Friday, April 26, 2013

#BurgerDebate: Upscale Suburban Cleveland Edition / Michael Symon's B Spot Burgers

This past week work travels took me to suburban Cleveland. Like a lot of American cities, Cleveland is experiencing a food renaissance (coincidentally highlighted in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer). The contact for the company we were working for offered lots of great tips for restaurants, and reminded me that I was in Michael Symon country. My days were spent teaching, and evenings were spent prepping for teaching the next day; given my location and the work load, unfortunately I did not have a chance to get out and explore. Meals were in the client's cafeteria or my business-class hotel for the most part. They were serviceable, and one hotel dinner was actually quite good, but I was disappointed that I didn't have time to check out the scene.

Class was finished Thursday afternoon, though, and I wasn't due to fly back to Nashville until today. So, co-instructor Robert and I headed down the Interstate a few exits to check out an outpost of B Spot Burgers, Symon's casual pub. Symon was a key instigator in the Cleveland restaurant renaissance with Lolita, and has since gone on to open several other restaurants and to star in books (Michael Ruhlman's "... of a Chef" series) and various food-centric TV shows. I don't know if/when I'll ever make it back to Cleveland, so I leapt at the opportunity to check this chef off my list AND to continue the burger theme of the blog.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Chicago and the Best Burger I've Ever Had

Every couple of months or so I go to Chicago for business. My wish list for Chicago restaurants I want to visit is very very long. The problem, though, is that I'm based in the West Suburbs when I'm there, and I don't have a lot of time to trek downtown, where most of them are located. Another problem with trying to visit Topolobampo or Girl and Goat or any of the other buzzy places is I usually don't know about my trip far enough in advance to be able to make reservations - they book up months ahead.

One one of my first trips last year, I stayed over the weekend and decided to try for a place that didn't require reservations for a late Saturday lunch. I hoped that the off-peak time would increase my chances of getting a seat in a reasonable time. Given the fondness for red meat in the population, it's no surprise that one of the most well-known restaurants in town is a noveau bar/diner that's famous for its burgers. Being a lover of good burgers myself, and hearing good recs from trusted sources (like Vivek Surti), I picked Au Cheval for my dining adventure.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Kiwi Mango (or Papaya) Salsa

My friend Scott did a residency program in Hawaii years ago, and visits whenever he can. One of the treasures he brought back from his first visit was a community cookbook. As you might imagine, it's a little different than than the typical Junior League cookbooks we have around the southeast. The ingredients are heavy on tropical produce and seafood, and influence of Asian cuisine is strong. One recipe he introduced me to years ago was a kiwi papaya salsa. The original version was meant to be served with a cheese such as brie, accompanied by thin, crisp crackers or lavash. Over the years I've adapted the recipe and make it frequently, substituting mango for the papaya. It's light, healthy, delicious, and is not only a good accompaniment to cheese and crackers, but is a great side or relish with chicken, pork, or fish.