Thursday, 3 April 2014

Epic Food Day #2: Cleveland

Last month, Brianne and I went on an epic food day journey to Pittsburgh. Just a few weeks later, we ventured about two and a half hours northeast to Cleveland, the county seat of Cuyahoga County (the most populous county in Ohio), to get a sampling of its culinary offerings. In addition to checking out the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Cleveland Museum of Art, a fair amount of equal time was spent at Cleveland's oldest publicly owned market--West Side Market--and Cleveland Chop, both of which are reviewed in this post.

According to a historical marker, West Side Market "continues to offer a culturally diverse shopping experience," the visual diversity being clearly on display as we took our first steps inside. Located along Market Ave and W 24th St, two packed pathways of vendors and their fresh produce are situated in a giant L, which surrounds the main, interior stalls of proteins, baked goods, prepared foods, and the like. Had we not been hours away from Columbus (or more likely had I been ready), I definitely would have spent quite a bit more time in the chilly Cleveland market air.

And with that, we happened upon the entrance to the main portion of West Side Market (the overall configuration of which isn't all that dissimilar to Cincinnati's Finlay Market or even Columbus's North Market).

Frickaccio's Pizza Market on Urbanspoon

Hungry from the drive, and quickly nearing noon, one of our first stops was at Frickaccio's Pizza Market, where Manager Pam Cramer (above right) served up some deliciously warm pizza bagels (or more simply, "pizzagels"; 3 for $5). Doughy, unabashedly cheesy, and with just the right amount of sauce, these pizzagels are truly an original worth experiencing.

Crepes De Luxe on Urbanspoon

Following our self-guided walking tour, we made our way back to Crêpes de Luxe, located right beside City Roast Coffee and Tea, for lunch. Inspired by the "street style" crêpes of Paris, two crêpe griddles accompanied by wooden batter spreaders added to the sense of authenticity to the experience, as did the ingredient combinations and menu jargon (though, I feel compelled to call out the slight inconsistency in accent marking).

Brianne got a Citron Crème sweet crêpe ($5), filled with a tangy (not too tart and not overtly sweet) lemon curd and smooth honey mascarpone. On the other side of the spectrum, I went with a Smoked Salmon savoury crêpe ($7), complete with a generous serving of sliced smoked salmon, a little too generous-for-my-liking serving of spinach (in addition to taste, too much of the spinach liquid was trapped in the crêpe, making the whole thing a bit soggy), and just the right drizzle of crème fraîche. As seen in the above left photo, it was also finished off with capers. Overall, while both crêpes had their fair share of excess filling, they were nevertheless tasty and filled us just enough to make it to dinner time.

Plus, you can't quite compete with enjoying the great overhead view of the layout of the market scene, no?

Cleveland Chop on Urbanspoon

For dinner, Brianne and I eventually found a plethora of open restaurants in the downtown area periphery bounded by W St Clair Ave, W 6th St, Frankfort Ave, and W 9th St. The lightly falling rain served as inspiration to make a quick decision and in the end we went with Cleveland Chop for one of my favourite meals in recent memory.

Starting off with drinks (why not?), I got a glass of the smoothly crisp Gentil "Hugel" ($8.5), an Alsatian blend coming from Alsace, France, whereas Brianne went with the Veranda ($9), a sharp and dangerously sweet blend of fresh strawberry, lemon vodka, and St. Germain.

As if I didn't already fall in love with this place, our server brought over a small cast iron skillet of jalapeño corn bread topped with butter melting under the bread's warmth. Structurally sound, yet incredibly light, this was a perfect complement to our day of food and the meal which awaited us.

Slathered with the brightness of lemon and the richness of butter, a plate of Chicken Piccata ($17) made its way to Brianne. Also presented were sun dried tomato, asparagus, caperberry, lemon butter (of course), and a healthy serving of mashed potatoes.

Seafood Fettuccine ($18), a customer favourite according to our server, made its way to me, and I took it all in without any sense of regret. Generous portions of shrimp, scallops, and mussels intermingled wonderfully with the chiffonaded basil-topped spinach fettuccine adorned with sundried tomato and roasted garlic cream.

With our stomachs full, and a relatively long drive ahead of us, we passed on dessert and made our way back to Columbus, ready for the next epic food day that awaits us.

For these and other photos, including those from our visits to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Cleveland Museum of Art, click here.


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