Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Vegging Out

2010 is the 8th year for Veggie U’s annual Food and Wine Celebration. The gourmet extravaganza is a fundraiser for the nonprofit group’s educational programs that help fourth-graders understand the field-to-fork concept and foster healthy eating habits. It takes place at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, Ohio, on July 17 from 5-9 p.m.

A sort of “tent city” springs up in a meadow outside the 11,000-square-foot facility, surrounded by fields, carefully manicured gardens and a fringe of woodlands. It’s a beautiful spot to enjoy food prepared by acclaimed chefs and wines from a variety of vintners. Everything’s presented station-style, so you can make your way from one table to the next sampling the entire spread over the course of the evening. Cooking demos, wine seminars and a silent auction are also on the schedule.

I’ve been attending since 2005. There was a chef cook-off back then, and I was a judge that year and for a few more after that. The job had its perks — tasting the fabulous creations of the competitors — and its downside — not eating or drinking much of what was on offer under the “the big top,” so I wouldn’t be too full or too snockered to fulfill my official responsibilities. But the real challenge, especially the first time, was mastering the fear that I’d make dumb choices and, thus, reveal that I had no business being a food writing professional. My fellow judges were always heavy hitters in the field, among them someone from Gourmet, a longtime and recently retired restaurant critic for a major newspaper, the associate editor of Food Arts Magazine, a hot NYC restaurateur … you get the idea. The questions that gnawed at me were these: What if I gave high points to a dish they all thought was sub-par or dubbed something a loser that they deemed number one. Happily this never ever happened. But the worry that it would added an angsty edge to being there for me.

Last year I was relieved of those responsibilities and was able to relax and graze. But my husband, photographer Barney Taxel, was working instead. He’d been asked to document the event, and some of his images appear here. This time around we’re both just guests and plan to do nothing but enjoy ourselves. You can too.

Grand Tasting tickets are $175 per person. Spend more, and you get more including VIP access to the pre-party and an after-party. Buy tickets online or call 419-499-7500.
Be sure to come hungry.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Opposite of Eating

I use this space to celebrate Cleveland’s food community and all the wonderful things it has to offer. Week after week I write about new restaurants, events where food takes the spotlight, places to find the best of everything edible, our chefs’ accomplishments and all sorts of other culinary-themed stories. So it’s no wonder my Wednesday posts appear under the heading Feast!

But there’s another aspect to the topic, a dark side that most of us rarely consider: hunger. For all of us who eat well and regularly, it’s important to remember that it is a privilege not afforded to all.

A recent national study revealed a 46 percent increase in the number of people receiving emergency food aid from food banks and the agencies they work with since the last survey in 2006. That disturbing uptick translates into more than 37 million people, or one in eight Americans, at risk of not having enough to eat. Many of them live right here in northeast Ohio.

The Cleveland Foodbank, one of 185 food banks around the country that participated in the study, serves residents in six counties. They’ll feed an estimated 223,000 people over the course of this year. That’s a 23 percent increase over past years. Halfway through 2010, the organization is on track to distribute 30 million pounds of food to those who desperately need it.

On June 24, from 7–8 p.m., Mary O’Shea, Advocacy & Public Education Manager for the Cleveland Foodbank, will give a talk entitled “Hunger In America 2010.” It’s part of the Summer Lecture Series at Lucky Penny Creamery in Kent. Cost to attend is $5 per person, and all who buy a ticket receive a $5 Lucky Penny Creamery credit. Visit Abbe Turner’s Creamery again, and you can use it toward the purchase of the goat cheese she makes there. 632 Temple Avenue, Kent, 330-572-7550,

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hot Summer Days, Cool Summer Offices

As outdoor temps heat up and office temps chill out, many of you are facing a corporate wardrobe change. This may pose a problem for those who are most comfortable donning two-piece suits and ties for most corporate offices relax their dress code during the summer months to what is commonly called "summer casual" or "corporate casual." Offices that adopt a summer casual dress code allow their employees to take a break from the normal business attire to sport lighter and more casual clothing. It is expected that, although your appearance is less formal, it should remain professional. To achieve the summer casual wardrobe, men should try separates such as cotton blend slacks, dress shirts sans a tie (unless required), crisp khaki pants, polo shirts, and neutral colored suits or sport coats. A business casual wardrobe for women should consist of lightweight cotton skirts and dresses, cotton blend cardigans and pants, peep toe pumps, and wedge heel sandals. Tone down the prints and bright colors if your office is on the stuffy side; otherwise, have fun with the season's bright colors and bold accessories to give your summer casual look a personal touch.
Fashionably yours,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pro-LeBron flash mob breaks out at Tower City

In the middle of Tower City at the peak of lunchtime, kids from elementary to high school showed off their moves with spins and kicks. Boys and girls rocking out to the Footloose soundtrack song “Holding Out For a Hero” draw a better crowd than a video of Tim Misny and Gov. Strickland singing to the tune of “We Are the World.” And they might have a better chance at winning over LeBron.

The 200-plus kids are from the Akron and Cleveland Boys and Girls Clubs — organizations LeBron is involved with. Their surprise dance event, a take-off on the phenomenon of “flash mobs,” was organized by Fans For LeBron, a committee of Greater Clevelanders who think the town’s best chance of convincing the Cavs star to re-sign is to support his favorite causes. Their “More Than A Player” billboards and website aim to convince James’ fans to come out for his King For Kids Bike-a-thon August 7 in downtown Akron.

The kids woke up early this morning to learn the choreography from Tracey and Jonathan Webb of Shaker Dance Academy.

“LeBron is a nice person, and I love him to death,” says 16-year-old dancer Phylecia Nixon, who says she watches him play all the time.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Going to Extremes

As eaters, most of us have a split personality. We’re comfortable consuming hamburgers, despite the reality-which we rarely consider- that what we’re putting in our mouths is dead cow- ground up muscle meat, to be exact from the steer’s chest, shoulder, and stomach. The lovely pink slices on a ham sandwich are sourced from the pig’s rear end, and American carnivores are okay with that. But start talking about plates of parts or critters not commonly consumed here, though they are popular fare in other places, and the majority gets seriously squeamish and downright disgusted. It makes no sense and a pair of professional local cooks- brothers Lanny and David Chin who chef together at an eastside restaurant- have decided to offer some behavioral therapy to all who are brave enough to face their crazy contradictions.

On Monday June 21st the guys, aka Food Warriors, are preparing and serving some snacks that will push your eating envelope…and maybe your panic button: hissing cockroaches, superworms, antelope spareribs, wild boar bacon and other unusual edibles are on the menu. Liquid courage will be available for purchase. Food and fun start at &pm at the Velvet Dog in the Warehouse District 7:00 pm. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. For presale tickets email or go to Paypal, account name Be sure to include your name and email address. They hope it will be the first in a series of events they’re calling Fearless.

If you’ve watched Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) or Tony Bourdain (No Reservations) on the Travel Channel and wondered what it would be like to eat they way they do-this is your chance to find out. But Lanny and David want attendees to look beyond the gross out factor and discover how other cultures define good eats. I'll be out of town for this one but I definitely plan to get my fearless on next time around.
Note: this a side project and totally their own idea, and has nothing to do with the place where they work.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Five Reasons to Eat Out

My in-box is fat with all kinds of good news from the restaurant world. Read on, then make plans and reservations.

“The Patios of Larchmere” is a neighborhood promotion that starts today, June 9th, and continues through Sunday, June 13 . The street is packed with interesting places to eat breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. Menu 6, Felice, Vine and Bean, Flying Cranes, Larchmere Tavern and Acadmey Tavern, all with outdoor seating, are offering menu specials and deals for the next five days plus a chance to enter a raffle and win a $250 Larchmere Shopping Spree. I love this street and its unique mix of businesses and shops. If you don’t know it- this week is the perfect time to visit and explore.
More dining in the sun and under the stars at Chinato. The East 4th Street spot has just added sidewalk seating. For ideas about what to order, check out my review in this month’s Cleveland Magazine.

There’s also an addition to the downtown dining scene: Zinc Bistro, Bar and Bakery just opened. For now, the French inspired cafĂ© created by Chef Tom Quick, is only serving dinner, but hours and options expand next month.

Chef Michael Annandono and his crew at Michaelangelo’s will be working harder beginning this week. The outstanding Little Italy restaurant has begun doing lunches Tuesday through Friday. When I heard a friend was getting married, I immediately booked a table for mid-day just us girls celebration.

The folks at Moxie, The Restaurant want to know what people think of their new small, medium and large plate menu. (For the record- I think it’s wonderful). You get a reward for sharing- your thoughts that is, not your food. Go there, eat, then send them a message at with your feedback- praise, critiques, favorite dishes, and suggestions all welcome. Be sure to include your name, complete mailing address, email. You’ll automatically be entered in a weekly drawing for a $100 Moxie gift card. There’s also a monthly drawing for wine dinner for two. This is one of those can’t lose propositions so you definitely want to take a shot. At the very least you’ll get to enjoy Chef Jonathan Bennett’s great cooking.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

North Royalton's Anamika Veeramani wins National Spelling Bee

Before she spelled "juvia" and "stromuhr" to win the National Spelling Bee Friday evening, Anamika Veeramani talked to us about being a big-time speller (she made it to the last 11 competitors in last year's competition - our picture to the left is from then). She'll be appearing on Regis and Kelly and Jimmy Kimmel this week, but first, check out our September 2009 issue Q&A with her.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Salt Smarts

Salt has been making headlines lately, and not for its positive culinary qualities. Linked to a variety of health problems, it’s taking the place of sugar and fat as the new dietary demon. But this is not a simple black and white issue. We need salt to survive, and chefs know that it is invaluable seasoning that enhances flavor. It is over consumption that’s the real the issue, along with the unconscionable amounts used by manufacturers of processed and packaged foods. Stop eating that stuff and there’s nothing to worry about.

Another important fact to understand is that not all salt is the same. That became clear to me last week at a short salt seminar given by Candace Berthold to our local Les Dames D’Escoffier International chapter. She’s the proprietor of The Olive and the Grape, a gourmet store specializing in oils, vinegars, seasonings and sea salts, with locations in Mentor, Tower City, and the Westside Market. I learned- and tasted- a few things during her fascinating presentation.

It’s the sodium in salt and not the salt itself that is what should give us cause for concern. Common table salt is uber-refined and lacks most of the natural trace elements that are essential for our well-being. Ounce for ounce, she explained, sea salt has less much less sodium and more nutrients. A little goes a long way, and each variety has a distinctive character.

Like wine, salt reflects both the place it comes from (terroir) and the way its harvested and handled.

We sampled salts from Portugal, Italy, France, Greece, and Hawaii; salts flavored with herbs, espresso, merlot, and smoke; and salts colored snowy white, black, pink, and green. Coarsely ground or flaked, they’re meant to be spooned, crumbled and sprinkled never shaken.

I was surprised by how many kinds are available- Berthold stocks 54 at last count- and the differences between them. Until now I’ve been satisfied with my box of Morton’s Kosher, but no longer. I’m ready to become a student of salt, stocking my cupboard with a selection so I can experiment. It promises to be a long, and delicious, study.