Julia Child

juliachildIf you’ve read my About page, you know that my mother is a huge fan of Julia Child. As a young wife, she taught herself to cook with her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking and by watching her series The French Chef. I had no idea that she had her cookbooks autographed by Julia and Paul Child. We were sitting around talking about the new movie, Julie & Julia, the other weekend, and she told us a really cool story. Apparently Julia Child was autographing her newest cookbook release back in 1971, and Mom had brought her well-loved cookbooks with her as well. Julia’s husband, Paul, was so impressed at how well-used they were that he pointed them out to Julia. The result is that Mom has all three of her Julia Child cookbooks autographed by Julia and Paul Child. How cool is that?

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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

Shooters on the Water

shooters_21Shooters on the Water opened in June of 1987. I celebrated my 21st birthday there back then, but don’t remember much about that night. I don’t know if it was because it was so long ago or because I enjoyed finally being legal. Shooters is located on the Cuyahoga River in on the West Bank of the Cleveland Flats and was one of the forerunners of the Flats. Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s the Flats were the place to be and I mourn what it used to be – not what it turned into. Although the Flats are essentially no more, Shooters is still around. I had not been back since I turned 21, and I hadn’t gone there for the food that night. I was curious as to how it would be.

shooters_1When the weather is nice I love dining outside and especially on the water, so I thought it would be an interesting place for my Dining Out group to meet. Unfortunately seating on the water is first come, first served and because we were a big group we were seated inside the restaurant. The service was pretty attentive, all things considered, and despite putting everything on one check they were willing to break it down and allow us to pay for our meals separately. We just had to tell them how much our share was.

shooters_3My friend Lenore and I could not decide what to order, so we ordered two entrees and split them. We chose the chopped salad (crisp greens, vine-ripe tomatoes, diced turkey breast, chopped egg, cucumbers, red onion, applewood smoked bacon, shredded provolone cheese and choice of dressing on the side) and the Philly Steak and Cheese shooters_4(shaved prime rib, caramelized onions and mushrooms, stuffed in a toasted hoagie roll with melted mozzarella and a side of au jus). We both really enjoyed the salad, but Lenore was not impressed with the sandwich. She found it too dry. I figure you can’t expect too much from a Philly cheese steak in Cleveland. Plus, she’s from New York and is used to good bread, which this hoagie bun was not. One of our other friends ordered the Philly Steak sandwich with onion rings, which were quite delicious. Next time I’m going to order some seafood though.

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Everyone seemed pleased with their meals, from the Chicken Quesadilla and Calamari Dibattista (lightly breaded, sautéed with extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, banana peppers and roasted red peppers) to the Rasta Pasta (roasted garlic-asiago Alfredo, spinach, fresh diced tomatoes, mushrooms, linguini pasta and shaved parmesan) and Rajun Cajun chicken breast sandwich.

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As has become a tradition, several of us ordered dessert and shared it by passing it around the table. The New York Style Cheesecake and Death by Chocolate were enjoyed by all.

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Contact info:

1148 Main Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 861-6900

Romanini’s in Aurora

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I’ve heard good things about Romanini’s in Aurora and figured I should see for myself. The original plan was to meet friends there for dinner to carb up the night before the Cleveland 3-Day a few weeks ago, but life got in the way and we agreed on a raincheck. The night we were there was probably one of the best nights to sit outside we’ve had all year. Not too hot, not too cool – but just right.

First of all, valet parking is mandatory and complementary. It is also a necessity, because Romanini’s does not have many parking spaces and there aren’t many parking options in the immediate area. Be sure to plan accordingly to have money to tip the valet after your meal.

Romanini’s menu reflects the wide range of cuisines – the small plates and entree sections are broken down into Asian, Southwestern and Italian. It was hard to decide from such diverse choices. I’m going to have to try the mussels the next time I’m there. I just have to decide which ones to try. There are three options…

100_0969My friends were seated at the bar, enjoying a stemless glass of wine, when I arrived. Since the evening was so beautiful we chose to sit on the outside patio. The patio overlooks a body of water, and there were kayakers cruising back and forth on the water that night. It was very peaceful.

The first order of business for me was a cocktail. I tried the Romaninitini and then followed it with the New Age Martini, which the table next to us was enjoying, and it very refreshing. Both cocktails were very light and fruity. The New Age Martini relied on sparking white wine and fruit, but it was not too sweet. It was quite nice.

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Romaninintini

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New Age Martini

Gretchen and I split the vegetable tempura and sushi appetizer. I’m not a fan of tempura (I find it generally too greasy and not very savory), but the sushi 100_0970was delicious. I only wish there were several more pieces of it. The tempura was batter-dipped vegetable slices of eggplant, carrot, and zucchini and a shrimp, which we divided in two to try each one.

One of the servers suggested ordering several small plates, but we decided to order entrees. The entrees come with a choice of three salads and the vegetable of the day. Jon and I chose the Caesar salad with roasted red peppers, which was delicious, while Gretchen ordered the house salad.

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Caesar salad with roasted red peppers

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House garden salad

100_0974I had chosen Romanini’s for the spaghetti and meatballs, but once I saw trout on the menu I had to order it. This trout was rainbow trout stuffed with crab and wrapped with pancetta. It was served with sauteed yellow and green zucchini. It was delicious – and just as good the next day.

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Jon ordered the Meza Rigatoni Bolognese and offered me a taste, which was good. However, it isn’t like any Bolognese I’ve ever seen/enjoyed. It features beef short ribs and hot Italian sausage in the sauce, but most Bolognese I have enjoyed are usually piled with meat. But I’m not ripping on this version, because it was delicious. The fresh chopped basil was a nice touch.

100_0976Gretchen wanted the halibut, but they were out. She ordered another fish (I think it was haddock?) with a sweet mushroom sauce. She was surprised by the sweetness of the sauce, but said it complemented the fish very nicely.

We were too full for dessert, but the choices were so tempting that Gretchen ordered a cannoli for the three of us. It was a nice way to round out the evening, but I would have probably ordered the Derby Pie.

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Contact info:

Romanini’s
238 Garfield Route 82
Aurora, OH 44202
330-562-1205

Brunch at Lucky’s Cafe

I have a new favorite brunch place in Cleveland. It’s Lucky’s Cafe in Tremont. (FYI, The Vine and Bean Cafe on Larchmere apparently has the same menu.) I learned to appreciate brunch while living in Germany. My friends and I would wake up late after a late night out, go out to a buffet of breakfast and lunch items and enjoy ourselves for hours. Lucky’s doesn’t have a buffet, but their brunch items are so delicious that quality wins out luckys_cafeaulaitover quantity. I love that they serve their coffee in cafe au lait mugs (what one of my friends lovingly calls a “bowl of coffee”). I miss my cafe au lait and love when I find a place that offers a good one!

I met my Meetup.com brunch group at Lucky’s the other day. We got there early to ensure we got a table for our large group. Lucky’s tends to fill up at around 11, but the picnic tables in the garden doubles the available seating space in the summer. Lucky’s grows a lot of the ingredients in that garden and prides itself on relying on locally grown produce.

luckys_waffleThey are best known for their waffles and something called a Shipwreck. It was a tough choice, but I decided to opt for the vanilla bean waffles with roasted peaches and honey whipped cream. They were absolutely divine!

The Shipwreck is a mix  of hash browns, eggs, veggies, bacon and cheddar cheese, served with house baked como toast and fresh fruit. I can’t wait to order this next time. It just luckys_shipwrecklooks amazing. Lucky’s also serves a vegetarian version of the Shipwreck called the Canoewreck. The Canoewreck features curried tofu, hash browns, seasonal veggies, and brewers yeast, served with Como toast and fresh fruit. I got to try my friend’s, and it was delicious.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meals – from the biscuits and gravy (cheddar scallion biscuits topped with soft scrambled eggs and sausage gravy) to the Shipwreck and the omelette (spinach, mushrooms, zucchini and white cheddar cheese, served w/ hash browns & banana bread). I leave you with this final picture, which hopefully will make you smile.

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Contact info:

Lucky’s Cafe
777 Starkweather
Cleveland, OH 44113
216-622-7773

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