2009 Best of Cleveland: Food

Vegan Ice Cream
Tremont Scoops

2362 Professor Ave., Cleveland
(216) 781-0352

Tremont Scoops bills itself as an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, and in many ways it is. Its amazingly gooey, homemade, hand-packed selections —served in house-made waffle cones almost as good as the ice cream — will leave you dreaming of the chilly goodness. Plus, the staff gives you as much or as little as you want: You pay per ounce, not per scoop. But what sets this shop apart is owner Marianne Ludwig’s commitment to creating tasty vegan ice cream. She says going vegan was a natural progression between trying recipes for her daughter and the input of a vegan employee. While she only has two flavors of vegan ice cream now — good ol’ vanilla and chocolate — she plans to add more flavors during the next few years. And, she adds, her vegan, tofu-based chocolate ice cream could fool even the pickiest eaters, as she uses quality dark chocolate to create a creamy, Fudgesicle-like concoction.

Goat Cheese
Mackenzie Creamery

6722 Pioneer Trail, Hiram
(440) 226-0772

Heather Haviland is doing it. So are Jonathon Sawyer and Karen Small. These local chefs are so infatuated with Mackenzie Creamery chèvre (fresh artisanal goat cheese) that they are serving it in their restaurants, cooking with it and just eating it up. The Stonewall Farm in Hiram produces the smooth and creamy cheese using milk from a dairy in Middlefield. Sticking to the traditional methods of cheese-making works for owner and head cheesemaker Jean Mackenzie. The creamery received third prize at this year’s American Cheese Society Competition for its plain chèvre. Other cheeses are infused with truffles, garlic, tomato jam and blackberry habanera syrup. Make like your favorite chef and spread it on crackers or try it in your next dish (the Web site even has recipes).

Mama Jo Homestyle Pies

1969 Cooper Foster Park Road, Amherst
(440) 960-7437
871 N. Court St., Medina
(330) 722-7437

Yeah, your mother does a great job. But the woman behind Mama Jo Homestyle Pies may do it just a little better. (Don’t worry, you can still tell mom you like her’s best.) Mama Jo’s creations are the optimum mix of flaky crust and deliciously rich fillings such as peanut butter chocolate swirl and caramel apple walnut. For the last 16 years, Johanna Mann has been rolling out the dough daily with the help of her husband, Jeff, and her staff to keep up with the demand. You can by a personal 6-inch pie, or get a 10-inch pie to share with the family. Bring them to Thanksgiving dinner. Take them to work. Just make sure you get the first slice — they don’t last long.

Lilly Handmade Chocolates

761 Starkweather Ave., Cleveland
(216) 771-3333

There is no good reason why we should eat 20 pieces of chocolate in one day. But walking into Lilly Handmade Chocolates and choosing just a few truffles to try was too hard. So we bought one of each. We really wanted to try the Mike (a milk chocolate, bacon and organic maple butter treat named after Michael Symon), the Boozie Suzie (Kirsch soaked French cherries, Kirsch ganache and dark chocolate) and the Southern Gentleman (milk chocolate mixed with Maker’s Mark bourbon and buttered pecans). The chocolate confections are the brainchild of owners Amanda and Joshua Montague, who have the envious job of playing around the kitchen creating these flavor combos. Want something simple? Try the Peanut Butter. Enough said. A little more daring? Go for the complex Zack, a Sriracha (that’s hot chili sauce), kaffir lime leaves, peanut butter, sesame seeds and white chocolate truffle named after chef Zack Bruell. Or you could be like us and give each one a try. We won’t judge you.

Luchita’s Mexican Restaurant


We might be a little obsessed. The salsa at Luchita’s Mexican Restaurant is so delicious that we’ve even claimed we would drink it like a milkshake if we could. Don’t tempt us. We will do it. The local restaurant chain’s staple has kept customers coming back for years, even dropping in to pick up quarts of the stuff to take home (and possibly pass off as their own ... not that we would ever do that). And while the recipe is top-secret, it hasn’t stopped people from trying to guess. The restaurant says no one has gotten all the ingredients right yet. Our guess? Fresh cilantro, lime juice, tomatoes, red pepper, jalapenos and onion. Drink that up.

Buttercream Frosting
Flour Girl

(216) 320-1450

Everyone knows the best part of eating cake is the frosting — especially the thick, rich, sweet, buttery goodness on a cake from Flour Girl. Chef and owner Bridget Thibeault makes her signature Swiss meringue buttercream frosting from scratch with just four ingredients: egg whites, sugar, butter and vanilla. The secret’s in the meringue, an unusual technique for buttercream frosting, that gives it a whole new layer of whipped creaminess. And since it’s such a simple recipe, every element must be fresh, such as the all-natural, organic, fair-trade vanilla extract that goes into her most popular frosting flavor, an anything-but-basic vanilla. But if you’d rather chocolate (or raspberry, or lemon, or mocha ...), only your taste buds are the limit. If Thibeault needs anyone to help her lick the spoon, we’re available.

Charcuterie Plate
L’Albatros Brasserie & Bar

11401 Bellflower Road, Cleveland
(216) 791-7880

Charcuterie. The fancy French word for cured meat may be hard for English-speaking diners to pronounce, but at L’Albatros Brasserie & Bar it’s very easy to eat. And it’s worth the slight embarrassment to simply point at the menu and say, “I’ll have this.” The $12 spread will easily appease four meat lovers with a terrine of pork and veal, coarse-grained sausages and pork rillettes — a sort of pulled pork with a sweet cinnamon start and a breath-cleansing clove finish. There are no wimpy slices here, except for the pancetta — but even sliced thin, as it should be, the salty and delicate pork couldn’t be caught lying down on the job. It’s twisted high into a tiny tower, begging for your attention. Pair it with fresh crostini and whole-grain mustard and ...c’est magnifique!

Cafeteria Cookie
Elyria City Schools' Pink Cookie

42101 Griswold Road, Elyria
(440) 284-8000

At Elyria City Schools, lunchtime is better than recess for one sweet reason: the pink cookie. The perfectly moist yellow cake cookie covered in sweet and soft pink frosting is a nearly 30-year tradition in the school cafeteria, even though it didn’t originate there. The pink cookie is a spinoff of a pink-frosted cookie once sold at Link’s Bakery in Elyria. When the pastry shop closed a decade ago, Elyria Schools resurrected the recipe, and it’s been a popular seller ever since, with cooks turning out around 50 dozen pink confections each week. Take one bite and you’ll be pining for your pimply-faced youth and the chance to purchase the treat for 50 cents in the lunchroom. The good news for us post-adolescents: The public can order a dozen pink cookies for $5 by calling the school food service provider. 

Ultimate Brownies

19636 Center Ridge Road, Rocky River
(440) 333-2010

They’re ooey. They’re gooey. They’re mighty tasty. And the way we look at it, Ultimate Brownies are even good for the Earth and you. The Rocky River company started out as a part of Crepes Plus 12 years ago and branched out in 2008 to make these rich treats solo. You’ve got hormone-free butter and organic eggs, so technically you’re helping Mother Nature with every bite you take. You’ve got the dark, Swiss chocolate, which is packed with heart-healthful stuff (that counteracts all that butter you’re about to digest, right?). And with 12 flavors including original, mango white chocolate and, our personal favorite, banana Foster, you can save the Earth while you indulge.

Sticky Bun
Blackbird Baking Co.

1391 Sloane Ave., Lakewood
(216) 712-6599

It’s a sticky bun, yet the outer layers meld flaky and cotton-candy soft. The mystery is explained by baker/co-owner Tom Clark’s beginnings as a bread maker, not a pastry chef. So his sticky bun is made of croissant dough. Clark and his crew whip them up fresh every morning at the new Blackbird Baking Co. in Lakewood, just a short hop down Detroit Road from where the legendary (and long-closed) Miller’s Dining Room turned out tray after tray of sticky buns. But while Miller’s used only brown sugar in the filling, Clark uses a blend of white and brown. “When you melt the two of them together, it takes on a special characteristic,” he says. Clark’s creations enticed us to sneak a taste of his peanut butter cookie. If you hold the cookie by the edge, it will slowly fold over until half of it gently collapses. The cookies, which started out as an afterthought to bread, have been huge sellers. Still, the bakery’s bread and butter is bread, and we should probably mention that it’s pretty darn good, too.

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