Archive for November, 2011
Jeff needed to work in Orange County/Los Angeles and took the opportunity to try a few restaurants that had been on his radar. Two James Beard finalists in particular sounded interesting, Wilshire and Fraîche. Both were reported to excel in “New American” cuisine, using fresh ingredients and exemplary cooking technique. He is happy to report that reality met expectations and both meals were excellent.
Fraîche has two locations, one in Culver City and one in Santa Monica on the 3rd Avenue Promenade. Jeff visited the Culver City outpost. It was an inviting space with a casual vibe on a chilly (for LA) Tuesday evening. He started with what would be the best part of the meal; the braised brisket was served with fingerling potatoes over a milky cheese fondue. The beef was fork tender and when combined with the cheese it was an inventive and tasty treat. For the entrée, Monkfish filets were seared crispy outside and moist and tender inside and served over a bed of spinach and whipped potatoes puree with a lemony white wine sauce surrounding the stack. For a diner who rarely orders fish, this was a treat. Dessert was a beautifully formed Chocolate Coulant (basically, a chocolate cake with a warm oozing center of chocolate) served with toffee and peanut butter gelato. It was wonderful!
The next evening, Jeff moved to Santa Monica and despite the temptation to visit the second Fraîche, he and a business associate/friend visited Wilshire on Wilshire Boulevard. Jeff’s friend had dined their before and suggested the semi-enclosed rear patio, that despite the chill in the air was kept toasty warm with portable space heaters. Alfresco dining in November is something new for a Cleveland boy like Jeff!
The meal was excellent. Jeff started with the Little Gem Salad that consisted of greens with cherry tomatoes, bleu cheese, egg and small cubes of excellent bacon. Each forkful was a flavor treat. His dining partner ordered Maggie’s Farm Caesar Salad and pronounced it tangy, aggressive and good. Jeff found a number of things on the menu that sounded good, but the warmth of the Wild Boar Pappardelle was too much of an allure. It hit the spot with al dente noodles and a nice mixture of vegetables and flavorful meat. His friend had what would have been his second choice. The special of the evening was venison loin and it was a beautifully cut with perfect coloring and none of the gamey flavor than can often plague this dish. Dessert was fresh fruit with passion-fruit whipped cream over a cookie base and it was perfect.
Travel can be so much more enjoyable when a good meal ends the day. After battling Los Angeles travel for a few hours each day, both Fraîche and Wilshire proved to be wonderful codas to hectic days.
http://fraicherestaurantla.com/ 9411 Culver Boulevard Culver City, CA 310-839-6800
http://wilshirerestaurant.com/2454 Wilshire Boulevard Santa Monica, CA 90403 310-586-1707
Since our travels through Great Britain and Ireland, we’ve called food such as is served at the Market Garden Brewery, “pub food.” In almost every city, the pubs served a nice collection of simple, well made and very tasty food. Combined with the great beers and an eclectic clientele, the experiences have waned very little. The memory is that strong.
So where else in Cleveland would you put a place like this? The Westside Market is a perfect location. The food at Market Garden Brewery is just as tasty as their wonderfully crafted beers. This is a great addition to the Cleveland food scene.
First the beer. Jeff tried two; the Festivus (insert Jerry Seinfeld reference) Holiday beer was a spicy, slightly sweet beautifully colored brew. He also tried the Hop Soup, double hop beer that was as bitter (in a good way) as the Festivus was sweet. Both were excellent. Served in a glass that is designed to bring out the best in each, it would be extremely easy to work your way through the whole list, provided a designated driver were at hand!
For our meals, Jeff started with the wedge salad cover with a buttermilk-rich, bleu cheese dressing and smoky, smoky bacon. The real treat, was the oven-cured tomatoes side. When combined with the beautifully crunchy rustic bread, wow what a taste. Michele had a half salad, but topped it with perfectly deep-fried, plump and flavorful rock shrimp. The salad hit the spot. The waitress and manager both stopped by our table to tell us that the pork chop Michele ordered for her entrée was extremely fresh, having just been butchered that morning. It was succulent and flavorful and combined with apples and a pancake base. Jeff decided on the grilled lamb sausage with cheese-potato cakes and grilled onions. It was the right complement to the rich beers. Dessert was huge. (Good thing we share!) Chocolate mousse with chocolate cake and petite fore cookies. We can’t imagine it being better.
We really liked this place and agreed that another visit would be around the corner. The Westside Market area is really becoming a go-to place for food that defines Cleveland. Crop is around the corner, Bar Cento across the street, very close to the Flying Fig. We hope to visit nearby Dragonfly soon. Penzey Spices are even at the corner of West 25th & Lorain Avenue (If you haven’t tried their product, you should!) With a neighborhood like this, you may never need to leave!
http://marketgardenbrewery.com/ 1947 West 25th Street Cleveland, OH 441 216-621-4000
It’s Restaurant Week in Cleveland. Like last year, we took the list and circled the places that we like, but for one reason or another, have not visited recently. Absence could be for a number of reasons. One of us might like the place less than the other; parking is difficult, the last meal was only, “OK.” We all bring these prejudices into the decision making process. Time goes by and a good kick, like Restaurant Week easily sends us back for another taste.
We had hoped to go to Flying Fig, but a table was unavailable. We then tried a second, third and forth place on the list. All were booked. Guess Restaurant Week is working! Finally, we called Gusto and secured the last table before their evening rush started. Unfortunately, Gusto did not have a 3 for $30 special. Their name was inadvertently added to the flyer. The folks apologized and we decided to stay. As compensation, desert was complimentary.
This was indeed a kismet visit, because we enjoyed the meal thoroughly. Michele started with the Caesar salad and declared it, “OK.” Jeff fully enjoyed his gorgonzola salad with poached pear and candied walnuts with a pear vinaigrette. The sweet pear contrasting the tangy cheese was perfect. Michele ordered the Lasagna di Mare, layers of crab meat; rock shrimp and arugla were topped with a collection of mussels and a tomato-cream sauce. It was flawless and made-up for the lackluster Caesar. Jeff has a week spot for pasta with prosciutto, peas and cream sauce. Gusto’s was over veal stuffed tortellini. Rich, you bet! Tasty, ditto! We shared a poached apple with caramel and gelato dessert. Like the whole meal, it was unique and enjoyable.
As we ate, we tried to figure out why it had been a while since our last visit. With such a wealth of eateries in Cleveland, sometimes old favorites slip by. We are going to try to avoid letting that happening again with Gusto! Thank you, Restaurant Week!
http://www.gustolittleitaly.com/ 12022 Mayfield Road Cleveland, OH 44106 216-791-9900