Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Table Talk

I walked into Fahrenheit recently and was blown away by the beautiful new tables that fill the dining room. The tops are maple and oak and are stained a rich cordovan brown. They are finished to silky smoothness and polished to a high shine that glows in the candlelight. I actually caught a server pause from clearing to stroke the surface. She saw me watching, blushed, and said “We all love them.”

What got me in the door to get a close look at these tables was both personal and professional. They are custom designed and made locally by APOC, aka A Piece of Cleveland, a company that my son Ezra Taxel and three partners launched a little less than a year ago. They deconstruct buildings all over town- as opposed to demolishing them- rescuing wood and other materials that otherwise would end up in the waste stream. In their shop they bring flooring, molding, studs, beams and doors back to pristine condition and then create furniture, countertops, and unique household accessories. The process is called upcycling and it’s at the cutting edge of the sustainability revolution. To say I am a proud mother is definitely and understatement. His equally proud pop, Barney Taxel is responsible for the fine photo.

But as a food writer my job is to follow and report on restaurant trends. None is more significant right now than implementing green principles. So I have more than parental pride motivating me to write about what Fahrenheit’s owner Rocco Whalen and his partners have done by commissioning APOC to make tables for the Tremont restaurant. The decision does all kinds of environmental good, saving trees, turning trash into raw materials, and conserving resources by eliminating the need for tablecloths which must be trucked to and from the laundry, washed and ironed. The tables are made from wood pulled from two houses, one in Westlake and the other on W.65th, and like all APOC products, they come with “rebirth certificates” that provides a bit of local history. There’s no bigger Cleveland booster than Chef Rocco, so it seems especially appropriate that he’s furnishing his place with stuff culled from the city he loves.

The APOC team is now hard at work making new tables for Starbucks at Cedar and Fairmount in Cleveland Heights. The wood they’re using was originally in a warehouse on E. 71st and what was, until it came down recently, the city’s oldest school building at Stannard and 50th. It will definitely add some local flavor to every cup of coffee they serve.

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