Tag Archives: local

Sweetie Fry

5 Sep

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I’d been living part-time on the east side of Cleveland for five years when I realized this week that I still hadn’t tried Sweetie Fry. After years of going to Lee Road in Cleveland Heights for nachos with the team after a league game or hitting up the ATM, I finally swung by the shop around Labor Day to see what it’s all about. I had high expectations for unique ice cream and a small appetite. Here’s what I found:

Sweetie Fry is not just an ice cream joint but rather as the name sounds: a fry place.  I’m not a junk food person so fries don’t really appeal to me (even though I’m lactose intollerant and ex-vegan, I still prefer ice cream!)  I simply had no interest in the over-loaded, bacon-covered options.  I had difficulty understanding the board when I ordered, but I decided to go with the Goat Cheese ice cream as soon as I saw it.  My favorite pie is a goat cheese basil blueberry almond pie from a restaurant in North Carolina, so my hopes were high.  This dish was served with honey and sweetened walnuts.  The serving was a reasonable (small) portion and the first bite was good and strong, but the toppings were a little too sweet for me and I also detested the fact that there were traces of mint, lime, and other overpowering flavors that had been on the scoop used to scoop my dish.

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All in all, I was not very impressed with this shop.  It could do a lot better.  It simply pales in contrast to Jeni’s, which uses a similar concept of local ingredients and unusual combinations.  However, the flavors weren’t always so quirky.  The list given on Sweetie Fry’s website includes the following signature flavors: Cookies and Cream (which relies on Oreos to add flavor), Vanilla Bean (which advertises vanilla beans from Madagascar as what “give[s] it a classic American flavor”?), Deep Chocolate, Mint Chocolate Chip, Brown Butter Walnut, Strawberries & Sour Cream, Key Lime, French Toast (one of the first odd flavor attempts), Maple Bacon, Chocolate Raspberry Marmalade, Peanut Butter, Turkish Coffee, Goat Cheese, Mango Sorbet (using Indian mangoes?), and NYC Cheesecake.  So, yes, Sweet Fry advertises local ingredients but also brags about importing from around the world.

 

 

 

 

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Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

22 Aug

Jenis

From the unique flavors to the incorporation of an apostrophe in the i of its logo, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is a cozy, friendly, neighborhood kind of ice cream parlor.  Although neither small nor especially local, Jeni’s still made my list of “green restaurants” around Cleveland.  I can justify this decision by its rare business approach and one-of-a-kind array of flavors which boast many Ohio ingredients.  On Jeni’s website, the creator claims that her milk comes from grass-fed cows and the Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy, Ohio, near the southern border with Kentucky.  Columbus boasts the majority of the shops in Ohio, but a few can also be found in Nashville.  There are shops coming soon in Georgia and the Chicago area, as well.

So while Jeni’s might not be Farm-To-Fork eligible considering its wide radius and growing reach, this unique parlor is notorious for its handmade and hand-picked flavors.  You can go to a Scoop Shop to get a dish, sundae, or even ice cream sandwich to taste the flavors or just order your own for home from the online store.  The flavors currently being advertised include the following: Apricot, Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate, Backyard Mint, Bananas + Honey, Bergamot (orange), Black Coffee, Brambleberry Crisp, Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Chamomile, Cherry Lambic (sorbet), Cloverton, Dark Chocolate, Double-Toasted Coconut, Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, Grapefruit, Huckleberry, Lemon & Blueberries, Lime Cardamom, Loveless Biscuits + Peach Jam, Mango Lassi, Ndali Estate Vanilla Bean, Passion Fruit, Pistachio & Honey, Queen City Cayenne, Rainbow, Red Raspberry, Riesling Poached Pear (sorbet), Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk, Salty Caramel, Sweet Corn & Black Raspberries, The Buckeye State, The Milkiest Chocolate in the World, Whiskey & Pecans, Wildberry Lavender, and Yazoo Sue with Rosemary Bar Nuts.

After spending the day in Shaker Square, my grandma and I took a short trip over to Chagrin Falls on the way back to Pennsylvania for a snack at Jeni’s.  Chagrin Falls is a quaint Cuyahoga town near the Geauga County line and the shop is just as quaint as its surroundings.  We were welcomed by the typical large chalk board menus with handwritten titles and cute homemade country decorations.  My grandma tasted a few different flavors before settling on two scoops: Loveless Biscuits + Peach Jam and Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk.  I wanted to maximize my experience, so I went with three: Queen City Cayenne, Sweet Corn & Black Raspberries, and Chamomile, complete with waffle triangles.  The scoops were very tiny and our dishes were $4.50 and $5.50, respectively.  We sat inside the shop to finish our ice cream and sip on cucumber water from the free jug at the counter.  The cayenne was spicy like I like it, reflecting traditional Mayan hot chocolate (minus the cream and sugar).  Sweet corn sounded like a perfect match for ice cream when I saw it, and the berries added just the tang to counteract the sweetness.  Chamomile compared to the other two was subtle, but my grandma particularly liked its strong, flowery taste.  My grandma’s peach scoop was just what I would expect, real peaches with crunchy cookie bits.  Her strawberry scoop was creamier and more realistic than any shop strawberry that you’d find at a grocery store.  When we were finished, my picky, small-eating grandma gave herself a pat on the back for having finished her entire order of ice cream for the first time in as long as she could remember.

I would much prefer eating ice cream at Jeni’s than Coldstone, the other popular choice in Cleveland.  At Jeni’s, you can get some real, savory flavors that remind you that not everything has to be in enormous portions and obliterated with gobs of sugar and fat.  You can learn to appreciate flavors like corn and zucchini and not always coat your sweet tooth with sugary berries and fatty caramels.  In fact, going to Jeni’s has inspired me to get back into my homemade ice cream-making.  This time, I’m looking at developing some soy ice creams on my home churner using some herbs and other summer ingredients from my backyard!

101_0814Grandma at Jeni’s by the falls.

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Jeni’s logo sign.

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Ice cream sandwich display.

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Menus and prices, hand-written.

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Looking in to one of the freezers.
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Our selections in their tiny, European-style proportions.

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Decorations reading “gravel”, the name given to Jeni’s cookie crumble topping.

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Looking down on the falls from outside.

 

Phoenix Coffee Company

12 Mar

Local Coffee Tastes Better. Born in the 216. Phoenix Coffee Company direct trade coffees.

“Local coffee tastes better – roasted in the 216.”  This is the mantra’s to Cleveland’s small coffee chain, Phoenix Coffee.  With three locations (East 9th, Coventry, and Lee), Phoenix strives to support both its local work force as well as a “direct trade” for its coffee beans.  Coffee is a huge import to the States, due to its demand and lack of local growing ability.  (The only place to grow coffee in the US is Hawai’i – and that’s still a huge energy cost to import!)  Until it can become trendy and widely acceptable to drink something other than coffee (like roasted dandelion roots!), companies like Phoenix Coffee serve their communities and hard-working farmers well.   PhoenixOutside

Phoenix from the outside as you walk up Coventry Road.

The Phoenix Coffee Company has been in Cleveland for over 20 years.  The company’s roastery is downtown on St. Clair Avenue, but the beans are imported from various FairTrade and organic coffee farms and co-operatives around the world.  Recently featured was a “Direct Trade Burundi Bukeye Coffee” from the Buhorwa region of Burundi (south of Rwanda) and a “Direct Trade Uganda Gibuzaale”, boasting what Phoenix claims as “subtle notes of butterscotch, cashew, and tomato”.  Phoenix hires baristas, roastery workers, and coffee machine technicians.  Not only do they have their three coffee shops for lounging with a drink, snack, and free wi-fi, but they also cater and have wholesale for supplying coffee to offices, restaurants, cafes, and shops across northeast Ohio as well as the US.

PastriesEtcFront counter menu and food selections.

I periodically visit Coventry’s Phoenix Coffee shop, preferring it over Starbucks because of what it stands for more than just price (although they have good prices).  I have also visited the Lee shop.  I have yet to see the one on East 9th.  There is certainly something unique about the Coventry shop which draws just the right crowd.  The store is located towards the top of the hill, right beside the Mongolian Barbeque.  When you enter the shop, you in fact enter an open room above the customers and have to descend a few steps to reach the front counter.  The baristas are always very cheery and polite, and usually fit the stereotypical “hipster” look.  With the grungy music selection, simplistic photography, and well-worn furniture serving as chairs, “hipster” is clearly the intention of Phoenix Coffee.

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Hardwood and stone-tile floors, old furniture,…and a guy with his dog!

At the counter, you can order from a variety of hot or iced beverages, including tea (bubble tea, too!), coffee, and espresso drinks.  Soy and syrups are additional options, just like in Starbucks.  There is also a “French Press & Pourover” option, where you can select your strength with any of the coffees available, as well as ice cream shakes.  Don’t forget the pastry and baked goods selection behind the glass.  There are also cold drink choices and gifts available, including shirts tied together with coffee sleeves!  I think one of my favorite things about Phoenix is the fact that their cups, sleeves, and plastic lids are completely biodegradable!  Shouldn’t every place be like that??

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My salted caramel soy latte with its compostable to-go cup, sleeve, and lid.
Very strong, very fresh, and very good!  Not at all too sweet.

Phoenix accepts all major credit cards and is open every day of the week at varying hours from as early as 6am to as late as 11pm.  To learn more about Phoenix, check out their website at http://www.phoenixcoffee.com and see why they claim to be “Cleveland’s artisan coffee roaster; born in 216, saving the world by serving a damn fine cup of coffee.”

Cleveland Restaurant Week

9 Mar

Cleveland Independs is a group of locally-owned and locally-sourced restaurants around Cleveland and northeastern Ohio.  (See my previous post for more about Cleveland Independents.)  One of the big promotion events Cleveland Independents holds is the idea of a “menu fixé”.  Each resturant has a meal line-up of several courses for a fixed price.  The price varies slightly, but line-ups seem to run from $15 to $40, depending on the place and if it is a lunch or dinner line-up.

To be perfectly honest, researching how exactly to define the “Restaurant Week” concept was no easy chore.  I had to search each even individually to make an appropriate summary of the event.  This past “Week” has lasted for nearly 2 weeks and is the 6th annaul event.  After investigating past events, it appears as if this “Week” is often more than 7 days and occurs once in February/March and often again in November.  Its popularity has caused it to increase from a small amount of restaurants downtown with one meal line-up to over 50 restaurants with dinner and lunch specials.  To encourage customers, parking has been reduced to $2 downtown in past events.

The idea of Cleveland Restaurant Week is to encourage people to dine at local places to help stimulate Cleveland’s economy.  After reading some comments online, I can conclude that many, many Clevelanders look forward to this event and a large portion of them spend hundreds each time by taking their families out.  It’s a great way to bring the community together while simultaneously improving the Rust Belt city’s economic situation, one stride at a time.

The event current at the time of this article’s publishing is the 6th annual week, held March 4th through March 16th, 2013.  Restaurants are subject to change with each event, but all current event information and menus can be found at www.clevelandindependents.com under the Events tab and listing.

North Union Farmers’ Market at Shaker Square

3 Sep

I get the impression that this market is extremely busy on a regular basis, but it was packed this Saturday (holiday weekend).  The market at Shaker Square is open Saturdays from 8am to 12pm, the outdoor vendors running from April to December before moving indoors according to the website.

Shaker Square is an attractive place to hold this event, and there is sure a surplus of vendors.  I witnessed everything from crafts to cheese to the typical produce.  Recommendations on Foursquare included tips like coming right at opening to get certain produce before it sells out, or to come and eat at particular vendors who actually cook breakfast right there to be had.  This market had the greatest selection out of any market I’ve seen so far in Cleveland, but it was certainly crowded.  Once again, the market held a somewhat festive air that I do not encounter at home in the Pennsylvania countryside but which seems to be a theme in the city markets of Cleveland.  Check out my gallery of the market as well as pictures of the melon I bought (I bought a cantaloupe and 6 ears of corn for $7, from two different vendors):

You can get more information at: http://www.northunionfarmersmarket.org/markets/shaker.html

Johnny Mango World Café & Bar

24 Aug

While I was out visiting some farmers’ markets in downtown Cleveland, I had a little time to kill and decided to search for places with margaritas near Ohio City.  Momocho, a nice Mexican restaurant with flights of margaritas, came up at the top of a quick Google search – but it was closed so early on a weekday!  I found a page of reviews for margaritas in Cleveland, and the next recommendation behind Momocho was a place called Johnny Mango’s.  I decided to check it out.

Little did I realize, Johnny Mango’s is actually right beside Momocho.  It can be found at 3120 Bridge Avenue Cleveland, Ohio 44113.  I had a lot of faith in finding good food at this place just because Ohio City is known for its great bars and restaurants.  It’s a quaint and rather classy part of town, if you can ignore some of the shady bits that come with most any section of Cleveland.  Sure enough, I walked into Johnny Mango’s and felt instantly its unique, classy flair.  (I used some pictures from Google reviews.)

You might be wondering why I’m writing in a green Cleveland blog about a random restaurant that I went to for margaritas.  Well, here’s why: Although I randomly stumbled upon this place, I walked in and found out that this restaurant is in fact a very “earthy” place!  Not only is the menu healthy and lists both vegan and gluten-free options (of which there are many), but they cook and blend drinks with fresh food from the West Side Market!  Woo for locavores!

The decor is very ecclectic; a mini world figurine hangs from the ceiling with a moon across the room, under an old metal tile ceiling painted like a dark, cloudy sky.  The opposing wall when you walk in is covered with bright wooden cutouts of lizards and flowers.  You seat yourself when you walk in, either at one of the many tables in the big room, at the long bar between those tables and the plasma screen TV, or on the sidewalk outside.  From inside, the kitchen is fairly visible.  This and the cramped sensation of the room unfortunately contributes to negative reviews on the noise levels and acoustics, but the outdoor seating has only positive comments.

One of the first things I noticed was that the sugar bowls were filled with packets of Sugar in the Raw and Truvia – no refined sugars or artificial sweeteners.  Even within 30 minutes of opening on a Thursday morning, the place had a regular flow of customers.  A giant white board behind the bar flaunts the specials, including the vegetable of the day straight from the West Side Market.  Unfortunately, eggplant isn’t exactly appealing to me, so I avoided that on my visit.  Instead, I settled for a lime-mango margarita (which I think might be made from West Side fruit!) and the Caribbean “fries” appetizer, which is really just plantains.  My meal:

For those who don’t know, plantains are basically bananas that have a less sweet, tangier taste and a consistency a little closer to a mushy potato than a banana.  They were pretty good (although a little greasy for my taste – I had to dab them), and the pico de gallo that accompanied it was the perfect, unexpected combination!  The margarita was good, but it was on the rocks and not very cold at all.  It tasted more to me like warm, watery juice with a strong presence of tequila.  But I am no margarita aficionado!  If only I’d have had a bigger appetite, I would have tried for some pad thai or fried tofu dish.  So many good options, and not terribly expensive!  And besides the alcohol bar, there is also a juice bar with lots of different healthy options!

Interested in checking out Johnny Mango’s yourself?  They have a website: http://www.jmango.com/index.html.  The various menu pages are listed along with other information on specials, etc.!  FYI, I hear their mojitos are amazing.  Enjoy.

 

North Coast Harbor Farmer’s Market

23 Aug

The North Coast Harbor Farmers’ Market is held at the East 9th Street Pier, literally at the end of E 9th Street in downtown Cleveland.  It occurs every Thursday, June through September, from 11:30am to 2:30pm.  You can find out more at burkeairport.com.

I decided to check out this market after I went to CSU.  Honestly, I got there maybe 45 minutes after it opened, and it was a total let-down!  I couldn’t find anywhere to park, and there appeared to be virtually no vendors today.  Maybe it was just a bad day.  Anyway, I added some pictures from advertisements because I wasn’t able to get any of my own!  Sadness.  Sorry I have no better information!

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