Cowell & Hubbard
 Cleveland, Ohio         Date of Visit: 05/25/13

Okay, fun-fun. We are meeting one of our long-time, food-nutcase couples for the first time in a while. With a recommendation from one of my new Nursing students we head to Cleveland to check out Cowell and Hubbard, one of five Zach Bruell spots in the city. We had been to Parallax some time ago but had never heard of this place. I don’t hold grudge (wink/wink) but there appear to be new places opening up all over the theater district which might mean theater goers will finally mark the day of Otto Moser’s closing.


Interesting Cocktail (Smoky, Baconey, Mapley Rye)

It might be wonderfully storied, but at this point it’s like a family doctor who has been the best thing for his community for 50 years but for the last 10 has been killing 93% of his patients. At some point it becomes about what you’re doing instead of what you did. Who knows, maybe someone who cares will buy it and do something with it.

After working our way through the police barricades blocking of the street for movie filming…I still have to actively remember they shoot some movies in C-town…we entered a hip (not hipster) and long space. Jazz plays, tvs glimmer over the bar, people of all stripes parade through the door. The vibe of the place is a mix of relaxed and high and tight in the best way possible. Patrons – relaxed : employees high and tight. Right after we sat I started singing Red Hot Chili Peppers- One Big Mob (Oh yeah O yeah). The staff is enormous (number not size) and smoothly frenetic. Think an anthill in jeans and different colored buttondowns. You seem to be assigned a primary server and everyone else’s job is to assist your particular server, and I mean everyone.


To be fair they are all doing for each other but when you are focused on your table it seems everyone in the place is bringing just you something at one point or another. Everyone appears very well trained and knowledgeable. There was one guy who I’m assuming was pretty new working very hard at getting his grip right for the two spoon Russian service they use to bring your bread but everything else looked practiced and smooth.

We started with a couple of beverages a wine I can’t remember but it was a red blend recommended by our server which was lush with a nice balance between the tannin and the dusky fruits. I tried a cocktail aptly named the Bacon Man made with bacon infused Rye whiskey and something maple. The first sip was so smoky I was worried but the rye was smooth as silk and after a moment the smoke receded leaving a nice approximation of bacon.

We love going out with these friends but they are cursed. Yes, it’s them and not me…I have manufactured some proof. There are far worse curses but this one consists of being completely blown away by appetizers and then knowing the entrees will never live up to them. It wouldn’t be a curse unless it happens over and over so I’ll start with the entrees and then finish with my favorites because I want to end on a good note and they were exceptional. Until your food begins to arrive anyone walking by seeing an empty bread plate will ask if you care for more, we did, often. Hard crack stage crust around a peasant style loaf with large and varied holes from a lengthy fermentation for flavor. Even better though was the serious olive oil served along side plus a little Himalayan sea salt.


Server Had Great Wine Suggestion

Good Bread And Great Oil


The worst entrée was the special seared tuna served with smashed carrots, green beans, brown rice, cilantro and a scallion pesto. From the smell you could tell it was the special because they had to get it out of the kitchen before the only thing it would be good for is cat food. Add to that some really uninspired sides and you have a less than ho-hum dish. I ordered the frog legs. I had em before, they’re fine but not usually at the top of the list from most menus. What changed my mind, these are sour dough battered. Ain’t never seen that before. I loved the sourdough fried chicken at Central so we were off. The little taters and butter poached radishes were nice, the batter was excellent. The frog, eh. The legs were huge, bigger than I’ve ever tried them. I do not know if it is the age of the frog or something in the cooking.  When ordering, our server and I apparently didn’t communicate well and when the meals arrived, they brought me something different. So my dinner lagged behind everyone else’s, so they had been rushed...more on that in a bit.  Whatever it was, the batter idea is nice, the legs themselves could have been better.


Tuna On Special For A Reason, Not A Good One

Batter Better Than The Frog Legs Themselves


Off to the red meats. We tried the lamb breast. I was impressed when the server stopped after the order to mention that lamb breast is definitively fatty but still sold the dish. I’m sure he expected some fattiness being a lamb aficionado but it’s just smart to not assume. Fatty it was but in a good way with a deep lamb flavor. It was pretty good until you added a little of the Moroccan spiced medium pearl couscous underneath and bang…it was really tasty. Trust the flavor profiles of the people who eat the stuff everyday. Our last entrée was the beef cheeks, which was likely my favorite. Braised to tender succulent perfection and perched on dauphinoise potatoes (think good scalloped taters) and the typical vegetable blend.  There was a smack of saltiness to the dish which we finally discovered were olives amongst the veggies. There did appear to be some debate as to how salty they actually were. The cheeks though, when dunked into the jus at the bottom of the bowl were really nice. It may not have been the most Spring of dishes but I think I understand how it stays. Tender beef on crack.


Fatty Lamb In Moroccan Spices

Braised Beef Cheeks Fall Apart Into Delicious Jus

Okay, so that was my least favorite course by far, and it was good, the other two were just exceptional. Apps were fois gras donuts, the crispy pork stack, chicken wings and beef marrow and I’m telling you one was good, one was great and two were just stoopid. The donuts sounded the most interesting, foie rolled into dough, deep fried, rolled in cinnamon sugar and set in a pool of black pepper and orange gastrique. They were tasty, just too much dough to foie ratio. Sure I’d like more foie but less dough would also get it closer to paying off.

Foie Gras Donuts Sounded Interesting

Dough Overwhelmed Any Sense Of The Liver

The pork stack was delicious. It was sort of hard to get through the pork (it was super crispy) but once you were chewing it with the one hour egg, the vegetable risotto and spinach it was very nice but the wings and marrow were stunningly good. The chicken meat itself was one of the best tasting preparations I have ever had, right up there with the wings from Greenhouse Tavern. Immense chicken flavor. Add to that chicken bacon, tomato dust, goat cheese and a sauce with a bit of spice and I could have killed dozens of those things. Then the marrow. I have had marrow before, usually osso bucco or added to something beefy. With the meat it adds super beefy fatiness. I’ve tried it alone and it really does nothing for me. When this plate arrived it had four marrow bones, some toast, pickled onions, horseradish, cilantro and a little lemon. Nothing beefy to add it to. Just smear the stuff on the toast and go. If this was the only dish I had I would have left happy. Not sure exactly how its done but it is beyond reproach. Simple genius out of what most would discard as garbage. Have you noticed from the pictures that the appetizers were as big as the entrees?

Crispy Pork Stack Was Tasty

The Wings Were Amazing

Completely Blown Away That I Enjoyed Marrow This Way

All Alone Awesomeness

Desserts couldn’t possibly live up to the appetizers though, wrong wrong wrong. They were also stupendous to varying degrees, especially the worst named one of the bunch. I ordered my least favorite, a baked apple. Stuffed with sweetened mascarpone cheese and served with dried fruit it was good but it was like the prettiest girl in Ann Arbor showing up to the Miss America Pageant in Columbus. No chance. Steph ordered the Mocha Pot De Crème which was better than the apple by far but arrived in third place for me. Light coffee flavor was shrouded in seriously dark chocolate custard and topped in whipped cream and a biscotti sort of cookie. The custard was thicker than the paste I used to eat in kindergarten and incredibly rich. The cookie could have done more but that is complete nitpicking.

Mascarpone Stuffed Apple Was Good But Way Outclassed

Rich And Thick Mocha Pot de Crème

Okay, only two more dishes and my ranting will be nearly over. The strawberry napoleon was next. Crisp phyllo dough, fresh cut berries, some type of pastry cream, chocolate and some other sauce. Too Much! That will overwhelm such a simple dish. Nonsense! Light and supremely satisfying at the same time, everything combined into just sweet enough, just fresh enough, just perfect enough. The last dessert was simply named Meringues in the menu. They need to work on that, simply underdescriptive. The meringues were baked disks to the point of being dry and crunchy. I have done that for an interesting layer in cakes, it works well. This one is served as an ice cream sandwich with two disks of meringue containing a thick slab of incredible Mitchell’s burnt caramel ice cream and sea salt. It was so simple but it was perfectly balanced and every bit as good as the napoleon with its many ingredients. One so simple, one so seemingly complex and both wonderful ends to a superior meal.


Simply Celestial

Back to my hanging entrée and the service at Cowell and Hubbard…almost everyone in the restaurant apologized, I almost expected the frogs to come out and say something. The general manager came over after the front on the house manager and asked if I would like another beverage. Not only did they deliver it on the house for the error, he asked if I would prefer Makers Mark Bourbon in the ordered old fashioned. He upgraded the drink from a well pour to a nice one and didn’t have to scratch the entrée off the bill and everyone goes home happy. Smart and good business. Cowell and Hubbard evidenced that combination throughout our stay and I left impressed on many levels.




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