Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Crowing and Kvelling

I’m feeling good, really good about Cleveland and you should too. Quite a few of our culinary treasures received enthusiastic ink and media accolades from writers and reporters around in the country this week. I’m taking-in these compliments like a proud parent. Just as adoring moms and dads don’t need anyone to tell them that their kid is amazing, I’m already well aware of how many terrific and unique places there are in greater Cleveland to eat and go food shopping but it sure is nice when outsiders take notice.

Sheila O’Connor of the San Francisco Examiner told travelers to our town that they must visit The Happy Dog to enjoy the chummy ambience, great beers, and the hot dog menu featuring Chef’s Eric Williams’ incredible array of gourmet condiments and toppings.

Former Washington Post editor Maryann Haggerty, now freelancing for her old employer, was lured here by the Springsteen exhibit at the Rock Hall. But she devoted many words to her Ohio City restaurant finds- both those she actually tried (Great Lakes Brewing, Flying Fig) and those she plans to try next time (Bar Cento, Momocho) …because she liked it here so much she wants to come back. The highlight of her trip however was the West Side Market. You'll stand a little taller after reading the whole story.

The Market is also included in a four page spread in the October issue of Saveur. Veteran road trippers Jane and Michael Stern penned a love note to northeast Ohio ethnic dining. Among the places they mention are Balaton’s, Perla Homemade Delights, State Meats, Little Polish Diner, and Babushka’s Kitchen and Al’s Corner Restaurant. I had no idea the article would be there. The magazine arrived in the mail on Friday. I flipped through it while eating lunch, got to page 30, and this header caught my attention: Midwestern Charm. So I stopped turning pages and read the teaser: An Ohio road trip leads to some of the country’s best Eastern European fare- and more. What a nice surprise to dig in to their story and murmur to myself “been there,” “uh huh,” and “got that right!”

And one other thing is worth noting in this round-up of the good press our culinary scene has earned. It’s a bit self-promotional (sorry) and a Columbus rather than a Cleveland triumph (same state however). I contributed to a story in the October issue of Cooking Light. My job was to nominate forty of the best artisan food products from the Midwest. Different writers did the same for other parts of the country. Judges tried them all and picked eight from each region to feature in the magazine. Jeni’s Splendid Cherry Lambic Sorbet was among those selected. It’s an Ohio win and like the other articles, it just makes me want to crow (braggy gloating) and kvell (Yiddish for joyful boasting). You know what I mean?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ingenuity, Saturday night

The Ingenuity Festival is filling every quirky nook of the Detroit-Superior Bridge's streetcar level with art. One alcove became Dr. Sketchy's Doodle Bar, a space filled with white walls made for markering, as well as white-painted tables, dishes and glasses. Two days of doodling had filled the space by last night.

Dr. Sketchy's main event, the monthly Anti-Art School at the Beachland Ballroom, invites artists to sketch burlesque models. (Here's a Cleveland Magazine article about a Dr. Sketchy night.) B.C. Miles and Danielle Muad-Dib, who's also a burlesque instructor, posed with local Dr. Sketchy founders Jason Tilk and Aaron Erb.

A bit higher up the span, visitors leaned over a scenic overlook's rail to admire Ingenuity's man-made waterfall and the lights of the Flats' West Bank.

As festival-goers descended into the catacombs of the West 25th streetcar stop, local video artist Kasumi's work flashed on an immense screen. Just by walking by, people seemed to merge with the kaleidoscopic, haunting pop art, with its ever-moving, ever-multiplying characters.

Ingenuity continues today until 5 pm.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ingenuity, Friday night

Water is emerging as a theme at this year's Ingenuity Festival. Not only is the 130-foot waterfall flowing off the Detroit-Superior Bridge...

...visitors can also text messages to a water fountain that spells out words, letter by letter.

The Ingenuity Festival continues tonight until 1 a.m. and tomorrow from 12 to 5.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sweet Discovery

Walking along Mayfield Road in Little Italy one recent evening I spied a sign I’d never seen before. It pointed down an alleyway, behind La Lanterna Gallery, to a dessert cafe. Of course, I had to go check it out. I’m glad I did. It’s an adorable little spot that opened in mid August, a new add-on to the two year old shop up front that sells all kinds of enticing non-essentials: jewelry, wearable art, paintings, ceramics, sculpture, prints, decorative housewares and gifts.

There’s a pretty enclosed courtyard outfitted with tables, statuary, and plantings. If we get any more mild weather this is a fine place to enjoy it. Before you snag a seat, head inside, where there are a couple more tables, to buy your espresso, biscotti, slice of cake or swirl of soft serve.
My personal recommendation is the pesche. Two cookie mounds are hollowed out and filled with vanilla custard, then dipped in peach schnapps and vermouth and dusted with sugar. This Italian treat, often served at weddings, delivers some mighty blissful bites.
The Cafe's open until 10 PM weekdays, 11:30 PM on Friday and Saturday. Just the thing when you’re not ready to go home but don’t want to head for a bar. Click here for a 20% off coupon .

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ingenuity creates 130-foot waterfall off Detroit-Superior Bridge

How's this for ingenious -- a 130-foot-tall man-made waterfall off the Detroit-Superior Bridge?

This weekend -- as the Ingenuity Festival stages a sprawling kaleidoscope of art, music, and theatrical performances on the bridge's old streetcar level -- the biggest art project of all will cascade past, from the bridge's upper floor all the way into the Cuyahoga River. As many as 5,000 gallons of water a minute, illuminated by amber lights, may tumble from the bridge.

This video, shot last night, captures the waterfall's first test run. Only three of the 10 weirs were running, so this weekend, the ribbon of water should three times as wide. The Cleveland Division of Water is working with Ingenuity to make it happen.

"We wanted something iconic," said Kidist Getachew, one of the three artists who conceived of the idea. "We wanted to celebrate Cleveland, Lake Erie, the water, the natural resource, the abundance of it." At, the artists are collecting donations to help bring running water to a community in Ethiopia, where Getachew is from.

The Ingenuity Festival runs this weekend on the Detroit Superior Bridge's lower level. For more info, see the festival website,

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Food from the Ground Up

Much of the food on our plates starts in the soil. That’s easy to forget, especially if much of what you buy comes in boxes, cans and jars. Even the big bargain bag of chips -- so many steps removed from the natural world -- depends on corn or potatoes that spring up out of the dirt. Three upcoming events connect us to the simple yet significant fact. They’ll do it from three very different perspectives.

RIPE, Sept. 24-26, is a new family focused festival at the Cleveland Botanical Garden that’s bringing the local food movement a little closer to home. In addition to putting farmers and the restaurant chefs that support them in the spotlight, it aims to educate visitors about how doable and pleasurable it is to grow your own food. The brainchild of Kari Moore, founder of FarmShare Ohio and leader of the Northern Ohio Slow Food group, and Doug Katz of fire food and drink, this is the first time for this event. Expect good things to eat; a marketplace of area vendors selling, jams, honey, herbs and green products; cooking demos; and all kinds of how-to sessions on a variety of topics from canning to composting. Complete program, tickets and more information available here. Five-course Harvest Moon preview dinner on Thursday.

Ben Bebenroth will be one of the cooks for that feast. He’s the man behind the Plated Landscape dinner series and partner in Spice of Life Catering. A self-described “woods stomper” who’s been camping and finding forest edibles since he was a boy, the chef has decided to share some of his stalking expertise. He’s the instructor and guide for a course in food foraging sponsored by the Continuing Education department of Case Western Reserve University. Foraging, according to a recent article I read, is the next big thing in the foodie universe. Bebenroth's three expedition series, September 22nd, 29th and October 6th, from 10 a.m.–1 p.m., is open to the public and costs $75. Modern day hunter-gathers will scour the meadows and forests of the School’s 389-acre University Farm in Chagrin Falls and get some instruction on what to do with their harvest. I hope to be among them. To register, call 216-368-2090.

A benefit dinner for R.E.A.P. is scheduled for Oct. 3 at Dante Restaurant in Tremont. The acronym stands for The Refugee Empowerment Agricultural Program. It is part of a larger collaborative effort involving the Ohio City Fresh Food Collaborative, which operates a 6-acre farm at West 24th Street and Bridge Avenue, Refugee Response, the Ohio City Near West Development Corporation and Great Lakes Brewing Company. The farm, on formerly vacant land behind an apartment complex, is an amazing and spirit-lifting sight. The training initiative employs 15 immigrants: They’re getting a fresh start in their new home, and the community gets fresh locally grown food. Chef Dante Boccuzzi will incorporate vegetables they’ve raised into the meal. Grazing stations serve from 6-9 p.m., but show up at 4:30, and you can board a Lolly Trolley for a tour of the farm with wine and cheese. Tickets are $100, $75 for dinner only and can be obtained by calling the Refugee Response office, 216-236-3877, or e-mailing Seating is limited. Chef, who has a generous heart and a philanthropic bent, is doing more than raising money for the group. He’s offering one of the refugees the opportunity to build career skills by working with him in the restaurant’s kitchen. It's a chance that could change a life.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wild things come out at night for CPT’s Pandemonium ‘10

Here’s how Pandemonium, the annual benefit party for Cleveland Public Theater, lives up to its name. For five hours, the whole CPT campus, from the Gordon Square Theater to Parish Hall, fills with overwhelming creativity, more sounds and tastes and sights than any person could take in. A marching band parades past theater tents, a band stage, a busy bar. Ten-foot-tall monsters recreated from Maurice Sednak’s Where the Wild Things Are roam the crowd with a dancing Max. Rappellers from Cleveland Rock Gym, with tiger-stripes painted across their skin, descended the building’s fa├žade. Inside, the city’s top modern dance troupes perform excerpts from their latest shows.

Food overwhelms for the first hour, with table after hors d’oeuvre table from one of the best collections of restaurants outside the Silver Spoons party. (Indian Delight, the new restaurant in CPT’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood, stood out with its creamy chicken masala.) Then, guests spread out among 20 stages for entertainment, including dozens of quick one-act plays. New spaces in the theater’s northwest corner hosted a cabaret of acoustic musicians, stand-up comics and one-act plays. Highlights included Cat Kenney's "Not Exactly A Palindrome," in which an awkward blind date begins to repeat itself, the same small talk returning in reverse order, with the actors finding completely different inflections to go with a completely scrambled meaning. (In Parish Hall, where the installation "The Petition Box" was decorated with hanging images clipped from magazines, I was excited to see the photo of jazz pianist Montana Taylor from The Terminal in Cleveland Magazine's June issue.)

Though the plays and dances and music were all new, CPT finished the night with a few highlights from last year. The evening’s third act began with an “aerial dance” by Rina Nouveau, a Cirque du Soleil-esque performance in which she wrapped and unwrapped herself in two long silk sashes suspended from the ceiling, rose and fell and spun sensually through the air. As the crowd in the theater applauded her, the human dessert tables entered the room, dressed in dark Goth stylings and carrying trays of little pastries at waist height.

Lounge Kitty, Cleveland’s queen of kitsch, sang from the balcony. “If you’re feeling artsy-fartsy, say yah-uh!” she exclaimed, then launched a bolero-y rendition of “Like A Virgin.” The Gordon Square Theater transformed into a huge dance floor. And soon it became obvious this was no average dance crowd. A gang of six or so young dancers were executing professional-looking twirls, poses, moves, and flirty top-hat exchanges among the guests. They were member of the Inlet Dance Theatre troupe, off-duty after performing their piece “BALListic” earlier that night. They were still dancing joyously at quarter to midnight as the event’s end neared.

Amid the arty-stylish crowd, which ranged from guys in hipster T-shirts to women in strapless dresses and feathers in their hair, I spotted several politicos – city councilmen Jeff Johnson, Matt Zone, and Joe Cimperman, county executive candidate Ken Lanci – urban-art figures such as Terry Schwarz of the Cleveland Urban Design Center, and performers such as comedian Mike Polk.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

This Festival Stinks

I’ve wanted to get out to Gilroy, Calif., for the annual Garlic Fest ever since I first heard about it back in the ’70s, but I still haven’t made it. The idea of celebrating the pungent, flavorful bulb, nicknamed the stinking rose, with two days of themed food and country fair fun appeals to me.
Who wouldn’t want to try garlic ice cream at least once in your life? And I’m not alone: 100,000 or so showed up during the three day party there in July. Happily I don’t have to go across the country for the experience this year.
The North Union Farmers Market is hosting a Garlic Festival of its own, the first ever for the city and the Midwest. On Sept. 11 and 12, Shaker Square will be filled with chefs, farmers, vendors, arts-n-crafters and musicians. Like the West coast event that inspired it, the schedule features cooks-offs, the crowning of Miss Garlic, her court, and a festival king and queen. There will be beer and wine for grown-ups, activities for kids, bands on stage, and lots of good things to eat on the spot and to take home. Unless you count yourself among the undead, this is definitely the place you want to be this weekend. Tickets are $10 for adults, $3 for kids day of, but discounts are available online for family packages and early bird purchasers, along with a detailed schedule.

More food focused goings on at Visible Voice, the Tremont bookstore, on Saturday. The noon-9 p.m. program, called Fresh: going local in an urban environment, is devoted to the topic of urban agriculture. Local activists, educators and growers will be giving talks, relevant books will be sale priced, the documentary Fresh will be screened multiple times. Learn what’s happening and why it matters, ask questions, and show your support by sipping wine made in the region.

Don’t choose. Attend both. Enjoy!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Eli "Paperboy" Reed on 90.3's Around Noon today!

Prior to Eli "Paperboy" Reed's performance at tonight's Rock Hall Ball, he'll be talking to Dee Perry on Around Noon today. Listen to it, and when you're done, check out our post from last week about all three acts performing at tonight's Rock Hall Ball. If you haven't picked up tickets yet, you can do it here. Use the discount code AMVIP to save cash on Platinum-level tickets.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Leo Mintz, a Cleveland rock 'n' roll founding father, celebrated at Rock Hall

This morning, the Rock Hall dedicates the Leo M. Mintz Gallery, belatedly honoring one of the men who gave Cleveland its place at the root of rock history. Leo Mintz (pictured, at right), owner of Record Rendezvous on Prospect Avenue, was Alan Freed’s partner. Mintz was the guy who convinced legendary DJ Freed to play rhythm and blues on Cleveland’s WJW-AM. He was the guy who lent Freed the music. And Mintz and Freed co-organized the first rock concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball in 1952.

Mintz’s family will reciprocate the Rock Hall’s honor by donating one of the only known tickets to the Moondog Coronation Ball (right). It’s a step in their quest to get Mintz greater acclaim as a founding father of rock ’n’ roll -- a journey Mintz’s grandson, local writer Doug Trattner, described in his April 2007 Cleveland Magazine essay, “Schoolhouse Rock.”

“As a family, we kind of came to realize that official induction into the Rock Hall was never going to happen,” Trattner says. “It’s like pro sports halls of fame -- very few non-athletes ever get inducted. Rock and roll’s the same way. If you’re not Alan Freed or a small number of people, and you’re not a musician, you’re not getting inducted.”

Trattner’s essay for us begins boldly, with the declaration, “My grandfather coined the phrase ‘rock ’n’ roll.’” The Rock Hall wouldn’t go that far -- it defines the original term as “African American slang dating back to the early 20th Century” (politely leaving out the fact that it was slang for dancing and sex). Mintz's breakthrough thought was to use it as a new name for '50s R&B.

From Trattner's essay:

In the early ’50s, the phrase “rhythm and blues” had, at least within the white community, about as much cachet as a case of the clap. To avoid the racial stigma that went along with the name, Freed and Mintz agreed they desperately needed a catchier label. One evening, my grandfather described to Freed how the kids at his store were “rocking and rolling to the music” — I always pictured him wriggling his lanky 6-foot-4-inch frame in the process. Why not use that on the radio? he asked Freed.

The Rock Hall inducted Freed and looks at him as a godfather, the reason the museum is in Cleveland. Mintz got only a quick mention on a museum display panel until today.

In the '90s, members of Trattner’s family approached the Rock Hall about getting Mintz inducted – to no avail. So Trattner didn’t expect much when he interviewed Rock Hall CEO Terry Stewart several years ago. But when he brought up his grandfather, Stewart got excited.

“Without [Mintz], I think Cleveland would have had an incredibly difficult time making the case historically that the hall should be here,” Stewart told Trattner for the essay. “And I doubt there would have been the impetus to even try.”

The donated ticket comes with an explanation for why the first rock concert ended in chaos.

The 7,500 tickets to the concert at the Cleveland Arena “sold out really fast,” Trattner says. “My Uncle Milt, on his own, decided to set up a second night and print up a second batch of tickets. Unfortunately, the second batch was the same date as the first batch.” So 15,000 ticket-holders plus walkups showed up at an arena that couldn’t admit them all.

“That’s why there was a riot and the concert was ultimately stopped: All the tickets had the same date.”

The Mintz gallery, part of the second-floor Architects of Rock and Roll exhibit, hosts displays on the history of recorded sound. The new name will make its official public debut Friday night at the Rock Hall Ball, the museum’s 15th anniversary party. Trattner and all of his relatives get in for free.

“It’s certainly a pit stop on the road to really getting him the recognition he deserves,” Trattner says. “Induction is permanent — you can never take that away. It’s still a dream of ours and of mine.”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cast Your Vote!

The race is on for local gourmet food truck Dim and den Sum. The restaurant on wheels has been nominated as a potential competitor in the Food Network’s new food competition, “The Great Food Truck Race.” If they win, Dim and den Sum (featured in the July issue of Cleveland Magazine) will get $10,000 and the chance to appear on the show’s second season.

“We’re an underdog city in everything that we do,” says co-owner and chef Chris Hodgson. He adds they will be competing against trucks from New York, Chicago and Los Angeles — cities known for their food trucks.“ We do need the support of Cleveland. Cleveland is a very supportive city. When they back something up, we usually win.”

If they win, Hodgson and Jeremy Esterly, the culinary duo behind the only food truck in Cleveland, will use the $10,000 to open a new truck, Noodle Bookoodle. It will feature a gourmet Ramen noodle bar and steam buns.

Voting ends September 10. Vote online or text ft20 to 66789.

The Benefits of a Benefit

Morton’s Steakhouse and The Center for Families and Children pair up for their Living Legends fundraiser September 15th . The two have been partnering on this event ever since the upscale national chain, which has gone to great lengths to be part of the Cleveland community, opened its doors here 21 years ago, raising awareness and millions of dollars. The money couldn’t go a more worthy organization.
CFC focuses on early learning, youth development and behavioral health programs. When I asked them to send me information about what the organization does, the list of those they work with and services they provide was staggering. Pre-schoolers, teens, parents, the impoverished, and people struggling with mental illness are all beneficiaries of programs aimed at nurturing families, improving quality of life, building community based support systems and providing individuals with the help they need to survive and succeed. This group has a huge impact that resonates throughout greater Cleveland.

Besides the opportunity to feel good about doing good, attendees get a memorable Morton's style meal. No rubber chicken at this benefit, nor the need to spend your evening trapped at a table with seatmates you don’t know or don’t like. Guests wander from room to room at the restaurant’s Tower City location, grazing on a phenomenal spread of signature dishes. The menu includes oysters on the half shell, poached salmon, Caesar salad, crab cakes, shrimp Alexander, mini sliced tender sandwiches, and Chilean sea bass. There's even going to be a cocktail created specifically for the occaision.

There’s a 20 foot dessert buffet featuring sweets like double chocolate mousse, cheesecake, fresh berries with sabayon and whipped cream, and key lime tarts. According to a rumor passed on to me by a very reliable source, some head straight for this spread and never make it to the carving station.

Feasting starts at 5PM. Click here for event details and tickets.