Cleveland's West Side Market - A Midwest Food-Lover's Fantasy Road Trip

A gorgeous April sky behind the Clock Tower of the West Side Market

We just returned from our second trip to Cleveland's West Side Market. We aren't newbies anymore, overwhelmed by all the options. We knew exactly why we were going and the lessons learned from our rookie trip made this trip SO much more enjoyable, stress-free, and relaxing.

Even before our first trip, we knew it needed to be an overnighter. It's not that Cleveland is all that far for a day trip - two hours to the market from our front door. The "problem" lies in the fact that Ohio City (the neighborhood that is home to WSM) is wickedly full of craft brewers. I like beer. I love good beer. So, a hotel room and proper use of Cleveland's RTA make for a food and brew weekend so we can both imbibe and discover.

Budget tip: If you're staying overnight, you need refrigeration for at least some of your West Side Market finds. We had reservations at the Best Western Airport. We drove in on Friday morning, and they let us park before checking in, plus their shuttle took us to the airport to catch the RTA. We checked in Friday afternoon with our WSM haul in our hands, then took the shuttle back to the airport to take the train back into Ohio City for an evening of wandering. All together, room, shuttle tips, and RTA all-day passes for 2 cost less than $125.

If you can swing it, I highly recommend NOT going to WSM on a Saturday. Neither of us (mostly me) play well in huge, tightly packed crowds. That was the one thing that led me to not be crazy about our first trip. We couldn't move. I would feel like I was always in the way, not able to take my time to really look at the vendor's offerings. Getting to the market at around 11:30 on a Friday morning? It was pure pleasure! Yes, it was busy, but once we ate our brunch, I never felt like I needed to rush my selections.

Brunch! OK, Harry had hot dogs, but I hit up Crepes de Luxe. If you are searching through reviews, you'll read that the crepes are delicious. Very true! I had the smoked salmon (with spinach, capers, and creme freche on a buckwheat crepe) and it was more than I hoped for. A perfect blend of savory, smokey, salty, earthy, with gently steamed spinach. I could eat this many more times. In reading reviews, you will also find comments that the crepes' chef isn't pleasant. I don't think that is true. She wasn't overly chatty, but look at the line forming behind you. There was one lady in front of me when I approached. By the time my crepe was in my hands, ready to burn my mouth because I wanted it so badly, there were at least 8 people in line behind me. I don't think those reviews are a fair assessment based on the volume of business that must be completed very quickly.

We made a quick trip through the market to see if anything caught our eye that wasn't on our "must" list. We bought some pretzel hoagie rolls from Michelle's Bakery to go with our intended sausage haul. We found Wellfleet oysters at Classic Seafood and had a great chat with the guy about learning that we were all wrong in thinking "an oyster is an oyster".

Tub butter was on our must list. For general cooking and baking, I keep standard sticks of both salted and unsalted butter on hand. For spreading on toast, or warm bread, or biscuits, or finishing a dish, or many other drool-worthy reasons, we love better butter. Without going into too much detail, we tasted the salted tub offerings at Irene Dever and bought 7 pounds. Delicious, with just a hint of tang that you expect with a cultured butter (although she gave me a strange look when I asked if it was cultured and then explained that it was only butter, a little salt, with no oil or other ingredients).

Now, for the primary purpose of our sojourn. Harry lived in Akron and was familiar with the sausage-makers in Barberton. He grew to have a fondness for the Eastern European sausages, and that is something that I've learned to enjoy as well. As much as I love some of the local purveyors in Columbus, I haven't yet found the variety of house-made sausage such as we found at the West Side Market (in my defense: I've not yet tried Thurn's so I might be surprised). On this trip, we brought home 11 varieties of sausage of various ethnicities and heat levels. Mix in the various styles - links, fresh, smoked, and bulk, we find the selection at Czucraj Meats to fit all of our needs.

On our first trip, we were overwhelmed at all of the offerings of animal flesh. The market was packed on that Saturday, and I'll admit that we probably stopped at Czucraj because we could actually see the offerings. We bought about 12 pounds that trip, and we weren't disappointed in anything we brought home. We did decide that the Double-Smoked Hot Hungarian was just a little hotter than we would want, but that didn't mean we didn't like it.

30.06 pounds of sausage heaven!

So - we bought a little more than that on this trip. The sausage we bought on our first visit lasted us 8-9 months. During football season, we made samplers - chunks of several types of sausage, broiled in the oven, with a selection of mustards and other companions. We used it in a variety of dishes and also hoarded it, because "there's only so much down there". This time, we'll be a little less stingy with our sausage dinners. (Note: we did the vacuum packing at home).

Our selection includes Garlic Knockwurst, Smoked Slovenian Sausage (links), Mild & Hot Hungarian, Andouille, Hot Italian (fresh ropes), Chorizo (fresh rope and bulk), and Smoked Mild & Hot Hungarian. We also brought home 4 white brats (pork and veal) that we'll have tonight with our pretzel hoagie rolls.

The only other tip I'll leave you with is regarding the produce barn. We don't buy produce there only because I can get all my veggies here in the area. Take the time to visit the review sites, specifically searching for produce vendor reviews. Some are better than others, to be sure. We saw some beautiful fruits and vegetables as we walked through. I have read (within the last 6 months) that WSM has cracked down on the allegations of bait/switch in the produce stands. I just think it's best to be informed before someone drives 2-3 hours, only to arrive home with over-ripe produce.

There are SO many more options than what we brought home. Visit the West Side Market website here for days and hours of operation (no, they aren't open 7 days). You can also read about all of the vendors' offerings and plan your march through the market. Bring along reusable shopping bags, or a backpack. Locals have wheeled carts. Currently (April 2015), the Ohio City RTA station is NOT ADA accessible (construction) and it's a very long trip up and down 3 flights of stairs to the platform. Pay attention to the parking lot signs (some lots are restricted to vendors) to avoid tows. If you drive and park, bring along a cooler to stash your purchases while you visit some of the other gems in the neighborhood.


Hemp Seeds - Room for them in Your Diet? Promo Code

We bought a Ninja Bullet back in the fall and I immediately started making smoothies a couple of times a week for breakfast. I went pretty basic - frozen fruit, yogurt, and orange juice. I'm not quite to the point of going to a green smoothie. But, I really wanted to add more protein into my smoothies, maybe cut back the yogurt.

I started reading about the different seeds you can add to your smoothies, exploring the protein benefits and wondering which seeds I would like the best. I narrowed it down to choosing between chia seeds or hemp seeds, and I was leaning to hemp because I couldn't get the thought of Chia Pets out of my mind. Harry gently reminded me that I should probably check for chia because they would more than likely be more readily available than hemp seeds.

An important note: hemp seeds will not give you a buzz. They are not from the exact same plant as marijuana. Rather, hemp is a cousin.

Shortly after I started looking for seeds to add to my breakfast smoothies, I had the opportunity to try Super Hemp Raw Shelled Organic Hemp Seeds in exchange for my unbiased opinion. What a great way to be introduced!

Hemp seeds are tiny - smaller than sunflower seeds. They have a nutty, almost buttery flavor and an awesome crunch. I immediately started adding about a tablespoon of these morsels to my breakfast smoothies. To me, the mixed texture was nice.

So - what else can you do with hemp seeds? The nutty/buttery flavor makes them an awesome topping for steamed veggies or baked potatoes. Sprinkle some hemp seeds on top of your muffins before baking for an added crunch. Or, stir about a half-cup into your muffin batter. I've been adding a handful to my lunch salads.

Would you be interested in trying Hemp Seeds if you received a 50% discount?

If you've been considering adding more plant-derived protein to your diet like I was, hemp seeds aren't a bad route to go. When you order the Super Hemp via Amazon, you'll also receive a lot of great information and suggestions as to how to use them.


Brookside Dark Chocolate Crunchy Clusters - Product Review

We don't snack a lot. Even the majority of our holiday baking went to work with Harry - we love to make it, we just have one or two nibbles then we're done. But, every once in awhile I'll get this wanting - it might be a simple salt craving that a cracker will satisfy, or a single piece from the candy basket Elliot always checks to make sure isn't empty. (He's SO smart!) (OK, not gonna lie - I'm totally the passive-aggressive Gramma making sure there's something he doesn't eat very often in a low enough space he can see it.)

As a member of CrowdTap, I was given the opportunity to sample the new Brookside Dark Chocolate Crunchy Clusters in exchange for my unbiased review. I was familiar with the Brookside Brand and had sampled many of their chocolate and fruit blends during Costco trips. Competitive grazing - greatest date night invention ever!

I knew that the quality of Brookside was amazing. Their dark chocolate creations have the perfect blend of bitter and sweet that I want in a dark chocolate. I only had one concern in advance of receiving my complimentary sample pack. With my teeth, I prefer to not eat anything super crunchy - I broke a tooth on a corn nut a million years ago.

I gently bit into my first nugget of Brookside Dark Chocolate Crunchy Clusters, ready to stop if I had any concerns. This is the first "crunchy" snack I've tried in years that I didn't worry about breaking a tooth. The "crunchies" are more like crisp cereal bites - think along the lines of the crunch you get with a Krispy/Crunch bar (comparisons for both my Canadian and American relatives - but don't confuse it with a Krispy Krunch bar, because this is nothing like that).

Concerns alleviated, I sampled a few clusters with gusto! When you open the bag, you get a beautiful aroma of fruit with just a hint of chocolate in the air. The dark chocolate and fruit flavors, as with all of Brookside's products, are perfectly balanced. There is a nice balance of textures with smooth chocolate, chewy dried  fruit, and crispy multigrain nuggets.

Originally, when participating in pre-campaign questionnaires, I thought the Brookside Dark Chocolate Crunchy Clusters would be a great addition to a cup of yogurt. Maybe I would eat them alongside some popcorn. My first taste made me think of a wine tasting we went to at a vineyard in Indiana. The final tasting was a sweet wine and they made sure we had a little nibble of chocolate to go with the wine. THAT taste became my perfect pairing.

Shawn brought us a bottle of Marion Mead from Superstition Meadery. This is a nicely balanced mead and the dark chocolate and fruit flavors of the clusters were the perfect nibble with a small glass of mead.

I'm a fan. I haven't seen the Crunchy Clusters in the store yet, but I'll be keeping an eye out for them. The zip-seal package means I can nibble on a few pieces when the urge strikes, but they won't go stale


Kiss Me Organics Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder - Product Review

Our blender broke several years ago. We tried to get by with an immersion blender, but the darn thing didn't do well with frozen fruit. We finally broke down and picked up a Ninja at Kroger so I could make smoothies for my breakfast.

I'm not a "greenie" yet, but my basic breakfast smoothie is some vanilla yogurt, frozen fruit, and orange juice. Over the last month or so, I've been adding Matcha Green Tea Powder for a little extra detox and energy. I received a package of Kiss Me Organics Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder in exchange for my inspection and unbiased review.

I'm new to Matcha Green Tea Powder but have long known the benefits of green tea and drink it often. I've tried the powder several times now and am very happy with it. I do feel better longer through the day after I've had my smoothie with an added teaspoon of matcha. I've also added about a 1/2 teaspoon to my bowl of morning oatmeal. Mixed with items like this, there's no real noticeable taste change to foods I was already eating.

I was given a tip that plain hot matcha might taste a little bitter, so I add just a bit of honey to sweeten it. I didn't read the recommended dosage on the package (1/2 - 1 teaspoon per day) before I tried it, so I accidentally added 2 teaspoons to my first smoothie. I didn't suffer any ill effects. I haven't had the mid-afternoon nap craving since I've started using the matcha.

Kiss Me Organics has sent me several digital pamphlets and recipes via Marketplace and the information in there is invaluable. There's even a few cocktail recipes!

The only slight side effect I might be noticing is an enhanced sensitivity to citrus flavors. Because Matcha's absorption rate is increased when consumed with citrus, I almost always mix it with some orange juice. I'm not saying this is a "bad" side effect, but it's the only thing I can connect it to.


Our Breakfast Casserole and the Danish Dough Whisk - Recipe and Product Review

We've only been making this casserole for about a year, but it's in our monthly rotation. The great thing about this breakfast casserole (for us) is that it heats beautifully. A couple of minutes in the microwave or crumble it up in a skillet for a few minutes. The eggs don't get overcooked and it's a great blast of protein. It also works great if you put it together the night before, then refrigerate and bake in the morning. Munch on some fruit while the casserole is baking and you've got a full meal. Wrap up the leftovers and freeze to add to work meals later.

I received the Danish Dough Whisk in exchange for my inspection and unbiased review. I became a fan. I've always kept a variety of balloon whisks in the kitchen, so this was a new tool for me. It's design helps break up the lumps in pancake or muffin batter quickly, so you don't have to over-mix, causing tunnels and bubbles. Our first batch of pancakes using it were super fluffy! And, the Danish Dough Whisk also works great beating large quantities of eggs.

The handle of the Danish Dough Whisk fits both of our hands well and it is very sturdy. I've also incorporated it into our bread-baking now that I am experimenting with biga. It's also very easy to clean. You can find the whisk at Amazon if you follow this link.

Back to the breakfast casserole:

It took a little experimenting to get the right proportion of all the ingredients for our tastes. I'm not an omelette fan because I don't like snotty eggs, but this breakfast casserole cooks completely through. You might like a couple more eggs, or different veggies, or maybe ham. We like pork sausage, but feel free to use turkey or chicken sausage - whatever YOU like!

Breakfast Casserole - Serves 10

1 pound bulk sausage, browned, drained, cooled
10 eggs, beaten well
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced sweet pepper
1 20-ounce bag refrigerated hash browns (we LOVE the Southwest flavor)*
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

You'll want to cool the sausage prior to adding to the eggs - the eggs will start to set if they get too hot. I usually put it in a paper-towel lined bowl (to absorb the grease) and then set the bowl in a sink partially filled with water to speed up the process.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs well. Then, add the veggies, hash browns, and cheese, then mix well. Add the cooled sausage and mix well.

Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with non-stick spray and pour the mixture in. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, until a knife inserted near the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting to serve.

*You can use your own fresh-shredded potatoes, also. If you'd like to assemble the breakfast casserole the night before baking, you can blanch your shredded potatoes for about 3 minutes in boiling water, then drain and shock with cold water. This will keep the potatoes from turning to mush overnight.



AYL Silicone Heat Resistant Grilling BBQ Gloves Set - Product Review

Pot Roast and AYL Silicone Heat Resistant Grilling BBQ Gloves

After receiving the AYL Silicone Heat Resistant Grilling BBQ Gloves in exchange for our inspection and unbiased review, we put them through the paces. While we didn't get pictures of them in action outside with the grill and smoker, Harry made good use of them.

We heated up the smoker one day, but forgot to remove a couple of the extra racks. Rather than trying to finagle the racks out with tools, or just leave them to get greasy from what was cooking above, Harry used the gloves to remove the racks for safekeeping. There was a slight smudge of soot on the silicone gloves, but rather than have to send them through the laundry, we just rinsed them in the sink and let them dry in just a few minutes.

If you know us, you know  that neither of us are petite people. Harry has huge hands and I don't have dainty, girly hands. Exhibit A:

While the fit was a bit snug on Harry's hands, they weren't so large on my hands that I couldn't use them. 

Accessorize Your Life offers a 12-month warranty when you purchase the AYL Silocone Heat Resistant Grilling BBQ Gloves via this link at Amazon. 

Chef Proven Zester/Grater - A Review

Shredding Aged Parmesan Cheese is a Breeze with the Chef Proven Zester/Grater

We were given the opportunity to review the Chef Proven Zester/Grater in exchange for my inspection and review.

We bought a microplane several months ago when we had problems creating a large amount of lemon zest to make homemade limoncello. It's divine, by the way - especially after it's been aging for a year. The microplane worked much better than our box graters - we were able to get more of the zest without the white pith. However, the microplane is about 2 inches wide, and we still didn't have as much control working around the fruit.

I like the 1-inch blade width on the Chef Proven Zester/Grater. I have much more control when it comes to zesting citrus. I can move the Zester/Grater along the rind, rather than moving the fruit along the microplane.

The blades are sharp and easily take care of hard, aged cheeses as well as softer, less-aged cheese. Nutmeg went from nut to dust in a flash. The handle fits nicely in both our (markedly different-sized) hands, and it's a breeze to wash in the sink. When I replace my Harry-model dishwasher, I'll be able to let you know about it's dishwasher capabilities.

Chef Proven offers a satisfaction guarantee and you can buy the Zester/Grater via Amazon at this link: Chef Proven Zester/Grater.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...