Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Magic Trick

This bit of number play came to me in an email. Since we’re all in the holiday mindset, I thought I’d share the fun and let others enjoy the game. Print and bring out when there's a conversational lull at your New Year’s Eve gathering. It takes less than a minute to do, always works, and is sure to amaze.

Eating Out Age Calculator
1. Pick the number of times a week that you would like to go out to eat.It must be more than once but less than 10.

2.Multiply this number by 2

3. Add 5

4. Multiply it by 50.

5.If you have already had your birthday this year add 1758. If you haven't, add 1757.

6. Now subtract the four digit year that you were born.

You should have a three digit number. The first digit of this was your original number - How many times you want to go out to restaurants in a week.The next two numbers are YOUR AGE ! ------ (Oh YES, it is !)

THIS IS THE ONLY YEAR (2008) IT WILL EVER WORK, SO SPREAD IT AROUND WHILE IT LASTS. (This is urban legend not fact but definitely adds to the wow factor).

If you're the type who simply must know how the rabbit gets in- and out- of the hat, go to Logic Nest to read an explanation for what makes this calculation accurate every time.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Paris in Cleveland

Back in the fall I did a walk through of what had once been That Place on Bellflower. The old restaurant was long gone and what remained was a badly decayed- albeit still charming- shell of two connected brick carriage houses with various add-ons. The structure I saw was gutted and a mess. Even some of the floors were ripped out down to the dirt underneath. It was hard to believe, despite all Zach Bruell told me, that it would soon be transformed into a beautiful French style brasserie. But he did it. I visited a few nights ago and was knocked out by the transformation.

L’Albatros Brasserie and Bar in University Circle, which just opened for business, is lovely. The space manages to retain its vintage feel and still be stylishly contemporary. The candle glow atmosphere was intimate, welcoming, and warm- the fire burning brightly in the hearth in one room didn’t hurt. And the food is terrific. I wanted to eat every single dish on the menu of French comfort food. What I did try- pork rillettes, a frisee salad with bacon lardoons and a poached egg, duck confit, and skate wing- was lick the plate good. I can’t wait to go back to sample his cassoulet and bouillabaisse. Also had some amazing cheeses, a customized selection picked out just for me and the husband by the on-staff fromage expert who can tell you stories about where each cheese comes from and who made it.

Bruell’s timing couldn’t be better. Within days of my meal there I got a dining trend report for 2009 from a food industry magazine. According to these expert forecasters approachable, affordable classic French bistro cuisine is going to make a big comeback in the U.S. Looks like Bruell is on the cutting edge- as he has so often been in his long culinary career- and putting Cleveland right there with him. Better yet, he’s putting wonderful food on the table once again. When you need a break from your own kitchen during this upcoming week of holiday festivities, check out what’s happening in his.

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's A Miracle!

Head on over to Ohio City today for its 3rd Annual Miracle on 25th Street holiday charity event to benefit Providence House. Visit any of the participating restaurants or shops, make a donation and you will be privy to all sorts of specials and discounts.

Just a few specials for you charitable souls include:
- Buy one appetizer and get one free at the Flying Fig
- Free chips and salsa at Johnny Mango
- $2 off your first glass of vino at Market Avenue Wine Bar
- At Lelolai, 5% of your order goes to Providence House (but apparently only after you pronounce Lelolai correctly.
- There's $2 Magic Hat #9 & Dog Fish Head IPA craft brews at Touch Supper Club AND $2 draft beer, $3 Well Liquor mixed drinks and $4 Absolut and Jim Beam drinks at Garage Bar

For a full list of participating venues, check out Ohio City's Web site at www.ohiocity.com

AND don't forget to vote for your favorite restaurants for our annual Silver Spoon awards at www.clevelandmagazine.com/silverspoon

So Kerry Wood called Cleveland Magazine

The phone rang from an Unknown number. The voice on the other end was shocking.

"Hi this is Kerry Wood..."

Holy cow! How did Kerry Wood get my direct line? Why is he calling me? This is so cool.

"...and I'm very excited to be a new member of the Cleveland Indians family."

I'm excited, too. It's nice to see the Dolans pay for a big-name free agent. If Pronk turns it around, this could be our year.

"I'm looking forward to playing in front of the passionate fans at Progressive Field this summer, and I hope you will be there, too."

Slow down, Kerry. Let me get a "hello" in at least.

"I want to make sure you heard about our new extended payment plan which allows you to pay for your season ticket plan over the next six months. Time is running out to take advantage of this great opportunity. Call us at 216-420-HITS. Thank you for your time and I'm looking forward to seeing you soon at Progressive Field."

A robo-call from Kerry Wood? Boo. I sure hope he pitches 9th innings better than season ticket plans.

The reason for the season

Ice storm? Tanking economy? Holiday stress?

Take your mind off things with this (slightly blue) video, a tribute to the Great Lakes Brewing Co.'s finest creation -- made all the finer by its scarcity.

For a radio-safe version, try this.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Big Chuck Schodowski

Have you listened to December's podcast yet? We have an interview with Chuck Schodowski. He talks about old times, including how he got the nickname "Big Chuck."

It's well worth a listen this month. We taped it live at Great Lakes Brewing Co. while sipping Christmas Ale this month. Frankly, every workday could be improved by some Christmas Ale.

If you dig our podcast, you can subscribe FOR FREE at iTunes. We do a new show every month and it usually includes additional interviews and behind-the-scenes information about the things in the magazine that month. We have 5,500 loyal listeners. Just search for "Cleveland Magazine podcast" in your iTunes search bar.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Records and bird poop

Awesome Phil Dawson on breaking the franchise record for most field goals in a season (Thanks Philadelphia Inquirer):

"There's an old saying back in Texas that says, 'You know that white speck on top of chicken poop? It's still chicken poop.'"

Fill up your remaining pre-Christmas free days

Positively Cleveland has a really cool list of things to do around town before Christmastime.

I totally want to do the candlelight tour of the Hay-McKinney Mansion.

Desserts are a Piece of Cake

This is entertainingest time of year. There are parties, dinners, and spontaneous gatherings. Desserts are needed, sometimes on short notice. I’m all for spending half a day baking something wonderful but I don’t always have the time to actually do it. However, I like to wow everyone at my table as much as the next person or be the guest who impresses with my fabulous and of course homemade contribution to the meal. In fact, because I’m a food writer people kind of expect me to do it. Luckily I now have a fantastic solution, actually two solutions, courtesy of the folks at Miceli’s Dairy, a three generation family owned Cleveland company. Working on an assignment, I got a pair of recipes from them for fast, easy, no-cook chocolate desserts that are turning out to be real lifesavers. Stock your fridge and pantry with the necessary ingredients and you are just 10 minutes away from deliciousness. In the seasonal spirit of giving, I’m sharing the recipes tweaked with my own variations and suggestions. Let’s just hope we don’t turn up at the same potluck.

Chocolate Creams
1/2-cup lowfat ricotta cheese
2 tbsp mild flavored honey
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Scoop into small dessert dishes or martini glasses and serve. Makes 2 servings

Cannoli Cups
1 1/2 cups Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese, well drained
3 Tbs. Sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped dark or milk chocolate (4 to 5 small bars)
Maraschino cherries chopped up for garnish
Chocolate cups
Set aside 1/4 cup chopped chocolate. In another bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. To assemble, fill pastry bag with mixture and pipe into cups. No pastry bag? No worries- just spoon it in. Sprinkle with remaining chopped chocolate and top with cherry pieces. Note: Chocolate cups may be purchased at any specialty chocolate store. Pre-baked tartlet shells or filo dough cups can be substituted. Serves 4-6

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Market Kitchen

I just got a copy of the West Point Market Cookbook (The University of Akron Press, $29.95). I had to wait for the second printing because the first run of this newly published volume sold out almost immediately. It’s a collection of “secret” recipes for the prepared dishes and baked goods that have made this fancy food store an Akron destination for 71 years. Author Russ Vernon, who retired two years ago, ran the business, taking over from his father. The book attests to the fact that he’s been putting his free time to good use.

Some of the recipes are so Ohio and definitely hearken back to a bygone era. That’s part of their appeal. Think Hollandaise Sauce, Ice Box Cake, Monkey Bread, and ham loaf. Others, like fresh fig salad and grilled wild salmon with honey wine sauce are for a more contemporary-minded crowd. Suggested wine pairings are a nice touch. Longtime customers will surely be pleased to get the step by step instructions for preparing the Market’s memorable mac-and-cheese made with mascarpone, Gorgonzola, and fresh spinach, and their Original Killer Brownies. The pages are nicely laid out and feature charming illustrations. The forward by local writer David Giffels is the most literate, engaging, and entertaining cookbook opener I’ve ever read.

Flipping through the cookbook reminded me of a conversation I had with the late, great and always hungry journalist Johnny Apple in 2006. It was one of the last interviews he gave before he died. Sitting in a Seattle hotel room, he reminisced about growing up in Akron. His family owned the local Acme Supermarket. But Apple was a connoisseur from an early age. He gleefully confessed to me that when he had some money to spend, he’d sneak off to the West Point Market and buy wonderful things to eat. His parents, he admitted, would not have approved.

Vernon will be autographing books at the Market (1711 W. Market Street, Akron) on Saturday, December 13 from noon-3 pm. A signed copy would make a great gift for anyone who has some West Point memories of their own.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Party like it's 1933

If you've gotten your December issue of Cleveland Magazine, you've seen our tribute to the 75th anniversary of our reinstatement of beer.

Well, Great Lakes Brewing Company is following suit with what sounds like an awesome party. Maybe it's just because there are never enough opportunities to swing dance to Big Band music or meet nice girls in flapper dresses, but I don't know how we can pass up this invitation...

Great Lakes Brewing Company Celebrates 75th Anniversary of the End of Prohibition

December 5, 1933: The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, thus repealing the 18th Amendment of 1920 and bringing an end to 13 years, 10 months and 19 days of the prohibition of alcohol in America and Great Lakes Brewing Company is celebrating the 75th Anniversary of this momentous occasion in history!

Great Lakes Brewing Company
2516 Market Avenue, Cleveland
Across from the Historic West Side Market

A Legal Anniversary Celebration Complete With:

Prohibition Menu Specials All Made With Alcohol!!!!
§ Spicy Tomato Bisque with Burning River Pale Ale: $6.00
§ Mixed Greens Salad with Edmund Fitzgerald Porter Scallion Dressing: $7.00
§ Flank Steak with Eliot Ness Amber Lager Demi Glace, Veggie Valley Mashed Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables: $16.00
§ Apple Tart with Bourbon Sauce: $5.00

Drink Specials
§ Keep The Glass Special: GLBC Pilsner Glasses
§ Prohibition Pils On Tap

Plus: Prohibition Propaganda and Decorations, Big Band Music, Flapper and Depression-Era Costumes!

Guests are encouraged to dress up like it's 1933!

Friday, December 5, 2008 (11:30 AM - 1 AM)
Saturday, December 6, 2008 (11:30 AM - 1 AM)

galleria gifting

There’s a cool holiday store open just for the duration called " Tis the Season" at The Galleria downtown, on the Lower Level next to Crooked River Books (Monday - Friday 10:30 to 5:30). What makes it interesting to me is that everything is artisan produced, most are locally based businesses, and all have a culinary theme. The shelves are stocked with gourmet foods, wine, and unique accessories for kitchen and table.
Deby Cowdin has brought all these folks and their wares together. She’s the creative brains and kiln firing brawn- along with husband Scott- behind From the Blue Bag, a North Olmstead based company that collects bottles and turns them into functional fully tempered dishware. The name refers to the plastic bags commonly used for recycling. Each of her Grey Goose trays, Jagermeister dishes, or Disarono Liqueur platters (pictured here) equals less trash and more conservation of resources, making them gifts that are positively green as well as attractive, useful and out-of-the ordinary.

Among the products are jarred sauces from St Aubyn's Pride and Garden Vineyard Grove’s wine jellies. Both are women owned ventures and having personally tasted what they make, I can say that I would never give these to anyone as a present. That’s because the stuff is so good that no matter how generous my intentions, I’m sure I’d end up keeping all purchases for myself. Hopefully, there are others out there with a more generous spirit than mine. My favorite from St. Aubyn’s line is the caramelized balsamic onion chutney. Every single version of Garden Vineyard Grove jelly I’ve tried- and there are quite a few I have yet to dip into- is astonishing. But so far it’s a tie for most loved between Pinot Noir Smoked Cherry and Riesling Tarragon.

Other things you’ll find that are likely to generate some oohs, aahs and appreciation when unwrapped include trivets and serving trays crafted from wine corks by Herm Waltemate; bowls, martini and cocktail glasses, decanters, and utensils artfully decorated with beads and wire from Collectable Serving’s ; scented gel candles molded inside bottles that once held beer, wine, liquor, and condiments; hand painted aprons, maple cutting boards made from recycled wood, wine bottle lamps, toffee and specialty coffee. Although the general rule of thumb is don’t shop hungry, in this case it wouldn’t hurt to come feeling a bit peckish since store staff are offering samples every day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dog Story

The season of over-indulgence is upon us. Imbibing more than is perhaps wise happens all too often and the price as most of us know is a fuzzy-mouthed, head-hurting, slow-starting morning after. There are various traditional, somebody-swears-by-them cures. The Mexican approach is a bowl of menudo (tripe soup, find it Saturdays and Sundays at Mi Pueblo 12207 Lorain Avenue). Other favored ways to ease your suffering include quaffing pickle juice, a hearty helping of prairie oysters, or a plate of extra greasy eggs, bacon, and buttered toast. But a couple of local guys have another solution. Chris Pinta and his brother Scott created a hair of the dog beverage that doubles as an energy drink. They call it Hot D Wake Up Juice . I met them at the Fabulous Food Show a couple of weeks ago and brought some home.

Appropriately bottled in a medicinal looking amber glass jar, it’s got everything you’d expect in a Bloody Mary mixer and none of the junk found in many commercial brands. Looking to combine ingredients that make you feel better as well as buzzed enough to get moving, they added caffeine, cocoa, and taurine. To make their tomato-based formulation taste good the recipe also includes honey, red wine vinegar, and ginger. For sass, there’s horseradish, cayenne, hot sauce, and black pepper. It’s got enough going on that even if you don’t stir in any spirits, it will surely lift yours.

My days of going overboard in most things are behind me, and I almost never drink enough to cause next day repercussions. So I was not in need of a remedy or a kick-me-up when I paired my Hot D with a splash of Absolut Citron for a round of late Sunday afternoon cocktails. While I can’t comment on its healing properties, I can say that it went down nice and easy, and may have fueled the raucous outbursts of football fans in my living room. Maybe not.
Belly up to the bar to try it at Southside in Tremont, Three Birds, Great Lakes Brewing Co, Garage Bar, and Johnny's Bar. Bottles are on the shelves at Minotti's, Heather's Heat and Flavor, P'zazz, Sappell's, and Simones Beverage or can be ordered online . Cheers!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gramophone: Cleveland Orchestra second best U.S. Orchestra

The U.K.'s Gramophone magazine ranked the Cleveland Orchestra as the second best U.S. orchestra behind Chicago, but ranked seventh overall. The orchestra typically ranks in the top five in the world, so this isn't necessarily cheery news as we expect to be near the top of any list of great orchestras, but it's not really bad news, either.

The ranking of orchestras was done by classical music critics worldwide.

While the rankings are based on performance and individuality, there is a major difference between Chicago and Cleveland. The Chicago Symphony is on firm financial ground, actually producing a surplus this year. The Cleveland Orchestra is struggling financially. We reported last year that the plan to expand its donor base with residencies in Miami* and Vienna was not going as well as planned. The last I heard, speaking with someone who keeps a close ear on the financial position of the orchestra, we can expect a deficit again this year.

It's remarkable that the orchestra, through reputation and a devout following and support in this town, has remained one of the premiere orchestras for so long. Cleveland is a much smaller city than any of the top-ranked American symphony orchestras. This latest report says we can still see one of the world's best orchestras playing in University Circle.

*In the above photo, the orchestra is rehearsing in Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center (then called the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts).

It's a Wrap

There's a trend emerging at our offices. Some co-workers have dubbed us the Secret Scarf Society, while others just stare wondering what we are thinking. But regardless of how many comments and odd looks we get, a lot of us have been sporting bright, colorful scarves around the office to keep warm. Some of our favorites? Target's Merona line has plenty of colors from pink (shown on the right) to turquoise at a nice price ($12.99), too. For a little more variety, Gap's fine-knit ruffled scarf  (shown in yellow on the left for $29.50) can liven up any outfit we wear. And that's no secret. 

Still on the holiday hunt for gifts? Check out our A to Z Shopping Guide for ideas. Also, sign-up for our style newsletter. Full of advice from our style expert to fashion-related events and cool items, next week's will feature places to go for great deals on Black Friday. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Debbie Brooks @ Peter & Co. Jewelers today

Celebrity handbag designer and two-time Olympic artist Debbie Brooks will be on hand at Peter & Co. Jewelers in Avon Lake tomorrow to unveil artwork designed specifically for the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama. But don't worry, Brooks didn't forget about the upcoming First Lady — she will also unveil a handbag (we guess similar to the ones above) for Michelle Obama. With almost everything the trend-setting Michelle wears flying out of stores, be sure to snag your piece of history now. 

Listen to Bruce Drennan on our podcast

If you haven't checked out this month's Cleveland Magazine podcast, yet, you should: It's worth a download. We have an interview with sportscaster Bruce Drennan, who appears in our November issue.

He talks about life in federal prison and his meteoric rise back to the limelight as the face of Sports Time Ohio.

Listen here.

We have more than 5,500 listeners each month. If you like what you here, you can subscribe to the podcast for free on iTunes.

Gravy on My Mind

I am about to give everyone who reads this the absolute, hands down best bit of advice for how to make the prep for Thanksgiving dinner easier. Much easier. Cook a turkey this week. I’m not cracked and I’m not suggesting that you serve guests old, reheated bird.

Real gravy starts with pan drippings. In the normal sequence of events, you don’t get those until the bird is done and pulled from the oven. While it’s resting, you’re not. Instead of relaxing with a glass of wine, you’re at the stove. You need at least one burner for the roasting pan (two if it’s large) and another to warm the stock. That creates a bottleneck if you’ve got other things to heat up at the last minute. Eveybody’s laughing in the living room while you’re in the kitchen whisking, stirring, and handling pot logistics.

My method offers an alternative. Make the gravy in advance and freeze it. Mine, I'm happy to announce, is already done and in the “can.” On T-Day, I’ll defrost, add freshly cooked, chopped giblets, and warm in a covered saucepan. I’ve been doing this for a decade. It started as a way to keep my brother-in-law, a man who does not believe there’s a role for him in the clean-up department, from taking on this job and trashing my kitchen in the process. “Thanks for the offer of help,” I’d say with a sweet smile, “but the gravy’s all taken care of. Why don’t you uncork more wine instead.” Now it’s a necessity. We Taxel’s deep fry and smoke our turkeys these day. (We do both because they are so good we can’t decide which we like better). The problem is neither of these techniques produces the essential pan drippings. So here, now, are my instructions for what I call Make-Ahead Gravy.

-Roast a small turkey or a bunch of turkey parts now. Use the meat for sandwiches- turkey reubens are a favorite- and the bones for stock.
If you do parts, choose a mixture of thighs with skin, legs, necks, and wings (total 4-6 pounds). If you get a whole bird, boil giblets separately, chop fine, and set aside in a small bowl.
-When done, set pan with drippings aside.
-Slice off the meat you want to eat. Put bones and remaining parts plus additional 1-2 lbs turkey thighs into a large pot. Cover with cold water, 8-10 cups. Add 2 onions peeled and quartered, 2 carrots peeled and sliced in chunks, 1 stalk celery, sliced, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, covered 1 hour. Skim off fat, strain, and discard meat, bones, and vegetables. The liquid is your stock.
-Using pan drippings and the turkey stock you just made to prepare gravy according to your favorite recipe. Basically you make a roux by whisking flour into hot drippings, brown a bit, slowly add stock, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Flavor and season just as you normally would. Around here we like to toss in a healthy splash of bourbon. If you have giblets, add them.
-Cool and store in freezer.

The payback for this extra, early effort- no last-minute rush; everything arrives at the table at the same time; less kitchen mess; more fun for the cook.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Marrying a Catholic Priest

In May 2007, we published an Experience about a woman, Linda Marcin, who fell in love with and married a Catholic priest.

We've recently added the ability to comment on articles on ClevelandMagazine.com, and I was surprised to find a note at the end of that story since it was put online before readers could respond publicly.

The reader, who only identified herself as E. Mary, left a pretty powerful message. Here it is:

Linda, I recognized right away that moment when you looked up and saw Phil with that incredible tenderness. I had the same experience with my priest. It was a moment of intense prayer and I have been falling in love with him over the past year and a half and cannot tell anyone. Thank you for your story. Phil, what do you think now about your call to the priesthood? Did you not hear God clearly? Is it possible to serve for a season? Can't God call you to pastor for awhile and then to raise a family? Why do we say that it is all or nothing? A priest in his traditional duties for life? God called me to be a mother and now a social worker...to me there is a season for everything. E.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Activist Ed Hauser dies

Local activist Ed Hauser, who pushed doggedly to make the beautiful, underappreciated Whiskey Island a county park, and who attended countless government meetings, politely but stubbornly asking questions no one else was asking, died Friday of a heart attack. He was 47.

Cleveland loses Hauser at an awful time. He was asking important questions about two huge public projects that may each cost $500 million: the medical mart/convention center and the port relocation.

In our May issue, columnist Michael D. Roberts wrote admiringly, "Hauser is a pain — a persistent, nagging, unyielding pain. On the medical scale of one to 10, he would rate a 10. What makes him so painful is that he challenges the way the town and its dysfunctional government work."

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Modern Classic

We don't fall in love easily. But once we saw this classic sheath dress from Talbots we fell ... hard. With modern updates such as velvet piping and soft boulcé material, this dress evokes images of Audrey Hepburn. In either black (pictured) or bittersweet (a dark chocolate color) we might have to treat ourselves to an early Christmas present.

For more holiday ideas, check out our A to Z shopping guide

Put-in-Bay: The Key West of the Great Lakes

I just came across last week's New York Times story about Put-In-Bay.

Of course, we gave an extensive guide to the Lake Erie Islands this July in the magazine. If you've never spent significant time out there, think about it when planning 2009's vacation.

Here's part of our Island Guide.

In any case, it's always nice to see out-of-towners enjoy our jewels as much as we do.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

She Sees Dead People

THIS JUST IN: Mary Ann Winkowski, the inspiration for the CBS drama Ghost Whisperer, is coming to Joseph-Beth Booksellers at Legacy Village in Lyndhurst Dec. 1 to share tales of her supernatural-tinged life and sign copies of her book, Ghost Whisperer: The Spirit Guide. We talked to the North Royalton resident last fall for a story that ran in our January 2008 issue, following the release of Mary' Ann's When Ghosts Speak: Understanding the World of Earthbound Spirits. Read our interview with her here, and mark your calendar for Dec. 1.

Book Battle, Food Fights, and Cook Ups

My son Nathan and I are fighting over Andrew Carmellini’s new cookbook, Urban Italian. He likes it so much that he keeps threatening to steal it from me. That was after I refused to just give it to him. No doubt he was very surprised by this response. My habitual approach to anything he or his two brothers asks of me is “Yes.” Besides, I am in general not a big fan of cookbooks. I have some of course, but far fewer than most food writers and many food enthusiasts. And I turn to them only on occasion, being more of an intuitive cook than a follower of instructions. But I definitely want to keep this one around.

Not only is it beautiful, entertainingly readable, and nicely organized, but the recipes are exactly what he promises- the kind of food you can make with easily accessible ingredients and a reasonable investment of time. There are plenty of things- though certainly not all of them in my opinion- that can be reproduced with the hours and energy left over after a long day of work. And the dishes are the kind of simple, homey food I love to eat: lamb ragu, tomato risotto, ziti with tuna, red onions and cannelloni beans; escarole Calabrese with lots of garlic and spicy sopressata. I’m eager to try some of his uncommon and inventive variations on iconic preparations: strozzapreti with sausage, grapes and red wine; pork arrosto with Italian plums and grappa; meatballs with cherries.

Scattered throughout the pages are flashes of humor and lots of personality. In a recipe for short rubs braciole, the instructions read: “1 clove garlic, sliced Goodfellas thin.” Chapter intros are full of stories about people and places and headnotes can be chatty: “Some people think they don’t like calamari but that’s because they’ve only had the beer-bar version- the kind that tastes like a chew toy.” Carmellini, a Cleveland transplant to NYC, is coming home for the Fabulous Food Show, this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (November 14-16) at the I-X Center. Click here to read my interview with him. He’ll be signing copies of his book at the Celebrity Autograph Pavilion on Friday afternoon at 1 PM.

Stick around for the first Sous-Chef Competition Finale at 6:30PM hosted by the celebrity we call our own Michael Symon . I was one of the judges for the preliminary and semi-final rounds, and I can tell you this- the competitors-all working right here in Cleveland restaurants- were an impressive bunch. I predict these seconds in the hierarchy of kitchen command are destined to be dining room stars in their own right. This final round in the friendly food fight should be fun to watch. I’m also looking forward to catching Kris Kreiger of Chef’s Choice Meats give a lesson in how to make a turducken. He’ll unveil the mysteries of the famed 3-part poultry on the Marketplace Stage at 3:30 on Sunday. That’s just one of an entire weekend’s worth of free and interesting cooking demos at the show courtesy of local experts. My advice? See as many as you can.

Monday, November 10, 2008

LeBron player of the week

LeBron James took player of the week honors after averaging 34.5 points on 47 percent shooting. He also pulled in an average of 9.8 rebounds in his four games this week. This is the 14th time James has won the award.

If you're looking for some sports distraction from the Browns, head to Gateway for a game on Tuesday versus the Bucks, Thursday versus the Nuggets or Saturday versus the Jazz. Tickets start at $10.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sorry, Mentor

When I was a student at Mentor High School, we had one of the worst football teams in Northeast Ohio. I attended nearly every home game. After I graduated, the program became successful.

Well, last night, I went to the game.

Mentor fell to Strongsville in the regional playoffs 17-3. They rushed just 19 yards after averaging 216.5 yards a game during the regular season. It was the first time they were kept out of the end zone since last year's state title game -- which I also watched live.

Sorry, Mentor. I didn't realize I was a football jinx.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

'Tis the season

A welcome sign from Dave's Supermarket in Ohio City:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Just Add Water

At first look its as thin as a sheet of paper or even one of those Shrinky Dinks you used to play with when you were younger. But just add some water and it becomes a fully functional (and may we say fashionable) vase. Designed in 35 different colors, patterns and shapes, Vazu Flower Vases based in Cleveland, are also fairly inexpensive ($3.99 to $9.99) and can be reused numerous times. If only someone would send us flowers ...

*Looking for other cool items? Check out our A to Z shopping guide.

**Be sure to head over to Room Service in the Detroit Shoreway tonight and tomorrow for its Made in 216 event. 18 local designers will be showcasing everything from furniture to jewelry.

Sign of the times

Taken at the Browns game last night.

Brady Quinn was 23 of 35 passing, with 239 yards and two touchdowns. He wasn't the reason the Browns lost to Denver, 34-30 -- the defense was.

For more on the Browns' starting quarterback, see Kim Schneider's January profile of him and tackle Joe Thomas here.

Update: Someone just reminded me of the sign's irony: Quinn is a McCain supporter.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Too much candy?

Did the kids bring home more candy than they should be eating?

Dr. Laura Adelman, a Twinsburg Pediatric Dentist, is offering $1 a pound to buy up that candy. Sounds like she pays better than the tooth fairy.

Stop by her office tomorrow (Friday, Nov. 7) from 2 to 4 p.m. Kids can bring up to 5 pounds of candy.

Her office is located off Route 91 at 9945 Vail Drive, Suite 5 in Twinsburg, OH.

National Men Make Dinner Day

Don't forget...Today is:Get ready for some high-quality Kraft Mac and Cheese, ladies. For more info, click here.

Happy Feet

A car full of new shoes? How can any woman resist? That's the thought at the grand opening of DSW at Crocker Park tonight. One lucky customer will win all the shoes she can throw into a Smart Car in 15 minutes. Just think how many pairs of stilettos, ankle boots and cute little flats that can add up to and how happy your feet will be. And to top it all off, the winner will also have a chance to score the actual car at DSW's Eaton Town Center store in Columbus Nov. 20. Registration for tonight's event starts at 5 p.m. followed by the drawing for the winner at 8 p.m. 
(Photo courtesy Hakimsalleh from Flickr)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dinner Dates

At last we now know who our next president is, and can look ahead to something besides the election. I’ve got a few delicious dates inked in my November calendar.

The first is the November 21 fundraiser called Dames Dish for Thanksgiving hosted by the local chapter of an international organization I belong to, Les Dames D’Escoffier . Proceeds from the Monday night event will benefit local urban farming projects and food education initiatives that help young people make the connection between field and fork. The Thanksgiving themed tasting fest at Trevarrow Kitchen showroom in Parma- a place that prompts a burning desire for new appliances, faucets, cabinets and countertops- will feature a Mediterranean style turkey from Matt Harlan of Lolita, a locally sourced bird prepared by Karen Small of The Flying Fig and a gobbler with Low Country flavor courtesy of Paul Jagielski of Henry’s at the Barn.
But all side dishes and desserts, and there will be lots of them, are being made by our group’s members who are women involved in the food, beverage, and hospitality industries. Many are kitchen pros- pastry and restaurant chefs, cookbook authors, culinary instructors and caterers so the offerings are guaranteed to be excellent. Then there’s me. I am being forced out of my comfort zone and away from the table and the keyboard- my regular workplaces. I have high expectations for myself. However, just in case my stuff is not quite as fabulous as what my sister Dames do, I’m not going to tell you what I’m making. I hope you'll come out for a good cause, great food, and wine too! Tickets are $50. Make reservations with Angela Williams at 216-831-3767.

Another event I’m excited about is the Big Night Dinner at Michaelangelo’s . The restaurant’s very talented chef /owner Michael Annandanno is pairing up with friend and fellow Little Italy chef Valerio Iorio (Valerios’s) to recreate the menu from the poignant 1996 cinematic comedy The Big Night. Book a table for Monday November 24 and get a starring role in this local production.

In the movie, which also provides the musical soundtrack for the evening at Michaelangelo’s, actors Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub play immigrant brothers running an Italian restaurant in New Jersey circa 1950’s. The problem is that Chef Primo (Shaloub) is a culinary artist in a red sauce world. He doesn’t care about pleasing customers. So it’s no surprise that business is bad. Hoping to generate some positive word of a mouth, an associate promises to get the famed band leader Louis Prima and his entourage to come into the restaurant. Annandono and Ioria serve the dishes that appear on screen in the definitive scene when the brothers set out the 7-course feast they’ve prepared for their celebrity guest. Those who reserve a seat will dine on roast suckling pig, baked sea bass, risotto, and the labor-intensive il timpano, a combination of meat, pasta, eggs, and cheese layered in a pasta "drum" and baked. This is likely the closest most of us will get to having a silver screen moment, and the meal in the lovely dining room of Michaelangelo's promises to be extraordinary. Call 216-721-0300 for reservations.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's about time (part 2)

For all the worries about huge problems with voting, most reports from around the state say it is going rather smoothly.

I was able to get in and out in under 20 minutes this morning in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood.

If you haven't headed out to vote yet, make sure you're prepared. Polls close at 7:30 p.m., which means you must be in line by then. Read Cleveland Mag Senior Editor Erick Trickey's advice here on how to make sure your vote is counted.

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's About Time

We've been waiting for 24 games and the time has finally come: Brady Quinn will get his first NFL start. This season. This week. Against the Denver Broncos. On national TV — no less. After Derek Anderson's less than stellar performance in yesterday's crushing loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Romeo Crennel finally made a decision most Browns fans can agree with. It wasn't that long ago when we sat down with Brady Quinn and Joe Thomas to get their point of views on everything from rookie camp to sitting the bench to each other. Get yourself familiar with our new quarterback here.

(Photo courtesy Cleveland Browns)

A Joe Tait story

When reporting my story on the fall and rise of Cleveland sports radio and television personality Bruce Drennan, I had a bunch of great stories from Joe Tait that didn't make the article. Here's one that got cut out in one of the later edits:

Joe and Bruce used to cover the Indians from 1980 to 1982 on WUAB television. Well, before a game in Chicago, two Tribe players were caught with a marijuana joint. Among them was that day's starter, Lenny Barker. They were just arrested, no one was found guilty or anything. The station called them up and had a meeting about how to handle it on the air.

They all agreed Joe would make a statement. Joe gets on the air and says something to the effect of: We all know what happened, but these guys are innocent until proven guilty. We don't have any more information than you saw on the news. Until something comes out, we're just going to focus on baseball.

Bruce chimes in: OK, Joe! And a good baseball game it will be. I bet Barker comes out smoking tonight!

Joe turned bright red. Bruce had no idea what he just said. Joe tried to hold it in, but he was in hysterics.

If you haven't read the November piece on Drennan, host of Sports Time Ohio's All Bets Are Off, we tell the story of his gambling leading to jailtime, and his rise to the face of the Cleveland sports network STO. Check it out here.

High-Class Junk

Whenever you see a sign like this one (on Route 422 in Warren), you have to pull over to investigate.

Unfortunately, after wandering around the back, it did not appear this junk is notably high class.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama and Springsteen downtown on Sunday

Barack and Michelle Obama are appearing on the downtown Mall on Sunday. The rally starts at 3:45 p.m., with gates opening at 2 p.m. Bruce Springsteen is opening for Obama with a solo acoustic set.

This could be a huge rally, even bigger than John Kerry's election eve rally at the same place in 2004, especially because, as The Professor points out, Obama's campaign is probably timing this with the Browns game in mind. The game starts at 1, so a stadium full of people will be emptying out around 4:15. Let's hope the tailgaters who stop by the rally aren't too rowdy.
Update: If you're going to the rally, take the Rapid. The Browns crowd and Obama crowd will completely fill downtown. "There won't be parking," the Cleveland police spokesman warns in the Plain Dealer today.
(Photo by Alex Hempton-Smith, from Flickr)

Steel layoffs

Cleveland's largest steel plant, and the most efficient steel plant in the world, will undergo voluntary layoffs, but it doesn't seem to be cause for huge concern so far.

Those of us who have lived in Cleveland have heard this kind of news plenty over the past few decades. Plant layoffs used to be commonplace. But, as we told in our June 2008 story Men of Steel, that kind of feast and famine was supposed to be the old way of doing things.

Granted, as you can see below by the Morning Star tracking of the parent company's share price, our story came out just before a massive crashing of the share price which has fallen some 72 percent since our story was published.

And global demand for steel is weakening due to the global financial meltdown (which technically is not a recession -- at least until the fourth quarter GDP numbers are released in January). A Reuters analysis piece published here says that steel demand could be suffering until next summer.

The Cleveland plant has idled its blast furnaces, but the layoffs so far are all voluntary. Don Whipkey, who was prominently featured in our story, says 11 workers were hired last week. Management is telling the union they should restart by late January or early February.

"There's no sense of panic. Actually, guys are looking for time off," he says.

The plant is increasing training for employees and keeping folks busy, just like they said they would, he says.

So nobody is overly frightened about the future of steel in Cleveland, Whipkey says. Not that it's easy to scare a steelworker: "We've been through it all."