NEO Food Tour of Shaker Square

IMG_20110817_182745I miss the NEO Food Tours. It shut its doors last year when Todd started working for the Beachland Ballroom. Those tours were really great opportunities to get to know several restaurants at once. Since I have been posting more (not to mention the fact I am going on a hard core diet for the next two months and won’t be going out to eat very often), I think I should also document the two other tours I have gone on. After all, the Shaker Square restaurants deserve some recognition – even though two of the featured restaurants are no longer in business. I attended the tour on Wednesday, August 17, 2011. This tour write-up is bittersweet, because we started our tour off at Sergio’s Sarava, IMG_20110817_190648which is now closed and houses Zanzibar. Sergio, you are missed, but not forgotten.

We started off at Sarava being greeted with a Caipirinha and little nibbles. The bartender then showed us how they made a caipirinha, and they served us their Shrimp Corness, feature fresh Gulf shrimp, Ohio sweet corn and chive butter with a bit of heat from locally grown peppers. IMG_20110817_193428The shrimp and corn complemented each other nicely and could not have been any fresher. The Caipirinha has long been one of my favorite drinks, and it paired well with the Shrimp Corness, cooling off the bit of heat quite nicely.

We then walked around the Square to meet at SASA Matsu. Along the way Todd explained the history of Shaker Square (history copied from the Shaker Square website)

Construction of Moreland Courts and what was then Moreland Circle began at Shaker Boulevard in 1921, on land acquired by Josiah Kirby from the “Vans” — real estate developers Mantis James and Oris Paxton Van Sweringen. Architect Alfred Harris planned an ambitious series of apartments, with commercial buildings, including a theater and market, surrounding the Circle. Only a portion of the plan was carried out when Kirby’s company went bankrupt. The Van Sweringens reacquired the property and enlisted architects Philip Small and Charles Rowley to complete Moreland Courts and develop plans for what would become Shaker Square. The Vans saw Shaker Square as a focal point and gateway to their suburb to the east, Shaker Heights. Integral to their vision of “Shaker Village” and the development of Shaker Square was the creation of a rapid transit (light rail) connection to downtown Cleveland.

So much for the interesting history. Onto the food tour…IMG_20110817_194843

Chef Kim came out and greeted us at SASA with sparkling Niogri sake. The sake was refreshing, and in a fun twist of fate one of the women with whom I was sitting was married to the sake distributor, so I got to learn more about sake than was presented. We also were treated to a second glass of sake (the little white cups in photo of lamb slider) The sake paired well with SASA’s lamb sliders and unbelievably addictive SASA fries. The lamb sliders (or “mini burgers”) were served on homemade sesame buns. They were the perfect two-bite course. And I have waxed about the SASA fries before.

IMG_20110817_204050The next stop on the tour was Fire, Food, and Drink. We were seated in their private room and greeted by Chef Katz. We were given our choice of red or white wine and served 4 ounces of Fire’s Tandoor roasted hanger steak with leek bread pudding, crumbled bleu cheese, sauteed spinach and porcino jus. This was by far my most favorite course. It was extremely delicious. I was starting to hit the wall here, but thoroughly enjoyed the few bites of steak I could manage to eat. The leek bread pudding and sauteed spinach were also absolutely divine!

IMG_20110817_215602Our final stop of the evening was at Grotto Wine Bar (now housing EDWINS). The dessert course featured two choices: a grilled peach with mascarpone paired with Presdial Thunevin White Bordeaux Blend or a cheese plate with candied walnuts and berries paired with Duckpond Syrah. Since I am a HUGE fan of white Bordeaux I went with the grilled peach. I did not regret my choice. It was perfectly grilled.

Our takeaway gift from the tour was a Caipirinha muddle and pestle featuring a SKYY Vodka logo. I have used it several times since, and it makes good Caipirinhas.

This was an outstanding food tour, and each stop was delicious as well as unique. Definitely one of the highlights of my summer that year. You might consider doing your own little Shaker Square tour. I suggest drinks at Zanzibar (I love their Purple Rain – lemonade with grape Koolaid), appetizers at SASA, dinner at Fire, and dessert at EDWINS (I recommend the bananas foster, but any of their desserts will blow your mind). If European food is more your style, Balaton has great schnitzel, paprikash and strudel. Whatever you decide, you should definitely plan on a lovely evening at Shaker Square soon.

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