Monthly Archives: May 2010

restaurant review: La Dolce Vita

TODAY’S POINT OF BALANCE:  On this beautiful Memorial Day, DON’T FORGET to enter my giveaway from From The Blue Bag! You have until the end of day on Thursday and all you have to do is comment on this post!

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Remember that restaurant.com purchase I made back in February that I bragged about for about a month? I’m STILL working my way through that ridiculous purchase of eight million gift certificates. To kick off our Memorial Day weekend, Hans and I were looking for a great al fresco dining option. Upon perusing our gift certificate collection, I knew exactly where Hans would pick: La Dolce Vita in Little Italy.

c/o jenniferrt66's flickr.com page

From their opentable.com page: Welcome to La Dolce Vita Bistro – “The Sweet Life,” a restaurant and bistro created to recapture the bell-époque charm of “The Italian Drug,” opened here by Dr. Anthony Caruso in 1914.

c/o Thom Sheridan's Flickr.com page

From their Facebook page: La Dolce Vita is devoted to providing a relaxed and friendly atmosphere for everything from eight course dinners to coffee and Calvino. We strive to prepare the perfect meal, or the perfect cappuccino, and let you enjoy it at your leisure.

c/o KAHOONICA's flickr.com page

I made reservations midday for that same evening on opentable.com. In the online reservation, I requested a table outside along Mayfield Road. When we were running a bit late that evening, we called to let them know we were on our way. Even though we were tardy, the hostess held our table for two. The spot on Mayfield allowed for some great people watching as they drove or walked by on the lovely Spring evening.

You may remember from my previous review of La Strada, that restaurant and La Dolce Vita are both owned by Terry Tarantino.  Mr. Tarantino was at the restaurant that evening and came up to our table right after we ordered to say hello and to check in. I always appreciate seeing an owner being present to keep an eye on the operations.

While Hans parked the car, I snagged our table. As we read the menu options, our server presented us with what seems to be a standard plate of bread and butter:

Hans is a BIG fan of the bread at La Dolce Vita: probably because it’s nothing overly complicated, which is a great thing. I’m sure it’s nothing more than a simple recipe for a doughy piece of goodness. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity though: I snagged one piece before he demolished this plate… and another!

To start, we split a small Veniziia pizza, with spinach, veal sausage, roast red peppers, fontinella cheese:

I love a pizza with a nice mix of toppings and a crust that can stand up to those ingredients. The crust on this pizza wasn’t necessarily a thin crust, nor was it a traditional thicker pizza crust either: it had a great crispness to it. It gave a hearty foundation for the well paired assortment of veggies, meat and cheese.  I appreciated that the pizza wasn’t overloaded with the fontinella cheese, which allowed the other ingredients to have a voice. I would have liked to see crumbles of sausage instead of the pre-cooked slices, but I admit that I had 2/3 of this pizza myself! So much for sharing!

I’ve been seriously craving veggies like it’s my job lately. For my main, I ordered the Grilled Vegetable Platter from the entrée menu:

There’s a lot going on there, even for a simple veggie platter. Let’s break it down, shall we?

  • The marinara sauce: Very fresh with a strong, high-quality tomato taste, but could have used a bit more pepper for me.
  • The polenta cakes: Unless I dunked a piece in the sauce or combined a bite with some of the veggies, these were nothing to write home about. It wasn’t worth finishing the first one I started to eat, especially after I ran out of pairing options.
  • The grilled pita: I normally would be all over a piece of grilled bread. Unfortunately, I am more and more like my mother every day as I cannot stand soggy food.  The pita pieces could have benefited from being served in a separate bread basket. While they look fine from above, all of the pieces absorbed some of the sauce/veggie liquid. While I tried to salvage what was left, the pita itself didn’t have any flavor, even after being grilled. Those pita triangles had the same fate as my second piece of polenta.
  • The veggies: I’m noticing with my eating habits, I don’t handle an abundance of oil well, so I requested the chef go light on the oil when preparing the veggies. What was presented was perfectly seasoned, not overly oily, fresh and delicious. I really liked the assortment of veggies, which included eggplant, zucchini, corn, tomatoes and a mystery green at the very bottom (escarole, perhaps?) Considering I was craving the greens, this was good for me.

The main issue I had with my plate was its temperature. The food wasn’t cold by any means, but it wasn’t scorching hot either. I know it’s hard to keep grilled items like this super hot for a long period of time. That changed the dynamic of the plate and I feel I would have enjoyed this more if it was hotter.  Overall, I did get what I wanted: a plate full of veggies with lots of dunking sauce for that pizza!

When Hans picked this restaurant, I knew exactly what he would order: the gnocchi with La Dolce’s Felline sauce, made with gorgonzola, tomato cream and pancetta:

Really – how do you go wrong with that combination of ingredients? The first time Hans had this last summer, I had to keep him from licking the plate clean.  I managed one quick bite before he ate the entire dish.  I remembered the richness of the dish, but something was off. I realized it was the same problem I had with my entrée: it was warm, not piping hot. While I could have some forgiveness to my dish’s temperature, the cream-based sauce just wasn’t the same.  Hans said he still enjoyed it, even if it wasn’t quite as good as his first time. But is it ever, really?

LONG STORY SHORT: It was a beautiful evening with some fairly solid food. I always enjoy spending an hour on the street in Little Italy during these months, but I maybe too thrifty for my own good. I didn’t even order wine and we ended up dropping over $40, even after the $25 gift certificate. Perhaps we paid for the scenery that evening, but I always wondered if I was the only one who felt the restaurant was a bit overpriced. I know we will return to La Dolce Vita in the future, but I’m interested to venture out of my comfort zone of the corner of Mayfield Road and Murray Hill Road to see what the rest of the neighborhood has to offer.

La Dolce Vita on Urbanspoon

GIVEAWAY: From The Blue Bag

IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME, FAITHFUL BLOG READERS! I am so excited to host a fantastic giveaway from a great CLE company: From The Blue Bag

From their website: From The Blue Bag started in April of 2006. We started selling at local Farmers markets and small art shows sales were beyond expectations and larger shows started contacting us. So what started as a hobby was evolving into a business?

Beaded Olive Tray with Olives

The goal of From The Blue Bag was to start a business that focused on using my art to creatively convey the importance of recycling to everyone helping to fill our landfills to brimming over capacity.

Merlot Series Serving Dish

Our company is two fold. The first area of business is our recycling program. We obtain their materials by engaging local bars and restaurants to join in its bottle-recycling program. The company provides a collection receptacle and comes to empty it once a week. They also encourage these companies to recycle their stryofoam peanuts and bubble wrap, both of which do not biodegrade in a landfill.

Lime Tray

The second phase of the company is to take the recycled bottles and make gifts from them. Our gifts are not just eco-friendly; they are also Food Functional meaning all of our dishware is oven, freezer and dishwasher safe.

Sushi Dipping Set with Chop Stix

I entered the From The Blue Bag studio on Cleveland’s West side this week and met Deby, one fantastic lady doing some very cool work. She had an array of neat items for purchase: wine bottles, liquor bottles, beer bottles – in all sorts of sizes and structures. Looking for a different sort of cheese tray? She’s got it. Want a cool snack dish to wow your guests with at your next dinner party? Deby can make it!

I spent about twenty minutes in her studio where she helped me create some one of a kind items. Her enthusiasm for her work shines through her personality. I am so happy to be supporting a great local business.

As though her excellent customer service wasn’t enough, she offered me two fantastic items for a giveaway on my blog! One lucky blog reader will win the following:

Wine Wedding Bottle

Realizing brides are looking for a unique way for wedding guests to remember the big day while staying committed to the “green” movement, From the Blue Bag will laser etch an invitation right onto a bottle. The Wine Wedding Bottle was created and is one of the company’s most popular items!

SO… HOW DO YOU WIN THIS AWESOME GIVEAWAY?

1) Comment on this post saying which From the Blue Bag item you would you select with your gift certificate.

2) Twitter users can get an extra entry each day for tweeting the following: “check out the giveaway at @poiseinparma featuring recycled wine bottles art from @Fromthebluebag: http://wp.me/pFYHI-ms”. Make sure to leave a comment on this post letting me know each time that you did this!

3) Add my blog to your Google Reader. Please let me know by commenting on this post.

4) Add Poise in Parma to your Blogroll for a whopping 5 extra entries! Make sure to create 5 separate comments in the comment field below!

5) Link this contest back on your blog for another 5 extra entries! Please leave a link to the post and create 5 separate comments in the comment field below!

You have until Thursday, June 3rd to enter! I will randomly select a winner using random.com on Friday, June 4th. So enter today!

A huge thank you to Deby and From The Blue Bag for making this giveaway possible!

restaurant review: Dim and Den Sum

There are many things I love in life. Two of them are super speedy food options and cool, locally owned businesses. Dim and Den Sum has found a new place in my heart for embracing both.

c/o Dim and den sum's Facebook page

From their Facebook page: Our goal is to be the first street venders in Cleveland, Ohio. Not only do we want to provide healthy gourmet food we want to incorporate all local sources. We will serve Soul food with Asain flair from our Trucks at a price all can afford!

Via Twitter, I first learned about Dim and Den Sum and was giddy to see this food movement (pun intended) finding its way into the CLE. When I learned that the truck was up and running, I couldn’t wait. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to wait long as the truck visited a local business near my work this week.

I talked my boss into a quick lunch out on a beautiful day. We rolled up to the truck which was easily found due to its bright coloring:

Inside, Chris and his crew were cranking out the food:

We checked out the day’s menu taped to the side of the truck:

make sure to read the last few lines

…and we made our selections. My boss and I ended up ordering the same items:

The Tofu Taco included marinated Cleveland tofu, corn, Killbuck shitake pesto, watercress and lemon oil.

The Shank Taco had braised beef shank with corn-cilantro relish and teryiaki glaze.

tofu on the left, beef on the right

First, the Shank Taco: I seriously believe that it doesn’t get any better than braised beef. Sorry, vegetarians. This taco will definintely keep me committed to enjoying all that meaty deliciousness for a long time. Chris said he braises the meat for 18 hours before it goes into the taco. The heftier beef worked perfectly with the corn-cilantro relish, which added a nice, lighter balance in the taco. I could have ordered many of these bad boys.

Next, the Tofu Taco: Not surprisingly, this taco was much lighter than my first one, but it was a pleasant change of pace in my lunch consumption. Chris said that this Cleveland tofu (which I didn’t even know existed) is fantastic because it’s super low maintenance. All he has to do is marinate it and serve it.  Being a mushroom fan, I could have used a bit more of the shitake pesto. The lemon oil gave a nice citrus zing to finish it off.

My boss also enjoyed a Jjang Dawg: a Local dog with pulled pork, kimchi slaw, smashed tots, Bourbon soy bbq sauce:

She noted she splurges on a hot dog every six months. This one was definitely worth it. She liked the combination of flavors with the hot dog itself and all its toppings. She also said the cooking method of grilling the hot dog within the truck was definitely noticable and was delightful. She happily enjoyed her dog.

Chris from Dim and Den Sum admitted himself that while they are working out the kinks, business is booming. Within a 24 hour period, the truck was booked for three office parties, three birthday parties and three weddings! The Cleve obviously wants more portable and moveable food options. Hopeful Dim and Den Sum can add to the fleet of ’82 trucks and get all over the Greater Cleveland area STAT!

Make sure to check out their Facebook page and their Twitter feed for updates on where in the CLE Dim and Den Sum will show up next!

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