Wednesday, February 24, 2010

French Fix

It was my birthday last week. To celebrate, a friend took me to a place we both love, Le Bistro du Beaujolais in Olmstead Falls. We’ve been yearning to get there ever since it reopened at the end of October, after being closed for ten months to rebuild from a terrible fire.

The original 1830 house, designated a historic landmark, has been beautifully and lovingly restored and looks almost exactly as it did before. The two rooms are cozy and homelike, pretty in a simple understated way. Owners George and Claudie D’Arras are as gracious and welcoming as ever. And the menu and wine list are still delightfully, authentically French. We had a wonderful meal and a long leisurely evening that left us feeling as though we’d dined in a bistro on a side street in Lyon, where the couple is from, and not in a restaurant just 30 minutes from Cleveland.

We feasted first on a basket of crusty bread and a charcuterie plate- triangles of dense housemade pâté, two kinds of sausage, one coated in herbs de provence, mesculun greens and cornichon. I am fond of almost everything served here so I knew choosing an entrée would be difficult. Luckily Georges settled the matter by whispering that he had enough coq au vin left in the kitchen for the two of us. The marinated slow cooked dish and true country style comfort food isn’t regularly available so we couldn’t possible say no. And I’m glad we didn’t. Served in a big bowl, the dark meat was incredibly tender and full of complex earthy flavor, and the noodles were studded with pearl onions, mushrooms and carrots and doused with the sauce created by long simmering. We asked him for, and received, a wine recommendation that led us to a fantastic (and really reasonably priced) bottle of Bordeaux Chateau Vergnes Beaulieu 2005, a Cabernet Merlot blend that was smooth and balanced. We went with apple tart for a finish, and what Georges calls a “zip zip” of heavenly Muscat de Rivesaltes 1990. He and Claudie even sang to Happy Birthday to me, in French of course which made it better.

I keep thinking about things I want to eat from Claudie’s menu- mussels steamed in white wine; baked skate in a vermouth reduction; stewed rabbit; and honey roasted duck, so its clear I’ll have to get back soon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dan's the Man

Cleveland Magazine editor Steve Gleydura sat down with Dan Gilbert to talk Cavs, casinos and more during today's Corporate Club luncheon at Executive Caterers at Landerhaven. Gilbert, who explained his team's approach to everything from crafting a casino proposal to expanding the Cavs marketing potential in China, had the crowd laughing and learning from his experiences. Here's a few highlights:

On yesterday's trade for Antawn Jamison:
"Trading rumors are almost completely true."

On the controversy of removing water fountains from the Q:
"Bottled water sales are up. Without sales of bottle water, trades like this don't happen."
(Note: Gilbert drink of choice throughout the event? A bottle of water.)

"We are feeling better about our overall water policy at this point."

On the casino:
"We hope to have a shovel in the ground this calendar year. By 2013 we could be up and running."

On the negative comments about him during the casino campaign:
"Three things always come out: the sun, the moon and the truth."

On winning an NBA championship:
"Basketball at the end of the day is a ball and that ball can bounce the wrong way."

"All that we can do as an organization is put people in the right places."

"When you have LeBron James, Shaq and Antawn things look pretty good."

On doing whatever he can to keep LeBron in Cleveland:
"We are doing everything we can to make our organization great regardless of who's here. LeBron will be attracted to it. Period."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Where's Dinner

Remember that goofy series Where’s Waldo from the late ‘80’s? These kids’ books were filled with incredibly detailed pictures. The goal was to locate the image of the bespectacled character amidst all the visual complexity. Sometimes trying to find a recipe from one of the many cookbooks I own is like that for me. I know it’s there, but I’m not sure where. Though I rarely follow recipes precisely, I like to check on the details of those I don’t remember well or review the ingredient list before I go shopping. My choices were to flip through volume after volume, go hunting for a similar recipe online which was quicker and easier, or just wing it and hope for the best.

Now there’s another option. I just signed up for a free 30 day trail at Eat Your Books, a new online subscription recipe database. The creators have indexed over 200,000 recipes from 900 of the most popular cookbooks of the last 15 years. All the big names-chefs and titles- are represented. I entered five books from my collection and 4000 recipes were instantly organized, categorized, and managable. I can look for recipes based on ingredients, occasion, food type, and ethnicity, as well as title or author. I can access and use the material I already own in the same way that I hunt for recipes of the web. Clickable options generate shopping lists, create menus, tag favorite recipes and sort them according to personal criteria. I can even submit a request to have a cookbook on my shelf indexed if it has not already been done.

The site, which charges a fee, does not actually reproduce the recipes. (No need- you've already got them). It tells you where to find them. That’s the Waldo part. And once you have a personalized cookbook library with the convenience of a computerized catalog equipped with a variety tools and functions, the only question left is- Where’s dinner?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Triple dose of Cribbs in town tomorrow

We were happy to hear that the Browns and Josh Cribbs have stopped squabbling and started negotiating, leaving our favorite kick returner, wide receiver and wildcatter in brighter spirits than when he cleaned out his locker last month.

It's also a relief that he's thinking about someone else getting paid. Cribbs will hold a signing from 3 to 5 p.m. tomorrow at Coventry's newest skate shop, Legndary, to benefit former Browns buddy Steve Sanders' youth outreach program, My H.O.O.D. (Helping Others Organize Dreams). There's no cover, but if you spend $30 on a T-shirt autographed by Cribbs, you'll not only help Sanders' cause, you can let Cribbs know how much you want him in Cleveland, even if you can't personally pay him the big bucks.

Still, his appearance won't be entirely selfless. After all, it's "Pay Josh Cribbs" T-shirts he's signing — how's that for irony?

But if you're tied up and can't make this one, Cribbs will paint the town orange and brown tomorrow night, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Barley House, then from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. at the Josh Cribbs ProBowl Party at the View Ultra-Lounge and Nightclub. If that's not enough Cribbs for you, then we don't know what is.

Go Off the Eaten Path

Taking your honey out to a fabulous and extravagant dinner is a treasured February ritual and one I heartily endorse. But you don’t have to spend the big bucks to show your Valentine some love. When it comes to where to go or what to have for that special drink or meal I think the crazy, quirky, unexpected gesture is utterly romantic. Here are ten ideas for how to say you care.

-50’s style date, updated: One Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Bacon (yes-all that stuff really is in there) milkshake with bourbon at B Spot, two straws.

-Elegant interlude: Afternoon tea British style in the Lobby Lounge at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

-For adventurous types: Sunday Dim Sum downtown at Li Wah

-Sweet excess: Chocolate fondue for two at the Velvet Tango Room

-Raw passion: the Sushi Bridge for two at Pacific East on Coventry

-Express Yourself with Espresso: the Lover’s Latte (white chocolate, cinnamon, steamed half-n-half) and the I Love You version (chocolate and raspberry syrup, steamed half-n-half) at Lucky’s Cafe

-Cook Together (but let somebody else wash the dishes): grill your own dinner at Seoul Hot Pot (3709 Payne Avenue, Cleveland)

-Say it in French (because it always sounds better): Sunday Brunch at Le Petit Triangle Cafe

-Happiness for homebodies: a take out Cajun feast from Battiste and Dupree (1992 Warrensville Center Road, South Euclid). Just add candles.

-Boxed Magic: Love Potion Number 91/2- heart shaped chocolates made with dried strawberries kissed with balsamic vinegar from Lily’s in Tremont

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Loving LeBron

There weren't too many commercials during this year's Super Bowl that really wowed us, but we always have a soft spot in our hearts for LeBron. The six-time All-Star teamed up with Dwight Howard to reinvent the classic '90s Larry Bird/Michael Jordan bit for McDonald's. That got us thinking of our favorite LBJ commercials over the years. While there's plenty to choose from (who can forgot him singing "Time After Time" to promote the NBA?), we picked our three favorites. 

Which one reigns supreme? Which ones did we miss? Tell us what you think.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Live Long and Prosper[ity]

I like the Prosperity Social Club in Tremont. A lot. It’s my kind of place from the neighborhood tavern vibe and well worn vintage furnishings to the drinkable, modestly priced wines on the little list and the really good food. I like the way upscale and its opposite come together seamlessly here, and I feel at ease amongst the clientele. a mixed bag of ages and attitudes . But I don’t go there often, in large part because I live on the other side of town. So I was so pleased when an old friend I hadn't seen in a long time suggested this as our meetup spot for some kicking back and catching up.

It was still Happy Hour when we settled in on bar stools so I was able to get a big glass of sangria for just $4.50, which led to a second. The mussels were just $3 a dozen. Hummus, stuffed grape leaves, potato pancakes and empanadas could all be had for a fiver until the clock struck 7 pm. It was also a Wednesday, and on Wednesdays Prosperity offers what they call Recession Relief, knocking $3 off the price of every entrée. Makes me hungry just thinking about this deal. Other nights have their own special perks: $5 cheeseburgers on Tuesdays and on Thursdays the $15.50 strip steak is just $10. Kitchen’s open late too.
And did I mention the game room? Oh, and the live music two nights a week? What it all adds up to is an affordable way to get out and socialize.
Photos by Jesse Kramer