Why? The Greenhouse Tavern!

This week, Friday Inspiration is on hiatus so that I can tell you about the amazing dinner that CLEguy and I were invited to last night at The Greenhouse Tavern featuring Chef Jonathon Sawyer of the Greenhouse Tavern and Chef Jeff Michaud of Osteria in Philadelphia.  

The Greenhouse Tavern...and hey, it's sunny in CLE!

With multiple James Beard nominations (and a win) between the two chefs, plus the numerous accolades given to both restaurants, this dinner was sure to be nothing short of outstanding.  Chef Michaud told me that he and Chef Sawyer originally met while sous chefs for their respective bosses on Iron Chef America.  For those of you curious, the secret ingredient was veal and Chef Michaud’s team beat our hometown favorites Chefs Symon and Sawyer.

The dinner began with a cocktail hour, featuring four appetizers: Grilled Stuffed Atlantic Calamari, Soft Stinky French Cheese Farm Egg Layered Omelette, Involtini di Muratori with Mortadella, and House-Cured Beef Speck with House-Made Sauerkraut.  This course was paired with an “Old School Ohio Punch” made with Cremant de Die and Fizzy Lizzy.

The punch was fantastic – fruity, but not too sweet with oranges and cherries that had marinated to being the tastiest way to get your five servings of fruit per day.  All of the appetizers were very tasty – my favorite was the involtini di muratori, which tasted like the most gourmet cheesesticks you could possibly imagine.  The speck and sauerkraut was also good – the sauerkraut provided the right tang and crunch with the speck.

We also got to sample some of The Greenhouse Tavern’s house-made vinegars.  All the vinegars used at the restaurant are made there.  Our favorite varieties were the rose wine vinegar, the pumpkin beer vinegar, and the late harvest vinegar.

At dinner, CLEguy and I had the pleasure of sitting with Michelle from Cleveland Foodie and her husband, Jamie.  I also got to meet Laura Taxel, whose book “Cleveland Ethnic Eats” was my first reader giveaway.  I was a very happy foodie getting to chat with these two ladies. 

For our dinner, both chefs prepared a selection for each course and all the food was served family-style.  The first course featured an Ohio Chevre Salad from Chef Sawyer and Wild Maryland Shrimp with Zolfini Bean Ragout from Chef Michaud.

The Ohio Chevre Salad used to be a regular option on The Greenhouse Tavern menu.  The greens are lightly dressed and topped with slices of creamy goat cheese and a confit of goat.  I will admit to never eating goat meat before and I will now admit to loving it.  The goat meat was rich and slightly smoky and complimented the greens and goat cheese perfectly.  The Wild Maryland Shrimp were perfectly cooked and the bean ragout gave the dish the feel of a low-country, New Orleans style meal.  This course was paired with Saison de Maison beer, aged 16 months.  This beer was made by the entire staff of The Greenhouse Tavern, which made it even more enjoyable.

The next course featured a Whole Salt-Roasted Veta La Palma Sea Bream with Roti Potato and French Radishes from Chef Sawyer and Capon Ravioli Alla Genovese from Chef Michaud.  The sea bream was brought out whole and encased in salt. Chef Sawyer and his staff then fileted the fish while we all watched in awe.
Chef Sawyer fileting our fish
The skin of the sea bream prevents the meat of the fish from becoming overly salty. This fish also comes from the only carbon-positive farm in the world – got to love The Greenhouse Tavern for being so eco-friendly!  This entire course was my favorite of the evening. The fish was flaky, mild, and truly unlike any other fish I’ve ever had. The potatoes and radishes paired nicely with it.
Chef Michaud’s ravioli was extraordinary. The pasta was so tender and the filling and sauce were delicious. This course was paired with a 2009 Billaud Simon Chablis, which made many white-wine detractors at our table think again.
Our third course was Pan-Braised Quail from Chef Sawyer and Rabbit in Porchetta from Chef Michaud.
Pan-Braised Quail with Farro, Hedgehogs, Porcinis, Morels, Baby Peas, White Asparagus, Fiddleheads & Wild Greens
Rabbit in Porchetts with Potatoes & Green Olives
The quail was one of CLEguy’s favorites of the evening.  Served medium rare, it was tender and flavorful.  And the mushrooms, peas, and asparagus (all Ohio-grown) brought a fresh, spring-like taste to the dish. 
The rabbit in porchetta definitely had a gamey taste, but also a wonderful, rich texture and flavor.  The potatoes with the rabbit dish were delicious, but as CLEguy points out, I never met a carb I didn’t like.
The best part of this course for me was the wine – a 2007 Molnar Family Pinot Noir which somehow matched both the fresh taste of the quail dish and stood up to the gamey taste of the rabbit.  We definitely purchased a bottle to take home with us.
Next came the dessert course…from Chef Sawyer, a hot buttered Ohio Apple Upside-Down Cake and from Chef Michaud, a Polenta Budino.

The apple cake had a delicious, sticky-sweet topping with slices of apples.  The cake itself was dense and the fromage blanc chantilly cream with lemon zest added the right amount of lightness and tanginess to the dish. 

I somehow don’t have a picture of the polenta budino, but that is possibly because I ate it all and the picture of me licking the bowl was not deemed blog-appropriate.  This dish was more like pudding than polenta – smooth and creamy.  The polenta was paired with a Gianduia Mousse and candied hazlenuts, which gave the dessert a nice texture.  Hands-down, one of the most amazing and interesting desserts I’ve ever had.  This course was paired with a 2007 Chauteau Richard Saussignac, a sweet dessert wine.

We still weren’t done eating though!  Next came the cheese course, featuring a cheese board from Chef Sawyer and Bufala Taleggio Fonduta with Porcini Frittelle from Chef Michaud (fried mushroom puffs of yummyness with creamy cheese fondue).  This course was paired with a house-made Ohio whiskey nocello (CLEguy got to drink mine too, as I have an aversion to whiskey).

Our evening ended with “thank you” cookies (I wish people would always thank me with cookies).  From Chef Sawyer, we had chocolate chip and crispy potato chip cookies.  I had heard about these during Restaurant Week and was thrilled to get to try this yummy combination of salty and sweet.  Chef Michaud provided Sbrisoluna with grappa.  For our final beverage, we had the choice of espresso with grappa or a “Jersey Speed Ball” (insert fist pump here).  The Jersey Speed Ball is a combination of iced espresso and cola.  Only one person at our table was brave enough to order it and I believe he won’t sleep until sometime next Tuesday.

After dinner, Chef Sawyer gave us a tour of The Greenhouse Tavern’s under-construction rooftop bar.  Set to open in May, this space will provide amazing views of East 4th Street and the CLE skyline and is sure to become the new hot summer patio hangout.  I know I’ll be spending many an evening relaxing with a cool beverage up there.

All in all, it was an evening of incredible food, wonderful conversation with people who love CLE, and a chance to rub shoulders with two amazingly talented chefs.  What better answer to “Why Cleveland?” do you need.  Head on over to The Greenhouse Tavern and check out one of my favorite answers to “Why Cleveland?” yourself!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend this dinner with a guest (CLEguy) courtesy of Chef Jonathon Sawyer and The Greenhouse Tavern in exchange for writing about my experience.  The opinions in this post are entirely my own.

9 Responses

  1. […] Why? The Greenhouse Tavern! The best part of this course for me was the wine – a 2007 Molnar Family Pinot Noir which somehow matched both the fresh taste of the quail dish and stood up to the gamey taste of the rabbit. We definitely purchased a bottle to take home . […]

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