CLEWeek The Muse & The Ritz on Top of My List: Fresh Market Package
Posted by cmh gourmand on June 16, 2013
My Cleveland to do list remains long, especially in the area of things I have not eaten. At the top of my list is an experience I have been teased with twice but have never tried. I travel on the cheap for the most part. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t skimp, but I focus on value in transportation and accommodation to have more cash for culinary tourism. There are however times when you deserve to splurge a little. Through past employment and an eye for a deal, I have had a few opportunities to stay in some of the finer hotels in the North America, including The Fairmont in Dallas and The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. Through a quick of fate and Hotels.com being unprepared for my wraith of a reservation gone wrong, I did once score an executive suite at The Mutiny Hotel in Coral Gables for $59. So I know a little about living large but don’t allow myself to indulge often. A few falls ago, I had the opportunity to stay at The Ritz-Carlton in Cleveland. Oh, my. Staying there was as close to living as a rock star I will ever be. In fact, there were a couple of rock stars I ended up mingling with while there including Patti Smith. Rarely does one stay in a hotel without some mildly annoying things that are just not right: poor pillows, bad water pressure, a thin towel, etc. You will find none of these things to be less than fine at the Ritz. The bed was so comfortable that I did briefly consider how I might sneak it out of my 11th story window onto my waiting Subaru in the alley. And even though that is crazy and illegal and in some circles morally wrong, I think, if I had asked, the doormen would have helped me load the bed on the roof of my car while the front desk replaced the bed for my room and discreetly send a bill to my home to pay for it. The service was that good. My favorite memory, of many, was swimming alone on the pool looking out the rooftop skyline window at the moon and the night sky of Cleveland. One more thing – best hotel robe ever. The downside, is while I was there gratis, I was rarely there, I was too busy eating my way through Cleveland. What I did get to experience, I appreciated for the high luxury it was. And when I think of where I would want to go if I wanted to live large for just one night – of all the places I can think of, the first thought that comes to mind is the Ritz in Cleveland.
On my second culinary trip to Cleveland last fall, I did stay not at the Ritz but I did score a second visit to their in-house restaurant, Muse. Many people are quick to dismiss the concept of a hotel restaurant as mediocre by default. Not the case for Muse. Ritz-Carlton set a high mark for the restaurant to be in one of their signature locations and have worked hard to staff it well.
On each occasion, I have had the privilege to meet Executive Chef Richard Sören Arnoldi. On my two visits I was able to share breakfast with the culinary team of Muse and experience part of one of their special offerings paired with the hotel. The Fresh Market Package includes: Friday night accommodation for two, a bottle of wine (I am sure you could get an Ohio Wine if you ask nicely), breakfast the next morning with the Chef in Muse followed by a chef guided tour of The West Side Market. It wraps up with a lunch prepared by the chef with what was sourced at the market, and if you chose, you can join in him the kitchen to help prepare it. That sounds like an incredible day to me.
I’ve toured the West Side Market twice with chefs from Muse. The last time was with Chef Arnoldi. You don’t need a tour to enjoy and appreciate the West Side Market. However exploring the market with someone who visits many times a week and knows each of the purveyors – their stories, best items, what is in season, etc. changes the experience from that of a tourist to that of a local. Chef Arnoldi is not a Cleveland native, but he has embraced the city and made a conscious decision to stay to pursue his craft. He shared the West Side Market reminds him of going to the markets with is father as a kid in Philadelphia. It is a tradition he continues with his son today. I am not sure when I will take the plunge to enjoy the complete Fresh Market package, but since I have done much of it in bits and pieces, I will look forward to writing about it when I do it as a full experience.