Friday, March 25, 2016

Portside Distillery and Brewery -- Cleveland, OH

Two weeks ago Dave and I visited the Portside Distillery and Brewery in Cleveland, in part thanks to a LivingSocial deal my friend Sara had gifted us. The deal was good for a brewery and distillery tour complete with a sample of beer and rum at the end as well as a Portside growler to take home (beer to fill the growler not included).

We arrived just before the first tour of the day started, so we decided to grab lunch and go on the second tour.

I'm not a beer person, so I chose the Seasonal Cider Cocktail which was being made with Christmas Spirit, but Tess said that the cider mixed with the Vanilla Maple Rum was an option and that it was a good combo. I went with the cider + Vanilla Maple Rum topped with dried cherries rehydrated in Vanilla Maple Rum.

I thought this drink was really good, the cider paired nicely with the Vanilla Maple Rum, but the drink wasn't too sweet overall. Definitely a nice lunch cocktail. 

Dave ordered the Winter Sampler which included Breakwall Brown Ale, Broadside Maple Barleywine, Rusalka Vanilla Stout, and Bismarck Chocolate Porter.

We split two starters for lunch the Artichoke Dip and Red Pepper Hummus. Both were good to munch on, but neither was memorably spectacular which was okay, we didn't really go to the Brewery in order to get really good food -- we were more there for the drinks. There were several sandwiches on their menu as well as some cheese plates if you're in the mood for something other than starters. 

Brewery and Distillery Tours run at 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30 on Saturdays. We signed up for the 2:30 tour when we arrived, so Tess came over to let us know when she was ready for our group to start.

First stop, the brewery, not being a beer enthusiast (and pretty much the only person who had never done a brewery tour in the group) I learned quite a bit. Tess led our tour, she was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. She also told us about things that Portside does differently than other breweries and how they go about crafting small batches of experimental brews.

There isn't a lot of space in the brewing room, so be prepared to be packed in with everyone else on the tour. Overall, I thought Tess did a great job and that the tour was interesting. 

Next we moved over to the Distillery, being attorneys we thought the information Tess provided about the differences in Ohio law about the regulations of brewing beer and distilling liquor was interesting. The distillery portion of the tour was much shorter, because there was less to talk about, but it was still interesting to both Dave and me.

After the tour everyone got a 5 ounce sample of beer and a .5 ounce sample of rum -- both of your choosing. Dave tried two brews that weren't included in his flight and we tried the Vanilla Maple Rum and Christmas Spirit Rum.

Our Living Social deal included two growlers, so Dave purchased some Breakwall Brown Ale and Rusalka Vanilla Stout to fill the growlers since he enjoyed those beers the most. Hanging-out at Portside Distillery and Brewery made for a fun afternoon in Cleveland, I'm sure Dave would want to purchase their beers in the future. 

My rating for Portside Distillery and Brewery:

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Canton Brewing Company -- Canton, OH

Last Saturday we made the mistake of trying to go to dinner in Canton without any reservations. Every where I called couldn't get us in for several hours, and we really needed to find somewhere to eat prior to an event starting at 8:00. Luckily, the Canton Brewing Company only had about a twenty-minute wait for a table and none of us had been there before, so we were happy to try something new as well.

During the wait we went downstairs to explore the Speakeasy Tap Room....

The four of us were impressed with how large the Speakeasy space is, there were quite a few people down there enjoying pizza and even a large birthday party group that had set themselves up in one of the corners. 

The restaurant upstairs also is a lot bigger than most places we've been in downtown Canton, but with the addition of the Speakeasy downstairs the space is absolutely huge. 

Overall, twenty minutes was probably a pretty accurate estimation of how long we waited for a table. Dave really enjoys beer, so he was excited to order a beer flight to try some new things.  He selected (from left) the Spiced Saison Ale, Cascade Pale Ale, Carpe Noctem Coffee Porter, and Imperial Stout.

Daves favorites were the Cascade Pale Ale and the Carpe Noctem Coffee Porter. He said that it was fun being able to sample a couple different fresh, local beers since he had never tried any of the Canton Brewing Company brews before. 

I am not a beer I went with the Dandy Shandy which was half Saison and half house made sour mix. I thought the cocktail was pretty refreshing and even though I'm usually a non-beer drinker, I was okay with drinking it.

For dinner, Dave and I split a few items, the first was the Roasted Vegetable Taco described as "grilled mixed vegetables on a Napa cabbage shell and topped with balsamic glaze." I loved this tacos, they were loaded with a variety of grilled vegetables and overall it just made for a really nice small dinner or appetizer. The tacos were messy, but these were my favorite item that we ordered, I liked that I was getting a meal that felt fresh, but wasn't a salad.

The Fried Mac & Cheese bites, pretty self-explanatory, the sauce on the side was some sort of mustard sauce and it paired nicely with the mac and cheese bites. 

And the Grilled Sweet Potato Sliders described as "sweet potato with a curry, brown sugar rub, romesco sauce, crispy onions, and spinach on slider buns served with kale chips." I thought these sliders were pretty creative, I wouldn't have thought to prepare a vegetarian slider using a piece of grilled sweet potato. Overall, these ended up being Dave's favorite item that we tried. As popular as kale has been in food trends, I'm not sure that I've ever had kale chips at another restaurant. 

This isn't even a small view of the menu, there were many other appetizers, salads, and sandwiches for both vegetarians and carnivores. I was happy with the versatility of the menu, in the ten years that I've been a vegetarian, I've never been unable to eat in a restaurant, but without a decent variety of meatless choices, sometimes that means all I can eat is a salad or some side dishes.

The Canton Brewing Company won me over with dessert too, this Buckeye Pie was too difficult to resist as a big peanut butter and chocolate lover. 

Everyone in our party left full and happy. Our server Kaitlin was very professional and helpful when it came to navigating our options on the menu. A twenty-minute wait on a Saturday night isn't bad at all when you consider that other restaurants in the area were telling us that it would be two hours or longer to get a table for four. The sheer size of the Canton Brewing Company location makes it easy for them to hold a large number of parties, which is convenient considering how small most restaurants in downtown Canton are size-wise. Dave loves trying new brews and I know this is a location that he would love to show off to family in the future whenever they come to visit us in Ohio. 

There are a few downsides to the Canton Brewing Company that didn't quite effect our experience, but are worth mentioning. Currently, they are only open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday. If I worked in Canton I would consider this a great lunch location due to the size of the restaurant and the variety of menu items. I think Sunday hours would be nice addition as well, we enjoy checking out wineries and breweries on weekends, and sometimes a lazy Sunday afternoon is the perfect time to do so. Lastly, I cannot find their menu anywhere online...I know that shouldn't bother me, but in the age of social media, I like to be able to find a menu on Facebook or a website so that I can check things out before visiting. I was glad that there were a lot of vegetarian options on the menu, but had there not been a nice variety, I would have been bummed that I couldn't have found that out before going.

My rating for the Canton Brewing Company:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Greenhouse Tavern -- Cleveland, OH

Friday evening Dave and I took a trip up to Cleveland to celebrate our anniversary. We had a gift card to the Greenhouse Tavern located on East 4th St (thanks Sara and Matt) and thought it looked like a wonderful restaurant for date night. I made a reservation one week prior to us going out and was already impressed with the staff. I received a phone call Thursday afternoon to confirm my reservation and to find out if we had any food allergies, aversions, or dietary restrictions. They also asked if we were having dinner there to celebrate anything.

When we arrived Friday evening our server, Kevin, was prepared to guide us through the vegetarian menu items and was already aware that we were there to celebrate our anniversary. Those special touches really help to elevate the dining experience. Greenhouse Tavern's menu is divided in five courses, you can choose to work your way through all five courses for a set price or mix-and-match items. The course that an item falls into is also a pretty good indication of the portion size, as the portion increases based on which course is being served.

I started off the meal with a champagne, Cointreau, and bitters cocktail. 


Dave enjoyed a beer from Victory Brewing Co. 

Rather than starting with an appetizer off of the First Course list, we decided to split an order of Pomme Frites which are served with "raw garlic, rosemary, and aioli." We enjoyed starting our meal with the Pomme Frites, it was a nice sized portion to whet our appetites for the next course, but full of enough flavor on its own for us to thoroughly enjoy them as their own course.

For dinner, I ordered off of the Thirds portion of the menu and selected Bates Farm Heirloom Greens Rigatoni, which was recommended by Kevin, the Rigatoni is house made and served with "house vinegar, Mackenzie Creamery goat cheese, modern egg, and black walnuts." Since this came off the Thirds portion of the menu, it was a nice sized dinner plate. I think everything paired well together and I can see why Kevin recommended this as one of the most popular vegetarian dinners. 

Dave chose from the Seconds portion of the menu, so his portion was slightly smaller than mine. He chose the Gnocchi Sardi, also made in house daily. This gnocchi is unlike the potato dumpling you might be used to seeing, Sardinian gnocchi looks more like a small pasta shell. The Gnocchi Sardi was served with "menage a squash, caramelized butter, crispy sage, sheep's milk cheese, and toasted pumpkin seeds." This was just as good as the rigatoni, I think the crispy fried sage added a nice touch, complementing the squash. 

For dessert we selected the Buttered Popcorn Pot de Creme, Kevin brought out our dessert with a candle and wished us a happy anniversary. I think the little touches can really help make a dining experiences and the fact that the host from Thursday passed along the information that it was our anniversary to our server was one of those nice touches. Kevin also let us know that the Buttered Popcorn Pot de Creme was on the house for our celebration.

The Pot de Creme had a thick layer of salted caramel over the top and was simply heavenly. I thought the sweet and buttery pot de creme went so nicely with the salty and sweet caramel on top. I will come back to the Greenhouse Tavern whenever I'm in Cleveland simply to order this dessert if nothing else. 

We had a wonderful experience at The Greenhouse Tavern, although the prices are a little more than we would normally spend on a meal, but I certainly don't mind splurging when we're celebrating. Kevin provided some of the best service that I've ever had in a restaurant, he was incredibly knowledgeable, paid attention to detail, and was honest in his recommendations which were all spot on. Everything we ate was of the highest quality and we left full and happy. We will certainly be keeping The Greenhouse Tavern in mind whenever we are in Cleveland.

My rating for The Greenhouse Tavern:

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Blue Door Cafe and Bakery -- Cuyahoga Falls

Last Sunday I woke-up really craving good brunch food -- our friends Kaley and Jon go out to brunch dates every weekend and I'm slightly jealous of the gorgeous photos that Kaley posts of the food from their brunch dates. Blue Door Cafe had been recommended to me by Kaley and another friend, so we decided to take a drive out to Cuyahoga Falls around noon.

The Blue Door Cafe and Bakery updates their menu weekly, so although none of the items we ate are currently available, I just took a peek at the menu that was posted March 3 and there are several items that look superb, like the French Waffle with peanut butter and blood orange jelly.

For brunch last week, I selected the Blood Orange Crepe served with white chocolate mousse, caramel vanilla macroons, and candied orange. This was incredibly divine, the crepes were cooked to perfection, the blood orange came through nicely, and the caramel sauce added just enough sweetness. 

Dave ordered a more savory item and choose something off the vegan menu called Pinto Bean Ragout which was served with baked beets, brussels sprouts, scallions, and toasted sunflower seeds. Dave thought this sounded really good, but ended up not being a fan of it. I had tried to talk him into an omelet (which looked ridiculously good when the table next to us received theirs), but he chose this instead. You live and you learn.

It's important for me to note that we didn't like this due to personal taste, not because it was under seasoned, burnt, etc. Taste is such a personal thing, so I want to be clear that just because we didn't enjoy it, doesn't mean that there was anything wrong with it, I think there's a very clear distinction between "I didn't like it" and "it was awful".

As a side dish we split the Fingerling Potatoes which were Russian fingerling potatoes and caramelized sweet onions. We thought this was really good as well, I don't eat potatoes too often, so whenever I go out for breakfast or brunch I want to see a good potato dish on the menu. The onions and potatoes had wonderful flavor and were seasoned perfectly.

While we were waiting for our brunch, we noticed a table near us had two large pieces of a heavenly looking dessert delivered to their table. We asked our server what they had ordered and she told us that it was Oma's Torte which varies every week. However, our server also said that it sells out pretty quickly, so we asked her to place our order before our brunch was served. Luckily we scored the last piece of this heavenly dessert and it was well worth the wait. 

We arrived at the Blue Door Cafe around noon and had to wait about half an hour for a table, the restaurant itself is pretty small and doesn't have a lot of parking. The businesses surrounding the Blue Door cafe weren't open on Sunday, so we were able to park relatively close to the restaurant and the wait was palatable due to the delicious smells wafting from the windows of the restaurant. The interior of the restaurant was bright and charming despite the small size.

The menu is a little pricier than what I would normally spend on brunch, but Chef Torsten Schulz does a superb job of creating interesting dishes and the portions are pretty large compared to most restaurants. Our server was professional and courteous, we also appreciated her attentiveness, such as when she put aside the last piece of Oma's torte when we suggested that we were going to be interested in ordering a piece. We left brunch full and happy, the Blue Door Cafe and Bakery is somewhere that I would certainly go to again, especially with out of town company.

My rating for Blue Door Cafe and Bakery:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Popped! -- Kent, OH

Popped! is one of the places that we miss now that we live further away from downtown Kent. This summer we spent a lot of time enjoying restaurants and events downtown and we would always stop by Popped! for a bag of popcorn before we left. I love that their business has expanded to include a wide array of chocolate items as well as ice cream and I think that their popcorn and confections make for wonderful gifts.
Dave and I stopped by Popped! last Saturday, because we were in town. We picked-up some popcorn to enjoy (Black Squirrel Crunch -- Peanut Caramel Popcorn with Kettlecorn and Milk Chocolate Covered Peanut Brittle), a box of milk chocolate assorted acorn treats (a nod to the Tree City), and some chocolate bars for a party that we were hosting that evening. 

You can see in the background of this photo that there's a little sitting area if you'd like to enjoy ice cream. There is also a nice patio area right outside of Popped! which features tables with umbrellas during the summer. 

So many delicious confections! 

That's a lot of first dollars! 

Popped! has two entrances, one for the popcorn and confections and one for the ice cream (the stores are connected though, you can easily move from one to the other with the open floor plan). During one of our coffee dates this summer Dave and I were sitting outside of Popped! when a little girl reminded her mom that they needed to use the second door, because the sign above that door had an ice cream cone on it. Neither of us had ever noticed that detail on the signs and thought that it was very clever. 

I highly recommend Popped! as a place to stop at while visiting downtown Kent, the staff is incredibly friendly and everything we've tried has been outstanding. I'm excited to try their ice cream once the weather has warmed up, I'm sure that it won't disappoint.

Here's what we purchased:
-Black Squirrel Crunch (Black Squirrel Crunch Bag)
-Waffle Crisps
-Acorn Assortment Milk
-Espresso Bark x2
-Cherry Bark x2

My rating for Popped!: