Fogo de Chão – and Chow I Did

At a recent business trip to Chicago a group of us went to a local restaurant called Fogo de Chão.  This restaurant is a chain, with 25 locations in the US. Fogo de Chão translates as “Fire on the Ground” and summarizes the traditional gaucho method of roasting meats over an open fire.  At this traditional style Brazilian Steakhouse, the “gauchos” come by with skewer after skewer of meat that as long as your “token” is showing green will continue to pile it on your plate.

The menu is all you can eat. One price and you eat until you go into a coma. I started my meal with a very overpriced drink, which in their defense was incredibly strong.  I started with their special “Mojito” which basically was a Mojito sans the mint leaves.  So basically a sugary, limey rum drink.

They then lead you to their vast and expansive salad bar.  Take extra care not to overindulge in this area. It is a trap!! They fill you up with a variety of salads, cheeses, meats and marinated vegetables.  The shaved brussels sprouts salad with bacon was exceptional, however, and should not be missed.  They had some hot selections on the salad bar which I did not even look at.  Rice and beans, soups, all designed to fill you up and prevent you from binging on the meat.

They also bring some sides to the table.  Fried polenta, which was really good. Kind of a cross between corn bread and a french fry.  Garlic mashed potatoes, caramelized bananas, which we all agreed would have been best left for desert with some ice cream. Lastly, what they call PÃO DE QUEIJO or warm cheesy bread rolls, which were more like a cheesy popover. Made with sweet and sour yucca flour and Parmesan cheese, they simply should also not be missed.

Then comes the meat.  Skewer after skewer of meat that you pull off with tiny tongs and place on your already overflowing huge pile of meat. Beef includes prime beef, beef tenderloin, rib eye, top sirloin, bottom sirloin, and beef ribs. If you are lucky they will bring you filet medallions wrapped in bacon.  They did that night for us, but unfortunately were too rare for even me to eat,  the bacon under cooked and the beef was blue. Besides that, the beef was all delicious, however towards the end you can’t tell a bottom from a top, from a loin!!

Other meats included Lamb, pork ribs, chicken, pork loin, pork sausage, and I heard their was shrimp, I just never got any.

You can also special order Salmon, Chilean sea bass and shrimp cocktail, all at an additional price.

I was so stuffed at this point I simply couldn’t move.  The desert tray was brought out and there was just no way I could partake.  Others at my table enjoyed a milk cream cake, a strawberry cheesecake the size of my head and the Crème brûlée should have been x-rated by the response eating it!!

We had to walk back to the hotel, which was a good thing and we opted for about an hour walk around the outlet mall just to try and work off some of our bloat. If you have never been to a Brazilian Steakhouse, you need to go, at least once. There is a restaurant in Novi called “Gauchos” which has the same experience and basic menu. But save your pennies!! It will be an expensive ride!!

Taco Bell-y ache!!

Took the girls and my 2 nieces to TBell for a quick lunch. Now we know what TBell is, it is what it is, mediocre fast food, as they all are but today’s visit was extra special.

First off, the person taking the order was disrespectful and had that “yawn, I am a teenager what do you want” attitude. We started giving our order and she was not entering into the cash register. When we asked “shouldn’t you be putting this in” she replied “I got this, I have worked here a long time”.  She spoke so fast no one could understand her at all.  She had that eye rolling, you are so dumb look!! Seriously wanted to punch her.

Next, the order took a very long time to make.  Much longer than usual or frankly necessary.  When we finally got it, the toppings were scarce, the hard taco shells stale, and worst of all the fried products (nacho chips and cinnamon twists) were awful like they were cooked in stale grease that plastic had melted into. Tasted toxic!!  

Now Jamie and Allison have worked at other Tbells for 3+ years and knew this was wrong. When Jamie approached the counter, she was told the fry grease was just changed that morning and she was wrong. When we asked them to try it, as it tasted toxic, they refused. We were not offered any retribution, like replacement food, or a refund.  There were 4 employees just standing there saying “what do you want us to do”? Seriously put me off eating at Taco Bell ever again as the food that day was absolutely vile. Not sure if everyone got sick that day, but I know Jamie didn’t feel good and that night I thought I was dying a little.

So I am done with Taco Bell, for a while, and forever at that location.  Probably a good thing since I need to eat healthier anyway.

OOOh Weee Loui’s!!

Took a trip out at the last minute to Loui’s Pizza. Omar and I were craving some deep dish pizza and a cold beer.  Now Loui’s in the past has disappointed us with beer selection, carrying the standard pedestrian fare, but this night surprised us, the waitress rattled off the beer selection, to which we replied, “that’s it??” and she said, “oh, and we have some milkshake something”. Our hearts jumped, could it be our coveted Rochester Mills Milkshake Stout? She ran off to check, and to our surprise returned with two ice cold Milkshake Stouts.  Our evening has just jumped up a notch!

Now I know Loui’s pizza has always been good, but I don’t remember the antipasto salad being as good as it was.  I somethings prefer Buddy’s Pizza over Loui’s simply for the salad, but tonight also surprised me.  The salad was delicious!  Not sure if I was starving, or it was exceptionally good, but tonight’s salad surpassed by far my expectations.

The Pizza is, by far, one of the best deep dish pizza’s in the area.  Now Green Lantern has zero competition for the traditional round, but for deep dish I have to put Loui’s as number 1.  Unlike Buddy’s, whose crust I actually prefer, Loui’s does not skimp on the toppings.  Our meat lovers pizza had ample portions of hamburger, pepperoni, sausage, ham and bacon. Literally a carnivore’s paradise.  The cheese draped the pizza in a warm blanket of deliciousness.

I seriously had one piece of pizza and got so full.  The crust is so deep, and toppings so filling it is hard to eat two!!

Also at Loui’s I am always bumping into people I know. This night was no different. We bumped into our good friends Kevin and Sherry Cole who also has a last minute pizza craving and know right where to go!!

We highly recommend Loui’s, but if you go, call us!! Nomm Nomm Nomm!!

Brews and Chews and the Blues??

Last Day in Cleveland.

We had plans to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame early, so we opted to just partake in the overpriced, probably merely adequate restaurant in the hotel lobby.  They really get you.  $15 for a buffet, which included drinks, or $10 for any other (limited) breakfast entree, and you add a $2 to $3 drink. Seemed pretty simple to choose.

Now here is where Omar and I differ on our opinions.  I though the breakfast was great. Except for the hot tomato juice the waiter brought me. I had to give him props though, it wasn’t an item available and he found it for me anyway.  It was beyond warm though. Seemed more like a glass of tomato soup. I had a made to order omelet with cheese, bacon, sausage, onions, green peppers.  It was so good. Toasted some fresh rye bread, with drippy butter and I was a happy camper. That along with apple rolled pancakes, fried potatoes, scrambled eggs and salsa, bacon, oh my goodness. Too much to list.  I was stuffed and made sure I got my moneys worth by drinking the warm tomato juice, cranberry juice and coffee.

Omar split the omelet with me and filled his plate with all the same things.  Now Omar thought the casino was better, I thought the hotel.  It didn’t help that Omar felt really sick after, and blamed it on the food. maybe it was just the gluttonous amounts we have been eating!! LOL.

This ends the Brews and Chews portion of our Cleveland trip.  I guess for fun, I will throw in some “blues”, since we did go next to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I would be remiss if I didn’t start my “tour review” with a statement of the gross oversight of many rock bands that deserve a space in the hall of fame that have not yet been inducted while the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson, The Beastie Boys and Grandmaster Flash have been inducted.  Although some of these icons should have a place in the music hall of fame, their influence on rock and roll is questionable at best. I also find it odd that there is a place for the E Street Band by itself, but no place for great bands like REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Deep Purple, Yes, Chicago, ELO, BTO, Blue Oyster Cult and the list goes on. They have James Taylor but no Jim Croce? You have Small Faces, The Faces and Rod Stewart. Isn’t one Rod Stewart homage enough? You have public enemy in there. Really? Flava Flav? But no Moody Blues? Neil Diamond but no Barry Manilow? Took 14 years to induct Paul McCartney? Ok, you get the point.  Although the museum is interesting, the method of choosing what artist is to be inducted seems to have no rhyme or reason.  There are music influences, musicians, and musical “support” people inducted.  I think there is an interesting line between being a music great as opposed to a rock and roll great.  There is no question early influences like Carl Perkins influenced Rock. But how did Public Enemy shape rock and roll?

Ok I am done with my rant.  It was just a very interesting conversation Omar and I had all day. We headed home after a very full and very interesting weekend. Our journey took us to Green Lantern on the way home, and we will let you refer to our earlier blog found here: I will do a quick review of our meal: Cheesy, gooey, pepperoni-ey, nomm, nomm, nomm….

To sum up this Cleveland multi-series of blog entries, Cleveland really does rock.  Scrape off the preconceived notions and misconceptions. Flip over the big city urban underbelly, and you get a city teeming with great food, great beer, and a million and one things to do. Looking for a quick weekend getaway? Forget Frankenmuth, forget Mackinac, head to Cleveland.



Celebrating the 4th. Street that is!

Cleveland part, heck I don’t know, I have lost track…

Saturday Evening we took a shuttle to the 4th street area.  This is where Michael Symon of Food Network has his restaurant “Lola’s Bistro” along with such eclectic places as Pickwick and Frolic’s which a comedy club and retro style cabaret, Butcher and the Brewer (featured on Food Networks Burgers, Brews and Q’s), The House of Blues, Chinato’s and many more pubs/restaurants. Although we were obviously not hungry, we wanted to see what the hype was all about.

The street is completely pedestrian, and by that, I don’t mean lacking refinement, but literally, no cars allowed.  I know we throw the term pedestrian around a lot, but in this case it is really true!! Cobblestone streets, cafe’s with awnings, and crowds of people, talking, laughing, drinking, eating. It really is a foodie’s mecca, with such oddities as Beef Cheek, bone marrow, sweetbreads and foie gras and that is at Lola’s alone!!

We settled in a Pickwicks and Frolic since they had a nice open table, right in the heart of people watching country.  I, being super full, ordered a Fat Heads Bumble berry, a honey and blueberry infused beer, with a easy 5.3 apv.  I was worried the fruit flavor would be too overwgelming, but as the cinnamon toast crunch was, this too was mild and fruit flavors were not overpowering.  I really enjoyed this beer, especially on a beautiful summers night.  Well beautiful until it started to sprinkle on us!!

Omar ordered a Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter by Willoughby Brewing Company.  A mere 5.5% by volume, it did indeed have flavors of chocolate, coffee, deep roasts and of course, a subtle kiss of peanut butter.  I found it odd, and personally would never order nor drink it, Omar enjoyed it, and even searched it out when we got home.  Beer Advocate gives it a 92% satisfaction rating so someone must really like it!! Well I may be brave enough if this was included in a flight of beers, but not on its own!

It started to sprinkle, so we finished our drinks.  The patios were clearing out as the crowds ran inside, apparently afraid they would all melt. We decided to meander and stroll back to our hotel, taking in the sights of the city along the way.  They had a restaurant called the chocolate bar, and I wished we weren’t so full The deserts looked delicious, and all the savory foods were prepared with candy or chocolate in some way.

It was fun just walking among the skyscrapers and hustle and bustle of a large city.  It was a long full day of food, fun and festivities and we still had a day to go!

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Fat Head and Fat Belly

Cleveland: Dinner Saturday

After our day cruise, we opted to take a side trip to another brewery right outside the city.  We headed to Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon, about a 20 minute drive from the hotel.

Oh man, we hit the jackpot for beer selection.  They had probably over 20 different kinds of micro brewed beers ranging from Hoppy IPAs to Seasonal Spiced Ales.  All beers available as a 4 oz. sample ranging from 1.50-2.50 per selection so that is what we opted for.  Omar and I, having similar beer tastes, ordered the same samples.

Which were:

The Battle Ax Baltic Porter: Smooth and Rich, with chocolate overtones and a a complexity of flavors including dark dried fruits, licorice and molasses.  8.6 abv.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch: This was surprisingly subtle, with a hint of sweetness, vanilla and cinnamon. They call it their breakfast in a glass. Sweet malt and bready flavor. 7.8% abv.

Chocolate Vanilla Porter: 6% abv, had chocolate, coffee, caramel and roasted flavors. Madagascar Vanilla beans and Belgian Dark Chocolate give this brew its elegant flavor.

Black Knight Schwarzbier: A dark black lager with dark roasted flavors. 5.5% abv.

The food was really good. HUGE and I mean huge portions. I highly suggest splitting something.  Omar ordered the “Thick Rick” burger.  Two, yes 2, 8 oz. patties, american cheese, bacon, lettuce, mayo and tomato with a big slice of onion.  Came with fresh cut fries o’plenty.

I ordered the Smoked prime rib dip sandwich with prime rib sliced thin, and grilled with onions, topped with provolone cheese & horseradish sauce. Au Jus on the side. It was served on a tasty sub bun, but way to large for me to even attempt to eat.  A handful of homemade potato chips accompanied the sandwich, which were cooked very well.

Overall, a fabulous experience.  We even commented that was it us, just choosing the most stellar restaurants to eat in, or did Cleveland just have a much better food selection than Detroit? So far, we have made FABULOUS choices! More to follow…

Cruising and Boozing

More Cleveland…

So Saturday we took a tour around the Cuyahoga River with the Goodtime III cruise.  We got their early and got a great set on the top deck. It was a perfect day, not too hot, sun was shining.  The cruise was about 1 hour on the river learning about the history of Cleveland, and an hour just cruising on Lake Erie.  For $17 I would highly recommend this if visiting Cleveland.

So to tie this in to Brews and Chews, we did drink beer on this cruise.  We are on vacation after all!

The beer selection was limited and Omar chose for us Yuengling’s traditional lager. This beer, produced in what is touted as America’s oldest brewery, in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, established in 1829! So they must be doing something right.  This beer was introduced to Omar by our friend and fellow beer drinker, Kevin Cole. Thanks Kevin for the interesting bit of beer history!

This beer is a traditional lager, but a far step above the pedestrian beers as we call them. (Bud, Miller, etc.) Amber and medium-bodied, it is roasted with caramel malt for a subtle sweetness.

Interesting bit of Yuengling history. They survived prohibition, when most breweries were going out of business by producing the first “near beer” with a super-low alcohol count, and marketed as an energy drink. They also operate a dairy that produces beer insipred ice cream, like their black and tan, which is not made with beer, but caramel and dark chocolate. Oh mama, sign me up!

One more interesting note. In 2010, Obama stated that Yeungling was his favorite beer.

A great day and a great icy cold beer!  Try them both – I highly recommend.IMG_1590 IMG_1586 IMG_1584 IMG_1573 IMG_1569

Close Only Counts in Horseshoes (and Hand Grenades)

Our Cleveland adventure continues:

Saturday we had a lot of things planned. At noon we were taking a 2 hour tour along the Cuyahoga River on the Goodtime III. As food was not included in our tour, we wanted a big breakfast to tide us over until dinner.

We decided to try the shuttle to take us to the Horseshoe Casino, whose buffet I had heard a lot about. For $11.99 and included beverages, seemed a good deal in a very expensive city.  The shuttle dropped us at the front door, and we made our way to the buffet.  The line to get in was not too long, but was painfully slow. When we finally got seated, it took quite a while to get anyone’s attention to get our drinks. After the waiter went off to fill our drinks, we filled our plates at the multiple stations.  Basically, all the standard breakfast foods were represented.  Meats, eggs, made to order omelet station, potatoes, grits, french toast, pancakes, oatmeal, eggs benedict, pasties, and even pizza, which seemed oddly out of place. Really, anything you could imagine you wanted for breakfast was represented. Well, now that I think about it, I didn’t see anything like smoked salmon (lox) for bagels.

The food was good, not great.  Meant for mass consumption as freebies for gamblers above us. Comparatively speaking, we probably would have spent close to the same for bacon and eggs somewhere else so I won’t complain.  Interestingly enough, in the city I did not see any McDonalds, Wendys. Burger King, etc. Nowhere to go for a quicky cheap breakfast. I saw a few Subways, but weird, we didn’t get bombarded with Golden Arches.

After breakfast I convinced Omar to play a few hands of blackjack.  Omar is not the gambler, he will admit that.  I however, love the smell of the felt tables, and the excitement of a good hole hand. I could play poker all day, and can hang with the big boys. But I digress.  We walked the entire casino to see only 2 craps tables open and not ONE blackjack table.  It was 10 a.m.! Well Horseshoe Casino, I guess I won’t be taking your money THAT morning!

We proceeded to leave and thought we were so smart trying to take the FREE public trolley system that was supposed to pick up every 10 minutes and drop right in front of your hotel.  We waited for what seemed like forever, with a nice couple next to use waiting for a different line.  During our wait, we were regaled with entertainment of street performers and one crazy lunatic who walked around screaming to (himself?) everyone? crazy blathering that I could not make out.  I heard something about killing everyone, so yes, in broad daylight I was pretty nervous. We tried to stay far away from him.

After a 15 minute wait, the nice couple next to use informed us if we were waiting for the “B” line, it only ran Monday thru Friday. This being Saturday made us go “doh”! We hopped the L Train and wound up close enough to our hotel for an easy walk.

Wow was an eventful morning and it was barely 10 a.m.!!




Dropped a Rusty Anchor for Dinner

Our Cleveland experience continues…

We were trying to figure out a place for dinner that first night.  We were hoping for something casual, but also wanted some atmosphere.  We wound up at the Rusty Anchor at the Music Box.  This restaurant was right on the Cuyahoga River, with views of the Flats, and bridges. We sat and watched boats go by, as we chatted and sipped our cocktails.

I ordered some peach fizzy thing, which I need to learn not to order these fancy pants bartenders signature drinks, because they are usually not good.  Omar however, ordered the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, brewed by the Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distillery Company. This beer, 8.91% abv, is aged for up to six weeks in freshly decanted bourbon barrels from some of Kentucky’s finest distilleries. It has subtle flavors of vanilla and oak infused into this special ale as it rests in the charred barrels. This beer is pleasantly smooth and you can almost taste the bourbon. It was surprisingly good and very smooth.

For dinner, I opted for the Potato crusted salmon, with seasoned rice and asparagus. I assumed the potato crust would be more flaked, but it was basically thinly sliced potatoes encrusting the fish. The salmon was a tiny bit overcooked, and a wee bit dry, but nice flavor.  It came with a horseradish dill sauce which was delicious, but far not enough of, I wanted to drown my fish in it it was so good! The rice, I am not sure what it was seasoned with, perhaps saffron as it was a bright yellow, was flavorful with tiny chunks of carrot. The asparagus was “meh”. Just ok.

Omar ordered the Walleye.  It doesn’t sound too interesting until you coat it with this amazing panko bacon pickle dill crust.  The fish was so juicy and the panko breading was crispy and delicious.  His was served with lyonaisse potato, which ironically we posted earlier that this is merely potatoes roasted with onion, but this one like a fancy tower of scalloped potatoes. Under seasoned, they were forgettable.  His fish came with a roasted garlic aoili, which I didn’t sample.

We opted against dessert, or anymore drinks.  After a long day we were tired. The bar had live music starting, and we were going to head in and watch the show and have another drink at the bar, but they tried to charge us $7 cover charge with a “free” lame margarita type house drink.  That was pretty crappy since we were already there.  They would have been better off letting us stay for free, and we would have ordered our $10 drinks. But we left, mostly on principle.

We definitely would recommend the place.  Nice ambiance, great views and good food.

On our way out, we popped into to Shooters next door.  Shooters is one of those chain waterfront party type bars.  We started out going to eat there, until the hostess said that we could sit outside, but they stopped serving food outside.  Odd. The menu looked like any Applebees/Chili’s/Fridays. We opted for Rusty Anchor for dinner.  I did drag Omar back to Shooters where there was some dance band called “Pop Fiction”. I thought they were good and playing all that dance music and line dance stuff.  I tried to get Omar to dance but he refused.  Party pooper. There was even some tiny dog dancing on the dance floor. OK it wasn’t dancing, more like getting dragged, but it looked like it was having fun. We only stayed a minute but the place looked like fun!


Brews, Chews and SNOOZE??

After a long day of brewery tours, and an exhausting couple of hours sampling different beers, we moved on to our hotel. Here is where the snooze part comes in.  We stayed at the Doubletree Suites Downtown.  This booked this hotel as it was within walking distance of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and many other bars/restaurants.  The hotel was decent, no complaints really.  They do charge extra ($18) a day for parking, which I found outrageous, until we found parking costs money EVERYWHERE! Some lots as high as $35. So the $18 we paid, and trying to walk or take shuttles everywhere paid off.

The room was adequate, and clean, but not real large.  Doubletree has those soft feathery pillows and comforters that I like, which is nice.  The bathroom was so small though, and there was no separate area for makeup, sink, etc.  My bathroom at home is tiny, but this bathroom was smaller. I can deal with the lack of counter space, but the lighting in the bathroom and the room itself was soooo dim, it made getting ready also very difficult. It had a fridge which was nice, and ample TV channels. More than other hotels we have stayed at.

The comings and goings of guests was very loud. The first night we had a couple ladies (which I use that term lightly) fighting outside our room from probably 4:30 am – 5:30 a.m.  Swearing, calling each other every name in the book.  It was lovely. Reminded us of some trashy people we unfortunately know.  I had trouble sleeping, but no big surprise as I usually do in new places.

I did wake up the next day with a super odd rash on my lower inside legs. Both of them.  It was super weird.  I thought I had bed bug bites and flipped out a bit, but we checked everywhere and everything looked fine.  They were not bites, so I think I may have had an allergic reaction to the detergent used on the sheets. At least that’s what the doctor says, so I am going with that. I thought maybe I had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or measles or something, but I seem to be fine??

The hotel had a decent pool, and not so decent hot tub. The hot tub seemed a lovely shade of green. The pool was clean though, but we never did swim.

There was a bar & restaurant, called Stadium 3 Bar and Grill.  The menu, as most hotels was limited and overpriced, and although we had intentions of having a drink at the bar, we never did.

The hotel had a shuttle service and their was one lovely older woman who wound up driving us many places.  Wish I got her name, she was very nice and chatty.

I would recommend this hotel, mostly because it has a great location, and really had all you needed.