Tour de Bruell. A summer dining adventure

I did it!  And boy was it fun.  The Tour de Bruell is a summer challenge issued by Chef Zack Bruell and his team.  The mission: eat at each of his six local restaurants throughout the summer.  It’s an inviting and ambitious task ahead for diners.  Fans of the Zack Bruell Restaurant group have from Memorial Day until Labor Day to complete the Tour.  If they do, there are some delicious prizes they’re eligible for.

This year, I joined a couple of friends, and my husband and attempted to eat at ALL SIX in a day.  I was game, and starving.  And since it was my husband’s 40th birthday he was ready to go big!

Stop one was Alley Cat in the Flats East Bank, known for their spectacular raw oyster selection and fabulous views along the river.  We ordered a dozen oysters, and the seafood board (like a charcuterie board, with things like squid ceviche, salmon pate and seafood sausage)

And we toasted our adventure with a signature cocktail of the Tour, from Floh Vodka, and a glass of the featured Rose.  We drank in the views and the flavors.  Got our passports stamped and we were ready for the next location.

We hit Parallax in Tremont next, Bruell’s oldest of the stops along the Tour.  Their sushi is my favorite menu item there, so we ordered some that included beef for my meat eating husband and we were treated to some shrimp and vermicelli and a sweet apple tart for an early dessert.

Another toast…this time with the featured champagne of the Tour, Nicolas Feuillatte.  We were really settling in now!  Our next stop was supposed to be Chinato, along E. 4th Street.  But at the time we rolled up (or rather crawled) there was too much traffic and no parking so we skipped it and returned two days later.

So instead we went ahead to Cowell & Hubbard in Cleveland’s Theater District. We posted up at one of my favorite seats in the city, a front booth.  We ordered the pasta special, a ramen…and slurped it up.

And when I go to Cowell, we always get the pork stack and the bone marrow.  Both are a “must try” when you dine there.  More drinks and laughs, and another stamp for our passport.

Next we headed to the Intercontinental Hotel, home of Table 45.  They have a new Executive Chef there, Zach Bond, who was eager to tell us all about their new menu approach.  So we were treated to a five course tasting menu at the Chef’s Table.  Very Cool.

We had a perfectly cooked scallop with a jalapeno corn puree, a fresh summer salad with compressed watermelon, a take on Bolognese with smoked sausage, a spectacular Sri Lankan curried lamb and a palate cleansing berry sorbet to finish it off.  We paired the food with more of the featured wines of the tour.  My favorite was the Pinot Noir.  Stuffed? Not yet.  We were in it for the long haul. Once we got our stamp we were on our way to University Circle and my favorite patio in the city, L’Albatros.

It was a beautiful night to sit outside.  And to my surprise, given the hour and the volume we’d already consumed…we didn’t just eat…my husband still wanted to feast!

He ordered our favorite appetizer on the menu, the savory French Toast.  And to be honest, I only look at the menu when I go there just to see if anything has changed.  I ALWAYS get the cassoulet.  It’s just the best.  We got our stamp and called it a (great) night.

Fast forward two days and I popped back over to Chinato to complete my Tour card.  I have been dying to try the Blended Burger Project offerings from local chefs, so since we were their for lunch that was an easy choice.  Delicious and juicy!  And for starters we had a gorgeous tomato salad featuring three varieties of cheese and tomatoes.  Perfection.

tour de bruell completed card

So I did it! And you can too!  Get your card at any participating  restaurant to kick it off. Parallax, Chinato, Cowell & Hubbard, Table 45, L’Albatros and Alley Cat.  Hurry up! If you complete the Tour De Bruell by July 4th you and a guest are eligible to win a chauffeur-driven progressive dinner. (there will be five winners!) Finish by Labor Day and you’re eligible to win a VIP Tour Finale Dinner.  Ten winners and a guest will win a multi-course meal and wine pairings at one of Zack’s restaurants.  While there one of those people will win the Grand Prize, a multi-course meal for 8 guests cooked at your home by Chef Bruell!

 

 

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Brewing up something new in The Flats

Ambitious trailblazer, Chef Zack Bruell is taking on two new projects much different than his previous endeavors. The restaurateur is entering into the brewery business, launching a new brew pub in the old Cleveland landmark, The Watermark, on the East Bank of the Flats, just a stone’s throw from his oyster bar, Alley Cat.
The name is TBD, but the establishment will have instant street cred, thanks to his partner on the project, Luke Purcell. The Great Lakes Brewing Company veteran is leaving the Godfather of the local brewing industry after more than 20 years for the chance to brew out of his comfort zone.
julian-bruell

Source: Facebook

Bruell is also bringing his son, Julian into the mix in Cleveland. But this is by no means a passing of the baton, or changing of the guard. And Bruell tells me this is not the beginning of a succession plan. The chef tells me his son can teach him things about the front of the house that will help elevate the service and overall experience at all of his restaurants. Most recently, the younger Bruell has worked as the General Manager at Sauvage, and the service manager at Jean George’s in New York City, places with multiple Michelin stars.
Chef Bruell says after handling the tough crowd of NYC diners, his son is fully prepared for his role in Cleveland. He also admits, it was hard for him to accept and understand that service is more important than the food itself. But he now believes that it is. Bruell tells me he’ll put his food up against anybody’s in the country. This move, he says, will help take the restaurant group to the next level.
For starters, 27 year old Julian will be spending a month at a time at each of Bruell’s properties (Parallax, Chinato, Cowell& Hubbard, Table 45, Alley Cat Oyster Bar, L’Albatros Brasserie) to assess and raise the service and front of the house. The elder Bruell expects his son, a millennial, to relate to staff better than he can, and in turn, help recruit, train and retain good talent. That’s something he and almost every other chef in the city has been struggling with during Cleveland’s restaurant boom.
Then, the younger Bruell will contribute to the new brew pub. Chef says he doesn’t profess to be a beer person. For that, he’ll lean on Purcell.
luke-purcell

Purcell, right, will join Bruell in his new brew pub business.  Source: Facebook

What’s really interesting about this partnership is that traditionally a brew pub’s menu is developed to compliment the beer. But this time, Zack tells me, they’ll be developing beer varieties to compliment and cut through the richness of his food, much like wine usually does.
Purcell tells me he is looking forward to thinking in reverse. He expects to be working on wheat varieties with more of a tart finish, and some sours, very on trend now, to provide the acidity his partner is looking for.
Right now they are shooting for an April opening, which would require them to start brewing come February. Purcell knows it’s an aggressive schedule, but he is excited and eager to work on something so different. The Watermark is being gutted as we speak. Can’t wait to see what they brew up.