Mason’s Creamery

September 28, 2017

Mason’s Creamery opened in 2015 and has quickly become a favorite ice cream spot for me. They started out making ice cream at local farmer’s markets. Located on Bridge Avenue and W. 44th Street, Mason’s is a small, local business serving high-quality ice cream in all kinds of adventurous flavors. The flavors are constantly changing, so it’s always fun to go and try new things. They are always trying new flavors and are open to suggestions. There are always 16 flavors available, five of which are usually vegan or dairy free. At a place like this it’s worth venturing out of your comfort zone to try the taro, red bean, black sesame, matcha or the chai tea latte ice cream. My absolute favorite so far has been the fried ice cream, but their sorbets are also intriguing (and vegan if you like that sort of thing). They allow you to sample the flavors before you order. They also serve vegan soft serve on Sundays. In addition to scoops in a cup (2 for $4 or 3 for $5.50), you can order your ice cream or sorbet in a waffle cone, with a churro (with or without dipping chocolate), as an iced cream sandwich between warm, fresh cookies or Coquette Patisserie macarons, or nestled in a fluffy egg waffle. They make everything there fresh.

I am usually boring and prefer my ice cream scooped in a cup. It may be austere, but their ice cream is never boring. I’ve enjoyed the Tang sorbet, fried ice cream, Vietnamese coffee, Ceylon Cinnamon, Matcha, Cafe con Leche, Thai iced tea… I could go on. When I had the Tang sorbet I regretted not ordering it with the Thai ice tea because that would have been an amazing dreamsicle-like creation.

I had been wanting to try the egg waffle and I am so glad I finally did, because it is absolutely delicious. It is a great accompaniment to the creamier flavors, and you can imagine my surprise when I was then asked if I wanted regular whipped cream, peanut butter whipped cream or Nutella whipped cream. What? My friends also ordered egg waffles and raved about them. One went with the French toast and is now a HUGE fan, and the other ordered the salted caramel and loved it. I opted for Ceylon Cinnamon and Thai ice tea with Nutella whipped cream. Go big or go home, right?

Pay attention to your spoon. It changes color when it hits the ice cream (you can see it in the photo of the sorbet above). My friend freaked out tonight when I pointed it out and his boring white spoon then turned pink. I love that.

If that isn’t enough, they occasionally do Ramen Nights where they make big pots of ramen and serve it to long lines of ramen enthusiasts until they run out. I have yet to make it to one, but it is on my list of things to do.

Contact info:

Mason’s Creamery
4401 Bridge Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
216) 245-8942

Advertisements

Mister Brisket

September 17, 2017

Mr. Brisket is the place to go in the Heights for all things meat. This butcher shop and deli is located on Taylor Road just south of Cedar Road and has been around since 1973. It is known among those in the know as one of the best butcher shops and delis around. They sell high-end USDA prime beef, veal, lamb, pork, poultry and seafood as well as some outstanding deli meats and sandwiches. They are particularly known for their pastrami, corned beef, and (obviously) brisket as well as their Jewish delicacies like chopped liver, knishes, and potato pancakes. Some consider the pastrami to be the best in the city.

The place has zero ambiance and no seating. It’s carry-out only. Don’t let its looks deceive you. Everyone raves that the corned beef sandwiches are better than Jack’s Deli or Corky and Lenny’s.

When I am in the mood for a sandwich I pop down to Mister Brisket. If I’m lucky I can get a parking space on the street, but most of the time I have to park across the street at the shopping center and cross the street. I’ve had several of their sandwiches. The sandwiches are loaded with meat and come with a pickle. You can also purchase sides of cole slaw, macaroni or potato salad, chips, cookies, brownies, and cans of soda. You can buy single sandwiches or a boxed lunch. The large boxed lunch features a large sandwich, potato salad or cole slaw, cookie, pickle spear, napkin, beverage and utensils for $12.95. The smaller boxed lunch comes with a smaller sandwich, chips, cookie, pickle spear, napkin, beverage and utensils for $9.95. It’s a good deal and is usually what I choose and a large side of potato salad or mac salad.

My first time I had to order the Reuben even though I don’t like corned beef. The meat was moist and lean. Not grisly or salty. They were light on the Swiss, as a proper Reuben should be. The Thousand Island dressing was a creamy accompaniment. The bread was nothing to write home about, but it was very tasty and soft. It was a proper rye bread – none of that marbled stuff. They also have great pickle spears that accompany the sandwiches.

All of the sandwiches can be toasted upon request. They offer a choice of Swiss, American, provolone or pepper jack, Stadium, yellow or spicy mustard, mayo, a spicy mayo called Tiger Sauce, horseradish, Thousand Island, BBQ sauce and hot sauce. You can choose rye, wheat or a bun.

I love the look of the Charles Barr, which features corned beef and pastrami on rye with Swiss and yellow mustard, but since I’m not a huge fan of either meat I stick with the brisket, turkey and roast beef. The Duke is even more impressive, with layers of corned beef, turkey, salami and brisket with Swiss cheese. It’s over one pound of sandwich. The photo of the Duke (below left) is from the Mister Brisket web site, since there is no way I could eat one when I usually can only eat half a sandwich and save the other half for later.

The only thing I haven’t enjoyed from there was their matzo ball soup. The broth and matzo balls come frozen, and that does them no favors. The broth was extremely salty and tasted like it was straight chicken stock (no carrots, no parsley, etc.). The matzo balls were mealy. It might have been a fluke, but I won’t be buying it again. I ended up throwing it all out, which about killed me because I love matzo ball soup.

You can also order special order cuts of meat. I deliver Meals on Wheels, and the volunteer appreciation dinner serves Mister Brisket BBQ brisket. You can bring it back to the store after you’ve prepared it and they’ll even slice it for you (properly – against the grain for brisket). It’s all part of the service. One of my Jewish friends is ordering her fish and brisket here for Rosh Hashanah next week. The store also carries special products like roasted turkey and roasted chicken for people to purchase for the holidays.

They are closed on Sundays and Mondays, and offer a special on Tuesdays featuring $1 off any large sandwich. They are only open until 4:00 Tuesday through Thursday, 5:00 on Friday, and 3:00 on Saturdays.

They are good people. They also takes donations to send kosher salamis to the troops. The store charges $20 for a shipment of salami to the troops, and it can be sent virtually anywhere, even to service members who are posted on aircraft carriers and other ships. They also accept donations to the cause. This is the kind of place I like to support.

Contact info:

Mister Brisket
2156 South Taylor Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 932-8620


Crust

August 15, 2017

Crust Midtown has great pizza and subs and is the perfect lunch-time stop. I haven’t been to the one in Tremont, but the one in Midtown is perfect when I get a craving for crusty bread or pizza. Do two locations make it a “local chain”? I’m categorizing it as one. The Tremont location just opened and has expanded including a liquor license. It’s also open until 9 PM every day except Sunday. The Midtown location offers more seating with all the businesses nearby, and is only open until 2:30 Monday through Friday. In addition to a nice range of seating options they also have a few tables for al fresco dining, which don’t see a lot of use in the winter. I tend to go at off-lunch hours, so I’ve always had very quick service.

The ovens are not wood-fired, but they turn out a good pizza at 550 degrees. Everything is made from scratch, and the dough is hand-tossed. The pizza slices are huge. One slice fills up a small carryout box. The crust is delicious, and they have a variety of toppings to choose from. They also have pre-made pies to choose from that don’t require a wait. I ordered a slice of the Margherita, which is my go-to order at a new pizza place. The crust was chewy and had a nice crumb to it. The tomatoes and basil were very fresh, which was great. The Lemon Rosemary Chicken smelled wonderful, and I will have to try that sometime soon.

As good as the pizza is, I really like their subs. Like the pizza, the subs are also quite substantial. The first sub I tried was the Ultimate Club , which features slab bacon, turkey, capicola, provolone, lettuce, tomato, and basil mayo. My sub came out of the oven a little charred, but I really enjoyed the flavor of it. The meats were delicious and fresh, and I just really enjoyed every bite. The subs are very filling (at least for me). I was only able to eat half and took the other half home for later.

One of my friends swears by their meatball sub, so I met her a few weeks later to try it. The meatballs were soft, the cheese was perfectly melty, and it had the perfect ratio of meat, sauce and cheese. The photo here is just half of the meatball sub, so they have four substantial meatballs in the sub. I enjoyed the sub a lot and would probably get it again if I were craving a meatball sub.

If you are looking for a solid slice of pizza or tasty sub be sure to check out Crust.

Contact info:

Crust Midtown
3000 St Clair Avenue,
Cleveland, OH
216-589-9711

Crust Tremont
2258 Professor Ave
Cleveland, OH
216-583-0257

You can find the menus for both locations here.


Tableside service at EDWINS

August 1, 2017

My friends and I met at EDWINS on Shaker Square for dinner last week. We took advantage of the amazing weather and chose to sit outside on their patio. It was 65 degrees and sunny with a light breeze. The night was practically perfect.

When we sat down we were asked if we wanted still or sparkling water, and they kept our glasses topped off the whole night. I enjoyed my Hemingway Daiquiri, but was less enamored with the French 75, which was made with gin instead of champagne as I am used to. The service was exceptional from start to finish. The staff is trained here for six months, three months front of house and three months back of house. EDWINS just does a great job preparing them for the food service industry. We are lucky to have it here. A little birdie told us September’s Dinner in the Dark will be at EDWINS, and they will be inviting some of their graduates to come cook for us. Nancy said the last time they did it it was exceptional.

I had decided to treat myself to Le Burger, which is prepared tableside, but was waivering between the burger and the steak. Our server insisted Le Burger was the right choice, no matter what. Le Burger features hand ground beef, bacon, mushrooms, fried garlic and sauce Diane. Not just any beef, but filet ground right at the table with herbs then added in. Our tableside preparer had trouble with the grinder (some part wasn’t moving properly), but once it was fixed it worked perfectly.

The formed burger patty was then taken inside to grill while the preparer makes the sauce Diane. He started with goose fat, then added butter, bacon, mushrooms, shallots, Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard and garlic. He then added brandy and flambéed it up. It was quite a sight to see.

Then he added cream to the sauce and let it thicken until the plated patties were brought back out to be finished. The patties were generously topped with the sauce and arugula and served with a side of goose fat fried potatoes, which were absolutely luscious.

The burger was tender and cooked to my specifications. My friend Nancy also thoroughly enjoyed her burger, while her husband loved the steak and asparagus.

I also ordered a side of the Broccolini Polonaise to get some veggies in. The broccolini were perfectly cooked and served with brown butter, breadcrumbs and grated hard-boiled egg. I thoroughly enjoyed it that night as well as with the other half of my burger the next day.

I continued the tableside theme by ordering cherries jubilee. I had never had cherries jubilee and had always wanted to try it. They used to prepare bananas foster tableside, but now they serve it as a french toast dessert. I had a different preparer for this course. The melted butter, cherries and sugar were heated in the skillet along with some lemon juice. Once the cherries softened and reduced down a bit he added some alcohol (if I remember correctly rum and Grand Marnier) and flambéed it up.

It was served with some housemade vanilla ice cream. The cherry sauce had thickened and hardened a bit, so I had some bites that were a toffee-like consistency and some that were creamy. The deep red of the cherries looks amazing against the white of the vanilla ice cream, and the flavor is even more amazing than how it looks.

I enjoyed it a lot, but the real star for me was the Creme Brulee. My friend let me have a couple bites of hers, and it was just about the best I’ve ever had. The sugar was thin and flaky, and the eggy custard was amazingly delicious. I will be going back for that again soon!

Sitting outside on the patio and enjoying the tableside service was truly amazing, but they also offer the service inside all year round. The preparers both agreed it was a little trickier outside than inside, but the flames did not go out so I consider it a success.

Apart from one friend who didn’t like her eggplant (but enjoyed her Chocolate Pyramid dessert and was pleased with how the staff handled her not liking the eggplant) we all went home very happy with our experience at EDWINS.

Contact info:

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


Sangria y Tapas

July 10, 2017

I apologize for the delay between posts. My real job has been keeping me very, very busy, and I haven’t had a chance to sit down and have enough time to craft a decent review, which this place definitely deserves.

I first heard about Sangria y Tapas on a New Day Cleveland feature. I am a sucker for sangria and paella. Especially good paella. I quickly organized a dinner there with my dining out group.

The more I examined the menu beforehand, I decided to eat my way through the tapas menu instead of ordering the paella. Everyone at the table ordered tapas that night, and we passed the dishes around and got to taste everyone’s choices. I went in determined to order the Spanish tortilla, which is a simple omelet of eggs, onion and potatoes, and a couple other small plates.

We started off the evening with sangria. Oh, that sangria. I ordered a half pitcher of the white sangria since most of my tapas choices called for a white wine. I loved every single drop. I got to taste the red sangria and the champagne sangria, and they were both great too (in fact on the second visit I ordered a single glass of the champagne sangria instead of a pitcher). But I really, really like their white sangria. One of my friends used the straws like chopsticks to fish out the chunks of fresh fruit, which I thought was a much more elegant solution than sticking a fork or your fingers in.

They brought out baskets of bread with oil to nibble on while we decided what to get. The bread was quite tasty, and if I remember correctly I believe it was from Blackbird Baking Company. The dipping oil was nice, but the oil was a little off on the second trip.

I went a little overboard and ordered a lot of dishes. The Tortilla a la Espanola was perfectly cooked and was exactly as I expected it to be. Fluffy and flavorful with creamy potatoes.

The Camarones a la Cancun (shrimp cocktail with avocado, cilantro and onion in a tomato sauce) was a little sweeter than I expected, but I enjoyed it. I wish it had come with a few more crackers, because I was left with a lot of tomato sauce left over once I ate the shrimp and avocado out of it. If you plan on ordering this save one or two pieces of bread.

The Aceitunas Marinadas (marinated olives) were a delight. They had a kick to them from lots of balsamic vinegar. I ended up taking them home with the leftover tortilla and eating them for lunch the next day. I think they were even better the second day! I would definitely get them again.

I also ordered the Vieras a Cebon (sea scallops stuffed with short ribs). I wanted to love them and they were good and perfectly cooked, but the other dishes were so flavorful that these were just kind of underwhelming. If you order them try to eat them first while your palate is still fresh.

Another standout was the Croquetas San Miguel (potato fritters stuffed with serrano ham and drizzled with honey). The honey really complemented the fritters and was a great addition. I loved these!

We ordered so many other small plates. One of my vegetarian friends was thrilled with her Patatas Bravas (spicy potatoes), mushroom risotto, and the Vegetales a la Parilla (medley of grilled vegetables – pictured here).

The bacon-wrapped quail, meat and cheese platter, and stuffed mushrooms with crab meat were also very well-received.

The desserts were also amazing. They bring around a tray of all the available desserts, and diners choose. I ordered the creme brulee cheesecake, which was superb.

The flan was also a standout. Creamy and delicious with an amazing caramel sauce. If I remember correctly someone at the other end of the table ordered the Almond Cake, which was also delicious but was not photogenic by the time it came to me.

The desserts capped off a perfect meal, but one really nice touch is the complementary chilled almond liquor they serve as a digestif. They showed us the bottle at our request so that we could buy it to drink at home. It was really lovely.

One thing that absolutely should not be missed is their Cafe a la Espanole. It is made with coffee, Kahlua, Grand  Marnier, Bailey’s and whipped cream. It’s really a dessert in itself. They make it table-side, and it is a sight to see and delicious to boot. The sparks coming off the glass are great.

Everyone was so thrilled with the meal that they were talking about coming back soon, which is something we never do. I scheduled a follow-up for Paella Valenciana a few weeks later.

We had such a delightful time the first time that we were able to give the service a bit of a pass the second time. Even though I called to reserve a table and called back to add two more with plenty of notice they seemed surprised when we arrived. They were very booked up with a huge birthday party that day and a couple other larger tables had come and added people without giving them notice, so they were fairly in the weeds. They eventually managed to seat us together at one table after a bit of a wait and after bringing in tables and chairs from the patio (it was raining, so there was no one seated out there). The loud live music also wasn’t conducive to chatting, so we were happy that they moved us out of the main room to our final destination in a side room.

Our waiter was noticeably overwhelmed, and I’m sure the kitchen was as well. He forgot to mention a couple of specials that one of our fellow diners would have ordered if she had known about it. We had already ordered when he approached a neighboring table and told them the specials, including the missing ones. The photo below is the Seafood Special, featuring langostino, scallops, clams, calamari and mussels. Three of my dining companions split this as well as a couple other small plates and enjoyed it. The entree in the rear of the photo is the Fideuà, which is similar to paella but made with noodles instead of rice.

Since the kitchen was in the weeds, our paella didn’t wow us as it probably would have otherwise. I enjoyed it, but some of my dining companions were less impressed. I will definitely be going back and ordering it again, because I just love paella and this was a very good version of it. I also enjoyed the leftovers the next day.

Everyone was served a side salad, which surprised us. One salad came out without dressing (oops), but a side of dressing was quickly requested and brought to the table. We also enjoyed the housemade potato chips that apparently come with dinners. We all nibbled at the crisp chips, which were perfectly seasoned. I think they might have also brought a platter of vegetables to the table, but it never got down to my end.

I also ordered the garlic soup and didn’t love it, but that might have been just me. There was a boiled egg in it acting as a kind of dumpling, and I am not a fan of egg since I’m allergic. I ate around it.

The overall consensus was that Sangria y Tapas is a hidden gem. The tapas menu is extensive and has something for everyone. I highly recommend it! I only wish it were closer.

Contact info:

Sangria y Tapas
27200 Detroit Avenue
Westlake, OH 44145
(440) 617-6476


Cleveland Jam and Old Brooklyn Cheese Company

June 20, 2017

IMG_20170801_135244Cleveland just keeps getting better and better. Old Brooklyn has two of those reasons with two very cool artisan food shops. I learned about Cleveland Jam on New Day Cleveland and had heard about Old Brooklyn Cheese Company since the day they opened and Bite Buff wrote about it. I combined both of them one day in early March when I needed cheese for a grilled cheese party I was attending and decided to buy Cleveland Jam’s Elliot Ness Fig Apple Jam to bring as well. I’ve been back several times since.

Since it is a start-up, Cleveland Jam is only open in the evenings (Tuesday to Friday) after 5 PM and Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM, but you can also order it online and find it in some local stores (click here for their store locator). Imagine my surprise to find out that the conservatory and retail shop were literally across the street from my grandparents’ home on West Schaaf Road. If I had moved into the house instead of selling it after my uncle passed away a few years ago I would have been aware of them a lot sooner. I’ve always loved that property, with its cool greenhouses and copper roof on the home. Those greenhouses are now housing grape vines, and the property features a retail shop, where owner Jim Conti sells products made with local beer and wine. Conti hopes to eventually turn the greenhouse into a winery. A graduate of viticulture and enology studies at Kent State University, Conti carried on his family’s tradition of winemaking and was looking for a way to reuse the leftover sediment. He came up with the idea of making jams and jellies. He stocks jellies made with white zinfandel, merlot, cabernet, shiraz and chardonnay. That then spun off to using the sediment from Great Lakes Brewing Co. beers to make his Eliot Ness Fig and Apple Jam and Burning River Pepper Jam and from Catawba Island Brewing Company. All of their products are available to sample in the retail store, and they also sell products from Cleveland Popcorn, Bearded Buch, Cleveland Tea Revival, and Randy’s Pickles there.

I have four jars of Cleveland Jam in my refrigerator. His Rock and Roll Merlot is a favorite, but the Bangin Blueberry IPA is my absolute favorite. I use them a lot on toast with or without cream cheese, but you can also cook with them. Their website has quite a few recipes for chicken and meat. I paired the fig and apple jam with brie and candied walnuts from Old Brooklyn Cheese Company at the grilled cheese party I went to that weekend, and everyone loved the combination.

When they heard why I wanted the jam they told me I had to go to the Old Brooklyn Cheese Company. I was pleased to tell them that was my next stop. I hopped in my car and headed down W. Schaaf, took a right on Pearl Road and found parking right in front of the storefront (there is also a parking lot in back). It is located on Pearl just before the bridge. Owner Michael Januska has opened a great little artisan cheese store selling his own cheeses as well as lots of very well-known brands like Cowgirl Creamery and Kokoborrego and area favorites Lake Erie Creamery and Yellow House Cheese. I also bought a pound of raclette since I was having some friends over for raclette that weekend. Januska funded much of his production kitchen for Old Brooklyn Cheese Co. through contributions on Kickstarter, which surpassed its goal. In addition to selling aged cheeses, Januska is making his own products like the Chupacabra in a state-of-the-art production kitchen and aging others on site in one of three cheese caves. Januska has partnered with Hartzler Family Dairy in Wooster to supply its grass-fed, non-GMO, raw milk produced within 50 miles from where it will be transformed into cheese. The staff, which includes Januska’s fiance Angie, really know their stuff here and gladly serve samples so you can taste before you buy. One of their employees, Morgan, makes the most delectable spreads like one with goat cheese and apples or feta and olive. I brought the feta and olive spread to the grilled cheese party, but also bought a tub for my own consumption. They also sell local products like Old City Soda, Hartzler milk, Randy’s Pickles, Cleveland Jam, Montana Girl Mustard, candied walnuts, baguettes from Blackbird Bakery, and handcarved cheese boards shaped like Ohio (to just name a few) as well as Losada Olives (which I have loved since Counter Culture last year), infused oils and vinegars, and other artisan brands.

I started following them on Instagram and when they announced their raclette grill had arrived to make sandwiches I was the first customer to order one. The grill melts the cheese, which is then scraped onto a baguette and served with prosciutto, Randy’s Pickles and my choice of Montana Girl Mustard or a Old Brooklyn Cheese Company mustard. I choose the OBCC mustard. I picked out an Old City soda and waited for my sandwich to be ready. It was very good, if a little salty. I definitely think it is a treat that most people don’t know about, despite it being extremely popular in Switzerland and other European countries.

Contact info:

Cleveland Jam Conservatory
1300 W Schaaf Road
Cleveland, OH 44109
(440) 390-1170

Old Brooklyn Cheese Company
4138 Pearl Road
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 860-4000


Saucisson

June 10, 2017

Since I wrote about The Red Chimney in my last post I decided to stay in Slavic Village for the next one as well. Started in 2013, Saucisson’s mission is to provide unique and hard to find products. From hand cured meats to specially spiced sausages, Saucisson supports local farms that are humane and hormone free. The lady butchers at Saucisson, Melissa Khoury and Penny Barend, made a name for themselves selling at the local farmers markets, hustling at pop-ups, and providing their bold rillets and charcuterie for restaurants around town. After working out of the kitchen at the Katz Club Diner, they recently opened a storefront on Fleet Avenue just off I-77. Full disclosure: I was a Kickstarter backer (“Babs backer”) to help them fund the storefront, and I am really pleased with what they have done. I stopped in on the day they opened on March 16 and have been back several times since. They were serving nachos that day (see photo right). I have been buying their sausages, mortadella and currywursts since before the place opened, but I love seeing their thick and nicely marbled pork chops and strip steaks as well as all the other meats they are butchering there. They made a Canadian bacon that was absolutely perfect a little while ago, and they are known for their tasso ham and beef jerky. The freezers and coolers are stocked with their frozen soups made with their products, rendered lard, ground meat, and soup bones as well as other products from other local vendors like LeCracker, Cleveland Kraut, and Montana Girl Mustard.

They are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11-7 (and processing and prepping in their huge, clean kitchen in back on the other days) and serve a tasty lunch special as well. They also advertise their pop-ups at local restaurants and cafes like brunches at Rising Star or most recently their Memorial Day picnic at Terrestrial Brewing Company. You can follow them on Instagram to find out what they are serving each week and where they will be holding their next pop-up.

When I stopped in for lunch a few weeks ago I enjoyed their BBQ chicken sandwich with pickled pepper and red onion slaw and their homemade smokey sausage navy bean soup. The chicken was moist and delicious, the kraut was not at all overpowering, and the soup had just a hint of smoky spice to it that I loved. They have a few tables where you can sit and enjoy your meal. The place is light and bright, with floor-to-ceiling windows. The neighborhood is excited they are there, and they are talking with some urban farms in the area to sell their products. So be sure to check them out and support them!

Contact info:

Saucisson
5324 Fleet Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44105
(216) 303-9067