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CHOW HOUND: Brick by brick

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Well, it's the elephant in the dining room, so let's acknowledge it. The building at 2833 Monroe Avenue has not had the greatest luck; recent history is littered with the names of restaurants — think Mundo Grill, PaRe, and the Monroe Diner — that have tried to make a go of it at that address. It'd be tempting to blame their demises on the location, an admittedly hectic stretch of pavement. But sometimes all it takes it the right fit, and in the case of first-time restaurateur Peter Burrill's Brick Wood Fired Pizza, so far, so good.

"It's been a whirlwind," says chef Bryan Cohen. "We've been busy from the moment we opened the door." A quick glance around the warm, open space on an especially bone-chilling Tuesday evening illustrated Cohen's point: colleagues chowing down on burgers in the corner, girlfriends chatting over glasses of wine at the bar, a family with two teens who abandoned their texting in favor of a piping-hot pizza. Yet the eyes can't help but be drawn to the big wood-burning oven that anchors the room. Running at around 700 degrees, it's busy with tasks like baking pizzas and roasting chicken wings. That's also where you'll usually find Cohen — a veteran of pie-centric eateries like Pizza Café, Napa, and Dragonfly — doing what he adores.

Created with housemade white or wheat dough, there are more than 15 different pizzas on Brick's menu, ranging from the classic Margherita ($8 for a 10" pie/$16 for 16") to a Clams Casino pie ($12/$20) with whole baby clams, crispy bacon, bread crumbs, asiago and mozzarella cheeses. (And expect the selection to rotate; "I've got at least a hundred in my head," says Cohen.) But you'll find ample opportunity to use utensils as well, whether you're in the mood for steak or salmon, or perhaps fashioning your own pasta dish from a bevy of shapes, sauces, and toppings.

In the coming weeks, Brick, which features about 20 draft beers and a couple dozen wines, will offer separate menus for lunch and dinner, with the former incorporating more sandwiches and salads. There are already nascent plans to open another Brick or two, a concept that Cohen describes as "family casual, but just a touch upscale."

Brick Wood Fired Pizza is located at 2833 Monroe Ave. It is open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-midnight, and Sunday noon-9 p.m. Food prices range from $7-$21. For more information, call 225-2725 or visit brickwoodfiredpizza.com.

The sweet life

"It's always been with me; I just never did anything with it," Angie Carter says of her love for all things culinary. Up until now, that is; despite the demands of both a full-time and part-time jobs, Carter and co-owner Hannah Betts have launched Bake It or Cleave It, a catering venture that specializes in French macarons and other handcrafted confections, along with savory offerings that can be customized to a specific event or theme. "I want to challenge myself creatively," Carter says, specifically citing the undertaking of providing nibbles for art openings and achieving a kind of symmetry between the work and the food.

Luckily, you don't have to be throwing a party to indulge in Bake It or Cleave It's delicious wares. This year, instead of phoning in Valentine's Day with a dozen roses and a heart-shaped Whitman's Sampler, why not let Carter and Betts change things up for you? Besides popular macarons like dark chocolate-espresso and maple-bacon, Carter says that special holiday flavors will include cinnamon Red Hot and pink grapefruit marmalade, along with other sweet treats like salted caramels and crèmes brûlée. According to Carter, the ultimate dream for Bake It or Cleave It is its very own pâtisserie. "I wouldn't mind doing this all the time," says Carter. "It makes me happy. And it makes other people happy."

You can get a taste of Bake It or Cleave It at the Sweets For Your Sweet Sale on Monday, February 11, from 6-9 p.m. at Thread, 654 South Ave. For more information, or to place an order, call 812-430-8661 or visit bakeitorcleaveit.com.

Hop to it

Aspiring brewmasters might want to look in to the new Fairport Brewing Company; it's offering classes on the art and science of crafting beer, with a beginner Extract Brewing Class for $59 on Tuesday, February 5, at 6 p.m., and an advanced All-Grain Class for $159 on Saturday, February 23, at 9 a.m. Visit fairportbrewing.com to learn more.

Chili weather

The 19th Annual Chilly Chili Challenge goes down from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 10, as part of the 29th Annual Lakeside Winter Celebration at Ontario Beach Park. It's open to both professional and amateur cooks, but there are a couple Health Department hoops to jump through; visit cityofrochester.gov/chili to learn the requirements. And you've got to register by February 3, so there's no time to dawdle!

Open

The first of the three new eateries scheduled for the Sagamore on East Avenue has opened. Camarella's (130 East Ave., 563-7912, camarellas.com) serves breakfasty items along with sandwiches, wraps, salads, soups, pasta, and baked goods.

Self-serve frozen yogurt, along with myriad toppings, finally reaches the city thanks to Yolishous (it rhymes with "delicious"), a new shop at 647 Park Ave. Find out more by calling 225-5474, or visit yolishous.com.

Closed

A sad farewell to one of the last of the old-school steakhouses: Scotch 'N' Sirloin recently closed its doors in Winton Place after 40 years in business. The Syracuse location remains open.

Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to food@rochester-citynews.com.

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