The Plunge

For a very long time I have been reading the tales of others who went sugar-free, grain-free or “primal” with both awe and a feeling that I should also do that. I read a ton; AndreAnna is a big source of info as is Holly. Heidi Robb has given me many pointers and my trainer, Jen Arenschield, has supplied me with many articles about going sugar-free.  I read Mark’s Daily Apple and The Paleo Solution. For years my work email address was somehow subscribed to Dr. Joseph Mercola’s daily newsletter and once I discovered he was legit, I started reading it.

It still took me 5 months to finally take the plunge and cut out processed food, sugar and grains. May 9th was my first day. I promised myself I’d make it 10 days. On May 11th I thought I would die from my withdrawal symptoms (massive headache, extreme fatigue). I went to bed at 8:30 that night and got up the next day feeling a little better. By the end of the first 10 days there were no more headaches and while still tired, I wasn’t as fatigued. I decided I could do it for 30 days.

Now I’m 6 days shy of my 30 day goal and 21 pounds lighter. Other than the first week it wasn’t too bad. Yes, I was grumpy and a few times would have cut you for a baguette. I also had one day that all I could think about was making chocolate chip cookies and falling face first into the bowl of cookie dough. Up until this past week my energy level has been lower than usual (and I’m still up 1-2x a night with the Madman, so “usual” is pretty low), but that is starting to get better.

I’m not following any strict plan, which after years of Weight Watchers, is strange. I’m using loseit.com (and the iphone app) to journal my food; but I think once I get a handle on protein/sugar contents I will be able to back off of this tracking. I aim for 70-100g of protein and try to keep my sugar (from fruit/veggies) to below 20g. I don’t really pay attention to fat or fiber. I usually get about 1200-1500 calories a day.

A few people have asked me what I eat and how it works for the kids. Here’s my basic day:

Breakfast: eggs, smoothie or fasting.
I’ll make scrambled eggs (2 whole, 2 whites) with some veggies – spinach or red/yellow peppers, usually. If I’m on the run I’ll eat 4-6 hard boiled egg whites on the way to work. (The only reason I don’t eat the yolks is because I don’t like egg yolks if they aren’t runny).

Some mornings I’ll have a smoothie with whey protein, chia seeds, spinach and either strawberries or blueberries.  Either way my breakfast clocks in at 20-24g of protein.

If I’m not hungry in the morning I don’t force myself to eat. Often I find that I’m not hungry until 10-11 AM.

Lunch:
I make a huge salad with lettuce, other veggies, cheese and some fruit. I usually use straight balsamic as the dressing. My current favorite combo is strawberries and this amazing grass-fed organic feta from the Farmer’s Market. So delicious! Then I’ll have protein on the side. Yesterday I had 3 chicken legs. Some days it will be tuna salad, egg salad (both made with a little mayo, mustard, celery, chia seeds), or leftover protein from the night before.

Going out with coworkers isn’t that hard, either. Chipotle/Qdoba are easy – meat, veggies, guac and salsa over lettuce. Or I can have a salad with grilled chicken with oil and balsamic dressing. Or a burger without the bun.

Dinner:
This is where I thought things would get tricky and I would be making a separate dinner for myself. But that hasn’t been the case. I usually have a salad (almost always a smaller repeat of what I had for lunch because that’s what I have on-hand). Sometimes Mark will want a salad, other times he won’t. Then, since we almost always have a protein I eat that and just not the starches.

For instance, when we have burgers I have mine either with a knife & fork or wrapped in lettuce. Last night we had spaghetti and meatballs so I sautéed some diced peppers (I keep a big bag of them in the freezer) and had my meatballs covered with marinara and peppers while Matilda and Mark had their’s over pasta. Chicken, steak and pork are easy to eat without a starch. Right now Copper River salmon is in season and I could eat that every night (so could Matilda). The night we had lemon shrimp and pasta I just ate the shrimp. For them stir-fries go over rice while I skip it. Honestly, I usually eat what everyone else is eating but I just don’t eat the grains.

I have a Paleo cookbook that I haven’t even cracked yet. And there are tons of sites for paleo/primal recipes, but so far I haven’t seen the need.

Plus, I’m getting more adventurous with my vegetables. I’m not a huge fan of many of them (I will never, ever willingly eat broccoli) but I’m trying more. After years of not touching asparagus I bought some at the Farmer’s Market for $1 (hooray for being late and catching the end of the day deals) and roasted it. It wasn’t fall of your seat delicious but it wasn’t awful and I ate it without making faces. And Matilda ate a bunch, too.

I’m looking forward to both our CSA season (starts today!!) and more vegetables coming into season at the Farmer’s Market. I think I will be challenged to eat more of the good stuff.

Snacks
Almonds and blueberries are a favorite. Fresh-ground peanut butter or almond butter on celery (or off a spoon!) is another. Strawberries with cream – yum! But after the first 2 weeks my snacking needs went down. I usually have something around 3 PM and then, if I work out, something around 8-9 PM.

Drinks
I haven’t had any alcohol during this 1st 90 days but between being pregnant and nursing for 50 of the last 65 months it’s not like I’ve been drinking much in the last 5 years. I gave up Diet Coke when I got pregnant with the Madman and even though I took it back up at the beginning of the year it wasn’t that hard to quit again. I had been drinking 2 cups of coffee a day but since I can only stomach coffee with cream and lots of sugar I gave that up. Right now I drink mostly water and iced tea, which wasn’t much of a shift for me. I did, however, give up most of my milk (I love milk). But I still do have a glass of Snowville whole milk a few times a week.

Over all it’s working and I can see myself sticking with this way of eating for a long time. I’m not going to lie – on June 10th I plan on having something sweet and/or grain-full. But I can see now that when I do “cheat” it won’t be with junk… it will be with awesome artisan bread or Jeni’s Ice Cream – it will be worth the splurge. I have vague plans to eat pretty clean until our vacation in July, and then I think I’ll aim for 6 days a week with 1 “cheat day” and see how I feel. But other than then 1st 10 or so days, I’m really doing just fine. I’m happy with what I’m eating, I feel better and I don’t feel deprived.

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Share the Shearer’s

As I mentioned before – Mark’s race was a weekend-long family affair. We were in Cincinnati for 2 nights/3 days along with my parents and other family. I have 2 rules when traveling with kids: 1) a suite or 2 regular hotel rooms are essential and 2) bring SNACKS. Lots of snacks.

Luckily not long before the race weekend Shearer’s asked me to be part of their Share the Shearer’s and try out their new line of healthier chips (in comparison to their classic Red Bag line). Ever since I learned that Shearer’s was not only a local company but one of the greenest good manufacturing plants in the world, we have made an effort to buy only their chips for parties and home. So accepting their offer was a no-brainer as I already buy their product.

It was perfect – I could stock our hotel room with snacks for us, for my parents and for other family who would be stopping by throughout the weekend. Shearer’s sent me a box of assorted chips – the new potato chips, along with several flavors of Riceworks and Shapers. The day we left I also went and picked up some grocery items like cheese, yogurt, water and fruit to round out the selection we’d have in the hotel room.

Thank goodness for the snacks! First of all, the Black Bean Salsa and Cinnamon Shapers were gone days before we hit the road. Mark and Matilda took care of those in short order. In fact we passed the cinnamon ones off as dessert a couple of times (18 grams of whole grains and low sugar in a dessert – score one for mom!). During our 4-hour drive to Cincinnati we all shared the Sea Salt Riceworks which were NOT what I was expecting from a “brown rice crisp”. They were a little nutty, salty and crunchy and quite delicious; I’m pretty sure I had way more than my share of that bag.

In the hotel room we sampled the chips with visiting family….believe me, people were more than happy to come hang out in our room! The sour cream and onion and the rippled were everyone’s favorite. And no one had any idea they were eating chips without trans fat. In fact, my mom asked for a bag of Rippled to take home – they were as good as her favorite potato chips (and that woman is a potato chip connoisseur). Mark chowed down on the BBQ and Classic flavors post-race… he said the salt was “essential” after running.

I gave the Sweet Chili and Tangy BBQ Riceworks Chips to a co-worker who is gluten-free. Later that day he not only thanked me 3 times he asked to throw one of the bags in my trash. He had eaten both bags and was embarrassed to have 2 “empties” in his own trashcan. Guess that means they were really good!

Chips aren’t a pantry staple in our house, but Shearer’s will always be our go-to when the craving hits. It’s nice to know that you can get the flavor you want without the junk you don’t want. It’s a company I’m more than happy to support.

Disclosure: Shearer’s provided chips to sample and a grocery gift card to supplement our selection for the weekend. The opinions are strictly my own.

In Defense of a 30 Minute Meal

Foodie. Hippie. Locavore. Food Douche. Call it what you will but we, like thousands of other families, have take great strides to improve what we eat. Make more homemade. Support local agriculture. Cook more.

There’s an article by fellow Clevelander, Michael Ruhlman, that’s been making the rounds for the last year and when first I read it I nodded along in agreement. Everyone has time to cook – just not everyone makes the choice to cook.

But as it’s resurfaced and I’ve read it again, this time through the lens of a working mother of 2 kids under 5, I get defensive.

I cook a lot. I make much of what we eat from scratch. But why should it have to take an hour or more for it to be considered real cooking? In reality, if it weren’t for the “fast and easy meal” recipes from people like Jamie Oliver and – my favorite source – America’s Test Kitchen, then I would probably not cook as much as I do today.

America’s Test Kitchen – my current favorite recipe magazine

Here is our evening: I pick up Matilda from preschool, drop the carpool kid off, and walk in the door between 5:15 and 5:30 . Mark and the Madman get home between 5:30 and 5:45. The Madman goes to bed at 7:00.  That leaves –  at the most – 90 minutes for dinner to be cooked and eaten, baths to be given and, hopefully, some playtime, reading and snuggles thrown in. I imagine that this scene is played out in countless homes of working parents throughout the country.

My solution is to seek out recipes and ideas with faster cooking times and things I can do ahead. The entire family loves this Korean Beef Rice Bowl. It’s a 30-minute meal that, with a little prep (I do all the chopping, cutting and marinating the night before), can be on the table in 10 minutes. Because of this recipe and others like it, on the nights Matilda has gymnastics we can still have a healthy, real-food dinner cooked by me. We all enjoy it, it’s healthy and it makes me feel good that I made it. A really crazy night might see scrambled eggs with spinach and herbs from our garden thrown on a plate. In the few minutes it takes to cook dinner Matilda can have the table set and when the boys walk in we all sit down for dinner. 

My goal every work-week is to make 3 home-cooked meals with enough leftovers to get us through 2 more dinners. I do what I can on the weekends to make this happen. Something I learned from the 30-minute-meal type shows is to prep all the veggies as soon as I get home from the market. On the weekends I’ll roast a chicken (or 2) to use during the week or make overnight stock if my freezer stash is getting low. I’ll clean and chop and measure out all my mise en place for the 3 meals on Sunday night. I store them in tupperware, labeled with blue tape. I’ll fill a huge bowl with torn lettuce for my lunch salads and will make a big batch of tuna salad. If I’m feeling wild and crazy I’ll make my own mayonnaise, butter or bread, too. 

Some weekends I’ll even get chicken breasts from the Plum Creek Farm stand at the farmers market and will spend an hour cutting them up to make chicken nuggets to stash in the freezer for nights I don’t feel like cooking. Or I’ll make a big batch of waffles on a Sunday morning and freeze the leftovers for out-the-door breakfasts (yes, I give my kids waffles that are still-frozen…they eat them in the car). But I also never feel guilty serving my kid a store-bought nugget or waffle when the homemade supply runs out.

Listen, I do love to cook – when I have time to enjoy it. Give me a weekend with nothing pressing and I’ll make chicken pot pie, braised short ribs or a luscious lasagna from scratch. But trying to shove the meal prep or long cooking (and/or oven-heating) time into my small window of weekday evening of time with my kids is not a high priority. That’s not even mentioning the stress of trying to cook while tripping over a one year old who is reaching for the burner knobs on the stove while the 4 year old whines that she’s hungry. That is not enjoyable for anyone.

I do think that Ruhlman’s overall point is very valid: everyone has time to cook, but not everyone chooses to do so. And while I’m happy that today he has time to enjoy “carnal exertions” with his lovely wife during the hour his dinner roasts in the oven, I’m sure he remembers a little bit of what life was like when his kids were knee-high rugrats clamoring for “food! food! now!”

So please, Michael, stop making at-home 30-minute cooks feel like we are the enemy to good food. And please don’t discourage editors, publishers, producers and chefs from developing new fast meal ideas. I rely on them. In fact, I invite you over to see how I can have a rocking from-scratch meal on the table 20 minutes after I walk in the door.

Sugar Shock

I love to bake. On Sunday I set out to make our holiday cookies.  The only ones I make every year are cut-outs and peanut-butter kisses (but we use mini peanut butter cups instead of kisses because Mark is a PB freak). The others on the list were made on a whim.  So, after sitting down with my recipe box and binder I came up with a stack of 5 recipes and got started. I had high hopes of finishing it all in one day (ha!).

First up – were the PB Kisses:P1060998Tip: parchment paper is your friend (if someone wants to get me 2 1/2-sheet pan Silpats for Christmas, I could save some trees). Use it on your pans for quick clean-up but also prep all your cookies at once on parchment, without having to wait for an empty cookie sheet.

P1060999Mini Peanut Butter cups get really melty.  So after they cool on the rack, I pop them in the freezer to firm up.

These got separated into 2 batches – one for Christmas and one for Mark…there was no way he could wait to gobble these up.

Next I made the cut-out dough and put it in the fridge to chill and rest.  I’ve been making cut-outs for the family since high school when I got disgusted with my mom using store-bought cookie dough to make them. In her defense she used to make them from scratch but with 3 kids (and all the cussing that came from the kitchen), she found an easier way.  Anyway, I have a system for making cut-outs which usually takes 3 days because I normally make a double batch of dough.  Day 1: make dough, separate into 4 batches and flatten on parchment, chill overnight. Day 2: roll, cut and bake. Spend hours cleaning up all the flour. Day 3: frost cookies beautifully with homemade buttercream, preferably using melted chocolate for detail work – yum! But this year it was a single batch and I did everything from dough to baking in one day.

Then it was on to oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  I tried a new recipe that was just okay, no photos since everyone knows what oatmeal chocolate chip cookies look like.  The recipe made a TON of cookies, so there are some for now, some for Christmas and a big bag in the freezer for the future.

Next I took a 2 hour nap and woke up with a huge headache, but the baking must go on! I made no-bake square buckeyes (which are buckeyes, made into bars and topped with melted chocolate so you don’t have to roll and dip). They are basically just peanut butter, sugar and butter – yum!

Then we moved on to rolling and cutting the cut-outs.  M had a blast helping me press the cookie cutters in the dough, but the real fun started when I gave her the dough scraps for her to play with.  She made cookies, a “santa cake” and a “princess castle cake”.

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I had grand plans for finishing out the evening by making chrusciki or Polish “Angel Wings” (that’s not the recipe I use, but you can see what they are). I’m the only one left in my family who knows how to make them, because I took the time to have my Busia walk me through the process a few times.  They are delicate, not too sweet fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar.  People love them. But, I was exhausted and chrusciki are very labor intensive, not to mention that the recipe makes dozens and dozens of cookies and I’ve never had any luck halving the recipe.  And my Busia would haunt me if I wasted half of the dough. So I went to bed, instead. Monday night I entertained the thought of making them, but I didn’t have the energy.

Tuesday night we had a rare week-night date at the Cavs game with awesome seats. Plus we got two Shaq bobbleheads.  Score!

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Tonight, we frosted the cut-outs with homemade buttercream frosting but no chocolate because I am lazy.  M again had a great time “painting” the cookies when her fingers weren’t in her mouth (don’t worry, we separated those out).  She even made a few to take to her teacher. She was so proud of her work.

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And now, with 4 of the 5 recipes done I’m calling it quits.  Our extended-family Christmas is this weekend and hopefully most of these cookies will be consumed.  I used to do huge plates of 7-8 different kinds of cookies for friends and co-workers, but this year I just don’t have the time or energy.  Funny how being 5 months pregnant will do that to you.

What are your holiday baking traditions?

Just Like Ma Ingalls

Last week, at the height of the man-cold I decided it was high time I make some chicken soup.  And, unlike my mom’s yummy chicken soup I wanted to make it with my own stock*, something I had never done before…I know this isn’t rocket science but how much water do you use? How long do you cook it? What veggies are best to use?  Off to Goggle I went and found 1000’s of various ways to make chicken stock.  So next I shot an email off to my foodie friend Danielle who responded to me with this post.  Much like Danielle, I cannot follow a recipe or instructions  exactly so I used her post as a jumping off point.

I had saved the carcass from our last store-bought rotisserie chicken and was planning on getting another for Friday night (shut up, I know how to roast my own very yummy chicken but rotisserie chix have been $4.99 lately and we are a house with 2 parents who WOTH).  So Saturday afternoon I loaded up my Busia’s huge stockpot with the bones, some chicken skin, the wings and thighs – meat on – from Friday’s bird, veggies (minus the parsnips), a roughly chopped bunch of parsley because I think my mom used parsley and 2 nice big pinches of salt.
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A few hours later the house smelled divine.  About 5 hours later I poured everything out through a strainer into a smaller pot – a technique that could used some work…it wasn’t pretty.  I kept a few of the carrots and sliced them up, but didn’t do much with the rest of the veggies.  I had cleaned the meat off the bones pretty well before hand, so after giving our dog a few spoonfuls of the stuff, I threw it all away (don’t worry, he didn’t get any onions or bones).  I was kind of disappointed in the amount of stock I had, it only filled my smaller stock pot to not quite the half-way point.  My plan was to freeze some of the stock for future use in other dishes but I was worried I wouldn’t have enough for the soup so I just used it all.  Here is my batch of golden goodness:

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I added the carrots back in and threw in the leftover meat from the previous night which had been chopped (about 2-3 cups).  I had sent Mark to the store for egg noodles and he brought back Kluski Noodles which are fine, just not my preference  – I like the super-thin egg noodles.  Since the Kluski Noodles take so long to cook, I was worried about cooking them in the stock and over-reducing it.  So I opted to boil them separately in water with a bullion cube added (damn it, I can’t get away from them!) and then added the cooked noodles to the pot of stock.  The result was delicious.  The stock was rich and had just enough fat for a nice mouth-feel and was full of flavor.  It was so rich in fact that I could have easily kept some stock aside and maybe thinned the rest out for the soup.

The soup  was loaded with noodles and chicken – a perfect heartly meal for a cold autumn night. It has gotten better as we continue t0 dig into the leftovers. Plus I have a big container of soup in the freezer waiting for a cold day this winter. Next time I would make a few slight changes: I would add a handful of whole peppercorns and maybe a bay leaf to the stock, plus some more onion.  And I would add more water about halfway through cooking.  This round I didn’t add any water because the bones and vegetables stayed submerged the whole time, but I could have stretched the flavor into more stock without sacrificing any flavor.

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All in all this was way easier then I imagined and I felt quite proud of my finished dish.  The only thing you really need is a full afternoon at home to monitor the pot.  Thanks, Danielle for helping me figure it out!

*My mom kind-of made her own stock in that she boiled a whole chicken along with veggies and used that as a base, but she also ALWAYS added a box of Mrs. Grass’s Soup Mix with a “golden flavor nugget” (i.e. bullion) for extra flavor.  She blamed it on the fact that today’s chickens not being as good as they used to be (which is true).  But now I know that my way is much better.  I was always oddly fascinated by that flavor nugget as a kid.

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.

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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