One of Cleveland's culinary high points would have to be Iron Chef Michael Symon. As this blog progresses, you will probably notice many references to him, his restaurants, book, etc. etc. I remember loyally watching the first season of "The Next Iron Chef" on Food Network back in 2007 because of him and when he won, I was almost as excited as I will be when the Browns, Cavs, and Indians bring home a championship. To me, he is what Cleveland is all about. A hometown boy who made it big, yet remains true to his roots. It is fun watching "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" when he is on since many of his choices are Cleveland favorites (pierogi from Sokolowski's, beef jerky from the West Side Market, and the polish boy from a food truck outside of Dean Supply on East 30th and Woodland). I started following his career a few months prior to "Next Iron Chef" when Cleveland Magazine named him "Best Local Chef". Next to my Snuggie, my best Chirstmas gift this past year was his book "Live to Cook". I have dined at all four of his Cleveland restaurants (Lola, Lolita, Bar Symon, and B Spot) but have yet to go to Roast in Detroit simply because I was only in Detroit once this past winter for the auto show. However, next time I am in Motown, a trip to Roast is a must. I have chose to focus my first Michael Symon related blogs on Lolita in Tremont. Maybe since it was the location of his first restaurant (Lola was first here prior to moving to it's current location on East 4th Street). Maybe it is my way of wishing the Iron Chef a Happy Birthday (September 19). Most likely, it is because I had a wonderful Girls Night there a few weeks ago with two of my bestest friends from high school and the meal I enjoyed is still fresh on my pallet.
About a month ago, one of my best friends was back home in Cleveland for a few weeks. I figured that before going back to Denver, she must eat at one of Michael Symon's restaurants. We decided to have a Girls Night at Lolita in Tremont and it was the perfect choice. One thing I love about Lolita is the atmosphere. It has that chic bistro charm and fits perfectly with the eclectic feel of the Tremont neighborhood. It has a nice blend of elegance and simplicity, much like the Iron Chef's food. After choosing a bottle of wine to share (Lucien Albrecht, Gewurztraminer) we enjoyed the chickpea dip (hummus) appetizer that probably put most hummus I have had to shame. For my entree, I had the gnocchi which was tossed with peas, pancetta, swiss chard, and ricotta. The saltiness of the pancetta perfectly complimented the sweetness of the peas, and the lightness of the ricotta salata balanced with the plump gnocchi. On the side, I had to try the fried brussels sprouts. Now you may be thinking "Fried brussels sprouts, ewww!" I now ask you to please pause for a moment here to get whatever your initial idea of fried brussels spouts (probably something drenched in batter and deep fried) out of your head. These were pan fried (no breading, batter frying, etc) and wilted with capers and walnuts. The tanginess from the sprouts went very well with my entree as well. Finally, for dessert, what girls night isn't complete without something chocolate and Lolita's Chocolate Pot du Creme fulfilled that requirement. Simply put, it is the best chocolate mousse dessert you will ever eat.
I would recommend Lolita for any occasion from girls night, to date night, to a special celebration. The menu has something to please anyone, even vegetarians. I also recommend it for Happy Hour (see their website listed above for specials). From prior visits, I also would recommend the macaroni and cheese. One thing, please promise me you will try the brussels sprouts ;)
Until next time...follow your heart, fulfill your hunger.