Monday, June 30, 2008

Mini Rose Cakes

I was commissioned (umm, sort of) to make some mini rose cakes for a rose-themed baby shower. The mom-to-be wanted a lemony cake. Since lemon chiffon is her favorite I thought I'd try those first. They failed miserably. Well, they tasted fantastic, but they looked... well see for yourself.

Not exactly rose-shaped are they?

Second attempt was a lemon madeleine batter made in the cupcake tin and baked 18-22 minutes instead of 7-8 minutes. Madeleines are technically cookies, but I saw an episode of Iron Chef America where Bobby Flay's sous chef made small cakes with a madeleine batter so I thought I'd try it. And guess what? They turned out terrific!

And rose shaped!

I made 60 for the party that we gave away as favors. They were a hit.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lorain International Festival

Lorain, Ohio is famous for a few things: Toni Morrison, the Rose Garden, Dog 'n Suds and The International Festival.* The International is this weekend at the Black River Landing site in beautiful downtown Lorain.

I guess technically it's been going on all week, but the important part starts today -- the food bazaar. For the low (and still controversial) price of $1, you gain admittance to over 40 booths of ethnic foods. There are other things to do at the festival but those are just distractions between eating.

The princess pageant was last night. I'm not sure if any of them "tapdanced her way into the hearts of the judges," but here are some of this year's princesses:

I'll be on the lookout for the queen and her court while stuffing my face with paprikash, chicken-on-a-stick, tamales, pastelillos, baklava, lady locks...

*Lorain also makes the news periodically for things like seeing Jesus in an ultrasound.

Monday, June 23, 2008

One Walnut

One Walnut Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
Lunch; June 9, 2008
Party of Two

Lobster Nachos with Guacamole, Lobster, Chips and Sweet Soy

Prosciutto Tart with Caramelized Onions, Spinach & Fresh Mozzarella
with Mixed Green Salad

Risotto with English Peas, Pine Nuts and Parmesan with Grilled Chicken

"Berries in the Snow"
White Chocolate Mousse with Berries and Fresh Mint

Mint Green Tea Crème Brûlée (background)

The last time my lunching companion and I were at One Walnut, we had a three course dinner with wine pairings that blew us away. Their sommelier really knows his/her stuff. However, this time, neither of us had alcoholic beverages and still had a fantastic three course meal.

The lobster nachos weren't new to us since the topping (without the chip underneath) was an amuse-bouche on our previous visit. The chips tasted like flour tortilla chips or some other light delicate crisp. The ingredients were a great combination that managed to keep their distinctiveness.

I added chicken to the risotto (food rut broken!) on the server's suggestion-- she suggested it because I was worried that the risotto wouldn't be filling. I LOVE risotto and this was perfectly al dente. The taste was good and got better when I stirred the dark sauce around the outside of the dish (sweet soy again?) into the rice. But, the whole thing was nearly ruined by the garnish of greens that you can see on top of the chicken in the picture. They were extremely bitter and smelled a bit foul when warm. I think the kitchen may have forgotten the chicken (before it reached the table) because the greens were both under and over the chicken. Once I removed them I really enjoyed the entree. The nuts and peas were slightly crunchy and really complimented the toothiness of the risotto.

If my lunching companion wouldn't have ordered the tart, I would have since I'm a sucker for anything with prosciutto, cheese and/or spinach. The bite I had was delicious. The flavors were strong but the flaky crust held its own. It looks like a piece of pizza in the picture but it was very pretty in person.

I've had a lot of yummy desserts lately, but since white chocolate mousse is one of my most favorite desserts, this one wins for best dessert I've eaten recently. The berries were so fresh and the mousse rivaled the one served in my all time favorite dessert (which might still be found at The Drake Hotel in Chicago.)

I didn't try the crème brûlée because I don't care for it. It's one of the very few desserts I refuse unlike French silk or banana cream pies, which I'll eat but don't prefer. It looked nice...

After lunch we went across the street to the newly relocated Phoenix Coffee where I had a great vanilla latte.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


fire food and drink
13220 Shaker Square
Cleveland, OH 44120
Brunch; June 8, 2008
Party of Two


Clay Oven Bread with Cinnamon Sugar

Diver Scallops with Local Greens, Strawberries and Cucumber Salad

Braised Pork Crepes with Créme Fraîche, Argentinian Pepper Relish and Fried Egg

Lemon Beignets with Vanilla Ice Cream

*(Not pictured, Housemade Sausage, Yukon Gold Home Fries and Applewood Smoked Bacon)

The bread was such a great start. It was crunchy and sweet and held us over until the rest of our food arrived. The entrees were perfect portions for brunch time and left us a little room for dessert.

The pork crepes were described by the waitress as "rich" but would have been more accurately described as heavy. They had loads of pork and gooey cheese. I'm not sure my fellow bruncher needed to order bacon as a side dish, but she did and it was yummy.

The scallops were exquisitely cooked and seasoned. They were delightfully paired with the salad that had some fun elements. The greens tasted freshly picked and the strawberries were beautiful (and tasty.) The cucumber didn't add or subtract anything, but its pale green looked sweet next to the bright red berries.

The sausage patties had a good spiciness and while small, were worth the high price. The potatoes were standard, but I like home fries for brunch and would order them again.

The beignets were a grand conclusion to the meal. Light, crispy, sweet and chewy. If I had to guess, I'd say the honey in the sauce was lavender honey because it couldn't have been ordinary clover. The ice cream was creamy and flavorful but didn't overwhelm the beignets.

My one complaint was that the descriptions on the seasonal menu didn't quite match the meals we were served. For example, the scallop entree was supposed to have pistachios, which it didn't, but there appeared to be dabs of créme fraîche on the plate that were not in the description. I appreciate that fire tries to use local ingredients and meals are subject to change, but that's not exactly a one-for-one swap. It was scrumptious nonetheless, but a word or two from the waitress would have been nice. Also something crunchy on the plate would have added a new textural element.

Thanks to my dining companion for the excellent pictures. I'm extremely jealous of her camera's "food" setting.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pacific Northwest Meets Tex-Mex

Smoked Salmon Quesadilla

I bought some awesome smoked salmon Saturday from Crooked River Smokers aka The CFT at the North Union Farmer's Market. I had some on its own, which was fantastic, and decided to use some in a dish. I had no idea what to make until I saw I had one of my grandmother's homemade tortillas left. Thankfully, I had some queso and peppers.

-Sharp cheddar cheese
-Jalapeños (mine were pickled) split with the seeds taken out
-Smoked salmon

Cover one side of the tortilla with the sliced cheese, fold it over and bake in the toaster oven at 300 degrees until melted. Take it out, re-open it and place the jalapeños on one side and the smoked salmon on the other. Refold and place in the toaster oven for a minute or two .

Okay, so I probably didn't need to write the instructions.

It was so tasty. I was impressed at how well the flavors meshed. I'm sure the fact that both the tortilla and the jalapeños came from my grandparents' house made it taste even better.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Three Reviews

I've decided to start writing restaurant reviews since I love to eat out. But, I'm only going to put good reviews here because, while I have no problem recommending a restaurant, I don't want to discourage anyone from trying a new restaurant just because I didn't like it. I'm going back a bit for the first round.

Don's Lighthouse
8905 Lake Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102
Dinner; April 22, 2008
Party of Two

Diner 1
Bay of Fundy Salmon

Diner 2
P.E.I. Mussels
Great Lakes Walleye
Bread Pudding

My dinner companion and I both chose to order from the $29 three course offer menu, which is still available. There were so many tasty looking choices that it was hard to choose. The snails were topped with a puff pastry that melted in your mouth (although the seasoning was mild compared to the garlicky mussels). My salmon came on a cute wooden plank and was accompanied by sweet potato hash and sauteed spinach. Although the salmon was a bit on the well-done side, the flavor made up for the texture issues. The sugariness of the sweet potatoes married well with the natural sweetness of the fish and the slight bitterness of the spinach was a great counterpoint. The cheesecake was standard but good. I sampled the other dinner and would recommend those choices as well. We paired our meals with a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio. Overall a great meal.

Jefferson 150
150 Jefferson Street
Amherst, OH 44001
Dinner, May 18, 2008
Party of Three

Diner 1
Shared Appetizer of Sweet Potato Fries
Low-Country Red Rice with White Fish and Shrimp

Diner 2
Beef Goulash over Homemade Spaetzles

Diner 3
Southern-Fried (boneless) Chicken with Smashed Potatoes

A beautifully converted house with cozy seating and a fun, eclectic vibe. The sweet potato fries were chunky and not overly crispy. They were almost too large to be called fries. The dinners are best described as comfort food; large, soul-warming and delicious. The rice dish had fresh herbs and crisp vegetables mixed in with the shrimp and fish with a rich red broth that was tomato-y without being saucy. The bread was fresh and crusty and perfect when dipped in the accompanying olive oil. We were too full for dessert, but the choices sounded yummy.

The Town Fryer
3859 E. Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
Lunch; May 22, 2008
Party of Two

Lunch-er 1
Shared Appetizer of Fried Dill Pickle Spears with a Homemade Remoulade
Grilled Cheese with Crawfish, Collard Green and Rice soup
Shared Desserts -- Deep-Fried Twinkie and Deep-Fried Oreos

Lunch-er 2
Chicago Hot Dog (with all the trimmings)
Fried Mac 'n Cheese

I had been dying to go to The Town Fryer for years, and my friend's birthday provided a suitable excuse. The fried pickles were sprinkled with what looked like kosher salt, which would seem unnecessary but actually added a nice punch on first bite. The breading was slightly sweet and worked great with the pickles and desserts. I didn't love it with the mac 'n cheese, though. The grilled cheese was just like mom's (or sister's as the case may be) and the soup was nearly too incredible to describe. The broth was so flavorful that it must have been simmering for hours (no doubt due to it being leftover from the lunch special from the day before), the greens had a tang that was neither sour nor bitter and the rice, well, was rice. The crawfish (and a few shrimp) were better than the bar-like setting would suggest.

The desserts deserve their own paragraph. It was hard to tell where the breading ended and the sponge cake began in the Twinkie, but the cream filling was barely warm. Dipping the Twinkie in the strawberry sauce was pure bliss. The Oreos may not have cooked enough since they retained their integrity and didn't blend into the coating. However, since I'm not a huge non-fried Oreo fan it didn't really bother me. I enjoyed the half I ate enough to eat another one if the chance presents.

Rereading my dining choices makes me think I'm in a rut. I don't cook seafood at home so maybe that's why I order it when I'm out. Or maybe it's just a coincidence that I ordered seafood at these three outings, I don't know.

I'll have a new brunch and lunch review next week! unless they aren't good. However since both are repeat experiences, I have faith they will be excellent! I'll try to have pictures for those.