Seafood has been called a meal for kings — rich, decadent and strong. But sweet? Yes, it sure can be. In fact, Blue Point’s Pacific swordfish with green curry and Thai chili-garlic sauce is sweet enough to satisfy any jelly bean junkie. But forget sugar additives. This is all natural. The featured fish is mild enough to let the sauce do the talking, yet hearty enough to deserve top billing in this sweet-and-spicy yin and yang of delights. Don’t even think of adding a pinch of pepper or salt. The slightly sassy sauce lingers on the sides and back of your tongue — at first sharp, but fading into a welcome warmth and tang in your mouth. Slide the fish through alternating dabs of the chili-garlic sauce for a powerful flash of citrusy spice and curry sauce to cool your taste buds with tempered sweetness. Follow a bite of moist swordfish with a forkful of red Himalayan rice cooked in coconut milk — a nutty-flavored bed that soaks up the sauce blend to create a more subtle companion to the flavors carried throughout this meal of palate pleasers. Just don’t get so lost in your treat that you forget to check out the rest of the dinner crowd. This seafood legend (its 10th best seafood nod equals its number of years in the business) is well known for its reputation as the Warehouse District’s place to see and be seen. 700 W. St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, (216) 875-7827
Happy Brew Year
[By Jim Vickers]
Nov. 3 — I’m marking my calendar now. That’s the day Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Christmas Ale will start popping up on store shelves. And you may think my fixation on it — exactly six months before it arrives and a full three months before brewers will even start making this year’s batch — may seem a bit unhealthy.
But I haven’t forgotten how last year’s pre-Halloween release struck fear in my bones or how the subsequent media coverage of a perceived Christmas Ale shortage had me and every other beer-loving Clevelander worrying that the sweet suds would be gone from grocery store shelves by mid-December. And they were.
Here’s why I’m already prepping for the ’08 season: Last year’s run on the holiday treat came after the Ohio City brewery produced 30 to 40 percent more Christmas Ale than it had the year before. “There are definitely plans to have a lot more than we had last year, which obviously wasn’t enough,” brewer Luke Purcell assures me, adding that Great Lakes Brewing Co. has bumped up Christmas Ale production each season for the past few years. “It’s not like we haven’t been making more and more and more.”
But it doesn’t answer one question: Why do I — and so many other Clevelanders — make a beeline for this seasonal brew above all others? It’s just amber ale, brewed with fresh ginger root, cinnamon sticks and honey —well, actually, lots and lots of honey.
“We get it in 55-gallon drums,” Purcell explains. “It’s one drum per batch of beer. ... A batch is 75 barrels, and a beer barrel is 31 gallons.” By my math, that means 2.3 percent of each 12-ounce bottle of Christmas Ale is pure honey. Yeah, that sweet secret is probably why I have such a tough time keeping mine capped until Dec. 25.
Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich
The grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich from Melt makes us feel naughty. Our parents would be appalled at the idea of eating something this sweet for dinner. But what the heck — if Elvis has access to Lakewood restaurants, this is what he’s eating in Heaven. House-made peanut butter, sweet cream cheese and slices of grilled-until-it’s-gooey banana combine for a cohesive sugary flavor that can only be described as decadent-dessert good, while the thick-sliced, buttered Italian bread kicks in a contrasting — and necessary — salty tone. If you want the full experience (and you’re willing to brave a sugar coma), dip your dinner in the berry preserves served on the side. Just don’t tell your parents. 14718 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, (216) 226-3699
Smoked Chicken and Pasta Toss
Raw garlic has a big nose and a sharp bite. But Brandon Kercher, chef at Grovewood Tavern, knows just how to bring out the feisty bulb's sweet side. Braising cloves in oil until golden, or roasting the whole bulbs, turns garlic into something akin to candy with a distinctive sugary nuttiness. He tosses it with bowtie pasta, sultry pink-hued smoked chicken — the color is typical for smoked poultry, the result of chemistry, not undercooking — oven-roasted Roma tomatoes, fresh basil and artisanal olive oil. The distinctive taste of each element stands out, and the surprising sweetness deepens the smoky notes. 17105 Grovewood Ave., Cleveland, (216) 531-4900
Let's be honest: As someone who unabashedly consumes whole milk, gooey honey and mounds of aged cheese, I don't consider flax seed a go-to ingredient. In fact, it might be what's kept me from ordering Tommy's vegan chocolate walnut cookie (called Tayler's Tookie). But the maple syrup, golden raisins and vegan chocolate chips helped me forget that no animals had to suffer for my enjoyment. Granted, this delight isn't one you'll feel guilty about. It feels like the kind of dessert you should eat after returning from a long hike in the Metroparks. Final question: Is it wrong to eat a vegan cookie with a glass of milk? 1824 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights, (216) 321-7757
how sweet it is
When Michael Symon called pastry chef Cory Barrett at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas and asked him to work at Lola, Barrett began experimenting with desserts. The 6 a.m. Special was the first to make it on the menu, and Barrett says it’ll never leave — it’s got a cult following. Barrett and his confections have gained a popularity second only to Michael himself, so we went deep inside to find out what makes the 6 a.m. so darn special.
Lola’s “pork is king” theme inspired him to use bacon. “None of my desserts are subtle,” says Barrett. “My food is big, heavy.
”The bread is a brioche dredged in a cream-egg mixture.
Apples are caramelized in sugar on the stovetop.
The kitchen churns out around 150 6 a.m. Specials each week. That’s a lot of bacon ice cream.