Thursday, October 7, 2010

OLD BIDDY ESCAPES TO CLEVELAND

Is anyone out there old enough to remember the Smothers Brothers? Dick and Tom were a popular comedy team in the 60’s and 70’s with a variety show and albums of their sketches. One of my favorite bits of theirs was one called “Chocolate”. The upshot to the routine was that someone fell into a giant vat of chocolate and in order to get help yelled “fire”. When asked why he yelled fire, he said no one would come to help if he yelled “chocolate!”.  Well...take my word, it was pretty funny.

Contrary to Tommy’s assertion that no one would come, I actually think many people would have come to the rescue if he’d yelled “chocolate”. Especially if it meant going to The Chocolate Bar in downtown Cleveland. Girl’s night out this week was at this fabulous place Wednesday night. One of our little gaggle of gals is friends with the owner so we were treated like royalty for the evening (it’s always nice to KNOW somebody).

For those of us down here in the Akron area, sometimes we think it’s really a difficult task to get to Cleveland for an evening out, especially on a weeknight. Even if we make the trek to get to an Indians or Browns game, we tend to get there, park, see the game, get in our car and head straight home. Take my word for it, if you haven’t been downtown Cleveland in the past couple of years, you need to make the effort.

The 4th Street area is bustling with new restaurants and night spots. Anchored at one end by the Arcade (which houses The Chocolate Bar) and Progressive Field and the Q at the other, this little stretch of downtown is home to the House of Blues, Michael Symon’s Lola, The Greenhouse Tavern, the Corner Alley and much more. Parking decks are also on each end, plus valet is available, so parking is easy, even for those of us not used to maneuvering the Big City traffic.

Dessert Display
This Bar is housed at the south end of the Arcade that now is home to a Hyatt hotel. Cozy warm colors of oranges and brown cover the walls and fabrics, dim lighting and a contemporary styled bar with a few folks chatting over their drinks fill up most of the room. We were immediately drawn to the glassfront display case showing off a dizzying variety of desserts available for later. A couple of big screen tv’s were playing Johnny Depp’s version of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Our table was in the front window bay overlooking the 4th Street corridor.

Everything we had at The Chocolate Bar was wonderful. We started with a sampling of 4 of their most popular martinis – Chocolate Chocolate Mint, Peanut Butter Cup, Chocolate Coconut Cream, and Chocolate Banana Cream - each one as terrific as the other and trust me we each tasted them all! We made our way through the first round while munching on their Artichoke and Spinach Dip appetizer served in a mini bread bowl with warm soft pita wedges alongside. You can be jealous now, it would be an appropriate reaction.

2 Martinis down...Delores,
Bobbi, Cathy and Bev
Our dinners included the Bella sandwich (a balsamic roasted portabella served with goat cheese, caramelized onions, and greens on a grilled baguette), the Turkey Florentine panini (with jack cheese, tomato, spinach aioli and greens), the Mexican pork tenderloin entrée (rubbed in a spicy cocoa seasoning, served with bourbon ancho sauce, and mango salsa) and the Maple and Pecan Chicken entrée served with sweet potato fries and a maple mayo dipping sauce. Everything was cooked perfectly and served promptly by Shawn (our server for the evening).

The Chef was good enough to substitute the sweet potato fries for my roasted potatoes, so I also received a little pot of their maple mayo dipping sauce. I think it was cheating to be dipping each bite of my pork in the potato’s sauce, but it was so delicious I couldn’t stop myself!

Martini round two arrived mid-meal (except for myself, who ordered a nice Malbec to go with my Pork Tenderloin) and this time included a Georgia Peach and Cream Brulee. It would be unfair to try to choose a favorite out of all of those we tasted, so we declared them all wonderful.

Beautiful Cake for dessert


Mmmm...all gone!
We ended our meal with a shared slice of the Belgian Chocolate Mousse Cake – a triple layer, rich chocolate cake sandwiched with 2 layers of Belgian chocolate mousse and then topped with chocolate ganache. I’m almost giddy thinking of it even now!

After dinner, we walked across Euclid Avenue to wander 4th Street for a bit and to “take the air”. Everything was lit up for the evening and it was easy to get caught up in the vibe of the street. Although it was fairly quiet on a weeknight, I imagine it’s quite a bustling place on Friday and Saturdays.

If you get the chance to try The Chocolate Bar, do it! Especially on a weeknight.

RECIPE FOR YOUR OWN MARTINI NIGHT

I have no idea how Dominic makes his martinis but I found this recipe and it sounds tasty so I gave it a try tonight.   This is meant to mimic the Chocolate Chocolate Mint martini on their menu that tasted just like an Ande's Thin Mint candy.  By no means is this to be a substitute for patronizing The Chocolate Bar - but when you can't get to Cleveland.......

2 oz. vanilla vodka
1/2 oz. White creme de menthe
1 oz. Godiva Liqueur

Put all ingredients in a small shaker with 2-3 cubes of ice.  Shake well, strain into martini glass and serve. 

SIMPLEST EASIEST CHEAPEST MEAL EVER
After that wonderful meal last night, I needed something quick and easy and simple for dinner tonight.  A very fast stop at the grocery netted 1/4 pound of deli sliced turkey and 1 packet of turkey gravy mix.  From my pantry I pulled out 1 slice of nice French bread and a small can of beets.  With these I made a very simple dinner. 

It feels silly to even give a recipe for this, but here goes.

OPEN FACE HOT TURKEY SANDWICH

1/4 pound sliced deli turkey (get the unsweetened kind, the honey roasted will be weird tasting with gravy)
1/2 package of turkey gravy mix
pepper to taste
1 slice bread of your choice, lightly toasted

In a small saucepan, mix 1/2 cup water with the half packet of gravy mix.  Prepare per packet directions.  Once the gravy is ready, break up the deli turkey into bite sized pieces and mix in with the gravy and heat through.  Add pepper to taste.

To serve, place the toast on a warmed plate, top with the hot turkey and gravy. 

Some of my friends think I do ALL of my cooking from scratch and that I might sneer at the use of packaged gravy mixes, but frankly I grew up with Mom using these all the time and while I agree that homemade gravy would be the ideal ingredient here, I might not always have chicken broth sitting in the fridge to be used.  Give yourself a break and use the pre-packed to save the time and effort here.  A good quality jarred gravy would be good here too, I prefer Boston Market brand, they're very good.

MAPLE GLAZED BEETS

1 small can (4 oz) beets, drained
2 teaspoons butter
drizzle of maple syrup

In a small skillet, melt the butter and add the syrup.  Add the beets to the skillet and bring to a boil.  Stir to coat beets with the butter-syrup mixture.  Serve immediately.

This meal comes in at around 500 calories, takes about 15 minutes to prepare and costs just under $3.50.  Compare that to a take out you might have picked up on the way home and I've got you beat on all fronts. 

Use the same method and substitute roast beef for the turkey and brown gravy for the turkey and you have another easy meal for a night when you're too tired to fuss much with your dinner.


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