The husband and I just had a lovely weekend get away along the Lake Erie shore. We stayed in Port Clinton at a really nice B&B called The Five Bells: historic home, a pretty piece of property with a great deck overlooking the water. We did some bike riding in East Harbor State Park, soaked up sun, and had picnics in pretty spots. A couple of delightful hours were spent poking around a flea market where we made two excellent finds- a 101/2 inch cast iron skillet for $5 and an old-fashioned hand-held stereoscope viewer with 15 cards- the original version of 3-D bargained down from $95 to $45.
Another happy “find” was Zinc Brasserie in Sandusky. It was highly recommended by a friend whose opinion I trust when it comes to food. (Thank you Marilou). In an area that doesn’t have much to offer in the way of creative cuisine, this place is an oasis and a gem but it would be a stand-out even if the competition was stiff.
It's owned by the husband and wife team of Cesare and Andrea Avallone. He’s the chef and his house made charcuterie platter- the first thing we had- convinced me that he has what it takes to run with the big dogs of Cleveland. That night he offered duck prosciutto, country pork pate, a creamy chicken liver mousse, and seafood mousseline “corn dogs,” with pickled vegetables. The rest of the meal was just as impressive- bucatini with confit duck, butternut squash and asiago; crab cakes; truffle frite. The menu is seasonal with an emphasis on local- so local there were herbs and kale growing in the window boxes on the street front patio- French inspired and pan-Euro styled. Even the bread was excellent. We were willing to splurge on a bottle of wine- and we got something we love, an Amador County, California old vine zin- but it only cost $28. The list has lots of fine options- ranging from $23-$400- and the mark up is much less than most restaurants. You can buy bottles retail to take home too.
The long narrow dining room has an aura far removed from 21st century northeast Ohio. There’s a pressed tin ceiling, reproductions of old French food and drink posters on the walls along with multiple Wine Spectator awards and a chalkboard listing the daily specials in true French bistro fashion. The back bar is all gleaming polished wood and the zinc clad bar top, from which the restaurant takes its name, invokes the traditional Paris café look, which is completed by red velvet drapes at the windows facing the sidewalk. Though the pace was slowing down the restaurant was still busy when we left at 10 PM.
The Avallones also operate Crush, a wine bar featuring small plates almost directly across the street. We didn’t go but I hear it’s also very good. I have every reason to believe that’s true, and even more reason to head out this way again.