Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cleveland Eats: Part One

Cleveland holds a special place in my heart - our family used to trek out to the city (ok, so it wasn't exactly a trek but all road trips seem long when you're 10) to go antiquing. There was this one really cool dude who'd take my parents to the dusty back room of his shop and they'd find treasures like stained glass windows and bronze doors. I am pretty sure my parents rewarded me for this dustmite-invested experience by taking me to an award-winning restaurant where I only ordered mashed potatoes and New England clam chowder.  I asked my mom to confirm this last night on the phone and she couldn', I might be telling tales about that last part.

I revisited Cleveland recently (like, yesterday), armed with a few foodie recs from a friend who's dating someone at Case. While we could't try them all, we did make it to one, Barrio, and it was so delicious I think we might go back a couple times before venturing down the list. We only ordered their special tacos, but when we go back, I think I'l try and create my own. In addition to being dirt cheap, they were so incredibly flavorful and very, very generous when it comes to portions. Below is my breakdown of our restaurant experience - despite the low points, I'd go back in a heart beat.

Barrio, Tremont Location

1) Atmosphere: kinda grunge, cool vibe, hanging bicycle with lights = very good first impression

2) Drinks: I got a traditional margarita which was very delicious, although not filled completely. One was enough for me because once the food is in front of me, I tend to forget about my drink. I also tried the jalapeƱo variation which was yummy - I think they must make a simple syrup and add that because it didn't taste fake.

3) Extras: It's been a while since I've actually received a starter of chips and salsa for free at a Tex-Mex place, but literally seconds after our margs came, so did these munchies. And they were amazing. The salsa blew my mind - it was on the runny side and had a hint of chipotle. They served a mix of white and yellow corn chips which was kind of cool - I liked the attention to detail.

4) Apps: I was craving guac (actually I was craving falafel but the place was closed hence our trip to this establishment instead, but I digress). The portion was huge and for the price ($6) not unreasonable. I would have liked a little more lime and cilantro, though. Consistency was  chunky but creamy and so thick that the chips had a hard time standing up for themselves when it came to scooping.

5) Tacos: Big, flavorful, great combinations. We only ordered off the suggested specials menu. They have something called a "stoner" shell which is a hard taco smothered with queso and chorizo and wrapped inside a soft shell. I'm not usually a fan of double carb things but the texture and flavor was so, so good. In terms of sides, next time I'll just order the guac with my taco and skip it as an app because they were very generous with the amounts of sides. Here however, was my least favorite part of the meal because one of the tacos was vegan with veggies and it was literally a soft taco shell full of pickled vegetables and 2 tiny strips of mushrooms. This was offensive for two reasons: the veggies were served with the pickle juice so the taco was super soggy and two, I was surprised that a place which seemed really aware of flavor profiles would have chosen such a caustic substance to serve their patrons. The pickle overpowered everything and it was the same as what they offer as a side so I kind of felt that was a cop out - should have just grilled all the vegetables and put some sort of sauce over top. I am selectively going to forget this part of the meal from this point forward because my other taco was heavenly.

6) Service: For the most part, fine. I felt a little rushed at the beginning to order and the waitstaff didn't seem so invested in chit-chat. But then I reminded myself I was back in the Midwest and polite efficiency is how we roll. One negative here was that the busboy nabbed our guacamole before we were finished with it.

Final thoughts:

- Why did I not build my own taco? That was dumb. I need to do this next time.
- Why did we get an app? Because we thought it'd be teeny, which it wasn't. Do not do this again,  
          Sheila. You will hate yourself.
- When can we go back???

Convo of the evening, said while taking a very short walk because we did, in fact, hate ourselves for the sheer amount of food we'd just consumed.
me: "Ok, I didn't eat that much did I?"
companion: "Babe, you ate a ton. And I ate more than you, so imagine how I feel."
me: "You are rude."

Yep...this is love.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Soup

I have to preface this post by saying I have no photos of this soup. Which is good because it means I will have to make it again and bad because, of course, we eat with our eyes first and you might not believe that this is seriously one of the best soups I have ever made.


4, 15oz cans chicken stock
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 red onions, diced
4 carrots, diced
2-3 potatoes, diced
1/2 can tomato paste
2 chicken thighs, diced (although, to be honest, you could leave this out and only use the sausage)
2-4 links spicy sausage of some kind (I used an all-organic turkey sausage from Whole Foods), largely diced
1/2 cup barley
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 Tbs turmeric
1/2 tsp dried sage
salt, pepper, garlic powder

Start by frying the sausage in a bit of olive oil until it's nice and brown, then add the chicken. Toss in the onions, garlic, and carrots and cook until the onions have wilted a little. Add the diced potatoes and fry those until they get a little color on them. Pour in 2 cans of chicken stock and the tomato paste. Next add the spices. Cook this over medium-high heat until the chicken stock starts to evaporate (about 20 minutes), then add the other two cans of stock. You might want to add more tomato paste to thicken the soup, but if you keep cooking it, it should reduce down. Taste to make sure the stock is flavorful enough - you might want to add more oregano, sage, or turmeric. Add the barley and cook for another 20-30 minutes - the potatoes should be cooked through at this point.