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A Bitter End 

The best of both chocolates.

Mellow milk chocolate has the taste, and astringent dark chocolate boasts the health bennies. Can't someone hook these two up?

Joel Fink can. The candymaker and self-avowed chocolate addict, owner of Lyndhurst's Fantasy Candies (5456 Mayfield Road, 440-461-4511), has been on a three-year quest to find a bittersweet chocolate as mellow and voluptuous as its milk-chocolate counterparts.

After trying and discarding all the most popular brands, he finally stumbled across a keeper: an American-made, European-style dark chocolate boasting a whopping 72-percent measure of antioxidant-rich cocoa solids. Then he set to work blending it with almonds, blueberries, cranberries, orange peel, candied ginger, cashews, and more. The result -- a line of 14 fruit-and-nut-filled barks, bursting with intense yet well-tempered goodness -- may not be exactly health food, but it sure tastes swell. For best results, Fink prescribes taking each dose with a glass of Grand Marnier.

At $19.95 per pound, the ultra-dark chocolates join Fink's other freshly made confections, including chocolate-covered potato chips and cashew-butter crunch. (And at Easter, look for chocolate-covered peeps.) Store hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Visit www.fantasycandies.com.

Pastabilities . . . Gateway's Sport & Ale House won't launch in time for the home opener. According to owner Jon Levoy, the ambitious undertaking in and around the former New York Spaghetti House keeps getting bigger; now, a summer opening seems more likely. Complete with pool tables, dartboards, DJs, a VIP room, and an outdoor concert stage, the venue will feature 20 beers on draft and a moderately priced menu of American fare, including the Spaghetti House's famous "brown sauce." Levoy just wishes old-timers would stop griping about changes to the 80-year-old landmark. "It had a good run," he says. "Now let's have a little fun."

New old place . . . Longtime Bainbridge restaurateur Michael Longo reopened his former Firefly Seafood & Steak (16725 Chillicothe Road) on February 1 with a new name (ML the Restaurant), a new concept (elegantly upscale), and a new chef-driven menu featuring seasonal, sustainable ingredients. "It's not an in-and-out place anymore," he promises. "It's a dining experience." Dinner is served Monday through Saturday; call 440-543-6567 for reservations.

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