Bridgestone International PGA Tournament

But first a brief story of my history with golf and country clubs...to see my video recap of the trip to the tournament scroll to the bottom. :]

   Growing up I was no stranger to country clubs and golf. My grandfather belonged to several Country Clubs to schmooze his accounting clients and my dad lived for golf. My dad had a heavy swing and he'd occasionally crack the head right off his drivers and use the shaft as his walking stick. He never went anywhere without a headless driving shaft. I'd often try and talk him into taking me golfing with him. On the few occasions he said "yes," I'd tire out three or four holes in and insist on driving around the golf cart the rest of the way. Despite him hating my erratic driving of the cart, he'd be happy that I was no longer slowing down his game. 

   My Border Collie Suzie lived for golf too. My dad would chip golf balls in the side yard and Suzie loved chasing them. Then one day she caught a ball straight in her teeth before it hit the ground. I still remember the sound of it clanking in her mouth and the fear that it possibly busted all her teeth. Thankfully she was fine, but she wasn't aloud to play golf anymore after that. 

   Don't worry! Suzie was plenty happy living out the rest of her days playing frisbee and being blasted in the face with the hose. 

  I have fond memories of eating at the Country Club when I was a grade school kid. The food was usually pretty fancy at these events. I remember seashell ice scupltures filled with cold shrimp. Shrimp cocktail was one of my favorite foods when I was seven. It wasn't until I was much, much older that I realized that not every kid spent time at Country Clubs on the weekend. 

  Every year my grandpa would take me to the Easter Egg Hunts at Brookside Country Club with a search for giant golden eggs and a stark white little lamb to pet tethered to the flag poll. Aside from Easter these events weren't real kid friendly. I was usually the only kid eating in the giant ballroom with the white linen covered tables. 

  Bridgestone International is expanding the audience for their tournaments. My visit to this years World Golf Championship showed a family friendly event with a wide variety of food, drinks and activities that appeal to everyone in the family. Before you consider golf too boring or stuffy for you and the kids, I urge you to check out my video from the event. I had a non-stop blast eating my way from one end of the course to the other. 

The 9th Annual Christmas Cookie Tour of Inns

  My husband has told me stories of his mother, Kathy, taking the family to Christmas themed events because she enjoyed those types of things. So when Ohio.org reached out and asked me if I'd be interested in going to any of their Ohio.org/Holidays foodie events, the Holmes County Christmas Cookie Tour of Inns stood out as something that would be really fun to take my mother-in-law to. 

  The night before the event the weather forecast wasn't looking too good. There was a big possibility of 5" inches overnight and a strong chance of snow in the late afternoon the next day. Living in Northeast Ohio you're bound to deal with a snowy drive every now and then so I try not to let it freak me out, but both my mother and Matt's mother always get concerned about us driving in bad weather. I went to bed hoping for the best.

  By the morning, very little snow had fallen overnight, but there was still a chance of snow in the late afternoon. Kathy was concerned about my drive home that evening, but she was willing to go. I myself am a willing risk taker so I was in! 

  I drove down to meet my mother-in-law at her place in Navarre. After checking out her new fireplace and kitchen updates we headed off to Holmes County. Navarre isn't too far from Holmes County and Kathy actually grew up in Applecreek, which is just 15 miles north of Berlin, Ohio where our Christmas Cookie Tour of Inns started and the heart of Amish County...no really, it's the heartofamishcountry.com. Kathy knows this area very well. Where as I am Google Maps depended East of Asiatown in Cleveland, I could tell Kathy the hotel we were going to and she instinctively knew around where it was.  

  Our first stop was the Berlin Grande Hotel to pick up our tickets. I wasn't totally sure what to expect. All I knew was that each stop along this self-guided tour of Inns through Amish Country was going to have a unique cookie for me to try and frankly, that was enough for me to be interested. 

  Christmas cookies were such a huge part of my memories growing up. My grandmother, Jet, makes over 100 dozen Christmas cookies each year. I don't remember a single year of my life that those cookies were not around and most of my pre-adolescence years I remember being in the kitchen while they were being made. To this day Matt and I get a giant box every year in early December filled to the brim with at least a dozen each of ten different kinds of Christmas cookie. Last Christmas my aunt, Jayne, compiled a list of my grandmother's Christmas cookie recipes and I posted it as my Christmas appreciation gift to my loyal readers!    

  I know I'm not the only one who has fond Christmas cookie memories. If you get the same warm and fuzzy holiday feelings from sinking your teeth into a handmade Christmas cookie as I do, the Christmas Cookie Tour of Inns is the event for you! They have done it every year for the last nine years. They already have the dates posted for 2017. Put "I'm busy eating Christmas cookies this weekend" down on your calendar for January 9th and 10th, 2017 and stay turned to Ohio.org

  Maybe you grew up in a family that didn't know how to bake or were bad bakers even (or you have a husband that puts large quantities of salt in containers, next to the baking items, that look like they should house sugar). If you are in that second category, you need to start making positive Christmas cookie memories so this event is good for you also. 

  Kathy and I arrive at the Berlin Grande Hotel shortly after the event started, around 1pm. We walked in and gave our name at the desk. An pleasant women in an adorable green Christmas elf-looking dress wearing a wide smile delivered us a packet with programs and passes for the event. The programs included information on each one of the twelve Inns along the tour. The programs also included recipes for each one of the twelve cookies. I am not going to post those recipes here, but I will post links to each of the hotels I visited. If you really want the recipe, each of which is totally worthy of wanting, you can reach out to them and see if they will share.

  This event helps raise money for the LifeCare Hospice in Holmes County and the Holmes County Education Foundation. It brings these Inns, who would normally be considered competitors, together each year to pitch in on a common cause. I did not know about this being a hospice fundraiser beforehand, but as a coincidence, Kathy is a nurse that works with hospice, not in Holmes County, but close by. It takes a special kind of person to work with hospice, but Kathy is that kind of person. She is an incredibly kind, understanding and loving person, which are not only more than admirable traits, they are the learned traits that have made her son, Matt, into such excellent marriage material. Bringing Kathy to this particular event was just meant to be. 

  After browsing our programs and enjoying the live Christmas music, from a man and his guitar, we were informed that a shuttle that will take us between three different stops along the tour had just arrived. Not knowing when our next chance to hop on board would be we headed to the parking lot and boarded a 10-seater bus that drove us to the Carlisle Country Inn. 

Carlisle Country Inn

  The Carlisle County Inn itself is so beautiful that I almost missed the view from the side yard. Layer after layer of landscape unfolds to your left as you approach the door of the Inn. The sparsely populated land has patches of trees, fences, farms, homes and the occasional road cutting through. This is where last night's snow has a chance to shine and set the holiday mood. Kathy mentions how pretty that view must be in the summer and I imagine the same view being filled with lush greenery. There isn't a single season that would be missing something with this view! The fall leaves, the spring flowers, this view alone is worth a stay at this Inn. 

  Upon walking through the door we entered a wide open space with a ribbon wrapped Christmas tree and a noble wrap around staircase, all tastefully decorated for the holidays. 

  We were promptly greeted and told where to find cookies, refreshments, and rooms that we could tour. Refreshments peaked my interest so I headed for the kitchen to check out the situation. In the well laid out country kitchen was a man who asked me if I wanted a hot cider, a question to which my only answer would ever be "yes." He poured me a cup and topped it with whipped cream and toasted cinnamon. I happily sipped away as I started touring the suites they had decorated for the holiday. 

  The large suites had beautiful antique beds, charming corner fireplaces, and large jacauzzi tubs in the bathrooms with a victorian country vibe.

  On the way out we picked up one of their Mocha Chip Cookies. It had a strong chocolate coffee flavor and was filled with rich cocoa dusted truffle chips. 

Garden Gate Get-A-Way

  Kathy and I boarded the shuttle again and headed off to the Garden Gate Get-A-Way. The snowy narrow roads made us thankful for the shuttle service. We pull into the parking lot with barely enough room for the van to move around. This place already feels like a get-a-way!

  As we step out of the van we see two private cottages on the property. I've stayed in private cottages before with Matt and we loved the experience. It gives you a sense of independence and also a chance to feel isolated from the rest of the world while tucked safely inside. 

  Inside the main building they gave us something called a German tea. I was head over heels for this orangy, in both color and flavor, spiced cold tea. Their Heavenly Ginger Cookie was just that, heavenly! I have a major love of all things ginger. I know its not for everyone. That sharp cut of drinking, smelling, or biting into something with a strong ginger flavor can turn some people off, but this cookie was nothing like that. This had that signature ginger flavor with none of the spice. They had cleverly balanced the ginger with brown sugar and then dipped half of the cookie in a creamy white chocolate and topped it with some red and green sugar. 

  The real kicker was when they showed me a room filled with stuffed bears. There was a bear nativity scene, a Mr. and Mrs. Claus bear, angel bears, bears, bears, bears and it was too adorable not to take a million pictures.

  Next we headed back to the Berlin Grande Hotel. We hadn't really had a chance to look around at all the Christmas decorations, bake sale items, hot chocolate bar, or even grab our cookies and toured any rooms yet. 

  The rooms here had a very different feel to them. They had a modern touch we hadn't seen at the other inns. One room had a kitchenette and a separate room for the cozy looking plush bed. The in-suite Christmas tree was topped with an elegant white doves and gold beaded branches. 

  Rudolph's Chocolate Cherry Bars was their signature cookie they were presenting this year. This cookie too had a different vibe than the others we had tried. They had a gooey texture like a moist fig newton filled with soft candied cherries and milk chocolate chunks. Cherry and chocolate being one of my favorite flavor combos I will certainly be trying to make these at home. 

  From here out Kathy and I were on our own driving from location to location. We had a few hours left to get to as many Inns as we could. We choose the closest one next, the Comfort Suites, which is right across the street from the Berlin Grande. 

  They were featuring a Red Velvet Sugar Cookie, which I knew I wouldn't be able to entirely devour before I got home since Matt loves red velvet. But I had to try a bite right?! A thick layer of buttery cream cheese icing sat delightfully on the soft chocolatey cookie.

  When I take a bite of things meant for my husband I always tell him that I'm testing it for poison for him. Its a service he pretends to be grateful for as long it I am not consuming his ice cream or Vietnamese food of which he does not happily share. 

  The Comfort Suites rooms were covered in shiny bobbles. They were simple, yet eye catching holiday displays. They left me with an "I could probably put this together with some things at home" feeling. 

  They also had Min & Jim's sampling and selling their moist and tasty cupcakes that are available in their shop on E. Main in Millersburg. They have a lot of specialty cupcake flavors like bubble gum, blueberries & cream, orange dreamcicle, and apple pie. 

  Before time ran out we headed to The Barn Inn to interview owner Loretta Coblentz. On display was Loretta's intricate "Twelve Days of Christmas" quilt that she designed and created to help market the 7th Annual Christmas Cookie Tour of Inns. Before taking us on a tour Loretta explains the permanent $25,000 endowment the event has secured for the Holmes County Education Foundation to help local students go to college. 

  A string trio played Christmas music beside the fireplace as people explored the many details of the Inn. A large stately table is covered in lavish place sets with edible wafer paper cookies next to each plate. Loretta has signs on display to direct you to Fancy Flours where the wafer paper can be purchased.

  Loretta and her husband bought the once real working barn from a 101 year old Amish man. This is the third barn to occupy this location. The first deteriorated before the Amish mans time, while the second one was hit by lightening and burnt to the ground in 1919 while he watched. He then helped rebuild the barn from timbers found on the farm. 

  Kathy and I followed Loretta upstairs and she showed us around the Inn. The rooms here are packed with charming antiques. Each has a refrigerator, but you'd never notice it on first glance as Loretta has them incased in custom barn door cabinets to fit the decor. The authentic wood beams in the room still have the original pencil scribe lines from 100 years ago.

 For me the star of this Inn was the French Country room. Loretta herself is hand painting an opulent landscape over the deep jacuzzi tub.  The refinished cherub lamp, French countryside painting over the bed, and multiple foot long naked baby casting made me feel calm and welcomed. If you are traveling over the holidays, or honestly anytime you find yourself sleeping away from home, this is the kind of place you'd get a truly restful night sleep as the warmth and personal touches you find throughout The Barn Inn make you feel right at home. 

  I asked Loretta about the old family photo on the wall of the French Country room. It had an antique sepia tone and showed fourteen adults and twelve children. She explained they were the farmers and cheese makers from the next farm over 100 years ago. The grandchild of one of the women pictured is now in his late 80's and living in Iowa, but still brings his grandchildren and great-grandchildren to the Inn. The Barn Inn is full of personal photos and touches that make staying here such a rich experience.

  Like the Inn itself, the cookie was a real show stopper. When I heard Oreo Cheesecake Cookie I expected something soft and creamy like most things you eat with cheesecake in the name, but this was something vastly different. It had none of the cheesecake texture, but all of the cheesecake flavor. I have no idea how they pulled that off, but bravo! The holly leaves and berries were also a nice touch visually and they too were not what I expected. Those little cookie decorations are often sugary and tart hard candies, but these were soft and balanced with a low sugar content. I ate every bite of this one. 

  Now it was getting dark, but thankfully we had time for one more stop! We were off to the Guggisberg Swiss Inn to speak to owner Julia Guggisberg, who also owns the winery and riding stable. As we start pulling down the driveway to the Inn it opened up in front of us with wide stretched arms and twinkling lights. It was a majestic sight, as was the lobby too as you pushed open the heavy wood carved front door to see a massive fireplace and cozy sitting nook. 

  Kathy was very familiar with the Guggisberg name. Julia's bother-in-law owns the Guggisberg Cheese shop that sits down the road from the Inn. My father-in-law recently found out he is lactose intolerant, but the well made cheese is naturally lactose free at Guggisberg Cheese. Its one of the few cheeses he can eat so they venture to this area often to fetch it.

 We walked in and sat down in the enclosed sun porch to munch on some marshmallowy popcorn. Before I could ask to speak with Julia she came over to greet us. She sees a lot of the same faces each year so we stood out as someone new she needed to get to know. Julia's done the Christmas Cookie tour 8 out of its 9 years. She told us how she grew up in nearby Millersburg, but left Holmes County for four months and ventured as far as Wayne County before feeling the need to be back home. You could easily tell how much she enjoys being part of this tour and owning the Inn so it was obviously meant to be. 

  The Christmas decorations at the Guggisberg Swiss Inn were very unique. Each year they have a new theme. This year was “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” With the help of a friend who designed all the decorations, it took Julia, her friend, and her friend's daughter three days to install everything. From the gravity defying stack of Christmas presents on the center of each table, featuring real toys from the girl that helped design them, to the Santa stuck in a chimney beside the stuffed black bear, the decorations were wonderfully whimsical. So was the photo of Julia's husband at the counter of him riding a horse backwards with a broom for which the only explanation from Julia was "that's how we ride horses here." 

  They were showing off their jacuzzi room, with a giant jacuzzi big enough to practically swim in. This place is loaded with the charm that comes from Swiss architectural details. In warmer months you can venture out the the wooden railed balcony and see the horses grazing in the grass that sits in front of the Inn. 

    The cookie from the Swiss Inn was called Coffee Toffee Treasures. It had bold coffee and toffee flavors, but the nuts sprinkled on top balanced out the sweet with that hint of salt I love in a good dessert. It was my kind of cookie indeed!  

 I had a great time spending my day eating cookies and bonding with Kathy. It’s not something we get too much time to do these days with our busy schedules. Living over an hour apart doesn’t help either, but it was truly nice to get together, just the two of us, around the holidays to just relax and have a fun experience.

 Thank you to OhioTourism and Ohio Amish Country for providing Kathy and I with the tickets to go on this tour. I urge you to take some time this holiday season and spend it with people you care about while doing something fun. Check out Ohio.org/holidays for a list of events going on for inspiration.  

 

 

 

  

Campfire Cooking at Berlin Lake

I've picked up many cooking skills over the years by wathcing my husband, Matt. He's a natural cook both in and out of the kitchen. And many of my favorite meals over the years were made out of the kitchen and in the back yard. I'm not talking BBQ grill, although we've had many a tasty meal on the Weber. I'm talking about cooking on the fire pit, the thai outdoor stove, the portable propane wok burner, and the smoker. 

Matt takes cooking outdoors to new levels with his interesting gadgets and techniques, but it's no wonder where he learned these skills. My father-in-law has been cooking outside in cast iron pots using hot coals for years. Every year he participates in the Algonquin Mill Festival and dresses in 18th century clothing while cooking like our ancestors once did. 

In view of the festival goers my in-laws make soups, stews, breads, pies, and coffee the old fashioned way, over hot coals in cast iron under the colorful leaves of October trees. The food is then used to feed the spinners and weavers guild who line up in their ruffled shirts and waistcoats to scoop up a full plate of bubbly hot grub. 

While cooking outdoors can be a major task for some, the in-laws are pros. We had an easy and delicious meal of baked beans, BBQ chicken thighs and peach cobbler all made outside on the fire pit and hot coals for Labor Day weekend. 

Laugh & Learn Something New Saturday

Once in a while, if I'm lucky, I find myself at a brand new event where the room is filled with a contagious and uplifting energy. The world outside disappears and I become prone to spontaneous fits of laughter. As I'm observing the people around me surrender to the pure enjoyment of living in the moment I realize I'm at the heart of a movement. This is not just another hip Saturday night event. This is a fundamental shift in what I'll now expect from my next night out. This is Learn Something New Saturday

On the second Saturday of each month, in the old Hildebrandt meat packing plant turned coffee roasting hideaway, food truck shelter from the storm, commercial kitchen incubator, artist collective and believe it or not much more, you can indulge in a three course meal carefully curated by a talented young chef, learn a new art form from a creative and kind soul, make new friends that you can't wait to hangout with again, and enjoy the vibes of a beautiful space filled with happiness and laughter. 

The multi-talented Laura C. Adiletta has created this evening along with gallery owner and founder of the Hildebrandt Artist Collective, Kathryn Simmons. Laura's worked under Doug Katz at Fire Food and Drink which is enough to impress any foodie, but she's also a bad girl entrepreneur who's written for Cleveland Magazine and been a driving force behind several unique businesses that have popped up around Cleveland. This was my first opportunity to meet Kathryn Simmons but she has a warmth that draws you in and makes you want to become best friends with her. She takes any intimation factor out of jumping feet first into a new hobby which contributes to the enjoyment of the evening's activities. 

If you love going into the office on Monday and leaving your coworkers in awe of your ability to be at the most fabulous things going on in Cleveland, this event is for you. It won't be long before Clevelanders in the know are fervently attempting to get a spot in this soon to be staple of the what to do in Cleveland landscape.

For now you can follow the Learn Something New Saturday (LSNS) tackk.com feed and be sure to add your email to their list so you get the most up to date news. This event is sure to evolve and spread like wildfire so keep your eye out for opportunities to attend.  

 

 

Tiffani Tucker's Bundts of Love

I met the lovely and down to earth, Tiffani Tucker when she came to a Bad Girl Ventures Kickoff event to cover it for Channel 19 News. Réka Barabás, the Marketing Manager for BGV NEO, introduced us when she learned Tiffani had recently launched a business baking cakes called Have a Slice. It was a great match, as Réka is well known for crafting connections within the Cleveland community. These days I have a habit when I am talking to a person in the food industry that fascinates me to just blurt out "do you want to be on my podcast!?" Thankfully, Tiffani said "YES!" 

If that sounds a lot like the beginning of a love story, it's because it is. To record the April Podcast Tiffani invited me over to her house, made me breakfast, let me break her coffee machine, baked me a cake, gave me a really cool Have a Slice coffee mug, gave me a full cake plus four mini cakes, and let me meet her mom, husband and son. I could not believe how generous she was, but when you hear her story of how she got started baking it's easy to understand that sharing love is her thing. Influenced by her family and their recipes, she gets to know her customers wants and creates custom cakes and flavors to fit their needs. Then she bakes them at her home with lots of love and care. There is tender loving care put in to how often she checks the cake. If she checks it too much the oven loses temp. Not enough and the cake gets overdone. It is a delicate balance of checking, poking and making sure the cake comes out at just the right time. 

Tiffani really lights up a room. She is beautiful, intelligent, holds herself well, and beams confidence. When you see her you think, wow, she must be on tv. And she is! She is the Channel 19 News weeknight anchor. She was nominated for an Emmy for her coverage of the three Cleveland women who escaped after a decade of entrapment in a Cleveland home. She has accomplished so much and is admired by many, yet she is so humble. Her attitude is "this is my job." I suppose that is exactly what I want to hear from a local news personality, but I expect its not the norm. 

She has a cake company, but doesn't consider herself a baker. It reminds me of the sentiment I've heard from Anthony Bourdain, that you can often get better food from someone that calls themselves a cook than you can from someone that call themselves a chef. There isn't years of culinary school and studying of the masters behind these cakes. There is years of lovingly crafted recipes from her and her family who made cakes to share with the people they loved the most. If the latter doesn't make a wonderful cake for a family occasion I don't know what does. 

The cakes are bundts, no icing, no refrigeration needed, and freezable. She does mini bundts and large bundts. She currently has six varieties she makes, but if you have an idea she'll try and create a flavor around it. Visit her website for info on ordering - Have a Slice.

Check out the April Podcast to hear my interview with Tiffani. We talk about her craziest adventures from field reporting and her love of baking that started with an Easy-Bake Oven. Plus, Lauren chats with Matt Fish of Melt

Bloom Bakery - Great People Doing Great Things

I was excited, for a few reasons, to check out Bloom Bakery opening in 200 Public Square downtown Cleveland. Tonight I got that opportunity.

Saidah Farrell behind the counter slinging incredible pastry samples. 

Saidah Farrell behind the counter slinging incredible pastry samples. 

The first reason I was eager to get to Bloom Bakery is the head baker, a foodie friend I've known for years, Saidah Farrell. I've been a fan of Saidah's baking since we met in the pilot program of the CCLK/ECDI Food Incubator. She brought in the cutest cake I'd ever seen, called a Baby Cake, and a moist, delicious cupcake that melted in my mouth. From then on I've followed her career and enjoyed watching her flourish from exquisite éclairs at the Sunday Market to Smores Emergency Kits, she never disappoints. She's worked many an event booth around Cleveland over the years, with her beautiful and lovely daughters in tow, spreading her gift of baking. I'm so happy for her continued successes and it's great to see what she is doing at Bloom Bakery. 

image.jpg

The second reason I was excited to visit Bloom is they are doing great things for people who have fallen on hard times. They are providing jobs and training to people with criminal backgrounds through working with their parent company, a non-profit called Towards Employment. As a human being who is just as flawed as every other human being, I completely understand that people make mistakes. I don't believe making a mistake that leads to a criminal record means that you shouldn't have a shot at building a career, but too often it does. I also think learning through apprenticeship is something that needs to be a bigger part of the American higher education system. 

Jellies, butter, strawberries...put that on your pastry and eat it!  

Jellies, butter, strawberries...put that on your pastry and eat it!  

Baking is such a delicate science that this training is arduous work. You can't make a Pain Au Chocolate as flaky and delicious as the one I had tonight upon first try (pictured below on the bottom right). This is a lost art in the days of corporate grocery store bakeries defrosting and baking frozen dough balls and it will serve these people well. 

image.jpg

I tired what felt like one of everything and have to say it was all impeccably well done.  My husband and I tired a tuna sandwich that was so good my husband, who won't even enter the room if I've made tuna, said "that was tuna?" The Indian style curry chicken salad was like nothing I've had before with a side of cole slaw that didn't disapoint. The bread, pastry, sandwiches is rounded out with a selection of coffees and teas. Check out their vast menu

image.jpg

The space itself is comfy and cool with a wall fireplace and a L-shaped couch cove. This is a great causal working breakfast, brunch, or lunch spot. 

The man in the white apron proudly passes out the chocolate cookies he made himself, which my husband swiftly ate up and raved about.  

The man in the white apron proudly passes out the chocolate cookies he made himself, which my husband swiftly ate up and raved about.  

I'm so happy to see this as an addition to the downtown dining scene. Great people doing great things is a guaranteed success for everyone involved. Seek this place out! You'll enjoy! 

image.jpg

 

 

The Launch of CLEfoodcast

In the fall of 2015, Lauren Kluth of CLEseats and I grabbed some coffee to talk about her launching of a new app that will help people find and get discounts to some of Cleveland's best restaurants. I was so impressed with what she was up to and excited that she asked me for some help with this project. As we sat there thinking up was to help promote her cause I thought...podcast! What a great way to connect with people interested in the dining scene! The more I thought about it the more I wanted involved too. And here we are!

In this first podcast we have two giveaways and interviews with Society Lounge and Carabao. Hope you enjoy!


My Christmas Gift to You!

Hey! Thanks for reading this. I truly do appreciate it. 

Another year is coming to a close and I feel lucky for the year I have had. The New Year holds a lot of cool projects and exciting food adventures around Cleveland. I can't wait to get started. 

Keep a look out for my upcoming Cleveland food podcast, CLEfoodcast, with Lauren Kluth of Cleseats, who is launching an exclusive Cleveland dining deals app in the early New Year. 

If you are familiar with my food truck, Wok n Roll, you may know that I'm on a mission to introduce more people to Asian flavors. Brendan and Josh of Night Market Cleveland have a similar mission. We are teaming up to bring an Asiatown food tour to Cleveland launching in the next few months. 

To show my appreciation for all the support from you, the readers/friends/followers, I'm giving you a piece of my Christmas tradition. Every year my grandma, Jet, makes over 100 dozen Christmas cookies to give to her family as gifts. Below is my gift to you, a link to all her Christmas cookie recipes! 

Download Jet's Christmas Cookies

Have a safe and happy holiday!




WARNING! Mama Jo Homestyle Pie's are Addictive

As a blogger I get offered free stuff every now and then. I don't always say 'yes' to free stuff, but when I got offered some Mama Jo Homestyle Pies I jumped on the chance. Not that I've been a big pie connoisseur, but my husband loves pies more than any other dessert so I thought he would pout if I passed it up. 

I grew up in Stark county where amazing Amish pies were a short drive away. A pie was present at almost every family get together. I always indulged, but pie was never on my list of favorite things, until I tried Mama Jo's. I kid you not, these pies are amazing! 

Mama Jo's Pies are thick, beautiful and hold together well. No one wants to cut into a deflated, thin pie, these are so thick you can get a lot of good size slices out of it. When you remove a slice of apple pie all the apple filling doesn't pour into the open space and the top doesn't separate from the filling. The flavors are bold and the fruits and custards are fresh. 

I tired the Caramel Apple Walnut and the French Silk. Both of these I highly recommend. They have the perfect sweetness level. You aren't going to get a sweets hangover from a slice of this pie. It's incredibly balanced and high quality which in my opinion make it better than any of the Amish pies I grew up with. The Caramel Apple Walnut is a hearty pie. I was impress how well it held together especially with a thick tip top crust. The French Silk is oh so rich! Never had a better French Silk anything. 

Now don't think I'm just raving over these pies because they gave me a couple free ones. I've been buying these pies now every single time I see them with my own money. I've had the Banana Split which I also highly recommend. I thought this would be a banana pie with a few strawberries and that chocolate drizzle on top...oh no, this is far more than that. There is a layer of bananas, a layer of strawberries and a layer of chocolate under that beautiful whipped cream. I was incredibly impressed! 

I have also since had the Caramel Apple Walnut again. Its that good! Then I also tried the Blueberry as a mini pie. It's great that they come in a variety of sizes. They have a 6", 8", and 10". You can occasionally find them in a local grocery store. When I spot them I pounce! If you don't see them at your local grocery give them a call or order from the website.  You can be the hit of any party by bringing one of these pies. I have been converted! 




Cereal Milk Pots de Creme

potdecreme

I love cereal, but I think it makes a much better dessert than breakfast. I'm always finding ways to inject a little cereal into my sweets and pot de creme with its simple milk and cream construction makes for one of my favorite classic French dessert to corrupt. Best thing about this recipe is you can do it with any cereal you like! I've done Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and now Fruity Pebbles pictured below. They each bring something so different to the flavor of the pot de creme.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 cups whipping cream
  • 1.5 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups of your favorite cereal
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar

DIRECTIONS

Combine your whipping cream and milk and poor in your cereal. Smash the cereal down a little bit so it all get soaked and put it in the fridge. After a few hours in the fridge take it out and drain the milk and cream through a fine sieve or cheese cloth to remove the cereal. Add some additional milk and cream in equal amounts if your total volume is now less than 3 cups.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Bring cream and milk just to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Whisk yolks and sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot milk/creme mixture. Strain mixture into another bowl. Cool 10 minutes, skimming any foam from surface.

Divide custard mixture among six 3/4-cup custard cups, soufflé dishes or ball jars. Cover each with foil. Place cups in large baking pan. Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake until custards are set but centers still move slightly when gently shaken, about 55 minutes. Remove from water. Remove foil. Chill custards until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.)

I like to top with some whipped cream and some of the cereal itself. I crush it if it's big pieces and keep it whole if its small. Fruit worked well too for the fruit pebbles pictured.

One of my favorite Korean dishes: Japchae

japchae

Our first trip to New York city we ended up staying in Koreatown. We would get back to the hotel at night exhausted from our days adventures and we'd venture out somewhere close for dinner. The first night we sat down at a little Korean place around the corner from our hotel and ordered dolsot bibimbap and japchae it was all over. We had a new favorite cuisine. You'll need one somewhat exotic ingredient that you find in a typical grocery store. The sweet potato noodles, but you can find these at just about any Asian grocery store (picture of the bag is below) - Check out a map of Cleveland's Asiatown. There are grocery stores in both Asia Plaza and Asia Town Center.

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ lb. beef 5 ounces Korean vermicelli noodles, (~half a package)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot , cut into matchsticks
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 pepper, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 5 tablespoons Sweet Soy Sauce Base
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • salt and pepper, to taste


Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon Sweet Soy Sauce Base
  • 1 green onion , minced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, add the beef and the marinade ingredients. Toss to coat and let it sit while preparing everything else.

Place the fired noodles in a large heatproof mixing bowl. Pour 4 cups of boiling water over the noodles and let soften for about 8 minutes. Drain. Cut the noodles in half. If they get sticky, rinse with warm water.

Stir fry vegetables and beef separately and season with salt and pepper. Keep everything warm in the oven.

Add the sauce and sesame oil; bring to a boil. Add the noodles and mix well. Add with the other ingredients. Top with sesame seeds and a drizzle of sesame oil.

Raspberry Lime Riesling Sorbet

Raspberry Lime Riesling Sorbet

Its a lovely feeling to go to your garden, pick your own berries and then make them into something you're incredibly proud of. Whether or not you've got berries in your garden or you find them at the farmers market you'll enjoy making this dessert. Plus, it's always good to have an excuse to pull that ice cream maker you barely use out of its hiding place.

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 cups of fresh raspberries (or any kind of berries)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup Riesling

DIRECTIONS

Add water and raspberries to a food processor. Pulse until mixture has a smooth consistency.

Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Add pureed raspberries to the strainer (1/4 at a time) and press with the back of a large spoon or a rubber spatula through the strainer to remove the seeds. Repeat with remaining raspberry puree. Discard anything left in the strainer.

Add sugar, riesling and lime juice to the raspberry juice in the bowl. Whisk until sugar is dissolved.

Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions. Serve immediately for a soft-serve dessert OR transfer to a shallow container and freeze an additional 1-2 hours for a more firm sorbet.

I served with some blue berries and a little whipped cream.

Sriracha Chocolate Bars

Sriracha Chocolate Bars

The first time we went to NYC we stayed at the Harold Square Hotel and right next door was Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar. On the menu they had an assortment of chocolates by Jacques Torres. If you're not familiar, which I wasn't either at the time, Jacques is Mr. Chocolate. I was transformed from the first bite of his incredible filled truffles. Thankfully, Jacques is doing instructional videos on YouTube for OpenSky on working with chocolate. You can learn anything on YouTube! I love it. Five minutes and you'll understand how to make filled chocolates.


After learning from the master I went and bought some red, orange, yellow and bakers semi-sweet chocolates. I started by melting each of the colored chocolates in a glass bowl over simmering water. It worked best to let the chocolate set and melt for about 5 minutes and then stir. Next I went to my chocolate bar molds (I got my molds at Madi Gras, but you could find at Pat Catan's, B.A. Sweetie and just about any other stores selling candy supplies). I dripped a abstract fire pattern onto the molds and let that dry. After letting that cool I melted the semi-sweet and followed with Jacques instructed in the video (poured it in and dumped it out). I left that to cool in the fridge while making the sriracha caramel.

Sriracha Caramel

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of Sriracha

DIRECTIONS

In a medium saucepan, mix together the sugar, heavy whipping cream, butter and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the mixture simmer for about 4 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the Sriracha and stir. Let cool to room temperature.

Fill your molds, but try not to overfill and pop them back in the fridge. Melt a little more chocolate and pour it in the molds to close up your bar. Once they've cool and solidifed they'll pop right out!

Soupy Mac n Cheese

Soupy Mac n Cheese

I love mac n cheese! The hubby and I make it all kinds of ways. Sometimes with corn or apples, sometimes its spicy or crusted. There are a million ways to make it and most aren't too much harder than just making it from the box. I fondly remember the soupy, tender mac n cheese of my preschool and I've been searching for a mac n cheese that reminds me of that for a long time. While what I am trying to recreate is probably right out of a box or can, I still think I can recreate the essence of that childhood mac n cheese in a more homemade way. This is the closest I've gotten so far! It's got that soupy and tender texture I've been looking for, but far more complex in depth of flavor which isn't unwanted. ;]

Serves 2-4 Can be made in 30mns

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups of dry elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 stalk of celery, minced fine
  • 1/2 of a medium onion, minced fine
  • 1/3 cup of all purpose flour
  • 0-2 tablespoons Cornstarch (How much you use will determine how soupy it is)
  • 2-1/2 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 3 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

    TOPPING INGREDIENTS
  • 1/2 cup Queso Fresco
  • 1 teaspoon of chill powder
  • 1 green onion, sliced

DIRECTIONS

Melt butter in a soup pot; add the celery and onion and saute until tender but not browned. Next decide how soupy you'd like it to be. Add no cornstarch for soup, a tablespoon for soupy (that's what I added), or 2 tablespoons for creamy mac n cheese. Sprinkle in the cornstarch of your choosing along with the flour and cook over medium to medium high heat, stirring constantly for about a minute.

Begin to whisk in the broth about 1/2 cup at a time, constantly whisking until fully incorporated and smooth. Set it to a low simmer. Repeat with the milk. Begin to stir in the cheese, about 1 cup at a time. Allow the cheese to fully melt before adding in the next cup.

Add the cooked pasta and stir to break up the noodles. Heat through, but do not allow the soup to boil.

In a separate small bowl, stir together the queso fresco, green onion and chill powder.

Remove the mac n cheese from the heat and serve immediately, garnished with a pinch of the queso fresco mixture.

Gamekeepers Simple and Sophisticated Summer Menu

I've never been one to subscribe to thought of exotic game being taboo. I think you should try a food at least a handful of times before making up your mind that it's not for you. After all, there are some chefs that can transform things you've never liked before into a dish you'll adore. Gamekeepers Executive Chef Craig Fitzgerald is one of those kind of chefs. It really doesn't matter what he makes, I'll try it. I trust him immensely with my taste buds. He took over as Gamekeepers Executive Chef about a year ago after working in Pittsburgh, where he attended culinary school and interned at 11 Restaurant, and then onto Boca Raton where he worked at Cafe Maxx with Oliver Saucy. Thankfully for us, this St. Ignatius grad came back to the Cleveland area because he missed the seasons and his family. Upon his return he has worked at Three Birds in Lakewood as well as West End Bistro right next door to Gamekeepers.

Executive Chef Craig Fitzgerald

Chef Fitzgerald is admirable for far more than just his talent in the kitchen. He is a genuinely nice guy. Inspired by working for former Gamekeepers Executive Chef Alonzo Norman and seeing that a you didn't need to be a tyrant to earn respect, he has continued on that path. It must be contagious because everyone on staff at Gamekeepers has a great attitude and becomes a quick friend.

Recently, I got to enjoy a preview of Gamekeepers new Summer menu items. Since Craig took over as executive chef, he has been reintroducing more game meat to the menu. Aside from that he has is a commitment to fresh, quality and local ingredients which really shine through in the artfully plated dishes. "I'm trying to bring it back to the idea of Gamekeepers. The field and stream kinda deal. We live in a great state where we can get local produce, local meats, you can forge for things right outside in your backyard and that really appeals to me. A good product, prepared fairly simple so you can taste it," Craig explains. Taste it I did! Here is a rundown of my meal:

First Course: Appetizer Trio (Emu Empanada | Crispy Pheasant Thighs | Fried Green Tomatoes)

Appetizer-Trio

The empanada dough, based on a pierogi recipe once given to Craig, is so light and crisp. Its a perfect balance of dough to filling without a hint of grease that you'll often find with an empanada. The pappadew pepper is a tasty treat and I couldn't leave a drop of the black bean puree behind.

The pheasant thighs with a maple and jalapeno glaze are crave worthy for those of us that love a little heat with our sweet. Pickled red onions keep it fresh and bright.

Once told by a sandwich shop owner that he believes about 1/3 of the population dislikes tomatoes, I consider myself solidly part of that group. I try them a lot and every once in a blue moon I can enjoy a nice tomato because it's been done so incredibly well. I consider these fried green tomatoes to be in that well done category. Meaty tomatoes with a thin breading and a house made buttermilk ranch. They are as enjoyable as I can imagine tomatoes to get.

Second Course: Chilled English Pea Soup

pea soup

I had the pea soup the first time I went to Gamekeepers and I was very excited to have it again because it stayed with me. After the peas are blanched there is no additional heat applied to this simple pea and olive oil soup. Accompanied with a tasty piece of prosciutto that a used as a delightful spoon.

Third Course: Cumin Carrots with Garlic Sour Cream

carrots

This dish is a treat! A tasty cold vegetable dish is a real rarity in restaurants. I love that a restaurant focused on game is churning out such delightful ones. The cumin sets it off as exotic and the crushed dried chick peas give it a crunchy texture that blends well with the garlic sour cream.

Fourth Course: Tuna Ahi Wonton

Tuna

I've found tuna to be something that takes some finesse to make well so I don't order it too often, but my trust in Craig pays off because this is an incredible disk. This tuna is so incredibly light that it melts in your mouth. Along with the crunch of the wonton and the pop of the caviar I am so glad I got to enjoy all this dish has to offer.

Fifth Course: Venison Tartar

tartar

Tartar is not something I shy away from. I was introduced to it as a kid which makes it familiar to me somewhere deep in my psyche. This is truly some of the best I have had. You'd expect a gaminess from a venison tartar, but there is honestly not hint of it. The pickled grapes are so delightful I could eat them alone all day. They add a burst of sweet with each bite.

Sixth Course: Seared Halibut

halibut

Halibut is such a lovely light fish. This is seared so beautifully on top of fresh corn, topped with pea tendrils and a cream on the side to pour in for a creamed corn experience.

Seventh Course: Duck Breast

Duck

I adore duck so this was one of my favorite dishes. To me it tastes like duck bacon with its nice crusty exterior and tender juicy center. Aside from the tasty duck the fingerling gnocchi are unbelievable! They have a nice sear on them which compliments their smooth texture.

Eight Course: Elk Loin

Elk

Elk is something I don't have any experience with outside of eating it at Gamekeepers, but I found it to be bold in flavor and tender in texture, complimented by white asparagus. It is something I wouldn't hesitate to order again.

Night Course: Gingerbread Pudding

ginger-bread

Gingerbread pudding with ice cream and caramel sauce! What a nice comforting dessert to close out the end of the evening. It settles in your stomach like a warm hug.

drinks

Can't forget the drinks! They have a great wine and cocktail list. For something really unusual try the Fireball! It's got Sriracha and pickle juice. They have the most incredible cocktail cherries and make an awesome Old Fashioned with them. They are also really good at just hearing what you like and making you something you'll like, which I really appreciate.

I highly recommend heading to Gamekeepers if you're looking for a quality meal made by one of Cleveland's best chefs, served in a gorgeous space (the patio is incredible), by a staff that you'll become instant friends with. Its an A+ experience all around and relaxed enough that you'll feel right at home.

Let Flour Take You on a Tour of Italy

Minestra

When reading Rust Belt Chic, what stood out to me the most were stories of immigrants moving to Cleveland and finding comfort once they connected with the people and things that reminded them of their heritage. There are all kinds of pockets of culture here in Cleveland, preserving things from foreign lands to comfort some and introduce to others. Recently I went to a tasting at Flour in Moreland Hills with my friend Rita, who was born and lived in Italy growing up. Flour is running a series of tasting dinners featuring 'new school' versions of dishes from different regions in Italy, starting with Calabria. You'd find this region in the toe of the boot and specializing in eggplant and fish. It was a little bit of comfort of the past for Rita and an introduction to something new for me.

Introducing - Menu Calabrese This was all foreign to me so I just sat back, took pictures and enjoyed the ride.

menu-calabrese

Course one: Minestra di Fava e Cipollo This Fava Bean and Red Onion Soup was possibly the most intricate soup I can ever remember having. Yea, it might not look very soup like in the picture below, but that is because there is a thin crackery crisp on top. The crisp melts into the soup as you dig in and also melts in your mouth in the most delightful way.

Minestra2

Course two: Tortiera d' Alic The Baked Anchovies and Breadcrumbs dish was by far the most foreign to me, but I love to try new things and feel comfortable doing so in when its come from a great chef such as Matthew Mytro. This was one anchovy coated in fluffy delicious breadcrumbs on top of a tomato floating over a bold creamy sauce. The tomato was meaty in texture and flavor and the whole thing worked very well together.

tortiera

Course three: Melazane all'insalata I'm all about the Eggplant Caponata! This was my favorite dish. Wafer thin eggplant thins sandwiched in between light creamy eggplant with bits of chocolate sprinkled in. I would order this as a dessert! It was the perfect balance of sweet and savory that permanently embeds a flavor memory into my brain.

eggplant

Course four: Baccala alla di Pate Squid Ink Gnocchi and Salt Cod was a work of art! It took me forever to take a bite because it was just so pretty to look at. The flavor on the gnocchi was really surprising. Very fresh from the sea taste with a silky texture. This is a dish I would order again and again.

baccala

Course five: Sorbetta Barbabietola This Beet Sorbet with Lemoncello was a palate cleanser.  I adore beets used in creative ways. This was very refreshing and it sat in a pool of olive oil as thick and sweet as honey. Simple dish of complex flavors that worked together very well!

sorbetta

Course six: Braciole alla Bagnara The Swordfish with Parsley, Lemon and Ccapers, was a big, juicy and impressive steak of a fish. Rita felt this dish really took her back to Italy. The flavor combinations reminded her of how they cooked back home.

braciole

Course seven: Collo di Agnello Lamb Necks with Polenta was a small dish that packed large flavors! Beautifully creamy polenta in balsamic with a tender ball of lamb perched on top. This was deep comforting flavors presented with such delicate textures.

collo

Course eight: Tartufo al modo di Pizzo Ice Cream Truffles, need I say more? Oh, but I must say it was a peanut butter truffle with jelly filling. Hard not to love, it was a great and whimsical last course.

truffle

Whether your trying to reconnect with something from your past or looking to try something new I highly recommend heading to Flour with some friends for this tasting. Even the espresso was exquisite and transports your to another place. And you can even add wine pairings! Make a night of it!

espresso

Beer Boiled Crab Legs

crablegs

Crab legs at a good restaurant are always expensive, but always enjoyable. Crab legs at a cheap restaurant are not usually expensive, but usually don't hit the spot. My husband doesn't like crab legs from any restaurants because they don't flavor them like he does. Making crab legs at home will certainly save you some money and give you the tastiest crab legs you've ever had. It also saves you from eating, cracking and slurping in public. Here is my hubbys crab leg recipe.

Beer Boiled Crab Legs

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds snow crab legs
  • 2 ears corn on the cob, cut in half
  • 4 large red potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • 1/2 cup Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stick butter, melted or ghee is really good :)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 bottles of beer
  • 10-12 shrimp

    DIRECTIONS

    Fill a large pot with 5-6 quarts of water and beer. Bring to a boil over high heat and add the seasonings.

    Add the potatoes and cook for 8-10 minutes.

    Add the crab and corn. Return to a boil for 7 minutes. Add shrimp and boil for 5 minutes. Serve with the butter or ghee.

Chocolate Waffles with Cream Cheese Icing and Spinkles

waffles

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 16 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
  • Vegetable spray, for waffle iron
  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-4 Tbsp milk or more depending on desired consistency of the icing Sprinkles
     

DIRECTIONS

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions.In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, salt, and sugar. In another bowl beat together eggs and melted butter, and then add the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.Ladle waffle batter onto the iron. Close iron top and cook until the waffle is easily removed from iron.

Mix together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Whisk in the milk until desired consistency.

Pour over hot waffles and top with sprinkles!