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Lunch at L’Albatros in University Circle

August 21, 2015

One of the many perks of my job is frequent opportunities to enjoy working lunches around town. This afternoon, I had the pleasure of dining at L’Albatros in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood.

L’Albatros is a French brasserie, part of Zack Bruell’s Cleveland empire (for my 518 friends – he’s Cleveland’s version of Angelo Mazzone). He has a tremendous reputation around here, and this was my second trip to a Bruell establishment; my first was Table 45, inside the InterContinental Hotel a few months back. The experience was great, and lived up to the rave reviews I’d heard from several folks.

You’re greeted by an open kitchen as you walk through the door, and can view busy cooks loading plates up on the pass (I love the inner workings of a restaurant kitchen, though I know I’d never want to work in such a grueling atmosphere). The inside is small and intimate, with a tiny bar, brick walls, stone floors and tables tucked in cozy alcoves. L’Albatros has a lovely patio with its own bar, but we visited on a rainy day and had to settle for a table inside next to the (unlit) fireplace.

The waitstaff is knowledgeable and attentive, and the service was quick and efficient without feeling rushed. All in all, a pleasant experience that I’d love to repeat very soon!

Oh, wait – you want to know what the food was like?

Their menu features staples of French cuisine: confits, terrines, pâtés, cassoulets, escargot, etc., as well as a selection of salads and several vegetarian features, which was nice to see. They also offer daily soup and pasta features, using whatever’s fresh. It was my lucky day.

To start: Chilled Beet and Watermelon soup – topped with toasted almonds and chives. Cool and refreshing. Perfect.

Beet Soup

Oops! Bowl looks messy because I ate some before I remembered to take a photo. Look at the color!

Vegetarian Pasta – today’s selection was house-made fettuccine with olive oil and herbs, topped with heirloom tomatoes, kale, roasted corn, and shaved Parmesan cheese

LAlbatros Veg Pasta

The cheese and pasta turned the vegetable broth into a creamy sauce. The tomatoes and corn were at the peak of their summer goodness

Root Vegetable Cassoulet. Not my lunch, so no review from me. Francesca said it was delicious! Looks wonderful.

Root Veg Cassoulet

This wasn’t my dish, so I can’t comment on the taste. But it looks pretty incredible. This will definitely be my choice on my next visit

The servers made frequent stops to refill our bread plates with fresh baguette slices, to be dipped in peppery olive oil. I must have eaten at least five slices. Oof.

Bottom line: lovely little restaurant, delicious and simple food, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. No mention of any Ancient Mariners. One of my favorite Cleveland spots so far!

Crumbs: One of my dining companions spotted Zack Bruell in the restaurant as we were walking out, but then we couldn’t find him to say hello and tell him how much we enjoyed his restaurant. Oh, well. Next time. Because there WILL be a next time.

L’Albatros
11401 Bellflower Rd, Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 791-7880
albatrosbrasserie.com

Note: there is a fee for parking in the lot in front of the restaurant.

Spiced Chickpea and Lentil Stew

August 17, 2015

Since really diving into vegetarianism recently (I’m not perfect, but I’m trying), the biggest struggle for me has been finding something interesting and different to make for dinner. I mean, I love sweet potatoes, but there are only so many ways to cook them. Luckily for me, one of the easiest cuisines to adapt to create meatless meals is Indian. Luckily because Indian is my very favorite.

The recipe below may also be sort of Moroccan. I don’t know. Don’t judge me. It was delicious though.

While home for lunch today, I was looking in the freezer for something to defrost for Bob’s dinner and came across a bag of tri-colored carrots that I bought recently. How could I turn them into dinner for myself? Bob is, was, and ever shall be an unapologetic carnivore – he got ham.

Off to the pantry.

Can of lentils, some uncooked yellow lentils, and this handy little bag of magic, available at the regular grocery store:

Masala-Chhole-F

Back to the freezer to grab a few more things, and then on to the slow cooker! Here’s the approximate formula:

  • 1 pkg Jyoti Masala Chhole (chickpeas and spinach with spices)
  • 1 can cooked lentils
  • 1 handful uncooked yellow lentils (optional – I just happened to have some)
  • 2-3 cups frozen vegetables (whatever you like – I used peas, cauliflower, carrots, and chopped spinach)
  • Garam masala spice blend, to your taste (I used about 2 tablespoons  – YEAH, BABY)
  • enough water to thin out
  • salt and pepper to taste (I used a LOT of pepper)
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish

I think if you wanted to add a can of drained diced tomatoes that would be pretty nice, too.

Combine everything in a slow cooker, and cook on low for 4-6 hours. Serve over basmati rice or couscous and sprinkle with cilantro. Fall over dead with deliciousness.

Lentil Stew

This photo does not do it justice. Bad lighting in my kitchen.

I’ve also tried a few other Jyoti sauce pouches, which have caused much rejoicing – harissa, tikka masala, channa dal, korma. Winners all. Get some.

I’ve been fiddling around with a lot of other awesome vegan/vegetarian recipes these days, which I promise to share. A sampling:

  • Vegan Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas
  • Vegan Korma (this is my favorite recipe so far)
  • Shredded Broccoli & Brussels Sprouts Salad
  • Spicy Breakfast Burritos
  • Peach-Stuffed Scones
  • Cinnamon-Apple Steel-Cut Oats

There you go. Part One in a collector’s series of my experiments with veganism/vegetarianism. I’m expanding my horizons, and really enjoying the journey thus far. A lot of hits, some horrendous misses (I’m looking at YOU, dairy-free sour cream), and a much healthier me emerging in the process.

Please note: If you ask me where I get my protein, I will smack you. You have been warned.

My Latest Post for Akron Empire – George’s Donuts in Twinsburg, Ohio

April 2, 2015

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I’ve been at it again! Here’s my latest post for Akron Empire, with a review of George’s Donuts here in Twinsburg, OH:

George’s Donuts in Twinsburg

There’s a little hat-tip in there to my Siena College Stage III friends…let me know when you see it, ok?

WWWD – Bob’s Your Uncle “Bob White”

March 30, 2015
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AI thought the name was funny, and the price was right

You know me – I love a bargain. And I’ve been loving finding those “end of bin” signs at Heinen’s, which signal a great deal to be had. With my last few purchases, I’ve been rewarded for my frugality. This time, not so much.

A few bottles of Bob’s Your Uncle “Bob White” wine had been languishing on the shelf for a number of weeks, sporting the “end of bin” sign, indicating that Heinen’s will no longer be carrying that particular bottle, for whatever reason (I really should ask the wine guy why they decide to discontinue wines). I felt bad for poor Bob, caninopomorphising (is that a word?) him into the shelter dog that everyone keeps passing by because he just doesn’t “look right” but deep down he’s a hidden treasure and he will love you forever and be your best friend for all time if you’ll only just adopt him and give him a try please please please! So, I decided to spend the $4.99 and see what ol’ Bob was all about.

I was also amused by the fact that the wine was in a brown glass beer bottle, complete with crimped metal cap.

Yep, that's a bottlecap. On a beer bottle.

Yep, that’s a bottlecap. On a beer bottle.

Well, Bob was very disappointing. I mean the wine, not my husband, so you all just shut up for a minute.

The nose of a decent wine will give you a good indication of what’s to come – fruit, mineral, berries, slate, etc. But Bob just sits there in the glass and smells like nothing. Nothing! Strike 1, Bob.

The first sip of a decent wine should give you a sense of the myriad flavors that may unfold on your palate – citrus, grass, black cherry, etc. But Bob gave me only some faint apple, some pear, some Pine-Sol. Strike 2, Bob.

The finish of a wine should leave a delightful impressions, with lingering pleasant notes. Bob left me quickly, with a taste of rubbing alcohol. Strike 3, Bob. You’re out.

Save your money, even if it’s only $5.

The upside: At least Bob’s website is amusing and self-aware. They embrace that Bob’s Your Uncle wines (they have both red and white) is “500 mL or 2 standard servings of wine in a dumpy brown bottle.”

Lunch at Crop Bistro and Bar

March 24, 2015

Since we were going to be in downtown Cleveland for a meeting around lunchtime, we decided to head around the corner from our meeting location and have lunch at Crop Bistro & Bar. Crop is housed in a former 1920’s bank, and the space has been restored such that our lunch felt like a trip to the museum, but tastier.

Ceiling and Painting Over the Bar

Ceiling and fresco over the bar

It’s a wide-open, ornate room, with a coffered ceiling and giant green marble columns that stand like sentinels around the former bank lobby. Preservation Nation (hi, Sarah) posted an article about the history of the building (with much better photos than I took today. The bank vault is even a private dining room!

Giant windows hang over the dining area

Giant windows hang over the dining area

A better view of the ceiling (and a better representation of the color)

A better view of the ceiling (and a better representation of the color)

The chef's table...where diners can enjoy

The chef’s table…where diners can enjoy watching the cooks create the magic that ends up on the plates. Seats up to 12 lucky people

Not only was the space breathtaking, but the food was outstanding. Chef/Owner Steve Schimoler envisioned the space as a culinary laboratory, featuring fresh seasonal flavors from local and artisan purveyors. The lunch menu is wonderfully varied, and very reasonably priced. I managed to have a fantastic lunch for less than $17, including tip.

Salmon Over a Greens Salad

Salmon Over a Greens Salad – lightly dressed with a sherry vinagrette. Not my lunch, but still looked delicious.

Willie Bird Smoked Turkey Sandwich - Smoked Turkey, Amish Cheddar, Cranberry Chutney, Herb Aioli, Open faced Corn Bread Served with a cold Israeli couscous salad and some lightly dressed greens

Willie Bird Smoked Turkey Sandwich – Smoked Turkey, Amish Cheddar, Cranberry Chutney, Herb Aioli, Open faced Corn Bread. Served with a cold Israeli couscous salad and some lightly dressed greens

My lunch, above, was pretty amazing. Smoky turkey, aged cheese and a tart cranberry sauce, piled high on top of a thick piece of crispy-edged cornbread smeared. So delicious. The side of couscous was perfect – pearls of starchy tri-color Israeli couscous, mixed with a tiny pieces of crisp green peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and onions, tossed in a bright vinaigrette. Definitely something I’m going to try to duplicate at home.

Cleveland.com named Crop Bistro to its A-List of the Top 100 Restaurants in 2014.

Crop’s menu reflects chef and co-owner Steve Schimoler’s culinary imagination and joyful sense of experimentation

I concur. Can’t wait to go back.

Related: Cleveland was just ranked 7th in Time.com’s ‘Best Food Cities’ in America survey. I really gotta get busy.

WWWD (What Would Wendy Drink) – Jail Break Pinot Grigio

March 2, 2015

I attended a wine tasting at Heinen’s on Friday night, and had the opportunity to sample a few of the wines that they feature in their “Bin 55” program – their favorites wines under $10. Hey, my kind of collection. #cheapskatewino

If you’re ever near a Heinen’s wine tasting, take my advice and get in there! For $10, you get a ton of wine samples (all different types) and a hearty sampling of food. And the servers are not stingy with the sample portions. Plenty enough for dinner. And dessert – brownie and blondies and cheesecakes oh my!

One of my favorite wines of the evening was a Pinot Grigio from Jail Break Vineyards in Washington’s Columbia Valley.

image

This one surprised me: crisp and fruity up front, not very sweet, with a nice acidic finish. It tasted of honeydew and lemon, and I even think I detected a little underripe strawberry. When I asked the wine expert, he clued me in to why I liked it so much. It contains 13% of my favorite grape – Gewürztraminer.

The blend breakdown isn’t printed on the label, but I found it on their website:

BLEND:

  • 78% Pinot Grigio
  • 13% Gewürztraminer
  • 6% Chardonnay
  • 2% Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1% Muscat Canelli

What an interesting find. It was on sale for $9.99. I think the regular price is somewhere around $12.99. A bargain either way.

Recommend!

Aladdin’s Again

February 27, 2015

Went to Aladdin’s in Hudson again today, and decided to try their chicken salad stuffed pita. This is what arrived at my table:
image

It was nearly as big as my head! Delicious though – moist chicken, nicely toasted almonds, a pile of fresh feta. And actually mostly lettuce on the inside. Served with hot sauce on the side, of course.

I can’t get enough of this place. Something new to try every time.

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