Biga Wood Fired Pizzeria

We’ve been hearing quite a bit about Biga lately.  Kirtland is not close for us, but we happened to be out that way, so we decided to give it a try.  We are glad we did!  This is the best pizza we have had in a very long time!

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Margherita Pizza
Made-in-house fresh tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese and locally-grown basil

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Fresh, Sweet Sausage Pizza
Freshly crafted-in-house sweet sausage, locally-grown oregano, made-in-house tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese

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Special of the day – dates, prosciutto and rosemary cream

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Ho Ho

He said…My favorite pizza of the night was the specialty pizza.  I thought the ingredients, including the prosciutto, were excellent.  I especially liked the rosemary cream sauce, which was delicious.  I liked the margherita and the sausage pizza, however, I think I prefer Crostata’s versions of both pizzas.  In particular, I like Crostata’s sausage, which is spicier.  The dessert was just OK for me as the cake was a little dry.

She said…The crust!  The delicious, crispy yet chewy, flavorful devine crust!  There was a lot of talk comparing this pizza to Crostatas during this meal, but Biga has the clear edge in the crust department in my opinion.  And that specialty pizza with the rosemary cream was to die for!  It was the perfect balance of sweet and savory.  I agree that the Salsiccia pizza at Crostatas has a spicier flavor, which I also prefer, however, the Biga menu did describe the sausage as sweet.  The dessert was disappointing.  I can remember tearing open that silver Hostess Ho Ho wrapper and devouring it at lunch as a kid in school. Maybe it was the nostalgia, and the fact that they are no longer making them that made me order it.  Those Little Debbie impersonators are just not the same.  Unfortunately, this one was dry and pretty tasteless.  I’d skip dessert next time, but who cares?  The pizza is worth the trip.

There were a few mishaps with the service (one of our requests forgotten and the bill was not totaled when brought to us), but our server was young and very apologetic in a self deprecating way, so it didn’t bother us at all.  If Biga was closer to home, we would surely be regular customers.  The distance may keep us from going back often, but the pizza guarantees that we will be back!

Biga Wood Fired Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Retro Dog

He said…I love a good hot dog, and I’ve been wanting to check out Retro Dog since they opened back in the spring.  I finally had the chance last weekend.

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Ice cold Retro Dog Home Brewed Root Beer on draft

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Retro Dog – char-grilled natural casing dog topped with homemade Coney sauce, cheese sauce and diced onion

Carolina Dog – char-grilled natural casing dog topped with homemade Coney sauce coleslaw and yellow mustard

This is one of the better lunches I’ve had in a while.  I enjoyed both dogs, however, I have to give the edge to the Carolina Dog due to the creamy coleslaw and tangy yellow mustard.  And what better way to enjoy a hot dog than with an ice cold root beer.  The only criticism I have of the dogs is the bun, which is so large it almost overwhelms the dog.  In other words, the bread to dog ratio was off a bit.  Overall, I liked Retro Dog, and I would go back.  I haven’t had a chance to try Happy Dog yet, but it is next on my hot dog list!

Retro Dog on Urbanspoon

A Special Occasion at The Refinery

While spending some time in Florida over the winter break, we had a very special evening at one of our favorite restaurants in the Tampa area, The Refinery.  We contacted The Refinery a few weeks ahead of time to see if they could accommodate our party of fourteen.  Although it’s a fairly small place, they made room for us, and made some great dishes inspired by some of our requests.

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Little Neck Clams – bacon-shrimp-yellow tomato broth, escarole, eggplant cracker

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Salad – house ricotta, beet, tomato, sherry-leek vinaigrette

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BBQ Ugly – soy-vinegar braised pork belly, green peppercorn biscuit, duxelle, smoked tomato compote, whey, scallion oil

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Pink Florida Gulf Shrimp – garlic, anchovy, escarole, lemon-green peppercorn polenta cake, mizuna, nutmeg vinaigrette

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Hanger Steak – roasted potatoes, broccoli pesto, mustard greens, salsa verde

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Beer and Peppercorn Braised Pork Shoulder – tasso grit cakes, collards, kumquat jam

He said…As you can see from the meal, pork was definitely the featured item.  The BBQ Ugly was one of the most creative dishes that I have eaten and it was delicious. The braised pork shoulder was superb and the tasso grit cakes were inspired.  The other highlight for me were the little neck clams.  In particular, the broth had a delicious bacon flavor.

She said…Everything was good, but the star of the evening for me was by far the BBQ Ugly.  I could’ve eaten a bunch of those little porky pot pies!  The pork was so moist and flavorful, and that biscuit was perfection.  The many ingredients all came together in a fantastic way.

Thanks to the efforts of Chef Baker and his wife Michelle, we had a very memorable evening.  We love chef’s creativity, and were thrilled that he incorporated some of our suggestions into the menu.  As always, we give The Refinery two thumbs up!

Michael’s A.M.

We go to Michael’s A.M. in Akron for breakfast basically because of their eggs Benedict.  We’ve found that many breakfast places fail miserably at this dish.  At Michael’s, they know how to do it right.  The egg, of course, is the star of the dish, and should be poached to perfection.  So many times at other restaurants we have cut into that first bite only to be utterly disappointed when nothing oozes onto the plate.  The English muffin is also an important component.  It must be crispy.  The hollandaise sauce should not be too thick, and it absolutely must have a lemony zing to it.  Michael’s consistently delivers in all of these categories.  So if you have a craving for the Benedict, head down to the valley and visit Michael’s.  The service is always fast and friendly as well. 

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And by the way, our daughter thinks their waffles are pretty good too!

Michael's A.M. on Urbanspoon

The Top Five Things We Ate This Year

We thought we’d wrap up 2012 with a list of the top five things we’ve eaten this year (in no particular order)!

He said…

Braised Natural Short Ribs, polenta and speck polpette, espresso agro dolce glaze, smokey jus – Bottega, Yountville, California

Slow cooked Sonoma duck leg risotto – Tra Vigna, St. Helena, California

Cubano Torta – pork belly + smoked ham + swiss + pickle + dijon + yucca – The Mission, Scottsdale, Arizona

Chicken Mole – Rancheros Taqueria, Akron, Ohio

Pork Osso Bucco – Downtown 140, Hudson, Ohio

She said…

Mozzarella Cheese “AL MINUTO” – Tra Vigne, Saint Helena, California

Oven roasted bone marrow spiced pumpkin butter – Blue Duck Tavern, Washington D.C.

Chicken Mole – Rancheros Taqueria, Akron, Ohio

The Original Chopped Salad – Citizen Public House, Scottsdale, Arizona

Arborio Risotto alla carbonara, house cured pancetta, soft poached egg, truffle puree – D.B.A., Akron, Ohio

Happy New Year!

Spice Kitchen and Bar

We’ve been wanting to try Spice Kitchen and Bar for a while now, and finally made it to Gordon Square with friends recently on a Saturday night. We had a great experience at the last Plated Landscape Dinner we attended earlier this year, which was catered by Spice of Life, so we were excited to see what was on the menu at their restaurant. The menu is small (generally a good thing in our book) but contains a good variety of dishes.

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MUSHROOM BEIGNETS honey goat cheese crème fraiche

We liked the beignets. They had a subtle mushroom flavor and were perfectly crispy on the outside while remaining light and fluffy on the inside.

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PAN-SEARED WALLEYE cauliflower purée, rapini, chermoula sauce

He said…I liked this dish a lot. The fish was perfectly cooked with a nice crust on the outside. However, I thought the cauliflower purée put this dish over the top. The purée was creamy and very flavorful.

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PUMPKIN RISOTTO shaved parmesan, mushroom salad

She said…This dish was just OK for me. The risotto was cooked well, the ingredients were certainly fresh and of high quality, but I didn’t really care for the chunks of pumpkin in the dish. I wouldn’t order this again, but I would definitely go back to try something else.

Our friends were happy with the dishes they ordered including the polenta chickpea fries, the grilled ribeye and the porkstrami sandwich.

We really enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant, and the service was very good as well. We love that owner/chef Bebenroth grows much of what he uses himself, and sources most of his other products locally. It shows in the quality of the dishes. We will definitely try Spice again, and look forward to different seasonally inspired dishes.

Spice Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Scottsdale, Arizona

We love the food scene in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Here are a few of our favorites from our last trip there.

The Mission

We’ve eaten at The Mission several times and love the modern latin menu.  It’s a fairly lively and casual vibe and the service is always great.

A great way to start the trip…mojitos on the sunny patio!

Pork Shoulder Taco – pork shoulder + pineapple glaze + cilantro + cotija

She said…I loved every bite of these little tacos.  They were small, but came in a trio and were so fresh and full of flavor!  The pork shoulder was tender and juicy, and all the bold flavors went together perfectly.

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Cubano Torta – pork belly + smoked ham + swiss + pickle + dijon + yucca

He said…This was fantastic!  The pork belly and ham was a delicious and savory combination and the fried egg made each bite taste like brunch!  Together with the yucca and pickles, this was one substantial sandwich.

The Mission on Urbanspoon
Citizen Public House

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THE ORIGINAL CHOPPED SALAD 

This salad has corn, couscous, smoked salmon, asiago, pepitas, tomatoes, arugula and currants with a buttermilk pesto dressing.  It is simply amazing!  You know a salad is good when it has its own Facebook page!

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PAN SEARED SCALLOPS
Hampshire bacon, roasted corn grits,
wilted snow pea greens & Red Rock cola gastrique

She said…the scallops were perfectly cooked, the grits were creamy and I loved the gastrique, which gave the dish a great pop of flavor.

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APPLEWOOD SMOKED DUCK
Maple Leaf farms duck breast, creamy rosemary millet, spiced pistachios, sauteed greens

He said…If duck is on the menu, I’ll order it most of the time.  I’m glad I ordered this dish, because it was right up my alley.  The duck was a perfect medium rare with a great smoky taste.  I loved the millet, which was a nice change from a traditional potato or polenta.  This was a perfect comfort food meal, which I love.
Citizen Public House on Urbanspoon

Cowboy Ciao

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Chicken-Fried Trout buttermilk/sambal marinated, with Sriracha/dill rémoulade & Thai chile/mint slaw

She said…This was delicious!  I loved the spice of the slaw, the fish was nicely cooked and the batter was perfectly crunchy.

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Korean-Style BBQ Short Ribs braised in honeydew/pear/Asian BBQ sauce with quinoa, wilted leeks and baby bok choy in crème fraîche and wasabi

He said…I really like this Asian-inspired take on short ribs.  The preparation of the short ribs was a nice combination of sweet and savory.  The quinoa, wilted leeks and baby bok choy balanced the dish nicely.

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Exotic Mushroom Pan Fry (cremini, button, oyster, cepe, lobster, black trumpet, shiitake, morel, yellow foot mushrooms) in ancho cream over double-cooked polenta, all topped with grilled portabellini, avocado, Roma tomato and cotija cheese

One of their signature items, this unique mushroom dish really blew us away!
Cowboy Ciao on Urbanspoon

We would head back to any of these Scottsdale restaurants without hesitation!