A Guide to Dining, Eating and Cooking in Cleveland, Ohio

Bar Cento gets rockin reviews and rockin ice creams August 1, 2008

Northern Ohio Live has rated one of my favorite late-night spots as the best in Cleveland! I’m excited about this, especially since Cleveland Magazine snubbed Bar Cento in their recent restaurant guide.

And, another sidenote that is completely blogworthy in and of itself…

Jeni's Dark Cocoa Gelato

Jeni's Dark Cocoa Gelato

On their dessert menu, Bar Cento has recently begin offering selections from my favorite ice cream place in the universe, Jeni’s Ice Creams!
A few weeks ago it was just a dessert special, but now it’s made its
way onto the regular dessert menu. They’ve been offering a variety of
flavors, including the Salty Caramel, the Black Coffee and the
Pistachio. Jeni makes creative gourmet ice cream, gelato and sorbet
from fresh, local ingredients. Trust me, it doesn’t get any better than
this. I wonder what it will take for Bar Cento to get my favorite
flavor combo, the Dark Cocoa Gelato and the Gravel Road? Jonathan Sawyer, are you reading this? :)

Since moving to Cleveland, I’ve really missed having a Jeni’s within
walking (and driving) distance from my house, and it’s practically
worth the drive to Columbus to eat Jeni’s. So I’m thrilled that one of
my favorite places in Cleveland has done the right thing by bringing
Jeni’s to Cleveland. Yum!

I love it.


Best Pasta in Cleveland: Ohio City Pasta June 15, 2008

Once you have fresh pasta, there’s no going back.

During an excursion to the West Side Market the other day, I picked up some fresh pasta at the Ohio City Pasta stand, where they make and sell their own pasta. Their display counter showcases a colorful selection of ravoli, gnocchi, sauces, antipasti and more. The herb fettuccine looked particularly colorful and fresh, so I picked up a few servings of that and the saffron linguini. Turns out, good move.

I threw together some simple tomato sauce, with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and basil and cooked the pasta, no problem. Great idea for making fresh pasta with fresh herbs inside.

Ohio City Pasta doesn’t deprive East siders of excellent fresh pasta – I’ve seen Ohio City Pasta selling pasta at the farmer’s market at Shaker Square! Highly recommended!


Cleveland Urban Farmers April 24, 2008

Filed under: Food Ideas,Random Cleveland Stuff — jenniferferf @ 10:23 am
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A farmer’s market will be coming to the Cleveland Clinic and several inner city locations once a week this summer, according to a very interesting article from the Plain Dealer yesterday.  

I’ve read recently about a number of programs in Cleveland that bring the farmer’s market into neighborhoods that have never had one before, including City Fresh.  City Fresh’s website hasn’t been updated for 2008 – does anyone know if this is happening this year?  City Fresh seems like a great program – I like that they have a variety of memberships available, and that they people to donate a little extra to lower the prices for people who can’t afford it.  I’d go with City Fresh, but they don’t have a stop in Cleveland Heights yet.  So, I’m planning to frequent the North Union Farmer’s Market at Shaker Square this summer!  Can’t wait!



Paradise of Chicken? April 3, 2008

Filed under: healthy,Junk Food,Random Cleveland Stuff — jenniferferf @ 7:26 pm
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I saw on the 11:00 news last night that a third Chick-Fil-A location is opening up in Cleveland and that they’re giving away a year’s worth of free chicken sandwiches to the first 100 people that show up. I was highly disturbed. People were camping out in line overnight, people had driven from Pennsylvania to go to this thing, their weird cows were dancing around in the parking lot, and a lot of hairy-looking 20-something guys and overweight, middle-aged types were camped out, singing the praises of the Chick-Fil-A.

For me, the most disturbing part of the news story was a brief interview with a woman who had not only camped out overnight, but purchased $50 of stuff, like a tent, blankets, gloves and extra clothes, in order to wait in line. What?!? She paid to wait in line all night so that she could get fattening food for the rest of the year?

Woah! Isn’t this kind of hype part of why the CDC continues to report dramatic increases in obesity every year? And, perhaps more importantly, why do people only get excited about food that no one in their right mind who wanted to avoid obesity would eat more than twice a year? In Ohio, nearly 30 percent of people are considered obese. That’s more than 1 in 4.

I’m not saying that Chick-Fil-A in particular is a bad company. My point is that I wish there were a public outlet for people to get excited about healthy foods. I was sitting there watching the news story thinking, if this were a local food co-op or CSA event, there’s no way it would make the local news! Do we need to brainstorm publicity stunts to get people to eat healthy foods?

I heard an NPR story today about an artist who decided to test his theory that people buy things simply based on the packaging. What did he do? He picked up trash off the streets of New York, labeled it and started selling it. Demand has driven his prices up, and now his exclusive discarded pop cans and other litter are fetching prices up to $60 each.

So maybe if there were a better way to package and market fresh fruits and vegetables, people would eat them more. I’ve seen so many ads lately about the almonds grown in California and of course Florida orange juice. But is there something local farmers could do locally? Is it just the common misconception that fresh foods are more expensive and take longer to prepare?

Maybe there are things we can do to help promote healthy foods. Last summer I worked for a non-profit in Columbus that put on all kinds of nutrition and cooking classes in low-income neighborhoods, designed for a food stamp budget. They’re doing a lot to help people there, in Dayton and also here in Cleveland.

So maybe we just need an association or something for local food growers to market their products. What do you think? Do you have any ideas? Or, is Chick-Fil-A harmless healthy food, as they seem to imply on their website?


Keep Me In Touch: Touch Supper Club March 16, 2008

Touch Supper Club

2710 Lorain Avenue

Cleveland, OH 44113


Touch is a dance club known for its DJs and the Old School Hip Hop Night, a monthly throw-back to the height of 80s hip-hop music scene. On its website, this Ohio City spot bills itself as a “supper club” but I’d never seen anyone eating the food there before, so I assumed it would be your typical sub-standard bar food.

But what we didn’t know was that not only does Touch have a decent menu, but after a recent dining extravaganza there, they have my vote as one of the top 10 restaurants in Cleveland.

Touch’s menu features extensive wine and beer menus, including a wide variety of Belgian beers on tap. The entrees, generally nouveau american, ranged from roast chicken or pork filet to a burger.

I ordered and highly recommend the “Mac and Cheese,” which elevates the bland everyday dish to the opposite extreme. It balances the creamy Vermont cheddar and Cottswold cheese with nice cubed Taso ham and sweet green peas. Its leftovers even made an excellent breakfast the next morning!

I also highly recommend the hamburger, which comes with thin, crispy homemade Belgian frites and a homemade ketchup had me rethinking Heinz as my number one ketchup of choice.

Before dessert he brought us a very cleansing little amuse-bouche – a mini dish of homemade vanilla ice cream with a blood orange reduction sauce that was just right to cleanse the palate before our desserts arrived.

We ordered the Berries Foster dessert, a variation on Bananas Foster – that included delicious fresh berries over vanilla ice cream with a brown sugar, rum and cinnamon sauce.

Our attentive waiter was extremely knowledgeable about the food, wine and beer selections and was more than happy to answer questions and make recommendations for us. In short, eating dinner there was a like a really nice dream.

The one thing I will say, though, is that they need to update their restrooms. Somehow at a place that serves such amazing food, when you walk into the restroom it’s like using the restroom in a remote log cabin.

But other than that, every aspect of the evening was perfect, from the moment we walked in to the last bite of dessert.

Touch Supper Club in Cleveland


Movie Date: Bar Cento March 13, 2008

Bar Cento
1948 West 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113

A group movie date at the Cleveland International Film Festival Sunday night had us looking for the perfect pre-downtown spot for dinner, and Bar Cento‘s delivered yet again.

Bar Cento is quickly becoming one of the best spots in Ohio City for a nice dinner or to grab a bite before going out downtown, or to spend a leisurely many-coursed meal. Chef Jonathan Sawyer‘s myriad creations include unfailing homemade pizzas with fresh ingredients, like the margherita pizza that features fresh basil, tomato and mozzarella cheese. The pizzas are very affordable, priced at $8 to $12 per pie, which is nearly big enough to share between two people or for one, with extra to take home. The pizza leftovers also double well as a breakfast the next morning.

We ordered the table share of Belgian frites, which are the perfect combination of salty, savory, potatoey and crispy. But my favorite part of the frites is that they come with three different sauces to dip them in: ketchup and homemade mayonnaise curry and horseradish sauces. Be aware, however: the frites are not vegetarian, but they are extremely addictive.

The beet salad ($8) is delicately composed of savory but sweet beets paired with gorgonzola, but I recommend ordering another of their salads if you don’t like smelly cheese.

Accompanied by a thoughtful selection of well-priced wines by the bottle, Bar Cento also serves great beers on tap as well as all the expected spirits.

The service is casual yet efficient, and the waitress happily provided separate checks for our table of eight, with no extra charge.

Worth going simply for the casual atmosphere, great prices and great homemade gourmet pizza, Bar Cento never fails to please.

Bar Cento in Cleveland


vermillion alpacas September 26, 2007

Filed under: Random Cleveland Stuff — jenniferferf @ 6:34 am
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Cleveland has it all. Fine dining, entertainment, wealth, poverty, traffic, the grit of the city, and (one of its most underappreciated assets) the beautiful Lake Erie. I am convinced that many Clevelanders don’t fully appreciate the amazing natural wonder that is Lake Erie, which they are so fortunate to live next to.
So I was thrilled to finally visit Vermillion, a small picturesque town about 45 minutes west of Cleveland. Tourists and retirees seem to flock to this little town to enjoy the lake, which is something I have been wanting to do since I moved to Cleveland!

A short drive west of Avon Lake, with my aunt and uncle bubbling with excitement about the birth of their newest granddaughter the day before and a few other fun conversations – “Oh, you’ll love the antique shopping in Vermillion – there’s an auction we go to nearly every Friday night!” – and we soon found ourselves contentedly exploring the rolling hills peppered with farms and homes. We passed a particularly interesting-looking alpaca farm, when my uncle remembered that friends of theirs had recently purchased an alpaca farm, and maybe that one was it. So, we took a short drive up the driveway to inquire, and lo and behold, it was their friends’ farm! Their friends weren’t in, but the farm manager, who looked like an overgrown, tattooed scary-looking biker, cheerily invited us to look around. We pet the friendly alpacas and a stray deer he had taken in, and he happily told us story after story about the various strays he’d rescued and close calls he’d faced looking after animals for the past several years. He’d worked in a steel mill for 25 years before being laid off, and then found a second calling working with animals on farms in the years since then.

The beach on the lake in Vermillion is absolutely beautiful, and there were kids there swimming and laughing and having a great time in the chilly water.
Sometimes the serendipitous parts of road trips and traveling is even better than what you had planned.