Apple turnovers at Blue Jaye Farm

I am not a big fan of baked goods (despite the fact that I worked at Baker’s Square for five years in high school and college). I usually leave the crust on pies and just eat the filling, and scones make me gag because I find them too dry. 100_1139But I stopped at Blue Jaye Farm on Liberty Road in Twinsburg (edit: the place has since closed – now working out of Heritage Farm in Peninsula) the other day to pick up some apple cider and was hungry, so I grabbed an apple turnover. Oh my goodness was it delicious. The turnover was flaky and delicious with just a hint of creamy vanilla goodness. I went back today and bought some more. I asked her what her secret ingredient was (making a joke that it was crack), and she told me she makes them two ways – plain and with cream cheese. I was lucky enough to buy one that uses cream cheese, although I bought a plain apple turnover too for the trip home and that was just as flaky and delicious. The apple turnovers made with cream cheese are slightly larger than the regular apple turnovers. Both are available for $1.50 each.

100_1140She sells lots of baked goods there, including chocolate chip cookies, rice krispie treats, fudge and homemade pies (I saw pumpkin, apple walnut, mixed berry and blueberry when I was there), as well as apple cider, apples, homemade jelly and preserves, pumpkins, and several kinds of candy for the kids. Not to mention the homemade wreaths, crafts, decorative corn stalks, and gourds. The pumpkins are gorgeous and are available in all sizes and colors (I’d never heard or seen cotton candy white pumpkins before). The variety is amazing.

Blue Jaye Farm also offers hayrides on the weekend. Be sure to check the site, because it is only open until October 31st. However, you can buy her baked goods, gift baskets, wreaths, centerpieces, etc. at Heritage Farms at 6050 Riverview Rd. in Peninsula. You can also find them in July and August at the Farmer’s Market in Middlefield.

Contact info:

6050 Riverview Road
Peninsula, Ohio
(330) 657-2330

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Melt Bar and Grilled, Part Two

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Westside Monte Cristo

My love affair with Melt continues. My brunch group met there on a Saturday morning in September. We got there a half hour before it opened because the organizer got the times mixed up, so we were the first folks in the restaurant and the first table to be seated. The place quickly filled up, and every seat was soon full.

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Porky Cheese (honey ham, crisp bacon and Swiss cheese)

I wish I had thought to take a photo of the menus. They are cleverly printed on the backs of old album covers. The Muppet Christmas Album and Kenny Rogers menus were particularly comical. The album covers span many different genres from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Since we were a large group (and the kitchen is probably fairly small) our sandwiches came out in batches. It didn’t matter. We were enjoying each other’s company.

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Chorizo & Potato

Being a large group, we were able to order a lot of different sandwiches. Knowing how filling the sandwiches were, I planned on eating half of my sandwich and taking the other half home. The woman to my left commented that she thought I was a wimp when I told her my plan, but then she ended up doing the same thing with her very filling chorizo and potato grilled cheese.

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Soul Vegetarian

Several of our members are vegetarians, so they were looking forward to the sandwich of the month, the Soul Vegetarian, which featured fried green tomatoes, collard greens, black-eyed pea puree, and pepper jack cheese jalapeno cornbread. I was able to taste it, and it truly was a taste sensation. The collard greens were simmered in garlic, and that took it to the next level!

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The Kindergarten

I had been looking forward to trying the Mushroom Melt, but it seemed too early in the morning to be eating caramelized onions. So I ended up ordering The Kindergarten and added spinach, tomatoes and bacon. It was absolutely delicious.

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Breakfast Burger

With the focus on the grilled cheese the fact that Melt also serves grilled cheese burgers sometimes gets overlooked. Since it was brunch, the lone burger at the table was the Breakfast Burger, which features two Amish farmed fried eggs, crisp bacon, and American cheese. It is my friend’s favorite thing on their menu, and he loves it medium rare. It is cut in half here in the photo, because he cut it to make sure it was medium rare. The burger came out just to his specifications, and he loved it.

As has become our custom, we also ordered several desserts and passed them around the table. I had looked forward to the fried Twinkies, which are served with mixed berry preserves, but was most taken with the pumpkin cheesecake. It was creamy and delicious. I leave you with photos of the mouthwatering desserts.

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Fried Twinkies
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Bread Pudding
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Pumpkin Cheesecake

Everybody loves a good clambake

100_1088Clam bakes (or as we in Cleveland spell it – “clambakes”) originated in New England, but Cleveland has taken the clambake and embraced it as its own fall tradition. Many restaurants advertise their clambakes in the Plain Dealer and online, but if you ask me the best clambakes are the ones thrown in someone’s backyard. A clambake is a traditional method of cooking seafood over an open fire pit on the beach. The seafood is often supplemented by sausages, chicken, potatoes, onions, carrots, corn on the cob, etc. The food is layered, with lots of vegetables like celery, parsnips, onions, peppers, corn husks, etc. and herbs as flavoring.

As Wikipedia states:

Clam bakes are more popular in Northeast Ohio than any other region of the United States outside of New England. (Source: October 2008). Visit Cleveland“. Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau.) A typical clam bake in Northeast Ohio includes a dozen clams with a half chicken, sweet potatoes, corn, and other side dishes. Seaweed is not used and the clams, chicken, and sweet potatoes are all steamed together in a large pot.

100_1089My best friend and her family have a clambake every year, and my parents and I really look forward to it. Invitations go out in early September, and payment is due about a week ahead of the clambake (so that they can order the right amount from one of the many Cleveland catering companies that sell clambakes). The company they use is Quality Halls Meat Market in Olmsted Falls, but I have had good experience with Euclid Fish in Mentor as well.

The family works hard the day before rinsing the sand out of the clams and prepare them. Also, the seasoning and vegetables they use really add to the bake.

My friends assign everyone something to bring in the invitation, so it isn’t a financial hardship for them. I usually get asked to bring some German beer, but I was assigned appetizers this year. I made Trader Joe’s Parmesan Pastry Pups, which are essentially pigs in a blanket sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. They were a total hit. My mom made Barefoot Contessa’s Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry, which were also delicious. My pastry pups disappeared, and Mom only had a few puff pastry pieces left over. Most of the salads and side dishes, on the other hand, went untouched because the clambakes were so filling.

100_1091They also offer a “chicken bake” alternative, because several people don’t like the taste of clams and two of the attendees are extremely allergic to shellfish. Since everything is boiled together in a pot, that means everything might be potentially life-threatening. As a result, they grill chicken breasts and make separate corn and sweet potatoes for the “chicken bakes.” It’s a lot more work, but it does work out in the end. They also try hard to keep the chicken bakes and clambakes separate.

100_1092Once it was determined that the pot contents were ready, the pot was removed from the burner and deconstructed. First, the seasoning vegetables were removed and set aside. Then the chickens were removed and browned in a large skillet over the same burner. In the meantime, the sweet potatoes and corn were transferred to serving platters and the clams were kept in the pot to stay warm. Everyone was encouraged to line up and help themselves.

100_0041There is always a bonfire roaring in the backyard, and folks congregate around the fire. There are also rousing games of corn hole and baseball in the backyard – and some years they blow off a cannon.

The family was sick this year, so the rest of us did our best to help and pull everything together. It takes a bit of work to put it all together, but when everyone gets together to enjoy the food and the company, it’s totally worth it. I deliberately selected the smallest chicken and sweet potato and only took a pat of potato salad, leaving the other sides alone, but was still completely stuffed afterward. No one went home hungry, and my dad left with a gallon of clam bouillon, which is his favorite part of the clambake.

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Melt Bar and Grilled

I have been wanting to try Melt for over a year now. I tried to go there a few months ago, but ended up going to Buckeye Beer Engine instead because there was a 1 hour wait at 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon.

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The Parmageddon

I had friends come into town last weekend and thought I should give it another shot. We got there at 8 PM on Thursday, fully expecting a wait. Little did I know it would be a 2 hour wait – and then there was a 1 hour wait after we put the order in. So don’t go there hungry. By the time you get your food you will be very hungry and will enjoy it immensely. On the bright side, the beer special that night was Reissdorf Kölsch and my friend was from Cologne (the beer served in Cologne is Kölsch), so we didn’t mind the wait. Lots of beer was consumed during the wait.

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Westside Monte Cristo

I ordered the sandwich that everyone talks about, the Parmageddon. It was absolutely delicious. The Parmageddon features potato and cheese pierogis with napa vodka kraut, onions and cheddar on Texas toast.

My friend, S., ordered the Westside Monte Cristo, which features honey ham, smoked turkey, and Swiss and American cheese dipped in batter and served with mixed berry preserves. She gave me a taste, and it was absolutely delicious.

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Mushroom Melt

Her husband, C., ordered the Mushroom Melt and actually moaned after his first bite. I think I need to order this the next time I am there. The Mushroom Melt has grilled portabella mushrooms, caramel port onions and provolone cheese. Simplistic, yet delicious.

C. finished his sandwich, fries and sweet slaw (which really impressed our waitress), but S. and I had lots of fries and slaw left over. I had also wanted to order a fried Twinkie to split, but we were so full…

So, in summary, Melt Bar and Grilled rocks, but expect a long wait and don’t go there hungry. I can’t wait until the new place opens on the East Side. I hope there is more seating and a bigger kitchen in it. I’ll be there all the time!

Contact info:

Melt Bar and Grilled
14718 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107
(216) 226-3699

A&W Drive-In in Kent

100_0978I had a craving for a root beer float this afternoon after taking my dog to Bow Wow Beach in Stow. I haven’t had a root beer float in about twenty years and really enjoyed it. I was hoping it would be served in the big glass mug the root beer is served in, but unfortunately it came in a “to go” cup.

Who doesn’t love root beer? My German friends can’t understand the appeal, but anyone who has grown up in the U.S. surely has fond memories of it. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of a root beer float,  it is traditionally made by pairing root beer with vanilla ice cream. A&W serves soft serve ice cream, but floats can also be served with scoops of ice cream.

I love A&W, because it features old-fashioned car hops. The root beer is mixed fresh on site every day. I think the A&W in Kent must have been built in the late 1960s, but that just adds to its charm. I wanted to get there before they closed down for the season.

100_0979Feeling a little peckish, I decided to try something different and tried their Mozza Burger, which features mozzarella cheese, bacon and a Thousand Island dressing. The patties were a little overcooked, but the mozzarella cheese and bacon really went well together. I’m going to have to try to recreate this burger at home. The crinkle fries were perfectly done, and my dog enjoyed her plain beef hotdog. It was a pleasant afternoon, and I was sad that I had finished my root beer float so quickly.

Contact info:

A&W Restaurant
1124 Main Street
Kent, OH 44240
330-673-6912

An evening at Blossom with the Orchestra

100_0733Probably the thing I was most looking forward to when I moved back to Cleveland after living in Germany for six years was spending the evening at Blossom Music Center listening to the world famous Cleveland Orchestra or the Blossom Festival Orchestra.

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Appetizers - crab dip, whole grain crackers and soppressata

There is simply nothing like listening to the world-renowned orchestra while listening to birds chirp under a blue – and later starry – sky. Unlike other concerts at Blossom, chairs, umbrellas, blankets and alcohol are allowed.

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Lobster roll, cole slaw and sea salt potato chips

I grew up enjoying the Cleveland Orchestra with my parents, and they taught me how to do it right. Mom would make some elaborate picnic dinner involving some kind of shellfish or other picnic-friendly meal. We would lay out a blanket, grab a glass of wine, and enjoy an orchestra that is consistently ranked one of the top ten in the world. Now I have a wheeled cooler packed and ready to go with plates, silverware, cloth napkins, plastic wine glasses, wine stakes, binoculars, a cutting board and knife, Off, and a citronella candle and lighter.

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KFC 2 piece grilled chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and green beans

Everything goes on the lawn. You can high-brow it or low-brow it. You see folks with tables, candles, and elaborate spreads to buckets of KFC and family servings of mashed potatoes, cole slaw and green beans. No one will judge you, but if you have something especially yummy you may see folks coveting your food.

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Wine stakes in action - both the bottle and the glass stakes

We usually have a three course meal – with appetizers and the main meal before the performance and then dessert at intermission. The photos here are our meals last weekend. My mother and father had the lobster rolls, chips and cole slaw served on paper plates, while I purchased KFC on the way to Blossom and ate off my melamine plate.

One must-have are wine stakes. Since the lawn is sloped wine stakes allow you to keep your wine glass and wine bottle upright while sitting next to you. Most people use blankets or lawn chairs (people with tall lawn chairs have to sit closer to the back). The most popular chairs are beach chairs or sand chairs. They allow you to sit close to the ground and yet not impair the view of those on blankets behind you.

Lawn tickets will only set you back $19-21 depending on the show. Individual pavilion tickets range from $19 to $42 a piece. You can also buy a book of tickets for the season. However, if there isn’t a chance of rain I suggest you try sitting on the lawn for a little ambiance. If you choose to sit in the pavilion you will have to leave your picnic dinner and wine at the entrance to the pavilion for the concert. Contact the ticket office at 216.231.1111 or just visit http://www.clevelandorchestra.com.

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The Cleveland Orchestra viewed from the lawn

Balaton at Shaker Square

Balaton is a Hungarian restaurant on Shaker Square. It has been in business since 1964 and is known for its Wiener Schnitzel and Chicken Paprikash. For 000_0008those who are not familiar with Austro-Hungarian cuisine, Wiener Schnitzel is a veal cutlet pounded flat and battered and fried to a golden brown. It is traditionally served with spaetzel (delicate dumplings made of flour, eggs and water) and applesauce.

My German group met there recently and enjoyed a delightful dinner on a Friday 000_0010night. We were a fairly large group and the restaurant was full, but we had no problems with the service. They seated us at an L-shaped table by the window.

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Wiener Schnitzel with spaetzel

The salad was swimming in dressing, but it was a light European oil and vinegar blend. It was just your typical iceberg lettuce salad, but it was good – as was the bread, which I unfortunately did not take a picture of.

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Hungarian Platter with spaetzel

I had the Wiener Schnitzel and spaetzel, which was delicious. The first time I was there I ordered the Hungarian platter, which features the schnitzel, chicken paprikash and stuffed cabbage. I enjoyed it too, but the stuffed cabbage was not like my grandmother’s. But then again, her stuffed cabbage was Ukrainian and tough to beat. If you are there for the first time though I highly recommend getting the Hungarian platter to try all three of their specialties.

Everyone there really enjoyed their meals. We ordered just about everything off the menu, from the Hungarian Lecso (a summer stew of

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Chicken paprikash and mashed potatoes

yellow bell pepper and tomato) to the various combinations of paprikash (veal or chicken) and goulash (beef or pork).

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Hungarian Lecso

Most of us were too full for dessert, but I can highly recommend the strudel and (my personal favorite here) the Napoleon. I am also a sucker for Palacsinta, which are crepes with apricot, walnut, sweet cottage cheese, or poppy seed fillings, but I haven’t had Balaton’s yet. I remember a delicious Eispalatschicken in Austria, which was a crepe filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce and Grand Marnier that was then lit on fire. I remember it like it was yesterday, but it was twenty years ago. It was that divine. If Balaton were to add that to the menu I would eat here at least once a month.

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Napoleon
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Cherry strudel

Contact info:

Balaton Restaurant
13133 Shaker Square
Cleveland, Ohio 44120
216-921-9691