I’m happy to be the bearer of some really good news. The recently formed culinary dream team of chefs Ben Bebenroth and Andy Strizak, both highly regarded champions of sustainable agriculture and the local food movement, are going beyond the catering they’re known for and the on-farm dinner series Plated Landscapes that’s done nothing but grow since Bebenroth launched it five years ago. The duo is starting a restaurant, a first for both. But the vision is for something that goes way beyond the ordinary arrangement of tables and chairs. Over drinks at Flying Fig, Ben and his wife, Jackie, shared the details of the multi-part, multi-phase project.
Spice Kitchen + Bar will open, once renovations are completed, in the spot at the corner of Detroit and West 58th Street that has recently housed a succession of restaurants (La Boca, Roseangel, and the short-lived La Boca Barrio). No date yet. But you can follow the progress of the transformation at thespiceblog.com. The space became available unexpectedly, and as Ben tells it, “We saw this as an incredible opportunity that fell in our lap. But we had only seven days to react and make a decision.” They went for it. In keeping with the philosophy and made-from-scratch style the chefs are known for, expect a menu of simple, familiar dishes rooted in the best of what’s grown and raised in Northeast Ohio. Think of it as good in every way: good tasting; good quality; good for your health, the environment and the community.
In stage II, sometime in 2012, The Spice Rack, inspired by Karen Small's Market at the Fig, will be doing business in a small connected storefront, offering a selection of local, artisan food products, prepared items from the restaurant and maybe even some supplies for home gardeners. Conceivably, you could stop in to pick up a lunchtime burrito to go, a jar of salsa plus a pound of stone-ground cornmeal to use later that night and a package of heirloom tomato seeds. Then there’s the plan to reinvent the patio with edible landscaping in containers and raised beds so it can accommodate diners and also supply the kitchen, with more ingredients coming from a plot of land behind the parking lot that they’ll put under cultivation and the 10,000-square-foot garden, complete with two hoop houses to extend the growing season in Ben and Jackie’s backyard. All these agricultural efforts are grouped under the name Spice Acres.
This location is also going to be headquarters and home base for Spice of Life, the parent company for this whole family of brands and projects, including the well-established catering operation, Plated Landscape events, and farmers market food stands.
They acknowledge that their undertaking is an ambitious one. It’s going to be a slow, incremental, step-by-step process. Let’s wish them well, show our support by showing up when the lights go on and count ourselves lucky that these people are committed to pursuing their dreams here.
Image by Bloom Photography, courtesy of Spice of Life