Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Cleveland Play Day

Some days are just meant to play the day Saturday.  In Cleveland.  If you're from Pittsburgh, you're saying to yourself, "Why on earth would anyone like to party in Cleveland?  What on earth is there to do in the Mistake on the Lake?"  There's plenty to do, my friend....and Kimber and I merely scratched the surface.

Our first stop was World Market.  It's not a Cleveland original, but they HAVE one!  Pittsburgh doesn't.  We need one.  Every city needs a store where you can buy pillows and jewelery and curtains and furniture, kitchenware, baskets of all size and shape and color.  And wine and beer (hear that PLCB?!).  And CHOCOLATE! 

Oh, and spotted dick.  Please see the picture above.  You have such a dirty mind!  It's pudding.  From England.  Aren't you  Besides the Dick, there are more chocolate bars of different types, manufacturers and countries of origin than I've ever seen.  It's our tradition to buy two new ones each visit and then sample them in the car on the way to the next destination.  I can tell you that the dark chocolate black currant bar was exactly what I think wine SHOULD taste like.  The Black Salt Caramel was pretty awesome, too. 

Our next stop on our Tour d' Cleveland was the Flying Fig.  It's directly across the courtyard from Great Lakes Brewery and across the street from the famed West Side Market...which we're heading to next.  But first, brunch!  Specifically, a Bloody Mary brunch - yum.  The Bloodies there were average, the wait staff that day so-so, but the food was amazing!  And that is what matters most...well, those Bloodies are important, too...

The Tallegio polenta with local greens, Kilbuck Farm mushrooms and crowned with a poached egg was my choice of the morning.  Deliciously, cheese-ly creamy with a counterpoint of vinegary greens and those earthy, buttery mushrooms...heaven.

Kimber enjoyed the migas thoroughly!  Softly scrambled eggs, corn tortillas, spicy chilies, aged cheddar, a zippy tomatillo cilantro salsa and crème fraiche made for a good start to our day out.

From the Flying Fig, the next stop was West Side Market.  What a plethora of everything edible!  Long aisles of one side of the market are heaped with veggies, fruits, herbs and everything that, too!  We bought beautiful green beans, zucchinis, peaches, melons, basil and limes....there may have been more, but I was overwhelmed.  

Then onto the other side of the market that contains stand after stand of baked goods of every type...sweet and savory.  Butchers that carry fresh and smoked meets, polish specialty sausages - smoked and unsmoked.  The gyro stand had a line that must have gone the entire length of the market and then wrapped around.  

Cheeses, butter, buttermilk, fresh pastas, Greek specialties.  Stand after stand after stand offered goodies of all types.  We came home with some beautiful sausages: cherry apple chicken, cilantro lime chicken and tequila tomatillo chicken sausages.  The cherry apple made for a nice touch this morning with our Sunday scrambled eggs.

And then we really started to play.

As the sign says, Welcome to East 4th Street!  We spent a few hours here hopping from lovely spot to lovely spot, enjoying both liquid and non-liquid pleasures.  There are a myriad of drinking and dining spots up and down - and around! - this cobblestone street of wonders.  

Chef Michael Symon's fabled Lola resides here along with Greenhouse Tavern - that of the Duck Fat Fries featured on Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate.  That was the episode where Michael Symon sneaks out of Lola, around the fence into the Greenhouse Tavern to enjoy the fries.  

We didn't go to either of those spots this visit, but we've enjoyed our own helping of fries at GT and the charcuterie board at Lola in a previous 4th Street visit.  Mmmmm.  This time, we were looking for new adventures!

Noodlecat was first on the list.  I'd heard about their sake cocktails...let's give those a try.  So we headed in, walked to the back where the dark and comfy bar is located and bellied up.  Kimber got the sake drink and for some reason, I was in the mood for gin!  I think Kimber got the Sparking Long Island...I say "I think" because I left my glasses in the car (cheap valet parking, by the way!).  Duh.  Regardless, it was sparkly and delicious.  

The drink on the right was my well-crafted original cocktail....the bartender did a riff on the C-Town Citrus on the bar menu and came up with the drink on the right.  Watershed gin - an Ohio small distiller, aloe water, fresh lime, lemon and orange made one refreshing cocktail for a bright, sunny and warm day.  What was the name?  Don't know.  The bartender (Dan?) said to name it...and so I did.  It is now the Aloe Orange.  You have to say it with a British accent...

Anyway, our next stop was just across the street.  We'd spied an establishment with the name Chocolate Bar.  Now you KNOW neither one of us could pass up a spot with CHOCOLATE in the name!  We each enjoyed a lovely chocolate martini - mine was Dark Chocolate with cayenne, Kimber's chocolate and coconut.  That's mine in the pic...both came with little "cigars" of dark chocolate.  Yum.

Oh, and then there were the dark chocolate Godiva tiny cups for shooters.  Patron Espresso XL was quite nice in those delightful little cups.  So having had our fill of chocolate - liquid and otherwise, it was time to move on for a little sustenance.  To pace ourselves, we must have food!

We'd spotted a lively little Mexican restaurant further down 4th Street that looked like fun...actually, Kimber's been there many times with friends.  Zocalo's it was to be!

Our delightful bartender, Kevin, hooked us up right away with some crisp tortilla chips and a bowl of freshly made salsa.  We nibbled away while perusing the menu...what to get, what to get....guac, of course!  We chose 3 types: bacon tomatillo, cumin chili sweet potato and mango black bean.  The sweet potato MAY have been the favorite, but then again...that bacon one...who doesn't love bacon?!

And, yeah, there were margaritas.  Avocado Mango and a Cucumber Pepper one, too.  Well, it WAS a tequila bar!

We had time for one more...JUST one more stop on our day out.  Did you see Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race?  The one with the food truck from Cleveland?  The one with the WINNING food truck from Cleveland, the Hodge Podge owned by Chris Hodgson?  Well he has a restaurant - no wheels! - right down in the delightful 4th Street area.  

Kimber and I sat at the outdoor bar, ordered a Moscow Mule (her) and an Aviation (me) to end our day.  The bartender was skilled!  My Aviation was perfect and was expertly garnished with a flamed lemon peel that he then rubbed around the rim AND down the stem!  He explained that as the sipper holds the drink, the heat of his or or hand releases the oils for an even more nuanced experience.  Wow.  You KNOW I'll be using that trick!

One last little nosh there ended the day.  Lobster mashed potatoes.  

Smooth and creamy and delicious?  Yes.  Could they have been better?  Yes!  The potatoes were good, but not great.  In my humble opinion, when you're adding lobster to potatoes, they should be rich and luscious.  I'll be making those at home and making them with a base of MY mashed potatoes.  You can bet they'll be just perfect then.  What was lacking was a buttery flavor and a little dash of nutmeg to just take them over the top.  Look for my recreation of this recipe soon!  

Only one more thing to end the day...the bill.  Hodges presented it hilarious fashion:

The perfect end to the perfect day.  Yay Cleveland!  Go Steelers!!!!

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