Friday, October 5, 2012

#301 - Cleveland Followed By A Cleveland Meal

31 hours out our door and back through it.

That was our trip to Cleveland to stock up at West Side Market, eat at Lolita and see Louis C.K. kick off his current tour.

Big stock-up at West Side Market with all the Cleveland goodness now in our freezer. Pierogis, gnocchi, bacon, jerky, sausages, stuff that tastes like Cleveland and only Cleveland. We've tried Chicago pierogis. They're not Cleveland pierogis.

Meal at Lolita. Bruschetta and bone marrow to start. Chicken and duck confit as entrées. Bottle of 2008 McCrea Yakima Valley mourvèdre-forward blend to drink. I have a thing for Lolita - the atmosphere, the portions, the flavors, the Tremont neighborhood, our waitress, the lighting, how laid-back it is, how delicious the food is, the honesty of it all after all these years, the totality of the experience. It's just good in every way.

I won't give a review of Louis C.K.'s show. I'll just say it's the best thing I've seen on stage in my life (small batch, to be fair). I saw Carlin a couple of times. This was better. I've never laughed that hard, that long, that thoroughly.

So...took off at 7:30am on Wednesday, got into Cleveland at 2:30pm, went to West Side Market, dumped stuff at our hotel, got to Lolita at 5pm, ate, went to Severance Hall at 7:30 to see Louis C.K., done by 9:30, went to sleep and left the next morning, back by 2:30pm.

Seemingly tight schedule but it wasn't. Because everything in Cleveland is ten minutes away with no traffic. And from the time we sat down at Lolita to the time we left Severance Hall was the most entertaining "dinner and a show" I've ever had in my life.

Not too shabby.

So to celebrate the greatness and ease of such a Cleveland trip, a Cleveland meal to finish the day.

Food: Hungarian sausage, potato pierogis, sauerkraut balls, onions and peppers with sour cream for dipping

Hungarian sausage and sauerkraut balls from Heinen's, Pierogis from Pierogi Palace in West Side Market, onions and peppers sautéed up and sour cream to do what sour cream does with Cleveland-based vittles.

Hungarian sausage had a freshness that tasted like it was homemade and just, deep-fried sauerkraut balls brought a subtle hit of spice and if given blind, could have oddly been food you'd find in a weird Thai/Korean restaurant with the sauerkraut coming off more like something exotically fermented in the best way.

And potato pierogis. The joy in Cleveland pierogis come in their unabashedness. They're doughy and thick and that's why they're good. And Cleveland. They don't try to lighten them up or screw with the recipe. Eat these and you understand why people eat them three times a week.

Sour cream to slop how we liked. Parsley dumped on everything.

Cleveland meal. And we love you.

Except for the heartburn. Lots of that. For both of us. Which should have been expected in retrospect.

Wine: 2006 Domaine Des Tours Vaucluse Réserve ($19 - WDC) & 2011 Harpersfield "St. Fiacre" Pinot Gris Ohio ($18 - Heinen's)

The Vaucluse, the entry-level bottling of Chateau Rayas, was a surprise after thinking it was well on its way to being "all done now!" about a year ago. Not the case with this showing. The previously mushy fruit was simply mature fruit last night with the grenache showing a vibrant second life. More strawberry this time with cherry bringing up the rear. Some charred fig tart crust notes and smoke. A touch hollow at moments and very rose petal perfumey at others (too much, really), but a finish that had some surprising length, mingling around and exploring every aspect of its new-found savoriness. Blind, this could have been a mature, mid-level Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Last bottle, unfortunately and it's not out there in the world.

Ohio pinot gris. HAD to try it. And while not altogether...together as a wine, it smelled faintly of sea shells and had moments of admirable white peach floating around, but an old lime from the bottom of the veggie crisper that's been there for months note too often got in the way. Strange finish often but not always, especially with certain bites of food. Wouldn't buy it again but on occasion, this could have been an Oregon pinot gris and we finished the bottle so...

Pairing:  84  Enough mixing and matching to be just fine with what was offered

The Vaucluse by itself would have had the same success. The pinot gris by itself would have been a failure. Together, "good" and nothing more is the best that can be said.

And with that said, some real deliciousness resulted from a complete bite of sausage, pierogi, onions and sour cream with the Vaucluse. Really stood up to the flavors in a nice way and offered a completeness we didn't get from the wine by itself. Good stuff.

The pinot gris was about avoiding the strange finish and dough and spice did the trick, shortening the finish a bit, not allowing it to get completely there. Decent stuff upfront and keeping it at that place was the key.

Cleveland. I don't know why we like you so much but we do.

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