Monday, December 17, 2007

Playing with Food with Good Friends

We had a food-filled weekend, with several wonderful opportunities to play with our food that we did not waste!

We started Friday night by joining four good friends (and one couple's twin 7 month olds and grandma) to celebrate the grandma's birthday at Carrie Cerino's in North Royalton Ohio. We've got an active chat, with lots of great photos of Chef Dominic Cerino's fabulous food, here. So, I did not take a lot of photos.

We began our meals with Salumi Boards and some appetizers. Some of these photos are from previous visits. Carrie Cerino's never disappoints!

First - a Salumi Board from a previous visit:

Dominic makes the copa in house, and Friday's slices were from a brand new "young" copa. It was a little spicier than usual, but melted in the mouth with goodness. The other salumis, from Armandino Batali's place in Seattle, were also fresh and delicious. The cheeses - a Parmesan and my favorite - the Bel Pase - perfectly complimented the meats. And the "baked to order" focaccia bread is so good, no one at our end of the table even touched the made-from-scratch "regular" bread!

Baked Artichoke Hearts w/Lemon and Butter

What a great way to use an Escargot pan!! And those croutons are simple, yet fabulous.

Sauerkraut Balls

Like almost everything at Carrie Cerino's, these are made in house - they are not pulled from a GFS frozen package! Traditionally, they are made with corned beef - but I could swear a tasted the flavor of pork in there somewhere! Dominic?

Every dinner at Carrie Cerino's is accompanied by the diner's choice of a cup of soup or a salad, and a choice of side dish - house-made pasta (with choice of 6 house-made sauces), Norcian Lentils with House-Cured Red Chili Guanciale, Risotto, French Fries or Baked Potato (I can't for the life of me imagine why one would order a baked potato or fried instead of homemade pasta or risotto - but that's just me, I guess).

Most of us started with soup on this chilly night. I adore the Fish Chowder - never an off smell or flavor in this creamy delight, which always makes me want to start singing the old folk song "Good Fish Chowder":

Italian Wedding Soup

On to the entrees!

The "Petite" Berkshire Pork Chop

Usually a single 12 ounce chop, Dominic informed us that the chops had come in small, so the portion was two smaller chops. Our friend did not complain, noting that the two smaller chops allowed more surface area for carmelization. To the right of the entree plate sits a side of house-made pasta with meat sauce, to the left, the Norcian Lentil side dish.

Norcian Lentils with House Cured Red Pepper Guanciale, House Made Sausage, House Made Focaccia Bread and Red Peppers

This is how the lentils are presented as an entree. My husband enjoyed this dish immensely - it embodies "comfort food"!

Braised Short Ribs Osso Bucco

This special feature dish comes with the house Risotto. The Risotto had not been a favorite of mine- until Chef Dominic visited Italy last year. He picked up a new type of rice and a new technique for cooking it - it is now a close second to the house-made pasta and the lentils (which are tied for first) as my favorite side dish here.

Blue Egg Spaghetti Carbonara

This was my entree. Usually we indulge in Blue Egg Ravioli when we visit Carrie Cerino's, which is quite rich. I therefore seldom order the Carbonara during the same meal as a BER. Since Friday was not a BER night (first Friday every month is the time to them, folks!), I got the Carbonara. When it is served, two Blue Eggs are already mixed into it (as well as grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses, olive oil, and white wine to comprise the sauce) and one Blue Egg Yolk is placed atop the pasta, at the ready, for the diner to complete the sauce. This serving of Carbonara had a most generous helping of that amazing Guanciale, as well as fresh parsley and cracked black pepper. The taste and texture experience was sublime - and there were plenty of leftovers for breakfast on Saturday!

We ended our meal with a house-made birthday cake and pistachio Gelato that was so fresh, it was like soft-serve!

And here he is folks, showing off his pride and joy - not his child mind you, but a hunk of his Red Chili Guanciale:

Chef Dominic and his Pride and Joy

Carrie Cerino's remains one of our favorite places to play with our food, and to play with food in the company of good friends. If you live in the Cleveland area and haven't tried it lately (meaning within the last 3 years) - you need to get out and try it!

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