Sanctuary on Green

Koehn Sculptors’ Sanctuary on Green is a Bavarian inspired cafe and unique gift shop featuring creations from the Koehn studio and around the world. Tucked away behind lots of greenery on Green Road (just across from Notre Dame College), if you don’t know it’s there you will drive right past it. Look for the brightly colored wind ornaments and the sign for Koehn Sculptors.

The Bavarian tea studio hours are 11:30 am – 3:30 pm every day. Reservations are strongly recommended, and their lunch seatings are at 11:30 and 1:30.

The attention to detail here is amazing. Glasses of water are served with lemon slices tucked in squeezers shaped like a bird. I was so taken with the idea that I bought several for myself in their gift shop. The teas are served with hour glass timers indicating exactly when you can enjoy your tea after the proper brewing process. Each tea has its own specific brewing time, and it really makes a difference.

In nice weather it features a gorgeous patio overlooking the wetlands and is truly a sanctuary from the hectic surroundings. The owners lived in Germany for many years, and Mr. Koehn (the sculptor) is German.

They have a whole house water filtration system that filters all of the water used for drinking and cooking and even the water used for cleaning and watering the garden. They also practice vegan composting and gardening. They compost all of the kitchen scraps and waste as well as the coffee and tea grounds/leaves and filters, which are then tilled into the garden, which is located near the sculptor studio/overflow parking area.

They have an unbelievable selection of teas (an entire menu is dedicated to the various teas and the descriptions). They feature over 80 teas, (all are available hot and iced, and all micro-brewed). The coffee is from Crooked River Coffee Company and locally roasted in 5 lb batches specifically for Sanctuary on Green.  Each cup, press & pot is freshly ground and individually micro-brewed. Because each cup is micro-brewed, they do not offer free refills.  If you would like more than one cup, they suggest ordering a 3-cup pot. The iced coffee is cold-brewed overnight, which makes it less bitter. You can really taste the difference.

I absolutely swear by the hot chocolate, which is made from fresh whole or skim milk with Dutch cocoa and sugar and served in a Bodum press pot. It is served with a small bowl of marshmallows or fresh whipped cream on the side. Divine on a cold day!

The food is a little pricey, but considering the food is organic, as homegrown as possible, and super healthy you let it slide. They grow their own produce, herbs and garnishes in their garden. They personally select their produce and meats (hormone/antibiotic/nitrate-free) from Whole Foods in University Heights, and Farmer Jones and Old Country Sausage in Maple Heights.

If you are looking for macrobiotic, gluten-free or vegan entrees, this is the place to go! The bread is freshly baked on premises, and you can tell. The cream soups are divine and are made with fresh cream and/or milk. My favorite is the cream of asparagus soup, made with fresh asparagus and cream. One of my friends raves about the pumpkin soup as being the best he’s ever had.

The menu has a decidedly German bent to it. It is so hard to find quark here in the States, so I was thrilled to see Ammergauer Quark Brot on the menu. Quark is a very mild fresh, low-fat farmer’s cheese. The quark is served with fresh organic herbs on buttered wood-fired German bread. The open-faced sandwich is garnished with fresh herbs, vegetables, German pickle and a spicy asparagus spear and served with sides of sweet/sour cucumber and carrot apple salads. Let me just tell you that the salads are unlike anything you will ever taste here in the U.S. The carrot apple salad is my favorite, but both are absolutely delicious and the reason I keep going back. One of my friends has hated cabbage and sauerkraut his entire life, but almost licked his plate clean the first time he tried the Blaukraut (red cabbage). He now orders it every time he goes. If given the choice, you must give it a try.

The entrees tend to change with the season. Although they cater to herbivores, carnivores won’t be disappointed either. The Weisswurst and chicken schnitzel seem to be staples on the menu. I’m not a fan of Weisswurst in general, but the chicken schnitzel is lovely. If you are there in the spring and see something called the Sunshine Plate (or something similar to that) with a stuffed hibiscus blossom and deviled egg you must absolutely order it. I swooned and wished there were several stuffed hibiscus blossoms on my plate. I also wish I had taken a photo, because the presentation was delightful. The last time I was here I ordered the salmon special. It was served with the ubiquitous cucumber and carrot salads as well as some ruby quinoa salad and a bed of lettuce topped with fresh asparagus and avocado. Wow, was it absolutely delicious.

If you are used to food dripping in oil or heavy seasonings you may be disappointed with Sanctuary on Green. My tea group loved the teas, but were decidedly ambivalent about the food. However, if you appreciate fresh ingredients or are gluten-free or a vegetarian or vegan you will be in heaven.

The desserts are also fresh, but they run out of the strudels quickly. I suggest ordering it at the beginning of the meal to be set aside if you have your heart set on strudel. Again, the desserts are very German. This means that they are not very sweet. Many Americans are surprised by this and need to adjust their palates. My all-time favorite German dessert is Rote Grütze. Their version features “forest berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, black berries) tossed in a delicious red wine/agave/acai sauce served with homemade vanilla sauce or vanilla bean ice cream.” Don’t order it expecting something really sweet. But if you like fresh berries you will be quite happy with it. The chocolate covered popcorn (one of the daily specials) was also a huge hit at our table.

Afterwards browse through the gift shop or the gardens, which feature many whimsical sculpted creations from both stone and wood. The tea house closes down for about a month at some point in preparation for Christmas and goes all out with the decorating. The seating inside is just as charming as outside on the patio. Be sure to call beforehand to make sure they are open and can accommodate you at one of their lunch seatings.

Contact info:

Sanctuary on Green
1936 S Green Rd
South Euclid, OH 44121
(216) 691-1936

Hansa Import Haus in Ohio City

Cleveland truly does rock and features all kinds of little ethnic stores and markets such as Yeleseyevsky Deli (Russian), Lakshmi Plaza (Indian), Farkas Bakery (European Hungarian desserts – try the Napoleon!), or the stores in Asian Plaza and the surrounding area (for a great list of ethnic stores be sure to buy a copy of Laura Taxel’s Ethnic Eats, which is currently in its eight edition). My favorite market that I regularly visit is Hansa Import Haus. It is located on Lorain Avenue just down the street from the West Side Market (across from Touch Supper Club and Farkas Bakery). Just look for the wrought iron gate. It has its own parking lot for customers.

Hansa Import Haus has been a Cleveland legacy since 1957. Its current owner is Boris Music, a native of Slovenia, who also runs a travel agency out of the store. It’s a great store full of hard-to-find treats from Germany and other parts of Europe. Customers are greeted with Old World murals decorating the walls, German music playing throughout the store, and smells of fresh lunch meats and cheeses. Hansa gets fresh bread delivered to the store every week from the Dimpflmeier Bakery in Toronto, Canada and Reinecker’s Bakery in Macedonia, Ohio. The selection of wine and beer (German beers as well as beers from Central and Eastern Europe) is incredibly good. The beer is available in single bottles, four or six-packs and pony kegs.

In the real world (and not this virtual world) I am a German translator by trade. I began studying German in high school here in Cleveland and eventually earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in German (and Russian) and German translation, respectively. Cleveland has a very strong German heritage, and I grew up at the Donauschwaben German-American Club in Olmsted Falls. I lived in Germany for six years, and when I moved back in 2001 I was thrilled to learn about Hansa Haus in Ohio City. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before that. Hansa Haus sells lots of European specialties, including (but not limited to) beer, wine, chocolate, candies, honey, condiments like mustards, ketchup, curry ketchup, shashlik sauce, jams, coffee, cookies, vinegars, herring, dairy products, sausages and wurst (if you like carpacchio, try the Lachsschinken – it’s amazing), and breads as well as Hungarian paprika and other spices, Persil detergent, Fa deodorant, Niveau creams and lotions, and many more items. The coolers hold juice, herring, fresh cold cuts, cheeses, European butters (the Sauerrahmbutter is my personal favorite), and Quark (a European farmer’s cheese that is a cross between creme fraiche, yogurt and ricotta cheese). They even sell beer glasses and mugs, German magazines and curios such as bread boards, knives, Feuerzange [a metal grate mounted on top of the bowl to hold the sugar pyramid or Zuckerhut] for a Feuerzangenbowle [Flaming Fire Tongs Punch], Jausenbretter [wood boards that the Germans use to eat the evening meals of cold cuts and bread] and much more. The varieties of chocolate is worth a blog post all by itself. Hansa sells all the big brands, such as Milka, Lindt, Mozart Kugeln, Toblerone, Ritter Sport, KitKat (not the basic KitKat – they have several other varieties you can’t normally buy here!), and other rare chocolates such as Kinderschokolade, Katzenzungen, etc. The chocolate varieties range from raisin and nut to strawberry yogurt and dark and milk chocolates, chocolate with cookies, chocolate with corn flakes, chocolate with spices… It will blow you away. The Milka Tenders (think Ho-Hos but better) are also pretty amazing. You’ll be amazed when you walk in and see for yourself how big it is.

I love coming here right before Easter or Christmas and stocking up on the holiday chocolates (the German liquor-filled chocolates at Christmas are a particular favorite of mine), chocolate bunnies or Santas, cookies (Lebkuchen, Dominosteine, Stollen), and chocolate Advent calendars. The last photo here was the aisle of Christmas goodies back in November of last year.

Contact info:

Hansa Import Haus
2717 Lorain Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 281-3177

Babushka’s Kitchen in Independence

in-memoriam-graphicMy dining out group recently ate at Babushka’s Kitchen in Independence. The restaurant in Northfield was closed for renovations at the time, so we decided to check out the newest location in Independence. It is worth mentioning that it is impossible to see from the street. It is tucked in the middle of the Independence Square shopping plaza. Look for the shopping plaza with the Independence water tower on the periphery, and you’ll know you are in the right place. Thank heavens for GPS, because I never would have found it otherwise.

The restaurant is a “casual quick-service style cafe” featuring pierogi, stuffed cabbage, kielbasi, roast pork, dumplings and all those Eastern European favorites. You order at the register in the front of the restaurant, you are given a number, and the kitchen staff brings your order out to you from the kitchen in the back. This isn’t fancy dining by any stretch of the imagination, but if you want comfort food your grandmother (well, okay, *my* Ukrainian grandmother) used to make you will be very pleased.

The pierogi are to die for! They are advertised as jumbo pierogi, and boy are they. The night we were there they had several flavors on offer – potato, potato and cheddar cheese, mushroom and Swiss, and sauerkraut. There was one other flavor, but I don’t remember what it was and I can’t read it on the dry erase board in the photo.

They offer several platters to allow new customers to try a variety of their entrees. The platters come with your choice of one or two side dishes, which include soup, green beans, kraut & noodles, mashed potatoes & gravy (red or brown), and cinnamon applesauce. There may be one or two that I can’t remember. The tables were practically groaning from all the food that was brought out. No one went home hungry – that is for sure!

I chose Grandma Olga’s Favorite, which features two of the jumbo pierogi with grilled onions and sour cream, two side dishes and a slice of rye bread and butter. I also ordered a cabbage roll on the side. It was HUGE! One of these and a side would have completely sufficed. For my side dishes I chose the applesauce and green beans and bacon. The beans were canned not fresh, but I am a huge fan of canned beans and prefer them over fresh (I blame my school lunch indoctrination). The cinnamon apple sauce was perfectly seasoned and was the perfect accompaniment to the heavy entrees. I wasn’t that thrilled with the cabbage roll, but I have high standards. It was simply too sweet for my tastes. I prefer Sokolowski’s cabbage roll because it is more savory than sweet. Other people loved it. I absolutely adored the jumbo pierogi. I chose a mushroom and Swiss and a potato and cheddar. Both were delicious. One of my fellow diners also gave me his side of kraut and dumplings, which was also quite tasty (although the kraut was slightly overcooked). I had so much food that I took most of it home.

I am intrigued by The Warsaw, which is a large potato pancake layered with grilled onions, sliced pork loin, sauerkraut, pork gravy, then topped with another potato pancake and a dollop of sour cream, served with any side dish or cup of chicken noodle soup. I will probably get this next time. No one ordered this that night, but my friend M. ordered a potato pancake as a side (see above photo of the pierogi platter) and several people had the roasted pork with their meal and loved them.

If you can’t decide what to order, I suggest getting the Hunter’s Feast, which features one stuffed cabbage, a link of smoked kielbasa, roasted pork with sauerkraut & dumplings, one jumbo potato & cheese pierogi with grilled onion and sour cream and your choice of two side dishes, or the Gatherer’s Platter (photo above on the beige platter), which features one stuffed cabbage, one jumbo potato & cheddar cheese pierogi with grilled onions & sour cream plus your choice of one side dish. You will be stuffed!

I bought two dozen kolachky, which were just as good (if not better!) than my grandmother used to make, to share among my fellow diners and took the leftover kolachky home. I need to go back for more soon! The kolachky were flaky and melted in our mouths. The only flavor left by the time I bought them was raspberry, but that was fine with me because that happens to be my favorite. Apricot would be a close second.

Contact info:

Babushka’s Kitchen

6531 Brecksville Rd
Independence, OH
(216) 447-9275

9199 Olde 8 Road
Northfield Center, OH
(330) 468-0402