Patterson Fruit Farm

IMAG4794Patterson Fruit Farm in Chesterland is great year-round, but it really shines in the fall. Families flock there for the pick-your-own apples, pumpkins, apple cider, doughnuts and apple fritters in a fall wonderland of changing leaves, corn stalks and bales of hay. One of my friends raves about the apple fritters. IMAG4793The place gets packed on the weekends, and they have overflow parking across the street. I made a spontaneous decision to check it out on a Tuesday to see what all the hype is about, and I’m so glad I did. I enjoyed every minute of drive out to Chesterland amid the colorful leaves and crisp air. Driving home through Gates Mills I even got to IMAG4798enjoy the smell of a bonfire. It truly is a quintessential fall experience and is just one more reason that Cleveland Rocks!

There are a ton of pumpkins to choose from outside, along with stands offering fresh kettle corn and lemonade. Inside the barn you can find all kinds of local culinary delights, from apple butter and Amish jams and jellies, pies, IMAG4796doughnuts, apple fritters, dried soup mix, pancake mix, maple syrup, popcorn toppings, and all kinds of cooking implements. The doughnuts, pies and apple fritters are made fresh using the fruit from the farm.

I ended up buying six doughnuts, because I couldn’t choose just one. They all looked amazing IMAG4797I ordered the maple bacon, apple cider, pumpkin roll, Samoa, chocolate glaze and salty caramel. I loved the maple bacon and apple cider doughnuts. The maple bacon doughnut was a nice blend of savory and sweet and the apple cider doughnut had a hint of autumnal spices to it. And the apple fritter is indeed divine – soft on the inside, crispy on the outside and with chunks of apple in the dough.

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Photo by Jaime P from Yelp

But the apples are the star of the show. Refrigerated cases hold apple cider, honey crisp apple cider (apparently only available for a limited time), milk and other refrigerated meats and cheeses. Hot apple cider is also available for purchase. You can buy their apple cider in most grocery stores in Cleveland, but there is just something special about drinking a hot apple cider at the farm.IMAG4804

If you are looking to buy some apples there are a ton of kinds to choose from, ranging from Winesap and Honey Crisp to Macoun and Jonagold and everything in between. They let you sample all of the apples available for purchase. They also offer big bags of seconds, which are great to use for apple sauce. I bought two kinds to make some apple sauce. I was so excited about trying the different kinds I forgot to take photographs. I boughtIMAG4801 winesap and honey crisp apples. I will use the winesap together with my apples from Fresh Fork Market to make the apple sauce. The honey crisp are just because they are my hands-down favorite apple to eat plain.

The orchard allows you to pick your own apples as well and features almost 20 different kinds. Not all varieties are available at once, but there are always several to choose from. They also offer pick your own strawberries and blueberries in season. The pick-your-own location is just down the street from the farm market at 8765 Mulberry Road.

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Contact info:

Patterson Fruit Farm
11414 Caves Road
Chesterland, OH 44026
(440) 729-1964

Pop-ups at the Katz Club Diner

IMAG0024When the Katz Club Diner Bar Car burned down many of us thought that would be it for the lovely old-fashioned diner cars on Lee Road. After the arsonist was incarcerated, Doug Katz focused his energy on rebuilding. They tore down the bar car, which was a total loss, and landscaped the area. He had originally bought the cars for the spacious kitchen, so I wasn’t surprised to hear he was going to use the space for his catering gigs as well as hosting pop-up dinners. IMAG4396His pop-up dinners have been quite popular so far, so it seems like a great decision on his part.

He has hosted a Vegetarian pop-up, Indian Street Food pop-up and Fried Chicken and Corn on the Cob pop-up, to name a few. I have attended the Lobster Rolls & Blueberry Pie pop-up and the Clambake pop-up so far. I am also looking forward to several upcoming pop-ups including an Oktoberfest, Spaghetti & Meatballs, a French Bistro, and Dim Sum. The food is amazing from start to finish. There hasn’t been a bad choice yet. He elevates even simple smashed potatoes into something delicious.

The dinners include tax and gratuity. Beverages are a la carte, and there are several PhotoGrid_1442026828003wines and beers as well as a featured cocktail and some sodas to order separately.

The first pop-up I attended, entitled Lobster Shack, featured popcorn spiced with housemade old bay seasoning, Maine lobster roll on a housemade buttered bun, smashed red potatoes, sweet and sour pickled slaw and local blueberry pie with housemade vanilla ice cream. I loved the Blueberry Thyme Collins, which was the cocktail selection for the evening. The blueberry thyme syrup was refreshing paired with gin, lemon and soda water – and I’m not normally a fan of gin. The lobster roll made me swoon. The bun had the perfect amount of butter and was an ideal carrier for the lightly tossed lobster filling. The smashed red potatoes and pickled slaw were great PhotoGrid_1442026730839accompaniments. The pie – although not actually pie but more of a buckle – was delicious, as was the homemade ice cream.

The most recent pop-up featured spiced peanuts, lobster bisque made with huge chunks of fresh Maine lobster, corn bread, steamed clams, local sweet corn on the cob, pan seared potatoes, housemade chicken garlic sausage and a bittersweet chocolate whoopie pie. Although I loved every course, my favorites were the bisque and that amazing whoopie pie, but even minor sides like the cornbread and simple pan-searedIMAG4402 potatoes were sublime. I enjoyed the sparkling clementine soda to start and a Sauvignon Blanc with my meal. We also got to enjoy an amazing sunset.

You can buy tickets for the upcoming pop-ups here and keep an eye on their Facebook page for announcements when the next pop-up is available to book. Tickets go on sale about one month beforehand and have sold out quickly, so act fast.

Contact info:

Katz Club Diner
1975 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH
(216) 932-3333

Night Market Cleveland

IMAG3927Night Market Cleveland is a summer event series that premiered in Asiatown June 26th and is held on the last Friday of every month through September. It was inspired by the Asian night markets, which originated in Asia as illegal “ghost markets” that bustled through the evening and vanished before daybreak. Night Market Cleveland is the brain child of Michael Fleming, Executive Director of St. Clair Superior Development Corporation. He got the idea when he was visiting Hong Kong. I wasn’t able to attend last month, but knew I wanted to check it out this month. I am so glad I did! I love Asian food and this embraced all different kinds of cuisines – from Nepalese to Japanese and everything IMAG3925in between! Organizers also invited outside fare not typically known for having an Asian influence, such as Pope’s Kitchen and Tremont’s Fahrenheit, with the caveat that they put an ethnic twist on their offerings.

They have found a great location for it – on Rockwell and E. 21st in front of Emperor’s Palace and the big parking lot across the street. Vendor booths line Rockwell as well as the parking lot and there are vendor booths and food trucks in the parking lot as well as a huge stage. Strings of lights, colorfully lit fake trees and glowing performersIMAG3914 lend ambiance after dark. It runs from 5 PM to 11 PM. They bill it as a family-friendly and pet-friendly event. I saw lots of strollers and a dog on a leash, so they weren’t lying.

I was lucky enough to find a spot on E. 24th just off Rockwell. When I left at around 7:30 someone was thrilled to quickly take my place. Secure parking is available for $5 in the Plain Dealer lot. Off site parking is available at the Tower Press parking lot and Hot Cards parking lot located right off of Superior Road as well as on-street parking throughout the area.

The star is undoubtedly the food. Lots and lots of street food IMAG3915ranging from huge combos featuring five or six different things for $7 to 3 pieces of dim sum for $2 or $3 or several pot stickers for $2. The longest line was for Han Chinese Kabob and Grill. It stretched down past two other vendors on Rockwell and that was at 6 o’clock before the crowds came. I started off with some shu mei and ginger sesame noodles from Li Wah for $10. The shu mei were my favorite savory bite of the night. They were moist and IMAG3917plump. I also enjoyed the noodles. Some people were adding protein like chicken to them. I saved my appetite for later.

The one vendor I knew I absolutely wanted to try was SnowBros Shavery. They debuted their traditional Asian snow cones featuring cream, milk and fruit in June. The newcomers hope to open a storefront in AsiaTown in the coming year. There were four “snows” to choose from: milk, taro, coffee and green tea. I chose the green tea and ordered the mochi at their urging as well as strawberries and then IMAG3918topped it with condensed milk and splurged for an extra topping of mango whipped cream. It was so worth it! Other toppings included boba (tapioca bubbles), red bean, sweet and salty cereal crunch, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi and blackberries. Dulce de Leche was the third choice for drizzle.

My friend ordered the taro snow (with a fun purple tinge), mochi, red bean and dulce de leche. She also enjoyed hers. She just lamented that the shaved ice she orders on the West Coast IMAG3920is much more plentiful, but maybe the food truck was limiting their volume. I first learned about shaved ice from her, so I defer to her judgment.

We then walked around, sampling various things like a virgin strawberry daiquiri and pomegranate soda from Pope Catering (both were delicious, but the pomegranate soda made with his homemade grenadine was divine!) and fresh coconut milk from a young coconut that was lopped open in front of me ($4) and checking out the vendors’ wares, ranging from ceramics, jewelry, stuffed animals, those cats that wave at you, essential oils and soaps. IMAG3921They even had a bar serving draft beer and Asian-inspired cocktails run by Watershed Distillery. My friend was particularly fascinated watching a vendor named Love Triangle make fresh takoyaki and onigiri, two Japanese delicacies. Unfortunately they were running low on rice and tapped out pretty early on. Other vendors included Szechuan Cafe, Flavors of India, Emperor’s Palace, Koko Bakery, Asian Food Co., Asian Grill, Siam Cafe, Mitchell’s Ice IMAG3926Cream, Fahrenheit and Wok and Roll – just to name a few. Their website has a full list of all the vendors.

I grabbed a bahn mi ($5) from Pho Thang Cafe and a fried rice and egg roll combo ($4) from an unnamed street vendor to go for later. One organizer-related vendor also offered to-go food kits for $20 so you can make monthly traditional Asian recipe at home. This month it was pork lo mein. I ran into a couple more friends on the way out and stood a while chatting while they all nibbled on kabobs and pot stickers. I was glad I got there early because I got my pick of food, but I am tempted to come after dark next time to experience the magic of the true night market. It must have also gotten crazy tonight, because the Critical Mass Bike Ride was scheduled to end there. I remember being stuck in traffic in Lakewood and Gordon Square because of the ride last year. The next Night Market is on August 28th, and the last one for the season will be September 25th. Be sure to check it out!

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Fire Food and Drink

IMAG2931If you ask me who my favorite chef in Cleveland is I will answer “Doug Katz” without hesitation. I have loved everything I have ever eaten at any of his restaurants, but his flagship restaurant Fire Food and Drink holds a special place in my heart. It is one of my favorite places for brunch in Cleveland – both inside as well as on the patio watching the world go by. But he alsoIMAG2938 does some great food at dinner and special pop-up dinners both at Fire and around Cleveland Heights (like a mussels demo or grilled cheese at The Wine Spot on Lee). He is planning to reopen the Katz Club Diner as a pop-up restaurant.

His Prince Edward Island mussels are delicious. He makes them with tomato, fennel and garlic and serves with it a piece of grilled, buttered  toast. Simple but delicious. The broth is a tomato broth and you can taste all the butter in it. Dipping the toast in the broth is one of my favorite parts about this dish. I was at his mussels demo for Le Creuset at The Wine Spot, and my friend and I loved them so much we drove straight to Fire to order a batch for ourselves. Paired with the popovers IMAG2933with local honey butter and the iceberg salad it was a great meal.

The popovers are light on the outside and custardy soft on the inside. They come as a set of three, so they are great to share. I tried to recreate the meal by myself the other day and ended up taking a popover and IMAG2934half of the salad home with me. If you order these you won’t need the bread and dipping oil service.

I have heard from several foodies that his Tandoor roasted pork chop from New Creations farm and Tandoor rib eye are among their favorite foods in Cleveland. The Tandoor oven ensures the meat is moist and flavorful.

Another thing I love about Chef Katz is that he supports local farms and local businesses and usesIMG_20110817_204050 local meats whenever possible. He also partners with Seafood Watch and uses only sustainable seafood at his restaurants. Dietary restrictions are also no problem. I confidently brought my mother here for dinner before taking the RTA to the July 3rd fireworks downtown a few years ago. She was having severe dietary issues (being gluten- and dairy-free) and at that time could not eat a number of other things due to ulcerative colitis. After consulting with the Fire staff on what she could and couldn’t eat on the menu she was able to enjoy a delicious meal and did not have a single problem.

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Grilled cheese pop-up at The Wine Spot

The photo above was my favorite course on the NEO Food Tour of Shaker Square a few years ago. He served a 4 oz. Tandoor roasted hanger steak paired with the most amazing leek bread pudding, sauteed spinach and porcino jus paired with a red wine. I wish the leek bread pudding was on the regular menu. If asked what I would choose as my last meal I would probably ask for this.

Doug is also passionate about community building. This I-Open interview is really fantastic and demonstrates his integrity and support for the local farmers and the local community. It’s just sad because the interview took place in the Katz Club Diner and came out just before it was set on fire.

Contact info:

Fire Food and Drink
13220 Shaker Square
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 921-3473

Dim Sum Crawl – Part Two

My friends and I did part two of last week’s dim sum crawl today. We met at 11:30 at E. 30th Street Cafe. It is at the back of Asia Plaza, off the parking lot with Park to Shop grocery store. We were the only table for a little bit, but a few other diners came after us. To be honest, I was nervous about the dim sum here, because no one ever talked about this restaurant or its dim sum. Last week there were only a few occupied tables, while Li Wah on the other side of the plaza was packed. I did some reconnaissance the night before and was pleased to see a very extensive dim sum menu of 50 items. I picked some ones that I knew no one else offered and was quite excited about the idea of a steamed chicken bun or cilantro shrimp dumpling; however, when we started ordering we were told that the restaurant had new owners and they had gotten rid of a lot of the dim sum. In fact, they were closing on the next day so they could renovate for 10 days and reopen as a new restaurant (Szechuan Cafe). We stuck with the dim sum, which was prepared in the kitchen and brought out as it was done.

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The original plan was to go light here anyways, so it made it easy to just stick to a few items. We ordered the stuffed eggplants (which were good with a quite chewy texture), sesame balls (smaller than what I am used to but good red bean filling), cilantro shrimp dumpling, and chiu chow dumplings. The chiu chow dumplings were my favorite dumpling here. They were filled with peanuts, chopped vegetables and pork. They tasted like the filling of a lettuce leaf wrap, and everyone really enjoyed them. Our two vegetarian friends split the curry vegetables off the regular menu and had a separate check. The bill for seven of us was $34.67, or $6.00 each with tax and tip. We left comfortable but not full, which is exactly what we planned.

The second stop was Bo Loong. This was our cart experience for the day. The service here was pretty lacking, but that might have been because we were off the main room. We asked for a knife to cut the buns, which we never got. They gave us forks and we had to ask for chopsticks. I ended up using the forks to cut the buns and to serve things like the sticky rice. We ordered Pu Li tea to start, because someone on Yelp had recommended it and I like trying new teas. It was okay, but most of us preferred the black tea they served us automatically. There was no lazy susan, which meant we needed to pass the dishes around and I had to keep reminding one of my friends to stop talking and pass the food.

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Food service was quick as the carts came around, but our poor vegetarian friends who ordered off the menu finally got their food almost when we were finished. And we had to remind the waiter that I had also ordered pea shoots with garlic. The dumplings were good, and we had a ton of them, ranging from Sue My (aka shu mei), Fun Goa (steamed dumpling with chopped veggie, shrimp and pork), a dumpling with scallions and some kind of meat, xiao lao (soup buns but they had sat too long and the soup had escaped from them – they still tasted good though and was the favorite dumpling for most of us) and Sin Joe Gin (fried tofu skin stuffed with sausage). We had two buns – 4 Sue Bough (baked BBQ pork buns) and 4 Guy Me Bough (a bun with coconut). I cut them up into four pieces each so we could all try them. We also ordered one sticky rice in a lotus leaf, which I normally love, but I was really disappointed with it here. Despite being packed with various meats it lacked profundity and most of all flavor. The pea shoots and garlic was delicious, and it came with a side of rice. Our bill came to $60.75, which broke down to $10.50 a person including tax and tip.

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One of my friends wanted us to stop at Asia Food Company – specifically Asia Tea House, which is tucked away in the back. I was completely unaware of the Asian Town Center complex until today. I’ve driven by it several times, but have never really paid attention to it. It has several parking lots, and I was glad they had a sign pointing to the main entrance. I had read about Asia Tea House several months ago when Doug Trattner wrote about it in the Scene Magazine, but I still hadn’t checked it out. The grocery store was huge and had a wide variety of items. I plan on going back again soon to take my time and browse the aisles. The fruits and vegetables were huge (including a jackfruit that was bigger than my head) and looked very fresh. They sell live crabs and lobsters, butchered meats, fresh kim chi, frozen and dried rice noodles, and a wide selection of sodas and juices, just to name a few. We were more interested in the little restaurant tucked in the back. At this point none of us were hungry and some of my friends were done for the day, so we just popped in to check things out. They had roasted meats hanging as well as a huge variety of dumplings (and samples!), savory and sweet buns, and pre-wrapped bahn mi sandwiches. If you want to sit in the table area you order your soup or from around 17 entrees at the register and they will bring you tea and your food when it is ready. I grabbed a sticky rice and a bahn mi to go for tomorrow. Some other friends grabbed a couple of buns to go. We were too full to order anything and sit down. I’ll be back soon to try some of their soups.

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Five of my friends continued with other plans, while four of us decided to stop at Koko Bakery. My vegetarian friend had left after Emperor’s Palace last week and lamented having missed the desserts, so I wanted to make it up to her. I thought about ordering a smoothie, but decided to order a Taiwanese shaved ice ($5.35 including tax) instead. One of my friends thought it sounded good and ordered the same thing I did. They shave the ice, top it with three toppings (I ordered lychee, mango and kiwi), and pour condensed milk over it. It was very refreshing on this 78 degree day. I also felt I was getting some vitamins to balance out the dumpling overload. My vegetarian friends split the mango cheesecake, which I had a bite of and really liked.

Overall, it was a successful dim sum crawl spread over two days. We got to try some old favorites as well as some new dim sum offerings and discovered a couple places along the way. I would not recommend doing it all the time because it is really filling, but this was a great way to spend an early afternoon on a Sunday. I highly recommend it.

Contact info:

E. 30th Street Cafe (now Szechuan Cafe)
Asia Plaza
2999 Payne Avenue #142
Cleveland, OH 44114

Bo Loong *Warning: the website is really bad. A more extensive menu is here.
3922 St Clair Avenue NE
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 391-3113

Asia Foods/Asia Tea House
Asia Town Center
3820 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114

The Velvet Tango Room

vtrThe Velvet Tango Room (or VTR) was just named one of the ‘Best 150 bars in America‘ (hint: it’s no. 90) – and for good reason. I love the VTR. Proprietor Paulius Nasvytis is just coolness personified, and the bartenders there really know how to shake a cocktail. The VTR opened in 1996 in a building that was once a speakeasy. It is located on Columbus Road on Duck Island, just a block or two from the West Side Market and the RTA station in Ohio City.

There are more than 80 cocktails on the menu. They serve classics like Manhattans, the Flip, Tom Collins, Sazerac, the Highball, the Ramos Gin Fizz, the Old Fashioned, and sours like the Pisco Sour and the Amaretto di SaronnaIMAG1751 as well as their own house creations like the India Lime Fizz (which Michael Symon talked about on the Food Channel’s The Best Thing I Ever Drank), the Lady in White, the Apricot Lady, the Cleveland Rose, and the Rust Belt. There is a drink to match every taste and mood. Every cocktail is completely fresh and made from scratch. Each cocktail uses the finest ingredients, the juice is squeezed as they make your drink, and mixers like bitters are made in-house. The ice cubes are made in a special 100_0395machine to be 1.25″ square and are frozen at -30 degrees, so that they stay cold longer and dilute the cocktail less. The cherries are imported from Italy. Once you taste them you will never eat maraschino cherries again. They’re delicious!

My favorites include the Lady in Red (vodka blended with the Tango Room’s own red wine reduction and adorned with marinated grapes), the India Lime Fizz (a rich, creamy, and powerful cocktail that combines gin, rum, flora India limes, vanilla, and a whole egg), the Moscow Mule (in the metal cup of course), and the Pisco muleSour.

Even if you are a hater of eggnog, their version will change your mind. It is the third drink photo here. It is so dense it casts a shadow on the cocktail napkin. Paulius whips it up during the holidays with fresh cream and eggs, brandy and dark rum. I had it during the holidays, when Paulius makes gallons of it and runs out, but they are happy to make it for you any time.

If IMAG1753you can’t decide they offer cocktail flights. As the menu explains, the “flights are groupings of three signature cocktails designed to create a harmonious progression of flavor experiences. Each cocktail’s flavor profile and finish, gently introduces and compliments the next one in the series. The opening cocktail is full-sized, followed by a slightly smaller tasting size cocktail before the final coup-de-grace, another full-size cocktail.” It’s a great way to try several at once. I’ve had the White, Light and Spicy (Lady in White, Rangpur Gimlet, and Dark ‘n’ Stormy) and the Fruits, Herbs and Spices (Lady in Red, Lady in White, and Bourbon Daisy).

The joint is classy 1929284_89667701349_7751357_nfrom start to finish, but it isn’t pretentious. There is a dress code (no shorts, t-shirts, or anything disreputable), but as you can see in the photo to the right they don’t ban jeans. The customers are friendly and not at all pretentious.

The ceiling has bullet holes from its speakeasy days. The bar and back bar are made of refinished mahogany. There is a sitting room with a grand piano where live jazz musicians play. The back room is tucked away in a hallway and to get to it you have to walk through a mirrored door in the coatroom. lastwordYou need reservations for the back room, and there is a two drink minimum. The backroom has buttery soft leather chairs and sofas and a fireplace for the winter months and a great patio for the summer months. There is another baby grand piano in the back room for special events. You can check out the photos on their website.

The food is limited, but high quality. You can order savories like Warm Olives and Almonds, Speck on Rye (which I highly recommend), an Artisanal Cheese board, Swine and Cheese (local goat cheese with Courvoisier fig sauce IMAG1598and a mound of prosciutto and crackers), or a Charcuterie plate or sweets like gelato, chocolate truffles, chocolate fondue, and Bananas Foster. We were lucky enough to be treated by Paulius to his Crepe Suzette, flambeed table side. It was a treat for the eyes and the taste buds.

There is no other place in Cleveland serving fine cocktails like the VTR. They serve cocktails and only cocktails, so check out the menu before you go to make sure you like what they are selling. There is no beer, shots or wine served here. The drinks are pricey ($18 for one drink), but they are only $10 during Happy Hour. The Happy Hour at the VTR runs from 4:30-7 pm on weeknights (my friends usually meet there on Fridays). There are no reservations in the front. It’s first come, first served. There are sometimes free nibbles put out during happy hour, but don’t count on them. As one Yelper said, “It doesn’t have to be a “special occasion” for a stop at VTR. VTR is its own occasion and can make any day better.”collage-2015-05-01

Contact info:

The Velvet Tango Room
2095 Columbus Road
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 241-8869

Dim Sum Crawl – Part One

My friends and I did a dim sum crawl yesterday. I got the idea from a blog post describing a dim sum crawl in the San Gabriel Valley. The original plan was to hit all four restaurants that serve dim sum here in Cleveland – Emperor’s Palace, Li Wah, E. 30th Street Cafe, and Bo Loong – but we only made it to two of them before we cried ‘uncle.’ I can’t just order two things at a dim sum place. There is too much deliciousness. Everyone brought cash, and we carpooled and left four cars in Emperor’s Palace’s spacious parking lot since parking can be tight at Li Wah. We could have walked, but Bo Loong is a bit too far from the other places.

crawl1The first stop was at Emperor’s Palace. We met there at 11:30, because I wanted to order the Shanghai juicy buns and I know they run out early. Shanghai juicy buns (or xiao long bao) are a steamed dumpling commonly called soup buns because they are filled with pork and broth. The characteristic soup-filled buns are created by wrapping solid meat aspic inside the skin alongside the meat filling. Heat from steaming then melts the gelatin-gelled aspic into soup. Also on the menu were tofu skin rolls, egg custard buns, pumpkin cakes and their absolute stand-outs – shrimp dumplings (har gow) and turnip cake (law bok gow). Since we needed to save room we didn’t order some of my other favorites, but that’s okay. I go there enough to satisfy my cravings. Our bill, split among six diners, was $29.95 – which amounted to $6 per person including tax and gratuity.

crawl2Our second stop was Li Wah. There are two completely different kinds of energy at these two restaurants. Emperor’s Palace is more laid back and relaxed. The food is ordered from the photo-filled menu and prepared fresh. The dishes are served as they are ready. Li Wah was packed with diners and we had food on the table within a minute of sitting down. In fact, we were still getting our plates and chopsticks and our water glasses filled as the first cart stopped. We ordered in a blur. The choices we enjoyed at Li Wah included shu mei, spare ribs in black bean sauce, roast BBQ pork, turnip cake (Li Wah’s is softer and creamier than Emperor’s Palace, but the unanimous verdict was that Emperor’s Palace’s cake had the edge flavor-wise), baked BBQ pork buns, beef ho fun, and steamed rice crepes with ground beef. We wanted to get a roasted meat because Li Wah has outstanding roasted meat, some of which are hanging in a cart near the entrance. We also enjoyed a lovely chrysanthemum tea with real chrysanthemum petals steeping in the water (see photo below). Our bill here came to $44.25 – or $9 a person including tax and tip.

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At this point we decided we were too full to continue our crawl. We decided to do E. 30th Street Cafe (in the same plaza as Li Wah) and Bo Loong another day. Instead, we headed to Koko Bakery for something sweet. Koko has something for everyone – cream buns, savory buns, hot dogs wrapped in pastry dough, soup, sandwiches, rice bowls, salads, chocolate covered strawberries, mousse, tarts, brownies, cakes, tiramisu, shaved ice, coffee, tea, smoothies, and bubble tea. The cases are a feast for the senses. I opted for a chocolate mousse topped with a chocolate covered strawberry. My friends ordered mango mousse, passionfruit mousse, triple chocolate mousse, a green tea bun and a sponge cake with almonds. Everyone left happy.

crawl3If you want to try something different on a Saturday or Sunday consider doing a dim sum crawl with some friends and enjoy some new flavors. Feel free to use some of these suggestions or branch out on your own. We didn’t do as much shrimp because we had someone with a shellfish allergy with us. I tried to order one piece for each person and took the allergy into consideration when ordering – an extra egg custard bun or beef something for her while some got to enjoy two shu mei or shrimp dumplings. We split several choices in half at Li Wah because we were getting full. There are no rules other than enjoy yourself, gorge on dim sum, and drink lots of tea. Oh, and bring cash. Preferably in small bills. It makes life easier.

To be continued…

Contact info:

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

Li Wah
2999 Payne Avenue (Asia Plaza)
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 589-9552

Koko Bakery
3710 Payne Avenue (next to Map of Thailand)
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 881-7600

Quintealia’s Tea Parlor in Burton

IMAG0940Quintealia’s is a darling little tea room on the historic town square in Burton, serving up delicious scones, tea sandwiches and high afternoon teas. Quintealia’s is named after one of the owners’ grandmother. As the website explains, “The parlor’s name was selected in honor of Annette’s grandmother, Quintilia, who was of Italian decent. Quintilia was renamed “Clara” because her given name was deemed too difficult for others to pronounce. IMAG0228A slight variation in the spelling of her name gave Annette and Renee an opportunity to play on the word “tea” while paying homage to a woman who’s inner strength and brave spirit epitomized their own leap of faith. Quintilia’s photograph, along with the first tea set she gave Annette as a child grace the mantle in the main parlor.”

From the owners to the servers, they are warm and welcoming and really make you feel like an honored guest. I have been there several times, and they quickly recognized and acknowledged me as a “regular.”

IMAG1034Quintealia’s is located in the historic Ford House, a beautiful 1891 mansion built by George H. Ford, Burton’s first mayor. The Victorian mansion is on the National Register of historical places. Quintealia’s features delicious tea and friendly service in a quaint and charming atmosphere. The Main Parlor boasts a fireplace, an 1880s Queen Anne velvet settee and matching ladies chair, and is decorated with rich gem colors and dark woodwork. The soft and feminine French Room is draped in lace and pastel pinks, and the table service is set with gold cutlery. IMAG1032The Ford Room, named after George Ford, the grand old home’s original owner, is adorned in quarter-paneled wood walls, old trunks, oversized wingback chairs and accents reminiscent of Old England. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Quintealia’s offers a wide variety of loose leaf teas brewed at the perfect temperature. The servers are very knowledgeable and will happily help you choose the perfect tea for your tastes. The wide variety ensures that everyone can choose their favorite tea. Pots are happily refilled with hot water as needed.

One of my favorite new finds at Quintealia’s are the wine-inspired tea blends by Vintage TeaWorks. IMAG0230The line of teas was developed by a lawyer in Akron who was passionate about both wine and tea and set out to blend the two. His non-alcoholic blends are deliciously aromatic and do a great job mimicking the notes of the various wines. The teas were voted Best New Product in 2012 by WorldTeaEast. From the light and playful White Tea Riesling to the dark and decadent Pu-Erh Cabernet, each of the six wine-inspired teas stand out in their own right. I attended a tea tasting of the line at Quintealia’s hosted by the personable Vintage TeaWorks founder, and each tea was better than the next, capped off with his delicious Bourbon Chai. IMAG0231I ended up buying the entire line and enjoy them at home cold brewed as well as hot. He suggested cold brewing the Rooibos Noir overnight in the refrigerator, and it quickly became my favorite thing this past summer. Although the Black Tea Merlot is my hands down favorite hot tea. Order one when you visit Quintealia’s. I promise you won’t regret it!

As for the food… my favorite thing to order here is the Savory Sampler for $10.95, which features four assorted tea sandwiches (although there are five in the photo on the right – I think the two cucumber sandwiches counted as one) and choice of a cup of soup or salad. Their soups and sandwiches IMAG0232vary with the season, but they have been delicious each and every time I have ordered this. I particularly love the cinnamon raisin swirl bread with a carrot and cream cheese spread. The mint cream cheese on the cucumber sandwiches is also a great pairing that you wouldn’t expect.

The scones are small but very flavorful. They also vary depending on the day. The white chocolate scone with raspberry was delicious, as are their savory herb scones. IMAG0389They serve Devonshire cream and jam with their scones as their Cream Tea for $7.95 that comes with a pot of tea or simply the Scones and Cream dessert selection for $3.95.

The crispy flatbread ($10.95) is topped with melted Asiago cheese, artichokes, and your choice of sweet peppers or sausage. They served these as nibbles at the Vintage TeaWorks tea tasting, and we couldn’t get enough of them. They were delicious and addictive.

I was less enthused about the Seafood Puff Pastry ($12.95), which features shrimp and whitefish tossedIMAG0388 in a delicate dressing with fresh Parmesan cheese, baked in a puff pastry and accompanied by soup or salad. I was expecting a puff pastry, and it was more like a pot pie. If you like the idea of a seafood pot pie you’ll love it.

When I went here with my tea group the table was groaning with tea caddies loaded with savory and sweet selections (Full Afternoon Tea for $22.95). It features a three-tiered assortment of tea sandwiches, petite sweets, freshly baked scones with Devonshire cream and jam and a bottomless pot of tea. The scones were on the top tier (photo on the right). The middle tier had the tea sandwiches. The bottom tier featured the petite sweets. Most of us had to ask for boxes to bring some of the sweets home. IMAG0390They are very generous with this afternoon tea. The petite sweets alone are seven two- or three-bite desserts with choices ranging from cheesecakes, petit fours, brownie bites, tarts, lemon bars, bread pudding, cookies, and a variety of tea cakes and breads. The lemon meltaway bars and bread pudding are to die for!!!

If you want a place to relax over a nice cup of tea and tasty food, a catch up with an old friend or a special place to celebrate with girlfriends be sure to check Quintealia’s out.

Contact info:

Quintealia’s Tea Parlor
14585 East Park Street
Burton, Ohio 44021
(440) 834-1777

Wasabi Steak & Sushi

IMAG0619Wasabi is a Japanese sushi and steakhouse that has several locations in the area. I have been visiting the one in Beachwood, since it is the closest to me. It occupies the building that used to be the Olive Garden. It features hibachi on the one side of the restaurant and sushi on the other (although you can order a hibachi meal on the sushi side). The two halves are separated by a giant bubbling aquarium.

My first visit was because I was craving sushi and was in the area. IMAG0621I was seated quickly and had a nice view of the aquarium. I ordered the Sushi & Sashimi Combo, which features six pieces of sushi, nine pieces of sashimi and a California roll. It was delicious. The sushi was fresh and tightly rolled. The accompanying miso soup was good, with some shittake mushrooms. The ginger dressing on the salad was bright and creamy.

IMAG0624My second visit was on New Year’s Eve with my nieces. They were spending the night with me and asked to go to a hibachi for dinner. We have been to Benihana and Otani in the past, and my nieces enjoy the show and the food. I also knew they would enjoy the koi pond and the waterfall as we walked in. We went at 5 PM to avoid the dinner rush, and it was packed with waiting diners when we left. They really loved Wasabi, because they serve fried noodles in addition to fried rice.

The service was pleasant, the hibachi chefs were very entertaining, and the food was delicious. The hibachi entrees also come with the soup and salad (except for the children’s menu, which offers a choice between them). My youngest niece ordered the chicken hibachi on the children’s menu. IIMAG1895t was a very decent sized portion and yet very affordable. My oldest niece ordered the adult shrimp hibachi. She snarfed down the fried rice almost before the shrimp was finished, and I ended up stealing some rice from the youngest niece’s plate for her. My shrimp and scallop hibachi entree was perfectly cooked. The fried rice and lo mein noodles were very flavorful and filling. I loved the assortment of vegetables they added to them. The chef was also generous with the yum yum sauce, which was a nice addition but not absolutely necessary due to the flavor of the food itself.IMAG1921

We left with plenty of leftovers. Several of the diners at our table ordered extra fried rice since the portions are so generous. That probably gave them an additional full meal the next day.

My only word of warning is to doublecheck your receipt against your credit card statement. Somehow there was a $15 tip added to my bill despite the fact that I left $16 in cash and remember sitting there and waiting for the change and that the impression of my total and signature on the restaurant copyIMAG1922 transferred to the receipt I have. It was a busy night and “mistakes happen”, but it doesn’t hurt to be careful. It isn’t going to stop me from going there again in the future, but I will be writing CASH in huge letters on my receipts from now on. The manager also refunded the money to my credit card without question (but not much of an apology).

Contact info:

Wasabi Steak & Sushi
3725 Orange Place
Beachwood, OH
(216) 292-8866

with locations in Akron, Canton and Independence

The Blue Door in Cuyahoga Falls

IMG_20120405_122249The Blue Door Cafe and Bakery in Cuyahoga Falls began as a micro-bakery in 2009. They then bought the restaurant they were working out of and now consistently produce some of the most delicious food you will ever eat. The folks at The Blue Door pride themselves on using local and healthy ingredients and having a seasonal menu that changes specials frequently. In addition to the standard breakfast and lunch menu the specials are created based on what delicious and special ingredients they are able to purchase that week, using carefully chosen shrimp, salmon, bison, etc. IMG_20120405_122225They are closed on Monday and Tuesday, but open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday from 7 AM to 3 PM. They recently started expanding to include dinner service on the weekend. Dinner is served Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 6 to 9 PM. Reservations are recommended. The dinner service feature four entrees, and each includes freshly baked breads and rolls and specially created non-alcoholic cocktails that utilize fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables.

I love the fact that the Blue Door has a more European atmosphere. In fact, IMAG0756news of a German breakfast week was the first meal to tempt me to drive down to Cuyahoga Falls. The fact that they had made my favorite German cake, Bienenstich or Bee Sting Cake, into a French toast convinced me that I needed to get down there right away. It was divine, featuring custard and honey with their Challah bread. I couldn’t decide and also felt the need to have a typical German Frühstück too, so I also ordered the bread roll with various cheeses and jams as well as fresh fruit. I don’t know where they get their fresh fruit, but it is amazing and consistently perfectly ripe.

I then started following them on Facebook, where they frequently IMAG4498post their specials for the week. My friend Tom is completely hooked and lives closer, so when he posted one day that the special was a Nutella and Chantilly Cream French toast I called my friend M. and picked her up within 15 minutes to make the drive down there. She had the egg sandwich on one of their house-made croissants (I dare you to have one and not want to take several home with you!). We shared both entrees. Her sandwich was good, but my French toast was exquisite. Funnily enough that day the person sat at the table next to us was one of my good friends and a fellow German translator (who lives in Kent), so we pulled the tables together. Then IMAG4502_1about 20 minutes later another translator colleague (who lives in Pepper Pike) walked in. I guess we translators know where the good places to eat are!

The two photos with the paper were recent to-go orders – a lobster ragout crepe and a New York bagel with lox, house-made cream cheese and capers. Both were fantastic!

IMAG0817This is not an easy place to go on the weekend for breakfast, because it is so popular. Expect a wait. I tend to go during the week instead. I met a dining group from Meetup.com here for brunch last month. We were told the wait would be an hour and a half. It ended up being shorter, because several of our members managed to get their own tables and the group managed to snag the seats at the counter. Not the most comfortable place for a group breakfast, but everyone was happy with their meals. The service was great, and the coffee was flowing. They also have fresh squeezed orange juice that is just delicious. I ordered a bison burger on this day. It was perfectly cooked, and the leftovers were just as good IMAG2143later for dinner. The homemade cole slaw really convinced me to order it, and the slice of tomato was extremely fresh. You can see the potato croquette behind the burger in the photo. I love a good croquette, but was expecting something a little more delicate. This was more a potato fritter. Even though this wasn’t quite what I was expecting it was still quite delicious.

As I said, they recently started serving dinner service. He managedIMAG2144 to win over the chef from Dante’s Akron restaurant, Torsten Schulz. Another German! (Did I mention the owner speaks German fluently?) The two photos of small bites (smoked trout with horseradish cream and Maultaschen – a veal stuffed dough pocket in broth) were from a recent German wine dinner that was simply outstanding. Be sure to check out Tom’s Flickr feed to see the weekly creations. His photos do the food much better justice than mine do, so be sure to click on the links below.

To be honest, I wasn’t as impressed with the regular dinner service as I wanted to be. The Ohio Strawberry non-alcoholic cocktail was divine. I enjoyed IMAG0841the first course, the Avocado Puree, very much. The avocado puree paired really well with the grapefruit slices. My grass-fed beef was good, but it had a little too much fat. I liked that there were two variations and couldn’t decide which I liked better. The potato and spinach sides were really small, which was disappointing because I love mixing a bite of spinach with steak. The vegetarian entree (Variations of Ohio broccoli) had a high price point that my vegetarian friends did not feel was warranted. They used four different kinds of broccoli and pureed them together, serving them withIMAG0843 Japanese rice, almonds and a lemon vinaigrette. The dessert, the Marillenknodel (apricot dumpling), was very good. It is a take on a standard Austrian dessert that I love, featuring a Viennese dumpling, vanilla sauce and pistachios. The souffle (see photostream) looked super-inviting as well.

Although dinner was a nice change and I hope they are successful, I think I’m going to stick with their breakfast and lunch service, since that is my favorite meal of the day anyway. However, if you are looking for a restaurant for a special occasion, consider trying The Blue Door.

Contact info:

The Blue Door Cafe & Bakery
1970 State Road
Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223
(330) 926-9774