Alere

A few years ago, we wrote about a great lunchtime option located at Cuyahoga Community College Eastern Campus. Tri-C offers comprehensive training in hospitality management and culinary arts. At the time, Café 4250 was the dining room at the Eastern campus and the Metro campus was in the middle of some transition, landing at various spots, in and around the downtown area. Now, the eastern campus is closed, with reopening possible at some point in the future. The Metro campus has now established their dining room in The Jerry Sue Thornton building on East 22nd. What remains is the high quality lunch and presumably breakfast. (We have not had the pleasure of their early morning offering.) Yes, these are students and it is student run, but the product they deliver is of excellent quality and almost as important, extremely well priced. In addition, there are watchful staff members in the kitchen and dining room to assure your experience is topnotch.

Alere at Cuyahoga Community College Jerry Sue Thornton Center – Salted Cod Fritters
Alere at Cuyahoga Community College Jerry Sue Thornton Center – Stuffed Mushrooms

We have dined at the metro campus, Alere dining room multiple times over the past few years. Each semester, a full menu is created. Each day, a three-course special is also offered. Between the two options, at every visit we enjoyed remarkable food and have chatted with energized students ready to conquer the culinary world.

Alere at Cuyahoga Community College Jerry Sue Thornton Center – Lamb Chops, Fondant Potatoes and Grape Tomatoes
Alere at Cuyahoga Community College Jerry Sue Thornton Center – Tilapia Po’ Boy, Fries, Slaw and Remoulade

The new semester has just started and if our last meal was any indication of what is to come, we are going to need a “frequent flyers” number at Alere! The special during our last visit was lamb chops. Imagine, Lamp Chops and boy were they good! Jeff could not believe the perfect blend of charred exterior and tender center. They were served with blistered grape tomatoes and fondant potatoes. This acidic and calming accompaniment was just right. Michele, of course does not eat lamb, but her Tilapia Po’ Boy was equally enjoyable. She especially liked the remoulade for the spark it added to the white fish. The Salted Cod Fritters that accompanied the lamb were shared by both of us. You don’t think Michele is going to miss out on more fish, do you? We also split a Stuffed Mushroom appetizer that was unexpectedly served cool with a turkey sausage, spinach and cream cheese blend. Overall, the caramel dessert was good, but the pastry/cookie base was a bit flat and pasty. That minor flaw was overcome with a delightful crème, chocolate and caramel.

Alere at Cuyahoga Community College Jerry Sue Thornton Center – Dessert!

There are a few important things to remember about Alere. First, it is a student-run experience. You might occasionally stumble on something that was “less-than.” Don’t let that discourage you. Trust us. 90% of what we’ve eaten here is great. Comment cards are provided to help understand where the experience might have been substandard. Remember to fill them out. Secondly, remember that the servers are also learning the restaurant business. They may be a bit less polished than in a more formal establishment. Many might never actually end up serving you in the future, instead they’ll be preparing the food. They all have interesting stories and visionary futures that are starting here. Finally, there is a tip jar at the cash register. While not required because this is an educational institution, we’re sure it is appreciated and the money will be put to good use.

Need a great, low-cost breakfast or lunch in the downtown area? We urge you to give this place a try. You won’t be disappointed!

https://www.tri-c.edu/programs/hospitality-management/student-staffed-dining-experience.html The Jerry Sue Thornton Center 2500 East 22nd Street Cleveland, OH 44115 216-987-4080 or email Deanna.manners@tri-c.edu for reservations

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September 15, 2019 at 9:05 AM Leave a comment

Eatin’ in New York 9

Every year, typically in the spring, Jeff works in New York for a number days. Days are filled with exploring the city, chatting with design professionals and trying to understand where the trends surrounding home interiors will go and have gone. Miles, literally are walked. Then the conference closes, the galleries shutter and the stores end their business day. At that point, Jeff is off the clock, the night belongs to food and theater. Among his many passions, Jeff loves the theater and of course, food is crucial to a viable life. Over the years, Jeff and often Michele, when she decides to join him in New York have seen over sixty shows on Broadway. Before or after dinner is equally important and just as vigilantly planned, depending on the work, the length of the show and the hours of the restaurant. This year was no different.

Typically, each visit to the restaurants of New York provide one clinker, a place that simply does not live up to expectations. That spot was missing this year. It was replaced with a quintet of very, very good spots, none of which aspire to long-lasting memorability. That does not mean I did not enjoy each bite and each visit. They simply weren’t Estela, Don Angie or Hearth. Regardless, good food was served and consumed. First among equals, was Frenchette.

When I walked into Frenchette, I assumed this was a great old, lower-Manhattan tavern. The blonde wood bar and architectural trim, reminiscent of a city that disappeared fifty years ago. What a great find, I thought. Keep these fine old bones and add some contemporary elements. After a chat with the bar attendant, I learned everything, blonde wood included was newly installed. The Sinatra era I was embracing was all faux. As unexpected as the building, was the Brouillade appetizer. Scrambled eggs with escargot. Sort of like polenta, but nothing like polenta. Perhaps the most unique thing Jeff ate in New York this year. Ris de Veau and Sweetbreads in a very 50’s decadent way filled his entrée plate and the ambience of this criminally retro spot. Even the Passion Fruit dessert reminded you of Dinah Washington with a spot of Janelle Monae. Frenchette is indeed unique.

Almost as interesting was the Afro-driven, Henry at Life. The spices and tastes of the African continent have gone almost undetected and undiscovered in North America. Henry hopes to eliminate that problem from our American lexicon. With more spice, more push and more, more, Henry gives us a peek into the cuisine of the most foreign of cultures. Nutty tuna tartare, Yassa Mushroom with the addition of pork, sweet potato pie with dark underlay all tell you the Chef is driving you to new, yet unexplored territories of your tongue. Buckling his seatbelt, Jeff was a willing traveler and he enjoyed the ride. [Shortly before this post, it was announced that Henry has permanently closed.]

You simply cannot acquire reservations for Via Carota. They do not accept them. A quick search of Yelp and you will see that a 30 minute promise of a table turns into a two-hour reality. Because of Jeff’s schedule, he found himself ready for a late lunch/early dinner and in the vicinity of Via Carota. One remaining seat at the bar and he was in! A shaved Fennel salad? Yes, please! Especially with the hidden stack of olives buried under the mound of greens! Fried Rabbit? Again, yes, please! An overlay of rosemary and this alternate white meat was the star. Olive oil panna cotta? Yes! (of course) please! And could it have been better? Unlikely. Is there a reason Via Carota is a hot seat in New York? With food those good, the question should be, why more people are not lining up?

Jeff’s sister was in town, visiting her daughter. Jeff usually spends an evening at the theater with his niece, but this year was able to enjoy the theater and a restaurant with both. “What the Constitution Means To Me” provided loads of post theater conversation and a wonderful baseline for dinner at Alta. Alta is a Mediterranean small-plate, spot best represented by their Paella and Duck Confit. Less successful was the Hen in the Woods mushrooms. Regardless, the spot is warm and inviting. It is worth noting they have an arcane cash or Amex policy of payment. Not sure why the other credits cards are excluded, but you should be aware. Jeff, his sister and niece went elsewhere for dessert and more drinks and more talk.

The only possible fence-sitter of the trip was The NoMad. This option was not based on product, but instead price. The food at NoMad was great, but the price was a touch overstated. The price was offset by more than typical “extras.” A mid-course Coddled Egg was amazing. House-made Focaccia could have been a meal. This should not be construed to mean the meals were less-than. The Snow Pea salad was different and good and the Cod was perfect, but everything was $5 to $10 higher than most spots in town serving similar quality food. A few years ago, Jeff grabbed a quick lunch at the NoMad Bar. Hidden behind the restaurant, it was a real treat and more than fairly priced. A little price adjustment on the part of management here and this would be a much easier recommendation.

This year, Jeff was blown away by the eventual Tony Award winning new musical, “Haddestown.” He was equally mesmerized by the ultra-dark version of Oscar & Hammerstein’s, “Oklahoma.” The new restaurants he sampled this year were just a bit less memorable, but it is important to remember, like a Broadway show, this is New York. To be a great show or deliver great food in New York, the product is already at a superior level. Expectations are raised, too. Occasionally, you get Empellon and “The Band’s Visit.” Is “Tootsie” and NoMad really something to complain about? Of course not, but better is always a goal.

https://www.estelanyc.com/ 47 E Houston Street New York, NY 10012 212-219-7693

https://www.donangie.com/ 103 Greenwich Avenue New York, NY 10014 212-889-8884

https://www.restauranthearth.com/ 403 E 12th Street New York, NY 10009 646-602-1300

https://www.frenchettenyc.com/ 241 West Broadway Avenue New York, NY 10013 212-334-3883

http://www.viacarota.com/ 51 Grove Street New York, NY 10014 212-555-1962

http://www.altarestaurant.com/welcome 64 West 10th Street New York, NY 10011 212-505-7777

https://www.thenomadhotel.com/new-york/dining 1170 Broadway Avenue New York, NY 10001 212-796-1500

https://www.empellon.com/ 510 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10022 212-858-9365

August 30, 2019 at 8:37 AM 1 comment

Rood Food & Pie

For some reason, both of us thought Rood featured a menu filled with pies. Dinner, or meat pies and then plenty of nice sweet pies for dessert. Before going, we checked out the menu and of course ignored all of the headings and titles, assuming each of the interesting combinations were all packed inside a crust. After being seated, the helpful server explained that this was a place that featured “sliders” and they encouraged sharing. We both looked at each other. “I thought you said this was a pie restaurant?” we both said to each other, almost in unison. This was going to be a REAL adventure!

Rood Food & Pie – Summer Lemon Thyme Pulled Chicken in the bowl on the left. Moroccan Lamb patties lined up across the front. Topping “slaws” in the small bowls at the right. A bag of luscious Curry or Cardamom buns in the middle.

After the surprise realization that we were going to eat sliders, we looked at the menu anew and did find some interesting things. We decided on the Moroccan Lamb (for Jeff) and the Summer Lemon Thyme Pulled Chicken (for Michele.) The collection arrived on a communal plate, again, encouraging sharing. Along with the meats were wonderful Curry and Cardamom rolls for stuffing. The chicken was light and lemony and perfect for the hot and humid summer afternoon of our visit. The lamb was formed into a patty, which was not entirely clear on the menu. Again a confusion. We thought it was going to be like a Sloppy Joe mix that would have made sense, based on the other pulled offerings, but alas, this was going to be a confounding restaurant! Regardless, the flavor was nice and the slaw for the top was exactly what is needed for lamb burgers, because of their tendency to be dry.

Finally, we were getting our pie. The Honey and Salt was exactly what you’d imagine, sweet and salty in a luscious mix. It was however more of a custard and less of a “pie” per say. Regardless, this was our favorite part of the meal.

We walked away from Rood just a bit disappointed. As we thought about it longer, we weren’t so certain why. The sliders were good. The dessert was good. The people were friendly and helpful. The place has a very cool interior. Our disappointment was of our own making. We had set ourselves up for meat pies and dessert pies and got neither. Was that Rood’s problem? No. So, we recommend a visit to Rood. Just don’t expect you’ll be recreating a scene from Sweeny Todd!https://www.rfpie.com/yum 17001 Madison Avenue Lakewood, OH 44107 216-712-4506

August 11, 2019 at 9:02 AM 2 comments

Wild Mango Legacy Village

The idea of a chain restaurant has always been anathema to us. We always find the food “less than” and the employee interaction cheesy. Who hasn’t heard, “Oh you ordered the fried eel skin tacos! Those are my favorite!” Substitute eel skin for anything they have on the menu, A to Z. So, during our first visit to the Legacy Village outpost, why did we spend so much time talking about what a wonderful chain concept Wild Mango could make? In two spaces, on opposite ends of the county, Wild Mango has established a brand recognition that is second to none. The look, the food and the whole ambience are unique. While so many of the chains are trying to make you feel at home eating in some sort of barn or factory, Wild Mango wants to elevate your dining experience, without the need for a mortgage-backed loan. Genius!

Wild Mango knows how to do ambience. From the moment you walk into the place, you begin to question whether you’ve dressed well enough, if your shoes are polished and how your hair is combed. “Did I shave today?” What’s more, each of the rooms is decorated in a different, but equally elegant way. The inside is beautiful. Without ever having tasted a bite, you already want to come back.

The food follows the atmosphere. The plating here is second to none. Long before Instagram, we had always been surprised by the amount of photos taken in the original North Olmstead location. Like the surroundings, what you eat is also beautiful.

That then leaves us with the question of the food. The menu options at Legacy are the same as Great Northern. Over the years, we have tried a number of options and honestly, everything we’ve enjoyed in the past was equally well done at the eastern outpost. The combinations are interesting and good. The menu is adventurous, but never to a point that an item repels you. Everything sounds like it will be wonderful and it is.

One of the great bargains in Cleveland is the Wild Mango lunch and if you’re not sure you want to visit them for dinner, lunch is the perfect alternative. The atmosphere is the same, but the cost is less. One lunch visit will surely convince you to try a dinner.

Dessert!

Our first visit to Wild Mango many years ago came from a recommendation from someone with a less than stellar record of restaurant preferences. We didn’t know if we should go, but we started to hear similar comments from better reputations, so we went and we’ve been going since. Now, we don’t need to travel across the city. The new Wild Mango Legacy is an elegant win, win. Who knows when that win-win will be available in Columbus?

http://wildmangorestaurant.com/ 362 Great Northern Mall North Olmstead, OH 44070 440-979-1888 25385 & Cedar Road Lyndhurst, OH 44124 216-716-8001

July 28, 2019 at 5:51 PM 2 comments

Angelo’s Pizza

Yes, we are fully aware of the fact that we are the last couple in the Cleveland metropolitan area to have eaten a pizza at Angelo’s. We know it has been awarded multiple accolades and finds itself on the top of the “Best” lists that come out almost weekly. In our defense, driving all the way to Lakewood for a pizza just seems wrong. We love Crostatas in Highland Heights and that is a ten minute drive from our house, so why travel 45 minutes?

Our intentions were to have brunch at Distill Table. We are not really “brunch” people, but their brunch includes the Quinoa Salad Michele so loved when we dined there last month and the menu also included a handful of regular dishes Jeff wanted to try. When the place was unexpectedly closed (it was a holiday weekend) we tried to figure out what to do. Michele noted that we just passed Angelo’s. “Isn’t that the pizza place that EVERYONE talks about?” Jeff confirmed her suspicions and she quickly said, “Let’s try it! They didn’t look too busy.” When we entered, the staff did note that the three-quarters full place was, “a bit slow today!” If only every restaurant in Cleveland had that problem!

Like most patrons, we kept it simple. The antipasto salad was filled with hams, salamis and cheese and was plenty big to share (almost too big!) The small deep-dish Meat Lover’s Pizza did not suffer from false advertisement! It was loaded with all types of meats and a sauce that was just on this side of sweet. Michele did like the sweetness, Jeff felt that the salty meats did a good job at counterbalancing an element he typically does not like in a pizza. He also wondered if he’d like it as much with a different topping. Michele also like the Panko base on the crust and felt it was a unique difference she has heretofore not experienced. All in all, we counted this a win.

It now appears we will indeed be traveling to Lakewood periodically to eat pizza. Perhaps secretly, this is the reason we have not eaten here before. With so many positive comments, we assumed, once we tried it we’d be hooked. It looks like that happened and this eastside couple will be adding a few more pages to our Cuyahoga County passports.

http://angeloslakewood.com/ 13715 Madison Avenue Lakewood, OH 44107 216-221-0440

July 15, 2019 at 7:47 PM 2 comments

Gigi’s On Fairmont

Gigi’s has been on Jeff’s “bucket list” almost since it opened. Michele was not convinced. Because it advertised itself as a “wine bar,” she felt it would have a higher concentration on wine (Michele does not drink alcohol) and lower attention paid to the food. The net result is that we have never dined here. A few month ago, one of Michele’s friends suggested a lunch at Gigi’s. Initially, she was reluctant, but knew the lunch was much more about getting together and less about the food, so she agreed. Almost from the time she walked in to the place, she started to text Jeff comments of praise and suggestions that a combined visit should be scheduled. We were running around Cleveland Heights one day and planned to jump into Momo’s Kebabs, a place we still LOVE. Momo’s, unfortunately closed for a few hours for an event, right when we thought we’d dine. Where to go? Hey! How about Gigi’s! Now we are both champions of this great spot.

When you enter Gigi’s, it just feels like it is going to be a nice experience. The interior is softer that the trendy “Industrial” grove that so many new places are using. The vintage surroundings force you to relax and order a second glass of wine. The wait staff is very knowledgeable, but could never be considered pushy. It’s time to relax and enjoy your meal, you’re at Gigi’s.

The menu at Gigi’s features a number of options, should you decide to share a bottle of wine with friends and need snacks as accompaniment. Boards made up of cheese, breads, olives or charcuterie passed us and each one looked great. A variety of full-plate salads are available and a host of soups are created daily. We both decided to sample one of the soups. Michele loves Red Lentil soup and their version was not a wimpy, watery style, but instead featured plenty of spice and bite. Jeff couldn’t help but dip his spoon in multiple times, but that meant pulling away from a great New England Clam Chowder with tons of clams and a nice blend of corn. It too was perfectly spiced.

We both elected to have a Panini. Theirs are served with a lightly dressed side salad of fresh mixed greens. Michele’s had turkey, apples, brie and a nice fig jam. Jeff enjoyed the ham, gruyere and grain mustard combination. Together we shared a unique Polenta-Lemon cake, one of a half-dozen dessert options, each more interesting than the next. Had we heard the dessert list first, we might have opted for more than one!

As we were preparing to go, we chatted with the server about their later evening options. Around five o’clock, the Chef created three or five entrée specials that are added to the “all day” menu. That evening’s selection had us drooling. We also peaked into the bar area, also opened around five, to see a relaxing collection of overstuffed chairs, sofas and tables. Like the restaurant side, it has been designed for comfort and relaxation. As we thought about the entire experience, we passed a Yoga studio on the way to the car. Who needs yoga, we thought, when you have such a relaxing and satisfying place like Gigi’s right around the corner?

https://www.gigisonfairmount.com/ 3477 Fairmount Boulevard Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 216-291-7237

June 29, 2019 at 4:47 PM 3 comments

Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink

We had a busy day trying to make up for a rainy spring and horrible beginning of summer. Both of us were dead tired and sore from a month’s worth of tasks stuffed into eight hours. Regardless, we were still hungry. Where to go? “What about that new place in Shaker?” Unfortunately, neither of us could remember the name. Our solution was to simply stop in and see if they could seat us. Bad news and good news. They were fully booked for the evening, however, bar seating was still available. It turns out, we really liked the bar seating. Because “rush hour” had not yet started, the amiable bartender was able to chat-up the menu while prepping for the evening. As we were the only couple at the bar, he provided us with an amazing level of service. When we come back here, we’re sitting at the bar!

The reason we’ll be back is the food. We wholly enjoyed everything, even the things that Michele might not necessarily try. Specifically, we decided to split the Spring Pea Toast. Michele usually balks at anything “pea” related, but her defenses must have been down (tired and all) and she really liked the mix of smashed peas, buratta, radishes and mint. She was equally enamored of her hamburger. Jeff is never certain why, but Michele loves a burnt, well-done burger and they complied fully. Jeff’s Fettuccini with a short rib sugo was heavenly. Meat-centric pastas are a go-to when Jeff is exhausted and just wants “something.”

Michael’s Genuine is part of a larger group of restaurants, so it is not necessarily a locally owned spot. It does however act like one. The place has a nice vibe with groups of people enjoying themselves and their company. Even in its early days, they seem to have a well-oiled machine running smoothly. Perhaps there was some drama backstage, but we would never have known. The seasoned nature of the operation is likely what you get when a quality restaurant group is at the helm.

One of the telltale signs of a return visit is when either Michele or Jeff starts to imagine the things they will order when they return. In this case, we both did that. Take this good sign as a recommendation to try a new spot in a very cool remodeled area of Shaker Heights. While you’re there, take a stroll and enjoy the neat new neighborhood, unless, of course if you’re tired! Don’t forget a reservation! The place is popular.

http://michaelsgenuine.com/ 3427 Tuttle Road Shaker Heights, OH 44122 216-230-8022

June 16, 2019 at 12:11 PM 2 comments

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