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Ferrante’s

It says on their website that the Ferrantes have been making wine since 1937 and they can also add to that bio that since this past Saturday Douglas and Michele Esper are big fans of the Ferrantes. It was a typical Saturday of housework, yard work, and then more housework until I put my foot down and announced a road trip was needed. I was hungry and determined to try something new.

So, without further ado, my wife and I jumped into the car, and drove a little over an hour to Harpersfield, Ohio. The winery is located minutes off of highway 90 and is easy to spot. We had been told to make trying this winery a priority, but as a cheapskate, I was always hesitant to commit. Now I feel foolish knowing that even being a cheapskate is maintainable at Ferrante’s.

I know very little about high class dinning, and even less about wine, but the whole evening was an educational, entertaining, and refreshing experience. As you walk into the main building you can enter a wine tasting/shop area, the restaurant, or head out onto a wonderful patio.

The wine tasting/shop area is very helpful to a man such as myself. They have all of the famous Ferrante wines labeled with easy to read and understandable descriptions making choosing your drink easy. You can buy by the bottle, the glass, or in a sample variety of smaller sipping glasses, and sit down to share, and enjoy. They also have several fun wine related products such as wine scented candles, glasses, and fun house decorations. The wine is very reasonable and bottles can run from as little as $7.99 for the Rosso. (We sampled the Grand River Valley Riesling ($14.99/bottle, and the Rosso $7.99/bottle)).

The restaurant is a cozy, relaxing environment and it has a romantic ski lodge atmosphere. Our waitress was kind, conversational, and very helpful. I am kicking myself for not remembering her name for the review. She was able to offer food and wine pairing suggestions and was not too rushed to take time and converse and joke with us at our table. It really helped me relax and feel at ease in the normally foreign territory of classy-folk. It is so nice to not feel like a burden to the waitress, but instead to feel like a visiting friend.

Upon examining the menu of food and wine we decided to stick with our sampling mood and ordered a special they had running for the night. The waitress told us it included an appetizer, entrée, and dessert enough for two and that each course included a wine sampler as well. Not knowing what to expect we also ordered a bottle of wine for our table. (Grand River Valley Riesling, again) In my experiences with fancy food, I am usually left disappointed and still hungry when the meal is done, but that was so not the case!

The appetizer (artichoke and eggplant bruschetta) turned out to be four large toasted pieces of sesame bread topped with sun dried tomatoes, eggplant, cheese, and artichoke. Both my wife and I stopped a few bites in and looked at each other with surprise. This appetizer was so full of flavor it could be a full meal. I would strongly recommend ordering them. Ferrante paired the appetizer with their Pinot Grigio – a dry wine that worked well.

The main course was an interesting Chicken dish called Tandoori Chicken, paired with Saffron rice, white raisins, onions, and flavored with lemon/citrus and butter. The first bite was a little overwhelming as the lemon flavor took over the meal, but from then on, the dish grew on me immensely. The chicken was moist and cooked to perfection. Michele suggested that pine nuts or something with a little salt might add to the mix, but I feel it was great as is. A German wine called Gewürztraminer was the pairing for the meal, and I don’t think they could have picked a better wine for this dish.

Bring on the desert I said, but inside I could tell I had already gotten my monies worth and my fill of food. The waitress placed down our desert, and we let out simultaneous “oohs” and “ahs.” It was apricots, blackberries, and perhaps other fruit mixed with oatmeal granola, and a sweet whipped cream. The Oatmeal was a bit soggy and again Michele suggested perhaps a little salt could be added. The one downer of the meal was the wine pairing with the dessert, which was Vidal Blanc Ice Wine. It is not that the Wine was bad, but the whipped cream had been made with wine already and perhaps it was a little too much. Michele suggested the wine would be very good with a dark chocolate dessert instead.

We ate our meal and then enjoyed live music out on the patio. The outside area is a wonderful place with an outside heater, fountains, gazebos, and grape fields as far as the eye can see.

At the end of the night, we bought a few bottles of wine for home enjoyment (in fact right now we are enjoying one of those bottles) and our total bill was just over $100 with tip (including our meal, three bottles of wine, and two glasses of wine as well.). Yes, it is more then your typical night out, but at Ferrante’s no night out is typical.

The Brew Kettle

Upon getting our table at the Brew Kettle (www.thebrewkettle.com) we had a glance at the long list of beer, and realized it was as good a time as any to call a designated driver. The list is not only long, but also full of info to help you make your choice on the right mix of barley, hops, and flavors. From the darkest brown to a pear flavored brew that almost looks like a glass of water The Brew Kettle seems to have a beer for every taste.

We decided to try a sampling of beers and see what we found to our liking. Of course there is rarely a time that the word “beer” is uttered and we don’t enjoy. The first round was ordered with a plate of nachos (Not Cho Platter with pulled pork: $7.99). The beers we ordered were: Ringneck Copperhead Red, Ommegang Irish Stout, Bell’s Double Cream Stout, Wyder’s Pear Cider, and for good measure a Straub. These beers were part of the “B” sampler that cost $1.25 each sample.

As we awaited the first round of samples we checked out the menu, which definitely strays from the “typical” bar menu. Sure you can order yourself some wings and a burger if you so desire, but with this great selection of beers you can get a little creative by matching the right food with the right beer. The Brew Kettle offers entrees like: The Cajun Cornmeal Crusted Catfish (9.99), Smokin’ Burrito (7.99), Barbequed Spaghetti (9.99), and many others.

You can also order from their burgers, sandwiches, and starters menu, each having a good selection to change things up and again match your beer with your food. I decided on the Grilled Portobello Mushroom Sandwich (6.99), which also includes a side dish of your choice from about 5-6 different choices. As I ordered the skin-on-fries to go on the side and was happy to see the nachos and first sampler had already arrived!

The other twist I haven’t mentioned yet is that The Brew Kettle not only has food, drinks, and a live band tonight, but you can also sign up to brew your own beer on the premises and choose from over 70 recipes to make! Though I wasn’t ready just yet to sign up don’t be surprised if the second review isn’t far behind when we sample the beer we make ourselves!

Between the three of us at the table we polished off the hearty Not Cho Plate with greedy eyes. The nacho plate itself was large and they definitely do not skimp on the pulled pork! There were large chunks of moist, tasty pork mixed with cheddar cheese, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and sour cream all on top of a large plate of nacho chips. Near the end we had to slap each other’s hands out of the way to get the last few chips. It’s not often that appetizers challenge for the food highlight, but these nachos are making a good case for themselves.

We finished sampling beers just in time for the meal to arrive so we each ordered our own beers to enjoy with the food. I went with the Bell’s Double Cream Stout, which ended up being my favorite sample, and is now a new favorite of mine.

The portobello mushroom sandwich was large and delicious and was just different enough from the norm to excite the taste buds without needing any large doses of spices or exotic sauces to make it stand out. The fries were above average which is good because let’s be honest it isn’t easy to get excited about fries these days.

Discussing our experience on the way home we compared more details and though the price to drink and eat at The Brew Kettle maybe a little more than your typical night out – we all agreed we left overly stuffed and completely satisfied. Between the three of us we each had 3 or 4 beers, the plate of nachos, we each had a sandwich/dinner, and the five part sampler I had as well and the total rang up just under $70 plus tip.

If you are sick of the same old beers, and the same old bar food you need to stop reading right now and head to The Brew Kettle! And if you want to go brew a batch of beer that tastes like the Bell’s Double Stout email me!

Night Town

Sitting on top of Cedar Hill at 12387 Cedar Road in Cleveland Heights is a great entertainment experience; Night Town, which offers everything from a large bar to chill out and have a good martini, a lovely restaurant with stained glass, lead and etchings making this a classy place to dine and a lively jazz club to check out the best modern jazz artists both nationally and internationally known.

Deep wooden tables with bold linen napkins simplify the elegance of the place situated with dim lighting giving it a romantic tinge. Night Town offered many choices of appetizers to start off a great meal.

Items such as fresh whole artichoke steamed in herbed vegetable broth ($4.50,) old Chatham cheese plate; four ounces of fresh Camernbert with candied walnuts and fresh fruit ($11.95,) Night Town steamers ($4.95,) mussels and middle-neck clams in white wine broth (mussels: $8.95, clams: $11.95,) prawn cocktail ($11.95,) Halloumi Kebobs; Cyprian sheep & goat’s milk cheese, with grilled vegetables and chive oil ($9.95,) calamari; sesame crusted with a honey-wasabi sauce ($9.95,) Pancetta Shrimp; served with caper vinaigrette, roma tomatoes & garlic bread ($9.95,) Chesapeake crab cake; with roasted corn & chipotle mashed potatoes, and sweet rernoulade & chipotle honey sauce ($11.95) and Crab Louie; Chilled jumbo lump crab tossed with traditional louie dressing, seal lions, and bell pepper and Served in a halved avocado shell.

I chose the Halloumi Kebobs and they had an extremely smoky taste from the sheep and goat?s milk cheese combined with the sweetness of cherry tomatoes, onions and mushrooms drizzled with chive oil.

Two generous kebobs that laid parallel on my plate were enough to hold my appetite until I selected my entree for the evening. But before I chose my dinner; I tried one of their many selections of martinis. I had a vanilla martini served in a traditional martini glass filled slightly to the top with Stolly vanilla vodka, vermouth and perhaps fresh vanilla making it a refreshing drink for a hot summer night.

Night Town has a fully stocked bar with everything imaginable for your distinctive taste. Night Town had so many delicious items to choose from their diverse menu.

Several selections they had to choose from are trout almandine; pan-seared, boneless filet of rainbow trout with toasted almonds, fresh vegetables and a baked potato ($17.95,) filet mignon with a Tarragon-roasted shallot demi-glace, roasted potatoes & braised Swiss chard ($29.95,) veal meatloaf with mashed potatoes, vegetables and a Madeira mushroom gravy ($12.95,) Chevre Chicken; roasted chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese, roasted shallots and walnuts served with a sun dried cherry compote, saba balsamic syrup, mashed potatoes & asparagus ($16.95,) Atlantic salmon with a roma tomato vinaigrette, rice pilaf and vegetables ($18.95) and the specialty of Night Town; Dublin Lawyer, lobster meat saut?ed in a cayenne butter cream sauce with mushrooms, shallots and Irish whiskey served over rice pilaf ($22.95.)

I ordered the Atlantic salmon, which had a light tomato vinaigrette that flavored the fish nicely, but the crust they had on the salmon was too tart and unsavory. The steamed green beans and carrots with the rice pilaf were a good compliment with the salmon dish; too bad the coating they put on the salmon dulled my senses. Thankfully, I had my vanilla martini to wash away the pain.

Night Town also offers many beautiful, yet simple desserts to make that sweet tooth of yours shut up and smack you upside your head. They offer such classic recipes like apple pie, apple bread pudding, hot fudge sundaes and key lime pie to the inventive such as the macadamia chocolate pie.

I ordered the macadamia nut chocolate pie and it was fabulous. Cookie crust filled with a decadence of chocolate, macadamia nuts and a whipped cream laced with chocolate shavings. A slice of this with a good cup of coffee made for an excellent ending to a pretty good meal.

Night Town is the perfect combination of a great restaurant and a lively jazz bar. But I suggest to bring plenty of money with you because a typical dinner for one would cost more than $50 and if you bring your sweetheart or a couple of friends, it may get pricy, but it’s worth the expense of staying in one spot for dinner and a show.

Aoeshi Restaurant

Excellent Japanese food is hard to come by in Northeast Ohio, but look no further than Aoeshi Restaurant at 24539 Lorain Road in North Olmsted. Aoeshi screams with intimacy and tradition as this is a small hidden restaurant tucked near Great Northern Mall.

Aoeshi’s decor is simple, yet elegant with warm colors, wicker chairs and low-ended wooden tables and the hint of original Japanese music flows throughout the restaurant.

Aoeshi offers both contemporary items on its menu and an array of sushi and sashimi. More than 70 items are offered on the sushi and sashimi list from the raw to the fried.

My guests and I were served miso soup and salad with dicon radish, lettuce, cucumbers and a light soy dressing. The soup and salad course was a refreshing start to a heavy meal.

Aoeshi offers several drink choices such as beers, saki, distilled beverages and fountain drinks. We ordered both Sapporo and Kearns Ichiban; the two most popular Japanese beers sold in the United States. Sapporo has a milder finish and Kearns Ichiban has a sweeter taste to it.

My guests and I who favored the sushi menu ordered several items from it both raw and semi-cooked.

We ordered the sushi and sashimi platter, which covered the gamut of flavors and textures. Such items on the plate were California rolls, salmon sashimi, tuna rolls, mackerel sashimi, eel hand rolls and tuna sashimi.

The platter was decorated with colorful patterns of dicon radishes, onions, pickled ginger and a small island of wasabi, Japanese horseradish.

We also ordered spider rolls and dragon rolls. Spider rolls are crab meat deep fried in a tempura batter and wrapped in seaweed. Dragon rolls are lobster rolls that are also deep fried in tempura and stuffed with rice and fragrant spices.

The presentation was spectacular as the spider rolls and dragon rolls were served on each platter with a sense of artistry and style in whimsical patterns.

Although most of the sushi was flavored well, some needed the saltiness of soy sauce and the spiciness of the wasabi to enhance its stiff flavor.

The guests who didn?t like sushi ordered the crab tempura and the salmon teriyaki. The crab tempura was a nice piece of lump crabmeat seasoned in panko bread crumbs and deep fried. Unfortunately it wasn?t as fresh and captivating as expected.

The salmon teriyaki however, was sweet and delicious as it was served on a bed of rice and vegetables in a luscious teriyaki sauce. The salmon was fresh and succulent.

We finished our meal with tempura ice cream; a beautifully filled soft serve ice cream placed in a tempura shell laced with slices of kiwi and fresh Japanese cherries laden with a sweet, simple syrup. This dessert was refreshing and cleared our palates from the heaviness and richness of our meals.

Aoeshi is a great place to experience traditional Japanese food in a relaxed and beautiful setting; however, it can be rather expensive, as a meal for four could cost $100 or more. The only downfall about Aoeshi is its location, as it’s hidden away from the viewpoint of impending customers.

Roly Poly Sandwiches

I recently visited the brand new Roly Poly Sandwiches shop in Strongsville. While they call themselves a sandwich shop, everything is actually served wrapped up inside of a flour tortilla. This is not only an interesting division from the typical sandwich, but is a great alternative to those watching their carbs.

Located at 14092 Pearl Road, Roly Poly offers fifty different types of cold and hot sandwiches, included numerous types of chicken, turkey, veggie, beef, ham, pork and seafood. For a counter service restaurant, the service is surprisingly upscale.

As I was surveying the expansive menu, the manager asked if this was my first visit to a Roly Poly. As it was my first time, the manager offered a full explanation of their menu, pointing out their sandwich selections as well as their soups.

I decided on the #23, Key West Cuban Mix, a hot sandwich based around slices of pork, ham and turkey topped with cheeses, veggies and dressing. My friend decided on the #38, the Hickory Cristo an upscale version of an old favorite, featuring melted brie and smoked turkey breast.

After paying, we got our drinks and sat down in the small dining room to wait for our custom made meals. Our sandwiches arrived hot off the grill in less than five minutes.
My Cuban sandwich was incredible; the cheeses were melted and the meats were warm and savory. The side of honey mustard made an excellent dipping sauce that accentuated the flavor of the sandwich. Warm smoked slices of turkey breast and a blend of soft, melty cheeses made up my companion?s Cristo.

All of Roly Poly’s sandwiches come in two sizes and toppings can be modified to suit. Their regular sandwiches range between $3.25 and $3.95 and their large sandwiches range between $5.25 and $6.95. In addition, they also serve soups, sides and chips, as well as offer an huge assortment of party trays.

Roly Poly is definitely the perfect alternative to the typical sandwich shop and it will take more than one visit to experience all of their tasty creations.

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