Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cleveland's Sweet Elite

Until recently Liz Weinclaw's claim to fame was that she'd been Michael Symon's pastry chef at Lola. Now she has something new to boast about. She and Caitlin Shea have partnered up to launch Meringue Bake Shop in October, joining the growing Cleveland community of fine and fancy artisan bakers. The pair specialize in beautiful custom cakes (take note all you spring and summer brides), macarons (French sandwich cookies, featured in the February issue of Cleveland Magazine), petit fours, and all sorts of bite-sized sweets for dessert buffets.

For now, this is a virtual store. Securing a bricks and mortar location is still a dream, so everything must be ordered in advance by phone, email, or through Facebook. But you can sample some of their treats with a cup of coffee at Phoenix and Rising Star.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pig Out

Last summer, my husband and I did one of Ben Bebenroth's Plated Landscape Dinners. The first stop was New Creations Farm in Geauga County. Our climb up a hill to visit the pigs, raised humanely and sustainably and without hormones or antibiotics, was memorable. The animals wander in large open wooded spaces and much to our surprise, they were gentle and friendly. They live a good life until it's time give it up for us humans.

Their delicious and highly prized meat, served at a number of area restaurants known for offering locally-sourced food, is the centerpiece of a Feb. 27 class at The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking in Chesterland. Taught by the school's director, Stefanie Paganini, it includes preparation demos for pork sliders with spicy tomato jam, split pea soup with ham, and roasted chestnut and apple stuffed pork chops. Kristen Boehnlein, who owns and operates the farm with her husband, Scott, and their eight children, will be on hand to talk about the how and why of what they do.

The 2.5 hour class starts at 6 p.m., and the cost is $55. Pre-registration required. If this one's sold out, there are many other interesting sessions coming up, including "Advanced Methods for Pork" for more experienced cooks in March.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Cultural Shift

Photo by David Brichford
The Vienna World Exposition of 1873 spurred international enthusiasm for Japanese art. Much like that expo, Remaking Tradition: Modern Art of Japan, on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art from Feb. 16 to May 11, offers a rare look at modern Japanese art. The collection, which includes six pieces certified by the government as important cultural properties, communicates how Japanese art has evolved with Western influences while still maintaining centuries-old tradition. Here are three things we learned from the exhibit that marks the first time a collection of modern Japanese art of this size from the Tokyo National Museum has been introduced overseas.

Tradition Remains: As you stroll through the more than 50 folding screens, hanging scrolls, ceramics, oil paintings and more keep an eye out for traditional symbols of Japanese culture in modern-style works, such as Aiming at the Target. “The technique is Western, but the artist picked up the motif of the Japanese cherry blossoms, and the costume was an exact representation of traditional Japanese armor style,” says Masato Matsushima, curator of Japanese painting and senior manager of special exhibitions at the Tokyo National Museum, through an interpreter.

Pushing Boundaries: Early styles of Japanese art, such as ceramics, were often regarded as decorative arts. To help establish a foothold in the fine arts and politics, artist Takahashi Yuichi adapted Western techniques of oil painting for this portrait politician Okubu Koto. “In order to be powerful in other countries, Japan tried to enforce the power of the art, too,” Matsushima says. “[Yuichi] painted this portrait, which is a traditional style of Western in oil painting in order to prove that Japan can create something like Western countries can do.”

Frame Game: Although the scrolls hang free in this exhibit, they were presented as a paneled portrait during the 1873 expo. “Maybe it’s more approachable for Western people to see the framed painting," Matsushima says, "but then they get used to it and eventually can accept the traditional format ... maybe.”

Remaking Tradition is the first major exhibit shown since the museum finished its eight-year-plus, $350 million renovation. To read more about the renovation, see our January 2014 "Master Work" Package here.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Rock On

Photo by Michael Lamont

Similar to his alter ego on the stage, Elijah Rock traveled far away from home to pursue his love of classical music and the arts. The Cleveland native now living in Los Angeles portrays Roland Hayes, one of the first internationally acclaimed African-American classical singers, in Breath and Imagination showing at the Cleveland Play House from Feb. 14 to March 9. Rock talks to us about LA life and how Hayes’ story parallels his own.

Cleveland Magazine: While you are a Cleveland native, you've been living in LA for the last six years. What is acting in LA like?

Elijah Rock: Acting in LA has been good for me. It’s tough for a lot of people, but it’s been good for me. … I’ve always been performing, but I really took four or five years to just focus on filmmaking, and now I’m at a point in my career where I’m doing theater again. I’m making movies, and I’m signed with a lot of the top agencies just taking time to develop all these creative talents and endeavors, and now it’s all coming full circle. This Roland Hayes piece is a very full circle moment for me, because I’ve always continued to study classical voice.

CM: You recently starred in this show at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, Calif. How do you connect with this character?

ER: My life parallels Roland Hayes’ life in so so many ways. … Roland grew up singing in the church as did I. I identify with Roland from the perspective of not having a lot of examples of black male vocalists pursuing a career in the classical arts. When I was at Cleveland Institute of Music, there were no other black male vocalists. I of course had more examples of a few other singers along the way that had performing careers, like Paul Robeson, of course William Warfield. … [Hayes] had no examples so that’s kind of a lone and isolating feeling, but he carved out this incredible career and it came with many years of trial and error and a lot of people telling him that this would never work. So I still kind of feel that way ... but yet again a unique experience is being carved out of me playing him.

CM: Why should people come see this play?

ER: This is a story of a man who found his identity by way of his talent to do something that had never been done before. It’s like the quintessential American story of going on a journey of uncharted waters.  … We’re talking a black man born in 1896, who gets accepted by the Fisk Jubilee Singers with a fifth-grade education … [who] ends up singing for the king of England. Even today, that would be pretty astounding. So how could that story not inspire any human being?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fundraising Food


Last month, Lucky's Cafe owner Heather Haviland threw a small party to honor her mother, Mary Lou Ferguson, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. (My father also suffers from Alzheimer's, and I can attest it's a terrible disease that shreds the hearts of those who watch it slowly erase the person they know.)

The party raised money for the local Alzheimer's Foundation. Thanks to the efforts of friends — most notably Chef Ky-Wai Wong, a member of Cuyahoga Community College's Culinary Arts faculty — the party also generated funds to provide for Ferguson, a bright and endearing spirit called "mom" by all who know and love her.

Every seat was filled, and more people wanted to attend. So Wong — who was the beneficiary of a similar sort of fundraiser put together by Haviland years ago when one of his children was very ill — has organized another, larger benefit event on March 3. This Dinner in the Dark special edition will be hosted jointly by the Tri-C Hospitality Program and its executive director and chef Brandt Evans, who also owns Pura Vida. Proceeds will go to the Cleveland chapter of The Alzheimer's Foundation. Proceeds from a Chinese Auction will benefit the Haviland family.

Participating restaurants include Fahrenheit, Lola and Lolita, Fire, Amp 150, Cork and Cleaver, Pura Vida, Crust, Lucky's Cafe, Momocho, Spice Kitchen and Bar, Trentina (not yet open), Flying Fig and Nightwood (Chicago). Also participating are Premier Produce, Ahuja Hospital, Tri-C, SOW Food, The Cheese Shop (West Side Market) and Lilly Handmade Chocolates.

Food stations will be set-up throughout Tri-C's Management Center and Pura Vida. Grazing begins at 6:30 p.m.. Tickets are $75.05 each (valet parking included) and must be purchased in advance.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Food to Swoon Over

Greenhouse Tavern

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and it's time to get your romantic dinner reservation on the books. These digs have all the ingredients to make your special someone feel loved — and they still have room for two.

Zack Bruell's all-around Italian menu lets diners taste their way through the peninsula's cuisine without feeling overwhelmed. The restaurant will have a special menu to make your heart melt, including a special list cocktails, glasses of veuve cliquot and a four-course prix fixe dinner. 2079 East Fourth St., Cleveland, 216-298-9080,; $75 per couple; 11 a.m.-12 a.m.

This restaurant's upscale comfort food will make you feel right at home with a twist on family favorites. They will have their full menu available, but it will include shareable additions for the couple with similar tastes. 668 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, 216-771-4000,; entrees $13-$40; 4 p.m.-10 p.m.

Greenhouse Tavern
Six courses of delicious Rust Belt-inspired cuisine awaits the true Cleveland pair here. The prix fixe menu is not posted on their website, vegetarian and vegan options will be available upon request at the time of reservation. 2038 East Fourth St., Cleveland, 216-443-0511,; $69 prix fixe per person; beginning at 5 p.m.

Sheraton Suites Akron-Cuyahoga Falls
Are you and your partner hooked on PBS's show Downton Abbey? At the Sheraton Suites Akron-Cuyahoga Falls, you and your duke or duchess can dine like the ruling family of Grantham in a special five-course feast, including Lady Mary's Crab Canapé. Beginning at $250 per couple and $125 for singles, the meal includes a 12-month membership in Western Reserve PBS. 1989 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls; reservations through Western Reserve PBS, 800-554-4549,; beginning at $250 for couples and $125 for singles; 6 p.m.

Bistro 185
This all-around local eatery features a changing menu based on what's fresh in the kitchen. However, its Valentine's menu will make your knees weak, including the Cupid's Kiss cocktail. Your choice entrees include a full Moroccan lamb rack, bone-in rib eye, scallops with polenta, stuffed lobster tail and Ohio beef tenderloin trio to name a few. Vegetarian and vegan dinners are also on the menu. 991 East 185 St., Euclid, 216-481-9635,; entrees $22-$30; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5 p.m.-10 p.m.

Pickwick & Frolic
Enjoy a laid-back atmosphere here with a heartfelt four-course meal, including soup and salad, a choice of four main courses, and a dessert for two. In Hilarities 4 Street Theatre, which calls Pickwick & Frolic home, nationally acclaimed comedian Bobby Collins will be sure to brighten your night. (Tickets to Hilarities are not included with your meal.) 2035 East Fourth St., Cleveland, 216-736-4242,; $32 prix fixe per person, 4 p.m.-10 p.m.

Le Petit Triangle
Modeled after a Parisian cafe, Le Petit Triangle offers French classics like escargot as well as a variety of soups, salads and sandwiches. The cafe is also a coffee-espresso bar and could be the perfect after-dinner stop. 1881 Fulton Rd., Ohio City, 216-281-1881,; entrees $9-$27; 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

The Melting Pot
The signature fondue restaurant in Legacy Village offers a special four-course Valentine's Day dinner, including its signature cheese and chocolate fondue. A choice entree of cold water lobster tail, spicy IPA marinated filet mignon, mole marinated citrus pork tenderloin, honey orange chicken breast, lemon pepper shrimp or seasonal pasta also comes with the special. 24741 Cedar Rd., Lyndhurst, 216-381-2700,; Valentine's Day special $150 per couple or $75 per person; 12 p.m.-11 p.m.

Situated within the Cleveland Museum of Art, Provenance offers many standard a la carte options for art lovers who wish to wander the halls in between courses. However, a three-course prix fixe menu will be offered for those who wish to sit and enjoy the great artists' ambiance. 11150 East Blvd., Unversity Circle, Cleveland, 216-707-2600,; varying a la carte prices, $76 prix fixe per person; 11 a.m.- 3 p.m., 5 p.m.-8 p.m.

Touch Supper Club
This Ohio City staple will yet again host "Aphrodisiacs and Champagne," a supper for those looking to see sparks during dinner. The four-course prix fixe menu is kept secret until guests arrive, but never fear: salsa dancing lessons are guaranteed to begin at 9 p.m. 2710 Lorain Ave., Ohio City, 216-631-5200,; $80 per couple for meal, wine and dance lessons; 5 p.m.-11 p.m.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Cleveland Flea Freshens Up Wedding Planning

Wedding planning: The two words can elicit both a wave of excitement and crushing anxiety. Creating your wedding day can feel more like a chaotic chore than a celebration of love.

That’s why Stephanie Sheldon of the Cleveland Flea created the Supa Fresh wedding event, a pop-up, interactive vendor show designed to feel more like a mock wedding reception than a typical trade show. The event, tomorrow at The Screw Factory Artists’ Studios begins with a 2 to 6 p.m. cocktail reception with craft beer and food from three caterers. A “design dinner” for 100 people, from 6 to 10 p.m., features food from Spice Restaurant.

“Wedding planning is nothing more than throwing a great party,” Sheldon says. “All of the elements you would see at a wedding will be there without having to know the bride or groom.”

Stephanie Sheldon’s Tips For Being a “Supa Fresh” Cleveland Bride

1. Get Fresh: Sheldon challenges brides to think about weddings in new ways. “There are some great alternative floral vendors at the event who make things like paper flowers,” Sheldon said. “Or try hiring small-batch dessert companies like Chill Pop Shop, which is an ice pop company, instead of just having a single cake.”

2. Love It All: Wedding planning can be especially stressful if other people’s suggestions overshadow your wants. That’s why Sheldon sees wedding planning as a form of matchmaking.

“If you don’t find the right people, it’s not going to be what you want,” Sheldon says. “We’re the matchmakers, so the couples don’t have to worry about the details and can feel great about spending the money.”

3. Make It You: “Too often people feel pressured to follow trends,” Sheldon says. “A lot of the unique details can be gleaned from the couple themselves, their own inclinations that can reflect them in the most authentic way possible.” For example, Sheldon said a bridesmaid dress vendor at Supa Fresh offers many styles and colors. Sheldon hopes this will encourage guests to make their own rules. —Christina Bucciere

You can read more about Sheldon, one of Cleveland Magazine’s Most Interesting People for 2014, and the Cleveland Flea here.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Think Big

Kickin Kat Hot Sauce, courtesy Cleveland Culinary Launch & Kitchen

The Northeast Ohio Food Contest kicks off this month, offering local food entrepreneurs the chance to take their recipes for mustard, dressing, hot sauce, trail mix and more to the next level. The contest is sponsored by Toledo-based Center for Innovative Food Technology, with assistance from the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen, which we told you about last spring.

Applications are due Feb. 21. One winner will receive year-long marketing and production advice and support for their recipe or product. Other prizes include nutritional analysis and testing for shelf life and stability and free training seminars.

Samples of the judges' pick will be manufactured in either the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen in Bowling Green or the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen.

For more information, call 419-535-6000, ext. 117.
Clark Pope Catering's courtesy Cleveland Culinary Launch & Kitchen Strawberry Balsamic Sauce,