Saturday, October 8, 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016

Amalgamato: Arcadian's Middle West Spirits OYO Cocktail Dinner...

Amalgamato: Arcadian's Middle West Spirits OYO Cocktail Dinner...: Arcadian Food & Drink  has been open for little over three months and we have enjoyed some memorable dinners there in that short time....

Arcadian's Middle West Spirits OYO Cocktail Dinner

Arcadian Food & Drink has been open for little over three months and we have enjoyed some memorable dinners there in that short time. From the seafood tower and caviar tasting before a Joe Jackson concert to a simple break for a pizza and some tempting happy hour turkey wings. One of its greatest features is a flexible menu that allows for nearly every occasion (not to mention the most reasonable price on a bottle Dom Perignon in the 216). The versatile, well-planned menu also attempts to address the Gordon Square area's disparate incomes as it continues to grow as an entertainment district. There is an early and late night happy hour, and some well-priced Detroit-style pizza and fried chicken on the regular menu. This week, we discovered they can also deliver a flawless prix fixe cocktail dinner.

Caviar Tasting 
Seafood Tower
Oysters Rockefeller 
Happy Hour Turkey Wings 
In celebration of  “Cocktail Week Cleveland,” Arcadian collaborated with OYO Middle West Spirits. Thomas Haywood presented OYO’s product in a knowledgeable and entertaining manner. Jeffrey Rowe, Arcadian’s Bar Manager, and Erica Coffee created five imaginative cocktails that took OYO’s spirits to new heights. In the kitchen, Rebecca Hess, Chef de Cuisine, and her staff provided a menu with complementary flavors. The result was a cohesive, well-paired cocktail dinner. Most restaurants can do some fine improvisational special dinners. We’ve been to many over the years; generally they will only offer the special menu for the evening. On this Wednesday evening, Arcadian offered this special dinner on their second floor while serving their regular menu on the first. Running both through one kitchen can be challenging. They rose to the occasion: our dinner was exceptional, the pairings were creative, and the value [$50 per], quality and service were indisputable.

OYO Middle West Spirits - Photo: Thomas Haywood
To get things underway, an “amuse booze” consisting of prosecco, OYO Stone Fruit Vodka, Carpano Bianco and Lemon Falernum Gelee greeted us as we were seated. The fresh lavender and thyme sprigs lent the perfect herbal notes to this finely crafted, albeit potent, aperitif. 

Amuse Booze - Photo: Thomas Haywood
The mood in the room was already festive as the Smoked Mussel Shooter came out with a couple of flawless smoked mussels along with a light, crispy, slightly salty cracker. The pairing with OYO Un-Aged Rye Whiskey, herb-infused Dolin Dry, squash and yellow pepper, was not only a complement to the briny appetizer but a new riff on the classic Bloody Mary.

Smoked Mussel Shooter 
A rich, velvety course of scrambled eggs, oyster and caviar followed. The crispy fried oyster and those creamy eggs married beautifully. I was excited to hear that this dish will be available on their regular menu and brunch menus by month’s end. I look forward to enjoying it again soon. The companion cocktail may have been my favorite of the evening, but that’s bound to happen when a drink includes vodka, limoncello, spiced Carpano Bianco and tantalizing smoked olives.

Scrambled Eggs, Oyster, Caviar
OYO Vodka, Limoncello, Spiced Carpano Bianco, smoked olives 
An area where I’ve always felt our local culinary scene could stand some improvement is in the availability of fresh pasta. The garganelli that were served in the clam garganelli, anchovy and bacon dish were reminiscent of the delicate, light pastas I’ve enjoyed in Italy. The genius of this briny dish was that it wasn’t overwhelmed by either the anchovy or bacon — two strong ingredients deftly kept in check to buoy the clams rather than sink them. The paired cocktail’s charred lemon, barrel-aged maple syrup and cider soothed the dark OYO Pumpernickel Rye, creating a perfect layering of flavors and viscosity. 

Clam Garganelli Anchovie, Bacon 
OYO Dark Pumpernickel Rye, Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup, charred lemon, Bent Ladder Heirloom Cider 
The pork shank, spaetzle and fennel was undeniably a salute to the coming fall season — as warm and comforting as a favorite sweater. The expertly braised pork was fork-tender and had a luxurious texture. Author Calvin Trillin once wrote that Thanksgiving should be about eating your favorite dish. He insisted he would be more thankful if he could enjoy his favorite Chinese carry-out instead. There is no question that Arcadian’s pork shank dish would be my choice this year. A Germanic-style osso bucco for pork. It too will be on their regular menu soon. The complementary cocktail only enhanced the autumnal aesthetic. If the pork was a comfortable sweater than the cocktail was the perfect pair of warm, suede boots. OYO Wheat Whiskey added a smooth, creamy texture to the Fernet Branca and the roasted pecan-apple shrub. They could probably sell those savory "Arcadian" crackers alongside the crisps served with the first course. They were addicting at first bite.

Pork Shank, Spaetzle, Fennel Photo: Leo Jeffries
OYO 'Oloroso' Wheat Whiskey, Fernet Branca Roasted Pecan-Apple Shrub
This is when you actually want a devil tending to every detail, like a savory cracker with an “A” for “Arcadian.” Especially when the devil is CIA-trained Erica Coffee who lent some creative assistance to the menu too. She saved her best for last: her butterscotch pumpkin cake was the perfect finish, served with a potent blend of OYO Barrel Aged Honey Vanilla Vodka, chai tea, whipped cream and nutmeg. Butterscotch is one of the first "American" flavors I was captivated by when I came from Italy at age five. It did not disappoint here. The pumpkin married with the butterscotch, enhancing it with rich sweet overtones. 

Butterscotch Pumpkin Cake
OYO Barrel-Aged Honey Vanilla Vodka, chai tea, whipped cream, nutmeg 
All in all, it was a splendid evening, pulled off by a talented team of professionals both in the kitchen and behind the bar, featuring great product — not the least of which were the OYO Whiskeys and Vodkas. Each course was better than the last and there were no weak links. It is no wonder that Arcadian Food and Drink has become another favorite refuge.

Our consummate host, David Hridel
From L to R, Rebecca Hess, Chef de Cuisine; Matt Snyder Sous Chef; David Hridel, FOH Manager; Tanasha Robertson; Erica Coffee; Thomas Haywood, Middle West Spirits Rep; Alyssa Murray; Alfonso Cody; Sadly missing is Jeffrey Rowe, Bar & Beverage Manager [someone has to keep serving the bar] - Photo: Leo Jeffries
Thomas Haywood Middle West Spirits Rep - Photo: Leo Jeffries

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Amalgamato: Eric Williams to Compete on Guy's Grocery Games, N...

Amalgamato: Eric Williams to Compete on Guy's Grocery Games, N...: Eric Williams of Momocho and El Carnicero (among others) will test his luck and talent Sunday, January 17th on “Guy’s Grocery Games” wh...

Eric Williams to Compete on Guy's Grocery Games, New Broadcast Date

Eric Williams of Momocho and El Carnicero (among others) will test his luck and talent Sunday, January 17th on “Guy’s Grocery Games” which airs on Sunday evenings at 8pm on the Food Network.

Guy Fieri chose 16 of his favorite “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” (DDD) chefs to compete in a five-week tournament with winnings to support local charity/charities, purchase new equipment for their restaurants, pay off any debt or a family vacation.

The series began this past Sunday, January 3rd and will conclude with the championship on January 31. The tournament features four talented-chefs from DDD episodes. They compete head-to-head each week at a chance to win 20,000 dollars while showcasing their unique cuisines and personalities. The four winners meet in a final championship round for an opportunity to win an additional 20,000 dollars and the chance to be proclaimed “Champion of Guy’s Grocery Games.”

Eric Williams

“It’s a mash-up of Grocery Games, Chopped and Guy’s huge, twisted personality. I’m representing El Carnicero and Momocho. I was excited and honored to participate. I understood I had the chance to gain more exposure for the restaurants, shine the spotlight on Cleveland and possibly win some cash for some charities. As a fan of the show, my goal was to showcase my restaurants for as long as I could. Especially, since the first Chef was eliminated in the first 15 minutes. Hopefully, I can make Cleveland proud and bring home a winner.” Says, Eric Williams.

Fieri, for his part, does what he can to increase the pressure and challenge of the competition through a series of demands. He selects the entrée for each chef to prepare. Contestants are under the gun to shop for their ingredients in an actual grocery store and to prepare the dish in 30 minutes.

“Guy increases the pressure by throwing in an ingredient from a claw machine, making a sandwich with ingredients not in the dairy or bread aisle or rolling the dice to see what piece of kitchen equipment we can use. It’s completely exhausting both physically and mentally!” Says, Eric Williams.

Although, Williams could not discuss how he fared in the contest, he did share how he intends to utilize his winnings.

“Recently Heather and I purchased a home and during some remodeling this past spring the basement completely flooded. We had to start all over and waterproof the house. Part of the money would help to offset that debt. I also hope to upgrade some restaurant equipment. Momocho is nearly 10 years old and El Carnicero opened with a lot of used equipment. I also intend to help those who really need help. We’ve often helped our local churches, shelters and soup kitchens. Those efforts were always short term and limited by what we could afford at the time. If given the opportunity, I can help a lot more people.” Says, Eric Williams.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Amalgamato: Arcadian Food & Drink, Hospitality by Design

Amalgamato: Arcadian Food & Drink, Hospitality by Design: History is replete with examples of structures that were worth the time it took to build them. The Taj Mahal … the Great Pyramid of Giza … I...

Arcadian Food & Drink, Hospitality by Design

History is replete with examples of structures that were worth the time it took to build them. The Taj Mahal … the Great Pyramid of Giza … Il Duomo di Milano … the Great Wall of China. These are a few of the many shining examples of structures that took years to construct and have endured the test of time.

Nailing the artistic, practical and structural components of a building requires time. Case in point: Arcadian Food & Drink, a 100-seat restaurant (plus seating in the back-patio courtyard) located at 6416 Detroit Avenue in the Gordon Square Arts District. The space, which formerly housed the City Grill, is currently undergoing a thorough restoration/redesign/repurpose by Robert Maschke Architects. Construction has been underway for over two years and counting, and you could hear a pin drop when I asked for a projected open date. The only other question that was met with the same silence was when asked who the investor/investors is/are, silent as the grave.

Arcadian Food & Drink, outdoor signage - Photo: Robert Maschke, FAIA

Arcadian Food & Drink, exterior - Photo: Mary Sweeney

After a recent tour of the location, it is my opinion that painstaking measures have been taken to create a restaurant worthy of nomination for a James Beard Foundation Restaurant Design Award. I know of no city where this structure wouldn’t be impressive. Frankly, Cleveland is incredibly fortunate to have Arcadian Food & Drink, dare I say it, months away from opening.

Steel, glass, concrete, bamboo, Corian and leather converge to lend a sleek modern sensibility.

Arcadian Food & Drink, screens - Photo: Robert Maschke FAIA

Arcadian Food & Drink, screens - Photo: Robert Maschke FAIA

"Rooted in modernism, Robert Maschke Architects (RMA) seeks to create an architecture of complex spatial effects within modest means. What distinguishes RMA is the ability to turn ordinary projects into exceptional architecture. RMA views project constraints as opportunities for design. Consequently, different version of "economy"  are conceptualized and implemented in RMA's work. Gestures, materials and atmospheres are investigated for essential qualities; techniques are developed and technologies deployed resulting in experimental architecture honed specifically for each project." Robert Maschke, FAIA 

When questioned further on the "within modest means" point, Maschke, responded: "The execution may appear extremely expensive but the approach was very resourceful and much less than one might expect." Even better.

While the design has mid-century modernist roots, we are jettisoned into the future by Maschke’s use of the latest green construction methods and concepts. The kitchen, bar, bathrooms and every inch of space is designed to consume the least amount of water, power and energy. The space is divided into zones for purposes of heating and cooling. Restaurants are notorious for hot and cold spots; designated zones will help to alleviate this problem. Logistics include a well-designed vestibule entrance with an angled, pitched ground, which allows water to drain. The windows in the three-story structure open inside to facilitate maintenance. Special care was taken to design return and make-up air passages in a way that will prevent the windows from fogging. The walls consist of custom-made bamboo panels in contrasting light tan and dark brown. Some of the new banquettes are already in place, as are two bar areas. There is a two-story glass enclosed atrium that will house seasonal displays all of it just months away from completion.

Arcadian Food & Drink, vestibule entrance - Photo: Robert Maschke FAIA

Arcadian Food & Drink, tan wall panel - Photo: Mary Sweeney

Arcadian Food & Drink, dark brown wall panel - Photo: Mary Sweeney

The biggest surprise upon entering Arcadian had little to do with the space. Standing next to Executive Chef Cory Hess was a familiar face, David Hridel, who was introduced to me as Arcadian's Front-of-House Manager (hardly a formal introduction). Hess  and Hridel discussed their roles and responsibilities. Hess will take on all the back-of-house responsibilities; Hridel will focus on running the dining areas. Hridel will assume both roles when Hess is offsite.

Arcadian Food & Drink, Cory Hess, Executive Chef and David Hridel, FOH Manager

Hess says, "Jeffrey Rowe will be Bar Manager, and George Hickey and Shawn Henton will be the Kitchen Managers. In addition to cocktails mixed with house-made juices and syrups, we plan to offer 12 draft beers, and four white and four red wines on-tap."  This is in keeping with their philosophy toward less waste / less bottles. 

The Menu features five “Detroit-style” pizzas. The “Plain Jane” offers the most flexibility, with a choice of tomato, garlic herb sauce and choice of cheese plus additional toppings: 
           • Cheeses: daiya mozzarella (v), fresh ricotta, brick, blue, smoked cheddar and parmesan. 
• Toppings: roasted garlic, olives, capers pickled peppers, red onion herbs, arugula, mushrooms, caramelized       onions and jalapeño peppers. 
• Proteins: bacon, pepperoni, sausage, anchovies and egg. 

If you’re not in the mood to build your own, Arcadian has designed four pizzas:
 Beef Carpaccio & Anchovies: roasted garlic, herbs, arugula, red onion, capers, aioli, egg, pickles. 
 Garlic & Herb Bread (v): roasted garlic, herbs, eve, Jacobson salt, crushed red pepper (w/marinara & garlic sauce).
 Sausage & Eggs: pickled peppers, potatoes caramelized onions, blue cheese. 
 Beets & Grapes (v): pepitas, honey, red onion, arugula, minus 8 vinegar.

Hess explains Detroit-style pizza as, "A standard lean dough, slow-fermented overnight, we then cook the pizza in pans brushed with a fat (olive oil). The result is a crispy, crunchy crust on the outside and tender inside. Toppings will be spread the entire surface of the pizza. You get bites of crispy, crunchy crust in every bite, unlike the traditional crust around the edges."

Arcadian will also offer a half-dozen cold plates, including a cheese selection (fresh ricotta, Wooster pike blue, kokoboreggo gilead and accouterments) and three salads: a seasonal salad (v,gf); a quinoa & millet salad (v,gf); a citrus salad (gf). They will also offer spicy carrot hummus (v,gf) and a crudite plate (v,gf).

Seafood selections will include raw oysters (gf), peel and eat shrimp (gf), candied salmon and smoked mussels.

There are plans for eight hot plates: tomato & turmeric soup (v,gf); cauliflower grilled cheese; fried taters (v,gf); steak-yum (v); fried chicken; Buffalo chicken grilled cheese; breakfast (local eggs, hash browns, bacon, toast, jelly, butter — also offered with a 14oz. cold-smoked ribeye option as an alternative to bacon). Sides include taters, corn muffins, slaw, soup and salad.

The menu I was given did not include prices, but Hess envisions a moderate price point that allows neighborhood residents an opportunity to enjoy Arcadian without breaking the bank.

"We have plenty of restaurants with good food in this town, but Arcadian is going to be the total experience … original in every way possible: design, food and drinks. We're in the hospitality business." Hess explains.

Arcadian Food & Drink, Cory Hess by his intelligent oven

Hridel could hardly contain his excitement, "I can't believe Cleveland is finally getting a place this f**king cool!"


Arcadian Food & Drink, David Hridel chilling out

Arcadian Food & Drink

6416 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102