Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: December 2012


Accepting the way the cookie crumbles...

Last week, I had the chance to participate in a Christmas activity for the first time in my life: festive cookie baking.

Now, I've baked mad stashes of cookies in the past, during various times of the year, but there's a charm to the special Christmas-only cookies that come with the season. Also, since I was staying in NE Ohio this weekend instead of making my weekly migration down to Columbus to see my husband, it gave me something to do that Saturday before he showed up.

M&M Candy Cookies and Butterballs! The powdered sugar on the Butterballs was all me.
What made this special was that I was creating treats from recipes that were several generations old, passed down from a grandmother who worked at a historical bakery in Cleveland and could whip up a dish regardless of what was in the pantry. Some additions have been made through the years, and as a guest I had the chance to indulge in a tradition with legendary concoctions that were many years in the making.

My first go at using a cookie press. I can say they came out quite well.
Preparing the Pinwheels for a trip through the oven.
The finished products! After posting this picture on Facebook, I was getting requests to send a number of these to California. Maybe I should quit my day job in December and just do this.


Food Review: Melt Bar and Grilled (Mentor, OH)

On a random Tuesday a few weeks ago I had the chance to visit a newly-opened Melt Bar and Grill restaurant in Mentor at the corner of OH-306 and US-20 (Mentor Ave.). It is a place that specializes in, like its name suggests, gourmet melted grilled cheese sandwiches. There are several of these in the Cleveland area and this one was their newest, most eastern location.

When I first entered the restaurant, I was immediately bombarded with a visual explosion of wall artwork and random decor of throwback Cleveland/Ohio-related photos, license plates, and the remnants of other restaurants its high walls. I spent quite a bit of time admiring the artwork, since the wait was quite long for a table for two (I was meeting up with a co-worker), about 30-35 minutes to be exact. So I used the time to peruse the menu, that was creatively pasted on the back of old LP record jackets, and check out the eccentric decor.

The ceiling was chock full of cultural references.
Tony Bennett on one side, a grilled cheese selection on the other.
At least I know where all the lighted, plastic-molded lawn decorations go to retire.
Once we were seated in very close quarters in a half-booth with other guests flanking us on both sides, we waited another five minutes for our server to arrive. I would've figured that most customers were ready to order by then with all the downtime, and I also wondered if they were understaffed for the evening.

So I killed time by staring at the menu again. Their drink selection did surprise me. Aside from the standard Coke products that one would see at a restaurant they also had a very extensive choice of root beers and ginger ale. For that evening I went with a bottle of Boylan's ginger ale, a bit stronger than the standard Segram's or Canada Dry variety.

For an appetizer, I requested a small cup of the Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup. Their version of this very common accessory to grilled cheese sandwiches was a bit unusual in both taste and texture. It had a very chunky consistency that made the mixture not very soupy, and I found a little bit too salty for my liking - this definitely needed to be taste tested before it made its way out to the customers. For a moment I thought I was eating hot, chunky salsa and I don't mean the spicy kind.

I did find the serving plates and bowls to be quite amusing. My soup was served in a throwback mug that one would find at a yard sale. Like the old LP covers that held the menus, it gave the place a much more homely, casual feel. The Goldfish crackers were a surprise, too.

For my main course selection I went with the gyro melt sandwich which was gyro meat, onions, and cheese melted in between two pieces of giant sourdough Texas toast sliced bread. The sandwich came with a side of freshly fried french fries. The sandwiches were so stuffed that it was a struggle to get through an entire half potion. The other half became the next day's work lunch.

Top: Mushroom Melt ($9), Bottom: Gyro Melt ($11). Both include a generous helping of fresh cut french fries, a scoop of homemade coleslaw, and a pickle.
Although the restaurant's concept and menu selection was very interesting and unique, it did have a few flaws first off the top. The French fries were a little burnt and reduced to inedible chips when I reached the bottom. Additionally, I found the gyro meat in the Gyro Melt to lack a bit of flavor and it seemed to overpower the entire sandwich. On the other hand, the Mushroom Melt was very flavorful and you could taste the carmelized onions and provolone cheese. In summary, it was a lot of food to behold but I felt the flair and flavor to be lacking, and there were moments in between bites when I wondered why people would wait close to an hour for a seat here.

My verdict? It's a chill place to visit, if you're patient and have a huge appetite. Usually those two traits don't go together, and I'd have to try a few more of the entrees to really judge if it's worth the wait. Personally, I wouldn't sit around for more than 15 minutes for a table to eat here, but I guess it has enough a charm that people are willing to do that.

Melt Bar and Grilled is located at 7289 Mentor Ave. in Mentor inside of the Points East Shopping Center. You can see their selections on their website at

Melt Bar and Grilled  on Urbanspoon


One last ride in NE Ohio for 2012...

A few weeks ago, Matt and I went out on the bike one one of the last nicer days of 2012 in NE Ohio to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

One of our stops was at Brandywine Falls, a popular destination here in the park. Here are a few photos from that location.

After our visit, we scooted over to Cuyahoga Falls to have an old favorite snack at Strickland's Frozen Custard. We've known about this place for a number of years (there's a location in Irvine, CA), but this was the first time Matt had ice cream from this store in Ohio. I had gone to the original location in nearby Akron in 2009.

Due to my current living situation up here in NE Ohio, Eleanor's on vacation down in Columbus with Matt until the weather thaws out enough that I can ride every day again without risking my battery draining overnight due to the excessive cold. At the minimum, was a great detour to break the monotony of the car for just a little while.