Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama and Springsteen downtown on Sunday

Barack and Michelle Obama are appearing on the downtown Mall on Sunday. The rally starts at 3:45 p.m., with gates opening at 2 p.m. Bruce Springsteen is opening for Obama with a solo acoustic set.

This could be a huge rally, even bigger than John Kerry's election eve rally at the same place in 2004, especially because, as The Professor points out, Obama's campaign is probably timing this with the Browns game in mind. The game starts at 1, so a stadium full of people will be emptying out around 4:15. Let's hope the tailgaters who stop by the rally aren't too rowdy.
Update: If you're going to the rally, take the Rapid. The Browns crowd and Obama crowd will completely fill downtown. "There won't be parking," the Cleveland police spokesman warns in the Plain Dealer today.
(Photo by Alex Hempton-Smith, from Flickr)

Steel layoffs

Cleveland's largest steel plant, and the most efficient steel plant in the world, will undergo voluntary layoffs, but it doesn't seem to be cause for huge concern so far.

Those of us who have lived in Cleveland have heard this kind of news plenty over the past few decades. Plant layoffs used to be commonplace. But, as we told in our June 2008 story Men of Steel, that kind of feast and famine was supposed to be the old way of doing things.

Granted, as you can see below by the Morning Star tracking of the parent company's share price, our story came out just before a massive crashing of the share price which has fallen some 72 percent since our story was published.

And global demand for steel is weakening due to the global financial meltdown (which technically is not a recession -- at least until the fourth quarter GDP numbers are released in January). A Reuters analysis piece published here says that steel demand could be suffering until next summer.

The Cleveland plant has idled its blast furnaces, but the layoffs so far are all voluntary. Don Whipkey, who was prominently featured in our story, says 11 workers were hired last week. Management is telling the union they should restart by late January or early February.

"There's no sense of panic. Actually, guys are looking for time off," he says.

The plant is increasing training for employees and keeping folks busy, just like they said they would, he says.

So nobody is overly frightened about the future of steel in Cleveland, Whipkey says. Not that it's easy to scare a steelworker: "We've been through it all."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Last Chance for Change: Jay Z Concert hosted by LeBron James

When I heard that Jay-Z was giving a free concert in Cleveland I figured it would simply be him jumping behind a DJ booth at a local club and rocking it out to just a few of his most popular hits. I would have been fine with that, overjoyed actually, after all he is my favorite hip-hop artist/business mogul. But when I heard it was for the Barack Obama presidential campaign and would be hosted by LeBron James, I knew it was going to be huge, monumental even. How could you go wrong LeBron James and Jay-Z together in one night sharing the same stage, it doesn’t get better than that. However, I never imagined in a million years it would be such an amazing event — complete with a live band, a DJ, an awesome light show and a video message from Barack Obama.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Jay-Z in concert, but this is definitely the most memorable. The first time was in 1999 during his Hard Knock Life tour while I was an undergrad at The Ohio State University. Now that was a great show, but it was only his second album so he didn’t have very many songs to perform. Tonight was an entirely different story. He rocked songs from his first album, released in 1996, to his latest hot single, “Jockin' Jay Z”. Fans of all ages got down at this concert and my 12-year-old son, Jordan, and I surely did. We left the show sweaty and voiceless. This was his first concert and one that I doubt he will ever be able to top. Jay-Z is a tough act to follow.

Special thanks to LeBron James, Shawn “Jay-Z" Carter, and the Chance for Change campaign for taking the time to put on such an awesome event and for encouraging people to vote.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Modern at the Metropolitan

I heard that there was some very intriguing Mr. Wizard stuff going on behind the bar at the Metropolitan Café so I went to the Warehouse District to check it out. It seems they’ve begun to mess around chem lab style to create a line up of out-of-the-ordinary and over-the-top cocktails.

Consider the new deconstructed dirty martini. The drink starts out the usual way- a chilled pour of vodka, in this case Hangar One but then things get…well, unusual. It’s presented with a big spoonful of green “caviar” on the side. To make it, pureed olives and their juice are combined with agar agar, a natural gelling agent. The briny pulp forms soft tapioca-like pearls. To get down and dirty with this drink, sip and then slurp up a few the salty “eggs” before swallowing. The taste is really good, and the extra shot of tongue in cheek humor makes it even better.
A red version of the faux caviar uses cranberry juice. What looks a bit like pumped up salmon roe floats in a fizzy white lime vodka cosmo producing a lava lamp effect. (If you find yourself staring at the glass instead of sipping from it, you’ve had too many and its time to call a cab and go home). To carbonate the drink, a batch- sans roe- goes into an empty plastic liter soda bottle, a hose retrofitted with a tire valve is inserted in the top, and the alcohol gets a hit from a Co2 tank. Sort of a cross between soda and champagne, these go down way too easy. So does the pomegranate martini. It features a float of citrus foam on top. A combination of egg whites, simply syrup, and lemon and lime juice, the stuff looks just like whipped cream, and is produced the same way, with a nitrogen canister.

What’s going on here is officially called molecular mixology. That’s a fancy and somewhat pretentious phrase for what is basically playing around in a food science kind of way, and it’s all the rage in trendy big city watering holes. Great new things happening here with the food too. The peripatetic and skilled Michael Herschman has taken over as Executive Chef and it shows. He completely overhauled the menu and reading it makes clear that everything- including steaks, chops and seafood entrees- has been benefited from his experience and creativity. There’s an appealing selection of appetizers, salads, gourmet pizzas, and reinvented bar food standards. A seared rare tuna starter gets nice sweet heat from a sugared wasabi vinaigrette. The pizza topped with wild mushrooms, parmesan, truffle oil and grapes (yes, grapes) is a mouthful of heaven with a wonderfully chewy crisp crust. For sheer indulgence- and something you’re not likely to make in your own kitchen- order a twin filet a la Oscar- two rounds of tender beef topped with roasted red pepper béarnaise and plated with butter poached blue crab.

I’m getting hungry and thirsty writing about all this. I may need to grab a seat at the Metropolitan again soon for more research.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Glass-half-full PR, economic crisis edition

We got a press release today that starts like this:

Developers say Flats East Bank will happen, despite troubling economic times, but work to be temporarily suspended

Note how that last clause contains the real news, and it how totally contradicts the headline.

The journalist-cynic in me wants to rewrite it. But the wordsmith in me marvels at its nouveau-Depression tenacity, its Believe-In-Cleveland, ISG-forged-steel resolve in the face of a global credit seize-up.

In the rest of the release, developer Scott Wolstein, Mayor Frank Jackson, and the would-be development's top prospective tenants pledge they're still committed to the project, which they hope will get financed when the credit markets "return to some level of normalcy," as Wolstein puts it.

Kudos to local PR professional Nancy Lesic, the release's contact person and presumed author.

Actually, I can't resist rewriting it:
Developer insists Flats East Bank project will happen, despite company's debt and faltering stock price

Here's the Plain Dealer's rewrite:
Flats East Bank project put on hold
Work on the $522 million Flats East Bank project has been suspended, and the credit crisis raises questions as to whether the long-awaited development will happen.

A (Frog) Leg Up

Why is Kermit crooning with native Clevelander Jim Brickman?

You'll have to wait until the December issue to find out for sure, but here's a sneak peek at the illustration for that story by one of our favorite illustrators, Ryan Ostrander. Check out more of his work at his blog or web site.

(And in case you just love Jim, you can send a free e-card to a friend that features his single "All I Ever Wanted.")

Friday, October 24, 2008

Live Karaoke

Ready for more than your usual karaoke? Playing Guitar Hero in the basement lost its luster? Tonight, you can take the stage with New Decade at the Boneyard in Mayfield Heights for the first time since we proclaimed it Cleveland's Best Live Karaoke in our October issue. Register here, submit up to two songs (since Halloween is right around the corner, may be suggest AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" or the Cranberry's "Zombie" from the extensive song list), and invite your friends to check out your rock 'n' roll debut. (Or, if you just want to dance, Disco Inferno (Best Revival Band 2005) plays after the OSU-Penn State game at the Mayfield Heights Boneyard.) You can also check out the photos from our Best of Cleveland Party.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Melissa Etheridge visits Cleveland

Last night Melissa Etheridge made a short stop at Cleveland’s Public Theatre in order to support the person she considers the “most important member of Congress right now… Dennis Kucinich.”

Speaking to reporters, Etheridge, wearing a crushed velvet green jacket, distressed jeans, and a striped collared shirt, was as earnest as she was warm. “The first time I hear him speak, I thought ‘who is this perfect little man?” she said, in her famous, deep Melissa Etheridge voice. “He sees the world exactly as I see it. He sees the world and what we need to do with perfect clarity. I instantly fell in love with him. [My wife] was like, ‘stop drooling.’”

Etheridge, married to actress Tammy Lynn Michaels since September 2003, cited Kucinich’s support for gay rights as one of the reasons for her undying devotion to the man. “I met him at a Gay LOGO thing last year,” the singer said. “A couple of Democratic candidates showed up. Obama gets up and goes gay rights, gay rights, gay rights, I’m just not gonna let you get married. Then Hillary comes up and goes gay rights, gay rights, gay rights, I’m just not gonna let you get married either. Bill Richardson same thing. Then Dennis comes up and says this is an issue of equality. ..It was just so powerful, so fresh.”

The singer believes that it is people’s general “fear of sex” that contributes to America’s inability to accept homosexuality. “They think sex itself is bad, and since gays are just having sex for fun, well, that must be the worst of the worst.”

Etheridge, a native Kansan, believes that its Dennis’ Midwestern upbringing that accounts for his accepting nature. “We’re both from the Midwest where there’s an understanding that you work hard, be nice, and play by the rules,” she says. “We get mad when people don’t do that.”

Dennis, for his part, claimed that Etheridge’s crush was, like, totally requited.“Melissa’s got this voice – kind of soul of America type music,” he says. “She’s great.” When pressed to name a favorite Etheridge song, he came up blank and instead starting mumbling about a concert he’d gone to in DC of Etheridge’s, and how great it was that a celebrity of her stature would come to Cleveland.

Etheridge, seeming not to notice this um,” temporary memory block” kept beaming. After the two finished their discussion, they left the stage, little hand in little hand.

Jay-Z and LeBron Rally for Obama at The Q

LeBron James is appearing with seven-time Grammy Award-winning recording artist Jay-Z at Quicken Loans Arena Oct. 29 to rally Barack Obama supporters and encourage early voting. (The event will include a special concert by Jay-Z.) The 6:30 p.m. event is free and open to all Ohio residents and students, but (you guessed it) you need to pick up tickets early at Obama "Campaign for Change" offices across Northeast Ohio. Tickets will be available starting noon tomorrow

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Beard and Beef

Going to the James Beard House in New York City is something akin to a pilgrimage for many people who inhabit that virtual place known as the food world. I had never been there until last Friday night. Once the renowned cookbook author’s home, the Greenwich Village brownstone now houses the offices of the foundation that carries on his mission of celebrating America’s culinary culture. I was there for a dinner in honor of the 30th anniversary of Certified Angus Beef ® , an organization based in Wooster, that has turned the breed into a brand synonymous with ultra premium meat. My name made the guest list courtesy of two local participants: Scott Popovic, the association’s Corporate Chef, and Manny Nieves, a Cleveland based food and beverage consultant and former sommelier for Classics who selected all the wines for the 7-course meal.

Popovic, a chef with an impressive resume that includes cooking time at XO, Moxie, and fire food and drink, brought together five other talented chefs to team up with him. All prepared a single course with the exception of Randy Sebastian from The Rio in Las Vegas: he made two, a cold palate cleanser and the dessert. Every dish included some form of Certified Angus Beef ®. All were superb.
Pictured from left to right are: Chef Randy Sebastian and his assistant/fiancee Irina, Manny Nieves, Chef Michelle Brown from Jag's Steak and Seafood in Cincinnati, behind her Chef JerryWeihbrecht of Zoë’s in Virginia Beach, Chef Dino Jagtiani, Chef Scott Popovic, and Chef Cedric Tovar of NY's Waldorf=Astoria.
I was especially impressed with Popovic’s braised chuck plated with ribbons roasted pumpkin puree. The meat, which redefined tender, was accompanied by paté of smoked apples that tasted like the very essence of autumn, and a heavenly cube of blue cheese-maytag and stilton combined- that was coated in panko crumbs and fried. Servers brought brandy soaked cinnamon sticks in little incense holders along with his dish, and lit them, adding an intense aromatic component to the experience.
Also impressive was Dino Jagtiani’s seared Prime dry-aged strip loin. The chef, who has two restaurants on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean where he was born, set off the moist, intensely flavorful meat with a dab of West Indian crab salad, whipped mustard, a caramelized shallot demi glace, and sautéed spaetzle that I’d watched him make that afternoon.

Charged with the prepping the sweet notes, Chef Sebastian had the biggest challenge which he met with great creativity and style, prepping a paper thing beef chip to go with a his Clementine-ginger sorbet, and using Certified Angus Beef ® brand pastrami and tangy Gruyere for a totally new take on the classic Monte Cristo sandwich. Click here to see the entire menu with wine pairings from The Hess Collection plus a list of the participating chefs and their bios.

A few words about the main ingredient. Certified Angus Beef®, which is sourced from a network of thousands of cattlemen all over the country, goes beyond the USDA Prime rating, meeting ten additional specifications for quality. The well marbled meat is the best of the best and only a small percentage of all beef achieves Certified Angus status. It’s really something special to eat. Luckily you don’t have to go to the Beard House or be me to taste it. Follow this link for a list of the many Cleveland area restaurants and grocery stores that serve and sell it. Some of the ranchers were in NYC for the dinner too and I really enjoyed chatting with them and having an opportunity to make the connection between producer and plate. They’re very proud of what they’re bringing to the table and thrilled that people appreciate it.

The house itself is a trip. Part shrine and museum, part dollhouse dining destination, the small rooms, filled with memories and memorabilia, still look and feel quite homey. I was there early in the day, before the tables were set up, and it was easy to imagine the big man himself walking through the door and holding court as he once did. It’s astonishing how much food comes out of the cramped basement kitchen, and how many people they manage to seat on three of the building’s four stories, filling every available inch of space. The chefs and servers who navigate this near impossible geometry with grace and efficiency deserve special recognition

The stellar food, fine drink and unique venue made it a memorable experience. But my visit here had a very personal significance too. When I first met and then married my husband in the 1970’s, his divorced parents both lived in the Village. We always walked down 12th Street right past The Beard House on our way to and from their respective apartments whenever we came from Cleveland to see them. Beard was in residence then, so there was no plaque on the front as there is now, nothing to set it apart from all the other buildings around it. The Foundation wasn’t formed nor the house set up to pay homage to him until after he died in 1985. But even if his name had flashed from the windows in neon lights, I wouldn’t have cared because I’d never heard of him. I was no food writer in those days, and had no idea that I’d become one. It was just another brownstone and I was just another girl with no idea what I’d do with my life.

It’s hard to find words to describe what I felt standing in that spot where the past and the present intersected so vividly. Amazement, definitely amazement about all that has happened to me and the career I’ve made for myself. Appreciation for all the good times, great meals, and hours of conversation with fascinating people that come with the work. Goofy happy to be there, proud of my accomplishments…and of course, hungry. So I went inside, eager and ready for more.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nice Ice

It looks like the most elaborate jewelry store on earth — except for that fact that none of the pieces are on sale. While tomorrow marks the opening of the Cleveland Museum of Art's latest exhibit Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique we got a sneak peek today during the media preview. From brooches and opera glasses (even dominos) diamonds and gems adorned everything. We were left breathless of all the opulence and grandeur and definitely jealous of the people who have been lucky enough to wear these amazing pieces in the past. Take the Lalique necklace above. Who wouldn't want to wear that? 

(Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. René Lalique (French, 1860 –1945). Necklace with Insect Women and Black Swans, (Chased gold, enamel on gold, plique-à-jour enamel, Australian opal, Siberian amethyst, c. 1900). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Lillian Nassau, 1985 (1985.114) Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Metcalf Up the Middle?

It's two days later, and I'm still struggling to figure something out about the Cleveland Browns game Monday night.

No, not how they won. (A healthy line, better offensive play calling, DA and Braylon clicking, defensive pressure, a rowdy home crowd -- and really cool helmets -- all helped.)

What has me puzzled is how Eric Metcalf, who played with the team from 1989 to 1994, rates as one of the team's "legends." A good player, yes, but a legend? Did we forget about Dino Hall or Gerald "Ice Cube" McNeil?

Maybe I'm still stung by Bill Belichick's insistence on running the 5-foot-10, 188-pound back between the tackles. "Metcalf up the middle" became a refrain for Belichick's stubborness.

What the Browns Legends profile says: "Eric Metcalf was an electrifying player who was versatile enough to play different positions and fast enough to score any time he touched the football."

What the stats say: In his six seasons here, Metcalf had 15 career receiving TDs, 11 rushing TDs. 5 punt returns for TD and 2 kickoff returns for TD. He had TD receptions of 49, 68, 69 yards and a 43-yard touchdown run. He also had punt returns of 75, 91 and 92 yards for TDs and a 101-yard kickoff return. But ... The Browns high-powered offense in 2007 almost matched Metcalf's career figures: Braylon Edwards scored 16 receiving TDs. (New England's Randy Moss had 23.) Jamal Lewis scored 9 rushing TDs. Josh Cribbs had a punt return and 2 kick returns for touchdowns.

What the stats say (Take 2): He ranks 10th in Browns history for rushing yards, 8th in attempts and 8th in receptions. He's second in team history in kickoff returns and kickoff return yards (behind Dino Hall). But ... Metcalf never had a 100-yard rushing game. Guys who did? Legends such as James Jackson (1), Tommy Vardell (1),
Jamel White (3) and William Green (6). Plus, he only had two 100-yard receiving games — the same number as Michael "Thriller" Jackson. And consider this: Tim Couch ranks fourth in team history for passing attempts, third in completions, fifth in passing yards and seventh in touchdowns and would anyone consider him a legend?

What the highlights say:

But .... If you really want to see him in action, click here.

I'm still not convinced, but watching those two TDs against Pittsburgh sure is fun!

Building a giant cow out of car hoods

Remember artist Chris McConnell from our August 2008 issue?

He built a 13-and-a-half-foot tall horse out of wood. We told the story in our Experience section here, and on WCPN 90.3 FM here.

Chris just wrote to say he's finished his next project.

Now that's a cow. Out of car hoods.

We dig.

Chris is currently studying at the Cleveland Institute of Art, thanks, in part, to his mammoth equine.

Table Talk

Sometimes food pro’s like me get invited into restaurant kitchens for a look-see, or even a special sit down meal in sight of the stove, with the chef and his/her minions attending to our every need. At Table 45 in the Intercontinental Hotel the experience of dining where the cooking action happens is available to anyone who reserves the Chef’s Table. From a glassed in seating area that can accommodate up to eight, guests have a panoramic picture window view of dishes being assembled, fired and plated in the big main kitchen. It’s like watching your favorite food movie, only much much better because those appetizing morsels you see on the “screen” actually end up in your mouth.

I was recently seated there with some other media folks and their companions observing chefs Zach Bruell and Rick Argoso, who’s the day to day culinary point man here, prepping a seven course sampling of small plates. It was fun to see them working, but way more fun to eat it. Everything we tasted was a candidate for the new fall menu that kicks in this week. We began with naan- the Indian style bread freshly baked in the restaurant’s tandoori oven- and three dipping sauces; spicy aoli, Lebanese hummus, and goat cheese tapenade. This stuff is so good I could make a meal out of it. But before I could over indulge an amuse bouche of tempura oysters arrived. They were accompanied by dabs of four different salsas; red pepper, corn and black bean, pineapple, and a Morccan spiced tomato and olive combination. These two openers epitomized the global vision that defines the cuisine of Table 45. The rest of the menu, as evidenced below, followed suit. Everything was astonishingly good, flavored to the max without overwhelming or losing the balance between elements and ingredients. A fruity Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand was lovely with the shrimp, and a ruby pinot noir made by Kings Ridge of Oregon was just right with the rich vinegar and sugar braised pork.

But don’t just read about it. Head to Table 45 to taste-and see- what the kitchen’s got cooking for yourself.

1st course
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo with Fried Crawfish

2nd course
Grilled Japanese Shrimp Salad with Daikon Slaw,
Orange and Rice Wine Grastrique

3rd course
Indian Spiced Striped Bass with Spaghetti Squash,
Toasted Marcona Almonds, Lime Chardonnay Cream
Tomato Jam

4th course
Indian Spiced Pork Belly with Cumin Basmati Rice

5th course
Maple Glazed Venison Loin Wrapped with Applewood Smoked
Bacon, Pumpkin Spatzle and Rosemary Maple Demi

6th course
Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie served with Blood Orange and Cassis Sorbet
Caption: view from the Chef's Table. Photo by Barney Taxel, Taxel Image Group

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Updates on some of our favorite people...

Some news from Clevelanders we've written about in the magazine:

The Black Keys are touring the U.S. and Europe with Jessica Lea Mayfield, the artist formerly known as Chittlin', who has released her debut album. (Click here and scroll about halfway down the page for our Jan. 2007 piece on Mayfield as a Most Interesting Person.)

Melinda Urick is joining a local Kurt Vonnegut Reading Society and, in her entertainingly vulgar way, giving women tips on knowing when they're about to get dumped and why they're better off anyway.

Browns Brady Quinn and Joe Thomas appeared at Wednesday's McCain-Palin rally in Strongsville. Quinn praised McCain for enduring adversity as a prisoner of war and for "fighting for what America stands for."

(Caption: Jessica Lea Mayfield performing at the Appalachian Uprising Music Festival in Scottown, Ohio, this June. Image from Flickr.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Our Best Of Cleveland party

This magazine throws great parties. It's one of the best perks of the job.

So believe me when I tell you, dear reader: You should come to Cleveland Magazine's Best of Cleveland party this Friday, from 7 to 10:30 p.m., at the Rock Hall.

The party is our October issue come to life. Our Best Band winner, the indie-pop band The Twilight, is the entertainment. More than a dozen best-of winners in food and drink categories are serving up samples. Several other winners will have displays.

For $30 in advance, $40 at the door, you also get admission to all the Rock Hall's exhibits (museum admission alone is a $22 value). VIP tickets ($80 in advance, $90 at the door) get you an open bar and some other best-of-the-best bonuses.

For more info, click here.

Plain Dealer to cut more news staff

The Plain Dealer is cutting even more news staff, it announced yesterday. It'll have 260 newsroom employees by years' end, down from 372 two years ago -- a 30 percent cut. Publisher Terry Egger says the paper's profit is much smaller than expected because of declining ad revenue.

If 38 employees don't leave by Nov. 20, the PD will lay people off -- a step Egger used to dismiss as alien to the company's culture.

The paper is offering two weeks' severance pay for every year an employee has worked there, but no health coverage. That's a less attractive offer than in 2006, when younger and non-veteran employees who left got the same severance pay plus benefits, while workers over age 50 with 20 years at the paper got a generous buyout: 2 1/2 years' salary and benefits.

Some links to our coverage of the Plain Dealer:
-Mike Roberts' September column on what Cleveland loses as the paper shrinks
-our July critique of the PD's new, smaller redesign
-my March profile of editor Susan Goldberg
-my January 2007 article "The New Dealer," which described the state of the PD as it began adjusting to the Internet era

Boil, Boil, Toil, and T-Bone

Shakespeare and electric blues make an unlikely but fine Friday night pairing and I highly recommend the experience. My downtown entertainment double header began at the Hanna, intimate new home on East 14th for the Great Lakes Theater Festival. Kicking off the inaugural season is the Bard’s gory tragedy Macbeth . Two things I really loved about this lively production were the blood-cleverly depicted with yards of satiny red cloth that attackers pulled magician-like out of the wounds along with their swords, and the two taiko drummers, stage right and left, pounding out the sounds of tension and excitement. My favorite characters were the three white faced witchy spirits- brilliantly conceived and costumed, they had an intense eerie presence and moved like dancers around the stage.

About that stage- it thrusts out into the audience and has sections that go up and down so actors miraculously appear and disappear. The restoration of 1921 theater- meticulous and lovely- has also turned it into a fine place for live performance. The acoustics are so terrific that no microphones are needed. We sat up in the balcony and heard every word, even the whispered ones. Next time I go, I want to try watching from the banquette in the lounge/bar area.

When the play ended, the husband and I headed over to Crop Bistro in the Warehouse District. All the sturm and drang of Shakespeare’s Scottish kings left us hungry and thirsty. He prefers single malt scotch or Maker’s Mark but I like a cleverly crafted drink. My libation of choice was a Twisted Vine martini- a beautifully balanced mix of muddled grapes, sauvignon blanc, Stoli citros, and a splash of elderflower syrup. But then I discovered a new seasonal drink- the AT & B- and have become an instant fan. It’s made from vodka infused with fresh apples, local cider, tarragon, and champagne- a sort of healthy tasting blast of fall with bubble and buzz. For sustenance, we dipped deep into the late night menu- a wonderful flatbread with roasted squash on top, lamb sliders, and an irresistible mash-up of chopped Angus beef, fries, cheddar, pickles, onions, and bbq sauce called a Shrapnel.

Every other Friday night starting 10:30 or 11 PM, chef/owner Steve Schimoler trades in spoons for drum sticks and cymbals. The Crop band has a solid core of players but friends, colleagues, employees past and present, local musicians, and the random, unexpected passing-through-town players are welcome to join in. The set list is hard driving and eclectic: Eric Clapton, T-Bone Walker, Pink Floyd, and ...

The fall season at the Hanna runs through November 8, and performances of Macbeth will be alternating with Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods. The Crop Band plays October 17, 31, and November 7. For a great night out, book tickets and a table.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bukowski weekend

In the current issue, we named the "Beats, Counterculture, Icnoclasts" section at Visible Voice in Tremont the best bookstore section in Cleveland. It's a great example of a bookstore owner channeling his cultural obsession into a deep specialty no other store can match.

This weekend, Visible Voice and the Barking Spider Tavern in University Circle are hosting "A Poem Is A City: A Celebration of the Words of Charles Bukowski." Various semi-famous people from Cleveland's cultural scene will read from the underground poet's work Friday and Saturday night. Expect lots of material about Bukowski's favorite subjects: alcohol, horse racing, and women.

The weekend begins with an appropriate toast: a Bukowski happy hour at the Spider from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday. Visible Voice hosts readings in its courtyard Saturday night, 7 to 9. Mac's Backs, the Coventry bookstore, is also a sponsor.

It's the second straight year the three spots have teamed up for a weekend devoted to a hero of the literary counterculture. Last fall they hosted a bunch of people reading every word of Jack Kerouac's On the Road.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Inspiring Opportunity

I’ve been tracking the Bioneers Conference for years. It’s an annual meeting of change leaders, innovative thinkers, community activists and visionaries from the worlds of science, business, government, religion and academia. They come together to explore and share practical, creative, and cutting edge strategies for addressing the most pressing environmental problems of our times and the complex web of social, ethical, and financial challenges integral to them.

This month will be the 19th gathering. As always it’s in California and, as always, I am not able to attend. But I am incredibly excited-and proud- because Cleveland is among a select group of American cities that are hosting simultaneous companion forums October 17-19. The Great Lakes Bioneers program will present keynote speakers via live satellite feeds from the west coast conference, along with locally produced workshops, seminars, and tours that focus on issues and initiatives specific to northeast Ohio. Water is a primary theme this year but food- a subject that is my personal and professional passion- will be part of the discussions. That’s because where it comes from and how it is produced are critical to the long term health of our regional economy, environment, and communities.

All the sessions are open to the public and there’s a complete listing of what’s happening when on the website . Most are downtown at Cleveland State University. You can sign up for single days or the entire 3-day confab. It’s an opportunity to get informed and inspired, connect with like minded people, and find out about the amazing things going on here when it comes to living and working green.