More On Politics

Yes, I know…I said I don’t like posting about politics.  But you know what? I just can’t sit here anymore and be branded by some as “brainwashed” or be told I “drank the kool-aid” because I happen to believe that universal healthcare is a good thing.  I work in a hospital and everyday I see and hear from both sides – the extremely rich who come here from all corners of the world and the poor and grateful who have leveraged every penny of credit to afford treatment.

And right now, the thought rattling around in my head (which was inspired by this post, which doesn’t directly make the same connection) is “If we were talking about education, would the argument be different?”  Because, just like healthcare, no where in the Constitution does it say that I as a tax payer have to pay for public schools.  And it doesn’t say anywhere in that document that the US has to provide free and compulsory schooling to everyone. Education itself isn’t even mentioned in the Constitution or the Amendments.

But we do pay for it even if you don’t use it or like it. It’s a “public option” if you will and while some may choose to pay additional funds to send kids to a private school, we as a society provide a State and Federal government-run school system for every child in the country.  And yet, I hear no one yelling “that’s blatant Socialism!” over our education system.

Our system of public education has downfalls, that’s for sure.  Here in Ohio our schools are still illegally funded after our funding system via local property taxes was declared by the courts to be unconstitutional in 1997.  And yet we still continue to pay our taxes year after year and only really grumble when a new levy comes up. Public schools have not destroyed the private school system. 89% of kids in this state use the public option of schooling while the other 11% still pay into the public funding structure and pay additional funds to attend private schools. Choices exist even in a government-run compulsory education system.

I used to work for one of those private schools.  Not every kid there is a rich kid.  There are plenty who have families who leveraged every penny of credit and aid to afford tuition. But when the going got tough they weren’t faced with the option of no schooling at all – they had the public system to fall back on. If their kid was diagnosed with a learning disability that the private school couldn’t handle, they weren’t told “tough luck –it’s a pre-existing condition. Good luck finding help.” And no one has ever had to have a car wash to send their kid to kindergarten.

It can be argued that both education and healthcare are answers to the call to “promote the general welfare” of our people as laid out in the preamble of the Constitution. So why are some people so perfectly happy to accept one and say they are “terrified” of the other?

New and Improved

Many, many thanks to my hubby who worked late into the night for the last couple of weeks to give me a new design for this blog.  I love it and think it much better reflects me and my style (and lets face it, that old knitting background was false advertising since I haven’t knit anything for like 3 years).

You might also notice the new column for BlogHer Ads over to the right.  I applied to be a part of the ad network when I started this blog over a year ago and was recently invited to join.  Yes, I will (eventually) get money from those ads, but it really is just pennies and will help offset the hosting cost for the blog.

Anyway – hope you like the new digs!

Restaurant Week Review, Part 3

Sorry for the delay on this post – my wonderful hubby is working on some new design stuff for the blog and we’ve spent our evenings (my writing time) working on that. You will see the new design very soon! Without further ado, here is the 4th and final post containing updates and reviews from our Restaurant Week. You can read other posts on this great week here, here and here.

One of the first rules we had established when we came up with our Restaurant Week was to only go to places we had not yet tried. But as we finalized our list we kept circling back to The Greenhouse Tavern, even though we have been there before. The truth of the matter is that while we enjoyed our first visit, eating out with a 2-year-old hardly makes for an evening to savor the food. So after much deliberation we broke our only rule and made Greenhouse Tavern the conclusion to our week. It was hands down the best night of them all. If you live in NE Ohio and have not heard of Greenhouse Tavern you must live under a rock as they have been featured in numerous publications. And if you have never endeavored to eat there – what are you waiting for? I really do think it is the best restaurant in Cleveland.

I arrived on the rainy night and was seated in the rear mezzanine with a great view of the activity below. As I waited for Mark to park the car the Hostess with the Mostess, Chefs Widow, stopped by to chat. She is just as sweet as they come. Her blog is one of the first I started reading when we moved to Cleveland and was the catalyst for my interest in the Cleveland food scene. It’s been pretty amazing to read as her and her Chef-husband work their tails off to make GHT a reality and how involved they are with the local “farm to table” movement. If there is a food event in town, they are a part of it and it’s inspiring to see a young couple who have invested so much of themselves into this city. Anyway, I digress…

When Mark joined me we were served the GHT’s pork rillette and crusty bread while we pursed the menu. We started out with the House Made Fromage Blanc with grilled bread which was creamy, rich and just slightly tart and heavenly when spread on the crispy bread.

Mark ordered those ethereal Crispy Chicken Wings while I moved on with my apparently cheese-themed dinner by ordering the Goat Cheese Tart with Heirloom Tomatoes. The Sawyers should really come up with another name for the chicken wings because when most people think of “wings” they conjure up an image of overcooked chicken drenched in sauce and these wings are anything but that. They are crispy outside and perfectly fall-off-the-bone juicy inside with a nice kick of heat and not a drop of sauce in site. I knew Mark had been looking into that dish all week. While Mark enjoyed his wings I dug into my tart which was a beautiful plate of colorful sliced tomatoes topped with an herb salad and accompanied by a dish of sorts made of dough with yummy Lake Erie Creamery goat cheese tucked inside. I am impressed how the kitchen at GHT can make something as simple as these fresh ingredients taste so spectacular. There is a real art in making simple food that allows the favors and freshness show off. This dish proved to me that Chef Sawyer is a master of this art because the overall dish was more then the sum of its parts – the acid of the tomatoes played off the creaminess of the goat cheese while the herbs infused everything with fresh, bright flavor.

By this time I was pretty full so I ordered the Blue Crab Gnocchi from the “Halfs” menu and Mark dove into the Ohio Beef Burger. We had heard great things about both items and they did not disappoint. My gnocchi was incredible – I really wanted to lick the plate clean! Nice chunks of blue crab paired with the sweet crunch of fresh corn and the tender pillows of pasta beneath. I’m not sure what all went into the sauce but the entire dish was amazing and I ate it very slowly not wanting it to end. I could have happily eaten 2 orders had I not already stuffed myself with all things cheese. Mark’s burger was exquisitely cooked to medium rare – no overcooked beef here! It was juicy, flavorful and was one of the best burgers he’s ever eaten.

At this point we were both happily full and still talking over how much we love the GHT not only for its amazing food but lively atmosphere and affordable prices when our server told us that Chef Sawyer was sending up a dessert for us. We were excited to taste the work of Keri Garcia, the GHT Pastry Chef and were wowed by the Pot of Chocolate Mousse For Two that Chef Sawyer personally delivered to our table. He also poured us each a glass of a 26-year-old port which he said paired nicely with the chocolate mousse. I’m not a connoisseur of port and in fact most of those I’ve had in the past were overly sweet and sticky. But this was seductive, silky and supple and when paired with the mousse was downright sexy. It really was a perfect ending to a fantastic meal.

We left GHT totally enamored with the place. You really can’t find better food for such great prices anywhere else in the city. And to see both Chef Sawyer and Amelia working the tables, greeting guests and delivering food was wonderful to see. You can tell they are both passionate about the restaurant and want to make sure everyone has a wonderful experience. It was an ideal finish to what started out as a frustrating week. And if you are in the area doing your own Restaurant Week or just want a night out, make sure Greenhouse Tavern is at the top of your list.

Restaurant Week Review, Part 2

This is the 3rd of 4 posts containing updates and reviews from our restaurant week.   You can read other posts on this great week here and here. The Greenhouse Tavern is going to get it’s own post because it was hands down the best meal we’ve had in Cleveland. These posts are pretty Cleveland-centric…for any of you not from NE Ohio, there is a bit of mommy-blogging at the bottom of this post.

On Wednesday I was kind of feeling that going out 5 nights in a row was too much. I was not feeling well after too much foie gras the night before and Mark was going to the Indians game so we were headed for an early dinner. The choice for the evening was Ponte Vechhio on the Superior Viaduct, which Mark chose.  He can’t recall how he heard about this place – he thinks it was on the website for Cleveland Independents but isn’t sure.  Either way it was a charming find.  The food was good, the view was spectacular and the service prompt. One of the really nice things is that you can get most of their pasta entrees as a half order, which is exactly what I did to give my stomach a break.

I started with a Caprese salad which was well done with fresh, homegrown tomatoes and a light dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar – nothing special but a well done Caprese. Mark had the Ceasar which he really enjoyed; it was not overly dressed and had a pleasant tang. For dinner I had a half order of Goat Cheese Ravioli which was the perfect size – 3 large pasta pockets. They were served in a brown butter and balsamic vinegar sauce with cantaloupe and prosciutto. I really liked the taste of the slightly warm melon with the goat cheese and prosciutto, I’m not a big fan of cantaloupe plain but I really enjoyed this pairing. Mark had a full order of the Spaghetti Bolognese which gave him enough for lunch the next day. From my bite I found it a really well balanced dish which wasn’t over powered by the flavor of the sausage.  Mark declared it very good with perfectly cooked pasta and a nice, meaty sauce.  His only complaint was that it lacked the hit of garlic he was looking for. We shared a dessert of tiramisu which was…odd.  Instead of the classic ladyfingers theirs had some sort of soaked chocolate cake with pecans.  It was okay, but not at all what we were expecting.

The real charm of Ponte Vechhio is their amazing view of the city. It’s location, tucked far down on Superior Viaduct, is not the easiest to find but I think it would be a fantastic location for a romantic dinner. We were there too early in the evening to enjoy the city all lit up but I’m sure it’s beautiful. They do have a covered outdoor eating area, but it doesn’t have the same views. If you go, ask for a seat by a window to take full advantage.


Yesterday we picked up M after 5 days with my parents and our house is already trashed.  We are so happy to have her back, and from the looks of my mom and dad they were happy to hand her off. M has been talking our ear off with all the highlights of her week including a trip to the Toledo Zoo, the Lima Historical Museum (I didn’t even know they had one) and all the adventures she had with her beloved cousins. She learned new songs – The Beatles Yellow Submarine was their song of the week – and I swear she grew an inch. My parents also discovered her love for hamburgers – something she would never touch before (I’m sure she saw her cousins eating them).  She keeps telling us “I’m so happy to be here” and we are elated to have her back.  This morning Mark suggested we go find Brandywine Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and we had a great time hiking the Brandywine George Trail and playing ing the Brandywine River. She spent a solid 30 minutes tossing rocks into the stream and almost walked the entire 1.5 mile, “difficult” trail…. Mark had to carry her up the steepest hill, poor guy.


Her school doesn’t start back up until Thursday so Mark and I are taking turns next week staying home with her. Hopefully the weather is nice so we can do some more exploring.

Restaurant Week Review, Part 1

As you know M has been at her grandparents house all week so Mark and I embarked on our own little restaurant week, visiting a new establishment every night.  With your help we narrowed down our selections to Lolita, Sarava, Crop, Ponte Vecchio and Greenhouse Tavern. We were so excited to have something to look forward to each night because while we truly enjoyed our kid-free week, the house was way too quiet in the evenings.

Sunday night was to be our first trip to Michael Symon’s famed Lolita.  But the hostess refused to seat us so we sought out Tremont Tap House instead. (And for all of you who have asked, despite a call and email to the restaurant, no one from Lolita has contacted us in response.) The Tap House was pretty empty on Sunday night but that didn’t stop us from enjoying some great food and beer.  We started with the Calamari with hot cherry peppers which were delicious.  I didn’t even know a thing like hot cherry peppers existed but I am so happy to know about them now. The calamari were crispy on the outside with a great bite to the inside. The cherry peppers add that sweet/savory mix that pairs so nicely with calamari. We devoured the dish in just a few minutes.

Next we both ordered burgers – the Blue for me and the Joshua for Mark. We both laughed when they came out on tin plates because it reminded us of our favorite beer and burger place in Toledo – Nick & Jimmy’s – who served their food on the same plates.  The resemblance didn’t stop at the plates because the burgers themselves reminded us of the fantastic ones at N&J’s – big, juicy and tasty.  We both polished off our burgers and fries and were quite happy that the Lolita incident had led us to Tremont Tap House.

Monday night took us just up the road to Saravá.  It’s a place we’ve been talking about trying every since we moved here almost 2 years ago.  We were there quite early – around 5:30 and were seated at a booth in the bar area.  We loved the ambiance of this place and our seats overlooking Shaker Square were perfect. We started with the Garlic-Parsley Shrimp which were perfectly cooked and mildly flavored. I moved on to the Shrimp Bainna which was a dish of more perfectly cooked shrimp and a sweet yet spicy coconut milk sauce.  I loved the sauce so much I even ate all the vegetables in the dish, and I’m not a fan of veggies.  Mark had the Oy Vey! Pizza with kosher hard salami and crushed red pepper. I’m not a big fan of meat on pizza but my bites were very well balanced and the crust was crisp and airy.  We both got dessert – I opted for the Coconut Butter Cake which was every bit as good as you would imagine.  Mark had the Brazilian Carmel Custard which was reminiscent of flan and very tasty.  With a nice children’s menu I think Saravá will become a regular spot for us.

Tuesday night had us at Crop Bistro in W. 6th Street.  I recently had a delicious lunch at Crop and was excited to go back for their dinner menu. First things first – we were seated along the long wall with banquette seating on one side of the table and chairs on the other. I get that the chef has gone for a NYC feel with the tables squeezed close together but I didn’t appreciate the fact that I could have easily reached my fork over and taken a bite of our neighbor’s meal.  We were so close that it was hard to concentrate on our own conversation and not listen to theirs.  The restaurant was only about a third full so I saw no reason for us to be sitting so close to another party – this is Cleveland, not New York, give us a little breathing room.

Anyway, I had heard great things about Crop’s Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras so I ordered that.  I was velvety smooth and delicious, however I think I ate too much because I wasn’t feeling well later in the evening. I had the entree of Ribs in a Cherry Sauce and Mark got the Chicken Fried Chicken with Ohio Maple Waffles.  Both were plated beautifully but I was a bit surprised at how few ribs I got for $28 – just 4 bones.  While the ribs were nicely cooked – tender and flavorful they were lost under the thick coating of overly sweet sauce, I found that by scraping off most the the sauce I was able the enjoy the meat much more.  The sides of slaw and cheddar sweet potatoes were very good.  Mark’s chicken was perfectly tender and juicy but lacked a bit in the seasoning.  The dish was drizzled with a maple sauce which was very sweet and lacked a savory counterpoint.  Crop was the most expensive meal of the week and we were both a bit underwhelmed.  We do want to try it again, but it may not be for awhile.

Still to come… discovering Ponte Vecchio and an amazing experince at Greenhouse Tavern


When I was at my parents house this weekend I looked through some of their old photo albums.  M looks so much like Mark that I was hoping to see some resemblance to me at nearly the same age.  There is a little bit, but she’s still mostly Mark’s child in the looks department:


While I was digging through albums I looked for the likeness of my niece and nephews to my brother and sister as well.  I think you can safely say that my brother created a mini-me (both about age 5 1/2 in the pictures. The nephew is now almost 11):


My sister’s oldest is also a mini-me.  And she is in more ways then just looks, trust me. Both are in the summer of their 8th year here:


My sister’s youngest has been the spitting image of his father practically from birth…there’s no questioning this kids parentage:


As I mentioned before, M is at “Grandma & Grandpa Camp” this week with 2 of her 3 cousins.  The age spread between the 3 is very close to that of my sister, brother and I. Here is 1980 & 2009:


My mom looks pretty good after 29 years, don’t you think?

Lolita is off the List, For Good

Today begins the week of our restaurant crawl. At the top of both our lists was Lolita.  Even though we had experienced some rudeness there before we have both been dying to try it out.  So, on the way home from Lima today – sans child – I called and got reservations.  I spoke with a guy who joked with me that all of Cleveland wants reservations at 7:00 PM, but he was able to get me a 2-top at 7:15.  We were so excited to finally try the famed food.

We arrived at 7:00 and watched as the hostess sat a twosome without reservations.  As we waited for her to return I saw our names on the reservation list so when she got back I pointed to it and said “We are Davis for 7:15 – we’re early”.  She looked at me for a second, looked at her seating book and then said “I just sat the Davis party”.  I told her it was a common name – perhaps it was another reservation and she said no it was Davis for 7:15.  I said perhaps they saw the reservation list sitting on the hostess stand and used our name and she scoffed that “they’re regulars –  I know them”.  She was very clearly implying that I was the one lying about my name. I told her we made reservations this afternoon, that I spoke with a guy. To this she responded that she was the only one who EVER answers the phone – I couldn’t have spoken with a guy. I pulled out my phone and showed her that I had indeed called – at 2:47 to be exact – and told her I did indeed speak with a guy, but I could not remember his name – “Brad? Scott, maybe?” I guessed.  Who thinks to write down the name of the person who takes your reservations?  She soundly reassured me that there was no one there named Brad or Scott.

At this point I asked if there was anything available fully thinking that she would see that an error had been made and would try to accommodate us.  We were 15 minutes early  – and I told her we were willing to wait.  But she firmly told us that she had just given away the last open table on the patio and they were booked for the rest of the evening. She didn’t invite us to sit at the bar, or anything – basically told us ‘we don’t want you here’.  So we left and I was fuming.  What kind of place doesn’t honor reservations?!? So, she sat another couple at our table…I’m sure something could have been done to find a seat for us!

After we walked back to the car I wanted to get the hostess’s name so I called to get it – since she claimed to be the only one to ever answer the phones, you know.  She said her name was Rachel; I asked if there was anything available tonight and she answered “there are some tables open on the patio if you want to sit outside, otherwise we are booked”.  So, not more then a couple of minutes after we left there are magically tables open outside….hmmm.  I’m done with trying to see for myself what all the talk is about Lolita….I have gotten nothing but abject rudeness from the hostesses there. It’s such a difference from Lola where they have bent over backwards to be gracious.  It’s disappointing given how badly we wanted to check it out, but I’m not going to keep going back to a place that treats us so poorly.

So Hard to Say Good-Bye

I love me some Diet Coke.  I can’t function without it.  I get mad when a restaurant offers Pepsi when I order a Diet Coke because ewwww; it’s DC or nothing, baby.  My co-workers know I’m in my cube each morning when they hear the crack and hiss of my first can opening. I need my daily dose of caffeine and coffee gives me heartburn. Plus I only like coffee that’s loaded up with cream and sugar – not the healthiest choice. I know aspartame is awful for you and DC is all chemicals but as I think KickyBoots has so rightfully pointed out in the past: there is nothing like the sweet burn of aspartame at the back of your throat to get you going.

The problem is I drink a lot of Diet Coke.  If it’s available I will drink it until it’s gone.  I drink a lot of fluids every day (60-90 oz) and if there is DC around I will guzzle it down before I have any water. A couple of weeks ago, after cracking open my 4th or 5th DC of the day I realized how much I was vibrating.  And I wasn’t sleeping well, either.  Hmmmm…maybe it was time to cut back on the DC?

So, I started to wean myself down to one 20 oz. bottle a day. Then I ran out and didn’t buy any more.  I’ve done this before; I detoxed off DC and stayed off the junk for nearly 2 years before I tumbled off the wagon straight into a vat of its bubbly goodness. So I knew I could do it again. The caffeine withdrawal sucked.  I had headaches and was so very tired – like cat nap after work tired.  But then the fog began to clear and the headaches went away.  I’m drinking a ton of water and iced tea in place of my usual daily 6-pack and I’m not so tired anymore.  Except for 3:00 PM each afternoon, then I would give my right pinkie for a cold Diet Coke.  But, so far I haven’t caved.

I’m not sure how long this will last but in the meantime my drink of choice is iced tea or water flavored with cucumber and lemon.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel a tear well up in my eye when I see Diet Coke on a menu.

Perfect Pancakes

Not long after M began eating table food we established the tradition of Sunday Pancakes in our house.  After some trial and error we realized that I was the chief pancake maker in the house so every Sunday I played around with the routine. It started innocently enough with Bisquick and some Log Cabin but it has now evolved, in true food snob fashion, to pancakes from scratch and local maple syrup.  The first revelation was when I purchased a cast-iron 2-burner griddle which made flipping and heat control much easier.  Plus I could make 4 cakes at a time, thus getting breakfast on the table in less then an hour.

Then I started looking around for the best pancake recipe I could find.  It didn’t take long for me to figure out that Alton Brown’s was the best. Truthfully pancakes from scratch are not that hard and I’m guessing you have what you need in your pantry already. AB’s recipe tells you how to mix enough dry ingredients for 3 batches so you can use it like instant mix but it’s so easy I just make what I need each week.  His instructions were a new concept to me – you whisk the yellow (melted butter + egg yolks) and the white (buttermilk + egg whites) separately before mixing together and adding to the dry stuff.  This produces a very thick batter which looked all wrong the first time I made it, but it produces thick, fluffy pancakes!

I do have a few tweaks that I’ve learned along the way to make the pancakes even better:

  1. Get good, full-fat buttermilk. You want thick, creamy buttermilk not the watery stuff you find in many mega-marts.  We get ours at the Farmer’s Market but have also found that Trader Joe’s has a good one.
  2. I add in a tsp of vanilla to the liquids before adding the mix to the dry.
  3. Whip the egg whites to almost soft-peak before adding the buttermilk for extremely light and airy pancakes.  Make sure to gently fold everything together after whipping the egg whites.

Mark likes to top his with peanut butter and I prefer local maple syrup that we pick up at the Farmer’s Market.  We both use plain, old Trader Joe’s butter but I suspect that I may soon go the way of Jonniker and Metalia and seek out some cultured butter to try.  As for M, she rarely eats more then 2 bites but I am counting on her to start liking pancakes someday.

Our Private Restaurant Week

Next week M will be spending a week in Lima for “Grandma & Grandpa Camp” along with her cousins.  Mark and I will be taking full advantage of the week by dining out Every.Single.Night.  There are dozens of restaurants we still want to try and we are attempting to narrow down our list.  Right now there is one slot spoken for – Sarava (I won a gift certificate from Trish’s Dish and we will be using it next week).  The other 4 nights are up in the air.  Here are the contenders:

Boulevard Blue
Crop Bistro – I’ve was recently there for lunch and would love to try their dinner menu
Greenhouse Tavern – we’ve been here, but it’s oh so good and I’d like to try it without the kid in tow.
L’Albatros  – I had an amazing lunch here and would love to check out their dinner fare.
Lolita – I know! We haven’t been here yet and it’s a travesty.
Three Birds
Tremont Tap House
** Edited to add Mark’s Picks:
Ponte Vecchio
Melt – I think this one could be saved for when we have to take the kid with us
Bar Symon – seems kid friendly but I haven’t heard if that is true or not, maybe we wait on this one, too?

I’d love to hear your suggestions or votes. Keep in mind we are trying to hit places where it’s more appropriate to be sans kid…I would love to hear your thoughts!