Monday, June 29, 2015

Five Stars and Full Stomachs

Talk about a gut-buster.

This weekend saw the year's biggest influx in culinary talent with the annual Five Star Sensation food and wine celebration on Saturday, June 27, held in three giant tents on the grounds of Tri-C Eastern Campus. A benefit for the University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center (raising more than $2.3 million), this is perhaps the most exciting event for attendees since its inception in 1987, and among the busiest for restaurateurs. 
Guests waited as long as an hour to try
Symon's famous beef-cheek pierogies.
Hosted this year by Cleveland sweetheart Michael Symon (Lola), the event always draws lots of "oooohs" and "mmmms." But it's difficult to appreciate just how much work goes on behind the tents.

"There were [more than] 2,000 tickets sold," said Karen Small, chef and owner of the Flying Fig in Ohio City, who served burrata with caponata and garlic and jambon beurre (a delightfully rustic French ham sandwich). "We probably made too much."
About 2,300 people attended the 2015 Five Star Sensation.

Behind the smiles and crisp white chef jackets were rows upon rows of food warmers, portable ovens, stovetops and prep tables stacked with pans of every shape and size, and each chef came with an entourage to help grill, sauce, assemble and serve each meticulous plate.

Matthew Mytro and Paul Minnillo of Flour in Moreland Hills echoed Small's sentiments. Quickly, Mytro said over his shoulder, "It's been so busy. There are just so many people," as he continued to hand out his crispy-coated eggplant and zucchini meatballs.

Chef Douglas Katz's spring pea panna cotta
with smoked salmon, radish and pea tendrils
The star-studded event featured many of Cleveland's heavy-hitters — such as Rocco Whalen, Eric Williams, Douglas Katz and Jonathon Sawyer — but the event drew nearly 50 chefs in total, from Honolulu to Dallas to Boston, not to mention another three dozen vintners and importers of wine, Champagne and port. Know your stuff? Get ready for some name-dropping:

Traci Des Jardins (Jardiniere, San Francisco), Marc Forgione (American Cut, New York), Paul Kahan (The Publican, Chicago), Hubert Keller (Fleur by Hubert Keller, Las Vegas), Ken Oringer (Toro, Boston), Charles Pan (The Slanted Door, San Francisco), Aaron Sanchez (Paloma, Stamford, Connecticut), Francois Payard (Payard Patisserie & Bistro, New York), Daniel Skurnick (Buddakan, New York). The list goes on.

We're used to seeing the headliners milling about, directing their teams from afar, mingling with fellow chefs and trying some of the other dishes of the evening. Not so this night.

As the crowds thinned and the cook tents began packing up, Small took off her apron and looked around at all the tastes she'd missed. 

"The Slanted Door is probably one of my favorite places in the world, and I've traveled a lot," said Small, a little wistfully.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bump to Bows: A Crafty Mom's Destination


Becki Silverstein and Sarah Pozek
Sarah Pozek and Becki Silverstein are bringing handmade children’s goods to Cleveland one onesie at a time. Bump to Bows, a Mommy Boutique Show, is popping up throughout Northeast Ohio. Pozek and Silverstein, the creators of the traveling baby boutique, wanted to bring artisan children’s goods together after struggling to find unique gifts for their nieces and nephews. “We wanted something that was personalized,” says Pozek. “Sometimes when you order from Etsy or online, you can’t get your hands on it and really get a good visual of what it would look like. It brings the essence of Etsy into your home.” Combining Pozek’s past in event planning with Silverstein’s background as founder of the Avant-Garde Art & Craft Shows, the duo hatched the idea for Bump to Bows, which will feature products such as fashionable cloth diapers by Sew Snappy and toddler aprons by Radish Balloon. Catch the boutique at the Strongsville Ehrnfelt Recreation Center June 27 and 28, where some of the event proceeds will be donated to the Children’s Hunger Alliance. We chat with Pozek about getting bumped into the boutique world.

Q: What kinds of reactions did you get at the first Bump to Bows show?

A: One of the families that came, she has two daughters under the age of 2, and she walked out with just bags hanging off of her stroller. One of them [had] this teething ring, and she wouldn’t put it down. It was so cute.


Q: You donate a portion of your proceeds to children's charities including the Children’s Hunger Alliance and Alex’s Lemonade Stand for Childhood Cancer. Why did you decide to partner with charities?
A: Becki and I both just believe in giving back and actually, at my day job, I work for the American Heart Association. So we’re two believers in nonprofits, and especially in children’s charities in particular. So we wanted to be able to do that, every little bit helps.

Q: What are some of the most unique products sold at the show?
A: One of the most interesting ones we have is we have somebody [Meet Your Miracle Ultrasound] who comes in and actually will do on-site 3-D ultrasounds, and then they actually take the recording of the baby’s heartbeat and put it in a stuffed animal. So I think that’s really cool. We also have Pink Newborn Services, and they do sleep training and things like that. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New Kids on the Block Return for The Main Event





Get ready for this summer's biggest block party as the New Kids on the Block return to The Q tonight. This time they're backed by the crazy, cool pop stars of the '90s TLC and Nelly for The Main Event, where each artist will perform their biggest career hits. A 360-degree, arena-spanning stage will bring the audience up close with the boy band as they perform old-school songs such as "Step by Step" and "My Favorite Girl" alongside newer hits including "Crash" and "10." Joey McIntyre and Jordan Knight will also be performing solo hits as they venture out on catwalks. With cannons of confetti and a quick change cam that reveals a sneak-peek between costume changes, this show is sure to heat things up. So we talked to Danny Wood about being back on the road and what keeps him motivated.

Q: What can guests expect?
A: It’s definitely a unique tour with a lot of nostalgia. It’s a girls’ night out basically. You can get together with your friends and get the babysitters and leave the husbands and the boyfriends behind and have a good time.

Q: Will there be any onstage collaborations?
A: It’s very difficult when you’re putting a tour together this size, and everyone’s rehearsing in different parts of the country. We were only in the same spot in Vegas right before the first show. Everyone’s got families, and Nelly goes on way before we do, so it’s not an easy thing to put together.

Q: What do you enjoy most about these shows and how is it different than performing back in the '80s and '90s?
A: For me, personally, it’s being able to share it with my family. I have my daughters out here on the road with me. They’re 16 and 17 and they’re enjoying the road and going to the shows. My dad’s out on the road with me too, and he’s 73 years old. He’s having a blast. That’s the part that’s most enjoyable for me. You definitely have a great appreciation for being able to have a second chance at doing this again and to be able to be playing all these arenas.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The NBA Finals is a Homecoming for ESPN's Jay Crawford

Chris McKendry and Jay Crawford broadcasting from East Fourth Street in November.
Photo by Phil Ellsworth, ESPN Images
On Oct. 26, 1997, Jay Crawford joined dozens of media members outside the Cleveland Indians’ clubhouse at Miami’s Pro Player Stadium. The Tribe had just lost the seventh game of the World Series to the Florida Marlins and what happened next was brutal to watch. ”They went in and ripped down all the plastic that had been put up and brought out all the cases of Champagne,” says ESPN’s Crawford, who was covering the series for WBNS-TV in Columbus. “Then they brought out all of the Cleveland championship T-shirts and caps, which are probably being worn by kids in third world countries right now.”  

Once again, a title is in the balance … along with the possibility of yet another soul-crushing defeat. The Sandusky native and Bowling Green State University graduate will join Chris McKendry on today’s noon-2:30 p.m edition of SportsCenter, live from East Fourth Street. With Game 6 tonight, the self-proclaimed Cavs fan gives us a much-needed pep talk. 



The LeBron James story has eyeballs on it from all over the country. This is the culmination of what would be a great coming home story. It’s as dominant a performance by one player as I’ve ever seen in basketball. His triple-doubles alone really set him apart from anyone else. Even when he’s not shooting well, he can still impose his will in so many ways. I really believe he’s the best all-around player ever.

This would have been a much different series with Kyrie [Irving] and Kevin [Love]. Take away two of the best three players from Golden State or any other team, and let me know how that works out. I think the Cavs actually have a better defense right now — the problem is there aren’t a lot of scoring options available other than LeBron. Never before in the history of the NBA Finals has a team missing two of its top three scorers won a game, no less two games.

For me, there’s no better place to do a show than Cleveland. There’s so much energy from the fans. I know what they’ve been through. It’s always been us against the world. This [team] is a great representation of our city right now. They wear the personality of the place these fans call home. The people here know what a hard day’s work is about.

This could be the latest chapter in a book of sports tragedies. I would say this would be right there with the 1997 Indians. Who am I picking in Game 6? I’m going Cavs. It’s not in my DNA to pick against them. I think they can draw some energy from the crowd. And if it goes to seven games, anything can happen.    — as told to Barry Goodrich

NBA GAME 5: Two Takeaways & One Huge Game at Home



           
   Maybe you’re like me?
   During this playoff run — and especially in the NBA Finals — the day after a Cavs win, you get nothing done.
   You’re glued to sports-talk TV and radio[1].
   You read tens of thousands of words of analysis on the Internet and/or actual newspapers[2].
   Unsated, you happily tumble down social-media rabbit holes.
   You even break down and talk to people, jibber-jabbering with profligate abandon both on the telephone (weirdly enough) and in person (weirder still!).
   You even dare wonder how much money you’d spend on NBA Champions gear and then hate yourself for jinxing everything and then click on some other website or go bother some other person willing to listen to your hot take on last night’s big win.
   But after a loss?
   It’s … weird.
   You’re pouty.
   Awash in avoidance.
   You don’t want to say anything about the game, read anything[3] or think about it.
   You tell yourself it’s time to put away the childish things of your silly, immoderate fandom and get some real work done.
   Unless your real work is writing a blog like this. In which case, you, like me, would no doubt spend your day the way I just spent Monday — in a funk of weary, procrastinating denial.

   Given a day to process Cleveland’s Game 5 loss to Golden State, I have two takeaways.
   First, for my money, the worst moment was also the best and the happiest, the most gorgeous and exhilarating.
   With less than 10 minutes remaining in the game and the Cavs down 75-72, LeBron James drives into the lane, the Warriors defense collapses on him, he kicks the ball out to the perimeter, where his teammates zip what seems like 10 quick passes[4] before it gets back to him and he finds Iman Shumpert for a wide-open corner three.
   Tie game!
   About two minutes later (after two buckets by LeBron, a floater in the lane and a three of his own), the Cavs even led, briefly and for the final time, 80-79, before utterly collapsing down the stretch and losing 104-91.
   But there can be no argument that the Shumpert trey was the zenith of the game for Cleveland. It was a perfect specimen of the kind of offensive reign of terror this team is at its best.
   It was an increasingly frequent sight, until the departure of Kevin Love in the Boston series and utterly absent after Kyrie Irving went down in Game 1.
   How beautiful it was to see again.
   And what torture to behold it and wonder what might have been.

   My second takeaway is this: Moral victories are for losers.
   Dozens of times the past few days, I’ve heard even fellow Cleveland fans — especially them — talk about how great the Cavs will be positioned to win next year. I’ve heard more speculation about offseason free-agent contract issues (Love, Thompson, Delly, etc.) than I have X’s-and-O’s chalk-talk about how to reclaim the control of the tempo of the game that the Cavs had in the first three games of the series.
   This morning, a friend of mine — lifelong Clevelander and a knowledgeable fan — actually texted me to ask what’s better for LeBron’s legacy: to have swept the Warriors with a healthy Irving and Love or to lose in seven with what’s left.
   Seriously? C’mon man. The former!
   Who am I to hold a grudge against LeBron — quite the contrary! — but I don’t give a damn about his legacy[5].
   I care about winning a title in Cleveland.
   After 51 years of waiting for next year, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s be present. Let’s savor the agony and the ecstasy of the moment.
   We’re home.
   We’re playing tonight, two games away from a championship.
   If you’re like me, that’s all that really matters.   // Mark Winegardner






[1] Except for all programming involving Steven A. Smith, Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd and Tony Kornheiser-free Michael Wilbon, because, seriously: How are any of those guys still a thing?
[2] If, like me, you’re, say, 53 years old. Otherwise, yeah: Just online.
[3] Typically, the newspaper stays on the stoop or in the tube, untouched.
[4] It was only three.
[5] That’s not entirely true. I do. But not yet. Not right now.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

NBA Finals: Game 4 Postmortem

   
   
   Before Game 4, I ditched the perfectly adequate spread in the media dining room in the bowels of Quicken Loans Arena and headed over to East Fourth Street, relishing my every inch-along moment in a dense, exhilarated crowd where just about everyone but me was sporting Cleveland garb[1].
   Not, I should add, just Cavaliers stuff. In fact, I’d say at least half of it emphasized the Cleveland itself, first and foremost[2]. Things like believeland. Or cleveland is the city. This isn’t normal. You don’t see a whole lot of this in championship games in New York or LA, cities too large to have their identities so entwined with that of their sports teams. And neither do you see it in smaller cities like San Antonio, St. Louis or (shudder) Pittsburgh — places that have both won recent titles and been only rarely the butt of cruel jokes at the expense of any suffering. The fact that you see it in title-rich Boston, of course, is why Boston fans have become the most insufferable in the country. But Cleveland’s yearning for redemption is … well, if you’ve made it to the second graf of a blog on the Cleveland Mag website, I can’t imagine you need me to explain.
   Even a surprising amount of Cavs merch made a nod toward the team’s history. There was quite a lot from the orange-and-blue era and many replica jerseys of retired players[3], presumably to send the message that the wearer ain’t no bandwagon-jumper.
   I managed to burrow my way into the Greenhouse Tavern and bully my way to the bar[4], where I scored a seat at the far end. Next to me was a woman in v-necked wine-and-gold shirt picturing the retro Cavalier dude and her date, dressed in immaculately pressed, logo-free togs that would pass casual-Friday muster in the most staid law firm, though he turned out to be a New York-raised Jackson Hole, Wyoming, real estate agent. She was his massage therapist until she moved here to start her own business. He came to visit and wouldn’t tell me how much he paid for the tickets because he didn’t want her to think he was trying to impress her[5].
   The massage therapist said she wasn’t a huge basketball fan but she had deep family ties to Cleveland had been “living and dying” with the Cavs all season. “When I came home,” she said, “everyone joked that I was just trying to be like LeBron.”
   As for Realtor guy, he was just rooting for a good series, though as a New York Rangers fan, he knew what it felt like to suffer for a long time and then finally be redeemed.
   The woman and I made eye contact. Yeah, right, the look said. Realtor guy don’t know from suffering.
   “Of course,” he said, scrambling for the save, “I want her to be happy, so I’m rooting for Cleveland.”
   “Of course,” I said.

   Two days later, as I write this, I kind of envy Realtor guy and anyone else who doesn’t have a dog in the fight that this NBA Finals has become.
   For them (and, judging from the stellar TV ratings, there are multitudes of such people), this has been a delightfully a close, hard-played series, rich with storylines, MVP winners and unlikely heroes. A series that both displays and challenges the state-of-the-art basketball strategies. A series in which first one team split games at home, then the other team followed suit. A series that’s tied 2-2 and seems destined to go seven — which, really, is the only rooting interest you have.
   They enjoy every minute of it without worrying that maybe they’re crazy.
   For Cleveland fans[6] — at least those of us living and dying with the Cavs — we’ve been … if not literally living and dying, at least kind of, well … manic.
   Before Game 1, we were hopeful.
   After it, we were distraught
   Before Game 2, we braced for what seemed like a certain 4-0 sweep.
   After it, our spirits soared, flying along with the team back to Cleveland with home court advantage.
   Before Game 3, we were at best cautiously optimistic.
   After it, with Cleveland up 2-1 and with (historically) a 74 percent chance of winning, we allowed ourselves, for the first time, to get serious about how we’d really feel not if but when a Cleveland team wins a title in our lifetime.
   Before Game 4, we’d allowed ourselves to get downright giddy.
   After it, we weren’t crushed the way we were after Game 1. We were ground down. Emotionally exhausted and ground down. We woke resigned to losing the series in seven.
   Before Game 5, a lot of us will be braced for more disappointment.
   But our believeland clothing will betray us. And snippets of old songs will creep into our minds. Tonight the orange and blue delivers, some of us will sing[7]. Hard workin’ town, hard-workin’ team.   // Mark Winegardner




[1] Not while wearing press credentials. Hey, I’m a pro. There is a code to observe. I will confess that this series has driven me to violate the no-cheering-in-the-pressbox a few times, though I have recovered speedily and then dutifully swallowed my shame.
[2] Way more than that, if you concede that the ubiquitous all in slogan makes a nod toward the region’s soul-deep involvement with this team.
[3] Zydrunas Ilgauskus, who wore #11, remains #1 in the hearts of at least a dozen people I saw that night.
[4] That’s just an expression. Bullying is wrong! All night, I politely chanted excuse me, pardon me, excuse me, pardon me the way Hare Krishnas chant Hare Krishna, Krishna Hare. I digress, but where did all the Hare Krishnas go?
[5] “Twenty-two apiece,” he said when she went to the bathroom. That’s thousand. Plus service charges. He offered to show me his receipt on his iPhone, but I said I’d take his word for it.
[6] Probably for Golden State fans, too, although as fear overcomes me and I feel this series slipping away, I’m not of a mind to be empathetic to you guys.
[7] Actually, this is my ringtone.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

NBA Finals: Game 4




Pregame
We've recruited ESPN the Mag contributing writer and Crooked River Burning author Mark Winegardner to help us cover the 2015 NBA Finals — maybe our best chance in 51 years for that elusive title. But he's not #AllinCLE. Not yet anyway.
After a 96-91 win over the Golden State Warriors in which Matthew Dellavedova had to be taken from the arena on a stretcher after severe cramping, the Cavs have taken a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals. Tonight, it's a pivotal Game 4 at The Q. 


Jason Brill, associate editor: Some Tribe game today. Heard you were there. 
Mark Winegardner: Markum looked stellar! Urshela smoked his first HR! Yet something tells me those aren't going to be the two most exciting Cleveland sports moments today. 
MW: All game long there were random burst of "Let's Go, Cavs!" chants. Walking around downtown now. The same is true here. Hardly anyone in the casino not wearing Cavs gear.
JB: At lunch, it was pretty active around  Playhouse Square. It feels like a delivery on the excitement of last July when LeBron announced he was coming back.
MW: Did that excitement ever really wane? Maybe when they were 19-20, I guess.
JB: Maybe the delivery of all that promise. Not going to speak for the city, but I knew they were better than 19-20.
MW: Has any team ever won a championship starting only one guy from its opening lineup?
JB: And that one opening day starter happens to be the best player in the world? Probably not.
JB: And I think Steve would say we're venturing into jinx territory.
MW: And he'd be right!
MW: Warriors gotta be thinking, How the hell are we losing to these guys? Which is probably good for the Cavs.