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Ten Days of Us

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Some of our friends have embarked on this “Ten Days of You Challenge” where they post a varying number of things that express who they are. No rule says that we have to do this in order, so I’ll start with my favorite: food!

Five Foods, in no particular order.

1. Garlic Pudding by Chef Matt Mathlage of Light Bistro in Ohio City, Cleveland, OH.

A few months ago (November?), my friend asked me if I would like to attend Cleveland’s First Annual Dinner in the Dark. Expecting to be served in the dark – literally – I hesitantly said yes.

Turns out, the “dark” element of the meal would only be the dish itself. Six chefs prepared six meals, with proceeds going toward a charitable cause.

Our first dish was garlic pudding. I know it sounds absolutely awful (I had imagined a vanilla pudding pack with minced garlic), but this spoonful of pudding was TO DIE FOR. No other dish has left such an impression on my palate. To this day, I still have cravings for this.

I’d describe it as a super-dense, creamy sauce quenelled onto a green (pesto?) sauce on a plate. The roasted garlic flavor was so subtle, almost like it was just whispered into the pudding. I’ve never had anything like it. If I could condense this haphazard description into two words, they would be heavenly mouthfeel.

Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard. And, while I’m at it:

Dear Chef,

One request. I know this was a special little starter created just for this event, but will you please please please put this on your menu? Or, possibly just make this for my birthday? (March 29th, in case you were wondering.) I’d also be up for the recipe. If need be, I can keep it a secret. I’ve never been this desperate for a dish in my life!


2. “Amsterdam Style” Mussels from Home Bistro in Boystown, Chicago, IL.

Following a recommendation from his older brother, Ryan took me to Home Bistro for our very first date. It’s a BYOB restaurant, so we swung by the grocery store to pick up a bottle of wine for him (some red I don’t recall the name of) and a Rogue Dead Guy Ale for me.

The place is pretty tiny – like most other Chicago restaurants, I’d learn, we were packed like sardines into tables that were within about a foot of the table next to us. Dim lighting helped us ignore the drunk Texan couple trying to make conversation with us.

As soon as the menus came to us, I knew what I wanted to order. The words “rabbit” and “pappardelle” always make my heart skip a beat, as I’ve always generally had luck with that dish. Ryan ordered the mussels, which sounded thoroughly unexciting.

Talk about entrée envy! Our waitress brought out this giant bowl about the size of a mixing bowl filled to the top with garlicky mussels. On the side, Ryan had a basket of truffle fries. Much to our delight, HB doesn’t skimp on the garlic or the truffle oil. Forget the rabbit pappardelle! We ended up mostly splitting his dish that evening. We’re headed there again soon, and I know exactly what I’ll order this time.


3. Bearnaise sauce atop the Hanger Steak from L’Albatros in Cleveland, OH.

Even if we just went to L’Albatros the weekend before, Ryan will always say, “Hey, I think we should go to L’Albatros next time we go out for dinner.” This man cannot get enough of this restaurant! Here’s why:

The wine selection is fantastic. The place is modern, but cozy enough for dates. The table has a little white jar of whole grain mustard, which pairs fantastically with the chicken liver and fois gras mousseline. It’s located right next to my law school (and by default, fairly close to where I live). But really, here’s the reason: the bearnaise sauce that comes with the hangar steak.

To be honest, the steak is what he would call, “good not great.” It’s a steak that would absolutely make your tummy happy, but it’s not anything to write home about. But paired with this creamy, tangy bearnaise, it’s out of this world. Have you seen Giada de Laurentiis from Food Network make that face when she eats something delicious? Ryan does that, but in a markedly less sexual way. And then for the next fifteen minutes, in between bites, he’ll rave about the sauce and how he wishes he could put it on every steak he eats.

That’s how much he loves it.


4. Pan Fried Pork Chop Saltimbocca from Greenhouse Tavern on East 4th in Cleveland, OH.

I’ve had a mixed bag of experiences here. I organized a little field trip for my birthday so that my fellow classmates could try this restaurant I had heard so much about. It was a Monday night, so the restaurant was fairly empty. Why then, did our waitress make such a big stink about splitting the check as soon as she seated us? A big party (~12 people) means you’re guaranteed a decent tip, and I usually tip over that amount anyway because I appreciate good food and good service.

Anyway, moving on. There are things on the menu that I like (fois gras clams – YUM, white wine and grapefruit granita – please bring this back) and things that I don’t like (steak – came out tasting burnt even though Ryan ordered it rare, gravy frites – everyone loves these but they tasted mushy to me). There is one thing on the menu that I guarantee I will always order as long as it is still listed on there, and as long as it is always prepared the same way.

The pan fried pork chop saltimbocca somehow manages to be super moist and flavorful on the inside and super crispy on the inside. Seriously, the skin reminds me of Peking duck – that crispy. Also, what makes this pork chop special is the rosemary rub they managed to sneak in between the skin and the meat. I like that I can always count on this dish to be delicious and satisfying every single time.


5. Macaroni and Cheese from Lucky’s Café in Tremont, Cleveland, OH

For most people, burgers and pizza are probably most people’s favorite American foods. For me, it’s macaroni and cheese. I absolutely abhor the cheap Kraft kind, but a great homemade version will release thousands upon thousands of endorphins. Usually when I make it at home from scratch, I use a few different kinds of cheeses (cheddar and Havarti are my go-to), and add a bit of cayenne, paprika, peas, bacon, and beer. Beer, you say? Think beer cheese soup. If you’ve ever had it, you’ll understand why.

So usually, my own version will do. And usually, someone’s restaurant version will do. But really, Lucky’s baked version blows all of ours out of the water. They use a combination of cheddar, brie, parmesan, and mozzarella. Brie is probably my favorite part – the dish is studded with little cubes of them, like hidden gems.

My one complaint is that it used to be perfect, but recently the cheese sauce has been a lot runnier recently. Chef, please use more flour in your rue! Or do something to make it as good as it once was! I once went to Vine and Bean (sister restaurant) near Shaker Heights hoping the macaroni and cheese would be the same, but it had the same runny sauce. It’s closer to me, and if Lucky’s mac and cheese is going to have runny cheese sauce, I might as well go to Vine and Bean instead.

Protip: make sure you ask for the bacon (an extra dollar or two) and the hot sauce (free, and not actually spicy, but incredibly flavorful). Actually, the hot sauce is so delicious that we bought an entire bottle of it ($12), which we use on eggs and chicken.


Here are some honorable mentions:

Velvet Mushroom Soup – AMP 150 in Cleveland, OH
Bacon Toffee – Rootstock in Chicago, IL
Prime Rib – Wildfire Restaurant in Chicago, IL (one of Ryan’s favorites)
Three Cheese Polenta – Dante in Tremont, Cleveland, OH
Roasted Marrow – Roast in Detroit, MI

Happy dining!


Written by ryanandjocelyn

February 6, 2011 at 10:05 PM