Thursday, June 28, 2012

Five Ways to Get the Most Out of Boston Mills ArtFest

Ever since I was born, my mom and I have been going to the Boston Mills ArtFest in Peninsula, a summer tradition that involves greasy burgers and jazz music, scenic park views and sunscreen -- and of course, art. Each year, we end up buying something useful and something absurdly ridiculous but awesome. Our house contains ArtFest purchases from all over the country: local and not-so-local artists’ metal furniture, colorful clocks and eclectic jewelry.

This year's Boston Mills ArtFest starts tomorrow night and runs through this weekend and next. If you’re heading to the festival and want to make the most of your time there, here are some suggestions:

1. Go both weekends. This year, the ArtFest is hosting two completely different shows with entirely different sets of artists, one this weekend, one next. Director Ron Beahn says over 700 artists applied this year for about 300 slots. Even if you’ve gone before and see an artist you remember from years past, their bodies of work are always evolving, so it’s worth it to see what they’ve added to their repertoire.

2. Buy the craziest, most whimsical pieces you can find. I’ve got tons in my room: mermaids, neon lizards, an animal tooth brush holder. You won’t find anything like it anywhere else.

3. Grab a picnic table and enjoy the bands. Bands jam for hours as you stroll among the artists’ tents. This year, you can listen to Kent’s The Speedbumps this Sunday or bluesy Austin “Walkin’ Cane” on July 7.

4. Go to the Friday night preview parties. Get a chance to buy and look at art before the crowds. You can spend an evening in the Cuyahoga Valley with beer, wine and food before hitting the regular show the next day. Tickets are $44-$54.

5. Talk to the artists. “You don’t have to buy,” Beahn says. “It’s entertainment. Talk to the artist while you’re there.” Ask them how they make their pieces and learn about their backgrounds. Many artists are creating art while customers meander, so take a minute to watch how they make those intricate wearable fibers or hazy landscape paintings.

The ArtFest is held the next two weekends. Saturdays 10-6, Sundays 10-5. $6-$8. Friday night preview parties 6-9 pm.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Eats

Michael Annandono, chef/owner of Michaelangelo’s in Little Italy, emailed me a copy of his new summer menu a couple of weeks ago, with the comment, “I think this is one of my best.” After visiting the restaurant and sampling a variety of the dishes on it, I have to agree.

It reads as though it were created just for me, and I's like to try everything. So instead of struggling with making choices- this was the end of a long, hot day full of decisions- the husband and I put ourselves in the chef’s hands. He was happy to oblige, selecting his favorites and assembling what proved to be a truly phenomenal meal.

We started with paper thin slices of air cured beef topped with a round of burrata, a solid shell of fresh mozzarella with a soft cheese and cream center, and a spoonful of eggplant caponata. Our other app was tonno crudo, a mound of yellow fin tuna tartare served with a fried soft boiled egg, the yolk still runny, and a heavenly truffle balsamic. And speaking of heavenly, the cioppino special was among the finest versions of this seafood stew I’ve ever had, a zesty broth (and toasted bread smeared with pesto to dip in it, densely populated with in-shell mussels and clams, scallops, and prawn split lengthwise.

Mini-orders of pasta gave us the chance to enjoy two kinds of ravioli; one filled with asparagus and presented with bits of lump crab and saffron cream, and the other featuring veal and trufLinkfles, sautéed mushrooms and Fontina cheese. We shared an outstanding fish course- pan seared Lane Snapper, a type unfamiliar to me with firm sweet tasting flesh, seasoned with fennel pollen, and plated with a little wheel of cracked pepper polenta and a truffled cauliflower puree that I could eat every day for the rest of my life and never tire of.

Edging dangerously close to full and thinking of quitting, the look and aroma of the grilled lamb loin chops kept us in the game. Meat on these little guys was really tender and the dried cherry vinaigrette provided a wonderful accent. Loved the cannellini beans, escarole with shaved grand cru pecorino accompaniments. Nice list wine list here but we agreed that if there was a bottle we’d inevitably consume it all and pay the price the next morning when the alarm went off early, so we drank modestly- only a glass each. I took my time with a Sangiovese, a versatile Italian red that works well with many different things, and my last sip followed the final forkful of meat.

A couple of scoops of blood orange gelato- they make a different flavor every day- and we were done. The white tablecloth ambiance, smooth service, and wonderful food had turned an ordinary Thursday night into a very special occasion- and that’s exactly what a good restaurant and a skilled chef should do. There are many reasons for us to go back , among them the desire to taste more of this menu. High on my must try list are the organic salmon carpaccio with Castelvetrano olives and chardonnay grappa; grilled rack of wild boar ribs, fennel salad and blood orange balsamic glaze; and Annandono’s handmade ricotta and veal stuffed cannelloni with guanciale and mascarpone cream. All I can say is that this is one chef who knows how to give a girl what she wants.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Garden Nights

There are many things to love about summer. I’m especially partial to the long bright nights, when the light lasts until late. Many people seem to have so much more energy to get out and do things when the after work hours are not defined by darkness and cold- I know I do. One way to fill the seasonal time slot is by attending Summer Wednesdays at the Cleveland Botanical Garden in University Circle.

Gourmets in the Garden happens every Wednesday, (except July 4), from now until August 29, at 6 PM. Local chefs demo cooking techniques and recipes on the Garden’s Geis Terrace. Besides learning a thing or three from the pros, audience members get to sample the dishes they prepare and ask questions. The second event in the series tonight, June 20, features Scott Kim of SASA and the soon to open Accent in University Circle. Each Wednesday session is $5 per person for Garden members, $11 for non-members. Registration is highly recommended. Tickets for Gourmets in the Garden are available at the door, but seating is limited and some demos fill up quickly. To insure a spot, sign up at least a week in advance by calling (216) 721-1600 ext. 100

Here’s the talent lineup for the coming weeks:
June 27: Stefanie Paganini, Loretta Paganini School of Cooking
July 11: Sergio Abramof, Sergio’s and Sarava
July 18: Steve Schimoler, Crop Bistro
July 25: Douglas Katz, fire food & drink

August 1: Ricardo Sandoval, Fat Cats, Felice and Lava Lounge
August 8: Ali Barker, Radius at South Franklin Circle
August 15: Brian Goodman, Greenhouse Tavern
August 22: Ben Bebenroth, Spice Kitchen + Bar
August 29: Tony Smoody, Bon Appetit

No need to plan ahead if sipping something cold and alcoholic outdoors in beautiful surroundings sounds more like your idea of fun. Just show up for Cocktails in the Garden, 3:00 to 9:00 pm Wednesdays through August 29, (3:00 – 5:00 pm on Wednesday, July 4.), pay the discounted admission fee, and buy the featured signature drinks- a different one each week- for $6 each. You can enjoy the gardens until 9 PM. Soft drinks, bottled water and full bar service is also available on the Terrace, and the Café offers sandwiches, salads, and snacks.

Isn’t it time you stopped to smell the flowers?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Obama, At Tri-C, Makes His Case For Four More Years

When Barack Obama entered the gym of Cuyahoga County Community College Metro Campus today, the audience — some wearing “Team Obama” T-shirts, others proudly sporting the iconic Shepard Fairey “Hope” art across their chest — got on their feet.

“There is one place where I stand in complete agreement with my opponent: this election is about our economic future,” the president told the crowd.

Obama’s Cleveland speech made up half of a dramatic day for Ohio and the presidential election. His appearance here, and Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s similar speech in Cincinnati, underscored how crucial the state will be in the November election.

As free-market advocate Romney increasingly pressures recession-burdened Obama on the economic front, the president has shied away from healthcare and zeroed in on his business plan.

Obama portrayed the dueling campaigns as offering “two very different visions.” He likened Romney’s plans to the Bush era, arguing that Romney would cut taxes by trillions and strip the government down to national security and a few other basic functions. He said skeptics should vote for Romney if they want to support the policies of the last decade.

“This is their vision; there is nothing new,” Obama said. “Just what Bill Clinton has called, ‘The same ideas they tried before, except on steroids.’”

Positioning himself as an advocate of creating middle class jobs, the president promised to invest in clean energy and revitalize the educational system with more teachers. Obama tied education to the economy by underlining the importance of science and innovation.

The president also defended his incumbent track record. He asserted that 4 million jobs have been created in the last 27 months, under his watch, more than in the seven years before the unemployment crisis. He also appealed to supporters of manufacturing, a classic move for politicians rallying in the Rust Belt, claiming that this is the strongest period for manufacturing job growth since 1995.

“I believe that you can’t bring down the debt without a strong and growing economy,” Obama said. “I believe you can’t have a strong and growing economy without a strong, growing middle class.”

But as Obama contrasted himself from Romney — from his approach to the economy to his threatening political ads — Romney was addressing the crowd in Cincinnati. Romney similarly focused on the economy, but indicated he would limit the size of government. You can read about Romney’s appearance downstate here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Call Me Judge Laura

Two food events coming up in the next couple of weeks. The first is the 4th annual Great International Gulyas-Goulash Cook Off, on June 17 from noon to 4 PM, It’s held outdoors at St. Emeric’s Church, located on West 22nd Street in Cleveland, right behind the West Side Market. Versions of the meaty paprika laced Hungarian stew are the star attraction. Contestants submit pots of their own special recipe and guests get to sample the dishes (until they run out). Competitors are welcome- just register in advance and show up with your dish. I’m one of the cook-off judges but you can be too- there’s also a People’s Choice award.

Also on the day’s menu are pogácsa (a flakey bacon studded biscuit), lángos (fried bread), strudel and local beers to wash it all down plus live traditional music. Might be just the thing for Father's Day. Tickets are $12, and that gets you samplings, bread, pickles, and a ballot. Purchase online at or at the door. Proceeds go towards the restoration of the Hungarian Cultural Gardens. Direct questions to

I’m also a judge for the first-ever Heights Culinary Heritage Show on June 24. Twenty-five registered contestants (the deadline to register was end of April so it’s too late to enter) will be competing for a first place prize of $300, and all the recipes will be collected in a commemorative cookbook. The rules require dishes to be vegetarian and to have some cultural or ethnic significance that the cook must explain to the panel of tasters.

The free -adults only- event is hosted by Council Gardens, a cluster of garden apartments built on seven and half acres off Taylor Road in Cleveland Heights. Established in 1963, it provides affordable independent housing for people age 62 and over, and for mobility-impaired adults of any age. There will be refreshments, ethnic music and dancing.

The coolest thing about this place is the Community Garden and Urban Farm Project, and tours will be given the day of the Show. Residents grow flowers and organic fruits and vegetables and there’s a small weekly farmers market on the grounds that’s open to the public. Tickets must be reserved in advance at 216-630-7740.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Other Weapons Bush Didn’t Find in Iraq: Cleveland's Weapons of Mass Creation Festival

Designer Jeff Finley's festival celebrates Cleveland as a scrappy creative engine. He has taken his passions for art, design, music and entrepreneurship and smashed them into a 3-day extravaganza of raw talent, the Weapons of Mass Creation Festival in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District.

The festival, in its third year, runs tonight through Sunday. It includes 20 speakers, 20 designers and 30 bands, including Tad Carpenter (an illustrator/designer who has worked with Macy's and Hallmark, among many others), Three Bears Design (a Cleveland-based creative collective) and Gregory and the Hawk (a New York-based band with multiple albums and EPs). Many are local. Other featured designers and entrepreneurs are traveling from as far as Nova Scotia, Chicago and San Francisco.

Four locations along Detroit Avenue between West 52nd and West 54th streets, including the Reinberger Auditorium and Saigon Plaza, are hosting concerts, an art show, workshops and what’s billed as the “biggest break-dancing/b-boying battle in Ohio.” Tickets range from $5 for tonight's opening party to $60 for a three-day pass to all lectures and music.

I talked to Finley, who's also a designer and partner at the Cleveland creative design agency Go Media, to find out more about the innovative missile that is WMC.

Q: What does this event bring to of Cleveland that it hasn’t seen before?

A: There’s been an Ingenuity festival and art fests, but as far as commercial art goes, and graphic design, we’re the premier event going on in the Midwest. The types of artist we’re bringing in are the thought leaders in the industry. There’s a young creative class and we’re scrappy and hardworking and trying to build something for the future. We’re really showcasing we have and making it an attraction for other cities to show Cleveland’s really doing something inspiring.

 Q: How were you able to get all of the different people to come to Cleveland?

A: Cleveland is well known but it doesn’t have the reputation of being a creative powerhouse. If you have an event in San Fran, they’ll want to go. We have to work hard to make a compelling reason for people to come here. Making friends in the design community, we’ve built a strong reputation. So we get big-name artists and designers from New York or Chicago to spread the word about last year and now hear how everyone is excited to come back.

Q: What will people who aren’t into the design and indie or punk rock music scene getting out of the event?

A: [It’ll appeal to] people who have this burning passion to do things their own way and start their own business. [It’s about] doing what you want to do, staying scrappy and being an entrepreneur. The common message last year was, “Work hard and make shit.” Just come to be inspired, because we’re all in this together, especially in Cleveland.

Parade the Circle in Wade Oval this weekend

You've probably heard of Christmas in July, but what about Halloween in June? In Wade Oval tomorrow, Parade the Circle gives paraders the chance to don their own colorful, handmade -- but not frightening -- costumes and masks.

The parade, started by the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1990, is "meant to showcase for the community what happens in the Circle in any given week," says Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Inc. "It's a way to get people to realize that everybody has an artist within them."

For the past month, the art museum has been running costume-creating workshops and even stilt-walking training.

The theme of this year's Parade the Circle is "Branches Become Roots," emphasizing the idea of regeneration and the cycle of life within a city.

Many of the family-friendly activities in Circle Village -- the half of Parade the Circle organized by University Circle Inc. -- teach kids about environmental awareness. The activities, at a conglomerate of booths run by local organizations, include making jewelry out of recycled pop tabs, creating wearable leaf and flower crafts and fashioning face masks inspired by portraits found in the art museum.

"Our intention with Parade is to whet the appetite, and then hope that people will continue to come back and visit," Ronayne says.

The festivities begin in Wade Oval at 11 am tomorrow with music by Revolution Brass Band. But it's best to get there at 10 or 10:30 to save your spot to watch the noon parade. More than 50,000 spectators come each year to watch the 2,000 paraders.

For a preview of nine more summer festivals, check out this article from the Summer Fun Guide in our June issue.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New House Pours and Plates

There are some new beverages at the West Side Market Café. The alcoholic content means they won’t go with your early morning eggs, hash browns, and sausage. Though I do recall seeing a group of guys in there wearing hospital scrubs- hopefully coming off a late night shift and not heading to work- order beers with their over-easies and toast. It might however, pair up nicely with a turkey club or a tuna melt.

I’m talking about wine- which many people don’t realize is sold by the glass and the bottle here. But not just any wines. The two signature vintages I’m referring to feature images of the Market tower, the Café sign, and the Historic District marker on the label. The white’s a Sauvignon Blanc and the red’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc. Both are estate bottled in Bordeaux, France by Chateau des Tuquets, known for its south-facing clay and limestone hills. Grapes have been grown on the property since ancient times and some vineyards have been steadily cultivated since the 18th century.
photo by Barney Taxel
A Cleveland company, European Wine Imports, is bringing the wines in and doing a private labeling program for the Cafe. I’ve tried the Cab and really enjoyed it. It’s approachable, nicely balancing berries and pepper, and goes down easy with a relatively smooth finish. Definitely a nice wine for the price. You can take home a bottle of either one for $13.95.

That’s not all that’s new. Tom Szoradi took over as chef two months ago and starts serving his menu- more adventurous and creative than the previous version- this week. I got a sneak peak and some items immeditaley caught my eye: a twist on lox and eggs made with house cured salmon on pumpernickel with pickled onions, arugula, boursin, and shaved hard boiled eggs; an open-faced Spanish omelette made with cilantro lime chicken and queso fresca; lamb sliders; a Korean BBQ pulled pork sandwich; and a burger topped with onion bacon spread and fontina cheese.

Remember that the Café’s open even on days the Market is not, from 7 AM till 3 or 4 most week days, and till 6 PM Fridays and Saturdays. And I hear that if the weather cooperates they’ll be offering sidewalk seating beginning this Friday.