Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Think Big

There was a giant amongst us last week, and few knew of his presence here. The man was Will Allen. His stature derives both from his size- he’s 6’7”with biceps as big as a baby’s head and hands like catchers’ mitts- and his extraordinary accomplishments. A recipient of a MacArthur Genuis Fellowship, a Ford Foundation Leadership grant, and a grant from the Kellogg Foundation, Allen is the founder and visionary-in-chief of Growing Power, an urban agricultural project, currently operating in Milwaukee and Chicago that focuses on community building through sustainable farming. The multi-faceted organization is dedicated to filling the need for access to high quality fresh food for those who live in the most underserved neighborhoods and to teaching inner city residents- especially kids- how to grow fruits and vegetables and produce food in ecologically responsible ways. And he’s doing things on a huge scale- running 70 different programs from intensive year round greenhouse growing to compost production and aquaponics. In the process, empty lots and blighted landscapes become mini-Edens and people acquire tools for economic independence and a productive future.

He was recently profiled in the New York Times Sunday Magazine- it’s a fascinating story and you can read it here. There’s also an interesting Q & A with him posted on the American Horticultural Society’s website

Allen was in town to deliver the keynote presentation at the American Horticultural Society’s 17th Annual National Children and Youth Garden Symposium hosted by Cleveland Botanical Garden, July 23 – 25. He used the occasion to meet some of CBG’s Green Corps participants and visit three learning gardens where they work. The training program for urban teenagers, which fosters food growing and entrepreneurial skills and environmental stewardship, is right up Allen’s alley.

I got to tag along as he toured the Yellow House site at Chester and E.66th. He chatted with the teens who were showing off their berry bushes, pepper and tomato plants, beds of kale and carrots, honey boxes, and compost bins, asking questions and giving them advice. Then we had lunch on the porch, dipping chips into bowls of Ripe from Downtown Salsa, one of the products Green Corps kids make and sell at area farmers markets and grocery stores. “This is good stuff,” he said, “very, very good.” And it was clear to me he was talking about much more than what we were eating.

Afterwards we drove to the Fairfax garden at E.79th, a place where three abandoned houses once stood, and the Lonnie Burten “farmstead” at East 46th and Quincy. Allen was all smiles, calling these spots “places of inspiration.” He sees value and opportunity in the vacant weed filled lots and boarded up buildings that are endemic to so many city neighborhoods. So do the Botanical Garden’s Green Corps staff, students, and volunteers. Given enough time and support, people like this are convinced that urban agriculture has the potential to generate economic activity and jobs, make wholesome food readily available to all, and create something less tangible but equally important- hope.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Love/Hate Relationship

And we thought Rating the Suburbs caused a stir. But write about three 20-something women trying to find love in Cleveland and all hate breaks out (OK, there's a few XOXOs involved too).

Here's just a sampling of the comments for this month's feature "Board of Love":

A friend sent this article to me with the message "It is literally the funniest/worst thing I have ever read in my life. I am praying that the writer made the whole thing up and duped the magazine into running it." Unbelievably, that doesn’t seem to be the case. So thank you, Cleveland Magazine and BOL, for an article that encapsulates every reason I had to leave a city that I loved. — Anonymous

Wow, these girls sound painfully dumb. At first I thought this article was a joke, like something I would read in The Onion. To my dismay I realized that this article was not a joke and that people like this actually exist. — Anonymous

This was great! can't wait to try the BOL shot next time I'm at the Map Room with my friends — Anonymous

I don't know, finding Cami a soul mate seems like a lot of work. — Rocco

Oh, and there's more. picked up the story and the hits keep coming.

Word is the Board of Love is putting together a little "magazine release party," so you can meet Cami, Carrie and Jenny in person. We'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hot Days, Cool Place

Sitting on a cushy couch sipping a tall cold mojito while birds in the trees provide a final serenade before the sun sets, it’s easy to imagine that I'm relaxing in some Caribbean island hideaway. That’s the scene at Rumbar but this lovely little enclosed garden patio, outfitted with teak furniture and brightly colored umbrellas, is only steps away from Euclid Avenue. I just recently discovered the place tucked behind the restaurant in the InterContinental Suites at the Cleveland Clinic. It was quite a surprise to find this pleasant and comfortable outdoor oasis amidst the concentration of big buildings on the sprawling medical campus.

Open only during the summer months, Rumbar is a good choice for Happy Hour. The bartenders muddle up ten different versions of the mojito- my favorite so far is pineapple, but I have yet to try the cucumber, watermelon and peach- and they obligingly accommodated my request to dial down the sweetness. Normally $9.95, the mojito of the day is $6.95 Monday-Friday from 4-6 PM., however it gets cheaper as it the temperature rises: $5.95 if we get to 80 degrees by 3 in the afternoon, $4.95 above 90, $3.95 when the mercury inches up past 100- it’s enough to make you pine for a heat wave.

If merely sipping the classic Cuban cocktail isn’t enough to satisfy you, sign up for one of the weekly Friday night mojito-making class (216-707-4054). $25 gets you a lime mashing lesson and the tool to do it, recipes, three drinks, and some appetizers.

The drink selection also includes frozen treats, rum inspired martinis, and what management calls tacky tropical drinks. The menu of small plates insures that sippers won’t go hungry. A nice extra- valet parking is always free.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

High Praise, Sloppy Journalism

In my post on 7/8, I wrote about the upcoming Bastille Day fundraiser at Jonathon Sawyer's Greenhouse Tavern and my anxiety about making a dish that would have to share buffet space with food prepared by some of Cleveland's best chefs. To protect myself from embarrassment, I chose not to reveal what I was making for the potluck. So imagine my pleasure when I read an item in yesterday's edition of Scene about the Monday event that gave my stuff a thumbs-up shout out. The only problem is that the reporter, Aaron Mendelsohn, got the facts wrong. After singling out a variety chefs to compliment, he wrote:

But it was Sawyer and his staff that prepared the most memorable dishes: Foie gras, served in sake size cups and spread tastefully across French baguettes, raw oysters, beef carpaccio and pomme frites.

It wasn't foie gras in those little cups, it was a chicken liver and cognac pate, and I made it.

So now that I've set the record straight, I can say thanks for the compliment and hold my head high. For one night I got to run with the big dogs.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Forking Out

The food prepared by local chefs for Monday night’s Bastille Day party and fundraiser at Greenhouse Tavern was absolutely amazing, and left no doubt that Cleveland is a top tier town when it comes to dining. Anyone who says different clearly doesn’t get out enough and has no clue as to what’s going in our restaurant kitchens. Because I made paté for the event (see my post from last week), I got to don an apron, pitch in as a helper, and at least look like I was part of this impressive bunch. It was an honor, and the effort of actually preparing a dish for the buffet was a reminder of how incredibly hard these people work in order to bring us good things to eat.
Friday night, July 17, I’ll be at Moxie for the 6 PM “Who’s the Boss” grill-off between restaurant owner Brad Friedlander and Executive Chef Jonathan Bennett. I’ll be eating professionally as one of three judges tasked with determining the ultimate winner of this heated competition. Word’s been leaked that Friedlander is calling on some top talent for an assist with his roast pig and jumbo shrimp, while Bennett, who plans to cook tuna and lobster, aims to capture extra votes by adding his two adorable kids, dressed in chef’s coats, to his team. The public is invited to join the fun, and enjoy the food. Patio diners who choose the guys’ creations as a dinner special can weigh in before we judges make our final decision. 216-831-5599 for reservations.
My next scheduled event chowdown is The First Ever Rock n Roll BBQ Throwdown, July 26 at the Beachland Ballroom, 1-5 pm. I have no official role, and am free to graze just like everybody else on the spread set out by the participating chefs, many of whom also contributed to Monday night’s shindig, representing more than 20 restaurants including Crop, Bar Cento, Fahrenheit, The Greenhouse Tavern, Moxie, and Dante (opening soon- we hope- in Tremont). Always generous in supporting other people’s causes, this time they’re raising money for their own organization Cleveland Food Rocks, a non-profit collaborative of Cleveland-area restaurants and food-service operations dedicated to promoting and encouraging a vibrant local dining scene. Let’s show them we appreciate all they do and their contributions to our quality of life. Tickets are $25 in advance and can be purchased online, or $30 cash or check at the door. Live music by local bands is part of the mix. The party happens rain or shine in the tented parking lot, 15711 Waterloo Rd., Cleveland.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Read about the Cleveland Buckeyes, whose uniforms the Indians will wear tomorrow

Tomorrow night, the Indians will play in Detroit's annual Negro Leagues Tribute Game, wearing the uniforms of the Cleveland Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes, who played at League Park for most of the 1940s, won the Negro League World Series in 1945, beating the Homestead Grays and the legendary Josh Gibson. Writer Dave O'Karma told the definitive story of the Buckeyes' heroic season in his May 2006 Cleveland Magazine article, "The Forgotten Championship."

If you're up for the 3-hour road trip (I'm going!), tickets are still available. The Tigers will be wearing the uniforms of the Detroit Stars, the city's Negro League team from 1919 to 1933. Vendors will be selling Negro League memorabilia.

Meanwhile, this month's Cleveland Magazine features another story by O'Karma, "Guitar Zero," his tale of trying to start a rock band at age 53.

(If you'd like to link to either of these articles, you can use these short-cut links: and

Thursday, July 9, 2009

C.L.E. Clothing Co. vs. Cleveland Clothing Co.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Not if you ask C.L.E. Clothing Co., the local T-shirt company that we wrote about in our April issue.  

Shortly after forming, another eerily similar T-shirt company called Cleveland Clothing Co. popped on the scene with an eerily similar logo featuring the Cleveland skyline and an eerily similar Web site. 

C.L.E. Clothing Co. has been doing its best to let fans know there's a difference but its been hard when Cleveland Clothing Co. is producing laugh-out-loud T-shirts like the one above (which is on sale now for $10).

Since we believe in equal opportunity endorsements, we are also loving the latest design by C.L.E. Clothing Co. (below for $25) featuring a slathering of Cleveland favorites from the Leg Lamp to the Agora. We're still searching for the Cleveland Magazine logo ...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

More corruption charges implicate Dimora

More bad news for Jimmy Dimora: Steve Pumper, former official for the companies D-A-S Construction and Green-Source, is charged with bribing him today.

As with last month's charges against Kevin Kelley and others, the charging document does not name Dimora, but it describes a "Public Official #1" whose description matches him. In this case, for instance, the feds charge that Pumper built PO1 a roof over a patio at PO1's house in 2004 or 2005. That matches the time when Dimora and his wife took out a permit with the Independence building department declaring that they, as the homeowner, were building a patio roof.

The charges claim that Pumper gave Dimora about $33,000 in cash between early 2007 and May 2008, and paid "on numerous occasions" for "entertainment, dinners and drinks for PO1 and his friends and family," including Cavaliers and Indians tickets. The feds also say Pumper did about $61,000 of work on Dimora's home without billing Dimora or getting paid from 2001 to 2007.

"From time to time, PO1 asked for invoices; however, PUMPER did not expect PO1 would pay full value for the work," the charges say. "On or about May 23, 2008, after PO1 learned that PUMPER was under investigation for bribing a City of Cleveland building inspector, POI caused to be written a small check on his personal bank account payable to DAS."

In exchange, the charges say, Dimora helped Pumper and DAS in several ways. See my full post on the Cleveland Magazine Politics blog for more.

Liberty! Equality! Fraternity! Party!

Chef Jonathon Sawyer has a soft spot for French food, wine, and holidays. So he’s partnering with the local Slow Food convivium to throw a Bastille Day party at his restaurant The Greenhouse Tavern downtown on East 4th Street. For $60 (gratuity and cash bar not included), you get to storm the buffet table and dine on Gallic inspired fare on Monday, July 13 from 6-9 pm.

It’s a potluck with all the dishes prepared by a stellar line up of Cleveland chefs. Well, almost all the dishes. I’m making one. Sawyer sweet talked me into it. How he got me to agree remains a mystery. I started having serious second thoughts the minute I said yes. I’m a rank amateur, a dabbler, a guppy among whales in this undertaking. How could something I cooked be put side by side with stuff made by the likes of Paul Minnillo, Dante Boccuzzi, Steve Schimoler and Sawyer himself? Was I crazy? Was I prepared to be utterly humiliated?

My only protection was to be anonymous. I extracted a promise that there’d be no little sign with my name on it affixed to my contribution. I assumed he understood that meant I wanted to maintain a very low profile. Apparently not: he included my name in the list of participants on the restaurant’s blog .
Photo: a dish from last year's celebration

Following our phone conversation, thinking about what to prepare occupied far too many of my waking hours. But I’ve finally decided that my best bet is to give up any notion of attempting to impress anyone. I'm opting for something relatively uncomplicated that I’ve made many times before. I’m not saying what it is just in case my dish ends up the being the night’s wallflower, the one nobody chooses, still there after every other serving platter and bowl is picked clean. Now I’m struggling with the question of garnish…my usual sprig or two of parsley hardly seems sufficient. But my team didn’t get high marks for presentation during my one- and only- week of training at the Culinary Institute of America’s boot camp for beginners.

No matter how my dish turns out, this is sure to be great event. Reservations required, 216.393.4302
Photo: Sawyer check's out what's left on the Bastille buffet, 2008

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Free Time

First it was Ron Artest who announced he was signing with the Lakers. Then it was Charlie Villanueva who, via his Twitter account, let the world know that he was heading to Detroit — not Cleveland. And the latest dagger in our hearts (well, maybe not) is the addition of Rasheed Wallace to the Celtics. 

Our weekly poll showed that most of you weren't overly thrilled with the prospects of any of those free agents signing with the Cavs, so it begs the question: Who then? 

Trevor Ariza is going to Houston and Turk is leaving Superman to become a Raptor. Now Mike Brown and Danny Ferry are supposedly targeting Channing Frye. 

In case that doesn't work out, there's always Damon Jones. 

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Celebrate the Fourth with some combustible Cleveland cuisine

Fire in the sky? That happens every summer. Fire on the water? That hasn't happened around here in 40 years.

So to honor Cleveland's environmental achievement, why not bring a little piece of the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire to your backyard BBQ? All you need to do is catch a bass from our beloved Cuyahoga and follow the simple steps below. It'll be a real burning river feast (not to be confused with this).

Burning River Bass

1 lb. Small mouth bass filet (from Cuyahoga River)

2 Orange slices

½ tbsp Orange zest

Dried fennel

Olive oil (do not use motor oil for authentic 1969 flavor)

Bottle of Sambuca

Salt & Pepper

Cut thin slits in filet. Sprinkle salt & pepper over cleaned fish, and brush on a coat of oil. Squeeze orange over fish and sprinkle on orange zest.

Place on bed of fennel and bake in oven at about 350 degrees F for 6-9 minutes, depending on weight and mercury content. Flip halfway through cooking, adding more orange juice and zest. After cooking, place on serving dish (don’t use paper plates) and evenly pour ½ oz. of Sambuca to fish. Light on fire and serve. Then drink the rest of the bottle of Sambuca to kill any germs.

The EPA recommends you only eat this once a month. Seriously.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Something's Cooking at Ingenuity Fest

A couple of months ago, Matthew Mathlage, chef/owner of Light Bistro contacted me to share some exciting news. He’d been invited to participate in this year’s Ingenuity Fest (July 10-12), the first chef to ever present at the downtown event that spotlights the intersect of art and technology, now in its fifth year. He’s doing what promises to be a very cool cooking demo Friday (July 10) at 6 PM in the VIP area, 1226 Huron at Playhouse Square.

We’ve been emailing back and forth about what he’s planning, and here’s what he had to say last week.

"When approached by the guys at Ingenuity to display "Science in the kitchen," I was thrilled. They pretty much gave me free rein to put together and present whatever I wanted.”

After considering with some big ideas, Mathlage, who's long had a fascination with the transformative powers of what's often called molecular gastronomy, said he decided to go for simple. I suppose you could call it that- given that he’s sticking with one monochromatic dish. He's going for purple, inspired by the 18th century French gourmand and food writer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin who called it the color of inspiration. But his work of culinary art will take a techno-turn as he toys with the basics of texture, taste, and food-as-usual. It sounds quite complex to me.

“Using five techniques and five ingredients, the dish is lavender infused beets sous vide, blackberry leather, hibiscus liquid gel, and Campari crumble. I’m also creating a signature cocktail for the evening.”

I’m predicting that Mathlage, who regularly prepares some pretty mind blowing food at his Ohio City restaurant, will put on a show that makes jaws drop as well as mouths water.