Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lights, Cameras, Party

We’ll be plugging in the twinkley lights, pulling corks, and welcoming guests on Thursday, February 3. Once again my husband, photographer Barney Taxel, and I are hosting a fundraiser for the Cleveland International Film Festival. Location is the same as always: our fabulous (and prop-filled) studio at 46th and Prospect in downtown Cleveland.

Photo by Mike Lembke ©Taxel Image Group, 2010

The event begins at 7 p.m. Each feast we’ve done features appearances and food by local culinary lights. The lineup this year is Ellis Cooley, executive chef for the highly acclaimed restaurant at the Airport Marriot, Amp 150, Chris Hodgson founder of the wildly popular Dim and Den Sum food truck (and a sit down restaurant under construction on West 25th Street), Michael Herschman, most recently at Menu 6 and currently working on a new (and top secret) restaurant project, and Kimberly McCune, the woman behind Vine and Dine, a personal chef and catering company. They’re preparing an array of signature appetizers and desserts. But their contribution includes more than cooking.

The four have also agreed to stick around and be part of the evening's entertainment. Don’t expect a white-coated chorus line or toqued up karaoke. What we are going to have is a culinary conversation. The chefs will talk about how the come up with ideas for new dishes, describing their personal process for going from concept to plate. It will be set up as an informal interactive panel discussion and members of the audience can jump in with questions. The profession attracts unique, quirky and intensely creative characters — this is a chance to get inside the heads of a few. I predict it will be an interesting place to spend time.

Help Barney and I support the International Film Festival. It is one thing (among so many) that makes living in Cleveland extremely desirable, despite our average snowfall, lack of a hockey team, and the saga of LeGone. (Take that you know-nothings at Forbes — we don’t need or want your pity, because we like our city). But this party maxes out at 75. My sources tell me there are still some tickets left — but not many. Get yours right now.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monkeys Are Their Business ... And Business Is Good

More than 1 million people visited the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in 2010, marking the 18th consecutive year that the popular attraction has surpassed the million-visitor mark. Despite a tough economy, the zoo saw just a 2 percent decrease in attendance from 2009 with a total of 1,130,518 visitors coming through the gates last year. Here are some of the other numbers behind the zoo's year:

322,700 - Number of visitors who walked through the DINOSAURS! exhibit

20 - Number of days where the temperature was 90 degrees or higher

183,502 - Number of visitors in July, the zoo's busiest month

177,978 - Number of visitors in June, the zoo's second-busiest month

22,212 - Number of visitors on July 26, the zoo's most well attended Free Monday of 2010

44 - Number of visitors on Dec. 13, the 2010 day with the lowest attendance

(And, in case you were wondering, the photo above is one of the zoo's two new golden lion tamarins born on Dec. 27, 2010.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Best School Lunch Ever

I went to back to high school for lunch last week. Happily that did not mean sitting in a sprawling noisy cafeteria eating greasy pizza or mystery meat off a plastic tray. I was at The Ranger Cafe, a lovely 50 seat dining room with big windows, done up in shades of mustard and eggplant and outfitted with handsome contemporary wooden tables and chairs, at Lakewood High School.

The year old restaurant, open to the public on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:30 AM-1 PM, is operated by the Culinary Arts/Pro Start students and faculty. It’s a professional training program, part of the West Shore Career-Technical Education District, that gives juniors and seniors a chance to build real world skills and find out if a career in the restaurant business is right for them. It’s also the best deal in town for a mid-day meal.

With expert guidance from Chefs Rob McGorray and Devan Sharosky, who has worked for Michael Symon at Lola and Eric Williams at Momocho, the kids make everything from scratch including breads and pastries. Each day there’s a different soup ($3), quiche ($5), risotto side ($1.50), seafood entree (market price) and dessert special ($3.50), plus four sandwiches ($5.75 each), veggie pasta ($6), roasted pork ($6.50), and a stuffed chicken breast ($6).
I had a delicious bowl of creamy clam chowder studded with potatoes and nicely peppered, a generous portion of chicken salad served on a bed of field greens, and a warm apple tart with a scoop of house made vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. Total cost $11.50. Dirty dishes were quickly whisked away and my coffee cup promptly refilled; I’ve had less attentive care in some upscale establishments. The students handle every aspect of service, from back of the house food prep in a state of the art commercial kitchen and mastering the art of intricate napkin folding to staffing the hostess station, serving, and bussing. I was impressed with how expertly they managed all these tasks.

Ample parking in the School lot at 14100 Franklin Boulevard in Lakewood. Reservations are always required. Call 216-529-4165. Your stomach, your wallet and these hard working students will thank you.
all photos by Barney Taxel

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winter Blahs

Happy New Year! I'm sure I am not the only fashionista anxiously waiting for winter to say goodbye and the sunshine of spring to smile hello. I am darn tired on the freezing temps and sunless days and even more tired of the yucky snow and salt stains on the heels of my not so cheap boots. I have found that the best way to combat the winter blahs is to add lots of color to my typically all black winter wardrobe. I have traded in my dark nails for brightly colored manis and pedis, tossed away my black handbag for a red tote, and swapped my gray and black scarf for one that is fuchsia and much more fun. In doing so, I added more life to my look and smartly yet momentarily battled my winter blues. I would recommend that you also add splashes of bright colors to your winter look if not only to be more fashionable but to also enhance your mood. Happy shopping!

Fashionably yours,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Good Intentions

Like clockwork, the food and beverage excesses of the holiday season- and the caloric consequences- prompts the desire to live healthier in the new year. We join gyms (I did), swear off sweets or decide to eat less red meat, and make an inner promise to actually attend (vs just thinking about) a yoga/aerobics/zumba/spin/jazzercise classes.
Most of us stick with these take care of ourselves intentions until we lose interest and motivation. But this week I came across two great and easy ways to do right by the body that could have more staying power. And both involve eating-how perfect is that!

To help diners keep on track with their weight loss and nutrition goals Shawn Cline, corporate chef for Hospitality Restaurants, has added some new good-for-you options at the company’s multiple venues around greater Cleveland: Rosewood Grill (Hudson); Blue Point Grille (Warehouse District, downtown); Delmonico’s (Independence); The Cabin Club (Westlake); and Salmon Dave’s (Rocky River). With his "Resolution" menus you can enjoy a great meal while cutting back on calories and fat and increasing consumption of vegetables and complex carbs.
Main Dining Room, Rosewood Grill

Look for butternut squash soup with yogurt and sage; housemade veggie burgers topped with low fat Mozzarella on an eight grain ciabatta roll; spinach and lemon quinoa salad paired with grilled shrimp; whole grain penne pasta paired with chargrilled chicken and lobster in a light wine and basil pan sauce; and roasted steelhead trout with barley risotto. Not all these dishes are offered at every location (call ahead or check menus on the web) but you can always request what they call Simply Prepared- your favorite seafood item, either grilled or pan-roasted, served with whole grain Jasmine Rice Pilaf, vegetables, and Sauce Vierge (olive oil, lemon juice, herbs). Management is also making a popular lunch trio-soup, salad, sandwich -available in larger portions for dinner and prepared with extra healthy ingredients.

On the home front, a clever new piece of tableware can help control not what you eat but how much. The Measure Up Bowl is made of white porcelain with pre-measured portions etched into the interior. Available in a few different sizes, this is a simple way to become more conscious of quantity and so less likely to over indulge. They look nice, are reasonably priced and available online. Of course- if you insist on filling it with Ben & Jerry's, the manufacturer is not responsible for any failure to perform. It does
come highly recomended by a nutrionist and product tester I know. Bon Apetit.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Plated Promises

I am encouraged and you should be too. People filled with energy, faith in themselves and a positive attitude about greater Cleveland invested in the community and the future by opening new restaurants and watering holes in 2010. I’ve written reviews and blogged about quite a few among them:
Washington Place Bistro
Battery Park Wine Bar
Mia Bella
Roseangel (look for my piece in the February issue of Cleveland Magazine)
Chinato interior: photo courtesy of Kevin Reeves

A short but by no means comprehensive list off the top of my head of others that I know about but haven’t covered includes:
Deagans Kitchen and Bar
Istanbul Turkish Grill
One Red Door

There are actually more. I even feel comfortable saying many more. Given the really challenging economic climate of the past couple of years, and how it has affected both access to investment money and how we spend our personal dollars, this is astonishing. I know of a few others in the works for 2011: Rockefeller’s in Cleveland Heights and XYZ Tavern in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, both slated to open this month; Dim and Dem Sum-the restaurant, sibling of the truck of the same name in Ohio City, a new and bigger Crop just a few doors away, and Ataturk a block down W.25th Street; Pura Vida, Brandt Evans’ place adjacent to the new Tri-C Culinary Center downtown on Public Square; and Flour, brainchild of Paul Minnillo and Chris DiLisi coming soon to Moreland Hills.

Despite the odds, the difficulties, and the resident naysayers, the entrepreneurs behind these enterprises are investing in northeast Ohio, staying here to ply their trade and their talents. I love them for that, I applaud them. It’s bold, it’s brave, and it is full of hope and promise, an indicator of good things and better days to come.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mix 106.5 becomes 106.5 The Lake

Clear Channel Radio kicked off the new year by announcing today that WMVX Mix 106.5 is now 106.5 The Lake. The Adult Hits format will feature music spanning four decades. Gary Mincer, president/market manager for Clear Channel Radio Cleveland said in a press release that the station will feature "a surprising variety of songs from lots of decades and a really diverse group of artists." We put the station's "We Play Anything" claim to the test this morning and heard a pretty diverse mix of tunes during our quick listen.

Huey Lewis & the News "The Power of Love" --> Foreigner "Juke Box Hero" --> Kelly Clarkson "Behind These Hazel Eyes" --> Kajagoogoo "Too Shy" --> Kiss "Rock and Roll All Nite"

Listen for yourself at 106.5 FM or stream the station online at