I meant to write about my birthday celebration DAYS ago, but I've been preoccupied with some random personal life and work related things. My birthday celebration ended up being a couple day affair, so I have lots to talk about...stay tuned for that in future posts.
On my actual birthday, I made reservations at Amp 150, located in a Marriott on W. 150th. Sounds a little strange, right? But I'd read great reviews of Amp 150, and love the fact that Chef Ellis Cooley uses social media - Twitter and Facebook - to promote the restaurant in general as well as "secret" specials. (the night I was there, the special for the evening was a meal for $20.10, in honor of the 2010 Olympics - clever, right?)
Since I spend...oh...a decent amount of time on Facebook during the day (I work in internet marketing, what can I say?), I decided to post a kind of smart Alec remark on Amp 150's wall on my birthday. I mentioned that I'd be coming in for my birthday, and I wondered if they could whip up anything special for a vegetarian like me. I never expected to get a response. But...Chef Cooley reached out to me himself and told me to ask for him when I go to the restaurant.
In a great twist of irony, I took my meat-a-tarian ex-boyfriend with me to dinner for my birthday. (weird, I know...but much less awkward than you'd think) Before our unexpected breakup, I'd purchased a discount gift certificate for us to use at the restaurant, so I felt it was only fair to still take him with me. And it's a good thing he did, because he was bold enough to ask our waitress to check with Chef Cooley to see what he could make up for me.
While we waited to hear back on what I'd be feasting on for my birthday, I had a cranberry margarita.
I can't say it's the best margarita I've ever had, but it was good. (can you really ever go wrong with anything that has cranberry juice and tequila in it?) My meat-a-tarian dining companion was able to partake in the Olympic "gold" drink special which featured Dortmunder Gold on draft for only $3.
When our server returned to our table, she let me know that the chef had already planned out what he was going to serve me. And at that moment, I felt like a rock star. She gave me the option of hearing about what I was going to eat or be surprised...and of course I picked the surprise.
We were kind of famished, so we decided to start out with an appetizer. We ordered the fries. The delicious, delicious fries with the best aioli I've ever had. The chef also threw in the potato chip sampler, which was also really good. (homemade chips make me happy!)
My first mystery dish was the Velvet Mushroom Soup (the recipe was featured this week in the Plain Dealer). It's rare that I can eat soup in a restaurant, and I was SO happy to hear that this one was completely vegetarian. (see, chefs...you can make a delicious soup without chicken stock!) It was SO good. Mushrooms + cream? Fantastic! (just like the gnocchi I made the other day!)
This dish was followed with a blood orange salad. Note - the first salad containing oranges that I've ever enjoyed. And as a vegetarian, I've eaten a heck of a lot of orange salads in my 29 years on this planet.
(Salad = great! Photography = not so great)
My entree was definitely something else. In a good way. Chef Cooley made me up a "veg plate" of a hodge podge of different vegetable/pasta sides.
I had edamame, spatzel, cauliflower,mushrooms...and more. The picture doesn't do this plate any justice. It was loaded with vegetarian goodness. (as the chef later told me when he came to talk to us, vegetarians can load up on vegetables...a lot of meat eaters don't realize that since meat is so much heavier, I guess...) Every morsel was bursting with flavor.
We finished off our meal with lava cake - featuring Jeni's ice cream. (yes, THE Jeni's ice cream) I'd never actually had Jeni's ice cream before...but now I understand why people rave about it. It's so decadent. (and the little lava cake was darn good, too)
I couldn't have had a better birthday meal. (tearing up when talking about the future was a little bit of a downer, but that's not the chef's fault) Chef Cooley was so accommodating. I encourage vegetarians and meat eaters alike to give this restaurant a try. There are some neat things going on in that kitchen, and you owe it to yourself to give Chef Cooley's food a try.