CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Cleveland Week: an Intro by CLEGourmand

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 10, 2013

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In the last two years among the never relenting items on my Sisyphean to do list I added – learn more about Cleveland. With some persistence, an iron lined stomach and a lot of help from Positively Cleveland, I have taken a pretty big bite out of Cleveland. The more I explore, the more I realize, I have much, much more to sample and appreciate.

I am not sure what will take you to Cleveland or the North Coast this summer. It might be tall ships, an air show, a ball game or a whim, but whatever takes you I suggest you consider staying longer and doing more. Historically, most of my Cleveland adventures were targeted missions – one destination – (maybe two or three if only food related) or attending a wedding or social soiree. The city and it’s metro area are so spread out it that the many “nuggets” that make the city special are easy to miss.

Among the components than makes the city memorable is the spirit and spunk of each of its neighborhoods. They are all separate but equal in offering character, history and something unique more than just a zip code. Clevelanders often define their own city by a demarcation line between East and West sides. Given the travel time and distances between the far-flung outposts of each side, I can understand how natives might limit their excursions to one segment of the city. However, in my ongoing explorations, it has become more apparent to me, that Cleveland is best experienced by picking a neighborhood for a day or weekend and fully immersing oneself into the culture of the place. Most of the neighborhoods I find myself leaning towards are a bit more Bohemian in nature and all are food focused. I suggest you focus on these neighborhoods when you start your Clevelandification: Ohio City, Gordon Square, Shaker Square, Tremont, Coventry and University Circle. Pick a day for each (in some cases a weekend will not do an area justice) or a long weekend to hit two and I think you will find Cleveland is more that you knew or expected.

I always knew, well at least intuitively, that Cleveland was a great place for ethnic food thanks to my college pals from Cleveland and to the writings of Laura Taxel and Marilou Suszko. In my roaming of the neighborhoods, I have found more than authentic ethnic enclaves of Polish and Italian specialties but many, many places that would send a Bay Area Locavore to hippie heaven. I have mingled with chef’s well ahead of the edge of any culinary movement seen on the Food Network. There is a pride in the food based business owners in Cleveland that is ubiquitous, contagious and inspiring. It is hard to put into words. It is not cockiness. It is very collaborative with many a person spouting off long lists of other restaurants and purveyors to try and why they are so good. This spirit crosses neighborhoods and even the east side / west side line.

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What I also discovered is that there is so much to do in between bites be it art, nature or history, that I can spend hours not eating between meals and lose track of time. I will share a few of them with you. Aperature in Tremont is a mecca for polaroid and non digital camera enthusiasts. If you are photographically challenged or inspired, you will want to see if you can get added to their next Polaroid walking tour of the area. The Cleveland Museum of Art, always worth a few hours of my time. A new discovery is Lakeview Cemetary, I could and have just wandered around the plots reading history by default on the tombstones but for a real bonus visit the James A. Garfield Monument for one of the best views of the city. And finally, even after two trips to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, I just feel like I have scratched the surface, I could use another six hours of exploration to feel I have done the exhibits justice.

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To prepare for this week and/or your next trip, you can look back at some of my past posts about trips to Cleveland via: CLEGourmand

This week is Cleveland Week offering a post per day about some of the places that prove that Cleveland really does rock. I hope to inspire you to make a visit to enjoy what our neighbors to the north have to offer.

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Posted in CLEGourmand, Ohio, Road Trip | Leave a Comment »

(The Magic of) Melt: The New Bomb Turkey & The Cleveland/Columbus Connection

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 21, 2012

In this season of Thanksgiving, I give thanks to the fine city of Cleveland and the gifts it has given me over the years – friends and food. I was a late arrival at fandom for Melt, but when it hit, it hit big. I had my first Melt encounter in 2011 and so far every trip back has been an award winner. The two locations I sampled were equal in eating experience. That is no easy task.

Melt Bar & Grilled, in the simplest sense, comes down the a simple concept. People like bread and people like cheese and they want it grilled. Add in a beer, or two, or a gourmet pop and contentment can be had for less than $20. However, few places really make a grilled cheese that is memorable or craveable. Melt does deliver the goods and gets people to come back for more.

What is the magic formula the makes this place so universally loved and appealing? Clearly not just something but many things must click with the concept to attract the likes of Man vs. Food, Diners, Drive- In’s and Dives and CMH Gourmand.

The first Melt opened in Lakewood in 2006. Matt Fish, the chef/owner concocted a formula that taps into our distant memories of childhood, what we liked best about our early twenties and the character of Cleveland’s communities that Melt melts into. What Fish created was the type of bar he would want to go to – that had gourmet comfort food that was good, creative and fun.

Let’s start with the gourmet. The key to any good sandwich is the bread. Melt’s bread is made fresh daily. Other items made in-house include the dressings and soups. Bratwurst are sourced locally. Many of the monthly specials source from local purveyors and all can be transformed into vegan or vegetarian versions with no loss of flavor or hipness. The sandwiches themselves are portioned large with combinations ranging from creative, to envelope pushing and downright crazy. But maybe crazy like a fox, or Fish, as the case may be. Take the Parmageddon: 2 potato and cheese pierogi, napa vodka kraut, grilled onions and lots of cheddar cheese on thick Texas Toast style bread served with hand cut fries and house made sweet slaw. The price? – $10.50 American. That is a meal. The rest of the menu reads like this including items such as lasagna, mixed berry preserves, hand breaded eggplant, house made crab cakes and fried tofu.

Okay, to track back a bit, I guess I covered some of the creative part already but let’s look at the elements of the space that show the creativity component. The menu’s are presented on old LP album covers. The walls and pretty much everything is covered and coated in Cleveland paraphernalia, each monthly special seems to try to top the previous offering with a bold assortment of flavors that maybe should not go together….but do. Want to save 25% on your meals for life? Get a Melt Tattoo on your body to become a human marketing machine. Seem to gimmicky to you? It has worked on 400 plus people. Old (one might call them vintage) movies play in the background while local rock and sports memorabilia line the walls and bathroom stalls. There is a lot to eat at Melt and even more to look at.

Now, moving on to the fun aspect of the place. Every observation I have made in my visits and every review I have read has noted that the staff at Melt are friendly and seem to genuinely enjoy what they are doing and where they are working at. The servers are all able to express their individuality and many say they hang out at Melt in their off hours. There seems to be something infectious to the place that puts people on all sides of the house at ease.

Maybe one of the things that adds to the relaxed feel is the bar part of Bar & Grilled. Melt has a lot of beer. And as the Dining Duder said on one scouting trip “not only do they have a lot of beer, but it is all good beer”. The Dining Duder is not one to experience irrational exuberance over a comfort food restaurant beer list – his refined tastes ask more than that and he was not giving the compliment away. Fish started out with over 100 beers on his opening day menu and has added more over time. The beer list is a bit overwhelming but the depth is impressive. Many a local or regional brew is present as well as other harder to find microbrews from everywhere else.

The place(s) has character and seem to hire many characters to work in the business. Even though there are four locations, it does not feel like a restaurant empire, each place feels like a neighborhood hangout.

Do I like the place – well, of course I do, but I like it maybe a little more than I should, and I am Okay with that. Melt is the girlfriend that serves you her homemade meatballs not the one that tries to stop you from trying the Melt Challenge. Melt is a keeper.

But let’s finally stop beating around the bush and talk about the title of this piece and the first photo. What is the New Bomb Turkey? It is a sandwich offered every November as a toast to Thanksgiving and a tribute to the New Bomb Turks. Most of the members of the band hailed from Cleveland but the band formed in Columbus and still calls the home. I know this because I know them all and watched them rock out at Little Brothers and Beachland Ballroom. Matt Fish was in several bands in the Cleveland punk scene of the same era so the sandwich name and the music in the background are Fish’s hat tip to his roots and one of his inspirations.

How about another Columbus connection? Melt is coming to Columbus…..soon. Will the spirit and spunk of Cleveland be able to replicate itself in the capital city? I am not sure, but the New Bomb Turks survived the transition, maybe we will too.

Many of my readers are Cleveland transplants. A few (CLEGourmand fans) live in Cleveland. I encourage you to try a New Bomb Turkey while there is still time this season or make a commitment to do so went Melt opens in Columbus in 2013. Let me know what you think of the sandwich. And let me know if you believe Melt will melt the hearts of the capital city or have a meltdown. I know what I am hoping for and where I want that location to be.

Melt Bar & Grilled
(Four Locations, details below)
Website

Melt Bar & Grilled on Urbanspoon

Posted in CLEGourmand, restaurants, sandwiches | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Taste of CLE: Kim Se, West Side Market

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 29, 2012

When Marilou Suszko says, “if you are only going to eat one thing at the West Side Market, eat the stuffed Chicken wing”….you do it. Suszko and her colleague Laura Taxel know what that are talking about because they literally wrote the book on the West Side Market.

I had the pleasure to meet Laura Taxel and Marilou Suszko at the Greenhouse Tavern as part of my CLE Gourmand adventures earlier this month. I have read several books written by both over the years so it was an honor to spend time picking the minds of two ladies that know more about Cleveland Food and its history than I could begin to dream of. So when I heard mention of a must have chicken wing and the West Side Market my ears picked up and I started typing information into my iPhone.

For a mere $2.00 you can buy a simple but sumptuous stuffed chicken wing from Kim Se (section A on the market). The shop is owned by Sopheap Heng who is renown for cooking some of the best (in quality and value) Cambodian Cuisine in the city. The chicken wings come in two styles – both are stuffed to the bursting point with bean thread noodles and vegetables or vermicelli, lemon grass and peanuts. These portable bites offer a quick treat while dodging fellow shoppers from stall to stall and are an easy incentive to want to come back at the end of the shopping trip for a bigger meal. I limited myself to one of each type of wing and was pleased with both so I have added this to my must buy list when visiting the market (which means taking a large cooler with me).

Speaking of Marilou Suszko, she will be in town on November 9th as part of Pro Musica’s Culinary Capers series. Suszko was walking and talking locavore long before it became the buzz word and trend it is today so I am sure she will have a lot of share about great finds in our state.

Posted in CLEGourmand, markets | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

CLEGourmand: The Itinerary and The Challenge

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 6, 2012

I am at the 1/2 way point in my Palette to Palate Tour of Cleveland with Positively Cleveland. I am touring with writers from LA, Detroit, Baltimore, Toronto and Columbus. Our collective opinion so far, we love Cleveland. Not a big surprise for most of us. What might be a surprise is that in spite of all I am doing, there is so much more to do and see and especially eat, that I am not even scratching the surface of this city. Another surprise, I have now been up here enough times to feel like I can advocate for what is great about this community with some authority. In the back of my mind, I can’t avoid the inclination to compare and contrast Columbus with Cleveland. My track record shows that I am a champion of my city of birth but on this trip, even though not completed, I will say that the culinary community of Cleveland kicks that of Columbus in the ass. Cleveland may have a little more in the quantity, I would say a head to head tie for quality, but where the win occurs in the spirit of collaboration and cheerleading among chefs here for each other and a desire to keep raising the bar. I had similar thoughts two years ago but now I say this notion is a firm belief.

This is my itinerary:

Thursday
Dinner at The Greenhouse Tavern
Tour of Spaces Gallery
Desserts at Sweet Moses

Friday
Breakfast at Muse in the Ritz Carlton
West Side Market tour with Richard Sören Arnoldi from Muse
Tour of the Ohio City Urban Farm
Lunch at Sokolowski’s University Inn
Visit to Aperature in Tremont
Dinner and tour of Crop Bistro
Ohio City Brewery Hop with Sam McNulty (Market Garden Brewery, Nano Brewery, Speakeasy & Bar Cento)

Saturday
Breakfast at Presti’s Bakery
Tour of Lakeview Cemetery
Lunch at Accent
Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland Botanical Garden
Dinner at Fire Food and Drink
MOCA – Museum of Contemporary Art
Melt Bar and Grilled (late night snack)

Sunday
Breakfast at Lucky’s Cafe
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
West Side Market Street Festival (in honor of the centennial of the market)
drive home with car stocked with West Side Market purchases

What else do I bring home with me? I have a too long list of places to visit that can not be done in a weekend. My must dine list includes: Lolita, Spice, Black Pig, Fahrenheit, Dantes, Happy Dog, Momocho, Pura Vida, Bar Cento, Speakeasy (when in session), a return to Tommy’s, SOHO and more.

The question coming up I-71 was how did I fee about going to some of the places a second time. My answer was I was happy to revisit the past when the names were Greenhouse, Lucky’s, Muse and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I can also say that I have another revelation on this trip. As a person that never thought I would always live in my home city, I can can say that I have truly come to love it over the last decade. I have also mentioned that Athens has become my second home. I can say with authority that if fate was to find me placed in Ohio City or Tremont, I would gladly plant my roots and call this area home. That does say something because after 48 states, 16 countries and too many cities to count, there are just a handful that would consider living in for the long-term and Cleveland is now on that list.

This CLEGourmand Series will feature several restaurant reviews but a healthy heaping of philosophy too. There is a different food culture up here (I am writing this post from University Circle) and it is something I want to better understand, dissect and bring back to the Capital city because Cleveland is kicking our ass when it comes to collaborations.

On a final note: If you are reading this late Saturday night or early Sunday morning (Oct 6th or 7th), come up to the Cleveland for the Centennial Celebration for the West Side Market. The planned festivities look amazing.

Posted in CLEGourmand, Locally Sourced, Ohio, Road Trip | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Going Back to CLEveland: Palette Meets Palate, A Writers Tour of The Culinary and Modern Arts Scene

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 3, 2012

Some of you may remember the CLEGourmand series from 2010. I was given the opportunity to head back to Cleveland again as a guest of Positively Cleveland so I (@CMHGourmand) will be Tweeting up a storm from Thursday October 4th to Sunday October 7th describing my #CLEGourmand adventures on #TourCle with @PositivelyCleve.

The staff did take a moment to clarify that I would be going back to some of the same places as last time including Greenhouse Tavern, Lucky’s, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The Cleveland Museum of Art. My response to that was a hearty, YES! – I would love to revisit any place from the 2010 trip without a hesitation. They say you can never go back, well I say you can go back to Cleveland any time and enjoy it just as much if not more than before.

I will be joined by several other writers from around the country as we eat from dawn to dusk…while appreciating the thriving arts community of Cleveland. While I did not need any convincing, I did read through the press release soliciting writers and think they made the perfect pitch. I am going to share some the highlights of the Positively Cleveland email below. They did a great job showing off what the city has to offer.

THE PALETTE MEETS PALATE IN CLEVELAND
A GUIDE TO REGION’S CULINARY AND MODERN ARTS SCENE

CLEVELAND, OHIO The charm of urban markets attracts tourists to a number of cities. The growth of hot new restaurants adds to the foodie mystique of a handful of communities. Cutting-edge museums attract fans in droves. But few cities across the country can boast all three tourist attraction elements with the pedigree of those in Cleveland.

Just consider:

* Cleveland’s renowned West Side Market is celebrating its 100th year of providing quality ethnically diverse food including fine cuts of meat, seafood, fresh local produce and baked goods. With over 100 vendors there’s something for everyone.

* For years, Cleveland chefs and restaurants have been writing the ultimate Cinderella story as they win celebrity status with recognition by the James Beard Foundation, appearances on “Best Restaurant” ranking lists and airtime on the nation’s most loved culinary television shows.

* This fall, Cleveland’s ($26.3 Million) Museum of Contemporary Art celebrates its grand opening in University Circle, a unique cultural center that also is home to the Cleveland Orchestra, Institute of Music, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Case Western University and more.

These features provide a true “Palette to Palate” experience for tourists seeking a quality cultural experience for an affordable price.

WEST SIDE MARKET CENTENNIAL

With its iconic Seth Thomas (the same folks that did the one at Grand Central Station) clock tower, the Guastavino tile vaulted ceiling and red quarry tile floors, it would be enough to label the West Side Market as an architecturally-important and stunning building. But, ask any local, visitor or chef and they will tell you the 100-year-old market is so much more.

As one of the nation’s oldest public markets, the West Side Market was once where 20th century immigrants found the foods and spices of their homeland and were able to celebrate their cultural heritage through the art of cooking. Today, it retains its bustling charm while offering a unique shopping experience for fresh foods, rare ethnic ingredients, local produce and more.

With more than a dozen ethnicities including Polish, Greek, Irish, Mexican, Slovenian and more; as well as locally-produced pastas, tortillas, artisanal cheeses; and specialty foods such as a whole animals (pig, goat and lamb), chicken feet, alligator and headcheese, there is something for the more than one million visitors who experience the West Side Market each year.

The true authenticity of the market comes from the two legacy vendors, the Wincek & Stumpf and the Leu families, who have operated stands at the Market in some form since 1912; the Fernengels and produce vendors who have passed the stand down through three and four generations; Maple Valley Sugarbush and Annemarie’s Dairy who feature locally-sourced products; and Campbell’s Popcorn and Orale! who have seen so much success they’ve expanded to storefront operations. There is a story behind every booth at the West Side Market and it is these people who make the market the “Best Food Lovers Market” in the country by Food Network Magazine.

Centennial Celebrations is a series of national events to commemorate the West Side Market’s 100th birthday this year. For details visit www.wsm100.org

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART OPENING

Museum-of-Contemporary-ArtIn a town where the traditional arts are rooted in the riches of the early 19th century, it would be easy to question where modern art fits in. For the first time in its 40-year history the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art makes a major splash with a new $26.3 million street-level building, open Oct. 6. At the intersection of Cleveland’s classic cultural district, University Circle, and the emerging Uptown District sits the 34,000-square-foot, four-story building, the first in the country designed by Farshid Moussavi Architecture.

The new facility, itself a work of dramatic geometric art, provides MOCA the space for a diverse array of innovative flexible exhibitions, programs and the art of our time. It is expected to draw 65,000 visitors within its first year.

The first year of exhibitions, led by Chief Curator David Norr, incorporates a dynamic range of contemporary art, taking full advantage of the Museum’s expanded capacities and unique structure. The exhibition provides an in-depth look at how contemporary art engages with architecture and concepts of space.

There will be a focus on new and commissioned work, giving audiences access to diverse artistic processes through site-specific installations and performances. The inaugural exhibition, Inside Out and From the Ground Up features major commissions by Katharina Grosse, Henrique Oliveira, and Barry Underwood, and new works by David Altmejd, Jacqueline Humphries, and William Villalongo, among an international roster of 13 artists.

The highly anticipated opening of MOCA will feature a three-day long celebration with activities for museum members, out-of-town guests and the general public. HEX, a three-tiered all-night party featuring musical performances and DJs will kick-off the opening on Saturday night. Sunday is reserved for members-only access. Monday, Oct. 6 will feature free museum admission for the public as well as a variety of family-friendly activities. For more information visit http://www.mocacleveland.org..

Green Cleveland Eats

A number of Cleveland-area restaurants follow Mother Nature’s lead and create rotating menus that feature the best of the current harvest. And, with a premium Midwest location and climate, culinary resources such as the West Side Market and the regional accessibility of Huron’s Chef’s Garden, area restaurants and chefs have a knack for featuring fresh, seasonal dishes grown in their own backyards, literally and figuratively.

Ethnic Delights

The culinary landscape of Cleveland is a result of the region’s rich cultural heritage. Much like the vibrant flavors and spices in many ethnic dishes, Cleveland is a melting pot of a diverse group of settlers who originally immigrated to the area for opportunities in thriving industries. The result is approximately 117 different cultures with the history, traditions and, of course, the recipes of their native lands.

Posted in CLEGourmand, culinary knowledge, Ohio, Road Trip | 2 Comments »

Captain Montagues B&B: Food Coast Base of Operations

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 14, 2012

To begin, I must apologize to my hosts the Tann’s. This post is eight months overdue. Although there have been some mitigating circumstances none individually or collectively can account for the delay. However, I think the timing may work out for the best, so that my readers can replicate my first visit to Captain Montague’s Bed and Breakfast.

Before I begin, allow me to digress. In leading up to this post, I have written about some of the places I explored on Ohio’s north coast as part of the SKY Gourmand series (search the categories to the right). Combined with the CLE(veland) Gourmand Series, I think the north coast deserves a name change, so I am dubbing the Lake Erie Shores with a new name, the Food Coast. I build my case below.

My lifetime in the Buckeye State had taught me to connote just a few activities with Lake Erie: Cedar Point, Put-In-Bay, Fishing and a long drive on 23 North. In my adult life, I have found better and more scenic routes to the north. I am allergic to fish, so that is a leisure time rule out for me. Cedar Point and Put-In-Bay as fun as they are for most people, make me cringe at the thought of throngs of hot, sweaty masses fighting me for personal space on a roller coaster or at the Round House Bar. I have learned a secret – The Food Coast is my culinary amuse bouche-ment park for eating. The fall is now my time for the lake and my time to feast.

Using Captain Montague’s as the base of operations for Food Coast adventures – there is a lot to see, discover and of course, devour near the shores of our Great Lake. I will list a few below. I hope to write about a few more soon.

Captain Montague’s is located in Huron, Ohio which as luck would have it is the heart of the Food Coast. See my list of exhibits below.

Chez Francois is 20 minute coastal drive to Vermillion

Cheese Haven, the largest cheese shop in our state is 25 minutes away in Port Clinton

Firelands Winery is an easy 20 minute drive near Sandusky. (Note: the region nearby hosts many wineries including: D&D Smith, Norwalk, Hermes Vineyards, Sandusky
John Christ Winery, Avon Lake, Klingshirn Winery, Avon Lake, Matus Winery, Wakeman, Mon Ami restaurant & Winery, Port Clinton, Paper Moon Vineyards, Vermilion, Quarry Hill Winery and Orchard, Berlin Heights and more)

Toft’s Dairy 20 minute drive to Sandusky

Zinc Brasserie is 15 minutes away in downtown Sandusky

Or in the Spirit of CLE Gourmand, heading east you can enjoy the following as an afternoon drive.

Chef’s Garden just 10 minutes down the road. I think a great night would combine a Veggie U. Earth to Table Dinner with a night at Captain Montague’s and a long walk the next morning to work off the meal.

Melt – an easy one hour drive away in Lakewood, Ohio (West Side of Cleveland, this is the original and best location of the Melt Empire)

Westside Market is one hour away, take cooler to stock up.

So from a culinary viewpoint, Huron and the North Coast offer plenty of tastes, treats and temptations.

I will also point out that mistress of the house of Montague, Judy Tann is no slouch in the kitchen. Feast your eyes on this breakfast below.

Having, hopefully, sold readers on the merits of the area from a Gourmand’s point of view, let me digress again, to expound on the Bed and Breakfast experience.

My previous Bed & Breakfast experiences were limited to Ireland and New Zealand. I did wonder if the B&B experience abroad translates to the shores of our country and in particular my state. Abroad, the B&B experiences offered a great value and kept me from feeling like a stranger in a strange land. As a non alien resident of Ohio, I wondered if a B&B would have anything to offer a fellow countryman. I am glad my first continental B&B experience was at Captain Montague’s. The Tann’s and the home have connection to the Emerald Isle, which I felt as the walked through the door. In fact, my stay did remind me of my Irish Bed and Breakfast experiences in Ireland many years ago.

My hosts Judy and Mike Tann were exceptional ambassadors for Huron and the house. They are knowledgeable about the neighborhood, region and most importantly, where to eat. They approved of my intention to eat at Zinc but mentioned several other dining options that I should add to my list for the future. Two fellow guests use Captain Montague’s as their pre and post dinner lounge for dinner at nearby Chez Francois. Their tales of dinners past and present made me wish I had made a second reservation for the evening but good sense and a swat from my photographer du Jour ended that plan before I could dial the phone.

For first time Bed and Breakfast guests (anywhere), the whole experience might seem a bit intimidating. You are staying in a person’s home, which in the Midwest, we typically limit to holidays with the in-laws, and even then, only with great reservation. The Tann’s easy-going demeanor and attention to detail allow guests to feel at ease and at home. The house is a showpiece but not so dainty as for one feeling the need to be afraid to walk about and enjoy the creature comforts of staying in a home instead of a drap and dreary, generic hotel.

The Tann’s entered the world of Bed and Breakfast tending by a twist of fate. In 1994, they were looking for a condominium the area so they could enjoy their free time, instead fate decided to put them in the path of a Bed and Breakfast to consume them. They moved on to restore one room at a time for the next decade. Fortunately for the guests, they stayed and have brought the Captain’s domicile back to its former glory and made the house a home.

Here is a bit a history on the house. “Built in the late 1870’s by the owner of the local lumberyard and master shipbuilder,…… Great Lakes captain, Charles Montague, purchased the property in 1890. He and his family lived in this grand house until the mid-thirties. The Montagues made their home famous for its grand parties and receptions. It has its roots in hospitality.”

What else does the B&B have to offer? How about pillars and white picket fence in a residential neighborhood (known as The Old Plat) filled with historic homes just minutes from the Lakefront Park and the Huron Harbor Lighthouse. Ohio’s oldest continuous summer stock theater, The Huron Playhouse, is in production for five weeks beginning in July and just around the corner.

Captain Montague’s Bed & Breakfast
229 Center Street
Huron, Ohio
419 433.4756 ‎
captainmontagues.com

For more ideas take a look at:

Lake Erie Shores & Islands website

Disclaimer: My lodgings were provided to me at no charge – they would be worth every penny paid and in fact, since this post is so delayed, I have sent a portion of my room fee to the owners to make up for my sloth.

Posted in CLEGourmand, Ohio, Road Trip, Sky Gourmand | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Reflections on Veggie U. Food Wine Celebration (With Bonus Event Survival Guide)

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 22, 2012

I have been to countless food related events. Many of them are interchangeable – same food, different venue, different cause. The Veggie U Food Wine Celebration has the elements of many of the events I have been to but the execution and focus on the purpose is a cut above the rest. This farm feast observed its tenth annual installment on July 21st (yes, you missed it). I was happy to be invited as a guest. I have wanted to go for the last four years, but each year I was thwarted by other commitments. Since I first learned about what Veggie U does (back in 2008) I have had an opportunity to visit the farm, meet Farmer Lee Jones, stroll throughout the Chef’s Garden, attend an Earth to Table dinner and I even received a Veggie care package in the mail. So my “grounding” in the organization and the mission was only lacking one piece – the “big show” a.k.a. the Food Wine Celebration.

If you are interested in going next year, it will be in July. Connect with the website, sign up for the mailing list and keep informed of what they are doing, you may just find out how to get an early bird special. The event offers food from over fifty of the top restaurants in the country, a chance to mingle and learn from culinary celebrities, demonstrations, wine tastings, raffles and more. All of that is interesting and for a good cause. Great.

All of the above is well and good, but what makes a difference for me is the attention to details. Each guest gets a program which includes a map showing each tasting station, what it has to offer and which restaurant / chef is serving their best. As an added bonus many of the vegetables for the tastes are from the farm. Also included in the program is an agenda, photos of the chefs and bios for the celebrity chefs and presenters. Prior to the event, detailed directions are made available, the place is a bit off the beaten path but an easy drive from Cleveland….a longer, but pleasant drive from Columbus (don’t pass through Crestline on the way). Parking is offered at a nearby business with shuttles taking guests to the farm and running continuously back to the parking lot throughout the night. On the three-minute bus ride, a volunteer briefly explains the purpose of Veggie U. and covers all the details about the event. The volunteers do a great job throughout the evening: they are knowledgeable about the program, the event, they keep trash cans empty and beverage stations full. This year, there was a large mobile bathroom (not a portapotty) with air conditioning. Farmer Lee Jones mingles freely with all of the guests as do all of the culinary dignitaries. The organizers have learned a lot about event planning in ten years and they know how to execute an evening under the stars.

The most important part of the event is that, in a non pushy way, you know what the purpose of Veggie U is and why you are there to support it with your attendance. Reminders continue throughout the night from many sources. Most charity events I go to usually begin with a small note on a piece of paper I am handed as I walk through the door, which I promptly forget and occasionally a long-winded speech at some point in the evening, usually when everyone is ready to do. At Veggie U the purpose is clear and the food is the bonus for showing your support.

So what is it that Veggie U does? It creates a hands on curriculum for fourth grade students, provided free to schools. Through the course of several months, the program teaches healthy nutrition, sustainable agriculture and plant studies which fits into existing requirements and lessons plans for school systems. The kids sow seeds, watch them grow, discuss the planting process and at the end, eat what they grew in salad form. A classroom can receive a kit for $450 and have supplies refilled for the next year for $225. Funds raised at The Food and Wine Celebration as well as the Farm to Table dinners go to cover the costs above. People making donations can direct their contribution to send a kit to a specific school.

Here are some of my tips for this event if you go next year (these can apply to many large events)
1) Get to the site 15 minutes early to avoid the crowds
2) If a member of a group of three of more, direct one member to secure a table as base of operations
3) Take your own notched plate to attach to your wine glass (you can get a sleeve of these at most party stores).
4) Ladies don’t take a purse, it makes maneuvering much easier
5) Heels might look nice but they hurt your feet and make no sense on the grass fields of Veggie U – you will never see the other guests again so don’t worry if people are judging you.
6) Ladies and gentlemen: wear hats. These make you easy to find, become fans quickly when needed and if the hat is expendable….becomes a defacto feedback. Most importantly, hats create additional personal space which is important for outdoor events with lots of people.

At every event I attend, at some point…..well, at many points, my eyes start to roll and my internal need for order and fairness starts to bounce my soul like a bronco rider in a rodeo. If everyone would take a ten minute training session on my proper etiquette for public events which involve more than three people….the world….at least my world, would be a much better place. Please read the public service announcement below and share with the individuals you know are “those people”. You know who they are. The kind of person who stands in a grocery line for 15 minutes and waits until the transaction is complete before starting to remove a check and filling it out. The kind of people who take thirty bulky packages to the fifteen items or less line. The type of people who use their horns too often and never appropriately. Yes, those people. They go to large events as well and they make the rest of us suffer. Directions for the untrained and clueless are below.


1) If you see a line avoid it or go to the end of line after you identify where the end is.
2) While standing in line….think about what you are going to do when you finally get to the table….plan for how you are going to get the food or wine sampled and then beat it, there are people behind you.
3) Don’t stand, talk, eat or stare blankly into the sky when you are at a serving table….there are people behind you, grab and go.
4) Whatever hilarious joke you have for the server or chef at the table…..they have heard it before – don;t slow down the line, there are people behind you.
5) These samples were plated earlier in the day. If you have a food allergy or dietary issue….there is not much the servers can do for you to change a sample that has been planned, plated and prepared many hours before hand. Move on. Let the people behind you eat instead of trying to recreate a wheel which is trying to roll.
6) If there is not a table for everyone, eat it….and beat it.
7) Identify where the trash cans are, keep tabs on them and use them.
8) Keep your arms, hands, food and drinks close to your chest so as to not spill substances on others.
9) Wearing white or your best outfit to an outside food event is asking for trouble….
10) Approach a sampling table from the right, leave to the left and don’t dawdle. There are people behind you.
11) When moving from point A to point B….keep moving, don’t stop unless you have mounted breaklights and turn signals of your rear end.
12) Don’t block aisles, areas of major or minor traffic patterns….and don’t violate others personal spaces
13) Say excuse me or pardon me when passing others
14) Use your inside voices
15) Bathrooms are for those that need to use them for their intended purpose….these are not for extended cell phone conversations, having philosophical discussions or dawdling around checking your hair…..there are people behind you who need to pee or have problems holding their alcohol. Dump it and hump it.
16) Recycle if you can and if you drop something, pick it up.
17) Say thank you to someone working the event, they rarely get to enjoy what they are doing or eat…until the very end of everything and by then, they just want to go home.

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WIN: March 12th Earth to Table Dinner at The Culinary Vegetable Institute

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 4, 2011

I think the people at Chef’s Garden must feel sorry for me. After reading about my vegetable based recovery from February, they asked if I might want to come up for a Farm to Table Dinner. As a Slow Food enthusiast, I thought yes. However, as I read more and saw who was cooking I said YES! (before someone changes their mind up there).

So here is the deal. I am going and I have one ticket ($75) to give away. The winner is welcome to drive with me (and maybe CMH Tobias if he comes to guard the car) to dinner at the Culinary Vegetable Institute. We will depart at 3:05 PM on Saturday March 12th to allow time to stop if we find something interesting on the way up. On the way home, you can keep me awake and help look for deer crossing the road. You do have to pay for your drinks but I am the designated driver. I will also let you make i-Pod selections.

How do you win? You know the drill by now. Send me an email (click here). I will take e-mail entries until Monday March 7th at 10 PM. Then I will pick one winner at random for the ticket. If you do not care to ride with me, you can meet me there and perhaps have some of your friends buy tickets and come along. It is a good cause and the meal should be fantabulistical.

So why am I extra excited about the meal? Because I met Chef Ellis Cooley while sampling his menu at AMP 150 when I was CLEGourmanding last October.

What: Earth to Table Dinner with Chef Ellis Cooley

Where: The Culinary Vegetable Institute

12304 State Route 13, Milan, Ohio 44846

When: Saturday, March 12th, 6:30pm

I have copied parts of the press release below so you can decide how excited you want to be.

March Comes In Like a Lion And Goes Out Like a Lamb-Neck

Chef Ellis Cooley to Prepare Cutting Edge Cuisine for March Earth to
Table Dinner at The Culinary Vegetable Institute

MILAN (February 2011) – We have long been able to count on the old adage
that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. But to play it
out literally on the plate is something Chef Ellis Cooley of Cleveland’s
AMP150 will do for guests at the Earth to Table Dinner at The Culinary
Vegetable Institute.

His menu will offer an unusual array of protein selections that focus on
flavor including Slow Roasted Duck with Braised Caramelized Endive,
Homemade Smoked Kielbasa, and our March favorite…Braised Lamb Necks
with a Stew of Dried Beans and Mint. He will also feature seasonal
items from the nearby sustainable farm, The Chef’s Garden, such as Baby
Beet Salad with Lake Erie Creamery Goat Cheese Fondue, Roasted Carrots
and Parsnip Puree, Roasted Cauliflower with Beet Vinaigrette, Brown
Butter Kale, and Baby Fennel with Figs.

“I appreciate the passion Chef Ellis has for seasonal and sustainable
products. He is committed to regularly changing his menu to highlight
the best of the season,” said Farmer Lee Jones, the co-owner of The
Chef’s Garden. “He really gets it!”

About The Culinary Vegetable Institute

Tucked far back off State Rte 13 in cozy Milan, Ohio sits The Culinary
Vegetable Institute, a renowned retreat and culinary learning center for
the best chefs in the world. The concept of the facility was developed
in association with The Chef’s Garden (just miles up the road) and was
intended to foster creativity between chef and farmer.

Ellis Cooley, Executive Chef, AMP 150

With his simple, straightforward and ingredient-driven culinary style,
Chef Ellis Cooley combines a lifelong passion for cooking with more than
10 years spent working under many of the world’s most celebrated chefs.
Ellis started his career in his hometown of Atlanta, but quickly found
the desire to travel and work under a wider variety of top chefs. His
journeys took him through some of the world’s top kitchens in South
Florida, Spain, France and Austria before settling down in New York
City. After spending some time in New York, Ellis’ culinary skills were
rewarded when he was selected to open the ultra-modern Hotel on
Rivington on Manhattan’s lower eastside. After a successful opening
there, Ellis set his sights on larger properties, and he moved on to the
New York Palace Hotel to become restaurant chef. In search of a warmer
climate, Ellis sold his winter coats and moved to Miami, where he did
consulting work for private condominiums.

In 2009, Ellis was presented the opportunity to open farm-to-table
restaurant AMP 150 in Cleveland, where he currently serves as Executive
Chef. Since assuming that role, Ellis has become a master cultivator:
cultivating a thriving, critically acclaimed restaurant; cultivating
strong personal relationships with local farmers, patrons and
businesses; even cultivating a sprawling garden in a lot behind the
restaurant, which supplies hyperlocal produce to his kitchen. His
concept is simple: to offer local, seasonal and high quality ingredients
on a regularly rotating menu. And his passion for that work hasn’t gone
unnoticed. In the past year, Ellis and AMP 150 have been featured in
Midwest Living magazine, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Magazine,
Cleveland Scene Magazine, Crain’s Cleveland Business, Sun Newspapers and
numerous local television programs and blogs.

Ellis has garnered a number of personal accolades as well, including being named
a Rising Star Chef by Restaurant Hospitality magazine (2010), Best New Chef by
Cleveland Scene Magazine (2010) and Champion of Sustainability by E4S, an economic
development organization whose mission is to grow a sustainable regional
economy (2010).

When he’s not in the kitchen at AMP 150, Ellis stays busy with Dinner in
the Dark, a non-profit organization he co-founded that brings together
Cleveland’s top chefs every month to host a six-course dinner for guests
who are “in the dark” about the evening’s menu until they arrive. To
date, the dinner series has raised more than $25,000 from ticket sales
for local charities, all of which are hand-selected by each month’s
participating chefs.

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The Chef’s Garden to the Rescue and The Veggie U. Event

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 2, 2011

There was an ides of February. It did not see it coming. Up until a viciously rapid downward spiral, I had successfully fought the good fight against winter (sledding, curling, CMH Tobias adventures, donuting, dropping pounds, etc). I decided that I would send myself to New Orleans on the 15th as a Valentine for myself. I was ill within three hours of arrival. The intensity and duration of sickness was the worst I can recall for this century (lose 8 pounds in 48 hours with my NOLA diet plan!). I returned to Columbus on the 18th to a city that was cold and gray and dismal and dark and abysmally bleak. I was in a foul mood to say the least. This was the most wintery week of the season and time of intense internal discontent.

During this period, I had forgotten that I had vegetables coming my way. When I was at Chef’s Garden and Veggie U back in October I found out that they will ship to anyone – even me. I came home from the cubicle farm on the last of the very dark days to find nine pounds of vegetables waiting for me at my door.

The box was full of produce known as the Heirloom Salad Selection: mixed beets, a variety of lettuces, three types of garlic, watermelon radishes, microgreens (aka salad toppers) and mixed carrots (in non gray colors of purple, green, yellow and white). It seemed to be a self-refilling box because as I continued digging into it, I kept finding more pretty produce. My first act was to eat a carrot. I then set about to make a salad using parts from everything in this care package of vegetable goodness. It felt so satisfying to eat something that was fresh and pulled from the ground about 24 hours before I devoured it. I needed food, real food, fresh food that was Ohio born and bred and nourishing for my soul. At a very fundamental level, creating something as simple as a salad was wonderful and was a tangible strike back at the weariness of the week and the month and the season.

There are other wonderful things going on at Veggie U, the Chef’s Garden and The Culinary Vegetable Institute. You can support Veggie U by buying incredible produce from the Chef’s Garden. You can also support Veggie U and the great food education work they do with fourth graders by attending their annual fundraiser dinner. This year the event includes thirty chef stations, artisan food crafters, wine, food royalty demonstrations and drive bys, a silent auction and much more. Here are a few impressions on past years from some folks that know food, eating and fun.

Dineomite at the 2009 event

Mr. Ruhlman’s Report from 2009

Jeni’s Scoop on the event

This year the event is on July 16th. Some tickets are sold at an early bird rate which are a value considering everything this event has to offer. Tickets do sell out so the early bird gets the deal and gets to go. You can get all the details you need from Veggie U.

I gave some of my remaining heirloom produce away to friends. The watermelon radishes were a favorite because of their wonderful color; photos (at least mine) do not do these color bombs justice. I still have pounds of garlic, beets, carrots and a few radishes left. My first thought is soup. If you have other suggestions or recipes to help me finish off my bounty let me know – soon – because I am looking forward to tasting my remaining horde of freshness this weekend.

If you would like to order your own horde of vegetable heaven – click on this link for FarmerJonesFarm & Chef’s Garden

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CLEGourmand: Green Growing, Dining & Drinking is Thriving in Cleveland

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 28, 2010

In October, as a guest of Positively Cleveland, I spent four days eating and drinking from morning to midnight..or later. Great meals were eaten and in the process I met scores of chefs and culinary entrepreneurs. I learned much about the progressive food scene in Cleveland as well as why it works so well and how it is growing so fast. The spirit and enthusiasm of the people I met was impressive and infectious. The spirit that permeates the Cleveland culinary scene can’t be typecast but I will try to describe it.

The first word that comes to mind is pride. Everyone I met was proud of his or her product, their staff and especially their city. Collaboration was a term that came up frequently as well. Chef’s and business owners are competitive by nature but in Cleveland the overriding spirit was who can I partner with to make this dish local, what information can I share that might make this idea work better, what can I do to make this event happen, etc. Clevelanders get that what is good for one business is ultimately good for all of their peers as well. Everyone was focused on using as much local and regional foods and suppliers possible to grow their business and their customer base.

There is a major green movement growing in Cleveland, which may seem counterintuitive for a “rust belt” city but ultimately it makes sense. A green restaurant recycles building materials and sources from products from people they know and trust. The resourcefulness needed to pull this off in a cold weather climate takes a certain character that is inherent to living in Cleveland. It also builds community. Collectively these Cleveland culinarians have a vision that uses their pride and collaborative skills to grow. Ultimately, I think it will be a trademark of their city in years to come.

At each place visited, we would ask the chef and/or owner where they liked to eat in their off hours. They all listed familiar names we heard repeatedly. This sustainable/green movement is working in Cleveland because it has been successful. It will get better because it has the right people pushing it forward. Time and time again, I heard hot shot, globetrotting chefs at all star restaurants state that they grew up in Cleveland and meant to stay to make a mark on their town. Non-natives said they moved to Cleveland by choice so they could have the freedom and financial flexibility to create the food they wanted (and grow a family while growing a business). In the high profile world of celebrity chefs where the notion is you can’t compete if you do not live in New York, LA or London, making a decision to stay in Cleveland might seem crazy. I think it is genius.

Eliminating waste, sourcing local, working hard and repurposing anything and everything were core values of early immigrants to the city over a century ago, now these values are being recycled. So what are these food first folks up to? Almost every restaurant/purveyor was growing some of their own food in small or large spaces. If they were not growing their own food then they were cooking with something from other local supplier. Many of the menus were created with food from within 100 miles of downtown Cleveland. Here are a few examples.

Chef Jonathon Sawyer is a semi-finalist for the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef, a former Michael Symon sous chef and farm to plate fundamentalist. In league with some other Lolita and Lola alumni, he started The Greenhouse Tavern. The restaurant was created to be LEED certified. The menu changes weekly to reflect the tastes and the flavors of the region as well as what is in season. Everything that can be recycled (such as building materials – take a look around when you dine there) is reused in some manner.

The connection to their food is intimate. In addition to listing all of their suppliers (and employees) on the menu, each Friday two cooks are sent to slaughter and process the chickens for use during the week. Farmers are growing for the restaurant’s demands, so no food is wasted that does not have an intended home on the menu. The best quote from our host was “If the food starts out good, you don’t have to dress it up”. Good food tastes better at the Greenhouse Tavern.

The Greenhouse Tavern
2038 East 4th Street
216.443.0511

I could be a bit biased about Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC). While I was there, the first batches of their hallowed and stalked Christmas Ale were being poured and cased for shipment. I was able to sample the 2010 batch before the masses. That was a great Christmas present in October. GLBC was the first microbrewery in Ohio (1988) bringing back the brewing heritage of Cleveland. The sustainable focus of the company started early on with everyone exuding a waste not, want not philosophy. An easy to eat example at the brewpub is a serving of pretzels made with spent grain from the brewing rocess (served with Stadium and Bertman’s Ball Park mustards of course). GLBC uses sustainable initiatives to drive their bottom line. The “Fatty Wagon” is the shuttle bus used to take fans to Cleveland Indians games; it is fueled by vegetable oil waste. The brewing and brewpub buildings feature many energy efficient features. Anything that can be recycled, reused or repurposed is utilized – underfilled beer ends up in soups and sauces, spent rewery grains feed livestock, build breads and fertilize GLBC’s Pint Size farm as well as The Ohio City Farm.

Great Lakes Brewing Company
2516 Market Avenue
Ohio City, West Side
216.771.4404

Ohio City Farm is sandwiched between the West Side Market, a metropolitan housing complex and lots of urban spaces with Cleveland landmark Terminal Tower in the background. It is the largest urban farm in our nation. Plans are in the works to create a root cellar and other innovations to allow the farm to be sustainable and profitable year round. The farm supports a community kitchen, which provides an incubating workspace for entrepreneurs to prepare, process and package their products for sale. Their Farm Stand at the West Side Market is the only produce stall, which sells exclusively local goods and produce. Displaced migrant farmers help grow vegetables on the farm using the skills from their home countries while they adapt to life in Ohio. To say this farm is progressive…is an understatement.

Ohio City Farm
West 24th and Bridge Ave
Ohio City
www.refugeeresponse.org

A little farther out (as in Cleveland Hopkins Airport) on the sustainable, green friendly field is AMP 150. This newer restaurant is located in the updated Cleveland Airport Marriott. The team of chefs surprise guests in multiple ways. “What is a nice farm to plate restaurant doing in a place like this?” Well, in addition to making a long layover much more palatable, AMP 150 is serving up some incredible food. Everything is hand crafted in house including the pasta and pickles. The list of ingredients and suppliers on the menu reads like a who’s who of the best Ohio artisan food has to offer. In addition, for your final surprise, the kitchen plants, grows and harvests some of their produce in a large garden running the length the rear parking lot. If you dine or fly in, I suggest the pate and the eggplant tater tots.

AMP 150
4277 West 150th Street
(West Park, Southwest)
216.252.5333

The Ritz-Carlton Cleveland may be the best hotel I have stayed in (I was not there often due to a rigourous schedule of eating, drinking and researching). Fortunately, for me, the hotel has an award-winning restaurant as well (AAA Four-Diamond Award and the Mobil Travel Guide Four-Star Award for starters). I met the three main “cooks” at Muse: Chef Richard Sören Arnoldi Chef de Cuisine Constantine Vourliotis and Banquet Chef Benjamin Davison. Each chef has honed their craft in kitchens across the world but they chose to plant themselves in Cleveland to make their mark and put on the ritz for rock stars, the rich and famous. Two of these chefs say the best corned beef in the world can be bought at a Hungarian stand at the West Side Market. They each mentioned many other reasons they want to cook and live in Cleveland. Chef Constantine spent some of his childhood exploring the West Side Market with his family. After living elsewhere, he came back to town. Now he and other Muse chefs offer an amazing experience. They will take you (just a few couples at a time) on a personalized tour of the market and then create a meal based on what you liked and what they learned about you in your morning together. The restaurant also offers special Farmers Market fixed price menus and many other great dining options in case you opt to dine in after a day on the town.

Muse
(at Ritz Carlton)

1515 West 3rd Street
Cleveland – Downtown
216.623.1300

That’s the wrap up of my first Cleveland culinary expedition. Where should I go for round two? (On my shortlist: Lolita, Corky & Lenny’s, Melt, Jack Frost Donuts………)

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