Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Eaters Welcome

Photo by Barney Taxel

   Urban dweller Joe Gramc likes to take advantage of all this city has to offer. One of his particular enthusiasms is dining out. He's a regular at numerous independent, owner operated and chef driven Cleveland restaurants;  is gung ho about those that stock the kitchen with local products and is always eager to try new places.  The fine meals he's had have made him an outspoken fan and active booster of our food scene which, he says, stacks up against those in other cities. Three years ago Gramc decided it would be fun to get other people to join him in his culinary forays, and so the Cleveland Dinner Club emerged on Twitter.  It was a way, he explained, to support these restaurants and help them be successful. He also saw this as a chance to network, bring old friends together, and make new ones.
  Ten showed up for the first "drop-in" event at Dante. They ate from the regular menu and he tweeted about it. That pattern repeated with subsequent outings. Interest in what he was doing grew.  Now Gramc, who has a full-time job as VP of Finance at Five Star Trucking Inc, the family business in Willoughby, puts in around 16 (unpaid) hours to plan and promote each monthly gathering. The format has evolved to  feature special prix fixe menus created just for the group and reservations are required. He asks that chefs try to include some vegetarian and gluten-free options.
   Until it's time to come to the table, this is a totally online project. "I tweet out what we're doing- I now have around 3000 followers- and send invites to 150 names on the Club's email list," he says.  There's a link to an event site I create where people can rsvp. The Club is open to all. Anyone can attend an event as long as there is space available in the restaurant." Typically each gathering attracts 20-30 people, sometimes less, occasionally more.
Photo by Barney Taxel
 Dinners are always held during the week, when business tends to be slower and the restaurants can handle the crowd.  The next one is Wednesday, September 18, and I'm excited to be part of it.  I'll be the guide for an after-hours tour of the West Side Market, sharing some little known facts and debunking a few popular myths. Guests get a signed copy of my book, Cleveland's West Side Market:100 Years and Still Cooking.  After our ramble in and around the building, we'll head next door for a meal at Market Garden Brewery. The dishes Chef Andrew Bower and the crew are preparing make for a mouthwatering read: heirloom tomato salad with country ham; duck breast with apple and fennel; seared scallops with roasted corn and crab risotto...  and there are (optional) beer pairings with each course, including dessert. There are still seats available for this but you must purchase tickets in advance. Please consider joining Joe and I for this unique Cleveland Dinner Club outing. No doubt a good time for all. And if you can't, be sure to become a Twitter follower so you're sure to know what he's got going on in the months to come.


Phil Pavarini said...

Before heading to your WSM tour... LIVE webcam of your favorite Cleveland hotspots... view Downtown Cleveland, West Side Market, Tremont and more.  Check out traffic and weather before heading out... live, work, play Cleveland.

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