Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lunchtime Party

Hints of sunshine and blossoms on the trees remind us it's time to part from our desk and eat lunch outside.

Make midday a celebration with weekly Walnut Wednesdays, starting tomorrow through Sept. 25 at the up-and-coming NineTwelve District at  East 12th Street and Walnut Avenue.

From 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. this week, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance brings food trucks, including Umami Moto, Fired Up Taco Truck, DonutLab and more to the district as local band Faction plays covers from a wide range of musical genres.

Samantha Severo, DCA marketing and public relations specialist, sees the events as a way to bring some added excitement to the city's central business district. "We want to show that neighborhood and that side of town that there is foot traffic," she explains.

And on May 16, don't miss the first of four once-monthly Pop-Up Parties taking place in Perk Plaza. Delight your ears from 5-8 p.m. with the sounds of Justo Saborit Latin Soul as you dine on food truck treats and sip local brews from Great Lakes Brewing Co. This year's after-work parties feature a new element: shopping. Treasures from Cleveland Handmade and other local artisans will be available during a sidewalk sale with a flea market feel.

The E-Line trolleys now have extended hours in the NineTwelve District, making it even easier for Clevelanders to get their weekday lunch fix.

Walnut Wednesdays and Pop-Up Parties give the downtown workforce something to look forward to this summer while bringing new energy to the neighborhood surrounding renovated Perk Plaza. "You can see people who pour out of these buildings," Severo says, "just showing how lively it is."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Burgers, Beer and Bikes

  I recently  stopped by Nano Brew in Ohio City for a bite. The brewpub, located in the former Garage Bar, is a small space, all exposed brick and reclaimed barn wood, has a 24 seat bar and about 8 high-top tables. For decor, there are some vintage bicycles on display, a nod to owner Sam McNulty's favored mode of transportation, and a couple of shiny fermenting tanks. The place feels like it's always been here, a relaxed, friendly corner bar only with better food and beer.

The microbrewery, another project from the passionate and prolific Sam McNulty, an entrepreneur, suds aficionado and neighborhood developer responsible for Bier Markt, Bar Cento, and Market Garden Brewery. The focus here is on ultra small batch production that allows brewmaster Andy Tveekrem and his team to experiment with techniques, styles and flavors.

Billy Crompton,who developed his cooking skills working for Susie Porter at the much missed Town Fryer, is top dog in the kitchen, overseeing four line cooks. He brings an eclectic, quirky style to the menu, which pays homage to his former employer in the form of two deep fried delights: Oreos and balls of  mac 'n' cheese. I asked him a few questions about burgers, brews and bikes.

Cleveland Magazine: Who came up with various burger combos?
Billy Crompton: I collaborated with Andrew Bower and Maggie Schwenk (Chef and Sous Chef of Market Garden Brewery, respectively) to develop the menu. I'm happy that my ideas, such as the PB & J (a burger topped with peanut butter, bacon jam and arugula)  and the Chicken and Waffles salad (fried chicken thigh, apples, bacon, waffle croutons, maple-balsamic vinaigrette, and iceberg lettuce) made it onto the line up along with Bower and Schwenk's contributions, such as the Acid Trip, Fun Guy, (blue cheese burger with mushrooms, onion rings, arugula and staeak sauce) and Bibb Salad.  The Warm Hummus, Wake 'N Bake (a burger topped with cheddar, bacon, sunny-side-up egg, and "redeye" mayo- mayo, sriracha, and coffee- on an English muffin), and BLT, with house-made pork belly  were a  group effort.

CM: Do the burger selections stay the same or change?
BC: The bulk of the burger and sandwich menu will stay the same. However, some items (such as the house specials, soups, and salads) will change seasonally. I also came up with "The Daily Double," which is a two-patty burger that pairs with our  20-gallon batch, one-off beers. Nano Brew releases a new firkin every Thursday, and I create a burger special that pairs with it.

CM: What can you tell me about the ingredients you use?
BC: Nano Brew gets meat from Vince's Meats at the West Side Market. Vince sources his meat (U.S.D.A Choice Beef) from Mahan Packing in Bristolville, Ohio. We season our fresh, never frozen burgers using a house recipe and hand-patty them to order. We work with the Pork Chop Shop at the West Side Market. Emma and Alexia make the area's best chorizo, which we use in our Namber Chili, and we have also teamed up with them to make our bratwurst. They put our Nano Namber Ale in their bratwurst. We get as much produce as we can from the Ohio City Farm and Refugee Response Farm during the warmer months.

CM:  Nano has both sidewalk seating and an enclosed back patio. Anything else I should know about that area?
BC: Yes! We have both. There are two tables out front and communal tables on the side and on the back patio, where we'll have a full bar including all of our 24 draft beers [a mix of Nano Brew and Market Garden selections plus others from a variety of American craft brewers] during the warmer months. Our back patio "cross-polinates" with The Black Pig's second story patio, and we play our classic rock/old school punk soundtrack on the outdoor speakers to keep the party going. Nano Brew's side patio also has Cleveland's first and only "Bike Box," [for storing your two-wheeler], and we have a bike repair station inside if anyone needs to fix their bike while out and about.

Nano Brew is Ohio City's third brewpub and a fourth, the Hansa Brewpub, breaks ground today. Not surprisingly McNulty, an Ohio City booster with a supportive and generous spirit, is hosting the after-party for the event at 5 p.m. today at Market Garden Brewery.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Unrestaurant

   I've been wanting to post something about La Campagna in Westlake ever since I had my birthday dinner there in February. Timely events and other pressing subjects kept grabbing the space but at last I can devote this soapbox of mine to doling out some well deserved praise for this absolutely unique and quirky destination.
  I must warn you however, that to enjoy a meal here you must let go of almost all your expectations of what a restaurant is supposed to be. By day it is a small gourmet food and wine shop. Gift baskets are a specialty. At night the tables and chairs come out with seating for around 30-35, and it can be close quarters. But that's part of the experience. Instead of scanning a list, diners browse the selection of bottles on the shelves, pick what they want and pay retail for it. Due to licensing issues, staff controls the bottles and the pours, doling it out in small amounts, all the better in my opinion for sipping, savoring and keeping the pace leisurely.
   Carmella Fragassi is the queen of the kitchen here. A devotee of the cuisine of Puglia, the region of Italy where her family hails from, she makes everything from scratch and uses as much local and seasonal product as she can, just as they do in the old country trattorias that are her model. Her cooking is wonderful, far better than what we think of as homemade but not restaurant fussy or chef fancy. It is traditional not rule- breaking or mind bending. Everything I've ever had here has been truly done well and totally satisfying. 

   There is no menu. A server, who might be her sister, recites the list of what Carmella is cooking that day. There's always some kind of appetizer, which could include prosciutto made by her brother,  salad, pasta, maybe soup, usually a fish, poultry, and a red meat dish. If you ate something you loved on a previous visit, you can call ahead and request it and she'll try to accommodate you. Ditto with special dietary requirements and favorite or hated ingredients.  In my opinion, the very best way to eat here is to cede control completely,  put yourself in Carmella's hands and let her create the meal for you.
   Keep in mind that the place isn't open late, usually not seating after 9 PM. Reservations are absolutely essential, (440-871-1771). And its damn hard to locate particularly after dark:  set back from Detroit Road in a strip mall fronted by a parking lot. Plus there's no big illuminated sign, not to mention that it looks like a store not a restaurant. But persevere- it's worth the effort.
   I  discovered La Campagna many years ago and consider it a local treasure. The night I was there a young woman came up to my table to tell me she'd been in the audience at one of my author talks when I sang its praises, had come with her husband out of curiosity the first time, and they were now regulars. Those who already know the spot think of it as their own secret find.  Everyone who has yet to discover its charms are in for a very pleasant surprise. And did I mention, Carmella caters?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dinner in the Dark shines a light on Cork & Cleaver, Toast

For foodies like me life doesn't get much better than a meal to celebrate different chefs, cuisines and inspirations — and to see what's new on the dining scene. Last night's Dinner in the Dark at the recently opened Cork & Cleaver Social Kitchen packed all those things into one.

To start the evening off, chef Adam Bostwick prepared an amuse bouche of fried tomatillos with avocado mousse, crispy chorizo, sweet onions and peppers to welcome everyone to his and Brian Okin's new Broadview Heights restaurant. The hand-held, bite-size pieces — a play on a dish currently on Bostwick and Okin's menu at Cork & Cleaver — had just the right amount of kick.

We also got a preview of another restaurant set to open this week in the Gordon Square Arts District — Toast from chefs Jennifer Plank and Joe Horvath. The duo served up a smoked local tilapia rillette with a cucumber salad, beer mustard and pickled fennel and carrots. Toast looks to combines wine, cocktails and a great small plates menu using local produce, products (hence the fish grown here locally) and ingredients.

Other chefs who participated last night include Vento La Trattoria's Ray Garmon, the Black Pig's Brian Toomey, Fresh Butcher Deli and Cafe's Mike Dunlap and Sweetness' Jillian Sopko. 

Next month's Dinner in the Dark is scheduled for Monday, May 20 at Amp 150. For more information, visit dinnerinthedarkcleveland.com

Photos courtesy of Tom Noe.

Drink Beer, Support the Market

A bottle from the original batch of Butcher's Brew. The beer won't be
bottled this time around. (Photo by Amira Maher)

A wave of supportive efforts that launched after the Jan. 30 fire at the West Side Market -- from a cash mob to Michael Symon's fund-raising campaign — has largely died down. But Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s contribution is just now being poured.

Soon after the fire, the brewery decided to help the market through a re-release of Butcher’s Brew — a lager originally made in honor of the West Side Market for last year’s Centennial Gala. But beer can’t be brewed overnight.

Now it’s ready. Starting tomorrow, Butcher’s Brew will be available in for-donation samples at the West Side Market CafĂ© and in $6 pints at the brewery, across the street on Market Avenue, until the contents of seven barrels run dry. This time around, the velvety yet subtly bitter Kulmbacher-style lager won’t be bottled.

All proceeds, which the brewery expects will be about $10,000, will go to Ohio City Inc.’s Market Bonds program. Customers who buy $40 worth of bond certificates to the West Side Market will get $10 for free, funded by donations from the brewery. Vendors can turn in certificates they receive for cash.

“It’s a good way for us to make sure that the proceeds are going to the vendors,” says Mary LaVenia, public relations assistant at Great Lakes. “We want to make sure that the vendors can stay in business and be able to repurchase things that they lost during the fire.”

Since its 1988 inception, Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s menu has included meat and some produce from West Side Market vendors, including Dohar Meats, Ohio City Pasta and Lance’s Beef. Over the years, partnerships that were strictly business have turned into friendships.

“The happiness there the first day it was reopened. It wasn’t just about them doing business again,” says LaVenia. “It was about seeing the friends that you used to see every week when you went to patronize their business. We couldn’t be more happy to have it back.”

The restaurant and bar saw a decrease in foot traffic during the almost three weeks the West Side Market was closed.

“Everyone, I think — we’ve talked about it in our merchant meetings — realized that the West Side Market impacted their business a lot more strongly than they ever knew,” LaVenia says. “We just want to help out the market.”

For more coverage of the market, including the vendor families who’ve been at the market for 100 years, take a look at our stories from November. For more on the brewery, including its pub-only specialty beers, check out our February beer package.

Friday, April 12, 2013

CIFF: "Brave Miss World" helps victims heal, speak out

This documentary tackles a subject that many of us have a hard time thinking about, let alone discussing: rape. But instead of dealing with the psyche of rapists or what drives people to commit such horrific acts, this film follows Linor Abargil, the former Miss World on her quest to give victims a voice.

In 1998, Linor was raped two months before receiving her crown, only knowing her assailant a few days before the attack. After 10 years of trying to come to terms with what happened to her, Linor decides to become an advocate for other rape victims, traveling the world hearing their stories and sharing hers.

Linor's journey takes her to South Africa, known as the rape capital of the world, to meet with victims in their teens and one memorable survivor who was attacked by two men and stabbed more than 50 times. (Discouraging film fact: A female is raped every three minutes in South Africa.)

Her travels also take her to Los Angeles where she sits down with Joan Collins and Fran Drescher and here to Cleveland, where she speaks at a luncheon for the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. There are familiar faces compelled to tell their stories with Linor and also with us.

The stories of the survivors delicately woven throughout the film are heartbreaking and hard to hear but moving at the same time. These individuals were brave enough to speak out. We should be brave enough to listen.

Brave Miss World shows again this Sunday, April 14 at 12:20 p.m. The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center will host a survivor panel and speak out event later that day from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel featuring Brave Miss World producer Cecilia Peck and local survivors who appear in the film. Visit clevelandfilm.org for ticket information. 

CIFF: "Furever" is an odd little documentary you won't soon forget

Director Amy Finkel's Furever opens with a distraught man recalling the loss of his cat — a snow-white feline he's not been able to let go of following its death. The cat's last meal is preserved in a Ziplock bag. Some of its hair has been saved in another. A third contains a final litter box deposit.

The scene is both strange and sad. It also illustrates the central questions at the heart of Finkel's intriguing 80-minute film: Why do some people have such a difficult time letting go of their deceased pets, and is there anything really wrong with even the most bizarre attempts to retain those bonds?

Finkel reserves judgement as she delves into the culture of those who have gone to extraordinary lengths to preserve not only their pets' memories, but in some cases even their physical bodies. And while you may be thinking, there's no way I'm watching this, Finkel has created a fascinating documentary that is a window into how we relate to our fellow humans as much as it is about the bonds we form with the animals we welcome into our homes.

Pet funerals, jewelry made using cremated remains, taxidermy, freeze-drying, cloning, even (in one of the film's more bizarre segments) Egyptian-style cat mummification are all explored. Along the way, we learn about the chemical reactions in our brains that cement our relationships with our pets, and the business ventures cropping up around honoring their memories. By the end, it's clear that not letting go has a price, and for the most obsessed pet owners it's measured in dollars and cents.

Furever shows again this Saturday, April 13 at 3:40 p.m., and Sunday, April 14 at 11:45 a.m. Visit clevelandfilm.org for ticket information. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Raise a glass to Toast

The place hasn't even opened yet and I'm already a bit smitten. I was instantly charmed the moment I walked in the door. Toast, a new wine bar in the Gordon Square arts district, on West 65th Street, revives a 1913 building, formerly a bakery and home, that has been empty for the past 30 years.

You enter into what was once the baker's living room. One dining area has a window seat and built-in, glass-fronted china cabinets. The original kitchen is a private tasting room complete with the old wooden cupboards. The former storefront on the lower level is now filled with long tables for communal seating and cool light fixtures have been formed by coiling metal bands from wine barrels. The bar, positioned where bread was once kneaded and cakes frosted, is made from salvaged wood topped with acid-stressed zinc. The wall behind it features wine bottles set in cement and bricks emblazoned with names of various locations throughout the city: Buckeye, Collinwood, Cleveland.

Owner Jillian Davis — an attorney, food and wine enthusiast, and now building rescuer — contacted the last baker that worked here and brought him in for a look around. The elderly man revealed that the 12-foot troughs she found on-site had been his flour bins. Now they'll become tables, filled with corks and topped with glass.

My tour guides were chefs Jennifer Plank and Joe Horvath. Partners in life, they'll run the food side of Toast together.  Energy and enthusiasm for this project was written all over their smiling faces and apparent in the description of this grand adventure they are about to undertake. The couple had left their jobs with Jonathon Sawyer at The Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat intending to move to the country and farm. But an introduction and a few conversations with Jillian put them on a different path. They will still be fulfilling their desire to live the aggie life. The couple plan to raise chickens and grow vegetables in a double lot across the street from the restaurant. Talk about fresh and local.

The look and the scale of the place, and stories such as these just stole my heart. I also like the the trio's intent to create an unpretentious neighborhood hangout where people can enjoy unusual wines, well made cocktails and small plates. Plank and Horvath plan to source locally and feature the best of whatever's available seasonally; do their own pickling, smoking and curing; and combine their formal, classical training with a world's worth of flavors and styles. Everything will be sized for sampling and plated to encourage swapping and sharing. Wines will be from the new world and the old and food-friendly with at least 10 available by the glass nightly. Tonic and bitters will be made in house. Expect a mix of classic cocktails, some pre-Prohibition drinks, and a few new twists on old favorites

Toast is scheduled to open next Wednesday, April 17, and I look forward to enjoying all it has to offer very soon. This venture is full of promise. Here's wishing them well.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"Wonder Women" celebrates superheroines at CIFF

Hollywood likes to remind us of the male superheroes that shaped our culture: Batman, Spiderman and Superman to name a few, but what about the female superheroes? Why hasn’t a superhero summer blockbuster featured a female character at the helm?

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines delves into that question and many more in its short but fulfilling 62 minutes. It traces how Wonder Woman’s evolution — from her '40s debut as a brazen, powerhouse to her '50s turn as a passive, lovestruck wife — reflects the changing roles of women in society.

Earnest interviews with strong women such as Gloria Steinem and Lynda Carter shed light on how women have won and lost over the years as our image and purpose changed. The film presents examples of modern-day versions of superheroines like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lara Croft, but it also addresses the void of women who exude strength, power and prominence. That's not to say the film isn't hopeful. Scenes at youth workshops and interviews with children remind us that, with each generation, women more closely associate themselves with the altruistic, powerful version of independence that Wonder Woman embodies. 

The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through April 14. To browse the schedule, visit clevelandfilm.org.

"Girl Rising" enlightens, inspires at CIFF

Richard E. Robbins tried to ignore the urge to make Girl Rising. But he told a Cleveland International Film Festival crowd last night that the statistics he came across about girls and education in developing countries stayed with him. The Academy Award nominee felt so strongly about the need for more girls to be educated that he stepped away from Hollywood to make this enlightening 101-minute film.

Told through nine short vignettes narrated by celebrities such as Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep, the film paints a vivid portrait of girls around the globe fighting for the right to an education. Instead of using talking heads and provided footage, the girls’ stories are recreated through stunning cinematography and inventive animation. Each story tackles a different issue. For example, gentle Suma from Nepal escapes a life of being a bonded servant with the help of a kind teacher, while defiant Wadly from Haiti goes to school post-earthquake despite having no money.

The film offers scope through scenes of girls holding up statistics representing the plight of girls around the world. Although not all those depicted ultimately broke free from their situation, Robbins' film makes an unassailable case that the education of girls is tied to a better, healthier society. 

See Girl Rising at the Cleveland International Film Festival today at 1:50 p.m. For more information, visit clevelandfilm.org. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

"The Discoverers" finds itself at CIFF

The Discoverers is the story of a soon-to-be-divorced community college professor who moonlights as a security guard while trying to complete and publish his life’s work — a 6,000-page book about Lewis and Clark’s journey west. But, as the movie’s writer and director Justin Schwarz puts it more simply, “It’s about family.”

Lewis Birch is in the early stages of a Chicago-to-Portland, Ore., road trip with his snarky, cynical daughter and his stoner son when he finds out his mother is ill and he has to go off the trail. He hasn't seen his parents in a long time, and when his mother’s death sends his father into a near-catatonic state that leaves him believing he’s Captain William Clark, Birch and his kids get sucked into a Lewis and Clark Expedition reenactment troop — with all the accoutrements of the very early 1800s on the frontier.

The pacing is slow but allows the viewer to absorb all of the great writing along with the clever, dry quips from Birch’s daughter, Zoe. By the end, each member of the group discovers something about themselves and each other.

While the movie’s only two Cleveland International Film Festival showings were this past weekend, Schwarz has organized a Kickstarter campaign to fund a wider release. He’s drumming up support on the festival circuit, kicking everything off here in Cleveland.

The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through April 14. To browse the schedule, visit clevelandfilm.org.

Friday, April 5, 2013

"Doomsday Book" brings a dose of weird to CIFF

Doomsday Book is as entrancing as it is strange. The 2012 sci-fi film from South Korea contains three chapters by two different directors — all in some way dealing with an apocalypse of sorts, be it the rise of artificial intelligence, the fall of man to a zombielike disease or an enormous asteroid accidentally sent to destroy Earth.

The standout of the 120-minute film is Kim Jee-woon's "Heavenly Creature," in which a technician is called to a Buddhist monastery to investigate whether a robot there has achieved enlightenment. Is the robot malfunctioning or is something else going on? Those at the monastery are fascinated by the unusual development, but the company that owns the robot — an organization that has both the right and responsibility to investigate such events — wonders whether the machine should be destroyed. The thought-provoking and sometimes haunting chapter examines the role intelligent machines play in a modern society and the consequences their existence has on our own.

That story is bookended by Yim Pil-sung's "Brave New World" and "Happy Birthday." The former is a love story-turned-zombie-apocalypse-turned-love-story. The latter is a Twilight Zone-esque tale in which a young girl trying to buy a billiard ball online accidentally orders the planet's destruction. Both are fun, but "Heavenly Creature" is the one that'll stick with you.

See Doomsday Book at the Cleveland International Film Festival tonight at 11:50 p.m.

CIFF: "Musicwood" sounds the alarm for guitar lovers

The best acoustic guitars are made of four materials: spruce (the soundboard), rosewood (the body), mahogany (the neck) and ebony (the fretboard). It's been that way for hundreds of years. And when looking at a beautifully made acoustic guitar, what most music lovers don't consider is that the tightly packed grain of a spruce soundboard is a visual reminder that this vital piece of the instrument is often cut from a tree that's between 300 and 500 years old. 

Musicwood, showing at the Cleveland International Film Festival today at 4:30 p.m., is a look into the construction of hand-made guitars and where that wood comes from. The film focuses on Tongass National Forest and the native Alaskans who have the sole right to log the enormous spruces that grow there. It follows a Greenpeace lobbyist who asks three guitar company executives to help him encourage Sealaska Corp. to stop the clear-cutting that promises to decimate the trees. 

Guitar construction accounts for a sliver of where the Tongass spruces end up, with most of them shipped to markets in Asia. But as the company representatives for Gibson, Taylor and C.F. Martin & Co. explain in the film, guitar companies stand to lose the most from the disappearance of the woods so vital to the sound quality of their products. 

The Greenpeace and guitar company representatives travel to Alaska to meet with the logging executives and discuss sustainable forestry practices. But their visit becomes a complicated clash of cultures and interests where long-held land rights and the economic needs of native Alaskans run up against the desire to preserve beauty in both natural and man-made forms. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Plain Dealer going to 3-day home delivery, 7-day newsstand edition

The Plain Dealer has announced its big change, and it’s not what most people expected. The paper will cut home delivery to 3* days a week starting in late summer. But it’ll continue publishing a 7-day paper at newsstands and in an electronic edition. [*see update at bottom]

The move, announced this morning, is part of PD owner Advance Publications’ aggressive shift toward a digital-first publishing strategy. But it’ll play out differently in Cleveland than in other cities where Advance owns newspapers. From New Orleans to Harrisburg, Pa., Advance papers have given up on daily print publication in the past several months.

Instead, The Plain Dealer is adopting a strategy pioneered by the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, which reduced home delivery to three days a week in 2009 to cut printing and delivery costs. The PD says it’ll deliver papers to homes on Sundays and two other days to be named later.

The head of The Plain Dealer’s newsroom union, which tried to rally Greater Cleveland against a reduction in the paper’s print schedule, reacted to the news with a mix of guarded relief and continued alarm.

“We’re pleased the paper decided to maintain 7-days-a-week publication,” said Harlan Spector, chairman of the Newspaper Guild’s Local 1. “It perhaps shows that they were listening to the community. However, we still have grave concerns about he staff cuts, the quality of journalism that’s going to be offered with this reduced staff, and the folks that are going to lose out from lack of home delivery four days a week.”

Today’s announcement did not say how much the news-gathering operation will shrink. Staffing decisions will be made this summer, PD publisher Terry Egger said in a press release.

In December, the Guild reluctantly agreed to management’s plan to reduce The Plain Dealer’s news staff from 168 people to 110. But not all of those cuts will be layoffs. Some staffers will be offered jobs with cleveland.com, management told the union at the time. Today’s announcement says news content will be provided by both the Plain Dealer Publishing Company and a reorganized digital operation, the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

Terry Egger, the Plain Dealer’s publisher, will stay to see the paper through the changes. Last September, Egger announced plans to retire this Jan. 1, triggering fears among the staff that the paper was about to become a non-daily. But in December, Egger revealed he was putting off his retirement to work on the transition. Now he plans to leave at the end of 2013.

{Update: Egger and other PD executives lobbied Advance to keep the paper a daily. "We think that's a must in this marketplace, and we were listened to on this point," Egger told newsroom employees, according to Robert L. Smith's article.}

The announcement did not reveal what the newsstand-only editions will look like. In Detroit, smaller, redesigned print editions were rolled out with the switch to 3-day home delivery. Another development in Detroit has cushioned the blow for devoted newspaper readers. Independent distributors have filled the gap, delivering print editions every day to some homes.

The paper broke the news online at about 10 am today, sparking a flood of comments from readers upset about the changes. Plain Dealer managing editor Thomas Fladung and other employees jumped in with responses.

“We will still have staff reductions,” Fladung wrote. “That stinks, but it's dictated by the continuing struggles my industry faces.”

Optimistically, Fladung pitched the changes as a strategy for bouncing back in the long run. “We have to find a way to break out of this cycle of cuts and find the approaches and the products that will again allow us to grow.”

Advance's digital-first strategy has proven controversial in cities where it's been implemented. Critics say its websites are poorly designed and don't live up to the company's digital ambitions. Meanwhile, most newspaper companies are taking a different strategy, erecting paywalls on their websites to shift away from a free-news model.

"Compared with decisions by other owners, [Advance's strategy] looks like an unnecessary and premature surrender of the qualities that make newsrooms worth having—and saving," argued Ryan Chittum in the Columbia Journalism Review in March.

Chittum's story on the changes at the New Orleans Times-Picyaune and its website, NOLA.com, asserted that the quality of news coverage has declined as the New Orleans operation shifts its focus to sports and entertainment.

*Update: The Plain Dealer will be home-delivered 4 days a week, not 3, the paper announced on May 22. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, the paper will be sold only on newsstands. The changes will debut August 5. The paper's announcement was hard to follow; see this Crain's Cleveland Business story for a clear explanation.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

CIFF Opening Night: The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer is about distances: the rapidly expanding gulf between parents and their teenage boys waiting to be men, the end of the school year and the far-off never of next fall, how things are and how we wish they could be. Jordan Vogt-Roberts' debut feature film follows three boys who, for their own reasons, take off into the woods together at summer break to escape their parents, build a house, and — to paraphrase just two tenets of their recited bond to each other — find their own food and be their own men. It spoils nothing to say they are successful in their quest to create a place of their own but that victory brings consequences, too. Chris Galletta's script is funny and quirky but the film finds its heart in the Ohio woods that become the boys' kingdom — a place of imagination and ingenuity, fire and fun.

The Kings of Summer opens the Cleveland International Film Festival tonight. The film festival runs through April 14. clevelandfilm.org

Movie Meals

Downeast, showing at the Cleveland International Film Festival, documents Antonio
Bussone's efforts to open a processing factory in rural Maine. (Photo by Meghan Brosnan)

It's an annual tradition.

The moment it's released I go through the Cleveland International Film Festival (April 3-14) program guide to to see what fascinating cinematic experiences await me. The selection is rich and varied. But since I have a special interest in all things edible and the people who are connected to the world that produces them,  I always look for the food-related movies and make a special effort to organize my life so that I can see them. As I often do, I'm sharing that list with those who follow my weekly posts.

Here's my list for the upcoming two weeks.

Canned Dreams
April 5 and 8
A visual study of the places and the lives that go into making a can of ravioli.

April 8 and 9
What happens in town when the fish cannery closes and one man tries to create something new and entrenched interests thwart him at every step.

More than Honey
Germany, Austria, Switzerland
April 13 and 14
A deep exploration of the important question: Where are the honey bees and why does it matter?

April 7, 8, 9
Indie comedy involving a deli and smoked fish.

Survival Prayer
USA, Canada
April 8, 10, 11
A documentary about the Haida people of British Columbia, their endangered way of life and the wild food foraging culture that sustains them.

While feeding the mind is admirable and important, not to say profoundly satisfying, the belly demands attention too. One suggestion for a quick bite on-site that won't cut into much of your movie watching time, or your wallet, is  the Godfather burger, served with pepperoncini aioli, provolone cheese and grilled soppressata ($12), from the Lobby Court Bar at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. Order a Great Lakes Brewing Co. saeasonal draft and the twosome will cost you $16. Or try a cocktail crafted for the festival: The Lights! Camera! Action! martini is made with Cleveland Whiskey, black walnut bitters and Luxardo Maraschino liqueur ($6).