Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Greenhouse Tavern in Downtown Cleveland

Table vs Chef Sawyer

Some of you might be wondering why I've titled this review Table vs Chef Sawyer....Well here is some background information that will clear that up.  I like to watch a show on Travel Channel called Man vs Food.  The main point of the show is that Adam Richman travels the county looking for some of the best food that comes in huge portions and he tries to conquer the food by eating everything.   

Tonight, Chef Sawyer challenged our table with an onslaught of food that I've never seen in my near 31 years of life! I posted a message on Chef Sawyers Facebook wall simply saying that I was going to dinner at The Greenhouse Tavern at 7pm and that I hoped to have a chance to meet him.  I did this because I thought it would help take my blog to another level to be able to add a little more information to my review about meeting the head chef and talking to him about the restaurant and the food!  What happened when we sat down to eat is the story I am going to tell you, all of which was 100% unexpected!!  

Food--I will begin by telling you what we "ordered" first.  Our table of four ordered a single basket of pommes frites to share.  These were no ordinary fries, I'll explain later.  I ordered the Fresh Cod and my girlfriend ordered an Artichoke Risotto.  The other couple ordered Curried Spaghetti Squash and a Grass Fed Ohio Beef Burger.  Again, I'll get into flavors and what else came with each meal in a bit. 
Now...what we ordered and what showed up at our table were two very different things.  Much to our surprise a special 1st plate arrived at our table.  It was a Crispy Hominy.  It came with crispy pork skin cracklins, pickled red onion, parsley, cilantro, jalapenos,  and lime juice.  The crispy pork skin was so addictive I could have eaten them all night.  I loved how the spiciness from the jalapenos played with the lime juice and how the fresh herbs just added so much flavor to what was already a super flavorful dish!    Just as we were finishing devouring this 1st plate, a 2nd surprise plate arrived at our table.  Along with a 3rd dish which was two, not one, basket of pommes frites that we had actually ordered.
The 2nd surprise dish was a plate of wings.  Of course these wings were fried in duck fat!  They were topped with jalapenos, green onion, and caramelized onions.  The duck fat frying did something magical to the skin because it was crispy, not a bit greasy, and the flavor it added was super delicious.  My friend who was with us ate about half of the dozen wings they were so good.  I again loved the little bit of kick they had to go with the crispy skin! 
The fries, pommes frites, were also fried in duck fat and were simply seasoned with rosemary and sea salt.  They came with a wonderfully creamy garlic aioli sauce.  What the duck fat frying did for the wings, it did the same for the fries.  Crispy and full of flavor, these were an absolute hit at the table and the aioli dipping sauce only made them better which was hard to believe.  Now at this point we were licking our fingers clean (not literally) and we are all saying "How are we going to finish our Entrees?"   Of course not 2 minutes later a 4th and 5th surprise plate were brought to our table!
The 4th plate was a parchment wrapped and steamed combination of Matsutake Mushroom,  Chanterelle mushrooms, couscous, rosemary, and brown butter.  I don't like mushrooms so I left this for the others at the table to try and they said if you love mushrooms this was something you should 100% get.  
While they were scarfing down the mushrooms I was busy eating the wonderful 5th dish which was whole grilled PadrĂ³n Peppers that were paired with  heirloom garlic, shallots, and lemon zest.  Chef Sawyer made a quick appearance at the table to thank us for coming to dinner and he joked about how some of the peppers might be a 5 in terms of hotness and some would be a 10!  My first bite was about a 9 which my friends was about a 6.  Each pepper had its own personality in terms of heat and flavor and the roasting of them only brought that quality out more.  The garlic and shallots only added to what was one of my personal favorite so far!   At this point we are honestly in shock as to the scale of this meal.  What came next had us even more blown away.   
A 6th dish was brought to each of us!  Duck and Pumpkin Pasta!  Imperial Pumpkin Beer, squash, roasted pumpkin, duck , pancetta peppato, garganelli pasta, pecorino cheese, and brown buttered sage.  I don't know how they did it but this was unreal.  The pasta was cooked perfectly and the duck meat just fell apart it was so tender.  The pumpkin flavor, pumpkin beer, and brown sugar flavors all were present but all played so well together.   I personally was shock and awed at this dish.  My taste buds absolutely loved every flavor that was combined so carefully into this dish.  Every single dish we had so far had great attention to detail, to me this dish just stood out because of how well the pumpkin, duck, cheese, brown sugar, ect all played off each other to make a dish that I could eat on a daily basis!  After this pasta dish the four of us are seriously getting FULL!   Then, five to ten minutes pass and our entrees come out.  Our entrees mark our 7th dish tonight!
I ordered the fresh Cod that came with spicy soubise, parisian gnocchi, coppa de testa and braised summer cabbage.   The fish was perfectly cooked. It was flaky, moist and extremely flavorful.  The gnocchi was also made with great care and it really had a great consistency to it.  The summer cabbage really just melted in your mouth and really paired well with the texture  of the fish.  The soubise had a kick to it but remained very rich and flavorful.  The onion flavors in the sauce were present but not at all overwhelming.  This dish was a hit with me and I somehow managed to eat every bite of the fish and I wouldn't have left a bit of gnocchi there for anything!
My girlfriend ordered the Artichoke Risotto with cardoon soffritto, celery, lemon,  shallot, and parmesan cheese.  Her take on it was that it was very flavorful and the risotto was cooked just right!  The notes of celery, shallot and lemon came through and the artichoke didn't overpower the flavor of the dish at all.  Creamy, velvety, and delicious were all words she used to sum up her dish!
Next, my friend Jenna ordered the Curried Spaghetti Squash.  It came with toasted chick peas, heirloom garlic and spice toasted seeds.  The consistency and texture of this dish were simply out of this world.  The curry and garlic flavored squash had such a wonderfully pleasing flavor to it that it really made you want to go back for another bite.  The problem was that by this point we were pretty much stuffed!

The final entree ordered was by my friend Andrew.  He choose the Grass Fed Ohio Beef Burger.   It came topped with with raclette cheese, fresh tomato, guss’ pickle, and came with a side of pommes frites.  The burger was cooked to a perfect medium and was full of flavor!   Andrew even commented that he very rarely sees his burger cooked this perfectly.  As hard as he tried Andrew couldn't knock this burger down even though he said it tasted amazing.  The side of pommes frites were just a tease because as much as the whole table loved them earlier we only had room to have just a few more!

So our meal is over...right???  We cannot possible eat another thing..right??? NOPE!!!

Next our waiter brings over four little containers of hot muddled cider, an 8th course!  When he said hot, he meant it!  He poured it into the extra large snifters and we let it cool a little before drinking it.  The hot muddled cider had a twist to was barrel aged in a bullet bourbon barrel!!  This cider had some kick to it and I really really enjoyed  the bourbon hints that it had.  He cautioned us not to finish it because apparently Chef Sawyer had something else up his sleeve that pairs with this drink.   

For our 9th course out comes a plate that contains an apple tart with caramel, sweet potato ice cream and goat cheese.   The goat cheese paired with the hot muddle cider so well.  The firm tangy flavor of the cheese really complemented the warm cider/bourbon flavor! The apple tart was warm and the apples were soft but not mushy.  The cinnamon and sweet caramel flavors really were a delight.  The sweet potato ice cream was creamy and no one had problems finding a little more room for this wonderful desert!   The girls really loved this dish and so did us boys...but the boys got a 10th dish that was a beer drinkers dream.  We each received a Beer Granita.  The beer used was  Belgian single blond.  It was frozen and shaved into what was a beer slushy!  Andrew said these words upon first taste "Tell me when I can find this at Dairy Queen!"  It was simply amazing and a perfect way to end this amazing meal. 

This meal was far and above anything I've ever experienced.  I had no idea any of this was going to happen, I just wanted to meet Chef Sawyer!  What he did for us in the two and a half hours we were there was he showed us what can happen when a great culinary mind thinks outside of the box and has a real passion for food.  The seasoning on each and every dish was spot on.  The plating of each dish was careful and meticulous. There was a clear attention to detail with every single plate that was brought to our table that you don't find at too many restaurants.  There wasn't a dish that we wouldn't order again.  My personal favorite was the duck and pumpkin pasta.   I would 100% order that as my main dish next time I go to The Greenhouse Tavern.  I really hope someone at Food Network gives Chef Sawyer a shot at the Next Iron Chef, because after tonight I'm a believer!  In the battle of Table vs Chef Sawyer, Chef Sawyer definitely won! This is by far a 5/5 for food.

Drinks--The Greenhouse Tavern has a wonderful selection of wine, beer and other mixed drinks.  Tonight the gentlemen stuck to the Craftbeers and the ladies had a bottle of red wine.  The red wine that the ladies  picked was recommenced by our waiter.  They asked for a dry, red wine and that is exactly what they got.  I sampled it and the flavors were excellent, red berry and oak flavors came through and the dryness was right up my ally as well.  I was very very pleased with the selection of draft and bottled Craftbeers.   My beer choices for the evening will all be reviewed individually on the Craftbeer Review Page.  You can also get to the review by clicking on the links below.  I started with a special beer brewed by Victory just for the Greenhouse Tavern.  It was called Greenhouse Tavern Victory Lager.  Next, I moved onto the Southern Tier 2XIPA.  Third, I had the Bell's Expedition Stout and finally I had the Ithaca Flower Power.  I also had a small sample of the special Saison du BUFF that was brewed for Greenhouse as well.  It was an excellent Saison and I would get it if they still have it when I go back. Overall we were all very pleased with the selection and the quality of the drinks we had. 4.75/5

Overall--The first thing I want to comment on for this portion of the review is the quality of service.  Our waiters name was Nathan and he was excellent.  He attended to our every request and the rest of the wait staff also was constantly around if you needed them or had a question, but they were never a nuisance in any way, shape or form.  Andrew and I both observed their interactions with other tables as well because clearly this wasn't an ordinary dinner service for us.   The wait staffs treatment of  every other table was just as good as ours and that really impressed us.   We noticed that how they described the food to others was the same way the described them to us.  We watched prompt service and friendly conversations with every single table around us.  We appreciated how knowledgeable the entire waitstaff was about the menu.   You can tell that the expectation is that everyone knows the menu and the food.   Our waiter described each and every dish in great detail.  The last comment I have is that I loved how the Greenhouse Tavern is a "Green" place.   Their use of local products in both the food and in the restaurant itself is great.   The decor and the overall atmosphere of the restaurant is very inviting.  With service like we received and like what we saw at the other tables I highly recommend that you give The Greenhouse Tavern a try!  I will be going back on another date hopefully soon to further assess the restaurant so please watch for that review as well so you can get a really good feeling for just how good the service is.  Clearly tonight was out of the ordinary, but everything really was amazing!  My service tonight was a  5/5.
I had to get a picture with the chef!  Thanks again Chef Sawyer!

The Greenhouse Tavern on Urbanspoon


Bite Buff said...

Sounds like an amazing meal!

Brad said...

Thanks for the positive comment! :)

John Fay said...

Sounds awesome. Need to figure an excuse to bring the wife downtown!

Unknown said...

Wow- that's a truly incredible experience- I love it! What a great food story to share with others!

Rena McCullough said...

I was there last week and Nathan waited on me. The service we received made our experience one of the best dining experiences I have ever had! My only disappointment was this... Nathan was wearing a wedding band. C'est la vie!

Ilya Feynberg said...

You NEED to warn people first before reading this post..."do not look if hungry". I just made that mistake. The pairings look incredible, especially right now.

I'm really enjoying the thought of the Crispy Hominy with the pork skin cracklins. *watering mouth*....

I'm not a huge cider fan either, but the description, the look, and this particular cider and pairing make me WANT! :)


Brad said...

Thanks everyone for the positive feedback! It really means a lot!!!

Ben said...

We still need to get to the Greenhouse Tavern--we did take out once and generally liked it, but that isn't the same. I have a feeling their wings might be brined, which always adds a good amount of juiciness.

QuarryLaneFarms said...

The Wings are "brined" in duck fat x24 hours.

This makes them quite delicious.


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