CLEWeek – CROP: Where the Art and Science of Food Connect
Posted by cmh gourmand on June 15, 2013
CROP is a great restaurant. It has the writeups and awards to prove it. The modern menu is constantly transforming, morphing, refining and becoming more local so writing about what I had before won’t help you make plans for what to order now. The elements of a good restaurant are the core values of CROP: attention to detail, presentation, a focus on working with superior purveyors, a commitment to customer service, etc. I’ll pop in a few photos below to whet your appetite and then we will move on to the things you may not know about CROP.
Let’s cover a few of the basics before moving on to the elements that establish the uniqueness of CROP. The name: CROP stands for Customized Restaurant Operations Platform. That name might create a disconnect for those that experience the menu today but I’ll explain why that makes sense later. Take solace in knowing that CROP also focuses on finding the best of crops (of everything) everywhere. As a cheat, take a look at this short video from CROP about what they do – cheat is linked here. A picture is worth 1000 words, well the video I linked will save me about 10,000 of those (which for you means 2-3 typos, some witty phase and some horrible rhyming phrase averted).
The man behind, and as you read further, underneath CROP is Steve Schimoler. Looking at his work history, any single restaurant or project on the list would be notable. All of those experiences combined: culinary training, food science, concept development working for large and small organizations created the base for CROP. A job with Nestle brought him to Cleveland in 2005 but a quick connection to and love for the community made him want to stay. CROP is part of Rolling Fire Enterprises a concept development company that focuses on food initiatives as well as the Rock and Roll heritage of the city via Cleveland Food Rocks! At this point, you may be getting the sense that CROP combines a lot of parts into it’s whole.
An appreciation of CROP starts at the curb. The United Bank Building has been an iconic landmark of the neighborhood since 1925. The building had long since passed its glory days of the roaring 20’s but Schimoler saw great potential in the edifice. The large space featured murals, marble and other classic features of a building waiting to be reborn with a lot of hard work and creativity.
As impressive as the upstairs looks, it is the basement that got me excited. Part of this underground lair houses a culinary lab where the science aspects of the business are pursued with passion and vigor. Water is a big deal for cooking. The type of water used in beer, bread and even bagels give foods part of their distinctive flavor. Water adds to the Terroir . Buried in this basement is a water system that can replicate any type of water from tap drawn water of New York that gives a Jewish bagel it’s characteristic crunch to Bay Area H2O that makes sourdough a little bit better when baked in San Franciso. Water seems like a generic element in a recipe, but it turns out, this little thing, makes a big difference. That is one example of the “underground” work going one here.
The basement is also used as extra production and event space. The centerpiece is a 5000 square foot vault. At one time it was one of the three largest in the country. The multiple feet of concrete, the many inches of steel and the craftmanship of a bygone day make this vault virtually impenetrable both to burglars and cell phones. The locking mechanism and elaborate designs of the door make this as much a work of art as a practical form of protection. If the end of the world is coming, you want to book a dining room and dinner in the vault because you are likely to survive anything other than a direct meteor hit (and you will have plenty of food & water to sustain you in the aftermath).
Schimoler was a generous host, sharing everything on all levels. He clearly has found his calling mixing the art and science of the culinary world together in one place. Yet another example of the many things going on above and below ground in Cleveland.
2537 Lorain Avenue, (Ohio City) Cleveland
(corner of W. 25th Street & Lorain across from West Side Market)