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Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Wine Bar @ Solaire

Place:  The Wine Bar @ Solaire
Web-site: Unavailable
Location:  111 First Street, Hudson, Ohio  44236 Google Maps

Quick Blurb:

Great ambiance, delicious food and a selection of wine that will introduce you to a new favourite. A very relaxed atmosphere with friendly staff and great background music. 


The Wine Bar is located above Solaire’s Spa in the First & Main shopping center of Hudson. I remember the first time going, we were so confused as to how to enter that we almost turned around. Then, we saw what looked like a maintenance door on the side of the building that had a small sign saying the Wine Bar was through there.
After walking up a flight of stairs, you enter and are immediately relaxed. Dim lighting, low volume music in the background, gentle conversation, and an intimate layout around a foyer that looks down into the spa.

Always greeted with a smile and the “Please choose any table you like” - very relaxing. We’ve always struck up a conversation with the waiter/ess since day 1. They are rather knowledgeable about the wines on their list and will gladly recommend one to you if you’re out to try something new.


Like most restaurants, they start off with some bread at the table. The bread has a great crust to it (I’m big on bread crust and have never mentioned it before because it’s rare that you get good bread nowadays in restaurants)
Along with the bread, you get a plate with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a few olives (with seeds, watch out!), some sliced salami and a couple pieces of cheese – yum!
We always go for the bruschetta – my wife believes it’s the best she’s ever had, and I’m not arguing – it is phenomenal. Fresh basil, sweet tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella shaved on top, a little spice from the garlic, and finally drizzled with olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar. I know, sounds like basic ingredients to bruschetta, but for some reason, this tastes so much better than anywhere else we’ve had it.

It had been some time since we were last here and they changed their menu slightly; they now have some dishes on their appetizer list that could easily pass for a main course. My wife chose the scallops from the list and I took the lamb sliders.
Her scallops were cooked with truffle oil – yum! They came with a fresh vegetable medley (I really don’t like the ‘vegetable medley’ phrase, but for lack of a better way to describe it, I’ll use it). A little caviar in the corner was an interesting touch – one that she politely passed on to me. Which I gladly accepted and I enjoyed scooping a bit on the chips I had from my plate. They came with the bottle of truffle oil to the table and left it there in case she wanted to have some more – she didn’t, but it was a nice, unexpected touch.
The lamb sliders were fun; three mini burgers basically. The lamb meat was good – juicy and with that slight gamey flavour. It was served with a side of mustard mayonnaise that I spread on the top; it could have had a bit more mustard flavour for me – a little too ‘mayonnaisey’. The homemade chips were great; but a few were cooked too long and had that burned taste. The pickles that were served on the side were actually cornichons –I eat them at home and in Belgium they are popular, but I hadn’t seen them served in restaurants in the USA before. A nice touch. Oh, and finally I’ll give another shout-out to the tomatoes that night – made me feel like I just plucked it from my own garden.

That said, I don’t know if I’d get the sliders again – they were good, don’t get me wrong, but they were rather basic. Not much seasoning to the meat and the mayonnaise was too plain as well for me. I found myself checking out the scallops with truffle oil.

To give you an idea of what else is on the menu (since you can’t view online), there is a Chilean Sea Bass, Osso Bucco, and a Bone-in steak. Each sound delicious to me!

Mrs. Chocoholic got the lava cake, which she loves, but it didn’t look anything out of the ordinary to me, with the exception of the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies it came with on the side.
Our waitress asked if we liked sorbet, and I said “Yes!” – she said they had freshly made sorbet of a variety of fruits in the back – so I said surprise me. I was given a half of a small pineapple, hollowed out, frozen and filled with the pineapple sorbet. A little cheesy on the presentation, but it still was cool. And, the sorbet was delicious – I wish I could have that every hot summer day.

Wine all around!

We started off trying a Greek wine that is relatively inexpensive: 
2007 Boutari Moschofilero
Friends of ours recommended it as they had it while over in Greece. Very light and fruity, not very complex at all – you can understand why it would be great in the sun of Greece.

I moved onto 2008 Layer Cake Shiraz from Australia as I thought it to be appropriate with lamb sliders. My go-to shiraz is Penfold’s Koonunga Hill – it’s $9.99 a bottle and I use it as a comparison – Layer Cake is much more intense. Deep, deep red colour, slightly heavy feel, but it bursts with flavours of cherries and plums and, believe it or not, for the first time ever, I could identify the ‘chocolate’ taste that people often mention in their reviews. Appropriate with the name I suppose!

The wines aren’t cheap, cheapest glass being around $7 but quickly climb. I believe my shiraz was $15 (Do keep in mind that they pour heavy).
The appetizers and our main dishes were very reasonable. The lamb sliders were $12 and the same with the scallops. Contrast that with the Osso Bucco at $40.

Overall Experience:
I really do enjoy going to Solaire. While the prices are on the high side for the wine, they do pour you a big glass and will top it off sometimes. They also will give you a small glass to sip on while they chill your wine. It’s little things like these that keep us coming back. We also enjoy small conversations with our waiter/ess – they are friendly people here.

I’ve read some reviews that have complained about the types of people coming in – wearing shorts, etc. I don’t know why you have to be dressed up in a suit and tie to enjoy a glass of wine and some lamb sliders. What I do enjoy about Soliare is that you have a mix of people coming in. There was an older couple dressed up nicely, we were in jeans and then at the bar itself, there was indeed a couple in casual clothes – so what? It’s a very relaxed place and that’s what we love about it.

Wine Bar at Solaire on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Recent Interview

Recently a Graduate student at Kent State University contacted me about my reviews - you can find the full interview and more information on his own site Critical Gastronomy

Thanks Justin and good luck!

Cedric from the UnOfficial Food Critic

Cedric Crucke from The UnOfficial Food Critic, via his profile page.
A recent addition to the Northeast Ohio restaurant criticism scene, Cedric Crucke from The UnOfficial Food Critic established a system for rating restaurants based on chef’s hats before gaining some notoriety in realm. When revamps its website, it will feature his reviews on its RSS feed. A business major currently working for a large company in Akron, Ohio, Cedric says he always enjoyed food and found blogging to be an accessible outlet for his thoughts on eating out. I asked him about the methods behind his criticism via e-mail and about what got him interested in the first place.
Critical Gastronomy: First, how did you start your blog? I read your first post, but perhaps you can elaborate?
Cedric Crucke: Too often you read reviews that don’t give enough detail; or the other extreme of way too much irrelevant detail. When I go to a restaurant, I’m paying for an experience, and this is more than just how the food tastes. It starts from the moment you park and start walking in – I wanted to give people a summary the whole experience of what dining there could be like – not just a review of the food. So I thought, why not give my perspective?
CG: Talk about your reviewing method and what a typical one is like.
CC: I haven’t changed my methods of going to a restaurant just because I will be writing a review about it later on — I always have been somewhat of a critic. I’ve been to many restaurants — both extremes: upscale and down to earth Mom & Pop places. Each has their specialty and depending on what you are looking for, both can be excellent.
As I’ve mentioned before, the experience starts with walking in from the parking lot. What does it look like? What vibe is it giving me? Just like with people, impressions are made within the first moments – external look and the initial greeting as you walk in. …
I always visit a restaurant with my wife, and usually with another couple. We tend to share a bit of each others appetizers so that we can get a better sense of how everything tastes – plus we love eating and enjoying flavours, so this helps us experience more! I don’t take notes at the time, per se, but I do discuss how everything is going with the people I am with. … Usually everyone “likes” their meal, but I look at more than just the basic taste. I look at the presentation, the combination of ingredients and how each bite tastes — the flavours [British spelling? I love it! - CG] involved, how it compares to previous similar dishes, etc. Our dinners usually are for more than an hour, again, I like an experience when going out — the enjoyment of being served food and drinks and not worrying about cleaning it up!
On what happens when he doesn’t like a place…

I am a bit harsh, and if I don’t like a place, I tend not to go back. Even if it was an off night, I think that a solid place should act as if every night is their first opening night. You never know when someone is going to come for the first time and if they don’t like it – bam, negative verbal feedback – not good!
On a recent bad experience

What annoys me is that I just read a review in the local paper that said how great it was — but they didn’t talk about any food they ate! They talked about the renovations and the chef and the owner. BUT never about the food, or the service! Those are the types of reviews that I can’t stand.
CG: Why the chef’s hats, and what does it take to be a 10-hat restaurant?

CC: Ten Chef’s Hats — ha! That took a while to figure out what my rating symbol would be. Ten hats probably will not happen. Lola got 9.5— it’s truly a great place in it’s own way. Unfortunately, I”m tempted to bring it down to a 9 because had we not sat where we did, I probably would not have enjoyed the atmosphere as much. … I think you can get some idea of what it would take: great atmosphere, polite and energetic servers who don’t crowd or rush you, but are attentive when needed, and food that is unique and tasty, but doesn’t weigh your stomach down. Sounds simple, but I haven’t had an experience that does all of that well. A lot of the restaurants are interested in turning tables, or servers just don’t know when to leave you alone.
CG: Where do you see your reviews going?

CC: Ultimately, I’d love to run my own restaurant — when the moment is right. I’ve got a lot to learn about running a business to go into that right now, but it is a dream of mine that I am planning on living. Right now, I’ll just keep reviewing, posting online and via the Akron website, get feedback and see what happens.

I see a lot of what I’m doing now in Cedric, so will be taking what he says to heart. Now on to the kitchen, I have a roast to attend to.
This interview appears as submitted by Cedric Crucke to Critical Gastronomy with minor grammatical editing for clarity.