Breakfast for Lunch
As if owning five restaurants weren't impressive enough, chef Zack Bruell is extending the most important meal of the day beyond the frantic rush of your morning routine. In a fine-dining culture where attention is so heavily focused on entrees and desserts, Bruell has pioneered a sophisticated midday choice with his breakfast-style interpretation of Lox & Eggs ($9), available at Cowell & Hubbard during lunchtime. He alters the dish's typical ingredients with a touch of his own flair, adding truffle oil to the eggs, swapping cream cheese out for burrata (a creamy, tangy mozzarella) and crisping up a few thinly sliced bagel halves. It all meshes beautifully with the raw, cured salmon fillet, called gravlax. "It's sort of my take on what a deli dish is," says Bruell. "I like to take stuff that is sort of standard and twist it around into something different." 1305 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, 216-479-0555, cowellhubbard.com
Saying Ben Bebenroth has a green thumb would be an understatement. The chef and owner of Spice Kitchen & Bar in Gordon Square recently added an outdoor garden to the restaurant, complete with a hoop house and 1,000 square feet of raised beds, in addition to his own 10,000-square-foot garden at his Broadview Heights home. The produce, ranging from basil, thyme, rosemary, arugula, lettuce and eggplants, are used throughout dishes at the restaurant, as well as Spice of Life Catering Co. and Plated Landscapes. "It really just gets mixed in wherever it can," says Bebenroth. For example, a black beauty eggplant is cut in half, roasted and pureed to top Spice's eggplant flatbread. If the garden produces excess of any one item, Bebenroth cans it for later. This season's tomatoes will be preserved and used down the road for tomato pastes and sauces. "We'll jar it while it's fresh and save it for a time we need it," he says. "At least we have that in our arsenal when we go into winter."
"Green spaghetti sounded cool," says the always-cool, part-time rock 'n' roller, full-time chef Dante Boccuzzi of the creation that landed on the menu at his new Akron restaurant, DBA. What he concocted is better than cool, though. It's dastardly, sinfully delicious pasta masquerading as health food — it is chock full of spinach, after all. Boccuzzi's staff purees spinach with oil, then adds in flour, eggs and salt to make the pasta from scratch, mixing it with sautéed spinach, rock shrimp, lots of butter and garlic, and a generous handful of breadcrumbs. Silky, warm, salty and smooth, it's a delightfully eccentric twist on comfort food that's become a huge hit with diners. "It's definitely going to be a signature dish that won't come off the menu," says Boccuzzi, who notes that he hears compliments on the Akron-only dish at his Cleveland restaurants. "People wake up craving it in the middle of the night; they know where to go," he jokes.
It would appear that BRGR 9 executive chef Robert Dippong has solved one of the most elusive culinary conundrums of our existence: combining one's burger craving and sweet tooth into a single edible creation. The result is the Sweet BRGR ($6.99), a thick brownie patty topped with vanilla bean ice cream and strawberry mousse, all served up between a warm chocolate chip cookie bun. "I was looking for something that would be fun and had the theme of our gourmet burger restaurant," says Dippong. "I tried to put together a bunch of flavors that most people would enjoy with the elements of a regular burger and make it into a dessert." The massive concoction also includes a side of funnel cake fries with a raspberry compote dipping sauce, bringing the burger-and-fries concept to fruition. "I usually recommend a couple people sharing it," says Dippong. "The kids are the ones that are always the most excited about it."
Pigs in a Blanket
If you thought this dish was merely a party staple, you'd better think again. SoHo Kitchen & Bar chef and owner Nolan Konkoski was looking to add an appetizer to his menu this summer when an employee suggested pigs in a blanket — a hot dog wrapped in a crescent roll. "From there we just started to figure out how to make this definitively Southern and definitively our own kind of dish," he says. Konkoski switched out the hot dog for andouille sausage, which offers a smoky and spicy taste, and dressed it up with pickled mustard seeds and a bed of bourbon baked beans. "It kind of became a play between pigs in a blanket, pork and beans and comfort food," says Konkoski. "It immediately brings people back to their childhood." 1889 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216-298-9090, sohocleveland.com