Dante – Cleveland, OH

I wasn’t thrilled to be away from home on my birthday, but a scheduled dinner with clients at Dante in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland made it one for the ages!  Tucked into an old bank on a quiet street, this beautiful little spot is perfect for a special night, a business dinner or everyday night out.  The warm atmosphere is cozy and comfortable with plenty of seating and a short bar for cocktails and starters.

Being with a group, we were luck to sample a few things to start our evening.  The goat cheese tartlets with cranberry orange chutney were creamy and rich with the right balance of sweet.  Crispy calamari and shrimp were given a little kick tossed with spicy mayo.  It was a good take on traditional calamari you might find anywhere else.  The highlight was absolutely the charcuterie plate.  A huge portion of house-made salumi, terrine, mortadella, duck confit and chicken liver pate was accompanied by bacon onion jam and various chutneys and fruit.  You can take a look at their curing room in the old vault and see Chef Dante’s passion in the variety and beauty of his charcuterie.

The well-curated menu has a lovely selection of vegetables, meats, pasta and seafood.  Portion sizes are adjustable based on your preference, but we stuck to dinner portions for tonight.  Both the beef cheek and ribeye were beautifully cooked and came dressed with vegetables.  The salmon was a work of art worthy of praise for taste and presentation.  The creamy broccoli risotto was also noted as delicious.  My dinner was the venison osso bucco with celery root and an apple donut (apple ring battered and deep fried).  It was rich, tender and a wonderful balance of flavor and texture.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone cook venison better.

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Overall, it was a perfect dinner in every way.  With an ample wine list, craft cocktails and great beer selection (try the Italian peppercorn IPA) there is plenty to keep your interest throughout the night.  The friendly and knowledgeable staff also made it a great night out.  Compliments to Chef Dante Boccuzzi for creating this gem in Tremont.  And thank you for making my “birthday dinner” (that no one knew about) really special!  You can find out more about the location and view their full menu at dantetremont.com.

Chicken Apple Sausage

I’ve been making my own sausage for several years.  And while you definitely need some special equipment, i.e. meat grinder and sausage stuffer, it’s a really fun and actually pretty easy process.  The thought of store-bought sausage makes some people wince – what in the world do they put in that stuff??  Whether you make fresh or smoked, you can control ingredients, flavors and salt content by making your own.  Below is a recipe for fresh chicken apple sausage, flavored with onions, garlic and allspice.  I hope you love it!

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CHICKEN APPLE SAUSAGE

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 Lbs. Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 2 Lbs. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Medium Honeycrisp Apples, Peeled
  • 1/2 Large White Onion
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/4 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp. Ground Allspice
  • 1/2 Tsp. Ground Thyme
  • About 9 feet of fresh hog casing

Instructions

  • Slice chicken into 1-inch strips.  Place in freezer for 15 minutes while you prepare apples and onions.
  • Using the largest holes on a box grater, grate peeled apples and onion.  Sauté in a large frying pan with butter for 10-15 minutes.  They should be soft and moisture should be evaporated.  Allow to cool in bowl.
  • Using a meat grinder, or grinder attachment on your mixer, grind semi-frozen chicken on the finest grind.  Grind into a large mixing bowl so that you have room to mix in spices, etc.
  • Add apple and onion mixture to ground chicken an mix with your hands to incorporate evenly.
  • Sprinkle all seasonings evenly over mixture and then mix again with hands until combined.
  • Place ground mixture into a sausage stuffer.
  • Stuff into hog casings and link into 3-4 inch sections.  Allow to dry on a cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes.
  • You can now cook immediately on the grill or in a pan.  However, the flavors will be better if the sausage rests for a day or longer.  We freeze ours in a vacuum sealer.

The sweetness of the apples combined with the savory onions, garlic and thyme make for a delicious combination!  You’ll find that this recipe has a lot less fat than store-bought sausage so be careful not to overcook and dry it out.  If you have the time and tools, give it a try – I think you’ll find yourself making sausage more often than buying it.  Either way, dig in!!

Distil – Milwaukee

Our recent Milwaukee trip was full of adventures in sightseeing, music and food!  We definitely had a memorable stop at Distil.  A dark, comfortable restaurant with urban-classic decor wasn’t too busy or loud for cocktails and noshes on a Friday night out with friends.  If you’ve read some of my posts, you know I have an affinity for this type of craft American fare and distinctive drinks.  Distil did not disappoint!  The Rosa Umada was a fantastic experience/cocktail.  An old fashioned glass is sprayed with an aerosol of grain alcohol infused with clove and placed over a larger glass with smoking wood chips.  It’s brought to your table, the glass is removed to release the smoke and then a wonderful mix of bourbon, maple and vanilla is poured into it.  It’s a beautiful presentation and a fantastic twist on a classic bourbon cocktail.  I know I absolutely want to try making this at home – you can’t get enough of the smokey aroma!

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They have a great selection of small plates, we sampled the cheese board, charcuterie board and the steak tartare.  I’m sucker for these when they’re done well.  The boards looked gorgeous and were amply covered in a great selection of meats, cheese and accompaniments.  Whether is was the duck prosciutto with grain mustard, blue cheese with honeycomb and Marcona almonds or a cheddar, salami and raspberry stack they were all fresh and tasty!  The tartare had a nice texture, just enough capers and a creamy egg yolk.  The whipped bone marrow gave just enough fat and richness to set this apart from other preparations I’ve had.

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Overall, this was a really nice spot for small plates and cocktails.  I’d recommend it for a pre-dinner or pre-theater date night or happy hour.  Clinton Sterwald is an imaginative mixologist with a keen sense of aroma, taste and presentation.  The Apartment 137 is another must-try drink on their menu!  Give them a try for the best of Wisconsin’s small bites and cocktails.  You can check out their menu and story at distilmilwaukee.com.  Dig in!