Occasionally I am prone to wanderlust and just as occasionally, it pays off big. Usually, actually. Add a new area code to that type of luck and you’ve got a recipe (heh) for some pretty amazing afternoons.
Like today, for example. Cleveland is an old city (founded 1796, almost 40 years before Chicago) and by 1920 became America’s fourth largest city. It has slipped now and as of 2010, is the 45th and by some evidence, continues to slide in spite of some really fantastic changes over the last five years. There is a neighborhood a few minutes west of downtown called Ohio City which is home to Great Lakes Brewery, several great little shops and restaurants catering particularly to beer snobs (score). I knew this, but I didn’t realize in what proximity they all were to today’s destination: The West Side Market.
The Market is old. Over 100 years in roughly the same spot, the same building. The architecture is beautiful, like every great train station waiting room you’ve ever seen. Glazed tiles on all sides, regular visitors and tourists, all wandering the corridors
amongst fish mongers, butchers, pasta guys, pastry booths, two booths which sell gyros (which Clevelanders unfortunately call “juy-rohs” in all seriousness) and one particularly lovely find: a proper Hungarian meat counter. I picked up a half pound of Kolbasz, a common Hungarian garlic sausage much to my mother’s delight, for $3. I also snagged a gorgeous four pound roast for pot roast (for about $17), a big fennel bulb and bunch of lovely thin asparagus for $5, two ridiculously tasty cheeses for about $6 and the other biggest splurge was from Ohio City Pasta. Four types of fettucine, one pound of sweet pea gnocchi and a small tub of truffle butter for $16.
Now, I know what you may be thinking: why would anyone spend that much money on something that is so simple to make yourself? Well for one thing, I work like 12 hours a day these days and don’t have it in me to cook when I get home. That includes making, rolling, cutting and drying pasta in particular. Besides, Ohio City Pasta is some of the very best pasta I’ve ever eaten in my life. Soft, pillowy, perfectly al dente every time, just salty enough and with these new purchases I get to try the flavors. Worth every penny, I venture to guess.
The pot roast has finished, a wonderful but very putzy recipe from Gourmet Magazine, 1998. I’ve prepared it for my co-workers and will transport it in a slow cooker, which I’ve never owned before now and see as a bit of a personal disappointment in doing so. It’s great for keeping food warm before service but I have yet to have a delicious, properly-seasoned meal come out of one. They almost always have to be doctored with additional salt and spices upon completion before eating and that seems like some half arsed cooking. That said, I’ll have to find new ways to use it besides some fancy hot plate.
After leaving the Market, I went across the street to Great Lakes for a quick lunch at the bar. One crispy thin mushroom/garlic/leek pizza, an Irish Ale and stout later I requested my check. As I waited, a woman came up behind me and said, “I just said to my friend, ‘I wish I could sit at the bar like the lady in the red sweater [me] and jeans, and just have a beer [rather than go back to work]’!” to which I replied, “four more hours and you can!” I should note at this point, women don’t drink or dine alone in Cleveland. I don’t know what people think of me when I do it, but I get more high fives about it from females than I did in Chicago because they see it as a sign of hyper independence or something. I paid my bill, hopped in my car and did not put the GPS on (a rare event). I drove west towards home and decided to stop near the lakeshore.
It was chilly and windy, but the sky was blue and the city looked peaceful. The park near my home has a huge playground dying for further investigation and a pool as well as beach access. I had no idea! I tried to explore on foot while we had that week of summer but I didn’t get very far. That’s ok though because it leaves a lot of time for future ramblings (foot and verbal).
After I got done crushing on the city, I hit up the grocery store for the rest of the pot roast ingredients. The check out lady said something like, “you’re sure making a fancy pot roast. Must be trying to impress someone!” I just smiled and said, “only me”. I doubt she bought that. Single in Cleveland is a strange place, they look at a person like I’m an obvious alien when all I’m trying to do is have a beer, or buy some turnips.
Nonetheless, I truly cannot wait to return to the Market. Not only am I excited for the
architecture and feeling in the place, but because I just might wind up with my very first Meat Guy. I’ve always wanted a Meat Guy.