Out and About: Cleveland!

15 Sep

With all the hustle and bustle of prepping for my trip to China, I didn’t get to post about B and my trip to Cleveland. It was *almost* a purely eating and drinking trip and it was loads of fun! Our first stop after a leisurely start to the drive was Great Lakes Brewery. Missed out on the sampler (it’s not on the menu!) but downed two very refreshing pints of Oktoberfest. Protip: order food only to tide you over. We had a tiny Lake Erie walleye sandwich and my cheese & cured meat plate was bland and disappointing. We were biding our time for the afternoon’s main event, happy hour at The Velvet Tango Room.

(Anyone know how to get the text out from between these two pics? The br tag isn’t working for me!)

Despite a leather bound phone book of a menu, I knew that I wanted their acclaimed Gin Fizz. Simply made with freshly cracked egg white, gin, simple syrup, and what looked to be both lemon and lime juice, it is a serious pain to make right. Our bartender shook the darn thing with extra cold perfectly formed ice cubes for a good five minutes resulting in a cocktail with the texture of a meringue milkshake. At first sip, I was completely transformed. It was smooth, sweet yet tangy, with barely any hint of the oft dreaded juniper. B started off with a Sazerac then moved onto an Old Fashioned and finished with the Daiquiri pictured on the left. I had the Gin Fizz, a ginger syrup/whisky something, and finished with a sour. Forgive me for the lack of photos for the bar was fairly dark inside and I’m barely passing Photo 101!

We caught an Indians game (I’m not getting into how I feel about this team’s name, nickname, or mascot…) and B got on the JumboTron! Afterwards, we headed back to East 4th for some midnight snacks at Greenhouse Tavern.

The absolute must order item was the Crispy Confit Chicken Wings tossed in chilies, garlic, and scallions. They turned out a little too salty for us but we thoroughly enjoyed the heirloom tomatoes on toast, really simple and very tasty. We also had Devils on Horseback* which were bacon wrapped dates stuffed with almond slivers and chocolate. It was a surprisingly sweet, salty, chewy, crispy, flavor and texture combination. We also had the Pork Pâté Maison with pickled veggies and grainy mustard.

For lunch the next day, we returned to East 4th for a little of the Michael Symon hype. And it’s not all hype. Lola is beautifully designed, spacious on the inside, comfy and well shaded on the patio, and how can you resist the smell of smoked meats wafting through the air? B and I shared a bowl of the tomato and basil soup which the kitchen was so nice to plate separately for us. We both liked it but both agreed that we would have liked a swirl of creme fraiche or thinned yogurt to set off the salty sweetness of the soup. We also shared the beef cheek pierogies with a horseradish cream sauce and mushrooms. Three small bites of UH-mazing. The filling was moist and tender and the texture of the dough matched the beef cheek so it combined so well in the mouth. The slight bite of the horseradish cream offset the rich braising liquid and the perfectly cooked mushrooms added just the slightest hint of crunch to the whole dish.

So what could possibly top the pierogie? This brisket sandwich with cucumber, pickled onions, and an awesome cumin greek yogurt. The flatbread was crisp and really showcased the brisket. The crisp veggies and the tart yogurt toned down the meatiness of the sandwich, but damn, adding cumin to the greek yogurt was ingenious. So with full bellies we hit the road to come back to Columbus. (I drove there AND back!) A return visit to VTR is an absolute must (apricot sour!) and everyone we talked to said that Lolita cannot be missed.

* Reminds me of the excellent documentary, “The Devil Came on Horseback,” about the genocide of black Africans at the hands of an Arab government in Sudan.

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