Sunday Supper: Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter Braised Short Ribs

A few weeks ago, my wife and I attended the Willoughby Brewing Company Cask Ale Night during Cleveland Beer Week.  Before we left, we snagged a growler (64oz) of a very special version of the ever popular Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter.  This version was cask conditioned with the addition of cocoa nibs! The cask condition version of the beer was outstanding, and instantly gave me an idea.  Cask condition ales are not really meant to go home in a growler with you to drink, but we figured we could still use this amazing beer to braise some short ribs. The cost for a growler of Willoughby Brewing Company beer ranges from $13-16 if you own a growler and only $3 more if you need to buy a new growler.  In this post today, I’ll share what I did and how it tasted, Cheers!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs bone-in short ribs
  • Kosher salt and/or fresh ground sea salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 whole cloves of garlic
  • 1 large yellow onions, sliced in 1/2″ thick half rings
  • 4 carrot, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (You can use more or less depending on how much you love carrots
  • 24oz of Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter from Willoughby Brewing
  • ½ cup beef stock
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 2 bay leaves

Season ribs at least 24 hours in advance with salt and pepper, then refrigerate until you are ready to start.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Pour the olive oil into a dutch oven. Heat over medium-high heat. Brown short ribs, Cook for 3-4 minutes per side until nicely browned. Set the ribs off to the side on a plate and then return the pan to medium heat.   Add in the onions, garlic and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are just softened and beginning to caramelize.  This took about 4-6 minutes.

 

Add the beer into the pot and bring to a boil. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pot to dislodge any remaining food aka, the good stuff. Pour in the beef stock and bring liquid to a boil again (this shouldn’t take long).  Reduce heat to a simmer and place ribs in the pot. Pour any juices released from the ribs that remain on the plate into the pot. Toss in the rosemary sprig and bay leaf between the short ribs. Check the liquid level of the pot to make sure the ribs are all mostly submerged in the liquid. If necessary, add more beer but you should still be able to see the tops!!

Put on the lip and place your pot in the oven and cook maintaining a simmer for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until ribs are fork tender.  The slower you cook them the better! While braising, gently turn the ribs with tongs, as not to tear up the meat, every 45-60 minutes until done.

When the ribs have finished braising, carefully remove the meat and vegetables from the pot. Tilt the dutch oven to the side to gather juices in one end and skim off as much surface fat as possible with a big spoon. Either in the dutch oven or a saucepan, reduce the remaining liquid by simmering strongly for 10-15 minutes. Reduced sauce should be syrupy. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Once you have your sauce, feel free to dig in and enjoy by spreading the sauce on and around the ribs and vegetables.  Also, don’t forget your glass of Peanut Butter Coffee Porter to go with your meal, you should have 20oz left out of your growler!

First, the good.  The meat and vegetables were super tender and packed with flavor.   You could definitely taste the roasty porter backbone. The reduction, although it took 20 minutes, was worth every second.  The peanut butter coffee flavor came back to life and really completed the dish. Do not skip this step, but a word of advice is you really only need about 6oz of the liquid to get a good reduction.  If you would try to reduce all of the remaining liquid you would be waiting about an hour!  Now, the not so good.  The rosemary really overpowered everything.  1 rosemary sprig was too much, and if I had to do it again I would use way less, or probably even none at all.  All of the other flavors in the dish worked so well together the rosemary actually seemed out of place.  Although the rosemary was a misstep, the dish was a home run and we look forward to making it again.   For my next attempt I might even go sweeter, with some maple syrup and/or even some brown sugar.  I think these ingredients would complement any porter or stout you use to braise with.

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading about this dish as much as I liked cooking and eating it!  I encourage you to try making it with Willoughby Brewing’s Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter or even their regular Gutterpup Porter, but really any porter or stout will do.  If you end up making this dish, post a comment on here and let me know what you thought, Cheers!

Chops Grille and Tap House in Geneva

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Recently, my wife and I met two of our good friends for dinner at Chops Grille and Tap House in Geneva.  We picked this restaurant because it was halfway between where we live and where our friends live in Erie, PA.    If you look at the menu online, you will see that they have a very large menu with all different types of food, but from what my friend and I heard Chops is known for their good BBQ.

Food
To start our meal our table was served a basket of rolls along with creamy butter and cinnamon butter.  We all agreed that we could have eaten a basket of bread each with the cinnamon butter, it was delicious.

Our meals also each came with a house salad.  The Italian dressing that I got was underwhelming in terms of flavor and tasted mostly of white vinegar. Thank goodness my wife shared some of her balsamic dressing with me, it was much better in terms of flavor and consistency.
For entrees, both my friend and I picked the Smoked Beef Brisket. The menu described it as “Tender smoked brisket of beef served with a light Carolina BBQ sauce.”  For my side I opted for a sweet potato.  As soon as our plates arrived my friend and I both commented on how thin, and sloppy, the brisket was sliced, and the fact that it just didn’t look that appetizing.   Looks are one thing, but in the end it is always how the food tastes that really matters.  I wish I had some good news to say about the flavor of our dish, but both my friend and I agreed that we were not fans for several reasons.  First, the brisket was sliced way too thin and was very fatty. I’m all for loving fat, but this was just too much.  Second, there was entirely too much BBQ sauce on the brisket.  The overly sweet sauce totally over powered the dish and made it impossible to even taste what should have been the star of the dish, the brisket.   If there was one positive on my plate it was the sweet potato with the delicious cinnamon butter!  .
As disappointed as I was with my dinner, my wife had a very different experience with hers.  She ordered a Top Sirloin steak cooked to a medium temperature.  What she got was a perfectly cooked and seasoned steak that tasted amazing.   The green beans were also cooked and seasoned perfectly.   Needless to say, I was kicking myself that I didn’t order her dish.  The steak was a very good size and she shared some of it with me.   If we went back to Chops, I would order this steak over and over again.
Drinks
The drink menu at Chops does offer a few craft beer choices in addition to having what you would normally find (Bud, Miller, Coors).  There were two Dogfish beers on tap, 60min IPA and Punkin.  We all selected Punkin which was very fresh and tasted great.  They also had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Coors Batch 19, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, and Great Lakes Dortmunder on
tap.  I wouldn’t call this Tap House a craft beer bar by any means, but I was happy they at least offered some craft options.
Service and Atmosphere
The restaurant had two main areas, a sports bar area, and a dining room area.  The sports bar area was very loud and we had to almost scream to talk to each other.  I’m glad we just got one drink there while we waited for our table.  Dinner in that area just would not have been fun, unless we wanted to watch some sort of sporting event together.   The dining room area was much quieter and made for a nice dinner experience.  Our waitress was very friendly and made sure my wife’s steak was cooked properly. (She mentioned that she checked the temperature right before she brought it out to us.)  I’d had to say our service for the night was good.
Overall, it is hard for me to really judge Chops.  On one had my entree was simply not enjoyable, yet my wife’s steak was excellent.  The waitress clearly made an effort to make sure my wife’s dish was excellent, did she do the same for mine, or is that just how they do brisket at Chops?   I guess I’ll have to head back to Chops for dinner again to see…

Sunday Supper: Spaghetti Squash and Kale

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This Sunday Supper was cooked and written by my lovely wife, Enjoy!!
Sunday suppers have seemed to disappear since last fall, but I promise you we have still been eating!  Wedding planning took over most of our time and creativity in the kitchen. Tonight I was looking to make spaghetti squash as a healthier alternative to pasta. The meal came together as I looked into our fridge for ingredients I could incorporate with the spaghetti squash. I am always looking for different ways to cook kale so I thought, why not try to add this? As the meal came together, I thought this would be a good dish to share!   Here are the ingredients I used:
  • 1 seeded spaghetti squash
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup of chicken stock
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup of grape tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • 1 tsp of salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp of pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/8 cup parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and seed the squash. Spread melted butter and 1 clove of diced garlic on the inside of the spaghetti squash. Bake squash rind side up for about 30 minutes. While squash is baking, sauté 1 tablespoon of olive oil, chicken stock, salt, pepper and sliced onions. Once the onions become soft, add garlic. Add chopped kale, sliced grape tomatoes, and chopped basil to the onions.  Use a fork to scrape and scoop out the spaghetti squash. Add the squash to the sauté pan. Add remaining olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste and mix. Finish off with parmesan cheese.
Modifications- if you do not like garlic heavy meals, you can exclude the garlic on the squash or add the garlic earlier when sautéing the onion to let the flavor fade more. I also think adding salt and pepper on the spaghetti squash before baking it would add more flavor.

Harvest Kitchen and Lounge in Solon

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This past weekend we took our good friends Jenna and Andrew out to celebrate their wedding since we kinda were in Hawaii during their wedding!   I picked Harvest Kitchen and Lounge because I’ve wanted to go there for quite some time now and this was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

Food
Our waiter went over the menu with us and pointed out some of his favorite dishes.  There were so many choices that caught our attention, it was hard to pick.  I opted for the special fish of the day, which was a crab crusted Alaskan halibut.  I ordered it with spicy braised greens and of course some duck fat fries and garlic aioli.  I was not disappointed at all with anything on my plate.  The piping hot fish was cooked perfectly and the crispy crab crust added just enough texture and flavor without taking anything away from the fish. The braised greens were just mildly spicy, but that is a good thing since the fish did come with a curry based sauce that had some real kick to it. The garlic aioli that came with the fries was outstanding and it was hard to not finish every last fry!   I was a big fan of my dish, and so was our friend Jenna who also ordered the same dish.  If you see this on the menu again, I would highly recommend it.

My wife ordered the hanger steak with duck fat roasted fingerling potatoes and salsa verde. The steak was cooked to medium as she had ordered it, but since it was presliced by the time her dish had arrived at our table the plate was hotter than the actual steak. The steak was not cold, but we both agreed it was lukewarm at best.  Fortunately, this was not a deal breaker because the seasoning on the steak and the flavor was great.  The salsa verde that came with it really had a well-balanced kick to it and did not overpower any other flavors on the dish. The potatoes were simply delicious with the savory and slightly crispiness the duck fat added. I would order this dish again, but simply would ask that my steak be left unsliced.

Our friend Andrew ordered the grilled ribeye. When he was finished, his plate did the speaking for him…it was empty!  The steak was cooked just as he had ordered it. Thanks to his kindness, I can tell you that it tasted amazing.  The overall temperature of the steak was also much warmer than the hanger steak as well.

Drinks
Harvest offers a large wine list and a fully stocked bar.  What we all appreciated most about the drink menu was the large selection of craft beer.  They had around 40 different bottles and 4 draft selections which included a 3Floyds handle and a Jolly Pumpkin handle.  For only $8 you can get a flight of all four draft brews and the 4oz pours were much closer to 6oz which made the deal even better.   I was very pleased to find a very fresh keg of 3Floyds Dreadnaught on tap, something not too common around Cleveland.   Cheers to Harvest for putting some very good craft beer on the menu to go with some very good food!

Atmosphere and Service
Harvest is a warm and inviting place that makes you feel very comfortable.  I feel like I could walk in and have a beer at the bar, take my wife out for a fancy date night, or even head out to the patio for some small plates with friends.   Either way, Harvest really has done well with the space!   Our service for the night was excellent.  Our waiter was knowledgeable about the menu, and was quick to move from table to table.

Overall
Good food + great beer list + inviting atmosphere + friendly service = we will be back for dinner again!

Cleveland Indians Ticket Giveaway

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I’m going a little off of my food and drink theme with this post, but I promise to tie food and drink into it at the end!

I’ve been an Indians fan for all 32 years of my life.  I watch them on TV as much as possible and I might just be the biggest Tom Hamilton fan ever!!  I also try to attend a handful of Indians game each year.  So after Chris Perez’s recent comments on booing, fan attendance, and being “unhappy” I started to think.

First, should fans boo if a player or team is not playing up to expectations? Hell Yes!!! As a paying fans we have the right to boo and cheer, especially considering how much money they players are making to play a game!  Personally, I try to be positive when I attend games, but on occasion I’ve thrown out a boo at a hometown player or manager. I don’t care that Chris commented about this, in fact I love his passion for winning and hope it sparks the team and the city positively! Honestly, we all want the same thing…A competitive and winning team!!

Second, I do agree with Chris’s comments on fan attendance. We all need to get down to more games, myself included!  It saddens me to see so many empty seats each night, especially when teams like the Pirates and Orioles are drawing larger numbers than us!  It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to get in these days, especially the upper deck and bleachers, but I am sad to say that I have not yet been down to the “Jake” this season. (For the record I’m well aware of the name change to Progressive Field, but to me, it will always be The Jake!)  Now not being there in person yet in 2012 doesn’t mean I have not been watching or listening to almost every single game. It really has been a matter of my personal schedule keeping me from heading down. That is all about to change this summer because I already have tickets for at least 7 games, and I’m sure we will get down to even more games than that.

Finally, I love supporting the Tribe as much as possible, so to help with the cause I’m going to give away five of my BP scratch off tickets which are good for 2 tickets to select Tribe games. This is my way of trying to get the stadium just a little more packed for a winning summer of baseball here in Cleveland! To be entered to win the giveaway just follow the directions below.

And the winner is….Comment #20 by Crystal as selected by Random.org. 

 

There are 3 ways to Enter The Giveaway

1. Leave one comment on this post telling me where your favorite place to eat and drink is outside of the “Jake”.

 
2. Share this post on Facebook by posting this link: http://hops.me/53y1
Then come back here and post a comment with your Facebook link.  You can only do this once, and it counts as one entry.
 
3. Share this on Twitter
I want to win 2 tickets to a #Cleveland @Indians Game from @CleFoodandBrews: http://hops.me/53y1 #GoTribe #Windians #BatMagic
Then come back here and post a comment with your Twitter link. This will count as one entry. You can do this every single day. Just make sure to leave a comment each time you tweet!
 
Rules:
–You have until Monday,  May 28th, 2012 at 9:00pm EST to enter.
–The winner will be picked at random using Random.org.   
–Only comments  with links left on this post will count.  If you tweet, facebook or enter in any other way be sure to leave a comment here telling me you did it with the link to that post.  
–You must leave a SEPARATE comment for each Entry, otherwise your entry will only count once.  
–Winner has 24 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. 


Disclosure:  I am doing this giveaway because I love the Cleveland Indians.  The BP Fill-Up Cards are my own. 

Emerging Chefs Garden Party Recap

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It has been a few months since we last attended an Emerging Chefs event. When we heard that Chef Jeff Jarrett was on board for Garden Party, we knew we didn’t want to miss this event.

Our dinner started with shaved lonzino, which is dry-cured pork loin, and some pork rillette fennel mustard mortadella.  This assortment was shared with the whole table and was actually prepared by Chef Melissa Khoury who will be doing the upcoming May Emerging Chefs event.

The first official course of the night was Spring Pea Soup.  This came topped with ramp creme fraiche, lemon oil, and pea tendrils.  The freshness of the peas used to make this soup was immediately apparent.  The soup was lightly seasoned, which was perfect because the combination of the peas, creme fraiche, and amazing lemon oil was a crowd favorite!
The second course of the evening was Mushroom Mousse.  It came with a tart cherry compote, micro fennel, and grilled bread  The mushroom taste in the mousse was actually pretty light. The sweetness from the compote was a great complement to the earthy mushroom flavor.  The best combination was to spread a bit of the mousse on the bread and top it with a few of the cherries. I don’t care for mushrooms, but I really enjoyed this dish.
Our third course for the evening was Goat Cheese Gnocchi.  The goat cheese used to make the gnocchi came from Lake Erie Creamery.  There was also pork belly croutons, asparagus, drunk fig jam (figs soaked in red wine and then pureed), and pepper-crest.   The goat cheese gnocchi was good, but a little too dense and the flavor of the goat cheese really didn’t come through as much as we would have thought.  The pork belly was very tasty and a bit on the smokey side.   The fresh asparagus and greens were a nice addition that helped to lighten up the dish a bit.
Our fourth course was Sous-vide lamb loin was paired with farro, fresh peas, cauliflower puree, and a bit of truffle oil.   The lamb was absolutely perfect in terms of temperature, texture, and seasoning.  I’ve never eaten farro before, but after tonight I’ll be actively seeking it out.  The farro, pea, and cauliflower puree was simply amazing. It was creamy with a hint of sweetness from the peas, and the farro added a great texture.  This was my favorite course of the night!
Our fifth and final course was the dessert round.  For dessert we had baked apple barley pudding, with a cinnamon tuile, and Snowville creamery anglaise.  This desert was simply delectable.   The use of the barley added so much texture to the baked apples and cinnamon.  The entire table sort of went silent while we all cleaned our bowls of this wonderful dessert!
The decor for this event was different from other Emerging Chefs events. The AMP150 vibe was the main focus of the event. The Garden Party theme was very apparent in each course but did not shine through with the venue. Another slight change from the usual Emerging Chefs events was the courses were not paired with cocktails but the price of the tickets remained the same as previous events with drink pairings. Overall, Chef Jarrett and his crew did a great job preparing fresh garden style food.  We all loved how he took time to go around to each and every table to discuss the dishes.
The next Emerging Chefs event, Snout to Tail,  will be taking place on May 24th and will feature
Melissa Khoury of Washington Place Bistro and Inn.
Get your tickets today at: http://hops.me/52i9
Disclosure: A single Media Pass was provided for me.  My fiancee’s ticket was paid for with our own funds.   All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% our own. 

Spring Fabulous Food Show Info and Giveaway

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Let the backyard barbeque battles begin! The first edition of the Spring Fabulous Food Show pays homage to the masters of the flame April 28 & 29, 2012, at the I-X Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Tickets are on sale now for the best celebrity grillers in the business, from Fabulous Food Show favorite Bobby Flay to first time appearances by Emeril Lagasse, “Barbeque Bible” grilling authority Steven Raichlen, and Weber Grills’ Jamie Purviance!

Spring Fabulous Food Show Tickets on Sale Ticket prices: 

One-day Admission ticket: $25 (advanced) online at www.fabulousfoodshow.com, or $30.00 onsite and online April 28-29, 2012, at the I-X Center. Each ticket includes admission to exhibits and seating to see one of your favorite celebrity chefs, and also allows patrons to see other celebrity chefs on the day of the visit — on a firstcome, first-served basis.
Event Hours: Saturday, April 28 — 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM and Sunday, April 29 — 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Giveaway
Ready for some good news?  I’ve been given two general admission tickets to give away to one lucky reader. To enter the giveaway simply read the directions below!

And the winner is…Random.or has picked comment 24 from Stephanie!  

 
 There are 3 ways to Enter The Giveaway
1. Leave one comment on this post telling me which chef you are most excited to see.

 
2. Share this post on Facebook by posting this link: http://hops.me/4rat
Then come back here and post a comment with your Facebook link.  You can only do this once, and it counts as one entry.
 
3. Share this on Twitter
I want to win 2 tickets to the @FabFoodShow from the @CleFoodandBrews Giveaway: http://hops.me/4rat
The come back here and post a comment with your Twitter link. This will count as one entry. You can do this every single day. Just make sure to leave a comment each time you tweet!
 
Rules:
–You have until Friday,  April 20th, 2012 at 9:00pm EST to enter.
–The winner will be picked at random using Random.org.   
–Only comments  with links left on this post will count.  If you tweet, facebook or enter in any other way be sure to leave a comment here telling me you did it with the link to that post.  
–You must leave a SEPARATE comment for each Entry, otherwise your entry will only count once.  
–Winner has 24 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. 

Stamper’s Grill Pub in Fairview Park

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A special thanks to my good friend Gretchen for this guest review of Stamper’s Grill Pub in Fairview Park.  Recently, her and her husband Steve decided to visit Stampers and she offered to do a guest review.  I graciously accepted and she did a stellar job covering all of the details of their meal!

——————————————————————

Within the past year, Stamper’s has undergone an image transformation. While the bar looks the same both inside and out, the menu, beer list, and music scene have all had a face lift. When a few friends of ours recently visited and spoke highly of the “new” Stamper’s, my husband, Steve, and I decided that we should check it out for ourselves. We were most excited to view the new beer menu as Stamper’s claims to be moving into the craft beer direction, even adding the words “craft and belgian beer” to its new sign and website.

Food
The extensive menu of bar food that Stamper’s used to have has been replaced by a sleeker one-page menu. You can choose from bar snacks, small plates, salads, gourmet burgers, sandwiches, fatbread pizzas (no that is not a spelling error), entrees, cheese, and desserts. There is also a Specials board as you enter.

For some reason, I was in the mood for a fish fry. Every year at this time, I have to sample at least one fish fry from an establishment where I have never ordered one before. I don’t normally eat fried food, but the delicious aroma and crunchy breading always beckon to me in the spring. Fortunately, almost every restaurant has a fish fry special during lent. When I saw fried fish skewers on the Specials board, I was in my glory. Stamper’s offers great Happy Hour Specials, which almost made me order the sliders, as they are half off during Happy Hour, but I simply couldn’t pass up on the fish.

Steve ordered the Grind of the Week burger, which was made of chorizo, a favorite of his. I, of course, ordered the fish skewers, and assuming that they would be small, I also ordered half of the goat cheese salad. Steve and I had just finished completing our tax refund, which may have made us extra hungry, because we also ordered the soft pretzels as an appetizer.

The pretzels weren’t anything special. I feel as if I could have had almost the same quality from the frozen box of Super Pretzels that I used to microwave as a kid. The two redeeming qualities of the pretzels were the sweet and spicy mustard sauce and the lingering softness that the pretzels retained. The ones I microwaved always seemed to get chewy and hard after a few minutes. The smoked cheddar stout sauce was flavorless.

My salad was shockingly bland. Goat cheese is my favorite food. I love it for its funkiness and biting flavor. This goat cheese just didn’t have that. The balsamic vinagrette also tended towards the flavorless side. The saving grace of this salad were the candied walnuts and the dried cranberries.

The fish skewers were huge. I was not prepared for this. I’m not sure why I assumed that this was a smaller portion, so it is only my own fault that I didn’t ask the server how many pieces were in a skewer order. At first bite, the skewers were everything I had hoped for when craving a fish fry. The breading was crunchy, the fish was flaky and moist, and the tartar sauce was incredible. I’m not sure what exactly went into the tartar sauce, but I would have to guess that jalapenos were present. There was the perfect amount of kick to go along with the thick, creaminess of the sauce. However, when I tasted the fish skewers without adding tartar sauce, there simply was no flavor. The texture was spot on and, to be honest, I’d rather have crunchy flavorless fish skewers than soggy flavorful ones. As the skewers sat for a while (I was eating my salad), they unfortunately, became grease bombs. I couldn’t continue to pick them up and pry them off of their skewers, as my fingers kept slipping.

Steve’s burger was also a redeeming food item from our visit. The chorizo was spicy enough for someone who likes things a bit hot, and may have been too hot for people with a sensitive palate. Steve likes his food to have major kick, so it wasn’t quite spicy enough for him, however, that isn’t necessarily a surprise as restaurants have to cater to all of their clientele. While he ordered his burger medium-rare, and it was borderline medium-well, it was still moist and juicy. The only real problem with his burger was the bacon on top. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but some pieces were crispy and others had bulbous sections of inedible fat that had to be removed prior to consumption.

The french fries reminded me of fair fries and I could have picked at them all day. They weren’t crispy, which I usually prefer, but they had the wonderfully fresh potatoey taste that trumped all need for crispiness. Stamper’s chef attempted to fancify the fries by adding sprigs of rosemary. However, at least on this visit, there was no rosemary aroma or flavor to be found.

I would recommend ordering a burger. It was definitely the best bite on the table. Plus there is the added bonus of french fries as a side.

Drinks 
The draught list had 24 beers available, plus the always popular domestics like Bud Light. Whoever planned the menu attempted to consider that not every visitor would have craft beer knowledge. Therefore, they set up the menu in a few interesting ways. First, the beers were listed in order of darkness. Beer closer to the top of the menu was lighter and those near the bottom were dark. There was also an advisory about head, and that certain glasses may not be filled all of the way to compensate for a thick head on the beer. One of the major problems with setting up a menu this way is that the color of a beer doesn’t always mean it will have a particular flavor. For example, currently on Stamper’s menu is Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale. This beer is near the bottom of the menu because of its color. However, this is a hoppy beer that is similar in flavor to an IPA, which are often light in color. If the beer drinker is expecting to get a thick, dark stout, such as those beers that surround the Self-Righteous, they will be in for a surprise, and potentially not a good one.

There are these little symbols all over the menu. And while Steve and I believe that we figured them out, there is no map key for us to be sure. We assume that the little airplanes mean that you can purchase the beer in a flight for the lower dollar amount listed to the right. We assume that the little wine glass means that the beer will taste a bit like a wine, as it was pictured next to a lambic. We are not sure what the boot symbols mean. We are kind of hoping that they mean the beer will be served in a boot, but honestly don’t know and didn’t ask.

I ordered a Columbus IPA, which is one of my favorite summer beers. I realize that it isn’t summer yet, but the weather was exceptional and people were eating on the patio. Steve ordered a Great Divide Oak-Aged Yeti Stout. Both beers were priced reasonably. The size of the pour was also clearly displayed on the menu so that we knew exactly what we were getting prior to ordering it.
As a craft beer snob of sorts, I appreciate that Stamper’s is trying. They have done a nice job of moving away from all domestic beers. Some of the beers on their list may be a bit common, but others are not. Overall, their beer menu would be a good option for craft beer snobs and those just getting their feet into the craft beer waters.

Atmosphere and Service
We were greeted immediately upon entering the restaurant by the hostess who also became our server. She was extremely friendly and had great knowledge of the food side of the menu. Not once did she appear at our table without a smile on her face and I could overhear her talking to other tables with the same positive persona. The only real snafu was that even though we ordered an appetizer and two dinners, she brought out the pretzels, salad, and fish skewers all at the same time and the burger didn’t arrive for another 5 minutes or so. This could have been more of a problem if I wasn’t eating with my husband, but we are past the point of waiting for each other to eat, which is good since the longer my fish skewers sat, the greasier they became. Our waitress checked back on us multiple times and empty dishes never sat at our table for long. Either our server swung by and removed them or the owner did. There was a rather long wait to bring our check, however, the place was packed and most likely a bit understaffed for a crowded Wednesday night. We do not fault our server at all for this delay.

The atmosphere at Stamper’s has not changed much since its upgrades. The interior is still decorated the same and there are dark areas in the back and by the bar. What has changed though is that people must no longer feel that this is just a bar anymore. (I’ve always felt the word “grill” is a distinguishing word for people to bring children inside.) Patrons of all ages were in the dining area. From a family with two small children to another family of high school aged children, everyone was welcome.

Overall, The word “pub” is not a descriptor that I would use for Stamper’s. Pub makes me think of one of two things: either a dark bar that only serves food that can be cooked in a deep fryer, or a gastropub where the food and beer are equally outstanding. Neither of which applies to Stamper’s. I would classify it as somewhere in the middle. Stamper’s is a nice place to grab a beer with friends and eat a juicy burger at the same time.

Hodge’s Cleveland Preview

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My fiancee and I were invited to Hodge’s Cleveland for a sneak peak at a few dishes last night.  I quickly wanted to share them with you so you’ll have a better idea of what to expect when you walk in the doors.  Outside of the food, the decor at Hodge’s is wonderful.  If you have ever met Chris at one of his food trucks the restaurant fits his personality perfectly.  The outside patio will seat over 100 people and will be a real treat before heading to some Indians games. There is also a hodgepodge selection of brews with something for everyone.
Every table at Hodge’s will be treated to a small bite to start their evening.  Tonight we sampled two of those selections.  First we had Baked Potato Tater Tots served with bacon bits and a sour cream and chive dip.

Next we were served a Corn Bread in a cast iron skillet (do not touch, it is very hot!)  It was paired with whipped bourbon maple butter.

For our first taste of the menu items we had Tuna Poppers.  These bite sized poppers consisted of a crispy rice cake topped with Ahi tuna and ponzu.

Next we tried Chris’s take on Pork and Beans.  This was a piece of house braised bacon with pressure cooked pine nuts.  It was served with red cabbage and parsley.

For our third tasting we tried the Certified Angus Beef Hanger Steak. The steak itself was marinated overnight in balsamic and once cooked, topped with a fresh salsa verde that was made with numerous green herbs including mint.  The steak came with tomato creamed heirloom beans and crispy fried potato shards.

Next we had “Peas and Carrots”.  This came with a seared lemon scallop topped with a piece of grapefruit. It was served with smashed peas, a pea soubise, a cumin chef’s garden carrot and a touch of cilantro.

The final treat for the night was the Fried Apple Pie.  Chris told us his inspiration for this none other than McDonald’s apple pies we all had as kids.  The fried apple pie bites were topped with cinnamon and sugar and then served with a swipe of bourbon caramel.

We are looking forward to heading back to Hodge’s Cleveland for dinner one evening and a full review of our experience.  In the meantime, I hope this preview gives you an idea of what Chef Hodge has up his sleeve.  Cheers!

Burntwood Tavern in Rocky River

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Back in November of 2010 my fiancée and I tried the newly opened Burntwood Tavern in Chagrin Falls. Recently, a new Burntwood Tavern opened in Rocky River, so we ventured over to the Westside to see what this Burntwood had to offer.

 

Food
My fiancée ordered the Asiago Crusted Chicken ($16). It was served with crispy potatoes and wilted spinach, then topped with fire roasted marinated tomatoes. The crust on the chicken was light and crispy while the inside remained juicy and tender. The asiago however didn’t really come through in the flavor like my fiancée would have hoped. The crispy potatoes were really unique. These smashed and pan fried potatoes were really crispy on the outside and perfectly soft on the inside. We both though this was the perfect starch side for this style of dish. Finally, the spinach that was cooked in a lemon vinaigrette was absolutely delectable.  Even though the asiago flavor was minimal at best, this dish was still excellent and we would recommend it.

I ordered the Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops ($24).  The 3 medium sized scallops were grouped together and then collectively wrapped in prosciutto. They were then seared & served on a bed of roasted root vegetables and finished with basil oil. When I ordered this dish I expected each scallop to be wrapped in its own piece of prosciutto, so when it came out as a cluster wrap I was somewhat surprised. This wasn’t a major issue because the scallops were all cooked perfectly and the amount of prosciutto wrapped around the bunch ended up being just enough to get a piece with every bite of scallop. I personally love scallops wrapped in prosciutto or bacon because of the way the fat from the meat plays on the soft delicate flavor of the scallop. The root vegetables helped to add texture and even more flavor to the dish. These vegetables had a wonderful roasted, almost smokey flavor that really was enjoyable. The dish also came with just a few sweet potatoes chips that were excellent.  I wish there would have been a handful of the chips on the dish because were so tasty and added another layer of crunch to the dish. I do think the portion size was a little on the small side though for the price. Overall, I was very pleased with the flavors on this dish and would recommend it to any seafood lover.

Drinks
The drink menu at Burntwood offers everything. Wine lovers will enjoy a fairly extensive and reasonably priced wine list. Cocktail and mixed drink fans will find a pretty unique and hand crafted cocktail list as well. Finally, the craft beer fan will be happy because the Rocky River Burntwood location has nearly 20 taps, plus a nice bottle list. My choice of beverage for the evening was a Brew Kettle 4Cs, while my fiancée decided to go with a nice glass of the house red wine.

Atmosphere and Service

When you walk in the restaurant you quickly notice that there is a large wrap around bar with a large dining area just on the other side of it. The entire restaurant makes great use of the space. Natural brick and recycled wood are everywhere and really make the restaurant a warm and inviting place to eat. We sat out in the patio area which was completely enclosed in glass for the winter. The roaring fireplace just behind us made a great backdrop for our dinner. Our service for the evening was very good too. Our waitress was knowledgeable about the menu and was more than willing to find the answers to all the questions we had.  Our food came out quickly, and both dishes were fresh out of the kitchen and clearly did not sit for very long. Overall, we were impressed by the new Rocky River Burntwood Tavern.  I would recommend it to both east and west side residents!