Move over, molten chocolate cake. Goodbye, gooey custard pie. You’re oh-so-retro. I’ve grown up. I want more than sugar shock at the end of a meal. Besides, there’s some very good wine left in my bottle. So give me cheese — strong, pungent-tasting stuff with names like Humboldt Fog and Torta de la Serena. I crave classy curds — artisan-produced wedges straight from the farm and the creamery: the goaty tang of chevre, a sheepish Manchego or the transgressive thrill of eating something made from unpasteurized milk. That’s why Paul Minillo is my big Gouda. His passion runs so deep that he built a “cave” (actually a hi-tech cooler, called an affinage) for aging cheese in The Baricelli Inn lobby. He watches over them as they ripen, serving each only when it achieves perfection. (2203 Cornell Road, Cleveland, 216-791-6500, $14-$19). Boulevard Blue’s cheeses arrive sculpturally arrayed on slate and a cedar plank along with fresh berries and an upright baguette. Add a glass of port and a side of live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and you have a fine finale (12718 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland, 216- 721-5500, $12-$15). Vue takes aged dairy products to the next level. It provides descriptions and tasting notes while the kitchen creates “cheese expressions”: taleggio with Spanish caper berries and truffle honey; blue cheese with bananas and aged balsamic; goat cheese with mostardo di ciliegie, a sweet and sour cherry jelly (49 Village Way, Hudson, 330-650-1883, $6 each).
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Cleveland's dining scene is rich, lush and continuously growing. After months of journeying through Cleveland's best, most exciting and newest restaurants, here is our 2022 list of Northeast Ohio's essential places to eat.