Mitchell’s Ice Cream

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 IMAG0857life’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.” Mike 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 IMAG0864passionate owners as much as possible. Mike even took a moment several times to fist bump one of the toddlers in our little group.

Clevelanders 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 IMAG0862and 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.

IMAG3897They 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

Update: Piccadilly Artisan Creamery has moved next door to the Coquette Patisserie storefront. The Piccadilly Artisan Yogurt shop on Coventry has closed.

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.

chocdecThe 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.

My all-time favorite here is the caramelized banana. It is refreshing and great with either chocolate or caramel drizzle.

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


Villa y Zapata

villayzapataVilla y Zapata is probably my favorite Mexican restaurant in Cleveland. It’s good for omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike, and is extremely affordable. The restaurant is in a pretty sketchy neighborhood and looks like a dive from the outside, but the food inside is really delicious. It is solid Mexican food – fresh, tasty and good-sized portions.

The restaurants is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, and closed on Sunday. Park in their parking lot if you can. It is off the side street off Madison. Enter through the rear of the building off the parking lot.

Be forewarned that they only allow one check for groups larger than 6, so if you are dining with a chilerellenogroup encourage your fellow diners to bring cash!

Once you are seated, as in every other Mexican restaurant on the planet, you are immediately given a bowl of chips and salsa. The salsa is spicy and very flavorful.

Be sure to order a margarita or a 1/2 or full pitcher if you’re feeling feisty. They come in House, Golden or Strawberry. The house margarita is bright green and quite delicious. The black raspberry margarita is only available by the glass. They also serve a nice variety of Mexican beer ranging from the ubiquitous Corona and Dos Equis to the lesser known and probably more delicious Bohemia, Negro Modelo, and Modelo especial.

My father’s favorite Mexican food hands down is chili rellenos, so of course I had to order them as my main course on my first visit. The meal came with 2 large chile rellenos, rice and re-fried beans. This was a solid chile rellenos — cheese stuffed poblano peppers in a tomato-based sauce. I loved the rice and refried beans – and look at the char on the peppers.fajita My father would love it.

Another go-to entree for me is the fajitas. I was in the mood for steak, so I ordered the steak fajitas on my next visit. The steak came out sizzling on the cast iron plate – as it should be along with sauteed green pepper, onion and tomato. I liked that they used tomato in the fajitas as well. It really made it quite tasty. The fajitas come with a second plate containing rice, refried beans, guacamole and pico de gallo as well as tortillas so that you can dress the tacos as you see fit. Perfect!tingapoblano

One of the entrees recommended to us by the server was the Tinga Poblano, shredded chicken cooked with chipotle, tomato, potato, onion and sour cream. It was not something I would have ordered without the recommendation, but I was glad we did. It was really good.

You can also order a la carte items and combine them to make Small (2) and Large (3) Combos. The combos are served with rice and refried beans. It allows diners to order exactly what they are in the mood for. I like that option. comboI’m not sure what my fellow diner chose here, but it is beautifully plated so I wanted to include it. It looks like a taco and a beef enchilada.

The fried ice cream and sopapilla are perfect for sharing. The fried ice cream is served on a cinnamon sugar toasted tortilla shell. The sopapilla are little fried cinnamon sugar tortillas with whipped cream. Both are a sweet and delicious way to end your meal.

friedicecream sopapilla

Contact info:

Villa y Zapata
8505 Madison Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 961-4369

Minh Ahn

menuI have been on an Asian kick recently. One of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Cleveland, in my opinion, is Minh Ahn. It is located on Detroit Road just on the outskirts of Gordon Square in what is called “Little Saigon.” It looks like a hole in the wall in the middle of what suburbanites might feel is fairly sketchy neighborhood. It is actually fairly safe, and they have an enclosed parking lot that sees a fair amount of traffic.

Minh Anh is a family-run restaurant that has been in business since 1984. Everything is very fresh, because there is a Vietnamese market on the other side of the parking lot. They don’t concentrate on aestheIMAG0767tics. The Muzak is horrendous, the place is fairly bare and dated with a fish tank, wood walls and plastic tablecloths under glass, and the website is pretty outdated. However, the place is very clean, and the food is delicious!

The pho is the best in town in my humble opinion. I LOVE their cinnamon beef pho. The broth is rich and full of flavor, and the burst of cinnamon really brings it to the next level, surpassing the other pho joints in town. The noodles are always cooked perfectly, with a decent amount of meats. I chose the #22 (Phở tái Chin with well done and rare beef & beef balls) this time around. I can take or leave the beef balls, but love the thinly sliced beef. Limes are getting expensive, so the condiments they serve are jalapenos, bean sprouts, and a slice of lemon. If you prefer lime I suggest you bring your own with you. The Thai basil already comes in the broth (and a generous serving at that), and you can clearly see in the photo that the leaves were fresh and not wilted. springrollMy waitress asked why I wasn’t using the chili paste/oil (I am not a fan of spicy), but she showed me how to doctor it up by mixing it with the hoisin sauce and chili sauce in the bottles on the table. About one third of each sauce mixed together in the bowl to taste, and it is not at all spicy and just delicious! I greedily added it to my pho. I ordered a small pho and two egg rolls, and it was the perfect meal.

The egg rolls and spring rolls here are also always a delight. This time around I was so hungry that I dug into the egg rolls without taking a picture. They came out of the oven piping hot. In fact, I burned my tongue on them a bit. I cut them up to let them cool down deluxepadthaia bit, and the pork, cabbage and carrot filling was dense and flavorful while paired with the crispy, flaky wrapper. The fresh Shrimp Spring Roll (#9 – Gỏi Cuốn) is served with a side of peanut sauce for dipping. The roll is always fresh and tasty, and peanut dipping sauce is thick, creamy and delicious!

One of my other favorites here is the Deluxe Pad Thai (#99a). First of all, it is a beautiful, vibrant color (look at the vibrant red cabbage in the photo!) and chock full of everything that makes Pad Thai delicious – fresh rice noodles, shrimp, pork & chicken, bean sprouts and peanuts – and pickled red cabbage.

bunchagioThe Egg Rolls with Vermicelli (#50 – Bún Chả giò) is wonderful. It features a huge bowl of noodles, egg rolls, pickled carrots and  cabbage, cucumber, bean sprouts, onions, spicy ground peanuts and tiny fried onions. Next time I am ordering the grilled pork (#53 – Bún thịt nướng) – and order egg rolls on the side to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Minh Ahn is a dependable, affordable, and friendly place to eat. I’ve been here by myself numerous times as well as one time with a fairly large group of dining out enthusiasts, and not a single person complained about their meal. We all shared, and although we had a variety of dischickenszechuanhes ranging from Bun dishes, Vegetarian Szechuan (pictured), Scallop Hibachi, Vietnamese Stir Fried Noodles, and numerous curry dishes the hands down favorite was the cinnamon beef pho! If you want some flavorful Vietnamese cuisine you won’t go wrong here! Just be sure to wear a shirt that you can clean. I left after my most recent visit wearing quite a bit of pho broth!

Contact info:

Minh Ahn
5428 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 961-9671

Aladdin’s Eatery

I have been a fan of Aladdin’s, a local Cleveland chain, for years now. Headquartered in Lakewood, the company also has locations in Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1994.

IMAG0488I first started eating there when I lived on the West Side (their Berea location), and now enjoy the local eateries on the East Side (Cleveland Heights as well as Hudson). The food is solid and affordable, and the restaurant is very vegetarian-friendly. I am confident when I claim that Aladdin’s has the best hummus in Cleveland. Hands down. I am also extremely partial to their dawali (grape leaves stuffed with rice, chick peas, tomato, and parsley). The falafel also rocks. The vegetarian combo appetizer is a nice easy meal or easy to share. It features hummus, tabouli, baba, falafel, and dawali.

IMAG0489My sister first turned me onto their V-9 soup, which is amazing. It features 9 different vegetables, including potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes, peas, zucchini, peppers, and celery (the ninth veggie might be squash, but I can’t remember off the top of my head). In any case, it is divine, and when I first tried it I was not a fan of vegetables. One taste and I was hooked and ordered my own bowl. It is a great low calorie soup that warms the soul. Just look at the glisten on the broth and the fresh parsley floating on top. Yum. You can also add chicken to it for a heartier meal.

IMAG0507The Flavor Savor Special offers a little bit of everything. It features grilled chicken mishwi and beef kafta on a bed of seasoned white rice with vermicelli, served with mixed greens, hummus and falafel. The beef kafta has a zesty flavor to it, while the chicken mishwi is scrumptious. The falafel was moist and delicious. Most of the time falafel is overcooked and dry. Not here. And I could eat a ton of their rice and vermicelli. Aladdin’s is known for their hot sauce. I ordered it without, but unfortunately my waiter served it to me anyway and I thought it was salad dressing. Yeah, it isn’t salad dressing, so I wasn’t able to enjoy my salad on my last visit.

IMAG0490I also have a special place in my heart for their rolled pitas. Aladdin’s is known for its pita bread. Most everything is served with warm pita on the side. The rolled pitas are a nice pairing with the V-9 soup. I love the chicken shawarma rolled pita (I was eating it before The Avengers made chicken shawarma cool!), but recently tried the tuna steak rolled pita and fell in love. It features char-grilled tuna steak, greens, onion turnips, pickles, and curry spice topped with Aladdin’s garlic sauce (I quickly became addicted to this sauce!). The tuna was perfectly cooked and paired well with the turnips and pickles, which gave it chickenpitzaa nice flavor over and above the curry-garlic sauce. I cut it in half here to show off the filling and to make it a little more manageable to eat.

Aladdin’s is also known for their baked goods. The baklava is delicious, as are their carrot cake and Chocolate Bomb cake. They currently have a triple chocolate mousse cake that looks pretty amazing. All of their baked goods are made by Jasmine’s Bakery, which was established in 1997 to provide baked goods for Aladdin’s. I’m assuming it is a wink to the 1992 Disney classic, Aladdin, which makes me smile.

It is also a good place to meet friends if you are juicing. Their fresh juices and smoothies are delicious.

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Contact info:

Aladdin’s (search for one of their 30 locations)

Frederick’s Wine & Dine

Frederick’s Wine & Dine was recently named one of the Top 100 Restaurants in Cleveland by Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Friday magazine, so some friends and I wanted to check it out. We dined there on a Tuesday night. It is located near Thistledown at the corner of Emery and Northfield Roads. It is located in a run-down strip mall, but don’t let that scare you off. The inside is cavernous, and I can see how live music would liven things up.

IMG_20130618_192946The food was good (although some of my fellow diners were less enthused about their meals – the southern fried chicken and the southern fried pork chops), but the service was abysmally slow. They might have just had an off night, but if you expect good service from a restaurant (especially when there are only a couple occupied tables) you might want to go elsewhere. From the bartender behind the bar when we were the only four people sitting there (apart from one lone woman down a few seats from us) to the overwhelmed waitress who had problems taking our order in the first place (running around helping the three or four other tables that were seated in the restaurant) and remembering things we ordered (even forgetting to bring one latecomer’s salad until after her entree was served), the service was just lacking. But if you go to a restaurant for the food and not the service you might be okay.

IMG_20130618_192950Once we finally got some bread it was delicious – a loaf of herb bread served piping hot with lots of soft butter. We really enjoyed the bread.

The salad was fresh but nothing special – lettuce with a couple cucumber slices, croutons and shaved carrot and red cabbage. The dressing, which came in a cup on the side, was slopped over the side.

I ordered the grouper dinner and chose to get it grilled. It was well seasoned with a slight Cajun kick to it. The fish was also moist and perfectly flaky. I also enjoyed the garlic mashed potatoes (with a Cajun seasoning sprinkled on top) and the cole slaw. I tried a bite of my friend’s fried grouper, and it was also delicious.IMG_20130618_194311

There weren’t a lot of desserts to choose from, and they were out of a couple of them. The chocolate confusion one wasn’t available, so I ordered the Apple Betty, which was a nice Brown Betty made from apples and sweetened bread crumbs. It was a sweet ending to my meal that I enjoyed a couple bites of and then took home and had for breakfast the next day. I forgot to take a picture.

I’ve tried it. I honestly don’t think I’ll be going back any time soon and neither will my other five dining companions. We just weren’t wowed by the place. I honestly don’t know how it got in the Top 100 or was voted an OpenTable Diners’ Choice. Then again, we might have just had a really bad waitress and come on an off night. If you like grouper or Cajun food you should give it a visit.

Contact info:

Fredrick’s Wine & Dine
22005 Emery Road
Warrensville Heights, Ohio 44128
(216) 581-5299

Superior Pho

IMG_0841Pho (pronounced “phau”) has become very popular in the last few years. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles, a few herbs, and meat. Pho originated in the early 20th century in northern Vietnam. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Vietnamese refugees brought pho to many countries.

The consensus among foodies is that Superior Pho is the number one place for slurping pho in IMG_0846Cleveland. It has been voted Cleveland’s Best Asian Restaurant in Scene Magazine and has an average rating of 4.5 stars from 217 reviews on Yelp. It is located inside a rather unassuming shopping plaza off of Superior that features several other ethnic restaurants (including a Korean restaurant), and the best way to enter is from the parking lot in the back. It is not visible from the street (look for No. 1 Pho and turn down IMG_0842E. 31st to park). You really have to look for it. Superior Pho was one of the first pho houses in Northeast Ohio and still remains one of the best.

Superior Pho without a doubt has excellent pho, but I also like some other things off their menu. I started my meal with a Vietnamese coffee. Water percolates through strong coffee grounds into a cup with condensed milk. It definitely gives you a caffeine jolt – and is fun to watch.

The spring roll is made with delightfully fresh and crisp ingredients, including shrimp, carrots, IMG_0848cucumber, Thai basil and mint, wrapped in a rice paper wrapper. It is served with a lovely peanut-chili dipping sauce that gives it a little zing.

Pho is available with a number of different meats, including tendon and tripe. I always order the Number 10 combination because it features a banh mi and a large pho of my choice. I usually orderIMG_0851 the Phở tái chín, which is a combination of well done brisket and eye round steak). The pho is always piping hot and plentiful. To make pho, a small mound of vermicelli noodles is topped with beef or chicken, then covered with ladlefuls of fragrant pho broth. The steaming bowls are served with a plate piled with fresh bean sprouts, sprigs of Thai basil, slices of jalapeno peppers and slices of fresh lime, which IMG_0850are used to adjust your pho to taste. Purists don’t add hoisin, Sriracha or fish sauce to the pho (they prefer to put it on a plate and dip the meat in), but I like to mix a couple squirts of Sriracha hot sauce. There is no wrong way to eat pho. The piping hot broth cooks the meat and vegetables as it is being brought to your table. I made the mistake of ordering pho to go once. The broth had cooled too much to properly cook the meat. Never again.

Superior Pho’s banh mi is also excellent. It features roast pork, pate, cilantro, jalapeno slices, and shredded cucumber and radish on a crispy roll. The roast pork is not char-grilled like at Saigon Grille, but it IMAG4951is still a nice sandwich. I have never had a bad one here, and I have eaten here quite a bit.

They also offer Combination Meals that give you a bit more bang for your buck. Shown here to the left is Meal #1, which is a spring or summer roll (your choice), small pho of your choice, and a beverage for $11. I usually order the Meal #10, which is a bahn mi, a large pho of your choice, and a beverage for $13.50.

Try to come at off-times, because there are lines and it is often standing room only during peak times. Come hungry and be prepared to bring leftover pho home, because even the small pho is quite large.

Contact info:

Superior Pho
3030 Superior Avenue E
Cleveland, Ohio 44114

Dim Sum at Emperor’s Palace

IMG_20130429_123701There’s a new place in town for dim sum, and it is fabulous. I’ve been here for dim sum four times now, and it has yet to disappoint. My friends Diane and Nancy were the first people to tell me about it, and they were there within 24 hours from when it opened. I was so glad they talked about it, because it is now one of my favorite places downtown. The staff is friendly, the food is delicious (and plentiful), and the prices are almost criminally cheap.

IMG_20130429_122933Emperor’s Palace opened in Cleveland’s former Chinatown area, on Rockwell Avenue between E 21st and E 24th Street. The restaurant seems like it spans the entire block, but there’s only one set of doors to enter through (and hint: the right door is always locked and is the one I always go to first). Free parking is available along the street as well as in the huge parking lot across the street, which is lined with statues of the Chinese zodiac. The decor is ornate, with lots of gold trim and chandeliers. They used to have a buffet table in the center, but they seem to have decided to focus on their dim sum and made-to-order food.

The dim sum here is served differently. Most dim sum places serve their dim sum from carts that are wheeled around the room, but Emperor’s Palace chooses to bring the entrees fresh from the kitchen, ensuring that the food is piping hot. The food is ordered and then brought out as soon as it is ready.

Dim sum is always best when shared with several people – and especially fun when shared with a larger group because you can try more things and send them around on the lazy Susan in the center of the table. I met several friends today for lunch. We feasted on eight different dim sum plates, and splitting the bill (including a generous tip) between the four of us gave us a grand total of $9.50 a piece – and we brought some leftovers home with us.IMG_20130429_114648

My favorite things on the menu are the steamed shrimp dumplings, the turnip cakes, and the sticky rice with preserved meats. The BBQ pork buns were also requested by a member of our table, and my Chinese-American friend G. and the waitress decided on several other plates for us (in Chinese so we were pleasantly surprised with some new things).IMG_20130429_115638

We started off with the pineapple buns, which were something that G. didn’t realize she had ordered, but were loved by everyone at the table. The dough was light and pleasantly yeasty, and the crust was flaky and delicious. The pineapple was not overpowering and simply delightful. I will definitely be ordering this again – perhaps as the finishing touch for dessert. The waitress also brought out a Century egg porridge/congee that G. requested since her grandmother used to make it. The waitress was unsure we would like it, and – although we assured her we would gladly try anything – she was right. It was deemed too bland by the rest of us, so I don’t think I would order this again. G. got to take several servings home with her to enjoy for breakfast this week.

I never really enjoyed turnip cake until I tried the one at Emperor’s Palace. Now I’m hooked. I’m always tempted to order a second order to go at the end of the meal to enjoy at home. Their “turnip cake country style” features dried shrimp and pork, which makes it extremely flavorful and fresh. IMG_20130429_120327The turnip is delicate and flaky with a nice seared crust on top. The size tends to vary every time I’ve been here (the cakes are getting smaller), but the flavor has never disappointed me. They also reheat really well at home.

The Emperor’s steamed shrimp dumplings are addictive. I seriously crave them after I leave as well as the next day. They are little delicate clouds of rice dumpling encasing a succulent shrimp filling. I can’t even begin to describe them without swooning. They are *that* good!

IMG_20130429_120905Another favorite of mine is the lotus leaf wrapped sticky rice. I love the delicate scent the lotus leaf gives to this dish and have always enjoyed it at other places that serve dim sum. The one at Emperor’s Palace is just bursting with a variety of meats, including pork, shrimp, chicken, and sausage. It is extremely filling, and three of us split one of the two wrapped packages in the order. I took the second one home to reheat for dinner tonight.

Their “Sao mai” (aka sui mai or shu mei depending on the translation) is dense and flavorful. It is a two-bite dim sum delicacy. I have enjoyed it both times we have ordered it.IMG_20130429_120816

Everyone loves the BBQ pork buns, but I have never been a huge fan. The BBQ pork buns here are light and fluffy, and the filling is flavorful. If you love them I’m sure you will be delighted. I am not including a photo here (my photo came out blurry), but you can see them in the photo below peeking out from behind the Shanghai juicy buns.

IMG_20130429_120336We went early today, because G. really wanted the Shanghai juicy buns and they have always been out of them when we’ve been there later in the day. We met at 11:30 (they open at 11) and were able to enjoy these little round nuggets. Emperor’s Shanghai soup dumplings are golf ball-sized buns that contain a filling of pork (and sometimes crab) and about a tablespoon of broth.  When properly made, Shanghai juicy buns are really juicy, so they are definitely to be enjoyed in one bite. The proper way to eat it is to bite off the top of the bun and blow into the hole to cool off the soup, then either pour some of the accompanying gingered rice vinegar (be sure to say yes when asked if you want the sauce with it) into it. Or you can do as I did and dip it in the sauce and stuff it into your mouth so that when you bite into it the juice doesn’t spurt out all over the front of your shirt. Shanghai juicy buns are very labor-intensive and it’s not easy to make the skin paper-thin and stuff the dumpling so full of juice, so if they have it that day I highly recommend giving them a try.

!dimsumOther dim sum plates I have enjoyed here in the past (but didn’t take photos of) include the scallion pancakes, pan fried pork dumplings (which we were given by mistake because it was supposed to go to another table – our gain!), fried cruller rice crêpes, sesame pork buns, tofu skin (surprisingly delicious!) and pumpkin cakes. We are always too full to order the egg custard tarts at the end. For more photos of Emperor’s Palace, check out my friend Edsel’s photostream on Flickr. My go-to person for excellent Chinese food, Nancy of Fun Playing with Food, also has some great pictures of some other dim sum dishes and entrees on her blog post on Emperor’s Palace.

Maybe one of these days I will actually order an entree here, but when the dim sum is so delicious and flavorful it is hard not to stick with what I love.

Contact info:

Emperor’s Palace
2136 Rockwell Avenue
Cleveland OH 44114
(216) 861-9999

Kuhar’s Arabica

IMG_20130129_134303Kuhar’s has been serving its authentic Eastern European cuisine to Northeast Ohio for more than 30 years. I recently discovered Kuhar’s Arabica when a friend recommended it to me. Kuhar’s Arabica is located in Richmond Heights near the corner of Richmond Road and Wilson Mills Road. It is tucked away at the back of a strip mall behind La Fiesta. It has a couple of small tables, but they primarily focus on carry-out. There is also a carry-out store in Mentor on Broadmoor Road. Kuhar’s is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.IMG_20130119_164534

I have stopped here twice and look forward to frequenting it more often. The first time I ordered the House Platter, which features a combination platter of Wiener Schnitzel, Paris Schnitzel and smoked sausage served with sauerkraut, choice of potato (I ordered mashed) a side salad and a slice of soft white bread for only $11.75. Having lived in Salzburg, Austria for a year and Germany for six years I know my Schnitzel. This is among the best Schnitzel I have found in Cleveland. Pounded thin with a light coating of breading, this Schnitzel was delicious. I couldn’t decide which of the two I liked better, because they were both excellent. The sausage was also quite good, and the sauerkraut was soft and silky and not too bitter.IMG_20130129_140058

They serve specials every day, and I have been looking forward to trying their Tuesday special, stuffed cabbage. It isn’t as “tomatoey” as Sokolowski’s stuffed cabbage, but this stuffed cabbage was delicious. The meat and rice filling was perfectly seasoned, and the cabbage and sauerkraut were not overpowering. I once again ordered the mashed potatoes and got a side of peas and carrots with my meal. For only $8 I received two reasonably sized stuffed cabbages, a generous scoop of mashed potatoes and stuffed cabbage gravy, peas and carrots, a side salad and a slice of their white bread. Yum! And even though I am not a huge fan of peas and carrots these weren’t half bad.

I can’t wait to try the St. Moritz Schnitzel and the Goulasch, and I have a good friend/fellow German translator who will be thrilled to hear about their Rouladen. It’s her favorite, and I plan to surprise her with an order of it at her baby shower in a few days.IMG_20130119_164458

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention their desserts. They offer a special dessert every day as well as strudel. I had the choice of apple, cherry or cheese strudel. I ordered both the cherry strudel for $2.25 and the custard square for $2.95 to share with my friend the first day. The strudel was delicious. Flaky and light with a delicious filling. I am usually pretty picky when it comes to strudel (again, living in Austria will do that…), but this strudel is again some of the best I’ve had in Cleveland. Usually the strudel here is a little tough and difficult to cut with a fork. Not this strudel! The custard square was also absolutely divine. The custard held up well and wasn’t too runny, and the pastry dough was flaky and delicious.

Contact info:

Kuhar’s Arabica
5115 Wilson Mills Rd # 1
(440) 449-4100

Luna Bakery

Whenever I want to give myself a little treat I stop by Luna Bakery and buy myself a ham and Swiss croissant and a coffee. Luna Bakery is located on Fairmount just after the intersection with Cedar. It is located a door or two down from The Mad Greek (it’s on the end so just turn into the parking lot behind the stores). Luna Bakery IMAG5004has proven to be so popular that they have already expanded seating to accommodate the throngs of people. This is a great place to meet some friends for coffee and pastry or enjoy one of their outstanding crepes (I recommend the Nutella and banana crepe, but any of them are a good choice).

IMAG0637One of my friends who is a particularly picky eater swears that their cheddar herb scones are one of the best things she has ever ate. One particularly popular breakfast item is the Nest Egg (a sunny egg nested in semolina toast topped IMAG0636with cheddar (ham is optional) – an egg-in-a-hole with a twist), but be sure to get there early because they stop serving it once breakfast hours have finished (11 a.m. on the weekend).

The pastry counter has lots of good choices. They offer a gluten-free / flourless chocolate cake, tarts, and raspberry bars, and their whimsical sugar cookies puts smiles on the faces of children and children-at-heart.

But my favorite treat is the ham and Swiss croissant. It is exactly like the ham and Swiss croissants I used to buy in Germany. The ham and cheese is rolled up in the croissant dough and gets all crispy and melty. It’s divine. But get there early. They usually sell out really quickly. A ham and cheese croissant and a cafe au lait can really brighten up my day. They are also available at The Stone Oven on Lee Road.

Contact info:

Luna Bakery Café
2482 Fairmount Boulevard
Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
(216) 231-8585