Cleveland, Ohio is my hometown; a place from where memories come flooding back, some great, some not so great. It is a city where I thought I would raise my family. Realistically, that was just a fantasy because the freezing cold miserable winters always made me equally as miserable.
Still, I am a Clevelander at heart. Meaning, I am the eternal optimist who thinks the Cleveland Browns are going to win the Super Bowl – EVERY YEAR – and I cling to my Midwest values and mindset.
I didn’t go back to Cleveland for nearly two decades. My mom moved away over twenty years ago and my dad and his girlfriend, Eunice, would come to Florida to see my family. Walking 60 miles for two Cleveland Komen 3-Day for the Cure events gave me a renewed desire to spend time there.
With each trip back I realized just how fabulous Cleveland really is. The caliber of restaurants has risen and the diversity of the city is remarkable. The architecture is beautiful and there is something to be said for the history of a city established in 1796.
I brought Samuel, my 9 year old, with me on this last visit. To give you an inkling of how often Samuel has seen snow, here was our conversation Saturday morning:
Samuel looked at the ground and asked, “What’s that?”
Me – “Dirty snow.”
Samuel – “What’s in it?”
Me – “Dirt and snow.”
On the first night Samuel and I were greeted at dinner with a huge bag of chocolate drizzled popcorn combined with chocolate covered pretzels and potato chips from Fantasy Candies in Lyndhurst. I must admit to being a bit leery because so many companies think they keep the popcorn fresh but don’t. Fantasy Candies nailed this combination, perfectly.
5338 Mayfield Road
Lyndhurst, Ohio 44124
Saturday morning Samuel and I went to Corky and Lenny’s, a Jewish deli from my childhood that continues to thrive today while most across the country have closed their doors for good. The corned beef sandwiches are piled a mile high and Samuel loved squeezing Cleveland’s Stadium Mustard over the meat. We were about to leave when we both spotted a drink on its way to another diner that we, simply, had to have. A chocolate phosphate is a drink that combines chocolate syrup with acid phosphate and soda water. There are a lot of recipes out there but the one requirement is that acid phosphate must be used; no substitutions allowed. We both loved our chocolate phosphate so much that we stopped back at Corky and Lenny’s for another one before leaving town.
Corky and Lenny’s
27091 Chagrin Boulevard
Woodmere Village, Ohio 44122
On my flight up to Cleveland I posted a message on Facebook asking for bakery recommendations. My friend Barb at Creative Culinary said, “Tweet Michael Ruhlman and ask him!” Michael is a native Clevelander, author and blogger who was gracious enough to recommend On the Rise Artisan Breads and Pastries bakery.
Samuel and I picked up my childhood friend Nancy and headed over to On the Rise on a very snowy Saturday morning. It is a true testament to just how much I love Cleveland because I kept commenting on how gorgeous the weather was. Did I mention that we had -19 degree weather Friday night?
On the Rise had a constant flow of people in and out of the bakery. I bought multigrain bread for Dad and Eunice and pastries, rolls, bars and cookies for Samuel, Nancy and me. Samuel’s hot cross bun was soft white dough with orange zest, allspice and clove. Samuel was less than pleased that I had the audacity to take a bite. Jennifer’s Cookie is its signature cookie loaded with chopped chocolate, chocolate chips, oats and nuts. Beyond delicious , as was the chocolate chip cookie. The brownie teeters between fudgy and cakey which caused me to be, very pleasantly, surprised by its moistness and deep flavor. It was easy to understand why Michael recommended On the Rise.
On the Rise Artisan Bread and Pastries
3471 Fairmount Boulevard
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118
Fortunately, for all of us, our next stop was on the Westside of Cleveland so we had about 45 minutes to digest our breakfast before arriving at Sweet Moses. Sweet Moses is named for Moses Cleaveland, for whom the city of Cleveland was named. Not sure why the city chose to drop the ‘a’ but Sweet Moses’ shirts read Sweet Moses on the front and Clev(a)land, Ohio on the back. I love a sense of humor!
Owner Jeff Moreau left a career in advertising and opened up this old fashioned soda fountain and treat shop four years ago. We sat at the counter, admiring the gorgeous Bastian-Blessings soda fountain framed within 16 feet of Tennessee marble. We tasted quite a few of the homemade ice cream flavors before making our choices. I loved the cinnamon and chocolate ice creams with Sweet Moses’ homemade hot fudge sauce. The caramel corn was perfectly sweet and crunchy. The chocolates are made in-house and they have plans to add pastries to the lineup in the near future. I almost forgot to mention the delicious chocolate phosphate we drank at Sweet Moses. A must-have at a must-stop-at shop.
6800 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44102
Bistro 185 is a wonderful example of how far Cleveland has come on the restaurant scene. Owners Ruth and Marc Levine vary the menu based on what’s fresh and available and during the summer months their rooftop is turned into a lush garden loaded with vegetables and herbs to be used in the kitchen.
As stuffed as I was from the day’s outing, I took one look at the menu and, amazingly enough, found that I had plenty of room for both dinner and dessert. It helped that our waitress, Barbara, was fabulous and made terrific recommendations. Samuel’s burger was divine, my almond stuffed dates wrapped in bacon with balsamic glaze and goat cheese were out of this world as was my warm walnut-crusted goat cheese salad. Eunice and Dad’s meals were just as wonderful.
After chatting with Ruth and learning about how much love and attention goes into the homemade desserts, we just HAD to order four. Dad ‘shared’ his delicious apple cherry crisp with three kinds of fresh frozen cherries, cinnamon and nutmeg and I’m happy to say he did not stab us with his spoon as we dove in. The key lime cream pie was light and airy. Chocolate cream peanut butter pie with peanut butter and chocolate chips in the chocolate whipped cream was right up my alley. If I had to pick one winner, which would be difficult, it would be the homemade coffee chocolate mocha fudge ice cream. True perfection!
991 East 185th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44119
There was one last stop that had to be made before leaving my beloved city; Davis Bakery and Deli, established in 1939. It is obvious, based on its name that Davis Bakery sells more than coconut bars but these childhood favorites were the sole reason for my visit. Coconut bars are vanilla or chocolate cake, heavily flavored with almond extract that are rolled in chocolate and then dessicated coconut. Samuel’s review was, “These are great, and I don’t even like coconut.” I am determined to figure out how to make them!
Davis Bakery and Deli
28700 Chagrin Boulevard
Cleveland, Ohio 44122
My only regret is that I didn’t have more time for my Dessert Quest Cleveland. Samuel is ready to move there but, due to the extreme weather, our long weekends are going to have to suffice. Next trip we will try to include a Browns game. Who knows, maybe we are the lucky charms my beloved team needs to make it to the 2016 Super Bowl.