Search This Blog

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Valenza Italian- Brookhaven

Warning:  The following may be unsuitable for children under 13 and bad waiters
Who said the local Tratorria was a thing of the past?  Last night we went to Valenza in Brookhaven and had a wonderful meal (and even better company).  You can tell they are zeroed in on quality, service and giving you the lost art of the "personal touch. "
It’s nice to have a neighborhood joint where everyone knows your name.  By the way, has there ever been a better sitcom character than Cliff Clavin?
Valenza is owned by the same people that own Haven, another phenomenal restaurant. 
 Shockingly their best appetizer was the brussel sprouts, called the Cavolini.  My wife HATES brussel sprouts and LOVED them baked with Pancetta.  But as the saying goes, bacon makes everything better.
Then there was another “sneak up and hit you” moment with the apps.  Fried Capers.  I’m not a big fried food fan, but this was pure magic.  It was part of the fritto misto appy, which I also have to say the calamari was average.  Nothing this small has packed a punch since mini me was genetically engineered by the one and only Dr. Evil.
The biggest hit at the table, was the simple yet delicious Capellini.  Angel Hair pasta tossed with a light tomato sauce, basil and parmesan.  If you have an unadventurous sort in your group, you have a go to dish. 
Personally, I had the Saltimbocca, heritage pork tenderloin, wrapped in prosciutto with sage and rabe.  Again, meat on top of meat is a big winner.  And the sauce was delicious.  The portion was generous, but the potato’s were a little much (maybe it’s just me getting OD’d by potatoes during the holidays).  The presentation was the best thing I’ve seen since Ted was doing Bong Hits with his harem of hookers.  If you haven’t seen Ted, please do.  It’s some of Seth McFarlane’s best work.

The fish special was a Snapper in a light white wine sauce and was really good.  We also ordered the Gnocchi, which I personally though was decent, but not great. 
We had a unique dessert, the crostata- Blueberry crostata with rosemary balsamic gelato.  Very unique and the rosemary is a delicious touch.
I will mention again the service was great.  Jose (I’m not sure what part of Italy he’s from) was perfect and I would recommend him to be your server.  Jose had great suggestions on food and wine (we would have missed the brussel sprouts without him) and the GM and Executive Chef made appearances at our table as well.  Service has become such a enormous part of how much I like a restaurant these days. 
About every three months I end up at that damn Loco’s in Buckhead and the service is always horrific and even worse ungodly slow.  It could be from the whiffs of the cronic smell emanating from the kitchen.  But they have the worst and consistently worst service I have experienced in Buckhead.  The the Einstein Bagels on Howell Mill is giving them a run for their money these days though.  Do yourself a favor and go to Goldbergs on Northside and Paces Ferry.
I also have to thank my Mentee from the University of Georgia, Maria (last name omitted to protect the innocent, you know, just in case one of my 5 readers is a stalker).  This is her favorite restaurant and she pushed me to come here, so here it is Maria!
I’m sure you’ll email me or tell me your thoughts on the venue and/ or great TV Sitcom Characters.  I dare you to beat Cliff.  Here are a couple of videos to give you today’s moment of Zen.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Heart of Rock n Roll is in Cleveland

Warning:  The following may not be suitable for children under the age of 13 or Cleveland Browns Fans
As a Redskins fan, I try to make a road game every year to see them play and to check out a different city.  This year it was Cleveland.  Not my first time there, but my first time as a “food blogger.” 
I found out Cleveland is more than just the “Heart of Rock n’ Roll” and Michael Symon.  Though, if you can make it to Lola’s, do it (which I didn’t do this trip). 
Huey Lewis “Sports” came out during the greatest year in Music, 1984.  But I’ll lay out that irrefutable evidence later.
After we landed, we went up to Cleveland’s relatively new bar/ restaurant district on East 4thStreet.  We started with a “few” pints at Flanery’s and then made our way down to La Strada, not to be confused with my old friend Al Strada.
It’s not Italian, but “Mediterranean” and we split a couple of flatbreads.  The Americana was ironically just like a pizza you would get in Italy with delicious Pancetta and the Braised Lamb flatbread with lamb, hummus, tamarind, cumin and cilantro.  But the Rack of Lamb was fall off the bone delicious.  I would highly recommend La Strada (though CafĂ© Agora’s hummus is still the best).
Sunday Morning Tailgating in Cleveland consists of Bar Hopping up and down West 6th Street.  We started at the Barley House and unbelievably they were out of Bloody Mary mix at 10am.  Or they lied to me because I was wearing an RGIII jersey.  Whatever.  So Red Bulls and Vodka’s it is.
Eat your heart out NFC East for the next 12 years!
Then we went to Panini’s, the famous Sandwich Shop/ Bar on West Sixth.  And of course we split a large sandwich with our newfound Canadian friends!  It was delicious and surprisingly fat free.  Okay, maybe not.
Then of course we went to the game and watched the Redskins whoop some Brown ass!
 This just in, the Browns suck.
For dinner we went to the Cleveland Chop House.  This is the only bar I’ve ever been to where they have a frozen section of the bar to put your beer on and it will never get warm.  It’s one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve ever seen and for some reason, I haven’t seen it anywhere else.  And I’ve been to a bar or two. Then the heartbreaking news came, they are closing the Chophouse on 12/31.  They make a solid steak and a mean drink.  And they will be missed.
Bottom line, the Cleveland Culinary scene is not to be overlooked.
Now back to 1984.  There were only FIVE #1 albums the entire year.  Michael Jackson’s (pre-complete freak MJ) “Thriller,” the Footloose Soundtrack, Huey Lewis and the News “Sports,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” and Prince’s “Purple Rain.”  4 out of 5 are Iconic Albums and still hold up.
I would argue nobody in modern history under 5 feet tall has had as much game as Prince.
The argument could end there, BUT obviously Van Halen’s “1984” came out as well as Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”
Then you had a third tier of great music.  The Scorpions “Love at First Sting,” Ratt's “Our of the Cellar,” Run DMC’s “Run DMC,” Tina Turner's “Private Dancer,” Metallica's “Ride the Lightening,” The Red Hot Chili Peppers Debut, U2’s “The Unforgettable Fire” and Wham's “Make it Big."  No way another year competes with 1984.  And it was an unrivaled year for mullets.
And I was suprised when George Michael came out?