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Posts Tagged ‘CLEGourmand’

Brewnuts, Cleveland: The Ohio Donut Trail

Posted by CMH Gourmand on July 19, 2018

I have been an advocate of pairing donuts with beer since at least 2010. Being a peripheral member of the craft beer industrial complex, it was inevitable that Brewnuts would come on my radar. While I wish I could say it was love at first bite, for years I had to be content to love Brewnuts from afar for alas, my life is in Columbus and Brewnuts was born in Cleveland. The description from the Brewnuts website provides some insight as to why I love what they do. I would say I “got them” the first time I heard about them.

Brewnuts is the lovechild of two Clevelanders – Shelley & John Pippin – who gave up their jobs working for “The Man” to pursue their three favorite things: donuts, beer and Cleveland.

Long story short, one night Shelley bolted up in bed and asked John what he thought about the idea of making craft beer based donuts. After a long pause he said “I like that.” The next day we went out and bought a countertop fryer and got busy hatching our plan to make Cleveland’s most unique and delicious donuts

The donuts are made with beer. They are hand crafted, in small batches without pre-made mixes. The varieties are inspired by the local beers they pour into the mix. When Brewnuts started they could be found in limited quantities in select places in Cleveland like Phoenix Coffee. When I saw they were building out a storefront that would also be a local craft beer bar I knew I had to get there somehow, someway, someday soon….but I had to wait a very long time to make my donut Haj. Brewnuts was everything I wanted it to be and more the second I walked through the door.

I had a limited time to explore since I had a child melting down and a spouse that was literally melting from the heat. I had just enough time to explore the place inside and out as well as to order two donuts. Long time readers of the Ohio Donut Trail adventures know I am a cake donut man, but in this case, I was happy to consume yeast donuts….and I liked it.

I tried one cannoli donut. It tasted like some of the best cannoli I have sampled anywhere. It was fresh, flavorful and clearly used premium ingredients. I also tried one Limoncello donut. This tasted like some of the best Limoncello I sipped in Italy years ago. This donut was also super fresh. As the menu board noted, it did contain alcohol. For most of the donuts, the ABV part of alcohol is cooked out in the donut making process but for the high-test stuff, a trace off alcohol remains. It this case it just added more flavor to the donut. Both donuts were exceptional. If I had time (and a budget) to try more I would have gladly studied these in-depth seated at the bar while creating craft beer pairings for hours on end.

Speaking of craft beer, the selections showcased the best of what Cleveland craft beer has to offer and the beer menu would rival any other craft bar in the region with a similar number of taps. Brewnuts does everything right. It is a great addition to the Gordon Square neighborhood. And it is yet another reason why I love the CLE. Donut Mess with Cleveland.

Brewnuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in bar, beer, CLEGourmand, donuts, Ohio, Ohio Donut Trail, Road Trip | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

(The Magic of) Melt: The New Bomb Turkey & The Cleveland/Columbus Connection

Posted by CMH Gourmand on November 21, 2012

In this season of Thanksgiving, I give thanks to the fine city of Cleveland and the gifts it has given me over the years – friends and food. I was a late arrival at fandom for Melt, but when it hit, it hit big. I had my first Melt encounter in 2011 and so far every trip back has been an award winner. The two locations I sampled were equal in eating experience. That is no easy task.

Melt Bar & Grilled, in the simplest sense, comes down the a simple concept. People like bread and people like cheese and they want it grilled. Add in a beer, or two, or a gourmet pop and contentment can be had for less than $20. However, few places really make a grilled cheese that is memorable or craveable. Melt does deliver the goods and gets people to come back for more.

What is the magic formula the makes this place so universally loved and appealing? Clearly not just something but many things must click with the concept to attract the likes of Man vs. Food, Diners, Drive- In’s and Dives and CMH Gourmand.

The first Melt opened in Lakewood in 2006. Matt Fish, the chef/owner concocted a formula that taps into our distant memories of childhood, what we liked best about our early twenties and the character of Cleveland’s communities that Melt melts into. What Fish created was the type of bar he would want to go to – that had gourmet comfort food that was good, creative and fun.

Let’s start with the gourmet. The key to any good sandwich is the bread. Melt’s bread is made fresh daily. Other items made in-house include the dressings and soups. Bratwurst are sourced locally. Many of the monthly specials source from local purveyors and all can be transformed into vegan or vegetarian versions with no loss of flavor or hipness. The sandwiches themselves are portioned large with combinations ranging from creative, to envelope pushing and downright crazy. But maybe crazy like a fox, or Fish, as the case may be. Take the Parmageddon: 2 potato and cheese pierogi, napa vodka kraut, grilled onions and lots of cheddar cheese on thick Texas Toast style bread served with hand cut fries and house made sweet slaw. The price? – $10.50 American. That is a meal. The rest of the menu reads like this including items such as lasagna, mixed berry preserves, hand breaded eggplant, house made crab cakes and fried tofu.

Okay, to track back a bit, I guess I covered some of the creative part already but let’s look at the elements of the space that show the creativity component. The menu’s are presented on old LP album covers. The walls and pretty much everything is covered and coated in Cleveland paraphernalia, each monthly special seems to try to top the previous offering with a bold assortment of flavors that maybe should not go together….but do. Want to save 25% on your meals for life? Get a Melt Tattoo on your body to become a human marketing machine. Seem to gimmicky to you? It has worked on 400 plus people. Old (one might call them vintage) movies play in the background while local rock and sports memorabilia line the walls and bathroom stalls. There is a lot to eat at Melt and even more to look at.

Now, moving on to the fun aspect of the place. Every observation I have made in my visits and every review I have read has noted that the staff at Melt are friendly and seem to genuinely enjoy what they are doing and where they are working at. The servers are all able to express their individuality and many say they hang out at Melt in their off hours. There seems to be something infectious to the place that puts people on all sides of the house at ease.

Maybe one of the things that adds to the relaxed feel is the bar part of Bar & Grilled. Melt has a lot of beer. And as the Dining Duder said on one scouting trip “not only do they have a lot of beer, but it is all good beer”. The Dining Duder is not one to experience irrational exuberance over a comfort food restaurant beer list – his refined tastes ask more than that and he was not giving the compliment away. Fish started out with over 100 beers on his opening day menu and has added more over time. The beer list is a bit overwhelming but the depth is impressive. Many a local or regional brew is present as well as other harder to find microbrews from everywhere else.

The place(s) has character and seem to hire many characters to work in the business. Even though there are four locations, it does not feel like a restaurant empire, each place feels like a neighborhood hangout.

Do I like the place – well, of course I do, but I like it maybe a little more than I should, and I am Okay with that. Melt is the girlfriend that serves you her homemade meatballs not the one that tries to stop you from trying the Melt Challenge. Melt is a keeper.

But let’s finally stop beating around the bush and talk about the title of this piece and the first photo. What is the New Bomb Turkey? It is a sandwich offered every November as a toast to Thanksgiving and a tribute to the New Bomb Turks. Most of the members of the band hailed from Cleveland but the band formed in Columbus and still calls the home. I know this because I know them all and watched them rock out at Little Brothers and Beachland Ballroom. Matt Fish was in several bands in the Cleveland punk scene of the same era so the sandwich name and the music in the background are Fish’s hat tip to his roots and one of his inspirations.

How about another Columbus connection? Melt is coming to Columbus…..soon. Will the spirit and spunk of Cleveland be able to replicate itself in the capital city? I am not sure, but the New Bomb Turks survived the transition, maybe we will too.

Many of my readers are Cleveland transplants. A few (CLEGourmand fans) live in Cleveland. I encourage you to try a New Bomb Turkey while there is still time this season or make a commitment to do so went Melt opens in Columbus in 2013. Let me know what you think of the sandwich. And let me know if you believe Melt will melt the hearts of the capital city or have a meltdown. I know what I am hoping for and where I want that location to be.

Melt Bar & Grilled
(Four Locations, details below)

Melt Bar & Grilled on Urbanspoon

Posted in CLEGourmand, restaurants, sandwiches | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

CLEGourmand: Green Growing, Dining & Drinking is Thriving in Cleveland

Posted by CMH Gourmand on December 28, 2010

In October, as a guest of Positively Cleveland, I spent four days eating and drinking from morning to midnight..or later. Great meals were eaten and in the process I met scores of chefs and culinary entrepreneurs. I learned much about the progressive food scene in Cleveland as well as why it works so well and how it is growing so fast. The spirit and enthusiasm of the people I met was impressive and infectious. The spirit that permeates the Cleveland culinary scene can’t be typecast but I will try to describe it.

The first word that comes to mind is pride. Everyone I met was proud of his or her product, their staff and especially their city. Collaboration was a term that came up frequently as well. Chef’s and business owners are competitive by nature but in Cleveland the overriding spirit was who can I partner with to make this dish local, what information can I share that might make this idea work better, what can I do to make this event happen, etc. Clevelanders get that what is good for one business is ultimately good for all of their peers as well. Everyone was focused on using as much local and regional foods and suppliers possible to grow their business and their customer base.

There is a major green movement growing in Cleveland, which may seem counterintuitive for a “rust belt” city but ultimately it makes sense. A green restaurant recycles building materials and sources from products from people they know and trust. The resourcefulness needed to pull this off in a cold weather climate takes a certain character that is inherent to living in Cleveland. It also builds community. Collectively these Cleveland culinarians have a vision that uses their pride and collaborative skills to grow. Ultimately, I think it will be a trademark of their city in years to come.

At each place visited, we would ask the chef and/or owner where they liked to eat in their off hours. They all listed familiar names we heard repeatedly. This sustainable/green movement is working in Cleveland because it has been successful. It will get better because it has the right people pushing it forward. Time and time again, I heard hot shot, globetrotting chefs at all star restaurants state that they grew up in Cleveland and meant to stay to make a mark on their town. Non-natives said they moved to Cleveland by choice so they could have the freedom and financial flexibility to create the food they wanted (and grow a family while growing a business). In the high profile world of celebrity chefs where the notion is you can’t compete if you do not live in New York, LA or London, making a decision to stay in Cleveland might seem crazy. I think it is genius.

Eliminating waste, sourcing local, working hard and repurposing anything and everything were core values of early immigrants to the city over a century ago, now these values are being recycled. So what are these food first folks up to? Almost every restaurant/purveyor was growing some of their own food in small or large spaces. If they were not growing their own food then they were cooking with something from other local supplier. Many of the menus were created with food from within 100 miles of downtown Cleveland. Here are a few examples.

Chef Jonathon Sawyer is a semi-finalist for the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef, a former Michael Symon sous chef and farm to plate fundamentalist. In league with some other Lolita and Lola alumni, he started The Greenhouse Tavern. The restaurant was created to be LEED certified. The menu changes weekly to reflect the tastes and the flavors of the region as well as what is in season. Everything that can be recycled (such as building materials – take a look around when you dine there) is reused in some manner.

The connection to their food is intimate. In addition to listing all of their suppliers (and employees) on the menu, each Friday two cooks are sent to slaughter and process the chickens for use during the week. Farmers are growing for the restaurant’s demands, so no food is wasted that does not have an intended home on the menu. The best quote from our host was “If the food starts out good, you don’t have to dress it up”. Good food tastes better at the Greenhouse Tavern.

The Greenhouse Tavern
2038 East 4th Street

I could be a bit biased about Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC). While I was there, the first batches of their hallowed and stalked Christmas Ale were being poured and cased for shipment. I was able to sample the 2010 batch before the masses. That was a great Christmas present in October. GLBC was the first microbrewery in Ohio (1988) bringing back the brewing heritage of Cleveland. The sustainable focus of the company started early on with everyone exuding a waste not, want not philosophy. An easy to eat example at the brewpub is a serving of pretzels made with spent grain from the brewing rocess (served with Stadium and Bertman’s Ball Park mustards of course). GLBC uses sustainable initiatives to drive their bottom line. The “Fatty Wagon” is the shuttle bus used to take fans to Cleveland Indians games; it is fueled by vegetable oil waste. The brewing and brewpub buildings feature many energy efficient features. Anything that can be recycled, reused or repurposed is utilized – underfilled beer ends up in soups and sauces, spent rewery grains feed livestock, build breads and fertilize GLBC’s Pint Size farm as well as The Ohio City Farm.

Great Lakes Brewing Company
2516 Market Avenue
Ohio City, West Side

Ohio City Farm is sandwiched between the West Side Market, a metropolitan housing complex and lots of urban spaces with Cleveland landmark Terminal Tower in the background. It is the largest urban farm in our nation. Plans are in the works to create a root cellar and other innovations to allow the farm to be sustainable and profitable year round. The farm supports a community kitchen, which provides an incubating workspace for entrepreneurs to prepare, process and package their products for sale. Their Farm Stand at the West Side Market is the only produce stall, which sells exclusively local goods and produce. Displaced migrant farmers help grow vegetables on the farm using the skills from their home countries while they adapt to life in Ohio. To say this farm is progressive…is an understatement.

Ohio City Farm
West 24th and Bridge Ave
Ohio City

A little farther out (as in Cleveland Hopkins Airport) on the sustainable, green friendly field is AMP 150. This newer restaurant is located in the updated Cleveland Airport Marriott. The team of chefs surprise guests in multiple ways. “What is a nice farm to plate restaurant doing in a place like this?” Well, in addition to making a long layover much more palatable, AMP 150 is serving up some incredible food. Everything is hand crafted in house including the pasta and pickles. The list of ingredients and suppliers on the menu reads like a who’s who of the best Ohio artisan food has to offer. In addition, for your final surprise, the kitchen plants, grows and harvests some of their produce in a large garden running the length the rear parking lot. If you dine or fly in, I suggest the pate and the eggplant tater tots.

AMP 150
4277 West 150th Street
(West Park, Southwest)

The Ritz-Carlton Cleveland may be the best hotel I have stayed in (I was not there often due to a rigourous schedule of eating, drinking and researching). Fortunately, for me, the hotel has an award-winning restaurant as well (AAA Four-Diamond Award and the Mobil Travel Guide Four-Star Award for starters). I met the three main “cooks” at Muse: Chef Richard Sören Arnoldi Chef de Cuisine Constantine Vourliotis and Banquet Chef Benjamin Davison. Each chef has honed their craft in kitchens across the world but they chose to plant themselves in Cleveland to make their mark and put on the ritz for rock stars, the rich and famous. Two of these chefs say the best corned beef in the world can be bought at a Hungarian stand at the West Side Market. They each mentioned many other reasons they want to cook and live in Cleveland. Chef Constantine spent some of his childhood exploring the West Side Market with his family. After living elsewhere, he came back to town. Now he and other Muse chefs offer an amazing experience. They will take you (just a few couples at a time) on a personalized tour of the market and then create a meal based on what you liked and what they learned about you in your morning together. The restaurant also offers special Farmers Market fixed price menus and many other great dining options in case you opt to dine in after a day on the town.

(at Ritz Carlton)

1515 West 3rd Street
Cleveland – Downtown

That’s the wrap up of my first Cleveland culinary expedition. Where should I go for round two? (On my shortlist: Lolita, Corky & Lenny’s, Melt, Jack Frost Donuts………)

Posted in CLEGourmand, Road Trip | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

CLEGourmand: New Series, New Category: Comparing and Contrasting CMH and CLE

Posted by CMH Gourmand on October 28, 2010

Cleveland has been on my mind this year. I have always been a fan of our northeastern neighbor. Most of my college friends hail from there. However, my 21st century trips to Cleveland had been for funerals or shows at Beachland Ballroom. My Cleveland food to do list had been growing to an overwhelming point of no return. In particular I have stalked the Dim and Den Sum Food Truck (@dimanddensum). This mobile food vendor has taken innovation and customer focus to a higher level for mobile food or any food.

I have always had respect for the Cleveland food scene and reports kept coming in of great new places. As local blogger, Cleveland Foodie says:

“Cleveland might not have the quantity as other cities, but we have the quality. From gourmet grocers, to mom and pop sandwich shops to high-end celebrity chef restaurants. It’s a great place for a foodie.”

And then, something really tweaked my interest while stirring my quiet rage. The show No Reservations profiled two places in our fair city. Part of the shtick of the segment involved slights on Columbus referring to our town as a city of strips malls and Applebee’s (yes, we do have these). The tone was dismissive. If it had just been Anthony Bourdain, I might not have been irked. His sideman in the commentary was Michael Ruhlman from Cleveland. Granted, the show was based on a very brief trip to Columbus and Chef Ruhlman does not control editing of the show. However, I expected a little defense of our food scene from another Ohioan who has some experience with Columbus and whom I know tracked the coming and goings of Rosendales when it was open. Such was not the case. As the Twitterverse blew up with rantings about Ruhlman and the tone of the show, his response was that he was ignorant of what Columbus might have to offer. Phooey to that. Know thy neighbor I thought. If Ruhlman could not come here then I was going to go to Cleveland to rid myself of my own ignorance of the Cleveland Culinary scene. I made a hit list (of restaurants) and wondered when I was going to make my sojourn.

I received an e-mail from Positively Cleveland (the Convention and Visitors Bureau for the city) asking if I might like to come up for a culinary tour of the area. Looking at the stops on tentative tour schedule, I was excited. There were two old favorites on the list but many new discoveries to explore.

To say I was impressed with what I saw and ate is an understatement. As someone that twitters with great restraint, I was positively prolific for four days. You can find many of my field reports on Twitter under the hashtag – #CLEGourmand.

During the trip, I thought of the Columbus comments from No Reservations in contrast to an entire episode the show did on Cleveland, which was chuck full of compliments. I started to compare the cities. These are my thoughts.

Cleveland has an identity – “Mistake on the Lake”, Professional sports figures and teams, home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, A Christmas Story and the Drew Carey Show, etc. People “know” Cleveland. There are people who are Clevelanders. Most of the USA does not know Columbus. Our city is largely undefined.

Cleveland is a city with long established, multi-generational ethnic neighborhoods, where cultures and countries integrate their culture and cuisine into the city. (Aside: If you want to explore the ethic eateries of Cleveland on your own, the best guide is Cleveland Ethnic Eats 8th Edition: The Guide to Authentic Ethnic Restaurants and Markets in Northeast Ohio by Laura Taxel).

Columbus on the other hand is an expanding city of transplants and job seekers. Once people plant roots here, they tend to assimilate. We do not tend to have the depth of neighborhoods that metropolitan Cleveland does. Have you seen many Germans in German Village or “real” Irish in Dublin. Most ethic residents have dispersed throughout our city and blended in and during the process, we lost much of what their cultures had to offer. Ethnic food has flavor and tradition. Sure, we have Schmidt’s, some alt-eateries (Indian, Somali, etc.) and our awesome Taco Trucks but we lack neighborhoods that sustain the full flavor and tradition of ethnic food. Most of our true immigrants are first or second generation whereas the ethnic neighborhoods of Cleveland go back to the 19th century.

A community needs to spark to go from good to great. In Athens, the spark is a restaurant called Casa Nueva. This co-op restaurant has fueled the careers and styles of many other restaurateurs, artisan food makers and farmers. In Cleveland, part of that spark comes from Michael Ruhlman (a chef/writer who choose to stay in Cleveland), who in turn wrote about Michael Symon. They both became Food TV celebrities showcasing as well as proud of their talents and their city. More fuel comes from ex-Symon Sous Chefs contributing to a food first, localavore, green renaissance in Cleveland. Collectively, many of the chefs and restaurants in Cleveland support and collaborate with each other to go green, source local ingredients and create foods with innovative spins on old ethnic and traditional classics.

Columbus has great restaurants, food artisans and even a few farmers. However, we just have not quite found that spark that draws serious attention to our city. We definitely do not have a strong community pride that is proud and confident in what we have to offer. In our city, people’s choice “best of” restaurant polls consistently list places like Olive Garden (for best Italian) and Red Lobster (for best seafood). Right or wrong, that does not support a culinary civic pride. Cleveland does have pride. People in the kitchens, behind the counters and in the streets are proud of their city and their food. We need to get on that.

In Cleveland, innovation in food (plus green restaurants, sustainable agriculture and urban gardens) comes from the collaboration among chefs, suppliers and the community. We have some of that in Columbus but we do not have the same zeal and passion for it – yet. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream is soon to open a location in Chagrin Falls. Maybe that can be a link to bring our two cities into the start of a culinary collaboration. We give them ice cream, perhaps they can send us more pride in what we have to offer. We are in this together. We are what we eat and we are eating very well.

So, in the coming months I will be sharing CLEGourmand discoveries from my culinary tour in October. More trips to research the Cleveland food scene are needed and being plotted (hopefully places such as Melt, Lolita and a strip on Lee Road I call Chicken Row). I want to find a way to support and work on growing a culinary connection between Cleveland and Columbus. Our cities count and cannot be discounted as flyover cities, rust belt write-offs or third rate restaurant regions any longer. Our cities rock. Columbus and Cleveland are going to have a role in the future of food in this country. We can collaborate on promoting two Ohio cities that are proud of our food and the people preparing it.

Posted in CLEGourmand, Columbus, Ohio, Road Trip | Tagged: | 3 Comments »