Friday, April 24, 2009

More Fun Playing with Green Food

I realize that today is Friday and I am writing about Monday's dinner - it has been that kind of a week! Still - the fabulous meal we shared on Monday at Jonathon Sawyer's sparkling new Greenhouse Tavern is well worth waiting for! I urge you to visit this new Cleveland gem and taste for yourself.

When last I wrote about the Greenhouse, we had just attended a "friends and family preview" dinner. We greatly enjoyed this dinner. However, as a "tune up" for opening to the public, (complete with comment cards at the end for constructive criticism) I did not consider it fair to post any criticisms (and any I had were minor). Our dinner Monday was fantastic, with just one minor flaw that I will get to - but do keep in mind that they had been open only about a week when we dined there, so the fact that there was only one flaw is pretty impressive. Another note for those of you who play with your food by taking photos - the light is much better on the mezzanine for that purpose.

Dinner at The Greenhouse begins with lovely On the Rise bread and a dish of Duck Rillettes.

Monday's rillettes was even better than the sample we'd enjoyed at the first dinner. Creamy, ducky, fatty - yum! Our wonderful and attentive server almost took the last bit away - oh no you don't! She brought us more bread, instead.

We started with a selction of "Firsts" and "Seconds" - smaller plates that were easily shared.

Pomme Frites w/ poached egg & chervil

This dish actually comes from the "Halfs" portion of the menu - Tom really wanted to try it. Perfectly cooked frites are plated with raw garlic and rosemary, then topped with poached egg. I'd never considered the combination of poached egg and fries before - but this really worked!

Hand Ground Beef Tartare w/ cold poached egg & wild ramps

I've only ever had beef this way in the Korean style, long before e. coli was a big worry, so I had a little trepidation about it.

By itself, the meat tasted like, well, raw meat. However, once all of the components came together - the ramps, the seasoning in the beef, the beef, crouton, egg, and that incredibly fresh, spicy mustard - it was simply delicious. Now I get it!

French Breakfast Radishes with Butter and Salt

Radish is one of those foods that I can take or leave - and usually leave. Though not as offensive to my palate as cucumber, it is not a favorite. I did sample a piece of this - and if you like radishes, you will love it. I ate about 2/3 of my piece, and gave the rest to Bob - who loved it. The dish is interesting, even to the non-radish lover, because of the lovely salad of greens under the radishes, dressed to impress.

Our next dish was an off menu "special" - all I can say is that it was the star up to this point of the meal and darn well ought to find a regular place on the menu!

Fried Chicken Livers over Savory Bread Pudding with Ramps

As a rule I'm not a huge chicken liver fan - but I'd eat a plateful of these every day of the week if I could get them! The liver was perfectly cooked and not a bit "livery" - and the bread pudding was fabulous - savory yet nutmeggy - a perfect foil for liver!

The liver is to the right.

Our next plate came from the "halfs" again - I'd heard great things about it, which turned out to be true!

Cabbage Gratin w/ raclette cheese & caramelized onions

This dish was like Onion Soup without the soup or crouton (and who needs those when you have cheese???). Several different types of cabbage and onions are caramelized, then covered with gooey cheese and baked down. I kid you not when I say this was plate licking (ok, plate scraping) good.

We moved on to the entrees, or "Thirds".

Steak Frites w/ ohio beef, romaine, aioli & pomme frites

Bob, who'd loved his burger and frites at the preview dinner, loved this - and there was a lot to love!

Beautiful meat, perfectly cooked. The sides of grilled lettuce and frites were also lovely, as was the aoli for dipping.

Tom Cod In Papier w/ fresh black truffle, potato & chardonnay

All four of us were dying to try this, after a bit of a bruhaha about this dish on the Cleveland Food & Wine Forum.

Our conclusion - this dish is delicious! Fresh, sustainably sourced fish, perfectly cooked potato, chardonnay, butter and truffles - and for less than $20!! Edsel indeed chose very wisely.

Ohio Beef Burger w/ raclette cheese, pomme frites & house beer vinegar

This plate was every bit as declious as the one Bob had enjoyed on preview night. And you have to love the creative recycling evident in the frite wrappers!

I wound up repeating my choice from my prior dinner, and I was very glad I did.

Buckwheat Pasta w/mahogany clams, pancetta & chili

The first time I had this dish, I enjoyed it even though the chili wasn't very prominent. This version kicked the chili factor up (but not too far for those of you timid about such things), which made the dish even better. My only complaint would have been that two of the clams had some grit and I have no doubt that had I told the server, the dish would have been remade for me. However, by this point in the evening, we were getting so full that little miscues didn't matter.

Having worked our way through such a nice variety and quantity of Rillettes, Firsts, Seconds, Thirds and Halfs - Bob and I were too stuffed for dessert. Our dining companions had saved some room, though, and each ordered a dessert, which of course we all shared.

Dessert had been the only weak spot of our preview dinner, so I was delighted to sample these desserts, and find that they are now at the same high level of quality as the rest of the food.

Apple Calvados Tart w/ apple cider gastrique, bitter orange caramel & ice cream

We had tasted a version of this at the preview, and found the pastry a little wanting. This version, however, topped with the inimitable Jeni's Ice Cream, was everything a dessert should be - flaky soft, yet firm pastry, fresh tasty apples, and satisfying topping. Tom - please note that Edsel and I were shooting this dessert at the same time and we also crossed the streams!

Pot de Creme w/ bitter chocolate, star anise & fluer de sel florentine

I'm not a big dessert eater - but this dessert could turn me into one! Rich, creamy chocolate playing perfectly off of the salt and anise flavors, with chewy, chocolately cookies for additional contrast.

We learned upon recieving our bill that Chef Jonathon had comped our desserts - thank you!

Two other notes - the Skatewing has come off of the menu, because it cannot be sustainably sourced. I'm sure Chef will come up with a worthy replacement for it! Also - even though we ate early, they had run out of oysters - and based on our taste at the preview dinner, for good reason - they are fabulous, and happy hour priced at $1 each.

So here we are - our second meal at Greenhouse Tavern was even better than our first - and I have a feeling they will only get better as they are open longer. You may first visit Greenhouse because it is "certified green," or because you heard about the cool light fixtures made from recycled bicycle tires. You may pause to admire the chairs and tables (all made from recycled, materials) and the bar, gleaming with recycled glass. But what will make you want to keep coming back is the beautiful, delicious food at very approachable prices. I am looking forward to playing with Greenhouse Tavern food again soon!


  1. Followed you home from Ruhlman. Spent three days doing food with, upto that point, online friends in Cleveland last year, including a talk from Ruhlman who also joined us for our lunch.

  2. ntsc - hope we see you back in the Cleveburg!