Friday, February 27, 2009

Is It the Fro's Fault?

It's been slightly more than a week since Cavs' forward Ben Wallace cut down his iconic fro. Being that Cleveland lives and dies by superstition and just plain bad luck, is it any wonder that changing a hair cut caused a broken leg? Last night, Big Ben fractured his right fibula in Houston during the second quarter against the Rockets. He's out for 4 to 6 weeks. The Cavs' disappointing 74-93 loss added insult to injury. Note to Wild Thing: Stay away from the shears.

Photos courtesy David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images / and

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Breaking the Lenten fast

I spent a lot of my day trying not to mention how hungry I was. All I had for dinner on Fat Tuesdsay was a tiny salad, not thinking ahead to the day of fasting ahead.

And to talk about how hungry you are during a fast is sinful.

But now that it's over, for the purposes of giving you a good idea on how to break your fast, I figure it's probably OK.

Cleveland's Tick Tock Tavern, best known for its tasty ribs, has a great fish fry. A whitefish fried with Japanese Panko, a breadcrumb concoction, provides a crunchy bite into perfectly flaky fish. The fries are a tad undercooked for my tastes (not that it matters when you're famished). The coleslaw was devoured within minutes. All this for $6.95. Oh, and it's all you can eat.

In March's issue, you'll see a guide to the best fish fries in Cleveland. (Tick Tock Tavern didn't make the cut). But Cleveland is so packed with great fish fries, there are so many great ones that didn't — evidenced clearly by the motion blur of my fork.

Lush Closes Its Doors

We thought Lush Boutique was a cool place to shop — designer brands and labels at an inexpensive price, trendy owners who were willing to help every customer put together an amazing outfit. We even reviewed the store in our March issue on newsstands now. Over the weekend, Lush closed its doors adding to the list of other retailers (Fibres and Cold Stone Creamery) that recently went out of business in Eton Chagrin Boulevard.

Photo by Jerry Mann

Spice Up Your Cooking

Stopping by Urban Herbs inside the West Side Market is dangerous. I lose control and touch with reality. I’m overwhelmed with the desire to cook- not just a simple after-work meal for two but big potfuls of complicated and exotic fare. And this feeling is not tempered by the fact that I might not actually have time to do it or a crowd to feed. Eyeballing the array of spices, grains, salts, and beans I want to buy, buy, buy. My cupboards are not big enough to hold all the things I must have. I lust after Chinese cinnamon and Spanish paprika, smoked sea salt and garam masala, giant Peruvian limas, black quinoa and purple sticky rice.

Owner Dion Tsevdos is a chef, and he knows what gets a kitchen devotee’s mouth watering and creative juices flowing. He stocks high quality and unusual ingredients sourced from all over the globe, and also creates his own intriguing spice blends.

So I stood there, breathing deeply in and out, focus and gradually got a grip. I came for one item- rice to make paella- and left with just five more: containers of aromatic cumin and thyme; French puy lentils that I’ll use in a salad inspired by the recipe in Alice Waters’ cookbook The Art of Simple Food; a pound of flageolet beans that will spur me to make a cassoulet; and a bag of the “house” rice blend.

Walking away with my purchases, I felt proud of mastering my impulses. But to tell the truth, I continue to ponder the possibilities of Himalayan red rice and vanilla powder from Madagascar. Sel gris, a natural sea salt from Brittany, is like a tune that I just can’t get out of my head. So I know it won’t be long before I’m back at Chef Dion's counter again .

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Never can say goodbye

Frank Spisak was the reason we 1980s seekers of urban higher education looked over our shoulders after a coffee in the Cage or studied the shadows after a beer at Fat Glenn’s, on our way to University Tower for the library and the facilities. Three men had been shot dead by a campus stalker, and a female staffer barely escaped another ambush. So maintenance locked the first floor restroom door. Every isolated place was a potential trap.

After his arrest, we studied the photo in the newspaper, the nerdy glasses and unremarkable loner’s profile, and for a second we’d think we knew him. This was before VaTech. Before Northern Illinois. Before Biswanath Halder. Back when “campus” and “shooting” still looked strange together in a headline. Frank Spisak—sent to Death Row—looked at first like a classmate, then an alum we’d lost track of, and then one day we didn’t think of him at all. We’d moved on, past the shadows.

If this were a movie, the credits would have rolled long ago. This is not a movie. We haven’t moved on. The shadows have just grown longer. --John Hyduk

(The U.S. Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will hear Frank Spisak’s case in the fall. Spisak is trying to get his death sentence overturned; prosecutor Bill Mason is fighting to uphold it. See yesterday’s Associated Press report. John Hyduk’s May 2007 Cleveland Magazine article, "The Long Goodbye," told the story of Spisak, the murder victims, and their families. --ed.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Because you're drinking beer anyway ...

It's not everyday that a big box of beer shows up at the office (oh, how we wish it did). When it does, we pounce, divide the stuff up and give it a critique because, as you all know, we love beer in this city.

So, when Samuel Adams sent us a bunch of its newest Imperial Series (translation: high quality brew), we followed suit. Week 1: the new Samuel Adams Imperial White ($9.99/four pack). Here's the marketing-speak on it: "Imperial White pushes out the boundaries of the witbier style. While showcasing the traditional witbier aromas and hazy appearance ... " Ah, enough of that already, you really just want to know what a bunch of mild-mannered editors think about this stuff, don't you?

Managing Editor Jim Vickers: Samuel Adams gets serious with this batch. Weighty, but not heavy-tasting beer that stands up as a true premium. Sam's brewmaster series has failed to grab me in the past, but this one is great. Could it make me leave my go-to beer favorites (Great Lakes Brewing Co. and Dogfish). Doubtful, but let me take another sip and ponder that.

Associate Editor Andy Netzel: Considering the 9 percent alcohol content, this beer could not go down smoother. Citrus undertones. Solid brew. Drink this beer out of a glass so the yeast sediment gets distributed properly.

Associate Editor Special Projects Kim Schneider: I’m an avid Hoegaarden drinker, so Sam Adams’ Imperial White is right up my alley. It hits the same notes as Hoegaarden with coriander and orange but goes a step further with a total of 10 spices for a stronger finish. While it has tons of flavor, packs more punch, its more of a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of beer rather than my go-to drink.

Senior Editor Special Projects Jennifer Bowen: The first sips I drink of Sam Adams Imperial White make me think of it as a summer beverage, the sips that follow change my mind. It has a slight orange undertone, but the spices are what carry the taste. It’s warming. I’d rather order this at the corner pub than a vodka-soda or plain-Jane Miller Lite.

Next Week: Samuel Adams Imperial Stout

Reason #29 To Love Google Alerts

Sometimes it's like getting a letter from a friend buried in a pile of junk mail. These two showed up yesterday.

The Francis Blog takes on our Sexy Singles issue: "I was looking through the latest edition of Cleveland Magazine ... which is profiles of some of Cleveland’s most famous (and sexiest!) singles. I only got two in and realized that I could write a fairly epic blog about them so I decided to cap it there." Honestly, it is pretty epic.

And then I got an alert on LAZ, Lazaro Gamio, a student at CIA. His Cosmonaut Kid sketches — and the finished book spread — are really cool. The character (at left) reminds me of something my kids watch, but I can't put my finger on it. At first I thought it was the main character from Disney's Atlantis, but that's not it. I can't wait to see what his little truck sketches turn into -- or what gem my next Google Alert brings.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Singles Update Part 2: Tim Richards' V-Day

Tim Richards: Well, I went to Bistro 185 on the East Side for Valentine's Day dinner. I had to put some of the food on layaway because I couldn't afford it all with my radio salary. LOL. Great dinner, but she texted her friends the whole time (not cool). Ladies and gentlemen, this is why Tim Richards is single. 

For more on what some of our other Sexy Singles did this past V-Day, check out our post below.

Coffee, Beer and a Photo Shoot with Feagler

Photographer Jerry Mann shares his recent experience about what it was like to photograph retired Plain Dealer columnist Dick Feagler for our Febuary article. Visit Jerry's blog here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Branding "a nameless space into a nameable place"

In design school, there was always a group of hardcore designers that believed that good design could save the world. I am not as philosophical as my classmates, but as an art director, I am encouraged that design is playing an important role in bringing people to Cleveland.

Just 5 miles east of downtown a logo has given a circle a name. University Circle Inc. rebranded itself early last year. This new look gave the dozens of institutions and museums a face people could recognize and be proud of.

Print Magazine talked with UCI's in-house designer Bryan Evans and Epstein Design partner John Okal in this month's February issue. Evans says, "We're imprinting the idea of a place on the physical landscape."

This idea is evident by the numberous banners and signs that line every street of the Circle. Even their logo expresses this idea. The stripes in the logo represent culture, education and health care. Okal tells Print that "the logo reflects its (UCI's) vibrancy."

COMING UP > The University Circle Calendar of Events will be included in the April issue of Cleveland Magazine for all the things to do and see in the Circle this spring.

I'm Game, Are You?

Squirrels are not exactly near the top of the favorite foods list for most people who fancy themselves connoisseurs of the finer things in life. But the bushy tailed and ubiquitous little rodents were featured in the dining section of the New York Times last month, picking up on a story that originally appeared in the UK. It seems they’ve become popular fare in England. One butcher was quoted as saying they have a sweet taste that suggests a cross of lamb and duck, another characterized it as rabbit meets pork. Contemplating this fact, the concept of free range meat takes on an entirely new meaning.

I’m as likely to consume cute animals as less appealing critters but I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea of sitting down to enjoy a plate of braised squirrel. Just call me chicken. And I think it’s going to be a long long time before this British fad takes root here. I checked around and could not find a single local restaurant with it on the menu (though those with a taste for game can try medallions of elk at Gamekeepers Tavern in Chagrin Falls and Bass Lake Taverne in Chardon). Given the large and ready supply of squirrels aka tree rats in the area, this might be a real opportunity for some adventurous food focused entrepreneur. Many such types were among the 400 folks who reserved a spot at last night’s E4S gathering to explore the future of local food as a tool for economic development. Or perhaps chefs concerned with cutting costs and eager to serve local products might want to go out and get their own. One word of warning- I hear they’re a bear to skin.

I was reminded of the squirrel story last week. My son Nathan and I had dinner at Wonton Gourmet on Payne Avenue. He’d long wanted to venture into the culinary deep end, trying dishes that may be home cooking to some but are unconventional and unknown to him. I was enlisted as his trusty sidekick and fellow adventurer. This restaurant caters to a primarily Chinese clientele so we were sure to find what we- well really what he- was looking for.
Scanning the menu my eye alighted on the appetizing word combination “deep fried.” But my hopes were dashed by the next two words “pork intestines.” Nope. Not going there. Not now. Not ever. Same for the white tripe in black bean sauce and the intestines (source not specified) with sweet and sour mustard greens. He chose cold jellyfish salad to share as an appetizer. I admit, I was squeamish. But we were in this together. Luckily, it looked like a plate of noodles and not the quivering, gelatinous mass I had feared. The strips atop crunchy vinegared vegetables tasted fantastic- chewy, briny, and slightly sweet .
Maybe this means that one day, some day, I might even be up for squirrel kabobs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Singles Update: How We Spent V-Day

They laid it all out for us in the February issue: their bad habits, perfect date, No. 1 dating rules and more. Did it score any of them a date on Feb. 14? We checked in with some of our Sexy Singles to see if they were lucky in love or still celebrating singlehood. Here's what they had to say about the big day. 

Michael Goulis: I'd rank my V-Day as an 8, but only because I had such a busy week. I was worn out from filming scenes for an independent film I'm working on during the day on Saturday, etc. But, I did end up at the Michael vs. Prince party at the B-Side and it was a hot one! I was simultaneously invited to go by a young lady who emailed me specifically from the article and one of my best guy friends/group of guy friends as we hang out there a bit anyway. That being said, I got to chit chat with a pretty young lady and hang out with my friends so it was the best of both worlds ... definitely a good time. Oh, the young lady and I will most likely be going out or something again this week ... we're into a lot of the same stuff.  

Angie Stetzy: I had a very enjoyable Valentine's Day weekend. Not only did I share a seafood dinner this Valentine's Day with my son on Saturday, but on Sunday, I shared good conversation over wine with a someone I met through the magazine. The gentleman that I met turned out to be someone I had gone to junior high school with and never knew it!

Melissa Mack: I had a wonderful Valentine's Day! I went to my 5-year-old niece's All-Star Cheerleading Competition near Pittsburgh, Pa. I also competed in our Parent's Hip-Hop Dance Team. My niece's Tiny All-Star Cheerleading Squad and Hip-Hop Dance Team won first place. We (the Parent's Hip-Hop Dance Team) had no competition so we automatically took first place. Then, I ended Valentine's Day by treating my family to a wonderful dinner at Hickory Grille in Hermitage, Pa. Rating: 10 (I try to live every day to its fullest!)

Ciarra Nelson: My Valentine's Day was wonderful! I spent it with family during the day and the night with friends. I went on a date on Sunday. The single life is great but I am dating a new guy! Hopefully I will be inviting you all to my wedding next year! Thanks for everything!

Nicole Burke: This year, Valentine's Day could have been the worst to date. On Feb. 11, I was laid off! Boo, I know. However, I was lucky to have recently met someone who asked me (sexy single and unemployed) to be his Valentine and took me out for a great night. Although we had plans to go to Dave & Buster's so I could "school" him in basketball, so did everyone else in Cleveland and it was packed. So we ended up at Carraba's. It was a night of good conversation and a memorable evening with a a great guy. I give it a 10!

Great Lakes Expo showman, Playhouse Square host Herman Pirchner dies at 101

Herman Pirchner, the last great character from Cleveland's Great Lakes Exposition of 1936 and 1937, died Sunday at age 101.

Pirchner owned the Alpine Village supper club in Playhouse Square, booked Cab Calloway to perform, hosted Frank Sinatra in his private Eldorado Club, and made "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" for sliding across the floor while carrying dozens of steins of beer without spilling a drop. He'd honed his stunt-balancing talents as a clown and aerialist in Austrian circuses. Alana Baranick's Plain Dealer obituary is a must-read about his fantastic life.

When Cleveland dreamed up the Great Lakes Expo, our city's almost-World's Fair and ultimate spectacle, Pirchner took his showman's flair to the lakefront, building a second Alpine Village on the Expo grounds. He hired sexy fan dancer Faith Bacon to defy the Expo's second-year ban on nudity (or did she?).

I interviewed Pirchner two years ago for my article about the Great Lakes Expo. His retirement-community apartment in North Olmsted was decorated with memorabilia from the expo and his restaurant, including a photo of him smiling while sitting next to expo star Johnny Weissmuller. His feathered Alpine hat, his signature accessory for years, sat on an end-table. Pirchner's hearing was bad, and his sight wasn't great either, so I interviewed him by writing simple questions in big letters on a notebook. That got him talking. I remember his grin when he read Faith Bacon's name.

(Photo from Cleveland State University's Cleveland Press collection.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Brokaw at the Clinic

Some musings from Tom Brokaw who spoke to Cleveland Clinic employees after work yesterday.

"We're in a crisis and we ought not waste the opportunities that will come our way because of it."

"I think it's time for us collectively to raise our hands and re-enlist as citizens again."

(Close paraphrase) One-hundred years from now, when historians look back at our time, they won't be talking about whether Barack Obama had the answers or whether Republicans had the ideas. They'll look on our actions. That's how we'll be judged.

"We have allowed two classes of citizenry to form. One in civilian clothing and one in uniform. It's antithetical for a great nation to have that happen."

Place was packed — one of the few cases when you're sitting in a seat wanting one of the (now former) talking heads not to stop talking.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rating the Suburbs

Maybe it just seemed like June yesterday, especially with the 60 degree temperatures.

But, alas, it's only February ... and yet, I appeared on WMJI with Lanigan & Malone, Mix 106.5 with Brian & Joe and 90.3's Sound of Ideas with Michael McIntyre talking about our June Rating the Suburbs issue. The dust-up came after Mayor Martin Zanotti of Parma Heights sent a letter on behalf of the Cuyahoga County Mayors and City Managers to the magazine. "We hope that you will recognize that the time has come to end this rating system and consider a better way to highlight the communities that contribute to the Greater Cleveland lifestyle."

McIntyre picked up the item in his Monday Tipoff column a few weeks back and then followed up again this week.

We're continuing to work on gathering the information we need for the issue, but it was energizing to use the issue as a jumping off point for a larger discussion about what makes a great place to live and how we can continue to improve our region. As I mentioned on WCPN, it used to be that the most difficult question I received about this issue was East vs. West. We've moved well beyond that now, even if there aren't any easy answers.

"Suburbs are middle-class family values expressed in stucco, brick, and carpet grass," writes Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley in the Jan. 26 Newsweek. "They're all the things that America's noisy, diverse, striving, poor cities are not. But the suburbs as we think of them are vanishing."

Clearly, this is a challenging time for many suburbs. So we're going to continue talking with the mayors, even if we're not going to discontinue our ratings. Check back here for updates or wait until the issue comes out -- in a few more months.

Feel miserable?

At some point, I'm going to have to stop reading Forbes Magazine's lists.

They have an inherent anti-Cleveland bias. Sure, they did name us as one of their most wired cities, but they usually trash us. Like when they named us one of America's fastest dying cities. Or one with the worst bang for the buck. Or one of America's most stressful cities.

Even the time we were ranked eighth on most miserable sports cities bothers me. I have no gripe that we're on this list — I've had my heart broken my whole life waiting for a championship. I'm bothered by the fact we're not ranked higher! 8th?! No way Denver ranks higher than us. Just look at two of our most miserable moments: The Drive and The Fumble. Our misery is their success.

Well, now we're labeled one of America's most miserable cities.

Their labeling us miserable is making me more grouchy than any of the negative facets of Cleveland they note as evidence.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hip to be Cool

As a former student of Charles Michener, the author and former Newsweek and New Yorker editor who accepted a visiting professor position in Case Western Reserve University's tiny but proud English department, I was eager to see him speak at today's City Club lunch.

I stuck my "Media" sticker-tag to the front of my jacket and took a seat in the back of the room. A few warm introductions and pleas for new members later, Michener took his place at the podium and began telling the room what he loves about Cleveland, what stinks about Cleveland and how Cleveland can turn itself around. (Michener, by the way, is not a transplant but a native Northeast Ohioan who has returned to work on his book about the city.)

One of his ideas is the Great Lakes Center for New Media, a project that, with any luck, is soon to come out of Case Western Reserve University -- my alma mater. Scribbled in my notes from the speech is the line, "I graduated too soon." Not only will CWRU have its English department, with the requisite courses in Modern Literature, symbolism in The Scarlet Letter and How to Write a Term Paper 101, there will also be lessons in publishing, (professional) blogging and the best applications for electronic media. Way cool.

Basically, old media isn't getting the job done, Michener says. It brought a tear to my eye (and probably a few of the PD reporters scattered around the room), but we shan't despair. The best way to counterbalance the fall? Break into new media, emphasis on the new. To those of you reading this blog, take note that we've taken note. Reaching a wider audience means branching out from strictly traditional vehicles for the written word to modes of transportation that all the cool kids are doing. It's not peer pressure, it's dissemination with awareness.

Search for the keywords "Great Lakes Center for New Media" and you'll come up empty-handed. But to hear Michener talk about it, you can imagine construction already starting on a new, state-of-the-art home for the center. I, for one, will be donating.
Caption: Bonnie Humphrey, Charles Michener and me

Mo All-Stars

At least the Cavs still have a sense of humor. It would be easy to be upset after the rash of injuries (Delonte, Sasha, TK), LeBron's triple-double that wasn't, a two-game losing streak (punctuated by a horrific call at the end of last night's loss to Indiana) and the double-snub of Mo Williams for the All-Star team. So when Williams finally was named an All Star yesterday, we loved the splash page on the team's Web site proclaiming "Applaudulations Mo Williams!" The lighhearted nod to Ben Wallace, who called the double-snub a ''shamockery'' (a sham and a mockery), was "funtastic."

Love on Larchmere

For an intimate, affordable, and sure to be absolutely amazing Valentine’s Day dinner, I suggest taking the object of your affections to the Vine & Bean Cafe on Larchmere Boulevard. Heather Haviland, who owns the place along with Lucky’s Café in Tremont, wants you to feel the love…her love, that is, for local farm fresh food. And if sets off some sparks between you and your sweetie, all the better. Since the fields around here are not actually full of good things to eat right now, she’s raiding the stash of stuff she froze and canned when it was at its seasonal peak. With help from her new Chef de Cuisine the talented Ky-wai Wong, formerly at Lockkeepers and Dante, she’s using it for a three course prix fixe meal that features handmade pasta and dessert surprises. The cost is a mere $25 per person plus optional wine and beer pairings. Click here for menu details and reservations (required) .

The two chefs are a good pair, both equally driven to make virtually everything from scratch, and that includes the bread and sauerkraut for a Reuben as well as the ketchup, and pickles that go into the 1000 Island dressing. Starting Feb 25, their sandwiches and a couple of weekly entrée specials will be available at Vine and Bean until 8 PM.

A few days ago Heather shared some exciting news with me. Beginning Feb 21 she’s going to be spending her Saturday and Sunday mornings cooking at Vine & Bean. Now I won’t have to drive across town to get her divine burritos, biscuits and gravy, and those egg extravaganzas known as The Shipwreck and The Canoe. These are the dishes that have made Lucky’s famous. And I use the f-word with good reason. In the February issue of GQ Magazine it was named one of the best places to have brunch in the entire countrty. When the reporter called her, Heather being the self-effacing soul that she is assumed it was a prank. But for those like me and all my clan who regularly enjoy her weekend cuisine, the recognition comes as no surprise and is well deserved. Schedule an eastside or a westside pit stop and judge for yourself. One word of advice- come hungry.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cleveland's stalled comeback

Ed Morrison takes a close look at why Cleveland's comeback, 30 years in the making, has stalled. It's easiest to read here, but it was initially posted on the new Web site

The site hopes to become an online think tank of sorts — a place to discuss new ideas on how to reinvent our city. It says it hopes to step outside the echo chamber of ideas that has kept us where we're at for so long. In concept it sounds great. hopefully they can keep it up.

Slain KSU prof was a good one

Dr. Trudy Steuernagel, the Kent State professor who was beaten in her home and eventually died from the injuries, was one of the handful of professors who stick in your brain for a long time.

She was the reason I completed a Political Science minor at Kent State, both because she encouraged me to pursue it and because when I had an opportunity to cover Congress in Washington for a semester at the Houston Chronicle, she took me on as an independent study so I could complete the minor.

She wore tye-dyed clothes, but challenged anyone who had their minds made up politically. She laughed at jokes with a snort. She brought up her son, Sky Walker, regularly in class, always in loving terms. (Her son, 18, is now charged in connection to her death.)

I haven't talked to her since I graduated, but I have talked about her regularly. Not always by name. She's a professor who made many points worth repeating.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

"Obama Blend" at Coventry Phoenix

On sale at Phoenix Coffee on Coventry in Cleveland Heights:

Not available by the cup right now, but you can get the beans to go from a jar marked "Hope."

Interesting in light of the news today... "Just enough kick?"

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


We're big fans of ESPN the Magazine. And I always look of the annual Fan Issue, which is devoted to the sports nut in all of us, including the pro athlete.

This issue gives us even more to cheer about, though.

First, there's Chris Broussard's exploration of our paranoid psyche about LeBron bolting for New York in 2010. "They might as well board up the Q like a crack house if LeBron leaves," says Kenny Stevens, owner of Today's Cut & Style. "Won't nobody be going down there no more." (There's extra video and a short behind-the-scenes piece that's worth a look.)

As if to tease the NY faithful and feed our insecurities, LeBron took his run at Kobe (at right), who set the Madison Square Garden scoring record with 61 points this week, by putting up 52 points in the Cavs win.

Then, there's a great feature by Lane Strauss (a Cleveland Magazine contributor). He spent a year digging into the world of sports-video collectors, who are crazy about old game telecasts. Here's an excerpt: "My wife says I care more about my DVDs than my kids, which is a load of crap," says Rambler, a collector on the East Coast. "I might spend more time with the DVDs, but I do care more about the kids." (The story is so good, you have to be an "Insider" — pay — to read it.)

And finally, you'll have to pick up The Mag to see Clevelander Billy Delfs's photographs of Waddy, Ky., fourth graders debating the Louisville-UK rivalry. (Or you can check out this month's cover photo of Fox 8's Melissa Mack on our Sexy Singles issue.)

That Blue spot

Events conspired to get me to Boulevard Blue twice in the past five days. This is a good thing. The old restaurant on Larchmere is a whole new place since Chef Kurt Steeber took over a couple of months ago. He's home again-after a hitch in California, where the restaurant he was working in burned down. The first thing he did after taking over was to revamp the Blue’s menu to showcase his singular style and a cooking philosophy rooted in seasonality and the good stuff that’s grown and made in this region. Instead of going with just one entrée per visit- how boring is that- I montaged a meal from the bar bites and small plate offerings. This let me try many different dishes- plus those ordered by my companions, of course, since sharing is requirement of dining with me- and everything I ate was wonderful.

A plush creamy puree of tarragon flavored chicken livers spread on toast points was rich as a dessert. Calamari took on a whole new identity because Steeber replaces the standard marinara with a smear of thick as jam lemon-salsify sauce. A fat prawn- head and all- body surfed atop a fine grit flan in a seafood reduction studded with little shrimp. Every bite of Surf and Turf, made with bits of lobster, sweetbreads, and braised endive , was an uncommon mix of tastes and textures. A cook with a dry sense of humor, he calls his re-constructed Caesar salad Et Tu Brute? and I loved it. The dish features a romaine sprout, croutons crisscrossed with anchovy filets, and a dense parmesan panna cotta. A lamb shank was accompanied by a wholly unusual and intriguing side created by stacking a polenta cake with a layer of spicy eggplant puree and another of slightly sweet fig tapenade. The husband, a connoisseur of fish sandwiches dubbed Chef Kurt’s the best he’s ever had. Could it be the homemade tartar sauce? Or perhaps the pilsner battered cod?

Although I prefer to explore and experiment, rather than revisit the familiar, I had to order the same glass of Laetitia Pinot Noir both times because the Burgundian style red was just so fine. I hear Steeber’s continuing the Blue’s half price wine nights on Tuesdays. I may just have to go again soon and treat myself to a bottle and another opportunity to graze my way through more of his good food.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hugworthy goodbye by the Silver Jews

The Silver Jews played their last concert this weekend in the depths of a cave, 350 feet underground in McMinnville, Tennessee.

You might remember the Silver Jews from the August 2008 issue, where my buddy Dave told the story of knocking on the lead singer's door.

It's fair to say we're obnoxious fans of the indie-rock/alt-country band. We bought our tickets to the concert long before we knew it would be the group's last. The most striking thing, which you won't see in the video of their last song ever played above, is after the concert, lead singer David Berman came out to the audience. One-by-one, in what started in a pretty awkward fashion, the fans came up to him to give a hug goodbye.

His writing was so powerful, that even though the band can be described as having a rough lo-fi sound, that many of us felt he had touched our lives. I hope everyone has had some kind of art touch their lives like that.

Jessica Lea Mayfield & "Gossip Girl"

Music by Kent-based singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield was featured on last night's episode of the popular CW network show Gossip Girl. The song, "Kiss Me Again," has been popping up on satellite radio's Sirus XMU as well. If you haven't heard it yet, here's Jessica performing it for KSU's Folk Alley. Also check out our recent interview with her here.

City Chicken

The Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance Monday to allow chicken and bee farms inside city limits.

Some see this as a potential innovative use of vacant land that is, unfortunately, one of the biggest areas of growth in Cleveland right now.

While it may sound silly, the Gather 'round Farm on Cleveland's West Side already is already in operation. (We wrote about in this month's issue. Pick up February from newsstands or click here to see the story.)

I'm ending this blog post while I can still resist the urge to say the city's gone to the birds, use the phrase "chicken scratch" or use the word "cluck" in a way that is not family friendly.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super (LeBron) Celebration

Since we didn't have Cardinals jerseys for last night's Super Bowl game, my son and I wore our scarlet Ohio State gear to root against Pittspuke. Instead, it was a Buckeye — Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes — who broke our hearts with his unbelievable TD catch with 35 seconds left in the game. But as we were both hoping that the catch would be overruled by replay, I noticed Holmes' celebration. The imitation of LeBron was cool and just goes to show what kind of cultural influence he has become. (It still sucks that the Steelers won.) Check out the video below and our interview with LeBron from Jan. 2007.