#CLEfood: a Sunday Funday at Punch Bowl Social

When I heard Punch Bowl Social was on its way to the revived East Bank of the Flats, it sounded like a huge kids-of-all-ages playground was about to grace Cleveland. Between the promises of good food, bowling, darts, billiards, marbles, ping-pong, vintage arcade games and more all under one roof, it almost sounded too good to be true. I didn’t get to experience all that the entertainment venue has to offer at a holiday networking event, so when Punch Bowl Social offered me the opportunity to come do just that, I grabbed my game-loving husband and headed downtown for a Sunday Funday.

punch bowl social cleveland sign

After a quick tour of the facility, we sat at our table where we were introduced to our server, Taylor. Knowledgeable and kind-hearted, she helped us make some important decisions during our three-hour-plus stay, including:

punch bowl social bloody mary bar

The importance of starting any Sunday brunch with a Bloody Mary Bar like Punch Bowl’s. Seriously, I couldn’t imagine any toppings they were missing, made even better with local Pope’s Kitchen bloody mary mix. Hans’ drink looked more like a heavy appetizer course!

punch bowl social brunch

How to narrow down what to eat from a solid menu. To go with Hans’ meal drink, we ordered:

  • a Blueberry Lemonade, made with house made blueberry syrup and fresh lemon juice — super tart and bright, just the way I like it!
  • Spicy Mango Jalapeño Quesadilla with mango, jalapeño, cilantro, queso oaxaca, cotija, leeks and pork carnitas — easily enough for a meal in itself
  • Breakfast Tacos for my entree — with scrambled eggs, chorizo, crema, radish, onion, salsa verde, roasted jalapeño and cilantro all on corn tortillas; served with frijoles charros and breakfast potatoes — I reached Brunch Club gold status when I started dipping the tacos in the beans…
  • and Chicken & Waffles for Hans: panko breaded chicken breast on a malted waffle smothered in a chipotle pecan maple syrup, strawberries and candied walnuts — completely taken down by my bottomless pit of a hubby. Nice work, Hans…

I’d fall in love with one bite of food, to be lured back to another dish, or another side, or a taste of that strawberry jam with the breakfast biscuits…

punch bowl social karaoke

What beverages best wet your whistle for optimal karaoke performances. Turns out their Bourbon Smash — with buffalo trace bourbon, muddled blueberry and lemon, & house made blueberry syrup –paired perfectly with Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, ABBA, Hall & Oates, REO Speedwagon and Toto. The hour we spent in the private karaoke rooms FLEW by — we could have spent the afternoon there, I’m sure!

punch bowl social games

How we need our very own life-size Scrabble board in our house. Our original plans including bowling (hello, we’re from Parma, of course that was the plan), but when we walked by the Scrabble board mounted on the wall of the second floor, I knew what Hans had his heart set on — beating me in yet another round of this board game classic. Too bad for him we ran out of time and the game ended in a tie — a perfect ending to our time there!

LONG STORY SHORT: If it wasn’t for a last minute (as we were karaoke singing) invitation to the Cavs game that same afternoon, I’m sure we would have spent our entire Sunday at Punch Bowl Social.  There is something for everyone, and better yet it’s all under one roof. Pay to park your car once, have a great meal, enjoy an array of entertainment options — why would anyone ever want to leave?!

Thanks again to the Punch Bowl Social – Cleveland’s entire team for making our Sunday Funday a possibility and an incredible experience! Keep an eye on their social media feeds at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to be in the know about their upcoming events and specials.

Disclosure: Hans and I were invited by Punch Bowl Social as guests to enjoy their brunch and activities at their Cleveland location. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

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CLEfood: preview of Cibrèo Italian Kitchen

Last Wednesday evening, I had the opportunity to attend a friends-and-family preview of the new Cibrèo Italian Kitchen in the Theater District in downtown Cleveland.

cibreo main room

As I walked into the space – recently taken over by the Driftwood Restaurant Group – I took two steps into the entryway, my jaw dropping in seeing the remodel. If you spent any time in the old Bricco space along Euclid Avenue, you can see the structure of the previous tenant, but otherwise, being in Cibrèo feels like you’ve traveled thousands of miles to a small village in Tuscany.

As was the case during the media preview of Washington Place Bistro & Inn and the taping of the Cooking Channel’s Unique Eats episode, the staff at Cibrèo was not thrown by my gluten intolerance – even in an Italian style setting. While I asked to simply let me know what items I should not eat, they took the time and care to make substitutions for me. Taking it another step further, team member Greg had even remembered me from the Unique Eats taping, stopping by to say hello and continuing to check on me throughout the evening. He truly embodies those words of “Gracious Service” and “Attention to Every Detail” are in Driftwood’s tagline – as did many others of their staff that evening.

After a welcome from Restaurateur/Chef Scott Kuhn, the preview dinner began, starting with a Sausage, Porcini, and Bean Soup:

cibreo soup

Michelle at Cleveland Foodie shared how to make this soup on her blog last week, which I sent along to two people at the dinner since it was a favorite of many around the dining room.  It’s easier to make than it looks, but that’s the beauty in dishes like this one.

Next up: Risotto Funghi with porcini, truffle, shiitake and pecorino toscano:

cibreo risotto

Hans isn’t a fan of mushrooms, so I had pretty much this entire serving dish to myself. And as Katrina pointed out, the pictures of this dish across the internet are quite misleading – the portion was quite large, and quite delicious. I did my best to pace myself as we had quite the meal ahead of us, sneaking out as many porcinis as I could before it was time for the next course.

From there, the Bolognese made with the trifecta of veal, pork and beef was presented:

cibreo pasta

While the menu featured a pappardelle noodle, I was treated with a corn spaghetti as my gluten free version.

cibreo gluten free pasta

Chef Erik Martinez stopped by our table to get my opinion on the corn spaghetti.  While he shared with the crowd that the restaurant is currently importing their pasta (but do plan to start making it in house), he was interested to see how this gluten free version worked. Not quite as visually striking as the pappardelle, but still this gluten free noodle was one of the best options I had to date. I don’t eat all that much pasta anymore, but that night I ate every single bite. Which was followed by the consideration of licking the bowl. I’m Italian at heart – give me a hearty meat sauce and I’m quite content! I held my composure instead, although I almost requested a second round…

Somehow, we found room in our stomachs for another course: the Pork Osso Buco with brown butter polenta, gremolata and swiss chard:

cibreo osso

…as I was treated to braised chicken thighs, served with the polenta and chard:

cibreo chicken

…and the pleasure was all mine. Cheesy, thick polenta combined with the hearty dark meat of the chicken and the sturdiness of the greens worked wonders in that serving dish. I noticed how easily the pork fell apart as Hans ate every single bit that was presented.

To finish the meal, we all dove into gelato options: passion fruit and Nutella:

cibreo gelato

I didn’t think life could get sweeter – then Nutella gelato appeared. Ready to claim it just for myself, I took a stab at the passion fruit to be equally as content. The perfect bit of sweetness to end the evening.

LONG STORY SHORT: I had high expectations that were far surpassed at Cibrèo that evening. From the attentiveness of the staff to the quality of the food, we loved this special dining experience. I am thrilled to have a new option to enjoy in one of my favorite neighborhoods of Cleveland, and wish the entire team at Driftwood the best as they continue to thrive all over Northeastern Ohio.

Cibrèo opened for dinner and lunch earlier this week. Cibrèo Privato, the private event space, opens later this month. Follow the restaurant on Twitter at @CibreoCleveland and like them on Facebook to keep up on the happenings at this new Cleveland dining location.

Disclosure: The team at Driftwood Restaurant Group offered me two media passes to attend this preview dinner at Cibrèo Italian Kitchen. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Cibreo Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

word-full wednesday: welcome to The Oak Barrel


A scene…

Me:  “Hi, I’m meeting some friends here… it’s going to be five ladies…”
Hostess:  “For a book club?”
Me:   “Um, no… we’re more of a wine club…”
Hostess:   “hmmmm, no one here like that quite yet.”
Me:  “Oh, okay. So how about I just get a table for five in the bar area then…”
Hostess:   “Are you with a group of all males?”
Me:  “Um, definitely no…”

<end scene>

How did I go from being a librarian to being a escort in a few sentences?

The more important thoughts from our evening out at The Oak Barrel:
  • Duck fat popcorn is just as fabulous as it sounds.
  • Gluten free dining is easy on Taco Tuesdays – and based off the rest of the GF menu, any time during the week. Blue corn chips FTW.
  • Major kudos to our server Ashley who put up with my request to check – and 2nd and 3rd to double and triple check –  that the soy chili glaze on the ahi tuna was indeed not made with soy sauce.
  • I’m claiming the back corner table in the bar for future girls’ nights outs.
  • I’ll definitely be back – next time with the husband and brother in tow – for a proper, full dinner entree.

What’s your go-to taco of choice on Taco Tuesday? I apparently gravitate towards seafood options – the spicy shrimp with gauc was quite tasty…

The Oak Barrel on Urbanspoon

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