Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pigging-Out in Cleveland


I have been wanting to go to the Greenhouse Tavern for quite some time now. Attending a Browns game with my husband seemed an opportune time. After a Saturday morning of Ruhlman & Ramen with Genevieve, I headed to the hotel to wait for Kevin while digging into my new cookbooks. While the primary goal for eating at Greenhouse Tavern was to 'research' it as part of a Weekend Getaway to Cleveland in the 3rd edition of my Insiders' Guide to Columbus, I am also putting together a culinary 'soil-to-table' Wanderlust Tour. GT fits the bill. 
Kevin turned up a few hours later for round two of pigging out. And I do not use the cliche 'pigging out' lightly, as Chef Jonathan Sawyer is best known for all things porcine. Even Michael Ruhlman said "have the pig"... I had no idea what that meant until we were seated and I saw a well picked-over pig head on the neighboring table. Not for me, but there was plenty of other pork on the menu. Needless to say, I was excited for this culinary experience. 
Chef Sawyer is known for his masterful use of locally sourced products and farm-to-fork philosophy. Also, Greenhouse Tavern is Ohio's first (and I believe only) certified Green Restaurant. It was named Bon Appétit Magazine's Top Ten Restaurants in America and Chef Sawyer named Food & Wine Magazine's Best New Chef in 2010. The restaurant's ambiance is easy and warm. In keeping with the green theme, much of the decor uses recycled products, including the hanging lights which are made of bicycle wheels. The biggest impact is the mouth-watering aroma that punches you in the face as soon as you walk through the door. 

GT Pinot Noir, 2007
First line of business... wine. The GT's house Oregon Pinot Noir seemed a light, friendly choice for the array of dishes to come for the next 3 hours.  We opted for the Chef's Menu, which allows a choice of starter, second course, entree, and side dish. And at $44 is a great value. Little did we know Chef would send out a few additional items from each category. And so the  onslaught of food began...
Foie Gras Steamed Clams
I suppose Chef thought we were playing it safe when I ordered Foie Gras Steamed Clams (w/ butter, red onion brûlée, late harvest viognier vinegar & grilled bread) and Kevin ordered Pan Fried Padron Peppers. I have been on a bit of a shellfish odyssey lately and these clams were awesome. Silky, earthy. We sopped up every drop of broth with crusty bread. Still, he sent out plates of Crispy Hominy (w/ pork skin cracklins, pickled red onion & lime juice) and Devils on Horse Back (w/ Dee-Jay’s bacon wrapped dates, almonds, bitter chocolate & roasted fresno pepper). Each showcasing powerful flavors and textures.  
The Crispy Hominy was my favorite of the starters. 
Kevin discovered he likes dates. Devils on Horseback.
Now for the Greenhouse Tavern Crispy Chicken Wings Confit which claim supremacy over their sister-restaurants. Mind you, Kevin had not tasted the Noodlecat (Chef Sawyer's casual ramen noodle restaurant) miso bbq wings that G & I had for lunch. To my mind, the Noodlecat wings reign supreme only because I prefer saucy wings. Still, the GT chicken was exceptional and I understand the general consensus of love. 
Crispy Chicken Wings Confit w/ roasted jalapeño, lemon juice, scallions & garlic
While waiting for the entrees, we were given a platter of Pommes Frites, which were pretty darn good. Not greasy, not too crispy, and extremely aromatic with herbs and garlic tucked throughout the fries.
Aromatic Pommes Frites w/ raw garlic, rosemary & aioli
We were torn between several entrees. Kevin ordered the Pan-Fried Pork Chop Saltimbocca-- we HAD to have pig and it lived up to the Pork King's reputation. Succulent meat over pureed potatoes and red-eye gravy (which contains a shot of espresso). How can you go wrong with pork wrapped in pork (ham)?
Pan-Fried Pork Chop Saltimbocca
I left my selection to the chef. The 40 Clove Heirloom Garlic Roasted Half Chicken was strongly recommended. I had no idea what we were in store for when the server came to our table 45 minutes later with the pièce de résistance... a chicken wrapped in brioche and dramatically flayed open to reveal the insides all neatly chopped and cooked with herbs-n-such. I was only half-joking when suggeting they try this with a turkey for Thanksgiving. There are no words for how much food came to our table. I kept apologizing for not being able to eat it all...  
40 Clove Heirloom Garlic Roasted Half Chicken
40 Clove Heirloom Garlic Roasted Half Chicken
Nearly three hours and 8 or 9 courses later... after lively conversations with the owners, sous chef and wine guy... it was insisted we have dessert. We strategically ordered the smallest sized dessert, which was the Buttered Popcorn Pot de Creme. Figured we could muster down a piece or two of grown-up popcorn... but again, Chef called our bluff. Along with the caramel and sea salt covered popcorn came a huge slab of  Dobos Torte-- a glorious 7-layer vanilla cake w/ chocolate butter cream, meringue & citrus. Obviously, there was a little room left, because we managed to eat most of it. Heavenly cake. 
Dobos Torte
When our consumption had finally reached its capacity, we were taken on a tour of the lively kitchen, which contains several tables and a small bar for guests to enjoy the action (on a first-come, first-serve basis). Then we paraded up to the rooftop bar overlooking the Fourth Street entertaiment district (note: Michael Symon's Lola - the little round sign to the right). We purchased a few gift cards and bottles of wine, hoping to share the Greenhouse tavern experience with friends. After consuming a mountain of food, we welcomed the 3-block walk back to the hotel. I am grateful we Ohioans have access to high-quality food from such a creative chef; one who respects his ingredients and offers his customers a truly meaningful culinary experience. My only regret? Not having two stomachs!

We had a few hours to kill on Sunday morning, but given we ate until 11 PM on Saturday night, breakfast was not on the radar... until we wandered into brunch at the Ritz. I more or less went from food coma to food coma on this little getaway. 

Now THIS is my kind of tail-gating :-)

The Bloody Mary buffet allows you mix in your own sauces and other accountrements... 

You know you're in Cleveland when.... even the Ritz serves 'Pittsburgh Sucks Hot Sauce'. It was quite good.

Just shaking my head... classy.

And then there was football. The Browns won.