Saturday, January 30, 2016

Vaccaro's Trattoria -- Akron, OH

We visited Vaccaro's Trattoria at the beginning of January, because our friend Dennis works as a manager there and had been scheduled for a few bar shifts. We decided to enjoy our meals at the bar in order to visit with Dennis. Dave and I were both pretty hungry, so we ended up doing a four course meal with several glasses of wine, so I have a lot of photos to share with you.

First, Dave and I started out with the Eggplant French Fries with "basil oil, parmesan, spicy aioli." We both enjoyed these, they had good flavor and were crispy on the outside, but still soft on the inside. I think the spicy aioli paired nicely with the seasoning on the outside of the fries.

For my meal I enjoyed the Burrata Fruit Salad which included burrata smothered in a wine glaze and fresh fruit on the side, all to be topped on a piece of grilled baguette. This was one of the best meals I have ever had, the wine sauce really helped to tie the entire meal together and the burrata spread on top of the baguette, topped with fruit was heavenly. 

Dave decided to build his own pasta dish and selected Rigatoni with Puttanesca Sauce topped with Zucchini and Squash. It's a little difficult to tell from this photo, but it was a pretty large portion of pasta. Dave managed to power through his portion and still have room for dessert...actually Dave was pretty full after eating this, but Dennis tempted us with mini glazed doughnuts and then I couldn't resist ordering them. 

How delicious do these look? Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, the glaze on the doughnuts wasn't too sweet, but rather just enough sweetness to complement the meal that we had just finished. 

This was one of the more pricey places that we've eaten, but everything was delicious and I'd happily go back for a special occasion. Vaccaro's Trattoria offers online reservations, so make sure to place one before you go to ensure that you can have a table at the time you'd like. We received wonderful service, and not just because our friend was our server, we were also treated very well by the owner of Vaccaro's Trattoria. Our friend Dennis even recommended a White Pinot Noir to our friends Steph and Preston who are strictly Riesling drinkers, and they loved it so much that Steph bought a glass. Overall, we had a nice night out and enjoyed wonderful and inventive food.

My rating for Vaccaro's Trattoria:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Caffe Gasperi -- Hudson, OH

This past weekend Dave and I went on a short hike in Sagamore Hills at Brandywine Falls. It was a sunny, but still chilly day, so before meeting up with his aunt and uncle for our dinner plans, we made a coffee detour. After a brief search of "coffee shops in Hudson" we decided to visit Caffe Gasperi, because I really liked the website.

On the day we went to Caffe Gasperi, we were delighted to find out that owner of Gasperi, Laura, was the barista who served us.

We arrived at Caffe Gasperi about an hour before closing, so there weren't too many baked goods left (which I like to see, that's a sign of success), but biscotti and scones were still available. 

The centerpiece of Caffe Gasperi is the Elektra Espresso machine. The Elektra at Caffe Gasperi is one of only five or six currently being used in American coffee shops. Most espresso machines are flat-fronted, but the Elektra's round design allows more than one person to work at a time.

I ordered a Salted Caramel Latte, so I got to see the Elektra at work. Although I'm a coffee lover, I'm by no means a barista. Laura gave me a little lesson on what goes into making the perfect latte. The milk is steamed to a temperature of 120-140 degrees, anything over that will burn the milk and make the espresso bitter. The perfect latte should have microfoam bubbles to help the milk properly bind to the espresso in the latte. 


Those who know me and my love of coffee know that sometimes I can be a little overzealous. I took a sip of my Salted Caramel Latte before taking a photo of the latte art, so Laura said I could use a photo from Caffe Gasperi's Instagram to show an example of the latte art the baristas at Caffe Gasperi have been working on -- check out their Instagram to see more, I personally love the CATpuccino posted two weeks ago. 

There are two rooms available for patrons, we chose to sit in the second room which includes a loft and several little nooks and crannies for a person to hole up to enjoy coffee and get some work done. There were several people scattered throughout the areas in this room, so I wasn't able to get photos of the entire room. The decor is a little eclectic, but in a way that really works -- from the art on the walls to the pillows on the sofa seating, a lot of attention has been paid to the details. 

Dave and I also enjoyed some vanilla and chocolate biscotti with our coffee. I personally enjoyed both, but I think Dave had a preference for the chocolate biscotti.

A Salted Caramel Latte is the perfect drink to enjoy after a chilly hike...

Laura was happy to let me take photos of everything except for the menus...and if you're a long time reader of Ohio Wanderlust, then you know that this is the second time I've been asked not to take photos of a coffee shop menu (see my Muggswigz Coffee and Tea post).

Dave and I were perplexed by this, both at Caffee Gasperi and at Muggswigz and since we're both lawyers we were also intrigued by the reason behind that no photo policy, especially since the content of the menus are often listed on the shop's website. As best I can figure out, many coffee shops, especially locally owned shops prefer to keep the design of their menu boards under wraps as best as possible. There is a lot of competition between local coffee shops and the design of the menu boards is unique to each shop and each owner has a proprietary interest in their menu board design. The more you know right? I made sure to crop the menu boards out of the frame of the photos I took at Caffe Gasperi, so if you're wondering why everything is shot from waist height, that would be the answer...

Overall, both of us were happy with Caffee Gasperi, Dave enjoyed his regular coffee, I enjoyed my Salted Caramel Latte and biscotti. The atmosphere was lovely and Laura was very friendly. She said that all of her baristas participate in a two week training to become certified and then shadow an already trained barista for a week, so you should be able to expect great service.

My rating for Caffe Gasperi:

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Akron Coffee Roasters Tasting -- Akron, OH

The Akron Art Museum is now selling Akron Coffee Roasters coffee in their cafe. As a way to help kick off the sale of this coffee and to help area coffee lovers become more aware of their favorite beverage, the museum hosted a coffee tasting event led by the Akron Coffee Roasters. This sold out event was informative and a great way to spend a Thursday evening.

The Akron Coffee Roasters (obviously based in Akron) are very persnickety about coffee in the best way possible. All of their coffee is specialty coffee, sourced from individual farms and mills, roasted in house and then sold to people like you and me. Each coffee that they roast and package is seasonal, because the coffee beans that they're receiving are always changing due to a variety of factors. The tasting event at the Akron Art Museum included three African coffees, because that's what is currently in season, as well as a blend. All of the coffees were paired with a cookie from the West Side Bakery.

The Four Coffees:

1.) Gitesi: From Rwanda, of the bourbon variety, tasting of vanilla, allspice, and Darjeeling tea.
2.) Karinga: From Kenya, of the SL-28 and SL-34 variety, tasting of citrus candy, tea, and cardamom.
3.) Konga: From Ethipopia, of the heirloom variety, tasting of strawberries, cocoa, and cinnamon.
4.) Interrobang Espresso Blend: 50% Colombia, 30% Mexico, 20% Tanzania. 

The Four Cookies:

1.) Ginger Drop: Ginger and molasses cookie coated in coarse white sugar.
2.) Raspberry Jam Pots: Cream cheese cookie dough with raspberry preserves and toasted coconut macaroons.
3.) Neapolitans: French sable dough with vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.
4.) Mocha Viennese Swirls: Chocolate and coffee cookie with corn meal crunch, dipped in chocolate.

Tim and Al, the owners of Akron Coffee Roasters, did a wonderful job running the tasting. Both were very knowledgeable about their products and the origin behind each. The farms that their coffee is sourced from are small farms of about 160 trees per coffee farm. They know how much farmers are paid for the coffee and they name each batch of beans after the region or mill that it comes from in an effort to connect the coffee back to where it came from.

In order to be specialty coffee, the coffee must score above 80% on a set scoring list. One of the components of the scoring list is flavor notes, which can be seen in the chart below. Coffee, like fine wine, should have many different flavor notes, although different tastes will likely be apparent to different people.

The Akron Coffee Roasters also provided unroasted beans from the Gitesi and Konga coffees for us to check out. The difference in how the two smelled was incredible, and the Konga beans had a nice fruity scent which was similar to the flavor notes of "strawberry jam" that the coffee was said to have.


After the event many participants purchased bags of coffee beans -- all of the ones we tasted were available for sale. You can check out the Akron Coffee Roasters website to purchase online, find a place to purchase a bag of coffee beans in the Akron area, or to find a list of locations which serve Akron Coffee Roasters coffee freshly brewed.  

Since I was already at the Museum and admission is free on Thursdays, I checked out the art galleries for a bit before heading home. I snapped photos of the two pieces below, both were amazing. I'll do a follow-up post with a full review of the Akron Art Museum once Dave is able to attend with me, he really enjoys art and I'd like to check out the museum together.

By Mickalene Thomas.
By Natalie Lanese

I'm excited to attend more collaborated events between Akron Coffee Roasters and the Akron Art Museum -- as of Thursday, it sounded like more events were in the works for the future. Tim and Al are incredibly knowledgeable about the coffees that they have roasted as well as coffee in general. There was an eclectic group of coffee drinkers in attendance -- at my table alone there was a partially retired nurse, a musician, a graphic designer, a recent graduate in applied mathematics and a polymer engineering student (and a lawyer/hobby blogger, me!). But everyone around the room seemed to have a wonderful time at the event and I'm sure I'm not the only person who learned a lot.

My rating for the Akron Coffee Roasters Tasting at the Akron Art Museum:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Vinoteca Wine Bar -- Canton, OH

My friends and I checked out Vinoteca Wine Bar off Hills and Dales Rd in Canton on New Year's Day. Our wine connoisseur friend had been interested in checking out Vinoteca for a while, but his schedule never aligned with the hours -- they're open 5:00-11:30 on Friday and Saturday evenings. You're able to make a reservation, but on this particular day we were able to get a table for six without a problem.

Sash and Rekha Parbhoo are the owners of Vinoteca Wine Bar. Both are incredibly knowledgeable about wine and it's important to note that this isn't your "typical" wine bar. Don't expect shot glass type samples, you will of course get to taste the wine to make sure that it's up to your standards. There is no menu, there are no listed prices. Sash or Rekha will find out your price range per glass or by the bottle and get an idea of what types of wine you prefer and they'll select a bottle for you.

These are high end wines too...below is a bottle of wine from my birth year.

Dave, our friend Kaley, and I all prefer sweet wines -- we started out with Rinaldi Moscato d'Asti.

Our friends with more discerning palates split two bottles of wine a Cava (pictured below) and a Croze-Hermitage Syrah (2005).

As far as decor in Vinoteca, it was a cozy place and is a nice option for date night or a night out with friends. There is a wide variety of seating available, they have tables for both big and small groups, as well as a bar if you prefer getting to know new people. The lights are dim and the music is playing audibly, but not so loud that you need to shout over your neighbor.

Although Vinoteca doesn't have a food menu, there are several restaurants in the area that deliver to Vinoteca and the table next to us was sharing some holiday cookies.

The wine enthusiasts in our group were particularly pleased with Vinoteca, they have more refined palates and more knowledge about wine and are better suited to enjoy a wine bar like this. Dave and I enjoy wine and were happy with the bottle of wine that we had. I would go back to Vinoteca with friends and enjoy some take-out with a good bottle of wine, but I guess for those of us (like Dave and me) with lesser wine palates paying for an expensive bottle of wine often is kind of lost on us, whereas, our friend Dennis can really appreciate the finer notes.

My rating for Vinoteca:

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Brimfield Bread Oven -- Brimfield, OH

My wonderful and amazing best friend clued me into the opening of the Brimfield Bread Oven. Although she's now in Georgia she stays more in tune to the Northeast Ohio restaurant scene than most people I know who are actually living in NEO. Sara sent me a link to an article about the Brimfield Bread Oven right before their opening day on January 6, 2016 and I knew that I needed to make a trip over there this weekend.

Embarrassing facts: I wasn't sure the potato, rosemary and sea salt focaccia was going to make it home so that I could photo it. We were there right as it came out of the oven, so it went into the to-go bag still warm. Dave was tearing off pieces and feeding them to me while I drove back down 76. Luckily, we managed to behave ourselves long enough to get the bread into the apartment so that I could share a photo with you. 

Jud and Genevieve Smith have been working hard to get this location open and since Wednesday they've been enjoying lots of love from the local community.

The Brimfield Bread Oven uses a 20-ton wood-fired brick oven to accomplish baking all of the bread, pastries, and pizza that they sell. This unique cooking vessel lends itself to something called baking on the curves -- meaning items will be ready at different times based on the heat of the oven. The Smiths explain this process as follows on their website:

The daily bake begins at 4am and goes until 3pm. During that time, new bread and pastry is continually coming out of the oven, so depending on what you are looking for, it may make sense to call and ask when it will be ready each day. We bake everything "on the curve" in our wood fired oven. "Baking on the curve" means we bake high temperature items first and cooler temperature items last. 

We arrived pretty early in the day, so we were able to pick-up some of the higher temperature items, whereas lower temperature items such as the pain au chocolat (which I will be going back to try this week, by the way) aren't ready until later in the day. This is also why the pizzas are only made from 5:30-9:00 p.m. when the oven temperature is just right.

When we arrived four types of focaccia had just come out of the oven, scones were ready, as were cheddar sticks and pretzels. If you're looking for a particular menu item, you're able to call the Brimfield Bread Oven for an approximation of when it will be available.

Aside from the baking/sale area, the Brimfield Bread Oven does have a side room, once they have coffee available, this would be a lovely place to enjoy a pastry and some coffee. 


We left the Brimfield Bread Oven with five items -- Potato, Rosemary, Sea Salt Focaccia, a Lemon Blueberry Scone, a Cherry Almond Scone, a Cheddar Stick, and a loaf of day old bread (not pictured here) that I'm using for French Toast tomorrow morning.

Below is the lovely Potato, Rosemary, Sea Salt Focaccia which almost didn't make it back to our apartment. This was heavenly, especially when still warm from the oven. The seasoning was on point, the potato slices were nice and crispy on top with just the right amount of olive oil seeping into each bite. We were so in love with this focaccia, I wasn't sure we were going to try anything else.

Next up was the Cherry Almond Scone. I told Dave that I couldn't possibly love something more than I love this. His response upon trying a piece was, "Damn". The scone is subtly sweet, certainly not like one of those saccharine sweet dessert scones that you can pick-up places. This is a proper scone, with the right amount of crumble, the right amount of give and plenty of flavor from the cherries and almonds.

Of course, I caved and tried the Lemon Blueberry Scone -- I think Dave preferred this one over the Cherry, but the Cherry was my favorite. This one also has a great texture to it and a taste that is perfect for breakfast -- nothing too sweet about this scone. The crust that formed on the outside of these from the cooking method is probably the best part -- trust me, you've never had a scone like this before. 

This is part of the Cheddar Stick, this also was lucky to make it back to our apartment. The Cheddar Stick is described by the Brimfield Bread Oven as "Our French bread rolled into a thin stick with Cabot white cheddar and a hint of cracked black pepper." This was probably Dave's favorite thing that we tried all day, the cheddar cheese comes through nicely. 


Run, don't walk, to the Brimfield Bread Oven. Check out their website and call before you go if you're looking for something specific. We already have plans to go back for some pain au chocolat and to bring friends to try their pizza. Jud and Genevieve have really tapped into an untapped market in this area and Ohio Wanderlust would like to wish them much success and can't wait to patronize the Brimfield Bread Oven for years to come.

My rating for the Brimfield Bread Oven: