Blame it on too many Waltons reruns, but we prefer to deck the halls not with aluminum trees and holographic ornaments, but with pine boughs, teddy bears, and Santa on snowshoes. So a trip to Twinsburg's Blue Canyon Kitchen & Tavern (8960 Wilcox Drive, 330-486-BLUE) melted our heart. The rustic lodge offers a year-round taste of the wild, but the winter holidays are its time to shine in the glow of candlelight, wood fires, and thousands of tiny blue bulbs.
Stockings hang from the mantels, snowmen peek out from the cupboards, and holiday tunes tinkle in the background, making the restaurant as festive a destination as any old elf could desire. Most important: The winter-wonderland theme forms a delicious backdrop to chef-owner Brandt Evans' seasonal menu, crammed with cold-weather comforts like pot roast, veal meatloaf, and chicken pot pie, all brought up to date with gourmet ingredients and sophisticated twists.
Outside, the snow was falling, but inside, all was merry and bright. A blazing fire, a glass of Cab, and a plate of boneless, way-beyond-tender Kobe beef short ribs on a drift of Yukon Gold mashed potatoes ($26.95), and we were feeling pretty jolly too. Blue Canyon is open for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner daily, and Sunday brunch.
Back in Touch . . . A steady diet of rock, reggae, and salsa can work up an appetite, so last week's debut of a full dinner menu at the popular Ohio City dance club Touch is bound to be good news. Brian Kleve (former executive sous chef at Giovanna's on Clifton Boulevard) has just introduced an enticing collection of freshly prepared apps, salads, and entrées, including sassy little numbers like "firecracker" shrimp in crisp won-ton wrappers, served with pineapple chutney; and pan-seared, prosciutto-wrapped scallops piled on pesto risotto with a dollop of lemon cream. Kleve, himself a healthy eater, has also added several meat-free dishes, just right for vegetarian tastes. Touch (2710 Lorain Avenue; 216-631-5200) is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily.
Festive flapjacks . . . We're not sure what Santa eats for breakfast, but it can't be better than what we spotted at Woodmere's Original Pancake House (28700 Chagrin Boulevard). As a holiday treat, owners Mike and Jane Frazin are dishing up plump pumpkin pancakes topped with whipped cream ($6) and lush French toast made with eggnog, rum extract, and thick slices of Breadsmith bread ($6.50). No wonder Santa's tummy does that Jell-O thang.