Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Less Than Three Cleveland (that means LOVE)

Yea, verily... Happy are we in Cleveland.

The parks, the fantastic music venues, the countless amazing chefs and restaurants - oh, and the bloggers...These and many other things make Cleveland a great place to live and visit. I am so in love with this city. That's right Alexa... This is an EDA - for CLEVELAND. Yep, I'm madly, madly in love with the 216.

Some people don't think so, and that's okay, because most of us know better. It is up to us who really believe in Cleveland to help make this city a better place for those who might disagree with us. If that means volunteering, supporting local businesses, or showing friends and loved ones who may not know how awesome this place is, then so be it.

I will be at the Literary Cafe in Tremont this Friday from 9:00 to whenever as a model for the pretentious artists in the Literary Cafe Drawing Club. Stop by, if you're not snowed in already. If you are, please be safe and make some hot chocolate.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A miracle? You must be trippin'.

It took me a minute to write the opening line of this entry. I first typed that I heard about flavor tripping on Food Network, but that may not be true. Then, I was going to say that I heard about it on the Goons with Spoons website. Maybe...

Flavor tripping is something that I can tell you with complete certainty that I have wanted to try since I heard of it. I mentioned it to several co-workers who turned up their noses at the thought of eating lemons and swilling vinegar. My mother thought it was a "drug thing" when I explained that you dissolve a little tablet on your tongue. My best friend shook her head disconcertingly when I offered her a tablet the next day, telling me that she doesn't like to "experiment".

Well, what is flavor tripping? It involves ingesting either a tablet or the pulp of the miracle berry. The miracle fruit, Synsepalum dulcificum, is native to West Africa and has been known to Westerners since the 18th century. The cause of the reaction is a protein called miraculin, which binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids.

Miracle fruit is even being tested with cancer patients, as it seems to alleviate a metallic taste that some chemotherapy patients experience, possibly causing a loss in appetite.

This means lemons taste like lemonade, goat cheese tastes like cheesecake, and strawberries taste as if they're coated in sugar.

The party took place Monday night a B Side Lounge and was hosted by Stove Monkeys. It featured food from Light Bistro (one of our favorites) and North End Wine Bar. We were offered the choice of a fresh berry or a tablet (Tablets were provided by mberry) and opted for the fresh berry at first. I'm not going to lie, I wasn't very taken with the fresh berry. I constantly asked myself, "Did I do this right?" and didn't really notice a drastic difference in the taste of most foods presented to us. I really wish I would have tried a lemon before I had the berry. After 10 minutes or so, I decided to return to the table where the tablets were sold. We purchased tablets this time. I dissolved one completely on my tongue, making sure to rub the tablet along the receptor areas completely. A minute later, I enthusiastically bit into a lemon wedge.


The tablet did the trick, for sure. It tasted just like a drink of lemonade. There were ceviche shots and the scallops tasted even sweeter than before. Hot sauce was still hot, but I think I was able to go past the heat somewhat and taste the pepper that the sauce was made from. The same could be said for the jalapenos. The salt and vinegar chips tasted as great as I think they do normally, but not in a face-puckeringly tart way. I wish we would have tried the beers provided after the tablet, it would've been neat. Luckily, we purchased a pack of 10 on the way out (thanks, mberry!) so we'll be able to trip again and again. If we had more space in our apartment, I'd even like to host a party but that would never happen where we live, currently.

You can purchase the tablets online from mberry for $14.99.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

L'amour... L'Albatros...

I've heard other foodies refer to the "Tour De Bruell" before. For the uninitiated, it involves going to each Zach Bruell restaurant (Parallax, Table 45, L'Albatros and now Chinato). If I am a participant of this tour, my mode of transportation seems to be stuck somehow - because I keep going back to L'Albatros.

Our first visit was on one of their first nights. The restaurant wasn't packed by any definition, and the walls were sterile and bright, save for a painting of a woman's eyes hanging on the back wall. Naturally the servers were still a little green on the menu, but ours handled everything wonderfully. I had the Hangar Steak and Frites, and Jeff had the Skate Wing. As I started to eat, I wondered if what I was experiencing was commonplace. Had I just not been to a restaurant of this caliber before, or was the food just that good? The steak was flavorful and done as a steak should be. The fries were perfectly salted, hot and crisp. As we left that night, I told Jeff that I really hoped that the place would do well, that other people would realize how great it is, and that we'd be able to come back and enjoy the same wonderful cuisine for years to come. So far, our wish has come true.

On each visit, I have ordered the very same entree and have relied on Jeff to order new things to sample. I think I became fixated on steak frites when I first heard Anthony Bourdain talk about it at his restaurant, Les Halles. At the time, I had only had steak with a baked potato. "Who in the heck eats french fries with a steak?" I asked myself. It didn't make sense to me, to my unenlightened self. I simply didn't go out to eat that often back then, and I certainly didn't go to anything that wasn't a chain. Now, Bruell's take on this "nonsensical" dish makes sense - and is all I can think about ordering when I go to L'Albatros.

We chose to go there a third time for a date which just so happened to take place right around this "holiday" called Valentine's Day. We, much like Cleveland Foodie do not buy so much into the commercial aspects or celebration of Valentine's Day. The restaurant was packed and yet, they seemed to try and accommodate even those who hadn't placed a reservation. We had a great table and decided to go all out and order whatever we wanted (truthfully, we had been given a gift card for Christmas). We started with a salad made with greens, shaved fennel, feta and I thought beets, but I do not recall seeing them in the salad. They split a single salad between us and it was delightful. There was a little too much black pepper in mine, perhaps - but that was completely my fault.

We opted for cheese for a second course, picking five wonderful cheeses to sample. We were also offered a sixth tasting of bleu cheese (because we said we weren't fond of it) that we were urged to try. Every single cheese was amazing - except for the bleu. I didn't spit it out and neither did Jeff (we were promised we would not be thought poorly of if we did so), but I did take a healthy swig of my Manhattan immediately thereafter. I described it as tasting like an old hymnal.

Aside from our final cheese sampling (which we still tried in earnest!), there was not a single thing we disliked our of the entire evening. Based on our previous experiences with L'Albatros, this was not surprising. Their staff is attentive, polite, and concerned with every single patron's enjoyment of their evening.

Halfway through dinner the candle on our table went out. Jokingly we whispered, "This is an outrage!" when truthfully, it didn't matter. The food was just as good and the night just as romantic. We thought nothing more of it. Minutes later, a new candle was placed at our table. This touch may have been minute, but the attentiveness to something so small was an inextinguishable mark of how every detail of the food, presentation and ambiance is important to Zach Bruell and his staff. Are you rolling your eyes at me now? Did she just write a whole paragraph about a candle? The voice in my head that once scoffed at "steak and french fries" wants to mock me for this.

It says, it's a candle. A CANDLE. Come on.

The candle was the cherry on top of the best sundae I've ever had, let's look at it that way. The evening was amazing, but the little nuances were what made it spectacular. We actually did end up with a brownie and ice cream (not quite a sundae) and the cherry was actually in my Manhattan... But you get my drift. Maybe that's what it is.

I'm drifting. I'm in a rowboat with only one oar, and I'm drifting blissfully - circling L'Albatros again and again. I simply must find my other oar and proceed onward to the next stop in the tour, though there is no question I will be making a round trip, coming back to one of the restaurants, certainly the favorite so far, that made me fall in love with Cleveland's cuisine.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pedals and Pancakes and Pizza... Oh My!

Jeff and I have been going to spinning classes on Saturday and Sunday mornings. He bought me a membership to Urban Active for Christmas, and ended up getting a free 30 day trial membership in the process. He liked spinning so much, that he got a month-to-month membership. He says he'll keep it until spring.

After doing several cycling tours in Northeast Ohio, I realized that I needed to do something to become adept at tackling the hills of our rural roads. The company I work for has a cycling team that commits to do Pedal to the Point every year, and many people take a spinning class in Strongsville that 1. I have no way to get to and 2. It starts before I even get off of work. Urban Active had a holiday special where you could get an 18 month membership for $299 and after I noticed their spinning classes on weekends, I decided that I wanted the membership and I asked "Santa" for it.

First of all, you won't believe how people became outraged that my own boyfriend bought me a membership to a gym. "Aren't you offended?!" asked one co-worker. Nah. Going to the gym with a BF (or even your BFF) is like having a date/outing where you just happen to get in shape. Urban Active (like many other gyms) has a cardio "theater" where you can hop on a treadmill, elliptical, arc trainer or a stepmill and watch a movie. I also started the "Couch potato to 5k" program this week in hopes to run in an alumni race for my high school in Dublin. Now, I am hardly a potato but I am no runner. The next several weeks will be interesting, to say the least.

After spin last Sunday, we stopped by Lush at Beachwood Mall and picked up some goodies and then headed to Woodmere to have breakfast at the Original Pancake House. When you've been spinning and shopping for stuff that smells good - Sometimes all you want is a plate full of carbs. And those carb-frisbees can be stuffed with coconut (my pick), strawberries (Jeff's pick) or even bacon. Yes, OPH makes a pancake even Michael Symon would love, and he'd only have to walk across the street to get it. The food is inexpensive and good, and in some way it kind of reminded me of going out for breakfast on a Sunday morning when I was a kid, even though I'd not been to an Original Pancake House before last week.

We went to Sur La Table afterwards, and bought a molcajete, much like this one and a new corkscrew (with a bottle opener on top, perfect for opening Mexican Coke found at Alesci's and Marc's!). We also stopped by Trader Joes, and I was very sad to see that they've evidently stopped carrying honey chevre. Does anyone know of a place to find it? I cannot wait for the Sweetfire chevre at the Shaker Farmer's Market. Come on, Spring!!

Once at home, I made a sandwich fit for a Superbowl. Using a loaf of Italian bread, hot capicola ham, salami, hot pepper rings and provolone (all from the West Side Market) I put together something the exponentially outclasses Subway or any other sandwich shop I've been to. The meats and cheese cost about 10 dollars, and the bread was a couple of bucks, but we have enough deli cuts to make two sandwiches and then some (hey, guess what we ate tonight?). After using olive oil and red wine vinegar on the bread and sprinkling some oregano on top of the cheese, we piled on the meat, peppers and cheese and stuck the whole thing under the broiler for a few minutes. Yum.

I actually don't have a lot to say about pizza, except that since we bought a pizza stone we hardly go out for it anymore (Angelo's is the exception). With the closing of Vidstar Video in Coventry, we got set up with Netflix and will be having a date night (in) while watching The Dark Knight and making good use of our pizza stone. Tomorrow will involve a pineapple, ham, and bacon pizza.

What do you like on your pizza?