Monday, January 31, 2011

Food to Put You In the Mood

Last Wednesday, I was invited to my first Emerging Chefs event, Aphrodisiacs at the Velvet Tango Room.  VTR provided the perfect setting for an evening of culinary seduction.  The event, which was sold out, was held in the private backroom behind the door with the Russian crest.  On my many visits to VTR, I always wondered what was behind that door.  Guests were only allowed in after saying the secret pass code which was emailed hours prior to the evening.  The room was dimly lit and I found a spot on a love seat by the fire.  Overall, the setting alone was very intimate.

Chef Matthew Mytro of Stove Monkeys prepared a wonderful four course tasting inspired by foods considered to be aphrodisiacs.  Each was paired with a cordial sized VTR cocktail.  Our first course to set the mood was East Coast Oysters with tarragon, a lemon champagne granita, and chocolate bubbles.  The aphrodisiacs featured in this course, oysters, champagne, and chocolate are quite common and well known.  The flavors blended well and it was a perfect teaser course for my pallet.  It was paired perfectly with the Aviation cocktail.

Our next course was ginseng poached duck breast served on a bed of smoked corn polenta with asparagus and drizzled with harisse buerre monte.  The duck melted in my mouth and the drizzle added a little spice which is great especially considering the theme of the evening.  I loved the polenta since it was very flavorful and the corn was a great addition.  Also, anything infused with truffles appeals to me.  I never knew asparagus was considered an aphrodisiac either.  We were served VTR's Manhattan which is the only part I didn't enjoy only because I do not like bourbon.  If I didn't enjoy a Manhattan at VTR, I will probably not enjoy one anywhere.  However, the cherry garnishing the Manhattan was very tasty. 

The third course, and my favorite, was Chef Mytro's "Poke a Dot" Scallops with gold and red beets, basil sauce, and caviar.  Scallops are one of my overall favorite dishes.  Chef Mytro cut the center and filled one with a gold beet puree and the other with red beet.  They were served on beets and drizzled with the basil sauce with a small garnish of caviar.  Again, much to my pleasant surprise, basil is an aphrodisiac.  In my personal opinion, this whole course seduced me.  The flavors blended so well together, my mouth is still watering as I write this.  this course again, was perfectly paired with one of my favorite VTR cocktails, "The Lady in White".  However, there was nothing innocent to be said for this course or the cocktail.  I am lusting more!

Our dessert course featured three different mini cupcakes, one banana, one almond-vanilla, and the third, chocolate and coffee.  Each flavor combination was inspired by an aphrodisiac flavor.  Again, I learned banana and almond to be aphrodisiacs.   Cupcakes to me are pure bliss and a very guilty pleasure.  We had a choice for our final cocktail, the sweet "Lady in Red" or the bitter "Negroni".  I chose the sweet "Lady in Red" and it was the perfect finish to my culinary seduction.  However, like any good lover, I left VTR wanting more.  I am planning on attending future events put on by the Emerging Chef and Chef Matthew Mytro.  

Until next time...follow your heart, fulfill your desire hunger.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday's Tidbits

As mentioned on Twitter and Facebook this morning, I was launching a new blog feature, and here it is!  Tuesday's Tidbits is a collection of random thoughts related to the Cleveland food scene and my culinary adventures.  If there are any events or thoughts you would like to contribute to future "Tuesday's Tidbits" please let me know.

First off, I had a fabulous time getting to know other Cleveland bloggers last Wednesday at The Ohio Blogging Association's first Cleveland meet up at Whole Foods in University Heights.  It was great to meet some of my favorite bloggers CLEgal (ok we go way back), AllisonKatieHeather,Alicia (who did a fabulous job planning the event), Brad, Katrina,Kali and Scott, the Chubby Cook himself.  I also was introduced to and now follow AlanaMichelleSuzanneCleveland ChickCarly, and Quarry Lane Farms.  We enjoyed a fabulous raw foods demo by Lauren which included parsnip-macadamia rice, avocado, carrots, sweet pea shoots, and rolled sushi style in black nori, a hollowed out you thai coconut with lemon sorbet, raw chocolate infused with mandarin orange-mango preserve (my favorite), raw ginger, and raw coconut.  Afterwards, we were treated to a feast of vegan friendly entrees which included General Tso's Vegan Nuggets which I am going to call "I Can't Believe It's NOT Chicken", MOlly's Asian Noodles, Emerald Sesame Kale, and grilled veggies in Asian dressing.  Great time with great bloggers.  Looking forward to the next one!

Great happy hour at Reddstone Friday night.  However, some advice.  If your business card is pulled for hosting a happy hour as CLEgal's was, make sure there is not a large party sharing the room with you, especially if that party has a tall, drunk bald guy.  There will not be enough food.  Luckily, I had a certificate for Reddstone with me.  Love their sweet potato fries.

Saturday night, I had a great time at the Winking Lizard's World Tour Party.  While not a World Tourist myself, I enjoyed good food, good beer, and great company.  I would like to suggest to the Lizard to put the veggie burger sliders on the regular menu if you have not done so already.  While speaking of the Winking Lizard, they are sponsoring a soup recipe contest.  You have until January 31 to email your recipe which , if selected, will be a part of their rotating soup selections.  

I am looking forward to the latest Emerging Chef's event, "Aphrodisiacs" tomorrow night at one of my favorite Cleveland bars, The Velvet Tango Room.  Kinda puts me in the mood to start thinking about Valentine's Day.

Lastly, CONGRATULATIONS to Bier Markt for being name one of America's 100 best beer bars.  This concludes your first helping of "Tuesday's Tidbits"  Let me know what you think!  Your suggestions can only make it better!

Until next time...follow your heart, fulfill your hunger

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hungry in Denver

I'm baaaaaaack!  For those who were not following my 4-Square tweets, I was in Denver, Colorado visiting one of my bestest friends.  Now I am back in CLE and excited to share some of my food finds from the Mile High City.

Day 1:  Our day begins with breakfast at Curious Coffee, a small coffee shop on the way from my friend's apartment to the Colorado State Capitol.  After enjoying a "Breggo" and raspberry caramel mocha, we were fueled for the adventures awaiting us.  While in the Capitol and enjoying the view from the dome, we met a very helpful tour guide (wearing a cowboy hat and other Western attire) who lead us to our lunch stop, Pints Pub, a British brewpub in Downtown Denver.  After deciding on sharing an entree we debated between fish and chips or a sandwich.  The Pub Club ended up winning and complimented our beer choices, the Bitchcraft Blone Ale and the Idleweiss Unfiltered Wheat.  One thing about Colorado is the abundance of microbrews.  I felt the need to sample one from each brewpub we stopped at.  Another thing to note about Pints would be the over 250 varieties of scotch.  Now off to explore Downtown Denver.  We also ended up touring the Coors Brewery in the nearby town of Golden.  For dinner, we decided to do happy hour at Dazzle and enjoy great food/drink specials, live jazz, and great artwork.  Also, you can play board games at your table while enjoying delicious food and great martinis (I recommend the Jello martini)  We ended up ordering a plethora of appetizers, two which I must note are the mac and cheese and the pizza with pesto and water chestnuts.  The reason for eating a smaller dinner was our trip to d bar desserts.  I am also slightly embarrassed to admit, I did NOT know this was Keegan Gerhard's restaurant.  I was surprised and star struck to see him behind the bar prepping fabulous desserts.  After much contemplation and discussion, I decided on the bel canto mocha, which was a chocolate coffee tart garnished with espresso brittle, and affogato served with iced Kenyan coffee.    We ended up sitting at the bar and chatting with Keegan leading to getting his autograph and a quick pic.

Pub Club and Bitchcraft Blond
Breggo: scrambled eggs, cheddar, potatoes, baked into a light crust.
Think breakfast calzone
bel canto mocha at d bar
Day 2: After touring Coors Field (I love baseball almost as much as I love food), we headed across Blake Street to The Breckenridge Brewery for lunch and more great craft beer.  We started with a sampler to get a little taste of everything.  Since some of their brews are available in Cleveland, I wanted something that was special to Denver.  To compliment my turkey chipotle club and sweet potato fries, I went with their seasonal brew, Pandora's Bock.  Overall, great food and great beer enjoyed with two of my favorite people after an amazing Coors Field experience.  Afterwards, we loaded up the SUV and headed three hours northwest, through the Rocky Mountains to Steamboat Springs.  Along the way, we picked up a take-and-bake pizza from
Papa Murphy's.
Beer Sampler.  My top three: Pandora's Bock, Thunder Stout, Agave Wheat

Day 3: After snowboarding all day in the Rockies, we all teamed up for a culinary adventure for dinner.  We made fajitas complete with homemade tortillas (thanks to my best friend's service in the Peace Corps down in Paraguay) and homemade guacamole.  For dessert, we enjoyed what I am going to refer to as Paraguayan Carrot Cake simply because the recipe also came from Paraguay.  I did bring this recipe back to Cleveland too. 

BeauJo's pizza and Tommy Knocker Maple Nut Brown Ale 
Day 4: Spent mostly on the road back to Denver after enjoying our leftovers in a Mexican scramble for breakfast.  On our way back to Denver, we stopped in the small town of Idaho Springs for BeauJo pizza and Tommy Knocker beer.  The crust on the pizza was really crispy and thick, enjoyed with honey.  Talk about an entree and dessert rolled into one.  After finally making it back to Denver, we later enjoyed dinner at Vesta Dipping Grill.  I love the concept of Vesta.  You order your entree (great selection of various cuts of steak, poultry, and seafood) and pick three dipping sauces from a selection of over thirty varieties ranging from traditional, to Asian inspires, to Southwestern.  I went with the grilled duck served on truffle farro and maple brussels sprouts.  For my sauces I went with sweet ginger, peanut sauce, and tamarid chipotle.  What I liked about Vesta is the variety of flavor options in their sauces.  I am one who loves and appreciates many styles of food.  Anywhere I can enjoy both Southwestern and Asian influences fares well with me.  
Sweet ginger, Thai peanut, tamarid chipotle
Day 5: Our final day in Colorado was spent in the town of Boulder to tour the Celestial Seasonings Tea factory.  After purchasing way too much tea to bring back to Cleveland, we headed to Pearl Street for lunch.  I must note, if you are ever in Boulder and do not know where to eat, head to Pearl Street.  We ended up at BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse for Chicago-style deep dish and more craft beer.  I shared the Southwestern specialty pizza which was topped with blackened chicken, cheddar, cilantro, and corn (which I added on) while enjoying a Nutty Brewnette to drink.  We then headed back to Denver to visit the aquarium, pack up, and headed to an Irish Pub called the Irish Snug for bingo.  There, I shared the quesedillas and Guiness ice cream, along with another Tommy Knocker's brew, Naked Tinker Ale (which the boyfriend won during bingo).
Southwestern deep dish and Nutty Brewnette
And now I am back in Cleveland planning my next trip to Denver.  I am left with many great memories and pictures.  For more pictures, check out the Hungry in Denver album on Facebook.  And if you haven't done so, "like" me!

Until next time...follow your heart, fulfill your hunger!
or as Keegan would say "Make it Delicious!"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fuel foods

I recently have been reading more into "superfoods" and foods for athletes.  As many of my friends, fellow bloggers, and "tweeps" may know, I am a runner.  I am currently training for the Cleveland Half-Marathon on May 15 as well as a few shorter runs between now and then.  Since many of us have made resolutions to eat healthier and become more active, I would like to summarize an article I recently read.  I have recently came across a very interesting article about the best foods for female runners and have decided to share with you.  Unfortunately, I did not bookmark the page so I cannot post it.  I was surprised to see many foods I already eat and want to try are on this list.  So here is the list and my thoughts on each.

1: Oatmeal.  For the longest time, I only ate oatmeal in cookie form.  Not because I didn't like it, but because I will admit, I fail EVERY time I go to make it.  Yesterday was no exception either.  You can smile and laugh at me all you want Mr. Quaker Oats guy.  I will one day enjoy a nice creamy warm bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.  Why oatmeal??  It has a lower-glycemic index which provides prolonged energy.  Foods are measured at the rate they break down carbs and release glucose into your blood which in turn gives you energy.  (I will spare the biochemistry lesson here)

2: Edamame:  I was so happy to see my favorite sushi appetizer on this list!  It turns out, these little legumes are packed with protein, fiber magnesium, potassium, iron, and Vitamins K and C.  Just don't add too much salt to them.

3: Dried fruits:  Instead of enjoying raisins, Crasins, etc. with my lunch, I have started eating them as a pre-workout snack since they are a healthy source of simple sugars which provide quick, rapid bursts on energy.  Also, it was suggested sprinkling them in yogurt and oatmeal (can't seem to avoid Mr. Quaker now, can I??)

4: Green Tea:  Since I already drank my 6-8 glasses of water a day, I decided to substitute my afternoon water for green tea.  I use a 24 oz water bottle and fill it up at least 3x a day.  When I fill it up after lunch, I throw in a green tea bag.  It is a nice boost of flavor and caffeine as well as anti-oxidants (specifically EGCG) which improve endurance, increase fat burning, and boost immunity.  

5: Olive Oil:  Already my cooking oil of choice.  Your body needs fats, just choose them wisely.  Olive oil has been shown to aid in post-workout recovery.

6: Ricotta Cheese:  Love ricotta already in cannoli and lasagna.  However, I chose a reduced-fat ricotta and started putting it on high fiber tortillas sprinkled with a little cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.  Makes a great snack or breakfast filled with protein to increase the muscle to fat ratio during training.

7: Kale: This was on my list of foods to try in 2011.  Once finding out it is a great source of fiber, vitamins C and K, beta-carotene, and manganese, it quickly moved up my list.  I also found this great recipe for creamed mushrooms and kale too!

8: Quinoa:  Have heard many great things about quinoa and have many recipes to try.  I bought a sack of it at the West Side Market over the holidays.  Look for a future blog all about quinoa and how to enjoy this whole grain full of complex carbs, zinc, B vitamins, iron, fiber, and magnesium.

9: Salmon: I love seafood so this one is easy for me.  Salmon is a great source for omega-3 fatty acids which are one of the healthiest unsaturated fats for you.  They have numerous anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and other immune benefits.

With any food, read labels carefully and try to support local businesses.  Next time you are dining at one of Cleveland's fine restaurants, look to see what they offer with these foods.  I also want to mention Healthy Heddleston's fabulous blog.  She is a registered dietician and her blog provides a plethora of information on eating and living a healthy lifestyle.

And last but certainly not least, Hungry in Cleveland is now on Facebook!!!  How much do you "like" H.I.C.???

Until next time...follow your heart, fulfill your hunger!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Culinary adventure #2...Crab Cakes

Happy New Year!!  Hopefully everyone had a wonderful time celebrating the end of 2010 and all that 2011 has in store.  While many of you headed out on New Year's Eve to restaurants, bars, and parties, I for once opted to stay in.   Yes, there were plenty of options in Cleveland we could have chosen from, but  my boyfriend and I decided we would ring in 2011 by doing one of our favorite activities, cooking together.  Maybe it was the fact that both of us have been very overwhelmed between working and the holidays that we needed a night in, just us two.  As I titled this blog, I also realized that I haven't been that great at including things I cook, and I apologize for that.  For our New Year's Eve dinner, we decided on crab cakes, with twice baked potatoes and roasted asparagus with rosemary infused olive oil.  I will take no credit for the asparagus either since all I did was eat and enjoy it.

For my crab cakes, I first caramelized onions with garlic, thyme, rosemary, and basil (all fresh).  Next, I took a pound and a half of lump crab meat and mixed in breadcrumbs, 1 large egg white, a dash of mayo, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and the onion and herb mixture.  After seasoning the mixture with cracked black pepper and sea salt,   I ended up forming 5 large and one baby crab cake.

I refrigerated them for about a half hour while the potatoes and asparagus were cooking.  Meanwhile, we found a recipe for a simple garlic aioli and put our own twist on it.  If I had the link, I would have included it, but since we are both addicted to our smart phones, it is not saved in my email or recipe file.  When the potatoes were fully baked, we halved them, scooped out the insides, mixed in sour cream and cheddar, and popped them back in the oven to twice bake while the crab cakes were cooking.  I cooked the crab cakes in olive oil over medium heat, three at a time.  The first three came out PERFECTLY and I think I jinxed myself there.  The last three all fell apart and ended up looking more like crab cake hash. Finally, with about four and a half hours remaining in 2010, we sat down to enjoy this delicious meal.  It paired really well with our homemade strawberry wine too.

Overall, it was a perfect New Year's Eve proving all you really need is great food, champagne, and someone to enjoy it with.  And since we did not dress up and go out for New Year's Eve, tonight we will be dining at Michaelangelo's in Little Italy.

Until next time...follow your heart, fulfill your hunger.