiday Inn in Westlake. I wish them the best of luck, and I must say it is wonderful to have downtown quality in the suburbs with ample free parking available.

Disclosure: I was invited by the Driftwood Group to attend the Media Event. I was also given a $20 gift certificate to be applied toward a future visit. However, all opinions are my own.

Contact info:

Sanctuary Beachwood in the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
3663 Park East Drive
Beachwood, OH 44122
(216) 464-5950

Siam Cafe

October 6, 2014

IMAG0803Siam Cafe, located at the corner of E. 40th and St. Clair in Cleveland’s Asia Town district, is a favorite of Asian and non-Asians alike. My foodie friends have talked about it so much that I finally decided I needed to check it out. Several of them have MSG sensitivities and enjoy eating here because they don’t have any side effects afterwards. It is housed in what looks like a converted fast food restaurant, but I think that makes it unique and charming. I particularly love the “Year of the…” sculptures around the restaurant.

IMAG0768The extensive menu features Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese dishes under the headings of soup, lobster and crab, seafood, poultry, fish, frog, beef and pork, vegetable and bean curd, casserole, rice and noodle soup. Lots and lots of choices and lots of exotic choices such as jelly fish or eel as well. They have tanks of fish, lobster and frogs that they immediately use in the kitchen. Be sure to ask for the regular menu. They gave me a very limited Americanized menu the first time I went there. You can view an online menu here.

IMAG0769One of my favorite things about this place is that it is open until midnight, which is good to know when you leave an Orchestra performance or movie at the Cinematheque and are hungry when the restaurants in Little Italy have all boarded up for the night. It is open 7 days a week from 11 a.m. to midnight.

They have eight different flavors of bubble tea (including mango, melon, coffee, and coconut), Thai iced tea, iced drip coffee with condensed milk, ginger tea, ginseng tea, fruit juices and soft drinks. If given the choice I will usually order a Thai iced tea, with the iced drip coffee as my second choice. IMAG1121A proper Thai iced tea is a thing of beauty – a deep orange tea with spices and a layer of creamy coconut or condensed milk. In Thailand, condensed milk and sugar are mixed with the tea before it is poured over ice and then topped with evaporated milk. Their version of Thai iced tea does not have layers, but it is still delicious and refreshing.

I started my meal off with an order of the Siam Wings, which are marinated boneless chicken wings stuffed with a “house filling” and and then deep fried. They are known for their wings. The house filling is apparently dumpling innards (a savory mix of pork, veggies and vermicelli). Dipped in a sweet/sour IMAG0771and slightly spicy sauce the wings were a great start and were probably the most unique preparing of wings I have ever eaten. I ate two and took one home.

They also have both summer rolls and spring rolls on the menu. I ordered the crispy spring rolls and got to try a half of the summer roll. Spring rolls have a thinner wrapper than a basic egg roll. Their spring rolls were very nicely fried, and the chicken and vegetable filling was quite delicious. The summer rolls are made with rice paper wrapper and filled with lettuce, shrimp, vermicelli and other fresh fillings. I enjoy making them at home, and this was a good version. The peanut dipping sauce was also really nice. They also serve veggie spring rolls if you are a vegetarian.

I ordered the Pla Red Pik based on an Urbanspoon review. IMAG1122I was in the mood for fish and Stuart Spivack’s photo on Flickr made it look good. Stuart is an Asian food expert, so I know I can trust his judgment. He has amassed a huge collection of photos of Siam Cafe’s food over the years. It is listed as a chef specialty. It featured three generous, very lightly breaded fish filets (I had asked for perch) in a tamarind-pepper sauce. Just a very mild amount of heat from some hot pepper slices. Not too overwhelming for this Americanized palate. I enjoyed it very much.

As for dessert, I see they have green tea ice cream as well as some other flavored ice creams, but was surprised to see they serve Black Forest Cake. That is a German dish and not the easiest one to make well. It just seems like an odd offering at an Asian restaurant. I celebrated my birthday here with friends this year and was served a piece with a candle. It wasn’t bad, but it was a little drier than I like. We all shared it.IMAG1123

We had a large group for my birthday and ordered a mess of food and passed it all around. My particular favorites were the scallops and pea pods. It was delicious. It is in a very light, clear sauce that literally made the pea pods glisten. The scallops were perfectly cooked and paired well with the pea pods. And they were generous with both ingredients.

The eggplant with minced pork was also a favorite, and the version without the pork was also quite good. The eggplant they use is small Asian eggplant. The sauce is a delicious brown sauce. It is on the right of the plate along with some scallops and pea pods.IMAG1124

The pan-fried noodles with meat and seafood was a HUGE portion. The noodles seem too be some sort of ramen noodle. They were crispy on the edges and deliciously soft where it soaked up the sauce. It also had lots of fresh vegetables. As you can see on the right, we barely made a dent in it. I thoroughly enjoyed the scallops and pea pod leftovers the next day.

Several of my vegetarian friends were rather disappointed with the Siam Cafe. They were completely taken aback to see that most of the entrees listed as vegetarian featured minced pork (a most decidedly non-vegetarian item). IMAG1126They had no problem leaving the minced pork out of one of our orders of spicy eggplant. My friends also did not like the consistency of the tofu dishes. The tofu was a bit spongier than they like. Then again, they have been spoiled by Pura Vida’s tofu and know hold all other tofu up to that standard. It’s a hard standard to meet.

In any event, this was a great place to celebrate my birthday on a Friday night. We took up two large round tables (there were 15 of us), and the service could not have been more accommodating. They had no problems with separate checks and took care of every request. I can’t wait to go back and try some other things, like the baked shrimp in shell with spicy salt or the razor clams in black bean sauce. With such an extensive menu I imagine it will take me a while to work through it.

Contact info:

Siam Cafe
3951 St. Clair
Cleveland, OH 44114

Bowl of Pho in Woodmere

September 26, 2014

IMG_20130501_123600If you are in Woodmere or Beachwood and are craving some decent Vietnamese food, Bowl of Phở is a good choice. It is located in the strip mall where Corky & Lenny’s is, but it is tucked all the way around the corner on the side street off Chagrin. It is a family-run restaurant that opened in 2011. This review is based one two separate visits. I left pleased with the food both times. It isn’t Superior Phở, but it is a good choice for the suburbs.

I met a friend for lunch there the first time. IMAG0936I started with a hot Vietnamese coffee (Café Sữa Nóng), which gave me a strong jolt of caffeine (and to be honest the shakes). The coffee here is not for the faint-hearted. Vietnamese coffee preparation is unusual in that it consists of hot water and a small metal pot. It looks like a hat and sits on the top of a coffee cup. Inside is a chamber for coffee and room for hot water. It is very basic and simple.

The preparation of the hot coffee was a bit awkward, because I didn’t have anywhere to put the metal coffee filter when the water was finished percolating. I ended up balancing it on the coffee saucer with the cup, which was just IMG_20130501_124716super awkward and frankly messier than I wanted. A saucer for the filter would be a nice touch. My second visit I went with the iced coffee (Café Sữa Đá), which at least gave me somewhere to stow the filter (back on top of the brewed coffee, but it still dripped on the table a bit).

On my first visit I ordered my usual – a Phở Tái and a banh mi. The phở was a pretty decent phở. The accompanying add-ins included bean sprouts, Thai basil, jalapenos, and lime quarters (!). It contained a lot of noodles and some beef eye round. It wasn’t packed with meat, but it had a lot of noodles and filled me up nicely. The broth was flavorful. I enjoyed it.

IMG_20130501_125605The banh mi featured a warm baguette topped with thinly sliced pickled carrots, daikon radish, cucumbers, cilantro, chili peppers, pâté, mayonnaise, grilled pork, ham, and head cheese. I don’t remember it wowing me like the one at Saigon Grille or even Superior Pho. I think it is because of the bread. It was a little firmer and denser than I prefer, but the fillings were really good. It was a decent banh mi for the price.

On my second visit I was in the mood for something light after my 90 minute massage across the street at Massage Envy. I ordered a Bún Tôm, Thịt Nướng, & Chả Giò, IMAG0938which features grilled shrimp, your choice of meat (beef, chicken or pork), and a spring roll with vermicelli. I had ordered something like this before at Minh Ahn and didn’t really have a fond memory of it because I found it too dry. This one blew me away. I loved it. The house lime dressing for the rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint, ground peanuts, and shredded salad and cucumber was delicious. I chose the grilled pork and really enjoyed the flavor. The grilled shrimp and pork were a nice complement to the underlying “salad.” The egg roll was perfectly fried and nice and crispy.

I also ordered the Gỏi Đu Đủ (papaya salad) thinking it would be a smaller salad than it was. It features fresh julienne papaya tossed with basil leaves IMAG0937and crushed peanuts. It comes with your choice of steamed shrimp or pork, but I went with the vegetarian version and got some nicely prepared tofu that soaked up the house lime sauce quite nicely. I was not expecting it to be as big as it was. I was thinking it would be a nice side salad to complement my Bún Tôm. It would have been really nice to share with someone. I ended up taking it home and having to eat it later that night, because I don’t think it would stand up overnight.

In short, I think you can’t go wrong with this restaurant. If you are looking for a restaurant that uses fresh ingredients and blends them together well you are in the right spot. The place is clean, the service is attentive, and it is a bright and cheerful place to eat a meal. They are open from 11 am-9 pm during the week (until 8 pm on Sunday and 10 pm on Friday & Saturday) and are closed on Tuesdays. They also offer take-out for local business people on lunch breaks. Oh, and they have free WiFi.

Contact info:

Bowl of Pho
27339 Chagrin Blvd
Woodmere, Ohio

Closed on Tuesdays

Hansa Import Haus

September 12, 2014

IMG_20120505_135504Hansa Import Haus has been in the greater Cleveland area, providing Germans and German food lovers with German food, wine and beer, for the past 51 years. It is located on Lorain Avenue, one block down from the West Side Market (across from Farkas Bakery and Touch Supper Club) and caddy-corner from St. Ignatius. Present day owner Boris Music, native of Slovenia, bought the store in 1980. He has been busy adding on a brewery and restaurant this summer, which I really hope is successful. I want to focus on the store for this particular post. I will review the restaurant later when it opens.

I have been shopping at Hansa Haus for the last thirteen years. It is my go-to place for German IMG_20120505_134556cold cuts, bread, cheese, chocolate, Paniermehl (bread crumbs for schnitzel), boil-in-bag dumplings and Knödel, jams, vinegars, coffee, and beer.

They stock beers from Germany, Austria and Belgium, as single bottles, six packs, cases or pony kegs. Some beers even come as gift packs with their own glasses. Whenever I have a party I have to buy a pony keg or two of my favorite German beers. The keg holds 5 liters of beer, and it is always a huge hit. My go-to keg is Reissdorf Kölsch, but they carry several different kinds of beers in the pony keg.

IMG_20120505_134550The chocolate supply for holidays like Easter and Christmas can’t be beat. I have been buying chocolate bunnies, Santas and Advent calendars here for my nieces (and myself). I highly recommend stopping there about a month before Christmas to stock up on the liquor-filled chocolates. I bring the Irish whiskey-filled or Grand Marnier-filled chocolates as hostess gifts over the holidays. My friend Susanne loves the Edele Tropfen in Nuss, which features fruit brandies or liquors in a crystallized sugar crust and hazelnut clusters covered in dark, milk or white chocolate.

The refrigerated cases carry lots of different cold cuts, sausages, bratwursts, liverwursts, pates, cheeses, butters, Quark (a cross between creme fraiche IMG_20120505_134656and yogurt that is used in German cheesecakes and other recipes), herring, soda, juice, etc. For a real German treat, buy some Sauerrahm Butter (a butter made with sour cream), spread it on a slice of rye, Bauernschnitten (my personal favorite) or whole grain German bread, and put a thin layer of Gelbwurst, Jagdwurst, Krakauer, ham, liverwurst or Teewurst, Speck or Lachsschinken and some Emmentaler, Swiss or smoked Gouda. Mmmm, Lachsschinken… it’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. It is the center cut of a boneless loin of pork, rolled in a thin layer of fat to assure tenderness and moisture, cured and smoked. Tastes amazingly similar to smoked salmon (lox or Lachs).

The Maggi Herb Butter is really good on boiled potatoes, corn on the cob and anything else that calls for a flavorful herbed butter.

IMG_20120505_134720The grocery aisles carry all kinds of German mustards (from the sweet to the extra-spicy (Scharf)) as well as canned herring, sardines, noodles, pickled vegetables, sauerkrauts (I highly recommend the Mildessa Weinkraut!) and red cabbage kraut (Rotkohl), fruit juices (cherry and banana juices mixed together are AWESOME), jams and jellies, coffee, cookies, spices, and packaged Knorr and Maggi instant soups, sauces and noodles.

The coffee choices are also extensive. You can choose from powdered cocoas, instant coffee, whole beans and ground and vacuum-packed coffee. My personal favorite is the Jacobs Krönung coffee in Mild, but the illy, Tchibo and Dallmayr brands are also good choices. If you need an instant coffee for a recipe I would buy one of these before reaching for the Folgers (shudder). German coffee just tastes smoother to me than other coffees. IMG_20120505_134708If you have questions do not be afraid to ask an employee. They know their food and have recommended some very good items to me in the past that I have been unaware of.

And last but certainly not least, the item that I buy the most of here are the chocolates. I love the Ritter Sport and Milka chocolate bars. They come in a wide variety of flavor for every taste. My friend Jarod swears by Milka’s Trauben und Nuss (raisin and nut), while I love Milka’s milk chocolate, dark chocolate (Herb or Bitter) and vanilla pudding varieties. They even have yogurt, hazelnut, marzipan, and others that you may never have even considered. My favorite Ritter Sport is the cornflake one. Milka Tenders are better than any Ho-Ho you’ve ever eaten. Buy several and see which ones you prefer.

Happy Shopping or as the Germans say, “Viel Spass beim Einkaufen“!

Contact info:

Hansa Import Haus
2717 Lorain Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113

The Blue Door in Cuyahoga Falls

September 2, 2014

IMG_20120405_122249The Blue Door Cafe and Bakery in Cuyahoga Falls began as a micro-bakery in 2009. They then bought the restaurant they were working out of and now consistently produce some of the most delicious food you will ever eat. The folks at The Blue Door pride themselves on using local and healthy ingredients and having a seasonal menu that changes specials frequently. In addition to the standard breakfast and lunch menu the specials are created based on what delicious and special ingredients they are able to purchase that week, using carefully chosen shrimp, salmon, bison, etc. They are closed on Monday and Tuesday, but open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday from 7 AM to 3 PM. They recently started expanding to include dinner service on the weekend. Dinner is served Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 6 to 9 PM. Reservations are recommended. The dinner service feature four entrees, and each includes freshly baked breads and rolls and specially created non-alcoholic cocktails that utilize fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables.

IMG_20120405_122225I love the fact that the Blue Door has a more European atmosphere. In fact, news of a German breakfast week was the first meal to tempt me to drive down to Cuyahoga Falls. The fact that they had made my favorite German cake, Bienenstich or Bee Sting Cake, into a French toast convinced me that I needed to get down there right away. It was divine, featuring custard and honey with their Challah bread. I couldn’t decide and also felt the need to have a typical German Frühstück too, so I also ordered the bread roll with various cheeses and jams as well as fresh fruit. I don’t know where they get their fresh fruit, but it is amazing and consistently perfectly ripe.

IMAG0756I then started following them on Facebook, where they frequently post their specials for the week. My friend Tom is completely hooked and lives closer, so when he posted one day that the special was a Nutella and Chantilly Cream French toast I called my friend M. and picked her up within 15 minutes to make the drive down there. She had the egg sandwich on one of their house-made croissants (I dare you to have one and not want to take several home with you!). We shared both entrees. Her sandwich was good, but my French toast was exquisite. Funnily enough that day the person sat in the table next to us was one of my good friends and a fellow German translator (who lives in Kent), so we pulled the tables together. Then about 20 minutes later another translator colleague (who lives in Pepper Pike) walked in. I guess we translators know where the good places to eat are!

IMAG0817This is not an easy place to go on the weekend for breakfast, because it is so popular. Expect a wait. I tend to go during the week instead. I met a dining group from Meetup.com here for brunch last month. We were told the wait would be an hour and a half. It ended up being shorter, because several of our members managed to get their own tables and the group managed to snag the seats at the counter. Not the most comfortable place for a group breakfast, but everyone was happy with their meals. The service was great, and the coffee was flowing. They also have fresh squeezed orange juice that is just delicious. I ordered a bison burger on this day. It was perfectly cooked, and the leftovers were just as good later for dinner. The homemade cole slaw really convinced me to order it, and the slice of tomato was extremely fresh. You can see the potato croquIMAG0841ette behind the burger in the photo. I love a good croquette, but was expecting something a little more delicate. This was more a potato fritter. Even though this wasn’t quite what I was expecting it was still quite delicious.

As I said, they recently started serving dinner service. He managed to win over the chef from Dante’s Akron restaurant, Torsten Schulz. Another German! (Did I mention the owner speaks German fluently?) Be sure to check out Tom’s Flickr feed to see the weekly creations. He goes there every week and tries and photographs everything on the menu. His photos do the food much better justice than mine do, so be sure to click on the links below. IMAG0843

To be honest, I wasn’t as impressed with the dinner service as I wanted to be. The Ohio Strawberry non-alcoholic cocktail was divine. I enjoyed the first course, the Avocado Puree, very much. The avocado puree paired really well with the grapefruit slices. My grass-fed beef was good, but it had a little too much fat. I liked that there were two variations and couldn’t decide which I liked better. The potato and spinach sides were really small, which was disappointing because I love mixing a bite of spinach with steak. The vegetarian entree (Variations of Ohio broccoli) had a high price point that my vegetarian friends did not feel was warranted. They used four different kinds of broccoli and pureed them together, serving them with Japanese rice, almonds and a lemon vinaigrette. The dessert, the Marillenknodel (apricot dumpling), was very good. It is a take on a standard Austrian dessert that I love, featuring a Viennese dumpling, vanilla sauce and pistachios. The souffle (see photostream) looked super-inviting as well.

Although dinner was a nice change and I hope they are successful, I think I’m going to stick with their breakfast and lunch service, since that is my favorite meal of the day anyway. However, if you are looking for a restaurant for a special occasion, consider trying The Blue Door.

Contact info:

The Blue Door
1970 State Road
Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223
(330) 926-9774


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.