In re: Battle of Ohio – Mustard edition

Over the Fourth of July weekend I went down to see one of the Battle of Ohio/I-71 Series/Indians v. Reds/whatever you want to call it interleague game between my Cleveland Indians and the Reds. Was a great time, a pretty decent number of Indians fans showed up, which helped add to the atmosphere. I can’t say I am a huge fan of the Great American Ballpark – nothing wrong with it, nice, clean, new, fairly generic stadium. I guess I wish they would have done something a bit more interesting and a bit more open to the river (on the lower deck you can’t see out to the river, which would be a nifty feature I think). Okay, well not to go on about the stadium, I wanted to mention the mustard. One of the truly great features of going to ballparks is local foods, unfortunately for quite a while the trend to go w/ a mass market food service provider and having national brands pushed a lot of these aspects out – but fortunately Jacobs Field, oops Progressive Field, up in Cleveland has not gone to only having yellow mustard (while they do have the ubiquitous Heinz yellow mustard) they also have the famous and popular Bertmans’s Ballpark Mustard.   Cleveland actually has two mustards (neither is made there) (Stadium Mustard is the other and is the one at Brown’s Stadium – and seems to be made in IL) and they are both great and they are the main reason you must grab a dog at the ballpark or a Browns game. There is debate among some Clevelanders about which is better, some folks don’t seem to know there are two or that there is a difference and both seem to claim to be the original (they share some overlapping history, when the one handled retail sales and the other was for the stadiums).  Some say that following a lawsuit Stadium Mustard got the name and Bertman’s got the recipe.  (see a cleveland.com Battle of two spicy mustards.   Hear more on the story about it on the Splendid Table Podcast – May 9, 2009) including how the two split, the legal battle between the two and how neither is made in Cleveland (Bertman’s is made in southern Ohio – go figure).

So back to the ballpark in Cincy, in one of the fun interstate rivalary elements they cooked up for the weekend the ballpark was conducting a mustard taste off, Cincinnati Reds stadium’s Uncle Phil’s (more on that later) versus Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard. I am biased towards the Bertmans so I voted for that, but Uncle Phil’s was pretty good too. Neither were yellow mustard so I was happy to grab a dog before we sat down and I put some Uncle Phil’s on it and enjoyed the Indians win and the hot dog. Not sure who won the voting or if they even counted up the slips.

Interestingly enough I got home and looked up Uncle Phil’s and learned it doesn’t have much to do with Cincy and that it hasn’t been around for a long time as the Red’s mustard and it seems like for a year or two they stopped using it as the mustard – but it seems to be back.  According to this article the Red’s featured Uncle Phil’s for 6 and 1/2 seasons (see here).  And is made in Wisconsin.  Funny enough that Bertman’s is the one that is made nearby Cincy – kinda wonder why they don’t get into using that one.

Advertisements

In re: Dante Reviewed

Dante, a newly open restaurant in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, OH isn’t actually a new restaurant.  A few years back Dante opened for a short time (not sure if it was a year or more) in what had been and would later become again the Lock keepers Tavern in Valley View, OH.  I went once to that incarnation of Dante and thought it very good, however like the Lock keepers the location plays against it (at least for me) the space is large and impressive but the exterior and the actual spot somehow don’t quite feel right for what Dante was.  Fast forward to 2010 and Dante is reborn in Tremont inside an old bank (those old banks that had stone and columns and look like what you think a bank should look like).  Anyway the space is perfect, its got a great ceiling, a wondeful bar, and of course the old vault.  You can walk into the kitchen where the candy cart they push around Mon-Thur is docked for the crowded weekends, its in the kitchen as well where the chefs table sits.

In my two visits there have had great service which is useful because the menu is not traditional and I think some folks might not really know how to order based on the layout and the options (a lot of starches available in the middle column where you might not know what your supposed to do with them, polentas, pastas, risottos), and the servers reassure you there is no right way.  Also by non traditional (but very nice I think) is that can order various sizes of pasta (tasting, appetizer, main) you can order different sizes of risotto.  Both times I’ve been with large groups and have been able to try large chunks of the menu and think the tasting approach is the way to go.

Highlights:

House Cured meats that include some different things like salumi and proscutto is very very good, but the star of this is the liver mousse (the pattee or terine is very good as well).  Each time someone in my group wished they could have a whole bowl of the mousse, that apparently changes along w/ the rest of the daily selection but both times had hints of cognac among other tastes, very very nice.

Pasta: The linguine alla carbonara is very rich and heavy featuring house made pancetta and a poach egg, but a 4 dollar tasting size is perfect to get a few bites (enough for a few bites for a few people actually) which is truly enough.  The Pappardelle Bolognese was also great.  The pastas are all made in house and were fantastic

Polenta: Really simple is the three cheese polenta, with marsacpone, parmeseana nd grueye.  Like the pastas very rich and creamy, served both times we had it a some kind of middle course.  It comes on a wood plank essentially and is phenomonal. Also enjoyed the tomato stewed sausage and white beans version that pairs a mound of the beans and sausage next to a mound of polenta, also served on a board.

Main courses were all very good, their chicken w/ rosemary potatoes, meyer lemon and olives was very good, especially on a cold day when looking for something more comfort.  Duck was great w/ foie gras toasted gnocchi, the duck which is wrapped in pancetta really goes nicely with the cooked apples that accompany it.  Skirt steak was very nice as well and so was a special of the day a prepartion of Skate.

The desserts feature among other things some interesting ice creams available in flights.  People all seemed to like their desserts or tastes of desserts.

While a bit strange sounding the banana and butternut squash soup actually comes off (banana is just a hint of flavor).  So there you have it, highly recommended, while not a cheap place, the place is actually quite reasonable, the space is great and in a great neighborhood (right across the street from Lolita).

Their menu and other info on Dante (including a bio on their interesting owner/chef his blog and a little uproar over a blog review of their soft opening preview night) see  here.  All in all Cleveland is lucky to have a top flight restaurant opening and considering the economy its nice to see the place packed.

In re: Immigration could be path for Cleveland.

“The Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, the chief planning and fundraising agency for the region’s 80,000 Jews, is committing resources to a center designed to attract international talent and investment. It’s offering expertise, start-up funding and the prospect of an enticing location — its headquarters building on Playhouse Square.

When federation leaders decided in fall 2008 to move their staff and operations to Beachwood, they vowed to make a visible re-commitment to the city. That may be by saying “Welcome” to the world.” “

via Cleveland’s Jewish community wants to welcome the world | Metro – cleveland.com – cleveland.com.

Thought this was an interesting idea that the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland is working towards in the wake of moving their headquarters out to the suburbs.  While these days immigration is a touchy subject, but in my mind it is mostly a good things and one of the reasons our country has thrived.  Cities like Ohio that have struggled could use very well new people with drive and ambition – this is both the highly qualified visa applicants for highly skilled positions but also others who are just looking for a better life.  Read about the plan to create a welcome center in the article above.

In re: Vermouth?

Vermouth’s commercial origins date to 1786, when Antonio Benedetto Carpano began marketing the aromatized wine he produced in Turin, but the consumption of vermouth and its precursors stretches back centuries. Typically made from neutral-character dry white wines that have been flavored with herbs, roots and barks – typically including cardamom, cinnamon, marjoram and chamomile – and then fortified with a neutral grape spirit, vermouth is classically made – and named – for another botanical: wormwood (the plant’s name in Old High German is Wermud). ‘The Truth About Vermouth’ (below)

Vermouth is kinda an afterthought in the world of drinks – at least I thought it was.  Even as I got back into drinking Manhattans a drink that features as a large amount of the drink the sweet variety of vermouth I still hadn’t given it its due.  Hell, I didn’t even really know too much about it and how it was made.  I knew it was a fortified wine of some sort (wine spiked with alcohol) but that was it.  As I became more interested in improving my Manhattans I learned a few very interesting things, including that my multi-year old bottle sitting on the shelf was not good.  It’s not that affordable vermouth isn’t good and there are many affordable brands, all with their own tastes due to a variety of added herbs/spices as well as grapes, but I learned it goes bad and isn’t shelf stable the way liquor is.

So I set out to get some fresh stuff (currently using Boissiere – although I am interested in trying some of the more exotic ones now) but the big thing is that I now keep it in the fridge.  Thats right, in the fridge, I myself was dubious at first but after reading taste test after taste test it became clear that vermouth oxidizes and starts to go bad, pretty quickly on the shelf.  In the fridge you can get 6 months out of sweet (less for dry) and thats still shorter than the stuff I had been using a while back.

Now theres still more to making a Manhattan the just the vermouth, but having improved my work on that one front alone my Manhattans are quite nice (usually made with Maker’s Mark bourbon – although I am interested in dabbling in rye at some point).  Still not up to the standards of the Velvet Tango Room in Cleveland that has probably the best one I have had (they use their own bitters and a wine reduction instead of the vermouth as well as having a nice cherry that isn’t a Maraschino).

Makers's Mark, boissiere vermouth, bitters, and a wine soaked sour cherry on the rocks

For what I thought was a great article on Vermouth see “The Truth About Vermouth” at SFGate — hey that rhymes!

In re: Bar Symon

Bar Symon (Avon Lake, OH)

Bar Symon sits in a strip wall west of Cleveland in Avon Lake, honestly I can’t say I have a great sense where it is since I wasn’t driving and wasn’t paying too close attention to it, but its definitely a ways out there for a former east sider who when visiting Cleveland stays on the east side, so that said I don’t think I will be regularly getting out to this place but I was still excited to try it.

First impression, wow this isn’t the location I would have picked, but they do a nice job of taking the strip mall setting and making the rectangular shaped room have some vibe, including hanging some tin ceiling tiles dropped down from the tall industrial ceiling way up high. No reservations for less than 6 people so spent about 40 minutes grabbing a beer at the bar up front, nice selection of beers on tap, didn’t look at their drinks or wine.

To eat:
mint & lamb spicy sausage
duck confit slider
double cooked chicken wings
symon fried chicken
polenta (side dish)

the lamb & mint sausage was good, not phenomenal, probably would have chosen a different sausage myself, my friends choice and I think the reason I would have gone w another was the accompaniments were 3 mustards (including stadium mustard I think) and pickled veggies & toast rounds. I think this sausage would have worked well w/ some more greek or turkish type accompaniments, some yogurt sauce or something, it was fine but didn’t stand out to me. Nice presentation similar to the way they handle cured meats at his other places.

the duck confit slider was a favorite, small, good simple flavors, a bit of spiced mayo, cilantro and shredded carrot gave a nice asian angle, still nice duck flavor. I probably wouldn’t want more than one so its nice to order by the each as its rich.

the chicken wings sounded nice, but the top portion didn’t have the citrus & peppers on them as it seems to have settled, and overall these didn’t live up to my possibly unreasonably high expectations. I wish I hadn’t done two chicken dishes, I knew what I was getting into and did it anyway.

I ordered the fried chicken that comes with a honey drizzle of some sort was recommended by the waitress over some other things, since it was cheaper than the other options I suggested I was impressed she wasn’t up selling, it was without a doubt very good fried chicken, I could have gone for more of the honey drizzle or whatever it was, perfect texture, but still its fried chicken and I probably would go for other things in the future.
The side of polenta was good, maybe it stood out as the only non-meat dish, was simple, rich and had a nice flavor and texture.

Way too much food, the chicken serving is half a chicken. Overall the place is really affordable which is nice, and I may be the first to complain that they could use smaller servings (I know I could use some restraint) and that the place is trying to have homestyle food for what its worth.

I really like Lolita probably the most of Symon’s restaurants and visiting Bar Symon didn’t change that, still it was good, I just worry if Symon will follow Wolfgang Puck type expansion and lose control of his operations, that said if he can continue to do good places its good for Cleveland and Ohio to have him creating high quality options, even in strip malls.

In re: Playoffs full of ex-Indians

Good for them, but definitely sad for an Indians fan to see so many ex-Indians playing all over the playoffs.  Was thinking about this while watching the Cardinals/Dodgers series that seemed like almost everyone had been an Indian, “flyout from Belliard to Ludwick..”  it did seem like a good chunk of the players had been Indians (Ronnie Belliard, Ryan Ludwick, Manny Ramierez, Casey Blake, Mark DeRosa and even Jim Thome) but the rest of the playoffs seems to be loaded as well: CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee already got wins and then there is Carl Pavano and Victor Martinez.  Oh well, heres to next year.

I googled it and saw someone had noticed this already and had a good post on this “Littered with ex-Indians” from Waiting for Next Year.

In re: MLB At Bat for iPhone does NBA too?

[Quick background, MLB At Bat is a program in its second year for the iPhone that now exists as a free ‘Lite’ version and a pay $9.99 full version.  The full version that I have allows detailed stats and scores for all games in real time (or close to) and additionally live audio for the games, often both home and away feeds.  The app is probably one of the most compelling paid apps for many of us and really is a ‘killer app’ one that could drive people (die hard baseball fans) to buy an iPhone regardless of other features.  Unfortunately other leagues haven’t followed or are tied to other carriers with exclusive deals.]

MLB At Bat does NBA broadcasts too?  Well it’s not supposed to, but while multitasking (watching the Cavs, doing some work, and keeping an ear on the Indians home opener that is in a rain delay with my iPhone and MLB At Bat) I came across an interesting instance of digital wires being crossed.  Not sure exactly how this happened but while listening to the Indians rain delay coverage using MLB At Bat (its crazy that for just $9.99 you can get this for the whole season -crazy good deal if your into baseball) my radio feed changed suddenly from hearing Indians fans calling into gripe about the Cleveland weather, the need to add a dome (likely), shorten the season (others strangely wanted to lengthen the season also likely), and all kinds of other rants the feed changed into the play by play of the NBA, namely Memphis v. Phoenix.

So while I had been impressed with the powers of this iPhone app already  its abilities to show me live stats and game casts, as well as live audio, now I am even more impressed, a two sport program, the Bo Jackson of applications, an amazing deal!  (Somehow they switched the feed from WTAM to some other station, either the MLB or WTAM the station up in Cleveland who has the Indians, but it was kinda strange to hear).