Here’s to new food options in Avon Lake!

Avon Lake is a great place to call home. I am happy it is mine. If it has one shortcoming though, a lack of quality food options might be it. I find the restaurant options to be somewhat limited and lacking and, frankly, I think I’m being kind by putting it this way. There’s pizza, pizza and more pizza, a couple of Asian choices and then a smattering of other spots that I don’t hate but don’t love. A few spots easily qualify for an episode Gordon Ramsay’s  Kitchen Nightmares. The town has seen many cafes and restaurants come and go: Bar Symon, Atlanta Bread Company, Arabica and the list goes on. Not sure of the specifics around each closing but I assume it is the standard reason – patronage volumes that are lower than required to sustain the business.

Perhaps I’m a harsher critic as I have a handful of particulars to consider when selecting a restaurant: I’m vegetarian, my husband is a carnivore and we have a child under 2. I also want to mention that I’m a bit of a foodie who is also into natural and organic foods. Add to this that I’m also a big proponent of supporting local, independent resturants. Surely you can see that my finding qualified food options  falls just shy of a mini miracle.

The good news is that several new spots just opened or will be shortly within Avon Lake so I’ll have some new options and so will you!

Jenni Juggs (Now Open!)

http://avon-oh.patch.com/users/lori-e-switaj

Photo credit: Lori E. Switaj

The name is interesting and certainly memorable. One might interpret it for a different type of establishment (or at least this is the reaction I’ve received from most people when I share the name) but the truth is that it is billed as a quaint spot offering finger-lickin’ good Southern Comfort Food. This is certainly a new category to be represented in the far west side of Cleveland. The menu features the expected southern classics: chicken and waffles, cornmeal-crusted catfish, hush puppies, cole slaw and sweet tea. The “sides” menu is tempting enough for me to order just from it. Recent reviews that I’ve read report a cute and pleasant atmosphere, tasty mac ‘n’ cheese and cornbread and promises of return visits.

The location is on the eastern end of Avon Lake in the northern end of the Learwood Plaza (the Giant Eagle plaza, as locals refer to it) and is the fully renovated former home of an Italian restaurant (another example of an Avon Lake restaurant gone bye-bye). I’m tickled as this location is a five-minute bike ride from my house making it a great choice for a weekday dinner or a weekend brunch spot. With the addition of Jenni Juggs, the Learwood Plaza has become an even more enjoyable, diverse destination. You can get a pedicure at Luxury Nails, enjoy an order of fried green tomatoes at Jenni Juggs, browse a newly opened Goodwill location, stop by the Ron Zehel Guitar Center for a new set of strings, and finally grab a few groceries at Giant Eagle.

Hours: Tuesday- Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and regular service 2 p.m .- 9 p.m. Takeout is also available. 440-653-5255

Cafe Melissa (Coming November 2012!)

I recently enjoyed a veggie burger from Sweet Melissa at the 2012 Avon Lake Summer Market. I’ve also enjoyed their food at their Rocky River location over the last several years. While ordering my burger at the Summer Market, I overheard talk that they would be opening a location in Avon Lake come this November. I was thrilled at the news! (I was also thrilled when they gave me a Free Appetizer gift card for the new location.)

The Sweet Melissa location in Avon Lake will be called Cafe Melissa and will be open for breakfast every day starting at 9 a.m. The menu is to be announced although I’m hoping that at least most of my favorites from the Rocky River location will carry over. The Cafe Melissa location will be in the former Donatos building on Walker Road just West of Route 83/Avon Belden Road.

Hours: Monday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

A Mediterranean Restaurant (Coming soon!)

So, I have to say that I don’t have any confirmed info on this new food offering other than what I have heard through the grapevine around town but I want to believe it so I’m sharing! The story is that a new Mediterranean restaurant is opening in the former Tucky’s location (ah, yet another former Avon Lake restaurant and, wow, this one really didn’t last long). There are signs of work being started at the former Tucky’s location so there could be some validity to the rumors. Let’s hope so. Location-wise, it is literally a stone’s throw from the new Jenni Juggs. Hopefully, with two very different cuisines, the restaurants will complement versus threaten each other. I’ll be sure to share more on this one as news develop!

Let’s eat!

So for now, give Jenni Juggs a try and let me know what you think! I will be checking it out soon myself and using the $10 gift card that they gave to the Luxury Nails salon to distribute to its customers. (Kudos to both Jenni Juggs and Cafe Melissa for including an enticement in their grand opening promotional efforts. It works!)

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The Summer Market.

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I’m looking forward to The Summer Market in Avon Lake next weekend. Friday and Saturday, July 27-28, 2012, to be exact. There will be plenty of quality vendors offering up their wares from furniture to jewelry, fresh produce to home decor and more. And some great food courtesy of Sweet Melissa, Sweet Basil, Sweet! ( a mobile cupcakery), Fahrenheit, Woolson Concessions and Humble Pie Bakery make the event even more irresistible. Extras include live music and a photographer to help you capture the moment. Oh, and did I mention the park is at the water’s edge of Lake Erie? Get there!

KEY INFO

Route 83 & Lake Road at Veterans Park, Avon Lake, OH

July 27: 5-9 pm

July 28: 9 am-4 pm

Great Food in a Strip Mall.

You don’t expect to find a restaurant serving delicious, natural food in a strip mall set back from Bagley Road in Berea, Ohio. I drove past it the first time I was visitng. The strip mall features two businesses: a gym and Tree Hugger’s Cafe. The cafe which serves meat and meat-free (including vegan) food is tucked away and frankly I’m shocked it stays open with such an out-of-the-way location. (I’m a foodie and a long-time vegetarian and I had never heard of the place.) But nevertheless, I am happy it is there and to have found it.

I have to do a little sidebar here on the name of the cafe because it gets under my skin a bit. I take issue with anything that is healthy or natural needing to go to the hippie side of things. Why does a love for animals and planet need to go hand in hand with tie-dye? I don’t wear Birkenstocks. I don’t even like patchouli. I do enjoy amazing food that is also natural, locally produced and nutritious. And Tree Hugger’s uses almost 100% organic ingredients and buys its produce when in season from local farmers. They also purchase their bread, coffee and other items from local independent businesses.

But the good news is that…

…the delicious food options more than make up for the cafe’s name. My current addiction: the black cactus black bean patty burger. With the perfect touch of spicy flavor, the generous patty is piled high with lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese, mango salsa and fresh avocado slices. And the bun it is all nested on doesn’t disappoint either. With the burger comes your choice of side. I always go for the dill coleslaw (vegan). I’ve never had a dill-flavored cole slaw but it is all I want from this point forward. It is a crunchy dish probably due to a lack of mayo that is not missed in the least. This is a large meal and I usually end up taking half of the sandwich home.

Another favorite is the hummus which comes with veggies and warm pita for dipping. I’m pretty picky about my hummus and this one is herby, creamy and scores major points. I would order it as my meal. And don’t miss out on the hand-cut fries. They are fresh-tasting and cooked to perfection.

Tree Hugger’s scores extra points with me for also offering the following:
– Kombucha: pretty tough to find in the Cleveland area. (The only two places I have been able to buy it so far are Nature’s Bin and Good ‘n’ Raw–both in Lakewood.)

– Chocolate Chip Cookies: as big as your head (Plus an array of other delicious desserts.)

– Drive thru window: perfect for calling ahead and picking up your order at lunch time

So get check out this hidden spot. You’ll enjoy some great food and leave feeling like you also did your body good.

Quick Links:
Menu
Map: 1330 Bagley Road, Berea OH 44017

Sunday at the Bakery.

Today, I had a lovely time kicking back with my husband and good friend. The three of us enjoyed coffee and pastry treats at the Blackbird Baking Company in Lakewood. I had a raspberry jammer. I would have shown you a photo of it with this post (because they are quite pretty) but I had polished it off by the time I remembered that I was supposed to take a photo. Hey–it happens. And that is testament to just how delicious it was.

If you haven’t checked out this spot on the borderline between Lakewood and Rocky River, you should. Hang out there with a friend or bring along your laptop. And make sure you take a fresh loaf of bread home with you as well. I’m going to enjoy one of their multigrain options as toast tomorrow morning.

mindful eating.

mindful is probably a word we need to remember to put in front of most verbs these days. good examples would be mindful driving or mindful listening. but awareness is also a good thing when we’re talking about what you decide to put in your body.

this morning, i ran across a fun-to-read article on this topic that even includes some pretty simple recipes at the end and wanted to share: HOMEMADE CONDIMENTS: JUST LIKE GRANDMA MADE. i’m excited to try the homemade hummus recipe. i think i’ve finally hit a  point where i need to move on from trader joe’s hummus or at least take a break.

the article is on a new magazine’s site called shoestring: good for the wallet, good for the planet. it’s a cute, easy-to-navigate site with all kinds of thrifty and eco ideas. so check out the article. i’m off to explore the site some more!


four ingredients.

roasted brussel sprouts and shallots (ina garten’s recipe)

what you need:

brussel sprouts

shallots

olive oil

course salt

figure out the ratios of the above to your liking. then chop off the ends of the sprouts and discard the outer leaves. then half or quarter them depending on size. chop up your shallots into small strips. spread the brussel sprouts and shallots on a cookie sheet. (one with sides is best.) drizzle with olive oil and add your salt. toss. throw it in the oven at 400 degrees and roast for 25-35 minutes. pull the pan out once during that time and shake the ingredients around so they evenly cook.

and then enjoy. so yummy and so easy! not to mention, it’s a full serving of veggies, my friends!

one cute thing. one sad thing.

so the cute thing is my bunny rabbit salt and pepper grinders. you squeeze their ears to make the magic happen. and they are magnetic and hang out on the fridge greeting you each time you reach for chocolate almond milk (it’s so good, people).

the sad thing is my orchid. it was so stinking healthy when i bought it. what happened!? i am following the care instructions–watering with two ice cubes once a week. um, it’s not working…obviously. any suggestions? i really want this little guy to pull through.

(okay–i just bumped my desk on which the orchid sits and another petal fell off. send help now!)

tomato soup and cast iron skillet cornbread.

i made two recipes from my new cookbook veganomicon by isa chandra moskowitz and terry hope romero. i was so pleased and relieved when they both turned out to be delicious and satisfying. i say relieved because there is nothing worse than spending loads of dough on ingredients, slaving in the kitchen for two hours and then sitting down to a less than tasty meal.

you would never know that the creamy tomato soup is vegan. i used two cans of fire roasted tomatoes. one of the two had diced peppers in it which kicked up the heat a notch or two. it was a nice touch. my husband awarded the highest of compliments to this soup. he said it was a soup he would expect to get at the souper market. and note–he is not a vegan. so that is double the points!

the cornbread has a great texture. it’s not too sweet either–just right. i’ve made other vegan cornbread recipes and none compare to this one. and there is something about making it in the cast iron skillet that makes it even more special.

i’m eyeing up a few other recipes in this book including leek and bean cassoulet with biscuits. leeks are so magical. plus it’s another opportunity to use my cast iron skillet.

gogo squeez got me.

i had just read a blurb in brand packaging magazine about the great new packaging of a great new product called gogo squeez. and then today,  i spotted it at nature’s bin! i knew that i had to take it home with me.

IMG_6367the outer packaging is a chipboard material decorated with the endearing illustrations of the apple and cinnamon contents. who knew what the feet of those two items looked like? heck, who knew apples and cinnamon even had feet? well, they do and i’m glad!

the peek-a-boo cut-out window that wraps from the top panel to the front IMG_6359reveals the four individual packs of applesauce on the go that are nestled inside. the individual packs are of the squeeze variety making for some fun interaction with one’s food. the twist-on cap keeps the experience neat and tidy (compared to a tear squeeze pouch), and allows one to enjoy applesauce now and save some for later.

there are so many occasions for which this product is ideal. let’s see: school lunches, work lunches, camping, backpacking, picnicking. and just because! one should never underestimate that final application. why not surround yourself with cute, smart, quality products? gogo squeez is improving the quality of my life and i’m loving it!

packaging gets me every time.

IMG00187IMG00188i’m a sucker for it. i am known to buy things i don’t need strictly due to the cute, fancy or special packaging it comes in.

for instance, i have a brand new jar of peanut butter in my cupboard. i didn’t need these individual serving packets. but, look at them! so small and just so darn cute. the little peanut illustration describing the variety. ooh, i could not resist. and the interactive aspect of the packet. just tear, squeeze and enjoy. and i do have to say that the peanut butter really is yummy. (you can pick some up at nature’s bin in lakewood.)

and then there is my fancy dish soap that i found at target. the fresh, yet vintage look of the bottle shape, label design and font choices. why am i so easy? i bought this when i didn’t even need soap. and the best part is that i end up dumping it into my four-year old, pump-equipped sun light bottle anyway. (the j.r. watkins stuff is upside down so i can get every last drop.)

so does the packaging make the stuff inside better? i think so. sure–there are times when even the best packaging in the world can’t save a sub-par product. but good packaging most certainly always helps enhance a product. and regardless, it got me to make the purchase, and isn’t that the point?