Tag Archives: greenhouse tavern

Giveaway: Greenhouse Tavern’s Prophets of Smoked Meat

I usually don’t run 2 giveaways at the same time. However, when you read about the Greenhouse Tavern Prophets of Smoked Meat giveaway, you’ll understand why I couldn’t pass it up.

Because this week’s a little crazy, Scott stepped in to blog about it. With his love of meat, I think it was the perfect match! Remember to also enter my Dishcrawl’s Neighborfood giveaway.

Greenhouse Tavern pig roast

Scott at a Greenhouse Tavern patio party and pig roast

Oh, Cleveland, how much do I love meat?  That’s not a rhetorical question, start guessing!

See, I’ve always been a fan of meat. But if you’ve ever had the “privilege” of dining with me (quotation marks added by Amanda for sake of accuracy), you’ll know my past preference for carnivorous cuts was far from adventurous.

My orders of steaks, burgers, ribs, fillets, and others were always safe, straightforward, and plain.

Cleveland, you’ve shown me the better path.

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Greenhouse Tavern: That's "SOME PIG"!

Image source: thegreenhousetavern.com

Every year, Scott and I treat each other to one very splurge-worthy dinner – bottle of wine, full meal, dessert. And because we both love our Cleveland restaurants, deciding where we’re going for these birthday dinners is usually a point of lengthy debate. However, this year I’ve known where I wanted to go — and what I wanted to order — for months. A new decade demands an extra-special meal and when I saw the Roasted Pig’s Head on Greenhouse Tavern‘s menu last Fall, my search was over.

The anticipation built over months and whenever the Pig’s Head came up in conversation with other Greenhouse Tavern fans (including Cleveland-raised, Wonder Woman scribe Brian Azzarello at this year’s C2E2), the one piece of advice I got was “Come hungry. And be prepared to share it with someone else.”

Armed with these words of wisdom, Scott and I got ready to head downtown on Saturday night for dinner at the Greenhouse. After briefly reviewing the menu (we pretty much knew what we wanted anyway), we ordered GHT’s Fifth Quarter, their Beef Tartare plate and – of course – the Roasted Pig’s Head.

Because of the heartiness of the dishes (and my red-wine allergy), our waiter Kevin recommended the 2009 Saintsbury Carneros Chardonnay, a reasonably priced bottle that offered up a rich texture and complement to the meal.

And since Scott’s preference for wine and beer runs to the sweet, light side, Kevin suggested a Luk Rose Cider for some pre-dinner sipping. It was a good pick for Scott, who thought it was easy on his tastebuds with a very balanced sweetness.

Fifth Quarter: Duck Meatballs and Carrots Three Ways

With our drinks in hand, we set about our first selection. Greenhouse Tavern’s Fifth Quarter is an always-changing special that features the tasty bits left in their kitchen.

Saturday night’s Fifth Quarter was a plate of duck meatballs and carrots done three-way. In addition to a somewhat-traditionally prepared carrot (I think braised, but I was so excited by the dish I forgot to note it), the plate also featured pickled carrot and a white carrot puree.

As delicious as the braised and pickled carrots were, it was the puree I couldn’t get enough of.  There was a mild sweetness to it which was a refreshing contrast to the duck meatballs’ heartiness. Mixing a bite of the meatball with the puree and the cherry gastrique that dotted the plate was the most enjoyable taste of the dish.

At last year’s Dolce Gusto, Chef Jonathon Sawyer handgrinds GHT’s beef tartare

Last year at an event for Dolce Gusto, I got to see how Chef Jonathon Sawyer and the GHT team prepare one of the highlights of their menu: their beef tartare. The fresh, hand-pressed patty of beef is accompanied by an egg, GHT’s frites, peppers, relish and onions, along with their mayo and Dijon mustard.

Because of the care that goes into this dish, any trip Scott makes to Greenhouse has to include it. So, despite the fact that we had already ordered a feast with the Fifth Quarter and Roasted Pig, we couldn’t pass on the tartare. As usual, the taste and texture were an excellent addition to the meal.

GHT’s Beef Tartare with poached egg, frites and all the fixings

A quick note about the evening’s main attraction: As the menu and GHT’s team will remind you when you order it, it takes 30 minutes to prepare the Roasted Pig’s Head. Be sure to reserve this plate for a leisurely evening where you can enjoy a couple glasses of wine and the company of your friends.

Because trust me, as someone who has now conquered the Pig’s Head, the time you will wait is worth it. Greenhouse Tavern’s roasted pig’s head is an experience any pig-loving meat-eater needs to enjoy (and even if pork isn’t your favorite, give it a try because you just might be converted).

A silver platter comes to your table decked out with half a head cooked in a savory BBQ sauce, along with lime wedges, a vegetable salad and 2 brioche buns.

Greenhouse Tavern’s Roasted Pig’s Head platter

Another more obvious piece of advice – don’t wear white if the resulting splatters of BBQ I left on the tablecloth were any indication. This is a messy affair – not for the finicky or faint of heart.

Again, though, a little mess is completely worth it as you get to disassemble and enjoy all the different parts of the head. From crispy pork skin to the succulent fat, Scott and I were in a food coma from the richness.

Then there was the muscle underneath which was roasted into mind-blowingly tasty shreds of pork. All of it wowed, but the best bite – as pointed out by Kevin – is a small piece of meat located in the area behind the eye socket.

While Scott and I mostly tore through the head enjoying the meat on its own, I tried the pork out on a sandwich with a squeeze of lime and vegetables (which tasted like they had been dressed in a bit of vinegar). I recommend making an open-face sandwich so you don’t fill up too much on bread.

My open-faced pig-face sandwich

At Scott’s urging, we finished the meal off with an order of Buttered Popcorn Pot de Creme. Greenhouse’s Pastry Chef Matt Danko was recently honored as one of Eater’s 16 “Young Guns” and this cup of custard-y goodness topped with caramel and sea salt is just one very good reason why.

While I thought that dessert and an order of Kitchen Coffee were the only ingredients remaining for an unforgettable evening, there was one surprise left.

I want to take this moment to thank our waiter Kevin. Beyond being very knowledgeable in pig disassembly and beverage recommendations, he was probably the friendliest and most patient host we’ve had during all our visits to Greenhouse.

My only wish is to have more meals as perfect as this in the years to come

And – best of all – he’s a Doctor Who and comics fan. After a couple glasses of wine, the topic of comic books came up and he shared that Marc, who was manning the host stand that evening, wrote comics. When I asked if it was Marc Sumerak, the Marvel geeks that Scott and I are couldn’t believe when Kevin said yes.

There are few things I love more than good food, and as I’ve blogged time and time and time again comic books are one of them.  So when Marc Sumerak – whose run on Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius Scott and I are huge fans of – came over to our table to say hello, Greenhouse’s cool quotient went up just a bit more.

As a Clevelander, I have to give Sumerak a huge high-five because while many Cleveland comic book creators have moved away, the Eisner and Harvey Award nominated Sumerak returned after his time as an editor at Mavel.

Two of my favorite things (great food and comic books) crossed paths when I met Marc Sumerak at GHT

Back in the Cleve, he spends his time freelance writing for different comic publishers, working on creator-owned books like All-Ghouls School, and giving back to the local comic book community through groups such as POP! The Comic Culture Club.

POP! is open to anyone who’s into or wants to learn more about comics (be they fans, retailers or professionals). The group meets twice a month at the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Parma Heights Branch to share their love of the medium.

And don’t worry about getting into a throwdown over whether DC or Marvel is better, because as Sumerak explained to me, the group emphasizes a fun and respectful outlet for anyone who’s passionate about pop culture.

How I like to end every visit to GHT

So cheers, Greenhouse Tavern, for rising to the occasion yet again.

I had been looking forward to this meal for almost a year and the praise that had been piled on for your Roasted Pig’s Head did nothing to capture how good it is – an experience that even Charlotte would be at a loss to weave the perfect words for.

CLE Dinner Club and GHT Pop-Ups: Cleveland Culinary Experiences that Satisifed My Tastebuds and Wallet

Chefs Jonathon Sawyer and Amanda Freitag at the latest Brick and Mortar Pop-Up

After a long day at work, there is nothing I like better than dining out. Although I’ve tried, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel that cooking is a fun past-time instead of just a chore.

Of course it’s hard to not want to go out to eat when there are so many great, local options.  At the end of a stressful day, I only need to walk a few blocks from work to find something to soothe my palate and nerves. And our drive home from downtown to Avon Lake is riddled with tempting culinary hotspots like Ohio City, Tremont and Gordon Square.

However, while my tastebuds may be happy, my wallet always isn’t. As Scott and I approach our thirties, money we used to reserve in our more careless carefree days for movies, dining out, and video games is now reserved for home improvements and savings.

And while the cost of a nice dinner out has always been more than justified by the quality of ingredients and the talent in our local kitchens, there are many more nights nowadays when I force myself to stick to a simple dinner at home.

At Greenhouse Tavern’s Brick and Mortar Pop-Up, guests could hang out upstairs on the rooftop and escape downstairs periodically to grab a bite to eat.

Every once in a while, though, we find an experience that makes both our wallets and our tastebuds happy.

Happy Dog’s entire menu, Noodlecat’s amazing happy hour deals and Hodge’s 2-for-$40 Tuesday special immediately come to mind.  And Cleveland blogger BiteBuff (a fellow novice in front of the stove) frequently highlights good dining deals that she’s encountered through her restaurant travels.

Recently, Scott and I attended a couple of incredible back-to-back dining events that were low on cost but overflowing in quality.

A selection of the offerings at Chef Freitag’s Brick and Mortar Cocktail Party.

Greenhouse Tavern tops my list of favorite restaurants in Cleveland (when Scott asked me where I wanted to go to dinner in a few weeks for my 30th birthday, GHT’s fifth quarter and pig’s head dishes immediately came to mind).

In addition to their standard fare, though, Chef Jonathon Sawyer will periodically invite visiting chefs to take over his kitchen for one night only.

These Brick & Mortar Pop-Ups have previously hosted Chefs Jason Roberts, Lee Anne Wong and Jeff Michaud. His most recent guest was Celebrity Chef Amanda Freitag of Food Network’s Chopped.

For her Brick & Mortar stint, Chef Freitag threw a cocktail party on Greenhouse Tavern’s rooftop.  After enjoying GHT’s rooftop on previous occasions, we knew it would be an excellent backdrop that could only be complemented by Freitag’s cooking.

We were not disappointed. Her menu featured a selection of bite-sized servings that may have been small in size but were huge on taste. A variety of these trays were placed throughout the mezzanine area of GHT and passed on occasion throughout the crowd on the rooftop.

Although I’m not sure if anyone was lucky enough to sample everything (I can attribute my sampling of most of the menu to Scott’s repeated trips downstairs to check for new trays), what we did taste we thoroughly enjoyed and we went back for a few seconds after everyone seemed to pass through.

The crowd was eager to try Chef Freitag’s dishes so trays quickly emptied. However, Scott and I bided our time throughout the night and managed to sample most of the menu by the end.

The herb-roasted potatoes with french onion dip, along with the 75 Day Aged Beef Sausage Double Down and Grilled Pimento Cheese Sammies were very appetizing, and I may borrow Freitag’s idea of mixing up kim chee butter next time I serve corn on the cob.

However, my favorite was the Heirloom Beet Borscht.  Everything about this dish — from the vibrant color to the rich texture and taste – resonated with me.  The small cups of borscht were complemented by a dollop of horseradish creme and micro greens on top.  The dish’s plating, taste and balanced ingredients won the night for me.

The ticket price for all of this food was only $19 and both the quality and quantity made this an instant value.

Cocktails, wine and beer were extra. And while you weren’t obligated to order any if you didn’t want to, I still came in under my budget when I ordered a Chef’s Special Smash cocktail.

Topped with a few sprigs of summer flowers, it featured tequila, raspberry puree, lemongrass and ginger.  Perfect sipping while enjoying downtown’s skyscape at the end of the night.

Chef’s Special Smash cocktail – as beautiful as a summer sunset

I wasn’t sure if anything could top Monday’s dinner, but then I attended my first CLE Dinner Club.

Twitter, where would I be without you? I had first read about these once-a-month Cleveland restaurant meetups through the @CLEDinnerClub twitter handle and reached out to cledinnerclub@gmail.com to receive updates on future events.

Joe G. works with local chefs throughout Northeast Ohio to offer a one-night $40 prix fixe menu that focuses solely on the food and chefs’ mastery. The end result is a low-key evening spent exploring some of Cleveland’s best restaurants in good company.

After not being able to attend the last few times, I was finally able to attend the most recent CLE Dinner Club at Luxe.

Luxe’s Chef Brian Okin started his CLE Dinner Club feast with these beautifully stuffed zucchini blossoms (this was also the cleanest my plate would be for the rest of the night)

My previous trips to Luxe have only been for brunch, and with Chef Brian Okin recently taking over in the kitchen, I had been very eager to try it out for dinner.

Chef Okin strayed a little from CLE Dinner Club’s typical format and served everything family style – giving us ample opportunity to get to know our tablemates while picking and choosing what we wanted to try.

There was no picking and choosing for me, though. I sampled everything – and there was a lot. 

Saying there was “a lot of food” doesn’t do this dinner justice. As Bite Buff described in her review, this was a case of “Man vs. Brian Okin.”

Before I knew we had so much left to the dinner, I helped myself to a second spoonful of pork belly and poached egg. It tasted too good to regret, though.

After serving a delicious and colorful selection of stuffed zucchini blossoms, crispy brussels sprouts, their trio of Mediterranean dips, pizza and pork belly with poached eggs, I was already full and ready to leisurely finish my cocktail before heading home.

I wasn’t the only one who was already content with what we had been served at this point, since a few of us refilled out plates with more of the savory pork belly before realizing we still had more dinner to go.  In fact, this was only the first of three courses for the evening.

This selection of plates was followed by three large salads featuring prosciutto and melon with arugula; kale with ricotta and avocado; and shaved asparagus and fennel salad.  All three highlighted dramatically different tastes but I think the kale salad was my favorite.

Chef Okin still wasn’t done with us yet, though.  Looking back I don’t know how, but I managed to make room for the evening’s main attraction: a 6-dish list of entrees that still makes my mouth water just reminiscing about it.

From walleye in a dill sauce to chorizo sausage with creamy risotto; chicken and mushrooms; Himalayan rice and beans; and shrimp and grits with Ohio sweet corn, each dish packed a lot of flavor and showcased the range of Chef Okin’s ability.

Bad blogger! I’m pretty sure this dish was the sausage and risotto but by this point was so overwhelmed by all of the tastes (and the food coma I was slipping into), I forgot to note it.

However, it was the kangaroo that was the evening’s adventurous masterpiece. While I usually don’t prefer particularly gamey meat, I was glad to take a chance on this dish which was paired with blueberries and caramelized onions.

It tasted like a more intense cut of beef and the onions and blueberries lent a subtlety to temper the kangaroo’s flavor. After discussing the dish with a friend who used to live in Australia, she said it can be very easy to ruin kangaroo meat. Fortunately for everyone at the table, Chef Okin’s was a success.

My only wish is that the kangaroo was regularly on Luxe’s menu so I could bring Scott back. Because after telling (ok, maybe boasting) about it, he’s on a desperate search for kangaroo now.

Kangaroo, blueberries, potato and caramelized onions made for a hearty ending to CLE Dinner Club’s evening

Similar to the Brick and Mortar Pop-Up, the $40 did not cover beverages — which I actually prefer.  It allowed me to make the choice of how much I wanted to spend on drinks (which wasn’t much since I was driving).

Simply put, Chef Okin outdid himself. I don’t know if I’ll ever sit down to a dinner of that magnitude again.  And definitely not for $40. While Chef Okin had us all calling uncle by the end of dinner, I’ll take a defeat like that any day!

Thanks to Chefs Sawyer and Freitag as well as Joe G. and Chef Okin for hosting 2 events that demonstrate I can still enjoy extraordinary dining in Cleveland while balancing my budget.

Event Recaps: Whole Foods Blogger Meetup + Battle Mint = A Week of Good Eats

A little bit of blog-keeping this Wednesday morning:  Congratulations to Sarah @ Cooker Girl – Random.org selected you to win 2 tickets to the Great Big Home and Garden Show! Email me at clueintocleveland (at) gmail (dot) com to arrange for your tickets.

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Thanks to the Ohio Blogging and #TeamSawyer meetups, I learned last week that social media + food is a recipe for some kickass evenings out with friends:

This month's Ohio Blogging Meetup at Whole Foods Market (Photo from poiseinparma.com)

Since moving from Shaker Heights to Avon Lake, one of the places I’ve missed is the Whole Foods at Cedar Center.  Since graduating from college, I haven’t lived more than a few miles from a Whole Foods.

While Scott and I don’t get there as often as we used to, I am now frequently trying to find reasons to make the 50 minute drive. Thankfully for the Ohio Blogging Association, I didn’t need to make up a reason to go last week.

To celebrate one year of Cleveland blogger meetups, we returned to Whole Foods Market where the first official meetup was held in January 2011.

And we packed the house! I not only got to see some of my favorite people, but meet a lot of new bloggers as well:

Scott joined me that evening (blog supporters are always welcome!) and I don’t think he regretted that decision because it was Pizza and Beer Night.

Alicia (Poise in Parma) kicks things off at the Blogger Meetup

Lisa and the team at Whole Foods Market passed around a Pizza Throwdown form – each of us could pick whichever cheese, sauce (including hummus), and meat or vegetable toppings we wanted. Although the form came with a lot of options to choose from, we were invited to write down items that weren’t listed (with the exception of things like lobster and truffles — now that I write this, I’m jonesing for a lobster pizza).

As everyone turned in their orders, the chefs at Whole Foods would bake our pizzas in the brick ovens and bring them out to the group a short while later to dig in.  Besides how fresh everything tasted, I have to applaud Whole Foods for putting all of the pizzas together so quickly. There were a lot of orders placed that night.

In my opinion, Kristian’s pizza with eggplant, honey, apples and ham was the most delicious. I was not so inspired in my creation, which included spinach, tomatoes, squash and bacon. However, while I don’t get points for creativity, it wase very delicious (you can never go wrong with bacon).

The delicious carnage that occurs when you put a bunch of hungry people in a room of made-to-order gourmet pizzas.

As always, while it was nice to catch up with friends, it was even better to also finally meet bloggers I follow – like Kristian, Kimberly and Tony – in real life and find new blogs to read.

The most pleasant surprise of the evening, though, was being able to go home with a Whole Foods growler and $1 off our first growler fill up.  Scott was particularly excited because he’s been wanting a second growler to go along with our other one from Fat Head’s.

Being somewhat new to the wonderful world of growlers, I took a moment to chat with their Beer and Wine Department about keeping my beer fresh and picked up a few tips.

Again, much blogger love to Lisa and everyone at Whole Foods Cedar Center for hosting a wonderful evening and reminding me how much I miss their store (and thanks to Alicia for organizing)! For next month’s blogger meetup, we’ll go from beer to wine as MissWine OH hosts a wine tasting at Tremont’s Wine and Design on Feb. 21.

Chef Sawyer's mint fritter and chevre salad at the Battle Mint Tweetup

Last week’s social media food party didn’t stop there as a few days later was the Battle Mint Tweetup at Greenhouse Tavern.  Chef Jonathon Sawyer took on Iron Chef Zakarian for the season premiere of Iron Chef America, and instead of watching from home, Scott and I decided to enjoy the episode at the #TeamSawyer tweetup.

Chef Sawyer and Chef’s Widow are some of the most gracious hosts you’ll meet – down to earth, humble, and hilarious. Scott and I got there early enough to snag some seats next to @TweetmeSlow and his wife; we were then joined by @WhyCLE and @TheRealCLEGuy, @EatDrinkClev and her boyfriend, and @TLColson and @FrankZupan.

While I don’t think anyone at our table guessed the secret ingredient of mint, we all enjoyed watching Chef Sawyer demonstrate his prowess with the herb on tv and were surprised with samplings of a few of the dishes he had prepared for the judges.

As much as I loved the Mint Fritters and Chevre Salad (the fresh chevre cheese complementing the lamb sausage and lamb confit was particularly good), my favorite tasting was hands down the Stoner Sandwich. The
shamrock semifreddo, sicilian pistacio and chocolate dirt sandwiched between two fresh waffles gives their Pot de Creme (my other favorite dessert) a run for its money.

If you weren’t at Greenhouse on Sunday and are dying to try the Stoner, you’re in luck.  According to Joe Crea’s wrapup on the evening, it can currently be found on the menu.

Yes, the Stoner Sandwich is as good as it looks.

Scott and I also ordered a few other things from the menu.  Scott, of course, could not pass on another opportunity to enjoy their Beef Tartar and I tried the Pork n’ Pumpkin Pasta.

@Tweetmeslow’s wife had ordered the pasta first and when they brought it out to her it looked too delicious for me not to order. Rich, creamy and salty — a much-needed, hearty combination for the middle of winter.

Paired with a glass of Viognier and some Caramel Popcorn Pot de Cremes, the dinner was amazing – on par with what we’ve come to expect from Greenhouse.

While we loved our food, I think my favorite part of the evening came at the end.  Even though Chef Zakarian brought home the win in Kitchen Stadium that night, the mood in Greenhouse Tavern was celebratory:

Cleveland is lucky to have a lot of chefs who are not just rockstars in the kitchen but also personable, approachable and excited to be here. And Chef Sawyer is one of the best out of this group. Many thanks to him, Chef’s Widow, and everyone at Greenhouse Tavern that night that made the evening so enjoyable. I hope everyone in the kitchen enjoyed Scott’s and my Kitchen Coffee – it was well-deserved.

Ringing in 2012 with Fat Head's Brewery and #TeamSawyer Tweetup Heads Up

Happy New Year's!

I love New Year’s Eve – hanging out with friends, Dick Clark’s admirable tenacity, the anticipation of the countdown. However, when it comes to partying on New Year’s Eve, I prefer a low-key gathering.

Last year, we had friends out from Philly and rang in 2011 with a dinner at home that featured some of our favorite things from West Side Market. For New Year’s Cleve 2012, we decided to venture out, but still wanted something that was not over-the-top.

Fat Head’s offered the perfect solution: dinner, dessert, two beers of your choosing, and a midnight toast for $30.

I love Fat Head’s. A short drive from Great Northern Mall, it’s Scott’s and my post-shopping escape. When the mall is crazy, a beer is a nice way to decompress and they have excellent beer.

Scott considers their Starlight Helles Lager his favorite beer. He’s a lager man so he sticks with that whenever we’re there.  And he’s right — it is a very good, clean lager, but I like to experiment and Fat Head’s tends to not disappoint on that front either.

Their Happy Holidays brew was my favorite Christmas Ale this season and their Bumble Berry Honey Blueberry Ale is one of my go-to standards — a refreshing, but unique taste.

I also like their Sorcerer, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, and the Battle Axe Baltic Porter. For fans of IPAs, I recommend making a visit to Fat Head’s because their Head-Hunter IPA is a consistent award-winner.

Fat Head’s isn’t just for beer lovers, though, boasting a very robust menu – both in variety and serving size. I am a huge fan of their 4 Onion Honey and Ale Soup (especially during this time of year), smoked prime rib burrito and all of their pizzas.

However, in my opinion, their selection of Headwiches is really where they shine. The first time you order one, you realize they’re called headwiches thanks to their size.  I can usually get 2-3 lunches out of them.

The Southside Slopes has been named one of the best sandwiches in the country with its kielbasa topped with fried pierogies, American cheese, grilled onions, and horseradish sauce.

If you like a lot of heat, I recommend the Bay of Pigs (pulled pork, ham, swiss cheese and pickles with their homemade Honey Mustard and spicy Killer sauce) or the Steak Out.

My favorite, though, is the Pot Head.  Featuring beer braised pot roast with celery, carrots, potatoes, cheddar cheese, and horseradish sauce, it’s a hearty, warming sandwich – a delicious dinner with all the fixings, but in sandwich form.

Being the Fat Head’s fans that we are and in search of a well-priced, low-key New Year’s Cleve, we quickly made plans when we saw their New Year’s Eve special.  And it was a great way to ring in the new year.

The dinner buffet featured pierogies, giant and rich wings, ribs, pulled pork, large soft pretzel sticks, lots of their awesome pizza and – Scott’s favorite – a bin of bacon. To drink, I celebrated 2012 with a Sorcerer, a Pimp My Sleigh and their midnight beer toast.

The food and drink were well-complemented with good company. In addition to hanging out with Kate, Brian, Dan and Sarah, the crowd that packed into Fat Head’s on Saturday night was jovial and not too crazy.  I even randomly met someone who reads my blog – hi, Bridgid! (I may have geeked out when she told me that because it still takes me by surprise that someone besides Scott’s and my family reads this).

I know New Year’s Eve often gets blown out of proportion — it’s easy to go overboard and set really huge expectations for what – in reality – amounts to little more than counting down from 10 and changing the calendar from one day to another.  I think that’s why I’ve always preferred parties at home or out at a pub for New Year’s Eve.

And I’m happy to say between the free-flowing food, some pretty fantastic beer, hanging out with new and old friends, and a little bit of Apples to Apples and UNO, New Year’s Eve at Fat Head’s was totally worth it.

And for the beginning of 2012? I don’t think you could start a year much better than with Happy Dog’s Gravy and Biscuits Brunch and a hot dog.

I hope the start of your new year was likewise filled with delicious food and good company.  And if you’re looking for another great party this January: Greenhouse Tavern just announced their Iron Chef America Watch Party and #TeamSawyer Tweetup.

The January 22nd episode of Iron Chef America will feature Chef Sawyer’s first time as a challenger in Kitchen Stadium (he’s been there before as Symon’s sous chef). You can watch him take on Iron Chef Zakarian either from the comfort of your own home or at The Greenhouse Tavern Tweetup.

The episode starts at 10pm, but from 9-10pm #TeamSawyer is hosting a contest to guess the secret ingredient with a bottle of GHT pinot noir, house made beer vinegar, and an autographed GHT t-shirt going to the winner.

And if you’re not on Twitter, the mezzanine will be open to watch, relax, and order off the special Iron Chef Menu. Either way, register here.

2012’s already looking good!

Event Recap: Dolce Gusto Foodie Feed-Up at Greenhouse Tavern

Greenhouse Tavern is one of my favorite restaurants in Cleveland thanks to Chef Jonathon Sawyer and his team. (all photos courtesy of Katelyn M. Luysterborg)

At some point over the last year I became a morning person. Not a cheery morning person, mind you, but when it comes to blogging or working on projects like NEO Food Tours, I get my best work done between 4 and 7 am.

The only problem? If I need to function after 6pm, I must have caffeine to get me through the day. Tea has always been my drink of choice, but lately when I’ve needed something stronger, I’ve started trying coffee – a beverage I often stayed away from because of how wired it made me. However, something’s clicked lately (maybe the lack of sleep?) where I’ve started not just liking the taste of coffee but finding the caffeine doesn’t give me headaches anymore.

So when Allison from Confessions of a Cohabitant invited me to a Foodie Feed-Up event for Nescafe Dolce Gusto, it sounded like the perfect opportunity to see what I’d been missing in the world of coffee. 

During the Foodie Feed-Up we got to demo the Dolce Gusto machines.

Nescafe Dolce Gusto is a single-serve coffee machine that makes everything from black coffee to iced cappuccinos and peach iced tea.  I can be pretty lazy in the mornings so this sort of machine, where I can pop a canister in and voila – coffee, is right up my alley. With a 15-press system and the ability to customize coffee strength, ratio of coffee to milk, and temperature, my laziness is actually rewarded with a drink that tastes like I got it from a skilled barista.

Of course, the fact that Cleveland’s Foodie Feed-Up was at Greenhouse Tavern didn’t hurt at all. In the 8 cities they selected for a Foodie Feed-Up, bloggers were invited to an evening of cooking demos, food and coffee tastings at a local restaurant known for its creativity and fresh ingredients.

Cleveland was the first city to host one of these, with other events being held in Chicago, Houston, Denver, New York, Tampa, Seattle and Venice, California.  With all of Cleveland’s amazing restaurants, selecting just one for the event had to have been difficult, but Greenhouse was definitely an excellent choice.

From the rooftop patio party in May, to my anniversary lunch at work, to a birthday dinner with Scott, it’s been an enjoyable few months of meals there.  And after those experiences, if I had to choose 2 reasons why I love Greenhouse Tavern, it’d be their Beef Tartare Frites and Pots de Crème.

Chef Sawyer talks about the process of handgrinding the beef tartare and poaching the perfect egg

Beef Tartare Frites is available on both the lunch and dinner menu.  In addition to a patty-sized portion of fresh beef, the dish features a 45-minute poached egg, charred pepper, relish, red onions, their fantastic frites, and mustard and garlic aioli sauce for dipping. The solid but tender, juicy texture and bright red coloring of the tartare combined with the egg is one of my all-time favorite bites. And with all of the garnish and condiments, the dish is a Choose Your Own Adventure of tastes.

The pots de creme are courtesy of Greenhouse Tavern’s Pastry Chef Matt Danko.  In a tiny cup is the most delectable dessert I’ve ever eaten and I would take it over cake or pie any day. The flavor currently on the menu is buttered popcorn and caramel.  And as a testament to how good it is, when I ordered it at dinner last month, Scott was at first not too keen on trying it.  However, he not only enjoyed the smooth, rich bite he tried of mine, but also ordered one for his own to supplement the cheese plate he had already ordered off of their dessert menu.  

Lucky for me then that when it came time for Chef Sawyer’s cooking demo, he busted out the beef tartare. From start to finish we got to see how this dish is constructed.

Chef Sawyer started with a tour of the cow – describing how he picks a selection of meat for this dish.  After this, he ground up beef from Miller Farms in an old fashioned hand grinder. I loved hearing stories about how Chef Sawyer and some of the other bloggers learned how to grind meat from a grandmother or aunt when they younger and how in some cases the grinder they use at home is a family heirloom passed down the generations.  

Next we learned how the beef gets its flavor and texture from the olive oil, pepper and Great Salt Lakes salt that Greenhouse Tavern uses, as well as how to achieve a perfectly balanced egg with set whites and a runny yoke. We finished with the frites which are prepared for days in different types of animal fat — including duck.

Sometimes things can lose their wonder after you learn how they’re made, but getting a glimpse at the magic behind one of my favorite Greenhouse dishes only added to the enjoyment later on when I had a plate.

A room full of bloggers and foodies eagerly watch the demo of one of Greenhouse's tastiest dishes

In addition to the tartare and pots de creme, Greenhouse served up their chicken wings, mussels and hominy. None of the dishes disappointed as everyone noshed and chatted.  Among the bloggers who were there that night were Cleveland’s a Plum, Bite Buff, Hungry in CLE, Cleveland Foodie, The Dawg’s Dish, and GreenDogWine. I chatted with Ben and Sarah from HeightsEats for a lot of the evening.  Although I’ve read their blog before, I hadn’t met them in person so it was nice to chat with another non-native Clevelander about our mutual love for the city that’s become our home. 

At the end of the evening, it was time to try the Dolce Gusto machine and some coffee.  I’m somewhat basic in my coffee tastes so the Cappuccino was my favorite from the couple I tasted. The one flavor they didn’t have there but that I can’t wait to try is the Chai Tea Latte. Their other non-coffee options include Peach Iced Tea and Hot Chocolate.

As always it was great to meet new bloggers and get a behind-the-scenes look at Greenhouse while learning about Nescafe Dolce Gusto. And I think it’s safe to say — I’ll be drinking a lot more coffee in my future!

Greenhouse Tavern 411:

Nescafe Dolce Gusto 411:

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Foodie Feed-Up event to learn more about Nescafe Dolce Gusto. While there, we were treated to food and a cooking demo from Greenhouse Tavern and coffee tastings from Dolce Gusto.  Additionally, every blogger was surprised with their own Dolce Gusto machine. All opinions about the coffee, event and food are 100% my own.  Thanks to Allison from Confessions of a Cohabitant for the invite and to Katelyn M. Luysterborg for the photos from the event since my camera died halfway through.

Bits and Bites of Cleveland: Brick and Mortar Pop-Ups, Silver Spoon, NEO Food Tours

As can be seen from this snapshot of the recent Silver Spoon Awards, Cleveland is full of people hungry to sample the wide variety of skilled chefs that call Cleveland home.

UPDATE: Chris Hodgson’s Brick & Mortar Pop-Up has been rescheduled to July 11 and 13.

While there is certainly no shortage of amazing restaurants in Cleveland, there often seems to be a shortage in time to try them all out.

Fortunately, the Cleveland food scene has remedied the situation with culinary events that help the community more easily explore the chefs and restaurants that make their home here.

Below is a sampling of a few recent and upcoming food events. The events listed below – much like Chef Jam and Emerging Chefs – don’t just serve up delicious food but also provide unique access to our vibrant food community.


The team from Deagan's Kitchen serving up

Silver Spoon Awards

I’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile. The Silver Spoon Awards was an excellent strolling food event that kicked off the last couple of weeks of delicious dinners.  The event on May 26 benefited the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation. Scott and I volunteered for the first couple hours of the night at the silent auction and then explored the restaurants that were there.

The restaurants that were featured included the winners of Cleveland Magazine’s Silver Spoon Awards. My favorites? Deagan’s Kitchen‘s shrimp tacos (can’t wait to try this restaurant out!), AMP 150‘s Vidalia onion soup (a superb seasonal alternative to their mushroom soup), bacon guacamole with fried wonton crisps from Bac in Tremont (I never want to eat guac with tortilla chips again), and pretty much every dessert at Sweet Melissa‘s table.

However, the best part of the evening was learning more about the Arthritis Foundation’s impact. While we sampled some of the dishes, we met a couple whose son was diagnosed with arthritis at only a few years old. They shared their story of how the Foundation has provided more than just access to health services, but more importantly a network of friends and family that have supported them over the last ten years. The conversation demonstrated the true value of this organization.

You can learn more about how to contribute to the Arthritis Foundation by visiting northeasternohio.arthritis.org, and for more reviews of the Silver Spoon Awards, check out WhyCLE and CLE Food and Brews.


Chef Jonathon Sawyer's latest project kicks off by hosting Chefs Chris Hodgson and Lee Anne Wong in Chef Sawyer's new Noodlecat space.

Brick & Mortar Pop-Ups

From the mad mind of food-obsessed Chef Jonathon Sawyer comes Brick & Mortar Pop-ups.  These pop-up restaurants are an avenue for chefs to experiment with different concepts and unique dining experiences in a temporary setting. The first two pop-ups will give a sneak peek to Chef Sawyer’s new space Noodlecat on 240 Euclid Ave. as it plays host to Food Truck Master of the Universe Chris Hodgson and Bravo’s Top Chef contestant Lee Anne Wong.

On July 11 and 13, Chef Hodgson will be serving up a menu of B.E.L.T. Steam Bun, Rib-Eye Taco, Peking Quail, and Orange “Chicken” (which is really going to include orange glazed crispy shortbreads). Chef Lee Anne Wong follows up on June 23 and 24 with Easy Japaneasy – a selection of “fingers, sticks and slurp.”

Tickets for these dinners are $50 each. Chef Hodgson’s tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite at the link above; to rsvp for Chef Lee Anne Wong’s dinner, email contact@brickandmortarpopups.com.

What I particularly like about this concept is Chef Sawyer opening up Noodlecat early and sharing it with other chefs – giving them an opportunity to be inspired by a new space and exposing new audiences to their creativity.

Michele Iacobelli-Buckholtz at Murray Hill Market introduces a selection of cured meats, fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese, prosciutto wrapped figs, and turkey on pepper jack drizzled with cranberry mayonnaise at the second stop on NEO Food Tours' Little Italy event.

NEO Food Tours

The last NEO Food Tours in Little Italy wasn’t just fun, but a learning experience as I got to explore a neighborhood I had only scratched the surface of on previous visits. And who better to guide us through the streets than La Dolce Vita’s gregarious owner Terry Tarantino?

The menu included a delicious caprese, homemade charcuterie (my favorite being prosciutto wrapped figs), Michaelangelo’s tortellini and gnocchi with house Bolognese featuring duck and veal, and eggplant and white bean/tuna crostinis (my favorite dish of the entire night).

For a full review of the evening, read Hungry in CLE’s post Mangia! Mangia! You can also catch a glimpse from the coverage on NewsChannel5.

Although the next tour of Tremont on June 22nd is sold-out, tours will continue to be offered on the third Wednesday of each month with an exploration of E4th on July 20th. In addition to these signature dinners, NEO Food Tours will soon be offering gastro-bike events, market tours and brewery/wine tours.

More information can be found by following NEO Food Tours on Facebook or @NEOFoodTours.

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I love these sort of events and definitely recommend them because they allow you to easily explore what’s out there — and as I’ve discovered the last few weeks there’s a lot!

Disclosures: Volunteers at the Silver Spoon Awards were able to attend the event for free and enjoy the food while not on their assigned shift.  Additionally, I volunteer with NEO Food Tours assisting in PR/community outreach.

Greenhouse Tavern Kicks Summer Off Right with Rooftop Patio Party

Scott donned one of his many hawaiian shirts for Greenhouse Tavern's beach party to kick off their new rooftop patio.

With Memorial Day this weekend, the “unofficial start of summer” is here. But a few restaurants got an early start over the last couple of weeks as they have begun opening up their patios.

When it comes to dining and drinking al fresco, E. 4th Street is one of my favorite places in Cleveland. And like many of the restaurants in the neighborhood, The Greenhouse Tavern has offered outdoor seating on the street for a while.

However, one of the city’s most celebrated restaurants is opening up a second outdoor space this summer and had a kick off party last weekend to celebrate.

Starting in mid-July, Greenhouse Tavern’s newly constructed rooftop patio will open to the public.  When it opens, restaurant guests will not only have an additional bar to enjoy, but also an excellent view of E4th and an enjoyable way to forget Cleveland winters.

Teriyaki Spamwiches, Coconut Fruit Salad and Grilled Pineapples

This past Sunday, Greenhouse opened up the space early for a Rooftop Beach Party.  The party revolved around art work from photographer Billy Delfs’ Cleveland surfers series. Scott and I went (how could you say no to a $20 ticket price that included food and drinks!) and had a fantastic time taking in the festivities.

As soon as we got there, we enjoyed a complimentary glass of “Hang Ten Punch.”  Made specially for the party, it featured 360 Mandarin Orange Vodka, Pineapple Juice, Cranberry, and a splash of club soda. I loved the color and it had a refreshing, effervescent taste – perfect for getting the party started.

Heading over to the grill, we sampled a few servings of Teriyaki Spamwiches with pickled pineapple and Coconut Fruit Salad. Up until Sunday night the only thing I’ve ever liked about spam is the Monty Python sketch.

However, Greenhouse Tavern has converted me. Cooked on the grill and garnished with some teriyaki sauce, these sandwiches were delicious! The fruit salad complemented the sandwich with melon, berries and coconut.

The main course for the evening - suckling pig.

As much as we enjoyed the sandwiches and salad, Scott and I knew to save room because grilling next to the spam were the heads of the suckling pig they were cooking up. Squeamish guests may have wanted to avert their eyes, but once the pig was ready to go – it was tender and so flavorful.  They also put together a selection of sauce to accompany the pig including Korean BBQ, Pineapple Hot Sauce or Sweet Chili and Garlic Sauce.

Coconut Polenta and Sweet Potato Hash with roasted Brussel Sprouts offered non-meat pairings that were just as savory. For a second time that evening, Greenhouse converted me on a dish I used to not like – debunking once and for all my childhood misconception that brussel sprouts are gross.  The Sweet Potato and Brussel Sprouts were actually my favorite dish of the entire evening.

While we enjoyed Greenhouse’s delicious take on summer fare, we enjoyed live music from Beach Stav. They offered up some surf rock as well as a kicking rendition of the Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop.

Beach Stav offering up some surf rock on The Greenhouse Tavern's new rooftop space.

After Sunday’s party, I can’t wait for the rooftop patio to open up full time.  Even though they’re still putting the finishing touches on it, it’s already proven itself to be an excellent space for enjoying summer in Downtown Cleveland.

With a mix of wood, stone and metal, it was both a comfortable and urban environment.  Additionally, the rooftop view offered prime real estate for people watching. 

Scott and I grabbed a couple chairs overlooking E 4th and looked on as Indians fans celebrated the win over the Reds, audience members emptied out of Hilarities after a show and couples enjoyed an end-of-weekend date.

The rooftop patio offered some of my favorite views of E 4th Street - perfect for people watching.

As Greenhouse gears up to open the rooftop patio to the public, there will be the occasional event like last weekend’s beach party. For instance, Greenhouse is hosting a Service Industry night in the space on the 29th.  In the meantime, though, there is still so much more to enjoy about Greenhouse – from their use of local, delicious food to being the first certified green restaurant in Ohio. Personally, I am counting down the days til I’ll be back in a couple weeks for an anniversary lunch at work.

Greenhouse Tavern 411: