Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snowpocalypse is upon us!

Since I moved to Cleveland, we've had a few snow storms. I would comment to a neighbor about the severity of the storm and would often be met with a laugh and a comment like "HA! This is nothing! Welcome to Cleveland!"

This is bad, isn't it? Does it get much worse?

There was something awfully terrifying about being on the Healthline this morning. The sound of the wheels spinning as we tried to depart from a bus stop was something even my earbuds and an Okkervil River song couldn't drown out. I spoke to several friends in Columbus who have told me that they've had some ice, and that a lot of businesses are closed today. As adults, we don't get many snow days, do we? And if we do, they're usually in the form of a self-inflicted "mental health" day.

A friend of mine taught me how to text people. Before moving to Cleveland, I didn't have a lot of use for text, and didn't even know what the hell T9 Word was. This is a fascinating innovation, but it can also "drunk text" for you when you're perfectly sober. When I got on the bus this afternoon to go home, I texted a friend and said:

"Wow, the cup is scary. I hate to get home."

He responded, "It's okay. Don't let the cups get you down!" probably thinking I was being Dadaist or that I had gone insane from an overdose of snow. What I had meant to say was that the bus was scary, and that I have to get home. Do not worry, dear readers - I assure you that my drinking glasses do not intend me any harm.

We're going to see Slumdog Millionaire and eat at Cafe Tandoor this Friday. I like to torment Jeff sometimes by looking at him in shock and saying; "Wow! You're taking ME on a date??!" to which I get an equally silly look (picture the Mentos thumbs up expression) and a laugh. I'll get pictures and post a review when we return.

Hey... What are you doing on Saturday? Nothing? Well, I suggest that you go to see this young lady at the Beachland Tavern:

This is my wonderfully talented cousin, Chelsea Williams.

She's on her first tour, and has a couple of shows before she comes to Cleveland this weekend. I'm really hoping for a good turnout, for her sake. People need to hear how awesome she really is (and I'm not just saying this because I babysat her when she was little!)!

All bets are off for Sunday, I guess. I'm sorry, but I'm just not much of one to go all silly for football. Jeff will be glued to the TV and I may be persuaded to come out to watch the commercials, but that's about it.

I may ask if he'd prefer to hang out here so I can make some football-y snacks. Little Italy needs a butcher shop so I don't need to hoof it to Alesci's in this muck. I'd like to make a nice sub sandwich - it's really been a while since I ate one of those.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dinner at L'Albatros

After reading several reviews of La Dolce Vita and La Strada, I have been wondering if I am capable of providing a fair review of either location. I am not particularly close with Terry Tarantino, but I am friends with much of the wait staff at LDV and many of those who work at La Strada. In a way, La Dolce Vita is sort of like my own little Cheers.

I don't think I could give a non-biased impression of Terry, or the staff. I can tell you truly that the food is fantastic, and that it's a fun little restaurant. The fruit drenched in triple sec that comes at the close of your meal is a nice little treat, kind of like getting a free manicure with a spa treatment.

I walk by the restaurant every time I get off the bus after work. I wave at the bartender. Sometimes, the hostess will come out and greet me. I haven't been there lately, however. I have been going to the gym a lot, and can't seem to justify a fattening (but incredibly delicious) plate of Fettuccine Fellini after running for a half hour. Go figure.

We made it to L'Albatros the day after it opened and I'm just now getting around to posting about it. Unfortunately, I wasn't really sure how to use my new camera and a lot of the photos didn't turn out the way I'd hoped, but I'll do my very best.

Jeff and I went to L'Albatros on opening night. They weren't that busy when we arrived, but that could have easily been due to inclement weather - it was one of the first crappy nights of the season.

The decor was minimal and the tables looked very sterile. Jeff wondered if the dining room could have been more romantic if the lights had been a little lower. Had the restaurant been crowded I would have agreed with him. The tables were close together in some spots, which might be annoying if you were on a date and wanted to completely immerse yourself if conversation with your date.

Our waitress was incredibly friendly, and helpful almost to the point of being annoying. We took our time with the menu since there were many things that looked like they would be good. She stopped to see us several times, to see if we had decided. In my opinion it was a little excessive, but much better than the alternative of a missing waitperson.

Jeff ordered the Onion Soup Gratinee for an appetizer, and I ordered the Chicken Liver and Foie Gras Mousseline. The soup was amazing, and the mousse had a creamy, decadent texture I had not been familiar with before. If anything, the mousse needed salt. L'Albatros had a generous cup of Fleur de Sel on each table with a charming little spoon - in retrospect I didn't think to use it. I wanted to experience the food as the chef wanted me to experience it.

For the entree, Jeff ordered the Sauteed Skate Wing and I had the Hanger Steak and Frites. I had a bizarre fascination with ordering steak frites ever since Anthony Bourdain mentioned it on A Cook's Tour.

Jeff's dish was explained as having the texture of a scallop, which was correct. It had a mild flavor, but the texture put me off. I don't think I could have eaten the whole thing. He seemed to like it, however and that's what is important.

The skate was our waitress' suggestion, and had been informally named as the house special, according to several other people that we knew who went in the weeks to follow.

This is fine, but I had to wonder if the static suggestion was due to insufficient information on the many other dishes featured on the menu.

The steak was amazingly tender and cooked just right. I haven't had much experience with fries but there have been many other foodies who have raved about Lola's fries. I plan to try them as soon as possible. These fries were nice, and the right thickness for my tastes. They were lightly salted and not greasy at all. I cleaned my plate that night, and that's something I rarely do.

When my meal was gone, I was a little sad that I couldn't eat it anymore. This was a simple and classic dish that I wouldn't mind having on a semi-regular basis - it's a good thing my personal trainer doesn't read my blog, she'd have a fit!

I've actually been wanting to go back for some time now, if only for the soup we had at the start of our meal.

I'd like to give the wait staff another chance as well. Many of our questions about various menu items went unanswered, as the staff simply didn't seem to be familiar with much of it.

A chef friend of mine recently went and commented that certain things needed to be tweaked, that they needed a bit more "practice". He ordered the Terrine and said it wasn't seasoned at all, he noted. After his comment I wondered if I had been correct about the mousseline.

On our visit we inquired about several of the desserts. Aside from the obvious ones (cheesecake, berries and creme anglaise) our server did not seem to know much about the desserts, either. Disappointing - but forgivable considering it was opening night, I suppose.

We chose the Pineapple Tarte Tatin, if only because Jeff and I really like pineapple. It wasn't a bad decision!

The tarte involved a puff pastry circle with a pineapple ring on top of it. There was coconut ice cream on top of the ring, and a sweet cache of caramel in the hole beneath the ice cream. Once again not wanting it to disappear, we ate it slowly and frequently commented on how good it was.

The sweetness was natural and not overkill at all. The pastry was light and fun to eat, though the dish was a little messy. We were given forks and spoons to eat this one, as the server had described it as "complicated".

I'd never had a complicated dessert before, and I had always imagined that a complicated dessert would somehow involve shellfish - I joke, only because shellfish tend to be complicated to eat. The tarte is not a first date dish, nor is it one to indulge upon if you're worried about sticky fingers or potentially having a caramel décolleté.

Andy Dombrowski greeted us on our way out and asked how everything was. I spoke honestly, for the most part. I didn't mention the lack of menu knowledge, that wouldn't have been fair. It would have been like telling your kid that they stink - the first time they try to ride a bicycle.

If you haven't visited L'Albatros, I suggest that you do. It was a fun and moderately priced experience I plan to repeat as soon as possible.

Oh, and they have cocktails with Absinthe. (yum!)

Thanks for reading!