Grovewood Tavern

July 21, 2014

101_0683The Grovewood Tavern and Wine Bar is hidden away in a North Collinwood neighborhood. In fact, your first thought when you are looking for it will be “Am I in the right place?” Tucked in the middle of a residential neighborhood just off I-90 (Hint: it’s best to get off at E. 182nd street), the Grovewood has been consistently serving outstanding food and drinks. This is probably one of my favorite restaurants in Cleveland and only 17 minutes from me by car, but I don’t think to go here as often as I should.

group1I first discovered the Grovewood in 2009, back when I was still running a dining out group through Meetup.com. Someone had recommended it, and we had an outstanding meal. Every subsequent visit I have made, whether I’m sitting on the patio or in the dining room, has been outstanding.

When you walk up to and into the restaurant, you can see the chefs cooking through the front window. There is a small, cozy bar area behind the hostess station, and the dining room is to the right. The inside feels like a comfy little neighborhood joint, with white Christmas “fairy” lights and quirky lamps hanging down from the ceiling and interesting pictures on the walls.101_0681

They have an outstanding selection of wine and cocktails as well as a changing menu of beers on tap. The servers are very knowledgeable about the food, wine and beer.

Several friends and I met for dinner recently and enjoyed another fantastic meal. Several of my friends are vegetarians, so they were thrilled that the Grovewood has really expanded its offerings for vegetarians and vegans. The first time we were there they only had IMAG0935one or two entrees to choose from. C. raved about the Curried Butternut Pasta featuring roasted cubes of butternut squash with coconut milk, cilantro and lime over pasta, while R. loved the Vegan Beanburger, featuring a huge herb-scented, mixed bean patty, fried crispy and served with arugula, fresh cucumbers, tomato, and Monterey Jack cheese, with house-cut Yukon fries and herbed mayo.

As for me, I ordered the Grilled Mini Brie and Pear Salad and the Grovewood Chicken Sandwich topped with sliced, grilled apples, caramelized onions, Brie and toasted almonds, accompanied by house-cut Yukon fries and herbed mayo. I could have done without the toasted almonds, but this sandwich was delicious. The house-cut fries were delicious as well, especially dipped in the herbed mayo and the house-made ketchup (nicely spicy but not too spicy – no Heinz served here!). I will definitely order it again.LobsterRav

This time around we shared the Belgian Chocolate Lava Cake and the Caramel Pecan Cake. Both were paired with vanilla ice cream, and were delectable. My dining companions dove into these so fast I was unable to get pictures. However, I have to say my absolutely favorite dessert in Cleveland is served here – Burnin’ Down the House, a chocolate swan filled with fresh berries and flambéed tableside (for two), with two dishes of vanilla ice cream. It is one impressive dessert!BigTuna

You really can’t go wrong ordering anything off the menu here. From the Yakitori to the Seared Tuna Loin (pictured here) to the Ohio City Pasta and gnocchi to the burger, everything I have had here has been outstanding.

The only thing I am not a fan of is the bread service. The bread is very flavorful, but somewhat dry. They serve it with a dipping sauce with olive oil, roasted garlic cloves and balsamic vinegar that just doesn’t work. The sauce doesn’t blend well and you can’t really taste the balsamic. But on the bright side that just leaves more room for the rest of the food.IMAG0933

I attended a Mad Men Spirit Dinner here back in 2010 that I still remember fondly. People dressed in reminiscent dress, which was a lot of fun. The spirit dinner was hosted by North American Spirits and featured nostalgic cocktail such as a Manhattan made with bacon-infused bourbon (not the most stellar cocktail of the evening, but certainly the most unique) or a pear mule paired with complementary courses. It was outstanding from start to finish. In fact, I made the grilled brie salad with pear vinaigrette for Christmas that year (they gave us some recipes to take home with us). It received rave reviews from my family. If you get a chance to attend one of the spirit, beer or wine dinners you should definitely do it! Reservations are a must, and they tend to sell out quickly.Swan Aflame

Contact info:

Grovewood Tavern and Wine Bar
17105 Grovewood Ave
Cleveland, OH 44110
(216) 531-4900


Coquette Patisserie

July 15, 2014

IMAG0898Coquette Patisserie is a bakery & wine bar in Cleveland that specializes in French pastries, macarons, cakes, savory small plates, killer charcuterie and cheese platters and French champagne and craft beer. It is located on Euclid Avenue in the new Uptown district.

I first learned about Coquette Patisserie on the NEO Food Tour of the Cedar-Lee district, when Britt was still operating out of her home. They gave us a little takeaway box of delicate little morsels. The Queen of Sheba (left) is an almond paste chocolate cake with a layer of spicy Mexican chocolate ganache. The center pastry is a Pixie Bar, which is a pistachio florentina atop almond paste cake, a layer of lingonberry compote, and a pâte sucrée crust and my clear favorite. Britt is most known for her macarons. IMG_20120831_151827The Blueberry Macaron in the photo (right) is an almond flour meringue shell filled with blueberry buttercream and gluten-free.

The macarons come in a variety of flavors (such as Mango, Peanut Butter Banana, Black Walnut Banana, Cantaloupe-paprika, Guiness float, etc.), are $2 and 5.5 cm. You can have them dipped in dark chocolate for an additional $0.25 per macaron. My creamsicle macaron was divine!IMAG0594

My introduction to the brick and mortar location was with a fellow foodie after a Chinese New Year lunch. We stopped by to check it out, and I was immediately drawn to the French press coffee and Le Bonbon. They give you a sand timer to let you know when your coffee is ready to press and drink, ensuring perfect coffee. Coffee brewed with a French press is richer and more full-bodied – and meant to be drunk in one sitting. IMAG0900You can choose which size you prefer. I went with the smaller press. It was perfect. As for the pastry, Le Bonbon features “chocolate mousse triple layered with chocolate meringue and coated in chocolate. All topped with a chocolate ribbon.” This chocolate bomb of goodness is indescribable. If you are a chocoholic you simply must try it for yourself.

IMAG0901The pastries vary with the season, but the Opera Cake and Tart Citron are always a good choice. Just perusing the choices on the website will make your mouth water. I can’t wait to try the Frambois pastry.

The storefront is small, but charming. We were there on a dreary, snowy February afternoon and yet the large windows ensured lots of natural lighting. The tables feature large photos of Cleveland and fresh flowers. Small glass-enclosed lights and a chandelier hang from the ceiling. There is a small table with sugar and cream and a glass cold beverage jar for those who are thirsty tucked against a wall. Very inviting.

It is also a good choice when you just want to enjoy a glass of champagne or draught beer. They just put in a patio, which is always occupied in the summer evenings. We stopped by here the other night after getting ice cream at Piccadilly Artisan Creamery, and I enjoyed a nice glass of champagne and a sparkling water. I ordered the champagne from Reims, which was perfect. It was light and fruity, yet dry enough to not be overly sweet. We watched the sunset and enjoyed the company. The patio is also dog-friendly.

Folks who want something more savory are also in for a treat. One Friday recently they featured Thaxton’s Organic Garlic & Kokoborrego Owl Creek Tomme Brioche. Those who like oysters won’t go wrong here. Be sure to follow them on Facebook to hear all about the daily treats. I can’t wait to order the charcuterie platter the next time I am there. I hear it is fantastic.

Contact info:

Coquette Patisserie
11607 Euclid Avenue (corner of E. 115th and Euclid)
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 331-2841


My Thai in Chesterland

July 10, 2014

IMAG0809My Thai in Chesterland is a hidden gem of a Thai restaurant and was voted among the Top 5 Thai restaurants in Cleveland on the 2014 Cleveland Hot List. It doesn’t look like much from the outside – being tucked in a small strip mall with a very small parking lot at the corner of Mayfield Road and Route 306, but the food is always fresh and delicious. The chefs use fresh ingredients and vegetables with no MSG, and they feature many vegetarian and gluten-free selections. It is one of my favorite Thai restaurants in the Cleveland area. I have dined here with a large group, with a couple IMG_20110314_194824friends and on my own. I have yet to have a bad meal.

First of all, to start I highly recommend ordering some version of their Spring Rolls. The wrapper is super crisp and not greasy at all, and the contents are light and flavorful. They come three to an order, and IMAG0812I really have to hold back not to eat them all and get too full for my meal. The same holds true for the Shrimp Rolls. The Shrimp Rolls are large pieces of shrimp wrapped in the spring roll wrapper and fried. Delicious! Their homemade plum sauce, which is served with both appetizers, is also very delicious and light.

IMG_20110314_194751Another good starter is the Chicken Satay. It features four skewers of moist and delicious curried chicken breast served with a flavorful peanut sauce. The thing that really makes the dish for me is the slightly vinegary (but not overpoweringly so) cucumber and onion salad that is served with it. My only complaint is I kept spilling it.

I can also attest to the Tom Kha soup. I am a huge fan of this coconut milk-based soup featuring onions, green onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and fresh Thai herbs. IMG_20110314_201841Another fellow diner ordered the Tom Yum soup and also enjoyed it. You can order any of the soups with vegetable, chicken, shrimp or seafood. The Tom Yum soup is a little spicier than the Tom Kha soup.IMAG0810

The Masaman and Peanut Curries are always a good choice. The difference between the two is that the Masaman Curry features potato, onion and whole peanuts in a Masaman curry paste with coconut milk, while the Peanut Curry is prepared with coconut milk, peanut cream, green beans, broccoli, and bell peppers. All of the curries can be ordered with your choice of just vegetable, tofu, chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, calamari, scallop or a seafood combo. Any of the curries are good. They even have a Jungle Curry for those who do not like coconut milk.IMG_20110314_201905

Two special dishes that I think are worth mentioning are the Pineapple Fried Rice and the Pla Rad Prik. The Pineapple Fried Rice is a unique dish consisting of stir-fried rice, pineapple, egg, peas, onion, tomato, green onion, cashew nuts, and Thai herbs. IMAG0814_BURST002_COVEREveryone who tried this dish absolutely loved it. It was perfectly prepared and just a huge knock-out. The Pla Rad Prik (or spicy crispy fish) is a Chef’s Special dish. It features either whole red snapper or halibut fillets, deep fried to a golden brown and topped with your choice of sauce, tamarind or garlic. The fish was indeed spicy and crispy when I ordered it. I had tried it at Siam Cafe and wanted to compare. This one held up to the Siam Cafe’s, and in my opinion it exceeded it. IMG_20110314_201950The dish was indeed spicy and served with the tamarind and pepper sauce. I ordered it as a cross between mild and medium, and it was just right for me. I left with a pleasant yet not overwhelming burn.

IMG_20110314_200612

Obligatory photo of their Pad Thai

The Thai Barbecued Chicken was also not what I was expecting and exceeded my expectations. The explanatory note on the menu does not do the “gravy” justice here. The chicken was perfectly cooked and moist and flavorful, and the “gravy” really complemented the chicken.

No matter your taste, you really can’t go wrong ordering anything off the menu here. When I was here with a large group we filled two large tables and not a single person complained about their meal. It is rare to find aIMG_20110314_193542 restaurant that can make everyone happy, and My Thai is one of them.

Two of my friends come here very frequently, and they swear by the Tempura Fried Banana for dessert. Three lightly tempura battered banana and a large scoop of ice cream are perfect for sharing or indulging by yourself. Unfortunately we dug in without getting a photo of this dessert.

IMG_20110314_193601I have had both the My Thai and the Love in Thailand cocktails.  The My Thai is made with pineapple, orange and lime juice mixed with white and dark rum and crème de almond, while the Love in Thailand consists of rum, crème de banana, orange and pineapple. Both are refreshing.

Contact info:

My Thai
8488 Mayfield Road
Chesterland, OH 44026
(440) 729-8424


Mitchell’s Ice Cream

July 2, 2014

IMAG0865It’s July. It’s hot. We all scream for ice cream. I couldn’t talk about Piccadilly and not talk about our other awesome local creamery – Mitchell’s. I was recently at a blogging event that was held at Mitchell’s new headquarters on W. 25th. The place is really impressive and a great use of the old Moda building. We gathered in the meeting room on the second floor, which overlooks the production floor. It was very impressive watching them make the ice cream.IMAG0858 You can see them making the ice cream when you order, but you really get an impressive view from the second floor.

Mike Mitchell spoke to us about the quality ingredients they use, explaining they use as many organic and locally sourced ingredients as possible. It’s even Certified Kosher! They handcraft the ice creams in small batches, using local grass-fed dairy and fresh seasonal ingredients. He explained he wouldn’t want his family to eat all kinds of pesticides and additives, so he doesn’t want to do that to his customers. That is the kind of thinking I can get behind!

IMAG0850Mike and his brother Pete founded the business in 1999. As they explain on their website, “As far back as we can remember, ice cream has been a constant source of happiness to our family. And Cleveland has always been our home. So in 1999 we made crafting top-notch ice creams and serving them to the Cleveland community our life’s work. Today we are as passionate as ever about making our ice creams as delicious and wholesome as they can be, and to being at least a small part of the reason Clevelanders love to call this place home.” IMAG0857Mike is the ice cream chef and Pete is the “taster-in-chief and operations guy.” Now that I have met Mike (I met Pete several years ago when I lived in Solon) I can honestly say that both are just genuinely nice guys. I don’t know about you, but I want to support family-run, locally-operated businesses with friendly and passionate owners as much as possible. Mike even took a moment several times to fist bump one of the toddlers in our little group.

IMAG0864Clevelanders are passionate about their ice cream and their favorite ice cream flavors. He told us they try not to take too many flavors off the menu because they get lots of backlash. I have been eating Mitchell’s for years now and have several personal favorites, like the Fresh Mint Chocolate Chunk, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, Caramel Sea Salt, and Banana Cream Pie. Another friend swears by their Strawberry. Yet another adores the Butter Pecan. And don’t forget their seasonal flavors, frozen yogurt or sorbets. The Mango sorbet is amazing. When I am going hard-core non-dairy I get the Mango or Raspberry sorbets. They also offer two vegan options made with a coconut milk base. Whatever your favorite, you can’t go wrong.IMAG0862

They brought up several flavors for us to try. The Strawberry Jalapeno had a nice kick to it and the Toasted Hazelnut had quite a few fans, but my absolute favorite, which is NOT on the menu at the moment, was the Amaretto-Brown Butter. Yum!

I saved room for my favorite Mitchell’s splurge after the event – the Buckeye Sundae. Made with Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk ice cream and topped with hot fudge, chocolate shavings, fresh whipped cream and a Bordeaux cherry, it’s a little bit of heaven here in Cleveland, Ohio.

And don’t forget to bring a pint home to splurge! You can also find pints in the freezer at local grocery stores.

Contact info:

Mitchell’s Ice Cream
Shops located in Avon, Beachwood, Downtown Cleveland (W. 25th), Rocky River, Solon, Strongsville, Westlake, and Uptown at University Circle.


Piccadilly Artisan Creamery on Euclid Avenue

July 1, 2014

picadukktCleveland has a new ice cream shop, and I have a new favorite place to cool down. I met some friends for drinks at the Katz Club Bar Car on Saturday night. We were in the mood for some boozy shakes, but were told they didn’t serve them in the bar car. Now having a taste for ice cream, we brainstormed where we could go. I suggested Piccadilly Yogurt on Coventry, but another friend suggested the new Piccadilly Artisan Creamery on Euclid. It opened in early June. It’s located right next to Coquette Patisserie, which will be featured soon.

IMAG0894This place is so cool! They make the ice cream and yogurt using KitchenAid mixers and liquid nitrogen. The liquid nitrogen immediately freezes the ice cream slurry, not allowing ice crystals to form. The result is flavorful, creamy ice cream. I was impressed that each flavor had its own designated KitchenAid mixer attachment on the wall.

They bill themselves as being “farm-to-cone.” All of the ingredients are organic. They use Ohio grass-fed Amish cows for the highest quality organic milk and cream with no antibiotics or growth hormones. And none of the mix-ins have preservatives or artificial coloring or flavoring either.

IMAG0897They suggest you try one of the Favorites listed on the wall your first time out. I tried the Sailee, which features frozen yogurt, raspberries and chocolate chips. It was really delicious, creamy with just enough raspberries and chocolate to make it decadent.

Then I had bites of my friends’ choices. Wow! They have the Polly – a caramel sea salt and pecan ice cream that will rock your world. We were all in agreement that another friend’s coffee ice cream was undoubtedly the best coffee ice cream any of us have ever tasted. Another friend ordered the Kristina, which features strawberry balsamic ice cream, Nutella and fresh whipped cream. Divine. They even offer vegan choices.

The Fresh Mint Leaf Chip tastes like actual, honest-to-god mint leaves and not the artificial mint flavoring of most mint ice creams. They add mini-chocolate chips into the base. With a drizzle of fudge it is refreshing and delicious.

This place is worth the drive no matter where you live. As one of my friends said, it is “stupid good.” You get a show and delicious ice cream for one affordable price.

Contact info:

Piccadilly Artisan Creamery
11607 Euclid Avenue, Suite B (at the corner of Euclid and E. 115th)
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 563-1992

 


Michaelangelo’s in Little Italy

June 25, 2014

IMG_20110601_195434I cannot believe I haven’t written about Michaelangelo’s. Off the beaten track on Murray Hill Road, this hidden gem is worth raving about. It is without a doubt my favorite restaurant in Little Italy – hands down! Since it is off the main drag and tucked away behind a brick wall, the atmosphere is more subdued, and they have a large parking lot.

IMAG0100This is not your spaghetti and meatballs and gnocchi kind of Italian restaurant. Whenever anyone asks me what to order here my answer is the arugula salad with limoncello reduction (Insalata di Rucola con Limoncello) and the Sacchetti al Tartufo. My father teases me about being so passionate about a salad, but it is THAT GOOD. And OMG, the sacchetti! But I am getting ahead of myself.

The starters are divine. On a recent trip my friend ordered the layered eggplant terrine (Terrina di Melanzane), and it IMAG0103turned out to be the most delightful eggplant parmesan and was surprisingly large. I will be ordering this the next time I go! I ordered the caprese salad, which featured hunks of fresh mozzarella and tomato (they were still in season at the time) and was topped with fresh basil and just some olive oil, salt and pepper.

OK, onto the pasta. The pasta here is all handmade and IMAG0104perfectly prepared. You can order half portions of the pasta, and I suggest you do to try several at once. The aforementioned Sacchetti al Tartufo are little pillows of heaven stuffed with ricotta and black truffle and served in a black truffle cream sauce. Words cannot do this dish justice. You simply must order it. I was hooked from the first bite. Vegetarians will be happy with the potato gnocchi with hazelnut pesto (Gnocchi con Pesto di Nocciola) and the ricotta cavatelli with wild mushrooms in a rosemary fontina cream sauce (Cavatelli con Funghi e Fontina). I personally am also a huge fan of the veal-stuffed tortellini with prosciutto di Parma, green peas and Parmesan Reggiano (Tortellini di Vitello con Prosciutto e Piselli) – not pictured. IMAG0105I got hooked on this particular pasta dish while living in Germany, and their version is delicious. The Pappardelle alla Bolognese (also not pictured) is also savory and delicious. I got to try it on the NEO Food Tour of Little Italy.

The desserts also do not disappoint. The tiramisu was fresh and creamy with just a hint of espresso and cocoa, and I seem to order the chocolate mousse cups every single time I go. They are three individual morsels that are easy to pop in your mouth and savor.

This place – particularly the bar – is also extremely inviting in the winter, because it has a roaring fireplace. It is just tough to get one of the easy chairs in front of the fire because they are so popular.

Contact info:

Michaelangelo’s
2198 Murray Hill Road,
Cleveland, OH 44106
216-721-0300


EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute

June 20, 2014
Photo from the EDWINS website

Photo from the EDWINS website

EDWINS is a unique restaurant. The brain child of restauranteur Brandon Chrostowski, it is billed as “a hospitality center training ground for individuals seeking successful re-entry into the professional world.” Formerly-incarcerated students looking to learn how to work in the hospitality industry spend six months learning the ins and outs of the trade. Successful graduates are now working at top restaurants in Cleveland as well as other cities. It is a non-profit 501c3 organization (and as such does not have a tip line on the bill, but a “charitable donation”).

Salad Niçoise

Salad Niçoise

EDWINS’ restaurant sales subsidize the nonprofit’s mission. I prefer to think of it as a delicious upscale French restaurant. This is a wonderful mission and well worth supporting. And a HUGE step up from the previous restaurant that occupied the space, the old Grotto wine bar. This is a welcome addition to Shaker Square.

Chef Gilbert Brenot runs the kitchen. I have known about Gilbert since he had his own restaurant (Bistro 82) in Twinsburg and my sister waitressed for him back in college. The man can definitely cook. Everything that comes out of the kitchen is flawless. The restaurant focuses on fine French dining.

IMAG0630On the first visit I had a very small appetite, so I ordered a number of appetizers and small plates. I started my meal with a Parisian Mule, which features Tito’s Vodka, Creme de Cassis de Dijon, Fresh Lime, Fever Tree Ginger Bee. It was just as light and refreshing as I expected. I had heard wonderful things about the rabbit pie, so that was a must. The official description is Tarte de lapin au Parmesan et jambon en croûte (rabbit pie with Parmesan and prosciutto crust). IMAG0631The crust was flaky and definitely had a salty Parmesan and prosciutto flavor. Although a little drier than I expected, the filling was extremely flavorful and delicious. Everyone who had a bite of my pie enjoyed it. I accompanied the rabbit pie with the Artichauts barigoule (artichokes braised in white wine, olive oil and butter). They were perfectly cooked and were a nice complement to the rabbit pie. I split the Salade Niçoise (a fresh salad with Ortiz tuna, haricot verts, egg, potato, anchovy, tomato, red onion, Niçoise olives and red wine vinaigrette), and they split the salad on two plates for us. This was light and fresh and featured perfectly cooked tuna steaks. The size is small, but it is a nice side salad to pair with an entree.IMAG0790

I splurged on my second visit. I started with an an Aviation cocktail (Boodles gin, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, crème de violette, and fresh lemon) and the Bisque de homard (lobster bisque). It was very smooth and not overly creamy with fresh lobster meat served in the middle and decorated with a swoop of crème fraiche. My second course was the Tournedos de saumon gratiné au raifort et sa sauce aux concombres et crème fraîche (horseradish encrusted salmon with cucumbers and crème fraîche), and I paired it with a glass of California Chardonnay. I have to say that this is probably my favorite thing on the menu. Our server asked how I wanted the salmon cooked, and I left it up to the chef to prepare it as he saw fit. It was perfectly cooked (not too dry and not too moist), and the crème fraîche sauce with dill was the perfect accompaniment. I even used some bread to sop up someIMAG0791 of the sauce when I had finished the salmon.

Also worth noting is the Ratatouille avec tofu et pistou (Ratatouille with tofu and pistou sauce). The pistou sauce is a tomato-based sauce that was absolutely delicious. One of my friends ordered this and allowed me to taste it. I am not normally a huge fan of ratatouille, but this one has definitely won me over. It is absolutely delicious!

IMAG0798Everyone raves about the cheese service, which is very impressive, but for me the star of the restaurant is the Bananas Foster prepared table side. It is a delight to watch – from the melting of the butter, to the caramelizing of the brown sugar, addition of the banana and flambeing with liquors – and even more delicious and delightful to eat afterwards. One of my tablemates ordered it, and I have every intention of coming back just for the bananas foster! IMAG0799The gentleman preparing the dessert was a little nervous and had someone whispering what to do in his ear, but he explained afterwards that it was his first time preparing it. He did a wonderful job for a first-timer, and we made sure to complement him to the manager.

IMAG0633The créme brulée and soufflé are also outstanding choices. I have been lucky enough to try bites from my dinner companions. The sugar on the créme brulée was perfectly caramelized, and the custard was deliciously creamy. The soufflé was as light and delicious as you would expect. Be sure to order it with your meal, because it takes 25 minutes to make. You won’t go wrong ordering any of the desserts. Even the poached pear is delicious.

The service is impeccable – almost too much at times, with several people coming by to ask how everything was. Our water glasses were always full, bread was always replenished, and every tiny request was quickly fulfilled. They definitely get an A++ for service.

Contact info:

EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute
13101 Shaker Square
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 921-3333


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