Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Flavors of Northeast Ohio event lives up to its name

For the 200-plus guests that purchased tickets to last night’s Flavors of Northeast Ohio event at the Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center, the stacks of scraped-clean plates and emptied wine glasses made it quite obvious that no contribution went unrewarded.

Featuring an accomplished lineup of local chefs — including Dante Boccuzzi, Brian Okin, Andrew Bower and Tim Bando — those in attendance were treated to a full five-course meal, with each chef preparing a unique and themed menu for their specific table. The more than $60,000 in proceeds from the benefit will go toward the American Liver Foundation, with many in attendance pledging donations in addition to their price of admission.

After an hour replete with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction, guests began taking their seats in the main ballroom. Maureen Kyle of Channel 3 emceed the evening’s events, with Jeff Jarrett of Amp 150 and Adam Bostwick serving as culinary co-chairs. Patricia Summers, a survivor of liver disease, was also honored as this year’s LIVEr Champion.

Dan Hawrylak of Amp 150, the featured chef for my table, began the night with a crispy duck croquette, a tasty primer to the five-course spread.

Duck croquette

He followed that with a comforting and creamy squash soup, which contained pieces of roasted squash, pumpkin oil and crème fraich. One of the diners at my table described it as “autumn in a cup.” That dish was proceeded by Hawrylak’s take on fried chicken, which was confited in duck fat and served with sweet and tangy mustard greens.

After a refreshing pear salad — with blue cheese, vanilla vinaigrette and a crunchy pumpkin seed brittle — the menu’s main entrée was a bison steak, served with doughy sweet potato gnocchi, turnips, Brussels sprouts and (surprisingly) delicious pickled plums.

Bison with sweet potato gnocchi

Chef Hawrylak finished strong with a sophisticated s’more for dessert, featuring a standard graham cracker base topped with chocolate cake, a torched homemade marshmallow (giving it that campfire taste), and finished off by a chocolate ganache.

A new take on s'mores

Chef Bostwick won the evening’s “Featured Chef Menu and Design” competition for his interpretation of upscale tailgate food, accompanied naturally by plenty of football and Cleveland Browns gear. He even offered the crowd a bit of backhanded reassurance upon accepting the award, reminding the Browns fans in attendance that “there’s always next year.”


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