Archive for July, 2011
We know that this blog is called Jeff and Michele Eat Cleveland, but we are generous with our geography. On our list are a few places we enjoy a bit off the “Cleveland map.” Crave is one of those places. It is alive, funky and features a menu filled with exciting options and interesting taste combinations.
We decided to check out the Akron Art Festival and the new show of Quilts by Paula Nadelstern at theAkron Art Museum. We took advantage of the locale to enjoy Crave, right across the street from the museum. Like Ms. Nadelstern’s quilts, the food was exciting, inventive, visually interesting and a joy to behold.
Michele started with her favorite Caesar Salad. Happily, their version included anchovies and even more so, it was very good. Jeff decided to try the special soup, Mushroom and it was equally interesting. Chucky and creamy in one spoonful. Both, good preambles.
For her entrée, Michele decided to on the pecan-crusted redfish. Because she cannot consume beans, the kitchen happily replaced it with white cheddar mashed potatoes. We normally do not like to ask for substitutes, so she clearly told the waiter that if the chef was uncomfortable with a change, she would understand and select something else. The fish was perfectly prepared and her stomach was happy for the concession. Jeff decided on the coffee rubbed pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes and pear chutney. This was an unfussy preparation that let the beautifully prepared pork stand on its own, with the tart edge and dot of chutney to aid in the most subtle way. Together, we shared a chocolate and peanut butter brownie with vanilla ice cream dessert. Like the rest, excellent.
If Crave were located closer to our Cleveland home, we might visit more often. If the Akron Art Museum continues to offer interesting new shows, we might go more often. In the meantime, suffice to say, we recommend Crave if you live in the area, or are looking for a nice weekend drive. It’s worth the trip.
http://www.eatdrinkcrave.com/flash/index.htm 57 East Market Street Akron, OH 44308 330-253-1234
When University Hospital decided to expand, the old Club Isabella fell victim to the wrecking ball. The ugly little building with the funky interior sat on land too valuable for an “OK” restaurant. Yes, we ate there a few times, but its closure did not effect us as much as some of the “Dear Departed” we mentioned here in a previous post. When we heard that Club Isabella had reopened, we barely reacted. On our recent trip to Il Bacio we drove by the former Goose Acres building and were stunned. The place was drop dead gorgeous. One look and a trip to the restaurant was pushed FAR up our list of places to try…and boy are we glad we did. In a word, this place is marvelous.
First, it is amazing how they turned Goose Acres “steel barn” into a remarkable contemporary space. Every corner of the building encourages you to relax and enjoy. As you enter, the covered patio area is equally inviting and a perfect place to spend a carefree evening with a bottle of wine and a group of friends. As you know, we rarely let a “pretty face” impact our opinion of the food. Without question, the meals are not shadowed by the architecture.
Jeff started with the Brussels Sprout Salad. What a great idea! Tender sprout leaves were mixed with greens and prosciutto and a delicate dressing. Michele also enjoyed her mixed green salad. For dinner, Jeff ordered the Pork Belly. This is becoming a super-trendy entrée and the quality of the cut can be a challenge. It is very easy to be served a piece with too much fat. That was not the case. With the exception of a tiny corner, this was all edible and delectable. Michele had the grouper with a beautifully spiced sauce. A welcome touch was the complimentary amuse-bouche, today, a mix of salmon and gorgonzola, a delightful preamble to a wonderful meal. Each and every part of this meal (including the decadent dessert) was memorable.
We went to Club Isabella because it was close to home and the place looked “cute.” Great architecture only gets you in the door. We’ll go back because the food ranks as among the best in the city, even at this early juncture.
http://clubisabella.com/index2.php 2175 Cornell Road Cleveland, OH 44106 216-229-1111
We had high hopes. After being told the Spinach-Artichoke Dip appetizer was unavailable, our waiter suggested the salads were very good. He was right. Michele’s Caesar and Jeff’s Favor House Salads were enjoyable. Our spirits were up. We may have found another gem. Then the entrees arrived.
The shrimp and scallops in the Creole Scallops and Prawns were likely cooked hours (days?) before the meal was plated. They were left to dry out some place in the kitchen. When they were finally added to the tomato-Creole sauce, (that was actually quite flavorful,) there was no hope. The sauce mixed with the plain grits was tasty, but it was difficult to chew the seafood. Michele’s Chicken Pontalba looked good. Served over a hash of ham and redskin potatoes, the half chicken was nicely browned, inside, the same fate suffered by the valiant seafood. The fowl was also prepared at some point in the past and warmed (or kept warm) for serving.
There really was no excuse. While the parking lot is usually filled on the weekend, this Tuesday after a holiday found the place suspiciously quiet. Only a few bar patrons were in the building. The kitchen should not have been stressed. There full attention could be focused on us. What happened? There are only a few possible explanations.
- The food here is always pre-cooked and warmed
- The Chef was away and some busboys or a new assistants were working a slow, post holiday shift
- Somebody just quit, or didn’t show up for work
If this is not the case, then the only other answer is the food is really bad at Favor Bistro.
We decided not to take a chance and elected to forgo dessert, instead enjoying a peach ice cream cone at the United Dairy Farmer store down the street.
We’re still scratching our heads over this one.
http://www.favorbistro.com/1975 Lee Road Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 216-321-7100
The Grovewood Tavern is the perfect example of an independent restaurant. Find an old neighborhood bar is an area that is loosing a touch of its luster, don’t change any of the interior makeup and hope your patrons can find some on-street parking. Had this been a corporate outpost of a chain eatery, we would never be writing this review, because the Grovewood would never exist. Hence the joy of the Grovewood, the food. You come here because the food is so damn good and the wine list is easy to understand. The rest of the stuff is tertiary. Yes, the place is cozy and kitschy and the staff makes you welcome the moment your foot hits the threshold, but you return because of the food.
We started with salads, a rather constant theme, now that we are in the “salad days” of summer. Michele had the roasted Caesar salad with dressing so good, she took the remainder home to use later. Jeff had the warm spinach salad with candied pecans and parmesan. For her entrée, Michele enjoyed the Salmon Duet. Thin slices of smoked salmon were gently draped over a seared filet accompanied by zucchini and summer squash. The smoked salmon was gone in seconds and the moist filet was soon to follow. Jeff has not had short ribs for a long time, likely since the closing of Sage. Like lamb shanks, they are deceptively easy…and easy to ruin. These were perfect, melt-in-your-mouth tender and remarkably flavorful. Over a bed of somewhat plain orzo, the pair worked. We shared a blueberry cobbler ala mode for dessert. Like everything else, it was excellent.
This was our 30th wedding anniversary. During dinner, we talked about the first places we frequented and how few still remain after so long a time. Grabbing our crystal ball and predicting the future, it is easy to imagine the Grovewood still serving wonderful food when we celebrate our 50th.
http://www.grovewoodtavern.com/17105 Grovewood Avenue Cleveland, OH 44110 216-531-4900
The most infuriating thing about dining at Zinc has nothing, repeat, nothing to do with the food. First, Zinc is located on Euclid Avenue. Thanks to the RTA and Cuyahoga County, Euclid Avenue is now the most inhospitable street in the city of Cleveland and invites avoidance at all cost. Secondly, once navigating the Euclid Avenue minefield, we parked in the Zinc underground garage, only to be told mid-meal that we would need to move our car, “when convenient.” After reentering the garage, Jeff checked to see if there was any signage he missed or overlooked. None. Park anywhere you like; just expect someone to tell you it is the wrong place.
If you can actually get into Zinc and if you can actually finish your meal without having to gobble it down while it is still warm to avoid a tow, the food is good. Michele had the seared Salmon Au Poivre entrée and it was perfectly prepared with a wonderfully nutty camargue (red) rice side. This was the first time either of us has had this rice and it is something we will look forward to in the future. It was that good. Jeff had the Soft Shell Crab served over a bed of corn and potato hash. A tasty aioli was streamed over the crunchy, tender crabs and the hash. These were the first soft shell crabs either of us has ordered this season and they were delightful.
To start, Michele thought the Caesar salad was lifeless with far too much pepper build-in (thank goodness she didn’t agree to more fresh ground over the top!) Jeff enjoyed the Zinc Salad, a combination of endive, romaine and walnuts with Roquefort dressing. The crème brulee dessert was extra creamy and very enjoyable. All in all, a good experience…with the food.
We want to come back to Zinc and we noticed during our drive the yet unopened Noodle Cats and the just opened Pura Vida, both sharing the Euclid Avenue address. Perhaps the secret to frequenting these restaurants will be parking at the Cleveland Clinic and taking the Health Line bus west. There are stops right in front. If you’re walking, hitchhiking, biking or taking a rickshaw or mass transportation, get thee to Zinc. If you drive…plan for some added frustration, an unfortunate coda to dining at Zinc.
http://zinccleveland.com/668 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, OH 44114 216-583-9462